Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Rabbi and The Emperor

By Kahana

Although I probably could have written this article under the 'Why Karaism' banner I decided that it warranted to be placed separately under some other category that had as little association with Karaism as possible because it represents everything that is abhorred amongst Karaites. You see, the story I'm about to relate comes directly from the Talmud and commits so many sins that it actually casts Judaism in a bad light in its entirity. Of course as Karaite we would say, "what would you expect, after all it is the product of Rabbanites," but even Rabbanites have a 'modus decorum' by which they must operate and this is dictated by the Torah which still governs how Jews must behave. The fact that this story concerns Rabbi Judah ha Nasi should not be that great a surprise to Karaites. The presumption of his title, 'The Prince' considering he had no government or population to actually rule over I do not hold against him. As a descendant of Hillel, I have to believe his claim to be from the House of King David in the same way that I believe the lineage in my own family to be accurate as being from the House of Phiabi. These claims were passed down from father to son and were intended to be preserved, so I do not doubt his claim to be a Prince of Israel. What I do take exception to is possibly his warranting of the title based on the story to follow. A Prince must act with honour; a Prince must preserve the truth; a Prince must not commit murder; and a Prince must not be boastful when his own people are made to suffer. These would all appear to be lessons that Judah ha Nasi failed to learn, yet he is extolled above all other by the Rabbis through the Talmud. So perhaps the banner for this article rather than 'Why Karaism' would more correctly be 'Why not Rabbinic Judaism'.
From The Abodah Zerah

The Following Story is taken from the Talmud; Abodah Zerah. I have placed my comments and explanations in brackets so I do not alter the original verse.

[Emperor] Antoninus [Pius] once said to Rabbi [Judah ha Nasi], "It is my desire that my [adopted] son Asverus [Marcus Verus] should reign instead of me and that Tiberias should be declared a Colony [Self governing Sartrapy]. Were I to ask one of these things [from the Senate] it would be granted while both would not be granted. Rabbi thereupon brought a man, and having made him ride on the shoulders of another, handed him a dove bidding the one who carried him to order the one on his shoulders to liberate it. The Emperor perceived this to mean that he was advised to ask [of the Senate] to appoint his son Asverus to reign in his stead, and that subsequently he might get Asverus to make Tiberias a free Colony.

[On another occasion] Antoninus mentioned to him that some prominent Romans were annoying him. Rabbi thereupon took him into the garden and, in his presence, picked some radishes, one at a time. Said [the Emperor to himself] his advice to me is: Do away with them one at a time, but do not attack all of them at once. But why did he not speak explicitly? — He thought his words might reach the ears of those prominent Romans who would persecute him. Why then did he not say it in a whisper? — Because it is written: For a bird of the air shall carry the voice.

The Emperor had a daughter named Gilla [Anna Galina] who committed a sin, so he sent to Rabbi a rocket-herb, and Rabbi in return sent him coriander. The Emperor then sent some leeks and he sent lettuce in return.

Many a time Antoninus sent Rabbi gold-dust in a leather bag filled with wheat at the top, saying [to his servants]: 'Carry the wheat to Rabbi!' Rabbi sent word to say. 'I need it not, I have quite enough of my own', and Antoninus answered: 'Leave it then to those who will come after thee that they might give it to those who will come after me, for thy descendants and those who will follow them will hand it over to them.'

Antoninus had a cave which led from his house to the house of Rabbi. Every time [he visited Rabbi] he brought two slaves, one of whom he slew at the door of Rabbi's house and the other [who had been left behind] was killed at the door of his own house. Said Antoninus to Rabbi: When I call let none be found with thee. One day he found R. Haninah b. Hama sitting there, so he said: 'Did I not tell thee no man should be found with thee at the time when I call?' And Rabbi replied. 'This is not an [ordinary] human being.' 'Then', said Antoninus, 'let him tell that servant who is sleeping outside the door to rise and come in.' R. Haninah b. Hama thereupon went out but found that the man had been slain. Thought he, 'How shall I act now? Shall I call and say that the man is dead? — but one should not bring a sad report; shall I leave him and walk away? — that would be slighting the king.' So he prayed for mercy for the man and he was restored to life. He then sent him in. Said Antoninus: 'I am well aware that the least one among you can bring the dead to life, still when I call let no one be found with thee.' Every time [he called] he used to attend on Rabbi and wait on him with food or drink. When Rabbi wanted to get on his bed Antoninus crouched in front of it saying. 'Get on to your bed by stepping on me.' Rabbi, however, said, 'It is not the proper thing to treat a king so slightingly.' Whereupon Antoninus said: 'Would that I served as a mattress unto thee in the world to come!' Once he asked him: 'Shall I enter the world to come?' 'Yes!' said Rabbi. 'But,' said Antoninus, 'is it not written, There will be no remnant to the house of Esau?' 'That,' he replied. 'applies only to those whose evil deeds are like to those of Esau.' We have learnt likewise: There will be no remnant to the House of Esau, might have been taken to apply to all, therefore Scripture says distinctly — To the house of Esau, so as to make it apply only to those who act as Esau did. 'But', said Antonius, is it not also written: There [in the nether world] is Edom, her kings, and all her princes.' 'There, too,' Rabbi explained, '[it says:] 'her kings', it does not say all her kings; 'all her princes', but not all her officers!

True History

From the Talmudic tale we would be led to believe that there was a very close and personal relationship between the Emperor of Rome and the self-titled, Prince of the Jews. Furthermore, the Emperor would seek Judah ha Nasi's wise counsel repeatedly to the point that it even extended into how he should run his affairs and control the Senate. But what do we really know of the relationship between these two men? The answer is that they simply didn't have a relationship. In fact, Antoninus Pius, though not as intolerant as his predecessor Hadrian towards the Jews still had an axe to grind. It is stated that during Antoninus' reign that the Jews were deprived of the right to have their own courts, which prerogative was by the Pharisees considered essential to religion (Yer. Sanh. vii. § 2, 24b). This certainly doesn't sound like the Empror would come to the Nasi seeking legal advice. Furthermore, those that dared to criticize the measures of the emperor were banished or put to death (Shab. 33b). What we also know is that as a result of his harsh treatment of the Jews, the Jews attempted once again to overthrow the Roman domination ("Scriptores Historiæ Augustæ, Antoninus Pius," ch. v.) but there was so little fight left in them after the Bar Kochba revolt against Hadrian that this rebellion was put down quickly and barely rated a mention. The strained relations existing between the Parthians and the Romans may have led the Jews to believe as well as encouraged them to revolt with the expectation of assistance from the Parthians but such assistance was never realized. Whereas the biography of Antoninus Pius in Historia Augusta speaks of this revolt the Jewish sources in the Talmud do not even allude to it and instead provide this fairy tale relationship between the Rabbinic leader and the Emperor of Rome.

But it wasn't all bad news as Antoninus did repeal some of the edicts of Hadrian —such as the prohibition of circumcision which prevented the Jews from exercising their religion—on the condition that they should not receive proselytes (Meg. Ta'anit, xii.; "Digesta" of Modestinus, xlviii. 8, 11). Moreover, they were forbidden, on penalty of death, to enter Jerusalem which hardly sounds like the edict of a man whom according to the Rabbis had approached Judah ha Nasi on how he would be able to best grant the city of Tiberias independent status. Those Jews who had fled to foreign countries in order to escape the persecutions of Hadrian gradually returned to their homes but by then most of the land and homes had become the possessions of non-Jewish populations.

The actual edict of Antoninus Piusread as follows: ‘By a rescript of the divine Antoninus the Jews are allowed to circumcise only their own sons. If anyone performs the operation on a national of another race, he is liable to the same penalty as for castration’. The penalty being referred to was death so this is hardly the words of an Emperor that would let himself be a stepping stool for the Rabbi. Antoninus was still determined to restrict and control the spread of Judaism and thus would have no interest in God's preservation of a place in the world to come for him. In fact he would have had no interest in the Jewish God at all for it was well documented that he was faithful to the traditonal Roman pantheon of gods and no others.

History also records that Hadrian before Antoninus Pius visited Judea and Septimus Severus after Antoninus Pius visited Judea but Antoninus Pius himself did not visit the Roman province. That being the case then there was no house with an undergound passage that led to Rabbi Judah's house that the Emperor ever used. The story is a fabrication with no other purpose to portray the Emperor as a man with a compulsion to murder his slaves, an act which the Nasi obviously tolerated and to portray Rabbi Hanina ben Hama as having the ability to raise the dead even if he was inferior to Rabbi Judah ha Nasi. In their efforts to record themselves as being far greater than they really were, these sages of Rabbinic Judaism were obviously not adverse to lying.
So Why Lie?

I asked myself that question repeatedly. What was to be gained? What were the Rabbis seeking with this story? I could understand why Rabbi Judah was mute for much of the story, performing actions that the Emperor had to interpret rather than speaking to him directly. It provided the Rabbis with the ability to say that their Prince never actually spoke to the Emperor if they were ever challenged. Plausible denial I think we call it now.

Even when the story of his picking radishes would be challenged as his advising and approving that the Emperor eliminate his enemies which in that day and age meant killing them off one by one, an act which according to the Torah made Rabbi Judah as guilty of murder as the man that perpetrated it, the Rabbis could deny such a thing was ever suggest by saying, "he was only picking radishes. Why would you ever think he was condoning murder?"

The entire story is to express the superiority the rabbis held for themselves above their Roman masters. The fact that one of their own, Rabbi Akiba not only anointed a false messiah in Simon Bar Kochba, but spurred him on to fight a second war against Rome in which close to half a million Jews died should have taught them modesty, restraint and recognition that their beliefs were faulty. But they could not see the truth in that regard. Rome was still beneath them. A foot stool for their Prince to step upon when climbing into bed. A story of how Rome could kill them but they held the power to resurrect the dead so they had no fear of Rome's threats. Sadly the half million that died following their instruction they could not resurrect but they survived and that would appear to be all they cared about. After all, just as Judah ha Nasi replied when given the gift of gold by the Emperor, he had no need of it, he had plenty of his own. Only the Emperor was wise enought to suggest he hold on to it, not for his sake but for those less fortunate that might need it after he passed on. Perhaps the rabbis should have been thinking of the people all along!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Karaite Comments: To My Brother Yeshua (Jesus) Chapter 14

By Kahana

“Whenever we are witness to the great assemblies of self appointed learned and great men we can expect the world to shake and quake in fear. “

One doesn’t have to dig deep into the history of mankind to see that the quotation is as valid today as it was sixteen hundred years ago. Whether it is an assembly for political change, religious institution, a war council or even a modern day assembly like the United Nations, the truth is that the outcome more than often results in the inevitable destruction and devastation that only mankind can unleash upon his own species. We are guilty of the most heinous crimes yet we appear doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past.

What is it that drives us to unequalled levels of cruelty against our fellow man in order to exercise our narrow minded pursuit to exercise our will over that of others, to both the detriment and neglect of others, as long as it satisfies our own selfish needs? How is it that we can cloak are misguided intents beneath a shroud of liberalism or humanitarianism even though from the outcome it is obvious that our imposition of our myopic view only causes greater suffering to the many while the few we have protested to protect are minor in significance and very often worth.

I have thought long about this dilemma following the outpouring of a fellow Karaite’s heart and soul this past week in which her own personal suffering and that of her family was tested against the rights and privileges of the individual in our society to perpetrate evil are safeguarded to the fullest extent of the law. It would appear in our efforts to appear humanitarian, we have forgotten the meaning of a word which implied the ‘taking care of the human race’ not the interests of an individual or a small group that are opposed to the good of society. To safeguard a minority bent on evil, destructive and anti-social programs is to be anything but humanitarian. From criminals to activists, they are still simply people that feel they have the right to exercise their rights illegally and often violently. We must reexamine the misguided concepts that have pervaded our legal, political and religious structures. We must protect the majority as long as that majority does not persecute or harass the minority. And most importantly we must act in the public good if we are to survive as a species. These last few points are easily forgotten when minorities obtain power and a voice well beyond their proportion and measure and a majority remains both passive and silent. Such was the case with Christianity as it moved towards being granted state recognition. But rather than learn from the mistake of Church development, the error has been perpetrated and perpetuated for countless centuries into modern times and these new minorities, vocal well beyond their numbers, have inherited the legacy of enforcing their will upon the majority simply because they have gained the support of high ranking officials, political pawns, acceptable violence and a legal system that has abandoned the Mosaic Laws with no sentence or sensibility behind its enforcement.

The Burning of Heretics
The Burning of Heretics
The Arian Church

This setting of an impossible goal led many to fall into the ever widening net of heresy. One of its victims that it ensnared was a questioning priest in Alexandria by the name of Arius. Arius could not understand how God, being so pure and good have any direct contact with the real world. To do so would mean that the Lord would willingly allow himself t be contaminated by impurity and imperfection and that was unacceptable. How could he or his followers believe in a God anything less than perfect? Therefore he concluded, Jesus could not be a version of the same being. He would have had to have been something completely different; an intermediary with a divine spark but not then or ever a manifestation of God himself. That being the case, Arius continued to teach his followers that Jesus was a being completely separate from the Father and therefore should not be worshipped as such. Immediately, the Bishop of Alexandria called for the excommunication of Arius before he could do irreparable harm.

Concerned that this Arian heresy would tear apart the Church that he had so neatly stitched together, the Emperor Constantine summoned the great council in 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea. With close to two hundred bishops from all over the empire, Constantine insisted by the end of the assembly they must have a unified decision on the direction of Christianity, a document we have come to know as the Nicene Creed.

The Attainment of Power

Following Constantine’s Edict of Toleration written 311 AD, the power of religious authority was concentrated in the hands of one church and one church alone, that being the Catholics, then regarded as the official Church of Rome. The word ‘Toleration’ in the title was a misnomer since it was obvious the Catholic Church was proposed as the universal church and all others were discluded from the equation. With the balance of power to determine the future direction of Christianity, the Catholic Church immediately switch its policy from safeguarding the traditions from misinterpretation to that of eliminating deniers of the Truth. What this meant to the early adherents of Judeo-Christian traditions that they could no longer deny the divinity of Christ. To do so would be to refuse the Trinity and accept the Unity of God. Those churches that believed Yeshua was a man in whom the spirit of God dwelt had to adopt the belief that Jesus was a divine spirit that assumed human flesh. And in so doing the belief in Jesus as the Son of God had to be upheld otherwise you could not belong to this new Orthodox Church. The difficulty in accepting the ideology that the Father and Son were actually different designations of the same being was overcome in one of two ways. Either you accepted it at face value, never to question it again, or you were to be branded a heretic and either killed or banished. Doubt, disbelief, endless questioning were all silenced rapidly.

Enforcement of these beliefs to the elimination of all others could only be met by growing resistance. A Yeshua without humanity became an unattainable goal. Why worship a being that couldn’t possibly be a role model for other human beings, since as God he was incapable of performing or contemplating a sin. Perfection couldn’t be tainted and therefore any relevance as a role model was negated. The Jesus of this old-new church was out of touch with the common people.

The Final Solution

Homoousios was the word that became doctrine at the assembly in Nicaea. Translated it meant ‘of one substance.’ That was their final decision that the Father and Son were from one substance and Yeshua’s divinity was never to be questioned again. In reality, the decision failed to decide anything. Those that still believed as Arius taught refused to accept the final decision and publicly stated so. As for Arius, he was publicly humiliated, excommunicated and exiled but that resolved little. Even though the majority stood against Arius, he challenged them on their creation of a terminology ‘homoousios’ which was nowhere to be found in either the Old or New Testaments. Therefore, similar to Karaites like myself whom accuse the Rabbanites of constantly inventing religious doctrine to suit their own needs, Arius did likewise to his Catholic brethren. In their defense the Bishops passed a ruling that they too could be divinely inspired and therefore they were permitted to create new doctrine. Now legally backed by their newly established power they were confident they could mold Christianity any way they so desired and in feeling thus, they introduced the dogma of immaculate conception which had no religious foundation in any of the sacred books but they no longer required sacred writings to establish the rules.

Constantine found himself sitting in a quagmire. By initially agreeing with the Council’s doctrine he had given them powers far in excess of any they held previously. By instilling within them the ability to create religious doctrine and dogma based entirely on their own feelings at the time, he had turned them into rivals rather than subordinates. The Nicaean Creed was received well in the West but the Eastern Bishoprics struggled with its introduction since they had the greatest concentration of adherents from the early Judeo-Christian Churches and those members refused to accept the incorporation of absolute power into the hands of the clergy.

Fearing what he had done, Constantine in 328 AD recalled Arius from exile and supported the Arian policies or anti-Nicene party but it was too late.

Absolute Confusion

For the next four hundred years Arianism survived but wherever it raised its head it was hunted down, tortured and eradicated. The Catholic Church was determined to eliminate this threat no matter how long that might take fearing that the policies of Arius called into question their power and the divine nature of Yeshua. As soon as the populace began to question those doctrines then it would spell the end of the control over the minds and bodies of men. Arianism served a purpose; it reinforced the establishment of Orthodox doctrine. Each and every time that the threat of Arianism arose, the Chatholic Church felt compelled to hold a council and introduce even more legislation to safeguard their empire. Most aren’t even aware of the next Nicene Creed, the one that took place in 381 AD. From that the Church obtained, “For us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was made man.” There was also the new swearing of allegiance to the “Holy Ghost, the Lord and the Giver of Life.” But that didn’t succeed in being taken on very well by the congregations and eventually became replaced by the “Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” much easier for most to recite. The concept of the Holy Ghost had to be introduced because Arius refused to believe that the Spirit that infused Jesus was a part of God, insisting that it was no higher in its creation than that of an angel. In this way, the Church ensured that no part of their Trinity could be questioned as being anything less than God.

But by creating this new omnipotence and infallibility of Jesus, God and the Holy Ghost a new threat was created. These were referred to as the “divine mysteries”, unanswerable questions that were beyond man’s comprehension and therefore not required to be answered by the clergy. If God actually manifested Himself on earth, then why had nothing actually improved? If God gave forgave man all his sins, then why did he sin more than ever with each passing year? If had tasted the suffering of mankind during his experience in human flesh then why did he permit man to suffer so? All these divine mysteries and yet so few divine answers, for no other reason that anything divine had been totally eradicated from this new Christianity which claimed to be Orthodox yet had by the end of the fifth century as I have elucidated in these articles removed anything that may perchance have been the original Christian beliefs based on its Jewish heritage. What was left was a hollow shell filled with only the whims and desires a handful of sacrilegious men. What was also clear by the end of the fifth century was that the man in charge was the Bishop of Rome, a position as history has shown could be bought, stolen, killed for and above all, abused. And from that point in time was when the questions should have been asked. Was there ever an original Christian teaching that an institutional Church was the true path? Hardly, the use of the Greek word ‘ecclesia’ in Jerusalem actually translated as an assembly, suggesting leadership would only be via elders, not by something called a church which the Greek now is translated as. Was a single man ever destined to be considered the voice of God? Though James had assumed the mantle of leadership following his brother’s death, at no time did he claim his words to be infallible as the Pontiff of Rome now claimed. Error compounded upon error and every time a spiritual leader appeared that attempted to turn back the clock, he was branded as a heretic and his followers persecuted to death. And therein lies the root cause of so much which has gone wrong with our institutions of today. When the guiding light that a quarter of the world looks towards was based on principles that barely represented the original directives then it follows that all subsequent institutions wallow in their own ineptitude having nothing upon which to define their morality. Like a pendulum, they will swing wildly from end to end seeking the balance but never able to find that point of equilibrium since they are constantly out of sync with every other organization and institution. Without harmony there can be no balance. Without a return to the original beliefs there is no chance to find the guiding light. Without knowledge and understanding of whence we came there can be no comprehension of what we were destined for. And without Karaism there is no way of recognizing what it is we have all lost so long ago.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Christianization of Zoroastrianism

Karaite Comments: To My Brother Yeshua (Jesus) Chapter 13

By Kahana :Myths and fables are all we seem to have passed down from us in the early centuries after Yeshua lived. But what is a myth if not the hopes and aspirations of a people manifested into a physical form which beckons to all to relinquish their doubts, abandon their cynicism and embrace a belief beyond normal human comprehension. And in many of our religious belief systems that is all we possess, a myth that has grown into a reality. Let me take the time to tell you about one such myth which manifested in Persia and grew well beyond the borders of that land. Some of you may recognize it, others actually believe in it, yet the majority will not even know of its origins and would have come to believe that its roots in our society were otherwise. As a Karaite I am free of it but you may not be so lucky as most have come to call it Christian but as you will soon see, it was anything but.

A Gift From Persia

The Persian Magi, the spiritual leaders of Zoroastrianism studied the universe endlessly, contemplating its contradictions, catastrophes and endless sufferings. They found it hard to believe that the truth lay in the Judaic writings that all these events were the manifestations of a singular God. That the Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, He who called himself the Loving God and the Wrathful God could be the perpetrator of history’s greatest disasters. In order to reconcile their belief in an Almighty God they found there could only be one solution; a second Kingdom. Where God reigned in a Kingdom of light and beauty from above in the heavens, another being ruled from the pits, a Kingdom of darkness and evil. The primal God above and a second entity that ruled the universe from below and the two were eternally set in opposition. And in this second kingdom, Satan ruled and the demons were born from its depths.
Desiring more than what rested beneath his hand, Satan invaded the Kingdom of Light and the war began in earnest between the two opposing forces, the Light and the Darkness. To beat back the armies of Satan, God created primal man but Satan’s forces began to overcome the armies of this lesser being and God was forced to rescue Man lest he be lost to Satan. But even after being rescued, Man had suffered grievously, several particles of his original Light gifted by God now replaced by five elements of the Dark. And thus man was set on a path that if he was to return to the Light, return to God, he must overcome the Darkness that now dwells within in an everlasting eternal struggle.
The first of these men to live, a combined existence of both light and dark particles was named Adam. Because of what Satan had done, Adam and his offspring were to be forever born in original sin. There was a woman named Eve, and because she was only created to be Adam’s companion she possessed less particles of light and therefore was more susceptible to the darkness. But God loved his creation of man and throughout the history of mankind would send his heavenly spirits in the form of prophets to guide and correct the corruption that now resided within man’s soul.

The Manichaean Universe

As strange as it may sound, what you have just read was not Christian. The beliefs were neither developed by Christian theologists nor were they practiced by the early Christians. In truth, the concept of two kingdoms in perpetual battle were so foreign to the early Christians that it was rejected wholeheartedly but Christianity had never faced a threat before like Mani, with his charisma, his gift to speak and his determination that exceeded that of any Church leader. Mani was born around 215 AD to a wealthy Persian family. He spent his early years travelling throughout the Persian Empire and into India where he encountered Buddhism. In his later years he headed west into the Eastern Provinces of the Roman Empire where he preached the religion that incorporated his original Zoroastrianism and all the beliefs he had acquired during his travels. He immediately had universal appeal, providing to the people that had always been familiar with Gods at war from their earlier Greek and Roman pantheon beliefs an easy bridge between their present Christian instruction and the religion of their past. Mani listed the prophets that they should believe in; Adam, Noah, Abraham, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Paul and himself whom he saw as the greatest of them all. In case you haven’t noticed, there is one prophet of significance missing from Mani’s list that being Moses. Moses represented everything contrary to what he was teaching to his new followers. To believe in Moses meant believing that all things good and bad did come from the one God of the Universe. To read Moses instruction meant that there was no such thing as Satan and his demons ruling from a secondary kingdom. To follow Moses meant that all men were born with free will to be either good or evil and were not tainted from birth. To Mani, he saw no hope in attracting the Jews to his new religion so he focused only on the susceptibility of the Christians knowing that they thirsted for a link to their old world of paganism.
But if man was born into a world of evil, a sinner from birth, Mani knew that he also had to provide a reward that mankind could strive for. He taught his followers if they learned and studied the prophets, strove against the evil within their souls, then if they were successful they would set the light free and would ascend to God. But if a man could not perform the purification within his lifetime then he would be sent back to live again until such time that he could release the light. And once all of mankind had succeeded in releasing the light then there would be the final apocalypse which would destroy the material universe and banish the Kingdom of Satan forever.

Something Familiar

Mani divided his followers into five levels. The first three levels were known as the Sons of Meekness. They were the Teachers, the Perfecti and the Electi. And only they would inherit the privilege of ascending to God after a single lifetime. The next level were the Administrators known as the Sons of Knowledge, comprising bishops and priests. The last level was known as the Sons of Understanding and they were the presbyters. The Sons of Meekness had additional restrictions, in that they had to be vegetarians, not engage in marriage or procreation as they had to remain pure if they were to ascend to God. The Sons of Knowledge did not have to endure the same restrictions. They had to follow several commandments including the forbidding of lying, adultery, murder, sloth, and doubt, along with keeping a certain number of fast days. As one can see, there are several parallels to the layering within the Manichean church to the establishment of the Catholic Church.
By the fourth century there already was a singular head, a Pope of the Manichean church. Many of the Marcionites that I had described in an earlier article adopted the Manichean beliefs and in fact by the end of the third century almost all of the Marcionite churches became Manichean. The appeal of the Manichean church exceeding anything witnessed before. It’s popularity amongst the aristocrats of the Roman Empire was immediate as it provided an easy transition from their pagan hierarchy to this new one, a far easier task than adopting the more man-centered concept of Mosaic law. One of the most notable personages to adopt the Manichean religion was St. Augustine who was actually one of the administrators in this church. Eventually St. Augustine left the Manichean church accusing it of teaching a falsehood of rival worlds of Light and Darkness in perpetual battle and that God was at constant war with Satan. In his new position within the Catholic Church he railed against these misguided beliefs enforcing the Mosaic belief that God was the only power in the universe and man was responsible for his own sinful ways, having nothing to do with an external power that forced him to commit wrong doings. How ironic that in spite of St. Augustine’s condemnation of Manichaeism in order to preserve the initial Judaic beliefs of the church, his protestations were eventually washed away in the tide as the Church raced to adopt Manichean beliefs.

The Ultimate Absurdity

By the fifth century, the Manichean belief system began to dominate the beliefs of Christians from all persuasions. So much so that the Catholic Church could see very little difference between their followers and those that claimed to be Manichaean. The primary difference was that the Manichaeans had their own Pope, their own elders, bishops, priests and lay clergy; a massive organization that bore no allegiance or recognition of the Church in Rome. How ironic that the Roman and Byzantine Churches would pronounce an edict condemning all Manichaeans to death, accusing them of heresy even though there existed by this time very little difference by this time between the beliefs of the two church systems. The decision was one of politics, of power, of greed and once again Christianity had been diverted from its true course without its followers having the slightest indication that the practices and beliefs that they now professed had nothing to do with the initial teachings of Yeshua whom they swore to follow. They had all become Manichaeans but they did not know it!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Christian Heretics of the Second Century

Karaite Comments: To My Brother Yeshua (Jesus) Chapter 12

By Kahana

Having begun the revelation of the myths and fables surrounding the birth of Christianity in my last article it is time to look more in depth at the development of Christianity as to what it has become now. It is a pale reflection of its beginnings and the essential Judaic teachings of its origins were intentionally stripped from it so that it could stand apart and bend to the will of those that controlled its destiny. Men in the Catholic orthodoxy that were not unlike the Rabbis that made a determined effort to mould both their respective religions into something other than intended and most importantly, to their own benefit. These changes were not by accident, were not normal evolution, nor were they done with the best intentions of its worshippers. But what is sadder is that with the wealth of historical information available, so many have not taken the time to read about their Christian origins. Had they merely taken the time and cherished advice of our Karaite sage and founder Anan ben David, they would have recognized that he was not only speaking to those of us that are Karaites but to people of all denominations and religions. His was a warning that to follow blindly is the greatest sin of all because it will do exactly the opposite what it claims it was designed to do. The preaching will be “Do not lead us unto evil” yet the outcome for any religion where it demands blind obedience, advises not to question its teachings or origins, and both assails and condemns any opinion that it deems contrary will do exactly that; it will lead you unto evil! The heritage of Christianity has been the eradication of any opinion that those in power deemed contrary. Silencing the heretics was the norm for hundreds of years. Yet heresy is from the Greek “haerens” which only means an act of choosing. So the execution of the heretics really meant eliminating anyone that wanted to make a free choice and that is the legacy of the rise of Christianity.

A Strange And Unusual Time

From a Karaite perspective what I personally find the most amazing about the second and third centuries AD is that you had two religious sects, both essentially Jewish in origin vying for the title of supreme monotheist but both willing to sacrifice the original teachings of the Torah. Let me explain if this statement has confounded you. Both Rabbanite Judaism and Christianity began writing furiously over this period two centuries to win over the hearts and minds of adherents whether established or new. The Rabbis began writing their Talmud feverishly and the Christians published a plethora of Gospels, both groups specifically designing their books to capture sayings, teachings, and histories, even if the subject material was speculative, inflammatory, and based solely on one’s own personal and therefore far from factual experiences. Whereas the Rabbanites were determined to catalogue their thoughts into one volume, even though it ended up in both a Palestinian and Babylonian version, the Christians made no attempt to consolidate their writings, keeping each manuscript distinct and separate. And therein lay the failure of the Rabbinates to win the race to the publishers and to their respective audience. The Talmud became a massive tome, unable to be finished for several hundred years and therefore never released to be mass circulated to the public and so introspective that it had practically no appeal to anyone but the rabbis themselves who enjoyed reading about their own endeavors, arguments, and congratulatory back patting efforts, whereas the Christian authors were able to circulate their small books quickly, often just as vellum manuscripts, suitable to be read by any individual and with stories bordering on the fantastical and supernatural thus very appealing and capturing an eager readership desiring to read about something other than mundane issues. There really wasn’t any contest when it came down to it. Even though most of these circulating Gospels were to be dismissed and discarded later when the Church decided to canonize the final version of the New Testament, it did so at a time that the general public had already been exposed to the multitude of books and their imaginations captured by the mythological status of the writing. The Talmud which was a never-ending exercise had none of the same mass appeal nor even had it been available early would it have been something the common person desired to read. Yet both of these massive documents, whether Talmud or New Testament had taken their intended audiences far afield from the Laws of Moses and the actual dictates of the Torah or Old Testament. And as I have pointed out numerous times in my articles, both these works of men were constantly in contradiction to the Torah and the teachings of Moses and were intentionally so. Of that as you will see in the next few paragraphs there could be now doubt!

Marcion Versus Montanus

“Who?” is the word you are probably uttering right now. Just two of the most important men in early Christian history and yet the majority reading this will have absolutely no idea who they were and what was their true significance. But both these men were the most prominent leaders in Christianity during the second century AD and shaped the Christianity that we know today. But because they possessed views outside the mainstream Catholic teachings they were later branded as Gnostics even though as I mentioned they were each responsible for giving Christianity its greatest surge in growth and popularity by attaining thousands upon thousands of adherents at that time and providing an ideological framework upon which the Church did build its current concepts thus eventually attaining mass appeal.

As hard as it may be to believe to Messianics and Christians today, during these first two centuries, to refer to the Catholic Church was to imply that those adhering to this view were either Jews or Judaized-Gentiles strongly leaning towards the Old Testament teachings as presented by the Jerusalem Church, initially under James and then his cousin Simon Cleophas. It was the Catholic Church that was entrenched with both these Judaizers and Old Testament exponents. Initially it saw itself as the defender against the rise of polytheistic ideologies that began to permeate the other churches throughout the empire. But as the old adage goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em then join ‘em,” especially when those others were growing faster, stronger and with far more determination than your own congregation could ever accomplish.

Marcion who lived between 130 and 180 AD considered his Church to be the only authentic one. The speed at which Marcion gained adherents was troublesome to the Catholic Church and Irenaeus wrote against them claiming they would eventually fractionate the early Christians beyond a point of recovery. It was not that Irenaeus condemned the teaching of Marcion only that this adversary did them better and in turn had better conversion results than the orthodox Catholics. Marcion’s message was simple. He wanted to build a church that could bring salvation but was not involved in the speculative and mystical ideas that seemed to have taken over the Christian church. Of interest is that Marcion taught that God had two natures. The wrathful, angry God of the Torah, and the kind loving God that had sent Jesus to save the world. But these two aspects of God were always constantly seesawing in what could be viewed as an eternal battle. Perhaps Marcion was familiar with the Yin and the Yang of eastern philosophy but he determined that it was the wrathful side of God that created the world and therefore all material creations were evil. That meant that man was evil as well but the pure side of God loved man and therefore sent part of himself in the form of a phantom body to live amongst man and die in order to save mankind. Quite interesting that the man that accused the traditional church of being too speculative and mystical was in fact the man that provided the spiritual concept of a non-human Jesus to Christianity in the first place. Marcion insisted that the only apostle that understood all of this was Paul and therefore he justified Paul’s abolition of the Law under the excuse that he was serving the Grace. In this manner Marcion claimed that Paul had done away with the wrathful God of the Old Testament and replaced him with worship of only the pure form of God as revealed in the New Testament. Having this narrow perspective meant that Marcion also had a very narrow canon of scripture which included the Gospel of Truth, which was a collection of sayings but not directly from Jesus, the four Gospels although Luke was an edited version, and the Acts of Paul. Hence he claimed that the only scriptures within his church emphasized the mercy of God whereas the Catholic Church was opposed to the teaching of mercy and therefore failed to comprehend true Christianity. Having condemned the material world as evil, Marcion preached that sex was also evil but only those that were Perfect needed to abstain from sex, whereas the rest of the followers could still engage in it and only when they were about to die would they be baptized. Salvation came through the love of God and the Old Testament was negated by this Loving God. As much as this view by Marcion would appear naïve and perhaps even childish, his teaching had a major impact on the Catholic Church and threatened its survival. So much so that Tertulian wrote, “The Marcionites make churches as wasps make nests.” This rapid expansion could not be stopped but it certainly could be absorbed. Catholic leaders met to see which of the Marcionist views should be incorporated into their own doctrines and in so doing they were to markedly reduce the impact by eliminating many of the differences.

Just as threatening were the Montanists which like the Marcionists wanted a return to what they called pure Christianity. Their approach was far more Old Testament, claiming that the Catholic Church was governed by men that had no true sanction by God and therefore their unethical and immoral behavior was not to be tolerated. The only laws that could be considered as truthful were those already passed down by God and his prophets. As you might have noticed, the concepts espoused by the Montanist were not unlike the Boethians and Zadokites of the same time against the Rabbis; in fact these Montanists were very Karaite in their comments. All we know of Montanus is that he appeared preaching in Phrygia around 156 AD. He dispelled the teaching of both the Rabbis and Catholic Church that the age of prophets was gone and that there would be no further prophets. In fact Montanus claimed that he himself was a chosen prophet of God. Montanus’ concept of the Holy Spirit was that it was sent down by God to enter the bodies of his chosen prophets. Therefore any that spoke the word of God were engaged by the Holy Spirit and Yeshua was one such man. Montanus believed that all scriptures were the word of God and therefore he maintained that in his Church all doctrines were acceptable, none were to be repudiated but God’s only requirement was that the followers maintained a high level of morality, fasted regularly, and had strict marriage laws. But as his followers pursued their beliefs, Montanus expected them to abandon the daily world and separate themselves into religious communes. This was in direct contradiction with the Catholic Church that decided its followers should maintain their everyday lives and didn’t need to separate themselves from Roman life in order to become holy.

By the end of the second century it appeared that the Montanists would become the dominant sect of Christianity. The Catholic Church reacted as it had done so many times before, labeling the Montanists as heretics, excommunicating the lot, and condemning their prophets to either banishment or death. This dogma of branding anything that opposed them as heretics was exactly the institutionalized corruption that the Montanists were opposed to. There considerable threat forced those leaders in the Catholic Church to move closer to the reigning powers in Rome. By emphasizing that the Catholic Church supported the Roman authorities and advised its followers to contribute as part of everyday society, they were able to demonstrate the danger represented by a Montanist Church that encouraged its members to withdraw from society and become separate. It didn’t take much encouragement for the Roman authorities to join in the condemnation of the Montanists and use them for their entertainment in the coliseums. Although Christian history will talk about the martyrs fed to the lions and slaughtered in gladiatorial exhibits, it fails to comment that it was Montanists providing this entertainment while a Catholic elite grew closer to the Emperor and 100 years later actually was proclaimed as the one and only Christianity of the Empire.

The Best And Worst

Having survived the century of turmoil and beating back those breakaway sects that condemned it, the Catholic Church, soon to be the State Church of the Empire, recognized that the Marcionists and Montanists had been popular for two entirely antithecal reasons. The first gained popularity by emphasizing the spiritual nature of Jesus and therefore won over the hearts and minds of a people seeking far more than the strict laws that evolved from the Torah.

The latter, the Montanists gained their popularity by emphasizing the freedom of choice, the fact that God intercedes in the world through his prophets and that survival meant separation from the daily life of the Empire. From the general description, they were not very unlike the Jews that still represented a large portion of the eastern populations.

And therein lay the solution that would become the hallmark of the Church for a couple of thousand years. By adopting Marcion’s teachings of the uniqueness of Christianity, the spiritual nature of Jesus and the rejection of all the old laws that were Jewish or Old Testamental they could create a distinct separation between themselves and their original beliefs. And by categorizing the Montanists as nothing more than Christians practicing a Jewish mode of life, they could again emphasize that separation and at the same time focus the Empire’s distrust on any people that were determined to remain separate, especially the Jews. In doing so, the Catholic leaders gained the trust of the Empire and were to eventually to take over the operation of the empire itself in the form of the Holy Roman Empire where the power to invest kings and emperors suddenly lay within their Church.

It was a learning process that would not have been possible if it had not been for the advent of both the Marcionists and Montanists. In a very short time they had gained all the myths and fables necessary to reshape the Catholic Church into the image of bishops; men seeking power at the cost of its heritage. It would have to go through one more phase before the transition was complete. That involved the canonization of the New Testament and finalization of its arrangement with the Empire in the sharing of power. That wouldn’t happen to the fourth century and will be the topic of discussion for the next article.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Christian Heretics of the First Century

Karaite Comments: To My Brother Yeshua (Jesus) Chapter 11

This article unlike the previous ones will not have anything to do directly with the Hazuk Emunah.  It will actually be a slight diversion from the previous topics and focus on early Christian History rather than the first century Pharisaic history which precipitated Christianity.  The context of this article I actually owe to one of my Messianic readers who asked me the question, “Is everything she learned about Yeshua merely the result of fable or myth?”  A very difficult question for a Messianic to ask because even though they have struggled to break away from the Christian religion, they so carefully want to hold on to something tangible to say that all was not a loss.   In their particular case it means holding on to Yeshua or Jesus as their life buoy as they lose their grip on the dock which was their previous Christian faith and are now set afloat in a raging sea of conflict, contrast and contradiction.  One wants to believe so strongly that the floatation ring will keep them safe even as the waves crash and the winds howl as the storm sets in.  Unfortunately the lifering is unlikely to do the job as one would need a raft if they were even to stand a chance at survival.  But a raft needs to be constructed from a far studier material than the simple floatation device, and without an outboard motor, or in the least oars, even the best raft will capsize without direction.  The person that was rumoured to have managed to survive the storm at sea without these items was/is a myth or as we have become accustomed to saying, an urban legend.

The Legends Surrounding Yeshua

Myth, fable, tales, it really doesn’t matter what we call it the fact remains that all three are fabrications of the imagination. But when it comes to Yeshua, it was not as if the truth didn’t try to prevail at times. When we review the early history of the Church, any attempt to tell a more humanistic history was met with exile, excommunication and extermination. The X’s have it when it came to trying to present anything contrary to those that held the reins of power. It is ironic that in today’s age people question what has happened to the historical Jesus. The fact is that any essence of historical fact or reality was killed off and silenced by the Church. And what those in power presented as the one and only authentic story of Jesus is in fact the product of men’s imaginations. Through process of elimination the history of the Church has answered my Messianic reader’s question. Everything she has learned about Yeshua is likely the result of fable and myth.
But one should not take my word for it. After all, I am a Karaite and as such the belief in Yeshua as Messiah is foreign to me and that would render me prejudiced in any accounting. So instead, let’s examine what those within the early Church had to say about it. After all, at one time these were esteemed and credible leaders of the Christian communities, only to find themselves ostracized and banished once a new emperor or a new bishop courted and craved power. And the best way to eliminate a rival was to brand the old teachings as heretical even if they were the original teachings and therefore probably more accurate.

James and Ignatius

What most people forget is that for almost thirty years Jacob (James), the brother of Yeshua was spiritual leader of the Jerusalem Church. He was the most important leader of the early church and those in Rome or Antioch were secondary, perhaps even tertiary to his authority and rank. From 36 AD until 62 AD when he was murdered he was the man that made the decision regarding the future of the Nazoreans and Minim, not Peter and certainly not Paul. Though some might argue that he took control in 33 AD arguing that is the year when Jesus was crucified, in the book Caiaiphas Letters which provides a prespective unlike any other coming from that of the high priest  (, I present sufficient information to suggest that the year was actually 36 AD. But for the point of this discussion three years is neither here nor there. What is important is recognizing for the duration of his leadership, James taught from the Temple, something he would not have been able to do if his lessons ran counter to the established religion. For the punishment for heresy, any heresy against the Jewish religion was stoning; stoning to death. If there had been any element of heresy within James’ teachings then he would have met that outcome long before his murder in 62 AD. Any suggestion of Jesus having divinity, magical powers, or making statements contrary to the Laws of Moses would have resulted in immediate trial and punishment. And all it took to lay the accusation would be two witnesses so it wouldn’t have been difficult if James was guilty of saying such things. Therefore to have survived for almost three decades while preaching outside the Gates of Nicanor could only mean that the sermons were well within the acceptable parameters of Judaism. That could only mean no immaculate conception, no resurrection, and nothing of a magical nature that would upset the status quo. That still meant that James could have proclaimed Yeshua as the Messiah since that would have been perfectly acceptable. There already were those claiming that John of Gamala, both Theudas and Judas of Galilee and John the Baptist were already the messiahs, so one more wouldn’t have made any difference to anyone. And therein lays the first myth that the early followers of Jesus already viewed him in terms of being greater than man. They didn’t; all that was to come much later, very much later.
And though the doctrines of these initial followers as instructed by James and who appeared to have an understanding of the essential Jesus continued to exist and grow throughout that first century they were condemned as heretics by Bishop Ignatius of Antioch just before the end of the first century AD as he was being led to Rome to be executed. For Ignatius, a man born after the death of Jesus insisted that he knew much better than those that had sat and learned at the feet of Yeshua. In his letters to the early Christians Ignatius makes the point sixteen times that Jesus and God were one and the same. And there is no misunderstanding of what he meant by this claim since Ignatius affirms he believed Jesus to be the invisible and time­less (achronos) one, incapable by his godlike nature of suffering so he had to come earth so that he would be capable of suffering as a result of his human birth. But Ignatius had far more on his agenda than just argue about the divine nature of Jesus. As his letters indicate he insisted on creating an entire set of rituals that would set Christianity apart from its all too Jewish early followers and the traditions of James’ Jerusalem Church. For Ignatius and those to whom he writes that the Eucharist had to be the center of the Church’s existence and it could only be performed by a bishop or by one he authorizes, hence providing a ritual of consecration that is totally under the control of Bishops thereby giving them total control. Furthermore, in order to eliminate the Judaizing teachings of James, Ignatius ordered that Chris­tianity cease keeping the Sabbath on Saturday like the Jews and instead to observe it on what he referred to as the Lord’s Day or Sun­day. And finally in his bid to preserve powers in the hands of his fellow bishops, Ignatius instructed that there could be no church unless you had a bishop in charge and presbyters and deacons which they would appoint to do their bidding. So in reality, much of the doctrinal changes that separated Christianity from its Jewish heritage were the result of this individual who had purposely contradicted everything that James had established. The only myth would be to assume that Ignatius had either divine inspiration or divinely granted authority to do so.
From the little bit you have now read, you can either assume that the first century Jerusalem followers that had direct contact with Yeshua didn’t know him and only one man almost a century later who had no contact knew him better, or you can assume that these early followers did know him very well for the man he was and it was only after the initial followers passed away and men like Ignatius assumed control of the church that they could create a story that smacked of polytheism but would appeal to the Greeks and Romans that they wished to convert t their new religion. Myth, legend or fable, the choice is yours.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Forbidden Food

Karaite Comments: To My Brother Yeshua (Jesus) Part 10

As I mentioned in Part 9, I would use the scientific discoveries of today to focus on laws handed down over 3200 years ago. But first it is imperative that those of the Messianic or the Christian path understand exactly how your falling away from the Lord’s commandments occurred. To do so you have to appreciate that the first Christians were Jews and that they continued in their worship at the Temple and their obedience to Jewish Law. At the same time they were able to reconcile their following of Yeshua’s teachings by referring to him as the greatest of the prophets a point of difference between them and both Karaites and Rabbanites. But soon a division was to take place as the result of one man; a man that Jesus never even selected as one of his apostles. As described in Galatians II:7 the main body of Christians were circumcised Jews and that the Gospel of the circumcised was unto Peter. But there was another group rapidly developing and Paul wrote in the same Galatians II:7 that “The gospel of the uncircumcised was committed unto me.” A self appointed commission to the Gentiles that would ultimately be a slap in the face of God. Paul reveals that Peter came to Antioch where Paul had his base and under pressure Paul convinced him to eat with the Gentiles. But when a delegation came from Jerusalem to berate Peter for his abandonment of the commandments, he quickly separated himself from the Gentiles and then insisted that they should all “live as Jews do.” Paul was furious and he went after Peter with all the ferocity he could muster as revealed in Galatians II:11. Of course having a large threatening Gentile mob in your face could be enough to convince the weak and indecisive fisherman that he was backing the wrong horse. Paul then went to Jerusalem along with Barnabas and after similarly threatening the apostles and elders he not only convinced them that the dietary laws and circumcision were not required but as he states, “they no longer needed to keep the Law!” The only restriction was they abstain from eating meats offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled and from fornication.” But we have historical proof that the community that was originally Jewish never abandoned the original Torah laws and remained as a separate entity within Christianity. Though Paul was able to intimidate them into fearing his wrath of the Gentile mob, he could not sway them from the teachings of Jesus and his brother James. For those wishing to know more about these original Christians and their preservation of Jewish ways, I suggest you read about the Ebionites. They existed for another 400 years before they were hunted down and killed by the Church of Rome.

There Are No Coincidences

Now you might ask, “What provides me with the authority or knowledge to talk of such things as if I understand the intricacies of God’s commandments. Just what are my qualifications to make the following statements?” Fair enough, legitimate questions but of course I have legitimate answers as well. Firstly, let me say that I am doing exactly what my family has been instructed to do for the past three millennia, fulfilling the role of Kahana as intermediaries with the purpose of saving mankind even if it is only one human life at a time. Secondly, for those that may have wondered what I actually do (my everyday job so to speak) since whatever my role in life it’s obvious that it’s now taking me to China on a monthly basis, has me speaking internationally at biotechnological conferences, and sees me supporting scientific breakthroughs that eliminate suffering for thousands, perhaps even millions. So let me elaborate for you and then you can judge the veracity and credibility of the statements I will make subsequently. I am a veterinary trained preclinical toxicologist, a test development medical technologist and a biotechnological researcher. Yes, I have university degrees in each of those three areas of specialization. Big words but then it’s a big job. I am one of those men that each day faces the challenge of how do we find the cures and prove that they work against X, Y or Z. And as I mentioned, it is simply the extension of what we as the Kahana have done for a thousand years both in the Tabernacle and the Temples while they still stood. Of course then it was much simpler, as all we had to do in those days was make animal sacrifices on the altar and pray for cures and divine intercession. And we only had to face the Big Boss in the Holy of Holies for our performance review once a year. Now the job is a little more demanding since in the past my family prayed that God would intervene on behalf of the people but now the onus has become for us to provide the answers on our own. It is no mere coincidence that there are three family members involved in a similar line of scientific endeavor even though we were initially unaware of each other’s professional choices at the time. One might say it’s in our genes, and a more lengthy aspect of that particular discussion can be found at but as you will see, it is highly likely that we are products of our past and we are all predestined to do what we do. So, having the benefit of several decades of medical and veterinary specialization has provided me with a perspective that Isaac ben Abraham of Troki did not possess. It enables me to examine the dietary laws and find a rationale behind their instruction. But what it really does is leave me in awe because I have to consider that three thousand years ago these laws were clearly established with an impossible precognizant foresight and knowledge of discoveries that we have only made over the last 150 years. And that too cannot be simply passed off as another coincidence. Remember, I’ve been telling you for a long time that there are no coincidences!

The Eating of Dead Things

Over a decade ago I wrote my thesis on the Apolipoprotein E pathway’s involvement in both CJD and Alzheimer’s. Without going into the details, I was looking at ways in which abnormal proteins were absorbed, transferred and reproduced in neurological tissues to the detriment of the host. The key appeared to be Apolipoprotein E and the production of Tau proteins. What does this have to do with dietary laws you might ask, well let me explain. One of the undiscovered routes I proposed was Vagal nerve (10th Cranial Nerve) transference; a conduit directly from the stomach to the central nervous system. It was one of the only ways to explain the rapid transposition of an ingested abnormal protein to the brain (neurocellular phagocytosis) resulting in diseases we refer to as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. You would call one of these diseases Mad Cow. The story behind prion diseases is an exciting one. When Prusiner first proposed its existence he was laughed off the stage. Science refused to believe that abnormal proteins once ingested would cause a disease. Twenty years later it was a fact and more alarming would appear to be the reason that cattle had suddenly developed the disease because they were being fed rendered protein. Essentially herbivores were being turned into carnivores. Cattle were being fed byproducts that were remnants of dead animals. Let’s first think of the prohibition of contact and consumption of dead animals in Leviticus. If the animal is found dead, even if it was one of the approved animals for consumption, we would never be certain of what it had died from. Though not necessarily a prion disease, it was a forewarning that the byproducts of dead animals could still transfer disease, a finding that most certainly shocked the world in the 1980’s and still presents a major threat. Studies in a Wisconsin game park where there was an outbreak of CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) in mule deer in 1972 turned out to be a prion disease as well. The fact that Wisconsin is a major dairy state should send off the alarm bells as you’ll read in the next paragraph. All the deer in the park were eradicated and the park was not repopulated until ten years later. The new population also succumbed to CWD which meant that the prions had been retained in the soil and were virtually indestructible; a fact which leads into my discussion over the next couple of paragraphs.

Weasels, Mink and Ermine

And there’s more when it comes to prions. A little known study in the 1970’s traced a higher incidence in dairy states of downer cows where there was also intensive mink farming. A neurological disorder in mink that was later identified as a Mink Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy would be running at high levels when these mass outbreaks of downer cows would occur. For those that aren’t familiar with downer cows, it’s a term used for cows with a calcium deficiency and they start stumbling and going down. Usually, a quick IV drip of Cal-Mag salts gets them back up on their feet. The difference with these cows was they weren’t getting back up and were then sent off to the rendering plants with no diagnosis other than Downer Cow made. Incidentally, as my thesis examined, the incidence of CJD or the human prion disease was higher in the dairy states. Therein lays the link because in some way this disease in Mink was eventually showing in humans and since mink, ermine and weasels (mustelids) are all in the same family we have a credible reason why God specifically mentioned not eating weasels. What took us until now to understand a little better scientifically was known 3000 years ago. All we did was corroborate it with our current scientific techniques.

Only If It Jumps

How strange that there would be a distinction of which insects could be eaten based on their having large jointed hind legs for the purpose of jumping. Why should this even make a difference you must wonder? It took me a long time to understand this prohibition and it wasn’t until my work with prions that I finally understood it. Jumping insects like grasshoppers and locusts aren’t burrowing into the ground. They consume live and dead plant tissues above ground but not the organisms or waste in the soil. Whereas those insects that creep and crawl on the ground are consuming dead organic tissue, especially from other animals. A matter of fact, the Torah insists that once we die we do not embalm our bodies so that we will be consumed by the myriad of creatures that creep and crawl. And if that is the case, then any disease causing entity that cannot be destroyed will in turn be preserved within the bodies of these creatures. Now you should be recognizing the threat that was exposed during the investigation of prions and the insects consuming dead organic material. They are a conduit to the preservation of the disease ensuring that there is a preservation of these abnormal proteins unto eternity. We’ve only known about this new category of disease causing entities for the past thirty years. God knew about it three thousand years ago. Incredible as it sounds it is the only logical conclusion.


The birds listed are known carrion eaters. Not only that, some of them are hunters and would therefore eat the small animals and other birds that were forbidden. I’ve already provided a warning of the threat that dead animals present in the transference of disease. But it’s not only prions but many other viruses, bacteria and parasitic cysts that will be provided a continuance through intermediate hosts.

Forbidden Swine

It has only been over the last fifty years that medical research has demonstrated a close link between swine and humans. It is the major reason that the species is being suggested for xenotransplantation or in other words why science wants to use swine for replacement parts, such as hearts, skin, pancreatic cells, etc. The fact is that swine actually came off the evolutionary chain closer to humans than other species except for the primates. But being closer has its drawbacks which we have all come familiar with over the last year with the outbreak of Swine Flu. If we are close then we also share things in common such as parasites and worst of all viruses. Of major concern to transplant specialists are the REO and Retro viruses but there are far more diseases that can spread the fear of mass death within humanity. The transmission of disease between pigs and swine and back again is not a new thing. It would have been known long ago that pig farmers and those in close proximity to swine herds had a higher incidence of serious illness. Thereby through the forbidding of swine to be eaten the animals wouldn’t even be kept in the vicinity of the community as they’d serve no economic purpose. As a result the following would be avoided by their exclusion; Swine Flu, Swine Vesicular Disease, and Foot and Mouth virus; all of them serious diseases that theoretically could exterminate humanity. But let’s not forget the bacterial transmission of such diseases as brucellosis, campylobacteriosis, erysipelas, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, streptococcus, anthrax and colibacillosis. Swine are a threat to spread all of these and they can be as equally serious as the viruses. Then there are the parasitic diseases spread by swine such a trichinosis, sparganosis, taeniosis, scabies, cysticercosis, yersiniosis (Plague), tularaemia and balantidiasis. Probably the most serious, even though Plague was in that aforementioned list, is that pigs not only carry the tuberculosis of cattle and birds but they can also be the source for human tuberculosis and that has a greater precedence to exposure than the others.

Are you thinking twice about eating pork, well you should be? As consumed species go, swine is the one that has the greatest chance of causing severe illness through ingestion because not even cooking the meat well eliminates all of the listed organisms and quite a number on the list are deadly. Foot and Mouth has been found to survive pickling, salting and drying of meat. Even after eradication of swine herds, some of the viruses and parasites were found to survive the decontamination process living on inanimate objects. Bacterial such as leptospirosis were found to be surviving well in water barrels and bowls and sparganosis favourite means of transfer is through water where the cysts for this foot and a half tapeworm are deposited. From just these few organisms it should readily be seen why there was such concern with any water that came in contact with these prohibited carcasses and why even the bowls and utensils became a concern. Once again you must say ‘Wow’, how amazing that three thousand years ago God was able to forewarn Moses about these possibilities.

No Fins Or Scales

From the fish perspective that leaves us with either those fish that scavenge the bottoms such as catfish or those that are aggressive hunters such as eels to be avoided but it also eliminates the shellfish and mollusks from the menu. We should all know about paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) by now, there’s been enough press about it. But what you may not know is that there are at least twenty derivatives of the saxitoxin produced by the dinoflagellates that then accumulates in the shellfish such as mussels, clams and scallops. PSP is only one of these and the others can be just as dangerous. The toxins are heat stable which means that not even cooking destroys them, so how confident are you when you consume your next meal of shellfish? Does Red Lobster provide a medical plan? Tetramine poisoning is common when eating whelks (marine snails) as it exists in their salivary glands causing a wide variety of neurological signs when ingested by humans. Not to mention that these snails are both predators and scavengers which means they’re picking up whatever diseases their last meal might be carrying. But besides toxins there are many other dangers presented by shellfish. Dioctophymiasis is a parasite from crayfish and other crustaceans in which the nematode migrates to our kidneys and begins its destructive process. Removal of the kidney is the only treatment. If both kidneys are affected then there is a serious problem. Short of a transplant, you will die. The facts are that shellfish are bottom filter feeders, which means their exposure to bacteria is quite high and it should be no surprise that they are disseminators of microbial diseases. The fact that aquaculture farmers know their lobsters are susceptible to such diseases as shell disease, Gaffkemia, microbial epibiont disease, Lagenidium disease, Haliphthoros disease, and Fusarium disease does not provide us with any reassurance that these entities do not cause a disorder in humans if digested. We just don’t know enough about them yet. Back in July of 2008 the FDA released an advisory regarding tomalley, the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of the lobster that functions as the liver and pancreas. High levels of PSP toxins were present in lobster tomalley The FDA advisory applied only to tomalley, the government declaring the rest of the lobster meat was safe since high levels of PSP toxins were only present in the lobster tomalley and only insignificant levels in the remainder of the lobster. Perhaps one should define insignificant since we know that these toxins can accumulate and cooking no matter how long did not eliminate it. The symptoms of PSP included tingling and/or numbness of the mouth, face or neck; muscle weakness; headache; and nausea and in extreme cases large amounts of the toxin if consumed, could lead to respiratory failure and death. They warned that symptoms usually would occur within two hours of exposure to the toxin. Two hours before you press the panic button. And if that wasn’t enough to worry about the FDA warned that PSP toxins normally occur in clams and other shellfish. Often these symptoms will lead to respiratory failure and death. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention was their last bit of advice. Perhaps the advice should have been “think twice before eating shellfish.” The Torah warned you first and now the FDA is giving you their warning.

In regards to eels, there is still much we have to learn. In a report from the Protein Journal in 2008 the following was disclosed, “Although eels are well known to contain toxins in the serum, their chemical properties have remained to be clarified for a long time. In this study, a proteinaceous toxin was purified from the serum of Japanese eel Anguilla japonica and was lethal to both mice and crabs.” And in 1995 we find the following article which reveals that the researcher isolated and purified a lethal protein toxin from the Indian catfish Plotosus canius. The toxin was lethal in mice being both cardiotoxic, and having neuromuscular blocking activity. The toxin also produced cardiac arrest on isolated toad and guinea pig hearts. Prior administration of atropine and propanolol failed to counteract toxin activity on isolated heart preparations. Even antiserum raised against the toxin failed to antagonize its lethal activity in mice. And in a recent report from the University of Michigan a study there concluded that poisonous catfish are far more common than previously thought. The researcher Jeremy Wright warned of how catfish venoms poison nerves and break down red blood cells, producing severe pain, reduced blood flow, muscle spasms, and respiratory distress.

In Conclusion

This article has merely emphasized the fact that three thousand years ago dietary laws were put in place for the preservation of mankind. There were issues that the people of that time period couldn’t even contemplate let alone understand. God asked that they trust Him. An act of faith that He knew what was best for humankind. And along came a heretic twelve hundred years later that challenged the Jerusalem Church. He told Peter he was a fool for following the commandments within the Torah when it came to the dietary laws. And then Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem and they stood down the elders in Jerusalem and managed to sway them to their opinion. A fact that it was not Yeshua who changed the dietary laws but a man named Paul. And ever since Christians have been acting contrary to the commandments of the Lord. Perhaps now the science of today and the teachings of a Karaite can help you reconsider that decision!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wisdom of Kahana: The Soul of Man

Wisdom of Kahana: The Soul of Man

One of the hardest concepts to appreciate and understand is the soul of man. And to further exasperate the problem, religions have decided to confound the matter even more by ignoring what is clearly defined in Genesis, that the soul was a particular gift from God to man, and to no other species on this planet. For it is clearly written that even after God had created all the other animals he did something different with man at the time of our inception.

7 Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

ז וַיִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם, עָפָר מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו, נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים; וַיְהִי הָאָדָם, לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה.

This breath of life was different from the the actual act of living which all the other creatures possessed. Man became the embodiment of this soul. We are the vessel to contain it but it is something very different and apart from our own existence. This was an actual part of God which He infused into man to become the soul and our essence. So even though you will have religious leaders today claiming that dogs and cats have a soul and they too will be granted an afterlife, the fact is that man is unique in this attribute. Only man, and man alone possesses a soul. And we don't even really possess it because as God clearely stated, we become part of it, not the other way around.

Now what I am about to say may upset some of you because even though I am a Karaite, and some Karaites would like to believe there is a final reward, my beliefs are those of a Zadokite and therefore I have no concept of an afterlife. And to those that have come to believe that your soul grants you some form of immortality, and that you find some respite from the hardships of this world by finding a place in heaven where you can idle away eternity in discussion with sages and ancestors of the past, I am afraid those are concepts that have little to do with the 'soul' that I am about to discuss. The only reward to life is this beautiful gift of life we already have. And we should choose not to follow God's laws because we expect some reward of eternity or paradise but because it is necessary for the betterment of the soul that we have been gifted with to nourish and protect for reasons I will attempt to explain.

What I am about to relate to you has to do with the Shekinah, or what Moses described as the cloud which contained the presence of God. It was not God but a manifestation of his creative power, or as we might describe in our scientific language of today, an energy 'sink' or 'pool'. And as I have said repeatedly, all things come form the Shekinah and all things return to the Shekinah. It is the Shekinah that provided us with the origin of what we refer to as our soul. Perhaps we should think of it as a library book that we have borrowed for a time, derived great joy and pleasure from it, but when we are done we must return it so that others may also benefit. I know this is a difficult concept to accept but let me explain:

The Soul of Man

Above all things is the greatness of God, but under Him and above all else on this earth is the soul of man. The soul of man is not separate from God but is in itself a part of God by which He has spanned the gulf between Heaven and Earth. It is the chord which binds man to God and why man is the only creature on earth that recognizes its own mortality. Only man understands that he will grow old and succumb to death and pass into nothingness. No other animal on this planet understands that their lives will end in decay and doom.

And it is this nothingness, this sentence of death which frightens man the most and why he has always desperately searched for an answer to immortality. All of man’s superiority and yet mankind is terrified by the ultimate fate that awaits. Born as a hapless babe and dying like a hapless babe, crying for one more chance, one more hour, fearing the unknown and not appreciating the divine plan where the spark returns to its origin through the chord attached.

To the beast of the field, they have no comprehension of time. Each day is like the next. There is no understanding of the changes of life, the span of time or the desire of youth. The carnivore has no understanding that one day itself will be prey to the ravages of time, its bones bleached beneath the blazing sun no different from the animals it has slaughtered. The cow marched through the abattoir has no concept of what awaits in the stunning chamber. Only man can appreciate what happens next and it shakes him to the core of his bones.

The soul must not be confused with life for all creatures have life. That is nothing more than an electrical-chemical spark that infuses the cells with activity, the heart to beat, the nerves to relay their signals through the synapses. But that is not the soul, that essence of spirit that drives us to achieve more than we think ourselves capable of achieving, to contemplate that which we have no knowledge of. The receptors in the nose smell but it is the soul that brings back sweet memories to a particular odour or fragrance that fills us with a longing and desire. It is the stomach that digests, but the soul that makes us savour a particular flavour that makes our heart sing. Our eyes see but it is the soul that gives us that second sight that transmits what we saw into lessons we treasure for the rest of our lives.

All creatures can sense fear, rage, anger and love. These are basic needs that drive life to survive and exist. But other than man, what creature can have a sense of honour and shame, justice and treachery, or chivalry or cowardice. These are qualities that require not only intellect but willpower and the ability to overcome the basic instincts. Only with a soul can a man react in a completely opposite manner to the fight or flight instincts that are hardwired into all living organisms. It is the soul which provides us with the ability to act noble, to appreciate beauty, to act contrary to our animal directives.

The soul is malleable, waiting for us to shape it well beyond the simple spark that was infused within us the day we were conceived. It is ours to beautify, ours to fill with goodness, ours to glorify with love. In the same manner that we can shape it into a thing of ugliness should we choose to follow a path of darkness, filled with vices and hatred. What you do with the soul is within your own power and therefore it is left to your imagination to carve and shape into a final image of your life. The soul thirsts for its final transformation and it is the product of free will which was God’s gift to mankind. God has provided his guidelines by which man is to shape the soul but the determination of whether one does or doesn’t is left to each one of us.

Though man will never know immortality, the soul is already part of the everlasting existence of the universe. It is returned to the Shekinah when life is done, back to the domain which is God, Himself. How it returns to the Shekinah is our responsibility. Glorified, splendiferous, or scarred and damaged, that is within our power. And only when we realize that our existence does have a purpose, that it just isn’t about being born, living a life of toil and hardship, and then dying but in reality is finding ways in which to care and nurture this soul through the love and happiness that life can offer, then and only then do we face death knowing that we can achieve immortality but in a manner different than we assumed it would be achieved. Once we appreciate that throughout our lives we carry the soul like a foetus in the womb in order to give birth to it at the moment of our death then we have also attained an understanding of the meaning of life. The knowlege and experience that we impart to this soul will then either be of benefit or detriment to those already contained within the Shekinah, awaiting to spark another life, another existence. That is within our power. That is how our life is measured and weighed in the balance when we reach our final destiny. Not seeking some personal benefit and reward as we would like to believe, reducing God to some market haggler for our own fulfillment but instead with nobility and honour knowing that we have done our part to shape a better future for mankind and provided and instilled the love for a kinder world with the spark that we have passed on.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wisdom of Kahana: The Nature of God

Wisdom of Kahana: The Nature of God

In Karaism, it is the role of those born Kohen to teach. And although that is what I have been trying to do over the years, it would appear that there is far more that I could be doing and should be doing. So often, I find that people are willing to debate the small and insignificant matters and lose their perspective on the big picture. Sadly, all this leads to is confrontration and consternation within and amongst my Kariate brethren and in so doing fragments us further. And for that reason I have decided to start this series which will provide my perspective on matters but not to the infinite dissection that some seem to desire but through a broad scope with panoramic vision. Karaism was intended and is still intended to paint its teachings with as broad a brush as possible. It mattered not so much whether God's name is pronounced with a 'vav' or an extra 'heh' but that in our hearts and our mind that we knew there was only God to turn to in our hours of need. That it was only his divine existence that we should praise, and that it was only He that could bless us. Everything else was of inconsequence because He needs not to hear His name upon the lips of men but only inscribed upon their hearts. And because this very issue has seemed to have taken upon itself a life of its own and caused endless debate amongst some Karaites, some of which has turned insulting and cruel at a personal level, then I felt it was time to do what it is I have been hereditarily conscripted to do. So this first teaching will be on what I see as the essential nature of God without concern if we pronounce His name with a vav or a heh.

The Nature of God

There is but one God. He is the designer, the creator and the ultimate ruler over all things. He is everlasting and all powerful, both to degrees that can never be fathomed by the intellect of mankind. His existence permeates all things and for that reason He is invisible but yet we see Him at all times and He is unknowable but yet we know of his nature through the world we live in. He is silent, yet his words and actions ring in our ears every day of our lives.
He is the father of fathers, the mother of mothers, for all has come from Him yet he is not defined by sexual attributes or gender. He, or Him is only a pronoun, a tool of language but in no way tries to define God. Those that try to do so do not understand. Man never walks alone, he is never unescorted because God is there at all times whether we choose to see Him or not. He is self-created, there at the beginning and at the end, and He was the one that separated the Light from the Darkness, the Chaos from the Ordered, the Substance from the Void. His is the universal consciousness from which all existence has sprung.
His knowlege is the wisdom of an eternity, and hist strength reaches to the limits of infinity. He dwells within and without the universe, from the core of an atom to the heart of a blazing sun. From the emptiness of space to the dancing radiance of the quazar.
His voice whispers to us from the running waters as they splach over the rocks and pebbles, and roars to us from the force of the whirling tornado. He sighs from the bending treetops and he laughs upon the leaves dancing as they blow in the wind. All these are the voice of God and yet we hear him not.
A man dreams and wishes that it would be reality but God dreams and it becomes reality. Man tries to rationalize God through reason, but the essence of God is beyond reason and therefore always beyond human comprehension. Man seeks God through science but fails to understand that even the laws of science had to be set by one who possessed the creative power. Therefore it is nothing more than a tool and a tool can never reveal its maker. Because through His laws of nature he governs the destinies of all living creatures and we are bound to these laws that we continually try to master. All the forces within and withou are controlled by God and that which we continually seek to explain these forces is none other than Him. Whether we accept it or not, our spirits are filled with the urge to seek God. It is an insatiable hunger no matter how much we try to deny it.
All things have their appointed place and purpose in the universe, and all existence conforms to the laws that He has created. The workings of the universe transcends our understanding so how can we even attempt to understand He that has created the universe? Few will understand the path that He has set for us. We wil curse the stones that cut our feet and scream in agony at the thorny brambles and adversity that block our way. We equate riches and fame with blessings and money and possessions with heavenly reward but none of these are from God and only deceive us into thinking we have found Him. For God is in the order of nature and His plan is in the direction of its orderly laws. Look for Him amongst the stars in the heaven and the sands on the beach and then you will appreciate His grand scheme.
See His glory in the heavens, his brilliance in the light of the sun that gives life to all creatures and plants upon this Earth, his peace in the moon that inspires us to love, his creativity in all which inhabit the oceans and the air, His bounty in the fruits of all that grows from the soils of our planet. Then and only then will you truly appreciate the Glory of God.
The Earth bends to His will. Mountains rise and islands sink beneath the waves. Ground quakes and the winds ravage all that we create. We are insignificant against all that He has created and we must find our place in His universe. We are bound by His limitations but these are still beyond our grasp for He has given us the intellect and capacity to far exceed our present knowledge.
We must realize that the sun shines down on the good and the wicked alike. The heartbreak of misfortune will strike the worthy and unworthy with indifference. Only the wise man will appreciate that this seeming indiffence by God actually serves a purpose. For God neither rewards nor punishes. Long ago he gave us the intellect to establish our own fate. But all that we think that we accomplish has only been throuh His initial design. Each man ultimately decrees his own fate and is rewarded according to their own achievements.
Order and beauty is God's gift to us. All things within the universe move accordingly to the direction of His hand. And it is the beauty of this creation which is His face. It is the awe of our own existence that is His wisdom. It is the sounds we hear from a world of amazement that is His voice. Know that He is with us always. He walks beside us wherever we may go. He is all that we are, and all that there is. From the burning bush He told us so but so many fail to listen and understand. Let us appreciate that Life is a gift and existence is its reward. We come from the Shekinah and all things return to the Shekinah. Such is His law, such is His glory.
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana