Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Borders and Boundaries

Banner of the 2019 American Socialist-Communist Party Convention

Alice C. Linsley

Borders and boundaries in the biblical worldview are a good thing. The Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian imperialism was regarded by the prophets as a painful lesson that Israel should uphold the spiritual boundaries and geographical borders.

Removing ancient landmarks and boundary stones is condemned in Proverbs 22:28, Proverbs 23:10, Deuteronomy 19:14, Deuteronomy 27:17 and Hosea 5:10. 

Today the question of national and symbolic borders is highly politicized and polarizing. Doubtless, some of this heat comes from the on-going conversation among sociologists and anthropologists about the nature of Man. 

Are humans instinctively "tribal" and bound to a region of land? Some Native Americans and African tribal groups believe that the Creator made the first peoples of the soil where their people were to dwell. This is called autochthonous origins, and the idea is found in many cultures. It is expressed in Genesis 2 which speaks of humans coming from or being made of the soil (humus).

According to the Shilluk of the Sudan, the Creator Jo-Uk made white people out of white sand, and the Shilluk of out black soil. When the Creator came to Egypt, he made the people out of the red Nile silt. That is why the Egyptians have a red-brown skin tone.

Winona LaDuke, of the White Earth Anishinabe, points out that “Grassroots and land-based struggles characterize most of Native environmentalism. We are nations of people with distinct land areas, and our leadership and direction emerge from the land up.” (LaDuke, All Our Relations, p. 4)

Many first peoples think of themselves simply as humans. The word Ainu means human. The ancient metal workers of Anatolia called themselves the Nes (NS) which means humans. The ancient priest caste were called Hapiru, which means human in Akkadian. The Inuktitut word Inuit means human. The Athabaskan word for "people" is Dené with variant spellings: Diné (Navajo) and Indé (Apache). Winona LaDuke's Aleutian islanders call themselves Anishinabe, which means First Men. The plural forms Anishinabeg or Anishinaabeg mean "first people."

These populations seek to protect their unique cultural identities and recognize their common humanity. They favor geographical and spiritual boundaries AND affirm common humanity. This expresses a balanced and wholesome mindset.

This idea of land belonging to a people is not popular in our day. It is seen as a primitive mindset that must be overcome for a borderless world to emerge. Until the majority of Earth's inhabitants gain "openness to the world" we will remain in our separate spaces with our individual traditions and customs.

Globalization and corporate land grabs require that people evolve to a state of existential openness to the world. This principle relies on the work of the 20th century German philosopher, Martin Heidegger. He formulated a concept of existence as “being-in-the-world” or Dasein. Dasein involves an existential openness to the world that is constituted by the attunement (Gestimmtheit) of a mood or state of mind. All this to say that the individual’s existence is only as open to the world as the attunement of one’s mood or mind.

We can expect more from the mind-changing forces. How will your thinking change? Will you willingly become a citizen of a borderless world? Or will your mind be formed and informed by the biblical exhortation to guard and defend borders and boundaries?

Related reading: Jostein Gaarder on Reciprocity Across National Borders; Theories of Change and Constancy

Monday, June 22, 2020

Understanding the Science of Biblical Anthropology

Standing stones at the Gezer "high place" in Israel.
(Photo: Dennis Cole)

Alice C. Linsley

The science of Biblical Anthropology is relatively new. It has been developing over the past 40 years and is now producing mature fruit in the form of academic papers, documented blog posts, and group conversations.

Biblical Anthropology is an empirical approach to the biblical texts. Reading Scripture through the lens of cultural anthropology is rigorous because no assumption can stand untested, and no assertion can be made without data.

The 66 canonical books of the Bible are the primary resource for Biblical anthropologists. Biblical archaeologists dig artifacts to better understand the material culture of peoples who lived in the Holy Land. Likewise, Biblical Anthropologists dig anthropologically significant data out of the pages of the Bible to better understand the many biblical populations.

Anthropologists are interested in material culture. We want to know what people made and what materials they used in daily life and in ceremonies. What tools did they use? We explore their beliefs about life after death by investigating burial practices. We want to understand what the different peoples believed about the creation of the world so we examine their creation and origin stories. We want to know how they organized for war, and where the rulers derived their authority. What was the social structure of the biblical Hebrew?

Biblical anthropology also traces the antecedents of practices and beliefs to shed light on why things were done, not simply how they were done. Uncovering antecedents is a central task of Biblical Anthropology. Where did the idea originate that humans were created from the soil? What is the origin of Messianic expectation? Where is the oldest known site of Hebrew worship? What is the significance of the prevalent solar symbolism among biblical populations?

Culture traits, ceremonies, rituals, and religious beliefs do not spring suddenly into existence. They develop organically over time from traditions received from the ancestors. Biblical anthropology provides tested methods and tools to push back the veil of time, to uncover anthropologically significant data that clarifies precedents, etiology, and context.

The discoveries made in Biblical Anthropology prove helpful to anthropology students, academics, clergy, historians, and ethnographers. They dispel false and racist notions. Kinship analysis of the king lists in Genesis 4 and 5 make it clear that these rulers are not the first people living on Earth. Bishop Ussher's timeline is not a reliable way to calculate Earth's age. All the peoples of the Earth did not come from Noah’s three sons. Ham, Shem and Japheth do not represent three races. Skin color and linguistic diversity are not the result of God’s judgment at the Tower of Babel.

After 40 years of pioneering this field, I am sad to say that Biblical Anthropology still is not recognized as a legitimate science, and there are few who are able to contribute to the research. In the hope that more would engage in this work, I set forth the most basic principles of Biblical Anthropology.

Guiding Principles of Biblical Anthropology

These six principles shape the work of Biblical Anthropology.

1. Immersion in the context: Understanding traits of a given culture by viewing them in their own context. For biblical anthropologists this involves immersion in the biblical texts to understand the culture traits of biblical populations. Every person aspiring to do this work should begin by reading the 66 books of the Bible at least 3 times, using different translations. Translations based on the Septuagint (LXX), the Masoretic Text (MT), and the Vulgate do not agree in every detail. The differences are significant.

Biblical narratives are connected to place and time, to environmental conditions, to the rising of rivers, the hewing of local stone, to the expansion of herds, and the threshing of wheat. The narratives speak to us from behind the veil of antiquity, revealing the world of our ancestors.

A good knowledge of the canonical books is necessary to see recurring themes and patterns such as the prevalence of solar symbolism and the consistent marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Hebrew rulers.

2. Impartial observation: Viewing another culture on its own terms as much as possible. Science requires objectivity. In this work, personal preferences and moral judgments are withheld. It is important to know that the Hebrew ruler-priests had two wives. We neither condone nor condemn polygyny.

We do not impose denominational interpretations on the text. The Bible is not used to attack an opponent. Proof texting is forbidden. We do not impose the "Five Solas" of the Reformation on the Bible. We do not view the Bible through the lens of Dispensationalism. We do not use the Bible to support an agenda.

We recognize and accept contextual incongruities as evidence that the biblical texts represent different sources and different times in history.

3. Cross-cultural perspective: Investigating how cultures are interconnected globally. For Biblical Anthropology this requires investigation of the ways in which biblical populations were related, how they influenced one another, and how they dispersed globally.

We correlate the biblical data with DNA studies, linguistics, migration and climate studies, historical records, ancient texts, and archaeology.

4. Holism: Looking at how the parts of a cultural system interrelate. Cultures are like woven fabric. There are many threads and the patterns are often complex. Investigation of the individual threads is necessary if we want to see the whole fabric. Studying particulars comes before conclusions about universals. This method makes it possible to state facts and avoid opinions.

In Biblical Anthropology the most basic threads are those that pertain to family and clan. That is why kinship analysis is the first tool of Biblical Anthropology. Kinship analysis clarifies the historicity of Adam and the rulers of Genesis 4, 5, 10, 11, 25 and 36. It dispels notions of incest that are contrary to the marriage laws of the ancient Hebrew. It clarifies familial and clan relationships. Analysis of the marriage and ascendancy of the biblical Hebrew reveals the continuity of tradition from Adam to Moses and from Moses to Jesus' family.

5. Meticulous dating: To avoid anachronisms and conflation of data, biblical anthropologists must develop a rigorously accurate timeline. For example, we must not confuse the religion of Judaism with the religion of the ancient Hebrews. Even Jews recognize that what Abraham believed and what is believed by Jews today are not the same.

Rabbi Stephen F. Wise, former Chief Rabbi of the United States, explains: "The return from Babylon and the introduction of the Babylonian Talmud mark the end of Hebrewism and the beginning of Judaism.” The Talmud is the primary authority for Jews because it shapes their ethnic identity.

4200 year texts speak of the Hebrew ruler-priest caste. In ancient Akkadian the caste was called "Abrutu" from the word abru, meaning priest. The Hebrew were established in Africa, Southern Europe, the Levant, and Mesopotamia 1800+ years before Judaism.

6. Assessing antiquity: In general, it is true that the more geographically widespread a culture trait the older it is. The 100,000-year custom of red ocher burial is an example. It indicates that the hope of life after death among archaic humans was associated with a symbolic blood covering.

Related reading: Abraham's Faith Lives in Christianity; Biblical Anthropology is the Work of Christians; INDEX of Topics 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Horite Temples

Alice C. Linsley

The priests of the Horite mounds and the Sethite mounds served the same king and worshiped the same God. The temples they built were aligned to the rising sun.

The Shaltout and Belmonte 2005 survey of the orientation of ancient temples in Upper Egypt (Nubia) and Lower Egypt listed the azimuths of axes of symmetry in nearly every temple in the region, including more than 100 entries. They also listed the declinations of astronomical bodies that would be visible at rising or setting along the axes of symmetry. They found a strong cluster of these at declination = −24º, which was the position of the sun at the winter solstice at the time.

They also found a preponderance of axes oriented toward the southeast (azimuth 115º−120º, depending upon latitude), indicating alignment with the rising sun. This is not surprising since the sun was the emblem of the High God for the ancient Nilotes. The priests at the oldest known site of Horite Hebrew worship at Nekhen offered invocations to the High God and his son at dawn.

Archaeological evidence indicates that Horite temples were square with a "holy of holies" at the heart of the larger square. Such sacred spaces have been found at Petra, at Shechem, and near the Amman airport. This temple near the Amman airport was 6.50 meters wide (almost exactly 7 yards) and surrounded by a narrow corridor that was broken into six rooms of equal size. At the very center of the most sacred space was a round stone platform that either served as the pedestal of a stone pillar or as the base of an altar.

Horite Hebrew temples and shrines were located at water sources such as wells or along major rivers like the Nile. Cisterns have been found in many of the ancient temples. Solomon's temple had a cistern that held over 66,000 gallons of water (250 cubic meters). Moses was told to meet the king early in the morning when he went down to the Nile for prayer.

In prehistoric times, regional shrine settlements attracted people from surrounding areas. These settlements were administrated by a "deified ruler" and caste of ruler-priests. The prehistoric shrine settlements were build around a central shrine or temple. There was a stone pillar (bnbn) or an east-facing obelisk. Archaeologists have found large mace heads at these temples.

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 Onn (Heliopolis) is an example. Iunu means "place of pillars."

However, evidence of stone pillars have been found at the temples in Amman and Shechem also. These served both as support for a roof and, in the case of the central area, a symbol of the strength of the Creator who inseminates the earth and by whom all life is generated. Likely the Apostle Paul had this tradition 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.

In ancient Egypt such pillars were called bnbn, related to the word wbn, a reference to the rising (swelling) of the morning sun. Bnbn have been found from Nigeria to India. Below is a photo of a bnbn found in Lejja, Nigeria.

Sacred pillars represent the connection between heaven and earth (cf. ladder in Jacob's dream; the Church as pillar). In Horite temples these sometimes stood in the center of an outer courtyard. The foundation stone was about 2 feet 3 inches in diameter (70 centimeters) and the base of the pillar that rested on the stone pier was about 1 foot 4 inches (40 centimeters) in diameter. These smaller pillars were anointed, as Hindus anoint the lingam, an erect stone symbolizing the power of the Deity to generate life. Genesis 28:18 suggests this practice among Abraham's people: "Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it."

In 1931, a structure with the characteristics of Horite temples was discovered by Gabriel Welter on the shoulder of Mount Gerizim at the site of ancient Shechem. That square temple also had a central holy space with a stone podium that possibly served as an altar. This temple was destroyed at the end of the Middle Bronze Age. The central space of the Gerizim temple was about twice as large as the central space in the temple excavated near the airport in Amman in 1955.

Solomon's Temple

Solomon's temple in Jerusalem was built on the pattern of the older Horite temples under the direction of Hiram of Tyre (I Kings 9:11, II Chronicles 2:3). King Hiram and David had a common Horite ancestry, as analysis of the royal names indicates. Hiram I of Tyre also had sent skilled artisans to help David build a palace in Jerusalem.

Variants of the name Hiram include Horam and Harum, and all are related to the names Hur, Hor and Harun (Aaron). According to Midrash, Hur was Moses’ brother-in-law. Hur’s grandson was one of the builders of the Tabernacle. I Chronicles 4:4 lists Hur as the "father" of Bethlehem, also called "the city of David."

Solomon's temple was arranged on an east-west axis as was typical of most Horite temples. The Horites regarded the sun as the symbol of the Creator and Hathor-Meri as the mother of the "seed" of God, Horus. The temple of Hathor at Timna was oriented to the rising sun at the winter solstice. This temple was discovered at the southwestern edge of Mount Timna by Professor Beno Rothenberg of Hebrew University.

The entrance to Solomon's temple was flanked by twin pillars dedicated to his Horite Hebrew ancestors Jachin and Boaz. Jachin was Solomon's maternal great grandfather and Boaz was his paternal great grandfather.

David and Solomon were of the Horite Hebrew lines that can be traced from Genesis 4 and 5 to Joseph who married Mary, the daughter of the priest Joachim. Mary was "Miriam Daughter of Joachim Son of Pa-ntr (Joachim's mother) Priest of Nathan's clan of Bethlehem."

Long before the Pharaohs ruled Egypt the Horites were designated as royal priests. A tera-ntr refers to a priest. Th image above was found in Egypt by Flinders Petrie. It shows a Sethite temple priest among the Nilotic Annu and he is given the title of tera-neter, meaning priest devoted to God.

Related reading: Horite MoundsTemple GuildsOrientations of Nilo-Saharan Monuments; The High PlacesSacred Mountains and Pillars; Prehistoric Shrine Settlement in the Judean Shepalah

Monday, May 25, 2020

Messiah's Descent to Sheol

1 Peter 3:19-20 speaks of Sheol as the "place of imprisoned spirits." 

Alice C. Linsley

Heavenly recognition for the Horite Hebrew was never an individual prospect. Heavenly recognition came to the people through the righteousness of their ruler-priest. Horite Hebrew rulers took this seriously, some more than others. The best were heavenly minded and the worst were so earthy minded that they shed much blood enlarging their territories.

They took great care in the burial of their dead and never practiced cremation, as in the religions that seek to escape material existence (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism). Their greatest fear was the "second death" (Rev. 21:8) which occurs when the unity of body and spirit are not restored in the resurrection. They believed that the dead person continues as a shadow beyond death in Sheut (šwt), meaning shadow. The Hebrew word Sheol is derived from the ancient Egyptian word Sheut.

On Holy Saturday Jesus descended to Sheol to announce his victory over death. A Horite song found at the royal complex at Ugarit speaks of the descent of Horus, the son of God, to the place of the dead "to announce good tidings."

Among Abraham's ancestors the resurrection of the ruler meant the salvation of the people. He was expected to lead them from life to the greater immortal life that is beyond death. The people were believed to follow their risen ruler from this world to the next. Their immortality depended on the bodily resurrection of their priest-king.

Great care was taken in the burial of these ruler-priests. The prayers that were offered at the tombs are evidence that they hoped for resurrection. These prayers were written on the walls of the tombs and have been collected into volumes that can be studied today. The volumes include The Pyramid Texts (2400 BC), The Coffin Texts (2100 BC), and the Book of the Dead (1500 BC). 

In these volumes there is a great deal of descent-ascent language. Utterance 214 of the Pyramid texts bids the deceased king to "ascend to the place where your father is." Utterance 214 also mentions the "Imperishable Stars" that raise the king aloft. The Imperishable Stars are connected to ascent to heaven. The third day resurrection of the son of God is expressed in the Pyramid Texts: "Oh Horus, this hour of the morning, of this third day is come, when thou surely passeth on to heaven, together with the stars, the Imperishable Stars" (Utterance 667).

The descent-ascent language is similar to what is expressed in Ephesians 4:8-10. 
This is why it is written: 
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the depths of the earth? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

This reflects a layered cosmos with the firmament of heaven above as the place of God. The Apostle Paul speaks of being taken to the "third heaven" in 2 Corinthians 12. In Second Enoch, chapter 8, the third heaven is described as the heaven "whereon the Lord rests, when he goes up into paradise." Utterance 44 of the Pyramid Texts says, "Re (Father God) in the sky is gracious to you."

Generally, the cosmos is perceived as 3-tiered: the realm above (heaven), the plane of earth's surface (between the eastern and western horizons), and the "deep" under the earth, sometimes called "the pit" (Ezekiel 26:20). The dead are buried in the earth. They literally repose under the earth (Phil 2:9-10) until the general resurrection. They await deliverance from Sheol, the place of shadows.

Paul speaks of the ascent-descent in Romans 10:6-8.
‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
Paul poses this rhetorical question to show that only God can fill all things in heaven and in earth and below the earth. "He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things." (Ephesians 4:10)

Though much prayer was offered, and many rituals of purification were completed, none of the ruler-priests of the ancient world rose from the dead. Therefore, none had the power to deliver captives from the grave and to lead them to the throne of heaven (Psalm 68:18; Psalm 7:7; Ephesians 4:8). 

On Holy Saturday, Jesus Messiah delivered good news to the spirits in Sheol. He showed them that death has been defeated and that their hope of resurrection is not in vain. He had shown this to the living before his crucifixion when he raised Lazarus from the grave. Jesus explained, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” (John 11:11)

The Horite Hebrew believed that heavenly recognition of a people depended on the righteousness of their ruler-priest. The ruler-priest was regarded as the mediator between God Father and the people. If God turned His face away from the ruler, the people suffered. If the ruler found favor with God, the people experienced abundance and peace.

The ruler-priest was expected to intercede for his people before God in life and in death. Were the ruler-priest to rise from the grave he could lead his people beyond the grave to immortality (eternal life). The ruler's burial was attended by prayers, sacrifices, and a grand procession to the royal tomb.

The New Testament speaks about Jesus as the ruler-priest. He is the firstborn from the grave and by his resurrection he delivers to the Father a "peculiar people." He leads us in the ascent to the Father where we receive heavenly recognition because we belong to Him. Jesus said, "I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world." (John 6:51)

Indeed, God the Father has put everything under the feet of the Son, Jesus Messiah, who fills all things everywhere with himself." (Ephesians 1:23)

Messiah's descent to Sheol was to deliver that message to those who repose in the bosom of Abraham, the father of our faith. For we who believe "are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all." (Romans 4:16)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Ancient Words for Priests

Many images of shaved priests have been found. This shaved priest is sacrificing a ram. 

Alice C. Linsley

Moses had a half-brother named Korah, and like Aaron, Korah was a priest. The term Korah refers to a shaved priest. (Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2007, p.37.) The korahs shaved their bodies before their time of service at the temple or shrine. This was part of their ritual purification.

Herodotus observed that ritual purity was a prominent feature of the Nilotic priest's life (II:37):
"They are religious excessively beyond all other men, and with regard to this they have customs as follows: they drink from cups of bronze and rinse them out every day, and not some only do this but all: they wear garments of linen always newly washed, and this they make a special point of practice: they circumcise themselves for the sake of cleanliness, preferring to be clean rather than comely. The priests shave themselves all over their body every other day, so that no lice or any other foul thing may come to be upon them when they minister to the gods; and the priests wear garments of linen only and sandals of papyrus, and any other garment they may not take nor other sandals; these wash themselves in cold water twice in the day and twice again in the night; and other religious services they perform (one may almost say) of infinite number."

Korah was born to Amram and his cousin wife Ishara. Ishara named their son "Korah" after her father, Korah the Elder. 1 Chronicles 23:18 says that Shelomith was Ishara's first son. As "Korah" is a title, it is possible that Moses' half-brother was named Shelomith.

Ishara is a Hittite word meaning "promise" or "binding oath." The Hittites are related to Heth of Kiriath Arba (Hebron) where Sarah lived. Hebron was part of ancient Edom in Abraham's time.

In 1 Chronicles 23:18, Ishara/Ishar is named as a chief. Another woman named as a chief is Anah in Genesis 36. Genesis 36 lists the rulers of Edom that descend from Seir the Horite Hebrew. Abraham's territory was in ancient Edom and Aaron was buried there

Though the Horite Hebrew were widely dispersed among other peoples, they maintained their unique culture and religious heritage as a ruler-priest caste. Within that caste there were orders of priests or temple guilds whose functions varied according to their clan. That explains why there are many different names for priests, including terah, korah, harwa, sem, and hekau.

The Terah named as Abraham's father (Gen. 11) was a powerful chief over a clan. He would have played a role in decisions about widows. Among the Nilotic Luo, Ja'Ter refers to the priest who performs the widow cleansing rituals.The title was found among the rulers of the Annu who inhabited the Upper Nile. The title "Tera-netjer" means priest of God/King. In Japan, the word "tera" also refers to a priest.

Another term for priest is Korah. In the language of the Nilotic Luo, Ja'Kor refers a priest-seer who offers incantations and prayers for the future. According to rabbinic sources, Korah possessed the power to foresee the future. These priests were in the service of rulers and high kings. Joseph may have been regarded as a korah when he foretold the future calamity that was coming upon Egypt.

Another term for priest is harwa. Sudra priests traveled as far as Nepal where they are called "harwa."

A famous Nilotic priest called Harwa served as the high steward of God's wife early in the seventh century BC. The so-called "God's wife" was a princess who was to oversee affairs of the temple. Royal daughters were dedicated to the temple when they were denied marriage or they refused to marry. The two highest ranks a woman could hold in ancient Egypt were the positions of the God’s Wife (Hemet Netjer) and the Divine Adoratrice (Duat Netjer). These women are sometimes referred to as "priestesses" though they served no priestly functions.

Sargon (reigned c. 2334–2284 BC) appointed his daughter Heduanna as the En of the shrine at Ur. The Akkadian term En means lord, master, royal official. The Creator’s son was called En-ki, meaning “Lord of the Earth.” En-Heduanna served the Creator God Anu, at the House (pr) of Anu (Iannu). As with Roman Catholic nuns, she would have been considered “married” to the deity she served. En-Heduanna is credited with a large body of cuneiform poetry.

Some priests were responsible for funerals and the maintenance of burial sites. The sem priests presided over mortuary rituals and conducted funeral services. These were the embalmers who recited prayers to God Father and God Son (Ra and Horus) while wrapping the mummies. Many of the prayers of the sem priests are found in ancient writings such as the Pyramid Tests (2400 BC) and the Coffin Texts (2000 BC). These texts speak of the hope of bodily resurrection. A Horite song found at the royal complex at Ugarit, speaks of Horus descending to the place of the dead "to announce good tidings." Horus is described as rising on the third day (The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Utterance 667).

Other significant (Messianic) utterances include:
"Horus has shattered (tbb, crushed) the mouth of the serpent with the sole of his foot (tbw)." Pyramid Texts, Utterance 388
"I am Horus, the great Falcon upon the ramparts of the house of him of the hidden name. My flight has reached the horizon. I have passed by the gods of Nut. I have gone further than the gods of old. Even the most ancient bird could not equal my very first flight. I have removed my place beyond the powers of Set, the foe of my father Osiris. No other god could do what I have done. I have brought the ways of eternity to the twilight of the morning. I am unique in my flight. My wrath will be turned against the enemy of my father Osiris and I will put him beneath my feet in my name of 'Red Cloak'." Coffin Texts, Utterance 148 

The ka priests were paid by a family to perform the daily offerings at the tomb of their deceased loved ones.

Some priest served as royal lectors. The lector-priest was called hekau. These priests read ancient texts and were known as the keepers of the received tradition (hakem).

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Pursuing Truth as Persons of Faith

Alice C. Linsley

"The ignorance of Scripture is a great cliff and a deep abyss; to know nothing of the divine laws is a great betrayal of salvation. This has given birth to heresies, this has introduced a corrupt way of life, this has put down the things above. For it is impossible, impossible for anyone to depart without benefit if he reads continually with attention."- St. John Chrysostom (d. 407 AD)

If Scripture is reliable and the empirical method is valuable, shouldn't the two work together for those who sincerely want to understand the Bible?

It is often said that faith assertions cannot be proven by science, but that is a fallacy. A reader once wrote to tell me, "Science and beliefs do not mix." I responded that "Science begins in belief. One must believe something even to think scientifically."

Another reader shot off this remark, "The Bible and theology are not the enemy of the biological evolution; they are superfluous."

That's the sort of brainless remark one reads at many science sites "where graduate students, researchers, doctors and the 'skeptical community' go not to interpret data or review experiments but to chip off one-liners, promote their books and jeer at smokers, fat people and churchgoers? And can anyone who still enjoys this class-inflected bloodsport tell me why it has to happen under the banner of science?" -- Virginia Heffernan, The New York Times Magazine

Science, at its best, points us to what is real and true. Because that is so, we can expect good science to verify, confirm, and align with the data of Scripture. When something true is asserted evidence can be found to confirm the assertion.

Christians have nothing to fear from science. In a study published by the American Scientific Affiliation, it is estimated that 60% of the breakthroughs in science and technology have been made by persons professing to be Christian.

Ian Hutchinson, one of the world's leading plasma physicists, has written:
"MIT, my home institution, the high-temple of science and technology in the United States, has a pseudo-Greek temple architecture about its main buildings. The fluted columns are topped not with baccanalian freizes, but with the names of the historical heroes of science (not to mention William Barton Rogers, the founder). A rough assessment was carried out by a few of us some years ago of the fraction of the people listed there who were Christians. The estimate we arrived at was about 60%."

The list of giants in physical science must include Copernicus (1473-1543); Galileo (1564-1642); Bacon (1561-1626), Kepler (1571-1630); Pascal (1623-1662); Faraday (1791-1867); Maxwell (1831-1879), and Ian Hutchinson (an Anglican).

In the fields of chemistry and medical technology, we have Robert Boyle (1627-1691); Robert Runnels Williams (1886--1965) and his brother Roger J. Williams (1893--1988), both world-renown chemists, and Raymond V. Damadian, the inventor of the MRI.

In botany and nutrition, we find Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), George Washington Carver (1864-1943), and Ann Marie Thro. Ann is a senior advisor for Plant Health Production and Products with the National Institute for food and Agriculture.

In the field of paleontology, we have Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) and Mary Anning (1799-1847).

Astronomy found an early advocate in Agnes Giberne (1845-1939). Georges Lemaître (1894--1966) advanced understanding of astrophysics as a Roman Catholic priest. Jennifer Wiseman is a NASA astronomer who discovered periodic comet 114P/Wiseman-Skiff while working as a research assistant in January 1987. Jennifer often speaks in public on the relation of faith and science.

Christians have broken ground in mathematics also. Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799) developed a comprehensive treatment of algebra, including the foundations of integral and differential calculus. Computers came into existence largely because of the mathematical genius of Sister Mary Celine Fasenmyer (1906-1996). Her hypergeometric polynomial sequences are the progenitor of the computerized methods used today to prove hypergeometric identities.

All of these remarkable figures expressed commitment to Jesus Christ and to excellence in their fields. None would say that the Christian faith and their research were incompatible.

So why do many assume that Science and Scripture are in conflict? We do so because data requires human interpretation and interpretation is influenced by the ego and by various agendas.

Dr. John Hawks, a world-renown paleoanthropologist, acknowledges the role ego plays in anthropological nomenclature. He noted that arguing about species has more to do with ego than with morphological evidence. At his website he wrote:
"Just today, I got notification of a new paper by Walter Neves and colleagues, in which they suggest that Australopithecus sediba and Homo naledi are actually South African representatives of Homo habilis. Some people might scoff at this--after all, the Dinaledi fossils are only 236,000--335,000 years old, while the latest-known H. habilis is around 1.6 million. But a young date for some fossils doesn't bar them from membership in a species with much older fossil representatives. Identity is tested with morphological evidence, not geological age." ("Arguing about species: Is it evidence, or ego?" 3 Aug. 2017)

Ego-driven interpretation is a factor in the supposed conflict between Scripture and Science. The age of the earth debate is an example. Humility is part of the solution. We also need to read Scripture as a scientist would; reading with greater attention to details, and identifying biblical data.

Both Scripture and the natural world speak of the Creator and the Logos in whom there is no falsehood. Our God urges us to seek wisdom and delights to help us find the truth.

Small differences in the Gospel narratives, for example, do not disprove them. These simply mean that eye witnesses noted different details. Were all the details of the narratives identical we would have evidence of collusion. Such testimony is denied in a court of law.

Contradiction between the assertions of Scripture and the assertions of Science are another matter. The age of the earth cannot be billions of years old and 10,000 years old. Which is it? Contradictions arise when we are faced with inaccurate interpretations and/or inadequate information. At its best, science investigates all avenues of information, including claims of the Bible. This approach taken by biblical archaeologists has led to many important discoveries in the Holy Land.

Good science asks whether a Scriptural assertion is true based on empirical evidence. Good Bible interpretation investigates how data in the Bible aligns with findings in the sciences. Take as an example Genesis 2:10-13. "A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush.

This asserts that Havilah in the land of Cush is rich in gold, bdellium and onyx. A search of the geologic record of the Upper Nile reveals that this region is indeed rich in gold. Studies in botany indicate that Bdellium is a resin that comes from trees that grow in the Upper Nile, especially in Ethiopia (ancient Nubia). The archaeological record reveals that the ancient Egyptians were the first to produce great artifacts of onyx. Onyx was used as early as the Second Dynasty to make bowls, jewelry and figurines. It was mined south of Egypt and also in areas of Eurasia that were under Egyptian control.

Bible interpretation at its best asks whether there is empirical evidence for the Scriptural assertion. Good Bible study investigates deeply to see whether the claims of Scripture are true. This praise worthy quality of the Bereans is the same quality that should be found in every serious Christian disciple.

After 40 years of studying the Bible through the scientific lens, I am convinced that there is a perfect alignment between the assertions and data of the Bible and the findings of the best science.

It comes down to humility, due diligence, and empirically justified interpretations. This is a task for all who wish to be apologists for the Christian faith. It is a task that makes outreach to the world more fruitful, and conversation with young people more relevant.

Wrong interpretations and misrepresentations of the Bible lead to bad theology. Ignoring pertinent Biblical data in developing scientific hypotheses leads to bad science. Humility, diligence, and disciplined reading are needed if we are to get at the truth. Truth is not as self-evident as we imagine. It often expresses itself in quirky and paradoxical ways (as G.K. Chesterton brilliantly reminds us). The search for truth requires looking at the big picture as well as the smallest, seemingly insignificant details.

Related reading: Science and Miracles; The Relationship of Science and Faith

Monday, March 23, 2020

Judean Refugees in Ancient Galilee?

Biblical Archaeology Review
Oil Lamps Shedding Light on an Ancient Migration

Were there human migrations and refugees in antiquity? Yes, of course. Environmental change, wars, religious conflicts, and poverty are among the most powerful factors that have been driving human migration for millennia—from the Sea Peoples to the Huns to the Quakers to modern Syrians or Guatemalans. How do we learn about forced or voluntary migration in antiquity, with no newspapers or TV coverage to inform us? Can human displacement be detected archaeologically, if contemporary written records are not available?

In his article “Shedding Light on the Judean Refugees,” in the Spring 2020 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, James Riley Strange of the Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, focuses on a very specific ancient migration: Judeans fleeing their homes and resettling in Galilee as a result of the First Jewish Revolt and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

Photo by Gabi Laron
 Courtesy of the Shikhin Excavation Project
“Archaeologists studying Galilee normally do not have much cause to think about refugees arriving in the region following 70 C.E. This is because we have little archaeological evidence of the abandonment of Judean villages after the revolt,” says Strange, explaining why we never hear about Judean refugees in Galilee. If there are no signs of people leaving Judea in any considerable numbers, is there any archaeological evidence of Judean refugees arriving in Galilee? This is also problematic, because material culture and the underlying customs and religion of Judeans and Galileans in this period were virtually the same.

This fragment of a ring around the lamp’s fill hole shows a seven-branched menorah flanked by palms (lulavs) growing from the menorah’s base. This mold-made lamp is an example of the Darom type, which likely originated in Judea and might be an evidence for Judean refugees.

Read more here.

Artifacts of great antiquity (23,000+ years) have been found in Galilee at Ohalo II, an Upper Paleolithic encampment on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. At Ohalo II, archaeologists also found wooden objects on brush-hut floors. They include a bark plank, pencil-shaped specimens with longitudinal shavings that may have been decorative or symbolic, and an incised wooden object that is identical in size and incision pattern to a gazelle bone implement found in a grave.

Related reading: The Eighteenth Division of Priests in Nazareth; Early Christian Amulet Found in Galilee; The Significance of Galilee in Matthew's Gospel