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Lately I have been reading a lot about the origins biblical stories, and I have noticed that a lot of people mock the bible and the christians by telling them that they follow bronze age myths/beliefs.

It is a melange of Bronze Age ravings

(My first google result)

My question is, are Old Testament stories actually bronze age myths?

  • Welcome to Skeptics! According to the FAQ, Skeptics.SE is for researching the evidence behind the claims you hear or read. This question doesn't appear to have any doubtful claims to investigate. Please edit it to reference a notable claim and flag for moderator attention to re-open (or get 5 re-open votes). – Sklivvz Jun 11 '12 at 0:33
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    I know Larian refers to the bible as a bronze age myth all the time. Well, the old testament part at least. I would be interested in knowing more about the origins of the bible. – JasonR Jun 11 '12 at 11:17
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    Just to add to Larian's answer, it's also farily clear that several of the stories, notably Genesis, are at least partly based on earlier mythology like Babylonian and Sumerian, and are demonstrably "evolved" from those. So, essentially, based on early Bronze age, modified in late Bronze age, written in Iron age. Also, the versions of 1st Testament that most people are used to was translated from the Jewish books sometime between the 1400s and the 1700s. – user10432 Nov 25 '12 at 6:01
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Well, yes and no.

No: According to the Quartz Hill School of Theology (I will give leeway to the obvious bias in the site, however the dates seem to align with other scholarly sites in my emphasis):

Though some scholars would claim a composite authorship for these books starting around 950 BC with them reaching their final form during the time of Ezra around 500 BC, I would take a more conservative position and argue for a unitary authorship within fifty years of the Exodus (which would date from either around 1290 BC or 1440 BC; that is another whole area of controversy), with much of the material coming from Moses himself

Ignoring the whole problem of there being no evidence for the exodus story, we can say that given a range of anywhere from 950BCE to 500BCE actually places the writing of the stories in the Iron Age.

However: These are the dates of the stories being written down! That means that the timing of these stories is such that they are a supposed narrative of events that took place as the author of the theological site claims, in the 1290BCE to 1440BCE time-frame. That actually places it in the Bronze Age. Now that is generally accepted as the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Joshua is another ancient story, and as the theological site claims:

The book would thus date to either the 15th or 13th century BC, depending, again, upon exactly when the Exodus from Egypt occured (sic).

Again, ignoring the problem of the historicalness of the exodus... it is squarely in the Bronze Age.

If you don't want to accept what theologians who accept the default position of the bible as the ground truth, this page from the University of Minnesota gives the following dates for supposed authorship (again, note that this is when the books were authored, not the time-frame of the sorties they are telling):

B.C.E. Old Testament

c. 2166 to c. 1876 Job

c. 1446 to c. 1406 Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

c. 1406 to c. 1050 Joshua, Judges

With the remaining books being written later and later in history. Again, you see that some were written in the bronze age, while others were written in the iron age. Of course, the time-line of the events are somewhat argued, but for the sake of simplicity, we can go with Usher's time-line which places everything up to Exodus in the Bronze Age:

Ussher's chronology provides the following dates for key events in the Biblical history of the world:

4004 BC - Creation

2349-2348 BC - Noah's Flood

1921 BC - God's call to Abraham

1491 BC - The Exodus from Egypt

1012 BC - Founding of the Temple in Jerusalem

588 BC - Destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon and the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity

4 BC - Birth of Jesus

So, while the writing of the stories may not be bronze age, I think it is still a fair characterization based on when the events are alleged to have taken place.

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    I suppose that would make your answer related to this question: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/3529/… – JasonR Jun 12 '12 at 11:59
  • I think it is interesting that you are basically saying that they are/aren't bronze age myths because they are/aren't from the bronze age, not because they aren't myths, when I suspect that the OP was asking more about the "myth" part of the claim – Kevin Wells Oct 18 '16 at 18:28
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    @KevinWells the answer got accepted. But I agree, it's hard to tell if the question is focusing on the "Bronze Age" part or the "Myth" part. Although, one could argue that it is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that they are myths, and the characterization of them being bronze aged was in question. – JasonR Oct 18 '16 at 19:25
  • @JasonR I agree with you, though I bet there are more people in the world that would debate the myth part than the bronze age part. No one is offended when someone tells them that a story they believe from a specific period in history, but a lot of people are offended when you tell them that a story they believe in is a fantastical legend. Even if it seems "intuitively obvious" to you and me, that doesn't mean that people who grew up with it being taught as the absolute truth will see it that way – Kevin Wells Oct 18 '16 at 20:27
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    @JasonR Weird, I guess I don't see why people would be offended by the factual claim that an idea came from a specific period in history. It is really no different than if I said that Plato's ideas were Hellenistic, or that Bach's sonata's are Baroque. Those are just true facts – Kevin Wells Oct 19 '16 at 16:18

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