Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hebrew Biblical Characters Re-presented As Gentiles



At least some of those biblical characters commonly designated by commentators as being “enlightened pagans (or Gentiles)” cannot possibly have been so, without throwing Mosaïc Law into turmoil. Some examples of this common designation would be: 1. Melchizedek (Genesis); 2. Rachab (in the genealogy of David and Jesus); 3. Ruth of Moab; 4. Achior (Book of Judith); 5. Job; and, perhaps 6. The Magi of the New Testament (and St. Stephen Protomartyr).

 
In this article, we shall be focussing very much upon 4. Achior, a supposed Ammonite, with just brief notes on the rest of 1-6.
 

Achior could not have been an Ammonite!

If we are to take seriously the Book of Judith, and not just relegate it (as do most commentators) to merely some ‘pious fiction’ genre, then it is impossible that Achior was an Ammonite. And the same would apply (unless there were a different law for females) to 3. Ruth, a supposed Moabite (“a prototypical Gentile who must be inspired by the teachings of our Torah”: http://www.thejewishweek.com/jewish-life/sabbath-week/conversion-ruth). For, according to Deuteronomy 23:3: “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the LORD’s assembly; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, may ever enter the LORD’s assembly”. Yet of Achior it is said, upon Judith’s victory over the now headless “Holofernes”: “When Achior saw all that the God of Israel had done, he believed firmly in God. So he was circumcised, and joined the house of Israel, remaining so to this day.” – Judith 14.10 (NRSV).

Commentators struggle to deal with this apparently blatant breach of Mosaïc Law. For example (http://knightword.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/the-conversion-of-achior-judith-14-10/):

In … Judith 14.10, Achior becomes a proselyte within the house of Israel. It is interesting to note that at least to the author of the Book of Judith … they seemed to have no problem in letting Achior within the house of Israel. … Since it should be noted that Achior isn’t just any sort of pagan, he’s an Ammonite, a chief leaders, as evidence by Judith 5.5a “Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites.”

But if one remembers Deuteronomy 23.3 it reads that “No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of their descendants shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord,” So before even going any further, when one looks at Achior, we see in him one of the … unlikeliest men to convert to Judaism.

Despite the rule in Deuteronomy, the Book of Judith has Achior converted. There are of course a variety of different reasons given to why Achior might have been exempted from the rule. Perhaps he was a special case (as was Ruth the Moabitess), perhaps the prohibition has past, Achior being past the tenth generation, or maybe the author is even just expressing the same “universalism,” of the book of Jonah. ….

In any case, despite who Achior is racially, the author of Judith clearly wishes for him to be seen in the light of the other righteous Gentiles of the bible. … Achior is said to believe “firmly,” or “exceedingly, the greek word being σφόδρα which Crowley say “must mean ‘with all his heart,’”…. Thus Achior is indeed a genuine conversion, moreover he moves from the simple “God fearer,” sort of Gentile and now into full proselytism, and hence has “bound himself,” the laws which accompany that. …. So that in spite of all the difficulties which Achior brings, he becomes a symbolic invitation to other would be converts, to the author, Achior is not one secluded case, but instead a representative of all gentiles who would wish to come to faith in the God of Israel. …

[End of quote]

This interpretation, we would suggest, is not the answer. The complete story of Achior is to be found only in the Catholic Bible. Providentially, we Catholics have also for this very same historical period the Book of Tobit, whose Vulgate version likewise tells of this Achior (11:20: …. veneruntque Achior et Nabath consobrini Tobiae gaudentes …), otherwise called Ahikar.

Now, Achior (or Ahikar) was Tobit’s very nephew (Tobit 1:21-22 GNT):

 
[The Assyrian king] Esarhaddon … put Ahikar, my brother Anael’s son, in charge of all the financial affairs of the empire. This was actually the second time Ahikar was appointed to this position, for when Sennacherib was emperor of Assyria, Ahikar had been wine steward, treasurer, and accountant, and had been in charge of the official seal. Since Ahikar was my nephew, he put in a good word for me with the emperor ….
 

The Tales of Ahikar (var. Ahiqar), the inspiration for Æsop and Sinbad, are famous in literature. This Ahikar was celebrated in the ancient Near East for his outstanding wisdom. Intriguingly, some of his sayings were appropriated by ‘Mohammed’ and inserted in various Sura of the Koran (http://archive.org/stream/TheStoryOfAhikar/Ahikar_djvu.txt). But Ahikar was no more an Assyrian sage than he was an Ammonite. He was presumably, like his uncle Tobit, an Israelite from the tribe of Naphtali.

What pagan Ammonite would have been able to rattle off the history of Israel so unhesitatingly as Achior (in an historical summary reminiscent of St. Stephen’s to the Sanhedrin, Acts 7:2-47) was able to do when asked by “Holofernes”: ‘… tell me about the people who live in these mountains. Which cities do they occupy? How large is their army? What is the source of their power and strength? Who is the king who leads their army? Why have they alone, of all the people in the west, refused to come out and surrender to me?’ (Judith 5:3-4, 6-19)

This was the Achior who, though belonging to a wholly apostate tribe, except for the pious Tobit (‘But my entire tribe of Naphtali rejected the city of Jerusalem and the kings descended from David’, Tobit 1:4), had latterly come under the influence of his goodly uncle who no doubt reinforced in the mind of the young nephew all the traditions of Israel and its history. The connection of Achior with “Ammonite” in the Book of Judith is indeed problematical - though in Judith 6:5 he is differently linked, by “Holofernes”, with Ephraïm, “Achior, you and your Ephraimite soldiers”. Ephraïm (a designation for northern Israel) would indeed be more fitting for a relative of Tobit’s. In a recent article, “Ahikar Part Two: As a Convert to Yahwism” (http://www.academia.edu/7067422/Ahikar_Part_Two_As_a_Convert_to_Yahwism for Part One, see: http://www.academia.edu/7048703/Ahikar_or_Achior._Part_One), Damien Mackey rejected the possibility of Achior’s having been an Ammonite foreigner:

… there now arises that problem with my actual reconstruction of Achior as an Israelite in the Assyrian army, and it is this verse: “Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites, said to [Holofernes] ...” (5:5). Achior is said in this verse to have been an “Ammonite”; a matter we discussed in some detail … when considering why [the Book of Judith] was not accepted into the Hebrew canon. Whilst this does immediately loom as a major problem, there is one factor – apart from what has already been said about Achior – that makes his being an Ammonite highly unlikely, and this is that Achior will later, in [Judith] 14, be converted to Judaïsm and will be circumcised. The author of [Judith], who is an absolute stickler for the Mosaïc Law, and who writes in fact like a priest or Levite … would hardly have countenanced so flagrant a breach of the Law as having an Ammonite received by pious Jews into the assembly of faith, when this was clearly disallowed by Moses (Deuteronomy 23:3, 4).

Judith herself, who would so scrupulously observe all of the religious ordinances of the Law even whilst in the camp of the Assyrians [Judith] (… 12), would hardly (if she were real) have been a party to this forbidden situation.

[End of quote]

So, of whom was Achior actually the “leader” when he, prior to his conversion, accompanied “Holofernes” with the massive Assyrian army to Israel? Very likely, the Elamites (with whom Ammonites may have later been confused), since Tobit tells us of his blindness that (2:10): “Ahikar [Achior] … took care of me for two years, until he left for Elam”. We think that there is a verse in the Book of Judith (1:6) that echoes this, thereby binding together the eras of Tobit and Judith. We previously wrote on this (Elam and Elymaïs being synonymous):

There is a gloss later added to the Vulgate version of the Book of Judith which tells that "Arioch [Erioch] ruled the Elymaeans" (1:6). "Arioch" is unknown. Obviously a copyist had failed to realize that this person, given as Arioch [or Erioch], was the same as the Achior who figures so prominently throughout the main story. The copyist, it seems, should have written: "Achior ruled the Elymaeans". From there it is smooth running to make the comparison:

"Achior ... Elymaeans" (Judith); "Ahikar ... Elymaïs" (Tobit).

Typically biblical commentators, recalling that there was a foreign king, “Arioch”, way back in the Book of Genesis (14:1), whilst denying any real historical credence to the characters in the Book of Judith, ascribe mention of an Arioch in the latter to something like ‘the author’s fondness for biblical archaïsms’. In their mind, Judith, Achior, Arioch, never really existed.

For us, though, Achior was the nephew of Tobit, an Israelite from the tribe of Naphtali.

Pre-conversion, Achior also figures famously in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Isaiah, as the brash Rabshakeh military officer whom we already introduced on p. 19. Thus Isaiah 36:2: “And the King of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem, with a great army”.

Not surprising that “the King of Assyria”, Sennacherib [= Book of Judith’s “Nebuchadnezzar”], might have selected this highly-talented Israelite to harangue the Jews in their own language. This was Achior as a rising prodigy in Assyrian captivity before his conversion, later, thanks to Judith’s bringing to a shuddering halt the Assyrian war machine at Bethulia (modern Mithilia).

He was not a foreigner to Israel, but apparently a “leader” (governor and captain) of foreign contingents in the mighty Assyrian army.

Notice how, in contemporary scholarship, Israel keeps getting squeezed out. ‘No one’ speaks Hebrew, instead it is Aramaïc! The same thing is happening in archaeology. Some time ago, professor Gunnar Heinsohn of the University of Bremen wrote that:
 
Mainstream scholars are in the process of deleting Ancient Israel from the history books. The entire period from Abraham the Patriarch in the -21st century (fundamentalist date) to the flowering of the Divided Kingdom in the -9th century (fundamentalist date) is found missing in the archaeological record.  

 
Even back in the days of Paul and Barnabas, the pagan Greeks were bent on appropriating these famous Jews into their own pantheon (Acts 14:12): “They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes, since he was the chief speaker”.

Anyway, getting back to the main thread of this article, there follow some brief comments on those other (apart from Achior), supposedly Gentile, biblical characters (1-6): 
 

From Melchizedek to the New Testament

 
1.MELCHIZEDEK, we suggest, was not an enlightened Canaanite priest-king at all, a pagan. The great man of faith, Abram (Abraham) was hardly going to submit to being blessed by a pagan priest (Genesis 14:19). No, Melchizedek was the great Shem, son of Noah, as according to a Jewish tradition (See our: http://amaic-abraham.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/melchizedek-was-shem-son-of-noah.html As Shem, Melchizedek was the archetypal S[h]EM-ite (Semite).

 

2.RAHAB. The Canaanite harlot, Rahab, whose “faith” both Paul (Hebrews 11:31) and James (2:25) praised, incidentally (like Jesus with the Roman centurion, Luke 7:1-10), was surely not the same woman as she who became the ancestress of David and Jesus, despite what is universally taught. To have been so would once again have meant a flouting of the Mosaïc Law, in this case Deuteronomy 7 (1-3): “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess, and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites … you must destroy them totally. … Do not intermarry with them”. R. K Phillips, in “The Truth About Rahab”, has argued for Rahab the harlot to be distinguished from the Israelite woman, Rachab (note different spelling).


3.RUTH. She, Ruth of the Judges era, could not plausibly have been a Moabitess for those reasons already explained (Deuteronomy 23:3). The necessity for Ruth’s having been an Israelite is well argued at: http://amaic-kingdavid.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/ruth-was-israelite.html

 

4.ACHIOR. Was most certainly an Israelite, as we have already discussed at length. The mistaken notion that Achior was an Ammonite chief is perhaps the primary reason why the Jews have not accepted the Book of Judith as part of their scriptural canon.

 

5.JOB We have firmly identified Job as Tobit’s very son, Tobias, in “Job’s Life and Times”, http://www.academia.edu/3787850/Jobs_Life_and_Times Thus Job was not an enlightened Edomite (nor an Arabian sheikh), as is often thought, but a sage of Israel, a cousin of Achior.

 

6.THE MAGI. If Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich be correct that: “The kings [Magi] were descendants of Job” (http://www.spiritdaily.net/emmerichmanger.htm), then we might conclude that the Magi’s “East” (Matthew 2:1) was the same as that of Job (1:3): “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East”. With our modern tendency to think globally, we usually pitch the Magi all the way east to Persia – for instance, enlightened Zoroastrians (those “enlightened pagans” once again). But was even Zoroaster an enlightened pagan? - for there are Syro-Arabic traditions that Zoroaster was the biblical scribe, Baruch. We think it conceivable that the Magi, as potential Transjordanian Israelites, may not have had to travel any further than the same approximate “east” wherein Job had dwelt, in the land of Uz (Transjordanian Bashan).
 

A Concluding Thought on St. Stephen Protomartyr

His address to the Sanhedrin reminded us a bit of Achior’s address to “Holofernes” (refer p. 24).

Could Stephen, so knowledgeable in the history of Israel, though thought to have been a Greek, actually have been an Israelite - just as Achior, so knowledgeable in the history of Israel, but thought to have been an Ammonite, was most certainly an Israelite?

Having a non-Jewish name, like “Stephen” (Greek), does not necessitate that one was not Jewish (or Israelite). Acts 18:2, for instance, introduces “a Jew named Aquila” (Latin for “eagle”). Stephen is never explicitly called a Greek, and, of the wise seven amongst whom he is listed, only “Nicolas from Antioch” is said to have been “a convert to Judaism” (6:5).

Our tentative thought is that Stephen was the Nathanael of whom Jesus had said (John 1:47): ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit’. That Stephen was a true Israelite who recounted before the Sanhedrin both the history and the meaning of Israel.

Again, “Jesus said [to Nathanael], ‘You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that’. He then added, ‘Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’.” (vv. 50-51). And so it happened (Acts 7:55-56): “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look’, he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’.”

And did priest Caiaphas see it too? (Cf. Matthew 26:64)

 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

World Cup "a tool to communicate the values that promote the good of the human person"



Pope Francis sends message to World Cup opening
Publish Date: Jun 12, 2014


Pope Francis delivered a video message to the organisers, players and fans participating in the 2014 World Cup tournament in Brazil.

Delivered in Portuguese, the message expresses the Holy Father’s hope that, in addition to a celebration of sport, this World Cup can be transformed into a festival of solidarity between peoples, Radio Vatican has reported.


Pope Francis sends message to World Cup opening

Vatican City : Pope Francis looks on during his general audience at St Peters square on June 11, 2014 at the Vatican. AFP PHOTO

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The message goes on to say sport is not only a form of entertainment, but also a tool to communicate the values that promote the good of the human person and help to build a more peaceful and fraternal coexistence.
The Holy Father’s message also discusses the importance of sport in moral education, since the sporting spirit is one that teaches the need for discipline, effort and sacrifice to succeed and achieve excellence – becoming a constant reminder of the sacrifices necessary to grow in the virtues that build the character of a person.
Football, the message continues to say, can and should be a school for the formation of a "culture of encounter", leading to harmony and peace among peoples – teaching as it does the value of fair play and authentic team effort – values, the message concludes, without which all of society is damaged.

RELATED STORIES


Brazil gears up for World Cup kickoff

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Taken from: http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/656509-pope-francis-sends-message-to-world-cup-opening.html
 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Syntipas (Sinbad) Legends - and Koran's Lokman - Borrowed from Middle Eastern Sage Ahikar




Taken from: http://archive.org/stream/TheStoryOfAhikar/Ahikar_djvu.txt


....


ON THE USE OF THE LEGEND OF AHIKAR IN THE

KORAN AND ELSEWHERE.

 

We pass on, in the next place, to point out that the legend of Ahikar was known to Mohammed, and that he has used it in a certain Sura of the Koran.
 

There is nothing a priori improbable in this, for the Koran is full of Jewish Haggada and Christian legends, and where such sources are not expressly mentioned, they may often be detected by consulting the commentaries upon the Koran in obscure passages. For example, the story of Abimelech and the basket

of figs, which appears in the Last Words of Baruch, is carried over into the Koran, as we have shown in our preface to the Apocryphon in question. It will be interesting if we can add another volume to Mohammed's library, or to the library of the teacher from whom he derived so many of his legends.

 

The 31st Sura of the Koran is entitled Lokman (Luqman) and it contains the following account of a sage of that name.

 

* We heretofore bestowed wisdom on Lokman and commanded him, saying, Be thou thankful unto God : for whoever is thankful, shall be thankful to the advantage of his own soul : and if any shall be unthankful, verily God is self-sufficient and worthy to be praised. And remember when Lokman said unto his son, as he admonished him.

 
….
 

O my son, Give not a partner unto God, for polytheism is a great impiety.
 

♦ ♦♦♦♦♦
 

O my son, verily every matter, whether good or bad, though it be of the weight of a grain of mustard-seed, and be hidden in a rock, or in the heavens, God will bring the same to light: for God is clear-sighted and knowing.

 

O my son, be constant at prayer, and command that which is just, and forbid that which is evil, and be patient under the afflictions that shall befall thee: for this is a duty absolutely incumbent upon all men.

 

♦ ♦♦#♦♦
 

And be moderate in thy pace, and lower thy voice, for the most ungrateful of all voices surely is the voice of asses.'

 
♦ ♦♦#♦♦
 

Now concerning this Lokman, the commentators and the critics have diligently thrown their brains about. The former have disputed whether Lokman was an inspired prophet or merely a philosopher and have decided against his inspiration: and they have given him a noble lineage, some saying that he was sister's son to Job, and others that he was nephew to Abraham, and lived until the time of Jonah. Others have said that he was an African: slave. It will not escape the reader's notice that the term sister's son to Job, to which should be added nephew of Abraham, is the proper equivalent of the … by which Nadan and Ahikar are described in the Tobit legends.

Job, moreover, is singularly like Tobit.

 

[According to the AMAIC, Job was actually the son of Tobit, Tobias]

 

That he lived till the time of Jonah reminds one of the destruction of Nineveh as

described in the book of Tobit, in accordance with Jonah's prophecy. Finally the African slave is singularly like Aesop … who is a black man and a slave in the Aesop legends. From all of which it appears as if the Arabic Commentators were identifying Lokman with Ahikar on the one hand and with Aesop on the other ; i.e. with two characters whom we have already shown to be identical.

 

The identification with Aesop is confirmed by the fact that many of the fables ascribed to Aesop in the west are referred to Lokman in the east: thus Sale says: —

'The Commentators mention several quick repartees of Luqman which agree so well with what Maximus Planudes has written of Aesop, that from thence and from the fables attributed to Luqman by the Orientals, the latter has been generally thought to be no other than the Aesop of the Greeks. However that may be (for I think the matter may bear a dispute) I am of opinion that Planudes borrowed a great part of his life of Aesop from the traditions he met with in the east concerning Luqman, concluding them to have been the same person, &c.*

 

These remarks of Sale are confirmed by our observation that the Aesop story is largely a modification of the Ahikar legend, taken with the suggestion which we derive from the Mohammedan commentators, who seem to connect Lokman with Tobit on the one hand and with Aesop on the other.

 

Now let us turn to the Sura of the Koran which bears the name Lokman, and examine it internally: we remark (i) that he bears the name of sage, precisely as Ahikar does : (ii) that he is a teacher of ethics to his son, using Ahikar's formula ' ya bani ' in teaching him : (iii) although at first sight the matter quoted by Mohammed does not appear to be taken from Ahikar, there are curious traces of dependence. We may especially compare the following from Ahikar : ' O my son, bend thy head low and soften thy voice and be courteous and walk in the straight path and be not foolish And raise not thy voice when thou laughest,

for were it by a loud voice that a house was built, the ass would build many houses every day.'

 

Clearly Mohammed has been using Ahikar, and apparently from memory, unless we like to assume that the passage in the Koran is the primitive form for Ahikar, rather than the very forcible figure in our published texts. Mohammed has also mixed up Ahikar's teaching with his own, for some of the sentences which he attributes to Lokman appear elsewhere in the Koran. But this does not disturb the argument. From all sides tradition advises us to equate Lokman with Aesop and Ahikar, and the Koran confirms the equation. The real difficulty is to determine the derivation of the names of Lokman and Aesop from Ahikar^

 

Some of the Moslem traditions referred to above may be found in Al Masudi c. 4 : ' There was in the country of Ailah and Midian a sage named Lokman, who was the son of Auka, the son of Mezid, the son of Sar

 

….

 

Another curious point in connexion with the Moslem traditions is the discussion whether Loqman was or was not a prophet.

This discussion cannot have been borrowed from a Greek source, for the idea which is involved in the debate is a Semitic idea.

But it is a discussion which was almost certain to arise, whether Lokman of whom Mohammed writes so approvingly had any special … as a prophet, because Mohammed is the seal of the prophets.

 

And it seems from what Sale says on the subject, that the Moslem doctors decided the question in the negative; Lokman * received from God wisdom and eloquence in a high degree, which some pretend were given him in a vision, on his making choice of wisdom preferably to the gift of prophecy, either of which was offered him.' Thus the Moslem verdict was that Lokman was a sage and not a prophet.

 

On the other hand it should be noticed that there are reasons for believing that he was regarded in some circles and probably from the earliest times as a prophet. The fact of his teaching in aphorisms is of no weight against this classification: for the Hebrew Bible has two striking instances of exactly similar character, in both of which the sage appears as prophet. Thus Frov. XXX. begins :

 

* The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy*

 

and Prov. xxxi begins :

 

*The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.'

 

Both of these collections appear to be taken from popular tales*, and they are strikingly like to the sentences of Ahikar.

 

….

 

The legend of Ahikar has also had an influence upon other books of a similar type, where story-telling and the enforcement of ethical maxims are combined. Such a case is the Story of Syntipas the Philosopher, a late Greek translation of a Syriac text, of which the date of composition is uncertain, as also whether it was primitively composed in Syriac or in some other language^

 

There was an Arabic form of this story extant as early as 956 A.D., and the diffusion of the collection of tales is phenomenal in later times.

 

The opening of the story is as follows :

 

'There was once a king whose name was Cyrus. He had seven wives; but had become old and had no son. Then He arose and prayed, and vowed a vow and anointed himself.

And it pleased God to give him a son. The boy grew and shot up like a cedar …. Then he gave him over to learn wisdom and he was three years with his teacher, without however learning anything.'

 

The opening of the story is common matter to an Eastern novelist, but there are allusions which betray the use of a model of composition. To put Ahikar into the form Cyrus was not difficult in view of the Slavonic Akyrios for the same name; 'seven wives' is the modification of a later age on the original * sixty wives ' of Ahikar ; but what is conclusive for the use of the earlier legend is the remark that the king's son ' shot up like a cedar.' Thus we have in the Arabic version, 'Nadan grew big and walked, shooting up like a tall cedar,' and in the final re-proaches of the sage, ' My boy ! I brought thee up with the best upbringing and trained thee like a tall cedar.' So that Ahikar is as truly a model for Syntipas as he was for Tobit [sic].

 

At the conclusion of the Syntipas legends, when the young man is solving all the hard ethical problems that his father proposes to him, we again find a trace of Ahikar, for he speaks of the ' insatiate eye which as long as it sees wealth is so ardent after it that he regards not God, until in death the earth covers his eyes.' And amongst the sayings of Ahikar we find one to the effect that * the eye of man is as a fountain, and it will never be satisfied with wealth until it is filled with dust.' Dr Dillon points out that this is one of the famous sayings of Mohammed, and if that be so, we have one more loan from Ahikar in the Koran.

Cf Sura 102, 'The emulous desire of multiplying [riches and children] employeth you, until ye visit the graves.'

 

….