Pets: An ancient relationship between humans and animals

Did the people of the ancient world keep pets?

It seems highly likely that the people of the ancient world did keep pets. The fact that animals have been found buried with, or next to people, and that grave goods have also been found in the graves of animals are strong indicators of the feeling felt for these animals by the people who buried them. In addition, surviving images of animals on a leash or in close proximity to humans in ancient art also suggests that humans had relationships with these animals which could see them classified as pets.

Also, looking at it from the animal’s point of view, through the lens of the evolution of wolves into dogs, dogs have evolved into animals designed to be pets. The modern dog is, in so many cases, an incredibly loving and loyal creature to its master or owner. How would this quality have developed if the pet relationship had not begun in antiquity? Those dog breeds come in so many shapes and sizes, having been designed to be primarily a pet. White wolf evolves into a poodle, Great Dane, bulldog, dachshund, beagle, Jack Russell etc…

How would we know? What evidence would indicate this?

The anthropological evidence of the relationship of indigenous peoples to their pets, listed in the writings of James Serpell, in the chapter “Pet-keeping and animal domestication: a reappraisal” from his book In the Company of Animals, 2nd (Revised) Edition, 1996, also points to an ancient relationship between humans and their pet animals. Human beings are animals, as much as we would like to deny our mammalian reality. Our relationships with other animals are at the most fundamental level, merely, the relationship between animals.

I would also point to stronger relationships between humans and pet animals in antiquity, based on the supposition that early humans were less intellectually developed. The concerns of ancient peoples were far closer to those of their animals than they are today. People were not thinking about the latest book read, film watched or conceptually stimulating conversation shared in pre-sophisticated language and pre-written language times. The honest expression found in the eyes of an animal would reflect more closely similar feelings within their human companion.

First Jewish Revolt

by Robert Hamilton

 

In this essay I will be critically assessing the studies of Martin Hengel, and of Richard Horsley, on the revolutionary movements in the lead up to the first Jewish revolt. I will begin by noting their similarities, that is, where their two studies agree in their interpretation of the ancient evidence. Next, I will be analysing their divergences, within their studies, in drawing different conclusions from the source material. Lastly, I will be considering where my own interpretation of the evidence finds fault with their examination, and determinations, of the revolutionary movements leading up to the first revolt.

Both authors agree on the position of their main ancient source, Josephus, as writing for a Romanised, and thus Hellenistic, audience. Titus Flavius Josephus, born Joseph ben Matityahu, was in an extraordinary position as a first hand source, because he was actually involved in the first revolt, fighting on the side of the Jews. However, his interpretation of events does have a decidedly Roman emphasis, in many instances. In addition, both studies admit that their secondary literary sources are limited, in the main, to highly subjective accounts from the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Horsley, and Hengel, are in broad concert, with their views on the exacerbation of the situation in Judaea by the Roman authorities. The violent, and repressive, actions taken by the Roman procurators, prefects, and their armed forces ultimately stimulated a volatile situation. Both authors also share the opinion, that socially, and economically, it was a time of upheaval for the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. Mass unemployment occurred, once building on the Temple had been completed, and more rural Jews had become peasants and tenant farmers, rather than owners of their own small plots. These circumstances led to banditry against the Romans and this taking up of arms, indirectly, would provide the Jews with rag tag armies. Hengel, and Horsley, agree that, not only the Romans, but also the Herodian, and high priestly, families were sources for social discontent, both in the city and in the country, because of their corrupt, and controlling actions, when in power.

Martin Hengel begins his study in his book, The Zealots, with an examination of Herod the first’s, influence on the emergence of this revolutionary movement. Herod was a client king of Judaea under the Romans. Hengel points out that Herod, according to Josephus, executed the Sanhedrin (Jewish Ruling Council) who, were, at that time, most probably, from the Sadducee faction. In addition he appears to have raised taxes, treated Jewish religious protocols insensitively, and appointed and dismissed seven high priests to the Temple, during his reign. Herod was seen as not a ‘true Jew’ because his family was Idumaean, and Hengel stresses Herod’s Hellenisation of cities like Jericho and Jerusalem. Hengel emphasises that both the Jewish elite, and the peasants, would have seen Herod’s rule as that of a foreign power and not as a Jewish king; and that this began to engender anti-authoritarian behaviour by sections of the Jewish community. The symbolic culmination of this anti-Herod, and anti-Roman, feeling among many sections of the Jewish population, was the attempted removal of a golden eagle from one of the main portals within the Temple. This eagle, which Herod had installed as part of the Temple, during his rebuilding of it, was symbolic of Roman power and was deeply resented by the Jewish people; forty young men died as martyrs due to their arrest, and subsequent executions, in the failed action. Herod’s removal of land from indigenous Jews, through “arbitrary justice”, according to Hengel, contributed to an increase in tenant farmers, and this was another cause of resentment among the rural section of Jewish society. The Great Famine of 25-23BC was another determinator of social instability, and gave momentum to the apocalyptic views of some eschatological Jewish leaders and groups.

Both Hengel, and Horsley, are quick to point out that the term ‘robber’, or ‘bandit’, which was often used by Josephus in his The Jewish Wars, was quite likely to be superficially used and did not investigate the underlying motives behind the actions. These robbers were often rebels engaged in anti-establishment activities, and to simply define them as criminals is seen, by both historians, to be very one dimensional. Horsley describes the levels of ‘social banditry’, especially after the famine, as enormous and that this was an ongoing problem in Jewish Palestine from the time of Herod right up to the first revolt. Both economic pressures, and the desire for Jewish political independence, fuelled these acts of banditry. Horsley does, however, label the acts of banditry as ‘pre-political’ rather than consciously revolutionary. Hengel, differs somewhat, as he includes Josephus’s account of Herod’s capture and execution of Hezekiah, the robber captain, in Galilee, as both pivotal, and as evidence that this action was as much political, as it was a policing issue. According to Hengel, Judas, the son of the robber captain Hezekiah, would later go on to gather a large body of men and capture the armoury in Sepphoris; he mentions that Josephus, in his, Antiquities, refers to Judas’s ambitions to become king. Hengel makes his boldest claim on behalf of Judas the Galilaean, and that is, that this Judas, “created an organization that persisted for two generations and was eventually successful in drawing almost the whole Jewish population into open revolt against Rome.” This claim of Hengel’s, is undeniably attractive, because it creates a dynastic subplot running through the chaotic lead up to the first revolt, and echoes the Maccabean, and other Old Testament family dynasties, which coursed through these earlier rebellions.

The first, and most fundamental, difference between Horsley and Hengel, is the dismissal by Horsley of the idea that there was a ‘Zealot movement’, which he defines as a, “supposedly long standing, organized, religiously motivated movement of national resistance to Roman domination”. Horsley stresses, that the fundamental conflict within Jewish Palestine, was between the Roman aligned Jewish elite, in the cities, and the Jewish peasants in the countryside. Within the cities, Horsley using, Josephus as his source, goes on to identify the “Fourth Philosophy, the Sicarii, and probably most of the Pharisees among the literate groups”, as sharing many of the concerns of the peasants. Horsley, states, “There is no historical relationship whatever between the Zealots proper and the Fourth Philosophy and the Sicarii, two groups which have been included in the synthetic modern scholarly concept of ‘the Zealots’.” Hengel refers to the, founding of a ‘new movement’ by Judas the Galilaean, and Horsley, would discount this as a synthetic modern scholarly concept.

Hengel, then makes a supposition, which rests more on wishful thinking than clear evidence; he claims that Judas the Galilaean is Judas b. Hezekiah, because they perform similar actions and that Judas was referred to as a, “ ‘scribe who leads the people astray’, meaning that he was a man of the law, of the Torah.” Hengel, really, wants us to believe in this dynastic subplot, linking the various players in the Jewish revolt to one family. Menahem, who briefly leads the revolt in Jerusalem, in 66AD, is declared by Hengel to be the son of Judas the Galilaean who is Judas b. Hezekiah. Many writers want some neat pattern to be at the heart of their story and Hengel wants a family dynasty to be underpinning the wildly chaotic Jewish revolt. The number of characters, within this section of Jewish history, who have the same, or similar names – Judas; Simon; Eleazar is noteworthy.

Martin Hengel, continues, to sew together disparate strands of evidence into a more grandiose quilt of Jewish history, with statements like these: “This son of Judas the Galilaean is one of the key figures in any attempt to understand the Zealot movement… He was probably not only the leader of one of the many ‘robber bands’ that were in control of the open country, but also the head of the Zealot movement in the whole of the country.” Hengel knows, that every good story needs a strong central character at the centre of it, and so he creates one. In contrast to Hengel, Richard Horsley stresses: “the extreme diversity of forms of social unrest among Palestinian Jews at the time”, and sees no one Zealot movement and no one Zealot leader. Hengel goes on, to claim that the prime reason for the failure of the rebellion was the death of Menahem, and the loss of his leadership to the Zealot movement, which historically united them by its dynastic authority. Horsley, in his book, Galilee, refers to the situation of Galilee, the city, not being under the control of the Temple in Jerusalem for the “final seventy years of the second temple era”, which again conveys the disparate nature of the Jewish situation in Palestine. Horsley goes on, to make clear, that there was no united Jewish state, with cities like Tiberias, and Gischala, all holding different positions in regard to the Romans, and to Jerusalem. Galilee, in the first century AD, is often associated in the literature of modern historians, like Hengel, with a more revolutionary bent than Judaea, but the factual basis behind this is disputed by other historians, like Horsley, and Sean Freyne.

Richard Horsley, in his study, points toward the rich Jewish history containing prophets, like Moses, Joshua, and Elijah, who led their peoples in open defiance of foreign, and domestic, powers. He does this to explain the number of messianic, and oracular, leaders and groups, who were active in the lead up to the first revolt. The Old Testament gave traditional approval to the Jewish resistance of foreign occupation. Horsley sees the oracular, and messianic, leaders, as much more politically aware, and that they, and their groups, were taking action to change the political landscape. Horsley mentions the Qumranites as an example of a sectarian group, who were expecting a new world order, and a return to a ‘covenantal society’. Horsley, in his study, is keen to define the different groups, which made up the revolutionary movement into, at least, three distinct categories: oracular groups with prophetic leaders; messianic groups with kingly leaders; and city based Pharisee, and intellectual groups, like the Sicarii.

Horsley differentiates the Sicarii from the Jewish peasant groups, seeing them as being led by intellectuals, who according to Horsley, “reflectively and deliberately formulated a long range strategy”. I see them as terrorists, carrying out acts of calculated terror on influential members of the Jewish elite. Horsley contrasts the violence, perpetuated by the Sicarii, with the basically non-violent policies of the Pharisees, and then tellingly states their fate at Masada. Horsley speculates, that the Sicarii may have been isolated, from all the other groups during the fully fledged revolt, because they did not share their messianic beliefs, and that this is why they removed themselves to Masada. Interestingly, he suggests, the Sicarii may have been the most politically aware group and their decision to commit mass suicide, was because they were under no illusions as to the outcome of war with the formidable Romans. Martin Hengel sees the Sicarii, as actually being another name for the Zealots, and that they were called so by the Romans, in response to their murderous behaviour with concealed daggers. With a paucity of ancient sources available to both historians, and to others, like Sean Freyne, Hengel and Horsley, often base their conclusions on the interpretations of a particular ancient Greek terms, employed within the New Testament, or by Josephus, and personally, without a solid knowledge of that language myself, I find it difficult to judge their correctness.

The Zealots, the actual Zealots, were formed during the fight against the Romans in 67-68AD, in Horsley’s view. In Jerusalem, the Zealots effectively challenged the Jewish elite, high priestly controlled group and organised “commoners to be selected by lot for the high offices.” Horsley is adamant, that the Zealots did not exist before the eruption of the first revolt, and in this he differs markedly with Martin Hengel’s view about the formation of the Jewish freedom movement. Sean Freyne in his book, Galilee, draws attention to this alternative view of the Zealots, which Horsley is so definitive upon. Horsley’s study, also seeks, to reinterpret the view of the zealots, with Jesus of Nazareth, firmly in mind, although, in Horsley’s view, the zealots did not form until some forty five years after the crucifixion of Jesus. Horsley wishes to discount the view of Jesus as a political leader and place him as an oracular leader. Jesus, as an historical figure, plays a much more defining role in Richard Horsley’s study, than in Hengels. This is clearly indicated by his subtitle, “Popular Movements in the time of Jesus”, it is almost as if the presence of Jesus Christ is needed to elicit the reader’s interest.

In conclusion, I would posit that Martin Hengel’s study, The Zealots, is far more thorough and detailed, in its examination of the revolutionary movements in Jewish Palestine, in the lead up to the first revolt. However, it seeks to interpret the evidence as justification of Hengel’s own theory, that there was a familial dynasty, at the heart of the zealot movement, through the Hezekiah line. This overreaching, scenario, is in my view, a major flaw in his study, and seeks to idealise this volatile period of second temple time into a historically neat fitting pattern. The dynastic claim rests, in part, on modern interpretations of ancient Greek, and Hebrew, words, used within the ancient sources, and these ‘meanings’ are open to speculation. The expression, ‘most probably’, is frequently used in this translation of Hengel’s, The Zealots. Richard Horsley, in contrast, counters that the Zealot movement did not begin until 67-68AD in Jerusalem, during the actual revolt itself, but perhaps this is merely a case of semantics, involving the term ‘Zealots’. Horsley, is, less specific in the detail of his study into these revolutionary movements but offers a more diverse picture of the situation; though like all historians he loves to label groups and categorise them according to his modern interpretations. For Horsley, it is a matter of city folk versus the peasants, which echoes socialist revolutions in modern China and Russia. Horsley, also, illuminates his study with the, overly influential, presence of Jesus Christ; who may, just be, his story’s leading character, despite the fact of his premature demise before the actual eruption of the revolt. Both studies do shine a light on a fascinating time in history and portray a microcosm of human society dealing with social upheavals, which challenged their religious and political beliefs. The amount of banditry is continually remarked upon, and this in itself, says much about the feisty spirit of a people, who were being savagely repressed by a totalitarian foreign power. The fact, that many of our essential religious beliefs have emerged from this microcosm, makes it very worthy of our analysis today.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Berlin, Andrea, M, “Jewish Life before the Revolt”, Journal for the Study of Judaism, 36, 2005, p – 417-470.
Flavius Josephus. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by. William Whiston, A.M. Auburn and Buffalo. John E. Beardsley. 1895. www.perseus.tufts.edu
Freyne, Sean, Galilee – From Alexander the Great to Hadrian, T & T Clark, Edinburgh, 1980.
Goodman, Martin, Ruling Class of Judaea – The Origins of the Jewish Revolt Against Rome AD66-70, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1987.
Hengel, Martin, The Zealots – Investigations into the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period from Herod I Until 70AD, (trans – David Smith), T & T Clark, Edinburgh, 1989.
Holy Bible – New International Version, Zondervan Corp, International Bible Society, Colorado Springs, 1996.
Horsley, Richard, A, Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs – Popular movements in the times of Jesus, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1988.
Horsley, Richard, A, Galilee – History, Politics, People, Trinity Press International, Pennsylvania, 1995.
Meyers, Eric, M, Galilee through the Centuries – Confluence of Cultures, Eisenbrauns, Indiana, 1999.
Neusner, Jacob; Borgen, Perder; Horsley, Richard, A; Frerichs, Ernest, S, Editors, The Social World of Formative Christianity and Judaism, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1988.
Vermes, Geza, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Penguin Classics, Rev Ed, London, 2004.

Ereader are You Benefitting from Technology

If you haven’t purchased an ereader or read a book on an ereader you are missing out on something. Unlike reading text on a personal computer, tablet or mobile phone, an ereader is especially designed to reproduce that book paper reading experience. The ereader is not backlit in the same way as those other devices, which are really designed to show images. The ereader is softly lit to recreate that black and white, slightly grainy, paper reading experience.

On top of this it has a number of decided advantages over the paper book. Firstly, the absent bulk and weight of the ereader over a large novel is really noticeable, especially after prolonged reading sessions. You know, when you are reading a great book and are totally involved in the unfolding story but your wrists are aching, and you are doing yoga to find bodily positions which will lesson the strain of the weight of the book on your arms and wrists. The ereader removes all this physical stress, which can take away your focus on the story at hand.

Another ereader advantage, which I noticed when reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, was the way the single screen format kept you in the moment, focused on the text that you were reading. The large paper book forces you to be aware of how much you have already read and how much you have to go, because you can see and feel all those pages in your hands. The ereader contributes to keeping your experience of the writer’s prose as fresh because there is only a readable chunk of it on its screen, at any one time.

I also would probably have not read War and Peace, without my ereader because although I knew it was a great book I doubt that I would have bought it in a bookstore. It was free through Amazon and Kobo, along with a host of other classic titles, which I have now read. Gibbon’s Decline and Fall; Madame Bovary; Of Human Bondage; Heart of Darkness; The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; and many more. My ereader helped me read some books that I am very glad that I made the effort to read; that is technology doing its job in my opinion.

Ereaders are cheap to buy,  a pleasure to read, long lasting and provide instant gratification, when you have just read a great book and want to immediately read that author’s next book or instalment of the same story you just press a button and you have it like magic. The books themselves are cheaper to buy and you don’t have that sinking feeling when you move house and have to box up hundreds of very heavy books!

Get an ereader – you will love it!

Lastly, let me share a secret with you about how I made the decision to buy an ereader. You see, I grew up in a family who owned the best bookshop in our city, it was called Wisdom Books. I used to work in the bookshop at various times over its twenty five year history and loved being around all those wonderful books. Books and the knowledge that they sometimes contain, have always fascinated me and attracted me. Well, Wisdom Books grew from a small bookshop into a much larger bookstore but still maintained that special bookshop flavour.

Eventually in the face of outside economic forces, the Australian dollar was floated and became very poor in its buying power of US and UK books, with US books costing double and UK books triple in Australian dollars. Wisdom Books was an importer of quality overseas books, which were not published by Australian publishers, and had been very popular with its customers on this basis. To compound this substantial increase in the cost of these books to our buying public the Australian Government brought in a goods and services tax, which put the price of books up a further 10%. However, as is still the situation today, books bought online through Amazon etc do not pay this tax. Many family bookstores in Australia went to the wall and were forced to close their doors.

BUY KINDLE DICK SMITH

My brother, who had taken over from my father, as the bookshop’s manager, was understandably livid at the unfairness of the GST impost. It was my brother who had the frustrating and sad task of overseeing the demise of this once great bookstore. You can imagine his feelings about Amazon and the unfair playing field. Australia was growing up, economically, through the nineteen eighties and nineties, becoming a part of the global market. Economists, and Paul Keating in particular, the Australian treasurer and PM,who we all admired politically at the time, kept telling us it was good for the nation. Watching something beautiful die is always hard to do, even a business.

Anyway, the secret is that, a while after the dust had settled, shop fittings had been sold off and the pain of just walking away, after twenty five years of business had receded somewhat. My brother shared with me that his partner had bought him an Amazon Kindle ereader and that he was really enjoying it. I was gobsmacked and I eventually went out and bought a Kobo ereader myself.

A GUIDE to the Best Ereaders to Buy

Qumran Sect a Cult Under Siege

The Qumran sect, or the Essenes,  as they were known by Josephus – the first century AD Roman – Jewish scholar, were a prime example of a religious community during this period (200 BC to 68 AD). Records of their community laws contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls paint a vivid picture of the impact of religion upon the lives of these members of this Jewish order. There were, in fact, two distinct levels of cult membership, the more rigorous cloistered life for men only and a lesser association with the sect for those (including women) who lived in the towns.

“And the Levites shall curse all the men of the lot of Belial, saying: ‘Be cursed because of all your guilty wickedness! May  He deliver you up for torture at the hands of the vengeful Avengers! May He visit you with destruction by the hand of all the Wreakers of Revenge! Be cursed without mercy because of the darkness of your deeds! Be damned in the shadowy place of everlasting fire! May God not heed when you call on Him, nor pardon you by blotting out your sin! May He raise His angry face towards you for vengeance! May there be no “Peace” for you in the mouth of those who hold fast to the Fathers! And after the blessing and the cursing, all those entering the Covenant shall say, Amen, Amen.” (1QS II 5-12)

Here is a prime example of a disaffected group of religious devotees, who have banded together to form a sect, certain in the righteousness of their cause and in the bitterness that they direct towards the unholy in their eyes. The socialising force in this instance of religion is both a siege mentality and a hatred of those Jews who have remained loyal to the current High Priest and the status quo. This was due to the political involvement of the High Priest under the Seleucid King Antiochus IV, who was attempting to Hellenise Jerusalem in 175-164 BC. The Essenes were loyal to the deposed Zadokite dynasty of High Priests of Jerusalem, and thus forced to a large extent underground.[1]

The interesting thing is, that if you were a child growing up in a family within the Essene community you would consider the views of the community, and their leaders in their vitriolic righteousness, completely normal, just as if you had been a child of a member of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, or perhaps a child of a polygamist Mormon family in Utah. Religious beliefs often supersede all other beliefs, including adherence to secular laws. Religions have largely survived because they are steeped in tradition and resist challenges to their lores and interpretations of reality. Hasidic Jews, Amish people and Plymouth Brethren are just a few examples of communities who  insist on their religious practices, and indeed their lives, remaining in a bygone era. A golden age preserved in aspic or amber. It can be, however, akin to keeping wild animals in a zoo, a cruel practice which can lead to warping of the spirit and strange behaviours.

For More Roman and Greek History by Robert Hamilton

©Robert Hamilton

[1] Vermes. Giza, Complete Dead Sea Scrolls, (Rev Ed), Penguin, London, 2004, p – 61.

Judeo-Christian Roots Beginning of Misuse of Religion by Political Powers

by Robert Hamilton

I think it will be enlightening to look back into the very roots of our religious and cultural identities, to see where our gods have come from and what defined our relationships with them. Historically the Judeo-Christian religions were, once established, all pervading in their control over their community members. The Hebrew Bible describes, in my opinion, a very jealous god – this Yahweh, or Jehovah, is forever being ‘let down’ by generations of  Israelites and Judeans:

“Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom. He committed all the sins that his father did before him; his heart was not true to Yahweh his God, like the heart of his father David. Nevertheless for David’s sake Yahweh his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem…” (1 Kgs 15:1-8)

This example takes place after the split between the two Jewish states, Israel and Judah, and after King Solomon, and possibly around the eighth century BC.[1] There are, however, countless examples from the Old Testament listing Yahweh’s unhappiness with the religious behaviour of the kings and communities of these Jewish states. There is from the time before Moses a battle going on primarily between the adherents of Yahweh with those Semitic people who worshiped Baal, predominantly the Canaanites (Palestinians). Baal had a sister goddess called Asherah, and there were others in the Semitic pantheon of gods. So we see a polytheistic belief system, like the Greeks and Romans, prior to the establishment of the monotheistic  Jewish religion. But it was an ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of these Semites, with the Old Testament telling us that incorrect religious practices and statues to Baal were popping up in villages and cities within the territories of Israel and Judah. It seems that old religious beliefs are not easily thrown off, as we are seeing ourselves today in the twenty first century AD. I also suspect that this is in part where we, in the Christian faith, get the whole dualism thing about god and the devil, good and evil, as Baal throughout the Old Testament is definitely the baddie.

The Old Testament lists some pretty horrendous acts of retribution taken by the adherents of Yahweh against political opponents who conveniently also happened to be worshipping Baal. These occurred both within their respective kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and against each other. King Ahab, of Israel, took Jezebel, a Phoenician princess as his wife, and this was regarded by the later Judahites who compiled the Hebrew Bible as:

“Ahab did more to provoke the anger of Yahweh, the God of Israel, than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” ( 1 Kgs. 16:33)

What begins to become clear from a study of the Old Testament, is that it is both a political document, or history, and a book of scripture. It is quite likely that Ahab took Jezebel as a wife to secure his regional relationship with the Sidonians, much like members  of ruling powers have done throughout history, creating alliances through intermarriages. Ahab then would have needed to build an altar or temple for Baal, where Jezebel could practice her religious beliefs, as a caring husband and diplomatic ruler would do. The religiously intolerant nature of Judaism, at this time, would find political opponents ready to condemn Ahab for this behaviour. Jezebel has, of course, become infamous within our hazy recollection of Old Testament characters as an immoral harlot, much like many biblical depictions of women. It is important to remember that the Old Testament was written many centuries later (around the third century BC) by Judahites, who were at times an enemy state of the Israelites; not a recipe for the impartial recording of accurate history, I would say.

It is clear to me, that within the paradigm of religious belief, which was Judaism at this time, that political opponents used adherence to scriptural purity as a socially validating reason to create coup de tat’s and to topple existing regimes.  Prophets, like Elijah, appear to be religious power brokers and offer an alternative form of authority outside of the ruling king, through their ability to talk directly with god. Kings claim the divine right to rule and in the case of the Jewish kingdoms there was an ongoing and rigorous requirement to satisfy an exceedingly jealous god. Kings like Ahab were, most likely, trying to get the balance right between surviving in an unstable geo-political realm and keeping the high priest happy at home. Jehu would murder Jehoram, the son of Ahab, and commit genocide against every remaining member of the Omride dynasty, and then burn to death all worshippers of Baal, whilst they were locked in their temple; all in apparent accordance with the wishes of Yahweh. Jezebel was cast from a second story window to the street below and then eaten by dogs. Israel would later fall to the Assyrians in 722 BC and cease to exist as a kingdom. The kingdom of Judah would be conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The Hebrew Bible, being written after all these calamities, repackages them according to the religious agenda of its authors.

Bloody power struggles and battles, brothers killing brothers, these are things that we have historically seen all over this globe and the Jewish kingdoms were no different. It is only the depth of their rewriting of history, in accordance with their single minded religious beliefs and interpretations of those beliefs, which may put them in a class of their own. Their Torah, Book of Law, is basically also our Christian Old Testament Bible, with the omission of those books after the Pentateuch. Our Western Christian civilisation has grown out of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. We have embedded these biblically interpreted “so called’ histories at the heart of our religious ethos, culturally speaking. I don’t think that many people, living in our Western cities today, realise the morass of lies and political manipulations which make up our holy book. We are quick to dismiss its relevance and turn to the stories of Jesus in the New Testament, as more of a reflection of our modern relationship with the Christian faith. It is, however, important to see the roots of the political misuse of religion and where it began in our own cultural history.

For More Roman and Greek History by Robert Hamilton

©Robert Hamilton

[1] Miller. J and Hayes. J, History of Ancient Israel and Judah, SCM Press, London, 2006, p – 270.

History of Astrology

by Sudha Hamilton

 

Looking back in time in search of the origins of astrology, we are faced with the question, what is astrology? Is it an advanced scientific hypothesis, based on the premise that the heavenly bodies give off an ‘influence,’ which affects individual events on earth, or is it primarily a universal language, as argued by Giovanni Pontano, the Italian Renaissance astrologer? Pontano’s treatise, On Celestial Things, published in 1512, stated that astrology is “a language of the stars and planets that formed the letters of a cosmic alphabet that conformed in all essential ways to the language of humans.” In my experience as an astrologer, it has been the latter definition, which has made most sense to me and encouraged me to take the journey of life guided by the stars above.

It is generally agreed that humankind’s look to the stars has been one that all the tribes of earth – indeed, every culture – has shared in. Evidence of this remains today on ancient cave and wall paintings, and on surviving archaeological tablets and texts in museums around the world. To look up at the night sky and witness the incredible changes of the celestial light show would have been profoundly awe-inspiring. It would also have stimulated the formation of a number of basic philosophical questions like: why are we here? What is nature of time? Who controls the movement of the stars across the heavens? When we ask, what is the history of astrology? We must consider that, incredibly, there once was a time when the inhabitants of this world did not know what time it was! Imagine how that would affect everything you did or wanted to do.

Continued in Healing Our Wellbeing by Sudha Hamilton

A Lot of Contentious Christian Ideology

by Robert Hamilton

In this essay, I will be critically assessing the argument, put forward by Robert Di Vito in his published article, “Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity,” that Lot’s contentious offering of his daughters to a ‘mob’ of men in Genesis 19 is an example of a ‘value system’, which ranks the family group above any individual rights. Di Vito’s argument rests, intrinsically, on the difference between our modern sensibilities and that of the characters who inhabit the Old Testament Hebrew Bible. How are we so different from these denizens of the Bronze Age?

De Vito, references Charles Taylor’s, Sources of the Self, to outline the development of the “self” from the Enlightenment, in the late seventeenth century, as a pivotal shift from how we considered ourselves and our place in the universe previously.[1]

“Essentially, the development which Taylor charts extends from Augustine through Descartes, Locke, and Kant on into the romantics, culminating in the affirmation of the human subject as an autonomous, disengaged, self-sufficient, and self-responsible unity, one whose own “inner depths” are the sufficient ground of its efforts at self-expression and self-exploration.”[2]

This sense of “self,” which all of us hold so dearly today, was in De Vito’s view, absent, or hardly developed, during the time of the Hebrew Bible. In contrast to our sense of “individuality,” which we, as modern people,  value highly, the members of Old Testament family groups were defined by their kinship to a patriarchal family leader (“father”), and to a lesser extent, their tribe. The narrative within the Hebrew Bible confirms this, through its focus on these characters, like Abraham, Noah and Moses, to name a few. Martin Noth describes this focus, within the Pentateuch, as the “circle of patriarchs”.[3] In Genesis 12:26 the story revolves around Abraham, with Lot, his nephew, making a peripheral appearance in Genesis 19, mainly because of his relationship within Abraham’s family circle. Individuals within family groups, and or tribes, had no personal value outside of the family.[4] The crux of De Vito’s argument is, that identity was defined very differently in the time of the Old Testament, in comparison to how we define it today.

Wives, sons and daughters, within the stories of the Hebrew Bible, are there to carry out their “father’s” wishes in everything. De Vito, emphasises this “unequivocal patriarchy” within the ancient Israelite family group and makes it clear that all property was owned by the “father” and that his children, grand children, and so on, were his property.[5] So, that, when Lot, in Genesis 19, offers his virginal daughters, to be raped by a mob of men as an alternative to Jehovah’s  male angels, or messengers, being sodomised by these same men, it may not be, as morally contentious in the same way, as we view it today.[6] In fact biblical scholars, like Desmond Alexander, see the Genesis 19 story as proof of Lot’s righteousness, in the same way that Abraham’s righteousness is portrayed in Genesis 22.[7]  Paul Tonson in his article, “Mercy Without Covenant,” sees Lot, as performing his more important duties, as host, rather than his less important parental obligation.[8] It is, however, pretty repugnant behaviour whatever way you look at it and devalues both the role of women and the duty of care a father has to his children. In the words of Lyn Bechtel, “his offer violates the assumption of protection of women as the producers of life that characterizes ancient society.”[9] Scott Morschauser, in his article, “Hospitality, Hostilities and Hostages,” disagrees completely with the traditional interpretation of the Hebrew in Genesis 19: 1-9 – he reads the meaning of the words to refer to Lot, as a judicial patriarch interviewing the messengers at the gatehouse, during a time of war, and then being challenged by the mob to hand over the two men as possible spies.[10] He goes further, to completely discount any sexual meaning in regard to the men, or Lot’s daughters – if this is correct then it greatly undermines the common understanding of Genesis 19.

De Vito, in his essay, goes on, to argue that this patriarchal family grouping system provided social stability and that in early Israel this was how villages were constructed, with several “father’s houses” forming a clan based grouping.[11] De Vito stresses, that it is the social roles determined by the family group, which define the identity of the members of the Old Testament families. Morality is centred within a community model, which is founded on an extended family group, with one patriarchal leader responsible for all moral decisions affecting the family – the “extended lineal group.”[12]

Surrounding this kernel of truth, according to De Vito, the article presents some very interesting analysis of contemporary attitudes towards identity, in contrast to historical antecedents. The article, begins with a comparison of, the ancient Greek’s idea of the  duality of body and soul, with the Israelite’s literal conception of a united single self. The author, importantly, qualifies the difference between today’s sense of self with the more primitive, Old Testament, conception of self. De Vito states,

“Just as the promotion in modernity of a socially disengaged self contrasts sharply with the embedding of the Israelite in the family, so too the modern conviction of personal unity finds only a distant echo in the biblical construction of individual identity.”

The essential points here, are the “social disengagement” of the modern self, away from identifying solely with roles defined by the family group, and the development of a “personal unity” within the individual. Morally speaking, we are no longer empty vessels to be filled up by some god, or servant of god, we are now responsible for our own actions, and decisions, in light of our own moral compass. I would like to mention Julian Jayne’s seminal work, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, as a pertinent hypothesis for an attempt to understand the enormous distance between the modern sense of self with that of the ancient mind, and its largely absent subjective state.[13]

“The preposterous hypothesis we have come to in the previous chapter is that at one time human nature was split in two, an executive part called a god, and a follower part called a man.”[14]

This hypothesis sits very well with De Vitos’ description of the permeable personal identity of Old Testament characters, who are “taken over,” or possessed, by Yahweh.[15] The evidence of the Old Testament stories points in this direction, where we have patriarchal family leaders, like Abraham and Noah, going around making morally contentious decisions (in today’s terms) based on their internal dialogue with a god – Jehovah.[16]  As Jaynes postulates later in his book, today we would call this behaviour schizophrenia. De Vito, later in the article, confirms, that:

“Of course, this relative disregard for autonomy in no way limits one’s responsibility for conduct–not even when Yhwh has given “statutes that were not good” in order to destroy Israel “(Ezek 20:25-26).[17]

This brings us to De Vito’s next sub-heading, within the article, Heteronomy – the opposite of autonomy – and the fact that the Old Testament Israelites were clearly told to obey and definitely not to think for themselves:

“Wisdom comes not to those who look within themselves for worlds to explore, or who embark on roads never travelled, but only to those willing to heed the authoritative voice of tradition “(Prov 1:8-9).

The essence of the argument here, is that only god has the moral right, and that autonomy is wrong, as is personal freedom, and that man is a puppet waiting for Jehovah to fill him with his “wind” or spirit. No individual human actions can be judged by humanity, according to De Vito’s interpretation of the Old Testament, only by god; and that the narrative of the Hebrew Bible is about family groups and tribes.

Social Identity Theory, developed by Henri Tajfel in the nineteen seventies, has a relevance here when considering behaviour by members of groups.[18] How much of our identity is derived from interpersonal values and how much from intergroup expectations imposed upon us? The permeable individual, the sheep within a flock of sheep, Tajfel highlighted the behaviour of individuals at times of war, as a clear example of when the scale is tipped strongly in favour of intergroup influence over the individual. The Old Testament characters are, it seems, perpetually at war on behalf of their jealous god Jehovah; who demands total obedience. (Deut 8:1-19) Scott Morschauser’s interpretation of Lot’s behaviour with the messengers, as possible military spies, would fit appropriately here as well.

Both Jayne, and De Vito, analyse the linguistic make-up of highlighted sections of the Hebrew Bible, and in Jayne’s case, he questions the translations of certain words, and this, in his opinion, can change the meaning of the texts.[19] De Vito references Hans Walter Wolff’s,Anthropology of the Old Testament, when he talks of the “interchangeability” of terms, like heart, soul, flesh and spirit used in the Old Testament to describe the same “unity” of the person but with different words.[20]

“The eye of the adulterer waits for dawn, saying, `No eye will see me.'” (Job 24:15a)

“When the ear heard it, it called me happy; when the eye saw it, it bore me witness.” (Job 29:11) [21]

As you can see, in these two examples taken from De Vito’s article, the writer of this text, within the Old Testament, gives parts of the body autonomous sentiency.  De Vito references A.R. Johnson’s, The Vitality of the Individual in the Thought of Ancient Israel, when determining that it is merely “synecdoche” and poetic language.[22] I hesitate to accept this blithely and would caution greater discrimination  in the linguistic examination of the texts within the Hebrew Bible.[23] The meaning of these words change, even when transferred from the oral tradition to being written down, and even further depending on what language they are translated into.[24] What De Vito, and the referenced biblical scholars, are determined to illustrate here is the non-dual totality in the “Hebrew conception of the person” but not in a primitive sense, rather, in a more complex way.[25] Why is this important to De Vito?

The article begins by referencing an early comparison between the deaths of Socrates and Jesus, in a lecture by Oscar Cullmann at Harvard University.[26] This highlights an ancient argument about the moral, and intellectual, superiority of the classical Greek conception of life over the Christian model. What De Vito is attempting to do here is link our sense of truth in our modern conceptions of identity with the essence of Old Testament morality. There is a never ending need for Christian scholars to explain the righteousness of their religion, especially in the face of examples of primitive savagery, which abound in the Old Testament. An example of this is Lot’s story, which goes on to present incest between father and both daughters, and resultant children from, what we would call today, acts of abomination. (Genesis 19:30-38) I find this particularly relevant when you consider the current Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, which focuses in large part on institutional abuse within religious organisations and their schools. I imagine that there are some confused members of the priesthood, who having read these stories in the Old Testament, are, perhaps, merely acting out in accordance with what they have learnt from these prophets and patriarchal leaders. How can we condone a religion, and their operation of schools within our communities, when their holy books contain such morally questionable activities? What kind of message are we sending out to the members of our community?[27] Supposedly, it is in part, because we overlook the Old Testament and discount its scriptural relevance, but biblical scholars, like De Vito in this article, continue to attempt to validate its importance to our sense of who we are.

De Vito reaches, some strange conclusions, in my view, that personal identity in the modern sense is the worship of idolatry, with our own conception of ourselves being the idols, I presume. Like so many Christian scholars, he eventually comes down on the side of the Bible, after a circuitous journey through psychology and modern cultural senses of identity. This wild goose chase, is usually, in  my experience,  an attempt by the writer to maintain the Christian religions relevance to the modern world. I find it extraordinary, that a religious text written by biased proponents, many years after the purported times it professes to cover, is taken so seriously by scholars, and some psychologists, as a source for the understanding of humanity.[28]

In conclusion, the evidence suggests that De Vito is correct, that the family group took precedence over the rights of the individual in the world of the Old Testament. Social Identity Theory would define these characters as heavily directed by intergroup expectations at the expense of their interpersonal values, they simply had no value outside of the group; and these groups were often at war with one another. Julian Jayne’s hypothesis about the ancient mind, also explains a great deal about the pre-eminence of god, and his prophets, in the decision making by characters, within the narratives of the Hebrew Bible; and most importantly conveys the abyss between modern mind and ancient mind. There is, however, a too ready acceptance of easy answers in regard to the Hebrew understanding of terms like soul and spirit, in De Vito’s essay, when there is much debate, by scholars, over meanings in the linguistic terminology used in the Old Testament. The reality, even today, is that we do not know what these terms mean in our own languages; and the irony is that we look back into ancient history for answers as to what soul and spirit really refer to. De Vito drastically, underestimates, the incomprehension between modern thought and Old Testament individual reality. De Vito seeks to link these disparate worlds to make ideological sense of Christianity, and its foundations. He concludes that we all should surrender and obey the will of Jehovah, as a morally correct and still applicable path to righteousness. There is, at the heart of this essay, a denial of the barbarity and intellectual contempt toward humanity, which the creators of this Bronze Age religion have clearly displayed in their history.

©Robert Hamilton

For More Roman and Greek History by Robert Hamilton

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexander, T. Desmond. Lot’s Hospitality – A Clue to His Righteousness, Journal of Biblical Literature, , Vol. 104 Issue 2, Jun1985, p289-291.

Bechtel. Lyn. M, “A Feminist Reading of Genesis 19.1–11,” in Genesis: A Feminist Companion to the Bible, Second Series, ed. Athalya Brenner (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), p -108–29.

Bible – New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1984.

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “Two centuries of Pentateuchal scholarship” in Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible , Doubleday, New York, London, 1992 , p -1-30.

Bimson, John. “Old Testament history and sociology” in Interpreting the Old Testament: A Guide for Exegesis , Broyles, C.C. ,Grand Rapids Michigan, 2001 , p -125-138.

Cullmann. O, “Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?” in Immortality and Resurrection (ed. K. Stendahl; Ingersoll Lectures; New York: Macmillan, 1965) p -9-47.

De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 217-238.

 

Heard. Christopher, What did the mob want Lot to do in Genesis 19:9?, Hebrew Studies, Vol 51, 2010, p – 95-105.

Jaynes. Julian, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books, New York, 2000.

Kutz. Ilan, Revisiting the Lot of the first Incestuous Family: The Biblical Origins of Shifting the Blame on to Female Family Members, British Medical Journal, 331:7531, 2005, p – 1507-1508.

Low. Kathryn. B, The Sexual Abuse of Lot’s Daughters: Reconceptualising Kinship for the Sake of Our Daughters, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 26.2,  2010, p – 37-54.

Morschauser. Scott, Hospitality, Hostiles and Hostages: On the Legal Background to Genesis 19:1-9, Journal for the Study of Old Testament, 27,  2003, p – 461-485.

 

Miller II, Robert D. “Literacy and orality in preexilic Israel” in Oral Tradition in Ancient Israel , Miller II, Robert D. , Cascade Books, Eugene Oregon, 2011 , p -40-58.

Mowinckel, Sigmund. “‘I’ and ‘we’ in the psalms – the royal psalms” in The Psalms in Israel’s Worship: Translated by D. R. Ap-Thomas , Basil Blackwell, Oxford , 1967 , p – 42-80.

Noth, Martin. “The human figures in the pentateuchal narrative” in A History of Pentateuchal Traditions , Noth, Martin , 1972 , p -146-188.

Tajfel. Henri, “Social Identity and Intergroup Behaviour,” Social Science Information, Vol 13, April, 1974, p – 65-93.

 

Taylor. Charles, Sources of the Self, Harvard University Press, USA, 1992.

Tonson. Paul, Mercy Without Covenant, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Vol 26, No 1,Sage Publications, UK, 2001, p – 95-116.

 

Sternberg. Meir, Biblical Poetics and Sexual Politics from Reading to Counterreading, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol 111/3, 1992, p – 463-488.

 

 

[1] Taylor. Charles, Sources of the Self, Harvard University Press, 1992, p -111-26.

 

[2] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 220.

 

[3] Noth, Martin. “The human figures in the pentateuchal narrative” in A History of Pentateuchal Traditions ,  Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1972 , p – 147.

 

[4] Mowinckel, Sigmund. “‘I’ and ‘we’ in the psalms – the royal psalms” in The Psalms in Israel’s Worship: Translated by D. R. Ap-Thomas , Mowinckel, Sigmund , Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1967 , p -42.

 

[5] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 222.

[6] Hamilton. Robert, “The mob’s desires re-gang raping the messengers of god is what is traditionally understood but as with all these linguistic interpretations still open to scholarly debate.”

[7] Alexander, T. Desmond. Lot’s Hospitality – A Clue to His Righteousness, Journal of Biblical Literature, Jun85, Vol. 104 Issue 2, p – 291.

 

[8] Tonson. Paul, Mercy Without Covenant, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Vol 26, No 1,Sage Publications, UK, 2001, p – 99.

[9] Bechtel. Lyn. M, “A Feminist Reading of Genesis 19.1–11,” in Genesis: A Feminist Companion to the Bible, Second Series, ed. Athalya Brenner (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), p -108–29.

 

[10] Morschauser. Scott, Hospitality, Hostiles and Hostages: On the Legal Background to Genesis 19:1-9, Journal for the Study of Old Testament, 27, 2003, p – 461-485.

[11] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 223.

[12] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 223.

 

[13] Jaynes. Julian, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books, New York, 2000, p – 84.

[14] Jaynes. Julian, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books, New York, 2000, p – 84.

 

[15] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 229-230.

 

[16] Jaynes. Julian, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books, New York, 2000, p – 293-300.

[17] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 236.

[18] Tajfel. Henri, “Social Identity and Intergroup Behaviour,” Social Science Information, Vol 13 April, 1974, p – 65-93.

[19] Jaynes. Julian, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Mariner Books, New York, 2000, p – 297.

 

[20] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 227.

[21] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 227.

 

[22] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 227-228.

 

[23] Heard. Christopher, What did the mob want Lot to do in Genesis 19:9?, Hebrew Studies, Vol 51, 2010, p – 95-105.

 

[24] Miller II, Robert D. “Literacy and orality in preexilic Israel” in Oral Tradition in Ancient Israel , Miller II, Robert D. , Cascade Books, Eugene Oregon, 2011 , p -41-42.

Sternberg. Meir, Biblical Poetics and Sexual Politics from Reading to Counterreading, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol 111/3, 1992, p – 470.

 

[25] De Vito. R. A, Old Testament Anthropology and the Construction of Personal Identity, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 61, 1999, p – 227.

[26] Cullmann. O, “Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?” in Immortality and Resurrection (ed. K. Stendahl; Ingersoll Lectures; New York: Macmillan, 1965, p -9-47.

 

[27] Kutz. Ilan, Revisiting the Lot of the first Incestuous Family: The Biblical Origins of Shifting the Blame on to Female Family Members, British Medical Journal, 331:7531, 2005, p – 1507-1508.

Low. Kathryn. B, The Sexual Abuse of Lot’s Daughters: Reconceptualising Kinship for the Sake of Our Daughters, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 26.2, 2010, p – 37-54.

 

 

[28] Bimson, John. “Old Testament history and sociology” in Interpreting the Old Testament: A Guide for Exegesis , Broyles, C.C. ,Grand Rapids Michigan, 2001 , p -133-136.