Essay: Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nephilim

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 520 Fall 2014}

The supernatural elements of God, angels, and demons are represented as unsurpassable entities capable of wiping out existence on a whim. Humanity is viewed as subject to God and must suffer his wrath. For his select chosen few he will grant everything – with the proper amount of praise and strict maintaining of diet and cleanliness.

Anthropologically, the concept of eating clean food ensured that people consumed safe food, as the body was a temple for God. God’s chosen people were to mimic the actions and desires of God, this would apply to their bodies: “The ‘body’ of God has been an overwhelming concern of Jewish exegesis since its very beginnings. And it is important to grasp that the philosophical pain that it caused was sharp and real, because it appeared to defy the notion of a single transcendent God, which was the foundation of the Jewish revolution in religion” (Wieseltier 440-41). When the body is considered a temple of God the person must preserve it accordingly. Religiously, the eating of pure and clean foods ensured that the body was made holy for the grace of God to be able to be housed inside. Realistically, pure and clean food ensured the person did not get food poisoning and become ill. Methods for handling foodstuffs in the Medieval period was not sanitary and led to rampant disease. Symbolically, unclean food let evil or perversity enter the body: “{…} a temple for Israel, and – mystery! – a Holy of Holies for Aaron; true witnesses to justice, chosen by God’s will to atone for the land and to recompense the wicked their due” (The Dead Sea Scrolls, Charter 7 p 129).

The Watchers or Nephilim are guilty of copulating with human women, which in turn produced a generation of half human-half divine creatures. These are the people which caused God’s wrath of the Flood. The Nephilim revealed mysteries which God did not want humans to be aware of, gifts of knowledge which left man less dependent on deity. Noah receives a message from a mighty Watcher that all the earth must be destroyed due to the interbreeding: “{…} holy ones who [mated] with hum[an] women” (The Dead Sea Scrolls, Tales of the Patriarchs p 94). Common Christian notions imply that the Great Flood was brought on because of idolatry with no mention of demigod giants.

Belial is the leading force on the side of the forces of darkness in opposition to the forces of light. The fallen angel is the master of all perverse and evil things. Demons tempt and mock humanity, the following incantation attributed to David reduces the authority of the demons in the presence of the righteous God: “Who are you? [Withdraw from] humanity and from the ho[ly] race! For your face is a face of [nothing], and your horns are horns of a dre[am]. You are darkness, not light, [wicked]ness not righteousness {…}” (The Dead Sea Scrolls, Songs to Disperse Demons p 590). The evil forces may be related to flowers only when death has seized them, removing humanity from the Others: “Every creature of destruction shall wither quickly away [like a flow]er at ha[rvest time …” (The Dead Sea Scrolls, The War Scroll p 163). Flowers are a symbol of beauty and life, yet they also invoke melancholy notions of a funeral. The reference implies that while darkness appears so mighty that God alone can remove any threat. The comparison to a flower, however, offers a smidge of empathy for the lost souls who are not among God’s chosen people.

Michael is noted as a divine messenger who will relay God’s will to the people. Certain mysteries as to the existence of humanity are meant to be kept secret; the Watchers are only to disclose information God approves for humanity to understand. Angelic authority was placed on Michael: “By eternal light He shall joyfully light up the covenant of Israel; peace and blessing for the lot of God, to exalt the authority of Michael among the gods and the dominion of Israel among all flesh” (The Dead Sea Scrolls, The War Scroll p 163). The sons of light, or angels, are in support of God and work out his will. Placing Michael among the gods, however, leads to question if this was an area of Judaism where such acknowledgement of other deities still existed. The quote changes the concept of the Nephilim, that the angels were in fact gods in their own right who chose to worship and obey God. Yet, the purity of the angels must be somewhat lesser than God as they are able to communicate and enact with humanity while God is an ambiguous specter.

Works Cited

Wieseltier, Leon. “Jewish Bodies, Jewish Minds.” The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol.

95, No. 3 (2005). University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 435-442. JSTOR. Web.

18 Sep 2014.

The Dead Sea Scrolls. Trans. Michael Wise, Martin Abegg Jr., and Edward Cook. New

York: Harper One, 2005.

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Essay: Disappearing P’s: Punishment Pardoned through Purging

Disappearing P’s:

Punishment Pardoned through Purging

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 520 Fall 2014}

The ascent through the levels of purgatory are means to purify the soul of worldly pleasures so as to purge one of evil in readiness to be worthy of God’s perfect holiness through proper humility. During the beginning of the ascent through Pride, the way is more treacherous and sorrowful. The subjects are deformed and sluggish, Virgil said, “Do you not see that we were born as worms, / though able to transform into angelic butterflies / that unimpeded soar to justice? // What makes your mind rear up so high? / You are, as it were, defective creatures, / like the unformed worm, shaped from the mud” (Canto X 124-29). Pride holds many shades; Omberto notes that not only did his pride affect his own life, but the anguish passed on to his family members as well; he said, “And for this pride, here must I bear this burden – / here among the dead, since I did not / among the living – until God is satisfied” (Canto XI 70-72). The family suffrage hints at reasons to avoid sin as the pain would affect the people in one’s life who should be held the most dear. Humility and acceptance of God’s grace is the cure for Pride; Virgil said, “Show reverence in your face and bearing / so that {the angel} may be pleased to send us upward. / Consider that this day will never dawn again” (Canto XII 82-84). The angels’ beauty illuminates the brilliance of God and the necessity for the light: “The fair creature, garbe in white, / came toward us. In his face there was what seemed / the shimmering of the morning star” (Canto XII 88-90). The symbolism of white, bright, and shimmering suggests the purity and surreal splendor of all that is good and just in direct opposition to the confusion and fear of the unknown lurking in the dark.

As the journey continues upward, the suffering of the shades are lessened and the bright light of salvation beckons to Dante: “The rays were striking full upon our faces, / {…} when such great splendor overwhelmed my sight, / greater than any I had seen before, / that I was dazed by its unfamiliar brightness. // I raised one hand above my brow and gave my eyes sufficient shade to temper this excess of light” (Canto XV 7-15). The upward climb suggests the sins to be of irregular punishable equivalents, but the specific details of justice fit the crime. As the pair progress, the P’s upon Dante fade away, Virgil said, “When the P’s that still remain / upon your brow, though very faint, shall be, / as one already is, erased, // your legs shall be so mastered by good will, / not only will they feel no effort going up, / but they will take delight in being urged to” (Canto XII 121-26). With Dante’s progressive comprehension, his very being will be moved to good works and complete ascendance. Certain sins, Wrath and Sloth, are easily surpassed for Dante who did not need to learn those lessons as he possibly did not fall victim to temptations in those areas; therefore, his passage took moments while the sins he might have partaken in took longer to understand. Dante was curious of others’ offenses, for each level of sin he asks for stories to describe the wrongs the shades suffered for in purgatory.

In search of Beatrice, Dante must journey through the levels of Purgatory to arrive in Earthly Paradise. Virgil said, “I have brought you here with intellect and skill. / From now on take your pleasure as your guide. / You are free of the steep way, free of the narrow. // Look at the sun shining before you, / look at the fresh grasses, flowers, and trees / which here the earth produces of itself” (Canto XXVII 130-35).  Whether paradise is interpreted as reuniting with Beatrice, or the plentiful bounties of earth in Eden – Dante witnessing the suffrage of the guilty shades toil with their a propos sentence is a form of enlightenment gifted with understanding. Without comprehension, Dante would not have been able to ascend; the guidance of Virgil encourages Reason while the promise of Beatrice implies Faith.

The physical self is an extension of the physical world – which must be shunned for the spiritual self to flourish. The levels of sin represented in purgatory offer means to release the hold on the importance of material/physical nature of the world in exchange for the glory and bright clarity of heaven. The spiritual self is bathed in the shimmering love of God, and may only be fully appreciated when the physical concerns are abandoned for the desire of the ethereal.

Works Cited

Dante. Purgatorio. Trans. Jean Hollander and Robert Hollander. New York: Anchor

Books, 2003.

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