dreamer_easy: (hypomanic)
I have the rampaging thoughts tonight. Parking some of them here, just to get them out of my system.

1. Bullying is not a useful way of opposing racism, sexism, and other bigotry. In particular, social aggression between girls and women - malicious gossip, ridicule, exclusion - is profoundly anti-woman, a byproduct of patriarchy. It should not be confused with, nor is it justified by, honest anger, frustration, assertiveness, disagreement: things which girls and women are taught to suppress, but which are the real tools for dismantling oppression. Bullying will slow and confuse our efforts until online progressives reject it.

2. Why am I not an atheist? I'm a naturalist and a rationalist, so why am I up to my elbows in gods? Is this something to do with how the human brain makes sense of the world through narrative?

3. Dear Mr Dawkins et al, regardless of how much praying I and others may do during takeoff, the Bernoulli Effect is not magic. Please make a note of this.

4. The Ten Commandment Boogie helpfully reminds us that the Bible is "full of incredible tools". Surely you cannot be down-with-the-kids while simultaneously pastiching "Kokomo".
dreamer_easy: (GENESIS)
Nodding off while listening to an extremely interesting Podcast on Biblical Hebrew. Earlier was poking around in GB thread about the sex or gender of God, in which various people said God was a bodyless spirit, wouldn't be limited by gender, etc. And yet, God has all these other human characteristics - he's got a face, he breathes, he speaks, he experiences love, anger, jealousy, and so on. Now, in the Podcast they talk about the importance of language in the creation, that "Hebrew letters are the sounding block of creation itself" - creation and language are inseparable. Influenced by Zen, I suppose, I regard the Divine as ungraspable by the rational mind: gods and their personalities and stories are analogies, something humans can deal with, but no more to be confused with the actual Divine than a road sign should be confused with Yass. So my question is, in this theology, is language a property of creation, or a property of God? Do language and the universe come into existence at the same moment? Language is (almost but not quite) the defining characteristic of human beings, so does it result from our being made in God's image? Your answers on a postcard.
dreamer_easy: (darkgod)
Why Clinic Violence is Obama's Problem

Op-ed calls for the federal US government to revive the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and revive the National Task Force on Violence against Health Care Providers.

"Even if no national anti-choice group directly ordered [Dr Tiller's murderer] to fire that gun, he is a product of a culture that thrives on systematically threatening reproductive health care providers and women who seek abortions."

ETA: Info on Anti‚ÄźChoice Violence and Intimidation in the US, including attacks with firearms, bombs, arson, and chemicals, as well as stalking and hundreds and hundreds of threats. It's clear it would be a huge mistake to regard Tiller's murder as an isolated incident.

Plus! Here's a handy refresher on relevant scripture.


Oct. 27th, 2008 02:21 pm
dreamer_easy: (GENESIS)
Mucking about with tags, I found a posting I made in 2004 in which I said:
At the library I saw J. Stephen Lang's What the Good Book didn't say: popular myths and misconceptions about the Bible (2003) which triumphantly mocked those who call the Bible fiction for mentioning the Hittites, a people for whom evidence has never been found. I'd already heard of them, and not from the Bible, by the time I saw Ghostbusters in 1984 - perhaps because they've been known to archaeologists for over a century. I suspect Mr Lang might've been a bit desperate for material there.
I still want to know exactly who said what and when about the Hittites indicating that the Bible was made up. Neither Lang, nor the countless Web sites which make the same claim, give a source. It seems more likely that the discovery of the Hittites startled the heck out of everyone, and this was retroactively turned into a told-you-so. (Apparently it's unclear whether archaeologists were correct in identifying the people they'd found with the Biblical Hittites anyway - but this doesn't actually affect my point.)


Oct. 26th, 2008 04:53 pm
dreamer_easy: (GENESIS)
I think I've mentioned before the enormous excitement generated when Mesopotamian and Egyptian writings began to be translated, and found to cover some of the same ground as the Hebrew Bible. It must have been staggering to find what appeared to be independent confirmation of at least some of the details of the OT stories. It threw up stumbling blocks as well, though. I've just been wrecking my eyes trying to read the Hebrew characters of Genesis 11:9:

"Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth." (ASV)

This is one of many passages that explains a place name: the city of Babel, as in the Tower of Babel, got its name from the Hebrew word balal, roughly meaning "mix". (If you stare long enough at the passage in Hebrew you'll pick out the city's name and the verb - the fourth and sixth words.) This is witty, and given that Babylon would've been full of people from different cultures speaking different languages (not to mention containing a whacking great ziggurat aimed straight at heaven) it rather suits the place. But finding the city's name in cuneiform would have presented a scholars with a problem: it was bab-ilu, Akkadian for "the gate of the god". (Later, it became bab-ilani, the gate of the gods plural, from whence the Greek Babylon.) So suddenly, after almost a couple of millennia, they would've been faced with a completely different etymology for the name.

But what I'm confused by is why the Septuagint version of the verse doesn't contain the word "Babel". ?!

ETA: With the aid of the Perseus Digital Library and Babelfish, I think the Greek text reads, "Therefore the name of that was called Confusion because the Lord confused their tongues". Don't put money on that, though. (Oh hey, this is where the phrase "the Lord thy God" comes from - kyrios o theos. Cool.)
dreamer_easy: (THE HELL)
1. A flier slipped under the door asking: "Would you like the know the Truth?" Indeed, but as they've already managed to break the LHC, we'll have to continue waiting.

2. It was impossible not to overhear one Catholic student explaining the significance of the first Passover to another. The captive Hebrews smeared lamb's blood on their doorways because the Egyptians worshipped a lamb god. The Nile was turned to blood because the Egyptians worshipped the Nile as the source of life, and blood symbolises life. (Uh... OK, maybe I didn't quite get all of that bit.) Plus each of the ten plagues was a similarly symbolic assault on the "top ten" Egyptian gods. Alas, at that point I had to depart; it would've been interesting to hear which god the guy reckoned went with each plague. With literally thousands of deities to choose from, it shouldn't be too hard to find a few likely candidates... unless you're looking for a lamb god.
dreamer_easy: (WITCH)
To mark Pagan Pride Day, I thought I'd share with you the results of my research into sacred prostitution in the Ancient Near East.

There wasn't any.

No, seriously. In the past couple of decades, scholarship has eroded the long unquestioned belief that there were priestess-prostitutes in Mesopotamia, Canaan, and Greece, until there's pretty much nothing left. Herodotus started the whole thing by claiming that all Babylonian women had to shag a stranger as a fund-raiser for the love goddess. Looks like that was just one of a bunch of tales about those whacky non-Greek barbarians which Herodotus repeated. He also said the Babylonians had no doctors and sold brides at auction, which is rubbish. No evidence has turned up for any of it.

Nonetheless, for a long time scholars translated nearly every Mesopotamian term for a priestess as "harlot", etc, whatever the word actually meant. A good example is naditum, which literally means "woman who lies fallow" - a naditum was not allowed to bear children, and lived in a women-only sanctuary. Basically, she was a kind of nun, and yet for years the term was translated as "hierodule" or "sacred prostitute".

Something similar seems to have happened with the term for another kind of priestess, the Canaanite qedesha (male, qadesh), and Mesopotamian qadishtum (the word literally means "sacred" - same root as kaddish). qedeshot and qadeshim are associated with prostitutes in a few places in the Bible, most clearly in the story of Tamar, who disguises herself as a zonah (harlot); Judah buys her services, promising to send her a kid as additional payment. later, Judah's servant tries to find her and asks the locals if they've seen the qedesha... and that's about it for the evidence that a qedesha was a whore1. In fact, earlier Bible translations didn't render qadesh and qedesha as "sodomite" and "harlot". But later editions translate the words as "whores", "male shrine prostitutes" etc.

Nothing in the cuneiform sources from Canaan or Mesopotamia supports the idea of sacred prostitution. In the Canaanite city of Ugarit, a qadesh was a type of high-ranking priest - there's no mention of his having anything do with sex. Similarly, there's no evidence that sex was part of the job of the Babylonian qadishtum. Moreover, there are mentions of dire results for men who boink a priestess - including losing his voice and having a "scaly penis"!

The one exception is the "sacred marriage", a ritual from one period in Sumerian history in which the king and a priestess, representing the goddess Inanna, had sex. It isn't as exciting as it might sound. It took place just once a year, and since the queen could be a priestess, it didn't even have to be extramarital. Later, the whole thing was replaced by simply putting the statues of god and goddess into a garden together overnight.

The idea of "sacred prostitution" was a lascivious fantasy about sexy foreigners which became received wisdom, in turn giving modern writers licence to indulge in their own fantasies. (There's a corker in Nancy Qualls-Corbett's The sacred prostitute: eternal aspect of the feminine in which a "world-weary" man is quite mercilessly pampered.) IMHO, modern writers looking for a sex-positive setting might do better to look at the real, historical Mesopotamia. It wasn't a free-for-all orgy, nor a feminist utopia - but prostitutes were neither criminals nor sinners. What could contrast more with our own culture's attitudes to women and sex?

(I'll post a more detailed version of this over at [livejournal.com profile] ikhet_sekhmet when I get the chance, including all my sources - the two most important are Prostitutes and Courtesans in the Ancient World, edited by Daraone and McClure, and In the Wake of the Goddesses by Frymer-Kensky.)

1 My favourite explanation is that the servant is embarrassed and pretends he's offering the kid to a priestess for sacrifice. :) That's not just fancy - there's a mention of "sacrificing with qadeshot" in Hosea 4:14.
dreamer_easy: (GENESIS)
... finally arrived thanks to my DVD rent-by-mail thingy. Weirdly, House keeps reminding me of Jeremy Clarkson.

SPOILER for House 4.2 The Right Stuff )
dreamer_easy: (BRIC A BRAC diversion)
5 Superpowers From the Bible That Put Marvel and DC to Shame. "Jesus told them they were faithless wusses and the disciples shut up. If that wasn't cool enough, he chewed out the storm, and it shut up, too. That has to be our favorite part, how he's just annoyed by the whole thing, as if being bothered to stop an entire weather systems was equivalent to getting woken up by your girlfriend to go kill a spider in the bathroom."

Nudibranch checking the time

[livejournal.com profile] rainbowjehan pwns (so no change there, then).

Review of Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea.

Handy! NSW Food Authority Register of penalty notices.

XKCD on, of all things, fanbullying. Kewl.

[livejournal.com profile] ryuuri_chan demonstrates how she draws chibis!

[livejournal.com profile] illudiumphosdex demonstrates the mighty phonofiddle!

Dark Phoenix cosplay, Blimey!

Elsie's stunning poem 64 Birds.
dreamer_easy: (Default)
This is very interesting, I had no idea!

Deuteronomy 32:18 (NIV):
You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
you forgot the God who gave you birth.
Now this gets more interesting when you investigate the original Hebrew: according to scripturetext.com, the word rendered above as "fathered" could also be translated as "to bear young, to act as midwife". I think, though we're pretty safe with "gave you birth", since the Hebrew word, meaning "twist", is used to refer to a mother writhing in labour.

Now, the NIV renders Deuteronomy 32:11 thus:
like an eagle that stirs up its nest
and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
and carries them on its pinions.
But the KJV is explicit about the eagle's gender:
As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
Then again, the ASV has:
Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
That hovers over its young,
He spread His wings and caught them,
He carried them on His pinions.
Well, here's the Hebrew. [livejournal.com profile] thegameiam, is it a lady eagle or a gentleman eagle - or can we not tell? :)

If you're interested, there are further examples in Isaiah 42:13-14, Isaiah 45:9-10, Psalm 90:2, and Numbers 11:12. biblegateway.com is a brilliant resource.
dreamer_easy: (Default)
In further Bible study news, I've only just clocked that in God's beautiful speech admonishing Job, He has both male and female characteristics:
Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?
(That's the NIV rendering of Job 38:28-30.)

(Those are amongst several images of God as creator and organiser of the cosmos - besides these biological ones, there are references to building, cutting irrigation channels, giving orders, looking after animals, pottery, textiles, and metalwork.)
dreamer_easy: (facepalm)
So, in the hope of improving Biblical literacy, here's today's Bible study, thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ihasatardis. No seriously. That's a real church sign, not one of the plentiful joke ones.

Now IMHO there's a little Scriptural blunder in the sign which I'd like to draw to your attention. (I am hardly a Biblical scholar, so your (informed) comments are welcome.)

The Bible mentions lesbianism only once, but is, erm, not exactly positive about it (it's Paul, sigh). Here's the NIV version of the passage, Romans 1:26:
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.
Paul's in the middle of a lengthy rant about how those who haven't accepted Christianity have therefore turned to all kinds of sin and wickedness, including anything-goes orgies. (Interestingly, the Romans accused early Christians of holding their own orgies. It's a stock accusation which every religion uses against its rivals.)

So that's the basis of the Ohio church's sign. Unfortunately, they seem to have stopped reading somewhere around the orgies, because just a few lines later in Romans 2, Paul pulls out his punchline:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
He goes on to make his meaning pretty explicit:
you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?
This is one of a number of New Testament warnings against hypocritical piety, including Jesus' words in Matthew 7 - the famous "Judge not that ye be not judged." (Fred Phelps and co are very keen on Galatians 6:7 but not so keen on Galatians 6:1.)

So, in short, the third line of the Church sign simply ignores Paul when he becomes inconvenient to their message. Tch tch tch. They want to see an opthamologist about that beam.

ETA: In further unnatural usage news, Frank is currently sleeping in the litter box. :P
dreamer_easy: (Genesis)
OK, lemme see. Under "Word of God" in the Anchor Bible Dictionary we get several pages on the Hebrew dabar, "the word of God", meaning: communications from God via speech but also through dreams, visions, and other routes; the creative power of God's words; and the expression of God's will. (I think the latter two are something like the Greek concept of the logos, though it's not mentioned.)

Bit more in a, erm, in a bit.
dreamer_easy: (Genesis)
One of these JW mags quotes a guy who says that "knowledge of the Old Testament is fading fast among Christians and has virtually vanished in popular culture". So! Test yourself, Christians and others on my flist - without peeking at other comments, see if you can comment with five events from the OT. (If you actually do Bible study, you're disqualified! :-)
dreamer_easy: (Genesis)
I've just been listening to a terrific podcast about The Gospel of Mark while doing the washing up. Among many interesting things (the always-entertaining disciples bring the stupid and spend a lot of time panicking), there are references to the Greek word pneuma, "breath", usually translated as "Holy Spirit". For example:

"... right from the beginning in Mark, pneuma, or what's usually translated as Holy Spirit, sacred pneuma, the charged breath, the wind, the sacred essence, is what breathes through this story."

(It's God's breath which brings Adam to life, of course, and [livejournal.com profile] synaesthete7 has mentioned the idea of the Bible as theopneustos, God-breathed.)

Long-time readers of this LJ will not be surprised that I thought of a Mesopotamian parallel: the word for the spirits that cause illness is similar to the word for "wind", and those spirits get in through apertures in the house, like a wind coming in. (I read about this quite recently, but do you think I can find the reference? I cannot.) I'm not sure, though, that there are Mesopotamian parallels with the idea of breathing life into someone or something.

Is the idea of God's breath as His agent similar to the idea of God's Word (or indeed, Marduk's word, which can create and destroy)? And are these in turn parallel to the Egyptian idea of hike, roughly "magic", the divine power used by the gods?
dreamer_easy: (Genesis)
You may recall a discussion of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth here a little while ago, some of which addressed the debate around the exact words used in the Bible which are translated today as "virgin". I'm reading a book on the Canaanite goddess Anat right now, so I thought I'd throw this into the discussion: Anat is frequently called btlt 'nt. The first word, from the Ugaritic language, is the equivalent of the Hebrew bethulah, one of the controversial words. Since Anat had a consort and a son, it's unlikely that the title means "the Virgin Anat" - more likely "the young woman Anat".

But the book also says that Ishtar was often called "the Virgin Ishtar" - in which case there is no way the word means a woman who hasn't had sexual intercourse! The question this raises in my mind is whether Akkadian texts use the word batultu, the Akkadian equivalent of betulah and btlt, to describe Ishtar.

(The book is The Violent Goddess: Anat in the Ras Shamra texts by Arvid S. Kapelrud.)
dreamer_easy: (Genesis)
I was looking up Martha in the Bible and found Luke 10:38-42. As a spiritual person, I totally get this. (There's a similar Buddhist story, about the herder who's in a panic over his lost sheep - the Buddha quips to his disciples, "Aren't you lucky you don't have any sheep?). As a feminist I'm like WAAGH! If Martha also sits at Jesus' feet, who's going to make his dinner?

ETA: Aha! I can post to LJ if I keep it short!

ETA: Have a look at this very readable essay on Interpretations of Luke 10:38-42.
dreamer_easy: (Genesis)
Surprisingly, this has never occurred to me before. That pattern in the Hebrew Bible where Israel strays from God and is punished, typically by other nations working as God's agents. Does it lend itself to a horrible reading of recent history?
dreamer_easy: (Genesis)
I've written a brief [livejournal.com profile] jekhet_sekhmet entry inspired by a journal article on "Biblical abominations and Sumerian taboos". As always, with anything Biblical, I may have run right off the rails. All comments welcome.
dreamer_easy: (Genesis)
I assume Yahweh is referred to as "the living god" to contrast Him with lifeless idols. Now, my understanding is that the Hebrews were henotheists: their neighbours' gods existed, but were not to be worshipped, and in any case were subordinate to Yahweh. However, quick search turns up the first use of "the living god" in Deuteronomy. So now I'm wondering - did "living god" have a different meaning, for example, a deity without idols or images?


dreamer_easy: (Default)

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