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

Friday, March 13, 2020

Who Was Boaz?

Alice C. Linsley

Boaz was a wealthy Hebrew nobleman of Bethlehem. He was married, owned property, deliberated at the town gate, and took Ruth as his second wife.

If Boaz married according to the pattern of his Horim, he would have had two wives. Other Hebrew rulers with two wives include Lamech, Terah, Abraham, Esau, Jacob, Amram, Moses, Elkanah (Samuel's father), Ashur (1 Chronicles 4:5), Mered (1 Chronicles 4); Joash (2 Chronicles 24:1–3), Jerahmeel (1 Chronicles 2:26), and Shaharaim of Moab (1 Chronicles 8:8). Caleb fathered children by his wives Azubah and Jerioth.

Obed was the first born son of Boaz and Ruth. He is the grandfather of David. In 1 Chronicles 26:4 some of the Temple doorkeepers are designated "sons of Obed-Edom", indicating a connection between Bethlehem and Edom. For three months the Ark of the Covenant rested in David’s hometown of Bethlehem in the house of Obed-Edom and was guarded by Jaar of Bethlehem, a weaver.

Ruth was from Moab. Since the Hebrew rulers only married within their Hebrew clans and there were Hebrew ruler-priests in Moab, it is very likely that Ruth and Boaz were blood relatives. Both were descendants of Terah. Boaz's ancestry is traced from Hezron, Ram, and his father Salma/Salmon (Ruth 4; 1 Chronicles 2). Ruth's ancestry is traced from Terah, Haran, and Lot, the father of Moab, and probably Shaharaim. Shaharaim was a Horite Hebrew priest living in Moab.

Ruth did not convert to Judaism, because Judaism did not exist at the time of Boaz and Ruth.

Boaz is likely derived from the Akkadian Bu-Uz-Kir which means “being of the land belonging to Uz.” The words bo, ba or bu are affixes in many Afroasiatic languages. For example, BoSede in Yoruba means “Born on Sunday” or literally “Being of Sunday.” Among the Fula the prefix ba designates the person’s point of origin or homeland.

The clan was named for Uz, the grandson of Seir the Horite Hebrew ruler of Edom (See diagram below.) Seir and Uz are named in Genesis 36. Genesis 36:31 explains that these ruled in Edom before there was ever a king in Israel. This is significant because it suggests that the Hebrew clans of Edom held land in Bethlehem.

Related reading: The Edomites and the Color Red; Temple Guilds; The Extent of Edomite Territory; The Ark Rested in Bethlehem

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Moses and the "Kushite" Bride

Alice C. Linsley

If Moses married according to the pattern of his Horim, he would have had two wives. Other Hebrew rulers with two wives include Lamech, Terah, Abraham, Esau, Jacob, Amram, Elkanah (Samuel's father), Ashur (1 Chron. 4:5), Mered (1 Chron. 4); Joash (2 Chron. 24:1–3), and Shaharaim of Moab (1 Chron. 8:8). Caleb fathered children by his wives Azubah and Jerioth (1 Chron. 2:18).

Moses's first wife would have been a half-sister, a daughter of Amram and Ishara. She is described as his "Kushite" bride in Numbers 12:1. One of her brothers would have been Korah the Younger who defied Moses's authority in the wilderness. It seems probable that this wife remained in Egypt with Amram and Ishara because we have very little information about her. In Exodus, the focus shifts to Zipporah, Moses's Midianite cousin.

Ishara is a Hittite word meaning "promise" or "binding oath." The Hittites are related to Heth of Kiriath Arba (Hebron) where Sarah lived.

In 1 Chronicles 23:18, Ishara is called Ishar, and she is named as a chief, as is the woman Anah in Genesis 36. (See diagram below.)

Genesis 36 mentions that Esau the Elder also married a Hittite woman. Her name is Adah, the daughter of Elon.

1 Chronicles 23:18 says that Shelomith was Ishara's first son. The name is problematic because there are eight people by that name in the Old Testament, 5 men and 3 females.

Shulamis (שולמית) or Shulamit is the feminine form of the Hebrew name Solomon, and the name appears in the Song of Songs where she is described as "dark as the tents of Kedar."

The names Shelomith and Shulamit share the same consonants: Sh-l-m-t. In the ancient Akkadian language, shal means rule or reign, and mit refers to a mace or the dead. The Shelomith born to Amram and Ishara is said to be a son and his name identifies him as a member of a ruling family. It is possible that they also had a daughter by that name. Perhaps that daughter was Moses's Kushite bride. That would explain the dispute that arose over Moses's first wife who was connected to the ruling house in Egypt. This marriage likely was viewed as compromising Moses's authority among the departing Hebrews.

Archaeologists have found an 8th century BC seal (bulla) with that name. It is clearly associated with ancient Egypt. The seal has a sphinx with a human face. On the head of the human is the double crown of Egypt, indicating that this ruler has united the peoples of the Upper and Lower Nile. In the foreground is the ankh, the symbol of life and immortality. (See Hennie J. Marsman's book Women in Ugarit and Israel, page 658.)

Saturday, March 7, 2020

No More Comments Here

As my work load has become heavier it has become impossible to moderate and respond to comments at my 7 blogs. Therefore, I encourage readers to join the international Facebook group The Bible and Anthropology where you are welcome to ask questions, post comments, critique material, and pursue topics of interest.

I apologize if you have not had a comment appear here. There is a large backlog because the Facebook Forum takes more time than I anticipated with a large and enthusiastic membership.

After this week, comments will be closed at this blog.

I am extremely grateful for you and hope you will continue to read the posts at Biblical Anthropology.

Alice C. Linsley

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Temple Guilds

Alice C. Linsley

Regional religious, social, and economic activities revolved around temples in the ancient world. The temple guilds were clan-based and the assignment of their work was hereditary. The hereditary crafts are evident in the Mishnah concerning the clans of Temple craftsmen (Shek. 5:1; Yoma 3:11; 38a).

The Hebrew ruler-priest caste had guilds for craft specialization. Max Weber believed the origin of the caste system was guilds and clans.

In Jerusalem, the temple guilds were not restricted to the Levites. Descendants of Judah and Caleb, for example, played a major role in the daily operations of the Temple.  However, all guild members were of Hebrew ethnicity, that is, they were members of the Hebrew priest caste. That is why David's sons served in the Temple and are called "priests" in 2 Samuel 8:18.

Likewise, Seraiah, of the clan of Judah, is described as the "founder of the Valley of Craftsmen" or the founder of Ge Harashim in 1 Chronicles 4:14. This valley is associated with Ono, Lod, and Hadid in Nehemiah 11:35, all of which were located northwest of Jerusalem in Ephraim. There is a further connection to one of the most famous temples of the ancient world, the temple at biblical On (Ono or Iunu) on the Nile. Joseph married a daughter of the high priest of On (Gen. 41:45).

The temple guilds were not primarily commercial guilds. Their foremost responsibility was to provide for the material needs of the temple and the residents of the temple complex. The temple guilds did business with the merchants of incense, precious stones, and precious metals. They also received offerings of grain, wine and oil from regional farmers.

Some temple guild members served more than one purpose. Asaph is an example. He was a musician and also a prophet. Priests, shamans, and Celtic bards commonly sang prophesy in ecstatic states.

There were ranks within the guilds. Exodus 31 and 36-39 speak of a master craftsman named Bezalel who was chief over all the craftsmen responsible for constructing the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle and its furnishings, the priests' vestments, and the sacred vessels.

Commercial guilds are found today in Africa, India, and the Middle East. The "perfumers" who provided incense for use in the Temple were probably members of commercial guilds.

In Niger, the craft of metal work is the right of the Inadan and it is usually done away from prying eyes. The photo (right) shows an Inadan metal worker launching a mock attack outside the home of a Taureg who was believed to have undermined the metal worker's specialized role. In the history of India serious penalties were attached to the violation of guilds' rights.

Temple guilds are less common today. They appear to have declined after the Axial Age, the last period to see royal patronage of regional temples with sacrificing priests.

Unlike guilds of the Middle Ages where a man could apprentice to learn a trade, members of the ancient guilds did the work of their ancestors. Though this created a static social hierarchy, it also allowed for job security, promoted clan pride and familial loyalty, and encouraged cooperation between the guilds.

What follows is a partial list of the Temple guilds of the biblical Hebrew.

Carpentry was a prized craft among the Hebrew ruler-priests. Bezaleel was a carpenter. He was a descendant of Hezron and Caleb, and the grandson of Hur. He was a contemporary of Salma, the father of Boaz who married Ruth.

Bezaleel was the chief architect of the tabernacle, its furnishings, the sacred vessels, and the priests' vestments. Jesus did the work of a carpenter as that was the guild of Joseph of Nazareth and some men of the 18th division of priests.

These Hebrew men are sometimes called "porters" (2 Chron. 23:4) or "keepers of the threshold" of the temple (2 Sam 18:26; 2 Ki 7:10,11). In 1 Chronicles 26:4 some doorkeepers are designated "sons of Obed-Edom". Psalm 84:10 speaks of the preference to be a "doorkeeper in the house of the Lord" rather than to "dwell in the tents of the wicked." This suggests that the doorkeeper guild was ranked low in the caste hierarchy. Besides opening and closing the doors, they were responsible for the care of the sacred vessels (2 Ki 12:9; 22:4; 23:4). Their clan chiefs drew lots for which gates they would guard.

Metal Workers
Metal work was a specialized craft in which the Horite Hebrew were highly skilled. Aaron fashioned the golden calf. Moses fashioned the bronze serpent. The metal-working temple guild was responsible for the fabrication of the bronze basin, and sacred vessels containing wine and anointing oil.

Later the priest guild of metal workers minted the coins that were used exclusively in the Temple compound.

Asaph was a singer and seer in David’s court. He was the son of Berachiah, the son of Shimea (variant spelling: Shimei). Asaph was the chief of his guild (1 Chron 16:5). The sons of Asaph are musicians, one of the temple guilds. In Ezra 2:41 and Neh 7:44, the temple singers are referred to as the “sons of Asaph.” Psalms 50 and 73-83 are introduced with the phrase le’asaf  (of Asaph) in the superscription.

Asaph and his brothers are appointed to sing the songs of thanksgiving to the Lord (1Chr 16:4-7), and to sound bronze cymbals, and the priests Benaiah and Jahaziel were to blow trumpets.

The description of Asaph as a seer (2 Chr 29:30) suggests a cross-over to another line of work: that of the prophet or moreh. 

Death masks found in Israel.
Potters made jars of clay to hold water for ritual purification and for washing the blood down the sluices from the altar of sacrifice. It is likely that the clay ancestor figurines called "teraphim" were made by temple potters for use in the homes of the Temple staff.  The Temple potters formed some ossuaries of clay slabs, though the ossuaries of the temple elite were made of limestone.

Stone Masons
These Hebrew men created stone pillars for the temple, excavated rock tombs for the priests, carved stone ossuary boxes for secondary burial, and directed mining operations. It appears that Joseph of Arimathea was in this guild.

It is likely that in David's time and before, the stone masons carved death masks (as shown above) which were used in burial rites. The hair of the deceased was woven through the holes around the top of the mask.

The members of this guild were called "tahash" and they tanned the hides of animals that were flayed in preparation for the Temple sacrifices. The leather was used to make belts, sandals, wine sacks, and tents. Simple garments were sewn from hides. Skins were also used for military dress.

One of Abraham's nephews was Tahash (Gen. 22:24). A tanner called Simon is mentioned in Acts 10:6. Paul, Aquila and Priscilla were of the tahash guild (Acts 18:3). The tanners lived toward the outskirts of Jerusalem due to the odor caused by the tanning processes.

    This painting shows the Virgin Mary spinning purple thread.

The production of garments for the Temple households involved a complex process. The most common materials used were wool and linen. The raw material was cleaned and some was dyed. It then was spun into threads on a spindle. Spinning was done by mainly by women at home (cf. Prov. 41:19) and by Temple virgins.

There is a connection between the Virgin Mary and spinning of purple thread in chapter 9 of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. Mary and the other virgins are reported as spinning thread in the Temple compound. Carrying a pitcher, Mary went out to a fountain where the angel announced to her, "Blessed art thou, Mary; for in thy womb thou hast prepared an habitation for the Lord." The next day the angel appeared to her again while she is spinning.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Who were the Nabataeans?

Alice C. Linsley

The term "Nabataean" refers to the empire and city-building royal house of Idumea. Idumea is a Greek word meaning "Land of Red People" and is another reference to ancient Edom. According to Josephus, Idumea extended in antiquity from Hebron (where Sarah resided) to Beersheba (where Keturah resided). This is the extent of Abraham's territory. The map shows Abraham's territory extending between the settlements of his two wives in Hebron and Beersheba.

Some have speculated that the Magi were Nabataeans. This is not an unreasonable thesis (though the biblical text says the Magi came from the east, not the south.) The rulers of Idumea were heirs to a body of astronomical knowledge and a Messianic expectation that was common to the people of Idumea (ancient Edom) and Judah. Ancient Edom once included what is today a large section of Judah. 

The antiquity and prestige of the Edomite rulers is expressed in Jeremiah's reference to Edom and Teman of Edom as ancient seats of wisdom (Jeremiah 49:7). Genesis 36 explains, "These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the children of Israel."

The Nabataeans are the heirs of that wisdom. They are mentioned in historical records such as Diodorus Siculus' Bibliotheca (book 19), dating to 312 BC, and in an Egyptian papyrus dating to 259 BC. They are mistakenly classified as Arabs. Jan Retso's excellent paper on Nabataean origins indicates that it is misleading to apply the label "Arabs" to the Nabataeans. Retso observes that in 1 Maccabees 5 (v. 25) the Nabataeans were allied with Judas Maccabees while the Arabs are named as his enemies (v. 39).

The Nabataean capital of Petra reflects the pillared architecture of the Horite shrines of the Nile, and the first ruler of Petra, Obodas, took his name from the Edo/Edomite name for ruler which is Oba.

According to the linguist Helene Longpre, Nabataean Aramaic most closely correspond to Meroitic or Old Nubian. (See H. Longpre, "Investigation of the Ancient Meroitic Writing System", Rhode Island College, 1999.)