So Much in Common
Islam is related to the Christian movement more closely than just sharing the OT. Jewish Christianity developed into a different religion than Gentile (Pauline) Christianity. When you think of it, it is astonishing that none of the so-called fathers of the church in the second and third centuries were Jewish even though all the original Christians were Palestinian Jews, and also that the first church was the Jewish Church at Jerusalem presided over by James, the brother of Jesus. This would be like having an SDA Church and General Conference without a single American in it in this the second century of its existence. The leaders of the first church were all Jewish to start with, and a century later not one Jew was a leader of the great church.
It seems that one of Mohammed’s wives was a Jewish Christian or had that background- anyhow, Mohammed had a knowledge of the difference between these two streams that flowed out of the movement that was always bicameral. Jewish Christianity believed that Jesus was an eschatological prophet who became the messiah and son of God by adoption after the order of King David (Psalm 2). They did not believe he was God, did not go down the Trinitarian Godhood road, did not go down the blood atonement road, did not see Jesus death of the fulfilment or anti-type of animal sacrifices – in fact the Ebionites rejected the entire institution of sacrifices. And of course they continued to revere and obey the Jewish Torah, like being paranoid about eating swine’s flesh and so on. The bottom line is that Jewish Christianity never stayed exactly the same ( any more than the great Gentile Church remained the same but developed its theology, rituals and traditions) and so it finally morphed into Islam. Paul tried to heal the Jewish –Gentile fracture, did not succeed as the story in Acts about his last visit to Jerusalem makes clear, and so what we get is two hostile camps – Christianity (Gentile) and Islam which still retains much in common with Jewish Christianity.
Campbell calls it “mythical defamation.” We easily see that other religions believe in ridiculous myths, and so we defame them. Of course the others see ours in the same light. The same goes with miracles inside our bible amd miracles outside our bible – we so easily judge the outside miracles as mythical nonsense, but do not apply the same critical standard of judgment to the miracles of our own religion. That’s why good scholars today insist on judging canonical gospels and non-canonical gospels by the same rules of historical/scientific/rational criticism. Ah…. I smell, you stink!
Ineffability: that was the essence of the notion of God the Father held by the Arian ‘heretics’ in the fourth century. But humanity could relate to this God through his son, the Logos made human. The Logos was lesser than the Father, but so far above humanity that he could be worshiped. This seems no more mind-bending than the Athanasian notion that Jesus is true God and true man, a divine and a human nature united in one person. The latter is what Constantine bullied the Council of Nicaea into accepting. Constantine was not a bishop, of course, and at the time of the Council was technically not even a Christian, since he was not baptized. He received baptism on his deathbed–by an Arian bishop!
Bob to Victor
I like your mini-presentation of the Arian controversy – that Arians were killed for believing that Jesus was what the Hindus would call an avatar of God.
God is above all thought and imaginings, but orthodox theology by its Trinitarian theology thought it could build a tower that reached unto heaven to penetrate that which was above all thought and imaginings.
The Sabbatarians jumped up and down claiming that the church broke the fourth commandment. They should have been jumping up and down because it broke the second commandment which forbade trying to build an image (imagine) of the Unimaginable. Anyhow, I like your take on church history from time to time.
Bob Brinsmead – May 14, 2013
The Jesus clan were the core of the Jerusalem community, apparently. James the brother of Jesus was the leader of the Jewish Christians, and then other brothers or cousins took over after James was martyred about 62 CE. James Tabor thinks the family established a kind of Jesus or family dynasty, with family members occupying his throne until he returned. I have some doubts on this, and if it actually happened, I would have to say that they never understood Jesus when he was alive and never understood his mission after his death. But the best books covering the family to my knowledge are Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus (a weighty 1073 –page tomb which my brother John, after reading it a few years ago, called ‘’a life-changing book.” The other one is Butz, The Brother of Jesus. The clan continued on with the Ebionite movement.
Some of the best books on the historical Jesus are by Geza Vermes. He has recently died. He is called the father of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is a Jew who was educated in a Catholic Seminary and was the only one of his clan who escaped the Nazi Holocaust. He became a NT scholar. His best known little book is called Jesus the Jew. Near the end of his book he makes the following statement:
“Ä final word must be said about the bridging of the gulf between son of God and God. None of the Synoptic Gospels try to do this. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to content that the identification of a contemporary historical figure with God would have been inconceivable to a first-century AD Palestinian Jew. It could certainly not have been expressed in public, in the presence of men conditioned by centuries of biblical monotheistic religion….
“Whether Jesus himself would have reacted with stupefaction, anger of grief [to his deification] can never be known. One thing, however, is sure. When Christianity later set out to define the meaning of son of God in its Creed, the paraphrase it produced – ‘God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, consubstantial with the Father’ – drew its inspiration, not from the pure language and teaching of the Galilean Jesus, nor even from Paul the Diaspora Jew, but from a Gentile-Christian interpretation of the Gospel adapted to the mind of the totally alien world of pagan Hellenism.” Pp. 212-213
Given the above, there is no chance whatsoever that Christianity as it stands, will ever be capable of converting a significant number of Jews and Muslims to the Christian faith.
l�;tr�o��� and the other gods are flabbergasted by this and do not know what to do to help the popular Enki. Finally a fox (!) gets Ninhursag to come back, exactly how is unknown because this part of the story is missing.
Finally Ninhursag comes back and she places Enki between her legs and asks him in what body parts he is ill. Then she creates eight healing goddesses, one for each body part, and soon Enki is well again. One of the sick body parts is the ribs, and in Sumerian the word for rib is “ti”. The goddess created to heal Enki’s rib is called “Nin-ti”, which means the “rib woman”. However, the Sumerian word “ti” also means “life” or “to make life”, so “Nin-ti” also can mean “the woman who makes life”. The Sumerians were very fond of such puns, but this pun was of course lost on the bible authors, since the name Eve in Hebrew (Chavvah) may resemble the Hebrew word for “life” (Chay), but have no resemblance with the Hebrew word for “rib” (Tsela)(or `ala` in Aramaic).
The story’s emphasis that the births of the creation-goddesses is without any pain or discomfort, is an element we find in Gods punishment of Eve for causing the fall of man: “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children” (Gen 3,16).
The very name “Eden” is also originally a Sumerian name and simply means “plain/flat terrain”. The name originates from the controversy between the Mesopotamian city-states Lagash and Umma about whom should rule the fertile river-valley of Gu-Edina(The banks of Eden) located between the two cities.
The Great Flood
In the cultures like the Sumerian/Mesopotamian and Egyptian, which emerged in fertile river valleys, the rivers are the very lifeblood of these cultures, the very foundations of existence. The yearly flooding of the rivers was crucial for agriculture and crops. If the flooding is too small or do not happen one year, famine, hunger and crisis is the result. If the flooding is too big, the fields, cities, granaries are destroyed and irrigation systems clogged, and the society faces a catastrophe.
Destructive Floods were relative common in Mesopotamia, and the rivers and the deities associated with them were central to these people’s religion. The concept of a devastating great flood as the divine punishment of a displeased God is also very common in these cultures. It is also a concept quite foreign to pastoral desert nomads like the Hebrews. The biblical story of Noah and the Great flood is more or less a direct copy of the far older Sumerian mythical story of a great Flood and the boat-building hero Ziusutra found in the Gilgamesh epos.
Many of the clay tablets with this epos are now in the British Museum. There exist several versions of the Mesopotamian myth of the great flood, all far older than the biblical version.
The rivers of the Tigris, the Euphrates and the Nile evidently caused many great floods, so the background of the Mesopotamian myth is based on real events, but of course exaggerated in their mythical form. The Flood as it is presented in the Bible is exaggerated in such a way it is completely ridiculous. To cover all the mountains in the world the sea level had to rise 9000 meters. This would actually call for humongous amounts of water *, actually many times the amount of water existing in our entire solar system.
The size of the Ark (Gen 6,15) is described as big enough for two specimens of every species on earth. The volume of the almost 1 million known species of insects, each with multiple different families, would probably be bigger than the vessel itself, and then of course we have the problem with inbreeding. To avoid inbreeding the Lord allowed seven pairs of the birds and the “clean” animals in the Ark, but of humans there were only four pairs: Noah (hardly particularly fertile when 600 years old), his wife and their three sons and their wives.
By the way, how exactly did the 600(!) years old Noah and his family gather the 1,190,200 known species of invertebrates,5416 species of mammals, 5743 species of amphibians, 9917species of birds and appx. 8163 species of reptiles, – and each species with its many different families and subgroups? And this in only seven days?
Like all nature religions, natural disasters were considered as an act of God to punish his subordinates into obedience. The motif of the story of Cain and Abel can also be found in myths from old Sumeria together with many others. Since the Sumerians were the first literate civilisation, their myths and stories were written down, copied and became known over huge parts of the Middle East. Comparing the stories on the excavated clay tablets with the biblical stories, the similarities are quite obvious. The biblical texts were written late in antiquity, and the writers were inspired by, and building on an already rich source of stories, myths, religious motifs and history from the surrounding high cultures.
Actual historical events and figures were transformed and over time took on a mythical form. The biblical story of the tower of Babel (Babylon) is such a story. In this story all the people of Babel talked the same language, but when the people tried to build a tower into the heavens, God got annoyed and confused the people’s language so no one understood each other anymore. As a consequence the whole building project failed. The story relates to the real 90 meters tall tower Etemananki of Babylon.
When Jerusalem was conquered by king Nebuchadrezzar 2 in 597 BC, he overthrows the Jewish king Jeconiah. Ten years later, in 587 BC, there was a Jewish uprising, and Nebuchadrezzar then levelled Jerusalem and brought part of the Jewish elite back to Babylon as hostages. The capitol of Babylon controlled the trading routes and was the centre for trade and culture in this mighty and influential empire. Babylon was a melting pot of people and many different languages were spoken. The Jewish elite stayed in Babylon from 886 until 839 BC, and reminiscences of it is found in Hymns verse 137 and the prophet Daniels stories of king Nebuchadrezzar (Dan 4,33).
There is actual evidence of the Jew’ stay in Babylon in a clay tablet inventory from 592 BC. The inventory lists the different foods king Jeconiah and his court were entitled to. The size and monumentality of the city of Babylon, ands its rich culture made clearly quite an impression on the Hebrew elite. The huge central ziggurat and the 90-meter high tower Etemananki, several big temples and double 30 meters high city walls with towers, would impress anybody even today. It was also here the Jewish, and later Christian, idea of Angels originates, depictions of human figures with wings were commonplace on temples in Babylon.