Over the centuries, billions of people worldwide have been led to believe that the Bible is the literal "Word of God" and represents history involving real individuals and events. But is it really?
The following list reveals seven secrets of the Bible that many people don't realize. There are numerous other biblical secrets, which can be found in my books, including The Christ Conspiracy, Suns of God, Who Was Jesus?, Christ in Egypt and Did Moses Exist?
1. The Israelites worshipped many gods, not just one
The polytheistic worship by the Israelites is recorded in the Old Testament in several places and led to a number of violent reforms, such as by the king Hezekiah and his grandson Josiah during the eighth to seventh centuries BCE. (2 Kings 23:4-11)
The Israelites are depicted as "whoring after" other gods and goddesses throughout the OT (e.g., Exod 34:15-16). This polytheism did not end until centuries into the common era, as evidenced by the syncretism of the Jewish tribal god Yahweh with gods like the Greek Zeus and Dionysus.
Well into the common era, Jews in Israel were placing mosaic zodiacs on their temple floors, as at Beit/Beth Alpha (above), Hammath Tiberias, Sepphoris, Naaran, Susiya, Ussefiyeh and Ein Gedi. The Beth Alpha zodiac shows the Greek sun god Helios in the center, riding his quadriga chariot inside a "wheel within a wheel." In the four corners are representations of the seasons or fixed signs symbolizing the equinoxes and solstices.
For more information, see the section "Hebrew Henotheism" in Did Moses Exist? The Myth of the Israelite Lawgiver, which contains a discussion about the differences between monotheism, monolatry, henotheism and other belief systems.
2. Moses didn't write the first five books of the Bible
According to popular belief, the Israelite patriarch Moses composed the first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch. Scientific analysis proves that there was not a single author, however, and internal evidence describing Moses's death and grave validates the point, as do many other elements of the Pentateuch or Torah.
The question of whether or not Moses wrote the Pentateuch has been circulating within academia since at least the 17th century, when the French Catholic priest Richard Simon (1638-1712) composed his Critical History of the Old Testament, which "reasoned that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch because it contains historical details and refers to events about which he could not have known."
In 1679, Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza already had "observed that in the Pentateuch certain towns and places bore names that were not given to them until several centuries after Moses." This fact has been borne out by a great deal of scholarship and scientific analyses since Spinoza's time.
This questioning of the Torah's traditional authorship continued over the next centuries, with the result that today most mainstream authorities doubt this Mosaic attribution. Concerning modern scholarly consensus regarding Moses and the Pentateuch, Bible expert Dr. Richard E. Friedman remarks:
At present…there is hardly a biblical scholar in the world actively working on the problem who would claim that the Five Books of Moses were written by Moses—or by any one person.
The chapter "Who Wrote the Pentateuch?" in Did Moses Exist? provides the most up-to-date scholarship on authorship of the Torah.
3. There is no evidence for the Exodus or Conquest
For well over a century, archaeologists have been scouring the Sinai Peninsula for evidence of the biblical Exodus story but have found nothing. The Bible claims 600,000 Hebrew men and their wives, children, slaves and livestock - potentially two to three million or more people and animals - lived for 40 years in a small area of the desert. Yet, there has not been found one physical artifact to demonstrate that claim.
In addition, none of the contemporary or subsequent texts from the region, such as by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Canaanites or other peoples, record any events related to the Exodus.
As theologian Dr. Michael D. Oblath remarks in The Exodus Itinerary Sites:
The exodus from Egypt is unknown to history save what is written in the Hebrew Bible. Outside of the most meager of circumstantial evidence we possess nothing to substantiate the text.
In The Quest for the Historical Israel, Israeli archaeologists Drs. Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar also comment:
No direct evidence [of] the Israelite sojourn in Egypt and the Exodus can be extracted from archaeology.
The Conquest of Israel is also unsupported by the archaeological and historical record.
Further information can be found in the chapter "The Exodus as History?" in Did Moses Exist?, which discusses the subjects of the Burning Bush, magical rods turning to serpents, the 10 Plagues, the Philistines and much more.
4. Biblical miracles are not original or unique
Many of the supernatural miracles attributed to Moses and Yahweh in the Bible cannot be proved to be historical but find their parallels in other, often older stories.
For example, the pillars of cloud and fire depicted in the Bible are comparable to similar miracles alleged to have occurred to the Athenian general Miltiades during his battle with the Persians, as well as to the devotees of the god Dionysus, among others.
For more information, see "Mythical Pillars" and other sections in Did Moses Exist? that deal with other supernatural miracles and mythical motifs such as the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, water from a rock and many others.
5. Moses was not the first lawgiver from God
Long before Moses purportedly existed, a number of lawgivers in the Mediterranean region were claimed to have received their laws from a god or goddess. One such famed lawgiver was the Babylonian king Hammurabi (died 1750 BCE), who was said to have gotten his Code from the sun god Shamash.
Other lawgivers, real or mythical, who precede Moses in the literary record include:
- Adar/Ninib of Nippur
- Baal Berith of Canaan
- Dionysus of Greece
- El/Ilu of Canaan/Ugarit
- Enki/Enlil of Mesopotamia
- Gilgamesh of Mesopotamia
- Hermes of Egypt/Greece
- Inana/Inanna of Sumeria
- Isis of Egypt
- Lycurgus of Sparta
- Minos of Crete
- Mneves/Menes/Menas of Egypt
- Neba or Nebo of Babylon, Borsippa and Sumeria
- Nimrod of Babylon
- Osiris of Egypt
- Thoth of Egypt
- Ur-Nammu of Sumeria
Several of these legislators are themselves deities, and some had a double law, like Moses's Deuteronomy or "Second Law."
For a longer list and detailed discussion of the many lawgivers of the pertinent area and beyond, see the chapter "The Lawgiver Archetype" in Did Moses Exist?
6. Moses is portrayed like a sun god
In several biblical verses, Moses is described in solar terms, with a shining face full of light that needed to be covered by a veil:
And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone; and Moses would put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him. (Exod 34:33-35)
As biblical scholar and mythicist Dr. Robert M. Price comments:
…The basic Moses mytheme is that of the sun (god) which emerges from the tent of concealment, the night, and bestows commandments upon a king. The sun is also the source of both death (by sunstroke) and healing. Psalm 19, as Old Testament scholars uniformly admit, comes from Akhenaten's Hymn to the Sun. It speaks of the sun's glorious emergence from his tent, then extols the glory of the commandments, as if there were some connection between the two—which, of course, there was, since the sun was the origin of the law. We also see this atop the famous stone table of Hammurabi's Code which shows the emperor receiving the law from the hand of Shamash the sun god. Moses was originally the law-giving sun, as we can still glimpse in Exodus 34:29-35, where Moses emerges from the tent of a meeting with new commandments, and with his face shining, not coincidentally, like the sun! And like Apollo, he can inflict flaming doom or heal it (Numbers 21:4-9) and even bears the caduceus like Apollo...
Like a typical sun god of the Mediterranean, Moses is depicted as controlling water, weather, snakes and other elements. In this regard, while "Moses" is משה Mosheh in Hebrew, derived from the root word משה mashah, a number of Semitic gods were called "Mash" and "Mush," the latter term designating a serpent deity.
For more information, see the chapter "Moses as Solar Hero" in Did Moses Exist?, which book also provides an in-depth analysis of the Canaanite and Israelite god El and the Jewish Yahweh as significantly solar as well.
7. Ezekiel's wheel within a wheel is the zodiac
The mysterious biblical book of Ezekiel, with its enigmatic visions, has mystified millions since it was composed. In his account, the heavens open, and Ezekiel sees "visions of God." The word and hand of the Lord are upon the prophet, who recounts at 1:4-6:
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness round about it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming bronze.
And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the form of men, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings.
Ezekiel's "four living creatures" are described as having the faces of a man, lion, ox and eagle (1:10ff):
As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man in front; the four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle at the back....
As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of a chrysolite; and the four had the same likeness, their construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel.
To this day, much speculation is bandied about as to what his "wheel within a wheel" with the merkabah or chariot and four-faced creatures truly signify. Some have claimed that this bizarre description represents a "spacecraft" and that Yahweh is an "alien."
However, scrutinizing the text and placing it in the context of its milieu reveals that Ezekiel's vision was of the zodiac, with Yahweh as the typical sun god in his chariot, surrounded by the four fixed signs representing the equinoxes and solstices.
Bonus secret: Jews were grapegrowers and winemakers
The Bible is full of references to grapes, vines and wine. The Israelite settlers of the hill country were avid viticulturalists and viniculturalists, meaning they grew grapes and made wine. One of their principal festivals, the Feast of the Tabernacles, takes place at the autumnal equinox, the time of the grape harvest and vintage.
Some wealthy Jews, possibly wine merchants, had mosaics of the wine god Dionysus/Bacchus in their house at Sepphoris or Tzippori, Israel (3rd-4th cents. AD/CE). In his book Moralia (Quaes. Conv. 4.6), the Greek historian Plutarch (46-120 AD/CE) related that Bacchus was "one of the gods worshiped by the Hebrews," reflecting the Dionysus-Yahweh connection.
The chapter "The Vine and Wine" in my book Did Moses Exist? provides much more fascinating information about this subject.