6. Abraham

 

Abraham is depicted as the sun hero. The name of his father, Terah, is by C.Autran (Tarkondemos, 1922) identified with the name of the Anatolian sun hero, Tarhunna- = “the victorious one”. We have to work on with the Syrian “sol invictus” symbolism in mind. Abraham travels through the country to the “tree of the visionary”, Gen 12,6. His wife, Sara, is also called his sister, and much of what is told about El Cronos, that he travelled through the land, circumcised his followers, brought his only begotten (monogenes) son as a sacrifice, is also told of Abraham.

Sara is like the Near Eastern goddess: when she was in Gerar (= foreign), every womb was closed, 20,18. As during Ishtar´s stay in the nether world.

Both in the prediction of the birth of Jishmael and Jitzhag, the “stile elements” mentioned above are used. Jishmael is described as the hunter. His hand is raised against everybody. He is the son of an Egyptian woman and married to an Egyptian wife. As in the Hellenistic novels, Egypt takes the role of the land in the sunset, the land of death and slavery.

Jitzhag is, like Gilgamesh and Moses and Mithras, the provider of water. He reopens the wells of his father 26,18. Digs the well at Esek 26,19f. At Sitna, at Rehoboth, at Beershebah 26,21-32. The infant, Jishmael, experiences supernatural survival in the desert, but is not banished to the wilderness by some cruel king of chaos. But this is certainly the case with the child in Rev. 12. Its mother has to flee to the desert and “is given the wings of the great eagle” to be able to escape the dragon, v.14. In the song of Moses, Israel is the divine child living in the desert where it is saved by the eagle, Deut. 32,10-14, and on its wings carried to “the Heights of the Earth”, acc to A.Jeremias[1] the mythical mountain where the child is able to suck honey from the rock and is fed with yoghurt and milk from sheep. The child is, like Mithras, “born from the rock”, v.18a. 

Out of the rock was also born Dusares in Petra, and his birth was celebrated each year at midwinter. ”In Petra and Elusa was, in the same night (as the birth of Aion in Alexandria), celebrated the birth of Dusares by Xaamou, this is Kore, the virgin,” says the church father, Epiphanius (Pan.LI,22,11). “XAAMOY” is, acc. to J.Milik, a scribal error for XA^ MOY= ´almu(t) = “virginity”[2].

 

Abraham sets out from Ur in Iraq, and Jacob dies in Goshen in the delta of the Nile. Abraham is the sun-hero threatened by massive darkness Gen. 15,7ff.: The sun has set, fear and a great darkness has fallen upon Abraham (´alathah is derived from ´lth = ”being dense, thick” – the thickness and impenetrability of the darkness is underlined). Then the “torch of fire” and the “smoking furnace” (the same “double device” as Exod.13,21 leading the exodus) appear and go through the animals laid out as an offering (go through Hebr.: ´br , the same word is used about Abraham’s going through the country until he comes to the holy oak-tree,12,6),

Going through (´br) is, acc to A.Jeremias, a word used about a celestial body crossing the high night sky from east to west. This term. tech is also found in the mysteries of Mithras, transitus (Latin), where it stands for Mithras' journey through toil to victory as the Victorious Sun. The symbolism of the offering is to secure a passage for the sun-hero through massive darkness, symbolized by the thick night, but also by the slaughtered animals. They symbolize the holy trinity of primordial reality by the different species of horned cattle (heifer, stag, goat) and the age: 3 years old. The union of male and female: heifer is female, stag male, and goat can be both. Holy ecstasy is symbolized by the double offering of a turtle-dove and a young pigeon. The trinity connected with the highgod is both seen in his epiphany 18,2, in the offering 15,8 and in the triple epiphany of his hero (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob).

Through primordial reality symbolized by the old holy triple offering (in Latin the suovetaurelia), a path is cut for the sun-warrior: this is exactly the meaning of the bull-sacrifice in the mysteries of Mithras. The bull-sacrifice is cosmogony and creating space for the sun and moon to shine and run their course. Later Abraham is offered wine and bread by the priest of El Elioun (“The Most High”) also the mysteries of Mithras seem to go back to the Anatolian mysteries of Theos Hypsistos acc. to a very important study by Per Beskow[3]. The meaning of Hypsistos is “The Most High”, and Mithras must be seen in connection with the Syrian Sol Invictus-religion.

The result of the offering is a promise to Abraham of the whole area from Ur/Eufrat to Goshen/the Nile, the whole route traced by the wanderings of the sun-hero.

The best parallel to the long journey of the patriarchs ending with Jacob's death in Egypt, the dramatic exodus and the long wanderings in the desert, is the Hellenistic novels where the hero has to leave Phoenicia; his beloved is taken away from him, in Egypt he or she is kept in prison, but finally, through many dramatic tribulations, they are united and can finally return to Tyre. This is the plot in the novel by Achilles Tatius cf The Story of Apollonius, King of Tyre. In "The Wonders beyond Thule" it is not Egypt, but Thule which is the land of death, but the bringer of death is an Egyptian magician. Behind these novels is the myth of Melqart, the Tyrian Heracles, the first to sail the sea, the sun hero travelling west across the great sea to the land of the setting sun (Egypt,Thule), or a slightly different variation: the myth of Europa taken away across the sea, and Cadmos, “Dawn”, sent out to search for her and finally united to another goddess, Harmonia, and with her continuing the west-bound journey, at last being changed into snakes (the journey is also an ecstatic journey, the ascent of the kundalini-double-snake).

The suouetaurilia, reserved for Mars alone, recall not only the Greek trittyes but, more precisely, the sacrifice to Indra of a bull, a ram, and a he-goat. In both India and Rome there is the same demand for the physical perfection of the victim, and the same need for assurance that it will answer the requirements of the ceremony, right down to its entrails. In both India and Rome, in contrast with Greek practice, the portion allotted to the gods is reduced to a few vital organs… (G. Dumézil[4])

We have every reason to believe that this triple cattle-sacrifice was an old tradition reaching back to prehistoric times and closely associated with the god of violent ecstasy. In Rome the god of the wolf-warriors, in India the soma-drinking war-god Indra. Dumézil has compared the suouetaurelia-sacrifice with the Indian sautramani-sacrifice consisting of goat, ram, bull [5]This sacrifice is often used as “medication”, purification (pavitra), it delivers from all sin (papmanah) and cures the mystical exhaustion to which an earlier sacrifice of soma subjected the bringer of the sacrifice.  The triple cattle-sacrifice is the symbol of the suffering god of life, but following the strong tendency to synthesis, a symbol of the demon god is added instead of the goat: the boar both in Syria, in Catal Hüyük and in Egypt responsible for killing the god of life (Adonis,Attis,Osiris).

As Moses has to strike the rock to get water, Mithras has to shoot arrows into it to get a gushing forth of water. And Gilgamesh and Isaac have to dig many wells. In Psalm 84 the pilgrims travel through the Baca valley on their journey to the holy mountain, and like the sun-hero they take strength from God and change the valley into many wells. Life giving water is part of the cosmos creating activity. Also Is 35 is about a road made even by the Lord through the land of chaos (v.8), and along the road guiding those who return to the holy Mt Zion, wells and brooks will appear. It is the same road spoken of in Is 40,3: the valley shall be raised, the mountains lowered to create an even road for the going forth of the Glory of JHVH (God's epiphany, his coming to Zion in the glory of the rising sun is seen as the going forth of the sun-hero, clearing a road for the light to shine and the water to run in an originally dark, chaotic and closed universe).

The sun-hero’s cosmos-creating nature is often contrasted with the chaotic nature of the hunter. Jishmael and Jitshaq, are as shown by the paronomasia, contrasting brothers, Jishmael becoming an inhabitant of the desert, “an onager-man” and a master of the bow, where Jitshaq is the peaceful digger of wells. Esau is the hunter, living in the wilderness and hairy like an animal. Jacob is civilized, living in a tent, Gen 25,27f.

In the final poem Gen 49 Joseph, as the chosen son, is contrasted with most of the other brothers: the three eldest sons, Ruben,Simon & Lewi, are disqualified by different chaotic deeds, breaking the strongest sexual taboo and being men of wrath, killing, and molesting the sacred bulls. Like the lion-grabber Judah grabbs his enemies by their necks, being himself a lion in strength, his brothers are wolf, snake, donkey - all chaotic animals making up the helping troops of the hunter. Mithras is followed by dog, lion, snake, scorpion and black raven, Resheph by donkey, lion, scorpion, snake.

Like a young god of vegetation Joseph is identified with a fruit bearing tree by the well, like the god of vegetation he is attacked by hunters, ”bowmen”, but his strength comes from the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel, he has his strength from the primordial mountains, he is blessed with an even greater blessing than the eternal hills.

Now, if the reflections of the typical life of the sun hero are seen in the patriarchs, if Moses is the “son” surviving the attacks of the evil king of chaos by hiding in the sphere of the highgod (on the water, among the bulrushes, among the shepherds) and if the going out of Egypt is a parallel to the liberation of the god and goddess from imprisonment in the land of the sunset or death (Egypt, Thule, the underworld) in the Hellenistic novel, is this not a further proof of it all being nothing but fiction and legend without any historical core? This is suggested by the so-called “Copenhagen school" headed by professor N.P.Lemche.

I am not with all my heart able to support professor Lemche. In my opinion the careful reader of the Bible must focus on the typological understanding of the Old Testament common in the New Testament and among the early church fathers:

The culmination of the wanderings of the nomadic believer, and the pilgrimage of the chosen people through the desert, is the walking in the footsteps of Jesus up to Mt Zion, and, on an even higher level the coming of the nations to the New Jerusalem (whose pyramidal dimensions are underlined). Adam is created to rule over nature, and by this he is the image of God ruling in the universe. The tabernacle is the earthly image of a heavenly throne. Jesus himself is an image of God. God enthroned and surrounded by the 24 Elders is the heavenly reality shining down in the Sunday service on the bishop sitting on his cathedra surrounded by the benches of the presbyteroi, Rev 4,4.

As in the philosophy of Plato, divine reality is reflected, or tries to reflect, its glory in earthly shadows. The most important aspect of this is the mystery of the dying god, foreshadowed already in the dawn of time in the pure and chosen sacrifice of the shepherd Abel, becoming himself the first victim of growing evil. Later the lamb is brought as a substitute for the first-born, pointing to the First-born son, Jesus, who has to die as the Easter-lamb, as the Only Begotten son, Isaac, being presented as a sacrifice on Mt. Moria. As the blood of the Yom Kippur sacrifice is brought into the inner sanctuary, his blood cleanses from all sins and opens a path into the inner sanctuary, into the presence of God. He is finally hailed as the lamb “looking as it had been slain", Rev 5,6ff.

The typological understanding and the character of the Bible as the guide-book to an inner mystical ascent or travel is underlined in a splendid new book by Erik A.Nielsen, Solens Fødsel (“The Birth of the Sun”), 1998. Nielsen also pays some attention to the important symbol of the pyramid. In my opinion the pyramid is the symbol of the world-mountain, a symbol of mystical centre and ascension/apotheosis, of the four corners of the world ascending to unity in the summit. The plurality of this world changed into mystical unity.

There is always an element of reservation in the description of the ascent. The patriarchs can only dwell as strangers in the promised land. The generation that left Egypt has to die and give birth to a wholly new generation before the people of Israel can reach the holy land. The disciples cannot follow Jesus in the final ascension (on the cross, Marc 10,38), but they leave him and fly. Man can not by his own power reach the final goal.

In his book Israeliterne i Palæstina, 1977, B.Otzen tries to penetrate to the historical core behind the Abraham- and Moses-story (by peeling off all the layers of legend). The result is as thrilling as a detective story: the exodus from Egypt was only done by a single tribe, Ephraim, and its military success led the other tribes to accept its faith in JHVH. The Abraham story is evidence of an immigration of tribes from Aram Naharayim in North Syria(!) Moses got his JHVH-faith from Jetro and a Cenite tribe (counting its descent from Cain). Alas such speculations cannot be much more than speculations. But what a splendid academic exercise are not these wild guesses? The book reminds me of the theologians who seem to know for sure that the Easter-gospel about the women going out to the grave is a legend. How can they be so firm and dedicated in their belief, how can they be so sure that this is “science”?

In the long term such science will prove just as fruitless as the mania for splitting up the five books of Moses in different sources: the Yahveh source, the Elohim-source, the document of the priests.

Sara taken away and brought back to Abraham is the goddess, the power of fertility, taken away and regained. The coming back of the sun-hero in spring (from death in the underworld), the raising of Melqart from the underworld is, in Judea, the exodus of the whole of the chosen people from slavery in Egypt.

Joseph is most certainly a sun hero: his imprisonment in Egypt is truly a descent to Hell, and he talks about “all his labour" (´amal, same word as in Is 53,11: salvation "because of the hard toiling of his soul"), Gen 41,51, cf. the "labours" of the sun hero Heracles. He seems torn to pieces by a wild animal, but a goat has functioned as his substitute. He is mourned over as over a dead person, 37,33ff. He is finally married to a girl who bears the name of a goddess: Asenat (cf the goddess Asenatqona), daughter of Potiphera´ = “soli propius” acc. to Gesenius-Buhl´s dictionary. He becomes viceroy of Egypt, rides in a quadriga (like the sun) and secures grain for everybody. His name points to his final apotheosis: Joseph means “(God) takes away”. It is a strange fact that his father-in-law bears almost the same name as the man whose wife he is accused of having sexually assaulted. The young man tempted by his father’s or master’s wife is a motif so often met with in Near Eastern tales and epics that some old myth must be behind it. G.Maspero[6] mentions Bata, Attis, Hippolyt, Joseph, Kombabos, Bellerophontes, Peleus, Phineus.

 

 

All his labour: The life of the sun hero is seen as a constant struggle against chaos and darkness, but finally he will come out as victorious and gain the "wreath of victory". On coins from Tyre Heracles is often seen with a wreath. Heracles has a son called Stephanephoros and his preast could be named St. As already seen by bishop Münter[7] the wreath is a symbol typical to Heracles. From Palmyra comes the god Malakbel sitting in the chariot of the sun drawn by winged griffons.[8]



[1] p.452.

[2] ORIENTALIA N.S.,50.1981,p.432

[3] Religion och Bibel 1978, on English Acta Iranica 17 ed. Duchesne-Guillemin

[4] Archaic Roman Religion, II,1996, Johns Hopkins ed.p.554.

[5] ibd.pp.237ff.

[6] Les Contes populaires de l´Egypt Ancienne, 3rd ed., 1906, pp.XIV,XIX

[7] Die Religion der Kathager, 1821, pp.48;56n36

[8] du Mesnil du Buisson, Tess.