A bristlingly detailed analysis of archeological and other evidence to determine how the Old and New Testaments were created—and which writings are historically factual, which have some factual base, and which are based on mythology. In the process, Romer (Ancient Lives, 1984) produces a selective history of early Judaism and demonstrates the centrality of Christianity to Western culture. Archeological evidence ties Genesis and Exodus to pagan mythology, transmuted, says Romer, by Israel's priests into a demonstration of the unique and evolving relationship between early Jews and Jehovah. The stories of Noah's Ark and the parting of the Red Sea are similar to earlier Mesopotamian writings; the story of Polifar's wife, to an Egyptian tale. The first version of the Old Testament was assembled about the fifth century B.C. after the Babylonian exile. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain many copies of these scriptures, which leads Romer to theorize that they were spirited from Jerusalem's temples shortly before the Roman legions sacked the city—and once again exiled the Jews—in A.D. 70. It was during this exile that the Jews produced the final version of the Old Testament. A 1920 discovery dates the earliest New Testament book (John) at A.D. 130. No contemporary mention of Jesus has yet been found, but Paul's Epistles (20 years after Christ's death) contain many verifiable details. Romer traces the spread of Christianity, its establishment by Constantine as Rome's official religion, its division into eastern and western churches, the impact of the Reformation (which elevated the importance of the Bible), and the importance of Christianity to architecture, ethics, and the history of Europe. Profusely illustrated in color and black-and-white, a selection of four book clubs, and the basis of a forthcoming six-episode TV series—in all, Fine archeological history that should generate popular as well as scholarly interest.
Read full book review >