As an amateur historian, researcher and author, I spend most of my time reading scholarly papers, articles and books on a wide range of historical topics. Giovanni Garbini, author of the "Myth and History in The Bible" is my new favorite and I am hoping that more of his work will be translated into English and read by everyone, not just scholars.
It would be difficult to summarize the many fascinating subjects covered in this small volume: "The Myths of the Origins of Israel", "Cain's Impunity", "Abraham and Damascus", "Reuben's Incest and the Contested Primogeniture", "Moses and the Law", "Davidic Traditions", "The Calf of Bethel", "Ezra's Birth", "Birth and Death of a Messiah", "The End of Myth". In summation, Garbini writes:
"The examination of some aspects, usually neglected, though evident and essential, of the mythic reconstruction of Israel's past and of the figure of its God as the Hebrew religious thought presented them in the Bible presents us an apparently paradoxical situation. The Law and the Prophets ... codify and exalt a kind of religion centred on the cult of Yahweh, national and sole true god, who established the Jerusalem temple as his only seat; from the other, they reveal explicitly the moral inconsistency of that god... his unfulfilled promises and the vacuity of all the practices related to his cult.
"The first chapter of Isaiah, which opens the section of Latter Prophets and, as all the writings placed at the beginning of a collection, gives the key to its interpretation, cannot be more explicit in this regard. The chiefs of Jerusalem, that is the high priests, are called 'rulers of Sodom' and its population 'people of Gomorrah (Isa. 1:10). Against them, in the following verses, God refuses all the cultic practices: sacrifices, burnt offerings, visits to the temple, oblations, incense, new moon, Sabbath, readings, fastings, assemblies, feasts, prayers. It is not pointless to ask ourselves what was the effect on the priests of the obsessive motif, present in all the Bible, of gratitude to Yahweh for the deliverance of Israel from Egypt: such a deliverance never took place and was invented by themselves to allude, probably, to their return from Babylon.
"...[T]he interesting thing is that, apart from the many details concerning the external activities of the priesthood (which any Jew in Jerusalem could easily see with his own eyes), the texts do not contain any information about the structures, the organization and the other activities of the priestly class; it is like seeing only the front of a building.
"In these biblical writings we find not only a description of the religious practices, but often also their history, their meaning and their mythic origin, and since the religion of Israel is the expression of its relationship with Yahweh, all Israel's history becomes the history of this religion. In other words, these books fix a precise moment in the history of Hebrew religion, when a deep reflection on its nature was carried out. On the basis of this reflection, the entire past was reinterpreted (not as it was, but rather as they wanted it to be) and the future imagined, a glorious future with Jerusalem at the centre of the world."
Garbini writes in a companion volume, History and Ideology in Ancient Israel, an amplification of the above problem:
"Biblical Yahwism certainly reflects a monotheistic conception, but at the same time it is something less and something more than monotheism. ...Yahwism seems to be something less than monotheism: God is certainly one, but he is essentially the God of just one people and he acts only with them. If we reflect on this aspect, which is the central nucleus of the Old Testament, we discover that here we have what the historians of religions call henotheism rather than monotheism. On the other hand, Yahwism is also, and perhaps above all, an extremely rational vision of the world and of the privileged position that the people of Israel occupies in the world. So it would be legitimate to ask whether one could consider as a real religion, with all that this word implies.. a doctrine like that taught in the Old Testament in the first millennium BC, which denies the survival of the spirit."
He then asks how it is that a 'religion' which attributes importance to liturgies practiced only in Jerusalem, (that is, not by all Jews at that period of history), which denies survival of the human spirit, could even have survived and spread, especially after the destruction of said temple.
Myth and History in the Bible is full of detailed linguistic analyses that are rational, sophisticated and, at the same time, easy to follow. An interested non-scholar can easily read this book and begin to understand just exactly what a "religious scam" Judaism really is, though, of course, it offers no answer as to how it managed to be foisted on the Western world via its equally mythical Christianity. (Those answers are contained in Lobaczewski's Political Ponerology). It also makes it abundantly clear that the Jews have no right to steal the land of the Palestinians at all because their whole history and claim to Palestine is based on myth and fraud.
A definite "must-read" though be prepared for a (very) few awkwardnesses in the translation; I'm sure it wasn't easy to translate academic Italian. Even so, it is a surprising easy read even if you must often pause to consider the importance of Garbini's insights.