Daily Archives: 2008-05-25 17:19:39 GMT+0000

Beloved and Only Begotten Sons Sacrificed by Loving Fathers (Offering of Isaac, 5)

First of a couple of backtracks here before completing the Offering of Isaac’s / Sacrifice of Jesus series. Based on Levenson’s The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son.

According to what Eusebius tells us in his Praeparatio Evangelica, one passage Philo of Byblos wrote of sacrifice among the gods:

It was a custom of the ancients in great crises of danger for the rulers of a city or nation, in order to avert the common ruin, to give up the most beloved of their children for sacrifice as a ransom to the avenging daemons; and those who were thus given up were sacrificed with mystic rites. Kronos then, whom the Phoenicians call Elus, who was king of the country and subsequently, after his decease, was deified as the star Saturn, had by a nymph of the country named Anobret an only begotten son, whom they on this account called ledud, the only begotten being still so called among the Phoenicians; and when very great dangers from war had beset the country, he arrayed his son in royal apparel, and prepared an altar, and sacrificed him.’

Kronos or El sacrificed his son to put an end to the “very great dangers from war that had beset the country.” The same motif is found in the Bible where King Mesha also offered “his first-born son, who was to succeed him as king” to end the siege of his city. See 2 Kings 3:27. In both cases a king sacrifices his royal heir.

Elus is otherwise known as El, and is also known by the same name and in the same supreme role in the Hebrew Bible, and sometimes equated there with YHWH.

Iedud is, following Levenson, better spelled Iedoud to reflect Eusebius’s Greek.

Another manuscript tradition names this only begotten son of El Ieoud rather than Iedoud (Levenson, p.27).

The only begotten son

Ieoud is most likely the same as the Hebrew word yachiyd, the only, the solitary one, the only begotten.

This word is prominent in stories of child sacrifice: read more »

How Polytheism morphed into Monotheism: philosophical moves, 1

Last month I posted my reading of an interesting discussion by senior research fellow M. L. West about the nature of ancient Mid-East and Mediterranean world polytheism and how it appears to have evolved into monotheism in late antiquity.

This post continues the remainder of that discussion by West. It outlines how and why the philosophers moved the intellectual world to a position where monotheism came to be embraced as the most economical answer to “the big questions” of the day.

As in that previous post, I am discussing the first chapter by Martin West in Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity, edited by Polymnia Athanassiadi and Michael Frede.

On the quest of the sixth and fifth century Greek philosophers West begins:

To invoke God as an explanation of phenomena is to confess that you do not know how to explain them rationally — unless, that is, you are prepared to supply a rational explanation of God. The Presocratics, however, did try to explain God. What they sought to eliminate from the world was not divinity as such but caprice and the arbitrary events which had formerly been ascribed to divine initiative. (p.30)

Guiding principles: Depersonalize and Economize

Rather than discard gods as an explanation, what these philosophers did was to depersonalize the gods of the myths. By depersonalizing them and morphing them into abstract principles they hoped to discover ageless and unchanging forces and powers and principles in place of the moody temperamentalism of human-like gods. They may retain the names of some of these gods for those abstract agencies, but at least such impersonal phenomena would be worthy of the label “god” in their view.

“Among the principles that informed these men’s theorizing were economy and coherence.” They valued the idea of a single cause over many causes. The fewer gods at the apex who could be deduced to be guiding all below the better, although some thinkers retained a small hierarchy of a few agencies at the top.

Thales (ca 624-547 b.c.e) — getting the abstractions right

West sees Thales as the one who began to emancipate such terms as “soul” and “god” from their conventional mythical applications. read more »

Burma after Nargis: $$$ the junta DOES NOT need

The Burmese junta has just requested $11.5 billion for rebuilding after Cyclone Nargis.

On a recent Late Night Live interview Sean Turnell, Associate Professor at Macquarie University and co-founder of Burma Economic Watch, presented the following:

  1. The Burmese regime is “flush with funds” at the moment
  2. Over the last 5 years it is earning $150,000,000 US from exports of natural gas to Thailand
  3. It has $4 billion stashed away, none of which goes into the government’s public account
  4. The incoming money is recorded at the official exchange rate which is 200 times undervalued

The Burmese regime is thus deliberately starving the public account of funds

The podcast for this interview, which also includes input from Aung Zaw, an exiled Burmese journalist and editor of The Irrawaddy Magazine; and with Gary Woodward, former ambassador to Burma, is well worth a listen.

Guided by astrology? It also emerges in the LNL interview the possibility that the reason the military junta went ahead with their referendum on the constitution in the midst of the chaos was to follow through on the predictions of their astrologers that that was the most favourable day for it.

The Irrawaddy Magazine is also of special interest, with 2 of its current story headings about cyclone victims being forcibly evicted from their places of refuge and about poorly paid military looting in some of the cyclone areas.