Tag Archives: Bible

Tfel-ot-thgir (right-to-left)

Another interesting thing about the Phoenician alphabet: when you write in it, you write from right to left. The words you’re reading here are left-to-right. As the alphabet was adopted by cultures to the west of the Phoenician cities, it was written left-to-right, like our alphabet today. As the alphabet traveled east, it was written right-to-left, like Arabic and Hebrew are still written today.

Solomon built the Temple with cedar wood from Lebanon.

David, the mighty king of Israel, had Phoenician artisan advisors in his court. King Hiram of Tyre was good buds with David’s son, Solomon. It seems natural to assume that the Phoenicians brought the alphabet with them to Israel.

https://www.ancient.eu/King_David/
https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jerusalem-from-canaanite-city-to-israelite-capital
https://phoenicia.org/temple.html
https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=david+hiram&version=NKJV
https://phoenicia.org/alphabet.html
http://ubdavid.org/bible/know-your-bible4/know4-5.html

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Canaanite turquoise miners fool around with hieroglyphics during lunch break

My pals (and Western Civ User’s Guide Irregulars) Ilene L and Jeffrey K each sent me a link to this Nova series on PBS about the origins of the alphabet—in it, archaeologist Orly Goldwasser asserts that a group of Canaanite turquoise miners working in Egypt were fooling around with hieroglyphics and almost-by-accident invented the alphabet. I think it’s a compelling theory—that’s exactly how a creative mind works: by fooling around. Okay so far. If that’s how it happened, their invention would still need to be promoted, spread far-and-wide, made popular. How do you do that?

The beautiful top drawing of an ox head was drawn by an expert drawer. Under that is an ox head as the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol Aleph. Under that is a pathetic attempt at drawing ox heads by some ham-fisted Canaanite turquoise miner. At the bottom is our letter A.

The Phoenician traders and all their customers needed an efficient writing system to keep business records. The alphabet turned out to be the writing system they needed. The Phoenician trade routes were a communications network—like social media today but without the kitten photos. Those sea-captains visited every port around the Mediterranean Sea. Once the Phoenicians started using the alphabet, everybody started using the alphabet.

And how did the Canaanite miners get their invention to Phoenician sea-captains? You kids who go to Sunday school and Hebrew school knew this one already. Look in the back of your study bibles at the map—the Phoenician cities Sidon, Byblos and Tyre are in the Land of Canaan. Canaanites = Phoenicians.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-9122891/Alphabet-Canaanite-miners-Ancient-Egypt-simple-letters-intricate-hieroglyphs.html
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/12/30/did-illiterate-egyptian-miners-invent-alphabet/95992202/
Very good article here: https://barzilaiendan.com/2012/06/08/cine-a-inventat-alfabetul/

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The new religion

The Roman Empire became so enormous that it was too huge for one emperor. The Empire got split into East and West. Rome was still the capital city of the western half. Byzantium became the capital city of the eastern half. Within both halves of the Empire was a growing movement, a new religion—people who worshiped Jesus Christ. This was a problem, because—just like the Egyptians and pharaoh—Romans were expected to worship their emperor as a god. Christians had to worship in secret. Whenever they were found, Christians were rounded up, punished and even executed in grisly spectacles at the Colosseum where they were put in an arena with abused, starved lions. People bought tickets to watch. Human beings can be horrible, gang.

https://johnmanders.wordpress.com/2019/08/12/being-a-christian-in-the-roman-empire/
https://johnmanders.wordpress.com/2019/08/15/those-rotten-romans/
https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-27/persecution-in-early-church-did-you-know.html (requires subscription)
https://christian-apologist.com/2018/04/15/early-christian-martyrdoms-persecution-in-the-roman-empire/

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Merry Christmas!

Time toddled along and the Roman Empire got bigger. Forty-four years after Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by his senators, 31 years after Augustus’ navy beat Antony’s navy, when Quirinius was the governor of Syria and a royal decree had been issued throughout the Empire that everyone in it should be taxed…in an unfashionable province, in the sleepy hometown of a long-dead king, in a humble little house with barely enough extra room to squeeze unexpected guests in among the family livestock…a baby was born to a carpenter and his young wife.

This Baby was a promise from God. God would keep the covenant He made with His chosen people. God was giving us His only Son who would one day be sacrificed to pay for our sins. God knew that would happen, yet He still gave us Jesus—our Savior, our Messiah, the Christ. We’re forgiven no matter how bad we’ve been. Our Heavenly Father must really, really love us!

We here at Western Civ User’s Guide World Headquarters wish you all the peace and joy and hope of Christmas.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+2%3A1-20&version=KJV

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Everybody wants Egypt

For about a thousand years, mid-600s bc – ad mid 400s, the Egyptians wrote stuff down in both hieroglyphics and Demotic.


Egypt was one half of the Fertile Crescent—which is desirable real estate. Egypt grew its own food and had a booming economy. People who didn’t live there wanted to take it over. You Bible students probably recognize this tired old story from reading the prophets: in 670 bc the Assyrians took over, then in 605 bc the Babylonians took over. Then, in 525 bc the Persian King Cambyses II took over and Egypt became part of the Persian Empire.

Around two hundred years after that, north of the Mediterranean Sea, a guy named Alexander the Great was busy building his own empire. Alexander was a big fan of Greece and Greek culture so of course he wanted to spread it around.

http://museopics.com/Ancient-World-Wonders-History-Antiquities/MuseoPics-Ancient-Mespotamian-Civilisations/Assyrians-Ancient-Civilisation-Artefacts-Art/2-Assyrian-History/9-Conquest-Egypt-Assyrian-History/9%20-%20Assyrian%20Conquest%20of%20Egypt%20History.html
https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/history/ancient-history-middle-east-biographies/nebuchadnezzar
https://www.ducksters.com/history/ancient_egypt/late_period_and_persian_rule.php

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The Bull of Heaven

There are so many fun visual elements in the Gilgamesh story. I think it would make a terrific graphic novel, like 300.

One lively part is when Ishtar, the Goddess of Love, wants Gilgamesh for her boyfriend. Gilgamesh says no, Ishtar gets steamed and asks the other gods to send the Bull of Heaven down to Earth to destroy him (am I the only one who thinks it really funny that the gods worry about the Bull leaving giant-sized cow-flops all over the landscape? I am? Oh). Gilgamesh and Enkidu have to fight for their lives against the Bull. For the ancient Sumerians, the Bull of Heaven was/is a constellation—a group of stars. Thousands of years later we still call that constellation ‘Taurus’—Latin for ‘Bull.’

http://www.seasky.org/constellations/constellation-taurus.html
http://www.mesopotamia.co.uk/gods/explore/bullheav.html
http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr1812.htm
Hey, look at Douglas De La Hoz’ interpretation of the Gilgamesh story!
https://hozart.artstation.com/projects/nQOq1K
Lynnie McIlvain shows us some parallels between Gilgamesh and Homer’s epics and the Bible—
https://www.thecollector.com/epic-of-gilgamesh/

I realize now I should have put horns on my Enkidu character design.

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It’s time for Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity!

It seems Time and Space aren’t two separate things after all. They’re 2 parts of one thing: TimeSpace. They’re what’s called a continuum.
(kon-TIN-you-uhm)
1 : a coherent whole characterized as a collection, sequence, or progression of values or elements varying by minute degrees
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/continuum

The Sweet-Salty continuum

I suppose a piano keyboard could be considered a continuum: lowest note on one end and highest note on the other, with the keys in between playing both low and high. You could draw up a continuum of food—from, say, the sweetest food you ever ate to the saltiest food you ever ate. Where is barbecue—both sweet and salty—on your continuum?

The continuum of TimeSpace has extreme ends, too—one end nothing but time and the other end nothing but space. This is really hard to think about. Time passes on one end but nothing physical is there. There’s physical stuff on the other end but nothing moves because it’s outside the medium of time. We live in the middle. We’re physical beings in a physical world who walk around and grow older and have kids and live our lives while plants sprout, bloom and die and the planets and stars whirl around in space.

(Does any of this remind you of Sunday-school? I mean how the Bible starts: “In the beginning…” and then God creates the universe, the Earth and the heavens, separates day from night. It’s how the Bible explains time and space. Which means God exists outside the TimeSpace continuum, which is too much for my brain to handle.)

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Long time ago in Bethlehem

The custom of naming years after whoever wore the crown lasted well into the time of the Roman Empire.

Two thousand and some years ago, a baby was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea—in the country we now call Israel. The baby was Jesus, son of Mary, the Holy Spirit in human form. He would grow up to begin a ministry that led to His crucifixion and resurrection—in order to save all of humankind. Jesus is the Redeemer; the Christos in Greek; the Mashiach in Hebrew.

The Christian evangelist Luke wrote about the Nativity before there were numbered years. How could he put a date on Jesus’ birth? Here’s how: Luke tells us that Jesus was born while Augustus was emperor of Rome and Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Luke knew his readers would remember when those guys were in charge and place Jesus’ birth in that time.

1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In fact, it would be 5 more centuries before someone thought of numbering the years.

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https://biblehub.com/library/ramsay/was_christ_born_in_bethlehem/chapter_11_quirinius_the_governor.htm

Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh subduing a lion who was probably minding its own business.

I decided Gilgamesh deserves his own post. It helps to get a handle on a culture by looking at its heroes and stories. Gilgamesh the king was an actual historical figure. Gilgamesh the hero of the epic was two-thirds divine and one-third mortal.

The story begins in Uruk, a city in Ancient Sumer (Mesopotamia) where Gilgamesh rules as king. Though Gilgamesh is known to be stronger than any other man, the people of Uruk complain that he abuses his power. The gods hear these complaints, and the god Aruru creates Enkidu, a man as strong as Gilgamesh. Aruru forms Enkidu out of water and clay, out in the wilderness. Enkidu lives in nature, in harmony with the wild animals.”

So Gilgamesh and Enkidu meet, wrestle, become best buds. They defeat the awful giant Humbaba. The goddess Ishtar proposes marriage to Gilgamesh—when he turns her down she sics the Bull of Heaven on him and Gilgamesh and Enkidu defeat him, too. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh works out his grief by searching for the meaning of life and the source of immortality.

I taught a unit on Gilgamesh to high-schoolers in Sunday school, just because there are so many echoes of Bible stories in Gilgamesh, particularly in Genesis. There’s a Great Flood; a guy who survives the flood by loading his family and animals into a big boat; a plant that holds the essence of Life (with a treacherous serpent hanging around nearby); Enkidu is a hairy strongman who is tamed by a seductress and loses his hair. My point in teaching Gilgamesh wasn’t to diminish the Bible stories, but to show how the Bible stories grew from a tradition of ancient MidEast literature into a narrative that tells the story of all us mortals, not just divine, semi-divine and immortal characters. The Bible is a radical departure from that tradition.

We get Gilgamesh from pieces of clay tablets that have survived through the ages. A library fire, which would mean a disastrous loss of literature today, actually preserved many ancient books by firing the clay they were written on. Gilgamesh is a fun read, although there are adults themes in there, so be warned.

Action!

A couple of posts ago I told you I’m having trouble with the dialogue between Job and his comforters. Though I stick pretty closely to the conversation as it unfolds through Chapters 11 – 31 (each chapter gets summarized down to one or two short lines), there doesn’t seem to be a build-up to a punchline. For this to work as a comic, the tension should build to a climax just before the next scene, when a new character enters.

One solution is to add some action, although there is none during this sequence in the Bible. I thought about how Job’s three comforters could literally beat up on Job while they interpret Holy Writ. I’ll have these scholars bring their scripture with them. I drew a quick sketch of Bildad hitting Job over the head with a scroll. I like it a little better than just heads talking for two pages.

If you’ve seen the Broadway musical West Side Story, you’ll remember the Officer Krupke number. The gang members sing about how the system has failed them, from the police to the courts to the social worker to the psychiatrist. Each hits one juvenile delinquent with a rolled up newspaper as they condemn him: “The trouble is he’s lazy (smack!); the trouble is he drinks (smack!); the trouble is he’s crazy (smack!); the trouble is he stinks (smack!)”

Could something like this work for my comic about Job?