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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

rewriting the Bible

Back to work for Kimmie. And for me, morning notes as usual: From Eden to Exile, and The Grail Legend. Powerful stuff in both books, in their own ways.

I first encountered David Rohl, author of From Eden to Exile, via his book Legend: The Genesis of Civilisation. Published in 1998, it presented a retelling of the book of Genesis based on Rohl's archaeological detective work. From the blurb quoted from Express that appears on all his books, "When it comes to exploring, David Rohl makes Indiana Jones look like an under-achiever." And indeed, Rohl comes across as very adventurous, trekking to remote corners of Egypt, Iraq, and Iran to look for evidence of the facts underlying the biblical story of the origin of civilization. I bought the book in July 2001 and took it with me to read on a Buddhist practice intensive at Rocky Mountain Dharma Center in Colorado. I was captivated. Rohl knocks down fact after fact, many of them surprisingly bold, considering the general tentativeness that characterizes most scientific research--at least as it's made public by its practitioners. He puts his conclusions into numbered boxes, to make them unambiguous. Example: box 1 on page 58:

Conclusion One: The four rivers of Genesis 10:14 are the Kezel Uizhun (Heb. Pishon), the Gaihun/Aras (Heb. Gihon), the Tigris (Heb. Hiddekel) and the Euphrates (Heb. Perath).

Yes: he locates Eden on the map, near the southwest corner of the Caspian Sea. He does much more, such as redating much of ancient Egyptian history. I understand that he's regarded as a maverick (I don't doubt it--and more power to him) in his field, but his conclusions are well argued and plausible. It made exciting reading on the flights to Colorado and back.

So when I saw From Eden to Exile, I couldn't resist. Rohl retells the whole Old Testament in one mass-market paperback. It's not only a good, compressed version of the Bible, but he puts in dates and gives scientific explanations for the miracles (the plagues of Egypt were the result of climatic catastrophes that were affecting the whole world at that time; the "Reed Sea"--not the Red Sea--was "parted" by a windstorm while Moses was leaving Egypt; the walls of Jericho were tumbled by an earthquake; etc.). Other things are not explained, such as how Moses, Aaron, and Miriam all lived such vigorous, active lives till well past the age of 100. But overall, the quality of Rohl's investigations and deductions seems high. And I have a soft spot for mavericks in any case (Einstein is reported to have said, "Nothing was ever made true by agreement").

Although my own story is set long after the latest date that Rohl looks at, my characters are obsessed to some extent with the past. The Jews of 1st-century BC were aware that they lived in a postclassical time; the great spiritual leaders and sages had long gone. Now there was only study of the past, and how it would shape the present and future. Rohl's book adds much useful material here.

But what about my writing, you ask? Well, for now, this is it.

1 Comments:

  • Hi there. As I was out surfing around the internet today trying to find other History websites, I came across your History Blog. You have a very well put together Blog. I have a website http://www.BibleFamilyTree.com that also pertains to Ancient History...
    and you might want to check it out as well.

    Many Blessings,

    Ancient History

    By Anonymous D. Day, at January 21, 2006 7:47 AM  

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