Topics Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions
Turning Right at the Burning Bush: Reflections on a National Treasure from Ancient America
By Roger L. Williamson B.A; M. Div.
After retiring from a career in the military, I now teach in public school and teach an Old Testament survey course at the local college. Even though it may be a survey course in Old Testament, one cannot avoid the Hebrew language. While researching paleo-Hebrew I ran into an inscription written in this ancient language. An abridged version of the 10 Commandments, this inscription resided in a desert. Nothing would raise an eyebrow if this inscription were to be discovered in the Sinai somewhere; but the fact that this inscription is found in New Mexico, US of A?
That was two years ago. The degree of my amazement has never faded. The Los Lunas Decalogue is addictive. The stone sticks with you and sticks it to you with more questions than answers. Like some headmaster with a big ruler; this stone challenges old assumptions; requires a mastery of language, research of both Old and New World times.
Consistent is the fact that few are aware of the stone inscription; even the locals. About 10 miles out in the desert I did ask for directions from a lady in a trailer office of a rock crushing company. Trucks loaded with gravel would pull up to this officer trailer and she would record the tonnage or something like that.
"Excuse me, I am looking for directions. I am looking for a mesa nearby called Mystery Mountain. Would you happen to know where this is located?"
"No, never heard of it," she said.
"Well, it is also called the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone."
"What's a "Decalogue?"
"Oh, Decalogue is a word that refers to the 10 Commandments. Do you know of a mesa/mountain that has a stone with the 10 Commandments on it?
"Never heard of it," she replied, "but I saw people bumping around the desert six month ago. Saw the silly people ruining their truck from that window. We have some crazy people visit this area."
For the most part, people genuinely want to give you what you are asking for; especially directions and there is a frustration when they cannot.
"Honey," [I love it when people call you honey] "I don't know where this mountain you are speaking of is, but you probably have not gone far enough. Keep going and turn right at the burning bush."
We both fell out laughing and I thanked her. Even the locals are unaware of this awesome stone written in a very old language.
She was right about one thing. I had not gone far enough. With several more hours I put the satellite photo into focus of the Rio Puerco ; railroad tracks and a bridge across. There was only one badly sun faded sign that said: "Mystery Mountain." I was at the right mesa. Two more hours of wandering around dead end drops I saw the twin peaks and honed in on it. Once I could see the avenue of approach, the first sight of the stone was no more than a 1000 meters forward.
Observations on Physical Features of the Stone
The Los Lunas Mesa has the finest silted sand at its base I can remember. Walking on a very fine sand dune would be a fair equivalent. This finely ground sand will play a part of nature's relationship to this stone inscription.
The Decalogue Stone makes a great first impression. You climb a very small trail for a while and over the first rise, the stone becomes visible. It is big and impressive. The majority of pictures are close up pictures that do not show the relationship with the rest of the rock. Additionally, wonderful scholarship has been done on the script and translation of the stone, but not pausing to consider where it sits, why it sits that way; and the nature of basalt rock itself.
- Assumption #1: Facing the stone; it is sinking downward to the right.
- Assumption #2: At the time of the inscription the stone was more or less on a 45 degree level plane.
There is no sliding or rolling with the big stone where the inscription is carved. The ravine it sits in must be an awesome display of water and "sandpaper" silt during the rainy seasons. This water erosion has literally taken the floor out from under the bolder. It is an amazement to me there is the complete inscription still remaining.
From top to bottom, there are nine lines of inscription. From line four downward the surface has been sandpapered smooth. It would not be inconceivable to have the stone complete submerged with rushing water up to the fourth; possibly third line. The very top of the inscription surface bares a more uneven surface and indicates this surface relief is more related to the time of origin.
Would that we could measure natures rate of erosion or how long it would take for a surface at the top of the stone to be "sanded" to the surface that is from line four down.
It does indicate a long time.
The top edges of the inscription are jagged and have very important markings for observation. The bottom is the exact opposite. Its jagged edges are rounded and smooth. These are again "before" and "after" shots. We are not able to accurately date the stone, but initial observation sure indicates antiquity.
Before considering Assumption #2 further, I want to make a few observations as to the degree of sinking/settling. The script characters are as close to perpendicular (90 deg) from the stone orientation as one could possibly make it. I think it is a fair assumption due to the entire orientation of the inscription. Whoever the author is; just observing the script construction, points to a very block and spatial awareness. With the exception of line two (a mistake I will deal with later), each letter is: 1) Very close to even sizing and 2) Even spacing both between letter and sentences.
It is more probable, this inscriber made these letters when the stone was level to him and waist to low chest high.
Assumption #2 is supported by another feature; the markings on the top edge. This stone surface had to be prepared before any script. If you observe close up the very top left hand edge of the stone you will see what I believe to be the chisel mark. When struck sharply great flakes of stone will shear off on to the floor; leaving a clean surface. That mark may indicate the size of his chisel.
On the left hand side corner you can see the probable depth of the break off. The indentation is about a thumb's length deep. These marking points of impact are all along the top edge. Like the block and perpendicular script; these preparation points of impact are relatively in line with the stone. This is yet another supporting observation that the stone was more level when it was originally prepared.
Again, would that we could measure the rate of settling with this bolder holding the great inscription. If geologists can measure the rate of movement in the San Andreas Fault, surely, something could be done to measure the rate of nature's working on this bolder. Based on physical evidence, it would be a closer approximation of age than has been reached so far.
The erosion "sanding" process, the letter orientation of the scrip, the preparation marking that cleared the surface for inscription set up for me a relationship between the markings and nature's aging. Not only is this script old, but the physical observation points in this direction too.
The Physical Construction of the Script
We have already observed the 90 degree orientation of the script as it relates to the stone. Whoever this chiseler was, hecould not have used the same force in preparing the stone as in making the letters. I did not find these letters to be very deep, but it seems to me:
- the implement used to make the letters was icepick pointed and not like the point of a screwdriver.
- He did not hammer; he tapped. In the entire construction of this man's statement, he ran the risk of shattering the surface of basalt. One mistake and the entire inscription would require re-surfacing or finding another stone.
Someone suggested this was no scribe or priestly background because any "trained" person would have measured his sentence lines, and chalked out his letters. It is correct, he was no scribe or priestly class (i.e. Levitical background), but not for the reasons put forth above. To the letter; word for word, this is a deliberate inscription; minus his great mistake. It was meticulously achieved in fine tapping.
The Author was familiar with this kind of rock and how to work with it in order to achieve the results he did. There is a high degree of functional skill here.
I know it is a stretch, but the ground in front of the stone is curiously level. Since this is the only level section in the entire approach I wonder if there was something in front of the inscription when the stone was somewhat level.
The Script and Version of the 10 Commandments
The inscription reads from right to left placing the script within a certain family of languages; the Semitic Family.
Minus the three or four letters that have broken off, and minus the period separation points and the caret, there are 216 characters inscribed on the stone. All 22 letters of a Semitic/Phoenician/Paleo-Hebrew alephbet are employed.
The execution of these characters are deliberate and measured: line 1 (28 characters); L2 (21); L3 (28); L4 (21); L5 (28); L6 (29); L7 (25); L8 (25); and L9 (10). Even the smaller last two lines are symmetrically centered. It would be a fair assumption that he has done this before.
David Deal has a wonderful depth to the language of Los Lunas in his book Discovery of Ancient America. He writes:
"They (the letters) are clearly and unequivocally a form of paleo-Hebrew. A comparison of alphabets easily proves this point. All but five of the letters found on Inscription Rock are immediately recognized as common forms of paleo-Hebrew." (page 3-4)
David Deal not only penetrates the code of the scripts, but contributes a very accurate translation; and his interest pushes on into the conviction that Hebrew has given the "Ancient America(s)" one of its large linguistic taproots.
Almost all linguistic translators of the Decalogue stone agree that Phoenician Script has a strong foundation. The important point to learn here is that the letters used in Los Lunas are not homogeneous! The scripts on this stone tell of many scripts from many ports of call.
Lets take it from the easiest to the more difficult. The letter Tet (T) is Greek Script. Iberic script; both northern and southern, display an X. Phoenician script displays the circle X; as does Aramaic and specifically the Estrangela script is no match even close to Los Lunas.
The letter Lamed (L) comes from a Greek port of call. It is heavily used and consistently vertical up and 90 degrees in 21 times. Lamed (L) is used as a prefix (to), and it is the first letter in the word no or not, which is a good part of the 10 Commandments. The way this letter is used is far distant from his semitic relatives. In really old Phoenician script, the letter appears as an upside down shephard's crook. Pondering the use of this letter, it is also where the ancient chiseler misspells a word by using the letter L and not N. Line 5; the last word in the line: leMaTsaN. (in order that). It is not due to his knowing how. The very next word is a verbatim match for Exodus 20; "YaaRiKooN (be long). The chiseler is deliberate in many things; even his mistakes.
The Hebrew letter Hhet is used twice in line two and seven for the word "ahCHarIm" (any other) and "teeReZaCHa" or "murder." This letter is a hard sounding Hhet or "Chet"and is distinguished from the letter Hey. Germans love this hard chet sound as in achtung! The letter "hey' is softer sounded as in the word "hay that is stacked in the barn."
The inscriber is showing us something. Whenever there are two alphabetic letters that are phonetically close sounding; he uses different script to distinguish them. In this case the letter "Hey" is a very close match to Phoenician script; but the letter Chet/Hhet is Greek script. His "Chet/Hhet" is not even close to Phoenician. This is not the last time he will use this trick to distinguish close sounding letters.
Would the fact that this person switches language letters to distinguish sounds, and uses Phoenician letters as vowel sounds point to his being a phonetic speller?
Line 2 (the last word) is a perfect illustration of a phonetic speller. The word is Pheni. Literally, it means "my face" and is used often for "before" whom ever the possessive is. In Hebrew the "p" sound can be a hard "Pah" or the soft PH with an F sound and is determined by vowel sounds that in the ancient days were totally absent. The author puts the letter "hey" between the first and second letter. There is a mistake here on two counts: 1) The Hebrew text of Ex. 20:3 uses the hard Pah letter sound which he does not indicate, and 2) by putting the letter "Hey" after the Pey letter he creates a PH (f) sound. He misspells the word for the sake of making a "feh" sound. In addition, it is possible that he is using; for the vowel sound ‘eh,' not the Phoenician "Hey" but the backward "E" which is Greek. The construction of this letter has no distinctive downward stroke on the right side. Yes, he does this several times, but there is enough of a red flag here to raise the question. Deeper still is the curious period mark after the use of his letter N, and before placing the possessive "my." After this possessive is yet another period. Is he getting into trouble here?
There was only one thing left to check with this vowel insertion. I turned to the Septuagint (LXX) to see if there were any clues. "Heteroi plen eMou." "others many of me") The final phrase in question is clearly not a literal translation from the Hebrew, and I do not see; what might be, some phonics clues to his insertion.
There are other places where the aleph (A) is used as a vowel sound even though the letter is clearly Phoenician. I find this to be another example of a Greek trait. (e.g. ZaKor)
The letter "dalet" or "D" is used six times in the inscription and is consistently the classic triangle. It's a close call, but I believe this is also Greek. Of the seven inscriptions from Cyprus to the Nora stone in Sardinia, the Phoenician letter "dalet" triangle is not level or (facing the letter) the right side line goes beyond the base of the triangle mark. Again, as I continue to study, when there is a phonetic similar sounding letter he reaches for Greek to distinguish the sounds. If the "dalet" triangle had an additional stroke on the right side, it might be too much of a confusion with the letters "resh" "R" or the letter "Beyt" "B."
I will make another close call, but I ponder this for hours, and love it when I can find other inscriptions to compare this with. It is the letter "kaf" or ‘K." It is a heavily used letter in both the inscription and in Hebrew. The "kaf" at the end of a word signifies possession ("your"). By my count, it is used 12 times in all lines but one.
In Phoenician script the backside of the letter often extends further than the ">" part of the letter and is often marked with a slant; not completely vertical. This letter is not even close to Aramaic. To me this is important; for any Aramaic connection narrows this person down to a further east orientation, and Aramaic did not come into use until after Alexander. I find little Aramaic connections in the Los Lunas Inscription. There is a connection with Iberic (Spain) and in particular, the southern Iberic script, but the "Kay" sound is also made with a slanted "Z" and as we will see "the hourglass" symbol.
Consistently, I have shown the author's tendency to lean on Greek whenever there is a phonetic close-call confusion in letter sounds. The two letters are "kaf" and the letter "qof."
Line 5 is just such a case in point. The word is "QaDoSho" ("holy").
David Deal sees this letter with an Iberic signature (Discovery of Ancient America, page 4). He has a strong argument; especially with the southern Iberic script. There is clearly little relationship to Phoenician script.
Deal also sees this letter as an authentication letter. No one knew this letter even existed until the 20th century. He writes:
"This evidence suggests that Jewswere living in Spain at sometime after the return of the Judahites to Judeaa from Babylonia, which began in 538B.C.E., and continued from the 4th century through the 1st century B.C.E …"
Four letters down from this hourglass Iberic letter is "kaf" >| sitting perfectly vertical in the word Kavod (glory or honor) with a K as distinguished from a Q. When in doubt he leans Greekward to phonetically assist. This is like showing the tendency of one to use the right or left hand.
Perhaps this is the appropriate place to make another comment on this entire verse.
ZaKor et Yiom heShavat leQaDoSho. Remember the day the Sabbath to holy it. ZaKor is a distinctive signature for Exodus 20. Deuteronomy 5:12 uses the word shamor (ShMR) meaning to keep.
It is interesting that the letter G is used only once. Line 8 in the word tiGeNoV) (steal). The construction of this letter is just like our ancient chiseler; blocked and vertical. There is no angle to it and appears the way Germans make their number one. As heavy as Greek is used, it should be noticed that the letter G in Archaic Greek is the same stroke; just opposite. If you flipped the Los Lunas letter over, you would have a match to 8th century B.C.E inscriptions. It is to say, the only use of the letter is Phoenician, yet, when you observe the use of the letter in other inscriptions; it is almost always angular and not blocked straight vertical like some solider at attention.
"Samech" is the letter S and is the also only used once. Line 3 in the word: PheSeL (image). In Iberic script the letter resembles a lighting bolt in a variety of forms. In Phoenician script this letter is often one vertical line with three horizonal lines drown through it from top to bottom. Sometimes it is with only two horizonal lines.
Actually I think this man is very conscious that this character looks very similar to the letter "mem" (M). The only use of the samech character (as is found at Los Lunas) comes from Ipssambul in Turkey. Just a comment, but I believe the Ionian and southern coast of Turkey possesses a very faint but a connection that keeps knawing on me. I have lived in Turkey and know how unexcavated its regions are. The author does not appear to be an eastern (Israel) location. He is definitely of the Mosaic faith. The combination of his use of Greek with a Hebrew/Phoenician base would make sense from a Jewish community outside Israel. Dated at about 590 B.C.E; it is the only samech I have found scripted like this. Looking at the famous Moabite Stone, you find them using the triple telephone pole design. A Greek coin found in Sicily 480-475 BCE has the lightening bolt design. It looks like an English M that is standing vertical on its side.
This is truly a "wild weasel" of a letter that has no match; except I do believe the author is very aware of letters being distinct from each other.
The letter for "Samek" on the Los Lunas stone actually looks very close to the "Mem" (M) letter in paleo-Hebrew. The letter "Mem" in paleo-Hebrew has that W look attached to a pole stroke. The only "W" appearance on Los Lunas is understood as the samek in the word PheSeL This is yet another minor detail, but this confusion of mem and samek constructions points in the direction that Phoenician may be the most recognizably used, but not his "mother" tongue.
The three upward strokes on the left side are consistently blocked with every ‘Mem." Inscriptions dating from the McCabean era have this blocked the same as Los Lunas but with a slightly angled (curved) pole stroke that does not appear in a Los Lunas "Mem." Samaritan script also has the blocked upper set, but the bottom stroke is very different.
"Nun" (N) is used 8 or 9 times in the big rock. When you compare this letter to say the Moabite Stone; a Phoenician/Canaanite script, the "n" is more cursive than Los Lunas. The curvature of the lower leg separates this particular script letter from the Los Lunas' "N." This style looks very close to how the letter is made in Southern Iberic scrip.
The letter ‘tsade" is used only twice; both times the same way, but the letter marking has no match to any Old World inscription scripts we yet know of. The first instance is in the word HoTseTiKa ("brought you out") in line 1 and the word MiTsRaIm (Egypt) line 3. I do think this is another example of phonetically sounding letters that are distinctively solved by using the Greek letter Z.
The last group of script-letters are; what I call, the curvey ones (for lack of any academic ones). These are the letters "Beyt (B or V), "Ayin" (without a vowel it is soundless), and the letter "Resh" (R). All are consistently Phoenician in origin.
Mormon Deseret Script and Connections to Los Lunas
Before leaving script observations, I think this would be an appropriate place to consider the "Mormon Connection." It has oft been suggested that a connection might exist between the Mormon's early history and the carving of the Los Lunas Commandments. This is a perfectly understandable connection question and follows will all the more questions to ask.
It is my understanding that The Mormon Church did send an investigating team to the Stone and their conclusions were: 1) The stone did not have any Mormon signatures and 2) The stone was not authenticated for the age pre-Columbian historians are proposing for the stone. I would certainly enjoy reading the supportive findings for their conclusion.
As I said of the Commandment Stone; it will stick to you and will stick it to you in continually opening up avenues of knowledge not known. The Deseret Alphabet, devised by Brigham Young in or around 1851 is just such an example. I was unaware such an alphabet was ever devised. The 38 character system was actually devised to: 1) Help non-English speaker to learn English, and 2) to assist Mormon believers to be m ore exclusive and distinctive as a community of believers.
Young was able to construct this system through an English shorthand specialist; named, George D. Watt.
The future of the Deseret system was similar to the pouring of sidewalks before considering where people walk. Even though the sidewalks are installed, it does not insure where people will walk. After serious efforts to get the new alphabet firmly implanted in use, it finally fell in on its own weight in approximately 1869.
The period of 1851 to 1869 is a critical area for the early discovery of the Commandment Stone. We learned Dr. Frank Hibben of the University of New Mexico was led to the stone by an Indian in 1933, and by Indian testimony, the stone was there long before the history of their own Indian people. The stone was first translated successfully in 1941.
When one circles the 1830's to the 1850's, it is prime chronology to both Mormon and American history NOT to pose questions. Where the historical "sidewalk of eyewitnesses" summarily ends with Los Lunas (i.e. 1850's); curiously this timing begins with the Mormon Migration. It is a cross over that; personally, I would not want to overlook.
We enter one of those areas that always tighten up historians and lovers of history's mystery: The relationship of Doctrinal belief and an ever, ever changing world Doctrinal belief lives in. The Mormon Church has contributed hugely to American religious life. Though exclusive in their doctrinal convictions/connections with ancient Israel, I have rarely (if never) heard one acknowledge them as the first "diffusionists" historians when it comes to the history of Ancient Americas. They embraced that conclusion long before such pioneers who expanded the historical possibilities for the Americas. With such groundbreaking giants as Dr. Cyrus Gordon, Dr. Barry Fells, and Gloria Farley: 1) the Mormon community may have had only convictions of only Hebrew origins; but now we see Celtic, Iberic, Punic, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Lord only knows what more). And 2) Like the Mormon conclusion; they arrived long before Columbus.
The Deseret alphabet and the syllabary of the Commandment stone have only one connecting character, but it is one that raises my attention. In the Deseret script, the letter N is a perfect match to the Los Lunas Commandment stone. That is a scant miniscule of any significant connect; however, it does turn over yet another stone with an even bigger question on it: Did early and colonial America know paleo or proto-Hebrew script? Without question, the first migrants to American soil knew Hebrew, but "modern" Masoretic Hebrew. In the Deseret alphabet, there are two perfect matches to ancient Hebrew script in the letters L and N; L being the shephard's crook symbol and N being that lightening bolt of a symbol. Los Lunas does not use the shephard's crook, rather, turns to Greek script. What is the trace on this letters? In the Mormon community, I would love to see someone pursue that; someone like the wonderful scholarship provided by Dr. Brian Stubbs. What Dr. Stubbs has contributed to is the awesome connection between Hebrew consonal roots (and Hebrew plural construction) to languages of both ancient America; especially Indian languages squarely in the Los Lunas matrix. Another scholarly contribution in this area of Hebrew root connections and Ancient Americas is David Deal's work in Mayan syllabary and words.
I can only venture a suggestion and that is, these two letters came through England. I don't know what Watt's shorthand symbols were he was skilled in, but the origins strongly point there. The overwhelming number of Phoenician and Greek letters and words found in Los Lunas are more of a direct link to Old World (Bronze Age) employ. Again, though there are some dating overlaps seen between Los Lunas and Mormon migration; I really believe the Mormons were far to the north of the Los Lunas location. From the 1840's to the end of the 1850's, the concentration was on the Great Utah Basin and their early establishment in the area. Finally, I do not see a strong connection in the Inscription Stone and the Mormon community for the simple reason, there is not the faintest hint (even a sign pointer) to any Christian Confession. The Mormon faith, nor any of the array of Christian denominations; especially, of early American age would omit such an opportunity for Christological profession.
Observations on the "big" Mistake:
The question I asked when looking at line 1 through 3 is "when did he recognize his mistake?" Part of the answer to this question lies in the use of the caret and the very accurate spacing (sizing) of the other letters.
When you ponder the positioning of the caret in relation to the period making the end of the sentence, it is not centered over the period. Meaning, he had gone on his merry way and noticed his error only after 1) finishing line two, or 2) finishing the entire Commandments.
Wish I could have seen his face at the point of recognizing his error. How does one say: "Ah Man …" in paleo-Hebrew? This is just another indicator pointing to a person who has no script, but solely operates on his memory. It is to be observed that he did not quit; rather, he went on deliberately to insure all the commandments are communicated. Meaning, finishing is of higher value than correcting the mistake.
One more thought on the mistake. The mistake points more to the assumption that he was operating on memory rather than text-in-hand. A text in hand would certainly have lowered the probability of this happening.
The Exodus 20 and the Los Lunas Version
- The inscriber of this stone probably was a man of many ports of call and could speak multiple languages phonetically, but not a man versed in letters. Is it possible to speak a language and not know basically how to write it?
- Though he clearly displays the Mosaic Faith, he is not of priestly origin. This man is a classic layperson who is a product of a recitation, ritually practiced enough to display the Mosaic faith by memory.
- Though he uses Phoenician letters he is not Phoenician: 1) He uses Greek lettering to get him out of phonetic problems; meaning, he points in the direction of Greek origins. 2) In the script itself, there is minimal pointers to Middle Eastern origins; namely, no connection to Aramaic (Estrangela Script). I know that Dr. Gordon sees strong Samaritan signatures. He makes a strong case for it being Samaritan but not on the lettering; rather, the function played by the 10 Commandments. There is a version of the Samaritan 10 Commandments where the 10th commandment is the command to build a Temple on Mount Gerizim. The Samaritans did not hold Jerusalem as the central place of Temple worship. Again, Gordon's conclusion that the 10 Commandments were used as a Mezuzah has problems too. If I understand the use and script of the Mezuzah, the 10 Commandments are not what inside the box. What is contained in the mezuzah box is the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), and the Vehaya (Deuteronomy 11:13-21).
- The connections between the Stone and the Mormon community is not very strong from alphabetical or historical dating of the two.
When I come to the issue of abridgement (or editing), this is one of those points were everyone seems to understand by saying: The Los Lunas Decalogue is an abridged version of the 10 Commandments. It ends there; yet, the more I pursue this investigation, I am finding we we are not considering what abridging means.
The author of this stone edits the Exodus 20 commandment variant; raising the first question: How? What has been taken out for the sake of expediency and concerns of space? Again, if doctrinal tradition holds that the Commandments were written by the very finger of God; is there any observations further into the author, who obviously edits the words for the sake of space, rather than some fear of some grave doctrinal sin? It does appear to point to a person who would not have any priestly fear of such Commandment surgery; for the assumption is given that no priestly person would abridge it; rather, find a bigger stone.
Can we find a match elsewhere of an abridgement similar to the Los Lunas Stone? The Ohio Decalogue Stone found in 1860 is also edited, but it is abridged differently.
In the ancient festival of Shau'vot; first, an agricultural ritual and later a festival of weeks celebrating the reception of the Torah, or the liturgical usage of the Tefillin (the first or second century BCE Qumran Tefillin), or the ritual recitation of the 10 Commandments in the Nash Papyrus: Is there anything in antiquity that would provide a clue to what this author includes and what he leaves out? Is the surgery to the Commandments liturgical/ritual or is it a personal selection? In the author's memory, did he know the entire text of Exodus 20, or have this particular version inscribed from years of worshipful usage; such as some credo? If the author is editing from a memory of the entire Exodus Text, then which text; the Septuagint or a version closer to the later Masoretic Text? Can we view into the author's intention some observations of himself as a person via what he includes and what he excludes? Can an abridgement version; such as the one found in Los Lunas, be matched with the same abridgement in the in specific Hebrew communities; such as, the Ashkenazi, the Sephardic community, the Yemintie and Maimonides, or does it have a literal interpretation of the law (Karaites), an "oral" inclusion of the law giving it a later dating in Israel's history?
Now, one might see that there may be some light into this anomaly sitting in the middle of the middle of the United States with an ancient finger pointing to the beginnings of what is known now as America.
An Analysis of what is included and excluded
I YHWH your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt from the house of slavery. This is a letter for letter match with the Mastoretic Text.
Not YHWH to you gods other ones before my face. The highlighted portion is omitted.
Not will you make to you images or any likeness which in the heavens above or which in the earth under or which in the waters under the earth. Not will you bow down to them and not will you serve them for I YHWH your God a jealous (God) bring punishment upon fathers upon children on the third and fourth generations to those that hate me. And doing kindness to thousands to those that love me and keep my commandments. Highlighted portion is omitted.
Not shall you take the name YHWH your God in vain for not will leave unpunished YHWH one who takes His Name in vain. Highlighted portion omitted
Remember the day the Sabbath and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. And day the seventh is Sabbath to YHWH your God, not shall you do any work you and your son and your daughter your male slave and slave girl and your cattle and your stranger who in your gates for six days made YHWH the heavens and the earth the sea and all that is in them and rested he on the day seventh therefore God blessed the day Sabbath and sanctified it. Highlighted portion is omitted.
Honor your father and your mother that may be long your days on the land which YHWH your God is giving to you. Here is a complete match with Masoretic Text, but not the LXX).
Not shall you murder. Word for word match.
Not shall you commit adultery. Perfect match
Not shall you steal Perfect match
Not shall you testify against your neighbor there false. ( Match)
(Not shall you covet house our neighbor) Not shall you covet wife your neighbor or his male slave or slave girl or his ox or his ass or all which is to your neighbor. Highlighted portion is omitted.
- Commandments 2 and 4 sustain the most editing. These two commandments have hugely high priestly signatures, and have the highest amount of surgical omissions. Is that yet another indicator that the author is not of scribal or priestly orientation?
- None of the abridgements alter the meaning of any of the Commandments.
- Curiously, it is Commandment 5 (Honor Father and Mother) that becomes the longest; even though there are clear places it could be cut down to size without loosing its meaning. This is with the Masoretic Text, and not with the LXX. If our author is going by the LXX (a more ancient text orientation) then he edits out hena ew soi genetai (that it increase you or be more fruitful to you). The question I ask with this editorial selection is: Why would the parental honor commandment have more space priority than the Sabbath requirements and not working on the seventh day? If this were an old world party who has voyaged a great distance to arrive where they are, one could at least pass the idea that Commandment 5 would have significance on two counts: 1) A very long voyage from their ancestral home, and 2) that their days may be long in the land God gave to you. The combination of distance and survival in a new land has the potential of number 5 being a very ‘existential' one indeed.
- When you ponder the "covet" Commandments (i.e. the neighbor's house and/or the neighbor's wife), first, they appeared combined into one. When you study the Masoretic Text [Exodus 20:17] coveting the neighbor's house appears first in the order. When compared to the Septuagint (LXX), "wife coveting" is first in order. The Septuagint (LXX) being the older text by far; then is the author aligning to the Greek Septuagint?
- When one researches the use of the 10 Commandments in the liturgical practice of ancient Israel, what is consistent is it is not abridged! We can only assume that the editing on the Los Lunas Stone points to the author himself. The abridgement must be intentional and might well be autobiographical; particularly, when we investigate the omissions of the word for slave and the longest Commandment being the parent-honor commandment.
- It is an assumption, but I believe a fair one that Commandment 1 conforms to the Jewish tradition. I realize the second half of the first Commandment is careted, but they are understood as one even though a period was used only (and that is important) after he had separated what he thought was one from two.
- There is not a hint of Christian (Catholic or Protestant variants) in this abridgement.
- I think it is of interest that the mention of male and female servants, male and female slaves mentioned in two commandments are omitted. The slavery omission I find has a high signature here. He does use the word tsavadim in reference of the house of slavery in Egypt. Any other reference to slaves is totally dropped. The word for male slave that is omitted is from the same root tsavedka (your male slave) and VaMaTeKa (female slave). Is there a difference in remembering the ‘Egyptian House of Slavery' and the other two uses of slaves in the Divine injunction? The Commandment "pre-amble" is: "I am the Lord you God ….the House of Slavery." It is as much an historical participatory memory all embrac who have that Mosaic Confession, and is different in quality (not in wood root usage) from the other references to slaves in the present. The enslavement in Egypt is as important as the God who liberated them. Even long after the liberation from Egypt, few in the old world were free. Enslavement came from being conquered, poverty, indentured servitude to mention only a few. It is well documented in the Prophets, the Kings historian, and Levitical (Torah laws) that even Jews enslaved Jew through charging ‘Loneshark' interest; yet, Torah law set the sixth year of Jubillee as a redemption year for such Jewish servitude (slavery), but that did not apply to non-Jews.
One cannot help beg the question: Is the author here free? Is this freedom free from old world servitude/slavery, and now liberated once in the new world? Through the Commandment use of "slavery," is he conscious of this in his slavery omission? If this is as old as the script on the stone, then who ever it is, he is overly aware of who is free and who is enslaved. If we even consider one posed theory that this pre-Columbian party voyaged into the Gulf and up the Rio Grande, more than likely those who did the rowing did not do so via voluntary altruism. Slaves rowed.
- In line 2 (his mistake insertion), he omits a small thing, but at the same time a pretty significant possession phrase very common in Hebrew (and in the LXX). LeKah is the preposition "to you." In the context of the sentence it is: "And shall not be to you gods; other ones, before my face." You wonder if Hebrew is his language by faith conviction, but not in native language.
A critical abridgement question would be: If we assume, the author went by memory, then what had he memorized: The complete version of the Exodus 20: 1-17? If this abridgement originated from ritual recitation and liturgical practice: 1) would you not think the entire text be recited rather than any abridgement?, and 2) one would certainly think that the full text of Commandments 2 and 4 would especially be prized memory pieces to be fully recalled in a congregational setting of Temples, or (a post-exilic development) the Synagogues.
In a first to second century BCE document called the Qumran tefillin. What is included in this document is Exodus 20:1-17 and the Shema of Deuteronomy 6. The combination of these two passage pieces is well known in the early practice of Israel's liturgical usage of the 10 Commandments. Translating this small parchment indicates too, a strong leaning to the Septuginta (LXX) commandment format. For example, in the covet commandments, the "neighbor's house" comes before the "neighbors='s wife."
The tefillin is that small box tethered to a leather strap. The leather strap is wrapped around the forearm (left if I remember) and the tefillin box is situated on the forehead. Inside the tefillin is an unedited copy of the 10 Commandments.
So what conclusion can be made from all this remembering of some things and omitting other verse parts? The omissions do not appear to be from a liturgical variant, but intentionally selective choices made by the author himself. In all the research into Israel's ancient usage of the 10 Commandments, I have always found the full Exodus Text. I believe there are two reasons for that thus far: 1) The Commandments were not recited in the context of ancient liturgy. They were read, and 2) The absence of any editing is fueled by doctrinal respect to the awesome God who gave it. One would not abridge something from the very finger of God.
I cannot get behind the curiosity, but it nonetheless still sticks to my mind; meaning: Is the author's editing out slavery (as well as oxen and whatnot) or the fact that he selects the honoring of Fathers and Mothers to be the longest Commandment to record in some way telling us about himself? Is this apparently selective display; autobiographical?
Actually, in Hebrew, the centerpiece of Torah is not called the "10 Commandments" rather eSeRim DeVaRim (literally 10 Words or sayings). The arrangement here is separate from the Catholic or the Protestant format. In the Hebrew format here; "I YHWH your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of slavery and you shall have no other Gods before me," is considered the first commandment
One thing can bring a partial conclusion: There is not one hint of Christian signatures in the Los Lunas inscription, or from anywhere else on the mesa; not a Cross or a symbol like "Ichthus (the fish). The mesa did not show any signs of Christian influence.
In all the research into ritual recitations (prayers, liturgy) within the worship events in Israel and diaspora communities, I have not been able to find a match to the Los Lunas abridgement. It is not directly related to the Los Lunas Inscription, or the inscription on the south summit, but it should be observed that any recitation of the 10 Commandments points to an early liturgical usage. In post-Alexandrian times, Israel's history enters; what has been termed the ‘Rabbinical Period.' In this time and onward into the Christian era, the 10 Commandments lost its central focus in favor of a broader usage of the Torah's meaning.
Without any liturgical connections, it is difficult to venture in any certainty of formatted recitation. If there was any indication in this direction, it would point also toward the inscription's antiquity; particularly post-exilic timing when the 10 Commandments was a centerpiece to the Torah reception.
Again, one can also see a connection to Septuagint (LXX) origins. This would be in keeping with the script analysis and his use of Greek letters.
The Commandment Stone in relation to the mesa's summit
The summit of the Los Lunas Mesa stands at a height of an impressive 5500 feet. There is a 365 deg distant commanding view from any direction. The Isleta Pueblo Reservation surrounds the mesa. One cannot help but think the very neighboring mesa might well have this ancient Hebrew/Greek script with more of a clue as to the age and intention of these visitors.
The immediate connection between the commandment stone at the mesa's base and the summit is located on the south rim is the highest point on the mesa's summit; the south rim. Clearly, the south rim has maintained the highest point even in the erosion of thousands of years. David Deal, in his book Discovery of Ancient America, 1984, is certainly correct in saying the positioning of YHWH Eloheynu (God our Mighty One) is intentional due to its strategic height. It is the same script, but it is the only clear connection found that links the top to the bottom.
The Zodiac and Map of the Solar Eclipse
This truly exciting and extraordinary mapping of a solar eclipse is found on the east facing of the summit's rim. There will be little to improve the wonderful scholarship given by David Deal, so I confer to his wonderful book Discovery of Ancient America, 1984. I seriously doubt what has been painstakingly laid out in analysis can be improved on. The mapping of this event from the stars and constellation is the most exacting point of the entire mysterious mesa. Besides the great religious contributions to the ideas of constructing great civilizations and the best governance of human behavior from the Old World; it was the dept of knowledge acquired from the stars; even in the Bronze Age.
Philosophy gives Thales of Miletus (Ionian Coast) the title of "Father of Philosophy" first and foremost for his prediction of an eclipse we have a pretty exact dating on: 584 BCE. That is because he learned of the mathematical formula announcing this event in the heavens, and did so either from the Egyptians, Persians or Babylonians. It did not come from the west; rather, the east. It came from a meticulous priestly 24/7 observation of the heavens; down to the degree of change in any star or constellation.
It would be a fair assumption these visitors possessed a precision knowledge of astronomy and with this knowledge keen awareness of navigational direction. The Phoenicians possessed this level of navigational astronomy. In Old World history, the amazing success of these mariners/navigators coined the "Phoenician Star" to indicate polaris (the north star). Again, it has aptly been established that the calculation of longitude/latitude was not post-Columbian but a 4th century BCE skill (c.f. Eratosthenes).
I find it too close to pose as accident, but the end of the Biblical Israelite age arrived just 3 years later. I know the dismantling of Judah (the southern kingdom) occurred in a series of waves, but 587BCE was the "lights out" for an awesome era. Yes, there was a return and the brief era of reconstruction arrived under Ezra, Nehemiah, and the later prophets; but Ancient Israel would never realize the freedom it possessed millennia before.
If we do two things: 1) Assume the Zodiac; 15 September 107BCE, to be connected with the Commandment Stone at the base of the mesa, and 2) assume the calculations are correct in arriving at this date via mathematical eclipse backdating; then our chiseler/visitor arrives with all the history of an Hebrew age over.
Again, David Deal cannot be improved on in breaking this part of the unanswered known. Consult his work to inspect for his calculations down to the azmuth and elevation.
If one places the Commandment Stone within this post-exilic period and; frankly, post Alexandrian, the problem becomes more complex due to the fact that "Israel" was not in one place. Trying to bring any light on the Commandment Stone in this period of history pushes one headlong into what is meant by diaspora.
The Old Testament record includes the edicts of Cyrus and Artaxerxes (Persian Kings) that allowed for the Hebrews to return to Jerusalem in 538 BCE; but not all the Hebrews returned. Millenia later there are still remnants of very old Hebrew families in the far east; the trans-caucus (Russia), Egypt, Greece (Turkey), Spain, 1st Century BCE Hebrew communities in Rome were considerable; north Africa (Carthage) and not-to-mention an endless number of Old World islands (Cyprus, Sardinia, Malta, etc). And we should not forget Palestine and Old Israel were all a part of the exilic explosion that all plays a part on a Stone in New Mexico. Diaspora means the dispersion of Hebrew Communities throughout the Old World.
The Phoenician and Greek script being the major foundation to Los Lunas, and understanding the dispersion (diaspora) of Hebrew communities throughout the Old World from the return of the Hebrews to Jerusalem and onward, lends strong support to a person who has a Greek orientation and a Mosaic faith by confession.
Among the many difficulties posed by the Commandment Stone is that in all the pieces of evidence left for one to study; not one piece (epigraphical or otherwise) gives any light into intent. So far, there is no piece of pottery, no bone, nothing that would indicate why these people were in the Americas, and specifically this location.
There are these curious rectangular pits; some with flat basalt stones walled up on three of the four sides. The bottoms of these pits have all silted up and appear to have never been disturbed. These pits are not evenly surrounding the summit's rim. Most are found to the east, south and southeast.
David Deal offers the suggestion they were built as sentry posts with a security perimeter in mind. That is certainly logical and probably correct, but who was the perimeter to keep out? If we are talking about 1st century BCE dating, not even the Hohokam or Anasazi cultures were in the area by that time. Not that there was no one, but whom? What would be the need for a military posture?
No one has taken a good look to satisfy my curiosity. For that matter, there has not been, to my knowledge, any serious excavation of this entire area, and I find that extremely strange. When you consider the rectangular pits in the Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, even New Mexico that point to a 2000 year old production of a smelting process for iron, copper, and other abundant minerals in Ancient America at the time; those pits on the summit of Los Lunas become all the more curious. We need someone of the caliber of amateur archaeologist Arlington A. Mallery to: 1) Receive permission from the State of New Mexico, and 2) test these pits for heat signatures and slag deposits.
If this ever turned up positive for smelting, then we have an answer to the question of intent and the more reason they were there in the first place.
Again, there is absolutely no linkage of the pits to Hebrew visitors or any other for that matter, or that they were dug in the same time as the Commandment Stone inscription.
Multiple Symbols on various summit stones
With the exception of the Zodiac map and the inscription YHWH Elohenu at the south rim, all script comes to an end and the symbols begin. I hope to return to take more pictures. There are hundreds of these symbols, and what I would call, picture symbols. There is a curious set of hands, and when you look closely; two "right" hands next to each other. I am told that is often found, and has a high Indian origin. There are faces, stick figures, head drawings with what appears to be a headdress, what appear to be animal drawings, and more.
What might help in my continued study of this mesa would be further knowledge of Phoenician symbols found in Old World areas. Sharing my disc of pictures with Mrs. Zena Halpern quickly identified a picture that has a strong connection with a Phoenician symbol. The symbol is a stick figure of a person with upraised arms. The figure symbol has a head and legs included.
If one goes to any search engine and types in TANIT SYMBOL Tanit was the goddess of Baal, a very familiar nature religion indigenous to the Canaan area. Tanit has also been called Astarte. The symbol for this goddess is found throughout the Old World; particularly, in Carthage; a Phoenician colony in North Africa. Besides being a nature bound fertility religion, this religion also practiced infant sacrifice. Thousands of small infant bones have been uncovered in the Carthage area known as Tophets.
I have two pictures that show a strong similarity to this Phoenician symbol.
If these two symbols on the summit of Los Lunas were more conclusively connected to the Phoenician nature religion, it would change considerably the composition of who these visitors were.
There are some big assumptions here: 1) That the symbols identified are the symbol for Tanit, and 2) the symbols are linked to the Commandment Stone. Then again, Los Lunas would not be called "Mystery Mountain" from as far back as the time of the Pueblo Indians. The suggestion here of a faint linkage is not a far fetched one. If one reads all the more of Phoenician presence in the Americas and the epigraphical findings that point to such a Bronze Period cultural/trade exchange, it would certainly make sense. If one considers that all the great South American civilizations (Inca, Mayan, and Aztec) practiced infant sacrifice as well, it would certainly raise an eyebrow.
The Mosaic Faith of the Commandment stone and the nature-religion of Tanit are separated by an infinite universe!! Historically, it was the worship of Baal that was so anathematized in Old Testament history.
It is merely a suggestion but one to critically ponder. It would mean the group or party of people occupying Los Lunas were not all of the Hebrew Faith. Their bond was certainly not by conviction; rather, a high probability of commission. It is well established from Old World evidence; from uncovered bill of shipments to imperial decrees which were essentially ancient credit card arrangements that: 1) If ship's captains did not own their ship, then 2) their voyaging/trading were under imperial commission.
Phoenician ships had enormous cargo capacity, and after years of argument, we have discovered sea captains did not limit themselves only to coastal navigation. The discoveries of the Phoenician ships Tanit and Elissa revealed both cargo capacity and straight point-to-point navigation over open sea. If I recall the underwater excavation showed an amphora cargo of wine from Lebanon; considered in the Old World to be of finest quality.
It is a raging debate over pre-Columbian transatlantic voyages; yet, little in contested evidence of Phoenician ships consistently closing on the English coast in order to exploit tin; a mineral the Middle East was consistently hungry for in order to make bronze. The Old Testament historian well records Solomon's rich alliance with the Phoenician king Hiram I and the 3-year rule for Hebrew/Phoenician trade flotillas. Over 450 tons of gold from Ophir was received in Jerusalem. We have found evidence (generally accepted) of Phoenician trade routes encircling the entire continent of Africa. Pre-Columbian, Old World shipbuilding technology reached an extremely high level sophistication, and by the 4th century BCE navigators could calculate longitude/latitude way before Columbus' astrolabe.
The question to ask that might place some light on the Los Lunas Inscription might be: What was the composition of these Phoenician crews? It's my suggestion, as with any Old World voyaging crew; they were bonded into an efficient operation by skill function and not by religious confession or national origin. Marine carpenters, oarsmen, cooks, sail makers, navigators, metallurgists, forgers/smelters, farmers, craftsmen with sophisticated architectural experience, masons, and more all might well comprise a voyaging crew. It is likely that multiple languages were heard and out of necessity a high ability to communicate with one another.
When you reach the summit and look out in any direction, it is vast on any point of the compass. You ask the obvious question: They walk?
Gloria Farley brought the word "amateur" to a very high standard. Her work in the Oklahoma area for years and years gives to all those in search of Ancient American a gift beyond measure. Her book, In Plain Sight, is an incredible work of patience and the shear love of learning. Her basic operational assumption leading her to ancient inscriptions, pictographic drawings, Cartheginian coins, and other evidence from multiple Bronze Age cultures was that America's rivers were the highways to the America's interior. With that assumption, some light can be cast on the mystery of ancient Hebrew script located in the middle of New Mexico. The Rio Puerco was a dry riverbed when I visited the stone in early July. Judging from the 30 foot carved walls, it too must be a considerable river to navigate in the rainy season. Rio Puerco is a feeder to the Rio Grande, the southwest's interstate to the Gulf of Mexico for thousands of years and traveler/traders from Cartheginians to Conquistadors; not to mention Indians to cowboys. I can only imagine the epigraphical clues that are yet to be discovered along the Rio Grande.
Before we can have any clue as to intent, Los Lunas will have to cough up more evidence. Is it not interesting that in all the awesome Old World script offered on the mesa, there is not one name; peasant or King that would point to any further identification? In all the specialization of a Hebrew's testament to a Mosaic faith, was the absence of any sign "Bubba Slept Here" due to being eclipsed by the awesome Divine imperatives?
If the theory that these Ancient American visitors from the Old World did arrive with the purpose of extracting what is valuable, one might ask the question: Would the fact that this party is not homogeneous, but part of a diverse crew of nations and religions taking great risk for more riches; would that change the meaning of the Commandment Stone?
The Los Lunas Commandment Stone in the wider context of other discoveries
There is a glaring observation of the Stone when one compares it to other pre-Columbian Old World discoveries in North America; both Americas for that matter. The Los Lunas Commandment Stone is a complete epigraphical testament to a very ancient time and an awesome testament to a wisdom being lost in our own time.
If we look at the findings of Gary Vey and the late William McGlone in the Picket Wire Canyon, we see ligatures (combined letters), a script called Negev Script found in the Sinai area; translations that read up-down, right-left, and left-right. The translations are from short sentences, and incomplete thoughts. Their discoveries are pretty solid translations giving us yet another Hebrew thumbprint of pre-Columbian origin. I wish the ViewZone expedition would have compared their findings with the Los Lunas script, but they completely avoided the Commandment Stone not more then 300 miles to the west southwest. Which script is older; Picket Wire Canyon, or Los Lunas?
Last Look At The Stone
The descent from the summit on the last day brought me back to the Commandment Stone. Taking yet another picture, I put the camera away and sat in the desert dust to ponder not only the stone, but the huge implications of such a thing. In the light of the enormous mounting epigraphical evidence being found throughout North America pointing to Celtic, Iberic, Egyptian, Punic, Phoenician, Greek, and Hebrew (to mention only a few) visitors conducting either exploration/colonization, or a Bronze Age global commerce; Los Lunas continues to be that glowing anomaly. There is not one piece of pottery, bone, a name, or any other evidence that might grant further clues to the identity and intention of this inscriber(s). Then again, there has been no serious excavation attempt on this desert mesa either.
Why this academic avoidance? What university academics have done is conclude that it "has" to be a fraudulent hoax, but they produce not item one that would support such a conclusion. This conclusion would be reach without even visiting the location!!!! It is far from scientific. Even the evidence I have proposed as to its antiquity weights more than their quick ‘negation.'
One thing for sure, no academic will pursue where my thoughts lead now. The question I asked at the last visit was: What is inscriber attempting to leave behind for all else to see and read by the inscription?" One can comfortably deal with the stone geologically, historically, astronomically, in script analysis, and the stone relationship to other discoveries. No one has ventured to step back and ponder what this Commandment Stone points to, and in the context of its proposed time of inscription. Let me put it bluntly: Few will touch this stone due to its "religious origin." …. AND as has been so thoroughly demonstrated without a shadow of a scientific doubt; anything "religious" is; 1) Without any ‘scientific' foundation, and 2) Merely demonstrates "cultural expression" without any historical foundation or credibility.
With the script (both Greek and Phoenician), the connection with the zodiac dating to 107 BCE, the settled position of the stone, and the liturgical use of the 10 Commandments in the 3rd through the 1st century BCE; layers upon layer of civilizations' usage and understanding of the 10 Commandments are stripped away leaving just the Los Lunas stone.
Without the layered, settled dust of Western Greco-Roman and Christian philosophy, how utterly radical are the ideas conveyed on this stone. When it was inscribed, and understood at that time, these ideas were both life threatening, and life-giving.
Covenant verses Contract: An Idea so explosive it had the power to depose any Monarch, and replace any King with Moral Sovereigny.
First, what is presented on this stone is the thought that no legal contract; no matter how airtight, will ever have the power to order the moral behavior of any people. Contracts, as we know them now, are merely another form of legalism measured only by the muscular power of human courts and their uniformed enforcers. The Commandment Stone is a Hebrew idea encircled in the word beriyt (Covenant); a binding agreement of parties whose authority is granted through its moral sovereignty.
The ancient script communicates a radical idea about the governance of human behavior. The essence of contractual law is empowered by collective institutional power; but covenant law is only as strong as the individual's concession to collective moral Presence. Aristotle could only come near beriyt (covenant) by the Greek word Hexis (proper distance, or equitable mean) or "golden mean:" Kant complicates it more by suggesting only the limit of human reason's grasp of the "moral imperative." How down right pure and uncomplicated is this covenant stone as compared with Kant's volumes.
Moral value is not just the median equidistance between two behavioral extremes (Aristotle), or the action of one individual that can be applied "universally as a categorical imperative." Binding Law is based on Moral Presence, not institutional power.
By proposing covenant law over contract law, he radically proposes that the glue for civil behavior is not in the power of a Monarch's hand but a revealed Presence that has no representation!! The radical nature of that proposed idea would have shortened his life considerably, or be chained to some oar on a ship for the rest of his short life.
The proposed age of this stone in Los Lunas would means the only known "law" regulated on its subjects were exercised by Caesars, Pharaohs, Kings, Generals (such as Alexander), and later, Pontiffs of the Imperial Christian Church, Feudal Lords, Emperors. At the time of the inscriber's Commandment Stone, the author proposes by his Covenant, that earthly powers from whatever type or origin are the law or above the law. Such earthly powers; as his own individuality are all bound to the Revealed Presence in the Covenant. For then, the stone offered an explosive idea threatening to every city-state, empire, or kingdom known to ancient time.
Pondering another aspect of this Covenant thinking in the context of the Old World, think of how much "religious energy" it took to authenticate and justify a Pharaoh's authority and place over his kingdom/empire. The divine right of any monarch was nothing more than a form of religious manipulation. The moral Presence shown in the Sinai Covenant only chooses whom The Presence chooses. In later ages, even the Imperial Christian Church forgot this very important aspect of Moral Sovereignty.
ADONAI EHAD: A radical monotheism that defies any representation.
Thousands of years have demythologized the great contribution granted by Monotheistic Philosophy. It is no longer radical, and frankly, no longer viewed in this time as relevant. Yet, when understood within the context of ancient Old World civilizations, monotheism was a one-of-a-kind religious expression found nowhere else but Israel. The Hebrew Monotheism presented on the Commandment Stone, and considering the time it was inscribed, had no precedent.
At the approximate time of the Los Lunas Commandment stone, what the immediate effect of "all things are one and none can represent The One," was to separate from Nature-related cults. The Babylonians, Sumerians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Greeks, Hittites, Romans, Phoenicians, Persians all practiced a form of cultic nature-bound divines represented in statues, poles, animals, abundant forms of nature objects. Deities from Isis, Baal, Tanit, Poseidon, Marduk, to Zeus all had a common feature; namely, they appeared to manipulate nature or at least explain the unknown through mythology, but were never above nature. The goddess Astarte posed a new meaning to ‘temple going.' If I wanted to ‘ensure' the increase in my flock of sheep, I went to the temple and had sex with the cultic priestess of fertility. I don't care how many cultic drum rolls and incense smoke that must have created, but there was no transcendence from the boundaries of natural process.
In fact, when viewed philosophically, the Old World gods and goddesses were understood as just another form of personal enslavement under religious verbage.
Then appears this stone in New Mexico possessing a distinct presence of its own. The author/visitor understood well the inherent monotheistic contradiction. The Presence is a passionately experienced reality, yet Invisible, without any equal, or representation. That's the contradiction: Is yet Is Not. The Hebrew word for this concept is SheKenNah, its root means to sit, dwell, abide. If one were to jump overboard in clear Bahamian waters and descend some 10 feet then become aware of the weightless suspension of person, the suspension would be close to SheKenNah. The Hebrew concept of Presence is above nature only to drive nature as its own life force.
If the author of this inscription traveled at such an ancient time; and that is what I propose, then distance would take on a whole new meaning. The distance traversed from Old World to the New was felt by every mile; remembered by every stormed peril. He could have left us his name, the name of the ship or its captain; the country of origin, the reason for his being there, even the name of his girlfriend. Instead, he leaves us a sign pointer symbol (The Commandments) that testified to his facing the daily unknown by embracing the single UnSeen.
A Lesson from the Old Word redefining the concept of personal Freedom for the New.
As I have attempted to show, the editing of Exodus 20 on the Los Lunas Stone is intentional, and without Old World precedent. From the evidence we have of Ancient Israel, any presentation of the 10 Commandments would be as a whole and without abridgement, and after the 2d century BCE, Rabbinical emphasis was taken away from the 10 Commandments for the sake of emphasizing the whole Torah. The Los Lunas abridgement is without any archeological match.
That being the case, the deleting of every word for slavery (man servant, maid servant) with the exception of one word (first verse) bears pondering notice. TSaVaDim in the first verse is an "inherited" slavery, completely devoid of one's present human condition. The Hebrew mind recites the slavery of Israel (430 years) in Egypt with the intention of a binding taproot that connects past and present experience of suffering. The slavery of Egypt is ancestrally adopted as the context to human liberation brought about by The Presence. Ritual memory retains the first verse, the rest is omitted.
Before America was a mere gleam in the intentional mind of The Presence, freedom was granted to a sovereign people in a desert. In the Old World, personal freedom was a luxury only for the few. Personal liberties were by means (wealth), by the fortunes of war, or inherited family name (social class). Freedom was an exception to the general rule in Old World cultures and it is within this context the Ancient Hebrew mind offers up its next radical thought. If we were to deal in probabilities, the inscriber of the Stone was someone's property and might well have been chained to the very oar of the ship that brought him to the New World.
One can only theorize, but say once this ancient visitor makes it to the New World all shackles are off. A perfectly appropriate question: If the man is now free to move about and do and be all that he can be, then why retain any mention of tSaVaDim (slavery) at all?
The bottom line: Freedom is and has never been defined as the complete absence of restraint!!!! For someone by the distance traveled and servitude removed, why would he take the time to chisel out a covenant of restraint? Negation, in Hebrew syntax, leaves nothing to soften it. Lo TiGeNov (Not will you steal). Ancient Israel understood that liberation from one sovereign (Pharaoh) was replaced by servanthood to a higher moral sovereignty.
Spinoza was a master of the Hebrew language before his teenage years and understood this concept of Hebraic liberty even at the price of his own Jewishness; not to mention his persecution at the hands of Calvinistic Protestants. To paraphrase his wisdom: "We are only free, when we realize we are not."
Radical thought to be spoken from an ancient past across a millennial bridge into a present culture that taunts: "You can't tell me to do squat!"
Subject to Citizen: A Radical Concept of Private Property and Individual Rights
Already established is the radical concept of "No one above the Law' as presented by the Commandment Stone. The ancient Old World witnessed an endless string of Kings self-proclaimed as "divine." If Kings are subject to Covenant Law; however, not only does the position of the King change, but so do individuals in the kingdom.
Any Monarch, Emperor, Caesar or Czar that claims divine right in anything, or (as in the Pharaoh's position; God-Man) immediately that sovereign becomes the sole property owner of both man and beast in his realm. No matter how benevolent the King; the profit margin from the simplest shoe cobbler is only the king's increase. The king's "possessions" encompass both the shoes and the cobbler.
The bottom line: Sovereigns above the law, result in only subjects in his service.
The Commandment stone of Los Lunas, turns this concept on its ear. Since all are equal under the Covenant Law and no one is above Covenant Law, there are no more "subjects" rather citizens.
Ancient Israel; through the Covenant Law, demonstrated to an Old World that citizens of a tribal republic (which it was) can exist and that a citizen of such a republic can not only possess property, but can benefit from its profits.
What an awesome testament to the value of the human person and one's aspirations to pursue the wages of his work. Here, the Commandment Stone of Los Lunas becomes just as profound as the leathery prophets who arose in other deserts; always calling a people of very short memory, to the lessons learned in the desert.
The word for "speak" in Hebrew is DaVar. Profoundly, it is the root for the word "wilderness" (MiDeVar) because, in the shadow of The Presence, even wilderness stones can speak.
The Los Lunas Commandment Stone continues to be the "Mystery Stone" and one who comes to study it never finishes; only quits. We have some indication of Who, and some evidence of When. As to this National Treasure of Ancient America there remains more to find that would grant clues as to Why.
I will return there again, but the Stone's presence is moving to ponder.
Concise Summary of my Propositions:
- No one has considered the rate of erosion/settling of the Commandment Stone that may point to a closer dating. The Stone sits at 5:30 o'clock.
- The Inscription carving was performed when the stone was basically level. The vertical blocking of the letters would have been more difficult to carve at an angle.
- The Inscription did not come from a man of letters or from a priestly Levitical background. He was thoroughly knowledgeable of working with this type of stone.
- The Commandment Stone script comes from more than one port of call in the Old World. It is predominantly Phoenician and Archaic Greek, with one letter being Iberic.
- The author of the Commandment stone uses Greek letters to avoid confusion in same-sounding consonants.
- The author spoke multiple languages, but was mostly a phonetic speller. He uses consonants as vowel sounds; not done in Hebrew to create the sounds he desires.
- Since linguistic scripts point in a number of directions, it is a fair assumption to make that neither the current group was not homogeneous; rather, diverse and in all probability the Commandment Stone's intended audience was multi-lingual.
- The author is not from the area of Ancient Israel, but more than likely a product of a diaspora community. The southern or Ionian coast of Turkey is my best guess. He is awesomely Jewish by faith; not by nationality.
- The zodiac configuration at the mesa's summit is connected to the Commandment stone by at least two symbols; meaning, it is a fair assumption to date the Stone to 1st maybe 2d century BCE.
- There are absolutely no symbols, letters, anything that would lead to a Christian influence; meaning, it would be a fair assumption the Commandment Stone is pre-Christian.
- There are no points of contact between the abridgement of the Commandment Stone with Ancient Israel's Liturgical usage of the 10 Commandments. In Israel's early usage of the 10 Commandments what we find so far is that the Exodus 20 version was never abridged! It makes sense that if the Commandments were considered a product of the very finger of God, Ancient Israel would not have abridged it. The author abridges the Commandments on his own and it is assumed that his abridgment is both intentional and autobiographical.
- The Stone is not connected to Mormon influence.
- Those "pits" could well be a smelting operation if tested for such indications.
- These people traveled by rivers. They did not walk. The Rio Puerco is directly connected to the stone; yet, we do not have any indication of intent or "why" they were in New Mexico.
- What is never taken up by any academic scholarship is what the Commandment Stone points to. Such a direction is to be avoided because it is "religious" and anything religious has no historical credibility or factual merit. When in fact, what this author leaves behind is considered even more valuable than his own name, where he comes from, and why. It is the radical nature of these ideas presented that the Stone presents directly rather than through layers of Western Greco-Roman-European interpolation.
- If the two symbols I have photographed are the Tanit symbol, and we assume the symbols were connected to the inscription on the Stone; then we not only have a group that is not homogeneous, but down right antithetical.
- This continued study of Los Lunas is open ended, and can be a consuming addiction resulting in more questions than answers. At the same time, I personally have not been the same since the stone fell on me two years ago and has given me more fulfilling and sustaining learning yet encountered.
- I think I may have found a piece of stone near the Commandment Stone facing that may have been one of the slabs sheered off during preparation; meaning, the carbon dating of the piece's patina may be still possible.
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Related Pages by Jeff A. Benner
|The Los Lunas Inscription (Article)|
This inscription is very unique for several reasons. Itis written in ancient Hebrew script and it is located near the small town of Los Lunas, NM.
|Old Hebrew Discoveries (Video)|
Significant ancient hebrew inscriptions discovered in the Near East that help to identify and define the Ancient Hebrew Alphabet.
|Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions (Video)|
Examples of ancient Hebrew writings that have been discovered, which show the early pictographic script, Paleo-Hebrew and the Aramaic script.
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