Thursday, May 31, 2007
Guest Article on "Nice Guy, Jehovah"
THE TOWER OF BABEL
I am proud to publish a comment submitted by Freyashawk in response to my "Nice Guy, Jehovah" post, as well as my telling her that I'm writing an "impeachment of Jehovah" post. What she sent as a long comment deserves to be given a prominent position. Freyashawk is a leading authority on myths. I see that she has just posted a fascinating article entitled "In Defence of God" on her outstanding blog, "Notes from Freyashawk" .
'The stories in the 'Bible' are based on very old myths and only literalists believe that myths should be accepted as literal truth. No one expects that from folktales or fairytales but then they hold the 'Bible' to a different standard. Of course, this is the fault of the writers of the books that now have been collected in the form of a single 'word of God' text as well as religious leaders who want to convince people that 'every word' is directly from the Creator.
God cannot be defined by ANY human being or limited to the restrictions of any human language. How any one can believe literally in myths that were borrowed from more ancient civilisations than the Hebrews is beyond my own (admittedly limited human) comprehension.
The story of the Great Flood is based on the Sumerian tale of Gilgamesh which probably was based on even older oral accounts by storytellers. The Tower of Babel story is found in many different cultures and I think there is even an ancient Egyptian tale that mirrors it somewhat.
Here is where the entire basis of the Jewish depiction of 'Jehovah' or 'Yahweh' breaks down into utter nonsense. Why would the real God choose any tribe or group as his 'chosen people'? The entire thread that runs through the 'Old Testament', purporting to give the Hebrews some special status and special dispensation to pillage, rape and even commit genocide is more than suspect.
The creature depicted in many of the Jewish works that are incorporated in the 'Bible' is nothing more than a series of misrepresentations of God perpetrated by the Hebrews to attempt to justify their conquests of Canaan. God therefore cannot be held to account for lies and fictions created by those who purported to be his 'chosen people'. It is not God who is described by most of these tales. Yahweh probably is a misrepresentation of El in any case, so one
wouldn't wish to throw out the baby with the bath water.
Apart from this, however, the Bible contains some gems of real truth and wisdom. There are hymns of great beauty among the Psalms and philosophical declarations of wisdom by Solomon or Suleiman.
The stories of the Creation, the Tower of Babel and the Great Flood are fantastic tales that should be enjoyed and appreciated as creative interpretations of mythic events.
Unfortunately, as in the case of many religions, the 'fundamentalists' have placed an impossible burden of proof upon old myths. This does not in any way reflect upon God or the true nature of the Divine. It is human misrepresentation and that pernicious human need to control the universe that is at the root of the problem.
'I speak for God' has to be one of the worst spiritual crimes that can be committed by any human being. That is not to say that human beings cannot be inspired by the Divine or even that the 'word of God' does not exist. Common sense, however, should be used to distinguish between truth and fiction.
Those like Jesus and Muhammad who truly have spoken for God can be judged by the message: 'God is Love'. 'God is all Merciful, all Compassionate.' 'Your Lord is the Lord of all Mercy and Compassion.'
This is the Word of God, not found in any declarations of special dispensation for crimes committed by Hebrew tribes.
One last note: There is nothing 'inferior' or 'criminal' about fiction. It is one of the most wonderful gifts that the Divine has given humanity. On the other hand, people do need to be able to distinguish between fact and fiction.
No one can dispute that the book of Genesis contains some beautiful poetry:
'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the Waters. And God said: Let there be Light. And there was Light. And God saw that the Light was good. And God separated the Light from the Darkness. God called the Light Day and the Darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. ... And God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.' And it was so. And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night -- and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. and there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. And God said, 'Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens' So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird acorrding to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas and let birds multiply on the earth.' And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.'
This is poetry. It is not a literal account of 'creation'. Humanity ever has sought to describe the ordering of the universe and the way in which order emerges from chaos.
In fact, another way in which creation is described in the Bible is through the declaration: 'In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.' (St. John)
One of the oldest Creation myths found in written form is the Enuma Elish:
'When in the height Heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu who begat them,
and Chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both,
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;
Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven:
Lahmu and Lahamu were called into being...'
Essentially, these Creation accounts describe a fundamental operation of magic. By naming an object and thus defining it, one brings it into existence. God named the Light and thus created it. Order from chaos... this is what is described in every Creation tale.
From ancient Sumer:
'When Anu, Bel and Ea,
The great gods, through their sure counsel
Fixed the bounds of heaven and earth,
And to the hands of the great gods entrusted
The creation of the day and the renewal of the month which they might behold.
And mankind beheld the Sun-god in the gate of his going forth,
In the midst of heaven and earth they duly created him.
In this context, the 'gods' are lesser beings called into being by the Divine.
Yahweh or Jehovah or Allah: these are names for the same Divine Being.
From Surah Al Baqarah: 'Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, in the alternation of the Night and Day, in the sailing of the ships through the Ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewish to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth: here indeed are Signs for those who are wise.'
God is NOT Jewish. He cannot be restricted or limited by the claims of any tribe or ethnic group. To condemn him for the misrepresentations or false pretensions of any group would be wrong.'