Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Truth about the Essenes and early Christianity - Communalism/Communism & Celibacy/Marriage

The similarities between the early Christians and the Essenes are extensive, highlighting the fit of the early Christians within the larger Essene holiness movement. This is the third part in a multi-part series analyzing the relationship between these movements. Previous essays include An Introduction and The Nazirite Connection.

Communitarianism - Equal Sharing of Possessions

Josephus on the Essenes: "These men are despisers of riches...”

Jesus: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt 6:19, 24).

Josephus, continuing: “Nor is there any one to be found among them who hath more than another; for it is a law among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order, insomuch that among them all there is no appearance of poverty, or excess of riches, but every one's possessions are intermingled with every other's possessions. (War 2:8:3:122)

Philo echoes: “no one among them ventures at all to acquire any property whatever of his own, neither house, nor slave, nor farm, nor flocks and herds, nor any thing of any sort which can be looked upon as the fountain or provision of riches; but they bring them together into the middle as a common stock, and enjoy one common general benefit from it all.” (Hypothetica 11.4)


the early Christians: "All the believers were together and had everything in common." and "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had... And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. (Acts 2:44, 4:32-34).

Stewards of the common money

Josephus: “They also have stewards appointed to take care of their common affairs, who every one of them have no separate business for any, but what is for the uses of them all.” (War 2:8:3) and “They choose good men, who are also priests, to be the stewards of their incomes and the produce of the fields, as well as to procure the corn and food” (Antiquities, 18:1:5).

Also, Philo: “Accordingly, each of these men, who differ so widely in their respective employments, when they have received their wages give them up to one person who is appointed as the universal steward and general manager; and he, when he has received the money, immediately goes and purchases what is necessary and furnishes them with food in abundance, and all other things of which the life of mankind stands in need.” (Hypothetica 11.10)


A steward over the common purse! Such as held by Judas:

“Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor.” (John 13:29). Also, “He [Judas] did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6).

Communitarian Travel arrangements (but bring your sword!)

Jesus told his disciples to go without possessions when he first sent them out on missionary work: "He told them: Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town." (Luke 9:3-4).

However, right before his death, immediately after the Last Supper, he gave them permission to take along basic possessions, including a sword for self-defense: "Jesus asked them, When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything? Nothing, they answered. He said to them, But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." (Luke 22:35-36)

Compare this to the way the Essenes managed their travel arrangements, which sounds exactly like what the Apostles were doing after Jesus died:

"They have no one certain city, but many of them dwell in every city... for which reason they carry nothing at all with them when they travel into remote parts, though still they take their weapons with them, for fear of thieves. Accordingly, there is, in every city where they live, one appointed particularly to take care of strangers, and to provide garments and other necessaries for them." (War 2:8:4:124)


Sexuality - Celibacy is best

Josephus (in agreement with Philo and Pliny, quoted below) described the Essenes this way: "These Essenes reject pleasures as an evil, but esteem continence, and the conquest over our passions, to be virtue... They neglect wedlock..." (War 2:8:2:119)

Christ himself is recorded lauding celibacy as the highest standard, although he recognized that it was not for everyone: "For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." (Matthew 19:12)

The fact that all the Disciples were men speaks to the fact that the early Christian movement had its origins in the all-male Essene milieu. It appears to be Christ's personal innovation to include women, a fact which appears to have surprised his Disciples.

For example, notice their reaction to seeing Jesus speaking to the woman at the well, as it is recorded in John 4:27: "Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman."

John the Revelator records that the 144,000, elevated for their holiness and obedience to the Lord, practiced celibacy:

“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads…. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb.” (Revelation 14: 1, 4)

Essenes that allowed marriage

Josephus mentions one group of Essenes that allowed marriage, and considers them a separate, distinct order of the Essenes. They are allowed to have sex, but ONLY for the sake of PROCREATION! [Boy, does that sound familiar?]

It is here that, I think, Josephus is talking specifically about the Christians, as the Christians appear to be the only holiness group to allow marriage:

Josephus: “There is another order of Essenes, who agree with the rest as to their way of living, and customs, and laws, but differ from them in the point of marriage, as thinking that by not marrying they cut off the principal part of human life, which is the prospect of succession; … But they do not use to accompany with their wives when they are with child, as a demonstration that they do not marry out of regard to pleasure, but for the sake of posterity.” (War 2:8:13)

Philo, writing some 20 years before Josephus (c.50-60 A.D.), seems unaware of this order of marrying Essenes, which would make sense if this group was the early Christians, since they originated only with Jesus' innovation of the inclusion of women (c.35 A.D.), obviously starting out as a small sub-group, but growing larger and more noticible by the time of Josephus:

“Perceiving, with more than ordinary acuteness and accuracy, what is alone, or at least above all other things, calculated to dissolve such connections, they repudiate marriage; and at the same time practice continence in an eminent degree. For no one of the Essenes marries a wife, because woman is a selfish and excessively jealous creature, and has great power to destroy the morals of man, and to mislead with continual tricks;” (Hypothetica 11.14-17).

Pliny (in his Natural History) also seems unaware of any marrying Essenes, highlighting the normative status of Essenes as celibates. The Christians, probably consisting mainly of town-dwellers, appear to be the only group that incorporated women into their holiness movement, and did not stand out to the early observer to the same degree as the withdrawn monastics consisting only of celibate men:

"To the west (of the Dead Sea) the Essenes have put the necessary distance between themselves and the insalubrious shore. They are a people unique of its kind and admirable beyond all others in the whole world; without women and renouncing love entirely, without money and having for company only palm trees.”


The full series:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: the Nazirite Connection
Part 3: Communalism and Celibacy/Marriage
Part 4: the Jesus-Essene connection
Part 5: Was Paul a Nazirite Priest?
Part 6: Did Josephus Know Paul?
Part 7: Josephus’ connection to Christianity
Part 8: Nazirite priests and Epiphanius
Part 9: Paul on communal labor and feasts
Part 10: Divisions, non-uniformity, the role of women
Part 11: Purification, Angels, Moses, & the Epistle to the Hebrews
Part 12: Therapeutae and Vegetarianism
Part 13: Conclusion
Also related:
Josephus’ role in the Jewish-Roman War

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Truth about Women & Children First – liberal Victorian statist propaganda

People seem keen to defend the idea of Women & Children First (WCF) on some crypto-survivalist grounds, implying that the idea has ancient roots. The reasoning goes something like this: “WCF is an ancient and natural idea, because without women to bear children, society would have disappeared, and one man can impregnate 100 women, so women are more valuable than men.”

This pseudo-historical crypto-survivalist reasoning is complete hogwash and easily falsified and rejected. In historical fact, the survival of men outweighed just about everything else. The survival of women were a distant second, and the survival of children hardly mattered at all.

The Historical Reality of Female Infanticide

The most obvious counter to the idea of “women as crucial for tribal survival” is the widespread practice (historical and contemporary) of female infanticide. In low-level survivalist societies, females are seen as less than useless, as an actual hindrance to be minimized.

The reasons why women in traditional societies were not valued are readily apparent: they are basically just “another mouth to feed”. Worse, they reproduce, making even more “mouths to feed”. Females in traditional society were luxuries, not necessities.

What is a man with, say, 3 wives and 6 daughters going to do to survive? Compare his situation with the man with 3 brothers and 6 sons. Whether it came to growing or hunting food, or defending territory from aggressors, the man with brothers and sons is at a vast advantage.

The oft-cited example of the “1 man can impregnate 100 women” provides its own reductio ad absurdum:

So, say in a tribal conflict, one tribe follows the logic of WCF, and they escape a battle with only 1 male warrior, but all 100 females. Even assuming he wants to get busy and impregnate them all (to ensure the continuation of the tribe, of course!!!), some problems immediately come to mind:
--who is going to be hunting to feed those 100 women (not to mention current and forthcoming children)? And,
--who is going to defend all those women and children from fierce predators (both the ones with four feet, and the ones with two)?

The Primacy of Men

It is painfully obvious that in primitive conditions, the most important element in tribal existence is the presence of large numbers of warriors. Heck, the lack of women is hardly a problem, since a tribe with lots of warriors can just go TAKE WOMEN from other tribes.

In fact, this is exactly what we see in history: lots of female infanticide and lots of “bride kidnapping”.

The idea that a man should sacrifice himself for the survival of a female is ABSURD and SELF-CONTRADICTORY, since HIS sacrifice would do little more than ensure HER doom.

WCF Invented in liberal Victorian Britain – to SERVE the STATE

That is why NO ONE IN HISTORY ever practiced WCF. The concept was invented whole-cloth in that incubator of modern liberalism: Victorian England. Literally, the idea first appeared in the 1850s, and was made super-famous by the events of the Titanic in 1912.

It is no accident that this was precisely the period corresponding to the height of the British Empire. The Empire needed mobs of young men to sign themselves up for self-sacrifice. The concept of WCF is just an ancillary of that pro-Empire propaganda. According to the logic of Empire, you are a coward and failure if you are not willing to sacrifice your own life for the women and children of the homeland.

In fact, it is only in the conditions of the modern nation state that the “1 man for every 100 women” possibility becomes true. In a homeland of millions, with a secured food supply, extensive welfare programs, and professional police forces, women and children are in no danger from the lack of a husband/father.

We can thereby understand the true serendipity of the invention of the WCF doctrine in Victorian Britain: as a tool for the Liberal welfare-warfare State/Empire, which requires an ideology that can convince young men to be willing to throw away their lives for some abstract reason. God bless the Italians and whoever else rejects the absurd and destructive concept.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Glenn Greewald penetrates Zionist lies - the anti-Semite charge unmasked, a meeting of Left and Right (?)

As I have previous defined it, the charge of anti-semitism is simply a rhetoric of distraction from the Zionist power structure. I find it fascinating, and gratifying, to see that commenters on the Left are coming to understandstand the same thing.

A writer on Salon (Glen Greenwald, here http://www.salon.com/2012/01/19/the_smear_campaign_against_cap_and_media_matters_rolls_on/singleton/) has provided a neat expose on the exact method by which the Zionist power structure destroys the careers of young Leftist writers who oppose them. He arrives at a very similar definition of anti-Semitism as mine: “challenging or even questioning the policy assumptions and preferences of certain Jewish groups and the Israeli government”.

Now, the funny part is, the Lefist author Greenwald laments the supposed abuse of the anti-semitic charge, fearing that it is losing its power, in a Little-Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf fashion, to identify real anti-semites. These REAL anti-semites, the Leftist author postulates, lurk out on the Right, in its paleoconservative wing.

My question is, is the Leftist author being willfully ignorant, or strategically lying? Or is he really just a small-minded, poorly-read Leftbot?

Because, I can tell you, Mr. Greenwald, I have read in some paleoconservative circles, canonical writers such as Buchanan and Duke, and I can tell you, their critique of the Zionist power structure is exactly your own, no more, no less. If you don’t want to be small-minded, I encourage you to read them yourself.

Your meticulous critique of how the Zionist lobby uses relentless media power combined with the threat of economic boycott to ruthlessly destroy careers and eliminate opposition, could be taken directly out of the pages of David Duke’s magnum opus, Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening to the Jewish Question.

The idea that there is a REAL anti-semite contingent out there waiting in the wings, motivated by some irrational hatred of all things Jewish, is simply a fantasy. I should specify, it is a brand of rhetoric, a form of misinformation, propagated by that very Zionist power structure that you yourself are being attacked by.

In short, there is no difference between yourself and, say, David Duke, vis a vis your status as anti-semites. He is no more or less anti-semitic than you are, which is to say, not at all.

Those supposedly anti-semitic paleocons are equally the victims of the anti-gentile smear campaign as yourself and your Leftist friends. They just recognized and spoke out against the problem first, and thus, were the first to be smeared.

Here is where it gets deep…

Your vilification of them is simply a secondary level of Zionist brainwashing.

I encourage you to fully throw off the restrictor plate that your would-be Zionist masters have placed upon your mind, and come to see the truth of the matter: THERE ARE NO ANTI-SEMITES at all, even on the hated paleocon Right. There are simply honest Americans who oppose the culture of lying, misinformation, and personal attacks that are used by the Zionist lobby to advance their destructive policies. The charge of anti-semitism is a fictional accusation used by that lobby to discredit its opposition, them and you included.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Judaism is not based on the Bible - Israeli rabbis destroy traditional Biblical Jews

I once had a young Jewish student in class who got a question wrong on a quiz, and he objected. The question was something like "The book upon which Orthodox Judaism is based: ________". He put "Torah", but the correct answer was "Talmud". At the time, I explained the answer to him by way of the example of the Karaites.

The Karaites were (and are) an ancient sect of Jews who based their religion directly on the Old Testament. They did not recognize the innovations of the Pharisee rabbis, which were eventually codified into the Talmud. [Jesus appears to have Karaite sympathies, in the way he condemned the Pharisees and their rabbinical innovations. ] For their part, the Orthodox rabbis, who based their religion on the laws of the Talmud, condemned the Karaites as heretics, and labeled them "not Jews".

It is a rather remarkable mental gymnastic to contemplate, but it is a fact:
--although the Talmud is supposedly rooted in the Torah, and
--Orthodox Jews continued to venerate the Torah as a sacred work in their religious services,
--anyone who bases their religion on the Bible is considered NOT-JEWISH.

Cultural Genocide in Modern Israel

These facts are highlighted in a story from Israel today, about Ethiopian Jews who moved to Israel, only to have the Orthodox Jew establishment wipe out their religious traditions, which are all based on the Torah/Old Testament.

Says one leader of the African Jews: "We kept this tradition for more than 2,500 years," Kess Semai said. "Our community won't allow in the span of 30 years for this tradition to be erased completely." (http://news.yahoo.com/israel-seeks-end-ancient-african-jewish-custom-070250470.html)

As the article describes them, basically modern-day Karaites:
"Descendants of the lost Israelite tribe of Dan, according to Jewish lore, Ethiopian Jews spent millennia isolated from the rest of the Jewish world. In most Jewish communities, the priesthood of the Bible was replaced by rabbis who emphasized text study and prayer. Ethiopia's Jewish kessoch continued the traditions of Biblical-era priests, sacrificing animals and collecting the first fruits of the harvest."

Orthodox Jewish - and Israeli - intolerance

Truly, Orthodox Jews have got to be considered one of the most intolerant religious groups on the planet. At first, following tradition for dealing with Karaites, they didn't even recognize the Ethiopians as Jews, forcing them to undergo the standard conversion to Judaism. Even then the Orthodox establishment refused them access to their kosher slaughterhouses or government sponsorship and privileges. Decades later, they recognized their religious leaders, but only under a "once and done" exemption, a grandfather clause for that one generation that will not extend to the next generation. They still don't recognize their marriage ceremonies.

Just imagine if America were run in the same way: imagine something like a Protestant Minister National Board, for example, refusing to ordain or recognize the weddings done by any rival Christian organizations, telling them they have to stamp out their millennial-old religious traditions, clothes, and teachings, that their Christianity will only count if they dress like mainline Protestant ministers and graduate from mainline Protestant seminaries!

Overcoming religious double-standards

It really does boggle the mind, but in Israel, that is just the way it is. Their cultural imperialism is subtly transfered into the American press, which seems to always affirm the primacy and hegemony of the Orthodox definition of Judaism.

It takes a conscious effort to step back and recognize that the Orthodox definition does not have to be recognized as normative, and to apply the normal rules for the respect for diversity that we apply naturally to every other religious group.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Truth about early Christianity and the Essenes – the Nazirite connection

The Essenes were a widespread utopian, communitarian, holiness movement that existed throughout Roman Judea and beyond. Ultimately, we cannot trace the precise origin of the Essene movement. It appears to arise during the inter-testamental period as a popular movement.

Ancient Roots

The Nazirites had their origins in ancient Hebrew religious practices. They were essentially a movement of lay priests, people who took vows parallel to those of priestly consecration and purity. As defined in Leviticus 21 and Ezekial 44, for example, priests of the temple were to follow rules related to cutting their hair, to avoid being exposed to dead bodies, to wear linen garments, and were not to drink alcohol while in the temple.

The Nazirite vows parallel those of the temple priests, and are specified in Numbers 6:1-21. Along with leaving their hair uncut and avoiding dead bodies, Nazirites vowed to avoid alcohol (or any grape products at all), and at some point, also avoided eating meat. The Nazarite vow was usually seen as temporary, and culminated in the shaving off of the hair, which was then sacrificed.

It has been suggested that the Essenes were a populist outgrowth of the ancient Hebrew Nazirite practice. In a sense, the Essenes represent the idealization of perpetual Nazirites, living in their private lives the demands placed upon the priestly classes. The essential idea is that, as priests had to maintain purity and holiness to approach the Temple, Nazarites, through their purity practices, turned themselves into worthy priests and turned their own bodies into holy temples.

In fact, Josephus specifies that Essene communities were led by priests: “They choose good men, who are also priests, to be the stewards of their incomes and the produce of the fields, as well as to procure the corn and food” (Antiq, 18:1:5).

Purification by water was demanded for a number of reasons in ancient Judaism, all related to cleansing oneself from some contact with a taboo object. As described in Numbers (19:11-12,19-20), for example:



“Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days. They must purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then they will be clean” and “Those who are being cleansed must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and that evening they will be clean. But if those who are unclean do not purify themselves, they must be cut off from the community, because they have defiled the sanctuary of the Lord.”
The leaders of the Essene community, as priests, kept alive these practices of ritual water purification after contacting impure things. As Josephus relates: “So far are the juniors inferior to the seniors, that if the seniors should be touched by the juniors, they must wash themselves, as if they had intermixed themselves with the company of a foreigner.” (War 2:8:10).

In short, we have clear evidence that the Nazirite practices of the lay priesthood seem to have been subsumed into the Essene movement. This makes perfect sense when we consider that the Nazirite practice was focused on individual holiness, while the Essene movement was focused on communal holiness.

Nazirites in the Old Testament

Sampson (as described in Judges 13:2-5) was consecrated as a Nazirite from the womb:

A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
As was Samuel (described in 1 Samuel 1:10-11, 20, 22):

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” … So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.” … She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always.”

It is interesting to note that in the text of Dead Sea Scrolls (produced by that famous Essene community), at 1 Samuel 1:22, his mother is given one extra line, specifying “I have dedicated him as a Nazirite —all the days of his life”.

The dietary demands of Daniel in the Babylonian court (described in Daniel 1:8,11-12, 16) also echo the Nazirite practice:

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. … Daniel then said to the guard … “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.”… So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.”
The Nazirites were referenced by the prophet Amos, when, speaking for the Lord, he said "I also raised up prophets from among your children and Nazirites from among your youths…. But you made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy. (Amos 2:11-12)

According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the practice of the Nazirites became quite widespread in the inter-testamental period: “The Nazarite law was minutely developed in post-Biblical times and became authoritative, while the popularity of Nazariteship and the influence it exercised on men's minds appear from its numerous regulations, which form a voluminous treatise of the Mishnah, and from the many expressions and phrases accompanying the taking of the vow.” (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11395-nazarite)

At some point, the Nazirite vow included avoiding meat as well as wine, although as the Jewish Encyclopedia puts it, “Although Nazariteship was marked by asceticism, many abstained from wine and meat even without taking the vow.”

Nazirites in the New Testament

John the Baptist was connected with the practices of the Nazirites. John was himself a son of two priestly families (Luke 1:5-6). His conception (Luke 1:13-16) mirrors the miraculous conception of the Old Testament Nazirites Sampson and Samuel:

“The angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.”

As stated above, he avoided wine or alcohol, and there is a suggestion that John the Baptist also avoided meat (as described in Matthew 3:4): “His food was locusts and wild honey.”

James, the brother of the Lord and the leader of the Jerusalem church, is also described as a practicing Nazirite. As Eusebius relates in his Church History (2:23:5): “He was holy from his mother's womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath.”

Following the Nazirite-as-priest motif, James was actually described as a functioning priest: “He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people.” (2:23:6)

James was called the Just, because, according to Eusebius, he was known for “the excellence of ascetic virtue and of piety which he exhibited in his life, [and] was esteemed by all as the most just of men” (2:23:2).

The apostle Paul appears to have some Nazirite connections as well. For example, upon ending a missionary journey to Corinth, Paul is recorded cutting off his hair. (“Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken”, Acts 18:18). While it is true that someone might shave his head for the culmination of any imaginable vow, the practice was an identifying feature of the Nazirite practice.

Upon subsequently arriving at Jerusalem, Paul is asked by the leaders of the Jerusalem church (presumably James) to demonstrate his commitment to his Jewish identity by helping four men who have taken a vow. Paul is told to “join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved” (Acts 21:24), which is a colloquial reference to Nazirite vows.

We are told that “The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end [7 days later], and the offering would be made for each of them.” In other words, Paul, along with the four unnamed men, took a week-long Nazirite vow, under the leadership of the known Nazirite leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem, James.

Was Jesus as Nazirite?

Many have wondered, or suggested, that Jesus’s label as “the Nazarene” might be a reference to his identity as a Nazirite. However, the Gospels are consistent in describing that he was raised in the town of Nazareth, so, although the linguistic parallelism is evocative, it is hardly conclusive.

Aside from the linguistic similarity, Jesus does exhibit some other parallels to Nazirite practices:

--His conception narrative, paired especially with the story of John’s miraculous conception, seems to parallel the miraculous conception of the two Nazirites mentioned in the Old Testament (Sampson and Samuel).

--Mary's joyous song upon Jesus' conception, famously known as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), even parallels Hannah's joyous song upon the birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10). Samuel is especially significant because it was prophsied that his line of righteous priests would replace the hereditary priests (1 Samuel 2:27-36). Peter also highlights this prophecy when he mentions in his first public sermon, "Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days" (Acts 3:24).

--Jesus is traditionally pictured with long hair, a distinguishing feature of perpetual Nazirites. Of course, no written descriptions of his physical appearance exist, so we cannot be sure on those grounds.

--Jesus was considered the new great High Priest by his followers, at least after his death: “We have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God” (Hebrews 4:14) and “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission… and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 5:7-10).

Some have suggested that Jesus was not a Nazarite because of his wine-drinking, but this is not conclusive, because some Nazarites were allowed to drink wine on the Sabbath (according to the Jewish Encyclopedia: “Such a Nazarite was allowed to drink wine only on the Sabbath and on feast-days”).

All Christians as Priests

The Nazirite idea of perfecting oneself through purity to become a worthy priest, one’s body becoming a temple of God, is strongly affirmed in Christian scripture.

As Peter puts it: "You, however, are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own to proclaim the glorious works of the One who called you from darkness into his marvelous light" (I Peter 2:9).

John the Revelator says that Christ "has made us a royal nation of priests in the service of his God and Father" (Revelation 1:6).

Paul put it in two ways:
-one on the individual level: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor 6:19),
-and one on the communal level: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple (1 Cor 3:16-17).

Personal holiness was therefore among the highest callings of the Christian life, such as expressed in the epistle to the Hebrews:

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).
The full series:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: the Nazirite Connection
Part 3: Communalism and Celibacy/Marriage
Part 4: the Jesus-Essene connection
Part 5: Was Paul a Nazirite Priest?
Part 6: Did Josephus Know Paul?
Part 7: Josephus’ connection to Christianity
Part 8: Nazirite priests and Epiphanius
Part 9: Paul on communal labor and feasts
Part 10: Divisions, non-uniformity, the role of women
Part 11: Purification, Angels, Moses, & the Epistle to the Hebrews
Part 12: Therapeutae and Vegetarianism
Part 13: Conclusion
Also related:
Josephus’ role in the Jewish-Roman War

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Truth about the Essenes and early Christianity - an introduction

The doctrinal and practical similarities between the Essenes and early Christians are obvious and manifold. After summarizing their many similarities, the 19th century scholar C. Ginsberg concludes by saying, “It will therefore hardly be doubted that our Savior himself belonged to this holy brotherhood” (The Essenes: their history and doctrines, pg 24, available full text online). [I will examine the details of their many remarkable similarities in the next post, this short essay being intended as an introduction only.]

Does this diminish Christianity?

Some atheists have attempted to imply that the Christian-Essene connection diminishes Christ and the Apostles, but that is not really the case. It is not like anyone thinks Christianity popped up ex nihilo; we all know that Christianity has a Jewish background. In exploring the Essene connection, all we are really doing is exploring the details of that Jewish background. We can’t say that Christ was “just an Essene” any more than we can say Christ was “just a rabbi” or “just a prophet”.

The truth of the matter is, it no more discredits Jesus and the Apostles by learning of their Essene parallels, than it discredits them learning of their other Jewish parallels. The Essene background is, in fact, just a sub-section of the Jewish background anyway. Enlightening the Essene parallels with early Christianity is just as worthy as enlightening the Christ’s parallels with Moses and Elijah, or discussing his similarity with 1st century rabbis.

The Paradoxes of the hidden Essene-Christian connection

We are faced with a central oddity that obscures what seems like an obvious Essene-Christian connection: no one mentions them together! One the one hand, the Christian writers do not mention dealing with Essenes. On the other hand, Josephus, that historian upon whom we place so much weight for our knowledge of the period, describes the Essenes in great detail, but barely mentions the Christians! How can two contemporaneous movements, with so much parallelism both in teaching and in sociology, fail to be connected by the observers of the day?

Further adding to the mystery, while they existed for probably a couple centuries beforehand, after the Christian movement begins, the Essenes totally disappeared. Ginsberg says of their historical disappearance: “We hear very little of them after this period (i.e. 40 A.D.); and there can hardly be any doubt that , owing to the great similarity which existed between their precepts and practices and those of the primitive Christians, the Essenes as a body must have embraced Christianity” (pg 27).

The problem of terminology and definition of the Essenes

I think most people think of the Essenes as "that group who lived by the Dead Sea", but they were far more widespread than that. They are described as existing by the thousands, in towns and communities throughout Judea and beyond. It is important to keep in mind that the Essenes were less of an institution, more of a wide movement. They were not monolithic in teaching or organization.

They are best thought of as a holiness movement, or even a fundamentalist movement. They were interested in living out the Jewish laws of purity and holiness on a full time basis, usually involving utopian communitarian arrangements and vows of celibacy. The closest modern parallel I can think of would be the Shakers. Think of the Shakers in ancient Roman Israel, and you pretty much describe the Essenes.

Were the early Christians Essenes?

Perhaps the early Christians didn’t mention the Essenes because they wrote from an “insider’s perspective”, themselves being members of the Essene movement. Thus, “outsiders” are labeled as such, being Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Herodians, but “insiders” are simply referred to as brothers, sisters, brethren, saints, or holy ones.

That explanation seems most satisfactory to the available data. Keep in mind, the earliest Christians (evidenced in Paul’s letters, for example) did not refer to themselves by the label of Christianity. Rather, they called themselves the holy ones, the saints, the church of God, and referred to their lifestyle as The Way. If they didn’t even have a distinctive name for themselves, this would explain why Christianity was rarely mentioned by name by Josephus, for example. The earliest Christians thought of themselves as members of the holiness movement, distinguished only by baptizing in the name of Jesus, rather than in the name of John, for example.

As the holiness movements grew, by 70 A.D. the various contemporaneous historians (Philo, Pliny, and Josephus) described them under the category Essene, characterizing them as one of the three major Jewish movements existing at the time (the others being Pharisees and Sadducees). Thus, we can see that Christianity was one sub-group of the larger Essene holiness movement going on in Judea c. 70 A.D., and were probably simply lumped in with the larger Essene movement.

Josephus evens mentions in passing that there was one group of Essenes, congregated especially in the towns, who did not demand celibacy. Some have suggested Josephus was brazenly lying here, attempting to normalize the movement for his Roman audience. Instead of assuming he was a liar, perhaps he was actually referring to the Christian Essenes (as their inclusion of families and women was quite different from the majority of Essene groups)!

Implications of the Christian-Essene connection

I have come to feel that understanding the depth of the Essene-Christian connection is actually quite revolutionary. I would say it borders on the level of paradigm shift, when it comes to conceptualizing our understanding of the development of the primitive church.

The full series:

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: the Nazirite Connection
Part 3: Communalism and Celibacy/Marriage
Part 4: the Jesus-Essene connection
Part 5: Was Paul a Nazirite Priest?
Part 6: Did Josephus Know Paul?
Part 7: Josephus’ connection to Christianity
Part 8: Nazirite priests and Epiphanius
Part 9: Paul on communal labor and feasts
Part 10: Divisions, non-uniformity, the role of women
Part 11: Purification, Angels, Moses, & the Epistle to the Hebrews
Part 12: Therapeutae and Vegetarianism
Part 13: Conclusion
Also related:
Josephus’ role in the Jewish-Roman War

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Flip Side of the Marriage Strike - Hegemonic Heterosexual White Men, you SUCK

Stumbled upon this wonderful example of Marxist/Feminist hate speech, on Truthout (http://www.truth-out.org/capitalism-and-loneliness-why-pornography-multibillion-dollar-industry/1324586390 ). If you are interested in a Marxist/Feminist opinion on crappy privileged White Males and why they can't even get it up for real girls anymore because of their porn addictions, read the whole thing. You will be treated to such gems as: "The hegemonic position of heterosexual males has been destroyed as the relentless capitalist search for profit eliminated and outsourced jobs and lowered wages" and "Capitalism has polluted the experience of reciprocal connection in our very bedrooms and bodies."


The Feminist Marriage Strike

I was struck by the feminist perspective on the Marriage Strike:

"Women have responded to men's financial incapacity and refusal to share equally in housework and childcare. Women can no longer bear the extra work in caring for men who can neither support them nor compensate for women's quadruple shifts in domestic labor, emotional labor, childcare and jobs outside of the home. US women increasingly refuse to marry men who cannot provide economic support and still want full personal services. Women currently initiate most US divorces and, increasingly, refuse to marry in the first place. Women can now afford to live in single households, and do. The majority of people of prime marriage and childbearing age (18-34 years old) remain unmarried and live alone.

These changes have drastically altered the pattern of intimate relationships. Shifts in gender roles and employment required women to adjust by taking on career and job responsibilities and living alone, or alone with children. Most men have not adjusted. Their former workforce and gender roles allowed men to grow accustomed to outsourcing their emotional needs and life maintenance activities to women, who are now far less available."

Translating:

Crappy, privileged White Males deserve to stay single because they can't bring home enough bacon, or deserve to get divorced because they don't pick up around the house, care for the kids enough, or provide enough emotional support.

Dummy Feminist as Capitalist Stooges

The largest irony is that Feminism itself is nothing more or less than a Capitalist conspiracy to exploit women, both for their labor and their consumerism. Only really dumb and/or brainwashed people would fail to see this obvious fact. Of the top 50 ways you could hope to improve the lives of the female gender, forcing them to be wage slaves "independent" of the lives of their families is probably at the bottom of the list.

The Self-Annihilation of the Feminist Economic Agenda

Supposedly, the lower wages in the deteriorating economy forced women into the workplace. The irony is that it is nothing less than the mass movement of women towards economic "independence" that prevents that very independence, through the working of two unintended consequences:

1) more laborers in the labor poor drives down wages
2) more independent households drive up costs of living

Thus, the more women seek "independence" via work, the less able they are to achieve economic independence, because wages are so low and housing costs so high. A cruel irony, that.

The Family Law Front

The feminist assault on traditional family law provides the real source of combustion for this Engine of Capitalist Exploitation. By turning marriage dissolution into an easily-initiated (by women) and self-benefiting (for women) exploitation-fest (for men), not only are more marriages dissolved, the Marriage Strike is guaranteed to spread, as more and more men fail to consent to the horrific terms.

Less and less marriage means more and more women in the workforce, which means lower and lower wages, higher and higher living costs, etc, which forces more and more women into the workplace, etc, etc, etc....

Mwah ha ha ha! It is all going according to Evil Capitalist plan! And these absurd Marxist Feminists act as the Judas Goats leading the dumb female bovines to their Capitalist slaughter. Ouch. Sad, really.

The Feminist Marxist Solution

"How can we emerge from this epidemic of personal isolation and loneliness? ... The 99 percent movement is characterized by democratic decision making, respect, transparency, and race and gender equality. Together, people strive to end rule by and for the 1 percent of profiteers who have steered America into economic and emotional destitution."

Firstly, need I point out that this solution is a total nonsequitor, having nothing whatever to do with improving human relations, curing loneliness, or ending the average person's "emotional destitution". [Following the logic, they seem to be implying that an increase in everyone's wage would be just the trick of ending personal isolation... but how? A return to traditional marriage since women no longer have to work?]

Ironically, as a member of legally suppressed minority group (White men), I would welcome a movement towards racial and gender equality. However, by "equality", I think our Feminist-Marxist authors mean the horse-racing style of equality, wherein the faster horse is made to carry more weight to slow it down for a more equal race. [i.e., Feminist-Marxist equality means "more legal suppression of White males and more wealth taken from them", to accomplish an EQUALITY OF OUTCOMES].

I would also welcome a movement towards democratic decision making, since the country has been transformed Leftward by the REPUDIATION of democracy, as social policy is now set by judicial fiat. After all, the list of Leftist policies enacted with NO popular support, solely by judicial mandate, is astounding (*** see below ***).

I don't know what else to say. This entire substance of Marxist Feminist anti-male, anti-White, anti-Capitalist, illogical screeding just clouds the mind and saps the will. [yes, exactly as good propaganda intends...]

Peace be with thy spirit, friends.


"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy. "




*** off the top of my head I can think of homosexuality, pornography, public indecency/obscenity, illegal immigration, abortion, and of course the elimination of school prayer. Time after time, some local community or entire state tries to pass a law to reign in some Leftist social pathology, and some unelected judge just throws it out. Let's face facts shall we? Democracy is dead. The "supremacy of the commons" understanding of democracy was overthrown, instead, we now have the medieval practice of "supremacy of the lords", wherein all laws and policies ultimately rest with unelected elites, the commoners being mere petitioners whose laws can be swatted down or ignored.

About the Road to Happiness, through Love and Charity – Defeating Depression

Science has confirmed, the best way to defeat depression is through acts of kindness for others. (see http://gma.yahoo.com/depression-helping-others-may-turn-help-140209700.html)

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the UC-Riverside, who co-authored a recent paper on the topic, says, " Depressed individuals need to increase positive emotions in their life, even a minute here and there."

After a rigorous review of research on the therapeutic benefits of positive emotion, Lyubomirsky said, she and her colleagues found widespread support for the notion that people with a tendency toward depression can help themselves by helping others.

Dr. Michelle Riba, a psychiatry professor and associate director of the Depression Center at the University of Michigan, agreed that positivity can have a dramatic effect on people's psychological well-being. "There's a lot of good research that shows these kinds of actions can have a positive impact on life," Riba said. "In general, people who help others stop focusing on their own pains and problems and worries and feel good about themselves."

Serve Others, and Count Your Blessings!!!

Those who want to improve their mood through positivity need to figure out what works best for them through trial and error. This may include thinking long and hard about the best ways they can help others and reminding themselves of the good things in their own lives.

Positive activity interventions come in a variety of forms, including:
-Being kind to others
-Expressing gratitude
-Thinking optimistically
-Meditating on the good things in life

"You have to do work," Lyubomirsky said. "It takes effort to continually remind yourself to do acts of kindness for others, although I think it gets easier over time." It's also important, she said, to vary your activities, lest you fall into a rut.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Truth about Why Soccer is so Boring (a unified field theory of Athletic Excitement)

Keep in mind, I have argued elsewhere that soccer players are the best overall athletes on the planet, and that the sport of soccer can be exciting to play, but it must it be acknowledged that soccer is painfully boring to watch. I will explain why, along with every other sport, in a unified theory of Athletic Excitement.

Here is the basic rule:

--If the basic skill of the sport advantages the defense, the game will be boring to watch
--If the basic skill of the sport advantages the offense, the game will be more exciting to watch.


Corollary:
Sports that advantage the defense are more exciting at the youth level than the pro level.
Sports that advantage the offense are more exciting at the pro level than the youth level.

Here’s why:
--Rules that advantage the defense lead to a sport in which there is little action, but lots of caution and preparatory maneuvers, because initiating the action leads mainly to failure. Youth, however, succeed more often than pros, because they are less developed in the defensive skills which can dominate.
--Rules that advantage the offense lead to a sport in which there is lots of speedy action, because the majority of offensive attempts will be successful. Youth, however, fail more, because they are less developed in the offensive skills which can dominate.


A few examples will suffice:

The basic skill of soccer (kicking a ball through a field of your opponents, hampered further by the offsides rule) is the hardest in all of sports, heavily advantaging the defense, and therefore making for one of the most boring sports to watch.

Boxing vs Wrestling

The basic skill of wrestling (throwing your opponent down and holding him down) is extremely hard, and advantages the defense. Therefore the highest level of wrestling is extremely boring to watch, although middle-school level is actually quite exciting.

The basic skill of boxing (hitting your opponent with a punch) is easy, it advantages the offense. Therefore the highest level of boxing is exciting, although watching middle school kids box is boring.

The Football-using-hands Codes

--The basic skill of rugby (running through a field of your opponents) advantages the defense. Combined with all the rucking and maneuvering for possession and field position (which, in fairness, Rugby League has attempted to address)… boring.
--The basic skill of American football (passing past your opponents) advantages the offense, thereby making football more exciting than rugby (but only/mainly/especially when the offense is based on a good passing attack, i.e. running teams are boring to watch).
--The basic skills of Aussie Rules (running/kicking/catching over an open field with no line of scrimmage and no play stoppage to reset the defense) advantage the offense the most, making it the most exciting code of football developed yet.

Basketball – Rules Evolution towards Offense

Basketball is an interesting case of how the rules have changed to advantage the offense, thereby making the game more exciting to watch.
-In the original code of basketball, with strict rules against traveling, palming, charging, and jump shots (along with more players on the court and no shot clock), the advantage was with the defense.
-Allowing players to do all those things (today even preventing defenders from touching or impeding the offensive player at all) advantages the offense.



The Advantages of Boring Sports

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the couple advantages of boring, defensive sports: PARITY and SUSPENSE.

In a defensive game, bad teams can complete much better with superior teams. This creates parity, and the greater frequency of upsets. This is good from a fan perspective.

In a defensive game, there is a much greater frequency of close competitions and games that go down to the wire. If you care about the result with some emotional investment, this is highly engaging. The action itself may be as boring as ever, but if the emotional tension continues to rise throughout the game, it can be an awesome spectating experience.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

So Jewy even the Jews hate em, or: Modern Israel Confirms Hitler (???)

Apropos of our recent discussions of Jews as the perfect vectors for the disease of Liberalism, I bring you this news of fundamentalist Jews as an "existential threat" to the existence of modern Israel. It is so serious that fellow Jewish citizens are afraid that Israel will become the new Iran!

Ha, I had to laugh. Just when you think you have Jews pegged as the deviant pornographers pushing filth and degradation upon the world, you get thrown by a loop by the Jews who are spitting on little religious girls because their full-length dress isn't long enough! (http://news.yahoo.com/israelis-protest-against-religious-coercion-165823810.html)

Which Mideastern Fundamentalism is Worse???

Strangely, the Iran comparison is missed; the real comparison is Saudi Arabia. Calling for the separation of sexes in public, "modesty patrols" to enforce religiously-strict appearance, hurling stones at offenders and outsiders. Sounds like all we've been taught to associate with fundamentalist Muslims, isn't it?

Talmud-required Spitting

The only unique thing I can discern is the popularity of SPITTING on everything they don't approve of, like cute little religious girls with ankles showing, or the Christian cross (I highlighted that popular Israeli pastime in a previous post). Yes, among the other wonderful Talmudic rules, Jews are required to spit on stuff they don't like. ("That's right, they are immodest. It bothers me, I am a healthy person. It is proper to spit on a girl who does not conduct herself according to the Torah," Moshe said.)


Why does everyone hate the Jews?

Apparently, fellow Jews in Israel really hate these fundamentalist Jews because they are separatists, they look weird, they refuse to assimilate into modernity, are economic parasites, and pose an existential threat to the state with their monolithic authoritarian culture and politics, living in insular extra-legal communities.

For example: "The ultra-Orthodox make up only about 10 percent of Israel's population of 7.7 million. But their high birthrates and bloc voting patterns have helped them secure welfare benefits and wider influence." and "We are fighting for the soul of the nation," President Shimon Peres said earlier of the reasons to protest.)

Now, I have only read in Mein Kampf once, and that was quite a few years ago, but didn't Hitler character Jews in a similar fashion??? LOL

quotes, and other news, from
http://news.yahoo.com/israelis-protest-against-religious-coercion-165823810.html
http://news.yahoo.com/israel-army-rabbi-slams-gender-segregation-142441160.html
http://news.yahoo.com/jewish-zealots-strike-fear-flashpoint-israel-town-214333915.html