Category Archives: Kingdoms & Cultures

The Precise Temporal Calibration of Dinosaur Origins

Significance

Many hypotheses have been put forth to explain the origin and early radiation of dinosaurs, but poor age constraints for constituent fossil assemblages make these scenarios difficult to test. Using precise radioisotopic ages, we demonstrate that the temporal gap between assemblages containing only dinosaur precursors and those with the first dinosaurs was 5–10 million years shorter than previously thought. Thus, these data suggest that the origin of dinosaurs was a relatively rapid evolutionary event. Combined with our synthesis of paleoecological data, we demonstrate there was little compositional difference between the dinosaur precursor assemblages and the earliest dinosaur assemblages, and thus, the initial appearance of dinosaurs was not associated with a fundamental shift in ecosystem composition, as classically stated.

Abstract

Dinosaurs have been major components of ecosystems for over 200 million years. Although different macroevolutionary scenarios exist to explain the Triassic origin and subsequent rise to dominance of dinosaurs and their closest relatives (dinosauromorphs), all lack critical support from a precise biostratigraphically independent temporal framework. The absence of robust geochronologic age control for comparing alternative scenarios makes it impossible to determine if observed faunal differences vary across time, space, or a combination of both. To better constrain the origin of dinosaurs, we produced radioisotopic ages for the Argentinian Chañares Formation, which preserves a quintessential assemblage of dinosaurian precursors (early dinosauromorphs) just before the first dinosaurs. Our new high-precision chemical abrasion thermal ionization mass spectrometry (CA-TIMS) U–Pb zircon ages reveal that the assemblage is early Carnian (early Late Triassic), 5- to 10-Ma younger than previously thought. Combined with other geochronologic data from the same basin, we constrain the rate of dinosaur origins, demonstrating their relatively rapid origin in a less than 5-Ma interval, thus halving the temporal gap between assemblages containing only dinosaur precursors and those with early dinosaurs. After their origin, dinosaurs only gradually dominated mid- to high-latitude terrestrial ecosystems millions of years later, closer to the Triassic–Jurassic boundary.

The Triassic Period (252.2–201.3 Ma) is a key interval of earth history that witnessed the origin of many faunal and floral components of modern terrestrial ecosystems, and was punctuated by at least two large-scale environmental perturbations, the end-Permian and end-Triassic mass extinctions (1). These events frame the evolutionary history of nonmarine tetrapod communities during the Triassic, resulting in a long-recognized threefold division: (i) lineages that survived the end-Permian mass extinction; (ii) a wide variety of new Triassic lineages that did not survive the end-Triassic mass extinction; and (iii) the first representatives of lineages that dominated later Mesozoic and Cenozoic ecosystems (2, 3). Among the third group is arguably the most contentious of Mesozoic macroevolutionary events: the origin and rise of dinosaurs (4⇓⇓⇓–8).

Although dinosaurs have often been cited as a classic case of an evolutionary radiation, many disparate hypotheses have been proposed for their origin and subsequent rapid rise to global dominance (4⇓⇓⇓–8). One of the major difficulties with testing these hypotheses has been the lack of precise biostratigraphically independent age constraints for early dinosaur-bearing assemblages, which would provide a firm temporal basis for comparing origin scenarios across time and space (9).

Robust analysis of macroevolutionary patterns requires well-documented assemblages with fossil specimens examined in a phylogenetic context, as well as an independent, accurate, and precise geochronologic framework. As recently pointed out, analyses of the origin and early diversification of dinosaurs have suffered from an overreliance on low-resolution (both stratigraphic and taxonomic) vertebrate biostratigraphy that obscures real faunal differences in time and space (10). This situation is particularly problematic for Triassic nonmarine communities, where tetrapod composition across Pangea appears to be particularly heterogeneous (11⇓–13). Without precise independent age control (other than vertebrate biostratigraphic correlations), it is impossible to determine if these faunal differences vary across time, space, or a combination of both.

Among the many uncertainties regarding dinosaur evolution is the timing of the origin and subsequent radiation of this clade and their closest relatives (early dinosauromorphs). Contrasting hypotheses suggest they appeared anywhere between soon after the end-Permian extinction (∼252 Ma) to very close in time to the first dinosaurs (∼231 Ma) (14). This question has been put to the fore by recent discoveries of African dinosauromorphs (15) from strata thought to be early Middle Triassic in age, ∼245–242 Ma. Nonetheless, the significance of these fossils for understanding the early evolutionary history of the group is unclear as they lack a precise time framework, with the age of the strata based solely on vertebrate correlations among unconnected Gondwanan basins. This problem has been exacerbated by the recent recognition that these vertebrate index taxa may differ in age across Gondwana (16). To resolve these outstanding major issues, we examined the Agua de la Peña succession of the Ischigualasto–Villa Unión Basin in northwestern Argentina, which contains an extensive dinosaur and dinosaur-precursor record for investigating the timing of the origin and early diversification of dinosauromorphs (Fig. 1).

The Chañares Formation

The Triassic Ischigualasto–Villa Unión Basin of northwest Argentina was filled with up to ∼4,000 m of predominantly alluvial, fluvial, and lacustrine deposits. The base of the Agua de la Peña Group comprises the fluvial–lacustrine tuffaceous deposits of the Chañares Formation, which is conformably overlain by the lacustrine–fluvial organic-rich shales, siltstones, and sandstones of the Los Rastros Formation. The top of this unit is unconformably covered by the fluvial sandstones, mudstones, and tuffs of the Ischigualasto Formation. This unit is, in turn, conformably overlain by the thick fluvial “redbed” siltstone and sandstone deposits of the Los Colorados Formation (17⇓⇓–20) (SI Appendix, Fig. S1). The Triassic succession of the Agua de la Peña not only preserves the earliest dinosaur fossils of all three major clades (Ornithischia, Sauropodomorpha, and Theropoda) in the Ischigualasto Formation (21), but it also contains a remarkably diverse assemblage of early dinosauromorphs in the underlying Chañares Formation; this includes nearly complete skeletons of the lagerpetid Lagerpeton chanarensis and early dinosauriforms Marasuchus lilloensis, Pseudolagosuchus, and Lewisuchus (2, 20, 22). Overlying the Ischigualasto Formation are the redbeds of Los Colorados Formation, representing the first Triassic ecosystem that is dominated by dinosaurs (12, 21, 23, 24). Whereas the chronostratigraphy of the Ischigualasto and Los Colorados strata is now studied in detail (21, 24, 25), the age of the Chañares Formation has remained poorly constrained to the Middle Triassic by vertebrate biostratigraphy and lithostratigraphic relationships (20, 26⇓⇓–29), with age estimates ranging from Anisian to Ladinian (247–237 Ma).

To constrain the age of the Chañares dinosauromorph assemblage, we produced what are to our knowledge the first precise radioisotopic ages for the tetrapod-bearing levels using reconnaissance laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS) U–Pb zircon analyses followed by chemical abrasion thermal ionization mass spectrometry (CA-TIMS) U–Pb zircon dating with permil level precision.

The Chañares Formation is a ∼75-m-thick package of siliciclastic fluvial and lacustrine deposition (20, 28, 29). All reported tetrapod fossils have been found in the lower third of the unit; the most articulated and complete specimens, including nearly all dinosauromorphs, are preserved in diagenetic concretions that erode out of a thick siltstone interval 15–20 m above the base of the formation (20, 29). Our two U–Pb-dated horizons bracket the main fossiliferous interval and include (i) a siltstone containing abundant volcanic detritus directly underlying the base of the fossiliferous concretion horizon from a locality preserving skeletons of the classic (and biostratigraphically important) Chañares cynodont synapsid Massetognathus; and (ii) a complexly interbedded white tuff that is ∼10 m above the top of the fossiliferous concretion horizon (Fig. 1). Crucially, both the concretion horizon and the white tuff were sampled from a single locality and stratigraphic succession, and can be continuously traced throughout all of the main fossil localities in the area, where they maintain the same stratigraphic relationships in terms of thickness and relative stratigraphic position.

Results

The new chemical abrasion thermal ionization mass spectrometry (CA-TIMS) U–Pb zircon ages obtained (Fig. 2) indicate that the base of a redeposited zircon bearing fossiliferous concretion horizon yields a maximum age of 236 Ma, and the overlying white tuff is no older than 235 Ma, and possibly as young as 234 Ma (SI Appendix). This new temporal framework assigns the Chañares dinosauromorph assemblage to the Late Triassic, specifically the early Carnian (236–234 Ma), because available age constraints from marine sequences indicate that the Middle–Late Triassic boundary (i.e., the Ladinian–Carnian boundary) is older than 236 Ma (30⇓–32). This new date is 5–10 million years younger than the Middle Triassic ages previously ascribed to the Chañares strata based mainly on vertebrate biostratigraphy. Although both samples contain complex age inventories, they are maximum age constraints for each stratum. Thus, any difference between these ages and the true depositional age would only skew younger in age, placing the fossil assemblages further into the Carnian.


Discussion

Age of Middle Triassic Units in Gondwana

The new dates for the Chañares Formation vertebrate assemblage call into question the age of other classic Gondwanan Middle Triassic assemblages whose ages are based solely on vertebrate correlations. In this context, the new early Carnian age of the Chañares tetrapods suggests a similarly young age for the lower Santa Maria Formation in nearby southern Brazil, because it shares with the Chañares assemblage a variety of tetrapod genera and species unknown from anywhere else (27, 28). The same may also be true for the Omingonde Formation of Namibia, which is also thought to be Middle Triassic by correlations based on the tetrapod taxa shared with southern Brazil (26). The new dates also imply greater uncertainty for the ages of other putative Middle Triassic vertebrate assemblages from South Africa (Cynognathus Assemblage Zone), Zambia (Ntawere Formation), Tanzania (Manda Formation), and Antarctica (upper Fremouw Formation). These assemblages have been particularly influential in the discussion of the origin of dinosauromorphs (15, 33), and Triassic biotic provincialization after the end-Permian mass extinction in southern Pangea (13). The Zambian, Tanzanian, and Antarctic assemblages are all correlated to the South African Karoo Basin record using vertebrate biostratigraphy, yet all of these sequences (including the Karoo Basin) are devoid of both published radioisotopic dates and other independent criteria for assessing their age. The Carnian age for the Chañares fauna increase the likelihood that some or all of these assemblages are erroneously dated, and may actually be Carnian in age. This scenario is supported by the recent case of the Argentinian Puesto Viejo Group, traditionally considered to be early Middle Triassic (Cynognathus Assemblage Zone) in age based on biostratigraphic correlations with the Karoo Basin, where a new sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP) U–Pb age suggests the vertebrate assemblages are, instead, early Carnian in age (16), and thus approximately equivalent to that of the Chañares Formation. If supported by future additional dating of other putative Middle Triassic strata, such as the Manda and Ntawere formations, these new data suggest that evidence for biotic provinciality in Gondwana (13) may instead reflect either different ages across the basins, or that all are Late Triassic in age and have little to do with documenting the recovery from the end-Permian mass extinction in southern Pangea. Accordingly, our new high-precision ages highlight the great uncertainty involved in fine-scale stratigraphic correlations of disjunct regions when relying only on biostratigraphic data. Biostratigraphically independent age constraints are essential for robust testing of macroevolutionary and biogeographic hypotheses in the fossil record.

The Origin of Dinosaurs in Gondwana

The new age constraints for the Chañares Formation, along with existing age data for the overlying dinosaur-bearing Ischigualasto and Los Colorados formations (21, 24, 25), provide the basis for the first attempt to construct a robust framework for calibrating the timing of macroevolutionary patterns related to the origin and early diversification of dinosaurs in Gondwana. The new results presented herein suggest that the closest relatives of dinosaurs had diversified by the start of the Late Triassic, ∼236 Ma, as represented by the basal dinosauriforms Marasuchus, Pseudolagosuchus, and Lewisuchus. The transition to communities containing the first dinosaurs occurred in less than a 5-million year interval, based on unambiguous dinosaur body fossils dated to 231.4 Ma from the lower part of the Ischigualasto Formation (21, 25). Possible early dinosaur footprints from the intervening Los Rastros Formation suggest that the origin of dinosaurs could have been even older (34). Footprints attributed to early dinosauromorphs from the Early–Middle Triassic of Poland were used to pull the origin of the group to the beginning of the Triassic (35). Nevertheless, the positive identification of dinosauromorph derived character states (i.e., apomorphies) in these footprints is controversial (5, 14), and in any case, these strata have not been radioisotopically dated. In the present context, robust geochronologic and paleontologic evidence does not currently exist to extend the fossil record of dinosauromorphs beyond the base of the Late Triassic, but additional precise radioisotopic age constraints from different basins across Pangea are necessary to confirm this.

The new scenario presented herein suggests a relatively rapid origin of dinosaurs in the high latitudes of Gondwana, thus halving the temporal gap between assemblages containing only dinosaur precursors and those with early dinosaurs. This temporal framework, combined with our new synthesis of paleoecological data (Fig. 3; SI Appendix), suggests there was little compositional difference between the Chañares assemblage and the earliest dinosaur assemblage from the lower part of the Ischigualasto succession; in both, dinosauromorphs (including dinosaurs) are a minority in terms of both species richness and relative abundance, with synapsids still dominant. Only ∼15 million years later, during the deposition of the upper section of the Los Colorados Formation, do dinosaurs begin to dominate, where they are both numerically abundant and taxonomically and morphologically diverse (24, 36). Nonetheless, dinosaurs did gradually diversify and take over in these areas during the Late Triassic, which is in striking contrast to low-latitude Laurasian faunas, where dinosaurs were rare and species poor until the start of the Jurassic Period (4, 10, 37). Accordingly, the origin of dinosaurs did not immediately cause a major shift in ecosystem composition and function at least in the high-latitude tetrapod communities of Gondwana, where they first became dominant. Moreover, these results, along with the delayed rise of dinosaurs in the tropics (38), would reinforce the conclusion that it is unlikely that there was one cause for dinosaurian success and their subsequent dominance. After their origin and rapid initial diversification, dinosaurs were likely part of a gradual evolutionary process that involved several other contingencies, such as climatic change and the end-Triassic extinction of other tetrapod clades, which led to the ultimate global success of the group for the rest of the Mesozoic Era.

Methods

All samples were taken from fresh and unweathered in situ rock in stratigraphically extensive exposures that are directly correlative to previously published stratigraphic work (SI Appendix). Zircons were isolated using standard mineral separation techniques. Sample ZR11 was first analyzed using the LA-ICPMS technique; the youngest crystals in this analysis were subsequently analyzed using isotope dilution (ID)-TIMS (SI Appendix). Sample RBI12/CN-R7 was only analyzed using ID-TIMS. Before ID-TIMS analysis, zircons were chemically abraded and thermally annealed to remove potential zones of Pb loss (SI Appendix). Detailed analytical data for the LA-ICPMS and ID-TIMS analyses are presented in SI Appendix, Tables S2 and S3. Paleoecological data in Fig. 3 were compiled from the peer-reviewed literature; data and sources are presented in SI Appendix.

Acknowledgments

We thank R. M. H. Smith and D. Pol for reading of the manuscript and critical discussion. Financial support was provided by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for analyses at the Berkeley Geochronology Center (R.M.); Grants UBACyT 20020130100370 (to C.A.M.), PIP CONICET 0209/10 (to A.C.M.), and CNPq 304045/2010-1 (to F.C.); and the University of Utah (R.B.I.). This article is contribution R-161 by C.A.M. to the Instituto de Estudios Andinos “Don Pablo Groeber.”


Claudia A. Marsicano, Randall B. Irmis, Adriana C. Mancuso, Roland Mundil, and Farid Chemale

PNAS January 19, 2016. 113 (3) 509-513; published ahead of print December 7, 2015. Dinosaurs

Edited by Paul E. Olsen, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, and approved November 6, 2015 (received for review June 25, 2015)


Original article: The Precise Temporal Calibration of Dinosaur Origins

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Cosmos Designed for Eradication of Evil (Hugh Ross, PhD)

A Genetically Engineered Case for a Creator

Since the 1960’s, the drug noscapine has been used in many parts of the world as a non-narcotic cough-suppressant. Recently, biomedical researchers have learned that that noscapine (and chemically-modified derivatives of this drug) has potential as a cancer drug. And that is nothing to sneeze at.

The use of the drug for nearly a half century as a cough suppressant means the safety of noscapine has already been established. In fact, pre-clinical studies indicate that noscapine has fewer side effects than many anti-cancer drugs.

Unfortunately, the source of noscapine is opium poppies. Even though tens of tons of noscapine is isolated each year from thousands of tons of raw plant material, biochemical engineers question if the agricultural supply line can meet the extra demand if noscapine finds use as an anti-cancer agent. Estimates indicate that the amounts of noscapine needed for cancer treatments would be about ten times the amount currently produced for its use as a cough suppressant. Complicating matters are the extensive regulations and bureaucratic red tape associated with growing poppy plants and extracting chemical materials from them.

It takes about 1 year to grow mature poppy plants. And once grown, the process of isolating pure noscapine is time intensive and expensive. This drug has to be separated from narcotics and other chemicals found in the opium extract, and then purified. Because poppy plants are an agricultural product, considerable batch-to-batch variation occurs for noscapine supplies.

Chemists have developed synthetic routes to make noscapine. But, these chemical routes are too complex and costly to scale up for large scale production of this drug.

But, researchers from Stanford University believe that they have come up with a solution to the noscapine supply problem. They have genetically engineered brewer’s yeast to produce large quantities of noscapine.1 This work demonstrates the power of synthetic biology to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. But, the importance of this work extends beyond science and technology. This work has significant theological implications, as well. This work provides empirical proof that intelligent agency is necessary for the large-scale transformation of life forms.

Genetically Engineered Yeast

To modify brewer’s yeast to produce noscapine, the Stanford University research team had to: 1) first, construct a biosynthetic pathway that would convert simple carbon- and nitrogen-containing compounds into noscapine, and then, 2) add genes to the yeast’s genome that would produce the enzymes needed to carry out this transformation. Specifically, they added 25 genes from plants, bacteria, and mammals to this microbe’s genome. On top of the gene additions, they also had to modify 6 of genes in the yeast’s genome.

Biosynthetic pathways that yield complex molecules such as noscapine can be rather elaborate. Enzymes form these pathways. These protein machines bind molecules and convert them into new materials by facilitating chemical reactions. In biosynthetic pathways the starting molecule is modified by the first enzyme in the pathway and after its transformation is shuttled to the second enzyme in the pathway. This process continues until the original molecule is converted step-by-step into the final product.

Designing a biosynthetic route from scratch would be nearly impossible. Fortunately, the team from Stanford took advantage of previous work done by other life scientists who have characterized the metabolic reactions that produce noscapine in opium poppies. These pioneering researchers have identified a cluster of 10 genes that encode enzymes that work collaboratively to convert the compound scoulerine to noscapine.

The Stanford University researchers used these 10 poppy genes as the basis for the noscapine biosynthetic route they designed. They expanded this biosynthetic pathway by using genes that encode for the enzymes that convert glucose into reticuline. This compound is converted into scoulerine by the berberine bridge enzyme. They discovered that the conversion of glucose to reticuline is tricky, because one of the intermediary compounds in the pathway is dopamine. Life scientists don’t have a good understanding how this compound is made in poppies, so they used the genes that encode the enzymes to make dopamine from rats.

They discovered that when they added all of these genes into the yeast, these modified microbes produced noscapine, but at very low levels. At this point, the research team carried out a series of steps to optimize noscapine production, which included:

  • Genetically altering some of the enzymes in the noscapine biosynthetic pathway to improve their efficiency
  • Manipulating other metabolic pathways (by altering the expression of the genes that encode enzymes in these metabolic routes) to divert the maximum amounts of metabolic intermediates into the newly constructed noscapine pathway
  • Varying the media used to grow the yeast

These steps led to an 18,000-fold improvement in noscapine production.

With accomplishment, the scientific community is one step closer to have a commercially-viable source of noscapine.

Synthetic Biology and the Case for a Creator

Without question, the engineering of brewer’s yeast to produce noscapine is science at its very best. The level of ingenuity displayed by the research team from Stanford University is something to behold. And, it is for this reason, I maintain that this accomplishment (along with other work in synthetic biology) provides empirical evidence that a Creator must play a role in the origin, history, and design of life.

In short, these researchers demonstrated that intelligent agency is required to originate new metabolic capabilities in an organism. This work also illustrates the level of ingenuity required to optimize a metabolic pathway once it is in place.

Relying on hundreds of years of scientific knowledge, these researchers rationally designed the novel noscapine metabolic pathway. Then, they developed an elaborate experimental strategy to introduce this pathway in yeast. And then, it took highly educated and skilled molecular biologists to go in the lab to carry out the experimental strategy, under highly controlled conditions, using equipment that itself was designed. And, afterwards, the researchers employed rational design strategies to optimize the noscapine production.

Given the amount of insight, ingenuity, and skill it took to engineer and optimize the metabolic pathway for noscapine in yeast, is it reasonable to think that unguided, undirected, historically contingent evolutionary processes produced life’s metabolic processes?

Original article: A Genetically Engineered Case for a Creator

State of Israel Began May 14, 1948

ancient israel

On midnight, May14, 1948, the State of Israel came into being and was immediately recognized by the United States and the Soviet Union.

A homeland for the thousands of Jews who were persecuted and displaced during World War II, Israel was attacked the next day by the Transjordanian Army, the Arab Legion, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Against all odds, Israel survived.

The Armistice between Israel and her enemies was negotiated by Ralph Bunche, the first African American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1947, Ralph Bunche set up a meeting between two members of UNSCOP and Menachem Begin, the leader of the Irgun Jewish underground.

As he was leaving Begin’s hideout, Ralph Bunche told the future Israeli Prime Minister:

“I can understand you. I am also a member of a persecuted minority.”

Richard Crossman of Britain asked Bunche if his exposure to the Jews had made him anti-Semitic “yet.”

Ralph Bunche answered:

“That would be impossible … I know the flavor of racial prejudice and racial persecution. A wise Negro can never be an anti-Semite.”

President Harry S Truman sent a telegram to the President of Israel, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, President of the Provisional Council of State, Tel Aviv, October 2, 1948:

“On this your first New Year’s Eve as President of the Provisional Council of the State of Israel I send you warm personal greetings and congratulations.

May the New Year bring peace to Israel and to its citizens the opportunity to dedicate themselves in tranquility to furthering the prosperity of their country.”

On November 29, 1948, President Harry S Truman wrote to Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel:

“I want to tell you how happy and impressed I have been at the remarkable progress made by the new State of Israel.”

Truman added:

“I remember well our conversations about the Negeb … and I deplore any attempt to take it away from Israel.

I had thought that my position would have been clear to all the world, particularly in the light of the specific wording of the Democratic Party platform.”

The 1948 Democrat Party Platform stated:

“President Truman, by granting immediate recognition to Israel, led the world in extending friendship and welcome to a people who have long sought and justly deserve freedom and independence.

We pledge full recognition to the State of Israel.

We affirm our pride that the United States under the leadership of President Truman played a leading role in the adoption of the resolution of November 29, 1947, by the United Nations General Assembly for the creation of a Jewish State.

We approve the claims of the State of Israel to the boundaries set forth in the United Nations resolution of November 29th and consider that modifications thereof should be made only if fully acceptable to the State of Israel.

We look forward to the admission of the State of Israel to the United Nations and its full participation in the international community of nations.

We pledge appropriate aid to the State of Israel in developing its economy and resources.

We favor the revision of the arms embargo to accord to the State of Israel the right of self-defense.”

President Harry S Truman continued his letter to Israel’s President Dr. Chaim Weizmann, November 29, 1948:

“I have interpreted my re-election as a mandate from the American people to carry out the Democratic platform — including, of course, the plank on Israel.”

Democrat President John F. Kennedy remarked opening the Ouachita National Forest Road at Big Cedar, Oklahoma, October 29, 1961:

“We take our lesson … from the Bible and the story of Nehemiah, which tells us that when the children of Israel returned from captivity they determined to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, in spite of the threats of the enemy.

The wall was built and the peace was preserved. But it was written, ‘Of them that built on the wall … with one of his hands he did the work, and with the other he held the sword.’”

Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson stated in 1968:

“America and Israel have a common love of human freedom and a democratic way of life …

Through the centuries, through dispersion and through very grievous trials, your forefathers clung to their Jewish identity and their ties with the land of Israel.

The prophet Isaiah foretold, ‘And He shall set up an ensign for the nations and He shall assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather together the dispersed of Judah from all the four corners of the earth’ …

History knows no more moving example of persistence against the cruelest odds.”

Ancient Israel came out of Egypt, around 1,400 BC and entered the Promised Land.

For the next 400 years, the Children of Israel were the first well-recorded instance in history of a nation ruled without a king.

This was a model for America’s founders.

After the U.S. Constitution was written, it needed to be ratified by nine states to go into effect.

In early 1788, eight states had ratified it, and New Hampshire was in line to be the ninth, but disagreements caused its Ratifying Convention to be adjourned in February of that year.

After the annual day of fasting, set by New Hampshire’s Governor, state delegates reconvened in June of 1788.

They listened to an address on June 5, 1788, by Harvard President Rev. Samuel Langdon, titled “The Republic of the Israelites an Example to the American States.”

Afterwards, New Hampshire delegates voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution, and being the ninth state to do so, put it into effect.

In his address, Samuel Langdon stated:

“Instead of the twelve tribes of ISRAEL, we may substitute the thirteen states of the American union, and see this application plainly …

That as God in the course of his kind providence hath given you an excellent Constitution of government, founded on the most rational, equitable, and liberal principles, by which all that liberty is secured …

and you are impowered to make righteous laws for promoting public order and good morals; and as he has moreover given you by his Son Jesus Christ … a complete revelation of his will … it will be your wisdom … to … adhere faithfully to the doctrines and commands of the gospel, and practice every public and private virtue …”

Langdon continued:

“The ISRAELITES may be considered as a pattern to the world in all ages … Government … on republican principles, required laws; without which it must have degenerated immediately into … absolute monarchy …

How unexampled was this quick progress of the ISRAELITES, from abject slavery, ignorance, and almost total want of order, to a national establishment perfected in all its parts far beyond all other kingdoms and states!

From a mere mob, to a well regulated nation, under a government and laws far superior to what any other nation could boast! …”

Langdon concluded:

“It was a long time after the law of Moses was given before the rest of the world knew any thing of government by law …

It was six hundred years after Moses before … Grecian republics received a very imperfect … code of laws from Lycurgus.

It was about five hundred years from the first founding of the celebrated Roman empire … before the first laws of that empire.”

ANCIENT ISRAEL is highlighted in the NEW BOOK Who is the King in America? And Who are the Counselors to the King? An Overview of 6,000 Years of History & Why America is Unique

What was the Republic of the Ancient Israelites?

  • ISRAEL was the first well-recorded instance of an entire nation ruled without a king.
  • In ISRAEL, everyone was equal under the Law. There was no royal family to pay obeisance to at this time. This was the beginning of the concept of equality.
  • In ISRAEL, everyone, both male and female, was made in the image of the Creator, possessing God-given rights which no government could take away. It was the responsibility of government to guarantee individual rights.
    Deuteronomy 1:17 “Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great.”
  • ISRAEL had relatively few laws, as citizens were accountable to God to treat each other fairly.
    Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
  • ISRAEL treated non-Israelites as equals, though the immigrants had to abide by the Law.
    Leviticus 19:34 “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God.”
  • ISRAEL was tolerant. Though convinced they were worshiping the only true God, they never waged war to force other nations to accept Him, nor did they force non-Israelites living within their borders to convert.

    John Locke wrote in A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689):

    “Foreigners and such as were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel were not compelled by force to observe the rites of the Mosaical law… We find not one man forced into the Jewish religion and the worship of the true God…If any one … desired to be made a denizen [citizen] of their commonwealth … to embrace their religion … this he did willingly, on his own accord, not by constraint.”

  • ISRAEL had a system of honesty, thus providing a basis for commerce.
    Leviticus 19:36 “Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have.”
    Proverbs 11:1 “A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.”
  • In ISRAEL, land was permanently titled to the families. This contrasted with most of the world, where kings granted land to loyal vassals, or as in Egypt, where the pharaohs owned the land. Israel called it the Promised “Land” because the people actually owned title to their land. This prevented a dictator from gathering up the land and putting the people back into slavery. If a person owned land, they could accumulate possessions. The Bible called this being “blessed”; Karl Marx called it being a “capitalist.”
  • ISRAEL had a bureaucracy-free welfare system. When someone harvested their field, they left the gleanings for the poor. This way, the poor were taken care of without some political leader collecting everything and doling it back out to those who could help him stay in power.
  • ISRAEL had no police. Everyone was taught the Law, and everyone was personally accountable to enforce it. It was as if everyone in the nation was “deputized.”
  • ISRAEL had no prisons. The Law required swift justice at the “gates of the city” and a “city of refuge” where fugitives could flee to await trial.
  • ISRAEL had no standing army, as every man was in the militia, armed, and ready at a moment’s notice to defend his family and community.
  • ISRAEL was the first nation where everyone was taught to read. At the time in history when Moses and the Children of Israel left Egypt:
    1. the Hittite language had 375 cuneiform characters;
    2. the Indus Valley Harappan language had 417 symbols;
    3. the Luwian language of Anatolian had over 500 logographic hieroglyphs;
    4. the Akkadian language in Mesopotamia had over 1,500 Sumerian cuneiform characters;
    5. the Egyptian language had over 3,000 hieroglyphic characters;
    6. the Chinese language had nearly 10,000 pictogram and ideogram characters, invented by scribes of China’s Yellow Emperor.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he not only had the Ten Commandments, but he had them in a 22 character alphabet. (“aleph” is the first letter in Hebrew and “beth” is the second).

With so few characters, everyone could learn to read, even children.

Israel’s priests and Levites taught the Law, and also taught the people how to read it for themselves. It was not just a privilege to read it, they were required to, as the law was addressed to each person who was personally accountable to God obey it.

In Ancient Egypt, the literacy rate was less than one percent. The National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece, in its section on Egyptian Artifacts, has a display on “Scribes,” stating:

“Only a small percentage of ancient Egypt’s population was literate, namely the pharaoh, members of the royal family, officials, priests and scribes.”

Scribes wrote on stone or clay sherds, wooden boards, linen, papyrus, and parchment. Scribes kept writing complicated to enhance their job security. It was their secret knowledge. They were needed to decipher the cryptic hieroglyphs.

The ruling class used complicated writing to maintain control over uneducated masses. Anthropologist Claude Levi Strauss (1908-2009), wrote:

“Ancient writing’s main function was to facilitate the enslavement of other human beings.”

George Orwell wrote in Nineteen Eighty-Four:

“In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.”

  • In ISRAEL, the people chose their own leaders. Honest elections allowed for government by the consent of the governed.

    Deuteronomy 1:3-13: “Moses spoke unto the children of Israel … How can I myself alone bear your … burden … TAKE YOU wise men, and understanding, and KNOWN AMONG YOUR TRIBES, and I will make them rulers over you.”

    Deuteronomy 16:18-19: “Judges and officers SHALT THOU MAKE THEE IN ALL THY GATES which the Lord thy God giveth thee throughout thy tribes.”

    Exodus 18:21 stated: “Moreover thou shalt provide OUT OF ALL THE PEOPLE able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.”

    Rather than a pyramid style, top-down form of government where the king’s will is law, Israel had a bottom-up form of government, like a living tree drawing nutrients from the roots, where every cell contributes to its growth.

    Anyone could be raised to leadership, as there was no hereditary monarchy: Jephthah was the son of a prostitute; Gideon was from an obscure family; and Deborah was a just and courageous woman who knew the Law.

Israel was truly unique. E.C. Wines wrote in Commentaries on the Laws of the Ancient Hebrews, with an Introductory Essay on Civil Society & Government (NY: Geo. P. Putnam & Co., 1853):

“Menes in Egypt; Minos in Crete; Cadmus in Thebes; Lycurgus in Sparta; Zaleucus in Locris; and Numa in Rome. But … Moses differed fundamentally from … these heathen legislators …

Moses’ … national unity … was not that species of unity, which the world has since so often seen, in which vast multitudes of human beings are delivered up to the arbitrary will of one man.

It was a unity, effected by the abolition of caste; a unity, founded on the principle of equal rights; a unity, in which the whole people formed the state.”

In regards to Israel, former Democrat President Jimmy Carter stated in his book, Keeping the Faith-Memoirs of a President (published 1982, p. 274):

“The Judeo-Christian ethic and study of the Bible were bonds between Jews and Christians which had always been part of my life.

I also believed very deeply that the Jews who had survived the Holocaust deserved their own nation, and that they had a right to live in peace among their neighbors.

I considered this homeland for the Jews to be compatible with the teachings of the Bible, hence ordained by God. These moral and religious beliefs made my commitment to the security of Israel unshakable.”

On March 23, 1982, to the National Conference of Christians and Jews, New York, President Ronald Reagan stated:

“A strong, credible America is also an indispensable incentive for a peaceful resolution of differences between Israel and her neighbors.

America has never flinched from its commitment to the State of Israel-a commitment which remains unshakable.”

On December 10, 2001, President George Bush remarked at the White House Lighting of the Menorah:

“And as God promised Abraham, the people of Israel still live … America and Israel have been through much together …

We’re reminded of the ancient story of Israel’s courage and of the power of faith to make the darkness bright.

We can see the heroic spirit of the Maccabees lives on in Israel today.”

In April 3, 2002, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay mentioned Israel in an address at Westminster College:

“No one can ignore the horrible aggression in the Middle East … The State of Israel has been targeted by groups committed to her complete elimination.

And on the basis of our shared principles and democratic values, America has an undeniable obligation to stand squarely with our democratic ally against those attempting to end the State of Israel …

The State of Israel has fought five major wars to defend its right to exist since 1948 …”

Congressman DeLay continued:

“Israel and America are kindred nations. The founders of both countries were profoundly influenced by faith.

Both countries drafted governments that practice religious tolerance …

Both countries are filled with immigrants summoned by dreams. For people fleeing the storms of persecution, both countries have been safe harbors …”

Congressman DeLay concluded:

“No one should expect the people of Israel to negotiate with groups pursuing the fundamental goal of destroying them …

America has a clear duty to stand beside a democratic ally that is besieged by terrorists …

The terrorists attempting to destroy the State of Israel should know that America will never allow that to happen.”

Original article: State of Israel Began May 14, 1948.