Reflections on the Christ Myth, part 2: Hellenism
by Revilo P. Oliver
THE SPECIAL protection of the Jews by Cyrus was continued by his successors until the Persian Empire was conquered by Alexander the Great. That was a truly epochal event. The entire Near and Middle East was transformed. The vast and incontestable superiority of the world’s first rational civilization, made evident to all by its invincible military power, was apparent to all the diverse populations of those lands. The Greeks built cities that were the focus of a truly great and rational culture. Everyone above the peasantry sedulously imitated Greek customs, including athletic contests and games. The conquered populations hastened to learn as much Greek as they could, and Aramaic, the Semitic language that had been the lingua franca of the Orient and used even by the Persians as the language of administration, became a vulgar and despised dialect, used only by the lowest and most ignorant classes. (8)
Even the Jews, whose language was Aramaic (Hebrew was known only to the more learned members of the priesthood), were affected by their forced exposure to civilization. Jews who had any capacity for assimilating or simulating culture learned Greek, and usually changed their Canaanite names for distinctively Greek names by a kind of fixed conversion; e.g., a man named Jesus called himself Jason, by allusion to the famous Argonaut, and Matthew became Menelaus, in honor of the celebrated husband of Helen. The names of cities were likewise changed; e.g., Amorah became Ariopolis, and Akko became Ptolemaïs. Even in the Temple at Jerusalem the signs regulating admission to the sanctuary were written in Greek. This process of real or simulated conversion to civilization was facilitated by the fact that the Jews continued to enjoy under Alexander and the Diadochi who succeeded him the privileges they had been given by the Persians. The Jewish Encyclopaedia (12 vols. quarto; New York, Funk & Wagnalls, 1901-1906) admits (s.v. ‘Hellenism’) that “Alexander… and the first Ptolemies and Seleucids… treated their Jewish subjects with much benevolence.” (9)
What Christians call the “Old Testament” (including books and parts of books that are omitted in most Bibles), originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic, (10) had to be translated into Greek for the benefit of Jews who could not read Aramaic, which had once been their native tongue. (11) The result was the Septuagint, which takes its name from a typical Jewish forgery, the letter concocted in the name of Aristeas (supposedly a Greek who could not write really correct Greek), which certifies that the Septuagint was directly inspired or rather dictated by Yah himself (his name may have been by that time Judaized by changing it to Yahweh). (12)
Educated Jews, wishing to make their tribe respectable in the eyes of civilized men, followed their racial proclivity and invented sons of Abraham who had been companions of Hercules, and descendants of Isaac who had sailed with the Argonauts. Later, growing bolder, they identified Moses with Musaeus, the mythical son of Orpheus (or of Linus, the mythical inventor of sustaltic music), who lived long before Homer, wrote didactic verse and hymns, and, being a divinely gifted seer, like Tiresias, left a collection of oracular utterances.
To a modern reader, this will seem to be mere trifling, but when Jews identified their Yahweh with Zeus, the consequences changed history. Somewhere along the line, Zeus was identified with the Zeus of Cleanthes’ hymn, i.e., God in the Christian misuse of that word; he was the god of Stoic monotheism, also called Providence and the Mind of the Universe (animus mundi). That converted Yahweh from a tribal deity, who fought for his race and overcame the gods of other nations, into the unique and supreme god of the universe. That was an arrogant claim that altered Jewish consciousness, and was maintained even by the Jews who most resented civilization and returned to their primitive barbarism.
With even greater effrontery, educated Jews began to claim that one or another aspect of civilization was of Jewish origin. They had learned the method of allegorical interpretation from the Stoics, (13) and by outrageously twisting the texts of their sacred books (in Greek translation), they proved their point with the facility of a shyster lawyer. This impudent hoaxing reached its fullest development with a Jewish “philosopher,” Aristobulus, (14) who, c. 150 B.C., brazenly claimed that the philosophy of Aristotle and, indeed, the whole of Greek culture was derived from the “Old Testament”! He naturally forged some Greek verse, purportedly from early Greek poets, to prove some of his points.
A far more moderate and intelligent practitioner of the allegorical method was Philo Judaeus (c. 20 B.C.- c. A.D. 50), on whom Mr. Carter concentrates his attention. Although his enemies may have exaggerated when they claimed that he did not know a word of Aramaic (to say nothing of Hebrew), it is true that all his knowledge of the Jews’ holy books came from the Septuagint. He was a learned man, and, if I am not mistaken, acquired a command of reek that no other Jewish author ever attained. (15)
We especially remember Philo for his candid admission that the tale in the “Old Testament” about an armed conquest of Palestine led by Jesus (alias Joshua) is preposterous, and that what must have happened is that the Canaanites, their minds muddled by old Yahweh, admitted the Jews to their country as eminently pious refugees and permitted the immigrants to organize their synagogues and flourish until they were ready to take over the country of their enemies — for the Jews considered the foolish Canaanites as their enemies and entered Canaan intending to kill or enslave their stupid hosts as soon as they had sufficiently penetrated the fools’ country American boobs will soon learn that the barbarians never change their tactics or their nature.
We should also remember Philo for his formulation of the ‘One World’ hokum that is now so widely used as sucker-bait for dim-witted Aryans. He affirmed that the “Divine Plan” arranges the rise and fall of nations “to the end that the whole of our world should be as a single state, enjoying that best of constitutions, democracy. ” (16)
Philo was a well-educated and learned man, admirably well versed in Greek literature and philosophy, and Mr. Carter rightly takes him as a model of ‘Hellenized’ Jews, all of whom he lumps together as the Letzim. But we must remember that he remained a Jew. You cannot read very far in Philo’s rather copious writings (17) without becoming aware of an alien mentality. He had, as I have said, a good command of the noble language, but when he writes certain Greek words and their derivatives, he does not mean what the words mean in respectable Greek. To the rational Greek (Aryan) mind, truth is something that can and must be objectively determined: It denotes veracity as opposed to lying, facts as opposed to fancies, reality as opposed to illusory appearances. Truth is factual and must be determined by observation and reason. For Philo, however, ‘truth’ is what he thinks Yahweh said in the Scriptures he wrote and what he therefore wants. ‘Truth’ for Philo is not what is, but what ought to be. It is the Jewish religion, as he understands it, after revising it with his allegorical interpretations. It is Faith and therefore irrational. There can be no greater antithesis than between the Greeks’ rational and objective truth and the “truth of unreason,” as Bertrand Russell aptly termed faith in religions, fictions about supernatural beings that soothe and comfort weaklings who are afraid to contemplate the grim world of reality.
Philo was really uninterested in truth as the Greeks and all rational men conceive it. Since Philo constantly tries to equate his religion to Stoicism, (19) you should particularly notice that no Stoic would ever have countenanced his faith in the “truth of unreason.” (See the Appendix on Stoicism).
Philo and all of the Letzim we have mentioned thus far differ radically from other Letzim, whom we must now consider.
To be continued.
8. The disastrous consequences of Alexander’s victory soon became apparent. Alexander encouraged his men to marry women of the Persian aristocracy, who were Aryans and, so to speak, racial cousins of the Greeks, and who spoke a language (Old Persian, which must be distinguished from Avestan, the dialect of the Zoroastnan Scriptures) that was cognate with Greek and had basically the same syntax. But the Greeks who settled in the new Greek cities in Asia brought comparatively few women with them and married more or less indiscriminately wives who were often Semites or from some of the many racial conglomerates. The result was many children of Greek fathers who were only partly Greek and, in themselves and their increasingly hybrid descendants, reflected the contamination in their thinking. Intelligent White natives, furthermore, had their children well educated in Greek, producing generations of pseudo-Greeks. One result of this racial agglomeration was Stoicism, on which see the Appendix below.
9. The encyclopaedia naturally does not inquire how the Jews alienated such benevolent patrons, as they have alienated every civilized nation on which they fastened themselves.
10. As everyone knows, the Book of Daniel was written in Aramaic but only partly translated into Hebrew. It is likely that other texts, now in Hebrew, were first composed in the Aramaic with which the writer was much more familiar and then translated, much as you might write a letter or essay in English and then translate it into the Latin you learned in high school. The later books were written in sloppy Greek and, it seems, never translated into Hebrew to give them an air of sanctity.
11. In Palestine the Jews first adopted Canaanite (commonly called Old Phoenician, a dialect of Western Semitic), which is what we call Hebrew, although the Jews never did (they called it correctly “the language of Canaan.”) When Aramaic became the common language of the Near East, the Jews adopted it and Hebrew became a holy language known only to holy men.
12. According to the silly story, seventy-two learned rabbis were immured, each in a cabin of his own, so that they could independently translate the farrago of the “Old Testament.” Yahweh saw to it that the seventy-two independent translations were identical, even to the smallest jot or tittle. Unfortunately, Yahweh must have studied Greek under a hopelessly incompetent teacher, for no one who has a real comprehension of the Greek language can read the Septuagint without a sensation of nausea.
13. The Stoics derived it from the concept of ‘underlying meaning’ with which we are familiar in the writings of Plato. It may be traced back to Pherecydes of Samos (c. 544 B.C.), who wrote in Greek but may not have been a Greek by race and could have been a Semite. He is sometimes credited with having introduced to the Greek world the Hindu notion of metempsychosis and thus of an immortal soul, but that idea is present in the Orphic religion, which is probably older and attains a beautifully poetic expression in the odes of Pindar. On Stoicism, see the Appendix at the end of this piece.
14. Not to be confused with the Hasmonaean (Maccabaean) Aristobulus, eldest son of John Hyrcanus, who became King of the Jews (in 103 B.C.) by imprisoning and murdering his mother, or with the matricide’s nephew, the second Aristobulus, who revolted against his mother, became King in 67 B.C., and tried to suppress his elder brother, who was high priest, thus starting the civil war that finally forced the Romans to intervene and restore order in Judaea. A number of other Jews also took the common Greek name.
15. There is a good edition of the Greek texts by F.H. Colson and G.H. Whitaker, accompanied by a reliable translation. (I have checked it in many places; the only error I noticed is a systematic one. One of the translators was a prominent clergyman, so wherever Philo wrote ‘Jesus,’ the name is dishonestly changed to ‘Joshua,’ to prevent Christian sheep from wondering about their “Old Testament.”) Text and translation were published in ten volumes (1929-1962) with two supplemental volumes (1953) of writings for which Philo’s text is lost, but which are preserved in an Armenian translation that was translated into English by Ralph Marcus. The fourteen volumes form part of the Loeb Classical Library, which is now distributed in this country by the Harvard University Press. I need scarcely add that Philo’s various works are always cited by the first words of Latin translations of their titles.
16. Quod Deus, 176. I quote the translation in the edition cited above, but reject Colson’s suggestion on that Philo may have meant that democratic equality was attained by the successive rise and fall of nations by which each had its turn at hegemony. Philo is continually preoccupied with the future that God is preparing, and, as I suggested in a review published in 1949, the somewhat confused construction of the phrases about the fall of nations probably shows Philo’s sedulous avoidance of any possible offense to Roman sensibilities. (It would have scarcely been tactful to speak of a coming fall of the Roman Empire!) I am convinced, therefore, that he meant that the Divine Purpose was to be realised in some future Utopian era in which, after the fall of empires, all nations will dwell together in some kind of spontaneous concord under the supervision of old Yahweh, alias the animus mundi.
17. If you are interested in his peculiar mentality, observe Philo at work on the opening chapters of Genesis in his De opificio mundi and Legum allegoriae.
18. An admirably clear and comprehensive analysis of Philo’s misuse of the Greek words, by Dr. Thomas E. Knight, appeared in the American Journal of Philology, CXIV (1993), 581-609.
19. Philo even adapted to his religion the famous Stoic paradox that the vast majority of men are slaves, since they are enslaved by their desire for such trumpery things as pleasure, wealth, or glory, and that only a wise man (i.e., a Stoic sage) is free, because, even if he is in chains and being tortured, he retains command of his own mind and his moral integrity. Philo substitutes righteousness for Stoic wisdom; see his Quod omnis probus liber sit.
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