- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2006

The following are excerpts from an interview with author David Rosenberg. He co-wrote the New York Times best-seller “The Book of J.” His most recent release is “Abraham: The First Historical Biography.”

I’m a thinking Jew. … I’m not an observant Jew. What I call a thinking Jew is someone who is open to speaking to all of American culture, especially the Christian religion. Usually the more religious Jews are not interested in speaking to the Christian culture, which America primarily is. That is a big difference. When I was growing up, there were very few Jews that would speak out from the Jewish community to the Christian culture, it was almost always within. That’s how it is with most religions. …

What the Hebrew Bible does is give you dramas. It doesn’t say anything. It gives you dramas. There is drama of the life of Moses. There is drama of the life of Abraham. There is sexual dysfunction. He can’t have kids. So on and so on. It’s drama. It doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t say believe in this. Believe in that. People don’t get it. They don’t read it as if it’s dramas. They read it as though it’s trying to tell you to “live this way,” which it is not. It’s so important to get back to what it really says, in a time like ours, which is more confused than ever about where religion and culture get mixed up.

People are always complaining that religion is getting too involved in culture and politics. They say, “There is too much culture like ‘The Da Vinci Code’ getting involved in religion.” There is a big article in the New York Times about the Christian reaction to “The Da Vinci Code” movie. When I have been going around the country recently, I just came back from Washington and Chicago, audiences in the bookstore ask me about “The Da Vinci Code.” It is a question about some kind of homogenized confusion about the natural and the supernatural. It’s about a code that’s been hidden about what really happened to Jesus.

I say, “There’s a tremendous thirst for history today, real history.” That’s why my book is flying off the shelves. So is “The Gospel of Judas.” It’s flying off the shelves everywhere I go. Why? It’s not really what’s in it. People don’t even know what’s in it. It’s just because there’s a tremendous hunger for real history, because there is so much confusion. And in fact, you don’t get it in Dan Brown’s book “The Da Vinci Code.” What you get is secret history, fiction. It’s a novel.

What I’m trying to say is the Hebrew Bible was written to be history. It was not written to be a prescription on how to live. The Ten Commandments are part of the story, but it’s just a small part of the story. … Proverbs is one of 36 books, one of the smaller of 36 books in the Hebrew Bible. It’s a collection of proverbs of all kinds. Some are funny, some are ironic. Yes, some of them are about how to live, like the Golden Rule, a version of it is in there, but no one would think that the Golden Rule or versions of it are religious. They go back to most ancient people, maybe even the Neanderthals had some version of it. Otherwise, how did they get along? …

Basically, there is a book that’s a best-seller now called “The Jesus Papers.” All these books, what are they doing? It literally says, “Explosive new evidence that challenges everything we know about the life and death of Jesus.”

These things happen all the time. Every few years, somebody purports to have dug up something or reinterpret something. What we have in the book called “Abraham” is the first new synthesis in over 50 years. It’s not something that is dug up. It’s a whole new synthesis about why the Bible was written.

Fifty years ago, in the 1950s, the last synthesis was that the Bible was basically literature and fiction. If you go to any university today and take a course in the Bible in a secular university, not a Christian one, that’s what you’ll learn. It’s still what they’re teaching 50 years later: The Bible is a form of fiction. That’s the last synthesis.

This is the first new synthesis because I don’t believe that. I don’t believe the Bible is fiction at all. I’m saying it’s history. I’m saying even more it’s biography — the biography of Abraham, as well as the biography of Moses, as well as the biography of Joshua. …

It’s even more than a soap opera because it has all kinds of subplots that are historical. In a subplot, you get dysfunctional families. That’s where we all come from. Nobody comes from a perfect family. At the same time in soap operas, you don’t get this real history. There is plenty of real history about the other culture that surrounded the Hebraic one, the Sumerian, the Akkadian. … Abraham came from the Akkadian culture. The Bible tells you so several times.

There was a hunger for history. When it says that Abraham came from Ur, everyone knew this was a real place. They knew what happened in Ur, that the Sumerian civilization died out. They knew this. … We didn’t know it until 100 years ago when they started digging up this stuff in clay tablets. We started learning it for the first time. Now we know a little of what Abraham knew. But until several decades ago, no one knew what Abraham himself knew, what his education was, what he studied in school, those kinds of things.

What did Abraham know? How did he think? These are questions about real culture and real history. …

The reason that the last synthesis over 50 years ago concluded the Bible is fiction is for the first time they started talking about the writers of the Bible. … A writer of the Bible wasn’t present when God was speaking to Abraham or Moses. There was no witness. So how did they know this? That’s a logical question, if you were a college sophomore talking a class, that’s what you’d ask. The answer was: “They made it up.” That’s the logical answer. What else? That’s why it began to be thought of more and more as fiction. They couldn’t come with a reason as to why the Bible writers did this. …

I think that the synthesis that believes the Bible was fiction, the dominant theory in universities today, not just in America, is wrong. When you look at the Bible’s writers more carefully, in terms of history, real history and culture, you begin to discover that they weren’t interested in fiction, they were only interested in dramatizing history. How do we know this? There is new evidence. We can look at what the cultures were like in Abraham’s time and all the other times in the Bible. Archaeology has dug up all these new texts, not Bible texts, but texts from Abraham’s time in Sumer and in Akkad. That’s when you begin to get a picture of real history.

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