Alice C. Linsley
(This is the first of my responses to comments made at The Continuum, here.)
How are we best to understand the Gospel?
While the Gospel is universal, the context of Christianity is essentially Afro-Asiatic. To understand the Gospel in its fullness, we must understand the context of those to whom the promise of a Savior was made. These were Abraham’s people, some of whom held close to the promise and others who apparently did not; just as today we have believers and non-believers. Nothing has changed!
"Salvation is of the Jews” because the Jews preserved the record of Abraham’s people in the Hebrew Bible, and because the Son of God was made incarnate as a Jew, that is a man of Judah, according to the ancient prophecies.
What is the cultural context of Abraham’s People?
It is not Babylonian or Chaldean, although these are Afro-Asiatic languages. Since Abraham’s ancestors came out of west central Africa, the cultural context of Abraham’s people is essentially African. And Africa includes Egypt. The cultural context is clearly NOT Indo-European, since none of the languages or people groups listed in Genesis 10 are Indo-Europeans. All are in the Afro-Asiatic language family. Further, as someone has noted, Hebrew developed from the ancient Canaanite alphabet, which is also in the Afro-Asiatic family and closely related to old Egyptian.
Abraham's people weren't Jews. They were Horites and they were related by blood and marriage to other African groups such Sheba and Jebu (Jebusites).
Abraham and his ancestors were rulers in the Afro-Asiatic Dominion which stretched from west central Africa to the Indus River Valley. One of the traits of these rulers is that they maintained their own priests, and as Fr. Robert Hart points out, both ruler and priest were later called meshiach in Hebrew. Their unique kinship pattern insured that the Son of God would be born of their priestly lines. The lines of priests intermarried and the ruler-priests had 2 wives. (Remember that Elkaniah had 2 wives: Peninnah and Hannah.)
The ruler-priests were careful in marrying only the daughters of priests because they believed that the promised Son of God would be born of their bloodline and bloodline was traced through the mothers. In other words, they married that Meshiach might be born. He would be born a priest forever of the order of Melchizedek, Priest of Salem (also not Jewish). “Come thou redeemer of the earth, come testify thy Virgin-birth, all lands admire, all times applaud, such is the birth that fits a God."
What has this to do with the meaning of God's revelation to the Church?
The promise concerning the virgin birth wasn't an idea that the Apostles created, nor one they borrowed. It was a belief of Abraham’s Horite people. The Horites were devotees of Horus, who was called the “Son of God.’ The B’nai Israel and the Church are built on this belief which is traced back to before the time of Noah (over 12,000 years ago).
Expectation of the Son of God was spread by Horite priests (‘har wa’) across the Afro-Asiatic Dominion. They were the first missionaries. In anthropology, this is called ‘cultural diffusion.’ Here we find that from ancient times, the Promise was universal. The Promise establishes catholicity of the Faith and catholics uphold the universality of the Promise.
It is true that Christianity has had many different cultural contexts, in different historical periods, but as one interested in what Genesis has to say, the origins or etiology of the Gospel is what concerns me.
The promise of the Son of God preceded Abraham. He trusted God to leave his family in Haran because he was a man of faith. The promise of a kingdom and of a ‘Son’ was not a special revelation to Abraham. It was his received Tradition, and the same one we have received, only now more fully, as Christ has been made Man and is known to us as Jesus ben Joseph, born in Bethlehem (originally a Horite settlement).
Special Revelation of Received Tradition?
Traditional societies which revere the wisdom of the ancestors don't have the synthetic religions that we find in Western civilization: groups like the Mormons or Scientology which have fabricated histories and cobbled together seductive notions of reality. These groups seek to establish new familial traditions, claiming special revelation. They do not develop organically within the great religious traditions of the world and along the lines of family hertitage. Instead, they seem intent on shoving those aside or claiming equal authority with them.
If we go back far enough in time we find basically two religious traditions: one involving priests and the other involving shamans. While priests and shamans serve similar functions within their communities, they represent distinctly different, even opposite worldviews. Underlying shamanism is the belief that there are powerful spirits who cause imbalance and disharmony in the world. The shaman’s role is to determine which spirits are at work and to find ways to appease the spirits. This may or may not involve sacrifice of animals.
Underlying the priesthood is belief in a single supreme Spirit to whom humans must give an accounting, especially for the shedding of blood. In this view, one Great Spirit (God) holds the world in balance and it is human actions that cause disharmony. The vast assortment of ancient laws governing priestly ceremonies, sacrifices, and cleansing rituals clarifies the role of the priest as one who offers sacrifice according to sacred law. The law represents received tradition preserved through the priestly lines.
The catholicism of East and West can be traced to Father Abraham and his people, the ancestors of Christ our God. The Genesis genealogies speak of the ruler-priests who preserved and passed along a tradition concerning the appearing of the Son of God. Their blood flowed through the veins of Joachim and Ana, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.
The origins of the faith of the Son of God came to Abraham, not as special revelation, but as a tradition received from his forefathers. The distinctive traits of this tradition align remarkable well with the key features of catholic faith and practice.
Article VII is one of the best of the Articles of Religion found in the Book of Common Prayer, especially this part: “Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises.” Indeed.
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