gmirkin
Just how old is the Old Testament? If Moses didn't write the Pentateuch, who did? For millennia, people have thought the Hebrew Bible was as old as many of the events it depicts. In recent generations, scholars have thought it was created over a long period of time, with various authors and editors. But the writings in the Hebrew Bible may not be as ancient as we've been led to believe.

On this episode of the Truth Perspective, we'll be interviewing Russell Gmirkin, independent researcher, scholar, and author of two of the most revolutionary books in biblical studies: Russell's work radically challenges our understanding of the history of the Hebrew Bible. He demonstrates that there is simply no evidence that the Bible existed prior to the time of Alexander the Great (ca. 325 BC). All the evidence indicates that the collection of books we know of as the Hebrew Bible was written around the year 270 BC. And not only that: they relied heavily on Greek literature, particularly Plato's final work: Laws.

Listen in as we discuss how, when, and why the Bible was created.

You can visit Russell's website here: russellgmirkin.com

Running Time: 01:56:09

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Harrison: Hello everyone and welcome back to The Truth Perspective. It is December 11th and in the studio today, we have Jason Martin.

Jason: Hello.

Harrison: We are very pleased to have back - it's been a while- Laura Knight-Jadczyk. Welcome Laura!

Laura: Hi everybody.

Harrison: Today we are going to be interviewing Russell Gmirkin. Russell is an independent researcher and Bible scholar, and has written two of, what I consider, and probably what people that read them consider, some of the most revolutionary books in biblical studies.

The first was published in 2006, titled Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch. This year, 2016, he released a follow-up to that book called Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible. We are going to be discussing Russell's work and just why, and how revolutionary this stuff is. Russell, we are very happy to have you; welcome to the show.

Russell: Well, I am very happy to be here; it is very exciting!

Harrison: If you check out the description on the show, you can see a link to both of the books and to Russell's website: russellgmirkin.com. Russell, to start out with, maybe you can just tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into this field and maybe some of the steps that led you to come to some of the conclusions that you include in these two books?

Russell: Sure, I have a very strong biblical background because I grew up in America and, like everyone else, I went to church, read the Bible, went to a Bible college and then I kind of went out of that and went into classical studies and got a lot of background in all the Greek histories and ancient sources.

Then, I got drawn back into biblical studies when I was doing some research for a book that I was writing called In Search of the Pillars of Hercules. There was one source on the Pillars of Hercules named Berossus; he was a Babylonian priest; he wrote around 280 BC. I read his materials on this one research project and I was just struck by how close his book on Babylonia resembled the early parts of Genesis.

Scholars have, for a long time, understood that Genesis drew on all sorts of Mesopotamian sources. They know that it drew on the Babylonian creation story, the Sumerian king, who lived with the 10 generations of incredibly long-lived kings before the flood; the Babylonian flood story, the Epic of Gilgamesh and others.

As it turns out, Berossus translated every one of those works, these exotic sources in ancient cuneiform and dead languages, like Sumerian, he translated them all into Greek around 280 BC so that the authors of Genesis only had to read Berossus to get all those Mesopotamian sources. In fact, his translations and paraphrases were often closer to the biblical versions than the cuneiform originals.

So, to me, this showed that the authors of Genesis had to have written sometime after 280 BC and they had access to Greek books on history; including Berossus.

Harrison: This is where we get into one of the big issues because the common view of the Old Testament is that it was written thousands of years before that, is that correct? Can you tell us a bit about what the commonly held view is on the history of the Bible and when it was written?

Russell: You bet, the Bible claims to be an ancient book and until the last few centuries, these claims were taken at face value. Moses wrote the books of Moses and Joshua wrote Joshua, Isaiah wrote Isaiah and so-forth. People still believe this and that's ok; I did as a teenager; we all did, didn't we?

Laura: Yep.

Russell: By around 1600, the top Bible scholars came to the realisation that Moses just couldn't have written the books of Moses; which are Genesis through Deuteronomy; the first five books of the Bible. Moses couldn't have written that anachronistic passage in Genesis that mentions later kings of Israel that were long after this time; he couldn't have talked about his own death in the book of Deuteronomy and, let's face it, Moses couldn't have written these book 500 years before the invention of the Hebrew alphabet.

But still, if these books weren't quite as ancient as they claim to be, virtually all scholars, as late as 1990, still tried to date the books of Moses, and the rest of the Bible, just as early as possible; taking into account obvious anachronisms. They imagined that these books were written in the time of Solomon or King Josiah or Ezra; certainly long before the coming of the Greeks.

Then, in 1993, a Danish scholar named Niels Peter Lemche, wrote a modest article called Is the Old Testament a Hellenistic Book? That asked a simple question, why do we insist on dating these biblical texts as early as possible? Why not look at the latest possible date as the proper starting point? Now the first real evidence for the Old Testament comes from around 270 BC, when the five books of Moses were translated into Greek by the Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt; about 50 years after the conquest of Alexander the Great.

Now, before that time, there were very few historical references to the Jews and no references to biblical writings. After that date, there is an explosion of Bible related writings, so what is the real evidence for the Bible being older than the 200s BC other than naked assumption?
Niels Peter Lemche and Thomas Thomson and Philip Davies got into so much trouble in the 1990's, in what came to be known as the minimalist-maximalist debate, for even suggesting that the Bible might be as late as the Hellenistic era, after the conquests of Alexander, when the Greeks ruled in the lands of the Near East. Now their view is pretty much mainstream; especially in Europe. Although, not all scholars in North America have gotten the memo.

With two books, including Berossus and Genesis, and speeches at conferences and several articles, I have really provided the smoking gun evidence that the Bible really was written in the Hellenistic era, like they suggested, and that the team of Jewish scholars known to have translated the books of Moses from Hebrew to Greek for the Great Library at Alexandria around 270 BC. They also wrote the books of Moses, using Greek sources they found at that library.

So, we now know, for the first time in biblical scholarship, who actually wrote the first books of Moses, when and where they were written and now, what the favourite books were on their bookshelves. It's almost like I have a telescope into the past, at the time the Bible was created, because we know the sources they read, we know a lot of their thinking and we know how they went about writing these books. It's a very exciting time for biblical scholarship and I am kind of proud for my contribution to the whole debate.

The Bible contains so many Greek parallels, it is now perfectly obvious that the biblical authors were very familiar with Greek literature and that this could only have happened after the time of Alexander the Great, when the Greeks conquered the East from Egypt, all the way to India; including Judea; and they spread Greek culture in all those lands.

Let me just point out one fun example, which I discuss in my latest book Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible; a Greek parallel to the biblical material. The whole plot of Genesis, from Genesis through Joshua I should say, comes right out of the typical Greek foundation story, of which we have dozens of examples.

In these stories, the land was typically promised by the Gods to some famous ancestor, kind of like the Bible and Abraham. Later, an armed expedition sets out under a divinely chosen leader (inaudible) like Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Then, this colonising expedition reaches the Promised Land after many difficulties misadventures. The leader writes out the constitution and the laws of the nation and the land is conquered and divided up amongst the colonists and etc. Just like in the Bible.

The Bible clearly got this whole storyline from the Greeks and you can cite many other examples of Greek parallels to biblical law collections and history writing and the prophets, and the erotic poetry and the songs and the Greek play that is the book of Job and so-on-and-so-forth. In the last 20 years, our knowledge has really become revolutionised and we are now really recognising the Greek contributions to the Bible.

Harrison: Russell, one technical issue before we get into it, can you move your microphone a bit further away? We have got some feedbacks and you can hear some noises.

Russell: Sure, ok.

Harrison: Laura, were you going to say something?

Laura: Yes, I was just going to say that this is revolutionary, but years and years ago, when I was reading John Van Seter's In Search of History or Abraham (Abraham in History and Tradition), whatever, several books, he mentioned in there, as an aside, the problem of the relationship of the stories of the old testament to Greek stories and also to the Epic of Gilgamesh.

I had always thought that the story of David and Goliath was just so bizarre because here is David against this giant, and he has got the stones in his pouch, and he cuts the giant's head off; this overwhelming power, and it just struck me, that this little pericope of the David cycle was so much like the story of Perseus and Medusa.

You have got the stones; she turned you to stone if you looked at her; he has got the stones in the pouch; he cuts her head off, puts it in a pouch; David's got a pouch, cuts the head off of Goliath and-so-forth; the small guy against the big overwhelming force. It stuck with me for years and years, so I was really happy when I read that.

Russell: That is a very interesting parallel, there are a lot of parallels between David and Goliath and Homer's Iliad too. They had a lot of stories where one champion from one army would face-off against the other champion from the other army in one battle witnessed by both sides. Goliath, he is dressed up like a typical Greek soldier, he even has a little shield carrier, like the Greek Hoplites.

It is just very Greek, there are Perseus and Medusa echoes, there are lots of Greek echoes, especially in the stories of David; a lot comes out of Homer; quite a number of parallels; fascinating stuff.

Laura: Then you go on and you read things like Bruce Louden and his comparison of some of the Old Testament stories to the Odyssey, then, [Jan-Jim] Wesselius, who compares the overarching structure of the Old Testament, from Genesis through Second Kings, as being very similar to the structure of Herodotus histories. Then, what's his name, Philippe Wajdenbaum, who wrote the Argonauts of the Desert [ Structural Analysis of the Hebrew Bible (Copenhagen International Seminar)] and made all those comparisons, and somewhere in there your book came in, because I was reading them fairly chronologically and it just all began to make sense.

Russell: Philippe's book played a large role in my current book Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible. Right after I wrote my first book, on Berossus and Genesis, I started on a second book on Greek sources on the whole Bible. I had really completed it in 2011 and my editor, Thomas Thompson, said I should take a look at this new book by this Belgian scholar named Philippe Wajdenbaum, Argonauts of the Desert, and maybe incorporate some of his stuff on Plato into my book.

His book was basically a catalogue of all possible literary parallels between biblical and Greek writings; including Plato's Laws which has extensive legal parallels to the Mosaic Laws; as was known since Greek and Roman times. The church Father Eusebius had a large section with comparisons between the Bible and Plato's laws.

When I read Philippe's book, I basically tossed out my manuscript and started over. I decided to embark on systematic comparison of biblical, Greek and ancient Near Eastern laws to see where the biblical laws came from and if they came from Plato's laws, like Philippe suggested. I have got to tell you, I really dreaded researching the biblical law collections, I considered them to be the most boring part of the Bible; except for maybe those Genealogies and Chronicles.

Laura: That is horrible.

Russell: It's tough; it's really tough reading. I had to research every biblical law and every law in all the law collections of the ancient Near East; like Hammurabi's law code and every Greek law on inscriptions and literary collections; everywhere. Including the theoretical laws proposed on Plato's laws, which was the last book that he wrote, around 350 BC.

No one had ever done this before. No one had compared Greek, ancient Near Eastern and biblical laws before; why was that? It's because everyone had assumed that the Bible's laws were super-ancient; certainly older than Plato; so why bother? It would have been a pointless exercise in the opinion of scholars up until the 1990's.

So, when I did this huge research project, what I discovered was pretty stunning. The Bible has a huge debt to Greek laws and especially to Plato's laws; along with a handful of laws that do come from the Mesopotamian, ancient Near Eastern law collections; but mostly from the Greeks. It is just evident, that the biblical authors at Alexandria's library had done extensive comparative international legal research there, which was very common for Greek legislators who were putting together a law code; before they wrote down the biblical laws of Moses.

So, the laws of Moses are based on a lot of these laws from Greek sources and as it turned out, Plato's Laws was the most important book that they consulted. You can find traces of it from the first chapter of Genesis right through to Prophets. In fact, the very idea of a Bible - a national collection of approved, sacred texts - comes right out of Plato's Laws.

Laura: It's absolutely fascinating that all these years, we have been conditioned to think that the Old Testament and Judaism are like a sui generis and Christianity, of course, is the unparalleled fulfilment of Judaism. Of course, they have to keep Judaism in that pure state; from God's mouth, to Moses ear, and then immediately take that and bridge over into Christianity so that they preserve this power structure.

That's what it amounts to; it's a power structure; our God is the right God. Biblical studies are done in such a way that it preserves this forever. That's the way I felt about it; absolutely stunned.

Jason: I do have a question. What is the issue that the people who seem to be very much against this investigation into the Old Testament? There is obviously a group of scholars who are really identified with the idea of the sui generis Judaism, what is it precisely that they fear in this kind of an investigation?

Russell: Well, there are a couple of answers to that. One of them is that most biblical scholarship is done in seminaries, religious studies programmes and things like that in the US; there is a conflict of interest. It is kind of like the fox in charge of the hen house sort of a thing.

The other thing is that, I think it is largely scholarly inertia. In Thomas Kuhn's book, The Structure of Scientific Revolution, he talks about the inertia of paradigms, how knowledge is passed down from teachers to students and the students adopt all of the assumptions of their revered teachers that they studied with their feet up, then they perpetuate it right down the line. It is very hard to talk about a really challenging new perspective that is revolutionary because you have to throw out your education and you have to throw out all the books you have ever written.

A lot of times, it takes someone from the outside who goes into a field without any of the assumptions and without being indebted to the person who ran their PHD program, to go in with a lack of assumptions, a new perspective and re-invent the wheel from the ground up. The Copenhagen School, Niels Peter Lemche, Thomas Thompson and Philip Davies, all of whom I got to meet at a recent conference in Copenhagen by the way; they are great people; they challenged the maximist assumption that all these books were way, far ancient, and they said "let's look at the whole range of possibilities. They could have been written any time between the time of Moses and 270 BC. Let's look at that whole range of dates as possible and see where they fall in there."

Throwing off the assumptions of the antiquity of the Bible just opens new possibilities in research and that's how I came in and I looked at any Greek sources or ancient Near Eastern sources before 270 BC and I looked at them all as potential sources for the Bible and discovered that yes, the Bible drew on Berossus and on the Egyptian priest Manetho and on Plutarch and Plato in this case. If you share those old assumptions and especially if you are paid to have those assumptions, you are just not going to go down that road.

Surprisingly, I have had little really, really negative feedback from other scholars. Scholars have been pretty receptive to my work except when they are protecting their own books that they have published. I don't think that Van Seters likes me very much.

Laura: Oh dear.

Russell: He really initiated this whole comparison between Greek writings on history and biblical writings but he dates the biblical writings way early, way before the Greeks ever came into Judea and the East. I don't understand how he can believe that all of this influence took place before the Greeks and the Jews had any context.

Jason: For me, this made Old Testament studies far more interesting. I kind of like the idea of the Old testament being rooted in Hellenistic culture more than being off from this Middle Eastern, small, backwoods province. It seemed very alien to me but this actually make it all the more interesting and more exciting; to say, wait a minute, there is this huge historical, cultural influence coming through. It's like a line that connects all the way back to the past instead of being this line that connected to this one place that stopped in a foreign land.

There is influences from various other countries in Asia Minor, there is Babylonia, there are all these different areas but there are also these Hellenistic Greeks. For me, that makes everything far more interesting when you read the biblical stories. Now, when I look at them, I start looking at them through that lens and they seem so much more interesting; so much more connected to history than they ever did before.

Laura: Before, it was from God's mouth to Moses ear and that was it and you are not allowed to question that. What was God doing before he created the world? He was creating hell for people who asked questions!

Russell: Something else that is interesting is that there was kind of an echo phenomenon where the Greeks invented a lot of historiography. Van Steters and Halpern, they said the Jews actually invented historiography before the Greeks and Halpern has said the Jews invented a de-mythologised cosmology in Genesis 1 when the Greeks were doing the same thing. Westberg said that the Jews and the Greeks were coming up with parallel laws at the same time.

You had all these echoes and there must be 10 different areas where the Jews either had a primacy of discovery independent of the Greeks or parallel and independent; based on the biblical writings, I'm not doing anything to subtract from the genius of the Jews but all these different echoes and nobody ever tied it all together and said "hey, maybe these Jewish writings came after the Greeks and all these things that we have credited to ancient Jews and Israelites before, they learned it from the Greeks! That's a very economical explanation as to why they are so very similar.

Laura: There is another area that strikes me as furiously interesting and that is the whole idea of monotheism, because some time ago, I read Norman Cohen's book on apocalypticism and he finds that it really originated with the Zoroastrians. Then you start digging into Zoroaster and his whole monotheistic shtick and you get into Mary Boyce, who thinks that Zoroaster was far, far earlier.

Then, you realise that there were some connections between the Metanian Empire and the Egyptian Empire just prior to the appearance of Akhenaten and his monotheistic thing, and you start wondering where this came from because when you read studies of the archaeology of the Palestinian area, you realise that they were basically polytheistic and a lot of them were engaged in child sacrifice and-so-forth. There are echoes of that in the prophetic writings - Ezekiel and Isaiah and-so-forth - condemning the Jews, or the Proto-Jews or the Canaanites or whatever, for their child sacrifice and the sin of Manasseh etc.

You get the idea that they didn't really become monotheists until after their exposure to the Persian Empire. They picked up some things from Persia, from Babylon, from Egypt etc. and then a whole lot of stuff, then put it all together during the time of the Greeks and kind of came up with a big pot of soup so-to-speak. I have been finding that to be extremely interesting. But then, what they did was they wrote it in such a way, with the claim to the original everything, and, as Bruce Louden points out, in some of the stories, they turn thing around completely so that it seems like the story is not the same as the Greek story that it's derived from.

For example, Abraham arguing with God about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah being similar to the Goddess arguing with Zeus about the fate of Odysseus and his men. Instead of the Goddess arguing with God about the fate of a man, you have a man arguing with God about the fate of other people. Everything is disguised very cleverly and the claim to total originality is put out there and people believed it because when Christianity came along, it needed Judaism to be the direct line to God; the God of the universe; the creator.

Russell: I was just going to reinforce some of what Laura said. We know from ancient inscriptions that we have found that the Jews and the Samaritans were polytheists, the inscriptions say that Yahweh had a consort, or wife, named Asherah. The Bible condemns Asherah up one side and down the other but that's what they had back then; Yahweh had a wife.

We know from the Elephantine papyri, around 450-400 BC. Elephantine was Jewish military; a Jewish and Aramean Samaritan military colony above the Nile; it protected Egypt from invasion from the Ethiopians. This military colony found a bunch of papyri, still preserved in Egypt's hot climate, from around 450-400 BC and from those, we learned that Jews had a temple in Jerusalem, the Jews at Elephantine, they had a temple of Yahweh there at Elephantine. We know the Samaritans had a temple of Yahweh at Gerizim, they had all sorts of temples.

The people at Elephantine, they swore by Yahweh and a few other Aramean and Babylonian Gods; they were polytheists. Around 415 BC, they wrote the religious authorities in Jerusalem and Samaria saying "The Egyptians just tore down our temple, can we have another one? Can we have a new one?" and the people in Jerusalem said "Sure!"

You know for a fact that the Bible hadn't been written at that time. They didn't have monotheism, they didn't have one temple, they didn't have the Sabbath. You have a 7-day week at Elephantine but you have this one business owner who threatens to kill one of his employees unless he shows up on the 7th day and takes a whole load of vegetables; they were working on Saturday.

The Bible is later than that and monotheism is later than that too. I tend to view monotheism though, as in the Bible, as mostly coming out of Plato. Quite a few people suggested Zoroaster and the Persians but part of the reason for that is because they believe that the Bible was written in the Persian era and no later. If you also consider possible Greek influence, Plato was a monotheist, several of the Greek philosophers were monotheists; Anaxagoras, he was prosecuted for atheism because he believed in one God, so was Aristotle and Socrates was executed for that reason!

So Plato did a really interesting thing, it's really interesting because it has biblical parallels. He said "alright, my teacher Socrates, he had to drink hemlock because Athens considered him an atheist because he believed in this weird one God sort-of-a-thing." and a few other reasons. Plato said "we are going to have that one philosopher's God", his name was Nous, which means intelligence or mind or reason. "We are going to have him, he is the God of the ruling class and the philosophers and the people who are going to run this state that I am inventing. The regular people underneath, they can have as many Gods as they want, they can have all 12 Gods of the Olympian deities that Athens had. We'll make it a law that if you don't believe in the 12 Gods, you'll be executed as an atheist, just like they did in Athens."

So he had his own private monotheism for him and his guys; his clique; his ruling class elites and then the popular people, they were allowed to have all sorts of Gods. You see the same thing in the Bible, Genesis 1 basically has one God and a lot of that stuff comes out of Plato's book The Timaeus which talked about how the universe came into existence. Genesis 2 jumps into multiple Gods and this local God Yahweh who is walking around in the Garden of Eden and the book of Psalms and Deuteronomy, they talked about El and his 70 sons; his divine council; they had all sorts of Gods that they recognised, they just said that Yahweh was a Jewish God or the best God.

They had this kind of monotheism that co-existed with polytheism and the Bible really isn't monotheistic except Genesis 1 and maybe a couple of chapters in Isaiah. Later generations of Jews who read the Bible, they came around to the idea of only one God but the idea of multiple Gods named El and Yahweh and things like that, that had been going on for a remarkably long time.

Harrison: Laura mentioned the Persian influence and you mentioned that, in your mind, that this looks more like an influence straight from Plato, this gets into the issue of looking at the book, the Bible, as a book written in 270 BC because the Bible covers a history that stretches back thousands of years with all of the famous Bible stories; the slavery in Egypt and the Exodus, then coming back and then the exile and Babylonia and then the Persian influence.

You have got all of these stories and all this history mish-mashed in there and in your book, the one thing that stands out for me is that a lot of the earliest stories seem like they are almost complete fabrications based on these histories and stories that you define in the Greek writings. I'm wondering if you could tell us what you think about the history pre-270 BC in the Bible and how much of that might actually be true, or is it all this kind of fan-fiction or historical fiction that you find in the stories of Moses for example? What about the Persian influence and the Prophets writing in exile and things like that?

Russell: I think the starting point for the modern discussion has to be that the Bible was put together in the 270s BC but Plato also advocated that when you are creating this national literature - we can get into his invention of the Bible in a little while - he said that you should research all the old local legends and the local Gods and ancient temples and incorporate as much of that into your national literature and your cultural traditions as possible so that all this stuff appears to be ancient and based in the Gods of the land and all that.

There was an impetus to preserve as many ancient materials as were compatible with the new laws that were created in 270 BC; to preserve parts of Jewish heritage that were considered harmless or supporting the new system of government they were inventing. We know some of the sources were ancient, the king lists, especially for the northern Kingdom starting after Ahab and Judea starting with around Hezekiah, a lot of that stuff is very accurate; the chronology is accurate; the names were accurate.

We know that because these kings were mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions and the chronology lines up. The book of Kings has these chronicles of the kings of Israel and in Judah and those have to preserve king lists from the monarchy; that part is accurate. Once you get earlier than that, once you get earlier than the divided monarchy where Israel and Judah are separate, once you get into the time of David and before that, that's legend or novelistic; the Biblical authors didn't even cite any sources for that older material.

The David stories are clearly novelistic and they have lots of parallels with Homer and with other Greek writings. The Moses story, the Exodus, that was really basically made up based on an earlier account by a man named Hecataeus of Abdera, he was a Greek writer, he went to Egypt and he wrote a book on Egypt for the first King in Egypt after Alexander the Great. In this book, he had a little story about the foundations of Judea. He said that someone named Moses led out a colonising expedition from Egypt because the Egyptians were over populated and they went to Judea, which was uninhabited at the time, and he came up with 12 tribes and all sorts of laws and wrote a constitution and founded a temple and did all these things and he basically founded Jerusalem and this temple according to this really typical Greek foundation story, written around 315 BC.

The Greeks, King Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who ruled Egypt, he read this book by Hecataeus of Abdera and he and his people were very curious about this story about how this Egyptian named Moses wrote these laws of the Jews. They sent a request to the Jews saying "we want to know about these laws that we found in this foundation story from Hecataeus" that's when the Jews sent this delegation of scholars to Alexandria to provide a copy of their laws for the Great Library of Alexandria. Since these were the ancestral laws, they also had to have the story of how these laws came into existence and they basically took their cue from the earlier Greek story from Hecataeus.

We actually know the source of that; it's a Greek story. Hecataeus didn't know anything about the Bible; the Bible hadn't been written yet. He just wrote this kind of a fantastic story; the Egyptians founding Judea, kind of, like you said, the Egyptians founded Babylon and they founded Athens and they founded other colonies all around the world; he has stories for them too.

The story of Moses is based on this Greek story from 40 or 50 years earlier; it basically takes the plot out of that. You can kind of divide up the history in the Jewish Bible and it splits into 3 parts, the earliest parts are pure mythology and then later on, you get into stuff that might be kind of legendary, there might be some legends about Abraham or Isaac associated with some alter-Samaria; they could have had oral traditions for some of this stuff. Finally, you get to material that has some historical content, like the Book of Kings.

Then, in the Prophets, the Prophets are mostly very late but there are some early materials in them as well. We know that they are late because, for one thing, most of the Prophets refer to writings from the Book of Moses and so they had to have come after 270 BC. Another really interesting this is that the Prophets, several of them talk about how this Jewish sacrificial system was kind of useless and that all these sacrifices and prayers were a waste of time.

The important thing was righteousness and that God couldn't be bribed with all this endless streams of sacrifices; that comes right out of Plato. He talks about these same things in several of his books, The Republic and Laws and some others. It's all straight out of Plato so it has to be late.

There is also some early stuff too, the Book of Haggai appears to be an authentic collection of oracles from around 515 BC, around the time when the Jews were finally given authorisation to construct their temple. I love finding older materials in the Bible; in the Prophets and things like that; it's fascinating. Most of it is late and Greek but there is some interesting early stuff, for instance, the first chapter of Ezekiel has this vision of God's throne as a chariot on this heavenly realm that has jewels sparkling in the floor and cherubim and the seraphim and all the eyes and this and that.

There's only about 2 or 3 lines in there that even mention Yahweh and most of it reads exactly like a Babylonian source that talks about Marduk's throne up in the skies. So, here in Ezekiel, you have this Babylonian document that has a couple of glosses that mention Yahweh so as to kind of domesticate it and turned into a Jewish thing; it's pure Babylonian.

There are spots in the Bible that do preserve old traditions and it's really interesting to investigate and find where they are but the old assumption that it's all ancient is pretty much out the window at this point.

Laura: I think that that's the direction that biblical studies needs to go about now, just to start looking for the really old texts and trying to divide things and look at it from a reasonable point of view. What else can they do? Once you know that it's not as old as you think it is, start working with what you have.

Russell: Absolutely, it's like an archaeological site. You see the site and it contains some old artefacts, so you say this is from the time of David or Solomon or whatever and the archaeologists, they used to bulldoze the top layers that weren't interesting; that late stuff. "This is interesting; we like the Bible stuff." Then you discover "Hey, we dated this whole thing wrong. It's from the period of Kings into the Hellenistic era and we need to find all the different strata, all the layers; all the different datable layers of materials to come up with a whole history". Looking at the Bible the same way, there's old stuff in it and that stuff's really interesting but the late stuff is really fascinating too.

Harrison: This leads into something which I would like to get back to talking about because I think that Jason had asked the question "why do people have such resistance to this kind of research?" I think one of the parts to the answer to that question gets back to the original goal of why the Bible was written in the way that it was and how Plato had basically set out how to carry out this entire project.

He essentially wrote that into his plan; how to create a system, how to create this national library and how to create a society that completely believes in the truth of this founding document of these laws and to do it in such a way that everyone fervently believes it and so that it will last for years and years and years. If anything, I think that the very fact that we have Christianity today, and Judaism, still going on, is testament to just how effective Plato's method was.

I was wondering if we could now get into Plato and what exactly he envisioned; the plan that he had and how it was put into action by these Jewish scholars in Alexandria.

Russell: He had this genius plan that he laid out on how to take a brand new colony in a new location and create a new government for a new nation and the citizens that they brought in would have total obedience and be so loyal to that nation that it would last forever; he gave a lot of forethought to this problem.

For him, the key to it all was to have a set of laws from God or the Gods, given in ancient times. The laws of the nation were supposed to have a divine origin. He was modelling this idea on the divine laws of the Spartans and Crete and a few other countries whose constitution had lasted; the Spartans had lasted for 400 years unchanged; that was a long time back then. It was partly because of the respect given to the laws of Sparta which were allegedly given to their founder by, I think, Zeus in that case.

Plato said "It doesn't matter if we are writing a whole new set of laws for this nation, we have to make the people believe they are ancient and they are divine." There is a very crucial passage that I have in front of me where he stated "If there exists laws under which men have been reared up and which with Heaven's blessing have remained unaltered for many centuries, so that there exists no recollection or report of there ever having been different from what they are now, then the whole soul is forbidden by reverence and fear to alter any of the things established in ancient times. So, by hook or by crook, by any device possible then, our law giver must devise a means whereby this shall be true of his State."

So, if you are going to found a new nation or if you are going to re-found a new nation, as in the case of the Jews, you have to make the people believe, according to Plato, that their laws were divine, that they had been given centuries earlier, that they had never been changed and then everyone will be reverent and feared to alter a "jot or a tittle", in the words of Jesus.

To make these brand new laws that Plato wrote in his book, Plato's Laws, and then to have the audacity to claim that they were divine and exceedingly ancient, Plato had these strategies. For one thing, he claimed that he was inspired, he believed that as a philosopher, and using reason, that his soul was in contact with the divine spirit and that Plato's Laws, that book itself, was inspired; that God was guiding the conversation and that it was all divine because after all, he was writing it right? So it was inspired.

He said that, basically to sell to the people that their laws were ancient and divine and to program their consciousness as a nation - he was a social engineer, he was engineering people's thinking from one generation to the next - one of the strategies was that the rulers should investigate and incorporate all the local Gods and deities, the old temples that they could find in the area, old altars, ancient sacred laws and ancient festivals; sure why not? We'll incorporate those religious laws into our law code. Find out who the local priesthoods are and get their support and if there's an inherited line of priests, we'll give them a role in our new government and we'll adopt the old legends.

All of this created an aura of antiquity and a connection to the land and a connection to the Gods of the lands. It brought the priests into the whole organisation so that they'd have an interest in saying that all this stuff was ancient and divine. That was really, incredibly genius and devious strategy that he had. Additionally, he also laid out instructions for creating a national literature - this is really important to his overall strategy - the most important text of this literature was going to be the law book which the Jews called the Torah. Besides this, the rulers were supposed to review all existing literature, everything they had on hand, and approve it or reject it, edit it and revise it for compatibility with these divine laws; with the law code.

They were supposed to come up with a new set of authoritative hymns - kind of like the psalms - and plays - like the book of Job - and prose and history and all literature in this new State were going to require prior approval by these legislators of the arts. Only these texts were supposed to be used in the schools, all outside literature was forbidden, all cultural contact with the outside world were forbidden, so they were isolated.

It's like the whole nation was sort of like a cult in a way. The Spartan's used this approach and they were very effective in keeping their nation in the same constitution for a long time. They outlawed foreign contacts and they had this educational system where all of their soldiers were trained from age 6 on up. All of their education was by the State, Plato advocated a similar system, the Jews had a similar system with their national literature and Plato said that if you used the schools to program the youth, he said the youth will believe anything you teach them. If you get them young enough, they will accept anything you teach them.

If you used this approved canonical literature and if that's where all your education comes from, Plato said that it would only take a generation or two for the citizens to forget their actual history, which, in his metaphor, "their memories would be wiped clean like a slate" like erasing a chalkboard. They would come to believe that their laws and their way of life had been revealed to their distant ancestors by the Gods. As a result, the people would be so loyal to these divine, unchanging laws and their sacred literature that the nation would last forever.

You see all these same things in the creation of the Hebrew Bible and in the Jewish theocracy, incorporating the local Gods and the local temples and altars and the local priesthoods and some of the legends. It was a very, very effective approach that Plato had.

That was his strategy, he lays it all out in great detail. This is clearly what the Jewish people who wrote the books of Moses around 270 BC. They were following this strategy and it's fascinating because once you know the books that they were reading, you actually know their motivation as authors and as legislators, and what they were trying to accomplish. They were creating a theocracy which is a new form of government that Plato invented.

Ruled, not by a king, but by God, through these divine laws and he said that there should be, the rule should be by a panel of theologians and priests who were experts in the law and philosophy. Very much like this new theocratic form of government that you see in the Hellenistic era and Judea which should be ruled by a high priest and by the Sanhedrin and by the council of priests. All of that comes right out of Plato, he basically invented the Jewish form of government, as well as their literature. You have this great program and you can see, from beginning to end, how the Jews implemented it.

Laura: It's horrifying to think that he came up with this social engineering project and the only people who really took it seriously and effectively implemented it were this group of Jewish writers. rewriters and it really has worked, for 2000 years.

Jason: As long as you don't have a country, it worked pretty well. For 2000 years they didn't have a country and his republic was a republic without a land.

Russell: That's absolutely true and it's amazing that even when the Jewish temple fell in 135 BC when Jews were not allowed in Jerusalem any more after the Bar Kokhba revolt and the Jewish nation really came to a complete screeching halt and then, it still persisted for 2000 years! You get this nation that's continuing with these foundation myths and it persisted through to modern times and now we have a Jewish nation again and it's probably going to last.

The Jews were not really the only group; there were the first ones, the Greek and Roman writers, who said "Plato's laws? You are never going to make this work, that's crazy! All of these ideas for creating a rule by God and laws as education and all these novel ideas, they're nuts! It'll never work!" Well, the Jews implemented all of those and they worked incredibly; it's miraculous.

Really, there are people that were created by their national literature; I mean, not created, well, their culture was more-or-less created or invented or certainly solidified based on the literature. The Arabs, they called the Jews "People of the Book" because they were people whose existence was centred on the Jewish Bible. The Jews liked that by the way, they acknowledged that "yes, we are the "People of the Book"" but the Christians were another people of the book. They had their own book, the New Testament, and Islam is another people of the book; the Quran.

Those people were imitating the Jewish Bible, so, you go from Plato, to the Jews, to the Christians, to Islam and gosh-darn-it it worked every time.

Laura: And look what we have now.

Russell: I'll leave it to our listeners to decide whether it was a good thing or a bad thing.

Laura: Exactly.

Harrison: I hadn't thought about it while reading the book, but while having the discussion, it as a quick aside, I was thinking about the parallels with the Islamic State today. I have been reading a couple of books, one about a German journalist, Jurgen Todenhofer, who went into the Islamic State in 2014 and talked to a lot of these guys and [wrote about] how they described what they are doing and why they are doing it and how they are doing it. It's pretty much the same thing, it sounds like these guys have read Plato or they have read the Bible and they have got the same idea. I think that's just one example of the extreme, obviously negative ways that this can go about and the fruit that it can bear.

Russell: Plato's dark genius has cast its shadow down through history and we will be feeling him for a long time from now. You know, my book hopefully kind of pulls the curtain aside and you see Plato saying "ignore the man behind the curtain". Maybe when people realise how this actually came about, then at least future generations of young people will maybe have a choice not to be indoctrinated or to have more than one view of how all of this could have come about. There's some hope, maybe not for the next 4 years or the next century ,but looking into the future.

Harrison: We just need to use some of Plato's ideas to get these ideas out there.

Jason: His ideas have spread even further than theocratic governments. Secular ideologies are also based on Plato, Shafarevich kind of point that out about Marxism and Leninism; that it was Plato's republic; the virtuous state. There have been plenty of secular attempts to adopt Plato's ideology and has led to not necessarily the best results.

Russell: That's absolutely true. Now, I have tried to find out whether Marx and Lenin and those guys had read Plato because in Plato's Republic, he proposed communism; at least, sharing a property and sharing out wives and things like that. I haven't yet discovered whether or not they actually did read Plato.

The parallels are certainly astounding and if you look at North Korea, you have not only the communism and the local mythology, but the cultural isolation where North Korea believes what they believe because they can't get any information from the outside world and that's a very Platonic strategy and very effective.

Jason: The interesting thing is that those ideas, like the sharing of wives and communal property, there was a play by Aristophanes, I can't remember the name of it, in his play, all of the women in Greece dress up with beards and they go and vote to turn over the power to them.

The way it's described in the fragment that I read from the play is that it is essentially like Marxism; communism with communal property and communal wives and everybody working together. They are old ideas and they can be traced all the way up through history; all the way up to Marx. I'm pretty sure that Marx would have read, certainly Plato's Republic.

Russell: I would think so. Aristotle had an interesting criticism of Plato's Republic, he said with everybody having wives in common and all of that, you are going to have people who are marrying their own sister! You would have no way of knowing. He said "that's just wrong!" so that was a bit of a criticism he had for his mentor Plato.

Laura: It was a legitimate criticism and I think that there are a number of legitimate criticisms about Plato, as much as he is held in such high esteem by many, many people.

Jason: Undeservedly.

Laura: Undeservedly I think. These whole Republican laws are Machiavellian.

Jason: It seemed to me that Aristotle was kind of trying put forward, not really a counter argument necessarily, but a counter program in politics and Niccolò Machiavellian ethics. He wrote very extensively on all those topics too and it seemed like his version was different from Plato's. He diverged and, actually, I think in the end, he stopped liking Plato very much; I'm not sure about that though.

Russell: Well, he certainly had a different approach. Plato, in his early works, he really studied rhetoric and persuasion and myth, all the tools of propaganda; I guess we can call it that. He condemned the Sophists, who were the masters of rhetoric, and their techniques. He said you could convince anybody of anything with those techniques but in his later works, he incorporated rhetoric right and left.

His basic approach was to use myth and story and rhetoric and persuasion to persuade ordinary people to obey the laws and be virtuous, even if they didn't really understand it all. Then the philosophers, they were going to be in charge, they would have knowledge, everyone else would have opinions. Reason and knowledge weren't for the common people, the rulers had to shape their beliefs and behaviours.

Aristotle, in his book on rhetoric, he basically said that everybody can understand reason and reason is accessible to everybody. You can't just use rhetorical arguments to manipulate people into what you believe. I'm more of an Aristotelian myself, not a Plato guy, but I really understand Plato.

Jason: There are a few little things about Plato that I read or have heard about. There was an incidence where he supposedly purchased up all the books of Pythagoras, or some whole collection of books, and then buried them. It seemed like he may have been the type that was going around and suppressing what he considered to be important knowledge and filtering it through his own system; through his own academy.

He seems to be this really cultic individual and I found that a little bit distasteful. I didn't really like the various different stories about him.

Russell: I don't know about that particular story but in The Republic, he laid out a whole program for censorship. He says that all the poets should be banned and the Greek poetry should be censored; either eliminated or edited. You have the same thing in Laws where you had the Nocturnal Council, this council of priests and theologians. They were basically the thought police and they controlled literature, they controlled speech, they controlled what plays you could put on, what jokes you could tell, what songs [you could sing]. If you were a comedian, you had to run your material past the censors before you could tell it to people. He was just heavily into mind control, is that the way to phrase it?

Jason: Yeah.

Russell: Or at least programming, programming beliefs and behaviours.

Jason: He invented that, what did he call it, psychagogia; basically brainwashing children to believe something that he admitted was false; his whole project was to tell people a series of very noble lies and to basically brainwash them in those to keep them subjugated to the state.

Russell: This is interesting, he said that if you tell a story set in ancient times, when you really didn't know what was going on anyway, nobody really knows, then, you can tell a lie, a fiction, and it can be more true than the real truth if it conveys positive beliefs about the Gods. That was basically his approach to ancient history, if you go back far enough, you can say whatever you want.

He laid out his whole political theory, first in The Republic, later he wrote two books called Timaeus and Critias about the story of Atlantis. In Critias, he said that he heard this tale that the Greek lawgiver Solon, heard from the Egyptians about the ancient residence of Athens and how they defended the whole world against the wicked people from Atlantis.

He said that these ancient Athenians, before the big flood wiped out all the records of this stuff, their government was exactly like in The Republic. He said that Solon said that they guardian class and the craftsmen and this and that. Socrates was so amazed that that was exactly what he had just laid out in The Republic the night before.

Jason: How convenient.

Russell: How convenient. He said "ok, we are going to tell this myth but we are going to tell it as though it's fact; it's passed from the realm of myth into the realm of fact." Since it was in ancient times, you could make up anything and it didn't matter if it was false, you could pass it off as true because it would support the national ideology and the constitution and law and the beliefs of the ruling class.

Jason: That kind of stuff is a real slippery slope though, if you look at it. First, you start saying we are talking about the distant past, but when you start using the distant past to justify what you are doing today, then all of a sudden it's not so much about telling a lie about the past, it's telling a lie about the past to support a present propaganda.

Of course, it was convenient that the most holy book in his republic was going to be his own book The Laws; that that was going to be everything and that he was going to be the philosopher king. It's convenient that you come up with a political system that will ensure that you get to rule over everybody, I think we know what type of person does that.

Russell: Exactly true.

Laura: It seems like Plato ends up being, in a very real sense, the philosophical father of lies.

Jason: Pretty much, if you think about it though, he is sort of very satanic actually.

Harrison: That leads me to a question about Plato that I was curious about. I have read different accounts of this and this is somewhat controversial, and that's his thoughts on pederasty and homosexuality. I believe there was one passage in the book where, Russell, you talk about this and how some of the things that Plato had written on homosexuality made it into the Bible.

Then, I have also heard, in at least one interpretation, he is very pro-pederasty in some of his other works. Do you have any more information on that and what he thought about that?

Russell: I can give you an overview, it's nothing that I am particularly innovative about. I'll just report what's common knowledge. First off, of course you know, in ancient Sparta, which was a military State, the soldiers in Sparta, they pretty much expected to have a junior soldier that they would train and rear up and also have sexual relations with and the loyalty between the young soldier and the old soldier made them defend each other in battle. It was supposed to be a good thing from a military standpoint.

Plato was a big fan of the Spartan system and, in The Republic, he said that if you were one of these guardians or warrior class who were supposed to be as ferocious as a pit bull and yet totally doting on their master, so ferocious to outsiders but friendly to the ruling class, if you were one of these heroic warriors, then you could have the pick of anyone you wanted to have sexual relations with; male or female.

In Laws, he backed off of that and he said "the only acceptable form of sex is for the purpose of procreation" that young men and women should wait until they were 30-40 because that's the ideal age to have children and then they should get married and have children; anything outside that was forbidden.

He said "I accept that people are going to have affairs, that's just the way it is therefore, we'll have a second law, that if they have an affair, they have to keep it quiet because it's bad for public morale; for people to be taking each other's wives." The other thing was, "homosexuality; you can't control it; that's an urge that you just can't control so we have a second law there. If you are going to be gay, stay in the closet because it's bad for public morale. Don't ask, don't tell; stay in the closet."

Plato was, of course, homosexual. He didn't have any children and it's just a matter of secondary historical sources saying he was; that's not controversial or derogatory or anything; it's just a fact; so was Aristotle and a lot of people back then were and that's fine.

He really legislated all that hypocrisy and the part about outlawing homosexuality, that probably made it into the book of Leviticus in a very strong way. That's not necessarily a great thing because everybody should have a right to life and living here in pursuit of whatever happiness they can have.

Laura: There were also a whole lot of laws about adultery; the death sentence for that sort of thing! For homosexuality or adultery, you died!

Jason: There was something just anti-liberty about everything that Plato did and what ended up being done with what Plato did, I think it was conspicuous, that Leviticus and the Jewish law comes out far harder on sexual immorality than Plato does. It's a little bit ironic because he seems to at least have been far more realistic about it but the seeds were always there for repression.

Once you open the door for that anti-liberty stuff, it can really go any way and can become quite crippling to a culture. Very oppressive and lots of people were getting stoned and dead and living in fear and it's not even a matter of staying in the closet, it becomes like an existential threat all of a sudden to certain types of people which I think is very negative on a culture. To have existential threats in the legal system against people basically doing "people" things, I think it's a slippery slope that, unfortunately, is one more of the negative aspects of the republic and the laws and the Platonic thinking.

Russell: I think he pretty much greased the water slide and gave people a good shove but I don't think it's that. He started out in a very bad place I think but you are right, Leviticus took it even further so your point is well taken.

Jason: What I find interesting is, from my understanding, one of the better parts of the new testament was that at least it gave slightly, very mildly, this liberalising of that. There was a statement, I think it's from John, I can't remember the chapter. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone".

Laura: John 20-21 [John 8:7]

Jason: You see that being quoted a lot now, especially in defence of saying that you can judge people's sexual morality all you want but if you are not without sin, why don't you just back off? There was a lot of that with the new testament, undoing what was done before.

Russell: That's true and switching over to the New Testament just briefly, Jesus never said a word about homosexuality; certainly Paul did. Jesus never did and yet he had at least 6-10 speeches where he railed against hypocrisy and people who prayed in public and liked to say how religious they were. All of his criticisms were for religious people and people who self-righteous and pompous. That is what he was against more than anything so it's kind of ironic when people posture in public about these issues that were of lesser importance, apparently, to Jesus as written in the Gospels.

Jason: As a defence of Jesus and the New Testament, it did have a couple of interesting, almost anti-Platonic or anti-republic, things because he was a person who spends most of his time using clever tricks and clever speech and ideas of wit to basically go against what were ostensibly the philosopher kings and the theocratic class ruling over Judea. Everything is about him coming up with pithy ways to out-fox and out-logic the religious authorities at the time so there is something very anti-Platonic about it.

Russell: That's true and Paul also had some arguments against Plato because he talks about how the law isn't that important and forgiveness of sin and this-and-that. When Plato was very much about righteousness and obedience; that was the thing. You get everyone to obey the law and prayers and sacrifices by the wicked so that their sins would be forgiven, to him, that was kind of blasphemous because that is letting the Gods participate in human wickedness basically. The theology of the New Testament contains echoes of Plato and mostly on the other side I think.

Laura: Can we go back to your first book? I want to get back to that one because you were talking about the kind of people who got together to do this job, to write this text, to gather it - and I expect it took years to gather everything together - the initial writing of the Torah was probably the first step and then they began to gather the literature together, the remainder of it, so that probably took years. What's your take on that?

Russell: I think that's exactly correct, the Torah - the books of Moses - they appear to have all been written at Alexandria around 270 BC; that was the first phase. Plato, he had two phases, the first one was to come up with a constitution of laws and that is just what they did at Alexandria. Then, his second phase was to come up with this national literature in support of the laws.

From all the hints that I can see in Plato's Laws, I think that was supposed to take, probably, 10 years because he said that there is going to be a 10-year period of adjustment if some of the laws aren't quite perfect then you can test them out and change them. There was the 10-year phase to get things all fixed, it was a big deal in Plato's Laws.

I think that is probably fairly accurate for when the first version of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament came together; that took place in Jerusalem; that was no longer in Alexandria. They came home from Alexandria and the people in Jerusalem seemed to have taken charge of this phase. At Alexandria, you had Jews and Samaritans both working on the Torah which is a sacred book to both the Jews and the Samaritans. The rest of the Bible, the Samaritans kicked to the curb and the rest of the Bible, especially starting in the book of Kings, has a very negative take on the Samaritans.

It says that in the Northern Kingdom, they worshipped Baal and, unlike the Jews, they never came back from exile and basically, the Samaritans were written out of the rest of the Bible. It has got a very exclusive focus on Jerusalem, even though there was a temple of Yahweh at Mount Gerizim that was larger than Jerusalem's temple and going on at the same time. So you are right, it took a few years; it probably took 10 years.

Then, it would have taken, at least, another generation for this new literature to be taught in the schools and the new institution called the Synagogue and in the homes and all of that, and to indoctrinate the new youth coming up. Plato said it would take a generation, maybe two generations and then the people wouldn't even remember their past. They would remember the new past that had basically been invented for them.

In our historical reading, that's basically what happened because, around 270 BC, you have a theocracy - a new form of government - in Judea, you have new laws, new literature, then, by around 200 BC the historical sources said that the Jews said the Torah contained their ancient ancestral laws and constitution; that was their national text.

By the 160's BC, when the Seleucids tried to outlaw the Jewish religion and laws and literature, the Maccabees, they fought this war of liberation - a very brave war against a huge numbers of invaders in order to save this literature. They didn't want a Greek constitution, they wanted their national, ancestral laws back in place. So, in pretty much the timeframe that Plato specified, the Jews fully adopted this new literature and laws and their Bible. Gosh, it's like he wrote the history of the Jews.

Laura: Yeah, it's crazy!

Russell: Another aspect of his plan was that when you created this literature and these new laws and stuff for this new nation, people had to believe that all of this was done in ancient times. The Jews had to believe that all of this was laid down by the laws of Moses for their ancestors. As part of that process, that first generation of law givers, you almost have to erase the memory of those actual historical people who created this new set of laws and who established Plato's laws in this new country.

That took place too because the Jewish scholars and Samaritan scholars who went to Alexandria, and who created the books of Moses and wrote the laws of Moses and all of that, later generations did not remember them as the authors of the books of Moses, then kind of demoted them to translators.

They took what was presented as ancient, ancient Hebrew writings and all they did was translated them into Greek and they were celebrated as just as important as the 70 elders at Mount Sinai who received the law in ancient times. These 70 people who wrote the books of Moses and the Pentateuch and started off this whole thing, they were kind of erased from memories; it's very interesting.

Laura: Any idea who any of them might have been?

Russell: Well, yes I do possibly know one of them.

Laura: Yes?

Russell: That's going to be in a future book.

Laura: Oh please!!!

Jason: He can't give away all of his secrets.

Russell: No, no, no. I won't give you a little preview here. I had mentioned that both Jews and Samaritans wrote the books of Moses at Alexandria, we know that because the books of Moses have all sorts of positive references to Gerizim, where the Samaritan temple was and other important Samaritan places. It doesn't really mention Jerusalem or the 12 tribes of Israel; that was the thing.

There is a Samaritan author, his name hasn't actually come down to us but scholars call him Sudo Eupolemus, Eusebius wrote a couple of fragments of this Samaritan's writings and it's very interesting stuff. Eusebius mistakenly identified him as Eupolemus who was a different Jewish author. Scholars say it wasn't really Eupolemus but he was a Samaritan, he wrote a couple of passages, preserved by the church father Eusebius, and this stuff that he wrote looks to be earlier than the Bible. It does have some traditions about Abraham, for instance, Abraham went to Egypt and he brought the writings of Enoch with him and taught the Egyptians about astronomy; it has all sorts of different esoteric things like Abraham was descended from the giants; fascinating stuff.

A lot of Hellenistic research in sources that were found at the Great Library of Alexandria looks to be pre-biblical, but researched at the great library and I think he was one of the people who was there. I think that he was one of those 70 elders of the legend from Samaria and Judea.

So, in a future book, I'm going to lay out some passages from the pseudepigrapha which is kind of between the Jewish Bible and the New Testament. It preserves some of this stuff that is earlier than the what book of Genesis drew on and it'll be really fascinating; I have got a great case to make; that'll be a couple of books down the line.

Harrison: How do the books of Enoch fit into that? Is that some of the stuff that you were talking about because there is that whole field of study that I think Boccaccini has devoted to the Enochic Judaism, are you familiar with his work and how those texts might fit into this?

Russell: I am familiar with his work and he has a whole elaborate theory of how Enochic Judaism was different from and parallel to, what he called, Mosaic Judaism. The problem with him and the people in his school of thought is that they accept this old chronology of biblical texts going back into the Persian era and earlier, so their chronology is all... you just have to toss; you just have to toss.
And yet, there does seem to be a relationship between some of the Enoch traditions and the Biblical texts. You have the figure of Enoch and he was the 7th generation after Adam and he walked with God and he never died.

Laura: Like the Babylonian king.

Russell: Like the Babylonian King Enmerduranki the seventh king. Also, the seventh apkallu or primordial sage in Babylonian myth, he also went to heaven and they had heavenly criticism (inaudible) there. The watcher myth, where the watchers came down from heaven and they had all this angelic heavenly secret scientific lore and they intermarried with the daughters of men and had science, that's another hint of a tradition in the Bible that suggests that there was a much larger tradition out there and that that was the only part that basically escaped the censors.

Two books from now, I'm going to be dealing with all of that and developing what the original Enochian traditions were and how they related to the Babylonian traditions that you mentioned, like Enmerduranki and the ten generations before the flood and Mesopotamian scientific literature on astronomy and this-and-that which, in the books of Enoch, are called watcher lore; the books of the watchers.

This is scientific literature from Assyria and Babylonia which persisted down into Jewish times and which the authors of the book of Enoch responded to very negatively. Yet, some of that stuff was used in the Bible, the astronomical book of Enoch was used in the first chapter of Genesis in its section on astronomy. The technical terminology there is exactly the same and James VanderKamp has written showing that there is interdependence between the two. He thinks that the Bible is older of course, and that the astronomical book of Enoch came from that; he has got that backwards. So, there is a text that is older than the Bible that the Bible uses. I think that it is just fascinating finding these pre-biblical and proto-biblical traditions.

Laura: Well you know, there is a lot of flavor of Zoroastrianism in the book of the watchers. I had to really dig into the Zoroastrian thing because I had ignored it completely for such a long time but just recently, Philip Davis, in one of his recent books, he proposed that upon the return from Babylon, during the time of the Persians, the religion that was propagated by the Persians - not necessarily by any big horde of returnees - was a form of Zoroastrianism. I thought that that was kind of interesting.

Russell: I think it's fascinating; I think there is something there. I have read Mary Boyce who is a big authority on ancient Zoroastrianism and some other authors and I think there is something there. I can't quite come up with a smoking gun as to when and where the influence came in but there is definitely something.

The Zoroastrian dualism comes into the Qumran literature of the sons of light versus the sons of darkness and that cosmic conflict has definite strains from Zoroaster. Somehow, the influences made it in and that's on my radar; to research more at some future date. It's fascinating finding the authentic old influences that are there.

Laura: What are you working on right now?

Russell: I am working on 2 books; well, I'm working on 3 books. I've gotten at least 8 books lined up, it'll keep me busy for the rest of my life. The next two, the first one is on Plato and the Biblical Creation Account: Greek Monotheism and Jewish Polytheism in the Primeval History; that's the title of my next one and it will show how Genesis 1 came from Greek scientific cosmology and, in particular, from Plato's Timaeus.

Also, Genesis 2 through 11 along with these myths and stories and stuff which are so non-scientific; they were also foreshadowed by Plato; it'll be a really interesting subject. It will show how the ruling class monotheism in Genesis 1 co-existed with these crazy stories of God walking around in the Garden of Eden or having lunch with Abraham or things like that.

Then, my next book is going to be on this Enoch stuff. The Babylonian and Assyrian scientific traditions that infiltrated the primeval history and how the Samaritans were the channel of transmission for these watcher traditions and Babylonian science and astronomy and things like that; how they were the means by which a lot of this stuff came to the later Jews and into the Bible.

Those are the next two projects and then I have got others after that and a popular version of my Plato book.

Harrison: Do you have any timeline on when any of those three books are going to be released?

Russell: The first two that I mentioned, I'm just jotting footnotes now. They are basically written and I'm getting all my references in place and then there will be a little revision. They are going to be finished in very early 2017 and hopefully my popular book as well. I just need to sit down and get into a creative space and get my writing juices flowing for a more popular, creative approach. That's going to be such a delight not to have to put a footnote after every sentence.]

And to explain just how dramatic and fascinating this stuff is. The public needs to understand all of this stuff. It's like, for a millennium, we have believed that God created the universe in 7 days or whatever and now we have telescopes that can clearly to the big bang and see the origins of the universe and study it. Really, we have got that old light from, basically the moment of creation and we can look at it and figure out what was going on.

It's kind of the same way now with our more recent history and the origins of the Bible and Christianity and things like that. I hope my books are like a telescope into the past where we see what was really going on and we can see the cast of characters and what books they were reading and what ideas were going through their minds when they were writing this stuff and what their aims were. I think it would be fascinating if everyone understood the story of how it all happened.

Laura: I agree.

Jason: I think it's very exciting.

Laura: Harrison, give the names of his books again so that all the readers and listeners can make a note of them; and a website address.

Harrison: For all our listeners right now, we have got the hyperlinks in the show description. The two books are Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus from 2006: and from 2016, Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible. They are both available on amazon.

The one unfortunate thing is that they are academic texts and very expensive as a result but I do think that if any listeners are interested then they are worth it. These are, I think, some of the best books ever written on the topic from my relatively limited exposure to this kind of thing.

Laura: I agree.

Harrison: Check them out and if you can't, if for whatever reason you can't afford it, try to get them from your library, try to just do anything you can to try to find them and I guess, other than that, we will just be waiting on your new books Russell. I am looking forward to them.

Russell: If I may just toss in one final note, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible is also available less expensively in the Kindle version; for 40 some dollars. Some people had read that.

Harrison: That's great.

Russell: If you want to see my picture and my biography and all my books and stuff, you can go to russellgmirkin.com which is the link which you kindly put up on your radio network page. You can even send me an email if you want to visit. It's been very fun talking with you guys here.

Jason: It's been a lot of fun.

Laura: It's been very educational for me, I thank you, I thank you.

Jason: When your next book comes out, well will have to do it again so we can talk about that one.

Russell: I'd love to.

Jason: I'm excited about the prospect of a popular book; I'm excited about that because as much as I actually enjoyed Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible, there was a point at which following the footnotes, there was actually notes in the notes that got very....

Laura: I read footnotes! What are you talking about?

Jason: Well after a while you are just like ok, I agree that you have done the research from now on, you don't have to put any more footnotes for me. I see that you have been thorough, I trust you now, let's just get moving on the ideas. I feel too compelled to read the footnotes.

Harrison: But there are some gems in those footnotes!

Jason: There are, there are some really great things in those footnotes. Especially at the end of the last chapter.

Laura: I agree, it's terrific.

Harrison: Thanks again Russell, it was great talking to you.

Jason: Are you going to take us out Harrison?

Laura: Thank you, goodnight!

Jason: Thank you, goodnight!

Harrison: Thanks again and we will talk to you all next week, everyone take care.