Thursday, November 4, 2021

Inquiry Into the Development of Western Civilization

Alice C. Linsley, M. Div, D. Litt (honoris causa)

Recently, I was asked to suggest an avenue of inquiry that would best explain the development of western civilization. Most people point to the Romans and classical Latin culture for an answer to that question. However, there are always antecedents, and pursuing antecedents is very much the work of Biblical Anthropology.

The Roman Empire was influenced by Greek culture and philosophy. 

Greek culture and philosophy was enamored of and influenced by ancient Egyptian culture and religion. (Plato studied for 13 years under a Nilotic priest.) 

5150-year ceremonial Narmer Palette


The Upper Nile Valley and the Lower Nile Valley were united for the first time by Narmer at the beginning of the First Dynastic Period (c. 3150 - 2613 BC). Narmer's Palette was discovered among a cache of sacred implements buried within a Horite temple at Hierakonpolis, also called Nekhen on the Nile. The temple was a large structure, fronted by huge cedar pillars, and it became the prototype for temple architecture for many millennia.

Nekhen is called the Falcon City and the falcon was the totem of Horus, the son of Ra. Nekhen was a very prestigious shrine city with votive offerings ten times larger than the normal mace heads and bowls found elsewhere. Other Horite shrines or "mounds" are mentioned in the Pyramid Texts (2400-200 BC). The Horite and the Sethite priests served the same God and the same king, but maintained separate mounds. Their relationship is that of a moiety. The term "moiety" refers to one people organized into two ritual groups.

We know from the study of Horite and Sethite writings on the walls of royal tombs that they expected a righteous king to rise from the dead and lead his people to immortality. They also believed in God Father and God Son. Among the Nilotic Horites, God father was called Ra (from the ancient Egyptian word Re, meaning "father") and the son was called Horus (from the ancient Egyptian HR, meaning Most High One). Among the Mesopotamian Horites, God father was called Ani and the son was called Enki. The Code of Ani is a negatively worded moral code, like the Ten Commandments. It dates to c. 2500 BC.

In my view, we reasonably can point to the early Horites as the source of the Faith that later became established as the Christian foundations of Western civilization.

Related reading: The Shrine City of Nekhen; Pre-dynastic Tomb Discovered at Nekhen; Early Resurrection Texts; The Ra-Horus-Hathor Narrative; Plato's Debt to Ancient Egypt; Biblical Anthropology and Antecedents

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Male Priesthood Has Deep Roots


Alice C. Linsley

Every tribal society studied by anthropologists regards blood as having power. This "primitive" belief is evident in Genesis 4:10. Shed blood was regarded as potentially dangerous or potentially curative. There were rituals appropriate for women after childbirth and for hunters after the kill. The blood of those killed in combat was to be washed off as soon as possible, and the blood guilt of warriors was to be addressed. Melchizedek, Priest of the Most High God, ministered to Abraham after combat, and the ceremony involved bread and wine (Gen. 14).

Based on evidence of 100,000+ years of red ochre burial, a symbolic blood covering, it is apparent that blood was linked to the hope for life after death, or immortality.

Very early in human history the offices of shaman and priest emerged to address blood anxiety and blood guilt. These are the earliest known religious offices, and both serve as mediators between the natural and supernatural. However, their practices are very different, in that priests are forbidden to engage spirits. 

The blood shed in war and hunting was not taken lightly by early populations. Nor was the blood shed by women in childbirth and their monthly cycle. All blood was to be accounted for by rituals, prayers, and offerings. This was the work of the priest and shaman. 

There were women shamans, but the taboo about mixing male-female bloods or having both present at the same place (as at the altar) meant that there were never any women priests. The so-called "priestesses" of the ancient world were shamans, not sacrificing priests. They served in temples as oracles who delivered messages in trance states, which is characteristic of shamans, not priests.

When early man took life in the hunt, the spiritual leader offered prayers and performed rituals to protect the community from blood guilt. The blood of the hunted animals was accounted for according to sacred law. Shamans rarely offer blood sacrifice. However, as early as 7000 years ago, priests at Catal Huyuk sacrificed animals, and 6000 years Nilotic priests offered blood sacrifice for the most grave offenses. 

Anthropological study of the origins of the priesthood indicate that the male priest stands as a symbol of prayer, sacrifice to cover blood guilt, and sacred law. This observed and documented reality stands behind the Church’s tradition of the male priesthood. It is a central feature of the received Messianic Tradition, and the Church alone has the honor of preserving it.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Reading Anthropology

Alice C. Linsley

I have been asked to recommend a textbook for those interested in the study of Anthropology or for beginning teachers of Anthropology.

It has been over 7 years since I taught Anthropology in the classroom. At the moment, my teaching is done through blogs such as this one, and via the international Facebook group The Bible and Anthropology

For more advanced students I prefer to use monographs by important anthropologists: Levi-Strauss, Ruth Benedict, Margaret Meade, Bronisław Malinowski, Colin Turnbull, Radcliff-Brown, Elsie Clews Parsons, May Edel, Franz Boas, etc., but beginning students need an introductory text. I recommend this one: Anthropology (14th Edition) by Carol R.; Ember, Melvin R.; Peregrine, Peter N Ember

ISBN 13: 9780205957187
ISBN 10: 0205957188

I go to used book stores to buy older textbooks because they have a less ideological slant (everything is politicized these days). I especially like Ralph L. Beals and Harry Hoijer, An Introduction to Anthropology (MacMillian), an oldie, but goodie. 

An excellent introduction for Christian students is Stephen Grunlan and Marvin Mayers, Cultural Anthropology: A Christian Perspective, with a foreword by the late Eugene A. Nida. 

Some of my favorite books are not well known. These include The Skyland of the Philippines by Laurence Lee Wilson; Home to India by Santha Rama Rau; Blind White Fish of Persia by Anthony Smith; Early Man: Prehistory and the Civilizations of the Ancient Near East by Chester G. Starr; The Symbolic Role of Animals in Archaeology edited by Kathleen Ryan and Pam J. Crabtree and published by Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology, the University of Pennsylvania.

E.L. Schusky (1931-2019)

Ernest L. Schusky's Manual For Kinship Analysis is very important for anyone learning about kinship patterns. Kinship analysis is an essential skill for anyone working in the field of Biblical Anthropology. It enables the researcher to discover the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the early Hebrew ruler-priests. 

Related reading: Glossary of Anthropological Terms; Understanding the Science of Biblical Anthropology; Something Older; The Social Structure of the Biblical Hebrew

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Signs Given That We Might Believe


An angelic being holds the Shen sign representing eternal life (immortality) over the deceased king.

Alice C. Linsley

Jesus said, "If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me. But if I am doing them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works themselves, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father.”

The meaning of Jesus' words were clear to the Jews. Paul explains, "Jews demand signs" (1 Cor. 1:22). Jesus said, “Unless you people see signs and wonders you will not believe.” (John 4:48) Jesus tells them to consider the signs, and the religious leaders tried to seize Him again. (John 10:38)

According to John, this is the second time they attempted to seize Jesus. The first time is described in John 7:30-31 - "So they tried to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. Many in the crowd, however, believed in Him and said, 'When the Christ comes, will He perform more signs than this man?"

John highlights seven signs to testify that Jesus is the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah. However, as John himself admits there were many more signs. He explains, "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."

Messiah's identity would be confirmed by multiple signs, including his miraculous conception by divine overshadowing; his mastery over wind and waves, his power to heal, and his third-day resurrection. The early Hebrew expectation that the Righteous Son would not remain in the grave is expressed in Psalm 16:10: "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."

Signs anticipated by Jesus' Hebrew ancestors

There are many more signs to be considered in light of the ancient expectations of Jesus' Hebrew ancestors. The Horite and Sethite Hebrew were devotees of Horus, the son of the High God. They dispersed widely in the service of high kings and kingdom builders, such as Nimrod.

They are the earliest known believers in Messiah, who they expected to be born of a temple-dedicated virgin of their rule-priest caste. The Messiah was to be born miraculously of "The Woman" (Gen. 3:15) who would conceive by divine overshadowing. This is depicted in ancient images of Hathor, the mother of Horus. The expectation is fulfilled in the Virgin Mary who conceived when overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. 

When the Virgin Mary asked how she was to become the bearer of God the Son, the angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)

Hathor, the mother of Horus, conceived by divine overshadowing. 
Among the Horite Hebrew the sun was the emblem or symbol of the High God.

The sign of the fallen Seed

Genesis 3:15 speaks of the son born to the Woman as the "Seed" of God. In John 12:24, Jesus identifies himself as that Seed. He tells his disciples that he is going to Jerusalem to die and when they object, he explains: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." The purpose of a seed is to die and be buried in the ground. Unless this happens, it cannot bring forth life.

The sign of a trampled serpent
According to Genesis 3:15, the "Seed" born to the woman was expected to crush the head of the serpent. This is expressed in Psalm 91:13 - "You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent." However, the expectation is much older than Psalm 91. It was expressed about 1000 years earlier in Utterance 388 of the Pyramid Texts. "Horus has shattered (tbb, crushed) the mouth of the serpent with the sole of his foot (tbw)".

This widespread motif is very ancient. It is found in Vedic literature also.
"The Ancient Man danced on the serpent, who still spewed poison from his eyes and hissed loudly in his anger, and he trampled down with his feet whatever head the serpent raised, subduing him calmly as if he were being worshipped with flowers. Kaliya, his umbrella of hoods shattered by the gay dance of death, his limbs broken, vomiting blood copiously from his mouths, remembered the Guru of all who move and are still, the Ancient Man, Narayana, and he surrendered to him in his heart." (Srimad Bhagavatam 10:6)

The sign of his descent to Sheol

One of the signs concerning Messiah is mentioned in the Apostles' Creed. The Creed speaks of Him descending to the place of the dead. In the Septuagint, the Greek term "ᾅδης" (Hades) is used for the Hebrew "שׁאול" (Sheol). The English Creed has the word "hell", but Hell and Sheol are not equivalent terms. Sheol is from the ancient Egyptian word Sheut (šwt), meaning place of shadows.

The Egyptians believed that something of the dead person continues as a shadow beyond death. Small figurines called "Shabti" were painted black and placed in the graves to portray the continued existence of the deceased in shadow. Each figurine was inscribed with a prayer.
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."

In the story of Lazarus and the poor man, Luke describes a fixed gulf that separates the living from the dead. None can cross over except the one who originally set that boundary. In ancient Hebrew thought, Horus, the son of God, was believed to be the fixer of boundaries. In Greek philosophy, horos refers to the boundaries of an area, or a landmark, or a term. The HR roots appears in the Indo-European word for year, yeHr. Many words related to boundaries are related to the HR root: horologion, hour, horotely, horizon, etc. In some ancient texts, Horus is called the "Lord of the Two Horizons" (East and West).

The sign of the wind and waves

Horus is also said to be the Lord over wind and water, which is highlighted in the story of Jesus calming the wind and waves in John 6:15-25. During a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee, the veteran fishermen were terrified and cried out to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" The Markan account states that: He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

Bodily resurrection as the greatest sign

Among Jesus' ancestors, the ruler's resurrection was essential for the salvation of his people. The people were to follow their risen ruler from this world to the next. For the Hebrew, salvation was never private or individual. Heavenly recognition of a people depended on the righteousness of their ruler-priest, and the perfectly righteous ruler-priest would be known by his resurrection. He alone would have the power to deliver his people to the Father.

Great care was taken in the burial of these ruler-priests. The prayers that were offered at the tombs are evidence that the people 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).

When Jesus refers to the third-day resurrection as a proof of Messiah's identity, he mentions that this is written. Jesus said, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day..." (Luke 24:46) However, this is not found in the canonical texts. It appears that Jesus was referring to a passage from 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 sign of descent and ascent  

In the volumes mentioned above, 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." He is to "betake himself to the Mansion of Horus which is in the firmament" (Pyramid Texts, Utterance 539).

Utterance 214 mentions the "Imperishable Stars" that are connected to ascent to heaven after resurrection. 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.)

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." (Eph. 4:10)

Sign of the Son's unique relationship to the Father

The Son of God was believed to have a unique relationship with the Father. ‘Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God.’” (Septuagint, Psalm 40:6-8)

The Father-Son relationship is expressed in the son's recognition of his Father in others. Horus was said to recognize his father in the deceased king. "Horus is a soul and he recognizes his Father in you..." (Pyramid Texts, Utterance 423)

In John 14, Jesus explains to Phillip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."

Sign of the Son's eternal existence

Christians believe that the Son has been eternally present with the Father. He is one with the Ancient of Days (Atik Yomin).
"I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire." (Daniel 7:9)
Daniel 7:13-14 continues:

“I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.

And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:14 parallels Psalm 145:13: "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations."

Sign of the Son's victory over His Father's enemies 

Psalm 110, recognized as a Messianic reference, says: The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

Messianic passages such as this have parallels in ancient Horite Hebrew texts. Consider how Horus, the archetype of Christ, describes himself in the Coffin texts (Passage 148):

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’. 

Jesus subdues the Father's enemies so that God's children might live and prosper. This is expressed in Psalm 2:12: "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."

Sign of the Lamb-to-Ram

In the Horite Hebrew tradition, Horus rises with the sun as the lamb and goes as a ram to the place of rest with the setting of the sun. This belief reflects the solar symbolism of the Proto-Gospel. Horus, the son of the High God, was shown riding with the Father on the celestial Sun boat. The boat of the morning hours was called Mandjet and the boat of the evening hours was called Mesektet. While Horus was on the Mandjet, he is depicted as a lamb. While on the Mesektet, he has the head of a ram. 

This belief is illustrated in the story of the binding of Isaac. As they ascended Mount Moriah, Isaac asked his father "where is the lamb" for the sacrifice? Abraham replied that God would provide the lamb, but God provided a ram instead.

Horus was called the Lamb in his weaker (kenotic) state, and he was called the Ram in his glorified state. Both are associated with the death and resurrection symbolism of the Horite Hebrew. This is likely what Jesus meant when he said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad." (John 8:56)

Both Paul and James explain justification in connection to this story. James 2:21 says, "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?"

When John pointed to Jesus and called Him the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world", he identified Him as the fulfillment of the sign. John writes: "Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." (I John 5:5) 

Who passes from fleshly weakness through death to divine strength? Only those who are in the Lamb who has become the Ram.

The sign of the Ram is the resurrected strength promised to those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Judaism rejects the early Hebrew belief in the Son of God. The belief in God Father and God Son is what sets Christianity and Judaism apart

Friday, August 20, 2021

Concubinage Among the Hebrew


Alice C. Linsley

In ancient times and still today, concubines serve kings and emperors. The book of Esther is the story of a young Jewish woman who became a concubine in the palace of a Persian king.

The Bible mentions numerous concubines, including the mother of King Abimelech, the son of Gideon by his concubine. David had concubines, and his son Solomon is said to have had 300 concubines. King Saul had at least one concubine. Her name was Rizpah (II Sam. 3:7).

Concubines did not have the same social status as wives. However, many concubines of high social status found additional recognition by serving royal wives. This appears to be the case with Hagar and Masek, Abraham’s concubines. Hagar served Sarah, and Masek probably served Keturah, Abraham's second wife. Hagar was the mother of Ishmael and Masek was the mother of Eliezer. Had Sarah remained without a son, the rightful heir to Abraham’s throne would have been Eliezer (Gen. 15). The Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) clearly states that he was a son of Abraham by Masek, but this is not found in the Masoretic text.

Likewise, Jacob’s concubines Zilpah and Bilhah served his wives. Zilpah served Leah and was the mother of Gad and Asher (Gen. 30). Bilhah served Rachel and was the mother of Dan and Naphtali (Gen. 29). If the arrangements for the sons of Hagar and Masek is like that of the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, Ishmael and Eliezer received land settlements, as did Jacob's sons by his concubines. Both Ishmael and Jacob became the heads of twelve-clan confederations.

Ishmael's land settlement appears to have been near Paran on the way to Egypt. The sons of Ishmael were Nebajoth, Kadar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. "These were the sons of Ishmael and these were their names, by their towns and settlements…" (Gen. 25:12-16).

According to Horite/Hurrian law, when the principal wife was unable to produce an heir, she could give her handmaid to her husband to produce an heir. This is what Sarah hoped to achieve when she gave Hagar to Abraham (Gen. 16:1-4). This practice appears to have been the exception. Usually, the sons of concubines received grants and were sent away from the territory of the ruler's heir.

Concubines who were handmaids of royal wives resided in the settlements of the women they served. When Sarah became jealous of Hagar, whose son Ishmael was favored by Abraham, she demanded that Hagar be sent away (Gen. 21:10-12).

Apparently, dissatisfied concubines could return to their father’s house. Judges 19:1-3 reports that a priest’s concubine left him and returned to her father’s house in Bethlehem.

Related reading: Sent-Away Sons, Who Was Eliezer?; Abraham's Two Concubines

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Shrines, Temples, and Synagogues

Foundation stones of Baalbek temple in Lebanon. 

Alice C. Linsley

The antecedents of regular corporate worship such as Sabbath day gatherings are shrouded in the mists of antiquity. 

The earliest artifacts related to worship indicate that humans associated the One deserving of worship with the sky, the Sun, and fertility. The chief or head of the family was responsible for the spiritual life of his family and clan, as well as for their survival. Worship was not a formal practice for early humans, but it was expressed in sacred rituals performed inside rock shelters and in open spaces perceived to be holy ground.

In early sedentary communities, worship was conducted in the home. Sacred objects rested on the hearth with relics of ancestors. Later images of a goddess of domesticity appeared: Hestia, Vesta, and Bastet. In the villages, religious ceremonies were also conducted in a centrally-located hut where the chief and his elders gathered.

Figure wearing leopard skin, perhaps a priest, performs ritual at Çatal höyük (7000 BC).

The first temples appeared between 12,000 and 3000 BC. However, people rarely went to the temples in ancient times. These were the precincts of rulers and priests. The average person did not routinely attend worship in these templesWhen a commoner went to the temple, it was to seek guidance and/or healing from the priests who served as mediators between the High God and the community. Some people would go up to the High Places to celebrate important festivals and feasts. The feasts were established and upheld by the king and his royal priests.

Solemn fasts were also declared by the king's royal priests. Fasts were declared for the death of a king, member of the king's family, or a high royal official. Fasting was also an act of contrition. The ancient Egyptians and Babylonians fasted as a form of penance, and to deflect what they considered to be divine punishment. Famine, impending war, and natural disasters were regarded as signs of God's wrath. 

Jonah 3 describes a time when the Assyrians were covered with sackcloth, weeping, fasting, and praying to God for forgiveness. Joel 1:13-15 provides another example: "Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God, because the grain and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast; proclaim a solemn assembly! Gather the elders and all the residents of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Alas for the day! For the Day of the LORD is near, and it will come as destruction from the Almighty..."

A distinction must be made between shrines, temples, and synagogues. Shrines were local gathering places usually near wells, rivers or lakes, or in sacred groves. They were not formal places of worship like temples. Shrines were usually under the protection of a local chief and tended by a holy man, priest, or shaman. They were places of contemplation, veneration of ancestors, and where one went to seek guidance. Often the holy man or woman could be found sitting under a sacred tree. This practice is extremely ancient and predates the time of Abraham. 

Temples were built by high kings and were under their protection. These were places of worship of the High God whose name was associated with the king's realm. Royal priests (ruler-priests) served at the temples. They were organized into orders or guilds: lectors, musicians, guards, prophets/seers, sacrificing priests, physicians, purification priests, etc. 

Commoners did not attend weekly worship at shrines and temples. Weekly attendance by the average citizen began in the synagogues, and the worship of liturgical churches is patterned on the synagogue: Scripture readings, prayers, and homilies. There is no consensus as to when the synagogue emerged. The oldest dated evidence of a synagogue is from the third century BCE, but some scholars think that the synagogue developed after the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 586 BCE.

The synagogue drew local people for worship, prayer, religious instruction, and guidance. Apparently, healing took place in the synagogues also, but the astonishment and resentments roused by Jesus  healing in the synagogue suggest that it was not a common occurrence. 

Some citizens of the town were more active in the life of the synagogue than others. The average person's life was consumed with daily tasks such as plowing, cultivating, harvesting, tending livestock, repairing fences, preparing meals, doing laundry, etc. Holy days (holidays) provided a break from the daily routines and a period of rest (sabbath). Prayer was woven into the fabric of the day, offered at family meals, and when possible, at the local synagogue.

Synagogues were found wherever the Jews had dispersed. There were synagogues in Alexandria, Sardis, and Galilee. Galilee has one of the highest concentrations of ancient synagogues, with at least 50 having been identified by archaeologists. Acts 6:9 speaks of the “Synagogue of the Freedmen,” composed of Jews from Cyrene, North African, Cilicia and Asia. Acts 17:2 speaks of how upon arriving in a new town, Paul went first to the synagogue “as was his custom”. 

The synagogue in ancient Capernaum was located in the center of the village. It was built of white limestone ashlar stones, and is known as the 'White' Synagogue. All four gospels report that Jesus often attended the synagogue there. Matthew 4:13 describes Jesus settling in Capernaum. Mark 1:21-28 describes Jesus teaching and healing in the Capernaum synagogue. Luke 4:16-37 describes Jesus teaching regularly in the synagogue.

The synagogues were supported by local nobles, some of whom were Roman officials. Various rulers of the synagogues are mentioned in the Bible. Among them are Jairus (Mark 5:22-43; Matt 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56); an unnamed man who became indignant because Jesus healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17); those who permitted Paul and Barnabas to speak in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:15); Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth (Acts 18:8); and Sosthenes, also a ruler of the synagogue at Corinth (Acts 18:7).

Related reading: Officers of the Synagogues in Ancient Rome; Rulers of the Ancient World; Islamic State Destruction of the Palmyras Temple; Shrine for Ancestor Worship Discovered in Egypt; Hayden, Brian (17 December 2003). "Complexity in the Hunter-Gatherer World". Shamans, Sorcerers, and Saints: A Prehistory of Religion. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books. p. 122. ISBN 9781588341686.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Why So Many Names For God?


Alice C. Linsley

People wonder why there are so many names for God in the Bible. Did the Hebrew, the Israelites, and Jews have the same names for God? Did the name for God change over time? 

It is difficult to develop a chronology for these names because they represent different populations at different periods. Also, some populations had more than one name for the High God. We see this in the Hebrew Scriptures. God is known by the different names, including: El, Elohim, El Elyon, El Olam, YHWH, Adon (meaning “Lord’ and equivalent to Ba’al), and El Shaddai (related to the Akkadian word “shaddu” which means mountain).

The Horite and Sethite referred to God Father as Re (meaning “Father” in ancient Egyptian), and Anu (masculine “We” in ancient Egyptian). Re’s son was called HR which in ancient Egyptian means “Most High One.” The Greeks called him Horus. Horus was the parton of kings and the Nilotic rulers who became high kings had Horus names. HR is the root for many words: Hur, Hurrian, Horite, Horim, Horeb, etc.

Ea is the Babylonian and Assyrian name for God, derived from the ancient Akkadian. El is the Ugaritic name that was also found among the Ammonites, and Yah/YHWH is associated with Nilotic populations and the Shashu of Seir. In Genesis 36, Seir is named as a Horite ruler in Edom. The Soleb Temple Cartouche (1396-1358 BC) reads: “The Shashu of Yahweh's Land.” The cartouche is on the wall of Amenhotep III’s temple in Nubia.

In the ancient world, ethnic identity was tied to a distinctive name for the High God. Each group claimed their God to be more powerful than the God of their rivals. Often the name given in the Old Testament for the God of another population was intended to ridicule that people. An example is Chemosh, a derogatory name given to the High God worshiped by the Moabites and the Ammonites. The name means “As If He Saves.”

A similar attitude is found today among people who point to the theology of a rival and declare that their God is "too small."

Related reading: Hebrew, Israelite, or Jew?; The Substance of Abraham's Faith; Abraham's Faith Lives in Christianity