The evidence of the uniqueness of ancient Israel defies naturalistic attempts to explain Judaism in the light of ancient near-east pagan religions
By the middle of the Middle Ages or Medieval period, the Roman Catholic Church had for the most part adopted the idea that it was impossible for the average layman to read the bible and understand it for himself. They felt that to really understand even basic truths of what Moses had to say or what the Apostles wrote and apply it to your life, you had to have a mastery of Philosophy, an academic knowledge of the Church Fathers, and even a knowledge of the original languages.
Of course this kind of education was impossible for the average plowman to obtain, so the people were taught to leave the bible in the hands of the doctored “experts” and not to attempt to read it for themselves. The bible was not only unavailable for the common people, the church priests seldom read much of it out loud. Many Catholics were not happy about this situation and the sad results of it, and eventually the Reformation occurred which placed the bible back in the hands of the common folk.
Today, almost 500 years later, we have reached a point of declension where once again students and parishioners are being taught that they can’t understand basic passages of the bible, unless they are doctors of ancient history. The first round of this attack started about the same time two atheists put forth theories about the age of the earth and the creation of life on earth that clearly seemed to contravene basic Scriptural teachings. While their theories were clearly lacking empirical support, they became quite popular within academic circles both in and out of the church. Both these men admitted in their letters and journals that one of their goals for introducing their theories was to drive people away from faith in the reliability of the Bible. So the basic idea that God created everything, including man and woman in six days very recently, was suddenly considered very unsophisticated.
At this time the German higher critics began wave after wave of attacks on the histories of the Old Testament. The story of Joseph, Moses, Abraham and really almost everything written in the first 5 books of the bible and beyond were said to have been written long after the actual events and not to be reliable histories. These men were considered to be the top scholars of the day, experts in language and in what they believed was the evolution of religion and alleged experts on ancient culture. Few people had the academic ability or background to challenge these sophisticated doctors and once again, they were told not to even try…just let the doctors tell you what the Scriptures really mean.
Thanks to thousands of archaeological discoveries and a handful of extremely knowledgeable men who did challenge these attacks on scripture, the historicity of at least the stories of all the patriarchs after the flood were exonerated and found to be once again reliable and written in the time periods in which the bible placed them.
The great experts, men who held fistfuls of degrees and certainly a wealth of academic knowledge, who dared to place themselves on a level where everyone else was to quietly submit to their explanations of Scripture, turned out to be an embarrassment to academia. None the less, despite a fossil record that clearly contradicted both Darwin and Lyell’s theories, and despite the protests of real scientists of the day, like Lord Kelvin and Louis Pasteur and many others, the two new theories of biology and geology that contradicted a straight forward reading of the Scripture, grew in popularity.
Naturally, there is nothing wrong with learning the original languages, or in studying what Christians in the past have said about Scripture. And a knowledge of the surrounding ancient pagan cultures and religions can enhance our understanding of Scripture. But all these studies have their limits, and the average person need not defer to experts when it comes to understanding the basic truths that Moses and other authors of the Old Testament are trying to convey. Moses is the best one to tell us about Moses. Not some doctor of ancient history who is living four thousand years later and taking as fact ideas and data built upon the pre-suppositions of those that went before him. Layers of pre-suppositions really. And doctors who are largely under the influence of and whose peer group is a modern secular academia which holds anyone who doesn’t accept the basic theories of Darwin and Lyell, in contempt. These men are under tremendous pressure, whether they realize it or admit it or not, to conform to the basic academic “truths” of the secular culture.
This pressure has led to a new wave of highly doctored experts who like the sophists and religious philosophers in the time of Luther, and the more recent German higher critics, are once again placing themselves above Moses. It is impossible to understand the early chapters of Genesis, the creation story and the Flood of Noah, they tell us, unless we are experts on the surrounding pagan religions of Moses’s day. In doing so they are clearly suggesting that the Judaic religion is largely a product of the pagan cultures that surrounded Israel.
And if we adopt their views, we do indeed have to disregard what the Scriptures say and instead place our faith on these highly sophisticated teachers of the law. Because the scriptures teach the exact opposite. Rather than being a product of the paganism that surrounded them, the bible claims that God supernaturally intervened in the lives of the patriarchs and spoke to them personally, commanding them to leave their homes and families in the pagan lands they had been born.
This is what Moses tells us again and again. Noah was told to build an ark and get in it to escape the pollution and judgement on the world he lived in.(Gen.7:1) Abraham is told to leave his father’s land and its pagan culture and religion. (Gen.12:1) Lot is commanded to get out of his obviously pagan surroundings (Gen.19) and Moses must leave Egypt until God speaks to him through a burning bush, telling him to go back and lead his people out of Egypt.(Exodus chapters 2 and 3)
All of these patriarchs claimed to have spoken to a supernatural God who was not happy with the existing cultures. In the New Testament book of Romans, Paul tells us that historically men have always been prone to pervert God’s truth and turn away from the Living God. (Rom.1:18-32)
It is quite clear from what Moses tells us that he did not get his model of religion from the existing pagan cultures. And despite what our learned scholars would tell us, the evidence for the uniqueness of the Jewish religion powerfully refutes any attempt to make it subject to the surrounding cultures. The evidence clearly shows, as the bible suggests, that the Jewish people couldn’t have borrowed their religious views from Egypt or Babylon. While the Scriptures infer that all mankind knew god, after the flood and the tower of Babel incident they spread all over the face of the earth and began turn away and distort their original knowledge. By the time of the patriarchs, even many of the basic truths had been badly corrupted.
But God called out to Abraham, and Jacob and Moses and led them down an entirely different path. In the next few posts we will look at some of the evidence of the uniqueness of Israel that set it apart in an unequivocal manner from all other Peoples. 500 years ago, thousands of saints, both men and women hazarded their lives and freedoms to liberate the scriptures from those who held them apart from the common people. Or those who would place themselves above the Scriptures making themselves the go between for knowledge of the Living God. Some would like to slip back into that mold. But just like then, the Scriptures remain the best guide to understanding the Scripture, and Moses is the best expert on Moses.