Not intended as history, eh?

A particular opinion that strikes me (admittedly in my full ignorance of the field) as a dishonest dodge is this: to look at some Old Testament story, to notice there is no evidence for it, no reason to think it ever happened, and plenty of such ridiculous exaggeration in it that it near could not have happened — and then to say, “clearly this story was not intended as history”.

If you ask me, I can see a way all of the Old Testament was intended as history. It just was history that happened to be bullshit because of how it was put together.

It was made by a bunch of priests sitting down and deciding what of all the old legends and wishes and explanatory legends for place names and various ravings of spittle-flecked prophets they wanted to believe, what they wanted to be true and taught to their children. (This then again doesn’t need to mean deliberate fraud; self-delusion is easy and often profitable.) They were the deciders of a run-of-the-mill desert-edge kingdom, led by a tin-pot tyrant with centralizing religious ambitions called Josiah. Their people were recently settled down from centuries of equally commonplace and unexceptional nomadism on the eastern edge of their native Canaan, so they didn’t have much real history to draw on if they wanted great glories. Their ancestors had never been in Egypt. Their stories of David and Solomon and their vast empires were made up or then pasted over dim historical memories of kings lesser, not greater, than the kings of their day. (Worse still, some of the kings they had had had been theologically abominable, i.e. different, like Omri and Manasseh, and could not be remembered with praise; and some of the theologically sound ones, like Hezekiah, had not been altogether successful.)

Those deciders, sitting in a town called Jerusalem, simply decided, without fancy theology or any concern for the future, without any malice or intent to deceive, even, with full love and adoration of their king and kingdom and people even, that what they then believed and liked to believe, was true. (Well, they had a bit of fancy theology in writing the tales so that their particular royal brand of religion had always been what the religion of their people was, if they could get away with tweaking the popular tales that way. And the kings that had supported contrary theologies, well, clearly the tales of their glories had been greatly exaggerated. And what ho, there was this king called David before them that was even bigger, so they were not a step up, but down.)

I can myself see them doing the same sort of patriotic wish-fulfillment self-deluding that is done by those Americans that today are so very loud and certain on America being and always having been a Christian nation founded on Christian principles by a bunch of devoutly, Baptistly Christian men. It’s not like the Fox News has created a new kind of a commentator never before seen on the face of the earth! Someone like Jerry Falwell blaming “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians” for 9/11 is very much the same kind of a prophet person that used to blame all the defeats of Israel on the obstinate ungodliness of her people.

That’s what the Old Testament could very well be; just be priests and other people picking stories that made them feel good and smashing them together in a tremendously exciting and only accidentally historical tale of glories past, hopefully reflecting glories in the future. Intended as history, history worth teaching to their children: yes, even “hell yeah!”; resulting in a history that was as things had really happened: no.

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