Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible
The introduction surveys evidence for the influence of Plato's writings on the Hebrew Bible or old Testament. I then discuss Plato's program for founding a new nation with a divinely inspired constitution and laws supported by an approved ethical national literature. I conclude by showing how the Torah and Hebrew Bible appears to have been created according to this same literary program.
Greek Genres in the Hebrew Bible
I survey Greek and Hellenistic literary genres that are easily detected in biblical writings and are without Ancient Near Eastern parallel. These include genres of narrative writing (apologetic historiography, foundation stories), legal writing (constitutions, combined civil and sacred law collections, collections of ethical commandments, hortatory legal introductions and laws with motive clauses in Plato’s Laws), prophetic writing (oracles against the nations), plays (Job) and erotic poetry (Song of Songs).
Moses and Greek Foundation Stories
The Greek genre ktisis or foundation story frequently contained constitutional and legal content in a narrative setting. The founding of a new city involved the creation of its various civil and religious institutions, including the framing of a constitution and law code by the oikist or founder. As a consequence, foundation stories often noted the ancestral laws inaugurated at the colony’s establishment. I discuss how the story of the migration of the Israelites to the Promised Land under the leadership of Moses, and his creation of a constitution and laws for the new nation, closely conformed to the conventions of the Greek foundation story.
Greek Influences on Biblical Law
The introduction discusses how previous biblical scholarship has either assumed exclusively Ancient Near Eastern sources for Mosaic laws or very indirect Greek influences in the distant past. However, a late date for the biblical law codes, after Alexander the Great's conquests in the east in 335-325 BC, allows for direct Greek influence, especially with the Great Library of Alexandria's extensive legal collection. I survey Greek influences on biblical constitutional institutions as well as many biblical laws that indicate the use of Athenian laws as well the text Plato's Laws on the Laws of Moses.
Plato and the Book of Deuteronomy
I discuss the extensive and fascinating evidence that suggests that the book of Deuteronomy was modeled directly on Plato's Laws, in which Plato said a lawgiver should assemble together all the citizens of a new colony and recite for them the whole body of divinely inspired laws for the new nation, prefaced by persuasive introductions. The idea of law as education (or "torah") was a unique innovation of Plato, elsewhere found only in the Laws of Moses, and especially prominent in Deuteronomy. Several Deuteronomic laws also appear to derive from Plato's Laws.
Plato and the Torah
In this lecture I give a broad survey of evidence for Plato's influence on the entirety of the Laws of Moses from Exodus through Deuteronomy. This includes constitutional provisions (especially in the constitutional sub-document at Deut. 16.18–18.22), specific laws found in different legal collections (such as the Covenant Code, Deuteronomy), and in the innovative ideas of laws as education ("torah" or teaching) and in persuasive introductions and motive clauses.
Plato, Inspiration and Divine Law
I discuss Plato's theories on divine inspiration by spirits that acted as intermediaries between the human realm and the divine, and the inspired status of poets, musicians, philosophers and lawgivers. Plato's claims to divine inspiration in his last dialogue, Plato's Laws, is especially interesting in that it gave a divine status to the laws he presented there. His constitution and laws thus had a claim to divine inspiration similar to other legendary Greek lawgivers, as well as the biblical law code. I discuss the many points of contact between biblical and Greek theories of divine inspiration, and especially with Plato.
Alexandria and the Creation of the Bible
The Museum that housed the Great Library of Alexandria founded around 290 BC was the greatest institution of learning in the world. Tradition said a group of seventy Jewish scholars were invited to Alexandria around 270 BC to translate the books of Moses into Greek, the famous Septuagint translation. In this lecture I discuss evidence that these scholars also wrote the Books of Moses in their original Hebrew version, drawing on a variety of Greek texts found at the Great Library, including Plato and Homer among others.
Greek Science and the Bible
A number of biblical scholars have pointed out parallels between the creation narrative in Genesis 1 and Greek scientific cosmogonies, especially those by natural philosophers from Miletus. In this lecture I explore some of the striking parallels in Greek scientific theories about the origins of the kosmos and the Genesis account. I also note the strong influence of Plato, whose dialogue Timaeus combined scientific cosmogony with the actions of a divine creator, the Demiurge or Craftsman, who guided the formation of the kosmos at every step for the benefit of humanity.
Plato and the Biblical Creation Story
In this lecture I do a detailed comparison of Plato's cosmogony in Timaeus and other writings with the creation account in Genesis 1. While Plato's cosmogony incorporated the best thinking of the natural philosophers of his day, he overlaid this scientific substratum with a theological and philosophical superstratum that postulated the action of a divine creator who guided the ordering of the kosmos for humanity's benefit. This same combination of science and theology is found in Genesis 1, which contains many statements about the divine purpose and divine care for humanity that mirror statements from Plato.
New Paradigms in Biblical Studies
Past biblical scholarship down to the end of the twentieth century tended to view biblical texts as cultural products of the Ancient Near East and to date them as early as allowable, except as down-dated by obvious anachronisms. In the 1990s and early 2000s this maximalist approach was deconstructed by the so-called Copenhagen School, which pointed out that external evidence for biblical texts first appears in the early Hellenistic Era, suggesting a new research paradigm in which Greek influences should also be taken into consideration. In this lecture I survey more recent scholarly developments that point to influence on the biblical text by Homer, Plato, and other Greek and Hellenistic authors that point to the Hebrew Bible as a set of late texts that draw heavily on Greek literature.
When, Where and Why was the Bible Written?
In this lecture I lay out the newest theories on the composition of the Hebrew Bible. Rather than a collection of Ancient Near Eastern texts, the books of the Old Testament with rare exceptions appear to date to the Hellenistic Era, after the conquest of the east by Alexander the Great in 335-325 BC. The first books that formed the core of this collection were the Books of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy) that are best understood as having been written at Alexandria by visiting Jewish and Samaritan scholars around 270 BC using various Greek sources and immediately translated into Greek (the famous Septuagint translation) for addition to the Great Library. The remaining books of the Hebrew Bible were mostly collected, edited or written at Jerusalem shortly afterwards, mostly without Samaritan participation. These two phases of literary activity correspond closely to the program outlined in Plato's Laws for the establishment of a new nation under theocratic rule, first creating a constitution and law code that was to be portrayed as ancient and divinely inspired, and second by creating a carefully approved national literature compatible with those laws to be used exclusively in schools and festivals for public education and enculturation. It is evident that the Torah and Hebrew Bible were created as an implementation of Plato's theories on literature as a mechanism for implementing divine government.
Sodom and Gomorrah Located in History
This lecture explains my theories on the conquests of Sennacherib in 701 BC, which included the fiery destruction of several sites in the vicinity of the Dead Sea as indicated by the archaeological evidence. Both the Mesopotamian invasion of Genesis 14 and Sennacherib's invasion immediately followed the stopping of tribute payment after 14 years. I argue that memories of Sennacherib's reprisals were preserved in the Assyrian province of Samerina and transmitted among the educated elites down to the Samaritans of the early Hellenistic Era, who incorporated these local traditions into the legendary accounts of Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction in Genesis.
Mesopotamian Sources in the Hebrew Bible
I survey a wide variety of Mesopotamian literary and cultural traditions that were incorporated into the Hebrew Bible, including many aspects of the Primordial History of Genesis 1-11, the origin traditions of the Jews and Samaritans in Genesis, a scattering of Ancient Near Eastern laws, Mesopotamian influence on biblical building accounts, and others, I propose that these Mesopotamian traditions entered Israel at the conquest of Samaria by the Assyrians and the import of Babylonian colonists to Samerina and that these traditions persisted in educated circles in Samaria into the Hellenistic Era when they had a substantial influence on the biblical text via the Samaritans.
In Search of the Pillars of Hercules
Hercules was said to have traveled the world while performing his famous Twelve Labors. Greek traditions placed the Pillars of Hercules, inscribed memorial stelae that he set up at the far reaches of his world travels, at the Straits of Gibraltar, at Mount Caucasus on the Black Sea, in distant India, and in Egypt. Travelers could see the famous Pillars of Hercules in all these lands. How did this rumor of the Pillars of Hercules become attached to all these sundry locations? What historical basis existed, if any, for the Pillars of Hercules?
Golden Apples, Golden Fleece—the Migration of Greek Myths
By the mid-700s BC the Greeks had begun to establish trading posts in the distant east along the shores of the Black Sea. Shortly afterwards, their network of Mediterranean trade emporiums stretched west as far as the Straits of Gibraltar. Strabo and others commented on how Greek myths originally set east on the Black Sea were given a western setting by Homer and later authors. This phenomenon helps explain the mirror episodes Greek myths attach to the distant east and west, including the story of the dragon-guarded Golden Apples of the Hesperides.
Dragons, Giants and Flood Myths—Greek Science and the Fossils
The Greeks had curious beliefs that Sea Serpents once inhabited the waters of the Mediterranean, that Giants once lived in ancient legendary times, and that a deluge in the time of Deucalion had once covered much of the world, except for the mountaintops, extinguishing most of humankind. What's more, they could point to evidence of these ancient marvels in the form of skeletons of Dragons and Giants on the Mediterranean coast still visible to tourists in their day, and sea shells that could still be found in rocks hundreds of feet above the sea. In this entertaining lecture I discuss fossils and how they affected Greek scientific views of the legendary past.
Werewolves, Hellhounds and Hydrophobia
In one of my favorite presentations, I unveil the ancient Greek and Roman evidence for werewolves, men or women transformed into wolves, and hellhounds that guarded the entrance to the underworld with their fangs dripping poisonous froth. I present original evidence to support the explanation that both of these were ancient reactions to the phenomenon of hydrophobia, also known as rabies, a dangerous disease that could be passed from canine to human, with symptoms that closely match the ancient mythological accounts.
Research and Writing
How to Become an Expert on Anything in One Week
I describe my extremely efficient approach to in-depth researching any topic, finding the best, most authoritative sources, and evaluating those sources for your own purposes. This tried-and-true method will be valuable to both graduate and undergraduate students as well as writers and other individuals who need to master new subject matter fast!