A STUDY OF FREEMASONRY
God alone knows precisely how old the art and practice of Freemasonry are. Certainly the individual Lodge is the prime unit of Freemasonry. We know today that in Florida no less than twelve Master Masons can join together to form a Regular Lodge. Whether this has been true from the beginning of Freemasonry we cannot say, but we do know that all the ancient and established usages and customs of the Fraternity have been faithfully and carefully preserved. To fix this more firmly in our minds we have only to converse with visiting brethren from around the world or read the reports of our Sovereign Grand Commander as he tells of Freemasonry in other countries. The ceremonies of Freemasonry never change no matter where you go.
Within the Fraternity there are the doubting Thomases, the probers, and searchers who cannot believe until the naked proof is presented to them. Along with them are the lovers of the Craft who are continually trying to enlighten their brethren concerning the Fraternity.
In connection with this study of the Craft, a wise Masonic churchman said that it might be helpful to start as near the beginning as possible. Then the question arises, where is the beginning? This is a logical question and deserves honest study. As is generally known among Masons the ordinary calendar is not generally used by Freemasons in dating their official documents. They have one peculiar to themselves, differing among their various rites. Blue Lodge Masons date their documents by adding 4,000 ye ars to the Christian era and calling it Anno Lucis or Year of Light, using the abbreviation A.L. before the date recorded. This is known as Ussher's Chronology. It came into being in Armagh, Northern Ireland, about A.D. 1650 and was first used in Biblical computation in 1701. Hence, the Speculative Masons and not the Operative Masons gave Masonry this chronology.
Certainly it would be neither wise nor fair to Masonry to use this chronology, even though it is now in general use among Free and Accepted Masons. What then can be considered as a good starting place? To go before recorded history leads only to fragmentary evidence and gives rise to doubts and speculative questions.
It is known that outside the sphere of recorded events there grew up in the ever-expanding and ever-apostatizing nations all kinds of gross pantheistic, idolatrous, and absurd traditions. This has caused some of the great traditions of Freemasonry to be questioned, among them the Hiramic Tradition. Let us then use this incident as a starting place for our research.
Upon being initiated, we are told that Lodges were anciently dedicated to King Solomon, as he was our first Most Excellent Grand Master, although in reality there is no record of the existence of Masonic Grand Jurisdictions at or before the time of King Solomon.
Josephus is known for his reliability and the Masoretes are noted for their careful preservation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Examination of the Masorah text reveals that Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons: and they built David an house." The word used to describe masons in this passage is the same word used to describe Tubal-cain, that first well-known artificer in brass and other metals. Hence, we know that operative masons were well - established from t he time of Tubal-cain to the time of Hiram, king of Tyre. Josephus relates that Hirom, king of Tyre, was a great builder and had close relations with King Solomon concerning problems which were of mutual interest. This tends to confirm the belief that there was some close Masonic tie between them.
Further, a passage in the First Book of Kings reads as follows:
And it came to pass at the end of twenty years, when Solomon had built the two houses, the house of the Lord, and the king's house, (Now Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar trees and fir frees, and with gold, according to all his desire,) that then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee. And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him; and they pleased him not. And he said, What cities are these which thou hast given me, my brother? And he called them the land of Cabul unto this day. And Hiram sent to the king sixscore talents of gold.
Notice here the close relationship which Hiram had with Solomon - "according to all his desire" plus the fact that even in his displeasure about the cities he called Solomon "my brother." This is no accident on the part of the writer, because there is another Hebrew word used for "brother" which also means "friend." The relationship was obviously upon more than a friendly basis and could have been on a Masonic basis.
Further evidence of this possible Masonic relationship is given in regard to the name of Hiram. Some confusion exists as to the actual form of the name. Josephus calls it Hirom; in the Biblical account it occurs as Hiram and Huram. Philologists claim that the name is undoubtedly Phoenician, and is equivalent to Ahiram which means "brother of the exalted one" or "brother is exalted." Names of this type are especially common in Phoenician, such as Abibaal and Abiram. Similar instances of the dropping of t he initial letter Aleph occur in Hebrew and in Phoenician. This gives added reason to believe that there existed a strong Masonic relationship, for Hiram was not a blood relative of Solomon, and also that the tribe of Asher did not conquer the Phoenicians and bring them into subjection when the Hebrews entered their land.
Examining the etymology of the name, one ends that it means "free-born or noble." This gives added evidence of a Masonic connection, for in those days only operative masons were free to come and go and receive wages, the remainder of the workmen were bondsmen or serfs who received no wages and were under a taskmaster, an arrangement that continued on beyond Solomon's day. However, Solomon and Hiram must have had a "brotherly covenant" which was later forgotten by their progenitors. Such evidence seems over whelmingly to indicate a Masonic relationship.
With the addition of the artificer named Hiram Abif, we find a three fold Masonic relationship. The Hebrew writer describes all the qualities of an operative mason in telling about Hiram Abif. Hiram Abif was the son of a mason who had died and left a widow. Solomon was particularly concerned in employing this Masonic brother and gave to him the important task of making the two brazen pillars called Jachin and Boaz. Certainly no profane artisan would understand the importance which King Solomon placed upon these two pillars.
Most Biblical writers have been confused concerning the name Hiram Abi. The early translators gave it a genitive meaning of "my father" or "his father." The Revised Standard Version has rendered his name as Huramabi, which is a transliteration of the Hebrew. This helps to give meaning in English, but it still does not explain the character of Hiram or that in Hebrew there are two names, Huram and Abi, with Huram preceded by a Lamed.
For the profane translator this is confusing, but for one with a Masonic background the confusion is easily resolved, Hiram is a man of eminence and the principal architect sent by King Hiram to King Solomon. He is called Huram in the Second Book of Chronicles, where he also has the title "Ab" (master) given to him. Thus there was a Masonic triumvirate at the building of the Temple.
There is not much more said concerning Hiram Abif than that he helped with the building of the Temple. However, there is good reason to believe that King Solomon performed other work which included Hiram Abif. In the First Book of Kings we read as follows: "And the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, and they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?" It seems that there was a book called The Acts of Solomon which has now vanished. How long this book existed and what it contained is unknown. Certainly the tradition of Hiram Abif must have been included because of the strong Masonic relationship which existed between King Solomon, King Hiram of Tyre, and Hiram Abif of Tyre. More than this would be open to conjecture because of insufficient facts. It might well be, however, that the Hiramic Tradition is genuine and was transmitted to us, the "speculatives," from the "operative" period.