Dave Sim's blogandmail #293 (July 1st, 2007)
Okay, here we are at the Sunday Edition and here's an excerpted question and answer from Victor Davis Hanson's interview with THE JERUSALEM POST (WARNING: THE WHOLE THING GOT A LITTLE OUT OF HAND ONCE I GOT DOWN TO BRASS TACKS)
CONSIDERING ANCIENT ISRAEL'S ROLE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, DOES BEING A CLASSICAL HISTORIAN INFLUENCE YOUR CURRENT VIEWS ON ISRAEL?
Yes, especially the pseudo-claims by Israel's enemies of an eternal Islamic or Arab homeland, as if Jews, Persians, Greeks, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, and Europeans have not all staked their claims on the Middle East. History is unkind, and does not magically settle mythic claims like Zeus on Olympus. In the case of present-day Israel, it is unique in that the Jews were the first settlers of Israel, and presently they have the legal right, the military strength, and the cultural dynamism to enhance and protect their homeland.
Hanson touches on an interesting point here with the idea of the Eternal Islamic homeland which is one of those core elements of Islam that gets overlooked easily by the "infidel" but which is a key point as far as I'm considered if you want to understand what there isn't a whole lot of communication between Muslims and non-Muslims.
To most Muslims, Islam is pre-existent in the same way that Christians see Jesus as being pre-existent. Before the earth was, Jesus was. Before there was Judaism and Christianity there was Islam. It's a nuanced argument along the lines of Christianity usurping the Logos, the Word from Greek Philosophy. In the Koran, Abraham is referred to as being a Muslim. Jesus is referred to as being a Muslim. King David was a Muslim, Solomon was a Muslim, Mary was a Muslim, Joseph was a Muslim and so on. In what is popularly believed to be Muhammad's farewell address to his people, he says, "Today I have perfected your religion for you." And that's very much the sense that Muslims have of what occurred in the seventh century. The Muslim faith, the notion of submitting to the will of God -- what we would describe today as Monotheistic faith -- had existed throughout human history but was perfected on the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century. Further, the Koran states explicitly that those who had received the Word of God previously had sold their scriptures for a mean price and moved the words out of their places – "publishing some but concealing most" (my own best assessment is that this is a YHWH-inspired quote in the Koran reflecting what I assume is he/she/it's getting his/her/it's nose out of joint because the interminable ramblings of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy represent only a fraction of what he/she/it wanted to have carved in stone. If you've ever actually read the "How To Build a Tabernacle" and "YHWH's Favourite Mutilated Cattle Recipes" (which I have: many, many, many sincerely stultifying times) this should come as no surprise. YHWH can, indeed, "go on" once he/she/it gets "on a roll".
So this Islamic fact of looking down on Jews and Christians as terminal screw-ups becomes a core problem in addressing the issue of the historical right of the Jewish People to Jerusalem and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). It is bone-deep in the Islamic faith that the histories in the Torah are intrinsically false. It's a most peculiar leap of faith to hold onto for anyone familiar with the scriptures of all three monotheistic faiths since the sense conveyed in the Koran regarding the Torah and the Gospels (sometimes mentioned by name, sometimes just alluded to in a way that you could legitimately infer what is being described is Apocryphal Judaic and Christian texts) is of the Torah and the Gospels being corrupted texts but it is certainly not a sense that they are completely misapprehended from top to bottom. But, as a result of this…I have to call a spade a spade…prejudice on the part of Islam, Islam tends to hold the same views of the Torah that Christians do.
That is, most Christians and most Muslims are ONLY familiar with those aspects of the Torah that their own entrenched priesthoods make use of. Most Christians only know those texts which foretell (or had come to popularly be believed to foretell) the coming of the Davidic Meschiach even though Messiah is only mentioned twice in the Christian "Old Testament" in Daniel 9:25-26 and Daniel wasn't accepted by Jews as canonical until the Maccabean time period (which is roughly the day before yesterday in Judaic historical terms) and Daniel isn't included in the Orthodox Judaic canon. It always boggles my mind all of the ancillary Judaic literature and "literature" that Protestant Christians shovelled in between the scriptural books Ezekiel and Hosea.
[Coincidentally I just finished that part in my Sabbath readings and it's always a funny moment, because I always forget. The Sunday after I finish reading Ezekiel aloud, I find Ezekiel and turn to the next page and then flip through and flip through and flip through "Where in the heck did those wacky Protestants hide the next Actual Jewish Prophet? Oh, finally. Hosea. Here he is."]
And the Christians always bring the same level of…let me again call a spade a spade…pig-headedness to the issue that Muslims do. A virgin will be with child and she shall call his name Emmanuel. Well, she DIDN'T call him Emmanuel: according to Christian theology, she called him Jesus. They know Isaiah 53 and ignore the rest of the book and ignore any context. For most Christians Isaiah starts and ends with chapter 53. Likewise Jeremiah 25. Apart from chapter 25, Christians aren't interested. Micah 5:3. You'd think given that Micah is only seven chapters long that maybe Christians could actually read all seven chapters. Nope. Micah 5:3 and the rest of it might just as well be written in Sanskrit as far as Christians are concerned.
Most Muslims are familiar with the Johannine Jesus' promise that he would send a comforter in his place who would speak all that was said to him. Known as the paraclete, Christians believe this entity to be the Holy Ghost whereas Muslims believe it to be Muhammad.
But that's really the limit of their interest in the Gospels is that one reference. Conveniently and (to me) perversely, they believe that passage to be irrefutably true while believing everything else in the Gospels to be complete fabrications and lies. They also believe – because it says so in the Koran – that Jesus promised that there would come another "like him" who would be called "Ahmad". Of course there is no reference to an "Ahmad" anywhere in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles or even (as far as I can remember) anything in the Apocrypha. But, they make use of the Koran in refuting that: the "Ahmad" reference is one of those "concealed" scriptures that the "infidel" has removed from the Gospels. It's almost mind-boggling in its intellectual dishonesty: using one passage to establish the Gospels as absolute truth and another passage to establish the Gospels as absolute lies.
When (as I attempt to do) you try to keep all three religions in your mind on an even keel, these are the points where you begin to see Islam and Christianity lurching in the direction of…let me call a spade a spade again…clinical insanity.
To me, the Torah is the lifeline of monotheistic faith. Without the proper chronologies (borrowed and added to by the Gospels and mangled and strewn haphazardly through the Koran) dating back to Adam there is really very little for mankind in this Epoch to go on. There is nothing in the same league with those chronologies. We have confidence, as monotheists, in the Judaic Genealogical Record because it is complete as far back as we can document it…and we can document it back thousands of years. The events in Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel actually happened. We have independent confirmation of that and of the dates attached to them, the other empires that existed at the same time and the rulers of those empires. Comparably we have empirical evidence of the Judaic experiment with monarchy, in Israel and in Judah. So, we can pretty confidently say that if the historical record is verifiable as far back as we have records then we can pretty safely assume that it is verifiable at the point where our historical records peter out and all we have is the Judaic historical record. We have nothing even remotely comparable in Christianity and in Islam prior to the third century in the former instance and the seventh century in the latter instance. In Orthodox Judaic terms, again, pretty much the day before yesterday chronologically speaking.
Of course, lunacy applies there as well. May God Have Mercy On Us All, I've been reading on a semi-regular basis about Christians who are still trying to sell the idea that the world is only six thousand years old and that men and dinosaurs roamed this planet at the same time. I hate to toot my own horn, but if I must, I must. I don't believe there was a world-wide Flood. I believe there was a regional flood that YHWH thought was a world-wide flood because the YHWH is really just Baal, the Canaanite fertility god called by another name. An earth spirit that happened and happens to live under the lands of the Middle East. I believe there was an ark and that the ark contained pairs of animals from that region. Do I believe that EVERY pair of animals was represented? No, of course not. It's logistically impossible. Do I believe that YHWH THOUGHT every pair of animals was represented? Yes. In the same way that when all of the land that he/she/it was aware of was covered with water for forty days and forty nights, he/she/it sincerely believed that the entire world had been drowned. He/she/it is just that…let's keep calling spades by their proper names… just that stupid.
I believe that the flood was a Significant Enactment mandated by God (so that the story could start over with the New Epoch in which we now find ourselves) in what I assume is the always remote and faint hope that YHWH could try to be a little less terminally stupid this time and, you know, follow along. Instead of Adam and his wife and his sons (a False Start Epoch in that YHWH couldn't even keep the characters straight in his/her/its "mind") and, instead, this time in our current Epoch it began, post flood, with Noah and his wife and his sons and his sons wives.
Do I believe that Adam was the first man? No, I believe that the creation of Adam out of dust was the starting point of this particular Epoch and that the Torah documents the beginning and early history of this Epoch. Before that I believe there were other Epochs, many other Epochs, each of which began with a man being created out of dust. Atlantis could be one of them. I think part of the "deal" is that an Epoch begins with that seminal man who is documented in that Epoch's scripture and who commences that Epoch's genealogies and that that Epoch continues until as much progress can be made by men and YHWH in understanding what's going on and then it's time to wipe the slate clean and start over, rolling over whatever meagre progress has been made in the previous Epoch into a (hopefully, but I sincerely doubt it these days) more advanced field of study: a more intelligent Epoch. That is, whatever Epoch preceded ours, we have virtually no record of it. My best guess was that men and YHWH were just as stupid if not stupider – if such a thing can be imagined -- in that previous Epoch as we are now and, I would imagine, along the same lines. Making fitful, blind, foot-dragging progress in genuine understanding and godliness while primarily and almost exclusively mucking about trying to figure out how to make a half-cat/half- human being. No matter the Epoch, we just can't wait to get there and in every Epoch there comes the equivalent of what we know in this Epoch as "the 20th and 21st centuries" where we just fall all over ourselves hell bent for leather to get to the point where we can make a half-cat/half-human being having already barrelled through "splitting the atom so we can incinerate tons of s—t at one time" "abortion as a human right" "grafting one person's organs onto another person for fun, profit and giggles" and basically just deciding to play God wherever the opportunity presents itself.
My best guess is that the only residue we see of those kinds of base level stupidities is in Egypt with the lions with the heads of human beings in hieroglyphics. I don't think those are fanciful, I think they document the last Epoch just before it became time to wipe the whole slate clean and start over again and that those sorts of obscenities are WHY the slate gets wiped clean and everything starts all over again. Once you start doing that stuff you are irredeemable and the only thing to do is to wipe the slate clean and start all over again with another man made out of dust and another woman made out of his rib and hope that maybe everyone can keep from being so completely and irredeemably stupid that next time we can make it to the 22nd century…and the Epoch after that maybe we can make it to the 24th century. I suspect, however, that we are more like one of those sort-of-promising sports teams that wins eight in a row, then loses eight in row, squeaks into the playoffs, miraculously wins the first round (call it the Age of Enlightenment) and then goes out four straight in the second round (call it the Age of Hollywood). That is, I'd be willing to bet that making it to the 21st century earns us exactly nothing. Maybe a yellow ribbon with HEY THANKS FOR SHOWING UP! Written on it in jaunty lettering.
The dinosaurs, as the geological record shows, were millions of years before any human Epoch. To claim otherwise is a peculiar form of lunacy. They aren't discussed in the Torah – apart from God's creation of beasts and creeping things and whales and fish and other iconic forms of animal life in the seminal creation of this planet and its structure as described in Genesis 1 -- because they aren't relevant. They are no more relevant to human history or the creation of the planet than they are relevant to how to build a Saturn V rocket ("To begin building a Saturn V rocket, let us first consider the brontosaurus, a massive herbivorous…") No There is nothing that we can learn, as human beings and as children of God, from Giant Lizards who bashed around in the mud (sorry, Steve Bissette but it's TRUE). God can't even get it through YHWH's thick skull that God created YHWH and not the other way around: dragging bloody dinosaurs into the picture would be like giving a six-month-old baby a brand new bright and shiny toy to play with while you're trying to feed it. YHWH believes that he/she/it created everything including God and he/she/it has no conscious knowledge of anything except small corners of the Middle East. It is not a level of decidedly unsubstantiated genius that I would envy having to work with and I'm glad that YHWH is God's project and not mine.
But, there – in those five dense-packed paragraphs above -- a good example of what I'm up against and what I think we all, here in Our Epoch, are up against. I…and we…have to wade through all of that garbage (dinosaurs and human beings living in the same time period for crying out loud) in order to make – in counter-distinction to the Muslim and Christian lunacies that are regularly discussed instead -- what I think is the most salient point: the historical record of the Judaic chronologies in the Torah is accurate. There is no good reason to doubt that every one of those patriarchs lived and died in exactly the order and over the time period as they are described in the Torah. The genealogies are mutilated by Christians and Muslims and then the mutilation fragments are used to "refute" the word-perfect sequence of A to B to C to D to E which has come down to us thanks to the Hebrew people. And then they want to talk about the earth being six thousand years old and people riding around on dinosaurs.
God give me strength.
I tell you, it's like trying to have an intelligent discussion about feminism. There is just so much intrinsically false crap grafted on that you're pretty much defeated before you start.
But, for what it's worth, there you go. There is what I see as reality and what I see as demonically inspired digressions and fabrications – most of them of Christian and Muslim origin -- that have been grafted on to try and make meticulously documented and maintained Judaic historical reality LOOK contradictory, convoluted and incoherent.
All of that the result of Victor Davis Hanson's reference to the Eternal Islamic homeland that most Muslims believe in. For what it's worth.
REPLIES POSTED ON THE CEREBUS YAHOO! GROUP
If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:
Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2