Think about Hell for a moment, what is the scene that you imagine? Most people would imagine a very hot place, lots of fire, demons walking around with pitchforks torturing the damned, although I've never fully understood why demons would have pitch forks because pitch forks were used during harvest time to move bundles of hay onto the backs of carts, which I just can't see happening in Hell.
So where did this image of a flaming Hell where souls suffer eternal damnation come from? Well it comes from the Christian version of Hell, and it has inspired the standard depiction of Hell in books and films which in turn inspires our own standard image of Hell, but the Christian version of Hell, like Christianity itself, developed from earlier religious ideas, the first clue to the origins of our concept of Hell is that it is almost always considered to be underground.
Before people started believing in good souls going to the heavens,
they believed that that the heavens were only for cirtain deities and
that everyone who died, whether they were being punished or rewarded, went to the underworld.
The Judaism that Christianity developed from didn't, (and still doesn't) have a notion of Hell
in the Christian sense. They believe in an underworld called Sheol that
has a place called 'Gehinom' (also called 'Gehenna' in the Christian rendering of the name. It also lends its name to Islam's Hell, 'Jahannam'.) within it. The name 'Gehenna' is, derived from a geographical site in Jerusalem known as the
'Valley of Hinnom', ('Ge Hinnom' literally means Valley of Hinnom) one of the two principal valleys surrounding the
Old City. Garbage from the walled city was burned there, but in ancient
times, it is believed that children were sacrificed to the pagan god
Molech in Gehenna, a practice that was outlawed by King Josiah (2
Apparently, priests would bang on drums so fathers would not hear the
groans of children being sacrificed, fires were kept burning and the
valley became the garbage dump of the city. The dead bodies of
criminals, and the carcasses of animals were also thrown there, so you
can imagine the scene and how it inspired Christianity's version of Hell.
But Gehenna is not actualy Hell in the Christian sense,
but rather a sort of 'Purgatory' where people are judged based on their
life's deeds, or rather, where one becomes fully aware of one's own
shortcomings and negative actions during one's life. It's basicaly a
waiting room and apparently the longest one can dwell in Gehinom is 11
months, during which time the soul is purified for its eventual ascent
to 'Olam Habah' ("The world to come")
So, according to the religion that Christianity developed from, we're
all going to Heaven, eventualy, once our souls have been purified, so if the doom laden
Christian version obviously didn't come from that source, where did Christians get the idea of a Hell full of fire and brimstone?
It was the Egyptians who first developed a version of Hell with a lake of fire within the underword with
demons who punish the guilty souls for all of eternity, it originates with the VERY
ancient (predating Judaism by at least a thousand years) Egyptian funerary text 'The Book of the Dead'. (basicaly a 'guide' or book of instruction to the afterlife)
According to the Coffin Texts, (a collection of ancient Egyptian
funerary spells written on coffins beginning around 2000 BC) the
underworld contained fiery rivers and lakes as well as fire demons (identified by fire
signs on their heads) which threatened the wicked. Representations of
the fiery lakes of the fifth "hour" of the Amduat (another Egyptian
funerary text) depict them in the form of the standard pool or lake
hieroglyph, but with flame-red "water" lines, and surrounded on all
four sides by fire signs which not only
identify the blazing nature of the lakes, but also feed them through
the graphic "dripping" of their flames.
This is obviously what inspired whoever wrote the Book of Revelation, this image of Hell was also used by Hippolytus of Rome in about the year 200 AD and has continued to be used by Christians ever since. This is also quite interesting because the whole Christian notion of ascending to Heaven originates with Egyptian beliefs too. Like the rest of the world, the Egyptians believed in the underworld, but they believed that their pharoahs were deities in mortal form who, after the death of their bodies would ascend into the Heavens to join the other deities. The notion of monotheism originaly came from
Egypt too in the form of Atenism Although it probably wasn't directly adopted from the Egyptians but rather via Hellenistic beliefs.
'Hellenistic' refers to the Greek and Roman mythology that was somewhat
inspired by cirtain Egyptian beliefs. The Greeks believed in an underworld called 'The
Realm of Hades' (Hades was the Greek god of the underworld) and below
Hades was a place of punishment called 'Tartarus'
Interestingly, the Greek version of Tartarus is pretty much void of any
flames and is basicaly just a dank and wretched pit engulfed in murky
gloom, it's the place where Sisyphus is said to continuously roll a
large boulder up a mountainside, which repeatedly rolls back down
again. But in the Roman version however it is surrounded by the flaming
river 'Phlegethon.' When the Hellenistic Jews translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, (known as the 'Septuagint') they used 'Hades' in place of 'Sheol' and because under Christianity, the good all go to Heaven, then it would logicaly follow that the whole of the underworld was actualy Hell, so 'Hades', according to Christianity, became Hell.
So how did Christianity come to adopt it's version of Hell? Probably via Paul the Apostle,
who greatly altered early Christianity by turning it from a purely
Jewish Messianic cult into something that gentiles (non Jews) could
become involved in, it is often reckoned that Paul influenced Christianity as much as Jesus himself but Paul was also a Hellenised Jew.
Man, it's been slow going! Reading up on Islam
is soooooo boring. There are hardly any real miracles, although Islamic
scholars believe that the Qur’an is miraculous by its very nature in
being a 'revealed' text and because of Islam's tradition of not
translating the Qur'an into a different language from the original, any
translations you read are more of a 'literal' translation than most of
the standard Bible translations, so it's like reading Shakespear.
As some of you who regularly read my blogs may know, I like to study religions so that I can attempt to knock 'em down
with logic or point out historical inaccuracies, or show how a cirtain legend is actualy just based on another earlier religion's legends with the names and possibly the location changed, but there's hardly
anything in Islam
to knock or point out. It reads as like Abrahamic religion but without most of
the mystical bullsh!t. What little there is is simply based on the
Judaistic texts of the Old Testament, so I've already covered any
points there in my earlier blogs, but as for the story of Muhammad himself... well there
are many corroborating historical sources for his existence, so he was
more than likely a real man, but he was simply a preacher from Mecca
who claimed to be in constant contact with the angel Gabriel (who
quoted the Qur'an to Muhammad) and who was invited to act as a neutral
outsider to Medina to serve as chief arbitrator for the entire
community. There was lots of fighting between feuding clans at the time
and it had become obvious to them all that the tribal conceptions of
blood-feud and an eye for an eye were no longer workable unless there
was one man with authority to adjudicate in disputed cases. So a
delegation from Medina pledged themselves and their fellow citizens to
accept Muhammad into their community and physically protect him as one
So he upped sticks, and took his Meccan followers with him.
There's a bit here that might
kinda hold a mirror up to Jesus escaping his birthplace from Herod
because the Meccans plotted to assassinate Muhammad before he left.
With the help of Ali, (his cousin) Muhammad fooled the Meccans who were
watching him, and secretly slipped away from the town.
The rest of his story is basicaly made up of Muhammad leading the
Muslims against the Meccans, involving some fighting and lots of
politics and eventualy conquering them and then going on to conquer
northern Arabia and the confederate tribes of Hawazin, although there's
very little actual fighting involved in these conquests because most of
them simply sent emissaries to Medina to surrender to Muhammad and
adopt Islam and he even received the submission of some local chiefs of the region who he hadn't even contacted, let alone threatened.
There's a hadith (oral tradition) known as "The Story of the Cranes"
that's sorta similar to the story of the temptation of Jesus in the
wilderness by Satan (which itself was based on the Egyptian myth of Horus confronting Set in the desert) which describes Muhammad's involvement at the time
of migration which holds that Muhammad pronounced a verse acknowledging
the existence of three Meccan goddesses considered to be the daughters
of Allah, praising them, and appealing for their intercession.
According to this account, Muhammad later retracted the verses at the
behest of Gabriel.
There's also the story of the 'Battle of Badr'
Following the emigration, the Meccans seized the properties of the
Muslim emigrants in Mecca. Uprooted and with no profession, the Muslim
migrants turned to raiding Meccan caravans as an act of war,
deliberately initiating armed conflict between the Muslims and Mecca
and Muhammad apparently delivered some Qur'anic verses permitting the
Muslims to fight the Meccans, which can kinda be viewed as a similar
legends of the Jews who left Egypt, banded together into tribes and
raided the Canaanites.
But if any of these stories are linked in any way to the
earlier legends of Judaism or Christianity, they are so loosely linked
it's practicaly impossible to show that they were simply inspired
stories from the earlier religions and therefore not likely to have
happened at all.
So, unlike the Hebrew Bible, which is full of texts that have obviously
been inspired by the earlier polytheistic religions of Canaan and
Atenism from Egypt, and the Christian New Testament which is full of
texts about Jesus that were obviously inspired by other earlier
religions like the Persian Mithra worship and the Egyptian Horus
worship, there really doesn't seem to be anything major to trip Islam up with.
So I'm afraid if you were expecting me to dig up some real dirt on Islam,
my blog's gonna be a pretty boring read about a Muslim leader who
apparently wrote the Qur'an, (as dictated by Gabriel) even though he
apparently couldn't read or write (doesn't mean he couldn't dictate it
to someone else who could though does it?
) became a religious and political leader of a bunch of people and
ended up conquering quite a large area and united the tribes of Arabia
into a singular Arab Muslim religious polity in the last years of his
Although that motife itself is something that is repeated over and over
again in religion, for example the upper and lower Egyptian tribes
uniting via religion to establish the kingdom of Egypt, the tribes of
the Jews uniting via religion to take on the Canaanites and establish
the Kingdom of Israel, Constantine using Christianity to re-unit the
split Roman Empire, which all basically tells us that religion was
simply just a tool used by leaders and politicians to unite people
towards a common cause.
In Islam, 'Iblis' (Satan) is a jinn (or
genie) who worshipped God so much that God raised him to heaven so he
could worship God in the company of the angels. In contrast to Judaism
and Christianity, in which he is a fallen angel, Islam does not recognise the concept of fallen angels. Angels in Islam do not have free will, therefore it's simply impossible for them to disobey God. But jinns do
have free will, so when God created Adam and breathed life into him and
commanded all present to recognize Adam, Iblis arrogantly defied on
accepting Adam as 'khalifa' ('caretaker', an interesting term, because
in the original Babylonian version of the creation of man that the
Biblical one is based upon, man was made by the gods out of clay for no
other reason than to take care of creation, or, the earth) on earth and
disobeyed God stating that he was made from fire and therefore much
superior to Adam who is made from clay. Then God threw him out of heaven.
So you see, because of Islam's belief that angels do not have
free will, that then affects Islam's belief in the origins of their
version of Satan. It's an example of how one belief has a knock-on effect on another belief, kinda like a 'next logical step'.
In the same way, the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God
eventualy had the knock-on effect that caused the belief that Jesus was
God himself, because Christianity is monotheistic, any son of a god
born to a mortal woman would automaticaly be considered a demi-god,
like the Greek Heracles, which is a purely polytheistic belief, so they
could either back down and say he was just a mortal prophet, as Islam does, or they can go a step further and proclaim him to be God himself.
And as we know, no one likes to back down from their beliefs.
In Islam's version of Heaven, (Jannat) everyone is 32 years old (the
same age as when Jesus ascended) and everyone will have the same build
and stature. Their afterlife includings wearing costly robes,
bracelets, perfumes; partaking in exquisite banquets, served in
priceless vessels by immortal youths; reclining on couches inlaid with
gold or precious stones. Other foods mentioned include fruits, milk,
poultry, scented wine and clear drinks bringing neither drunkenness nor
rousing quarreling. Inhabitants will rejoice in the company of their
parents, wives, and children (provided they were admitted to paradise)
conversing and recalling the past and Islamic texts also relate to "pure
consorts" (houris), created in perfection, with whom carnal joys are
shared "a hundred times greater than earthly pleasure". So here we see an example of how culture shapes religion, basicaly each religion's version of Heaven contains whatever is important to the culture that the religion came from.
So, allow me to end with a note about fundamentalism. Obviously fundamentalism in Islam is the big issue that most people have with Islam, but it's worth noting how Islam became fundamental in the first place. Up until the Crusades happened during the 11th and 12th
centuries, there was a period called the 'Islamic Golden Age', during
which the Islamics were generaly very enlightened, peaceful people.
During this period, (also known as the Islamic Renaissance) artists,
engineers, scholars, poets, philosophers, geographers and traders in
the Islamic world contributed to the arts, agriculture, economics,
industry, law, literature, navigation, philosophy, sciences, sociology,
and technology, both by preserving and building upon earlier traditions
and by adding inventions and innovations of their own.
After the Crusades from the West that resulted in the instability of
the Islamic world during the 11th and 12th centuries, a new threat came
from the East during the 13th century, the Mongol invasions.
Islamic civilization, which had at the outset been creative and dynamic
in dealing with issues, began to struggle to respond to the challenges
and rapid changes it faced from the 12th century onwards. There was an
increasing lack of tolerance of intellectual debate and freedom of
thought, with some seminaries systematically forbidding speculative
philosophy, while polemic debates appear to have been abandoned in the
14th century. So, basicaly Islamic fundamentalism wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the Christian fundamentalism of the Crusades that resulted in a domino effect which in turn resulted in Islamic fundamentalism. Does that in any way defend Islamic fundamentalism? No, of course it doesn't, nothing can, but it's worth pointing it out to Christians that the problem exists today because of what Christianity did hundreds of years ago. It points out that fighting Islam is just gonna make the problem worse.
Most of Jesus' moral teachings seem to be very similar to Buddhism
which was around 500 years old at the time of Jesus and quite well
known in Judea at the time. They both promote the sanctity of life,
compassion for others, rejection of violence, confession and emphasis
on charity and the practice of virtue and interestingly both Buddhism
and Catholicism use rosary beads in a very similar manner.
Will Durant, noting that the Emperor Ashoka sent missionaries not only
to elsewhere in India and to Sri Lanka, but to Syria, Egypt and Greece,
speculated in the 1930s that they may have helped prepare the ground
for Christian teaching.
Professor Rudolf Seydel of the University of Leipzig has noted around
fifty similarities between Buddhist and Christian parables and
Professor E. Washburn Hopkins of Yale goes so far as to say, " The
life, temptation, miracles, parables, and even the disciples of Jesus
have been derived directly from Buddhism."
The interesting thing about the story of Jesus is that such a huge
chunk of the story of his life is missing. In the Biblical accounts we
see him as a new born, then there's a very tiny exerpt from him as a
child in a temple, and then there's a massive gap until he's in his 30s.
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus spent his early childhood in
Egypt and there was a large Buddhist community known as the
'Therapeutae' (Sons of the Elders) that existed in Alexandria at the
In 2007, Doctor of Asian Studies, Christian Lindtner, published a book
titled 'Geheimnisse um Jesus Christus.' In his book Dr. Lindtner
compares the Pali and Sanskrit Buddhist texts with the Greek gospels
and determines that the four gospels were "reformulated from older
Buddhist texts based on gematria values, puns, and syllabic
There's a Buddhist tradition that claims that Jesus traveled to India
and Tibet during the "lost years" before the beginning of his public
ministry and there is a text, found at the Lamasery (monastery) of
Hemis in Ladakh by Nicolas Notovitch, known as the "Life of Saint Issa,
Best of the Sons of Men." Issa is Arabic for 'Yeshua' or 'Jesus'.
The "Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men" apparently tells of
the travels of a man known in the East as Saint Issa, whom Notovitch
identified as Jesus. After initially doubting Notovitch, a disciple of
Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Abhedananda, journeyed to Tibet, investigated
his claim, helped translate part of the document, and later championed
his views and further claimed that Jesus spent eighteen years "growing
in wisdom and stature" at Nalanda, the ancient Indian university.
The 'Bhavishyat Maha Purana' - the 9th of 18 ancient narratives of the
Hindus known as the 'Puranas' - asserts that Israelites settled in
India, and in verses 17-32, describes the arrival of Jesus thus:
"One day, Shalivahana, the chief of the Shakas, came to a snowy
mountain (assumed to be in the Indian Himalayas). There, in the Land of
the Hun (Ladakh, a part of the Kushan empire), the powerful king saw a
handsome man sitting on a mountain, who seemed to promise
auspiciousness. His skin was like copper and he wore white garments.
The king asked the holy man who he was. The other replied: 'I am called
Isaputra (son of God), born of a virgin, minister of the non-believers,
relentlessly in search of the truth.'
O king, lend your ear to the religion that I brought unto the
non-believers ... Through justice, truth, meditation, and unity of
spirit, man will find his way to Isa (God, in Sanskrit) who dwells in
the centre of Light, who remains as constant as the sun, and who
dissolves all transient things forever. The blissful image of Isa, the
giver of happiness, was revealed in the heart; and I was called
Isa-Masih (Jesus the Messiah).'"
Muslim and Persian sources purport to trace the journey of Jesus, known
in these writings as Isa, or Yuz Asaf ("leader of the healed") along
the Silk Road to the orient.
There is a temple in the state of Kashmir that is dedicated to Saint
Issa. The priests of this temple assert that Jesus traveled there two
thousand years ago.
A very old large tomb bearing the name of Yuz Asaf exists in Srinagar
to this day, and there is also a tomb called 'Mai Mari da Asthan', (The
Final Resting Place of Mother Mary) situated in a small town named
Murree on the Pakistan-Kashmir border.
Which goes along with the 'further sayings of Muhammad' which mention
that Jesus died in Kashmir at the age of one hundred and twenty years.
So, If we put all this information together with the New Testament we
get a more complete version of the story of the life of Jesus.
A child is born in either Nazereth or Bethlehem, his family move to
Egypt where as a small boy he comes into contact with Buddhists. His
family then move back to Judea and there he takes an interest in
Judaism and even visits temples on his own. Later, as a young adult he
goes on a long journey to the centres of Buddhism in India and Tibet
and studies Buddhism for 18 years. He then returns to Judea where he
puts his teachings into effect alongside standard Judaistic teachings.
He gains quite a following and is considered as the Messiah and is then
condemned by the Romans to be crucified.
He either survived the crucifixion via medical aid (Nicodemus is said
to have arrived with copious amounts of a mixture of myrrh and aloes
weighing about a hundred pounds. Aloes are commonly used to heal the
skin, and myrrh has been used for millennia for pain relief.) or
possibly even avoided the crucifixion by having Judas kiss someone else
(probably a desciple who volunteered to die in his place) or if
Christian sources are to be believed, he died and came back to life.
After the crucifixion event, he made a brief appearence, then headed
back to the safety of Kashmir, where he had spent so much time as a
younger man and where he lived out the rest of his days, living to a
ripe old age, in peace, and was even joined there by his mother.
Of course, this is all just speculation based on the available
accounts, but it's interesting that the accounts don't actualy
contradict the Gospel version of the life of Jesus, they just fill in
the gaps. I'm not sure if I believe the accounts or not, but you must
admit, it's pretty neat.... and quite a nice ending too.
Unfortunately, and this is why I'm not personaly totaly convinced by the autheticity of the documents in question,
even though it's a nice story, after Nicolas Notovitch reputedly
discovered the "Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men." script in
the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh and had it translated, all trace of the
original mysteriously dissapeared and the head of the Hemis community
claimed Notovitch had never even been there, even though he seemed to
have very detailed information about the place, which is seriously isolated. (including the insides
It's possible, (I'm
tempted to say 'probable' because it stands to reason that the last
thing this isolated Buddhist community would want is a bunch of
Christian tourists arriving and scouring through their ancient scriptures) that
this community leader was infact lying.
Many have called
Notovitch a hoaxer, but to be fair, to have written what he wrote, he'd
have to be something akin to both a Buddhist and a Biblical scholar,
when infact he was just a Cossack officer, and it does, after all, go along
quite well with the Buddhist traditions of 'Issa'.
In 1925, the
Russian philosopher, Nicholas Roerich, also journeyed to the monastary.
He apparently saw the same documents as Notovitch and Swami
Abhedananda. Both Abhedananda and Roerich were thereby convinced of the
authenticity of the Issa legend.
The actual contents of these
scriptures basicaly read that at the age of thirteen the 'divine
youth', rather than take a wife, leaves his home to wander with a
caravan of merchants to India (Sindh), to study the laws of the great
Issa is welcomed by the Jains, but leaves them to spend
six years among the Brahmins, at Juggernaut, Benares, and other places,
studying the Vedas and teaching all castes alike. The Brahmins oppose
him in this, and he denounces them and their sacred books, especially
condemning caste and idolatry. When they plan to put him to death, he
flees to the Buddhists, and spends six years among them, learning Pali
and mastering their religious texts. He goes among the pagans, warning
them against idolatry and teaching a high morality. Then he visits
Persia and preaches to the Zoroastrians.
At twenty-nine Issa
returns to his own country and begins to preach. He visits Jerusalem,
where Pilate is apprehensive about him. The Jewish leaders, however,
are also apprehensive about his teachings yet he continues his work for
three years. He is finally arrested and put to death for blasphemy, for
claiming to be the son of God. His followers are persecuted, but his
disciples carry his message out over the world.
What is interesting is that in this version of the events around the
death of Jesus, the Sanhedrin go to Pilate and argue to 'save' the life
of Jesus, and they are the ones who 'wash their hands' of his death,
instead of the Roman Pilate.
Which kinda makes sense, after all, both Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who apparently both had a lot of respect for Jesus, were both supposedly members of the Sanhedrin.
Still, we must remind ourselves, if they exist,
these scriptures are cirtainly no longer available to outsiders so they
cannot be checked for authenticity.
Nicholas Roerich story, with the text of the "Life, of Saint Issa, Best of the
Sons of Men." was published in French in 1894 as "La vie inconnue de
Jesus Christ." It was translated into English, German, Spanish, and
Italian so if you're interesteded in this sort of thing and if you can get hold of a copy, I'd advise anyone to read it for themselves and come to their own conclusions.
So someone asked me to amalgamate all my information
about Mesopotamian religions and early Judaism, and I thought it'd also
be a neat way to re-write a couple of my previous blogs in a clearer,
more defined manner. So let's start with a map, because I find it makes things so much easier to understand if you have a map to follow.
how there is a bunch of countries arched around the top of the North
Arabian Civilisation in a cresent shape, we actualy call that area 'The
Fertile Cresent' in archeology.
It's useful to understand that the central large area known as the
Northern Arabian Civilisation and all it's surrounding areas like the
Arab Tribes, (where Mecca is, which is where Islam was eventualy developed from Judaism) The
Arameans, Canaan and Mesopotamia all basicaly shared the same
religion. Even the Iranian tribes far to the east, who would become the
Persians, followed this same basic religious tradition. (which
obviously suggests that they all have a common source inherited from
earlier nomadic hunter/gather tribes)
In this polytheistic tradition, it's most important deity was the
Creator Deity (usualy called 'El') and he was married to the Mother Goddess and between them
they gave birth to the rest of the Pantheon, like a great big godly
family. This would go on to inspire the Hellenistic (Greek and Roman)
and Vedic (Hindu) pantheons.
Egypt was slightly different, their original creator deity (they had
several different ones over the years) Atum was a
hermaphrodite (hence his name meaning 'completeness'). The myth states
that Atum ejaculated his semen into his mouth, impregnating himself,
but starangely, rather than Atum being regarded as the most important
their pantheon, it was the sun god Ra who was regarded as the most
Eventualy Ra would be amalgamated with Horus and the first known monotheistic
god 'Aten' would emerge.
all religion, Judaism developed (or you may say 'evolved')
from an earlier religion, which in turn developed from an even earlier
religion ect, ect. Each version of religion had it's own version of
creation. The Judaistic version was developed from the version found in
The Cresent. In historical Mesopotamia the gods were in the form of
Man was created in the image of the gods because the gods themselves
'were' men, a notion that was kind of continued in monotheistic
Before this version of deities, there are no anthropomorphic gods. We
hear, instead, of the zi or 'spirit', a word properly signifying 'life'
which manifested itself in the power of motion. All things that moved
were possessed of life, and there was accordingly a 'life' or 'spirit'
of the water as well as of man or beast. Sumerian theology, in fact,
was still on the level of animism. Vestiges of the old animism can
still be detected even in the later deistic cult, along with prayers to
the 'human gods' we see an Assyrian prayer which invokes the mountains,
the rivers and the winds, and from time to time we come across a
worship of deified towns. It was the town itself that was divine, not
the deity to whom its chief temple was dedicated.
This is suggestive of the worship of the land itself, a type of worship
that goes back to the pre-Neolithic Revolution (advent of agriculture) worship of the Mother
Goddess, who was quite often thought of as the land itself, or on a
bigger scale, one might say the 'earth' or 'Mother Earth.' She was
basicaly regarded as giving birth to the human race.
The Sumarian version of creation that would eventualu develop into the Judaistic version has several gods involved in it.
the 'casting of lots', heaven was ruled by 'Anu', earth by 'Enlil', and
the sea by 'Enki'. Enlil assigned junior divines, lesser gods called the 'Igigi'
to do farm labor and maintain the rivers and canals, but after forty
years the lesser ones rebelled and refused to do hard labor. Instead of
punishing the rebels, Enki, who is also the kind, wise counselor to the
gods, suggested that humans be created to do the work instead. The mother
goddess Mami is assigned the task of creating humans by shaping clay
figurines mixed with the flesh and blood of the slain god Geshto-e, "a
god who had intelligence". All the gods in turn spit upon the clay.
After ten months, a specially made womb breaks open and humans are born.
is Enki who warns the flood hero Utnapishtim (there are several ancient
versions of this story where the name of the flood hero varies) that
the gods plan to flood the earth and that he should build a boat.
It's also useful when talking about Judaism's transition from
polytheistic to monotheistic to study the character of 'Lilith'.
Lilith appears to have started out as a Mesopotamian storm goddess
associated with wind, night and the desert and married to the Semitic
Pantheon's weather god 'Enlil' and was thought to be a bearer of
disease, illness, and death who first appeared around 5000 years ago.
Because of her relationship with Enlil who was considered 'father of
the gods' in some forms of Semitic Mythology, she can also be
considered as a Mother Goddess. (practicaly all wives of the heads of
pantheons are considered thus)
What is interesting about Lilith is that during the transitional stages
from Semitic polytheism to Semitic monotheism, we can actualy see the character of Lilith slowly change from a goddess to a demon.
About a thousand years later, (roughly 3700 years ago) she's associated
with Gilgamesh who himself is described as two-thirds god and one-third
Lilith was a follower of the Great Mother Goddess Asherah. (so still
associated with Mother Goddess worship) In 'The Epic of Gilgamesh',
Gilgamesh was said to have destroyed a tree that was in a sacred grove
dedicated to Asherah. Lilith ran into the desert in despair.
Hebrew cosmogony tells a story of 'Yahweh' creating Adam to marry a
local Goddess-associated figure named Lilith. So according to this
version from about about 3000 years ago, Lilith must have already
existed, making her at least 'supernatural.'
Lilith is later depicted in the Talmud as created by God as a woman to be the first wife to Adam.
While Genesis 2:22 describes God's creation of Eve from Adam's rib, an earlier passage, 1:27, already indicates that a woman had already been made: 'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.'
The Hebrew legends say that Lilith is eventualy banished from Adam and
Yahweh's presence when she is discovered to be a 'demon' and
considered as a bearer of 'disease, illness and death' just like the
earliest versions of her when she was considered as a goddess.
Another later version has her running away because, although God
created them both the same way, Adam refused to
treat her as an equal. The angels went after her but she refused to
return unless she was treated as an equal and is then cursed by an
angel to have one hundred
of her children die every day. This is when Lilith is turned into a
demon and accordingly, every day one hundred demons are said to perish.
It is supposedly after these events that Eve is created from one of Adam's ribs and becomes Adam's subservient wife.
From here on, Lilith is often considered to be the serpent in the
Garden of Eden, bent on revenge and is also known as the 'screech owl'
which is kinda like a vampiric figure.
The Book of Isaiah 34:14, says;
'The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of
the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also
shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.'
So, when we look at Lilith we can clearly see
Judaism's association with an earlier polytheistic religion which
Judaism was obviously inspired by and developed from.
“And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it
was parted, and became four heads. The name of the first is Pishon;
that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is
gold; and the gold of that land is good; there is bdellium and the onyx
stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon; the same is it that
compasseth the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is
Tigris; that is it which goeth toward the east of Asshur. And the
fourth river is the Euphrates.” Genesis 2:10-14
Believe it or not, that's almost as good as a map.
not cirtain exactly where the Pishon and the Gihon were, but the Tigris
and the Euphrates still exist. The Biblical text says that a river went
'out' of Eden and parted into the four rivers mentioned, so we are
talking about a river 'source' and the source of the Tigris and
Euphrates is located at one end of Mesopotamia (the mountains of
southeastern Turkey) and both rivers flowed right through Mesopotamia
all the way to the other end of Mesopotamia at the Persian Gulf,
infact, these two rivers actualy 'define' the area of Mesopotamia.
was quite a big area, taking up most of modern Iraq, so we can fairly
safely say that Eden was somewhere within the area of Mesopotamia.
word 'paradise', which is often used as a synonym for the Garden of
Eden, actualy shares a number of characteristics with words for 'walled
orchard garden' or 'enclosed hunting park' in ancient Persian. This
suggests agriculture and the penning of game.
The growing of
fruit in orchards are very important to the development of agriculture
and perminant settlement because most other forms of grown food can be
grown in a single season, such as wheat or lettuce or potatoes or
beans, which can then be harvested before semi-nomadic people move on
to a new area, but a fruit tree takes many years of growing and cross
breeding, (Ever eaten a wild apple? They're horribly sour, it actualy
takes many years of cross breeding to come up with an edible apple from
wild ones.) and for this to happen, you need to stay or 'settle' in one
place instead of wandering in a nomadic way. Orchards or 'gardens'
would have been built and indeed, the earliest remains of such places
that we know of are within Mesopotamia, around about where the Bible
says the Garden of Eden was, and what was the fruit being grown? Apples
In most hunter gatherer tribes, it is the males that
hunt and the females that gather and it's also the females that have
what is sometimes regarded as 'secret knowledge' as to where to find
cirtain foods and how to process them to get rid of any toxins they may
contain. In Australia for instance, the women in traditional Aboriginal
hunter/gatherer tribes have an incredible knowledge of sometimes quite
complicated food processing.
So it was probably the women who developed agriculture, including the growing of fruit.
So, if women developed the growing of fruit and other crops, what would be the religious implications of this?
let us assume that the deity they worshipped (probably the 'Mother
Goddess', which is the earliest worshiped deity that we know of) was
associated with providing the hunter/gatherers with wild bounty, this
deity would no longer be needed because the women were providing it,
with their knowledge of agriculture.
That could effectively be the
end of their religion and it would be the women's fault with their
knowledge of fruit, and perhaps the particular fruit involved would
have been known as the 'Fruit of Knowledge.'
See where I'm going with this? Fruit, knowledge, women, the offending of a deity?
what would now be important to these new agricultualists? The sun of
course, you need it to grow crops, and it's also around this time of
developing agriculture (called the Neolithic Revolution) that we find
evidence of Solar deity worship.
It's also interesting that the usual quoted Biblical age of the earth,
which is derived from the genealogies and other dates in the Bible, is
considered to be around 6000 years old, which is actualy when writing
was first developed... in other words, when the first recorded history
could possibly be written, and guess where writing was invented? Yep,
Mesopotamia. We call it 'cuneiform' today. Could it be that the
original writers of Genesis knew how old the oldest writing was, came
to the conclusion that that's when man first appeared, then wrote that
into the chronology of what would become Biblical text?
As for the actual age of mankind, well the oldest known remains of
anatomically modern humans we've ever found were in Ethiopia, and dated
to around 160,000 years ago.
Now let's look at the first known monotheistic religion Atenism.
Around 3300 years ago, the Egyptian pharoah Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten)
realised that the priests in charge of each
deities temples were gaining power and wealth. He decreed that there
was only one god (Aten) and that the only way to this god was through
himself and closed down the other god's temples, thereby gaining all
the power and wealth for himself. He then spread this wealth among his
loyal followers, basicaly bribed them, imagine how the priests felt
He changed his name to Akhenaten (which means Effective Spirit of the
Aten) and effectively proclamed himself as Aten on earth, a deity,
which wasn't unusual for the Egyptians as they thought of all their
pharoah in this way
Akhenaten eventualy dies, the preists regain power with a vengance and start to systematicaly take Atenism
apart, the old religions returned in a revolutionary manner with great
upheaval and violence and anybody that was associated with Aten (those that were bribed especialy) worship
would be either killed or would have to flee. This would be it's
priests, the builders of it's temples, and also the builders of the new
capital that the pharoah built, Akhetaten or 'Horizon of Aten', at the
site known today as 'Amarna', which was wrecked and abandoned. It may
also have included all those who had simply chosen to live in the new
city as well. Basicaly, anyone that the followers of the old religions
saw as collaborators of the new religion.
Imagine it, it could literaly be thousands and thousands of people.
But it didn't all happen overnight, we know this because such a massive
exodus of people all leaving at once would definately leave huge amounts of evidence in wide areas. Many would
claim to be loyal to the old ways and a 'witch-hunt' style of seeking
out secret Atenists and banishing them would continue for some time,
maybe even '40 years.'
Around this time, the Amarna letters are written, a series of letters
from the leaders of Canaan to the leaders of Egypt, including
Akhenaten, that complain of constant worsening raids by tribes of
nomadic outcasts from many of the kindoms in the Fertile Cresent known
as the Habiru. As outcasts from the surrounding kingdoms of the Fertile
Cresent, the Habiru would naturaly follow the polytheistic pantheon
tradition I mentioned earlier.
Just a couple of hundred years after the fall of Atenism, we see the
evidence of the Judaistic form of monotheism at the same time as the
formation of the Kindom of Israel and Judaism's own religious accounts
tell of how they were once tribes of nomads who attacked Canaan.
Now, it's useful at this point to compare the Atenist 'Great Hymn to
the Aten' and the later Judaistic 'Psalm 104', which are remarkably
similar, so much so that Psalm 104 must have been influenced by the
Great Hymn to the Aten, there's no other explanation for their
similarity. Which means that Judaism must have been influenced by
Atenism at some point.
So, we can surmise that the Atenists forced to flee Egypt met up with
and joined the Habiru, and, after a couple of generations, their two
religions eventualy merged forming Judaism with the creator god 'El' of
the Habiru's previous pantheon now becoming a monotheistic god like
Aten and the mythology of the Habiru's religion being changed ever so
slightly into the versions we see today in the Old Testament and the
Habiru themselves became known as the 'Hebrews.'
The very beginnings of Christianity start with the Messianic prophecies
in Judaistic belief. The Messianic prophecies refer to a future king of Isreal from the
Davidic line, who will rule the people of the united tribes of Isreal and herald the Messianic Age. After that, he'll basicaly rule the world. Christianity claims that Jesus of Nazereth was apparently born to a virgin (in fulfillment of a messianic prophecy) in the prophecised town of Bethlehem and was in actual fact the prophecised heir to the throne of Kingdom of Isreal, a direct decendant of David. They also claim that Jesus is one part of the trinity of God, equal to the other two parts and at the same time one and the same as them.
The problem is, Christianity has had to alter Judaism's definition of the Messiah for this belief. Look at this messianic prophecy, 'The Moshiach (Messiah) will be a man of this world, an observant Jew with "fear of God' (Isaiah 11:2) Or this one, 'I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto
thee (like Moses), and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall
speak unto them all that I shall "command him."' (Deuteronomy 18:18-19) Those make it pretty clear that the Messiah will be something less than equal to God, a 'man' who 'fears' God and who does and says what God 'commands' him to do and say. According to Judaism, who invented the notion of the Messiah, the Messiah is simply God's representative on earth, a mortal king who will rule in God's name. So was he really heir to the throne of David? Well it's hard to see how he could have been while at the same time being born to a virgin because in Judaistic law, the heirdom of the throne can only be passed by a father to his natural son, or, failing that, to an adopted son. So, if Jesus wasn't actualy Joseph's natural son, then obviously the heirdom would pass to James the Just, who was definately Joseph's natural son.
So what about this 'born to a virgin' thing? Well Christianity altered that too.
The original Hebrew prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 reads as follows (translated):
"Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman[ha-almah] shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanu-el".
Scholars reason that [ha-almah] ("young woman") does not refer to a virgin and that had the Tanakh intended to refer to such, the specific Hebrew word for virgin [bethulah] would have been used. So the whole 'born to a virgin' thing is nothing to do with Messianic prophecy. So why was Mary depicted as a virgin? Because modern Christianity has actualy been influenced by many different religions over the years. When it started, Christanity was simply a version of Judaistic Messiah worship, but pretty soon in it's development, a character called Paul the Apostle somehow managed to take control of the Christian cult. (as it was then) Paul was a Hellenistic Jew, a member of a movement that sought to establish a Jewish religious tradition within the culture and language of Hellenism, which was the Roman and Greek traditions culture and religion. If you've read part 1, you'll know that the polytheistic pantheon worshipped in the Canaan area which eventualy developed into Judaism also influenced the Hellenistic religions, and religion influenced culture and tradition.
One of the Hellenistic religions was the worship of Mithras, which was popular among the military in the Roman Empire, which had it's origins with the polytheistic Zoroastrianism religion of the Persians (modern day Iran) which was quite similar to the pre-Judaistic pantheon worshipped in Canaan. (Mithra is also related to 'Mitra' of the Vedic religion, which went on to develop into Hinduism) There is a Seleucid temple at Kangavar in western Iran, which is dedicated to "Anahita, the Immaculate VirginMother of the Lord Mithra" and dates to around 200 BC. So it's quite probable that this is where the virgin birth tradition in Christianity originates.
Paul opened Christianity up to the gentiles, (non Jews) before that, they weren't allowed to join, so with that influx of gentiles would naturaly come an influx of their previous beliefs too, and the belief in Mithra, Mithras or Mitra were all pretty popular beliefs at the time. Eventualy, when the Hebrew Bible is translated from Hebrew into Greek and re-written as the Christian Old Testament one finds in the text of Isaiah 7:14 the word 'parthenos', which is Greek for 'virgin',
rather than the Greek word "neanis" for "young woman", which would be a literal translation of the Hebrew original. So eventualy the Greek 'parthenos' (virgin) was translated into every language that the Christian Bible is available in today
It's also interesting to note that throughout the Hellenistic religions, trinities, (which are strongly rejected by Judaism as an affront to monotheism) are abundant. *The Classical Greek trioof Zeus (father), Leto (mother), and Apollo. (son) *The Roman Capitoline Triad of Jupiter (father), Juno (wife), and Minerva. (daughter) *The Fates or Furies in Greek and Roman mythology. *The Roman triad of Ceres, Liber Pater and Libera (or its Greek counterpart withDemeter, Dionysos and Kore) ...to name but a few.
So it would seem strange that a messianic cult of Judaism, which completely rejects trinities of any sort because of their ties with polytheistic pantheons, would eventualy adopt one for it's own version of God, unless of course it was influenced by the Hellenistic religions of the time, possibly via Paul the Apostle.
That's one possiblity, another is that the trinity was introduced to Christianity by Emperor Constantine the Great about 300 years later. By the time of Constantine, the Roman Empire was falling apart, it had slit into several factions with several different Emperors and Constantine through sheer bloody force and battle reunited the Empire with himself as the sole Emperor.
He reasoned that if the whole empire was to follow the same religion,
and if the centre of that religion was in Rome, then the Roman Empire
would run much more smoothly, so he adopted Christianity and proceeded
to convert the entire Empire. It was around this time that cirtain
traditions such as celebrating Christmas at the same time as the pagan
winter festivals such as Yule began, probably as a way of making the
transition easier. They could still carry on their old traditions but
it just had a new name. It's at this time that Trinity becomes doctrine in Christianity too during the Council of Nicaea (325AD).
In no time at all, Christianity went from being little more than a large cult, to the biggest religion in the world, but with new traditions assimilated into it taken from different religions throughout the Empire. But let's get back to the Messianic prophecies.
Now, as it happens, Jesus didn't even come close to fulfilling all the prophecies, of which there are many, such as;
'The whole world will worship the One God of Israel' (Isaiah 2:17)
'He will take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful.' (Isaiah 51:3)
'All Israelites will be returned to their homeland.' (Isaiah 11:12)
'Nations will end up recognizing the wrongs they did to Israel.' (Isaiah 52:13-53:5)
'Jews will know the Torah without study.' (Jeremiah 31:33)
'The ruined cities of Israel will be restored.' (Ezekiel 16:55)
'There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease.' (Isaiah 25:8)
'All of the dead will rise again.' (Isaiah 26:19)
There are any number of religious prophecies from different religions around the world about things that will
happen, such as the ancient Mayan doomsday prophecy that the world will
end in 2012. Why aren't there any major religions based on those
Because everyone knows that a prophecy means nothing until it has come true, that's why.
Because he doesn't fulfill all the prophecies, Christianity states that Jesus is coming back to fulfil the rest of them, (although it's strange that the prophecies never mention that the Messiah will come twice, thousands of years apart, because they are pretty particular about everything else) but in order for him to even be considered in the first place as a possible Messiah, he must first and foremost fulfil the prophecy of 'birthplace';
*'But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of
Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.' (Micah 5:2)....which basicaly means 'he will come from Bethlehem'.
The Bible says that Jesus was born during both the reign of Herod the
Great and also during the Census of Quirinius, but historicaly, that cannot be correct as the Census of
Quirinius (started 6AD) happened ten years after the death of Herod (4BC). The reason that the Bible claims this is because the Gospel of Luke claims the Census of Quirinius is the reason that Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem in the first place, to take part in the census because there was a requirement for everyone to travel to their ancestral homes. In actual fact all Roman census required people to stay at home and 'not' travel, which makes sense, a census is a means of finding out where people live now so that they can be taxed, not where their ancestors used to live.
A papyrus from Egypt dated AD 104 requiring people to return to their
homes for a census has sometimes been cited by Christians as evidence
of a requirement to travel, however, this refers only to migrant workers returning to their family home, not their ancestral home. Christians have also claimed that Quirinius served as a governor under Herod the Great's reign.
A look at Quirinius career tells us that between 14 and 12BC Quirinius
was governor of Crete and Cyrene. Then in 12BC he returned to Rome and
served as a 'consul' there. (Effectively 'heads of Roman government',
there were two consuls, and they ruled together. However, after the
establishment of the Empire, the Consuls were merely a figurative
representative of Rome’s republican heritage and held very little power
and authority, with the Emperor acting as the supreme leader. The
position was held for only 12 months, after which two new consuls were
elected, coins dated to 11BC with Quirinius' name on them as consul
After that he became 'Legatus' of Galatia, a position similar to a
'military general' but in a province with only one legion, as in the
case of Galatia, the Legatus was also
the provincial governor. Between 6 and 3 BC (the time when most
Christians claim he was acting as governor of Syria under Herod's rule)
he was still there, far far away from Syria, leading a 3 year military
campaign against the Homonadenses, a tribe based in the mountainous
region of Galatia and Cilicia in modern day North/West Turkey.
Quirinius was only appointed governor of Syria, after the banishment of Herod Archelaus (Herod the Great's son and successor) in 6AD.
With these obvious fabrications about Quirinius, the census and the
requirement to travel during the census, all the evidence would seem to point
to 'someone' (whoever wrote 'The Gospel of Luke') trying very hard to
make it look like Jesus was born in Bethlehem, to fulfill the prophecy, which also suggests, along with the name 'Jesus of Nazereth', (the tradition was to name the child after 'birthplace', not the place where the child grew up) that he actualy wasn't born in Bethlehem at all.
Without this first essential fulfillment of prophecy, any others that he may have fulfilled later become completely meaningless.
Y'see, this is all circular logic.
People believe Jesus is the Messiah because he is said to have fulfilled some
of the Messianic Prophecies, but because he didn't fulfill all of the
prophecies, people believe he will return to fulfill the rest of them. People
believe he will do this because people believe he is the Messiah and people
believe him to be the Messiah because he is said to have fulfilled some of the prophecies.
But Christianity itself goes against at least one of the prophecies; *''The peoples of the world will turn to the Jews for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23)''
That's gotta mean that 'everyone will convert to Judaism', (remember, these are
'Judaistic' prophecies) a religion that refuses to acknowledge Jesus as
the Messiah and therefore refuses to acknowledge Christianity as the
One of the very first things that Christianity did was to tempt people away
from Judaism and it's traditions. How can Jesus Christ possibly return
his own people to Judaism when Judaism doesn't believe in Jesus Christ?
Read it again, it literaly means that in order for
Christianity to be correct about Jesus Christ being the Messiah, then
Christianity must fail in favour of Judaism.
Folklore and religion, basicaly the same thing really.
A good way of explaining how folklore works is to look at the story of
the Pied Piper of Hamlin.
At first glance, it seems historicaly reasonable that something happened in the German town of Hamlin in 1284, possibly something involving a stranger and the children of the town.
There are chronicles written less than a hundred years after the event
which state that someone entered the town and left with 130 children,
but in those chronicles, there is no mention of rats, or even a pipe for that matter.
But superstitious people read the chronicals and started thinking that such a terrible loss must have something more to it than that, it must have been something to do with sourcery or a punishment..... or both. New chronicles were written.
At the time it was widely believed that some men had an uncanny power over snakes or mice or rats. They could play a pipe and charm them (snake charmers of course still exist, but it is infact just a trick) making them do anything they wanted such as walking into deep water or leaping on a bonfire.
Maybe such a person held a similar power over children, maybe someone
in Hamlin angered him enough for him to punish the whole town by taking
And so the folklore version of the story was born. People said that the
town had been overun with rats until a stranger came along and declared
himself as a rat catcher. He was dressed strangely and played a fife,
so they called him the 'Pied Piper' and promised him lots of money to
sort the rats out (probably thinking it was impossible to kill rats by
playing a pipe)
He played the pipe, the rats poured out of the town and he led them
away into a river (the Weser) where they all drowned. But the citizens
regretted promising so much money once he'd actualy succeded in getting
rid of the rats and welched on the deal. It is said that he returned dressed as a hunter, played his pipe
and led the children out of town where they disappeared with him into a
cave in the side of a mountain, never to be seen again, although some
sources say they came out again, alive and safe, hundreds of miles away
A few hundred years later, and by the middle of the 16th century, this
had become the official explanation. The Mayor had the whole story
illustrated in the stained glass windows in the main church. A new city
gate erected in 1556 carried an inscription stating that it was put up
'272 years after the ''sorcerer'' abducted 130 children' Another
inscription on the city hall commemorated '130 children lost by a piper
inside a mountain.'
To someone looking at it today, it really does indeed look like a piper
with either magical powers or at least a magical pipe was responsible.
So now let's look for a rational explanation.
There were wars going on in 13th century Germany, so maybe a passing
recruiting sergeant passed through and took 130 young men away to war,
who were all later killed in battle.
Or maybe the date is wrong and the story recalls friars preaching
sermons to get youngsters to join the 'Children's Crusade' to Jerusalem
(1212, they never got there, those that didn't die on the way became
Or maybe it refers to the forced emigration of local
families to colonize new territories far away. Bishop Bruno of Olmutz
recruited families from Lower Saxony to build up a German population in
his diocese in Bohemia.
A comparison of city records in Hamlin and Olmutz from just before and
just after 1284 reveals a startling similarity in the family names in
each place which kinda agrees with the rumour that the children
reappeared safe and sound in Transylvania.
So, the mystery is solved. The myth is 'busted'
so to speak, but its a nice catchy story full of magic and mystery that's become tradition, it
attracts people to it, so much so that people still swear to this day
that a piper actualy led the town's children away as revenge, and Hamlin has a pretty good tourist trade today because of the story. But in reality, because it's been explained in a rational manner, most of us know it's just a fairytale based on a real event.
The moral of the folklore version of the story (and all good stories have a moral) is basicaly 'Believe in the magic.'
Believe in the piper's power, if you don't believe in the piper's power you will be punished by having your children taken away.
Now let's compare that with the story of Jesus, a guy born to a virgin in Bethlehem who turned out to not only be the son of God but actualy God Himself, who did lots of magic or 'miracles', was eventualy killed and came back to life before mysteriously disappearing. The story is so well known we don't really need to go into details.
So again, now let's look for a rational explanation.
Well we know that the Bible has Jesus being born during the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC, and also being born during the Census of Quirinius, which happened about 10 years later. We also know that no Roman census ever required people to return to their ancestral home, which would actualy just make a census more complicated, the Romans wanted to know where people lived 'now' not where their ancestors came from. So what's the explanation? Well the Judaistic Messianic Prophecies first and foremost said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, If he wasn't born in Bethlehem, he couldn't be the Messiah. So whoever wrote the Gospel of Luke had to somehow place his birth in Bethlehem and come up with a reason for a son of a couple from Nazereth to be born so far away from home. As Luke was written about 80-90 years after the birth of Jesus, and probably by someone who knew the census took place relatively in the same time period as the birth of Jesus, the link between Jesus' birth and the census was established. It was at best a guess, at worst a complete fabrication, an addition to the chronicles. (New chronicles were written, hey, ever had that 'Deja vu' feeling?) Either way the story cannot be correct. He was known as 'Jesus of Nazereth' and people were traditionaly named after their 'birth' place, not the place where they grew up. So we have evidence that Jesus was not from Bethlehem and evidence that part of the story of Jesus was fabricated to make Jesus appear to be the prophecised Messiah.
Again, the mystery is solved. The myth is 'busted'
so to speak, but its a nice catchy story full of magic and mystery that's become tradition, it
attracts people to it, so much so that people still swear to this day
that that a guy was actualy born to a virgin who turned out to be God in human form.
Christians are taught that the basic moral to the whole story of Jesus is that they have to believe in the magic, (without the miracles, he'd hardly be considered as anything special, most of his teachings had already been known for 500 years to readers of Aesop's fables) and that Jesus is their God and saviour, otherwise they'll be punished with an eternity in Hell.
Sounds familiar? Something
happened 2000 years ago and it involved a guy called Jesus, of that there is little doubt, but over time 'magic' is added to the story and it
becomes folklore. People start having 'faith' in the magic involved in
the folklore version of the story and a major religion is eventualy formed. But for some strange reason in reality, rather than most
of us realising it's just a fairytale based on a real event because it's been explained in a rational manner, lots of people still swear to this day that it all really happened exactly like it does in the folklore version of the story.
This blog is basicaly an amalgam of
all the advice I've given on the 'bandleading' section. I originaly
compiled it to answer the question 'When I've put a band together, what
do I do then?' and after writing it, I thought it would make an
interesting blog and also a pretty decent source of information for
anyone who is fairly new to bands. It deals with every issue I can
think of that most bands will face and will be an ongoing process,
being added to as and when I find an important issue that I've missed. Hope you enjoy it and that someone will at least find it helpful.
So you wanna form a band? Look for people that you can get along with, this really
is paramount. If there are two people, one is OK but with a great
attitude and the other is a brilliant musician but is big headed, vain,
or simply annoying, then go for the OK guy every time.
Ability can be learned and improved upon as you continue, but personality is almost impossible to change.
Once you have a line up, start off just jamming, pick some covers
between you to play but don't expect miracles straight away. It takes
time for everyone to get used to each others styles, but generaly, the
more you practice, the tighter you become.
Once you start getting used to each other and are making some decent
noises, you have a decision to make. You can either continue as a cover
band, become an original band, or do a mixture of both.
Cover bands tend to get bookings more easily, original bands tend to
struggle to be heard and get paid less on the pub/club circuit but the
rewards artisticaly are better and if you become well known, financialy
a lot more rewarding.
Doing a mixture of both, you tend to get more gigs in front of bigger
audiences early on in your career, who you can then play some of your
original material to and even sell them recorings.
Tribute bands deserve a mention here as well. Believe me, being in a tribute is hard work, you are limited set wise, you have
to play the songs exactly like they were originaly recorded, you need
to play a part rather than just being yourself and in this respect,
it's kinda more like theatre than the other choices. But it's great fun
if you get it right. You play to huge audiences, gigs are pretty easy
to come by and you know that everyone in that audience is gonna like
what you play because they're all fans of whatever bands you're a
Because of the size of the audience that a tribute attracts, you can
also charge more than the average band on the pub/club circuit.
Organising The Band
In a band, it helps if people are in charge of different stuff and each
have their own department, like maybe one person becomes like the
musical director (while still being open to suggestions from the rest
of the band obviously) and another in charge of booking gigs, and
another in charge of transport, and another being responsible for the
safety of the bands gear and keeping an inventory of what gear goes to
a gig and making sure it all returns.
This way, everyone has their own department to worry about and very
rarely bothers anyone else about their department. It makes everyone
feel involved in the day to day running of the band, but avoids
F'rinstance, in my band, I organise the gigs and write the set lists
for the gigs, which is then the set list that we rehearse for each gig.
(which I suppose kinda makes me the musical director, but as a tribute
band, it never involves actualy writing stuff, although me and the
bassist have been writing material together for a future project that
will involve the exact same line up doing original numbers under a
different name) The guitarist organises transport and where and when we
rehearse. The drummer's in charge of the bands inventory and the
bassist is the guy who delivers posters, ticket books to ticket
outlets, basicaly anything that involves driving a car and also
generaly does the sound engineering for any support bands we might have.
He also does the sound engineering when we occasionaly hire out our PA.
Everyone has their own department and doesn't step on anyone else's
toes, unless someone seriously screws up, in which case, the other
three of us take the p!ss without mercy.
Diarys are important.
Each member of the band should have a diary and the person who organises the gigs should have the 'control' diary.
It's important to just have one member organising gigs, so if another
member is asked about a booking, they should point the interested party
to the member who sorts out bookings or give them his contact details
(this is why bands have business cards)
It's also important that the band has regular sit down meetings, the
best time for these are just after a rehearsal. Set aside an hour or so
where you can all sit down (possibly with a beer) and just talk about
band business. This is where the 'control' diary and everyone elses
diaries comes in.
Every person who's gonna be away or unavailable for any reason
(holidays, family events ect.) tells the person who has the control
diary what date they will be unavailable as soon
as they know themselves. Then at the sit down meetings, everyone goes
through the control diary together and write down all these dates plus
the gig dates that whoever holds the control diary has got for the band.
This way is fairly foolproof if done properly and religiously. It does
away with accidental double bookings and ensures that no one will be
too busy to play a gig. It also means that whoever is booking the gigs
can just glance in the control diary and tell the prospective venue if
they are available for a particular date or not straight away without
having to check with the rest of the band first, which will come across
as very professional.
Of course, these regular meetings are also there to sort out any other
band issues and business. Vote on everything, majority rules, if you're
outvoted, suck it in and deal with it. This really is the easiest way
to sort out any issues, as long as everyone agrees to abide by the majority vote.
If your band is comprised of an even number of people and there is a
50/50 split in the voting, get a well respected member of te band,
usualy a roadie, what they think (without telling them what everyone
else's opinions are, just give them a simple choice and ask them their
opinion) and go with whatever he decides.
Arguments are potentialy band killers and should be avoided like the
plague so this is why it's important to have a process that does away
with any arguments in decision making that everyone agrees to abide by.
It can be really hard work at times and it all depends on the personalities of your bandmembers.
The ideal mindset that everyone should have is 'What will be best for the band?' not 'How good will this make me sound/look?'
Everyone should be willing to at least try out someone else's idea for
a song, whether that's a complete song or just a new section or a
change in an already existing song.
They should all be willing to abide by the majority decision of the
band, if you are outvoted on anything, tough titties, remember, it's
all about what's best for the band, not the individual.
Everyone has a slightly different view or opinion of what is great
music and this is where that well known saying ''You can please some of
the people all the time, you can please all of the people some of the
time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.'' comes
in. It's a logistical impossibility to please everyone all the time and
if everyone realises this, it makes things much easier.
Because everyone is different, that means that when writing together, it's all a compromise.
Each member will have their favourite songs in the set, and these will
more often than not be different songs for different people, likewise
with least favourite songs, so it' important for each member to realise
that the cost of being able to play your own favourite songs of the set
is to play your least favourite songs of the set, because your least
favourites are invariably going to be someone elses favourites.
If you find that no one in the band particularly likes playing a
particular song, then that song should be dropped in favour of a ong
that at least someone in the band get's pleasure out of.
These are the basic ground rules, and if you set them out before you
start writing together and get everyone to abide by them, songwriting
within the band should be easier.
Remember, because each individual member brings their own individual
tastes and influences to the band, that makes for great variation
within the band and songs themselves, which is a desirable result.
Variation means that your band is never boring to listen to so variation is 'good for the band.'
It's a general rule of thumb with bands. Don't commit the band to any
performances until you are quite sure the band is ready to do that
performance to the best of it's ability.
Obviously, booking the gig before you've even completed the line up couldn't possibly go more against this rule.
So what's the reason for the rule?
Reputation. It's THE most important factor for a performing
musician/band. Get a bad reputation and it's like having a giant rock
tied around your ankle. It slows you down until you play that one truly
great gig that makes your name for yourself. Problem is, if you already
have a bad reputation from a truly horrendous performance, how are you
gonna get the opportunity to play that truly great gig?
Take your time.
Once everything is sounding good, and it may take quite a bit just to
get everyone jamming tightly, then concentrate on a set list.
Once you have a setlist rehearsed and tightened, then look towards
playing a gig. You will make an instant impact and your reputation will
You want gigs? Lots of gigs?
Look at other fairly local bands in your area that seem to play lots of
gigs, bands that are not much bigger than yourselves but who seem to be
constantly gigging, then look up their websites and check out their
Quite often these gigging lists will have the venue's phone numbers on
them but if they don't, you can always find them in the directory. Do
this with a few different bands and you'll end up with a pretty decent
list of venues.
Next you need a diary and a phone and a couple of days free to ring
around all these venues, (if it's someone elses phone, give 'em some
money because this bit is gonna cost on their bill)
The diary should be a current one with all the dates marked in that any
of your band members may be busy on throughout the year such as
birthdays or holidays or any other date that they can think of when
they're gonna be busy. Then start ringing around.
Some will say, 'Sorry, no.' in which case, make a note next to their
phone number and carry on. Some will say 'you need to speak to....' in
which case, ask for the number of the promoter/agent/person you need to
speak to and ring them, some will say 'can you ring back at such and
such a time?' in which case you take notes and ring back later.
Occasionaly someone will say, 'send us a press pack' or 'send us a
demo' in which case you need to be making up a decent press pack that
includes a demo and a poster.
Believe it or not, many venues actualy take more notice of the quality
of your poster than your demo because they get more of an idea of the
quality of your band that way. Y'see, many people who will be booking
your band won't actualy be into your kind of music, so they wouldn't
really know if you're a fair representation of that kind of music or
not, but they can tell if you've put some thought into your posters, a
full colour, striking poster of around A2 size will suggest that you're
professional, a black and white A4 sized photocopy will make you look
Some venues will 'give you a go' at a reduced rate. Book these on the
understanding that if you do well and attract a lot of people, they
will re-book you for more money.
Most of the gigs you get will be booked at least three months in
advance. If someone offers you a booking on the same date that someone
in your band has a personal day booked, like a holiday or birthday,
don't say 'I'm sorry, our drummer's going to his grandma's birthday
party that night' say 'I'm sorry, our diary is full for that date'
Write all the bookings in your diary making sure to write down the
venue's name, address, phone number and how much you've agreed to play
Promote each gig you get to the best of your ability and always send the venue a pile of posters.
Hopefully, if you do your job right you should get a decent crowd at
your gigs and pretty soon you'll start getting a name for yourselves as
a band that attracts a crowd.
Obviously it also helps immensly if you get a good reputation for being
punctual and polite to everyone you will be working with, such as venue
owners, promoters, agents and other venue staff, right down to the
Networking is important as well, as you play more gigs, you meet more
people like other bands, promoters, agents ect who can all help you
out. This is another good reason to be polite to everyone you meet.
Your reputation is EVERYTHING in this business, look after it.
It's always worth remembering that your job, even though it may look
like you're a musician, is actualy more often than not to sell beer.
You are usualy booked by a venue that has a bar to attract an audience
who will then spend money at that bar (and remember, the more they
drink, the better you'll sound. ) so the more beer that is being bought over the bar, the better you are going to do.
That's why you get more rock bands than any other genre in small
venues, because they attract audiences that drink a lot of beer.
It's an ongoing process, so keep looking for new venues to play, keep
ringing them up and sending out press packs (making sure to include any
good reviews you may be getting) even the venues that said 'Sorry, no.'
when you first rang them because as you gain a good reputation,
eventualy they'll say, 'Yeah, I've heard of you, go on then, we'll give
you a go.'
But I must warn you, when you first start ringing up venues, it's gonna
be a slow process, you may be ringing up venues constantly for 2 whole
days and only have 2 confirmed gigs to show for it. Stick with it and
put 100% into the promotion and the performances, because you're still
just trying to get the ball 'moving', eventualy once you get a fair
amount of gigs under your belt and get the ball 'rolling', the gigs
will pour in, but you have to keep working at it.
Once you've cracked your local area, start getting gigs further away.
Look at a map of the area where you live, your gigs should slowly
radiate outwards in all possible directions, because what should happen
is that just slightly further away than where you have played
previously, they will have heard of you, which will make it easier to
get gigs further away, which makes the towns slightly further down the
road more likely to have heard of you, ect, ect.
Once you're doing this and regularly playing in different towns and
cities, try not to play the same town twice within the space of about
three months, that way you maximise your audience at every gig, which
gives you a better reputation, which gets you better gigs.
Theoreticaly, you can keep going, keep gaining a better and better
reputation, keep playing in better and better venues releasing material
as you go and selling merchandise and eventualy, with enough effort and
hard work, you'll be officialy 'famous'.
You need posters, and flyers.
You can either have a different poster for each gig or you can have a
generic poster with the band's name, some sort of artistic design to
grab people's attention and a blank white box at the bottom to fill in
individual gig information (venue, date, time, price)
Colour posters generaly get more attention, and the bigger the better,
but big colour posters are expensive to print, especialy once you get
bigger than A3, but with the right artistic design a black and white
poster can be very effective too.
Send as many posters as you can to the venue and try and get as many of
them put up yourself around the area that the venue is in.
Most towns have laws and rules about flyposting, so walk around a town
looking out for shop windows with other event posters in them. These
are generaly band-friendly shops who are only too happy to place your
poster in their shop window, but occasionaly they may want paying, so
weigh it up, if the shop is right in the middle of a busy area, where a
LOT of people are gonna see it, if it's only a few quid that they're
wanting, it's probably worth paying.
Of course, you should really have your own website and my-space and
anything else you can think of which should be regularly updated.
Promote your main website at gigs.
As you meet people at gigs, ask them for their e-mail addresses, with
this information you can build up a mailing list which you can even use
for sending out a regular newsletter about your band to.
Find websites that allow you to promote your gigs on their forums.
Each town has a local newspaper, generaly read by most of the local
poulation. You are aiming to get a write up in them before playing the
corresponding gig. Newspaper ads are OK but they cost money and are
generaly glanced over by most people, but a write up or feature has a
much bigger impact and attracts more punters to the gig.
Do some homework, find out what the local newspaper for each town is,
ring them up, ask to speak to the 'reporter' who handles
'entertainments and ''what's on'' guides' and ask if they would be
interested in doing a 'feature' on your band as you will be playing
their town as part of your 'latest nationwide tour' and ask if you can
send them your 'official' press release.
Then e-mail them a press release that you have already written. This
should really play up your band as much as possible, make you sound
like the best thing since sliced bread and mention the release of your
new album or ep (don't ever say 'demo') and other news about you that
springs to mind and tour dates and a discription of your music, a
little bit of humour doesn't go amiss either but not too much. (for
instance, in one of ours, just after we'd got back together after a 12
month break, we said we'd split up a year ago because of health
reasons... we were sick of the sight of each other!)
Try to write it in a typical cheesy reporter style, because what you
are actualy doing is the reporter's job for him. If he sees a press
release that he hardly has to edit, he's more likely to get it into
Make sure you send two pics with the press release, one colour, one black and white.
Again, like newspapers, you can pay for your own adverts on local radio
stations, but that just costs so much money, you need to be filling a
huge venue in order for it to be worthwhile, but there's a cheaper way.
Most radio local stations, like newspapers, generaly have a 'what's on'
A good idea is, if you are playing a venue with a charge on the door,
get in touch with the radio station and ask if any of the DJ's will be
interested in running a competition to win two tickets for the gig and
either provide the station with two tickets or put the winners on your
'guestlist' at the door.
If a DJ goes for it, try and get friendly with the guy, send him a
t-shirt and invite him to your gigs, even go drinking with the guy.
He'll want to promote you if he likes you and will become a great asset to your band. (same goes for any newspaper reporters you meet)