Thursday, November 6, 2014

Talmud on Yaqtan and the Hadhramaut

Alice C. Linsley

Joktan or Yaqtan the Elder was the father of Keturah, Abraham's cousin wife. The lines of Yaqtan are traced to the Joktanite clans that still inhabit the region of the Hadhramaut in Southern Arabia.

Dhara means earth in Hindi, but in the Dravidian language the word refers to channels of water, such as flow under Yemen. Maut in ancient Egyptian means mother, so Ha-dhra-maut could be a reference to the Yaqtan's motherland during the Neolithic Subpluvial (Holocene Wet Period) which lasted from 7000 to about 3000 B.C. This would have been a time when there was more surface water in Southern Arabia.

Joktan the Younger was Abraham's firstborn son by his cousin wife Keturah. He was named after his maternal grandfather and lived c. 1987-1912 B.C. Joktan the Elder would have been a contemporary of Abraham's father Terah, but very likely he was not the first named Joktan in that ruling line.

The Joktanite clans spread across Southern Arabia, and according to Rabbinic tradition, Joktan the Elder was a "humble and upstanding citizen."

Sholom Lew wrote, in an article titled "Where Bin Laden Went wrong":

In describing Noah’s offspring born after the flood, the Torah (Genesis 10:26) speaks of an individual named Chatzarmavet—or “Courtyard of Death.”

It would seem to be very poor judgment on the part of parents to name their child “Courtyard of Death.” Imagine the psychological effects on a child in a playground setting saddled with a name like this! What is even more curious about this narrative is that according to our tradition, the father of this child, Joktan, was a fine fellow, not to mention a humble and upstanding citizen!

Our sages address this question by teaching that Chatzarmavet was not the given name of Joktan’s son, but the name of the location where he settled. And it is a testament to the profound effect this person had upon his community that he earned the accolade of having an entire region named for him.

The citizens of Chatzarmavet were known for their inclination to forgo the instant gratification of transitory consumerism that plagued the milieu they lived in—favoring instead a life of enduring value and infinite existence. These were a good, simple folk, unfazed by credit crunches, toxic debt, or loss of equity and monetary value. These people lived a simple and austere lifestyle, eschewing a life of glitz and glamour in favor of a thrifty but happy existence.

It is evident that Chatzarmavet is a corrupt variant of Hadramaut, perhaps resulting from someone's attempt at word play.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Bible provides valuable ethnographic information

A good basic introduction to Anthropology. This professor recognizes that the Bible is a valuable source of ethnographic information.

One feature of the ancient world that is very difficult to study is castes such as the Horite Habiru (Hebrew).

Related Reading: Ethnic Identity and Archaeology; Ethnological Method

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fundamentalism and Syncretism in Hebrew History

Alice C. Linsley

The Habiru priests were Horites, known in the ancient world for being especially fastidious in their observance of the ceremonial law and for their insistence that mankind should worship but one Creator. Other priests were dedicated to the worship of Nature or the elements, or they served a pantheon of deities to which they make offerings to gain favor from the gods. For the Habiru, God could not be appeased or satisfied by offerings of food, wine, oil, grain or by the sacrifice of an animal or a child. When man propitiates his gods, his religion becomes a form of bribery rather than an act of love. He performs a duty laden with fear, even desperation. An important distinction between the Horites and other priests rests in their recognition that God propitiates his wrath by his own action. This is the meaning of the account of Abraham's sleepless night on the mountain. God told him to cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side (Genesis 15). Once this is done, God passes between the animal carcasses and consumes the offering. Abraham observed this, and had no part to play in the action.

The Habiru priests were dispersed widely across the ancient world in the service of great kings. At times and places some Habiru allowed themselves to be influenced by peoples with an inferior moral code. This is called syncretism. Syncretism is the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought. It often occurs when there is social or political pressure to accommodate to the favored practices and beliefs.

Judges 2:11-15, Psalm 78:56-72 and Jeremiah 32:30-35 are often cited as examples of how syncretism led to apostasy and idolatry in Israel. The story of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32 is also cited, but this is not an example of syncretism. In this essay, each of these passages will be evaluated through the lens of anthropology.

Judges 2:11-15
Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreth. In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

The word “Baal” means Lord or Master. It sometimes refers to the Lord, as in Baal Shalisha, meaning the Three God. This may be an early Trinitarian reference, or it may simply refer to a deity associated with the number 3. In the Bible, the number 3 is found in connection to enlightening passages and astonishing acts of God. Jonah was 3 days in the belly of the whale. Moses was hidden for 3 months (Ex. 2:2). Job's 3 friends struggled with the mystery of why the righteous suffer. Moses asked permission to make a 3-day journey into the wilderness to worship. Abraham traveled 3 days to a mountain only God could reveal and upon which God provided His own sacrifice. The Covenant God made with Abraham involved cutting up 3 animals that were 3 years old. God in 3 Persons visited Abraham (Gen. 18). The 3 measures of flour made into cakes for Abraham's three Visitors. The 3 gifts offered them: curds, milk and a calf. Abraham prayed 3 times for Sodom. Joseph had a dream of a vine with 3 branches (Gen 40:10-12). The “Son of Man” appeared with 3 men in the fiery furnace. Jesus rose on the third day.

Ashtoreth shrines at high elevations were dedicated to the moon goddess. As the moon merely reflects the radiance of the sun, it was regarded as an inferior entity and therefore an inappropriate symbol for the Creator among the Habiru. This is why Terah, Abraham’s father, was criticized (perhaps unfairly) by the Deuteronomist in Joshua 24:2: “In olden times, your forefathers – Terah, father of Abraham and father of Nahor – lived beyond the Euphrates and worshiped other gods.” The implication is that Terah fell into worshiping contrary to Horite tradition while living “beyond the Euphrates.” Joshua 24:2 should be understood as reflection the concerns of the Deuteronomist. There is a dominant theme running from Deuteronomy through II Kings. These books share a common concern with idolatry and recognize that on the side of the Euphrates where Ur and Haran were located, people worshiped the moon as equal to the sun. However, the moon was not worshiped among the Horites, and Terah was a Horite.

In the binary worldview of the Horites the sun was regarded as superior to the moon. This was not an arbitrary preference, but an affirmation of their observation that the sun is superior in strength and radiance to the moon. The sun's superiority is expressed in Genesis 1:16: "God made the two great lights: the greater to rule the day, the lesser light to rule the night." It is idolatry to regard the lesser as an equal to the greater, as happens in Asian dualism.

Psalm 78:56-64
But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes. Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow. They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols. When God heard them, he was furious; he rejected Israel completely. He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among humans. He sent the ark of his might into captivity, his splendor into the hands of the enemy. He gave his people over to the sword; he was furious with his inheritance. Fire consumed their young men, and their young women had no wedding songs; their priests were put to the sword, and their widows could not weep.

Here we find a central theme of the Deuteronomist, namely, that God rejects and abandons Israel because He is angry. He allows His chosen ones to fall before their enemies and to be taken as captives. There are references to things of old - the tabernacle at Shiloh, the Ark of the Covenant, but anthropologically significant details are entirely lacking.

Jeremiah 32:30-35
"The people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; indeed, the people of Israel have done nothing but arouse my anger with what their hands have made, declares the Lord. From the day it was built until now, this city has so aroused my anger and wrath that I must remove it from my sight. The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done—they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem. They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. They set up their vile images in the house that bears my Name and defiled it. They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.”

The word Molech has a meaning similar to Baal. It means king. Molech was an Ammonite fire deity known among the Moabites as Chemosh. The ancient Habiru did not associate any one element with the Creator. To do so would have been regarded as idolatry. Nor did the Habiru practice human sacrifice.

None of the examples we have considered provide much detail as to the religious practices that are being condemned. There is little anthropologically significant information, as if these accounts come from sources that have no firsthand experience of the time. In fact, some scholars believe these sources reflect the Deuteronomistic historians who are the final hand on the Old Testament writings.

The Deuteronomist attempts to explain why God would allow his appointed people to be defeated by their enemies and to be carried into exile. To answer this question, they pointed to moral failures among the leaders of the people. The accusation that Aaron failed in righteousness likely comes from the Deuteronomist, the last known editor of the Old Testament material. The Deuteronomist also urged the breaking of images. "... thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire." Deuteronomy 7:5

Failure to do this served as another example of moral failure on the part of Israel's rulers and justified the terrible treatment which the Jews received at the hands of the Babylonians, far worse than they ever experienced in Egypt where their rulers were recognized by the Pharaohs.

The Deuteronomistic history presents a religion quite different from that practiced by Abraham and his Nilo-Saharan ancestors. It moves the focus from the Righteous Ruler who would be conceived by divine overshadowing to the theology of the land as Israel’s rightful possession. This is the beginning of political Zionism.

Exodus 32
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us a god who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “This is your god, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

This account stands in stark contrast to the accounts considered above by virtue of the rich details. Moses is on the mountain top and God is speaking to him about the people's corrupt worship. Moses seeks God's mercy for the people. In the valley below, the people are speaking to Aaron who facilitates their corrupt worship. This is not an example of syncretism because it reflects actual Horite practices. However, it is an example of misplaced adoration, or idolatry.

The Hebrews asked the ruler-priest Aaron to create a graven image (Hebrew: pesel) for them. Aaron apparently was one of the members of the priestly caste trained in metal work. The image he formed of gold incorporated the sun and would have been a representation of the divine overshadowing of Hathor, the mother of Horus. Below is picture of what it would have looked like.

The calf is suggestive of Horus as a child. Horus' anthropomorphic form is either as a adult male or more usually as a boy wearing the sidelock typical of royal Egyptian youth. Horus as a boy is often shown on cippi dominating crocodiles and serpents. Consider this in light of the Woman, the Child, and the Dragon in Revelation 12. Consider also the red cow of Numbers 19 that stands as a perpetual symbol of Israel's need for cleansing. The cow is sacrificed and burned outside the camp and the ashes used for "water of lustration." (Num. 19:9)

Hathor’s animal totem was the long-horned cow and she was often depicted with a crown of horns in which the sun rests, as a sign of her divine appointment. She appears on monument walls at Dendera holding her child in a manger. She was not to be worshiped; just as Christians are not to worship the Virgin Mary. She is venerated, but not worshiped. The distinction between worship and veneration is a difficult one for Protestants of Puritan heritage. The Puritans methodically stripped the churches of "papist" trappings such as crosses, statues, icons, stained glass windows, montrances, and vestments. Under Oliver Cromwell thousands of these sacred objects were destroyed or re-purposed. Valuable items helped to fund Cromwell's campaigns in Scotland and Ireland. The Puritans made no distinction between veneration and worship. They considered all Roman practices to be idolatrous.

The Puritans were not the first to destroy holy images. In the eighth and ninth centuries, the Eastern churches suffered a similar attack by the Iconoclasts. (Eikonoklasmos or Iconoclasm means "image-breaking.") Before the Iconoclasts, came the image-smashing Deuteronomists. In 2001, Islamic fundamentalists destroyed images regarded as world treasures in Afghanistan. These extremists also smashed three hundred of the 2,500 objects that had been painstakingly reassembled at the Kabul Museum and looted thousands of artifacts. Religious extremism eventually leads to smashing images and destroying traditions.

Iconoclasts of all eras fail to recognize that while God forbids the making and worship of idols, He commanded carvings and pictures for the Tabernacle. These included angels, trees, and fruits from the Garden of Eden (Exodus 37:1-9; 39:22-26; 1 Kings 6:14-19). God gave explicit instructions to the craftsmen concerning how objects for the Temple were to be made and what ornaments were to appear on the hems of the priestly robes (pomegranates and golden bells). He also gave specific instructions as to how all these objects were to be consecrated.

In matters pertaining to how He should be worshiped, God had been directing the Habiru rulers for a long time before Moses. He gave instructions to Abraham and Jacob on how to construct altars and how to offer animal sacrifices.

Solomon's many pillared temple was patterned on the more ancient Horite temples found at Nekhen and Heliopolis. Archaeological evidence indicates that Horite temples, such as those found at Petra, and near the Amman airport, and at Shechem, were square with a "holy of holies." At the very center of this sacred space was a round stone platform that either served as the pedestal of a stone pillar or as the base of an altar.

Typically, the interior floor of the Horite temple was paved and the walls were made of hewn stones. In the Horite temples along the Nile there were many pillars rather than stone walls. The temple at Heliopolis or Iunu is an example. Iunu means "place of pillars" and likely refers to the temple of Heliopolis. Herodutus reported that it took nine days to sail from Heliopolis to Thebes. The temple of Thebes was called "Heliopolis of the South."

These pillars served as support for a roof and, in the case of the central area, a symbol of the Creator who generates life. Perhaps the Apostle Paul had this in mind when he wrote to Timothy that the Church of the living God is a pillar (I Tim. 3:15). Pillars in the temple also represented the righteous ones of God. Exodus 24:4 speaks of the twelve pillars in God's house as the twelve tribes upon which God has inscribed the holy Name. The Horite ruler-priests were regarded as "sons" of God. They are sometimes called "gods" (elohim) as in Exodus 22:28: "Thou shalt not revile the gods (elohim), nor curse the ruler of thy people."

The entrance to Solomon's temple was flanked by twin pillars dedicated to his Horite ancestors Joachin and Boaz. David and Solomon were of the Horite priestly lines that can be traced from Genesis 4 and 5 to Joseph who married Mary, the daughter of the shepherd-priest Joachim. Mary’s full name was "Miriam Daughter of Joachim Son of Pntjr (Panther) Priest of Nathan of Bethlehem." The Horites designated the deified king ntjr. In Ancient Egyptian ntjr is a reference to god/gods. P-ntjr means "Priest of God.”

Related reading: Graven Images and Idols; Who Were the Horites?; The Sun and Moon in Genesis;
The Virgin Mary's Ancestry; Fundamentalism and Syncretism in Hebrew History

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Graven Images and Idols

Alice C. Linsley

The Second Commandment forbids the making of images for the people of Israel. The Second Commandment is: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them.”

Note the specification of things in heaven above, things beneath the earth, and things in the water under the earth. The description of the earth at the center with the firmament (waters) above and the firmament (waters) below comes from Genesis 1. The things above and the things below are hidden from us or only partially known. They cannot be adequately represented by any image that even the most talented artist could create. Any attempt to show an image of these things fails. It always misses the mark, falling short of the glory of God.

Abraham's people understood this. That is why they used the sun as an emblem of the Creator and did not worship the sun. The sun was portrayed as serving God as a solar boat, and later as YHWY's chariot. The overshadowing of the ruler by the sun meant his divine appointment. This was indicated by the Y, the long horns of the Ankole cow in which the sun rests. This is why so many of the Horite rulers have names beginning with Y in Hebrew: Yishmael, Yitzak, Yacob, Yosef, Yisbak, Yaqtan and Yeshua are examples.

According to Exodus, the Israelites asked the ruler-priest Aaron to create a graven image (Hebrew: pesel) for them. Aaron apparently was one of the members of the priestly caste trained in metal work. The image he formed of gold incorporated the sun and would have looked like the image below.

Pope Benedict
elevating a monstrance

The Horites understood this image to be a representation of the divine overshadowing of Hathor, the mother of Horus. Her animal totem was the long-horned cow and she was often depicted with a crown of horns in which the Sun rests, as a sign of her divine appointment. She was not to be worshiped; just as Christians are not to worship the Virgin Mary. She is venerated, that is, held in high honor, but not worshiped. This distinction is a difficult one for Protestants of Puritan backgrounds. The Puritans sought to strip the churches of "papist" trappings such as crosses, statues, icons, stained glass windows, montrances, and vestments. The oldest churches in England were targeted by the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell and thousands of these sacred objects were destroyed or, in the case of valuable metals and gems, they were re-purposed. Such valuable items helped to fund Cromwell's wars in Scotland and Ireland. The Puritans made no distinction between veneration and worship of holy images. They considered all Roman practices to be idolatrous.

The Puritans were not the first to react against holy images. In the eight and ninth centuries, the Eastern Church suffered a similar attack by the Iconoclasts, or Image-breakers. (Eikonoklasmos or Iconoclasm means "image-breaking.")

Before the Iconoclasts, there were the Deuteronomists. The Deuteronomistic historians attempted to explain why God would allow his appointed people to be defeated by their enemies and to be carried into exile. To answer this question, they pointed to moral failures among the leaders of the people. The accusation that Aaron failed in righteousness likely comes from the Deuteronomist, the last known editor of the Old Testament material. The Deuteronomist also urged the breaking of images.

"... thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire." Deuteronomy 7:5

Failure to do this represented moral failure on the part of Israel's rulers. The main targets to be smashed were the bamot (singular form is bamah, meaning high or exalted). These "high places" were worship sites with altars. They are mentioned in several books of the Old Testament, and especially in the Book of Kings where they play a prominent role in assessing the performance of a king. In the view of the Deuteronomistic historians failure to destroy the bamot justified the terrible treatment that the Jews received at the hands of the Babylonians, far worse than they experienced in Egypt where their rulers were recognized by the Pharaohs.

The word bamah appears in the name of Esau the Younger's wife Oholibamah. She is named six places in Genesis 36. Her name means "exalted tent" or "high tabernacle." Oholibamah is an ancestor of David. As the exalted tent, she housed the seed of Messiah through David, and her mother's name is Anah. She prefigures the Virgin Mary, whose womb became the tabernacle of the Most High God. Mary' mother's name was Anah also. Oholibamah is both David's Edomite ancestor and an archetype of the Woman in Genesis 3:15.

The Deuteronomistic history presents a religious perspective that is at odds with that of Abraham and his Horim (Horite ancestors). It moves the focus from expectation of the Righteous Ruler who would be conceived by divine overshadowing to focus on the land as belonging to Israel. This is the beginning of political Zionism.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Menés the Law Giver

Alice C. Linsley

The Upper Nile was extremely fertile and had a more diversified population than the Lower Nile region. It was governed by kingdom-building rulers, such as Menés, who is believed to have united the peoples of the Upper and Lower Nile Valley.  If this is so, he was indeed a magnificent ruler, for his kingdom would have stretched from Abydos to the Mediterranean.

Menes (Mena, Min) flourished c. 2925 BC.  He was a descendant of the "Horus-people" or the "Falcon-people" (Horus's aviary totem was the falcon.) Menes consolidated the districts around the First Cataract of Aswan and began the northward movement that led to the unification of the peoples of the Upper and Lower Nile Valley. The Hawk-people had as many as 50 kings, so Menes represents a very ancient royal lineage. To Menes is attributed the oldest legislative system in history:  the law of Tehut. An image of Menes is found on the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. The South and North wall friezes depict a procession of 18 lawgivers and Menes is the first.

Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) was a prestigious shrine city of the Horus people. Their descendants who were priests are identified in the Bible as Horites (Gen. 36).

Menes has been identified with Narmer or with a Kushite ruler whose Horus name was Ahauiti. The tombs of both rulers have been excavated at Abydos, the largest tombs of that time anywhere in Egypt.

Whether Menes was Narmer or Ahauiti, his unification of the Upper and Lower Nile established him as the founder of a new House/Dynasty. This remained the case even after Mentuhotep II reunited Egypt after the 1st Intermediate Period.  Instead of being recognized as the founder of a new House, Mentuhotep II was considered a ruler of the 11th Dynasty.

The figure below was drawn by Faucher-Gudin after Prisse d'Avenues. The gold medallions engraved with the name of Menés are ancient, perhaps dating to the 20th dynasty. However,  the setting is modern, with the exception of the three oblong pendants of cornelian.

Manetho of Sebennytos, an Egyptian historian, wrote a history for the use of Alexandrine Greeks. Manetho's Aegyptiaca divides ancient Egyptian history into 31 dynasties from Menés to the Macedonian Conquest. All the families inscribed in his lists appear to have ruled in succession, however this has not been fully confirmed by archaeological discoveries. The problem is that Manetho's accounts come from a much later period between 380-343 B.C. and his division is based on historical facts as well as mythology and folklore.

Manetho was a priest during the reigns of Ptolemy I and Ptolemy II who apparently was given the assignment of caring for the royal horses, a high ranking position.  This is indicated by his name - mniw-htr - which means "keeper of the horses."

As a high ranking royal priest, Manetho had access to the temple archives. These included king lists (such as we find in Genesis 4, 5, 11, 22:20-24 and 36). Doubtless there were conflicting claims as rulers vied for acclaim, often introducing mythological accounts to support their authority. 

According to Manetho, Menés reigned 62 years and was killed by a hippopotamus.

Who was Menés?

Some scholars believe that Menés was Ahauiti on the basis of an ivory tablet engraved for a ruler whose Horus name was Ahauiti, the warlike. The actual name that appears on the tablet is Manu. Menés has been various spellings, including Mena, Meni, Manu, Min or simply MN.

According to Manetho, Menes was a native of the Thinite province in Upper Egypt.  Monuments belonging to Narmer and Ahauiti, either of whom may be Menes, have been excavated at Abydos, a royal cemetery in the Thinite nome (Tjenu). The earliest evidence of Tjenu as a ruled territory dates to 4000 B.C. the time when the Horite citadel of Nekhen was thriving. The Narmer palette was unearthed at Nekhen.

The oldest known center of Horite worship is Nekhen. Votive offerings at the Nekhen temple were ten times larger than the normal mace heads and bowls found elsewhere, suggesting that this was a very prestigious shrine. Horite priests placed invocations to Horus at the summit of the fortress as the sun rose.

Whether Menés is Narmer or Ahautit, his tomb lies near the village of Nagadeh, not far from Thebes, while those of his immediate successors are in the cemeteries of Abydos. The Nagadeh tomb is a rectangular brick structure 165 feet long and 84 feet wide.  The external walls were originally ornamented by deep polygonal grooves, resembling those which score the facade of Chaldaean buildings, but the Nagadeh tomb has a second brick wall which hides the primitive decoration of the monument. The building contains twenty-one chambers.

How are we to reconcile the tradition of Menés' Thinite origin with the existence of his tomb in distant Thebes?  It is likely that he maintained two queens in separate palaces. One would have been at the southern boundary of his empire and the other at the northern boundary. This was a characteristic of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the ancient Horite rulers.

The principal deified ruler of Abydos was called An-hor, which indicates that he was a devotee of Hor/Horus. This is the ruler line from which Abraham's Horite people came.

Related reading: The Writing System of Menes, the First LawgiverA Kindling of Ancient Memory; Abraham's Annu Ancestors; Who Were the Horites?; Ancient Moral Codes

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Continuing Debate on Child Sacrifice

Here is a recent paper that adds more fuel to the debate.

In reference to Biblical Anthropology, there is little evidence that the ruler priests of the Bible practiced infant or child sacrifice. Child sacrifice developed after Abraham's time because God condemns it between the 8th and 7th centuries BC, about 1200 years after Abraham. The story of the binding of Isaac is not about child sacrifice. At least, most rabbis don't think so.

The author of Hebrews explains that this story is about Abraham's faith that God has the power to raise from the dead.  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, "In Isaac your descendants shall be called." (Hebrew 11:17,18)

James believes that this act was righteous because it expresses Abraham's faith in God's promises.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:21-24)

One thing is fairly certain: Horite rulers, like Abraham and Job, did not practice human sacrifice.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Early Christian Amulet Discovered

A 1,500-year-old papyrus is one of the earliest surviving Christian amulets and was likely worn by an average person. It was re-discovered in the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library. The text makes reference to the Lord's Supper and was written on the back of a grain tax receipt. Read about the discovery here.

Amulets were worn by early Christians, and this continued a tradition from before the time of Abraham. This article places too much emphasis on the influence of Egyptian magic. Amulets were worn for protection, as Christians today place crosses over doorways and in their cars.

The practice of writing sacred texts on objects was largely a priestly practice. In part, this is because the priests were the only people who knew how to write (scribes). The priests of Abraham's time wrote blessings and curses on the insides of bowls from which they poured out the blessings or curses. This is the significance of the seven bowls of Revelation 16.

This text reflects the Messianic vision and uses a very ancient reference - Christ "our God." The full text of the papyrus reads:

'Fear you all who rule over the earth.

'Know you nations and peoples that Christ is our God.

'For he spoke and they came to being, he commanded and they were created; he put everything under our feet and delivered us from the wish of our enemies.

'Our God prepared a sacred table in the desert for the people and gave manna of the new covenant to eat, the Lord’s immortal body and the blood of Christ poured for us in remission of sins.'

Dr. Tom McCollough of Centre College (Kentucky) has excavated in Galilee and found many amulets that date to Jesus' time and after. His team excavated at Sepphoris, a sprawling site on top of a large hill in Galilee. There was an amphitheater, a synagogue, a rich collection of mosaics and several nearby villages and roads. Sepphoris is located only 5 miles from Nazareth, northwest across the rolling hills. The influence of Egypt is evident in the mosaic floor of the Nile House in Sepphoris (shown below).