Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cain and Abel, Castor and Pollux, Romulus and Remus




Taken from: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/cain-and-abel-were-twins.html



Susan Burns, a regular reader of Just Genesis and a fellow member of Open Anthropology Cooperative, has written an interesting and informative piece on Cain and Abel. She and I agree that the textual evidence indicates that Cain and Abel were twins. Here is what Susan has written:


Genesis 4: Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "I have gotten a man with the help of YHWH". She again bare his brother Abel. The Hebrew word used for again (yasaph) is an adverb meaning to continue to do a thing. Yasaph implies that Eve gave birth to Cain and continued to do the same thing by giving birth to Abel. In other words, Cain and Abel were twins. The profession of Abel was shepherd and Cain was a farmer and city builder.


Coptic twins


The tradition of twins as the progenitors of tribal units or city builders is very well documented in Semitic and Indo-European cultures. When birth order is specified, the younger twin always receives the blessing over the first born brother. In the account of the sons of Adam, the first born twin is envious of the second and commits fratricide. There are many variations on this theme in other twin genesis accounts. Jacob is fearful that Esau will kill him, Romulus killed Remus and Gwyn and Gwythurin in Celtic tradition duel every May.



The Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux, shared a mortal and an immortal existence. Castor was killed on a cattle raid but Pollux persuaded Zeus to allow the brothers to switch places periodically. The word Gemini comes from the PIE root *ym which means 'to pair'. This word is very similar to the Hebrew im mimation suffix but, of course, linguists say they are unrelated (sigh).

....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Hey, Get Away from My Bible!" Christian Appropriation of a Jewish Bible




 


A few days ago I received the following email from an agnostic reader of this website. The email is copied here in its entirety, with the permission of the sender. The question is direct, profound, and has been a nagging companion of Christianity since its beginning.



Since the Hebrew Bible (that you call OT) was written by Jews for Jews, and that obviously a large number of Jews did not follow Christianity and its appropriation of the Hebrew Bible, why should we trust a Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Bible instead of a Jewish interpretation?



I take this question with utmost seriousness, as I think all Christians should. It gets at the heart of several perennial issues in Christian theology, perhaps most importantly the NT’s use of the OT, which shows us the NT authors at work in articulating their understanding of the “connection” between the gospel and Israel’s Scripture. As I see it, this is really the heart of the matter. So, to rephrase the question, “Why should the first Christians’ claims about the OT (and how the gospel connects with it) have any merit in view of the fact that Christianity did not really take hold with Jews living at the time?” To put it yet another way, “Why should the Christian appropriation of the Hebrew Bible have any persuasive power, given that a larger number of Jews—whose Bible it was—rejected it?”



The basic answer, which I will try expand below, is this: We trust the first Christians in their interpretation of the OT, not so much because of how they interpreted it but because of the one whom they were proclaiming in their interpretation. That may not make much sense. It may even sound a bit odd, so let me try to explain.



There are many, many ways of coming at this very big issue, but let us enter the discussion where the questioner, somewhat innocently, begins: the use of the term “Old Testament.”



The term “Old Testament” has been in use since the time of the first Christians, finding its roots in Paul’s words in 2 Cor 3:6. I only raise the point to underscore how very ancient such a term is. I admit I am (over?)reacting a bit here to the parenthetical comment used by the questioner “that you call OT,” and perhaps drawing undue attention to something he did not even intend. Still, I would not want anyone to be left with the impression that the use of “Old Testament” by Christians is something trendy or worse, driven by anti-Semitism (neither of which are implied by the question). It expresses the belief that what God did by raising Jesus of Nazareth from the dead is both “new” (i.e., not anticipated in the OT) while also being vitally connected to the “old” of Israel’s story. It is that latter point that the NT authors are at great pains to demonstrate.



Having said, that, however, I also feel that the term “Old Testament” has led to a lot of misuse and, ironically, functional dismissal of the OT by Christians. It is sometimes ignored as the “Jewish” part of the Bible, where “law” predominates over the “grace” of the NT. This is a common but unfortunate misunderstanding not only of the trajectory of the NT but the OT, too. With others, it has been not so much ignored but treated superficially and flattened out to make it comply more to the manner in which some Christians understand the gospel. The history of the church is replete with examples of both.



One way some Christian scholars have tried to correct this problem is to refer to the OT as the Hebrew Bible or the First Testament. What these designations do is to remind us that what for us today is part of our Bible was, for the first Christians, the entirety of their Bible—there was no “New Testament” when the NT authors wrote (duh), and it is highly unlikely that the NT authors were thinking as they wrote “Hey, I think I’ll add some books to our Bible.” Saying Hebrew Bible/First Testament encourages Christian readers today to allow this portion of our own Bible, which makes up about 3/4 to 4/5 of our Bible, to have its way with us—this is to say, to read it and, as followers of Christ, to be challenged by it as the NT writers themselves were (especially Paul). Only after our process of reorientation is completed can we really begin to engage the ways in which the NT authors handled their Bible, to appreciate with more nuance how they “appropriated” the Hebrew Bible, as our questioner puts it.



What such a self-reflective interpretive process allows contemporary readers to appreciate more fully is the tremendous amount of theological energy that was expended by the NT authors to align, so to speak, the Bible (what they referred to sometimes as “Scripture” or “the law and the prophets” or “the law, the prophets, and the psalms,” plus some other labels) with what they saw happening around them, what they experienced in the crucified and risen Messiah.



This last remark is a very important point, and it brings us closer to the central issue before us. The force behind the “appropriation” of the Hebrew Bible on the part of the NT writers was not a matter of “watch me convince you of my better way of handling the Bible,” as if it were some academic exercise. What drove the first Christians to appropriate the Hebrew Bible as they did was not simply an attempt to set up an alternative interpretive grid to compete with Jews of the day and to see who wins. What drove the first Christians to do what they did with the OT was their experience of the crucified and risen Son of God.



The first Christians handled their Bible in a way that helped them make sense of this astounding series of events surrounding the first Easter. This is important to understand. The foundation for what they did with the OT was what happened in Palestine in the opening decades of (what we call) the 1st century. In view of the climactic and incontestable event of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the first Christians were now pouring over their own Bible to understand how this new event could be understood in light of Israel’s ancient text, and, conversely, how Israel’s ancient text is now to be understood in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The question of biblical interpretation revolved around the resurrection of Christ. The complex, intricate, sometimes gripping, sometimes puzzling way in which the NT writers handled their Bible is anchored in the fundamental Christian conviction that Jesus is the gracious, amazing conclusion to Israel’s story.



It is very important to remember here that the first Christians were not blond haired Europeans, but Jews. To be sure, Gentiles made their way in soon enough (largely through the tireless missionary efforts of Paul), but the first Christians did not see themselves as beginning a new religion to be contrasted with “Judaism.” They saw themselves as being the true representatives of the climax of Israel’s story. They were, in their own minds, being faithful adherents to Israel’s drama, a drama that began many centuries earlier with Abraham and came to a head with God’s chosen Messiah, Jesus.



There is another ball we need to keep in the air as we address the question. We should not think of the Christian appropriation of the Hebrew Bible as diverting from the contemporary Jewish understanding, one that was more easily “connected” to the Bible. The Jewish handling of their own Scripture shows its own type of appropriation of the ancient texts. What do I mean by this?



The Hebrew Bible is a story that speaks of God’s purpose for his people, Israel, in being a special people to him, a people designed, so to speak, to embody what it means to be made in God’s image (think Genesis 1 here). They were to be so much God’s people that their example was to be contagious for all the nations around them, to be a “blessing” to them, as we read in Genesis 12:1-3. Long story short, the OT recounts an ongoing story of how Israel failed to embody this ideal and as a result experienced several series of downfalls, rejections, expulsions, etc.



Two of the more central evidences of God’s blessing to Israel were that they were to be in a land given to them by God, and that they were to have an unbroken line of kings (in the line of King David) rule over them. Israel’s greatest tragedy was when they were taken captive by the Babylonians around 587 BC and exiled to Babylon. When they returned about fifty years later, they had no king, no temple, and encountered various problems in taking back their land and recreating the glory days of the past.



Why is this important to the question? Hang with me.



Israel’s history after the return from Babylon in about 539 BC is well documented, not only in the Hebrew Bible (e.g., 1 and 2 Chronicles) but in other literature of the time, typically referred to as “Second Temple” literature. These texts were written after the completion of the second temple in 516, the first one having been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The second temple was destroyed in AD 70. Hence, that entire period is referred to today as the “Second Temple Period.” A lot was written during that time that helps us see what the Jews were thinking.



Mainly, we can see that they were coming to grips with what it meant to be the people of God in the absence of the ancient promises that demonstrated of God’s blessing.



Sure, they were back in the land, but the newly rebuilt temple was merely a shell of its former self. Plus, the intervening years of captivity introduced all sorts of religious and political drama. In short, their self-concept of what it means to be the people of God—a landed people ruled by a Davidic king over the other nations, not subject to them—was in considerable upheaval.



O.K., again, what does all this have to do with the question? This:



The Jews of Jesus’ day were reading their own Scripture in a way that was driven by these changing circumstances. Even though they came back to the land, they were never really free as they were before the exile. They were subject first to the Persians, then Greeks, and then Romans. They were not ruled by the Davidic king, who had a “torah under one arm and a sword in the other,” who would faithfully lead them as God’s pure people. They were in their own land, but they really weren’t—as long as they had foreign rulers telling them what to do in their own land that God had given them.



[Parenthetically, it may be a minor point, but I think the questioner is making a common error when he says that the Hebrew Bible was written “by Jews for Jews.” It was written by Israelites for Israelites. The difference between the two is significant, for Jews/Judaism is a term properly used to designate post-exilic developments in Israel’s self-understanding. In fact, the term itself owes much to Greek linguistic influence.]



Do you see the point? By the time we get to Jesus and the NT writers, Jews had already had a pretty long history of asking themselves, “In view of these dramatically changing circumstances, how do we connect to our own ancient texts?” To put the matter more pointedly, “How are we now the people of God, in view of all that has happened? Indeed, are we still the people of God? What does that even mean?”



It was the pressure of aligning Israel’s ancient past with present changing circumstances that led Second Temple Jews to do some pretty innovative “appropriation” of their own Bible, particularly since so much of the Hebrew Bible envisions a situation where Israel is the jewel of the nations, with a Davidic king ruling with righteousness and justice from Jerusalem, the center of the world, God’s city.



The first Christians were also Jews and they were engaged in another attempt at Jewish appropriation—although of a VERY different sort—since now one’s true identity as the people of God is centered not on what had been Israel’s defining markers, such as Torah, land, temple, and king, but in Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to bring all of these things, and more, to their proper focal point.



For the Jews, the result of such creative appropriation can be seen, as I mentioned above, in the Second Temple literature they produced. In fact, a struggle to appropriate the Bible in a way that addresses change has its roots within the Hebrew Bible itself, e.g., 1 and 2 Chronicles and many other places where it is clear that older traditions are being rethought at later times (a phenomenon referred to today as “inner-biblical exegesis”). This interpretive journey comes to fruition in the rabbinic literature, at least the names of which are known to most of us: the Mishnah and Talmud. The theological efforts were continued in later medieval “commentaries” on the Hebrew Bible, known as “Midrashim.”



The particulars of Jewish handling of their own Bible in view of changing circumstances is a fascinating, enriching, and challenging topic for Christians, but this is not the place to rehearse all of that. What is important here is the general point, that the failure of many Jews of the day to accept the Christian appropriation of the Hebrew Bible is not because they were sticking to the “real meaning” of the Hebrew Bible that the Christians were handling in such a wacky fashion.



A better way to think of is it is that there were two divergent groups of people who claimed to represent the true “next stage” of Israel’s history as God’s chosen people. For Jews, their answer was their continued attempts to articulate what it means to “be a Jew” in a world context that, simply put, their own Bibles left no room for—a people in diaspora, i.e., scattered, without a true homeland, without a fully implemented religious and political structure. For the other group of Jews—who only later came to include Gentiles and be called “Christians”—the final answer was found not in a more clever and competing way of handing their Bibles, but in their belief that now, in Jesus, God was giving a fresh definition to what it meant to be “the people of God.”



So, why should we today “trust” this “Christian appropriation” of the OT rather than that of the Jews of the day? Let’s rephrase the question. Why should we today trust a “Christ-centered” understanding of the Hebrew Bible rather than a “Judaism-centered” understanding.



I think this rephrasing of the issue puts the question is a much more helpful context, for to ”not trust” the “Christ-centered” understanding of the Hebrew Bible still leaves one with a choice to make: which “re-understanding,” which “appropriation” will you trust? There is no “neutral” appropriation out there waiting to be had.



The Christian answer, in brief, is:



“We handle the Bible the way we do because Jesus is raised from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection does not depend on how the first Christians handled the Bible. They handled the Bible the way they did because of Jesus’ resurrection. The Christian appropriation of the Hebrew Bible is to be trusted because Jesus is raised from the dead.”



This ancient choice is still operative today. Is Jesus raised from the dead or isn’t he? And if so, so what? These are the questions that the NT writers went to great lengths to discuss in the NT letters, especially Paul’s letters. How one answers that question will affect how one looks at any other.



I realize how counterintuitive and wholly unsatisfying an answer like this might be for some to the question raised at the outset. We might have expected a more “methodological” answer, i.e., Christian or Jewish appropriation is better because it handles the text more faithful to its original intention, or because it is more rigorous in its approach, etc., etc. The answer I am giving here, to subordinate the interpretive question of the appropriation of the Hebrew Bible to the central historical question of the resurrection of Jesus, does not seem like a terribly persuasive angle to take. After all, how could this have possibly been understood as persuasive to the 1st century Jewish audience, if they were expected to accept a Christ-centered handling of their own Bible when it was precisely the acceptance of Christ that was such a stumbling block (to use Paul’s phrase)?



These are also very important, perennial questions—in fact, there are several more that come up in contemporary debates about how to understand how the first Christians understood the “connection” between the Good News of Jesus Christ and Israel’s story. Those questions will continue to be addressed by Christian thinkers, questions the precipitating email question only begins to hint at.



Still, these continued complexities aside, the manner in which the first Christians appropriated the Hebrew Bible forces us to consider now, as then, a more basic question, which is, as Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” All other questions of Christian religious meaning, including the Christian appropriation of its own Bible, are subsumed under that fundamental question. I am as modern/Western a thinker as the next person, and I appreciate the degree of cognitive dissonance that this may produce. But, the rule of the resurrected Messiah creates all sorts of cognitive dissonance for modern people—as it did for ancient people—the interpretive question being only one of them.



This leads to a final, and perhaps even more counterintuitive, observation. The ultimate demonstration of the persuasiveness of the Christ-centered climax to Israel’s story may be much more than a matter of how Christians interpret their Bible. It may be in how those who claim to follow the risen Christ embody his resurrection in what they say, think, and do—but that is a whole other area of discussion.



So, to repeat, the question asked of me is fundamental, far-reaching, and of central importance. What I have offered here is admittedly a rough sketch of what I think are some central issues to be considered that, perhaps, provides more of a reorientation of the kinds of questions we should be asking than an answer itself. But, as I see it, that is precisely what is needed, for agnostics and Christians alike.


....

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Irish Hero Dagda and Samson



[The AMAIC does not necessarily agree with every detail of this useful article]




Taken from: http://britam.org/dagda.html


Contents:


Introduction: Irish Mythology and the Bible


Dagda and Samson.


Summary of Samson adapted from Wikipedia article: "Samson"


Parallels Between Dagda and Samson.


Sexual Prowess and Exchange of Favors


More Examples.


The Name Dagda from Dagon!


Parallels Samson -Dagda.


Some Sources.



Introduction:

Irish Mythology and the Bible

Irish Mythology frequently contains details that have since been proven true by archaeological findings.

For instance, an old Irish myth, "the Marriage of Etain" says that King Eochaidh Airemh made the clans of Tethba build a causeway across the bog of Lemrach. In 1985 in Longford, Ireland, were uncovered 1000 yards of remains from a roadway dating back to ca. 150 BCE. It was found in the place where the legend said it would be.

[Source: "The Celtic Empire. The First Millenium of Celtic History 1000 BC - AD 51" by Peter Berresford Ellis, UK, 1990, p.15].

Irish Legends on occasion recall Biblical precedents and the impression is that the similarities were not always due to later Christian influence.

Concerning parallels to Scripture in general we must also take into account the Hebrew original sources. We believe in the literal truth of the Bible.



To see our three articles on this subject:

The Literal Meaning of Prophecy.

http://britam.org/Questions/QuesLiteral.html



The Bible is inspired and was written down by Prophets and Sages guided by the Almighty. Together with this we must recognize that the Bible was written in the language of the people at the time of writing. Scripture incorporates local traditions. These traditions are undoubtedly the correct ones but that does not mean that other somewhat deviant accounts were also not in circulation. These were rejected from being included in the Canon of Scripture but would have continued in popular tradition. Much of the populace over large sections of Ancient Israel appear at times to have been effectually illiterate. They relied on oral traditions. We also know that they were heavily influenced by the peoples around them and in turn had influence over them. We are implying that parallels between Irish (and other) traditions) with the Bible may reflect the remembrance of alternate accounts. We also know that there is much that happened to Israel in ancient times that the Bible only hints at or ignores altogether.

Our recent study of the First Book of Kings brought up the case of King Ahab fighting alongside the King of Aram in a coalition of eleven local monarchs against the King of Assyrian and probably defeating him. The Bible does not mention this but we know of it through what may be deduced from an Assyrian inscription from the time of Shalmaneser-iii.

[For more details, See the Brit-Am commentary following 1-Kings 22:30].

http://www.britam.org/Kings/1Kings22.html



Irish Mythology in places on occasion derives from Biblical antecedents as found in Scripture itself and in oral traditions some of which were transmitted to us via Talmudic and Rabbinical Literature. This parallelism extents not only to details in the tales themselves but also to the psychology behind them.



The article below (unlike some of our other writings) unashamedly indulges in a great deal of speculation. Nevertheless we think there is something to what we are saying and that these ideas are worth considering. If perchance we are mistaken in this case then it should not reflect on our other writings. The article in itself is of interest and worth reading. Regardless as to whether or not the reader will agree with us we feel certain that he will have benefited from the information and be pleased with its presentation.



Dagda and Samson

One of the figures whom we consider to show Biblical parallels is Dagda, the giant good god, son of the goddess Dana. The brothers of Dagda were Ogma and Lugh though in some accounts they are ascribed different parents.



Several features of Dagda bring to mind the figure of Samson though parallels with other Biblical heroes also exist.



In Irish accounts the Tribe of Dana came from Lebanon and then from Greece and had fought there against the Philistines.

See:

Dan in Ireland and Wales.

http://www.britam.org/DanWales.html



The Tribe of Dana, Bile, and Dagda in Ireland

http://www.britam.org/DanWales.html#Dana



The son of Dana was Dagda. Dagda along with his brothers parallels aspects of Scripture especially those concerning the Hebrew judge Samson.

The story of Samson is found in the Book of Judges chapters 13 to 16

http://britam.org/judges/judges13.html



Summary of Samson adapted from Wikipedia article: "Samson"

The Israelites had been delivered "into the hand of the Philistines". An angel appears to Manoah, an Israelite from the tribe of Dan, in the city of Zorah, and to his wife, who had been unable to conceive. This angel proclaims that the couple will soon have a son who will begin to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines.[Manoah's wife (as well as the child himself) were to abstain from all alcoholic beverages, and her promised child was not to shave or cut his hair. He was to be a "Nazirite" from birth. After the angel returned, Manoah soon prepared a sacrifice, but the Messenger would only allow it to be for God, touching his staff to it, miraculously engulfing it in flames. The angel then ascended to heaven in the fire. When he becomes a young adult, Samson leaves the hills of his people to see the cities of the Philistines. While there, Samson falls in love with a Philistine woman from Timnah that, overcoming the objections of his parents who do not know that "it is of the Lord", he decides to marry her.On the way to ask for the woman's hand in marriage, Samson is attacked by an Asiatic Lion and simply grabs it and rips it apart, as the spirit of God moves upon him, divinely empowering him. He continues on to the Philistine's house, winning her hand in marriage. On his way to the wedding, Samson notices that bees have nested in the carcass of the lion and have made honey.He eats a handful of the honey and gives some to his parents.At the wedding-feast, Samson proposes that he tell a riddle to his thirty groomsmen (all Philistines); if they can solve it, he will give them thirty pieces of fine linen and garments.The riddle ("Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet") is a veiled account of his second encounter with the lion (at which only he was present). The Philistines are infuriated by the riddle.The thirty groomsmen tell Samson's new wife that they will burn her and her father's household if she does not discover the answer to the riddle and tell it to them. At the urgent and tearful imploring of his bride, Samson tells her the solution, and she tells it to the thirty groomsmen.

He flies into a rage and kills thirty Philistines of Ashkelon for their garments, which he gives his thirty groomsmen. Still in a rage, he returns to his father's house, and his bride is given to the best man as his wife. Her father refuses to allow him to see her, and wishes to give Samson the younger sister.[Samson attaches torches to the tails of three hundred foxes, leaving the panicked beasts to run through the fields of the Philistines, burning all in their wake.The Philistines find out why Samson burned their crops, and they burn Samson's wife and father-in-law to death. In revenge, Samson slaughters many more Philistines, smiting them "hip and thigh". Samson then takes refuge in a cave in the rock of Etam. An army of Philistines went up and demanded from 3000 men of Judah to deliver them Samson. With Samson's consent, they tie him with two new ropes and are about to hand him over to the Philistines when he breaks free. Using the jawbone of an ass, he slays one thousand Philistines. At the conclusion of Judges 15 it is said that "Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines". Later, Samson goes to Gaza, where he stays at a harlot's house. His enemies wait at the gate of the city to ambush him, but he rips the gate up and carries it to "the hill that is in front of Hebron".

He then falls in love with a woman, Delilah, at the Brook of Sorek.The Philistines approach Delilah and induce her (with 1100 silver coins each) to try to find the secret of Samson's strength.Samson, not wanting to reveal the secret, teases her, telling her that he will lose his strength should he be bound with fresh bowstrings.She does so while he sleeps, but when he wakes up he snaps the strings.She persists...Eventually Samson tells Delilah that he will lose his strength with the loss of his hair. Delilah calls for a servant to shave Samson's seven locks....Samson is captured by the Philistines, who stab out his eyes with their swords. After being blinded, Samson is brought to Gaza, imprisoned, and put to work grinding grain.

One day the Philistine leaders assemble in a temple for a religious sacrifice to Dagon, one of their most important deities, for having delivered Samson into their hands. They summon Samson so women and men gather on the roof to watch. Once inside the temple, Samson, his hair having grown long again, asks the servant who is leading him to the temple's central pillars if he may lean against them (referring to the pillars).

"Then Samson prayed to God, "remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes" (Judges 16:28)"."Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" (Judges 16:30). He pulled the two pillars together, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more as he died than while he lived." (Judges 16:30).

After his death, Samson's family recovers his body from the rubble and buries him near the tomb of his father Manoah.



Parallels Between Dagda and Samson

To my mind there are parallels between the Irish god Dagda and Samson. Dagda was a giant club-wielding deity of immense strength. He used a club and not of man -made weaponry while Samson wielded used the jaw of a donkey as a club and killed 1000 Philistines with it. Dagda was enormously strong like Samson. Dagda protected his people mainly through individual feats of strength like Samson versus other heroes who inspired the people to action and lead armies. Dagda however also led armies and participated in mass battles in one of which he was killed.



#Tales depict the Dagda as a figure of immense power, armed with a magic club and associated with a cauldron. The club was supposed to be able to kill nine men with one blow; but with the handle he could return the slain to life. The cauldron was known as the Undry and was said to be bottomless, from which no man left unsatisfied. He also possessed Daurdabla, also known as "the Four Angled Music", a richly ornamented magic harp made of oak which, when the Dagda played it, put the seasons in their correct order; other accounts tell of it being used to command the order of battle. He possessed two pigs, one of which was always growing whilst the other was always roasting, and ever-laden fruit trees. #



Here we have Dagda attributed characteristics associated with other Biblical figures. The cauldron reminds us of Elijah:

Elijah promised the widow who had given him her last morsel to eat:

[1-Kings 17:14] FOR THUS SAYS THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL: "THE BIN OF FLOUR SHALL NOT BE USED UP, NOR SHALL THE JAR OF OIL RUN DRY, UNTIL THE DAY THE LORD SENDS RAIN ON THE EARTH."



Dagda being able to revive the dead also recalls Elijah who revived from death the son of the same widow whom he had blessed with self-replenishing containers of flour and oil (1-Kings 17:22). Elishah the former pupil of Elijah performed a similar miracle to Elijah when he saved a woman from having to sell her two son into servitude. She had only one jar of oil left. Elishah told her to borrow utensils from her neighbors and pour the oil into them. All the vessels were filled and she was able to sell the oil and be freed from debt.



2-Kings 4:5 So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out.

6 Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, 'Bring me another vessel.'

And he said to her, 'There is not another vessel.' So the oil ceased.

7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, 'Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.'



Dagda revived the dead with the handle of his staff. Elishah is associated with a similar phenomenon.

Elishah blessed a woman who with her husband had provided him with lodging. The woman bore a son. The boy died in childhood and immediately the woman sent to Elishah to do something about it. Elishah gave his staff to his disciple Gehazi and told him to go to where the dead boy was lying and place the end of the staff on the boy's mouth. Gehazi did so but nothing happened. Meanwhile the woman had importuned Elishah to come himself. Elishah went in to where the boy was and managed to revive him.



2-Kings 4:32 When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed. 33 He went in therefore, shut the door behind the two of them, and prayed to the LORD.

34 And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the child, and the flesh of the child became warm.

35 He returned and walked back and forth in the house, and again went up and stretched himself out on him; then the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.

36 And he called Gehazi and said, 'Call this Shunammite woman.' So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, 'Pick up your son.'

37 So she went in, fell at his feet, and bowed to the ground; then she picked up her son and went out.



The harp of Dagda reminds us of King David. David was chosen to attend King Saul at his court due to his skill with the harp and the soothing effect his music induced:

[I-Samuel 16:16] "Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp. And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well."

[I-Samuel 16:17] So Saul said to his servants, "Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me."

[I-Samuel 16:18] Then one of the servants answered and said, "Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the LORD is with him."?



Not only Dagda but the Irish in general became associated with the harp which became the semi-official symbol of Ireland.

Vincenzio Galilei (father of the famous astronomer Galileo) in "Dialogo della Musica Antica" (1581 CE) commented on the Irish harp:

"This most ancient instrument was brought to us from Ireland where such are most excellently worked... and they paint and engrave it on their public and private buildings and on their hill: stating as their reason for so doing that they have descended from the Royal Prophet David."



As for the two pigs Dagda possessed, this was a later development. Irish tradition is full of pigs and swine. The curing of ham and the rearing of pigs was an important aspect of Celtic culture on the Continent. Even so according to LOUIS HYMAN ("The Jews of Ireland", Jerusalem, Israel, 1972, p.1):



"It is stated in very old copies of The Book of Invasions and other ancient documents that it was the Mosaic law that the Milesians brought into Errin [i.e. Ireland] at their coming; that it had been learned and received from Moses in Egypt by Cae Cain Beathach , who was himself an Israelite..."

see Various Traditions no.12.

http://britam.org/traditions12.html



It may be that some of the exiled Israelite Tribes did continue for a time to keep the Hebraic Laws concerning forbidden foods. We know that in Scotland up unto a few centuries back widespread food taboos existed dating from pre-Christian times that overlapped Mosaic injunctions and swine was forbidden in many communities.

See:

"The Food Taboos of Old Scotland. The Law of Moses and of Caledonia"

http://www.britam.org/foodtaboos.html



Sexual Prowess and Exchange of Favors

Samson and Dagda may have shared a feature that nice people prefer not to speak about.

# Despite his great power and prestige, the Dagda is sometimes depicted as oafish and crude, even comical, wearing a short, rough tunic that barely covers his rump, dragging his great penis on the ground. #

Pictures of Dagda with his great penis have been found. Images of a giant bearing a club and with a huge penis in Britain and on the Continent are thought to represent Dagda. Size may not make much of a difference in reality but in popular imagination it does and that is what creates mythology. The Dagda, at least in common imagery, would have been seen as possessing exceptional sexual prowess.



Samson was also known for his powers in this region.

The Bible describes three sexual liaisons Samson conducted with Philistine women.

After he was captured and blinded he was put to work grinding.

[Judges 16: 21] Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison.

In Hebrew the word used for "grind" can also have sexual connotations,



[Job 31:10] Then let my wife grind for another, And let others bow down over her.



Do not misunderstand or misinterpret what we are saying. The Bible says that Samson was set to grinding and that means he was set to pushing a grinding stone in the processing of grain. The word used for grinding however has a double meaning and there were Sages who suggested that this additional meaning was also intended.

There existed a tradition concerning Samson quoted by the Radak,

# Each one of the Philistine would bring his wife to Samson so that she might get pregnant from him #



Dagda used his sexual powers to extract information.

# His lover was Boann and his daughter was Breg. Prior to the battle with the Fomorians, he coupled with the goddess of war, the Morrogan, on Samhain in exchange for a plan of battle.#

Samson did not receive but gave secrets to his women folk after coitus.

Nevertheless the plot is similar.

His first wife extracted the secret of honey in the carcase of a dead lion from him.

Later Delilah got from him the secret of his power coming from his hair.



Concerning his first wife we are told,

Judges 14:17 Now she had wept on him the seven days while their feast lasted. And it happened on the seventh day that he told her, because she pressed him so much. Then she explained the riddle to the sons of her people.

# she pressed him so much. She would pressure him and refuse herself to him, and so on. # (Metsudat David).



Concerning Delilah we hear:

[Judges 16:16] And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death,

# his soul was vexed to death. The Sages (Sotah 9b) said that Scripture expressed itself in euphemisms. She would slip out from underneath when they were having intercourse.# (Radak).



The Bible described things as they happened. The figure of Dagda may have been derived in part from that of Samson but since he was deified it would not be seemly to have him looking like a fool ruled by that particular portion of his anatomy. They therefore kept the story but switched the roles. Instead of Dagda being confounded by his need for sex he became the one who gained advantage by bestowing it.



More Examples

# The Dagda is a father-figure (he is also known as Eochaid Ollathair, or "All-father") and a protector of the tribe. In some texts his father is Elatha, in others his mother is Ethlinn.



In Hebrew "Elatha" would connote "the goddess".



Ogma the brother of Dagda was also known for feats of strength and has aspects of Samson.

# His father is Elatha and his mother is usually given as Ethliu, sometimes as Etain.#

Samson took refuge in a cave in the rock of Etam. Etham and Etain could interchange since a final "m" became an "n" and the place of refuge became the mother's womb or "rechem" in Hebrew meaning both "womb" and "source of mercy".



# The Dagda had an affair with Boann, wife of Nechtan. In order to hide their affair, Dagda made the sun stand still for nine months; therefore their son, Aengus, was conceived, gestated and born in one day. #



The sun standing still is associated with Joshua who made the sun stand for a full day. We shall see below that the name Dagda probably originally derived from the Hebrew word "dag" meaning "fish". Joshua son of Nun in Hebrew Mythology was also linked with a fish. Nun, the father of Joshua, has a name which in Aramaic also means "fish". Different legends said that Joshua was once swallowed by a fish (as happened to Jonah) etc.



Dagda and a Play on Words

# Whilst Aengus was away the Dagda shared out his land among his children, but Aengus returned to discover that nothing had been saved for him. Under the guidance of Lugh Aengus later tricked his father out of his home at the Bru na Boinne (Newgrange). Aengus was instructed to ask his father if he could live in the Bru for a day and a night, and the Dagda agreed. But Irish has no indefinite article, so "a day and a night" is the same as "day and night", which covers all time, and so Aengus took possession of the Bru permanently. In "The Wooing of Etain", on the other hand, Aengus uses the same ploy to trick Elcmar out of Bruna Boinne, with the Dagda's connivance. #



Here we see Daga tricked by his son through a play on words. This may be compared to the Riddles of Samson.



Ogma the brother of Dagda invented the Ogham script.



The Sun-Face of Ogma and the Name of Samson

# By virtue of his battle prowess and invention of Ogham, he is compared with Ogmios, a Gaulish deity associated with eloquence and equated with Herakles. J. A. MacCulloch compares Ogma's epithet grianainech (sun-face) with Lucian's description of the "smiling face" of Ogmios. #



The figure of Herakles (Hercules) was derived from Samson. Ogma was parallel to Hercules. The name Samson in Hebrew may connote "strength of the sun" (Samas-on) and at all events is based on the root SheMeSh meaning sun. We see that Ogma was also referred to as "face of the sun".



Ogma in Gaul was known as Ogmios.

Wikipedia: Ogmios

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogmios

# Ogmios was a Gallic deity, who Lucian records was depicted as a bald old man with a bow and club leading an apparently happy band of men with chains attached to their ears from his tongue. This is thought by some scholars to be a metaphor for eloquence, possibly related to bardic practices. Lucian records that the Gauls associated him with Hercules. ##

The baldness of Ogmios is contradistinct to the long hair of Samson but Samson had his hair shorn and then was put in chains.





The Name Dagda from Dagon!

The name Dagda is said to be derived from Old Irish: dag dia; [Irish: dea-Dia] meaning "good god".

The Philistine god Dagon is described as depicted as a kind of male mermaid with the lower half of his body shaped like a fish.

In Hebrew "dag" means "fish" and thus we have "dagon" implying fish-like. Othniel Margalit ("The Sea Peoples in the Bible" Hebrew, 1988) suggests that Dagon was later equated with either Zeus (i.e. Baal) the chief god or with Apollo (a sun god) or with them both.

The Tribe of Dan neighbored the Philistines, intermarried with them, fought against them, and perhaps also with them.

Samson the hero-judge came from the Tribe of Dan. Samson died by destroying the Temple of Dagon. It could however be that due to Danites coming to worship Dagon they re-named Samson in his honor. Later the name Dagon (or however the Philistines and Danites actually pronounced it) was slightly altered (as was the custom in the use of foreign names) to have pertinent meaning in local Irish, Dag or Dagon was modified to Dagda.



Parallels Samson -Dagda

Samson was the hero from the Tribe of Dan: Dagda was the son of Dana mother of the Tribe of Dana.

Both had immense strength.

Samson used the jaw of a donkey as a club; Dagda used a club.

Both acted more or less independently as individuals protecting their people.

Both were known for their unusual sexual potency.

Samson sold his secrets for sexual favors; Dagda obtained information by bestowing sexual favor.

Both were known for their use of riddles and plays on words.

Samson was linked with the power of the sun; Ogmios (Ogma) brother of Dagda was nicknamed "Face of the Sun".

Samson may have been later identified with Dagon (Apollo) and the name Dagda may be derived from Dagon.



The parallelism between Dagda and Samson needs to be considered in the light of additional evidence indicating that the Ancient Irish (and related peoples)

to a significant degree were the physical descendants of Israelite Tribes who had lost their identity yet still retained vague traditions carried over from when they had been in the Land of Israel before their exile.



Some Sources

The Dagda





"The Dagda, Father God of Ireland'

by Patti Wigington



See also:

Dan in Ireland and Wales.





Articles on the Tribe of Dan.



For articles on the Hebraic Connections of Greek Mythology, see:

"Helleno-Yishurin. The Hebrew Origin of Greek Legends"







Monday, July 9, 2012

The Biblical Imagery of Dryden's "Absalom And Achitophel"




Lain, Yahoo! Contributor Network

Apr 20, 2011 "Share your voice on Yahoo! websites. Start Here."

Taken from : http://voices.yahoo.com/the-biblical-imagery-drydens-absalom-achitophel-3841912.html

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Dryden's "Absalom and Achitophel" is famous for its biblical context, although it is technically a political poem. More specifically, Dryden uses biblical allegory and reference in order to make a statement about the politics and politicians of his time (i.e Charles II). Because of the Bible's far reaching influence in the Christian European world, it was easy for poets and writers like Dryden to use it in order to spread their political or social ideals (Michael, 1996). The Bible set an easily recognizable and relatable stage, and Dryden used this to his advantage in "Absalom and Achitophel." From the very opening passages of the poem we see allusions being made to God, Eden, and Israel.

The opening passages of this epic poem set David, the king, at a God-like state, saying "Then Israel's monarch after Heaven's own heart,/ His vigorous warmth did variously impart/ To wives and slaves; and, wide as his command,/ Scattered his Maker's image through the land" (Dryden, 2004, 7-10). This passage relates David to God in the way that he is able to create life. Just as God created life in Eden with Adam and Eve, David created life in Israel through polygamy. Although this may sound extravagant to the modern reader, one must pull from this relationship the irony in it as well. David is meant to be seen as high up and God-like, but not God himself. His actions are not without flaw, and this becomes clearer as the poem continues. At the beginning of the poem, this realization that David is not a God himself is still blurred, especially with the introduction of Absalom, his son.



In the relationship between Absalom and David we see one of the clearest and most blatant forms of biblical imagery. In David's creation of Absalom his is immensely proud. He is described as a doting father, indulgent; which shows a pride in his creation that is rivaled by the connection between God and Adam in the Bible. Dryden



seems to use biblical references to draw these comparisons between David and God, and Absalom and Adam often. This same comparison can even be seen in the way in which David provides for his son. David gives Absalom everything, even an Eve (i.e. Anabel), the poem states "To all his wishes nothing he denied;/ And made the charming Annabel his bride" (Dryden, 2004, 33-34). Yet, in David's indulgence we begin to see a flaw. As in the Garden of Eden, or Adam character (Absalom) is tempted, and David who sees only the good and precious in his son Absalom misses this temptation. Thus enters the second largest biblical image in "Absalom and Achitophel," the image of the Serpent, Satan.



Achitophel is characterized in this poem as being persuasive and smooth talking. He makes references to the messiah, the savior, and tries to make Absalom believe that this role belongs to him (Absalom). In Achitophel's speech to Absalom come some very familiar and vivid images from the bible. First Achitophel refers to Absaloms nativity, like the nativity of Christ to be marked by a royal planet, an astrological sign for the birth of Christ, yet an incorrect one for Absalom to be the true messiah. This of course, escapes Absalom's notice. Secondly, Achitophel states "Their cloudy pillar and their guardian fire:/ Their second Moses, whose extended wand/ Divides the seas, and shows the promised land;/ Whose dawning day in every distant age/ Has exercised the sacred prophet's rage (Dryden, 2004, 233-237). These three images were taken from the Bible, and are were signs sent by God to his people. Because of the prominence of these signs, and the well known script of the Bible, these are not only strong signs for Absalom, but for the readers of Dryden's piece as well. They are meant to convince the naïve Absalom of the legitimacy of his place on the throne, and as his country's messiah. Achitophel also goes on to relate David, Absalom's father, to Satan. All the while, the reader seems to pick up on Achitophel as the deceiver, the serpent; while Absalom does not. Instead he hears Achitophel refer to David as a fallen prince. "But, like the Prince of Angels, from his height,/ Comes tumbling downward with diminished light" (Dryden, 2004, 273-274). This quotation alludes to the fallen angel Satan, and further contrasts the David and Achitophel. Since the reader knows that David is a good man, a good king, yet a doting father, we see the flaws in David as fatherly flaws, and as such this statement seems to relate to us that Achitophel is the allusion of Satan. Yet to Absalom, who is naïve, and gullible, Achitophel comes off more like the smooth talking and persuasive snake of the Garden of Eden, hence Satan. Thus the allusion of Satan versus God, or David versus Achitophel is strengthened.



Furthermore, the contrast between Achitophel an David by the aforementioned statement creates a stronger and more vivid picture of Absalom as Adam, tempted by the words of Satan (Achitophel), and the fall of God (David), as the central figure in Adam's life. While we, as readers, know that Adam was wrong in turning from the word of God, Adam was tricked by the smooth talking serpent Satan, and condemned to hard life on earth; Absalom seem oblivious to the deception taking place. Additionally, the defamatory words of Achitophel are blasphemous to the God-like figure of David, further setting apart the two characters in the poem.



Departing from the imagery of Eden, Dryden uses images from the story of Samson to describe David in the time after Achitophel surfaces and deceives Absalom into following his ways. David is related to Samson in that he is hinted to be without followers and friends, and yet like Samson of Bible, he is powerful beyond words. While Absalom is deceived by Achitophel to believe he is the true hero, David is the one behind the scenes, like God and Samson, making things happen. Dryden writes, "If my young Samson will pretend a call/ To shake the column, let him share the fall" (Dryden, 2004, 955-956). Like Samson in the Bible, this quotation signals the final defeat of Achitophel and a victory for David, who is the true Samson, or the true God, in the poem. The quote



also seems to hint that Absalom is the false messiah, the false Samson, if you will, as Dryden uses the term "pretend" rather than a more solid word. Ultimately, David overcomes the evil that is Achitophel, and comes to win back the power that he lost through the errors of his fatherhood (i.e. being overly doting and refusing to see the faults of his son Absalom). This reaffirms the power of the ruler, of God; and put back into place the people who were straying dangerously far from him.



In the end Absalom and Achitophel, although an allegory for the politics of Dryden's time, tells of the story of God versus Satan, and the trials and tribulations of God and his people in that fight. Absalom is the naïve people; tempted, deceived, by Satan; while David is the king, God, who suffers through the blasphemy and perseveres to



conquer evil and restore and reclaim his throne and place in the hearts of his people. The use of biblical imagery and allusions allowed for Dryden to present a clearer and more relatable picture to the people of his time. Additionally, it added a more poetic aspect to this epic piece with the ambiguity of images and references which allowed Dryden to speak of Charles II and his kingdom without directly doing so.



References



Austin, Michael. "Saul and the Social Contract: Constructions of 1 Samuel 8-11 in Cowley's 'Davidelis' and Defoe's 'Jure Divino'." Southern Illinois University. (1996).



Dryden, John. "Absalom and Achitophel." Kessinger Publishing. (2004).



Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The History of Salvation




Monsignor Dan Deutsch



This enlightening talk traces the high adventure of God's Divine Love Story revealed through the seven covenants that span from Eden to Calvary, beginning with Adam and culminating with Jesus. This presentation is the fruit of Monsignor Deutsch's studies during his sabbatical at Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he learned from scholars such as Dr. Scott Hahn and Dr. John Bergsma.

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Taken from: http://www.lighthousecatholicmedia.org/store/title/the-history-of-salvation-1



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