Thursday, December 9, 2021

Calling Zionism Colonialism is completely Backwards.

Zionism means the belief that the Jews have the right to self determination and sovereignty over their ancient homeland.  If you replace “Jews” with any other group of people traditionally marginalized in the Western world, the Left is inclined to agree with that statement.  Treating Zionism differently is pure Antisemitism, I don’t care what your excuse is.

I am a Labour Zionist and Libertarian-Socialist, that means I wish Israel (like every other nation) was a Proletarian Direct Democracy.  I absolutely consider the Israeli State’s handling of the Palestinian situation in both Gaza and the West Bank to be horrendous. 

But I do not support a Two State Solution because that would be the Sudetenland all over again.  Until we have a Global Communist Utopia the Jews need a state that is their own, and I feel the same about other Marginalized groups like the Kurds and the Druze who I feel Israel should give the Golan Heights to.  The Palestinians already have a State, it’s Jordan, they are over 80% of the population of Jordan, the British Mandate originally covered both Israel and Jordan, Jordan was pealed off to be the Muslim State.  And that’s just one of many Arab states, the Arabs are not a people lacking Nations where they are the privileged ethnic group.

Calling Zionism Colonialism is backwards because it’s actually if anything Decolonization, it was the Colonialism of Ancient Empires that removed the Jews from their homeland and placed Geco-Roman Christian and Muslim populations and places of worship there.

There is a common perception out there that it is anachronistic to use the term “Colonialism” to describe the actions of any pre-1942 Empires.  Rome especially tends to be popularly depicted as always simply invading and conquering people with no high minded excuses at all.  This is  very Modernist bias, the notion that it took till the Renaissance for Imperialism to ever start trying to disguise itself as something more benevolent.

What supposedly separates Colonialism from other forms of Imperialism is the claim that it’s simply so, founding colonies in new lands but leaving the local populations to govern themselves while we trade and peacefully coexist with them.  But of course peaceful coexistence always eventually turned out to be a sham.  Well guess what, that is how Rome operated in some parts of their Empire, especially in Judea.

Cities like Caesarea Martiima were the colonies while the Jews had carefully controlled nominal self rule via the Sanhedrin, Priesthood and the Herodian monarchs.  In time even those were taken away over the course of various failed Rebellions, and after the Bar Kochba Revolt Hadrian banned them from even setting foot in Jerusalem and rebuilt that city as a Roman colony.  And the Christian Emperors maintained that policy throughout their rule over Jerusalem.  However the Jews always had some presence within the borders of Modern Israel, especially in the Galilee, there Jewish Rebellions against Christian Roman rule in Israel

The Qurran is actually a Zionist text, Muhammad never intended his Arab State to extend beyond Arabia.  But while Umar and the other early Caliphs after him were violating Muhammad’s intent in their conquests, they still at first by and large let the local populations  govern themselves, especially the Jews and Christians in Judea.  It was Umar who in fact allowed the Jews to finally return to Jerusalem after being denied access for five centuries of Roman rule.  The earliest references to Muslim presence on the Temple Mount I believe can be interpreted as Muslims actually allowing the Jews to worship on the former site of The Temple.

It was under Abd Al-Malik this began to change.  He began building the Dome of The Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque while Mecca was under the control of Rebels as an alternative to Mecca. The modern notions that they are the third and fourth Holiest sites in Islam after Mecca and Medina (too Shiites they’re not even that highly ranked being topped by several sites in Iraq) is later cultural white washing of the actual origins of those structures.  That said I do not believe the actual proper site of Solomon’s Temple is either of those locations so a Third Temple can peacefully coexist with them.

Anti-Zionists either Pretend Israel had no Jewish presence between the Bar-Kochba Revolt and the First Aliyah in the early 1880s.  Or as I saw on Tumblr recently will claim that “before the Zionist came Muslims, Jews and Christians all lived peaceful together in Jerusalem”, that is literally a PreLapsarian Utopia fantasy, Leftists should no better then to make such claims, in any other context we’d call it out as being an element of Fascism.

Karl Marx himself, who wasn’t a Zionist, debunks that fanciful claim in a piece he wrote in relation to the Cimrean War in 1854.
“the sedentary population of Jerusalem numbers about 15,500 souls, of whom 4,000 are Mussulmans and 8,000 Jews. The Mussulmans, forming about a fourth part of the whole, and consisting of Turks, Arabs and Moors, are, of course, the masters in every respect, as they are in no way affected with the weakness of their Government at Constantinople. Nothing equals the misery and the sufferings of the Jews at Jerusalem, inhabiting the most filthy quarter of the town, called hareth-el-yahoud, the quarter of dirt, between the Zion and the Moriah, where their synagogues are situated – the constant objects of Mussulman oppression and intolerance, insulted by the Greeks, persecuted by the Latins, and living only upon the scanty alms transmitted by their European brethren. ”
Mark Twain would later confirm that Jews were over half the Population of Jerusalem already well before the First Aliyah.  And they had presence in more than just Jerusalem, also in Tiberias in the Galilee and down in Hebron.

In the early 1880s it wasn’t just Jews migrating to Israel, increased waves of migration of Muslims to this region from other Ottoman lands also started then, under Imperial encouragement.  So a good deal of the Muslim population of the region can’t even claim to back to the original Arab Conquests.

The origins of the Zionist movement are very Socialist, with Moses Hess being a pre-Marx Socialist and the author of one of the first modern Zionist texts in 1862.  Later two Labour Zionist parties would be founded during the truly modern Zionist movement, one Marxist the other non-Marxist, theory were the most popular parties well into the Cold War.  The earliest Zionist settlements were Communes.  One important Labour Zionist was Albert Einstein.

The association with Britain is the main basis for calling it Colonialism, everything else Britain was doing at this time was Colonialism at its worst after all, and their influence is largely why Israel was founded as a Capitalist state despite the Socialist parties overwhelming popularity.  However the Jews under the British Mandate never truly felt that the British authorities were actually on their side.  They used the mandate as an excuse to continue controlling the region during a period when old fashioned Colonialism was waning in popularity.  It took the outcry of Jewish sympathy in the wake of the Holocaust to make them take it seriously.

Plenty of Arabs and Muslims in the region at the time supported Zionism, like Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali and his son, the King Feisal of Hijaz and then of Iraq, as well as As'ad Shukeiri, a Muslim scholar ('alim) of the Acre area, the mayor of Haifa, Hassan Bey Shukri and Sheikh Musa Hadeib. 

But more important than those figures who you could dismiss as privileged collaborators with the British, is the support Zionism had and still has from some certain entire Muslim communities in Israel, the kind who would still be just as marginalized under a Palestinian State as they are under a Jewish one.  The Negev Bedouins who are in fact the oldest Arab population west of Jordan, the Druze who are often not counted as Muslims but I consider them essentially an offshoot of the Shia, and Circasian Muslims who migrated to Israel as refugees in the 1800s to escape the Genocide that was being carried out agaisnt them by Tzarist Russia, so under circumstances similar to the Jews.

That’s the thing, the Arab Nationalists opposing Jewish migration to the region during the 1880s through 40s are to me just the same as European Nationalists refusing Jewish Refugees.  It’s the same Xenophobia and Antisemitism that was going on in Europe, only here in Islamic dressing rather then Christian.

Now some Right Wing defenders of Zionism on the Internet talk a bit too much about the Arab Nationalists who colluded with the Nazis during WWII, Amin al-Husseini is not solely responsible for giving the Nazis the idea to do the Holocaust, that was Hitler’s stated goal from Mein Kamf and anything that was pragmatically holding him back form it became irrelevant when the War started.  And they will often ignore the Muslims and Arabs who fought on the Allies side of the War, but the important fact here is that the Muslims who sided agaisnt the Nazis were the same ones who supported Zionism.

Most of the Arab Nationalist leaders who allied with Nazi Germany did so just as begrudgingly as Mussolini, they knew Hitler was just using them and didn’t actually care much about what happens in the Middle East at all.  But not Amin al-Hussein, he was given the Honorary Aryan status and actually helped SS Leader Harun el-Raschid Hintersatz organize Muslim SS units in Bosnia, he was a true Arab Nazi, and the Fatah party which controls the Palestinian Authority reveres him to this day.  And during the 50s and 60s he had the backing of Nasser.

Stalin supported Zionism between the end of the War and 1948, then stopped, I feel he simply gave up on Israel having a Communist Revolution too quickly. However the USSR did not truly start backing Arab Nationalists till after Stalin, it began with Khrushchev's alliance with Nasser.  Nasser was a member of the Young Egypt Party also called the Green Shirts who were Egypt’s openly pro Fascist and pro Nazi party of the 1930s.  He also employed surviving SS Officers including Johann von Leers, Otto Skorzeny and Leopold Gleim as key advisors.  Leers and Skorzeny were already important even before the Nazi regime fell.  Khrushchev is a a figure even many Tankies don’t like, TheFinnishBolshevik has argued he had Stalin murdered.  Nasser had banned Egypt’s Communist Party and Khrushchev asked Nasser to legalize them again but he refused, and Krushchev kept the alliance anyway.  Nasser used quasi Socialist rhetoric that a lot of modern “Anti-imperialist” MLs like Caleb Maupin fall for, but this was no more legit Socialism than the National Socialist Workers Party.  François Genoud was the Nazi Regime’s swiss banker who spent his post war life financing both Neonazis and nominally Left Wing Arab Nationalists, openly standing by his support of Hitler till he died in the 1990s.  

It is my thesis that the truest Nazis are those for whom the Anti-Semitism is their main driving motivation, everything else is in service of that.  During the first half of the 20th Century Antisemitism and Anti-Communism frequently went together because many Jews as a marginalized group were inclined towards Communism.  Some people were Anti-Communists because they were Antisemitic, and some were Antisemitic because they were Anti-Communist.  But during the 1950s as it became clear that Israel and the Soviet Union were going to be on opposing sides of the Cold War, this began to shift.  Otto Ernst Remer was a former high ranking Nazi Official who in the 1950s lead a Neonazi Party in West Germany called the Socialist Reich Party that was financed by the USSR.

In the United States two men who literally worked for the SD during the War and became Neonazi leaders after the War developed ties to Remer, Leers, Skorzeny and Amin al-Husseini and began arguing that USSR was not controlled by Jews anymore thanks to Stalin and Khrushchev's purges and that the Far Right and Far Left should work together against their common enemies of Israel and the United States, they considered American Style Capitalist society far worse and more degenerate than the Authoritarianism of Stalinist Russia.  They were H. Keith Thompson and Francis Parker Yockey, there is evidence Yockey possibly traveled to Russia and even spoke with Soviet leaders.  In the US their brand of Nazism didn’t catch on, The American Right is over all more Anti-Communist then Anitsemitic, so George Lincoln Rockwell’s firmly anti-Communist American Nazi Party was more popular, but in Europe Yockey’s approach was very influence including on Alexander Dugin.

That is the origin of the NazBol Vortex, but the modern Anarchists, LibComs and Breadtubers who oppose the NazBols still keep falling for the Anti-Zionist propaganda they popularized.

Nazis of the Rockwell variety were still too Anti-Semitic to support Israel, they generally tried to convince people that Israel was secretly actually with the Soviets.  And yeah Socialist parties were popular in Israel, but after the developments of the 50s none of them were ever Tankies.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Judeo-Menshevism

Too many online Leftists today want to minimize the Jewish Contributions to Socialism and Communism for the sake of refuting the Nazi Judeo-Bolshevism Conspiracy theory.  
That's a shame, I feel we should be proud of the influence of Jews and other marginalized peoples.  
And perhaps Jews are overrepresented among the philosophers of The Left because of the overlooked support for Communism in the Hebrew Bible, a book many Conservatives also consider Sacred.
But sadly mainstream Christians have trouble accepting the Communism even in the NT much less the Old because of how they've been influenced by Neo-Platonism and Rome.
The irony of the Judeo-Bolshevism narrative however is that the Bolsheviks were the least Jewish of the many factions of the 1917 Russian Left, in terms of their leadership at least. 
Perhaps the USSR's failures could have been avoided by being more Jewish?

Early Socialists who were Jews or had Jewish Ancestry
Moses Hess
Karl Marx (his family converted to Lutheranism when he was a child)
Ferdinand Lassalle
Paul Singer
Eduard Bernstein
Victor Adler
Victor L. Berger
Luise Kautsky
Morris Hillquit
Haim Kantorovitch

SRs who were Jews or had Jewish Ancestry
Mikhail Gots
Grigory Gershuni
Yakov Blumkin
Vsevolod Mikhailovich Eikhenbaum aka Volin

Leading Mensheviks who were Jews or had Jewish Ancestry
Pavel Axelrod
Lev Grigorievich Deutsch aka Leo Deutsch
Julius Martov
Lydia Dan
Fyodor Dan
The General Jewish Labour Bund in Lithuania, Poland and Russia

Bolsheviks who were Purged by Stalin and Khrushchev
Leon Trotsky
Adolph Joffe
Lev Kamenev
Grigory Zinoviev
Karl Radek
Béla Kun
Shmuel Weizmann 
Maria Weizmann
Polina Zhemchuzhina
Michael Metallikov
Bronislava Poskrebysheva
Solomon Mikhoels
Alexei Kapler
Ignace Reiss
Lazar Kaganovich

Spartacus League
Rosa Luxemburg
Leo Jogiches
Paul Levi
Mathilde Jacob

Bavarian Soviet Republic
Kurt Eisner
Ernst Toller
Gustav Landauer
Erich Mühsam
Eugen Leviné

Other German Socialists who had Jewish Heritage
Otto Landsberg (SPD), as far I can find the only notable Jew among the SPD members who supported the War Effort during WWI
Hugo Haase (SPD)
Alexander Parvus (SPD)
Kurt Rosenfeld (SPD)
Werner Scholem (KPD)
Ernst Heilmann (SPD)
Arkadi Maslow (KPD)
Ruth Fischer (KPO)
Gerhart Eisler (KPD)
The Frankfurt School also had some Jews but I'm not gonna list individuals since I don't like their pessimism.

Some might want to accuse me of simply labeling everyone outside Russia as non Bolshevik, but Rosa Luxemburg criticized Lenin while he still lived.  
Ernst Thalmann and Walter Ulbricht were the German stooges of Stalin, they were both Gentiles and the Weimar KPD declined under their leadership.

Labor Zionism
Aaron David Gordon
Nachman Syrkin
Oskar Cohn
Jacob Lestschinsky
Angelica Balabanoff
Albert Einstein
Haim Arlosoroff
Joseph Trumpeldor 
Zeev Latsky
Ber Borochov
Shmuel Niger
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
Yosef Sprinzak
Ya'akov Zerubavel
Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi
Berl Katznelson
Meir Ya'ari
David Ben Gurion
Moshe Sharett
Zalman Shazar
Levi Eshkol
Golda Meir
Ya'akov Hazan
Moshe Sneh
Meir Talmi
Victor Shem-Tov
Yigal Allon
Yitzhak Rabin
(Camille Huysmans was a Gentile leader of the Second International who also supported Zionism) 
(As well as Black Socialist Party of America leader Bayard Rustin)

American Anarchists
Emma Goldman
Alexander Berkman
Paul Goodman
Murray Bookchin
Noam Chomsky
David Graeber

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Property is actually irrelevant to the Definition of Communism or Socialism.

The definition of Communism is a Moneyless, Classless, Stateless society.  The definition of Socialism is collective ownership of the means of production.  Under those definitions a Communist society will inevitably qualify as Socialist but not every hypothetical Socialist society will qualify as Communist.  But neither definition is directly about "Property" per se.

Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto acknowledged that Property is technically irrelevant to the definition but still argued that in our then current situation (January of 1848) abolishing Capitalism would require abolishing private property.

Some Socialist thinkers like to make a distinction between "Private Property" and "Personal Property".  What I'm focusing on in this post is more specific then either of those however, this is specifically about land, is it compatible with Communism or Socialism to allow individuals or families some sense of ownership of the land they live on or house the live in?

Land ownership can be compatible if it's regulated.  If not all land is privately owned but much preferably most is common land.  If there is a limit to how much one person can accumulate, but also a minimum, every person or group should own their own home, home ownership shouldn't be something you have to "earn".  And any thing produced from that land should still be shared with the community.

People thinking whether or not there is or isn't private land property as the key cornerstone to defining Communism is why people keep thinking Kalliopolis in Plato's Republic or Thomas Moore's Utopia qualify as Communist societies even though they are absolutely Class based societies.

And it's also why people think it's absurd for me to call modern Dengist China the most Capitalist nation on Earth, "they don't have private property", they have worse Labor laws then even the United States and a Market based economy, I really don't care who owns what, that's pure Capitalism.

But it's also why people think you can't describe the system The Bible depicts The Israelites as living under during the Judges period as a form of Socialism.  These American Conservative Christians make a big deal out of how much The Bible talks about Property, however there were regulations on that property ownership that make it not compatible with the "Property Rights" philosophy held by modern Anarcho-Capitalists, Libertarians, Conservatives and Objectivists.  The Gleaning rights, the Tithes, the Sabbatical year and Jubilee laws, all paint the picture of a society the prioritizes making sure everyone's needs are provided for.

That applies in turn to certain separatist Christian sects, like the Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites who descend from the Anabaptists, that some may allow individual ownership of the house you live in is irrelevant, they are all Anarho-Communist societies.

That leads us to John Locke, John Locke is often thought of as the father of Liberal Capitalist conceptions of Property, but what he actually said was left unclear in many areas.  James Tully in 1980 argued that Locke's views on Property can be compatible with Socialist values.  Locke stressed the Labor Theory of Value, something which today only Socialists believe in unconditionally.  Locke also clearly said someone's right to claim exclusive ownership of something was only valid if it didn't disadvantage someone else.  I think the Left needs to stop letting Libertarians and Conservatives get away with claiming Locke exclusively for themselves.

Nicola Bonneville and Thomas Paine during the French Revolutions proposed forms of Communism that involved regulated land ownership.

Also here's an official statement of the Communist Party USA that was active during the Cold War.

Many myths have been propagated about socialism. Contrary to right-wing claims, socialism would not take away the personal private property of workers, only the private ownership of major industries, financial institutions, and other large corporations, and the excessive luxuries of the super-rich.[35]

This Party's split from the Socialist Party USA was entirely that they were more pro USSR.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Are there valid successful Socialist States?

That question seems be a key dividing issues in the modern American online Left's factional infighting.  And like many such fights few are willing actually bring any nuance to the conversation.  On the one side are people insisting Socialism has still never been tried (which includes Anarchists who think a benevolent state is not even hypothetically possible).  Then you have your MLs who think criticizing any state or party with a claimed Leninist lineage "serves imperialism".

For States in existence today I consider both Cuba and Vietnam legitimate examples of successful Socialist experiments.  Their societies still aren't perfect, under the model of Socialism they're going for the "higher phase" won't be possible till the entire world is Communist.  But they are still Revolutions that have improved the conditions of their working class and are not guilty of most of the crimes the western media seeks to level against them.  And I'm willing to say the same of Eva Morales in Bolivia.

However Modern China and North Korea are Fascist Ethno-States, Mao may have been legit, but China as it is now is an authoritarian Ethno-State.  The Baath Party and Fatah parties also also Fascist parties.  Caleb Maupin doesn't even limit his apologetics to dictators claiming to Communists, he even defends Nasser, a Green Shirt who hired multiple high ranking SS Officers and banned Egypt's Communist Party, Khrushchev asked him to unban it but he refused.  There is a video on YouTube of a speech where Nasser sounds like he's defending Socialism, but it's the same wishy washy abstract "socialism" you get from Social Democrats calling them Democratic Socialists.

Maupin also spreads this "color revolution" narrative, seeking to discredit Left Wing resistance movement within States he likes by pointing to their CIA backing.  Empires like the US will often back revolutionary movements within enemy nations simply to cause instability, even though the ideologies of those groups are ones they will also be opposing if they take power.  That does not discredit those movements as legitimately Leftist.  Because guess what, you can pull that same card on Lenin himself, Lenin was only able to get back to Russia in 1917 because of the assistance he got from the Kaiser.  The CIA may very well also wind up backing a revolution they shouldn't have.

So that leads me to finally talking about the USSR.  I believe that the Russian Revolution should have went a different route, the Socialist Revolutionary Party I think had the right ideas for Russia given how much Russia was still Feudal and Agrarian unlike the Industrialized states Marx and Engels were mainly thinking of when they wrote their theories.  The Left SRs would have handled the Kulak situation differently.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to demonize Lenin or even Stalin, in fact I disagree with separating them, whatever Stalin did you object to Lenin would have probably done the same.  And if anything Stalin was better since he ended the state persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is actually one of the Trotskyist criticisms of Stalin expressed by George Orwell in Animal Farm.  They did make Russia better, much of what's said to vilify them are lies, but they did do things I feel they shouldn't have.

As far as the Holodomor goes, I do believe the Kulak situation should have been handled differently, but calling it a Genocide is absurd.  Under the Tsars Russia had a famine about every decade, Socialists don't claim they can magically make the conditions that cause Famines disappear, none the less after having three Famines in the first 35 years of Bolshevik rule Russia had none between the end of WWII in 1945 and Gorbachev's Neo-Liberal reforms in 1985.  40 years of no Famine is considering Russia's material condition absolutely impressive.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Spiritual and Heavenly, what do they actually mean?

This post is kind of a follow up to God and The Universe.

The problem with all this talk from Platonized Christians of various forms about how Scripture is supposed to be interpreted "Spiritually" rather then "Carnally" is that the modern English connotations for words like "Spirit" and "Heaven" don't truly fit the original meanings of the Hebrew and Greek words being used in those verses.

The word "Sky" rarely appears in English translations of The Bible, because the primary Hebrew and Greeks words used to refer what we call the Sky are translated "Heaven".  Also "Celestial" is the same Greek word as Heavenly. Some verses even refer to the Dew as being of Heaven in the same way Fruits are of The Earth.  As if the Ancient Hebrews were not entirely ignorant of the Scientific fact that what we are looking at when we look at the Heavens is the same air we inhale when we breath.  

Which leads us to how the words translated "Spirit", "Ghost" and in the Hebrew at least "Soul" are also words for "Breath" and "Air", as is the word for "Life" when Leviticus 17 says the Life is in The Blood.  Leviticus is actually quite literally alluding to the scientific fact that our blood caries the oxygen we inhale from our Lungs to other parts of our body chiefly the brain, but translations obscure that to modern readers.  Adam became a living Soul when God breathed the breath of life into him.  And that same imagery describes the future Bodily Resurrection in Ezekiel 37.  The phrase translated "give up the Ghost" really just means to stop breathing, The Bible constantly refers to death as being asleep, not separate from the Body which is built on a misuse of one verse in 2nd Corinthians 5.

The Greek word translated Soul is Psyche a word we still use in modern English but with a seemingly completely different meaning to how we use Soul.  Most people aware of this assume it's the Psychological meaning that has no relation to Ancient Greek usage, but I feel the truth is closer to being the opposite.  Plenty of early Christians argued against the Immortality of the Soul as taught by Plato, Pythagoras and Origen.

So when in some contexts The Bible calls The Kingdom of which Jesus is King a Kingdom of Heaven rather then Earth, or uses Spiritual as a contrast to the Carnal/Physical/Natural, those are symbolic uses of those words that still derive from what they refer to materially.  

The Dualistic Platonic/Pythagorean senses of these words are in mind in how Paul uses them more then any other NT writers, but Paul while engaging with the Greeks is seeking to deconstruct that dualism.  People take out of context from 1st Corinthians 15 the "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven" and the contrasts that are made.  But what they build up to is saying the Bodily will put on the Spiritual, the Mortal will put on the Immortal, the separation between the material and Divine caused by the Fall is undone in The Resurrections.

So one Preterist YT video I watched part of went on about how in John's Gospel the "Jews" kept interpreting what Jesus said "Physically" or "Materially" when Jesus really meant something "Spiritual".

Jesus used metaphors and symbolism and figures of speech from time to time.  That doesn't mean those metaphors need to be interpreted in a Spiritual vs Physical paradigm.  Like when Orgasm is called a "little death", that expression is using one physical event to analogize another physical event.

The quote from John's Gospel about eating His flesh and drinking his Blood is obviously meant to be understood in terms of The Eucharist, the Last Supper depicted in the Synoptics and referred to by Paul, where His Body and Blood is symbolized by Bread and Wine.  So there are layers of symbolism there, when He was tempted by Satan he speaks of the true Bread of Life being the Word of God, the Scriptures, which is a part of the Material world.

The beginning of this theme is the Born Again teaching from John 3.  I disagree with most casual usage of the Born Again phrasing, but I'm no longer happy with my prior post on the subject, so I may have to redo it. Point here is the Birth imagery is indeed symbolic, it's symbolic of Resurrection.  Our conversion is merely when we're Begotten again.

And that Birth imagery being associated with Resurrection itself points to a physical Resurrection.  It has it's roots in Isaiah 26:19 in many translations saying "the Earth shall giver birth to her dead", terminology that refers to Revelation 20 talking about Hades and the Sea giving up the Death that are in them.  And those translations of Isaiah 26:19 must be the correct ones because all translation are setting up this birth imagery in verses 17 and 18.

There are three different Hebrew words for "dead" as in words you'd use to refer to dead people, all three are in Isaiah 26:19, as if YHWH through Isaiah really wanted us to get that there is no sense of Death not included in this Resurrection.  One of the words is frequently translated as specifically Corpse, being the word Leviticus uses when talking about being made unclean by touching a Carcass.

In this Birth metaphor the Earth is the mother, our dead corpse is the seed which enters her after our "big death" and our Resurrected perfected form is The Man Child of Revelation 12.  The Mother is also Israel in that Chapter, but Israel tied to her Land(Ertetz), Hephzibah and Beulah of Isaiah 62.

And that is complimented by the sowing imagery Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 15:37, our mortal Body is the seed that is planted in the Earth and from which our future Resurrection Body will sprout.  So yes our current bodies and future bodies are sometimes referred to as separate bodies, but that's not because they are completely separate things, there is still a continuity, just as in a sense I'm not the same person I was 15 years ago.  1 Corinthians 15:44 is clear that the Natural Body and Spiritual Body are the same matter, simply changed.

2 Corinthians 5 doesn't in any translation say "to be absent from the body is to be present with The Lord".  But either way in the context of what's set up at the start of the Chapter and what Paul had earlier taught to this same community in 1 Corinthians 15, "the Body" being spoken of just means our body in it's current mortal state before we put on immortality.  Nothing Paul says implies we are absent from the body when we Die, instead Paul consistently refers to physical death as being asleep.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Sects of First Century Judaism

This is what Josephus has to say in Antiquities of the Jews Book 18 Chapter 1.

2. The Jews had, for a great while, had three sects of philosophy peculiar to themselves. The sect of the Essens; and the sect of the Sadducees; and the third sort of opinions was that of those called Pharisees. Of which sects although I have already spoken in the second book of the Jewish war;1 yet will I a little touch upon them now.

3. Now for the Pharisees, they live meanly, and despise delicacies in diet; and they follow the contract of reason: and what that prescribes to them as good for them they do: and they think they ought earnestly to strive to observe reason’s dictates for practice. They also pay a respect to such as are in years: nor are they so bold as to contradict them in any thing which they have introduced. And when they determine that all things are done by fate,2 they do not take away the freedom from men of acting as they think fit: since their notion is, that it hath pleased God to make a temperament; whereby what he wills is done; but so that the will of man can act virtuously or viciously. They also believe that souls have an immortal vigour in them: and that under the earth there will be rewards, or punishments; according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life: and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison; but that the former shall have power to revive and live again. On account of which doctrines they are able greatly to persuade the body of the people: and whatsoever they do about divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, they perform them according to their direction. Insomuch, that the cities give great attestations to them, on account of their intire virtuous conduct, both in the actions of their lives, and their discourses also.

4. But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this; that souls die with the bodies. Nor do they regard the observation of any thing besides what the law enjoins them. For they think it an instance of virtue to dispute with those teachers of philosophy whom they frequent. But this doctrine is received but by a few: yet by those still of the greatest dignity. But they are able to do almost nothing of themselves. For when they become magistrates; as they are unwillingly and by force sometimes obliged to be; they addict themselves to the notions of the Pharisees: because the multitude would not otherwise bear them.

5. The doctrine of the Essens is this; that all things are best ascribed to God. They teach the immortality of souls: and esteem that the rewards of righteousness are to be earnestly striven for. And when they send what they have dedicated to God into the temple, they do not offer sacrifices: (3) because they have more pure lustrations of their own. On which account they are excluded from the common court of the temple: but offer their sacrifices themselves. Yet is their course of life better than that of other men; and they intirely addict themselves to husbandry. It also deserves our admiration, how much they exceed all other men that addict themselves to virtue, and this in righteousness: and indeed to such a degree, that as it hath never appeared among any other men, neither Greeks nor Barbarians, no not for a little time: so hath it endured a long while among them. This is demonstrated by that institution of theirs, which will not suffer any thing to hinder them from having all things in common: so that a rich man enjoys no more of his own wealth, than he who hath nothing at all. There are about four thousand men that live in this way: and neither marry wives, nor are desirous to keep servants: as thinking the latter tempts men to be unjust; and the former gives the handle to domestick quarrels. But as they live by themselves, they minister one to another. They also appoint certain stewards to receive the incomes of their revenues, and of the fruits of the ground; such as are good men, and priests: who are to get their corn, and their food ready for them. They none of them differ from others of the Essens in their way of living: but do the most resemble those Dacæ, who are called Polistæ. [Dwellers in cities.] (4)

6. But of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, Judas the Galilean was the author. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaick notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty; and say that God is to be their only ruler and lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death; nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends: nor can any such fear make them call any man lord. And since this immoveable resolution of theirs is well known to a great many, I shall speak no farther about that matter. Nor am I afraid that any thing I have said of them should be disbelieved: but rather fear that what I have said is beneath the resolution they shew when they undergo pain. And it was in Gessius Florus’s time that the nation began to grow mad with this distemper; who was our procurator; and who occasioned the Jews to go wild with it, by the abuse of his authority; and to make them revolt from the Romans. And these are the sects of Jewish philosophy.

Based on the Metaphysics it's clear that the sect of Judaism to which the Early Christians at least nominally belonged was basically the Pharisees.  That can be difficult for a moderner to wrap their head around given how much the word "Pharisees" is treated in Pop Culture as synonymous with being the "Bad Guys" of the Gospels.

Often people who clearly qualify as Christians but exist outside the mainstream will simply refer to what they oppose as "Christianity".  Likewise many have tried to explain to NGE's normie fans how Hideaki Ano's criticisms of Otaku are criticism made as an Otaku. 

There are hints in The Gospel narrative itself that Jesus' criticisms of the Pharisees are really criticisms from within directed at their leadership.  Josephus also tells us here that most of the common people were basically with the Pharisees, so those mass Crowds of people Jesus attracted must have been made up of lots of Pharisees. And then Josephus suggests a lot of people in positions of power were really Sadducees merely pretending to follow the popular religion.

In the first three verses of Matthew 23 Jesus tells us two things about the leaders of the Pharisees.  The seat they sit in makes them legitimate heirs of Moses, this to me confirms that the Sanhedrin of the Greco-Roman period does have unbroken continuity with the Council of Seventy Elders ordained in Numbers 11:16-25.  

The other appears to be that what they teach is correct, they simply don't practice what they preach.  Other things Jesus says about them may seem inconsistent with that.  But I think "from a certain point of view" how you practice what you preach can include how you teach it and interpret it.

In Acts 23:6 Paul identifies himself as still a Pharisee on simply the grounds that He believes in The Resurrection of The Dead.  So likewise all of Christianity can claim the same.

According to the timeline that can be inferred from The Talmud, Shammai was head of the Sanhedrin from 20-30 AD.  Some have observed similarities between the teachings of Jesus and Hillel the Elder, the head of the School that Shammai opposed.  This particular internal disagreement within the Pharisees doesn't come up in Josephus, possibly because in his time the Shammai school was already mostly defunct.  But the time period I and many others place the ministry of Jesus is at the height of Shammai's influence, so the Pharisees who are the bad guys of the Gospels could be mainly him and his followers.  I think some people online overstate the similarities between Jesus teachings and Hillel's to suit various misguided agendas of their own.  But it's interesting because modern Rabbinic Judaism also descends not only from the Pharisees but specifically Hillel's school.  Perhaps Shammai should have played the role of the made up Zerah (played by Ian Holm) in the 70s Jesus of Nazareth miniseries.

However even in Josephus's brief description of the Pharisees there is at least one disagreement with The New Testament view of The Resurrection, and that's how ONLY the "Righteous" will be Resurrected.  1 Corinthians 15,  Acts 24:15, Revelation 20, Jesus in John 5:28-29 are all clear that everyone no exceptions will rise again.  And The Hebrew Bible agrees with the NT on this in Daniel 12.  Now as a proponent of Universal Salvation I disagree with most mainstream Christians on exactly what it means that the unjust will face "Judgment" after their Resurrection, but we still agree that they will also rise again to a literal bodily Resurrection just like we will.

And that last point is key to why I wanted to discus the Doctrine of the Resurrection in the context of 1st Century Judaism.  Some people try really hard to abuse certain details of 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 5 to suggest Paul and other NT writers must mean by "Resurrection" something that is actually functionally the same as what either the Essenes (we live forever as immortal souls without a body) or Sadducees (no real after life at all) believed.  However we see here that people who believed those kinds of things in first century Judaism didn't use the language of Resurrection, so it's silly to think Paul would.

Another interesting observation I can make from Josephus's description is how there was a familiar debate about Human Free Will vs Divine Sovereignty.  With the Essenes being like Augustine and the Calvinists, while the Sadducees were more like Pelegius or the Arminians.  The Pharisees however have a more nuanced take on that tension that again I feel is closer to what The New Testament is actually saying, but could also be compared to the Stoic tradition in Greek Philosophy.  I also feel like the Sadducees are functionally Deists, what we today call Deism began in Greek Philosophy with Aristotle.

Many people want to connect the Essenes to the origins of Christianity based on their practicing a voluntary communalism similar to the Early Church in Acts.  But they did it for a different reason, they had inherited a Pythagorean notion of the Immortality of The Soul, and indeed Classical Pagan Pythagoreans also practiced a sort of Voluntary Communalism, but for both it was about viewing the physical world as a Prison they seek liberation from.  Early Christians lived this way to be a light within the world and salt of the earth.  The Early Christians were true Communists, the Pythagoreans were more like Strasserists or NazBols, they were in bed with totalitarian governments in Samos and Crotone, and likewise I had already argued years ago that those Josephus called Essenes were those Matthew 22 called Herodians.  Philo's description of the Essenes also repeats that they had the support of many "Great Kings".  I've also talked about the Pythagorean role in the origins of Puritanical Sexual Morality, and the Essenes seem to have been the same way on that too, as well their Misogyny, I think the Essenes were basically Herod's Proud Boys.  The Zealots were the Revolutionary Anarchists, and they were also originally a sect of the Pharisees.

Update: Of course much Confusion about the Essenes exist because of how they are conflated with the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Many have questioned that connection for reasons that have nothing to do with why I reject it.

I reject it in part, I don't think they all have a common origin.  Even if they did all come form that one settlement called Qumran, maybe the assumption everyone living there was all of the same sect is wrong.  Some Scrolls do seem fairly consistent with how Josephus described the Essenes, but others Scrolls mention the Resurrection, and also clearly have an interest in Eschatology and The Messiah.

Roman A. Montero in All Things In Common says the Pythagoreans weren't like the Essenes or Early Christians because they weren't Messianic or Apocalyptic.  But the thing is from what Josephus tells us, Eschatology was inherently the purview of the Pharisees, people with Essene or Sadducee views on the After Life would be just as uninterested in the Future as most Pagan Greeks were.  He also mentions how the Pythagoreans were a purely upper class phenomena, and again based on the Herodian connection I think the real Essenes were too.  It's possible at Qumran the Essenes were the Bourgeoisie who owned the place while the Pharisees were the Proletariat.

Update: "Everlasting Prison".

The "everlasting prison" in the above translation of Josephus description of the After Life view of the Pharisees might in some other translations read "eternal prison".  In this case Eternal/Everlasting is Aidios which in a real sense does mean that, not Aionios which never actually means that.

Some of my Universal Salvation allies make much out of the Pharisees here using different language then Jesus who used Aionios and not that particular word for "prison" either, saying Jesus would have used the same word if He also meant a punishment with no end.  But I feel we overstate our case on that one a bit.

First of all Jesus was not speaking in Greek in Matthew 25, and what ever main doctrinal statements the Pharisees had that Josephus got this from probably weren't in Greek either.  They were either Hebrew or Aramaic, I am also with those who believe Matthew's Gospel was originally written in one of those languages not Greek.  The possibility that Josephus and the New Testament are sometimes translating the same Semitic expression into Greek differently can't be ruled out.

However even the Greek words in question can have nuance to how they are used.  Jude used "Aidios chains" to describe an imprisonment that is clearly described as having an end.  And in my view those Angels are not Supernatural Angels but those who were swallowed up by the earth with Korah and Dathan.  So the Prison in the Pharisees eschatology could be Aidios in the same way Jude's Chains are.

Maybe my assumption that Josephus or the Pharisees he got that from were absolutely precluding the Unrighteous from future Resurrection was mistaken.  Maybe the contrasting language there is like those Bible Verses that seemingly contrast "Life" and "Judgment" at the Resurrection.

The Pharisees Jesus was most often in conflict with certainly seem like the kinds of people who wouldn't like Universal Salvation.  But I doubt the very idea was completely anathema in Pharisee circles.

In Josephus's description of the Zealots when he says they refuse to "call any man lord" for God is their only Lord, I do think that is a different Greek translation of the same sentiment Jesus expressed in Matthew 23:8-10, one says "Master" the other says "Lord".  

Usually when someone suggests Jesus and the Early Christians were Zealots it goes hand in hand with saying the Pacifist parts of His teaching were a later Romanized white washing.  However I have come to see the Zealot movement as like the Anabaptists of the 16th Century and Secular Anarchists of modern history, they included Violent Rebels like Thomas Munster, Pacifist Separatists like those the Mennonites, Hutterites and Amish descend from, and many gradients in-between.  The reputation of the violent rebels is often used to justify not believing the pacifists when they claim to be non violent.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Hamartia, what does "Sin" actually mean?

People outside The Faith will often look at passages like Romans 3 saying "All have Sinned" and that we are all Sinners as being a very misanthropic sentiment, and some Christians do also treat it that way.  However the problem is that the harshness of what "Sin" has come to mean to English speakers is no longer a good translation of the Greek or Hebrew concepts being referenced.

The Greek word that Paul, Peter, John and others are using in The New Testament is Hamartia and others forms of that word.  Hamartia is in origin it seems an Archery term, most literally meaning "to miss the mark".  Saying we are all Sinner is just Paul's way of saying nobody's perfect.  Hence "come short of the glory of God".  Now in just these early chapters of Romans it sounds like the consequences of merely being imperfect are pretty harsh, but this is in the context of him arguing agaisnt people way more judgmental then he is as he ultimately argues God has no intention of casting off even the worst of us.

When you look into literary analysis people talk about the concept of a "tragic flaw" that goes back to Aristotle's writings on the subject.  That two word phrase is a translation of one word Aristotle used, Hamartia, I use Hamartia in this literary sense on another blog in my recent School Days analysis, but I wrote that already planning to write this and will probably go back and add links to this post.  It amuses me how rarely this connection is made.

Red of OverlySarcasticProductions in her video on Tragedies says that a character's "Tragic Flaw" can also be the same as their virtue in a different context.  And indeed I'd argue many of the best Superman stories involve the villain trying make a weakness of the very thing that makes him a Hero, and the same thing sometimes happens in Magical Girl Anime.  Now many Christians may have trouble with the idea of this being applicable to The Bible's use of Hamartia, but remember when Paul called himself the Chief of Sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15?  Well the Sin he means is confirmed by what he said earlier in the chapter to be his former status as a persecutor of the Church, and I would argue the very character traits that made Paul a dangerous enemy of The Church are what later made him a powerful advocate for it.

However I also think to a large extent the Jewish writers of The New Testament are using Hamartia to translate the Hebrew Bible's concept of Chet'/Chatta'/Chatta'ah, which is also frequently translated Sin and is the word used to name the Sin Offering of the Levitical Sacrificial system.  When 2 Corinthians 5:21 says Jesus was made Sin for us, it's defining Him as a Sin Offering as the Hebrew of those Torah passages usually don't feature a word for offering as a separate word.

The Sin offering is defined as being offered to atone for violations of the Torah committed in Ignorance, the Trespass offering is for violations that were "high handed" (I've seen that suggested as the best translation), but neither is sufficient for actual capital offenses.

Hebrew Roots people will take 1 John 3:4's statement that "Sin is transgression of the Law" to prove that "yes The Torah does still apply no matter often Paul appears to say otherwise".  However that ignores how in The Torah not all transgressions of The Law are what the word "Sin" refers to.

On The Cross Jesus said "Father forgive them for they know not what they do", he defined their actions as Sins committed in ignorance even though by any normal standard they clearly aren't.  Matthew 9:10-13 tells us to think of Sin as an illness that needs treatment, not a crime that needs punishment.  Which is why many theologians see that statement from The Cross as ultimately applying to all the wrongdoings of all Mankind.

Related to this is the issue of cleanness and uncleanness in the Torah.  People keep assuming those passages are about some mystical spiritual uncleanness, but they aren't, they are just literal hygiene laws.

Like how some people keep citing the verse saying Women are "unclean" when they menstruate as some proof of The Bible's horrible sexism.  The Torah is imperfect so I'm not going to claim there is nothing patriarchal about it.  But that exact same chapter of Leviticus says the same about Male Ejaculate and bodily waste.  It's just a passage telling us to wash our hands and shower.

"What about the story where Jesus refused to wash his hands and then clearly moral uncleanness".  The thing about that incident is that I'm wiling to bet Jesus had washed His hands, just not in the specific public ritual customary to that group of Pharisees.  What He said there was in response to that they were thinking of ritual spiritual cleanness because Hellenistic ideas were already infecting 1st Century Judaism.