Tonight the Jewish Studies lecture was entitled "Method and Disenchantment: The Birth of Science and Religion," delivered by Baruch Halpern.
I didn't have time to go, but I'm glad I went anyway.
He argued that an intellectual revolution occurred in the 8th/7thc BC in the Near East and in Greece, in which elites defended local identity by rejecting markers of foreign culture.
Halpern pointed out a historical pattern we're already familiar with: Renaissance --> Reformation --> Enlightenment and then applied it to the writing of the Pentateuch.
We tried to figure out the astronomy of Genesis 1. It was basically crazy, but in the end, he showed us that despite how crazy it sounds to us, there is a logic to it. It's logical, and it becomes more and more complicated with each "there was evening, there was morning." He drew diagrams on the board and explained the logic with Greek philosophers and steam and fire and light and evaporation and domes. I can't replicate it, but oh it was nuts...
In the end, he'd made quite a case...the rational, logical, methodical creation story involving a highly rational God was created to support the beliefs of an intellectual elite, who were trying to prove that their creation story was correct. "Science" and "religion" and the birth of "western thought" against pre-existing, traditional polytheistic religions.
The Bible, in other words, played the same role we now grant to science in debunking other myths.
I wish I could explain it better, but all I can say is that when he finishes his book, I've got to read it.