To really understand the Bible and what it intends to say to present generations, it is necessary to understand who wrote it and why, and the cultural context in which it was written.
Yet that simple fact is widely ignored, both by people who naively follow what they read in it as the inerrant word of God, and by more liberal scholastic theologians, who seek to understand its historical context as well as a body of doctrinal scripture, which they often blindly follow, even though they know full well its messy origins.
This book was a best-seller on the New York Times best seller list and for good reason: it traces the fascinating origins of the Christian, Judaic and Islamic god back to its Canaanite and Mesopotamian roots. Scholars have traced the roots of many of the Old Testament stories to the ancient, pagan myths of the ancient Mesopotamian cultures.
The patriarchs first appear in our story with the journey of one of them, Abraham, who, the story tells us, led members of his tribe from the city of Ur, west towards the Mediterranean, to the "promised land" of Canaan, sometime between the 19th and 18th centuries B. It is clear from the archaeological record that its population was extremely sparse - no more than a few hundred people in the entire region, and the sole occupants of the area during this time were nomadic pastoralists, much like the Bedouin of the region today. It couldn't have been the capital of the regional king of a people who didn't yet exist! There is Yam Nahar, the god of the seas and rivers, and other pantheons and heiarchies of gods and goddesses.
We know from clear archaeological evidence that the peoples known as the Phillistines never even entered the region until the 12th century B. E., and the "city of Gerar" in which Isaac, the son of Abraham, had his encounter with Abimelech, the "king of the Phillistines" (in Genesis 26:1) was in fact a tiny, insignificant rural village up until the 8th century B. This isn't the only problem with the account of the Age of the Patriarchs, either. We know from archaeological evidence that camels weren't domesticated until about the late second millenium B. E., and that they weren't widely used as beasts of burden until about 1000 B. Reigning over them all was El, the king of the gods, ruler of the pantheon. Prior to the Babylonian exile, we know that the Israelites followed a wide variety of cults, most of which were polytheistic, and the cult of Yahweh was a relatively minor cult among the Israelites during this period that has been greatly revised over time.
From this context comes the oldest complete literary work we have, the age of which we are certain, dating back at least 7,000 years.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a lengthy narrative of heroic mythology that incorporates many of the religious myths of Mesopotamia, and it is the earliest complete literary work that has survived.
Paul's Catholic Church he Bible is a lot of things to a lot of people, but to Christians, especially, it is a source of inspiration and a guide to daily living.
To others, the Bible is a historical document and a source of controversy.
The former were known to have originated as intinerant nomads, largely on the fringes of lowland society, who may have taken refuge in the highlands, or the Shosu, a more cohesive, well-defined group.