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A HISTORY of GOD
by Karen Armstrong

THE BEGINNING

In the beginning, Gods abounded and took the form of super-humans,
though unbounded by time or space. They interacted with mankind as other men.
The death of a God and subsequent search of a goddess were repeated themes
Abraham left Ur to eventually settle in Canaan in the 20th or 19th century.
He was probably chieftain of a nomadic tribe, part of the drift of population
from Mesopotamia Westwards.
They served as mercenaries or employees of the more settled tribes as they went,
but there were frequent conflicts.

It seems that there were three main waves.
1. associated with Abraham and Hebron about 1850
2. associated with Jacob (Israel).
He settled in Sshechem but then enmigrated to Egypt
3. in about 1200BC, tribes arrived from Egypt
following A leader called Moses and a God called Jahweh

The biblical acoount was written centuries later in the 8th century, based on ancient legends.
It is thought that there are 4 different sources for the first 5 books which were later collated.
Two are J and E (calling God Jahweh and Elohim),
The other two were D (deuteronomist) and P (priestly)
P wrote the first chapter of Genesis in the 6th century, when such ideas became of interest.

Unlike most pagan Gods,
Yahweh was involved in the everyday life of man, rather than only in ritual and myth.
It is dubious whether Jahweh, the God of Moses, was the same as the God of Abraham
(he was probably El, the high-god of Cannan), but
, by the time of writing Yahweh was the God of Israel.
However, in those days,
people did not believe in just one God,
even if they only followed one.

Maybe the prime difference between Yahweh and El (and other pagan gods)
was that he created awe (as on Sinai).
Other gods might be met without a great fanfare (as Abraham meets the three strangers).
Sometimes the legends have been adapted to give a Yahweh slant to an El encounter.

The closeness of God to man in such El encounters as Jacob's (eg wrestling with God)
would be seen as blasphemous in later Yahweh religion.

Yahweh, the God of Exodus, was cruel and violent - a tribal god of armies,
which has inspired narrow fundamentalist religions,

yet is also on the side of the oppressed. He is a God of revolution.
There is clearly a very different God between the one who shared a meal with Abraham
and met Moses at the burning bush - or raged in fire and smoke on Sinai.

The Final Text of Exodus was edited in 5th century.

TORAH Exodus
No evidence of the Canaan invasion has been been found by archaeologists.
Scholars do not see the Exodus as historical. (p15).
Evidence points to Egyptians rule having been withdrawn from Canaa at about the same time,
so it seems probable that that freedom was achieved without change of location.
J and E gave very different accounts (see above). E did not mention any of the earliest legends.
The Ten Commandments were a later addition - the content of the tablets given to Moses is unknown
The Exodus has been used by most renewal movements who have fled persecution.


THE SOCIETY FOR OLD TESTAMENT STUDY
The issue of authorship is not unique to the book of Exodus.
This book is part of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament,
and the question who wrote Exodus is also part of a larger question, who authored the Pentateuch.
Traditionally authorship of the Pentateuch was ascribed to Moses
or at least associated with his authority.
But since at least the Middle Ages questions have been raised over the variety of
stylistic and thematic differences, as well as perceived inconsistencies in the Pentateuchal narratives.
Moreover, it was recognized to be unlikely that Moses would have narrated events
about or after his death (Gen 12:6; 36:31; Deut 34).
In modern times one of the most commonly accepted theories of authorship is the so called
Documentary Hypothesis, which asserts that the Pentateuch is the composite of earlier sources.
Adherents of this hypothesis normally ascribe the material of Exodus to three sources:
The older sources (10th to 6th centuries)
J and E (not always easily distinguished), so named for the use of YHWH
for the name of God in the J source and the use of ‘elohim’ in E before Exod 3;
and P, so named because of its apparent priestly concerns, generally dated to the 6th
and/or 5th century, though certain, mainly Israeli, scholars place it earlier.
P’s style is distinctive, and Exod 25–31 and 35–40 are attributed to it, with much of Exod 6–16,
and some suggest that the writer might have been the final editor of the book.
Most scholars, whichever theory they adopt, would agree that the book of Exodus
came to its final form during or after the exile in the 6th or 5th century BCE.

Why should god favour Israel over Egypt?:

Encyclopedia Britanica
Scholars have identified three literary traditions in Exodus,
designated by the letters J, E, and P.
The J strand, so called because it uses the name Yahweh (Jahweh in German) for God,
is a Judaean rendition of the sacred story, perhaps as early as 950 BCE.
The E strand, which designates God as Elohim, is a version of the sacred story
from the northern kingdom of Israel, written in about 900–750 BCE.
The P strand, so called because of its cultic interests and regulations for priests,
is usually dated in the 5th century BC and is regarded as the law
upon which Ezra and Nehemiah based their reform.
Each of these strands preserves materials much older than the time of their incorporation
into a written work. Exodus thus conserves extremely old oral and written history.


Karen Armstrongbr> 622 Josiah rebuilt the Temple, and the Scroll of the Law was discovered,
which was said to be what God had given Moses on Sinai.
There is no mention of written Law in earlier writings,
though these were adjusted to include writings. Radical change was called for.
The writers of Deuteronomy rewrote history

THOUGHTS on EXODUS

1. These are legends, written down in the 5th century about events some six hundred years older,
by gathering legends from a range of sources (though mainly from two, J and E).
2. The accounts are formulated to present a basis for national pride, law and priestly authority.
The concept of an ever-present deity was replaced by one dwelling in a holy place
and a people separated from their neighbours.
3. The legends do not present a credible account, even though the message may be sound.
4. Taking such stories literally is a major contributor to the demise of religion in our day.
5. The concept of Holy Scripture and of Yahweh as the only God did not surface until the 4th century.