Saturday, January 28, 2023

Blood, Animal Sacrifice, and the Hope of Immortality

This reconstructed horned altar at Beersheba would have been familiar to Abraham the Hebrew.

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

William W. Hallo, former Yale professor, considers ancient Mesopotamia to be the point of origin of animal sacrifice. Hallo writes, "Here we have not only, as in Israel, the canonical (literary) formulations of how sacrificial rites are to be performed, but also economic texts providing accounts of events after the ritual and objectively recorded, detailing the expenses of each step in the ritual against the possibility of a future audit by a higher authority. These records leave no doubt that in Mesopotamia, animal sacrifice, though ostensibly a mechanism for feeding the deity, was at best a thinly disguised method for sanctifying and justifying meat consumption by human beings—a privilege routinely accorded to priesthood, aristocracy and royalty, and sporadically, notably on holidays and holy days, to the masses of the population."

Hallo is correct that blood sacrifice was performed on behalf of chiefs, rulers and high kings. However, to understand the history of animal sacrifice, we must go farther back in human history. We must explore the connection between blood and the hope for immortality. The connection between animal sacrifice and the hope of life after death is evident in the practice of sacrificed animals that were buried with their masters. 

For at least 100,000 years humans buried their high-ranking persons in red ocher powder, a symbolic blood covering. For those people this ore was as valuable as gold is for us today. In some burial sites a pet or sacrificed animal is also found with a covering of red ocher.

Why only the clan chief or spiritual head? It seems that early humans believed that their whole group would follow their leader should he or she rise from the grave. Paul, referring to Psalm 68:18, speaks of this in Ephesians 4:8 - "When He ascended on high, He led captives in his train..."

Among meat eaters, the blood of hunted animals was not wasted. It would replace the costly red ocher. Eventually, sacrificial rituals developed around the bloodletting. The French historian Jean-Pierre Vernant believed the distribution and consumption of sacrificial food was a way to bound a community together, with each member of the community consuming an equal portion of meat. However, it is also possible that the chief, as a representative of the High God on earth, received a more substantial or better portion of the meat.

Among the early Hebrew (c. 5000-2000 BC) animal sacrifice was performed only in cases of extremely grave offenses. Cattle and sheep were their source of wealth, so they did not sacrifice them often. It is possible also that animal sacrifices were offered at times of crisis or when a leader needed a sign from the High God. This appears to be the case with Abraham on Mount Moriah. There he was given the sign of the Ram which for him was a Messianic promise.

In the Axial Age (900-200 BC) Jewish and Hindu priests were paid to offer sacrifices. Greed among corrupt priests led to the slaughter of enormous numbers of animals. Blood flowed in the temples and through the drainage ditches. Buddha rejected animal sacrifice. Buddhism is an attempt to reform this feature of Hinduism.

Animal Sacrifice and Worship

At First Things, Peter Leithart wrote, "What are the chances that someone sometime in nearly every ancient culture decided that killing animals was a good way to worship their gods? What are the chances that this would be a near-universal practice without any tradition, any traditio/handing-over, of sacrificial rites? Aren’t the facts much better explained if we assume that there was mutual interaction, cross-fertilization, borrowing and mimicry, perhaps an Ur-sacrifice and an Ur-sacrificer?"

It seems that initially animal sacrifice was not about worship. It was about a yearning for a greater life, or for immortality. The notion that animals were feed to the deities may be true among the Greeks for whom propitiation meant satisfying hungry gods. It does not appear to be the case among the early Hebrew, however.

With the emergence of the Hebrew ruler-priest caste, animal sacrifice became an act of atonement. The ruler-priest Job is said to have made atonement for the sins of his entire household daily. If this is true, Job, the Horite Hebrew, was a very rich man. It is safe to assume that the sacrifices were offered with prayer.

The oldest known site of Hebrew worship is at Nekhen on the Nile. Proto-Saharan nobles were buried with red ochre at Nekhen (3800 BC). It appears also that there may have been a preference for sacrificial animals from the Nile. Some animals imported from the Nile Valley were sacrificed in Canaan during the Bronze Age (3300-1200 BC). Analysis of a sacrificial donkey found in the foundations of a house in ancient Gath reveals that it was born and bred in the Nile. There is a suggestion that some living in Canaan may have preferred sacrificial animals bred by the Nilotic Hebrew.

Leithart's recognition of the widespread practice of animal sacrifice in the Ancient Near East may be explained by the early dispersion of the Hebrew ruler-priest caste. Well before Abraham's time they had dispersed from the Nile Valley into Arabia, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and parts of the Zagros Mountains. 

Among the early Hebrew, animal sacrifice had less to do with worship than with atonement, the bounding of their community, and the ratification of treaties

As a caste, the Hebrew did not eat with those outside their caste except to ratify treaties. Communal meals encourage conversation, increase familiarity, and can lead to marriages outside the caste. Since the Hebrew married only within their caste (endogamy) eating with non-Hebrew was discouraged. 

The Hebrew handled blood with great care because it was viewed as having power. The Hebrew Scriptures speak of the blood of Abel calling to God from the ground (Gen. 4:10). The shedding of blood was a serious matter. It could bring curses on those responsible for the shedding of blood. Blood guilt and blood pollution were to be avoided. The early Hebrew priests were renown in the ancient world for their lives of purity. Even the animal to be sacrificed was to be inspected and approved as pure. Herodotus reported that "for one who sacrifices a beast not sealed the penalty appointed is death."

The Hebrew priests who flayed the carcasses of sacrificial animals were to carefully follow prescribed procedures. The Hebrew tanner was called "Tahash". One of Abraham's nephews was a Tahash.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Response to Cory Byrum’s Article on the Unity of Christ’s Body


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

In researching how priests were ordained in the time of Jesus Christ, I found that the rule set down by the Sanhedrin required three ruler-priests to give consent, but only one was required to be physically present for the laying on of hands. The other two could give consent in writing.

As far as we know, none of the Apostles were priests. Therefore, they were not qualified to ordain priests according to the ordination practice that they knew.

Instead, their ministry was evangelistic and pastoral. They bore witness to the long-awaited Son of God, the Messiah. This idea was developed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who wrote: 

“Of great importance for our question is the fact that Jesus gave His power to the Apostles in such a way that He made their ministry, as it were, a continuation of His own mission. 'He who receives you receives me'. He Himself says to the Twelve (Mt 10:40; cf. Lk 10:16; Jn 13:10). Many other texts in which Jesus gives His power to the disciples could here be cited: Mt 9:8: 10:1: 21:23; Mk 0:7: 13:34; Lk 4:6: 9:1; 10:19. The continuity between the mission of Jesus and that of the apostles is once again illustrated with great clarity in the Fourth Gospel: 'As the Father has sent me. even so I send you'. (On the Nature of the Priesthood 20:21)

Certainly, the Apostles commissioned missionaries, elders, and deacons by the imposition of hands. Some of those elders served as Eucharistic ministers. None is described in the New Testament as offering blood sacrifice. We may say that the need for sacrificing priests no longer existed since Christ’s blood sacrifice fulfilled all the Law. That very fact tells us that there is continuity between the Old and the New as much as there is distinction between them.

There certainly is continuity in the requirement of three to consent to ordination. The Apostolic Canons of the Eastern Orthodox require that the consecration of a bishop must be accomplished by at least three. The same applies to episcopal consecrations in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. There is a precedent for this in history. In the Sanhedrin ordination was conferred by a court of three.

Members of the Sanhedrin served under the presidency of the high priest much as priests today serve under the presidency of their bishop. The high priest bore the title nasi (ruler, king, prince) and retained this title even after the presidency was transferred to other hands. Similarly, in Anglican orders a bishop remains a bishop even after he has stepped down from serving in that office.

The doctrine of Apostolic Succession received from Rome remains problematic since none of the Apostles were priests. Apostolic succession addresses who has authority over the flock, but it does not shed light on the continuity of the rules for ordination to the priesthood.

However, when we come to ancient Britain, we find a priest among Jesus followers who was qualified to ordain according to the Sanhedrin rule: Joseph of Arimathea. After we remove the embellishments of the Middle Ages we are left with this picture: Joseph was in southern Britain where he consulted as a mining expert. He is said to have visited the Ding Dong mine in Cornwall. (Lodes from that mine were worked well before the time of Abraham.) Mining experts also excavated cave tombs such as the one Joseph provided for our Lord’s repose. It is likely that Joseph saw the need for priests among the Messiah’s followers in Britain and that he ordained a few with the consent of two other members of the Sanhedrin. If this is so, the priesthood in England predates the papacy of Linus which began in A.D. 64.

The Roman narrative has dominated the conversation for so long that the deficiencies of the account are rarely questioned. The empowering of the Apostles cannot be understood as Jesus ordaining these men to the priesthood. This may explain why there is no documentation of the chain of succession during the very earliest days of the Church. There is documentation tracing the chain of consecration from the early 2nd century, but before that none. The Vatican acknowledges this fact. The 1973 International Theological Commission on Catholic Teaching on Apostolic Succession states:

“The absence of documents makes it difficult to say precisely how these transitions came about. By the end of the first century the situation was that the apostles or their closest helpers or eventually their successors directed the local colleges of episkopoi andpresbyteroi. By the beginning of the second century the figure of a single bishop who is the head of the communities appears very clearly in the letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who further claims that this institution is established "unto the ends of the earth".

During the second century and after the Letter of Clement this institution is explicitly acknowledged to carry with it the apostolic succession. Ordination with imposition of hands, already witnessed to in the pastoral Epistles, appears in the process of clarification to be an important step in preserving the apostolic Tradition and guaranteeing succession in the ministry. The documents of the third century (Tradition of Hippolytus) show that this conviction was arrived at peacefully and was considered to be a necessary institution.” (INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION, Catholic Teaching on Apostolic Succession, 1973)

Rome is in error when it claims to have brought Christianity to Britain. Father Louis R. Tarsitano expressed the truth when he wrote, "…it is a simple error of fact to claim that the Anglican Church 'began' in the Reformation, or even with the late 6th century mission of St. Augustine to evangelize the newly arrived Anglo-Saxon pagans. The bishops of a five-centuries-old Christian Church met Augustine on the beach.” (Of Forms and the Anglican Way)

The preamble of a 1421 letter by Abbot Nicholas Frome to Henry V asserted that Joseph of Arimathea and his companions were sent to England in A.D. 63 by St. Philip, who was on mission to Gaul (France). It was copied from materials found in William of Malmesbury’s interpolated De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie, but the date of 63 A.D. for the arrival of Joseph of Arimathea seems too late. Gildas's De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae claims that Christianity was already in Britain by A.D. 47.

The followers of Jesus Christ are divided into so many groups that it is impossible to name them all. Many yearn for visible unity, at least between the sacramental bodies. Visible unity requires a common commitment to truth regardless the cost to any single institution. In my view, Anglicans should question the Roman conception of Apostolic Succession which has been fashioned for one purpose: to justify Rome's claim to universal authority. Instead, we should claim as a ground for unity the dignity and antiquity of our Anglican patrimony which demonstrates continuity between the priesthood of the Old Covenant and the priesthood of the New Covenant. 

Concerning the validity of Anglican orders, E. J. Bicknell wrote (1919), "The Roman arguments rest upon two great assumptions. First, that Rome is at all times infallible, and therefore her teaching at any time about the meaning of the priesthood must be accepted without question. Secondly, that Rome has a divine right to implicit and universal obedience, and therefore any change in the form of service without her consent shows a contumacious spirit. Neither of these assumptions can be granted, and without them the whole argument collapses."

The only ground for visible unity is power surrendered to Truth.

Related reading: Cory Byrum, "Even As We Are One": On the Unity of Christ's BodyJoseph of ArimatheaWas King Arthur a Descendant of Nilotic Rulers?The Priesthood in England (Part 3)

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Law Enforcement in Ancient Egypt


Entrance to the afterlife depended on weight of the heart, a belief that spread to the Indus Valley.

Alice C. Linsley

In ancient Egypt the rule of judges and enforcement by police existed from as early as the Predynastic Period (c. 6000- 3150 BC). The Nile Valley was littered with thousands of small communities in which local elders serves as judges.

Later, the Pharaoh was supreme judge as the representative of the High God and his son Horus. The second highest legal authority was the Pharaoh's vizier. In the Book of Genesis, we read that Joseph became the vizier and his high rank gave him authority to punish crimes.

One of the earliest lawgivers in Egypt was Menes (2930-2900 BC). He administered justice and issued edicts which were designed to improve food production and distribution, guard the rights of ruling families, improve education and enhance knowledge of the natural world through geometry and astronomy. Weinman’s sculpture on the South Wall Frieze of the US Supreme Court building depicts Menes as an early lawgiver.

There are records of an office known as "Judge Commandant of the Police" dating to the Fourth Dynasty (2613-2492 BC).

The earliest law codes were of a religious nature and implemented by rulers who were served by royal priests, some of whom were certainly Hebrew. (In Akkadian the Hebrew ruler-priest caste was called Abrutu, from the Akkadian word abru, meaning priest).

The Code of Ani
is a negatively worded moral code, like the Ten Commandments. It dates to c. 2500 BC and is contemporaneous with The Reforms of Urukagina (Sumerian, 2500-2350 BC). His reforms are particularly concerned with the governance of the land and rules relating to burials. The text details the role of the king as protector of the weak. However, the Law of Tehut, a nome of Lower Egypt, dates to about 500 years earlier. 

Ancient law codes have a religious quality because religion and government were never separate in the ancient world. Among ancient populations religious laws governed every aspect of the community’s life. Religion and the rule of kings and priests contributed to social stability. Those who violated the law of kings faced punishment. The violation of religious taboos required repentance, sacrificial offerings, and cleansing from the priests. Serious violations (taboos) could result in banishment or execution. Adultery and homosexual relations were regarded as especially serious. These are mentioned in the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Moral Code of Ani.

Those who broke a taboo by using something they are not to use or touch or by speaking words that they are not to speak, were punished by imprisonment, publicly shamed, or banished. Muttering incantations against the king or blaspheming the throne was a serious offense. The Code of Ani specifically mentions this: "I have not worked witchcraft against the King."

The Pharaoh had the same spiritual and legal authority in his Kingdom as the High Priest had in ancient Israel. Innocent parties were to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest, at which time the party could return to his people, and he was not to be harmed by any act of retribution.

If a fugitive died in a city of refuge before the High Priest died, he was buried in the city of refuge. His body could be moved for reburial only after the high priest died. This suggests that the legal precedent for treatment of fugitives in the cities of refuge predates Moses. Moses returned to Egypt after the Pharaoh died (Exodus 4:19).

King Nubkheperra Intef (1571-1565 BC) had a Hyskos rival who apparently sought refuge in the Temple of Min. That temple was under the authority of the priest Teti, son of Minhetep. Intef responded by ordering an audit of the temple to uncover irregularities. Whether Teti was guilty of harboring a fugitive is not certain, but Teti was removed from office, lost all royal benefits to himself and his family, and his sons were no longer able to fill the hereditary office. Similar penalties were applied to an Egyptian ship captain who harbored a political fugitive about 240 years earlier (D. Lorton, p. 22).

Among the Kings of Egypt, the more serious the offense, the more terrible the punishment. The Hayes Papyrus of the Late Middle Kingdom (3100-2250 BC) refers to five laws dealing with fugitives. Some fugitives were branded (D. Lorton, p. 18), and some were banished (like Cain).

The most serious crimes were those against the throne: robbing royal graves, insurrection, and hiding political enemies. The punishment for robbing grave goods and selling them was impalement, followed by dismemberment. Insurrectionists were sometimes fed to the crocodiles, which would result in the second death since the body and the soul could not be reunited in the afterlife.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

The Bible on Transvestism


This Corinthian komast cup dates to 580-570 BC.

Transvestism was a practice among adherents to the Dionysian mysteries. It was especially common in Corinth. It appears that the Apostle Paul sought to address this in 1 Corinthians 11.

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul speaks of authority in terms of the order of creation and a chain of command. The head of Christ is God. The head of the man is Christ. The head of the woman is her husband. He then explains how Christian men and women are to express submission to divine authority by honoring their God-given identity as male or female. 

Men are not to wear long hair and veils. Women are to cover their long hair with veils. 

Paul begins the eleventh chapter by saying that the Christians in Corinth are to imitate him as he imitates Christ. He then explains that they are to uphold the tradition which he has received and passed to them. Doubtless, the tradition that rabbi Paul had in mind prohibited transvestism in Israel. “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5)

It appears that Paul was addressing two issues in 1 Corinthians 11: men and women should honor their gender roles; and the Christians in Corinth should not adhere to Dionysian transvestism.

Transvestism is an expression of rebellion against God's order of creation and as such, it should not be practiced by the followers of Jesus Christ.

Dionysian revelers

1 Corinthians 11 is consistent with Paul's general teaching about Christian morality. The images that appear on many of the cups (kylikes) emphasize sexual activity unbecoming to Christ followers. Some cups show satyrs masturbating. Some of the women wear the bonnets of the hetaera, a hired female companion who would entertain wealthy male clients and might perform sex acts for them.

Paul ends the chapter with strong words about gathering for the Lord's Supper. "In the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse... When you meet together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat."

Paul appears to condemn revelers who cause division in the Christian community (1 Cor. 11:18). He warns them that they are "guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord" and thus "drink judgment" upon themselves (1 Cor. 11:27-29).

Monday, December 12, 2022

Tracing the Influence of Prominent ANE Archaeologists


Credit: Harvard Gazette

This is a fascinating research project about archaeologists in Biblical lands and how they influenced others in the field. The survey demonstrates that the surveyed scholars are more interested in their actual research material than in the history of their discipline. That suggests that they may not be acknowledging the influence of those who broke ground for them (pun intended!)

The survey yielded 539 names of individual scholars, with a total of 441 links showing advisor/advisee relationships for those who received a PhD.

ANE TODAY - 202211 - Who Are You? Preliminary Results of the Academic Genealogies of Near Eastern Scholars (AGNES) Project - American Society of Overseas Research (ASOR)

Here is the PDF of the article.

Related reading: F.W. AlbrightFrank Moore CrossFreidrich Delitzsch, Ignace Jay Gelb, Kathleen KenyonJulius Lewy, Max Margolis, Benjamin MazarE.A. Speiser

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Story Behind Osirus

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

The early Hebrew temple priests were dispersed among many different populations in the ancient world and their caste is older than the first dynasties of Egypt. The oldest known site of Hebrew worship is Nekhen on the Nile (4000 B.C.) The city was dedicated to Horus, the Son of the High God. It is sometimes called the "Falcon City" because the totem of Horus was the falcon.

Golden Horus of Nekhen (c. 2400 B.C.)

At the most fundamental level early Egyptian religion was Proto-Saharan. The Saharan origins of the rulers of Egypt has been well documented by the Canadian archeologist Mary McDonald.

The belief of the early Hebrew in a High God and his Son morphed over the many centuries into various, sometimes conflicting narratives. The many elaborations involve conflicts between deities, rivalries between cults, and the introduction of ideas quite foreign to the early Nilotic context of the Hebrew people.

When I write about the Ra-Horus-Hathor narrative, I typically receive objections such as this:

Horus was Not called the “son of God” but the son of the “Moon [later SUN] God (i.e., “HOsieRUS”, “Osirus”). His so-called “virgin” mother (i.e.,”Isis”), the sister of Osirus, employed a reed in order to replace the only part of Osirus’ 15 body parts not to have been recaptured, to help her bare Osirus’ son-Horus! Not exactly a “virgin” birth! One of the primary distinctions that you failed to mention here is that Isis and Osirus were full sister and brother, a relationship completely prohibited by most ancient cultures, especially the semitic cultures! (From Derek Leman)

Here are the facts related to this jumble of misinformation.

Osirus was originally a Nilotic ruler, not a god. Over time he was elevated to a deity. The deification of especially powerful and good rulers was a common practice in ancient Egypt.

Horus is the Greek rendering of the ancient Egyptian word HR which means "Most High One" or "Hidden One". 

HR is the son of Ra/Re. Re in ancient Egyptian means "Father of". Long before Judaism, the Horite Hebrew and the Sethite Hebrew were devotees of God Father and God Son. In Utterance 699 of the Pyramid Texts, Horus ascends aloft and is exalted at his Father's side. The prayer reads: "Be young, be young beside your Father." 

In a text from around 2200 B.C. Horus says about the deceased king, "I recognize my Father in you." 

A Horite song found at the royal complex at Ugarit speaks of Horus who descends to the place of the dead "to announce good tidings." 

Horus is also described as rising on the third day (Pyramid Texts, Utterance 667).

The emblem of Re and HR was the Sun, never the Moon since the Moon was regarded as the lesser light (Gen. 2). 

The mother of Horus was called Hathor. Much later in history, Hathor is transformed into a fertility goddess called Isis. The same happened with Osirus. He too was transformed into a fertility god.

The many changes to the original Ra-Horus-Hathor narrative came with Egypt's imperial expansion. It became necessary to include elements of other religions to keep the peace. The elaboration on simpler beliefs and the tendency to syncretism have been observed by other anthropologists such as Andrew Lang. The earliest known religions were not polytheistic as developed with later Egyptian religion.

The miracle surrounding Hathor is not the "virgin birth" as much as the miraculous conception of the son of God by divine overshadowing. That is why Hathor is always shown with the Sun over her head, and why Gabriel explained to Mary that she would conceive the Most High by overshadowing (Luke1).

The person quoted above (Derek Leman) is ignorant about the marriage pattern of the early Hebrew. They married only within their Hebrew ruler-priest caste, and it was common for the high-ranking rulers to marry their patrilineal cousins and half-sisters. Sarah was Abraham's half-sister. The Hebrew clans practiced bride exchange to strengthen the caste bonds.

It was a common practice for the royals of ancient Egypt to marry sisters, half-sisters, and cousins, and sister marriage is mentioned in the Song of Solomon (4:10-12).

Monday, October 31, 2022

Hebrew Names and Titles


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Names and titles of biblical persons have various etymologies. Some names of individuals refer to places or regions (toponyms) with which the persons are associated. Some examples include Elam (Gen. 10; Ezek. 32:24), Seir (Gen. 36; Is. 21:11; Ezek. 25:8 and 35:10), Uz (Gen. 10, 36:28), and Timna (Gen. 36:12; Josh. 15:10). 

Some names are royal titles, some are Horus names, and some identify ancestors, both paternal and maternal.

As with Jewish names today, most biblical names fall into these categories:

1.      Toponymics

2.      Occupation: One of Abraham's nephews was named Tahash, meaning tanner.

3.      Patronymics

4.      Matronymics

5.      Physical appearance: Adam means "Red Human", formed from red earth.

6.      Economic and/or social status

7.      Plant and animal (totems): The name Shobal (Gen. 36) refers to a young lion.

8.      Allegiance or affiliation

Royal Names

When reading the Bible, it helps to be aware of names and titles. Some of the early Hebrew held royal titles such as Enoch and Lamech. Enoch refers to one who succeeds as the ruler's proper heir. Lamech is related to the word Melek, meaning king. La-melech appears on several thousand Egyptian and Hebrew seals (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p. 95). Achimelech means “brother of a king". The royal titles Enoch and Lamech are found in the king lists of Genesis 4 (the line of Cain) and Genesis 5 (the line of Seth).

Horus Names

These early rulers were Hebrew and among them we find high-ranking persons with Horus names. Hur is an example. According to Midrash, Hur was Moses’ brother-in-law, the husband of Miriam. Hur’s grandson was one of the builders of the Tabernacle. I Chronicles 4:4 lists Hur as the "father of Bethlehem", an early Horite Hebrew settlement.

A chief of the tribe of Asher holds the Horus name Harnepher (1 Chronicles 7:36). 

Another Horus name is Na-Hor, the name of Abraham's older brother. Nahor ruled over his father's territory in Paddan Aram when Terah died. In ancient Akkadian, Na is a modal prefix indicating service to, affirmation, or affiliation. Na-Hor indicates that this man was a devotee of HR, which in ancient Egyptian refers to the Most-High God

HR also refers to the Son of God who the Greeks called Horus. His Horus name suggests that Nahor was a Horite Hebrew. A prayer addressed to Horus says, "For you are he who oversees the gods, there is no god who oversees you!" (Ancient Pyramid Texts, Utterance 573)

A Horite priest (Sangu sa huru - priest of Horus) is mentioned among five priests in an Assyrian document (SAAB 9 127) from the city of Assur. The document is dated to 639 B.C. The Horite priest is named Qibit-Assur.

Words for Priests

Some names indicate that the person was a priest. Examples include Terah and Korah. Terah/Tera is a very ancient word for priest. This image found by Flinders Petrie shows a Sethite Hebrew priest. He is a priest (tera) devoted to God (Neter/Netjer).

The word Korah refers to a priest who shaved his body as an act of ritual purification before his time of service at the temple or shrine. One of Esau's sons was named Korah (Gen. 36:5), as was Moses' brother who challenged his leadership (Num. 16).

Korah's descendants are praised in 1 Chronicles 26, where they are grouped with the gatekeepers of Obed-Edom. Obed-Edom is a connection to Ruth, who named her first-born son Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of David. This picks up the Messianic thread, pointing us back to the early Hebrew expectation of the Son of God who was coming into the world.

Another word for priest is the Hebrew ‘Kohen’, equivalent to the Arabic Khouri or Kahin and the Persian Kaahen or Kaahenaat which is translated "timeless being". Kahenat means priest in the Ethiopian Church.

Other ancient words for priests include harwa, sem, wabau, kalu (lamentation priest), hekau, and šangû. The Akkadian term šangû is the likely origin of the Latin word saguis and the English word sanguine, both referring to blood. The šangû probably offered animal sacrifice at royal sanctuaries.


A patronymic is a personal name based on the given name of one's father or a famous male ancestor. These names are identified by the word bar, meaning son or male descendant. In Numbers 13, Caleb is designated Kalev ben Jephunneh. 1 Chronicles 2:19 refers to Hur ben Kalev. Patronymics are common in the Hebrew Bible.

In some cases, high ranking women are also identified with a famous male ancestor. One example is Bath-Sheba, Solomon's mother. She was of the royal house of Sheba. This is why one of the entrance pillars of the Temple commemorates Jachin, a name associated with the clan of Sheba.

Patronymics are also found in the New Testament. An example is the name Bartholomew, the Aramaic patronymic Bar-Talmai.


A matronymic is a personal name based on the given name of one's mother, grandmother, or any female ancestor. Matronymics are not as common among the Hebrew as patronymics, but they do appear in the cases of Hebrew women of social influence, prestige, and wealth. An example is found with the Virgin Mary's full name: "Miriam Daughter of Joachim, Son of Pntjr". Some editions of the Talmud name Jesus as the son of a Roman soldier named Pantera, discrediting his miraculous conception as the Son of God. However, Pntjr refers to Joachim's mother, the maternal great grandmother of Jesus Messiah.

From pre-dynastic times among the Nilotic Hebrew, ntjr designated God or the divine. The name Pntjr is Pa-Netjer, the name of Joachim’s mother. She must have been of high social status for a matronymic to be employed. That Panetjer is a matronymic is evident from a limestone stela (1539-1291 B.C.) at the Brooklyn Museum bearing the names of Pekhty-nisu and his wife Panetjer. It is certain that Mary’s ancestors were high ranking ruler-priests because even those who hated her admit this in Sanhedrin 106a which claims: “She who was the descendant of princes and governors played the harlot with carpenters.”