The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Upload #171: all mine

Sura 59 was another of those which I hadn't yet touched, so posted within that public I-O-U last month. I knew it was related to suras 3, 5, and 8 but I didn't know how, so left it for later.

Today, "God’s Path Leads through the Caliph" argues that sura 59 used sura 5 in a bid to correct - and centralise - Muslim use of sura 8. It's Umayyad although, being short, I'm not taking sides on how early. I see it as a stage toward Shaybani's law of war and more to the point, of peace: between the Islamic state and others. To the degree an Awza'i accepts sura 59, he's saying that the caliph isn't the legitimate heir to God's Apostle.


posted by Zimri on 13:24 | link | 0 comments

Friday, December 14, 2018

Cole is a poor apologist

I've been defending Dr Juan Cole's new sira against some poor critiques by Dr Stephen Kirby. Some of Kirby's critiques hold up better.

On the Warlord Muhammad theory: sometimes a claim holds true even where it be eptus. That ol' rascal Richard Carrier went over this in Proving History, 124-69. Even if Warlord Muhammad pleased Ibn Ishaq's 'Abbasid masters, it still might have roots in fact. Likewise, just because Kirby might have made some bad critiques, doesn't mean his overall takedown is invalid elsewhere...

For Cole the worse news is that - apud Kirby - this professor has lost any other handle on his topic. Mainly Cole falls back to intuition. Cole accepts the Quran as Muhammadan, but only divine (small-d) where he'd like it to be. It all goes beyond sura 18. According to Kirby, Cole accepts 28:52-54 – p. 78; 2:62 – p. 109; 7:159 – p. 114; 3:113 – p. 115; 5:51 – pp. 183-184, 5:69 – p. 186; 5:12-13 – pp. 187-188; and 5:48, p. 192 and also 49:13; Cole excuses away 9:30 and others like that. As to why Cole should prefer sura 28 to sura 9 or to sura 47 for that matter: no recourse to any Islam-independent scholarship is shown.

Kirby doesn't draw much from the infidel scholarship either but please note, Kirby doesn't have to. The critic just has to point out his target's bad logic (and sloppy citations; but there, Kirby is acting as Cole's editor, like me).

That means Cole has left his readers with no choice but to look for non-scholarly motives for Cole's decisions. We all have to assume that Cole has decided, on his own and a priori, that Muhammad is a Prophet Of Peace and rearranged the Quran to fit that. For Cole the good verses are timeless; the violent verses are specific and thereby abroganda.

As Kirby correctly points out, Islamic abrogation - tansikh - doesn't work like that. Islam teaches that all the Quran is God's - in fact, coexistent with God at Creation. So tansikh works with the later verses abrogating the earlier ones, however the later verses appeal to whichever human audience. It has to.

Juan Cole is, like Carlos Segovia, writing a new Quran - and with less excuse. Prophets can do that and maybe Caliph al-Mamun can do that but scholars can't. It holds for Segovia; it holds for Cole - and it holds for Donner.

posted by Zimri on 19:56 | link | 0 comments

Prophet of peace?

Dr Juan Cole has a biography out concerning the Arab Prophet. It came out in October but I never saw a copy in the bookstores, and I don't recall its title in the Denver expo - but then, I could have just missed it, among the myriads of others. Anyway Dr Stephen Kirby at JihadWatch is currently reviewing it. Among the morass of Credentialed scholars (Esposito? Really?) Dr Fred Donner has endorsed Cole's book:

Juan Cole's Muhammad draws deeply on the text of the Qur'an and on a vast selection of the best modern scholarship to make a convincing case for Muhammad as apostle of tolerance and peace. Cole shows how this original message of peace, consistently articulated in the Qur'an, was distorted by later Islamic tradition and denied by more than a thousand years of European polemic against Islam. Filled with astute observations at every turn.

I respect this professor's scholarship on early Islamic history elsewhere. Also (disclosure here) he takes my academia seriously. So, by proxy, I must take Cole seriously, for my part.

Cole in his turn seems to be taking JihadWatch seriously, or at least Margoliouth and the Greeks; in that the maghazi genre makes Muhammad out to be a brute. This means that Cole still has a soul. Also, Cole is aware that much of that literature survives to our day in highly-interpolated form, for instance in Waqidi and in Ibn Sa'd; which texts Cole rejects. Kirby informs us that Cole relies further back on Ibn Ishaq (a source for Tabari - and for Waqidi, whom Cole rightly maligns); and on Ibn Rashid (apud 'Abd al-Razzaq mainly), recently edited and translated into Cole's language English. Cole is - it seems - suspicious of these, too (we'll get to them). All that means Cole isn't an idiot.

Some more good news - which I don't know if Cole mentions, since my witness - Kirby - is hostile; but for which I'll just spot Cole, here.

Cole agrees with the present scholarly consensus that sura 18 belongs to circa 630 AD, for which Cole cites an article in Reynolds' collection The Qur'an in its Historical Context. Cole unfortunately cited the wrong article, which - unluckily - doesn't back that up. Kirby has pounced on that mistake. What Cole meant to cite, I think, was Kevin van Bladel's proof that sura 18 relies on "King" Heraclius' propaganda, printed elsewhere in that very volume. Van Bladel's article is now a classic and has attracted its own pious Islamic rebuttals.

I also agree with Cole against Kirby on how to read sura 49. Sura 49 indeed points to the need of the very different people down on earth again [Kirby: sic] to learn to live in peace. The peace is the peace of the Believer, sure. But pace Kirby, the sura wants to go beyond Islam and toward a truer "Iman" of all Believers. We've just been over this here.

Muhammad's modern supporters can further take heart, for the early 'Abbasid takes on Warlord Muhammad, like Ibn Ishaq's take, that where a latter-day Margoliouth might like to argue ineptus (therefore true): s/he can't. These tales of Muhammad's brutality weren't ineptus for their audiences. The 'Abbasids - tyrants - were happy to have a prophet who didn't take no crap. The Jews reported the same enormities, to the same Arab transmitters [read that and scroll up for more]; because they felt they deserved better. Isaac and Ishmael had their own respective motives to agree upon a common portrait. We see similar in Arab / Greek memories of 'Uthman's campaign against Byzantium: which adventure failed, embarrassing both sides; and so both gloss over that episode, which is preserved in full only in Armenian and Syrian sources. On the latter see Shaun O’Sullivan, “Sebeos’ account of an Arab attack on Constantinople in 654”. On the "ineptus" / Criterion Of Embarrassment as inapplicable to Ibn Ishaq see nowadays Stephen Shoemaker, The Apocalypse of Empire.

Kirby could stand to look to the splint in his own eye, speaking as a fellow mushrik, before critiquing others.

UPDATE 8 PM MST: I've gone on too long so I'll make my verdict in the next post.

posted by Zimri on 19:17 | link | 0 comments


By way of HBDChick, I am directed to a 2012 paper, "The genetic impact of Aztec imperialism: ancient mitochondrial DNA evidence from Xaltocan, Mexico". "Mitochondrial" means "Mom" - the female line; Mostly Mom, perhaps. Xaltocan is a city to the north of the former lake Texcoco; which in the 1200s AD they shared with Nahuatl-speaking cities.

Either way, the moms and dads who inhabited "Xaltocan" as the Aztec city it became, were not the founders of that city. Its Mitochondria over the generations were tested in 2012 and found to differ after its conquest by the Triple Alliance. Which means the new settlers brought their women, and threw out most of the women (and men) who were there before.

We don't even know what the city's first name was. Its founders didn't speak the common nahua of the Triple Alliance. They spoke Hñähñú, called "Otomi" by modern Mexicans. Assuming they weren't all sacrificed (which I admit is an assumption, given the Triple Alliance), the refugees from now-Xaltocan would have preferred to move in with colinguals. One of these Hñähñú states continued to resist the Alliance and then its Aztec overlords: called by the Aztecs, Tlaxcala. (Texcala, for Gary Jennings; he thought Tlaxcala sounded like a maize tortilla.)

Tortilla Town hated them some Aztecs, hard. When the Spaniards came the Tlaxcalans volunteered en masse to help kick ass. Given the new DNA evidence, it is hard to blame them.

posted by Zimri on 16:38 | link | 0 comments

Delaware sure is full of it

Thomas Talhelm has a map of state "narcissism". This is measured as the residents' sense of how important they are to American history, and what non-residents think.

Delaware at +18% wins the prize. Their state elite have been coasting off that early splat on the Constitution for long enough. I recommend that classic New Republic article "Rogue State" be taught in Wilmington schools.

As for Washington, at -1% the Low Self Esteem State... I suppose that as a state, they done little; but as Indian territory, their tectonics did nuke Japan back in 1700. Also their debatable border with British Columbia nearly occasioned a war against us Brits - yes, the third. Cheer up, guys!

Among the others, Massachusetts (+12%) and Virginia (+18%) both have high opinions of their historical roles, not shared by others: foremost - I bet - Virginians and Massachusettians, respectively. Seriously, they both played outsized roles. Here I would put it on all the states to quit talking these two down.

The others - meh. There are arguments several could make on how other states are underrating them. For good or ill: looking here mainly at Kansas (+12%, leading to the Civil War) and Louisiana (+11%, immediately after). For some others, Georgia (+15%) and New Jersey (+11%) might need to be taken down a notch. As for Idaho (+11%), er. Get over yourselves.

posted by Zimri on 16:04 | link | 0 comments

What went missing from Levi's manual

In 1998 I bought a fine book by one Gabriel Boccaccini. It took a leaf from that scholarly cliché of a "parting of the ways" between early Christianity and (the rest of) Judaism; instead, applying it to the bulk of the Qumran material. Boccaccini traced the thread of Qumran back to Ptolemaic-run Judaea, when the Bible was being - I think, being curated, would be the best term. Naturally there were some losers among the winners, and the losers ended up in the wilderness.

I'd mentioned below something that Boccaccini had pointed out twenty years ago, and that others had noticed before him: that protoQumran, in claiming Enoch for their prophet, didn't require Jews. They certainly didn't require the Jewish (and Samaritan, and Ptolemaic-diaspora) Torah. But Enoch's name was subsequently stuck onto the Animal Apocalypse... with its references to the Temple sacrificial system. And then Jubilees and the Temple Scroll and all the rest of them came along, with their own priestly obsessions. So where did the community get all this from, if not from Torah? We assume the author hoped at least not to be laughed off the Temple Mount as an outright fantasist.

The scholars are generally agreed that the Watchers part of Enoch was cobbled from out-takes of Jewish narrative, that didn't make the cut in the Bible. We would be looking for something like that for Jewish temple-ritual, that didn't wind up in the "P" source of Torah or in - say - Ezekiel, Nehemiah, Chronicles et al.. And it turns out that, scattered around the Ancient Near East, are fragments of exactly this: a document concerning Levi, for which we have Greek and Aramaic excerpts and fragments. These pieces, modern scholars have attached back together, as an "Aramaic Levi Document". The process is ongoing: Gideon Bohak published another piece in 2013, from Cairo. And then there are the fragments which the monk Annonas of Egypt quoted (Johannes Tromp: pdf). This tractate was soon followed up by other scriptures assigned to Qahat and Amram, such as to form a "Levitical trilogy".

We still don't have enough of this document, or series, to tell what genre the author intended for it. Bits of it were rearranged and reworked in antiquity in service of a "Testament of Levi" (Michael Stone: pdf) but that doesn't say anything about said Testament's sources. Scholars also debate why the ALD's original author wrote in Aramaic, because the Temple Jews all knew Hebrew - still a living language, albeit in dialects. (Perhaps they thought that Abraham, the Iraqi, spoke Aramaic at home...?) Anyway, ALD it is.

We do know what the ALD author was trying to do: he was arguing for a set of rituals fit for a Levite priesthood, complete with calendar. In the process, he also made Levi more worthy, reacting to Genesis 34's Shechem episode to exonerate Levi's violence. "Calendar" is relevant to our interests as researchers of Enoch (and of Jesus' Passion!) because the Jewish festivals are tied to regular dates.

Among these were the Passover and the Atonement holy days - which, as I've been trying to get across lately, are different, very different, by design. By the time of Chronicles, the priests put great stock in the Passover which they attributed at least as far back as King Josiah.

Given all that, Aramaic Levi does in fact know of lamb, bull, and goat sacrifices (but not dove or pigeon!). But maddeningly, the protagonists of Aramaic Levi (and its successors in the Trilogy) do not say "sacrifice this on this day, and that on that day" - as the Bible was teaching and as the Animal Apocalypse should imply.

I cannot believe that the Levites of any sect would forget something so basic. We have to be missing something in the text.

posted by Zimri on 15:35 | link | 0 comments

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Good riddance, Scouts BS Association

I got as far as First Class in Scouting, as of age 13 / grade 7 - which means, first aid. There were some other dippy "merit badges" I had to do on my way there but I do not remember most of them. (I did make a cover for one of the nineteenth-century books we had about the house.)

I spent the bulk of my Scouting time with the same backstabbers and bullies I went to school with. There weren't any child molesters there, so hooray for that (I would later luck out during PublicSchool, too, in this respect), but the experience was still horrible. It seems inappropriate to say, "it sucked"...

As for "building character", I just got reinforced with the same opinion about humanity which the aforementioned backstabbers and bullies had impressed upon me during school.

Some people have better impressions of Scouting. Or maybe their memories are worse.

posted by Zimri on 20:14 | link | 0 comments

The Johannine use of Daniel

On a hunch I went to the index of my Nestle-Aland text for Danielic references. They exist in Paul and the Synoptics - and in the Revelation. Daniel goes wholly unquoted in the Johannine Epistles. The Gospel's parallels are more interesting so this post handles those.

Nestle-Aland's "verbal parallels" are so slight, I can list them all out here without taking up too much of your time: Dan 4:2,37 > John 4:48, 7:14 > John 12:34 (and Synoptics), and the one true parallel 12:2 > John 5:29>11:24.

The Dan 4:2 (>37) / John 4:48 parallel is the bare meme "seemeîa kaì térata". I count that equally with the folkloric parallels between Esther and the Synoptics' saga of John Baptiser. In John 12:34, the Jewish crowds are 'splaining to Jesus that "our Law" has informed all Jews how the Messiah's kingdom shall be eternal. John here casts this as a hadith among unbelievers which hadith, by the way, they get wrong; because Daniel is not a Torah book. That leaves Daniel 12:2. This is the general Resurrection: the good to life, the evil to damnation.

This is... thin. It does not look like anyone in the Johannine community (excepting Revelation) cited Daniel directly. It looks like this community cited general first-century Jewish belief.

posted by Zimri on 18:29 | link | 0 comments

"Hail Aurelian; Hail Victory"

Razib has a couple essays up – okay, one new one, and one done in 2005 which I missed at the time – musing on American Gods. He diagnoses the American religion as, now, evolved into hunter-gatherer animism. Or devolved: Neil Gaiman took on American urban-legendry in his fantasy “American Gods”, in whose hands the aforementioned legendarium didn’t come out well. Razib may, likewise, see our popular belief-system as a pile of rubbish.

Meanwhile, we are stuck also with Calvinism’s ill-gotten spawn, Social-Justice. Today the social-justice movement, Christianity, and (increasingly) Islam are in mutual conflict, currently at Christianity’s expense but soon enough the SJWs will be oppressing the American mainline as well.

Razib’s best-case scenario, in 2005, awaits the advent of a new Emperor: a benevolent ruler over a multitude of weak sub-religions. But our civilizational ancestors already tried that.

The Roman court learnt they were in conflict with the not-so-weak religions and, finally, turned to Aurelian. Aurelian II might succeed at subordinating Social-Justice. But.

As far as Aurelianism is concerned theologically, this is just early-Byzantine Arianism shorn of Constantine’s pretense. A god-emperor deciding on what is or isn’t heresy (or, as Social-Justice terms it, “hate”) can be fun as a meme, but confuses Information with Security and, ultimately, must stifle intellectual dissent as surely as Social-Justice does. (I am pleased such decisions are Constitutionally banned from our Legislative Branch, at least.)

I don't want another Byzantine state. I want the Papacy back.

posted by Zimri on 16:25 | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The shock of archaic introgression

Conveeeeniently, I wasn't blogging in 2008-mid'9. So I have some weasel room with Razib's question last night: if u were following paleoanth/human pop gen pre-2010, did archaic introgression into moderns shock / surprise / not surprise / no prior opinion[?]. But I cannot weasel as much as you'd think, since I was also in others' comments over that span. So:

I'd read Harpending-Cochran by the midpoint of 2009, which put out a strong argument for Neander introgression. I was touting their book in That Other Green Site by then. So I can honestly report that, "pre-2010", I'd accepted Neander introgression already and was Not Surprised. But perhaps that's weasel.

Pre-reading Harpending, I'd read Larry Gonick's Cartoon History back in 1994ish. (I have some witnesses to this, too; more-personal.) I was open to Neanders as partially ancestral to Europeans. Didn't know about Asians, then.

In between, though: out had come the genetic findings of the 2000s AD. Mito-DNA was 200k BC. Y-DNA was 70k. Both were African.

So when Harpending and Cochran revived the Neanders: yeah, the two did have to make their case. And they succeeded - tentatively. So when the proof came out in 2010ish, it wasn't a total surprise. Call it a "pleasant surprise".

I tell you now what WAS a surprise. Denisova. THAT was a surprise. Who the fuck ordered that.

posted by Zimri on 18:18 | link | 0 comments

Sueves vs. Visigoths

A map is makin' the rounds on Twitter: Densidad de topónimos germánicos. This Teutisch densidad is strongest in Iberia's northwest corner: Galicia and the northwestern coast of Portugal. Some are blaming the Sueves.

That these are toponyms, rather than linguistic quirks, implies a deep settlement of Galicia by Germanophones. There isn't THAT much German in Iberian Romance. "Guerra", for WAAAUGH, is one example I'd heard. There also survive some German placenames scattered around Iberia but again, not many... excepting in Galicia.

So the Germans who came to the northeastern corner, settled there, and made it German. The rest of the Germans in the rest of the peninsula just knocked off the Roman aristocracy and left the common Latins be. Maybe that was Sueve culture versus Visigoth culture. Maybe there was something about Galicia or the Galicians which encouraged the Sueves to settle as farmers and fishers. The Sueves must have brought their own women, for a start.

- and then Galicia went Latin again. Galician and Portuguese today are not Germanic languages. I'm crediting that to Latino refugees from the Visigothic collapse over the early 700s.

(These days the Galicians want in on that Celtic action, like the Brezhoneg. Good luck with that.)

posted by Zimri on 17:27 | link | 0 comments

Jesus’ death, from Enoch to Daniel

Jesus’ death on Passover proves ineptus for later Christian dogma. If Christ be the sin-offering, he isn’t the Lamb of God and should not have died on Passover. Better he should have been killed (by impalement?) on Yom Kippur. The messianic death on Passover closer fits an Enochian context of (attempted) political revolution.

Which means it probably did happen over the days of Easter. Score another one for Dr Ehrman and, for that matter, Reza Aslan.

(Also, once Isaiah 40f. had become Prophetic in Judaea, I expect that when foreigners and/or tyrants executed Jewish religious dissenters, the first order to the hangman was never to pierce their flesh. Stoning or hanging only, for them - maybe the odd beheading or fatal-flogging. Upon crucifixion, I expect the hangman was not even to use nails. Although perhaps an exception was made during Passover on account of those claimants having already abandoned Isaiah.)

The Danielic references throughout the Synoptic Gospels, then, represent a concerted effort to divert Christian memory from the Passover sacrifice of The Son-Of-Man-As-Lamb, and toward 2 Isaiah’s more-celestial interpretation. The tendency would have culminated in Hebrews. What Daniel 9 had done to Enoch, the Gospel would do to Revelation.

UPDATE 12/13: John's Gospel didn't approve Daniel.

posted by Zimri on 16:57 | link | 0 comments

Onias III the Temple sacrifice – but which?

It’s Hanukkah season. Although I do not celebrate this myself, as a Christian; I approve the sentiment. The events started in 171 BC, when the high priest Onias III was murdered.

Blame for this crime fell upon the Greek king at the time, Antiochus IV, an (ironic) inspiration for Tsar Alexander III with his notions that one can make Greeks of Jews by royal decree. The Jews were – divided, on that. Some thought they could explain Judaism in terms of Greek thought, mainly Platonic. Others mourned Onias as a sacrifice. Some of the latter took up arms.

In the animal-farm apocalypse now preserved in 1 Enoch, the righteous man slaughtered from out of Israel’s flocks is a “lamb”. This prophecy, being Enochian, relied upon no other Jewish literature – nor upon Jewish existence; Enoch himself, before the Flood, testified to its inevitability. In a Temple context, the were-lamb had become the victim for the Passover, “blood poured out for you” and all that. This meant that the Greeks were the new Pharaoh. By the time the prophecy “came true” those particular Greeks were based in Syria, rather than in Egypt. Still, the Maccabean literature took up that cause and cast the martyrs to the nation – starting with Onias – as sacrificial to the people’s holiness.

The Enochian tropes are best known among Christians from John’s Revelation.

Also of interest here – as an absolute contrast – is our Daniel 9:24-7. Here, the dying christ is treated as an atonement. Such, by Levitic law, were taken from bulls, goats, pigeons, and doves; and not on the Passover. The sin-offering cannot be a lamb nor even a sheep.

Richard Carrier then draws the 11Q13 pesher from the Dead Sea. This associates Isaiah 52-3 with Daniel 9:25-6: when the [innocent] ‘obadiah is killed, the Day of the Lord shall arrive. (11Q13 agrees here with the post-LXX Greek translation ascribed to Theodotion. By then, lamb imagery was nosing into the tent…)

Some Jews at first thought Daniel’s man was Onias; indeed Carrier calculates this to match best with Daniel’s maths. Onias was not a Davidide and no king. But he could stand as another anointed-one for another purpose. (The Messiah Bar Joseph comes to mind but I wonder if this be at heart a Samaritan prophecy, secondarily Jewish.)

But whoever was the Levitical Agnes Dei could not also be a redeemer of human evil. I suspect 11Q13 knew that: Onias’s death did not bring about the End of the World, just the end of (direct) Syrian rule. The pesher proposes instead a redeemer for the future.

Back to Daniel 9, this was likewise re-interpreting Onias in light of a later Maccabean era when, apparent to all, true independence had not reached Israel. Maybe Onias was instead the sin-offering, and signaled something more transcendent.

posted by Zimri on 16:55 | link | 0 comments

A dying-messiah in Hellenistic-era Jewish thought

Richard Carrier argues that the Hebrew canon as of 200 BC had already primed the Jewish people to expect a “dying messiah”. More exactly: God’s dying ‘obadiah, whether he had served in life as His viceroy or as His priest.

[Deutero-]Isaiah 53 speaks of God’s suffering servant, one like Job; who atones for sin. As of the second century BC many Jews interpreted Isaiah 53 as to some future leader. So it was treated in earliest Christianity (among its Jews); and also in the Targum attributed to Jonathan; and in the Sukkah and Sanhedrin books of the Iraqi Talmud. The method of this victim’s execution was to be by piercing, as in Zechariah.

The Samaritans never accepted any of that, and the Enochians didn’t either (we’ll get to them); but clearly many Jews did, or the relevant books would not have survived the centuries to our own time.

Carrier is a bit Off, and when he posts stuff he often gets it wrong. Per Bretton Garcia, Carrier might even hold an interest: establishing that the Jews anticipated a dying Messiah, is to counter the Criterion of EmbarrassmentTertullian ineptitude. As a result Carrier's essay here has attracted some Formative Feedback by Christian seminarians, among them one Thom Stark. Carrier has since updated his arguments, duly crediting Stark as his editor.

To whatever degree Carrier has an interest in the outcome, he’s done some fine history here.

posted by Zimri on 16:54 | link | 0 comments

Monday, December 10, 2018

Thoughts on Andalusian, both Romance and Arabic

Some papers and tweets have been posted about the Arabic spoken in southern Spain, so I'll address them here.

The Muslims who took Spain were mainly Imazighen converts, with some languages of their own - loosely united around some form of Arabic. The scholars have been looking into the Arabic the invaders had brought. We have a handle on the Arabic of the Quran and a better handle on Classical 'Abbasi Arabic; but we are here talking kombuistaal, spoken day-to-day, which won't always have parallels in high literary society... yo. Know wha'm sayin'?

From the Arabs' perspective there are also Tamazight, Latin, and even Gothic and Punic to consider. I'll digress with Late Antique Latin since, you know, I can somewhat read that one, at least better than [accusative-case] the others...

I've surmised here that the Ibero-Romance core language (meaning, not Catalan) stems from an Early Latin base. It subsumed all the languages then extant in the peninsula (Euskara was then an Aquitanian tongue, not spoken south of the Pyrenean foothills). This Latin dialect naturally accepted imports from the classical "correct" Latin of later Rome. And then, the Spaniards got heavy influence from post-Latin North African Romance.

For a timespan for those North African and pre-Arabic intrusions into Spanish Romance, I couldn't find one in Late Antique Christendom. The Visigoths and Vandals weren't on trading terms; in their day, the Vandals were making trade impossible and speech difficult. Then the Byzantines came over. These were also keen to keep up barriers against "barbaroi"; adding to that, they promoted Greek over any Latin, even the classical sort. So I figure the most North African Romance influence came in with the Islamic conquest of at least the southern half of the peninsula.

Which brings us to the Arabic spoken there, in the 2nd/8th century. The non-Arabian tongues don't account for all of Andalusi's special traits. Some scholars - actually, many scholars - have suggested South Arabian. The Himyari "dutch-arabic" or even Sabaean have been raised here.

Marijn van Putten has posted (which Michael MacDonald has bookmarked) that it wasn't Yemeni. There survive some South Arabian words into Andalusi, like the words for fig and sesame; but these are as much loanwords into Mediterranean Arabic as their correspondent words are loanwords into English and Irish.

In the meantime, I'd read some tweets - I think from Ahmad al-Jallad - that the Andalusians instead seem to have taken loans from Aramaic. The word for mosque in Spain is Mezquita. This looks a lot like Anastasius' Greek masgida and like the Georgian transcription mezgitha. In Arabic as you all know the mosque is just masculine masgid ("masjid" in Classical). So why feminise it?

Well... in Aramaic, at least as its dialects expressed it in Late Antiquity, that -a is not feminine. It's emphatic state. Where Andalusi Arabic (and all Arabic) would stick a prefix el- in front of a noun, to mark it as a concept or as a definite-article; the later Aramaics stuck a suffix, -a. Aramaic does do feminines. But the -a goes at the end of those, too: "malakhutha", for "monarchy". The -t- / -th- is the girly marky (we're trying not to get into begadkepat here).

So, no: it wasn't Yemenis driving the push into Spain. It was Syrian Arabs - the Umayyads. Which is what all the history-books have told us, starting with the freakin' 754 chronicle as you may read, in part, in Hoyland. FOUNDER EFFECT, DO YOU SPEAK IT?

posted by Zimri on 17:44 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Melkor's prophet

Jacqueline Carey is one of those fantasy authors that one sees a lot of, in the bookstores, but hadn't yet appealed to me.

A mini-rant here. Woman-authored books when the author's name is woman tend to attract book-cover artwork that looks like stupid romance artwork, but with a sword and/or a dragon on it. With some, sure, that's their audience. But most would rather sell to MY half of the gender spectrum as well. Such - if they don't go full Tiptree - sign their names "CS Friedman" or "JV Jones". I like to think I'm not a misogynist when I buy books. But I also want to be assured that the author understands men; and if it's an author I hadn't read yet, that's an assurance I need backup for - starting with the publisher, and how they present this thing to us. Carey's books are presented in the style of Baroque Gauzy. Her publisher can and must do better.

A week or so ago, some blogger or commenter brought up Banewreaker, which came out over a decade ago. This was Carey's response to the Dark Lord trope in fantasy. Books taken from the word of the orc aren't rare; Mary Gentle's Grunts holds up as an amusing example. But Banewreaker was supposed to be more thoroughgoing. So I bought a copy and read its preface. I'll get out of the way that Carey understands and generally respects men; that's not this book's problem. Her problem is with G-d Himself.

In this world, the first god Uru-Alat (portmanteau of Uranus and Allat, looks like) up and died. Seven successor gods spawned from this one's corpse and took on various parts of Life's portfolio. The first one Haomane and the third one Satoris fell out with one another. Satoris lost and got exiled. Multiple times, in fact; we're now on Age IV. All sides have recruited from the sentient races and now there's a war on.

This is why theology matters, dear readers.

In Carey's mind, God is dead. The cosmos is self-contained; nothing exists outside of it. The angels are in charge, with no intrinsic moral difference between any of them. As for Satoris, that one of them is marked as the loser, first; and only after his failure has he allowed resentment to corrupt his soul.

These starting-presumptions are, of course, not Christian. They are Greek and (to a lesser extent) Zoroastrian. Satoris is a fallen Titan, by way of Shelley.

I would also say that Carey is just plain wrong, but then I would say that.

What we are dealing with here is a Silmarillion as proposed by Melkor's party - and I use that term with due care, because Carey is absolutely on Satan's side, going so far as to quote Milton. The other six angels / gods can rebut Satoris (and Carey) just by calling him a liar. God is not dead.

posted by Zimri on 15:40 | link | 0 comments

Saturday, December 08, 2018

SBL 2018: Paul and Thomas

I didn't attend a Gospel of Thomas session but I did chat with some scholars on this beat. They were working the parallels between the Gospel of Thomas and the Epistles of Paul. The discussion is about a decade old, and I have thoroughly forgotten the names of those with whom I spoke; but I'll summarise the basics.

I brought up Mark Goodacre's theory that Thomas depends on the Synoptics. From what I caught, Mark Goodacre on Thomas is considered like Christopher Bonura on the late-antique Last Roman Emperor literature (Pseudo-Methodius, Tiburtine Sibyl, &c.). Such is respected for actually reading the source-material, and for forcing lazy mainstream scholars to show their damn work. Such is, still, considered wrong.

Thomas scholars, from all sides, share a serious problem. Thomas was assuredly composed in Greek. But we haven't found much Thomas in that language. What we got, is Thomas in "Coptic". That would be Sahidic: into which language the rest of the Bible had got translated, too. So where there's a parallel in Thomas to some scripture, especially the New Testament; there is a real question as to whether one translation had got contaminated by another translation of another text. Also, in which direction; but careful scholars have to assume the worst, that the other gospel- and Epistle-translators contaminated Thomas.

Synoptic-parallel text criticism is really, really HARD for Thomas - at least for Thomas as a whole. So the scholars are looking mostly at thematic parallels.

What they find (claim, anyway) is that Paul, in 1 Corinthians, is reacting to a Hellenistic group who have taken Jesus entirely out of his own (Jewish) context and instead have forced Him into a Platonic pleroma model. I haven't read anything on Platonic cosmology myself. But the Platonic theology-cum-transcosmology seems to have been well-hashed out among the Greeks, at least as well-hashed out for them as the Dyothelete and Monothelete models would become for Late Antique Christians. Even Jews like Philo were harmonising Genesis with Timaeus.

It turns out also that Thomas had selected, for Jesus, such sayings as support (Middle) Platonism (Seth A. Clark's dissertation, pdf).

Everyone agrees that the four canonic Gospels are postPauline (leaving aside Egerton BUT ANYWAY). There's at least a question about (original Greek) Thomas. If Paul was reacting to Thomas, there is no way Thomas could depend on the Gospels.

Might also explain why Paul didn't preach from Jesus' words or actions much. In his day, gospels already existed. But guess what? They weren't written by Jesus' followers! - at least, not by honest followers. (JC had a bit of a problem with finding trustworthy folk. You may have heard.)

Anyway, I am not here taking sides, unless that side is the side which is reconstructing Thomas' Greek text first.

posted by Zimri on 20:04 | link | 0 comments

Upload #170: More severe Islamophobia

As you may have noticed, the Jinn-sura project here was a rush job - done in a few hours! - and I found a fix-opportunity soon after I posted it. I was just delaying a post at that time.

Also, in working with sura 67 for "Building the Seven Heavens" I noticed several cites back to sura 36 - in fact, a deliberate "dovetail", from the end of 36 to the start of 67. And then I realised that I had a stray 67>15 reference in the "Q for Qurra" project. Whoops.

Mostly I wanted to look at sura 36. I always knew it was allied with sura 67, the two together making anthropomorphic note of God's "hand", which already by the time of the Dome of the Rock the Muslims disliked to do. So I knew 36 was early like 67. Also sura 36 reads like a sermon delivered by an actual Arab prophet. But since September when I found that sura 67 wasn't very early, I had to revisit sura 36 as well.

In fact sura 36 is claiming the mantle not of Muhammad himself, but of the qurra' behind suras 6 and 7. It also parallels sura 5 - in such a way that it rejects it. Sura 36 doesn't approve the ruling "servants of God" and feels sorry for Muslims(!): it calls them "Mozlims", because they are in darkness. Sura 49 is in a similar tradition.

So, new essay: "The Hoodwinked Moslems". I'm thinking sura 36 is an antiMu'awiya piece, during the Mu'awiya - er - peace.


posted by Zimri on 13:44 | link | 0 comments

Message: I don't care

I turned 18 during the Bush Presidency. KT's got a post at Ace's but the main cacology, from the Right, is from Michael Walsh. Walsh handles that millenniarian-fascist "New World Order" speech, and does not shy away from its implications.

The media hated Reagan and I guess they hated Eisenhower too but they couldn't convince the voters to join in, so they just mocked the two. But they were able to hate Nixon - and to hate Bush. Hoo boy, did the indie musicians and artists hate him. Ministry in particular blasted that "NWO" song at this speech mentioned here. Andrew Eldritch gave us "Vision Thing" (a shit song fwiw, Ministry did better). Hollywood went long on corporate prison movies like "Fortress" and "No Escape" (which also weren't any good). But their point still stands.

Bush was at heart an authoritarian. That statist Points Of Light monument? That's Bush. Those "Americans With Disabilities" and other treacley budget-busting boondoggles? Bush signed 'em. And then Bush had to raise taxes to pay for it all.

And then there's the household Poppy managed. In it, John "JEB" marrying far, far down; George Junior drank away his youth; and Neil was... well, Neil.

You can be a control-freak or you can be a wimp; but if you're both, you're in trouble. This is what George Senior didn't learn in time, and it's the only point of light his legacy can shed upon us.

posted by Zimri on 09:44 | link | 0 comments

Friday, December 07, 2018

The Balkan cycle

At Eurogenes, Davidski and his commenters are wrestling with Rascovan’s observation of the “Burned House Horizon” in Neolithic Central Europe, and the long span of the dates involved. The cities had been burned and built over periodically; like Asimov’s Nightfall. Rascovan claims every 150 years; commenter Folker says 60-80 years. Not just in the Balkans but in Anatolia as well, e.g. Bob Floy notes it even at more-ancient Catal Huyuk. This is being mooted as a voluntary custom. Rascovan so Davidski implicate earlier plagues.

Folker handwaves this instead as “religious” but I just see “Religion!!” as the bad archaeologist's lusus-naturae, like “dysentery”. Religions have causes. This particular custom must have originated in centuries-long memory. Any observant Gozer Worshipper knows that memories fade into habits, and finally are hardwired into trains-of-thought; which recur in our literature. Usually as horror: like Nightfall, and like Ghostbusters.

I do agree the Neolithic memory doesn’t have to be of plague. But it also doesn’t have to be of constant cyclical invasions. Maybe it was just plain debt. I can see in this blog’s own comments how debt breeds strife, manifesting here in ethnic hatred. Burning down the wooden houses and starting over is practical in the then-heavily-wooded central Europe, like slipping off to the jungle was practical among the Choltal Maya.

posted by Zimri on 17:02 | link | 1 comments

King Rat

Late last night Eurogenes (and today Razib) got on the case of Nicolás Rascovan et al.s’ paper, about plague in Late Stone Age Sweden 2900 BC. The DNA is “basal”, which means it had a Stone Age ancestor – range, 4300-3300 BC. Rascovan projects that this plague had hit all the trade-networks in central Europe – “west Eurasia” – at the time, including the [Cucuteni-]Trypillia culture in the Neolithic Black Sea northern shore and Danube.

That paper builds on two recent-ish findings, themselves not well known even to ancient historians. First, Cucuteni-Trypillia already had cities and a shared culture. That means, it was civilization – like Cahokia over here in Parias, and like contemporary protoliterate Uruk and Egypt. (I remind my primary audiences of right-wing reactionaries and left-wing SJWs that the feminists and the gender-studies professors had figured all this out, first. The feminists are in their rights to stick the label “city” upon these large towns; “proto-city” is our presentism talking.) Second, we now know that the Plague was rife through Central Asia deep into their Bronze Age, or even Copper Age.

Now, Rascovan larns us, the twain had met. The question before us now is the question the feminists had claimed to answer: was it the IndoEuropean “androcrats” who slew the European civilization (for all its inherent faults)? Was it the climate-change bogeyman? Was it decadence? Or – since we have evidence for this now – was it plague?

Davidski at Eurogenes dates the fall of Cucuteni-Trypillia to 3400 BC although the paper covers several other Neolithic cultures that collapsed 4000-3000 BC. Rascovan then cites a downward demographic spiral of the surviving de-civilised farming freeholds. I’ll just go ahead can call this “Neolithic Decline” the Chalcolithic Dark Age; Gozer Worshippers will tell you that night falls often upon us in the West. Rascovan further observes that no genetics shifted over this time: people just stayed and (mostly) died, quickly and horribly.

So the R1b and R1a lineages – IndoEuropeans, likely starting with the Anatolians – arrived in a region already broken. This region was not, beforehand, a network of peaceful socialist cities – those cities had already fallen. Rather like how the Aryans came to the Indus not finding the Harappa civilization there.

Razib proposes that the plague had broken Uruk as well but, interestingly, doesn’t hazard this of the Indus. I don’t know if the Harappans ever saw a rat, given their waste treatment obsession. I have other ideas on that.

posted by Zimri on 17:01 | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Mediaeval "dysentery"

Today I chanced upon an account of Edward the Black Prince, perhaps England's most famous royal who didn't get to be king. He was the scourge of France over that Calamitous Fourteenth Century of which Tuchman wrote. He died of disease at age 46ish. But it wasn't the Plague that got him, in 1359 or whatever; it was "dysentery", a couple decades later.

He'd suffered from "dysentery" for awhile. Nobody in Current Year dies of that - or so we are told. So I had to look up "dysentery". It turns out not to come from a specific bug like the Plague did and does. It is better described as a symptom: it is an infection of the large intestine.

The mediaeval doctors weren't able to pinpoint the source of Edward's dysentery. They did know it wasn't his appendix. They also knew it wasn't from an arrow in the gut. Either way some historian would have told us. So instead: "inflammation of the bowel"; in our eighteenth-century history books, "dysentery". Thus, as Jonathan Swift wryly noted, is medical science advanced.

Looks to me like diverticulitis.

posted by Zimri on 21:43 | link | 0 comments

The neo-Sasanian 'Abbasids

Deborah Tor has posted an article concerning how, exactly, the 'Abbasid-era eastern amirates adopted a Sasanian model. This isn't the timespan I normally cover, but it's interesting; and here on my blog I cover what interests me.

Tor is finetuning Patricia Crone, Slaves on Horses. That book investigated how the 'Abbasids failed - leading up to which, it floated a précis of Umayyad history, and how they failed. The Umayyads are more my thing, and that's how I've used the book; but here Tor is talking 'Abbasids and later, which is I think what Crone was aiming at. Tor thinks that in the later 200s / 800s, the various Islamic kingdoms east of the Euphrates went back to the Sasanians for their theories of kingship.

Re Tor's first few pages, I can nitpick a little. Tor says here that the 'Abbasids had failed as a Shi'ite movement. I say that Tor is not cynical enough. The "'Abbasids" didn't even start as 'Abbasids; they started from an Iranian revolution under one "Abû Muslim" who was almost certainly not much of a Muslim himself. Once this movement had overthrown the Umayyads from everywhere important, al-Saffah seized command as an orthodox Muslim, claiming that "'Abbasid" banner. Al-Saffah then went on a murder binge: Abû Muslim got whacked, almost all the Umayyad princes got whacked... the Shi'ites got whacked. Truly may it be said that al-Saffah had taken care of all the family business. Under those criteria, al-Saffah was a success. He didn't claim headship of an 'Alid movement; he claimed his own Shi'a, under his own (pretended) ancestor 'Abbas; and his successors maintained that much.

The 'Abbasid failure came later. Many historians blame the third/ninth century fitna of the two brothers, Amin and Ma'mun. I don't know that this was a failure of "Shi'ism". This failure more strikes the more-abstract problem of royalism- here, when two claimants to the throne hold an equivalent power-base.

As for the Sasanian influx: there was assuredly some Sasanian culture floating around the caliphate from early times, especially the east. After all, much Sasanian literature survived and was translated into Arabic over the 700s AD. I do agree with Tor, that I do not see a Sasanisation - if that's a word - of the caliphate itself up to and including Ma'mun. That dynasty claiming 'Abbas had made their appeal to the Arabs, not to the Persians. Ma'mun al-'Abbasi cast himself as the next 'Abd al-Malik and went so far as to stick his own name onto the Dome of the Rock (for 72 AH, LOL).

I suppose this is a long post toward the short statement that I agree with Tor, but wish she'd been more careful with Islamic history up to 850ish AD.

posted by Zimri on 21:05 | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Back (again) to Sodom and Gomorrah

One Charles Pellegrino wrote a book a few decades back about a destructive event that destroyed some Dead Sea cities in the Middle Bronze Age. He focused on the southern shore of this long and narrow north/south salt lake, because that's what the Bible told him. Or at least what Late Antique interpreters of the Bible told him...

I don't know that Pellegrino or his book enjoyed a lot of traction among the scholars but his works did hang around the bookstores for awhile - longer in the used-book stores. It was one of those 1990s things: like the one about Noah's Flood being about the Black Sea (and not Ur), or like the one about Atlantis being western Anatolia (and not Saint Irene's Island). Hey why not, we all said.

Over the last decade one Phillip (sic) Silvia submitted a PhD thesis, noting that there were some hardcore destruction traces north of the Dead Sea circa 1700 BC. In 2015 this thesis got published. And now there are news articles about it (h/t HBDChick).

Sodom isn't mentioned in the 2018 news article. (It's Current Year!) But it was mentioned in the 2015 publication of the thesis.

Personally I have been to the southwestern corner of the Dead Sea. It is a miserable moonscape, unfit for major habitation - I could see why it looked like a bomb scene, to ancient peoples. I didn't visit Jericho, more midway north of that, but I do not hear great things about it. The northern Dead Sea at least gets you a decent river, the Jordan; which would have been more decent in the Bronze Age. So it stands to reason that the better cities on that plain would have been at its north rather than, as has been assumed since Late Antiquity, its south.

As for the Biblical story: I always figured it for a fiction cobbled together from earlier memes. The narrative core is a simple plagiary of the sordid tale of Gibeah from the book of Judges. The homosexual "re-skin" of its antagonists struck me as a satire of the medicinal bath-culture of the Dead Sea coast: if you start a bath-house, and you don't protect the women; the women quit going, and you're left with Jared Polis. Just like how in Portland today there are no lesbian bars.

But that left one element: the Dead Sea memory that a city was destroyed from heaven. There is nothing in the Gibeah story, and nothing intrinsic to the Dead Sea, as could account for that.

I have to assume that strike from the sky probably did happen. Not for that city's sins (you know where I stand on that), but for sheer bad luck of being in a meteor's way.

There was one possible metallic lining to this destructive cloud. I refer not to silver but to iron. The Bronze Age may have learnt about good iron; the local Semites might have taken to worshipping rocks from heaven.

And Pellegrino is looking pretty good. A lot of the classical "cranks" are looking good these days. Gimbutas, for instance. Even Van de Kamp is looking good. They'd just been looking in ever-so-slightly the wrong places.

posted by Zimri on 20:06 | link | 0 comments

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