On King David

An article I read in National Geographic yesterday is one of the most intriguing articles I've ever read in this magazine - and not because of how it was written, but because of what it was discussing.

It was an article on whether King David really existed or not, and what are the archaeological/historical findings around this subject, and a wider political picture behind why this topic is important to begin with.


Now, pardon my English, but... Jesus F*ckin' Christ!

I'd known that Christian bible has a story about David and Goliath, and that Jews have their King David who's important (why exactly he was important, I didn't know, but oh well), and I remember covering King David in my art history classes... but to suddenly realise that all three of the major religions - Christian AND Jewish AND Muslim - all talk about THE SAME King David, and in all three he is one of the cornerstones of their religion, I just suddenly went... wtf?!

I mean, it should've not really been that big of a surprise: for all the fighting and arguing they seem to be doing at the moment, I knew that all three have the same roots and essentially have grown from the same space in time... but still. I somehow hadn't connected the dots in my head about Christian David being the same guy as the Jewish David, and now, turns out, it's the same David that Muslims hold dear. The same guy!

"He has persisted for three millennia - an omnipresence in art, folklore, churches, and census rolls. To Muslims, he is Daoud, the venerated emperor and servant of Allah. To Christians, he is the natural and spiritual ancestor of Jesus, who thereby inherits David's messianic mantle. To Jews, he is the father of Israel - the shepherd king anointed by God - and they in turn are his descendants and God's Chosen People." (NG December 2010 page 78)

And then to read into why arguments over his existence are so heated - Robert Draper has even said that "in no other part of the world does archaeology so closely resemble a contact sport" - it really made a lot of sense.

"Most Israeli archaeologists would prefer that their work not be used as a political wedge. This, nonetheless, is the way of young nations. As Bar-Ilan University archaeology professor Avraham Faust observes, "The Norwegians relied on Viking sites to create a separate identity from their Swedish and Danish rulers. Zimbabwe is named after an archaeological site. Archaeology is very convenient tool for creating national identities." (page 83)

...and also for arguing where a national border should stand this day. (And Geesh Louise are they arguing over that!) Being from a country that only recently got independent I have experienced first-hand how political Estonians versus Russians, or Estonians versus Germans debates get, but here it's debates over something that (possibly) happened 3000 years ago, and the fact that stories started being written down 300 years after both David and Solomon were dead already - doesn't seem to be much of a bother.

And then it's the little bits. Page 75:

"The story is that Goliath came from a giant city, and in the telling of it over the centuries, he became a giant himself. It's a metaphor. Modern scholars want the Bible to be like Oxford Encyclopedia. People didn't write history 3,000 years ago like this. In the evening by the fire, this is where stories like David and Goliath started."

It's just... fascinating.

***

I keep battling this topic in my head, over and over and over again.

I have never before lived in a country where so many people are openly religious - except US, but I didn't stay there for long - and it has come as a big surprise to me to see how heritage-based decisions of religion and political views are in New Zealand.

In US I could see that Republicans mostly came from Republican families, and Democrats from Democrat families - but to keep hearing in New Zealand that someone votes National or Labour (and people here share this surprisingly openly), and then hear them explain as their first reason that their families have always done that.

To me, it's just... what?! No wonder change comes so hard here.

And to keep seeing different denominations and how people practice their religions - and I have nothing whatsoever against personal joys and meaning people find in their rituals! - but to try and make sense of it, big picture, and to understand why on earth they keep arguing like that and to have seen how much the frickin' Bible has changed over the centuries, and to have read how these changes have been made, how committees of men have come together and voted on what texts to put in and what to leave out, and then keep hearing the news about car bombs and whole countries waging wars, and to have read about Hazara and about women in Afganistan (and many other places, but that just came to my mind first) and all the other things that are done in the name of human-written texts whose origins are so old no-one can't even be entirely certain when and how they were written, and how...

...and I just want to take my workmate to some telescope and let her look up through that lens, and wonder.

Young Earth views are the ones that really get/irk me the most. Especially when important decisions are then made based on those views, and a single argument being "because it's right".

Wow, has this become a rant or what...

Well, at least I'm not nauseous and I can breathe through my nose =)

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