When Jerusalem was founded, Yahweh hadn't been invented yet. So where did he come from?


Somewhere along the way, I reverted to my one-lesson-one-page habits from back when this was a scrolling comic on Tumblr. But that means each page takes a lot longer to post, without any semblance of predictability. I’m trying one-page-at-a-time pacing again for this little digression, to see how that works.

Do let me know what you think in the comments!

(And as always, keep those comments and debates and criticisms coming—they’re never closed, and they really are the best part!)

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Join the conversation! There are now 7 comments on this chapter's page 107. Inventing God and Law: Yahweh in the Bronze Age. What are your thoughts?
  1. Anonymous says

    I do like how you go on diatribes with the whole creation of religion, even if it’s all tangential to the main focus.

    I’m curious though – what primary sources were used to determine Yahweh’s original creation? You’d assume that if he was just a wind god turned into a creation god, more people would know.

    • It’d be nice to think so, wouldn’t it? Sadly, hardly anybody reads academic papers except for other academics in the same field, and often not even then.

      Also, researching this topic can be challenging, if not frustrating. There’s actually is a fair amount of scholarship on this subject, some going back to the 1800s, though the best research in my opinion has been done in the past couple of decades. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stuff out there that is less than useful. And it can be difficult to winnow the useful stuff from the chaff. A surprising amount of papers getting published even today treat the Old Testament as if it was a factual eyewitness historical account, instead of narratives often written hundreds or thousands of years after their stories are said to have taken place. For just one example, there is zero evidence that David and Solomon were kings of a united kingdom of Judah and Israel once upon a time, yet you’d be surprised how often a researcher accepts that as gospel truth and bases their analysis on it!

      Fortunately, there are plenty of scholars whose work is properly rigorous and subject to critical analysis. So once you’ve separated the useful scholarship from the chaff you still have plenty of good evidence-based scholarship that you can piece together into a coherent narrative. Which is what I’ve tried to do here—on a very small scale and within a very limited context. (I’m leaving out a ton of fascinating stuff that’s just not really pertinent to how they invented monotheism and “law as we know it.” And this digression ends a few hundred years before Judaism morphed from priests and blood sacrifices to rabbis and synagogues, so there’s a lot more cool stuff I won’t even be getting to.)

      The evidence of course isn’t primary historical sources, because there aren’t any primary historical sources—the people we’re looking at weren’t making contemporaneous written records of what they were doing or why. The evidence is archaeological for the most part, the physical evidence they left behind. This includes objects and graves and building sites and detritus, but it also includes inscriptions they made, as well as texts that were written by their neighbors in Egypt and Mesopotamia. By the 600s and 500s BCE the evidence can often be quite granular. Once they did start writing things down, we do have more contemporaneous evidence for what they were doing. The ways in which their scriptures evolved and got rewritten over time can also be traced through analysis of the texts and other extraneous evidence. The more that evidence from different fields like linguistics and anthropology and political science, etc., gets cross-referenced and contributes to the scholarship, the more complete the picture becomes.

      So it’s not like scholars are just making it up as they go along. And a lot remains unclear or subject to sincere debate (though I’m trying to leave that stuff out for our purposes). I highly recommend that anyone who’s interested should take a look at the research that’s out there. It might be challenging, but it is certainly rewarding!

        • My pleasure! The upoming pages should give you enough keywords and search phrases to get you started.

          And if you find sources that you feel challenge, undermine, or contradict anything I’m presenting, please let me know! (That goes for every topic, not just this one. This comic is about dispelling misinformation, not dispensing it!)

  2. STM says

    Is Al-Lawz the origin of the term “law?”

  3. BowtiedShrike says

    Storms as war gods makes sense to us because thunder and lightning, but the key value of a storm god for a desert people is bringing life-giving rain. It’s a storm god because that’s how desert rains come- intense storm for a few hours and then clears up. None of this ‘it drizzles for 7 days’ like it does in the UK or eastern US.

    If you’re fighting, drought stops the armies more potently than hail, thunder or lightning. Also motivates conquests.

    Rain-making is a holy task because it brings life to a desert. When Jesus is asked if he is the Messiah, his supporting evidence for invoking the divine ‘I am’ is that he will ‘come with the clouds of heaven’, ie bringing the rain.

    But also in the earlier Jewish tradition, you have rain-making ascribed to Phineas, Elijah, Honi, Noah, Simeon, Habbakuk and others.

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