Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Christ Conspiracy: Chapter 10, pt 5

A nice thing about using 19th century sources if your intent is to make it difficult for readers to trace your sources, is that they often lack the textual apparatus we take for granted these days that help looking things up. I am really thankful some of these texts now exist online in searchable electronic form.

Murdock goes on, making rather unsubstantiated claims about the content of the Bible:
 As noted, by the time of reformer king Josiah, the kings of Judah reportedly erred terribly when they established the worship of the heavens, even though their predecessors were applauded for doing the same:

And he deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places at the cities of Judah and round about Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, and the moon, and the constellations, and all the host of heavens. (2 Kings 23:5)
 [1, p. 137]
I do challenge Murdock to inform us where these predecessors were applauded for doing so. I seem to recall both the deuteronomist historiographer and Chronicles being pretty endless lists of kings doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD, with the occasional exceptions who still failed to entirely satisfy the demands. Among these evils are generally mentioned the sacrifices at the high places - a designation used for cultic places on hilltops. 
It is evident that there are a number of characters or factions in the OT depicting themselves as "the Lord," since in one book, the heavens are to be praised as creations of the Almighty himself, but, in another, to do so is considered idolatrous. 
[1, p. 137]
Here it is worth noting - as I have pointed out in previous posts, that she provides no explicit examples of exhortations to praise the heavens. Rather, the praise - in the biblical versions of these texts - is directed at God, and the heavens are rather provided as examples of his power. Certainly these texts may be adaptations of earlier texts with explicit sun worship. The fact that the sun worship has been removed from them does tell us something about the authors, though, and that is quite explicitly that they do not approve of sun worship.

Murdock goes on interpreting a number of texts from the Old Testament to demonstrate the presence of astrotheology. These examples include Ezekiel, Jacob's sons, Jacob's ladder, Moses and the tabernacle, Joshua, Esther, king Ahaz and Daniel. Her reasoning repeatedly is based on flawed logic, and at times even on pretty clear fabrications. I will point out a sample of flaws below:
In addition to these examples of astrology in the Bible can be found a number of references to esteemed biblical characters using the "arts of divination" to their and their Lord's benefit. Naturally, where characters are favored by biblical writers, these astrological and magical arts are perfectly good, but when used by those not favored they are "evil." Regardless of this prejudice, there is no doubt that "good" biblical characters practiced the magical arts. In fact, in the earliest parts of the Bible, divination is praised as a way to commune with God or divine the future (Genesis 30:27). Indeed, the word "divination" comes from the word "divine," which is a demonstration that divination was originally considered godly and not evil. [1, p. 139]
This etymology is irrelevant when trying to figure out what the stances of the Biblical authors were. 'Divination' has a clearly latinate origin, the Hebrew writers used words that had nothing with God to do - קסם ,מקסם, נחש (naħaš, miqsam, qasam/qesem) among others. Why an etymology originating half a Mediterranean away can be used as evidence regarding the value that something held in the eyes of biblical writers is never made clear. The main word used for it in the greek portions of the Bible as well as the Septuagint is, by the way, closely related to a greek word for 'mad'. (Also, naħaš can signify observing in general, see e.g. 1Ki 20:33, although the pi'el form, used in the account with Laban, seems more limited to supernatural practices.)

It is clear, of course, that the biblical writers seem to have approved of some particular types of soothsaying practices and disapproved of others. The reasons for this disapproval (and approval) probably is religious (and obviously irrational) in nature. Maybe they disapproved of the doctrines that informed some of the soothsayers' predictions or whatever, but that is the usual way of political religion and thus nothing particularly remarkable. We can see the same thing in modern religious movements, and need not presume any conspiracies to explain it. Indeed, Genesis 30:27 is among the older parts of the Bible per the documentary hypothesis, and the development where some manner of soothsaying practices originally were accepted but soon earned the ire of the writers of the Biblical books is entirely possible - downright very likely correct.

However, the argument from etymology she uses still fails so spectacularly that one is left to wonder what she was thinking.
Divination does not fall out of favor until later books, eventually being considered as "sin" in the first book of Samuel, in which the Israelite king Saul uses a diviner to "divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you." [1, p. 139]
It would be interesting to have a timeline specifying when Murdock thinks the different books of the Bible were written. The dating of this particular bit of Samuel and the various places in the priestly and deuteronomist parts of the Torah that specifically condemn various practices along these lines - Lev 19:26, Lev 19:31, Deut 18:10-11 - seems to be pretty close, but the Book of Samuel and Deuteronomy probably had a shared author. This only amounts to evidence that as Judaism developed, its view on such things grew increasingly negative.
 For centuries, the character Moses has been held in high esteem, his every word studied and each move charted. Yet, few have understood the true nature of his "covenant with the Lord," as reflected by the esoteric or mystical meaning of Moses's tabernacle, which, in fact, is the "tent of the sun." Respected Jewish historian Josephus, who was an initiate of several secret societies, elucidates upon Moses's tabernacle: 
And when [Moses] ordered twelve loaves to be set on the table, he denoted the year, as distinguished into so many months. By branching out the candlestick into seventy parts he secretly intimated the Decani, or seventy divisions of the planets;
[1, p. 140]
Compare exodus 25:32: And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side.

Whence Josephus got his idea that there were seventy parts is not clear to me - probably some later tradition - but it is not present in the Bible. This does not tell us much, except that Josephus idea was not the one intended by the authors, and that Murdock's attempt at figuring out what the biblical authors intended really is based on shoddy ideas of what the biblical authors even wrote. Yes, Josephus did subscribe to some kind of astrology-based interpretation of the biblical narratives. Does this mean that the authors of the pentateuch did so? If they did, can we really know what astrological doctrines they subscribed to? Can we know whether a certain passages refers to that set of beliefs or to some other part of their doctrinal system? One thing is clear though: we cannot take some arbitrary other tradition and claim that this tradition is what these authors had in mind, especially if this other tradition is mistaken as to what the biblical tradition contains in the first place.
[...] As to their zodiacal designations, Jacob's first-born, Reuben, is Aquarius, the "the beginning of my strength ... unstable as water." Simeon and Levi, "the brothers," are Gemini. Judah, the "lion's whelp," is Leo. Zebulun, who "... shall be for an haven of ships," may correspond to Libra, "the ship sign, or arc, or ark." Issachar is a "strong ass, crouching between the sheepfold's burdens," possibly corresponding to the bull of Taurus, the "workhorse." Of Jacob's son Dan, Anderson relates:
"Dan shall be the serpent by the way, an adder in the path that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backwards." This is ... the scorpion, or serpent, and alludes to that constellation which is placed next to the centaur or armed horseman, or Sagittarius, which falleth backwards into the winter solstice of [Capricorn].
Jacob's son Gad is a reversal of Dag, the fish god, possibly representing Pisces. It was said of Asher that he would have "rich food" or "fat bread;" thus, he would correspond to Virgo, the bread-giver or fall harvest. Naphtali is "a hind let loose," representing Capricorn, the goat. Joseph, who was fiercely attacked by archers, is Sagittarius. The son of Rachel, the "Ewe", Benjamin, the "ravenous wolf" who "divides the spoil," would be Aries, who "comes in like a lion" and divides spring and winter. According to Andersson, the "fruitful bough" of Joseph representing his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, could share the "portion divided between them" of the "double-sign" of Cancer. Joseph himself, of course, is "an interpreter of dreams and a noted magician" with a magical "silver cup," by which he divines. 
[1, p. 140]
So, hinds are goats, Dag is Gad, a ravenous wolf is a ram is a lion, and donkeys are bulls. I find it likely we are dealing with pareidolia again. However, in case there is astrology involved in this, it is very possible the redactor just failed to notice it and included the blessing anyway. Still, the above segment may really be the most convincing example of astrology in the Old Testament that has been shown this far, with the exception of certain details in Job.
Jacob's ladder with the 72 angels ascending and descending represents the 72 decans, or portions of the zodiac of five degrees each. [1, p. 142 ... my bolding, as I find this example a particularly important instance of her misleading the reader.]
Nowhere is the number of the angels mentioned in the original text:
Gen 28:12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 
Of course, the number in her claim may derive from some later text commenting on it - some midrash, perchance? If so, though, scholarly practice would be to indicate that source. Otherwise, what she has done there is close to pure fabrication.
The same ladder story is found in Indian and Mithraic mythology, as Doane relates:
Paintings representing a scene of this kind may be seen in works of art illustrative of Indian Mythology. Manrice [sic] speaks of one, in which he says:
"The souls of men are represented as ascending and descending (on a ladder), according to the received opinion of the sidereal Metempsychosis."
... And Count de Volney says:
"In the cave of Mithra was a ladder with seven steps, representing the seven spheres of the planets by means of which souls ascended and descended. This is precisely the ladder of Jacob's vision."
 [1, p. 142]
The typo - Manrice instead of Maurice - is Murdock's, though it is understandable given that Doane's book uses a font where the difference is difficult to spot. However, this does tell us Murdock has not investigated Maurice's book at all; considering it is a significant portion of this quote, that is weak.

What Doane is trying to show here is that the ladder-motif is used when discussing the idea of reincarnation. The seven steps in the Mithra example may very well represent the seven planets, and if there is a seventy-two angels motif elsewhere that might very well represent the zodiac in chunks of five degrees. However, the biblical version does not have the seven steps, nor does it have the seventy two angels.

Doane does, by omission, do some violence to his quote from Maurice as well. Maurice says the following:
The passages presented to the reader in the preceding section are not the only ones in which the gradual ascent of the soul through through[sic] the planets, or spheres of purification, is plainly imitated in the Geeta. They are, however, sufficient for our purpose; and in proof that the Indians actually had, in the remotest æras, in their system of theology, the sidereal ladder of seven gates, so universally made use of as a symbol throughout all the East, I have now to inform the reader of the following circumstance: -- there exists, at present, in the royal library at Paris, a book of paintings entirely allusive to the Indian mythology and the incarnation of Veeshnu, in one of which is exhibited this very symbol, upon which the souls of men are represented as ascending and descending, according to the received opinion of the sidereal Metempsychosis in Asia. [2, pp 258-259]
Maurice tells us that in one volume, there is a depiction of souls of men ascending and descending a ladder. Doane's quotation can give the impression that this is a common motif in Hindu depictions of reincarnation, something Maurice's writing does not establish very strongly.

If the ladder motif has a common origin, can we assume the particular details - number of angels, number of steps, if such details do exist and have any significance - were part of the original meme? Can we assume it was originally used to express reincarnation? As we have scant textual evidence from Mithraism, we do not know how - nor even if - the ladder motif was used in any narratives in the religion, and as we are not provided with any Hindu source for the ladder motif either, we cannot compare the narratives in which they are used, thus making it well-nigh impossible to determine whether there is any possibility that there even is a shared motif there.

Reincarnation does occur in some kabbalistically inclined varieties of Judaism, and there is a rich literature devoted to explaining how this or that group in the biblical narrative is the last generation before the flood being reborn to earn redemption or be punished or such. Reincarnation clearly has appeared in abrahamic religions. Doane, however, is trying to convince the reader that Biblical theology presupposes reincarnation. Does it? If it does, there is a decisive lack of concern for it in the biblical text. It is likely the concept entered into Judaism later, or simply that the Biblical authors did not particularly care for or about it.

 There is no internal textual reason why Jacob's ladder would have anything to do with reincarnation given either - there is nothing about the context that even hints at there being some hidden doctrine to it.
In addition, the name "Jacob" is a title for a priest of the Goddess Isis, which is fitting, since she is the Queen of Heaven who rules over the night sky, or Set the supplanter. [1, p. 142]
 The bit '"Jacob" is a title for a priest of the Goddess Isis" has for a reference Karl Anderson's Astrology of the Old Testament, page 66. As other references she has made to that work agree in page number with the edition I am using (and also that used by google books, which I sometimes use when searching these works), I am pretty certain the error here is not due to she and I using different editions, but due to this not being in Karl Anderson's book in the first place. 
Joshua or Jesus, son of Nun (the "fish"), was the second great prophet after Moses, leading the Israelites to the promised land in Jericho, first encamping at Gilgal, or Galilee. Like Jacob, Joshua also sets up twelve stones representing the tribes and the signs of the zodiac. [1, p. 142] 
Nowhere in the Biblical account does Jacob set up twelve stones [edit: I noticed there's been a typo here, as I previously apparently have written that Joshua did not set up twelve stones; Jacob nowhere is said to set up twelve stones, and I was surprised when rereading this that I had not caught the error previosuly], although he repeatedly does set up stones, making the astute reader wonder whether Murdock knows the biblical narratives at all or whether she is making stuff up. (Yes, Joshua does indeed set up twelve stones. If those stones existed, this narrative may very well have the function of co-opting them into the biblical religion. This seems to be the simplest explanation as far as I can tell? Jacob, however, does no such thing.)

Of course, Jacob is probably a mythical figure with no real historical existence - he is a mythical tribal ancestor. The stone pillars, later ascribed to Jacob, may very well have existed, and ascribing them to the tribal ancestor would be a way for the biblical author to establish legitimate Israelite/Judean claim to the land where the stone pillars stood.
It is said that in Joshua's day, the sun stood still, an event about which has been put forth much tortured speculation as to how and when it could have occurred. In reality, it occurred quite frequently and still does, at the solstices, as the meaning of the word "solstice" is "sun stands still," the time when "the sun changes little in declination from one day to the next and appears to remain in one place north or south of the celestial equator." [1, p. 142]
The story given in Joshua, is of course, impossible. But the literal details prevent reading it as though it were about the solstice - Jos 10:13-14 "And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. [Is] not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel." Hasted not to go down about a whole day, the moon stayed, and no day like that before it or after it. The author is describing something that does not happen yearly - and the moon does not stand still during the solstices either! 

Of course this did not happen, but trying to read it as symbolic of the solstices is weird: the remarkableness ascribed to it as well as the uniqueness makes it unlikely the author was describing something that happens twice a year. (But rather an imagined situation that just never happened in real life, but would have been impressive and downright dreadful if it had occurred.)
The sun also stood still at the death of Krishna, centuries earlier: "1575 years before Christ, after the death of Cristna (Boodh the son of Deirca), the sun stood still to hear the pious ejaculations of Arjoon." This solstice motif likewise appears in the mythologies of China and Mexico. [1, p. 142]
The claim that the solstice motif appears in Mexican and Chinese mythology - Murdock refers to Doane, who refers to Higgins. The Krishna claim also refers to Higgins. Higgins refers to Kingsborough for the Mexico claim, but only by his name, and not by page number or chapter or anything. Kingsborough is rather unreliable, as is Higgins. Still, as we can find - a long chain of difficult to look up references-upon-references.
As to Joshua and various other aspects of the Old Testament, Higgins sums it up: 
The pretended genealogy of the tenth chapter of Genesis [from Noah on down] is attended with much difficulty. It reads like a genealogy: it is notoriously a chart of geography. . . . I have no doubt that the allotment of lands by Joshua was astronomical. It was exactly on the same principle as the nomes of Egypt, which every one knows were named astronomically, or rather, perhaps, I should say, astrologically. The double meaning is clear . . . Most of the names . . . are found in the mystic work of Ezekiel. . . . [Genesis tenth] chapter divides the world into 72 nations. Much ingenuity must have been used to make them agree with the exact number of dodecans into which the great circle was divided.
 [1, p. 143]
How difficult is it really to list 72 tribes and relate them to each other in arbitrary ways (and ignore all other tribes). Much ingenuity is not required. Just a list of 72 tribes! Reading the text in Higgins - without ellipses - does not make it any clearer what significance he thinks Ezekiel has in the context. Also, the clear double meanings are asserted, but not shown. This is a typical instance of Higgins' frustratingly plodding style.

In the famous scene where Daniel interprets the dreams of Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar, it is implied that while the others who attempted to do likewise were astrologers, soothsayers and the like, Daniel himself was not. On the contrary Daniel too was an astrologer, and we also discover he is not a historical character, as Walker relates:
Writers of the Old Testament disliked the Danites, whom they called serpents (Genesis 49:17). Nevertheless, they adopted Dan-El or Daniel, a Phoenician god of divination, and transformed him into a Hebrew prophet, His magic powers were like those of the Danites emanating from the Goddess Dana and her sacred serpents.He served as court astrologer and dream-interpreter for both the Persian king Cyrus, and the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:21, 2:1) indicating that "Daniel" was not a personal name but a title, like the Celtic one: "a person of the Goddess Dana." 
[1, p. 143]
I fully agree that Daniel was not historical (but how can a non-historical person have been an astrologer, when the myth about him clearly implies he was not?). Murdock's argument for his ahistoricity is deeply flawed, however.  "We also discover he is not a historical character, as Walker relates:" implies Murdock believes the following text is sufficient evidence of his ahistoricity:
Eponymous Great Mother of the Danes and many other peoples, such as the Danaans, the Danaids, the biblical Danites, and the Irish Tuatha Dé Danann, "people of the Goddess Dana."¹ The Russians called her Dennitsa, "Greatest of all Goddesses." [...] Writers of the Old Testament disliked the Danites, whom they called serpents (Genesis 49:17). Nevertheless, they adopted Dan-El or Daniel, a Phoenician god of divination, and transformed him into a Hebrew prophet. His magic powers like those of the Danites emanated from the Goddess Dana and her sacred serpents. He served as court astrologer and dream-interpreter for both the Persian king Cyrus, and the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:21, 2:1), indicating that "Daniel" was not a personal name but a title, like the Celtic one: "a person of the Goddess Dana." [3, p 206-207]
We may observe that the reasoning in it is deeply flawed.
Apparently, Barbara Walker believes that since people often functions as the plural of person in English, any word that can be translated people also can be translated person. (Or, at least, that this line of reasoning applies when desired to apply.) Tuatha dé Danann, in fact, is morphologically plural. It is clearly a mythical(?) ethnicity, and (probably) not a title applied to some persons. Another reasonable translation of the phrase would be 'tribes/peoples of Dana' - this translation not being susceptible to Walker's distortion.

The argument basically contains several unsupported facts about connections between Dana and the tribe of Dan and a non-existent Phoenician God (as in Dan-El is an ancient Phoenician protagonist of a story, not a God. The story probably did contribute to the Daniel narrative. Walker should have actually studied these things instead of pulling them out of thin air, though.)

It is difficult to discern what Murdock's main point here is supposed to be. A point I am fully in agreement with is that the book of Daniel did not predict anything - but in fact was written after the facts, and interpretations that make later events seem to be in fulfillment of it generally are based on misreading and pareidolia. It is also clear that Daniel was in part a polemical work where many of the points probably had a function in a theological struggle within 2nd temple Judaism, probably soon after Maccabeean times.

[1] D.M. Murdock, The Christ Conspiracy
[2] Doane, T.W., Bible Myths and their parallels in other religions
[3] Barbara Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

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