Archive for August, 2010

Hebrew Myths in Western Religions

Posted in agnoticism, Atheism, Atheist, belief, Bible, Christianity, culture, faith, history, humanity, politics, prehistory, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2010 by chouck017894

For good or bad, the western world has had its spiritual interpretations shaped largely by ancient Hebrew myths.  This is a hard pill to swallow for certain hard-line types who cling to the priestly sales pitch that every word of scripture is revealed truth.  Literalists who insist that the Bible includes no myths whatsoever may be excused on the technicality that most other ancient-culture myths concern gods and goddesses that had a tendency to take sides in human affairs.  The Bible, however, expands upon the premise of a single universal Creator—who, nonetheless, is portrayed as having sided consistently in the distant past with the Hebrews-Israelites-Jews—his alleged chosen people out of all the world’s populace.

Myth is a vital ingredient in the presentation of any organized belief system; mythic material provides the means of presenting concise validation of puzzling laws, rites, traditions and social customs.  The passage of time and social changes have had a way of applying transformation or even suppression of some pre-Biblical works.  Some suppressed texts include: The Book of the Wars of Yahweh; the Book of Yashar; the Story of Adam (which is referred to in Genesis 5:1 and covered the first ten generations from Adam to Noah); The Book of Yahweh (referred to in Isaiah 34:16); Acts of Solomon; Book of Genealogy;  the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah; and Of the Sons of Levi among others.  Even so, brief fragments from some of those texts found their way into various canonized works such as in Numbers 21:14; Joshua 10:13; and Samuel 1:18.

Genesis relates that after ten generations, from Adam to the time of Noah, God apparently grew weary of human imperfections and decided not only to rid the planet of human life, but destroy all life.  Noah was warned of the flood plans, which imitates the c. 3000 BCE Babylonian myth of the god Ea warning Ut-napishtim of an identical heavenly plan.  The later Noah story has much in it that cannot be accepted logically.  The immediate planting of a miraculous grape-vine after touching dry land is peculiar to say the least.  That he became drunk the same evening  from the wine produced from those grapes is miraculous.  In connection with this is the absurd condemnation of Noah’s son to perpetual servitude to his brothers for no other reason than accidentally seeing his drunken father naked.  This myth is identical in tone to the Greek myth in which  Zeus, when a youth, castrated his father Cronus and thus became king of heaven.  In an older Hebrew myth Noah was castrated by his son as he lay in a drunken stupor.  The castration of Noah was excised from the reworked account, but it is alluded to in the line, “Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his little son had done unto him” (Genesis 9:24-27).  Seeing his father naked was not something that was done to Noah. 

The Bible stories that were fashioned for national identity purpose in the 7th century BCE Jerusalem permit only tantalizing hints of the lost material that was reworked into the product we know as the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible).  Any references to the lost material are generally so terse (such as the cursing of Noah’s son) that they are passed over unnoticed.  Those who accept the Bible as the unblemished word of God fail to see the restrained mythic connections.  Indeed, Genesis conceals lingering echoes of ancient Hebrew gods and goddesses that are disguised as men, women, angels, monsters, and even demons.  The technique continues throughout the Old Testament accounts.  For example, in the book of Judges 3:31 it says, “And after him was Shamgar ben Anath who smote of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox-goad, and he also saved Israel.”  Not understood is that Shamgar’s mother is a direct link to the bloodthirsty Ugaritic love-goddess Anath.  The reference to to ox-goad with which Shamgar is alleged to have slain so many Philistines is sly recognition of the love-goddess Anath’s father, Shamgar’s grandfather, the Ugaritic bull-god El.  And the same Ugaritic goddess is alluded to in the name of the priestly town Anathot, the hometown of the prophet Jeremiah.

The book of Isaiah provides a peek at exorcised mythic background material in chapter 34:14-15, where the pre-Bible Hebrew myth of Lilith is indirectly referred to in the references to the wild beasts of the desert dwelling among the desolate ruins in the Edomite Desert.  Lilith was portrayed as Adam’s first wife in an early Hebrew myth that was wholly expunged from Scripture.  Her name was derived from the Babylonian-Assyrian word liltu, which was derived in turn from an earlier 2000 BCE Sumerian tablet from Ur which contained the story of Gilgamesh and the Willow Tree

 Isaiah also gave a nod to another discarded Hebrew myth in a reference to Rahab, the Prince of the Sea (Isaiah 51:9).  An ancient myth had portrayed Rahab as a primeval adversary of Yahweh in a battle prior to Creation.  It was a myth much like the Greek myth of Poseidon, god of the sea, defying his brother Zeus.  According to Isaiah, Yahweh killed Rahab with a sword.  An older version, however, recounted that when Yahweh commanded Rahab, “Open your mouth, Prince of the Sea, and swallow all the world’s waters,” Rahab had demurred, saying, “Lord of the Universe, leave me in peace.”  Yahweh was not pleased and in that version kicked Rahab to death and sank his carcass under the waves.

Among the Hebrews, after the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians, old tribal myths were reworked and became focused almost exclusively on Jerusalem, with the pantheistical concept of the old myths remodeled into monotheism.  As spiritually inspired as this sounds, the reform in the old religious understanding was politically motivated.  Judah was situated in a buffer zone between Assyria and Egypt, and King Josiah and the priests of Yahweh were determined to remain independent.  Reformation of the kingdom’s veneration practices and traditions depended upon either writing a codicil to the old religious understanding or fashion a new one.  The  lenient Canaanite cults prevalent throughout Judah had to be replaced with stronger religious discipline to accomplish the militaristic fervor to resist Assyrian or Egyptian encroachment.  The hope of national independence was seen to rest in authoritarian monotheism, and thus began the nearly ceaseless disclaiming of any faith practices other than their own.  And hatred for any difference–religious, cultural, or even physical—became installed as a directive of “faith.”

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Fables From the Book of Judges

Posted in agnoticism, Atheism, Atheist, belief, Bible, faith, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , on August 21, 2010 by chouck017894

There is no lack of blood and guts in the Old Testament.  Exodus gives us Godly plagues cast for the benefit of the Israelites, and God mercilessly drowned the pharaoh’s army for daring to pursue God’s alleged favorites.  Leviticus lists twenty-eight alleged God-approved methods for killing any persons who did not knuckle-under to priestly judgement.  Joshua is praised for being the instigator of a grand-scale holocaust extermination of the inhabitants of Canaan.  And the book of Judges is primarily a collection of war stories that focus on Israelite personalities who felt driven to eliminate their neighbors.  The book is commonly defined as containing the “history” of the Israelites during the rule of the Judges.

What is never explained is why God should have neurotic need for mortals’ militant devotion, or why he would feel so much prejudice for everyone in the world except the Israelites.  If he is the omniscient Creator of everything as presented in Genesis, then this claim fails to ring true.  Certainly the assertion provides absolutely no spiritual enlightenment for seekers, for it dwells totally on material acquisitions.  (This may, perhaps, explain why the radical right-wing religionists campaign so shamelessly for a “God-based government” in the US.)

It should be remembered that these bloody biblical stories were written in Jerusalem in the 7th century BCE.  In considering the book of Judges as revealed history, a careful reader will ponder over the fact that the time span that is presented is much too long if it is supposed to cover events from instituting the rule of Judges to the anointing of Saul in the mid-eleventh century BCE.  The book of Judges does not coordinate the savior-judges to each other for the simple reason that the book is a collection of stories that circulated about separate tribal heroes.  And there is the typical editorial contrivance of having the traditional twelve starring characters.  The actual featuring of individual “judges” is not taken up until Judges 3:7, and the tales conclude at 16:31; but the alleged bloody events were all said to have been carried out “in the spirit of Yahweh.”

The book of Judges is part of the Deuteronomists collection assembled by priest-authors in 7th century BCE Jerusalem.  The intent, more political than spiritual, was to present a version of heritage for the people of Israel that would inspire and unite the people.  But the stories in Judges cannot be taken as factual history of Canaan in the earlier timeframe of the 12th or 11 centuries BCE.  For one thing, the chronological order can only be described as surreal; if taken at face value the events cover approximately 400 years.  Tradition place the Exodus events in the 13th century BCE; the exploits of the savior-judges, therefore, would have only 200 years to play out all their heroic parts.

The  reason for the distorted time line is to imply that the various tribal myths took place as a continuous history involving persons who arose out of obscurity to perform heroic deeds to save the dream of Israel.  The priestly rewrite of tribal myths never failed to place the blame for Israel suffering under the assaults of oppressors as being the result of the people having repeatedly backsliding in their worship of Yahweh.

Among the traditional twelve Judges of Israel there are listed:  Othniel (Judges 3:7-11), of the Caleb tribe, who supposedly beat back a Mesopotamian foe named Cushanrishathaim;  Ehud (3:12-30), of the Benjamin tribe, who assassinated the Moab king Eglon;  Smamgar (3:31), portrayed as having slain 600 Philistines with an ox goad.  Then there is Yael, the wife of Herber, a Kenite, who is glorified for killing a Canaanite general named Sisera by driving a tent stake through his skull while he slept.  Deborah and Barak shine in Judges 4:1-23, but Barak is said to have killed Jabin, the king of Hazor, which is weird, for it is said in the book of Joshua that Joshua did the bloody deed.  Another judge was Gideon (6:1-8.35), who summoned the Israelites to attack the Midianites and pursued them to the river Jordan.  He was offered a crown for his leadership, but refused, asking only for the many gold earrings captured from the enemy, from which he is said to have fashioned an ephod (for the meaning of ephod see post Sex in Sacred Disguise, March 2009).  Gideon then sacrificed his loving daughter in appreciation of victory over the Ammonites (11:34-40).  And we must not forget Samson (13:1-16.31), and the hair-raising story of his killing 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of and ass.

Samson is something of a misfit as a “judge” for he is not portrayed in any leadership action against enemies of the Israelites; his are personal battles with the Philistines.  His inclusion in the book of Judges is based solely on his alleged bringing down the Philistine temple, thus implying the superiority of the god Yahweh.  Samson is the Hebrew version of the Greek Heracles (Hercules), mixed with Apollo.  The name means “man of the Sun,” so what we are offered is really an allegory of the sun’s power.  That it is myth, not history, is also revealed in the style of story development.  All Pagan and scriptural myths depict only briefly a demigod’s or hero’s birth.  As are some other biblical heroes, Samson’s mother had been barren, but an angel of the Lord told her that she would bear a son, and then the story leaps to his adult life.   The secret of Samson’s strength was in his hair; in other words, the sun’s rays.  It is a Hebrew myth mimicking of the Apollo myth, the Greek sun god, of whom Homer said, “…he of unshorn hair.”  The Philistine vixen, Delilah, is said to have discovered the secret of Samson’s strength, and while he slept she cut off his “seven locks” of hair.  Embedded in the name of the villainess is the Hebrew word lilah, which means “darkness” or “night.”  Prefacing lilah with D, the Hebrew daleth, which means “door,” indicated that De-lilah personified darkness, which in all mythological tales always symbolized the underworld. 

The Deuteronomists examples of God’s alleged favoritism of the Hebrew/Israelites continue in the books of Samuel, the alleged king-maker.

Autumnal Equinox and Religious Myth

Posted in agnoticism, Atheism, Atheist, belief, culture, faith, humanity, life, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2010 by chouck017894

At the time of the Autumnal Equinox, September 22/23, when the days and nights are of equal length around planet Earth, the Sun is passing through part of the ecliptic corresponding to the dominance of constellation Libra, the symbol of balance.  The name by which constellation Libra was known among prehistory cultures reveal that the symbol of balance was associated with attaining favorable consideration from a higher source.  For example, the Coptic name for the constellation we know as Libra was Lambadia, which translates loosely as “station of propitiation,” implying the time to appease or resolve differences, to gain heaven’s good will.  The Arabic name for this constellation is Al Zubena, meaning “redemption” or “purchase,” implying that what one extracts from life must eventually be paid for.

The autumnal equinox occurring within the dominance of constellation Libra also carried a subtle reminder to the people of the ancient world regarding the double nature that is embodied in all life—the blend of spirit and matter, male and female, the positive and negative—the polarity that defines individuality.  The understanding that the constellation symbol offered was that life is most constructively lived by establishing a working balance between extremes.  To do otherwise was to bring with it a sinking of life’s ultimate purpose—the advancement into refined energy continuation. 

The widespread understanding associated with the group of stars which define constellation Libra was to live so the heavens would become favorably inclined.  This equinox period happens to be the general period of various religious commemorations.  In conjunction with the sign of the Balance the Jews celebrate Yom Kippur, day of atonement, the holiest Jewish holiday celebrated on the tenth day of Tishri; fasting and prayer for atonement of sins are prescribed.  Succoth (or Sukkoth),  which commemorates the alleged temporary shelter of the Israelites in the wilderness, is a harvest festival celebrated for nine days beginning on the eve of the 15th day of Tishri.  Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that precedes these observances, is a solemn occasion celebrated on the first and second day of Tishri (a month in the Babylonian, Persian and Jewish calendars corresponding to late September/early October).

In regard to the New Year being observed in autumn by orthodox Jews, the tradition is due to Canaanite influence.   Geography and climate conditions in the Canaanite region were such that summers were long and dry.  When autumn approached, the move toward rainy conditions was signaled by morning mists that drifted in from the valleys.  In Genesis 2, these regional autumn conditions are mirrored as circumstances in which Creation was initiated.  Hence, the first of Tishri is observed as the true New Year’s day by orthodox Jews.

In Christian belief Jesus serves in the capacity as conciliator, meaning the one who reconciles humankind’s sins so that the necessary balance  for evolutionary realization may be restored.  Unfortunately this interpretation has been presented in such a way that the evolved factor that is to be striven for (personified as Christ) is said to assume responsibility for everyone’s failure to seek balance, which only encourages the notion that individuals can sidestep personal responsibility for their actions. 

The Christian storyline was fashioned upon extremely ancient zodiac representations (figures associated with constellations, which are known to us through the zodiac, can be traced back at least 12,000 years).  There are three near-by constellations to Libra that provided interrelated inspiration for story elements in the alleged life events of the key characters in the myths of several  pre-Christian religions.  These story elements are also suspiciously prominent in Christian literature and they were drawn from constellations Crux (Cross), Lupus (the Victim-beast), and Corona Borealis (the Crown).   In the Romanized passion-play account based this ancient wisdom Christianity received its most dramatic illustration of spiritual triumph over physical dominance.  The representation of Libra as the Scales of Balance—the only inanimate figure in zodiac representation–depicts  what is basically a cross-form in itself.  It should be noted that in ancient cultures the cross symbol represented this plane of matter upon which spirit is temporarily nailed.  The event of the autumnal equinox during Libra dominance was consequently interpreted in Pagan cultures to correspond to man’s spirit-in-matter incarnation which is in search of necessary stability. 

Throughout the much maligned Pagan cultures, physical life was understood to position man at the threshold of higher potential where he is to take up the higher transformational powers of love, compassion, truth, mercy and justice.  The ancient ones believed that these transformational powers exist only potentially in this material-matter dimension of energy, and they develop only in accordance to one’s personal pursuit and reverence of wisdom earned in this matter-life experience.   The ancient Pagans understood that it is the regard that one experiences in this matter plane for those transformational powers that brings balance to spirit so it may proceed into elevated existence.  This is echoed in modern religious practice. 

The connection of the autumnal equinox with Muslim tradition is not as transparently associated to celestial movements as in Judaic-Christian traditions.  Nevertheless, the stipulation of atonement was, one might say, recycled from Jewish and Christian influence and incorporated as a period for Muslim  penitence.  Due to the more equatorial location in which Mohammad lived the seasons were not strongly pronounced, and for that reason the observance of Ramadan is not recognized as having been based on a noticeable seasonal change.  But Mohammad is said to have fled from Mecca at the height of summer, and arrived at Yathrib (present day Medina) on September 20—time of the autumnal equinox—which coincided with the Jewish day of atonement.  The word Ramadan is derived from an Arabic root, rhm, or “ar-ramad,” which denoted intense heat—an autumnal condition.  There were three Jewish tribes at the Yathrib oasis, and it was during the association with these tribes that Mohammad fine-tuned most of his faith’s concepts—there is but one God, for example.

Because yearly dates are constructed on a lunar calendar, Muslim religious observances come earlier each year by about eleven days, so the observance is not recognized as having been influenced by the event that in the past took place at the time of the autumnal equinox.  Ramadan is the period in which Muslims fast for the sake of Allah, and ask for forgiveness for past sins and attempt  to purify themselves through good deeds and self-restraint. The professed reason for the atonement observance is given as in honor of the time in which the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to Mohammad.

Related posts:

  • Spring Equinox and Religious Myths, March 2010
  • Summer Solstice and Religious Myths, May 2010
  • Myths Built Around Winter Solstice, November 2009

 

Five Paths of Spiritual Quest

Posted in agnoticism, Atheism, Atheist, belief, Christianity, culture, faith, history, humanity, life, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , on August 10, 2010 by chouck017894

Every organized religion declares itself to be the only acceptable way of gaining God’s blessing or heavenly bliss.  Considering the incredible diversity within the human species, not to mention the awesome diversity of all life forms, the claim that there can be only one technique of respect for the Creative Source of that diversity amounts to nothing more than political pretext, not divine truth.

Citizens of the Roman Empire, before the advent of Christianity, enjoyed freedom of choice in religious pursuits unparalleled in history, including today.  The ancient world and Pagan cultures understood that the Creative Source was not sealed off from its diverse manifestations, and they knew that the ultimate creative power certainly did not indulge in meaningless political plays of one-upmanship.  All paths that sought oneness with the Creative Source were rightfully understood in the ancient world as virtuous pursuits.  In the ancient cultures there were mystery religions, especially in the early centuries before the rise of Christianity, and these commonly recognized five broadly categorized paths for achieving personal connection with the Absolute.  These five paths were:  1) Path of the Warrior;  2)  Path of the Magician;  3)  Path of the Monk;  4)  Path of Love;  and 5)  Path of Knowledge. 

1)  The notion that soldiering could be a means to spiritual advancement is an alien concept in the Christianized world.  (Well, maybe not so much for fundamentalists or church militants.)  One of the reasons for this concept of a warrior’s path rested in the reasoning that the warrior was very conscious of the mystery of death, and because of that intimate awareness there was provided a lesson in which time would open spiritual devotion.  In our modern world the implements of war can destroy thousands of innocent people at a time, quite unlike the hand-to-hand combats with sharp implements used by the ancients in the interest of some (assumed) superior cause.  One might say that the book of Revelation was directed from the warrior-caste perspective.  Mohammed, for example (as perceived by some Muslims), can be linked with the Path of the Warrior, as could the crusaders of the Dark Ages.  The mythic Arthur of the Round Table romanticized this path.

2)  The Path of the Magician was seen as a legitimate pursuit of spirit for the reason that the magician confronted the gulf between the physical world and spirit, and attempted to unite them.  The magician always respected that energy relationship and the parallels that exist within all dimensions of the universe, and thus he understood that man is a microcosm of the macrocosm, which therefore proved that man is an energy-form made in the image of the creative energy Source.  Magic was the attempt to affect the unseen powers through use of material elements that were assumed to be energy related.  Magicians were denounced by the Christian fathers; even so, Roman Catholicism indulges in magic rites of the seven sacraments (theurgy) in which bread, oil, wine, rings, etc. are alleged to be infused through use of certain spoken formulas aimed at initiating change on the “subtle” plane.

3)  The Path of the Monk is based on the perception of a duality that is active as spirit and matter, which is sensed in humans as a rift between the physical and the spiritual.  This is similar in attitude to the  Magician, but the Path of the Monk seeks to separate spirit from matter rather than unite them as does the magician.  From this separatist point of view the universe is perceived more as a hierarchy of dissimilar states of existence of which our material world is regarded as the lowest.  The Monk sees existence beyond Earth as being progressively finer and increasingly pure once it is released from the intractable clay of the body.  For this reason the Monk seeks to release himself from the vanities of the physical body, the idea being that such pleasures must be relinquished to obtain greater ones. 

4)  The Path of Love, like the Magician’s, strives to close the gap  between the self and the perceived Higher Self so that the two will merge as one.  Unlike the Path of the  Magician, however, which uses assumed similar elements to achieve unification, the Path of Love is work that is to be accomplished within one’s being.  On the Path of Love the power that is personified as God is the all-in-all, and the lover seeks to be reabsorbed so the lover is no longer distinct from the beloved.  The potential sidetrack on this path is that the egos of the devotees often tend to ascribe human traits and characteristics to the all-embracing Creative Power.

5)  The Path of Knowledge is the adoration of Creative Wisdom.  Knowledge was regarded as a divine quality, for it not only becomes a personal possession, it also becomes a part of one’s being.  The divine aspect of knowledge is that it serves as the means of unifying differences between a subject and an object, hence man becomes joined or aligned with the power personified as God through use of intellect.  The Path of Knowledge ambles through study and meditation toward the desired destination of rational soul.

These brief summaries of representative paths into universal attunement may seem quaint notions of an ancient past, and yet it is certain that even today any seeker of life’s meaning or its purpose has touched upon more than one of these paths.  They remain applicable to human longing to transcend mortal limitations regardless of any particular timeframe or race.  The paths may cross, they may even blur, and detours may occur, but wherever one may find themself they will also find consolation in the knowledge that all paths eventually arrive at an intended destination.  This understanding is significantly different from organized religious practices of today that teach and encourage hatreds toward anything different from their ritualized indulgences.  For them it is difficult to accept that the understanding of spirit in the ancient world was intuitively wiser than the rigidity that has evolved in the institutionalized faith systems of today.

Revelation’s Bumpy History

Posted in agnoticism, Atheism, Atheist, belief, Bible, Christianity, culture, faith, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , on August 7, 2010 by chouck017894

The late appearance of the New Testament book Revelation upon the Christian scene, penned c. 135-137 CE, followed closely upon the occurrence of the Jewish insurrection in Jerusalem under Bar Cocheba (132-135).  It was a Jewish insurrection which spread to Cyrene, Egypt,  Cyprus and Mesopotamia.  With this NT book’s  late appearance there is presented an inexplicable psychological change in the character of Jesus from a mild and peaceful teacher into a harsh judgmental figure.  Missing in the new book of Revelation was any attempt to attract or convert Jews to the struggling cult: the emphasis was focused instead on the establishment of a new Jerusalem, a situation that is picturesquely achieved at the end of the lumbering tale (Revelation 21:10).  There is strong but veiled anti-Jewish anger expressed in this tale written during Roman Empire times, and it is revealed in the contention that it is a new Jerusalem that is to be purified and lowered from Heaven; it is not Rome that is to be cleansed and lowered back to Earth.  It should be noted that the work is addressed to a definite group of seven churches, all in the Roman Province of Asia.

It is also worth noting that the description of the new Jerusalem asserts that it is to have a wall surrounding it with twelve gates—three each along the north, east, south and west.  As in the Old Testament tales, where the number twelve is a prime clue in the story, it is a covert way of referring to the Zodiac—as are numerous other descriptions in Revelations.  And clearly the symbolism used, such as the number seven, is common to all Creation myths: 7 angels,  7 horns, 7 stars, 7 seals, 7 vials, 7 plagues, 7 candlesticks, 7 churches, 7 spirits before the throne, and the great beast with 7 heads.  These are not unique to the book of Revelations, for the very same symbols are to be found in the OT book of Ezekiel (4).  Another example of Zodiac plundering opens chapter four where a throne is beheld; “…and one sat upon the throne.”  The one sitting upon the throne was said to have the look  “…of a jasper and a sardine stone and there was a rainbow round about the throne in sight like unto an emerald.”  The mention of these stones—jasper, sardine stone, and emerald—happen to be the gem symbols for Pisces, Gemini and Cancer.  This type of borrowing continues throughout the book.

Much of the symbolism used in Revelation happens to have been common to Apocalyptic tradition of that era, and doubtlessly parts of it were also drawn from ancient Babylonian or Persian mythology.  The Apocryphal vision presented in Revelation was likely also stirred by the old Hebrew tales of Moses (legends which were not canonically approved).  In the unapproved Moses tale it tells of a “war in heaven” which was allegedly fought between angels and Satan’s horde over possession of Moses’ physical body after his death.  The elements of Revelation made the book a divisive work from the start, with many finding its style and brutal scenes as starkly out-of-place with the earlier books of Gospel.

Unfortunately, by the time of “saint” Irenaeus (flourished 170-190), the book began being presented as a prophecy of God’s intention for the world or his plan for the church.  The third century theologian, “saint” Dionysius of Alexandria. c. 260, said of Revelation: “Even if I do not understand, I yet conceive some deeper sense to lie in the words.  Not measuring and judging these things by private reasoning but giving the chief right to faith, I have supposed it to be too high to be comprehended by me.”  But not all Christian cult theologians were so willing to abandon rationality.  For example, by 340 the Christian Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem omitted the book of Revelation from his canon.  In 370, however, Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis (Constantia) of the Island of Cyprus reinstated the book for use.  But then in 375 the Bishop of Nazianzen, in SW Cappadocia, struck the book form his canon.  And in 380 Bishop Philastrius, bishop of Brescia (Lombardy, Italy) omitted Revelation from his canon.  Even “saint” Jerome (about 390) expressed doubt about the book being attributed to John the presbyter.  (The general uniformity of style indicate that was by a singular author, however.)

Even the later reformers such as Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) were doubtful of the book’s authenticity.  In general those who attribute the Fourth Gospel to “saint” John deny that Revelation could have been written by him. 

The message in the Judgment Day tale is defined by local color found in the Roman Empire of the time, and references to contemporary events and issues clearly indicate that it was meant for its own age.  Without doubt the author was strongly connected to the Christian cult circles in Asia, and his purpose was to send forth a message of intimidation and warning to insurgent Jews that Christ would soon be manifest and cleanse the world (the Roman world) of unbelievers. 

At the closing of Revelation, John allegedly beheld “…a holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  This happens to have been lifted out of Gnostic lore of Creation, not some revelation of the new church being the “bride” of the world’s savior.

Time has shown (over 2000 years) that the things allegedly foretold in Revelation is not applicalbe to the world we know today; its imagery simply is not relvant, and more importantly, it holds no spiritual value.

 

Old Turmoil and New Belief

Posted in Atheism, Atheist, belief, culture, faith, history, random, religion, thoughts, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 1, 2010 by chouck017894

It was not until about 300 BCE, in the Hellenistic period, that foreign observers began to write extensively about the laws, traditions and customs of the Jewish people.  The Greek skeptic, historian and philosopher Hecataeus of Abdera (4th century BCE) recorded observations of Jewish life in his work Peri Hyperborean.  Hecataeus noted with some wonderment the Jewish traditions which then lavished their priests with highest prestige, and he pondered over the Laws of Deuteronomy which prevailed over social legislation.  Indeed, the monarchy which had crystallized with King Josiah (d. 608? BCE) had been completely overshadowed by this 300 timeframe.  He sensed the irony in the fact that it had been during the reign of King Josiah that the book of Deuteronomy happened to have been “discovered” in the Temple wall in Jerusalem.

 Jews were more fanatically devoted to their God than most Pagan cultures that Hecataeus had encountered.  That difference was due principally to the Pagans having closer affiliations with nature in which they recognized the interlocking aspects at work within nature and respected those aspects as godlike in their own right.  The Jews, on the other hand, long dominated by priest-organizers, had been conditioned for generations through use of priestly writings from the time of King Josiah and so shared the belief in a composed history that starred Abraham as their God-blessed progenitor.  The priest-written history assured them that from the time of Abraham a whole string of Israelite ancestors could be claimed, all of whom had spoken directly with God.  The “history” of Exodus, for example, and the asserted inheritance of the Promised Land provided the elements for a shared identity for the people in a psychological manner that the mythologies of other cultures could not.  Thus conditioned for generations, the Jews shared law codes attributed to Moses—a whole battery of laws (613) which, strangely, as noted, had not been found until the time of King Josiah.  The unity of the Judean people was strongly anchored upon the priests’ holy narratives that provided the illusion of their faith’s historic past.

The priests of Yahweh, accomplished story-tellers, borrowed from extremely ancient cosmological teachings as the source from which they constructed Israelite “history.”  Mesopotamian and Persian religious epics, for instance, offered ancient cosmic secrets also, but these were not presented in a manner that seemed to be linked to a people’ personal history.  Neither did those epical myths particularly inspire principles of moral responsibility.  Similarly, the Greek myths of deities and epics of heroes were presented in metaphorical fashion, and were meant only to inspire by example.

After the conquest of the Near East c. 332 BCE by Alexander the Great, there was a gradual and steady increase of awareness and recognition of the Judeans (Jews) throughout the Mediterranean world.  By the time of the second century BCE there had evolved a questioning spirit among the Judean people, which resulted from association with Syrian culture after being conquered by Antiochus the Great in 198 BCE.  There was mounting dissatisfaction with the excesses of Antiochus and it eventually lead to outright revolt by the Maccabees under Mattathias, a priest.  (Maccabees are more properly referred to as Hasmoneans, from Hasmon, a name of an ancestor.)  The priest-inspired revolt went on, led by the priest’s son Judas, to conquer a large part of the land traditionally regarded as the land of Israel, and the Judean’s Law was forced upon the conquered inhabitants.  In 165 BCE Judas regained possession of Jerusalem and immediately purified and rededicated the Temple.  (This is celebrated even today in the Jewish Feast of the Dedication.)  Judas was later slain in battle against the successor of Antiochus, and Judas was succeeded by his brother Jonathan.  With this, under sufferance of other powers, the Hasmonean line of priest-rulers was established. 

But by the first century BCE the Maccabean kingship had degenerated due to petty squabbles.  The Roman Senate, at the insistence of Marcus Antonius and annoyed at the Jews’ narrow patriotism and self-righteousness, installed Herod as King of Judea in 39 BCE.  The Herodians were more of a political party than a priest-led religious sect.  Of course the Judeans were not particularly happy with that either.

It was this distinctive prickly characteristic of God’s chosen ones that apparently grew wearisome even to God, and so he made arrangements forthwith for his only begotten son to manifest into the troublesome little region on planet Earth.  Evidently nowhere else on Earth was there dire need of such a direct intrusion and supervision.  Thus in the incensed environment around one group of people in the world—a people troubled by resentful and unspiritual religious controversies and manipulated through elaborate religious ritual—Jesus came upon the local Near-East scene to bring holy adjustment to the entire world.