As I intimated in my last post about the efforts of Mr. Ralph Ellis to change the whole of Christian history (and then some), there is a lot to say in showing how his each and every assertion is fractally wrong and becomes wearing. It doesn’t help if in response he does poor job of actually responding to the points against him, instead either denying it, putting up yet another implausible hypothesis, or ignoring it with some sort of deflecting language.
So I plan to just finish up a response to Ellis’ last long comment to me on this blog. I got through about half of it last time, and I showed how he was in error on not just matters of history but even in math. Not too often you get to use basic geometry to show someone is wrong about history. With that intro, I will start to finish what I started, starting where I last finished. You get the idea, right?
Picking up, Ellis again tries to defend his peculiar transliteration of the word for ‘star’ in ancient Egyptian. I quoted no less that three dictionaries to show he was wrong, including the classic one from the early 20th century by William Budge. However, Ellis claims that Budge frequently doesn’t include all the vowels in his words, so I guess Ellis is free to include extra ones? I don’t buy that Budge just doesn’t include the vowels for a correct transliteration, and it won’t matter since the other dictionaries I provided were all in agreement. Moreover, Ellis is still trying to use Coptic to prove his transliteration, but as I demonstrated that word is not what he wants either. He also jumps to Aramaic, but that language does not derive from Egyptian and the word for ‘star’ this is kokhba. Ellis simply has no credible argument to change the transliteration sba to seba or anything else.
Also, Ellis claims that I didn’t mention an aleph at the end of the Egyptian word, so I’m misinforming my readers. First off, there is no aleph in Egyptian hieroglyphs; that’s a letter in the Hebrwe/Aramaic alphabet, for crying out loud. Moreover, an aleph at the end of a word would not add a vowel between the s- and b-consonants in the Egyptian word. So it seems Ellis is trying to put words in my mouth to make a point in a different language in a way that won’t excuse how he’s trying to change the word in the first place.
But why, you may ask, is Ellis so hung up on defending this single vowel? Because he wants to relate this word to a host of other names and titles to stars, including Aphrodite, Isis, Ishtar, Esther, and Zoroaster. So if the word is actually sba rather that seba, he won’t be able to get to terms such as sheba, as in the Queen of Sheba. This may explain why he cannot honestly say what I said. I complained about Ellis taking a transliteration from sba to seba or saba (he changes this when he wants), but now Ellis claims that I said he “erroneously added the final aleph (from sab to saba).” You can clearly see that I was making a different complaint, and again Ellis thinks there is an aleph in Egyptian. At best, what Ellis means is the ox-head alpu which after transmission through proto-Canannite and then the Phonecians into the Hebrew aleph; but that doesn’t matter since the odd suffix Ellis had (which was a different issue I brought up) didn’t include the alpu anyhow. So, Ellis clearly misrepresented my criticisms of his transliterations, made up excuses for why the dictionaries disagree with him, and makes claims about suffixes to words using the wrong alphabet that wouldn’t even deal with my points in the first place.
Oh, and Ellis also claims I said aleph was a vowel. Considering he spent so much time arguing that there was an additional aleph to give him this vowel a, this is odd; it’s even more odd considering I never even mentioned the Hebrew letter until this blog post. So now he’s just making up what I say and attacking that. I refer you to the above picture.
Next up, the conflation of various deities in the Ancient Near East and the Mediterranean. He does this by citing the reinterpretation of these myths by poet Robert Graves. So instead of using ancient testimonies, Ellis wants to use one odd modern confabulation from the book The Greek Myths. Ellis quotes Graves:
His [Anchises’] name identifies Aphrodite with Isis, whose husband was castrated by Osiris…
Already you can see this is a mess. Osiris was Isis’ husband, and this castration seems to be mixing in with the myth of Attis who castrated himself. But in actual fact, Ellis has even misquoted this questionable source; on p. 71f, it says Set castrated Osiris in the form of a boar. So it looks like Ellis’ source, when read correctly, conflates Osiris with Adonis (who was maimed by a boar) and Attis (who castrated himself). This is just a mess, and no wonder Graves’ book is not a source on the classicist’s reference shelf. (Speaking of which, I just got Robin Lane Fox’s Travelling Heroes, and I’m excited to get to read this.)
However, it is the case that in the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman era the Greeks did syncretize their gods with other gods. So Dionysus and Osiris could be seen as much the same deity, and Greek religion also absorbed outside ones to form new, interesting cults, such as that of Mithras that combined with Persian religion. However, this does nothing to demonstrate the history of the origins of these deities. As an example, the Founding Fathers tended to make the Christian God into something more deistic, but that certainly wasn’t the faith of the ancient Jews; if John Adams thinks that God doesn’t do miracles, does that have any bearing on what Paul or Hillel or Augustine thought? No. So similarly, Greek syncretisms do not say anything about the development of the religion before that period. And since Ellis wants Isis to be the founding goddess for Aphrodite, among other deities, he needs to find evidence that predates the Hellenistic period at the very least. Really, he needs to find evidence from the time before Homer. But he doesn’t have that, so he relies on poor sources and a statue from around the first century. If we do look at sources before the Greco-Roman period, we find Herodotus associating Isis not with Aphrodite but with Demeter (Histories 2.156). Besides, I already provided scholarship that has done the work I describe and demonstrated that Aphrodite is likely an offshoot of the various versions of Ishtar. And Ishtar’s antecedent, Inanna, is older than Isis.
However, Ellis counters this with the power of straight-out denial. Now the Babylonians didn’t influence the Egyptians, unlike what scholars really think.
I very much doubt it. Truly ancient civilisations are identified with megaliths, and there are not many megaliths in Babylon. And the chronology of the Sumerian royalty is notoriously unreliable, with many inflated reign lengths.
His comment shows he doesn’t even know what the data and arguments used are to reach the conclusion that the Babylonians influenced the early Egyptians. As I noted, the oldest Egyptian icons used Babylonian imagery; it would be some time until the Egyptians developed their unique forms. This influence argument had nothing to do with Sumerian chronological records; it required looking at the oldest Egyptian artifacts. Moreover, megaliths are hardly considered the defining structure of an ancient civilization. None of the ancient Sub-Saharan African civilizations produced monolithic structures, so they weren’t civilized? What about the many Native American cultures that didn’t produce megalithic structures? Ellis’ way of defining a civilization not only doesn’t deal with the problems I presented, it becomes culturally chauvinistic. And even given that, we know that ziggarats were being built in Babylonia before the construction of the great Egyptian pyramids, and before then all the way into the 4th millenium BCE are there large raised platforms for religious purposes. So, all-around failure here for Mr. Ellis.
Now, we can return to Ellis’ favorite game: fake etymologies. He still wants to get from Isis to Easter. To make the connection, he has the premise that “the celebration of Est [Isis] at Easter lasted into the 2nd century AD.” Sorry, but this ain’t so. The major festival related to Isis coincided with the heliacal rising of Sirius (Sothis) which happened in summer. Easter takes place close to the spring equinox, though it is complicated by the Hebrew’s calendar trying to fit a lunar and solar scheme together. As for the worse ‘Easter’, it comes from the Germanic goddess of dawn, Eostre. If anything, this name would fit well with the Greek word for dawn, eos (Ηως), and this apparently has support from etymologists (a common root, not direct influence). The pagan celebrations during the month of Eostre concerned fertility which makes sense considering it is in spring that plants and crops come back to life, then symbols of fertility would be used, such as rabbits (think the phrase “breeding like rabbits”) and eggs. So do we really want to go to Egypt and look at an “egg glyph” Ellis mentions to explain these symbols?
Oh, and before we forget, the whole etymology that Ellis wants is to have Isis’ name explain so much other goddess names, including Ishtar and Astarte, but this depends on the Egyptian name for Isis to be Est or Ast. Is Ellis right about this? Do you know what a rhetorical question is? There is uncertainty on this point, but the reconstructions point to a pronunciation of Usat or Eset. This is based on Greek and Coptic evidence, along with the hieroglyphs we have. So now Ellis will have to argue away certain vowels here, as well as argue vowels into other words as he sees fit. If you haven’t noticed, every substantial premise Ellis has is almost certainly wrong.
So, if we return to the Bible’s talk of the Queen of Heaven, is Isis in play as an option? Ellis didn’t like my use of Wikipedia showing that Isis wasn’t called by that name until Ptolemy’s rule of Egypt, but apparently that isn’t a source. Oh boy, is he asking me to joke about him and his “sources”? Well, key thing is, unlike Ellis’ books, Wikipedia will actually cite good sources, in this case Witt, Isis in the Ancient World. Besides, Ellis provides no source of an earlier use of the epithet “Queen of Heaven” for Isis; he just declares it so. Why should I believe him when he cannot get any substantial facts right? I’m calling shenanigans.
Now we get to some Da Vinci Code-level use of sources, with Ellis using a late medieval source to show the Queen of Sheba was from Ethiopia, and that Mary Magdalene went over to France in a boat, therefore making here into Isis-Aphrodite. He backs this up using the Birth of Venus painting by Botticelli, I kid you not. Do I really need to say anything here other than laugh? OK, I’ll look at this much: Botticelli’s Venus is “obviously” Mary M. because Venus here has ginger hair, just like Mary. Um, Ralph, your imagination of what Mary looked like it not a source. Alright, I’m done taking this seriously: time to just point and laugh.
OK, I’ve gotten that out of my system. Let’s continue by returning to Ellis flaying about when it comes to the name of Zoroaster. Ellis declares again that it does because ester means ‘star’. Besides the non sequitur, the premise of what ester means has already been shown to be weak. Ellis is also forceful that the Persian root to Zoroaster’s name, ustra, means star. He just has to make it pronounced different than how the Persians actually pronounced words, becoming us-ta-ra. Again with the change to what vowels are used wherever he likes. And it’s still not going to work because the ancient Persian word for ‘star’ is staro. There is no connection here except in the imagination of the desperate.
After that we continue with Ellis’ delusion that every major character of the Bible will somehow connect to the stars. This is all premised on his idea of Isis’ name and the Egyptian word for ‘star’, so it can be dismissed. Similarly, Ellis can be dismissed when he claims he can say ester is the original word for ‘star’ when the source he uses says it is derived from the Persian for ‘star’ because he “know[s] the history”. We just have crank building on crank. Every premise is improbable, and Ellis has to contradict his own authority to get what he wants.
Oh, and by the way, Esther is now an Egyptian princess. How else could she have become queen of Persia? I guess Ellis hasn’t actually read the Book of Esther, where she got her ‘job’ because she won in a sex contest and pleased the Persian king the most. Ralph, actually read the Bible sometime. This is one of the novel-like books in the Bible, and you may enjoy it. It’s also one of the very few books that doesn’t have God do anything.
Speaking of the Bible, we can now get into the New Testament. Before Ellis had said that Paul was in a different Christianity than the Nazarene sect, but then I pointed out that Acts says Paul was a Nazarene. Now Ellis is claiming that Paul wasn’t “fully-initiated” because the Jerusalem apostles black-balled him. And it says that where? Looks like quite the opposite to me. Galatians 2 shows Paul going to Jerusalem and confirming that he has the same gospel message as the leaders did, and they agreed he was to be the apostle to the Gentiles as Peter was to the Jews (Gal 2:7). Black-balled? Hardly! Gal 2:9 also says that the pillars of the church gave their “right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given” to Paul. Looks pretty chummy, doesn’t it? That probably didn’t last, considering how Paul would chew out Peter up in Antioch, but there is nothing that shows Paul was some outsider.
In an attempt to overrule this, Ellis points to Acts 11:1-18, but this passage doesn’t even mention Paul/Saul! It’s about Peter explaining why it’s okay to proselytize to Gentiles. You know, the thing Paul does? Acts portrays a story to make Paul’s mission acceptable to the church, being done by one of its chief leaders, Peter. Ellis’ own example refutes his point. Ellis also cites the Clementine Recognitions, but this had battles between Peter and Simon Magus. I’m guessing Ellis wants to say Simon is Paul/Saul, and I have seen this argument from Hermann Detering and Bob Price (and that idea goes all the way back to F.C. Baur). However, these scholars would at least admit that their connection may be wrong, and it is also based on the pseudonymity of the all the Pauline letters, a premise that Ellis hasn’t accepted (since the letters of Paul were written by Josephus who was Paul). But even if accepted, it doesn’t follow that Paul wasn’t a part of the Jerusalem church.
Now, the next bit of commenting will concern the differences in history presented by Acts and that presented by Paul. In Acts 11, it is Peter who first begins ministering to Gentiles, and after that Saul/Paul returns to the story, goes up to Acts, and he begins his ministry. So clearly in Acts, Peter is the founder of the Gentile mission, though Paul would be the one to properly run things after. However, in Galatians 2 we have Paul confronting Peter for Peter forcing Gentiles to follow Jewish custom once they were Christians. This is one of the clear contradictions in the NT that scholars have pointed to in order to show how Acts is propaganda, trying to sell a unified church and co-opt the Gentile and Jewish factions of Christianity in the 2nd century. This also undercuts Ellis’ thesis that the letters of Paul, Acts of the Apostles, and the works of Josephus all had the same author. There is just no consistency in Ellis’ hypotheses, and it can only stay together if you do everything to not think about it.
Alright, things are getting long again, so I only see one more thing to point out to show that Ellis is both incompetent and deceptive in his presentation. I mentioned how Herod the Great would not have been worrying about who was born in Edessa in 4 CE. One reason was because Edessa wasn’t under his jurisdiction, it not even a part of the Roman Empire yet (and that wouldn’t happen for over a century after Herod’s death). However, Ellis cites a medieval chronicle that said King Arsham was being ordered by Herod to send workers, and this Arsham was preparing his army against Herod because of this. First off, Ellis has ignored the scholarship on this point. It appears that this ‘Arsham’ is a fiction, not found in any of the kings lists or coinage from Armenia. Josephus also mentions nothing of this story about Herod’s building projects in Antioch. The story seems to be a calvalclade of mistakes or fictions produced by Moses (see Roller, The Building Program of Herod the Great, pp. 264f.). Once again, Ellis uses the least reliable sources around to get to the most unlikely of conclusions.
But even this point is skipping over what I think is even more important: in 4 CE Herod had been dead for nearly a decade; he wouldn’t have worried about anyone born in Edessa at that time because he was DEAD. And Ellis just skips over this obviously huge problem. Obviously Ellis couldn’t deal with that, so he just acted like it wasn’t even brought up. That is deceptive and intellectually dishonest. That combined with terrible historical method and no wonder he’s lost in his own world.
I think this is enough to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Ellis is both incompetent and not honest. Tom has recently shown another example of dishonesty on Ellis’ part, and the Rogue Classicist in comments on Daniel’s blog also showed Ellis used ellipsis to alter the context to get his desired solution (though kinder language was used). Simply put, Ralph Ellis cannot do historical research or handle criticism. He’s now beating his chest over at his website, claiming how he won every debate and he had to be censored because of how amazingly he won. That, or it could be that he threw about libelous crap all over the Internet, could and not would not deal with actual problems, and was an all-around jerk. Sorry, Ralph, but you are blocked not because your arguments are so good (and why would I be afraid of Jesus being from Edessa?), but because you don’t know what you’re talking about and act as a troll. No more food from me, and now anyone who wants to critically look at your books will have great resources from Tom, Daniel, Steve, and myself, among others. (See my previous post here for links to all sorts of goodies.)