Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Garden -- July

Gardener nirvana!
If you have a flower garden, you have hosta, lilies, gladioli, and in my yard, it's hydrangea.
They survived Snowmageddon and I did as Mike McGrath said and did not prune in 2014.
This year my hydrangea are gorgeous!
Veggies:  ZUCCHINI!  You should be seeing those huge golden blooms.  Don't forget to look under the leaves.  If you don't pick the zucchini while they still stick up from the plant, they will hide under the leaves and by the time you see them, they'll be as long as your arm.
Beans should be showing pink flowers -- if you have been watering in the morning.  If not, your beans have been eaten by slugs.
Herbs should be going to seed.
Tomatoes should be showing flowers and you might have some cute little green tomatoes.
Cukes -- if these survived the bunnies -- bunnies like nothing better than tender cuke shoots -- should be flowering and you might even have some baby gherkin pickle sized fruits.
Notice how most of these things flower yellow.  Bees love them.  Plant these and calendula and golden cosmos to attract and feed the bees, which will then thank you by fertilizing your stuff so you get the fruits.  DON'T USE PESTICIDES OR FUNGICIDES.  Creating death traps are a horrible way to say "you're welcome" to bees. 
And best of all: in July you should be ordering your non-hybrid, non-GMO, open-pollinated seeds from reliable vendors so you can plant annuals next year.  Even if you bought these this year, and they are going to seed, you still want new seeds for new genes.  What's more, some plants are biennials.  If you left some cabbage or their relatives in the ground to go to seed, they won't flower until next year.  You need new seeds to grow new food or flowers from biennials, let alone to create a healthy gene pool.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- why philology doesn't work

About 1905 a famous cuneiform scholar named Sayce wrote a pamphlet claiming that Shabbat developed out of Mesopotamian practice documented on cuneiform tablets from the time of Cambyses II.  (Remember what I just said about cuneiform.)
About 1910-1915 two other famous cuneiform scholars showed that Sayce misrepresented what the Cambyses-era tablets said.
The first three verses of Genesis 2 tell about the first Shabbat and Gd’s rest from the melakhah that He performed.  The usual translation of melakhah is “work,” but that’s far too vague a term.
In Jewish law, melakhah is the forty less one, or 39, categories of things that are prohibited to be done on Shabbat, either for pay or for free, for oneself or for others, whether it’s your normal occupation that you get paid for or not.  The only time this prohibition can be violated is to save any human life that is in imminent danger.
The one thing that is not prohibited on Shabbat is avodah, the sacrificial service in the temple or tabernacle.  Torah requires avodah on Shabbat.  The confusion is that in modern Hebrew and in some places in the Bible, avodah is indeed used for something that falls in the category of melakhah.  That doesn’t change the fact that the “m” word not only appears in the creation story, but also in the Ten Commandments where Shabbat is discussed.  Melakhah and Shabbat are almost indissolubly linked.
Sayce looked at an inscription that discussed a prohibition on work and claimed that it was equivalent to Shabbat.  The inscription doesn’t use anything even approaching the “m” word; it also did not use a cognate of shabbat that meant a cessation from work.  There was no such word in Sumerian, Akkadian, or the Aramaic used in Babylonia in the time of Cambyses.  (Note that restriction on provenance.)  Except what was introduced into Aramaic from Jewish culture, by for and about Jewish culture.  A concept I will bring up again much later.
Clay and Barton showed, within 5 years, that the cuneiform text limited the prohibition to kings, seers, and physicians, and didn’t apply it to the entire population.  Sayce committed the famous “quoting out of context” fallacy, both textual and cultural, that I used in summing up urban legends about Jewish law.  In fact Shabbat applies to all Jews.
The tablets with such prohibitions applied them to specific dates of the Mesopotamian month: 7, 14, 19, 21, and 28.   Sayce performed sampling bias by ignoring the 19th.  He also ignored the legal definition of Shabbat, which has nothing to do with specific days of the month but with every 7th day, no matter what day of the month it falls on.
Sayce probably combined the dates of the prohibitions with a tablet which prescribed sacrifices on the same specific days of the month, except for the 19th.  This tablet prescribed sacrifices at specific phases of the moon; the Mesopotamian religious calendar was based on the lunar cycle.  The 19th is not the date of a specific lunar phase.  Again, the requirement for avodah on Shabbat is tied to the seventh day, not to specific days of the Jewish month, even though the Jewish month is tied to the lunar cycle.
Clay and Barton pointed out that no known Mesopotamian legal system prohibits work by commoners on specific days.  The code of Hammurabi had just been discovered and translated when Sayce wrote; it, too, does not record a prohibition for commoners to work.
Clay and Barton pointed out that the Mesopotamian term shabbatum to which Sayce cited, strictly applied to the full moon on the 15th day of the month.  No relationship exists between shabbatum and words for stopping work in the languages I referred to earlier. 
The oldest known references to Shabbat in Jewish literature, ignoring arguments about the age of Torah itself, are from Amos and Hoshea.  Amos and Hoshea wrote in the Holy Land 2 or 3 centuries BEFORE Cambyses II ruled.  Whatever the Jews of their time thought about the origin of Shabbat, the reference precedes the provenance of the Cambyses tablets and presumes that the audience is familiar with the term, otherwise there’s no point in bringing it up.  (I’ll say more about this concept much later on the blog.)
What Sayce did was common for the times and involves the study of philology, which still leads researchers to draw false conclusions from words taken out of verbal or historical or cultural context.  But we’ve seen that before, so it should not surprise you.  And you’ll see it again much later.
Since the rest of the argument about Enuma Elish involves material I’m not ready to present to you yet, I’m going to move on to the second episode in Torah.  For next week, read Genesis 2:4 to 3:24.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 3:19-21

Genesis 3:19-21
יט בְּזֵעַת אַפֶּיךָ תֹּאכַל לֶחֶם עַד שׁוּבְךָ אֶל־הָאֲדָמָה כִּי מִמֶּנָּה לֻקָּחְתָּ כִּי־עָפָר אַתָּה וְאֶל־עָפָר תָּשׁוּב:
כ וַיִּקְרָא הָאָדָם שֵׁם אִשְׁתּוֹ חַוָּה כִּי הִוא הָיְתָה אֵם כָּל־חָי: כא וַיַּעַשׂ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהִים לְאָדָם וּלְאִשְׁתּוֹ כָּתְנוֹת עוֹר וַיַּלְבִּשֵׁם:
Translation:    In the sweat of your face you shall eat food until your return to the earth for from it you were taken for you are dust and to dust you shall return. 
The man named his wife Chavvah because she was the mother of all life.
**** Gd made for Adam and his wife cloaks of skin and dressed them.
Vocabulary in this lesson:
Bread, food
Your return
Dressed them
1.  Can you identify what zeat is?
2.  Can you guess what the root of shuvkha is?
3.  Note that em is plain “mother,” while “his mother” was imo a few lessons back.
4.  “Dressed them,” yalbishem is hifil which has what connotation?
Notice that the only situation in which the first verse can be about baked bread, is if you assume that this episode has to do with agriculture.  If you realize that it comes from a time long before agriculture, as I discuss in the Fact-Checking article, then you have to translate lechem as food.  In fact people invented sickles by 18,000 BCE but it took until 7,800 BCE for remains to be left of grain stalks that there was no other way to get the grain from except by human hands or tools.  There’s no sense inventing sickles unless people had been eating the ancestors of wheat and so on for a long time.  If it took 10,000 years for the wheat to change so that it needed human intervention, then you can estimate that people ate wheat for at least 10,000 years before they invented sickles.   Probably longer.  So much for the “Paleo” diet.
Now notice that Adam and Chavvah did NOT die.  See the Fact-Checking lesson.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

DIY -- under the quilt

This post will help you get ready for winter -- and goes with my last DIY posting.
What do you put under your quilt?
Well, since mostly you need a quilt in winter, you probably want a blanket under it.
What about under that?
I find it saves a lot of money if you have flannel sheets.
The same flannel you might have bought for quilt backing makes great sheets all by itself.
They are soft.
They are warm.
They wash well.
They last long.
You can turn your heat down to 60 degrees Farenheit at night and still be cosy with flannel sheets. You might even become a sack rat if you aren't one already.  And that 60 degrees will save you money compared to the heat you're paying for now.
Best of all, if you DIY you can save $30 a set.
Buy 5 yards of 108 inch wide flannel.
Cut straight across the exact middle so that you have two pieces, 2 1/2 yards by 108 inches.
Fold over no more than half an inch at the raw ends, and then once more to put the raw ends on the inside; pin them.
Sew across the inside fold -- not the one at the very edge of the top and bottom or the hem will come unfolded -- but the other fold of the hem.
One important thing: this makes two flat sheets.
How you make the bed with a flat sheet is you lay the sheet on the bed, making sure it's even all around.
Now you lift up the bottom of the mattress and fold the sheet flat under it.  Do the same thing at the top.
Now package the mattress in the sheet the way you package a gift box in wrapping paper, with the diagonal corners.  Here's a video.  It's military and you don't have to do the dust cover because you're going to have a quilt, but it makes nice crisp corners.

There used to be a saying that when you make a military rack, the sheets should be so tight you can bounce a quarter off them.  I don't go that far.
I almost prefer a flat sheet to a fitted sheet because there's one thing you can do with a flat sheet that takes extra work with a fitted sheet.
If your flat sheet wears out in the middle, you can sew the two selvages together for a seam.
Then cut from top to bottom at the exact center, through the hole.
Now make new hems where the hole was.  You may have to sacrifice a little cloth to get a straight edge to hem, but since the original flannel was 108 inches wide, that will only be a problem if you have a super-king-size mattress.
This is called a "sides to middle" sheet.  You might recognize the term if you watched enough episodes of Upstairs Downstairs.  It will get another year or two of wear out of the flat sheet.
If you try this with a fitted sheet, you will find you first have to get rid of the elastic.
Then you will probably have to hem all round instead of just at the sides.
The flannel sheets I bought shrank.  Now I only use them as added blankets in the depths of winter.
The ones I made were so large they'll never shrink enough to be a nuisance.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Friday, June 19, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- can't get there

Besides getting access to Enuma Elish, which was always written in cuneiform, there’s a problem with how to turn it into the Jewish creation story in Genesis 1 plus 2:1-3.
The Jewish creation story has seven days of creation.  On the seventh day the first Shabbat was instituted, with its concept of melakhah.
The three verses about Shabbat are part of the first aliyah in Torah.  The aliyot are divisions of Torah used for the regular reading of Torah in the synagogue.  Torah is divided into 54 sections, one for each week of the Jewish leap year (short ones are combined when it isn’t a leap year) and each section is divided into 8 aliyot.  The first aliyah in Torah is the Jewish creation story, ending with the first Shabbat.   This is all discussed in Mishnah, Gemara, and halakhah.
Part of the urban legend that says the Jewish creation story comes from Enuma Elish ignores the aliyah structure. 
The urban legend requires existence of a structure set up by Steven Langton, the archbishop named to the see of Canterbury by the pope and opposed by John “Lackland” of England, leading to an interdict being placed on England so that no church services could take place.  But I digress.
The current “chapter 1” of Genesis ends at the division imposed by Langton.  It cuts off the verses about Shabbat.  That means chapter 1 discusses only six days of creation. 
Because six generations of gods are named in Enuma Elish, says part of the urban legend, these six days were derived from Enuma Elish.
The hidden assumption here is that the Jews originally had only six days of creation and later, when Shabbat became part of Jewish culture, they tacked on three verses to pretend that it was part of creation.  I’ll give a really good argument much later in this blog about why such a thing doesn’t happen.
But for now, the most important fact is that Enuma Elish doesn’t have six days of creation.  It doesn’t say when those six generations of gods came into being.  It doesn’t show how many days Marduk took in his act of creation.  Granted, the tablets have missing text and experts in cuneiform are always updating our understanding from fragments.  It’s been 170 years and the cuneiform scholars have not yet posted the timing of creation in Enuma Elish on the internet.
What happened here is that people who were familiar with Langton’s chapter divisions, and ignorant of the Jewish aliyot, viewed Langton’s division as inherent in what the Jews passed along for centuries before Shabbat existed and for millennia before Langton existed.
At the same time, it ignores the entire history of the Bible that the archaeologists inherited.  In Langton’s time and for centuries afterward, the Catholic church (the only Christian church in Langton’s time) discouraged people from reading the Bible for themselves.  The average person couldn’t possibly know about the “chapter 1” division until he read a Bible that was divided that way.  The number of people who knew about that, was restricted to those who could read, who could read Latin, and who had access to a Bible.  Until the printing press started turning out cheap copies of the Bible in the national language, that meant clergy and rich people.
By the time archaeologists discovered Enuma Elish, the mass of Protestant nations and some Catholic and non-established ones potentially had a Bible in every home, and the concepts of the archaeologists had been conditioned by Langton’s divisions.  It’s a case of Heisenberg uncertainty.  The claim that Genesis and Enuma Elish are related relies on the Bible structure people had learned all their lives without even thinking twice about it.  The Jewish aliyah structure doesn’t allow the conclusion they reached.
In fact there are no common phrases between the Jewish creation story and Enuma Elish.  Commonality of phrases frequently identifies concepts inherited by one school of thought from its predecessor; this will come up again much later on the blog.  The only concept common to Enuma Elish and Torah is the idea of creation.  Enuma Elish is closely tied to the polytheism of Mesopotamia; the Jewish creation story is monotheistic and incorporates a completely Jewish, absolutely non-Mesopotamian concept, Shabbat, which I will discuss in the next post.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 3:17-18

Genesis 3:17-18
יז וּלְאָדָם אָמַר כִּי שָׁמַעְתָּ לְקוֹל אִשְׁתֶּךָ וַתֹּאכַל מִן־הָעֵץ אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִיךָ לֵאמֹר לֹא תֹאכַל מִמֶּנּוּ אֲרוּרָה הָאֲדָמָה בַּעֲבוּרֶךָ בְּעִצָּבוֹן תֹּאכֲלֶנָּה כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ:
יח וְקוֹץ וְדַרְדַּר תַּצְמִיחַ לָךְ וְאָכַלְתָּ אֶת־עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה:
Translation:    To the man He said Because you obeyed your wife and you ate from the tree that I commanded you saying you shall not eat from it, the ground is cursed for your sake, in pain shall you eat of it all the days of your life.
Thorns and dardar it shall sprout for you and you will eat the wild grass.
Vocabulary in this lesson:
                                                                                   For your sake
Jerusalem artichoke?
We’re not sure what dardar is.  Rashi, the great medieval commentator, said it was cardoon, which seems to be called Jerusalem artichoke nowadays. 
I want you to notice that these verses don’t say that people will eat agricultural products.  “Wild grass,” esev ha-sadeh, is a parallel to “wild animals”, chayat ha-sadeh.
I have a question for you.  Through the rest of this episode, watch for Gd to kill Adam and Chavvah.  After all, He told them that the day they ate from the tree that He commanded them not to eat from, they would die.  They’re not dead yet.
Also notice the parallel of Chavvah bearing and raising children b’itsavon and Adam eating b’itsavon all the days of his life from what the cursed earth provided.
And notice that the earth is cursed, and the serpent is cursed, but Chavvah and Adam are not cursed.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Outdoors -- the kids are all right

If you have birds around, listen carefully.
If you hear a cardinal's springtime call, only soft and truncated and mixed up with their sharp anxiety sound, you are listening to a newly mature male cardinal.  They spend a lot of time low in the brush practicing.  Next spring they'll sit in the top of the trees for better acoustics, to announce which patch is their turf.  I've seen my young man in his very bright new adult plumage, on my fence and porch.
If you hear what sounds like cawing on the ground, that's not a crow.  That's probably a young blackbird, following a parent around, crying for food.  The parent hunts fast and stuffs food in the kid's mouth, but one good gulp and it's down the throat, and the kid is crying for more.  Still, this takes less energy than leaving the kid in the nest, finding food, and flying back.
The parents will also be giving the kid lessons in swimming and flying.  The catbirds are doing the same thing.  I've seen their chick land on my fence, teeter a little, and then chase off after the parent again.
The house sparrows are out in their half dozens: wives, husbands, co-husbands, and kids who are learning to fly and hunt bugs.  Welcome them; they love aphids.
You should also hear Carolina wrens.  More bug-hunters: in a couple of months they will switch from their turf-claiming "right here, right here, right here" to a sort of raspberry and a lot of scolding.
The goldfinches are back with their peeping whistle and cheery home-coming song.  They'll be looking for seeds.  They like blue flowers like chicory, and yellow flowers like golden cosmos, but they will also strip zinnia petals to get at the seeds.  They are trolling my yard watching for some cabbage seeds to get ripe, and for the cilantro seeds to brown up.  I suspect they will also mob my horehound for seeds.
And finally, if there's any dead wood around (and to hear this you have to make sure your neighborhood isn't too carefully groomed), you'll hear the hammering of woodpeckers early in the day, alternating with their "whinny".  Count yourself lucky if you hear both calls, each in a different place.  That might mean you have a nesting pair.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Knitting -- Perly Perle tee

I used Perly Perle to knit some sleeveless tees to wear this summer and here's how it turned out.
I knitted them on U.S. #1 needles.  They fit like a glove.  In summer, you probably want your tops loose.
So use #2 or 3 needles, and maybe add 8 stitches when you cable on.
I knitted one sweater with ribs, like what we used to call a "poor boy" when I was a teenager, and another with fine cables about every 16 or 20 stitches.  Calculate carefully before you start so that ribs and cables grow out of your bottom rib and meet the neck ribs at even horizontal spacing on both front and back.
The knitted fabric is a little heavier than your average tee.  That's a little much for summer unless you're going to wear them to the office.  With the boat neck that the instructions produce, these probably are good for the office because they're not too revealing.
You can get a sleeveless tee and a cardigan, bolero, or spencer from a cone.  Perly Perle only comes in cones.
Cones of red come in a heavier weight and it's enough to make short sleeves for the coverup.  For other colors, there's just enough yarn for cap sleeves but that is enough for summer evenings or at the start or end of the season when it might be a bit cool at night.
Perly Perle comes in lots of colors.  If you decide to make a two-color or multi-color tee, you'll have plenty of yarn left for a matching coverup with long sleeves.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Sourcing creation

Now there are two problems with thinking that the Jews copied their Genesis story from a copy of Enuma Elish in the libraries of either Ashurbanipal or Nebuchadnetsar.
One is the modern idea of what a library is.
A lot of nations nowadays have free circulating libraries where people can go, check out books, take them home, read them, and be influenced by them. 
Two hundred years ago, libraries were a cross between this and a bookstore.  The proprietors charged a subscription and the people who paid could come see the latest publications.  The proprietors could use the subscription to pay printing costs for works they felt were important.  Also writers could go around and convince patrons to pay a subscription directly to the writer to pay these costs.  In the first case the profit over and above the printing costs belonged to the shop owner.  In the second the profit went to the writer.  The only way to access material for free was to have the run of the library belonging to a rich person or a minister.  This situation is amply documented in novels written from about 1780 through about 1820 CE and in diaries like that of Fanny Burney.
Before the printing press, people had to pay for a monk or somebody else to make a hand-written copy of a work that was desired for a library.  This is more the scenario of royal libraries and also the Alexandrian library whose destruction was such a catastrophe.  You had to have access to the royal library to read what was in it.
First you have to tell me how Jews got access to the royal libraries.  If you’re thinking that Ezra could have done it, keep reading.
Because the other problem is reading the material once you get to it.
The classic material of Mesopotamia was written in cuneiform from the first use of that writing form up until about 100 CE.  Cuneiform training was restricted to the upper classes, and the only way to join the upper classes was by marriage if you weren’t born into them.
Jews of the Babylonian Captivity served in the military.  Some of them were scribes.  But they wrote Aramaic, the language of Nabonidus, who conquered Babylon and went on to conquer Assyria and its empire.  Not cuneiform.
So the Jews didn’t have access to Enuma Elish, or Gilgamesh, or the Kings list, or Hammurabi’s Code, or anything else written in cuneiform, not when the ancestors of the patriarchs were still living in Mesopotamia, and not during the Babylonian Captivity.  I’ll come back to this again many posts from now.
How hard could it be?  Go.  Read.  I’ll be here when you get back.
Leonard King’s “Easy” Cuneiform Inscriptions https://archive.org/details/assyrianlanguag00kinggoog
Friedrich Delitzsch’s Assyrian Grammar https://archive.org/details/assyriangrammar00kenngoog
That’s one urban legend down and about 60 more to go.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- Genesis 3:15-16

Genesis 3:15-16
טו וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹאשׁ וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב:  
טז אֶל־הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ בְּעֶצֶב תֵּלְדִי בָנִים וְאֶל־אִישֵׁךְ תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ וְהוּא יִמְשָׁל־בָּךְ:
Translation:    I shall set enmity between you and the woman, between your descendants and her descendants, he shall wound your head and you shall wound his heel.
To the woman He said, I shall definitely increase your pain and your birthing, you shall birth children in pain and desire your husband and he shall control you.
Vocabulary in this lesson:
He shall wound you
You shall wound him
Your pain
[give] birth
Children, sons
Your desire
We have two verbs in this lesson that have something in common.  The root has a vav in the middle.  “Wound” is shin vav pe and “your desire” is shin vav qof.   I’ll give you the conjugation of a related verb that you will see much more often, qof vav mem which means “arise.”

Culture capsule.  Notice that the verse numbers are not yod heh or yod vav.  Those are components of the Name of Gd.  So Hebrew numbering uses different letters that add up to the same thing.  You do the math.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Outdoors -- Summer!

A catalog.

Blooming: Privet with that warm heavy fragrance; golden cosmos, cilantro, horehound, chicory, scabious, columbine.  The plain and Japanese honeysuckle should be blooming soon; if they are now, there isn't any close enough for me to catch the fragrance.

Fruiting: mulberry, besieged by birds who can sneak in behind the mockingbird's back, and the more courageous squirrels.  Once in a while I pull a couple for myself.

Feeding: bees on the privet, which is bee-safe because I use no chemicals on my yard, butterflies on chicory, birds on bugs and mulberries.  Also their chicks, of which there are no doubt several.

Singing: mockingbird, catbird, robin, Carolina wren, boreal chickadee, woodpecker, the occasional titmouse, swallows on the wing high over the houses at sunset.  And a scream or two from the blue jay just to remind us he's still there.

Taking wicked revenge.  Starlings like nice solid boxes to nest in.  There's always one who tries to nest in my tool closet, because the door sometimes pops open by itself or in a strong wind.  He's having no luck this year, so he's taken to bombing my white porch, and you know with what.  From the color, I can tell that this starling is also eating mulberries. 

Buying: the Farmer's Market is open.  I went down there and scored strawberries I had to eat by Monday night, they were so ripe.  Throw me into that briar patch.  Also beets and turnips  the perfect size for pickling, kale and collards for freezing, and spinach for crunching.  I didn't plant this year; I'm letting the clover take over and put nitrogen in the soil, and composting weeds to smother the old weeds.  The Market is just a short walk down the hill and a short walk up the hill, and I wore a new tee I knit over the winter from that Perly Perle yarn.  Fits like a glove.  Also my jeans fit even though I've been a slug finishing up projects. 

All in all Sunday was the  most satisfying day I've had in a long time. 
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

Friday, June 5, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Enuma Elish

In the beginning of Torah is the creation story.  The urban legend is that this was copied from Enuma Elish and then modified to what we have now.
What is the provenance of Enuma Elish? 
The copies of Enuma Elish come from Mesopotamian sites dating to the 2200s through 1700s BCE, and Ashurbanipal’s library of the 600s BCE, up to the 300s BCE during the reign of Alexander II of Macedon.  The earliest translation is credited to George Smith in 1876.
The mass of discoveries in Mesopotamia in the 1800s CE, including translations by George Smith, astounded the west.  One of them was confirmation of Jonah’s claim that Nineveh was three days across.  Up to Layard’s work at Nineveh, which discovered Ashurbanipal’s library about 1851 CE, it seemed incredible and false to rationalists that a city so ancient could be that size.  From Jonah’s viewpoint, in his times, there was nothing to be surprised at: Nineveh was what the west called a city-state, but the archaeologists, with their schooling in Classical Greek, identified that sort of polity only with the Greeks of classical times, not with Mesopotamia at all.
However, their work swung the pendulum the other way and suddenly everything discovered in Mesopotamia seemed to confirm something in the Bible for two reasons.  One is the admission in Genesis that Terach took his family from Ur to Charan, both ruled by Mesopotamia.  The other is the material in Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Chronicles about the Babylonian Captivity.  Tablets in royal archives at Babylon record a captive Jewish king who had a food allowance.  The provenance of the tablets is the reign of Nebuchadnetsar, named in the Bible as the conqueror of the Babylonian Captivity.
Unfortunately at the time both Victorian prejudices against non-Western cultures prior to classical Greek civilization, and a particular fallacy which I’ll discuss at the end of this section, combined to fasten the pendulum to the idea that, as the scripture of a people originating in Mesopotamia, the Bible had to be a version of Mesopotamian material. 
So the creation story in Genesis had to be a version of the newly discovered Enuma Elish.
There was division about when the Jewish version arose.  It occurred either among the ancestors of the Jews some time in the 1700s BCE. Or it occurred during the Babylonian Captivity.
The 1700s period was more attractive because it allowed an argument that Jewish law was a copy of Hammurabi’s code, which I will discuss later.  If you want to get a jump on it, you can find one of the translated copies of Hammurabi that are on-line.
Unfortunately, part of the likeness of the Jewish creation story to Enuma Elish rested on a Christian interpretation of the construction of Torah, not the Jewish interpretation, and that is a cultural “quote out of context”; I will discuss this in the next lesson.  For now, you can go online and find one of the many copies of Enuma Elish.  You can even look at the cuneiform here.  http://www.sron.nl/~jheise/akkadian/cftexts.html
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