I have been a constant CBC listener. My radio is on almost 24 hours as I find it good company even at night.
One morning, the radio program CBC-Ideas*1 began with someone reading The Huarochirí Manuscript, one of the few surviving records of the Quechua, a tribe in the Andes of Peru, in a language I had never heard before.
Francisco de Vila, a Catholic Munk, compiled this document in the late 1500s in order to “eliminate idolatries” among conquered South American peoples. It was hidden for many years in a monastery in Spain and was only recently discovered. Scholars point out that it now serves as a tool for reviving and recreating Andean metaphysics that are quite different from our own. For example, one of its narratives places the past in front of us and the future behind us.
What do we learn from such documents?
We learn that people in the 16th century in Peru or 1500 BC in Egypt were not all that different. Each society had a view of how the world works and man’s role in it. And language is the tool that man uses to articulate these worldviews.
The Book of Exodus is also one of these seminal books that lays bare the cosmology of the Jewish God and the Jewish people.
Christian Pastor Chuck Swindall *2 reviews the book’s theme.
The overall theme of Exodus is redemption—how God delivered the Israelites and made them His special people. After He rescued them from slavery, God provided the Law, which gave instructions on how the people could be consecrated or made holy. He established a system of sacrifice, which guided them in appropriate worship behaviour. Just as significantly, God provided detailed directions on the building of His tabernacle, or tent. He intended to live among the Israelites and manifest His shekinah glory (Exodus 40:34–35)—another proof that they were indeed His people.
The Mosaic Covenant, unveiled initially through the Decalogue (Ten Commandments), provides the foundation for the beliefs and practices of Judaism, from common eating practices to complex worship regulations. Through the Law, God says that all of life relates to God. Nothing is outside His jurisdiction.
If I had to summarize it in my own words, I would say that the theme of the Book of Exodus is there to teach us about Jewish cosmology, how Jews interpret the world and understand G-d’s role in human affairs.
An essential character in the Book of Exodus is the Jewish G-d. G-d introduces himself, first, to Moses at the burning bush and tells him that He has heard the cries of the Hebrews and is sending Moses to get them out. G-d also shares his various names with Moses, and when Moses hesitates and says: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should take the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus Ch.3 v11). God responds, “For I will be with you, and this is the sign for you that it was I Who sent you. When you take the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus Ch. 3 v 12)
Later in the book, G-d introduces himself to the entire people as they stand at Mount Sinai, beginning with the word “anochi.”
I – anochi – am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. (Exodus Ch 20 v 2)
And then comes the decalogue in the text (Exodus C. 20 v.3 -14) known in Hebrew as the “ten utterances” – “aseret hadibrot” – as the Mountain trembles with smoke and fire and the sound of the shofar.
So we have a G-d *3, who hears and sees, is compassionate and interested in justice and gives us a code of behaviour to create a world of justice and compassion “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” *4
This is Jewish cosmology! Jewish cosmology is not interested in the physical characteristics of the world in and of itself but solely in man’s fate and God’s role in that fate. The Torah’s deep narrative structure is there to teach us about the Jewish God and His relationship to Israel, to Man and to all creation.
The morning after I listened to The Huarochirí Manuscript, there was another CBC-Ideas program*5 that reveals how pseudo-archaeology has been applied to promote political and cultural agendas and the points at which it spills over into the creation of religious myths.
We learn that in the bookstores of the sixties, those of the flower children, and those of the far right, both are populated by invented mythologies, filled with conspiracy theories about how the world was created etc.
Invaders from Mars? Alligators? All of these elaborate ideologies are written down in books, and some have been seen in popular tv productions like the Twilight Zone. Both the alt-right and the far-left use these books to create their alternate visions of what’s wrong with the world and how to repair it.
Myths about Jews and blacks and the superior white race abound. A person who lived in this alternate reality has also created a podcast about his experience and bears powerful witness to the truth that in the absence of a clear cosmology, people will create one to feel grounded and safe in the world.
Cosmologies form the bases for political parties and for wars and guide all human history.
*1 CBC-Ideas, The Huarochirí Manuscript—aired Feb 6, 2023
*2 Chuck Swindoll’s overview of Exodus from his classic series God’s Masterwork, insight.org
*3 G-d, Jews spell God’s Name this way while writing about God to avoid “taking God’s Name in vain” (the third of the Ten Commandments).
*4 On Earth as it is in Heaven, Mathew 6:10, The Lord’s Prayer
*5 CBC-Ideas unearths of how pseudo-archaeology has been used to advance political and cultural ideas and where it crosses from pseudo-science to religious myth-making—aired Feb 7, 2023.