Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Only when this question [of death] is answered can men truly celebrate and be free”

The Eucharist: Heart of the Church

The Wellspring of Life from the Side of the Lord, Opened in Loving Sacrifice

by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI

In all ages, and among all peoples, the ultimate aim of men in their festivals has been to open the door of death. For as long as it does not touch on this question, a festival remains superficial, mere entertainment to anesthetize oneself. Death is the ultimate question, and wherever it is bracketed out there can be no real answer. Only when this question is answered can men truly celebrate and be free. The Christian feast, the Eucharist, plumbs the very depths of death. It is not just a matter of pious discourse and entertainment, of some kind of religious beautification, spreading a pious gloss on the world; it plumbs the very depths of existence, which it calls death, and strikes out an upward path to life, the life that overcomes death. And in this way the meaning of what we are trying to reflect on, in this meditation, becomes clear, what the tradition sums up in this sentence: The Eucharist is a sacrifice, the presentation of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.
Whenever we hear these words, inhibitions arise within us, and in all ages it has always been so. The question arises: When we talk about sacrifice, do we not do so on the basis of an unworthy picture of God, or at least a naive one? Does this not assume that we men should and could give something to God? Does this not show that we think of ourselves as equal partners with God, so to speak, who could barter one thing for another with Him: we give Him something so that He will give us something? Is this not to misapprehend the greatness of God, who has no need of our gifts, because He Himself is the giver of all gifts?
But, on the other hand, the question certainly does remain: Are we not all of us in debt to God, indeed, not merely debtors to Him but offenders against Him, since we are no longer simply in the position of owing Him our life and our existence but have now become guilty of offenses against Him? We cannot give Him anything, and in spite of that we cannot even simply assume that He will regard our guilt as being of no weight, that He will not take it seriously, that He will look on man as just a game, a toy.
It is to this very question that the Eucharist offers us an answer.
First of all, it says this to us: God Himself gives to us, that we may give in turn. The initiative in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ comes from God. In the first place it is He Himself who comes down to us: “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). Christ is not in the first instance a gift we men bring to an angry God; rather, the fact that He is there at all, living, suffering, loving, is the work of God’s love. He is the condescension of merciful love, who bows down to us; for us the Lord becomes a slave, as we saw in the previous meditation.
It is in this sense that, in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, we find the words in which grace calls out to us: “Be reconciled to God” (II Cor 5:20). Although we started the quarrel, although it is not God who owes us anything, but we Him, He comes to meet us, and in Christ He begs, as it were, for reconciliation. He brings to be in reality what the Lord is talking about in the story of the gifts in the Temple, where He says: “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt 5:23f). God, in Christ, has trodden this path before us; He has set out to meet us, His unreconciled children — He has left the temple of His glory and has gone out to reconcile us.
Yet we can already see the same thing if we look back to the beginning of the history of faith. Abraham, in the end, does not sacrifice anything he has prepared himself but offers the ram (the lamb) that has been offered to him by God. Thus, through this original sacrifice of Abraham a perspective opens up down the millennia; this lamb in the brambles that God gives him, so that he may offer it, is the first herald of that Lamb, Jesus Christ, who carries the crown of thorns of our guilt, who has come into the thorn bush of world history in order to give us something that we may give.
Anyone who correctly comprehends the story of Abraham cannot come to the same conclusion as Tilman Moser in his strange and dreadful book Poisoned by God; Moser reads here the evidence for a God who is as dreadful as poison, making our whole life bitter.3
Even when Abraham was still on his way, and as yet knew nothing of the mystery of the ram, he was able to say to Isaac, with trust in his heart: Deus providebit — God will take care of us. Because he knew this God, therefore, even in the dark night of his incomprehension he knew that He is a loving God; therefore, even then, when he found he could understand nothing, he could put his trust in Him and could know that the very one who seemed to be oppressing him truly loved him even then.
Only in thus going onward, so that his heart was opened up, so that he entered the abyss of trust and, in the dark night of the uncomprehended God, dared keep company with him, did he thereby become capable of accepting the ram, of understanding the God who gives to us that we may give. This Abraham, in any case, has something to say to all of us.
If we are only looking on from outside, if we only let God’s action wash over us from without and only insofar as it is directed toward us, then we will soon come to see God as a tyrant who plays about with the world. But the more we keep Him company, the more we trust in Him in the dark night of the uncomprehended God, the more we will become aware that that very God who seems to be tormenting us is the one who truly loves us, the one we can trust without reserve. The deeper we go down into the dark night of the uncomprehended God and trust in Him, the more we will discover Him and will find the love and the freedom that will carry us through any and every night.

Taken from:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Further Greek Borrowing From Book Of Tobit

Taken from:


.... some readers have found in Tobit similarities to still other pagan themes, such as the legend of Admetus.18 More convincing, I  believe,   however, are points of contact with classical Greek theater. Martin  Luther observed   similarities between Tobit and Greek comedy,19 but  one is even more   impressed by resemblances that the Book of Tobit bears to a  work of Greek tragedy—the Antigone of Sophocles. In both stories the  moral stature of the heroes  is chiefly exemplified in their bravely burying  the dead in the face of official prohibition and at the risk of official  punishment. In both cases a venerable   moral tradition is maintained against a  political tyranny destructive of piety.   That same Greek drama, moreover,  provides a further parallel to the blindness   of Tobit in the character of  blind Teiresias, himself also a man of an inner   moral vision important to the  theme of the play.
Bearing just as obvious a connection with non-biblical literature, I  believe,   is the demon Asmodeus (Tobit 3:8), who is doubtless to be identified,  on purely   morphological grounds, with Aeshma Daeva, a figure well known in  ancient Iranian   religion.20 Moreover, Tobit’s nephew Ahikar (1:22) is  certainly   identical with a literary character of the same name, time, place,  and circumstances, found in the Elephantine papyri from the late fifth century  B.C.21   In short, whatever may be the case relative to questions of  historical dependency, Tobit’s cultural contacts with the ancient world of  religion, philosophy,   and literature are numerous and varied.

Saint Jerome Had Noted The Resemblance Of Tobit To Homer's Odyssey

See our:
Was Homer’s “Odyssey” Based on the Hebrew Books of
Job and Tobit?


The Wide World of Tobit

The Apocrypha’s Tobit and Literary Tradition

by Patrick Henry Reardon

Tobit is a short book. Indeed, Jerome tells us that translating it into Latin cost him only “the labor of one day.”1 It should be remarked, however, that this small book belongs in a big world, with a rich and very wide cultural setting.
I like to think of the Book of Tobit as a kind of universal essay, in the sense that its author makes considerable effort to place his brief, rather simple narrative within a literary, historical, and moral universe of surprising breadth and diversity, extending through the Fertile Crescent and out both sides. To find comparable dimensions of such large cultural exposure among biblical authors, one would have to go to Ezekiel, Luke, or the narrator of Job.
It is the intention of the present article to indicate and outline several aspects of the Book of Tobit that join the work to other streams of literary history. These aspects, which include a fairly wide range of themes, images, and historical references, will serve to link Tobit to three bodies of literature in particular: the Bible; the larger world of Near and Middle Eastern religious philosophy, history, and literature; and the tradition of Christian exegesis down through the Latin Middle Ages.
Tobit and the Bible
The world of Tobit is, first of all, the world of biblical literature and history. Not only does the book provide an elaborate description of the religious deterioration of the Northern Kingdom in the eighth century, and then the deportation and consequent social conditions2 of those tribes after 722, but it explicitly quotes a prophet of that century, Amos, and makes reference (14:4) to the preaching of Jonah at Nineveh.3 Tobit thus presupposes the history narrated in Kings, Chronicles, and the eighth-century prophets.
Tobit’s explicit reference to Jonah is of considerable interest in the light of certain affinities between the two books. First and second, both stories take place about the same time (the eighth century) and both in Mesopotamia. Third, both accounts involve a journey. Fourth, the distressed Tobit, like Jonah, prays to die. Fifth and most strikingly, his son Tobias encounters a fish that attempts—with less success than Jonah’s fish—to swallow him! Finally, in each book the fish serves as a special instrument of Divine Providence.
Besides Jonah, Tobit shows several remarkable affinities to the Book of Job, some of which were noted rather early in Christian exegesis. For example, the title characters of both works shared a zeal for purity of life, almsgiving, and other deeds of charity (Job 1 and 31; Tobit 1–2), patient endurance of trials sent by God,4 a deep weariness of life itself (Job 7:15; Tobit 3:6), a final vindication by the Lord at the end of each book, and perhaps even a common hope of the resurrection.5 As early as Cyprian in the third century, it was also noted that both men were similarly mocked by wives unable to appreciate their virtue and faith in God.6
Moreover, the book’s description of long-suffering Sarah, whose seven husbands all died on their wedding night, carries on another major theme of Holy Scripture: the barren woman, of which the elder Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth are better known examples. Indeed, the mockery that the younger Sarah receives from her maids in this regard readily puts one in mind of Hagar’s attitude toward the older Sarah, as well as Peninnah’s unkind treatment of Hannah at the beginning of First Samuel.7
The moral teaching of Tobit is also of a piece with the covenantal ethics of the Bible generally. For example, its prohibition against marrying outsiders in 4:12f. reflects the strict view of Ezra and Nehemiah (and, down the road, 1 Corinthians 7).8 Then, in the very next verse is found the mandate about prompt payment of the laborer’s salary, which is clearly based on Leviticus 19:13 and Deuteronomy 24:14f. And so forth. The moral teaching of Tobit shows endless parallels with both the Torah and Israel’s Wisdom tradition, and its solicitude for social justice and service is at one with the teaching of the eighth-century prophets. No matter what is to be said relative to its canonical status, the setting, imagery, and moral doctrine of Tobit is of a piece with the rest of our biblical literature.
The Larger World
Even when the Book of Tobit most closely touches the other biblical literature, however, it sometimes does so along lines reminiscent of, and running parallel to, more extensive traditions outside the Bible.
An obvious and rather large example is the “Golden Rule” in Tobit 4:15, “Do not do to anyone what you yourself hate.” Not only does this prohibition substantially contain the biblical command to love one’s neighbor as oneself;9 not only, furthermore, does it stand in canonical continuity with the more positive formulation of the same Golden Rule preserved in the Gospels;10 it is also the equivalent to an ideal found in other ethical philosophies. These latter include Greek authors like Herodotus and Isocrates11 and even classical Confucianism.12 This use of the Golden Rule thus assured Tobit a featured place in the entire history of religion and moral philosophy.13
A similar assessment is true, I believe, concerning the way that Tobit develops the religious symbolism of the journey. Obviously that motif had long been part of the Bible, particularly in those sections associated with the Exodus wandering and the return from Babylon,14 but it was a topic not limited to the Bible. Back near the beginning of the second millennium B.C., the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh Epic had inchoatively explored the religious symbolism of the journey, and that exploration would continue down through some of our greatest literature: the Odyssey, of course, diverse accounts of Jason and the Argonauts, the Aeneid, etc., and eventually the Divine Comedy, itself inspired by all of them. In a more secular form the journey imagery continued with such works as the Endymion of Keats,15 even after it had been assumed within the ascetical literature of the Church as xeneteia, conceived as both exile and pilgrimage. A classical example of the latter use is found in Step 3 of The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John of Mount Sinai.
The resemblance of Tobit to the Odyssey in particular was not lost on that great student of literature, Jerome, as is evident in a single detail of his Latin translation of Tobit in the Vulgate. Intrigued by the literary merit of Tobit, but rejecting its canonicity, the jocose and sometimes prankish Jerome felt free to insert into his version an item straight out of the Odyssey—namely, the wagging of the dog’s tail on arriving home with Tobias in 11:9—Tunc praecucurrit canis, qui simul fuerat in via, et quasi nuntius adveniens blandimento suae caudae gaudebat—“Then the dog, which had been with them in the way, ran before, and coming as if it had brought the news, showed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail.”16 No other ancient version of Tobit mentions either the tail or the wagging, but Jerome, ever the classicist, was confident his readers would remember the faithful but feeble old hound Argus, as the final act of his life, greeting the return of Odysseus to the home of his father: “he endeavored to wag his tail” (Odyssey 17.302). And to think that we owe this delightful gem to Jerome’s rejection of Tobit’s canonicity!
Thus, when young Tobias made his trip to Ecbatana and then, like Odysseus, journeyed back to the home of his father, he traveled with a vast company of classical pilgrims. He was neither the first nor the last to decide: “I will arise and return to my father.” On that trip, moreover, Tobias enjoyed the fellowship of an angel and a dog, symbolically representing the two worlds of spirits and beasts, both associated with Paradise and both mysteriously joined together in the human being that they accompany.17
Furthermore, some readers have found in Tobit similarities to still other pagan themes, such as the legend of Admetus.18 More convincing, I believe, however, are points of contact with classical Greek theater. Martin Luther observed similarities between Tobit and Greek comedy,19 but one is even more impressed by resemblances that the Book of Tobit bears to a work of Greek tragedy—the Antigone of Sophocles. In both stories the moral stature of the heroes is chiefly exemplified in their bravely burying the dead in the face of official prohibition and at the risk of official punishment. In both cases a venerable moral tradition is maintained against a political tyranny destructive of piety. That same Greek drama, moreover, provides a further parallel to the blindness of Tobit in the character of blind Teiresias, himself also a man of an inner moral vision important to the theme of the play.
Bearing just as obvious a connection with non-biblical literature, I believe, is the demon Asmodeus (Tobit 3:8), who is doubtless to be identified, on purely morphological grounds, with Aeshma Daeva, a figure well known in ancient Iranian religion.20 Moreover, Tobit’s nephew Ahikar (1:22) is certainly identical with a literary character of the same name, time, place, and circumstances, found in the Elephantine papyri from the late fifth century B.C.21 In short, whatever may be the case relative to questions of historical dependency, Tobit’s cultural contacts with the ancient world of religion, philosophy, and literature are numerous and varied.
The History of Exegesis
And this consideration brings me to what I suggest is a major question of the Book of Tobit: How does a loyal servant of God live in this very big and complex world? How does one spiritually survive, and even thrive, in this world, without being of this world? The preoccupation of Tobit is, I submit, moral and ascetical. It is a book about how the loyal servant of God must live.
In this respect, it is instructive to observe that early Christian exegesis of the Book of Tobit was of a predominantly moral and ascetical interest. With very few exceptions, patristic interpretation of Tobit was straightforward and literal, with relatively little, and hardly any sustained, appeal to hidden symbolisms. The longest extant patristic work devoted to Tobit, that of Ambrose of Milan, exemplifies this approach convincingly. After drawing attention to the major moral features of Tobit’s character, Ambrose devotes the rest of his discourse to a robust condemnation of avarice and usury.22 That is to say, Ambrose went to Tobit almost exclusively for moral teaching.
To be sure, a modest measure of patristic exegesis of Tobit was allegorical, in the sense of finding hidden references to the mysteries of the Christian faith. For example, attention was sometimes drawn to Tobias’s fish, whose various body parts were used to remedy the problems of the family. Given the common and widespread Christological symbolism of the fish (ichthys) among believers, it was virtually inevitable that Tobias’s fish, too, who quite literally gave his life for the family, should be regarded as a foreshadowing of the Savior. This symbolism is found in the fourth century, first in the mural iconography of the Roman catacombs23 and then in a few literary references.24
Similarly, Isidore of Seville believed that young Tobias, inasmuch as he healed his parent’s blindness, “had an image of Christ.”25 Nonetheless, such recourse to allegorical symbolism to interpret the Book of Tobit was relatively rare among earlier Christian writers.
This assessment, however, does not hold true for the Latin writers of the Middle Ages. The highly detailed commentary of Venerable Bede26 is the example that comes first to mind. To leave Ambrose’s fairly sober, subdued, and straightforward remarks on Tobit and then turn to Bede’s elaborate interpretation of the same book is something on the order of moving to another planet. In Bede’s commentary, not even the most minute item in the Tobit narrative is without its hidden doctrinal significance, to be ferreted out by a rich imagination.
Bede’s approach was followed by other medieval exegetes who turned their very creative fancies loose on the book: Walafrid Strabo, Hugh of St. Victor, and Isaac of Stella.27 At their hands, the Book of Tobit became a rich mother-lode of hidden Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, sacramentology, and so forth.
These medieval interpreters certainly present us with a whole new hermeneutic world. One may legitimately question, however, whether it is any longer the world of Tobit. Indeed, in these medieval works the overwhelmingly moral interest of Tobit’s universe is hardly touched at all, so that the major preoccupation of the book—how does the servant of God live in this world?—becomes almost entirely lost. This is my chief objection to the approach taken to the Book of Tobit among medieval Latin exegetes.
Since his Glossa Ordinaria became a link between Bede and later medieval writers, Walafrid Strabo may be particularly cited by way of illustration. Strabo begins his interpretation of Tobit by observing, correctly enough, that the book “abounds in the greatest examples and exhortations of the moral life,”28 but then he goes on to explain the book in great detail without a single scrap of moral or ascetical teaching. Tobit’s principal message and concern thus become hopelessly dispersed in considerations alien to the book.
It is my persuasion that the message of Tobit should begin with a proper analysis of its moral message exactly as it appears at the literary level, without recourse to hidden symbolisms that its author himself could scarcely have suspected and that float, in fact, without sufficient grounding in ancient patristic and liturgical texts.
This is not to say that Tobit should be interpreted apart from the biblical canon (whatever one holds about its canonical status) or from the context of Christian theology. Indeed, I maintain the very opposite thesis—namely, that Tobit (and, for that matter, all other biblical literature handed down in the Tradition of the Church) should be read and understood within that double interpretive context of Canon and Christology. I believe, nonetheless, that this approach is best made on the basis of Tobit’s literal meaning, the meaning it has as moral literature, not fanciful symbolisms unsustained in either biblical, patristic, or liturgical testimonies.
Having now placed Tobit within literary history, I propose, in a subsequent article to be published in these pages, to explore further the book’s great moral message and its importance in the Christian life.

1. Jerome, Praefatio in Librum Tobiae (PL 29.26A). Among Latin writers Jerome stands very much alone, and even eccentric, in his denial of canonicity to the Book of Tobit. It was cited somewhat less often by the Greek Fathers than by the Latins, however, the question of its canonicity being more complex and protracted in the East. This questioned canonicity of Tobit also accounts for the unparalleled freedom that copyists took in the transmission of the text. We have received Tobit in two major manuscript traditions so disparate that Rahlfs’s standard edition of the Septuagint prints them separately. Because I will frequently refer to them, I take this occasion to identify the two earliest extant manuscripts, both of them from early fourth-century Egypt: the Codex Vaticanus (hereafter B) and the Codex Sinaiticus (hereafter S). Because of its importance to Latin writers, I will also refer often to Tobit’s Vulgate text, translated by Jerome from both Greek and Aramaic sources.
2. Origen early recognized Tobit’s value as a source of historical and sociological information on the period; cf. Epistola ad Africanum 12 (Bibliotheke Hellenon Pateron [hereafter BHP, followed by volume and page numbers] 16.359f.).
3. Thus in B and Vulgate; also see Jerome, In Jonam (PL 25.1119A). S here says Nahum.
4. Job and Tobit were thus compared by Augustine, De Divinis Scripturis 28 (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum [hereafter CSEL with volume and page numbers] 12.436); Ambrosiaster, Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti 99.2 (CSEL 50.191); in the Latin Middle Ages, Bernard of Clairvaux, Sententiae 2.25 (Opera, Vol. 6/2, Rome: Editiones Cistercienses, 1972, p. 31); and still later, John of the Cross, Llama de Amor Viva 2.28 (Obras Completas, Madrid: BAC, 1991, pp. 960f.).
5. Job 19:23–27; Tobit 2:18 in the Vulgate. Paulinus of Nola commented that Tobit’s burial of the dead manifested “a holy and sanctified hope”; Epistolae 13.4 (PL 61.209–210).
6. Cyprian, De Mortalitate 10 (PL 4.588); among the Greeks, Asterios Sophistes, In Psalmos 4.4 (BHP 37.170); among medieval Latins, Peter Comestor, Historia Libri Tobiae 1 (PL 198.1433C); and Peter Damien, Sermones 4.5 (Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Medievalis [hereafter CCM with volume and page numbers] 57.20).
7. This resemblance was likewise remarked by Cyprian, Testimoniorum Libri 1.20 (PL 4.688–689).
8. Again, cf. Cyprian, Testimoniorum Libri 3.62 (PL 4.767–768).
9. Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:43; 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 6:27; Romans 12:17–19; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.
10. Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31.
11. Herodotus, Histories 3.142; Isocrates, Niklokles 61.
12. Cf. Ku Hung Ming, The Conduct of Life: A Translation of the Doctrine of the Mean, London: John Murray, 1906, p. 26.
13. Tobit’s form of the Golden Rule was maintained, not only in the apocryphal (e.g., Ps.-Aristeas, Epistle to Philocrates 207) and rabbinical traditions (e.g., Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a; Targum Yerushalmi I of Leviticus 19:18), but also in Christian sources as diverse as the Didache 1.2 (BHP 2.215); the Coptic Gospel of Thomas 6; the Apostolic Constitutions 1 (BHP 2.6); Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 2.22 (BHP 7.359); Didymus the Blind, De Spiritu Sancto 39 (PG 39.1068); John Chrysostom, Homiliae de Statuis 13.3 (PG 49.140); Augustine, Sermones in Vetus Testamentum 9.14f. (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina [hereafter CCL with volume and page numbers] 41.135f.); Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job 6.35.54 (CCL 143.323); 10.6.6 (539); and, from the Latin Middle Ages, Peter Damien, Sermones 14.9 (CCM 57.69); Stephen of Grandmont, Regula 28 (CCM 8.83); and Isaac of Stella, Sermones 3.3 (PL 194.1698A); 31.6 (1791B). Among later ascetical writers in the East, there is Paisy Velichkovsky, Field Flowers 23 (Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. 4, The Brotherhood of St. Herman of Alaska, 1994, p. 87.). Sometimes Christians have spontaneously juxtaposed Tobit’s negative form with the positive form from the Gospels; e.g., Barsanuphius and John of Gaza, Letters 687 (Correspondance, Solesmes, 1971, p. 442); and the anonymous eleventh-century Mont-Saint-Michel manuscript, Expositio ad Galatas 5.14 (CCM 151.202).
14. In the New Testament, the journey motif will play a structural role, not only in Luke-Acts, but also in Mark 8–10.
15. Cf. Andrès Rodríguez, The Book of the Heart: The Poetics, Letters, and Life of John Keats, Hudson, N.Y.: Lindisfarne Press, 1993, pp. 44ff.
16. Douay-Challoner translation of the Vulgate.
17. Angels and beasts are also the companions of Jesus in the desert; see Mark 1:13 along with the comment of Euthymius Zigabenus, In Marcum (PG 129.776C). Particularly in our hagiography, this motif of angelic and animal companionship is ubiquitous. Cf. Joanne Stephanatos, Animals and Man: A State of Blessedness, Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1992.
18. I confess that this one is lost on me, having gone over my Apollodorus (3.9.15) repeatedly without discerning any really convincing similarity to Tobit.
19. Indeed, he even speculated that the Greeks borrowed from the Jews in this respect; cf. Luther’s Works, Volume 35 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), p. 345.
20. Cf. Jeffrey Burton Russell, The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977, pp. 215, 217.
21. A translation of “The Words of Ahiqar” is found in J. B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton, 1969, pp. 427–430. The story itself appears to go back to Mesopotamia at least a century earlier. I hazard passing remarks here on two curious features: (1) this text is narrated, like the opening chapters of Tobit, in the first person; (2) the plan to kill a eunuch slave in place of Ahikar, so that the latter could later be restored to favor (p. 428, left column), most certainly does bear comparison to the Admetus legend.
22. Ambrose, De Tobia (PL 14.759–794). Not one paragraph in ten of this work is allegorical. See also Ambrose’s simple remarks on Tobit in Epistolae 19.5 (PL 16.984A), later echoed by Salvian of Marseilles, Adversus Avaritiam 2.4 (PL 53.193B).
23. Cf. Henri Leclercq, “Tobie,” Dictionnaire d’Archéologie Chrétienne et de Liturgie, Vol. 15, Paris: Letouzey, 1953, cols. 2418–2420.
24. Optatus of Mileve in Numedia, De Schismate Donatistarum 3.2 (PL 11.991); and the anonymous De Promissionibus et Praedictionibus Dei 2.39 (PL 51.816).
25. “Christi imaginem habuit”—Allegoriae Quaedam Scripturae Sacrae 123 (PL 83.116A).
26. Venerable Bede, Interpretatio in Librum Tobiae (PL 91.923–938). Cf. the analysis of Bede’s exegesis of Tobit by Johann Gamberoni, Die Auslegung des Buches Tobias, Munich: Kösel, 1969, pp. 107–123.
27. Walafrid Strabo, Glossa Ordinaria (PL 113.725–732); Hugh of St. Victor, Allegoriae in Vetus Testamentum 9.2 (PL 175.737–744); Isaac of Stella, Sermones 7.11–14 (PL 194.1715). I cite only those writers that I know first-hand. For other examples, see Gamberoni, op. cit., pp. 124–146.
28. Strabo, op. cit. (PL 113.725B).

The substance of this article appeared in Epiphany in 1996.

Read more:

Noah and Herakles

Re previous post:
Herakles (Nimrod) Threatens Nereus (Noah)

John R. Salverda has commented:

Dear Damien,

Here is a remark on the Noah and Nimrod as Nereus and Herakles post, it was too long for a regular comment:

OK, there may have been some "Nimrod" in Herakles. There was certainly some Gilgamesh in him. "The story of Heracles was an early variant of the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic which reached Greece by way of Phoenicia. Gilgamesh has Enkidu for his beloved comrade, Heracles has Iolaus. Gilgamesh is undone by his love for the goddess Ishtar, Heracles by his love for Deianeira. Both are of divine parentage. Both harrow Hell. Both kill lions and overcome divine bulls; and when sailing to the Western Isle Heracles, like Gilgamesh, uses his garment for a sail. Heracles finds the magic herb of immortality as Gilgamesh does, and is similarly connected with the progress of the sun around the Zodiac." (the quote is from Robert Graves "The Greek Myths"). And I'm certainly not opposed to connecting Nereus with Noah. Many ancient "sea gods" can probably be traced back to Noah. Including the Philistine god Dagon, a form of Enki. Which leads me back to the old standby identification with Herakles, Samson. The Philistine fish god was the famous nemesis of Samson, and this enmity is, in my view, also a very likely origin for the icon of Heracles confronting the Merman. Furthermore, many of the enemies of Heracles are characterized as the "son of Poseidon" another famous god of the sea and likely candidate for identification with Dagon.

The story of the death of Samson, seems to occur in the Greek myth of Heracles, in more than one place. Samson, of course, was led a captive to the temple of Dagon where he pushed apart the pillars, killing all who were present. Heracles has the story of Busiris, a son of Poseidon, who tries to offer him up in a temple Herakles summons up his strength and kills the thousands who were there as attendees. Herodotus tells us - which he himself did not believe possible; “The Greeks tell many tales without due investigation, and among them the following silly fable respecting Hercules:- Hercules, they say, went once to Egypt, and there the inhabitants took him, and putting a chaplet on his head, led him out in solemn procession, intending to offer him as a sacrifice to Zeus. For a while he submitted quietly; but when they led him up to the altar and began the ceremonies, he put forth his strength and slew them all. ... Besides this, how is it in nature possible that Heracles, being one person only and moreover a man (as they assert), should slay many myriads?" (“Histories” Book II, p. 45). In this story the land of "Egypt" is plausibly a corruption for the land of "Jacob" and Heracles is Samson.

The story of pushing upon the pillars was also known to the Greeks as a story of Hercules; "But since we have mentioned the pillars of Heracles, we deem it to be appropriate to set forth the facts concerning them. When Heracles arrived at the farthest points of the continents of Libya and Europe which lie upon the ocean, he decided to set up these pillars to commemorate his campaign. And since he wished to leave upon the ocean a monument which would be had in everlasting remembrance, he built out both the promontories, they say, to a great distance; consequently, whereas before that time a great space had stood between them, he now narrowed the passage, in order that by making it shallow and narrow he might prevent the great sea-monsters from passing out of the ocean into the inner sea, and that at the same time the fame of their builder might be held in everlasting remembrance by reason of the magnitude of the structures. Some authorities, however, say just the opposite, namely, that the two continents were originally joined and that he cult a passage between them, and that by opening the passage he brought it about that the ocean was mingled with our sea. On this question, however, it will be possible for every man to think as he may please." (Diodorus Siculus, "Library of History" 4. 18. 4,5). Notice how Diodorus gives Herakles the motivation of protecting us from sea-monsters (again Dagon?) in his manipulation of the pillars.

For all the images of Heracles vs. Nereus, there is very little story about it. But, of what story there is, I must admit that it is very reminiscent of the story of Gilgamesh; "Herakles took hold of him as he lay sleeping, and bound him fast as Nereus changed himself into all sorts of shapes; he did not let him loose until Nereus told him where the apples and the Hesperides were." (Apollodorus, The Library 2. 114). Take note that Herakles like Gilgamesh confronts Nereus as Ut-Napishtim in order to find a way to Hesperidies as Eden.

Now, I do realize that there is a large school of thought that identifies Gilgamesh with Nimrod. However, I am unaware of any legends in which Nimrod confronted Noah.

-John R. Salverda

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Herakles (Nimrod) Threatens Nereus (Noah)

Taken from:




Now we’re going to take a look at how Greek vase-painters pitted Herakles/Nimrod against Nereus/Noah in various scenes to depict the takeover of Zeus-religion—the Greeks’ contrary, man-centered religious outlook.

In the above scene, Herakles/Nimrod threatens Nereus/Noah with his club. It’s as if Herakles is saying, “Stay out of the way, Noah, or you’ll get some of this.” Note the serpent attached to Herakles’ belt in the back. The desire to get back to the serpent’s enlightenment is literally “behind” what is going on here.

In the above vase-scene, Nereus/Noah is headed somewhere, but Herakles/Nimrod, who leads the rebellion against his rule, surprises him from behind, making him turn his head. Herakles is literally “strong-arming” Nereus/Noah. Herakles grabs the wrist that holds the scepter, because that is what this is about: taking Noah’s authority and putting a stop to his rule.

In this larger view of the same vase-scene, it looks as if Herakles/Nimrod is saying to Noah as he grabs him from behind, “Hey, where do you think you’re going? It’s over for you. I’m in charge now.”

The scene on this black-figure cup expresses the same theme in a different way. Herakles/Nimrod comes from behind Nereus/Noah and brings his momentum to a halt. Notice how Herakles/Nimrod is leaning back and using his feet for brakes. He’s putting a stop to Noah’s rule. Poseidon, a “brother” of Zeus, advances. He will take over—as Nereus/Noah is stopped and pushed out of the picture. Note that Poseidon now has the trident, once an attribute of Nereus/Noah.

Here we see Nereus/Noah depicted as an old man carrying a trident, a symbol usurped by Poseidon, a “brother” of Zeus and son-in-law of Nereus (Poseidon married his daughter, Amphitrite) who replaced Nereus/Noah as Zeus-religion grew.

This polychrome relief from a small altar again carries the message that Herakles/Nimrod is bringing the momentum of Nereus/Noah to a stop. Herakles comes from behind and grabs Noah by his hair, figuratively bringing Noah and his rule to a halt.

In this scene, Herakles ushers an unresisting Nereus/Noah out of the way. Note again the serpent coiled into Herakles’ belt.

In this similar scene by a different artist, Herakles again pushes an unresisting Nereus/Noah out of the way.

In this scene, Herakles pushes Nereus/Noah out of the way, knocking loose the fish he held in his hand as a symbol of his authority as the one who brought humanity through the Flood. Herakles doesn’t care what Noah has done. His only concern is what he himself is going to do now. What does Herakles want? What is he after?

This ancient shield-band panel tells us what Herakles/Nimrod is after. On it, Noah is called “Halios Geron” meaning “The Salt-Sea Old Man.” He has a snake and a flame emanating from his head, telling us what Herakles is demanding to know—where he can find the enlightenment of the serpent.
Herakles could be saying to Noah, "You tell me where to find the enlightenment of the serpent or else!"

According to Greek “myth,” Nereus/Noah told Herakles where he could find the enlightenment of the serpent that the hero so desperately craved. That place, the serpent-entwined tree with its golden apples, symbolizing the serpent’s enlightenment, is depicted on the above vase. This is the ancient paradise called Eden in Genesis and the Garden of the Hesperides in Greek art (See Chapter 18 of TPC). The women represent the peace and pleasure of paradise. From left to right: Hygeia (Health), Chrysothemis (Golden Order), Asterope (Star Face), and Lipara (Shining Skin).

As we look further to the right in the scene, we see that Herakles has made it there. Of course, Herakles didn’t really get back to the ancient garden; it is a figurative artistic statement: the Greeks will not live under Noah and his God any longer, but will re-embrace the “enlightenment” of the ancient serpent, and live by the fruit of its tree. Zeus-religion celebrates the great change in the post-Flood religious paradigm. Noah and his God are out. The serpent and its enlightenment are back in. Humanity has decided this: man is now the measure of all things.

The eleventh and final tablet (pictured above) of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Mespotamian hero (pictured above), tells the story of a Deluge very similar to the Genesis account of Noah’s Flood. In great fear of death and in search of the meaning of his life, Gilgamesh seeks after the one human believed to be immortal, Utnapishtim, survivor of the world-engulfing Flood. Utnapishtim is the Noah of Genesis and the Nereus of Greek religion. The hero Gilgamesh is the Nimrod of Genesis and the Herakles of Greek religion.
In Genesis 6:9, we read, "Noah is a just man." The ancient Greek poet Hesiod wrote in his Theogony, "And Sea begat Nereus, the eldest of his children, who is true and lies not: and men call him the Old Man because he is trusty and gentle and does not forget the laws of righteousness, but thinks just and kindly thoughts." Utnapishtim (ut nephis tam) in Shemitic/Hebrew means "a living beacon of righteousness."

Greek artists knew of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and they naturally expressed the hero’s fear of death and his demand for knowledge from Noah in terms of his Greek counterpart, Herakles. On the above vase, the hero clings to Nereus/Noah as he looks with dread over his shoulder at the monstrous figure, Kerberos, representing death and Herakles’s fear of it. Nereus/Noah gestures as if he is responding to the plea of Herakles/Nimrod. It appears that the vase-artist is depicting these very words of Gilgamesh from the epic: “Oh woe! What shall I do Utnapishtim? Where shall I go? The snatcher has taken hold of my flesh, in my bedroom, death dwells, and wherever I set my foot, there too is death.”

By the time Greek religion became systematized, Herakles/Nimrod/Gilgamesh had figuratively gotten back to the serpent’s enlightenment in the ancient garden, and overcome his great fear of death. On this reconstructed metope from the temple of Zeus at Olympia, we see that Herakles/Nimrod (pictured with his father, Hermes/Cush) now has Kerberos under control. There is no need for Herakles to fear death any longer: he has conquered the world on behalf of his ancestors in the way of Kain, and they have made him an immortal god as a reward for what he has done for them.
The 12 Labors of Herakles on the Temple of Zeus at Olympia chronicle and celebrate mankind's rebellion after the Flood.

37 Images of Noah in Ancient Greek Art (in VI Parts)

Taken from:

(Links to Parts II Thru VI at Bottom of Page)

PART I: A Quick Summary

The Greeks knew exactly who Noah was—they called him Nereus, the "Wet One." Greek artists chronicled the rise of their contrary, man-centered outlook from his lifetime. Nereus/Noah appeared on many black-figure vases, as above, where the artists painted in mostly dark colors on the clay background. These artists almost always painted Noah’s hair white to emphasize his age.

Nereus/Noah also appeared on many red-figure vases, where the artists painted the vase black, and then chipped away the paint to let the figures come through in the color of the clay, as above.
A few of the images in this section are repeated, but in all, there are 37 different images of Noah here.

Above, we see five more images of Nereus/Noah. These images and all the sculpted and painted ones shown here come from museums throughout the world. In all cases, the curators have identified this aged figure as Nereus.

Here we see three different vase-depictions of Nereus/Noah. On all three he looks very old, he is seated as if on a throne, and he holds a scepter, a symbol of rule. The simple artistic communication is this: Here is the old man who ruled by virtue of his age and stature.

Here we see five more vase-images of Nereus/Noah.

Here are five more vase-images of Nereus/Noah. At the top left, the face of Noah is partly obscured (intentionally, as we shall see) by an elbow of Herakles.

Artists often depicted Nereus/Noah on vases with the bottom half of a fish and/or holding a fish, signifying that this fish-man had brought humanity through the raging waters of the Flood.

Above, we see three more vase-images of Noah where the artists have given him the bottom half of a fish as a reminder of his having come through the great Flood. The average date for the vase-paintings in this total collection of thirty-seven is about 450 BC. The oldest one, on the bottom left above, dates to about 625 BC. The latest image, the sculpted image of Nereus/Noah, below, from the Altar of Zeus at Pergamum, dates to about 190 BC.

Above we see, left to right: the face of Nereus/Noah sculpted on the Altar of Zeus at Pergamum, a polychrome relief of his upper body from a small altar, and Herakles/Nimrod accosting him on an ancient shield-band panel.

While Genesis doesn’t name Noah’s wife, the Greeks called her Doris and sometimes depicted her observing key events with her husband, as above.

Above, Nereus/Noah and his daughter, Amphitrite, are pictured on a red-figure vase.

On this partially damaged vase-depiction, Nereus appears as a very old seated spiritual figure. Two of his daughters run to him. These were known as the Nereids, and according to the ancient poet Hesiod, Nereus had fifty of them. According to Genesis, Noah lived 350 years after the Flood, plenty of time to father fifty daughters by his wife, Doris.

Above, two of his daughters, with out-stretched arms, run toward the "Old Man of the Sea."

Here again, we see Nereus/Noah, seated and holding his scepter, pictured with two of his daughters.
Now it is time to move on to Part II, a short pictorial review of what Greek religious art chronicles and celebrates. Then, beginning with Part III, we will put these images of Nereus/Noah into their historical contexts.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Who Was King Cushan-rishathaim of Judges 3:8?

According to Judges 3:


7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. 8 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. 9 But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11 So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.

Now Dean Hickman has, in his extremely useful attempted revision of Mesopotamian history ("The Dating of Hammurabi", Proc. 3rd Seminar of Catastrophism & Ancient History (CAH) (Uni. of Toronto, 1985, ed. M. Luckerman), p. 13-28), proposed for this enigmatic Cushan-rishathaim of c. C14th BC an historical identification with the similarly rather obscure Enshag-kushanna of the Uruk II dynasty.

( Enshakushanna (or En-shag-kush-ana, Enukduanna, En-Shakansha-Ana) was a king of Uruk in the later 3rd millennium BC who is named on the Sumerian king list, which states his reign to have been 60 years. He conquered Hamazi, Akkad, Kish, and Nippur, claiming hegemony over all of Sumer. He adopted the Sumerian title en ki-en-gi lugal kalam-ma en ki in Sumerian means god of the Apsû,[1][2] which may be translated as "lord of Sumer and king of all the land" (or possibly as "en of the region of Uruk and lugal of the region of Ur"[3]), and could correspond to the later title lugal ki-en-gi ki-uri "King of Sumer and Akkad" that eventually came to signify kingship over Babylonia as a whole.

The 'Cushan' element here is obvious, but Hickman has also wonderfully explained how the name elements, enshag and rishathaim, can actually be correlated.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife, Hippolytus and Phaedra


Taken from our, article:

The Lost Cultural Foundations of Western Civilisation

The story [Joseph and Wife of Potiphar], which can be read in full in Genesis 39:6-20 - probably written by Joseph himself, from personal memory - apparently became well-known in the ancient world [Astour, M., Hellenosemitica,E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1965, p. 259]: "It has already been repeatedly demonstrated that most of the motifs in the Joseph story are more or less euphemerized motifs of the Tammuz-Adonis myth". And [ibid.,p. 258]: "In the W-S [West Semitic] world, the motif of the "chaste youth" was very widespread", wrote Astour, a master at detecting the Semitic influence underlying Greek legends.

The woman who attempted to seduce the handsome young Joseph was the un-named wife of one Potiphar, pharaoh's captain of the guard, who had bought Joseph from the Ishmaelites (var. Midianites?), to whom Joseph's brothers had sold him for twenty pieces of silver (Genesis 37:28; 39:1). Joseph, though innocent, was sent to prison based on the accusation of the woman (who became Venus/Astarte in some of the later pagan legends). Astour has, like others, recognized that the story has its resonance for instance in a famous Egyptian tale [ibid.]: "After the discovery of the papyrus d'Orbiney, a quite similar plot was revealed in the Egyptian story of the two brothers … Bata, its hero, slandered by his sister-in-law and pursued by his angry brother, emasculated himself to prove his innocence".

The Egyptian story in turn Astour believed to have been based upon Phoenician tales. E.g. the young healer-god Ešmun, pursued by the love of the goddess Astronoë or Astronome (='Aštart-na'amã); and in Syrian Hierapolis, of Combabos, the builder of the Atargatis temple, with whom Queen Stratonice, the wife of the Assyrian king, fell in love. Notice in these Phoenician accounts the Joseph-like elements also of the young hero as a 'healer' and a 'builder'. The Joseph story even has its resonance in the most famous of all Mesopotamian myths, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Thus Astour believes that the Combabos of the Phoenician tale "can easily be recognized as Humbaba… of the Gilgameš epic … [whilst] the same [Joseph] motif also appears in the Gilgameš epic, tabl. VI, where Ištar [Venus] fell in love with Gilgamešand, after having been rudely rejected by him, turned herself to the supreme god Anu with a request to punish the hero" [Astour, M., Hellenosemitica (ibid., pp. 258-259.; S.N. Kramer, The death of Gilgamesh in BASOR, Apr 1944, pp. 2-12).

Later Homer would give his own colourful account of the famous story in his conflict between Bellerophon(tes) and Anteia, King Proitos' wife. Before recounting that tale, however, the important fact needs to be noted that Astour has rigorously identified the supposedly Greek name Bellerophonas equivalent to the western Semitic Ba'al-rãph'ôn, "Lord Physician" [ibid., pp. 225-228. The name is equivalent in meaning to that of the Sumerian god, Ninazu].

Most appropriate again for Joseph.

Now here is the account of Bellerophon as told by Homer in The Iliad [The Iliad VI: 156-170, as quoted by Astour, ibid., p. 257]:

To Bellerophontes the gods granted beauty and desirable manhood; but Proitos in anger devised evil things against him, and drove him out of his own domain, since he was far greater … Beautiful Anteia the wife of Proitos was stricken with passion to lie in love with him, and yet she could not beguile valiant Bellerophontes, whose will was virtuous. So she went to Proitos the king and uttered her falsehood. "Would you be killed, O Proitos? Then murder Bellerophontes who tried to lie with me in love, though I was unwilling". So she spoke, and anger took hold of the king at her story. He shrank from killing him, since his heart was awed by such action, but sent him away to Lykia, and handed him murderous symbols, which he inscribed in a folding tablet, enough to destroy life, and told him to show it to his wife's father, that he might perish.

Many Greek stories in fact carry this basic motif. For example, according to Astour [op. cit., pp. 257-258. Emphasis added]:

The Greeks told myths with the same plot about Hippolytus and his stepmother Phaedra, and about Peleus and Astydamia (or Cretheïs), wife of king Acastos. Bethe was perfectly right when, despite all his antipathy to Semitizing Bellerophon, he nevertheless declared that [the story-motif] … of the shy youth slandered by the rejected woman … had an Asiatic origin.