On the secularization of the theological concept

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Gee
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Gee »

thedoc wrote:The 10 Commandments - Christ's Summation in the New Testament About 1,400 years later, the 10 Commandments were summed up in the New Testament at Matthew 22, when Jesus was confronted by the religious "experts" of the day:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:36-40).

A reflective reading of Christ's teaching reveals that the first four commandments given to the children of Israel are contained in the statement: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." It continues that the last six commandments are enclosed in the statement: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Thedoc;

I am disappointed. I thought you were looking for help, not an argument. You asked about the 10 Commandments, not a summation of what they meant. It would be fair to say that the summation, the 10 Commandments, the Books of Law in the Bible, and all laws in general are about trying to help people find a way to live together in peace. Although this is true, it is not very helpful. It is like saying that all things are actually energy, but that does not tell me if the new couch looks good in the living room. We can only generalize so much as sometimes details are necessary!

First, I am not religious, so I do not believe that Jesus is God, but I have been quoted as calling Jesus one of the greatest philosophers to ever set sandals on this earth. I also have a lot of respect for the wisdom that is in the Old Testament.

But it seems that I have a greater respect for religion than you have for law, so I will try to rectify that in this post. "Love thy neighbor as thyself", just what does that mean? What if your neighbor is a pretty 12 year old girl and you are a forty year old man? Should you love her? What if your neighbor is a drug dealer? Should you work to keep him/her in or out of jail? Which one would be love? What if your neighbor is the worst gossip that you have ever known, but is going through a hard time? Should you go over and share all of the juicy little tid bits about your family to make her feel better? Is that love? What if a person is so very different from you, that your best attempts to "love" them end up causing them strife and misery? It happens all of the time. One of the strongest motives for murder is love.

Someone has use their best judgment, incorporate the wisdom of history, and sit down to carefully write out the words of a law that hopefully brings solutions and peace, and these words become the law. To show how difficult this is consider the following:

There was a case of Family Law that we studied in class. In this case a husband and wife were arguing. It seems that the wife told the husband that she was pregnant (I believe there was a question as to whether it was his child.) and she stated that she was going to divorce him, take his home, half of his business, and make him pay support for the child for the next 18 years. They lived in California and the law there would allow her to do this. As long as they were married when the child was conceived--it was HIS child.

He did not like this idea, so he intentionally beat her until she miscarried. Imagine the surprise from the police when they discovered that intentionally killing the fetus was not a crime. The most that he could be charged with was assault. People were outraged.

It is my thought that there are two obvious connections to the Bible here; the first is ownership of the fetus--if married it belongs to the husband; the second is a reference that states that if a person causes a miscarriage, the father can sue for the potential loss. But the father does not sue himself.

Anyway, the California legislature was horrified at this oversight, so they went to work and passed a law so that this could never happen again. Then the real trouble started. Doctors started to refuse care to pregnant women in many emergency situations. It seems that the doctors were accepting of a possible law suit if a miscarriage occurred, but were damned reluctant to go to prison for a crime if they made a mistake and a miscarriage occurred--as causing a miscarriage was now a criminal matter. The law has since been rewritten, probably more than once.

My point is that the law is in effect the words, and no one can write the words that will be valid and fair in all situations. The words, "Love thy Neighbor", are great for religion, but in law these words are a kindergartner's solution to a college level problem.

What about corporate law and the 10 Commandments?
Corporate Law: A corporation is an artificial person or legal entity, created under the laws of the state, that can sue or be sued.

Summation of Corporate Law: Oops! Don't sue me, sue the corporation. Love my money and save my ass. :lol:

Gee
thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc »

Gee, not intended as an argument, but a different point of view for discussion. Your comments brought this to mind and I wondered what you might think about it. That's all.
Gee
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Gee »

Thedoc;

I have actually enjoyed your posts and had hoped to have some discussion with you; but I don't really like to argue about religion. If I have misunderstood your motives, then I sincerely apologize. There are a lot of people who try to justify the Bible and religion by drawing comparisons between them and realities of our life now, just as there are people who draw these lines to separate religion from the secular. I suppose that we are just trying to define reality, but I suspect that people have private motivations in this cause, and I can not be converted.

The problem is that often people do not consider why these consolidations and divisions were created in the first place. If one looks hard enough into history, it will be discovered that religion, philosophy, science, education, government, and even medicine were at some point(s) in time part of some religion--as it is my thought that religions were organized by the first groups of thinkers. They were the first to question our reality, the mysteries, our purpose, and so it was in answering these questions that religions were actually formed. Throughout our history, religions have guided and ruled us, but occasionally they get a little too powerful, a little to full of themselves, causing a need for a division of power.

If we looked up the etymology of the word "secular", it is my thought that we would find that the word was created at a point in time when some religion thought that it should also rule and some other authority disagreed. Maybe I'm wrong, but I doubt it. A division was required that clarified the laws of man separating them from the laws of God, and the only reason that I can imagine this becoming necessary is that someone was stepping over boundaries. So to say that secular law is rooted in the Bible, is exactly the same as saying that secular law is rooted in our history. Of course it is. Law is not something that can be considered and put together on a whim, it is painstakingly built brick by brick on foundations laid for centuries. And it is not finished. Law grows and adapts as it conforms to the changes in us.

Sometimes a foundation that we have built our law upon crumbles, so we have to rebuild. This happens when a country folds or is invaded or revolts in civil unrest, but it also happens when a religion becomes too full of itself, and we end up creating a word like "secular". But when we rebuild, we do not throw out all of the bricks and forge new; we take many of the bricks that have fallen and use them to build our new law. I think that this is the point that Arvind13 is trying to make. It is inevitable that some of the old ideas get incorporated into the new law. And although the Bible holds the roots of much of our law, it is not our law; if it were, then we would be sacrificing animals to atone for our sins instead of going to jail and paying fines.

I find it difficult to not be in sympathy with religions in the current times, as science has now gained "too much power" and sees religion as an antiquated superstitious organization. Philosophy is not much kinder. I see bad times coming if this is not put back in balance, as it is my thought that we need religion, science, and philosophy, and that we always will. Long ago, it was noted that "Man is physical, mental, and spiritual", and to my knowledge, this has never been disputed. Science studies and learns about the physical; philosophy studies and learns about the mental; religion studies and learns about the spiritual. They are our three seekers of truth. To deny the need for any of the three seekers, is to deny some part of ourselves, and is foolish beyond permission.

What do you think?

Gee
Gee
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Gee »

Hello NIkolai and Arvind 13;

This is a very interesting thread, and I have enjoyed reading it and thinking about the ideas contained within. I do have some questions and thoughts that I would like to share, so I pulled various statements out of your posts to address them here.
Nikolai wrote:Indeed, but Christian theology was hugely influenced by the philosophical ideas that were already in currency in the western world and so already we see that that theology and philosophy can be very hard to distinguish. I’m sure we could write books about the important philosophical influences on Christianity. Already with Thales and his “Everything is really water” we have a duality between the apparent world as it appears to the senses, and things as they really in fact are. By the time we get to Plato and his eternal but mysterious realm. . .
I believe that you may be misquoting Thales here. I have heard, "Everything is water." and everything is "full of gods", but not "Everything is really water." When you add the word "really", you imply a duality that I have never seen associated with Thales thoughts. This implies a world beyond the senses, which is Plato's idea, not Thales. I know that his remarks about water have surprised people and that these remarks have been interpreted, but I see no reason to think that this is the correct interpretation. He was thought to be a rather "down to earth" kind of thinker, so I believe that he was speaking metaphorically--not about Plato's invisible world. If I am wrong, please direct me to the place where you found this quote.
Arvind 13 wrote:By contrast, among contemporary humanists, the Greek faith that truth makes us free has been fused with one of Christianity's most dubious legacies - the belief that the hope of freedom belongs to everyone."
Not sure that we can blame this entirely on the Greeks or the Christians, as the idea of individual freedom is also one held close by most, if not all, of the American Indian Nations. I think that the "hope of freedom" may be a lot more prevalent than your statement implies--at least in the Western West. And I think they embrace this idea "down under". Don't they like to go "walk about"?
Nikolai wrote:You seem to attribute an intellectual force and coherence to the Christian movement that never existed. The living example of Jesus was that of as healer and a prophet. It was down to others to formulate Christian theology and this was performed by thinkers who acquired extant philosophical notions, with creative amendations. In this they were no different to the pagans, the scientists or indeed any other thinkers.

These issues resolve if we learn to see that philosophy and theology are so dependent on each other as to be pretty much indistinguishable. They might have a slightly different flavour' to them that makes different people react to them in different ways, but in terms of their content they are impossible to separate. Thought is thought, ultimately. Divisions into disciplines like theology, philosophy etc is convenient for discussion's sake, but we mustn't take the concepts too seriously. It is just lines drawn in the sand. All thinkers work by assuming unproven premises and then proceeding logically to conclusions. If a premise is unproven its epistemological status is identical to the next unproven premise. A concept like God's love is therefore analogous to a concept like gravity.
Avind 13 wrote:The secularization of Christianity cannot be attributed to some conscious cognitive or psychological mechanism. It has little to do with the individual/group psychology or the intentions and motives of Christians. It certainly has nothing to do with the intellectual force or coherence of the Christian movement.

1) Augustine was able to absorb/transform/assimilate (distort?) pre-existing Greek ideas within a Christian framework.
2) the enlightenment thinkers thought they could shrug off Christianity but in fact couldn't.


These statements seem to exemplify the real misunderstanding in this discussion. Nikolai states that, "Thought is thought, ultimately". Avind 13 states, "cannot be attributed to some conscious cognitive or psychological mechanism." I don't believe that either of these statements are true. There is a distinct difference in thought, and Freud attributed this difference to a psychological mechanism. The difference is that we "know" some things, but we "believe" others.

What we know are ideas that we logically and reasonably decide, learn, or calculate; what we believe are ideas that are co-mingled with our emotion. No matter where an idea comes from, once emotion attaches itself to it, it becomes belief. This emotion does not have to be strong, and can simply be a feeling of comfort and safety that comes from a "feeling" that we are correct, which is probably why many people accuse scientists of having a "belief" theology of science. If we get to a point where what we know and what we believe does not match and causes conflict, then we rationalize what we know to make it conform with our belief--we do not rationalize what we believe to make it conform--unless absolutely necessary. Belief takes precedence.

The rational conscious mind is where we do most of our thinking and knowing, and it's job is to expedite whatever we decided to accomplish--we are in control. The subconscious mind is where we do our believing--it does not take direct orders and reacts more favorably to emotion. The subconscious is where our beliefs are stored, and they are tangled up with our emotions.

A lot of people may think that this is an inefficient way for the brain to work, especially in this day and age when emotion is considered unreliable. Well, emotion can be unreliable, but so can the rational mind. We can actually rationalize anything that we choose and make it seem plausible, whether or not it is true is irrelevant to logic--as any logic instructor can explain. We can think what we choose, and rationalize that thought, and lie. Whether we lie to ourselves or someone else is irrelevant. Can we do that with belief? No. Our subconscious mind works with emotion, and emotion can be good or bad, right or wrong, but it is always honest. It is what we honestly feel and believe, so we know that we have at least one foot in reality. We intuitively understand that our irrational, emotional, subconscious mind is actually more reliable than our rational, logical, conscious mind, because it is honest, so we adapt our thoughts to rationalize what we believe. This is how a theological belief (emotional knowledge) can attach itself to a secular thought (rational knowledge) without our even being aware that it has happened.

Here is a fun example: I was watching a movie with my grandchildren, "Independence Day", which is about an invasion of aliens that want to wipe out humans. In one scene the officials are calling for anyone, who can fly a plane because there are lots of planes, but few pilots. One man steps up and says he can fly, and he wants to get back at the aliens for abducting him years ago. You see the officials roll their eyes and can almost hear what they are thinking, "Nut job. The man is crazy." They think he is crazy for believing that he was abducted by aliens, who don't exist, while they are getting ready to fight those same aliens. The absurdity of this scene is one of the more comical in this movie and reflects how we can believe things that fly in the face of everything that we know.

For an example that is closer to the issue here, consider this: I was in another philosophy forum and had the bad manners to bring up the topic of the paranormal. I was immediately shot down, and almost banned. I asked what the problem was, and was told that the paranormal was voo doo, mumbo-jumbo, nonsense, and not a topic for philosophy. I asked why not, and was told because it is not real. Science has proven that it is not real. Now this information really irritated me, so I explained: It is not called paranormal because it is not normal or average; if that were the case, then beauty queens and geniuses and Olympic athletes would all be paranormal as they are not average. It is called paranormal because it is unexplained. But God, souls, consciousness, the subjective self, and miracles are all unexplained by science--to be honest, life is unexplained by science--yet welcome as topics for philosophy. What is the difference?

The obvious difference is that these things are authorized by the church--not science--but because they are authorized by the church, they are acceptable to science and philosophy. Prophesies are fine, premonitions are not. Souls are fine, auras are not. Souls belong to God, so flitting in and out of bodies is not acceptable, as we are to stay where God puts us. (I suspect that reincarnation is not considered paranormal in the East.) Scientists and even atheists will disregard reams of data, collected carefully according to scientific methods, because it is about the paranormal. They believe that their refusal is about science, and don't even realize that they are following the dictates of the church. I suspect that this is at the root of Avind 13's argument. When it comes to belief, we will rationalize and warp our knowledge to fit with our belief.
Nikolai wrote:To know God, to discover the Tao, to discover for your self within yourself the world shattering truth that you are identical with the cosmos...this is religion. This is what the religious person recognises within themselves, and nothing less then the personal relation with the divine would satisfactorily account for their religion.

But if we think that their theological history undermines the western concepts and that we should therefore distrust them then I think that would be a mistake. Their intellectual foundations are as robust as they can be, and as robust as anything that comes from the east. But they are irreconcilably different and the only solution is the very paradoxical and mystical view which identifies unity and duality.
Is there a view which accepts both unity and duality?

If one is to accept that our theology in the West has influenced our secular law, does that mean that the theology in the East has also influenced their secular law?

Gee
thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc »

Gee wrote:Thedoc;

I have actually enjoyed your posts and had hoped to have some discussion with you; but I don't really like to argue about religion. If I have misunderstood your motives, then I sincerely apologize. There are a lot of people who try to justify the Bible and religion by drawing comparisons between them and realities of our life now, just as there are people who draw these lines to separate religion from the secular. I suppose that we are just trying to define reality, but I suspect that people have private motivations in this cause, and I can not be converted.

What do you think?

Gee
Hello Gee, Sorry for the delay in answering but sometimes life gets in the way of things I would like to do. Years ago I either read or heard that when several women live in the same house they will eventually start having their menstrual cycles at the same time. I have discovered a little known corollary, - When women drivers live in the same house their cars will break down at the same time. My younger daughter lived with us for a year and a half, till last Aug. And during that time when her car broke down my wifes car would break down. When the daughters car needed a new clutch, my wifes car overheated because it needed a new auxillary fan. My daughters car need a part that I missed when replacing the clutch and my wifes car needed the expansion tank replaced. About a week ago my daughters car went in for inspection, and was unavalable, so my wifes car broke down, the idle control valve carboned up and stuck and now the radiator is leaking, putting us desperately short of vehicles. 2 for 3 drivers. I have been very busy lately fixing cars.

I do not try to justify the Bible, I believe it is very interisting Christian Mythology, but I define Mythology very carefully. Mythology is true in lesson and meaning, if not in detail, and I am very much opposed to anyone who thinks of a myth as something false, and will not accept that view or have any kind of exchange with anyone with that stupid a view. I also do not have much patience with those who claim that the Bible or any other religious text is a valid and accurate Historic or scientific account, Religious texts are records of Mythology and must be read in that light. I am very much interested in a dialogue on religion in this respect, but have no interest in discussing anything about the accuracy of things like the Noah's ark story or where we might find the remains of the ark. Details like that are fools errands and of no interest to me, I much prefer exploring what the story means as far as this person called Noah and his relation to nature and the world, and I use 'nature' as a possable alternate name for God.

As you might expect when I am tired I don't think as well as I could, so I rest and come back at a later date. Your post looks very interesting but I will need to look at it some more.
thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc »

Gee wrote: There is a distinct difference in thought, and Freud attributed this difference to a psychological mechanism. The difference is that we "know" some things, but we "believe" others.

What we know are ideas that we logically and reasonably decide, learn, or calculate; what we believe are ideas that are co-mingled with our emotion. No matter where an idea comes from, once emotion attaches itself to it, it becomes belief. This emotion does not have to be strong, and can simply be a feeling of comfort and safety that comes from a "feeling" that we are correct, which is probably why many people accuse scientists of having a "belief" theology of science. If we get to a point where what we know and what we believe does not match and causes conflict, then we rationalize what we know to make it conform with our belief--we do not rationalize what we believe to make it conform--unless absolutely necessary. Belief takes precedence.

The rational conscious mind is where we do most of our thinking and knowing, and it's job is to expedite whatever we decided to accomplish--we are in control. The subconscious mind is where we do our believing--it does not take direct orders and reacts more favorably to emotion. The subconscious is where our beliefs are stored, and they are tangled up with our emotions.

Gee

Just to let you know that this is not true for everyone, there are a few of us who will take factual evidence and conform our beliefs to that knowledge. However I have encountered many who will hold onto beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence. A seamingly trivial example, About 1965 PennDOT started replacing the old Yellow and Black Yield traffic signs with new Red and White ones. In several years the old ones were gone and the new ones were almost everywhere. I noticed my first on in 1965 on the Pa Turnpike and was surprised at the new sign. About 1980 I was in a conversation with several other Pa drivers and everyone insisted that Yield signs were Yellow and Black, even though they had to drive past Red and White ones every day. People hold onto a belief even when the evidence is right in front of them. I believe it was partially my training as a painter, and really looking at the objects I was trying to paint, that taught me how to really see what is in fromt of me, rather than what I expect to see. And this is the greater problem, people don't see what is in front of them, they are blind to reality and the truth. What you believe is much more comfortable than seeing reality and adjusting your beliefs to that reality.
Gee
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by Gee »

thedoc wrote:Hello Gee, Sorry for the delay in answering. . .
There is no need to apologize, as I am often slow myself. I have good days and bad days and can take up to a week to answer a post, but always appreciate a considered answer to my questions.
thedoc wrote:I do not try to justify the Bible, I believe it is very interesting Christian Mythology, but I define Mythology very carefully. Mythology is true in lesson and meaning, if not in detail, and I am very much opposed to anyone who thinks of a myth as something false, and will not accept that view or have any kind of exchange with anyone with that stupid a view. I also do not have much patience with those who claim that the Bible or any other religious text is a valid and accurate Historic or scientific account, Religious texts are records of Mythology and must be read in that light.
I have never studied mythology, but think that I understand your meaning. I can not agree that the entire Bible is mythology, as I believe that there is legend and even some history in it also. One must keep in mind that the Bible does not have one author, it is comprised of many authors over a great span of time, each with their own writing styles, agendas, and motivations. Of course there has been a great deal of questioning as to whether or not the "history" actually belonged to the Jewish people--as it appears that it might have been a case of borrow a story from here, take a tale from there.

I do not begrudge anyone, who feels the need to try to trace a "grain of truth" to it's source, but feel that a lot of the Bible is more related to mythological lessons and understanding for the purpose of teaching.
thedoc wrote: Just to let you know that this is not true for everyone, there are a few of us who will take factual evidence and conform our beliefs to that knowledge. However I have encountered many who will hold onto beliefs in the face of overwhelming evidence. A seamingly trivial example, About 1965 PennDOT started replacing the old Yellow and Black Yield traffic signs with new Red and White ones. In several years the old ones were gone and the new ones were almost everywhere. I noticed my first on in 1965 on the Pa Turnpike and was surprised at the new sign. About 1980 I was in a conversation with several other Pa drivers and everyone insisted that Yield signs were Yellow and Black, even though they had to drive past Red and White ones every day. People hold onto a belief even when the evidence is right in front of them.
What you are discussing here is valid, but not the same as what I was discussing. The difference is training, so yes, your training in observing your world would serve you well.

I was studying "instincts" with a neurologist, an animal behaviorist, an archeologist, and a few others in another forum; and we tried to relate the involuntary input and reactions that go on in the brain with the words that are supposed to explain these different aspects.

Generally, we decided that there are:
Instincts, which are innate and inherited;
Intuition, which is a combination of instinctive knowledge and understanding;
Habit, which is a learned behavior or way of thinking;
and muscle reflex, which is also a learned behavior.

There may have been more, I don't have my notes, but what you are talking about above is something that is a learned behavior. All of these things work through the subconscious mind, but they are not all related to emotion.

Learned behaviors are stored in the subconscious mind and used daily to function. This is necessary because it would be difficult to do anything, if we had to relearn how to do it every time. Standing, walking, sitting, driving a car; these are all learned behaviors. What we learn is held and used when we need it reflexively, or habitually. For this reason, it would be easy to see a sign and related it to what we "learned" when we first learned about that sign. It would take conscious observation to relearn the new sign.

What I was discussing is different. Suppose you went into a grocery store and picked up a small item that you intended to purchase, but you got distracted and put it in your pocket. It happens. On your way out, there are two people, who saw you do this. One person knows you well, loves you, and believes you to be honest. The other person dislikes you, has always envied you your success, and believes that you do not deserve it. The first person will be sure that there was no intentional theft and will find facts to back up that claim. The second person will be sure that you always take what you want and intended theft, and will find facts to back up that claim. Emotions aside, which one is the truth? That is the question. We build on what we believe.

Gee
thedoc
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Re: On the secularization of the theological concept

Post by thedoc »

Gee wrote: I have never studied mythology, but think that I understand your meaning. I can not agree that the entire Bible is mythology, as I believe that there is legend and even some history in it also. One must keep in mind that the Bible does not have one author, it is comprised of many authors over a great span of time, each with their own writing styles, agendas, and motivations. Of course there has been a great deal of questioning as to whether or not the "history" actually belonged to the Jewish people--as it appears that it might have been a case of borrow a story from here, take a tale from there.

I do not begrudge anyone, who feels the need to try to trace a "grain of truth" to it's source, but feel that a lot of the Bible is more related to mythological lessons and understanding for the purpose of teaching.

Gee
I need to be more careful with my posts, I tend to get carried away with one thought and forget other aspects of that same subject. I do not mean to say that all the Bible or other sacred writings are mythology, but much is and needs the be read as such. There is some historical material included and this is possible where the confusion arises. People tend to read a book as all one thing or another and often do not realize that it is a mixture of fact and fiction.

In some of the books of the Bible there seems to be a mix of fact and fiction, there are lists of the generations and there is little reason to doubt that the fathers and children are accurately recorded, but there is some question in the lifespans claimed for some of the patriarchs. For example there are many who have recorded lifespans in the hundreds of years and I would think this is a simple problem of mistranslation. On another tangent, Plato wrote an account of Atlantis and used an Egyptian document as his source, and located it beyond 'The Pillars of Heracles'. The location is now believed to be an Island of Santorini north of Crete which is a factor of 10 in distance from Egypt to a hypothetical location in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. So the error was reading the wrong unit of distance, or misplacing the decimal point or its equivalent. Likewise the ages of the ancient Hebrew Patriarchs could simply have been a mistranslation. In that area it is possible that the lunar cycle was easier to record and the yearly cycles of equinoxes and solstices were only obvious to trained astronomers, and not so much to nomadic hearders. In that latitude the yearly changes of season may not have been as pronounced as in higher latitudes. So 900 years, which seems unreasonable, divided by 12 gives us 75 years which seems much more likely for a robust and healthy person. It would simply be a metter of reading months for years and recorcing it incorrectly.
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