Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ponderings on Biblical innerancy...

I've been trying to memorize the last remaining piece of the Masonic ritual, the Third Degree slide lecture, which details the construction of the Temple of Solomon in the first millennium BCE, so I decided to do a little research to see if it would help my memory work. Was there a King Solomon? What is the historical evidence for the existence of the temple?

I found something surprising (to me, anyway):  The sole records of this era, devoutly believed by Christians (and regarded with a more nuanced appreciation in Judaism), are limited to the Hebrew Bible. There is scant evidence, outside of a few archaeological digs, that the great personalities in the Bible ever existed, let alone acted in the manner recorded.

Consequently, Biblical scholarship is divided between two schools: those that assume, from what little evidence there is, that Jerusalem was nothing more of mud puddle in 1000 BCE; and those who implicitly accept the Biblical record as valid history.

Highly educated scholars on both sides of the issue write very convincingly of their points of view; both seem equally valid perspectives, and both coexist in the public imagination by virtue of the simple fact that there are really no other written records of this era, and only scant archaeological data.

Some of the arguments are amusing. Some scholars argue that the Hebrews couldn't have wandered for forty years in Sinai, since no artifacts of such a mass exodus have been found in the desert. Others respond that Bedouins have wandered the desert for centuries and have left nary a trace.

These are not trivial issues; the last time I checked, there was a group of people calling themselves contemporary Israelites who are laying claim to large tracts of land in Palestine  because of these writings.

What is strange, however, is that I, who attended a Christian Bible college, who once practiced as a Christian minister, never bothered to check into this subject until today. (In my defense, there was no Wikipedia in 1979.)

As a fundamentalist Christian, I believed; to the fundamentalist, there exists only belief and unbelief. There is no room to question, or to even think of questioning. Quite literally, the question of "Did King Solomon really exist?" never entered my mind; and when I dropped away from my church, I had no need to think about it, until now--while attempting to memorize a story that is a foundation of both Christianity and Freemasonry.

Strange as that may be, what is even stranger is the fact that there are many millions who will gladly die, and kill, in support of the Biblical writings and never ask the simple question that I asked today.

So what answers would I give now, with decades of metaphysical (and lately, Masonic) study under my belt?

I would say, that, yes, these people did exist, and there was a Temple of Solomon--somewhere.

Somewhere. A myth this powerful has a foundation in a reality somewhere. To paraphrase Seth, if we could go back to 1000 BCE in a time machine, we might--or might not--find a Temple, or a Solomon, materially objectified for our satisfaction. But this would not prove a whole lot, since there are multiple pasts, futures, and presents, some materially objectified, and others that exist not quite in the physical.  Not an easy concept to grasp, admittedly--but one that might explain how two diametrically opposed belief systems, and believers, both contradictory, both mutually exclusive, can summon up substantial evidence proving that each group is "right."

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