Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Christ Conspiracy, Ch10, pt 2

Before going on to interpret the Bible in her own peculiar allegorical way, Acharya manages to squeeze in just one more iffy bit.
The Jewish nighttime worship is also reflected in the noncanonical Epistle to Diognetus, an early Christian writing which further demonstrates that astrology was important to Christians, as, while the author obviously does not like the way in which the Jews are consulting the heavens, he does consider the "cycle of the seasons" to be "divinely appointed":
As for the way [the Jews] scrutinize the moon and stars for the purpose of ritually commemorating months and days, and chop up the divinely appointed cycle of the season to suit their own fancies, pronouncing some to be times for feasting and others for mourning...
As we can see, the Hebrews/Israelites, like the other peoples around the world, revered a number of aspects of the heavens, both the night sky and the day. ... In fact, as is written in the Book of Jasher, which is given scriptural authority at Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18, but which was suppressed in large part because of its obvious astrological imagery, Abraham's father Terah "had twelve gods of large size, made of wood and stone, after the twelve months of the year, and he served each one monthly" (Jas. 9:8). Abraham himself is also represented as first worshipping the sun until it set, and then the moon. [1, p. 137]
The Book of Jasher? Well now, which particular book of Jasher is she speaking of? The Rabbinic book of Jasher? Ibn Ezra's Commentary on the pentateuch? Pick a century - 12th, 13th, 14th or 15th, each of those have had a book of Jasher written during its span. The Book of Jasher from Old Testament times is unknown. [2]

The particular narrative she is referring to does occur in a midrash collection by that name, with a terminus ante quem of 1550ish - maybe originally written as early as the 9th century, and the story she cites from it probably is somewhat older. However, projecting that back to Biblical times with no evidence in favor of the claim that this book has "biblical authority" is quite misleading.

Acharya's proffered explanation as to why this book is not in the Bible is that it was suppressed due to explicit astrology. However, no other medieval Jewish book has widely been accepted by Christianity either - no matter whether there was astrology in it or not (c.f. how widely accepted Moses Maimonides is in Christianity - not at all, yet few opponents of astrology take such a staunchly negative view of astrology as Maimonides does!). Again, Acharya S misleads her readers. A more reasonable explanation is simply that it was authored significantly later than the canonization of the Bible, and therefore it was clear by the time it started circulating that this is not the Book of Jasher mentioned in the Bible, and thus it was fairly clear both among Jewish and Christian scholars of the time that it was of much more recent vintage - that in fact, the name was given to it as a ruse by whoever authored it.

As for exclusion from the Jewish canon, other midrashes - not included in the canon, but used in Torah study and as important instruction in rabbinic Judaism - do include the same narrative.

[1] Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy

[2] http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/apo/jasher/index.htm

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Quality of Sources: "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets"

Among Acharya S's favorite sources we find Barbara Walker amply represented. In fact, with over 180 references, Walker beats Higgins' roughly 120 by a significant amount.

Barbara Walker is of course highly respected in some quarters, and her writing did serve an important purpose at a time. This purpose, however, could be just as well served with less shoddy scholarship. Empowering women by telling them lies can work temporarily, but in the long run, it weakens the cause of gender equality.

I fear criticizing Walker a tad - criticizing such a widely cited feminist may seem as though I object to her feminism. I do not. I could of course write something dumb here like "why would I be anti-feminist, many of my best friends are women!", and although that would be true, it would also lead the discussion onto an irrelevant sidetrack. I maintain that shoddy scholarship is shoddy scholarship no matter what conclusions it reaches, and that shoddy scholarship indeed can be used to prop up any thesis: even the sciences have been supported by shoddy as well as good research.

At times, the scholarship in Walker's works is so shoddy, you do not even need to look up sources elsewhere: looking up the source she cites, you find it saying something quite different from what she says it says. An example:

Female soul, from the roots an, "heavenly," and ma, "mother," recalling a time when all souls were supposed to emanate from the Heavenly Mother.1 In the 16th century A.D. Guillaume Postel said every soul had male and female halves, the animus and anima. The male half had been redeemed by Christ, but the female half was still unredeemed and awaited a female savior2. This was a new development of the old Christian view that only males had any souls at all. The third canon of the Council of Nantes in 660 A.D. had decided that all women are "soulless brutes."3 [...]
1. Graves W.G. 410. 2. Seligmann, 223. 3. Dreifus, 4. 
Graves' The White Goddess is a book that has repeatedly been republished ever since its publication - the copy I have borrowed does not have the same pagination. However, reading a few dozen pages and doing some simple arithmetics, I think I found the bit she is referring to here, on page 371 of the edition I have access to (bolding by me, not by Graves):
Ovid and Virgil knew their Goddess Anna Perenna to have been a sister of Belus, or Bel, who was a masculinization of the Sumerian Goddess Belili; so also the god Anu, of the Babylonian trinity completed by Ea and Bel, was a masculinization of the Sumerian Goddess Anna-Nin, usually abbreviated to Nana. Bel's wife was Belit, and Anu's wife was Anatu. Ea's wife, the third member of the Sumerian female trinity, was Dam-Kina; the first syllable of whose name shows her to have mothered the Danaans. Anna-Nin has further been identified by J. Przbuski in the Revue de l'Histoire des Religions (1933) with Ana-hita the Goddess of the Avesta, whom the Greeks called Anaitis and the Persians Ana-hid-- the name that they gave to the planet Venus.
Mr. E. M. Parr writes to me that An is Sumerian for 'Heaven' and that in his view the Goddess Athene was another Anna, namely Ath-enna, an inversion of Anatha, alias Neith of Libya; also that Ma is a shortening of the Sumerian Ama, 'mother', and that Ma-ri means 'the fruitful mother', from rim, 'to bear a child'. [2]
Here, Walker seriously fails at etymology. Graves does seem to get some etymologies right - even if he is barely a reliable source in the first place -, and he is less willing to go on far-fetched distant etymologizing than Walker is, but still - what she says he says, he does not say. Her etymology is not supported by her source, she is misrepresenting Graves. Her claim is a fabrication. Certainly an- and ma- are supported by her source, but only insofar as it applies to Sumerian and languages in close contact with it. Anima and animus, on the other hand, can be explained in part by recourse to normal Latin morphology - -a vs. -us being rather common suffixes for feminines and masculines, and the prior part being from Proto-Indo-European *h2enh1mos (PIE -os being the source of Latin -us as well as Greek -os), from *h2en(h1), "breath".

Further, the idea that the Catholic church ever has taught that women are soulless is a fabrication. Claims as to which council declared it varies, and no one ever gives a primary source.[3] [4]

This is but one example of such a mistake, and I will post new posts as I come across major errors.

I do realize every encyclopedia ever contains mistakes and errors. Producing an encyclopedia is a monumental work, the effort required to verify every last claim probably infinite. This is a partial reason why using encyclopedias as sources is inadvisable. The example given above, though, is not relying on a mistaken source, it is misunderstanding the content of a source or misrepresenting a source - that is significantly worse, and indicates either that the author does not understand the sources or intentionally misrepresents them.

Acharya herself has this to say on encyclopedias, my emphasis:
Moreover, flipping through encyclopedias will not make an expert of anyone; thus, caution is required when reading hasty rebuttals from fervent believers—such commentaries tend to be inadequate, representing a cursory scan by those who are rarely experts. Such interpretations may sound impressive at first to the untrained eye; however, with serious, time-consuming research digging into long-forgotten and buried archives, most if not all of these shallow encyclopedia-rebuttals can be put to rest, as demonstrated in this present work.[5, A Word About Primary Sources] 
Many of Acharya's datapoints in the Christ Conspiracy and Suns of God are exactly that - shallow encyclopedia-factoids.

[1] Barbara Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. I do not provide a page number, as the articles are ordered alphabetically.
[2] Robert Graves, The White Goddess
[3] http://www.churchinhistory.org/pages/booklets/women-souls-1.htm
[4] http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9704/opinion/nolan.html
[5] Acharya S, Christ in Egypt

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Christ Conspiracy, chapter 10, pt 1


In chapter 10, Acharya enters a long sequence of eisegesis. Her main contention here is that
The Bible is, in actuality, basically an astrotheological text, a reflection on what has been occurring in the heavens for millennia, localized and historicized on Earth. This fact is further confirmed by numerous biblical passages concerning the influences of the heavenly bodies, but it also becomes clear through exegesis of the texts from an informed perspective.[1]
 She does point out one thing accurately - the church has, through history, had a rather shifting and inconsistent view on astrology, condemning it at one point, embracing it at another. The same can be found in medieval Judaism, with even less condemning of it. In medieval Judaism, Moses ben Maimon stands out as pretty much the singular voice to reject astrology - and on a rather scientific basis at that. Even Maimonides' followers came up with ways to accept most of Maimonides' philosophy without having to reject astrology.

As a slight diversion, medieval kabbalah and probably also earlier forms of Jewish mysticism have had a variety of views on astrology. One of the views common among kabbalists was that astrological powers ruled the other nations, but the Jews were independent of that influence or at least capable of evading it.
Those individuals who believe the Bible to be the "literal word of God" are not only unaware of its symbolism, they are also ignorant of the passages within the Bible itself which clearly reflect that at least certain aspects of the biblical tales are allegory. ... Just as we get to the good stuff, "Ezekiel" springs it on us that he is speaking allegorically about the cities of Samaria and Jerusalem, ... It is also evident that this type of allegorical speech is used more often in the Bible than its writers and proponents would wish to admit. As in the lusty Ezekiel tale, a number of other biblical places, nations and tribes are frequently referred to allegorically as "he" or "she," which makes it difficult to figure out whether the speaker is talking about a person, group, place or thing. [1]
Acharya is barking up a rather small tree here; very very few believe the Bible to be exclusively literal. Most literalists admit that there are bits that are allegorical. (I doubt there are even a handful of any measurable intelligence that believe the prodigal son is a historical person, nor do I think there are more than a few in an insane asylum that believe in a literal fulfillment of "All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?", or that the net in the same psalm necessarily has to be a net, most literalists understand it to include any instrument of deceit: "For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul.")

The use of "he" or "she" as a pronoun for a tribe is not necessarily allegorical, though, as Hebrew lacked a neuter pronoun - if the author was referring to a tribe, a nation or a town as a unit, he had to use either the masculine or feminine pronoun. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of grammatical gender would understand this, and realize that there is nothing weird about it. Of course, at times there is genuine allegory going on, and feminine and masculine pronouns occur in allegorical and metaphorical portions as well, their presence is neither sufficient nor required to establish whether something is an allegory or not.

 In the same way, it is not metaphorical when "Babylon is fallen" in Jeremiah 50:2 has a verb inflected for a feminine subject [see appendix], as Babylon in Hebrew is a feminine noun. To do as Acharya and indicate there is something necessarily metaphorical about that is pulling the wool over the eyes of those who are ignorant of languages different from English. Acharya, learn linguistics already - you are after all calling yourself a linguist on occasion! And while you are at it, try not to miseducate people about language. But what do I know, maybe German Wikipedia is being allegorical when it says "Die Schweiz hat aufgrund ihrer topographischen Struktur und vor allem aufgrund der Vergletscherung während der Eiszeiten rund 1’500 Seen, ein Grossteil davon sind kleinere Bergseen."[2] - "Switzerland has, because of her topographical structure and especially due to the glaciation during the ice age, 1,500 lakes, the largest part of which are small mountain lakes".
The Christian cheerleader "Paul" also knew that there was allegory in the Bible, as he so stated at Galatians 4:22-5, in reference to the story of Abraham having sons by two women. As to these women, who we are led in the Old Testament to believe are real, historical characters, Paul clarifies what they actually represent:
 Now this is allegory: these two women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.[1]
Is that really what they actually represent? Did the author of the Pentateuch really mean that Hagar was to represent the adherence to the law? This sounds ... very iffy. And very much adhering to the idea that the authors of the entire Bible all shared a single theology, one which was explained and revealed by later authors - that Paul knew genuine secrets about the intended meaning of the Pentateuch.

Or Acharya should phrase herself differently, saying that Paul provides an allegorical interpretation or something - at the very least omitting the word actually unless that is what she genuinely means. On the other hand, she uses intense words like "actually" routinely without considering what they actually mean as a way to impress the reader.

Now, it may seem like an unwarranted reading - who would write something with such a meaning, after all, certainly it must be me misreading her. Further into the book, she makes claims that do fit with the idea of a secret meaning of the pentateuch being passed down behind the scenes from the authors until Paul unveiled it.
 Thus, again, we discover that biblical characters are not actual persons but allegory for places. We also discover that certain places are allegory for other places:
... and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. (Rev. 11:8) 
 Of course, this fact is hidden by some translators, who render the word "allegorically" as "spiritually".[1]
Although I have pointed out and will be pointing out in greater detail that excessive literalism in translation is  a mistake, Acharya here goes to excessive literalism in combination with fabrication. The word in the Greek text is πνευματικῶς, of which the first morpheme, pneuma- means spirit. Acharya, a purported Greek scholar, etc. You know what I am going to say there already.

In Psalms 19, we hear about the heavens "telling the glory of God ... there is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." To the uninitiated, this sounds strange- how can the heavens tell the "glory of God?"[1]
If Acharya even tried a bit, she would realize she herself provides us with an explanation that is both simpler and more reasonable than what she presents here - allegory! The heavens, through being such immense and awesome things, were seen by the Psalmist as witnesses to the even more awesome and immense creator.

Appendix: A few instances of Babylon as subject of verb phrases in the Hebrew bible

 with KJV translation:
  • וְהִנֵּה־זֶה בָא רֶכֶב אִישׁ צֶמֶד פָּֽרָשִׁים וַיַּעַן וַיֹּאמֶר נָפְלָה נָֽפְלָה בָּבֶל וְכָל־פְּסִילֵי אֱלֹהֶיהָ שִׁבַּר לָאָֽרֶץ׃"And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, [with] a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.", Isa 21:9 [3]
  • הַגִּידוּ בַגֹּויִם וְהַשְׁמִיעוּ וּֽשְׂאוּ־נֵס הַשְׁמִיעוּ אַל־תְּכַחֵדוּ אִמְרוּ נִלְכְּדָה בָבֶל הֹבִישׁ בֵּל חַת מְרֹדָךְ הֹבִישׁוּ עֲצַבֶּיהָ חַתּוּ גִּלּוּלֶֽיהָ - "Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, [and] conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken in pieces." Jer 50:2 [3]
  • אֵיךְ נִגְדַּע וַיִּשָּׁבֵר פַּטִּישׁ כָּל־הָאָרֶץ אֵיךְ הָיְתָה לְשַׁמָּה בָּבֶל בַּגֹּויִֽם - "How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!", Jer 50:23 [3], goes on with 2nd person feminine in next verse, as the text metaphorically addresses Babylon as though it were the personal addressee of the text.
  • Similar examples can be found - about maybe a dozen or so; the method I've used to check a bunch of these was looking for Babylon on www.blueletterbible.org, pick every hit where Babylon is the subject in the English translation, but a sample of the other hits tends to bear out that the KJV maintains the voice of the Hebrew relatively well; a few other indications of Babylon being grammatically feminine exists, such as a few possessive suffixes that pretty much exclusively make sense if they refer back to Babylon, all of which seem to be feminine, unless I have missed some out. As a speaker of a language with three genders - the standard Indo-European masculine, feminine and neuter - I am not surprised at all. And some things, I can even refer to by two or all three of these, because some nouns that can refer to the same thing differ in gender. In Germanic languages, though, there seems to be a stylistic avoidance of referring to countries by pronouns. 
[1] The Christ Conspiracy, Acharya S, 1999
[2] de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schweiz, 9th february 2013.
[3] blueletterbible.org, as to the gender marking on the verbs, c.f. any Biblical Hebrew verb paradigm ever, for instance this: http://blakleycreative.com/jtb/Text/Seow_Verbs.pdf . For a further understanding of verbal gender congruence in Biblical Hebrew, any Biblical Hebrew grammar ever. For an understanding of verbal gender congruence in general, there's ...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On Etymologies, Scholars and Shoddiness

On Etymologies, Scholars and Shoddiness

In my perusal of a variety of sources in recent times, I have become painfully aware of one thing:
Scholars of a variety of fields suck at verifying etymologies.
You can find it in Karen Armstrong's The History of God giving the following definition and etymology of ashkenazim in its glossary:
Ashkenazim (Hebrew corruption of 'Allemagne')-The Jews of Germany and parts of eastern and western Europe.
 The Swedish translation got this even worse, presenting the following fantastic distorted translation:
Ashkenazim (Judisk förvrängning av 'Tyskland')-... (my backtranslation: Ashkenazim (Jewish distortion of 'Germany')
For a reader not particularly knowledgeable about linguistics even this seems nonsensical. Swedish translators normally have a degree in applied linguistics, so ... this bothers me quite a bit.

Anyways, ashkenaz is a word that appears in the Hebrew Bible, and which tribe it referred to there is not certain - it only appears in three verses, and so cannot have been a particularly important tribe to Hebrew affairs. By rabbinic times, this had become associated to somewhere near by the Caucasus mountains (although it is possible this also was the original meaning), and in medieval times it had been reapplied to Germany, probably gradually in a westward movement. Involving corruption of Allemagne is not really called for. Similar reapplications of Biblical names happened, as Edom was reapplied to Rome, Sepharad to Spain (probably originally a town in Anatolia, but this is not certain either), and Tzarfat to France. It is more likely these are some kind of code than distortion of the names of the countries.

But you find it elsewhere as well, in James Randi's An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, you find the following etymology of ghost:
ghost From the German geist, for “spirit.”
His Encyclopedia does, at times, contain a fair share of clear and humorous exaggerations - examples such as "Abaris is said to have lived without eating or drinking. This, coupled with the fact that his pupil Pythagoras is supposed to have stolen his golden arrow, must have resulted in a certain dissatisfaction with his life", or regarding Rasputin: "Doubtless the failure of the Czar to anticipate the revolution was due to his loss of the services of his mystic." Such clear untruths are acceptable in this work, as they are very clearly there for humorous effect, and anyone claiming that the Czar could have prevented the revolution by listening to Rasputin using Randi as a source for that claim lacks reading comprehension skills. However, ghost being derived from German lacks humor, does not really tell us anything, and is fundamentally wrong. So, how come these words are so similar? Elementary. A bit in excess of two millennia ago, English and German still did not exist. Instead, in southern Scandinavia and along the north sea coast, a language we today call Proto-Germanic was spoken. Eventually, as with all languages that strike lucky, the number of speakers grew, and the area the speakers covered got bigger. Over time, the speakers in different locations generalized different grammatical details in slightly different ways, had their words change meanings in different ways as contact between groups in different parts of the lands they covered was reduced, had different sound changes occur (such as the loss of nasals before dental fricatives in some of the north sea Germanic languages, c.f. English mouth, Swedish mun, German Mund and North Frisian müd). These changes and others turned that language into the languages we find in the area today. Already in antiquity these tribes believed in the existence of ghosts. And they had words for them, among them the word from which English ghost, German geist, Swedish gast, and a bunch of other cognates derive. By knowing roughly which sound changes have occurred in the different languages, and the form the word has taken in the earliest attested variety of these languages, as well as cognates outside of Germanic and the changes that happened between Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Germanic, we can be fairly confident that *gaistaz is a good guess as to the form the word from which geist and ghost appear. We would need a huge bunch of a lot less likely and a lot less regular sound changes to get a loan like geist to appear as ghost - we would expect something more like gaist or such if it were indeed a recent loan from German.

Neither Karen Armstrong or Randi use these factoids to argue any bigger point, though, and thus these mistakes are less critical in assessing their works than the multiple similarly shoddy etymologies used as actual arguments in Acharya's works - neither Randi or Armstrong derive any conclusion from these etymologies. However, I urge every scholar who has not put effort into understanding linguistics to avoid writing about etymology unless they expend quite a bit of effort to verify every etymological detail they include in their works.

In perpetuating shoddy linguistic claims, the general populace is miseducated about language, and language is already a thing your average Joe thinks he knows way more about than he actually does. It further gives cranks that use false etymologies a leverage against criticism - "I am not doing anything wrong here, just look at Karen Armstrong and James Randi, they too present claims about language pulled out of thin air!" is not a defense I want cranks like Maxwell Jordan and Acharya S to start using. Bullshit etymologizing is in use by pretty much every new age crank in existence already, let us not make the bullshit more justifiable by being shoddy about it ourselves.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Christ Conspiracy: The Myth of Hebrew Monotheism (chapter 8)

I have realized that the best way to debunk The Christ Conspiracy would be to reproduce the entire book, and insert indented comments every now and then explaining the errors in the bit given above. Alas, this would run foul of copyright.

Sources are forthcoming. Some additional editing will occur. This is like the third rewrite, and I still am not happy with it.

The first time I read chapter 8, I figured the biggest main point was fairly accurately explained: a lot of the old testament is, in fact, narratives that have little, and in many cases nothing, to do with what actually happened. However, in a way quite unique to Acharya, she even manages to get a lot of the facts around this relatively well-known fact wrong, and the reasoning she uses is nothing but flaky.

Chapter 8 is a jumbled mess - much like this response to it became by association. Certainly there are kernels of truth in it - but nothing that is surprising to anyone who has read any serious biblical scholarship published in the last few decades. As an example of this, we get:
As demonstrated, the historical and archaeological record fails to provide any evidence whatsoever that the New Testament story is true. Nor does it bear out important Old Testament tales, such that the religion Christianity is purportedly based on is unsubstantiated as well. In fact, the very notion of the monotheistic Hebrew God, as allegedly depicted in the Old Testament, who could produce a son, is baseless. [1, p. 88]
Indeed, as she states here, the development of Hebrew monotheism probably happened along a course quite different from that described in the Old Testament. However, the main point she is going for here is well known except if you either learn from evangelicals or just do not care. It is accepted by mainstream scholarship. What relevance this has to the main thesis of historicists - viz. that there is a historical person at the roots of the gospel narratives - is never established. A historical Jesus, as anyone with five brain cells to rub together would know, does not require the existence of God, nor does it require that Isaiah really wrote the book of Isaiah (or any other author of the OT books). Of course, pointing out the fact that the old testament narratives are untrue is called for, but reasoning that because the OT is untrue and the God described in it is not real, it follows that a person described as that God's son cannot have existed is mightily deluded. And Acharya makes this clear: "...Hebrew God ... who could produce a son, is baseless." Anyone think the point there is anything but "God does not exist, so Jesus cannot exist either"? If this is not what she tries to say, she should have written in some other way, as this is the only reasonable way of reading it.

She goes on and describes the Documentary Hypothesis, but even there she gets the order of the four authors wrong, thinking that the scholarly consensus puts the Elohist first. I would not have spotted this particular (minor) problem myself, it was noted by a friend of mine. The friend wants to go by 'the esteemed gentleman from North America' as his pseudonym, so that is how he will be referred to from now on.
The Pentateuch, for example, had at least four authors or schools of writers. Even though they are of different authors, these separate segments, some of which were written centuries apart, were interwoven in a confusing yet clever manner. The oldest section of these books is called "E" for "Elohist," so-named because the writer mostly uses the word "Elohim" for "God," although it should be rendered "Gods." [1, p. 90]
It also turns out the Elohist is so called not for "mostly" using the word Elohim, but for using it up to the point where God reveals the tetragrammaton to Moses; apparently, the Elohist did consider YHWH the primary name of God. What is more, he considered God's revealing the name to Moses a turning point in history, after which he uses YHWH rather frequently. [5]

In actuality, the Hebrews were by no means the originators of the concept of monotheism, as the Egyptians, for one, had the one God at least a thousand years before the purported time of Moses, by orthodox dating. As Wheless says:
[T]his finally and very late evolved monotheism is neither a tardy divine revelation to the Jews, nor a novel invention by them; it was a thousand years antedated by Amenhotep IV and Tut-ankh-amen in Egypt"--nor were even they pioneers. We have seen the [Catholic] admission that the Zoroastrian Mithra religion was "a divinely revealed Monotheism" (CE. ii, 145)
[1, p. 88] 

She is confused about the dating of pharaohs [6], of Moses, and of the development of Judaism, not even getting her summary of the bit she quotes right. This bit was also pointed out by the esteemed gentleman from North America.

Amenhotep IV is dated to the 14th century BCE[6], orthodox dating puts Moses quite close (same century). Of course, Moses probably did not exist. The dating Wheless provides is actually reasonable - if we assume he is writing about Jewish monotheism as a post-exilic development - which it is likely to be.

She extracts too much mileage out of the names of God used in the Old Testament, and introduces needlessly convoluted interpretations of them. Many of the translations used in translations of the Bible do make sense, and her complaints are weird. She quotes Higgins to justify the demand of word-for-word accuracy in translation:
The fact of the names of God being disguised in all the translations tends to prove that no dependence can be placed on any of them. The fact shows very clearly the temper or state of mind with which the translators have undertaken their task. God is called by several names. How is the reader of a translation to discover this, if he find them all rendered by one name? He is evidently deceived. It is no justification of a translator to say it is of little consequence. Little or great, he has no right to exercise any discretion of this kind. When he finds God called Adonai, he has no business to call him Jehovah or Elohim. ... [1, p. 89 ][2]
 This betrays a naive view of translation, and misrepresents what translators generally do - most serious translators stick to a rather consistent mapping of Hebrew names of God to English titles (usually LORD = yhwh, Lord = adonai, God = Elohim and El). Every translation ever has to exercise discretion of that kind and worse. An utterance in one language almost never can stand in a one-to-one relation to an utterance in another. A one-sentence utterance can be more difficult to translate reasonably than a whole chapter or book, simply because there is less redundancy available to the translator. This redundancy helps inform the translator what the intended meaning of the utterance was. It is this intended meaning that the translator primarily should be concerned with expressing in the language to which he translates, not the manner in which it is expressed in the original language. For someone who calls herself a linguist, Acharya has a rather unsophisticated view of translation.

Due to this apparently being, to her, a rather important point that she repeats through her work - the Bible and other works having been mistranslated - I have decided to write a separate post on translation in general to give a more nuanced picture of translation and its challenges, and there will be no sources for my statements on translation in this post, as I will review some literature on the topic in that post. [Link will come here.]

We find this bit about Elohim:
The plural term Elohim appears over 2500 times in the Old Testament but is falsely translated in most versions. This fact of plurality explains why in Genesis "Gods" said, "Let us make man in our image." As stated, Elohim refers to both "gods" and "goddesses," and its singular form, El, served as a prefix or suffix to names of gods, people and places, whence Emmanu-El, Gabri-El, Beth-El, etc. Even "Satan" was one of the Elohim, as Walker relates:
In the original wording, Satan was one of the bene ha-elohim, sons of "the gods"; but Bible translators always singularized the plurals to conceal the fact that the biblical Jews worshipped a pantheon of multiple gods.
[1, p 99] 
The example Walker cites, viz. Satan being one of the bene ha-elohim  is from Job (and occurs a few times in that particular book; nowhere else is, as far as I have been able to find, Satan called a son of elohim). Here, Walker is making a rather unwarranted assumption - although one that can be forgiven on account of most fundamentalists, evangelicals, etc preaching it and basing their theology on it. The assumption is that the authors of the Old Testament were presenting one unified, systematic theology, and that having the author of Job consider Satan a son of the gods implies all of the authors think he is a son of the gods. Turns out most old testament authors do not concern themselves with Satan, and it is likely he was not particularly important to Old Testament era theologizing - more evidence of an interest in Satan as a character appears in later intertestamental writings. Why Acharya appeals to this shoddy bit of Walker's work is beyond me. In addition, the allegation of mistranslation here is flaky - it is very possible for ha-elohim to be semantically singular.

With a few exceptions, throughout the Old Testament, when used as a name for God, Elohim stands with singular verbs, which is also the case with other morphologically plural but semantically singular things.
Alas, there is a difference between English and Hebrew here that is quite important: English only marks person on its verbs in a restricted set of its verbs - present tense verbs and in the exceptional past tense forms of the verb "to be". The fact that Walker is neither a linguist nor a biblical scholar is evident here as well - even though there is not much in ways of verbs with Elohim as the subject in the whole book of Job, the verbs are singular with the only example of Elohim as subject available:
Job 28:23 אלהים הבינ דרכה והוא ידע את־מקומה 
[3, p. 1656] 
The verbs here - ידע ,הבינ - are singular. Whoever wrote the version of Job that we have did apparently assume Elohim can be used as a name for a singular entity, and did do so at least once, and did nowhere use it in a manner that contradicts such an understanding of it. Even though it is possible an earlier version had it plural - Job is very possibly borrowed from an earlier, non-monotheist religion - what we want to know is what the Hebrew scribe that made a version for religious use among the Hebrews thought, and he does indicate that he stands for some kind of monotheism. Given the singular use of Elohim, it is a fairly natural assumption that at least the last redactor of Job was a monotheist. If that is the case, translators who give us a translated version of the theology that Job presents translating Elohim as a singular are translating it in a wholly justified manner.

If this happened at a redaction-stage during the Hebrew redacting and compilation of the Hebrew scripture, we know that at least the redactor was some kind of monotheist.

 Alas, the English past tense does not permit for the kind of accuracy I need to illustrate the problem here, and therefore I have taken the liberty of rendering a sample of Genesis in the present tense. If Genesis were translated as per Acharya's and Higgins' guidelines, it would have to be something like this:
In the beginning, gods creates the heavens and the earth, ... the gods says ... and gods calls the light day... [Genesis 1, my intentionally too literal translation.]
Yes, there are dialects of English where this would not be remarkable at all, but in standard English, the awkwardness of the grammatical error there would better encode what actually is going on in the original text, if we were to adhere to Acharya's idea of translation. Alas, modern English does not mark person/number at all in the past tense paradigm (and very little of it in the present paradigm) with one particular exception, thus if we were to adhere to Acharya's demands here, biblical translations would be misleading by omitting quite an important indication that the subject indeed is singular. By Acharya's advice, we'd lose more than we'd keep!

When the translators change the names, they do remove some information from the text, but it is quite clear even for someone reading the Hebrew that the people using these names did consider Elohim, YHWH and Adonai titles that could and often did refer to the same entity - an entity that many, including me, do not consider to ever have existed de re. The de re / de dicto distinction seems to cause Acharya some troubles, though: she constantly applies de dicto reasoning de re and vice versa.

When translating the Bible, the translator should try to convey what the Bible says. Not what the unattested books it was based on, redacted from, etc say, except in the few cases where there are good reasons to do so, such as if the text is damaged and there are texts that probably are related that help in figuring out what the damaged text actually says. Redaction is not damage, it is redaction. Redaction tells us what the redactor thought. When dealing with post-exilic Judaism, the redactors are an important group of interesting voices.

Acharya comments on translations:
 Of these versions, only the Darby retains the word "Elohim" for "God(s)," and this word almost always is accompanied by "Jehovah," even though "the LORD God" was not called YHWH until the time of Moses. In this way, translators have given the appearance of uniformity where there was none.  [1, p. 91]
The translators work with texts that have been inherited from antiquity. In these, YHWH does occur - in the texts themselves - in times that are supposed to occur prior to the appearance of Moses. I am not familiar with Darby, English translations do not really interest me much, ultimately. (As I prefer reading the text in Hebrew to the extent of my abilities.)

El Shaddai was the name of the god of Abraham, or "the God of the Fathers," who was replaced by Yahweh in the 6th chapter of Exodus:
And God spake unto Moses and said unto him, I am Yahweh: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of El Shaddai, but by my name Yahweh I was not known unto them.
[1,  p. 92]
Acharya falls into an unusual kind of fallacy in both the quotes above, accepting the historicity of Moses and Abraham, and assuming that we know, and the authors who lived much later knew rather specific things about Moses' and Abraham's beliefs. In reality, neither is likely to have existed, and the authors knowing genuine factual things about them is rather unlikely. If some speculation as to their beliefs happens to be accurate, there is no way on earth to verify it.

She goes on in her confusion:
Charles Potter relates that El Shaddai was later demonized in Psalms 106:37, condemned as one of the "devils" -- the Canaanite Shedim, to whom the Israelites sacrificed their sons and daughters. Psalms 106, in fact, provides a concise chronicle of how the "chosen people" "whored after" other gods, i.e., were polytheistic. [1, p. 92]
This is just a confused reading of Psalms 106:37 in the first place. Shedim as the word for "demons" occurs in the torah as well, this being a demonization of El Shaddai is thus unfounded. In fact, the Priestly source talks of worship of demons using the word shedim while also using El Shaddai repeatedly as a designation for God.

A grating problem with this chapter, is that Acharya seems to think there is something significant about the many ways in which the tetragrammaton is transliterated in different sources: YHVH, YHWH, JHVH, IHVH, ... :
Thus, the tetragrammaton or sacred name of God IAO/IEUE/YHWH is very old, [1, p. 94]
YHWH/IEUE was additionally the Egyptian sun god Ra: ... [1, p. 94] 
When the sun passed into Aries, "the Lord's" name was changed to the Egyptian Iao, which became YHWH, IEUE, Yahweh, Jahweh, Jehovah and Jah. This ancient name "IAO/Iao" represents the totality of "God," as the "I" symbolizes unity, the "a" is the "alpha" or beginning, while the "o" is the "omega" or end. [1, p. 94]
That "I" symbolized unity would deserve some kind of backup, and A and O being alpha and omega in Egyptian seems weird, as the idea of an alphabet with a first phoneme and a last phoneme did never really occur to the Egyptians. There is more similar baseless speculation, usually involving astrology that I will not copy here.

Also, the distinction between majuscules and minuscules was not been invented until medieval times, so this obsession with writing IAO/Iao is weird as well - in the relevant scripts, it was only either iao or IAO, as the distinction between capital and minuscule letters was meaningless in the relevant scripts at the time.

Regarding the tetragrammaton, she quotes Walker showcasing lack of linguistic expertise:
Yahweh had yet another aspect to "his" persona, as at some early stage the "sacred tetragrammaton" of "God" was bi-gendered. As Walker states:
Jewish mystical tradition viewed the original Jehovah as an adrogyne, his/her name compounded as Jah (jod) and the pre-Hebraic name of Eve, Havah or Hawah, rendered he-vau-he in Hebrew letters. The four letters together made the sacred tetragrammaton, YHWH, the secret name of God... The Bible contains many plagiarized excerpts from earlier hymns and prayers to Ishtar and other Goddess figures, with the name of Yahweh substituted for that of the female deity.
[1, p. 95] 
YHWH cannot be obtained from Hawah by prefixing a yod, as the two words contain different consonants. The difference is as significant as the difference between the final consonant in Scottish loch and the initial one in ham. To a speaker of Hebrew, these were and are distinct sounds, spelled using different letters,
ה and ח. Granted, they are letters that do look similar, and the sounds they represent have some acoustic similarity - but there is acoustic similarity and visual similarity between d and b as well, but this does not mean we can claim rode and robe are etymologically related words. There have to be supporting evidence if such a claim is to fly.

Further, Acharya presents a theory that the Levites were an Indo-European upper class group among the Semitic Hebrews:
Both of these groups, Semites and Aryans, are claimed in the Bible to have been "sons of Noah" who were to "share the same tent" and to enslave the descendants of Noah's third son, the Hamites; thus, at some point their distinction could not have been very pronounced. In fact, the Aryans and Semites are more intermingled than suspected, as some of the "sons of Japheth" became Ashkenazi, or "European Jews," as stated at Genesis 10:2-3. Indeed, the distinction was made long afterwards, when the Yahwists were compiling their books and attempting to promote themselves as strict segregationists. [1, p. 97]
Ashkenazi as a designation for European Jews does not go back to Biblical times. Which exact ancient tribe it refers to in the Bible is not entirely certain, but its application to European Jews is a result of European Jews first applying the term to a geographical region, because they for some reason figured the inhabitants of this region were the descendants of Biblical Ashkenaz. This is not Judaism 101, of course, but it is not exactly PhD-level studies either. This kind of confusion is a trademark trait of Acharya's writings, so it is all good. Similar reuses of old tribe names and names from the biblical genealogies in Jewish culture include Sepharad for Spain - a name whose original referent also is uncertain, but might be Sardis, Turkey - and Edom, a kingdom bordering Judah, the name of which was reapplied to Rome once the original Edomite kingdom had dwindled into insignificance. See also the Hebrew name for France (Tzarfat). Using a medieval, Jewish designation for a region - a designation based on rather random reuse of Biblical terminology - that then was reapplied to the Jews living in that region to draw conclusions about Biblical era Jewish relations to other ethnicities is far from a reliable method.

Furthermore, a representation of the Jewish "Feast of the giving of the law" has an image of an erupting volcano - Mt. Sinai- with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments above it. As Jordan Maxwell points out, the benediction or blessing sign of the Feast is the same as the split-fingered, "live long and prosper" salutation of the Vulcan character Spock on "Star Trek." Vulcan, of course, is the same word as volcano, and the Roman god Vulcan was also a lightning and volcano god. In volcano cults, the thunderous noise coming from the mountain is considered the "voice of God," the same voice that "spoke" to Moses in the myth.
 [1, p. 96]
The reasoning here is pure unadulterated gold bullshit. YHWH is a volcano god because Star Trek's Vulcans make a salutation that Jews too make*. Suck on that for a while. Seriously.
Furthermore, the word Israel itself is not a Jewish appellation but comes from the combination of three different reigning deities: Isis, the goddess revered throughout the ancient world; Ra, the Egyptian sun god, and El. As Hazelrigg says:
... Israel, meaning a belt or land of the heavens, the twelve tribes of which compare to the number of constellations that environ the ecliptic, and through which the Sun makes his annual circuit ... Issa-ra-el, the kingdom of the moon (Isis), Sun (Ra), and stars (El).[1, p. 98]
This kind of reasoning is ... so goddamn stupid I cannot help at this point but actually use that kind of wording. Hazelrigg, the 19th century astrologer is a reliable source, of course, no doubt whatsoever regarding that.

The knowledge of the precession goes back many thousands of years and is found around the globe from China to Mexico, reflecting that the so-called primitive ancients were in reality extraordinarily advanced. [1, p. 93]
Historians of astronomy date this to 2nd century BCE Greece, and no earlier.

She does her usual linguistic bullshitting:
 In the ancient languages of Ireland and Sri Lanka, "Baal" means "sun."[1, p. 93]
No word for sun in Old Irish is anything like Baal, and I am left to wonder which Sri Lankan language she is talking of, as there are in fact several. Neither Sinhala nor Tamil have their most common word for 'sun' derive from anything like baal - they have words along the lines of curiyan and ira. If it is an uncommon word for sun in either of the Sri Lankan languages, I would be happy to know which language it is. If it is some of the Vedda dialects she is thinking of, good luck finding anything on that if the desire to check whether this is fact or fabrication. Sinhala does not distinguish p from b, and in Sinhala, all long vowels in the modern variety of the language are results of recent loans - all long vowels in ancestral Sinhala have been shortened in the modern form. My perusal of dictionaries (with alphabet charts close at hand) give no results. Again, both these languages distinguish two laterals, one retroflex l and one "regular" l, and even checking both those does not help.

Of course, if your audience mainly consists of newly deconverted atheists, soon-to-deconvert doubting Christians and convinced theosophists and whatnot, anything that contradicts evangelical/fundamentalist/... beliefs is enough to make that audience happy. Once the first exaggerations caused by the newfound freedom from Christianity have been overcome, one would hope such deconverts would accept a more realistic view of the past and realize that any given claim is not true simply by virtue of contradicting Christianity.

If the objective of her text is to appeal to such an audience rather than to be logical and scholarly, it is a success: even though the bloodiest narratives of the Old Testament are long rejected as ahistorical, Acharya still rants about Hebrews and especially the monotheists among them of carrying out these genocides, and makes it clear they are terrible people - and yes, certainly the authors were terrible people for making up and lauding these vile acts. Meanwhile, she is ready to question one aspect of the story: the history of monotheism presented in it. She seems to accept the violent conquests as accurate, but rejects the historical accuracy of the description of how monotheism evolved. She would be more correct to reject both.

I will write another separate chapter about what archaeologists and scholars think about the history of biblical era Israel later, or alternatively write reviews of a few books on it.

At this point, I have been thinking for a couple of months already that quoting Acharya without comment should be sufficient to debunk her for a sufficiently erudite reader.

*Leonard Nimoy - who has an orthodox Jewish background, had witnessed this salutation as a kid. In his role as Mr. Spock, he used this recollection as a basis for the salutation, since he thought it looked neat and dignified. That is a much simpler account for the relation between the Jewish ritual salutation and the Vulcan salutation, rather than believing that Desilu Productions and Paramount Television knew secret things about ancient history. I extend thanks to the esteemed gentleman from North America who provided this source [4] after reading my post.

[1] Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy
[2] Higgins, Anacalypsis
[3] ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach
[5] Tim Widowfield, http://vridar.org/2014/03/15/bart-ehrmans-the-bible-an-undergraduate-textbook/#more-47783
[6] Encyclopedia Britannica, Akhenaton http://global.britannica.com/biography/Akhenaton