Book Review
Bondage of the Mind: How Old Testament Fundamentalism Shackles the Mind and Enslaves the Spirit by R. D. Gold. Aldus Books, Inc, Menlo Park, CA, 2008; 268 pages, ISBN 0-9796406-0-1, hardback, $24.95.

This book brings together evidence from many sources to show that the Old Testament is not literally true or an accurate history, as it presents itself to be.  Using logical reasoning and scholarly evidence, the author, a reformed Jew, concentrates on disproving the claims of Orthodox fundamentalists.  His larger arguments, however, apply to all types of religious literalism, particularly Christian and Islamic fundamentalism which also accepts the Old Testament as the world of God and literally true.  He discusses the views of many scholars whose work would be intriguing to investigate.

In a clear, easy style, Gold counters many of the main arguments advanced by fundamentalist apologists and points out how they attempt to explain away or discount the mounting evidence against their position. He covers such issues as the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) not being written by Moses; the events of the Mosaic revelation as myth rather than fact; archeological evidence not supporting the content or chronology of the Old Testament; fallacies of biblical prophecies and hidden codes; the lack of any special uniqueness of Jewish history and experience in relation to that of other peoples or religious groups; naturalistic explanations for the Jewish people surviving for 3,000 years; and whether fundamentalists are morally superior to other groups, as they often claim.  His evidence and arguments show that:

  • The story of the patriarchs is pure myth and legend.
  • The real history of ancient Israel was pretty much the same as that of the other contemporary cultures in the ancient Near East, subject to the same kinds of historical and environmental forces as its neighbors.
  • At most there was only a handful of Israelites in Egypt in the thirteenth century BCE, and they were there as part of the normal migratory ebbs and flows caused by the impact of climate on the food supply.
  • The exodus described in the Torah never happened.
  • There was no "nation of Israel" wandering in the Sinai desert for forty years.
  • There was no revelation at Mount Sinai witnessed by two million people.
  • There was no conquest of Canaan. The Israelites were living peacefully in Canaan all along and, indeed, were Canaanites themselves.
  • The so-called united kingdom of David and Solomon had little of the grandeur ascribed to it in the Bible.
  • The two kingdoms of Israel and Judah did not result from the breakup of a united kingdom. There were always two kingdoms: a flourishing Israel in the north and an economically backward Judah, with Jerusalem as its capital, in the south.
  • Most of the events predicted in the famous prophecy in Deuteronomy 28-30 did not come to pass, including the most fundamental prophecy of all.
  • The Torah contains unambiguous errors of zoological fact.
  • The Torah's so-called hidden codes are just so much humbug.
  • Jewish survival can be explained naturally, without recourse to divine intervention.
  • The Torah was written by human beings and reflected sociopolitical realities of the places and times where and when it was written. – pp. 177-8
  • This valuable book ends with a brief discussion of Reform Judaism's development and ideas. – Sarah Belle Dougherty (January 2009)