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Modern Novelists Spread Unorthodox Christian Ideas – Part 3

The Alexandria Link

 

Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman
Modern Novelists Spread Unorthodox Christian Ideas
Part 3 – The Alexandria Link

 
In The Alexandria Link (2007) by Steve Berry, Cotton Malone, a retired elite operative for the U.S. Justice Department, has become a Copenhagen rare-book dealer. He intends to lead a more stress-free life, but his son is kidnapped. The kidnappers force him to try to find the lost Library of Alexandria, which vanished approximately fifteen hundred years ago.
 
A cartel of wealthy international moguls, bent on altering the course of history, is desperate to breach the library’s hallowed halls – and they think Malone is the only one who possesses the information they need to succeed. At stake is an explosive ancient document with the potential not only to change the destiny of the Middle East but to shake the world’s three major religions to their very foundations.
 
The book mentions several contradictions in the Old Testament.
 
The Hebrew Scriptures give two conflicting versions of creation (Genesis 1:1-2:3 and 2:4-2:24) and two varying genealogies of Adam’s offspring (Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles 1). When Adam’s bloodline is recounted in chapter five of Genesis, it says Mahalalel lived eight hundred and ninety-five years; Jared, Mahalalel’s son, lived nine hundred and sixty-two years, and Enoch, Jared’s son, lived three hundred sixty-five years. Methuselah lived nine hundred and sixty-nine years. They must have counted years differently; no human can live that long.
 
The flood story also contains contradictions: In Genesis 6:19-20, God tells Noah to bring a pair of each animal, male and female. However, in Genesis 7:19-20, he is instructed to take seven pairs of clean animals, male and female, and one pair, male and female, of unclean animals. Later in the flood story, Genesis 8, Noah releases a raven to search for land in one verse and a dove in another. Even the length of the flood varies: Genesis 7:11-12 and 7:17-20 claim it was forty days and nights; Genesis 7:24-8:5 claims it was 150 days, or was it three hundred seventy?
 
During the book, George Haddad, a Palestinian Biblical scholar, shares his knowledge about the history of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament.
 
He says the Old Testament was written by a host of writers over an extremely long period of time. The best estimate is that the Old Testament was composed between 1000 and 586 BCE. Later additions came around 500 to 400 BCE. Then the text was probably revised as late as 300 BCE. Nobody knows for sure. All we know is that the Old Testament is a patchwork, each segment written under differing historical and political circumstances, expressing differing religious views.
 
Genesis 12:6 claims “at that time the Canaanites were in the land,” which could not have been written by Moses. He also questions how Moses could have authored the books of the Pentateuch or Torah when the last book describes in detail the precise time and circumstances of his death?
 
Haddad contends that the Old Testament stories of the Patriarchs, Exodus, and the conquest of Canaan are not history. There are kernels of truth in the accounts, but they’re far more fiction than fact. Cain and Abel is a good example. At the time of that tale there were supposedly only four people on earth: Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. Yet Genesis 4:17 says “Cain lay with his wife and she became pregnant.” Where did his wife come from?
 
Haddad contends that the Old Testament was haphazardly translated and fundamentally flawed. The Hebrew language of the original text passed out of usage around 500 BCE. So in order to understand the Old Testament, we must either accept the traditional Jewish interpretation or seek guidance from modern dialects that are descendants of that lost Hebrew language. We can’t use the former method because the Jewish scholars who originally interpreted the text, between 500-900 CE, a thousand or more years after they were first written, didn’t even know Old Hebrew, so their reconstructions were guesswork. It is nothing more than a haphazard translation.
 
According to Haddad, the oldest surviving Hebrew Bible is the Aleppo Codex, that was saved from destruction in Syria in 1948. But that’s a tenth-century manuscript, produced nearly two thousand years after the original text.
 
Haddad told Cotton Malone that the “Old Testament as we know it today is at least five linguistic translations from the first one ever written: the Septuagint, crafted from the third to the first centuries BCE, the oldest and most complete rendition of the Old Testament into Greek, was translated at the Library of Alexandria; the Codex Sinaiticus, a fourth-century CE manuscript was used by later scholars to confirm other biblical texts, even though no one knew whether it was correct; the Vulgate, completed about the same time by St. Jerome, was the first translation from Hebrew directly to Latin. Then major revisions occurred in the sixteenth, eighteenth, and twentieth centuries. Even Martin Luther tinkered with the Vulgate, removing parts for his Lutheran faithful.”
 
The King James Bible, which many conservative Christians think is THE only reliable translation, “was created in the seventeenth century from a translation of the Vulgate into English. Those translators never saw the original Hebrew, and if they had, it’s unlikely they could have understood it.”
 
Since the eighteenth-century archaeologist have dug in the Holy Land attempting to prove that the Bible is historical fact, but not one shred of physical evidence has been unearthed that confirms anything in the Old Testament. Exodus is a good example. Supposedly thousands of Israelites trekked across the Sinai Peninsula. They camped at locations specifically identified in the Bible, locations that can still be found today. But nothing has even been found from that time period to confirm the exodus. This same evidentiary void is present when archeology has tried to corroborate other biblical events. Isn’t that odd? Wouldn’t there be some remnant of at least one incident depicted in the Old Testament still lying around the Middle East somewhere?
 
Genesis records an event that profoundly affected world history. Faithfully following God’s commands, Abram wandered from Mesopotamia to Canaan. His wife, Sarai, was barren, so she suggested that Abram couple with her favorite handmaiden, an Egyptian slave named Hagar, who had stayed with them since the clan’s expulsion from Egypt by the pharaoh. The birth of Ishmael, Abram’s first son, from Hagar, becomes critical in the seventh century CE, when a new religion formed in Arabia – Islam. The Koran calls Ishmael an apostle and a prophet. Abram’s name appears in twenty-five of the one hundred fourteen chapters of the Koran. To this day Ibrahim and Isma’il are common first names for Muslims. The Koran itself commands Muslims to follow the religion of Abraham. He was not a Jew yet, but “he was true in faith and he joined not gods with God.
 
Thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael, God told Abram that he would father a multitude of nations. First, he was ordered to change his name to Abraham and Sarai’s to Sarah. Then God announced that Sarah would give birth to a son. Neither Sarah nor Abraham believed God, but within a year Isaac was born.
 
The Bible and the Koran differ on many things concerning Abram or Abraham. But according to the Jewish Scriptures, the Lord told Abraham that all the land of Canaan would belong to Abraham and his heir, Isaac.
 
God reportedly appeared to Isaac’s son, Jacob, and repeated the promise that the land of Canaan would everlastingly belong to him and his heirs. Jacob was told to change his name to Israel. Jacob’s twelve sons evolved into separate tribes and they each established their own families, becoming what are called the twelve tribes of Israel.
 
Islam, Judaism, and Christianity trace their roots to Abraham, but the story of his life differs in each religion. The conflict in the Middle East, which has endured for thousands of years, is simply a debate over which account is correct and which religion has the divine right to the land – the Arabs through Ishmael, the Jews from Isaac, or the Christians from Jesus (who really have no claim except through the Jews).
 
Jews, in particular, have lambasted Berry for his treatment of what Jews think was God’s giving Canaan to Abraham and his descendants. The Lord had said to Abram: Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Because of those words, Jews believe they have exclusive ownership of Palestine. That is called “Biblical entitlement.” But what if their claim is bogus?
 
Berry invented the letters between St. Jerome and St. Augustine. Both were active in formulating the early church. The letters show how Jerome’s translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Latin may have been manipulated to serve the emerging church’s purposes. The noted inconsistencies in Jerome’s translation are Salibi’s, but they do raise fascinating questions.
 
Jerome wrote:

“My learned brother, Augustine, there was a time when I believed the Septuagint to be a wondrous work… But this joy has now been replaced with confusion. In my work to convert the old text it is clear that great liberties were taken in the Septuagint. Passage after passage is not correct. Jerusalem is not a single place, but a region that contains many places. That most sacred of rivers the Jordan is not a river, but a mountain escarpment. As to the names of places, most are wrong. The Greek translation does not conform to the Hebrew. It is as if the entire message was altered, not through ignorance, but design.”
 
Augustine replied:

“Jerome, my friend, yours is a difficult task… I read an account from Herodotus, who visited Palestine in the fifth century before our Lord… He noticed no Israelite or Jewish presence. No Jerusalem or Judah. I found that remarkable considering the old text mentions that was the time when the Jewish Temple was being rebuilt in Jerusalem and Judah enjoyed the status of a great province… I found that the first known identification of ancient Israel with what we call Palestine comes from the Roman Strabo. His Histories is a thorough account… Strabo’s work was completed twenty-three years after our Lord was born, so he wrote at a time when Christ actually lived. He notes that the name Judea was first applied to Palestine during Greek rule, the Greek word for a Jewish country being Ioudaia. That was only a century before the birth of our Lord. So sometime between the visits of Herodotus and Strabo, some four hundred years apart, the Jews of Palestine established a presence. Strabo himself wrote of a large body of Israelites who fled from a land to the south and settled in Palestine… he reasoned that, given the proximity of Egypt and its easy access, the Exodus must have occurred from there to Palestine. But nothing proves that conclusion… noted in his Histories that he, too, found errors in the Septuagint… the scholars at the library of Alexandria, who translated the old text into Greek, simply connected the old text to what they learned from the Jews at that time. Strabo wrote that the Jews of Alexandria had forgotten their past and seemed comfortable creating one.”

 
Jerome answered:

“My learned brother Augustine… Flavius Josephus, a Jew who wrote with great authority… lived a century after our Lord was born. He clearly identifies Palestine with the land in the old text, noting that the region is the only place he knew where a Jewish political entity existed… Eusebius of Caesaria… has designated names from the old text to sites in Palestine… But after studying a text of the old text in Hebrew, it is clear that Eusebius’s work is flawed. He seems to have loosely applied meanings to place-names and in some cases simply guessed.”
 
Augustine answered:

“Jerome, my friend… Our religion is but forming, and there are threats from all sides… I urge you not to alter what those who created the Septuagint started. Our Lord Christ lived in Palestine… we must present one voice. I recognize what you have said: that the old text seems not a record of the Israelites in what we call Palestine… Our goal is much different from that of those who created the Septuagint. Our newer testament must be a fulfillment of the old. Only in this way will the meaning of our message be elevated to a status greater than the old. To link the old with the new will demonstrate how vital our Lord Christ was and how important His message is. The errors that you note in the Septuagint need not be corrected… So in your translations, the Palestine that we know should remain the Palestine of both testaments. This is our task, dear brother, our mission. The future of our religion, of our Lord Christ, is with us and He inspires us to do His will.”
 
So according to these fictitious letters, Jerome’s translation of the Scriptures from Hebrew into Latin was manipulated to serve the emerging church’s purposes. If there is any truth to such a claim, that is truly sad. The truth must be the fundamental feature of the church of the 21st Century. If the church cannot survive the truth, then it deserves to die. However, I think there are enough progressive Christians that welcome the truth in all things as it relates to our religion.

Read Part 1 Here
Read Part 2 Here
Read Part 4 Here
Read Part 5 Here
Read Part 6 Here
Read Part 7 Here

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