22 September 2017

Jesus died at Sukkot, not Pesach-Matzot

Jesus the Nazorean, aka Jesus Christ, aka Iesous Christos, aka Iesous Chrestos, aka Iesous Nazaraios, aka Isho Nasraya was not crucified at the time of Passover and the Feast of Matzot, or Unleavened Bread, but several months later in the year, at the time of Sukkot, or Tabernacles.  And what’s more, the evidence for this incontrovertible fact lies within the Gospel of Mark and its derivatives, with scattered indications even in the Gospel of John.

There are, by the way, evidences in the New Testament of at least four separate editions, if you will, of the Gospel of Mark at various stages of development.

Jesus was not a Jew, at least not to the native population of Palestine in the first century CE.  At the time, to a native resident of Palestine, the word “Jew” signified a person historically resident in and descendant of a long line of residents in the province of Judea.  Which is why the writers of the Gospel of John refer to Jesus’ opponents as “Jews”, seemingly not including him.  Jesus was a Galilean, and in the mileiu of Palestine Galileans were in held little better regard than the Samaritans.  So, we have Jews or Judeans, Galileans, and Samaritans; the other two ethnic subgroups in Palestine were the Idumeans and Pereans, both of higher status to Judeans than Galileans, with Samaritans held as pariahs by all other four groups.  For simplicity here, I’ll be using the word “Jews” for the all the different groups collectively and “Judeans” for the ethnic subgroup of Judea.

There were colonies of Jews and Samaritans throughout the Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia; these were the Diaspora.  Gentiles, or Goyim, made no distinction between them, but in Palestine the Judeans held Jews of the Diaspora to be roughly on the level of Galileans.  Why these distinctions are important to the matter at hand will become clear. 

First and foremost, the central and most imporant festival of Palestinian Jews until the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was Sukkot, while among the Diaspora Jews it was Passover and Matzot. 

Second, the two macrogroups, Palestinian Jews and Diaspora Jews, had different schema of messianic expectations.

The Jews of Palestine, with variations of course within the group, did not look for a single messiah, but in fact for four.  These were Elijah, the Messiah ben Joseph or Messiah ben Ephraim, the Messiah ben David or Messiah ben Judah, and The Righteous Priest or Messiah ben Levi.  The Essenes had their own version, looking for Messiahs of Aaron and of Israel. 

The masses in Palestine looked for these four messiahs to come at different times along their religious calendar.  Passover and Matzot were the time when they expected the return of Elijah the prophet.  Shavuot, or Pentecost, was when they expected the Messiah ben Joseph.  Sukkot was when they expected the Messiah ben David with the Righteous Priest beside him.

The gospels clearly portray Jesus as the Messiah ben David, even in the much later additions at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke, who among Palestinian Jews was expected at Sukkot.  Strike one against the traditional timetable.

The palms carried by pilgrims in procession on what to traditionalists is the first Palm Sunday was and still are a feature of Sukkot not Passover-Matzot nor of any other occasion.  Likewise, though the entire group of Hallel psalms (113-118) is recited daily throughout all festivals, the singing of the two verses upon which the cries of the people on the so-called first Palm Sunday are based, Psalm 118:25-26, was unique to one of the rites of Sukkot.  That rite took place every day of the festival after the additional sacrifices for the festival that took place after the first of the ordinary daily sacrifices (there were two sets of these, one in morning and one in afternoon) when the priests and Levites led the congregation in circumabulation around the altar, waving their palms as they processed.

The blood and water which the gospels portray pouring out of our protagonist’s side when it is pierced with a spear represent another motif tying the crucifixion of Jesus the Nazorean to the messianic festival. 

As I said before, Sukkot was the big festival in Palestine, and for this festival if not for the other two major feasts, Jews made an effort to go up to Jerusalem for the duration.  Every day of Sukkot, participants in the festival would go home or to wherever they were lodging, sleep, and return at midnight for a party that lasted until dawn.  At dawn, Levites would lead a procession of the congregation to the Pool of Siloam south of the temple compound, with the congregation singing and waving their palms while the Levites played instruments.  When they returned with a pitcher of water, the officiating priest would take it and a pitcher of wine and pour them simultaneously over the altar.  Although water was poured over the altar every morning before the first sacrifices of the day, there was no such pomp and circumstance nor was wine poured over it except during Sukkot.

Finally, the festival of Sukkot is an eight-day festival, seven days for the festival of Sukkot itself and one more at the end called Shemini Atzeret, counted as a Sabbath, attached but separate, which matches the timeline of the week of the Passion as presented in the gospels, beginning on Palm Sunday and ending on Easter Sunday, much better.

The central importance of Sukkot vanished with and its festivities at the thorough destruction of the temple and its compound along with the city of Jerusalem after its surrender to the Roman armies in 70 CE at the end of the Great Jewish War.  To Diaspora Jews, and eventually to Palestinian Jews, as well as to Gentile converts to Judaism and later Christianity, for the one whose followers claimed as the Messiah ben David to have come to Jerusalem at the time of Sukkot rather than Passover would make no sense.  But the imagery of Palm Sunday was just too good to discard along with the rest of the story, so it was retained, out of place.

The destruction of the temple and its compound, by the way, was complete.  Not one stone was left standing, even of the compound wall surrounding the Temple Mount.  According to Josephus, who was there, the only structures to remain standing were the western wall of the city, on the other side of the city from the temple, and three towers of Herod’s former palace in the Upper City.  The wall identified by mystic Isaac Luria in the 15th century as the Western Wall of the Jewish temple compound was constructed not by Herod but by Hadrian, emperor of Rome, for the compound of the temples to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, when the city of Aelia was built atop the ruins of Jerusalem in the fourth decade of the 2nd century CE.

I would say “sorry to burst your bubble” but in fact, if I have, that would be a lie.  And since I actually enjoy having my own preconceived notions and ideas overturned if done convincingly with facts, I am at least consistent.

20 September 2017

On Neo-Confederate Subculture

First, I'm happy to report that the dean and the chapter of the Episcopal Church USA’s National Cathedral along with the bishop of the Diocese of Washington, D.C., announced this week (on 12 September) that they will be removing two windows of two panes each honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, complete with Confederate flags, from their installation in the walls of the cathedral.  The windows, paid for by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, were installed in 1953.  The announcement stated unequivocably that these windows do not represent the values of the Episcopal Church and should be removed immediately, deconsecrated, and stored out of sight until further disposal is decided.  Good for you, bishop, dean, and chapter, and thank you.  I say that as an Episcopalian, as an American, as a Terran, and as a child of the Universe.

Looking at the matter objectively and without prejudice, bereft of the late war and postbellum revisionism that is the foundation of the mythical Lost Cause to which were more myths were later added by the neo-Confederate school of 1890-1930, there is no question whatsoever that the Confederate States of America, the Confederacy, was established to maintain and to further propogate a socioeconomic political system of plantocracy based on the life enslavement of African and Afro-American men, women, and children.

But rarely do humans look at history objectively and without prejudice, else American history books would relate that the Union, the states not part of the Great Secession, fought to maintain and to further propogate imperial capitalism, and to keep the Southern states as both a source of raw materials and a domestic market for manufactured goods.

Neither set of leaders had pure motives.  Karl Marx, who wrote numerous articles in support of the Northern cause, was quite well aware of the true motives of its leaders but deemed the enslavement of humans, especially based on race, to be more evil than imperial capitalism.  As for the soldiers in the field on both sides who did the fighting and bleeding and killing and dying, they for the most part fought for the same reasons as the rank and file of all armies of wars past and present: conscription, manufactured patriotism, and defence of home, and not home as in homeland but as in home, family, local area, state in this case.

One element of post-bellum history largely overlooked is the number of exiled Confederates who fled to other countries in the aftermath.  Confederate colonies arose in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Cuba, Costa Rica, Peru, Venezuela, and Canada, but by far the largest of all, estimated between ten and twenty thousand, grew up in the Empire of Brasil.  Of all these, only the colonies in Brasil survived as a distinct entity, today known, by themselves and their neighbors, as Los Confederados de Brasil.  Los Confederados are not divided by race and are in fact multiracial, with members of the ethnic group showing dominant physical traits of either Caucasian or African or even Native American ancestry, sometimes all three, but all clearly mixed.

Even year Los Confederados send a number of their young people to the Motherland, to the Southern states that were briefly the Confederacy, usually hosted by a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  It is quite an experience to hear a multiracial group of youth switch from speaking Portugese among themselves to Southern English, and not just Southern English, but American English of the Deep South from a century and a half ago complete with an accent to rival that of Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara.

Speaking of which, author Margaret Mitchell based her character Melanie Hamilton on her distant cousin Sister Mary Melody, formerly Mary McCarthy, and her character Rhett Butler on her more famous distant cousin Doc Holliday.  Yes, THAT Doc Holliday, the best friend of Morgan Earp and his brothers in the Old West.  The ancestors of both Mary and Doc, betrothed until he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, came from Ulster.

For Los Confederados de Brasil, Confederate identity does not represent white supremacy nor the subjugation of one race by another but a shared history which makes them unique as a people, in their case not one that includes those across racial lines so much as one in which racial lines have been completely obliterated.  In the same way, not all those in America who believe with a mythical version of Confederate history, who cling to symbols of the Confederacy as part of their heritage and personal identity are white supremacists or bigots or racists.

Contrary to what the Southern Poverty Law Center claims, membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans is not restricted to those who can prove direct lineal descent from a former Confederate soldier.  In fact, for basic membership a claim is enough, and that can be through either direct lineal or collateral (uncle, cousin, even in-law), and there is even an associate membership for those who have not even that familial relationship.  Furthermore, anyone descended lineally or collaterally from anyone who received a pension as a Confederate soldier is eligible for full membership, and there are quite a few Afro-Americans on those rolls.

This is not a plug for the organization; I simply despise bullshit no matter what its source, even from an organization like the SPLC with which I am in otherwise wholehearted agreement.

If use of Confederate imagery and/or symbols necessarily makes one an ignorant bigoted white supremacist, then explaining Canadian Mohawk Robbie Roberson’s motives for writing the song, “The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down” becomes more than a little problematic.  It is, in fact, a coded protest against the Viet Nam War, drawing an analogy between the poor whites who fought for the Confederacy and the working class Americans, white, black, Chicano, and Asian, who fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia. 

If you blanketly condemn all use of the symbols, then you condemn Robbie Roberson, as well as Joan Baez who covered the song.  You also condemn Fred Hampton of the Chicago Black Panthers, who formed the original, pre-Jesse Jackson, Rainbow Coalition that sprang from their partnership with the Young Patriots of Uptown in Chicago who rocked the Confederate flag, specifically the battle flag of the Army of Tennessee, and sang Dixie as their anthemn.

Most of the American subculture which identifies with the former Confederacy for whatever reason is not racist but tribal, either from family history or residence.  Back when I was substitute teaching, I did a week subbing for a history teacher at Howard High School here, the oldest public school in the county and one almost entirely Afro-American.  At the time, the class was covering the Civil War.  I went there quite excited to share what I had learned of the First Colored Brigade of the Union Army of the Cumberland stationed in Chattanooga during the occupation.  As I perused their artwork on the walls outside the classroom interspersed with imaginary letters to or soldiers and swethearts, however, most identified with the Confederacy.  Why?  Because the South was their home.

However, the nature and history of the Confederate subculture and neo-Confederate mythology lend themselves far too easily to cooptation by racist, white supremacist, Christian dominionist organizations like the League of the South, which is the source of the latest racist ahistorical buzzword, “Anglo-Celtic”.  In addition to penetrate the former branch of the Scottish Nationalist Party in America, leading to its dissolution by its parent, members of the League of the South have penetrated all too many Scottish heritage events, often having tables at Highland Games across the country.

During protests in Ringgold, Georgia, over Roy Barnes unilateral change of the state flag from its 1950s form with the Army of Northern Virginia version of the Southern Cross to what it is now, local advocates of the former flag booed and jeered members of the League of the South speaking as members of the Conservative Citizens Council so vociferously that they foled under police guard.

During my single year of membership in SCV, League of the South penetration of it was mostly confined to the Southern Brigade of the Georgia Division.  Since then, however, it has taken over leadership of both the Georgia Division and the national organization, though several pockets of resistance remain.  Keeping in mind that personal use of Confederate symbols do not necessarily constitute an expression of white supremacism, such display by local, state, or federal government entities does, in fact, validate that very thing.  The only places Confederate monuments and memorabilia belong are in Civil War military parks, museums, and cemeteries, just as the only acceptable place for Confederate cosplay, or for that matter Union cosplay, is at Civil War reenactments.

If history buffs or Confederate romanticists want to commemorate former Confederate generals truly worthy of venerable remembrance, erect monuments and statues to James Longstreet and William Mahone, both of whom worked hard to build a biracial society in the postbellum South, Longstreet in New Orleans fighting with Afro-American militia against the Knights of the White Camelia and Mahone leading the biracial Readjuster Party in Virginia against the Redemptionist Bourbon Democrats.  Or Irish-American general Patrick Cleburne, who literally risked his life by proposing to free the slaves, along with their families, and make them full citizens in return for service in the Confederate army.