Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Analysis of the Book of Enoch: Part Four - The Book of the Watchers, Chapters 6-8

As we have seen in my previous analysis, the Book of Enoch begins with a description of the vision and ministry of the titular Enoch. In the chapters that follow, however, it demonstrates just why it is counted among the Apocrypha.

1. And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters.

2. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.' (Enoch 6:1-2)

Later, we come across this verse:

2. And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: (Enoch 7:2)

A reading of the first few chapters of Genesis shows that these verses are an expansion on Genesis 6:1-4.

1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,

2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4)

This is the beginning of the story of Noah, and by looking at the Book of Enoch, we can see that the "sons of God" in the Genesis verse are equivalent to the angels (the Watchers referred to in the name of these chapters) in Enoch. But is that correct? There are analogous verses in the Book of Moses, and they tell a quite different story:

13 And Noah and his sons hearkened unto the Lord, and gave heed, and they were called the sons of God.

14 And when these men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, the sons of men saw that those daughters were fair, and they took them wives, even as they chose.
18 And in those days there were giants on the earth, and they sought Noah to take away his life; but the Lord was with Noah, and the power of the Lord was upon him. (Moses 8:13-18)

It seems constructive to compare the similarities and differences between these sections.

  • The "sons of God". In Enoch they are explicitely angels from heaven, looking down at the Earth. In Genesis, they are not actually defined; they may be angels, or they may be men. In Moses, they are explained to be "Noah and his sons", and it appears to be a title of respect. However, this title is later purloined: in Moses 8:21 the children of men, on being reprimanded by Noah, say, "Behold, we are the sons of God".

  • The "daughters of men". In Enoch and Genesis, these are the beautiful daughters born to the men of the world. In Moses, they are the daughters of Noah and his sons.

  • The choosing of wives. In Enoch and Genesis, the sons of God take wives among the daughters of men. In Moses, however, it is the sons of men (that is, the men of the world) who take to wife the daughters of the sons of God (Noah and his sons). At this point, we can see that the account revealed in Moses is a reversal of the traditional Genesis-Enoch version. Indeed, in Moses, we read the Lord's reprimand to Noah: "The daughters of thy sons have sold themselves; for behold mine anger is kindled against the sons of men, for they will not hearken to my voice." (Moses 8:15) However, we saw above that the children of men took the title "sons of God" to themselves; this allows us to link the two versions, while still observing the differences.

  • Giants. In Enoch, there is no doubt about the origin of the giants: they were born to the angels and the daughters of men (and, indeed, are 3000 ells tall). In Genesis, however, the explanation is less clear. At first they are simply there: "there were giants on the earth in those days". However, the continuation of Genesis 6:4 seems to hint at an explanation. It states that "also after that" - which serves to connect the giants to the following clause - the children of the sons of God and the daughters of men became "mighty men which were of old". This might imply that those children are to be equated with the giants. In Moses, both the giants (8:18) and the mighty men (8:21) appear, without the connection: the giants attempt to take Noah's life, while the mighty men are found in the boasting of the children of men.
Following the mention of the giants, Enoch diverges from the two canonical accounts. Enoch 7 describes how the giants devoured "all the acquisitions of men"(Enoch 7:3), and then proceeded to turn on and consume mankind. In verse 5 we read that "they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another's flesh, and drink the blood", and the chapter closes with the ominous statement that "the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones". This is a direct link to the vision of Enoch in Moses, where he heard the earth herself declare "Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children." (Moses 7:48)

In chapter 8, Enoch takes another twist. Foreshadowed at the beginning of chapter 7 with the statement that the renegade angels - the Watchers - "taught [their wives] charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants", we now find a chapter-long description of what they taught to mankind. The fall of these angels was described in chapter 6:

5. Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it.

6. And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. (Enoch 6:5-6)

After that follows a list of the names of their "chiefs of ten", of whom there are nineteen (which doesn't exactly match the numbering of them at two hundred, but never mind). Interestingly, the names given here do not pair up precisely with the nine names given in chapter 8. Six names appear in altered but still recognisable form (Semjâzâ appears for Sêmîazâz, for instance), but three - Azâzêl, Araqiêl and Shamsiêl - could only be paired with names from the original list by extremely tortured means. I'm not entirely sure how that happens in a cohesive book, but there you go.

1. And Azâzêl taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures.

2. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjâzâ taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, Armârôs the resolving of enchantments, Barâqîjâl astrology, Kôkabêl the constellations, Ezêqêêl the knowledge of the clouds, Araqiêl the signs of the earth, Shamsiêl the signs of the sun, and Sariêl the course of the moon. And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven ... (Enoch 8:1-2)

Much of the list here is taken up by teachings about the natural world - from Baraâqîjâl onwards, in fact. This is knowledge which is also taught in Moses, such as the following from Moses 6:63:

63 And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.

In this case it is God teaching Adam, rather than the Watchers teaching all mankind, but the same knowledge is being imparted. However, the teachings of Azâzêl are not mentioned in the canonical scriptures. He taught war and ornamentation, and immediately after this is described we find a passage concerning the godlessness and corruption of mankind. The link between the two seems implicit to me, and it is also found in the scriptures.

46 And Zillah, she also bare Tubal Cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron. (Moses 5:46, Genesis 4:22)

This first-named artificer is the 4 x great-grandson of Cain, as in Cain and Abel; he is also the son of Lamech, who we discover in Moses 5:49 entered into a covenant with Satan and slew his great-grandfather. Interestingly, given the mention of makeup ("the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids") in Enoch, Tubal Cain is also said to have a sister, Naamah. In this pair of siblings from the cursed and corrupt lineage of Cain we have a perfect origin for the tale of Azâzêl.

In the next part, we'll look at what exactly happened next, for "as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven..."

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Faith or Knowledge?

It is sometimes said that faith cannot exist in the presence of certain knowledge. We don't have faith in tables, for instance (unless we've been heavily assailed by Platonic ideas), but we can - and in my case, do - have faith in God, who we don't know for sure (and can't prove) exists.

I say "don't know", but that's not entirely accurate. For one thing, prophets - ancient and modern - have a fair chance of knowing God exists. Think of Moses on Sinai, or Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. But secondly, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we believe that the Holy Ghost, the third member of the Godhead, can give us that certain knowledge of God - we call it a testimony. But then, of course, you have to have certain knowledge of the Holy Ghost, too...

You may notice (and this is where the purpose of my post comes in) that I haven't mentioned something you might expect. Given that this blog is subtitled "Thoughts of a Mormon Scientist", and given some of my previous posts, you might have been looking for a comment about how there's so much evidence for the truth of the Restoration that we can know for sure, purely based on intellectual research. Well, there is that much evidence. The thing is, there's an equal number of unresolvable issues to counter them.

Let's take a pair of examples. The people of the Book of Mormon are Hebrew by descent, and the beginning of their story takes place in Jerusalem. Lehi, the ancestor of these people, is a prophet who leaves the city after being warned by God that it's going to be destroyed (which actually does happen - this is a couple of years before the Babylonian Captivity). He takes his family and a few hangers-on, and heads off into the wilderness. Much of the book of 1 Nephi (Nephi being his son, another prophet) is a detailed account of their journey through what we now call the Arabian Peninsula. Along the way, they stop at a permanently-running river (which Lehi names after one of his sons, naming the valley it runs in after another), turn east at a place called Nahom, and come to a fertile stretch of land where Nephi proceeds to make iron tools and build a wooden ship.

All of the above details were at best unsupported, at worst ridiculous. Rivers simply don't run all year round in Arabia, there's no such place as Nahom, and there's certainly nowhere on the east coast to build a ship. Except...

Except that there's a wonderful candidate for Lehi's valley and river in almost exactly the right place (and it's one of only two continually-running rivers in Arabia, I believe). Except that Nahom exists, and there's no way Joseph Smith could've known about it. Except that there are at least two matches for Nephi's harbour available (my money's on Wadi Sayq -- if you look it up on Google Earth at 16 43'47.02" N, 53 20'04.85" E, the mountain to the west is incredibly imposing).

But on the flip side, we have the Book of Abraham. This is a book of LDS scripture which Joseph Smith claimed to have translated from Egyptian papyri. Said papyri were later given to a museum in Chicago, which burnt down. Oops. Looks like any chance of checking Joseph's translation is gone for good.

But in the 1970s, several pieces of the papyri turned up, including one of the images reproduced in the Book of Abraham. Now the Egyptologists had a crack at them, and showed them to be from the Book of Breathings - a standard Egyptian funeral text. Of course, most of the papyri Joseph used were burnt, and there's indications that the surviving bits weren't part of the Book of Abraham anyway... but it's one of the areas where LDS scholars are definitely on the defensive.

So is this a bad thing, this inability to determine the truth of things by the fact? I don't think so. In fact, I'd say certainly not. God's plan isn't for scholars to be guaranteed a place in heaven because they can know He exists from their studies. Nor is it for them to be condemned because the only logical conclusion is that He doesn't. Instead, our Heavenly Father makes the evidence gloriously ambiguous. You can use it to support your faith, but you could never gain faith through analysis of it. That way, we of the scholarly bent get exactly the same choice as those who aren't fascinated by trivia -- believe or don't believe, have faith or cast it aside, accept the witness of the Holy Ghost or refuse to.

I choose to believe. I choose that every day. And every day, my faith in the correctness of that choice grows stronger.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Analysis of the Book of Enoch: Part Three - The Book of the Watchers, Chapters 1-5

14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
(Jude 1:14-15)

For centuries, that was all most of the world knew about the Book of Enoch. Jude's brief mention was a stunning refutation of the idea that all scriptures are contained in the current Bible - a man who may well be the brother of Jesus quoted something which is quite simply missing from the Old Testament. But that was where the matter rested until the 17th century. At that point, some 1600 years after Jude had written, a remarkable discovery was made: the Ethiopian Orthodox Church had been using the Book of Enoch quoted by Jude in their scriptures all along. By 1821, it was appearing in English, and successive versions improved on the accuracy of the translation.

Meanwhile, on the far side of the world, Joseph Smith was called as a prophet and tasked with restoring the fulness of the Gospel. In the course of this calling he produced an inspired restoration of a portion of the Book of Genesis, some of which dealt with the life of Enoch (analysed by me here and here). Though it didn't realise, the world now had two scriptural accounts of this early prophet.

But how do they match up? The latter claims to be the actual words spoken by God to Moses, while the former is widely acknowledged to have been written down in the 3rd century BC; can this late work tell us anything about the historical Enoch? Perhaps it can. Most written works are based on earlier oral stories, so although it may be corrupted, the Book of Enoch may contain a seed of truth.


1. The words of the blessing of Enoch, wherewith he blessed the elect and righteous, who will be living in the day of tribulation, when all the wicked and godless are to be removed.
2. And he took up his parable and said--Enoch a righteous man, whose eyes were opened by God, saw the vision of the Holy One in the heavens, which the angels showed me, and from them I heard everything, and from them I understood as I saw, but not for this generation, but for a remote one which is for to come.
(Enoch 1:1-2)

Right from the beginning, we learn the purpose of Enoch's book. He sets out to pronounce a blessing on the righteous at the time when the wicked are to be removed; he is also said to have seen a vision of God, shown to him by angels, and was given a message for a remote generation. As he speaks his parable, in the form of a poem, he describes a time when God Himself will descend from heaven to lead Israel to victory; when the enemies of God shall be smitten, and the very earth itself rent. He declares, too, that "with the righteous He will make peace" (Enoch 1:8), and says that God will bless His people - the righteous, and the elect. Then, at the close of chapter 1, we find the verse quoted by Jude:

9. And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones
To execute judgement upon all,
And to destroy all the ungodly:

And to convict all flesh
Of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed,
And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. (Enoch 1:9)

A pretty good match. But how good is the match with the message of the Book of Moses, as restored through the Prophet Joseph? Considering the depths of time between Enoch and the Book of Enoch, actually very well. In chapter 7 of Moses Enoch is granted a series of visions; at the end he is told of, and then shown, the very things here described: the destruction that will herald the coming of the Son of God, the judgement of the wicked, and the reign of the Messiah in righteousness. In Enoch more detail is given, but we lose the direct account of the vision - what we have is Enoch's song of praise concerning what he was shown.

We can also see that Enoch is either out of order, or starts after the Moses account finishes. What Enoch is singing of here is the last thing he was shown, and yet it forms the first chapter of Enoch. It appears, though, that Enoch is arranged along thematic lines, rather than being a chronological account: the first five chapters are described as a "Parable of Enoch on the Future Lot of the Wicked and the Righteous" (which is why I'm treating them together).

The following chapters are extremely short. Chapter 2 consists of a declaration of the divinely-ordained structure of the universe - how the bodies in the heavens (the stars and planets) follow their appointed paths, and "how none of the things upon earth change, but all the works of God appear unto you". This passage has no parallel in Moses, but is a common theme throughout the scriptures; the Lord taught Abraham the order of things through astronomy (Abraham 3), Alma declared that "even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator" (Alma 30:44), and the Psalmist named the Lord's understanding of the stars as proof of his infinite wisdom (Psalm 147:4).

Enoch 3-4 are much the same; chapter 3 asks us to observe the ways of the earth in winter, while chapter 4 reflects on the summer. Finally, in chapter 5, Enoch explains why he has spoke of all these things:

1. Observe ye how the trees cover themselves with green leaves and bear fruit: wherefore give ye heed and know with regard to all His works, and recognize how He that liveth for ever hath made them so.
2. And all His works go on thus from year to year for ever, and all the tasks which they accomplish for Him, and their tasks change not, but according as God hath ordained so is it done.
3. And behold how the sea and the rivers in like manner accomplish and change not their tasks from His commandments. (Enoch 5:1-3)

This is a beautiful testimony of the evidence of God's hand in the world around us, but it is also the beginning of a profound message. Witness Enoch's next words:

4. But ye--ye have not been steadfast, nor done the commandments of the Lord,
But ye have turned away and spoken proud and hard words
With your impure mouths against His greatness.
Oh, ye hard-hearted, ye shall find no peace. (Enoch 5:4)

Enoch has changed now from a message of gladness to a warning of the consequences of sin. For four verses he describes in detail the fate of the unrighteous: how they will curse their days and be cursed by many, and find no mercy; they will receive no salvation. Then he progresses to describing the righteous, how they "shall inherit the earth", and live out their lives without sin.

9 [...] And their lives shall be increased in peace,
And the years of their joy shall be multiplied,
In eternal gladness and peace,
All the days of their life. (Enoch 5:9)

It would be easy to see this as a reference to the doctrine of eternal life, but it seems more likely that Enoch is referring to an extended mortal lifespan which has "eternal gladness" added to it - not eternal as a measure of time, but eternal since it comes from God, the Eternal Heavenly Father of us all.

In Moses 6 Enoch preached repentance to the people of his day; now he addresses that same all-important message to the men of future days. Repent, he says, or you will be condemned before God and men. This is the message of an Enoch who has seen the future, and one who cares deeply for his descendent -- in fact, the same Enoch we saw in the Book of Moses, who wept for the fate of the earth, and received a "fulness of joy" from his vision.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Analysis of the Book of Enoch: Part Two - The Book of Moses, Chapter 7

This post is a continuation of my previous post on the Book of Moses, so read that first. My goal with this series is to write an analysis of part of the apocryphal Book of Enoch from a Latter-day Saint perspective; in order to do so, I'm first looking at the LDS literature concerning Enoch, his life, and his mission.

Moses chapter 7 picks up where chapter 6 left off. Enoch continues to teach, but now he's moved on to personal accounts. He tells the people how he had a vision of the immediate future, wherein the Lord showed him how the people of Canaan would invade and conquer the land of Shum. He tells them of his own calling:

10 And the Lord said unto me: Go to this people, and say unto them—Repent, lest I come out and smite them with a curse, and they die.
12 And it came to pass that Enoch continued to call upon all the people, save it were the people of Canaan, to repent. (Moses 7:10,12)

Here the narrative shifts into the third person as Enoch's exploits are recounted. He leads the people of God to battle against their enemies, moves mountains by the power of God, turns back rivers, and all the nations fear him and "the power of the language which God had given him". (Moses 7:13) So great was the power of God that a new land rose out of the sea, and the enemies of God went out to live on it. Where this new land might be today, if it survived the Flood, is beyond the scope of this analysis (and thank goodness for that).

17 The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish. (Moses 7:17)

We're now getting into some of the most heavily-quoted scriptures in the Enoch accounts. Verse 18 contains the classic description of what Latter-day Saints refer to as 'a Zion people' - "they were of one heart and one mind... and there was no poor among them". Zion is a theme found throughout the history of Judaism and Christianity; it is a name given to Jerusalem, but it is also, as verse 19 here relates, the name of the city of Enoch. Zion is also the name by which the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city in which Christ will reign, is known. Less literally, congregations of Latter-day Saints are grouped together in "Stakes of Zion", a reference to Isaiah 54:2. And, as I mentioned, we strive to become a Zion people -- a people who would be worthy to live in Enoch's Zion.

Enoch speaks with the Lord again, and is shown a marvellous vision of the future of the Earth. He sees Zion taken up into heaven, where the Lord calls it "mine abode forever" (Moses 7:21). He sees the people of the earth falling into sin, and angels coming as messengers to call them to repentance. Those who listen, and have the Holy Ghost fall upon them, are caught up into Zion. This is the Lord's preparation for the Flood - He is gathering all the righteous people to Himself, and in the course of time there are none left on Earth who will listen.

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? (Moses 7:28-29)

"How is it that thou canst weep?" asks Enoch, and glorifies God; over the next two verses he proclaims the infinite majesty and number of God's creations, and declares His absolute righteousness and glory, ending with the same plaintive question: "How is it thou canst weep?" (Moses 7:31) And God answers.

32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood. (Moses 7:32-33)

This is what God has done for mankind, and how they have repaid Him. The Lord goes so far as to say that "among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren". (Moses 7:36) He tells Enoch of the great Flood which is to come, and how men will be destroyed from the earth, and then, in a powerful verse, we see Enoch's reaction:

41 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity. (Moses 7:41)

Enoch asked how the Lord could weep; once he knew, he too began to weep. This was the state of mankind prior to the Flood, and it is that Flood which God next shows His prophet. Enoch is shown Noah, and the ark that was to be built, and finally he is shown the destruction that would come with the waters. This is very hard on Enoch, and in verse 44 we read that "he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted".

This is where the Lord finally reveals the full majesty of His plan. He tells Enoch, "Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look," and then reveals the events of the Meridian of Time. He shows Enoch "the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh" (Moses 7:47), and Enoch rejoices in Christ's coming, but the vision doesn't end there.

48 And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face? (Moses 7:48)

Hearing this, Enoch calls upon God again, and asks that He will have compassion on the seed of Noah. This brings the Lord to establish the covenant that He will later make with Noah -- that there will only be one Flood, and that Noah's line will continue until the end of the world.

This isn't enough for Enoch. He wants to know when the earth will be allowed to rest -- will it be when the Son of Man comes in the flesh?

55 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Look, and he looked and beheld the Son of Man lifted up on the cross, after the manner of men. (Moses 7:55)

Enoch seems crushed by this. He weeps again at hearing the suffering of the Son, even though it is tempered by the redemption of the dead. On seeing the Son ascending to heaven, he adresses Him directly. The prophet declares that he knows that it is only through the Son that he can ever return to live with God, and he says, "wherefore, I ask thee if thou wilt not come again on the earth". (Moses 7:59) This is not concern for his own sake, for he has already been assured of his right to the throne of God; this is the compassion of a prophet who has seen his people fall into wickedness, interceding for all mankind. Is there any hope, we can hear him asking, for my descendents?

60 And the Lord said unto Enoch: As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance, to fulfil the oath which I have made unto you concerning the children of Noah;
61 And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve. (Moses 7:60-61)

The Lord tells Enoch of how his city, Zion, will descend to meet the New Jerusalem which will be built in the last days, and how the righteous will be gathered from all four quarters of the earth. Enoch is given the assurance he has been waiting for: "for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest". (Moses 7:64)

So much he was told, but telling is sometimes not enough; in the last few verses, Enoch is shown all the things that have been decribed: the coming of the Son of Man to rule and reign, the wickedness and destruction in the days preceeding it, and this:

67 And the Lord showed Enoch all things, even unto the end of the world; and he saw the day of the righteous, the hour of their redemption, and received a fulness of joy. (Moses 7:67)

This is the culmination of Enoch's vision: he has received the "fulness of joy" that comes from understanding the plan of our Heavenly Father in its completeness. Similar visions were given to other prophets throughout history, from Adam down to Joseph Smith, but in the Book of Moses we have one of the most complete accounts. The question is, how well does this restored and revealed scripture match up with the Book of Enoch passed down through the generations from around 300 BC? To answer that question will take a few more posts, I think. On to the next part!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Analysis of the Book of Enoch: Part One - The Book of Moses, Chapter 6

I'm attempting to do a multi-post analysis of a part of the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Since this analysis will be from a Latter-day Saint perspective of Enoch, it seems sensible to first detail what exactly that perspective consists of, a task which will require two posts of its own. For those who don't even know who this Enoch fellow is, he's one of the many people mentioned in Genesis chapter 5:

21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:
22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:
24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. (Genesis 5:21-24)

And for the Bible, that's it. The entire story of Enoch is that he was born to Jared, begat Methuselah, and then "God took him". That isn't the same description used with the rest of the line of Adam, of whom it is quite simply stated "and he died", so there must be something different. A Latter-day Saint would say that Enoch was "translated" - taken up to heaven without tasting death. This is the same fate we ascribe to Moses:

5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.
6 And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. (Deuteronomy 34:5-6, emphasis added)

And Elijah:

11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. (2 Kings 2:11)

But this wouldn't be much of an analysis if "he was translated" was the entire body of LDS thought concerning Enoch, would it? We have a great deal more to say about him.

One of the Standard Works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Pearl of Great Price. This volume of scripture contains several short books which don't fit into the other scriptures (the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants). The one we're interested in is the Book of Moses, which is an inspired translation or restoration by the Prophet Joseph Smith of the first few chapters of Genesis. In many places it is much the same as Genesis, with three notable exceptions:

  • The first chapter of Moses is an account of Moses' encounter with the Lord (not to mention a confrontation with Satan) on Mount Sinai. It would serve as a prologue to the whole Bible, setting it in its proper context, if it had only been recorded at the time.
  • The account of the creation of the Earth is given in the first person, and with a little more detail - this is the Lord's personal description to Moses of what occured, not a third-person retelling of it.
  • The account of the generations of Adam and Eve down to Noah is expanded in at least two places. First, the events surrounding Cain's murder of Abel are explored in greater detail. Second, and this is where I finally come back to the topic in hand, the four verses about Enoch are expanded to two full chapters.

25 And Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begat Methuselah.
26 And it came to pass that Enoch journeyed in the land, among the people; and as he journeyed, the Spirit of God descended out of heaven, and abode upon him.
27 And he heard a voice from heaven, saying: Enoch, my son, prophesy unto this people, and say unto them—Repent, for thus saith the Lord: I am angry with this people, and my fierce anger is kindled against them; for their hearts have waxed hard, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes cannot see afar off;
(Moses 6:25-27)

This is the beginning of the exceptional account of Enoch's life and ministry. The Lord's commands and promises to him cover eight verses, 27-34, and Enoch is blessed that if he "[goes] forth and [does] as [God has] commanded", he will be protected from harm and told by the Spirit what words he should say. Enoch protests that he is "but a lad", and that all the people hate him. Later on we'll see that Enoch was around 300 years old at this point -- impossibly ancient to us, but this is a period where people are living for nearly a thousand years. He's a little boy compared to them. In fact, looking through the scriptures, Adam - the first of all men, and Enoch's 4x Great-Grandfather - was still alive when Enoch begat Methuselah. This is a man who personally knew his first ancestor. Just to put that into perspective a little.

Here Enoch has his first recorded vision:

36 And he beheld the spirits that God had created; and he beheld also things which were not visible to the natural eye; and from thenceforth came the saying abroad in the land: A seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people.

Among these things were apparently the sins of the men of his day, because the next thing we read of Enoch is that he is travelling through the land, "testifying against their works". Naturally, this isn't very popular: we read that "all men were offended because of him". Nevertheless they went to see him, and hear him speak:

40 And there came a man unto him, whose name was Mahijah, and said unto him: Tell us plainly who thou art, and from whence thou comest?

Enoch explains who he is, declaring that he comes from "a land of righteousness". He also declares his vision, and begins to call the people to repentance. To do so he calls on imagery of the Fall of Adam, saying:

45 And death hath come upon our fathers; nevertheless we know them, and cannot deny, and even the first of all we know, even Adam.

This is the first clear statement of when Enoch's mission took place. He seems to be saying here that Adam has died by this time, which means we're looking at a time more than 800 years after the birth of Seth. Checking over the dates in Genesis and Moses, I calculate that Enoch was born 492 years after Seth. Adam died 800 years after Seth's birth, which means Enoch is here at least 308 years old. Still a little boy by their standards, though. Interestingly, that means the entirety of his story takes place in the last sixty-odd years of his mortal life.

Enoch teaches the people of sin, and the Fall, and the dreadful consequences of sin. He tells them that Adam was taught these same things, but at the same time, while "the people trembled, and could not stand in his presence", he teaches of Redemption through Christ's Atonement.

52 And he also said unto him: If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you. (Moses 6:52)

Enoch is teaching that Adam was told what we would call the Plan of Salvation. Nowadays, it's usually summarised into five steps:

  1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ ("turn unto me").
  2. Repentance for our sins ("repent of all thy transgressions").
  3. Baptism by immersion by one having authority ("be baptised... in the name of... Jesus Christ").
  4. Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
  5. Endure to the end.

Enoch continues his explanation for the next ten verses, going into more detail about these steps, and making it clear to the people that only through the Atonement can they be "sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory" (Moses 6:59). In verse 62 he names the Plan of Salvation, and the end of the chapter is an account of how Adam was baptised by the Lord, and received the Holy Ghost. Finally, we hear the Lord's words to Adam:

68 Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen. (Moses 6:68)

That's all for chapter 6. The next post looks at chapter 7.

Analysis of the Book of Enoch

As anyone who's read the Pearl of Great Price (specifically the Book of Moses) knows, Enoch, great-grandfather of Noah, is a far more significant figure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than in most other Christian churches (where his entire description runs to four verses in Genesis 5 and one attributed quote in Jude 1:14-15; in contrast, we have two chapters of prophesy attributed to him). I say most, because there's one exception: the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, who have a version of the Book of Enoch in their canonical scriptures.

This is the book which was quoted by Jude, or at least it includes Jude's quote. According to scholars, it was written around 300 BC, which makes it pseudoepigraphical (literally a "false inscription"), as that's rather later than Enoch's dates. However, there's no reason why it couldn't be based on earlier oral tradition. So I'm going to do an analysis of it.

Not the whole thing, of course -- it runs to over a hundred chapters. I'm just going to look at the first section, the Book of the Watchers. In fact, I'm only going to do the first half of that -- the second half is Enoch's journeys through Earth and Sheol (which is variously rendered "hell" or "the grave"). But I'm still covering 16 chapters, so this will be a multi-part post.

I'll take my text from this web site, and probably won't quote it in its entirety; however, I'll link to each chapter as I go, so you know what I'm referring to. I'm not a fan of uncheckable references.

Part 1 - The Book of Moses, Chapter 6
Part 2 - The Book of Moses, Chapter 7
Part 3 - The Book of the Watchers, Chapters 1-5

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Eternal Marriage and Luke 20:27-38

This is in response to a question asked elsewhere.

"It's about the whole eternal marriage thing. There's this bit in the New Testament where someone asks Jesus if a woman marries a bunch of different men in her life time, whose wife she'll be in Heaven, and Jesus says something along the lines of there being no marriage in Heaven, because people aren't male and female anymore, they're just spirits. Do Mormons have a different interpretation of that?"

The verses in question actually appear in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and are substantially similar. I'm going to quote the Luke version here in full, as it's the most extensive:

27 Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,
28 Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man's brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
29 There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children.
30 And the second took her to wife, and he died childless.
31 And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died.
32 Last of all the woman died also.
33 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.
34 And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:
35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:
36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
37 Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
38 For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.

There's a few important things to note here. The first is the audience the Saviour was addressing. Specifically, the Sadducees, "which deny that there is any resurrection" -- they didn't believe in the resurrection of the dead, and yet were asking a question about it. These weren't honest enquirers by any means. When Jesus gave his response, He angled it so as to encourage a belief in the resurrection first and foremost; no amount of insightful doctrine could take hold if they didn't believe in the first principle of what he was saying. That's the import of the last two verses of His response: He was trying to prove from the same source as they were quoting (the writings of Moses) that the resurrection was true.

The Sadducees' convoluted question takes up most of the rest of the section, so we're left with three verses, 34-36. I'll take these one at a time, for simplicity's sake.

34 And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:

This preamble takes place only in Luke's account, but it is actually pertinent. From an LDS perspective, this verse says that mortality -- our time as "children of this world" -- is the time to be married. I don't know the exact import of "marry, and are given in marriage," but I would guess that in Jewish culture and idiom, men marry their wives, while women are given in marriage to their husbands.

35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:

The Saviour starts off by qualifying who he's referring to: those who are accounted worthy to obtain "that world" -- the world the Sadducees call "the resurrection", and you refer to as "Heaven". We'd call it the Celestial Kingdom. Without delving too deep into LDS theology, this is the kingdom where the righteous go after the resurrection; it's the only kingdom in which eternal marriage is valid, so the question the Sadducees ask would have to refer to it.

Now onto the potentially difficult bit. The phrasing here is almost identical in all three gospels -- "[they] neither marry, nor are given in marriage". What does this mean? Most of Christianity would say it means no state of marriage exists in Heaven, but that's not what the Saviour said. He said, very clearly, and with a very clear parallel in the previous verse, that no one gets married after they are resurrected. Which we would absolutely agree with. This life is the time to get married -- because of the restored Gospel, however, we know that marriages can remain intact after the resurrection. We call these eternal marriages, or "sealings". The sealing power is described in another New Testament verse, where the Saviour says to Simon Peter, "whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven". (Matt. 16:19)

36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

This section is missing from the Matthew and Mark accounts, which just state that after the resurrection "[they] are as the angels which are in heaven". In answer to your question, that could be taken to mean that they aren't male or female any more, and are spirits -- provided you assume that angels are neither male or female, but spirits. I can't find any verses to argue either of those, however, and plenty of evidence in opposition -- for spirits, they have a lot of physical contact with people, and are consistently labelled "men". In fact, there's only two places that non-material angels could be derived from: Psalms 104:4, which is a poem, and describes both how God makes "his angels spirits" and "his ministers a flaming fire", and -- oh irony! -- the story under consideration at the moment.

We would not say that angels are spirits. In fact, we say that the angels are just like us. When the Saviour says that "they are equal to the angels/are as the angels in heaven", he's speaking the literal truth -- angels are resurrected men and women, so when these hypothetical eight people are resurrected, they are just like the angels. They are, as Jesus put it, the children of God.

Jesus didn't really answer the question posed, since it was asked in order to trap him; instead, he turned the Sadducees' attack into a teaching opportunity. By a deft bit of verbal manipulation, he explained the facts of the resurrection, and then demonstrated its truthfulness to these people. If I ever meet these hypothetical eight people, though I'll be sure to ask how God sorted it all out for them.

Friday, 31 July 2009

The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians: Chapter Eleven

Or in other words: the chapter (half chapter) about women's hair.

This is always going to be a controversial chapter ("the head of the woman is the man"?), but it's also going to be difficult to understand. So I figure now would be a good time to do a verse-by-verse analysis of it. I'm going to take 1 Cor. 11:1-15 (in the King James Version), since after that Paul starts talking about the sacrament/the Lord's supper. So here we go:

1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Fairly obvious there. Paul is enjoining the people of Corinth to listen to what he says, as he is following the teachings of Christ. It's an interesting comment on prophetic authority, but not relevant to this discussion.

2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

This is Paul starting off nice. He's saying "Well done, you're still doing what I said". Interestingly, there's a mention of ordinances, which is rather a blow to any "grace only" churches who also want to use this chapter to decide their women's manner of dress, but apart from that, there's not much controversy here.

3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

Oh, Paul. And you were doing so well.

Here we have three clauses, all linked. He's talking about headship, which isn't really well defined here. We read that "the head of Christ is God", which, unless we're feeling Trinitarian, must be a statement that Christ follows God's (the Father's) counsel. And equally, the head of every man is Christ -- men follow Christ's counsel. But the head of the woman is the man. Does this mean that a woman has to obey "the man of the house" in all things? That's certainly how it's often taken. But let's come back to it later on.

4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

Okay. Now we have to decide how we're using the word "head". Do we mean that wearing a hat while praying is insulting to the upper portion of a man's body, or do we mean that it's insulting to Christ ("the head of every man is Christ")? I can't see the former making the blindest bit of sense. But why is this? Why does Christ care what we wear on our heads? Let's look at verse 5.

5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

Every woman who prays with her head uncovered dishonours her head -- and the head of the woman is the man. If we assume we're talking about her "head" being (as tradition would have it) her father or husband, why would not wearing a hat dishonour your husband? Look at the next clause. Not covering her head is the same as if her head had been shaved -- a very dishonourable thing, since no woman at the time would do that.

At the time. We're only five verses in, and this is already sounding less like commandment. It seems to me that Paul is talking here about customs, not commands. It's dishonourable for a woman to have her head uncovered not because God says so, but because it looks like she's dishonoured in some way.

6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

If it be a shame. That's a rhetorical if, I think -- Paul is saying that since they see shaven heads as dishonourable, a woman not covering her hair in prayer is equivalent to that. Why? I don't know. But he's not discussing commandments, just customs.

7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

And just as we sort out that issue, another one appears. Man is the image and glory of God. Image we can understand easily, since man was made in God's image. Glory? Perhaps an answer can be found in latter-day scriptures, such as Moses 1:39:

For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

God's glory is in his posterity -- his spirit children -- achieving their full potential in eternal life. What, then is "the glory of the man"? Does it mean that a woman is no more than a trophy on her husband's arm? For my money, no -- it means that through woman can man's posterity come to be and attain the same glory. It's a reference, in fact, to the destiny of all mankind.

But perhaps I'm making mountains out of molehills? Perhaps, but I've read ahead. I know what's coming.

8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

Two verses together, because they run right into each other. This is a reference to the Eden story again, as already touched on in the previous verse. Man was made in God's image, and Woman was made from Man -- and for him, according to the Bible. Paul is clarifying his reasons for calling the woman the glory of the man, but not the reverse. As a Jew, he knows full well the scriptures explaining that God planned both male and female from the beginning (check Genesis 1:26-27, particularly the use of the plural), but for the purposes of symbolism, the God-Christ, Christ-Man, Man-Woman series needs to stay intact.

10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

This is a very interesting verse which has no footnotes. It seems to state two reasons for the woman to "have power on her head": because woman was created out of and "for" man ("for this cause"), and "because of the angels" (whatever that may mean). I can interpret it several ways.

1) If 'on' is a mis-reading, then it may be that a woman ought to have power over her own head and hair, which would imply that there was a movement against women covering their hair as a cause for Paul's letter. But this isn't because of either of the reasons.

2) Alternately, it may be saying that men (the head of the woman, you recall) should have power given to him because he was the first created. That could be "for this cause", but I'm having trouble making it "because of the angels".

3) Most interestingly, a woman should have power given to her ("on her head" -- remember that ordinances such as the gift of the Holy Ghost or healing were performed by the laying of hands on the head). This would be because she is the "glory" of the man -- that is, because she bears his children -- and "because of the angels".

What is that line about angels? According to modern revelation, angels are human beings who are either a) pre-mortal spirits, b) post-mortal spirits, or c) post-mortal resurrected beings (and generally the last). While I can't see any reason for the dead to care if women are given power, the pre-mortal spirits most certainly do. These are the spirit children of our Heavenly Father who are to be incarnated as our own children. "Because of the angels" means the same thing as "for this cause" -- a woman is given "power on her head" for the sake of her children.

What this power is, exactly, I don't know.
EDIT: An alternate explanation for "because of the angels" has occured to me -- it might be a corruption of "by cause of", that is to say, from, or given by. That leaves the majority of my conclusions intact, but means that the power in question would be given by angels. Still no thoughts on what it is, though.

11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

This is what I was referring to in my comments on verse 7; it's one of the strongest evidences of an understanding of eternal marriage in the Bible. It indicates that woman and man are sealed together in God's eyes -- "and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven"(Matt. 16:19).

12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

As the "nevertheless" in verse 11 shows, these verses are also Paul backpedalling furiously over the preceeding verses. He's made his point about the power given to women (I wish we had the text of the Corinthian letter which sparked this!), and now he's trying to get back to the topic of hair. This is a final reference to the Eden story, and Paul is continuing his habit of setting up pairs: as the woman is of the man, so is the man by the woman. In other words: woman came out of man, and in the same way, man comes out of woman (through birth).

Paul does seem to be establishing a heirarchy here, but it's not the simple one some people would have us believe. It does look like he believed that in some sense, a woman was subordinate to her husband -- this came from the Eden narrative, the creation of woman after man. She bears his children, while he bears the responsibility for Heavenly Father's other children. But a woman is not subject to her father; there's no indication of that at all. In fact, the only parental bond Paul mentions, other than that of Heavenly Father to mankind, is an implication that a man is subject to his mother. So I would imagine Paul's heirarchy to run like this:

God has headship over Christ.
Christ has headship over a husband and father.
The husband and father has headship over his wife.
The wife and mother has headship over her children -- explicitely male, but since there's no other place for them, likely female as well.

This is not a game of power and control -- it is an issue of spheres of influence. What Paul is saying is that men are the outward facing part of the family. They tend to the Church, and they care for their wives. They have the authority to counsel their wives on religious matters, because they are the family's first contact with the world. However, within the family, the woman is supreme. She has the responsibility for the religious teaching of her children, and an undefined "power" which isn't stated to be shared with her husband. At the same time, she has the responsibility to aid her husband in his righteous labours.

Is this cultural? Well, it sounds a lot like what I know of Roman and Hebrew culture at that time, so it may well be. On the other hand...

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. (The Family: A Proclamation To The World)

The Family Proclamation isn't footnoted, and Paul is pretty obtuse in his approach to this issue, so I think this is an example of two separate prophets receiving the same counsel. That passage from the Family Proclamation sums up 1 Cor. 11:7-12 far faster than I ever could.

13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

We're back to hair here, and Paul seems to have finally closed the argument. He says "is it comely", and that is a cultural issue. He's not saying "is it comely to God", but "judge in yourselves." This is a commentary to the Corinthians, not to us.

14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

This is the first mention of long hair on men; it seems designed simply to set up the next verse (and the last one we'll look at), which reads:

15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

A woman's long hair is a glory to her. This doesn't fit in with the last use of glory, referring to children, so it has to be a simple aesthetic statement: the Corinthians like long hair on women, but not on men. He also says that it is a "covering". In the context of earlier verses, this is most likely a reference to shaving the head, and how it is dishonourable to women to do so -- in Corinthian culture.

1 Corinthians 11 is an easy chapter of the Bible to misunderstand. At first glance it says that women should cover their heads so they don't shame their husbands or fathers, who exercise control over them. On analysis, however, it is a fascinating exploration of Paul's understanding of the roles of men and women, and the glorious purpose of all mankind, which is eternal life in the presence of the Father. It is also a window on 1st century culture and customs in Corinth, one of the early strongholds of Christianity.

"Hypocrisy" and the law

'No regrets' over euthanasia aid

This is a news article from the BBC about a man who took his terminally ill partner to Switzerland to, well, be killed -- voluntary euthanasia, or assisted suicide. This is, as it happens, illegal in the United Kingdom, since "he said I could kill him" isn't a legal defence.

It's not illegal in Switzerland, where, as the article says, you can find "the Zurich base of euthanasia organisation Dignitas". So Mister Reginald Cutkelvin could have made his own way to Switzerland to be voluntarily killed without anyone getting into legal problems.

Except, presumably, he couldn't. He needed help getting there. Which makes Alan Rees an accomplice to something which is still illegal in the UK. So now there's shock over him being arrested. Yep.

But that's all background. What really shocked me was a comment by Michael Irwin. This is the ex-GP who travelled to the Isle of Mann back in 2005 in order to euthanise a friend. He didn't manage to, but he was still struck off the medical register for it. And this is the paraphrased quote from him:

Dr Michael Irwin, the struck-off GP who helped the couple, said he hoped to be prosecuted to highlight the "hypocrisy" where the wealthy could pay to travel to Switzerland's Dignitas clinic for euthanasia but the poor could not.

As it happens, I absolutely agree. It is completely hypocritical that the rich are allowed to go and get euthanised but the poor are not. The reason it's hypocritical is that the whole thing is illegal. The rich shouldn't be allowed to.

Perhaps this is different hypocrisy to what Irwin was thinking of, but since when did "he snuck off to a different country to do something that's illegal here" become a compliment? It isn't for anything else. Making use of a "tax haven" is grounds for prosecution. I don't even want to talk about "sex tourism". So why is it admirable for someone to seek assissted suicide overseas?

Monday, 19 January 2009

An Open Letter to Gaza


You don't know me, but I know all about you. You've been squabbling with my brother Judah again, so of course I'm interested. Don't worry, I've already told him exactly what I think about his conduct in all this. But since that ceasefire I've been getting more and more irritated with you, my friend.

Okay, yes, Judah has a long history of trying to steal your land, kill your people, etcetera etcetera. We know all that. We know all about how the nation of Israel was formed from part of the Mandate of Palestine, and so you think you have more right to the land than they do. Believe it or not, we even know all that stuff about Israel's conquering Gaza back in '67 (although, you know, first of all you guys and your friends started that one, and secondly, you'd been under Egyptian occupation before that, so big deal). And we feel for you, we really do.


It's starting to look like you have no idea what you're doing. Seriously, Hamas, look at your record. You got elected to run Palestine, great, but then you managed to lose most of it. And yet you're still brawling with people? Take a hint from the West Bank lot, will you?

I mean, take this latest squabble. You got well and truly invaded - what is it, 1300 casualties to Judah's 13? - and then for some reason my brother ordered a ceasefire. You know, you know he could've kept stomping all over you. But what do you do? You immediately fire more rockets into his territory. I mean, really.

All right, then it starts to look like you've got a little sense - you start your own ceasefire. Good lad! But... you make it only a week long? And you have the audacity to claim you won?

Dear boy, Judah flattened you. He could have kept on flattening you. Don't you understand, Hamas? Even if he magically withdraws this week, the next time you start shooting he will be right back in there, and he will crush you. You seem to imagine you're on some sort of equal footing with him -- let me tell you, you are not. Believe me, I know my brother. The only reason he hasn't conquered you is that you're too much hassle to keep an eye on. But if you keep making a nuisance of yourself, you are very likely to find yourself exported to the West Bank. You know how they feel about you over there.

So how about stopping now, eh? You've got your own little country to run, and the international community has a short memory. Lie low for a couple of years, then negotiate with Judah via the UN. They'll be on your side by then, and you can see about getting some of that land back. All this rocket-firing, though? It's just going to get you beaten up and thrown out.

Hoping this reaches you in good time,

JOSEPH son of Israel, a friend