So the good news is that I’ve finished reading Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods, and I’m about two thirds of the way through writing a review of it. My plan is to post the review on September 10, when the book is released in Great Britain. I’m also amazed that I have finished translating the first book of the Akhbār al-zamān, and that was a major undertaking! Between Book 1 and the parts of Book 2 I’ve already translated, I figure I’m somewhere between 55% and 67% of the way through the text. I am surprised by what I’ve learned so far, and it’s certainly changed the way I view medieval pyramid lore.
One of the most interesting things I’ve seen is that the author of the Akhbār, who was intentionally reporting the most entertaining stories rather than the most likely to be true, preserved a lot more of the myth of the Watchers and the Nephilim than other Arabic-language authors, and this suggest very strongly that many of the texts that have come down to us from other authors contain stories that have been heavily edited and redacted as Islam diverged more and more from the Judeo-Christian sources from which it emerged. Our author did some censoring, too (especially of Hermes), but he was not as good at it, or at least not as systematic. Some elements we see in the Akhbār aren’t familiar to me from other Arabic sources, except for a handful of Arabic and (especially) Persian sources that tell the Watchers myth from Abu Ma‘shar’s summary of the Christian chronology of Annianus (e.g. Al-Juzjani, Tabaqat-i-Nasiri 1). But even there the story follows the more rationalized version of the Watchers myth popular with Christian clerics, who held that the story was merely that of the battle between the godly children of Seth and the sinful children of Cain (Julius Africanus in Syncellus, Chronicle 19-20).
(All the texts discussed in this blog post, except the Akhbār, are available on my Watchers page.)
Our author retains the identification of the antediluvians as giants—Nephilim. He identifies the early kings of Egypt as giants, and their companions as giants. And these giants are prone to violence and rapine, just like their Judeo-Christian analogues. Late authors reduced the giants to merely “the great” or historicized them down to mere humans. We also read that particular kings had the markings that the Judeo-Christian writers associated with the Watchers, or fallen angels. The antediluvian king Misram, for example, had a djinn who gave him divine attributes: “the djinn ordered him to hide from the eyes of men, and he lit his face with a light so great that no one could look at him. He was then thought of as a god.” Compare that to the tradition that the Christian writer George Kedrenos recorded of the sons of Seth at around the same time. These Sethites “were called Watchers and Sons of God because of the shining of the face of Seth” (History of the World 1.16, trans. M. R. James). Similarly, just as Christian tradition held that the Watchers were mistakenly worshiped as gods (Justin Martyr, First Apology 5; Lactantius, Divine Institutes 2.15), our author informs us that the sons of Seth were named the nuqabā’, literally “the Watchers,” whose descendants came to worship statues of them as idols.
But the most interesting thing I’ve learned is that the dream-vision that prompted Sūrīd to build the pyramids in the famous and widely repeated medieval legend of the pyramids isn’t unique. I’ve already told you how a parallel vision occurred with the king of Babylon and Noah, resulting in the carving of sciences on towers in Babel. But the Akhbār is chock full of parallel stories that follow the exact same pattern: A heathen king has a confusing vision of destruction. He consults a holy man who is or will become an adherent of the God of Abraham. The holy man has a clearer vision of doom. The holy man predicts disaster for the heathens, explaining the forthcoming history of a territory, including its various invaders. The king makes an effort to preserve knowledge. Disaster happens. In the case of Sūrid, his dream was interpreted by Philemon, who had his own dream, and though a heathen was shown the correctness of Noachian monotheism.
The best-known medieval version of this story, and one told in the Akhbār, involves the pre-Islamic prophet Saṭīḥ, who enacted the drama for Khosrow II Aparvēz and thus predicted the fall of the Persians and their eventual conversion to Islam. Obviously, the story was written ex post facto, but its parallels to the beats of the Sūrīd drama are so close as to be unmistakable. The same pattern is told of Lamech and Mahwīl, Noah and Darmashil, and Saṭīḥ (yes, again) and King Rabī‘ah (with a variant giving the story with another pre-Islamic prophet, Shiqq).
All of these stories appear to take as their model the story of Joseph and Pharaoh from Genesis 41, though in time the role of the prophet/priest seems to grow to the point that he has been given the clearer vision because he is closer to God. In trying to research this, I learned that this is apparently a theme in Islamic literature—royal dream interpretation by an Abrahamic prophet—and therefore, it seems we can dispense with the suggestion some scholars have made that the story as applied to Sūrīd had a genuine ancient Egyptian origin. This is especially likely when we see that the Akhbār author has ascribed the engraving of ancient sciences on stones not just to Sūrīd but to everyone and anyone, including, but not limited to, Darmashil of Babel, Philemon the priest, Mahwīl and the Cainites, and King Naqrāūs II of Egypt. Taken as a whole, I think it makes sense to conclude that the myth of inscribed sciences conflates two threads, the Enochian-Hermetic tablets/pillars of wisdom, and a folk explanation for unreadable hieroglyphs and cuneiform—in other words, of Egyptian and Mesopotamian monuments and why they are in ruins.
You learn the damnedest things reading the whole book instead of just the paragraphs of interest.
9/2/2015 05:32:46 am
How are you translating a language you don't read? If you are using some online google translate, those get it wrong. They will often add keywords that don't make sense.
9/2/2015 06:05:57 am
1. Why are you assuming that Jason can't read this language, when he's shown himself to have linguistic expertise repeatedly?
9/2/2015 06:27:37 am
V, I'm pretty sure Jason has mentioned he doesn't read Arabic - although I might be remembering a bit wrong. Of course, your point 2 is correct.
9/2/2015 07:16:05 am
As I explained on my Akhbar page, I can't read Arabic, but I can read the French translation of 1898. I am using that. Obviously, it is not as good as if I were translating directly from the Arabic, and I wouldn't put too much weight on any one particular word, for example, but as a general sense of what the text says, it is accurate. The current scholarly translation of Al-Maqrizi that is in the process of being published is working from the French edition of that text, so it's not exactly an unheard of practice.
9/2/2015 10:02:55 am
Mark, given Jason's response, I think that Point 1 still stands, as I didn't specify Arabic (though I admit I was thinking it, but I believe Jason did also specify this in an earlier blog entry). He can, in fact, read the document he's translating, even if that document is a French Victorian translation of a medieval Islamic document. Kal still hasn't provided HIS credentials at all.
The troll Krampus
9/2/2015 11:44:52 am
I'm glad someone else finds this Kal character a nuisance. Thought I was the only one.
busterggi (Bob Jase)
9/2/2015 06:13:14 am
Religion - the creator of remakes & retconning.
9/2/2015 06:53:32 am
Graham Hancock is a religion (pseudo-religion)
9/2/2015 07:25:50 am
"You learn the damnedest things reading the whole book instead of just the paragraphs of interest."
9/3/2015 02:55:54 am
I doubt fringe theorists view this as an Achilles Heel, rather I get the impression they're proud that they only use sources that corroborate their theories.
9/2/2015 08:35:41 am
I asked a legitimate question without it being pointed and one of the commenters immediately went all defensive. As JC pointed out, he doesn't read Arabic but used a French source. I asked how is this working as often context is lost. When I try to translate English to Spanish and back it often gets messed up and I come out saying 'cat' when I meant to say 'cowboy' or something.
9/2/2015 08:47:50 am
3. I never said I knew how to speak Arabic, or that I was any sort of expert in linguists, as it should be evident from my other posts I am merely curious about fringe theories and such. I do like to find more than one source, (basic journalism requires 3), so I was just implying that there could be others, and asked where to find them. (He replied). Knowing this is a blog though, it does not need 3.
9/2/2015 10:13:08 am
Actually, Kal, you did not in fact ask "how this is working," you asked how he was translating it if he doesn't speak the language. They're two different questions. And when you follow up with "Are you using Google Translate!?" then whether you meant to or not, you are in fact casting aspersions. Connotations, my friend, connotations. As for my going on the defensive, yes, I did. Because I perceived you to be casting aspersions in the same way as all the fringeys that come in here and go on immediate attack. So I responded the way I would to any one of those similar attacks--I demanded to know with what expertise you cast those aspersions.
9/2/2015 10:48:26 am
I think you went off the deep end, V. Jason said he doesn't read Arabic. Jason said he's translating a book written in Arabic. Kal asked how. Jason said he's using a french translation.
The troll Krampus
9/2/2015 11:57:29 am
Walt, you missed V's point.
The troll Krampus
9/2/2015 11:53:52 am
We have no interest in your site. Besides, you can't make us look for it... oh wait, was you trying reverse psychology there? Ha. #FAIL
The troll Krampus
9/2/2015 11:59:04 am
*were. Had a laps in proper grammar.
The troll Krampus
9/2/2015 12:01:17 pm
9/2/2015 12:47:14 pm
Oh, V just wanted to be first. That's all. My feelings are not hurt in the slightest. It is a little creepy he is so obsessed with my posts, which are usually sarcastic and half baked as usual, but I don't know him so I don't care. Walt is right. Jason is right. My blog is hardly anything as impressive as this, which was my point. I am not famous for fringe theories. I have occasionally discussed them though. It doesn't bother me.
The troll Krampus
9/3/2015 03:18:51 am
You're right, Kal. Your'e not famous and your blog is a turd. And why leave a reply with half baked effort? You also need to work on your sarcasm. Maybe if you put in more effort people would get it. And hell, if you're getting creeped out by attention to your posts then maybe don't post with a half baked effort, which is what spurred the attention and criticism this time. Or, don't post at all.
9/3/2015 04:38:55 am
I recall several posts in which Jason criticized fringe authors for errors caused by their use of Google translate. I've read enough of his work to trust he won't make those kinds of dumb mistakes in his own research.
9/3/2015 05:24:13 am
My blog is a turd? Krampus probably got someone else's blog. Mine was set to private for 3 days and was not accessible, hence not linking to it. But we have an expert of feces here, so that is something.
9/3/2015 05:30:13 am
I am not Kal Spriggs or Kal Joffers. Try again.
The troll Krampus
9/3/2015 06:14:43 am
I don't know who they are. And I didn't actually look for your blog. You downplayed it in the first place. I also don't have a blog but if I did you nailed it in quality and how I acquired it except that you left out the rainbow shitting Unicorn that the Greys rode in on. And yes, I am somewhat of an expert on poop. The color, size, and smell can tell you the health of your digestive system. Some poop even smells good, to some anyway. As for taste I've only tasted small bits of my own ( for science of course). It's mostly bitter except when I drink a sugary beverage.
9/4/2015 10:21:14 am
Good grief! This is most decidedly *not* what I come to Jason's blog to read about. Can we all agree to forego fecal discussion in future (comparisons to fringe theories notwithstanding)?
The troll Krampus
9/5/2015 10:34:26 am
This is for you, JLH. Because comparisons to fringe theories notwithstanding.
9/9/2015 04:25:30 am
I quote the sheriff in the movie, "Fletch",
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