Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Christ Conspiracy: Chapter 15, pt 1

Chapter 15, The Patriarchs and Saints are the Gods of Other Cultures, at its core presents a thesis that probably is shocking to true believers, but nothing new to those who are somewhat well-read on these topics. Nevertheless, to some extent it also exaggerates the thesis, making statements that do exceed what can be known as though these statements were fact. As usual, it also intersperses a fair share of speculation mixed with tendentiously presented facts.

The most fascinatingly weird claim she makes is present in the segment on Noah. It is well known that the Noah myth derives from older myths, but Murdock is not content with that:
Xisuthros or Ziusudra was considered the "10th king," while Noah was the "10th patriarch." Noah's "history" can also be found in India, where there is a "tomb of Nuh" near the river Gagra in the distrct of Oude or Oudh, which evidently is related to Judea and Judah. The "ark-preserved" Indian Noah was also called "Menu." Noah is also called "Nnu"[SIC] and "Naue," as in "Joshua, son of Nun/Jesus son of Naue," meaning not only fish but also water, as in the waters of heaven. Furthermore, the word Noah, or Noé, is the same as the Greek νους, which means "mind," as in "noetics," as does the word Menu or Menes, as in "mental." In Hebrew, the word for "ark" is THB, as in Thebes, such that the Ark of Noah is equivalent to the Thebes of Menes, the legendary first king of the Egyptians, from whose "history" the biblical account also borrowed.[1, p. 238]
This is so full of mistakes, that I figure a list will help keep track of the debunking.

  • Xisuthros/Ziusudra being the tenth king.
  • Oude/Oudh having anything to do with Judea (see 'short words' further down).
  • No source provided regarding the tomb of Nuh, no attempt to establish its age - is it potentially more recent than the arrival of Islam in India?
  • Naue or Nun signifying "water" - which particular language? We cannot all be superlinguists who can identify languages on sight just based on one monosyllabic word! Since no language is mentioned, it is also quite difficult to verify the relevance of the claim.
  • The far-fetched stretch of etymologies Noah → νους → mentes → Menes, Tevah → Thebes
  • She clearly mentions the (significantly more recent form) "Noé" to make the apparent similarity to "Noetics" (also a much more recent word) greater. Noé is a much more recent rendering of נוח, the comparison should be nous or noos to Noach, not noetics to Noé.

As it happens, the Hebrew word for 'ark' is TBH, תבה, rather than THB. Of course, Thebes is not T+H+B either, it's Θβαι - the "TH" bit is a single sound that in some languages - particularly English - is written using a sequence of letters (here, the fact that letters and sounds are separate things is relevant). It being represented as a sequence TH does not signify it having any actual resemblance or relation to the actual sequence T+H. (In fact, though, Hebrew ת was probably sometimes pronounced a lot like English th is, which does not support my case particularly much.)  What we reach here, however, is a phenomenon Mark Newbrook calls 'very short words'[2]. The designation refers to the phenomenon where the shorter the words that we go looking for, the greater the chance that we find similar stems embedded in words in other languages. Thebes/Θῆβαι and Tevah share rather little - just one single syllable. Further, we have several forms for Thebes: Thebes, Θῆβαι, Ta-Opet (Classical Egyptian), Ta-Pe (Demotic), wꜣs.t (Classical Egyptian, not strictly related to the other words but signifying the same town). There is thus lots of space to come up with potential cognates for biblical names, and little material to falsify such claims with (consider Ta-Opet vs. Tabitha or Tappuah, Ta-Pe vs. Tappuah, Topheth or Tobiah, etc. What makes Tevah more favorable for linking to any of these than the above, equally spurious suggestions?).

What takes this a step beyond Newbrook's label for similar bogus cognates is that there is not even any similarity between the meanings of תבה and Ta-Opet. There is nothing that makes the connection apparent. Murdock could keep going through towns and kings of antiquity until she found anything to connect Noah to, there is nothing that per se forces Thebes to be the preferred alternative - and this opens up a huge space of unfalsifiable claims. Let us be generous and say there are only twenty relevant names in the Bible (considering how insignificant some of the characters she's pointing to are, the number could easily be argued to be significantly larger). Let's also be generous and say there are only two hundred kings in antiquity. This gives us a whopping four thousand potential pairings - analogously to the birthday paradox, it is more than likely that quite a few of them are similar.

A significant problem here is also the number of languages she has to use for this reasoning to make sense - does anyone really believe that there is a quadri- or pentalingual pun involved? For real?

Keep in mind, as well, the number of other flood-heroes: Utnapishtim, Δευκαλίων, Noah, ... would we not expect these names to have some kind of similar connections? We would also probably expect more clearly explicit such connections.

Obviously, then, Noah's famous "ark," which misguided souls have sought upon the earth, is a motif found in other myths. As Doane relates, "The image of Osiris of Egypt was by the priests shut up in a sacred ark on the 17th of Athyr (Nov. 13th), the very day and month on which Noah is said to have entered his ark." Noah is, in fact, another solar myth, and the ark represents the sun entering into the "moon-ark," the Egyptian "argha," which is the crescent or arc-shaped lunette or lower quarter of the moon. This "argha of Noah" is the same as Jason's "Argonaut" and "arghanatha" in Sanskrit. Noah's ark and its eight "sailors" are equivalent to the heavens, earth and the seven "planets," i.e., those represented by the days of the week. As to the "real" Noah's ark, it should be noted that it was a custom, in Scotland for one, to create stone "ships" on mounts in emulation of the mythos, such that any number of these "arks" may be found on Earth.[1, p. 238]
Indeed, the ark did not exist, yet Murdock manages to turn even such an almost trivially true claim into pseudoscience. There are two separate words natha in Sanskrit (assuming nāthá, नाथ, is the word Murdock intends, since she does not follow any scholarly transliteration we cannot know!), one signifying 'lord, master' and a whole complex of similar meanings, the other signifying a refuge or resort. The first one is in the masculine gender, the other neuter. The greek -naut is instead cognate with Greek νας, Latin navis and Sanskrit नौ, नाव (nau, nava), all these signifying ships. Again, it would have been helpful had Murdock provided some kind of scholarly transliteration of arghanata. A list of the problems may help in keeping track of the problems:
  • argha noah is irrelevant, as ark only appears in the tradition of biblical texts about 700 years after they were originally composed, when Jerome translated them into Latin, until then you had had tevah and  the greek kibotos in the main versions of the text. 
  • argha noah is a theosophic 19th century invention with no evidence in support of it. It is basically just as made up as the religions it is made up to subvert.
  • argha noah is clearly made up to correspond to the English phrase 'ark of Noah' (compare the phrase in some other languages - Noas ark, Nooan arkki, kovček Noya, something like kidobani nois (or maybe nois kidobani) in Georgian,  whereas the phrase in Biblical Hebrew would've been Tevat Noah, and in Biblical Greek kibotos tou Noe or something in the vicinity of that (I do not know Biblical Greek well enough to make any promises). Had these fanciful authors spoken Georgian, their "Egyptian" concept would go by a name like kidobanois or somesuch. (The nature, btw, of this 'egyptian' concept differs significantly from one author to another - one author says it is a yearly festival, another says it's a monthly lunar occurrence, and so on. See, for instance, Jordan Maxwell's The Naked Truth, where he attributes argha noah to something entirely different - this suggesting to me that there is no validity to the concept whatsoever.) 
Murdock goes on and makes improbably claims about the meaning of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japhet:
The sons of Noah, of course, are also not historical, as Shem "was actually a title of Egyptian priests of Ra." The three sons of Noah, in fact, represents the three divisions of the heavens into 120° each. As characters in the celestial mythos, Noah corresponds to the sun and Shem to the moon, appropriate since the Semitic Jews were moon-worshippers.[1, p. 239]
Claiming that a given set of three persons corresponds to a division of something into three does require some kind of supporting evidence. What about these three make this correspondence obvious? Why does one of the three - a whopping 120 degrees of the heaven - also correspond to the moon? This claim again comes from Hazelrigg the astrologer, rather than from any actual scholarly sources.

Also, duly note that the word 'Semite' and related forms as a designation for the Semitic peoples is a term that only goes back to the 18th century. The Biblical Jews did not describe themselves as Semites, and such a connection between moon-worship, Shem-as-the-moon and Semites cannot have occurred to the authors of the biblical narratives.
Abraham also seems to have been related to the Persian evil god, Ahriman, whose name was originally Abriman. Furthermore, Graham states, "The Babylonians also had their Abraham, only they spelt it Abarama. He was a farmer and mythological contemporary with Abraham."[1, p. 240]
Please provide a source for Ahriman's name originally being Abriman? The accepted etymology among most scholars has it stemming from Angra Maynu. As for the quality of Graham's work, I will actually refer to a source I would usually avoid using, but whose summary of this book seems fairly legit, viz's review[3] .
Furthermore, Abram's "Ur of the Chaldees" apparently does not originally refer to the Ur in Mesopotamia and to the Middle Eastern Chaldean culture but to an earlier rendition in India, where Higgins, for one, found the proto-Hebraic Chaldee language. [1, p. 240]
Murdock's obsession with moving the Semitic family of languages to India grows absurd at times. Her reliance on Higgins' bumbling amateur linguistics is laughable. However, one step further, this is worse than pure conjecture. It is counterfactual conjecture at best. At the very least, a claim such as this requires significant amounts of supporting data. Murdock provides but one datapoint for that, and that datapoint - Higgins' finding the Chaldee language in India - is nothing but wrong. Finally, Chaldee is not proto-Hebraic. Chaldee is closer to proto-Semitic than Hebrew is (time-wise), but they are in different branches of Semitic.
In fact, the Greek name for the constellation of Bootes, or Adam, is Ιοσεφ or Joseph.[1, p. 250]
The source given for the claim that Bootes is Adam and is called Iosef in Greek is Karl Anderson (p. 126, Astrology in the Old Testament). Anderson fails to provide any source for this. Modern sources such as makes it possible to search a very huge corpus of ancient Greek texts for words such as Ιοσεφ. It turns out not a single instance of the word is in a context where the surface meaning of the text has anything to do with any asterism, nor is there any large number of instances of it in the first place. A similar claim is made in a quoted portion from Hazelrigg - another 19th century astrologer who, as I keep emphasizing, did not bother with providing sources.

This kind of fabricated linguistics being included in the work of a person that regularly labels herself a linguist is saddening. The chapter itself could have been good - had she decided to go no further than the idea that most Old Testament characters have no historical background. But as it stands, she included way too much in ways of 19th century theosophy,

[1] D.M. Murdock, The Christ Conspiracy, 1999
[2] Mark Newbrook, Strange Linguistics, 2012. There is an entire chapter devoted to the phenomenon. The opening pages of the chapter describe the relevant problems with this kind of approach to evidence.

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