Origins of Judaism From the Bronze Age

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The Origins of Judaism 

The fundamental roots of the Abrahamic Faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam were based on Judaism the earliest of the Abrahamic Faiths. But what were the germs of Judaism? We seldom ask or inquire into such beginnings.

The origins of Judaism lie in the Bronze Age polytheistic Ancient Semitic religions, specifically Canaanite religion, a syncretization with elements of Babylonian religion and of the worship of Yahweh reflected in the early prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible. During the Iron Age I the Israelite religion became distinct from other Canaanite religions due to the unique monolatristic (proto-monotheistic) worship of Yahweh.

During the Babylonian captivity of the 6th and 5th centuries BCE (Iron Age II), certain circles within the ****exiled Judahites in Babylon redefined pre-existing ideas about monotheism, election, divine law and Covenant into a strict monotheistic theology which came to dominate the former Judah in the following centuries.

From the 5th century BCE until 70 CE, Israelite religion developed into the various theological schools of Second Temple Judaism, besides Hellenistic Judaism in the diaspora. Second Temple ***Judaism was significantly influenced by Zoroastrianism. The text of the Hebrew Bible was redacted into its extant form in this period and possibly also canonized as well.

Rabbinic Judaism developed during Late Antiquity, during the 3rd to 6th centuries CE; the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud were compiled in this period. The oldest manuscripts of the Masoretic tradition come from the 10th and 11th centuries CE; in the form of the Aleppo Codex of the later portions of the 10th century CE and the Leningrad Codex dated to 1008–1009 CE. Due largely to censoring and the burning of manuscripts in medieval Europe the oldest existing manuscripts of various rabbinical works are quite late. The oldest surviving complete manuscript copy of the Babylonian *****Talmud is dated to 1342 CE.

Pre-monarchic (tribal religion)

Further information: Ugaritic mythology, Ancient Semitic religions and Mosaic covenant
****The founding myth of the Israelite nation is the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt under the guidance of Moses, followed by the conquest of the Promised Land (Canaan). *****However, there is little or no archaeological or historical evidence to support these accounts, and although they may in part originate as early as the 10th century BCE, according to the Wellhausen hypothesis they reached something like their present form only in the 5th to 4th centuries BCE, when they are alleged to have been ****edited to comply with the theology of Second Temple Judaism.

Monarchy (centralized religion)
Further information: Solomon’s Temple and Canaanite religion
Further information: History of ancient Israel and Judah
The United Monarchy of the 11th to 10th centuries BCE was one of the political entities of the Levant during the Early Iron Age. These states were organized as monarchies, with kings ruling city-states and each city claiming a patron deity to whom the city’s main temple was dedicated (see also Syro-Hittite states, Ugarit, Byblos). In Jerusalem, this was Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, constructed during the 10th century BCE.

According to the Hebrew Bible, Jerusalem was a Jebusite fortress, conquered by the Israelites and made into their capital around 1000 BCE (Edwin R. Thiele dates David’s conquest of Jerusalem to 1003 BCE). As a result, the Jebusite cult exerted considerable influence on Israelite religion. **The Jebusites observed an astral cult involving Shalem, an astral deity identified with the Evening star in Ugaritic mythology, besides Tzedek “righteousness” and El Elyon, the “most high God”. It is plausible, however, that the application of the epithet Elyon “most high” to Israelite Yahweh predates the conquest of Jerusalem; the epithet was applied with sufficient fluidity throughout the Northwest Semitic sphere that assuming a transition from its application to El to the Yahwistic cult presents no obstacle.

Both the archaeological evidence and the Biblical texts document tensions between groups comfortable with **the worship of Yahweh alongside local deities such as Asherah and Baal and those insistent on worship of Yahweh alone during the monarchal period. During the 8th century BCE, worship of Yahweh in Israel stood in competition with many other cults, described by the Yahwist faction collectively as Baals. The oldest books of the Hebrew Bible, written in the 8th century BCE reflect this competition, as in the books of Hosea and Nahum, whose authors lament the “apostasy” of the people of Israel, threatening them with the wrath of God if they do not give up their polytheistic cults.

The Yahwist faction seems to have gained considerable influence during the 8th century BCE, and by the 7th century BCE, **based on the testimony of the Deuteronomistic source, monolatrist worship of Yahweh seems to have become official, reflected in the removal of the image of Asherah from the temple in Jerusalem under Hezekiah (r. 715–686 BCE) so that monotheistic worship of the god of Israel can be argued to have originated during his rule.

Hezekiah’s successor **Manasseh reversed some of these changes, restoring polytheistic worship, and according to 2 Kings 21:16 even persecuting the Yahwist faction. Josiah (r. 641–609 BCE) again turned to monolatry. The Book of Deuteronomy as well as the other books ascribed to the Deuteronomist were written during Josiah’s rule. The final two decades of the monarchic period, leading up to the Babylonian sack of Jerusalem in 597 BCE were thus marked by official monolatry of the god of Israel. This had important consequences in the worship of Yahweh as it was practiced in the Babylonian captivity and ultimately for the theology of Second Temple Judaism.

Babylonian exile

Further information:
Following the second siege of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, the Babylonians destroyed the city wall and the Temple. Judah became a Babylonian province, called Yehud. The first governor appointed by Babylon was Gedaliah, a native Judahite; he encouraged the many Jews who had fled to surrounding countries such as Moab, Ammon, Edom, to return, and took steps to return the country to prosperity. Some time afterwards, a surviving member of the royal family assassinated Gedaliah and his Babylonian advisors, prompting a rush of refugees seeking safety in Egypt. Thus by the end of the second decade of the 6th century, in addition to those who remained in Judah, there were significant Jewish communities in Babylon and in Egypt; this was the beginning of the later numerous Jewish communities living permanently outside Judah in the Jewish diaspora. According to the book of Ezra-Nehemiah, the Persian Cyrus the Great ended the exile in 538 BCE, the year in which he captured Babylon. The Exile ends with the return under Zerubbabel and the construction of the Second Temple in the period 520–515 BCE.

Second Temple period

Main articles: Second Temple Judaism and Zugot
Further information: Hellenistic Judaism and YHWH

The oldest surviving writings of Judaism date from the Hellenistic period. This includes Hebrew and Aramaic papyri with biblical fragments such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Greek documents such as the Septuagint. ***The contact of Israelite and Greek cultures resulted in the development of strict monotheism which recast the national god of Israel in the role of the creator of the universe, corresponding to The One or The All of Hellenistic religion.[citation needed]

Other scholars contend that the development of a strict monotheism was the result of cultural diffusion between Persians and Hebrews. While (in practice) dualistic, Zoroastrianism believed in eschatological monotheism (i.e. only one god in the end). Some suggest that it is not merely coincidence that the Zoroastrianism’s model of eschatological monotheism and the Deuteronomic historians strictly monotheistic model receive formative articulations during the period after Persia overthrew Babylon.

**Second Temple Judaism was divided into theological factions, notably the Pharisees and the Sadducees, besides numerous smaller sects such as the Essenes, messianic movements such as Early Christianity, and closely related traditions such as Samaritanism (which gives us the Samaritan Pentateuch, an important witness of the text of the Torah independent of the Masoretic Text).

During the 2nd to 1st centuries BCE, when Judea was under Seleucid and then Roman rule, the genre of apocalyptic literature became popular, the most notable work in this tradition being the Book of Daniel.

Development of Rabbinic Judaism

Scenes from the Book of Esther decorate the Dura-Europos synagogue dating from 244 CE
Main articles: Origins of Rabbinic Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism
Further information: Tannaim, Amora, Talmud and Origins of Christianity

For centuries, the traditional understanding has been that Judaism came before Christianity and that Christianity separated from Judaism some time after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Starting in the latter half of the 20th century, some scholars have begun to argue that the historical picture is quite a bit more complicated than that. In the 1st century, many Jewish sects existed in competition with each other, see Second Temple Judaism. The sects which eventually became Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity were but two of these.** Some scholars have begun to propose a model which envisions a twin birth of Christianity and Judaism rather than a separation of the former from the latter. For example, Robert Goldenberg (2002) asserts that it is increasingly accepted among scholars that “at the end of the 1st century CE there were not yet two separate religions called “Judaism” and “Christianity””. Daniel Boyarin (2002) proposes a revised understanding of the interactions between nascent Christianity and nascent Rabbinical Judaism in Late Antiquity which views the two religions as intensely and complexly intertwined throughout this period.

The Amoraim were the Jewish scholars of Late Antiquity who codified and commented upon the law and the biblical texts. The final phase of redaction of the Talmud into its final form took place during the 6th century CE, by the scholars known as the Savoraim. This phase concludes the Chazal era foundational to Rabbinical Judaism. [1]

Zoroastrianism

*****Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest religions, “combining a cosmogonic dualism and eschatological monotheism in a manner unique… among the major religions of the world.” Ascribed to the teachings of the Iranian Prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra), its ***Supreme Being is Ahura Mazda. It was the official religion of the Iranian empires until Islam superseded it in the seventh century AD. Leading characteristics, such as ***messianism, ***heaven and ***hell, and free will influenced other religious systems, including Second Temple Judaism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and Islam. For a thousand years, forms of Zoroastrianism (including a Mithraic Median prototype and ZurvanistSassanid successor) was one of the world’s most important faith traditions, serving as the state religion of the pre-Islamic Iranian empires from around 600 BCE to 650 CE. Zoroastrianism was suppressed from the 7th century onwards following the Muslim conquest of Persia. Recent estimates place the current number of Zoroastrians at around 2.6 million, with most living in India and Iran. Besides the Zoroastrian diaspora, the older Mithraic faith Yazdânism is still practised amongst the Kurds.

The religious philosophy of Zoroaster divided the early Iranian gods. The most important texts of the religion are those of the Avesta. In Zoroastrianism, the creator Ahura Mazda, through the Spenta Mainyu (Good Spirit, “Bounteous Immortals”) is an all-good “father” of Asha (Truth, “order, justice,”) in opposition to Druj (“falsehood, deceit”) and no evil originates from “him”. “He” and his works are evident to humanity through the six primary Amesha Spentas and the host of other Yazatas, through whom worship of Mazda is ultimately directed. Spenta Mainyu adjoined unto “truth” oppose the Spirit’s opposite, Angra Mainyu and its forces born of Akəm Manah (“evil thinking”).

Zoroastrianism has no major theological divisions, though it is not uniform; modern-era influences having a significant impact on individual and local beliefs, practices, values and vocabulary, sometimes merging with tradition and in other cases displacing it. Liberality is emphasized in the scripture, and—like the Roman religion—the religion was generally inclusive, with Cyrus the Great annexing Babylonia in the name of its God Marduk. In Zoroastrianism, the purpose in life is to “be among those who renew the world…to make the world progress towards perfection”. Its basic maxims include:

  • Humata, Hukhta, Huvarshta, which mean: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.
  • There is only one path and that is the path of Truth.
  • Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and then all beneficial rewards will come to you also.

The most important texts of the religion are those of the Avesta, which includes the writings of Zoroaster known as the Gathas, enigmatic poems that define the religion’s precepts, and the Yasna, the scripture. The full name by which Zoroaster addressed the deity is: Ahura, The Lord Creator, and Mazda, Supremely Wise. *****He proclaimed that there is only one God, the singularly creative and sustaining force of the Universe. He also stated that human beings are given a right of choice, and because of cause and effect are also responsible for the consequences of their choices. Zoroaster’s teachings focused on responsibility, and did not introduce a devil, per se. The contesting force to Ahura Mazda was called Angra Mainyu, or angry spirit. Post-Zoroastrian scripture introduced the concept of Ahriman, the Devil, which was effectively a personification of Angra Mainyu.

Zoroastrian Theology

*****Zoroastrians believe that there is one universal, transcendent, supreme god, Ahura Mazda, or the “Wise Lord”. (Ahura means “Being” and Mazda means “Mind” in Avestan language). Zoroaster keeps the two attributes separate as two different concepts in most of the Gathas and also consciously uses a masculine word for one concept and a feminine for the other, as if to distract from an anthropomorphism of his divinity. Some Zoroastrians claim Ahura Mazda as the uncreated Creator to whom all worship is ultimately directed, thereby formulating a panentheistic faith with a transcendent divinity, widely believed to have influenced the theology of Isma’ilism.*** Zoroaster claimed that Ahura Mazda is almighty, though not omnipotent.

Other scholars assert that since Zoroastrianism’s divinity covers both being and mind as immanent entities, it is better described as a belief in an immanent self-creating universe with consciousness as its special attribute, thereby putting Zoroastranism in the pantheistic from where it can be easily traced to its shared origin with Indian Brahmanism. In any case, Ahura Mazda’s creation—evident is widely agreed as asha, truth and order—is the antithesis of chaos, which is evident as druj, falsehood and disorder. The resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity, which has an active role to play in the conflict.

In Zoroastrian tradition, the “chaotic” is represented by Angra Mainyu (also referred to as “Ahriman”), the “Destructive Principle”, while the benevolent is represented through Ahura Mazda’s Spenta Mainyu, the instrument or “Bounteous Principle” of the act of creation. It is through Spenta Mainyu that transcendental Ahura Mazda is immanent in humankind, and through which the Creator interacts with the world. According to Zoroastrian cosmology, in articulating the Ahuna Vairya formula, Ahura Mazda made His ultimate triumph evident to Angra Mainyu. As expressions and aspects of Creation, Ahura Mazda emanated the Amesha Spentas (“Bounteous Immortals”), that are each the hypostasis and representative of one aspect of that Creation. These Amesha Spenta are in turn assisted by a league of lesser principles, the Yazatas, each “Worthy of Worship” and each again a hypostasis of a moral or physical aspect of creation.

Zoroastrian theology includes a duty to protect nature. This has led some to proclaim it as the “world’s first ecological religion.” Scholars have argued that, since the protections are part of a ritual, they stem from theology rather than ecology. Others have responded that, since the scripture calls for the protection of water, earth, fire, air, as once of its strongest precepts, it is, in effect, an ecological religion: “It is not surprising that Mazdaism (another term for Zoroastrianism) is called the first ecological religion. The reverence for Yazatas (divine spirits) emphasizes the preservation of nature (Avesta: Yasnas 1.19, 3.4, 16.9; Yashts 6.3-4, 10.13).” [27]

Practices

The religion states that active participation in life through good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster’s concept of free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism. Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail over the evil Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, at which point the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end. In the final renovation, all of creation—even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to “darkness”—will be reunited in Ahura Mazda, returning to life in the undead form. At the end of time, a savior-figure (a Saoshyant) will bring about a final renovation of the world (frashokereti), in which the dead will be revived.[24]

In Zoroastrian tradition, life is a temporary state in which a mortal is expected to actively participate in the continuing battle between truth and falsehood. Prior to being born, the urvan (soul) of an individual is still united with its fravashi (guardian spirit), and which have existed since Mazda created the universe. During life, the fravashi acts as a guardian and protector. On the fourth day after death, the soul is reunited with its fravashi, in which the experiences of life in the material world are collected for the continuing battle in the spiritual world. For the most part, Zoroastrianism does not have a notion of reincarnation, at least not until the final renovation of the world. Followers of Ilm-e-Kshnoom in India believe in reincarnation and practice vegetarianism, two principles unknown to Orthodox Zoroastrianism, although Zoroaster was himself a vegetarian.

In Zoroastrianism, water (apoaban) and fire (atarazar) are agents of ritual purity, and the associated purification ceremonies are considered the basis of ritual life. In Zoroastrian cosmogony, water and fire are respectively the second and last primordial elements to have been created, and scripture considers fire to have its origin in the waters. Both water and fire are considered life-sustaining, and both water and fire are represented within the precinct of a fire temple. Zoroastrians usually pray in the presence of some form of fire (which can be considered evident in any source of light), and the culminating rite of the principle act of worship constitutes a “strengthening of the waters”. Fire is considered a medium through which spiritual insight and wisdom is gained, and water is considered the source of that wisdom.

A corpse is considered a host for decay, i.e., of druj. Consequently, scripture enjoins the safe disposal of the dead in a manner such that a corpse does not pollute the good creation. These injunctions are the doctrinal basis of the fast-fading traditional practice of ritual exposure, most commonly identified with the so-called Towers of Silence for which there is no standard technical term in either scripture or tradition. Ritual exposure is only practiced by Zoroastrian communities of the Indian subcontinent, in locations where it is not illegal and diclofenac poisoning has not led to the virtual extinction of scavenger birds. Other Zoroastrian communities either cremate their dead, or bury them in graves that are cased with lime mortar.

***While the Parsees in India have traditionally been opposed to proselytizing, probably for historical reasons, and even considered it a crime for which the culprit may face expulsion, Iranian Zoroastrians have never been opposed to conversion, and the practice has been endorsed by the Council of Mobeds of Tehran. While the Iranian authorities do not permit proselytizing within Iran, Iranian Zoroastrians in exile have actively encouraged missionary activities, with The Zarathushtrian Assembly in Los Angeles and the International Zoroastrian Centre in Paris as two prominent centres. As in many other faiths, Zoroastrians are encouraged to marry others of the same faith, but this is not a requirement.

Classical antiquity

Farvahar. Persepolis, Iran.

*****The roots of Zoroastrianism are thought to have emerged from a common prehistoric Indo-Iranian religious system dating back to the ***early 2nd millennium BCE. The prophet Zoroaster himself, though traditionally dated to the 6th century BC, is thought by many modern historians to have been a reformer of the polytheistic Iranian religion who lived in the 10th century BC. Zoroastrianism as a religion was not firmly established until several centuries later. Zoroastrianism enters recorded history in the mid-5th century BCE. Herodotus’ The Histories (completed c. 440 BCE) includes a description of Greater Iranian society with what may be recognizably Zoroastrian features, including exposure of the dead.

***The Histories is a primary source of information on the early period of the Achaemenid era (648–330 BCE), in particular with respect to the role of the Magi. According to Herodotus i.101, the Magi were the sixth tribe of the Medians (until the unification of the Persian empire under Cyrus the Great, all Iranians were referred to as “Mede” or “Mada” by the peoples of the Ancient World), who appear to have been the priestly caste of the Mesopotamian-influenced branch of Zoroastrianism today known as Zurvanism, and who wielded considerable influence at the courts of the Median emperors.

Following the unification of the Median and Persian empires in 550 BCE, Cyrus the Great and, later, his son Cambyses II curtailed the powers of the Magi after they had attempted to sow dissent following their loss of influence. In 522 BCE, the Magi revolted and set up a rival claimant to the throne. The usurper, pretending to be Cyrus’ younger son Smerdis, took power shortly thereafter. Owing to the despotic rule of Cambyses and his long absence in Egypt, “the whole people, Persians, Medes and all the other nations” acknowledged the usurper, especially as he granted a remission of taxes for three years (Herodotus iii. 68).

Darius I and later Achaemenid emperors acknowledged their devotion to Ahura Mazda in inscriptions, as attested to several times in the Behistun inscription, and appear to have continued the model of coexistence with other religions. Whether Darius was a follower of Zoroaster has not been conclusively established, since devotion to Ahura Mazda was (at the time) not necessarily an indication of an adherence to Zoroaster’s teaching. A number of the Zoroastrian texts that today are part of the greater compendium of the Avesta have been attributed to that period. This calendar attributed to the Achaemenid period is still in use today.

*****Additionally, the divinities, or yazatas, are present-day Zoroastrian angels (Dhalla, 1938).

According to later Zoroastrian legend (Denkard and the Book of Arda Viraf), many sacred texts were lost when Alexander the Great’s troops invaded Persepolis and subsequently destroyed the royal library there. Diodorus Siculus’s Bibliotheca historica, which was completed circa 60 BCE, appears to substantiate this Zoroastrian legend (Diod. 17.72.2–17.72.6). According to one archaeological examination, the ruins of the palace of Xerxes bear traces of having been burned (Stolze, 1882). Whether a vast collection of (semi-)religious texts “written on parchment in gold ink”, as suggested by the Denkard, actually existed remains a matter of speculation, but is unlikely. Given that many of the Denkards statements-as-fact have since been refuted among scholars, the tale of the library is widely accepted to be fictional (Kellens, 2002).

The religion would be professed many centuries following the demise of the Achaemenids in mainland Persia and the core regions of the former Achaemenid Empire, most notably Anatolia, ***Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus. In the Cappadocian kingdom, who’s territory was formerly an Achaemenid possession, Persian colonists, cut off from their co-religionists in Iran proper, continued to practice the faith [Zoroastrianism] of their forefathers; and there Strabo, observing in the first century B.C., records (XV.3.15) that these “fire kindlers” possessed many “holy places of the Persian Gods”, as well as fire temples. Strabo furthermore relates, were “noteworthy enclosures; and in their midst there is an altar, on which there is a large quantity of ashes and where the magi keep the fire ever burning.” Through and after the Hellenistic periods in the aforementioned regions, the religion would be strongly revived as a major thing.

Mesopotamia (/ˌmɛsəpəˈtmiə/, from the Ancient Greek: Μεσοποταμία “[land] between rivers”; from Ancient Armenian՝ Միջագետք(Mijagetq), Arabic: بلاد الرافدين‎ bilād ar-rāfidayn; Persian: میان‌رودان‎‎ miyān rodān; Syriac: ܒܝܬ ܢܗܪܝܢ‎ Beth Nahrain “land of rivers”) is a name for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, roughly corresponding to modern-day Iraq, Syria and Kuwait, including regions along the Turkish-Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders.

Widely considered to be one of the cradles of civilization by the Western world, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian empires, all native to the territory of modern-day Iraq. In the Iron Age, it was controlled by the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires.

The indigenous Sumerians and Akkadians (including Assyrians and Babylonians) dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history (c. 3100 BC) to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, when it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. It fell to Alexander the Great in 332 BC, and after his death, it became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire.

Around 150 BC, Mesopotamia was under the control of the Parthian Empire. Mesopotamia became a battleground between the Romans and Parthians, with parts of Mesopotamia coming under ephemeral Roman control. In AD 226, it fell to the Sassanid Persians and remained under Persian rule until the 7th century Muslim conquest of Persia of the Sasanian Empire. A number of primarily neo-Assyrian and Christian native Mesopotamian states existed between the 1st century BC and 3rd century AD, including Adiabene, Osroene, and Hatra.

****Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC. It has been identified as having “inspired some of the most important developments in human history including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, Mathematics, Astronomy and Agriculture.” ***** A modern Mesopotamian identity is espoused by the ethnically indigenous Mesopotamian and Eastern Aramaic speaking people, known as Assyrians and Chaldean Christians.

Mesopotamian Religion and philosophy

*****Ancient Mesopotamian religion was the first recorded. Mesopotamians believed that the world was a flat disc, surrounded by a huge, holed space, and above that, heaven. They also believed that water was everywhere, the top, bottom and sides, and that the universe was born from this enormous sea. In addition, Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic. Although the beliefs described above were held in common among Mesopotamians, there were also regional variations. The Sumerian word for universe is an-ki, which refers to the god An and the goddess Ki. Their son was Enlil, the air god. They believed that Enlil was the most powerful god. He was the chief god of the pantheon. The Sumerians also posed philosophical questions, such as: Who are we?, Where are we?, How did we get here?. They attributed answers to these questions to explanations provided by their gods.

Philosophy

Giorgio Buccellati believes that the origins of philosophy can be traced back to early Mesopotamian wisdom, which embodied certain philosophies of life, particularly ethics, in the forms of dialectic, dialogues, epic poetry, folklore, hymns, lyrics, prose works, and proverbs. Babylonian reason and rationality developed beyond empiricalobservation.

The earliest form of logic was developed by the Babylonians, notably in the rigorous nonergodic nature of their social systems. Babylonian thought was axiomatic and is comparable to the “ordinary logic” described by John Maynard Keynes. Babylonian thought was also based on an open-systems ontology which is compatible with ergodicaxioms. Logic was employed to some extent in Babylonian astronomy and medicine.

Babylonian thought had a considerable influence on early Ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophy. In particular, the Babylonian text Dialogue of Pessimism contains similarities to the agonistic thought of the sophists, the Heraclitean doctrine of contrasts, and the dialectic and dialogs of Plato, as well as a precursor to the maieutic method of Socrates.The Ionian philosopher Thales was influenced by Babylonian cosmological ideas. [4]

Angels

In many of the world’s religions, angels are spiritual beings who act as intermediaries between God and humans. Messengers of God, angels may serve any of a number of purposes. Their role may be to teach, command, or inform individuals of their destiny. Angels may also act to protect or help people.

The word angel comes from the Greek word angelos, meaning “messenger.” In Western religions, the word specifically describes a kind, or benevolent, being. However, in most other religions, the line separating “good” angels from “bad” angels is not always clear. An angel may act benevolently in one situation but with evil intent in another.

Differing Views

Over the centuries, people have described the function of angels in various ways. ***The role of angels is developed in greatest detail in religions based on revelation—the disclosure or communication of divine truth or divine will to human beings. These religions include Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as Zoroastrianism, a faith founded by the ancient Persian prophet Zoroaster.

In religions based on revelation, God and humans are distant from each other. Angels help bridge the gap. Angels praise God, carry out God’s will, and reveal divine word. They may also help people attain salvation or receive special favors. Furthermore, acting for God, angels may influence human affairs through such deeds as rewarding faithful believers, punishing people who do evil, and helping people in need.

Angels tend to play a lesser role in religions with many gods. The gods themselves may carry out angelic functions, often taking human forms. In religions based on the belief that all the cosmos is sacred and that the divine and the human share one essence, angels are less important. They are not needed to bridge a gap between the gods and humankind. However, even in these religions angel-like spiritual beings may help people relate to the divine.

The Nature of Angels. The world’s religions have had different views about the nature of angels. Some regard angels as divine beings who deserve to be worshiped rather than just as messengers of God. Disagreement also exists about the bodies of angels. Some think that angels have actual physical bodies. Others insist that angels only appear to have such bodies. Still others believe that angels are purely spiritual beings but that they can assume material bodies.

Zoroastrianism and Judaism. *****The view of angels in Judaism was influenced by Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrian ***mythology describes a cosmic clash between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman—forces of good and evil with their armies of angels and devils. Like Ahura Mazda, the Old Testament god Yahweh has an army of angels. These warrior angels battle against evil forces led by Satan, who resembles Ahriman.

Following the Zoroastrian view, ***Judaism divides the universe into three parts: earth, heaven, and hell. Earth is the home of humans. Heaven is reserved for God and his angels. Hell is the dark world of Satan and his followers. Angels fulfill a similar role in the two religions, linking heaven with the world of humans and revealing God’s plans and laws. Their function is to serve God and carry out his will. They reward goodness and punish wickedness and injustice. They also help people understand God’s will, and they take the souls of righteous individuals to heaven.

* cosmos the universe, especially as an orderly harmonious system

Christianity.***** The Christian concept of a three-part universe came from Judaic and Zoroastrian ideas, as did Christian ideas of angels and their functions. In the Christian view, angels are God’s messengers. Angels proclaimed the birth of Christ and continue to play an active role in the daily lives of Christians. They bring strength to those who are weak and comfort to those who suffer and carry the prayers of faithful Christians to God. *****According to legend, guardian angels watch over children.

 

Islam. ***The Islamic idea of angels is similar to Judaic and Christian views. God is in heaven, and the angels serve him and carry out his will. However, while Judaism and Christianity generally divide spiritual beings into those who are with or against God, Islam divides such beings into angels, demons, and djinni, or genies. The djinni may be either good or harmful. *****According to Islamic folklore, they were created out of fire, can be visible or invisible, and can assume various human or animal shapes.

Hierarchies of Angels

*****Angels in different orders, or levels, were a part of the ******mythology of ancient Mesopotamia. Later in the . 400S, the Greek philosopher Dionysius the Areopagite described a hierarchy of angels. ****Based on his writings, angels are traditionally ranked in nine orders. The highest order of angels is the seraphim, followed by the cherubim, thrones, dominions (or dominations), virtues, powers, principalities, archangels, and angels.

According to this system, the first circle of angels—the seraphim, cherubim, and thrones—devote their time to contemplating God. The second circle—the dominions, virtues, and powers—govern the universe. The third circle—principalities, archangels, and angels—carry out the orders of the superior angels.

Representation of Angels

At first, artists struggled with the problem of how to represent angels. Written descriptions were not very helpful. They tended to be vague or bizarre or did not draw a clear distinction between angels and human beings.

Artists tried various approaches before arriving at the image of a young male figure. Later they added two feathery wings to the figure. The wings suggested that angels were spiritual beings elevated above humans and associated with heaven. Besides wings, angels were sometimes shown with halos, long hair, and flowing white robes.

*****The idea of representing spirits as winged figures dates back many thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians portrayed *****the sun god Horus as a winged disk. Other winged beings can be found in ancient Greek and Roman art. [3]

 

 

Discussion “Origins of Judaism From the Bronze Age”

Judaism being the oldest of the Abrahamic Faiths fundamentally set the precedence for the eventual evolution of Christianity and Islam. So it is important we attempt to establish the historicity of the Judaic religious stories to establish it authenticity and thus examine how it was eventually adopted by Christians and Muslims..

Historical archives tell us that the Judaic as we know it today was not original, unique, nor a revelation from God in Heaven. In fact there has never been any historical or archaeological evidence to prove the historicity of the stories in the Torah, the Bible or the Quran. But every probability shows that the stories were based on the legends, or folk lore/MYTHS of the more ancient peoples that inhabited the Middle Eastern countries of that time such as ancient Mesopotamia that existed in the Neolithic Period some 10,000 years ago or the Zoroastrian that flourished in the 2nd millennium BC and whose prophet lived in the 10 century BC.  This discussion will attempt to show the origins of the roots of such religious legends and folklore from much older civilisations, so as to dissociate it from historicity.

 

(1) The origins of Judaism lie in the Bronze Age ***polytheistic Ancient Semitic religions, specifically Canaanite religion, a syncretisation [to attempt to combine different or opposing principles,] with elements of Babylonian religion and of the worship of Yahweh reflected in the early prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible. During the Iron Age I the Israelite religion became distinct from other Canaanite religions due to the unique monolatristic (proto-monotheistic) worship of Yahweh.

During the 8th century BCE, worship of Yahweh in Israel stood in competition with many other cults, described by the Yahwist faction collectively as Baals. Thus the worship of monotheistic Yahweh evolved after intellectual battles were settled.

[Judaism thus evolved from a polytheistic Semitic religion into a monotheistic worship of Yahweh….Judaic monotheism did not originate from a revelation of God, nor a diktat of God. It was the Jewish adoption of beliefs of a more ancient religion.

Besides, the concept of monotheism was already a concept adopted by the Zoroastrian beliefs as illustrated: Zoroastrians believe that there is ***one universal, transcendent, supreme god, Ahura Mazda, or the “Wise Lord”. (Ahura means “Being” and Mazda means “Mind” in Avestan language). Zoroaster keeps the two attributes separate as two different concepts in most of the Gathas and also consciously uses a masculine word for one concept and a feminine for the other, as if to distract from an anthropomorphism of his divinity. Some Zoroastrians claim Ahura Mazda as the uncreated Creator to whom all worship is ultimately directed, thereby formulating a panentheistic faith with a transcendent divinity, widely believed to have influenced the theology of Isma’ilism. Zoroaster claimed that Ahura Mazda is almighty, though not omnipotent. Hence the adoption of monotheism from more ancient beliefs was a common foundation for the emergence of new religions.]

(2) Ancient Mesopotamian religion was the **first recorded. Mesopotamians believed that ***the world was a flat disc, surrounded by a huge, holed space, and above that, heaven. They also believed that water was everywhere, the top, bottom and sides, and that the universe was born from this enormous sea. In addition, Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic.

[[**A few quotes to verify that the authors of the Bible too accepted that the world was flat and stationary:

Proverbs 8:27–  When he prepared the heavens, I was there, When he drew a circle on the face of the deep

Isaiah 40:22–  It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And it’s inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.

Job chapter 38 has a lot of mentions of a stationary earth, and as direct quotes from God.  Quotes like the following:

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.” – Job 38:4

“Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;” – Job 38:6

 1 Samuel 2:8 states that For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, And He has set the world upon them“.  If you go to any seashore, you are bound to see houses built on pillars, and yet the houses don’t move.  How strange.

Psalms 93:1 flat out says that the world doesn’t move. “The Lord reigns, he is clothed with majesty; The Lord is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established so that it cannot be moved.”

The Bible doesn’t always reflect the truth about the sun and moon.  

In Genesis 1:16 says “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.”  According to this, the moon is a light source just like the sun, only not as bright.  If this was the case, we couldn’t land on the moon, it would be too hot.  It is also strange that it took God the day to make the sun and the moon, but the stars are portrayed as an afterthought of sorts.  “He made the stars also”, this is  a definite sign that the Bible is inspired by man.  It is clear that man could not have perceived that the stars were the same as the sun, but in most cases much larger.  Naturally they thought that these specks were just thrown about.  The verse should read “God created the stars and planetary objects, he also made the earth, sun, and moon”.  But man, in those days,  would have never seen it that way.

Isaiah 13:10 also says that the moon is a source of light.  “moon shall not cause her light to shine.”  Again this is another example of the Bible seeming to be inspired by man and limited to his own perception.

Comments on above:  The Bible clearly shows the limited knowledge of man about cosmology or human biology when MAN wrote the Bible especially when many concepts  and mythology were borrowed from more ancient civilisations like the ancient Mesopotamians referred to above. To suggest that an omniscient God created the world with no concept of cosmology or created Man with no knowledge of human biology makes a mockery of the omniscient God, yet for over 2000 years this God did not deem it fit to correct these erroneous concepts because that would have eroded the supremacy of God. They preferred to allow the ignorance of Man to be perpetuated because they could not find a way to acknowledge that God could be wrong and that He could not create Man out of clay without biological human sperm and ovum. The Bible has thus failed in every aspect in proving that it is a scientific accurate document or one based on mythology and folklore. I find it inconceivable that an omnipotent God could allow such misinformation and falsehoods to be perpetuated over  generations without intervening. Surely such a God has failed his people if allowed such falsehoods to continue to be perpetuated? Many millions of lives have been lost because falsehoods and misinformation in Religious text. Would a God who created Man have allowed his creation to be destroyed wantonly because of misinformation and not do something about it?

Hence the historicity of all Religious Holy Books should be Questioned with open minds.]]

(3) During the Babylonian captivity of the 6th and 5th centuries BCE (Iron Age II), certain circles within the ****exiled Judahites in Babylon redefined pre-existing ideas about monotheism, election, divine law and Covenant into a strict monotheistic theology which came to dominate the former Judah in the following centuries. 

[So it was the determination of the Judahites (Jewish Men) that shaped the adoption of monotheism in Judaism from polytheism. But what logic or religious doctrine determined monotheism was a superior form of worship to that of polytheism? Polytheism accepts a hierarchy of gods in a similar way as The Abrahamic faiths accept the hierarchy of Angels that are accepted by the Zoroastrians as will as the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. So polytheists accept the hierarchy of gods just as the Jews, Christians, and Muslims accept their Angels as mythical ethereal figures to complete their heavenly hierarchy.

It is all a matter of which mythology is adopted by each community in their search for their identities and roots and their gods.

(4) Judaism was significantly influenced by Zoroastrianism.

The concept of ****monotheism was already a concept adopted by the Zoroastrian beliefs as illustrated: Zoroastrians believe that there is ***one universal, transcendent, supreme god, Ahura Mazda, or the “Wise Lord”. (Ahura means “Being” and Mazda means “Mind” in Avestan language). 

The view of angels in Judaism was influenced by Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrian ***mythology describes a cosmic clash between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman—forces of good and evil with their armies of angels and devils.

(5) Talmud is dated to 1342 CE. 

Rabbinic writings offer various ideas on when the Torah was composed. The revelation to Moses at Mount Sinai is considered by most to be the revelatory event. According to dating of the text by Orthodox rabbis, this occurred in 1312 BCE; another date given for this event is 1280 BCE.

The Talmud (Gittin 60a) presents two opinions as to when the Torah was written by Moses. One opinion holds that it was written by Moses gradually over many years as it was dictated to him, and finished close to his death, and the other opinion holds that Moses wrote the complete Torah in one writing close to his death, based on what was dictated to him over the years.

The Talmud (Menachot 30a) says that the last eight verses of the Torah that discuss the death and burial of Moses could not have been written by Moses, as writing it would have been a lie, and that they were written after his death by Joshua. Abraham ibn Ezra and Joseph Bofils observed that phrases in those verses present information that people should only have known after the time of Moses. Ibn Ezra hinted, and Bonfils explicitly stated, that Joshua wrote these verses many years after the death of Moses. Other commentators do not accept this position and maintain that although Moses did not write those eight verses it was nonetheless dictated to him and that Joshua wrote it based on instructions left by Moses, and that the Torah often describes future events, some of which have yet to occur.

The Talmud (tractate Sabb. 115b) states that a peculiar section in the Book of Numbers (10:35–36, surrounded by inverted Hebrew letter nuns) in fact forms a separate book. On this verse a midrash on the book of Mishle (English Proverbs) states that “These two verses stem from an independent book which existed, but was suppressed!” Another (possibly earlier) midrash, Ta’ame Haserot Viyterot, states that this section actually comes from the book of prophecy of Eldad and Medad. The Talmud says that God dictated four books of the Torah, but that Moses wrote Deuteronomy in his own words (Talmud Bavli, Meg. 31b).

All classical rabbinic views hold that the Torah was entirely or almost entirely Mosaic and of divine origin. Present-day Reform and Liberal Jewish movements all reject Mosaic authorship, as well as most shades of Conservative Judaism.

(6) The essential requirements for the authenticity of the Torah, the Bible and the Quran is to establish the historicity of the Holy Text. We have already shown that polytheism or monotheism was a choice made by the priests of the day and probably influenced by the concept of mythical monotheism in Zoroastrianism, i.e., a human decision, and not a revelation or a mandate of god.

The total basis of Judaism is based on Myths: 

The founding myth of the Israelite nation is the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt under the guidance of Moses, followed by the conquest of the Promised Land (Canaan). *However, there is little or **no archaeological or **historical evidence to support these accounts, and although they may in part originate as early as the 10th century BCE, according to the Wellhausen hypothesis they reached something like their present form only in the 5th to 4th centuries BCE, when they are alleged to have been edited to comply with the theology of Second Temple Judaism. [This lack of historical or archaeological evidence must place Exodus into the realms of legends or folklore. Thus there is sufficient doubt of the historicity of the stories in the Torah to question whether it was really a revelation of God or of Man.

Conclusions

There is sufficient evidence to show that the Abrahamic Faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam evolved by adopting beliefs and religious practices and myths of more ancient religions of the time. Most of their religious stories has no evidence of proof of History or Archaeology and can best be only accepted as myths or folklore. Based on this, it is time theologians took another more critical look at the historicity of their Holy literature.

Every shred of evidence suggests that it is not God who has failed the distressed cries of man, but that every probability, after studying the facts, that God is unable to to man’s desperate needs is because He is not there to respond. God, was, like his Angels, and Moses and Noah, and Jesus were but ancient legends/myths with no historic basis.

Reference
[1] Origins of Judaism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origins_of_Judaism

[2] Zoroastrianism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoroastrianism

[3] Angels: http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Am-Ar/Angels.html

[4] Mesopotamia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesopotamia

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