Ever since German skepticism systematically spearheaded the attacks against biblical authenticity, the assumption was that much of the Old Testament was written much later than what the Hebrew text records about itself. Since the entire Hebrew Bible was not fully organized until after the Babylonian exile (500’s B.C.), it would therefore be impossible to say with any certainty whether or not the historical details described throughout much of the Old Testament actually occurred as the record indicates, “with that late date they would couple an ultra low view of the reality of that history, dismissing virtually the whole of it as pure fiction, as an attempt by the puny Jewish community in Palestine to write themselves an imaginary past as a form of national propaganda.”[i]
Thanks to ‘higher critical’ theories, many modern historiographers have presumed that the Hebrews followed the Greek method of oral tradition in the writing of their holy books, never mind the fact that ancient Greek tradition had very little interest in history. Indeed, the Greeks did not jump onto the historical bandwagon until the 400’s B.C.[ii] with Herodotus, lagging far behind the Hebrews. Although occasional miracles do show up in the Bible from time to time, much of the entire Old Testament reads like a history book, very unlike ancient Greek mythological accounts. The Old Testament methodically goes through several thousand years of general and Jewish history from the beginning. It constantly pinpoints actual dates, eras, specific geographical locations and historical figures, along with a multitude of ancient names that would have been lost had it not been for the Hebrew Scriptures. Too many moderns have purposefully tried to associate Greek myths with Hebrew religion in order to dismiss the historical tradition of the latter. However, as the archaeological evidence of Old Testament Israel continues to mount with an ever increasing plethora of artifacts to draw from, it is now time for modern historians of all persuasions to face the fact that the Hebrew religion cannot be compared with Greek religion. It has become quite clear that the Hebrew record of miracles in the Old Testament has in no way clouded the historical judgment of the prophetic writers of Scripture with mythological distortions or religious propaganda.
The point of Greco-Roman history, however, was not that it was going anywhere or that it would reach a Messianic-eschatological goal in the apocalypse, but that it was something to escape from. This would be accomplished either through the mythical tales of gods on the one hand (if one was superstitious), or through timeless philosophical abstractions on the other hand (if one was more rationally minded). Either way, history was largely disdained by the Greco-Roman world.[iv] It was not taken seriously as a venue for any real meaning precisely because it was subject to so much suffering, change and uncertainty.
[i] Kitchen, K.A. On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 2001, p. 2.
[v] Lowith, Karl. Meaning in History, p. 185.
[vi] See especially Rolf Gruner, Philosophy of History: A Critical Essay.