Alice C. Linsley
Last Summer I did an interview with Zaji Magazine, a "fun, flirty and stylish travel magazine that’s been traipsing the globe since 2007, based in Dallas, Texas with an international editorial team." The interview appeared today. You can read it online where you will see wonderful images. Here is the text of the Winter 2013 interview:
Image is everything. At least, that’s what Hollywood and the media machine tell us. There is some measure of truth to that especially when it comes to Africa. Africa's image is one of tragedy and pathos. Famine, starving children and war are the first things that normally come to mind.
But you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Because when you turn the pages of some of humanity's oldest texts, you'll find Mother Africa there shining in her glory, beckoning for you to come and unravel her mysteries.
Anthropologist Alice Linsley has heeded Mother Africa's call - for the last 35 years. She's been studying the ancient Hebrew book of Genesis. It's the story of where Mother Earth's children began this adventure we call life. In fact, it's the territories in Africa (the land of Kush) that are first mentioned before any other "country" in describing the world's lost paradise - Eden.
Alice who describes herself as a Christian anthropologist teaches as an adjunct professor at Midway College in the U.S. Her intriguing blog Just Genesis showcases her 35-year research project. It has an index which lists all topics alphabetically. You can find just about anything you want to know about this ancient text especially about the culture of the people who wrote it.
We chatted with Alice about living the expat life and her Christian faith. Of course, she unraveled some juicy mysteries about the Bible's ancient people and beautiful Mother Africa.
Zaji: You are a Christian anthropologist? What does that mean?
Alice: It means I do my anthropology from a place of Christian faith. Although I donʼt necessarily interpret the anthropological data as a Christian. The data is data and has to speak for itself. Being a Christian in the field of anthropology isnʼt always easy, because there are not a lot of us. But I do find that a lot of data supports the biblical worldview and what the biblical record says about Abraham and his ancestors. Iʼve actually been cutting out a niche for myself in the field of Biblical anthropology.
Zaji: How did you get started in this field?
Alice: Well, I was raised in the military. We lived all over the world. I lived as a child in the Philippines; then in Spain, Greece and Iran. So from a really early age, I was very interested in culture. It was just natural to go into the area of anthropology. I went to seminary and was trained in Divinity. The Old Testament was my special area. Anthropology and the Old Testament came together in the study of the book of Genesis.
Zaji: What places had the biggest impact on your life?
Alice: I enjoyed my time in Iran. I was ready to leave when the time came. I left only one year before the American Hostage crisis. I loved Greece, because that is where I first became exposed to Eastern Orthodoxy and the iconography of the Eastern Church. That was very important. That was formative for me. And I did eventually become Eastern Orthodox myself.
The Philippines was probably the most important of all the places, because I lived there at the youngest age. I lived there age 7 through 9 and my mother worked in those years. I had a Filipino nanny who was very important in my life. She enabled me to see the world through a different cultural perspective. To this day I grieve the loss of my dear Helen. She was a second mom to me.
Zaji: What started you on your faith journey?
Alice: My father was actually raised by his mother who was kind of a 'single mother.' She was married, but her husband lived way off in the desert in California. Her name was Alice Linsley too and she was a Baptist pastor. She was probably one of the first women ordained in Los Angeles County. She was ordained in 1925.
My father grew up hearing his mother preach and had a female model for ministry. All my life I was encouraged to speak out, take a stand as a Christian. My father was a very courageous Christian himself. He spoke out against things he saw in the churches he felt was undermining the biblical faith.
I got a lot of encouragement from my dad. I think he was a little chagrined when I became an Episcopal priest. I think heʼd rather I had become a Baptist pastor, but it didnʼt work out that way.
Zaji: What drew you to the Episcopal Church?
Alice: Well, when I lived in Iran I visited the Anglican Mission there in Isfahan –St. Lukeʼs Anglican Mission. There was an English missionary priest who was in charge of the expatriate congregation. He was an extraordinarily loving, joyful and humble Christian. I havenʼt met too many people like him. His humility was almost breathtaking. The sacrifices he and his family made in order to build up a congregation there in Isfahan under such difficult circumstances were great.
Literally, if you are a Christian in Iran, you are a real Christian, because youʼre going to face persecution for your faith. I was never really content in the Baptist church. I wanted a higher liturgical form of worship. I knew I wasnʼt Roman Catholic, but I did feel comfortable in the Anglican Church.
Zaji: What made you decide to leave the Episcopal Church?
Alice: I opposed my bishop and the direction that the Episcopal Church was going with the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy. I actually left on the Sunday that the Episcopal Church consecrated its first gay bishop – Gene Robinson.
It has been about 9 years since Iʼve been gone. I served an African-American congregation in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. It was extremely difficult. I loved the people. We accomplished a lot in the three years that I was there. They called me “Mother Alice.” The situation became very difficult when the bishop placed a lesbian deacon and the church became divided over that. I stayed as long as I could. I spent three days praying and fasting about the direction I should go. The Lord made it really clear to me what Sunday I was to leave. I didnʼt know that the Sunday the Lord had told me to leave was the Sunday of Gene Robinsonʼs consecration. Trust me, I wouldnʼt have had the courage to do that, because the full weight of my bishopʼs wrath fell upon me. But I was so busy putting out fires in my congregation I wasnʼt paying attention to what was happening nationally in the Church.
Zaji: Thatʼs a lesson in faith. What would you say has been the hardest part of your faith and the most rewarding thing youʼve learned from your faith all your years as a Christian, going through lifeʼs ups and downs?
Alice: Iʼd say God is absolutely trustworthy. That would be the primary thing as I look back and say He has been trustworthy. He has fulfilled every promise. The one promise He has repeated to me all throughout my life is “I am with you always.”
There are so many times when we doubt His promise to be with us always, because we donʼt feel it. We donʼt feel it immediately. But then we can look back and say ʻoh my gosh He was there.' He was carrying me through that situation.ʼ The greatest crisis for me in my faith has been when Iʼve lost loved ones. I think that is true for everybody. It was very hard for me when my mom and dad died, especially when my dad died. I was very close to my father. Family is everything.
Zaji: So let's talk about Genesis. Most of us who've read it get lost in all those genealogies. 'This person begot that person etc...etc...'What are those genealogy lists really about?
Alice: What we really have there are Kings Lists. All of those people listed in Genesis 4, 5 and 11 were rulers. They were what we call Horite Rulers. Horite rulers didn't control one territory. They lived interspersed. The Ancient World had a very definite caste structure, and the Horites happened to be the high-ruling caste. The Horites controlled the waterways all the way from the Niger River in the Benue Trough, which is in Nigeria and Niger all the way to southern India. That was at a time when that part of the world was much wetter and many of those water systems were connected. They were traders. They moved cargo on those great rivers. That's why the Horites are sometimes referred to as the "Khar" or the "Gar"( in Africa, by the way gar, gir or gur refers to trader). And they were dispersed throughout all those populations.
They were record keepers or scribes, which makes sense, because if you're going to move cargo, you've got to keep records of how much and where it's going. How much is paid. So when we talk about Horites, we either talk about rulers, priests or scribes and among them was a sub-caste of metal workers.
Ethnically, the Horites were Kushites. Up to the time of Noah, we probably need to refer to them as Proto-Saharans. The reason being that the word Kushite comes from Kush, who was one of Noah's grandsons.
Zaji: Can you explain further. The Horites (Horim) were worshippers of Horus. Most Jews, Christians and Muslims would consider that pagan.
Alice: That has been so much misinformation out there. I can hardly tell you. The Horites originated in the Sahara. They were not Egyptians. It was the Kushites who first united Egypt. And it was pretty much Kushite religion that was the foundation of Ancient Egyptian religion.
Over time, the Egyptian religion became quite syncretistic and borrowed elements from Babylonian religion. It borrowed elements from Meditarranean religions. You even see some Asian dualism come in.
People are failing to make a distinction between what Abraham's Horite ancestors believed who were Proto-Saharans. The Horites sacred triad was Ra, The Creator God. His emblem was the sun. Ra overshadowed Hathor-Meri, who gave birth to Horus. And Horus is called the Son of God, among the Horites.
Here's another example. Look at the distinction between Hathor and Isis. Isis is a later name for Hathor. Hathor was also actually called Mary. Isn't that interesting? Hathor-Meri is the mother of Horus. Her totem was a cow. That's why she's shown with horns and the sun between the horns. It symbolizes her being overshadowed by the Sun. In Dendera (Egypt, west bank of Nile), there are actually images of Hathor holding her son in a manger.
Another example of misinformation is the idea that Osiris and Ra are the same person. That is simply not correct. The so-called cutting up of Osiris into 15 pieces does not pertain to Horite belief at all. That comes from Babylon. It was a belief that was attributed to Nimrod. Supposedly, Nimrod was cut into 15 pieces.
So, people have to be careful to sort through a lot of misinformation, to understand what the Horites believed, which is quite distinct from the Horus mythology that developed in syncretistic Egyptian religion at a much later date.
To recap: the Horites are the rulers listed in Genesis 4, 5 and 11. These were Abraham's ancestors. What were they trying to communicate with these Kings Lists? These lists tell us about the Horite marriage and ascendancy pattern. Every one of the Horite rulers had two wives. The second wife was taken at a much later age, just before the ruler would ascend to the throne of his father and was always usually a patrilineal cousin or a patrilineal niece. Patrilineal means the man and his bride had a common male ancestor. So, that would be Keturah. Keturah was Abraham's patrilineal cousin.
We see this pattern with all of them. So, it's not something that is a coincidence. It is the pattern for Moses with his two wives. It's the pattern for Abraham with his two wives. It's the pattern for Abraham's father, Terah. It's the pattern for Samuel's priest father, Elkanah. Elkanah had two wives: Hannah who was barren, and Peninah who bore quite a few children.
Interestingly, the cousin bride names her first born after her father. I've given a title to that. I call that the cousin bride naming prerogative. I must be pretty dumb, because it took me about 30 years to identify it. It was right in front of my face all the time.
Once I identified the cousin bride naming prerogative, I realized 'oh my gosh,' this is how we can trace the line of descent from Cain and his brother Seth whose two lines intermarried to Ham and Shem, whose two lines intermarried, to Abraham and his brother Nahor, whose two lines intermarried. And we can trace it all the way to Jesus Christ.
Zaji: What have you learned the most about Abraham? About his faith and just about him as a person?
Alice: I believe Abraham was a man who struggled a lot with the responsibilities that he had, as he began to rule over the territory that God provided for him. Remember, Abraham was the youngest of Terah's sons, so he did not receive a territory, but God said 'Look, it's ok...I'm going to give you a territory. Nahor your brother will get a territory according to the human rule, but I'm going to divinely deliver your territory.'
He struggled to be a ruler with two wives and Sarah being barren. That was a great matter of distress for him. There was a great urgency for the child of his sister-wife to be born. The child of the sister-wife is the rightful heir of his biological father. He had other children by Keturah, but that was not how their marriage and ascendancy structure worked. For Abraham to have a rightful heir, it had to be the son born of his half-sister - Sarah.
I really believe this whole project was God-directed, and that my obsession was some kind of divine infection. I don't really know why this happened. But I know this happened almost 36 years ago when I was teaching a women's Bible study on the Book of Genesis.
That's when it started. I realized the ladies were asking such good questions and none of the commentaries that I had were answering those questions very well. And that's when I began to do the research. And amazing little things would happen like a National Geographic would be sitting in front of me at the doctor's office. I would flip through there and found out that metal working chiefs in Niger had two wives. They kept their wives in separate households on a north-south axis. Bingo! I would go to the Scriptures and see if this was the way. And sure enough, Sarah was in Hebron in the north and Keturah was in Beersheba in the South. They kept their wives on a north-south axis.
God wants this information out there. And I really do believe it's because this research concerns the reliability of the biblical record about Abraham's ancestors, Abraham's descendants and how Jesus is a direct descendant of the people to whom God made the first promise back in Genesis 3:15 - that a woman of their ruler-priest line would conceive and bring forth the seed who would crush the serpent's head.
And they must have believed that promise that was made to them and their ancestors, because their priestly lines intermarried exclusively.
Zaji: That's interesting. How that ties back to the Noah and the Flood story….this idea that their priestly lines married exclusively. I found your blog while doing research on Noah. You wrote a fascinating article where you said people need to search for Noah's ark not in Turkey, but in Central Africa.
Alice: There's only one place on the whole surface of the Earth that claims to be Noah's homeland, and that's around the Lake Chad area. The region called Bor-No, which means 'Land of Noah.'
It makes sense. Noah is a descendant of Cain and Seth. Cain and Seth were Proto-Saharans. So, Noah would have been in the Lake Chad area. If that's the case, then he probably would have built his boat out of reeds, because that was an area where reeds were very prevalent. At the time when he lived there, it was a very wet period.
Zaji: How did you begin your research on this?
Alice: The problem is that people are not looking at the etymology of the word. For example, the word Ararat is actually an Arabic word, and Ararat means vehemence.
So what the text is saying is: Noah's ark landed on the Mount of Vehemence. And doesn't that fit the context of the story more. God was angry. God was upset. God was vehement.
The Hebrew language emerges out of something older. We're going to find something much closer to the meaning when we look at the antecedents of Hebrew. Linguists recognize that Arabic is older than Hebrew.
The Dedanite Scripts are the origin of Arabic. The Dedanites were a Horite clan. Dedan is along the Red Sea, in the southwestern part of Arabia. The Dedanites are mentioned a lot in Scripture. That's also the region where the oldest texts in Arabic have ever been found.
The Bible also says Armenia. The AR is actually HAR which means mount. So, it's not Armenia. It's Har Meni meaning Mount Meni. Where is Mount Meni? Mount Meni is in East Africa. It's in the Tanzania area. That's where you would more expect Noah's ark to land, that's closer to where his homeland was.
Zaji: Wow. It kind of makes sense now when you think that the most biodiverse spot on the planet is East Africa's Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater with all the animals.
Alice: We know from archaeological research that the Saharan rulers and the Egyptian rulers, in fact all the rulers along the Nile - one of their great hobbies was keeping menageries. They had zoos. They loved to collect animals. And when they did, they always collected a male and a female, because they wanted the animals to reproduce.
They'd write about it in their ancient texts. "I acquired two of this animal..." and that's exactly what the Bible says that God tells Noah - "you're to take a pair of these animals." And of course, he would have saved his menagerie. If he knew a flood was coming, wouldn't he save his animals?
Zaji: Lastly, can you elaborate on the Garden of Eden?
Alice: Eden was a large territory. People read, and they think this garden, this small place. We think gardens with what we're familiar with. But Genesis actually says that Eden was a vast region, because it says it was bounded on the east by the Tigris and Euphrates, which is Mesopotamia.
And it was bounded on the west by the Pishon and the Gihon. The Gihon flows all the way down into the Upper Nile region of Havilah where there is good gold and that's Kush.
So it extended from the Sudan all the way down into Ethiopia and all the way to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Huge!
CHECK OUT JUST GENESIS - http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com
Drop Alice a line with any questions or comments you may have. There's lots to read. Start with the INDEX of topics. It's such a wonderful way to learn about the Bible, and it's true culture and roots. Stay informed!
Related: Answers to High School Students' Questions about the Flood; Jesus' Horite Ancestry; Jesus Fulfills the Ancient Horus Myth; Kushite Diversity and Unity; Hazor's Destruction: Another Theory