Canaanite Reconstructionism

Apparently there are Canaanite Reconstructionists! Yes, among the small number of neopagans in Israel, there are some Israelis who are trying to ‘revive’ Ugaritic and Canaanite religion. They honour or worship Asherah, Anat, or Ba’al – goddesses and gods worshiped by ancient Hebrews.

I recently discovered this in a chapter from a 2017 book by Shai Feraro, “Canaanite Reconstructionism Among Contemporary Israeli Pagans” (in Kathryn Rountree, ed., Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Modern Paganism, Palgrave Macmillan).

The chapter mentions Emily, a former Orthodox Jew, but now a devotee of the goddess Asherah. Emily points out that Asherah is a native deity of the land of Israel, unlike Yahweh, who is just a foreign invader:

She [Emily] quoted a verse from Deuteronomy (33:2) which states that: “Jehovah came from Sinai, and rose from Seir unto them,” in order to suggest that he was a Midianite deity that “immigrated” into the land of Canaan. She said: “He is not mine, he is not for me, he ruined my … his people destroyed my Goddess.”

She’s most likely right about Yahweh originally being foreign to the Hebrews. Most recently the Midianite origins of Yahweh have been defended in Thomas Römer’s book, The Invention of God (Harvard University Press, 2015).

There are still only a small number of Israeli neopagans who currently incorporate Canaanite religion into their practices. But Shai Feraro notes that Canaanite Reconstructionism has begun to grow in just the last 6 or 7 years. “As the local Israeli [neopagan] community matures and gains confidence, it seems that the tendency to focus on ‘home-grown’ local deities is growing.”

New True Legends ‘Documentary’: Holocaust of Giants

 

There is a new ‘documentary’ out about the biblical giants: True Legends – Episode 3 – Holocaust of Giants (GenSix Productions, May 2017). According to the ‘documentary’, a worldwide conspiracy exists to hide the bodies of Giants, whose DNA are being harvested by genetic engineers intent on resurrecting the biblical Rephaim.

From the mounds of America, to the megalithic ruins on the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea, the desiccated bones of dead giants are being systematically disentombed and secreted away to clandestine vaults for apocalyptic purposes. While occultists are attempting to harness the arcane necromancy of the Canaanites, genetic engineers are working feverishly to reconstitute the genomes of the giants, and resurrect the dreaded race of Rephaim in the earth.

The name of the film’s production company is GenSix Productions, based of course on the unusual story contained in Genesis 6:1-4 involving sex between the “sons of god(s)” and “daughters of men”, who give birth to the Nephilim.

The ‘documentary’ features Steve Quayle, Timothy Alberino, and Thomas Horn. Steve Quayle is a talk-show host and author of a number of books on conspiracies involving giants and genetic manipulation. Thomas Horn is the author of end-times conspiracies, Apollyon Rising 2012: The Lost Symbol Found and the Final Mystery of the Great Seal Revealed (2009) and Forbidden Gates: How Genetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Synthetic Biology, Nanotechnology, & Human Enhancement Herald The Dawn Of Techno-Dimensional Spiritual Warfare (2011). Timothy Alberino is “a researcher, explorer, and filmmaker who travels the Earth in search of evidence relating to the true narrative of forbidden history.”

There is a trailer for the video available on Vimeo:

David Clines: There is not a single instance in which the Hebrew Bible views God as female

David Clines: male, like Yahweh

I have just seen the future. On 18 July 2017, David Clines will deliver a paper at the SOTS Summer Meeting which provides a succinct but comprehensive take-down of the view that God is sometimes, in the Hebrew Bible, described as female.

The view that Yahweh sometimes gets described with female language is widespread in a type of second wave feminist–influenced biblical scholarship. Phyllis Trible is perhaps the most influential scholar who has expounded such a view. Clines doesn’t explicitly say it in these terms, but such scholarship also appears to be driven by a need to redeem the biblical text for the confessional needs of Christian and Jewish women. While understandable, the critical approach, by contrast, faces up to a more recalcitrant text which perpetuates the patriarchal assumptions of its authors.

To this end, Clines reviews “some 23 passages and terms that have been thought to attest female language about the deity under the topic headings of childbirth, midwifery, childcare, female household activities, other female activities… and two Hebrew terms (for Shaddai and mercy)”. For those familiar with the claims made by those who would redeem the text, the passages in the Hebrew Bible will come as no surprise (they aren’t very extensive to begin with). With emphasis on philological analysis, Clines seems intent not only on showing that the Bible does not present God as a woman, but denying any possibility of feminine imagery being applied to God.

His conclusion is worth quoting:

For my part, I regret the damage done to the feminist cause by the repeated claim that the Bible is less masculine and less sexist than it actually is.
– David Clines, “Alleged Female Language about the Deity in the Hebrew Bible“, paper to be delivered at SOTS Summer Meeting 2017, 18 July

I look forward to future scholarship reclaiming the Bible as homophobic, ethically dubious, and politically suppressive, too.

See also: David Clines on whether women should speak in church, in the Christian Brethren Research Fellowship journal: <a href="https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/cbrfj/10_33.pdf

Foetal Dystocia resulting from Watcher-Human Sex: Eric Ondina’s Art

In a piece entitled “Fall of the Watchers”, artist Eric Ondina has managed to capture an aspect of the myth of sex between Watcher angels and human women that usually gets glossed over in renditions of the story.

Eric Ondina, “Fall of the Watchers”

The Book of Watchers tersely summarises that the Watchers “took” the women, “went into” them, and “defiled themselves with” them (7.1ab). The twenty named Watchers are contrasted with the anonymous and unnamed women who they “choose for themselves”. The Watchers act, and the unnamed women are acted upon. Their identities are suppressed, irrelevant to their function within the plot. Their reactions here are limited to their childbearing function: they “became pregnant” and “bore to them gigantic offspring” (7.2).

But what did giving birth to “gigantic offspring” do to these women? The text falls silent, in contrast to the cries of anguish which would have accompanied such extreme foetal dystocia. The birth canal is only important in the story insofar as it satisfies the Watchers’ desires – for sexual intercourse and for children.

But in Ondina’s “Fall of the Watchers”, the effect on the Women is brought to the fore in the artist’s portrayal of an evidently painful, bulging womb. But this pain is combined with a comical characterisation of the women as obsessed with the jewellery that the Watchers gave to them. The combination of extreme discomfort and vain satisfaction is, of course, absurd. And this absurdity provides a visual critique of the tendency in the Watcher myth to belittle or even blame women for the actions of the Watchers.

Ondina himself comments:

I have extracted multiple motifs from this story and melded them into a dynamic composition. The piece is painted in oil on a hand molded, cresting, reinforced plaster slab, which is bordered by a deep cradle frame. It was my intention to make a painting which mirrors this mini-epic in scale, drama and abject gruesomeness. With this in mind I decided to invoke the compositional and painting techniques found in the dynamic baroque of the 17th century while emulating the decisive moment found in 18th century Romanticism. There is also a clear reference to the Northern European Renaissance in the detail, cathedral-esque shape of the substrate, insider humor, and violence. These fuse into a style I have developed in this series which is both contemporary and historically reinforced. While my painting seeks to provide a portal into the past, I seek to do so through a modern lens, injecting subtle to sardonic satire into my subjects. This is readily apparent along the bottom of the painting; in the lower right hand corner an oblivious woman pampers herself with gold and makeup, her stomach bursting at the seams as her hulking half-angel broodling slithers out. She is a sarcastic embodiment of how our contemporary sensitivities are want to perceive this story. The Abrahamic religions are not renowned for their justice towards women, and The Book of Enoch once again exemplifies this ancient trend. Women are the seductresses and the baby factories, the intermediaries and cause of the sinfulness pressed upon the world; because of their erotic allure, mankind suffered nightmarish consequences. My painted jezebel is a mocking testimony to this ancient fear-mongering.

In portraying this extreme foetal dystocia in this manner, Ondina’s “Fall of the Watchers” has drawn attention to an aspect of the Watcher myth that has escaped many commentators, as well as critiquing that very failure to take account of the effects on women implied by the Watcher myth.

JoAnn Scurlock: Evidence from Babylon that “Rephaim” refers to the long dead?

I spotted an interesting observation about Rephaim from JoAnn Scurlock, in “Mortal and Immortal Souls, Ghosts and the (Restless) Dead in Ancient Mesopotamia”, Religion Compass 10, no. 4 (2016): 77–82 (79). She is discussing how Ancient Mesopotamians treated the dead.

Having a family tomb under the floor of the house made funerary offerings by the family as a group a simple matter as long as the family survived or new owners of the house continued to use the tomb. What would happen then is that, as the memory of the deceased faded and the bones of the long dead mingled with those of more recent arrivals, the individual eøemmu’s [‘ghosts’] melded into a common eøem kimti (Scurlock 2013, pp. 151–152). Eventually, this collective ancestor mixed with the wider community of the long dead, the kimtu rapaåtu, literally ‘widespread relations’. Of interest to Biblical scholars puzzled by the term rephaim is the fact that an old Babylonian commentary (5R 44: 121 [sic]) uses the term kimtu rapaåtu to translate Amorite rapi (singular of rephaim). This would seem to indicate that the mysterious Rephaim are the ghosts of persons who have been dead for a very long time.

“5R 44” (or “VR 44”) is a so-called Name Book from Ashurbanipal’s library (Ashurbanipal was an Assyrian king who reigned 668-627 BC). The text provides a list of Akkadian translations of non-Akkadian names. The reference is to column 1 line 21, so there should have been a gap in the cited reference followed by a Roman numeral: 5R 44: I 21.

5R 44: I 21 reads mḪa-am-mu-ra-pí : mKim-ta-ra-pa-áš-tum, the meaning of each name being “great family” or as CAD K has it (p. 377, s.v. kimtu), “extensive family”. The “ra-pi” means “great/extensive”, and ‘Ammu means “family”. So “rapi” itself does not refer to the long dead.

In the Bible, the Rephaim are either peoples discovered as inhabiting Canaan and neighbouring territories when the Israelites invade (so are long dead from the perspective of the writers) or, in poetic and prophetic books, are long-dead inhabitants of the netherworld. In 5R 44, they are also described as “kings”, another feature in common with many biblical Rephaim, and more consistent with the meaning of “great”.