July 5, 2008

Was Moses Really Hammurabi?

Every time I start looking into the history of religion, especially Judaism and Christianity, I find things that make me more and more confident that real history and the OT and NT have barely met.

I always assumed Moses and Jesus were real people, and it was only around 5 years ago that I started to figure out they weren't. It was when Mel Gibson's Passion Of Christ was announced that I started innocently enough Googling for what Jesus looked like.

These searches led me to sites that questioned if a historical man named Jesus ever lived. I started looking into it deeper and basically found out that there was no contemporary evidence to prove Jesus' existence on this planet, and my current theory is that Paul or someone like Paul invented Jesus in a dream and over a few decades, Jesus evolved into a real living person with an actual human history. Scott Bidstrup has a great article on this subject, The Bible and Christianity: Historical Origins.

Shortly thereafter, I started to look into the Exodus. Of course, being an atheist I didn't buy into the plagues and miracles and talking bushes, but I always assumed there was historical evidence to substantiate Moses and a whole whack of Jews leaving Egypt.

The more I looked into it, the less evidence I found. What really opened my eyes to the history of Jews was the documentary on the book The Bible Unearthed. I've posted it here a few times, but here again is the link to the 10 part series (videos are around 9 minutes each).

No evidence of monotheism until around 700-800 BC, no evidence of a mass exodus, in fact there is evidence that nothing major happened and that Jews were an ethnicity long before they were a monotheistic religion. One could argue that Judaism did not begin until 450 BC.

Like Jesus Christ's story was based on myths like Dionysus, Moses' story had to be based on something too. Sure there were expulsions throughout the middle east, there were also many different beliefs in many different Gods and idols. But the idea of the 10 Commandments had to come from somewhere too.

A few days ago, I checked out the Blogging Tory Forum thread that led to my personal expulsion from the Forum, and someone had mentioned THE CODE OF HAMMURABI. Never heard of it before. I'm not a history scholar, I admit it. But if something interests me, I will put some time in to research it. This interested me.

I'm not going to get into a huge comparative discussion here, but I will provide links for those who wish to pursue the thoughts I have here.

One of the biggest arguments on the internet between atheist and theist is the idea that man has no basis to be moral without acknowledging God's laws. Of course, this is crap as we evolved "morality" and the idea of the social contract, and yes I admit that society also has an impact on human morality and a lot of that is based on societies who were led to believe they are acting in a way that was appealing to whatever God they believed in.

But if you look at the animal kingdom, you can see that social animals generally act "morally" at least within their own family or tribes. I've never seen a chimp read a bible, have you?

OK, sorry for going a little off tangent. Back to Hammurabi and his code/laws. To sum it up quickly, Hammurabi was a Babylonian King who lived around 1750 BC. He thought he had a direct line with his sun God.

He wrote down on tablets (that actually exist in the Louvre) over 200 laws. These laws, to me anyway resemble the 613 Mitzvohs that are followed in Judaism, especially the negative ones that don't involved worshiping God.

The Commandments/Code of Laws differ because they were written within different cultures. There is a much more hierarchical feeling in the Hammurabi code, because slaves were considered personal property back then and lesser human beings, if human at all. Not that it changed much by the time the 613 Mitvos were written (probably 1500 years plus later), it was just written by those who were more like slaves and according to their invented history, were slaves. I shouldn't say invented history, because there is evidence in many countries that semites were slaves.

In fact, the Hammurabi Code pretty much usurped the Sumerian Code which predated Hammurabi by at least 250 years. Interestingly, during that time the Sumerians were invaded by Semites, and even though Babylon became full of Semites, the culture really morphed into the same culture the Sumerians had.

I found this in my search. I figure I might as copy and paste it:

Mosaic Law and the Code of Hammurabi
This is not the only episode in the Moses chronicles that has been borrowed from Babylon. Everyone is familiar with Moses receiving the ten commandments in two stone tablets from God in Mount Sinai. However, this story is originally Babylonian.

One of the most well known ancient code of law was the Code of Hammurabi, so name after the Amorite king Hammurabi who lived around 1700 BC. On the great Babylonian stone monument, known as the stele of Hammurabi, a drawing inscribed on it shows the great Amorite King receiving the tablets of the law from the sun god, Shamash.

The similarity does not end here. On the stele too is inscribed the laws that made up the Code of Hammurabi. The general similarity between the code and The “Book of the Covenant” (Exodus chapters 21 to 23) and the legal codes of the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy cannot be denied. The Mosaic laws were obviously written under the influence of the Babylonian code. [3] In some cases even the wordings are uncannily close to one another. For example take this one from the code on the principle of an-eye-for-an-eye:

If a citizen shall put out the eye of another, then let his own eye be put out.
If a citizen shall knock out the teeth of another who is higher in rank, then let his own teeth be knocked out.

This closely parallel’s one of the Lord’s commands in Exodus:

Exodus 21:23-24
And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Here is another example, the code gives the following principle:

If a citizen steals the son of another citizen, he shall be put to death.

The principle and wording is closely followed in the verse below from Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 24:7
If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel...then that thief shall die...
Moses was Egyptian royalty according to religious history myth. Instead, Moses is based on Babylonian royalty. Makes sense to me.

The other thing is that the Hammurabi tablets still physically exist. Moses' 10 Commandments don't physically exist, and probably never did.

And lets not forget that Israel was invaded by the Babylonian empire just before, according to my theory, that Judaism was invented. The indigenous people of Israel were really screwed with by Nebuchadnezzar and company. But the Babylonian folklore must have stuck by the time Ezra created monotheistic Judaism.

Is it coincidence that invader Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned in the bible as an evil insane idol worshiper and a polytheist. Don't be like him, he is a bad man, he screwed with the Jews. No more idols, only one God, you Jews got it? Good. We can't be like our conquerers.

To end off, when someone says the West is based on Judeo-Christian values, that is not the whole story. It is based on the laws of a King In Babylon who thinks the God of the Sun inspired him to jot down common sense (at that time) that he usurped from the Sumerians.


  1. BEAJ, this article in the NY Times is very interesting.

    In summary:

    If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

  2. Very nice.
    And by the way I watched "The Bible Unearthed" and it was quite good and had some very interesting things to say, but it upset me with all the equivocating that the 2 main researchers did especially at the end. It's that pandering that makes me grit my teeth.

  3. Tommy, it is just another myth that was added to Jesus' fake life and death after Paul invented him.

    Atheistic, the researchers are called Bible minimalists. A great researcher shouldn't be bible anything.

  4. Hey Bacon

    Thought you might be interested in this.
    check it out

    Mad Max
    Wisconsin Public Radio





    Program 08-06-22-A

    Atheists have been called the most hated minority in America. And yet recent atheist manifestos by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris have all made the best-seller list. So have these atheists changed our thinking about religion? We'll talk about he New Atheism with Richard Dawkins and two of his critics in the time hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge.

    SEGMENT 1:

    John Haught is a Catholic theologian at Georgetown University who's written a polemical response to the so-called "new atheists." He tells Steve Paulson that they simply don't measure up to the old atheists like Nietzsche and Camus. Haught's books include "God after Darwin" and "God and the New Atheism." The world's most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," visits with Steve Paulson and demonstrates why he's been called "Darwin's rottweiler. And, Alister McGrath, a historical theologian at Oxford, shares Dawkins' interest in science, but little else. He and Steve talk about the role of religious zealotry. McGrath's book's include "The Dawkins Delusion" and "Christianity's Dangerous Idea."

    SEGMENT 2:

    Jenny Phillips is the director of the documentary film "The Dhamma Brothers." The film tells the story of a program which brought several Buddhist teachers to maximum security Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama to train a group of inmates in Vapassana meditation. Phillips tells Anne Strainchamps that the course was an intense, grueling ten day experience that changed some of the inmates' lives forever.

    SEGMENT 3:

    Brad Hirschfield was once a religious fanatic. He was one of a small number of Jewish settlers living in Hebron, in the middle of thousands of Palestinians. Now he's a rabbi and the author of a book called "You Don'‘t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right." He tells Jim Fleming how he tries to preach a message of faith without fanaticism.

  5. The post's title is a bit of an oversell, but there's definitely some interesting stuff here. Thanks!

  6. It's been a while since I have perused the Code, but I remember that it was "mostly" quite logical as it established standard penalties for common social infractions. However, the most bizarre part of the code allows any person, accused of any crime, to make an appeal to judgment "by the gods". The accused would then throw himself into the river (Euphrates? I don't remember) and if he was swept away and/or drowned, he was judged guilty, but if he managed to make it to the opposite bank...he was deemed innocent. So there you have it, strong swimmers had complete legal immunity!

  7. Yeah... OK... But don't you think that if you start writing history you can write ANYTHING that comes to your mind? Why don't you invent a few new laws in physics?

    Guess what I am saying is that there is no harm in analyzing what professional historians write and in picking the positions you like, but to actually invent things or to use obvious amatures as your sources is kinda like what religious people are doing.

  8. Shlemazl, I'm asking a question here.
    First off, there is no archaeological evidence for the Exodus or Moses. No contemporary evidence either. There has to be an alternative explanation for where the Moses myth came from. This is one possibility. And to me, it looks like a very good one when you take everything known about real history into consideration.
    The Hammurabi Code is fact. Creationists do not take facts into account when they come up with a hypothesis.

  9. As far as I know the linkage between the code of Hammurabi (who I think lived around the same time as King Solomon) and Mosaic laws is a accepted by all serious historians. And it is true that Moses is a legendary figure.

    You seem to be sensationalizing some of the well-known things and also making some unsupported claims.

    There are two movements among Biblical historians: minimalists and maximalists. You may want to read a couple of actual books - authored by representatives of these movements. Ian Wilson's "The Bible is History" is a good start.

  10. King Solomon supposedly lived around 980 BC. Hammurabi did live around 1750 BC.
    If you watch the bible unearthed video that I linked in the post, you'll see that if King David lived, he might have been ruler of a very tiny town.
    You should watch the videos. Very educational.

  11. I haven't watched the video version of "The Bible Unearthed", but I did read the book, and thought it was very interesting. A recommended read. ________ As for Jesus, the Gospels represent some kind of school of thought (not quite the same as Paul's), and I can't see anything unlikely in the existence of a wandering preacher from this school who was named Jesus and was crucified by the Romans. It is common for all kinds of stories, magical and otherwise, to be attached to popular figures after their deaths.

  12. The theory about Moses and the Exodus that I like the best is that the Exodus is a very mangled memory of the Hyksos' rule in Egypt and their later expulsion. They had been Canaanites, so when they were driven out, they would have blended in with the people that they had earlier left behind.

    One of the Pharaohs who led the expulsion of the Hyksos was named Ahmose, which sounds like "Brother of Moses" in Hebrew. And over the centuries, storytellers filled in the gaps with who "Moses" was.

    On their way back, they likely went through a big reed-filled marsh that they remembered as a "reed sea". It was the Septuagint translators who came up with "Red Sea".

    And the Ten Plagues of Egypt? They could have been memories of the devastation produced by the massive caldera eruption of Thera around 1600 BCE. The Hyksos were ruling northern Egypt at the time, and they may have gotten plenty of disaster stories from visitors or refugees from Crete.

    Of course, it got mangled along the way; it was nearly 1000 years from the Hyksos to the Babylonian Exile.

  13. Loren, I don't buy the Reed part. Because I doubt that reed and red were close words in the language of the time. We know they are close in English.

  14. As a historian, the Exodus has been a subject of great interest to me. During grad school research I discovered several Exodus stories. In a Moses-like story, Sargon the Great of Akkad (23rd century BCE) was born in secret, placed in a reed basket, and floated away from eminent danger. Here, the Wiki site is pretty dependable, scroll down to read Sargon's own words: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sargon_of_Akkad

  15. I hope nobody listens to someone's opinion of history that is not even aware of Hammurabi's Code of Laws. Honestly, you've never heard of "eye for an eye"? Quit Google-ing and do some real research!

    And by the way, you are not required to read the bible to live a life of love and compassion as God intended. Every creature is born to be ethical (even chimps!), but humans are easily influenced by culture and society. God's law is present in all.

    If you don't believe in God or Jesus, why spend so much time attempting to research the topic? You should instead spend time trying to discover some purpose in your life.

  16. I hope nobody listens to someone's opinion of history that is not even aware of Hammurabi's Code of Laws. Honestly, you've never heard of "eye for an eye"? Quit Google-ing and do some real research!
    Maybe I'll fly to Persia and bring a shovel. Lots can be learned by Googling these days.

    And by the way, you are not required to read the bible to live a life of love and compassion as God intended.
    First part is correct. Our ancestors lived by what we call a moral code. As for what God intended, you mean what people who wrote for God intended. No evidence for God, or a God with intentions.

    Every creature is born to be ethical (even chimps!), but humans are easily influenced by culture and society. God's law is present in all.
    Correct. All social animals have innate "ethics." Again, God's law is simply putting our innate ethics on paper, and again, no evidence for a God or Gods.

    If you don't believe in God or Jesus, why spend so much time attempting to research the topic? You should instead spend time trying to discover some purpose in your life.
    So many people speak for God and want to make new laws and take away rights of non believers or other believers, that researching and blogging the fact there is no basis for pushing for these new laws is extremely important.
    As for purpose in life, if believers think that living for ever is a purpose or loving a God is a purpose, upon further thinking, that isn't a purpose.
    We make our own purposes, but the innate purpose of life is evolutionary: it is to try to ensure that our species continues. Pretty simple. Now I have more time to research the fact there is no basis for God, Jesus, Moses, etc.

  17. Smart post admin but i think you need more explanation and more Pics
    and I hope to visit my blog and subscribe to me :)
    Ancient Egypt Timeline and Egyptian Sphinx

  18. Hello, I am a Christian, but am always open to hear, process and research the view points of others. I have a few questions and comments to share and would genuinely love to hear the thoughts of others.Sorry if this is long winded, but your blog has raised questions for me...

    Questions & Observations:

    -Who made the assumption that content of the Mosaic Law was exclusive to the Israelite nation?

    -Laws & other text were etched in stone well before the Mosaic Law. That was the common recording method of many civilizations.

    -I agree with the statement…
    “One of the biggest arguments on the internet between atheist and theist is the idea that man has no basis to be moral without acknowledging God's laws. Of course, this is crap as we evolved "morality" and the idea of the social contract, and yes I admit that society also has an impact on human morality and a lot of that is based on societies who were led to believe they are acting in a way that was appealing to whatever God they believed in.”
    The Christian argument is not in alignment with the Bible. In summary a Christian believes that God created Adam and Eve, they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and were forced to leave the garden to avoid eating from the tree of life which would keep them in their “fallen” state for eternity. If they were the mother and father of all creation and knowledge of good and evil was within them; they and all of their descendants would have the ability to decide what was moral and develop social contracts. They would act in a way that was appealing to the God they served, some of their descendants offered their children as sacrifices and others surrendered their possessions to those who had none.

    -There were some elements of the Mosaic Law that specific to the Israelites, but naturally most content would parallel the laws of other civilizations.

    -Beyond the 10 Commandments:
    Circumcision was a sign of the covenant between the Israelites and their God, a sign of their submission to the Mosaic Law. The Bible never states that circumcision is exclusive to the Israelites. In fact the Bible states that Moses’ wife cut off the foreskin of their son and threw it at his feet to make the statement that they were one. His wife was not a descendant of Israel and this took place before the exodus and establishment of the law.

  19. wow this is bias as heck. obviously sir, you did barley any research on Jesus or anything. it appears that all you looked at when you did research was look at the sites that "disproved" Jesus's existence. did u even look at this from another point of view?? did u even look at the sites that proved his existence. all good researchers and blog writers know to look at both sides of the argument before writing a blog/paper on their topics. you hardly did ANY research on the codes of Hammurabi and Moses. i am taking a college course on the similarities and differences of Hammurabi and Moses. there are some similarities between Hammurabi and Moses, but if u even take the time to READ the actual laws of them (i would recommend reading The Laws Of Hammurabi And Moses by W.W.Davis) you will realize how off your claims and your similarities. do actual history reading. none of your so called "claims" had any backing or proof. i'm sorry, but to the well educated person, this post was written by a bias person who is trying to act like he/she knew what they were talking about but actually didn' . pls take the time to research both sides next time and do the actual homework. thanks.

  20. Google:
    Just Genesis : Abraham
    You'll get a bunch of hits from the Just Genesis blog site of an Anthropologist named Alice C. Linsley. No one can understand Jesus until they know who Abraham was and what his caste of believers believed. I tend to agree that the Exodus story is a myth by the Pharisees (looks similar to Pharaohs to me and I tend to think they were Pharaohs of the Nile Delta). As for Jesus being a myth, what prevents me from believing he was a myth is the Shroud of Turin.

    1. Shroud of Turin is known to be a fraud. Google it.