Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"No other gods before me"

In a post in January 2012 I speculated on the origin of the Biblical Children of Israel, which came into existence some time around 1500 BC. The names of its gods and legendary heroes suggested that it was an artificial tribe constructed from diverse elements of refugee groups during a clash of empires in northern Phoenicia.

The tribe was created and consolidated over several generations by a ruthless gang (all that unnecessary smiting…) of warrior priests that I called “the Taliban of their day”. A year or so later (February 2013), The Hebrews took the story back to Father Abraham in the city-state of Haran, and in October of that year Noah and Company moved it even further back, to the original homeland of at least some of the ancestors in the vicinity of Ararat.

“Ur of the Chaldees” is more plausibly identified as Ur of the Khaldis in north-eastern Anatolia than as the city on the southern Tigris River. A slow-but-steady tribal-drift (folk-wandering) from Ararat down to Haran is infinitely more likely than a pointless migration down to the Persian Gulf and back, for Abraham and his forebears. (Haran was a focal point of one of the busiest trade-routes in the region, and the legendary Abraham left there a rich man.)

The name of the tribal god Yahweh/Jehovah appears in several guises, notably Noah and Jacob. (n is a vocalisation of h in human speech, so Noah is the same name as the second syllable of Ya-hweh.) All the names and their variants, and all the contemporary legends – were memorized and recited by thirty or forty generations of tribal bards before being written down in later tribal dialects. The writing was done around the time Celtic-speaking tribes were conquering the native peoples of the British Isles.

The huge time-scale provides scope for superficial changes of names and dialects. My speculations are based on the premise that names (holy names in particular) retain their basic structures. The claimed meanings of proper names in all languages, have always been assigned on the basis of folk-etymology; they shouldn’t ever be taken seriously.

The proto-Hebrews carried Yahweh-the-god from the Mountains of Ur down to the Land of Egypt – not in the Egypt of our modern maps, but the part of northern Phoenicia under Egyptian rule at the time. That’s a defensible and legitimate speculation, based on history. But speculations can’t cope with the time before The Flood. The names of Adam’s descendants are mostly the names of regional gods – probably the ancestral gods of the wanderers before they settled on Hebe (and variants), and before their adoption of Yahweh/Jacob.

Every tribe has always had its own god, whose duty was to protect the tribe. The creation of the world was usually not ascribed to tribal gods. Generally, creation-gods did their Big-Bang job and left the stage. The Children of Israel, being an invented tribe and not a traditional one with a long history, and having selected one of their ancestral gods to be their very own, went the extra furlong and declared that their newly-agreed-upon tribal god had actually created the entire world and everything that was in it. Wow!

That declaration didn’t make them monotheists, but it did give their god a great customer-relations boost. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, the god said, and “I am a jealous god”. In effect: Look, I’m number one; the rest of them are make-weights; don’t waste your time with them. The priests who wrote the script were on a winner, with that line - at least for the time being.

But monotheism arrived only with the energetic heresy of the cult of Christianity. That cult’s fervent proselytising among the pagans embraced large numbers of other tribal gods, but its priests (oh, the chutzpah!) refused to acknowledge them as gods. Agents and saints, yes, but not gods. One single god since the beginning of the world – not limited to one tribe – was irresistible. As Christianity (and Islam, later) proved in much of the world.

Yahweh’s original tribe became marginalized. Over the centuries it gained some converts here and there – Berbers in North Africa were the ancestors of the Sephardic Jews, and the mini-empire of the Khazars north and east of the Black Sea produced the Ashkenazi Jews. But in the Levantine homeland, most of the original tribe fell prey to (and converted to) the two major heretical cults. Their descendants are today’s Palestinians.

Captivated by the romance of an ancient tribal ethos, and cynically manipulated by JINOs (Jews In Name Only) the European descendants of converts to the Yahweh cult are currently engaged in the slow-motion conquest of the ancient homeland of their cultural forebears.

But the old tribal ethos demanded the mass slaughter of all who stood in the way of the jealous Yahweh and his people, and mass slaughter is out of fashion now. Even ethnic cleansing is frowned upon, in an age of human-rights. So it’s a futile exercise, strategically – an historical aberration that has nothing to do with the Israelites.