Sunday, October 01, 2017

Mythology – The Jewish Connection

If you are truly interested in biblical lore, you might start planning a trip to Washington D.C. in order to attend the opening on November 17th of the new $500 million “Museum of the Bible.”  Located just a few blocks from the Capitol, the $500 million, eight-story museum’s five central exhibit floors will house 40,000 biblical and religious artifacts from around the world.

Opening in Washington so close to the nation’s capitol seems to imply that this is a U.S. government sponsored project, but it is not.  The creator and personal donor is Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, the multibillion-dollar craft store chain his father founded.

The Greens are considered the Koch brothers of the evangelical movement and have spent hundreds of millions to blur the line between church and state. Green became a household name when the company took on the Obama White House in a controversial Supreme Court case over whether employers had to include no-cost coverage of contraception to employees.  He then became a hero to Pentecostals and religious conservatives when The Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor, and the company did not have to fund contraception.

The Real Agenda?

As an indication of the Bible Museum’s agenda, the museum’s new Chief Executive, Cary Summers, a successful evangelical businessman, helped launch the Creation Museum in Kentucky, an extremely controversial museum that subscribes to a literal interpretation of the Bible to explain the world’s origins.

I exposed this museum originally in 2009, and again in 2011 when I wrote in this column, “The museum’s predominant objectives are to substantiate the dogma of Young Earth Creationists, and denigrate the concept of evolution.  Adherents believe in a strict literal interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative as outlined in the Old Testament –– God created the earth in six 24 hour days no more than 6000 years ago; mankind, in the form of Adam and Eve, and all animals were created within that six day period; as a result, man lived and roamed the earth, coexisting with the dinosaurs, and in fact, Noah included dinosaurs when he loaded his ark.”

In July of this year NBC reported on the new Bible Museum, “The evangelical Christian family that owns the retail firm (Hobby Lobby) has spent tens of millions of dollars amassing 40,000 ancient items but hasn't publicly identified the provenance of most of them, said Candida Moss and Joel Baden, academics who co-wrote the forthcoming book, “Bible Nation: The United States of Hobby Lobby.”  This implies that some might have been obtained illegally.

Smuggling?  Who me?

What seems to substantiate that possibility is an even more troubling reputational problem that occurred this July.  As reported by the Washington Post:  “A federal court settlement that requires Hobby Lobby Stores to pay a $3 million fine for illegally importing thousands of ancient Iraqi artifacts is casting a cloud over the much-anticipated Museum of the Bible associated with the store’s owners just as the museum prepares to open near the Mall.”

The exposure continued, “The federal complaint described many layers of suspicion surrounding Hobby Lobby’s purchase of 5,500 artifacts for $1.6 million in 2010: The company never met the dealer, and wired payments to seven different bank accounts. The items arrived in 10 packages at three different Hobby Lobby addresses, labeled only “ceramic tiles” and “clay tiles.”  The government fined Hobby Lobby $3 million for its smuggling activity. Though the items seized by the U.S. government were shipped to Hobby Lobby, not the museum, scholars say the federal case is a blot on the $500 million museum.”

After learning of these problematic exploits on the part of Mr. Green, perhaps you now have second thoughts about visiting the museum (and the store?) although you might then miss an opportunity to see our illustrious president at the opening ceremonies for the museum.  No, that has not yet been officially announced.  That is exclusively my prediction.  How could Mr. Trump afford to miss the opportunity to impress the many Evangelicals’ that will attend? We will see if I’m correct.

A New Life For An Old Myth

So what is the Jewish Connection described in the headline above.  It should be obvious that without the multitude of Jewish stories, tales, folklore, myths, (however you choose to label them, even history) there could not be a bible.  But there are non-biblical myths as well, and one in particular has intrigued me.  I remember it from my childhood, and I suspect you might too.  I can picture myself, bouncing a ball and skipping rope to the rhythm of a ditty that said, “In 1492 Columbus was a Jew.”  This was a strange type of myth since, as I recall, in those long ago days, the myth was well known, but no one believed it.  However, recent research reports (as I interpret them) say, “maybe.”

One of the first mysteries about Columbus is about the mysteries about Columbus.  There are numerous sources debating the issue, with a good number providing “evidence,” some compelling, some theoretical and suppositional, but many seemingly favorable to the Jewish connection.  Columbus’ identity has been shrouded in mystery and debated for some time. The Italians claimed that Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy to Domenico Colombo, a wool weaver (a popular Jewish occupation).  The Spaniards claim that he was born on Spanish soil to a father with a different name and trade. Recently, as reported by Spanish scholars Jose Erugo, Otero Sanchez and Nicholas Dias Perez have concluded that Columbus was, in fact, a secret Jew, a Marrono (a Jew who pretended to be a Catholic) to avoid religious persecution.

The Many Theories

These historians also theorize that Columbus’ main goal in life was to liberate Jerusalem from Muslim control, and that he decided to take his historic quest to North America in order to find a new homeland for Jews who had been forced out of Spain. During the time of Columbus’ voyage, Marranos were a targeted group. Tens of thousands of them were tortured during the Spanish Inquisition, so keeping one’s true religious identity secret was a crucial priority for many.  Some historians believe the mystery surrounding Columbus was self-induced in his effort to keep that secret.

What is generally unknown is that Jews were being actively persecuted in Spain for many years prior to 1492, the starting date of the Inquisition. Some scholars claim that Columbus’ mother was Jewish, and his father descended from a Jewish family that left Spain in 1391 settled in Genoa, and became Christians.  This takes on at least a touch of authenticity based on the fact that in the year 1391 riots against Jews erupted in Seville and quickly became rampant in all of Spain.  Many thousands of Jews were killed during these riots, so leaving Spain would have been a wise option.

Analyzing the language and syntax of hundreds of handwritten letters, diaries and documents of Columbus, Estelle Irizarry, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University determined that the explorer's primary written and spoken language was Castilian Spanish. Irizarry explains that 15th-century Castilian Spanish was the "Yiddish" of Spanish Jewry, known as "Ladino."   My interest in that conclusion provided the incentive for me to speak to a Distinguished Professor of Research (a retired Portuguesey/Spanish specialist) formerly at Florida State University who confirmed the accuracy of Irizzari’s analysis.

There are is another factor relating to Columbus’ letters. Semitic linguist Maurice David, maintains that a cryptic monogram written from right to left that had been found in the upper left hand corner of all but one of the 13 letters written by Columbus to his son Diego are the Hebrew letters bet-hei.  David claims that translates into b'ezrat Hashem (with God's help). Observant Jews have for centuries customarily added this blessing to their letters. No letters to outsiders bear this mark, and the one letter to Diego in which this was omitted was one meant for King Ferdinand.

There was also a meaningful calendar peculiarity that allegedly compelled Columbus to delay by one day his original sailing date of August 2nd, 1492.  That date coincided with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av that marked the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples of Jerusalem. Columbus supposedly postponed this original sail date by one day to avoid embarking on the holiday, which would have been considered by Jews to be an unlucky day to embark on a new voyage.

Several researchers contest the commonly believed myth that Queen Isabella sold her jewels to fund Columbus’ expedition.  They have concluded that two Jewish Conversos, Louis de Santangel and Gabriel Sanchez, and another prominent Jew, Don Isaac Abrabanel, rabbi and Jewish statesman, advanced an interest free loan of 17,000 ducats from their own pockets to help pay for the voyage.  Perhaps not coincidentally, the first two letters Columbus sent back from his journey were not to Ferdinand and Isabella, but to Santangel and Sanchez, thanking them for their support and telling them what he had found.

Columbus also selected six Marranos to accompany him on his voyage including Luis de Torres, his interpreter who spoke seven languages including Hebrew.  He was the first European who stepped on the land of the New World, as well as its first settler. Unfortunately, he and the other settlers with him were found dead when Columbus visited the settlement on his second trip.

What’s True?

Tina Levitan, a Jewish Historian wrote that “Cristobal Colon (who never called himself Christopher Columbus and never spoke or wrote Italian) was the son of Susanna Fontanarossa {also spelled Fonterosa} and Domingo Colon of Pontevedra, Spain, where those bearing such surnames were Jews, some of whom had been brought before the Spanish Inquisition.”

It’s interesting to note that the name Colon was also a Jewish surname, the equivalent of Cohen today.

Cecil Roth was a British Jewish historian who wrote History of the Marranos in 1975. He rather summed up the entire subject in this manner: “The connection between the Jews and the discovery of America was not, however, merely a question of fortuitous coincidence. The epoch-making expedition of 1492 was as a matter of fact very largely a Jewish, or rather a Marrano, enterprise.”

How confident can one be that the Jewish connection to Columbus is valid?  Because the records are so vague and undocumented, there are multiple theories regarding his true agenda, and even his definitive identity. On the latter, here is the list of hypothetical family origins that must be considered before settling on the correct one:  Majorcan, Catalan, Portuguese, Polish, Scandinavian, Corsican, Norwegian, and Scottish.  So, did Christopher Colon have Jewish blood?  It would seem at best or at worst (see below) the answer is “Maybe.”

Considering the recent remonstrance regarding Columbus’ harsh treatment of the indigenous natives, and the protests demanding the removal of his statue at Columbus Circle in New York, from a Jewish standpoint perhaps it might be more advisable to look seriously into the revelation that Columbus is an offspring of King Wladyslaw III of Poland. After all, my father was from Poland.


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