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Cycling through time

If you have tried to read the old testament, it's confusing and full of contradictions. In it we have a creation story and the histories of characters and groups of people. To make sense of it, we must consider the historic facts and context as they can be known through all the written history and archaeological evidence of the past 10,000 years.

Actual History

10000 years ago the last ice age ended allowing global warming, a rise in sea levels, the filling of the Black sea and the emergence of defined territories.

The "Land of Canaan" is said to have existed from about 6200 BC and extended from Turkey to Egypt and eastward to the Jordan River Valley. It was ruled by vassal kings and their religion was polytheistic - influenced by Vedanta. One sub kingdom was Judea which would later become Israel (Children or followers of the God El and Asherah). It was destroyed by the Babylonians, most of the people taken as slaves and during this exile the Old Testament was complied in the new developing language of Hebrew, a language distinctly different from the Akkadian and Arameic.

In this period we also have the more advanced development of the Sumerian Civilization in the land of Mesopotamia and the western origins of writing as cuneiform script while
further East, Sanskrit may have been more advanced with migrations out of India due to to desertification and sea level rise.

Egypt is growing as the Sahara region turns to desert, the Babylonian Empire develops over 1900-1100 BC and assimilates the entire region including Egypt, Canaan, most of modern Turkey and Persia.

Who was God and Beliefs of the Time?

I have described the origins of religion prior to this story and as we come into the current period, we have theocratic rule, a form of government in which God is the Religious and Civil Ruler and the official policy is governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided pursuant to the doctrine of the particular religion or religious group. From the time of the first cities like Uruk and the growth of the Sumerian civilization 6000 years ago this is how things were.

The kings were the high priests and from the peasants perspective actually representations of Gods which was also the Egyptian custom commencing a 1000 years later. The role of the God King was widespread throughout the Middle East, Persia, India, South East Asia, China, and it survived into Tibet where the status was quashed by the Chinese takeover in the 1950. In Thailand today the King is seen as a God Like figurehead. Maybe that's because the kings lived like Gods as well as interpreting diving will although historically the actions of many kings were rather bloodthirsty?

The God Kings did not interfere with local beliefs, all localised deities were accepted by the state and the peoples were all polytheistic, the Canaanite's included. We must remember that the Jews were actually Canaanite's and that they had many Gods and the principal God was El and his female counterpart known as Asherha. Like the Egyptians this was a time of God Kings.

The king functioned as a link between the divine realm and the earthly realm, mediating the relationship between his people and the gods, and his role in the sacred garden reflected this. He was granted access, by the gods, to the garden, in order to tend it and to cultivate it. In essence he was the gardener of the gods and secular head of state.

The Creation Story
This bible story is far to simplistic and some of some questions to be answered are:

  • How long is a day?
    The bible says that the universe was made in six days - if a day is as long as a day of Brahma as in Vedanta, this would make better sense i.e. 6 x 155 billion years. Wiki
  • The process of Creation
    As described in Genesis, the creation is directed/managed intelligently, but in the beginning there was only God, nothing else existed, so therefore everything created came out of God, perhaps in a big bang, or a birth of the universe from something greater.
  • Vedanta
    Here the creation is described as Vishnu giving birth to Brahma, the principal personality which contains our universe. Within Brahma, there are many lesser creative elements which may be referred to as Gods and deities as they exist on a cosmic scale.
  • Is the God of the old testament one of the lesser gods who assisted in the creation, and the story taken from Vedanta and embellished
    into the regional dialect with regional versions of history?
  • Just as the Romans tweaked the new testament to shape Christianity and human nature being what it is, I seems logical that earlier writers would have coloured the old testament to suit their own agenda.

The King was the crucial link between the human and heavenly worlds enjoying a special relationship with the gods, and this tells us exactly who Adam was in the Eden story.

The Garden of Eden

Many places have been suggested as the Garden of Eden site and scholars are beginning to agree that it was in fact the palace and garden complex of Temple built by Solomon in Jerusalem - The Temple on The Mount. The theory that the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem as the Garden of Eden was suggested by Lawrence Stager, Professor of the Archaeology of Israel at Harvard. Some important evidence for this theory is a reference in the Book of Ezekiel to Eden, which identifies Eden with the Mountain of God, Zion.

In Persian tradition, sacred gardens were built and maintained by kings where there was no distinction between religion and politics and the king embodied this. It is thought that the temple was lined with timber and richly adorned in keeping with Persian tradition to represent God's paradise, an ideal of heaven in a land slowly succumbing to desertification.
The characteristics of the sacred garden are illustrated by an Assyrian relief in the British Museum. It shows a garden of trees built around a mountain. At the summit of the mountain is a palace or temple, which is the dwelling-place of a king with the King as Gardener of God with privileged access to his god in the garden, but he is placed in Eden in order to tend and cultivate the garden which is consistent with Ancient Near Eastern belief systems.

Francheska Stavrakopoulou described the Alhambra in Spain as representative of this Persian tradition and that the temple on the mount as a reflection of that tradition. We must also remember the historic context, Zoroastrianism and the idea of the one God was moving west as Vedanta was strong in India.

Adam and Eve

After the creation, it is written in Genesis 1:26 that God created man and woman in his own likeness (Adam and Lilith), but over the page we come to Genesis 2:21-25 which tells of woman (Eve) being created from Adam's rib even though men and women have the same number of ribs contrary of what some believe?

Why are there two contradictory accounts? Perhaps the second story is a fantasy to justify men's rule over women? Scripture, as well as science and philosophy, declares the eternity and equality of sex. This is a fact, without which there could have been no perpetuation of our species. The masculine and feminine elements, exactly equal and balancing each other, are as essential to the maintenance of the equilibrium of the universe as positive and negative electricity, the centripetal and centrifugal forces, the laws of attraction which bind together all we know of this planet whereon we dwell and of the system in which we revolve.

It seems that the perpetrators of this creation story were not happy in their relationships and that the battle between the sexes was well entrenched and the story of the tree of forbidden fruit an invented myth to justify morality and provide someone for man to blame when thinks go wrong. The only evil in the body is in using the body to cause harm to self and others while the requirement for clothing stimulates business for the farmers, garment makers and traders, capitalism and social engineering has been around for a long time.

The story I like is that God was such an annoyance to Adam and Eve that they threw God out of the garden... But this is a metaphysical construct about our lives today. Ain Dara is a recently excavated temple and garden complex contemporary with the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem supports the idea that Adam fulfilled the role of a king who had privileged access to his god in the garden where he is placed in order to tend and cultivate the garden, an idea consistent with Ancient Near Eastern belief systems.

The Expulsion from Paradise

In 587 BCE, Jerusalem was sacked by King Nebuchadnezzar, the Temple of Solomon was destroyed, and the Jews were taken into exile. Here 'Adam' as the god king and the deities failed to protect the people from the wrath of King Nebuchadnezzar who sacked Jerusalem because for the second time the Canaanite's failed to pay their taxes to him.

Cain, Able and Seth

The sons of Adam and Eve then went on to have children and the lineage is described, but where did their wives come from? Genesis 4. Did they mate with their sisters and daughters? Now in Egypt, Seth was the brother of Osiris and worshipped as a god in Egypt and maybe Adam and his family never existed, rather they are metaphorical to provide and explanation of life where there was none?

King David

There is little evidence of a king David, there is one small archaeological reference to a house of David which most agree is insufficient to place him as a significant historical figure.

Moses

The Moses story is interesting as he is said to have written the 10 commandments of which the real value is that they are a formula for world peace. Also interesting is that the time of Moses is about the time of Pharaoh Akhenaton who lived about 1351bc-1336bc and was the first known Pharaoh to introduce the idea of the one God, a Zoroastrian idea. There is much speculation that Akhenaton upset the priests of the old temples so much that when he died and his young son Tutankhamen took command, the priests actually assumed control and restored the temple of Amun which is why Tutankhamen is also written as Tutankhamun.

According to biblical scholars, Akhenaton and Moses lived about the same time and there is a reasonably good theory that Moses may have been close to Akhenaton as a priest or advisor. When the priests of Amun regained power, he got out of town with his followers to avoid losing their heads. At that time Sinai was much less of a desert than it is now. There were forests and grasslands so life as wandering herders may have been reasonably pleasant aside from harassment by thieves.

There is also a story that the Canaanites were a constant thorn in the side of the Pharaohs and that the ruling Pharaoh, possibly Ramses II gave the land of Canaan to the wandering Jews as he reasoned that they would become more peaceful citizens and pay taxes. These Moses stories are just stories and speculation and as much as people try, there is as yet no proof, just a possibility.

The archaeological record regarding Israel

By the 1920s, the idea of an Israelite conquest of Canaan - the story of the book of Joshua - was not supported by the archaeological record. The response of the time was to propose that the main biblical idea was still correct, but that the Israelites entered Canaan peacefully instead of through conquest. Later, this compromise was abandoned, and the Israelites were interpreted to be indigenous Canaanites. The revision of Israelite origins has implications for Israelite religion: whereas the Bible had depicted them as monotheists from the beginning, the new understanding is that they were polytheists who harboured a small and ultimately successful group of monotheistic revolutionaries.

The new understanding, even if it recognised the Israelites as Canaanites by origin, still treated the post-Conquest biblical story as real history. But eventually this came under challenge. The most radical reconstruction states that the Jews originated as a "mixed multitude" of settlers sent to Jerusalem by the Persians, where they concocted a past for themselves. There are few scholars who believe this, but it demonstrates how the paradigm has shifted.

Dating of remains to the biblical history is made difficult by the Bible's lack of datable events and its unreliable internal chronology; the interpretation of remains has been influenced by religious and nationalistic arguments, as evidenced by arguments over burials from the highland settlement phase; and no material remains have been found which can reliably separate Israelite from non-Israelite (Canaanite) sites in the earliest period.

Summary:

This is not an attempt to disprove God or religion, it is to show the role of Gods and Relationships, and perhaps reduce the confusion. While the old testament portrays great characters and events featuring great seduction, incest, perversion, genocide and mass slaughter, the importance is that the concepts of social justice were evolving and that people were attempting overcome their fear of nature, the earthquakes, storms, growing desertification, crop failure, and to understand the world and live more harmoniously with each other.

The expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, described in the book of Genesis, reflected the real historical event of the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem. We have a historic and political context in which the Jewish patriarchs redefined what they wanted people to believe and establish social behaviour.

The Canaanites with their Gods headed by El and his wife Asherah along with pantheon of deities flourished up to the period of slavery in Babylon, defeated, the exiles redefined themselves during captivity and threw out all the old Gods and Deities in favour of the new Zoroastrian idea of the one indefinable God.

The recent BBC television series "The Bible's Buried Secrets", presented by Francesca Stavrakopoulou featuring the latest archaeological discoveries and ideas of researchers in the fields of history, archaeology, linguistics and genetics have helped to revise the Old Testament covering the story of Eve and the Fall from Paradise, goddess worship in Ancient Israel, and the fall: Asherah, Eve and the Shekhinah or female aspect of God.

The Modern Impact

Belief in the Old Testament which non believers often refer to as "The Book of Lies" has shaped of understanding of ourselves and contributed to who we are today. It matters not if we believe in anything at all as belief can either make or break us.

References:

Weaving and Magic
African Origins of Western Religions
Exodus Decoded on Youtube
Canaanite beliefs
The origins of religion
Wiki on the history of Israel and Judea

 


 







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