Friday, 20 November 2009

The Historical Nation of Israel

One question that worries me when reading the Old Testament is what is the historical basis of this document, is it history or a set of folk tales of the development of a nomadic who became a settled nation. Do I have to believe whole-heartedly in the Old Testament to be a Christian, when some of it is actually inaccurate with historical records, such as the order of the events and names in the book of Daniel?

Before the First Book of Samuel what is known of Israel and Judah in any historical records? The answer is almost nothing, if we look at the books preceding 1st Samuel, the nation of Israel is essentially a nomadic people who are moving into the area that we now know as the Holy Land; this nomad nature leaves a problem of finding artefacts and historical information about the twelve tribes of Israel. The big problem is that, can we believe what is in the Bible before the First book of Samuel? The only answer I can come up with is that it depends almost entirely on faith, even then how do we read the books, as historical documents or as a kind of folk tale of what has happened that has been inspired by God.

How can we read the Old Testament in the modern area do we need to have an historical, a theological, philosophical or sociological viewpoint while reading it? Do we need to look at the first six books of the bible as the narrative for the beginning of a nation, such as the legends of King Arthur? Now I personally believe someone such as King Arthur existed and the legend of his life grew up around him in forms of folk stories to help strengthen the underclass of the day, how can I not say that the bible is the same folk tale about justice and the beginning of a nation?

The problem with a folk-tale is it is mainly aimed at a specific audience who have interpreted certain events in specific way how can I understand the biblical stories set in the Bronze Age Middle East when I live in 21st Century England?

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Beginnings of Monotheism

I was e-mailing a while a go someone and they mentioned the enemy, used to signify the devil, who is trying to tempt us and lead us astray. The concept of an enemy or an evil spirit is amazingly prevalent in a lot of religions, but especially in the Persian faith of Zoroastrianism who follow the teachings of Zoroaster. In Zoroastrianism, Ahriman is the destructive spirit, we can consider Satan as similar and Ahura Mazda as the uncreated creator or similar to what Christians call God, a Zoroastrian says that people have free will to follow uncreated creator. The concepts of the evil spirit versus the uncreated creator will be very familiar to Christians in God versus the Devil; angels are also part of the Zoroastrian faith. Why are these faiths similar in so many ways?

The overall similarity between the Persian Zoroastrian faith and the Abrahamic faiths is exceptional, but when looking at the area we notice that we are considering the Middle East. It is not known when Zoroaster lived, but it looks to be between 1300BC and 700BC, this puts him at the same time as the Hebrew nation and maybe within the time of Moses according to historical research as it is not known when he actually lived either, estimates range from 1700BC to 1300BC, or according to some researchers whether he actually lived at all. The one figure that is known when he lived is the pharaoh Akhenaten and his chief consort Nefertiti who lived in the 14th century BC and tried to convert Egypt from polytheism to what may be considered by some as monotheism and by others and more accurately as henotheism. So monotheism was becoming important in between what is now Iran and Egypt in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.

How come monotheism became so important round the Middle East, did Moses influence Akhenaten and Zoroaster, or was Moses influenced by one of them? The more one considers the dates it seems strange how the Jewish and the Zoroastrian faiths may have come into being at the same time or within a century of each other and a form of monotheism in Egypt as well was being encouraged by a Pharaoh. Why was monotheism happening at that time in the Middle East in so structured forms?

As a Christian living 3300 years later the effect of monotheism around the world has been amazing, we have the Abrahamic religions and a quarter of million Zoroastrians. The point where monotheism started seems really to be one of the most major events that the human race has ever known, yet we will probably never pin pot the time, the location or the person who started it, it seems to come down to faith over historical records or any form of archeological findings, there exists the Zoroastrian and Abrahamic faiths and some ruins in the Egyptian desert to worship Aten, but no more. Is it enough to believe the Old Testament or is there other proof for what happened at that time not discovered yet?