Saturday, December 24, 2011

Genesis and the True Meaning of Christmas

Alice C. Linsley

In Genesis 22 we read of the "binding of Isaac" in which Abraham demonstrates his conviction that the resurrection of the body is a reality. Abraham's beliefs about resurrection would have corresponded to those of his Nilotic ancestors. He lived long before the rabbis began speculating about existence after death. By Jesus' time, a faction had arisen among the Jews that rejected faith in the resurrection of the dead.  These had broken faith with their Nilotic ancestors who believed in the resurrection, and carefully preserved the bodies of their dead.

The Genesis 22 story is not about child sacrifice because that practice developed about 1200 years after Abraham. We find it condemned in the Prophets of the 8th and 7th centuries before Christ.  Here are examples:

"They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind." (Jeremiah 7:31)

"I also gave them (the Israelites) over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by; I let them become defiled through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn —that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD." (Ezekiel 20:25,26)

Micah asks this, "With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" (Micah 6:6-7).
Jeremiah was influenced by the Deuteronomists who sought to strengthen Israel's land claim. This influence can be seen in the parallel use of language found in both Deuteronomy and Jeremiah.

"There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire,… all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you." (Deut.18:10-12) Here child sacrifice is made a provocation for driving out the peoples living in the land.

Child Sacrifice as Appeasement

If Abraham didn't practice human sacrifice, from whom did this come?  Human sacrifices were performed among the Aryans and the Greeks whose idea it was that the gods must be appeased to gain their favor. This is contrary to the Horite conception of God.  In their view, God could never be appeased.  Man is guilty of every offense against the Creator so every human deserves to die.  Life was redeemed by the shedding of the blood of an animal.  Animal sacrifice originated in the Nile Valley among Abraham's ancestors.

If Abraham's Horite people didn't practice human sacrifice, what is the point of this story? The usual explanation is that God was “testing” Abraham. If so what is the nature of the test? Is this a test of Abraham’s devotion to God as the rabbis teach, or a test of Abraham's belief in the resurrection of the promised son? Why would the sacrifice of Abraham's promised son (Gen. 15:6) be made the test unless it speaks of the sacrifice of God’s promised Son?

Isaac was the promised son and Abraham believed God's promise that Isaac would be his heir. That is why Abraham confidently declared to his servants: "Wait here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." (Gen. 22:5)

Reflecting on Abraham's justifying trust in God's promise, the Apostle Paul reminds the Christians in Rome that "Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Rom. 4:3)

Again we are told that Abraham believed God when he saw the ram caught in the thicket by its horns. Abraham believed and called that place "The Lord Will Provide" (Gen. 22:14). Here we find a clue as to what Abraham believed.  He believed that God provides the Ram. Horus was sometimes shown with a ram's head, signifying his maturity, having grown in strength from lamb to ram. This image is found at the Temple of Horus at Edfu, 70 miles south of Luxor. 

Horus shown with falcon head (left) and with ram's head (right)

Abraham’s Horite people believed that a woman of their ruler-priest lines would bring forth the son of God. They called the promised Son Hor (Horus in Greek). The Horites were a caste of ruler-priests who were devotees of Hor. He was said to rise with the morning sun as a lamb and to set in the evening as a ram, mature and of full strength.

Isaac asked his father, "Here is the wood for the fire, but where is the lamb?" Abraham responded that God Himself would provide the lamb, but as the story goes, God provided a ram. The sacrifice of Isaac looked forward to a greater sacrifice, and is a prophetic foreshadowing of the eschatological event of Christ, an event that Abraham anticipated. This is why Jesus said to the rulers of Israel, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

What did the Ram’s appearing mean to Abraham the Horite? As the west is the direction of the future, he would have recognized this as a message about a future event. He would have understood that his son, though miraculously born and of the Horite lines, was not the one who’s appearing the Horites anticipated. He was not the one who would rise from the dead on the third day. 

The Horites believed in the resurrection, but this fact has been surpressed by rabbinic teaching which reflects the dominance of the Sadducees who rejected the faith of their Horim (Horite ancestors).

In God's economy, which always gets the order of things right, the shepherds of Bethlehem were the first to receive the news of the birth of the Son of God. The Horite ruler-priests were also shepherds and Bethlehem was a Horite town, according to I Chronicles 4:4.

The faith of Abraham and the faith of the Apostles are one and the same. They stand on opposite sides of the event when the veil was torn asunder from top to bottom. Aristides wrote to the Emperor Antonius Pius (A.D. 138-161) what seems to have been an apology for the Faith of Christ: "He Himself is called the Son of God; and they teach of Him that He as God came down from heaven and took and put on Flesh of a Hebrew virgin" (see "Theol. Quartalschrift", T├╝bingen, 1892, p. 535).

Here is the true meaning of Christmas.  The Christ was born that through Him we might receive the resurrection unto eternal life.

Related reading:  Did Abraham Intend to Sacrifice Isaac?; Horite Expectation and the Star of Bethlehem;
Egypt in the Christmas Narrative; Jesus Christ's Resurrection in Genesis

1 comment:

Alice C. Linsley said...

By Jesus' time, however, the Sanhedrin was dominated by Sadducees. Their influence actually became greater after the destruction of the Temple. They relocated to Jamnia and the intensity of their animosity against Christ-followers increased. This is when many of the harshest claims about Jesus and Mary entered the Talmud.