A Jewish Connection to Taoism? Peter Myers, November 11, 2001; update November 20, 2003; my comments in the text are shown {thus}.

Did Judaism once have a Goddess?

Write to me at contact.html.

You are at http://mailstar.net/jewish-taoist.html.

(1) Barbara G. Walker, The I Ching of the Goddess
(2) Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets
(3) Samuel Noah Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite: Aspects of Faith, Myth and Ritual in Ancient Sumer
(4) Walter Mattfeld on The Pre-Biblical Origins of Cherubim
(5) The Divine Throne-Chariot, by Geza Vermes
(6) Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman
(7) Athalya Brenner, The Hebrew God and his Female Companions
(8) Arnold J. Toynbee on Judaism before the Bible
(9) Alain Danielou on the pre-Bible culture of Judaism
(10) Star of David - does Judaism express the feminine principle like it's supposed to?

I received a letter from "B", who describes himself as a Jew from New York.

"B" wrote,

'I accidentally (if such is possible) found your site in a search for a certain work by Rabbi Harry Waton (his Mathematical Key to the Bible), as I am a student of Kabbalah, amongst other avenues. ... I am your age, a Jew from the Bronx, NY, a "revolutionary child" of the 60s, etc)

'Thought I would dash off a short note, that I liked your writings, though have only read your Taoist paper so far. To me there is certainly the correlation between the Jewish "object" sense of the Word, the dialectics of the Tao Teh Ching, the visions of the early Merkabah sect (note that your description fits the Tarot Arcanna #7 The Chariot, the hebrew Letter Cheth; all have their roots in a non-linear thinking paradigm.'

My reply:

Dear "B",

I generally keep a distance from "occult" practices, although from time to time I have had engagements with them that suggest there's something to them. I usually prefer to leave them alone, because I think we can get hurt from them. Divination, admittedly, sometimes seems to correctly predict the future ... but why do we need to know the future? Why not just accept it as it comes? Sometimes, trying to know the future is bound up with attempts to control other people ... like love magic to get someone to love you.

So I keep to philosophical Taoism. I interpret it as (1) faith that there's some coherence to life - a higher order (2) uncertainty about the details of that order, and acceptance of that uncertainty in terms of the limitations of human knowledge. This emphasis on uncertainty I see as a link to Socrates & the Cynics (downing.html) (but not Socrates as nihilist, or Socrates as a mouthpiece for Plato's social engineering).

It's a bit like belief in God, combined with uncertainty about the nature of God: murray.html.

It's interesting to compare Socrates & Lao-Tsu. I believe the latter existed, although some of the stories about him may not be reliable.

Suppose Lao-Tsu was leaving the Western gate, as the story goes, why do it? Why head off into the tribal lands, where he might be killed, or unable to find food etc? Was he disillusioned with the governance of Chinese society? I see him as offering recommendations, and yet being powerless to implement them. In later centuries, however, his advice was influential.

When you write of <<the Jewish "object" sense of the Word>>, I guess you mean the idea that the word encompasses an essence. There's a problem for me here, in that it conveys the impression that we can know the essence, and somehow capture it. This, I think, leads to over-confidence among religious practitioners. Emphasis on human fallibility is a corrective, provided that it does not go to that other extreme, nihilism.

I enclose, below, quotes which show (a) a historical connection between Kabalism & shivaism (tantrism, taoism) and (b) that the Song of Songs in the Bible is derived from the Sumerian "sacred marriage" ceremony, a fertility ritual in which the king beds a goddess (c) that the cherubim of Solomon's Temple were sphinxes modelled on Phoenician sphinxes, in turn adapted from Egyptian sphinxes - the point being that Judaism is a constructed religion, copied from bits of the cultures around it, and that it has varied over its history as those surrounding influences have varied.

Now these are quite interesting to me. I hope you'll read them closely, and send me your thoughts.

They also have a bearing on my attitude to Judaism. As you know, the Bible is a very patriarchial book, and quite genocidal in places, yet it contains other elements which are remnants of earlier traditions. In the same way, the Monstrance used in Catholic ritual to store the consecrated host - (trans-substantiated into Jesus) - is a borrowing from religions of the Sun God Mithra or Ra; the wavy lines emanating from the centre represent the sun's rays: daoist.html.

Judaism and Catholicism thus unwittingly preserve many old traditions they were trying to destroy.

When I say I object to Judaism, it is those verses of the Bible (and the practice) which demand and enforce ritual separation, that I mainly have in mind.

Question: can you find any parallel to those verses, in Eastern literature? If so, please let me know.

I think that Jews must give up the idea that the Bible is a revealed book - it's just an interesting collection of historical bits and pieces, like your or my private library.

For that reason, I doubt that numerology in the Bible has any meaning, or any relevance to the I Ching.

Now to the source material:

(1) Barbara G. Walker, The I Ching of the Goddess, Harper & Row, San Francisco 1986:

{p. 16} The word hexagram does not really mean an arrangement of parallel horizontal lines {as in the I Ching}. It means a geometric figure composed of two interlocking triangles: the same figure now generally accepted as a symbol of Judaism and even erroneously called the Star of David, or sometimes Solomon's Seal. In fact this figure was unknown in Jewish tradition until the twelfth century A.D., when it appeared in the symbolism of the Cabala, apparently having traveled to the mystics of Spanish Jewry from Tantric sages in the Far East, where it was known as the Sri Yantra or Great Yantra. It was not officially adopted as a Jewish emblem until five hundred years later, in the seventeenth century.

Medieval Jewish cabalists used the hexagram in much the same way as their Tantric forerunners, to represent divinity in terms of a union of the sexes. They even claimed that the hexagram first appeared inside the Ark of the Covenant, along with the tablets of the laws, and that it stood for male and female deities in perpetual sexual intercourse, the same meaning it bore in India. To cabalists, the union of God and his Shekina (the Female Principle) was modeled on the union of Shiva and the cosmic Goddess, Kali-Shakti, his mother-sister-bride, who also devoured him and gave him eternal cyclic rebirth.

Cabalists envisioned the Shekina in much the same way as early Gnostic sages envisioned Jehovah's spouse Sophia, who embodied his wisdom and the essential spirit that enabled him to function at all. She too was a Westernized version of the Tantric Shakti. Cabalists claimed that all the world's evil arose from God's separation from this female principle and the purpose of a true sage was to put God and his empowering female spirit back together. The usual route toward this end was sex magic, also designed according to the Tantric model. {end}

{Barbara Walker goes on to portray the hexagram of the I Ching as representing the two interlocking triangles: the lower (male) triangle considered as 3 unbroken lines, the upper triangle as 3 lines each broken by the lower triangle.}

(2) Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1983:

{p. 401} The familiar design of two interlocked triangles is generally supposed to have represented the Jewish faith since the time of David, or Solomon; therefore this hexagram is known as Magen David (Shield of David), or the Star of David, or Solomon's Seal. Actually, the hexagram had nothing to do with either David or Solomon. It was not mentioned in Jewish literature until the 12th century A.D., and was not adopted as a Jewish emblem until the 17th century.

The real history of the hexagram began with Tantric Hinduism, where it represented union of the sexes. ...

{p. 402} "The downward-pointing triangle is a female symbol corresponding to the yoni; it is called 'shakti.' The upward-pointing triangle is the male, the lingam, and is called 'the fire' (vahni)." {This quote comes from Heinrich Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1946, p. 147} ....

From the Tantric image of the sexual hexagram arose a Jewish system of sex worship connected with the medieval Cabala, and a rabbinical tradition that "a picture is supposed to be placed in the ark of the covenant alongside of the tables of the laws, which shows a man and a woman in intimate embrace, in the form of a hexagram."

The Cabala was developed by the Jews of Moorish Spain after the crusades brought eastern Goddess worship into their ken. Cabalists used the hexagram as Tantric yogis used it, to represent the union of God with his Female Power, Shekina, the Jewish form of Shakti-Kali. As Shakti was the essential soul of any Hindu god, so Shekina was the essential soul of the Cabalistic God. As in all religions of the Divine Marriage, Cabalistic Judaism discovered man and woman to be earthly images of God and Goddess; and sexual union of mortals naturally encouraged its like in the supernatural realm. Therefore sexual intercourse was "a sacramental act in the service of a God and his consort (or perhaps vice versa: a Goddess and her consort)."

The Zohar identified Shekina with Torah, "the law," as the older Gnostic Goddess was identified with her own virgin form Maat, "the law" or "Truth." A man aspiring to mystic wisdom had to become a "bridegroom of Torah," for the law was embodied in a maiden, like the enlightening lady-love of contemporary bardic romance, which was also inspired by eastern Goddess-worship. ...

{The written Torah is so patriarchial, genocidal, and repressive, that it cannot be reconciled with Tantrism; but earlier Judaism, prior to the Zoroastrian influence, included goddesses. This borrowing from Tantrism/Shivaism may have been merely a return to an earlier version of Judaism, as Catholicism corrected its over-male orientation by making the Virgin Mary a goddess, in practice if not in theology; the declaration of Immaculate Conception, however, takes the theology very close}

The hexagram stood for the complete union of the sage with Shekina-Torah. Attribution of the hexagram to Solomon as the magic "Solomon's Seal" probably arose from the popular view of Solomon

{p. 403} as enlightened by a sacred marriage, suggested by the erotic love poetry of Solomon's Song in the Bible. {end}

{The Song of Songs is a book of the Bible, also known as The Song of Solomon}

(3) Samuel Noah Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite: Aspects of Faith, Myth and Ritual in Ancient Sumer, Indiana University Press, London 1969:

{p. 88} If the "Song of Songs" is nothing more than a repertory of secular, sensuous love lyrics without any traditional, hallowed, religious background, how did it ever occur to the circumspect, straight-laced, pious rabbis to include it in the Holy Scripture? And why, in a book of simple, wistful, tender songs of love between a man and a maid, should the lover be pictured both as an alluring, irresistible king living in courtly luxury, and as a lowly shepherd following his flocks alongside those of his fellows? And would a simple maid sighing with love and panting with passion take time out from her tender outpourings to utter refrain-Iike soliloquies and adjurations to the daughters of Jerusalem, who seem to be ever at her side, prepared to lend a sympathetic ear, and to ask questions that will evoke a moving, passionate response? All this hardly speaks for a simple, artless, idyllic love poetry.

Or take the rich, bold metaphoric imagery that pervades the book: the maid is swarthy as the tents of Kedar, as the hangings of

{p. 89} Solomon; she is a steed of Pharoah's chariot; her hair is flocks of goats; her teeth are flocks of ewes; her neck is a tower of ivory; her nose is a peak of Lebanon; her navel is a rounded goblet; her belly is a heap of wheat set about with lilies! And as for the lover: he has a head of gold; his locks are the branches of a tree; his cheeks are beds of spices; his lips are myrrh-dripping lilies; his hands are golden rods studdedwith rubies; his belly is sapphire-studded ivory; his legs are pillars of marble set on golden sockets. All these polished, ornate, rhetorical figures of speech hardly smack of the homemade bard and ballad-monger; rather they seem to flow from the well-stocked repertoire of the professional court poet. Moreover, palace and court are mentioned repeatedly in the book, and one of the lyrics is actually a stirring and impressive wedding song in which King Solomon is depicted as the joyous bridegroom. All of which leaves the impression that the "Song of Songs," repetitive, obscure, and difficult as the text is, goes back, at least in part, to some ancient ritual, to a nuptial ceremony in which the king played the role of groom, and for which the court poets composed appropriate songs and lyrics.

With considerations more or less like these running through his mind, Theophile Meek, a scholar who was at home in cuneiform as well as in biblical research, propounded a theory of the origin of the "Song of Songs" which, in my opinion, is fundamentally sound and constructive, in spite of the fact that a number of his assumptions, inferences, and arguments have turned out to be erroneous, wholly or in part. Here in a nutshell are the main lines of his thesis:

The "Song of Songs," or at least a good part of it, is a modified and conventionalized form of an ancient Hebrew liturgy celebrating the reunion and marriage of the sun-god with the mother-goddess, which had flourished in Mesopotamia from earliest days. This Sacred Marriage had been part of a fertility cult which the nomadic Hebrews took over from their urbanized Canaanite neighbors, who, in turn had borrowed it from the Tammuz-Ishtar cult of the Akkadians, a modified form of the Dumuzi-Inanna cult of the Sumerians. Nor is this at all surprising. As had been noted repeatedly by biblical scholars, traces of this fertility cult are found in a number of books in the Bible, and though the prophets condemned

{p. 90} it severely, it was never fully eradicated. In fact the prophets themselves did not hesitate to draw some of their symbolism from the cult, and the frequent descriptions in the prophetic writings of the relation between Jahweh and Israel as that of husband and wife indicate the existence of a Sacred Marriage between Jahweh and the goddess Astarte, the Canaanite counterpart of the Mesopotamian Ishtar-Inanna. Even as late as the Mishnaic times, that is, roughly the time of the canonization of the Old Testament, the maidens of Jerusalem are reported to have gone out at the close of the Day of Atonement and during the "Festival of Trees" to dance in the vineyard. They were met by youths singing "Go forth and gaze, daughters of Zion, on King Solomon and the crown with which his mother crowned him on his wedding day, on the day his heart was overjoyed" (Song of Songs 3:11) . This, too, is but a late, if hardly recognizable, reflection of an ancient Hebrew Sacred Marriage Rite

This theory of the origin of the book, argues Meek, would resolve not a few of the diffculties that have beset the biblical scholars in the past. It would explain why the lover in the "Song of Songs" is designated both shepherd and king - these are the very epithets of Tammuz-Dumuzi in the cuneiform documents. It would also explain why the beloved is designated as both bride and sister - these are identical with the epithets of Ishtar-Inanna. The Mesopotamian Dumuzi-Inanna cult liturgies consist largely of dialogues and monologues uttered by the sacred couple, interrupted here and there by chorus-like refrains - this would account for the otherwise inexplicable literary structure of the book. Best of all, it would help to explain its acceptance as part of the Holy Scriptures. For even after later Jahwehism had purged its contents by obliterating almost all traces of its fertility cult elements, it still carried with it a hallowed aura of religious traditions that smoothed its way for admittance into the sacred canon, especially since Solomon's name had in some way become attached to it.

Meek's general thesis that the "Song of Songs," or at least parts of it, had its roots in a Sacred Marridge Rite borrowed by the Canaanites from the Tammuz-Ishtar (Dumuzi-Inanna) cult as practiced in neighboring Mesopotarnia introduced a fresh note into the stagnating quest for the book's origin, and in one form or another,

{p. 91} it gained the adherence of not a few of the leading biblical scholars.

But there are two erroneous assumptions in Meek's thesis that seriously damaged his case. In the first place, Meek, like most scholars of his day, assumed that Tammuz was a genuine, bona fide, immortal Mesopotamian deity right from the beginning; his marriage with Ishtar-Inanna, therefore, was a marriage between deities. This led him to surmise that the Canaanites and Hebrews, too, believed that it was a god who was wed to Astarte, and in case of the Hebrews, this would naturally be Jahweh, or the king representing Jahweh. The introduction of Jahweh into the Sacred Marriage Rite weakened considerably Meek's thesis, since Jahweh is nowhere mentioned in the book, an omission that Meek found difficult to explain away. But now we know that Tammuz was originally not a god at all, but a mortal king who was wed to Ishtar-Inanna primarily to ensure the well-being of his land and people. So, too, among the Hebrews, it was not the god Jahweh who was wed to Astarte, but the king - a Solomon, for example - and presumably for the same reasons. With Jahweh eliminated from the rite, Meek's thesis would have been considerably more acceptable to biblical scholars.

In the second place, because in his day well-nigh all the cuneiform texts concerned with the Tammuz-Ishtar cult were dirges and laments, Meek was impelled to comb the "Song of Songs" for all possible ( and impossible ) references and allusions to the "god who died" and to the "goddess who descended to the Nether World to save him." This led to a number of far-out interpretations that did little to make his thesis creditable. In fact it is rather ironic that most of the parallels from the Tammuz-Ishtar cult (or rather the Dumuzi-Inanna cult as it should be designated, since nearly all the compositions are in the Sumerian language) that he could call for the tender, joyous songs of the biblical book came from the desolate laments for a dying god. It is only now, when we have more than a dozen Sumerian Sacred Marriage songs of celebration and rejoicing, that we begin to get a true picture of the parallels between the biblical book and some of its probable cuneiform forerunners.


(4) Walter Mattfeld on The Pre-Biblical Origins of Cherubim

From Walter Mattfeld at http://www.bibleorigins.net/CherubimOrigins.html.

Cherubim, The Pre-Biblical Origins of (And The Mercy Seat Atop the Ark of the Covenant)

10 Nov. 2001

... The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, writing during the 1st century CE, stated that in his day no one knew what a Cherub looked like. This is a remarkable statement on his part, he claimed to be of a priestly lineage, well-educated in Jewish Torah and traditions, and if anybody would have known what a Cherub would look like, it ought to have been Josephus !

Josephus on the cherubim-

"He also dedicated for the most secret place, whose breadth was twenty cubits, and length the same, two cherubims of solid gold...but nobody can tell, or even conjecture, what was the shape of these cherubims." (Antiquities 8.3.3. William Whiston, translator. The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus. New York. Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Ca. 1970)

This is a most remarkable admission on Josephus' part in light of Ezekiel's very detailed description of a Cherub (Ez 1:1-25). Josephus makes mention of Ezekiel (Antiquities 10.5.1), so he should have been aware of Ezekiel's description of the Cherubim, yet he avers that no one knows their shape or form ! Ezekiel portrayed the Cherub as having a human-like body, with four arms, hands, and legs, but with some remarkable non-human features- that is, the head had four faces, a calf, an eagle, a lion and a human. It possessed two legs whose feet were cloven like a bull's. It had four wings and was accompanied by a spinning wheel capable of flight. Four Cherubim, each with its wheel were under a firmanent supporting the throne of God and evidently provided locomotion for the throne.

I have been unsuccessful in finding "an exact" representation of Ezekiel's Cherubim in any Ancient Near Eastern art form, be it a painting, statue, seal, jewelry or bas-relief. There are however some forms that can be said to "somewhat" reflect Ezekiel's imagery. Mesopotamian art knows of gods or genii with human forms, with four wings, multiheaded, and with cloven bull's feet. Evidently Ezekiel's vision of the Cherubim is unique to him.

... these beings are not human-like angels or Egyptian genii at all, but four-legged beasts.

Archaeologists have unearthed objects in Phoenicia and Canaan from the period of the Late Bronze Age (1540-1200 BCE) showing kings and rulers seated on thrones whose side arms consist of winged four-legged beasts, possessing a lion's body and a human head. They are known in Egyptian art as Sphinxes. Today's scholars thus understand that the Mercy Seat was a winged Sphinx throne modeled after Late Bronze Age thrones found in Phoenicia and Canaan.

The Bible noted that the Cherubim's wings were "extended," and this is a feature of the Late Bronze Age thrones. The winged sphinxes' wings extend to become side arms, so that the god seated on the throne, can be said to be enveloped by the Cherubim's wings- perhaps this feature explains the statement made of the King of Tyre in Phoenica, and the allusion to a "covering Cherub" ? Phoenician Cherubim thrones exist in stone as bas-reliefs and as three-dimensional thrones as late as the 3rd century BCE. Phoenician art portrays gods and goddesses seated in these thrones in bas-reliefs, seals, and three-dimensional forms.

The origins of the winged Sphinx has been identified as Egypt, and the period of the 4th Dynasty. The most famous sphinx is that of Giza, which guards the pyramids. Egyptian, Phoenician and Canaanite art rendered sphinxes/cherubim in male and female forms. Males bore a beard, females were beardless and at times with a row of breasts on the underside of their body (like a female lion). The Egyptians almost always rendered "winged" Sphinxes as having their wings lying flat against the back, whereas the Phoenician and Canaanite versions have the wings extended and fully open.

For the Late Bronze Age period we have representations of Pharaohs on winged sphinx thrones. These creatures tended to represent "The Living God" - Pharaoh - annihilating Egypt's enemies, trampling upon fallen warriors in battle scenes made in bas-relief. I note that Israel carried the Ark of the Covenant into battle as a palladium to insure victory against the Philistines. On other occasions the winged sphinxes are shown in a three-dimensional form, striding at the side of Pharaoh's throne, some times with a striding three-dimensional lion below them.

I suspect with other scholars that the winged sphinx thrones of "the Living God" (Pharaoh) were introduced to Phoenicia, Canaan and Syria via Egypt's having made this area part of her Asiatic Empire under the New Kingdom (ca. 1560-1140 BCE). Perhaps the Phoenicians took the lead in transforming the Egyptian winged sphinx thrones into cherubim thrones by portraying the wings as extended rather than flat against the back (the Bible appears to be quite emphatic on this point, that the wings of the cherubim are "extended"). ...

We learn from the Bible that with the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE and the destruction of the Temple, that the last notice is made of the Ark of the Covenant. We are informed that the Babylonians took all the treasure with them. The Ark was not among the items returned to the Jews upon their return by Cyrus ca. 538 BCE. Evidently it was never remade and with the passage of time, the forms of the Cherubim came to be forgotten.

What is most distressing is Ezekiel's description of the Cherubim- it is not supported by the archaeological evidence of the winged sphinx thrones of the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. Being a prophet, he should have known the true form of these creatures. I have posited elsewhere that Ezekiel may possess redactions as late as 164 BCE or even 80 CE (he knows Daniel which is dated ca. 164 BCE), and that the description of the Cherubim is of these later periods, written up for an audience curious to know what a cherub looked like- as noted by Josephus who said no one knew their form in his days.

In the Garden of Eden story Cherubim are described as guarding or barring the way to the the Tree of Life. Two winged sphinxes appear frequently in Phoenician art forms in association with a sacred tree, flanking either side of it. They also appear in Assyrian art forms with a sacred tree - in one case a winged sphinx attacks a sword-wielding winged genii approaching the tree. A bas-relief from South Arabia, the Yemen, where some Jewish traditions place the Garden of Eden, shows two winged sphinxes flanking the sacred tree with palm-trees in the background (Palm-trees and Cherubim being portrayed in the Temple of Solomon).

The word Cherub is believed to be derived from karibu, meaning "intercessor" in Mesopotamian texts, who is commonly portrayed in art as a sphinx, griffin, or winged human creature (Vol.1, p.131, "Cherubim and Seraphim" T. H. Gaster. IDB. 1962)

2 Samuel 22:11 and Psalm 18:10 portray God riding upon a cherub, and an allusion is made that the Cherub's moving wings are the source of the earth's winds. In ancient understanding mythical beasts' wings created winds. Budge shows Egyptian wind-gods each possessing four wings like Ezekiel's cherubim.

King David drew up plans for a golden chariot to be drawn by the Cherubim for the Temple of Solomon (1 Chron 28:18). Such a motif appears in Phoenician art of the 8th century BCE.

Ancient Near Eastern art forms do not show gods or goddesses riding on mythical beasts as a rider would be astride a horse's back. Instead they are either in a throne which is borne by a striding beast, or they stand upon the striding beast's back. So Yahweh-Elohim probably was envisioned as either sitting in a throne which was upon the back of a winged sphinx or else he was standing upon a winged sphinx's back. ...

The Egyptian Winged Sphinx thrones of Pharaohs Amenhotep III and Thuthmoses IV, probable prototypes behind Late Bronze Age (1560-1200 BCE) winged sphinx thrones of Phoenicia, Canaan and Israel. The Egyptians also had portable thrones for Pharaoh with striding winged sphinxes at the sides, rather like Yahweh-Elohim's "portable" throne, called the Ark of the Covenant.

Phoenician winged sphinx thrones, probably influenced Canaanite thrones which in turn influenced Israel's Mercy Seat atop the Ark of the Covenant. Cherubim thrones appear on Phoenician seals, scarabs, bas-reliefs in stone, and as three-dimensional stone thrones down to the 2nd century BCE. Gods and goddesses apear in these thrones, both Egyptian and Phoenician. Solomon's Temple had colossal Cherubim made of wood, covered in gold for the Holy of Holies. {end}

More from Walter Mattfeld on the origins of the Bible: http://www.bibleorigins.net/.

(5) The Divine Throne-Chariot, by Geza Vermes

Willis Barnstone, ed., The Other Bible: Jewish Pseudepigrapha Christian Apocaphra Gnostic Scriptures, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1984.

{p. 705} The Divine Throne-Chariot {by Geza Vermes}

(Dead Sea Scrolls) *

The Divine Throne-Chariot draws its inspiration from Ezekiel (1:10) and is related to the Book of Revelation (4). It depicts the appearance and movement of the Merkabah, the divine Chariot supported and drawn by the cherubim, which is at the same time a throne and a vehicle. The "small voice" of blessing is drawn from 1 Kings 19:12: it was in a "still small voice" that God manifested himself to Elijah. In our Qumran text this voice is uttered by the cherubim and it is interesting to note that although the Bible does not define the source of the voice, the ancient Aramaic translation of 1 Kings (Targum of Jonathan) ascribes it to angelic beings called "they who bless silently."

The Throne-Chariot was a central subject of meditation in ancient as well as in medieval Jewish esotericism and mysticism, but the guardians of Rabbinic orthodoxy tended to discourage such speculation. The liturgical use of Ezekiel's chapter on the Chariot is expressly forbidden in the Mishnah; it even lays down that no wise man is to share his understanding of the Merkabah with a person less enlightened than himself. As a result, there is very little ancient literary material extant on the subject, and the Qumran text is therefore of great importance to the study of the origins of Jewish mysticism.

* Introduchon by Geza Vermes.


... the ministers of the Glorious Face in the abode of the gods of knowledge fall down before him, and the cherubim utter blessings. And as they rise up, there is a divine small voice and loud praise; there is a divine small voice as they fold their wings.

The cherubim bless the image of the Throne-Chariot above the firmament, and they praise the majesty of the fiery firmament beneath the seat of his glory. And between the turning wheels, angels of holiness come and go, as it were a fiery vision of most holy spirits; and about them flow seeming rivulets of fire, like gleaming bronze, a radiance of many gorgeous colors, of marvelous pigments magnificently mingled.

The spirits of the Living God move perpetually with the glory of the won- derful Chariot. The small voice of blessing accompanies the tumult as they depart, and on the path of their return they worship the Holy One. Ascending, they rise marvelously; settling, they stay still. The sound of joyful praise is silenced and there is a small voice of blessing in all the camp of God. And a voice of praise resounds from the midst of all their divisions in worship. And each one in his place, all their numbered ones sing hymns of praise.

* From Geza Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 2d ed. (1962, reprint, New York: Penguin Books, 1962), pp. 212-213.


The chariot was developed by Indo-Europeans in Central Asia; it was the tank of its time: needham-anthony.html.

It entered the Middle East around 2000 BC; initially, Egyptian armies were defeated by the chariot-using Hyksos, but Pharaoh was later depicted as riding a chariot himself. Yahweh was also depicted in the same way: the Merkabah is his chariot, but also a throne.

Merkabah politics in Israel today: http://www.merkabah.com/

The word Merkavah is equivalent: http://www.merkavah.com/

Israel has a tank called the Merkava (developed with U.S.aid): lavi.html.

(6) Merlin Stone, When God Was a Woman, Harvest/Harcourt Brace, San Diego 1976.

{p. 163} They Offered Incense to the Queen of Heaven

Though buried deep beneath the sands of what was once Canaan, statues of the female deity have been continually unearthed in archaeological excavations. These images of the Goddess, some dating back as far as 7000 BC, offer silent testimony to the most ancient worship of the Queen of Heaven in the land that is today most often remembered as the birthplace of both Judaism and Christianity.

Yigael Yadin, Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Director of the Institute of Archaeology there, recently published his account of the excavation of the city of Hazor in biblical Canaan. Somewhat evasively, he describes the evidence of the worship of the Goddess there in this way:

{quote} Although the official religion of northern Israel was that of Yahweh - the god of Israel - we know from both biblical verses and archaeological discoveries that the cult of Ba'al and Astarte strongly influenced the local population in the form of folk or popular beliefs - for double insurance as it were. Indeed we discovered quite a number of clay figurines representing Astarte, the fertility goddess, and of what may be called the holy prostitutes connected with the Ba'al and Astarte cult. {endquote}

{p. 164} Discussing the Late Bronze Age in Canaan (about 1500-1300 BC) Professor Albright tells us that

{quote} One of the commonest classes of religions objects found in Late Bronze levels is constituted by the so-called "Astarte" plaques. These are pottery plaques, generally oval in shape, on which were impressed (from a pottery or metal mould) a figure of the nude goddess Asherah en face with her arms upraised, grasping lily stalks or serpents, or both, in her hands. The goddess's head is adorned with two long spirai ringlets identlcal with the Egyptian Hathor ringlets. These plaques were borrowed from Mesopotamia, where they have a long prehistory in the Early Bronze Age [about 3200 2100 BC]. {endquote}

Kathleen Kenyon, former Director of the British School of Archaeology at Jerusalem, discussing biblical Canaan, writes of:

{quote} ... the Astarte plaques which are the most common cult object on almost all sites of the period [Late Bronze Age]. That such plaques, with thelr association with Phoenician religion, are found cannot, however, be taken on any particular site as evidence that it had not yet come under Israelite control, for Tell Beit Mersim itself provides clear evidence for the occurrence of such plaques or similar figurines right down to the 7th century BC. The denunciations by the prophets are enough to show that Yahwehism had continuously to struggle with the ancient religion of the land. {endquote}

In exploring the influence and importance of the worship of the Goddess in Canaan in biblical times, we find that as Ashtoreth, Asherah, Astarte, Attoret, Anath or simply Elat or Baalat (both defined as Goddess) She was the principal deity of such great Canaanite cities as Tyre, Sidon, Ascalon, Beth Anath, Aphaca, Byblos and Ashtoreth Karnaim.


(7) Athalya Brenner, The Hebrew God and his Female Companions

in Carolyne Larrington, (ed.), The Feminist Companion to Mythology, Pandora/HarperCollins, London 1992.

{p. 52} It is well established that the Israelites were familiar with various cults practised in the land that eventually became theirs. Moreover and dialectically, they assimilated elements of those cults into their own. The Book of Deuteronomy and the related editorial framework of the Books of Kings make it abundantly clear, through their heated and frequent polemics, that the fertility aspects of the so-called 'Canaanite' rites were too attractive for the Israelites and Judahites to ignore. During one period at least (that of Jezebel and Athaliah in the first half of the ninth century BCE; and see 1 Kings 17 to 2 Kings 10), the cult of Baal and his female consort - called Asherah - became the official state cult in the Northern as well as Southern Kingdoms, alongside that of Yhwh. As late as the beginning of the sixth century BCE, just before the destruction of Jerusalem, a passage in the Book of Jeremiah (7.17-18) asks and answers:

{quote} Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the

{p. 53} women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour drink offerings to other gods, to make me angry. {endquote}

In other words, Jeremiah (or whoever wrote in his name) is able to relate the worship of the queen of heaven as an eyewitness. He knows that the cult is a widely practised family cult, in which the women are dominant (see also Jeremiah 44.15-30) and which is considered one of the reasons for Yhwh's wrath. As Carroll says:

{quote} An idyllic picture of egalitarian religion with a strong emphasis on the family worshipping together! The cakes have impressed on them the image of the queen of heaven, the mother goddess of the ancient world [as Jeremiah 44.19 tells us], or they may be cakes in the shape of a star ... {endquote}

(CARROLL, 1986, PP 212-13; SEE ALSO PP 734-43)

{Carroll, R. P. (1986), Jeremiah, A Commentary, Old Testament Library (London: SCM Press)}

Who is this 'queen of heaven'? Carroll rightly maintains that her precise name - the Babylonian Ishtar, the Canaanite Anat or Astarte, the Egyptian Isis - is less than important. All the names point to the same cultural manifestation of a great mother goddess. Significantly, the people claim that her worship is a condition for peace and economic prosperity (44.16-19). Jeremiah, of course, is indignant: Yhwh's anger is provoked by this cult. In his view, that of a bitter unmarried messenger of god, the goddess cult ultimately helped bring about the destruction of temple, city and land.

A few points are worth noting here. It appears that as late as the sixth century BCE the cult of the mother goddess was popular even in Jerusalem, the supposed stronghold of Yhwh's exclusive worship. Therefore, although it constitutes an unwanted 'subculture' for the biblical author of the passage, it should not automatically be labelled as such by the modern reader. Furthermore, it seems that this cult flourished - and significantly, as a family cult - in times of political and economic stress. In such times, people, especially women, turned back from the official cult of the divine Hebrew Father to the divine Mother in the quest for maternal love and assistance. It follows that the accusations voiced by the literary 'Jeremiah' have a sound basis in the reality of his day. The Father's disappointment, so it seems, is mirrored by the disappointment of his 'daughters'. Ironically, the information concerning this muted (minority?) view of the 'daughters' is preserved by the (patriarchal) Yhwh opposition.

The narrators of the Hebrew Bible, who were mostly males narrating for M consumption, often accuse women of turning to pagan religious practices. And when the women are of foreign descent the accusation becomes stereotypic. Such an approach is a useful ideological device, since it makes women the chief culprits in the drama of divine disappointment. For instance, the religious influence of Solomon's many foreign wives is cited as a factor justifying the division of the United Israelite Kingdom immediately upon Solomon's death (1 Kings 11.1-13). Almost half a millennium later, in the age of Ezra and Nehemiah (mid-fifth century BCE), foreign wives andl mothers are divorced for their cultural and religious influence on the newly reorganized Jewish community. In other words the usual societal, political

{p. 54} and economic rationale for exogamy/endogamy (see Levi-Strauss, 1963, and his overview of his positions, 1983, pp. 39-97; in English translation) becomes secondary to the ideology of the Father, which must be safeguarded against F religiosity and devotion to alternative cults.

It appears that the cult of the great goddess was celebrated all over the ancient Near East. Its hallmarks ere the dominance of the F divine element, symbolized by the earth. The female deity stood for both fertility and sexuality: she was lover and mother combined, but did not enact the inferior role of a daughter. Her M consort, on the other hand, started his career by being her son, lover and husband rolled into one. He died periodically, sometimes because of her wrath, while she reigned eternal. Later on (who knows when?) the tables were turned: the M consort became the chief fertility/sexuality symbol through his recurring resurrection, perhaps an imitation of the seasonal fertility cycle; and the goddess became his demoted consort (Neumann, 1955).

It is important to realize that, whatever the internal gender dominance might be, so-called pagan pantheons from the third millennium BCE onwards were organized in F/M couples. Imitative fertility rites of the hieros gamos (sacred marriage) type - a dramatically enacted 'marriage' of a priestess and a priest, a king and the goddess's priestess, a commoner and a priestess, a F commoner and a M priest (see Iris Furlong's contribution to this volume) - were an integral part of Mediterranean culture and known as such to the Hebrews, who finally defined themselves as Israelites and Judahites. Sexual intercourse undertaken under the auspices of a religious sanctuary, designed at least in part as 'white' magic to encourage fertility in the biological and human cosmos, could not fail to be attractive. The prophets, from Hosea (mid-eighth century BCE) onwards, acknowledge this attraction indignantly enough. They demote the practice to no more than prostitution, fornication and adultery. However, surprisingly, they put the pagan reality which surrounded them and which, by their own testimony, was practised by their compatriots, to a fresh literary use. They incorporated it into their own metaphorical/symbolical world, thus supplying Yhwh with his lack: the missing F consort.

God the Hushand: Love, Marriage and Covenant in the Prophetic Books

The beginning (chapters 1-3) of the Book of Hosea is the earliest passage to contain the new metaphor. The relationship between Yhwh and his people, formalized in the Torah (Pentateuch) in terms of a binding covenant, is metaphorized in terms of a marriage situation. God is depicted as a steadfast, supportive, responsible and loving husband. The Israelites are his adulterous, promiscuous, childish wife. There is no doubt that the scenario is a takeoff of fertility rites: the woman's illicit "lovers"' - in the plural! - are named ba'alim after Baal, the Canaanite male god of storm and rain (= the fertilizer of the earth); the prophet himself illustrates the marriage principle by taking 'a woman of harlotry', that is, a woman who has participated in those rites, for a wife (1); and women are accused of participating in that cult freely, with the knowledge of their male kin (4.13).

{p. 55} In Chapters 2 and 3 we learn how a change can be effected. The woman-nation is clearly in need of re-education. First, a divorce by the divine husband (in the Hebrew Bible only the husband can initiate a divorce, or legally accuse a wife of adultery); then, a period of isolation and training. Then, and only then, will the woman-nation be worthy again of the divine husband's honourable intentions and he will remarry her.

The same metaphor is employed in the Book of Jeremiah, which refers to a period over a hundred years later. The roles have not changed. On the contrary: they have become further polarized through the exaggerated imaging of the 'wife'. The woman-nation (Judah, in fact, since the Northern Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BCE), once more in danger of being divorced (3), is even likened to a she-ass on heat (2). Ezekiel, some time later, engages in a synthesis. Yhwh is both foster father and husband to the woman-Jerusalem; she, once grown, is no more than a common whore who commits religious and political adultery (16). The description, as well as that of the twin-sisters Jerusalem and Samaria in chapter 23, is extremely pornographic (van Dijk, forthcoming).

Only after the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile do we get different versions of the same metaphor. Now, after the punishment has been carried out, Yhwh promises to reinstate his 'wife' as mother and spouse in his/her land (Isaiah 49.14-23, 50.1-3 and 17-23, 54, 62.4-5, 66.7-13; within the context of Isaiah 49-66 the image of god-as-father is as frequent as that of god-as-husband).

What can be gleaned from the continuing literary life of the divine husband/human spouse convention? The attribution of (metaphorical) matrimony to Yhwh was probably facilitated not only by his exclusivity but also by his pronounced maleness (which implies a lack and a need for an F complement). The tendency to preserve Yhwh's divine reputation of justice and fairness operates here as in the divine father metaphor. And last but not least, the convention reflects societies in which an androcentric cthos, world view and vision are the norms. The negative F imagery consistently applied to the 'erring' people becomes progressively more extravagant until, with Ezekiel, it achieves vulgar misogynistic proportions. It is designed to humble, to intimidate. It reflects the reality of gender relations in an M world in which F sexuality is the Other, fatally attractive to males and because of that degraded and deemed in need of M control (Setel, 1985).

The Theologieal Quest for a Female Consort: The Song of Songs

Within the Hebrew Bible, the Song of Songs is unique. It is an anthology of secular (non-matrimonial) love lyrics, erotic and outspoken. Although the poetic material incorporated in it is varied and has no plot (in spite of many readers' attempts to find one) it has a well-organized structure (Exum, 1973) which is probably due - like other features of the Book - to the editor's or editors' efforts. One of the outstanding features ot the collection is the predominance of the F voice(s) in it. Most of the lyrics assume the form ot monologues and dialogues, and most of these are spoken by an F 'I'. Furthermore, those voices compare favourably with their M counter-

{p. 56} parts. They are direct, outspoken, loving, loyal, steadfast, imaginative, enterprising. The M lovers are weak by comparison. No jealousy, no treachery, no accusations are admitted into the lovers' garden. There is no mention of a 'father's house' or a father figure, as against fairly frequent references to a 'mother's house' and mothers. The imagery employed by the M voices in regard to the F love objects is strong positive, beautiful. In short, egalitarian mutuality and gender equality - with a bias in favour of the F partners - underlie the literary picture.

There may be many reasons for this unusual picture of gender roles in love and sexuality. The most feasible explanation is the attribution of the Song of Songs, as a literary collection, to F authorship or editorship (Brenner, 1989). This is probably less far-fetched that it seems at first, since love poetry is culturally tolerated for women even in patriarchal societies. What is most relevant to our agenda here, though, is not the biblical Song of Songs per se but, rather, the theological-allegorical exegesis attached to it by the orthodox Jewish and then Christian establishments from ancient times on.

Post-biblical Jewish interpretation coped with the uniquely secular nature of the Song of Songs and its apparent incompatibility with the rest of the Hebrew canon by promoting its allegorical interpretation as the only legitimate one. In the allegory first hinted at in a text of the first century CE, the M lover is once more the Hebrew God and the F lover his nation. In contradistinction to the previous love stories and disappointments, this allegorized 'story' is a happy affair in which mood, traditional role and outcome are inverted. The nation-woman now actively and loyally seeks her master; other partners are out of the question. This allegory was taken over bv the Christian Church as well: here the partners are Jesus and the church/community (the Christological approach) or Mary and the community (the Mariological approach). Such traditional interpretations of the Book, claiming to decipher its original meaning through the negation of its profane erotic meaning, persist until today.

The religious and theological merits of such an allegorical interpretation are evident. To begin with, it chastises an unusual text and truly canonizes it. It also supplies god, finally, with a worthy loving partner. Its therapeutic value almost cancels out the harsh harangues of the (earlier) Hebrew prophets.

In passing, I would like to note that modern feminist critics share this ancient notion of the therapeutic import of the Song of Songs. Thus, for instance, Trible (1978) reads it as a counterfoil to the Garden of Eden story, a rectification of the gender relations and social F inferiority condoned there. But that, strictly speaking is outside the scope of our discussion.

Yahweh and His Consort: Contemporaneous Extra-biblical Evidence

At the beginning of the twentieth century, documents written on papyrus in Aramaic were found at Elephantine, a settlement on the small island in the Nile opposite Aswan. The documents discovered - legal, literary, religious - disclosed the existence of an organized colony of Jewish soldiers who populated the site from

{p. 57} the beginning of the Persian rule in Egypt (525 BCE) until the beginning of the Common Era. The Jewish settlers had a local temple, were conscious of their religious identity and their priests attempted to correspond with the Jerusalem priests on religious and cultic matters (Cowley, 1923; Kraeling, 1953).

Whom did the Jews of Elephantine worship? The Hebrew god, of course, whom they called Yhw (a shorter form of Yhwh). And alongside him, in the same temple, two goddesses: Asham (probably the Ashmat of Samaria named in Amos 8.1) of Beth'el (a chief city in the northern Israelite kingdom); and Anat (a well-known Semitic goddess of love and war) of Beth'el.

Scholars have found it relatively easy to affirm that Yhw of Elephantine is Yhwh of the Hebrew Bible even though he had two (!) divine consorts. They regarded the religious practice of the place as Jewish, albeit non-normative, and excused it on various grounds. The first excuse cites populist culture:

{quote} The Elephantine Jews brought with them to Egypt the popular religion combatted by the early prophets and by Jeremiah shortly before the destruction of the First Temple. It is true that this religion placed the God of Judah, Yahu ... in the centre of the faith and worship ... {endquote}

(SCHALIT, 1972, P 608)

{Schalit, A. (1972), 'Elephantine' in Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter), vol. 6, pp. 604-10}

Other scholars cite geographical distance and lack of communication with the prescriptive, normative Judaism of Second Temple Jerusalem, and/or assimilation to the foreign (pagan) environment. However, more recent archaeological finds in the land of Israel itself invalidate such apologies.

A Hebrew inscription on a broken storage jar, found in Kuntillet 'Ajrud in north-eastern Sinai and dated from the beginning of the eighth century BCE has three primitive figures: a standing male figure in the foreground; a female figure just behind him; and a seated musician in the background. The Hebrew inscription above the drawing reads: 'I bless you by Yhwh of Samaria and his Asherah' (Dever, 1984; King, 1989). Furthermore, a tomb inscription from el-Qom in Judea, dated to the eighth century BCE too, concludes with the words: 'to Yhwh and his Asherah' (Margalit, 1989, 1990 and further references there).

Asherah, like Anat, is a well-documented goddess of the north-west Semitic pantheon. We remember that, according to the Bible itself, in the ninth century BCE Asherah was officially worshipped in Israel; her cult was matronized by Jezebel who, supposedly, imported it from her native Phoenician homeland. Other traces in the Bible either angrily acknowledge her worship as goddess (2 Kings 14.13, for instance, where another royal lady is involved), or else demote her from goddess to a sacred tree or pole set up near an altar (2 Kings 13.6, 17.16; Deuteronomy 16.21 and more). The apparent need for the hostile and widely distributed polemics against her worship constitutes evidence for its continued popularity. Linguistically, Margalit claims (1989), 'Asherah' signifies '[she] who walks behind', displaying a prototypic if divine attitude that befits a wife (and is reflected in the Kuntillet Ajrud drawing). Thus both the partially suppressed and distorted biblical evidence and the archaeological evidence combine to suggest one conclusion. The cult of a goddess,

{p. 58} considered the spouse of Yhwh, was celebrated throughout the First Temple era in the land, and beyond this period and the land by the Jewish settlement in Elephantine.

Readers and critics of the Hebrew Bible tend to balk at the idea that Yhwh, the traces of canonical testimony notwithstanding, in fact had a divine consort in biblical times and well into the Second Temple era. They explain away the husband-wife imagery as 'mere metaphor, as if metaphors are 'no more than cool reason' (Lakoff and Turner, 1989). But this is not so. The prophets' polemic appears to have been based on first-hand knowledge of the religious practice prevalent in their day. As hard as they and others fought to promote pure (M) monotheism, popular F cult continued to flourish. And in that cult, the unnatural deficiency of the Father god was supplemented by coupling him with a borrowed goddess figure. The archaeologlcal finds bear the most valuable witness to this phenomenon since, unlike the biblical texts, they are not tendentious.

Finally, scholarly attempts to dismiss a consort status for Asherah in the Kuntillet 'Ajrud and el-Qom inscriptions, which are motivated bv the same purist ideology to be found in the Bible itself, have been conclusively repudiated by Margalit (199b) and others. The need for an F complement was felt, the gap filled. Traditionalist protestations can no more obliterate Yhwh's divine consort from the history of biblical religion, even if the Bible itself promotes her rejection with tell tale

{p. 59} vehemence. R. Patai's much criticized book, The Hebrew Goddess, should therefore be revalued in the light of recent discoveries.

There are perhaps other traces in the Hebrew Bible for a divine F consort. At this point, however, we shall turn to ancient biblical exegesis of another kind.

Beyond the Hebrew Bible: The Female Principles of the Shekinah and the Sabbath

Jewish mysticism does of course relate to the Hebrew Bible as to a canon and base text. Since Jewish mystical texts date from the first century on, they constitute another type of testimony for ancient Bible interpretation. And lest we think that mysticism is esoteric only, one should remember that esoteric it may be, but it is theosophical too. And, at any rate, it has pervaded Jewish life and customs more and more over the ages.

The language of Jewish mysticism is erotic language. The mystic's attempts to come closer to divine phenomena through the Sefirot ('stages') are depicted in sexual terminology (as well as in language of light/darkness, letters and numbers). It is therefore not too startling to find, among the imaginative literature of the Qabbalah (mysticism), some fresh treatments of Yhwh's F complements. These hark back to biblical notions which are further developed, and with a twist. We shall name two such cases by way of illustrating this point.

According to the Bible, the immanence (Hebrew kabod) of god 'dwells' (Hebrew shakan) in certain parts of the world and among his people. Post-biblical Judaism developed the concept of 'immanence' and that of god's Shekinah, his 'dwelling', alongside it. In the Qabbalah, the Shekinah is the F element of the Sefirot, the first of ten such 'stages'. The mystic's ultimate purpose is to recover god's oneness through the reunification of his M and F elements - the oneness that was damaged by Israel's sins and other factors.

Another divine spouse is the sabbath. In sixteenth-century Safed, a great Qabbalic centre, the sabbath was hailed as 'The Queen' (one of the Hebrew god's appellations would translate as 'The king of the Royal Kings'!). The custom of reciting the Song of Songs for the sabbath became more and more widespread. Another poem cited for it was the biblical passage praising 'the woman (actually, wife) of valour' (Proverbs 31.10-22). In time, the view of the sabbath's matrimonial status spread beyond mystical circles.

{end of quotes}

(8) Arnold J. Toynbee on Judaism before the Bible

ARNOLD J. TOYNBEE , A Study of History VOLUME XII RECONSIDERATIONS, Oxford University Press, London 1961.

{p. iii} Issued under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs

{p. 425} 'The Book of Judges makes it clear that it was not by defeating

{p. 426} the Canaanites, but by defending them, that Israel obtained a dominant position in Palestine.' ... In the next chapter of history in Syria the pressure from the Philistines, that fused Judah into a unity and pushed her into association with Israel, led her war-lord David to make an alliance with Tyre. ...

Solomon and Hiram went into partnership in maritime ventures in the Indian Ocean. ... Solomon's temple at Jerusalem and the works of art with which it was adorned were made for him by Phoeni-

{p. 423} cian craftsmen lent by Hiram. And 'Israelite art, from the ninth to the early sixth century B.C., reflects a stage of Phoenician art during which the latter was diffused throughout the Mediterranean, transforming Greek art completely.'

We can follow the process of fusion in the field of language and literature too. The Hebrews (including the Moabites) adopted not only the Canaanite language but also the Phoenician alphabet for writing it. The Aramaeans kept their own language; but they too borrowed the Phoenician alphabet and adapted it to Aramaic by using four of the Phoenician consonants to stand for vowels as well. The discovery of the Ugarit texts shows that the Biblical Psalms, whatever their date, are indebted to a Phoenician hymnology that had a long tradition behind it. The Phoenicians also seem likely to have been the intermediaries through whom some of the Egyptian proverbs of Amenemope found their way into the Biblical Book of Proverbs almost verbatim. And the Canaanite origin of chapters viii-ix of the Book of Proverbs, on the theme of Wisdom, is attested by echoes here of themes in the Phoenician literature disinterred at Ugarit. The Sumero-Akkadian story of the creation of the World must have found its way to Palestine long before the Israelites' advent there, and must have been learnt by them from the Canaanites on whom they imposed themselves. Canaanite elements have not been detected in the eighth-century B.C. prophetic literature of Israel and Judah. But they reappear thereafter. 'There is a veritable flood of allusions to Canaanite (Phoenician) literature in Hebrew works composed between the seventh and the third century B.C.: e.g. in Job, Deutero-Isaiah, Proverbs, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Jubilees, and part of Daniel. Albright sees in this a a consequence of a Phoenician literary renaissance associated with the name of Sanchuniathon - a Phoenician historian whose date, in Albright's belief, is either the seventh or the sixth century B.C.

Robinson holds that the Israelites also acquired the 'Mosaic' Law from the same source at the same stage in their history.

'Not only are many of the laws designed for an agricultural and commercial community, and none of them confined to a nomad tribe, but they

{p. 424} closely resemble that type of code which we know to have been general current in Western Asia. Four forms are known a fragmentary Sumerian code, that of Hammurabi, proper to Babylonia, an Assyrian code and a Hittite code. ... A comparison of these with the Israelite code shows that they cannot be independent of each other. ... [But] none of them is directly derived from one of the others. ... As compared with the other codes, those of Israel were closely adapted to an agricultural community rather than to a commercial people.'

This brings us to the crucial and controversial question whether the religion of Israel and Judah, in the age between the immigrant peoples settlement on the land as cultivators and the rise of the revolutionary prophets about half-way through the eighth century B.C., differed in any significant way from the religion of the other contemporary communities in Syria. If a pilgrim from Ya'udi or Hamath or Damascus had visited a tenth-century or ninth-century rural shrine in Israel, or a fortiori, the temple at Jerusalem that had been built and furnished for Solomon by Tyrian artificers, would he have been conscious of any striking contrast with the shrines of his own country? The accounts, in the Second Book of Kings, of the successive purges of Solomons Temple by Hezekiahs in 705 B.C. and by Josiah in 621 B-C show that down to Hezekiah's time, the brazen serpent Nehushtan had held its own in the sanctuary of Jerusalem side by side with Yahweh's ark, and that in Josiah's time Yahweh shared the temple with the god Baal, the goddess Asherah (whose symbol Hezekiah was said to have cut down) and the heavenly bodies - in particular the Sun, to whom chariots and horses were dedicated there as votive offerings. In 621 B.C. the temple at Jerusalem also housed consecrated prostitutes, male as well as female; and in the valley of Hinnom, below Jerusalem on the city's south side, was a 'tophet' where children were sacrificed by being burnt alive - a cult to which the Carthaginians, too, were addicted.

Ritual prostitution was an agricultural fertility rite which was common to Syria and the Sumero-Akkadian world; and it may have come to Syria from there. Human sacrifice was an atrocity of Syria's own. If it had ever been practised in Sumer and Akkad or in Egypt, it was extinct there in historical times. The Assyrians were innocent of it. The slaughter and torture of vhich they were guilty had no religious sanction or excuse. In the Syriac World, both at home and overseas, human sacrifice was practised as a last resort in a public crisis. In the ninth century B.C. King Mesha of Moab sacrificed his eldest son on the wall of his capital city when the combined forces of Israel, Judah, and Edom were at the gates. In similar circumstances King Ahaz of Judah 'caused his son to pass through the fire' when Jerusalem was being besieged by the combined forces of Damascus and Israel in the eighth century. King Manasseh of Judah - Hezekiah's son and Josiah's

{p. 425} grandfather - made his son to pass through the fire' without, as far as we know, having Mesha's and Ahaz's occasion for performing the rite.

{Toynbee's description of how the Torah was created by editors, below, should be supplemented by Richard Friedman's exposition: bible.html}

The Torah as we have it today has been edited and re-edited to make it conform with successive phases through which religion passed in Judah and in the subsequent Jewish diaspora in and after the eighth tury B.C. Hence the recorded identification of Yahweh with other gods, and association of other gods with him, are represented in retrospect as having been lapses from a previous strict Mosaic monotheism, while purges such as Hezekiah's and Josiah's are represented as having been reformations. Considering that syncretism and polytheism seem to have been the normal practice in Israel and Judah, as well as in other Syriac communities, in this age, it might be nearer to the historical truth to think of Hezekiah and Josiah as having been iconoclastic innovators, and of Manasseh and Amon as having been pious conservatives. At any rate, this is how these posthumously anathematized religious reactionaries must have appeared to themselves, and they had history on their side. Among the theophoric names given to members of Saul's and David's families, there were names compounded with 'Baal' as well as names compounded with Yahweh. On the other hand, 'Yahweh', not 'Baal', was the god-compound in the names of all the three children of Ahab, the King of Israel who tolerated his Tyrian wife's propagation in his kingdom of the cult of her own national god. Ahab evidently did not agree with Elijah that, in showing this tolerance to Melkart, he was being disloyal to Yahweh. Of the personal names inscribed on ostraka found at Samaria and dating from the years 778-770 B.C., the ratio of personal names compounded with 'Yahweh' to those compounded with 'Baal' is 11:7. Conversely, names compounded with 'Yahweh' appear in kingdoms in which Yahweh was not the national god. An Azriyahu king of Ya'udi, who figures in the Assyrian records in the years 740-738 B.C., is an Azariah, but his kingdom is not Judah but Sam'al. A king of Hamath who was flayed alive by Sargon in 720 B.C. bore the name of Yahu-bi'di (alias Ilu-bi'di). Azriyahu's contemporary and neighbour King Bar-Ga'yah of Katka, may also have borne the mark of Yahweh in the second half of his name. Already in the tenth century B.C. the son of David's friend King To'i of Hamath had borne the name I Joram.

At this stage of religious development it was natural that the peoples of Syria, including those that were Yahweh-worshippers, should each tolerate and even welcome the association of its neighbour's gods with its own national god, so long as the national god's primacy on his own

{p. 426} ground was not challenged. ...

{p. 427} Wen Amon, came across the same phenomenon at Byblos. Anatolia may have been the source from which Syria acquired the institution of congregational ecstatic prophesying. At any rate, in Anatolia this institution has a long history In the Hellenic Age it is represented there by the bands of 'galli' who were devotees of the goddess Cybele; in the Christian Age by the Montanists; in the Islamic Age by the Mevlevi dervishes who carried on this ancient Anatolian tradition on its native ground tili A.D. 1925, when the Islamic religious orders were suppressed in Turkey.

In Syria in the ninth century B.C. we find ecstatic prophets still operating in bands - by this date more or less under royal control. Ahab has his band of prophets of Yahweh; Jezebel has her band of prophets of Baal. But at this stage individual prophets stand out from the mass - for instance, Micaiah, Elijah, and Elisha in Israel - and these engage in politics as independent and redoubtable powers. Was this second phase in the evolution of the prophet confined to Israel? We do not hear, in the Israelite scriptures, of individual prophets who were Tyrians or Damascenes. But the argumentum ex silentio is hazardous, where one party has monopolized the telling of the story. It is more prudent to suspend judgement in the expectation that the Israelite scriptural monopoly may one day be broken, in this chapter too, by the progress of archaeological discovery. The Israelite scriptures themselves testify that Elisha, at any rate, did not confine his activities to his own country. According to this testimony, Elisha engineered a political revolution in Damascus before engineering one in Israel. The usurper Hazael as well as the usurper Jehu is said to have committed his act of high treason at Elisha's instigation. In the next phase, too, the prophets played their parts on an international stage. When Amos of Tekoa made his pronunciamiento circa 760 B.C., he made it in Israel, which was a bigger forum than his native Judah.

Prophets, as well as courtiers, craftsmen, and traders, felt themselves at home in any of the statelets among which the Syrian World was divided politically.

{end of quotes} More from Toynbee at toynbee.html.

(9) Alain Danielou on the pre-Bible culture of Judaism

The pre-Bible culture of Judaism - if it can be called Judaism - has similarities with the (pre-Aryan) Shiva religion of India, the (pre-Apollo) Dionysius religion of Greece, and the Orisis religion of Egypt. Alain Danielou suggests that these formed a cultural continuum.

9.1 Alain Danielou, Gods of Love and Ecstasy: The Traditions of Shiva and Dionysus, Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont 1992 {also published under the title Shiva and Dionysus} Translated from the French by East-West Publications.

{p. 27} Another religion which can claim a very long history is Jainism, a puritan religion which believes in transmigration, in the development of the human being through many lives, both in human and animal form. Without being precisely atheistic, Jainism does not envisage the possibility of contacts between man and the supernatural. According to Jainism man can never know with certainty whether or not there exists a creative principle, a god, or prime cause, and there is therefore no reason to be concerned with it. This religion which is more moralistic than ritualistic, insists upon the protection of life, on strict vegetarianism, and total nakedness amongst its followers. Original Buddhism is an adaptation of it.

{p. 28} Mahavira, the last Jaina prophet, was the contemporary and rival of Gautama Buddha. Like the Buddhists, the Jainas sent missionaries to all parts of the world. The influence of these naked ascetics was very important in Greece, as can be perceived in certain of the philosophical schools and in Orphism. Later Hinduism took from Jainism the theory of transmigration and vegetarianism which originally existed neither in Shivaism nor in Vedism. ...

From the second millennium, Shivaism was gradually absorbed into the Aryan Vedic religion, forming on the one hand later Hinduism, and on the other, Mycenaean and Greek religion. However, Shivaism has resisted this merger and periodically reappears in its ancient form in India as well as in Hellenic Dionysism, and in many later mystic or esoteric sects up to modern times.

Orphism is derived from the influence of Jainism, which was very important in the ancient world for its impact on Shivaism-Dionysism. Mithraism, on the other hand, is the attempt of a soldier community to rediscover part of the ritual and initiatory aspects of original Shivaism.

... The great Semitic civilization of Egypt absorbed numerous Shivaite elements, in particular the cult of Osiris, and was able to avoid the danger of monotheism, despite the attempt of Akhnaton in the fourteenth century. Monotheism was later to isolate the Semitic religions from ancient cosmological and religious thought.

{p. 29} ... Shivaite influence on Taoism is evident and Jaina rationalism had a great influence on Confucianism. Later, through Buddhism, Jaina and Shivaite influences again made themselves felt in China, Southeast Asia and Tibet, by means of Mahayana Tantrism, which was largely a fusion of the two religions.

{p. 33} The first true Shivaite images are found at Catal Hoyuk in Anatolia, dating from about 6000 B.C. The cults of Osiris, the bull and the ram, appear just after the dawn of Egyptian civilization. In Egypt, the cults of bull-Osiris and ram-Osiris are found in a fused form, although originally separate, as in the case of the fusion of the cults of bull-Shiva and ram-Skanda. There also exists a colossal statue of the ithyphallic god Min, coming from predynastic Egypt and dating from the middle of the fifth millennium B.C. It was during this period that the Minoan peoples arrived in Crete (about 4500), as well as in Anatolia, Cyprus, Malta and Santorini. Concepts such as the Yin and Yang - a Chinese transcription of the words Yoni (vulva) and Linga (phallus) -, representing the closely entwined female and male principles, are in no way different from the Linga inserted into the arghia (receptacle ) as used in the Shivaite cult, and indicate the influence of Shivaite symbolism at the very source of Chinese thought.

{end of quotes} More at danielou-paglia.html.

9.2 Alain Danielou, While the Gods Play, Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vermont 1987. Translation from the French by Barbara Bailey, Michael Baker, and Deborah Lawlor.

{p. 15} Shaivism, the religion of the ancient Dravidians, was always the religion of the people. Its metaphysical, cosmological, and ritual conceptions were preserved by communities of wandering ascetics living on the fringe of the offical society, whom the Aryans scornfully called ... (untouchables), or ... (beggars).

{p. 22} .. with the development of agricultural, sedentary, and urban civilizations, ... Jainism appeared, whose first prophet, Rishabha, belongs to what we call prehistory. With him arose the notion of a moral, materialistic society with atheistic tendencies, which restrains individual liberty in the name of the common good and of the orderliness of the city, in opposition to Shaiva mysticism, which promotes the joy of living in communion with the divine work that the natural world represents.

It was Jainism that introduced vegetarianism and nonviolence, as well as the theories of transmigration and Karma, into the Indian world. Jainism also advocated suicide by fasting.

{p. 24} DURING ... the age of doubt and economic development, together with sedentary life and urban growth, new forms of religion emerged which sought to protect a conservative and puritanical social order. ... Buddhism and Jainism ... attacks the old ecstatic, orgiastic, and mystical Shaiva tradition and, at the same time, the ritualistic and hierarchical structures of Vedic society.

{p. 25} ... in ... the intelligentsia of the cities, materialistic tendencies developed which were in conflict with Dionysian Shaivism, the religion of nature, hostile to the religion of towns, focused on man. ...

A development similar to that in India took place in all the territories occupied by the Aryans. The legacy of vanquished Pelasgi and Cretans is at the root of the development of the Hellenic civilizations. The Indo-Sumerian sources of Hesiod and Homer have been proven. {J. Van Duk, Introduction to the Lugal-Ud} Dionysian cults similar to Shaivism combine with the Aryan religion in Greek and Roman antiquity as they do in India.

The middle of the Kali Yuga is everywhere marked by great upheavals. Europe witnessed the spread of Celtic barbarians. It was the time of the destruction of Athens, Urarthu, and Babylon, and the Persian invasion of Egypt. In Italy, Rome developed at the expense of the Etruscans. We can observe, in different parts of the world, the simultaneous appearance of doctrines so similar to each other that they seem all to have the same source, which, according to the Indians, would be the Jainism of Parshva (817-778), the predecessor of Ma-

{p. 26} havira. All these religions and philosophical movements are moralistic and puritanical in character, demonstrate a belief in transmigration, and also oppose polytheism and ecstatic practices.

Zoroaster (died 553 B.C.) {Mary Boyce says he lived a thousand years earlier}, a little before the occupation of the Indus by Cyrus (533 B.C.), had reformed the Persian religion ({which was} close to Vedic polytheism) and adopted the Jaina theory of transmigration and retribution for actions after death {but Zoroaster's theology is theistic, and dualistic, and like Judaism & Islam sees no merit in celibacy}. Xenophanes, a Greek from Asia Minor, (c. 540 B.C.), opposed polytheism and anthropomorphism. In Greece, the naked Gymnopedists, who were Jaina missionaries, had a considerable influence. Pythagoras taught transmigration and set up a brotherhood in the same year that Gautama became a monk (530 B.C.). He drew inspiration from the theories of the Samkhya, while the School of Cynics is, in all likelihood, an echo of the teachings of the Ajivika(s).

In China, the fifth century is the age of the birth of Taoism (Lao-tse, 604-531 B.C.) and Confucianism (Confucius, 551-479 B.C.), whose ideas are very close to some of the Indian concepts. The great system of Tao, which tries to follow the natural movement of the universe, originally appears to be based on a poetic version of the concepts of the Samkhya and of Yoga. The words Yin and Yang correspond to Yoni and Linga. Breathing practices and the search for the sun and moon in the body recall Ida and Pingala, the lunar and solar paths of breath in Yoga. The sexual practices (withholding the spermatic essence and trying to absorb the feminine essence) are identical to those of Yoga. The notion of immortality conceived as transmutation, in which "astride a white cloud the Sage or Yellow Emperor arrives at the region of the gods," is analogous to that of Shaivism. We again find the seven sages, the refusal of asceticism, the practices aiming at a long life (Ayurveda, the Indian science of longevity).

Confucius, who was born ten years after Gosala, in 551 B.C., and died five years after him, in 479 B.C., was an agnostic who was against Taoism and sought to resolve all difficulties in the world through morality. He was, according

{p. 27} to Max Weber, "a rationalist absolutely free of the metaphysical and of any religious tradition who ... built up a morality based on the nature of man and the needs of society." His meeting with Lao-tse would have been in 517 B.C. It is apparently a Jaina influence that caused the appearance of the notion of transmigration in later Taoism. With the development of urban, industrial, and capitalist societies, the doctrines of the kind attributed to Arihat - moralistic, materialistic, and atheistic - filtered through into all subsequent religions, including modernized forms of Hinduism and Shaivism. We find their influence in Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and even Marxism, the last of the religions of the Kali Yuga.

{end of quotes} More at danielou2.html.

So, there was a "Judaism before the Bible". The licentious culture of the Semitic-Dravidian world was replaced by a puritanical one. This reaction was introduced in India by Jainism (and its offspring, Buddhism and the puritanical variants of Hinduism), and in the Persian Empire by Zoroastrianism (and its offspring, Biblical Judaism). The cold Apollonian rationalism of Greece was also part of the reaction.

The arrival of Zoroastrianism, as the religion of the First Persian Empire (559-330 BC), was an important inducer of the change in Judaism: zoroaster-judaism.html.

(10) Star of David - does Judaism express the feminine principle like it's supposed to?

{The reference to Samuel Huntington concerns his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. The dust jacket of his book features a Christian cross, in conflict with the Taoist Yin-Yang symbol (representing China) and the Islamic crescent: huntington.html. The Star of David is nowhere to be seen, but surely it is Judaism, not Christianity, which is behind the war in the Middle East.}

Date: Sat, 15 Nov 2003 00:43:17 -0500 (EST) From: jamiethistle@webtv.net (w.j. thistlethwaite)

Looks like Samuel Huntington saw the dialectic triad as being 2 monotheistic (Christian vs Islamic) religions opposing each other and then resolving into an exotic but ultimately synthetic Taoist harmony. Optimistic programming yes, but he avoids Judaism entirely and it was that schizophrenic religion that was the progenitor of the other two. No mean feat of denial that. No historical sensibilty either, only looking forward. There's that ignore elephant in the room again. SH must be a trendy evolutionistor maybe some kind of utopian socialist even.

But hey, that 6 pointed Star of David is certainly a fascinating symbol. Yes. It has secular roots in being the coat of arms of the Rothschild family, ascended past masters of international finance, Their red blazon eventually got adopted/adapted to Israel's light blue flag. Not so much an ancient symbol to the Judeans but a dominant family's adopted crest. Whatever. Another dubious pedigree for the Chosen People's myth, one could argue.

Esoterically speaking tho, the House of David's interlocking triangles are analogous to the Yin/Yang symbol of the East. Angular engagement realizedbut not a flowing dynamism. Both however elaborate an integration of male and female forces.

Now, perhaps Huntington sees the Cross as male (white) and the Crescent as female (black) and wishes they could be resolved in harmony in a socialist Taoist symbolic future. I am not familiar enough w/ his work to be sure of the think-tank misdirection i think Peter's getting at. The symbolic progression just looks artificial to me.

But getting back to the original 6 pointed hex sign, that red shield (Rothschild)... does Judaism the religion actually integrate and express the feminine principle like it's supposed to? I mean come on, maybe its just me but i don't see either Islam or Judaism making any significant moves in recognizing the Yin principle. Let others enlighten me if otherwise is so.

Hence the importance of a Christianity, an image reverencing culture, to make some sort of case for the image of the lost goddess, because its familial adversaries, both Islam and the Protestant iconoclasts as well as Talmudic Judaism don't seem to reverence the distaff, sinister and old pagan ways at all. Distinctly dry and spartan modalities are the norm for these patristic faiths. But again it could be i'm ill informed or prejudiced on these matters.

Still without beautiful visual art as solace, why bother w/ this increasingly aggravating techno dystopia? What is there to rally the life force after a 50 hour work week anymore? Earth is fast becoming a multi-national wasteland. Do you want to become Borg and submit to poop in the multiplex just because some Mammonite proffers it with an intense hype campaign?

Art, at this time, needs to be freed from an oppressively intellectualized but aesthetically retarded, myopic conceptual frame that exerts way too much influence on our way of viewing the bounty of the natural world and exploring the vistas of spiritual imagination.

Judaism triumphant in the arts is little more than the revenge of the nerds. Where's the joy? 57 channels and nothing's on. You said it, Boss. This is progress? Civilization? Evolution? Oy Vey!

Israel Shamir, you spoke so TRUE about the art situation.

Cheers, Jamie

Barbara G. Walker on Tantrism & Asceticism: walker.html.

Alain Danielou & Camille Paglia on Shiva vs. Apollo: danielou-paglia.html.

Marija Gimbutas on Goddess cultures of old Europe: gimbutas.html.

Sigmund Freud derived Jewish Monotheism from Akhnaten: moses.html.

Write to me at contact.html.