Monday, December 12, 2011

My paper on the Maccabean Revolt, which accidentally became six pages long.

Enigmatic to the untrained Gentile eye, the story of the Maccabean Revolt is both telling and elusive. On one hand, the tale seems of great necessity and interest to the reader of the Bible, and yet their extra-biblical status places them in a bit of a... well... apocryphal light. The books of Maccabees provide insight to the immediate climate Jesus was born into. It significantly informed Jewish hopes for the Messiah (and contributed to Jesus’ disqualification), was a miracle, and lest we forget, preserved the nation of Israel against ravenous surrounding superpowers. The survival of the Hasmonean dynasty is chronicled, if not exhaustively then certainly most famously, by Flavinius Josephus and there will be little if anything contained in this paper that is not contained in “Jewish Antiquities.”

Israel had been under foreign rule for centuries, perpetually under the control of one empire and being absorbed into the next big empire that gobbled up the last. After years of exile among other nations and learning from these nations both practical sciences and the art of remaining a people set apart, the Jews wanted their country back. Nehemiah and Ezra led a relatively minor but ideologically important return to the land of Canaan. Eventually the two-horned ram of the Medes and Persians was split by the greatest goat who ever lived, Alexander the Great (Daniel’s words, not mine). Alexander was good to the Israelites, but like all humans, he had a propensity for giving out and dying eventually. Around 200 BCE, Israel fell to the Syrian successors to Alexander the Great’s empire, the Seleucids, who had no clue what they were getting themselves into by picking on the Jews. The ensuing external battles against Syrian aggression were coupled with an internal battle against Hellenization.

Hellenization truly was a fresh invasion. It’s the apex of oddity that although the Greek cultural zenith coincides with the return to Canaan, Herodotus never mentions the struggling Jewish state being forged from repentant people returning from all corners of a vast empire (Gilbert, p. 520). In fact, the two never really came into contact in any large and meaningful way until the conquest of Alexander the Great. Alexander's reign was very beneficial for the Jews, and Greek culture was an attractive import. Maintaining a strong identity has been a trademark of Jewish communities the world over, usually in Diasporatic communities in foreign countries. The Seleucid foe, however, brought both an unwanted, forceful invasion, and an appealing culture that threatened the Jewish way of life. Culture has always been the Jews' secret weapon to weathering every storm. The Hellenists likely had the only combination of the military might to subdue and the culture to entice that could truly defeat the Jews on both levels and incorporate them as full subjects of an empire. The Maccabean Revolt sprang up to meet this challenge in the gap between Alexander the Great's death, and the Roman takeover, which brought in a new, physical society that was less enticing to the Jews, and did more to galvanize them as an independent people.

In the chaos of Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt’s death, the Seleucids swept through Judea en route to invading Egypt, returning again through a chaotic Israel after their attempt was stunted by Roman threats of retaliation. Two years later they took advantage of the leaderless chaos Jerusalem was experiencing, and came to stay. Their first act was an insult to Judaism, sacrificing a swine on the altar and plundering the temple’s riches. A fitting introduction to the Maccabean feats is a look at what Josephus claims the Samaritans were doing after the Seleucids conquered Israel: claiming no relation, and declaring that their “temple without a name” be known as that of Zeus Hellenios (Josephus, p. 211).

For such a large and important geographic area, much of Josephus’ focus is on the status of the Temple: whether sacrifices and ceremonies were safe to perform, whether it was occupied, polluted, or in any state of disarray. Josephus’ personal interest as a Jew is important here, and while he is noted as both a traitor and a mouthpiece of the Jews to the Roman world, this focus provides a window into the focus of the public eye in the first century CE (or at least an attempt at pandering to the focus of the public eye). At times, the following retelling of the history of the Maccabees might seem somewhat colorful. If this is the case, then in the interest of scholarly loyalty to a primary source and plausible deniability, I would like to point out that Josephus was not entirely unbiased in his recounting, and his bias itself is of interest, if not necessity to understanding the story on a deeper, more personal level, which also provides plausible deniability to the possibility that the author of this paper has been caught in a spider web-like trap for hyper-masculine historian-flies who are drawn to the pheromone-like scent of the gratuitous destruction of larger forces by smaller ones.

Mattathias came on the scene in 166 BCE. He was the one who really began the resistance. Some Seleucids asked the Jewish high priests to sacrifice for them, knowing the spirit of Jewish resistance would be broken if they did. Mattathias refused. Some priest, likely admitted to the priesthood by virtue of pity, probably a turd-breathed frequenter of primitive litter boxes, went ahead and did the sacrifice so Mattathias wouldn’t have to. Mattathias and his sons thanked him by hacking to death with knives everyone present and starting the Maccabean Revolt.

“Whoever is zealous for the laws of our country and the worship of God, let him follow me!” Josephus colorfully recounts Mattathias crying out as he overturned pagan altars. Thus began a period of the Seleucids getting in touch with God’s smiting-side. Mattathias and his sons fled into the desert, and the zealous flocked to them. Many brought their families to live in caves rather than live under Seleucid rule. A great loss of life but victory for the strength of the character of Judaism occurred when the Syrians burned many of the Jews alive inside their caves on the Sabbath. The Jews did not resist, or even attempt to block the smoke, and over 1,000 died. Many escaped, and under Mattathias they struck back, destroying pagan altars and those that sacrificed on them. The Jews decided then that battle would take place on the Sabbath if necessary, but the massacre of the caves still stood as a poignant picture of the peoples’ dedication to the Law of Moses.

After Mattathias died, Judas Maccabeus succeeded him, and proceeded to drive an overwhelmingly large force from their country. Apollonius, the governor of Samaria, tried to invade but was repelled, and paid for it with his life. Then the governor of Coele-Syria tried the same thing, also losing his large army and life to the Jews, suddenly an unconquerable force. Syria’s General Ptolemy attacked Maccabeus out-numbering him 47,000 to 3,000 after Judas pulled a righteous Gideon impersonation, winnowing down his force to a size that would necessitate a miracle. Which is exactly what happened. The Jews walked away from this encounter with not just a victory, but all the Syrians’ stuff they left behind while fleeing in righteous terror of the Jews. Showing a remarkable ability to not learn from its mistakes, Syria invaded again, outnumbering the Jews 65,000 to 10,000 (according again to Josephus), and expecting it to matter. Judas and his men fought desperately, killing the shit out of the Syrians until they got tired of dying and went home and continued their contemptible existence of paganism and liking the New York Giants.

Judas then purified the temple and put to siege the citadel in Jerusalem that some of the Syrians still occupied. The temple, which had been in disarray amidst the chaos of war, was restored to its former stateliness. This restoration was celebrated with an eight-day feast that is celebrated to this day in the Festival of Lights.

At this point, all the nations surrounding Israel summoned their armies, expecting to march into Israel, conquer it, and die at their own leisure. But what happened was Judas marched out and made them die in unexpected places. Then he then rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, solidifying Israel’s claim as a permanent, sovereign, and practically defensible nation. At this time, Idumea was conquered.

Josephus returns now to the citadel in Jerusalem, which was occupied through this entire time by Syrians who engaged in all manner of evil in that tower, sallying forth to attack Jews while they sacrificed at the temple, not to mention other shitty things, like listening to Nickelback and watching the Star Wars prequels and liking them, or supporting George Lucas’ new editions that come complete with cheesy voice-overs and CGI edits the likes of which would make Genghis Khan wilt to his knees and droop into a slow weep. Some of the Jewish renegades in the citadel escaped to elicit aid from King Antiochus, who had a suspicious relationship with elephants that will not be identified in this paper. He attacked Israel with over 100,000 men and 32 war-pachyderms.

The ensuing battle was huge, and reminiscent of Thermopylae. The Seleucid forces were bottlenecked at a pass, the elephants in single file. The largest of the war elephants was also the most conspicuously armored, and Judas’ brother Eleazar plunged forward with righteous regicidal lust. He single handedly pushed into the enemy ranks, making his way to the mammoth creature, slaying it to death with his knife. The beast fell dead on Eleazar, crushing him, yet history will always remember that Eleazor died knifing to death a war-elephant, and it was the most bad ass death a man could ever die. Inter-species knife-fights aside, the Jews did not sense that such bad-assery was a good omen, and instead chose to focus on the fact that the elephant was in fact not carrying the king of Syria. They withdrew.

Fortuitously, rebellion had broken out in Syria and the Syrian army, despite losing so many men, lacked the food to feed them. Apparently they just anticipated everyone dying and planned accordingly, not taking into consideration the possibility of the Israelites getting spooked at a duel to the death between one of their leaders and an armored war elephant which, I repeat, is a death which any man should be willing to kill for in order to die. The Syrians pulled out, and the following history of Judas Maccabeus is so resplendent with the ornament of slain superfluously evil foes that it becomes more redundant than this sentence, and Josephus’ account more self-referential than this paper.

As I vacillate wildly between the high-octane retelling of the Maccabees’ righteous blood-letting and a legitimate scholarly analysis of the subject, I must return to end on a monotonously serious note. Whatever is left of my meager academic conscience compels and allows me to giddily praise the exploits of the Maccabees, and to ponder the psychology and historiography of Josephus’ writings. By all accounts, the “city within a city” archetype that the Jews have employed with remarkable success and perseverance for millennia requires praise for a hard-fought and much-deserved period of astoundingly well-enforced autonomy, a gem of sovereignty that serves as a jewel in the crown of Jewish memory and education on the unique situation of Israeli statehood.


Wood, Leon James (1986). A Survey of Israel’s History. Zondervan.

Maier, Paul L. (1994). Josephus: The Essential Works. Josephus, Flavinius. Kregel Publications.

Gilbert, George Holley. (1909). The American Journal of Theology, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Oct. 1909), pp. 520-540. The Hellenization of the Jews between 334 B.C. and 70 A.D. The University of Chicago Press.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rabiah Al-Adawiyya: She-Saint

I'm sorry it's been so long, Internet.

You see, I haven't quite been myself recently. There's this girl, and she's taken my affections quite by storm.

Her name is Rabiah Al-Adawiyya, or Rabiah Al-Basri, and she was born in 713 AD in Basra. She is the saint of my heart. Supposedly, she looks something like the picture below.

As I get older and the Proverbs 31 woman gets gradually hotter and hotter to me, Rabiah, like a fine, fine wine just gets sweeter to me with time. Rather unfortunately for me and all other spiritually-minded suitors, her body died about 1,208 years ago, making consummation unlikely.

Consumed with zeal for God, she could regularly be seen running around the streets of Basra (Modern-day Iraq) with a torch in one hand and a pale of water in the other. When asked by the local moon-faces what she was doing, she dropped it on them: "I want to put out the fires of Hell, and burn down the rewards of Paradise. They block the way to God. I do not want to worship from fear of punishment or for the promise of reward, but simply for the love of God."

Another anecdote recounts her prayers attracting the most timid and sly of wild beasts (it worked on me) to her in the wilderness, joining around her to pray to their common Father. When her clingy friend, Hadhrat Hasan Basri approached, the animals fled. When he asked, amazed, why they fled at his approach and not hers, she asked what he had eaten that day.

"Why, bread and meat," he replied.

"When you have eaten bread and meat, why should they not flee?" was her answer. In this reproof, she speaks of man's disconnect with the ones he is supposed to protect and carefully consider, instead consuming them without thought. The lesson learned is that Rabiah is so in tune with God and His creation that there is no barrier between them and they worship together in unity.

And I just want to tear down the boundaries between me and HER. Get to know her some. Go out for coffee and dates some time.

Unfortunately, I'm not the first. She is a coy mistress, cutesy animal prayer-gatherings and gutsy demonstrations of insane-psycho-God-loving, aside. Others (probably less suitable and genuine than me) approached her, too.

"People asked Rabiah: "Why do you not take a husband?" Rabiah responded: "I am saddled with three concerns. If you remove these worries from me, I shall take a husband. One: Tell me, will I die with Imaan ("Faith," or a measure of the extent to which a Muslim is in "Islam", or "Surrender")? Two: On the Day of Qiyaamah ("Day of Judgment" or "Day of Resurrection") will my Record of Deeds be given in my right or left hand? Three: On the Day of Qiyaamah will I be among the people of the right side or the left side?" The people said that they were unable to give her assurances regarding these issues. She said: "A woman who has these fears has no desire for a husband.""

Which are clearly the right questions to be concerned with when thinking about entering a God-centered relationship. The irony is that they also nullify any hope for a God-centered relationship.

This is a conundrum that, in and of itself, only increases my attraction to the saint.

Her most important statement, though, was this:

"My love to God has so possessed me that no place remains for loving or hating any save Him."

Rabiah al-Adawiyya: Please come down now and marry me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Children's Crusade

Time for another class! Another time to become immersed in the wonderful world of history! We are going to read aloud together the story of the Children's Crusade of 1212.

Turn now in your books to the chapter titled "The Children's Crusade." You may turn in your book by going to and searching "The Children's Crusade." Let's now look, children, at the history of this WONDERFUL event!


The long-standing view of the Children's Crusade, of which there are many variations, is some version of events with similar themes.[2] A boy began preaching in either France or Germany claiming that he had been visited by Jesus and told to lead a Crusade to peacefully convert Muslims to Christianity. Through a series of supposed portents and miracles he gained a considerable following, including possibly as many as 30,000 children. He led his followers south towards the Mediterranean Sea, in the belief that the sea would part on their arrival, allowing him and his followers to march to Jerusalem, but this did not happen. Two merchants gave "free" passage on boats to as many of the crusading poor (which most likely included a minimal number of children) as were willing. They were then either taken to Tunisia and sold into slavery, or died in a shipwreck on San Pietro Island off Sardinia during a gale. According to most accounts, many of the poor and elderly failed to reach the sea before dying or giving up from starvation and exhaustion. Scholarship has shown this long-standing view to be more legend than fact.


According to more recent research there seem to have actually been two movements of people (of all ages) in 1212 in Germany and France.[1][2] The similarities of the two allowed later chroniclers to combine and embellish the tales.

In the first movement Nicholas, a shepherd from Germany, led a group across the Alps and into Italy in the early spring of 1212. About 7,000 arrived in Genoa in late August. However, their plans did not bear fruit when the waters failed to part as promised, and the band broke up. Some left for home, others may have gone to Rome, and some may have travelled down the Rhône to Marseilles, where they were probably sold into slavery. Few returned home and none reached the Holy Land.

The second movement was led by a 12 year old French shepherd boy named Stephen of Cloyes (a village near Châteaudun), who claimed in June that he bore a letter for the king of France from Jesus. Attracting a crowd of over 30,000 he went to Saint-Denis, where he was seen to work miracles. On the orders of Philip II, on the advice of the University of Paris, the crowd was sent home, and most of them went. None of the contemporary sources mention plans to go to Jerusalem.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Could They Deuce Aaron Burr? Opponent: Immanuel Kant

Aaron Burr:
Makes Foreign Policy with his Nine.

By now you get the drill. He killed Alexander Hamilton in a pistol duel and got arrested for supposedly trying to become monarch of the western United States.

Which is total crap, and hence I hereby refuse to recognize anyone OTHER than Aaron Burr as the rightful monarch of the lands west of the Louisiana Purchase.

Immanuel Kant:
Refuses to Look People in the Eye

Know why? Because people are WEAK. And if everybody were to be weak, it would not benefit society as a whole. He didn't even associate with people, he just stayed in his house in the forest in Germany, writing his ideas and telling people to stop being such friggin dumbasses.

He's the 18th century German philosopher who raised the tough questions others were too French to ask. Criticized the very IDEA of thought. Wrote on metaphysics, epistomology (the study of knowledge), and teleology (the study of things based on purpose).

He's most famous for his writings on ethics, the jewel of which being the Categorical Imperative, which states that man must only do things that, if committed by society as a whole, would result in the perpetuation and edification of society. Also he said that sex was the most selfish thing a human being could engage in.


Kant's stance on women and the nature of sex contradict his own Categorical Imperative. Ideological bigotry is a weakness, the crack in the dam that Aaron Burr would exploit.

With his GUN.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Could They Deuce Aaron Burr? Opponent: Vlad the Impaler

Pricks Worse than the Weed for
Which He is Named.

That's because when Aaron Burr pricks people, he uses a GUN. Look at a twenty dollar bill. He shot that guy.

Opponent: Vlad the Impaler

I could bore you with a lot of facts and figures and verifiable things that actually happened. And I will.

This is the guy Count Dracula was based off. In fact, his real name was Vlad Draculea, meaning "Son of the Dragon." But he wasn't one of the undead or even necessarily a Vampyre, per say, that was just a rumor people started about him when it got out that he like, made mothers drink the blood of their infants and stuff.

Which is exactly the kind of do-gooder muckraking that is killing America. Those people had it coming to them. They were Turks, Catholics, and Transylvanians! Clearly this tasteless smear campaign is the product of tree-hugging, bleeding-heart liberals. And why are their hearts bleeding? Because of Vlad the Impaler.

Claiming Vlad the Impaler was somehow supernatural just cheapens the achievements of a real, flesh-and-blood man. If you pricked him, would Vlad not cry? Supernatural intervention, affirmative action and other liberal institutions just piss me off.

Dracula strengthened the monarchy, centralizing the government and making it more efficient. He did this by slaughtering the Boyars and their families in his courtyard. Also, crime was minimal.

Vlad and his younger brother Radu more or less grew up in Turkish captivity as boys as part of a peace treaty between their father and the Ottoman Empire, who was pretty much the U.S.A. of the day (Turkish Sepahi light calvary = cruise missiles on horseback), so needless to say, he had a while to develop some bitterness towards the Turks.

Vlad was eventually released and assumed the throne. Vlad was PISSED. The Ottomans decided to invade, but Vlad said "Nah."

Vlad was outnumbered by perhaps as much as 10 to 1. The Turks invaded with a force loosely of 100,000 - 250,000, with the latest in artillery, cannoneers, and cavalry techniques. What they weren't counting on was Vlad releasing criminals into their camp every night to steal their shit. Vlad also personally dressed up like an Ottoman and snuck into the camp one night. Vlad stole their money and scared them across the Danube after impaling 20,000 of them.

It would take years for Vlad to be ousted by his suave, bisexual brother, Radu the Handsome, who was suave and bisexual.

Outcome? Aaron Burr can't shoot Vlad the Impaler if he's freaking IMPALED.

Vlad wins.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Could they deuce Aaron Burr? Opponent: Portugal.

Dear Internet,

I've been busy moving into a new house this past two weeks or so, so please forgive my absence. I know it was felt. This apology demands a more excessive noun. So please forgive my impertinence, regardless of the actual meaning that word may or may not hold.

I've decided that, as this is basically my tool to practice before I begin what will obviously be an illustrious career in teaching, I will surprise you all with a little treat.

It's a teaching tool I've invented to help my lucky potential future students remember places, people, and events that are awesome. I call it:

"The 'Could they Deuce Aaron Burr in a Pistol Duel?' teaching tool."

Now, to get us started, here are the stats on Aaron Burr, per that reputable champion of the American system, Wikipedia. (Dear class, please do your required reading for this lesson. Click the link to see what our textbook, Wikipedia, has to say on the matter.)

Drops Hamiltons Like a Drug Dealer
in a Mid-Priced Retail Outlet.

Drug dealers have "reps," and so does Aaron Burr.

An American politician, Revolutionary War participant, and adventurer, he settled his beef with Alexander Hamilton like an American man should: By shooting him dead in a duel for honor.

Also, he was the third Vice President of the United States, under Thomas Jefferson. So I mean, it's not like the guy didn't know how to compromise, or was unwilling to take second place. He never capped Jefferson. But apparently Hamilton, with his saucily-worded writings and dinner-party slights, just pushed him over the edge.

Burr's reputation traveled with him after those godless tea-sippers up north all but exiled this great American hero to the south. Great patriot that he was, rumors of "...Burr's desire to secede from the United States and form his own monarchy in the western half of North America," led to Burr being arrested in 1807 on charges of treason.

Now that's nothing short of a liberal conspiracy. Clearly he was going to cap some Spaniards (more or less illegally) in Louisiana just like he did Hamilton.

Spaniards: beware. He's coming.

And as for Aaron Burr? Aaron, if you can hear me, I just want you to know. You might have been a pearl among swine in your lifetime, but

(Not including Alaska and Hawaii. We never include those two.)

Until some other entity proves itself hypothetically worthy of said title by means of hypothetically defeating Aaron Burr in a duel and hence making itself the rightful ruler-in-theory of the Western United States, my allegiance remains with the ghost of Aaron Burr, which if I had to guess, is probably still pretty potent.

But what's this? Who's that I see, coming with guns blazing out of the Iberian Peninsula? Could it possibly be Spain, seeking to defend her honor? No, they're too busy still trying to organize a functioning centralized government. Or maybe Andorra, the small, obscure tax-haven for the world's super-wealthy nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains? No, they're all inside this time of year, developing secret strategies for the Knights Templar to make a comeback. Why, I think it's Portugal! In fact, I'm sure it is! Nothing else is even IN the Iberian Peninsula! Except Gibraltar.

But it's Portugal.

Contender: Portugal

Think of Portugal as a smaller, more cohesive Spain. Portugal is compact, nautical, and pissed off. Population 10,676,910.

Here's what you need to know. While all of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa were at war during the Crusades in the Mediterranean and on its banks, Portugal took charge and, utilizing their skills as sailors and navigators, rounded the cape of Africa, and administered the strategic butt-punch by attacking the flabby end of Arabia and Malaysia. This is their only hope in a duel with Burr.

By the way, that's freaking Malaysia, in case you couldn't read it the first time. Let me draw a map for you.

Who wins this match?
Outcome? It's conditional. If the duel is held on water, then Portugal has a chance to get away unscathed by Aaron Burr's seething blood-lust.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The 1920's: America's Golden Age

Woodrow Wilson: Not president in the 20's, but close. Well, kind of. But barely. He had a stroke. And unfortunately, he was a racist.

The man was a potent intellectual, a vivid idealist, and possibly could have prevented World War II with his brainchild, The League of Nations.... If politics and partisan rivalries hadn't stopped the United States from actually joining it. He maintained U.S. neutrality as long as he could during WWI, but didn't lack the kahunas to rush in guns ablaze when the time came, either. I plan to name my son after him.

From Wikipedia (the most reliable source on the internet):

"In the late stages of the war, Wilson took personal control of negotiations with Germany, including the armistice. He issued his Fourteen Points, his view of a post-war world that could avoid another terrible conflict. He went to Paris in 1919 to create the League of Nations and shape the Treaty of Versailles, with special attention on creating new nations out of defunct empires. Largely for his efforts to form the League, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919. Wilson collapsed with a debilitating stroke in 1919, as the home front saw massive strikes and race riots, and wartime prosperity turn into postwar depression. He refused to compromise with the Republicans who controlled Congress after 1918, effectively destroying any chance for ratification of the Versailles Treaty. The League of Nations was established anyway, but the United States never joined. Wilson's idealistic internationalism, calling for the United States to enter the world arena to fight for democracy, progressiveness, and liberalism, has been a contentious position in American foreign policy, serving as a model for "idealists" to emulate or "realists" to reject for the following century."

20's Male Swimwear: Not just for smirky college hipsters, but for everyone who did or didn't care how they looked.

It didn't matter if they cared or not. They looked AWESOME.

Flappers: pretty, classy, and fun.

Granted, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been attracted to them had I lived back in the day. I'm holding out for a girl who pretty much eats locusts and wild honey. But still. The style is just so endearingly boyish, yet girly and cute.

Calvin Coolidge: Perhaps the only president who could be considered comparable with Woodrow Wilson.

According to Wikipedia:

"A possibly apocryphal story has it that Dorothy Parker, seated next to him at a dinner, said to him, 'Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you.' His reply: 'You lose.' Coolidge often seemed uncomfortable among fashionable Washington society; when asked why he continued to attend so many of their dinner parties, he replied 'Got to eat somewhere.'"

Calvin Coolidge could've taken Aaron Burr any day.