Eye On The Ba’al

For some Gnostic Christians, Jesus Christ was analogous to the Earth’s Craftsman, Yaldabaoth, in consequential ways.  Yaldabaoth was the spawn of the exiled mother Aeon, Sophia (AH i.7.1).  Depending on which version of Gnosticism you look at, Jesus is similarly a product of Sophia.  This is at least found in Irenaus’s claims about the Valentinians (AH i.11.1).

Christ also was not produced from the Aeons within the Pleroma, but was brought forth by the mother who had been excluded from it, in virtue of her remembrance of better things, but not without a kind of shadow.

In other versions of Gnosticism, the Logos is the last-created Aeon, sometimes created by other Aeons in the Pleroma.

If one holds to the notion that the early heretic, Basilides, was a Gospel of Mark consumer, then we have another manifestation in that Yaldabaoth’s minions could recognize that Jesus encapsulated the Christ.

But one of the Valentinian views, which has the Logos as the offspring of Sophia, would subsequently imply that the Demiurge and the Logos were siblings!  Perhaps this is why a Valentinian view emerged which had the real source of evil on the Earth as the Demiurge’s creature, the Cosmocrator, rather than the Demiurge (AH i.5.4).  In other words, a complex hierarchy which explains material, evil, and the nature of reality begins to emerge within Valentinian Gnosticism.

The point that I have made over the past year has been that the original Christian Trinity would have been the Father, Mother, and Son.  This is strikingly analogous to the Canaanite view, which had El as the Father, Asherah as the Mother, and Ba’al as the son.

Like Jesus, Ba’al had his own battles to wage.  For example, Ba’al battled Mot for control over the Earth’s fertility.  Ba’al also battled Yam, who was the Sea God.  Yam’s servant was Lotan, a dragon-like sea monster, who in some versions has 7 heads, and was the equivalent to the Leviathan, who showed up throughout the Old Testament, notably Job 3 and Isaiah 27.  Compare the Canaanite tradition to Revelation, which features the Queen of Heaven escaping from a 7-headed dragon in Heaven (Rev 12:3):

And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns…

*I should make the obligatory note that there are many interpretations of this 7-headed dragon; there were probably multiple layers of intent by describing the dragon this way, perhaps in part describing the number of nations that Israelites would have been aware of.

red-dragon-revelation

The scarlet, 7-headed dragon in Revelation 12 chased the pregnant queen in the hopes of devouring her unborn child; this child was immediately snatched up to heaven by “the father” after he was born, leaving the dragon the singular option of chasing the mother, who was then protected by the Earth.  The dragon, after realizing the mother found protection, made war with the woman’s other children, who were also the brothers and sisters of the messiah.  I have made the case (and I am hardly alone in my speculation) that these “other children” were the Nasar – the keepers of an older law which had been lost from mainstream Judaism for hundreds of years BCE.

The victim of the 7-headed dragon was the Mother (and by extension, the child and other siblings).  The dragon rendered authority onto a “beast” (Rev 13:2), and “the people” subsequently worshiped the dragon *because* he had given authority to the beast (Rev 13:4).  Put another way, the beast purported the dragon to be the most high; according to the readers and writers of Revelation, it was obvious this was not the case.

Revelation adjusts the Canaanite myth, which has the 7-headed dragon as the servant of Yam; in Revelation, it is not clear that the dragon is subservient to anyone.  However, in some versions of the Canaanite myth, Yam’s rulership on the Earth turned tyrannical after he imprisoned (the Most High) El’s Wife, Asherah, the Queen of Heaven.

Yam’s misbehavior outraged, El and Asherah’s son, Ba’al enough to take action, waging war against Yam.  There is unambiguous correlation between Canaanite myth and the story in Revelation, where the Queen is victimized by (what must be) the malicious offspring of the Most High, the dragon.

Revelation 17 gives insight into another adversary who had collaborated with the scarlet, 7-headed dragon.  The purple and scarlet clad woman, who is later identified as the whore of Babylon, was clearly a reference to the decoration of the temple veil, which had those colors and was of Babylonian origin.

Josephus gives the following description of the Babylonian veil:

It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple…

The purple and scarlet wearing whore had replaced the prior protector of the temple:  the Queen of Heaven!  The heavenly-emanated woman who was at the helm looking over Solomon’s Temple was absent from the 2nd temple, presumably because the dragon prevented it.

Revelation eventually has the whore falling, and “the beast was captured, along with the false prophet who had performed the signs on his behalf” (Rev 19:20).  They were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

In the Canaanite myth, it is Ba’al who battled the 7-headed dragon.  In Christianity, it is “the angel standing in the sun” who ushers in the beast’s destruction and the dragon’s 1000 year imprisonment.  This gave rise to angels who were “given authority to judge” (Rev 20:4); compare that to the Canaanite myth, which had the most High giving Yam the ability to judge on Earth, prior to his rebellion and imprisonment of the mother/queen.

It is easy to look at these correlations and presume Revelation’s writer simply rewrote the Canaanite myth.  But there is something strange about this:  why is the tradition of Ba’al, who in Orthodox Christianity came to represent Satan (or at least one of his minions), treated so kindly?

One of my presumptions is that Revelation was not crafted by anyone with much concern for the emerging Orthodoxy’s rules.  Rather, Revelation’s author here seems to have a very clear picture of how he and Jesus Christ (ie the Logos manifested on Earth) sees creation and other units within their emerging religion.  The blatant lifting of attributes from the Canaanite myth might be inconsequential, but I believe these were traditions that were originally important to the Queen of Heaven cult, and that is why they survived into the Orthodoxy (via Revelation) despite Revelation being considered heretical by many early Christians.

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Author: Tim...Stepping Out

Tim Stepping Out

19 thoughts on “Eye On The Ba’al”

  1. Revelation has an even closer relationship to the story of Apollo slaying Python, which itself is a version of the Ba’al slaying the seven-headed dragon. In the Apollo version, the dragon chases down Apollo’s pregnant mother, just like in Revelation, except that it is Apollo himself, who immediately grows up and takes up a bow, rather than the angel Michael, who fights the dragon. The myth may have originally been adapted by Montanus since he was a convert from the Apollo priesthood.

    http://www.lost-history.com/apollo.php

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  2. Wait a minute … I though video games weren’t invented until the twentieth century! They had levels, and dragons, and queens, and magic, and mystical weapons, and various guises one could take. These guys were way ahead of their times!

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  3. Hey Tim, I don’t know if you listen to the Bible Geek podcast but Bob Price just announced that he’s reviving the Journal of Higher Criticism and he’s welcoming submissions as per the latest episode. I was wondering if you’re interested.

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      1. Well he said that he’ll act more as an editor and he’s not going to peer review it. He likes speculative stuff when it comes to religion and he would even welcome topics from Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, ancient pagan et.al. He said it in the introduction of the latest episode.

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  4. I had come up with an initial hypothesis that Christianity was a Jewish response to the first war and destruction of the temple. However, it does seem that the ‘jewishness’ of early Christianity was much interpolated later, nevertheless, the apocalyptic content does confirm that the Jewish wars are very important still.
    I don’t buy completely that Roman conspiracy theory, as early Christianity is way too fragmented to have been a cult having a single origin source. However certainly Roman manipulation would have come later.

    The question I have considered is – why all the obsession with Josephus?

    Despite the embarrassment that Josephus’s work presented to orthodox Christianity, it survived the purges. The Gospels and Acts and Revelations seem to borrow heavily from these works. It is always assumed that Josephus remained an orthodox jew, but he became Romanised and made enemies amongst his people. He was a Priest, and perhaps most tellingly, he believed the Fall of Jerusalem was a fulfillment of Daniel’s Prophecy.

    Josephus was more than a historian, he was a religious leader and quite clearly with charisma. I suspect that some of stories about Paul in Acts owe something to Josephus’s life story. Of course, Josephus knows nothing about a historical Jesus in the Gospels, however he does seem to know about a lot of other ‘Jesus’ characters.
    While his writings that we know about do not lend anything to him being associated with Christianity, he seems to be at the very centre of its beginnings (including the Galilee link). If in the last decades of his life, he was involved with a religious community (after all he was a Priest!), what would have this group have been like – a possible prototype gnostic religion?

    I am suggesting that we should consider Josephus as more than just the historian who created the backdrops – and consider if he contributed in any manner philosophical to the creation of Christianity. I think skeptics have done a good job scanning Josephus’s works for the historical details, but have perhaps failed to consider Josephus’s role as a religious figure and philosopher.

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  5. Great post. This certainly gives some food for thought. The idea of Revelation as a polemic and theological allegory against the version of Judaism of the day is interesting. I’ve always read it in a prophetic tone, which never made much sense, but in fact the real issues being addressed by the writer would have most certainly been past or current events, especially within the Judaism of the time. As much as modern fiction writers would like to treat it as a prophetic text, it’s obviously more relevant to the issues of the time.

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      1. I think I once heard in a Bible Geek episode in the past that a listener submitted an email suggesting that it wasn’t Amanita muscaria being used by Gnostic Christians but some other plant with psychoactive effects similar to cocaine and crystal meth. Obviously I find both speculative and I’m thinking if I got lucky to be admitted to med school I’ll probably do a research on the subject of substance use throughout history and I’ll comb through every page of Allegro’s work.

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      2. If the Essenes were using mushrooms, then they probably would not have found them in a dessert. They would need to be collected from more humid parts, dried and transported. Without any written evidence for this practice, it really is just pure speculation.
        I am not convinced there is a need to assume psychotropic drugs. Biblical characters seem to put a fair amount of authority in dreams, ie ‘warned in a dream’ etc and everyone can dream!
        Another problem with proposing this is that it lends to the possibility that the images in these ‘visions’ are completely un-interpretable, that is the number of heads on a dragon may mean absolutely nothing if it was just someone’s hallucinatory dream. If, however the writer is lucid and actually making a narrative (inspire by a dream?), we should expect that images have metaphorical meaning that the writer expects his/her readers to understand.

        On another note, if one were to look into possible hallucinatory fungi, one which is worth considering is ‘ergot’. It infects wheat and therefore could result in bread which helps you commune with spiritual beings? I think it would near impossible to deliberately produce ergot infected bread, but it could happen from time to time by accident – with the occasional communion turning out to be quite an experience if not deadly!
        If one were to pursue such a hypothesis, look for a very wet summer sometime in the late 1st century/early second century, and maybe you have the birth of Christianity there? A nice hypothesis to sell a book, but alas probably not much else!

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