Problems of time and space

The study of words and actions, written about and by people who lived many years ago in a faraway land with a different language and symbolic structure, has inherent difficulties, as has been shown by biblical hermeneutic research.  To understand the origins of Christianity, I must be cognizant about first century Palestinian Jewish cultural conditions, as well as my own biases.  I need to avoid projecting my own experiences and prejudices on documents written thousands of years ago.  Can I ever really fully understand the men and women of the Mediterranean area who lived over two thousand years ago?  I can try.  Fortunately, a few of these early followers of Jesus, among the elite literate well educated of their time, left some sparse written evidence.  Their cosmology, their economics, and their sociology are not mine.  I must be aware of this from the start.

Advertisements

The seven-month search and burial (Ezek 39:12-39:16)

“‘The house of Israel

Shall spend

Seven months

Burying them,

In order to cleanse

The land.

All the people

Of the land

Shall bury them.

It will bring them honor

On the day

That I show my glory.’

Says Yahweh God.

‘They will set apart men

To pass through

The land continually.

They will bury

Any invaders who remain

On the face of the land.

It will then be cleansed.

They will make their search.

For seven months.

As the searchers

Pass through the land,

Anyone who sees

A human bone

Shall set up

A sign by it,

Until the buriers

Have buried it

In the Valley of Hamon-gog.

A city Hamonah

Is there also.

Thus,

They shall cleanse

The land.”

The house of Israel was to spend 7 months burying the men with Gog, so that they could cleanse the land of Israel and its people. These grave diggers would gain honor on the day when Yahweh was going to show his glory. These body searchers would be set apart to pass through the land continually. They would bury any remains they found. Anyone who saw a human bone was to set up a sign by it, until these buriers buried them in the Valley of Hamon-gog or the city Hamonah, next to it. Thus, the land would be cleansed by removing these dead bodies in 7 months.

Jeremiah responds (Jer 44:20-44:20)

“Then Jeremiah said

To all the people,

Men,

Women,

All the people,

Who were giving him

This answer.”

Jeremiah will respond to all the people. It is hard to figure out how this is taking place since they were scattered in various towns in Egypt. However, he clearly wants to make his point to the men and the women who had responded to him. Notice that there is no hierarchy of officials or leaders, but just the common generic men and women, but it is all the people.

Don’t blame the women (Jer 44:19-44:19)

“The women said.

‘Indeed,

We will go on

Making offerings

To the queen of heaven.

We will pour out libations

To her.

Do you think

That we made cakes

For her,

With her image,

Without our husbands

Being involved?

Do you think

That we poured out libations

To her

Without our husbands

Being involved?’”

This is one of the few times that women as a group speak. Mostly, it is the men or groups of men who speak. These women complained that their husbands were complicit in this worship of the “Queen of heaven.” Entire families were involved in this goddess worship as indicated in chapter 7 of this work. The children gathered the wood. The men used it to build altars to worship this goddess. The women kneaded the dough and baked cakes with the image of this “Queen of heaven.” None of this would have been possible without their husbands being involved. Women worshiped this fertility goddess because of the importance of bearing children. In fact, quite often the most important role for women was precisely giving birth to a child, since most women desired to have children. Thus, this fertility goddess worship of a “Queen of heaven” was quite common in most ancient societies, even among the Israelites, as can be seen here. This “Queen of heaven” was not a foretelling of the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus, but rather a nod to the Canaanite female fertility goddess, Astarte, the wife of Baal.

Death in Jerusalem (Isa 3:25-3:26)

“Your men shall fall

By the sword.

Your warriors shall fall

In battle.

Her gates shall lament.

Her gates shall mourn.

Ravaged,

She shall sit

Upon the ground.”

Isaiah warns that death will come to the men of Jerusalem by the sword or in battle. Thus the women who remain will lament and mourn. They will be ravaged, sitting on the ground lamenting their situation.

The prostitute (Prov 23:27-23:28)

“A prostitute is a deep pit.

An adulteress is a narrow well.

She lies in wait like a robber.

She increases the number of the faithless.”

Once again there is a warning about prostitutes and adulteress women who are trying to lure young men. They are like a deep pit or a narrow well. They will rob you since they lay in wait for you. These evil women are the cause of the increase in the number of the faithless. It is never the fault of the men, only the women. There are no admonitions to young women about males attempting to rape them. Perhaps they were more protected in this society.

Jason, the high priest tales over (2 Macc 4:7-4:10)

“When King Seleucus died, King Antiochus, who was called Epiphanes, succeeded to the kingdom. Then Jason, the brother of Onias, obtained the high priesthood by corruption. He promised the king at an interview three hundred sixty talents of silver and, from another source of revenue, eighty talents. In addition to this, he promised to pay one hundred fifty more if permission were given to establish by his authority a gymnasium and a body of youth for it. He wanted to enroll the men of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch. When the king assented, Jason came to office. He at once shifted his countrymen over to the Greek way of life.”

By the time that Onias arrived in Antioch, Heliodorus had already assassinated King Seleucus IV (187-175 BCE). Now King Antiochus IV (175-164 BCE), the son of King Antiochus III who had ruled from 222-187 BCE, became king. He was the brother of King Seleucus IV. Jason was the brother of the high priest Onias, so that he was a Levite. He obtained the high priesthood by corruption. I still think that it is strange that the Syrian king had the right to name the Jewish high priest. Jason has promised the new king about 440 talents of silver, the equivalent of a quarter million $USA. He wanted a Greek gymnasium in Jerusalem that would become the center of political and cultural education. He also wanted all the men of Jerusalem to be citizens of Antioch. The new King Antiochus IV said fine. Thus Jason took over as the new high priest of Jerusalem. He wanted to shift his countrymen to the new Greek way of life. Unlike in 1 Maccabees, chapter 1, where the movement to the Greek way was led by the generic renegades, here it is explicitly assigned to Jason, the new high priest. Despite his protestations of not getting into details, this biblical author explained the role of the high priest Onias and his brother Jason in great detail.