History of Religion texts, and other works that delineate the basic tenets of Judaism, are virtually all alike in one very significant respect: they are monuments of disinformation that both overemphasize and exaggerate the impact of the Jewish perspective on Western culture.
More in the tradition of preachers than teachers, the authors tell us that (1) Western civilization adopted the Jewish “angle of vision” on the deepest questions life poses; (2) the Jews were lifted from obscurity to religious greatness because of their “passion for meaning;” (3) the moral heritage of the West “originated” in the primitive Palestinian settlements of the Israelites, and “descended” to us through their sacred writings; (4) the prophets of Judaism were a “reforming political force” which has never been surpassed in subsequent world history; (5) the Jews have contributed to civilization “out of all proportion” to their numbers; and on and on, ad nauseam.
Most damaging of all to Western civilization and culture is the fact that so many young Gentiles are totally at the mercy of this single-sided coin; and either forgotten, or deliberately avoided during these ecstatic literary peregrinations, is the fact that there is another side to this coin – and the two sides are mutually exclusive.
In the beginning, the Habiru, meaning “people from beyond the river,” were among the most primitive of desert peoples – predatory nomads who existed on goat meat and camel milk, and who were ferocious, warlike, and merciless like many of the tribes who were confined to the harsh and barren “wilderness.” There is some historical speculation to the effect that members of their community once fought with the hated Hyksos who brought so much damage and misery to Egypt.
Biblical records tell us that the Habiru were held in captivity in Egypt for 215 years, according to the Septuagint, or 430 years, according to what is now called the Hebrew text. We are also told that there was an Exodus of the Habiru from Egypt sometime within either the 14th or 15th centuries B.C. For a long time it was generally believed in the West that the first few books of the Bible, and in particular Joshua, would provide a guide to the region’s early history that archeology would confirm. But no longer. Most archaeologists are now convinced that those portions of the Bible leave much to be desired within the realm of inerrency. Apparently archeology no longer needs to support its rationale for existence by being the stepchild of people who desperately want reality to conform to their emotional conclusions.
To date, an enormous amount of large-scale archaeological excavations have taken place throughout the area known today as Israel. As well as examining specific Old Testament-cited locations, the scientists excavated between 600 and 700 settlements not mentioned in the Bible. The results: there is no evidence showing that large numbers of people moved across the Sinai desert during the Exodus period. Before entering the land of Canaan, as the Bible specifies, the Habiru gathered at Kadesh. Excavations in that area, however, didn’t turn up a single artifact that could be dated prior to the 10th century. And the biblical claims that the Habiru built cities for the Egyptians are also false, since archaeological evidence indicates that those cities never existed during the period of 1275 to 1300 B.C.
What of Joshua, who led the great war of conquest against the enemies of the Habiru, and brought down the walls of Jericho? Once again, there are flies in the biblical ointment. Excavations prove that there was no city there at the time, nor was there one at Ai, which the Bible says was leveled by Joshua. The best educated guess regarding the exploits of Moses and Joshua must embrace the theory that they are theological scenarios designed to magnify the relationship that supposedly existed between Yahweh and the “Men of Yahweh.” The achievement of leading the Habiru out of a hostile environment, along with the parting of the Yam Suph (“Reed Sea” or “Sea of Weeds”), were added to the Moses story by his biographers to contribute to his image as a Servant of Yahweh who could summon up great miracles from the Semitic god. A similar theological scenario was fabricated by the biographers of Joshua who wanted to portray him as one of the world’s great conquerors.
From whence did the Habiru come, if not from Egypt? The word Hallelujah, which meant literally “Praise Yah,” offers a tantalizing clue. Yah was the name of the Kenite tribal god adopted by the Habiru. The Kenites were a branch of the larger Semitic nation of the Midianites who dwelled principally in the desert north of the peninsula of Arabia. Southwards, Midian extended along the eastern shore of the Gulf of Eyleh; and northwards it extended along the eastern frontier of Palestine. Within that vast arena the Habiru probably lived and roamed for centuries. Logically, they emerged from this “wilderness” beyond the Jordan – the one river of Palestine that runs a course of little more than 200 miles from the eastern mountain range of Lebanon, known to ancient geographers as “Anti-Libanus,” to the head of the Dead Sea.
Becoming known among themselves as Israelites (to foreigners they were Hebrews), the Habiru came as strangers to an inhabited land. The lack of any specifically Jewish artifacts in the villages generally accepted as early Israelite leads to another logical conclusion: not until sometime during the 12th century B.C. did they settle in what they knew as “the land of Canaan” – as opposed to “the land of Gilead” in the east – a long and broad strip of maritime plain west of the Jordan. They called the area Palesheth. Jerusalem, the city they occupied just west of the Jordan and Dead Sea, was known in 19th century Egypt as Urushalimma (meaning “foundation of Shalem”); and Salem, or Shalem, was the same Semitic god whose name appears in Shalmaneser, the Assyrian king.
The Philistines, who were of Hellenic descent, had settled on the plain along the southern coast of the area. Lying next to the sea and being also the high road from Egypt to Phoenicia and the richer regions north of it, the Philistine plain was known to the Western world as Syria Palaestina, or Philistine Syria. Palesheth translates as Philistia; and the name Palestine is derived from Philistia. Eventually, the area was gradually extended by western geographers to the country farther inland; and near the beginning of the Christian era, Palestine became the established name for the country – both east and west of the Jordan – a tiny landbridge about the size of New Jersey connecting southern Europe and Asia with northern Africa. The name frequently used throughout the Middle Ages and down to our own time by Christians is Tetra Sancta – the Holy Land.
The developing language of the Israelites was mostly composed of Accadian, Aramaean, to which the Chaldee and Syriac dialects belong, and Canaanite, along with some Egyptian loan-words. There were two genders and very few adverbs in the small vocabulary. Symbol and metaphor were used to express abstract terms: soul was the breath, being was the bones, descendants the seed, vigor the horn, compassion the bowels, and so on. King of Kings, song of songs, holy of holies, etc., was their way of expressing the superlative degree. Eating dust, a common expression, was a refinement of eating dung. Bethlehem meant house of bread. Rock was a common word for deity.
The Israelites fought in the land of Canaan until triumphant under Saul and David around 1000 B.C., and that enabled them to gain dominion over a large part of the area and establish two kingdoms: Isra-el (ruled by God) located in Samaria in the north, and Judah in the south. Nearly 500 chaotic years followed during which the Assyrians sacked Samaria and demolished the northern kingdom; and the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem twice, totally destroying the city and kidnapping the survivors – a Captivity that lasted until the Persians under Cyrus conquered Babylon. By 520 B.C., the Jewish captives had returned to Jerusalem and its environs as Persian subjects where they began to build the temple. By 516 it was completed and the empire reorganized. By that time, the Habiru/Israelite/Judeans had begun to leave significant tracks in the records of history.
The constituent elements of the developing religion of the Jews were nearly all drawn solely from the ideas and beliefs common to the Semitic desert peoples, as well as the imposing civilizations around them: Assyria and Babylon to the east, Egypt to the South, and Phoenicia and Syria to the north. Far back in their history, they had been worshipers of more than one god. Terah is Yerah, the moon; Moses is Ma-shu, the sun; and Sinai comes from the moon-god, Sin. Eventually, another people – probably the Egyptians – inspired them to embrace the concept of monotheism. Many ethical parallels between the Old Testament and earlier Egyptian writings are evident. Specifically, Psalm 104 is a redaction of a hymn to Aton, the God of the monotheistic Egyptians. For these reasons it is safe to assume that some, perhaps many, of the Habiru were sojourners in the land of Egypt. And it’s likely that the return of a goodly number of them prior to the actual exodus from Midian to Palestine, inspired the biographers of Moses to fabricate the miraculous Exodus from Egypt.
The Habiru probably quarreled with the Midianites on occasion; but, for reasons that should by now be obvious, we can safely discount the exaggerated Old Testament victories supposedly achieved over the Midianites during the wars of Gideon and Moses.
The only commandments the Habiru brought with them from the wilderness were simple taboos typical of those held by any primitive people, such as the one dealing with the sacrifices of the firstborn to the gods. The more sophisticated commandments later adopted by both Jews and Christians were culled from Egyptian sacred law and the Code of Hammurabi – both in existence long before the time of Moses. Nothing of the so-called Mosaic legislation can be attributed to the biblical Moses, whose historical existence has never been verified. In building his image, his biographers drew upon so many sources, it is quite impossible to determine what he ever did or thought, if he was a historical personage.
Although all of the moral and ethical ideas in Judaism have analogies in the faiths of Egyptians, Babylonians, and others, there are at least three innovative concepts that are peculiarly Jewish: the lack of a divine mother; the concept of “sin;” and the conviction that the one god of the universe belonged to them.
All of the ancient theologies of the Hellenistic Orient were based on the maternal deity. The divine mother of the Babylonians was Ishtar; of the Egyptians, Isis; of the Phrygians, Cybele; of the Greeks, Aphrodite; of the Romans, Venus, to name but a few. The composite figure was the Great Mother who bestowed fertility and mothered all the other gods. Perhaps the Israelites had a divine mother long ago; but everything about their religion indicates the lack of a female deity – a Baalah, or “Great Mother.” If, indeed, they never had a divine mother, this would be one of the amazing riddles of history.
The acceptance of monotheism within the motherless religion of a people who lived in the harsh conditions of a barren desert, paved the way for the creation of an intensely essential, wifeless, womanless, childless Father-God, before whom no goddess could ever prevail… a total patriarchy in which the son was exalted, and the daughter ignored… a religious structure in which an entrenched orthodox minority could exercise an exclusive authority over all areas of life and religious practice for an entire people… an inflexible faith in which the prophets – “lean-looked” and angry – demanded with clenched fists and enraged voices, total obedience to Yahweh and a total observance of the inviolate Law of Yahweh.
Hence “sin,” which simply means “to fall short.” Among all other peoples, a sense of guilt, of baseness, of evil, could be found; but not sin, as the Jews used the word. Their sins involved falling short in the worship of their God, and in the adherence to the laws of their God. As opposed to the Greeks, for instance, who believed that people were naturally good, pious Jews believed that people were naturally evil because of the prevalence of sin. More and more over the centuries, therefore, the number of sacrificial ceremonies – new moons, passovers, sheaves, Pentecosts, feasts of trumpets and tabernacles, days of atonement, etc., dedicated to making sin-offerings for their transgressions, increased.
It isn’t difficult to understand why the Jews became so obsessed with sin. So many mitzvoth (duties, or opportunities to serve Yahweh) evolved within their faith, it was virtually impossible for a man, however faithful and dedicated, not to “miss the mark” now and then, since there was nothing that Israel’s god had overlooked when he gave the commandments to his people – not only for food and dress, holy days, birth, marriage, mourning, burial and death, labor, rest and sleep, prayer and thanksgiving; he had also provided rules on giving and lending, debts, slaves, adornment, grief, bathing, suicide, losing and finding – and even on love, wooing and copulation. No wonder an anonymous cynic once commented that the formalistic religious chains the Jews laid upon themselves were far heavier than any chains that could ever be laid upon them by non-Jews.
With the development of monotheism came a unique emphasis in all Jewish sacred writings on Yahweh’s creation of a special people to serve him, to proclaim his name, and to exhibit knowledge of him: “Thou art an holy people chosen before all other peoples upon the face of the earth.” In the beginning, preached the rabbis, the Ancient of Days had offered his wisdom to all peoples – to 70 nations – and only Israel had accepted. For that reason, the sons of Israel were the elite among men. Ergo, throughout the history of the Israelites, the prophets, whose political and theological missions were to communicate the divine word of Judgement directly to the king, and to exhort the nation to obey the laws of God, were in the vanguard of the struggle to prevent the mixing of Israel with other peoples. And just as the Israelites did not mix with non-Jews, they did not mix things: neither ox and ass, neither barley and lentil, neither linen and wool. They were proud slaves of the Torah, even to its last letter… proudly dedicated to being a peculiar and a chosen people… proudly contemptuous of all heathen – the wicked sons-for-nothing of the no-gods.
From a Jewish apologist stating that “We are a choosing people, rather than a Chosen People,” to an eminent Gentile philosopher’s claims to the effect that the Jewish people, rather than having been chosen primarily as recipients of special privilege, were chosen to serve and to suffer the ordeals such service entails, every attempt has been made to whitewash the religious aristocracy of Judaism. Even the rarely-voice criticism of the Chosen concept has, on occasion, been dismissed as a product of Christian anti-Semitism. But it should be evident to any biblical scholar that these rationalizations have little in common with the many Old Testament salutations to the Chosen concept. The prophet Ezra, for instance, speaking to the Jewish God, says it all:
Thou hast said that for our sakes, Thou hast created this world. But as for the other nations, which are descended from Adam, Thou hast said that they were nothing, and that they are like unto spittle; and Thou hast likened the abundance of them to a drop on a bucket…
Throughout their history, the Habiru/Israelite/Judeans were influenced by the peoples around them: Egyptians, Babylonians, Canaanites, Philistines, and the various conquerors of Palestine including the Syrians and the Romans. But nothing was ever as stimulating and disturbing to the Jewish nation as the spread of Hellenic civilization over that part of the world by Alexander in the 4th century B.C. As a result of an increasing interest in Greek thinking and taste, young Jews seeking enlightenment began to visit Alexandria and other Hellenic cities. Even worse, when they returned to Israel, it was to mistrust the Jewish God who made light before the sun was made… to ridicule the prophets who were preaching that the badness of men was better than the goodness of women… and to quote famous Greeks like Anaxagoras who believed that god was mind; Epicurus who said there was no supernatural but only the natural; Zeno who said education was the basis of virtue and only ignorance was evil; Miletus who taught that human beings evolved from lower forms of life; Musonius who said the study of philosophy was as essential to women as to men; and even Diogenes who, when he entered a temple, cracked a louse on the altar, saying: “There! I sacrifice to all gods at once.”
Jews who were impressed with Greek learning, taste, and philosophical speculation came to be known as the Letzim, or Hellenists. They rejected the notion that the one god of the universe belonged to the Jews because he had exclusively chosen them to be exalted above all other tongues. The brilliant Greeks whom they admired – among them, Aristotle, Myron, Euripides, Phidias, Polycletus, Socrates, Aristophanes – all considered themselves to be superior persons; but they never believed that they were a god-appointed people. More than anything else, this remarkable individualism appealed to the Letzim; and more and more the conviction grew within their ranks that Greek democracy could never find a common ground with Jewish theocracy.
On the other hand, the Hasidim, or Pious among the Jews, were enraged by the traitorous actions of the newly liberated sons of Israel. Of what value, they scoffed, was the speculation of the sons of the no-gods, when all truth had been given to Israel? Was it not ordained that all men would one day seize the skirt of Israel? And who among the Pious had been able to determine how many heathen souls it would take to equal one son of Israel, since the abundance of them could be likened to a drop on a bucket?
The more the orthodox branch of a religion is obsessively opposed to change, the more conflict there will always be with the moderate branch of the faith that desires change. This is the root of the dissension that has raged within Judaism from nearly the beginning – and is raging in both Israel and America today because of the explosive “Who is a Jew?” issue. The Palestinian collision between the ritualists and the reformers – or, in more symbolic terms, the prophets and the kings – simmered and bubbled and expanded until it exploded into a crisis that forced the orthodox sons of Israel to fight for their Torah and their lives. The Letzim had finally concluded that Israel, constipated with a lot of ancient puerilities and conceits, needed the physic of Hellenism; ergo, they made the decision to become the activists who would change the nation from a primitive society of ceremonial-intensive fanatics, into a modern state.
The efforts of the Hellenizing party to assert their supremacy began shortly after Antiochus, known as Epiphanes (the Illustrious), ascended to the throne of Syria, circa 175 B.C. Their plan was to convince Antiochus to accept as high priest a Jew named Menelaus who was known to be corrupt, but who was Hellenized to the degree that he could be trusted. Next they would offer enough in bribes to the Syrian garrison in the Acra, a fortress situated not far from the temple, with its barracks, arsenal, granaries and its own water-system. With the garrison in their control, they would proceed to Hellenize Jerusalem completely, and then, Israel.
But the best laid plans of mice and men often slip through the cracks of history. Enter Mattathias, a priest of the noble blood, and the most important of his five sons, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon. They organized the resistance of orthodox Israel during what came to be called the Maccabean War of Independence. Under the command of the Maccabees (Maccabi, originally the surname of Judas Mattathias, can be loosely defined as “a hammer”), the Hasidim maintained their cause by fighting with a fury that defeated four successive Syrian armies – thus preserving the orthodox name and faith of Israel. By 164 B.C., the Maccabees had restored the temple-worship at Jerusalem.
Tragically, the war of the Maccabees resulted in the defeat of the reformers by the ritualists – of the kings by the prophets. Because Christianity is rooted in the fanaticism of the prophets rather than in the enlightenment of the kings, it is safe to say the long struggle to keep the rigid ways of the desert traditions for orthodox Israel eventually left an indelible and destructive mark on the institutions, customs and religions of the Western world. To be more specific, when our Gentile ancestors gave up the achievement of thinkers and scientists, of artists, philosophers, poets and statesmen, for the revelations of neurotic, wild-eyed prophets and a gospel of worldly renunciation, the best of the West succumbed to the worst of the East.
Regarding the contributions of the Israelites to the Western world, we are told that the remarkable moral and legal wisdom that supposedly exists in both the Christian and Jewish versions of the Old Testament, was originally transcribed at least 5000 years ago. Of all the absuridities that have ever been fabricated by a people desperate to improve their image throughout the world, this is the most fanciful. For hundreds of years after the Habiru journeyed to Canaan, the so-called biblical books of the Israelites were merely compilations of spoken oracles delivered on special occasions, first handed down orally with all of the changes that would naturally occur during that process, eventually to be written over and over by anonymous authors.
The first great step in the establishment of what the world would someday call a “Hebrew” text occurred around 280 B.C. with the preparation of the Septuagint, or “Version of the 70.” Legend has it that King Ptolemy II of Egypt ordered Greek versions of the Old Testament to be written by a number of rabbis, each working separately to produce a full translation in approximately 70 days. The numerous versions would then be compared with the hope that they would all reflect God’s miraculous assistance by being exactly alike.
Whatever happened as the result of those ecstatic endeavors isn’t known. We do know that some version of the Septuagint turned up around 300 years later when a new messianic movement led by Saul of Tarsus and John the Baptist began using it to support their claims for a new Messiah. Significantly, the Septuagint was written by Greek-speaking rabbis, some of whom must have been aware of the vast gulf that existed between Greek democracy and Jewish theocracy. Undoubtedly, the writing of the more enlightened among them reflected attempts to liberalize and humanize, to some degree at least, the Jewish perspective.
The next significant step in the preparation of the Hebrew Bible involved the writing of the Masoretic text (the Masoretes were Jewish scholars after A.D. 70) in the established Jewish language, but in consonants only – probably to prevent the growing number of disciples who were following in the footsteps of the martyred Paul, and who were “whoring” after the same new god, from corrupting more of their sacred writings. In the meantime, those New Messianists, soon to be called Christians, were conspiring to create their own specialized version of the Old Testament – along with a New Testament which was being prepared for the sole purpose of demonstrating that their new cosmic Messiah was the same as the Old Testament Davidic Messiah. For a long time to follow, both Christians and Jews paralleled each other in the development of their respective Bibles, with each of them laboring to produce an “inspired” work that would not only spell out the tenets of each faith, but would also reflect the humanistic and legalistic values that were prevalent among the more enlightened peoples of the Hellenistic Orient.
From their predatory desert past, to their furious defense of orthodoxy during the Maccabean war, to present-day Israel where the spiritual heirs of Malachi are using a 14th century manual of religious instructions in secondary schools to explain why non-Jews ought to be the slaves of the Chosen People, Jews in general are revealed as a people strangely obsessed with themselves in a uniquely dichotomous way: First, as a superior people chosen by god; and second, as the possessors of the world’s number-one inferiority complex.
Although they have never had a safe and/or well-established land or national home to provide them with a foundation in the obvious, Jews have always been taught from the cradle that they are destined by Yahweh to be the most important persons on earth, if not the actual rulers of the planet. But then they come face to face with the real world in which the only signs of Jewish national greatness can be found in the exaggerated fables of the Old Testament – an experience that is intellectually and emotionally traumatizing. No one knew better than the Letzim of pre-Christian Palestine that little Israel was a cultural wasteland: no art or architecture, no science, no respected philosophical speculation, nothing of a civilized nature.
What then did the Israelites actually have to offer the West? Vague and uncertain reminiscences, idle speculations, and fantastic exaggerations – but not one single tradition worthy of credence or regard. In addition, there isn’t a single great moral or ethical idea in Judaism, or in the aberrant system that it spawned, that did not originate with Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, or Hindus. In other words, everything that could be called humane, enlightened or civilized had to be begged, borrowed or stolen from their neighbors.
Out of the seething personal superiority/inferiority conflict have come the Sammy Glicks of the world, the intellectual legatees of the prophet Micah (“The Law shall go forth from Zion… to pull down, and to destroy…”), traumatized by a lack of ego-identification. Not all Jews are Sammy Glicks. In any society, however, in which Jews are numerous enough to make an impact on the culture, Sammy always exists out of proportion to the actual number of Jews as a whole. Desperate to be wealthy and/or famous – not just as Sammy the individual, but as Sammy the JEW – he always overcompensates in everything he does in his struggle for identification and recognition. It is for this very reason that Jewish historians like Artapanus, Philo, and many others have tried to prove that all the knowledge and institutions of the Egyptians had been taken from Israel; that Abraham had instructed the Pharaohs; that Joseph taught them better forms of cultivation; that all of the grand discoveries of the Greeks had been made by Israelites a thousand years before; that Moses with his ten commandments marked out the entire history of the Western world; and that the tiny fraction of humanity known as Jewry gave the world the concept of monotheism, the eradication of idol worship, and abhorrence of human sacrifice.
For just as long as our young people (white Gentiles) are indoctrinated with the notion that the Jews were ordained by fate to be “the most essential instruments for civilizing the world,” we will continue to accept the myth that the moral heritage of the West originated with a primitive tribe of desert nomads in Palestine.
Meanwhile, back at the Palestinian ranch, Pompey, pushing the frontiers of Rome eastward, captured the country in 63 B.C. As the pressure of the Graeco-Roman life increased, Judaism grew sterner and more exclusive – more and more a rigid, aristocratic theocracy – as the scribes increased the number of cases in which any intercourse with a Gentile would defile a Jew. Hand in hand with these developments came more and more rebellious activity against Gentiles in general, and Rome in particular.
By A.D. 67, a major rebellion had broken out in Galilee because seventeen talents were missing from the treasury of the temple. Nero was in power then, so he sent Vespasian to put an end to that nonsense. The Roman general found that the city of Jerusalem had become a regular battlefield with three different factions of Jews – each determined to be the most Jewish – fighting for control of the temple; so he isolated the city and left the inhabitants to starve while he subjugated the surrounding countryside. Within three years Nero died and Vespasian, who ascended to the throne, delegated Titus to finish the job he had started.
After a lengthy siege and a great slaughter, the armies of Titus conquered Jerusalem, literally smashing and burning the city to the ground. The surviving Israelites were forced to leave, with nothing remaining for them but the Law and no temple in which a scattered people could make sacrifice and worship their “Man of War,” Yahweh.
It was a long time before the Jews (many of them non-Semitic eastern Europeans who had converted to Judaism) made a triumphant but bloody “return” to Palestine. During the conflict involving the establishment of a national homeland for the Israelis, 900,000 Palestinians (approximately 80 percent of the indigenous population) were dispossessed and scattered to all points of the compass within the Arab world. Here, from a publication of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights in Jerusalem, are a few statistics describing the modus operandi of some of those essential instruments for civilizing the world with chilling precision:
The plan to make Arab Palestine into a Jewish state has involved the total destruction of 385 Arab villages leaving only 90 of the original 475 villages. In the district of Bethlehem, for example, all 23 Arab villages were destroyed, leaving only Jaffa City. All 31 villages in Ramleh district have been destroyed since 1948. Former Defense Minister Moshe Dyan has acknowledged that “There is not a single Jewish village in this country that has not been built on the site of an Arab village.”
SOURCE: The Liberty Bell, June 1989