What is the Bible really about? In this devastatingly frank and often hilarious exposé, Peter Lemesurier (author of the best-selling Great Pyramid Decoded and the revolutionary Armageddon Script) suggests that for centuries Christians have been looking at the scriptures through the wrong end of the telescope – attempting to make sense of the book in terms of their beliefs, rather than of their beliefs in terms of the book. In particular, they have been looking at Jesus through the stained-glass lens of traditional Christian dogma, rather than through the clear glass of the Jewish Old Testament which he so loved and of which he considered himself to be the culmination. Reflecting the latest research in the field, his highly readable survey unflinchingly sets the record straight. This is consequently a book that will stun the conventionally religious, incense the fundamentalists and give heart to those who have always found the Bible baffling and incomprehensible.
- Informal, direct and immensely readable
- Despite appearances, based on sound biblical scholarship
- Unusually, approaches the subject with irresistible humour
- Puts the bomb under biblical fundamentalism
- Exposes Christian practice for the charade it usually is
- Comes complete with graphs and charts
THE HOLY BABBLE (approximately 60,000 words) is available to publishers either via e-mail or on CD.
A very enjoyable read, full of info, but without descending into the technical gobbledygook that, from a "popular" perspective, mars books of this nature.
I've been killing myself laughing.
Julian and I both laughed out loud reading it.
Susan Mears, Literary Agent
THIS WEEK'S INSTAL(L)MENT...
So what about the Israelites? Remember the Israelites? Ah yes. Well, all that we can be sure about is that the Israelite tribes were definitely in Palestine by around 1000 BC, when they were finally united into a single nation by a charismatic King known as David (‘Beloved’), who was apparently a magnificent warrior, wrote poetic hymns and prayers called ‘psalms’ in which he called himself mashiach (‘anointed’), and ruled over his country from Jerusalem. Jerusalem, we are told, was a great city, with an important Temple at its heart that was rebuilt and made even more magnificent by his son Solomon.
Admit it – that’s what you thought, wasn’t it? (If it wasn’t, then you’re ahead of me!)
Yet, once again, archaeology brings the legend back down to earth with a bump. Far from being a great city, it turns out that Jerusalem at the time was little more than a remote hill-village, and its original Temple a mere royal chapel. The stories of the glorious reigns of David and Solomon, in other words, are highly elaborated legends, mythically very much akin to the famous legend of the court of King Arthur at Camelot (so here we are, back with Merlin again!). As for the title mashiach (‘anointed’), this is simply the Hebrew original of our word ‘Messiah’ – the one that Handel wrote all that music about. Moreover, in the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) it is actually translated as χριστος (‘Christ’).
In Greek terms, then (the same terms as are routinely applied to Yeshua of Nazareth), David was technically ‘David Christ’. And his son was ‘Solomon Christ’ after him. The doctrinal implications, you have to admit, are pretty mind-boggling…
And yes, I did say ‘Yeshua’. The name ‘Jesus’ is (once again) merely the Greek translation of it. The scholars have known that for centuries. And now you know it too.
After Solomon, however, things started going downhill. In around 931 BC, as a result of further squabbles (no doubt you’re starting to notice how much they have to do with the story), the country split into two – the kingdom of Israel in the north, and the kingdom of Judah in the south. Both, consequently, were very much weaker than the former united kingdom had been. Israel, in particular, soon became a vassal state of neighbouring Assyria, the regional Great Power of the day – which meant that it had to pay regular tribute money. But Israel, just like anybody else, found it difficult to keep up the mortgage payments. And so it was not long before, in 740 BC, the Assyrians decided to repossess the property. By 722 BC (the dates BC work backwards, remember) the countryside had been laid waste, the cities devastated and large swathes of the able-bodied population deported to other parts of the empire or forced to flee to the southern kingdom of Judah. In their place, foreigners were brought in to settle the empty lands.
And so it was that the ten northern tribes disappeared totally from the pages of history. In due course they were to become known as the ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’. Mainly because that’s what they were. You see, quite understandably, the Assyrians (who were just as clever as I am, and probably as you are too) deliberately mixed them up with other subject-populations to help keep them under control, and so they were never heard of again – notwithstanding recent well-meaning attempts by people with more imagination than sense, such as the ‘British Israelites’, to ‘find’ them again in Britain or America. Meanwhile the aliens who had occupied their ancient homeland would come to be known as ‘Samaritans’.
Not because they were noted for ‘passing by on the other side’, you understand. Nor even because they fancied themselves as amateur suicide counsellors. It was just that Samaria was… well, the name of their capital city.
In the wake of the invasion, all sorts of shenanigans ensued. For a start, the greedy Assyrians had a pop at taking the southern kingdom of Judah, too. Thanks partly to some nice new fortifications, Jerusalem escaped by the skin of its teeth. In response, a succession of local kings (Hezekiah, Manasseh and Amon, if you insist) did their best first to co-operate with their powerful ‘neighbours from hell’ (and to worship all their gods, too), then to resist them (and worship only Yahweh, the local tribal god), then finally to co-operate again. Their societies and their economies accordingly first flourished, then suffered, than flourished again. Evidently sick of all this and longing for a quiet time, a group of conspirators assassinated Amon, the last of these kings. Then the people in turn revolted (but then you always knew ancient people were revolting, didn’t you?), and placed on the throne his eight-year-old son instead.
His name was Josiah, and his reign marks a hugely important moment in our story.
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