Archive for Deuteronomy

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.

Scripture’s Contrived History

Posted in Atheist, belief, Bible, culture, faith, history, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by chouck017894

According to scriptural accounts a Jewish kingdom of Israel was welded in the land of Canaan by David, and his kingdom is portrayed as having prospered as a great unified kingdom under David’s son, Solomon.  That account was long accepted as a given truth by biblical scholars until the science of archaeology showed conclusively that the claimed powerful kingdom said to have been ruled from Jerusalem could not have existed as portrayed in the priest-writings.  No hard archaeological evidence has ever been found to support the priest compiled story, but has revealed instead that Jerusalem was simply a modest, economically borderline village in the era when David, Solomon and Rehoboam (son of Solomon) are claimed to have ruled. 

Archaeology has revealed that the territory north of Jerusalem in the claimed timeframe was considerably more populated and flourishing economically than the region around Jerusalem.  However, in biblical myth the northern territory is claimed to have broken away from the alleged unified kingdom under Solomon’s son (c. 931-913 BCE), and developed as the kingdom of Israel.  Both territorial areas did worship YHWH among other gods, spoke dialects of Hebrew, and wrote in the same script, but the southern territory (Judah) became more developed much later than the northern; it had remained sparse due to its more rugged terrain.  The bond of blood kinship of the northern and southern territories was openly acknowledged, but they had become politically divided.  Until the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians (c. 734 BCE), the little “kingdom” of Judah languished in the shadow of Israel.  The fall of Israel was a blessing for the priests based in the village of Jerusalem who had long lusted to impose their method of religious observance upon all Hebrew people and wished to make the temple in Jerusalem the holiest place of their faith. 

Josiah, son and successor of Judah’s King Amon, came to the throne at the age of eight (c. 639 BCE), and was tutored by priests during his youth.  Because of this background Josiah soon reestablished the worship of Yahweh/Jehovah.  And it was during Josiah’s reign, apparently by divine providence, that a book of law was allegedly discovered by the high-priest Hilkiah when workmen were repairing the temple (as recorded in II Kings 22).  Josiah was inspired by the miraculously produced writing which has ever since been accepted as the book of Deuteronomy, supposedly the work of Moses.  Deuteronomy only recapitulated the law already recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, but the framework in which the laws are set is notably (suspiciously) different from that of the other codes.  Notable in Deuteronomy is the contention that the Exodus version of the Covenant with Yahweh/God at Sinai was not made on the basis of the Decalogue; instead it is implied that only ten laws (Commandments) were given to the people at Sinai, with the rest delivered to Moses alone, and promulgated later at the Jordan.  This conveniently allowed enormous leeway for the high-priest Hilkiah to restructure and reform religious practice that gave greater prominence to themes of God’s sovereignty, justice, mercy and love rather than to outward observances of ritual and ceremonial emphasis.  In the discovered sermon of Moses it reads, “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 peoples of the earth.”  This happily aligned priestly ambitions with that of Josiah’s inherited  dominion, and just happened to inspire a narrow national outlook.

With Israel reduced to secondary power and refugees fleeing south into Judah, the priests devoted to YHWH moved to expand, and they established shrines and sanctuaries at Dan and Bethel.  And as refugees poured in from the north the Yahweh priests in Jerusalem quickly embarked on a prodigious propaganda campaign of rewriting history and codifying material that now makes up the early books of the Old Testament.  Additional books were compiled to promote the impression that the little kingdom of Judah had been divinely ordained.  To account for the alleged split in the united kingdom into rival kingdoms, the blame for it was given with the myth of Solomon having his heart turned from YHWH by his foreign wives.  Sadly, for trusting believers, over one hundred years of intensive archaeology investigation have never been able to confirm David or Solomon as historical persons.

Unicorns & Satyrs in Scriptures?

Posted in Atheist, belief, Bible, Christianity, culture, faith, history, humanity, life, random, religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2009 by chouck017894

God has revealed in holy scriptures all the wisdom that man needs to know—or so claim the fundamentalists who insist that everything in scripture should be taken literally.  Generally they purposefully ignore a few things scattered through “holy word” that tend to jar the hard-line stance that it is man’s righteous duty to accept biblical teachings without question.  To take everything in the Bible literally means that we should believe in the behemoth, the cockatrice, and dragons, the Leviathan, satyrs, and unicorns.

Think not?  The behemoth is mentioned in the book of Job (40:15-24).  The word comes from Hebrew and is intensive plural, meaning “great beasts.”  The book of Job where this is found happens to have been taken from a Babylonian tale and reworked into Jewish scripture.  It is for that reason that the character of Job never condemns himself for the misfortunes that befall him: he knows that he is innocent—which is not the same thing as being without sin.  The ending of the priest-plagiarized version was altered for Jewish consumption with Job “repenting” and god winning a rather stupid test of character.  Biblical scholars have attempted to get around the mythic “beast” part by saying that possibly the tale was referring to a hippopotamus!  Since the beast remains unexplained it must be placed as a mythological beast.

In the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah there is reference to a creature called cockatrice, an alleged serpent-like living-thing reputed to be hatched from a cock’s egg and having the power of killing with a glance.  It is telling that the cockatrice is mentioned by two major “prophets” who happened to forecast world threatening terror that would at times rampage out of the skies in that era. (See Jeremiah 8:17, and Isaiah 11:8, 14:29, and 59:5.)

Dragons play a role in scripture as symbolic of how one is to be judged and reproved for not measuring up.  Christian mythology inherited the Hebraic concept of the dragon, which is prominent in all the important apocalyptic literature of the Bible.  But the distended dragon role in Revelation seems like a distorted echo of two short closing verses of Isaiah 13:21-22; “…dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.”

Leviathan is a term used in the Bible to designate an enormous scaly monster.  In Psalms 104 and in Isaiah 27, Leviathan is interpreted to mean “whale” because the creature is described in these verses as living in the great wide sea (waters of Creation).  But that is not what is said in much older writings upon which Genesis was crafted: in those ancient texts Yahweh battled with Leviathan, the dragon: a creation myth.  (The tale is reminiscent of Tiamat in Babylonian myths from which came the Old Testament expression T’hom, “deep.”)  Providing for newly created life is the meaning behind the words of Psalms 74 that says: “Thou breakest the heads of Leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.”  Elsewhere, in the book of Job 41:10, “borrowed” from Babylonian literature, the truism is stated that God and Leviathan are as one.

Satyrs are spoken of in the book of Isaiah too (13:21-22), along with the aforementioned mythical dragon and cockatrice.  Satyrs of mythology referred to any class of woodland gods or demons, often depicted with pointed ears, and the short horns and legs of a goat.  What are they doing in the “revealed word of god”?

The fabulous unicorn, as fleshed-out in ancient Greek and Roman myths, supposedly had a body resembling that of a horse, but having a straight horn protruding from its forehead.  It is odd that this creature is spoken of in more than one of the books of the Bible: Numbers (23:22, 24:8), Deuteronomy (33:17), Job (39:9-10), Psalms (22:21, 29:6, 92:10), and Isaiah (34:7).

Funny—none of those creatures were ever mentioned as having been in Eden.