This blog entry is the first in a series of entries showing the fictional and mythological origins of common Bible stories and beliefs.
Everybody in the Western world, and much of the rest of humanity, is familiar with the story of Moses in the bull rushes. It's a Sunday School favorite. Several other “Bible stories” are also sentimental favorites. They are so ubiquitous that hardly anyone questions their historical authenticity.
The mental picture in people's minds is of a robed Moses sitting in a tent in the middle of the Sinai desert, writing his heart out under some sort of godly inspiration. They have similar pictures of other supposed Bible writers and are absolutely convinced that it all was directly from the mouth of their God.
There has been abundant evidence available for decades that those inspirational little stories and accounts were made up fictions crafted centuries, even millenniums, after the supposed occurrences by imaginative select, edit, rearrange and paste scribes with an agenda. That agenda being the goal of those religious leaders (read: priests) to build a secure place for themselves that would be financed and maintained by the masses they had so carefully tutored and groomed.
They had just returned from several generations of Babylonian captivity (around 600 B.C.) during which they had been exposed to the highly advanced civilization of Babylon, its literature and highly developed religious hierarchies. The Jewish priestly class could now write and publish, possibly for the first time in Israelite history. They were finally equipped to craft a self-serving theocracy and determinedly set about doing so.
The Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, is really a religious novel based on legends and myths, plus an occasional carefully edited and enhanced historical occurrence, that were adopted by the Israelite priesthood and re-crafted to support the doctrine and perspective they wanted people to accept. Included in that approach were the chauvinistic Israelite aspirations that would appeal to the population (the “chosen” people, etc.).
Go to this video presentation for an illuminating rundown and overview that goes hand in hand with my recent post about the “Famn Damily” concerning what actually happened to produce what we call “The Bible”: http://www.anatheist.net/2011/01/a-history-of-god/.
Let's start with that picture of Moses floating in the Nile.
Laurence Gardner reveals some interesting historical facts in his book, The Origin of God.
About 400 years had transpired since the family entourage had gone to Egypt in the days of the drought and famine. This is a period of time about the same as that which separates me from my earliest colonial ancestor in the Lynn, Massachusetts settlement of 1630.
Gardner points out that the Moses story was adapted from a Mesopotamian original, the Legend of Sharru-kin and pertains to Sargon the Great. king of Akkad. The translated account reads: “My changeling mother conceived me; in secret she bare me. She set me in a basket of rushes, and with pitch she sealed my lid. She cast me into the river, which rose not over me. The river bore me up, and carried me to Akki, the drawer of the water.”
During the intervening three hundred plus years, the Israelites had become very much a part of the Egypt of their time. Some of them had become part of the ruling elite – the pharoanic dynasties. Their religious inclinations and beliefs had also achieved some prominence and led to philosophical conflict, probably with ethnic overtones.
I will quote from Gardner: “...the new pharaoh, Amenhotep IV, could not accept the Egyptian deities and their myriad idols....Yaouai, had been acknowledged and promoted as the Aten by his own father, Amenhotep III....(he) progressed and developed the Yaouai concept, even changing his own name from Amenhotep (Amen is pleased) to Akhenaten (Glorious spirit of the Aten)....he closed all the temples of the Egyptian gods and became very unpopular, particularly with the priests of Ra and those of the traditional national deity, Amen.”
There were numerous plots against Akhenaten's life. He was eventually forced to abdicate and his son, Tutankhaten, assumed the throne, soon after changing his name to Tutankhamun to show his allegiance to Amun, rather than to Aten. Akhenaten was banished from Egypt but was still regarded by his supporters as the royal Mose or Moses (“Mose, Mosis or Moses...was a distinctive appellation of an Egyptian royal heir.” – Gardner).
The word, “Moses,” became confused between its Egyptian meaning and the Hebrew word “mosche” which means “the drawer out,” taken from “m-sh-a,” to draw. From this confusion, a lot of spurious mythology has arisen.
A great deal more was going on in ancient Egypt than we are led to believe. The levitical priests and scribes may not have known about it all almost a millennium later when they set to work crafting what has come down to us. Their main concern was the creation of a story line that suited their purposes. To this end, they scoured the mythologies and histories of the nations around them and adapted, rewrote and fictionalized at will to come up with what millions now accept as divinely inspired history.
As I have witnessed politics and religion in action, I long ago decided that the first imperative in arriving at a semblance of truth on any political or religious subject was to determine what the “hidden agenda” might be. Rarely are those agendas featured on the six-o-clock news. Most people never suspect such agendas exist, but they certainly do. They also existed in 600 B.C. and in all the centuries since.
When reading any history, it is advisable to combine one's reading with a sizable grain of the proverbial salt.