Last rites are no hope to anyone

While the church offers a “get out jail free card” to all “penitent sinners” via last rites absolution, wicked men will continue to find a self-justification for their sinful behaviour and there will be no change.

A glaring example is the report in The Times of forty monks and teachers who have been accused of sexually abusing boys at a leading Roman Catholic school in the UK, which allegedly became a “honeypot” for offenders.

If preachers and teachers do not focus on Christ’s call to live a transformed life, but instead focus on the need for daily confession, my (limited) experience has been that such preachers and teachers are more likely to have something to confess, possibly a regular sin that they are not prepared to abandon.

I remember hearing a pentacostal preacher many years ago talking about his terrible sinful young life, when he would go to piano bars. To a young man in Australia, this seemed a bizarre confession. It all came clearer later, when the famous preacher’s pecadilos were revealed and he was defrocked.

There is no “get out jail free card” in my Bible. Rather: “If we deliberately go on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins remains, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire that will consume all adversaries.” This applies irrespective of whether last rites are administered or not.

Joseph’s “Official History”

Joseph was a very high officer in Egypt, reporting to Pharaoh Thutmoses IV.
Status is very important in such a position, as is one’s family background.
It was in Joseph’s interests to show that his family had status in their own land.
So here is “Joseph’s official history” of his own family, in its context.

Joseph had his account written down in hieroglyphics and in Akkadian.
The tablets, in Akkadian, containing this account were preserved in Jerusalem.
They were recovered in the time of King Josiah, along with other tablets.
This story then became a vital part of the expanded story of Israelite history.

This account can be extracted from the book of Genesis.
It is a two-step approach. The first step is to find the very late “Priestly Source.”
This is easy, and well established by scholarship, tested over 100 years.
Next, anachronistic elements can be removed and things reconstructed.

It is a wonderful story, but it is not a “family story:” it is an official story.
It is given here, with its undisputed historical context, which is shown in red.
To this I have added the results of my own historical analysis (in green).
So here is Joseph’s story, taken from the Bible, re-written in the first person.

My great-grandfather was Abram, our ancestor.
He came from Haran, otherwise known as Ur of the Chaldeans.
He took with him Sarai, his wife, Lot, his brother’s son, and all their goods
And set out on an adventure, to Djahi, together with all their servants.

Djahi was the Egyptian name for the land later called Canaan.
Canaan is from a word used for “dealers in purple.”
It came to be used for the northern coastal lands of Djahi.
Much later the Egyptians began to use “Canaan” for all their Djahi territory.

Although the indigenous population of Djahi originally was Semitic,
Hurrians had entered the land centuries earlier, and populated it.
The inland cities now had Hurrian fortifications,
By 1700 BC, all Djahi was infiltrated and well settled by the Hurrians.

Aleppo's fortifications
Modern Aleppo’s fortifications

In 1620 BC, in northern Djahi, Alalakh was attacked by Hattusili.
Under its king, Hattusili, Hittite borders grew rapidly.
If a city surrendered, it got one of his sons as its ruler.
If a city resisted, Hattusili would raze it to the ground

“When Mursili, Hattasuli’s successor, was king, his sons and troops were united.
He defeated his enemies with a strong arm [and ruthlessness].
He made the sea the boundaries of his land.
He even took Aleppo, in Djahi, which Hattasuli could not do.

Mursili brought resettlers from Aleppo to Hattusa, the capital.
He went to Babylon and destroyed that city in 1595 BC.
[We have no record, but he certainly would have put a “son” there.]
He also fought the Hurrians” in southern Djahi, taking Hazor.

Evidence of Hittite control of Hazor is found in the early basalt work.
It is a very hard rock, which cannot be worked with bronze tools.
Abrasives may do the job, but iron tools are more likely.
At this time, only the Hittite nobility had iron tools.

The destruction of Jericho has also been incomprehensible to historians,
Yet it can be reasonably be attributed to the Hittites, under Mursili.
Who else was as active as Mursili at that time? “No-one” is the answer.
Poor Jericho! Its great fortifications could not save it from destruction.

When Mursili returned to Hattusa, the capital, he was killed in a palace coup.
Mursili was killed by his brother-in-law, Hantili, and Hantili’s son-in-law.
Seizing the moment, the Hurrians struck out, reaching as far as Hattusa.
The Hittite rulers did not understand that their ruthlessness had a cost.

What were Mursili’s “sons” now to do? The evidence is clear.
The new outposts of empire were lost. Babylon was taken by the Kassites.
The Hittite ruler of Hazor was free of the king at Hattusa.
Disgusted with his “father’s” murder, he owed no allegiance to Hantili.

By 1545 BC, the Egyptians had expelled their foreign rulers, the Hyksos.
Weakened by the Hittite incursions, the Hyksos were left friendless.
Pharaoh Ahmose defeated the Hyksos, who were originally from Djahi.
No help came to them from the dynasty of Yamhad, based on Aleppo.

Hyksos expelled from Djahi
Political map after the Hyksos were defeated

Pharaoh Ahmose established a new Egyptian dynasty, the 18th dynasty.
The chief god of Thebes, Amun, became the highest god of the land.
With “Amun’s help,” Ahmose took the Hyksos fortress of Sarunhen, near Gaza.
He also ventured further into Djahi, but did not create much of a legacy there.

Around 1530 BC, Abram and Lot arrived in Djahi.
They soon each had so many sheep that they had to separate.
Lot went to live among the Canaanites on the coast.
Abram continued to live inland, in Hittite territory.

While the intrepid adventurers were building their pastoral enterprises,
Pharaoh Thutmoses III was creating a new Egyptian empire.
From 1479 BC, in repeated campaigns, he crushed all opposition.
He established outposts in Djahi and demanded annual tribute payments.

When Thutmoses died, the king of Kadesh on the Orontes rebelled.
Every city from that region joined in; Hazor made a minor contribution.
Yet Pharaoh Amenhotep II defeated them all in battle.
Shut up in Mediggo, after six months they all submitted to Amenhotep.

After living for ten years in Djahi, Sarai gave her maid to Abram.
She said to him, “Take Hagar, my maid, as your wife.”
So Abram took Hagar as his second wife, and Hagar became pregnant.
When the time arrived, Hagar, the Egyptian, gave birth to his son Ishmael.

After this, Sarai also become pregnant to Abram.
When the time arrived, Sarai, his first wife, gave birth to a son.
He called this son, Isaac. He was a son born to him in his “old age.”
Isaac was my grandfather, and Ishmael was my grandfather’s brother.

Abram, Sarai, and his two sons lived near Kiriath Arba, a Hittite city.
Kiriath Arba was a town with Hurrian fortifications, a “kiriath.”
It was a dependency of Hazor, the pre-eminent Hittite city of Djahi,
While Hazor was a city-state in Djahi, it remained a loyal Egyptian vassal state.

Sarai died near Kiriath Arba. She had lived a rich life and was full of years.
Abram grieved for Sarai and wept for her: he loved her very much.
Wanting a place to bury her, he went to Hittite leaders in Kiriath Arba.
He said to them, “I am an alien amongst you. Grant me a place to bury my wife.”

The Hittite leaders said to Abram, “You are a chieftain among us.
Bury your dead in the choice of our tombs.”
Abram said to them, “Please intercede for me with Ephron, son of Zohar;
Ask him to sell me the cave of Machpelah, on the edge of his field.”

Ephron was sitting there. He said to Abram, “I will give you the field!”
Abram replied, “I must pay for the field. What will it cost?”
Ephron replied, “The land is worth 400 shekels of silver.”
Abram weighed out the silver to Ephron, and he bought the field and cave.

Abram buried Sarai, his wife, in the cave of the field of Machpelah.
The field is located near Mamre in the land of Djahi.
It became Abram’s property and remained as a lasting inheritance.
The deed was established and witnessed before the Hittite leaders of the town.

Hittite law governed the transaction for the purchase of the field and the cave.
The Bible account is saturated with the subtleties of Hittite law.
It tells us that, along with purchasing the field, the cave and its trees,
Thus Abram also acquired a formal relationship with the king of that place.

Many have tried to defend the idea of the “verbal inspiration” of the Bible.
Some have even argued the Israelites entered Egypt during the Hyksos period.
This proposition, relying on one verse, composed much later, is foolish.
Why try to place the Hittites in Djahi before they even entered that region?

Abram lived to a good old age; he lived a full life.
Finally he died and was gathered to his people.
Isaac and Ishmael, his sons, buried him in the cave of Machpelah,
Which Abram had bought from the Hittites, and where Sarai was buried.

Ishmael also lived a good long life, who knows how long?
Twelve chieftains and twelve tribes came from his loins.
The first was Nebaioth, followed by Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadar, Temar, Jetur, Napish and Kedmah.
They dwelt from Havilah, by Shur, all the way to Assyria.

Joseph died during Amenhotep III’s lifetime (d. 1323 BC).
Joseph indicates that Ishmaelite territory in his time went up to Assyria.
This make sense: at that time, Assyria territory went down to the Red Sea.
This points to this story being both contemporary and historical.

When Esau was forty years old, he took a wife.
He first married Judith, the daughter of Beeri, the Hittite,
Then he married Basemath, daughter of Elon, the Hittite.
These two women brought bitterness to the spirit of Isaac and Rebekah.

Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am disgusted with my life because of Esau’s wives.
If Jacob also takes a wife like these women, I will be very unhappy.”
So Isaac said to Jacob, “You shall not take a wife from the women of Djahi.
Go to Paddan Aram, to your mother’s father, and take a wife there!”

So Jacob, having listened to his father and his mother, went to Paddan Aram.
There he married Leah and Rachel, Laban’s daughters.
After Isaac left, Esau saw that his marriages had displeased Isaac and Rebekah.
So he also took a new wife, a cousin, Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael.

Leah gave Jacob sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
Benjamin is a son of Rachel, and so am I!
Rachel’s maid, Bilhah, gave birth to Dan and Naphtali.
Leah’s maid, Zilpah, gave birth to Gad and Asher.

With his wives and children, Jacob returned to his father near Kiriath Arba.
Isaac died there. He was gathered to his people, old and full of days.
Esau and Jacob, his sons, buried him in the family tomb, as was required.
The two brothers were now free to separate: they had fulfilled their duties.

It was clear that their vast herds were too much for them to live together.
So Esau took his wives, sons, daughters and servants and went to Mount Seir.
But Jacob continued to live in the land of his father’s sojourn, in Djahi.
Esau went away from Jacob, my father. Esau became the ruler of Edom.

From Djahi, I found my way to Egypt, serving one of Pharaoh’s servants.
In 1397 BC, when I was thirty years of age, I stood before Pharaoh.
Then I invited my whole family to come to Egypt with all their property.
Seventy persons came: Jacob, his sons, grandsons, daughters and granddaughters.

Pharaoh Thutmoses IV said to me, “Your father and brothers have come.
The land of Egypt is before you; settle them in the best of the land.
They can live in the land of Goshen, where they can feed their flocks.
If there are worthy men among them, they can manage my flocks.”

So I brought my father to be introduced to Thutmoses.
Pharaoh said to Jacob, “how many years have you lived?
Jacob responded, “One hundred and thirty years.
My days have been few and bad, not like my fathers’ long lives.”

While the Egyptians could calculate the years of their lives,
Such as those living in non-literate social groups, as Abram’s family,
Could only guess their ages. Jacob clearly assumed that older is better.
This then shaped the ages given to all the patriarchs in the Priestly Source.

After this, I settled my father and brothers in Goshen.
They gained a place in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land.
They lived there, just as Pharaoh had commanded,
And I supplied them all bread according to their numbers.

Confession and Absolution – a real Catholic issue

Confession and Absolution lie at the heart of the difficulties in which Catholic Church in Australia finds itself at the (Australian) Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.

Absolution and Confession

Witnesses at the Royal Commission demonstrated that the Vatican still does not protect victims. It is not a trivial issue, or one that relates only to the venality of certain clergy. It is also theological. Confession and absolution (including the Last Rites), means that the Catholic Church presents a false image that 1 John does not really apply:

  • Whoever claims to live in Jesus MUST walk as Jesus did.
  • Everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who DOES the will of God lives forever.
  • Jesus appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him KEEPS ON sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Under the latter verses, how far the Catholic Church in its doctrines of confession and absolution, and the worst of all, Last Rites have deviated from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Royal Commission

As explained in an article in The Australian newspaper, a panel of experts, specializing in canonical or church law, appeared before the final hearing of the Commission, agreeing almost unanimously that the directives from Rome were often geared to protect its flock rather than its victims.

In was reported there that Crimen Sollicitationis, a Vatican instruction introduced in 1962, enforced secrecy in any investigations into “soliciting sex in the confessional, homosexuality, bestiality and the sexual abuse of children”.

In his submissions, Mr Tapsell said the instruction was “a permanent silence that bound not only the bishop and those involved in the canonical inquiries and trials, but the victims and witnesses who were sworn to observe that secrecy”.

Mr Tapsell said Crimen Sollicitationis was used to protect the reputation of any person involved in an alleged sexual abuse case.

Ms Furness described another canonical instruction, known as a “pontifical secret” as a “permanent silence” enforced in matters of sexual crime.

Counsel assisting the Commission, Stephen Free, described the pastoral approach as a bishop attempting “for an appropriate period of time and with every means available to help the petitioner to overcome the difficulties which he [the clergyman] experiences”.

The approach could involve “transferring him (the perpetrator) from the place in which he is exposed to the danger and according to the nature of the case, giving him the help of brother priests, friends…doctors or psychologists,” Mr Free said.

Father Thomas Doyle described the pastoral approach as “nuts”. He gave evidence regarding a lack of co-operation from the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the church, the Holy See, when faced with allegations of child sexual abuse.

“That has been a major, major, stumbling block for a number of bishops trying to do anything,” Dr Doyle said.

Theological Reform required

For the Catholic Church it is time to face up to the difficulties that their confession and absolution theological nonsense has led them.

Apart from addressing the actual sins and crimes involved in the behavior of which 7% of all Catholic clergy in Australia have been accused, and more than 40% of the members of one particular religious order, nothing will really change at the heart of the Catholic Church until they give up the fiction that a priest can guarantee the entrance into heaven of any sinner via the rites of confession and absolution, plus Last Rites.

Revelation – the First Six Seals

The first of number of permanent pages to come, over time, on Revelation.

The new page seeks to show the fulfilment of the prophecy of the first six seals in the events surrounding the transformation of the Roman State leading to the epoch changing event of the conversion of Constantine to Christianity.

Pyramids were not store houses

Historical support of the Biblical account is not found in imaginative inventions, such as pyramids being built as grain storehouses by Joseph, the son of Jacob, the central ancestral figure of the Israelites.

Instead, we know that the Biblical account has real historical connections, e.g. to the Hittites in Canaan (as uncovered by Yadin’s archaeological studies of the city of Hazor). This means that the Biblical references to Abraham negotiating with the Hittites can now be considered to historically possible (not impossible as previously thought).

Theory of Joseph building pyramids (which were funerary edifices, not grain stores), puts Joseph – Abraham’s great-great-grandson – ahead of Abraham & Hittites. This is impossible.

We know that the great pyramids were built around 2600 BC. Yet the earliest possible date for Abraham is around 1500 BC. Joseph was the descendant of Abraham, not his ancestor, which a 2600 BC date would imply.

The 1500 BC date for Abraham is founded on the evidence that the Hittites were first in Canaan around 1530 BC. Therefore, they could not have been in Canaan when the pyramids were built, simply because they were not even a recognized people group at that time. That didn’t happen for a thousand years after the pyramids were built.

The oppression of the poor

It is ironic that the result of modern economics, which is supposed to maximize everyone’s wealth, is oppression of the poor.

Ecclesiastes has something to say on the oppression of the poor. See if you can perceive any 21st century applications:

Ecclesiastes 4:1-6

I saw the tears of the oppressed – and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors – and they have no comforter.

And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive.

But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.

And I saw that all labour and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbour. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

The fool folds his hands and ruins himself.

Better one handful of tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.

God’s plan – the transformed human life

Even before the world was made, it was God’s plan that those who united themselves to Jesus would be holy and without fault before him. (Ephesians 1:4)

God’s grace is not given to us without a purpose, but it is part of God’s greater plan, which is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head.

In this regard, let us take time to be holy, and to reflect upon our role in God’s plan, and to know that he has created us for a transformed life that consists of good deeds, carried out in the light of Jesus’ teachings.

Wisdom literature and King Solomon

The invention of writing in Hebrew script, around the time of the warrior king, David, marks the earliest possible date for Hebrew Wisdom Literature. David’s successor, Solomon, is the first (and only) king with a reported enduring interest in secular wisdom: it is not a satisfactory way of proceding for historians and Biblical scholars to ignore that piece of information. Indeed, the text indicates that Solomon claimed that God (Yahweh) promised him that he would be the wisest man on earth. It can be argued that Solomon worked to fulfil this promise through gathering together the collected “wisdom” from the nations around him. His marriage relationships with Egyptian, Sidonian and Hittite women testifies to his desire to share in the cultures of the surrounding nations.

Yet even if we consider the claims for Solomon’s involvement in these texts, it is unlikely that he wrote much of their content. It is more likely that Solomon funded a team of scholars who were charged with reproducing in Hebrew the wisdom found in Egyptian, Phoenician, Hittite and Akkadian scripts, transforming these works into a form acceptable to the Israelites and delivering these works in the new Hebrew script. Indeed, the brilliant prosperity of the Israelite nation during Solomon’s reign, together with its international connections at the time, force us to consider the possibility that scholars within Solomon’s kingdom produced each of the wisdom texts, namely, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and Job. Even some of the Wisdom Psalms can be placed at that time.

The “Wisdom of Solomon” is a good example of works that are “useful for instruction.” They are starting points for understanding our world, God’s involvement in the world, and our own appropriate response: they are not the final word on such matters – in this regard we have Jesus’ teachings and fruit of God’s Holy Spirit working in our lives.

Piano player or pianola player?

For a simple analogy, in working out his plans for this world God is more like a piano player than a pianola player.

Anyone can play a piano, and many do, but God plays his own tune on his piano, suited entirely to the times, and designed to bring about his purposes on earth.

The Bible teaches us that God knows his own end purposes, and intervenes in order to bring this about.

The Bible teaches that God is not playing a script predetermined for every note. He is not like a pianola player! He is more like a talented jazz musician, improvising on the piano, but knowing exactly where he or she is going.

The birth of Jesus

This is Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus.

Census

Around the time that Jesus was due to be born, Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire. This was before the census ordered by Quirinius, when he was government of Syria. [Theophilus, you remember the census that was taken under Quirinius, when Judea became a Roman province . It resulted in riots against the Romans, which were put down violently. We discussed this – this was not Quirinius’ census, but one that was taken earlier.] Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his own home town. {One can suspect that if anyone failed to register himself (or herself) that person lose whatever property rights that person might possess – it is likely to would have worked a bit like the Norman’s Doomsday book.}

Bethlehem

Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David. He went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant, and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby. She gave birth to her first born son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger – there was no room for them to say in the inn [or guestroom].

Angel throng and humble shepherds

There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid, but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in David’s town your Savior was born – Christ the Lord! And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger”

Suddenly a great army of heaven’s angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger. When the shepherds saw him, they told them what the angel had said about the child. All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said. Mary remembered all these things and thought deeply about them. The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them.

TEV [adapted] Dr Graham Lovell / Historian / Sydney