Today the old testament is a part of the christian's bible.   But as far as I know, it is supposed to be oldet than 2000 years.

Maybe someone has answers to my questions:

1.  Did the old testament exist in a written form at around 300 BCE?
2.  Was it then in Hebrew and a part of the jewish religion?
3.  How far spread was the knowledge?
4.  Had it been translated into Greek?
5.  Could it have been known by Greek philosophers?
6.  Considering the little distance between Greece and Israel, how much cultural interchange was there between the Greek and the Hebrew learned people?

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The Old Testament is not really a study subject of mine, so I might be slightly off. However, the questions are fairly straightforward so I think I can help.


1) The question is vaguely posed. "The Old Testament" consists of about two dozen different books. The canonization of all these books (in the sense that they were all collected and offered in a single package) only took place in the Early Second Century CE, which means that prior to that data, what you would have is a variety of different individual books, and every community might possess several of them (but possibly not all) at any one time.

You're inquiring specifically to the 300 BCE mark, in which case some of these individual books (the Book of Daniel comes to mind, with a composition date of second Century BCE) had not yet been fully composed. Other books were still in a pretty fluid phase, and with all the different manuscripts floating around there would be a certain divergence (though as with all holy texts, they would be carefully transmitted).

The "core" of the Old Testament however, the Pentateuch (or Torah) would have definitely been formed and was regarded as a "set" of five books which contained the Law of God. The status of any individual book may vary though.


So the answer to the question is: no, the full Old Testament as we know it now would not have existed, however most books would have been known, and the most important ones would have been in wide circulation and been well known.


2) If we're talking about the Pentateuch in particular, it was certainly a central part of the Jewish religion, and it would have been largely in Hebrew, though there's remnants of other languages as well, like Aramaic.


3) In what sense? The Pentateuch would have been known to just about everyone who knew the Jewish religion, but the knowledge of other (newer) books could vary from community to community.


4) Barely. We date the completion of the Septuagint (which is the Greek translation of the Pentateuch - the first five books - as well as a large number of other works) to the Second Century BCE. The Pentateuch itself would have been translated first however, likely in the early Third Century BCE.


5) Not by the most famous Greek philosophers like Socrates and Plato living around the 5th Century BCE, no. As translations to Greek started, it is possible that Greek philosophers had access to these works, however we have no evidence of that being the case. It's hard to see why Third or Second Century Greek philosophers would be interested in Jewish scriptures anyway... assuming they were still doing much philosophy, since the political turmoil at that time was great and Greece had been rapidly declining for quite some time.


6) That's very hard to quantify. Prior to the Fourth Century, there's likely not to have been much cultural exchange at all. The Greek city-states were in a nigh constant struggle (overt or not) against the Persians - the then-rulers of Palestine, and any exchanges between Greek and Persian territories would have likely been measured in raids and battles rather than in literary fruition.

Where the cultural interchange is to be sought is quite a bit later, when Palestine was conquered by Alexander the Great in the late Fourth Century. Much of the former Persian empire went through a period of hellenization at that point, the influences of which would be visible for many centuries. It's very likely that this hellenization led to new ideas in Palestine at that point (though I doubt much was occurring in the other direction), but exactly which ideas is hard to say, since this hellenization was not a uniformly Greek phenomenon, but a grab-bag of Greek, Macedonian, Persian and Egyptian influences and art-forms and ideas.

What exactly this spawned -if anything- is extremely hard to determine, though the Jews in particular seem to have resisted most of the Greek influences. Devout Jews in particular would have avoided it.


I hope that helps. Kind regards,



The Hellenization of Palestine occurred much earlier than that. I was taught as a child that the Sadducees embraced Hellenization and Pharisees opposed it, and they both existed during the reign of Alexander the Great and from the period from 334/333 BCE to 63 BCE. When the empire fell to the Seleucids, they repressed the Jewish culture, and the Maccabean revolution took place, resulting in the Hasmonean dynasty until 63 BCE. But the Wikipedia article I just looked at says the exact opposite!

The Sadducees were said to be the upper class. But it was the Pharisees who preserved the Jewish religion after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Jews always respected Alexander because he allowed them to preserve their religion and culture, and for as long as Jewish culture existed in Europe, Jews named their boys Alexander in honor of him.

The Romans were another story, and they were the ones responsible for the decimation and enslavement of the Jews of Palestine, ending with the destruction of the temple and fall of Jerusalem.

Thank you.   It seems that I can conclude to see a one-way effect.  While hellenistic influences were distributed to other areas, the Greek philosophers seem to have only influenced each other with little interest for other cultures.

Yes...the two Jewish sects were the two sects Jesus was preaching against. There was a third Jewish sect at that tim period named the Essenes. What do you know of them and what happened to them?

Thank you for the elaborate answers.   I am wondering, what social and intellectual influences led to Epicurus' developing a philosophy including the principle of not harming and not be harmed.   

If you want to get a historical critical view of the Old Testament (What Christians call it) (the Jews call it the Tanakh) and the new Testament go the the link below both courses are free .  Both are long around 24 hours (I did 1 or 2 a week) These courses  are not devotional and do not Proselytize they are critical examination of the Tanakh and New Testament.  Most Christians I know would consider there content lies.   It can also help you in debating Christians about there religion.

RLST 145 - Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)
Professor Christine Hayes
Fall, 2006

This course examines the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) as an expression of the religious life and thought of ancient Israel, and a foundational document of Western civilization. A wide range of methodologies, including source criticism and the historical-critical school, tradition criticism, redaction criticism, and literary and canonical approaches are applied to the study and interpretation of the Bible. Special emphasis is placed on the Bible against the backdrop of its historical and cultural setting in the Ancient Near East. 

RLST 152 - Introduction to New Testament History and Literature
Professor Dale B. Martin
Spring, 2009

This course provides a historical study of the origins of Christianity by analyzing the literature of the earliest Christian movements in historical context, concentrating on the New Testament. Although theological themes will occupy much of our attention, the course does not attempt a theological appropriation of the New Testament as scripture. Rather, the importance of the New Testament and other early Christian documents as ancient literature and as sources for historical study will be emphasized. A central organizing theme of the course will focus on the differences within early Christianity (-ies). 

What little history I have comes from Who Wrote the Bible by Richard Elliott Friedman.  Very interesting, and I'd love to learn more.  I definitely recommend this, although it doesn't answer all your questions.

John and Daniel, thank for suggesting sources to read.  But honestly, 24 hours of a course are a bit out of proportion with my scorn for the bible.    

I had never read the bible, but quotes on AN and other atheist sites have made me aware of some content in the old testament being in favor of, allowing, justifying and even commanding incredibly horrible atrocities.  In fact, some of the quotes are so insanely cruel, that  I am puzzled, why anybody reading that stuff would not throw the bible immediately into the next fire...   

This made me wonder about the psychological effect of such appalling texts on bystanders in the historical past.   Bystanders meaning persons not being part of the faith but being informed about it.  

I am wondering, how Epicurus was able to develop his principle of not harming and not be harmed.   

According to Matt's reply, Epicurus was probably ignorant of the atrocities in the old testament.   Maybe he was appalled by other atrocities.


If one believes Moses was responsible for writing the first five books of the Old Testament then it can be dated 1350 BCE to 1850 BCE. The exact dating is unknown.

I recommend your read these first five books. Slowly - such as maybe two to five scriptures at a time. Have a yellow marker handy. When you see something that simply does not correspond with your moral code - mark it and using a notebook - write out your problem with it. It will make for wonderful educational discussions with god-believers later on.

Example: When Cain was thrown out of Eden (due to the murder of his brother) he went Eastward to Nod. Immediately he 'takes wives' and cities are built. Who did he marry? Where did all these people come from? Christians will tell you - being so very simple minded - that one of his 'sisters' later on went looking for him....found him...they had sex and a baby was born. Yeah. Right.

Another example: God asks each man (Cain and Abel) to bring offerings. Now one was a farmer and one was a hunter. God certainly knew this. yet, God rejects Cain's 'field offerings'...and this makes him so angry he kills his brother. What kind of father would do such a thing? You'd think just maybe he would have accepted each offering equally - then specificially told the brothers what he preferred. Problem solved. Since this 'father' was so nasty towards one son - even though that son did exactly what he was told (offering) and brought what he knew how to do - it was rejected. An extremely poor example for any father to set. You'll get dozens of these ideas by reading slowly and taking your time. It will provide much in the way of talking points for your Christian friends later on.

My interest behind the OP is the Greek philosopher Epicurus and what influenced him.   I have no inclination to ever read the bible.  

Perhaps the Greek culture was more secretive regarding outside influences. It is well known that the Sumerian culture at 3500BCE was using mushrooms (Amanita Muscarius) to get that hallucinatory high to 'speak with god'....and just recently it has been discovered that the 'Secrets of Eleusis' - a Greek religious sect just outside of Athens dating to 500 BCE was also using this mushroom in their hallucinatory services to 'speak with God'. Some things spread around even if it's not apparent.

It is well known that the Sumerian culture at 3500BCE was using mushrooms (Amanita Muscarius) to get that hallucinatory high

I had never heard about this.  But how is this known?   Do you know any source about this?





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