Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This Is Not My Beautiful God…

One need only be measurably literate and mildly curious to know that Yahwehism is beset with such a slew of legitimacy problems that it’s honestly difficult to imagine it surviving (in any coherent form) within educated populations through the second-half of this century. The patriarchs (Abraham, Jacob, Isaac and Moses) never existed, the Exodus never happened, there was no conquest of the Land of Israel, and there was never a 10th Century United Kingdom. Penned by Judean copywriters between the 7th and 5th Centuries BCE (nearly a millenium after its alleged origin) the Pentateuch is recognised today by even conservative Jewish rabbis to be nothing but a geopolitical work of fiction commissioned to justify a northern land grab after the fall of Mamlekhet Yisra’el (Kingdom of Israel) in 722 BCE.

“There is no archaeological evidence for any of it. This is something unexampled in history. They [Judah] wanted to seize control of the territories of the kingdom of Israel and annex them, because, they said, `These territories are actually ours and if you have a minute, we´ll tell you how that´s so.’ The goal was to create a myth saying that Judah is the center of the world, of the Israelite way of life, against the background of the reality of the later kingdom.” (Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology, Tel Aviv University)

Those are the facts, they’ve been in the public domain for over thirty years, but as Prof. Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University observed: “we are witnessing a fascinating phenomenon in that all this is simply ignored by the public.” For now that’s not too surprising, cowards often evade awkward things, and for Yahwehists it’s hard to fathom anything more uncomfortable than admitting there was no supernatural revelation (to anyone, at any time), and that Jesus (if he ever existed, which is doubtful) and Muhammad (who, regrettably, did exist) were both talking through their (un)inspired hats. If this were not the case both characters would have blithely let their audiences in on the little 6th Century secret and straightened out the historical farce once and for all. Neither, of course, did. Both, in fact, named the patriarchs on multiple occasions and by doing so revealed their own bumbling ignorance of basic regional history… a history one would naturally expect god-men to actually know.

Uncomfortable, sure, but there lurks in the archaeological record an even more
distressing reality check awaiting the idolaters of this particular Middle Eastern god and it’s a date with reality that will not be easily reconciled. Simply put, Yahweh is a renovated do-it-upper bungalow of a god; a one-time lowly character inhabiting the 1st millennium Canaanite pantheon who with the help of a new publicity team, ghost writers, and a level of plagiarism that would make even a Chinese businessman blush pulled off a reasonably successful supernal makeover that saw him jump from the D-list of godly celebrities right into the VIP section. Before the facelift, though, he was a member of the Divine Family; just one of seventy children fathered by El (whose name, not Yahweh’s, is given to Israel: Yisra’el) and his wife, the mother goddess, Asherah. Worshiped as a patron in his portion of the “seventy nations” (possibly Edom in the south) Yahweh’s restyling began in the 7th Century with a shift toward monolatry where he started to be identified with the father, El: el dū yahwī ṣaba’ôt. Ambition then led this otherworldly mover and shaker to do something quite unexpected. At the behest of his human handlers this celestial yuppie in a tunic married his mother; a fact revealed at two 7th Century sites (Kuntilet Ajrud and Khirbet el-Kom) where Hebrew inscriptions were found that read ‘YHWH and his Asherah’, ‘YHWH Shomron and his Asherah’, and, ‘YHWH Teman and his Asherah.’ Alone, these sites are proof-positive Yahweh was a pantheon deity; a menial one no less, who was slowly redecorated by a people undergoing a refurbishment of their own. Oedipal complexes to one side, in the post-Exilic period (after exposure to monotheistic Zoroastrianism in Babylon) monolatry gave way to Judaic monotheism where the Canaanite pantheon was thrown out and the “sons of God” were called upon to worship Yahweh as the Divine King (Psalm 29:2).

Sorry Yahwehists, you can have your own beliefs, but you can’t have your own facts. Monotheism emerged amongst the Israelites 1,000 years later than alleged, and YHWH was nothing but a side character in an off-off Broadway divine play whose role was re-written by men looking to add a little supernatural spice to their geopolitical ambitions.

Now it sounds odd to our post-Enlightenment ears but shuffling the deck of the Divine Family was a manoeuvre as old, in fact, as the pantheons themselves. The first Sumerian gods who brought order from chaos, An and Ki, gave birth to Enlil who would dominate (until his own expulsion) the veritable smorgasbord of gods who’d come to inhabit the first pantheon dreamed up by men; their lives unfolding like an ever-expanding family drama complete with labour strikes as experienced when the 6th generation of gods literally refused to work. Love, hate, envy, lust, sex, rape, incest, political intrigue, alcoholism, and wars; the Sumerian pantheon had it all, and it was flexible, too. As one city state rose and assumed dominion over the proto-empire their particular patron god also rose in order of authority which in-turn forced a re-arranging of the family deck as a whole. In time, micromanaging the family of gods took on an entirely new dimension as city states merged and became fully fledged empires whose fate ebbed and flowed like everything else. As the power of Sumer bled into the Akkadian Empire which then dulled and that of Babylon rose some serious adjustments needed to be made to the heavenly order to better reflect the new earthly reality. The solution the Babylonians found was brazen, if not perfectly straightforward: they simply wrote the Enuma Elish which catapulted their cities patron god, Marduk, way up the order in the existing creation story and had him slaughter the pre-time chaos embodied in the demon Tiâmat. Without care or concern for script continuity they made him a son of the Sumerian Lord Enki who, according to the new version of events, ceded power leaving the one-time fairly lowly Babylonian god to rule all of mankind.


Complete and utter fantasy, but easy just the same, and given the size, complexity and authority of Babylon it was a cultural feat unimaginably more difficult (and impressive) than the one performed by a handful of Canaanite hill tribes fifty generations later. As Professor Finkelstein noted: “I don’t think there is any other place in the world where there was a city with such a wretched material infrastructure but which succeeded in creating such a sweeping movement in its favour as Jerusalem, which even in its time of greatness was a joke in comparison to the cities of Assyria, Babylon or Egypt. It was a typical mountain village.” A village, one might add, sporting a remodelled god who by hook or by crook had not only taken over his dads business but also his wife…. Before, of course, ditching her (and everyone else in his family) after a Babylonian holiday two-hundred years later.

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