Defending the Theistic View


I’m Moving my Blog!

Actually, I am transfering to two separate blogs with two different themes.

For posts on Biblical history, I will he posting here:

As for posts debunking the “Jesus Myth,” I’ll be posting here:

Well, see you there.


The Myth of Jesus: A Refutation of the Zeitgeist — Part 10

After Zeitgeist makes the claim that the childhood story of Moses is a plagiarized piece of pagan lit (a claim refuted here) it goes on to make further accusations of plagiarism about Moses attacking the Biblical account of the Ten Commandments as an imitation of other similar stories in ancient paganism. — It claims,

Moses is known as the Law Giver, the giver of the Ten Commandments, the Mosaic Law. However, the idea of a Law being passed from God to a prophet on a mountain is also a very old motif. Moses is just a law giver in a long line of law givers in mythological history. In India, Manou was the great law giver. In Crete, Minos ascended Mount Dicta, where Zeus gave him the sacred laws. While in Egypt there was Mises, who carried stone tablets and upon them the laws of god were written.

moses1After saying this, Zeitgeist lists the names of the lawgivers to create the impression that they were all copied from each other:“Manou, Minos, Mises, Moses.”— It places Mises right before Moses for obvious reasons: They sound pretty similar.

Beginning with the first law giver listed, Manou — It seems to me that Zeitgeist is giving an alternative spelling for Manu, the Hindu law giver to whom the Laws of Manu are ascribed to traditionally.

However, one need not look far to find how any case of Moses copying the story of Manu comes crashing down.

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia,

They [the Laws of Manu] were compiled, probably between 200 BC and AD 200, from diverse ancient sources and provide detailed rules, presumably directed to Brahman priests, governing ritual and daily life. In particular they seek to validate and preserve the high caste position of the Brahmans. (Emphasis Mine)

The irrelevancy of this is obvious. Manu’s laws were compiled much too late to have any influence on Moses’ ten commandments. Moses wrote in the 15th century BC. — To be honest, there is scholarly debate as to when the Manu laws were published, but 200 BC is the date referred to the most. (Text Link)

As for the second law giver, Minos, the Greek Historian Diodorus Siculus (who wrote in the first century BC) describes the event of Minos receiving laws as when he conversed with Zeus in a cave. It so happens that the cave was on the slopes of Mount Ida. But that is where the similarities end.

According to Greek Mythology, Minos would go to the cave on Mount Ida every nine years so that his father, Zeus, would help him to draw up new laws. (Text Link) After his death, because he received laws from Zeus, he became a judge in the realm of Hades along with his brother. (Gods and Mortals in Classical Mythology, Page 281) — See the differences yet?

The problem with Zeitgeist’s connecting Minos and Moses is that gods and law giving are only expected in religions. The slightest similarity, despite the differences, does not indicate that one copied off the other. It’s actually expected and can easily be explained away as a coincidence.  — Zeitgeist also got the name of the mountain wrong. It mistakenly calls the mountain that Minos received laws from Mount Dicta.

As for the third law giver mentioned by Zeitgeist, Mises — I have not been able to find any reference to any Egyptian law giver with such a name. Every single search I made to a single reference to him has come up empty. Curiously, this is the man whose name Zeitgeist emphasised as being most like Moses.

Zeitgeist uses logical fallacy to attempt to tie Moses with these three law givers. The argument is “They received laws from gods . So did Moses. These religions pre-date Moses so this must mean Moses copied them.”— This fallacy is shown with the first law giver they mention. Manu was a Hindu law giver. Hinduism pre-dates Moses but apparently his laws post-date the Hebrew Bible and possibly the New Testament.

The last claim that Zeitgeist makes about Moses and the Ten Commandments is that they were taken from the book of the dead. It lists them and attempts to make te connection.

The Book of the Dead

The Book of the Dead

The film comments,

And as far as the Ten Commandments, they are taken outright from Spell 125 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. What the Book of the Dead phrased “I have not stolen” became “Thou shall not steal,” “I have not killed” became “Thou shall not kill,” “I have not told lies” became “Thou shall not bare false witness” and so forth.

The passage in the Book of the Dead that Zeitgeist is referring to is called “the Declaration of Innocence.” As far as the quotes from the Book go, they are accurate. But the film is making a huge logical fallacy. It is arguing that because killing and stealing are both condemned in both the Book of the Dead and in the Ten Commandments that therefore Moses must have copied it. But any civilization would prohibit anything as basic as murder and theft.

On top of this, there are several declarations on innocence in this passage that have no resemblance to the Ten Commandments,

I have not taken milk from a child’s mouth, I have not driven small cattle from their herbage, I have not snared birds for the gods’ harpoon barbs, I have not caught fish of their lagoons, I have not stopped the flow of water in its seasons. I have not built a dam against flowing water, I have not quenched a fire in its time. I have not failed to observe the days for haunches of meat. I have not kept cattle away from the God’s property, I have not blocked the God at his processions.

Get my drift? — If this was Moses’ source for the Ten Commandments, we would expect to see something similar to what is listed here. Why didn’t Zeitgeist list any of these other sayings? Because it would have destroyed its case because there are a lot more differences than similarities between the Declaration of Innocence and the Ten Commandments.

In conclusion, the basis for Zeitgeist’s conclusions are based on logical fallacies as well as over simplifications. Apparently in its attempts to tie Moses’ law giving to Manu and Minos, the film makers never considered the fact that gods giving laws to their followers is really not so unusual. And it doesn’t help their case that the Laws of Manu are of very young origin when compared to the Bible.

The attempt to tie the Ten Commandments to the Book of the Dead, at least to me, comes across as a desperate try to link the Bible to Paganism. But its links are based on morality that is so basic that it really has no case.

The Myth of Jesus: A Refutation of the Zeitgeist — Part 9

A major point in Zeitgeist the Movie is its claim that Christianity is no different from pagan religions. It then claims that several passages and Biblical stories had been plagiarized from ancient pagan mythology. — After the film makes the all time favorite claim that the Genesis account of the flood was copied from the Epic of Gilgamesh (which is refuted here), it goes on to make similar claims about the story of Moses,

There is the plagiarized story of Moses. Upon Moses’ birth, it is said that he was placed in a reed basket and set adrift in a river in order to avoid infanticide. He was later rescued by a daughter of royalty and raised by her as a Prince. This baby in a basket story was lifted directly from the myth of Sargon of Akkad of around 2250 b.c. Sargon was born, placed in a reed basket in order to avoid infanticide, and set adrift in a river. He was in turn rescued and raised by Akki, a royal mid-wife.

sargon-the-firstZeitgeist makes the claim that the ancient king Sargon was placed in a basket to “avoid infanticide” and is later found by a royal mid-wife. The claim then becomes that since Sargon lived before Moses then therefore Moses must have plagiarized the story.

There is indeed a famous story of Sargon being left in a basket on the Euphrates river preserved in cuneiform tablets of Ancient Assyria. The cuneiform tablet says,

Sargon, mighty king, king of Agade, am I. My mother was a high priestess, my father I knew not; My father’s brothers live in the mountains; My city is Azupiranu, situated on the banks of the Euphrates My mother, the high priestess, conceived me, in secret she bore me; She placed me in a basket of rushes, she sealed the lid with bitumen; She cast me into the river which did not rise over me; The river bore me up and carried me to Aqqi, the water-drawer. Aqqi, the water-drawer, lifted me out as he dipped his bucket; Aqqi, the water-drawer, adopted me, brought me up; Aqqi, the water-drawer, set me up as his gardener. As a gardener, Ishtar, loved me; For 55 years I ruled as king.

The similarity to Moses is obvious to anyone who has read both the story of Moses and the legend of Sargon. But a carefull reading shows that the film, Zeitgeist, in its description of the similarities between the two stories is actually exagerated.

The claim that Sargon’s mother placed him in the basket and set him adrift to save him from infanticide is actually unsubstantiated. Nowhere in the inscription does it say that she did it to save him from anything or anyone. It just simply says she set him adrift. And the way that the tablet says “she [his mother] cast me into the river” kind of gives the impression that this is a case of child abandonment rather than to save his life.

James Holding in his essay gives background information of the importance of Sargon’s mother being a high priestess. He points out that in order to maintain her position she had to avoid pregnancy. This therefore would account for her giving birth in secrecy and would indicate that she was just disposing of her unwanted newborn child.

The fact that the story says she set him adrift also indicates she didn’t care whether or not he survived. This is a major difference between the two stories. — Contrary to what Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments shows, even though Moses was placed in a basket on the Nile river, he was not set adrift. Exodus 2: 3, 4 says that he was placed at the edge of the river among the reeds and his sister “stood” at a distance to watch him. The reeds would have kept the basket from drifting away. He was meant to survive which is not seemingly the case with Sargon.

The claim that Zeitgeist makes that Sargon was adopted by a royal mid-wife is also a mistake. The tablet says that 1) his rescuer was a “he.” And 2) he was a water drawer, not a royal mid-wife. These errors in the description of the story leads me to the conclusion that the film makers did not do independent research in this particular area.

There is one fact about the “Baby in a basket” story of Sargon that many skeptics either do not know, or just do not mention. The Historical website People and Places in the Ancient World (click here) points out,

The reputation of Sargon cast a long shadow. A scribe in 7th century Assyria left this account of Sargon’s origin, supposedly based on a first person account. [ . . . ] It is of course, impossible to know if this Moses like story circulated during Sargon’s lifetime but his humble origins are attested to by his lack of a name.

Also is should be mentioned that the Encyclopedia Britannica points out that what we know about Sargon of Akkad (who reigned from 2334 to 2279 BC) is all based on legends that were written after his lifetime.

— So the evidence is that 1) it looks as if it is impossible to date this particular story of King Sargon I and that 2) the earliest evidence we have of the story we have comes from as late as the seventh century BC. In contrast, the Book of Exodus was written between 1437 and 1397 BC. So plagiarism on the part of Moses is not necessarily what happened.

The Myth of Jesus: A Refutation of the Zeitgeist — Part 8

After Zeitgeist finishes its claims that Jesus and the Bible are based on astrology, it then makes the favorite argument that many skeptics and Jesus-Mythers make frequently: It accuses the Bible of plagiarizing from the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The story of Noah and Noah’s Ark is taken directly from tradition. The concept of a Great Flood is ubiquitous throughout the ancient world, with over 200 different cited claims in different periods and times. However, one need look no further for a pre-Christian source than the Epic of Gilgamesh, written in 2600 b.c. This story talks of a Great Flood commanded by God, an Ark with saved animals upon it, and even the release and return of a dove, all held in common with the biblical story, among many other similarities.

It is not my purpose to claim that the flood accounts in both the Book of Genesis and tablet eleven of the Epic of Gilgamesh aren’t  similar because they are. With the undeniable similarities betwen Noah and Gilgamesh, there are at least three possibilities to draw up on: 1) The writter of Genesis copied Gilgamesh. 2) Gilgamesh copies Genesis. And 3) The two flood accounts describe the same event from different viewpoints and share a common source.

Needless to say, most Christ-Mythers will accept the first option without the slightest doubt. The second option is pretty unlikely because the Sumarian sources of the Gilgamesh account were written at about 1647 to 1626 BC while Genesis was written between 1437 to 1397 BC. — Personally I subscribe to the third option.

The similarities should not really come as a shock. Biblically, the area where the Gilgamesh tablets of the flood were found is where the first decendents of Noah came to live. It is not unlogical for the early Sumarians to have a very vivid memory of the flood. — But there are also some important differences that the film predictable does not mention while only emphasizing the similarities.

A major difference between the Genesis story and the Gilgamesh epic is that God decided to send a flood to destroy most of humanity because of continual evil. The Gilgamesh epic actually does not specify why the flood was sent other than to say that “the hearts of the Great Gods moved then to inflict the flood.”

A reason for the flood of Gilgamesh, however, can be found by looking at the older source for the Gilgamesh Epic. The tablets of the Gilgamesh epic are actually from the seventh century BC, but the story is older and most likely is taken from the older text from the mid-to-late 17th century BC called “The Epic of Atrahasis.” — Even though the section of the  older tablet has been lost, it is known that the it said that humanity was too noisy so the gods decided to destroy all humanity in order to have some peace. — It can be established that the Gilgamesh Epic did source that of Atrahasis because in one line the hero of the Gilgamesh flood is called by Atrahasis’ name (apparently by an accidental slip).

The gods took an oath of secrecy uttered by Annu obviously to keep their plans a secret from everyone else. — Ea, the one god that didn’t wish for humanity to be destroyed, found a loophole from the oath by not warning the hero of the flood story directly, but by making it appear to him in a dream.

Another difference between the two accounts is that Noah is warned by God because he alone was righteous (Genesis 6: 7, 9). — As for Utanapishtim, the hero of the Gilgamesh flood, there is no indication that he was particularly righteous. As a matter of fact, it appears the god Ea encouraged him to lie to anyone asking him about his boat, though for understandable reasons,

I [Utanapishtim] understood and spoke to my lord, Ea:
  ‘My lord, thus is the command which you have uttered
  I will heed and will do it.
  But what shall I answer the city, the populace, and the
Ea spoke, commanding me, his servant:
  ‘You, well then, this is what you must say to them:
   “It appears that Enlil is rejecting me
   so I cannot reside in your city (?),
   nor set foot on Enlil’s earth.
   I will go down to the Apsu to live with my lord, Ea,
   and upon you he will rain down abundance,
   a profusion of fowl, myriad(!) fishes.
   He will bring to you a harvest of wealth,
   in the morning he will let loaves of bread shower down,
   and in the evening a rain of wheat!”‘

Basically, Ea is telling Utanapishishtim to tell the elders (if they ask him what he’s up to) that the god Enlil will not bless them until he leaves the city of Shuruppak. He is told to lie, seemingly, because the flood is still a “secret of the gods,” besides it being a give-away to the other gods bent on the destruction of mankind that somebody was warned of what they planned on doing.

Even though Zeitgeist points out gleefully that both stories have the hero sending out a dove to support the idea that Genesis copied even the most minute detail, a carefull readingof bothflood accounts shows that Genesis actually comes out with the upper hand. — In Genesis 8: 8, 11, Noah sent the dove twice to see if it could find land because the earth was still covered, except for a couple of mountain peaks. The first time it could find none, but did on the second try.

However, the Gilgamesh Epic does not give a reason for Utanapishishtim to send out any birds. — It cannot be to find land like Noah because before he sent out the dove he himself already caught a good view of land himself,

I looked around for coastlines in the expanse of the sea,
and at twelve leagues there emerged a region (of land).

It should be emphasized that this was before the Gilgamesh epic says he sent the dove. So basically, there is really no point to Utanapishishtim sending out the dove, or any of the others (a swollow and a raven.) The truth is it just doesn’t fit in the story.

What happens to both heroes at the end of their stories is also very different despite the similarities in the sacrifices offered after the food. — According to Genesis, God blessed Noah and promised never again to wipe out mankind with a flood. According to the Gilgamesh epic, the god Enlil is angered when he finds out that there were human survivors of the flood. Ea finally admits to him that he warned the hero in advanced without breaking the oath of silence.

As for Utanapishishtim like Noah, it is actually a pretty mixed bag,

He [Enlil] touched our forehead and, standing between us, he
                            blessed us:
 ‘Previously Utanapishtimwas a human being.
 But now let Utanapishtim and his wife become like us,
                               the gods!
 Let Utanapishtim reside far away, at the Mouth of the Rivers.’
They took us far away and settled us at the Mouth of the Rivers.”
“Now then, who will convene the gods on your behalf,
  that you may find the life that you are seeking!
  Wait! You must not lie down for six days and seven nights.”
soon as he sat down (with his head) between his legs
sleep, like a fog, blew upon him.

He and his wife are granted godhood. However they are also banished far awar so nobody can convene to the gods for their sakes and they are also sleep deprived for a week. The “blessing” is different from that of Noah, and I would actually call it a curse as well.

A very important difference are the structures of the two arks. The description of the ark as described in Genesis 6: 16, 17  was for it to be 300 cubits long (450 feet), 50 cubits wide (75 feet), 30 cubits high (45 feet) and a window a cubit high (of 18 inches).

When Ea tells  Utanapishishtim about the dimensions of the boat that he must build, Ea says,

  The boat which you are to build,
  its dimensions must measure equal to each other:
  its length must correspond to its width.
  Roof it over like the Apsu.

So basically he is told to construct a cube shape whose walls were all 10 times 12 cubits high and wide with the top and bottom being of equal size, making it about fifteen times larger than Noah’s Ark. — Also Utanapishishtim’s ark is described as having six levels while Noah’s ark has three.

The shapes of the two arks may seem like only a minor difference among many similarities. But the fact is that this difference is very important because it comes down to how would these two different arks would fair under a cataclysmic flood.

In an analysis (Text Link) it turns out that Utanapishishtim’s ark would not be in so much danger in capsizing. This seems okay until one looks at what else would happen with it,

Looking more like on oversize buoy than any ship known to man, the Gilgamesh ark has the potential to survive waves from any direction. The big loser is seakeeping. Passengers will get no relief from the vigorous accelerations – roll, pitch, yaw, heave, surge and sway. In a gentle sea, these motions would be uncomfortable but when it gets rough these  accelerations could be lethal [. . . ] Accelerations are high in hull #5 which means the passengers get knocked over or seasick. On the Gilgamesh ark they will be lucky to stay in one piece. A few waves would make the upper decks un-inhabitable. No solutions are apparent for ventilation and lighting.

Basically, the ark, as described in the Gilgamesh Epic would have been uninhabitable and the passengers would have gotten knocked all over the place and probably killed.

In contrast, according to a study done by Dr. Seon Won Hong (who holds a BS in Naval Architecture), Noah’s Ark would be capable of a lot more punishment and able to navigate with sea conditions with waves higher than 30 meters (or 98.43 feet) high. (Text Link)

Now what does this difference prove? — I say this actually refutes the popular idea that the writer of Genesis copied off the Gilgamesh epic. Had it been plagiarized, it is more than likely that the plagiarist would have also copied the poor dimensions of the ark of Utanapishishtim, or even would have given it even worse structure. It should be pointed out that the Hebrews were not known as skillful ship builders, or even as sailors for that matter.

Since Noah’s Ark is by far superior in structure and stability to the other this shows that, even though Genesis was written later, it has an important mark of authenticity that the Gilgamesh epic does not have. — This is why I subscribe to the idea that both flood accounts share a common source, instead of one copying the other.

On top of that fact, as I read the flood according to the Gilgamesh epic and the Genesis flood account were quite different in the literary sense — That is one does not show literary dependence on the other. This is not not consistent with the idea that Jewish scribes copied the Babylonian tablets. Glenn Miller of Christian Thinktank did a very detailed study on the literary differences between the Babylonian and Sumarian tablets of the flood accounts and the comparison with the Biblical account as well as other differences there are between then. If you are interested in reading it then click here to see it. — Also, the Associates for Biblical Research did a survey on the similarities and differences of the two flood accounts that can be found here and here.

Even though it is perfectly understandable for Zeitgeist, the Movie to make the over simplified claim that since the Gilgamesh epic was written down first that Noah must be a copy, this assumption does not take into account the superiority of the Genesis version found in certain detailes such as the sending of the dove and especially the superior stucture to Noah’s Ark itself to the Gilgamesh ark. Also, the fact that the two stories do not show literary dependence to eachother also helps to refute the charge of plagiarism.

The Myth of Jesus: A Refutation of the Zeitgeist — Part 7

Zeitgeist, the Movie is heavily dependent on the idea that the Bible and Christianity have their roots in astrology and the Zodiac. — In “The Myth of Jesus: A Refutation of the Zeitgeist — Part 6,” I debunked such claims that Jesus’ birth sequence was astrological and that the 12 disciples are representative of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac. Both claims are completely reliant on the “in-English-only” play on words that Jesus is a solar deity or sun god, in that “Son” of God it equivalent to “Sun” of God. The problem is that this doesn’t work in the Biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew so therefore is superficial.

Before actually attempting to further tie Jesus with the Zodiac, Zeitgeist claims,

The ancient Egyptians along with cultures long before them recognized that approximately every 2150 years the sunrise on the morning of the spring equinox would occur at a different sign of the Zodiac. This has to do with a slow angular wobble that the Earth maintains as it rotates on it’s axis. It is called a precession because the constellations go backwards, rather than through the normal yearly cycle.

The major problem here is that Zeitgeist gives the false  impression that the ancient Egyptians long understood the precession of the equinoxes. The truth is that the the Greek astronomer Hipparchus is credited as being the discoverer of  the precession of the equinoxes around the years 146 to 130 BC. (text link) — Also, the Zodiac in Egypt is not particularly ancient when compared to the civilization itself. The truth is that is was introduced from  both Babylon and Greece as late as the Greco-Roman period! (click here) From these facts it is obvious that the film makers didn’t do enough research.

The film next goes on to talk about other “astrological-astronomical metaphors” which it alleges are in the Bible. These metaphors are about the references to the “age” that are made in the Bible. To elaborate on this claim, Zeitgeist explains about the Zodiac ages,

The amount of time that it takes for the precession to go through all 12 signs is roughly 25,765 years. This is also called the “Great Year,” and ancient societies were very aware of this. They referred to each 2150 year period as an “age.” From 4300 b.c. to 2150 b.c., it was the Age of Taurus, the Bull. From 2150 b.c. to 1 a.d., it was the Age of Aries, the Ram, and from 1 a.d. to 2150 a.d. it is the Age of Pisces, the age we are still in to this day, and in and around 2150, we will enter the new age: the Age of Aquarius.

Since this particular claim itself is not wrong, so far there is no refutation needed. From this Zeitgeist simplifies how it interprets the Bible in order to make it fit into the Zodiac ages. The problem, however becomes that these interpretations are ludicrous.

Zeitgeist claims that the Bible shows symbolic movement through 3 ages and foreshadowsa fourth age. It then begins with an interpretation of Moses,

In the Old Testament when Moses comes down Mount Sinai with the 10 Commandments, he is very upset to see his people worshiping a golden bull calf. In fact, he shattered the stone tablets and instructed his people to kill each other in order to purify themselves. Most Biblical scholars would attribute this anger to the fact that the Israelites were worshiping a false idol, or something to that effect. The reality is that the golden bull is Taurus the Bull, and Moses represents the new Age of Aries the Ram. This is why Jews even today still blow the Ram’s horn. Moses represents the new Age of Aries, and upon the new age, everyone must shed the old age.

The claim Zeitgeist makes that the Golden Calf was Taurus the Bull has no support from the context in Exodus chapter 32. There is a much more plausible explanation as to what the Golden Calf represented. We have to take into account that at this point in time the Hebrews had just escaped Egyptian slavery. The Golden Calf is most likely the Egyptian god, Apis, the sacred bull of Memphis which is an incarnation of either Osiris or Ptah. (Source) — It goes without saying that an explanation from history is much more believable than a suggestion that has no support from the context.

The film claims that Moses was not truly angered at the fact that his people were worshiping a false god, but rather because he represents the Aries. — The fact is that this claim has absolutely no textual support. I would question if the film makers have even read the Biblical story because the context completely supports the idea that Moses’ anger was kindled by false worship. There is nothing in the entire story that suggests that Moses represents the Age of Aries or that he is the reason why Jews blow the rams horns. And if anyone would like to argue with me on this then I would tell them to read the Bible and see for themselves. Zeitgeist is simply inserting details in the text that just aren’t there.

It should be noted, as the film points out, that the Age of Aries had begun in 2150 BC. — According to Biblical dating, the Exodus happened in 1437 BC. It was 713 years way too late for Moses to  get angry that his people had not caught onto the “new age.”

Next, Zeitgeist attempts to connect the symbol of the Christian fish to the Zodiac,

Now Jesus is the figure who ushers in the age following Aries, the Age of Pisces the Two Fish. Fish symbolism is very abundant in the New Testament. Jesus feeds 5000 people with bread and “2 fish.” When he begins his ministry walking along Galilee, he befriends 2 fisherman, who follow him. And I think we’ve all seen the Jesus-fish on the backs of people’s cars. Little do they know what it actually means. It is a Pagan astrological symbolism for the Sun’s Kingdom during the Age of Pisces. Also, Jesus’ assumed birth date is essentially the start of this age.

The claim now is that the Christian fish is a symbol for the Age of Pisces which Zeitgeist is careful to mention is represented by “two fish.” — It then points out the miracle of Jesus feeding a crowd of 5,000 with bread and “two fish.” (Luke 9: 13, 14) — It’s careful to mention the number of fish but yet it neglects to mention the number of five loaves of bread because it has no parallel with the zodiac and throws off the symbolism.

The next alleged “parallel” with the Age of Pisces is that Jesus befriended “two fisherman,” — again, the reference to two fish. However this is faulty as well because even though it is true that Jesus befriended some fishermen, there weren’t just two. As a matter of fact there were a total of four fishermen listed among Jesus’ disciples, not two. (Mark 1: 16, 20). This difference in number is enough to refute the connection between them and Pisces.

Even though Zeitgeist implies that Christians lifted the fish from paganism, there are more internal reasons for the Christians to have adopted it. According to Mark 1: 17, Jesus commissioned his followers as “fishers of men.” — Also, in Greek, the word for fish (ΙΧΘΥΣ) is also an acronym for “Ιησους Χριστος Θεου Υιος Σωτηρ.” — In English this translates as “Jesus Christ, God’s Son is Savior.” — The symbol of the fish was used during the first centuries when Christians were being persecuted by the Romans. It is said that it was used by Christians in secret to identify other Christians. (Text Link) So the fact is that Christians had enough reasons to use a fish without any pagan influences, much less influence from the Zodiac.

Also, the attempt made by Zeitgeist to date Jesus’ birth to 1 AD (the first year of the Age of Pisces) is misguided. It is more likely that Jesus was born between 7 to 2 BC. So, close but no cigar. Jesus’ birth doesn’t mark be beginning of the new age.

Next, Zeitgeist tries to link a certain statement Jesus made in Luke 22: 10 to a fourth age of the Zodiac,

At Luke 22:10 when Jesus is asked by his disciples where the next passover will be after he is gone, Jesus replied: “Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you bearing a pitcher of water… follow him into the house where he entereth in.” This scripture is by far one of the most revealing of all the astrological references. The man bearing a pitcher of water is Aquarius, the water-bearer, who is always pictured as a man pouring out a pitcher of water. He represents the age after Pisces, and when the Sun (God’s Sun) leaves the Age of Pisces (Jesus), it will go into the House of Aquarius, as Aquarius follows Pisces in the precession of the equinoxes. Also Jesus is saying is that after the Age of Pisces will come the Age of Aquarius.

To anyone who has actually read the passage that Zeitgeist cites here to support a parallel between the New Testament and the Zodiac, it is clearly obvious that the film takes the Biblical passage completely out of context.

Zeitgeist claims that in this passage Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus where they will celebrate the Passover “after he is gone.” —  Even though the words “after he is gone” do not appear in the transcript of Zeitgeist, they are added in the film itself and therefore warrant a refutation. — The truth is that nowhere in the context (Luke 22: 7, 12) do the disciples ask about the next Passover “after he (Jesus) is gone.” As a matter of fact, they didn’t ask him anything. However in the separate account in Mark 14: 12, 15 the disciples do ask him where he wants to celebrate the Passover,  but nothing is mentioned about the next Passover after Jesus’ death. Zeitgeist is inserting details in the Biblical text that are not there.

As for the claim that the man with a pitcher of water is representative of the coming Age of Aquarius — This is completely taken out of context. Also, the suggestion that “Jesus is saying is that after the Age of Pisces will come the Age of Aquarius” is way off the charts of what the New Testament says. — Remember, Mark says that Jesus’ disciples asked him where he wanted to celebrate the Passover. If Jesus replied to their question in such a manner that Zeitgeist claims then that would have given his disciples lots of reason to say “Huh? We didn’t ask that.”

Also a man carrying a pitcher of water 2,000 years ago is way to generic to automatically assume a parallel with Aquarius. Before indoor plumbing, carrying water in pitchers was not unusual at all. Does it make sense to apply Zeitgeist’s logic to these cases and assume everyone who fetches water in a pitcher represents Aquarius? — No, I didn’t think so.

The last attempt that Zeitgeist tries to tie the New Testament to the Zodiac are the references it makes to “the age.”

Now, we have all heard about the end times and the end of the world. Apart from the cartoonish depictions in the Book of Revelation, the main source of this idea comes from Matthew 28:20, where Jesus says “I will be with you even to the end of the world.” However, in King James Version, “world” is a mistranslation, among many mistranslations. The actual word being used is “aeon”, which means “age.” “I will be with you even to the end of the age.” Which is true, as Jesus’ Solar Piscean personification will end when the Sun enters the Age of Aquarius. The entire concept of end times and the end of the world is a misinterpreted astrological allegory.

Zeitgeist claims that the King James Version of the Bible mistranslated Matthew 28: 20 the term “aeon” the Greek word for age as “world.” The film implies that Jesus is saying Jesus’ Age of Pisces ends as the Age of Aquarius begins and that therefore the idea of the “end of the world” is a “misinterpreted astrological allegory.”

— Actually, the term used is “αιων” which is pronounced “aion.” (Text Link) — It is true that the term means “age.” But contrary to the claims made by Zeitgeist, the term used in the passage  also means forever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, universe and even the worlds. So the fact is Matthew 28: 20 can be translated as “I am with you always, even to the end of the universe.” (Text Link)

— So much for the claim that Jesus was not talking about the actual end of the world. It is clear that just because the term “age” is used in the New Testament, that does not indicate that it is therefore referencing the Ages of the Zodiac. As a matter of fact, the Greek word for “age” is used in several contexts in the Bible where it would be ridiculous to suggest that the Zodiac is being referenced. (For example, Luke 1: 70 and 1 Corinthians 2: 6)

It is pretty obvious that the Film, Zeitgeist, as well as many other “Jesus-Mythers” are willing to tie any reference in the Bible of fish to Pisces, any Bull or calf to Taurus, or water to Aquarius no matter how ludicrous these “connections” are. No reputable scholar would ever make such weak connections between the Zodiac and the Bible.

Despite the fact that Zeitgeist makes the claim that the Bible “has more to do with astrology than anything else” — The Bible actually discredits Astrology and Stargazing as acts of Divination,

Surely they [astrologers and stargazers] are like stubble; the fire will burn them up.They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. Here are no coals to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by. (Isaiah 47: 14 NIV)

Also the claim that Jesus is a Sun god is also can be dismissed due to the Judeo-Christian opposition of the worship of both the Sun and the constellation  which is shown in the Bible. — 2 Kings 23: 5 talks approvingly about Josiah, the King of Judah, who abolished such practices during his reign,

[Josiah] did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts.

Such passages are not what one would expect to find in a book that promoted astrology. Considering the fact that Judaism opposes Sun worship, it is not likely for  the first Christians (who were Jews themselves) to consider Jesus a god of the sun. Such a thing was against their religion. As I have mentioned before, the claims made by Zeitgeist that Jesus is the “Sun” of God which is a play on words with “son,” are moot because this only works in English. And the Bible was not written in English.

There is no evidence that Jesus was ever considered a solar deity or that Christianity is based on the worship of the sun. Likewise, the connections that Zeitgeist attempts to make between the Bible and the constellations of the Zodiac have no basis in what the Biblical passages it refers to actually say. Every single case is taken out of context to support a view that no competent historian or scholar would ever endorse.

Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus — Part 3

Ahmose Stela reconstructedIn my last two posts entitled Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? and in Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus — Part 2 I narrowed the list of suspects of Pharoahs of the time period that may have been the monarch that could have confronted Moses.

Now, in part 3, I am going to confirm or deny a third candidate that has been mentioned my some.

In the History Channel documentary “The Exodus Decoded” Simcha Jacobovici attempts to identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus by citing The Tempest Stela of Ahmose. He says in the documentary that he attempted to get access to the ancient stela which lies abandoned in the basement at the Cairo Museum. Since he couldn’t get access to it, he reconstructed it, apparently from descriptions of the archaeologist that had discovered it. (The reconstruction is the picture on the side.)

— He attempts to connect the disaster that the stela speaks about to the ten plagues of Egypt that Moses inflicted. These are the points that Simcha Jacabovici uses to tie the Exodus to the Ahmose Stela:

  • “The Bible says that at the time of the Exodus there was a great storm. Ahmose’ stela also speaks of a great storm . . .”
  • The Bible says that Egypt was enshrouded in darkness. Ahmose’ stela says that Egypt was covered in darkness.
  • The Stela says that even though the Egyptians worshiped many gods, that this disaster happened when “God, in the singular, manifested his power.”

Simcha Jacabovici continues, saying:

The Bible describes Pharaoh, but never names him. Because of this stela we now know his name: Ahmose.

Now that we know a major claim that is used to justify the identification of Ahmose as the Pharaoh of the Exodus, we should now see if the Stela that Jacabovici cites actually supports what he claims. — As a matter of fact, the Tempest Stela of Ahmose I does in fact not seem to parallel the Exodus plagues. My personal reading of it only describes a rain storm:

The gods (made?) the sky come with a tempest of (rain?); it caused darkness in the Western region; the sky was unleashed, without [ . . .] more than the roar of the crowd; [. . .] was powerful [. . .] on the mountains more than the turbulence of the cataract which is at Elephantine. Each house, [. . .] each shelter (or each covered place) that they reached [. . .] were floating in the water like the barks of papyrus (on the outside?) of the royal residence for [. . .] day(s), with no one able to light the torch anywhere.

His citation of the stela saying that the storm happened when “god” manifested his power seems to be the strongest evidence to back him up:

Then His Majesty said: ‘How these (events) surpass the power of the great god and the wills of the divinities!’ And His Majesty descended in his boat, his council following him. The (people were?) at the east and the west, silent, for they had no more clothes (?) on them after the power of the god was manifested.

But the problem is that this mention seems to be the only somewhat strong evidence that Jacabovici has from the stela to affirm his belief that Ahmose is the Pharaoh that confronted Moses. But when the entire stela is understood, I just don’t find that claim credible.

Christopher Heard, in his extended review of “The Exodus Decoded”, says:

It should be clear that Jacobovici’s claim that the Tempest Stela of Ahmose reports, from an Egyptian perspective, the same events as the biblical ten plagues story hangs by the slimmest of threads. The Tempest Stela’s catastrophe could, at most, be seen as vaguely parallel to the plagues of hail and darkness, but even here there are enough significant differences to cast serious doubt on the suggested parallel. To try to connect the Tempest Stela with the ten plagues story as a whole, one must suppose either that the Tempest Stela (whose inscription dates within Ahmose’s twenty-five-year reign, as does the catastrophe itself) presents an exaggerated version of only one of ten catastrophes, or perhaps a mangled conflation of two of them, or that the biblical version (whose linguistic properties are characteristic of an era hundreds of years later than any proposed time frame for the exodus) presents a vastly expanded list of plagues based on a single, albeit devastating, thunderstorm.

So, I’m not the only one that disagrees with Simcha Jacabovici. Several learned people, even many who believe that the Exodus story is true, do not think that the connection is there. The fact is that there is no thunderstorm described in the Book of Exodus for any of the ten plagues. — To be fair, Simcha doesn’t say that, but that is what would be implied if, in fact, the Tempest Stela is indeed describing the Exodus story.

But moving on, just because the Ahmose Stela isn’t connected to the Exodus, that doesn’t show that Pharaoh Ahmose isn’t the Pharaoh of the Exodus. — Another basis that Jacabovici has that he is the Exodus Pharaoh is that he was the Pharaoh that expelled a Semitic race of people called the Hyksos. He believes that the Hyksos are, in fact, the Israelites.

He complains that many historians say the two peoples cannot be equated because the Hyksos and the Hebrews left Egypt separated by hundreds of years. — Just then a skeptic of the Exodus appears on a screen and says that even though one could play with Egyptian dates by moving them by ten years but that they couldn’t be moved by 50 or 100 years. But Jacabovici responds, saying:

But maybe we have to. What if scholars are placing the exodus in the wrong time period? Imagine the confusion if in the future scholars date World War II to the 1990s. They’ll never find any evidence that it actually happened.

Mentioning that many believe that the Exodus happened in the 13thcentury B.C. in the time of Ramses II he also correctly mentions that some scholars “are now breaking with that consensus.” He mentions a calculation that places the Exodus in 1470 B.C. (Hint: that is 23 to 32 years way to early) and then mentioned that the Hyksos expulsion traditionally happened less than a century before. He then says that the events happened to closely together to be a coincidence, so he now has a new date for the Exodus: 1500 B.C.  

There several problems with accepting Jacabovici’s conclusions. The first one is the major differences of the “exodus'” of the Hebrews to that of the Hyksos. — The Exodus story clearly shows that Pharaoh lost his will to fight against Yahweh and let the Israelites go. However, in the case of the Hyksos, The Encyclopedia Britannica shows that Ahmose rebelled against the Hyksos and forced them out of Avaris by force of arms.

The second problem is chronological. According to the most reliable Biblical dating, the Exodus happened between 1446 B.C. to 1437, and the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt in 1521 B.C., 75 to 84 years before the Exodus. Jocabovici realizes this but prefers to say that these events that happened nearly a century apart really occurred at the same time and that time was 1500 B.C. He also ignores, or at least overlooks, the the fact that the Hyksos were expelled by war, unlike the Hebrews.

So basically, I cannot agree with Simcha Jacabovici that Ahmose is the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The fact is that none of the “evidence” he presents to support his suggestion really isn’t as strong as he thinks it is.

Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?

There have been some attempts to identify the pharaohs of the book of Exodus. Most, if not all, seem unlikely if not impossible. Though not unwarranted, I would be suspicious of most of the assumptions that are made about the identity of the Egyptian Kings that enslaved the Isrealites while they were in Egypt. The Bible is not much help because it doesn’t not name the ones that were responsible.

I’ve looked into a few suggestions and find some more plausible than others.

One of the basis for one of the most famous theories of the identity of the pharaoh that enslaved the Hebrews is found very early in the Book of Exodus. It names cities that the Isrealites were forced to build for the king of Egypt:

So they [the Egyptians] put slave masters over them [the Hebrews] to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. (Exodus 1: 11)

Obviously, the name “Rameses” is familiar. After all, it  has been associated with the story of the story of Moses and the Exodus, especially with the movie “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says that Ramses II ruled from 1279 B.C. to 1213. His reign lasted for 67 years making him the second longest reigning Pharaoh. — He is famous for a military campaign he lead against the Hittites at Kadesh though he failed to capture it. His failed attempt to win the war had its ramifications however the two nations signed a peace treaty and ended up on good terms. He then married the eldest daughter of the Hittite King.

Anyway, the reference to a city the pharaoh had built called “Rameses” seems identical to the ancient capital city of Ramses II which was called “Pi-Ramesse” or “Per-Ramesses.” Historians of Egypt point out that this city’s actual location “in antiquity” is unknown but that it was founded by King Seti and built on top of older buildings built by the Hyksos. It was then abandoned in the 21st Egyptian dynasty.  

As for the Semetic Hyksos, even though I do not agree with certain speculation that they are necessarily interchangeable with the Isrealites, I am sure that they are related and possible intermarried from the time Joseph and Jacob had arrived in Egypt. In my post entitled “Israel’s 430 years in Egypt in perspective” I pointed out that the most reliable Biblical dating placed Jacob’s arrival in 1652 B.C. during the times of the Hyksos rule over Egypt and that these were the kings that “knew Joseph” (Exodus 1:8 ).

The dating of the arrival of the Hebrews in Egypt is relevant to the dating of which Pharaohs of the Exodus. — I have already pointed out that Exodus 12: 40 gives the impression that the Hebrews had remained in Egypt for 430 years. So if this is to be taken at face value then the year of the Exodus should be 1222 B.C., during the last years of Ramses II. — It would seem that the dating of the Exodus to Ramses’ reign is vindicated, however there is a major problem with simply assuming this date.

The problem is that there is ample evidence that Exodus 12: 8 originally said that the 430 before the Exodus weren’t only spent in Egypt since Joseph and Jacob, but also in Canaan from the time of Abraham’s call from Haran. — Such Biblical manuscripts are the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, Galatians 3: 16-17, and even Josephus’ account of the Exodus confirms this:

They left Egypt in the month Xanthicus, on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt. (Antiquities of the Jews 2, 15, 2)

In my earlier post, I show that even the simple math in the Biblical time-line confirms this alternative reading:

Genesis 12: 4-5 says that Abram (later called Abraham) migrated from Haran to Canaan when he was seventy-five years old. He was one-hundred years old when his son Issac was born (Genesis 21: 1). — Then when Issac was sixty when Jacob was born (Genesis 25: 24-26). Abraham would have been 160 at the time. And when Jacob arrived in Egypt on Joseph’s invitation and was presented to the King he was 130 years old (Genesis 47: 9).

So this means that there was a gap of 215 years from the time Abraham first went to Canaan to when Jacob arrived in Egypt.So, by subtracting that number from 1867 we find that Jacob arrived in Egypt in 1652 B.C., during the rule of the Hyksos kings, and another 215 years before the Exodus of Moses in 1437 B.C. Add it up and it comes to 430 years.

1 Kings 6: 1 helps even more by establishing the Exodus 480 years before the fourth year of King Solomon’s rule (i.e., 957 B.C.) placing the Exodus in 1437 B.C. So this understanding seems to be inescapable. — Therefore, this would render the theory that Ramses II was the Pharaoh that confronted Moses as irrelevant because this shows that Moses lead the Hebrews out of Egypt 158 years before he began to rule Egypt.  

Also, some scholars apparently think the name “Rameses” in the Book of Exodus is only a deliberate anachronism which was supposed to help later Jewish readers identify certain locations.

The question is, if it wasn’t Ramses II then who was it? The answer should be simple: Simply search for a Pharaoh that ruled Egypt in 1437 B.C. —  But it is not all that simple because of uncertainties in the precise dating of Egyptian dynasties. But it is still possible to narrow the list down. Also it is possible to conclude that Moses dealt with the Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty.

The list is narrowed down to only two Egyptian Pharaohs:

Thutmose III: 1504 B.C. – 1450, or possibly 1479 – 1425

Amenhotep II: 1427 B.C. – 1392

Note: for the first set of dating of Thutmose’s reign as well as Amenhotep’s I sourced Tour and for the second set for the former I used the Encyclopaedia of the Orient. — Get my point? There isn’t full certainty about Egyptian dates so we have to make do with what we have and accept both dating options for the Pharaoh of the Exodus as relevant.

Mostly because of the uncertainty of the Egyptian dating, we cannot just say which one of these two pharaoh’s confronted Moses and his God, but still, narrowing down the list of possible suspects wasn’t so hard. But there may be a way of figuring out which one it is.

InAgainst Apion 1, Josephus wrote a defence of his former historical works because several critics didn’t believe his accounts. He then claimed to cite an Egyptian historian named Manetho word for word on the Exodus. — It should be mentioned that many scholars don’t believe Josephus’ citation, but not all of it has been shown to be irrelevant.

It is true that Manetho’s account has questionable elements in it, but some of it (at least to me) seems to have a ring of truth. — Manetho associates the Hebrews with the Hyksos. I’ve already said I don’t believe the Hyksos and Hebrews are 100% interchangeable, but that I believe close relations after Jacob and Joseph are likely. If that’s true then such an association would be understandable, at least. Josephus accepts the connection as he cites him:

I shall quote Manetho again, and what he writes as to the order of the times in this case. He says “After this people or shepherds had left Egypt to go to Jerusalem, Tethmosis, who drove them [the Hyksos] out, was king of Egypt and reigned for twenty five years and four months, and then died; …” (Brackets, emphasis mine)

Once read, I think this citation Josephus makes is revealing because he names “Thetmosis” which is obviously “Thutmosis” or Thutmose. And it so happens, there was a Pharoah named Thutmose at the right time (more or less) in Egypt.

What I also find interesting is that most historians credit Ahmose I with the Hyksos expulsion instead of Thutmose. — Ahmose was a predecessor of Thutmose III. The best conclusion I can make is that both accounts have truth in them, but that Manetho’s is somewhat more questionable. But still, I don’t think we should doubt everything Manetho said. After all, if he can rightfully name a Pharaoh that “expelled” the Hebrews which lived at the correct time frame, then there may indeed be something to his “historical” account. — But again, the Israelites and the Hyksos cannot be equated, at least not 100%, though the Hyksos seem to be the Pharaohs that “knew Joseph.”

It should be realized that the “Hyksos Expulsion” is not the same as the Exodus of Moses because one has to remember that Pharaoh Ahmose, the one that expelled the Hyksos, was long dead in 1437 B.C. when the Exodus seems to have occured. — The association of King Thutmose III by Manetho may be out of knowing that the two peoples were related. — And finally, I am going to add that the other suspect for the Exodus, Amenhotep II, should by no means be ruled out. As a matter of fact, Professor William Shea (from Andrews University) wrote a paper on the subject which provides evidence of the possibility entitled Amenhotep II as Pharaoh of the Exodus.”

Go to Part 2 of this blog post