Friday, November 27, 2015

Symbols of Archaic Rock Shelters

Written language didn't suddenly appear. Thousands of years before the first writing systems, our rock-sheltered ancestors scrawled geometric signs on the walls of the homes.

Paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger has studied and codified these ancient markings and finds great uniformity, especially among the earliest symbols. Her findings suggest that graphic communication was widely used by archaic peoples.

Genevieve von Petzinger has been studying cave symbols in 200 caves and rock shelters. Some symbols date to 40,000 years ago. She has catalogued 32 symbols found in ancient caves all over Ice Age Europe. One set of five symbols – "II ^ III X II" – is especially common.

Many of these archaic symbols are also found among archaic peoples of Africa, Indonesia and Australia. The red dot and the red hand are among the oldest cave symbols. These are most often made with red ocher.

Many of the swirls, crosses, circles, crosshatches and open angle symbols found in France and Spain are found in far earlier rock shelters in Africa. For example, the open-angle symbol can be seen on engravings at Blombos cave in South Africa, where artifacts over 75,000 years have been found.

77,000 year old stone found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa

These 65,000 year old ostrich egg shells with geometric designs demonstrate symbolic communication among paleolithic peoples in Africa.

The markings on the Ostrich egg shells are very similar to the markings on this shell found on Java in the late 1800s appears. It was carved 500,000 years ago.

Some of the most significant geometric designs and symbols are the circle, the red dot, the X, groups of parallel lines, and a serpent image. Many of these symbols appear to represent a complex of related ideas that embody a cultural concept. This was true among Abraham's ancestors. The Y is an example. It represents a cluster of related ideas including:

the appointed ruler
the ruler's authority
the ruler's territory
the ruler's people
the ruler's resources such as his herds and water sources
the ruler's staff or knobstick


Other pre-Abrahamic symbols include V and T. The T represents the solar arc from east to west and the crossing from one side to another, as in crossing a river. It also is a symbol of blood in human form, as in this later Nilotic symbol of T-yet (shown right).

Related reading: Oldest Confirmed Cave Art; Mining Blood; Rock Art in Sudan and Somalia; The Urheimat of the Canaanite Y

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Female Shamans, Not Women Priests

C.S. Lewis the Prophet

"...I heard that the Church of England was being advised to declare women capable of Priests' Order. I am, indeed, informed that such a proposal is very unlikely to be seriously considered by the authorities. To take such a revolutionary step at the present moment, to cut ourselves off from the Christian past and to widen the divisions between ourselves and other Churches by establishing an order of priestesses in our midst, would be an almost wanton degree of imprudence. And the Church of England herself would be torn in shreds..." -- C.S. Lewis, from his essay “Priestesses in the Church?”

Alice C. Linsley

There is so much bad teaching and erroneous information on the subject of women priests that there is little wonder that people are confused. The latest example is Joan Breton Connelly's Portrait of a Priestess. Connelly fails to make a distinction between shamans and priests, as do most World Religions texts. The "priestess" of ancient Greece was a shaman, a seer, and a wise woman, but not a priest who offered blood sacrifice for atonement.

Blood sacrifices were not the norm in ancient Greece. Appeasement of the gods and atonement are very different concepts.

Connelly claims that women were present at blood sacrifices, but cannot verify that they offered the sacrifice. She concedes that they may have lead the bull or sheep to the priest, but then she dismisses this by saying that the one who actually wielded the knife was a butcher of low social status, not a high ranking priest. Yet throughout the archaic world, it was ruler-priests who offered animal sacrifice.

Connelly obfuscates the question of whether or not women offered blood sacrifice. Obfuscation reveals lack of hard evidence.

The women seers of the ancient Greek and Alexandrian temples and shrines did not offer blood sacrifice. They were seers and "wise women." One example is Themistoclea, the Pythia of Apollo at the Delphi temple in the 6th century BC. She was reputed to be wise in math, natural science, medicine and philosophy. She was one of Pythagoras' teachers. Diogenes stated that "Aristoxenus asserts that Pythagoras derived the greater part of his ethical doctrines from Themistoclea, the priestess at Delphi."

Serpent pillar that originally stood
in front of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
The heads of the snakes have been broken off.

Themistoclea has a later parallel in Hypatia who was at the Temple of Serapis in Alexandria. The Church Father Tertullian wrote in AD 197 that the temple housed a great library which contained the Old Testament in Greek (Septuagint). Hypatia was the daughter of the famous mathematician Theon Alexandricus (AD 335-405). Like Themistoclea, she too was a mathematician, as well as an astronomer and philosopher. Around AD 400 she became the head of the Platonist school at Alexandria. She imparted knowledge to people from all over the world who came to Alexandria to study. One of her students, Synesius of Cyrene, became bishop of Ptolemais in AD 410. He was an exponent of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

These were wise women whose advice was sought when people, especially rulers, were faced with big decisions, but they were not priests. They probably offered grain and oil offerings in the temples, as did many people who were not priests: warriors, nobles, commoners with substantial resources, etc.

Hupa female shaman. Photo Edward S. Curtis, 1923

Shamans are not Priests

Women have been shamans in many cultures, but never priests. Priests offer sacrifice and never go into a trance state to communicate with spirits. Shamans and priests serve a similar role in that they are mediators between the supernatural and their communities. However, priests are forbidden to participate in divination as mediums. The roles are the same, but their worldviews are very different. Shamans seek secret knowledge to determine what has brought disease, war and natural disaster to their communities. They believe such things are due to spirits that have been offended by human actions. Those spirits must be appeased. Only one Spirit is consulted by priests, and this Spirit never lies. That is why John urges his spiritual children always to "test the spirits."

I made the acquaintance of 2 shamans (one was Umani Lenape and the other was Sioux) and I have studied this. Shamans will tell you that the spirits often lie and they have to try to trick them to find out what is true and what is false.

To illustrate the comparison of apple and oranges, I refer to a textbook used at the university where I teach World Religions. In the section on shamanism, the author generalizes that shamans are the priests of the ancient world and that since there are Japanese and Korean female shamans, there must have been female priests. This is the politically correct thing to teach, but it is based on a false premise and employs an incorrect anthropological method. Here is the author’s reasoning in syllogistic form:

All shamans are priests.
Females are shamans.
Therefore female shamans are priests.

Besides the poor logic, we have a problem of trying to compare two worldviews that are in stark contrast. While there are ways in which shamans and priests are similar, the distinction between their worldviews and their methods is clear. While priests and shamans serve similar functions in their societies as mediators, their worldviews are very different.

Underlying shamanism is the belief that there are powerful spirits who cause imbalance and disharmony in the world. The shaman’s role is to determine which spirits are at work in a given situation and to find ways to appease the spirits. This may or may not involve animal sacrifice.

Underlying the priesthood is belief in a single supreme Spirit to whom humans must give an accounting, especially for the shedding of blood. In this view, one Great Spirit (God) holds the world in balance and it is human actions that cause disharmony. The vast assortment of ancient laws governing priestly ceremonies, sacrifices, and cleansing rituals clarifies the role of the priest as one who offers animal sacrifice according to sacred law.

Women Priests in the Church

On the question of women priests in the Church, it is necessary to consider Scripture and the consensus of the Church Fathers. These authorities lump the innovation of women priests with the Arian heresy, liberation theology, and same-sex theology.

St. Athanasius said: “It is fit for us to adhere to the Word of God, and not relinquish it, thinking by syllogisms to evade what is there clearly delivered.” (Tract of the Incarnation). He also said: “Ask not concerning the Trinity but learn only from the Scriptures. For the instructions which you will find there are sufficient.” (Tract of the Holy Ghost) And in his Oration against the Gentiles, Athanasius declared: “That the Scriptures are sufficient to the manifestation of the Truth.” Not a single woman is designated "priest" in the Bible.

Speaking about the danger of innovation, St. Basil the Great said: “Everyone who steadfastly values the old ways above these novelties, and who has preserved unchanged the tradition of the fathers both in the city and in the country, is familiar with this phrase [with whom in the doxology]. Rather, it is those never content with accepted ways who despise the old as being stale, constantly welcoming innovation, like worldings who are always chasing after the latest fashion. Observe that country people cling to ancient patterns of speech, while the adroit language of these cunning disputants always bear the brand of the latest trends of thought. But for us, what our fathers said [the received Tradition], we repeat: the same glory is given to the Father and Son; therefore we offer the doxology to the Father with the Son. But we are not content simply because this is the tradition of the Fathers. What is important is that the Fathers followed the meaning of Scripture.” (On the Holy Spirit, translated by David Anderson, St. Vladimir Seminary Press, 1980)

“The dogmas of the Fathers are held in contempt, the Apostolic traditions are disdained, the churches are subject to the novelties of innovators.” St. Basil the Great, Letter 90, To the Most Holy Brethren and Bishops Found in the West.

Blessed John Chrysostom has explicit direction concerning women and the priesthood: “When one is required to preside over the Church, and be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also.”

He also wrote, “The divine law indeed has excluded women from this ministry, but they endeavour to thrust themselves into it; and since they can effect nothing of themselves, they do all through the agency of others.”

Related Reading: What is a Priest?Priests and Shamans Hold Different WorldviewsWhy Women Were Never PriestsThe Priesthood in Anthropological Perspective; What Christians Believe


Friday, November 13, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pyramids and Mounds Galore!

LONDON, ENGLAND—Sixteen pyramids sitting atop tombs have been unearthed since 1998 in a large cemetery near the ancient town of Gematon in Sudan. The largest was about 35 feet long on each side and would have stood some 43 feet tall. “So far, we’ve excavated six made out of stone and 10 made out of mud brick,” Derek Welsby of the British Museum told Live Science. Other tombs in the 2,000-year-old cemetery were topped with rectangular structures known as mastabas, or piles of rocks called tumuli. Most of the tombs at the site have been looted, but one yielded a royal tin-bronze offering table bearing a scene showing a prince or priest offering incense and libations to the god Osiris, ruler of the underworld. Osiris and the goddess Isis, who is also shown in the image, originated in Egypt, but they were also venerated in Kush. Gematon was eventually abandoned as trade routes changed and the economy of the Roman Empire deteriorated.

From here.

Jay Eppinga, an engineer, on the Kushite pyramids

I'm impressed. These Kushites had a lot going for them. I checked dimensions using a cad program. The claim about the tetrahedrons and the cube has also been verified for good measure. Here are the observations I recorded this morning:

The Kushite pyramid ruins with dimensions 35’ at the base, altitude 43’, has the following interesting properties:

The triangle formed by the isometric view of the pyramid has sides of length 49.5’ at the base, 49.6’ at the sides. The top apex angle is 59.85 degrees, and the base angles are 60.08 degrees each. It is not in the strictest mathematical sense, ‘equilateral’. When we factor in stochastic considerations, we see the equilateral triangle more clearly.

The shifting of any one of these edifices over time is probably greater than the “inexact” nature of ancient technologies with respect to geometric tolerances and dimensioning.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the Kushites had to be going for the Equilateral Triangle:

1) Mathematically speaking, it really is an either/or type of thing. It's either the equilateral triangle of the 45/45/90;

2) The 45/45/90 thing lends itself to starting with a solid object, and then subtracting with an extrude operation, two directions (perpendicular to one another;

3) On the other hand, the 60/60/60 thing lends itself to -additive- construction techniques. Kind of like modern homeowners do when they stake out a garden or a shed in their backyard, starting with stakes and ropes (in this case, the Kushites would be working in 3d);

4a) How would they notice such a pyramid? There are two ways I can think of this. One way is starting with very small models (the size of one's hand, perhaps), and they would sort of 'hit' on the proportions eventually by playing around. 11th grade trig students might notice the 3/4/5 right triangle in similar fashion;

4b) Another way they might notice is more unusual, but not outside the realm of possibility. They might have noticed the (35x4)x43 pyramid by thinking about it. Stephen Hawking e.g., has trained his mind to work through physics equations without the benefit of something to keep track of the calculations. As for 3d thinking, Michelangelo demonstrated this ability in his work on the Statue of David (other examples of this abound);

5) How would they build such a pyramid? My guess is with rope. They could rope the sides the same way a homeowner would rope in a garden, and then they could build upwards until the hypotenuses are 'taut', something like that. Tricky. It would take some trial and error to perfect.

6) Ropes and construction sometimes go together. In my own ethnic background, there is a true about two competing towns in Medieval Friesland who wanted to have bragging rights to the larger church steeple. One town built a large steeple and then stuck up their noses about it. The other snuck in one night and measured the steeple, with the intent of using the measuring rope to help them build a larger steeple in their own town. The first town caught wind of the 'plot', and sent in some of their own spies late one night. The rogues cut the rope and made off with the remnant, causing the second town to build an inferior steeple. To this day, the residents refer to one another as, "Tower Builders," and the other side as "Rope Cutters." Alas, the rivalry persists to this day, and while it may be said that they are more civil to one another than spectators in South American soccer matches, it might not be saying much. Ropes .. might have helped the Kushites build their pyramids. They could easily copy pyramids this way (are the ones they just discovered all the same dimensions?). Just a theory.

4000 year Egyptian rope coils

Now I'm starting to wonder about the Hopewell thing over in Chillecothe. There are several of these in Ohio, very similar to one another and in very different places, in varied orientations. But that's a tangent.


Very  interesting, Jay. This is something to pursue.

The mound builders of Ohio continued down to Mississippi and Louisiana. Emerald Mound, built and used during the Mississippian period between 1250 and 1600 AD,was a ceremonial center for the local population, which resided in outlying villages and hamlets. Its builders were the ancestors of the Natchez Indians. Na'Tchez is a Nilotic word. Na means no, and T refers to crossing or crossing over. (Na sometimes designates a female name.) We know that the Nilotic Ainu came to North America. In eastern Canada they are called Mi'kmaq. Their word for house was chis/chisei. Perhaps Na-T-Chez means something like "No crossing through this land."

Lots to think about!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Chaotic Waters

Thanks to native Hausa, Luo, and Oromo speakers for helping with this project, especially John Oguto, Solomon Demissie, Wandera Salmon Owino, and the late Dr. Catherine Acholonu.

Alice C. Linsley

Genesis 1 describes when God began the work of creation. It uses the words tohu (formless or confused) and bohu (empty or void). The Hebrew phrase "formless and void" (Gen. 1: 2) is tohu wa-bohu and is of Nilotic origin. The word tohu in Isaiah 34:11 means "confused" so it appears that Genesis 1 refers to matter in a confused or chaotic state before God set things in order.

In ancient Nilotic mythology chaos preceded creation. This is reflected in the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians and Nubians, and is still found among Nilo-Saharan peoples such as the Gikuyu, the Masai, and the Luo.

"There was no sunlight... the whole land was in darkness." (Gikuyu/Kenya)

"In the beginning there was only the swirling watery chaos." (Egyptian)

The Egyptians personified the watery chaos and called it Tehom.  Tehom was the realm of the cosmic serpent who was south of Yebu (Elephantine Island), a shrine where the priests were said to hold back the chaos. In ancient mythology the serpent was trampled by the Ancient Immortal One.
The Ancient Man danced on the serpent, who still spewed poison from his eyes and hissed loudly in his anger, and he trampled down with his feet whatever head the serpent raised, subduing him calmly as if he were being worshipped with flowers. Kaliya, his umbrella of hoods shattered by the gay dance of death, his limbs broken, vomiting blood copiously from his mouths, remembered the Guru of all who move and are still, the Ancient Man, Narayana, and he surrendered to him in his heart.(Srimad Bhagavatam 10:6, from Andrew Wilson, Ed. World Scriptures, p. 449)
Genesis 3:15 states that the Seed of the Woman will trample the serpent. This is understood to be a Messianic reference and Christians believe it applies to Jesus.

The watery chaos known to the priests of Elephantine Island is likely a reference to the Mega White Nile and the Sudd through which it flows. The White Nile spreads out as it flows through the lower elevation Sudd so what little land has been prepared for cultivation invariably floods. The Sudd is a nearly impenetrable swamp, full of crocodiles, that covers an area the size of Florida. It hampers navigation and is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Malaria is a big problem here.

However, in NIlotic mythology the watery chaos was overthrown by divine Wisdom, personified as Tehut. Tehut defeats Tehom, just as in Genesis 1, the the Divine Word subdues the chaotic water at the beginning of creation. It is not surprising that the oldest known moral code is the Law of Tehut. It is attributed to Menes, the first ruler to unite the peoples of the Upper and Lower Nile.

In the Egyptian concept of creation, the first dry land was a mound emerging from the cosmic waters. The mound was called Tatjenen, and is related to Tjenu, the name of Menés' kingdom in the Upper Nile. Tjenu is likely related to Tehenu (Thnw), a people living in the northern Nile valley of Lybia and Sudan. Tehenu rulers wore pointed beards and were referred to as pale-skinned and red-headed, like the rulers of Edom, to whom they are likely related. They also were related to the Nehesi (Nhsj) of the Upper Nile, who according to Cheikh Anta Diop were black or dark-skinned. These red and black Nilotes appear to be a social moeity, as were the red and black Nubians.

The Nilotic Luo call the chaotic water of creation the Dog Nam and they think of any large water system, such as Mega Chad or Lake Victoria, as a place where God is present. The inhabitants of the area of Lake Victoria call the place Nalubaale. The last letter le is a form of Re, a reference to the Creator. Many African names for the Creator have this ending: Ndebele (Zimbabwe); Murle (Ethiopia); Male (Ethiopia); Lele and Wele (Central Africa).

The Oromo of the Horn of Africa call the waters of creation Hora Wolabu, a reference to Horus, the "son" of the Creator. The Oromo are the Horomo, people of Horus. The H is silent and therefore was dropped in English spelling. Horo is said to be the founding father of the Oromo. Horo had two sons. His first born son was named Borana and his younger son was named Barentu. Borana means "those who face east" and Barentu means "those who face west."  In Luo, Horu' mo (horumo/orumo) means perfected, realized, finished, or completed.

The ancestors of the Oromo were cattle-herding Saharo-Nubians. They called the Creator Eebe and he was Waaq, meaning "God of the Heavens." The universe was held in balance by the love of a bull for a cow. The balance was maintained in the cradle of the bull's horns, and the bull stared forever at the cow tied to a pole in front of him. When the cow turned her eyes away from the bull, a physical shift resulted that caused natural disasters like floods.

According to the Oromo, Waaq separated the impregnated body of water into two parts: the water above called Bishaan Gubbaathe and the water below called Bishaan Goodaa. Likewise, we read in Genesis how God separated the waters above from the waters below (Gen. 1:6-8).

This serekh shows
Horus as a falcon
The waters above were viewed as the domain of the Creator. Having established order, the Creator sails his solar boat on the calm waters. The "Lord of All" declares, "I will sail aright in my barque; I am the Lord of the waters, crossing heaven." (Egyptian Coffin Texts, Spell 1,130) The solar boat imagery spread far and wide. In the image above of a bas-relief found at Angkor Wat in Cambodia Horus appears as a falcon perched on the mast of Ra's solar boat.

Horus was said to have the power to calm the winds and the waves. The Turin Canon describes the Predynastic rulers of Egypt as "the Followers of Horus" and these Pharaohs had a Horus name and an image of Horus at the top of their serekh. 

The Ancient of Days is said to ride the waters above. Perhaps this is the meaning of Daniel's vision, described in Daniel 7:13-14: 
I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.

And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
Psalm 110, recognized as a Messianic reference, says: The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” It echoes an ancient tradition concerning Horus, the "son" of Ra. Consider how Horus, the archetype of Christ, describes himself in the Coffin Texts (passage 148):
I am Horus, the great Falcon upon the ramparts of the house of him of the hidden name. My flight has reached the horizon. I have passed by the gods of Nut. I have gone further than the gods of old. Even the most ancient bird could not equal my very first flight. I have removed my place beyond the powers of Set, the foe of my father Osiris. No other god could do what I have done. I have brought the ways of eternity to the twilight of the morning. I am unique in my flight. My wrath will be turned against the enemy of my father Osiris and I will put him beneath my feet in my name of ‘Red Cloak’. (Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt by R.T. Rundle Clark, p. 216)
In the works of Plato and Aristotle the words horos or horismos refer to landmarks, boundaries and categorical limits. The word horos is a reference to the celestial archetype of Horus who marked the cosmic boundaries and established the "kinds" (essences). 

He guarded the four directional points and was Lord over the currents and the winds. This was said to be the case with Jesus, the Son of God, according to the testimonies of Mark (4:35-41), Luke (8:22-25) and Matthew (8:23-27). All three describe a situation in which veteran fisherman are terrified and cry out to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" Mark states that Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the waves, saying simply, "Quiet! Be still!" Then all became calm. Jesus then said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Why Biblical Anthropology?

Alice C. Linsley

Biblical anthropology seeks to understand antecedents and explores the beliefs of Abraham's cattle-herding Nilo-Saharan ancestors. Until we better understand their beliefs and religious practices we will continue to impose incorrect or inadequate interpretations on the Bible.

David Noel Freedman has said: “The Hebrew Bible is the one artifact from antiquity that not only maintained its integrity but continues to have a vital, powerful effect thousands of years later.” Both anthropologists and archaeologists turn to the Bible for clues and data. Very often this has led to wonderful discoveries!

The material in the Bible clearly has been divinely superintended through thousands of years. It contains material older than the first civilizations of the ancient Near East. The king lists of Genesis 4 and 5 are an example. Anthropological analysis of the kinship pattern of these ruler-priest lines has shown them to be authentic. The kinship pattern is unique and does not appear to change throughout the Bible. The evidence of this distinctive marriage and ascendancy could not have been written back into the texts at a later date. It is the thread that weaves through the Bible, like a scarlet cord, from beginning to end. Further, understanding this marriage and ascendancy pattern is essential for a biblical understanding of Jesus, the Son of God, as the fulfillment of Messianic expectation. He is a descendant of the earliest named rulers to whom the Creator made a promise concerning the divine Seed (Gen. 3:15). Jesus referred to Himself as the promised "Seed" when He foretold his death in Jerusalem. He said, "Unless a seed fall into the ground and die, it cannot give life." (John 12:24)

Jesus' ancestors were the "mighty men of old" and great kingdom builders who dispersed widely in the archaic world. They were a ruler caste (clans that practiced endogamy) who spread along the mountain chains (high places) of Southern Europe and the Hindu Kush. They likely controlled commerce through the Pamir Junction. These were aggressive kingdom builders who regarded themselves as divinely appointed to disperse and subdue the earth. Later rulers, such as Alexander the Great and Constantine I, held this idea as well.

A central task of biblical anthropology is to uncover cultural antecedents, such as the origin of messianic expectation. Culture traits, religious practices and beliefs do not spring suddenly into existence. They develop organically over time from traditions observed by the people and received from their ancestors. Biblical anthropology provides tested methods and tools to push back the veil of time, to uncover anthropologically significant data that clarifies precedents, etiology, and context. The discoveries made in biblical anthropology will prove helpful to students, pastors and academics.

Biblical anthropology seeks to understand the cultural context of the Bible at the oldest foundations. It is concerned with ancestors and received traditions. What events preceded the events recounted? From what earlier context did certain practices develop? What traces of ancient memory can be uncovered?

The biblical text always speaks of something older, some prior action that solicits a response from later generations. What Jacques Derrida called the "trace" is always there, and unless one moves toward that presence, the nature of it remains unknown. Even where later sources attempt to efface an earlier account, as happens in Genesis, the trace has a voice. The prior remains evident. There is always this "minority opinion" and those who care about the bigger picture read minorities opinions.

Derrida wrote, "The call of the other, having always already preceded the speech to which it has never been present a first time, announces itself as a recall. Such a reference to the other will always have taken place." (Psyche: Inventions of the Other)

Derrida also wrote, “It would be possible to show that all the terms related to fundamentals, to principles, or to the center have always designated the constant of a presence, ... essence, existence, substance, subject, ... transcendentality, consciousness or conscience, god, man, and so forth.” (The Sign, Structure and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences)

Derrida never denies the existence of something (or Someone?) at or as “the center” but for him the center is a function, not a person. This function is immutable and inescapable. It is always prior, always before human discourse. The biblical authors would say that the something older is Someone, the Atik Yomin or Ancient of Days. The biblical text and our discourse on the text self-efface before this Someone.

Biblical anthropology is not Near Eastern studies. To equate these is to wave a red herring. The red herring is the widely-held assumption that Abraham's earliest ancestors lived in Mesopotamia. Such a view ignores the data of Genesis 4-11. It fails to investigate the trace, to follow the trail back to Abraham’s Nilo-Saharan ancestors. Their story does not pertain initially to the ancient Near East, but to Africa and to the vast Afro-Asiatic Dominion that existed before the emergence of the great world religions. Biblical anthropology sets us on that trail.

Anthropological study of Genesis is as important as theological study. Indeed, it may be more important because it permits us to understand how the ancients of Eden understood God; to glimpse their intimate experience of the Creator who never changes. God’s immutability is communicated profoundly in the Genesis narratives and in the ancients’ understanding of divine rule and order.

All biblical narratives are connected to place and time, to environmental conditions, to the rising of rivers, the hewing of local stone, and to the expansion of herds. They speak to us from a particular place and time about the world of our ancestors.

G.K. Chesterton viewed Rudyard Kipling as a man of the world who loved no one place well enough to really know it. Chesterton wrote, “It is inspiriting without doubt to whizz in a motor-car round the earth, to feel Arabia as a whirl of sand or China as a flash of rice-fields. But Arabia is not a whirl of sand and China is not a flash of rice-fields. They are ancient civilizations with strange virtues buried like treasures. If we wish to understand them it must not be as tourists or inquirers, it must be with the loyalty of children and the patience of poets.” (Heretics, p. 51, 52)

Anthropological tools applied to the biblical narratives enable us to place the material in the proper cultural context. This resolves many theological controversies and helps to correct erroneous interpretations. We gain greater clarity about how the Creator has moved in time and space. He catch glimpses of His eternal power and immutable nature. We gain deeper insight into the nature of the eternal kingdom delivered to the eternal "sent-away" Son.

Biblical anthropology is in service of good theology. It serves the Church by grounding politics and doctrine, liturgy and prayer in the not-so-big ideas, but in the daily routine of our lives. It reminds us to heed the old ways, to honor our fathers and mothers, and to take courage from the faithfulness and blessing God has shown to our ancestors.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Religion of the Saka

The stiff front piece on the head covering 
is like those worn by Ainu chiefs.

Saka Yuetzhi warrior

Alice C. Linsley

There has been some fascinating speculation about the Israelite origin of the Saka Scythians. Indeed, there are indications of a connection between the Saka and the biblical rulers known as Horites. The Horites dispersed very widely in the ancient world, taking their religious practices with them.

The Saka ruled in India, Syria, Anatolia, Serbia, Bactria and Southern China. These rulers were kingdom builders, like Nimrod. They also appear to have been devotees of Horus, the "son" of the Creator. The eye of Horus is called vidjet. In Serbian vidjet means to see. There are many linguistic connections between words in Serbian, Nilo-Saharan languages and Sanskrit.

The Saka rulers appear to have the same marriage and ascendancy pattern as the Horite rulers listed in Genesis 4, 5 and 10. These rulers had two wives, as did their descendants Abraham, Jacob, Amram, Moses and Elkanah. Horite ruler-priests were found among the Saka.

According to Hindu sacred texts, the Saka ruled the ancient world for 7000 years. They were ethnically Kushites. Genesis calls these rulers of the archaic world "the mighty men of old"(cf Nehemiah 3:16). Some of these rulers dispersed far from their ancestral homes and established kingdoms in Syria, Southern Europe, Northern India and the Tarim Valley of China. In all the regions to which their ancestors dispersed we find a common toponym: Tamana. Proto-Saharans formerly lived in these areas. Tamana means "great place." The ancient Tamana sites were rock and river shrines established by Proto-Saharan peoples.

The Saka are grouped into Eastern Scythians and Western Scythians. The Western Scythians were followed by the Sarmatians, then the Alans and finally the Ossetes, but they share a common patrimony. They are related to the Yuezhi of Bactria and China. Both the Saka and the Yuezhi are ethnically Kushite.

The Yuezhi from around 176 BC to 30 AD

The Kushan-Yuezhi called themselves Visha or the Vijaya. This is usually rendered "tribes" although the word refers to their two ruling royal houses, as in vijana, the splitting of wisdom. The honorific title Pharaoh originates in the term pr-aa, which means "great house." In Vedic tradition, pra-jna means "wisdom of the great house." The words have multiple, related meanings (polysemic). In Vedic tradition the a-laya-vijña-na is the seed of the receptacle-world, but literally it means the receptacle of the seed, as in va-gina, symbolized originally by the pictograph V.

Karmic seeds - bija - are laid down in Alaya-vi-jña-na to produce karmic fruition. Alaya (aalaya) refers to a house, dwelling, or a receptacle. Bi is a variant of vi.

vi or bi - separation, division into two parts (social moiety)
jna - wisdom / to know
pra- intensifier

The divine Seed was regarded as giving life on earth and also immortality. Consider how the Bible refers to Christ our God as the Seed. Genesis 3:15 foreshadows the Christ's birth to the Woman who shall bring forth the Seed that will crush the serpent's head. Jesus refers to Himself as the Divine Seed in John's Gospel.

The Solar Arc and Animal Symbolism

The Ra-Horus-Hathor narrative involves the sun as the emblem of the Father and Son. This is represented in images of Ra's solar boat upon which Horus is often shown as a falcon perched on the mast. "

Horus of the Two Crowns" Horus is the only mythological figure in ancient Egypt who was understood to be a man, and as a man he wears the two crowns. This is alluded to in the account of the priest Yeshua/Joshua who receives the c owns in Zechariah 6:11: "Take the silver and gold, and make crowns, and set it upon the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest..."

The expectation of a Righteous Ruler-Priest who would overcome death and save his people has a very early expression in the Re-Horus-Hathor narrative. Horus was regarded to be co-equal and co-eternal with his father Ra. He was spoken of as the fixer of cosmic boundaries. Horus was invoked to send favorable winds. The four winds often appeared as birds at the four quarters of the heavens announcing the accession of Horus' deified ruler on earth. On the walls of Amenemhat III's burial chamber at Hawara Horus is depicted at the cardinal points and associated with the resurrection of the ruler. The four forms of Horus: the man, the jackal, the falcon, and the baboon top the canopic jars holding the ruler's organs.

Depending on the cultural context the animal symbolism changes. In the story of the binding of Isaac, the lamb is exchanged for a ram, signifying resurrection of the appointed ruler for which Horus stood as the archetype. "Horus of the two horizons" was the sacred calf on the western horizon who rises as a bull in mature strength on the eastern horizon. In another version, Horus was a lamb who rises as a ram. The ram was the symbol of the Giving God. All stories about a dying deity who returns from the grave are essentially the same myth with variations. This myth has a wide global dispersion, indicating that it is very old. Joseph Campbell called it the "monomyth" of the hero's journey.

The expectation of a divine ruler who would overcome a sacrificial death was expressed in the religion of Ammon as a ram. Believing that he might be the living god, Alexander the Great made a pilgrimage to the Ammon shrine at Siwa in the Libyan Desert to consult the oracle there. He became known as Dhul-Qarnayn, the two-horned one because coins minted during his rule show him with ram's horns.

Among the Nilotic peoples, the sun is shown between two lions. The Nilotic Luo speak of piny horu (soft h), a reference to the dawning of a new day. Horu refers to Horus of the two horizons, the son of Re. Horus was said to have fixed the rising and setting of the sun. The temporal sacred center was high noon when the sun rested exactly over the Nile. This is depicted by the Egyptian Akar, an image of twin lions carrying a sun disk on their backs.

Akar relates to the solar arc, the sun's big stride over the earth, a sign of the Creator's sovereignty over all. The two lions are called ruti (or rute/ rude) which in Luo means twins or things coming in pairs.

Long before Abraham's time, the Giving God was associated with the Sun. He was sometimes portrayed as riding the sun as a chariot, or as sailing in a solar boat. He was sometimes portrayed as a bull calf with the sun cradled between his horns.

This Giving God was also associated with the constellation of Leo. The bull was often shown in ancient European images between two lions, just as the Sun was shown between two lions among the ancient Nilotes. The Giving God was called Horus among the Saharo-Nilotes and the Kushite Saka called him Hromi Daba, the "Giving God."

Hromi Daba was also known by the names Crom Dubh and Grom Div. His association with the Sun is seen on the Triglav Stone (below) from Istria which shows the Giving God haloed by the Sun. This Giving God was also understood to be a Trinity. Triglav refers to trinity or triune.

Among the Saka the Siberian deer was a symbol of the Giving God. Deer antlers are found in many Saka burial sites. This creature was associated with gold and the Sun, the emblem of the Creator.

British archaeologists are aware that long before Stonehenge was erected, ancient inhabitants of the British Isles used such head dresses in religious ceremonies dating back to 9,500 BC. At Starr Carr, 21 such red deer skulls with antlers were discovered. All had holes that would have been used to tie them to the head with a leather thong for ceremonial use. (For more on this go here.)

The Red Deer of Europe, western Asia and North Africa is a distinct species from the red elk of eastern Asia and North America. These red stag and hinds roamed from North Africa to Ireland. The red color symbolized revitalizing blood and may have had the same significance for the ancient inhabitants of the British Isles and their kinsmen living in Serbia. That would explain the presence of red-deer antlers at Stonehenge and in the graves of the Saka of Northern India, Bactria, Thrace, and the Steppes of central Eurasia.

Here is a description of Christ as the "true sun" in Gildas' De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae:
Meanwhile, to the island stiff with frost and cold, and in a far distant corner of the earth, remote from the visible sun, He, the true sun, even Christ, first yields His rays, I mean His precepts. He spread, not only from the temporal firmament, but from the highest arc of heaven beyond all times, his bright gleam to the whole world in the latest days, as we know, of Tiberius Caesar. At that time the religion of Christ was propagated without any hindrance, because the emperor, contrary to the will of the senate, threatened with death informers against the soldiers of that same religion.