Q&A: Do the frequent references to iron in the Pentateuch mean that it could not possibly have been written contemporaneously?

Not necessarily.

In our time, for example, we’ve been bandying about the term quantum for decades (e.g. ‘quantum leap’)—although the vast majority of us have only the vaguest idea what that means, and actual quantum devices are only now beginning to appear.

Also, remember that the Israelites had just come out of Egypt, which is one of the few places in the world where they would have encountered iron implements—in construction, in the materiel of the military, etc. Like modern Israel with Soviet materiel in the twentieth century, the ancient Israelites may also have captured iron instruments in battle—they just didn’t know how to produce it, or work it, themselves, until much later.

Last but not least, if indeed, as Jewish tradition has it, Moses himself wrote the Pentateuch, he certainly, as a former Egyptian prince, would have had first-hand knowledge of iron.

But if it’s evidence that the Pentateuch wasn’t written contemporaneously that you want, there’s a much more telling indication…

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Q&A: How could the young biblical David kill a huge giant such as Goliath with only a slingshot?

1190331-DavidAsShepherd

Kind of like this—only with a lot more trees

Do not underestimate the abilities of a young shepherd in Judea in biblical times. He constantly had to protect his flock of sheep and goats from attacks by brown bears, leopards, and Asian lions, which still roamed the woodlands of the Judean foothills. Failing to do so would have got him in deep trouble with his father, so he had to become very adept at fending off such threats by whatever means possible—including devastating use of his slingshot.

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Q&A: Which book of the Bible is the most repetitive?

Probably Leviticus: endless repetitions of the intricacies of ‘offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord’ of bullocks, sheep, goats, pigeons, etc.—with particular emphasis ‘on the fat thereof’, the kidneys, the rump, and various other choice parts of the carcass—and sprinkling of the blood on the altar.

Some of the meat was fully burnt— ‘for the Lord’—but, lest there be any confusion on the matter, ‘the remnant of the meat offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’ (2:3).

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Q&A: What is the purpose of ‘ס’ or ‘פ’ following a verse?

These are markers of the traditional Jewish division of the text into parashot (“passages” or “episodes”), which don’t correspond with the chapter divisions devised by Archbishop Langton in the 13th century. The {פ} marker indicates that the parashah (passage) is “open” (ptuḥah), and {ס} means that it is “closed”  (sgurah or stumah).

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Examples of a parashah stumah (1) and a parashah ptuḥah (2). In the KJV, they’re both marked simply with a new paragraph sign (3)

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Q&A: Has anyone ever tried translating Shakespeare into old Hebrew, so its speakers get the same sense of antiquity as they read it as English speakers do?

Shakespeare in Israeli Theatre

“As You Like It”, Cameri Theatre, Feb. 2017 (Photo: Reddi Rubinstein)

Yes—in fact, translating Shakespeare into biblical Hebrew was the default approach in the early days of Hebrew theatre (end of 19th, early 20th century)—since Shakespeare’s English is roughly the contemporary of that of King James translation of the Hebrew Bible.

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Q&A: If the Bible were set in the forests of ancient Europe, how would the stories be different?

If the Bible were set in a purely desert environment (as it is usually depicted in Western films), it would not likely not have produced stories that Europeans could relate to. But it wasn’t. The landscapes of the Galilee and the Judea-Samaria mountain range west of the watershed were (and are) very similar to those found in southern Europe (Greece, Italy, and Spain).

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