Friday, July 26, 2019

The Pagan Egyptian Origins of Antisemitism

The first thing I want to clarify is that this is not in any way being done with an agenda to exonerate Christianity of the Antisemitism we've been guilty of.  The origins of Antisemitism have nothing to do with the fact that The Church has over a Millennia of Jewish Blood on it's hands.  Antisemtism was creeping into the Church already before Constantine and once we held state power we quickly became it's driving force.

And yes that means that during the last 15 centuries even most Antisemitism committed by non Christians is still indirectly a product of the cultural influence of Christian Antisemitism.  Islamic Antisemitism has it's roots in the Antisemitism of the Eastern Roman Empire and Axumite kingdom that had been festering for decades before Muhammad was born.  And whatever your theory on the actual religious views of the Nazi Party leadership, they didn't invent German Antisemitism, it was a bandwagon they jumped onto that had been jump-started by Martin Luther's On The Jews and Their Lies and reached it's zenith with Houston Stewart Chamberlain who definitely saw himself as a Christian whether you think he qualifies or not.

If this post has an agenda at all, it's to convince Christians not to be Antisemitic, a common tactic in trying to argue that something the Church has been doing for a long time is something we shouldn't do is to point out it was already a part of the Pre-Christian Pagan Greco-Roman culture and so our adopting it rather then opposing it is evidence of the Church's corruption.  I've on this blog already taken that tactic in my wars against Homophobia/Augustinian Sexual Morality and the doctrine of Endless Torment.

In other words I'm arguing the fact that the Pagans did it first is all the more reason we should have known better.

Still there are some secularists out there, particularly of the New Atheist persuasion, who want to claim Antisemitism is an inherently Christian problem and would never have existed without Christianity.  So refuting that can be viewed as a secondary goal of this post, but it's of much lower priority.

You might at first assume the thesis of this post is going to be that Antisemitism began with the Hebrews being slaves in Egypt, but while the Exodus narrative has a role to play in what I'll talk about here, directly speaking no it's not.

The fact is there isn't really anything much like what we today think of as Antisemtism in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), just Israel as a nation having enemies the way most nations inevitably do.  The closest would be the example of Haman in the book of Esther, but even then that is the story of one weird nut-job who tried to commit Genocide because one Jew bruised his ego.  Some modern fiction based on the book has sought to make Haman more like a modern Antisemite, the movie where he's played by Gaius Fraking Baltar is a ridiculously fun film, but not a good history lesson.  Antiochus Epiphanes is another kinda Biblical figure often linked to the history of Antisemitism, but he was a King oppressing the indigenous people of a land in his empire, so an asshole but a different kind of asshole.

What we're looking for is Diaspora Jews being painted as a simultaneously internal and external threat to the nation they live in, as a boogeyman who is simultaneously incredibly weak and incredibly powerful.

The Jewish Diaspora in Egypt probably begins with the Elephantine Colony, the origin of which is controversial.  But it's traditionally said to have ended when the various Pagans of the Island suddenly rioted and destroyed the Elephantine temple, but that narrative too is shrouded in oral legend.

The history of Jews in Alexandria and Ptolemaic followed by Roman Egypt is what the focus of this post shall be.

Alexandria was founded by Alexander The Great in 332 BC, and from it's foundation Alexander gave any Jews who chose to move there the same privileges as the Greeks and Macedonians.  This city wound up becoming where Alexander would be buried and the capital of Ptolemy's Successor Kingdom, the "King of the South" of Daniel 11.  I can't discern when tensions between these different populations of Alexandria began, but tensions did emerge.

Manetho was an Egyptian Priest who lived in the Third Century BC, during the reign of either Ptolemy I or Ptolemy II Philadelphus he wrote a History of Egypt in Greek that is the source of our modern system of organizing the Kings of Egypt into 30 Dynasties.  We do not have what Manetho wrote in full, only how he was quoted and paraphrased by later sources, the oldest surviving of which is Josephus in his Against Apion, some scholars think even by Josephus time the original works of Manetho were already lost and he was only known from later revisions of what he wrote.  So maybe what I'm about to talk about didn't actually come from Manetho, but it was part of Manetho's history as it was known in the 1st Century AD.

At some point Manetho's history came to include a sort of alternate Egyptian POV account of the Exodus narrative and the origins of the Jews, which later Greco-Egyptian writers expanded on.  Josephus while seeking to refute this narrative wound up accepting part of it, the identification of the Hebrews with the Hyksos.  That identification was made for the purpose of changing the Jews from the oppressed to the oppressors.

While this revisionist narrative began with the Hyksos identification it doesn't end there.  Moses is identified with an Egyptian Priest said to have lived much later then the Hyksos expulsion named Osarseph during the reign of a Pharaoh named Amenophis.  Amenophis is how Manetho commonly rendered the name Amenhotep, but chronologically this Amenophis seems to be the one who reigned after Rameses Miamun, the Pharaoh we commonly know as Merneptah.  This Osarseph lead a revolt of lepers and other "unclean" people of Egypt and conspired with the Hyksos to temporarily drive Amenophis out of Egypt.  This is also the origin of thinking the Exodus happened during the 19th Dynasty, conventional chronology actually points more to an 18th Dynasty Exodus at the latest.

You can already see how a narrative like that parallels a lot of modern Antisemitic myths about where the Jews came from, like the whole Edomite Mud People nonsense, (when I first watched the pilot of Justified I figured that couldn't possibly be real a real thing, but I eventually learned it was).  A desire to see them as inherently degenerate and untrustworthy.

An apocryphal 1st Century text known as III Maccabees tells a story about Ptolemy IV trying to kill all the Jews of Alexandria by gathering them together and having them trampled by drunk Elephants but then being saved by divine intervention.  Josephus in Against Apion says this attempted Genocide was tried by Ptolemy VIII.  I'm amused by how many Christians like Bishop James Ussher prefer to side with III Maccabees on which one did this even though that text is clearly a dramatized narrative while Josephus was a Historian who in this particular work was focusing on things he was confident his enemies could fact check for themselves in the gentile sources they had.  But it could be this incident simply happened twice, Ptolemy VIII doesn't seem like someone known for having original ideas.

Remember all of this was going on in Alexandria while Alexandria was the cultural and intellectual capital of the Hellenistic world.  So what people thought of the Jews there often spread elsewhere.

Fortunately places where Antisemitism festered often had Philosemites to balance things out.  Cleopatra II was a great friend of the Jews who I'm a big fan of and think is much more worthy of having 100 films made about her then Cleopatra VII who we descendants of Rome find interesting simply because she shagged a couple famous Romans.  Speaking of Cleopatra VII, Josephus also records that during the siege of Alexandria she made a deliberate decision to try to starve the Jewish population to death.

Now we come to the Antisemitic crisis that occurred during the reign of Gaius Caligula.  Which Josephus talks about more in Antiquities of The Jews then in Agaisnt Apion.  But our main primary source isn't Josephus but Philo of Alexandria.  Philo wrote 5 books on this subject but only two of them have survived, Flaccus and Embassy to Gaius.  Most of our sources on the notorious Caligula are sources written after he died, Philo's Embassy is actually the only eye witness account of the Mad Emperor we have.

The Reign of Caligula is after Christianity already started to exist (unless you're a New Atheist conspiracy theorist), but we were still a sect of Judaism and hadn't really spread outside of Judea and Syria yet.  I remember reading one early source I've forgotten that said it was 12 years after the Crucifixion that the Apostles first left Judea, even by the earliest plausible date for the Crucifixion, 29 AD, the entirety of Caligula's reign is within 12 years.

The Governorship of Flaccus was only when these tensions finally first boiled over into the Alexandria Riots of 38 AD.  In Embassy we see that Caligula himself was quite Antisemitic, which may well be a product of how much he desired to be like the Ptolemies which was also part of the reason for his incest with Drusilla.  He called the Jews "hated of the gods" showing even the desire to make Antisemitism theological was already there.

This crisis was not the end of the Antisemitism in Alexandria, Josephus was born after Caligula died and he wrote Against Apion after he'd already written Wars of the Jews and Antiquities of The Jews in response to Antisemitic Alexandrians saying his history of the Jews was BS.

But the question now is, can I draw a line from that Antisemitism to the beginnings of Christian Antisemitism?

There is one quote of Ignatius of Antioch that is sometimes called Antisemitic.  What he says in that quote I consider wrong as it's an early expression of what I call Reverse Legalism, which is an attitude often expressed by Antisemtic Christians but I do not consider it inherently Antisemitic on it's own.  It was solely him expressing an opinion on what Christians should and shouldn't do in our worship.

So the first really major expression of Antisemitism in the Early Church was the Pseudepigrapha known as the Epistle of Barnabas.  There are a few reasons to suspect that epistle was Egyptian in origin.  Our earliest references to it among Early Church writers are Clement and Origen, and the oldest text of it we have is it's inclusion in the Sinaticus, one of the Alexandrian Bibles.  I also have another theory I'm working on that would explain why Alexandrians would have been particularly interested in forging a work in the name of Barnabas, but that would be a distraction here.

There is an Antisemitic quote attributed to Origen, but I can't find a place online saying specifically what writing of Origen it's from.  So I have to consider this one iffy for now.

Constantius II was the first Christian Emperor to persecute the Jews and he's also known as the Arian Emperor because he was influenced by Arians, Arius was a deacon of Alexandria originally and his heresy is derivative of things Origen and Clement taught.  Some try to make Arius more philosophically Anitochian but there is no solid evidence Lucian actually taught anything proto-Arian.

John Crysostom is a source of some very Antisemitic quotes, but he seems to be atypical of the general attitude of Antiochian Christians at the time as the very context of those quotes are his outrage that most Christians in Antioch were actually getting along with The Jews.

But the major vital escalator of Antisemitism in Christianity was Cyril of Alexandria via his influence on Theodosius II and Augustine of Hippo.

And it was permanently cemented by Justinian as he was seeking to reconcile the Chlaceodnian and Miaphsyte traditions (which both revered Cyril) by scapegoating the Nesotrians and other Anitochians, and increased persecution of non-Christians in the Empire.  Revolts broke out against him in the Holy Land.

Monday, July 15, 2019

How can a "Socialist" State not be "real Socialism"?

This is a response to a YouTube Video from the Casual Historian called Arguing Like a Communist, which presents an alleged 'absurdity" of Nazis doing the same thing.

The problem is it's built on several strawmen.

His argument is that "you can't say a regime wasn't a real follower of an ideology just because it didn't achieve the goals of that ideology".  And at face value that seems like a valid argument.  But there are several problems.

Number 1, Nazism and Italian Fascism didn't "fail" they were defeated militarily.  And most people who despise their ideology don't argue they did or would have failed, quite the contrary they are terrified they would have succeeded if they were left alone which is why so many liberals contradict their usual anti-war stance on that particular war.  They are opposed because what their stated goal was is considered morally repugnant.  Or at the very least their methods are inherently immoral whether they would "work" or not.

With Communism on the other hand many people, even people who tend to vote Republican, are willing to say that in theory the intended end result of Communism is nice, they just don't think it's at all realistically possible.  Though I suspect many of those people aren't as okay with it as they say they are, they are attached to Meritocracy the same way the Pharisees were.

But the real reason it's not credible to claim the Regimes of Mussolini and Hitler are not valid implementations of Fascist and Nazi ideology is because Mussolini and Hitler were the authors of those ideologies, and anyone else who could be considered a co-author was also part of the regime.  You could argue they descended from earlier 19th and even late 18th century philosophies, but they are still ultimately distinct, (and plenty of those possible ancestors are considered valid philosophies today in-spite of their association with Fascism and Nazism).  So it's absurd to suggest they were not true believers or merely following a corrupted form.

Karl Marx died while Lenin was still a child and the two did not speak the same language.  And even then Marx was not the actual birth of Socialist or Communist Ideology and many contemporary with him disagreed with his "dictatorship of the proletariat" idea.  Forms of those ideologies go back centuries which I've talked about before and will talk about more.

Meanwhile so many people saying Socialism always fails and dismissing the "excuses" Socialists make do make excuses for the problems of Capitalism, trying to call it "Crony Capitalism" as if Cronyism isn't in innate part of Capitalism.  Including myself back when I was still a conservative on this very blog making a post claiming America isn't truly Capitalist.

But let's return to the issue of being defeated militarily not being an ideology failing.  There are plenty of Anarchist/Libertarian Communist Experiments in history that were doing well before a militarily stronger force shut them down.  I created this YouTube Playlist for videos discussing them, feel free to suggest more if you come across any.  But those aren't Marxists.

Of "Communist" countries said to not be true Communism the most absurd one to me is China.  China isn't just failing to achieve the stated goal of Communism/Socialism, it is 100% absurd to me to allege they are even trying, at all.  In fact I think they are the MOST Capitalist nation on earth.

Just because some attempts at Socialism fail doesn't mean the entire idea is bad.  If you do truly agree the goal of Communism is a good one, then in my opinion the moral thing to do is to keep trying till we succeed and not simply give up.

Now that said, with both the USSR and Kastro's Cuba there are plenty of arguments online that they haven't "failed" the way many allege.  Now you're not gonna convince me Stalin wasn't a brutal dictator, but frankly that's irrelevant to if the Economic policy he claimed to espouse was good or not.  Here is one video I like that presents some context for the supposed "failure" of the USSR.

But it's mainly Cuba that the Capitalist Media is definitely lying about.  The massive Poverty Cuba has is because of the Embargo not because of it's Socialism.  But in-spite of Cuba's problems the poorest in the country are much better off then they were under Batista, many places have local Hospitals they didn't have before.  YouTuber azureScapegoat has done a number of videos on Cuba, and other subjects.

I'll leave you now with this Peter Coffin video.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

2020 will be a pretty important Election Generationally.

It will be the first election in which 100% of people who qualify as Millennials will be old enough to vote, even the absolute youngest of us.  And also the first Presidential Election in which people too young to qualify as Millennial will be old enough to Vote, in which people born in this Century/Millennium will be able to contribute to deciding who will shape it.

I've already talked about how I believe the voting age should be lowered and so it shouldn't have taken this long.  But it did and we should pay attention to that.

What's disappointing is that this is the 2nd Election in which some Millennials are old enough to Run for President, and yet none has.  The youngest Candidate running in either of these Elections to be considered viable enough to even get into the Debates is Andrew Yang and he was born in 78, so still two years to old to qualify as a Millennial.

But perhaps he's close enough, many people his age have younger siblings who qualify, and the 90s would have the same Nostalgic significance to him that the 00s have to me.

But in the 2024 Election I will tolerate no more excuses, if someone born in the 80s isn't on one of those debate stages I will be vocally annoyed.  "But the Boomers didn't get a President till some of them were in their late 40s" you may respond.  Well yes that's part of the problem, the Boomers didn't take power till they were already too old for it and we don't need that happening again.

Hell we still have people older then the Boomers being allowed to run which is just ridiculous.  Someone who'd be turning 80 during their first year in office should definitely not be allowed to run in my opinion.

In addition to wanting to lower the Age you can Vote at, I'd also lower the Age you can run for President by at least five years. I feel most truly great forward thinking world leaders of Human History were younger then 35 when they took power.  From a Biblical Standpoint David was Crowned at 30.

Technically in 2020 I'm about the youngest person old enough to run in 2020.  I'll be turning 35 on the last day of October of that year.  I however am someone who's done nothing with my life besides writing these Blogs.

I'm probably gonna Vote for Yang even if someone younger jumps in, I am using more then just age to decide.  But my message to politicians my age is simply to prepare to run in 2024.