Sunday, April 7, 2019

Civilisation Judas - Written Law vs Natural Law

*** An audio version of this book is available on YouTube.

Civilisation Judas - Chapter 8 - Written Law vs Natural Law

In the last chapter "civilisation" was portrayed in a somewhat negative light. In grim contrast to the idyllic paradise I was imagining when I was thinking of escaping the city and going back to the wilderness. However, there are many benefits to civilisation too, and I would probably long for those as well were I to leave them all behind. In fact, this sums up all of human history really. Within ourselves, and within wider society, there's an ever ongoing battle between our longing to return to nature and our desire to civilise the world.

To civilise essentially means to refine or advance. To soften and tailor the natural world. To cultivate - hence the word cultured. It's generally associated with city living. The word civilisation sharing its root, as noted earlier, with Latin words such as civis (citizen) and civitas (city). Civilisation or advanced culture tends to generate into existence through cities, or through other aggregations of people. Which is essentially what towns, cities and settlements are.

Wherever you get large numbers of people gathered together you get the sharing of ideas, and also the division of labour. Leading to the blossoming of culture. If you're an intelligent person living out in the middle of nowhere your natural intelligence may give you a hand in overcoming the problems of survival. However, if you're an intelligent person living in a town or city, exposed to other people, other ideas and information you can advance all the more further. Standing on the shoulder of giants so to speak.

We tend to think in terms of civilised countries today. However, if you consider how civilisation arises it becomes apparent that city states must have came first, then larger nation states much later. If you imagine a vast area of land with nomadic or semi-nomadic native peoples spread across it - perhaps like the pre-Columbus native America we imagined in the last chapter. Then on this vast landscape there may be certain areas where humans naturally begin to gather and settle in greater numbers. Perhaps because of the natural resources of the area - fresh water, abundance of food, etc. Or maybe because it's situated at a crossroad for travel or migration. Or likewise because it's a convenient meeting place for people to trade goods - becoming a natural market place or trading centre.

However it comes into being, once people start living there in increasing number a culture of some description will begin to blossom. It'll become a centre for trade, ideas, people and information. In effect a city or town will start to develop. Now if several cities or towns begin to develop it'll perhaps become the case that these settlements, though separated by many miles, come to be more similar in their way of living to each other, than they are to the vast swathes of people living in the areas of wilderness inbetween them. A similar thing can be witnessed today. For example, where people living in New York and London have more in common with each other than either do with the rural bumpkins living out in the American or British countryside.

Once you have the rise of towns and cities it then becomes in many ways much like the internet. A spider's web of cities - all acting as nodes, linked by trade routes, transferring goods and information. Largely bypassing all the offline natives inbetween. Some of whom may have some links (perhaps you could say a limited Wifi connection) to these towns and cities, and therefore take some part in this vast flow of information. Others completely unplugged, cut off and completely offline in the wilderness.

When we think of things this way it becomes clear that nation states, or "countries", would've originally began as loose confederations of these civilised city states. Only really becoming something approximating a modern political nation once the uncivilised bits inbetween became sufficiently civilised to make the process possible. Natural tribal and racial divisions will have also played some part in this process of country building too of course. Not to mention geographical barriers such as rivers, mountains and oceans. However, originally you will have just had civilised cities or urban areas - replete with their increasingly sophisticated cultures - surrounded by the uncivilised or semi-civilised hoi polloi. The city with its laws, mores and social structure. The surrounding area, perhaps controlled and exploited in some way by the city folk, but nevertheless largely ungovernable. Except that is by force and coercion.

Now the two important advances of civilisation we're particularly interested in here are the development of literacy, and the development of sophisticated law/religion. I've put law slash religion because it would seem that originally there was no clear separation between the two. Which we can see when we attempt to search for the origin of such practices.

Even primitive societies have their values, which guide and set the boundaries for their members. These values may come as spoken or unspoken general rules, perhaps imposed by force or threat upon the rest of the group by the dominant members of the tribe. Or they may come in the form of stories and myths. A tale about a monster or spirit in the woods may take the form of an oral myth, but it may also serve as a warning about the dangers of heading out into the woodlands alone or unprepared. It's difficult to imagine how such beliefs and social behaviours truly developed and came into being over the course of man's advancement. However, from observing modern indigenous tribes we can see that even primitive groups of people have their customs and rituals. More so we can see that these customs and rituals - though they may look odd to modern eyes - often have some kind of practical benefit. The idea that the gods demand that the crops be sown on a certain date may sound a little silly, but it does at least make sure the crops get sown at the right time of year. Likewise ritually washing items may take the form of a religious rite, but the practical benefits in regard hygiene are also clear to see. Though the person practising and insisting upon the rite may not understand the concept of germs and cleanliness in the same way that you or I would.

When it comes to city living, with its more developed social structure, it seems more complex religious practices developed to fill the more complicated needs. With the advance of literacy it also meant that such rules and rituals could be recorded and written down. Setting them in stone in a way that made them easier to remember and retain, but also perhaps harder to abandon or bend to one's will. More advanced, but less organic. It's still a case that "the gods demand it", but now it's written down, reduced to a fixed statement.

Looking at organised religions such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism and so forth we can see that they are, in many ways, largely bodies of rules and regulations. These days we tend to think of such institutions as being created purely to service spiritual needs. Especially in the west where we're so used to the separation of church and state. However, it appears that in the past such religions literally were the state, and that all law was by its nature religious law.

I would suggest that in a sense all organised religions are essentially dead or redundant political systems. Or socio-political systems to put it a little better. A good example today is perhaps the Sharia law of Islamic tradition, and its battle for supremacy with secular law in Islamic countries, or in other areas with large Muslim populations. Islamic law was, and in some cases still is, the state law. However, for civilisation to march on it has to be relegated from state status to a purely religious set of guidelines. A fate that western religions such as Christianity have already succumbed to.

While I'm using the word relegate it's perhaps worth noting its similarity to the word religion. Suggesting that the original meaning of the word religion came with connotations of being subservient to a higher power - be it the power of the law, or the power of the lord. It's also said to be related to Latin words such as religare, meaning to bind, and also relega meaning banishment. Again, both coming with suggestions of restraint under the law.

The Jewish religion is especially legal with its multitude of laws and observances. From the clear and broad commandments of Moses to the much more specific and finicky requirements of kosher food preparation. In the first chapter I mentioned the idea that "Jewishness" evolved out of city living, and noted many of the legal words that could be equated with the word Jew - such as jury, judge, duty, etc. I would also proffer the idea that many of the laws and regulations found in Jewish religious tradition originally evolved to deal with the management of city living. Or to put it more succinctly; to manage civilisation.

In fact, just looking at the laws regarding kosher food this seems like something that could only come about where large numbers of people are living in close proximity. Such rules wouldn't be especially necessary in a practical sense for small farming communities, or more native peoples. However, in the city where lots of people are eating and living in a limited area of space things like hygiene then become an issue, and the management of such practices necessary. In this regard Jewish kashrut dietary laws seem not dissimilar to our modern laws regulating food production in bakeries, restaurants, factories and elsewhere.

It's interesting to note that in the New Testament Jesus and his followers are chastised for not washing their hands before eating bread;

Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. - Matthew 15, King James Bible

From a hygienic point of view it's perfectly sensible and practical that someone should wash their hands before eating, and again it's not too dissimilar to secular laws we have now requiring bakers and other food preparers to wash their hands. However, in the bible story Jesus was less concerned with the practicalities and the letter of the law, and more concerned with the morality of the law. In fact, it could be said that in many ways the doctrine expounded by Jesus, and the rise of Christianity, was in effect a reaction or rebellion against the excesses of law. A rebellion against, or a correction of civilisation itself. This will be the theme of the next chapter, and we'll return to Jesus washing, or not washing his hands later on there.

Regarding the excess of written law, it can often leave less room for moral choice, and consequently can sometimes have a dehumanising effect on society. Regulations and laws, for all their benefit, can come at the cost of genuine freedom. The law of the jungle - in effect the absence of law - representing freedom with all its dangers. The law of the city, or civilisation - with all its legality - symbolic of both captivity and comfort.

The people situated outside of the city, the natives or country-dwellers, often lie somewhere inbetween these two extremes. Their cultural values and traditions, generally oral and changeable - i.e. not written down. Combined with, or existing alongside, an inbuilt sense of right and wrong. What could be called natural law. [1] If they have some links to town or city life then they may have some degree of interaction with, or use of written law, but such law only reaches such places via the spread of civilisation itself. So to have it they must become civilised to some extent.

Coming to the development of written language itself. Though it's a symbolic concept, it still needs technology for its use to spread. For someone to become literate it requires not only that they have interaction with other literate people, but also access to the tools required. Be they books, pigments, clay tablets or whatever the case may be. The problem of illiteracy in many ways is a problem of poverty and not one of education. For example, it's hard for someone to be mobile phone literate if they don't have access to a mobile phone. However, once people become wealthy enough to have access to mobile phone technology they pick it all up pretty quickly. A child with access to a mobile phone or tablet will soon become a wizard with it in no time. They don't require formal lessons to use the things. I would imagine it was quite the same with the advent of literature. This is another topic we'll return to in a later chapter.

What's highly interesting in regard this difference between city dwellers, with their written law and organised religious practices, and the country dwellers with their lack of such formal organisation, is the dichotomy found in the New Testament between Jew and Gentile. Jesus, along with most of the protagonists in the New Testament appears to be Jewish. One of the questions often posed in the gospel texts then being whether these Jewish rebels should share their new-found Christian doctrine with the Gentiles (a question answered in the affirmative).

Looking at the issue through the lens of Jewish civilisation it's not hard to see the difference between Jews and Gentiles as being the difference between city dwelling urbanites and country dwelling uncivilised folk. Or rather citizens of cities, and none-citizens. If we see circumcision as a token of citizenship this would add weight to the view. Likewise the ensuing debate over whether Gentiles should be required to undergo circumcision in order to join the new faith.

An interesting fact that lends further weight to this view comes via ancient Rome, and their similar way of differentiating between citizen and non-citizen. The 2nd century Roman jurist Gaius wrote the following about the law;

Every people (populus) that is governed by statutes and customs (leges et mores) observes partly its own peculiar law and partly the common law of all mankind. That law which a people established for itself is peculiar to it and is called ius civile (civil law) as being the special law of that civitas (state), while the law that natural reason establishes among all mankind is followed by all peoples alike, and is called ius gentium (law of nations, or law of the world) as being the law observed by all mankind. Thus the Roman people observes partly its own peculiar law and partly the common law of all mankind. [2]

From this we can see a clear distinction between the law of the city (ius civile), and the law beyond the city (ius gentium). A law common to all men, which is established by natural reason. The Latin words themselves are also quite revealing. Gentium translates as people, but is generally used in the sense of tribe or nation. If you've noticed its similarity to the word gentile that's because they both share the same root. Gentile being a Latin derived word, rather than a word of Greek or Hebrew origin.

Incidentally, the word commonly used to denote gentile in the Hebrew is goy. This term can be a little controversial today, with it sometimes being said that the term carries an implication of prejudice towards non-Jews. The idea being that the goy are afforded a lesser status by Jewish writers, or even equated with cattle or animals. However, this all makes more sense when considered in regard the idea that the Jews are a civilised or city based people. It's not uncommon for people from the civilised world to describe the behaviour and way of living of less civilised people as animal-like. Even today people may often speak this way of other cultures, especially when there are stresses on society. For example, when first world people complain of the crime or social degradation caused by immigrants from lesser developed countries.

In fact, looking at the use of the term goy in Jewish literature this is precisely the sense that one gets. With some Jewish writers speaking with high esteem of the gentiles, and urging integration and interaction. While others, more wary, complaining of the uncivilised barbarism of the gentiles and urging complete separation. It's very similar to modern left versus right debates about immigration and "foreigners". [3]

Ironically, it could be said that modern inhabitants of western civilisation now look at Orthodox Jews in a similar way. Viewing their religious traditions as thoroughly tribal and out of keeping with the modern secular world. Perhaps illustrating how Jewish law, like western religion in general, has went from being the very driver of civilisation, to being a cultural cul-de-sac on the outskirts of it. The seeming contradiction of these religiously strict Jews in contrast to the many Jewish people that are often at the very forefront of modern civilisation and technology is another thing that sometimes seems odd to people. However, again, this dichotomy is caused by the struggle for civilisation against tradition.  A consequence of the battle between our desire to civilise the world and our simultaneous disdain for the trapping of civilisation. Which Jewish people, like all other people, are somewhat lost in. Some looking forwards, others looking backwards. With most simply trying to marry the two together in some unconscious way as best they can.

Returning to the words gentile and gentium it's clear that both just mean the people - the multitude of non-citizens out in the country (or nation). Some of whom perhaps also live in and around the cities, only with "non-citizen" status. The overlap between the Jews and the Romans, and the relationship they both have to the less civilised peoples they find themselves living amongst is quite apparent.

The word ius itself is also of interest. Meaning essentially law or justice - hence the root of the word justice, jus. [4] It's another word we can add to our list of legal words that sound similar to the word Jew. So once again we see this idea of Jews being associated with law-giving. In fact, another similar etymological example comes from medieval Sardinia. In the 11th century Sardinia was ruled by the giudicati, which translates as the judges. During which period the island was divided into separate kingdoms, each of which being ruled by a judge (or judike in the Sardinian). So once again we find this jew/ju sound associated with words betokening law and rulings.

In Chapter Two we mentioned how in Italian the word ebreo meant Jew. Interestingly another word for Jew in Italian is giudeo, translating as Jew or Judean. With this word we also see the same root we saw in the above giudicati. We likewise mentioned in Chapter Two the multitude of other words with the same root - teuton, tiw, dieu, tudor, tuatha. These words, as with the word Jew, come with connotations of godly, or alternately godly people. Given how intertwined religion and law were in earlier times perhaps all these names in some way denote law-giving priest or leadership classes.

Another interesting parallel worth noting is the apparent similarity between the concepts of Jehovah and Jupiter. Jehovah, or Yahweh, is the name of God in the biblical tradition, and Jupiter is the sky or father god from Roman mythology. Jupiter is often known by the name Jove or Jovis (the Latin for Jupiter being Iovi), which isn't too dissimilar in sound to the word Jehovah. In fact, when English speakers say the common phrase "by Jove" the general meaning is simply "by God". Likewise in Italian the words for both are remarkably similar. Giove meaning Jupiter and Geova meaning Jehovah. There are also various renderings of the name Jehovah from history which are likewise similar to Jove such as Ieve, Jova and Jovae. [5]

The word Jovis also shares its root with the word jovial, which perhaps brings with it notions of the Jewish/Christian idea of "rejoicing" in God. Curiously the noted seer Nostradamus referred to Protestants as "Jovialists" in his writings. This is something which makes little sense on face value. However, if Jovis is just a synonym for Jehovah then this makes much more sense. Interestingly, the Roman scholar Varro (116 - 27 BC) also equated the god Jupiter with Jehovah. St Augustine of Hippo in his work Harmony of the Gospels wrote;

But their own Varro, than whom they can point to no man of greater learning among them, thought that the God of the Jews was Jupiter, and he judged that it mattered not what name was employed, provided the same subject was understood under it. [6]

It's also perhaps worth noting, on a more superficial level, the similarities in how God with a capital G and Jupiter are depicted. Both being commonly envisioned as bearded father figures.

A final parallel comes regarding their respective temples. The ancient Temple of Jupiter was destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions. The First Temple burned down in 83 BC. The Second burnt down in 69 AD. The Third in 80 AD. With the Fourth then being rebuilt in the reign of emperor Domitian not long after - gradually falling into disuse centuries later. The story of the Temple of Jerusalem is somewhat similar. The First Temple was said to have fallen in 586 BC. The Second Temple then destroyed in 70 AD. The Third Temple still awaiting to be rebuilt. A controversial hope of many Orthodox Jews, and often equated with the coming Messianic Age in Jewish eschatology.

Whilst reading the above dates you may have already noticed how closely in time the destruction of both second temples occurred. The Second Temple of Jupiter burnt down in 69 AD, the Second Temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Quite a coincidence. Similar in tone to the coincidence previously mentioned regarding the advert of the Julian Calendar and the birth of Christ. The similarity of the two temple stories would suggest that maybe it's a case of duplicate history. Or rather the same story, with the same origin, but being told by two different cultures in divergent traditions. [7] Perhaps a split maybe, where one group went one way, and the other down a different path. Consequently it's tempting to wonder if ancient Jewry and the ancient Romans were one and the same people in some sense. All part of an emergent, city-driven civilisation, but then branching off due to various accidents of history - each with their own garbled version of events.

Of course, it could be the case that one tradition is right and the other wrong. Or one more right than the other. However, it's difficult for us to truly know being so far removed from the events. So it's another question of faith. All we can really do is note the similarities and ponder. Likewise whether the temples were destroyed in Jerusalem or Rome, or maybe even somewhere else completely, is difficult to say. Again though, I guess we have to also accept that it's plausible that both traditions are correct, and that both temples actually did exist. With both meeting their demise as recorded. All we can really say is that, given the coincidence, it's a little improbable.

The coincidences don't stop there though, one further being the fact that Jews had to pay the exact same tax to both temples. Following the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem Jews were then required by the Romans to pay two danarii to the Temple of Jupiter, equivalent to the half a shekel they'd previously paid towards the upkeep of the temple at Jerusalem. [8] Adding further intrigue, the oldest depiction of the sacking of the Temple of Jerusalem is actually found in Rome. On the Arch of Titus. Where the Romans who are supposedly sacking the temple are carrying out a menorah as part of their spoils. Holding it aloft in such a way that would suggest a degree of reverence rather than contempt for the item.

Finally, it's worth breaking down the word Jupiter. It could be read as Ju-pater - father of the Jews. [9]



[1] I use the term natural law in a very general sense. The idea asserts that certain rights are inherent as a consequence of human nature, and can be understood universally through human reason. Established by God or some higher transcendent source, and therefore of a higher authority than any laws created by any state or polity.

[2] The Institutes of Gaius 1.1. Quoted from Winkel, L. The Peace Treaties of Westphalia as an instance of the reception of Roman law.

[3] The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia entry for the term gentile states the following;

The word "Gentile" corresponds to the late Hebrew "goi," [...] signifying "stranger," "non-Jew."

Affirming the stranger or foreigner sense of the word. It then continues, stating how the term was often used in reference to nations that were distinct from Israel;

In the Hebrew of the Bible "goi" and its plural "goyyim" originally meant "nation," and were applied both to Israelites and to non-Israelites  [...] "Goi" and "goyyim," however, are employed in many passages to designate nations that are politically distinct from Israel.

Again, further illustrating the fact that the word was used in much the same way that we use the term foreigner. In many ways it's similar to the Greek appellation barbarian, which we discuss in Chapter Nine, used by the Greeks to describe all uncivilised people foreign to the Greek world.

The Jewish Encyclopedia entry also gives examples of the mixed attitudes rabbinical writers had towards the gentiles. For instance, the scholar Eleazar of Modi'im wrote that Jews, though guilty of the same sins as Gentiles, would not enter hell, while the Gentiles would. However, conversely, the Rabbi Joshua b. Hananiah believed that there were righteous men amongst the Gentiles, and that they would share in the world to come.

Likewise the Jewish sage Jose the Galilean chastised Israel for its inconstancy, and in comparison praised the Gentiles for their faith. Yet in contrast other writers believed the Gentiles to be uncivilised and lawless. Such as Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, who saw in the Gentiles nothing but idolatry. Or Simon ben Eleazar who urged against social interaction between Jews and non-Jews.

A further useful example comes in the fact that the Rabbi Ashi, the first editor of the Babylonian Talmud, declared that any Jew who sold to a Gentile a property that bordered another Jew's property should be excommunicated. His reasoning being that firstly, Gentile law didn't provide adequate provision for settling disputes, and that secondly the Jewish neighbour affected may claim "thou hast caused a lion to lie on my border."

This has clear echoes of modern disputes and fears that sometimes come when foreign people from different cultures move into an area to live alongside a different set of people. The different legal (or rather religious/legal) provisions which existed between different groups and cultures at the time will have only heightened such problems. The judgement also of course shows that there were Jewish people that were perfectly happy to deal with and sell property to Gentiles, alongside those fearing the potential negative consequences of such interaction.

[4] Taking into account the y or j pronunciation of the letter i. Think Iulius Caesar.

[5] The medieval writer Petrus Alphonsi, a Spanish Jew who later converted to Christianity, used the name IEVE as a form of Jehovah. It can be seen in his influential tetragrammaton diagram, which renders the word as a triangle symbolising the Holy Trinity. This usage is said to be a variant of the form YHWH - the more commonly known tetragrammaton, or four letter name of God.

Examples of the Latin renderings Jova and Jovae can be found in Scholia in Vetus Testamentum. Ernst Friedrich Karl Rosenmüller Barth, 1829.

Sir Godfrey Driver noted that Jova was in use as a variant form of Jehovah in the 16th century;

"..the shortened Jova (declined like a Latin noun) came into use in the sixteenth century."

Introduction to the Old Testament of the New English Bible. Sir Godfrey Driver.

[6] St. Augustin: The Harmony of the Gospels. Translated by the Rev. S. D. F. Salmond, D.D., Free College, Aberdeen. Edited with notes and introduction by the Rev. M. B. Riddle, D.D.

[7] The phrase duplicate history will be familiar to any readers of Fomenko, but may need a little elucidation for anyone who isn't au fait with such things. It's basically the idea that historic events, or even complete historical timelines, can get repeated in the historical record due to mistake or deliberate misrepresentation.

Let's say you have a major battle that occurs at some point in history. This great battle may be recorded in the traditions of multiple different groups or cultures that took part in or witnessed the battle. However, due to language differences or other variations in the stories told by these groups it may, over time, become difficult to see that all the stories are simply different retellings of the same event. Later, when historians come to place these seemingly different tales into the overall timeline of human history they may then end up with multiple versions of the same story appearing. Warping the timeline to fit all these extra jigsaw pieces.

The language issue can be particularly tricky. What an English speaker calls Germany, a French speaker calls Allemagne. If you weren't aware that both were names for the same part of the world you may assume each were speaking of a different region. When one considers the endless number of languages. Not to mention the countless mutations that can accrue when a story is retold again and again, it's easy to see how a single event can take on multiple forms. Or how complete histories can get repackaged by different cultures. The fact that documents and historical accounts are often undated, or dated according to different dating practices only adds to this potential for confusion.

It's similar to the ideas discussed in Chapter Four, where we noted how easy it can be to confuse or misdate things due to simple error or acts of fraud. For example, let's imagine that someone in today's world writes an account of an event that's recently taken place in Birmingham, in the UK. Someone reading that account in five hundred years time, due to a lack of context, may assume that the event took place in Birmingham, Alabama - in the United States. You may then end up with two versions of the same story written into the historical record. One placed in Britain, the other in the US. In another five hundred years someone else may then notice the similarities between the two accounts, and perhaps go on to question the validity of one or both of the stories. However, by then the history may be so well established that it becomes difficult to dislodge the false version. Or even to decipher which is the false account and which is true.

[8] "This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary - the shekel is twenty gerahs - half a shekel for an offering to the LORD." - Exodus Chapter 30. 13.

"Thus was Jerusalem destroyed on the very day of Saturn, the day which even now the Jews reverence most. From that time forth it was ordered that the Jews who continued to observe their ancestral customs should pay an annual tribute of two denarii to Jupiter Capitolinus." - Cassius Dio. Roman History LXVI. 7.

"..he [Caesar] also laid a tribute upon the Jews wheresoever they were, and enjoined every one of them to bring two drachmæ every year into the capitol, as they used to pay the same to the temple at Jerusalem. And this was the state of the Jewish affairs at this time." - Josephus. The Jewish War. Book VII. 6.

[9] Pater meaning father in Latin of course.

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