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).
- In the post “Genesis 4 – Murder Most Foul“, I introduced Ghiberti’s The Gates of Paradise”. Here is another panel from those doors.
- (1) From the Jacket cover of: Hapur, Tom. The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Christ. Toronto: Tomas Allen Publishers 2004.
- (2) Unfortunately I have not read the writings of any of these 3 writers. They are writers that are important to and referenced by Harpur.
- (3) Source Web Gallery of Art. Kaspar Memberger the Elder (b. ca. 1555, Konstanz, d. 1618, Konstanz)