Thursday, August 29, 2013

Christianity and Messianic Expectation


Alice C. Linsley


Recently an Orthodox priest asked me about the most ancient worship and religious practices to which Christianity could be traced. He specifically wanted to know about the time before Moses so I will discuss the time of Abraham and his ancestors, from 2000 BC to 4000 BC.

There are many features of the religion of Abraham and his ancestors that relate to Christianity. I cannot address all features in a single blog post. Therefore this will be a series of related posts. Today's concentrates on two features: animal sacrifice and the priesthood.


Animal sacrifice predates Abraham

William W. Hallo, former Yale professor, and Peter Leithart consider ancient Mesopotamia to be the point of origin of ritual animal sacrifice. Hallo writes, "Here we have not only, as in Israel, the canonical (literary) formulations of how sacrificial rites are to be performed, but also economic texts providing accounts of events after the ritual and objectively recorded, detailing the expenses of each step in the ritual against the possibility of a future audit by a higher authority. These records leave no doubt that in Mesopotamia, animal sacrifice, though ostensibly a mechanism for feeding the deity, was at best a thinly disguised method for sanctifying and justifying meat consumption by human beings—a privilege routinely accorded to priesthood, aristocracy and royalty, and sporadically, notably on holidays and holy days, to the masses of the population."

At First Things, Leithart wrote, "What are the chances that someone sometime in nearly every ancient culture decided that killing animals was a good way to worship their gods? What are the chances that this would be a near-universal practice without any tradition, any traditio/handing-over, of sacrificial rites? Aren’t the facts much better explained if we assume that there was mutual interaction, cross-fertilization, borrowing and mimicry, perhaps an Ur-sacrifice and an Ur-sacrificer?"

The Mesopotamian civilization to which Hallo and Leithart refer was essentially Kushite and the Kushites were Nilo-Saharans. Genesis 10 tell us that Nimrod, the son of Kush, moved into the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and established a kingdom there. He brought with him the practice of the sacrifice of rams, bulls, and sheep. Abraham is a descendant of Nimrod.

Hallo does not recognize the important distinction between animal sacrifice in Mesopotamia and animal sacrifice among the Horites. For the Horite devotees of Horus animal sacrifice was linked to purity, and purity was linked to holiness.

The sacrifice of animals among Abraham's Horite ancestors does not appear to have been to appease their God through the offering of food. It appears to be about the blood itself which was the symbol of life, regeneration, healing and cleansing. In the Horite context, blood was regarded as a purifying agent when offered by a pure priest. The Hebrew root thr, meaning to be pure, corresponds to the Hausa/Hahm toro, meaning clean, and to the Tamil tiru which means holy. All are related to the Dravidian tor which means blood. The Horite priest was to be pure (w'b) before entering the temple. His purification involved shaving his body and head and ritual washing. Korah, Moses' half-brother, was a priest. His name means "shaved head" and according to Numbers 16:17-18, he carried the incense censor. This suggests that kor and tor are cognates. Here we find a very early connection between blood, purity and holiness.

Dr. Margaret Barker makes a connection between purity and healing in her article Atonement: The Rite of Healing. She writes, "Atonement translates the Hebrew kpr, but the meaning of kpr in a ritual context is not known." However, in her paper on The Temple Roots of the Liturgy, Barker explains that kapporeth is "the place of atonement in the temple, where the Lord was enthroned."

When we investigate the antecedents of Christian religious practices and beliefs among Abraham's Horite ancestors we find clues to the meaning of kpr. The k refers to ka, meaning Kushite. The Sa-Ka were ethnically Kushites. The pr likely refers to piru, which is temple or shrine. Atonement would then pertain to the Kushite priest standing in the most holy place. 

The author of Hebrews speaks of the priest standing at the altar until he has completed his task (Heb. 10:12). "But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God." Here we find hints at the origins of Messianic expectation among Abraham's ancestors.

As Hallo notes, it was the priests who sacrificed animals and the oldest known caste of priests is that of Abraham's Horite ancestors who can be traced to Nekhen in the Sudan (4000-3000 BC). It was dedicated to Horus whose totem was the falcon. Votive offerings at the Nekhen temple were ten times larger than the normal mace heads and bowls found elsewhere, suggesting that this was a very prestigious shrine. Horite priests placed invocations to Horus at the summit of the fortress as the sun rose.

The Horites are called Hapiru in Akkadian and Habiru in Kushitic languages. These words are related to the Arabic yakburu, meaning “he is getting big” and to the intensive active prefix: yukabbiru, meaning "he is enlarging." The Y is a solar symbol, the k refers to Kushite, and biru means temple. This is a reference to the morning ritual of Horite priests who greeted the rising sun in their temples, offered prayers, and watched as the sun expanded across the horizon. Many words reflect Horus as the one who establishes boundaries of time and space and marks them by the Sun. The word hour, which is horos or oros, is an example. Horizontal is another, and likely the word "oriental" was originally a reference to Horus of the eastern horizon.

The Horite practice is evident in the morning ritual (agnihotra) whereby the sun is blessed each morning in devout Hindu homes and in the Jewish sun blessing (Birkat Hachama) that is performed every 28 years.

Atonement through the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God, is not an invented belief. It emerges out of the oldest known practice of animal sacrifice among Abraham's Horite ancestors who moved into Mesopotamia from the Nilo-Saharan region. Further, it is prefigured in the account of Abraham's offering of his son on a fire altar. On the eastern horizon Horus rises as the lamb. On the western horizon, after his sacrifice at the sacred center (high noon on the mountain top), he is the ram who comes to full strength. So it is that Abraham was provided a ram to sacrifice in place of his son, not a lamb.

The Turin Canon, which provides important information on Egypt's early history, describes the Predynastic rulers of Egypt as "followers of Horus" and Horus as being one with his father Ra. Ra-harakhty means that together the father and the son rule the twin horizons. The very word "horizon" is derived from the root HR and relates to Horus.

Horus marked the boundaries and established the "kinds" (essences). He guarded the four directional points and controlled the water and wind currents. The Harmattan trade wind that blows from the northeast and east across the Sahara was named for Horus. The word is comprised of the biradicals HR for Horus and MT meaning order.


Priests predate Abraham.

It is evident that priests, as a distinct group or caste, were well established before the time of Moses and the Levites. Beside offering sacrifices, they offered cleansing rituals for persons who had come into contact with blood, especially blood shed in battle. Thus we read that the ruler-priest Melchizedek came to Abraham after the battle between the kings (Gen. 14) to ritually purify Abraham from blood guilt. The ritual that Melchizedek performed for Abraham involved bread and wine, recognized by Christians as the Eucharistic elements.

Archaic man had an intuitive anxiety about blood. We see this in the belief that the blood of Abel cries to God from the ground (Gen. 4:10). Anxiety about the shedding of blood is universal and very old. The Horite priesthood, one of the oldest known religious institutions, probably came into existence the first day that the individual and the community sought to be cleansed of blood guilt.

The Horites priests were devotees of Horus, the son of Ra. Horus was conceived by Hathor-Meri when she was overshadowed by the sun, the emblem of the Creator. The Horites spread their beliefs and religious practices from ancient Kush to Mesopotamia and beyond. The oldest fire altars were falcon shaped (shown below). The falcon was the totem of Hor/Horus, who was called "Son of God." This is why the Shulba Sutras state that "he who desires heaven is to construct a fire-altar in the form of a falcon."




At the Harappan water shrines of Kalibangan and Lothal, numerous fire altars have been discovered. The Dravidian word Har-appa means "Horus is father." Here is further evidence of the spread of Horite religion from ancient Kush to Pakistan and India.

We have evidence also in words that derive their meaning from Horite beliefs. Har-Ur refers to Horus in maturity, or the Elder Horus. In his infancy, he was depicted in ancient Egypt as either a calf or a lamb and in his maturity as a bull or a ram. The Mesopotamian cities of Haran and Ur are related to Har-Ur.

It is possible to trace many Mesopotamian religious practices back to Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors who are presented in Genesis 10. For clarity on this subject it is necessary to distinguish between priests of other deities and the Horite priests who were devotees of Ra and Horus. In Horite belief the two are frequently spoken of as having one being, on essence: As Jesus claimed, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30).


Conclusion

The religious traditions of the Horites developed in a traceable way from great antiquity. Such traditions are passed down through families, clans and tribes. Christianity emerges out of a belief that God made a promise a long time ago to a certain people living in "Eden" and it appears that their Horite descendants believed that promise and lived in expectation of its fulfillment. Throughout time, God has been fulfilling the Edenic Promise (Gen. 3:15) in the God-Man Jesus Christ.

The core of Christianity concerns this same Son of God, born of the Woman by the overshadowing of the Spirit of God. He suffered at the hands of his own brethren, died, and rose on the third day with the dawn's expanding light. By his death he tramples down death and leads captives to the Father (Eph. 4:8). These features of Christian belief can be traced to a time long before Judaism. Therefore, Christianity is not original, but what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in great antiquity. Herein rests its authority.

2 comments:

DDeden said...

You wrote that Ur is fire in some African languages, can you specify a few?

Congo Bambuti - fire: apa

My conjecture: "presbyterian" is from priest + bahitr (bitter/phyre), from ancient ritual lamp lighting, and this is related to Hebrew rabbi.


Alice Linsley said...

Ur means fire in Hebrew and Hebrew is an African language. Rabbi Jonathan Ben Uziel confused the Babylonian word Ur, which means city, with the Hebrew word for fire - Ur. Instead of saying that God delivered Abraham out of Ur, the city of the Chaldeans, Rabbi Uziel's translation said that God delivered Abraham out of "the fire of the Chaldeans." Jewish writers ran with this and soon the Talmud contained all kinds of stories of Abraham being thrown into the fire by the Chaldeans and being miraculously rescued by God.

A priest and a presbyter are not the same thing. http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2009/06/what-is-presbyter.html