Last week some ancient discoveries were announced. Standing alone, these discoveries would be of interest only to specialists in ancient archaeology. But because these discoveries converge with the Bible, they carry broader implications. Reported from the Times of Israel, the first discovery is summed up nicely in their title:
The article reports on the discovery, under debris of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, of a Hebrew inscribed ‘beka’ stone which was used to measure the Temple Tax – for the First Temple (960 – 586 BCE) . This was exactly as prescribed ‘straight from the Bible’ in the book of Exodus way back in the time of Moses.
The silver obtained from those of the community who were counted in the census was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel— one beka per person, that is, half a shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel,from everyone who had crossed over to those counted, twenty years old or more,a total of 603,550 men. (Exodus 38:25-26)
This discovered beka stone had mirror image (reverse) Hebrew lettering. It is very rare that lettering this old is discovered.
The second announcement, just a few days later, was the publication of a multi-disciplinary report on the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah.
This paper used archaeological findings of a deeply burned and scarred surface area of 500 square km adjacent to the Dead Sea to argue that this was caused by a huge meteor blast – and that the biblical account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) was the biblical account of this same event. The authors of the paper write:
“The physical evidence from Tall el-Hammam and neighboring sites exhibit signs of a highly destructive concussive and thermal event that one might expect from what is described in Genesis 19.”
The Bible records events as history. Its accounts do not begin with ‘Once upon a time … in Never Never Land …’ As Israelis have returned to Israel, and with a deep interest in their ties to the land, they have been digging all over the country – and making findings that corroborate the historicity of the Bible. There is evidence that there was a city by the Dead Sea that was destroyed by a searing fire from the sky. The evidence is in the ground. The absurd idea that Moses did not write the Torah (Pentateuch) looks increasingly tenuous as artefacts are unearthed that can be tied back to those writings. Of course, what is excavated does not directly show that ‘God did it’. But the accounts preserved in the Bible broadly match and corroborate what is being dug up from the ground.
But it is not only ancient history that comes to life with these discoveries. This is what is written in Jeremiah (about 588BC)
“This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more11 the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying,
“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; his love endures forever.”
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In this place, desolate and without people or animals—in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks.13 In the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again pass under the hand of the one who counts them,’ says the Lord. (Jeremiah 33:10-13)
These artefacts, lieing buried in the ground for thousands of years, are a testament to the long desolation of the land – a desolation that was predicted. Yet the mere fact that these artefacts are now being discovered is a witness to the reviving of the land – also predicted and happening right before our eyes.
Then Jeremiah continues directly from above:
14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
15 “‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’ (Jeremiah 33:14-16)
Funny as it may seem, the manner in which the Bible ties its record to events on the ground and then seamlessly predicts the coming of ‘Christ’, makes it so that even little stones being unearthed today are a witness to Him. Almost like what He said, “the stones will cry out”. That’s worth ruminating on as the Christmas season comes upon us.
Two events happened this month that show the depth and breadth of a question that has been burning for over one hundred years: Did Moses really write the Torah?
What is the Torah? Who wrote it?
The first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) are collectively referred to as the Torah (by Jews), the Pentateuch (by Christians/Westerners) and the Taurat (by Muslims). The fact that all three monotheistic faiths acknowledge these writings show their cultural, historical and religious significance. Countless Jewish, Christian and Islamic scholars have referenced these writings down to our day. Jesus quoted liberally from the Torah throughout the gospels. Even as different scholars from various sects battled each other over interpretation, they had all agreed on one thing – that Moses had indeed written the Torah approximately 1500-1400 BC.
Moses and the Documentary Hypothesis
But that changed in the late 19th century when western scholars advanced a bold new idea: Moses did not write the Pentateuch, instead it developed at a much later time from pre-existing writings that were edited together by unknown editors. Known as the Documentary Hypothesis, it proposed that material from at least 4 authors, termed J (for Jehovah), E (for Elohim), D (for Deuteronomic) and P (for Priestly) had started being compiled during the Davidic monarchy (9th Century BC) and after centuries was finalized upon the Jewish return from exile sometime in the 5th century BC. In this view the Torah was solely a human product from unknown sources, put together by further unknown compilers.
The Documentary Hypothesis was advanced by Wellhausen (1844-1918) using two main arguments. First, he alleged that writing did not exist way back in 1500 BC, mankind was too primitive then and therefore the Torah could not have been written at such an early date. (Writing going back much further than 1500 BC has been discovered since, e.g. the Ebla tablets dating past 2000 BC. So this first argument is clearly not valid anymore) He also brought to attention the fact that there were two names for God in the Torah. The first, Elohim, is often translated in English Bibles today as ‘God’, and the other – Yahweh – is often translated as ‘LORD God’. You can see that ‘God’ (Elohim) is used in Genesis 1 but at Genesis 2:4 it switches to ‘LORD God’ (Yahweh). As you read through the Torah it switches back and forth. Wellhausen argued that this was internal evidence of two different sources from two different authors (designated J and E) which were later collated into one document. The theory soon demanded more authors and so D and P were added (and in variant theories many more as well).
Modern scholarship and Moses
While the specifics of the documentary hypothesis have been critiqued by those advocating new theories, what is now almost universally agreed is that the Torah is the work of many people, and its development spanned centuries, only reaching the form that it is in today somewhere around 500 BC. “Certainly Moses in the middle of the 2nd millennium BC had nothing to do with it”, say modern scholarship.
William Dever & the Pentateuch
Consider the following quotes from William Dever, a well-known Biblical archaeologist:
“It is universally agreed that the book of Deuteronomy is a later addition to the Pentateuch (probably it was inserted not earlier than the late 7th century B.C.).” Dever 2003 Who were the Early Israelites and where did they come from? p. 37
Of course, if the first books of the Bible were written much later then this means that all subsequent ones come later as well. In fact the whole timeline of the Old Testament is affected. Consider how Dever evaluates the book of Joshua, the account of Moses’ immediate successor.
We have already discussed the general character of the “Deuteronomic history” (that is , Deuteronomy through II Kings) of which Joshua is a critical component. We noted that mainstream scholars date the composition and first editing of this great national epic toward the end of the Israelite Monarchy, probably during the reign of Josiah (640 – 609 BC). But the compilers must have had many separate ‘sources’ so we need to look now more closely at the special character of the sources that went into the making of the book of Joshua (Obviously Joshua himself did not write it!) p.38
The tone and the assertion are identical to what I learned when I took a university course on the Bible. All scholars ‘know’ that the traditional author could not have written the book. It ‘obviously’ was written hundreds of years later during the time of the Davidic dynasty. But how do they ‘know’ this?
The Torah, Dead Sea Scrolls, & Top Events in Human History
This brings us to the two events this month which bear on our question. A few weeks ago the Israeli Antiquities Authority put on public display, for the first time ever, the world’s oldest existing copy of the Ten Commandments – arguably the cornerstone of the Torah – as one of a 14-part exhibit “tracing history’s most pivotal moments”. In other words, the museum people concluded that the issuing of the Ten Commandments was in the Top 14 of humanity’s most important events. That’s pretty big.
As part of the Dead Sea Scrolls collection, the oldest copy of the Ten Commandments is about 2000 years old and so brittle with age that it can only be on display for a few weeks. It is old, but at 2000 years of age it is so young compared to dates of 1500 BC (traditional date of the Torah) and 500 BC (modern scholarship date) that it is not helpful in answering the question of who wrote the Torah. The time horizon is too deep for even the oldest copy to help answer the question of who wrote those Commands that are in the ‘Top 14’.
The Pentateuch in Palmyra
Also this month, the Islamic State capture of Palmyra in the bloody war in Syria has made headlines around the world. When the Islamic State captures a city there is always concern for atrocities, but Palmyra has an added worry in that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre due to its preserved ruins of bygone civilizations. Included amongst the Persian, Greek and Roman artefacts, carved on one of the ancient doorways is preserved the opening verses of the Jewish Shema prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This shows the widespread influence of the Pentateuch, and its great antiquity. However, these ancient carvings are still not old enough to shed any light on the origins of the Pentateuch.
‘Jerusalem’, ‘Zion’, the Jews & the Torah: Only Moses could pass over that
You might think that with the relevant textual and archaeological data too recent to be of use, and with modern scholars engrossed in competing theories which are united only in their assertions against Moses, that the question is hopeless to answer. The religious (Jew, Christian or Muslim) can only answer ‘Moses’ on pious grounds, while the secular, looking for a non-religious reasons for the development of the Pentateuch, must fall back on complex speculations.
But actually, there is a very simple and straightforward way to gain some clarity. And with internet search capabilities you can do it. Do a search through the Torah and see if you can find the word ‘Jerusalem’. This will do it for you. As you can see, the word ‘Jerusalem’ only appears first in Joshua. Thus, through the whole Pentateuch, from Genesis to Deuteronomy the word ‘Jerusalem’ is never used. Jerusalem is today, and has been for millennia, the center of the Jewish world. Its significance to the Jewish people is like that of Mecca for Muslims, or like Rome for Catholics. This is why the word ‘Jerusalem’ appears a full 655 times through the Old Testament and 146 times in the New Testament. It appears 229 times in Kings-Chronicles – but never in the Torah. Its synonym ‘Zion’ also does not appear even once in the Torah, making its first appearance only in 2 Samuel. Yet by the end of the Old Testament ‘Zion’ is used 161 times. Consider an excerpt from one of the Psalms from the period of the exile (6th century BC) and get a feel for how important Jerusalem/Zion was to the Jewish people then.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy. (Psalm 137: 1-6)
Jerusalem, founded by the Davidic dynasty, quickly became the sacred heartland for the Jews after the first Temple was built (ca 960 BC). It still is today. Yet modern scholars, no matter which Documentary version they push for, would have us believe that editor ‘Priests’ consciously edited, collated and massaged the entire Torah, over the centuries when their attachment to Jerusalem was at its height – and they produced the entire 80000 word Torahwithout ever using the words ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Zion’ even once! These ‘editors’ were living in Jerusalem while this editing was going on. And this while they were concurrently compiling the other books (Kings, Chronicles, Samuel etc) that use ‘Jerusalem’ over 600 times and ‘Zion’ over 100 times!
I find my faith to be way too small and way too weak to believe such an utterly fantastic idea. Revionist scholars, for whatever reason, fail to note these obvious yet simple facts standing right before their eyes. They claim to be able to observe and interpret facts as minute as fernseeds, yet they cannot see the elephant in the room. The Pentateuch, with its absolute silence on both ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Zion’ must have been finalized before the rise of the monarchy in 1000 BC. A pseudo-Moses editorial team would not have passed over the opportunity to use ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Zion’ in compiling their Torah while Jerusalem was their keystone.
Though the absolute absence of ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Zion’ from the Torah does not prove that Moses wrote the Torah per se, it proves that its composition comes before the Jewish establishment of Jerusalem and thus it dismantles, in one stroke, all the modern theories which place its composition in the 5th century BC. The only one left standing when the dust settles from the collision of clever theories with one good fact is Moses.
Today movie theaters worldwide open with one of the most anticipated blockbusters of 2014 – “Noah”. Not only is there a lot of hype surrounding the movie but a lot of controversy as well. Critics are questioning how faithfully the plotline follows the biblical account – with Russell Crowe (who stars as Noah) trying – and failing – to get the Pope’s personal stamp of approval for the film. In the Islamic world several countries are banning the movie since it visually depicts a prophet – which is forbidden in most Islamic interpretations. But all these hullabaloos are merely minor hiccups compared to a much deeper and longer-running controversy – did such a worldwide flood really happen? That’s a question worth considering.
Let’s start by surmising what such a flood would have done to the earth. For sure, a flood of that scope would involve unimaginable quantities of water moving at great speeds and depths over continental distances. Large quantities of water moving at high speeds have a lot of kinetic energy (KE = ½ * mass * velocity2). This is why floods are so destructive. When we saw the pictures of the 2011 Tsunami that devastated Japan, we saw how kinetic water energy can cause extensive damage, easily picking up and moving large objects like cars, homes and boats – and crippling nuclear reactors in its path.
Floods and Sedimentary Rock
Thus, when water increases its speed it will start to pick up and transport sediment – particles of dirt, sand, rocks and boulders.
This is why swollen and flooding rivers are brown – they are loaded with sediment (soil and rock) that has been picked up from the surface over which the water is traveling.
When water starts to slow down and loses its kinetic energy it then drops this sediment which is deposited in laminar layers resulting in a particular kind of rock.
This kind of rock is known as sedimentary rock and is easily recognized by its trademark pancake-like layers that are stacked upon one another. The figure below shows sedimentary layers about 20 cm thick (from the measuring tape) that were deposited from the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan.
Tsunamis and river floods leave their signatures behind in these sedimentary rocks long after the flood has receded and things have turned back to normal.
Sedimentary Strata around the World
So, do we find sedimentary rocks that are, in a similar way, signature markers for the Noahic deluge that the Bible claims happened? When you ask that question and you start to look around you will see that our planet is literally covered in sedimentary rock. You will notice this type of pancake-layer rock on highway cut-a-ways. What is different about this sedimentary rock, when you compare it with the sedimentary strata that were produced by the devastating tsunami of Japan in 2011 is the sheer size – both laterally across the earth and in vertical thickness of sedimentary layers. Below are some photos that I have taken of sedimentary rocks as I have traveled.
The sedimentary formations go on and on…
So if one tsunami which caused such devastation in Japan left sedimentary layers measured in centimeters and that extend inland a few kilometers, what mechanism explains the gigantic and continental-in-scope sedimentary formations found almost over the entire globe (including on the ocean bottom) that are measured vertically in hundreds of meters and are measured laterally in thousands of kilometers? Could these sedimentary rocks be the signature of Noah’s flood?
Rapid Deposition of Sedimentary Formations
No one argues that the planet is not covered in sedimentary rock of unbelievably massive scope. The question is whether these sedimentary rocks were laid down by one event (i.e. Noah’s flood), or whether these massive formations were built up over time through a series of smaller events (of the scope of the tsunami in Japan of 2011) that were separated by significant intervals of time. The figure below illustrates this other concept.
As you can see, in this model of sedimentary formation (technically known as neo-catastrophism) a series of high impact sedimentary events are separated by large intervals of time. These events add sedimentary layers onto the previous layers and so, over time, the huge formations that we see around the world today are built up sequentially.
Soil Formation and Sedimentary Strata
Do we have any real-world data that can help us evaluate between these two models? Actually, it is not that hard to spot. On top of many of these sedimentary formations we see that soil layers have formed. Thus a physical and observable indicator of time passage after a sedimentary event is soil formed on top of it. Soil is characterized by horizons (called A horizon – often dark with organic material, the B horizon – with more minerals, etc.).
Sedimentary strata laid down to form a new ocean bottom will also soon be marked with life signs. Wormholes, clam tunnels and other signs of life (known as bioturbation) provide tell-tale signs of life and of the passage of time since the strata were deposited on the sea floor.
Armed with this insight we can see if we find evidence of soil formation or bioturbation at these ‘Time passes’ borders in the strata formation. After all, this model is saying that at some point these ‘Time passes’ boundaries were exposed surfaces for significant periods of time either on land or under water. In that case we should expect some of these surfaces to have developed soil or bioturbation indicators. When these time boundary surfaces were buried by subsequent sedimentary events the soil or bioturbation would have likewise been buried. Take a look again at the photos above and below. Do we see any evidence of either soil formation or bioturbation?
There is no evidence of soil layers or bioturbation in the above photo or the one below. Look again at the Hamilton escarpment photo and you will see no evidence of any bioturbation or soil formation. From that data the bottom of these formations were laid down almost equivalent in time from the top. Yet these formations all extend vertically about 50-100 meters.
Folding of Sedimentary Rocks
Sedimentary strata, when they are laid down in moving water are initially permeated with water and thus they bend very easily. They are pliable. But it only takes a few years for these sedimentary strata to dry out and harden and when that happens they become brittle as was learned from the events of Mount St Helens eruption in 1980 followed by a 1983 lake breach.
When brittle rock is bent it snaps. This principle is shown
in the figure on the side. We can see this sort of rock failure in the Niagara escarpment. After these sediments were laid down they became brittle and when an upthrust then pushed up some of these sedimentary layers they snapped under the shear stress, forming the Niagara escarpment which runs for hundreds of miles. From this evidence
We know that the upthrust that produced the Niagara escarpment happened after these sedimentary strata became brittle so there was some time lapse between the deposition of these sedimentary strata and the upthrust which produced the escarpment. There was at least enough time between these events for the strata to harden and become brittle – which does not take eons of time, but does take a couple of years at least.
The photo below shows large sedimentary formations that I photographed in Morocco. You can see how the strata formation bends as a unit. There is no evidence of the strata snapping either in tension (pulled apart) or in shear (sidewise stress). This whole formation must have still been pliable when it was bent. But if it takes only a couple of years for sedimentary rock to become brittle. This means that there can be no significant passage of time between the lower layers and the upper layers in this formation. If there had been ‘time passage’ in these layers then the earlier layers would have become brittle and would have snapped rather than bent when the formation was contorted.
We can see the same type of bending in the Grand Canyon. At some point in the past there was a bending upthrust (technically known as a monocline), similar to the Niagara escarpment, that raised one side of the strata one mile vertically up (this you see from the elevation difference of 7000 ft compared to 2000 ft on the opposing sides of the upthrust). But here the strata did not snap (like the Niagara escarpment did). Instead it bent at both the bottom and the top of the formation, indicating that it was still pliable throughout rather than brittle through the formation.
This indicates that the time interval from the bottom to the top of these strata has an upper limit of a couple of years (the time it takes for sedimentary strata to become hard and brittle).
Noah’s Flood vs. Flood on Mars
The idea of Noah’s flood having actually happened is, of course, quite controversial and in this one article I cannot cover all the issues that it raises which I hope to do later.
But at the very least, it is instructive to consider an irony in our modern day. Because of the channeling and evidence of sedimentation that are visible on Mars, it is actively postulated that Mars was once inundated by a huge flood. The big problem with this theory is that no water has ever been discovered on the Red Planet. But for the Earth, though it is 2/3 covered by water – deep enough to cover our whole globe to a depth of one mile if the oceanic trenches were raised and the land mountains smoothed down so the world had less topographic variation – and though it is covered with continental sized sedimentary formations that by physical and observable evidence seem to have been deposited rapidly in a devastating cataclysm, it is almost considered heresy to postulate that any such flood has ever occurred on this planet. Is that not a double standard? Though we may look at this Russell Crowe Noah movie as only a reenactment of a myth written as a Hollywood script, perhaps we should look and consider whether the rocks themselves are crying out about this deluge story written on scripts of stone.
Why are there many languages & where does the ‘week’ come from?
In my last post I looked at the convergence between the myriad of flood accounts that are indigenously preserved around the world with the account of Noah in the book of Genesis of the Bible. The Vedic account even goes so far as to say that Manu (the Vedic ‘Noah’) had three sons from which all humanity has descended. As I argued, the theory of one account borrowing from another is too simplistic to explain this remarkable congruence of the accounts. So why do we see these convergences? Here’s an explanation to consider.
The Tower of Babel – After the Flood
Following the account of Noah, the book of Genesis in the Bible goes on to record the descendants of his three sons and to state that “From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.” (Genesis 10:32). But how did this ‘spreading out’ occur?
The Genesis account lists in detail the descendants of these three sons of Noah as you can read here. The account then goes on to describe how these descendants disobeyed God’s directive, who had commanded them to ‘fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1), but instead these people remained together in Mesopotomia to build a tower (read the table of nations here). The account states this was a tower ‘that reaches to the heavens’ (Genesis 11:4). This means that these first descendants of Noah were building a tower for the purpose of worshiping bodies in the heavens (sun, moon, planets etc.) instead of worshiping the Creator.
It is well-known that star worship originated in Mesopotamia (where these descendants were living) and that it then spread all over the world. A Religion Dictionary reference states that star worship:
This was certainly so in Mesopotamia in the last two millennia bce [10: i–iii ] and in Central America among the Maya [9: v ]. Star-worship probably underlies the prehistoric megalithic astronomical sites of northern Europe [9: ii–iii ; e.g. Stonehenge] and similar sites in North America [9: iv ; e.g. the Big Horn medicine wheel]. From Mesopotamia star-worship passed into Graeco-Roman culture…
So instead of worshiping the Creator, Noah’s descendants worshiped planets and stars. The account then says that to frustrate this, so that the corruption of worship would not become irreversible, God decided to
…confuse their language so they will not understand each other. (Genesis 11:7)
As a result of this, these first descendants of Noah could not talk with and understand each other and thus in this way the Creator
…scattered them from there over all the earth (Genesis 11:8)
In other words, once these people could no longer understand each other, they migrated away from each other, within their newly formed linguistic groups, and thus they ‘scattered’. This explains why the different people groups of the world today speak in very different languages, as each group spread out from their original center in Mesopotamia (over many generations) to the places where they are found today. Thus, their respective histories diverged from this point onwards. But each language group (which formed these first nations) had a common history up to this point. This common history included the flood event (of Noah), and thus the convergence of the flood accounts is therefore due to the different peoples remembering that event in their respective histories.
The Testimony of the ‘week’ in the Hindi Calendar
It was when I worked and traveled in India that I noticed a testimony to this explanation which I found to be rather remarkable – but is easy to miss. It does not record a dramatic event (like the flood) but it is a rather mundane detail, therefore not readily noticed, but it is peculiar enough to demand an explanation. When working in India I saw the many Hindi calendars. I noticed that they were different than western calendars.
The obvious difference to me was that the calendars were constructed so that the days would go down columns (top to bottom) instead of across rows (left to right), which is the universal way of demarking calendars in the West. Some calendars had different numbers than the western ‘1, 2, 3…’ since they used the Hindi script (१, २, ३ …). I could understand, and even expect, such difference since there is no ‘right’ way to structure a calendar. But it was the central convergence – in the midst of these differences – that struck me. The Hindi calendar used the 7-day week – the same as in the Western world. Why? I could understand why the calendar was divided into years and months like the Western one since these are based on the revolutions of the earth around the sun and the moon around the earth – thus giving astronomical foundations universal to all people. But there is no astronomical time basis for the ‘week’. When I asked people they said it was custom and tradition that went far back in their history (how far back no one seemed to know).
… and the Buddhist Thai Calendar has a ‘week’
I also had the opportunity to live and work in Thailand. While there I would view their calendars.
Being a Buddhist country, Thais mark their years from the life of the Buddha so that their years were always 543 years greater than in the West (ie the year 2013 AD is 2556 in BE –Buddhist Era – in the Thai calendar). But again they also used a 7-day week. Where did they get that from? Why are calendars that diverge in so many ways across different culture and language groups based on the 7-day week when there is no real astronomical basis for this calendar time unit?
Testimony of ancient Greeks on the ‘week’
These observations on Hindi and Thai calendars pushed me to see if the 7-day week was evident in other ancient cultures. And it is.
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who lived around 400 BC is considered the father of modern medicine and he wrote books, preserved to this day, recording his medical observations. In doing so he used ‘week’ as a time unit. Writing about the growing symptoms of a certain disease he stated:
The fourth day is indicative of the seventh; the eighth is the commencement of the second week; and hence, the eleventh being the fourth of the second week, is also indicative; and again, the seventeenth is indicative, as being the fourth from the fourteenth, and the seventh from the eleventh (Hippocrates, Aphorisms. #24)
Aristotle, writing in the 350’s BC uses the ‘week’ regularly to demark time. To cite one example he writes:
The majority of deaths in infancy occur before the child is a week old, hence it is customary to name the child at that age, from a belief that it has now a better chance of survival. (Aristotle, The History of Animals, Part 12, ca 350 BC)
So where did these ancient Greek writers, far removed from India and Thailand, get the idea of a ‘week’ such that they used it so unassumingly, quietly but obviously expecting their Greek readers to know what a ‘week’ was? Remember, Hippocrates and Aristotle lived long before the Old Testament was translated into the Greek Septuagint (ca 250 BC) so they – and their readers – did not borrow it from Genesis. Perhaps there was an historical event which all these cultures had in their past (though they may have forgotten the event) which established the 7-day week?
The Genesis account does describe just such an event – the initial creation of the world. On that basis the first humans used, and then passed on to succeeding generations this 7-day cycle in the calendar. When mankind was subsequently scattered by the confusion of languages these major events that preceded this ‘scattering’ were remembered in different ways by some of these different language groups, including the Vedic promise of a coming sacrifice, the accounts of the cataclysmic flood, the primeval events of Genesis embedded in the Chinese calligraphy – and now the more innocuous 7-day week. The widespread and ancient 7-day week, at the very least, argues for the fact that this 7-day cycle gained prominence early in human history, long before the Biblical account started exerting its influence outside the Jewish nation.
Even our names for the seven days of the week (Sunday, Monday, etc.) are not Biblically derived. Each name for the days of the week reference the seven heavenly bodies visible to the naked eye (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) which the different cultures, from the Greeks, to the Romans and the ancient peoples of the East worshiped. The current names of the days of the week are living artefacts of the corruption surrounding the events of the tower of Babel which preceded mankind’s dispersal, when the descendants of Noah wanted to build a tower that ‘reaches to the heavens’. But the 7-day cycle itself was preserved through this corruption to point even further back – to Noah, and beyond.
This explanation certainly is the cleanest and simplest way to explain these convergences. The different calendars in use today but having the ‘week’ in common are testaments to Noah and his early descendants. The Genesis account also provides the cleanest explanation for why the human race is partitioned by many languages. Most of us today dismiss this part of the Biblical account as mere superstitious mythology but these weekly calendars and diverse tongues in use by billions today are witnesses that should perhaps provide food for thoughtful rethinking.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, discovered in 1853, has been the subject of a lot of comparison and speculation over the decades since its discovery. This epic is an ancient Babylonian poem-story of a righteous man who was saved from a flood by building a huge boat. Because it is very ancient, and because the story is remarkably similar to the Biblical flood story of Noah, many had surmised and speculated that the Biblical account was borrowed or derived from this Mesopotamian account. After all, Babylon was a center of civilization at 2000 BC, and the patriarch Abraham came from there when he went on his journey that birthed the Hebrew nation and their book. Would it not therefore be plausible that the Hebrews got the Biblical deluge story from the Epic of Gilgamesh? This reasoning has become quite common, and thus the account of Noah has been dismissed as simply a re-hashed mythical story.
But to keep the issue framed in this way is far too simplistic because the trail of flood stories does not start or end with the Epic of Gilgamesh. Since I have an interest in the ancient Sanskrit Rg Vedas of India (which I explore more systematically in Vedic website) I thought it would be apropos to consider their flood account. It is found in the ancient sanskrit Shatapatha Brahmana which describes how all mankind today comes from Manu who survived a great judgment of a flood that came because of human corruption, and he did so by seeking refuge in a huge boat. From this story, we get the English word ‘man’.
Ancient Manu – from whom we get the English word ‘man’
If we look into the derivation of the English word ‘man’, it comes from proto-Germanic. The Roman historian Tacitus, living just after the time of Jesus Christ, among his many compilations, wrote a book of the history of the German people. In it he writes
In their old ballads (which amongst them are the only sort of registers and history) they celebrate Tuisto, a God sprung from the earth, and Mannus his son, as the fathers and founders of the nation. To Mannus they assign three sons, after whose names so many people are called (Tacitus. Germania Ch 2, written ca 100 AD)
Etymologists tell us that this ancient Germanic word ‘Mannus’ is a derivation of the Proto-Indo-European “manuh” (cf. Sanskrit manuh, Avestan manu-,). In other words, the English word ‘Man’ probably derives from Manu whom the Vedic Shatapatha Brahmana says we all come from! Whether you know it or not, the account of Manu in the Vedas has affected your vocabulary. So let us look at this person and see what we can learn. We start by summarizing the account in the Shatapatha Brahmana. There are a few renditions that have slightly different aspects to the account, so I will stick to the main themes.
The account of Manu in the Sanskrit vedas
In the Vedic accounts Manu was a righteous man, who sought truth. Because Manu was absolutely honest, he was initially known as Satyavrata (“One with the oath of truth”).
According to the Shatapatha Brahmana (click here to read the account in Shatapatha Brahmana), an avatar warned Manu of a coming flood. The avatar appeared initially as a Shaphari (a small carp) to Manu while he washed his hands in a river. The little Fish asked Manu to save Him, and out of compassion, he put it in a water jar. It kept growing bigger and bigger, until Manu put Him in a bigger pitcher, and then deposited Him in a well. When the well also proved insufficient for the ever-growing Fish, Manu placed Him in a huge tank. As the Fish grew further Manu had to put it in a river, and when even the river proved insufficient he placed it in the ocean, after which it nearly filled the vast expanse of the great ocean.
It was then that the avatar informed Manu of an all-destructive deluge which would be coming very soon. So Manu built a huge boat which housed his family, 9 types of seeds, and animals to repopulate the earth, for after the deluge abated the oceans and seas would recede and the world would need to be repopulated with people and animals. At the time of the deluge, Manu fastened the boat to the horn of a fish which was also an avatar. His boat ended up, after the flood, perched on the top of a mountain. He then descended from the mountain and offered sacrifices for his deliverance. All peoples on earth today descend from him through his three sons.
The Biblical flood compared with the Vedic flood.
The biblical account of Noah and the flood is here. As we compare the biblical account with that of the ancient Vedic account we can note the following features of the flood stories in common between the two accounts.
Mankind in a corrupt state
Divine judgment decreed
Judgment was by a flood
A Righteous man is given Divine warning
This man builds a large vessel and survives the flood
Animals were brought on board the vessel to repopulate the world after the flood
The Vessel lands on a high mountain after the flood
Sacrifices given after safely surviving the ordeal
Mankind today descends from the three sons of this man
It would seem that the convergence between these two ancient accounts is too strong to be due simply to chance. Perhaps one account borrowed from the other? But the account of Manu comes from South Asia, much further removed from Mesopotamia than the ancient Hebrews were, and being in Sanskrit, is in an unrelated language. The “Bible got its flood story from the Epic of Gilgamesh” theory is much less straight-forward when you realize that there is also this ancient flood story from India to explain.
It turns out that it is not only these three flood accounts that exist. As anthropologists have studied histories of cultures and language groups around the world, a rather remarkable common feature among many of them are their flood accounts. The table below lists some of the flood accounts from different people groups around the world.
The Testimony of diverse Flood accounts – from around the world
Across the top shows various language groups living around the world – on every continent. The cells in the chart denote whether the particular detail of the Biblical flood account (listed down the left of the chart) is also contained in their own flood account. Black cells indicate that this detail is in their flood account, while blank cells indicate that this detail is not in their local flood account. The left-most flood account (Assyrio-Babylonia1), which has all its cells black to indicate convergence with the Biblical account is the Epic of Gilgamesh. The ‘India2’ is the account of Manu.
As you can see, the issue is not to explain simply these three accounts, for they are but the tip of the iceberg. There are flood accounts from all continents, from peoples who would never have had contact with each other, who could not have ‘gotten’ their story from the Epic of Gilgamesh. Almost all these groups had in common the ‘memory’ that the flood was a Judgment by the Creator but that some humans were saved in a huge boat. In other words, the memory of a universal flood is not only found in the Sanskrit Vedas, Epic of Gilgamesh and the book of Genesis in the Bible, but in other cultural histories around the world and continents apart. It is absurd to postulate that all these borrowed their story from Mesopotomia. The accounts are too spread out around the globe for that.
The simplest and most straight-forward way to explain the complete flood account data is to suggest that this event really did happen and these accounts are memories of that ancient event. Perhaps indeed, there really was a Noah! Perhaps that flood did happen as well! This would also explain why the Chinese remember the events of Genesis in their calligraphy. But these are radical suggestions to put forward in our day. Is there any further data that can shed some light on this question? You don’t have to look far back to find it. You simply need to look at some other calendars that are in use around the world today and notice something peculiar about them. We pick that up in our next post.
The Rg Vedas are the oldest of the sacred writings in Hinduism. Being composed around 1700-1100 BC, they are roughly contemporaneous with Moses’ recording of the Pentateuch (Torah) in the Old Testament.
Purusa – The Sacrificial Man in Rg Veda
A prominent character in the Rg Veda is one called Purusa. He is a Perfect Man. In a well-known poem known as the Purusasukta (within the Rg Veda) God decided to offer him in sacrifice at the beginning of time. The concept of sacrifice is very prominent in Hinduism (as we saw regarding the Kumbh Mela Festival). What is fascinating to me is that this earliest poem, Purusasukta, is not about people making a sacrifice to God, but about God presenting the Perfect Man to be sacrificed so that humans can gain eternal life.
Conspiracy Explanation for Bible parallels
This sounds very similar to the Genesis Promise recorded in the Bible at the dawn of human history. Why this parallel? Two possible explanations come to mind. The first is that there was one ancient myth from which other mythologies borrowed. In this vein of thinking perhaps the ancient Hebrews heard these mythological promises of a future sacrifice and simply incorporated them into their early scriptures as the Genesis Promise. This viewpoint continues the argument that the Biblical record ‘borrowed’ other accounts. Thus, for example, the account of Noah and the Flood in Genesis is simply a re-hashing of the old Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh.
This thinking is then extrapolated to the New Testament Gospel. The sacrificial death of Jesus on mankind’s behalf is thus seen simply as a borrowing from Greek and Egyptian mythologies of Isis and others. This kind of explanation of the parallels between ancient accounts is advanced by skeptics of the Biblical accounts, and by those drawn to conspiratorial explanations of the Gospel (e.g. The Da Vinci Code and Zeitgeist etc. draw heavily on the idea that the meaning of the death of Jesus was simply borrowed from pagan mythology). In fact, many people I talk to believe in some pagan-mythology explanation for the New Testament view of Jesus. They only go back to New Testament and classical Greek times to look for parallels, many not knowing that these parallels go further back to ancient history into the earliest chapters of Genesis.
Historical Explanation for Bible parallels
Alternatively, parallels between ancient accounts exist because these events really did happen. The Bible records these events and we can read about them in its pages. However, other non-Hebrew cultures and civilizations also remembered and recorded aspects of these events and recorded them for us in different ways. They did so because their origins are from Babel (like the Hebrews) and thus they remember pre-Babel events in perhaps some dim way as part of their history and mythology. My previous posts (Part 1 & Part 2) about Chinese calligraphy having an ‘echo’ to early Genesis can thus be understood in this way. Similarly, the most ancient of the Vedic texts show a remarkable parallel to the ancient Genesis Promise because that Promise was really given and kept in the social memory of the pre-Babel society. The Promise was recorded and transmitted to us in the Bible through Moses. It was also remembered and recorded in slightly different form in the Purusasukta of the Vedas.
Web of Parallels
So we have two broad explanations for these parallels. What is intriguing to me are the parallels between the non-biblical ancient traditions. So take the ancient Chinese association of ‘righteousness’ with sacrifice of substitution. I have reproduced the ideogram from that post here so you can see it.
When I compare that with the ancient mythology of Purusa (Verse 1, Verse 2, Verse 3-4, Conclusion) I see parallels between them in that righteousness is conveyed by sacrificial death for both the ancient Chinese and Vedas and detail them here. It is not just that there are parallels between the Bible and some other myth – that would be an overly simplistic two-dimensional view. There is more like a web of inter-parallel themes that can be discerned across many cultures. To me this argues for the view that these events really did happen. The Bible recorded these events and Promises in one way, while other cultures retaining some memory of them, recorded them in other ways.
In my last post I introduced Chinese ideograms as a possible way to delve into the historicity of Genesis to see if there really was an Adam. When I first saw those ideograms many years ago I thought it was rather amazing. As you look at the ideograms and de-construct them you may notice what I did – seeming overtures to the early Genesis account.
But since we can only rely on the authors whose calligraphy images I reproduced some further questions need to be addressed.
Are the characters really shaped that way or is this a case of creative calligraphy that is not really true to the script by over-imaginative people trying to make an ‘Adam’ connection?
Perhaps there is a relationship between the elemental characters and the compound ones, but perhaps this is due to a phonetic relationship. The complex ones would then be built around the simpler ones because they take sounds from them – not because they are building concepts from them.
Alternatively, could the relationships between the elemental and the compound characters simply be due to chance? After all, there could be many elemental combinations made into compound ones, some of which could hearken to Adam simply by chance.
Fortunately for us, modern-day Google can allow us to explore each of these questions in a way that would have required advanced Chinese dictionaries just a few years ago. Within the ubiquitous tentacles of Google technology are language translation engines. I use it quite regularly with European language translation and even with Arabic. But it also supports Traditional and Simplified Chinese translation. The website is at http://translate.google.com. I ran some tests to explore each of these questions. Let us look at each question in turn.
Is the ‘Adam’ calligraphy script accurate?
In the figure below you will see some of my tests. Google translate allows you to type your words in the textbox on the left and Google produces a translation in the right textbox. I typed in single words in the English box on the left to see what Google would produce as the Chinese translation (in the traditional script). Following the lead from the words of my previous post I typed in ‘soil’ and on the next line ‘man’, and then ‘first’. The Google translations appear in the box to the right. I connected the word-to-word translation by dashed arrows so you can see the translation of each word. So did Google reproduce similar calligraphy as I had in my previous post? Would we ‘see’ the elemental characters in the compound ones as per the Adam hypothesis? I also have the same images from the previous post that were put forward by the Adam hypothesis authors. You can do this same test yourself since it takes only a few seconds to type in the English words and see the translation. You will notice that the Google script is amazingly similar to the Adam hypothesis script and that, like in the Adam hypothesis calligraphy you can see ‘soil’+’man’=’first’. There is no ‘alive’ or ‘motion’ like with the Adam hypothesis script but this is because that stroke is a radical, not a stand-alone character. You will also see that Google reproduces ‘eight’+’mouths’ in ‘boat’.
We continue on with some of the other calligraphy. Google reproduces ‘privately’+’garden’ (though Google ‘garden’ is slightly different than the Adam hypothesis one) as being part of ‘devil’. You can see that the Google ‘devil’ is equivalent to the Adam hypothesis ‘devil’ and ‘tempter’. When it comes to ‘righteousness’ Google and the Adam hypothesis calligraphy is exactly the same.
In the next figure you will see that Google renders ‘talk’ like the Adam hypothesis script and has ‘talk’ as a component of ‘create’. ‘Covet’ is also reproduced by Google, though the ‘trees’ in ‘covet’ look slightly different, more like adjacent squares.
Having tested these words with Google I was satisfied that the script used for the Adam hypothesis was accurate and that indeed the complex characters contained the elemental characters as put forward by the Adam hypothesis.
Is the relationship due to phonetics?
We have established that there is indeed a relationship as put forward by the Adam-hypothesis. Now we need to ask why there is such a relationship. Could it be phonetic? We can also test this hypothesis since Google can ‘speak’ each word. Since I cannot record the sound I transcribed the phonetic reading. The tables below give the phonetic reading for the words we are analyzing.
It does not look like the compound words are built around the sound of the elemental words. You can easily listen to the words and determine for yourself if you detect the elemental sounds. But I had to conclude that the relationships were not primarily phonetic. This explanation is not supported.
Are the relationships due to chance?
Could it be simply due to the fact that there are so many elemental characters combining into compound characters that some will have an ‘Adam’ link simply by chance. If it is by chance then we would expect to see similar connections with other Biblical words. If it is a random association this randomness should carry on with words. In the figure below I produced Chinese calligraphy of other biblical words and names. I cannot see any of the elemental characters in these words. What is more revealing is the phonetics. These words sound like they are Bible words that have been transliterated with a Chinese ‘y’ sound preceding them. They are Sino-translitered, probably being grafted into Chinese when the Bible was introduced to China only within the last two hundred years.
Or is there a logical/historical connection?
It is not very difficult to see a relationship between words where you expect a logical connection. In the image below you will see how ‘God’ is an element of ‘sacred’. An element of ‘sacred’ can be seen to be in the word for ‘Bible’. But ‘Bible’ also has an element of ‘news’ or ‘message’ in it. So it is like the word ‘Bible’ is comprised of elements of ‘God’ + ‘sacred’ + ‘news/message’. This makes perfect logical sense. Similarly we see the element ‘water’ in both ‘ice’ and ‘steam’. Knowing there was a logical connection between these words I typed them into Google translate to see if I could find a calligraphy connection. And we are not surprised when we see such a connection.
The words for ‘boat’ and ‘devil’ that we looked at in the previous post look like they have the same kind of connection between the elemental and the compound as exhibited here with Bible=sacred+news+God and water being in ice and steam. But what logical connection is there between ‘eight’ and ‘boat’, between ‘gardens’ and ‘devils’? There is none. Yet it seems like the ancient Chinese, when they developed their calligraphy had these connections in their minds. One might even think the Chinese read Genesis and borrowed from it, but the origin of their language predates Moses by 700 years. Since China and the Middle East are so distant from each other it is difficult to imagine there was much exchange of ideas.
The idea of a logical connection between ‘eight’ and ‘boat’ to the ancient Chinese makes sense if these events in Genesis were remembered by them as their recent history. Temptations in the Garden and eight people in a boat would make perfect sense to them. Shem, son of Noah, would be telling them these stories himself.
The Tower of Babel explains Chinese calligraphy
If this scenario is true we would expect this historical parallel to end with the Genesis account of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) because it is at that point that the different linguistic and racial groups were separated. From that point on the Chinese had their own history. Before that point history was a common, universal experience – with one language. From this perspective the Chinese word for ‘Tower’ is intriguing. The figure below shows that ‘Tower’ is a compound of ‘one’+’mouth’+ ‘mankind’ (mankind in one language) +’grass’ (or ‘weeds’ – symbolizing frustration) + ‘clay’.
The image from Google translated below confirms this calligraphy. It is reminiscent of the opening account of Genesis 11 which says
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech… They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, (Genesis 11:1-4)
It would seem that there is evidence that the ancient Chinese remembered these events as part of their history. From this point on their history diverged from that of the Hebrews and thus there are no logical or historical connections after this point. The accounts of Abraham and Moses are not embedded in their language since by that time they were separate nations.
At the very least I found these Google tests to be intriguing and the Adam-hypothesis emerged even stronger than when I had started. The other possible explanations were not supported and so had to be rejected. There is more that could be written about this, especially delving into the Chinese calligraphy that has been preserved on ancient bones. But that is a subject for another day. Before we leave this thread to consider the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (we are in Lent after all) there are two final comments to add.
We were reading Genesis 6 with Chinese scholars last week. We were studying the story of the flood and they were reading it for the first time. We came to the account of Shem, son of Noah, when one of the Chinese scholars told me that ‘Shem’ was the name of the ancestor of the Chinese. He had read it in an ancient Chinese book and it sounded just the same. I am hoping he can bring me some information about this book. Perhaps it will be worth a post one day.
Japanese Calligraphy too
And finally, it is not just the Chinese who have this Adam-echo in their calligraphy. The Japanese have it as well as you can see from my Google figure below.
HG Wells and CK Chesterton agree: This is an important question
Many leading thinkers and writers opposed to the Gospel have centered their skepticism and criticism of the whole Gospel narrative on precisely this question. You can see a good example of this in the following quote from HG Wells. He was mentored by well-known agnostic TH Huxley and became a famous science fiction writer (War of the Worlds, The Time Machine etc.) who profoundly influenced popular thinking in the 1st half of the 20th century. Here is how he framed this question:
‘If all the animals and man had been evolved in this ascendant manner, then there had been no first parents, no Eden, and no Fall. And if there had been no fall, then the entire historical fabric of Christianity, the story of the first sin and the reason for an atonement, upon which the current teaching based Christian emotion and morality, collapsed like a house of cards.’
Wells, H.G., The outline of history — being a plain history of life and mankind, Cassell & Company Ltd, London, UK, (the fourth revision), Vol. 2, p. 616, 1925.
GK Chesterton was an equally influential writer in the 1st half of the 20th century. Taking the opposite view from Wells you will notice though how he, like HG Wells, makes the Garden and Fall the tipping point upon which his thinking pivots. He writes:
Darwinism can be used to back up two mad moralities, but it cannot be used to back up a single sane one. The kinship and competition of all living creatures can be used as a reason for being insanely cruel or insanely sentimental; but not for a healthy love of animals … That you and a tiger are one may be a reason for being tender to a tiger. Or it may be a reason for being cruel as the tiger. It is one way to train the tiger to imitate you, it is a shorter way to imitate the tiger. But in neither case does evolution tell you how to treat a tiger reasonably, that is, to admire his stripes while avoiding his claws.
‘If you want to treat a tiger reasonably, you must go back to the garden of Eden. For the obstinate reminder continues to recur: only the supernaturalist has taken a sane view of Nature. The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a stepmother. The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.’
Chesterton, G.K., Orthodoxy, John Lane, London, pp. 204–205, 1927.
Testimony of ancient Chinese calligraphy
The question of Adam can be a Great Divide where subsequent ideas built on this foundational one leads one to widely diverging viewpoints, but most of us think that there is no information or data to go on in deciding whether there was an Adam or not. Many years ago I was introduced to a fascinating series of discoveries showing a link in Chinese calligraphy with the Genesis account. I have been sharing this with Chinese speakers over the years with continued enthusiastic response and interest. So I thought I would explain it in this post and then put it to a Google experiment. In our spirit of ‘considering’ join with me in taking the time to consider Chinese calligraphy and Adam as well as following my experiment that I put the whole theory to by using the modern Google tools at our disposal. If nothing else, it promises to be interesting.
To understand the significance of these calligraphy discoveries we must first understand some background about Chinese (references used are at end of post). Written Chinese arises from the beginning of Chinese civilization, which dates back about 4200 years. This means that the Chinese script was developed about 700 years before Moses edited the book of Genesis (ca 1500 BC). We can recognize Chinese calligraphy when we see it. What many of us don’t know is that the ideograms or pictures of Chinese ‘words’ are constructed from simpler pictures called radicals. It is very similar to how in English we take simple words (like ‘fire’ and ‘truck’) and combine them into compound words (‘firetruck’). Chinese calligraphy has changed very little in thousands of years. We know this from script that is found on ancient pottery and bone artifacts. Only in the 20th century with the rise of the Chinese communist party has the script been simplified. Today there is a simplified script and a traditional script, with the traditional script going far back in time.
So, for example, take the Chinese ideogram for the abstract concept ‘first’. It is shown here.
This ideogram is really a compound of simpler radicals as illustrated. You can see how these radicals are all found combined in the ideogram ‘first’. The meaning of each of the radicals is also shown. So what this means is that a long time ago (around 4200 years ago) when the first Chinese scribes were forming the Chinese calligraphy they joined radicals with the meaning of ‘alive’+’dust’/’soil’+’man’ => ‘first’. But why? What innate connection is there between ‘soil’ and ‘first’ for example? There seems to be little, if any. However, reflecting on the connection alongside the creation account is striking.
The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).
The ‘first’ man (Adam) was made alive from dust! But where did the ancient Chinese get this connection 700 years before Genesis was compiled? Now consider the following:
The radicals for ‘dust’ + ‘breath of mouth’ + ‘alive’ are combined to make the ideogram ‘to talk’. But then ‘to talk’ is itself combined with ‘walking’ to form ‘create’.
But what is the innate connection between ‘dust’, ‘breath of mouth’, ‘alive’, ‘walking’ and ‘create’ that would cause the ancient Chinese to use this construction? But this also bears a striking parallel with Genesis 2:7 cited above.
This parallel continues. Notice how the ‘devil’ is formed from “man moving secretly in the garden”.
Garden!? What is the innate relationship between gardens and devils? They have none at all.
Yet the ancient Chinese then built on this by then combining ‘devil’ with ‘two trees’ for ‘tempter’!
So the ‘devil’ under the cover of ‘two trees’ is the ‘tempter’. If I was going to make an innate connection to temptation I might relate it to a tempting woman, or a tempting vice. But why two trees? What does ‘gardens’ and ‘trees’ have to do with ‘devils’ and ‘tempters’? Compare now with the Genesis account:
The LORD God had planted a garden in the east… in the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:8-9)
Now the serpent was more crafty… he said to the woman, “Did God really say …” (Genesis 3:1)
To ‘desire’ or ‘covet’ is again connected with a ‘woman’ and ‘two trees’. Why not relate ‘desire’ in a sexual sense with ‘woman’? That would be a natural relation. But the Chinese did not do so.
To ‘desire’ or ‘covet’ is again connected with a ‘woman’ and ‘two trees’. Why not relate ‘desire’ in a sexual sense with ‘woman’? That would be a natural relation. But the Chinese did not do so. The Genesis account though does show a relation between ‘covet’, ‘two trees’ and ‘woman’.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband (Genesis 3:6)
Consider another remarkable parallel. The Chinese ideogram for ‘big boat’ is shown below. The radicals that construct this ideogram are also shown:
They are ‘eight’ ‘people’ in a ‘vessel’. If I was going to depict a big boat why not have 3000 people in a vessel. Why eight? Interesting, in the biblical account of the flood there are eight people in Noah’s Ark (Noah, his three sons and all their wives).
The Ancient Chinese Border Sacrifice to ShangTi – Emperor in Heaven
The Chinese also had perhaps one of the longest running ceremonial traditions that have ever been conducted on earth. From the start of the Chinese civilization (about 2200 BC), the Chinese emperor on the winter solstice always sacrificed a bull to Shang-Ti (‘Emperor in Heaven’, i.e. God). This ceremony was kept up through all the dynasties that the Chinese civilization had. In fact it was only terminated less than a hundred years ago in 1911 when general Sun Yat-sen overthrew the last emperor of the Qing dynasty and China became a republic. This ceremony was conducted annually in the ‘Temple of Heaven’, which is now a high profile tourist attraction in Beijing. So for over 4000 years a bull was sacrificed every year by the Chinese emperor to the Heavenly Emperor. But why? Confucius (551-479 BC) asked this very question. He said:
“He who understands the ceremonies of the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth… would find the government of a kingdom as easy as to look into his palm!”
In other words, what Confucius was saying was that anyone who could unlock that mystery would be wise enough to run the kingdom. So from when the Border Sacrifice (as it was called) began (c.a. 2200) to the time of Confucius (c.a. 500 BC) the significance of the sacrifice had been lost to the Chinese – even though they kept up the tradition another 2400 years to 1911 AD.
Perhaps, if the significance behind the construction of their calligraphy had not also been lost Confucius could have found an answer to his question. Consider the radicals used to construct the word for ‘righteous’.
Righteousness is a compound of ‘sheep’ on top of ‘me’. And ‘me’ is a compound of ‘hand’ and ‘lance’ or ‘dagger’. It conveys the idea that my hand will kill the lamb and result in my righteousness. The sacrifice or death of the lamb in my place gives me righteousness.
When one reads Genesis one is struck by the animal sacrifices that occur long before the Jewish sacrificial system is started. For example, Abel (Adam’s son) and Noah are offering sacrifices (Genesis 4:4 & 8:20). It seems that early humankind had an understanding that animal sacrifices were pictures to help them understand that a death to substitute for theirs was necessary for righteousness. But though the ancient Chinese seemed to have started with this understanding, they had lost it by Confucius’ day. This use of animal sacrifice as a picture to understand the eventual sacrifice of Jesus was forgotten except in the uniquely Mosaic patriarchal accounts of Abraham and Passover.
The parallels between the early Genesis chapters and Chinese calligraphy are remarkable. In my next post I look at some possible explanations and the results of my little Google experiment.
The calligraphy in this post is taken from:
The Discovery of Genesis. C.H. Kang & Ethel Nelson. 1979
Genesis and the Mystery Confucius Couldn’t Solve. Ethel Nelson & Richard Broadberry. 1994
An event happened this week that nearly all news outlets world-wide are now reporting on. The news outlets are all dissecting the implications of this event looking forward. “What will this mean into the future?” they are all asking. Good question. But an even better question is: “What does this signify looking backwards into the distant past?”
The event in question was the election held on January 22 in Israel. The political Right tied the political Left with 60 seats each in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) leading all observers to ask what this means for the political alliances within that country, the implications of the Israeli relationship with the USA, the implications for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and so on. All the analysts, observers, pundits and bloggers are trying to see what all this means in the near future – since what happens in that tiny country seems to affect almost all of us around the world.
And that fact (that events in tiny modern-day Israel echo around the world) should cause the curious to consider what started the chain of events that has led to this peculiar state-of-affairs. To understand that one needs to go to the opening pages of the book of Genesis in the Bible, where about 4000 years ago a lonely and unimportant individual set out on a never-ending camping trip that resulted in him becoming a household name around the world today. That’s pretty remarkable in-and-of itself, but understanding this tale has implications far beyond seeing historical cause-and-effect. The ‘Book’ says that the pattern of this story will affect the outcome of your eternal destiny and mine. If there is even a remote chance that this is true we had better pay attention.
This ancient man in question is Abraham (also referred to as Abram or Ibrahim). The account in the Bible is so ancient that there is not much external evidence to refute or confirm the events. But there is some. As I mentioned in my video on Biblical external evidence, among the 17000 Ebla Tablets discovered in 1975-6 in Northern Syria, dated as 4200 years old, there is mention of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar as ‘cities of the Plain’, the same names and descriptive phrase used in Genesis 13:2 & Genesis 14:2 – the places where Abraham did his ‘camping’. So we have starting reasons to take this account seriously.
God’s Promise to Abraham
The Biblical account of Abraham starts with God making the following promises to him:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3)
…fulfilled in Abraham’s name becoming Great
Most of us today wonder if there is a God and doubt one can know if He really revealed himself through the Biblical record or not. Now before us is a promise, parts of which are verifiable. This account recorded God directly promising Abraham that ‘I will make your name great’. Here we sit in the 21st century and the name of Ibrahim/Abraham/Abram is one of the most globally recognized names in history. This promise has literally,historically, and verifiably come true. The earliest extant copy of Genesis is from the Dead Sea Scrolls which date to 200-100 B.C. This means that this promise has, at the very least, been put down in writing since that time. Yet at that time the person and name of Abraham was not well-known – being known only to the minority of Jews who followed the Torah. So we can see that the fulfillment that has come about only after it was written down, not before. This is not a case of a ‘fulfillment’ being inked after the fact.
… by means of his great nation
What is equally astonishing is that Abraham really did nothing noteworthy in his life – the kind of thing that normally makes one’s name ‘great’. He did not write anything extraordinary (like Homer’s Iliad/Odyssey or the Code of Hammurabi), he did not rule an empire (like the Pharaohs of Egypt), he did not lead an army with impressive military campaigns (like Hannibal or Alexander the Great), nor did he invent anything. He did nothing really except camp out and sire a few bloodlines. If you were a betting man living in his day, you would have put your money on the kings, generals, warriors, or court poets living in his day to become great in history. But their names are all forgotten – while the man who just barely managed to have some sons in the wilderness is a household name around the world. His name is great only because the nation(s) that he sired kept the record of his account – and then individuals and nations that came from him became great. This is exactly how it was promised way back in Genesis 12 (“I will make you into a great nation … I will make your name great”). I can think of no one else in all history so well-known who is so only because of descendants coming from him rather than from great accomplishments in his own life.
…Through the Will of the Promise-Maker
And the people group today which all associate as descending from Abraham – the Jews – never really were the nation with which we typically associate greatness. They did not build great architectural structures like the pyramids of the Egyptians, they did not write philosophy like the Greeks, or administer like the Romans – all of which did so in the context of world-power empires that stretched their extensive borders through extraordinary military power. The Jewish people’s greatness is mostly due to the Law and Book which they birthed, from some remarkable individuals that came from their stock, and that they have survived for these thousands of years as a distinct and somewhat different people group. Their greatness is not really due to anything they did, but rather what was done to and through them. Now look to to the Cause that was going to drive this promise forward. There, in black-and-white, it says repeatedly that “I will …”. The unique way their greatness has played out in history fits once again in a remarkable way to the declaration that it was going to be God that would make this happen rather than some innate ability, conquest or power of this ‘great nation’. The attention paid around the world today to the results of the Israeli elections this week is a case in point. Do you hear of such attention when Hungary, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, or the Central African Republic – all similarly sized countries around the world – take to the polls?
There is nothing innate in history or human events that would cause the unfolding of this ancient promise exactly as it was declared to this ancient man who, because he trusted this promise chose a ‘road less traveled’. Just think how likely it should have been for this promise to fail in some way. But instead it has unfolded, and is continuing to unfold, as it was declared those thousands of years ago. The case is strong indeed that it is solely on the power and authority of the Promise-Maker that it has occurred.
The Trek that still shakes the World
The Bible then records that “So Abram left as the LORD had told him” (v. 4). He set out on a trek, shown on the map, that is still making history.
Blessings to us
But it does not end there since there is something else promised as well. The blessing was not only for Abraham because it also says that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (i.e. through Abraham). This should make you and me sit up and take note. Because you and I are part of ‘all peoples on earth’ – no matter what our religion, ethnic background, where we live, our social status, or what language we speak. The scope of this promise for a blessing includes everybody alive today! How? When? What kind of blessing? This is not clearly stated here but this is the birth of something that is directly pertinent to you and me. Since we know that the first parts of this promise have come true, we can have confidence that this last part directed to us will also come true. We just need the key to unlock it. And we find the key in continuing to follow the journey of Abraham. The key to ‘righteousness’, which so many around the world, like the devotees of the Kumbh Mela festival, are working so hard to obtain, is revealed for all of us in our next post as we continue to follow the account of this remarkable man.
Recently I had the chance to crash a Christmas dinner dressed as Santa Claus, and after being exposed by the kids, embark on a short but thought-provoking discussion about Christmas entitled What’s so Merry about Christmas? A friend videoed it all and since it fits with this series of Christmas posts I thought I would share it in this one. (15 min)
For more in-depth treatment of historical and prophetic aspects of the Christmas story see the following posts