Monday, May 20, 2019

An Invitation to Bible Teachers

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 2 Timothy 2:15

Alice C. Linsley

Do you teach Bible classes at your church or Christian school? Are you looking for helpful background information for your students? Are you willing to study to show yourself approved to teach the holy Scriptures? Or are you simply repeating what has been said in commentaries and other reference materials? Why not investigate for yourself?

Much of that information in Bible reference materials has been shown to be inaccurate or misleading. This is why Bible teachers must dig deep into the Bible itself. The Bible interprets itself accurately. You also need help in establishing the cultural context of the forty+ biblical populations (not including castes and clans). For that, I encourage you to draw on the findings of Biblical Anthropology. Helping your classes to identify the beliefs and practices of the distinct populations can bring the Scriptures alive.

Pastors and lay persons alike participate in the international Facebook forum The Bible and Anthropology. Here we learn together and are building a valuable body of information. You are welcome to join the group, although the number of members is capped at 1000.

Learn to read the Bible through the lens of cultural anthropology and you will never read it the same way again. Here we learn from one another and together are building a body of knowledge that many will find helpful. Our motto: "Upon this first...rule of reason, that in order to learn you must desire to learn, and in so desiring not be satisfied with what you already incline to believe, there follows one corollary which itself deserves to be inscribed upon every wall of the city of philosophy: Do not block the way of inquiry."--Charles Sanders Peirce, 1896

Reading Scripture through the lens of cultural anthropology is rigorous because no assumption can stand untested, and no assertion can be made without data. If we seek to understand the Bible rather than use the Bible to support an agenda, we will find the approach of Biblical Anthropology helpful.

Additionally, these INDICES have links to a wide range of topics and may be helpful in finding information that is not readily available elsewhere.

Biblical Anthropology INDEX

Just Genesis INDEX

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Anglicans Divided

Alice C. Linsley

I am writing this from the strength of my conviction that women's ordination to the sacred order of priests is a dangerous innovation, and as a woman who served as a priest in ECUSA from 1988 until the Sunday on which Gene Robinson was consecrated.

Some will view this article as an attempt to influence the 2017 decision of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). However, this is a question on which I have been speaking and writing for over 10 years, and I have no illusion that what is said here will change the minds of those who also hold their positions with firm conviction.

Some say that the opposing positions on women's ordination are predicated on equally valid arguments. That is problematic because the Church does not change sacred Tradition based on the validity of arguments. It has no authority to do so.

Given that Anglicans are comfortable with theological ambiguity and some bishops are pleased to act unilaterally, with little regard for uniformity, it may be impossible to achieve consensus on the question of women priests. As far as the Anglican Church of North America is concerned, the question has been under study for a good while. Out of concern for the growth and unity of that fledgling body, it was not addressed early.

"At the inception of the Anglican Church in North America, the lead Bishops unanimously agreed to work together for the good of the Kingdom. As part of this consensus, it was understood that there were differing understandings regarding the ordination of women to Holy Orders, but there existed a mutual love and respect for one another and a desire to move forward for the good of the Church. This commitment was deeply embedded in the Constitution and Canons overwhelmingly adopted by the Inaugural Assembly (2009). [From "Frequently Asked Questions" at the ACNA website.]

While the Anglican tent has room for "both integrities" the issue remains contentious, and some clergy may leave ACNA should the ordination of women become an approved practice. For these clergy the ordination of women is deemed a first order issue.

Father Louis Tarsitano wrote, "The priesthood of Christ, and that representative priesthood rooted in Christ's priesthood is changeless. To change it is to change the New Testament itself."[Tarsitano, "Some Scriptural References Applicable to the Question of the Ordination of Women"]

Father Richard L. Jones has written, "The established historicity of the priesthood extends back to Melchizedek, then the Levitical priesthood, then Christ and the Apostles, then the Apostolic Fathers, and on through the succeeding 1900+ years. Not only is women in the priesthood a recent innovation that defies the traditions of the past, it also has no basis in Scripture whatsoever."

The Most Rev. Walter F. Grundorf, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Province of America, expresses that body's fidelity to holy Tradition in this statement:
"The Anglican Province of America, in common with the rest of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, affirms that the Sacrament of Holy Orders of Bishop, Priest and Deacons is the perpetuation of Our Lord Jesus Christ's gift of Apostolic Ministry to his Church and that these Sacred Orders consist exclusively of men in accordance with Christ's will and institution as proven by Holy Scriptures and the universal Tradition of the Holy Catholic Church for two thousand years. We do believe in conformity with the Undivided Catholic Church of the First Millennium that the male character of Holy Orders is unalterably of Divine institution."

The Anglican Province of South America debated the issue of women's ordination for 20 years and feelings ran high. Nevertheless, that Province has agreed to differ. According to Gregory Venables, the Primate of the Anglican Church of South America, "it hasn't caused any division."

Some believe the ability to embrace opposing views is a strength. Michael Warren Davis, writing for the Imaginative Conservative, expressed exactly this view:
"By allowing these rival sentiments to work themselves out, by allowing different provinces and even different parishes to align with this or that camp, the Anglican Communion has grown to be the third largest Church body in the world. To pick the Communion apart now, either from the left or the right, is the only certain means of destroying Anglicanism entirely. Total uniformity is not only impossible--its expectation is un-Anglican."
Concern for the growth and unity of the Anglican Communion does not condone moving the boundary stones set up by our holy ancestors (Proverbs 22:28) that enable us to discern and avoid errant paths. Anglicans who uphold the all-male priesthood are portrayed as having "conservative separatist tendencies, such the Anglican realignment and Continuing Anglican movements."["Ordination of women in the Anglican Communion" Wikipedia] In reality, the separatists are the innovators, and their departure from holy Tradition creates division.

C. S. Lewis observed, "The innovators are really implying that sex is something superficial, irrelevant to the spiritual life. To say that men and women are equally eligible for a certain profession is to say that for the purposes of that profession their sex is irrelevant. We are, within that context, treating both as neuters. As the State grows more like a hive or an ant-hill it needs an increasing number of workers who can be treated as neuters. This may be inevitable for our secular life. But in our Christian life we must return to reality." [C.S. Lewis, "Priestesses in the Church"]

A woman standing at the altar as a priest represents a departure from the pattern of Scripture. The Bible does not explicitly state "Women shall not be ordained" because it was inconceivable to the Biblical writers that a woman would raise a knife to ritually slay an animal on the altar. This was the work of priests and the heads of households, both roles of men in the Judeo-Christian Tradition.

The priesthood is tied to the altar, and though the Christian priest enacts a bloodless sacrifice, the priesthood is about blood. According to Leviticus 17:11, "The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life." The blood of Jesus makes atonement, purifies, and sanctifies. He is both Sacerdos and Agnus Dei.

St. Paul refers to the Blood of Jesus no less than twelve times in his writings. Because God makes peace with us through the blood of the cross, he urges us to "Take every care to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together" (Eph. 4:3).

The notion of a woman offering blood sacrifice was unthinkable to the Hebrew people. Such a thing would have been viewed as an affront to the Creator. He created women to bring forth life, not to take it. The blood work of women involves childbirth. The blood work of men involves hunting and warfare. Traditional gender roles speak of the distinction between life and death, a distinction that modernism has blurred. To the modern reader, this sounds bizarre. Today women fight in combat, hunt and abort their unborn.

That men and women have distinct blood work is a given in the context of the Biblical writers. Women were not permitted at the altar and men were not permitted inside birthing chambers. This is an aspect of the Tradition the Church has received. Some view this as legalistic and patriarchal, but instead it is an invitation to contemplate a sacred mystery that is to be preserved by the Church.

A woman standing in persona Christi at the altar sends a distorted and confusing message. Likewise, a man standing in a Nativity scene as the Virgin Mary sends a distorted and confusing message. Jesus Christ is not the author of confusion. That comes from earthly and spiritual forces that oppose Christ and His Gospel.

Through the Church, God preserves right belief and right actions in the service of humanity. The conservation of holy Tradition is the responsibility of bishops and priests who follow the Apostles, upon whom the Church is founded. So-called "traditionalists" have been criticized for doing exactly what must be done to preserve the Gospel and the Church's witness.

Archbishop Shane B. Janzen, Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, has stated:
"The Traditional Anglican Communion, as with other Continuing Anglican Churches outside of the Canterbury Communion, holds to the Principles of Faith set out in the Affirmation of Saint Louis, 1977. We hold and believe that the Holy Orders of Bishop, Priest and Deacon are exclusive to men, affirming as we do the ancient tradition of the Church and the authority of Sacred Scripture. Though many in the secular world today see the ordination of women as a matter of human rights and equality between the sexes, it is in fact a matter of divine institution not human determination. No one has the 'right' to be ordained. The calling to the ordained ministry within the Church is from God who, in the person of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, instituted the sacred ministry among men alone -- though He could very well have done otherwise given our Lord's pronouncements and actions which in many cases ran counter to the prevailing understanding and teachings of the then Jewish authorities. The ordained minister is an 'icon of Christ' -- persona Christi or alter Christus -- particularly in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. To set aside the teachings of Christ and the sacred tradition of the Church universal in any unilateral way is contrary to the teachings of Christ, the ancient discipline of the Church, and the means by which doctrines of the Church are determined. The Traditional Anglican Communion continues in the beliefs and discipline of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. We seek to conform to the model of Church left to us by our Lord, and as He did not grant authority to His Church to confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders on women, it is beyond our moral and canonical right to do so. We hold that no Church or body of bishops has the authority to alter the teachings of Christ and His Church in matters of faith and morals, including the ordination of women."
Christian leaders are to uphold values consistent with the Gospel and to resist dangerous innovations that threaten the unity of the Body of Christ. They are to preserve the pattern, rather than change the pattern based on vain arguments. As a philosophy teacher, I know that an argument can be valid and yet have no basis in reality. The Tradition of the Church is grounded in reality. It speaks about what is real and true. In an escapist society the Church is a troublesome reminder that God exists and is working in mysterious ways to redeem the world. The emotional fragility that is exhibited by many today is a sign that they are fleeing the reality of God. We escape reality when we fantasize new identities, immerse ourselves in virtual realities, hide behind addictions, and avoid pondering eternal verities.

This is what Lewis meant when he wrote, "With the Church, we are farther in: for there we are dealing with male and female not merely as facts of nature but as the live and awful shadows of realities utterly beyond our control and largely beyond our direct knowledge. Or rather, we are not dealing with them but (as we shall soon learn if we meddle) they are dealing with us." [C.S. Lewis, "Priestesses in the Church"]

On the question of women priests, Archbishop Edmund Akanya of Nigeria has stated: "Our position as a church is that it runs counter to scripture and more so our culture. Even the women themselves are seriously opposed to women's ordination. This position has been held before I became a bishop. In fact, it [women's ordination] is looked at as something that led to the issue of human sexuality today.

Archbishop Akanya is justified in this view since the first woman "regularly" ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) was known to be a lesbian and served as co-president of Integrity.

Louie Crew, the founder of Integrity, worked to influence the decisions of the General Conventions, and the 1976 Convention passed resolutions supporting the "civil rights" of lesbians and gays. (And it came to pass that the salt lost its saltiness and is no longer good for anything.)

The theological ambiguity and biblical illiteracy with which Episcopalians were comfortable served to advance Crew's agenda. He wrote,
"Almost never in our history have we had the luxury of expecting a high degree of conformity in doctrine or liturgical practice. To avoid extinction, frequently individual Anglicans and even groups of us have needed to back off from actions with which we disapprove and allow them still to happen, preferably 'somewhere else.'" [Louie Crew, "Changing the Church", no longer available online.]
This live-and-let-live attitude became enshrined among American Episcopalians and paved the way for Integrity to work its wizardry. Crew wrote, "Episcopal polity, therefore, allows much air in which lesbigays may breathe our living witness."[Louie Crew, "Changing the Church"]

The Church's nature resists worldly corruption and it is able by God's grace to correct what is wrong within itself. Regardless of how one views the priest at altar - in persona Christi, in persona ecclesiae, an icon of Christ, the divinely appointed mediator in the pattern of the Mediator, etc., this is not a matter of secondary importance. No synod or jurisdiction has authority to change the received Tradition concerning Jesus Christ and his blood shed for the salvation of the world. C.S. Lewis is correct that when it comes to the Church's received Tradition, "We cannot shuffle or tamper so much."

Through Jesus Christ the eternal truth signified by the Priesthood comes into focus. He perfects atonement through His own shed blood. The Priesthood is necessarily tied to the blood of Jesus Christ. Where faith in the saving nature of His blood is denied, there can be no true Priesthood. A priest who denies the necessity of repentance and trust in Jesus' blood as the only means of atonement is a false priest.

This article may be freely posted to websites and blogs with full recognition as to its source. The article was originally published at Virtueonline in December 22, 2016 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Men at Altar, Women at Empty Tomb

Alice C. Linsley

A woman standing as priest at the altar distorts the Gospel and creates confusion. Form and gender matter. However, the issue from an anthropological perspective is about the distinction between the blood work of men and women. Among the people to whom God first delivered the promise of salvation (Gen. 3:15) the two were distinct and never permitted to be confused. The blood work of men pertained to war and hunting. Women did not participate in these. The blood work of women pertained to the monthly cycle and childbirth. During these women went to a place apart - a birthing hut or cave which men were not permitted to enter.

With men we have blood shed resulting in death. With women we have blood shed resulting in life. The bloodless sacrifice at the altar is about the death of Jesus Christ whose blood, as the Son of God, leads to purification, deliverance from sin and death, and eternal life - all brought to completion at the third day resurrection. 

Women were the first to be at the empty tomb.

Sunday, April 21, 2019


Glossary of Anthropological Terms

Affinity (Marriage) Bond: The type of kinship bond that links husband or wife, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law.

Ambilineal Descent: A form of cognatic descent in which individuals can select to trace descent either matrilineally or patrilineally. The decision may be made each generation based on the relative wealth and/or importance of the father's and the mother's family lines. Illustrated in this diagram:

Anthroponyms: personal names, some of which are actually titles, such as Lamech, Terah, and Enoch.

Apical Maternal Ancestors: Women founders of clans or tribes though they may not be biological ancestors to all the people in the clan/tribe. Sarah and Oholibamah are examples. See A Coptic Monk Reflects on Genesis.

Autochthonous: Referring to the earth origin of humans, as found in the myths of many cultures. The autochthomous origin of humans speaks of humans coming from or being made of the soil (humus), as in Genesis 2.

Avuncular: The term comes from the Latin avunculus, meaning "maternal uncle." The term describes the relationship between an uncle and his sister's son. Among the biblical Hebrew the maternal uncle sometimes exercised authority of his nephew. Jacob was sent to his mother's brother Laban when it looked as if his life might be in danger. In some case, the maternal uncle could deny marriage to his sister's daughters if the proposed marriage compromised inheritance or provoked violent reactions among the Hebrew clans.

Binary Oppositions: (also called “binary distinctions” or “binary sets") These are perceived in the order of nature and are inseparable and complementary, such as heaven/earth, east/west, life/death, male/female, night/day, hot/cold, etc. In the binary worldview of the Bible one entity in the set is superior to the other - the sun is greater than the moon; life is greater than death, the male is larger and stronger than the female, etc. Not all opposites are binary sets. See The Importance of Binary Distinctions

Binary Worldview: The worldview of the Afro-Arabians and therefore of Abraham's people is binary. They perceive in the order of nature binary oppositions which are inseparable and complementary, such as heaven/earth, life/death, male/female, etc. See Levi-Strauss and Jacques Derrida on Binary Oppositions

Blood anxiety:  Anthropologists have found in every primitive society that has been studied the belief that here is power in blood and this power is potentially dangerous. This anxiety about shed blood is universal (widely diffused), evidence that it is very old and one explanation for the development of the office of priest. See The Origins of the Priesthood.

Brachycephalic: Refers to broad-headed skulls, as contrasted with round "mesocephalic", and elongated "dolichocephalic" skulls.

Caste System:  Strict social stratification made it impossible to change one’s status in the ancient world. We see this in one of the oldest established religions, Hinduism. Castes were viewed as having been established by God in the beginning. In the Bhagavad Gita, a first century A.D. Hindu text, Krishna declares that he has become incarnate yet he was being in the beginning because he also declares “The four castes were created by me.” In the Rig Veda, dating to about 3000 years ago, four castes are mentioned. The most prestigious are the Brahmans (priestly and intellectual class); then the Kshatriyas (ruler and warrior class); then the Vaisyas (farmers and artisans) and the lowest caste are the Sudras (the “untouchables” whose ancestors came from Sudan.) In the Laws of Manu (about 250 B.C.) these castes are elaborated as the primeval divine creation. Many sub-castes exist under these, making it difficult to know who is one’s equal or one superior.

Circumcision: Removal of flesh from the foremost part of the penis or from the clitoris. Female circumcision parallels male circumcision and emphasizes the binary distinction between females and males. The practice reflects the binary worldview of the Afro-Asiatics and originated in west central Africa before the time of Abraham. Circumcision is seen as an enhancement of the woman’s femininity by the removal of what appears to be a male organ. It is also believed to enhance female fertility and purity. Likewise, male circumcision is believed to enhance maleness by removing the soft folding tissues that appear like the female organ. It is also believed to enhance male fertility and purity. The complement to the circumcised male is the circumcised female. See Circumcision and Binary Distinctions. Note: Trees are described as "uncircumcised" until the fourth year of their fruit bearing in Leviticus 19:33.

Concubine: A royal consort whose firstborn son could under limited circumstances ascend to the throne of his ruler father.  Concubinage historically pertains to African, Afro-Arabian, and Asian rulers. It was common in China under the Zhou Dynasty. This practice, and castration of husbands guilty of adultery, may have been introduced there by the Afro-Asiatics who made and used iron tools.

Consanguine Bond: The type of kinship bond that links people through socially recognized biological ties, such as mother, father, grandparents, children, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, and cousins.

Cosmology: The study of the origin and structure of the universe, its parts, elements, and laws. Among biblical populations, the arrangement of a home and/or a village often expressed that community's cosmological understanding. For example, the place of priority often was at the sacred center which is where the ruler would be seated or the ruler's house would be built. Temples were built with entrances facing the East because the Sun was the symbol of the Rising God. Temples were built with many pillars which were perceived to connect Heaven and Earth. See Cosmologies of the ancient Near East.

Cousin Bride’s Naming Prerogative: The ruler-priests of Abraham’s people married two wives. One was a cousin. The cousin bride was usually the second wife and she often named her first-born son after her father. So we find Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4), father of Naamah, and Lamech the Younger (Gen.5), son of Naamah. The cousin bride’s naming prerogative makes it possible to trace descent through the maternal line in the Bible. See Methuselah's Wife.

Diffusion: The process by which a cultural trait, material object, idea, or behavior pattern is spread from one society to another, often traceable to a central point. A principle of anthropology states that the wider the diffusion of a culture trait, the older the trait.

Dolichocephalic: Skulls that have been elongated such as this skull found in Russia. The dolichocephalic skull has an index of between 70-5.

Double descent: Descent traced according to tradition through both the patrilineal and the matrilineal group with attendant rights and obligations. Among the biblical Hebrew descent was double unilineal descent, which recognizes both the patrilineage and the matrilineage, though with each there are different expectations. For example, the inheritance of land and the right to rule may pertain only to the patrilineage, while the matrilineage controls the inheritance of moveable objects such as livestock.

Egalitarianism: Affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people. The ancient world of the women we are studying was decidedly NOT egalitarian. It was characterized by a caste system. The highest social caste consisted of rulers and their priests. Most of the women we read about in the Bible are the daughters or wives of rulers or priests and are therefore women of high social standing.

Ethnonyms: names of ethnic groups, clans, biblical populations or tribes.

Endogamous Marriage: Marriage to people within one’s family or clan structure. This practice is characteristic of castes such as the Horite ruler-priest caste. Almost without exception, the women named in the Bible married according to this pattern. See The Marriage and Ascendancy Pattern of Abraham's People

Exogamous Marriage: Marriage to people outside one’s clan structure. Exogamous marriage is extremely rare among the people mentioned in the Bible.

Feminist Hermeneutic: How Feminists interpret texts, generally through a Marxist lens. Feminist interpretations assume that men are responsible for the abuse and oppression of women worldwide. See The Paradox of Feminism.

Fictive Bond:  The type of bond between persons who are neither related by blood nor marriage, but whose relationship is arranged. Concubines were not regarded as wives.  Their bond to their masters was fictive and therefore more easily broken, as in the case of Hagar.

Haplogroup: A haplogroup is a genetic population of people who share a common paternal or maternal ancestor. Haplogroups are assigned letters of the alphabet, and additional number and letter combinations that represent slight mutations within the larger population group. All the peoples named in Genesis are in Y-chromosome Haplogroup R which includes Proto-Saharans, Nilotes, Middle Eastern, and Southern European populations.

Henotheism: Belief in one supreme creator with lesser assisting authorities or powers (baals). This "divine council" was reflected in the hierarchy of ruler-priests with the king or pharaoh as the supreme representative of God on earth. See Why Does Genesis Speak of Gods?

Holy Tradition: The dogma received from the Elders and faithfully passed from generation to generation concerning Jesus Messiah whose suffering and ultimate victory over sin and death was foretold. This dogma represents Reality centered in the divine person of Jesus Christ. Scripture and Holy Tradition agree that nothing exists outside of Christ. See What is Holy Tradition? 

Horites: Josephus calls the descendants of Abraham by Keturah "Horites" and quoting another ancient historian, speaks of them as "conquerors of Egypt and founders of the Assyrian Empire." Abraham's people were a Horite caste of Hebrew ruler-priests. They originated in the Nile Valley. The Horite Hebrew were devotees of Horus or Enki), called the "son of God" as he was conceived when his mother was divinely overshadowed (See Luke 1). The sun was the symbol of the Creator God among the biblical Horites. Some of their rulers are named in Genesis 36. The Horus name appears on Egyptian hieroglyphs at the beginning of dynastic civilization (c. 3300 BC). The oldest known Horite Hebrew shrine is Nekhen (3800 BC) on the Nile, across from its twin city Nekheb. Jews call their ancestors Horim, which is rendered "Horite" in English.

Isomorphism: An isomorphism is a map that shows a relationship between two properties, objects, operations, structures, or patterns. If isomorphism exists between two structures or entities, we call the two structures or entities isomorphic. Isomorphic entities are identical in the way they preserve properties. The term applies to patterns found in the Bible, especially to doublets with the same moral message: Noah as a drunken father who curses his offspring/descendant has an isomorphic relationship to Lot as a drunken father who becomes a cause of the curse of his descendants the Moabites and the Ammonites.

Levirate marriage:  Levirate marriage is extremely ancient practice in which the widow of the deceased brother marries one of his brothers. Levirate marriage is practiced by societies with a strong clan and caste structures in which exogamous marriage is forbidden. The practice is found among the cattle-herding Nuer and Dinka of the Nile. It also is found among the Igbo of southeastern Nigeria, and in the Punjab-Haryana region of Pakistan, and among peoples of Central Asia such as the Saka and Kushan. Such a marriage arrangement is intended to preserve the deceased husband's lineage and inheritance.

Marginalization:  The social process of becoming marginal to a group or being relegated to an unimportant or powerless position within a society. In the ancient world the caste system meant that most people had a sense of belonging and empowerment, at least within their caste. Among biblical populations marginalized people were mainly diseased (lepers), poor foreigners, or the mentally ill.

Matriarchy:  A social organization in which a female is the family or clan head with final say about family matters. In a true matriarchy, line of descent and rights of inheritance also must be traced through the female line. No true matriarchies are known to exist.

Matrilineal Descent:  Line of descent traced through mothers.

Matrimonial Moeity:  Exclusive marriage between two lines of descent, such as between the royal lines of Ham and Shem. Also probably between the royal red and black Nubians.

Matronym: A matronym is a component of a personal name that indicates maternal lineage.  An exaxmple is Jesus son of Mary. In Hebrew this is Y'shua ben Miriam, and in Arabic it is `Isa ibn Maryam. Another example is the matronymic name Hor, son of the virgin Hat-hor in Horite mythology.

Moiety: Referring to each of two social or ritual groups into which a people is divided, especially among Australian Aborigines, some American Indians, and the ancient red and black Nubians.

Moral Absolutism: The view that some actions are always morally wrong when judged against moral standards that are universally accepted. Universally, murder is regarded as morally wrong.

Moral Relativism: The claim that there are not universal standards whereby one can judge right and wrong, but instead one's judgment of right and wrong is relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances.

Mudras: Gestures that convey specific meanings within Buddhist and Hindu culture. They are used in daily life and, in a very stylized form, in temple dancing. This is a photo of a Hindu temple dancer taken around 1956. Her hands say, "My heart is aflame."

Necromancy: The occult practice of consulting the spirits of the dead through a medium.  King Saul tragically consulted the medium at Endor to communicate with the spirit of the deceased prophet Samuel.  See Anglicanism and Spiritualism.

Onomastics: The study of names, involving three areas of investigation: toponyms or place names; anthroponyms or personal names and titles, and ethnonyms or names of ethnic groups, clans or tribes.

Panmictic: Refers to unstructured (random-mating) populations.

Paternal Ancestors: Men regarded as the founders of clans or tribes even though they may not be biological ancestors to all the people in the clan/ tribe. Noah and Abraham are examples.

Patronym: A patronym is a component of a personal name based on the name of one's father, grandfather or a male ancestor. An example, found in Genesis 22:24, is the name of Nahor's son G-Ham (Gaham).  The G prefix indicates that this name is patronymic, meaning "a descendant of Ham."

Patriarchy: A social organization in which a ruling male is the family or clan head with final say about family matters. In a true patriarchy, line of descent and inheritance also must also be traced through the male line. Few true patriarchies are known to exist. Most are modified patriarchies. See The Social Structure of the Biblical Hebrew.

Patrilineal Descent: Line of descent traced through fathers. (Y-DNA)

Patrilineal Parallel Cousin:  First cousins who have related parents of the same sex; in other words, their mothers are sisters or their fathers are brothers. The rulers among Abraham’s people had two wives. One was a patrilineal parallel cousin and the other was commonly a half-sister. Keturah was Abraham's patrilineal cousin bride.

Phatic function: A phatic expression in linguistics is one whose only function is to perform a social task, as opposed to conveying information. The term was coined by anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski in 1900s. An example from the Bible is Ruth 2:6 where Boaz greets his workers with this phatic expression: "The Lord be with you."  The expression formalizes priest-initiated prayer in the Latin liturgy with the celebrant saying "The Lord be with you."  The phatic response of the congregants is traditionally "And with your spirit" to which the celebrant responds, "Let us pray."

Platonism: The philosophical view that abstract concepts exist independent of their names. The philosophy attributed to Plato that asserts ideal forms as an absolute and eternal reality of which earthly entities are mere reflections.  Plato may have borrowed this idea from the ancient Egyptians.  See Plato's Debt to Ancient Egypt

Polygyny: The practice of having more than one wife, originally the prerogative of rulers only. Later, men who aspired to high rank took more than one wife to show that they were wealthy, since only the wealthy could afford multiple wives. Many of the ruler-priests in the Bible married only two wives. One was a half-sister and the other was a cousin. Sarah was Abraham's half-sister, and Keturah was his patrilineal cousin wife.

Primogeniture: Among the biblical Hebrew the rights of primogeniture applied only to the first-born son of the first wife, the half-sister bride. This son assumed the rule of his father's territory and control of all property. Because the biblical Hebrew had a pattern of double unilineal descent, this son's wives and their servants were responsible for flocks, herds, tents, and other movable property while the ruler and his men controlled the territorial boundaries, enforced treaty agreements and secured their water rights.

Sororate marriage:  A custom in which a man marries his wife's sister(s).

Toponyms: Place names

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Received Tradition vs Special Revelation

Alice C. Linsley

Religious belief is conditioned by the faith tradition which we receive from our parents, grandparents and, if we believe Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, from our archaic ancestors. If Jung is right, those who embrace atheism must experience an inner struggle against the affirmations of God's Presence that their ancestors experienced.

I'm thinking of the Logical Positivists, who drawing on Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, were concerned exclusively with “atomic” facts that can be verified using strict logic and mathematical analysis. They rejected all truth claims that could not be reduced to atomic facts, and pushed aside ethics as a waste of intellectual energy. Most Logical Positivists were atheists, and sadly, many ended their own lives.

Ironically, the Messianic Faith has much more in common with prehistoric practices that are labeled "pagan." This may be an expression of the collective unconscious, since the farther back in history we go, the more likely we are to find common ancestors. Those ancestors received a religious tradition that involved hope of life after death and animal sacrifice.

The Häme region of Finland is known for its pagan history. It is reported that after being baptized by Catholic missionaries, some of the people there later repented of their baptism and washed it off in a lake where the shamans sacrificed animals. One wonders if the Catholic priests failed in their catechesis to point out that baptism into Jesus Messiah involves both water and blood, the two substances recognized as purifying agents by pagans.

Paul writes that we who are baptized into Christ "have been brought near in the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). We enter with boldness into the Most Holy Place "by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is His body..." (Hebrews 10:19, 20)

The Finnish writer, Jaakko Olkinuora, reports: "In western Finland, the Catholic Church was very strong before the Reformation, as was Lutheranism afterwards. Our region, however, still has its native pagan place names and stories about spirits and demons of the lakes. When I was a child my mother had a book of Finnish stories collected from the old people. They were all pagan: demons of the lake, demons of the forest. My father has two Finnish names, Seppo and Tapio, both names of Finnish gods." (Road to Emmaus, Vol. IX, No. 4, p. 33)

The familial tradition is so strong that elements of paganism continue for generations long after families convert to Christianity.

Americans are notorious consumers of religion and quickly embrace innovations.Yet we too are influenced by familial traditions. When asked about our church affiliation, especially if we are complacent about religion, we may say that we are Baptist, or Presbyterian, or Lutheran simply because our parents were. Or, we may say we are agnostics in reaction to religious parents whose devotion we reject. Either way, familial tradition exercises no small influence on our lives.

It seems that the tradition of our biological ancestors may predispose us to certain avenues and not to others. My family on both sides are mostly English and Scots. The religious milieu that I embrace is high-church Anglicanism, of a sort that someone raised in the Baptist Church or a Greek Orthodox family would not find comfortable.

We are not inclined to worship God in the same way. Nor are we inclined to agree on every point of theology. Nevertheless, there is an overarching Tradition upon which all who follow Jesus Messiah agree: that God has self-revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners. This is the unique claim of Christianity. To it we must add that this Tradition is received, not invented. The Messianic Faith has roots deep in the religious yearnings of archaic populations.

Traditional societies which revere the wisdom of the ancestors do not produce synthetic religions such as we find in Western societies. Synthetic religions are inventions that center on an individual's claim to special revelation. Consider the examples of L. Ron Hubbard and Joseph Smith. Scientology and the Mormons have cobbled together fantastic histories and seductive notions to establish new familial traditions that do not develop organically from the great religions of the world.

If we go back far in time, we find two religious traditions: one involving priests and the other involving shamans. While priests and shamans serve similar functions as mediators in their communities, they represent different and opposing worldviews. Underlying shamanism is the belief that powerful spirits 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 blood sacrifice.

Underlying the priesthood is belief in a God whose Spirit never lies. In this view, the world is held in balance by a Supreme Creator, and it is human actions that cause disharmony. The ancient laws governing priestly ceremonies, sacrifices, and ritual purity clarify the role of the priest as one who offers sacrifice according to sacred law. These laws are part of a received tradition preserved through the Habiru (Hebrew) priestly lines which extend deep into antiquity.

The Habiru looked for a Righteous Ruler who would overcome death and lead His people to immortality, and they did not look in vain. As Jesus told the religious leaders in Jerusalem, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." (John 8:56)

In the Anglican Way, Article XI reminds us: “Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises.” Indeed, the Fathers looked for the fulfillment of an expectation that their great grandfathers yearned to see fulfilled. They did not put their hope in a special revelation separated from the received Tradition.

Related reading: The Religious Impulse Among Archaic Populations; The Ra-Horus-Hathor Narrative; Righteous Rulers and the Resurrection; The Priesthood is About the Blood

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Cosmologies of the Ancient Near East

Great Hypostyle Hall within the Karnak temple complex

Alice C. Linsley

I am often asked to offer an opinion on the popular work of Dr. John Walton (Wheaton College) and will do so briefly in this post.

The Bible does not explicitly state how the biblical populations conceived of the cosmos. Indeed, there were various conceptions because there were many biblical populations ranging from Africa to Anatolia.

Additionally, scholars recognize that the conception of the cosmos changed over time. The one consistent theme is that heaven and earth are connected. This connection is expressed in the story of Jacob's ladder and Paul’s mystical experience of being taken to the third heaven. By Paul's time Jewish thinkers conceived of heaven as having seven tiers similar to the stepped temples of Babylon. Dr. Walton interprets the seven days of creation in this light. He focuses on this cultural context, which is not the context of Abraham and his ancestors.

Abraham's ancestors came from the Nile Valley where they held a different view of the cosmos. They conceived of the earth as a great pyramid shape mound (volcano?) that arose from the primordial sea. It was called Tatjanun. This refers to twin pillars TT in the water (nun). "For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s and he had set the world upon them." (I Samuel 2:8) In the Ugaritic creation story the two mounds are likewise indicated by the sign T. The mountains Trgzz and Trmg emerged from a universal ocean and held up the firmament.

It is misleading to generalize the cosmology of the Ancient Near East based on a single period and cultural context. Not all biblical populations viewed the earth as flat with a bowl like dome (raqiya or rakiya) above and another bowl beneath the earth (sheol, the pit).

I do a not believe that Abraham thought of the earth as flat. It is more likely that he was influenced by the Nilotic cosmology in which the Sun's east-west arc plays a central role. Among the Horite Hebrew (Abraham's people) the sun was the emblem of the Creator (Ra/Ani) and his son (Horus/Enki). The sun was believed to inseminate the earth and to overshadow those divinely appointed to rule. It rose and set, making a circuit.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows forth his handywork...Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof." Psalm 19:1-6

The temples that Abraham knew were pillared Sun Temples.

Also, in the Nilotic context sheol is not a spatial concept, such as the underworld, the pit, or hell, but a shadowy existence. The word sheol is derived from the ancient Egyptian word Sheut (šwt), meaning shadow. The Egyptians believed that something of the dead person continues as a shadow beyond the grave. Small statues or figurines of ancestors and deified rulers were painted black to portray their continued existence as shadows.

While I disagree with John Walton's conclusion that Genesis 1 reflects a seven-tiered Babylonian ziggurat, I believe his understanding of the cosmos as a celestial temple is correct. However, the temples that Abraham knew were pillared high places known as Sun Temples. These were the pattern for the temples built by the Horite Hebrew at Nekhen on the Nile (4000 BC) and the temple built by Solomon (c. 950 BC).

The twin pillars at the entrance to Solomon's temple (shown above) cast back to the Nilotic conception of the Earth (ki in Akkadian) as a pillared temple for the Sun. It may be that "ra-ki-ya" refers to the place above earth were the Creator Ra was thought to dwell. It certainly is related to the concept of vastness or an expanse (Ancient Egyptian rahbo - vast; Akkadian rabum, great, vast).

It was common for pillars to be inscribed in memory of righteous rulers and holy ancestors as stained glass windows in churches are dedicated to royal patrons and "pillars" of the congregation. The entrance pillars of Solomon's temple were called Boaz and Joktan. Boaz was Solomon's holy ancestor on his father's side and Joktan was a holy ancestor on his mother's side.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Hagar's Conversion

Painting of Hagar in the wilderness by Giovanni Lanfranco. It hangs in the Musée du Louvre.

Alice C. Linsley

Hagar was the Egyptian handmaiden to Sarah, Abraham’s sister wife. She was also one of Abraham’s concubines. Though she is presented as a downtrodden slave, it is likely that Hagar was highly cultured and moved comfortably in the circle of nobles.

As the Horite Hebrew clans practiced endogamy, it is likely that Hagar was the daughter of a Horite Hebrew priest, and as such, she would have been a skilled attendant to Sarah, and even as a concubine, she would have been a woman of high social status.

Sarah’s resentment toward Hagar appears to have had a long history. Some of the resentment may have been cultural. Sarah was from the region of Aram in Mesopotamia while Hagar is identified as an Egyptian. Sarah's resentment toward Hagar became blind jealousy after Isaac was weaned, when Ishmael was about 15 years old.

Genesis portrays Hagar as having a complex personality. In later life she is a strong and independent woman, contracting marriage for her son and apparently producing other offspring known as the Hagarites. They are mentioned in Psalm 83:6. The core of this psalm is believed to pre-date David. The Hagarites are distinct from the Ishmaelites in the Psalm 83 listing of allies, so it is apparent that Hagar (like Anah and Oholibamah) was regarded as a clan chief.

This picture of Hagar as a mature clan chief differs from the picture presented in Genesis 16:5 where we are told that Hagar acted tactlessly toward her childless mistress. Sarah blamed Abraham for this and Abraham said to Sarah: “Your slave-girl is at your disposal. Treat her as you think fit” (Genesis 16:6). Sarah then abused Hagar who fled to a spring where Abraham had lived for a time (Genesis 20:1). The Angel of the Lord found her at the spring and prophesied concerning her son that his name should be Ishmael meaning God Hearkens, for God heard the cry of Hagar's affliction.

This story portrays Hagar as a tactless, abused runaway, but note how she has a personal encounter with the Lord at the water shrine! She knows that she has encountered the all-Seeing God because she declares that she has gone on seeing, even as she is seen (Genesis 16:14). The Angel of the Lord speaks in the first-person, and in verse 13 Hagar identifies the visitor as God. To me, this sounds like a conversion story.

Given the times in which Hagar lived, she would have run to a place where she felt she could provide for her son. She traveled to a shrine half way between Kadesh and Bered (Genesis 16:14). In Genesis, when a water system is identified as being along a road between two towns, it is a shrine to which a priest is attached. It is likely that Hagar had family there. Since this was Horite Hebrew territory, an Egyptian priest (Harwa) at a water shrine would have been a Horite priest.

Horite territory extended north-south at least between Mount Hor (above Kadesh-barnea) and Mt. Harun or Hor south of Oboth. According to Genesis 14: 6, Horite territory extended as far south as the wilderness of Paran (see map).

A temple dedicated to Hathor, the mother of Horus was discovered at the southwestern edge of Mt. Timna by Professor Beno Rothenberg of Hebrew University. This is the site of some of the world's oldest copper mines.

Horite priests were devotees of Horus, who was called “Son of God.” From ancient Egyptian texts we gather that Horus is equal to the Father in nature and glory. The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts and Pyramid Texts provide a great deal of information about Horus, the divine son of Ra. This is expressed in the Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts. In the priest's prayer to the King, he says, "Horus is a soul and he recognizes his Father in you..." (Utterance 423).

In these texts Horus is described as the one who unites the peoples (the Upper and Lower Nile). This is symbolized by the double crown. The rulers of the two regions wore different crowns, but Horus was called "Horus of the Two Crowns" because he wore both. This is what stands behind the account of Yeshua/Joshua, the priest, receiving the "crowns" in Zechariah 6:11: "Take the silver and gold, and make crowns, and set it upon the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest..."

A reference to the third day resurrection is found in the Pyramid Texts: "Oh Horus, this hour of the morning, of this third day is come, when thou surely passeth on to heaven, together with the stars, the imperishable stars." (Utterance 667)

Consider how Horus describes himself in the Coffin Texts (148):
I am Horus, the great Falcon upon the ramparts of the house of him of the hidden name. My flight has reached the horizon. I have passed by the gods of Nut. I have gone further than the gods of old. Even the most ancient bird could not equal my very first flight. I have removed my place beyond the powers of Set, the foe of my father Osiris. No other god could do what I have done. I have brought the ways of eternity to the twilight of the morning. I am unique in my flight. My wrath will be turned against the enemy of my father Osiris and I will put him beneath my feet in my name of ‘Red Cloak’.

This text is about 1000 years older than the words of Psalm 110:1, a clear messianic reference: The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."

Horus was expected to trample down the serpent. This expectation is expressed int he Pyramid Texts:
"Horus has shattered (tbb, crushed) the mouth of the serpent with the sole of his foot (tbw)" Utterance 388 (681).

This reference dates to about 800 years before Psalm 91: ""They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down."

Horus gives himself as mystic food of immortality. In The Pyramid Texts, dating from the beginning of the 4th Dynasty, we read: "O Hunger, do not come for me; go to the Abyss, depart to the flood! I am satisfied, I am not hungry because of this kmhw-bread of Horus which I have eaten." (Utterance 338) The Egyptian word km means to bring to an end, to complete, or fulfill, and hw refers to the heavenly temple or mansion of the firmament above.

It appears that the "kmhw-bread of Horus" is what the Church Fathers call "the bread of immortality." Concerning himself, Jesus said that "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:53-54).

These are key elements of the Messianic Faith by which Messiah is identified.

Jesus Messiah is sometimes called “the Angel of the Lord.” Perhaps he met Hagar’s when she fled to the Horite shrine. Might Hagar's conversion be due to a personal encounter with the pre-incarnate Christ? 

This is how some Church Fathers see Hagar's visitation. He who is of one essence with the Father, “for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9) came into the world to save sinners like Hagar... like me.

Related reading: The Ra, Horus, Hathor Narrative; Righteous Rulers and the Resurrection; Hagar's Journeys