Weaving a Chrestian tradition in sea silk
|The chasuble of St. Yves in Louannec (woven of byssus/sea silk).|
If you give some credibility to my evidence-based history (and please do), you'll likely think that Chrestianity disappeared once it became Christian. You should therefore be surprised to learn that just as other religions and cults (such as the Druze) have survived for at least two millennia, remnants of Chrest worship are also found in today's world.
The BBC recently reported on a woman in Sardinia who is expert at weaving sea silk:
The bracelet is made of an ancient thread, known as byssus, which is mentioned on the Rosetta stone and said to have been found in the tombs of pharaohs.Here comes the religious part:
Some believe it was the cloth God told Moses to lay on the first altar. It was the finest fabric known to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and one of its remarkable properties is the way it shines when exposed to the sun, once it has been treated with lemon juice and spices.
Another is that it is extraordinarily light.
Chiara Vigo: The last woman who makes sea silk
According to Vigo, the skill was brought to Sant'Antioco by Princess Berenice, great-granddaughter of the Biblical Herod, Herod the Great, during the second half of the First Century.Jewish, but not Jewish, a combination of Jewish and Phoenician, a tradition starting with Berenice.
Her family remains Jewish, unlike many others in southern Italy and Sardinia who converted to Christianity long ago, but continued to set a table for the Sabbath on Friday evenings well into the 20th Century, without knowing why.
According to Gabriel Hagai, professor of Hebrew Codicology at the Ecole Pratique des Haute Etudes in Paris, Vigo is "the last remnant" of a combination of Jewish and Phoenician religious practices that was once far more widespread in the Mediterranean.
"I met Chiara through a fellow professor in Paris, and I was sceptical at first," he says. "This craft combined folklore and religion [but] she has allowed us to reconstruct a forgotten and missing part of our history."
Berenice was a member of the Herodian Dynasty that ruled the Roman province of Judaea between 39 BC and 92 AD. She was the daughter of King Herod Agrippa I and a sister of King Herod Agrippa II.She was an important Chrestian:
She is also mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (26:30).
After a number of failed marriages throughout the 40s, she spent much of the remainder of her life at the court of her brother Herod Agrippa II, amidst rumors the two were carrying on an incestuous relationship. During the First Jewish-Roman War, she began a love affair with the future emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus.
(Berenice (daughter of Herod Agrippa))
Josephus records three short-lived marriages in Berenice's life, the first which took place sometime between 41 and 43, to Marcus Julius Alexander, brother of Tiberius Julius Alexander and son of Alexander the Alabarch of Alexandria. On his early death in 44, she was married to her father's brother, Herod of Chalcis, with whom she had two sons, Berenicianus and Hyrcanus. After her husband died in 48, she lived with her brother Agrippa for several years and then married Polemon II of Pontus, king of Cilicia, whom she subsequently deserted.The alabarch was the estate manager of Antonia Minor, whose Chrestianity is inscribed; his son Tiberius became the co-commander of Titus during the siege of Jerusalem. Herod of Chalcis is the New Testamental Herod who slew John the Baptiser.
4. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XIX.5.1
5. Ilan, Tal (1992). "Julia Crispina, Daughter of Berenicianus, a Herodian Princess in the Babatha Archive: A Case Study in Historical Identification.". The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Ser. (University of Pennsylvania Press) 82 (3/4): 361–381.
6. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XX.5.2
7. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XX.7.3
|Bust of Berenice (copy), Louvre, Paris|
1. PAUL'S basic attempts to found a community where both Greek and Hebrew — or as he puts it sometimes, "Jews first, but Greeks as well" (cf. Rom 3:22, 1 Cor 12:13, etc.) — enjoy equal promises and privileges, spiritual or otherwise, and consonant soteriological equity, are well documented. This cosmopolitanism is based on a more easy-going attitude towards the Law (as opposed to Qumran's and James' strict constructionist, "not one jot or tittle" approach); the ideal of justification by faith alone (as opposed, for instance, to the insistence in lQpHab 8 upon the Law as a prerequisite for justification); an open hostility to circumcision which undoubtedly found a sympathetic response from such "Asian" rulers as Antiochus of Commagene, Monobazus' mother Helen of the sistering state of Adiabene, Azizus of Emesa, who married Drusilla after he was circumcised only to have her divorce him, and Polemos of Cilicia whom Bernice divorced after he was circumcised (which Josephus tells us he did on account of her great "riches"); and an easy-going approach to dietary matters — as Paul puts it in 1 Cor 9:19ff. in his discussion of the terms of James' "Jerusalem Council" directives, despite his somewhat disingenuous protests about not wishing to be the cause of his brother's "stumbling": "do not be afraid to eat anything sold in the butcher-shops; there is no need to raise questions of conscience" ("conscience" in his view being a euphemism for the Law: cf., his allusion to vegetarianism like James' as "weak").We may ponder how some traditions eventually wove their way into the New Testament; Saul was later resurrected as Paul by his Marcionite Church and the letters in his spymaster's archive were remade as the Epistles; Berenice had a popular following in the region of Saul's Seven Churches and her son's name, Berenicianus, attracted its own following.
2. Aristobulus must be seen as one of the inner circle around Titus (along with Tiberius Alexander, Josephus, Bernice, Agrippa II and others).
3. One of its scions, Tiberius Alexander, who became procurator in Palestine after the death of Herod of Chalcis, was Titus' military commandant at Jerusalem. Josephus, who understood these matters well, specifically called attention to Tiberius' defection from Judaism, as he did to that of Bernice, Titus' mistress. Bernice's second sister Mariamne divorced her first husband in order to marry another son of the Alabarch, presumably the first husband's brother (if he was not of this family, it is another case of Gentile marriage).
4. These divorces are anticipated by the divorce of Herod's sister Salome from the Idumaean Costobarus, so important in all our genealogies and paralleled by similar ones by Mariamne (mentioned above) and Bernice from Polemos of Cilicia to take up with Titus (which would involve her in a two-fold denunciation at Qumran, not to mention her "riches" and the rumor of her illicit connection with Agrippa II which Josephus also mentions relative to the Polemos affair). Paul, too, shows his knowledge of this kind of divorce in discussing James' 'Jerusalem Council' "fornication" directives in 1 Cor 7:10f., but importantly he does not condemn them. Instead, he gently slaps the wrist of the offending woman by recommending that she abstain from further marriage and specifies no further punitive procedures.
5. At one point Paul is pictured as saying to Agrippa in the presence of the fornicator and future apostate Bernice, "I know that you believe." King Agrippa, nothing loath, replies, "a little more and you would have made me a Christian"; then he good-naturedly pronounces the judgment, which via the miracle of art has been assimilated into the portrait of Jesus in the Gospels, "this man has done nothing to deserve death or imprisonment" (Acts 26:27-32).
(Paul as Herodian by Robert Eisenman JHC 3/1 (Spring, 1996), 110-122.)
|Registration document for four date orchards owned by Babatha|
Berenicianus was the last (male) heir of the Herodian dynasty. His daughter was Julia Crispina, who features in the Babatha archive found in the Cave of Letters, near Ein Gedi (named as the home of the Essene movement). This Julia Crispina was in a legal struggle with Babatha regarding a child "Jesus"; I consider this of paramount importance in understanding Roman actions at this time - the third and final Jewish-Roman War in which the Jews were led by a declared messiah (Simon ben Kosiba). That is, it may have been in Crispina's mind to use the child for a Chrestian purpose, adopting him as heir to the throne.
Another document of importance concerns the guardianship of Babatha’s son. In 125 CE, Babatha brought a suit to court against the appointed guardians of her orphaned son, citing their insufficient disbursement of funds. The document contains Babatha’s petition that full guardianship responsibility of her son and his property be transferred to her control.
DeathThe latest documents discovered in the pouch concern a summons to appear in an Ein Gedi court as Judah’s first wife, Miriam, had brought a dispute against Babatha regarding their late husband’s property. Therefore, it is assumed that Babatha was near Ein Gedi in 132 CE, placing her in the midst of the Bar Kokhba's revolt. It is likely that Babatha fled with Miriam and her family from the imminent violence of the revolt. Because the documents were never retrieved and because twenty skeletal remains were found nearby, historians have suggested that Babatha perished while taking refuge in the cave.
4. Chiusi, 121.
5. Freund, 201
|Details in Temple of Jupiter-Baal, Heliopolis/Baalbek, Lebanon|
By 64 CE the disassembled parts of Phoenicia were annexed by Rome and, by 15 CE were colonies of the Roman Empire with Heliopolis remaining an important pilgrimage site which boasted the grandest religious building (the Temple of Jupiter Baal) in all of the Empire, the ruins of which remain well preserved to this day.The Phoenician connection fits in well, for their religious culture would have suited Chrestians well. I have long been impressed by the role of the Severan dynasty, begun by:
Septimius Severus (11 April 145 – 4 February 211), born in Leptis Magna, Libya and founded by a group of local Berbers (and probably Phoenicians).His marriage to Julia Domna, hereditary high priestess of the Baal temple in Emesa led to that new, literary genre I sometimes mention, of Greek-style travelling miracle workers (such as Apollonia of Tyana and Thomas). My history identifies this as near the start of the textual tradition which became the New Testament.
More on sea silk.