We watched the first programme of a series which explored the history of the Jews in ‘Old Testament’ times. Archaeological exploration started in the mid 19th century by Europeans hoping to find and map the actual locations of events recorded in the Bible. Needless to say that this proved to be impossibly difficult! Mt Sinai is mostly likely to be located in Saudi Arabia; despite extensive searches no evidence has been found for the Exodus. David and Goliath could have taken place as a clash on the border between coastal people (Philistines) and hill people (Jews) at the site of a fortified town. [Archaeological evidence suggests the coastal people ate pork but the hill people didn’t.]
After the forced exile to Babylon, some Jews went to Elephantine – an island in the Nile at Aswan. Here a temple was built which surpassed the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem until it was destroyed by the Egyptians because it challenged the supremacy of their sun god. Eventually Jerusalem allowed the temple to be rebuilt, but banned animal sacrifices so it would be regarded as inferior to the temple in Jerusalem.
The Greek influence was by way of a soft emersion (acceptance/parallel beliefs and expression) which could have destroyed Judaism. The Jewish Testament was translated in Greek. Amazingly the because of the history of very faithful/accurate copying of texts, the Dead Sea scrolls use exactly the same script as the present day and are easily readable. Josephus’ account of the sacking of Jerusalem in 66CE is the only reliable, eyewitness record. He notes that the Romans were being used by God to punish the Jews as he (God) had used the Babylon’s before. [This remarkable observation just shows that political and religious ‘spin’ has a long history and how any event good or bad can be positively attributed to God at work!]