Monday, August 29, 2016

The Sun and Moon as a Binary Set


God made two great lights--the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.  Genesis 1:16


Alice C. Linsley

The sun and the moon were considered a binary set among Abraham's ancestors. That means that the ancient Ha'biru (Hebrew) thought of the sun and the moon as entities that naturally belong together, as male and female belong together. The sun and the moon also were regarded as ruling over their separate by connected dominions of day and night.

Some peoples of the ancient world thought of the sun and the moon as the eyes of the Creator who dwelt "on high" or in the heavens. The sun was regarded as the Creator's right eye and the moon was the left eye. The right eye was said to be have better vision than the left eye.

The sun was associated with masculine virtues. This is because it is the stronger and the greater light (Genesis 1:16). It was believed that the sun's rays are like seeds that fall to earth and cause plants to grow. In other words, the sun was said to inseminate the earth.

The moon was associated with feminine virtues because it is the sun's companion, as the wife is to her husband. It is the smaller and weaker light in the sky. Because the moon affects water, tides, and body fluids in a repeating cycle there is a natural association of the moon with the periodicity of the female's menstrual cycle. Many ancient peoples associated pregnancy with the moon.The moon influences the female's monthly cycle which is why menstruation is called le moment de la lune ("the time of the moon") in French. The moon also stimulates female lactation.

The sun was the viewed as superior in size and strength to the moon. Likewise, the male rulers of ancient Kush and Egypt appeared with skin darkened by the Sun as a sign of masculine strength and authority.  However, their queens appeared in public with their skin covered in white powder (see image below).


Among Abraham's ancestors the sun was honored as the Creator's symbol or emblem. They conceived of God as the Great Chief who daily makes his circuit between the two wives dawn (eastern horizon) and dust (western horizon). This is why none of the rulers listed in Genesis placed their wives on an east-west axis, except for the Lamech who posed himself as God's equal. Bible scholar Theodore Gaster noted this belief. He explained that the names of Lamech's two wives, Ada and Tzillah, refer to dawn and dust (The Schocken Bible, Vol. 1, p. 28).

6 comments:

  1. In the post a comment section you ask people to stay on topic and to provide examples to support their point. My example is your post which I will put at the end of this. What examples do you have to support what you say? I do not see anything in your post that actually supports what you are saying. No peer reviewed articles, no ancient writings, no references for your readers to go and check what you are saying. As a student of the Bible, as well as someone who teaches in schools and expects academic methodologies, I must say that what I have read in your site troubles me. Would it be to much to ask that you provide examples, references, etc to support your point? or am I hoping for to much?

    " The sun and the moon were considered a binary set among Abraham's ancestors. That means that the ancient Ha'biru (Hebrew) thought of the sun and the moon as entities that naturally belong together, as male and female belong together. The sun and the moon also were regarded as ruling over their separate by connected dominions of day and night.

    Some peoples of the ancient world thought of the sun and the moon as the eyes of the Creator who dwelt "on high" or in the heavens. The sun was regarded as the Creator's right eye and the moon was the left eye. The right eye was said to be have better vision than the left eye.

    The sun was associated with masculine virtues. This is because it is the stronger and the greater light (Genesis 1:16). It was believed that the sun's rays are like seeds that fall to earth and cause plants to grow. In other words, the sun was said to inseminate the earth.

    The moon was associated with feminine virtues because it is the sun's companion, as the wife is to her husband. It is the smaller and weaker light in the sky. Because the moon affects water, tides, and body fluids in a repeating cycle there is a natural association of the moon with the periodicity of the female's menstrual cycle. Many ancient peoples associated pregnancy with the moon.The moon influences the female's monthly cycle which is why menstruation is called le moment de la lune ("the time of the moon") in French. The moon also stimulates female lactation.

    The sun was the viewed as superior in size and strength to the moon. Likewise, the male rulers of ancient Kush and Egypt appeared with skin darkened by the Sun as a sign of masculine strength and authority. However, their queens appeared in public with their skin covered in white powder (see image below). Among Abraham's ancestors the sun was honored as the Creator's symbol or emblem. They conceived of God as the Great Chief who daily makes his circuit between the two wives dawn (eastern horizon) and dust (western horizon). This is why none of the rulers listed in Genesis placed their wives on an east-west axis, except for the Lamech who posed himself as God's equal. Bible scholar Theodore Gaster noted this belief. He explained that the names of Lamech's two wives, Ada and Tzillah, refer to dawn and dust (The Schocken Bible, Vol. 1, p. 28)."

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    Replies
    1. Michael, "academic" sources are important, especially in the case of material written for students. That said, much of this is common knowledge among scholars. This article is a shorter version of longer articles on the same subject. I often link to those at the end of posts under Related Reading.

      Please be specific about what troubles you in this piece and I will refer you to sources of information.

      Delete
  2. Alice you aren't writing for "scholars", you are writing for general consumption. What is common knowledge to some is nonsense to others (I'm not trying to be insulting I just think you need to show your sources when you post material) and the lack of references from someone who say's they are an educator is what I am talking about.

    Instead of referring me to sources after the fact it would be helpful if you put references in your articles so people may be able to enter an educated discussion with you about your writings.

    As an example there is nothing in Genesis 1:16 to suggest the sun was masculine (but you reference that passage) so you must have got the idea from somewhere else (yet you do not reference this other source). So from an academic standpoint you are either putting something into Genesis 1:16 that isn't there or you are not providing where you get your ideas from. Because of this it is impossible to learn from your writings unless you expect your readers to take what you write as incontrovertible.

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  3. Michael,

    This blog is dedicated to an anthropological approach to the Bible. Those who follow the work already have a good background in this emerging field. You might want to explore what this approach involves.

    Genesis 1:6 speaks of the Sun as the greater light that rules the day. This implies masculine because the male of the species is anatomically larger than the female. In the ancient world objects commonly were perceived as reflecting male or female attributes. This is evident in many languages even today. For example, the Spanish word for ship is el barco (masculine), but the Spanish word for boat is la barca (feminine). A pond is el charco (masculine), but a puddle is la charca (feminine). The Spanish word for Sun is el sol (masculine) and the Spanish word for Moon is la luna (feminine).

    In terms of the biblical understanding of complementarity, the Sun and the Moon are not equals (dualism) because the Sun is the greater light and the Moon reflects the greater light (reflugence). This is the main distinction between the binary worldview of the Bible and the dualism of Asian religions.

    If you are seriously interested in this research, I encourage you to look at topics of interest to you using the Indices.

    http://biblicalanthropology.blogspot.com/2011/02/index-of-topics-at-biblical.html

    http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2014/04/index-of-topics-at-just-genesis.html

    Best wishes to you!

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  4. Alice, thank you for your response.

    I have studied Anthropology, and I am a student of the Bible (and always will be). I understand the anthropological approach and have taught it to students in my own teaching.

    I am unaware of any passage in the Hebrew Cannon where it says the sun is a male and the moon is a female. Hebrew language, which Genesis is written in, does not as far as I am aware make any such distinction. The Sun ruled the day and the Moon ruled the night, the Bible and Hebrew culture speaks against women ruling or holding positions of authority as such (although there were female judges). The Moon is a lesser light but it governs the night, can you provide a verse that says it was female?

    Thank you for the links. I am seriously interested in this research, as I am sure you are now aware, and that is why I made a request for you to provide references in your writings. Doing this will help me, and others, to make up our own minds.

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  5. Michael,

    I'm glad to have you as a reader of Biblical Anthropology. I hope this site will be helpful and interesting.

    You asked for a passage in the Hebrew Canon that indicates the masculine gender for the Sun. Consider this:

    In the book of Genesis the Sun - Shemesh - is masculine, as in Genesis 19:23. A much later Hebrew word for the Sun is Chammah, and this is feminine. It is clear that the Sun was regarded as having masculine attributes among Abraham and his ancestors.The binary worldview of Genesis comes from them and is older than the Hebrew language.

    Abraham’s ancestors were Nilotic peoples who regarded the Sun as the symbol of the Creator. Both the Creator and the Sun were called Ra, and Ra is said to be the "Father" of Horus. The masculine designation is emphatic.

    The masculine terminology is also apparent in Psalm 19:4-6:

    …the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

    The ancient Sumerians were culturally like the cattle-herding, Proto-Saharan Nilotes. In the Sumerian language, the word for the Sun was Utu and he is called a “son” of Nanna and Ningal.

    You asked me to provide a verse that says that the Moon had a feminine gender. Suffice it to say that in a "binary set" such as the Sun and Moon, when one entity in the set is masculine, its complement is feminine.

    I don't quote verses, as do Biblicists. It is counter-productive when it comes to establishing an accurate anthropological picture. For example, consider these remarks by St. Paul. In 1 Tim. 2:11,12 he says, "A woman must learn in quietness and full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; she is to remain quiet." In 1 Corinthians 14:34, Paul writes, "women are to be silent in the churches. They are not permitted to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. Yet in addressing the proper attire of women in the church, Paul says that when a woman prophesies she is to do so with her head covered (1 Cor. 11:5). Which of these would be quoted by those who espouse the woman's rights?

    Consider another example. Deuteronomy 23:1 states "No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD." Yet in Isaiah 56:4,5 we read "For thus says the LORD, 'To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.'" Those who seek to exclude would quote the passage from Deuteronomy and ignore that Isaiah passage. The serious Bible student always takes into consideration the larger picture.

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Your comments are welcome. Please stay on topic and provide examples to support your point.