So, what then is the purpose of having a Tigris? El gave a Law to His people, to govern their existence. Why then does the Tigris branch off at all? After all, it would seem that He had a plan in place for the superintendence of His people. But that proved to be the very reason the Tigris run was needed. There were people living in this world that had grown up under the aegis of inquiry. These had never heard of the written Torah, and did not know how the universe worked.
The civilized world was built on power, brutality, and avarice, all of which stemmed from one source: the fear of death. From the mighty to the small, death plagued the soul of fallen men. It was the spectre on the moors, a dread banshee that could not be repelled. In fact, the more power and largess an empire acquired, the more the feared death. The race of power makes one aware of the danger of power; thus, as one gains power, one fears losing it even more. This was true for civilizations as well as people; the savagery and cruelty needed to make civilization (as Nietzsche detailed in Genealogy of Morals) always leaves a haunting whisper in the mind of the victor, as he surveys the dead he slaughtered to become a king: one day, this will be you.
Death, the constant northern star of fallen man’s literature and art; Death, the motor that drives his quest for first medicine, then immortality; Death, the hand and their throat, waking them in the night, waiting silently just beyond the door, silently, patiently. Death, the cessation of anima, obsessed fallen man. Death is the progenitor of all the gifts of civilization, either through the arts, philosophy, medicine and logic, or through mathematics and science, through which power may be gained. It’s invincibility, omnipresence, and inevitability made it a god to men, literally. Every ancient pantheistic religion had a god of death, who generally had to be appeased to stave him off.
If you think I am overstating this, pick up some Camus, or give Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal a watch. For an abridged version of existentialist angst, watch What if Ingmar Bergman directed the Flash? on youtube.
Ultimately, we can go back to the man that the Greeks and Romans revered as the great sage: Homer. It was he that penned the verse by which all of them lived:
“Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”
This diatribe is of overwhelming importance, because you can now see how the minds of men were formed by history. It was to this verse that Paul referred when he wrote “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope”. (1 thess 4).
Now, I must be thorough, which requires a quick statement. The Greeks were investigating the possibility of the immortality of spirit as early as 400 bc, in what were called the Eleusinian mysteries. So the idea of escaping Death was not totally unheard of. These cults were highly guarded and secretive, probably because they were sexual rites. For the majority of mankind, however, it seemed that life was a cruel joke, in which Camus said it was absurd to assign meaning. It is perhaps summed up best by T.S. Elliiot:
“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
It was to this world, a world without hope, a world of fear and terror, ruled by empires of fear and terror, that the Great Barge brought the sacred scroll, Torah. Alexander of Macedon introduced the Hebrews to the world, and they moved to his eponymous city, Alexandria. There, the Greek would work with them to translate the Torah into the Septuagint work that survives today. Things were looking good, until the Hebrews revolted against the Seleucid Greeks (Seleucus being a general of Alexander that inherited part of his master’s empire upon Alexander’s death). Antiochus IV placed a statue of Zeus in the Temple, prefiguring the Abomination that causes Desolation in the End Times, when the Antichrist sits in the 3rd temple’s holiest seat, and declares himself God. This led to the Maccabean revolt, which plunged Judea into constant turmoil and violence, until the Diaspora in 70 ad.
It was to Judea that Yeshua ben David, known also as Jesus, came with His ministry. His work was strictly limited to the people of Israel; not that He was a racist, but His focus was on the Hebrews, not the Goyim. This was intended, for the Hebrews were versed in the Torah: they were educated and instructed by the Law, and moreover, knew of the prophesies that accompanied the arrival of the Messiah. Jesus performed His miracles to show the Hebrews that He was the Anointed One, of whom the prophets had spoken.
In short order, the power elites of Judea worked to kill Jesus. Like the empires of men, they feared death, and the loss of power. That should have been the end of it. But then, the world changed in three days (note: for a Hebrew, three days means “one whole day, with part or all of a day on either side of it’). The impossible, if the reports of this man Jesus could be believed, had occurred. Mankind’s ancient enemy, his tormentor, his god-like foe, had been thrown down. As lunatic as it was fervent, the cries rang through the streets of Jerusalem, tearing down walls between Greek and Jew, and giving mankind the hope that they had never known:
“HE IS ALIVE!”
To the Greek, the Roman, the fallen, this simply could not be. Death could not be defeated. And yet, here they were, the tribe of Christians (as Josephus called them), willing to face the very power at which all men and empires quailed, to proclaim the name of Jesus to Rome and the rest of the world. Here, the Tigris Run, the Gospel of the Risen Christ, would burst forth from the water table made flush by the mighty Euphrates, to bring the light of the Torah to all mankind, borne on the modest Kalak that bears the joyous refrain:
He is Alive.