I’d like to focus briefly on what is known as the Intertestamental Period. Though I didn’t spend much time as an atheist investigating that period, a little background may be helpful if you are not familiar with what happened to Israel during those years.
Dr. Richard Carrier is a well-known atheist who does not believe Jesus of Nazareth was a real person. Carrier is a leading proponent of the ‘origin of Christianity without a historical Jesus’ (richardcarrier.info). Carrier also believes that many of the most important biblical figures were also fictional.
“The patriarchs are safely assumed now to be nonhistorical, and thus entirely mythical. This is no longer considered radical or fringe, but is in fact the most widespread mainstream view among scholars (see sources and discussion in Chapter 5, Element 44 ). Thus Moses is now regarded as fictional, yet like Jesus he performed miracles, had a whole family and huge numbers of followers, gave speeches and had travels, and dictated laws. No mainstream historian today believes the book of Deuteronomy was even written in the same century as Moses, much less by Moses, or that it preserves anything Moses actually said or did— yet it purports to do so, at extraordinary length and in remarkable detail. No real historian today would accept as valid an argument like ‘Moses had to have existed, because so many sayings and teachings were attributed to him!’ And yet if this argument is invalid for Moses, it’s invalid for Jesus.” Carrier, Richard, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, Sheffield Phoenix Press, Kindle Edition, 2014
Dr. Carrier is not as certain about whether the Hebrew prophet Daniel actually existed, but does believe the Book of Daniel is a late work of fiction.
“Similarly, it’s now the mainstream view that the book of Daniel was written in the second century bce and is a complete fiction, representing the elaborate adventures and speeches of the sixth-century prophet Daniel as if they were a fact ( see sources and discussion in Chapter 4, Element 7). Historians doubt even the existence of Daniel. But even if he existed, historians are certain the book of Daniel does not contain anything he authentically said or did. Rather, this Daniel, and everything he is supposed to have said and done, was invented to create a historical authority for a new vision of society, to inspire a new unity and a new moral order against the immoral rule of dominating foreigners.” Carrier, Richard, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, Sheffield Phoenix Press, Kindle Edition, 2014
I believed the same thing a few years before Dr. Carrier was born (1969), so these ideas about figures in the Bible not being historical and their writings being made up by unidentified people centuries after the supposed historical dating are nothing new to me. I was a loud, mocking atheist with a radio talk show in a major metropolitan area 46 years ago … so what happened to me?