Sunday, October 26, 2008

For Learner

I'll add to this as I can, but you can start with this blog post I wrote a while back.

I'm not certain how well written it is or if it is viable - the only comment I got on it was from a guy who knows very little about scripture and christianity =p

I do like studying world religions. Islam is not mentioned in this because it is not an ancient world religion and, in fact, adopted heavily from Judaic history in its religious formation (again, Islam was first introduced around 600 c.e - 400 years before the crusades began).

All Those Roads

Zoroastrianism - Wikipedia
Lists the tenets of zoroastrianism as belief in one universal and transcendental God, the uncreated creator to whome all worship is directed.

Ahura Mazda's creation is truth and order.

Active participation in life is essential to ensure happiness and to keep "chaos at bay" - meaning actively participating in good thoughts, good words, and good deeds (sounds a lot like something christianity teaches, though not worded quite the same way)

Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail, at which point the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end. At the end of time, a savior figure will bring about a final renovation of the world, in which the dead will be revived.

History of Zoroastrianism

This site gives a very brief history of Zoroastrianism. I guess I'm more prone to fall in line with conservative zoroastrians in that I think there was some of this theology alive and well in the Babylonian Empire at the time of Israel's exile there (time of Daniel). Like I say in my post, this is when apocalyptic writings are first introduced and it's also about this time that I think the idea of a savior is introduced into hebrew writings... even though the wording in the pentateuch is very "plural" when referring to God.

Overall, Zoroastrianism more closely resembles Christianity out of any other world religion. I realize this doesn't make it true, but it still holds that Judaism probably learned a lot from it. And given my post, I think you'll understand where I go from there =p

I guess something else I should add so you get a better idea of why I'm going here with this -

I strongly believe that the location of Israel is strategic. For such a small and "insignificant" nation, it has been exposed to the greatest civilizations of histroy...and they all knew about Israel. I strongly believe that God chose this spot for Israel so that he could display for the rest of the world what he was all about through his covenant with Israel. And I think that is what actually happened.

However, I also think putting Israel in that location also provided Israel with exposure to other peoples and their beliefs. Especially during Exile - first with Egypt, several times with Babylon, and again with Persia. The nature of Judaism never really changed - it maintained itself when surrounded by Asher, Baal, Ra, and Isis. However, it still managed to pick up some crucial elements...and I don't think it was by accident.

9 comments:

The Learner said...

Thanks Christina :)

Very interesting. Ancient history is one of those subjects that when I get a little more space in my brain that I think I would enjoy learning more about. The sum total of my knowledge about zoroastrianism prior to reading this was that Freddie Mercury of Queen was zoroastrian lol.

I guess my question about all of that is this: I have been taught that the first reference to the Messiah in the OT is in Genesis 3:15 (written by Moses between 1400-1500BC). Wouldn't that predate this Zoroaster dude? Though I guess that depends on which date you assign to the origin of zoroastrianism.

I think you would really like this book titled "Eternity in Their Hearts" by Don Richardson. He talks about this idea that God reveals himself to us all, even outside of the scripture, and gives many examples of this from missions work.

The Learner said...

I forgot to mention that Don Richardson also wrote a book titled "The Peace Child" where he gives an extended example of the idea that God plants truth about Himself within us and that truth can be seen in other cultures and religions. In "The Peace Child" (or it may be just "Peace Child") he tells the story of how two waring tribes (I believe in some place like New Ginea)would make peace by giving the infant son of one tribe's chief to the other tribe's chief. After struggling for years to explain the gospel to these people Richardson was able to use this concept of the "peace child" to draw a parallel to the gospel that they could understand- the sacrifice of the chief's son (not death sacrifice, but the loss of the son).

SellCivilizationShort said...

All right, but let's not forget what the God of the Old Testament said about Israel.

I'll have to do some research to give you exact citations, but I seem to recall a lot of minor prophets who castigated Israel for violating the covenant. I don't recall what Isaiah said off-hand, I need to look it up.

So possibly the impression God has of the nation of Israel is less than favorable.

The Christian scholarship on this ... excuse me, I've got an emergency here, I'll continue later.

Christina said...

Learner,

That Don Richardson sounds like exactly the guy I need to be reading up on :)

His use of culture to demonstrate God's truth is actually how I kinda expected to use the information in "All Those Roads". Here's something they understand and get...so how can I go from here to the complete truth of Christ?

Ancient History is by far my favorite subject :) I loved it...wanted to major in it...and would have if my dad didn't convince me to try out math =p Turns out I'm pretty good at math so I stuck with it =p

SCS,

Yeah, Israel had some issues...not gonna deny that. However, God DID use them as an example to the world.

In the large scheme of things, we are all Israel - we all have our issues but God created a covenant with us anyway.

I'm interested in what else you have to say =p

The Learner said...

Christina,

The Don Richardson books are great, I'd loan them to you if you didn't live so far away from me :)

SellCivilizationShort said...

As I was saying ... Christian scholarship on the topic of Israel's disobedience to God varies widely, changes over time, and is highly subject to fads and fashions.

Let us take the premise that Israel is meant as an example, and add to it the widely acknowledged fact that there was some polytheism in Israel which did not please the God of the Old Testament.

The next question is: was Judaism entirely monotheistic at its core, or was it, at root, polytheistic? I.e., was there some polytheism in Israel that was absolutely fundamental to the nation/religion of Judaism?

Christian scholarship (before modern archaeology) was well aware that Elohim sometimes gets translated as "God," i.e. the one, unique, Lord God. However, whenever translators feel like it, they translate the same word as other things -- "gods," "spirits," etc. When the witch of Endor summons elohim, no one can figure out if she's summoning gods, ghosts, spirits, dead prophets, etc.

This was not a big problem for most Christians. After all, most Christians acknowledge that the pagan trinities were foreshadowings of the True Trinity, revealed in the Gospels. And when God created man, in the divine image and likeness, "male and female he created him." Thus Christians were not upset if God had a female person -- in fact the Holy Spirit was sometimes represented as female. Further, Christians did not mind if Judaism was considered henotheistic, because Christians could still claim that they were every bit as monotheistic as Akhenaten, Plato, Kleanthes and Epimenides.

Note that the philosophical notion of an omnipresent, universal god was invented by pagans. You can credit Ahkenaten for monotheism, you can claim that Epimenides was the first universalist, but there is no textual case for a universal god known to the writers of the Old Testament.

This didn't slow the Christians down. Of course the Old Testament writers were frail and foolish mortals who could not comprehend, but that didn't matter, because Jesus understood his Father's universality, so in fact the Old Testament God understood his own universality. And if he chose to confide this universality to the Egyptians and Greeks, not the Jews, that was fine, because Christians didn't mind if the Jews weren't the best religion/race on earth.

This became a problem when Islam entered the scene. Arabs and Jews can argue that they have a common heritage. (Whether medical science supports this view is another question.) Muhammed's followers were very interested in saying that their religion had all the good points of Judaism, all the exclusive bragging rights. And thus the pagan origin of monotheism became a politically incorrect point.

In the intervening centuries, Judaism was able to play Islam and Christianity off one another and gain a lot of publicity coups. They claimed, at some points, to have invented monotheism, but the evidence against that was a bit too much. So they claimed -- and many people still accept -- that they invented ethical monotheism. However, this opens them to the question, "If you invented it, why couldn't you figure out how to stick with it? Why did you keep running away from it and forcing God to send prophets to scold you? And even if you had it in the past, how do you know you've got it now?"

The Christian scholarship on these points is subject to fads and fashions. Of late, particularly silly scholars have been grabbing headlines. The solution is to master the classic issues of the field and then look at the modern stuff from the perspective of history.

SellCivilizationShort said...

I keep seeing a citation by Wheless claiming that the Roman Catholics teach that Zoroastrianism is a divinely inspired monotheism. I don't have an exact citation, but google reveals a more general claim at

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12738a.htm

"The beginnings of religion go back to remote prehistoric time. In the absence of positive, historic data, the question of the origin of religion admits only of a speculative answer. It is Catholic teaching that primitive religion was a Divinely revealed Monotheism. This was an anticipation and a perfection of the notion of religion, which man from the beginning was naturally capable of acquiring. Religion, like morality, has apart from revelation a natural basis or origin. It is the outcome of the use of reason, though, without the corrective influence of revelation, it is very apt to be misconceived and distorted."

The Learner said...

SellCivilizationShort,

I am not a formal student of theology so please forgive me if this is a duh! sort of question. You said:

Note that the philosophical notion of an omnipresent, universal god was invented by pagans. You can credit Ahkenaten for monotheism, you can claim that Epimenides was the first universalist, but there is no textual case for a universal god known to the writers of the Old Testament.

When you say "was invented by pagans" are you saying that this is a false or made up notion about God, or just that it was something about God revealed to other cultures/religions that was not revealed to the Jews in OT times?

Christina said...

SCS,

Your quote -
"The beginnings of religion go back to remote prehistoric time. In the absence of positive, historic data, the question of the origin of religion admits only of a speculative answer. It is Catholic teaching that primitive religion was a Divinely revealed Monotheism. This was an anticipation and a perfection of the notion of religion, which man from the beginning was naturally capable of acquiring. Religion, like morality, has apart from revelation a natural basis or origin. It is the outcome of the use of reason, though, without the corrective influence of revelation, it is very apt to be misconceived and distorted."

is consistent with the following verse from scripture -

But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
~Romans 1:18-20