Archive for Pentateuch

When Mediterranean Cultures Discovered Judaism

Posted in Atheist, belief, Bible, faith, Hebrew scripture, history, prehistory, random, religion, scriptures with tags , , , , , , on September 14, 2013 by chouck017894

After the conquest of the Near East by Alexander the Great, c. 332 BCE, there was a gradual and steady increase of awareness and recognition among the Mediterranean cultures in regard to the Judeans. In this 300 BCE timeframe the Etruscans had submitted to Rome, and the Etruscan influence would contribute significantly to Roman culture in matters of ritual and religion. And it was around 300 BCE, in the Hellenistic period, that foreign observers began to investigate about the laws, traditions and customs of the Jewish people. In this general timeframe the Torah, purportedly giving a continuous narrative of the Creation of the world to the death of Moses, had been canonized (by priest-authors) as God’s official word. Strangely, God never showed up to testify personally, so the priestly verdict was all based on circumstantial necessities for retaining authority.

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 in that timeframe lavished their conspiring priests with highest prestige, and he pondered over the tribal laws given in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy which prevailed over Jewish social legislation. Indeed, the Jewish monarchy which had crystallized with King Josiah (died 608? BCE), was the same timeframe in which Deuteronomy had been conveniently discovered—in the walls of the Temple no less. But by this later 300 BCE timeframe, royalty had become completely overshadowed: kingship had given way once again to priestly authority.

Jews, Hecataeus noted, were more fanatically devoted to their God than were most Pagan cultures that he had encountered. That Jewish devotion to an unseen being was more strangling than Pagan spirituality which retained a closer affiliation with Nature in which the Pagan recognized the interlocking energy aspects that were eternally at work. The Pagans respected those creative energy aspects as godlike in their displayed energy attractions. The Jews, on the other hand, long dominated by priest-transmitted commandments, had been conditioned for generations through use of priestly writings from the time of King Josiah and so shared the belief in the God-led “history” as composed by the priests of Yahweh which starred Abram/Abraham as their God-blessed progenitor. According to priestly accounts, God had no interest in regard to the rest of the world.

The priest written “holy” history asserted that from the time of Abram/Abraham a whole string of alleged Israelite ancestors could be claimed by them, all of whom had allegedly spoken directly with God. The history, as presented in Exodus, for example, asserted that God had promised that his “chosen ones” would inherit the land of Canaan–which, inexplicably, was not virgin territory but just happened to have been long inhabited by other people! It was this invented priestly “history” which provided the elements for a shared identity among the Jewish tribespeople in a psychological manner that the mythologies of other cultures could not. Thus conditioned for generations, the Jews shared priest-written law codes attributed to Moses–a whole battery of 613 laws–which, strangely had not been found until the time of young King Josiah (see related post, A Priest’s Convenient Discovery, December 2011). The unity of the Judean people was anchored upon the priest-written holy account and their allusion of their faith’s historic past.

The book of Leviticus was supposedly a testament regarding the Levite people, but that book-heading seemed intentionally deceiving to Hecataeus, for the primary focus remained on claims of priestly authority and offered precious little concerning any actual Levite persons. Foreigners puzzled, therefore, over why Leviticus seemed to have been unceremoniously jammed into the migration narrative between the books of Exodus and Numbers, which interrupted the intriguing story flow with the insertions of ceremonial laws! To foreign investigators such as Hectaeus, it seemed that to be properly explained the priestly code really extended from Genesis through the book of Joshua, which made for a literary whole. Why, then, was Joshua omitted and only the five books, with Leviticus jammed in, promoted as being most holy? Only these five books had been canonized c. 400 BCE (Pentateuch).

Unquestionably, the priests of Yahweh were accomplished story tellers who liberally borrowed inspiration from prehistory astronomy-cosmological lessons which had once taught of Creations’ energies. Those interacting creative energies from the ancient lessons were then personified by the authors as Israelites and presented as having been living historic ancestors. Mesopotamian and Persian religious epics, for example, had offered the same ancient astronomy secrets also, but those creative principles given with those lessons were not presented in a manner which seemed to be directly linked to a certain people’s special history. Neither did the epic sagas of other cultures particularly inspire any principles of moral responsibility or ethics. And the Greek myths of deities and their epics of gods and heroes, as another example, were presented in metaphorical style, which were simply meant to inspire people with a personal sense of purpose, perseverance and strength through larger-than-life examples.

By 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 after Syria was conquered by Antiochus III, the Great. Antiochus reigned from 223 to 187 BCE, and he had obtained possession of all of Palestine and Coeli-Syria by 198 BCE. But the excesses of Antiochus’ son, Antiochus IV, eventually triggered what is known as the Maccabean revolt (166 BCE). Antiochus IV had captured Jerusalem and prohibited Judaism; he sought instead to establish the worship of Greek gods. Events would eventually bring Syria (and the Jews) under Roman control (64 BCE). The world was, in this timeframe, at the entrance into the Age of Pisces (c. 60 BCE), which would bring with it the construction of two faith systems that, in their turn, would reinterpret the Jewish formula of faith for their own purpose.

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Pre-Christian Jesus Cult

Posted in Atheist, belief, faith, Hebrew scripture, history, random, religion, scriptures with tags , , , , , , on September 1, 2013 by chouck017894

Belief in a soon-to-come messiah was deep-seated among the Jews after the time of the Maccabean revolt (144 BCE), and the fervor of that belief virtually elevated that expected savior into a secondary god. The book of 1 Enoch,* for example, reveals that entrenched veneration saying, “Before the sun and the signs (constellations) were created, before the stars of heaven were made, his name was called before the Lord of Spirits.”** In this glorification of the expected messiah there is found the influence of Babylonian myth. And in this veneration there is also found the seed from which Christianity would evolve. (*If you are unfamiliar with the book 1 Enoch it is because it was one of many quasi-religious Jewish writings that was not included as part of the Old Testament because it did not contribute to the idea of church authority. Consider the reference to astronomy/zodiacal influence. **It is from this passage in 1 Enoch also which inspired the claim that Jesus of the New Testament Gospels is the “Word” in the fourth Gospel According to John.)

The Jews yearned-for messiah was fashioned upon the legendary Israelite deliverer Joshua (Jeschu, from which the name Jesus was derived), and Jewish literature such as Proverbs, Ecclesiastics and Enoch reflect a background of centuries of polytheistic ideas among the Hebrews. Hellenism became an influencing factor upon tribal Jewish faith, causing mounting dissatisfaction with Judaism among the Jews of the Dispersion (Diaspora) before the destruction of the temple in the sixth century BCE. Ceremonial “law” and endless taboos, sacrifices and superstitions provided individuals little inspiration to act virtuously. Almost in defiance of these prohibitive characteristics there developed an association of Joshua with the Greek Logos, and that association as son or god or messiah is present in the Pentateuch. Thus the name Jesus, derived from Jeschu/Joshua, became revered among some factions of Judaism long before Christianity developed in the Roman Empire. This claim is strengthened in the fact that about a century before the death of Herod (4 BCE, there is recorded the stoning and the hanging upon a tree of a man named Jesus. The name given for this ritually executed man was Jesus ben Pandira, and it occurred in the reign of the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus.

There are ancient documents which show that the early Jewish cult of Jesus, in rivalry with Judaism, was attracting converts among the Jews of the Dispersion. In the oldest document of this cult the central feature was the Eucharist–the sacrament in which bread and wine (or water) are consecrated, then consumed in memory of the revered deity (a deity who was customarily sacrificed). This rite was common in many faith practices of the region in this timeframe, but was practiced in secret among the Jews who were becoming discontented with the futility of tribal ceremonial law. The point is that this places familiarity with the name Jesus as messiah nearly a century before the Roman authors of Mark and Matthew introduced the character of Jesus to the Roman public. On the whole, therefore, those texts were written and designed originally to attract those discontented Jews who wanted a more moralizing and unifying form of faith. To satisfy the messianic yearnings of the discontented the character of quasi-rebel Jesus was declared in the evolving Gospels to have descended through the royal line of David. Elsewhere in Gospel, however, an insertion has Jesus repudiating that assertion, but both versions remain in Gospel and continue to contribute to confusion.

The original character of Jeschu/Joshua in Hebrew scripture had several attributes which were always associated with Pagan sun gods–the alleged power of halting the course of the sun, for example. But in the Yahweh priests’ version the starring character was reduced to human status who happened to have god-blessed powers. This sun god relationship became echoed in Christian scriptures with Joshua’s namesake, Jesus, allegedly declaring of himself, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:23). It is thus from this sun god association that most Christian sects proclaim their faith on Sunday, the day of the sun. (The day for holy observance among the Jews is Saturday, the day of Saturn.)

In the year 60 BCE Jerusalem was captured by Rome; in 06 of present calendar notation (CE) Judea was annexed by Rome; by 55 CE the proportion of Jews in the Roman Empire was over twenty percent. In 66 CE the constant antagonism of the Jews flamed into a rebellion under the leadership of the zealot named Menahem. Briefly put, there was continuous hostility from the Jewish portion of the Empire.

The Jewish Jesus cult had not gone unobserved by the Roman aristocrats and literati. By the time that Emperor Augustus died in 39 BCE the Roman populace had become fascinated by the exotic character of cults and rituals such as Mithras (Persian), Isis (Egyptian), and Cybele (Phrygian). Their acceptance within Rome made for easier transitions with these conquered regions. When Octavian became sole master of the Roman world in 29 BCE, his empire spread from Africa, Asia, Gaul, Spain and Dalmatia, so preserving order within the Empire was vital for its continuance. But the Empire still continued to be constantly troubled with Jewish haughtiness. Thus around 50-55 CE, as the more hard-line Jews kept being fanned into periodic insurrections, a few Roman aristocrats began to toy with the idea that it could be politically advantageous to nurture that digression regarding Jesus within Jewish culture. So is it simply coincidence that it was in this general timeframe that the first version of Mark and then Matthew happened to make their appearance in the Roman Empire?

And isn’t it strange that later New Testament books appeared either during or shortly after other periods of conflict with the Jews? There was war in Judea in 69 CE, and Jerusalem fell in 70 The revisions of Mark and Matthew occurred between 70 and 80, or during the troubles that led to the destruction of the last three outposts of the Jewish resistance at Machaerus, Herodian, and Masada. After another long siege in 79 Jerusalem was captured. The book of Acts of the Apostles dates from c. 84-90 CE.

Continuing acts of civil disobedience throughout Jewish centers of the Empire necessitated constant monitoring, and in this general timeframe, 94-100 CE, the books of 1 Corinthians, Galatians and Ephesians were composed. Also in this timeframe the Pharisees declared that Italy, and especially Rome was “unclean.” The composition of the book of Romans just happened to occur c. 100; then 2 Corinthians, the re-editing of Ephesians came about c. 103-105: the books Timothy and Titus c. 103-105: Colossians, and 2 Timothy, 105-107. The second great revolt by the Jews began c. 115, and one million Jews took over Alexandria, Egypt and held it for nearly a year. By 116 there were also Jewish uprisings in Parthia and other places. Coincidently, the books 2 Peter, John and Jude all date c. 110-115.

Another great Jewish revolt began in 131 CE under the leadership of Bar Cocheba, and Roman troops were sent then to restore order but suffered a surprising defeat. Roman patience was running thin. The violence of the rebellion in Jerusalem lasted for four years and was climaxed by Emperor Hadrian having Jerusalem destroyed and forbidding any Jew, God’s alleged “chosen people,” from setting foot on the site. It is not exactly coincidence that the book of Revelation was written c. 135-138. But the book of Hebrews was actually the last NT book to be written, c. 135-140. In that book, 8:6-13, there is professed a new “covenant” for the Jewish people. Even at that late date the Roman rule was not out to destroy Jewish culture; Rome sought only to soften the Jewish obsessive pretense of godly favoritism.

The world would not again see a nation called Israel until 1948–one thousand eight hundred and seventy-eight years later. In that time and up to the present not much in the way of “faith” has evolved, unfortunately.

Timely Appearance of Jesus

Posted in Atheist, Bible, Hebrew scripture, history, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , on November 24, 2011 by chouck017894

In the timeframe accepted for Jesus’ existence on Earth, there were two Jewish sects vying for dominance of the Jewish faithful, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  Both divisions of Judaism held that there was only one way—their priest-invented way, of course—to acknowledge a higher source.  The rest of the citizens throughout the Roman Empire followed less judgmental spiritual practices.

Prior to the undocumented event of Jesus’ birth there was in Palestine, c. 112 BCE, a Jewish school, the Chasidim  (Hassidim), meaning “the holy ones,” which became active and known as the Pharisees.  Their chief predisposition was to resist all Greek or outside influences which a clique of scribes felt could undermine their sacred interpretation of how followers were to kowtow to that interpretation.  In short, the Pharisees were therefore most emphatic in regard to what was to be presented as “Divine Law.”  The championing of “Divine Law,” which was to be exercised in all public affairs, called for obedience without regard to priestly or aristocratic families—the Sadducees—or the old-line statesmen or the heroes who had brought the Assyrian wars to a successful conclusion.  It was the inflexible Pharisees, however, despite their ban on outside influence, who brought ideas of salvation and resurrection into Jewish thought.

The Sadducees (or Zadokites), on the other hand, were aristocratic (largely descended through the older priest class), and they held that the priest-written Torah was binding in all matters.  Thus the Sadducees rejected the version of the “Divine Law” as it was interpreted and championed by the Chasidim scribes, and demanded obedience to the older ancestral customs and legal standpoints.  Equally inflexible as the Pharisees, the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, in angels, nor in any personal continuance after death, a doctrine that clung closely to the original Torah theology.

By c. 60 BCE—as planet Earth entered the Age of Pisces—the rabbinical hierarchical system as had been instituted in Jerusalem had existed for about three centuries.  The Jews in Alexandria, Egypt, however, paid no allegiance to any form of rabbinical institution which had been responsible for the Talmudic presentation.  It was in that older presentation that heavy attention was placed upon customs as they had evolved in Judea, and which would later be collected (c. 200 CE) into the Mishna, a collection of decisions that had been laid down by priests in Jerusalem and which were aimed largely at prohibiting the rearing of children in Greek lore.  The priests in Jerusalem had virtually jack-hammered their priestly decisions into “legal” status.

The capture of Jerusalem by the Roman general Pompey in 60 BCE had been deemed necessary due to the aggressive power struggle between two sons of King Aristobulus who had recently died.  Years later, however, in 47 BCE, the Rome-installed Herod was driven from Jerusalem by one of the former King Aristobulus’ sons, Antigonus, and he then ruled as the last Hasmonean priest-king until 37 BCE when his reign was ended by Marc Antony.  Jerusalem’s struggle to disassociate itself from Rome galvanized even more after Antigonus was scourged, then bound to a stake and beheaded.  Herod was then reinstated to rule, and he sought to consolidate his position with the Jews by wedding Mariamne, a princess of the Hasmonean line.  Herod later bequeathed portions of his kingdom between three sons, and the Roman Emperor Augustus confirmed the will.  The division of the kingdom was not appreciated among the Jews.

Into this long simmering brew there appeared the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher, Philo (c. 20 BCE – 50 CE), considered the greatest Jewish philosopher of this timeframe.  For orthodox Judaism, as represented by Palestinian Jews of the time, the study of languages, especially Greek, was regarded as profane and worthy only for slaves and infidels.  But Philo was born into a wealthy and aristocratic Jewish family in Greek-founded Alexandria, thus his education had included Greek literature and philosophy, especially that of Plato, Pythagoras and the Stoics.  Philo’s writings were to exert considerable influence upon both Jewish and Christian thought, and his writings heavily influenced the Alexandrian Christian theologians Clement (no genuine documentation of him has ever been produced) and Origen (185?-254? CE).  Philo’s philosophic endeavors brought a breath of fresh air into the congested cell of orthodox Jewish thought.  Philo maintained, as did many of his contemporaries, that the major part of the Pentateuch (first five books of scriptures), especially its “historical” and legal portions, should be explained allegorically, for it was only in this way that its truest and deepest meaning could be understood.  This wise advice has been steadfastly ignored by the three interrelated western organized faith systems as they evolved.

A Jewish rabbi and teacher named Hillel rose to prominence from 30 BCE to c. 09 CE.  He was the first Jewish scholar to systematize the interpretation and explanation of scriptural law.  Hillel had to contend with a rival named Shammai, an eminent doctor of the Jewish law at the time of Herod, and he stood rigidly insistent upon a merciless interpretation of priest-written scriptural law.  The conflict between the two schools of thought was to endure for nearly one hundred years after Hillel’s death.  A persistent allegation is that Hillel’s teachings influenced young Jesus, for many of the sayings attributed to Jesus are startlingly similar to those of Hillel.  The vague timeframe projected for Jesus’ childhood as presented in the New Testament can be seen to loosely correspond to this general timeframe.  However, any contemporary historian, writer or Roman aristocrat in charge of that region’s affairs would have been intimately familiar with such interpretations of scriptural laws: in fact some aristocrats married members of the Herodian family.

In the timeframe of Nero (37-68 CE) and the marriage to his pro-Jewish second wife Poppaea Sabina, various Roman aristocrats, statesmen and authors were becoming alarmed over the Empire’s stability due to the constant uprisings instigated by Jewish agitators.  It was into this political unease during Nero’s reign that the first books known as Mark and Matthew suddenly appeared, which introduced into the Roman Empire culture the teachings that were attributed to a benevolent and tolerant Jewish man named Jesus.

Judaism and Ancient Mystery Religions

Posted in Atheist, belief, Bible, faith, random, religion, thoughts, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 1, 2010 by chouck017894

Beneath the surface of Judaism there has always existed a strong element of mystery. For most Jews, however, the zeal for studying the Torah in search of any relationship to the ancient tantalizing mystery religion ingredients are sufficiently gratified by the body of the Mosaic Law, not to mention the redoubtable commentaries that accompany them.  Thus their esoteric heritage has simply faded into the dim corners of Orthodoxy.

Canonical Judaism shows the influence of ancient mystery religions most closely in the so-called wisdom literature that gained prominence in the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE—a timeframe coinciding with the Hasmoneans, a family of Jewish patriots better known as Maccabees.  This also happened to be the timeframe in which the Pentateuch, the Septuagint translation, was being written in Alexandria.  The texts that hint most closely at divine mystery elements are found in Koheleth (Ecclesiastes), Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Chokmah (Wisdom of Solomon), Proverbs, and the Book of Job.  These examples of wisdom literature are most notable for the perspective that is expressed, for the viewpoint does not arrogantly segregate mankind into Jews and Gentiles as is typical of priest-composed texts.  Instead, man’s worth is seen in the wisdom literature to be determined as either wise or foolish.  The Lord that is addressed in these wisdom texts is correctly understood as acknowledgment of the unified principles of Creation that produced and approved all that exists.

The Book of Job was a direct restructuring of an 1870-1830 BCE  Babylonian account, and is the most consistently theological work in the Hebrew Bible, focusing on an extensive dialogue on one theological issue—the purpose of suffering.  Its superiority stems from the lack of priestly philosophy and religiosity, and being rich in mythopoeic knowledge of reality.  That reality rests in the story of an innocent man not accusing himself as being deserving of the afflictions he suffered and placing the blame squarely where it belongs (on god).  This, of course, was an unacceptable premise for the priests of Yahweh, and so they fitted the superior Babylonian story with an anticlimax to serve their priestly purpose. 

The book of Proverbs consists primarily of short sayings that express terse insights into human affairs, especially of a social and religious nature such as wisdom, wickedness, violence, concern for others, greed, etc.  Authorship is  popularly credited to Solomon, but indications are that these treasures of wisdom were collected well after the time in which Solomon is alleged to have ruled (c. 960 BCE)—like about three centuries after.

The deuterocanonical book Sirach, written c. 180-130 BCE, was a collection of ethical teachings, and has much in common with Proverbs.  The book closes with the assessment that the wisdom and greatness of God is revealed in all his works, not just in the history and people of Israel, and this is what is presented as justifying belief in God. 

Cholomah is a Hebrew word meaning “wisdom,” and is defined in Cabala (Ha Qabalah, Kabala, Kabbala) as the second of ten sefirot (divine emanations), and regarded as the first power of conscious intellect within Creation.  When Cabalists analyzed the Pentateuch (first five book of the Old Testament) they believed that they had found metaphysical and cosmological doctrines to be concealed in the words broken down into their numerical equivalents.  This would seem to indicate that whoever the authors of those opening four book* may have been, they were proficient at understanding and concealing from the masses profound  knowledge of the Creation processes.  (*The book of Leviticus does not fit comfortably or logically into the book lineup of the Israelite’s alleged history; it is all about priestly authority propaganda and nothing more.)

In the text known as Koheleth, which translates something like “speaker of the assembly,” the main speaker claims to be the “son of David and king in Jerusalem,” and reflects often on the meaning of life.  The author’s assessment is that all of man’s actions are “transitory, “temporary,” “empty,” “vain,” “futile,” and “meaningless.”  The stoic flavored text focuses on mortality and the struggle that permeates life, and does not labor over the yearned for reward of Paradise.  The author’s rather cynical outlook is that the lives of the wise and the lives of the foolish both end in death, but he sees wisdom as being the best way to achieve a more self satisfying and well-lived life.  Even so, he could not credit an eternal reward for having cherished wisdom.  This is not typical priestly party-line material. 

Among the mystery items in Jewish observation to this day is the Menorah, the seven-branched candlestick that became the idolized feature of Judaism.  The ceremonial candelabrum allegedly symbolizes the seven days of Creation (Exodus 37:17-24), but it was not a feature in the earliest worship of Yahweh even though the priest-written history composed in 7th century BCE claims that it had always been an item used in veneration of Yahweh, its use having been suggested to Moses by God.  The object was used in Babylonia (and Egypt) and was absorbed into Jewish tradition during the days of  “Captivity” there.  The seven-branched candlestick in Babylonian observances represented the Sun surrounded by the six then-known planets, and it therefore symbolized for them the journey that the soul made after death.  This association of the soul’s journey was a feature in all ancient mystery religions.

The rabbinical explanations of the menorah as representative of the seven days of Creation is perceptibly faulty, for the central light being ascribed to the Sabbath does not correspond with the “Let there be light” command of the fourth day of Creation.  There is a more ancient tradition than the rabbinical one which is echoed in the Zohar (from Cabala, metaphoric discourses on the Torah), which says, “These lamps, like the seven planets above, receive their light from the sun.”  In ancient sun cult observances, such as in Egypt, the central branch of the candlestick properly represented Wednesday.  Thus the rabbinical view that it represented the Sabbath was neither poetically nor historically accurate.  (Incidentally, Moses is portrayed as having been a priest of the Sun god when in Egypt: in that timeframe in which the story is presented the menorah was indeed in use in the sanctuary, and had to face W. S. W.   So, in a manner of speaking, one could say that Moses had been counseled by God to continue in use of the seven-branched candlestick.)  The first cosmic association with the menorah is in Zechariah, who is alleged to have learned in a vision that the seven lamps were “…the eyes of Yahweh that run to and fro through the universe.”  In other words, the seven planets.  Thus the annual lighting of the Temple candelabra at the autumn festival actually commemorates the creation of stars on the fourth “day.”

These few examples drawn from ancient literature and symbolism still exert influence in today’s faith systems.

Gnostic Wisdom in New Testament

Posted in agnoticism, Atheism, Atheist, belief, Bible, Christianity, ecology, faith, freethought, humanity, life, prehistory, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2010 by chouck017894

Over two thousand years ago the symbolism and mythology of several Pagan mystery sects were beginning to fragment while a multifaceted group was developing diverse interpretations which became lumped under the identity as “Gnostic”—from Greek gnostikos, “man of knowledge.”  The movement spread largely through men of culture who sought the secret of higher life.  Unfortunately, lofty thought became entangled with crude mythology and then floundered in mysticism.

Gnosticism was, for the most part, centered on the highest ethics.  To understand Gnostic thought, their concept of ethics was perceived from an amoral perspective.  Remember, amoral does not mean immoral: it is non-judgmental acceptance.  This is difficult for modern religionists to comprehend since standard religious instruction is to uncompromisingly classify things as good/sinful and black/white—with no shades of gray being allowed for consideration.  Unlike rigid religionism, Gnostics recognized that diverse energies found throughout the universe serve as the generative action responsible for all things in Creation.  For this reason the Gnostics regarded what we know as the Old Testament to be the shameful account of Jehovah’s crimes against humanity.  Yahweh/Jehovah was not accepted by them as the true God or the active Source, but as the identity of a demiurge—an energy involvement that fashioned the material world.  Such Pentateuch/Old Testament characters as Abraham, Moses and the like were consequently regarded as the henchmen of Jehovah who had been dedicated to misdirecting the souls of humans into matter and ignorance.

Since the original purpose of the early Christian literature was composed in Rome in the attempt to soften Jewish spiritual arrogance, the new cultists played down the Gnostic attitude to prevent a too strong direct offence to Jews.  Nonetheless, Gnostic influence was cautiously scattered throughout the New Testament.  Although Christianity owes  many planks of its formation and doctrines to Gnosticism, pure Gnosticism itself also represented one of the most challenging threats to the new Christian movement.  Specifically, it denied the keystone upon which the aspiring priestly hierarchy sought to establish itself.  If, as the Gnostics claimed, evil had existed in Creation from the beginning then Adam, meaning mankind, could not possibly have fallen and neither he nor Eve had chosen to disobey God in Eden.  It then followed that Jesus could not possibly be presented by the priesthood as God’s token of forgiveness for humankind’s entanglement with that inescapable condition.

There is a remarkable verse in the New Testament (Matthew 16:23, revised c. 75 CE) that pretty much states what is wrong with all hard-line and fundamentalist organized religions.  Jesus is portrayed as speaking to Simon Peter, saying, “…thou art an offence unto me: for you savor not the things that be of  God, but those that be  of men.”  The real kicker in this scene is that this reproach of Peter comes after verse 19, or immediately after Peter had been given the keys of the kingdom of heaven!  The implication is that the church that he is to establish is intended to be the challenger of the infinite creative powers that are personified as “God.”  There is profound Gnostic wisdom hidden here.

The reason for this rebuke of Peter by Jesus is that Peter stands as the representative of the continuity in matter-existence that resists the necessity of its own transformation.  Thus Jesus utters the accusation that Peter savours those thing that be of men.  What is illustrated with this peculiar scene is that the confinement of consciousness in our physical-matter forms is what traumatizes the human ego, for it is ego that is obsessed with material identity and wishes to dam the natural flow that we interpret as life/death.

Mankind has lost sight of the soul-saving truth that religion is made for man: man is not made for any particular religion.

Knowing this, we are justified in saying to hard-line and hierarchical style religions, just as Jesus is alleged to have said to Peter, “Get the behind me Satan: you are an offence to me.”

Gemstones in the Bible

Posted in Atheist, Bible, Christianity, culture, history, random, religion with tags , , , , , on June 13, 2009 by chouck017894

The Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible), attributed to Moses, presents the oldest known record in western writings to have itemized twelve different precious stones.  Twelve mounted gems are recorded as being a feature of the breastplate said to have been worn by the High Priest Aaron, and each gemstone allegedly represented one of the Israelite tribes.

In the list was sardius, a red colored stone upon which was engraved the name of Rueben.  It is likely this stone, sardius, became known as ruby because of that association with Rueben.

The second stone, topaz, may have signified peridot (olivine), which was described as having a color like an unripe olive.  Or it may well have been in reference to chrysolite which are various yellow or greenish-yellow stones.  But it was known as topaz in the list, and allegedly bore the name of Simeon upon it. 

The stone that supposedly designated the Levites was called baraqah in Hebrew, was described as shining like burning fire or lightning (from barqa, meaning lightning).   This is thought to be the stone known today as carbuncle, an almandine garnet with deep red, violet-red or black coloring.  From the biblical description of color the garnet nearest the described color suggests either pyrope or spessartite.

Judah is said to have been represented with the emerald, being pure green without any other color in its makeup.  Emeralds were mined in ancient Egypt, and the authors of the Pentateuch would have been well acquainted with the stone.

The stone associated with the tribe Issachar is ill-defined, but was apparently deep blue and somewhat translucent.  Tradition has favored the impression that the stone referred to sapphire.  (The sapphire associated with the Ten Commandments was quite another thing.)

Dimond (not diamond) is mentioned in the Pentateuch, and said to be perfectly white and “beautifully sparkling;” so sparkling in fact that it was said to be able to induce sleep and dreams.  The tribe of Zebulon was said to be inscribed upon it.

In the Middle East the stone ligure was known as “Dam stone,” dull green in color with dark red reflections.  This bore the name of Dan–from which the name “Dam stone” probably arose. 

Possibly the oldest precious stone known to man is the agate, chiefly brown, red, or sometimes bluish, gray or black with clouded translucency.  This was the stone of the tribe of Naphtali. 

The transparent stone amethyst, described in ancient times as purple with a strong bluish hue, was the stone apparently assigned to the tribe of Gad. 

The stone spoken of  as beryl in the breastplate description is traditionally held to be the bluish-green aquamarine.  The Semitic name for this stone was “Tarshish,” which suggests its origin was Tartesus, a region in southern Spain that was known for mineral and ore riches.  The stone represented the tribe of Asher.

Onyx, the chalcedony variety, a translucent stone of parallel layers of different colors, was the stone apparently assigned to the tribe of Joseph (who happened to have a coat of many colors).

Jasper is the last stone mentioned in the breastplate description, said to be green-clouded with either white or red and yellow–not quite the jasper we think of today.  In parts of the Middle East, however, nephrite or jadeite were to be found and was probably the stone that represented Benjamin.

With these stones together with the Urim and Thummin (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8), the High Priest Aaron supposedly could communicate with and divine the will of “The Most High.”  Being stoned was clearly to his advantage.