Archive for Maccabees

Claims of Godly Favoritism

Posted in Atheist, belief, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , on July 11, 2012 by chouck017894

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.

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.

What Marked Jerusalem as Holy

Posted in agnoticism, Atheism, Atheist, belief, Bible, faith, history, prehistory, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2010 by chouck017894

What was it about the location that became Jerusalem that inflamed Yahweh priests with the obsession that a temple must be built upon one certain mount in Judaea?  Even before the priests of Yahweh arrived at the mount, the site had been regarded as sacred by inhabitants of the region.  The earliest known name for the site was Ur-Shalem (or Yeru-Shalem), and from as far back as can be traced the hub area of Ur-Shalem encompassed three particular mounts.  The most ancient names of the mounts seem to point to some singular association that is yet to be discovered.  The southernmost mount had the name of “Mount of the Signal” in antiquity; the northernmost peak is said to have been known as “Mount of the Observers.”  The central mount, however, seems to have been central in more ways than one, for it bore the name “Mount of Directing.”  This is the mount which is claimed to have been seen by Abraham from a distance; he is alleged to have  witnessed a heavy cloud over this mount in which the glory of god was seen.  The word Ur translates roughly as fire or light, but the word Shalem is remarkably similar to the Hebrew shalom, the greeting or farewell meaning peace.  Jerusalem has thus been said, rather ironically considering its history of discord, to mean light and peace.  Another speculation is that shalem means something like the perfect place.

Curiously the barren mountain site that would become Jerusalem lacked the basic needs for a center of religious or political pursuits.  There was neither water nor food sources near the site, nor even any trade or military routes anywhere near.  One might be inclined to call it a god-forsaken place!  Around c. 2000-1800 BCE there was little in the region but small sparsely inhabited highland areas.  When the Yahweh priests arrived they were already determined that one particular spot there was marked out as a center that god favored.  What was the supposed special indicator that the place was blessed by heaven?  It was a massive artificially cut rock.  The priests were divinely certain that despite the stone’s antiquity it had all been fashioned just for them.

The sacred rock was  known in Hebrew as Eben Sheti-yah, and translates as the “Stone from which the world was woven.”  This reference seems to hold an intricate relationship to the more ancient names for the three mounts mentioned earlier upon which Jerusalem evolved.  The sacred rock can be deduced as once having served as a kind of platform that was put in place atop artificially cut massive stone blocks—in pre-diluvial times.  The sacred rock at the Jerusalem location has a startling similarity in age and structure to the more massive stone platform located at Baalbeck, in today’s Lebanon.  This sacred rock, therefore, existed for millennia before c 1000 BCE—which is the timeframe when David is alleged to have captured the sparse area (today’s Mount Zion) from the Jebusites (an early tribal league).

Tradition says that the sacred rock was cube-like, with its corners precisely facing the four directions of the compass.  In addition, it is said that two tube-like funnels had been bored out of the rock, and these connected to a subterranean tunnel.  How these feats could have been accomplished in prehistory times, or the purpose they served is unknown.  Tradition has it also that the construction plans for the temple that was erected later had been provided directly by an unnamed source which holy myth, of course, credits to “the Lord.”

We should also note that ancient names of the valleys in the area carried special implication as well.  For example, Isaiah spoke of one of them as the Valley of Hizzayon, which loosely translates as Valley of Vision.  Ugaritic texts tell of divine healers in a valley they called Valley of Repha’im (the healers).  Legends from prehistory times also tell of a subterranean region in “the Valley of Hinnom,” where the entrance could be discerned by a column of smoke that rose between two palm trees. 

Archeological research has shown that the biblical accounts of Canaan-Israel-Judah history are far from reliable.  A brief example: the character of Saul (c. 1025-1005 BCE), the alleged first king of Israel, was supposedly installed by the eleventh century BCE judge and “prophet” Samuel.  This places it in the Iron Age I period.  Nothing has ever been unearthed in archeological digs that even suggests that a prosperous united monarchy existed then.  And no archeological evidence has ever been found of David’s alleged kingdom, and no indication of the conquests attributed to David have been unearthed either.  In fact, evidence reveals that settlements in the Jerusalem region in this Iron Age I timeframe experienced no interruption of Canaanite culture.  Likewise, in regard to David’s alleged son Solomon (time setting c. 970-931 BCE), nothing has ever been brought to light of any monumental architecture in Jerusalem, Megiddo or Hazor in this timeframe as has been attributed to Solomon. 

The holy truth is that precious little reliable priestly accounting of Israel or Judah surfaces until around 800 BCE.  Even then much of the priest-written “history” has been freely embroidered upon.  It is wise to remember that Jews are never mentioned until the Maccabees (Hasmonaeans), a Jewish dynasty of “patriots,” high priests and kings of the 2nd and 1st century BCE who sought to rouse the Jews against their Seleucid ruler.

  •  See related posts, The David Saga, parts 1 and 2; and  Solomon’s Majesty, August 2009.