Archive for biblical myths

Book of Daniel, Another Borrowed Myth

Posted in agnoticism, Atheism, Atheist, belief, Bible, culture, faith, Hebrew scripture, history, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , on November 6, 2010 by chouck017894

Biblical stories are never really sequential: they commonly have identical plotlines told under different circumstances.  For example, the twenty-seventh book of the Old Testament is Daniel, which is regarded by many biblical scholars as being more apocalyptic in nature than prophetic.  In the book of Ezekiel (14:14), written 592-586 BCE, there is mention of a Daniel who, along with Noah and Job, is characterized as one of history’s most outstanding righteous men.  The biblical tale of Daniel is set in the timeframe of the sixth century BCE when Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylonia.  The implied date in Daniel 1:1 is 606 BCE.

But this is Hebrew literature, and the book of Daniel is actually a make-over tale taken from a north Syrian poem dating c. 1500 BCE and updated c. second century BCE as part of the alleged historical background of the Judeans.  We should note as well, the Syrian Daniel was from a city named Salem, meaning “peace,” which also just happened to have become part of the name Jerusalem.  In the Syrian original, Daniel was portrayed as an authoritative judge and lawgiver, ala Moses-style; and, Moses-style, provided for his people’s welfare.  In the 1500 BCE timeframe of the original writing, the story of Daniel was well-known among many Near East cultures.  It is this Daniel of whom Ezekiel refers, not the plagiarized priest version.  But history revision is too often a religionists’ specialty, and thus the transposed youthful Daniel is declared to be “skilful in all wisdom, cunning in knowledge, and understanding science” (Daniel 1:4).  [It should be noted also that the storyline for Joseph in Genesis was closely structured upon this same Syrian poem.]

As the priest-authors revised the Syrian story, the name Daniel was interpreted as meaning “God is my judge;” a loose interpretation of the Syrian Daniel who was  portrayed as a  son of the god El—the same El that pops up in Genesis (as El and Elohim).  The priest version portrayed Daniel as a pious and wise Jewish youth of a  prominent family who was among those who had been deported to Babylon.  In the priestly plotline, Daniel has six defined  episodes: 1) Daniel, and friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at the table of the king; 2) Daniel interprets the king’s recurring dream (as Joseph had done with Pharaoh); 3) three youths are tossed into the fiery furnace (as Joseph, the butler, and the baker in Pharaoh’s  pokey); 4) Nebuchadnezzar’s temporary madness; 5) Daniel reads the handwriting on the wall; 6) Daniel in the lion’s den.  The biblical Daniel also had visions, among them being a reference in a prayer to seventy years of “…the devastation of Jerusalem” in chapter nine reminiscent of seven years of famine in the Joseph version).  His final vision, generally dated 535 BCE (but actually written c. second century BCE), extends a promise of Jerusalem’s resurrection.

As in the biblical story where Joseph has his name changed to Zaphnathpaaneah by Pharaoh (Genesis 41:45), in the priest-version Daniel is alleged to have had his name changed to Belshazzar by Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:7).

Daniel, in its early Bible-style presentation, was written in two languages, Hebrew and Aramaic, and portions switched back and forth suddenly without obvious reason.  Although this seems suspiciously like composite authorship, in the timeframe of this composition both languages were in use, for Aramaic is a  linguistic cousin to Hebrew.  On the other hand, the literary style of chapter 1 through 6 is more “heroic” and is noticeably different from the style of 7 through 12 that concentrates on Jerusalem and the sanctuary.  The early portion has more of a diaspora flavor (dispersion of any originally homogeneous people), and reflects extensive contact with both Persian and Hellenistic influences.  The apocalyptic portion of Daniel (10-12), in contrast, provides something of a review of the ancient Near Eastern political current that swirled around the tiny Judean community from the time of the Persian Empire down to about 167 BCE.  The book of Daniel is rather unique, therefore, in that theological intention and literary genre do not show a strong relationship to the language that was used.

But Daniel has still another level.  The material from which both the Daniel and Joseph stories were “borrowed,” the Syrian poem, although also a myth-fashioned tale, was in regard to cosmological actions.  The priest-authors in Jerusalem were not particularly knowledgeable of cosmology  or particularly psychologically wise, but they knew a good storyline when they could steal one.  Thus in the dream which King Nebuchadnezzar allegedly saw “a great image, whose brightness was excellent…” the original Syrian story was in reference to primal energies in the process of involving toward matter forms.  This is why the “image” is described as having a head of fine  gold, with breast and arms  of silver, his belly and thighs of brass, his legs of iron, and feet part iron and clay (Daniel 2:32-35).  It doesn’t take a divine interpreter to see that this describes the progression from pure energy into materiality, and this accounts for the tradition of speaking of the gold, silver, bronze and iron ages of man’s evolution.

One of the many theatrical events in Daniel is the fiery furnace episode in chapter three, where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are tossed into a fire pit.  Nebuchadnezzar is said to have seen them walking in the midst of the flames with a  fourth figure, described as being “…like the Son of God.”  This is history?  No, this is from ancient cosmology and deliberately misrepresented as history to glorify themselves.  What has been perverted is the ancient allegory of the Sun’s formation’ and the three men walking in that fire represented the three pre-physical elements from which the Sun takes on form.  The fourth figure is element number four, and the slowly appearing image in the fire said to be holding a stone refers to the formation of physical matter.  Witnessing all this, Nebuchadnezzar is therefore said to save those elements.  Of course they were saved; Creation is not halted at the whim of some pompous mortal.

We could go into detail about numerous other “images” mentioned in Daniel, but suffice it to say they all concern stages of energy transforming into matter.  There are the usual “beast” symbols, of course, the fourth of which is said “…shall be  diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth…” (Daniel 7:23).  Should we fear this fourth beast?  Frankly, yes, for it  is in regard to the human kingdom, which history has repeatedly shown the brutal, predatory nature of this animal.  But hope is extended with the promised fifth kingdom: i.e. man’s higher potential that will be achieved only through knowledge of the creative process—indicated in Daniel as employing a reverse engineering process to raise man’s worth from clay, iron, brass, silver to gold.

With these hints regarding ancient symbolism, biblical tales begin to actually make sense.  And reading from the book of Daniel we can recognize where “saint” John “borrowed” much of the imagery used in the convoluted book of Revelation.

A note on real history.  According to holy word, it is  implied that Belshazzar (Daniel) served as king after Nebuchadnezzar; again this is political propaganda, not truth.  As noted in encyclopedias, no ancient historian ever mentioned his name as one of the successors of Nebuchadnezzar.  He certainly was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar as suggested in Daniel 5:2, and his only position of power was as regent.  Nor was it Nebuchadnezzar who became ill; it was Nabonidus, the last of the Chaldean dynasty to reign at Babylon (583-556 BCE) who did have a son named Belshazzar.  The priest-author(s) indulged himself in the liberty of applying some known facts about Nabonidus to the wacky story of Daniel.

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The Jesus Model

Posted in Atheist, freethought, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on March 8, 2009 by chouck017894

Nothing has ever been presented that can be said to give historical authenticity to the earliest biblical characters (Adam, Eve, Moses, Abraham, etc.,etc.); and that is equally true of the New Testament characters of Jesus and his apostles. For millions of persons this is blasphemy; but be honest, is it not strange that in over two thousand years nothing has ever been unearthed to verify that the “son of God” once dwelt on this little planet?

In the case of Jesus, there is enough characterization presented to suggest that, if nothing else, some person must have at least served as an example. A strong possibility of who that might be was a man of whom real records remain; he is known as Apollonius of Tyana, a neo-Pythagorean philosopher and magician who was born in Tyana, Cappadocia early in the first century CE.

Apollonius adopted the doctrines of Pythagorias early in life, abstaining from animal food and living in the simplest manner. He traveled to India, becoming initiated into the doctrines of the Brahmans. He visited Nineveh, Babylon and traveled through Ethiopia, Spain and Italy, eventually settling in Greece where he opened a school. His contemporaries regarded him as a worker of miracles, and his reputation spread to influence the aristocrats and literati of Rome.

There was another possible model in this same period, a verified man named Simon Magnus who is actually spoken of in the NT book of Acts. Still another possible model was a real man named Celus who was regarded so highly that a 15th century Swiss physician and alchemist, Paracelsus (like Celus), fashioned his own name.

But it is Apollonius who seems to stand out. He was so proficient in the arts of deception that even the Christian apologist Justin Martyr would later marvel at his “miracles.” “How is it,” Martyr lamented, “that the talismans of Apollonius have power in certain members of creation, for they prevent, as we see, the fury of the waves, and the violence of the winds, and the attack of wild beasts; and whilst our Lord’s miracles are preserved by tradition alone, those of Apollonius are most numerous and actually manifest in present facts.” Apollonius was venerated for his wisdom throughout Greece, and in the first century CE he was regarded by many as the rival of Christ. The major difference is that one can be historically verified and the other cannot.

There is more in favor of Apollonius’ contribution to Christianity than having produced the illusion miracles though. By some accounts, while Apollonius was traveling through the East c. 38-40, in the general region of present Singapore, he came upon a mythological account of Krishna (sometimes spelled Chrishna). That literary work is credited to a very great sage of India called Deva Bodhisatoua. Apollonius was so impressed with the story that he translated it into his own language, making some changes according to his own philosophy. He carried the manuscript back to Antioch–a favorite city among the Roman aristocrats and literati–and where there happened to be a well-established Greek cult that spoke of themselves as Chrestianoi, or sometimes as Chrestians. Perhaps we should remember that the spelling of the title Christ was not standardized until the mid-third century.