I realize it has been a while since I wrote to you. I recently started a new job, and now that I am at least temporarily acclimatized, I will take this opportunity to return to the tale of Noah.
Chapter 8 provides further details of the story, and how the ark came to rest on dry land.
The waters abated after 150 days
The ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat on the 17th day of the seventh month of Noah’s 600th year
The waters continue to assuage (lessen). After abating until the first day of the 10th month the tops of mountains were seen.
Another 40 days passed and then a raven was released and that raven went “forth to and fro until the waters were dried up.”
Beginning that same day, the dove was released, and the dove returned. On a weekly basis, that same dove continued to be released and that dove continued to return until it had found dry land.
On the first day of the first month of Noah`s 601st year, Noah removed the covering of the ark.
On the 20th day of the second month of Noah`s 601st year the earth was dried and the creatures of the ark were set free to once again “breed abundantly” upon the earth.
Shortly thereafter Noah built an altar on which he and his family sacrificed one of every clean beast and fowl, and God smelled a “sweet savour.”
God, feeling a little contrite, vows to never again “smite any more every thing living, as I have done.”
God appears to have a deep appreciation for a good barbecue.
This second moment is courtesy of the BBC and Mrs. Brown
Art History Moments
The icon for this page is from Kazuya Akimoto’s 2009 painting “Noah’s Ark after the flood.”
Dr. Stuart Whatling (1), in the course of writing his PhD thesis took a wonderful set of photos of the medieval (13th C) stained glass in Chartres cathedral. One of those windows is called the “Noah” window. Below is a photo of one of the 40 panels from that window.
Genesis Chapter 7 provides further details of the deluge story, some of which were previously unknown to me. For instance, in some cases there were more than two of every animal. Only the unclean beasts are taken onto the ark by male and female pairs. Of every clean beast “thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female (7.2).” Fowls of the air were also taken by sevens.
Other details of the story are:
Noah was given seven days’ notice of the flood.
Noah was six hundred years old when the flood occurred.
The flood began on the seventeenth day of the second month in Noah’s 600 hundredth year.
It rained for 40 days and 40 nights.
The waters prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days.
There were 8 humans on the ark Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth and their wives.
In case you are wondering, destruction was total.
“ all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth”
“ .. every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.”
“.. every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth.”
There are 3 Harpers in my life. Harpers is a magazine to which we have been subscribing for a number of years. Stephen Harper is currently the Prime Minister of Canada. In my opinion this second Harper is despicable without the redeeming character attributes of Gru. Harper appears to use policy, procedure ,and language to corrupt the spirit of Canadian democracy, and bludgeon Canadian freedoms. In the context of this exploration, the less said about him the better.
The third Harpur, is Tom Harpur and he uses research, thought, and language to illuminate the spirit. “Harpur is a columnist for the Toronto Star, and former Anglican priest and professor of Greek and New Testament at the University of Toronto.” (1).
While on vacation I had the pleasure of reading Harpur’s 2004 book “The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light”. In that book Harpur, building on the writings of Godfrey Higgins (1771-1834), Gerald Massey (1828-1907), and Alvin Boyd Khun (1880-1963) (2), presents a very compelling argument that Abrahamic religions in general and Christianity in particular, have through a long process of reductionism, lost their mythic roots. In so doing Abrahamic religions have put themselves in untenable positions, confusing mythos with literal records of history.
Harpur also describes the fluidity used in writing and modifying the books of the old and new testament. This fluidity was in part the outcome of accidental and pre-meditated burning of ancient scrolls. With destruction of many ancient writings, writers in the early years of Christianity were free to change old and new testament verses to fit their individual agendas.
My reading of “The Pagan Christ” has helped to provide a point of reference for this exploration of the Bible, and one which I hope will allow me to bring sense to stories such as the tale of Noah where, on the surface, no sense exists.
Note on the Icon for this page
One of the challenges in this exploration, is realizing how quickly facts on the Internet contort, and the difficulty in quoting something with a sense of veracity. Inevitably, I find myself checking for confirmation. For instance the icon for this page is an illustration of unknown authorship from Petrus Comestor’s “Bible Historial” (France, 1372). The illustrator was not Petrus Comestor, as some websites suggest.
God saw that the wickedness of man was great, and it grieved God that he had made man, beast, creeping thing, and the fowls of the air. Because God repenteth that it had made all these things it decided to destroy everything that breathes in a great deluge of water.
Amongst all the men on the earth, there was but one man that found grace in the eyes of God.. Noah, his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, and their wives were to be saved. They were to be saved along with male and female of every living thing of all flesh, of fowl, of cattle, and of every creeping thing of the earth. Everything to be saved was to placed, along with the necessary food, in an ark that Noah built out of gopher wood. The size of the ark was three hundred cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. The ark had a door and one window. Inside the ark there were 3 levels.
What is a Cubit?
A cubit is the distance from the elbow along the forearm from forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. According to Wikipedia, the Egyptian royal cubit is equivalent to between 20.6 and 20.8 inches, the Sumerian or Nippur cubit is equivalent to approximately 20.4 inches, and the Near Eastern or Biblical cubit is equivalent to 18 in. As specified in 6:15 the ark was 150 yards long, 25 yards wide and a 15 yards high.
Spurious and Humorous Comments
There is no other mention of gopher wood in the bible and there are no known records describing gopher wood. One view, is gopher is possibly a mis-translation of the Hebrew word for plank. I think there are errors in the telling – Noah asked his sons to go fer wood.
In March of 1963, the young Bill Cosby recorded his first album, “Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow…Right!”, at The Bitter End in New York City’s Greenwich Village. I remember hearing this album in my early teens nearly 10 years later. Though my memory of Cosby’s Noah skits is funnier than re-hearing them, they still put a smile on my face.
Personally, I am reveling in this exploration. I am also feeling dwarfed by the scholarship of those who have spent a lifetime studying and thinking about mythology, theology, and philosophy. I am less than two months into this journey. In all honesty this exploration probably began under various guises decades ago, but I will reserve that aside for another day. In summary I am stumbling in the land of giants.
Speaking of giants, verse 6:4 begins with the words “There were giants in the earth in those days”. Now this is impressive but not entirely believable. Perhaps these giants are the ones that according to Hesiod, sprang from the blood of the god Uranus when Cronus (son of Uranus) cut of Uranus’ testicles.
Art History Comment
Shortly after Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau (1559-1617), the founder of Baroque Salzburg, took office as prince-archbishop in 1587 he commissioned Kaspar Memberger the Elder from Constance to paint a five-part Noah’s Ark Cycle (3). Today’she taIn 1587 Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau (1559-1617), the founder of Baroque Salzburg, This is the first painting in that cycle. “Noah’s Ark Cycle: 1. Building of the Ark (1588, Oil on canvas, 128 x 166 cm, Residenzgalerie, Salzburg).
I have, as I hope you have noticed, done some digital blog-keeping. I am still learning how to use WordPress, and in order to do what I wanted, I needed to return to some nearly lost html /css coding skills. I hope you find navigation through the posts easier. If you want to see a list of all (except for interludes) the posts so far, you can always click on the menu item “Bible Exploration Introduction and Master” or follow this link: Bible Exploration Introduction and Master.
Next Blog Entry Coming Soon “There were Giants” (first in the deluge series).
Once upon a time, tales of a great detective were invented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. These tales were so well crafted, and the admiration of the detective to this day is still so strong that many tourists leaving the Baker Street tube station in London go in search of 221B Baker Street. At the time Doyle was writing 221B Baker Street did not exist. Sherlock Holmes only existed, and still does only exist as a character in a well-loved set of books.
And the moral of the story is, the presentation of something as fact, does not make it so. With that in mind I present for your ruminations the following illustration.There is a pattern to many of the verses in Chapter 5, “ and <father> lived <x1> years and begat <son> and <father> lived <x2> years after he begat <son> and the years of <father> were <x1 + x2> and he died”. A similar pattern can be used to read the illustration. For example Seth lived 105 years and then had a son Enos. Seth lived a 807 years after the birth of Enos, and died at the at the age of 912.
Given that all the years of Lamech totaled 777, I thought there might be some references in mythology to the number 777. A quick Google search revealed little. There are of course reams of digital paper concerning the number 7. There is a Wikipedia entry titled, “777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley”. For the time being I shall pass on the Kabbalah. For completeness though here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for Kabbalah, “Kabbalah’s definition varies according to the tradition and aims of those following it, from its religious origin as an integral part of Judaism, to its later Christian, New Age, and Occultist syncretic.” (1)
Chapter 4 of Genesis establishes a bad precedent.
Adam and Eve have sex at least twice and this results in Eve baring two sons, Cain and Abel. “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” When it came time to offer a sacrifice, Abel provided a sheep, and Cain provided “fruit of the ground”. God appreciated the sheep and was not impressed with Cain’s vegetables. Cain becomes jealous, despondent, and kills his one and only brother.
God marks Cain and prevents anyone from killing Cain by vowing that “whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold”. The cursed Cain leaves the presence of God, and goes off to the land of Nod. There he finds at least one woman and begins a branch of humanity.
6 generations later, Lamach a direct descendent of Cain, comes home to his two wives, and announces that he has killed a man and wounded a young man. Of special note Lamach’s wife bares the only named daughter so far, Naamah.
The chapter ends with Adam and Eve having sex a third time, and Eve baring a son Seth. Seth in turn has a son Enos.
God’s displeasure with vegetables is a little disturbing and demonstrates an emerging tendency towards the petty.
Where are the daughters of man?
What was the source of the woman of Nod, or did Cain sleep with his mother? If we look at the bible as a re-expression of mythic tales, then that second option is analogous to the god Uranus who was both son and husband of Gai.
“Cain may be a mythological representation of a Near Eastern people called the Kenites, who practiced metalworking and musicianship and who may have worn tattoos.” (1)
“Conflicts between brothers abound in world mythology, reflecting the widespread view that conflict between good and evil is an inescapable part of human life. In Persian mythology, the rival brothers are the gods Ahriman and Ahura Mazda. Islamic tradition calls them Kabil (Cain) and Habil (Abel).” (1)
“Medieval Christians believed that Cain had a yellowish beard, so artists and playwrights used yellow beards to identify murderers and traitors. Because Christians sometimes viewed Cain as a forerunner of the Jews who killed Jesus, yellow became associated with anti-Semitism. Abel, an innocent and godly victim, was often compared with Jesus.” (1)
Art History Comments
Oh where oh where to begin? Let’s not try to begin or end. Figure 2 is a bronze panel from the doors of the Florence Baptistry in Florence Italy called the “Gates of Paradise” (1425-52), by Lorenzo Ghilberti. This panel is approximately 31 ¼ inches (79 cm) square. Figure 2
Approximately 450 years later Auguste Rodin in 1875 would travel to Florence and find inspiration in these doors. That seed in combination with a reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy would beginning in 1880 germinate into the monumental bronze sculpture “The Gates of Hell”. Near the top of the Gates, there is a 70cm figure called “The Thinker”. A large scale (186 cm high) bronze casting of “The Thinker” was first completed in 1902. And a piece of contemporary iconography and the model for many a photographic portrait was born.
Figure 3 – The Gates of Hell
Figure 4 – The Thinker
From the time the “Gates of Hell” was first commissioned until the first complete pour it would be nearly 40 years. Rodin never saw the final sculpture in bronze.
I have returned from the land of margaritas and I am back with a tale of the guardians of the gate.
In the last of verse of Genesis 3 (3.24), God turns on the security by placing “at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life”.
We began Chapter 3 with “what’s a serpent”. It seems fitting therefore to close with “What are cheribum”, which sadly is a lot like asking what’s an angel. Cheribum is the plural of cherub and there are two branches to the cherub tree.
The Greco-Roman Branch is associated with putti (plural of putto), Italian for boy or child.
Once upon a Greek time Aphrodite (Venus in Rome) goddess of love, beauty, and pleasure had a son Cupid. Cupid is the one that shoots arrows of lust indiscriminately at mortals, primarily for his own amusement. Through the contortions of time, representations of Cupid became associated with putti (plural of putto). Often winged the putti (plump flying toddlers) (1), became a symbol for God’s love. By the time the Rococo era in painting arrived (Late Baroque) in the 18th Century, these angelic creatures flew amok on many a ceiling.
Here is an example from Ljubljana (capital of Slovenia) Cathedral, also named Saint Nicholas’ Church, by Guiulio Quaglio the Younger dated 1705-06 (2).
Mystic Madness Branch
According to dictionary.com an angel is “one of a class of spiritual beings attendant upon God. … ” Once upon a time Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (c. 650-c. 725 C.E.) concocted a hierarchy of angels. There are according to this man’s writings, 9 orders or dominions of angles divided into 3 spheres, with 3 orders in each sphere.
(3) The first sphere contains the angels which serve as heavenly counselors and are the closest to God.
1 – Seraphim
2 – Cherubim
3 – Thrones
The second sphere are angels which work as heavenly governors and are the angelic middle managers of the vast angel realm.
4 – Dominions or Dominations
5 – Virtues
6 – Powers
The third sphere are angels who function as heavenly messengers and are the ones closest to the human experience.
7 – Principalities or Princedoms
8 – Archangels
9 – Angels
Strange as it may seem images of second order angels are hard to locate. The image below is from a Wikipedia (4) entry which in turn links to a Russian source, written in Russian. There my research stopped as I decided not to go down the translation rabbit hole.The above image is an example of a tetramorph (5) and as the Wikipedia entry on tetramorphs goes on to say, “such composite creatures are found in many mythologies”.
The two cherub branches in common parlance have melded together. As a result putti and cherubim are often both referred to as cherubs. You may still be wondering about an answer to the question “What are cherubim?”, and frankly dear reader I haven’t clue.
An amble through the Internet revealed that Eve was God’s third attempt at a companion for Adam. According to Jewish folklore the tale of Lilith begins with Adam naming the animals as they are paraded by him. Adam notices that for every animal there is a male and a female. With lust in his loins, Adam asks God for a companion. God provides Lilith. When Adam goes to mount her Lilith resists, asking why should she be under the man when God made man and woman as equals. Adam tries to force himself onto Lilith ,who then exclaims the sacred word of God and vanishes. (1)
Lilith reappears by the Red Sea cavorting with lascivious demons giving birth to over 100 demonic night spirits (lilim) a day.
“Adam complains to God, who sends three angels to fetch Lilith back. They tell her that if she does not return, one hundred of her children will die every day. She retorts that harming newborns was the reason why she was created, but agrees not to harm any infants wearing amulets with the names or images of the three angels.” (2)
The ‘Queen of the Night’ relief from the British Museum, identified by some scholars as Lilith. Old Babylonian, 1800-1750 BCE.
Jewish folklore goes on to tell of how God created Eve I, whom Adam found so ugly that God does not give her life. Eve (the woman is finally named in Genesis 1-20 just before God gives Adam and Eve clothing, and banishes them from the garden) is made from Adam’s rib so that Eve will be subservient to man, and thus avoiding another Lilith episode.
In the Middle Ages many artists painted the serpent with female torso suggesting that the serpent was in fact Lilith. This expression of the serpent as Lilith can even be seen in this fragment of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo “The Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden” (3).
After a brief conversation with the serpent, the woman (still unnamed) eats the fruit of the tree knowledge, and then gives some of that same fruit to Adam. Adam, being completely spineless, says nothing and eats the fruit. Adam when asked by God “What have you done” says “she did it”. God in a huff kicks the two kids out of the garden and turns on the security. Rather like a contrite parent who kicks a teenager out of the house but first makes sure the child has enough money to survive, God gives Adam and Eve clothing before barring them from re-entering the garden. And that dear reader is the “Fall of Man”.
What’s A Serpent
I conclude that the serpent is a metaphor for some as yet unknown creature. Most importantly the serpent in the garden could converse (this snake can talk) and do it slyly, artfully and with cunning. There is also the suggestion that the serpent could stand upright during the temptation of the woman. As punishment God (3.14) said to the serpent “thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life “
I may not be able to describe a serpent but there are a lifetime`s of history with images of the serpent as snake. Here is just one, This third century fresco is notable because it is such an early presentation of the story.
According to Terry Prest (http://idlespeculations-terryprest.blogspot.ca/) this is Adam and Eve: The Original Sin; Third Century; Fresco; Catacomb of St Pietro and St. Marcellino; Rome. I could not find corroboration of the locale and the date.
The serpent is revered or abhorred in many stories and myths. As a point of contrast here is an image of the Mayan Vision Serpent.
Mayan mythology describes serpents as being the vehicles by which celestial bodies, such as the sun and stars, cross the heavens. The shedding of their skin made them a symbol of rebirth and renewal. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vision_Serpent).
Leave and Don`t Come Back
One day you and I may return to the Brancacci Chapel in Florence Italy. The frescoes there help illustrate a wonderful evolution in renaissance art. Today I have just one illustration for you from that chapel. Below is part of a fresco by Masaccio (circa 1425), before and after restoration.
Three centuries after the fresco was painted, Cosimo III de’ Medici, in line with contemporary ideas of decorum, ordered that fig leaves be added to conceal the genitals of the figures. These were eventually removed in the 1980s when the painting was fully restored and cleaned. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expulsion_from_the_Garden_of_Eden).
Just because you think you know what you looking for that does not mean that Google understands your wishes. In hindsight I should have probably known that the search term the `Tempation of Eve` provides results that include biblical, artistic, and gay porn links.