Thursday, November 12, 2009

Genesis Through the Lens of Anthropology

Alice C. Linsley

Biblical anthropology, like Biblical archaeology, uses the Bible as a source of data. Significant anthropological information helps me to form a hypothesis which can be tested by checking the findings of related disciplines like linguistics, climate studies, migration studies, comparative mythologies, DNA studies, etc.  There is nothing extraordinary about this venture, except that it requires reading the Bible differently than would a preacher or a theologian.

Much of what I write in this field is not well received by preachers and theologians who generally conceive of Christianity as being established by Jesus (as Islam was established by Mohammed). They recognize that Jesus and his original followers were Jewish, but they are astonished and often angry when faced with anthropological evidence indicating that Jesus represents a very ancient religious tradition which held the key features of Christianity long before Jesus was born. As I have argued, Christianity is an organic religion, the origins of which are found before Abraham's time among his Horim, that is, his Horite ancestors.

To give an example of how differently an anthropologist reads the Bible, consider the “begats” of Genesis 4 and 5. Most readers of the Bible skip over this list of first-born sons because they find the names difficult and the information boring. An anthropologist, on the other hand, will look here for clues as to the kinship pattern of these rulers. This involves doing diagrams, which I execute following E.L. Schusky’s Manual for Kinship Analysis. Analysis of the Genesis King Lists has made it possible to describe the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the Horite rulers.

The Genesis genealogical information indicates that Abraham's ancestors came out of west central Africa. In fact, anthropological investigation of the themes of Genesis 1-3 reveals that the closest parallels are found among Abraham's Nilo-Saharan and Saharo-Nubian ancestors.

Verification of this comes from many related disciplines, but most recently from the archaeological studies of the ancient Sudanese rulers who became the black pharaohs of Egypt. These rulers' names have parallels in the Bible and their monuments and royal burial grounds are being studied rather extensively. Meroitic had an honorary suffix - qo - as in the names Sheba-qo and Shebit-qo. These are linguistically equivalent to the biblical name Sheba, an ancestor of Abraham and his cousin-wife Keturah. Sheba is one of the rulers listed in Genesis 10. He is a descendant of Ham and we know from the Genesis genealogical information that Ham's line intermarried with the descendants of Shem.

An anthropologist also pays attention to details such as sacred mountains and sacred trees and their locations. We note that the Oak of Moreh is called “the navel of the earth” in Judges 9:37. Moreh means oracle or prophet. Deborah is said to have ruled Israel from her palm half way “between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim.” This sheds light on the origins of the word Torah which means 'that which is thrown by the hand' of the Moreh. In Genesis 12:6, we read that upon his arrival in Canaan Abraham sought guidance from the oracle when he pitched his tent at the Oak of Moreh. The word "Torah", usually rendered guidance or instruction, is also associated with a prophet sitting under a tree.

An anthropologist is always seeking data. Without data there can be no hypotheses. Without hypotheses there can be no conclusions. My method is to begin with the Biblical text, trusting that it is reliable and truthful. Indeed, that is my working hypothesis. In 1953, Richard Rudner published “The Scientist qua Scientist Makes Value Judgments,” in which he argued that since no hypothesis is ever completely verified, in accepting a hypothesis the scientist must make the decision that the evidence is sufficiently strong to warrant the acceptance of the hypothesis. The problem of induction which David Hume framed so precisely is really a problem of decision about which action to take, not proof of the fallibility of science in general.

In Biblical Anthropology one must recognize when the evidence is and is not sufficient.

Maps are a valuable tool for Biblical anthropologists. Using maps, places can be identified that are associated with clans and rulers. Most of the names in Genesis do not turn up in Africa - Nok (Enoch), Kano (Cain), Ham, Bor'nu (Land of Noah), and the Jebu tribe (biblical Jebusites). Elephantine, at the border between Egypt and Sudan, was known to the ancient Egyptians as Yebu, the linguistic equivalent of Jebu according to THE DIPLOMATISTS HANDBOOK FOR AFRICA by Count Charles Kinsky.

Biblical anthropologists use data in the Bible to construct a picture of the religious life and cosmology of Abraham’s people. There were orders of priests long before the Levitical priesthood. The khar (Egyptian word for Horite) order was responsible for providing the fuel used in burnt offerings. Priests were circumcised and clean shaven. There was great emphasis on their ritual purity which included bathing in cold water several times a day.

Horite rulers had two wives. Most were the daughters of priests. Rulers were attended by their personal priests. So Moses was attended by a priest at his right and at his left when he oversaw the battle with the Amalekites. The priests were Aaron and Hur (named for Horus). It is likely that they were Moses’ half-brothers.

The genetic unity of Africans and the wide dispersal of peoples in the R1 and R1b haplogroups explains linguistics connections. For example, the word ‘Sakti’ = wine in Tantric use at the harvest moon celebration, is the linguistic equivalent of the Falasha word ‘Sarki’ = harvest moon festival. Sarki also means ruler among the people of Kano (Nigeria) who today are called the Kanuri (descendants of Kain). Sarki are also a people group who live in the Orissa Province of India. Sarki also live as ‘Haruwa’ in the Tarai region of Nepal. The word Haruwa is equivalent to the ancient Egyptian word ‘Harwa”, meaning priest.

Another word for priest is the Hebrew ‘Kohen’, equivalent to the Arabic ‘Khouri’ or ‘Kahin’ and the Persian ‘Kaahen’ or ‘Kaahenaat’ which is translated "timeless being". This word ‘Kahenat’ means priest in the Ethiopian Church. According to rabbinic tradition Moses had three brothers: Aaron, Hur and Korah. All three brothers were priests. Moses married a Kushite bride, not unusual for Egyptian rulers of that time.

The Hebrew ‘yasuah’ = salvation, corresponds to the Sanskrit words ‘asvah’, ‘asuah’ or ‘yasuah’ = salvation. The Hebrew root ‘thr’ = to be pure, corresponds to the Hausa/Hahm ‘toro’ = clean, and to the Tamil ‘tiru’ = holy. All are related to the proto-Dravidian ‘tor’ = blood.

Related reading:  Biblical Anthropology is Science; What Does a Biblical Anthropologist Do?; The Bible and Anthropological Investigation; The Themes of Genesis 1-3; Genesis in Anthropological Perspective; The Marriage and Ascendancy Pattern of the Horite Rulers


Sandra McColl said...

Is that the same 'asvah' that also means horse? (If so, it would make a Sanskrit translation of Richard III read most interestingly.)

Alice C. Linsley said...

"Asva" when declined as "asvah" means "a horse" in the nominative case.

Was Shakespeare playing with the words?

The linguistic connection is interesting also because the people of Sheba were great breeders and exporters of horses. Tarha-qo's burial site at el-Kurru in Sudan) also had a large horse cemetery.

Sandra McColl said...

I know very little about Shakespeare, but don't think anyone ever suggested that he knew Sanskrit or expected his audience to know any. But you know me, and ought not to be surprised when I draw completely improbable connections . . .

But is there a connection with 'He hath no pleasure in the strength of an horse'? Weaning the Hebrews off such things, perhaps?

I only know about three words of Sanskrit, I hasten to add . . .

Sandra McColl said...

Or could 'A horse is but a vain thing to save a man' be a reference to hippolatry in other cultures?

Alice C. Linsley said...

Sandra, you are right! God cautioned the ancient Israelites about putting their trust in their mounted forces, instead of trusting in the Lord.

Here in Kentucky we take hippolatry to new heights! We adore them for their power, their beauty and the profit made by them at the races and in breeding.

There is another reason why the Lord warned against hippolatry.
In ancient Vedic religion the king's wife spent the night with the chosen horse to guarantee potency to the king and his household. The Ashvamedha or horse sacrifice was offered by rulers seeking supremacy and if accompanied by the fertility portion of the sacrifice, to gain sons. This ritual required a year to complete. A fine horse was selected at the beginning of the year and allowed to wander, accompanied by the king’s soldiers. Everywhere the horse wandered was said to belong to the ruler. Any territory that the horse enters that is not under the king’s jurisdiction must submit or fight. During the year the horse is not allowed to mate and at the end of the year it is returned to the city where it is sacrificed in a three-day ceremony. The horse is then cut up, eaten and offered to the gods through fire.

The royal fertility ritual called the “Asvamedha yajna” involved the copulation of the king’s wives with the carcass of the horse to guarantee fertility.

Sandra McColl said...

And there I was thinking Melbourne Cup Day was excessive . . .

Ebenezer Gangmei said...

I can't understand why you have related Christianity and Abraham.....Anthropology doesn't mean connecting "Anything with everything". Rather it is finding a relationship between them.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Welcome, Ebenezer.

Christianity is about the fulfillment of God's plan of salvation and restoration of Paradise/perfect communion with God. That plan was first presented to Abraham's ancestors. The promise is first found in Genesis 3:15 (the Edenic Promise) that the Woman would bring forth the divine Seed who would crush the serpent's head. Abraham's Horite ancestors received this promise and expected a woman of their ruler-priest lines to bring forth the Seed. They also expected that Seed to rise from the dead. So it is possible to speak of the Proto-Gospel in Genesis. There is an organic development from the faith of Abraham's Horite people to the faith of those who follow Jesus, the Seed. Jesus said concerning Himself that unless a seed fall into the ground and die it cannot give life. He said this to explain why He was going to Jerusalem to die.