Monday, September 15, 2014

Huge Nubian City

A large Nile temple was found in this ancient Nubian city in Sudan. This Kushite temple was dedicated to the Creator God.

Related reading: The Urheimat of the Canaanite Y; The Nubian Context of YHWY

Saturday, September 6, 2014

More Revisionist Scholarship

Biblical Archaeology Society is marketing a lecture series with "new interpretations" of sex and gender in the Bible. These really are not new, but they are popular.

Sex, Gender and the Bible

In this compelling lecture series, new interpretations of sex and gender in the Bible confront traditional Judeo-Christian understandings of human sexuality and identity. In addition to highlighting the Bible’s often explicit celebration of sex, these lectures tackle critical questions that are still debated today, including the Bible’s views on homosexuality and the appropriate role of women in society. They even challenge our received assumptions about God’s gender and ask how and why “God the Mother” was erased from the Jewish and Christian faiths.

“Sex in the Bible: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in This Legacy We Cannot Escape”
J. Harold Ellens, Theologian and Psychologist (43 minutes)

“Homosexuality in the Bible: The Case of David and Jonathan”
J. Harold Ellens, Theologian and Psychologist (48 minutes)

“He Will Rule Over You: The Status of Women in Biblical Times”
Michael D. Coogan, Harvard Divinity School (47 minutes)

“What Happened to God the Mother in the Trinity”
April D. DeConick, Rice University (36 minutes)
From here.

Related reading: Bunk from BAR

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Isaac's Wealth

Alice C. Linsley

Now Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the LORD blessed him, and the man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy; for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him. (Genesis 26:12-14)

Isaac was Abraham's proper heir, and as such, he inherited Abraham's territory that extended north-south from Hebron to Beersheba. That territory was entirely in the region that the Bible calls "Edom." Edom was under the control of Horite ruler-priests. The Edomite rulers are listed in Genesis 36.  Jews call their ancestors "Horim," which is a variant of Horite. Both Hebron (where Sarah lived) and Beersheba (where Keturah lived) are in Edom (Idumea in Greek). Abraham's territory extended between the settlements of his two wives, and included mountains and lowlands.

This passage from Genesis 26 speaks of Isaac's great wealth and conveys the idea that his prosperity came as divine blessing. There is little doubt that Isaac was more prosperous even than Abraham as he received a territory from his father and apparently was able to make this land productive. Isaac kept herds of cattle on the lowlands and flocks of sheep on the hillsides. He "reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them" (Gen. 26:18). Wells were essential to his herds and flocks for by Isaac's time (c. 1987-1888 B.C.) Edom was more arid.

Abraham dug wells in the area of Gerar, on the western side of his territory (Gen. 20:1). The wells were dug by hand through solid limestone. Often steps were carved in the limestone and the people went into the well with their containers. Some wells required ropes and water skins to draw out the water. Only the wealthy owned wells. Abraham's wealth was passed to Isaac. Beer-Sheba means the well of Sheba. Keturah, Abraham's cousin bride, was of the noble house of Sheba. Many Horite rulers met their wives at wells.

The Philistines

Genesis 10:13, 14 names the Philistines and the Caphtorim as descendants of Mizraim, which is Egypt. There is no doubt that these coastline peoples were culturally Egyptian (as was the island of Tyre in the time of David). The Philistines occupied territory on the Mediterranean coast. Their northern boundary reached to the border of Ekron, and their southwestern limit was the brook of Egypt (Wadi al-'Arish), as described in Joshua 13. Their territory was a wide, fertile plain bordering the Judean hills and Edom. This was very productive land. Genesis 26 tells us that Isaac's territory was so prosperous that the Philistines envied him.

The Philistines are linked to the "sea peoples." The sea peoples included peoples from Libya, the islands of the Mediterranean, and contiguous lands. Scholars have identified at least nine people groups as "sea people." The Denyen; the Ekwesh; the Antaolian Lukka; the Peleset, the Shekelesh; the Sherden; the Teresh, (ancestors of the Etruscans); the Tjeker; and the Weshesh. These people were not called "Philistines" during Isaac time.

About six hundred years after the time of Isaac a coalition of sea peoples attempted an invasion of Egypt. This happened during the reign of Merneptah (1213-1203 B.C.), but they were repulsed. Their defeat is described in King Merneptah's stele. Here is a portion of that description:

Their archers abandoned their bows,
The hearts of their runners grew weak as they sped,
They loosened their water-skins, cast them down,
Their packs were untied, thrown away.
The vile chief, the Libyan foe,
Fled in the deep of night alone,
No plume on his head, his feet unshod,
His wives were carried off from his presence,
His food supplies were snatched away,
He had no drinking water to sustain him.
The gaze of his brothers was fierce to slay him,
His officers fought among each other,
Their tents were fired, burnt to ashes,
All his goods were food for the troops.

Since 1873, based on etymological evidence, the Philistines and the Peleset they have been connected with the Aegean "Pelasgians." This identification is held by many Egyptologists and archaeologists.

Israel Finkelstein maintains that archaeological research to date has not corroborated a mass settlement of Philistines during the Ramesses III era (c. 1187-1064 B.C.), about seven hundred years after Isaac. In Isaac's time there were many "sea peoples" but probably not a ethnic group known as "Philistines." This term is likely an anachronism and comes from a time later than Isaac.

Related reading: Thoughts on Calculating the Dates of the Patriarchs; Two Named Esau; Edo, Edom and Idumea; Isaac's Second Marriage; The Kushite-Kushan Connection; Wells and Brides; Abraham and Job: Horite Rulers

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I Hate Adware!

Alice C. Linsley

My twelve year old computer recently crashed. It ran Windows 2000. I bought a new computer loaded with Windows 8. I've gone from driving a Model-T Ford to a fully loaded Lexus. There are more features than I need or would ever want.

Three days after I set up my new computer the modem light turned red and I had to replace the modem. Now my system is infected with Adware and I haven't been able to get rid of it. All this to explain why I haven't been posting much at Just Genesis.

A few thoughts.

I miss my old computer and system which was much more suited to a scholar doing research. I don't want games. I don't want or e-Bay. I don't use the computer for entertainment or to make purchases. It sickens me when students fall asleep in class because they stayed up to 3:00 am playing computer games.

I hate pop-ups. I hate advertisements. Since the inception of this blog over seven years ago I have refused to load Google Adsense which I regard as clutter and distraction.

I have persevered through 35+ years of research on the book of Genesis and many years work in Biblical Anthropology. God grant me patience to endure the challenges of this new system.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Are Feminists Correct About the Church?

Alice C. Linsley

I have never been a fan of feminist ideology or feminist theology. I was one of the few at my liberal eastern university who thought that the Equal Rights Amendment was bad news and bad legislation.

My first venture in 1978 into the Feminist arena was not positive. I was living in Greece and was invited by a friend to attend a gathering where a prominent American feminist was speaking in Athens. After the speech, there were breakout groups. In my group there were about 15 women, mostly disgruntled Americans or Brits who were married to Greek or Middle Eastern men. I was happily married and felt fulfilled in my life, so I found it difficult to identify with these angry and hurting women. I also was uncomfortable with the Marxist-atheist tones of the speech. I knew enough history to recognize that wherever Marxism has taken root, it has meant trouble for committed followers of Jesus Christ.

Defining Feminism
In the most general sense, Feminism as a political ideology that sees the relationship between males and females as one of inequality, maintaining that there is universal oppression of females by the dominant males in society.

Feminism is a Marxist-socialist-atheist ideology which focuses on gender struggle. The Feminist concern is voiced in public about equal legal rights, equal pay for equal work, harassment in the workplace, abuse and trafficking of women and children, and global awareness of women's health needs.

As we consider the importance of these concerns, we are able to see why Feminism has advanced into all areas of our life. It speaks in the lexicon of fairness and justice and it is difficult for a Christian to speak against Feminism and not sound bigoted, reactionary, or dim-witted. If Christians lack understanding of the importance of male-female gender differences and are unskilled in our engagement of Feminist rhetoric, we are easily marginalized.

Marginalization is a political tactic that Feminists have employed successfully and which gay activists learned from feminists. This tactic is used by those who already have gained sufficient control to be able to marginalize those who don't agree with them. For example, gay activists have used marginalization in many states to silence opponents of gay marriage bills. Marginalization takes many forms, but one of the most common is to misrepresent your opponent as small-minded and backwards.

Feminism, as an ideological thread in the weave of 20th century American life, poses a significant challenge to Christianity. It influences our outlook on family, church, education and politics, and while politically vocal Feminists often succeed in marginalizing their opponents, the Feminist agenda clearly is not good for the Church.

While I have been asked to address Feminism in the context of today's society, I want to speak more directly to the challenges that Feminism poses to the Church as the Body of Christ. My thesis is this: What is good for the Church is good for society. What is bad for the Church is bad for society. Simply stated, I regard the Church's welfare and edification as a litmus test for the innovations that appear in society. To narrow the scope, I will speak primarily about western society, although many of the points I wish to make apply to all societies.

The paradox of Feminism
Before we consider the impact of Feminism on the Church, let us consider the paradox of Feminism itself.

Feminism is oppressive. This is seen in the way that Feminists attack those who do not agree with them. Feminists use the same methods of subordination, oppression and marginalization that they find so hateful when exercised by men in patriarchal societies. Also, were elective abortion the Feminists' single issue, the movement would never have gotten off the ground. No matter how polished the speech, it can never be "fair" to the unborn to be terminated. It is instead the most severe oppression.

Feminism is unnatural. This is seen in the way that Feminists push for elective abortion. It is unnatural for a woman to destroy the life that is developing within her. That which the Church judges to be unnatural is also judged to be sinful or evil. Thus, John Climacus states in Step 1 of his Ladder of Divine Ascent that "A lover of God is one who lives in communion with all that is natural and sinless." Sodomy and lesbianism are evil because they are unnatural. It is evil when a Muslim father, out of anger at his daughter, arranges for her to be gang raped. It is evil when, out of selfish delusion, a mother drowns her children or a husband murders his pregnant wife. That the media lends great attention to such acts underscores that these are anomalous to what is natural. Most fathers are protective of their daughters, most mothers are protective of their children, and most husbands are protective of their pregnant wives.

Feminism is inherently illogical. One of the objectives of Feminists is to achieve harmony between the sexes by requiring equality. Yet Feminism is premised on an unswerving belief in universal inequality. To express this another way: Would Feminists be content were they to finally achieve universal equality between the sexes? Not likely. To exist, Feminism needs inequality and instances of unfairness to women. This goes back to the unnaturalness of Feminism. As the feminist psychology professor, Carol Gilligan, showed in her book In a Different Voice, females naturally desire unity and harmony within their social and familial circles. Yet Feminists' strident speeches about inequality, separation and injustice only exacerbate the conditions that they deplore.

Feminism does not align with the facts.
Fact #1: Males and females are different and their differences are "supplementary" (to use Jacques Derrida's term). Supplementary means that one cannot exist without the other, but it does not mean that the two share equal properties of strength and size or that their God-assigned roles are interchangeable. That being the case, the only basis of speaking ontologically about gender equality is the Bible and the Church Fathers' affirmation that both male and female are made in the divine image (Gen. 1;27) .

Fact #2: Patriarchy is the universal order. In advocating social reversal, Feminists often point to soft patriarchies as examples of matriarchies, but a true matriarchy requires the following conditions to exist in a society:

* line of descent must be traced through the mothers
* rights of inheritance must be figured through the mothers
* political power must be vested with ruling females
* females must have the final say in deciding matters for the community

It is a matter of fact that, after eighty-five years of ethnographic studies, no matriarchal society has ever been identified by cultural anthropologists.

Fact #3: History shows that wherever Christianity has spread, the treatment of women has improved. Allow me to cite but one example. My great grandfather was a pioneer missionary in India. He established a seminary there, but after time it became apparent that Christian men could not evangelize Indian women who lived sequestered lives. Therefore, my great grandfather decided to train women converts to be midwives and nurses so that they could minister to Indian women at a critical time. So he established a nurse training center and even today the majority of nurses in India are Christian females.

The Feminist grudge against Christianity
Feminists often use the Bible to illustrate the horrors of patriarchy. They call attention to the story of the Levite who cut his defiled concubine into pieces and sent her severed parts to the 12 tribes as a call to war (Judges 19). They want us to see how horrible patriarchy is that the Levite would surrender his concubine to the sodomites. Is this not misplaced judgment? Why not instead be critical of the evil sodomites who sought to defile the Levite and killed his concubine? After all, this is the point of the story!

Feminists despise St. Paul, who they consider to be the arch oppressors of women because he teaches that women should be submission to their husbands. Katherine M. Rodgers in The Troublesome Helpmate: A History of Misogyny in Literature (1966) writes, "The foundations of early Christian misogyny - its guilt about sex, its insistence on female subjection, its dread of female seduction - are all in St. Paul's epistles. They provided a convenient supply of divinely inspired misogynistic texts for any Christian writer who chose to use them; his statements on female subjection were still being quoted in the twentieth century opponents of equality for women."

The Feminist approach to the Bible largely is imbalanced and intellectually dishonest. In this case, Paul's qualifying statement that husbands and wives are to be in submission to one another is ignored. Paul's exhortation that women in Corinth remain quiet in the service of worship is not balanced by his assent to women prophesying in the assembly on the condition that they wear a head covering as a sign of their submission to God. They accuse Paul of limiting women's opportunities in the Church and ignore the evidence that he opened opportunities for women, even assigning them risky duties, such as having Phoebe carry his epistle to the Romans, and the use of Lydia's home as a base for outreach in Philippi.

Feminist critique of the Bible focuses on the stories of abuse of females and paints the societies presented as evil patriarchies. They seem to be unaware of the anthropological studies which demonstrate that at least 80% of the women named in the Bible were the wives and daughter of high ranking priests and as such, they exercised considerable influence in their community. Today it is also known that the rulers among Abraham's people traced line of descent through the mothers. The Feminist critique fails to acknowledge the contribution of female leaders such as the Samaritan women, Photini, the first evangelist and a woman regarded in the Eastern Church as "equal to the Apostles." There is Huldah, to whom the king's advisers turned for counsel, Deborah who judged between Ramah and Bethel, and Priscilla who taught in the early church.

Feminist literature portrays the Church as an example of institutional oppression. They cast the lack of women's ordination in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches as subordination and oppression by the Church. They actively seek to subvert the received tradition of the Church concerning the male priesthood.

Feminism has also pressed for reform of God language. Here are some Feminist proposals for speaking of the Trinity:

* Mother, Child, and Womb
* Lover, Beloved, Love
* Creator, Savior, Sanctifier
* Rock, Redeemer, Friend
* King of Glory, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Love

Note how the designation of Jesus as the "Son" of God has been excised. Children often understand complex matters better than adults. They understand that sons and daughters are different. Even in a society where children are exposed to gender confusion, they recognize that it is simply wrong to speak of Jesus as the “daughter of God.”

In excising "Son of God," revisionist language such as this distorts the Gospel. The long-awaited one was a son, the "Seed" of the Woman (Gen. 3:15); "for unto us a son is given" (Isaiah 9:6) "and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." It is the Son of God who is described here, and the Evangelists are in agreement that saving faith requires believing that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus said, "If you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins" (John 8:24).  "God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

In regard to these proposed revisions, seminary professors Andrew Purves and Charles Partee have said, "We not only lose the ground for our language of God, we in fact lose the Trinity. We lose God. We do not need a diluted, metaphorical Trinity; rather, we need our confidence in the Christian doctrine of God to be restored." Feminists also attempt to conform the Church to their worldview through gender-neutral Bibles. One example is Today's New International Version. No less than sixty-two recognized Bible scholars have stated that this Bible distorts the meaning of the text. Here is their published statement: "In light of troubling translation inaccuracies - primarily (but not exclusively) in relation to gender language - that introduce distortions of the meanings that were conveyed better by the original NIV, we cannot endorse the 2005 TNIV translation as sufficiently accurate to commend to the church."

Is the Church misogynistic?
It is easy to test the Feminist thesis that the Church is an institution that enshrines "guilt about sex," "insistence on female subjection" and "dread of female seduction." If this is indeed the case, we should find evidence of misogyny at the time of Christianity's legal establishment under Emperor Justinian. Instead we find that the Justinian Law Code improved the condition of women, slaves and children. With the implementation of the Justinian Code the following practices quickly disappeared:

* Infanticide
* Polygymy (the practice of maintaining multiple wives)
* Incest
* Cultic prostitution
* The 3-tiered caste system that limited women's marriage options
* The practice of fathers selling their daughters into slavery.

The Code also made it legal for:

* Slave owners to grant liberty to as many slaves as they wanted.
* Families to retain the estate in cases where the father died intestate.
* Noble women to exercise political power.

While it is evident that Christianity has not solved all societal problems, it has largely improved the conditions of women. Where, then, is the evidence that women have been oppressed under Church rule? Not much of a case can be made based on historical evidence. Why do Feminists hold a grudge against the Church if the Church is not the voice of all this misogynist sentiment? The answer is found in the history of western philosophical thought. It is from mostly secular writers that Feminists have learned to hate the Church. Let us consider how this is so.

Misogynist voices in history
The most outspoken misogynists in history are western philosophers who had little understanding of Christianity and a great deal of animosity for the Church. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) wrote an essay "On Women" (Über die Weiber), in which he claimed that "woman is by nature meant to obey." He regards women as "decidedly more sober in their judgment than men", but he regards their sympathetic attendance to the suffering of others as weakness rather than a virtue. Schopenhauer's ideas influenced writings on psychology, aesthetics, ethics, and politics which, in turn, influenced Nietzsche, Wagner, Wittgenstein, and Freud. And none of these philosophers held women in high regard.

In his Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) maintained that higher forms of civilization require stricter controls on women. Nietzsche seemed to gain pleasure from insulting women. He was known for his statements such as these, "Women are less than shallow" and "Are you going to women? Do not forget the whip!" Perhaps his view of women is best summed in this statement: "And finally, woman! One-half of mankind is weak, chronically sick, changeable, shifty - woman requires . . . a religion of the weak which glorifies weakness, love and modesty as divine: or better still, she makes the strong weak - she succeeds in overcoming the strong. Woman has always conspired with decadent types - the priests, for instance - against the "mighty," against the "strong," against men. Women avail themselves of children for the cult of piety.."

In his book Sex and Character, written shortly before he killed himself, the philosopher Otto Weininger (1880-1903) wrote, "No men who really think deeply about women retain a high opinion of them; men either despise women or they have never thought seriously about them."

What Feminists Fear
The evidence of history exposes the lies that the Church is misogynist and Christianity contributes to the oppression of women. Instead, we find that Feminist political ideology oppresses, is un-natural, inherently illogical, and contrary to the facts. The Feminist grudge against the Church is irrational and subjective. So what is it about the Church that most profoundly troubles Feminists?

In part, it is the message that some church people send that females, as a class, are subservient to males as a class. Dorothy L. Sayers said it so well: "What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person." (Unpopular Opinions: Twenty-One Essays)

Another explanation is fear of divine love. The most adamant Feminists are women who have known only the lower expressions of love and this "love" has caused them pain and suffering. They are rightfully angry about the failings of love. We all live with the expectation that love will satisfy our deepest longings, and we have had to learn that no human can fulfill this expectation. Every failure of love brings disillusionment and anger. In this, we find the most important contribution of Feminism to the Church: the criticism that, all too often, the Church has failed in Love. When the Church fails in love, it fails in every way. As Christians we have a long way to go to embody the virtues of Faith, Hope and Love, and St. Paul reminds us that the greatest of these habits is love.

Related reading: Blood and Gender Distinctions; Why Women Were Never Priests; The Feminization of Anglican Orders; The Virgin Mary's Ancestry

Friday, August 1, 2014

Were Rachel and Leah half-sisters?

Diagram of Genesis 11:16-27

Alice C. Linsley

Analysis of the Genesis king lists reveals that the Horite ruler-priest lines intermarried according to a distinctive marriage and ascendancy pattern. This is the case for the lines of Cain and Seth, the lines of Ham and Shem, and the lines of Nahor and Abraham.

In the diagram above there is at least a 4 generation gap between Dedan and Abraham that can be reconstructed when we take into consideration that Abraham's cousin wife, Keturah, was the daughter of a Horite ruler named Joktan. This is confirmed by the fact that she named her first born son Joktan, after her father (the cousin bride's naming prerogative). Keturah represents the Arabian Horites. Sarah, Abraham's half-sister wife, came with him to Canaan from Harran. She represents the Aramean Horites. Jacob's two wives appear to follow the pattern of Abraham's two wives, suggesting that they were not sisters.

Rachel and Leah represent two lines that share a common Horite ancestry: the Aramean and the Dedanite (Arabian) lines. Rachel's son's name, Benjamin, suggests that she is of the Dedanite line. Ben-jamin means "son of the south" (or "son of the right hand" as one faced the rising sun). The name of Leah's first born son is derived from the name Reu, one of the founders of the Aramean kingdom (Gen. 11:16-27).

Leah was the mother of six sons and at least one daughter. Her first born son was Reuben. Genesis identifies her as Rachel's "sister" and yet her name and the name of her first born son suggest that her lineage was not the same as Rachel's. The term "sisters" may mean that they were of the same Horite caste, or if their father had two wives, Rachel and Leah would have been half-sisters.

It is often repeated that "Rachel" means female sheep (ewe) in Hebrew. However, the Hebrew word for ewe is kivsah and sometimes talia (the "Even-Shoshan" dictionary). Instead the name Rachel/Rahel is derived from Ra-heli. This is evident in the spelling of the name in other languages: Ráhel (Magyar/Hungarian); Raheli (Swahili); Rahil (Arabic). Ra-hel is likely a reference to the Horite name for the Creator - Ra.

The name Heli appears in the ancestry of Jesus Christ. These names are found in the lineage of Joseph: Melchi, Levi, Matthat, and Heli. Matthat and Heli are names pertaining to the Horite ruler-priest caste. The royal hat is found in the names of Egyptian rulers such as Amen-em-hat, Hat-shep-sut, Merytre-Hat-shep-sut and in the name of one of Isreal’s great rulers, Yeho-shep-hat/Jehoshephat (Matt. 1:8). One of Yehoshephat’s sons was Shep-hat/Shephatiah (II Chron. 21:2).

Leah's Edomite Ancestry

There is speculation that the name Leah is related to the Hebrew le'd, meaning "cow." However, it is more likely that the name is linked to the "Letushim" and "Leummim" who are descendants of Dedan, the son of Joktan (diagram above). Dedan is associated with Uz in the hill country of Edom. Uz was the homeland of Job. One of Job's inquisitors, Elihu, was a descendent of Nahor by Buz. Buz and Uz were Nahor's sons by Milcah (Gen. 22:20). Uz the Elder's grandson (by his daughter) was Uz the son of Dishan (I Chron. 1:42). Uz the Younger was Seir's grandson. Here is Seir's Horite family:

When there are two names that are very close, there is usually a third. The third is Huz, so that Uz, Buz and Huz represent another 3 clan confederation. I Chronicles 5:14 mentions that the son of Buz was Jahdo and Jahdo's son was Yeshishai, the Aramaic form of Yeshua/Jesus. This connects the name of Jesus with the devotees of Horus who are called "Horites."

Buz is related to Uz and is grouped with the peoples of Dedan and Tema in Jeremiah 25. This is probably why this Horite confederation is not identified as Uz, Huz and Buz, but rather as Dedan, Tema and Buz. The oldest Arabic script emanated from the Afro-Arabian oases of Tema and Dedan in the Hijaz.

Did Isaac follow the marriage pattern of is ancestors?

It is likely that Isaac also had two wives, following the pattern of the Horite rulers. Rebecca would have been his second wife, taken shortly before he ascended to the throne of his father. Isaac's first wife would have been a half-sister living in the area of Beersheba, where Keturah resided. Isaac's second marriage took place in Beersheba because as the heir to Abraham's territory, Isaac was not permitted to leave his territory. Note the contrast between Isaac’s admonition to Jacob to leave and not marry a local girl (Genesis 28:1-4) and Abraham’s admonition to his servant never to take Isaac from his territory, but instead to fetch a wife for him from his own Horite people in Padan-Aram (Genesis 24:4-8).

Related reading: Why Rachel Didn't Trust Laban; Peleg:  Time of Division; Abraham's Complaint

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Alan Dicken on Noah's Flood

Alan Dicken

Time to Abandon Aristotelian Approaches to Genesis?
by Alan Dicken
Professor, School of Geography and Earth Sciences
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario


"During the Enlightenment, the scientific method was developed as an empirical approach to the acquisition of knowledge, by rejecting the Aristotelian notion that the nature of reality could be determined by logical deduction alone. But by insisting that Genesis should be interpreted in a scientific vacuum, many theologians are perpetuating an Aristotelian approach to biblical interpretation against reliable empirical evidence. Relinquishing a few of these ill-founded beliefs will allow an improved understanding of the true nature of biblical origins. For example, abandoning the unscientific belief that all of humanity is biologically descended from Adam and Eve allows a more profound understanding of their roles as the ones first called to spread the spiritual image of God throughout the earth. Abandoning the unscientific belief that only Noah’s family escaped annihilation in the Flood allows a more profound understanding of Noah’s role as the one called to preserve the revelation of God to humankind during a major natural disaster. Abandoning the unrealistic belief that building the Tower of Babel was a nonreligious act allows a more profound understanding of the threat of false religion to the worship of the True God in an ancient multicultural society. Finally, abandoning a belief that the call of Abraham came in a spiritual vacuum leads to a new understanding of how the story of creation and humanity’s early history was preserved within a faith community devoted to calling on the name of the Lord, rather than through the mythology of pagans."-- Alan Dicken

Listen to his presentation here.

Response to Dr. Dicken's presentation
Alice C. Linsley

I did not attend the ASA/CSCA/CiS conference this summer. It was held at McMaster University where Dr. Dicken is a professor. I attended the 2013 conference in Nashville where I met Alan Dicken and we discussed the the cultural context of Abraham's ancestors. He asserts that they were Sumerians and I that they were Nilo-Saharans. Indeed, ancient images of the common folk of Sumeria reveal physical features and sun and cattle symbolism characteristic of the Nilo-Saharans. In fact, the term "fertile crescent" was coined by James Henry Breasted (1865–1935), a scholar of ancient Egypt and director of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, in his 1916 textbook, Ancient Times: A History of the Early World. Breasted applied this term to a much larger area than the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. He had in mind the centers of civilization from the Nile to the Indus.

Dr. Dickens is a geologist and I am an anthropologist. This means that we approach the Genesis material from different disciplines. In his presentation he proposes to show that Noah's flood took place in Mesopotamia before 5000 BC, drawing on geological information that he believes supports this view.

Apparently, the abstract above was intended for a poster presentation, but instead Dr. Dicken gave an oral presentation. This explains why the title - "Time to Abandon Aristotelian Approaches to Genesis?" - does not align closely with the content of the talk.

This is a strange title as the empirical approach is the best way to understand the original cultural context of the Genesis accounts. It is older than Aristotle and the Scientific Method. Essentially it is the principle of acute observation. This is the work of Biblical Anthropology, a science. Science did not begin with Aristotle, but Aristotelian approaches have served science very well since before the Enlightenment.

Recycling the Mesopotamian Thesis

Dr. Dicken attempts to support the view that Noah' flood took place in Mesopotamia with geological information about the Tigris-Euphrates as a major water system that tended to flood. However, the only place on the surface of the earth that claims to be Noah's homeland is in the region of Lake Chad - Borno, meaning the Land of Noah.

Rifting combined with prolonged rains caused this entire region to flood. Lake Chad is located at the boundary of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.

Noah lived approximately 2490-2415 BC and according to geoarchaeologist Karl W. Butzer this region of Africa was wet at that time. One of Dr. Butzer's areas of expertise is Egypt and Nubia, including dissertation fieldwork (1956); archaeological survey for the German Archaeological Institute (1958); Quaternary studies and geoarchaeology for Yale University (1962-63); and geoarchaeology of the ‘Lost City of the Pyramids’ (Ancient Egypt Research Associates) (2001-02). Butzer’s early research of Egypt and Nubia was brought together in Desert and River in Nubia (with Carl Hansen, 1968) and especially Early Hydraulic Civilization in Egypt (1976). The latter is one of the most widely cited works in archaeology.

Noah lived during the period of the Old Kingdom, a time of great cultural and technological achievement. This places Noah and his sons in relatively recent history, not at the dawn of human existence. Further, the account of Noah preserving a collection of animals has historical basis when we place him in the proper cultural context. The oldest known zoological collection was found in the extended Nile Valley during excavations at Nekhen in 2009. The royal menagerie dates to ca. 3500 BC and included hippos, hartebeest, elephants, baboons and wildcats. It was the custom for Nilo-Saharan kings to collect exotic animals.

Lake Chad is a great depression or basis which in the Nilo-Saharan is Tchad. The etymology of the word is very interesting. It is linguistically related to the Luo word chaddhoreh, meaning a wound or bruise. In Isaiah 1:6 the King James Version translates the Hebrew chabbarah as "bruises", but it also means wound or depression where something has been cut out. The Luo verb chaddho means to cut out, to pluck out, or to bruise the skin. So the name Chad describes the cut out basin which filled with water and became Mega Chad in the Holocene.

Petroglyphs of boats found in the Eastern Central Desert of Egypt and Sudan
They date to between 4300 and 2900 BC.

The Proto-Saharans were river peoples who shared many common beliefs, customs and symbols. Their civilization was at its peak between 10,000 and 4000 BC when the Sahara was wet. The major water systems connected the Nile and Central Africa. The historian Roland Oliver describes the Green Sahara as follows:

[In] the highlands of the central Sahara beyond the Libyan desert,... in the great massifs of the Tibesti and the Hoggar, the mountaintops, today bare rock, were covered at this period with forests of oak and walnut, lime, alder and elm. The lower slopes, together with those of the supporting bastions — the Tassili and the Acacus to the north, Ennedi and Air to the south — carried olive, juniper and Aleppo pine. In the valleys, perennially flowing rivers teemed with fish and were bordered by seed-bearing grasslands.

The black mahogany Dufuna dugout was found in the Sudan buried 16 feet under layers of clay and sand whose alternating sequence showed evidence of deposition in standing and flowing water. The dugout is 8000 years old. By comparison, Egypt's oldest boat is only about 5000 years old. Peter Breunig (University of Frankfurt) has written this description of the Dufuna boat:

The bow and stern are both carefully worked to points, giving the boat a notably more elegant form”, compared to “the dugout made of conifer wood from Pesse in the Netherlands, whose blunt ends and thick sides seem crude”. Judging by stylistic sophistication, Breunig reasons that, “It is highly probable that the Dufuna boat does not represent the beginning of a tradition, but had already undergone a long development, and that the origins of water transport in Africa lie even further back in time.

About 7,500 years ago Lake Chad was 130 feet deeper than it is today and covered an area of about 135,000 square miles (350,000 sq km). The footprint of ancient Mega-Chad has been confirmed by satellite photography. The Nile waters swelled from increased rainfall and cut a deeper and wider floodplain, extending well into Sudan to the west.

The Nile floods were much more extensive than Dr. Dicken recognizes. They spread nearly 100 miles west of the river and created "mega-lakes" in the ancient desert. This has been shown by a team of American and Egyptian researchers using Space Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission (SRTM). Data from these surveys reveal that the Nile floods started about 250,000 years ago and were much more extensive than originally thought.

Related reading: Boat Petroglyphs in Egypt's Eastern Desert; Nile Floods Gave Rise to Ancient Mega Lakes; Recovering the African Background of Genesis

Painting the "ancients" as ignorant

Dr. Dickens argues that the "ancients" did not know that there was a globe. I'm not sure to which "ancients" he refers. Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors were known for their wisdom and had considerable astronomical understanding. By 4245 BC, the priests of the Upper Nile had established a calendar based on the appearance of the star Sirius that becomes visible to the naked eye once every 1,461 years. Apparently, Nilotes had been tracking this star and connecting it to seasonal changes and agriculture for thousands of years. This is verified by the Priest Manetho who reported in his history (241 BC) that Nilotic Africans had been “star-gazing” as early as 40,000 years ago. Plato, who studied in Egypt, claimed that the Africans had been tracking the heavens for 10,000 years.

Material evidence continues to turn up in Africa indicating sophisticated astronomy among the Africans who lived in the time of Cain, Noah and Nimrod. There are ancient astronomical monuments in southern Africa and in the Sudan.

The wisdom of the Horite priests was so extensive that it was unrivaled in the ancient world before the rise of Greece and much of the wisdom ascribed to the ancient Greeks was borrowed from the Horites. Iamblichus wrote that Thales of Miletus insisted that Pythagoras go to Memphis to study because the priests there were esteemed for their knowledge and wisdom. Plato studied for 13 years in Egypt under the priest Sechnuphis and his conception of the eternal Forms was based on Horite metaphysics.

The Greek word for boundaries in creation is oros or horos, a reference to the celestial archetype of Horus who was said to be the marker of boundaries. Horus was born of Ra by the virgin queen Hathor-Meri who became pregnant when overshadowed by the Sun, the emblem of the Creator. Hathor's totem was a cow and temple images show her holding her son in a manger. This is an early expression of Messianic expectation and it is based upon the Edenic promise that a Woman of the Horite lines would bring forth the "Seed" who would crush the serpent's head and restore Paradise (Gen. 3:15). Jesus identified Himself as that Seed in John 12:24 when he told his disciples, "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."

In the works of Plato and Aristotle horos or horismos refers to landmarks, boundaries and categorical limits. From Horus come the words hour, horoscope, horologion, horotely and horizon. The association of Horus with the horizon is evident in Har-ma-khet, meaning "Horus of the Horizon". Horus was said to control the winds and to establish the cardinal points. The stars, planets and constellations were fixed in place by Horus, and as Ben Sira reminds us, not one of the heavenly bodies "has ever got in the way of another, and they will never disobey his word." (Ecclesiaticus 16:24)

Horus shrines and temples were located at major water systems and Horus ruled the waters. This is why the Horus name appears in the word for river in Hebrew and Arabic (nahar/nahr) and in Aramaic (nehar). Abraham’s older brother controlled commerce on the Tigris River between Ur and Haran. His Horus name is Na-Hor (Gen. 22:20).

Related reading: Ancient Wisdom, Science and Technology; Medical Care in Ancient Egypt; Seats of Wisdom

Dating Noah

Dr. Dickens believes that Noah's flood took place before 5000 B.C. and bases this on Mesopotamian and Sumerian sources. I find this strange in light of his opening remarks about allowing the Bible to speak for itself. The Sumerian king lists are not found in the Bible. However, the Genesis king lists do serve to identify Noah as a Nilo-Saharan ruler and are useful in calculated the approximate dates of these rulers.

The biblical description does not suggest that Noah lived between 8000 and 5000 BC (Neolithic Period). Noah was a descendant of the kings listed in Genesis 4 and 5. These ancient rulers controlled the major water systems of Lake Chad, the Nile, and the Tigris and Euphrates. The interconnected waterways were their roads. In other words, Noah would have been familiar with boats and likely had a fleet. The lines of his sons Ham and Shem intermarried according to the pattern of the ruler-priests. He kept a royal menagerie and drank wine, a drink reserved for the Nilo-Saharan nobility and ruler-priests.

Earliest evidence of wine consumption among the Nilotic rulers dates to between 4000-3600 BC, but rulers could have afforded to import wine from great distances. Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.”

In the late 1980s, German archaeologists found remains of wine making equipment in the tomb of King Scorpion I. That find consisted of grape seeds, grape skins, dried pulp and imported ceramic jars covered inside with a yellow residue chemically consistent with wine. Ancient Egyptian murals depict details of wine-making.

The common people drank beer rather than wine and Nubian beer contained high levels of tetracycline. Beer was a staple in Egyptian diets, and was listed in the rations for pyramid builders.

Noah would have known of the greatest technological accomplishments of his time, including those of Egypt's Golden Age, the Fourth Dynasty, which lasted from c. 2613 to 2494 BC. It was a time of peace and prosperity, and trade with other countries. Ancient Egyptian rulers traded with Elam, Sumer, Palestine, Afghanistan and with modern Pakistan, the source for lapis lazuli, documented to have been imported into Egypt from Predynastic time.

Noah would have been born only about 100 years before the Horite ruler-priest Shepseskaf-ankh, who lived during Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty (c. 2392-2282 BC). Shepseskaf-ankh was a priest of Re whose emblem was the Sun. The Horites were a caste of ruler-priests who were devotees of Ra, Horus and Hathor-Meri.

Shepseskaf-ankh's is the third tomb found at Abusir belonging to a physician. Originally the huge limestone tomb was marked by a pyramid. The discovery was made at Abusir near Cairo, not at the Abusir in Sudan. The Abusir pyramids in Sudan, along with the pyramids of Saqqara and Giza, are aligned with the ancient obelisk of Heliopolis (Biblical On).

Shepseskaf-ankh was one of the most distinguished physicians of the Era of pyramid builders. The Director of the Czech mission, Miroslav Barta, stated that the tombs in Abusir were constructed starting from the mid 5th Dynasty and many priests and officials who worked in the Pyramid complex of the 5th Dynasty Kings of Abusir and the Sun Temples were buried there.

Noah's reign must have been one of great prosperity for his people. An oracle concerning Noah states, “This one shall bring us relief from our work and the toil of our hands.” (Genesis 5:29)

Related reading: Chronology of the Genesis RulersThoughts on Calculating the Dates of the Patriarchs; The Early Kings of Nekhen; The Urheimat of the Canaanite Y