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The Unholy Book of the Dead Sea

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Thus begins the Biblical Old Testament (In the beginning God created). It is amazing how much scientific research has been done to get the most accurate translations for the books that comprise the Bible. One need only search Biblical topics in a library, in a bookstore, or on the Internet to get a feel for the quantity and variety of scientific and scholarly study during the past 2000 years. All this to discern the most accurate intended meaning a Biblical writer had for every single written word.

Mistakes in the texts, of course, could not help but creep into manuscripts considering the number of times that the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek documents have been translated and retranslated, copied and recopied, down through the ages. But I must admit that the overall validity and veracity of the Old Testament has remained remarkably intact.

In 1947 at the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, a Bedouin shepherd uncovered a few of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These were found in caves, some of which are natural to the region, others dug by hand. There were eleven caves in all approximately thirteen miles east of Jerusalem. An interesting fact: The Dead Sea is 1300 feet below sea level.

Scientific scholars who have studied this find have placed it into three main categories of ancient religious literature, one of which contains the oldest known copies of the Old Testament. The Biblical scrolls have been carbon dated to the years: 250-30 B.C. These dates corroborate extremely well with paleographic studies of the actual texts.

After a thorough comparison of the extant Dead Sea scrolls to writings which have been handed down via posterity as The Old Testament, it becomes clear that the writers of the scrolls wrote down what they believed to be true about their Jewish heritage. If the scrolls are not originals, they were copied down as accurately as humanly possible from even more antiquated but lost scriptures.

Both ancient and modern Jews believe what is contained in those scriptures as truth, so much so that they still follow the rules, regulations, and traditions of those books. The Old Testament, then, is Yahweh’s written word for Jews. As such, it is honored and held sacred. It is the written connection between mankind and Yahweh.

But herein lies a problem for me. Although I am not anti-spiritual, I am definitely anti-any religion which believes in dogma, particularly doctrine which was allegedly passed down by a goddess or god to some mere human being. To me, this includes religious dogma offered by a person who claims to have been inspired, enlightened, or in some high-minded or mindless ecstatic state. Dogma as such is unscientific, a priori wishful thinking intended to spell out what relationship exists between God and our world. In my way of thinking, people who claim to have received such personal knowledge from God really must not be in their right minds.

The Old Testament is just such doctrine because its believers claim God spoke through Moses, and any number of other Israelites; sometimes pairs of authors wrote a single book. The books were written and collected over hundreds of years.

A few days ago, I saw on the Internet where a woman had answered the question: “Who wrote the Bible?” In effect, she said that God told Moses what words to write down when he was on Mount Sinai and that a HUGE (caps not mine) number of people witnessed this. I’ve searched for this HUGE number but came away only with this fact. 

“The Men of the Great Assembly—in Hebrew, Anshei Knesset HaGedolah—was an unusual group of Jewish personalities who assumed the reigns of Jewish leadership between 410 BCE and 310 BCE” (Rabbi Ken Spiro).

Ministers, rabbis, priests, and people, who claim to have read the Bible, often quote its verses. Time and time again, they preach on the grand and glorious acts of justice, mercy, love, fidelity, patience, long-suffering, and any number of other positive virtues exhibited in the Holy Bible. More likely than not, these folks come prepared to give you the exact chapter and verse for their religious witticism.

But have none of these religious folks read the horror stories in the holy book? Granted it may be the best possible word by word translation of the oldest, most exquisitely written Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew text, but are the “inspired,” truth-filled words of its God in any way acceptable? How could any reader not find them shocking? Could a real God, any God, give such heinous commands to a group of people, let alone his “chosen” ones?

Let me cite just a few examples. Keep in mind these are twelve samples from among many, to murder other people. The Old Testament advises that the following people should be killed.

  • Those who reject the verdict of the judge or the priest who represents the LORD God (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)
  • A sorceress (Exodus 22:17 NAB)
  • Gay men who lie together (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)
  • Any medium or fortuneteller; by stoning (Leviticus 20:27 NAB)
  • Whoever strikes his father or mother (Exodus 21:15 NAB)
  • All who curse their father or mother (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)
  • Both adulterer and adulteress (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)
  • A priest's daughter who commits fornication; by burning (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)
  • Any man or woman who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)
  • A man who prophesies shall be thrust through by his parents (Zechariah 13:3 NAB)
  • An entire town if one person worships another God (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)
  • Women who are not virgins on their wedding night (Deuteronomy  22:20-21 NAB)

Like the tip of an iceberg (90% of its ice is underwater), this appalling list mentions only a few of the horrific acts ordered by the God of the Old Testament. It leaves out child killing, rape of virgins, killing of the elderly, taking of slaves, destruction of property.

I’ve read a number of explanations about the culture of Biblical times which alleges an excuse for such defiling deific acts. Some scholars believe such morbid conduct was forced upon the Israelites so they would understand the severity of being God’s select people. Any inclination to abandon his call would certainly bring dire consequences from this wrath-inclined God. Thus, it would be a horrendous, fearsome burden to be hand picked by Yahweh.

Some Christian believers claim that, yes, Yahweh did order killing, but that was according to the old law. They go on to say that Jesus Christ came to fulfill that law and begin a new law of love, acceptance, and affection among mankind. This is shivering consolation.

As I see it, these Israelites were not stupid people. Since it is true they were held in bondage in Egypt as slaves for many years, surely they witnessed the accomplishments of the Egyptians. They also had their own traditions of law, good deeds, and sacrifice.

What is most illogical is that Moses had received the Ten Commandments on Sinai. The Fifth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill,” would have been known by all. Wouldn’t these people have doubted the very words of Yahweh who ordered and okayed the atrocities mentioned above?

In sum, Science has helped make possible a scholarly examination of the most ancient Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts. There is no doubt that the documents exist and that they contain what most Western religions believe is a compilation of the inspired words of God, words recited to people who acted as scribes and simply wrote them down.

If the commands in the Bible are taken in context, then we must conclude that the revered Holy Bible is unholy—it contains the raving and ranting of disturbed human beings who for one reason or another, believed they were speaking in God’s tongue when in fact they spoke more like madmen. Their "inspired" words are responsible for much of the violence down through the ages. It is certainly the cause of hatred and terror among "religious" peoples in today's world. Although I am a God believer, hopefully science and religion will soon doom this disturbing dreadful dogma.

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About Regis Schilken

  • barbara

    Your lack of knowledge is only amplified by your confidence in “researching” the Internet for answers about the “huge” crowd as well as “atrocities” you mention. You need to research by speaking to the authentic Rabbinical Orthodox and learned sources who have studied the subject and sweated to get the REAL answers. Why don’t you do your homework?
    Your logic as well is flawed. FYI the ancient Egyptians were a very murderous bunch. Just to give you a taste of how life was in those days please do more research. The Bible came to illuminate (and continues for those who try to understand its true message)and change the awareness of humanity about justice and freedom. Today after so many of its messages have sunk into our consciousness it’s easy to criticize.

  • Regis

    The REAL answers are right there in the Bible for all to see. Taken IN CONTEXT, the murderous words I mentioned are just a few of many such atrocities approved by the Biblical God. Religious murder and killing does not illuminate. It is responsible for the horrific conditions of the world today. Can you imagine being a child in one of the tribes conquered by God’s chosen people who was left alive while her father and mother were slaughtered?

  • Irene Wagner

    Re: fate of orphaned children left alive after parents slain by Jews.

    It’s a case of damned if they did, damned if they didn’t, though, isn’t it, Regis? Some of the most shocking biblical passages are the ones recording orders from God (or a not infallible go-between?) to slaughter every man, woman and child in conquered territory.

    It’s not always easy, but I’ve tried to interpret passages like this from a broader perspective–an overall picture I have from a preponderance of biblical and personal evidence that God is merciful to those who, in their human weakness, fail to live up to their potential to love and live in harmony with their Creator and his creation—and are sorry about it and try to take Him seriously nonetheless.

    What would have been the fate of children if their parents HADN’T been slaughtered? Many of the peoples the Jews conquered worshipped Molech, who required child sacrifices. God didn’t give the Hebrews carte-blanche to slaughter anyone who happened to occupy land they wanted for themselves (though modern Israel sometimes behaves as if that were the case.) The Hebrews were directed to replace societies that had become irredeemably shot through with cruel corruption – and a disrespect for (ironic to say it, I know) the value of life that would have been instilled in even some of its very youngest members.

    That brings us to the question of the fate of the orphans left alive.
    Presumably, they weren’t left to be eaten by the jackals, but were brought back as servants. In about thirteen years, though, that would cause problems. Imagine the stories passed on to the younger orphans by the oldest of the children allowed to survive—and the plans that would hatch among a group of teenagers discussing the fact that they lived amongst the people they did, only because those people slaughtered their parents.

    It was hard to figure out just WHAT to do with them, I imagine.

    That’s just one in a class of troubling passages you mentioned, Regis,
    I’m not sure you’re looking for answers but I am taking a chance that you’re generous enough to want to understand people whose viewpoints are different from yours, and to attempt to find common ground . (Had the Jews tried that approach before the wholesale slaughter? Good question.) That’s a key responsibility for ALL people who want the spheres they touch to be peaceful spheres, whether they believe in Holy Books or not.

    There are more members of organized religions—more than you know about—who have spent a good deal of time thinking about how the HELL certain passages made it into the Bible. You have to try to understand though, Regis. Some people (and not just people who have experienced the miraculous mercy of God through things like medically unexplainable healings or help from angelic beings—because even Bible disbelievers have had those) have reasons to believe in the Bible but they wouldn’t make sense to anyone else but themselves.

    It is intellectually impossible for them to give up what they “know that they know that they know” to be true even if there are questions yet unanswered. One typically doesn’t get to that place of confidence before going through a sometimes years long process of mental and spiritual wrestlings with God over the contents of his word, learning to hear his voice through it, tender and amazing “coincidences” many involving confirmation of and by passages of scripture. Did I mention suffering? Explaining it all (even to someone who WANTS to understand) would be like trying to convince a color blind person that yellow and purple set one another off nicely, or trying to show someone learning to count that those squiggles representing “the integral of e to the xth power” in calculus books are more than what they appear to be to one who has not yet gone through the necessary paces.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Regis,

    I read the Torah, the first five books of the Tana”kh, regularly, along with the commentaries and the haftarót, the finishing portions originally chosen as allusory readings because the Roman savages forbade the study of the Torah in ancient Yudaia on pain of death.

    You whine pitifully about the punishments listed in the Torah. Let’s look at some real punishments meted out by real barbarians.

    Drawing and quartering, a standard punishment of the English. The person is tied to four different horses, and the horses are slapped to gallop off – in four different directions…. Flogging with a cat-o-nine-tails, a whip with pieces of lead tied into nine lashes attached to a stick. Again, credit the English. Keeling – tying a man under the keel of a boat and dragging him through the water. Full marks to – wait for it – the English! Waterboarding – originally practiced in a dungeon by the Spanish in the Inquisition. Later adapted and modernized (Thoroughly Modern Millie!) for information extraction by the Americans. Add to this putting a piece of sticky cloth into a man’s mouth, stuffing him with water, and then pulling out the sticky cloth suddenly, which dragged out the tissue of the throat and immediately below. Let’s hear it again for the Spanish!

    Now let’s go a few centuries back. Rabbi ‘Akiva died by having his eyelids first torn off, and then being wrapped in a Torah and burned. Hundreds of thousands of Jews died sagging from crosses, exposed to the elements. Credit all this to the Romans.

    I haven’t mentioned herding hundreds of people into a “shower” facility, and tossing in a canister of Zyklon B, did I? The people in the “shower” all scream bloody murder as the gas kills them off and leaves them in a pile. And who did all this? Let’s all sing it out – “Deutschland, Deutschland, ünter Alles!”

    I haven’t mentioned how the Cambodians murdered off millions of their own, or even the invention of los campos de concentración invented by the Spanish to put down a rebellion in Cuba, and used by the English in the Boer War, and later the wait for it – Germans!

    Are you getting the picture Regis?

    It was in this kind of world, filled with this kind of savagery, that G-d led my ancestors, the Hebrews, and told them to kill off ALL the inhabitants of the land – lest their evil contaminate the Hebrews. And guess what? The Hebrews didn’t do as they were commanded. So the sickening evil of the savages living in ancient Canaan did infect the Hebrews and they never did develop the holy society they were supposed to.

    But they did not use the punishments in the Torah all that much. Instead they sank to the level of the savage Canaanites.

    Unfortunately, that is history. That is the tragic tale of the Tana”kh.

    To be blunt, it interests me not at all that you dislike the Tana”kh – you won’t be the first to bitch and moan about it, and you won’t be the last. Thousands have come before you spreading the same evil trash you do – in the same savage world filled with genocide, murder, rape and massacre.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Ruvy,

    First, it’s called “Keelhauling” not “Keeling”.
    Second, “Drawn & Quartered” wasn’t just about how they quartered the body but how repulsive & barbarian the entire process was:

    “First the prisoner was drawn to the place of execution on a hurdle, a type of sledge. (Originally he was merely dragged behind a horse.) Then he was hanged. Cut down while still alive, he was disemboweled and his entrails burned before his eyes. (Some references, such as the Encyclopedia Britannica, say this step, and not dragging behind a horse, is what is meant by “drawn,” but actual sentences of execution don’t support this view.)

    Finally the condemned was beheaded and his body cut into quarters, one arm or leg to a quarter. How exactly the quartering was to be accomplished wasn’t always specified, but on at least some occasions horses were hitched to each of the victim’s limbs and spurred in four directions. An assistant with a sword or cleaver was sometimes assigned to make a starter cut and ease the strain on the animals. The remains were often put on display as a warning to others.”

    BUT, my point is that I am still quite amazed at how many people still view the bible as accurate historical fact.

    So, mark one up for Ruvy because factual history has proven to be far more vicious than the fairy tale that a lot of people get riled up about.

  • Clavos

    Keelhauling, which Ruvy accurately attributes to the British navy, was widely practiced during the 17th and 16th centuries.

    It consisted of tying lines (“ropes”) to the transgressor’s feet and hands, then passing the line attached to his hands under the ship’s keel to the other side, then pulling the individual from one side to the other, making sure to keep the lines tight so that he scraped against all the razor-sharp barnacles commonly found on the ships’ bottoms. The punishment might be repeated several times, until the back (and sometimes the front, if he twisted around) of the individual was thoroughly lacerated. The intent was not to drown, but occasionally that did happen. Most lived through it, but suffered for weeks afterward and were scarred for life.

  • Regis

    Ruvy tells Rege: You whine pitifully about the punishments listed in the Torah. Let’s look at some real punishments meted out by real barbarians.

    Let’s not. Human barbarians cannot compare to a God who condones barbaric acts instead of intervening in history to prevent them.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I buy that, Regis. The Hebrew God is overblown and grossly exaggerated.

  • Regis

    Brian says above: “Factual history has proven to be far more vicious than the fairy tale that a lot of people get riled up about.”

    Rege says: I’ve become a believer that what is written in the Old Testament is not a fairy tale; there simply is too much evidence to the contrary uncovered by scientifically examined papyrology and paleographic studies. I don’t believed the OT or the NT writings are in any way inspired by God. My God is the great mystery of being rather than nothingness.

  • dave

    “We are all God’s Children”,,,,well, I am a father and I would not let my children murder anyone, and if I saw a monster letting my children be murdered I would stop him if I could. Seems to me God is kind of letting us dowm in the parent dept. This could be, should be, a much better world. All the people in the world need to get over this idea that they are somehow better than everyone else just because they are part of a religious group. It’s time the people of the world take responsibility for their own actions instead of falling back on something “God” said it was OK to do. We all know right from wrong,,,it’s time to start practicsing that as responsible , reasoning, intelligent beings on this planet.

  • Regis

    Roger: “I buy that, Regis. The Hebrew God is overblown and grossly exaggerated.”

    What is interesting, Roger, is that the Hebrew God sent his “chosen” people on a mission to conquer the land of Canaan which eventually became the twelve tribes of Israel. These tribes built their dwellings and lived off land that did not belong to them.

    Now today, we have the stubborn refusal of the Israeli nation to continue taking back, bit by bit, an area their murderous God gave them.

    This mess in the mid-east will not end until Israel makes every attempt to integrate with the true owners of the land they occupy instead of continuing the ancient belief that “God gave us this land. It is ours and no one will ever again take it from us!”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The way I see it, Regis, the Hebrew scriptures served their purpose while the Israelites (using this term loosely) were slaves in Egypt, and throughout the Exodus – all through their progress towards emancipation as a people. Even the idea of regarding themselves as “chosen people” to be able to deal with persecutions was functional, just as Christians viewed martyrdom when they were persecuted.

    Of course, there is a double-edge when you elevate these ideas to the level of ultimate and fundamental reality, rather than recognize them for what they are – myths.

  • Ruvy

    Regis, your ignorance of history is only matched by your arrogance in misrepresenting it. This is our land, given us by G-d, and if you can’t deal with that, that is not my problem. My gun backs my word. So, we are taking back what is ours, and foreigners, like Turks, Persians, Americans, or Europeans will discover the comforts of the body bag as we kill them off when they come here.

    There are other questions, like the resident Arabs, that are for us, not you, to solve or pontificate over. Since you do not comprehend the actual nature of the issues, and since you are not responsible for your utterances in attempting to solve them, I suggest you consider more interesting topics – where you can be responsible for you utterances in an intelligent manner.

    Your whine about the Torah and the Tana”kh, is just that – the whine of a semi-civilized man who is unwilling to admit how much of a savage he still is. I suggest you re-read comment #4 and look your own savagery in the face. I suggest you start with the genocide of the American Indians to begin with.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I was hoping, Regis, we were going to have a nice conversation.

    No such luck.

  • Regis

    Wow, Roger, I thought a good conversation was at hand but …

    Regardless of what was said by the gunslinging body-bag chap, biblical scholars have agreed that the books of the Bible and the Torah were written by human beings who wanted the land of Canaan because of its promise.

    This is a political issue.

    The belief that God inspired biblical words is tantamount to belief in other political texts like Mein Kampf, which justified murderous tactics for political gain.

    The world knows the results of Mein Kampf. Why are we repeating it?

    What is interesting is that scholars study the Bible for its authenticity and veracity down through the ages, not for proof that it was/is inspired in any way.

    It is the fanatics caught up a vicious circle of faith who claim the Bible is the word of God because the Bible says it is the word of God.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The point really is, Regis, that it’s got nothing to do with being spiritual or whether or not a person believes in God.

    My only argument is – the Jews have no monopoly on infinite wisdom as regards the exact nature of divinity, if there be such, any more than do Christians or Muslims or any other religious sect.

    Each is free to practice their faith and subscribe to their beliefs, but we’ve got to draw a line when they try to impose their beliefs on others and act accordingly.

    Faith is a personal thing, anyway, and it must remain so. I can understand, besides, appeals by others out of love for their fellow human beings; but I certainly don’t understand and won’t put up with actions and speech which evoke nothing but hate.

  • Regis

    Well said, Roger!