About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Fragrant Christ

It is a sign of biblical literacy, if not basic cultural competence, to know that “Christ” was not Jesus’ second name nor his surname. Children in the Sunday School learn that Christ is from the Greek word χριστὸς and itself is a translation of Hebrew word Messiah מָשִׁיחַ and in both cases the meaning is “The anointed one”. And they also learn that anointing was an Ancient Near Eastern act of promoting persons to some high offices, to priesthood, kingship, occasionally to a role of prophet. Thus sur-name “Christ” is in fact an honorific title. Our modern theology and liturgy tries to highlight this original meaning by using expression "Jesus the Christ".      
Nevertheless, the New testament writings and the Early Christianity were fully immersed in the Hellenistic Greek Culture and in it the inaugural anointing was not widely used and known. And thus already from the later parts of the New Testament onward the title Christ lost the meaning of an honorific title and started to function as a second name, it became part of a holy name (nomen sacrum).
And this early (biblical) onset of pious ignorance is something you might not know about the New Testament Bible.


I mentioned that the Hebrew word messiah מָשִׁיחַ was an honorific title indicating that the person was inaugurated into some higher-ranking position by the act of anointing - pouring fragrant oil over them. Kings, priests and prophets were called anointed. 

    But the act of religious anointing (root משׁח) was not reserved for people alone. Religiously anointed were also the temple furniture (ark, lampstand, incense table, utensils) even the sanctuary/tabernacle itself. Anointing was a religious ritual consecrating objects or people as holy, setting them apart for special religious functions.

    Anointing was in fact a liturgically enacted metaphor with several interconnected meanings. 

Oils have preservative faculties that slow down rusting or rotting - thus anointing visualized and represented this desire to forestall decay. Before the invention of soap, oils played an important role in personal hygiene (rubbing oils on skin and scraping off dirt) - thus anointing was associated with cleanliness. Oils and ointments especially infused with herbs are used until now in medicine - thus anointing represented this desire to protect the health of the anointed. Oils infused with herbs were also used as perfumes, covering or repelling unpleasant odors. Here you need to understand that in ancient times it was about more than just cosmetics. Demons were believed to reek - thus anointing actualized repelling demons.

    Anointing was associated with preservation, cleanliness, health and repelling of demons, it was in fact apotropaic magic - a high brow religious ritual to set objects or persons apart and to express desire in protecting them from evil influences. 

    And this deep apotropaic function of anointing is something you might not know about the Bible (biblical religion).


And here is a YouTube video of the sermon: Fragrance of Loving Care.


Mythic Grains

Ugaritic tablet KTU 1.6 with text of part of Baal Cycle.
Among the Ugaritic Mythological texts, there is this interesting part of Baal myth (KTU 1.6.ii.31-37 in my translation and partly reconstructed from parallels).

     Goddess Anat grasped divine Mot,

     with a trashing blades she split him,

     with a fan she winnowed him,

     with fire she parched him,

     with millstones she ground him,

     on the steppe she scattered him,

     in the furrows she sowed him.

     His remains the birds did indeed eat,

     his remnants the sparrows did consume.


     Do you recognize how similar it is to the parable which Jesus said?! The one about the different seeds landing in different soils and about their different destinies.

     Well, I am not suggesting that Jesus copied ancient Canaanite myths, of course he did not. Those myths are twelve hundred years older and were buried in the ruins of the city for centuries.

     But Jesus was certainly drawing from the same treasure of religious metaphors. Those religious metaphors about grain date from great antiquity, from the beginning of farming, thousands of years before the time of Jesus or the time of Ugarit.

            And these mythical metaphors were not limited to Hebrew or Semitic people. It is likely that similar grain metaphors played an important role in the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries. And among the hairs of Celtic religion and culture are present in the ballad John Barleycorn must die (A friend Neil Nash alerted me to this fact.)

            In the New Testament Jesus is not the only one who uses this grain metaphor. Apostle Paul reached out to the same mythic treasure when he tried to explain to the Corinthians (1Cor15) the resurrection. He used the similar metaphor of grain being buried and then rising to new life.

            And thus through Apostle Paul and the parables of Jesus we share this important, meaningful and beautiful connection with the dawn of civilization, the beginning of agriculture, and the oldest shared hopes of transcending our mortality.

            And that is something you might not know about the Bible, about the New Testament metaphors and their deep, meaningful, mythical roots. 


Video version of this blog can be found here.