Tuesday, July 22, 2014

70,000 Year Old Settlement Discovered in Sudan


Site of excavations in Affad. Photo: Marta Osypińska

During ongoing excavations in northern Sudan, Polish archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Poznań, have discovered the remains of a settlement estimated to 70,000 years old. This find, according to the researchers, seems to contradict the previously held belief that the construction of permanent structures was associated with the so-called Great Exodus from Africa and occupation of the colder regions of Europe and Asia.
The site known as Affad 23, is currently the only one recorded in the Nile Valley which shows that early Homo sapiens built sizeable permanent structures, and had adapted well to the wetland environment.
This new evidence points to a much more advanced level of human development and adaptation in Africa during the Middle Paleolithic.
Read it all here.

Though this settlement is located in northern Sudan, Nubian Middle Stone Age artifacts have been discovered there, suggesting that stone technologies traveled along the Nile.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

G. K. Chesterton on Divine Frivolity


Chapter XVI of Heretics – “On Mr. McCabe and a Divine Frivolity”

“If there is one thing more than another which any one will admit who has the smallest knowledge of the world, it is that men are always speaking gravely and earnestly and with the utmost possible care about the things that are not important, but always talking frivolously about the things that are.”

“Numbers of clergymen have from time to time reproached me for making jokes about religion; and they have almost always invoked the authority of that very sensible commandment which says, ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.’ Of course, I pointed out that I was not in any conceivable sense taking the name in vain. To take a thing and make a joke out of it is not to take it in vain. It is, on the contrary, to take it and use it for an uncommonly good object. To use a thing in vain means to use it without use. But a joke may be exceedingly useful; it may contain the whole earthly sense, not to mention the whole heavenly sense, of a situation. … The thing which is fundamentally and really frivolous is not a careless joke. The thing which is fundamentally and really frivolous is a careless solemnity.”

“…paradox simply means a certain defiant joy which belongs to belief. … if Mr. McCabe asks me why I import frivolity into a discussion of the nature of man, I answer, because frivolity is a part of the nature of man. If he asks me why I introduce what he calls paradoxes into a philosophical problem, I answer, because all philosophical problems tend to become paradoxical.”

And this from Orthodoxy

G.K. Chesterton
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”


Related reading: The Africa Chesterton Never KnewChesterton on the Value of Detective Stories; Chesterton on Premature Celebrations of ChristmasChesterton on the Kingdom of HeavenWho is Sunday? Who is Thursday?



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Abraham's Audience with Pharaoh


Genesis 12:18-20

18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this that thou hast done unto me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife (isha)?

19 Why saidst thou, ‘She is my sister (achot),’ so I might have taken her to me for a wife? Now therefore behold thy wife; take her and go thy way.”

20 And Pharaoh commanded his men (anashim) concerning him; and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.


Alice C. Linsley

Abraham's meeting with Pharaoh is an understated account of a remarkable moment in the patriarch's life. Likely he met with Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II, a powerful ruler of the 11th Dynasty who reigned for 51 years.

Mentuhotep II

Sometime around the 39th year of his reign Mentuhotep II reunited Egypt after two centuries of political instability. Consequently, he is considered the first ruler of the Middle Kingdom. He was a builder of great monuments. The southern shrine city of Thebes was the center of his political power. His royal house had close connection to Nubia and at least one of his wives was Nubian.

Kemsit, Mentuhotep's Nubian queen
She was buried at Mentuhotep's mortuary complex at Thebes.

Mentuhotep had at least seven wives, including his sister Neferu II. He appears to have been a collector of wives and consorts, and this story concerning Sarah reflects historical reality.
 
 
Abraham's audience with Pharaoh
 
Circumcision was a sign of purity among the ancient Egyptians and only circumcised males were permitted to appear before Pharaoh. Therefore, it is highly probable that Abraham was already circumcised at the time of his audience with Mentuhotep.
 
The king and his insignia, including the crook and the flail, were never to be touched by ordinary mortals. All who were granted audience approached with due reverence, prostrating themselves seven times. During the Late Bronze Age the rulers of Canaan compared the pharaoh to the sun and themselves to the dust under his feet. Gold was associated with the sun and Horus' totem was the golden falcon which appeared on the top of Mentuhotep's cartouche.

After his enthronement Mentuhotep also bore the title "son of Re" and was known as the ruler of the Upper and Lower Nile regions which were symbolized by the sedge (Upper) and the bee (Lower) and by the double white and red crown.


 
 
As a Horite (devotee of Horus), Abraham would have been aware of the titles held by the king of Egypt. The oldest title was the Horus name assumed by Mentuhotep II when he came to the throne as heir or "son" of Horus, ruler of the universe. This was written inside a serekh with the Golden Horus name. The concept of the golden falcon has been definitely traced to the time of Mentuhotep and the 11th Dynasty. The ancient Egyptians believed in the resurrection and associated the golden falcon with the deified king who would rise from the grave and lead his people to immortality.

 
Sarah was Abraham's half-sister
 
Analysis of the marriage and ascendancy structure of Abraham's people reveals that the Horite rulers had two wives. The first was a half-sister, as was Sarah to Abraham. The second wife was usually a patrilineal cousin, as was Keturah to Abraham. The wives maintained separate households in distant settlements on a north-south axis. Sarah resided in Hebron and Keturah resided at Beersheba to the south. Both Hebron and Beersheba were in the Horite territory of Edom. The Greeks called this region Idumea, referring to the land of the people with a red skin tone.

It is commonly believed that Abraham lied to Pharaoh when he said that Sarah was his sister. However, Scripture reiterates that Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister in Genesis 20:12. Here Abraham explains this to Abimelek, “She is the daughter of my father, but not of my mother.” This is a significant clue in gaining understanding of the kinship pattern of the Horite rulers.


Related reading:  The Horite Ancestry of Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ of Two Crowns; The Marriage and Ascendancy Pattern of Abraham's People; Chronology of the Genesis Rulers; The Nubian Context of YHWY; The Urheimat of the Canaanite Y


 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A.N. Wilson on Bishops in the Church of England




In 1983, British biographer and novelist A.N. Wilson wrote, in his Life of John Milton, “It needs an act of supreme historical imagination to be able to recapture an atmosphere in which Anglican bishops might be taken seriously; still more, one in which they might be thought threatening.”
 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sick of Liberal Character Assassination?


Christians find themselves in the crosshairs of liberals both politically and scientifically. A favorite liberal excuse to justify bad science is one of their favorite mantras; people who are Christians are primitives who have closed their minds to science. They point to the Inquisition of the Middle Ages and the Age of Reason and Enlightenment as their proof. Being Christian has nothing to do with science, but everything to do with morality, which is why many can see that scientists who say they can predict the future is a lie. As in all things, when the Left’s bluff is called, and they cannot win on the basis of either the facts or the truth, they resort to attacking the character of those who expose their lies as if character assassination can make the truth a lie and a lie the truth.

Being Christian no more makes one a primitive who cannot understand science than being a scientist makes one an honest and honorable atheist. “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure,” is the perfect axiom with which to tag global warming scientists who, rather than examine the facts and reach a conclusion, have an agenda and find the facts to match the conclusion. The simple fact is that the only proof that there are “greenhouse gases” is based on computer models, models that they programmed without being able to conduct any actual experiment to prove their theories.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Peter Leithart on John Walton's Lost World of Genesis 1


John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis 1 promises a lot. It offers what Walton calls a “face-value” and “literal” reading of Genesis 1, but one that sidesteps the problems of attempting to reconcile science and the Bible. For Walton, creationist readings and concordist readings that attempt to correlate Genesis 1 with contemporary scientific theory both miss the point and read “modern” questions into an ancient text that was not designed to answer those questions.

Walton’s treatment of the “days” of Genesis 1 illustrates the cleverness of his solution: With young earth creationists, he claims that Genesis 1:1-2:4 describes a seven-day sequence, and that the days must be interpreted as normal 24-hour days (90-91). Yet he doesn’t think that Genesis 1 implies anything at all about the age of the material universe. Christians can rely on science to tell us how old the earth is.

The two main planks of Walton’s argument are, first, his claim that Genesis 1, being ancient cosmology, should be read like an ancient cosmology, and, second, the claim that ancient cosmologies present not a “material” ontology but a “functional” one. According to the “modern” materialist ontology, a thing is when it comes into material existence; on this view, to “create” means to bring something into material existence. According to ancient ontology, though, a thing is when it has been assigned and equipped to play a role in an ordered system; to “create” doesn’t mean to bring something into existence but to give something (that might already exist) its place in an order. For ancients, a thing is “by virtue of its having a function in an ordered system” (24).

Genesis 1, he argues, is concerned with function rather than with material origination. Walton believes that God brought material things into being (96); he doesn’t think, however, that this is what Genesis 1 is about. Overall, it’s about God’s organization of the world as a cosmic temple. More specifically, things are not made de novo in Genesis 1 but are assigned their proper position in that cosmic temple. The sun had been shining for a long time before the week of Genesis 1 begins; what happens during that week is not the formation of the ball of burning gas but the placement of the sun with the moon and stars in the firmament as signs, for appointed times, etc. Pre-existing heavenly bodies are given new functions in relation to humanity. Presumably too human beings of some stripe had existed for a long, long time, but they are assigned a new role as priests of God’s cosmic temple during the seven days of “creation.” That is what it means in Genesis 1 for God to “create” heaven and earth.

Read it all here.


Friday, June 20, 2014

The Orthodox Study Bible


Alice C. Linsley


I appreciate the great labor that went into producing The Orthodox Study Bible (OSB). Father Jack Norman Sparks was the principle overseer of the project. He was the Founder and Dean of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (Antiochian) in Elk Grove, California. The Project Director was Father Peter Gillquist. Both of these remarkable scholar-priests are now at repose. Memory eternal!

Mr. Sam Moore, the retired chairman of Thomas Nelson Inc; established a matching gift program to fund the project. Mr. Moore once commented to Father Gillquist that since the Protestants and the Catholics had their study bibles, why shouldn't the Orthodox have their own study bible? This challenged Father Gillquist, whose efforts, along with many others, culminated in the completion of the first Orthodox bible (New Testament and Psalms) in 1993, and the publication of the current Orthodox bible in 2008. The current edition includes the Old Testament, Wisdom of Sirach, Prayer of Manasseh, 1 and 2 Esdras, Susanna, Bel and the Serpent, and the Hymn of the Three Young Men.

The Orthodox Church uses the 49 books of the Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint (LXX). It was produced in the third century B.C. by seventy Jewish scholars who gathered in Alexandria, and it became the universally accepted version of the Old Testament.


Attention to the Seven Ecumenical Councils

A strength of the Orthodox Study Bible is its attention to the doctrinal consensus of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. The notes give primary attention to the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, The Incarnation, the centrality of the Church as the "dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:22), and the Virtues whereby God's people live righteous lives.


Attention to the Fathers

Another strength of the Orthodox Study Bible is the inclusion of interpretation of "the fathers of the ancient and undivided church." Doubtless this was one of the contributions of Fr. Jack Sparks who edited The Apostolic Fathers (Light and Life Publishers).

The inclusion of the fathers' interpretations in the annotations (footnotes) poses a difficulty. Should their views be treated comprehensively whereby all the views on a given passage are included, or should there be only one representative view? If only a representative view, we might miss a unique gem such as that offered by St. John Chrysostom when he wrote of Lamech the Elder's repentance and reception of divine mercy. Which fathers should be quoted? Since they do not always agree, should all their comments be included? If so, the notes would take up as much space on a page as the biblical text! Even with limited citation of the fathers, the annotations sometimes fill half the page. (See page 10, for an example.)

Perhaps there will be a complementary volume which more comprehensively addresses the Apostolic reflections on Scripture; something like the relationship of the Talmud and the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). The Talmud is a collection of rabbinic writings that most Jews regard as more important than the Tanakh. The Talmud encourages this view with statements such as this: “My son, be more careful in the observance of the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah." (Talmud Erubin 21b)

Some Orthodoxy regard the apostolic fathers in a similar way. Yet, one must wonder if the fathers would want us to give their words the same spiritual weight at the Scriptures upon which they meditated? They understood how human counsel, even that of the spiritually enlightened, can err. They engaged in refuting rabbinic interpretations that obfuscated the Gospel.

In his review of the 2008 Orthodox Study Bible, Dr. John Collis wrote:

Judaism has its bible, the Tanakh, which is explained by the Talmud, the authoritative collection of writings drawn from the tradition of the Jewish people. Today, Orthodoxy has their study bible.

Tomorrow, Orthodox Christians should have an Orthodox Talmud, that is, Orthodox Christians should have an authoritative and well organized collection of writings drawn from the Orthodox Christian tradition.
[From here.]


The Orthodox Study Bible on Genesis

There are inaccuracies in the notes on Genesis and this constitutes one of the deficiencies of the publication that I hope will be corrected in the future. Here are some corrections that would improve the Orthodox Study Bible notes on Genesis.

3:15 - The Orthodox Study Bible recognizes that this verse about the Woman's seed speaks of Christ, yet there is no mention of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Woman, and there is no reference to Jesus' self-description as the Seed in John 12:24.

4:16 - Nod is a play on the word Nok. In Hebrew, these words are almost identical. Nod means to wander and the people of Nok were known to wander with their cattle. These were Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors.

4:25 - Here the Orthodox Study Bible contradicts what the Bible reveals about the intermarriage of the lines of Cain and Seth. It states that Christ is a descendant of Seth only. However, analysis of the Genesis 4 and 5 king lists makes it clear that these lines intermarried. Therefore Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David and Jesus are descendants of both Cain and Seth.

5:3 - The OSB identifies Seth, Adam and Eve as a type of the Trinity. In this view, Seth is a type of Christ. However, this fails to take into account that Cain is the kingdom builder, not Seth. In fact, throughout the Bible Cain is identified with the office of king. Genesis 4:7 states that Cain would rule over Seth. In Jude's epistle (c. 68 AD) Cain is cast as the archetype of the earthly ruler. Jude warns those who might abandon Christ because of their suffering and false teachers that God punishes those who rebel against Him. He uses three men as examples: Cain the ruler, Balaam the prophet, and Korah the priest. These were the three most sacred offices among Abraham’s people and they were often filled by people corrupted by the world. We have no Biblical evidence that Cain repented of his brother's murder, but there is much biblical evidence that God showed him mercy just as he did to the murderers Moses and David. He deserved to die, yet God protected him from those who might kill him. God allowed him to become a ruler, to build a city, and to be one of the ancestors of Christ our God.

Instead, the OSB should have noted that Genesis hints at the Trinity in Genesis 3:15. The Woman (not Eve, as she is not named until Genesis 3:20) is to conceive and bring forth the Seed of God. She conceives by God through the Holy Spirit and brings forth the Son of God. Here we have Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Abraham's people believed that this was to happen by divine "overshadowing" (cf. Luke 1:26-28). This is an aspect of the solar symbolism of the ancient Habiru/Hebrews.

Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors expected a Woman of their ruler-priest lines (Ha-biru/Hebrew) to bring forth the immortal Righteous Ruler. She was to conceive by divine overshadowing. Remember what the Angel Gabriel said to Mary? "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)

11:10-31 - The OSB states, "The genealogy of Shem carries Christ's genealogy down to Abraham..." (p. 16). However, Abraham was a descendant of both Shem and Ham since the Scriptures make it clear that their lines intermarried.