Philo's guide to decoding the Hebrew Bible

The study of religious or heroic legends and tales. One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens amongst the gods or other mythical beings was in one sense or another a reflection of events on earth. Recorded myths and legends, perhaps preserved in literature or folklore, have an immediate interest to archaeology in trying to unravel the nature and meaning of ancient events and traditions.

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Ishtar
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Post by Ishtar » Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:19 am

Talking of anomalies and temples, the Ugarit/Cannanite goddess Anat Jahu (a version of Astarte) was found in a Jewish Aramaic papyrus used in worship at the temple at Elephantine which belonged to the Jewish garrison there.

I can understand that the Jews had a continual "problem" with the "pagans" continuing to worship their gods and goddesses in their 'high places'. But soldiers representing their country abroad should be a different matter. For example, one would not expect to find our troops in Iraq taking part in satanic rites.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anat

Anat first appears in Egypt in the 16th dynasty (the Hyksos period) along with other northwest Semitic deities. She was especially worshipped in her aspect of a war goddess, often paired with the goddess `Ashtart. In the Contest Between Horus and Set, these two goddesses appear as daughters of Re and are given in marriage to the god Set, who had been identified with the Semitic god Hadad.

During the Hyksos period Anat had temples in the Hyksos capital of Avaris and in Beth-Shan (Palestine) as well as being worshipped in Memphis. On inscriptions from Memphis of 15th to 12th centuries BCE, Anat is called "Bin-Ptah", Daughter of Ptah. She is associated with Reshpu, (Canaanite: Resheph) in some texts and sometimes identified with the native Egyptian goddess Neith. She is sometimes called "Queen of Heaven". Her iconography varies, but she is usually shown carrying one or more weapons.

In the New Kingdom Ramesses II made ‘Anat his personal guardian in battle and enlarged Anat's temple in Pi-Ramesses. Ramesses named his daughter (whom he later married) Bint-Anat 'Daughter of Anat'. His dog appears in a carving in Beit el Wali temple with the name "Anat-in-vigor" and one of his horses was named ‘Ana-herte 'Anat-is-satisfied'.

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Post by Minimalist » Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:36 am

But soldiers representing their country abroad should be a different matter.

I'm not so sure that applies to a band of mercenaries working for the Egyptians. They were not exactly an expeditionary force sent to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqis...a la Bush and Blair. The Egyptians hired numerous mercenary contingents because by the time of Elephantine the country was well advanced on its death spiral. Besides, and I have to go looking for this, recent archaeology seems to suggest that Yahweh was only one of the gods represented at Elephantine.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

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Post by Ishtar » Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:41 am

Oh thanks Min. I didn't realise that they were mercenaries ... I thought they were there to keep the Egyptians from attacking their borders.

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Post by Minimalist » Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:55 am

This isn't all that recent but it gives an interesting picture of the Elephantine community...largely drawn from their own words...and how integrated into Egyptian life and religion they had become.

http://www.thing.net/~grist/ld/koppany/ ... -cnm-n.htm
Scholars are uneasy about the religious beliefs of these people. Their names include the names of strange gods, they swore oaths by foreign deities, they apparently spent time in the temples of gods other than YHW, and distributed some of their religious funds to Anathbethal and Eshembethal. They had their own temple to YHW, and not just a simple synagogue or meeting house but a rather grand temple suitable for making burnt offerings. Even this gives scholars pause. They worshipped other gods in addition to YHW there. And, as important, according to Deuteronomy, the Lord had chosen Jerusalem as his site and that's where the temple should be-other lands were unclean and temples were not to be built on them, even if the temple at Jerusalem had been destroyed when they left or were driven out of their own land.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

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Post by kbs2244 » Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:05 am

Ish:

“Who are the primitive Christians?” is a good question.
They don’t get much play after the death of John.
There may even have been times when there were none.
I guess my definition would have to be that they were/are people the reject anything doctorial that is not supported by scripture.
And that include a lot, if not most, of the doctrines of current “Christianity.”

When did all these adaptations happen?
Evidently, right away.
As Paul’s work started bringing in non-Hebrews as Christians the famous question of circumcision came up.
The Christians of a Hebrew background said you couldn’t be a Christian without being circumcised.
Paul disagreed.
He argued that the practice was a requirement of the “Law of Moses” and that it went away when Christ’s death fulfilled the requirements of that law.
He won that argument (Acts Chapter 15)

But by 100 to 150 AD we have the use of the cross, vestments, chants, rituals, incense, ceremonial objects, relics, infant baptism, statues, and other works of art.

None of this was used by the early “primitive” Christians.

But I do have to admit that there are “mysteries” in the NT.
John’s Revelation being the classic.
Over time, some have become understood, others not.
It is the concept of “increasing light.”
And, following that concept, as a new understanding is revealed, it is not kept hidden as a mystery whose answer is known only to a few, but it is published world wide.
Although I do not agree with them, look at the publicly the new translation of "virgin" to "young girl" and of the "Gospel of Judas" got.

Min:

Your point about the synagogues is a good one.
But evidently they were tolerated, if the location was far enough away to make Temple visitations impractical.
On his first 2 trips, Paul, being the good salesmen he was, went for “the low hanging fruit” first.
That meant Jews.
He is reported as going first to the local synagogue in the city when he arrived to begin his ministry.
And we just had a posting about there even being an alternative Temple on the Nile in Elephantine.
I will double check on the dating of the Zodiac symbols, though.
You may be correct.
It does seem the ones I remember, off the top of my head, were in the Levant, and thus would have been within attendance range of the Temple if it still existed.

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Post by Minimalist » Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:15 am

We simply cannot be certain when, or by whom, those letters were written and, most significantly...re-written.

Over at Jesus Never Existed, Ken Humphreys has done a lot of research on the question of Corinth and "Paul's" alleged visit there.

http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/corinth1.html
Pausanius, a 2nd century visitor, describes a Corinthian market-place replete with statues of Artemis, Dionysus, Poseidon, Apollo, Aphrodite and Athena. He names the temples of Tyche, Hermes, and Zeus and a sanctuary of "All the Gods". Above the monumental gateway leading from the forum to the port of Lechaeum he describes the gilded chariots of the sun god Helios and his son Phaeton, and the nearby bronzes of Hercules and Hermes. By the theatre, he records the sanctuary of Zeus Capitolinus and nearby a temple dedicated to Asclepius. By the Acrocorinth he notes dual sanctuaries of the Egyptian gods Isis and Serapis, and still further shrines of the Fates, Demeter, and Hera Bunaea. On the summit of the Acrocorinth, he records the famed Temple of Aphrodite.

Yet Pausanius, in all this punctilious catalogue of piety, neither mentions nor so much as hints at either a "Christian meeting house" or a synagogue of the Jews. And this is in the mid-2nd century when the "Church of Corinth" should have been very much a going concern.

This suggests that the Christians of the time of Pausanius were so utterly marginal as to go unnoticed and that the Jews of Corinth were either thoroughly Hellenized and honoured the gods of Greece and Rome, or so totally impoverished as to be unable to support a synagogue. After all, Jews of a later period, for example, in 4th century Rome, built splendid synagogues.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

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Post by Ishtar » Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:16 am

Thanks, Min (referring to your previous post on the temple).

I think these scholars are only uneasy because they don't understand how prevalent and important the goddess aspect of their religion was.

She is mainly known as Sophia, until she was translated from the Greek into Latin, and lost her personality in the translation, just becoming a quality: wisdom. The Greek philosophers were called that because they were "Lovers of Sophia" which is a far cry from how dry and dusty philosophy is taught these days!

Sophia mainly appears in the Apocrypha, and the justification for throwing these books out of the main canonical literature was that there were purely Greek with no extant Hebrew texts to back them up.

Howver, this is not true of the Wisdom of Solomon, written by a contemporary of Philo of Alexandria (45 CE). There are extant Hebrew texts to back it up, which is why the Eastern Byzantine church kept the Wisdom of Solomon, along with a couple of others.

In my ancient King James Bible, the intro to the Apocrypha says of the Wisdom of Solomon:

Another feature of the book, which was highly valued and used by the early Church Fathers in expounding the doctrine of the Logos (the Word of God incarnate in Christ) is the description in chapters 7 to 10 of Wisdom considered not as a gift or a quality, but rather an almost personal being, as the activity of God personified, as one that 'sitteth by the throne of God" and called by the names 'Word of God' and 'Holy Spirit. '
In the Wisdom of Solomon, Sophia is variously described as the Guide of Israel, the leader of the Children of Israel in the Exodus, who sits by the throne of God, is loved by God, the one who has salvation under her control and the redeemer who grants immortality.

Of course, this is very similar to Philo's doctrine of the Logos and Sophia.

[
Last edited by Ishtar on Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Minimalist » Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:19 am

And, Ish, while on the subject of JNE, you might find this page of interest. It has a section that is right up your alley.

http://jesusneverexisted.com/belief.html
The genre of literature known as "Gnostic" was a device used by its proponents to popularise complex philosophical ideas among an uneducated mass market. Its stories purported to tell the tale of the first disciples of a spiritual master, the logos or Christ.
Always a common thread to their message was a duality between the material world, which they denigrated and despised, and a conjectured spirit realm held in sublime esteem.
The pious fantasising, elaborated at length by adepts of a "higher wisdom", spread through an empire which had excellent communications and a despairing underclass. Dozens of factions contended and gospels of fantasy and fancy proliferated.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

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Post by Ishtar » Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:20 am

Thanks, I'll take a look! :D

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Post by Minimalist » Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:27 am

I think these scholars are only uneasy because they don't understand how prevalent and important the goddess aspect of their religion was

Syncretism seems to have the way of the world in ancient times. Religious warfare is a late Roman invention. With few exceptions in the ancient world (the Hasmonean forced conversion to Judaism of Galilee, comes to mind) wars were not fought about religion. Wars were fought to obtain treasure, territory and slaves. When a nation was overthrown its temples and public buildings were destroyed or re-cycled by the conquerors but we simply don't see the kind of "You Must Believe What I Believe" kind of nonsense that really got going when the Christians were handed the keys to the kingdom by Constantine. To be sure, in Greco-Roman times, prior to the rise of Chrsitianity, there was a flowering of religious thought and the Romans were quite tolerant. Their only requirement was "pay homage to our gods, too" but there is a hell of a difference between "paying homage" and killing people if they don't believe what you want them to believe.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

-- George Carlin

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Post by Ishtar » Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:32 am

[post deleted - out of compassion]
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Post by Ishtar » Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:50 am

Minimalist wrote:And, Ish, while on the subject of JNE, you might find this page of interest. It has a section that is right up your alley.

http://jesusneverexisted.com/belief.html
Thanks. I've looked at this Min and it's not really 'right up my alley' because it contains a lot of value judgements that are not supported in the reasons the writer gives for the proliferation and existence of these groups.

He's also wrong that the inner, secret teachings were distributed to the masses, and this is supported by quotes from the Jesus character and the Paul character as I showed in a post earlier. Certainly in the teachings they covered it up as best they could. This would also be in keeping with what we know about Greek Gnosticism, which Jewish and Christian Gnosticism was really just a Hebrew version of.

I don't think this story was popularised to the masses until Constantine found it expedient to do so.

I think this article is obviously written by an atheist with an agenda and not someone who has any understanding of Gnosticism other than as a stick to beat up Christians with, which is not particularly helpful to us here.

But thanks anyway.

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Post by Ishtar » Wed Jul 23, 2008 11:02 am

Minimalist wrote:We simply cannot be certain when, or by whom, those letters were written and, most significantly...re-written.

Over at Jesus Never Existed, Ken Humphreys has done a lot of research on the question of Corinth and "Paul's" alleged visit there.

http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/corinth1.html
On the other hand, that one is very helpful! :lol:

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Post by Ishtar » Wed Jul 23, 2008 11:04 am

Minimalist wrote:
Syncretism seems to have the way of the world in ancient times. Religious warfare is a late Roman invention.
Yep .. agree with that...and the Moslems took it to a whole new level.

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Post by Forum Monk » Wed Jul 23, 2008 4:33 pm

Hi Ishtar,
I think it is a good topic to discuss Paul since you think he epitomized gnostic principles in his writing and I think his writing reveals a true christian world-view with a very heavy background in Levitical Law (though he realized the Law had a purpose apart from dictating rules of conduct).
The letter confirms the Gnosticism of Paul in that he refers to Christ in the present tense... even though Paul is supposed to have lived after Jesus’s lifetime. In other words, his Christ is not linked to a historical person now dead, but to the Gnostic concept of Christ, which is the Christ within, or Christ consciousness.
No true christian believes that Jesus Christ is dead and none refer to him as though he was once alive but no longer. On the Damascus road, Paul professed to meet the living, resurrected Jesus Christ.
Paul never quotes Jesus or portrays him as a recently deceased religious teacher or saviour, or even that he lived at all. There is no mention of Mary and Joseph, no Sermon on the Mount or any of the miracles attributed by the Gospels to Jesus. There is no cleansing of the temple (which, according to Mark and Luke, was the cause of his trial and crucifixion) - in fact, by reading Paul you’d never know there was a trial. There is no agony in Gethsemane, no thieves crucified with Jesus, no Pilate, no Judas, nor any word about the place or time.
True, because Paul never witnessed any of those things. He wrote from his conversion forward.
In Hebrews 8:4 he writes: “If Jesus had been on earth, he wouldn’t have been a priest.”
and not ...
“When Jesus was on earth, he wasn’t a priest.”
That is because his Jesus Christ is mythical
This was not said because Christ was mythical. Because it's extracted from context, it is not clear from this snippet that Paul (let's be clear there is no certainty Paul was the author of the Hebrew's letter, but we needn't quibble over it) was giving a discourse on two types of priesthoods.
There were the lawful levitical priests who descended from the order of Aaron, the first high priest, and there was another type of priest of whom is glimpsed in the personhood of Melchiezidek. The author is stating, that Christ's priesthood (and hence religious authority) is of this latter type.
Christ was not a descendant of Levi and so "Heb 8:4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law." In other words, if he were presently on earth in the flesh, he would not be legally qualified to serve as a priest.

That's all it is saying. Jesus was not a priest because he was not a Levite, he was a Judahite. A completely different point is being made with regard to who is qualified to make the atoning sacrifice.
There is no mention of blood or atonement in the whole letter, so I don’t know why you’re reading that into it. And it is ‘words of wisdom’ not ‘wisdom’ itself that Paul is saying is not the way.
The difficulties are only insurmountable if you don’t understand Gnosticism, and this is why it won't be helpful to start from your bald summary, which doesn’t even begin to fathom its depths.
Each letter Paul wrote had a purpose and historical context and because one does not read of blood in a single letter does not mean Paul did not believe it. In fact as the corpus of his works are examined he very much preached principles that are completely anti-gnostic: Namely Christ came to earth in a human body and he suffered and died.
One need look no farther than Hebrews to see this:

Hebrews 2
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for[f]the sins of the people.

Hebrews 5
7 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

Hebrews 10
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body


Hebrews 10:10
And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Shall I also quote all the many places Paul speaks of the blood and its actual purpose? It was not allegorical or metaphorical blood, but a hardcore reality as real as the animal blood which ran across the altar.
You may also remember this same ‘rushing mighty wind’ when God appeared to Elijah.
This is an initiation – a practical experience of the mystic that requires no words .... until afterwards, that is, when they all began gabbling ‘in tongues’!
“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as like fire”. This tells us that this was the second initiation – the fire or Light initiation – the first one being the water (baptism).
That’s why Paul says he hasn’t come to baptise (even though he clearly states earlier that he has carried out baptisms). He means ‘just to baptise with water.'
He has come to offer a wordless teaching, an initiation, “less the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
Paul did not preach baptism, initiation, or wisdom. Paul preached the most fundamental principle of christianity there is: faith.
The gnostic believes salvation is attainted through the acquisition of secret knowledge and often this knowledge is held by a certain elite and hope is dangled that through proper discipline, sacrifice, reasoning and work, one can gain access to the knowledge.

This is totally anitchristian and contrary to Paul's most basic message. he clearly states over and over that salvation is obtained through faith and not by any amount of mental of behavioural changes, no intitiations, no baptisms, nothing the individual can do in and of themselves.
Eph 2:
7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

So if Paul was gnostic, why did he write about so many things contrary to gnostic beliefs? Why the emphasis on the physical Christ, his blood, and faith? Why no discussion of attaining salvation through wisdom, or knowledge? Why no mention of the evil creator or so many other basic gnostic principles?

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