Patheos Book Club: Do Jews, Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

For the Patheos Book Club centered on the book Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims Worship the Same God?, we are taking a more dialogical approach. And since I read their blogs regularly, I thought I’d interact with John Morehead and Bob Cornwall, who’ve both posted their thoughts on the book already, since John in turn responds to others who wrote about the book earlier.

The book includes major contributions from scholars who represent both the present-day perspectives of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as well as the academic study of the ancient traditions of those religions. Jacob Neusner and Baruch Levine represent the perspectives of Jewish scholars studying Judaism, Bruce Chilton a Christian studying Christianity, and Vincent Cornell a Muslim studying Islam. There is a concluding chapter summarizing and offering an overview by Martin Marty.

The book largely avoids simple “yes” or “no” answers. As one might expect, it is how the answer is qualified, explained, and explored that makes for interesting reading.

Baruch Levine starts the conversation off with an overview of Biblical texts and the historical developments and crossroads reflected in them. That monotheism itself has a history is an important aspect of interreligious dialogue between monotheistic faiths, one that is too often overlooked. The chapter ends with a reference to Psalm 145:18 as answering the question “Who holds the rights to the one, true God?” as follows: “All who worship him sincerely” (p.22). Recommendations for further reading is then provided.

Jacob Neusner begins his chapter by highlighting the issue of verisimilitude vs. authenticity – whether something that appears to be the same thing is necessarily the same thing in its essence. The remainder of the chapter focuses on the Rabbinic sources and their treatment of the minim – “heretics,” a group that included Christians. Neusner notes that, from the perspective of classical Judaism, no other religion is monotheistic, since the oneness of God is revealed in and inseparable from Torah (p.29). He concludes his exegetical survey by saying, “Judaic monotheism expounded by its normative sources cannot acknowledge the truth claims of any other monotheism, even though all monotheisms concur on the same theological logic.” Yet he also adds, “The very logic or monotheism governs and defines the outcome: all religious systems that affirm the unity of God necessarily speak of one and the same God.” And the position of Judaism cannot defy logic, and so the logic of monotheism, in Neusner’s opinion, trumps the outlook of the classical sources (p.52).

Bruce Chilton’s chapter seemed to me less helpful in some of its exegetical treatment, as there were passages I would have liked to see discussed yet which were not. But (as though to make up for it) his conclusion is every bit as compelling as the others in the volume. Chilton writes, “Each of the Abrahamic religions, while asserting that God is unique, also insists that its identification of God is uniquely true. That is why their God is one and not the same, and why believers need to acquire a taste for the fruits of difference” (p.83).

Vincent Cornell’s treatment of the subject seemed to me, as it did to Bob Cornwall, to be the most helpful. Cornell’s chapter focuses on what he calls the “Ethiopian’s Dilemma” in honor of a figure who was most likely Ella Seham, Negus of the Christian state of Aksum in what is today Ethiopia. Tradition says that the early Muslims fled there for safety, and that this ruler recognized that the teachings of the Muslims came from the same source as those of Christianity, the differences between the two being, according to one version, the length of a stick, and according to another, the width of a line he drew in the sand (pp.85-86). Yet the essence of Christianity seems to be focused in Christology and the doctrine of the Trinity, understood in ways that seem to be explicitly rejected by Islam. Cornell proceeds to focus on examples of historical and theological interaction between the traditions, seeking to do justice both to Islam’s explicit statements that the God Muhammad revealed is that worshiped by Jews and Christians, and its denunciations of the latter for not preserving the truth. Ultimately, “Islam is unique among the Abrahamic religions in opening the dor of salvation to its monotheistic rivals” (p.102). But a key distinction needs to be made between a question which is “(theo)-logically inappropriate” because of our limited human knowledge, namely whether the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the same, and the question of the extent to which the theologies of these religions are compatible or incompatible (p.103).

I noted with interest the ease with which Cornell said at one point, in reference to Qur’an 5:78, that  “the Jesus that is referred to in this verse is Jesus the Islamic prophet, not Jesus Christ of Christianity” (p.107). It seems as though the identity of two depictions of a human being might be said to face the same issues as have been under discussion thus far. We may legitimately ask whether the portraits of Jesus in the Qur’an and the New Testament are compatible, just as we may ask whether those in the Gospels of Luke and John are compatible. But does that mean that there could be more than one “Jesus”?

Be that as it may, Cornell concludes that the question about the extent to which Christianity and Islam are compatible with respect to their teaching about God depends on the Christology of the Christians under discussion. Millard Erickson is provided as an example of an Evangelical theologian who says things about Jesus which are explicitly and utterly incompatible with the monotheistic affirmations of Islam. But other Christian theologians articulate their understanding of the Trinity and of Jesus differently.

The concluding chapter by Martin Marty helpfully sums up the discussion, offering quotes both from the preceding chapters and from elsewhere to bring the volume to a close. The most important thing Marty says, in my opinion, is that “superficial engagement with these issues is not helpful” (p.136). An attempt to provide a short and simple “yes” or “no” inevitably fails to do justice to the complexities and nuances of precisely what Jews, Christians, and Muslims have in common, and what separates us. Marty also highlights the typical role discussion of this subject often plays, leading it in potentially unhelpful directions: “Argument about who worships the right One God implicitly and even usually explicitly, amounts to the colloquial, “My God is better’n your God!” Such a claim satisfies the boaster but convinces no bystanders or seekers. The boast usually relies on claims that cannot be consistently verified and that come to be seen as affirmations about faith in an authority, for example, “My Books is better’n your Book” or “My pope is better’n your rabbi or imam.” Such “better’n” assertions are often related to efforts, which might be legitimate in other contexts, namely, to evangelize or proselytize. Or they can be revelatory of unpleasant and even dangerous psychological disorders” (p.141).

Bob Cornwall (in passing) and John Morehead both mention the topic of broader interreligious dialogue, which also gets passing mention in the book. I think that bringing religions into the picture which seem to have less in common with the Abrahamic faiths is actually useful, since taken on their own, the differences between Jews and Muslims might seem insurmountable. Yet in the context of a broader array of religious options, they might be seen from that different perspective as negligible. But more than that, the theological questions raised from that wider consideration relate directly to key issues in the conversation between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. If we consider Hinduism, for instance, the images of gods, and not just the sheer number of the latter, might seem to put Hindus beyond the pale from an Islamic perspective. But where then would Catholics be situated? And conversely, does anyone who speaks or thinks of God really manage to avoid idolatry? In what ways are statues or paintings worse than words and concepts, particularly when the latter can be literally “set in stone,” to say nothing of metaphorically? To the extent that modern Hindus often describe themselves as “monotheists,” believing in one ultimate reality, is the notion of Brahman too far afield to be considered the “same God,” and if so, why? Hindus were at times allowed under the umbrella of “people of the Book” – a decision that was always controversial, and was at least as much a pragmatic move as a theological one. But the mystics of the Sufi tradition often found they had much to talk about with Hindus mystics – at least as much, arguably, as the contributors to the book discussed in this post.

But returning, in order to conclude, to the monotheistic traditions and more specifically the Abrahamic ones, the key message of the book, which seems both practically and theologically sound, is that the affirmation of God’s unity means that there is no other god for anyone to actually worship. And so the real questions then become ones which are much more manageable. How important are the differences in conceptualization that exist between our traditions? What is it possible for us to do collaboratively across the boundaries of our traditions? What affirmations of the other traditions are beyond the pale of the acceptable from our standpoint, and why?

In addressing those topics, another key point that the book succeeded in making in several places is the diversity within each of these religious traditions. To say that Christians and Muslims or Jews have incompatible views of monotheism really depends on what sorts of Christians one is referring to and what their Christology is. Despite Cornell’s understandable statement that some sort of Trinitarianism is, from his perspective as an outsider a sine qua non of Christian identity, the truth is that from the earliest days of Christianity until the present, this has never been the case. There have always been at least some who self-identify as Christians but who either reject the doctrine of the Trinity outright, or understand it in ways that are closer to the monotheism of Jews or Muslims than to the borderline tritheism of some Christians. And this is important to mention, because it means that the questions about theological compatibility or incompatibility may cut across and through religions, uniting some from diverse traditions on each side of the divide.

For anyone interested in interreligious dialogue between the Abrahamic faiths, Do Jews, Christians, and Muslims Worship the Same God? is not just one but several important contributions to the conversation. I look forward to the discussions it will generate – not least in the blogosphere in the days to come as part of the current Patheos Book Club discussion!

  • http://www.facebook.com/drbobcornwall Bob Cornwall

    James, first thank you for noting my contributions. I think you’re right to note that the statement that Trinitarianism defines Christian understandings of God is not completely accurate. It has been the dominant form since at least the 4th century, but Arius has long had followers, and some wouldn’t go as far as Arius.

    None of these authors are as prepared as Miroslav Volf to declare that ultimately we worship the same God. They might agree on a base philosophical level, but seem to suggest that as we dig deeper into the traditions, it’s more difficult to make this case.

    But I think Volf raises an important question — one that my Hindu friends might struggle with — must we affirm the premise that we worship the same God in order to find peace among the religions?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks for commenting, Bob! I don’t think that the answer to your last question has to be yes or no. And I don’t think that it is one that is confined to talking about different religions in the strict sense. I suspect that there are conservative Christians who would say that Christians who think of God in panentheist terms do not “worship the same God” as them, even if they explicitly identify their God as the God of Jesus Christ.

      I think that the whole attempt to say “same” or “different” God is an attempt at oversimplification. If there is only one God, one ultimate reality, from a monotheist’s perspective, then there is no “other god” for another monotheistic religion’s God to be. And so we should ask not about the same or different God, but the same or different concept of God. And there, it will hopefully be easier to say “same in some ways, different in some ways.”

  • thenewrobdavis

    I’m becoming more convinced that no two people “worship the same God”…

  • alw_ays

    in response to Bob, I think your final question is dangerous–if we all concede to worship the same God, would our differences so merge that we’d end up with a singular world religion, leaving there no room for dissidence should the path of what is right and good be strayed from? Is it best to keep skepticism in order to keep balance? “Doing it right” stays important enough that you can recognize “doing it wrong” and keep that ability to believe and worship without religion’s dictation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I don’t see how that follows. If we look at the prosperity Gospel people and Mother Theresa, we could well wonder if we are dealing with people who worship the same God. When we move from the diversity within a tradition to include another tradition, the amount of diversity increases, but it doesn’t necessarily involve a difference of kind rather than degree.

  • Stephen Lewis

    No one will really understand Christianity if they fail to do the astrological connection between EL Elyon, God Most High and the Messiah-Christ. I know linking astrology to Abrahamic religion is fairly foreign to bible scholars trained by the very texts they study to relegate astrology to the circular files thus losing the foundational astro-theological structuring of most all major world religions including the Abrahamic ones even though thoroughly denied by Abrahamic priests, like bible scholars today, all afraid of astrological knowledge they don’t possess. It’s the same old fear of the Magi that made priests of Judah and then RCC priests forbid believers to connect astrology to the Bible stories.

    Getting back to EL Elyon to show the relevance of astrology to Judaism and Christianity. The Canaanite name for the planet Saturn was the same name they had for their highest God, EL. Saturn is the traditional “ruler” of the astrological Sign of Aquarius where God has placed the Man of God model who has Living Waters to pour out in ritual baptism to consecrate kings, pharaohs, priests, even gods. There is too much astrological information to post here but I urge all Progressive Christians to learn about the astrological connections to Christianity here at: http://biomystic.org/celestialtorah.htm. because the Abrahamic foundation has been destroyed by historical discovery of Jewish presence in the Holy Land dating no farther back in time than 700 BC making all the Torah stories completely bogus myths of origin. Only Celestial Torah Christianity, a modern Gnostic Christian humanistic theology, will escape the End Times of all Abrahamic religions including Pauline Christianity. Only the Gnostic Christians received the right spiritual information that informed them nearly 2000 years ago to divorce Gnostic Christianity from the Jewish Bible and the Fraud of Israel.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      The attempt to turn everything in a text into a coded astrological tale is an exercise in unrestrained eisegesis. Not worth wasting time on, since it is simply a way of making one text be about something it isn’t, constrained only by the limits of one’s imagination, since you can read absolutely anything you wish to into the text in question.

      • Stephen Lewis

        Many people filling the courtroom in the Scopes Trial thought that anyone who saw a connection between monkeys and human beings was out of their mind. The idea was utterly ridiculous on the face of it. Superficial resemblances, nothing more. Not worth wasting time on, since it is simply a way of making one set of bones mean something it isn’t, constrained only by the limits of one’s imagination.

        For example, there is no connection between Saturn and the Jewish Torah Commandment to worship Saturn on Saturn’s day on point of death. That Saturn was considered by all the Near-Eastern religions to be the planet of rest because it moved the very slowest of all the Seven Planetary Rulers has no connection whatsoever to the Sabbath’s demand for rest from the work of the week as God rested after 6 days of Creation. And Jesus, mirroring the archetypal Aquarian icons of pouring Living Waters out to those who can receive it also is just more imaginative nonsense.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Right. No connection. Imaginative nonsense.

          • Stephen Lewis

            Right, and let’s not forget, there is no evolution of apes into men. Imaginative nonsense.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Not all similarities indicate relationship, much less a particular kind of relationship. The evidence from genetics for our relationship to other primates is overwhelming. What sort of evidence do you consider decisive with respect to the alleged astrological subtext of the Bible?

              • Stephen Lewis

                Try the 12 Tribes of Israel= the Zodiac as does the 12 Disciples right off the bat. I have to ask you, did you actually visit the website and see all the Celestial Torah Christianity material? It appears to me that you didn’t look at the historical lineage of the Messiah-Christ-Anointed One direct connection to the Sign of Aquarius as the Egyptian and Sumerian images show to anyone who isn’t prejudiced against seeing what’s in front of their eyes. And what is in front of their eyes is a historic pattern showing that baptism using Living Waters of Aquarius for the ritual was being done in ancient Sumeria and Egypt a couple of thousand years before Christianity got hold of the idea. It shows that most of the important Abrahamic personages had some connection to power over water starting with Noah, then Moses, then Elijah, then John the Baptist, then Jesus who could calm the sea and walk on water.

                Also, it is impossible to understand Ezekiel’s Merkabah without knowing the astrological Cardinal Signs that compose the Merkabah and the Cheribim who guard the Garden of Eden. What needs to be understood is that there was a universal astrological language incorporated into ancient Near Eastern religions and they all used it only the ancient Hebrew priesthoods were at a complete disadvantage to the pagans with their monumental astrolabs and stellar computer systems built into their architecture. The Hebrews were living in tents and mud-brick hovels compared to their neighbors and so their priesthood chose instead of astrology as foundational religious doctrine, human origination of the Word of God written by these same priests so as to insure they’re expertise on the subject. Astrology becomes condemned in the Jewish priesthood thinking and in the Pauline Christian ones following the Jewish lead. But still without the astrological foundations there’s no real Story even in Judaism as Moses, “Musa” in Arabic closer to ancient Egyptian where “Mu” is water and the hieroglyph for the Sign of Aquarius. The Mythicists are all over the Sun God connections to the Bible characters but I’m tracing the Aquarian connection which is new material.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  You are doing something different, which an approach that has no constraints allows you to do. But it is the aproach of they mythicists that is wrong and not merely the conclusions. You are engaging in the worst sort of parallelomania, plucking similar-sounding words in order to reach a conclusion you choose.

                  I have no desire not to see those things in the text. You need to offer some reason as to why I should want to see them there. because ultimately this is not about evidence, since you have offered none thus far. It is about seeing in the text what you choose to, using a “method” that will allow you to find there whatever you set out to.

                  • Susan Burns

                    I agree with 90% of Stephen Lewis’ posts but would never consider myself a mythicist. I am very surprised that you say there is no evidence for his conclusions.

                    • Stephen Lewis

                      Susan? Are you the Susan Burns I know? McGrath is just trying his best to block the astrological knowledge accompanying much Biblical story-telling because he’s unfamiliar with it and thus loses all his intellectual advantage that’s geared to established biblical scholarship subject matter. It’s a familiar pattern….:)

                      Sorry, I couldn’t resist..

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I am not blocking anything. I am asking for evidence, not just what you see there and read into the text. I do not deny that you can read astrology into the text, just as people have read and continue to read many other meanings into the Bible. I am asking for evidence reegarding the intended original meaning of the text. Otherwise what you are offingis essentially a form of allegorical interpretation.

                    • Susan Burns

                      What about the temples/synagogues found with astrological symbols as well as Israelite symbols as evidence? There must be some connection. BTW, I know you will not agree but the Edenic word from which Zodiac was derived is tsadeq. Theological/mathematical justice/justification seems a much better etymology than “circle of animals” (zoion & kyklos).

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Oh, I am not at all denying the importance of either astrology or astrological symbolism in Judaism. The Dura Europos synagogue is particularly fascinating, but is by no means the only example. But Stephen Lewis was claiming that the entire Torah, if not more than that, was written as coded astrological allegory, which is a different matter altogether.

                    • Susan Burns

                      I reread his post but did not get the same impression. He states that there was a universal astrological language “incorporated” into the priesthood. Comparing heaven to earth or to the temple seems to be the catalyst for the creation of many rituals and, therefore, complex language. This is precisely how the bicameral brain operates – comparing one data set to another.

                    • Stephen Lewis

                      Wow! The Susan Burns I know wouldn’t know that stuff. She had a Masters in theology from College of Holy Names. She was quite special to me. To James I must seem a particularly irksome puzzle because I am not a scholar but come to historical fact finding only when driven by revelatory insight demanding confirmation. So I look and find what I need that verifies the spiritual insight and ignore the matrix of Scriptures surrounding the tidbit of evidence–exactly not the way to do objective research but between you and me I think maybe 90% of historical research is done this way; a researcher gets a bug to check out something and off he or she goes to find evidence to support their hunches. Anyway, so much for my flimsy excuses for not providing all kinds of documentation. Although at one time I was an anthropology major at U.C. Berkeley, science in my life has always had to compete with my artistic nature which shuns organized protocols like the plague and embraces spontaneity. One look at my Kushstone Gallery shows that one big reason I think I get religious visions is that my visionary mindset was never disciplined in any formal art techniques or styles yet spontaneously produced one of the few museum quality psychedelic art movement pieces left in existence, the Psychedelic Art Movement being the only art movement in history that was deliberately squashed by art gallery owners fearing association with illegal drugs.

                    • Susan Burns

                      James McGrath is one of the most open-minded biblical scholars but for some reason has a prejudice toward mythicists. He seems to tolerate literalists fairly well but they drive me batty! My interest is in biblical anthropology but so far, I seem to be the only one. Art and anthropology are similar in that both require creative leaps of insight. It is such a shame that anthropologists are indoctrinated upon arrival at university so that the creative are weeded out and only the conformists remain. You must follow the path that has been established by previous Eurocentric misogynistic scholars or else! I think Elaine Morgan, Gerald Massey and Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan are particularly insightful.

                    • Stephen Lewis

                      Well, I’m prejudiced towards mythicists myself having been banned from Acharya’s forum and Yahoo group for posting the fact that I get religious visions and proved it to them. Acharya is the only author so far that I ever written to who refuses to answer so I have developed a pretty negative attitude towards her and at least the mythicists I’ve encountered on her sites. They seem highly prejudiced themselves against the idea that religious visionaries still exist thinking instead all religious scriptures are using astrology and are created for political expediency, the idea of spiritual revelation seeming only a ruse to them. Or so goes my thinking after getting McGrath types of angry responses to my few posts on their sites before the posts and me were censored.

                      You, seeing correctly that I am bicamerally inclined, appreciate what I bring to the modern understanding of what motivates the minds of people who have religious visions and for that I thank you. The world of scholars who study the works produced by religious visionaries like me of old is unfortunately devoid of such wisdom and are hostile to whole idea that spiritual prophesy-bearing could be happening in modern times in the old fashioned way. But that’s the same ol’ same old story of hostile reception for anything new in religion that threatens established traditions and that includes scholarship traditions. As one interested in religious anthropology I think you would appreciate the to me spiritually marvelous way God coming to me as EL Elyon who’s totem animal was the white bull as in the Book of Enoch, came also to me as Wakan Tanka, the white buffalo bull, uniting the two into one Grandfather.

                      After working officially with the Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria Tribal Council as an economic and environmental consultant from 1995 to 1998 I ended up making permanent friends with the acting Chair as well as with man who has become Bear River’s spiritual leader. I’ve learned some amazing things like seeing with my own eyes how a NA shaman goes about getting Thunder Beings to show Themselves. Here’s the story–mixed with mystical anthropological tidbits)

                      My friend Don “Sparky” Brenard told me last year before we went off to Montana and South Dakota to complete the telling to the People concerned of my Josephine vision of White Buffalo Calf Woman, ( http:biomystic.org/josephine.htm) and Donald’s vision quest to Bear Butte that after the big Japan earthquake he had gone to our coast (only a few miles away here near the western tip of the continental U.S in N.California –”Kali’s Land through Califia”, Queen of the land of gold, silver and gems, equaling the sun, moon, and stars–I love the hidden paganism!) to call on the Thunder Beings to break the storm front coming from Japan carrying radioactivity so it wouldn’t hit us here, splitting north and south around us. (You have to see this video I’ve seen of a big oil freighter or container ship rigged out with a big version of one of Wilhelm Reich’s cloud-buster devices out in the deep south Pacific heading straight on into a monstrous storm front. The huge, ugly black storm front parts before the ship as moves straight ahead through it, you see it clearly and I firmly believe it because I’ve made a small Reichian cloud buster and proved to a friend it worked who was quite blown away at the demonstration). Anyway, back to Sparky. He called on the Thunder Beings who appeared as a huge lightning display that electrocuted 20 Aleutian geese flying in the air. Sparky brought one to me to cook as he told me the story. So here we are in tornado alley outside of Ogallalah, Nebraska sitting on our rented Focus parked at a crossroads of dirt farm roads in a scene looking pretty much exactly like one out of the movie Twister. To our southeast about two miles away sits this big black cloud and the whole sky is filled with clouds rushing at different speeds in four directions centered in a wide circle above us. Lightning strikes are coming continuously out of that cloud. Sparky’s brought his drum as always on this trip so I tell him to call on the Thunder Beings and bring down a tornado. He does and within a minute or two as you’ll read in the weblink not one but six or seven funnels drop down from that black cloud. Lucky for us they all evaporated before touching ground. While I am vision oriented for some reason I don’t think to take photos of marvelous events like this. Camera back at our motel room so it’s undocumented. Did get a picture of that same cloud coming our motel way into Ogallalah.

                      It’s a shame to see close up and as a personal friend describing the way the knowledge he learned as a kid growing up visiting his parents elders (this is Wayne Moon, former Chair) not being passed on to the younger generations because even most of his (elder) generation has lost it, not having the luck of being included in the real old timers circle of his tribe–Eel River (you won’t find it because its extinct and Bear River is a composite of five surviving tribes)
                      Wayne’s an old fashioned type of leader and I am lucky, so fortunate indeed, blessed with this friendship of these tribal people we European-Americans so utterly destroyed, their Holocaust here much worse in one major respect than my own Jewish one–which California small tribes when massacred had no cultural backup at all, so language, all cultural items–just gone. Wiped out, California law making the language and culture against the law. Wayne was acting Chair. The Chairperson was an old guy who told me once about running for his life when white ranchers were after him trying to collect on California’s bounty on Indians (“Bucksport”) a real name town here at one time and a real deadly big game hunt for white guys. And now Bear River’s fully corrupted with a Casino and casino gang that’s been in power since Wayne was forced out of office for trying to stop the casino shark financier from bilking the tribe for millions. Tribal politics-family feuds-the ruination of tribal societies everywhere.

                      Ok, done for now. Don’t get the opportunity to talk anthropological wonderfulness of melding in strong lasting close friendship with the people we came here to conquer and steal their land away. If only it had been like this in the 1850′s here-(we were late conquering here because wagons couldn’t get through the redwoods and Humboldt Bay’s entrance was reed covered)

                      Stephen

  • Stephen Lewis

    In Semitic Languages Prof. John Gray’s introductory book on the way Canaanites worshiped, Near Eastern Mythologies, one can discover how EL Elyon was worshiped by the ancient Canaanites before the later Jews did their remake. Also, Prof. Margaret Barker’s book, The Great Angel shows how Yahweh was originally a Son, even a Great Angel of EL, the Most High God. Yahweh did not have a separate highest god role until the Sinai Covenant makeover that more or less erased EL’s character all together and substituted Yahweh’s in EL’ position as the highest God of Israel. But even the name as remade in Hebrew translation shows the Lucifer attempt to overthrow EL, “He fights with EL”. Those learning the astrological coding in ancient religions will of course know “Israel” was another god capturing and combining technique name, this one capturing Isis,(moon), Ra(sun), and EL(Saturn), i.e. all three of the top gods of Egypt and Canaan and putting them under one tribal authority.

    Scholarship can continue to go round and round about Biblical meanings but really, since the Bible has been dethroned as authority on history of Jews, isn’t it way past time we looked elsewhere for the meanings of ancient Abrahamic worship? Such as looking more seriously at the Yamm-Yahweh changeover, the Sin, Moon-God, Moloch Fire-God, Amun-Amen-Hidden God of Gods, relationships to I AM or YHWH, because these will show how YHWH became different from EL ELyon, God Most High, which matches the loss of the EL(Saturn) ruler to the Man (Aquarius) astrological knowledge without which even Moses, “Musa” from “Mu”, from the Egyptian word and hieroglyph for “water’ from which the symbol of Aquarius is taken. Power over water plays a huge role in establishing evidence for the power of the Abrahamic God as well as for Jesus Christ. Sunlight and water. The two most vital things necessary for Life.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      John Gray’s work is fantastic. Margaret Barker’s is intriguing and insightful. Neither lends the slightest modicum of support for what you claim.

      • Stephen Lewis

        If I post X you post “X is wrong” and give zero reason why. I’ve talked to Margaret Barker and she agrees with me that ancient Hebrews were worshiping two gods through worship of their tribal god, Yahweh, as a “Great Angel” heavenly intercessor between distant EL and themselves. I even gave Margaret another interpretation of the Golden Calf scene to consider that further reinforces the EL/Yahweh division. EL’s totem animal was the Bull and as a Son of EL, a Calf would be an appropriate icon for worship to represent Yahweh which still kept the EL-Yahweh division intact. But the priesthoods of Judah who wrote the story wanted to create a new tribal nation with its own God. And having within the Hebrew milieu probably ancient Israelites or their traditions from their stay in Egypt as part of the Hyksos invasion, these Judah priests copied Akhkenaton’s monotheistic revolt but applied it to the Canaanite pantheon instead. Only EL and Yahweh were retained and those two mooshed together into one YHWH with Baal and Asherah left as enemies.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I do not have any qualms with those points on which you agree with Barker. I object to those points at which you treat ancient Judean texts as though they were Rohrschach ink blots. Perhaps until you actually make some case for your interpretation, I ought to say that you are not even wrong, as my philosopher colleagues say. Being wrong implies that you have made claims which deal with evidence and are subject to falsification. How can one falsify figments of your imagination? Thus far the only claim that you have made which intersects with evidence is a false one. There are obviously no “Jewish” remains in the land prior to the exile since the term “Jewish” is not used then. But there is evidence of Judahites and Israelites and proto-Israelites, from the highland settlements excavated by Israel Finkelstein to the reference to the Omride dynasty on the Moabite Stone to the depiction of Jehu on an Assyrian relief. So in the one claim where you made an alleged statement of fact, it was a false one.

          Tell me again why I should take your claims seriously?

          • Stephen Lewis

            But those proto-Jews were not the ones who wrote the Torah/Tanakh stories and that’s the point of The Bible Unearthed. And as my Reclaiming the Celestial Torah historical information shows, the Jewish makeover of the Egyptian Taurowet icon of celestial order and fierce protection of that order and its application on earth as Maat which produced the world’s longest lasting civilization, thoroughly ruined it by subverting it’s astrological pantheistic base to substitute Jewish hubris, their man-made Script as spiritually superior to universal stellar Archetypes. And as history now reveals, that was a very bad idea. There’s no point in studying failed religious ideas to me because I’m not a historian. I’m a prophesy bearer doing what we Jewish prophets of God do. Bring the people the revelations and then run for our lives as the priesthoods and powers that be rise up against anything new until we’re safely dead and then they seize our visions and use them to establish authority for themselves by becoming experts in the ideas of people they tried earlier to stop by any means possible.

  • Susan Burns

    I live in a region that is very densely populated with indigenous peoples. It has an abundance of natural resources and very mild climate. The “Anglos” did not holocaust the tribes here probably because they were peaceful and were needed as labor in timber harvesting. Of course, their land was confiscated but they are gradually buying it back with casino revenue. Before contact, their culture was highly ritualized and structured. Each tribe had a different economy that exploited different resources. The Makah hunted sea mammals such as seal and whale and may have been the most ritualized society of all the tribes. Perhaps that is why their culture sustained the most degradation after contact. For the Makah, ritualized gift giving created a hierarchy based on achievement. The greatest gift sharing or potlatch was killing a sperm whale. They did this without iron implements – bone only. They would have continuous spotters looking for whales and then the entire village would mobilize. Everyone had their pre-assigned task based on status. The men would intercept the whale in their long boats and attach buoys made from inflated seal hides. This would tire out the whale and keep it from deep diving. Then a high status male would jump into the freezing water and sew the mouth shut so that it did not take on water and sink. It seems the entire tribal culture was geared toward incentivizing a man to get into the water and sew the mouth shut of a dying whale. This man had high status through achievement and not by virtue of birth. Their culture disintegrated after the anglo whaling ships started to employ tribal members regardless of status. With iron implements anyone could kill a whale! It seems to me to be the same with prophets. If anyone is able to declare himself a prophet, then the status of prophesy is greatly diminished. I don’t think it is culturally feasible to declare yourself a prophet. Others must lift you up and assign that task to you. A few years ago, some Makah tribesmen intercepted a sperm whale on a hunt but did not bother with the ritual. They shot it and killed it with a gun. Since no one had been incentivized by tribal culture to take on the task of sewing up the mouth, it sank to the ocean floor.

    • Stephen Lewis

      Susan, it’s not about declaring yourself a prophet, it’s about telling the truth. I won’t lie about the fact that I do get religious visions, some prophetic ones too, e.g being told in gnosis at the beginning of my spiritual walk 33 years ago that the Bible could not be used as spiritual authority. 48 years ago my future wife to be and I for fun went to have our fortunes told by a Christian psychic reader who with no coaching or signals from us very accurately described our situations at the time and she told me, “Egypt will be very important in your life” and that prophesy came true as I found the Egyptian Connections to the roots of my Christian beliefs. The year before Arab Spring erupted in Egypt, I was walking the streets around Tahir Square in downtown Cairo and plan to return hopefully this year and see Alexandria where I feel the roots of my Christian beliefs are centered. I would like to visit Tunisia where I have Sephardic Jewish ancestry too next year when I go back to Israel/Palestine for another round with Paxcalibur and the Separation Wall. All this of course awaits funding which is always a great problem as I didn’t become friends with my Bear River tribal buds as a white guy with professional credentials and good salaries. We are all poor people and getting up there in years so it’s not like I’m about to worry about whether or not my prophesy-bearing work is kosher in anyone else’ opinion. It’s enough that I do the work assigned me and let God and the future decide my work’s fate. I am not really expecting my work and its value to become known until after I’m gone. That’s the fate of most artists and prophets: I know two artists whose are geniuses, creating art I’ve never seen before, and I’m not a newbie to the art world and both of these artists works are in high danger of never being discovered. One has to wonder how many others have been given great visions that never are heard of again. And since this is the beginning of the New Age and God’s informed me that martyrdom is out for Aquarian Agents, I can’t go on Oprah and set fire to myself to draw attention to my fabulous spiritual news even though I think I could see the ratings such a show would bring in to her sponsors..And, dang! I don’t have the ear of any powerful world leader either or any army wanting booty from God. Oh, the unfairness of it all! It’s so upsetting when people don’t take my delusions of grandeur seriously like they should. Luckily, I have good friends and a pat on head and a milkbone or two and I’m happy.

      • Susan Burns

        Well I know exactly how you feel because I have similar issues. Nobody seems to agree with me that religious ritual is a man-made environment from which we human primates have evolved into domesticated man. Perhaps in a few generations when most people are not indoctrinated as children they will be able to use holy scripture as just another source document. Right now religion (at least Abrahamic religions) is off limits to anthropologists. Religious folk are still trying to make out what God meant when he gave men the Word. On the other side of the coin, atheists are reformed religionists and are still angry their mother’s made them endure Sunday school. That may be a bit harsh but most scientific forums will not allow any mention of religion. So I am in no-mans-land much like yourself. At least on biblical blogs I am not cursed at so am most comfortable here.

        • Stephen Lewis

          Yes, so far I’m accepted here and able to post. Actually, holding the world’s record as the most banned person on internet religious forums, (Guiness doesn’t give awards for negative achievements though so I can’t exploit that record which may actually be true–I’ve been posting and getting kicked off forums since 1995. Got myself booted out of the Westar group forum when I complained to one of the Jesus Seminar profs who I had sought information about the Talmud’s Yeishu ben Pantera verses that I knew more than he did which was true. Like you encountering flak when you want to talk religion in science forums. Christian bible scholars are loathe to tackle the Talmud for great fear of being shown up as rank amateurs plus running the “anti-Semite” gauntlet risking their jobs if they find anything negative. That’s why it’s so great that Finkelstein and Silberman are the ones dethroning Jewish mythologies. It takes a grave robber thief to expose a thief I guess. Me, I still get the boot if I post anything negative about Judaism or Zionism or Israel on most religious forums. But, you know what? Over the past couple of years I’ve seen a marked relaxation on Christian forums on which I can now post my Gnostic Christian stuff and have it stay posted for awhile. Before, I post Gnostic Christianity and boom! down came the hammer instantly from Pauline Christians who told me in so many words, you’re not a Christian unless you believe OUR way. Now it seems even Pauline Christians have learned Gnosticism existed and was not organized into a formal structure (except for Mani and also the Mandeans) so proselytizing Gnosticism is pretty difficult to do.

          • Susan Burns

            Since we are venting I would like to complain about those scholars who contend that the anthropomorphic references to God are metaphors. Can they not see the evolutionary process of our creation of God? Of course paleo humans would envision an unseen God that preferred the aroma of burning meat to the aroma of burning grain because that is what the human ape preferred. Would these ritual creators go through all of that effort for a mere metaphor? What about those scholars that think it absurd Moses had horns but have no problem with thinking he had beams of light emanating from his head? Both are myths but one version seems to be wholly plausible and the other unimaginable. At least we know the mark of kingship in the Sinai was horns but the corona is a Greek creation.

            • Stephen Lewis

              Maybe you’re ready to put one of my church’s “Ankh if you’re ornery” bumperstickers on your car.

            • Stephen Lewis

              “Since we are venting I would like to complain about those scholars who
              contend that the anthropomorphic references to God are metaphors. Can
              they not see the evolutionary process of our creation of God?”

              Susan, do you think God created us or we created God?


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