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The Author's Comments: I've finished the story of the bovine man - this is just a few comments I'd like to make about the story
Posted by Douglas, Jun 22, 2008. 1638 views. ID = 1402

The Author's Comments

Posted by Douglas, Jun 22, 2008. 1638 views. ID = 1402
This post was written in 8 minutes.
This post has been awarded 14 stars by 3 readers.
This post is Part 12 of a writing series titled The Bovine Man.

During the 2007-2008 school year I taught an Old Testament survey in my church youth group. As I prepared for this series of lessons, I was surprised to discover how frequently the "detestable god" Molech appeared in the story of the nation of Israel. So I began doing a bit of research into this idolatrous religion that the nation of Israel kept bumping into. My research produced some surprising results. I learned that the worship of Molech was far more widespread than I initially supposed; it dated back to ancient Mesopotamia, and stretched all over the Middle East and even down into Egypt and the Carthaginian Empire.

I was even more surprised to discover that the traditional representation of Molech was a calf or an ox. This tidbit of information cast the story of Mount Sinai in a whole new light; Aaron's golden calf suggests that the Israelites were crossing paths with the worship of Molech way back in the days of Moses. Upon doing some more research, I realized that it was not so surprising after all; the cult of the Apis Bull was an ancient Egyptian cult...and where had the Israelites just come from? Egypt, of course. (This cult lasted until the time of Rome, and was borrowed by the Roman culture. Thus, it was still in existence until about 200 years after the time of Perpetua and Felicity)

Molech played a far greater part in the history of Israel than most people realize. Though we speak of Solomon as one of the last great kings of Israel, what is rarely mentioned is the fact that Solomon was directly responsible for the splitting of the kingdom. Why? It was God's punishment on him for introducing the worship of Milcom, Chemoth, and Molech into the nation. Milcom? Chemoth? These were merely different names for the same god, as he was known in different nations.


And what is the last thing that is said about the nation of Israel (the northern tribes) before its final destruction? "Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him." That is the last word on the kingdom of Israel, found in 2 Kings 17:25.

Thinking of all these things made me decide I wanted to create a story in which Molech was a main character. My idea was to use myself (or, at least, a character based on my own views, my own doubts and uncertainties, and my own travels) as the protagonist, and to give Molech a human form so he could talk to me.

In modern religious circles people generally say that the worship of Molech these days is primarily found in abortion clinics, where unborn children are sacrificed. I didn't want to go in that direction, because I wanted to explore less charted waters. My initial idea was to make Molech care very little about whether his sacrifices were children or not, as long as they were helpless. It turns out, that's not an unreasonable interpretation of the religions of Molech; in the Apis cult, grown men and women were just as likely as infants to be the sacrifices.

Fortunately, the practice of human sacrifice (adult or child) is no longer a common practice in our world. I say fortunate, but it was unfortunate for my story, for if Molech gains strength from sacrifice, then how would he even survive to this day? I dealt with that by the idea that sacrifices were acceptable to him as long as they involved cruelty, even if they didn't involve death. But even that wasn't enough; I needed to introduce the idea that Molech had "unintentional worshipers." All of these were my ideas, and probably are not even close to the ancient worship of Molech.

Speaking of things that were my ideas, as I mentioned in a comment somewhere, I have not visited all the places I described in the travelogue portion of the story. In fact, if you count the Tel Aviv airport as one of the places described, I've only visited half of the places I wrote about. Thus, you should take my descriptions with a grain of salt. Which ones have I actually visited? I'll leave you to try guessing that, based on the strength of my descriptions.

Which brings me to the necropolis in Carthage. The infant necropolis was discovered nearly a hundred years ago, and has been very thoroughly excavated and explored. There is a standing stone with an image of a priest carrying an infant, and there is an inscription to Molech. There is not, however, a shrine or a statue. I added that in because I wanted to have a clear moment in which the main character recognizes who the bovine man is, and a statue of him was the perfect way to make that connection. I added in the archaelogists so we can imagine to ourselves that this shrine is a recent discovery, or a discovery yet to be made, hiding under ancient layers of debris.


Regarding Masada, my view of that mass suicide as an act of worship to Molech will be, I am sure, extremely offensive to Israelis, who view Masada as a moment of courage and bravery against all odds. I believe that the argument against the view I've presented is that the children were likely to be abused, tortured and killed by the Romans, and therefore it was an act of mercy to save them that ignominious and painful end. Whether or not that is true, I don't think that excuses us from asking the question: Does that give us the right to kill helpless children?

If I was writing this story again, I would do some things differently. One of the difficulties I find is that, when I'm writing, things I want to put in new scenes require me to go back and make changes to old scenes. But since people are reading as I'm writing, it's really not fair to do that. I understand a little better how difficult it must have been for Dumas to write stories like The Three Musketeers as serial stories.

If I was writing it again, I would consider adding an "outside" story - developing the protagonist's character more, and providing him with things to do outside of his encounters with the bovine man. I think the story suffers from the fact that there are no outside events which help lead him to his eventual conclusions.

Also, I think I would change the Tel Aviv story a bit, so there was no hint that this man was any more than a homeless bum that everyone was avoiding, and then, bit by bit, adding in more supernatural elements, leading to a moment of epiphany in which the main character realizes that the man he is dealing with is not simply a stalker, but something far more frightening. As it is, my main character recognizes from the beginning that there is something unnatural about this man, and yet there isn't really a strong sense of fear or confusion, trying to figure out exactly what he might be.

I wanted to create the sense that my protagonist was completely incapable of arguing with Molech when Molech was on his own ground (Masada, Bethlehem, the Necropolis), but was much more adept at arguing when they were at the Amphitheater - where Molech was at his weakest. I'm not sure how well I succeeded with that.

Toward the end of the story there are some transitions that I don't think I handled well, and some leaps in logic which I didn't fully explain or tie back to previous discussions in the story - this was primarily due to me being in a hurry to finish the story before leaving for the summer...I was afraid I would forget where I was going with the story if I left it unfinished until the fall. I may go back and tweak some of those issues at some future point.

Finally, I'd like to point out that the bovine man raises a lot of interesting theological questions, and challenges to traditional views of God and Christianity. Some of his views I agree with, some I do not. I deliberately avoided addressing all of his comments and ideas, because I think part of faith is discovering answers, and another part of faith is continuing to trust based on what you do know, even if you have no answers.

So I leave those questions in your hands. Do with them what you will.

Copyright 2008 Douglas. All rights reserved. FifteenMinutesOfFiction.com has been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work. For permission to reprint this item, please contact the author.
 


   
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This post has been awarded 14 stars by 3 readers.
This post is Part 12 of a writing series titled The Bovine Man.

Comments


Sylvan Sylph
Jun 23, 2008
I just want to say I've enjoyed this story a lot. It kind of creeped me out at times, but some good stories do that. :)

Like all good literature (in my opinion) it weaves some important questions in with a captivating story. Good food for thought.
   ~Posted by Sylvan Sylph, Jun 23, 2008



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