28 June 2014

Why not son of Joseph and son of God?

In the essay I just posted, I mentioned “the nativity myth of birth in Bethlehem”.  Recalling those myths reminds me of the two conflicting and contradicting genealogies at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew and the third chapter of the Gospel of Luke.  Both genealogies trace descent from Dawid (David) ben Yishay (Jesse), but in two entirely separate lines.

In Matthew, beginning with Avrahim (Abraham) and working down, the descent is traced from David down to the present of the gospel in twenty-eight generations.  In Luke, the descent is traced from the present back to David in forty-two generations, then back to Adam, son of God.  Oh, and Matthew gives the descent through Sholomo (Solomon), while Luke gives the descent through Natan (Nathan).

Big problem though: both these alleged genealogies have Yosef (Joseph) rather than Yeshu (Jesus) as their end or start point.  Not very relevant to a Church which officially teaches that Miriam’s (Mary’s) conception was completely virginal and Yosef wasn’t even a sperm donor for in vitro fertilization.  Especially in the Catholic Church, which teaches the perpetual virginity of Miriam, which would have violated the Torah and been a sin in the first century.

The fact that Yosef is the focal point of both and that the name is Yosef calls into question whether the story of Yeshu originally had him as the Moshiach ben Yosef.

For the ancient Irish, this wouldn’t have been a problem.  In their mythology, which had more gods being members of trinities than not, Cuchulainn, born Setanta mac Sualtim, was equally the son of Sualtim and of Lugh Lamfada mac Cian, god of the arts and sciences as well as a trickster similar to Loki.

If the Church can teach that there are Three Persons but only One God and that Yeshu M’sheekha (Jesus Christ) is, at the same time, 100% God and 100% human, why can’t Yeshu ben Yosef be both fully the son of Yosef and fully the son of God, like Cuchulainn? 

Perhaps if the Irish had been on board when the Church Fathers were putting this stuff together, it would make more sense.  I am quite sure that Patrick had a much better understanding of Trinity after he held up his shamrock for the Irish and they explained it to him.

Dragging Canoe was not a Cherokee

Under today’s standards, Dragging Canoe (Tsiyugusini) was not a Cherokee.

Yes, that is correct, I am not kidding.  Dragging Canoe, the greatest military and diplomatic leader the Cherokee have ever known, would under the laws of all three of today's recognized tribes of Cherokee be ineligible for membership of any of them. 

This is not just because he doesn't have ancestors on any of their rolls which the three tribes use to determine who gets in.  His father, Attakullakulla, was a Nippissing from the North taken captive during a raid and adopted, while his mother was Natchez, from the group who lived along Natchy Creek.  He did not have a single drop of Cherokee blood.

The three Cherokee tribes require the following blood quantums: United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, 1:4; Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, 1:16 (originally 1:32); and Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, 1:2064.

In addition to Dragging Canoe, these blood quantums would also deny former Principal Chief of the Eastern Band William Holland Thomas and former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation West John Rogers membership in the tribes of which they held the highest office.  

They are also the means through which the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has disenfranchised the Cherokee Freedmen from the time of Ross Swimmer and Wilma Mankiller in the 1980's.

Similar blood quantums would likewise deny membership to Bluejacket, one of the most renowned Shawnee war chiefs ever, in any of the three modern tribes of Shawnee:  the Shawnee Tribe, the Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, and the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. 

But this essay isn’t an argument against the use of century-old membership rolls and blood quantums by federally-recognized Indian nations for membership.  Rather it is to point out the flaws in imposing modern definitions on cultures of the past, even within those cultures direct descendants.

Let me cite another example.  In 1860, neither corporations nor slaves were counted as full persons under the law.  Corporations had no such standing at all, while slaves were only counted as three-fifths of a person each.  Kind of like an individual citizen in the U.S.A. today vis-à-vis any for-profit corporation.

In first century Palestine, to be a Jew meant to be of a certain descent AND to have been born and live in Judaea, or if in the Diaspora, to have that descent.  It could not mean worshipping the same deity, because the Samaritans did so and were scorned by first century Jews. 

It could not mean adhering to the same religious scriptures because the Sadducees who were most certainly Jews only accepted the Torah.  Religiously, except for recognizing the temple on Mt. Zion rather than the one on Mt. Gerizim, the Sadducees had far more in common with the Samaritans, whom they desipised, than they did with other Jews.

The Pharisees accepted the Torah and the Prophet and some of the Writings.  Hellenistic Jews, even in Judea, accepted even more writings but not the Mishna, and the Essenes, who accepted even more scriptures likewise rejected the Mishna.  The Bene Sedeq, forerunners of today’s Karayim, also reject the Mishna but accept the same scriptures as the Pharisees (in the past) and rabbinical Jews (in the present).

While many Galileans practiced much the same religion as Jews, they were still Galilean rather than Jewish, and descended from exiles considered heretics during the Hasmonean period and from Iturean Arabs forcibly converted like the Philistians and Idumeans and Nabatean Arabs.  Even had they had clear lines of descent, they were still living in the “wrong” place to be a Jew.

During the early stages of the Great Jewish War (66-73 CE), one of the main problems the insurgents had, especially in Jerusalem, was dissension between Jewish Zealots and Galilean Zealots, along with other factions such as the Idumeans, the Temple Guard and other supporters of the Boethusian priesthood, and the Sikari.

In the gospels, several passages point out the difference between Jews and Galileans.  The first that comes to mind is the woman who accosts Peter outside the chief priest’s house.  The entire Gospel of John refers to Jews almost as if they are a foreign people, but the sense in which the writer uses the term “Jew” becomes clearer if you realize he means “Judean”.

That distinction changed with the complete destruction of Jerusalem including the temple in 70 CE, followed by the Bar Kokbha War and expulsion of the remaining leadership from Judea to Galilee in 135 CE.  But in the first century, especially the early first century, if you were from Nazareth, you were a Galilean, not a Jew, even if the nativity myth of birth in Bethlehem was anything more than a myth.

The point is this: Yeshu bar Yosef of Nazareth was a Galilean, not a Jew.

18 June 2014

Triumphal entry in the Passion narrative

The three great annual festivals of Hebraic religion are Pesach (Passover) and the accompanying “feast” of Unleavened Bread; Shavuot (Weeks), also called the feast of Harvest (or First Fruits); and Sukkot (Booths), or the feast of Ingathering (end of harvest).  The feasts of Unleavened Bread, Harvest, and Ingathering are clearly agricultural in origin while Passover is pastoral, welded onto the head of the agricultural festival.

The earliest text for the Shabbat mandate gives no religious reason for its prescription.  Rather, it was to give servants and animals a break from their labors.  Only later, after the captivities of the elites of the northern kingdom of Samerina/Beth Omri in Nineveh and of the elites of the southern kingdom of Yehud/Beth Dawid in Babylon that Shabbat took on a religious significance (commemoration of Yahweh’s rest on the seventh day of Creation Week) when those elites adopted the seven-day creation myths of their captors.

Likewise, the three pilgrimage festivals took on new and specifically religious myth meanings when the Hebrews adopted the foundation myths found in Genesis and Exodus.  The dual festival of Pesach came to symbolize the exodus from Egypt.  Shavuot came to symbolize the delivery of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.  Sukkot came to symbolize the forty years of wandering in the desert of Sinai. 

All of these commemorated events never actually happened, but they are important to the foundation myths.  To cite an example with which I am familiar, it would be like the Irish commemorating the flight of Scota, daughter of Pharaoh and her husband Goidel Glas from Egypt, the landing of the Milesians at Inver Sceine in west Munster, and the defeat of the Tuatha De Danaan at the Battle of Tailtiu and the subsequent exile of those foes underground as the Daoine Sidhe.

Back in West Asia, one of the midrashim about Shavuot is that when Yahweh gave the Torah to Moses, he did so in all seventy-two languages spoken on Earth, at least according to Hebrew tradition.  In Canaanite mythology, El, the supreme god, had seventy-two sons, each of them the god of their own people of Earth, each of which spoke its own language.  The story of Pentecost (the Greek name for Shavuot) in The Acts of the Apostles in which all present understand the words of the apostles regardless of their language reflects this midrash.

As a time of expectation (as well as inconvenience), Sukkot acquired religious significance additional to the Wandering.  It became a time of looking for the Messiah, specifically the Messiah ben David as opposed to the Messiah ben Joseph.  This is the aspect of Sukkot which ties into the Passion Story in all four gospels.

Jews, Galileans (in the 1st and early 2nd centuries there was a difference), and perhaps Samaritans converted to the new Way mythologizing the real events of the life of the one to whom they claimed allegiance would have done so in imagery drawn from their own culture.  Hence, the waving of palm branches and the Hosannas upon Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, because these two things are part of the anticipatory, messianic-looking festival of Sukkot.

To have Jews, Galileans, and other pilgrims waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna!” at Pesach would be like Christians erecting Christmas trees and singing carols in Holy Week.

I suspect that the myths surrounding Jesus of Nazareth and his death as a rebel at the hands of the Roman state prior to the Great Jewish Revolt of 66-73 CE placed these events at Sukkot, given its connection to messianic expectation and palm branches and Hosannas, when Jesus was shrouded in purple to return as the conquering King of the Jews.  After the epic fail of the chauvinist militants in the Siege of Jerusalem, Christians sought to deemphasize those political aspects and moved the Passion Story to Pesach, a time of intentional sacrifice.

Many of the sayings of Jesus, if accurate, indicate that instead of the Messiah ben David, he saw himself more as the Messiah ben Joseph, who would precede the former and die in self-sacrifice.

Whoever put the Passion stories of the various gospels into their current form, they clearly were not Palestinian, even if they were Jews, Galileans, or Samaritans and not Gentiles.  One can understand, perhaps, why they couldn’t let go of the imagery of the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but it is out of place.