🔼The name Hellas (Greece): Summary
- Unknown, but possibly: The Profaned, or The Profaners
- Or, better yet: The Enlightened, The Enlighteners
- From the verb חלל (halal), to profane.
- From the verb הלל (halal), to shine.
🔼The name Hellas (Greece) in the Bible
Hellas (Ελλας) is the Greek name for post-Bronze Age Greece. This toponym comes with the ethnonym Ελλην (Hellen), which denotes a Hellene (a Greek). We English speakers use the Latin term, Graecia, which was probably originally derogatory (like the terms barbarian and gypsy), probably after some Mycenaean (pre-Hellenistic) town called Graia, whose people had created a colony in Italy, where the Romans first met them — and note that Rome itself was supposedly first peopled by survivors of Troy, the city famously sacked by a coalition of Mycenaean armies captained by king Agamemnon of Mycenae. The name Graia, in turn, means old in the sense of venerable, and comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root as γερον (geron), old man (a synonym of Senator, from the Latin senex, old man; hence the word senior).
The name Hellas is of notoriously disputed origins, but by the time of the Bronze Age Collapse (12th century BC), it covered only a small section in the north of what later would be Greece (or so it's remembered in Homer's Iliad, which plays in that same 12th century BC). Why this local toponym would eventually come to denote the whole of Greece isn't clear either, but the same thing happened to the name Judah, which originally covered a mere one twelfth of the territory of Israel, but eventually came to denote the whole of it (Judea), and even the whole of Jewry worldwide.
Classical Hellas was not a country as we know it today but rather a federation of loosely associated city states that sported comparable cultures, spoke mutually legible languages, and maintained relationships with neighboring city states in all directions, and formed a world where human cultures met and blended like natural ecosystems, with each their own populations, technologies and literary traditions, all according to their own kinds and all as partakers in a single, living world.
We'll have a closer look at the details below, but the name Hellas belonged to the culture that derived its identity and consistency from the epics of Homer: the Iliad, which tells of 51 days of the 10 year Trojan War (i.e. the Bronze Age Collapse), and the Odyssey, which tells of the period of restoration right after, when survivors had to learn from each other's social experiments to figure out how to reboot the unified human world. Or in the words of its famous opening lines: "Of man (ανδρος, andros), do tell, O Muse" and in the pleasing formulation of Peter Green 2018 translation: "— tell me about that resourceful man (ανδρος, andros), who wandered far and wide, when he sacked Troy's sacred citadel: many men's (ανθρωπος, anthropos) townships he saw, and learned their ways of thinking (νους, nous)" (Od.1.3).
Hellas derived its social identity and consistency from the Epics of Homer in precisely the same way that Israel derived its identity and consistency from the Books of Moses, which tell of origins and childhood abductions, the Exodus out of Egypt and subsequent societal freedom, and are extended by the Books of Joshua and Judges, which are, like Homer, set in the 12th century BC.
The books of Homer and Moses speak of the same times, in narratives composed from similar oral traditions, which began to be written down simultaneously in the 8th century BC — the time of Isaiah the prophet — by literary elites who existed separately but who nevertheless knew and communicated with each other.
The Persians and Hebrews referred to Hellas and the Hellenes by the name of one of their main tribes, namely the Ionians, whom they called יון or Javan (Genesis 10:2, Isaiah 66:19, Ezekiel 27:13, Daniel 8:21), which means mud or mire (Psalm 40:2, 69:2) — and note that to the Hebrews, the "waters" signify the unknown and "dry land" the known, which makes Javan (and thus Greece and thus Rome and thus ultimately our modern world) a semi-brotherly tribe of half-witted Soggy-Bottom boys (as if Seth called out to Cain: "Brother, where art thou?" See Genesis 4:9).
In the New Testament:
- The name Ελλας (Hellas), or Greece, belongs to the territory of the Hellenes (Greeks). By the time of Christ, Hellas had known its celebrated Classical Period (5th and 4th centuries BC), followed by imperial glory under Alexander the Great (320's BC), decline and defeat by the Romans (146 BC) who designated it the names Macedonia (north) and Achaia (south). Despite the Roman designations, the name Hellas remained in use, although in the New Testament it occurs a mere one time, namely in Acts 20:2, and refers to the signature Hellene attitude toward wisdom and information technology, much rather than to its associated geographical region or its political governance. Contrary to the modern convention of recognizing a person after the country (an American is someone from America) in antiquity a region was named after the shared culture of the people: Hellas was where the Hellenes were, and the Hellenes were people whose conscious minds had been built from Homer's words, images, themes and concerns.
- The ethnonym Ελλην (Hellen), or Hellene, belonged to the people after which Hellas was named, who in turn were identified by their signature attitude toward wisdom and information technology. In Paul's words: "Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:22). The ethnonym Ελλην (Hellen) is used 27 times (see full concordance). The feminine version, namely Ελληνις (Hellenis), Helleness, occurs in Mark 7:26 and Acts 17:12 only.
- The adjective Ελληνικος (Hellenikos), or Hellenic, refers to the Greek language or script (Luke 23:38 and Revelation 9:11 only).
- The adverb Ελληνιστι (Hellenisti), or Hellenically, refers to something said in a Hellene way (John 19:20 and Acts 21:37 only). This "Hellene way" may of course simply be the Greek language or some dialect, but may, theoretically, also refer to a signature Hellene sense of motivation, cooperation, logic or even dramatic flair.
- The noun Ελληνιστης (Hellenistes), means a Hellenist (Acts 6:1, 9:29 and 11:20 only). People known as Hellenists had assumed the Greek language and lifestyle but were originally from somewhere else. Much of the tension between Jesus and the Jews, which features so predominantly in the gospels (Luke 4:25-29), is a literary presentation of the well-documented historical tension between those who insisted that only received Jewish writing were kosher, and those who insisted that "all writing is God-breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16), and that although not everything is useful, everything is permitted (1 Corinthians 10:23).
🔼The Virgin and the Child
To further his famous point to Timothy that "all writing is God-breathed", Paul, quite usefully, referred to the quite unbiblical story of Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3:8) whose foolish opposition to Moses serves forever to explain such a thing. With equal universalistic enthusiasm, Paul also quoted the pagan priest Epimenides (Titus 1:12) and the Jovan poet Aratus (Acts 17:28). At least two references to the Book of Enoch made it into the New Testament (Hebrews 11:5 and Jude 1:14), as well as many other ancient Books that served as now lost sources of the Old Testament: the Book of the Wars of YHWH (Numbers 21:14-15), the Book of Jashar (2 Samuel 1:18), the Book of Nathan and the Book of Gad (1 Chronicles 29:29), the Book of Ahijah and the Book of Iddo (1 Chronicles 9:29), the Book of Shemaiah (2 Chronicles 12:15).
Contrary to common perception, Israel was not an isolated gene pool but a complex mix of all sorts of peoples. Most notably, when Israel was still a mere Babylonian family, it absorbed all the women of the comparably-sized Hivite family of Shechem (Genesis 34:29), which resulted in Israel becoming a Babylonian-Hivite hybrid. And when Israel left Egypt, it absorbed a large multitude of fellow but not related slaves (Exodus 12:38). The tabernacle of Moses was of obvious Egyptian design. The temple of Solomon was Phoenician (1 Kings 5:1-12, 7:13). And the Temple of Zerubbabel was Persian (Ezra 6:3). Despite the understandable objections of Jewish purists, there had never been a "pure" Israel or "pure" Scriptures, and wisdom (i.e. science, technology and unified standards of information technology) had always been desired by a global community of seekers.
Apart from the absence of national borders, the old world was surprisingly hip. Tourists and students travelled regularly between Persia, Egypt, Israel and Hellas, and contemporary records even show Buddhist missionaries from India in the Rome of Augustus. Merchant fleets and caravans put locals anywhere in touch with the world at large — the noun εμπορος (emporos), trader or trafficker, comes from πορος (poros), hole or way through; hence our English word "porous". Wherever trading routes crossed, the emporoi traded wares and slaves (δουλοι, douloi), and in the cities special laws prescribed the right and duties of free foreigners (ξενοι, xenoi), who formed their own social class.
The ancient world was a vast melting pot. Most people were intimately familiar with foreign languages and many spoke multiple. Recently unearthed Hittite libraries contained records in seven languages. Queen Cleopatra was known to have spoken nine herself. The Iliad casually remarks that "numerous [in Troy] are the allies, men from many lands, all speaking different tongues" (Il.2.804) and Jerusalem too was known for its international character (1 Kings 10:24, Acts 2:5-6, Revelation 21:24).
Before the Bronze Age Collapse (12th century BC), the human world consisted mostly of palatial estates where small elites exploited a vast working class. Initially these estates had behaved naturally, like the simian tribes they were, and competed with neighboring estates by fighting them. But then trade was discovered as much more satisfying to all parties involved and by the end of the Bronze Age, the human world had become the global market place it still is today.
All trade is based on property rights, and the first symbols appear to have arisen as marks of ownership (see The First Signs, by Genevieve von Petzinger). Early forms of private writing systems began to be developed by chief housekeepers and administrators as mnemonic aids that helped them keep track of their masters' inventories and increasingly complex trade agreements. But the more distance a trade covered, the more standardized the text had to be and the more specific explanations were required. Thus messages became increasingly personal, less like bookkeeping and more like conversations. Text began to imitate speech (it had never done that) and at some point text was discovered as a toy and folks began to play with it. By the end of the Bronze Age, literate slaves had begun to use script for entertainment purposes and sent each other narratives and personal, non-commercial messages along with goods and merchandize. Slowly, literacy seeped down the ranks and permeated the craving masses with joy.
The illiterate elite had no idea what was going on, until it became painfully evident that the literate slaves had created a whole new world right under their masters' ignorant noses. Quite by accident, the slaves had organized themselves into the world's first non-local decentralized social network, and their equivalent of cat photos and silly memes had created the world's first ad hoc slave union. As Eric H. Cline describes in his delightful book 1177 BC, the Year Civilization Collapsed, the Bronze Age palatial culture probably collapsed during a perfect storm of earthquakes, famines and the disastrous combination of over-funded armies in a peaceful world. But here at Abarim Publications we propose that the final straw came with the advantage of the literate servant and merchant classes over the illiterate ruling class.
After the Bronze Age Collapse, mankind begat a middle class, which in turn was heir to wildly revolutionary ideas such as senatorial and thus kingless republics, liberty as democratic ideal and law as a tool to guarantee it, and the pursuit of literacy and wisdom as means to social cohesion, peace, prosperity and general bliss. The literacy that had once marked the servant class now marked the ruling class. Or in the words of Isaiah: "... and the government shall be upon his shoulders" (9:6).
The Hellene network of allied city-states had no official capital but Athens was its most prominent and successful hub, celebrated across the world for being a societal miracle. It was named after the goddess Athena, whose epithets alternately emphasized:
- her city-forming nature: Polias and Polliouchos; both from πολις (polis), city;
- her youth (i.e. her novelty): Pallas or παλλας (pallas), youth;
- her virginity (i.e. her being without centralized government, king or "husband"): Parthenos or παρθενος (parthenos), virgin or unmarried woman.
When in the 8th century BC the prophet Isaiah wrote: "The עלמה ('alma) will be with child and will give birth to a son" (Isaiah 7:14), literally nobody in his original audience would have taken that to refer to anything other than Athens the Virgin. And when Matthew applied Isaiah's prophesy to Mary of Nazareth (Matthew 1:23), by using Athena's familiar epithet παρθενος (parthenos), nobody in his original audience would have missed the obvious call for a re-examination of the possible virtues of Greek tradition.
🔼In Vino Veritas
Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1912 story of Tarzan is patently ludicrous. In evolutionary terms, humans are the runt of the ape-litter. Slow, weak and naked — abused, mocked and rejected; men of sorrow and acquainted with grief — very early humans couldn't possibly compete with their hairy and burly brethren and were condemned to live like outcast on the periphery of the tribal territory. Being spread dangerously thin, the naked weaklings began to invest in their repertoire of verbal expressions, and even made friends with the outcast of the neighboring tribes. Thus they formed a meta-tribe of outcasts, developed speech, and now they have smart phones. Their burly brethren still live in trees.
We'll go into the details below but the rise of the name Hellas coincided with the restoration of modern humanity following the calamitous Bronze Age Collapse that nearly ended it. This restoration was also a transition, namely from the pre-collapse palatial culture (illiterate alphas, literate betas, and vast illiterate servile masses) to post-collapse urban culture (eradicated illiterate alphas, literate betas becoming literate alphas but as senators and citizens, and a lawfully governed working class), which in turn coincided with the rise of the Greek alphabet — and thus with popular literacy, a collective consciousness largely based on Homer, and even the complex economy that yielded democracy, philosophy and many other intellectual elements of our modern world.
Today it's commonly accepted that consciousness is not limited to humans, but a consciousness filled with words is a wholly different thing than a consciousness without words. As wonderfully told by James Gleick in his book The Information, we moderns now realize that without speech there literally is no conscious thought, no deliberation or contemplation, and without writing there is no thought about thought and certainly no thought about abstract notions such as liberty and duty, vice and virtue, rights and privileges. Said otherwise: without the word (ονομα, onoma) there is no law (νομος, nomos).
All private thought is fluent but endorheic, like the juice inside a single grape. Language is like wine in which the thoughts of many individuals are not only blended together but together form a new and fermented liquid continuum. The familiar dictum in vino veritas does not mean that drunk people speak the truth (they don't typically do, you see) but rather that whatever Truth might turn out to be, it exists where people's thoughts exist collectively and gravitate toward a consensually shared reality. The Greek word for wine is οινος (oinos), which is not unlike ονομα (onoma), meaning word. The Hebrew word for wine is יין (yayan), which is not unlike the name Javan, and relates to ינה (yonah), dove, hence the name Jonah, of the famous missionary to the Assyrians.
Prior to script, there was no need for standards, and languages existed far less like the defined basins we know today, and much rather like a spectrum of dialects that gradually turned from one language into another over vast stretches of territory. The life-giving Greek alphabet was derived from the Phoenician one, and that adaptation must have taken quite a bit of effort since it depended on a degree of consensus and standardization whose benefit and purpose were not immediately clear to everybody. The introduction of the alphabet to the Greeks turned a linguistic primordial soup into the first linguistic living cells, and is quite literally comparable to the introduction of email in our modern age.
Email was invented in the 1970s and subsequently rejected by the alphas (who had secretaries, couriers and fax machines) but accepted by the masses only in the 1990s, after the introduction of the PC in the late 1980s, following the game computers in the early 1980s. From email came forums and blogs, then Facebook and Twitter in the 2000s, Bitcoin in 2008 and the Cambrian Explosion of blockchain platforms in the late 2010s.
Popular correspondence is what makes a people a people. What the PC did for email, the paper industry did for popular Greek literacy. From the Greek word for paper, namely βιβλος (biblos) comes our word Bible. The word parchment comes from the name Pergamum, which in turn comes from Priam, the name of the king of Troy in Homer's Iliad, the father of Paris whose abduction of Helen occasioned the Trojan War.
🔼The War of the Worlds
Whichever brave Semitic Prometheus brought the fire of collective reason to the Greeks, he doubtlessly imported some Semitic seed-words along with it, to give names to principles of complex thought that the Greeks had never heard of — rather comparable to the familiar noun "computer", which has been adopted by most modern languages, even though the parent verb "to compute" hasn't.
Pre-modern archeologists have tried to find the remains of the "historical" Troy on the west coast of modern Turkey, just like they tried to find traces of the nearly contemporary king Solomon's reported vast empire in Israel (10th century BC). But as 20th century archeologists showed that the ground is void of any remains of Solomon's empire, we know for certain that the story of Solomon is about wisdom and information technology and not about politics, economic prominence or military might.
Homer's stories were originally orally transmitted to a peasant audience that was literally absorbing and adapting to its vocabulary and complexity of thought. Like body-builders pumping iron, they were mind-builders pumping Homer. They pondered and expanded, tried new speculations, new explanations and new pronunciations. And when Homer was finally written down, it immediately consigned countless variations of both the stories and the very language itself to bleak oblivion. Broad was the spectrum of mutation, narrow the gate to preservation.
The single one reference to writing in Homer speaks of "fatal tokens; many murderous signs incised in a folded tablet" (Il.6.169), and in the same vein, Paul speaks of "the ministry of death in letters engraved on stones" and submits that "the letter kills" (2 Corinthians 3:6-7).
A culture is a living thing, and its soul and memory reside in its network of stories. If those stories are not preserved, the culture is not preserved, and king David's jubilant exclamation that God's Holy One would not see decay (Psalm 16:10), stemmed from the completion of the alphabet that would forever preserve Israel's stories. The alphabet, which was completed in David's days, is why our modern world has Jews but no Scythians or Hittites, whose empires were mightier than Israel as much as T-rexes were mightier than mouse-sized synapsids.
Unlike pre-modern archeologists, the ancients understood that a people's very soul and collective identity was closely associated with its stories and songs, and none of their heroes' great deeds would be remembered if their language had stopped to exist in the world. The great wars of antiquity were not of kings but of writing systems. Their prizes were not gold and treasures — and see our article on χαλκος (chalkos), bronze — but legends and tales and a lasting place in mankind's living memory. All peoples want what all people want: to have a place among the living. Not the will of kings but the desire to live lies at the heart of all of us (Haggai 2:7).
When modern movies, or even Shakespearean plays like Julius Caesar, contemplate the classical world, they commonly imagine it inundated with titillating eloquence. But that idea derives from the texts we have of that period, which were written and entertained by a very small group of learned men, many of whom dictated to scribes rather than write themselves. The rest of mankind simply had no access to text, or even any need for literacy, and subsequently had the eloquence of Koko the Talking Gorilla. Literature then was like computer coding in the 1990s: everybody knew that it existed, and that it underpinned the rapidly rising digital world, but few actually knew somebody who could code, or what computer code actually looked like, or how such a thing would work and what it did inside computers.
Pre-script speech was a completely different thing than modern speech in our literate world, and the two relate the way a bongo relates to a Roland Fantom. We moderns, we write; therefore we are.
The will to live that marks all life results in any culture in the will to fight for the preservation of its legacy, and thus the writing system in which its stories are expressed. Here at Abarim Publications we strongly suspect that, like the Books of Moses, Homer's Iliad discusses not a conventional war but rather the struggle for supremacy between writing systems: legends told in hieroglyphs from Africa versus legends told in cuneiform from Asia versus legends told in linear-A and -B from Europe. This war resulted in the ultimate victory of the Semitic alphabet, which was then adapted to serve the Greek tongue and then the Latin one. Without the alphabet, there would have been no Classical Greece, no republic, no democracy, no Alexander the Great, no Roman Empire and no modern world. And there certainly would not have been a gospel of Jesus Christ or the promise of a heavenly Jerusalem to come.
Here at Abarim Publications we propose that YHWH is the father of the Logos in exactly the same way that the Alphabet is the father of All Writing (see John 21:25). And that means that the original ευαγγελιον (euaggelion) or "good news" or "gospel" was that of the alphabet. We further propose that the names Homer, Helen and Hellas are Semitic and reflect deeply Semitic ideas, which were imported into the Greek speaking world along with the alphabet.
🔼The Greek etymologies of Hellas and Helen
The toponym Hellas (Ελλας) and thus the ethnonym Hellene (Ελλην, Hellen), are really quite different from the feminine name Helen (Ελενη). This feminine name Helen belonged to the dazzling beauty who had been married to king Menelaus of Sparta, but eloped with Paris, son of Priam king of Troy, a city of great renown on the Anatolian shore of the Hellespont, whose very walls were said to have been built by Poseidon (brother of Zeus and Hades) and Apollo (the most beautiful son of Zeus). The affronted king Menelaus of Sparta, his brother king Agamemnon of Mycenae and their associate Achilles, son of king Peleus of Phthia and sea nymph Thetis, mustered their armies, crossed the seas, laid siege to Troy and fought the armies of Priam, Paris and Hector for 10 years. Ultimately, Troy was sacked and Helen was returned to Sparta.
The name Hellas was later explained from a mythical patriarch Hellen (Ελλην) but the name Helen (Ελενη) is instead similar to the name of yet another son of Priam of Troy (he had fifty: Il.24.495), namely Helenus (Ελενος). The difference between these two clusters of names sits in the number of lambda's: Helen and Helenus have one, and Hellen and Hellas have two, which betrays wholly separate roots. The question is, of course, which roots?
Nobody knows, which has prompted scholars as recent as Steve Reece (2009) to embrace the popular idea that Helen (Ελενη) represents the Greek lunar deity Selene (Σελενη), whose name in turn comes from σελας (selas), light, brightness, flame or beacon. Why that would be so, since Homer never compares Helen to the moon, or why such a deliberate association would have been achieved by dropping the initial Σ has never been properly explained. But the origin of the patriarchal Hellen (Ελλην) is equally obscure, and Homer makes convenient mention of a sect of priests of Zeus, "with unwashed feet", called Selloi (Σελλοι; Il.16.234), whose name without the leading Σ makes Ελλοι (Helloi), which could theoretically have morphed into Ελληνες (Hellenes).
The unprovoked dropping of the leading Σ to form words without a natural etymology is then explained by an audience mishearing a performing bard, whose error, instead of being laughingly brushed aside, propagated and congealed into the whole of Greece's vast traditions' most defining names, namely Helen and Hellen. And all this while the names Hellas and Hellenes occur nearly a dozen times in the Iliad, as does the name Hellespont, which derives from the noun ποντος (pontos), sea, and the related name Helle (Ελλη), belonging to a nymph (who drowned in it, after she was initially rescued by the ram from which came the familiar Golden Fleece). Critics as recent as D. M. Goldstein (2010) have objected to the scenario of the mumbling bard and the disappearing Σ, on the grounds of it being too obviously absurd and ultimately not very helpful.
Another often forwarded idea is that the name Helen derives from the identical noun ελενη (elene), which describes any bundled, wound or woven thing but is specifically used to describe a fire brand or torch, or a wicker-basket. The eminent professor of Indo-European languages Robert Beeks declared this noun ελενη (elene) and the names Helen and Hellen, to be Pre-Greek, which is a collective term for several non-Greek and even non-Indo-European local languages that were spoken in Greece before the rise of Proto-Greek, the parent of all forms of Greek, which itself derived from Proto-Indo-European.
Not Greek, then. Not even Indo-European.
Here at Abarim Publications we don't know either, but since everybody is guessing, our guess is that our names, and even the word ελενη (elene), are Semitic and were imported into the Greek language basin along with the alphabet they were subsequently written down in.
🔼The Semitic etymologies of Hellas and Helen
Here at Abarim Publications we suspect that the names Hellen and Helen are based on thoroughly Semitic cognitive concepts, and were imported into Greece along with the alphabet itself, probably gradually, possibly by Semitic slaves captured at sea or obtained on the international market. Also because of the noun ελενη (elene), which describes a wound or woven thing, we propose that the feminine name Helen derives from the verb חול (hul I):
- Verb חול (hul I) denotes a whirling in circular motions. It comes with quite a cluster of derivatives, most notably the noun חל (hol), meaning sand; the noun חל (hil), meaning pain so bad that it makes one writhe (specifically childbirth); the noun חל (hel), which denotes a (circular) rampart, and the nouns מחול (mahol) and מחולה (mehola), which describe (whirling) dances.
- Verb חול (hul II) means to be strong, and the important derived noun חיל (hayil) means might.
- A by-form of the previous: the verb חלם (halam I) means to be strong.
- Verb חלם (halam II) means to dream, and its derived noun חלום (halom) means a dream.
These curious parallels suggests that the Hebrews saw dreaming as something cyclic; see our full dictionary article on these words for a closer look at dreams in the Bible. Also note the similarities in form with the חלל (halal) cluster.
As we point out in our article on the verb αρνεομαι (arneomai), which means to artificially select (to breed a domestic race), and the noun αρνιον (arnion), meaning lamb: "manufactured thread literally provided the strings that bound the ancient world together." Weaving allowed people to display patterns and thus symbols, and the machinery needed for weaving demanded a much broader technological sophistication that ultimately drove societies to specialize and stratify.
It's often overlooked that between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, there was the crucially important Age of Weaving as the true first step toward modernity. Weaving was the first real form of industry, and it changed the way humans looked at natural resources. Inevitably, weaving became proverbial. From the ancient Proto-Indo-European root teks-, meaning to weave, came our modern words "textile" and "technology", but more crucially to our present story, also the word "text". In Psalm 139:13, David described the forming of a baby in the womb with the Hebrew equivalent, namely סכך (sakak), to weave, from which also comes the name Succoth. The profession of Jesus (and Joseph) was not that of "carpenter" but of τεκτων (tekton), assembler, from the same PIE root teks-, to weave.
So no, Helen of Troy was not just some indecisive lady but rather the greatly desired key to any culture's eternal life; a novelty to the Hellenes but something the Semitic tradition had obsessed over since its inception (Genesis 4:26). As stated above, the name Helen is identical to the noun ελενη (elene), meaning fire brand or torch. Isaiah 62:1 reads: "... her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch...". The term translated with like a torch is כלפד (kalappid), which is suspiciously similar to the verb καλυπτω (kalupto), to cover, which is another word of obscure origin, and relates to the name Calypso (καλυψω, kalupso), belonging to the nymph who kept Odysseus for seven years on the island Ogygia (means primeval). The derived noun αποκαλυψις (apokalupsis), or apocalypse, literally means discovery, disclosure or revelation.
Both the Hebrew and the Hellene alphabets are continuations of the Phoenician abjad, which consisted of only consonants, and the great novelty of the Hebrew and the Hellene alphabets was their vowel notation — vowels represent the ethereal part of speech, its soul if you will. The Hellenes went about vowel notation by omitting the Phoenician letters they had no use for (specifically those representing glottal stops, א and ע) and adding new or adapted symbols to represent vowels. The Hebrews, quite to the contrary (and probably somewhat earlier), adopted vowel notation by assigning three existing Phoenician symbols — namely י (yod) and ה (he) and ו (waw) — both consonant and vowel duty. Thus to the Hebrews these three symbols became simultaneously consonant (dry land, earthly) and vowel (breath, heavenly), and it didn't take a great leap to deem them godly.
To us moderns, the Greek (and subsequent Latin) approach to vowel notation seems most specific and thus most efficient, whereas the Hebrew double function retained a significant degree of ambiguity and freedom of interpretation — e.g. in the word דוד the ו may either be a vowel (the monosyllabic דוד, dod, means beloved), or a consonant (the disyllabic דוד, dawid, is the name David). Whether any of the three magic symbols anywhere in the text were to be considered vowel or consonant ultimately depended on a swirling blend of tradition and the reader's good humor. And this in turn meant that Hebrew script not only retained data but, unlike Greek and Latin, also time and even the Schrödinger's Cat kind of existential limbo modern nerds know from quantum mechanics. As a consequence, the Hebrew language could never be used for mathematics or even computer script, but still, this signature degree of ambiguity, and the temporal retention this allowed, was so important to the Hebrews that they also used their magic symbols to construct the Name of God: יהו or YHW (the familiar name YHWH is actually YHW-H and means Place of YHW).
Since each letter of the name YHW is both a vowel and a consonant, the combination YHW can be pronounced in eight different ways (EEAAUU, YAHOO, YAHOWU, and so on). But every time we chose a particular one, we deny the seven others, and end up denying the octagonal oneness of God (Exodus 20:7, see Revelation 1:4). The unpronounceable name YHW is like a quantum particle whose essence is manifested in its superposition of eight regular positions (Judges 13:18).
By using designated symbols for vowels, the Greeks (and Latins) achieved much more absolute precision but lost the Name, and this appears to have been recognized by the Hebrews as the mental equivalent of how digitigrade (toe walking) evolved from plantigrade (flat-foot walking). Toe and toenail walking appears to have evolved from flat-foot walking, when both predators (cats and dogs) and prey (cattle, horses, deer) invested in speed. That means that digitigrade yielded no advantage either way, but still cost its price, namely the slow stability of plantigrade (apes, bears, rabbits). Rabbits, of course, solved their disadvantage by developing zig-zagging and prolific reproduction. Bears went into strength and fat storage. And apes went into social complexity, from which rose language and hence our celebrated human consciousness.
Language is a natural thing, and evolves naturally within the interactive dynamics of human conversation, self-similar to the evolution of living things according to the interactive dynamics of the biosphere. Eve was the "mother of all the living" (Genesis 3:20), which is the Hebrew way of saying: "biosphere", and indeed, Adam's inaugural task was to attach names to animals (Genesis 2:19-20).
Since the whole world is a fractal and there's never anything truly new under the sun, the language-sphere seems to have developed self-similar to the biosphere, with the Greek alphabet "lifting the heel" relative to the Hebrew one (Psalm 41:9). Prior to the linguistic equivalent of the agricultural revolution, the proto-apes witnessed the rise of wolves and great cats with understandable dismay, but the toe-walkers themselves celebrated their perceived prominence in the figure of Achilles: he who slew Hector, the leader of the Trojan resistance, whose death and defilement made the fall of Troy utterly inevitable. The Iliad, quite worthy of note, concludes with the death and cremation of Hector rather than the fall of Troy, and does not mention the death of Achilles. Later bards, however, declared that Achilles had indeed perished by an arrow of Paris, shot into Achilles' heel.
Significantly, even though the Greek alphabet was directly derived from the Semitic one, Semitic texts run from right to left, whereas Greek texts run from left to right. As we discuss in our article on the adjective δεξιος (dexios), meaning right, since deep antiquity, words having to do with "right" were considered special and even holy (hence words like righteousness and rightly), whereas words having to do with "left" were considered common and profane (hence words like sinister, from the Latin word for left). That means that Semitic texts act out a transition from the holy to the profane, whereas Greek texts act out a transition from the profane to the holy.
All this suggests that the name Hellas stems from the root חלל (halal), to profane or to pierce, as famously used in Isaiah 53:5, "But He was pierced through for our transgressions". The New Testament was written in so-called Koine Greek, which was the Greek of commoners, a watered-down version of the high-browed Greek of the Golden Era. The word Koine comes from κοινος (koinos), meaning common, vulgar or profane:
The verb חלל (halal) means to pierce. Adjective חלל (halal) means (fatally) pierced. Noun חלה (halla) denotes a kind of donut. Noun חלון (hallon) describes a deliberate hole in a wall for ventilation and illumination. Noun חליל (halil) denotes a holed musical instrument like a flute or pipe, and the denominative verb חלל (halal) means to play the pipe. Noun מחלה (mehilla) appears to refer to a kind of geological depression or hollow comparable to a cave.
Special or fancy items were typically not damaged in any way, and piercing or otherwise compromising or altering items demonstrated their commonness or profaneness. Noun חל (hol) means profaneness or commonness. Adjective חלל (halal) and noun חלילה (halila) both mean profaned. The noun תחלה (tehilla) means beginning or first, which seems to argue that a whole new thing can only be brought about when an old way or old situation (no matter how highly regarded) is pierced and profaned.
Verb חלה (hala) means to be skewered in the sense of to be weak, sick or wounded. Noun חלי (holi) means wound or sickness. Noun מחלה (mahaleh) means disease.
Perhaps a whole other verb חלה (hala) means to appease or entreat, although entreating and piercing may be considered similar actions. Noun מחלת (mahalath) is a kind of song, perhaps a piercing, entreating affair, or perhaps some profane ditty, a song about common things, or perhaps even a song that was typically meant to be altered or build upon or expanded at any artist's discretion.
Perhaps a whole third verb חלה (hala) may have spoken of adorning, although most adorning was obviously achieved by piercing holes in things to hang them up. Prior to the invention of glue, items such as beads and brooches were attached by merit of strings and bores. Nouns חלי (hali) and חליה (helya) refers to ornaments and jewelry.
Similar to the first of the verbs חלה (hala), verb חלא (hala') means to be sick or diseased. Plural noun תחלאים (tahalu'im) means sickness(es) or disease(s).
Perhaps a whole other verb חלא (hala') may have meant to defile. It's not used in the Bible but it would explain the noun חלאה (hel'a), rust or filth.
The root חלל (halal) and its derivatives may even have helped the formation of the verb χαλαω (chalao), to carefully lower, suggesting that the Hebrews didn't simply think of Greek literacy as a wild plunge into degradation, but rather as a careful lowering of a paralyzed friend. The derived noun χαλινος (chalinos) means bit or bridle.
The naked ape — the creature that formed the meta-tribe of simian flunkies that became modern humans — went through two major revolutions: one was obviously the development of speech. The other one was a social equivalent of endosymbiotic eukaryosynthesis (when prokaryotic cells merged with bacteria to make eukaryotic cells; see the link in the footer below): modern humanity is a collective not simply of naked apes in fancy clothes, but rather of naked apes plus their domesticated animals and plants. Modern humanity started about 15,000 years ago when naked apes and friendly canines teamed up, and the team was the beginning of modern humanity.
Without farm animals there would have been no agriculture, cities, countries and smart phones, and starting from about 15,000 years ago, roughly two dozen species began to domesticate each other into a unified community of domesticated cows, sheep, apes, pigs, dogs and cats. This group of mutually domesticating species is what we call modern humanity. And that means that sheep are as human as humans are.
Vast plains filled with herds are the biological equivalent of a world gone Greek, and the Hebrews would probably not have survived if they hadn't allowed themselves to domesticate along with the Greeks. That means that the name Hellas may have related to the verb חלל (halal), to profane or to pierce, in the 12th to 10th centuries BC, but by the 8th century it had instead began to be associated with the verb הלל (halal), to shine, as used by Isaiah in his enigmatic statement: "How you have fallen from heaven, Helel, son of the dawn!" (Isaiah 14:12, see Il 22.29):
The verb הלל (halal) means to shine (what exited stars do) or praise and cheer (what exited souls do). It may even denote too much of a good thing: to be raving mad. From the second sense derive: noun הליל (hillul), praise or rejoicing; noun מהלל (mahalel), agent or place of praise, and noun תהלה (tehilla), song of praise. From the third sense come nouns הוללה (holela) and הוללות (holelut), both meaning madness.
🔼The natural evolution of the world of language
Speech comes from imitation, which is the highest form of flattery. The first words formed when large groups of early humans imitated each other's expressions and very slowly homed in on some shared consensus about what to call a thing. All meaning is historical, and thus depending on memory and data retention. Meaning derives from the recognition of patterns that emerge within the relation of events over time. And ultimately, Truth is that which we all agree on and none of us opposes; a case of synchronicity rather than doctrine. And until we all agree, certainty remains a futile virtue and reality too leaky a vessel to put much hope in. Until we stand face to Face with Truth we know only in part, statistical likelihoods are the best we got, and the missing bits that will ultimately make us complete now look like crazy (1 Corinthians 13:9-10).
Individual human intelligence, likewise, is based on meaning and thus on time and the recognition of similarities of events at different moments in time. A single human identity always derives from the collective one (there are no languages and stories without collectives, and a single human has no sapiens or conscious thought without words). And this means that every human being derives from a human collective, which in turn derives from its collective past. Cultures, and even languages themselves, are intelligent. Languages have IQ.
Before there was speech, very early humans had no way to tell how uniquely smart they were, or to identify any significant difference between them and other animals. When humans still lived in large family groups and had no pets or cattle yet (roughly up to 15,000 years ago), their "language" was little different from the verbal repertoire of mammals and birds, and most likely consisted of exactly that: animal and bird sounds. There wasn't enough human interaction to accommodate a large and uniquely human vocabulary, and thus complex conversation, and thus complex and unifying thought. Until humans urbanized and began to blabber, they were animals in an animal world (Psalm 49:20, 73:22, Ecclesiastes 3:18, 2 Peter 2:12, Jude 1:10).
Until the invention and wide-spread use of script, there simply was no sapiens sapiens, and a human walking along the prairie wouldn't have considered herself substantially different from, say, a buffalo or elephant or horse, and rather would regard other animals the way we moderns regard weirdoes and immigrants on the bus. Up to 15,000 years ago, we humans basically lived in a Tolkienesque world, along with fellow creatures of all forms and sizes living in a shared world. Writing literally gave us complex thought (Luke 24:44-49, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23-24), and complex thought allowed us to build a human world that's separate and in many ways independent from the natural world.
The Bible predominantly contemplates the story of how humanity rose from the animal world, which is a story heavily dependent on the rise of mankind's literary tradition. Like animal verbalization, human speech initially reflected the facts of the here and now, but at some point folks invented the mind bogglingly complex idea of a past tense, and began to spin yarns and develop narratives. Then folks began to repeat stories, like they had once repeated the first words. In time, these oral traditions began to be written down, first in pictures, then hieroglyphs, then the miraculous alphabet.
The first rudiments of what would much later become the alphabet arose in Egypt, where administrative servants began to compete with the hieroglyphic traditions of priests. Religion and state were still the same thing, and the Pharaoh was also the chief priest, which made the servants' use of innocent mnemonic aids in effect an act of high treason. This conflict, and the inevitable aftermath, is in the Bible described as the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt.
Over the next four centuries, the alphabet continued to develop in the Levant, until around 1000 BC (the time of David), the Hebrews had completed their version of the Phoenician alphabet, a feat that's commemorated in the Bible as the temple of YHWH, which Solomon built together with the Phoenician king Hiram or Tyre (Tyre is also the "birthplace" of both Europe and Dido of Carthage).
Again four centuries later, Solomon's temple was looted by the Babylonians, who carted its wealth and people east, where it soon fell in the hands of the Persians. The Persian contribution to the story of humanity's great literary tradition was the invention of the empire-wide public postal service (post offices, mailmen, addresses and postal codes, rights and penalties) under Cyrus the Great (6th century BC). This feat is celebrated in the Bible as the temple of Zerubbabel, which was ordered, designed and funded by Cyrus the Great (Ezra 6:3-5).
Five centuries later, the first Roman Emperor Augustus expanded and militarized the postal service and called it Cursus Publicus, the Public Road or Way of the People (John 14:6). Without the Cursus Publicus there would have been no New Testament, which is largely epistolary. The crucial contribution of the Hellenistic Jews of the first century, however, had to do with the complexity of narrative rather than the way it was distributed.
🔼The agricultural revolution in the world of language
Initially, the rudiments of speech had distilled like mist in the atmosphere of human cooperation (Genesis 2:6). But when folks figured out what these first words could become, and that words could be manufactured and things could be named at will, the flood gates opened and the world became enwrapped in verbal liquidity, and man truly became separated from the animal world (Genesis 7:11-12). Likewise, the first symbols were casually scratched in objects to mark ownership or the boundaries of territories, again spontaneously in the spirit of cooperation since a symbol, like a word, only works when everybody agrees on what a symbol or word is. And again, when certain insightful people realized what a full-fledged system of symbols could become, the hunt for a writing system was on.
The Bible marks the first century AD as the time during which the archetypal metaphor was identified as a unit of information (Matthew 13:35). The archetypal metaphor was a kind of super-word, which, like any regular word, had slowly formed like a pearl in the soft tissues of human discourse: as multi-worded as any large organism is multi-celled, a house consisting of many houses, a single meaning caught in a verbal picture, which could relate to other pictures to create a kind of meta-narrative that sat like the frames of a film within the linear text that carried it. Today we call this kind of structure a fractal, which has no beginning or end and goes on forever in all directions. This is how Jewish sages like the Vilna Gaon and Shneur Zalman could claim that the Bible contains the entire universe: the Bible is based on the same fractal pattern as the whole of the universe. If a word is a thing duplicated in the mind of a human speaker, then the Bible is the Word that duplicates the entire universe within the human form (John 1:14).
Galileo was quite mistaken when he dubbed mathematics the language of the universe (says also Philip Goff in his excellently entertaining book Galileo's Error). Since all consciousness is private, no quantitative system can serve it, only a qualitative system can. Here at Abarim Publications we would add that such a system can only consist of metaphors, self-similarities and broken symmetries. So no, as long as the universe is experienced, it cannot be described (or even produced) by mathematics but by a singular meta-narrative of layers upon layers of interlocking metaphors (Psalm 78:2).
Prior to the first century, metaphors had obviously existed, but in the first century they began to be systematically harvested and stitched together in a kind of narrative super-system. If intelligence is the ability to recognize patterns, the Bible was "discovered" to be vastly more intelligent than any other writing out there. Here at Abarim Publications we propose that the Bible relates to Homer the way a human mind relates to the mind of a κυων (kuon), or canine — and it should be carefully remembered that to very early humans, there was no real substantial difference between apes and canines, as both lived in small family groups, were centered upon an alpha, and communicated in complex vocalizations. It would be the ability of both to relate to the other that would bring out the best in each, and that would produce a shared modern world for all to live in.
The first thing both apes and canines had to come to grips with was that there exists no paint-by-number correlation between the elements and sentiments that make up the mind of a dog and those that make up the mind of an ape, and that these two separate realms of experience rather relate the way the lyrics of a song relate to the music. And the second thing was that early humans were a sub-tribe of failing apes and early dogs were a sub-tribe of failing wolves, and that their mutual failures to fit into their native societies was what bound them together (a classic theme movingly retold in Charlie Chaplin's The Kid, 1921).
Not the burly successful but rather the rejected meek were to inherit the earth. Somehow the Naked Ape and the Wimpy Wolf began to find comfort in the other's company: the Naked Apes sheltered and nourished the Wimpy Wolves much more than their burly wolf brethren ever had, and the Wimpy Wolves allowed the Naked Apes to construct a society that was far more complex than their burly ape brethren could ever have imagined. Naked Ape and Wimpy Wolf were quickly joined by the rejects of various bovine, boar and sheep tribes. And together they created a magical kingdom called Modern Humanity, and lived happily ever after in love and care and mutual respect.
The name Jesus is the Greek transliteration of the name Joshua, whose best friend was Caleb, which means dog. In the Iliad, king Priam likens the godlike Achilles to Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, which he calls the Dog of Orion (Il.22.25). The name Sirius comes from the Greek Σειριος (seirios), from the noun σειρα (seira), cord, rope (leash?), making Sirius the "bound one" (to Orion). If this noun would — suddenly and for no particular reason — drop its leading σ, it would pretty much turn into the verb ειρω (eiro), which means to bind in rows (of beads) or string together. Reversely, our noun may — perhaps even like the names Selene and Selloi — have been formed from a truncated remnant of εις (eis), meaning in, on or toward, plus our verb. But other scholars say that our noun and verb have nothing to do with each other, and that the noun was actually imported wholly into Greek from some other language. Here at Abarim Publications we immediately volunteer that this, then, was probably the Semitic language basin, where our noun obviously reminds of the name of Seir (שעיר), which belonged to a famous shaggy mountain, and in the Bible a "mountain" often refers to an accumulation of culture rather than physical earth.
The Hebrew word for mountain is הר (har) — hence the name Haran, belonging to the brother of Abraham — and the word for pregnant is הרה (hera), which is not unlike the name Hera, belonging to the godly wife of Zeus, the father of Pallas Athena, the proverbially pregnant Virgin. The Greek word for pregnant is κυω (kuo), from which comes the noun κυμα (kuma), wave or billow, which is really a "mountain" of water. Note the obvious similarity between these words and the noun κυων (kuon), canine.
🔼Man's best friend
Imagine two guys: Steve from Chicago and Yasha from Moscow. And an experimenter asks these two guys to briefly glance at a string of 100 digits, and then look away and recite it. Yasha glances, blinks and rattles off all hundred digits without a single error. Steve glances, blinks and has no idea what to do next.
Yasha, at a glance, recognized the 100 digits to be Cyrillic (the Russian alphabet). He also recognized the string of 100 digits to actually be a string of a mere 20 words, which in turn added up to a single coherent statement, namely the first sentence of a famous poem by his favorite poet. Upon his brief glance, the entire poem jumped to Yasha' mind, which at once filled up with images and childhood memories, nostalgia and passions. Chicago Steve, on the other hand, had never seen Russian script, didn't realize that the string of symbols were written words that duplicated real-world things, and didn't know the names of the many of the Cyrillic characters — some Cyrillic characters are the familiar Latin letters in which English is written, but some are Greek, some Hebrew and some Runic. When Steve looked away, he did not remember the digits and couldn't even begin to describe what he had seen. Instead, Steve glanced, blinked, and asked for lunch.
Steve and Yasha made the same observation of the same elements. But Yasha saw a world where Steve saw an inconsequential line of silly wiggly things. The difference between Steve and Yasha is a matter of data retention and retrieval. Yasha knew the names of the things presented. Hence he recognized patterns between the things and was able to form a formal context to assess these patterns by means of a vast library of associations. Steve, on the other hand, did not know the name of things, did not recognize patterns and had no reason to begin to imagine that such patterns might actually exist.
Dogs relate to humans the way Steve relates to Yasha. We humans are able to navigate our complex human world because we have words for things and we recognize the patterns. Dogs see the same things but don't see the patterns.
Of course, Chicago Steve would do as well in an English-speaking world as Yasha does in a Russian speaking world, but dogs have no speech at all. Word are learned by imitation but understanding the concept of speech comes from recognizing the patterns of meaning behind strings of words. Dogs can't speak, and so they can't practice the few words they know and so attain the level of verbal pattern recognition.
Dogs are able to recognize a few human words the way Steve recognizes the few Latin characters in the 100 digits — which is how dogs can learn simple commands — but dogs are not able to recognize the patterns of human speech and can't consciously expand their immediate observations with vast libraries of associations. As all dog lovers know, dogs have emotions just like humans — in the same way that Steve has emotions just like Yasha — but their canine consciousness is occupied almost entirely by their observations of the present.
A dog's sensory array (sight, hearing, smell, and touch combined) is vastly superior to a human's. That means that if Steve from Chicago was actually a Bloodhound, Steve would have been able to identify the Latin characters in a vast array of Russian text (or hidden treats in a living room) much faster than Yasha from Moscow could. Dogs live mostly in a present that is vastly greater than the present in which we humans live, and which even extends into what humans consider the past (like today's smell of yesterday's lunch). Dogs continuously review vast amounts of data, but reject most of it and retain very little. Humans review much less data but retain much more, and try every new thing to a much greater frame of reference. Dogs bring the lingering past into their colossal presence; humans relate the narrow presence to their vast past.
Dogs live in a greater world, but to them, there never was an Elvis. And if dogs had a right to vote, there would be no vets either.
🔼How dogs deal with being human
Homer relates to Moses the way the mind of a dog relates to the mind of a human. Homer's epics contain vast amounts of data, names and attributes, but very little metaphors and relativity between the names, and virtually no patterns between the metaphors. Moses lists a comparable amount of names, but far fewer attributes and explains the identities through their relativity to others (via genealogies and tribal relations), and explains events through their relativity to others (via meta-narratives; we'll get into those in a bit).
The overwhelming majority of modern Bible review stems from the Greek and Latin academic traditions, which is why most people think that the Bible has to do with religion and, like the Iliad, begins at the beginning and ends at the end and has a mostly linear story in between. But people who know the Bible from a Hebrew perspective know that the Bible doesn't have a beginning or end, and that its patterns propagate like the Mandelbrot Set toward infinity in all directions.
Canines are able to associate verbal commands to certain real-world actions when their ape-friends continuously repeat a certain word (sit! fetch! come!), but dogs are not able to relate words to other words. Relating words to other words is what speech is all about, and a dog learning a trick (like fetching a ball) is like humans learning a ritual (like lighting a candle; a single one gets blown out but a bundle keeps relighting extinguished brethren). The agricultural revolution started when dogs joined apes and together they began to create a whole new human world, safely separate from the wilderness. Religion is for canines who must learn through repetition how to function in an ape-governed world. Apes, however, are not religious. Apes converse.
Our modern Greco-Roman world is like a huge ranch, where large herds of cattle roam the plains, pigs live within fences, hens lay eggs and dogs herd the sheep and keep the coyotes at bay. All according to their kinds and natures, these animals continuously consider vast amounts of data — running market tickers, rapid fire tweets, Facebook entrees, right-swiped partners, evening news headlines, numbers and warnings, howled, hooted and tooted all at once — but invest themselves in very little and never get to know any of it. Very few stop to ponder or meditate or rise above the cacophony. None of these animals understands (or even contemplates) why such a facility would exist and what might keep it together. Very few would note the tiny farm house where the apes go to sleep at night, and even less would suspect that that's where the whole shebang is governed from. Some of the dogs know, in a way, but they don't tell. The apes don't tell either — because how could they? — but continue to reform the world until it is entirely domesticated.
🔼One Rule to ring them all
The most significant difference between Homer and Moses is that Homer concentrates on experience and Moses on context: Homer reflects a vastly detailed impression of the here and now (or the there and then, rather), whereas Moses emphasizes the unity of all data. Homer adds details on an ever growing pile with little regard to validity or relativity, whereas Moses explains every new detail like a leaf on a branch from a trunk from a seed. That seed — the bottom line of reality that precedes, governs and predicts all dynamics and from which all details derive — is the so-called Golden Rule that demands to treat others the way we want to be treated.
This Rule not only sums up all Law and Prophets (Matthew 7:12), it also demands self-awareness (what do I want?) and Theory of Mind (how does my desire appear from someone else's perspective?) and even explains creation (when there are no others, this Rule to "treat others!" is the same as "let there be others!"). This Rule is the Word of God in its most compressed form, which means that it is not part of creation but rather "part" of the Creator, who is One and has no parts and is thus instead wholly declared by this Rule (John 1:1-3, 1:18, Hebrews 1:3).
Moses is one, whereas Homer is not. Moses seeks unity, both on a personal and societal level, whereas Homer seeks perpetuation, both of the person and of society.
Contrary to common (Greco-Roman) understanding, the Biblical story of the creation week is not about the first 144 to 168 hours of existence, but reflects the general pattern in which every dynamic system that does evolve must evolve. The entire universe evolves forever within the pattern of the six days of creation, and every aspect of the universe that evolves on its own stage and in its own time, must again evolve self-similar to these six fundamental phases.
On the second day, the single body of water was separated by a firmament called the heavens (Genesis 1:6); the waters above were heard from no more whereas the waters below became the earth we live on. Likewise, on Golgotha, Jesus (the heavenly firmament) separated the two hitherto similar murderers, one who was subsequently lost and the other who would subsequently join Jesus in Paradise (Luke 23:43). The Great Light shone in the darkness (Isaiah 9:2) and stars appeared in the firmament (Genesis 1:14) like believers in Christ (compare Genesis 15:5 to Galatians 3:7).
In Homer, reality propagates along a temporal axis and every event is explained by the preceding one. In Moses, reality propagates along a complexity axis and every event is explained by every other manifestation of that same archetypal dynamic. Homer is temporal; Moses is mental. Ascending from a Homeric to a Mosaic reality model is deeply troubling (often accompanied by bouts of psychosis, particularly in unmentored naturals) but very well worth it (1 Corinthians 10:2).
🔼Dog's best friend
Religion is for people who don't understand theology, also because theology is not the "study of God" since God cannot be observed and thus studied (Exodus 33:20, 1 Timothy 1:17). In our modern age, the word "god" has all sorts of vague meanings but mostly describes some supernatural entity that superstitious people used to believe in but enlightened people don't. In antiquity, however, there was no such thing as supernatural (due to the simple fact that things that couldn't be seen couldn't be named), and the word θεος (theos), or "god", actually meant something real. It's difficult to establish what that might have been, but our noun θεος (theos) probably derives from the verb τιθημι (tithemi), meaning to place or set, which suggests that folks mostly saw the world as peopled by living chess pieces (both individuals and herds) who moved themselves freely about on an essentially chaotic stage.
At some point it began to dawn on observers that the collective stage upon which all entities moved about was actually also some kind of entity — collective, and thus a motherly female: θεα (thea), or "goddess" — and this pattern of thought is still clearly visible in various Greek terms: θηλυς (thelus), means female and relates to the verb θηλαζω (thelazo), meaning to suckle, which relates to θαομαι (thaomai) meaning to suck, which is identical to θαομαι (thaomai) meaning to marvel or admire, which relates to the verb θεαομαι (theaomai), to watch, to gaze, to observe, to contemplate, hence the familiar nouns θεωρια (theoria), a theory or thing observed, and θεατρον (theatron), an observatory or theatre.
The most natural reality model is polytheism, which understands the world in terms of competition between entities, including Über-entities that exist as embodiment of kinship between regular entities (the Über-cow, or cow-theos, embodies the cow-herd and defines all individual cows). A slightly more sophisticated mind will understand that there is something collective about the whole of life — in the Bible the whole of life is personified in Eve, the tribe or "mother" of all living: אם ('am), tribe or mother, כל (kal), all or whole, and חי (hay), living or alive ones (Genesis 3:20) — which, like Eve, is marked by internal contradictions, strife, bloodshed and murder.
A slightly more sophisticated mind will begin to apply desire and purpose to Eve: all individuals have desire and strife for things (food, shelter, reproduction) and in general share this desire with members of the herd. But there are other individuals from other herds and even other species that somehow help us get what we want. Those are the good guys. There are also bad guys, namely the individuals and collectives who get in our way and don't help us get what we want. This Über-collective good-guys versus Über-collective bad-guys became formalized in Zoroastrianism, named after the Iranian prophet Zoroaster, who was a big hit in the 2nd millennium BC.
Zoroastrianism however, clever as it was, ran into all kinds of logical problems, as it became evident that not all things that initially seemed good (say sugar or alcohol) resulted in lasting goodness (being healthy and respected), and conversely, that periods of adversity could give rise to greater bliss than an eternity of boring pleasures. Zoroastrianism declared that reality is divided into good and evil, virtue and vice, light and darkness, but couldn't explain why light has a source (the sun) but darkness didn't (or, slightly more complicated: why cosmological dualism would lead to eschatological monotheism).
These difficulties triggered a subsequent step in sophistication, namely into the full-blown monotheism of Abraham, a competing Iranian prophet of the 2nd millennium BC. True to form, Zoroastrianism became all the rage and Abrahamism was laughingly pushed out onto the periphery of society, until Abrahamism "decided" to depart all together (Genesis 12:1-3). This is how Abraham ended up in Canaan, where, to his great surprise, similar ideas had naturally sprung up (without any preceding or parental schools of thought) and were operating under the name Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18, Hebrews 7:3).
Abrahamic monotheism took a while to fully develop but ultimately dispensed with dualism of every sort, and declared that good and evil, virtue and vice, light and darkness all stemmed from the same Creator (Isaiah 45:5-7), whose "love" (the relativities of things) never changes but whose "mercies" (the applications of these relativities) are highly dynamic and perpetually innovative (Lamentations 3:22-23) and are governed by a unified law that never changes (Job 38:33, Jeremiah 33:25, Matthew 5:8, Mark 13:31), that loves and can be loved (Psalm 119:97, 1 John 4:19) and understood by observing creation (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20), and which are summed up by the Logos, who in turn is summed up by the Golden Rule.
🔼Symphony of One
God is One (Deuteronomy 6:4), which is why creation is One — and since there can only be one One, God is also the Oneness of All things — which is why many of the fundamental laws of nature are preservation laws (of energy, momentum, baryon number, and so on). King Solomon understood that creation is a closed system, whose energy stays the same and whose dynamics are perpetually governed by inviolable laws, and subsequently concluded that there is nothing new under the sun, and whatever will be, has always been (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10, see Revelation 1:4).
In the same way in which a single complete seed contains a huge tree, and even an entire forest, so the Bible contains "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3, Matthew 13:31-32), with deep insights in what humans would later call quantum mechanics, chaos theory, relativity theory, information and complexity theory, evolution theory and genetics. It commemorated that the alphabet sprang from seeds sown in Egypt, and noted that even though there are a mere few thousand stars visible to the naked eye, there are also invisible stars of a multitude that no one can count, and which is comparable to the amount of all the kernels of sand on all the beaches in the world (Genesis 22:17, Hebrews 11:12).
Humans differ from animals in their "invention" of speech, but the reason why they invented speech lies in a much earlier invention, namely that of Theory of Mind, which is the understanding that one's own reality may differ from someone else's (depending on different observations or different explanations thereof). Theory of Mind means an understanding that what I know is not all there is, and that other people might be swimming in useful knowledge that I could not begin to image. Theory of Mind starts with the awareness of one's own limitations and thus one's own weakness (hence the name Enosh). It's one step up from one's awareness of self (I am who I am; Exodus 3:14), and modern human children develop a sense of self within their first eighteen months, and a mature Theory of Mind before the age of seven.
Many animals are able to learn words — Koko the Gorilla, Alex the Grey Parrot, Rico the Border Collie, perhaps even Hans the Horse — but none of them ever asked an inquisitive question, because asking questions goes hand in hand with a level of Theory of Mind that animals don't have. Human social maturity is marked by inquiry, negotiation and discourse, and these activities all depend on every person's comprehension that one's own perspective is limited, and exists only by the grace of an Über-perspective that hovers like a meta-narrative over the waters like the creative Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2, Proverbs 3:5-6).
🔼The pattern shown in the mountain
Moses and Homer tell of the same events in the same world, but the crucial difference between the two is that the Biblical narrative is caried by patterns within the narrative: meta-narratives, which are next-level stories told by ground-level accounts that are repeated on different levels of complexity — so that the various instances of the same account add up to a meta-story that tells of some topic from the multiple points of view of a counsel of narrators rather than the single point of view of one. After all, the Temple of YHWH grew out of the tabernacle, which Moses had made according to patterns that YHWH showed him in the mountain (Exodus 26:30, Hebrews 8:5).
Probably the most familiar meta-narrative is the one of the Father with the Three Sons, which runs from Adam (with sons Cain, Abel and Seth) to Lamech the First (with sons Jabal, Jubal and Tubal-Cain), Noah (with sons Shem, Ham and Japheth) and finally Terah (with sons Abraham, Haran and Nahor). The general rule is that the father breaches into three separate aspects, one of which somehow fails and dies or is expelled, and the lesser of the two survivors joins the greater (Matthew 25:28). Each instance of this story comes with its own particular historical contexts and its own details, telling its own particular point of view relative to the others.
Another example of a meta-narrative is that of the Ruler and the Compromised Couple, which runs from Pharaoh and Abram & Sarai to Abimelech and Abraham & Sarah to Abimelech and Isaac & Rebekah (and see our article on the noun γαμος, gamos, marriage, for a closer look at this meta-narrative).
The Bible is a book, just like humans are apes. But the interlaced web of meta-narratives defines the Bible, just like sapiens defines modern humans. The Iliad is not wholly void of meta-narratives, but they occur in the Iliad with far less prominence and definition than in the Bible. In the Iliad, the differences between manifestations dominate the similarities.
The most obvious Iliadic meta-narrative, of course, comes with the conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles over Chryseis, daughter of Chryses, Trojan priest of Apollo, which is a small-scale manifestation of the large-scale war between the Achaeans (including Agamemnon and Achilles) and the Trojans over Helen. This Iliadic Conflict is characterized not only by the clearly polarized and perpetually fighting Men, but equally so by the drifting Woman, who sometimes exists in the camp of the one and sometimes in the camp of the other (indeed, we must concede, like the moon, who sometimes appears in the night and sometimes in the day).
The Iliad takes the existence of this quintessential Conflict as a given reality of life — an innate quality of humanity, merely awoken and certainly not created by Paris — and the Iliad's sole job is to meditate on the Conflict's many details and nuances, but certainly not to solve or transcend it, or place it in some larger or global context.
The Iliadic Conflict — which exists on multiple levels of complexity, from the personal (the Chryseis dispute) to the societal (the Trojan War) — is in the Bible discussed in the meta-narrative of the Hot Girl and the Cold King, which runs from Dinah at Shechem (and note that the name Dinah relates to Dan the way Helen relates to Helenus), to Ruth in Bethlehem, Abishag at the court of David (1 Kings 1:1-4), the Bride and king Solomon (Song of Solomon 1:5-6), and culminates first in Esther (means Star) at the court of king Ahasuerus of Persia, and finally in Mary of Nazareth in the Roman Empire.
The critical difference between the Mosaic meta-narrative of the Hot Girl and the Cold King, and the Homeric account of Helen and Paris of Troy, is that the former regards it as one of a great many aspects of life, whereas the latter is wholly dominated by it, demonstrating a high but canine intelligence with little ability to consider multiple points of view.
🔼Male and Female He created them
The Bronze Age Collapse was essentially a societal stroke that blew mankind's governing brain out. It was followed by a long period of lawlessness, chaos, darkness and primitivity, and when in the 9th century BC, Hellas began to recover into what would ultimately be its celebrated Golden Age (5th to 3rd centuries BC) and hence the Greco-Roman world that lasts until today, the world was still ringing with its trauma. The phobic fear of societal collapse became the great theme that bound all human contemplation of that time together, and subsequentially spawned its hopeful twin: the question of how to become a perfect society, with perfectly happy people, perfectly stable and perfectly governed.
Despite rumors to the contrary, humans are wholly natural creatures and even our societies form according to the same natural forces that govern the rest of the universe. And although there is only one universe, the universe is formed by two distinct formative aspects, and these are not two extremes of the same spectrum but two wholly separate processes:
- The "masculine" aspect drives global expansion from one singular point (or patriarch) to its maximum dispersal or "heat death". The elements (or sons) form each other through competition and are natured to drive each other ever further apart. The objective of the masculine aspect is to end up perfectly defined and thus entirely alone and thus wholly dead. Fortunately, the initial rapid inflation is never perfectly homogeneous, which means that some areas are denser than others, and when the initial momentum peters out, the elements begin to contract upon regions of greater density:
- The "feminine" aspect drives local contraction from the masculine diaspora into compact gas clouds. In the material universe, these gas clouds contract until nuclear fusion starts and stars are born (stars expel heat, meaning that the cold masculine cloud held more energy than the blazing feminine star). When radiation and matter decoupled, clouds of tiny moments began to combine like soap bubbles and space and time became a continuum. In the biosphere, creatures became multicellular. In the human mental cosmos, words began to bind minds. Like rain that falls broadly from the clouds of heavens but collect in streams that collect in rivers, so human cultures form and forge greater words and more complex ideas. Elements up to iron are formed in stellar cores, but when the hydrogen is exhausted, the star turns super nova: it splits into an outer garment of elements heavier than iron, and an inner core that collapses and forms a black hole: a region of space where femineity culminates in the utter absence of masculinity, where time becomes eternal and internal space becomes as large as the space outside, and a new singularity begins a new masculine era. (And to state the obvious: here at Abarim Publications we suspect that the dynamics of black holes formed a Gladni pattern, which in turn formed DNA.)
Science, though precious and wonderful, is masculine and ultimately doomed to fail because it cannot investigate what it cannot hypothesize (1 Corinthians 2:9). Literature is feminine and forms from the natural contraction of society, and will ultimately reveal everything society has ever contained (Matthew 12:36, Revelation 20:12). Science cannot find a needle in a haystack if it doesn't suspect the needle to be there. Literature cannot avoid to produce that needle, even if it never could have hoped to have contained one.
Like a bucket that's lowered down a very deep well, to retrieve water to make mud to make bricks (see our article on the noun φρην, phren), literature congeals mankind's collective subconscious into tangible narrative; it exposes the deepest subconscious dreams of man and cannot do otherwise — note that Joseph the Dreamer got in trouble but survived and thrived in Egypt by introducing oneirocriticism, or dream-explaining (Genesis 37:19, 40:5, 41:15). The survival of Christ, likewise, is strongly governed by oneirocriticism (Matthew 1:20, 2:12, 2:13, 2:19, 2:22). Daniel, likewise, rose to prominence in Persia by means of oneirocriticism (Daniel 1:17, 2:30). The entire Song of Solomon, likewise, is a dream sequence (Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:1, 5:2).
Despite the demands of recent traditions, modern linguistics has shown that both Moses and Homer are stellar phenomena, brought about by the slow contraction of very large language basins, and containing fabulous treasures of intuited knowledge. Science is masculine. It therefore has very little natural respect for femininity, and is innately unable to comprehend the mechanisms by which highly advanced physics, cosmology and biology might have been unearthed by ancient priests. But they were.
🔼From the dust of the earth
The Homeric and the Mosaic Scriptures are not merely myths or even stores of cultural value. They are, quite literally, the mental DNA that forms the elements of each their own mental cell-types and organic tissues. Both Hellas and Israel are living beasts that roam the plains and jungles of a shared mental biosphere. They are obviously closely related but also as different as they are alike — like moose and mouse, or lion and bear, or great horse and great ape.
Despite claims to the contrary, there is no such thing as universal realism — "simply" a telling what happened by sticking to the "facts" — which is why the White Man's account of the Battle of Little Big Horn (how the West was won) differs so strongly from the version the Natives tell (how the World was lost). If not Tolkien had written The Hobbit but Azog the Defiler, the result would have been indistinguishable from Caesar's Bellum Gallicum. An American movie about the Vietnam War would indeed look like Apocalypse Now (1979) or Rambo (1982), but a Vietnamese version of the very same events, particularly one told from the perspective of a rural villager (say a child, who afterward moved to Hollywood), would be much more like Independence Day (1996) or The War of the Worlds (2005).
Matthew told of lofty magi from the east (2:1); Luke spoke of lowly shepherds abiding in the field (2:8). In each their local contexts, both these groups of characters obviously represent the same Persian Jews who maintained the network of wisdom schools in their voluntarily extended exile. It is there that the systematic postal service was invented, which most probably started as an initiative of Jewish synagogues, but quickly became a world hit, second only to the alphabet (and the weekend, which is yet another Jewish invention; see our article on Sabbath).
Being human is essentially a tradition, as young children learn to be human by imitating others. And by observing others, they can glean otherwise unobtainable information, which they then may absorb as their own or reject as irreconcilably alien. Hellas and Israel went through a similar learning curve, and began to regard each other, and in each their own way tried to understand the other.
The Homeric Epics and the Torah are obviously different animals and equally obviously differ in their execution of the narrative, and of course its ultimate interpretation. But since there is only one world to describe, they inevitably tell of exactly the same events, which are clearly recognizable in a kind of wordless Über-narrative from which both derive their own reality. Without words there is no consciousness, but as soon as we use words to describe this Über-narrative, we choose a perspective. That means that we can only approach this Über-narrative when we are able to switch between realities. And that's where a mature cultural Theory of Mind comes in, and not all cultures have that.
The central theme of the Books of Moses and Homer alike is the dual mystery of how to (a) avoid hyper-masculinity and thus societal collapse, and (b) achieve a perfect union between the masculine and the feminine aspects of reality, which is a union for which creation yearns at every level of complexity — from the atomic to the biological, the marital, the societal and governmental and even the very Über-union of Creator and creation:
|Government & Law||Organic economy & Liberty|
|Seed & spermatozoa||Field & ovum|
|Science & theory||Art|
|Real numbers||Imaginary numbers|
|Survival of the fittest||Survival of the weakest|
|Wake / consciousness / words||Dream / intuition / emotions|
|Day / sun||Night / stars|
|Auto-centricity||Theory of Mind|
|First 3 days||Second 3 days|
The Iliad is a story that plays on many stages, and although the (inter)national level is the most recognizable, it also conveys society's discovery of monogamy and the broad advantage of formal marriage, which effects the systemic protection of children and the safe governance of masculinity by the wives and mothers. The Trojan Horse is of course modeled on a man's ejaculation within the woman, her subjection (Il.16.100) and her subsequent conception and thus the perpetuation of not only the species but also the culture. The obvious result of the success of such a union, at any level, is offspring — hence the Bible's preoccupation with brides and barren wives (i.e. failing husbands). Even when it's not clear how the masculine and feminine are manifested, whatever whole they comprise, it always eagerly yearns to see whatever "sons" it might produce (Romans 8:19).
When Isaiah exclaimed: "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us. And the government will rest on His shoulders, and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6), nobody in his original audience would have missed the fact that, apart from the epithet Prince of Peace, this is how the Greeks described Zeus.
Even though the Hellenes had accepted and adapted the miraculous Hebrew alphabet, the Hebrews appear to have regarded the resulting Hellene reality model as a valid but immature version of their own (Luke 2:52, Isaiah 7:15-16). And instead of coldly rejecting the Hellenes as deluded pagans, Jesus himself proclaimed: "Let the children be, and do not hinder them from coming to Me! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14).
The Anglican cleric and poet Frederick Langbridge famously noted: "Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw mud, the other stars". But what if that first "man" was a toddler, or had the mind of one, as Langbridge seems to have considered in The Scales of Heaven (i.e. Libra, an attribute of Zeus). That child-man who saw mud would have also seen twelve towering Olympians (confusingly perhaps, the proverbial Twelve were thirteen in number), whereas the mature man who saw stars would have looked upon the same reality and seen a young teacher called Word and his twelve very human disciples.
Knowledge (which is masculine) without wisdom (which is feminine) inevitably leads to pain and bloodshed. No responsible parent would give fire to their children, and when Prometheus did so anyway, he exposed mankind to all kinds of suffering, which helps to explain Zeus' livid reaction.
To the Hebrews, humanity's trouble began when Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which is not about cognition but about ethics (how to apply cognition). Mankind fell when mankind began to judge and thus reject, because to God all things work together (Romans 8:28), and anyone who rejects anything, rejects something essential to their own completeness (Matthew 7:1-2, Psalm 118:22). To the pure all things are pure (Titus 1:15), which means that impurity observed is identical to impurity contained (Romans 2:1).
In antiquity, only the priests could read, which means that only tried and tested ideas existed in writing. But the alphabet introduced writing to the masses and soon the market was flooded with all kinds of never tested novelty. This means that together with the alphabet, a new way had to be devised to keep the good stuff separate from the new stuff (Mark 2:22), and this of course resulted in the tradition of quoting and citing (which today lives on in PageRank based on backlinks). The transition into mass-literacy coincided with the collapse of society, as contemplated in the War over Troy.
In Luther's time, all academics was done in Latin, and anyone who wanted to partake in the great debate on human essence first had to spend years learning the language in which that complicated debate was conducted. When Luther translated the Bible into German and began to print and disperse his works, he inadvertently gave too much fire to an inexperienced laity, who in subsequent enthusiasm began to slay their disagreeing neighbors. The celebrated Protestant Reformation started as an obscene civil war because Luther, like Prometheus before him, had given fire to the people but not the oven mittens of wisdom.
The final result of all this, of course, was the separation of religion and secular science, which seemed a great idea, until in the late 19th century, the industrial revolution gave first-generation readers untutored access to the sugary lures of Romanticism first and then Nationalism and of course the first happy sparks of Evolution Theory, which emphasized the masculine survival of the fittest over the feminine survival of the weakest. The result, again, was societal collapse first and then a separation of capital from whatever wisdom had managed to remain in secular science.
In our own time, the rise of cryptocurrency promises, yet again, to put fire in the hands of the inexperienced masses, which means that we should brace for an imminent societal collapse. Fortunately, we now know what needs to happen, and we can prepare like a woman about to give birth to her tenth child.
🔼Bars, mud and stars
Like the immediate descendants of Noah (Genesis 10), the characters of the Iliad obviously manifest the defining elements of humanity — from individual character traits to elements of technology to functions as common as Sleep, Panic, and even the "spirits of hard childbirth" (Il.11.270, see Genesis 3:16), to the great forces that shape societies — as they descend from various deities and result in various known nations. Contrary to common perception, the gods of the Greeks are human. The Greek gods initiated human bloodlines and are thus the ancestors who are still with us — very much in the same way that patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead but very much among the living (Matthew 22:32).
The gods of the Iliad are part of the human race, much rather on a par with "the mighty men who were of old, men of renown" (Genesis 6:4) than with any extra-terrestrial entities of modern popular mythology. Though bloodless (Il.5.342), and quite unlike mortal terrestrials (Il.5.440-442), Greek gods are human — more precise: the societal dynamics, schools of thought, sets of skills and ways of being that shape humanity; forces of which individual humans are the bosons — and appeared in visible human form among human mortals, which is precisely the same principle from which Jesus derived his human form: "Where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst" (Matthew 18:20).
Greek theology recognized separate generations of gods to correspond with the different stages of humanity's evolution (which in itself betrays an astounding level of cultural memory): the Twelve Titans ruled mankind in deep antiquity, but were delegated to Tartarus, a gloomy place as far below Hades as the sky is above the earth (Il.8.16). Hades, the depository of mankind's more recent forgotten ones, was one of the next generation of Twelve Olympians, and brother of Poseidon (sea, or subconscious and living memory) and Zeus (sky, consciousness and formative dynamics). Together with their Titan father Kronos (after Chronos, time), these three godly brothers correspond to the Mosaic meta-narrative of the Father with the Three Sons (Il.15.187) — even more specifically that meta-story's station of Adam (Kronos) and Eve (Rhea), Cain (Zeus), Abel (Hades) and Seth (Poseidon).
Crucially, the Greek gods were not only essentially human, they spawned (rather than created) humanity, and inevitably human-god hybrids like Heracles (or Hercules in Latin), son of Zeus (the alpha god) and Alcmene (a human). Heracles' Twelve Labors tell of the transition of very early humanity to early humanity — all to do with very early societal organizations, stratifications and the struggle for supremacy of various ways of complex existence and protocols (comparable to how in our modern times, AC won from DC, FM won from AM and VHS won from Betamax; in short: format wars).
The goddess Hera, the static depository of wisdom and self-declared highest of all goddesses (Il.18.364), was both the wife and sister of Zeus — in the meta-narrative of the Father with the Tree Sons, Hera is explained by Sarah, the wife and sister of Abraham — whose right breast Heracles shot through with a three-barbed arrow (Il.5.393, see Genesis 21:20). Even Hades himself got shot by an arrow from Heracles (Il.5.395), which seems to celebrate mankind's achievement of cultural memory through which the dead are not so dead anymore. Or in the words of Paul: "Where, O Death, is thy victory? Where, O Death, is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55).
During the reign of Laomedon, father of Priam, Heracles also managed to sack Troy, which, like Jerusalem, was captured twice but initially given back to the vanquished (Il.5.642, see Judges 1:8 and 2 Samuel 5:6). This suggests a useful equation of the Iliadic Trojans and the Biblical Jebusites.
Both the Iliad and the Bible emphasize that the technological sophistication required to produce the alphabet naturally coincided with the technological sophistication of metallurgy (the same cultural complexity drove the invention of the alphabet and that of metallurgy). The widow whose son Elijah revived, and whom Jesus mentioned in relation to him freeing the captives (Luke 4:26), was from Zarephath, which means Workshop For Smelting And Refining Metals. Little over a century earlier, David had camped in Ziklag, which means A Pint Of Liquid Metal. The complex dynamic of David slaying Goliath, the loss of his beloved friend Jonathan and the antics surrounding the bronze armor of king Saul (1 Samuel 17:38-40) is told in Iliadic terms as Achilles slaying Hector, the loss of his beloved friend Patroclus and the bronze armor made by the god Hephaestus, whose signature lameness is not unlike that of Jonathan's son Mephibosheth (also compare Il.23.192 to 1 Kings 18:24).
In the time of the Iliad, all useful metal was of course bronze, but as the tone of the war deteriorates and the once transparent pursuit of gentlemanly ideals makes way for turbid deceit and mindless violence (Il.21.279-283), traces of iron creep into the narrative: both Priam and Achilles are recognized to have hearts of iron (Il.22.357, 24.205, 24.521; a similar deterioration into iron is seen in Daniel 2:32-33, also compare Il.23.205 to Daniel 10:20).
In the Iliad, Hephaestus is the divine worker of bronze, which is a purpose in Moses ascribed to Tubal-Cain (ultimately even capable of creating artificially intelligent androids from gold: Il.18.419). Since the Trojans captured Achilles armor (comparable to the Philistines capturing the Ark; 1 Samuel 4:11), Hephaestus promises to make Achilles a new set, even such a splendid armor that "in time to come, all mankind will be thunderstruck at the sight of it" (Il.18.467; Priam's Troy was once held in comparable world-wide regard, see Il.18.288). He then proceeds to create a shield of such elaborate proportions that nobody in any kind of audience failed to comprehend that he's not making a mere object — it shows the sea and the heavens populated by several constellations, the earth with two highly detailed "cities of mankind" (to embody the central Iliadic Conflict). In one city there are multiple marriages (tradition and public celebration of life), and a public dispute over a man's wrongful death between various orators (democracy's precarious balance between formal legislation and public support). The other city is besieged by two different armies, having each their own objectives to clash with the third army, native to the city, in a highly detailed way (including scouts, herds and pipe-playing shepherds).
Between the cities, a field exists, upon which plowmen find time for a pleasing cup of wine between turns. And a palatial estate, with its own farmlands and farmhands binding sheaves where others fall in long rows, overlooked by a silent monarch and heralds preparing a feast. And a vineyard with paths and fences and merry boys and girls picking grapes and playing lyres and singing the Linos Song (which may have commemorated the Age of Weaving). Somewhere among these structures roams a large herd of cattle — in the old world plowing and teaching were closely associated, which explains the many bovine deities (see our article on the name Piram, which is not unlike the name Priam) — which is governed by shepherds and nine "swift-footed" dogs, and assailed by two fearsome lions, as well as a charming glen plus a large pasture of sheep, with folds and pens. And finally, the shield depicts a dancing floor, where maidens and young men hold hands and dance, dressed in detailed garb.
Achilles' shield is clearly more than a mere thing, as it tells the whole elaborate story of man, or at least in the headlines as they were known in Homer's time. In Moses, this world-wide divine shield belongs to YHWH, and is introduced in the story along with the character of the Word of God, whose first human words are: "Do not fear, Abram! I am a shield to you" (Genesis 15:1, see 12:3, 22:18). Much later, when David mourns the death of Saul and Jonathan on mount Gilboa, he laments that the shield of the mighty was defiled (2 Samuel 1:21).
🔼And a River flowed out of Eden
When Zeus ordered all gods to an assembly, "not a single river was absent" (Il.20.7), and when Asteropaios taunted Achilles, he declared that he physically descended from the river Axios in Macedonia (Il.21.157). An important epithet of sky-father Zeus is νεφεληγερετα (nephelegereta) meaning Cloud Gatherer, and clouds rise from the sea (Poseidon's realm) and eventually yield rain. Or in the words of Jeremiah: "When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens. And He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and brings out the wind from His storehouses" (Jeremiah 10:13). Rain forms rivers and rivers support human societies (see for a more extensive discussion of this our article on the name Tigris).
In earth's physical atmosphere, clouds form from water vapor, but in the human cosmos, clouds form from human minds and human intentions: clouds of fighting men (Iliad: 4.274, 5.222, 5.864, 11.492-497, 16.298, 17.243) or clouds of students of the Word (Genesis 9:13, Psalm 68:4, Daniel 7:13, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Hebrews 12:1). The Hebrew verb נהר (nahar) means both to flow (what a river does) and to shine (what a star does). The noun מורה (moreh) means both teacher and rain, and stems from the same verb as the familiar word Torah or teachings. From the noun אור ('or), meaning light, come the names Ye'or (the Hebrew word for Nile), and Ur (where Abraham was from).
The difference between the gathering done by Zeus and the gathering done by YHWH is the same difference as that between the doings of a swine herder and that of a shepherd: a swine herder drives swine where they don't want to and a shepherd leads sheep to where they do want to go. From the Hebrew verb ארה ('ara), to gather, comes the feminine noun אריה ('urya), manger or crib, the structure in which Mary placed baby Jesus and around which domesticated animals gladly gather to feed. The masculine equivalent ארי ('ari) means lion, which is an animal that forcibly gathers and devours.
The Olympian even his father Zeus despised was Ares (Il.5.888-892), the god of hateful war, whose name means ruin in Greek but would obviously remind of ארי ('ari), lion, to Hebrew speakers. Much more beloved was Zeus' daughter Athena, the city builder, which was a quality that the Hebrews ascribed to Cain, the murderer of his brother Abel (Genesis 4:17).
Life, like electricity, it not a substance but an effect of which light is the substance. Hence life exists wherever an economy of light (electromagnetic fields, chemistry, wisdom) is sustained. And that means that life exists at various levels of complexity (atoms, single cells, multi-cellular organisms, autonomous cultures, and intercultural trade), and thus so does death (Revelation 21:8, see Ephesians 2:1). Which death Abel suffered may not be immediately clear, but Cain was forbidden to be further murdered (Genesis 4:15) and despite the Great Flood, the final generation of Cain's line, namely that of the children of Lamech the First, resulted in the lasting patriarchies of Jabal (the father of all who live in tents) and Jubal (the father of all who play musical instruments), as well as all forms of metallurgy world-wide (Tubal-Cain) and even a daughter named Naamah (perhaps alluding to all kinds of decorative arts and confections and such).
These three sons and one daughter of Lamech the First still dominate our world today, and even accommodated much of the famous meeting place of Israel and God: the tabernacle was a tent, many of its utensils were made of bronze, much of the worship was musical and the smoke on the altar was proverbially pleasing. The obviously absent component in all this is of course information technology, the Word, which is what the flood of Noah (son of Lamech the Second) is all about.
Wild animals live in anarchy, which is lawlessness, which guarantees the survival of the fittest by means of competition. The word ελευθερια (eleutheria), or freedom-by-law, describes the polar opposite of lawlessness, and is, like language, a result of collective sophistication and consensual societal contraction. Freedom-by-law was not only the Greek's democratic ideal but also the purpose of the gospel (Galatians 5:1), which is the fulfillment of a perfect law (Matthew 5:17), which is the entire death of all dominion (1 Corinthians 15:24), and guarantees the survival of the weakest by means of cooperation (2 Corinthians 13:11). As told in the Iliad, the transition between beastly anarchy and heavenly peace is marked by slowly thinning ranks of burly warriors, increasingly interspersed by speakers of speeches that get slowly deeper.
Even animals have tents, music and pleasantries, but they don't have writing. The entire tabernacle complex (and the Temple later) was essentially the outer shell of the Ark of the Covenant, which in turn was a depository for the stone tablets, on which was engraved the Law, in the awesome new art of writing, by the finger of God Himself (Exodus 31:18). The image of "Noah amidst the animals" is the same as that of and "baby Moses among the papyrus" and "the Ark amidst Israel" and "literate people amidst illiterate people" and "baby Jesus in the manger" and "New Jerusalem on the New Earth": it's yet another meta-narrative.
🔼Hellen (male) and Helen (female)
The Hellenes derived their own patriarchy from the eponymous hero Hellen, who, like Lamech the First, had three sons and one daughter. Since Lamech's offspring is obviously part of the important meta-narrative of the Father with the Three Sons, it seems probable that the Hebrew scribes would have based their character of Lamech the First on Hellen (or vice versa, and exported Lamech, as Hellen, along with the alphabet to the candid world of the budding Hellenes). Hellen, or so the story goes, was a son of Deucalion (in turn a son of Poseidon, brother of Zeus) and Pyrrha (from πυρ, pur, fire; her mother was Pandora, meaning All-Gifted or Gifted To All), who were the sole survivors of the great flood that had destroyed human civilization. In the Greek version, that flood had been decreed by Zeus, who was outraged by the carefree king Lycaon of Arcadia, who had tried to test the Father by feeding him a meal mixed with the entrails of a sacrificed young boy. The same elements appear in the Hebrew version, namely Lamech's boast: "For I have killed a man for wounding me, and a boy for striking me" (Genesis 4:23).
Hellen became the mythical patriarch of the main Greek tribes (Aeolians, Dorians, Achaeans, Ionians), which he sired with the nymph Orseis (whose name relates to ορσω, orso, first or second person singular of the verb ορνυμι, ornumi, to urge, incite, call forth, arouse, stir up). In that sense, Hellen is to the Greeks what Jacob is to Israel, and the latter's famous battle with the angel at the Jabbok appears to have its Greek counterpart in the fight between Diomedes of Argos and Aeneas of Troy, cousin of Priam and son of Aphrodite. During the battle over Troy, Diomedes shattered Aeneas' hip socket (Il.5.305, see Genesis 32:25), but Apollo took the latter to his shrine in Pergamos (Il.5.446), where he recovered to the extent that he was able to travel to Rome and become the ancestor of none other than Romulus and Remus. As first of the Roman heroes, Virgil praised him in his Aeneid, whose theme, like Homer's epics and Moses' Torah, is all about building mental Rome from the atoms of the Latin alphabet (which is really the Greek alphabet expressed in Etruscan symbols).
To the Hebrews, the most beautiful woman in the world was Wisdom (Hochma), and the Hellene account of the Judgement of Paris — deciding which goddess is more beautiful: Hera who offered him a great kingdom, Athena who offered him wisdom and war skill, or Aphrodite who offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, namely Helen, the wife of Menelaus of Sparta — is the same as the Hebrew account of the Judgement of Solomon, who chose Wisdom and received the options he had not pursued as bonus (1 Kings 3:5-15). The same principle returns in Jesus' famous injunction to "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
The name Homer is traditionally interpreted to mean both Blind Man and Captive (see our article on the name Homer for the details). And when Jesus said: "He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind" (Luke 4:18), nobody in his original audience misunderstood that he intended to canonize Homer, which is probably why his original audience became so angry and wanted to throw him off a mountain (only to have the familiar story of Sisyphus grafted upon their efforts). Likewise, when Jesus healed the man who had been blind since birth (reported in the deliberately hilarious ninth chapter of the Gospel of John), he spat on the ground to ostentatiously make mud (Javan means Mud) and applied it to the man's eyes, who immediately began to see, and sent him to Siloam (which means Sent).
The name Jason — of Argonaut and Golden Fleece fame — may be Greek and thus means Healer, or it may be Semitic and be a variant of the name Jesus. The Greek story of Jason has its Hebrew counterpart in Tobias (means Virtue, a favorite topic of Socrates), who healed his blind father with the gall of a fish.
🔼The Prisoner of the Lord
Photonic energy, you'll be pleased to know, comes before all things and holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). The name Levi comes from the verb לוה (lawa), to join or connect, and that associates the Levites with seers (of light; what eyes do).
Moses — whose Hebrew name משה (moshe) could easily pass for a feminine noun — was born from two Levite parents (Exodus 2:1-10), and the same goes for John the Baptist (Luke 1:5), whose mother Elizabeth was a cousin of Mary (Luke 1:36), who was therefore also a Levite. Jesus — the Light and the Assembler — was a gamete, whose genetic set came solely from his mother, who only had genetic X's to pass on. That means that Jesus was genetically a Levite female, and a Jewish male only "by law" (Luke 3:23).
In ancient languages, masculinity describes the tendency to be an individual, and femineity describes the tendency to be a collective. Jesus, the masculine individual, was the ovum that would become the child that would be the Bride (see our article on the name Stephen for more on this particular topic).
Levi was one of two brothers who were condemned to remain landless within Israel, as punishment for their reaction to what Shechem had done to their sister Dinah (Genesis 49:5-7). As we note above, the story of Shechem and Dinah is an early instance of the Paris and Helen motif, and comes directly after the account of Jacob's fight with the angel, which resonates with the fight of Diomedes and Aeneas.
The other brother was Simeon, whose name means He Who Hears. Levi was the Seer, Simeon was the Hearer. Homer, the proverbial Blind, was certainly not a Seer and therefore a Hearer. Sound is terrestrial and local, whereas light is heavenly and of infinite range. But Hearing (as well as the noun ομηρος, homeros) is synonymous with following and thus obedience. That makes Hearing feminine, and femininity indeed the salvation of mankind, when the natural law of our Creator remains the only masculinity to which our kind will be subjected.
Homer's other epithet (or rather, the other meaning of the noun ομηρος, homeros) is that of captive or prisoner, and the motif of the Prisoner of the Lord forms a meta-narrative that runs like a zipper through the Bible. The actual term is Pauline (Ephesians 4:1) and it doesn't merely describe captivity, but specifically a double stepped process of (1) abduction and subsequent captivity in a strange land, and (2) serving that strange land until the land becomes attracted to and then converted to the ways of the prisoner (Jeremiah 29:7).
An initial proto-instance of the Potent Prisoner comes in Lot, whose name means Covering and whose royal host got "covered" (Genesis 14:10) and whose city was destroyed because Lot had failed to provide a critical mass to let it survive (18:16 - 19:29). But the first clear Potent Prisoner is of course Joseph the Dreamer, from which derives the character of Jesus' father-by-law, Joseph also the Dreamer. After young Joseph was sold to Egypt, his star rose quickly and he became Ruler under Pharaoh, but his people began a gradual decline into slavery, from which Moses the Joiner ultimately delivered them.
Israel solidified into a kingdom in Canaan, but at its greatest extent the pendulum began to swing in the direction opposite Egypt, namely toward Assyria, Babylon and finally Persia. The role of Potent Prisoner was now played by Daniel the Dreamer, who, like Joseph, quickly rose to prominence. Daniel's people didn't suffer a decline as steep as Joseph's people did (Daniel's people also had Esther) but still, a second Exodus back to Canaan was accomplished by Zerubbabel (means Seed Of Babylon). Characters like Paul, Nicodemus, Gamaliel, Nathanael, Simon the Host (Luke 7:36), most probably Simon of Cyrene, and even the historian Josephus were or had been Pharisees. And the rise of the Pharisee (Φαρισαιος, Pharisaios) seems to have had something to do with the Jews' stay in Persia (Περσις, Persis).
The very common Greek word περι (peri), meaning all around, is the root of words such as the adjective περισσος (perissos), meaning exceeding, and the noun περισσευμα (perisseuma), meaning abundance. To a Greek ear, the Greek name for Persia probably sounded like Land of Plenty. This is not so strange since even in our time the word Persia brings to mind surplus and luxury (think of Persian rugs and Persian cats and such). All this is relevant to our story since the name Paris (Παρις) was commonly explained from the noun πηρα (pera), money pouch, which suggests that Helen really went after the money (or in gentler terms: women generally prefer mates who provide security). But it also suggests that in Greek the name Persia sounded like The Lands All Around, or Diaspora, which obviously resonates with the name Nazareth in Hebrew (which could be construed as a Niphal form of the verb זרע, zara', to scatter or sow).
Homer's Paris, though a prince of Troy, had been covertly raised by shepherds, which ties into Luke's Magi. Paris had ended up among the shepherds because, you guessed it, his mother Hecuba had dreamed that she would give birth to a flaming torch, which ties into the myth of Prometheus on the Greek end of the spectrum, and the covenant between YHWH and Abraham on the Hebrew side (Genesis 15:17).
All this appears to demonstrate that in real history, the rise of Hellas was initially funded by broad international trade of both goods and ideas (that's the Persian or Parisian element), and ultimately provided with a collective and self-aware mind by a contingent of literate Phoenician slaves (that's the Homerian element). What Jesus began to do in the synagogue of Nazareth was to accept wild dogs into the fray. It was the first step toward global domestication.