May 30, 2015

Nathan Shepard
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Dear Nathan Shepard:
I was much taken with your search for biblical prophesies.  *( The track record of people searching for end times has not been perfect, but I am interested, in fact I have done something of the sort, too.  I think you may undersell your case a little bit.  Kenya is indeed south of Jerusalem, as St. Petersburg is north.  Also, coincidentally, the distances look to be about the same.  In another coincidence, you are troubled by the “Statue of Liberty.”  I as well, but when I look I see a man holding a torch and book wearing the spikes of Apollo; Liberty wears a soft cloth cap.  In revelation the Opponent is referred to as Apollyon, which sounds to me like Apollo with a Greek ending, plausible in a communication from a man who spoke both languages.  Also, at last there is some sort of sense to the crown of thorns used as a symbol of mockery.  If somebody tells me, “No, it’s really Liberty,” I reply, “No it’s really a piece of metal.” 

As I said, I have looked, rather superficially, at scripture and of course since I was asking a different question I got a different answer.  Where we coincide is the suspicion that meanings have been hidden.  So let me offer what I think I have noticed: 

The “Ten Commandments” are of course nothing of the sort.  It’s the covenant.  It’s a bargain or contract.  It starts out simply enough with who is party to the contract, when and where.  Thus there is God, the people he has led out of Egypt and of course time and location are after the exodus and outside Egypt.  Then it gets right down to the point.  “Thou shalt have no other gods.”  Seems simple, but it’s not.  Just what is a lower case god?  I have an atheist friend with whom I’ve arm wrestled over the issue, and we come close to agreeing that anywhere people worship together there is an implicit god.  So the order is, if you are to avoid other gods, you must avoid other congregations.  And the key point is that marriage has always been a sacred thing (until recently or course).  So the bottom line is don’t marry outside your congregation.

Then the covenant goes on to repeat the point in various forms, winding up with the threat, “I am a jealous God visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the sons even to the third and fourth generations.”  You can count generations in more than one way, so it’s not a stretch to call that five generations and the number that can be accommodated is given in the thousands, or maybe a couple of hundred families max.  My orientation is science, and although magical thinking leaves me cold numbers get my attention.  Then comes the body blow:  honor the father and thy mother so that thy days may be long ….  In short do what almost everybody does (until recently) OR I’LL KILL YOU.  Hmm.  I do not read Hebrew, but I can follow an interlinear translation and look at a computer assisted word count, and it comes down to that “so that.”  You see, this is the second moiety of the contract.  This is what the people are to get in return for obeying those four words, which mean “marry within your congregation,”  repeated, elaborated on, and emphatically stated.  This is not the place for a curse.

So I looked it up and “so that” is a conjunction.  There is another way of expressing intent in Hebrew; you can change the verb form.  And the way languages evolve, the simpler form always replaces the more complex; “so that” as a conjunction seem to be an anachronism.  Might there be one?  Sure.  At one point an “ancient” copy of the law was found in the temple.  It placed restrictions on the king.  Vitally, this legitimized the king, who is otherwise without scriptural justification.  So the king, who probably had it planted, said, “We’re going with it.  This is the true law.”  There were other differences.  The people rioted but to no avail.

And when I looked at the word counts the “so that” conjunction was sparsely scattered throughout the early text, was quite common in the contested portion and then vanished from scripture altogether.  So if we follow the logic the “so that” must be removed.  Now the “commandment” reads “You will make your parents proud.  You will live long.”  These are two blessings.  And indeed the whole thing continues as blessing.  “Thou shalt not kill … Thou shalt not steal …” and so forth.  In short, “I’ll make decent people of you.”  It’s the ultimate value.  Take my health and I’ll try to recover.  Turn my friends against me and I’ll try to win them back.  Impoverish me and I’ll try to rebuild.  Take my self esteem and I’ll try to kill myself.

The Deuteronomist couldn’t keep his fingers out.  Where it goes, “You’ll get the weekends off.  You won’t even have to boss your servants.  You’ll get rich,” he throws in another “so that.”  This rogue has totally missed the point.   

So what’s the big deal about keeping your social pool down to a couple hundred families, a hundred would probably be a better bet?  It’s what the Old Testament is obsessed with constantly.  It is about babies.  Think about all those genealogies. 

Take a look at the evidence I have on:

Don’t give me the old “not my field” stuff.  Look at the genetics chapter in any high school or college biology text.  That’s all you need.  If you can cope with the ambiguities of scripture you’ll have no trouble following it.  It turns out that once one abandons the covenant it takes about nine or ten generations to extinction, but there is a notch in population at about five generations.  The priests would have had no trouble sorting this out.  A study was done in Iceland using similar tools, although they didn’t breathe a word about extinction.  The numbers in the covenant are really pretty good.

Recall the story of Lot.  When the “angels” come to visit it turns out that the whole town had gone gay.  Then Lot went in and told his sons-in-law that there was a problem they just giggled.  Not much prospect of grandchildren there, eh?  So they went to the next town (I skip over the special effects, marvelous though they are).  Evidently things were about the same there.  So his daughters took him out into the countryside and had their way with him.  It’s called the desperation strategy of lowering social pool size, but it worked out ok; they founded a couple nations.  You know about desperation.  It’s why I’d write a prophet about a scientific matter. 

So there you have it.  Maybe it doesn’t look like it’s much help to you today, but when Obama’s successor has been duly sworn in, keep it in mind.  Poke around a little and you might find that the resources you have developed could be useful anyway.


M. Linton Herbert MD.

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