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6191Re: [sl] Re: How Darius Founded Judaism

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  • mikebispham@aol.com
    May 2, 2006
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      Ambrose, Mark,
      Allow me to recommend S.H. Hooke's Middle Eastern Mythology - a Pelican book (1st pub. 1963) with multiple second-hand copies available for a few pence.
      A (not very good) synopsis from the Penguin print:

      "Professor Hooke shows how mythology can play a role in ritual, how it can explain the origin of a custom or cult and glorify a hero, tribe or city. All of these functions are relevant to the strange and haunting myths of the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Canaanites and Hittites, slowly revealed by decades of archaeological research and retold here. Yet it is also these early religious traditions that underlie the familiar stories of Genesis, Noah's flood and the Garden of Eden. Even the Nativity and Resurrection narratives, whatever their basis in fact, can be paralleled elsewhere. We ought, in other words, to consider the Middle East as a single unit and to look at the Bible in that context. "
      PS, I've supplied the original post below
      In a message dated 5/2/06 9:11:01 PM GMT Daylight Time, mswaney@... writes:

      I am very interested in the texts you refer to from Ebla.  Can you tell us
      some more about them?  Where can I get some more information on them?

      I am studying the History of Judaism at this time - reading the huge three
      volume set "The Cambridge History of Judaism".  It is a fascinating story
      and hugely important for the understanding of Western History in general. 

      The first thing that I noticed about the Cambridge History is that they
      begin it with the return of the exiles from Babylon (about 537 BCE) to
      Jerusalem.  They make no mention whatsoever of any events before that time.
      They don't even offer a chapter as to why this should be so.  There is
      however, a chapter on the controversy in the ancient world on the lack of
      any reference to the Jews in any of the contemporary histories of the
      ancients - the Jews were disturbed by this and considerable effort was made
      on their part to try and tease out an ancient reference to their people.
      Apparently by Roman times the Jews were sensitive to the view of them by the
      other peoples and they wanted an ancient pedigree to match their stories.

      I have read about the lack of physical evidence for the Exodus from Egypt,
      but that was something that can be understood given the nature of the events
      - former slaves wandering the desert probably don't leave much trace after
      32 centuries. 

      But that doesn't explain the complete lack of evidence for a violent
      conquering of the Canaanite towns such as Jericho.  In other cases the
      evidence does back up Bible accounts - such as the assault on Jerusalem by
      the Babylonians in 587 BCE. However in that case there are other ancient
      sources that parallel the Bible.

      I'm not sure I buy the hypothesis that Darius invented Judaism.  But it is
      an interesting theory.

      What is most interesting to me about Judaism is their belief that "History"
      is the result of the direct Will of God.  Therefore if bad things happen to
      the Jews they have no choice but to blame themselves - because if they are
      "God's Chosen People" then God would never harm them unless it was to "Teach
      Them a Lesson".  Apparently it was too much for them to figure that they are
      just people like anyone else and that they didn't have enough army to resist
      the various major empires of the ancient world. 


      -----Original Message-----
      From: sacredlandscapelist@yahoogroups.com
      [mailto:sacredlandscapelist@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Ambrose Hawk
      Sent: Monday, May 01, 2006 8:33 PM
      To: sacredlandscapelist@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [sl] Re: How Darius Founded Judaism

      Mike wrote:
      Moses sought to by-pass it by speaking directly with God, and obtaining
      his  rules independently.  A bit of good old magic works wonders for
      some  sections of the populace.
      Many of the plainly mythical aspects of the OT come more or less
      directly  from Ancient Sumerian stories.
      First of all, an awful lot of the first four books of the O.T. are
      clearly present in the texts found at Ebla.  These texts are about as
      old as the Sumerian texts (Sumer had cuneiform first, obviously), but
      the legal structures and some of the ritualistic structures and many of
      the Genesis myths are clearly present as the native tradition along with
      comparable copies of the Sumerian myths as foreign stories.
      Even Sodom, Gommorah, and Salem show up in their tariff records.
      Lots of folks talk about one culture borrowing myths from another
      culture, when IMHO, a much more probable linkage is that some
      experiences tend to be endemic.  Early cultivating cultures had a
      tendency to build in flood prone areas.  When one adds the mess from the
      Black Sea inundation ....

      Re. How Darius Founded Judaism
      Digging deep into the development of Mesopotamian mythology, I came across this oddment, which rings lots of bells for me in terms of the recent pre-history - ie it sounds very plausibe to me.  It feels right for other reasons too.
      I don't think the author has quite the right spin on his material; but I think his version is probably very much closer to historical reality than that portrayed by his subjects - the OT stories, and their keepers. 
      Here's his intro:
      "These pages, “How Darius Founded Judaism” (6 MB), explain how Judaism was created by the Persians in the fifth century. Colonists were deported into Yehud. Their reward was to have control of a temple state which collected taxes for Persia. Only priests of the temple state were Jews—a nation of priests. The history of the Jews was invented from Assyrian records and imagination, to show the native people as apostates who had to obey God diligently to atone for their past failings. "
      What works for me is this picture of 'Temple states', which is describes perfectly an important aspect of the religio-political setup that seemed to function best during the 3rd and 2nd Millenia in the Middle East.  The 'City-states' are very like those familar from accounts of Ancient Greece, or the Italian city-states of the Renaissance.  Highly organised walled cities dominate sufficient countryside around to feed and maintain themselves, and establish again very well organised industrial scale trading and agriculture, taxation, defence etc.  At their - more especially in these early days - core is a dynastic family headed by a king, who is regarded as the nominee of the City God or Goddess. 
      In Sumer a collection of these cities established a pantheon of their gods that, although ever-changing, kept its major charactors for around 3000 years of continuous civilization - albiet under the domination of several different invaders.  Their stories supply most of the basic myths that arise in later Middle eastern and Mediterranian mytholgies.  This is perhaps largely because of the invention of writing here, which tended to make ideas more permanant, and the distribution of this kind of writing - and the solidity of the laws it enabled - through trade and dipomatic agreements.  The changes in their pantheon reflect subsequent political/economic power-shifts.
      The 'myths' supply narratives that justify the ruling houses, and the rules that underpin these codes are thus religious rather than simply secular in nature.  Priesthoods work out the details, and distribute and enforce the codes.  This works extraordinarily well, and those cities that have a well-ordered religious society grow - fabulously - rich and powerful, and some begin to extend their reach to form empires.  The best work much more as business and power arrangements than by military dominance.
      The drawing up of a 'mythological base' for a newly won, or newly founded, city was clearly something that had to be done carefully.  Theologians had to take note of the prevailing power situations, the history (if any) of the site, and the existing beliefs of the class that was to dominate, and impose - or not - its religious orders on the population. 
      The picture then is not one in which beliefs just 'are' as a matter of historical tradition.  Populations of mixed pedigree and beliefs are literally washing around in a melting pot of vast and rich proportions.  New cities and new political geographic entities are continually being generated, and their masters swiftly establishing uniform sets of beliefs to unite them with 'god-given' rules.
      Abraham came from this tradition - from Ur, the largest and richest city-state during the 4th M.  Perhaps a civilised and educated input.
      Moses sought to by-pass it by speaking directly with God, and obtaining his rules independently.  A bit of good old magic works wonders for some sections of the poplace.
      Many of the plainly mythical aspects of the OT come more or less directly from Ancient Sumerian stories. 
      All this I thinks adds an important sense of historical context to the world that both Ancient Greece and Christianity emerged from, carrying its ideas, technologies, sciences, modes of thought, laws... the apparatus of civic society... you name it.
      It feels like I'm learning more about these historical events through looking at this political-economic-socio-religious...  development, and by looking at what their myths _do_ in those contexts, than any other route I ever tried.  The trick, I'm beginning to realise, is to be ruthlessly skeptical, and understand mythologies to be the fictional conceptual material that meets the end of supplying coordinated beliefs that will unite the population through its religious activities.
      'Religions' and 'myths' are thus inseparable (though myths can be outgrown, and yet remain as artistic material).  Neither are 'true' in any sense other than as important historical artifacts, and providers of insights into how human societies and individuals work.
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