The identity of Israel in the Bible is closely linked to the notion that the ancient nation was an alliance of twelve distinct tribes, each with its own territory. Reading the Old Testament in its canonical order, we encounter tales about Jacob the patriarch and his twelve sons who all moved to Egypt. Their descendants are depicted as remaining divided into distinct clans, which would later journey to Palestine, carve up the land, and then conquer their allotted portions.
History is not so simple, however, and neither are the traditions we find in the Bible itself. Not all biblical authors were aware of this storybook picture of Israel’s tribes, and many of the text’s later claims are rooted as much — or more so — in theology and politics as in history. Themes that have captured the imagination of exegetes for millennia, like the myth of the “lost tribes of Israel”, take on new significance when examined closely.
Eponymous Ancestors as a Literary Trope
It should be obvious to anyone who has spent time thinking about it that tribes and countries are not actually founded by people of the same name. Stories about legendary founders and their genealogies serve to explain the storyteller’s present-day reality — who their allies and enemies are; why in one place they herd sheep, while in another they work metal; and so on. Often an ancestor originates as an unrelated folktale hero, and that character comes to symbolize an entire tribe or nation through a complex process of oral and literary development.
The stories of Jacob and his children, then, are not accounts of historical Bronze Age people. Rather, they tell us how much later Jews and Israelites understood themselves, their origins, and their relationship to the land, within the context of folktales that had evolved over time. The stories of Jacob and Esau, for example, illustrate the stormy relationship between Israel and Edom, its southern neighbour. The story about Jacob and his father-in-law Laban the Aramean in Genesis 31:51–54 serves to establish territorial boundaries between Israel and Aram (Syria). Jacob’s twelve sons provide a legendary basis for the twelve tribes of Israel and a framework for genealogies and folktales related to those tribes. One need look no further than the names themselves to see that most of them are not personal names, but the names of ethnic groups, geographical regions, and local deities. E.g. Benjamin, meaning “son of the south” (the location of its territory relative to Samaria), or Asher, a Phoenician territory whose name may be an allusion to the goddess Asherah.
Often, the way such these ancestral tales are incorporated clashes with the overall narrative as it now stands. For example, the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers (Gen 37) is interrupted in the next chapter by a completely unrelated story in which Judah settles in Canaan, in the territory later associated with Judah, and starts a family there — a story that shows no awareness of the exodus tradition of migration and settlement.¹
The Significance of the Number Twelve
The number twelve had great significance for the biblical authors and Israel, particularly within the religious sphere. The high priest had twelve gems inlaid in his pectoral. The Tabernacle bread consisted of twelve loaves (Lev 24:5). Offerings were to brought on twelve oxen (Num 7:3). Cultic vessels were numbered in twelves (Num 7:84). The bronze sea in the temple was supported by twelve oxen (1 Kings 7:34). Solomon had twelve officials who were responsible for supplying the royal household from their respective districts on a rotating monthly basis (1 Kings 4). The steps in front of Solomon’s throne featured twelve lions (1 Kings 10:20). Ezekiel envisioned an altar hearth twelve cubits square (Ez 43:16). And so on.
The significance of the number twelve probably relates to the twelve months of the year. Giovanni Garbini suggests that the ritualistic value of twelve in the religious sphere, evident in the priestly texts of the Bible, arose during Persian times once Judaean religion was in the hands of the priesthood rather than the king.²
Counting the Tribes: A Baker’s Dozen
The artificial nature of the association between the Israelite tribes and the number twelve is often evident in the text. The biblical authors want there to be twelve tribes and twelve tribal territories; but since the Levites are not allotted their own territory, the tribe of Joseph is duplicated, resulting in the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. (The text explains this in etiological terms by making Ephraim and Manasseh the names of Joseph’s sons.) So already, we are stuck with thirteen tribes in practical terms.
Furthermore, when we look at the various passages that enumerate the Israelite tribes — particularly those predating the canonical Pentateuch — we find surprising variation in the names and numbers of the tribes. Examination of the territories held by the tribes provides more surprises and enigmas. It soon becomes apparent that the tidy image of twelve tribes and twelve patriarchs was a late imposition on more diverse traditions.
The Tribes in the Song of Deborah
The Song of Deborah in Judges 5, often considered the oldest text in the Old Testament, lists ten tribes: Ephraim, Benjamin, Machir, Zebulun, Issachar, Reuben, Gilead, Dan, Asher, and Naphtali. Two of those — Machir and Gilead — are not among the usual twelve, though they do appear in other texts as clans, territories, or ancestors.
From Ephraim they set out into the valley,
following you, Benjamin, with your kin;
from Machir marched down the commanders,
and from Zebulun those who bear the marshal’s staff;
the chiefs of Issachar came with Deborah,
and [Naphtali] faithful to Barak;
into the valley they rushed out at his heels.
Among the clans of Reuben
there were great searchings of heart.
Why did you tarry among the sheepfolds,
to hear the piping for the flocks?
Among the clans of Reuben
there were great searchings of heart.
Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan;
and Dan, why did he abide with the ships?
Asher sat still at the coast of the sea,
settling down by his landings.
Zebulun is a people that scorned death;
Naphtali too, on the heights of the field.
Four of the tribes already appear to be marginal — Asher, Dan, Reuben, and Gilead — as they are the most geographically remote of those listed and choose not to join the battle. It is remarkable that Mannaseh and Judah, which occupy the largest territories in other texts, are not even mentioned. It is likely that there was no Judah at this point. Other tribes not mentioned are Gad, Simeon and Levi.
The Tribes that Conquered Canaan
Judges 1 describes the conquest of Canaan by the various tribes. Here, again, many are missing; only eight or ten (depending on how you count them) appear in this early passage. Benjamin and Simeon are mentioned only in the section describing Judah’s exploits, and they function as part of Judah along with the Calebites and the Kenites.
The other seven tribes whose conquests (or attempted conquests) are described include Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh as separate tribes, as well as Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan. The tribes of Issachar, Reuben and Gad are not mentioned.
In Joshua 13–19, another early text (but probably later than Judges 1), we have another description of Canaan being divided among the tribes. Simeon, again, appears not to be a full-fledged tribe; it is entirely contained within Judah’s territory. Garbini suggests that Simeon had already disappeared as a tribe by the time Judah came into being and these texts were written.
There are other oddities with these chapters in Joshua. For example, Joseph is again mentioned separately from Ephraim and Manasseh, demonstrating the artificiality of the Pentateuch’s twelve-tribe foundation legend. There is confusion about what happens with Gilead (here a territory rather than a tribe) in Joshua 13. Half is given to Manasseh, but all of it to Gad. Perhaps an older text has been rewritten with later tribal traditions, leaving telltale signs of imperfect editing.
Caleb is again given a separate allotment from the other tribes. One gets the impression that Caleb was as much an independent tribes as the canonical twelve tribes in these early texts.
In the tribal genealogies of 1 Chronicles 4–8, we get Manasseh mentioned twice and Ephraim (but not Manasseh) equated with Joseph, while Dan and Zebulun are missing. The list of tribal leaders in 1 Chronicles 27 also lists Manasseh twice but fails to mention Asher or Gad. It also lists Aaron as a tribe (more on that below).
The Blessing of Moses
Deuteronomy 33 features a passage in which Moses blesses all the tribes. Did I say all of them? Poor old Simeon is missing again, and the obscure Issachar is treated as another name for Zebulun without a blessing of its own.
Tribes and Tribulations
Variation in tribal lists continues right into the Christian era. Revelation 7 speaks of twelve thousand servants of God from each tribe of Israel, sealed for the final days. The tribes listed here include Joseph and Manasseh separately, but no Ephraim and no Dan. Again, selective editing has been needed in order to maintain the magic number twelve.
The Two Kingdoms
Although it is unlikely, in historical terms, that there was ever a united Davidic kingdom of Israel, the legend of an Israelite Golden Age followed by its division into Samaria and Judah plays a major role in the nationalistic themes of the Deuteronomistic History. Traditionally, as the story goes, Judah and Benjamin remained under the control of Rehoboam, while Jeroboam took control of the other ten tribes. The actual text, however, is somewhat less clear on the matter. For example, the division is foretold in 1 Kings 11 by the prophet Ahijah, who tears his garment into twelve pieces and says to Jeroboam:
Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “See, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes. One tribe will remain his.” (1 Kings 11:31–32)
The math doesn’t quite add up here: Ahijah appears to have one piece left over. It would seem that the original author didn’t envision Judah being joined by Benjamin or any other tribe, and whoever added the reference to twelve pieces failed to fit it in smoothly. (Consider also the Levite in Judges 19–20, who cuts his dead concubine’s corpse into twelve pieces and sends them out to the tribes of Israel as a call to come fight Benjamin. To whom did the twelfth piece go?)
Geographically, the division doesn’t make sense either. Simeon and Reuben are south and east of Judah, and could not have been part of a “northern” kingdom. In terms of archaeological and epigraphic evidence, the other Transjordan tribes (Gad/Gilead and Manasseh) have little connection with Samaria, and some of the northern tribes — Dan, Naphtali, and Asher — might never actually have been part of Israel. Inscriptions found in that region are in Phoenician, not Hebrew.
In an earlier passage, 2 Samuel 2:8–10, David is made king of the house of Judah, while Ishbaal is made is made king over “all Israel”, which is described as consisting of Gilead, the Ashurites, Jezreel, Ephraim, and Benjamin.
Levites: A Tribe or a Trade?
There are reasons to think that “Levite” originally designated a member of a cultic profession rather than a clan or tribe member. For one thing, the name itself may mean “a person pledged for a debt or vow” (i.e. to a deity).³ In Judges 17:7, we have a Levite who is clearly said to be of the tribe of Judah, and his professional skills as a Levite priest are a focus of the story.⁴ In Exodus 4:14, Yahweh speaking to Moses calls his brother “Aaron the Levite”—an appellation that only makes sense if Levite is to be equated with a priestly caste or group rather than an ethnic group. Under this reasoning, we can assume that the idea of Levites being a tribe was a later innovation.
Furthermore, we see evidence in the biblical texts of rival priestly groups vying for control of the temple and other religious positions: Zadokites, Aaronites, Mushites, Korahites, Merarites, and others. 1 Chronicles 12 and 27 list Aaron and Zadok alongside the other tribes, implying some kind of independent relationship. In exilic and post-exilic times, Zadokites were clearly distinct from the Levites; the former were allowed to serve as altar priests, while the latter were relegated to lesser functions, a division made clear in Ezekiel. The genealogies portraying the Zadokites as descended from Aaron and Levi are generally agreed to be a fiction to provide them with an appropriate ancient lineage.⁵ Levites are frequently mentioned as a group distinct from the temple priests and other functionaries in Ezra-Nehemiah and other texts. The evolution of, and rivalry between, various priestly groups and temple functionaries is a complicated subject, but the simplistic notion of a monolithic priestly tribe called Levi does not seem to fit the evidence.
The Northern Tribes of Israel: Lost or Just Misplaced?
The artificial nature of the ten northern tribes (itself based on the ideal of twelve Israelite tribes) has given rise to another myth, that of the “lost tribes of Israel” that were supposedly deported by the Assyrians, never to return. In reality, the tribal territories of the Transjordan and far north were already Assyrian provinces when Shalmaneser V destroyed Samaria and his successor Sargon II deported its inhabitants. Samaria, the northern kingdom of Israel, would have consisted of little more than Ephraim and Manasseh at the time.⁶
Many scholars see an anti-Samaritan bias that has contributed to the view of the northern tribes as “lost” and of no relation to the later inhabitants of northern Israel.⁷ The Masoretic text of 2 Kings 17 describes Samaria being repopulated with colonists who worshipped their own gods and abandoned Yahweh.⁸ A separate account of Samaria’s destruction in 2 Kings 18 mentions no colonists and implies that the entire population was carried off. In fact, however, we know from Assyrian sources that only a portion of the population was deported.⁹ Those who remained continued to venerate Yahweh and established a thriving temple at Mt. Gerizim that rivalled the Jerusalem temple. The Samaritans and their religious practices survive to this day in Israel.
The romanticized lost tribes have exerted a surprising influence on Christianity as well. A number of British sects, for example, have held that the British people were descendants of the lost tribes; this theology (called British Israelism) was one of the pillars of the Worldwide Church of God founded by Herbert Armstrong and is still taught in some churches. Various Bene Israel movements in other parts of the world have also sought to identify local communities with the lost tribes. The restoration of the lost tribes is one of the Mormon articles of faith.
The myth of the twelve tribes of Israel is another example of how the Bible in its present form presents an idealized vision of the past based on religious and nationalistic concerns, developed through numeric symbolism, fictional genealogies, and etiological tales. Careful reading can reveal many of the underlying traditions that preceded the text’s final form. There is always more than meets the eye.
Click the image below for a handy chart I made showing which tribes appear in the Bible’s various tribal enumerations.
¹ John Van Seters, Prologue to History: The Yahwist as Historian in Genesis, p. 208.
² Giovanni Garbini, History and Ideology in Ancient Israel, p. 123.
³ Merlin D. Rehm, “Levites and Priests,” ABD.
⁴ Webb, Book of the Judges, p. 201.
⁵ George W. Ramsey, “Zadok”, ABD.
⁶ Garbini, p. 124.
⁷ Thomas L. Thompson, “Your Mother was a Hittite and Your Father an Amorite: Ethnicity, Judaism and Palestine’s Cultural Heritage”, Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 27:1, 76-95.
⁸ The text is hard to follow, however, and the Septuagint appears to contradict it, stating that the people in Samaria did remain faithful to Yahweh. Furthermore, the Septuagint is thought to reflect an older Hebrew version.
⁹ Etienne Nodet, “Israelites, Samaritans, Temples, Jews”, Samaria, Samarians, Samaritans (Studia Judaica 66 / Studia Samaritana 6) p. 159.
25 thoughts on “The Twelve (or So) Tribes of Israel”
Armstrong made claims that god “restored” the truth about Israel through him in the end times. On BI, he actually stole his revelation from the non-deity, J.H. Allen (“Judah’s Sceptre).
Love your work.
Donald Redford, in his excellent *Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times*, comes to similar conclusions. On pp. 295-296 he states, “The division of Israel into twelve tribes is, even on the basis of the Biblical record, a somewhat artificial arrangement, and may owe more to a calendrical criterion employed by the later monarchy than to historical origins. Firm ground is reached only when it is rejected.”
He finds it likely that early Israel (the one mentioned on the Victory Stele of Merneptah) was made up of a tribe of Joseph, based around Mt. Ephraim and Shechem, along with tribes of Machir and Gilead, and of course the “Benjamin” (southern ones) in the area north of Jerusalem. Other tribal definitions were later additions, e.g., “A judicious reading of both the archaeological and the textual record militates in favor of… the early monarchic period for the addition of the four Galilean tribes.” He even speculates that the tribe of Dan may have originated as the unrelated Danune known among the Sea Peoples that gave Egypt so much trouble in the 12th century BCE, though he reserves judgment on that point.
@M.K.: Very interesting! I always enjoy finding out where “divine inspiration” actually comes from in these sectarian movements.
@Quadell: Thanks for the informative comment. That sounds like a book I need to read.
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Are you familiar with the view of Richard Elliott Friedman and other scholars that the Exodus involved only the tribe of Levi? According to this hypothesis, the Levites brought Yahweh worship with them to Canaan, where El was the chief deity of the West Semitic pantheon. Rather than worship El and Yahweh, or to say that Yahweh was El’s son, the decision was made to say that Yahweh and El were the same all along–see the famous Exodus 6:2-3. Commending this theory: many Levites have Egyptian names–Moses, Phinehas, Hophni, Hur, etc.–and the Levites, a tribe associated with violence in the Torah (Genesis 4:5-7; Genesis 34:25 ff; Exodus 32:28-29; Deut. 33:11), have no land rights in Canaan, possibly indicating that they forced their way in and were awarded the role of priests. Friedman also points out that the ancient Song of Deborah does not mention the Levites (as you note above), while the Song of the Sea/Song of Miriam (Exodus 15:1-18) doesn’t mention all Israel–only a people whom God leads to his miqedash, his sacred abode. This theory also neatly explains why P and E, both Levites, contend that the name Yahweh wasn’t always known (since the Levites introduced him to Israel), while J, a non-Levite, assumed that the name was used from the beginning, starting with Eve’s exclamation (Genesis 4:1).
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I’m not too familiar with Friedman’s views specifically, but I think the Kenite Hypothesis is largely correct — that the Kenites, Midianites, and other tribes from around that region introduced Yahweh worship to Judah. I believe the oldest inscription mentioning Yahweh is an Egyptian one that speaks of the “Shasu (tribe) of Yhw”.
I think there are also older scholarly views associating the Levites with the Nehushtan, the bronze serpent that may have been of Egyptian origin. I need to read up on this stuff more.
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I used to read “The Plain Truth” regularly; it was stocked in most of your full-service barbershops. The Worldwide Church of God posited more than just British Israelism. Britain was the home of the descendants of Manasseh, but the favored son of Joseph, Ephraim, counted the Americans as his descendants. When asked how this could be considering that the USA is an ethnic hodgepodge, Rev. Armstrong countered that immigration is difficult and only someone with the blood of Ephraim could accomplish it, so that despite our ethnic diversity, we must all be Ephraimites!
I get my hair cut in a salon now, so I’m now reading “Vogue,” but after Armstrong’s death, the WCG slowly began dissociating itself from his more maverick views, now calling itself Grace Communion International.
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Interesting. Thanks for the insight into the WCG and their weird Israelite Origins doctrines.
An interesting point about Ishbaal/Ishbosheth is that he’s said to have reigned for two years (2 Samuel 2:10), and after his murder (2 Samuel 4:6f), “all the tribes of Israel” asked David to be king over them (2 Samuel 5:1f). However, David is said to have ruled over Judah for “seven years and six months” at Hebron (2 Samuel 2:11, 5:5) before ruling over the united kingdom of Israel and Judah from Jerusalem for 33 more years (2 Samuel 5:5), so how could Ishbaal/Ishbosheth have ruled Israel for just two years?
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Do you know which recension or edition of the LXX says that the people remained faithful to Yahweh? Reading the one found at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/12-4reigns-nets.pdf it seems that they didn’t worship Yahweh.
4 Kingdoms 17:33-34 (NET) reads:
My original notes for this article cite the paper “Moïse ou Platon ou…?” by Etienne Nodet. The relevant quotation on p. 5:
> There is confusion about what happens with Gilead (here a territory rather than a tribe) in Joshua 13. Half is given to Manasseh, but all of it to Gad.
I’m reading the text without having any kind map in mind, but I don’t think it’s necessarily contradicting. The text says that Gad’s teritory will extend to “all the cities of Gilead” and that the Half of Manasseh’s territory will extend to half the land of Gilead. This area probably was not densly or evenly populated in the time of writing (the modern kingdom of Jordan is nothing but) so it’s very possible that the cities lump was in the center of what was considered Gilead and in the contemporary Gad, while about half of Gilead was in the eastern Manasseh.
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That’s an interesting approach. However, most commenters think “half of Gilead” refers to Gilead north of the Jabbok River, and there were definitely settlements in that region, like Mizpah, which is mentioned a few times in Genesis and Judges. Another proposal (Oded, “A Note on Josh. XIII 25”, 1971) is that the text is corrupt, and Gad received half of Gilead, not Ammon as it now reads.
I want to thank you Paul for helping me clarify several issues which has led me back to my church of me young boyhood, the Roman Catholic Church and particularly since my mother essentially abandoned the Church after baptizing me. My tale of woe is literally far too believable has to do with Jim and Tammy Bakker, Chick Comics and Get Out of Hell Free Cards which sort of seemed to have been a copyright violation unless it was some sort of parody.
Nevertheless, I grew up in Charlotte which used to be progressive at least for a southern state. Since we had four stations then, children tended to watch UHF, which men Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers–whom I hated but my other choices were three soap operas.
Jim and Tammy had an incredibly stupid puppet show and somehow that drew my mother’s interest. Then I made the mistake of giving her the Lake of Fire Chick comic and some of those salvations cards and she ended up being an all-miillenist all-rapture all of the time, Jews for Jesus endorser. She never openly disparaged or let the church.
You guys have really helped me articulate the value of tradition over sola scripture. With the force of people like you and non-hack fundamentalist archaeologists, I don’t think any of the protestants who argue for in inerratum absolute have anything left to base their faith upon. There’s no cause for not accepting prayer to Mater Dei since that seems to have been a tradition from the very beginning that the church has maintained. Luther seems to have been excommunicated because he was effective and unwilling to compromise not based upon doctrine except for a couple of issues that Protestants don’t care about anyway. So, the irony of Luther still being my hero amidst my return to the Church at first seems paradoxical but it isn’t. My opinions of the Inquisition remain unrelenting and I see no justifications whatsoever but there are excellent justifications for indulgences beyond saving another from purgatorio continuo.
I already have been privately laughing about the inerrancy and anti-archaeologic arguments of the fundamentalists. Godel proved 100 years ago in a humanist shattering mathematical proof that no set could be defined self-referentially. “The Bible says it and I believe it and that settles it” is exhibit one of, I am sorry, extreme anti-intellectualism, and mathematically and philosophically just wrong which is hard to do in the fields of philosophy or hermeneutics. I am a lawyer and that’s what regulatory law is, in its entirety as well as the interpretation of statutes that often say far too little to even make it possible to just go by the text as Scalia articulated wrongly over and over although otherwise he had good points about not filling in vacant statutes where Congress tries to avoid blame and put it on the Court.
I opt to be with Erasmus and Aquinas and yes, Luther over Calvin whose followers were not averse to killing the people they considered heretics. Calvin exerted no authority to try to stop most of these executions, shrugging his shoulders. Calvin mandated Old Testament names for males that were unusual giving the cast of names in the Children of the Corn. Caleb says that they are coming for you, Hezekia. We have Gomer as well and in most movies like Deliverance it is one of those Calvin-approved O.T. names. Other Protestants were not so objectionable like the Wesleyans but they abandon the Church practices as diid the Quakers, whom I love otherwise and I do go there and to the Unitarian church as well. I am gong to get confirmed, take adult catechism and confirmation plus there’s a very close congregation that performs Latin mass which matters a lot to me.
Luther also wrote scores of German hymns and his Bible along with the King James appear to be the two that are most often cited as literary and stylistic masterpieces and both promoted the standardization of English but particularly of the many German, often unintelligible dialects. Similar to the Romans, Luther give Germany the tools to communicate more easily in one commonly understood language and because German is far more synthetic than either English, Dutch or Danish, which along with French, combined to result in early Modern English which is still perfectly intelligible when read in an Irish or English accent because the rhymes and plays on words are restored and you have point out again and again how often that happens in Hebrew and Greek which are also highly synthetic languages as per your Melchizadek post. Who gave whiat to whom is simply not present in the sentence. Tradition con be used as well as relying on the Spirit of God as interpretation hermeneutics and courts do this all of the time when analyzing the 9th Amendment for example although they wouldn’t call it inspiration by the Spirit but the words are the same. We can ascribe to Locke, equity doctrines, legal doctrines of Paine’s unintelligible rights of man. French courts do this when harkening back to the spirit of Marianne.
Which things in the Bible refer to malum prohibitum and which to malum in se? Judges disagree over things like drug trafficking or even usage.
I hope you will continue to write frequently. Being of two presentations is impossibly hard but trying to escape from fundamentalism too me way too long and was far too painful. Anytime anyone preaches hellfire, I leave and I don’t bother with that person again unless it’s say a relative.
I have struggled for many years trying to incorporate the mysticism of the fertility goddess into my life because maybe because my fathers were named Paul, George, John and Richard and they taught me right and wrong and what’s important in life. The Beatles are essentially the saints that I venerate.
I took a leap of faith to follow Goddess when I had no answers as to why to continue this life and it seemed New Age but reading your stuff and others about Isis and Mary and the closeness in iconography really made an impression on me. Mithras makes sense to me in a Roman Catholic context related to tradition but not in terms of Protestant and some early Catholics.
The Greeks appear to have been fascinated by synthetic ambiguity and Spanish has something referred to as a direct object marker that applies living beings and even to cities some times. The Greeks also appear to have been fascinated by embedded statements and how they can make something appear to be true and false at the same time. Many of their myths involved auguries of the future that appear to be positive but which are actually dreaded consequences:
When Croesus, the king of Lydia, asked the oracle if he should attack Persia, he received the response: “If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed.”
Such statements are highly relevant to the Trinity and unexpressed truth as opposed to anti-doctrinal truth related to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches and can be described an articulated to the same sorts of infinite flipping of reality.
Judging from Mediterranean mythology, this is what I see as possible but undoctrinal and therefore not in conflict with belief.
There came a point where one of the main heavenly hosts decided to no longer promote universalism and universal justice. This personage was known as Yahweh. In my mind, based upon the Book of Job, Yahweh and Lucifer work together in cahoots to lead humans astray.
Yahweh goes off and ends a group of highly prosperous pseudo-Egyptians but with no psychological bounds with this land. Yahweh finds the most influential of all of this group, approaches him and says:
I used to be El or Elohim consort of the groves but because I did not know you well enough, I didn’t introduce myself fully to you. I am still El but now I prefer to go by Yahweh. If your people agree to this, we will bond forever and I shall fight your battles and protect you and make you prosperous provided you never pray to nor seek answers from Other Gods. Janey used to be Will but is she still Will, only Janey or both somehow
Yahweh proceeds to show himself as a particularly nasty and entirely narcissistic god and kind of a loser god. Everywhere his people go, they are scorned, unwanted and eventually get kicked out but they also engage in vile and heinous acts that no other heavenly host would ever be associated. We are talking Jericho and the 10 curses and the murder of a randy bunch of probably bisexual men followed by a bizarre instance of mutual parental rape since there “were no men around”. Nope not up that mountain that you went to, there are not but so what?
Then again, Ham, who just happens to be pre-black rapes his father another heinous act but Noah’s curse shows entirely the lack of any judgment in terms of proportionality and yet, there is no hell or heaven just a dark place worse for every than being alive, that is endless. Yahweh’s prophets make Staliin or Hitler look eh as though those two have company. Elijah calls down lightning to destroy his fellow citizens who still believe in El and a version of Asherah. Elisha induces two She-bears to rip to pieces a group of boys who told him, correctly, “Hey, Elisha, you are getting a little thin on top”.
Although probably El in Job, most infer that the God is Yahweh. He and Lucifer do shocking and disturbing things to destroy this man’s family innocent bystanders. He and Lucifer then claim that eh, we will give you even prettier daughters and a bunch of gold for your troubles. Who in heaven’s name would be assuaged by prettier daughters? I have two and there’s no replacing them, Not to mention that the ending of Job appears to actually appears to be a bizarre insertion that the authority actually thought made Yahweh seem eh, moral?
Yahweh starts engaging in bizarre justification of his sins against the rest of the heavenly host. They might accept limited sacrifices of humans but they don’t seem to have been out to get other nations and certainly not their worshipers. Like a spoiled child, Yahweh begins saying over and over, “who the blank are you Job? I am and I do what I want. This is after Yahweh several times either destroys people under his aegis or people without recourse occupying his lands.
El and Asherah are the two remaining gods or elohim who remain more powerful than Yahweh/Jupiter. They decide that the age of Yahweh is over and that age of humanistic treatment and universal salvation going forward. One will be know as Messiah, Jesus, the very Word of existence and the other, equally compassionate, known as the feminine Spirt of God, conspired on a plan to put Yahweh out to pasture and to redeem the Godhead. One of them will become mortal yet sinless. The other will bear this God, She is theotokos and will go by the name Mary and Mater Dei and most importantly She will impregnate Herself so that the Christ will lack connection to any bogotten sinfulness. The idea of Yahweh impregnating her or of Christ who is a male essence is verboten and highly distasteful. There will be no transmission of emission involved and not even a hint of actual male-female conceptions or intercourse. The Spirit and the Word are beyond such things as Christ states firmly when questioned about divorce.
The Two, along with help with the angelic brigade which has remained loyal to them and not to Lucifer and Yahweh, have significantly more power so Yahweh and his transgender consort, Lucifer (Venus, Evening Star, Shining One) are imprisoned until the Two are convinced that they have reformed their ways but that seems unlikely to ever happen because Lucifer’s entire schtick is based upon being beautiful and gracious and always deceitful. They can’t help it. See Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones and the incredible achievement of Sympathy for the Devil.
All beings even gods have free will and the ability to corrupt themselves irredeemably.
Immediately after the coming of Mary and Christ, the view of God changes to that of a caring nurturing perfect being comes into recognition, No one could admire Yahweh and Lucifer except for the Dark Sith, if you will but even for them, Yahweh and Lucifer’s dark sides are too much to justify or to bear and Sith see value in many kinds of evil but usually structured evil that treats all citizens equally bad. The Chaotic nature of Yahweh and Lucifer must always be quarantined. So is there a Father now? Well, yes and His name Is El, meaning essentially father or “The God in Semitic and in the Arabic Semitic tradition.
All of this squares more or less with the precepts of Revelation which is vivid in its descriptions and very much like some types of classical mythology and infused with symbolism and unarticulated knowledge. Fundamentalists are right about one thing, wars between gods and demi-gods like Lucifer and the Archangels does occur from time to time due to corruptions in again, for lack of a better term, in the Force and to correct them, many of the Heavenly Host are willing to chance imprisonment and even death to help mortals, who never asked to be created after all and this is a joint venture. Gods have no point without at least someone to watch or monitor and like the Spirit, to inspire the gods very own spake into humanity. From this point forward, the Word and the Spirit are available and approachable by those who have the ability to take a leap of faith.
For me, I have struggled my entire life as a humanist to make sense of any of this and mythology used to seem irrelevant to me but now I vividly see the connection and why comparison of the personages of Mazda, Zeus, Jupiter, Mars, Thor, Woden, Loki who is also Lucifer, Isis, the Virginic mythology and so forth. Like Venus, Mater Dei arose from the remnants of a failed and evil former god spontaneously and without any XY connection if you will. Discord, a savvy and powerful goddess of chaos immediately points out that we don’t need three female overlapping goddess and that Aphrodite/Venus is the most pure and most powerful of them all unless the rest all gang up on her as essentially happened in the Trojan War as Aphrodite tragically lost all of her followers except for Aeneas and Aphrodite said, “have faith son because of you and from you, I shall make an even greater unified nation and your descendants and mine will be the founders. This alone is enough revenge for Troy and I desist from my anger and some of my perhaps, unwise decisions. Gods make mistakes too.
This was the Spirit who along with the Word were preparing to establish a universal Church and path to knowing them and becoming like the gods themselves. All of the mysteries are related to love, ecstasy and knowing the infinite. I read all of the various answers an questions but that’s not how my mind operates. I tend to integrate what I view as truth as espoused by you into my world view and in my at times rampant anger about the atrocities in the Old Testament to evangelicals. God can literally do anything they want in their view and they are justified. “Who am I to question God” say my adolescent churches and school, but that’s just circular and unintelligent and it is exactly what Yahweh resorts to with Job. I read articles where people seem to think that Yahweh was convincing in his retorts when he seemed demented, evil, narcissistic and uncaring yes, bet Yahweh actually targets humans for the sport of it with Lucifer’s help and now we know why Yahweh needed help. Increasingly real or chief gods began to be viewed as separate and apart from creation and Genesis seems embarrassing in this regard with the demented Yahweh asking “who told you you were naked–what’s happened here”.
So much for omniscience. Heavenly host help us if an old man with a beard was strolling in the stupidly named, garden of garden, naked. The snake imagery is embarrassingly phallic and little sets the who story apart from Pandora’s or that of Eurydice and that of Persephone, all of whom where set up to be deceived by Zeus and Hades for sport and laughs and just to humiliate these females or the males trying to escort them out from hell. I see a place for Lilith in all of this, as well as for Eve as the humanity bearer and fertility goddess and goddess of love that links her to Mater Dei. Free will is essentially irrelevant when humans are set up and deceived intentionally by gods. Hence, the Young Earth brigade believing that God has deceived us to test our faith? What? If that’s true for them, then they are actually in a simulation directly in accord with Calvin’s belief about the inexorable fate of the unchosen who ultimately in my view have no choice because they never asked to be created. Mormons have a solution to this but that’s like going from simulation to creating our own simulations to suit us but who knows?
I feel as though I could do a better job running my planet than Yahweh just by not being completely narcissistic although eh, I share a lot of aspects and sympathy for Lucifer as he too appears to be a created being unlike Venus whom he parallels in so many other ways. Beauty was a key characteristic of both Venus and Lucifer in terms of achieving their goals and both seem mistake prone but the Word and the Spirit are wise since not only were they not created beings, they have always existed and have been reticent to get involved until they thought humans would heed their call.
This is long but my struggles to escape from fundamentalism and predestination have been painful and long but regardless the first point of all knowledge is one akin to Yahweh’s real name and rendered by a French scholar who was Catholic:
Cogito ergo sum or in English, I think therefore I am. No one can deluded me into thinking I don’t exist as opposed to yes, seeing things out of concord with common reality. If this is a simulation or predestination or part of the multiverse, than it’s entirely a waste of time. I chose not to believe in other universes where I stayed a fundamentalist because so many told me, “I am so glad not to be like you; I just accept what the Bible says”. No, never will I accept without striving for ultimate truth with all of my being and essence and ability to understand dualism or dual personalities but which are one whole.
Thanks to you for helping people transition out of fundamentalism. Until that was resolved, the idea of transitioning in gender was impossible which was why the call of the Goddess from the being and what I view as continuing revelation about Queens of Heaven and Mater Dei. We lost everything se found dear in life but up from the ashes, relentlessly we go forward figuring out if one person can be two psychologically and otherwise.
Eh. Lol. Are you able to turn off this diabolical spell checker. I am an extremely fast typist and generally, my writing needs minimal review. Some times this checker corrects thing that I mean to say or spelll exactly like that. I will leave the previous mistake to show that some times, this spell checker is clueless about the English language since yeah, we all know that there is a word spelled spell and not spelll, sigh. It suggests “to” instead of “too” when any human would know that the other simply makes no sense in terms of meaning or syntax. How about an edit button? I am having this problem on more and more sites. Reddit simply will not accept certain words of transgender slang no matter how hard you try. It won’t accept in quotes. Maybe italics? It is maddening and often operates as a restriction on perfectly good speech. They often reject Latin phrases and make unintelligent choices–ha, it was unintelligible computer borg, just wait until I am done typing before you start correcting everything.
Is this the inexorable future? A couple of times spellcheck completely obscured meaning or resulted in an actual contradiction. As it is relevant to my own writings, I intend to put a redacted version on Janey’s blog and and also on Will’s separate blog where he has written previously and in depth about Job, Yahweh and Lucifer from a Quaker viewpoint.
This website does not do any spell checking or correction, Janey, so I plead innocent if anything is not spelled as intended.
Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. It was Safari.
“This website does not do any spell checking or correction…”
Too bad it doesn’t have a character limit, though. 😉
Article by Dr.Andrew Tobolowsky: Did Israel Always Have Twelve Tribes?
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Is it also not historical that there were 12 apostles of Jesus? It seems more probable that Jesus closest followers were likely his family members.
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Yeah, that’s an interesting question. It does seem like a literary motif modeled after the tribes of Israel, and I think there are some scholars who regard references to twelve as not part of the original Gospel of Mark, but I would have to look into that more thoroughly.
In Galatians, Paul seems to know of a group of Jesus’s followers called “The Twelve”, so it has multiple early attestations. Of course, the number 12 seems to have been chosen for purely symbolic reasons, and the lack of consistency in the lists indicates that it wasn’t absolutely clear who counted and who didn’t.
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Good point, Michael. But that verse (which is in 1 Corinthians) pre-dates the Gospels and is vague as to who the Twelve are.
Is the thought that Paul’s group called “The Twelve” might be a group other than the apostles?
And references to a group of twelve may not have been in the original Mark?
Another confusing item, Paul refers to Cephas and Peter like they are two different people in Galatians 2:7-9 NRSV
“On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the gentiles and they to the circumcised.”
Paul writes as if Peter is an apostle to the Jews and Cephas is one of the pillars with James and John.
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Yeah, when you stop reading the epistles through the lens of the canonical Gospels, a lot of questions emerge. I think Bart Ehrman used to argue that Peter and Cephas were two different people, though he no longer does.