Children of Ezekiel: Aliens, UFOs, the Crisis of Race, and the Advent of End Time (review)

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Technology and Culture 41.1 (2000) 170-172 The prophet Ezekiel described a vision of God that appeared to him by the shores of the Chebar River in the sixth century b.c. Strange creatures with four wings and four faces appeared in the air amid clouds and fire. Accompanying the creatures were machines of unknown purpose; wheels within wheels (or hoops within hoops), with mysterious "eyes" set all around their periphery. The wheels or hoops could fly about in the air, and as Ezekiel watched they settled briefly on the ground and then rose up. Their only apparent function was to accompany the winged creatures, whose movements they shadowed. Suddenly God himself appeared, sitting on a fiery throne. This vision, Michael Lieb argues, has had a lasting influence on religious and secular thought, and its mysterious technological components have been reinterpreted by various authors, prophets, and cults. The influence of Ezekiel's wheels, for example, is evident in Milton's Paradise Lost, in which the poet recast these mysterious flying objects as weapons of war. The fiery throne became a fiery "chariot of paternal deitie" that the Son of God employed to defeat his enemies in battle. Starting from this literary foundation, Lieb argues that Western society has sustained a culture of biblical reinterpretation that he calls "technologizing the ineffable," that is, the tendency to describe otherwise inexplicable visions in terms of known technologies, particularly technologies of war. Visionaries seem to have a need to interpret the unexplained in military terms. His book draws on literary and historical evidence from varied sources to demonstrate the persistence of this phenomenon as well as its connection to another powerful biblical notion, that of Armageddon and the Day of Judgment. Lieb demonstrates the ways that modern people have modified the biblical notion of Armageddon so that it assumes a distinctly technological tone. Apocalyptic religious movements, mainstream politics, and popular culture have all contributed to the maintenance and continual modification of the original idea of Armageddon, transforming it into an ultimate military confrontation between good and evil involving high technology. The author is convincing in demonstrating that some recent self-styled prophets, such as the founder of the Nation of Islam, were heavily influenced by their readings of the Bible, resulting in visions that were clearly little more than updated, technologized versions of Ezekiel. Further, he shows how such imagery has crept into mainstream thought, as revealed by political, military, and religious leaders who think of modern warfare and weapons in apocalyptic terms. Lieb also makes some intriguing connections between biblical prophesy, the UFO phenomenon, and the plight of African Americans. The concept of "technologizing the ineffable" applies both to the popular understanding of advanced weapons and to sightings of unidentified flying objects. Just as God became the wielder of advanced weapons, so too did extraterrestrial visitors become masters of technologies far beyond our reach. In the original teachings of the Nation of Islam, God and his minions operate a "mother plane" (today it might be called a mother ship) in space around earth, and will someday liberate black people and destroy whites. While most recent UFO reports, including abduction accounts, do not necessarily assume that alien visitations are military in nature, they do seem to technologize the sightings -- for example consistently identifying "unidentified" flying objects as space craft rather than simply as something that is unexplained. The author is less consistently effective at demonstrating how such beliefs spread beyond the original literary sources, although it seems clear that they have. Implicit in his argument is the assumption that the statements or writings of particular individuals or groups can be taken literally and that they have a demonstrable influence on the thinking or actions of others. However, it is sometimes too great a causal leap from the biblical, apocalyptic language of, for example, Ronald Reagan's public statements...

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While many have noted the differences between the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts for Ezekiel, they have done so largely to rediscover an earlier Hebrew text, or to determine which variant preserves the better reading, frequently with the aim of establishing a 'critical text' for their commentaries. This often leaves the other variant(s) in a sense 'incorrect', often attributed to various forms of scribal error. This thesis adopts a 'textual-comparative' methodology that accords each textual witness equal status as an interpretive trajectory, enabling each to be 'heard' in its own right. The aim of this thesis is to examine these different witnesses with a view to determine what they might tell us about the way Ezekiel 36-39 was interpreted by each particular community. This entails comparing the oldest extant Hebrew and Greek texts both intra-linguistically and trans-linguistically, noting any variants, and exploring possible interpretive reasons for them. This study finds that the Greek translators were familiar with both languages, and that they often exegetically and interpretively interacted with the text before them. The Greek (LXX) is both translation and interpretation of the Hebrew. Other interpretations are found in 'inserts' or 'plusses', occurring in both the Hebrew and Greek texts. Included is an examination of Papyrus 967 (G967), which exhibits a different chapter order (chapter 37 follows 38-39), and is minus 36:23c-38. Rather than finding that these differences result from error, or that G967 is a maverick text, we find that it is closest to what was probably the Hebrew Urtext. All other extant Hebrew and Greek texts then exhibit theological interaction; the change of chapter order exhibiting a 'call to arms', and the inserted pericope (36:23c-38) exhibiting a 'call to purity'. Our research methodology thus elucidates the earliest Jewish interpretation of the Restoration of Israel in Ezekiel 36-39 (ca. 200-50 BCE).
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