Claims of Godly Favoritism

It was not until around 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 Abdra (4th century BCE) recorded observations of Jewish life in his work Peri Hyperboreon.  Hecataeus pondered with some wonderment the Jewish traditions which then lavished their priests with highest prestige, and he pondered on the many peculiar Laws of Deuteronomy which prevailed over Jewish social legislation.  Indeed, since those laws and claims of godly favoritism had been “discovered” in the Temple walls in the timeframe of King Josiah (640-608 BCE), the kingship had become a relic.  By this 300 BCE timeframe the governing of the people had been absorbed by priests.

Jews, Hecataeus noted, were more fanatically devoted to their singular God than was practiced in most Pagan cultures which Hecataeus had encountered.  That difference was due principally to the Pagans feeling closer personal affiliation to nature in which they recognized the interlocking creative energies at work within nature.  The Pagans respected those universal energy aspects as being godlike in their own right.  Consequently Pagan cultures were more accepting and respectful of other peoples’ personal beliefs.  The Jews, on the other hand, long dominated by priest-formulated “laws” attributed to Moses, had been conditioned from the time of King Josiah, and so shared the belief in a concocted history of exclusiveness that starred Moses as their savior and Abraham as their God-blessed progenitor.

The priest-written scriptural “history” asserted that from the time of Moses a whole string of Israelite ancestors could be claimed, all of whom had allegedly spoken directly with God.  The “history” presented in Exodus, for example, and the asserted entitlement of the Promised Land provided the elements for a shared identity among the people in a psychological manner that the mythologies of other cultures could not.  Thus conditioned for generations, the Jews shared the alleged law codes of Moses—a whole battery of laws (613), which, strangely, had not been found until the time of King Josiah, some 700 years after the time of Moses.  (See related post A Priest’s Convenient Discovery, December 2011.)  The unity of the Judean people was anchored upon the priests’ imaginative holy accounts and the allusion of their faith systems’ historic past.

The priests of Yahweh were accomplished story tellers, and borrowed their plotlines from astronomy-cosmology lessons that were ancient even then, using  them as the inspiration for constructing their Israelite history.  Mesopotamian and Persian religious epics, for example, had also used the same ancient cosmic knowledge to account for their gods, but those accounts had never been presented in a manner that seemed to be linked to a certain people s’ national history.  Neither did those epics of the Mesopotamian/Persian cultures particularly inspire principles of ethical responsibility.  The Greek myths of deities and their epics of heroes, for instance, were presented in metaphorical style, and were meant only to inspire by example, not as decrees from some holy authority.

After the conquest of the Near East region c. 332 BCE by Alexander the Great, which gave rise to the Hellenistic period, there was a gradual and steady increase of awareness and recognition of the Jewish cult among the Mediterranean cultures.  By the time of the second century BCE there had evolved a questioning spirit among the Judean people themselves, which resulted from their association with Syrian and Greek cultures afer Antiochus the Great (242 to 187 BCE) of Syria acquired possession of all Palestine and Coele-Syria in 198 BCE.  (In the second century BCE this name was applied to lands extending south and southwest to Egypt and Arabia Deserta.)

By 168 BCE there was mounting dissatisfaction among the Jews over the excesses indulged in by Antiochus IV, son of Antiochus the Great, and it eventually led to outright Jewish revolt led by the Maccabees under Mattathias, a priest.  His third son, Judas, fanning religious fervor, led the revolt and in rapid succession defeated four Syrian generals, and in 165 BCE Judas “purified” the Temple which had been taken over by the Syrians.  Judas then re-consecrated the Temple, and this is still celebrated by Jews in the festival of Hanukkah, meaning “dedication” (to light).

The priest-composed Talmudic myth flavors the rededication of the Temple with the “miracle” where only one cruse of oil, blessed by the high priest of course, supposedly caused the small available quantity to burn for the entire eight days of the festivities.  In all the world it was/is asserted that only this structure and the Jewish people were allegedly held in highest esteem by the Creator.  The date of the Temple rededication began on the twenty-fifth of Kislev, the third month of the Jewish calendar,  which happens to roughly correspond to the month of December in the Gregorian calendar.  Ignored in the priestly assertion of a special miracle is any connection to the gradual seasonal increase of light that each year begins after the Winter Solstice, December 21.  It is simply coincidence, of course, that the ancient Pagans had always honored the seasonal increase of light at this same time of year, celebrating it with their Vigil of Light.

Yahweh was a most psychotically jealous god, according to the alleged sermon of Moses, which the high priest Hilkiah had supposedly “discovered” in the  Temple wall being reconstructed in the 7th century BCE.  That little sermon-jewel is now incorporated in Deuteronomy 7: 5-6, saying, “For you are a people consecrated to Yahweh your Elohim; it is you that Yahweh our Elohim has chosen to be his very own people out of all the people of the earth.”

Sure.

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