Monday, November 24, 2014

The Savior of America: Thomas Jefferson's Theory of Education


Thomas Jefferson’s Theory of Education
By Andrew Calvert (Grade 11)


            Jack Kerouac, when speaking on the highest level of individual freedom he had known in his life wrote:
“Because the only people for me were the mad ones, the ones who were mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones you never hear yawn or say commonplace things, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous Roman candles, exploding like spiders across the stars.”[1]
            If ever these attributes were embodied in one man, it was in the person, mind, and soul of Thomas Jefferson. He was the scientist, lawyer, author, musician, student, and philosopher-king who wrote the United States of America into existence and who defined what it was to be an American citizen for generations unborn. He was to be America’s lighthouse of wisdom, vanguard of thought and science, and navigator of philosophical waters no man had ever ventured out upon. Jefferson took the mere thought and conjecture of European Enlightenment thinkers and built an American empire upon it. Though many ideals Jefferson held in esteem he did not personally accomplish, he defined what he hoped the future course of America would be. This definition began with education. Thomas Jefferson’s theory of education formed a deeply interwoven epistemology centered around his views on religion, politics, and the essence of human nature. For Jefferson, his educational theory also defined what it meant to possess natural human rights and the drive to impart those rights to all Americans became the sole purpose of the last half of Jefferson’s life.
            Thomas Jefferson was born on April 2, 1743 in Albermarle County, Virginia, to Peter Jefferson and Jane Rudolph.[2] While Jefferson was not born to the wealthiest of families; he was still from a rather distinguished line of descent. His father, Peter, was a self-educated intellectual and the first source of knowledge for a man who would remain a student until his last moments on Earth. After his father’s death in 1757, when Jefferson was only fourteen, Thomas was sent to receive a classical education in Greek and Roman literature and grammar under Dr. James Maury.[3] Maury would give Jefferson the key to unlock prior millennia of thought and philosophical contributions and further the yearning Jefferson had for knowledge.[4]
            By the time Thomas Jefferson decided to attend the College of William and Mary at seventeen, he was extraordinarily proficient in nearly all academic disciplines.[5] B.L. Rayner remarked on Jefferson’s intellect saying that:
“His course was not marked by any of those eccentricities which often presage the rise of extraordinary purpose, but … by that bold spirit of inquiry, and thirst for knowledge, which are the surer prognostics of future greatness.”[6]
            It was during the time that he attended William and Mary that Thomas Jefferson received the three most profound influences on his life and thought. These came in the persons of Dr. William Small, Governor Francis Fauquier, and George Wythe. This intellectual triumvirate often hosted dinners at the Governor’s house where Jefferson once remarked:
“I have heard more good sense, more rational and philosophical conversations [at the Governor’s dinners], than in all my life besides.”[7]
            The crux of Jefferson’s philosophy was formed from these men. Jefferson was endless in his praise of Small, Wythe, and Fauquier. He attributed his “great good fortune” and “what probably fixed all the destinies of my life” to William Small.[8] About Wythe, Jefferson wrote, “No man ever left behind him a character more venerated than George Wythe”, and Jefferson also proclaimed “[Wythe was] honor of his own, and model of future times.”[9] It is apparent then, that to understand the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson, which is the intellectual font of his educational theory, the prior philosophy of his mentors and their predecessors must be known.
            Small and Wythe no doubt reflected the predominant philosophy of the 18th century, which can be generally described as the Enlightenment. In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, growing religious skepticism coincided with watershed advances in science and mathematics that led certain thinkers to question whether man was entirely dependent on God, where mankind obtained true knowledge, and even the very existence of the Christian God.
            Thomas Jefferson based his philosophy on the belief that Christianity was not a perfect source of knowledge or even the only source of truth. Jefferson averred David Hume and Francis Bacon among others in his skepticism of the dogmatic Christian Church. To Jefferson and other Enlightenment intellectuals, Christianity, among other religions, had caused such repeated injuries to mankind that it was not fit to be the basis of civil government.[10] Enlightenment thinkers, following the teachings of Aristotle and subsequent philosophers, sought true knowledge from observation, experimentation, and sense experience since the Church, the only other traditional authority, could not be trusted.[11] This influence on the physical and empirical world led to the proliferation of a materialist worldview that placed scientific knowledge and governmental or political philosophy at the forefront of human understanding.
            However, the humanistic influence on Jefferson does not justify classifying Jefferson as agnostic or atheistic. Jefferson does not deny the existence of God or of some other supernatural Deity.[12] That being said, Jefferson’s skepticism does echo Enlightenment rationale by limiting his Gospel reading to that of Jesus’ direct quotations alone. He saw the followers of Jesus Christ and the subsequent Catholic Church as the source of corruption within Christianity, not Christ himself, whom Jefferson viewed simply as a great moral teacher. Jefferson once very bluntly wrote that Christ’s writings were “as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill”[13] when compared to the writings of the Apostles. While Jefferson did convey an impersonal tone in his discussion of God, it is equally apparent that Jefferson did not go to the extreme of denouncing religion, but denounced the corrupting human influence upon it. Jefferson then, seems to be acting mostly politically when he described himself as “rational Christian”[14] since Jefferson’s personal beliefs do not appear to align with the Protestant Evangelicalism that was prevalent in the United States’ population at the time, as it is today.[15]
            So, after rejecting Christian doctrine and the Church as the sole source of human knowledge, Jefferson had to offer another in its place. The foundation of Jefferson’s educational theory can be seen in one sentence taken from a letter to a younger pupil of his:
“In morality, read Epictetus, Xenophantis Memorabilia, Plato’s Socratic dialogues, Cicero’s philosophies, Antonius, and Seneca.”[16]
            On a superficial level, it appears that Thomas Jefferson is only suggesting sophisticated classics to his student, but his recommendations have much deeper meaning than what is apparent on the surface. All of the philosophers, emperors, and thinkers Jefferson listed belong to the tradition of Stoicism, the belief that a truly educated and intellectual person would not experience the degrading emotions of human life that so often ensnare and entangle mankind, keeping man from reaching the true potential of his life.[17] Among these philosophers are also a number of early materialists and empiricists, who were the origin of the humanistic philosophy that it appears Jefferson is upholding. Jefferson also lists Plato’s Socratic dialogues that teach that Knowledge, above all else, is the prime virtue, that Knowledge precedes all human action, and that Knowledge is the foundation of all the good a man can do in his life.
            When Jefferson’s suggestion of these philosophers is viewed in the context of offering them as moral teachers, his educational theory begins to take its shape.[18] Jefferson was, at heart, saying that in order to live a good life, a person must be educated thoroughly so that he may avoid life’s most harmful experiences, and so that he may have intimate knowledge of “the good”[19] in order that he may perform it. Proper education, then, must begin with those men that first articulated those ideas: the Greek and Roman philosophers. Jefferson also saw this form of enlightened or educated man, as the individual upon which society must be built.[20] Dumas Malone, the chief biographer of Thomas Jefferson’s life described Jefferson’s belief when he stated:
“He was convinced that only an enlightened society was capable of genuine self-government and that no ignorant people could maintain their God-given freedom.”[21]
            It is at this junction that Thomas Jefferson tied proper education to the realization and preservation of natural rights. Jefferson defined these rights as “derived from the laws of nature and not as the gift of the Chief Magistrate [George III]”.[22] According to Colombia University historian Adrienne Koch, Jefferson’s views on natural rights could be described as:
“…the living individual creature who issues from the hand of the Maker with the right to live, to work, to realize and enjoy the fruits of his work, to govern himself by choosing his own type of government by law, which is to operate on the soil which he has made his own…”[23]
            With Jefferson’s well known usage of phrases like “inalienable rights”, it is easy to assume Jefferson believes that the natural rights of man are present from his first breath until his last. However, this is not a complete analysis of Jefferson’s thought. When Jefferson stated that government should be built upon the enlightened, he tied his belief in government as a natural right to his belief in government being the right of the educated. Therefore, government is a natural, God-given right of the enlightened, for only the enlightened are capable of exercising their natural rights justly. This is not an elitist view, but one grounded upon honest logic.[24] An uneducated populace would be unable to govern themselves, or in Jefferson’s own words:
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”[25]
            The question of the chronology of natural rights is not, then, a clear cut one and the argument could be reasonably made that Thomas Jefferson sees natural rights as only being actualized in the thoroughly enlightened individual.
            In lieu of this, Jefferson offered two core principles of education, according to former Princeton University president William G. Bowen. Those are that “...educational theory was inseparable from political theory”[26] and that “freedom in all of its forms—political freedom, religious freedom, and intellectual freedom—was essential to both a sound educational system and a well-functioning ‘Republican polity.’”[27]
            To pull the different strands of Jefferson’s thoughts together before proceeding any further, Jefferson’s view was that education, which is paramount in securing man’s natural rights, is inseparable from political education because the role of government is the preservation of those natural rights secured by the enlightened, but also that education must be separate and free from hegemony by one religion, since that system can be schismatic and destructive to society.[28]
            It was with these ideals in mind that Jefferson expounded his educational theory from his own mind into the world around him, and it was this venture that brought Jefferson from the prime of his life through his last half century. Jefferson’s quest began on June 18, 1779 with the drafting of Jefferson’s Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge.[29] The Bill was a preventative measure on Jefferson’s part to ensure that the freedoms the fledgling nation was fighting for would not be quickly lost or forgotten. Even though it did not pass, Jefferson’s Bill was an early outline of the system of education he would advocate throughout the remainder of his life.[30] The first level, or grade[31], of schooling would consist of Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and the reading of ancient Greco-Roman works to serve as historical education.[32] This curriculum was replaced in a second grade by Languages, Mathematics, and Philosophy, with Philosophy being defined as Ideology (which Jefferson associated with the French definition more closely associated with Science than with Metaphysics[33]), Ethics, the Law of Nature and Nations (Political Philosophy), Government, and Political Economy.[34] The third, or professional grade, consisted of Theology, Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, Surgery, Architecture, Military and Naval Projectiles, Technical Philosophy (more closely associated with Metaphysics), Rural Economy, and the Fine Arts.[35]
            In his Bill, Jefferson also outlined a hierarchical structure to education, with all students, male or female, being admitted without charge for three years to the public schools within their ward[36], and the highest achieving echelon of those students being transferred to the university or college level with others being discontinued from the school system, in hopes that, at the end of what we would refer to as secondary school, only the most elite intellectuals of the state would be admitted to the College of William and Mary.[37]
            During Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, his ideology took another step towards fruition. This began with the founding of West Point in 1802, but Jefferson sought much more than a mere military academy. He strove to establish a state university that offered education to the highest intellectuals of the American populace, in order that they might serve the remaining population through sound government and advancement of knowledge.[38] The Albermarle Academy, which Jefferson saw as the next tangible opportunity to further his educational theory was a beginning step, but was not broad enough in its reach to accomplish Jefferson’s vision.[39] Not accepting defeat, Jefferson petitioned for legislation that would create lower tier public schools in Albermarle County which would then feed into the newly christened Central College (a rejuvenated Albermarle Academy).[40] This legislation, which would have placed the financial burden on taxpaying citizens currently over-encumbered by a severe drought, was not passed. The proposition would be revisited again and finally passed on January 25, 1819.[41] This was the first major step towards what would become known as the University of Virginia.
            In 1819, Thomas Jefferson’s life’s work was accomplished. The University of Virginia obtained a charter from the state legislature that affixed it atop the state’s hierarchy of public schools and proclaimed Thomas Jefferson as its father.[42] The immediate ramifications were important, but the philosophical implications were truly profound. Thomas Jefferson had, in his seventy sixth year of life, achieved the realization of the sum of nearly two and a half millennia of thought. He had obtained for the United States of America a universally accessible system of thorough public education. It is critically important to remember what forces drove Jefferson to an almost lifelong pursuit that culminated in the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.[43]
            Thomas Jefferson had, in his view, obtained the salvation of his country. Jefferson had given the gift of thorough, right-minded, free-thinking education to Virginians that would allow them to claim their God-given natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson had redeemed his constituents and countless generations of Americans by raising them to the ability to truly own their rights, something that only the aristocratic classes of the Old World had previously obtained. Jefferson now offered true human citizenship and identity to the citizens of the United States.
            Thomas Jefferson’s theory of education, then, is one that was layered with strata after strata of philosophical thought and reasoning that, when viewed through Jefferson’s epistemological lenses, made the founding of UVA absolutely imperative. In offering the mission of UVA and his educational system as a whole, Jefferson was quoted as saying:
“This institution [the University of Virginia] will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor [afraid to] tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”[44]  
            Jefferson’s theory of education, at its very core, was not merely the reading the Greco-Roman classics, or being well-rounded in thought. Jefferson’s theory of education was the process by which men could come to “…hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[45]
            Near the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson, in his own Autobiography, asked himself, “Is my Country the Better for my Having Lived at All?”[46] The conclusion that must be drawn is that Thomas Jefferson not only lived, but he burned through his life like a supernova echoing throughout the cavernous voids of the heavens, never ceasing, but resonating throughout the Universe in a myriad of forms.  Jefferson’s thought is similarly omnipresent in modern America, ranging in influence from a drizzle of nostalgic remembrance, to an intellectual deluge; the kind of gully-washing thunderstorm all too common in the dog days of a Virginia summer.



Works Cited
Addis, Cameron. Jefferson's Vision for Education, 1760-1845. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, 2003.
Gish, Dustin, and Daniel Klinghard. Resistance To Tyrants, Obedience To God. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013.
Kerouac, Jack. On The Road. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1959.
Koch, Adrienne. The Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1943.
Malone, Dumas. The Sage of Monticello. Boston, MA: Little Brown and Company, 1892.
National Intelligencer. 8 August 1776.
Okeshott, Michael. "Two Treatises on Government." Two Treatises on Government: By John Locke 5 (1962): 100. Accessed November 11, 2014. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3020511?uid=2134&uid=3739656&uid=2129&uid=2484590587&uid=2&uid=70&uid=3&uid=2484590577&uid=3739256&uid=60&sid=21105174660713.
Rayner, B.L. Sketches of the Life, Writings, and Opinions of Thomas Jefferson. New York, NY: A. Francis and W. Boardman, 1832.
Wagoner, Jennings. Jefferson and Education. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
"The Declaration of Independence." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.




[1] Kerouac, Jack. On The Road. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1959.
[2] Rayner, B.L. Sketches of the Life, Writings, and Opinions of Thomas Jefferson. New York, NY: A. Francis and W. Boardman, 1832. Page 19.
[3] Rayner, Page 21,
[4] Rayner, Page 21-22.
[5] Rayner, Page 22.
[6] Rayner, Page 22.
[7] Wagoner, Jennings. Jefferson and Education. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. Page 22.
[8] Rayner, Page 23.
[9] Rayner, Page 24.
[10] Gish, Dustin, and Daniel Klinghard. Resistance To Tyrants, Obedience To God. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013. Page 23.
[11] Gish, Klinghard, Page 23.
[12] Koch, Page 39.
[13] Koch, Adrienne. The Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1943. Page 23.
[14] Koch, Page 25.
[15] Koch, Page 35.
[16] Koch, Page 7.
[17] Koch, Page 7.
[18] Koch, Page 7.
[19] Jefferson most likely viewed “the good” very differently than Plato, whom this phrase is referencing, did.
[20] Malone, Dumas. The Sage of Monticello. Boston, MA: Little Brown and Company, 1892. Page 15.
[21] Malone, Page 15.
[22] Koch, Page 135.
[23] Koch, Page 136.
[24] Okeshott, Michael. "Two Treatises on Government." Two Treatises on Government: By John Locke 5 (1962): 100. Accessed November 11, 2014. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3020511?uid=2134&uid=3739656&uid=2129&uid=2484590587&uid=2&uid=70&uid=3&uid=2484590577&uid=3739256&uid=60&sid=21105174660713.
[25] Wagoner, Page 19.
[26] Wagoner, Page 9.
[27] Wagoner, Page 9.
[28] "The Declaration of Independence." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.
[29] Wagoner, Page 34.
[30] Wagoner, Page 35.
[31] These grades did not directly correspond to age as in modern schools (i.e. 6th grade for 12 year olds, 7th grade for 13 year olds) but grades are only graduated from after content mastery had been achieved.
[32] Wagoner, Page 35.
[33] Koch, Page 68.
[34] Koch, Page 58.
[35] Malone, Page 243.
[36] A term used by Jefferson referring to a system of urban organization that was never implemented (square townships of approximately 100 square miles each).
[37] Wagoner, Page 38.
[38] Addis, Cameron. Jefferson's Vision for Education, 1760-1845. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, 2003. Page 25.
[39] Malone, Page 242.
[40] Malone, Page 247.
[41] Malone, Page 21.
[42] Malone, Page 21.
[43] read hereafter as UVA.
[44] Wagoner, Page 9.
[45] The National Intelligencer. 8 August 1776.
[46] Koch, Page 189.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reflections on the New Anglican Catechism - Part 3


Part 3 - The First Commandment
Alice C. Linsley


What is the First Commandment?

The First Commandment is: “I am the Lord your God, You shall have no other gods before me.”


Comment: The first three words of the First Commandment provide a clue as to the antecedents of this commandment: Anochi Havayah Eloecha, meaning “I am God your Ruler.” These words are not originally Hebrew words. They come from Abraham's Nilotic ancestors. Anochi refers to the royal first person. The Rabbis speculated a length about the meaning of the word. In the Talmud (Shabbat 105a) they recognize that anochi is an unusual pronoun, but they recognize that it is related to the word Ani. The ruler among the Anu or Ainu was called Anoch (or Enoch). Anoch is a royal title.

Neither is the word Ha-vayah of Hebrew origin. This is evident in that there is no V in the Hebrew alphabet. However, the V appears in many Nilotic words. In Luo, for example, V relates to separating, spreading out, or any valley between rivers. If the valley is circular it is called kikar (ring, disk, circle) as in "Kikkar ha-yarden" which is translated "all the valley of the Jordan" (Genesis 13:10).



We have a clue as to the origin of the word Havayah in Genesis 2:11 which speaks of a region called Ha-vilah. This refers to the V-shaped place between the two main tributaries of the Nile as shown in the map above. In Genesis 2:13, we are told that the Blue Nile was called the Gihon. This suggests that the White Nile was called the Pishon (Gen. 2:11) These rivers bound Eden on the west and the Tigris and Euphrates bound Eden on the east. Obviously, Eden was a vast and well-watered region.

The word El is a very ancient name for God. Variants are Al and Elohim. Eloecha, the third word in the opening of the First Commandment, likely is a corruption of El-echad. Echad is an adjective meaning "a compound unity" and some Bible commentators hold that the Shema (Deut. 6:4) means Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, The LORD is a compound unity. If this is correct, El-echad would be similar in meaning to another ancient reference to God: Baal-Shalisha, the Three God or the God associated with the number three. Abraham was visited by the Three Person God before the destruction of Sodom. The author of Genesis 18 struggles to describe this theophany, and presents the Lord appearing with two angelic beings. Baal Shalisha - usually rendered ‘God of three powers’ or ‘the third idol’ - is also inadequate. ‘Baal’ means Lord and ‘shalisha’ is the number three, so it is possible that the idea of a Triune God was already circulating before the time of Abraham. If this is the case, Christians cannot be accused of inventing the concept of the Trinity.


What does it mean to have no other gods?

It means that there should be nothing in my life more important than God and obeying his will. I should love, revere, trust, and worship him only. (Exodus 334:14; Deuteronomy 6:4, 10-15; 12:29-31; Jeremiah 0:6-10; Matthew 4:10; 28:8-20)

Comment: In the ancient world there were castes or clans of priests dedicated to different gods. Abraham's ruler-priest ancestors (the Horim or Horites) refused to acknowledge any god except the one who created all things. The Creator was known by different names including Ra, El, Al, Elohim and YHWH.

The Creator's emblem was the sun, an important symbol for the Horites. They oriented their shrines and temples toward the rising sun. In Canaan, their rulers were indicated by the solar cradle - Y - at the beginning of their names: Yaqtan, Yitzak, Yacob, Yisbak, etc. In very ancient scripts of Arabia, the sun symbol is a an orb - O. This appears in the older word for Hebrew was O-biru (O-piru), a reference to the sun temples.

Horite temples were open to the sunlight and had no statues of the Creator because he was represented by the sunlight. At the center of the temple there was an obelisk and an altar. The most most prestigious of the Horite temple was in Heliopolis (Biblical On). This shrine city was erected by Abraham's Anu (Ainu) ancestors. Joseph married one of the daughters of the High Priest of On. The pyramids of Giza, Zaqqara and Abusir were aligned to to the obelisk of Heliopolis.






In the ancient world the Horite priests were known to be especially fastidious in the practice of their religion and in their moral behavior. Plutarch wrote that the "priests of the Sun of 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 other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly." The Horite priests were recognized for their devotion to the Creator, for their sobriety, and for their purity of life. Before their time of service in the temple they prayed, fasted, shaved their bodies, ritually bathed, abstained from sexual relations with their wives, and did not consume wine.

The oldest known Horite shrine city is Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) on the Nile, dating to about 4000 B.C. Here priests placed written invocations to the Creator and his son Horus in the summit wall as the sun rose. The son and the father were regarded are equal. Horus gave his name to the rulers of the Nile as he was the one to unite the peoples (Upper and Lower Nile) and therefore was crowned with two crowns (ataroth, cf. Zechariah 6:11). Messianic expectation appears to originate with the Horites who Jews call their "Horim."



Can you worship God perfectly?

No. Only our Lord Jesus Christ worshiped God perfectly. He leads the Church today to seek to do the same. (Matthew 4:1-11; 26:36-46; Revelation 4-5)

Comment: The Son alone is able by his virtue to exalt the Father. When we are baptized into Christ, when we "put on" Christ, we enter into a radical new existence in which the Holy Spirit working in us enables us to please God. This is a process called "sanctification" or "deification." It is a great challenge because sometimes we try to do the work by our own strength. There is also the reality of spiritual warfare. Dark forces constantly work to draw us away from God and to make us stumble. These forces are far greater and more subtle than we generally imagine. C.S. Lewis explores this reality in his Screwtape Letters.


How are you tempted to worship of gods?

I am tempted to trust in my self, possessions, relationships, and success, believing that they will give me happiness, security, and meaning. I am also tempted to believe superstitions and false religious claims, and to reject God's call to worship him alone. (Psalm 73:11-17; Romans 1:18-32)

Comment: I posed this question to my students, wondering what responses would I get from them. Judging from their insights, I am encouraged about the rising generation. Here are some of their answers to that question:

  • Human pride leads us to make our agendas more important than God's.
  • Utopian ideologies would have people believe that social and political systems can save us.
  • Social pressures distract me from God and can make me do the wrong thing.
  • The honor due to God is given instead to celebrities.
  • Sometimes I don't go to church. I spend Sunday on my personal device and play games with my friends. Sometimes I compete at online games with strangers.

How we spend our time says so much about what we value. To the world we seem a strange people because as Christians we prefer to spend our time together. We prefer to read and study the Bible, and to gather whenever possible to worship the Holy Trinity. The manner of our lives is distinct and peculiar because we love God above all else. The world hates that about us, but before God we are a heavenly fragrance rising to the Throne of Heaven.


Related reading: Horite temples; Why Nekhen is Anthropologically SignificantPart 1 Introduction to the New Anglican Catechism (The Ten Commandments); Part 2 The Law and Righteousness; Righteous Rulers and the Resurrection; Genesis in Anthropological Perspective

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Moral Code of Ani

Papyrus of Ani

Worded negatively, like the Ten Commandments, this code dates to about 2500 B.C. It has 42 confessions. The word Ani refers to the Anu/Ainu who were priests at the most prestigious shrines on the Nile. The root -An- appears in variants such as Anoch/Enoch; Anakim; Ana; Annas; Ananus; Ananias and Hannah. The three Anakim clans were named for the three highest ranked sons of Anak whose names were Sheshai (Shasu), Ahiman and Talmai (Josh.15:14).The Shasu are referred to in ancient tests as the "Shasu of YHWH." Two hieroglyphic references dating to the New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC) refer to “the land of the Shasu of YHWH.” These are the oldest references to YHWH outside the Bible. These inscriptions are found on the Nubian temples of Soleb and Amara West.

Many High Priests were Anu/Ainu. The High Priest Ananus was appointed by Herod the Great. Another Ananus served as the High Priest of Edom/Idumea from 6-15 AD. Edom was home of some of the greatest Horite rulers, and all of Abraham's territory was in the region of Edom. Edom was known as one of the ancient seats of wisdom. The Ten Commandments appears to have precedent in the Moral Code of the Anu/Ainu.

I have not committed sin.
I have not committed robbery with violence.
I have not stolen.
I have not slain men and women.
I have not stolen grain.
I have not purloined offerings.
I have not stolen the property of the gods.
I have not uttered lies.
I have not carried away food.
I have not uttered curses.
I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men.
I have made none to weep.
I have not eaten the heart [i.e., I have not grieved uselessly, or felt remorse].
I have not attacked any man.
I am not a man of deceit.
I have not stolen cultivated land.
I have not been an eavesdropper.
I have slandered [no man].
I have not been angry without just cause.
I have not debauched the wife of any man.
I have not debauched the wife of [any] man.
I have not polluted myself.
I have terrorized none.
I have not transgressed [the Law].
I have not been wroth.
I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.
I have not blasphemed.
I am not a man of violence.
I am not a stirrer up of strife (disturber of the peace).
I have not acted (or judged) with undue haste.
I have not pried into matters.
I have not multiplied my words in speaking.
I have wronged none, I have done no evil.
I have not worked witchcraft against the King (or blasphemed against the King).
I have never stopped [the flow of] water.
I have never raised my voice (spoken arrogantly, or in anger).
I have not cursed God.
I have not acted with evil rage.
I have not stolen the bread of the gods.
I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the spirits of the dead.
I have not snatched the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.
I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reflections on the ACNA Catechism: The Law and Righteousness


St. Anselm of Canterbury wrote in the Preface to his Proslogion:

I have written the little work that follows...in the role of one who strives to raise his mind to the contemplation of God and one who seeks to understand what he believes.

I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created your image in me, so that I may remember you, think of you, love you. But this image is so obliterated and worn away by wickedness, it is so obscured by the smoke of sins that it cannot do what it was created to do, unless you renew and reform it. I am not attempting, O Lord, to penetrate your loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but I desire in some measure to understand your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that "unless I believe, I shall not understand." (Isaiah 7:9)


Prayer at the beginning of the spiritual classic The Cloud of Unknowing: God, unto whom all hearts be open, and unto whom all will speaketh, and unto whom no privy thing is hid. I beseech Thee so for to cleanse the intent of mine heart with the unspeakable gift of Thy grace, that I may perfectly love Thee, and worthily praise Thee. Amen


Alice C. Linsley

In the first of this series of five reflections on the Ten Commandments in the new Anglican catechism, we explored the connection between the appointment of rulers and the giving of the divine law. From anthropological studies we know that people in the ancient world regarded the Creator to be the source of the moral law. The Creator's appointed rulers were responsible for upholding and enforcing the law. In the case of the Ten Commandments, the focus of this study, the appointed ruler under consideration is Moses, the son of a Horite priest Amram. In the Bible, the appointed rulers in Canaan are designated by a solar cradle at the beginning of their names, indicated by the symbol Y. Examples include Yitzak (Isaac); Yacob (Jacob); Yaqtan (Joktan); Yosef (Joseph); Yetro (Jethro); Yeshai (Jesse), and Yeshua (Joshua or Jesus). This symbol means that the emblem of God – the Sun – overshadowed the ruler as a sign of divine appointment. Likewise, the Virgin Mary was overshadowed and conceived the Seed. (Genesis 3:15) The Angel Gabriel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet [nor a lawgiver from his loins], until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Gen. 49:10) This relates to Christ who is the long-expected Righteous Ruler and the Lawgiver because every law that comes from God is given through Him.

Mary is of the same lineage as the rulers named in Genesis 4, 5, 10 and 11. These kings are the ancestors of Abraham, Esau, Moses, Samuel, David, and Jesus Christ. They married and ascended to the throne according to a distinctive and unique pattern involving two wives. Further, they married within their Habiru/Hebrew ruler-priest caste and because of this practice (endogamy) it is possible, using the Biblical data and kinship analysis, to trace Jesus' ancestry back to the earliest named rulers in Genesis 4 (Cain's line) and Genesis 5 (Seth's line).  Messianic expectation originated with these Horite rulers. Jews call their ancestors "Horim" which is rendered "Horite" in English Bibles. The Ten Commandments have antecedents in the moral law of these ancestors.

The Christian moral law developed out of the ancient law codes associated with the appointed ruler-priests before the time of Abraham. Some of the laws attributed to Moses were already observed among Abraham's Habiru ancestors. The moral and ceremonial laws of the Jews have a long history of development among the Habiru and specifically among the Horites of the Nile Valley. The oldest known Horite shrines and temples have been discovered at Nekhen on the Nile. Between 4000 and 3000 B.C this was the largest city on the Nile and votive offerings found there are the largest and most impressive of any discovered at Nilo-Saharan sites. Horite priests placed invocations to Horus, the son of the Creator, at the fortress summit as the sun rose. This is the origin of the Vedic morning ritual (Agnihotra) and the Jewish Sun Blessing ritual (Birkat Hachama) that is performed every 28 years.

With this background, we now take up the purpose and importance of the Ten Commandments for Christians. We begin on page 53 of the Catechism. My reflections appear in italics.


Why did God give the Ten Commandments?

God's holy law is a light to show me his character, a mirror to show me myself, a tutor to lead me to Christ, and a guide to help me love God and others as I should. (Deuteronomy 4:32-40; Psalms 19, 119:97-104; Romans 7:7-12; 13:8-10; Galatians 3:19-26; James 1:21-25; 2:8-13)

Comment: The Ten Commandments express the measure of righteousness which is to be honored and upheld by the people and their righteous rulers. The catechism does not directly answer the "why" question that it poses. It describes the functions of the Ten Commandments, but not the why of the Commandments. To answer this question we must think in terms of Messianic expectation. The Righteous Ruler embodies the law and fulfills the law.  Jesus Christ came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.  This answers the question. The Ten Commandments were given that we might have life and have it more abundantly. St. Paul makes the distinction between law and grace, noting the obvious: the law tutors in the way of life whereby Jesus Christ is the Life.


When did God give the Ten Commandments?

After saving his people Israel from slavery in Egypt through the Ten Plagues, the Passover sacrifice, and crossing of the Red Sea, God gave them the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai as covenant obligations.

Comment: The Biblical narrative links the ascendancy of Moses as ruler over Israel to the giving of the law. Through Moses, the divinely appointed ruler, God covenants with the people to be his righteous ones on earth. Likewise, God covenants with the Church to be his righteous ones under the eternal reign of Jesus Christ. This covenant is superior to the covenant made with Israel because Jesus is superior to Moses. This is the message of the book of Hebrews and is stressed in St. Paul's epistles to the Romans and the Galatians.


How did God give the Ten Commandments?

God gave them to Moses audibly and awesomely, from the midst of the cloud, thus revealing his holiness, and afterwards writing then on stone tablets. (Exodus 19; 32:15-16)

Comment: The divinely appointed ruler was expected to have numinous experiences of God's presence. Such experiences involved "knowing" without words and images (apophatic) and knowing by means of words and images (kataphatic).  Approaching the Creator through cloud is an example of the first. The stone tablets are an example of the latter. 

Yet there is more to be learned from this giving of the law. The ancient rulers were served by royal scribes. They wrote on different materials such as shards of pottery, ostrich egg shells, and papyrus. None of these materials were as durable at stone. These laws were written by God on stone. Here God serves as his own scribe and he intends that these laws should remain for all generations. Among peoples who did not have these laws, God wrote on their hearts and consciences. The Apostle Paul explains, "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts..." (Romans 2:14-15)


How should we understand the Commandments?

There are four guiding principles: though stated negatively, each commandment calls for positive action, forbids whatever hinders its keeping, calls for loving, God-glorifying obedience, and requires that I urge others to be governed by it, as I am myself.

Comment: The Ten Commandments are part of a greater received tradition which shapes the Church's doctrine and dogma. The tradition concerns the righteous ruler who was called the "son of God" and was responsible for the preservation and enforcement of the law. The law was not the basis of the covenant made with the ruler and his people, rather it was a sign of the covenant, but only when it was followed. Failure to fulfill the moral obligation was failure to be God's appointed people. The basis of the covenant with Israel and with the Church is one and the same: God's prevenient grace. This reflects the immutability of God. We are to understand the Ten Commandments as an expression of the divine wisdom whereby the Lord seeks to direct our individual and corporate paths in the way of righteousness.


What is our Lord Jesus Christ's understanding of these Commandments?

Jesus summed them up positively by saying, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40; see also John 15:7-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)

Comment: The Christian moral code was received from God and preserved by Jesus' Habiru/Hebrew people. The whole of the Law, both moral and ceremonial, speaks of the long-expected Divine Son who Christians know to be Jesus Christ, the perfect embodiment f the Law. He lived as one of us yet did not sin. At a time when the Jewish rulers made the law burdensome, The Lord Jesus cut through the fat. He gave the Summary of the Law. Here is the context in Matthew's Gospel:


One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31)

The scribe who asked Jesus what commandments is the greatest readily accepted the part about God being one. This was the national creed of the Jews (Shema), but he missed the point that our Lord was making. Love fulfills the law and without love the law remains unfulfilled. Fastidious observation of the law without love of God and others is soul-destroying legalism.


Why can you not do this perfectly?

While God made mankind to love him perfectly, sin has corrupted our nature, leading me to resist him, to ignore his will, and to care more for myself than for my neighbors. (Psalm 14:1; Romans 3:9-23; 7:21-25; 1 Corinthians 2:14)

Comment: One purpose of the Law is to show us the measure of our spiritual failings. In the Old Testament the ruler was to meditate on God's statutes day and night.  If he hoped to serve God as one appointed to rule over the people he was to fill his mind with the wisdom from on High. Our sin-corrupted nature disinclines us to stay in God's Word. The ruler also had a priestly role and was to be faithful in the worship of God. We too are to be regular in attendance of worship services in our parishes. 


When will you love God perfectly?

I will only love God perfectly when he completes his work of grace in me at the end of the age. (Philippians 1:6; 1 John 3:2-3)

Comment: God promises to complete his work in us. Writing to the Philippians, St. Paul expressed this hope: "For I am confident of this very thing, the He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:5-6) The working out of God's will in our lives reflects the reality of the Holy Spirit striving with us to work out our salvation and the realization of God's eternal plan. The Greek word that appears in such passages is energeia, a term first used by Aristotle in his teleological writings. Consider Paul's explanation to the Colossians that it is Christ "whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily."  The phrase "striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily" is in Greek agonizomenos kata tēn energian autou tēn energoumenen en amoi en dunamei. Literally, this is striving according to the energeia of Christ that is bringing to fulfillment or realization that which God has purposed, and this should be taken in the teleological sense of Aristotle. Paul of Tarsus knew this sense of the term. Tarsus had one of the most famous philosophical academies of the Roman world.

For Aristotle working out one's purpose in accordance with one's destiny requires the pursuit of that which makes one thrive (eudaimonism). For St. Paul working out one's purpose in accordance with one's destiny requires striving with the Holy Spirit (synergy). This is exactly the opposite of how Calvinists have employed predestination texts. Paul is not referring to a group of  people foreordained to receive a pass to heaven.  He is speaking about the power (energeia) of God at work in him so that he, cooperating with God, is able to bring to fulfillment or perfection what God purposes for him in this life. The Catechism affirms that the working out of God's purpose has a terminal point - the last day, when, seeing Christ our God face to face, we are finally and fully transformed into his likeness.


Why then do you learn God's Law now?

I learn God's Law now so that, having died to sin in Christ, I might love him as I ought, delight in his will as he heals my nature, and live for his glory. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21; Psalm 1:1-3; 119:89-104; Romans 6:1-4, 11; 1 John 3:23-24; 4:7-9; 19; 5:1-3)

Comment: Jesus said, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." (John 14:23)  The Ten Commandments are a compass that point to true Love. The righteous meditate on God's statutes day and night that we may love God through obedience. All of Scripture is inspired and helpful for wisdom, salvation, and sanctification.


How does God prepare you to begin living his Law?

Through faith, repentance and Baptism, God in grace washes away my sin, gives me his Holy Spirit, and makes me a member of Christ, a child of God, and an heir of the Kingdom of Heaven. (Acts 22:16; Titus 3:4-8)

Comment: We who have been brought into Christ share with Him in his eternal Kingdom. This is too great for us now, but through the Holy Spirit's work in us, through the Sacraments, through obedience and study of Holy Scripture, we are being prepared for a glorious destiny on the day when sorrow will disappear and God will wipe away every tear.


How does the Church help you to live out God's law?

The Church exercises godly authority and discipline over me through the ministry of baptismal sponsors, clergy, and other teachers. (Romans 15:1-7; 2 Timothy 3:14-15; Hebrew 13:7, 17)

Comment: The Church is the earthly repository of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came into the word to save sinners, to reconcile us to the Father, to defeat death by death, and to restore perfect communion with our Creator. When church leaders fail to protect and preserve this sacred trust, when they stray from the path of righteousness, the people no longer hold God's Law in honor. One only need consider the past 20+ years of moral and spiritual decline in the Episcopal Church USA to see that this is true.


How does the Lord's Supper enable you to continue learning and living God's Law?

In the Lord's Supper or Holy Eucharist, I hear the Law read, hear God's good news of forgiveness, recall my baptismal promises, have my faith renewed, and receive grace to follow Jesus in the ways of God's Laws and in the word of his Commandments.

Comment: Faith comes before understanding. As St. Anselm of Canterbury wrote, Credo ut intelligam -  "I believe that I may understand." Believers need the support of other mature Christians and the sacraments of the Church to grow deeper in the truth of the Gospel.  Receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is one way that we embrace the One who lived and died and rose that we might have life. By faith we receive Him as He has received us. We are made members of His mystical Body; we being in Him as He is in us, according to our Lord's prayer that we may be one, as He and the Father are one so that the world may believe that the Father has sent the Son. (John 17:21)

Related reading:  Reflections on the New Anglican Catechism (Part 1); The Urheimat of the Canaanite Y; The Virgin Mary's Ancestry; Who is Jesus?; Ancient Seats of Wisdom