Gibbon: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Why the Fall?

The speaker Sunday quoted Edward Gibbon (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) on the peaceful nature of the first-century Christians:

“It was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes,” Gibbon wrote. I included that and three similar quotations in I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why in the Statecraft chapter. I chatted up the speaker after the program and he had about fifteen such quotes.

What he did not say is that Gibbon did not admire Christians for their course, as the out-of-context quote might suggest. It was not a plus for him, as it is for us. It was a minus. It is what he holds largely responsible for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, that innovative development of human rule he champions and is sorry to see go.

Here are the other three quotes presented in Don’t Know Why:

“A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [121-180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.” (Barnes: The Rise of Christianity),. “It will be seen presently that the evidence for the existence of a single Christian soldier between 60 and about 165 A.D. is exceedingly slight. . . . Up to the reign of Marcus Aurelius at least, no Christian would become a soldier after his baptism.” (Cadoux: The Early Church and the World). “The behavior of the Christians was very different from that of the Romans . . . Since Christ had preached peace, they refused to become soldiers.” (Platt & Drummond: Our World Through the Ages)

They’re not positives for Gibbon. They’re negatives. They sap the will of the country. Let people drop out and who’s going to fight for the Fatherland? Notice that Gibbon goes the farthest in uncovering what Christians would not do. It’s not just soldiering they abstained from. He extends their abstinence to being “magistrates” or “princes.” It ruined the Empire, he says, to have vast swaths of people turn their attention elsewhere, consumed no longer with the nature of the king but with the nature of God and Christ and of the interplay between them. They weren’t taking a stand against the government. They weren’t refusing to obey it laws—in fact, they were pretty good at obeying laws and not stirring up mischief. But they weren’t pulling for the then system-of-things, and this is what Gibbon laments. Rome would in time encounter invaders whose people were 100% behind the cause of human rule (theirs), and then it was goodby for Rome.

So Gibbon didn’t like Christianity. It torpedoed what he thought was the grander project of an innovative system of human rule. Of course, it soon morphed (apostatized) to become less of what he did not like to embrace more of what he did like. In time and by degrees, Christians veered from staying ‘no part of the world’ to decide that they were the ones to fix the world by any means possible. If political maneuvering and wars were among those means possible, so be it. Constantine converted to morphed Christianity, transformed it from persecuted minority to in-time persecuting majority. He did not get baptized until on his deathbed, after he got all that warring out of his system, so even then was the notion that Christians renounce the violence of the age. It was common at the time, says J. Rufus Fears (below), for persons to postpone baptism till the last moment and undergo it as a sort of final cleansing act—a far cry from churches in the present day who perform it on babies as a sort of introductory cleansing act.

2DA2789F-8898-4A8B-9DB8-B6DD38CA60BDGibbon’s condemnation of Christianity is found to various degrees in countries of the here and now. Western ones, by and large, allow religion to be religion. They grant freedom of worship as a fundamental right. But other governments are more machiavellian. Yes, you can have your religion, they say, but religion must know its place. It must not only be subservient to ruling powers, but must advocate for them. For many human governments, and many students of human government, it is not ‘he who is not against us is for us.’ It is ‘he who is not for us is against us.’ Anti-cultists in particular build upon the notion that it is wrong to depart from the mainstream of rule by human efforts. Any serious consideration of a ‘God’s kingdom’ that calls the shots is disagreeable to them and, they would have you believe, to you. The human experiment of self-rule is what must consume people. It’s wrong to sit it out, they maintain,

(A History of Freedom, J Rufus Fears, Lecture 11:  Gibbon on Rome’s Decline and Fall)

To be continued…here

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Things That Drive You Crazy About the Faith—and How to View Them: Part 1

This will be a multi-part series. See Preface  2nd Preface.

Six times the Great Courses professor (Alan Charles Kors) spoke about “ideas which had stood the test of time.” It took every one of those times for the words to sink in. It wasn’t just my obtuseness. The concept is hard to get your head around. But once you do, all is a breeze, like when you learned to ride a bike.

Francis Bacon is #90 in the book by Michael Hart, The 100, a book that ranks the 100 most influential persons in history. Plato is #40. Many times I’ve written how his famous ‘philosopher-kings’ method of good government almost exactly parallels the governing body structure of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even allowing for how my perennial return visit Bernard Strawman (who continues to make fine progress!) calls our guys ‘janitor-plumbers,’ not ‘philosopher kings,’ the parallels are striking.

Now, with Francis Bacon—what great deed did he do to be rated 90th most important person who ever lived? He advanced what is known as “the empirical method of inquiry.” Hart explains: “To understand the world one must first observe it, first collect the facts, then draw conclusions from these facts by means of inductive reasoning.”

You’re kidding me! That’s it?! If you want to figure out something, you should look at it first?! He’s ranked #90 in the whole world for that big duh?! C’mon! Who doesn’t do that?! 2866AF9F-884A-43C8-BCB6-0F7C1190AC59

For most of human history, people did not. For most of human history it was, ‘if you want to figure out something, go to what has been revealed about it.’ That was Scripture—information given from on high, information revered because it “had stood the test of time.”

To be continued:

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Things That Drive You Crazy About the Faith—and How to View Them: 2nd Preface

This will be a multi-part series. See Preface.

On all the important questions topics Jehovah’s Witnesses are spot on. In these present days, when atheists are perfectly content with a few decades of life followed by eternal non-existence, even holding fast to God is a significant win. But besides holding to God, they get it straight on who he is. They carted off that trinity doctrine that paints him unknowable 100 years ago, about the same time they discarded the hellfire doctrine that paints him cruel, someone you would not want to know. Within his lifetime people called C.T. Russell “the man who turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.”

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Not to mention how they explain why God permits evil and suffering, and tell what he’s going to do about it. They preach the good news of the kingdom. They tell about the resurrection. They heed what God says on how to live, and to the extent they do, their “peace is just like a river.” And their “righteousness?” Tell me about it. (Isaiah 48:18) Like the circuit overseer said, we are all “one big, happy, united, somewhat dysfunctional family.” All is bliss.

And yet—and yet—there are a hundred aggravations. Basking in the big picture, you won’t notice them at first. But in time, they can be like that pebble in your shoe, driving you nuts with every step.

What is it with these aggravations? Some are because Witnesses hang out closely even with those with whom they don’t mesh. They don’t take the easy way out and put distance between themselves like Lot and Abraham. Some are because, should a respected Witnesses do dirt, it can seriously stumble a person because the congregation is the one place he/she didn’t expect to find any.

Yes! That’s the answer. Surely that accounts for it. Just smother your plate with agape love and you’re home free! And yet—and yet—there is one indefinable something . . . There is one—how can we define it? We can’t—it’s indefinable, unless, unless . . . what is it that’s so hard to put a finger on? I thunk and thunk and thunk about it and finally came up with the answer. Not me, really, but the Great Courses professors—college professors, every one of them. And I didn’t have to go to college to hear them. I found them free in the library and listen to them an hour each day walking the dog—which unfortunately died not long ago, but he lived to a ripe old dog age of 14, so I’m grateful for the time my wife and I had with him.

Six times the Great Courses professor (Alan Charles Kors) spoke about “ideas which had stood the test of time.” It took every one of those times for the words to sink in. It wasn’t just my obtuseness. The concept is hard to get your head around. But once you do, all is a breeze, like when you learned to ride a bike.

To be continued:

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Things That Drive You Crazy About the Faith—and How to View Them: Preface

Great scriptures and reasoning to some one who is anti witness,” she told me. “I did write up some things and then I thought….oh blow it…I’ll back him up…all the way!!!”

Make no mistake. It is a concious choice. I could easily attach a “But what about such and such…” addendum to some paragraph in nearly every Watchtower if I wanted to. Some nettlesome point will stick in my craw, but then I will ask myself should I obsess over it? Wouldn’t that be like the pundit who reads that North Korea has launched all its nuclear missills? D00D607B-D550-4B2B-88ED-210705B7C079 People with sense will run for the hills. He runs to his keyboard to point out that the idiot can’t even spell the word right. Isn’t that called ‘losing sight of the big picture?’ Why would anyone want to do that? (Photo: Janes.com)

The fact is (so says me, so take it for what it’s worth) that Jehovah’s Witnesses have it right in all the important things, but there’s a lot of minor aggravations. What to make of these? Is it because we’re all jammed together in close proximity whereas in the greater world you just put distance between those with whom who don’t readily mesh? Partly. I’ve heard two circuit overseers describe us in the past few years as “one large, united, happy, somewhat dysfunctional family,” a phrase I suspect is not in the outline.

Too, I’ve heard tell from young ones who’ve flown the coop that they don’t miss the “drama.” Yes, just pulling the Abraham/Lot stunt goes a long way in alleviating tension: “So Abram said to Lot: ‘Please, there should be no quarreling between me and you …  separate from me. If you go to the left, then I will go to the right; but if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.’” (Genesis 13: 8-9) We don’t do that. We stick together and with mixed success try to apply Bible counsel to lessen “drama.’

But if scrunching up is hard on us, what is to be said of the world in general? That’s why I gave Vomodog the answer I did when he tried to undermine 2 Timothy 3:1-5. “Humanity is no better or worse than in past centuries,” said he. “The scenography has changed and other global changes have taken place, but the nature of man is constant.”

“It hardly matters, does it?” I told him. “You can fart all you want and as along as there is plenty of space between you and your neighbor, there are no real consequences. But when population, technology, and competition for resources brings people shoulder to shoulder, your unpleasant ways provoke strong reaction.” We’re cramped and it’s inconvenient. They’re cramped and it brings chaos to entire planet. But if you’re just one person, you can sort of just live in your own bubble and ignore all that, at least most times you can ignore it, at least you can until you can’t.

These days I’m like Richard Kimble replying to Sam Gerard. “That’s right—I’m not trying to solve puzzles here,” Sam says. Richard replies that he is “and I just found a big piece.” Same here. I knew those Great Courses lectures would do more than prepare me to hold my own should that obnoxious know-it-all Alan F ever show his nasty persona here again. He was getting seriously up there in years and it could be he has died, but I think not because the birds in heaven have not all broken out in song. When he does die no doubt his headstone will call the cemetery caretaker an ignoramus for supposing the surrounding flowers and trees were created by God

Those Great Courses lectures produced something valuable in their own right. And totally unanticipated. No way did I see it coming. And helpful? Tell me about it. More helpful than even the brother who had the odd mannerism of ending sentences with, ‘It’s helpful to know that, don’t you think?’ I mean, he was a wonderful brother, he really was, I went to visit him when he was ill, but that mannerism wore. One time he announced the date of the upcoming circuit assembly, adding, ‘It’s helpful to know that, don’t you think?’ I had to admit that it was.

What I found through the Great Courses professors is even more helpful. It will better enable me to weather all the minor aggravations of earthly organization, because they all boil down to the same thing. And that same thing, while it can be trying, is anything but a dealbreaker.

To be continued…

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Notes from Ancient Egypt: Weighing in on Joseph and the Exodus Account: Part 1

Sitting in on Bob Brier’s Egyptology lecture series for Great Courses, you learn that nations don’t war on their neighbors. They don’t conquer them. They “beat up on them.” If he said it once, he said it a hundred times. List the accomplishments of any pharaoh: he built the temples, he built the tombs, he beat up on the Syrians (or whoever).

“Beating up” is especially emphasized in Egypt, for with them, there was no place like home. Egyptians warred with their neighbors constantly—“peace was not a virtue in Egypt,” Bob says—but they never established garrisons in those conquered lands. Why—were you to die thousands of miles from home, how could you be properly mummified? And if you weren’t that, what would happen to your chances at the afterlife?

So they didn’t stay. They “beat up” their neighbors, left demands for yearly tribute, but after a while, people forget. You have to go and “beat them up again,” to remind them they had better pay—carting off “everything that wasn’t nailed down” while you were at it.

What is it with this guy? Is he from the Bronx? In fact, he is. And even though he’s a professor steeped in Egyptian honors at Long Island University, he still lives in the Bronx. (as of 1999, when he recorded these lectures). Of the supports used to raise a body so mummy wrappings could be wound beneath him—“it’s like jacking up a car,” he adds helpfully, possibly while gazing through his window at a muffler being attached to a jacked-up car). 

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(Photo by Sam LaRussa)

What would he do when he comes to Bible accounts? I wondered. He will blow them away, of course, but will he do it with respect or ridicule? He seems like a nice guy. But sometimes people with brains lose it when it comes to spiritual things.

To my surprise, he does not blow them away. He treats them with great respect and allows that they are probably true in essence. To be sure, the “external evidence” that is archeology is scant. Archaeology corroborates the Bible in many things, says Bob, but it says next to nothing about the Israelites in Egypt. However, what he calls the “internal evidence” is strong, and as an Egyptologist, he has learned how the two must be combined.

After the Old Kingdom period, during which the pyramids were built, there arose the “Hyksos,” kings who ruled from the north, the delta region. The word means “rulers of foreign lands.” Could Joseph’s family have been the Hyksos? Not much is known of the Hyksos, Brier says, they “didn’t integrate well,” Some have said they were the family of Joseph. Josephus says so. Therefore, I say so, too. I mean, someone has to correspond to Joseph and his brothers. The north is a  damp and marshy region, where archeological finds are meagre, inferior, and badly damaged. It is the dry climate to the south that preserves papyri for thousands of years.

At this point Bob Brier assigns his listeners homework. They are to read Genesis 37-50. Then he narrates the story—just who was Joseph and what was his involvement with Egypt, highlighting what these “guys” are doing and what those “guys” are doing.

There is no external evidence for Joseph, but what is the internal evidence? Does the story “hang together?” It does, he thinks. He recounts the Bible story, which ends in a tearful tale of forgiveness—Joseph sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, his quick rise in Potipher’s house, his reversal and hard times, his meteoric rise to fame upon deciphering the dream that had perplexed Pharaoh, and how those same brothers approach and bow before him decades later—he, the one now in charge of alleviating famine.

In a dream that nobody can figure out for Pharaoh until someone remembers that Joseph in prison had a knack for that sort of thing, he is brought to interpret the dream. Seven lean cows are preceded by seven fat cows. The lean ones eat up the fat ones! They are years of famine following years of plenty. During the years of plenty, preparation can be made for the years of famine. “Based upon Joseph’s interpretation of dreams, the economy of Egypt is planned for the next 14 years.”

Joseph shows what a “sharp businessman” he is during the famine period, is how Bob Brier puts it (perhaps as he is buying a used car from a sharp businessman on the corner lot). People get destitute enough that they eventually sell him their land in return for food. He makes Pharaoh very wealthy, and Pharaoh rewards him.

The ring that Pharaoh gives to Joseph—that also is how they would do it in Egypt, a ring to the “right hand man.” A signet ring. A sign of authority. When the Bible says, everybody cried out Abrek after Joseph—that’s “real Egyptian.” Somebody knew what he was talking about. He deciphers the phrase as roughly meeting ‘Let God be with you.’ (Genesis 41: 42-43)

For a long time, Bob had a problem with Egyptian priests admitting defeat in interpreting Pharaoh’s dream. They never admitted defeat in anything. But later finds cleared it up for him. There is a papyrus in the British Museum which is a book for interpreting dreams.

All dreams meant something, the Egyptians believed. They were all prophetic. The trick was in interpreting them. When you had a dream, you went to the priest to see what it meant. Everything was written down in a book. The priests didn’t “just wing it.” They looked it up in a book. “If it’s not in the book, you’re stuck,” Bob says. So Joseph‘s account has the ring of truth to it, he says. When they said to Pharaoh, We don’t know, about his dream, it just meant that nothing about fat cows or lean cows was in the book—it didn’t go there. So it wasn’t the fault of the priests, who never would have admitted a fault—it wasn’t in the book. (Genesis 41)

There’s a Egyptian inscription on Sahel Island of seven years when the Nile did not rise, resulting in famine. Another inscription shows skeletal figures of people who were not slaves. Potipher is an Egyption name. Goshen is where the brothers of Joseph settled—a real Egyptian place in the delta region. Two cities are cited with names they had at the time, and not names they would be given later. Joseph (and Jacob) are embalmed by the Egyptians and mourned for the proper period. The Joseph story is written by someone who knew Egypt, Brier states. Testifying that Hebrews did indeed come to settle in Egypt is the excavation of a classic Israelite four-room house, with its unique floor plan. A full-sized model of one can be seen at Semitic Museum at Harvard University.

“Internally, we get a feeling for the Joseph story that it fits. It’s not archaeological evidence, but the story fits.” Embalming for 40 days, mourning for 70. For a long time that was not understood, but it turns out that is how Egyptian‘s did it. (Genesis 50:3)

The Hyksos did not control all of Egypt. Instead, they coexisted with the Sixteenth and the Seventeenth Dynasty, which were based in Thebes, 500 miles to the south. Warfare between they and the pharaohs of the late Seventeenth Dynasty eventually ran the Hyksos out of Egypt. (and Bob approves of this, because the Hyksos are not “his guys”—they are not real Egyptian) Later leaders of them would be portrayed as oppressive and warlike.

A papyrus of the time, sent by the last Hyksos king to the Prince of Thebes, reads: “The hippopotami in your pool are keeping me awake at night. They have to be silenced.” What exactly does that mean? Dunno, but it’s not friendly. Inflammatory for sure, Bob says. The Prince sends an army in retaliation. How does it turn out? No idea. The papyrus breaks off. The first and the last portions of an ancient papyrus roll is often no good. The inside end is wrapped so tightly that it breaks. the outside end is on the outside where it gets knocked around a lot, torn and scuffed up over time.

See Part II, Evidence of the Exodus

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Live Tweets from Ancient Egypt: Part 14

Great Courses, Bob Brier, tweets composed and sent while dog-walking. AI screwups corrected in brackets

For continuity, start with Part 1:

Lecture 27: What mummies tell us

“A mummy is a mummy is a mummy” to most people, Bob Brier says, but all cars are not alike—neither are mummies. They made them over thousands of years. They differ.

Early mummies of the First Kingdom aren’t very good. Bodies are encased as with statues, but not preserved. X-rays reveal they have fallen apart, bones lying at the bottom.

Hetepheres, wife of “my man Sneferu” is an exception—with internal organs that had been removed.

Great story of high-quality artifacts suddenly appearing on the antiquities market in the 1870s, so authorities figured tomb robbers had made a massive find (steal) and, sure enough, found the culprits and (eventually) tortured the location out of them.

A huge trove of mummies, the grave robbers had found. Mummies spanning many dynasties. Shipped off to the Cairo museum, where researchers learned much about mummymaking—what innovations had been made at what time periods.

One other cache of mummies found later, the tomb of Amenhotep II. That’s where Bob Brier discovered that the king had bad teeth, maybe he needed a coregent because he was incapacitated.

All Egyptians had bad teeth, on account of the sand from the grindstones that found its way into its bread.

Lecture 28: Making a modern mummy:

Cool! Bob makes his own mummy. Only he doesn’t identify the person. This reminds me of when my wife took anatomy for nursing. These bodies are donated for research, she was told. They might be someone you know. They were to be treated respectfully.

He says he did it not to make a mummy but to learn how it was done. Lots of unanswered questions after reviewing the papyri. Only way to answer them was to do one, he said.

For example, the brain coming out the nose? Bob thought you could just pull it out with a hooked instrument, but no—it is too viscous. Can’t be done that way. Instead, they—(are you sure you want to know this?)—are swished around up there further, making it more liquid, then inverted the body so as to pour it out through the nostrils.

They made bronze tools. I guess I should have known this, but didn’t. Bronze, a hard metal, results form the mix of two soft ones—tin and copper. But the knife made was not very good.

The “sharp Ethiopian stone” (obsidian) worked well for a knife. Bob says modern surgeons have gone that way—using obsidian.

They used natron (basically salt and baking soda) to preserve. (It takes 600 pounds of the stuff) Bought the frankincense and myrrh from local sites.

Now they have a control sample—they know what they did. They know what works and what doesn’t. It will help with the analysis of ancient mummies.

Herodotus’s 35 day period they figured out (too late) is the time the body has to sit after being dried with natron. It is not completely dry by then, you can still cross the hands in royal style, but Bob & crew had waited too long. They had to wrap with arms at sides.

There’s not a lot of mummies in this neck of the woods. I don’t have any original photos. The best I can do is this one of Tauchannock Man in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

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Go to Part 15

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Shishak Beats Up Rehoboam—From Egypt’s Point of View. And Why did Indiana Jones Search for the Ark in Tanis?

For 200 years Egypt was ruled by Libyans. That’s not a long period of time but its nearly as long as the history of the United States.

Head north on the Nile and turn left, Bob* gives the directions, and you will hit Libya. But you will have to traverse 200 miles of desert to get there, so we should not imagine an invading Libyan army riding that far to conquer. No, Prof Brier is sure that the Libyans that ruled were already in Egypt, in fact full Egyptians in all but ethnicity. They had been assimilated previously.

They were probably descendants of captives taken during the reign of Ramses III, Egypts last great pharaoh, Bob calls him. “One of the things he was proudest of is that he pushed back the Egyptians. The Egyptians were getting a little too populous. It seems that the Egyptians always minded when foreigners become too numerous. It was okay to have a few, but when they became a large body to be reckoned with they didn’t like that. As for example, remember the Exodus?”

Exodus 1:9-10 reads: “In time there arose over Egypt a new king who did not know Joseph.  And he proceeded to say to his people: “Look! The people of the sons of Israel are more numerous and mightier than we are.  Come on! Let us deal shrewdly with them, for fear they may multiply, and it must turn out that, in case war should befall us, then they certainly will also be added to those who hate us and will fight against us and go up out of the country.”

The captured Libyans assimilated and, in time, some turned to the military. Sheshonq I was the first of them to assume the throne after a dwindling series of impotent kings bearing the Ramses name. He married the right woman—a sure way to rise in Egypt—the daughter of Ramses XI.

Fighting is what he knew. After consolidating and appointing his sons in key positions, he look northward. Was not Judah ripe for picking? Solomon had just died, and his son Rehoboam didn’t know what he was doing. Sheshonq is the same as Shishak of 1 Kings 14:25-26. He came to conquer but Rehoboam “bought him off.”

“And it came about in the fifth year of King Rehoboam that Shishak the king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem.  And he got to take the treasures of the house of Jehovah and the treasures of the house of the king; and everything he took. And he went on to take all the gold shields that Solomon had made.”

Note what he does not take, Bob says. He does not take the ark of the covenant, “the box, that held the Ten Commandments. That’s not mentioned.” A helpful footnote from movie lore: “That’s why Indiana Jones goes looking for the ark of the covenant at Tanis, in the delta, in Egypt, thinking maybe Shishak brought it back.”

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While he’s at it, Bob Brier eludidates ark: “It’s called a ark, by the way, because ark means box. That why you get Noah’s ark. It’s really a big box that floated on the water, basically.”

You know, it’s not a big point, and certainly Bob does not extrapolate on it here, but in a way it is. Artwork of Jehovah’s Witnesses invariably portray Noah’s ark as a floating box. Church artwork almost never does. To them, it is a storybook boat with bow and stern. When my wife and I stayed in the Cincinnati Best Western because we’d been hurricaned out from our original destination, that morning in the breakfast bar nearly everyone else, family groups all, were headed to the Ark Encounter across the state border in Kentucky. A huge ark replica—with bow and stern. (and dinosaurs!)

These are not people who think the ark is fairy tale, for the most part. These are people who think the Bible flood account is true. If they are willing to remold such an obvious facet of the ark, who knows what else they are willing to remold?

*Notes from The History of Ancient Egypt: Bob Brier, part 19

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Live Tweets from Ancient Egypt: Part 12

Great Courses, Bob Brier, tweets composed and sent while dog-walking. AI screwups corrected in brackets

For continuity, start with Part 1:

Egypt 12, Lecture 23: the murder of Tutankhamen: a theory

What he next presents, he makes clear is his theory. Some agree, but it seems most disagree. This is like his theory of Athematem, the religious nut, attracting the flower children.

Why do I begin to equate Bob Brier to Maigret, who insisted upon stepping into the shoes of whatever murder victim, to get a feel for him, before arriving at a solution largely intuitive? 

Another discussion of how names mean something. I’ve let this pass many times before and remarked upon. I won’t go into it here. But like in the Bible, names are significant. Sometimes people change their name, to indicate new beliefs, often new gods they follow or wish to honor.

Johnson equals John’s son. Goldman equals man who works with or sells gold. It almost looks like the only people in history that use names just as a meaningless tag is our age. Historically they have not been that way.

Tutankhamen changes his name to Tutankhamen, to show that the old religion is coming back. No more monotheism of Athematem. He leaves the city in the desert, and comes back to thieves. [Thebes]

He was about 18 years old when he died. They can tell by molars, they can tell by bone ends, which become less Cine week [senewy] with age. They damaged the money [mummy] getting it out. At the time, before DNA knowledge, people didn’t realize the treasures that were mommies, [mummies] and weren’t as careful as they would be with gold objects.

Because his mommy [mummy] is the only one ever found intact in its tomb, they decided to leave it there. You can’t see it. It is within the sarcophagus. What is there is in the tomb as you go visit.

after Tutankhamen’s death, his widow is the sole survivor of royalty, no one left in the family. She writes the Hittite king.

They were enemies. But she says “they say you have a lot of sons. Send over one, and I will marry him andmake him king.” She ends her letter “I am afraid“. She says “never will I marry a servantOf mine.” It sounds like, Bob says, someone is forcing her to marry a commoner. Who would do that?

“That’s like the British writing to Hitler and saying “come on over “”

He presents all those discussion, not so much to say he is right, though of course he thinks he is, but his goal is to show how an Egyptologist forms a theory.

After checking it out, because he doesn’t believe it at first, the headache [Hittite] king sends a prince. The prince is murdered at the border. A government job, Bob says. This is only in the Hittite records, not Egyptian ones.

 He found the new berry [Newberry] ring in an antique with his shop. He didn’t have the money to buy it. He drew it. It showed Tutankhamen’s wife and Aye together. They were married. Was Aye the commoner Tutankhamen’s wife was afraid of? She disappears from history. Someone else bought the ring, so the question comes up:Did it even exist? It has never been heard of again.

Bob says: “it’s like a murder mystery only better!”

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A similar ring was later found. They were married, yes. It is in the Berlin Museum. Bob went to see it. But on the phone the curator did not know about it. Bob asked to speak to another curator. He did know about it. It’s because east and west Germany had just been reunited, and two museums made into one.

I’ve got to admit, Bob’s theory holds together. That guy killed him, and married his widow. But he says it’s just a theory, you shouldn’t take it as fact. He is from the Bronx, though. Bear that in mind.

Wow! Bob plans to go there himself to the tomb and check it out. He wants to excavate the mommy [mummy] again. Now they have CAT scans. Maybe stomach contents will tell him stuff . Maybe he has done these things by now. Best to check it out.

Lecture 24–Medicine

No Bob Brier will do one of what he calls his side trips, this time into medicine. Last time I think it was obelisks, how to make one, how to transport one, how to set up one.

The physicians are connected with the priest. Serving at different temples.

Writing is obviously an important invention. But for some reason the Egyptians didn’t write an awful lot of things. Not mummification. Not how to make pyramids. But they did write down their medicine.

Play toll [Plato] says Egyptians invented writing, the God toss [Toth], and it was a terrible invention. “Good old Play-Doh?” [Plato}

He says “now men will have the appearance of knowledge, but not true knowledge“. So you don’t have to have it in your head anymore. You’ve got it on papyrus, so you don’t need to know it. Apparently that’s his thought.

So there is a tradition that really important things, you don’t write down. And Plato was a student of Socrates, who never wrote anything down.

Three guards, [gods] he discusses the mall [them all], were associated with healing. You went to the temple for your healing. “It was like the clinic”

“Egypt was famous for his positions [physicians]” There are Greek inscriptions of ones who say they came, they asked the guard [god] for help, and they were cured.

Some think that Egyptian’s were so good at Madison [medicine] because they practice mummification, and that’s how you learn anatomy.

Bob himself doesn’t buy it, though. The priest and the bombers [embalmers] were of different classes. The embalmers kind of more slowly [lowly], they smelled, they reeked of chemicals.

They took all organs out through about a 2 inch opening in the abdomen, so you don’t really see too much that way. You don’t learn too much of anatomy that way.

The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus. Three options given physicians  that they can say. One. This is an illness that I will treat. To. This is an illness with which I will contend. Three. This is an illness that I will not treat. Saved face for the physicians, Bob says. There were illnesses you were supposed to walk away from.

The Edwin Smith surgical papyrus has instructions for 48 types of injuries. It mostly deals with physical injuries, breaks and so forth, that you might encounter building huge pyramids, moving huge blocks.

Another papyrus outlines 800 medical treatments. Spells, poultices,

Magical spells for blindness.  For “when the gods made me see night during the day”

If you had a lame foot, wrap it in a deer skin. The deer is fleet of foot. Maybe wrapping it around your foot will make you fleet of foot like the deer.

So there were two approaches. One was clinical, and one was magical, when the calls [cause] wasn’t known.

Go to Part 13

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Live Tweets from Ancient Egypt: Part 9

Great Courses, Bob Brier, tweets composed and sent while dog-walking. AI screwups corrected in brackets

For continuity, start with Part 1:

Queen heavy [Hatshepsut—I’ll render it right from now on] . 12 years old, royal blood. The one who married her, Todd most the second, [Thutmosis II—I’ll do this right as well, and even the other names] reigns as king for 20 years. Then talk most third [Thutmosis III—sorry] rains. [reigns]

Eventually, Hatshepsut herself begins to rain [reign] not as queen, but as king. Where’s [Wears] the false beard of authority, the hieroglyphic on her to him [tomb] reveals. Tied the beard on with chin straps.

The tallest obelisk still standing in Egypt, go to car next [Karnak] temple to see them. Hatshepsut  has them in hieroglyphic on her tomb. They weighed 250 tons. Transported by 27 barges on the Nile, quarried and S one.

The Pharaoh was always associated with Forrest [Horus], the falcon God. Hatshepsut was the female falcon. Ruled as a king, but did not hide that she was a woman.

Did Hatshepsut usurp the throne from her stepson?

The theory goes that she did, and upon her death, the stepson ruled again, became very great, and in anger he raised [erased] her name from her own tomb, substituting he, his father, and his brother.

Bob Hatshepsut doesn’t buy the theory. Had her name was a raced, [erased] but not till 20 years after the stepson began raining. [reigning] Maybe they just wanted to erase traces of a woman raining. [reigning]

Send bought [Senemut] appears, after Hatshepsut becomes a widow. Very close, were they lovers? A successful commoner, with many titles, overweight, which was a good thing in Egypt, Bob says. It means you could eat.

A pornographic relief suggest that people were talking, the workmen on break from sun, in another cool tomb, produce a porn drawing of the two carrying on. Bob describes it. Will I, on this family blog? No

Look on the kings list and you will not findHatshepsut. All traces of her erased. Maybe to cover up that one of the kings was a woman?

End of lecture 17 on Hatshepsut. Start lecture 18, on obelisk.

Obelisk comes from the Greek word for meat skewer! That’s how it gets its name.

Heliopolis, Helio, son, polis, city, is the same as the biblical On. The most obelisk ever in that city, today there is but one. And one more, if you count the one of heavy, which is wild them.be

Here Bob defines electrons, [electrum] used in the obelisk. I read it so often in the Bible. Not quite knowing what it is, it is a mixture of gold and silver.

Now Bob  Brier will discuss how to quarry and erect and obelisk. Start with granite. Aswan granite, at Egypt’s southern border.

How big were they? And unfinished one atS one [atd Aswan] weighs over 1000 tons. As big as two jumbo jets

Pounding out the obelisk, with dolomite balls, keep dropping them and they eventually chip away, it is a job probably reserved for prisoners, Bob Brier says. He’s pretty sure no one wanted the job.

Bob has used these balls. Hard work. Your lungs were filled with granite dust. And then swinging them sideways to pound out caves, so as to separate the obelisk from the earth.

Put on rollers roll to barges float them down the Nile. I don’t know. I suppose, but it’s a lot of work. No Egyptian records of this, by the way. No papyri. It is all the speculation of later historians.

After slanting it on a ramp, tie ropes to the top and pull it with “lots of guys“ to get it upright.

Now I recall the objections to theories of building the pyramids. They mostly revolve around physics, moving that much mass. Ramps supposedly would crumble under the weight. ...1/2

Nor could that weight be pushed up ramps by sheer manpower. No matter how many guys. Don’t know if Bob will come back to this topic. Maybe he has already dealt with it...2/2

Trivia question: what city in the world has more obelisks than any other? Rome. 13. Augustus moved two obelisks from Heliopolis in 10 BC.

What holds them in place? Gravity alone, Bob Brier says.

Paris has an obelisk, a gift, give it an 1830. England has two, in London, in 1877. One of them was lost at sea. Another vessel came along and claimed that, then negotiated its return. 

Bob says if he could make a feature movie, it would be the one of the obelisk coming to New York. After London got theirs, New York said they needed one too. William Vanderbilt paid for it. “Go orange [Gorringe] was a really cool guy“ says Bob Breir of the one put in charge of transport. Tons of obstacles, And he overcame them all.

Gorringe bought a transport ship cheap from the bank robbed [bankrupted] Egyptian post office, opened it up, rolled the obelisk onboard over cannonballs, contended with alcoholic Yugoslav crew.

Sailed to New York. Refused to pay outrageous landing they demanded, landed at 96 street. Transported the obelisk to Central Park, made just a block all day. Bob Brier wishes he was a kid at that time, to see it.

Bob says you should go to New York and see it in Central Park. It’s right behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gorringe wrote a book about his exploits. Should I seek it out?

Bob thanks I will list [obelisks] are just as great achievement as the pyramids, but in a different way.

 

Go to Part 10

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Live Tweets from Ancient Egypt: Part 10

Great Courses, Bob Brier, tweets composed and sent while dog-walking. AI screwups corrected in brackets

For continuity, start with Part 1:

Peace was not a virtual [virtue] in Egypt, says Bob Brier, war wars [was]. You were supposed to send an army into faraway places, conquer, and take back to Egypt everything that “wasn’t nailed down.”

King Tuthmosis III, was he off in military training while his stepmom ruled? That’s what Brier thanks [thinks], but other Egyptologist think he was just shoved aside, maybe jailed, while his mom ruled.

Now comes a discussion of the military. The chariot required three types of ward [wood], yes [ash] or something flyable [pliable] for the wheels, somethings heavy for the axle, like oak.

They broke a lot. It means traveling are made [armies] needed lots of carpenters. One guy driving on a platform, the other guy shooting from the platform. “High maintenance vehicles” Bob Brier calls them. I love that verse of Jehovah taking the wheels off the chariots as told in Exodus. Ha. As

The king would ride right up front, calling the shots. Year two of Todd Moss soul rain, [Tuthmosis’ reign] he leads into Megiddo, in Syrian Palestine. Is this the material [Megiddo] of the Bible? I think so.

Three routes into Megiddo. Two are flat and open. One is in a valley. Against common wisdom and military strategy, Tuthmosis takes the valley. He surprises the enemy, who expected him to take another way, and routes [routs] them completely.

However, distracted by taking spoil, the defeated army gets away “Because the men plundered, we had two siege this city for seven months,” the record reads.

The hut is covered, so when guys on the top are throwing down rocks, it won’t hit those under the hut. So Bob describes the rudimentary tank that Egyptian’s invented, guys underneath the hut carrying battering rams, tanked pushed or pulled by guys. (or animals?)

For the next 18 years, he marches forth to Syria every year. Why?

It is their religion that causes a constant state of war. Egyptians did not colonize. You did not want to die outside of Egypt, where you would have no one to embalm you, not be buried in sacred soil, and so would lose your chance at immortality. No one wanted to live outside Egypt.

So you conquer, tell them to send tribute. Send so much of this, so much gold, so much of that. But you’ve been gone for a year. They forget. So you have to go back, “beat them up,” and remind them.

Bob Brier is from New York, he says. So that means he knows nothing about flowers. But when Tuthmosis returns from Syria he has the flowers he’s seen painted on the walls at Karnak temple. They’re not very good drawings, Egyptologists tell Bob, who wouldn’t know otherwise.

So was he an amateur botanist?

Now a discussion of Tuthmosis,burial in the valley of the Kings. Found high up along the far boundary, after tombs of Tuth 1, II, and Queen Hapshepsut. For the first time. I begin to think it would be neat to visit that valley of the Kings.

He is “the greatest feral [pharaoh] who ever lead an army, by far“. “And they had some great ones,“ says Bob as though telling of his favorite children. You can visit Tuthmosis’ tomb, a metal walkway takes you to the entrance, because the stone steps were chiseled away, probably to protect the tomb from grave robbers.

Lecture 20 begins. The fabulous 18th dynasty rolls on. “It just gets better,” says Bob Brier. Two really good ferrules [pharoahs], and one incredible one, follow Tuthmosis III.

Four kings in a row, each reigning about 30 years. A sure sign of stability.

Big bureaucracy in Egypt, Bob says “not unlike Washington DC”. “Guys keeping track of things, guys checking on each other.” All the taxes had to be kept track of. Bob is from the Bronx. They are all “guys” to him.

Two capitals. Thebes as the religious center, and 500 miles to the north, Memphis is the administrative center.

Amenhotep III invents the first telegrams. Commemorative scarabs. One presents his commoner wife Tiye, and says you’d better respect her. Another tells of his hunting prowess. Bagged 56 bowls [bulls] in a day.

He has a name for the boat he has built his wife Tiye. It is “The Atem Gleams. A trivia question to remember for a future lecture, Bob Brier says.

Amenhotep is a builder. He builds Thebes, or Luxor, is responsible for its modern skyline, Bob says. It is the first time I’ve heard of the Luxor Temple. Luxor is one of the cheaper hotels in the game Acquire. I used to love that game. I still do enjoy it, but there are not many who play. It’s been superseded by other games, Scrabble of course, but these days also Splendor, which is shorter, and less potentially frustrating.

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And Acquire has an odd attribute—that you can think your playing well right up to the end, only to find you’ve lost. Conversely, you may think you are losing, only to find you have won. But with that caveat, it still is fun.

Amenhotep settles in Thebes. His predecessors had been in Memphis. Is he getting religious in his older years. Or likes the warmer climate for this old bones. “People go to Florida,” Bob says. Maybe Amemhotep did the same.

Amenhotep III takes his 2nd son (the first died) with Great Wife Tiye as “coregent.” Bob Brier has seen mummy with its teeth. They are so bad he thinks the guy must have been in constant pain,maybe even sedated & needed a co-regent to hold down the fort.

This second son, who wasn’t supposed to be king, “turns Egypt upside down.”

And just now—as this story is being written—comes the discovery of ancient Luxor. Said to be the biggest news since Tutankhamen’s tomb.

(Inspired by Bob, I broke out the Acquire game board the other day—I hadn’t played it in years. My opponent hadn’t played it in even longer. I am happy to report that I won. Luxor was a hotel chain in which I held majority share. I merged it into Tower, in which I also held majority share.)

 

Go to Part 11

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