World Renowned Judith of Bethulia

Judith

by

 Damien F. Mackey

 

 

Judith 16:23-25

 Her fame continued to spread, and she lived in the house her husband had left her. Before she died, Judith divided her property among her husband’s and her own close relatives and set her slave woman free. When she died in Bethulia at the age of 105, she was buried beside her husband, and the people of Israel mourned her death for seven days.  As long as Judith lived, and for many years after her death, no one dared to threaten the people of Israel.

 

Introduction

Since Judith had already become immensely famous in the eyes of the people of Israel in her youth, it is intriguing to read in Judith 16:23 that “her fame continued to spread”. Even before her heroic action in the camp of the Assyrians, we are told of this goodly woman that (Judith 8:7-8): “[Judith] lived among all her possessions without anyone finding a word to say against her, so devoutly did she fear God”.

Moreover she had, according to the elder, Uzziah, shown wisdom even from her childhood (vv. 28-29): “Uzziah replied, ‘Everything you have just said comes from an honest heart and no one will contradict a word of it. Not that today is the first time your wisdom has been displayed; from your earliest years all the people have known how shrewd you are and of how sound a heart’.”

Aside from the recognition of her renowned beauty, by (i) the author (Judith 8:7; 10:4); by (ii) the elders of Bethulia (10:7); by the Assyrian unit and soldiery (10:14, 19); by Holofernes and his staff (10:23; 11:21, 23; 12:13, 16, 20), we learn that even the coarse Assyrians were impressed by her wisdom and eloquence (11:21, 23).

And Uzziah, after Judith’s triumph over Holofernes, proclaimed magnificently in her honour (Judith 13:18-20):

… ‘May you be blessed, my daughter, by God Most High, beyond all women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth, who guided you to cut off the head of the leader of our enemies!

The trust which you have shown will not pass from human hearts, as they commemorate the power of God for evermore.

God grant you may be always held in honour and rewarded with blessings, since you did not consider your own life when our nation was brought to its knees, but warded off our ruin, walking in the right path before our God’.

And the people all said, ‘Amen! Amen!’

And the stunned Achior, upon seeing the severed head of Holofernes, burst out with this exclamation of praise (Judith 14:7): ‘May you be blessed in all the tents of Judah and in every nation; those who hear your name will be seized with dread!’

Later, Joakim the high priest and the entire Council of Elders of Israel, who were in Jerusalem, came to see Judith and to congratulate her (Judith 15:9-10):

On coming to her house, they blessed her with one accord, saying: ‘You are the glory of Jerusalem! You are the great pride of Israel! You are the highest honour of our race! By doing all this with your own hand you have deserved well of Israel, and God has approved what you have done. May you be blessed by the Lord Almighty in all the days to come!’

And the people all said, ‘Amen!’

 

‘Blessed by God Most High, beyond all women on earth’.

‘The glory of Jerusalem,

the great pride of Israel,

the highest honour of [her] race!’

What more could possibly be said!

From whence came this incredible flow of wisdom?

We may tend to recall the Judith of literature as being both beautiful and courageous – and certainly she could be most forthright as well, when occasion demanded it, somewhat like Joan of Arc (who was supposedly referred to, in her time, as ‘a second Judith’).

Yet, there is far more to it: mysticism.

  1. Craven (Artistry and Faith in the Book of Judith), following J. Dancy’s view (Shorter Books of the Apocrypha), that the theology presented in Judith’s words to the Bethulian town officials rivals the theology of the Book of Job, will go on to make this interesting comment (pp. 88-89, n. 45.):

Judith plays out her whole story with the kind of faith described in the Prologue of Job (esp. 1:21 and 2:9). Her faith is like that of Job after his experience of God in the whirlwind (cf. 42:1-6), yet in the story she has no special theophanic experience. We can only imagine what happened on her housetop where she was habitually a woman of regular prayer.

[End of quote]

Although the women’s movement is quite recent, it has already provided some new insights and some radically different perspectives on Judith. According to P. Montley (as referred to by C. Moore, The Anchor Bible. “Judith”, pp. 65):

… Judith is the archetypal androgyne. She is more than the Warrior Woman and the femme fatale, a combination of the soldier and the seductress …

….

Just as the brilliance of a cut diamond is the result of many different facets, so the striking appeal of the book of Judith results from its many facets. …

[End of quote]

  1. Stocker will, in her comprehensive treatment of the Judith character and her actions (Judith Sexual Warrior, pp. 13-15), compare the heroine to, amongst others, the Old Testament’s Jael – a common comparison given that the woman, Jael, had driven a tent peg through the temple of Sisera, an enemy of Israel (Judges 4:17-22) – Joan of Arc, and Charlotte Corday, who had, during the French Revolution, slain the likewise unsuspecting Marat. “If viewed negatively – from an irreligious perspective, for instance”, Stocker will go on to write, “Judith’s isolation, chastity, widowhood, childlessness, and murderousness would epitomize all that is morbid, nihilistic and abortive”.

Hardly the type of character to have been accorded ‘increasing fame’ amongst her people! Craven again, with reference to J. Ruskin (‘Mornings in Florence’, p. 335), writes (p. 95): “Judith, the slayer of Holofernes; Jael, the slayer of Sisera; and Tomyris, the slayer of Cyrus are counted in art as the female “types” who prefigure the Virgin Mary’s triumph over Satan”.

 

  • Judith a Heroine of Israel

—————————————————————————————————————–

The way that I see it, these early commentators had the will, if not the history/archaeology, to demonstrate the trustworthiness of the Judith story. Then, at about the time that the archaeology had become available, commentators no longer had the will.

—————————————————————————————————————–

What did the young Judith do to achieve her early fame?

Well, if the typical contemporary biblical commentators are to be believed, Judith did nothing in actual historical reality, for the famous story is merely a piece of pious fiction.

Here, for instance, is such a view from the Catholic News Agency [CNA] (http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/bible/introduction-to-the-old-testament/judith/):

Judith

….

Judith is often characterized as an early historical novel. Yet ironically, its content is unhistorical. The book begins by telling us that Nebuchadnezzer was the king of Assyria ruling in Ninevah. But Ninevah was destroyed seven years before Nebuchadnezzer became king. And he was king of Babylon, not Assyria. It would be similar to an author beginning a book, “In 1776, when Abraham Lincoln was the president of Canada…” The author of Judith clues us in that he is not telling a typical story. While the story is replete with proper names of places and people, many of them are not placed “correctly” and many of them are unknown from other sources.

The book of Judith is not trying to narrate an historical event nor is it presenting a regular historical novel with fictional characters in a “real” setting. Rather, Judith is iconic of all of Israel’s struggles against surrounding nations. By the time of its writing, Israel had been dominated by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Greeks. The name “Judith” means “Jewess.” The character of Judith is therefore representative of the whole nation of Israel. In an almost constant battle against the surrounding nations, the Israelites depended on the Lord for their survival and sustenance. Judith represents the best hopes and intentions of the Israelites-the vanquishing of the oppressors and the freedom of the land of Israel.

The general Holofernes, whom Judith assassinates, represents the worst of the oppressors. He is bringing 182,000 troops against a small city in a corner of Israel to force them to worship the head of foreign oppression: Nebuchadnezzer. The city is terribly outmatched, but Holofernes opts for a siege rather than a battle. When the people are at the point of despair because they have run out of water, Judith volunteers to try an unusual tactic. She leaves the city with her maid and gets close to Holofernes because of her beauty. She uses a series of tricks and half-truths to find Holofernes drunk and vulnerable. Then she beheads him with his own sword!

It is crucial to see the irony of the story and of Judith’s words. For example, the Ammonite Achior who Holofernes rejected was supposed to share the cruel fate of the Israelites at the hand of the Assyrians, but he is saved with the Israelites instead (6:5-9). Judith uses the phrase “my lord” (Adonai in Heb.) several times, but it is unclear whether she is referring to Holofernes or to God. The great nation is defeated by a humble woman. The story is similar to the famous David and Goliath episode. The reader should look for ironic moments where a character’s intentions or statements are fulfilled, but in the way that he or she would least expect.

The book of Judith is divided into basically two sections, ch. 1-7 and 8-16. The first seven chapters lay out the “historical” background and describe the political situation which led to Holofernes attack on Israel. It is important to understand that the events are not historical, but they are full of details that one finds in a good novel. Achior plays a key role by narrating Israel’s history and firmly believing in God’s protection of his people (5). He eventually converts to Judaism after the Assyrians are defeated (14:10). The second half of the book (8-16) focuses on Judith herself and her heroic acts. Once the Assyrians discover Holofernes decapitated body, they flee in confusion and the Israelites rout them. Ch. 16 contains a hymn about Judith’s deeds. Like Tobit, Judith is a deuterocanonical book.

Judith is a book of the Bible that is meant to be enjoyed. By enjoying the story and the Lord’s victory over the great nations through Judith, we can appreciate the paradoxical way God chooses to work on earth, using the weak to conquer the strong, the poor to outdo the rich.

[End of quote]

But this attribution of non-historicity to the Book of Judith was not the standard Catholic approach down through the centuries, until, say, the 1930’s. During that long period of time, Catholic scholars generally tended to regard the book as recording a real historical drama, whether or not their valiant efforts to demonstrate this were convincing. The way that I see it, these early commentators had the will, if not the history/archaeology, to demonstrate the trustworthiness of the Judith story. Then, at about the time that the archaeology had become available, commentators no longer had the will.

A combination of will and more scientific history/archaeology would be a really nice change.

For, today it is very rare to find any who are prepared to argue for the full historicity of the Book of Judith.

I, in my university thesis, A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah and its Background (http://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/handle/2123/5973), wrote regarding this situation (Preface, p. x):

 

I know of virtually no current historians who even consider the Book of Judith to be anything other than a ‘pious fiction’, or perhaps ‘historical fiction’, with the emphasis generally on the ‘fiction’ aspect of this. Thus I feel a strong empathy for the solitary Judith in the midst of those differently-minded Assyrians (Judith 10:11-13:10).

 

In that thesis I had argued (with respect to the book’s historical and geographical problems) for what I consider in retrospect to be the obvious scenario: that the Judith event pertains to the famous destruction of Sennacherib’s army of 185,000 Assyrians. The heroine Judith initiated this victory for Israel by her slaying of the Assyrian commander-in-chief, which action then led to the rout and slaughter of the army in its panic-stricken flight.

For my up-dated version of this, see:

“Nadin went into everlasting darkness”

http://www.academia.edu/7177604/_Nadin_went_into_everlasting_darkness_

 

This is the incident that had made Judith so famous throughout Israel in her youth – a fame that apparently only increased as she grew older. 

But Judith, even more than being the most beautiful and courageous woman that she was, had already, at a young age, exhibited – as we have read – amazing wisdom and even sanctity. Her wisdom (some might say cunning) was apparent from the way that she was able to beguile the Assyrians with her shrewd and bitingly ironic words.

Judith was so formidable and significant a woman and one would expect to find further traces of her in the course of her very long life.

I believe that Judith has been picked up in many literatures and mythologies of many nations.

  • Judith a Universal Heroine
  • Glimpses of Judith in BC Antiquity

Some ancient stories that can be only vaguely historical seem to recall the Judith incident. Two of these that I picked up in my thesis appear in the ‘Lindian Chronicle’ (dated 99 BC), relating to the Greco-Persian period, and in Homer’s classic, The Iliad.

 

The Lindian Chronicle

Thus I wrote in my thesis (op. cit., Volume Two, pp. 67-68):

Uzziah, confirming Judith’s high reputation, immediately recognized the truth of what she had just said (vv. 28-29), whilst adding the blatantly Aaronic excuse that ‘the people made us do it’ (v. 30, cf. Exodus 32:21-24): ‘But the people were so thirsty that they compelled us to do for them what we have promised, and made us take an oath that we cannot break’. Judith, now forced to work within the time-frame of those ‘five days’ that had been established against her will, then makes this bold pronouncement – again completely in the prophetic, or even ‘apocalyptic’, style of Joan of Arc (vv. 32-33):

Then Judith said to them, ‘Listen to me. I am about to do something that will go down through all generations to our descendants. Stand at the town gate tonight so that I may go out with my maid; and within the days after which you have promised to surrender the town to our enemies, the Lord will deliver Israel by my hand’.

A Note. This 5-day time frame, in connection with a siege – the very apex of the [Book of Judith] drama – may also have been appropriated into Greco-Persian folklore.

In the ‘Lindian Chronicle’ it is narrated that when Darius, King of Persia, tried to conquer the Island of Hellas, the people gathered in the stronghold of Lindus to withstand the attack. The citizens of the besieged city asked their leaders to surrender because of the hardships and sufferings brought by the water shortage (cf. Judith 7:20-28).

The Goddess Athena [read Judith] advised one of the leaders [read Uzziah] to continue to resist the attack; meanwhile she interceded with her father Jupiter [read God of Israel] on their behalf (cf. Judith 8:9-9:14). Thereupon, the citizens asked for a truce of 5 days (exactly as in Judith), after which, if no help arrived, they would surrender (cf. Judith 7:30-31). On the second day a heavy shower fell on the city so the people could have sufficient water (cf. 8:31, where Uzziah asks Judith to pray for rain). Datis [read Holofernes], the admiral of the Persian fleet [read commander-in-chief of the Assyrian army], having witnessed the particular intervention of the Goddess to protect the city, lifted the siege [rather, the siege was forcibly raised]. ….

[End of quote]

Apparently I am not the only one who has noticed the similarity between these two stories, for I now find this (http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/judith.html): “The Israeli scholar Y. M. Grintz has pointed out the parallels between the theme of the book [Judith] and an episode which took place during the siege of Lindus, on the island of Rhodes, but here again the comparison is extremely weak”.

Yes, the latter is probably just a “weak” appropriation of the original Hebrew account. I have written a lot along these lines of Greek appropriating, e.g.:

Re-Orienting to Zion the History of Ancient Philosophy

https://www.academia.edu/4105845/Re-Orienting_to_Zion_the_History_of_Ancient_Philosophy

and:

Similarities to The Odyssey of the Books of Job and Tobit

http://www.academia.edu/8914220/Similarities_to_The_Odyssey_of_the_Books_of_Job_and_Tobit

Whereas the goddess Athena may have been substituted for Judith in the Lindian Chronicle, she substitutes for the angel Raphael in that other pseudepigraphal book, Tobit. I made this comparison in “Similarities to The Odyssey”:

The ‘Divine’ Messenger

From whom the son, especially, receives help during his travels. In the Book of Tobit, this messenger is the angel Raphael (in the guise of ‘Azarias’).

In The Odyssey, it is the goddess Athene (in the guise of ‘Mentes’).

Likewise Poseidon (The Odyssey) substitutes for the demon, Asmodeus (in Tobit).

It may also be due to an ‘historical’ mix up that two of Judith’s Assyrian opponents came to acquire the apparently Persians name of, respectively, “Holofernes” and “Bagoas” (http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/judith.html): “Holofernes and Bagoas are to be identified with the two generals sent against Phoenicia, Palestine and Egypt by Artaxerxes III towards 350 [BC]. The names are certainly Persian, and are attested frequently …”.

Greco-Persian history is still awaiting a proper revision.

“The Iliad”

Earlier in my thesis (pp. 59-60) I had written in similar vein, of Greek appropriation, regarding the confrontation between the characters in the Book of Judith, “Holofernes” and “Achior”:

Achior had made an unexpected apologia on behalf of the Israelites. It had even come with this concluding warning to Holofernes (5:20, 21):

‘So now, my master and lord … if they are not a guilty nation, then let my lord pass them by; for their Lord and God will defend them, and we shall become the laughing-stock of the whole world’.

These words had absolutely stunned the soldiery who were by now all for tearing Achior ‘limb from limb’ (5:22). Holofernes, for his part, was enraged with his subordinate. Having succeeded in conquering almost the entire west, he was hardly about to countenance hearing that some obscure mountain folk might be able to offer him any meaningful resistance.

Holofernes then uttered the ironic words to Achior: ‘… you shall not see my face again

from this day until I take revenge on this race that came out of Egypt’ (6:5); ironic because, the next time that Achior would see Holofernes’ face, it would be after Judith

had beheaded him.

Holofernes thereupon commanded his orderlies to take the insolent Achior and bind him

beneath the walls of Bethulia, so that he could suffer, with the people whom he had just

verbally defended, their inevitable fate when the city fell to the Assyrians (v. 6).

After the Assyrian brigade had managed to secure Achior at Bethulia, and had then retreated from the walls under sling-fire from the townsfolk, the Bethulians went out to

fetch him (6:10-13). Once safely inside the city Achior told them his story, and perhaps

Judith was present to hear it. Later she would use bits and pieces of information supplied by Achior for her own confrontation with Holofernes, to deceive him.

[End of quote]

In a footnote (n. 1286) to this, I had proposed, in connection with The Iliad:

This fiery confrontation between the commander-in-chief, his subordinates and Achior would be, I suggest – following on from my earlier comments about Greco-Persian appropriations – where Homer got his idea for the main theme of The Iliad: namely the argument at the siege of Troy between Agamemnon, supreme commander of the Greeks, and the renowned Achilles (Achior?).

And further on, on p. 69, I drew a comparison between Judith and Helen of Troy of The Iliad:

The elders of Bethulia, “Uzziah, Chabris, and Charmis – who are here mentioned for the last time in the story as a threesome (10:6)” … – are stunned by Judith’s new appearance

when they meet her at the town’s gate (vv. 7-8): “When they saw her transformed in appearance and dressed differently, they were very greatly astounded at her beauty and

said to her, ‘May the God of our ancestors grant you favour and fulfil your plan …’.”…. Upon Judith’s request (command?), the elders “ordered the young men to open the gate

for her” (v. 9). Then she and her maid went out of the town and headed for the camp of

the Assyrians. “The men of the town watched her until she had gone down the mountain

and passed through the valley, where they lost sight of her” (v. 10).

“Compare this scene”, I added in (n. 1316), “with that of Helen at the Skaian gates of Troy, greatly praised by Priam and the elders of the town for her beauty. The Iliad, Book 3, p. 45”.

We recall that Craven had grouped together “Judith, the slayer of Holofernes; Jael, the slayer of Sisera; and Tomyris, the slayer of Cyrus …”. Whilst Judith and Jael were two distinct heroines of Israel, living centuries apart, I think that Tomyris, the slayer of Cyrus must be -given the ancient variations about the death of Cyrus – a fictitious character. And her story has certain suspicious likenesses, again, to that of Judith.

 

Tomyris and Cyrus

 

I have added here a few comparisons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_the_Great#Death):

Death …

The details of Cyrus’s death vary by account. The account of Herodotus from his Histories provides the second-longest detail, in which Cyrus met his fate in a fierce battle with the Massagetae, a tribe from the southern deserts of Khwarezm and Kyzyl Kum in the southernmost portion of the steppe regions of modern-day Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, following the advice of Croesus to attack them in their own territory.[68] The Massagetae were related to the Scythians in their dress and mode of living; they fought on horseback and on foot. In order to acquire her realm, Cyrus first sent an offer of marriage to their ruler, Tomyris, a proposal she rejected.

Compare e.g. (http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1023&context): “Holofernes declares his intention of having sexual intercourse with Judith (12:12). Judith responds to his invitation to the banquet by saying “Who am I, to refuse my lord?”, clearly a double entendre! Holofernes, at the sight of Judith, is described as “ravished.” But he does not get any further with Judith than Cyrus would with Tomyris, for Judith, upon her return to the camp, will proclaim (13:15-16):

‘Here’, she said, ‘is the head of Holofernes, the general of the Assyrian army, and here is the mosquito net from his bed, where he lay in a drunken stupor. The Lord used a woman to kill him.As the Lord lives, I swear that Holofernes never touched me, although my beauty deceived him and brought him to his ruin. I was not defiled or disgraced; the Lord took care of me through it all’.

Wine will also play a vital part in the Cyrus legend, though in this case the defenders [i.e., the Massagetae – replacing the Israelites of the original story], rather than the invader, will be the ones affected by the strong drink:

[Cyrus] then commenced his attempt to take Massagetae territory by force, beginning by building bridges and towered war boats along his side of the river Jaxartes, or Syr Darya, which separated them. Sending him a warning to cease his encroachment in which she stated she expected he would disregard anyway, Tomyris challenged him to meet her forces in honorable warfare, inviting him to a location in her country a day’s march from the river, where their two armies would formally engage each other. He accepted her offer, but, learning that the Massagetae were unfamiliar with wine and its intoxicating effects, he set up and then left camp with plenty of it behind, taking his best soldiers with him and leaving the least capable ones. The general of Tomyris’s army, who was also her son Spargapises, and a third of the Massagetian troops killed the group Cyrus had left there and, finding the camp well stocked with food and the wine, unwittingly drank themselves into inebriation, diminishing their capability to defend themselves, when they were then overtaken by a surprise attack. They were successfully defeated, and, although he was taken prisoner, Spargapises committed suicide once he regained sobriety.

It is at this point that Tomyris will be stirred into action, more as a warrior queen than as a heroine using her womanly charm to deceive, but she will ultimately – just like Judith – swear vengeance and decapitate her chief opponent:

Upon learning of what had transpired, Tomyris denounced Cyrus’s tactics as underhanded and swore vengeance, leading a second wave of troops into battle herself. Cyrus the Great was ultimately killed, and his forces suffered massive casualties in what Herodotus referred to as the fiercest battle of his career and the ancient world. When it was over, Tomyris ordered the body of Cyrus brought to her, then decapitated him and dipped his head in a vessel of blood in a symbolic gesture of revenge for his bloodlust and the death of her son.[68][69] However, some scholars question this version, mostly because Herodotus admits this event was one of many versions of Cyrus’s death that he heard from a supposedly reliable source who told him no one was there to see the aftermath.[70]

Herodotus’s claim that this was “the fiercest battle of … the ancient world”, whilst probably not befitting the obscure Massagetae, is indeed a worthy description of the defeat and rout of Sennacherib’s massive army of almost 200,000 men.

But this was, as Herodotus had also noted, just “one of many versions of Cyrus’s death”. And Wikipedia adds some variations on this account:

Dandamayev says maybe Persians took back Cyrus’ body from the Massagetae, unlike what Herodotus claimed.[72]

Ctesias, in his Persica, has the longest account, which says Cyrus met his death while putting down resistance from the Derbices infantry, aided by other Scythian archers and cavalry, plus Indians and their elephants. According to him, this event took place northeast of the headwaters of the Syr Darya.[73] An alternative account from Xenophon‘s Cyropaedia contradicts the others, claiming that Cyrus died peaceably at his capital.[74] The final version of Cyrus’s death comes from Berossus, who only reports that Cyrus met his death while warring against the Dahae archers northwest of the headwaters of the Syr Darya.[75]

[End of quote]

Scholars may be able to discern many more Judith-type stories in semi-legendary BC ‘history’. Donald Spoto, in Joan. The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint (Harper, 2007), has referred to the following supposed warrior-women, a re-evaluation of whom I think may be worth considering (p. 73):

The Greek poet Telesilla was famous for saving the city of Argos from attack by Spartan troops in the fifth century B.C. In first-century Britain, Queen Boudicca [Boadicea] led an uprising against the occupying Roman forces. In the third century Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra (latter-day Syria), declared her independence of the Roman Empire and seized Egypt and much of Asia Minor.

[End of quote]

But there are a plethora of such female types also in what is considered to be AD history.

  1. Glimpses of Judith in (supposedly) AD Time

Before I go on to discuss some of these, I must point out – what I have mentioned before, here and there – a problem with AD time, especially its so-called ‘Dark Ages’ (c. 600-900 AD), akin to what revisionists have found to have occurred with the construction of BC time, especially its so-called ‘Dark Ages’ (c. 700-1200 BC). Whilst I intend to write much more about this in the future, I did broach the subject again in my recent:

Biography of the Prophet Mohammed (Muhammad) Seriously Mangles History. Part Two: From Birth to Marriage

 

https://www.academia.edu/12538867/Biography_of_the_Prophet_Mohammed_Muhammad_Seriously_Mangles_History._Part_Two_From_Birth_to_Marriage

and some of this will have a direct bearing upon Judith (see Axum and Gudit below).

But here is a different summary of attempts to expose the perceived problems pertaining to AD time, known as the “Phantom Time Hypothesis”, by a writer who is not sympathetic to it (http://www.damninteresting.com/the-phantom-time-hypothesis/):

by Alan Bellows

When Dr. Hans-Ulrich Niemitz introduces his paper on the “phantom time hypothesis,” he kindly asks his readers to be patient, benevolent, and open to radically new ideas, because his claims are highly unconventional. This is because his paper is suggesting three difficult-to-believe propositions: 1) Hundreds of years ago, our calendar was polluted with 297 years which never occurred; 2) this is not the year 2005, but rather 1708; and 3) The purveyors of this hypothesis are not crackpots.

The Phantom Time Hypothesis suggests that the early Middle Ages (614-911 A.D.) never happened, but were added to the calendar long ago either by accident, by misinterpretation of documents, or by deliberate falsification by calendar conspirators. This would mean that all artifacts ascribed to those three centuries belong to other periods, and that all events thought to have occurred during that same period occurred at other times, or are outright fabrications. For instance, a man named Heribert Illig (pictured), one of the leading proponents of the theory, believes that Charlemagne was a fictional character. But what evidence is this outlandish theory based upon?

It seems that historians are plagued by a plethora of falsified documents from the Middle Ages, and such was the subject of an archaeological conference in München, Germany in 1986. In his lecture there, Horst Fuhrmann, president of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, described how some documents forged by the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages were created hundreds of years before their “great moments” arrived, after which they were embraced by medieval society. This implied that whomever produced the forgeries must have very skillfully anticipated the future… or there was some discrepancy in calculating dates.

This was reportedly the first bit of evidence that roused Illig’s curiosity… he wondered why the church would have forged documents hundreds of years before they would become useful. So he and his group examined other fakes from preceding centuries, and they “divined chronological distortions.” This led them to investigate the origin of the Gregorian calendar, which raised even more inconsistency.

In 1582, the Gregorian calendar we still use today was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII to replace the outdated Julian calendar which had been implemented in 45 BC. The Gregorian calendar was designed to correct for a ten-day discrepancy caused by the fact that the Julian year was 10.8 minutes too long. But by Heribert Illig’s math, the 1,627 years which had passed since the Julian calendar started should have accrued a thirteen-day discrepancy… a ten-day error would have only taken 1,257 years.

So Illig and his group went hunting for other gaps in history, and found a few… for example, a gap of building in Constantinople (558 AD – 908 AD) and a gap in the doctrine of faith, especially the gap in the evolution of theory and meaning of purgatory (600 AD until ca. 1100). From all of this data, they have become convinced that at some time, the calendar year was increased by 297 years without the corresponding passage of time. ….

[End of quote]

As with the pioneering efforts of Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky (Ages in Chaos) to reform BC time, some of this early work in AD revisionism may turn out to be extreme and far-fetched. But I would nevertheless agree with the claim by its proponents that the received AD history likewise stands in need of a massive renovation.

In my two-part series on Mohammed – {who, I am now convinced, was not an historical personage, but a composite of various biblical (pseudepigraphal) characters, and most notably (for at least the period from Birth to Marriage), was Tobias (= my Job), son of Tobit} – I drew attention to a very BC-like “Nehemiah”, thought to have been a contemporary of Mohammed.

Moreover, the major incident that is said to have occurred in the year of Mohammed’s birth, the invasion of Mecca by Abrahas the Axumite, I argued in the “Biography of the Prophet Mohammed”, was simply a reminiscence of Sennacherib’s invasion and defeat:

… an event that is said to have taken place in the very year that Mohammed was born, c. 570 AD, the invasion of Mecca by Abraha[s] of the kingdom of Axum [Aksum], has all the earmarks, I thought, of the disastrous campaign of Sennacherib of Assyria against Israel.

Not 570 AD, but closer to 700 BC!

Lacking to this Quranic account is the [Book of] Judith element that (I have argued in various places) was the catalyst for the defeat of the Assyrian army. ….

But, as I went on to say, the Judith element is available, still in the context of the kingdom of Axum – apparently a real AD kingdom, but one that seems to appropriate ancient Assyrian – in the possibly Jewish heroine, Gudit (Gwedit, Yodit, Judith), ostensibly of the mid- C10th AD. Let us read some more about her.

Judith the Simeonite and Gudit the Semienite

 

Interesting that Judith the Simeonite has a Gideon (or Gedeon) in her ancestry (Judith 8:1): “[Judith] was the daughter of Merari, the granddaughter of Ox and the great-granddaughter of Joseph. Joseph’s ancestors were Oziel, Elkiah, Ananias, Gideon, Raphaim, Ahitub, Elijah, Hilkiah, Eliab, Nathanael, Salamiel, Sarasadai, and Israel”, and the Queen of Semien, Gudit (or Judith), was the daughter of a King Gideon.

That the latter, Gudit, is probably a fable, however, is suspected by the following writer (http://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=314380):

Bernard Lewis (1): The Jews of the Dark continent, 1980

The early history of the Jews of the Habashan highlands remains obscure, with their origins remaining more mythical than historical. In this they areas in other respects, they are the mirror image of their supposed Kin across the Red sea. For while copious external records of Byzantine, Persian, old Axumite and Arab sources exist of the large-scale conversion of Yemen to Judaism, and the survival of a large Jewish community at least until the 11th century, no such external records exist for the Jews of Habash, presently by far the numerically and politically dominant branch of this ancient people.

Their own legends insist that Judaism had reached the shores of Ethiopia at the time of the First temple. They further insist that Ethiopia had always been Jewish. In spite of the claims of Habashan nationalists, Byzantine, Persian and Arab sources all clearly indicate that the politically dominant religion of Axum was, for a period of at least six centuries Christianity and that the Tigray cryptochristian minority, far from turning apostate following contact with Portugese Jesuits in the 15th century is in fact the [remnant] of a period of Christian domination which lasted at least until the 10th century.

For the historian, when records fail, speculation must perforce fill the gap. Given our knowledge of the existence of both Jewish and Christian sects in the deserts of Western Arabia and Yemen it is not difficult to speculate that both may have reached the shores of Axum concurrently prior to the council of Nicaea and the de-judaization of heterodox sects. Possibly, they coexisted side by side for centuries without the baleful conflict which was the lot of both faiths in the Mediterannean. Indeed, it is possible that they were not even distinct faiths. We must recall that early Christians saw themselves as Jews and practiced all aspects of Jewish law and ritual for the first century of their existence. Neither did Judaism utterly disavow the Christians, rather viewing them much as later communities would view the Sabateans and other messianic movement. The advent While Paul of Tarsus changed the course of Christian evolution but failed to formally de-Judaize all streams of Christianity, with many surviving even after the council of Nicaea.

Might not Habash have offered a different model of coexistence, even after it’s purported conversion to Christianity in the 4th century? If it had, then what occurred? Did Christianity, cut off from contact with Constantinople following the rise of Islam, wither on the vine enabling a more grassroots based religion to assume dominance? While such a view is tempting, archaeological evidence pointing to the continued centrality of a Christian Axum as an administrative and economic center for several centuries following the purported relocation of the capital of the kingdom to Gonder indicates a darker possibility.

The most likely scenario, in my opinion, turns on our knowledge of the Yemenite- Axum-Byzantine conflict of the 6th century. This conflict was clearly seen as a religious, and indeed divinely sanctioned one by Emperor Kaleb, with certain of his in scriptures clearly indicating the a version of “replacement theology” had taken root in his court, forcing individuals and sects straddling both sides of the Christian-Jewish continuum to pick sides. Is it overly speculative to assume that those cleaving to Judaism within Axum would be subject to suspicion and persecution? It seems to me likely that the formation of an alternative capital by the shores of lake Tana, far from being an organized relocation of the imperial seat, was, in fact, an act of secession and flight by a numerically inferior and marginalized minority (2).

Read in this light, the fabled Saga of King Gideon and Queen Judith recapturing Axum from Muslim invaders and restoring the Zadokan dynasty in the 10th century must be viewed skeptically as an attempt to superimpose on the distant past a more contemporary enemy as part of the process of national myth making. What truly occurred during this time of isolation can only be the guessed at but I would hazard an opinion that the Axum these legendary rulers “liberated” was held by Christians rather than Muslims. ….

[End of quote]

Judith and Joan of Arc

 

Perhaps the heoine with whom Judith of Bethulia is most often compared is the fascinating Joan [Jeanne] of Arc. Spoto again, in his life of Joan, has a chapter five on Joan of Arc that he entitles “The New Deborah”. And Joan has also been described as a “second Judith”. Both Deborah and Judith were celebrated Old Testament women who had provided military assistance to Israel. Spoto, having referred to those ancient pagan women (Telesilla, etc.), as already discussed, goes on to write (p. 74):

Joan was not the only woman in history to inspire and to give direction to soldiers. …. Africa had its rebel queen Gwedit, or Yodit, in the tenth century. In the seventh appeared Sikelgaita, a Lombard princess who frequently accompanied her husband, Robert, on his Byzantine military campaigns, in which she fought in full armor, rallying Robert’s troops when they were initially repulsed by the Byzantine army. In the twelfth century Eleanor of Aquitaine took part in the Second Crusade, and in the fourteenth century Joanna, Countess of Montfort, took up arms after her husband died in order to protect the rights of her son, the Duke of Brittany. She organized resistance and dressed in full armor, led a raid of knights that successfully destroyed one of the enemy’s rear camps.

Joan [of Arc] was not a queen, a princess, a noblewoman or a respected poet with public support. She went to her task at enormous physical risk of both her virginity and her life, and at considerable risk of a loss of both reputation and influence. The English, for example, constantly referred to her as the prostitute: to them, she must have been; otherwise, why would she travel with an army of men?

Yet Joan was undeterred by peril or slander, precisely because of her confidence that God was their captain and leader. She often said that if she had been unsure of that, she would not have risked such obvious danger but would have kept to her simple, rural life in Domrémy.

[End of quote]

I think that, based on the Gudit and Axum scenario[s], there is the real possibility that some of these above-mentioned heroines, or ancient amazons, can be identified with the famous Judith herself – gradually being transformed from an heroic Old Testament woman into an armour-bearing warrior on horseback, sometimes even suffering capture, torture and death – whose celebrated beauty and/or siege victory I have argued on many occasions was picked up in non-Hebrew ‘history’, or mythologies: e.g. the legendary Helen of Troy is probably based on Judith, at least in relation to her beauty and a famous siege, rather than to any military noüs on Helen’s part.

In the name Iodit (Gwedit) above, the name Judith can be, I think, clearly recognised.

The wisdom-filled Judith might even have been the model, too, for the interesting and highly intelligent and philosophically-minded Hypatia of Alexandria. Now I find in the Wikipedia article, “Catherine of Alexandria” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_of_Alexandria), that the latter is also likened to Hypatia. Catherine is said to have lived 105 years (Judith’s very age: see Book of Judith 16:23) before Hypatia’s death. Historians such as Harold Thayler Davis believe that Catherine (‘the pure one’) may not have existed and that she was more an ideal exemplary figure than a historical one. She did certainly form an exemplary counterpart to the pagan philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria in the medieval mindset; and it has been suggested that she was invented specifically for that purpose. Like Hypatia, she is said to have been highly learned (in philosophy and theology), very beautiful, sexually pure, and to have been brutally murdered for publicly stating her beliefs.

Interestingly, St. Joan of Arc identified Catherine of Alexandria as one of the Saints who appeared to her and counselled her.

Who really existed, and who did not?

Judith of Bethulia might be the key to answering this question, and she may also provide us with a golden opportunity for embarking upon a revision of AD time. For there are also many supposedly AD queens called “Judith” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Judith):

Queen Judith may refer to:

  • Judith of Babenberg (c. late 1110s/1120 – after 1168), daughter of Leopold III, Margrave of Austria and Agnes of Germany, married William V, Marquess of Montferrat
  • Judith of Bavaria (925 – June 29 soon after 985), daughter of Arnulf, Duke of Bavaria and Judith, married Henry I, Duke of Bavaria
  • Judith of Bavaria (795-843) (805 – April 19 or 23, 843), daughter of Count of Welf and Hedwig, Duchess of Bavaria, became second wife of Louis the Pious
  • Judith Premyslid (c. 1057–1086), daughter of Vratislaus II of Bohemia and Adelaide of Hungary, became second wife of Władysław I Herman
  • Judith of Brittany (982 – 1017), daughter of Conan I of Rennes and Ermengarde of Anjou, Duchess of Brittany, married Richard II, Duke of Normandy
  • Judith of Flanders (October 844 – 870), daughter of Charles the Bald and Ermentrude of Orléans, married Æthelwulf of Wessex
  • Judith of Habsburg (1271 – May 21, 1297), daughter of Rudolph I of Germany and Gertrude of Hohenburg, married to Wenceslaus II of Bohemia
  • Judith of Hungary (d.988), daughter of Géza of Hungary and Sarolt, married Bolesław I Chrobry
  • Judith of Schweinfurt (before 1003 – 2 August 1058), daughter of Henry, Margrave of Nordgau and Gertrude, married Bretislaus I, Duke of Bohemia
  • Judith of Swabia (1047/1054 – 1093/1095), daughter of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor and Agnes of Poitou, married Władysław I Herman, successor to Judith of Bohemia
  • Judith of Thuringia (c. 1135 – d. 9 September after 1174), daughter of Louis I, Landgrave of Thuringia and Hedwig of Gudensberg, married Vladislaus II of Bohemia

Judith 16:17

‘Woe to the nations that rise up against my people!

The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment;

he will send fire and worms into their flesh;

they shall weep in pain forever’.

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