Hello! Shalom! Aloha! Mabuhay!

If this is your first visit to Modern Apocrypha, I have only two recommendations for continuing on with minimal confusion:

1) Please begin with the first introductory post (found HERE) and work your way forward. Almost all the posts on this blog flow chronologically and will make more sense with the background and context of previous ones. Jumping in anywhere might be disorienting.

2) Please read along in the texts posted off to the right. I try not to summarize too much in the commentary and discussion, and being at least somewhat familiar with what we're discussing or I'm commenting on will be most beneficial and edifying for all involved. Plus, going along with the theme of this blog, any hidden truths to be brought to light will be found within the text itself and not necessarily within my ramblings.

Okay, fine, three recommendations:

3) Please read with an open heart, mind, and spirit. See what truths you can find in these works--ones which speak to you. Namaste : )

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Our story begins with Suran, a good man who follows his heart, hunting and gathering in the mountains. His old, wise uncle, Ngameke, follows him to share an important secret with him concerning their ancestors and teach him about the laws and commandments of God. As a fervent animist or polytheist, Suran has no idea what Ngameke's talking about, but he's curious so he follows him into the jungle. 

This name, Ngameke, is intriguing to me; it seems to be unique in the Aklatan, or at least it's unique sounding. For fun, I tried to see if I could make any sense of it. (I don't know any of the Filipino languages.) In Cebuano, nga = "that", meke = a type of noodle dish. In Maori, nga = "breath/to breathe" or simply "the", meke = "to punch/hit". In Mapuche (indigenous Chilean), nga = participle/"the", meke = "busy". Filipino and Polynesian languages belong to the same Austronesian language family, so we should expect some similarities and cognates. Also, there have been some cool archaeological, linguistic, and genetic discoveries over the past decade or so showing ancient connections between Polynesians and Mapuche peoples, but we'll have to save going into that for another time : )

In any case, Suran and Ngameke travel along jungle trails for several days until they come to the base of a cliff hidden by vegetation with water flowing down from the top, when Ngameke produces a bamboo container. He removes the stopper and pulls out several records written by their ancestors. Suran is amazed and reads them, which contain the history of a group of people--a branch of Shem--who traveled to the islands long before. (Incidentally, Suran, a polytheistic hunter-gatherer from several centuries BC is literate. Usually writing systems and literacy follow the advent of agriculture and more complex forms of social organization.)

As with any good history from the ancient Middle East, it begins with the genealogy of the participants to give context to the events--in this case, Shem's lineage for several generations down to Ophir. This is part of what is know as the Table of Nations in the Bible. The genealogy here in Suran 1 is nearly identical to the those found in Genesis 10, 1 Chronicles 1, and Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews. However, it is unique in many ways. (I was going to list off the main differences, but here's a nice little chart instead ; )

Reading the ancestral records, Suran learns that some of Ophir's sons (a "band of ten") traveled for many years until they reached the northern shores of the islands, where they established a righteous order (i.e., priesthood order) among the people and adopted many islanders into it. But after many years, the people returned to their animism/polytheism, and the righteous band dwindled until there were few of them. After many years a broken branch of the tribe of Levi also came to the islands (we'll talk more about this later), and Ruman interjects that he's recorded many more things concerning the ancestors in the Aklatan. But finally, Ngameke admits he is now the last of this righteous lineage.

I spent weeks of research going down this Ophir (and Tarshish, and Havilah, etc.) rabbit hole, and then the holidays came, which is why this post is two months late. From the Biblical tradition, we find that Ophir is a foreign land to the east accessible by the sea and laden with gold and other precious items. (Later traditions equate it with Yemen, India, Pakistan, etc.) David had set aside gold from Ophir for the temple he'd never see. Solomon's servants went with Hiram's navy to fetch gold, sandalwood (almug/algum), and precious stones from Ophir for the temple. (The type of sandalwood mentioned is only found in the east Indian Ocean and Pacific Islands.) Jehoshaphat tries to send ships to Ophir for gold, but they're wrecked in port (Gulf of Aqaba). Job, Psalms, and Isaiah all mention the glory of the "gold of Ophir". We'll talk more about the traditional geography of Tarshish and Havilah in Suran 6.

However, there's another fun tradition of Ophir that aided Magellan in his journey to and through these east Asian islands. Volume 3 of Coleccion General de Documentos Relativos a las Islas Filipinas contains the official documents of Magellan's voyage and his captain's logbook. Document 98 (AD 1519-1522) (pp. 112-138) describes how to locate the land of Ophir, saying it was "in front of China towards the sea, of many islands where the Moluccans, Chinese, and Lequios met to trade." According to this account, Ophir would be found somewhere between mainland China and the Indonesian archipelago of Maluku. (Hint: the Philippines are the only islands directly between the two.)

But this document and other Spanish books of the time mention these enigmatic "Lequios", who have been identified by modern historians as Okinawans, Koreans, Vietnamese, etc. The Lequio ships were favorite targets of the Spanish East Indian navy during the latter end of the 16th century, as they were always laden with gold and silver. However, Document 98 describes Lequios as large, bearded, and light-skinned (features uncharacteristic of SE Asians) and only interested in trading gold and silver at Ophir. Those Spaniards with some Biblical knowledge believed them to be remnants of Hebrew or Phoenician sailors and/or merchants (i.e., from the time of Solomon and Hiram) who established permanent trading posts in and around Ophir.

I found one author who claims that this Spanish transliteration "Lequio" could be a derivation and/or corruption of the Hebrew verb LAQAT or one of its forms, meaning "to gather, glean, collect, assemble", a fitting title and description of the servants of Solomon and sailors of Hiram sent to gather gold and precious things for the temple. (Or as a fun aside, it could be a derivation of Lehi, with a hard H shifting to a K sound, meaning Lequios are Lehites ; ) But more than likely Lequios is connected to Lekas island mentioned in Suran 6.