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101 myths of the Bible : how ancient scribes invented biblical history (edition 2000)

by Gary Greenberg

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193561,059 (3.52)1
Member:neilgodfrey
Title:101 myths of the Bible : how ancient scribes invented biblical history
Authors:Gary Greenberg
Info:Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, c2000. xxx, 319 p. : maps ; 24 cm.
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Bible, Mythology

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101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History by Gary Greenberg

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This book traces the origins of Biblical Myths in the Persian, Egyptian, and Greek worlds prior to being written down in the Hebrew bible. The book takes the correct, but these days radical, step of using myth to simply mean story, not necessarily false story, but then goes on to contrast it with "The Reality", which implies that each myth is false, when some of them are true (at least, what people believe the Bible says is what it really says). Other than that, it was interesting, if a bit draggy in parts, and the author does a pretty good job of indicating places where the scholarship is not settled on an issue, such as whether or not the Hebrews were actually enslaved in Egypt. Overall, a decent introduction. ( )
  quantum_flapdoodle | Jul 23, 2013 |
This book wasn’t quite what I expected when I bought it, but I nevertheless enjoyed reading it. In my opinion, you won’t read conclusive evidence that the stories are myths; what you’ll read are possible explanations for 101 of the Bible’s legends, for scholarship has hardly settled upon many of the conclusions Greenberg draws. But he does make you think, and that’s the purpose of my writing as well. An occasional idea for my daily blog post originates from this book; yesterday’s post combines two such ideas from Greenberg.

Greenberg’s specialty may be Egyptian mythology, because in many of the Bible’s stories, he finds Egyptian roots. This is not a new line of thought; others have proposed that Christianity, at its core, derives from even more ancient Egyptian beliefs. Perhaps this can be explained by Israel being a breakaway nation from Egypt—Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery there. Some examples may be helpful.

The Myth: God planted a tree of life and a tree of knowledge. The Reality: These two special trees symbolically represent the Egyptian deities Shu and Tefnut.

The Myth: God formed Adam from the dust of the earth. The Reality: The biblical editors confused the birth of Atum in Egyptian mythology with the birth of the first human.

The Myth: Jacob wrestled with a stranger. The Reality: The wrestling story reflects the daily struggle between Egyptian figures Horus and Set.

For each of the 101 “myths,” Greenberg provides two or three pages of explanation. The result is a fascinating peek below the surface of the Bible’s stories, making them even more interesting than you had imagined! ( )
2 vote DubiousDisciple | Mar 21, 2011 |
This book is a very interesting read, it basically compares excerpts of the bible with apparently related myths from mainly Egypt. I say apparently because it is a popular written book and to check the facts you need to find the sources. Sometimes similarity is based on similar names, in the view of Greenberg. So I would say this book is an appetizer into this topic, but I would not use the arguments in discussions.
For that I highly recommend Richard E. Friedmann ("who wrote the bible") and Bart Ehrman ("misquoting Jesus"). ( )
2 vote SkepChris | Dec 13, 2008 |
A good book providing a wonderful analysis with religious/mythological parallels. Unfortunately, Greenberg treats the original biblical authors/redactors as unsophisticates stumbling over their attempts at providing a monotheistic context for the sources. ( )
  apswartz | Jun 27, 2007 |
Many easy to read comparisons of biblical stories with older Egyptian and other myths. Accompanying sharp analyses of the biblical stories makes it pretty easy to establish that the nonbiblical myth came first and was re-written for another audience and cult. I especially love his earliest chapters comparing the Genesis creation with Egyptian creation myths. Includes also some biblical stories without pagan myth parallels but with analyses that argues strongly for less than straight forward origins.

Unfortunately I wonder if Greenberg has leaned to popular readability at the expense of giving some more historical explanation that might help readers understand how such borrowing could have taken place. Without this one can see died-in-the-wool bible believers simply dismissing the contents. But then again, I guess not too many of those would be reading a book with such a title anyway.

I would also liked to have seen at least some acknowledgement of other views beside his parallels and case for borrowing, but I suppose I am personally looking for something with stronger academic bite to it to salt its popular appeal.

And why does Greenberg stop with the Old Testament. I thought he was straining a bit sometimes in there to get his 101 for the title, but could easily have made up the number by flipping forward and giving the New Testament a similar treatment. Would that have been just too controversial for a presumably predominantly American readership?
2 vote neilgodfrey | Oct 7, 2006 |
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"This book reveals how the ancient editors of the Bible used the myths and legends of neighboring cultures to build the foundations of the monotheistic religions of today."

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