Friday, September 30, 2016

Galileo's Christian Faith

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642 A.D.) was a man of Christian faith as well as a man of science.

Galileo expressed his support of the Polish astronomer Copernicus who developed a cosmology with the sun at the center, the Earth rotating about a polar axis, and the Earth and planets circling the sun. Basically this is what we know of the solar system today.

 Galileo shared some of these ideas and expressed views on the Bible in a letter to the Grand Duchess of Tuscany in 1615. In that letter Galileo wrote:  “I think in the first place that it is very pious to say and prudent to affirm that the Holy Bible can never speak untruth—whenever its true meaning is understood.”

Later this letter was used against him in his first Church trial and censure. The Roman Catholic tribunal directed Galileo to stop teaching the Copernican cosmology and forbid him even to discuss it.

In 1632, Galileo completed his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems—Ptolemaic & Copernican. In this work he presented the arguments for and against the Copernican (solar centric) cosmology and the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic (geocentric) cosmology. 

Galileo warned the Church hierarchs and theologians about the long-term effects of denying scientifically verified data. He wrote: 
"Take note, theologians, that in your desire to make matters of faith out of propositions relating to the fixity of sun and Earth you run the risk of eventually having to condemn as heretics those who would declare the Earth to stand still and the sun to change position--eventually, I say, at such a time as it might be physically or logically proved that the Earth moves and the sun stands still."

The Roman Catholic Church did not heed Galileo's warning and about 350 years after Galileo, the Vatican issued an apology.

The Linguistic Development of Hebrew

Hebrew developed from the Canaanite language spoken by people of Abraham's time. In Abraham's time rulers and their royal advisors spoke many languages. The ability to speak, read and write more than one language continued to be a requirement for ruler-priests in Jesus' day. Many of these men served in the Sanhedrin, the Beth Din HaGadol (The Great Court).

Priests belonging to prominent families were highly regarded members of the Sanhedrin. A "prominent" family was one whose lineages could be traced back to Horite Hebrew ruler-priests, what Jews call their Horim. (In English Bibles Horim is Horite.) These members of the Sanhedrin served under the presidency of the high priest who bore the title nasi (ruler, king, prince).

The third century Rabbi Johanan enumerates the qualifications of those in the Sanhedrin as follows: they must be tall, of imposing appearance, of advanced age, and scholars. They were required to be adept in the use of foreign languages. When testimony was given to the Sanhedrin in a foreign language, at least two members who spoke that language were required to examine the witness. There was also a third member who understood the language. These three members constituted a minor court of three, who then reported the testimony to the entire Sanhedrin.

Looking at the diagram below, trace Hebrew back to its "West Semitic" origin. In which language family is the Semitic group classified? To look at other languages in this family, go here.

With what other languages does Hebrew share this lineage?

How many solar symbols do you see in the Canaanite alphabet?

Related reading: The Urheimat of the Canaanite Y; Early Written Signs; Ancient Canaanite Inscriptions

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Generative Divine Word

Abraham's faith was based on the faith of his ancestors. It is a "received" tradition, not an invention. In this faith tradition the spoken word of the King has great power. Indeed the archaic kings were very powerful men. The Creator's Word is the most powerful of all. It has the power to generate life and to establish order where there is chaos.

This tradition is expressed among African peoples even today. A favorite phrase among the Nilotic Luo is Wach en gi teko which means "a word has power."

The bards of the Bambara Komo Society of Uganda recite this praise of the Word:

The word is total:
it cuts, excoriates
forms, modulates
perturbs, maddens
cures or directly kills
amplifies or reduces
According to intention
It excites or calms souls.

The concept of the living, generative word is evident in this song of the BaMbuti Pygmies:

In the beginning was God
Today is God,
Tomorrow will be God.
Who can make an image of God?
He has no body.
He is as a word which comes out from your mouth,
That word! It is no more,
It is past and still it lives!
So is God.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What is a Phoneme?

A phoneme is the smallest unit in the sound system of a language that can be identified as distinct from any other unit of sound. A phoneme is a minimal unit that serves to distinguish between meanings of words.

A pair of words like kátur and gátur that differ only in one "phone" is called a minimal pair.

Here are examples of the phonemes /r/ and /l/ occurring in a minimal pair:

In the field of comparative linguistics the comparison of phones is important in efforts to trace connections between languages. Comparative linguistics is the study of similarities and differences between languages, in particular the comparison of related languages with a view to reconstructing forms in their lost parent languages.

Related reading: Glossary of Linguistic Terms; Phoneme Study Pinpoints Origin of Modern Languages; Comparative Linguistics

Monday, September 26, 2016

Genetic Types: a few basics

A haplotype is a group of genes in an organism that are inherited together from a single parent.

A haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor with a single-nucleotide polymorphism mutation.

Haplogroups pertain to a single line of descent, usually dating back thousands of years. When it comes to tracing the point of origin of Abraham's male ancestors biblical anthropologists are especially interested in males carrying R-M173 in modern populations. These populations which live in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Eurasia comprise two subclades: R1a and R1b. Identifying haplotypes, haplogroups, and subclades is the work of molecular genetics.

Genetics has provided significant information about the point of origin of humans. It is agreed that the first humans lived in Africa. That is also where the oldest human fossils have been found. Among these archaic humans there was diversity of appearance, as is evident from studies of their anatomical structure.

Y-DNA is passed solely along the patrilineal line, that is, from father to son. The mtDNA is passed down the matrilineal line, that is, from mother to offspring of both sexes. Since neither recombines, Y-DNA and mtDNA change only by mutation at each generation with no intermixture between parents' genetic material. Molecular geneticists investigate when these mutations took place in the lineage they are studying.

The haplogroups most commonly used to identify human populations are Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) haplogroups and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups. In human mitochondrial genetics, the root of the human phylogenetic tree is L. Here is a map showing the dispersion of human populations according to mitochondrial (maternal) DNA. (Click on the image for a closer view.)

By User: Maulucioni
Migraciones humanas en haplogrupos mitocondriales.PNG, CC BY-SA 3.0 

L is the mitochondrial DNA macro-haplogroup that is at the root of the human mtDNA phylogenetic tree. As such, it represents the most ancestral mitochondrial lineage of all currently living humans. It is evident that all modern humans have ancestry that is traced to Africa.

It is evident that from the beginning there was great genetic diversity among human populations living in Africa, especially among peoples living along the Nile. That diversity is evident in African populations even today.

New research based on study of fragmentary fossils suggests humans have come in different shapes and sizes since our origins over two million years ago. The great anatomical diversity found in humans today emerged much earlier than previously thought.

Molecular genetics has demonstrated that the notion of "race" is a false understanding of human populations. The term "race" does not appear in the Bible either. The Bible does not use the word race because that word represents a conception of human diversity which is untrue. All humans living today have African ancestry and from the beginning there was great diversity of appearance. Consider the example of the ancient Nubians, shown below.

The San Bushman are one of the oldest known people groups in the world and they have a yellow skin tone that we associate more with the Chinese. Recent genetic research has demonstrated that the ancestors of the Chinese came from Africa about 80,000 years ago.

There have been numerous movements of people out of Africa. This genetic study identified an "ancient trace" in Papuan genomes that indicates one movement took place as early as 120,000 years ago.

The movement of human populations out of Africa is especially evident when we consider Haplogroup R1b. This traces the Y chromosome DNA which is passed along the father's side. Y-DNA R1b is found in Africa, Southern Europe, France, and the British Isles. This dispersion took place over thousands of years, from about 80,000 to 8,000 years ago.

In the Bible, the Kushites are identified as one of the latter groups to disperse out of the Nile Valley. These people are identified with Kush (Cush), Noah's grandson. One of Kush's sons was Nimrod who established his kingdom in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Abraham was a descendant of Nimrod.

Both Lake Chad and the Upper Nile were populated by people in the R1b haplogroup. This haplogroup is usually regarded as European, rather than African, but it is both, as is evident from the map below showing the R1b distribution. 

The dark red spot in central Africa is the region of Lake Chad,
Noah's homeland.

Haplogroup R1b, also known as haplogroup R-M343, is the most frequently occurring Y chromosome haplogroup in Western Europe, some parts of Russia (especially the Bashkir minority), Central Asia (e.g. Turkmenistan) and in the region of Lake Chad and along the Nile.

This is the haplogroup of Abraham's Proto-Saharan ancestors who dispersed widely and are identified in history as Kushites, Kushan, Ainu, Saka, Hittites, Horites, etc. Among them was a caste of priests known in ancient texts as 'Apiru, Hapiru, Habiru or Hebrew.

The English word "Hebrew" is equivalent to Ha'biru. The Habiru were already widely dispersed in the 14th-13th centuries B.C. Their spread was driven by their unique marriage and ascendancy pattern by which some sons were sent away to established their own territories.

Abraham's Habiru ancestors served at the archaic pillared temples built by the archaic rulers who are called "the mighty men of old" in Genesis 6:4. They are described as heroes and men of renown. They constructed temples, palaces, fortified shrine cities ("high places") and pyramids.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pyramids Galore!

The rulers of the ancient world dispersed across a vast region that extended from central Africa to Southern Europe and China. These rulers are called "the mighty men of old" in Genesis 6:4. They are described as heroes and men of renown. They constructed temples, palaces, fortified shrine cities, and pyramids. The best known pyramids are those at Giza in Egypt. South of these are other pyramids at Abusir and Saqqara.

Pyramid of Neferirkare at Abusir
The Pyramid of Neferirkare is the tallest of all pyramids constructed in ancient Egypt during its Fifth Dynasty.

Here are some of the other pyramids that have been discovered.

In Zinder Province, Niger

Read more about this pyramid here.

Pyramid of the Sun, Visoko, Bosnia

Photo credit: Jock William Doubleday

4,600-year-old step pyramid discovered near the modern town of Edfu, Egypt.

Image credit: Oriental Institute

The pyramid belongs to a series of almost identical small pyramids that have been discovered near several provincial centers in Egypt such as Elephantine, Hierakonpolis, Naqada, Abydos, Zawiet el-Meitin near Minya, and Seila in the Fayum. The whole group dates to the reign of Pharaoh Huni (around 2600 BC), the last ruler of the 3rd Dynasty.

Xian Pyramids in the Tarum Valley, China

Pyramids of Xian in the Tarum Basin, China

In the pyramids of China's Tarim Basin researchers have found well-preserved mummies. The so-called "Ur-David" mummy  was found here. He was tall and had red hair. This mummy dates to about 3900 B.C. Y chromosomal DNA analysis revealed that the men buried in this region are mainly in the haplogroup R1a1a.

The Xiaohe cemetery is the oldest archaeological site with human remains
discovered in the Tarim Basin to date.

In 2000, the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute rediscovered the Bronze Age Xiaohe cemetery in the Taklamakan Desert by using a global positioning device. The Xiaohe cemetery was first explored in 1934 by Folke Bergman, a Swedish archaeologist, but the cemetery was lost sight of until the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute rediscovered it. The burial site comprises a total of 167 graves. Here archaeologists have found well-preserved boat coffins, reminiscent of the solar (funerary) boats believed to carry the souls of the dead pharaohs.

Genetic analyses revealed that the maternal lineages of the Xiaohe people were originated from both the East and the West, whereas the paternal lineages found in the Xiaohe people all originated from the West, likely part of the north-eastward movement of the R1 rulers.

Note the dark red spot in Central Africa. 
This is the region of Lake Chad and Noah's homeland.

The Oldest Known Calculator

The Antikythera Mechanism is a Greek geared device, constructed around the end of the second century B.C. It calculated and displayed celestial regular cycles such as the phases of the moon and a luni-solar calendar. The mechanism predicted lunar and solar eclipses on the basis of Babylonian arithmetic-progression cycles. The inscriptions support suggestions of mechanical display of planetary positions

Calendars were important to ancient societies for timing agricultural activity and fixing religious festivals. Even today the seasons of the Church calendar align to astronomical cycles.

The mechanical device is named after its place of discovery in 1901 in a Roman shipwreck, the Antikythera. It is more complex than any known device for at least a millennium afterwards.

The mechanism has three main dials. The front dial has two concentric scales. The outer ring is marked off with the days of the 365-day Egyptian calendar, which became the basis of the later Julian calendar introduced in 46 B.C. Inside this, there is a second dial marked with the Greek Zodiac signs and divided into degrees. The calendar dial can be moved to compensate for the extra quarter day in the year by turning the scale backwards one day every four years.

In the second century B.C, Hipparchos developed a theory to explain the irregularities of the Moon's motion across the sky caused by its elliptic orbit. This theory is reflected in the gearing of the mechanism, revealing technical sophistication. According to Plato, the ancient Nilotes had been observing and recording data about celestial events for 10,000 years. Greek knowledge of celestial cycles and events built on that of the sages and priests of the ancient Nile Valley.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Technology to Preserve Languages on the Verge of Extinction

Credit: Ryan Red Corn (Osage)

There are many endangered languages in our collective linguistic radar. Some of them have been covered here before and some haven’t. In 2007, Joshua Hinson of Chickasaw heritage, identified that his language was one the brink of extinction. Rather than blaming technology as contributing source to language loss, Hinson embraced the opportunity to use technology to help save his language.

When Hinson saw that his ancestral Chickasaw language was disappearing, he decided to help build an online presence and create a smartphone app to make the language accessible.

Hinson used the internet to build an online presence for his tribe. This has been done before, as recently as in 2012 when Google embraced theEndangered Languages Project. Hinson almost a poured a decade into theChickasaw Language Revitalization Program, and by now knows enough Chickasaw to hold conversations as well as to read and write. As I understand it, at 32 years old, he is youngest member of the language to speak fluently, the next youngest member is 62.

Read the full article here.

Related reading: Dr. Nola Stephens on Linguistics and Faith

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Sunlight Cycle in the Northern Hemisphere

The Sun's cross marks the transitional points on the sunlight cycle in the northern hemisphere:

1. Winter solstice - the shortest day and the longest night
2. Spring equinox - the equal day and night
3. Summer solstice - the longest day and shortest night
4. Autumn equinox - the equal day and night

The Winter solstice occurs on December 21-22 in the Northern Hemisphere, and June 20 or 21 in the Southern Hemisphere. From the Winter Solstice, the hours of daylight lengthen again and the Sun is shown to be "the undefeated Sun" - Sol Invictus. In the ancient 12-division zodiacs, this is symbolized by the ostrich which hides its head for a time by lying flat against the ground, and after the Winter Solstice it begins laying its eggs. Some ancient zodiacs show a Man - "the Father of fathers" - as the sign of the Winter solstice.

Herodotus reported that there was an annual ceremony at Sais in Lower Egypt to commemorate the death and resurrection of Horus, who was called the son of God. The people mourned and beat their breasts in sorrow for the death of the Creator's son. An image of a golden cow with a golden sun between its horns was carried out of the chamber in which it stood throughout the year.

In Plutarch’s time a similar ceremony took place at the winter solstice. In this ceremony the golden calf was carried seven times round the temple. People placed oil lamps outside their houses and the lamps illumined the darkness throughout the night. This custom was observed throughout Egypt and in the Upper Nile regions.

The Spring equinox occurs on March 21-22 in the Northern Hemisphere and is the time when the day and night have equal duration. In the 12-division zodiacs, the animal totem that represented the Spring equinox was the Eagle or the Vulture.

The Summer solstice is the longest day of the year. It occurs on June 21-22 in the Northern Hemisphere. The ancient sign of the summer solstice was the lion.

The Autumn equinox occurs on September 21-22 in the Northern Hemisphere and is the moment when the day is as long as night (equal duration). This is the beginning of the seasonal shift to winter, at the beginning of November. The ancient sign of the Autumn equinox was the bull.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion

Johannes Kepler lived from 1571 to 1630 and is famous for his contribution to astrophysics. For an explanation of Kepler's 3 Laws of Planetary Motion watch this video or the one below.

The Law of Ellipses
Kepler's first law - sometimes referred to as the law of ellipses - explains that planets are orbiting the sun in a path described as an ellipse. The path of the planets about the sun is elliptical in shape, with the center of the sun being located at one focus.

The Law of Equal Areas
Kepler's second law - sometimes referred to as the law of equal areas - describes the speed at which any given planet will move while orbiting the sun. The speed at which any planet moves through space is constantly changing. A planet moves fastest when it is closest to the sun and slowest when it is furthest from the sun. An imaginary line drawn from the center of the sun to the center of the planet will sweep out equal areas in equal intervals of time.

The Law of Harmonies
Kepler's third law - sometimes referred to as the law of harmonies - compares the orbital period and radius of orbit of a planet to those of other planets. Unlike Kepler's first and second laws that describe the motion characteristics of a single planet, the third law makes a comparison between the motion characteristics of different planets. The ratio of the squares of the periods of any two planets is equal to the ratio of the cubes of their average distances from the sun.

Related reading: Johannes Kepler;  Man of Science, Man of God

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Stone Age

The three archaeological periods with which we are concerned in our Bible Technology Component are the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. In this article we will learn about the Stone Age.

During the Stone Age the primary material used for tools and architecture was stone. People crafted tools from stone and build structures such as tombs and temples. This was a very long period of time during which human populations dispersed across much of the Earth. The Stone Age lasted roughly 3.4 million years and ended about 2500 BC (the time of Abraham's grandfather, Nahor the Elder).

Early stone tools include sharp-edged flakes, flake fragments, and cobbles dated to between 2.5 and 2.6 million years. These were discovered at three sites along the Gona River in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Similar stone tools, known as Oldowan, have been found at Omo in southern Ethiopia, at Lokalalei in northern Kenya, and at Hadar, five miles east of the Gona River study area.

One of the oldest known stone working sites is located at Kathu in South Africa. Here archaeologists collected many thousands of stone tools and products of tool making in a few sample pits over a several acres. The archaeologists estimated that there are on average 900 artifacts per 100x100x10 cm volume of material in this area with much of the area up to 2 meters deep in artifact rich soils. This high concentration of stone artifacts, along with available source rock in nearby outcrops, suggests that this was a tool making center between 800,000 and 500,000 years ago.

During the Stone Age people crafted tools from stone and built tombs and temples using stone. Temples typically had many stone pillars such as those shown at temple entrance below.

The two Ġgantija temples in Gozo, on the island of Malta, are some of the world's oldest free-standing stone structures. They were constructed during the Neolithic period (c. 3600–2500 BC).  Other ancient temples include those found at Göbekli Tepe and Nekhen. Nekhen (called Hierakonpolis by the Greeks), is the oldest temple known to have association with Abraham's ancestors. The temple was located on the Nile, making it easy for temple officials to weigh and measure goods and assess tolls on the vessels that docked there.

Rulers at Nekhen acquired exotic goods and animals from central Africa and Afghanistan 4000 years ago. Nobles were buried with red ochre at Nekhen. At Tomb 100 there are two boats painted on the walls. Tomb 23, discovered at in 2005, is the largest burial structure from the Naqada II period (c.3500-3200 BC).

Typically the shrine cities of the ancient world were built near major water systems such as rivers and lakes. One example in the Bible is the shrine city of On (Genesis 41:45). On was called Heliopolis by the Greeks. Heliopolis means "city of the Sun." Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.”

The people who lived at Biblical On called it Iunu, which means "place of pillars." Plato, who studied under a Horite priest for thirteen years, wrote "Tell me of the God of On, which was, is and shall be."

Heliopolis was the geodetic center of Egypt. The pyramid triads at Giza, Abusir and Saqqara were aligned to the obelisk at On. The shrine city of Baalbek in Lebanon also aligned to On.

Joseph married Asenath, the daughter of a priest of Heliopolis. Study of the Heliopolitan cosmogony makes it apparent that Heliopolis was conceived as the sacred center of the primeval ocean, called Nun. The many pillars of the temple symbolized the connection between the waters below and the waters above (Gen. 1:7). It is likely that Joshua, a great Hebrew leader, belonged to a ruler-priest family associated with On because he was a son of Nun (Numbers 11:28).

Usually, shrine cities were built at higher elevations to make it easier to defend the city against enemy attacks. In the Bible these ancient cities are called "the high places" and they are criticized for some religious practices that were not pleasing to the Creator.

Standing stones at the Gezer high place (Israel)
Photo: Dennis Cole.

At some high elevations the ancient stone workers constructed circles of standing stones. These have been found in many parts of the ancient world. They were places of religious ceremony linked to astronomical events. One of the most famous sites in the world is Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Here visitors from around the world can see the remains of a circle of standing stones set within earthworks.

The oldest known stone circles date to 175,000 years ago and were formed inside the Bruniquel cave in southwestern France.

In western Europe the tall upright stones erected in prehistoric times are called menhirs. In Sardinia, 200 menhirs have been identified in the area of the island's geographic center. These date between the late Neolithic (3200-2800 BC) and the Eneolithic (2800-1800 BC). Stone circles and megaliths also have been found in Senegal and Gambia. These date to the 3rd century BC.

Related reading: Why Nekhen is Anthropologically Significant; The Pillars of Solomon's Temple; Stone Work of the Ancient World; The Tool Makers of Kathu, Circumcision and Standing Stones in the Judean Hills; Henges and Rondel EnclosuresLithic Landscapes: Early Human Impact from Stone Tool Production on the Central Saharan Environment.