The world has relied on history to provide us with information to help us understand our world, our cultures and their origins. Unfortunately, the further back in time we go, the more errors we can expect, which presents a major obstacle to a clarified view of our past. An overview of the historical tradition will help us to see how religion and history have the same origins and how easily the earliest depictions could have become misaligned and misconstrued.
'History’ means the conscious and intentional remembrance of things past, in a living tradition transmitted from one generation to another. For this there must be some continuous organization, be it the family of the chieftain in the beginning, or the school today, which has reason to care for the past of the group and has the capacity for transmitting the historical tradition to future generations. History exists only in a persisting society which needs history to persist.
But no living memory links us with the inventors of fire, with the masters, who some 15,000 years ago painted walls of caves in France and in the Ural Mountains, or with the builders who, perhaps about 2000 BC, began to erect the still-standing monoliths at Stonehenge in England. These men left signs, and they knew what those signs meant, but they left no written word, and their message cannot be clearly understood by us.9
The historical tradition is based upon the evidence of the first persistent societies in Sumer and Egypt and became the fountainhead of historical memory and consensus. Any culture that may have existed outside that which began in the Near East is relegated to the imagination of historians because the idea of history itself was built upon Babylon and Egypt.10
History contends that both were the earliest civilizations because they are situated at the center of the cradle of civilization, where man is believed to have first evolved before migrating to other areas. Historians relentlessly depict all societies as having become eventually comprised of Neolithic primitive humans who evolved into the knowledgeable worldwide civilization of present day. We are beginning to discover evidence to the contrary.
The earliest discovered writings of human history are found in ancient Sumer, Mesopotamia and Egypt dating back to 3000 BC, 2600 BC and 2700 BC respectively. The most ancient are found on the Sumerian clay tablets, which depict the epic of Gilgamesh—a remarkably similar flood story—among many other things. The Pyramid Texts found on the walls of several Egyptian pyramids date back to 2700 BC. All of these writings mysteriously compare with one another in an apparently urgent attempt to define gods, a flood and other remarkable events.
Egypt and Mesopotamia were early focal points of mystery, intrigue and power struggles. Any events occurring prior to the ancient texts are based on limited archaeological evidence. Little or no evidence can support many of the assumptions regarding early societal developments of prehistory nor can history tell us exactly what transpired throughout the globe during the thousands of years before written documents.
Why are the most ancient records of prehistory’s societies focused almost entirely on descriptions of gods and hell, flood legends and chronicles that curiously resemble the earliest Hebrew accounts in Genesis? It’s quite apparent monumental events precipitated writing because all of the earliest writings are focused on the same core themes.
Biblical history, which is known to be the earliest chronological history on record, reveals to us how extraordinary events transformed mass confusion into a cohesive band of adherents to a newly formed ideology and governing authority.
Understanding the Bible, rests on realizing vital information was urgently necessary to be recorded and passed onward, but the bias of time and other factors unavoidably effected translation and blurred the truths about these world-changing discoveries. The contorted depictions of truth surrounding momentous ancient events eventually became the earliest known recorded chronological history.
Important events must have occurred long before the tenets of early Judaism were established. Without the presence of several remarkable events and discoveries, the transformation of the world’s prevailing ideologies would not have occurred and the urgency to forward the information would be nonexistent.
The book of Genesis describes everything from creation to the origin of the Egyptian conflict in the first twelve chapters—an enormous amount of history for such a short depiction. The earliest five books of the Bible were developed over a period of 1000 years. They were derived from various sources and intricately woven together by the 6th century BC.
Not until the 19th century did scholars notice the anomalies in style, semantics, and word form in the ancient texts, leading them to conclude that the Pentateuch of Hebrew tradition—the first five books of the Old Testament—was derived from at least four different sources. These independent versions of literature were developed over time and drawn from oral tradition to become the world renowned compilation.11
Although many believe dutiful scribes were extremely careful when copying the texts, it’s apparent the story was meshed and continually altered until the 6th century BC, which is clearly evident in the book of Isaiah.12 About 900 years had elapsed following the Exodus (presumed to be 1446 BC), before the texts were completed. Jewish authority, which had been well established by the 6th century BC, dominated the interpretation of historical events for hundreds of years prior.
In all probability, the initial compilations were agreed upon by authorities attempting to explain significant events exposed by startling evidence from all parts of the Middle East. It is more realistic to assume the governing authority in 1400 BC was a constituency of leaders, which later became the early Jewish authority—a fusion of government cemented by control of history’s interpretation for strategic political and economic reasons.
In 1200 BC, the entire Middle East, Near East and Greece were areas of intense power struggles. How could it have been possible for the Jews to be recognized as the earliest respected authority without concessions for other dominating authorities with similar interests?
Closer examination of the specific chronological events recorded in the Bible’s book of Genesis reveals Abram to have preceded the Exodus by almost 1000 years. This proves the recorded chronology to be a 1000-year historical account written by Moses after the Exodus. Where did he get his information?
An additional 900 years or so transpired after the Exodus and before the accounts became collated and finalized into the earliest Hebrew Bible. By 600 BC, Moses wasn't alive to explain what had remained of his 1000 year-old scrappy ledgers, which were descriptions of events that occurred almost 2000 years prior. Jewish authority had ruled the interpretation of historical records dating back to the advent of mankind’s earliest writings.
This strongly suggests accounts were most likely structured to reflect the opinions of a consortium, whose intent was to make sense of oral traditions, early writings and integral events of which Moses had been likely involved. In all likelihood (we will demonstrate in chapter five), the most significant events occurred long before the earliest known Sumerian writings (3000 BC).
Notwithstanding, Sumerian and Egyptian writings were surely an essential component of records perused in order to craft the early versions of history. If it required almost 1000 years to formulate the Pentateuch, then the prevailing authority of the 6th century BC was at least 2000 years removed from the origin of events beginning with Shem of Old Testament scripture.
Power is always awarded to those whose discoveries change the world, but both truth and its power are usurped by the authority born of such discoveries.
Origins of truth became tainted history, especially when we acknowledge the depicted events to have predated mankind’s earliest records. The stories were reinterpreted, rearranged, altered and organized by designated authorities only to become fragmented and misunderstood in succeeding generations. Over time, history’s truth eroded into dogma while the historical authority became a powerful entity. We can understand more easily how the earliest records might have been skewed by both unavoidable ineffective translation and the immorality of power.
Did Hebrew authority gain its power as a direct result of the control of history and its interpretation? Did the dawn of alternative historical tradition emerge from recognizing history’s importance as a necessary element of power?
History and public opinion had long been influenced by the powerful Jewish tradition before Greek leaders enlisted scholars to gather information and compile separate accounts of history. Not until the fifth century BC did another organized process of transmitting the portrayals of past events begin.
The history of Greece and its surrounding regions (including Egypt) became important enough to enlist Herodotus, the first known historian of Greco-Egyptian times, to compile records of various cultures, their clashes and politics.
His documents are tattered and still remain respected by historians as bona-fide descriptions of Greco-Persian wars, as told to Herodotus by the many witnesses he interviewed and by reports based on the oral histories he evaluated.13
Herodotus is arguably the pioneer of history and was soon followed by a number of Greek historians also commissioned by regional powers to gather information on wars, geography, culture and politics of surrounding areas. Not to take anything away from “the Father of History”, but the origin of written political, socio-economic history as we know it, is compiled from verbal sources, which are incredulous by today’s standards.
What do we suppose was the reason for a growing obsession with history? Isn’t it more probable to suggest that powerful nations relied on bold challenges to popularized versions of history in order to gain constituents and power? Since we see history and religion having similar origins, we can surmise that challenges to history were challenges to religious concepts.
History erupted into a discipline primarily concerned with educating powerful leaders with agendas. It leaves us to presume embellishment to have played a big part in transcribing the accounts of early history equally as prejudice played its part on methods of information gathering. We cannot deny the repetitive habits of human nature in our evaluations.
Greece remained obsessed with ancient legends of Greek and Egyptian gods. Alexander the Great could have completely conquered the Persians after the Battle of Issus in 333 BC, which pushed the Persians back to Babylon with a decimated army. Instead he moved down the coast to Tyre, which baffled his Generals. Many historians speculate that he intended to cut off the bases of the Persian fleet and prevent its making trouble in Greece, but that didn't make sense because they had been severely beaten. It took Persia’s King Darius III two years to rebuild his army and it wasn't until then that Alexander returned to Persia to defeat the newly formed army in 331 BC.14
It was later discovered, in tales by his Generals, Alexander was more interested in Egypt, where questions regarding his destiny took precedence over the destiny of Greece. He was obsessed with knowing whether he was a demigod who had been fathered by a Pharaoh rather than his presumed father, King Philip, after rumors of his mother’s infidelity.15
There is no need to expound on the story. It serves as a reminder to the obsession, even in 330 BC, by leaders who were consumed with the long standing myths and legends, which preceded them by at least 2,500 years.
In 270 BC King Ptolemy II, enlisted a priest named Manetho to gather the history of ancient Egypt. His original three volume manuscript was very popular and placed in the library of Alexandria only to perish there in the renowned burning by Moslem conquerors in 642 A.D..
Somehow, Manetho’s arrangement of a list of gods and demigods (reigning long before Pharaohs became Kings in Egypt) survived in the records of other ancient historians and are followed to this day. His listing depicts 17,520 years of Divine rule—3,650 of which were demigods—prior to any Pharaoh in Egypt (placing gods and humans together in Egypt as early as 21,000 BC).16
King Antiochus I of Seleucid, a Greek-Macedonian State created as part of eastern conquests of Alexander the Great, commissioned a priest-historian named Berossus to compile a more complex tale that could embrace many lands, diverse rulers and different kingdoms. Portions of the three volumes, which he composed around 278 BC, were copied and extensively quoted in antiquity by other Greek and Roman historians.17
Apollodorus of Athens in the 2nd century BC and a Greek-Roman historian of the first century BC named Alexander Polyhistor similarly quote Berossus’ list of ten pre-flood gods whose total reign lasted for 432,000 years. The last of such rulers is named Xisuthros, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Noah in that he survived a worldwide deluge in order to save the world and ruled for a total of 64,800 years (apparently divided by pre and post-flood times).18
Many other similarities to the Hebrew Bible, including the exact story of the Tower of Babel, lead many to believe the same source material must have been born out of archaeology and influenced each detailed account, although selectively.19
Where did all of this information originate? Because these tales bear curious similarities to the tablets of ancient Sumer, it is highly probable these narrations were derived in part from information obtained from the Royal library of Assyria’s King Ashurbanipal of 7th century BC. He was the first to organize a library consisting of thousands of clay tablets, gathered by his scribes from all parts of ancient Babylon. The library was comprised of enormous documentations written on original Sumerian tablets, which were discovered, albeit fragmented, in 1859 by archaeologist Austen Henry Layard and are currently housed in the British Museum.
The compilations of Berossus and Manetho were unprecedented and their testimonies were respected enough to have been copied by other curious historians of the time. Importantly, their collections concur that an enormous amount of time of Egyptian rule by gods and demigods had preceded the Egyptian rule by Pharaohs. Can we provide a unique evaluation of this evidence?
Although these descriptions of history relied on centuries of oral tradition, they demonstrate the importance and reliability of oral tradition in specific historical accounts long before written records. This suggests that historic events of monumental proportions had influenced oral tradition with enough degree of uniformity, over hundreds or possibly thousands of years, to render their stories somewhat credible. It doesn't imply the events and circumstances were totally agreed upon or understood with clarity, as is evidenced by conflicting time periods in each description, but specific concepts were agreed upon because of the veracity of corroborating oral descriptions.
Both testimonies allow adequate time for development of humans and societies in the post-flood era, which is unaccounted for in the biblical version of the story. Each of them supports the establishment of god-like rulers, which are depicted in Greek and Egyptian myths and will prove to be a crucial part of this presentation.
The narrative accounts of Berossus and Manetho will help to answer the questions arising from newly exposed mysteries, to which current historical consensus cannot, and prove the biblical version must have been convoluted over time if, in fact, the earliest sources of information were the same.
Curiously, the renderings of both Manetho and Berossus had been written thousands of years after the actual events and more than 2500 years after the first known writings of our civilization—much like the Pentateuch. Did they mold their stories to reflect what had been long believed in Greco-Egyptian history or did they find evidence to corroborate their findings?
History’s conundrum is the ineffective translation of the earliest and critically formative events of prerecorded times. Important discoveries don’t fit within the conduct of history’s presupposed timeline and corroborating evidence seems to be derived from unknown sources.
The Piri Reis map of 1513 is a perfect example. It precisely depicts the geographic landscape of Antarctica 300 years before its discovery and over 400 years before science created a seismic map of the land buried thousands of feet beneath the mountains of ice.
How is it possible for a map, copied from an unknown source map (believed to have been housed in the Imperial Library of Constantinople), to precisely depict the sub-glacial topography of Antarctica 400 years before an accurate seismic profile was created with 20th century technology? How could Piri Reis have any knowledge in 1513 of the continent of Antarctica, which hadn’t been discovered until 1818?
Piri Reis obligingly gives us the answer in a series of notes written in his own hand on the map itself. He tells us that he was not responsible for the original surveying and cartography. On the contrary, he admits that his role was merely that of a compiler and copyist and that the map was derived from a large number of source maps. Some of these had been drawn by contemporary or near contemporary explorers (including Christopher Columbus), who had by then reached South America and the Caribbean, but others were documents dating back to the fourth century BC or earlier.20
Perhaps we should lean towards accepting the implications provided by the works of both Manetho and Berossus because it helps to explain the physical evidence exhumed, which strongly supports adeptly thriving civilizations at least 12,000 years ago.21 We have no conclusive evidence to help us determine whether or not these legends were influenced by anything more than oral tradition, but circumstantial evidence is more than ample to assume their validity with as much zeal as we have the archaic and incomplete historical portrayals.
We cannot change the teachings of history without changing the assumptions on which they are founded. In lieu of the staggering evidence it’s apparent that unprecedented technological advances flourished long before ancient writings emerged and we must acknowledge the supporting scientific evidence uncovered.
Written records emerged long after the events, which had originally spawned the unvarying oral descriptions. Historical accounts are the later collation of written records born of oral tradition, which were selectively chosen and governed by central authorities whose combined efforts were aimed at developing a common understanding to pass onward.
Compiling historical documents and proclaiming them to be the truth provides substantially more leverage than oral tradition in the governance of an expanding civilization, but are more likely to become influenced by powerful leaders whose primary concern is to retain power—even at the expense of truth.
As the practice of compiling written renditions of ancient oral tradition became familiar, the “official” history and beliefs of many nations became divided by separate interpretations of the same monumental world-changing events of centuries past.
Contemporary historians believe the Old Testament to be a legend built on heroic ideals, which emerged in the 12th century BC.
Beside the legends, the collection contains fragments of law codes, historical works, imaginative literary compositions (notably the Joseph romance), borrowings early and late from Mesopotamian mythology, and many minor elements. Most of these have been worked over by three or four editors and cemented and augmented by editorial inventions. The collection now begins with the creation of the world, which dates about 4000 BC, and contains a history of mankind from creation to the building of the tower of Babel, a genealogy of the Semites from the flood to Abraham and finally history of Abraham and his descendants down to 560 BC.22
This isn't an attempt to detract credibility from the Old Testament or the Bible, but to show how time must have taken its toll on a very important oral tradition; it’s much later Hebrew translation and the above historical analysis, exposed to the frailty of human nature, which emerged 3000 years later.
It is best for us to determine what may have caused the original divergence—a fork in the road separating the truth from man’s interpretations of historical events, which led to the eventual convolutions of religious thought and incomplete history.
It’s impossible to make any provable assertions about prehistoric chronology because the earliest records cannot tell us, with a comfortable degree of certainty, exactly what transpired prior to 3000 BC.
To establish what happened in prehistory relies on one's intuition to speculatively connect an uncertain past to what is presumed to be reality today. If any historical analysis shows signs of a disconnection between the two, then such history would most likely be considered unfounded and unaccepted. However, as we have demonstrated, it’s not just the present to which history must be fluidly connected, but the future, which is our ultimate destiny.
As evidenced in the evaluation of historical tradition, it appears that its birth and therefore its bias conduct are influenced first by power and secondly by the obsession to connect the past and present in a manner that upholds the basic assumptions. Without written and confirmed accounts we rely on archaeology, which can be seen as the embellisher of a predetermined history. Sure, archaeology can point to discoveries and surmise what is most likely to have happened (and there are certainly hundreds of opinions), but when it comes to the actual events or circumstances that shaped human history, we can never be certain.
In science, assumptions change when new evidence is discovered (most of the time). It seems that religion and history are unbending and permanently connected at the root, which leads us to surmise the retention of authoritative power, is more important than the truth. Religious and historical authorities deny glaring evidence contradicting the presumptions on which they are founded—hardly scientific and inherently evil when observed as a hindrance to truth.
If we can go back to the fork in the road that initiated the diversion between early written history and the truth, we would have two choices. The first would be to accept the oral tradition of ancient gods and spectacular wonders of years gone by and the second would be to completely ignore the verbal tales and rely on the pronouncements of a newly formed authority.
Human nature suggests that many continued to rely on the verbal tales until authority eventually transformed the believers into heretics, lunatics, and rebels, who were left without a leg to support the ancient traditions that soon became the myths of a modern society.
How can we make sense of the myths and legends evidenced in man’s earliest writings and ignored by historical tradition? The exposed evidence of unexplainable mysteries leaves us only to speculate in our attempts to describe events, which can explain what got us here today.