|Alma mater||Ambassador College|
|Main interests||Hebrew Bible, Second Temple Judaism|
|Notable works||Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch|
Russell Gmirkin is an independent researcher specializing in the composition of the Torah (or Pentateuch, the first five books of the bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is most well known for his defense of the view that the Pentateuch was written in its entirety by a team of Jewish scholars working in the Library of Alexandria in 273-272 BCE, who also published the Septuagint Greek translation of the Torah around the same time. This is a much later date of composition than has been traditionally accepted, although a significant minority of scholars now support his Hellenistic dating of the Pentateuch.
His father was Vasia Gmirkin, a CIA agent who recruited Soviet defectors and was responsible for the US acquiring night vision technology. While a teenager, Gmirkin attended a small, now-defunct Christian liberal arts college named Ambassador College in Pasadena, California. During his time at Ambassador College, he began to increasingly question the religious doctrine of the university, ultimately leading him to leave before graduating. Gmirkin currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus
Gmirkin first published his case for a Hellenistic dating of the Torah in the 2006 book Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus. In that book, Gmirkin first seeks to establish that there is no clear evidence of the existence of Pentateuchal writings before their translation into Greek during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. He points out that the earliest manuscript fragments of the Hebrew Bible date no earlier than the late third century BCE. It is commonly assumed that the earliest non-biblical reference to a written Jewish law is found in Book 40 of Diodorus Siculus's Library, an ancient encyclopedia compiled from a variety of quotations from older documents, in a passage which is usually attributed to the fourth-century Greek historian Hecataeus of Abdera, writing around 315 BCE. Gmirkin argues at length that this passage should in fact be attributed to the first-century BCE Roman biographer Theophanes of Mytilene, who in turn used Hecataeus along with other sources, rather than Hecataeus himself.
After having established to his own satisfaction that the latest possible date for the composition of the Torah is about 270 BCE, Gmirkin attempts to determine the earliest possible date, using the methods of source criticism. He argues that the books of Genesis and Exodus rely on the Greek-language histories of Berossus (278 BCE) and Manetho (285-280 BCE) and therefore must have been composed subsequently to both of them.
Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible
In 2016, Gmirkin published a second book, Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible, in which he argued that the law code found in the Torah was heavily influenced by Greek laws, and especially the theoretical law code espoused by Plato in his Laws. He further argued that Plato's Laws provided the biblical authors with a basic blueprint for how to transform Jewish society: by creating an authoritative canon of laws and associated literature, drawing on earlier traditions, and presenting them as being divinely inspired and very ancient. Philippe Wajdenbaum has recently argued for a similar conclusion.
John Van Seters criticized Gmirkin's work in a 2007 book review, arguing that Berossus and Genesis engages in a straw man fallacy by attacking the documentary hypothesis without seriously addressing more recent theories of Pentateuchal origins. He also alleges that Gmirkin selectively points to parallels between Genesis and Berossus, and Exodus and Manetho, while ignoring major dissimilarities between the accounts. Finally, Van Seters points out that Gmirkin does not seriously consider the numerous allusions to the Genesis and Exodus narratives in the rest of the Hebrew Bible, including in texts that are generally dated much earlier than his proposed dating of the Pentateuch. Gmirkin, by contrast, holds that those parts of the Hebrew Bible that allude to Genesis and Exodus must be dated later than is commonly assumed.
Stéphanie Anthonioz made some criticisms of Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible in a 2017 book review. She argued that the lack of Greek loanwords in the Hebrew dialect used by the biblical authors must be considered as evidence against the idea that the Torah was written in its entirety in the Hellenistic era.
- Gmirkin 2006, p. 1.
- Greifenhagen 2003, p. 224 n. 49.
- Gmirkin 2016c.
- "Obituaries". Washington Post. 1991-03-26. Retrieved 2019-07-26.
- Gmirkin 2006, p. 29.
- Diodorus Siculus Library, Chapter 40.3-8
- Gmirkin 2006, pp. 38-60.
- Gmirkin 2016, p. 1.
- Wajdenbaum 2016, pp. 78ff.
- Van Seters 2007, pp. 212-213.
- Van Seters 2007, p. 212, "All references to the stories of Genesis or Exodus in the rest of the Hebrew Bible, such as the numerous allusions in Second Isaiah to creation, to the flood story, to the patriarchs, to the exodus and sea crossing, to the wilderness journey, are disqualified as unreliable for dating the Pentateuch and are therefore not even considered."
- Gmirkin 2016b, 48:03, "The prophets are mostly very late, but there is some early material in them as well. We know that they're late because for one thing, most of the prophets refer to writings from the books of Moses, and so they have to come after 270 BC."
- Anthonioz 2017.
- Anthonioz, Stéphanie (2017). "Russell E. Gmirkin, Plato and the creation of the Hebrew Bible". Semitica et Classica. 10: 249–252. doi:10.1484/J.SEC.5.114959.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Gmirkin, Russell (2006). Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-567-13439-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Gmirkin, Russell (2016). Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible. Copenhagen International Seminar. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-68498-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Gmirkin, Russell (2016-12-11). "Interview with Russell Gmirkin: What Does Plato Have To Do With the Bible?" (Interview). Signs of the Times.net. Retrieved 2019-07-22.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Gmirkin, Russell (2016c). "About". Russell Gmirkin: author and lecturer. Retrieved 2019-07-26.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Greifenhagen, Franz V. (2003). Egypt on the Pentateuch's Ideological Map. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-0-567-39136-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Van Seters, John (2007). "Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch. By Russell E. Gmirkin". The Journal of Theological Studies. 59 (1): 212–214. doi:10.1093/jts/flm136.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Wajdenbaum, Philippe (2016). "From Plato to Moses: Genesis-Kings as a Platonic Epic". In Hjelm, Ingrid; Thompson, Thomas L. (eds.). Biblical Interpretation Beyond Historicity. Changing Perspectives. 7. New York: Routledge. pp. 76–90. ISBN 978-1-315-69077-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)