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Archive for the ‘hebrew bible’ tag

Biblical deconstruction I: In exordium

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Here begins a new series on the Bible. One might ask: if I don’t follow or believe in the Bible, why would I do this? Well, for the same reason others have devoted much time and effort to debunking religion for hundreds of years. Because it is still so pervasive and influential, even here in modern America, in fact, especially in modern America. The Bible, as much and probably more so than the Koran (since the Bible is older), has been the central cause of more human suffering and misery than I care to contemplate. God himself, if he existed, would be on the hook for at least 2.476 million people, not counting the flood, first-born Egyptians killed, etc. Thousands of his followers have millions more on their hands, from the Crusades, to Native Americans, to Africans dying from not having access to condoms (thanks to the Catholic church), to the Salem Witch Trials, to … it goes on.

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Written by Jeremy

September 25th, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Not monotheistic after all

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A British theologian has come to the conclusion that the god of the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament had a consort, commonly known as Asherah or Astarte. Here is an article on the theologian’s findings.

According to Francesca Stavrakopoulou of the University of Exeter,

You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him,” Stavrakopoulou wrote in a recent article. “He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many … or so we like to believe.

Archaeological evidence as well as details in the Bible, indicate not just that he was one of several worshipped in ancient Israel, but that he was also coupled with a goddess, who was worshipped in his temple in Jerusalem.

This, of course, rips holes in the idea that Judaism was a monotheistic religion from the start. The idea that it could have been polytheistic just like almost all religions around at the time would be more typical of what we would find in ancient civilizations. In fact, this would also make a lot of sense on a purely logical level. As Stephen Fry has said, the idea of polytheism is a tenable position on some levels. We can understand that ancient people might have been compelled to make gods out of the ocean, sky, trees, the sun, etc., because this helped them to explain a highly complicated and hostile world. Here’s Fry on the matter of polytheism:

It appears from research others have done that Yahweh’s “wife,” as some are calling her, was an early addition to some of the current books that are now in the OT, but Asherah was later redacted because monotheism, not polytheism, was taking hold. But researchers say that we can still find traces of Asherah in the OT.

Here is a detailed look.

And here is archaeologist Amihai Mazar in The Quest for the Historical Israel:

An analysis of the biblical sources as well as the archaeological remains shows that Israelite religion passed through several stages of development. The worship of Yahweh alongside a consort named Asherah is known from the inscriptions at Kuntillet Ajrud, a fortified citadel-like structure in the eastern Sinai desert dated to about 800 b.c.e. This unusual and remote site, located on the main highway between Gaza and the Red Sea, seems to have been used as a roadside station, but was also a place of religious activity. It seems to have been utilized by people from both Israel and Judah, as can be detected by pottery types that represent both kingdoms. Ink inscriptions and paintings found on the white plaster of the walls, as well as on large pottery containers and a stone trough, contain dedications, prayers, and blessings. The most revealing is a dedication or prayer to Yahweh and “his Asherah.” A similar combination of Yahweh and Asherah appears also on an inscription from a cave at Khirbet el-Kom (biblical Makedah?) in the Shephelah. This combination probably reflects a theology that is substantially different from the pure monotheistic religion as it is preserved for us in the Hebrew Bible.

This evidence indicates a strong continuity with Canaanite religion, where El was the head of the pantheon and Asherah was his consort. While the worship of Asherah was condemned by the Jerusalem prophets, they probably represent the new theology that was emerging towards the end of the monarchy among the Jerusalem intellectual elite, while the popular religion embraced by the common folk was much more traditional, preserving indigenous ideas and beliefs rooted in Canaanite religion.

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Written by Jeremy

March 25th, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Doing the work

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Shew. It’s been a rough week. What with spending time with my family, work, eating, sleeping, Counter Strike:Source and the like, it’s been a challenge to get in as much reading as I would have liked. Right now, among other things, I’m reading Bertrand Russell’s “My Philosophical Development,” and Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason.” Those aren’t the types of volumes one can just hop down to Barnes & Noble to pick up, so I went to the local university library and got them, which is something I hope to do more often.

I’ve concluded that for one to develop a reasoned worldview (What other sort of worldview should we seek that ultimately governs our entire journey through life?), the set of ideologies, beliefs or understandings that largely guide how a person conducts his or her life (my definition), one must, first, in this age of religious fervor, read the Big Three in full: the Hebrew Bible (which is the Old Testament in a different order; see Jack Miles: “God: A Biography” for more information), the New Testament and the Koran. This is essential for understanding what might cause someone’s son to annihilate himself via a car bomb or to hijack a jet plane and aim it at a skyscraper or massacre millions of Jews, outright unbelievers, disabled people and gays for the false assumption that they are inferior or drown and burn hundreds women for the false assumption that they are witches. It’s also essential in understanding the opposite: What causes someone to give to the poor, devote one’s life to missions work and build safe houses for the derelict. Is it pure by inspiration, command or calling from God or do some people simply lean toward faith and/or good works as character traits, as others lean toward abuse or bullying?

Second, one must delve into philosophy: Bertrand Russell, Thomas Hobbes, Hume, Heidegger, Hegel, Derrida, Habermas, Nietzsche and scores of others. One must investigate science, as one’s educational capacities allows, since this is weighty stuff: String theory, the universe, etc.

When one takes all these steps then one make a reasoned assessment of how we fit into the cosmos. Some say we fit perfectly: that we are as much a part of it as it is of us. That we are home here in this place. Some say we are not at home here: That this place is merely a stepping off point to eternity. That, for those who accept God or Christ (depending on the belief) can look forward to eternity in a place free from sin, pain and guilt.

One of my favorite poets, John Milton said, “The end of learning is to know God, and out of that knowledge to love Him and imitate Him,” which seems to imply that if one gains all knowledge that is possible to know (Which is impossible because our knowledge of the world and the universe changes daily and one would have to research day and night without sleeping to continually soak in new discoveries.) it will lead to a knowledge of God. Symbolically, this works and is a profound statement, since Milton is clearly stating that all knowledge that can be known points to God. Literally, it would only lead to a learned individual who has a better grasp of these weighty concepts than you or I. My point is this: Many of us spend 20, 30, 50 years or a lifetime floundering in beliefs, and more so, living and dying for beliefs, and giving no evidential proof . Truth-seekers must analyze these works meticulously and obtain a firm knowledge of the great intellectual breakthroughs in our history for a reasoned worldview to surface. All else is conjecture. If, after reading the holy books, investigating the sciences and philosophy, one concludes there is no god or if one concludes God is unmistakable and evident: the same conclusion stands: At least that person has put in the effort. At least they cared enough to find out why they believe as they do. The tragedy today is that most are too lazy or busy to do the work. Perhaps this is where our modern, hustle, bustle society skipped a disc.

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