Phenomenology of World Religion ©
Ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Zarathustra
In this chapter, discussion will focus on the Greek and Hebrew religions, but will occasionally contain discussion about other religious cultures of the ancient world because of their impact and cross-culture sharing of ideas, et cetera. It is basically an overview. The original biblical texts known as the Old Testament [I] were written in Hebrew and later, when the Greek civilization grew to influence other cultures in the Greek language. The Greek translated biblical texts are known as Septuagint Bible, and later when translated to Latin, Vulgate.The learning and knowledge that we have, is, at the most, but little compared with that of which we are ignorant.
Plato [Philosopher, Teacher, Founder of the Athens Academy]
History was as much as part of biblical texts in the Hebrew world as any other subject in the Old Testament. Scholars consider the Jews the great historians Confessional and philosophical texts are not necessarily historical. Regardless what religion is researched, its sacred texts must be examined, as well as the historical background. Before there was archaeological evidence to back it up, there were only the original author’s words to study Hebrew biblical works; and it was difficult for scholars in their goal to canonize scriptures to create the Bible because of the question of who the author or authors were despite that some books were identified with the book that had been preserved over the centuries. This led to theological argument among scholars and researchers, and it was not helpful when scripture was categorized by conjecture.
The scholars and historians found literature within biblical works that matched known archaeological evidence and combined with improved methods of dating helped to put together a chronological history. So, just as the biblical authors endeavored to use history as a means of setting the background that led to what we read today, this book’s purpose is to define those meanings that the author intended and clarify or present some arguments about certain historical texts revelations and/or content. Pre-historical religion and the meager texts on the subject from the ancient world makes researching difficult in that area, but improves as humans began to record the verbal history in a form that could be read, passed down, and studied.
The Jews were one of the first to organize and write down detailed accounts of history and who were able to retain that history better even than the Egyptians, whose religion and culture was older, had tried to record historical events. The only culture that came close to preserving the details of history in antiquity was the Greeks prior to the Roman Empire. Later the Hebrew texts would be translated to Greek and then Latin. Today the Bible is written in 86 languages and dialects all over the world. The Bible is probably the most cited and read book/text collection in human history.
The history of the Israelites becomes confusing as far as terminology as the researcher progresses from antiquity to its present history. For a long period of time they had no nation and became commingled with other cultures, including countries in Europe, as history shows us. Jews were no longer called Israelites until they reestablished their sovereignty in their original holy lands in the late 1940s after the infamous Holocaust of Nazi Germany. Jews, Hebrews, what and who are they, really? Their scriptures, religion, traditions, and sense of ethnic history all under the universal concept of monotheism kept them unified as a people and from becoming extinct as a Babylonian or an Assyrian.
When researching the ancient religions, the investigator soon finds a complex collection of similarities in the data provided throughout history concerning transition from polytheism to monotheism and those cultivated from pagan to the intellectual monotheistic philosophy religions. We find a recipe of mixed differences, with a touch of historical confusion for flavor; then the ingredients are placed in a bag of cross cultures; mixed thoroughly to provide the final product. In this chapter an examination of the two ancient cultures that had an impact in many ways upon each other and future cultures, specifically the religion. This book is not a comparative study of religions, although Chapter 17 deals with this, but in investigating the historical aspect and/or the founding of the religion, a scholar, historian, or interested reader can see the parallels and similarity in doctrine, rites and other aspects. However, in the study of Abrahamic religions, three monotheistic philosophy religions become part of comparative study: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All three religions deem Abraham as the patriarch, as well as Moses being an instrumental prophet in regards to the covenant of God and its renewal. Further breaking it down, the two prophet-teacher-reformers, Jesus of Nazareth (Christ) and Mohammad provide philosophical and spiritual covenants of original monotheistic theme, and each religion (Christianity and Islam) undergo a major splinter from the original Abrahamic religion of Judaism. Jesus the Christ did not denounce Judaism, but offered further insight upon the human relationship with God and the promise/revelation of life after death, as well as parables of how one conducts oneself in the physical world in preparation for the spiritual world; whereas Islam (Mohammedanism) has a theme of reform from perceived changes upon the original Abrahamic monotheistic foundation - announcing to the ancient world (and today) that it is the way of truth and absolute monotheistic paths approved by God (Allah). Therein, despite its similarities and common origin from Judaism, the oldest monotheistic religion in human history, lies the arguments and rift between the three religions, in which Mohammed describes as People of the Book, those Abrahamic people who are not Islam. Christian scriptures and Gospels stem from the original sacred text, whereas the Qur'an of Islam stands on its own containing discussion concerning Christianity and Judaism as well as an establishment of theocratic law - Sharia. Specifically, the Qu'ran is comparison and reveals that Judaism and Christianity, while still recognizing aspects of them, have declared revelations given to Mohammed as the Messenger of God, in defining what has been perceived to have changed from the origin. More discussion of Christianity and Islam will be in more detail in later chapters.
It is considered that ancient Greece was the foundation of future cultures, for example, Rome, and its sources of development culturally had much to do with its religion or religions. The western world was influenced in many ways by ancient Greece and the eastern religions will be examined in other chapters. Many centuries later Greek architectural influence could still be seen throughout Europe and even crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the colonies, specifically the southern colonies where plantation mansions were built with architecture influenced by Greek and Roman design.
The word Judaism comes from Greek, which in term also translates from the Hebrew word Yehudah, ‘Judah’, and their belief and practices are in the Hebrew Bible known as the Tanakh. In addition to the Tanakh, further explanation is provided by the Talmud, as well as other theological texts, such as the oral Torah. Judaism is not just a religion, but a covenant between the Children of Israel and God. Of the major five religions of today, it is considered to be the oldest of the monotheistic religions. While the religion was, and sometimes is, ethnically in nature, conversions are accepted. Today, of the world population of Jews, orthodox and unorthodox, there are 41% who live in Israel and 40% living in the United States. Central authority and written guidelines of Judaism is in sacred texts, religious laws, and where rabbis are trained to interpret those texts and laws. The rabbi is not just a religious leader, but a community counsel. Judaism is a covenant between God, but also with the laws established by Abraham living around 2,000 BC, and who is considered the patriarch and founder of the Jewish nation. Moses, upon securing the tablets containing the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, formed both a written and oral Torah and a renewed covenant with God. Those established and written rules of conduct are also a part of the foundation of principles for Christianity, as well as certain commandments being part of civic law of civilized nations.
As will be examined in the chapter concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew, would reform Jewish thought and become a danger to established patriarchs of the day, as well as certain aspects of the sacred texts. The patriarch was not worried about his teachings, in respect to sacred texts, because Jesus observed the rites and rituals, such as Passover, but was concerned that his teachings would weaken their rule of authority. Some Jews (and others) believe that Jesus never existed and the writers of the New Testament scriptures/gospels invented him.
The Torah, the written law, known also as Pentateuch, or the Five Books of Moses, has 613 commandments, overseeing the daily life of the Jew. Before written, the Torah, in its creation, was orally handed down – just as the story of the Creation. This portion is called oral law, and was expected to be known and passed down by the rabbis originally from the Pharisee sect of ancient Judea. After the destruction of Jerusalem, most of the material of the oral law, Torah/Pentateuch were edited by Judah haNasi (200 AD) and culminated into the Mishnah. Within the following four hundred years, this editing would be debated among scholars and rabbi.
Among those theologians and scholars were Jewish philosophers like Solomon ibn Gabirol, Saadia Gaon, Maimonides, and Gersonides. During the Enlightenment period (late 1700s to early 1800s), the way was paved for modern Jewish philosophers of both Orthodox and non-Orthodox thought. Hellenistic Judaism during the Platonic philosophical period of Greek history, was the beginning of change and division with the addition of cults, as with Christianity or more descriptive, divisions by philosophical and theological thought.
Orthodox Judaism contends that both the written and oral Torah was divine through the revelations of Moses, and the laws are binding and must never change. They hold to a main Jewish theology that is based upon the 13 principles of Jewish faith. This is further divided into styles of Modern Orthodox Judaism of today and Haredi Judaism, the latter being conservative views.
During the period of Enlightenment, when the Jews had immigrated to Germany, another form was created called Reform Judaism, or sometimes called Liberal or Progressive. This reformation consisted of theoretical views in defining the characteristic of Judaism in that it deemed Judaism as a religion, and not a race or culture and rejected most of the ritual ceremonial laws of the Torah, but retaining the moral laws and ethics established by the Prophets.
Reconstruction Judaism began as a philosophy by Mordechai Kaplan, who was a conservative rabbi, and later became independent of traditional Judaism. In this sect, men and women are equal and the focus is on spirituality and social justice.
And, finally, there is Humanistic Judaism, a small entity that emphasizes Jewish culture and history defining Jewish identity, founded by Rabbi Sherwin Wine in North America and Israel, with affiliations in Europe and Latin America.
It is unilaterally accepted by scholars that Hebrew culture, along with Greek and Latin traditions were the founding principle of Western culture. This changed occurred after 300 BC, when the Near East became influenced by Greek culture. It is also conceived that Greek philosophy has been complementary with biblical thought, which demonstrates the Hellenic influence upon Judaism, more than just a written language. Historically, there had been organized Jewish communities in Greece for more than 2,000 years. The oldest was the Jewish group called Romaniotes inhabiting Greece. In translation, it meant Greek Jews. Their language was Yevanic, a dialect of Greek. The language didn’t survive past ancient times, although there are Romaniotes today in Greece, but they speak Modern Greek.
Those Jews who left Portugal and Spain to live in Greece are known as Sephardim, most settling in the Thessaloniki region.
It has been established that Judaism began in Greece between 300-250 BC on the island of Rhodes. Hyrcanus, a Jewish leader living in Athens became so popular by the Greeks that they raised a statue in his honor in the Athens agora. Much of this period’s information comes from the historian, Josephus, a Hellenized Jew. Archaeological discoveries have uncovered ancient synagogues in Greece, the most famous being the Synagogue in the Agora of Athens and Delos, which dates back to the 2nd century BC. The intellectual status of Jewish philosophy must have blended well into Hellenistic culture. When Ptolemy took over Alexandria, intertwining with the Egyptian culture as well as religion, Hellenistic influence was visible as well, and after the conquest of the Kingdom of Judah in 332 BC by Alexander the Great, Jews had migrated to Alexandria, attracted to the cultural city for its opportunities. Thus the Jews of Alexandria created a melting of Greek and Jewish culture, while Jews still in Jerusalem were still divided between conservative and Hellenistic factions.
When Greece fell to Roman Empire power in 146 BC, Jews living there had experienced a different nature of Roman rule than those in Judea Province. In fact, when found together, the Jews of Greece would separate themselves from the Jews of Judea socially. Paul of Tarsus was originally a persecutor of early Jewish Christians until his historical conversion on the Road to Damascus, Paul being a Hellenized Jew who spoke Greek. Later, Paul of Tarsus would be instrumental in the founding of several Christian churches in Rome, including Asia Minor and Greece.
When the Western Roman Empire collapsed, parts of Roman civilization continued within the Byzantine Empire, and among them the Jews of Greece and the leadership at Constantinople attempted to force Jews to convert to Christianity. This endeavor was not successful because of the strong Jewish ties within Jewish-Greek communities. Around the middle of the 15th century, Jews in Greece established a settlement at Ashkenazi, with Jewish immigrants from Hungary and Germany during the 15th century persecution of Jews in Europe. Jewish immigrants from France and Venice also arrived in Greece to create a new Jewish community in Thessaloniki. During this period, the Ottoman Empire took control of Greece until the Greek War of Independence that ended in 1832. The Jews enjoyed economic prosperity through commercial trading and businesses like tailoring in Thessaloniki. Expelled from Spain, 15-20,000 Jews arrived in Thessalonica, and the city set up its first printing press, which expanded learning and aided commerce.
In the middle of the 19th century, change came to the Greek Jewish life. The population had increased so immensely that there resources became scarce, fires occurred frequently, and city hygiene problems began to occur. The city then was controlled by Bulgaria after the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1912, and Greek soldiers entered the city at the end of the First Balkan War. By this time Hellenism had long faded away as an influence upon Greek Jews and life became worse as the Nazi regime began to conquer Europe, that included Greece and the Final Solution program for Jews was put in effect. However, many Jews were saved by their Greek neighbors who hid them or helped them to a place of safety. Turning back to ancient Greece, Hellenism, and certain influences …
The major elements in the unification of civilization, according to Will Durant's Story of Civilization, have been established as:
(1) a common language, (2) a common lifestyle in which major figures in literature, philosophy, and sciences are known beyond their political borders, (3) a common love of athletics, (4) love of beauty expressed in forms of art, and (5) common religious ritual and belief.
It is the fifth item, religion, which divided Greek cities as much as it united them. Under the general worship of the Olympians, there were offshoot cults who didn’t serve Zeus and his divine family. Tribal and political separations encouraged polytheism and made monotheism impossible. In the early days every family had its own personal god. The god of fire naturally was important for its use as a source of heat and something to cook and prepare food with. From those ancient rituals, mystic poetry concerning the events of human life was developed. Each city also had its special god. Athens worshiped Athena; Eleusis, Demeter; Samos, Hera; Ephesus, Artemis ; and the city of Poseidonia worshiped Poseidon. The center and the highest elevated area within the walls of the city was the shrine of the city’s god. I have observed when visiting the ruins of these ancient cities in Anatolia, [II] which was seemed to be the norm when cities/towns in the ancient world were built. The city became like the family or tribal center where they kept a public altar in the pyrantheum, [III] which was where the sacred fire symbolizing magical qualities and the life of the city’s founder and, a practical reason, a source to obtain flames in their home firepots to keep their home fires going in a time when there were no matches.
Military invasion and conquest brought about the fastest method of cultural and ethnic exchange. Armeans of Damascus took cities away from Omri of Israel and established commercial agents in Samaria. When Omri's son, Ahab, defeated the Arameans and recovered the lost territory while posting his commercial agents to Damascus. The early Hebrew and Greek writings interconnected east and west and the texts of Sumer and Egypt contributed to this mixing of different cultures. The arrival of Indo-European immigrants into the Near East changed the art of warfare. They accomplished this by introducing the chariot.
The old Babylonian expansion was similar to the old Assyrian. The Akkadian language was developed and written in the Amarna Age, and extended from Anatolia through Canaan and into Egypt. This was the Babylonian rather than the Assyrian dialect, which has been proven by Babylonian tablets found at Mari; which has also shown the connection between Canaan, Asia Minor, and Crete at the latter part of Hammurabi’s reign. It may be possible that Babylonian tablets may one day be found in Egypt, especially since the Hyksos Empire ruled that territory in Asia and Egypt.
In the Book of Genesis, chapter 23, Abraham purchased real estate from a Hittite near Hebron in southern Palestine. Until a few years ago, biblical scholars assumed that the Hittites of Genesis were not Hittites. But the real estate transaction agrees with the Hittite law that was revealed when the Hittite tablets were discovered. Religious texts of the Jews and Christians have been beneficial in archaeological excavations.
Although the Greek pagan religion slipped into historical memories, the Greek language has survived in written form, called Linear B script, oldest surviving form of the Greek language that was used in Knossos, Crete in the Amarna Age of Egypt around 1400 BC. It was probably a spoken language for about 3,500 years. The Jews preserved their religion and the Hebrew Scriptures in a long tradition of being historians of the ancient world. The use of spoken Hebrew as a national language did not disappear into history because of its importance in religious doctrine and texts so that even when Israel was reestablished as a state in recent history it continued the Hebrew language. This is a remarkable achievement.
In the Book of Esther, a Jewish community [IV] is described which kept the Jewish identification and accepted other Jews of the world as fellow Jews. This sort of thing happened in the Jewish colony of Elephantine as well.
The Hittites, who used the Assyrian-Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, sponsored merchants in Canaan and other places. Documents of Hattusili III [V] regulated the activities of merchants. Merchants are being emphasized here because they not only traded goods between the East and West, but traded ideas as well – often selling texts and manuscripts to those interested. The Haram/Urfa area is believed to have been Abraham’s birthplace.
Book of Genesis, chapter 15, portrays Abraham, the founding father of the Semites, [VI] as the commander of his own company of troops, which helped increase the size of his Amorite allies. It is thought by scholars that they acted as mercenaries within the military organization of the region. It is during this period of time that Abraham defeats a coalition of invading kings and he is referred to as a Hebrew. Abraham was an outsider who served as an official, trader, and warrior combined.
During the Homeric Age there seemed to be no interest in trade. The Linear B tablets depict the economic and administrative view of the Mycenaean civilization. The Babylonians brought business law to the East, including Aegean and Egypt. These businessmen were called tamkaru. They established the capitalist type system in Mesopotamia.
Hammurabi Code has a three-part division of society: (1) patrician, (2) plebian, and (3) slave. These three major divisions were further divided: government over the governed; herdsmen and farmers; military and civilians; and so on. Each craft had its own guild. Guilds were important for channeling transportation and it also helped spread cultural ideas.
Just like the archaeologist finds artifacts reflecting a specific technique that was distributed throughout the ancient world from a discovered clay pot: so has the Culture of Mesopotamia and the Hammurabi Codes shown the guild structure of ancient Near East society. This guild system has also identified organized religious groups as part of a guild. These professionals, in the form of prophets, priests, et cetera, were for hire. 
The major point or question is: Was religion created by priests? In the case of Greek polytheism, the answer is yes. Looking at the evolution of Semitic monotheism, the answer is not clear. It must have been a blessing to have so many deities, legends, sacred shrines, and festivals for early priests to use as tools to keep their followers interested. The priests produced a system of controlling the people.
During this particular period of time, the historical researcher can see a great change in culture and society’s attitudes. Despite the fact that the Hebrew people were historians, it was impossible for them to be an island of culture and tradition because of the series of conquests and persecutions that created change. The main reason for this change was the introduction of literature that could be copied and passed around to retain the Hebrew religion. It also was a chronicle of their history that could have been lost when the Jewish state of Israel became no longer their own. The Hebrews loved history and because of it we have the books of the Bible, specifically the Old Testament. And because of a shepherd boy's discovery, we have the Dead Sea Scrolls that a religious group secreted away in a cave for safe keeping; obviously to prevent the marauding armies of pagans from destroying them[VII]and with hopes that they or someone who knew their value would return to retrieve them. We have the legends, the story of the great Hebrew kingdoms of David and Solomon and the descriptions of the people who surrounded them – both friend and foe. We have an account of the oppression of the Hebrew as slaves to the mighty pharaohs of Egypt and the wonderful story of their release and exodus to the place they called the Promised Land. The Bible is a book filled with history, philosophy, genealogy, and examples of Jewish literature, such as the Book of Psalms of the talented King David, the shepherd-king and his son, Solomon represented the golden age of Israel.
The Song of Songs was written near the end of the third century before Christ by a Jewish poet. It is composed with the style of Greek verse, like Sappho or Theocritus of Greece – but with an intense imagination, deep feeling, and devotion added to represent the idea of the soul’s transformation of flesh into spirit. Hellenistic Jews wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Jesus the Christ spoke at least two of these languages, but whether he could read and write we cannot know for sure. If we look at the fact that he was a carpenter’s son, it is highly unlikely that Joseph could afford a teacher to teach him these things, but yet, according to certain texts he was a successful and well known carpenter traveling far to perform carpentry tasks, even at the court of kings and important citizens – so he may have been able to afford a scribe or tutor to teach Jesus and his other son some level of education.
These books were Book of Ecclesiastes, Book of Daniel, part of Book of Proverbs and Book of Psalms, and most of Apocrypha texts. The Old Testament Apocrypha are those books that were excluded from the Jewish Canon as uninspiring, but were included later by the Roman Catholic Church.[VIII] Vulgate [VIV], for example, was the Latin translation by Saint Jerome of the Hebrew and Greek texts of the entire Bible. The main books of the Old Testament Apocrypha are Ecclesiastics [X], Book of Esdras I and Esdras II [XI], and Maccabees I and Maccabees II [XII]. The first English Bible was translated from the Jerome's Latin version and not from the original Hebrew and Greek text in the 14th century. This will be further discussed when examining the Christian religion.
The apocalyptic books are those that claim to contain prophetic divine revelations; such writings appeared around 250 BC, and continued into the Christian era. Some Apocalypses, like the Book of Enoch, are considered apocryphal, others, like the Book of Revelation are considered canonical.
The Hebrews composed histories like the Books of Chronicles, novelettes like Book of Esther and Book of Judith, and accounts of family life like the Book of Tobit. It is during this period that Hebrew script changed from old Assyrian to the square Syrian style of writing that has remained the same even today.
In Ecclesiastes, 1:13 –
And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven . . .Written by King David and which represents the earliest form of the Greek Doctrine of Logos, also found in the writings of King Solomon in the first chapter of Proverbs. The Book of Enoch was apparently written by several authors in Palestine between 170 and 666 BC and its main theme is the hope of heaven. Without the prospect of reaching heaven, life and history seemed to be negative. [XIII] A Messiah is prophesied to come who will establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, and reward the good with immortality and happiness after death.
The Book of Daniel relates the terror of persecution during the age of Antiochus IV and also related the suffering and prophecies of Daniel in the days of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. Copies of the book were passed secretly among the Jews and spread the word that it was the work of a prophet who lived three hundred and seventy years before and predicted a triumph for the Jews. This apparently helped the priests keep the Jews faithful and instilled hope to combat the pagan campaign against them. This also inspired the fortitude to stick it out during the hard times and retain their identity and pride as to whom they were as an ethic group. Even if some should fall under persecution, they were promised better times in life after death.
In earlier ages Jews were not offered rewards of life after death. They were still confident that God, who saw and knew all things, would reward the good and punish the bad while on Earth. It is this transition [XIV] that is an interesting point of time in history when the change of philosophy reflects the difference between the Old and New Testaments. The Egyptian captivity was what shook the old belief and was reestablished when the temple was rebuilt after they were set free to the promised lands in their historical exodus. The temple was restored and the Jews once again endured hardship under the rule of Antiochus. That old faith is the reward on Earth of those who were virtuous and shattered the ideology once and for all. Something in the form of hope and reasoning was needed to continue their ethnic identity.[XV] It is also interesting that it is during this period that the Ark of the Covenant, which had aided the Jews against their enemies, also disappeared into the mists of history. It still is being searched for by historians and archaeologists today.
During ancient Greek’s progression toward intellectual thought, the Hellenistic period, which is the beginning of philosophy, it should be mentioned here the concept of Stoicism, the followers of this doctrine being referred to stoics, later developing into an official school that began in Greece and later in Rome, where philosophical authors wrote what has been passed on to modern times, names like Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor (some deem him to be the last of the great emperors that believed the Republic should remain strong so the Roman Empire could last), Seneca, and Epictetus. The original Stoics in ancient Greece were Zeno (Founder), Cleanthes, and Chrysippus who formed the doctrines and established the school in Athens, the latter teacher completed the written works of the Stoic doctrine.
The Stoic Doctrine is divided into three parts: logic, physics, and ethics; however, Stoicism is mainly concerned with the system of ethics, guided by logic using theory as the main method, with physics backing it all up as the foundation. It is a system that teaches apathea (perfect indifference) and that externally speaking there is neither good nor evil.
Stoic logic, essentially, is the logic of Aristotle. To that, the Stoics added theory of the origin of knowledge and the criteria that creates truth. Knowledge enters the mind through the bodily senses, the mind being a clean chalkboard waiting for inscription. Stoicism is the exact opposite of the Plato’s ideology, where the mind stands on its own in terms of the source of knowledge with bodily senses being sources of illusion and error. In other words, Plato believed that while the sense of touch, smell, hearing, et cetera were useful, it could create illusions and cause the mind to create errors while it absorbs knowledge. Stoics denied the reality of metaphysics, the ideal of concepts because conception is merely created within the mind and an abstract from reality outside the consciousness.
While all of this relates to philosophy with the sciences of physics and the mechanics of the mind involved, it is still part of the theological concepts of the ancient Greek religion in the relationship between humans, the spiritual world and circumstance of mortality – all focused within the mortal mind.
In Stoic physics, nothing incorporeal exists – it is a philosophy of materialism, apart from Plato’s knowledge and reality being the ultimate form. To Stoics, all things are material – the soul and even God himself. If all things are material, then matter was formed from a primordial being whose composition was fire – the logos of creation. The soul is a divine fire, an energy that permeates and is within the body, and thus is the instrument, the primal fire, of which God permeates and pervades all things in the world. Stoics, despite their materialistic view, declared that God is absolute reason; therefore the world is governed by reason creating order, harmony, beauty, et cetera. The individual is not free because there can be little freedom in a world governed by necessity. What we do in life is governed by causes as well as necessity.
The Ethics of Stoicism is based upon two principles that were developed in their physics: (1) the universe is governed by absolute law with no exceptions; (2) the essential nature of humans is reason. Morality is rational action, while virtue is life according to reason.
Stoics did not claim perfection, separating themselves from Socrates and Diogenes.
In the writings of the Greeks, the Jews found the poetic interpretations of the tragedies of life’s meaning. Meanwhile, the Jews were aware of the Persian ideas of heaven and hell, good and evil, and the hope of victory of the good over the finality of death and beyond. This offered an escape from the philosophy of despair. Perhaps, some scholars conjecture that the idea of immortality had come from Egypt from where the Jews had been held for generations and the priesthood or prophets had introduced this idea in religious doctrine of the Hebrews, but the Persian religion, Zoroastrianism, is older than the Egyptian organized religion – if anything had any impact it would be Zoroastrianism. Inspiration of the Greek philosophies was passed from the Greeks to the Romans. Zoroastrianism has survived through the ages and remains in a form today. From these Jews, Egyptians, Persians, and Greeks their world passed down the idea of eternal reward and punishment that would create a new and stronger faith and helped them to make sense out of a hard and seemingly disintegrating world they lived in. Although the people of Israel lost their national identity, out of those four cultural groups only the ancient Hebrew religion would remain while the rest fell to Christendom and Islam as the centuries passed on. But it all seemed to have been based upon an older monotheistic and philosophical religion called Zoroastrian, as scholars can only speculate.
Zoroastrianism is the oldest of the revealed world-religions, and it has probably had more influence on mankind, directly and indirectly, than any other single faith.[XVI]
You may wonder why this religion is inserted into this chapter that concerns Judaism and not with the Eastern Religions in Chapter 6. It is because of what Zoroaster[XVII] was, its history and its influence upon Judaism and even in early Christianity. It is possible that Jesus of Nazareth knew of and studied the philosophical concept of it.
Zoroaster was thus the first to teach the doctrines of an individual judgment, Heaven and Hell, the future resurrection of the body, the general Last Judgment; and life everlasting for the reunited soul and body. These doctrines were to become familiar articles of faith to much of mankind, through borrowings by Judaism, Christianity and Islam; yet it is in Zoroastrianism itself that they have their fullest logical coherence …[XVIII]While Zoroastrianism was established in Persia, scholars believe it had great influence upon the monotheistic religions that followed, especially when the Library of Alexandria was built and its impact from the texts from around the known world made knowledge of other cultures available.
The sacred text of Zoroastrianism is Avesta, as well as many Pahlavi scriptures. It is remarkable that the archived texts of Avesta have survived considering it was founded 1100 to 1500 years [XV IV] before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth and a several hundred years after the earliest recorded Hebrew prophets between 900 and 800 BC. Amazingly the religion has survived into the modern age, to include America.
Zoroastrians were and are the followers of the Iranian prophet, Spitaman Zarathustra who lived and preached somewhere around the Aral Sea about 3500 years ago. It may seem incredible that such a sophisticated religion would arise so long ago, but remember that the first government administration was established around 5,000 BC in Babylonia where the city-state was developed and each city-state eventually came under the rule of a central government that would become one of the wonders of the ancient world – Babylon, which fell into ruin by conquest around 583 BC. Only one other civilization had such a long history, and that was Egypt. Much had been written in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible concerning Babylonia and Babylon, especially during its golden era under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar.
Iran, at the time of Zarathustra's birth was a land of many pagan gods and goddesses. Zarathustra wrote hymns called Gathas, which revealed to others that there was only one, supreme, all-knowing and eternal God of good who created all. His name was Ahura Mazda, Lord of Wisdom, wise, good and just. Zarathustra taught that Ahura Mazda was a friend to all and should never be feared, but should be worshiped. Ahura Mazda was in conflict with two spirits from the beginning of time – Spenta Mainyu and the diabolical Anghra Mainyu, the Hostile Spirit. Humans, representing the best of creation, were/are in the middle of this primeval struggle between good and evil. The prophet, Zarathustra instructed that it was a gift to humans that they had free will and they must fight and defeat the Hostile Spirit using goodness, truth, devotion, and attempt to achieve perfection. The seven qualities: Good Mind, Truth, Power, Devotion, Perfection, and Immortality are known as the Amesha Spentas – “Bounteous Immortals.” It is the choice of humans to achieve the virtues of the divinity in order to
know how to generate the right thoughts, words, and actions. [XX]According to Zoroastrianism, humans must seek a spiritual quest in order to preserve the seven creations of the sky, waters, earth, plants, cattle, humans, and fire. The prophet saw fire as the physical representation of Asha (Order, Truth, Righteousness), and as a source of light, warmth, and life for his people. The religious rituals, which are important in Zoroastrian life, are performed in the front of fire the life energy that comes from the other six creations.
Zarathustra taught that since this world [XXI] was created by Ahura Mazda, creator of goodness, humans should live well and enjoy its gifts – but in moderation. Excess and evil thoughts and ways are the workings of the Hostile Spirit. The practice of monasticism, celibacy, fasting and other deprivations of the body and mind are practices that weaken man and lessen his power to fight evil. Pessimism and despair are sins that lead to succumbing to evil. Zarathustra encouraged everyone to lead an active, industrious, honest, happy and charitable life.
When physical death occurs, seen as the temporary triumph of evil, the soul is judged at the Bridge of the Separator, where the soul will receive its reward or punishment, depending upon the life led in the material world; which was determined by thoughts, words and deeds. If the soul was found to be righteous, the soul ascended to joy and light, and if the soul was wicked, it descended into the depths of darkness and gloom. Yet the latter punishment is not eternal, as in other religions, but just a temporary predicament. There is a promise that a series of saviors called the Saoshyants will appear in the world and complete the triumph of good over evil. Ahura Mazda will be finally the winner in Endless Light. A final Judgment will then take place where all the sold are waiting for redemption, which will be followed by the Resurrection of the physical body, which will once again meet up with its soul. Time, as we know it, will cease to exist and the seven creations of Ahura Mazda will gather together in the Kingdom of Mazda, where everything is in a perfect state of joy and immortality. It is interesting to note that there is a Hebrew ideology/doctrine concerning Endless Light.
History and InfluenceHistory reveals that around 4,000 BC some catastrophe occurred and the Aryan tribes living in the region north of the Caucasus Mountains left their homeland and spread out in different directions. Those that went south ended up in the Iranian land and others settled eventually in the Hindu Kush Mountains and India. This split is attributed to the teachings of Zarathustra and his revelation of just one Supreme Being, God, which he named Ahura Mazda. For over a thousand years, the religion taught by Zarathustra was the state religion of three Iranian empires: the Achaemenians (549-330 BC); the Parthians (248-224 BC); and the Sasanians (224 BC – 652 AD). Among the subjects were the Jews, and at one time, the Egyptians, who seem to have adopted some of the concepts of Zarathustra teachings, especially that of the after-life concept and description of heaven and hell. It is speculation, yet scholars can point to the sacred texts of Zarathustra and see that it compares to the Gnostic Jews (which was initiated by Hellenistic Jews) and the Gnostic Christians at the beginning of what scholars call the Common Era.
In the 7th century AD, the Arabs conquered Iran and many of them settled there, gradually changing the religion to Islam. In the early 10th century, a small group of Zoroastrians who were searching for freedom of worship and better economic situations, left Iran and sailed towards the shores of India. They arrived along the Gujarat coastline in 936 AD at a place they named Sanjan, 180 kilometers from Bombay. There they stayed and took on the name of Parsis, which translates to Persians. The descendants still live in India, while small groups continue to try to live in the Middle East, like Iran.
Modern ZoroastriansIn the early 20th century, the Zoroastrian community numbered about one million individuals in India, Iran, and various parts of the English-speaking world. Recently the number of Zoroastrians has been estimated to be only 140,000. If the religion ever dies out, the texts will remain in libraries all over the world for scholars and investigators to continue to read beyond the 21st century. As far as history tells it, Zoroastrianism is the oldest monotheistic religion in the world, inline with the Hebrews. It once stretched from Anatolia (modern Turkey) to Kurdistan on the Persian Gulf, and they numbered in the millions. Scholars argue that Hebrew texts out date Zoroastrianism records.
Interestingly, the Gathic dialect of Zoroastrianism sacred text is similar to the Vedic Rig Veda, so some have dated the Rig Veda to have been written from c.1500 to 1250 BC. Plato put Zoroaster in the 6th -4th century BC, but it is clear that Zoroastrianism was present between the 18th and the 11th centuries BC. Scholars still argue about it today. The Zoroastrians worship wisdom and have been coined as being “Followers of the Good Religion.”
Yasna – Sacred Liturgy and Gathas Hymns of Zarathustra.
Khorda Avesta – Book of Common Prayer.
Visperad – Extensions of the Liturgy.
Vendidad – Myths, code of purification, and religious observance.
Arda Viraf – Visit to Heaven and Hell, written in the middle-Persian language.
Bundahishn: Greater Bundahishn – Zoroastrian cosmology.
Chidag Andarz-i-Poryokeshan – Catechism.
Dadestan-i-Denig – Religious Decisions.
Denkard – 9th century compendium of Zoroastrian wisdom.
Epistles of Manuschchihr – 881 AD.
Menog-i-Khrad – Spirit of Wisdom.
Rivayat of Adur-Farnbag.
Rivayat of Farnbag-Srosh.
Saying of Adarbad Mahraspandan – More advice on living a good life.
Selections of Zadspram – a summary of Zoroastrian legend and beliefs.
Shayest Ne-Shayest – Proper and Improper.
Dabestan-e Madaheb – School of Religious Doctrines; a 17th century description of religious doctrines and occult practices of India.
Dhalla, History of Zoroastrianism (1938) – Part 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
Dhalla, Saga of a Soul – Autobiography, part 2, 3, 4, 5.
Drower, Peacock Angel (1941).
The Game of Asha – Adapted from the Shah Nama of Firdausi.
Pazand Book of Jamaspi – Prophecies of the last Millennium.
Persian Rivayats – 15th to 18th century epistles.
Qissa-i-Sanjan – History of Emigration of Zoroastrians to India.
Two great disasters were responsible for the destruction of Zoroastrian original text. The first was the invasions of Iran by Alexander the Great in 323 BC when religious texts and the Fire Temples were destroyed. Many priests were put to death taking knowledge of the religion with them.
The second disaster was even worse than the first. This was due to another invasion, this time by the Islamic tribes in the 7th century AD. Fire Temples and religious texts were burnt and once again priests were killed. Arabic replaced the Persian language. It was a miracle that any text survived. Around 950 AD, a small group of Iranian Zoroastrians found haven in India where they lived in peace with other communities ever since that time.
Contemporary researchers and scholars have shown the possibility that Zoroastrian influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Those that agree with this historical finding describe the similarities with Christianity and its founder, Jesus of Nazareth:
- Zoroaster (Zarathustra) was born of a virgin.All of these events occurred hundreds of years or several thousands of years before Jesus the Christ, Buddha or Mohammed.
- He was baptized in a river.
- In his youth he amazed wise men with his wisdom.
- He was tempted in the wilderness by the evil nemesis of the good, one and true God.
- He began his ministry around the age of 30.
- Zarathustra baptized with water, fire, and what he called the holy wind.
- He cast out demons and restored the sight to a blind man.
- He taught about heaven and hell, and revealed mysteries, including resurrection, judgment, salvation, and the apocalypse.
- He had a sacred cup.
- He was slain.
- His religion had a Eucharist.
- Zarathustra followers expect a second coming concerning the Saoshyant or Savior, who is predicted to come in 2341 AD and begin his ministry at the age of 30, which will bring about a golden age for humanity.
Others like James Patrick Holding disagree, who wrote “Did Zoroastrianism Influence Christianity?” He states that Zarathustra was a real person, but it is questionable as to when he lived in the timetable of history. The other argument of Mr. Holding was that Persian had nothing to do with Jerusalem. Apparently he has not considered what is called the Captivity – a period when Jews suffered, lost their Temple, and Jerusalem was destroyed – all because of the Persian Empire.
Here is an excerpt from his paper:
Does Persia have anything to do with Jerusalem? Zora's [sic] faith had an idea that sounds like, and probably is, bodily resurrection, though it is most clear only in AD-dated Z texts. Did the Jews "steal" this idea while under the thumb of the Persians? There is no direct evidence either way; the Persians may have got the ideas from the Jews, and from Ezekiel or Daniel. We'll see some other general ideas they have in common as well. But in terms of borrowing, no evidence exists -- one way or the other, and a determination depends on the interpretations and datings of Zoroastrian texts. Zoroastrian scholars offer no consensus on the subject [Yam.PB, 461]: Yamauchi cites one Z scholar who believes that the Jews borrowed, another that says there is no way to tell who borrowed, and yet another who says that the borrowing was the other way. There is also a great difference in approach: The Jews buried their dead, while the Zoros [sic] exposed their dead. Others argue that the Jewish idea of Satan is borrowed from Zoroastrianism. But Satan appears in Job, a very early book, and is nothing like the evil Zoro [sic] god Ahriman, who is a dualistic equal to Ohrmazd the good god, rather than a subordinate. Finally, it is significant that while the OT used plenty of Persian loanwords for governmental matters, they did not use any for religion [Yam.PB, 463]. The most we find is, I am told, the name of a Persian demon in the Book of Tobit!While Zarathustra was supposedly created by a ray of divine reason, he had an earthly father whose name was Pourushaspa. While Zarathustra did receive a revelation from an angel while at the bank of a river that he later would cross, [XX II]
At age seven, Zarathustra had disputes with the Magi who practiced the occult and magic, necromancy, and sorcery. They were put to confusion by him.[XX III]
Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, according to the New Testament, but Zarathustra spent ten years experiencing visions and dealings with a sub-demon by the name of Buiti that Ahriman the Evil One sent.
Zarathustra was the first prophet/teacher to use the word resurrection by stating that after judgment the dead will rise up and they will become not-aging, not-dying, not-decaying,not –rotting.[XX IV] But he wasn’t talking about the spirit as the Christians stated, but the soul matching up with one’s physical body and becoming immortal. Since the age of Zoroastrianism is close to the development of the Egyptian culture and civilization there may have been influence upon the Egyptian’s view of life after death from Zarathustra.
Whatever or whoever caused or influenced the belief, whether from learned men or a Supreme Being, the faith in afterlife has created a hope for the Zoroastrians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and the Islamic people. (Muslims[XX V]) It is in this despair that humans turned to the faith of the afterlife. It is a mental state that passes on to us strength to meet fate, the world’s troubles with hope, and meet the inevitable journey into the unknown that all must take – death. I have come to the conclusion that religion is created by humans, and whether the stimulation is divinely inspired or dictated to be written down by deity, Supreme Being or a spiritual being, this is only to be constant conjecture.
The main problem is that only fragments of the original texts of Zoroastrianism remain and since then they have been translated and re-translated from the original.
As far as the possibility of a holy cup, or as in the legend established in the medieval period of Christian history, there has been no evidence in the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism to show this. Also, stories developed 1400 years after his death, and there is no historical evidence as to whether or not Zarathustra was murdered or not.
Eucharist – Zoroastrians do have communal meals like several religions and even political groups in ancient times. But there isn’t any atonement, therefore how could there be a Eucharist or anything similar? There is a rite that involves the intoxicating haoma plant, which may or may not have been established by Zarathustra and involves a daily rite of consumption with no specific ceremony or Eucharistic ritual. There is also a ceremony that involves the use of bread and a drink made from ephedra, pomegranate twigs, and milk strained through a filter made from the hairs of a white bull, but that ritual has not been established in Zoroastrianism world wide, nor does it seem to pre-date the Christian era.[XX VI]
A return is expected in the year 2341 AD and is to start a golden age; but details about the Zoroastrian Messiah are not conclusive enough to describe as to what age the savior would be.[XX VII] A vague doctrine of a future redeemer exists in the Z texts that are dated to be in the 400s BC, but it is the 9th century texts that go into detail; which makes scholars believe it was added in later.[XX VIII]
So, the discussion and argument still remains as to what, if any, role Zoroastrianism had in the foundation of Judaism text, Christianity or Islam. The three later religions all have values and beliefs that can be found in earlier religions, and except Christianity, which is the key element of Jesus of Nazareth principles that prayer and preparation of the spirit takes over animal sacrifice, which Judaism and Islam retains in its basic doctrine and ritual traditions.
As far as historical records, it appears that Zarathustra was the first to introduce monotheism, even before the brief period in ancient Egypt’s history of monotheism, when everywhere around the ancient world polytheism was the general practice. Zarathustra also introduced the concept of a Satan, demons, angels, final resurrection, and final judgment concepts.
Scholars cannot agree on how extensive any influence of Zoroastrianism had on the aforementioned Abrahamic religions, but some of this stems from reluctance because of outcry from the three religious groups, and because interpretation is the key principle in the investigation to this question. I will break down some thoughts by religion to provide reflective thought upon the subject.
Judaism and ZoroastrianismZoroastrianism was founded by the Persians, when they defeated the Babylonians and at the same time freed the Jews allowing them to return to Judah. In the Book of Isaiah II, the Babylonian Exile is recorded by Hebrew historians and state that Cyrus, King of Persia, was the instrument of allowing the Jews to go free and return to their homeland. Scholars argue that the high regard the Jews felt toward Cyrus allowed them to be more open minded about the theological ideas of the Persians. Also, the Persians accepted other names for Azura Mazda as the one true God, and were only concerned about his worship.
That saith of Cyrus. He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.Isaiah 45:1:
Thus saith the Lord to his appointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden …Isaiah 45:4:
For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel my elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee even though thou has not known me.Earlier books of the Old Testament tells of God’s intervention in human life, but creation stories can only be found at the very beginning, put there by chronological history as the book of books, the Bible, is put together. In Zoroastrianism sacred text, much importance is given to Ahura Mazsa and his creation of the world and some scholars think that these writings influenced Jewish writers of the period. It is interesting that only two places in the Old Testament does it mention creation: the Book of Genesis, and the Books of Isaiah II, where the account of the Babylonian Exile is written.
In addition, before the Babylonian Exile, the Hebrews did not believe, or at least write about, the concept of resurrection and the spiritual places of heaven or hell, as the final destination for human souls. Even in Ecclesiastes 9:5, when resurrection and immortality is discussed one wonders if the Babylonian Exile had influence upon such thinking. Ecclesiastes 9:5 –
For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.That passage doesn’t sound like death offers reward in heaven or punishment in hell – but the soul being destined to go into nothingness.
During the life of Jesus, which I will provide more detail in Chapter 7, the Sadducee rejected the concept of resurrection, as well as reward and punishment in the after life. In fact, Josephus tells us in his history that the Jews denied the immortality of the soul. The Pharisees, however, had already adopted such concepts, making some scholars to believe that the word Pharisee is actually a derivative of the word Farsi, which is the ancient name of the Persians language and followers of Zarathustra.
Christianity and ZoroastrianismMore so than Judaism, Christianity is more similar to the doctrine of Zoroastrianism. Judaism painted the picture of Satan (Lucifer, the fallen archangel) as one who constantly put to test faithful humans to God, as well as envious of the humans because of God’s special attention and love he had for them. In Judaism, Lucifer was seen as a loyal assistant of God and not an adversary. Christianity saw Satan, who was once Lucifer of the Holiest of Holies, an archangel as a total adversary of God in terms of jealousy and hatred of the humans who were special to God. In this respect, it is like the confliction between Angra Mainyu and Ahura Mazda, the former being the reflection of what Christians viewed as Satan/Lucifer – the Great Liar and nemesis of God and evil against humanity.
Islam and ZoroastrianismIslam inherited from Judaism and Christianity many of the earlier apparent influences of Zoroastrianism, but the evidence is too subtle to be sure. We cannot know how much, if any influence came upon Mohammed when he was writing the Sutras of the Holy Qu’ran. The main contact with the Persians in Islamic history would be when the Arabs conquered Persia, but it is doubtful that they allowed influence; on the contrary, it was more likely, based upon the philosophy then, that they insisted upon Persians converting to Islam. It has been recorded that Persians underwent a great suffering and persecution for their theological beliefs at this time. Once again the details of the Bridge of Judgment (Sarat), as well as the concept of rewards, heaven, punishment, hell and the return of souls to the source from which they came can be utilized as facts from the scriptures of the Qu’ran more than any other hypothesis.
However, the daily prayers required to be conducted five times per day, the importance of wisdom in the course of one’s life and conduct, refusing to publicize any images and Allah being merciful and benevolent point more ammunition in favor of influence of Zoroastrianism.
BOOK OF ARDA VIRAF
This book is from the Pahlavi text collection. It begins with an introduction in Chapter 1 concerning the time when destruction and chaos came upon the followers of Zarathustra:[XX IX]
(1) They say that, once upon a time, the pious Zartosht made the religion, which he had received, current in the world;An interesting text from Vijarishn I Chatrang, translated by J.C. Tarapore, Bombay, 1932, it is a story about a subject of the King of India who explains and demonstrates the game of chess to the Iranians. While this text has nothing to do with Zoroastrianism, at least directly, it is interesting how far back the game of chess can be found in history.
(2) and till the completion of 300 years, the religion was in purity, and men were without doubts.
(3) But afterward, the accursed evil spirit, the wicked one, in order to made men doubtful of this religion,
(4) instigated the accursed Alexander, the Roman, who was dwelling in Egypt, so that he came to the country of Iran with severe cruelty and war and devastation;
(5) he also slew the ruler of Iran,
(6) and destroyed the metropolis and empire, and made them desolate.
(7). And this religion, namely, all the Avesta and Zand, written upon prepared cow-skins, and with gold ink, was deposited in the archives, in Stakhar Papakan,
(8) and the hostility of the evil-destined, wicked Ashemok, the evil-doer, brought onward Alexander, the Roman, who was dwelling in Egypt, and he burned them up.
(9) And he killed several /Dasturs/ and judges and /Herbads/ and /Mobads/ and upholders of the religion, and the competent and wise of the country of Iran.
(10) And he cast hatred and strife, one with the other, amongst the nobles and householders of the country of Iran;
(11) and self-destroyed, he fled to hell.
(12) And after that, there were confusion and contention among the people of the country of Iran, one with the other.
(13) And so they had no lord, nor ruler, nor chieftain, nor /Dastur/ who was acquainted with the religion,
(14) and they were doubtful in regard to God;
(15) and religions of many kinds, and different fashions of belief, and skepticism, and various codes of law were promulgated in the world;
(16) until the time when the blessed and immortal Ataropad-i Marspendan was born; on whose breast, in the tale which is in the Denkard, melted brass was poured.
(17) And much law and justice were administered according to different religions and different creeds;
(18) and the people of this religion deposited in Shaspigan were in doubt.
(19) And afterward, there were other magi and /Dasturs/ of the religion;
(20) and some of their number were loyal and apprehensive.
(21) And an assembly of them was summoned in the residence of the victorious Frobag fire;
(22) and there were speeches and good ideas, of many kinds, on this subject:
(23) that "it is necessary for us to seek a means,
(24) so that some one of us may go, and bring intelligence from the spirits;
(25) that the people who exist in this age shall know
(26) whether these Yazishn and Dron and Afrinagan ceremonies, and Nirang prayers, and ablution and purifications which we bring into operation, attain unto God, or unto the demons.
(27) and come to the relief of our souls, or not."
(28). Afterward also, with the concurrence of the /Dasturs/ of the religion, they called all the people to the residence of the Frobag fire.
(29) And from the whole number they set apart seven men who had not the slightest doubt of God and the religion,
(30) and whose own thoughts and words and deeds were most orderly and proper;
31) and they were told thus: 'Seat yourselves down,
(32) and select one from among you, who is best for this duty, and the most innocent and respected.'
(33) And afterward, those seven men sat down;
(34) and, from the seven, three were selected; and from the three, one only, named Viraf;
(35) and some call him the Nishapurian. (36) Then that Viraf, as he heard that decision, stood upon his feet,
(37) joined his hands on his breast, and spoke
(38) thus: 'If it please you, then give me not the undesired narcotic
(39) till you cast lots for the Mazdayasnians and me;
(40) and if the lot come to me, I shall go willingly to that place of the pious and the wicked,
(41) and carry this message correctly, and bring an answer truly.'
(42) And afterward, the lots of those Mazdayasnians and me were drawn;
(43) the first time with the word 'well-thought,' and the second time with the word 'well-said,' and the third time with the word 'well-done'; each of the three lots came to Viraf.
It is said thus that during the reign of Khosraw of immortal soul Divsaram, a great king of India, for the trial and wisdom and knowledge of the Iranians and for securing his own benefits set up the game of Chatrang [XX X]; 16 pieces were made of diamonds and red ruby. With that game of chess were sent 1200 camels loaded with gold and silver and jewels and pearls and clothes, 90 elephants which carried selected things came with them and Takhtritus, who was the vizier among the Indians, came with them.This following ancient text is a letter that requested that the King of India send wise men to instruct Iranians in the fine art of chess playing:
As your name is the King of Kings, all your emperorship over us connotes that your wise men should be wiser than ours. Either you send us an explanation of this game of chess or send revenue and tribute to us. …The story then continues …
The King of Kings asked for four days’ time and there was nobody among the wise of the county of Iran who could explain the game of chess. … on the third day Vazorgmitro, son of Bôkhte, stood up on his legs. He said, “be thou immortal! For this reason I did not expose the explanation of the game of chess till this day so that you and those who are from the country of Iran should know that I am wiser than any man in the country of Iran. I shall solve the game of chess easily and secure revenue and tribute from Divsaram and I shall prepare another thing and shall sent it to Divsaram which he shall not be able to solve and I shall exact double the tribute from him; and be you sure of this that you deserve the emperorship, and the wise men here are wiser than those of Divsaram.” The Emperor thrice said, “O Vazorgmitro! My Takhtritus, you may live long.” He ordered 12,000 jojans to be awarded to Vazorgmitro.The game of chess is mentioned in the Pahlavi text along with “Chatrang” and the knowledge of the two games was regarded as essential in the education of princes. In the Sha namehthere is no mention of this game, but another game called nard is said to have been invented by Vazorgmitro and taken to India.
Next day Vazorgmitro called Takhtritus before him and said, “Divsaram made this game of chess like war. He made the two generals like the Kings who are essential for the left and the right, the farzin to resemble the chief of warriors, the elephant to resemble the chieftain protecting the rear, the knight to resemble the foot soldiers who lead in battle.” After this Takhtritus arranged the game of chess and played with Vazorgmitro and he thrice defeated Takhtritus and thereby great joy prevailed in the whole country. …
Vazorgmitro said, “Among the monarchs of this millennium Ardashir was the most industrious and wisest, and by the name of King Ardashir I shall call the game Vin-Artakhsir. I shall make the board of the Vin-Artakhsir like the earth Spandarmad. And 30 pieces I shall make like the 30 days and nights. I shall make 15 white to resemble the day and 15 black to resemble the night. The turning of the board I shall make like the revolution of the stars and the rotation of the sky. I shall make one of these revolutions like Ohrmazd who is one and from whom is granted all goodness. Two shall I make to resemble the spirit and earthly matter. Three I shall make to resemble good thoughts and good words and good deeds, and thought and word and action. Four I shall make to resemble the four elements of which man is made, and the four points of the earth: east, west, south, and north. Five I shall make to resemble the six periods of the Gahambars. I shall make the arrangement of Vin-Artakhsir on the board to resemble the creation of the creatures by Ohrmazd on this earth. I shall make the movements and the progress in a circle of the pieces to resemble the movements of men in this world whose intelligence is connected to spiritual, and who turn and pass on under the influence of the seven and twelve signs of the Zodiac, and when possible they smite and overcome one another just as men in this world smite one another. And when during the progress of this revolution all the pieces are overcome, they shall be like the men who pass away from this earth, and when they are rearranged they resemble men who become revived at the time of the resurrection.
While the Zoroastrian texts concerning death mention that when the judgment day comes, soul will be reunited with body; yet in the Poryokeshan (Book of Catechism), paragraph 16, it states:
I must have no doubt but that the soul will be severed and that the body will be dissolved. Nor may I doubt the three nights judgment of the soul at death, the raising of the dead and the Final Body, the crossing of the Bridge of the Requiter, the coming of the Soshyans, the raising of the dead and the Final Body.The final text body must mean that after the judgment has been made as to the goodness of the soul, then the soul resides in an eternal body.
Mythology of Ancient Greece
Polytheism seems to be as natural as polygamy. Even today, especially in the Mediterranean, it is not just God that is worshiped but the saints as well.Ancient Greece had a mythos, which translates to story [XX XI] attached to the god or goddess. There were so many gods that they were divided into seven groups:
(1) Sky Gods – originally the great god of the invading Greeks, the sky-god became Uranus [XX XII], and then later the “cloud-making,” “rain-making,” or “thunder-herding” Zeus.
(2) Earth Gods – the Earth, not the heavens, was the home of most Greek gods. The earth itself was the goddess Ge or Gaea, the patient mother who became pregnant via Uranus. A thousand lesser deities lived on Earth – in the water or its surrounding air. There were spirits in the sacred trees[XX XIII] or flowing streams and rivers like the deity, Meander [XX XIV] or Spercheus; [XX XV] gods of the wind, like Boreas, Zephyr, Notus, and Euras;[XX XVI] and their master, Aeolus; or the great god Pan.[XX XVII] Everywhere in nature there were gods, the air was crowded with good and evil spirits.
(3) Fertility Gods – The most mysterious and powerful force in nature was reproduction to the ancients. It was natural to the Greeks, like other ancient peoples, that they should worship the principle and symbolism of fertility – of the soil and animals. The phallus, as a symbol of reproduction, appears in the rites of Demeter, Hermes, and Artemis. In classical sculpture and painting this type of symbolism occurs frequently. The more vulgar side of this fertility cult was expressed in the Hellenistic and Roman periods through the worship of Priapus [Priapos] who was created from the sexual union of Dionysus and Aphrodite, and was popularly used in decorating vases. Evidence of mural art of this nature can be found in the ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Ephesus. In the excavations of the city of Ephesus statues were found depicting Priapos with a large phallus in the ruins of the brothel, and one was found in the well next to the Cadarium of the Scholastika Batha – a public bath and latrine area. A more artistic variation of the reproduction concept in deities was the goddess representing motherhood. The concept of a mother goddess is one of the oldest in the history of world religion. In the Mediterranean area and the land of Anatolia, where the oldest statues have been found in Catalhoyuk [Turkey] dating from around 7,000 BC. Arcadia, Argos, Eleusis, Athens, Ephesus, and other cities gave their devotion to feminine deities, often without husbands, with Zeus being the father of all the deities. Zeus represented the patriarch of society over the mother goddess.
The greatest of these mother deities was Demeter, goddess of the corn and tilled ground. Hymn to Demeter is one of the most beautiful poems from the ancient world. It tells the story of Demeter’s daughter, Persephone. While she was gathering flowers, Persephone was kidnapped by Pluto, god of the underworld, and was taken down to Hades. The sad mother persuaded Pluto to let Persephone live on the Earth nine months in every year. So when the winter came, the Greeks knew that it was time for Persephone to return to Hades. The ancient Greeks had myths to explain natural occurrences in nature. The deities were also helpful and instructive, when they wanted to be; Demeter taught mortals the secret of agriculture. A similar story existed with Isis and Osiris of Egypt,Tammuz and Ishtar in Babylonia, Astarte and Adonis in Syria, Cybele and Attis in Phrygia. The cult of motherhood survived through ancient classic times, many wars, as civilizations rose and fell; and culminated with an entirely different motherhood story in the life of Mary, mother of Jesus Christ.
(4) Animal Gods – Certain animals in early Greece were honored as semi-deities. There were not as many animals in the zoo of deities, except for the religion of ancient Egypt and India; but the Greeks, especially in the sculpture age, was giving human attributes to objects and animals. The bull was sacred because of its strength and sexual potency. Artistic representations have been found in ruins all over the Mediterranean from different periods – up to and including the Roman Empire period. The cow was sacred because of it being the favorite animal of the goddess Hera. The pig was holy in some early pagan religions because of its fertility. In Crete the snake-goddess was worshiped and passed on later in the 5thcentury to Athens.
In the Temple of Athena, on the acropolis in Athens, a sacred serpent called the Farnese Athena is half-covered with snakes. The snake was often used as a symbol of a guardian deity of temples and homes. The Pythian Games are thought to have been celebrated in honor of the dead Python of Delphi.
(5) Subterranean Gods – The most terrible of deities were those that lived under the earth. In caves and any type of darkened chamber lived the earth deities. These were worshiped in fear by the Greeks, mainly to keep them appeased. The subterranean gods were the deities that were older than the Hellenes, maybe older than the Mycenaean, who probably passed on the concept to the Greeks, according to archaeological findings. These gods were vengeful spirits of animals that had been driven from into the forests or under the soil by the increasing number of people covering the Earth. The greatest [XX XVIII] of the subterranean deities was Chtonios. This god was a scary looking snake, brother of Hades, lord of the underworld that was named after him. To make friends with this terrible god, the Greeks named him Pluto, the giver of abundance[XX IX]. Another terrible deity was Hecat - evil spirit that came up from the underworld and brought misfortune to all whom she visited. Superstitious Greeks would sacrifice puppies to keep the evil goddess away.
(6) Ancestor/Hero Gods – Before the classical age the dead were regarded as spirits capable of good and evil to the living, and were appeased with offerings and prayers. They were not really deities, but were looked upon like Christians do their saints. In classical Greece these ghosts were honored at festivals and feasts. Hero gods were derived from real warriors of history. Hercules and Achilles is a good example.
(7) Olympians – This group represents the most famous of the gods and goddesses of Greece and have frequently been the theme for plays and films. The gods were in a constant struggle against each other. The defeated gods were never wiped out; they just became subservient to the gods that won the contest for power. The Olympians were the aristocrats of deities and, sometimes, when the lesser deities got out of hand, they were punished. The leaders of Olympus were Zeus, Uranus and Cronus, and like Lucifer and his cohort of fallen angels in Christian lore, were overthrown. The name Zeus is closely related to the word “dies” and may have even been derived from the Indo-European term di [XX XX]. Jupiter was Zeus’ father, and like Yahweh[XX XX I]of the Hebrews, is among the earlier forms of the god of war. Later he becomes the calm, mighty ruler of gods and humanity, depicted with a long flowing white beard and fatherly looking. His one weakness was beautiful women, immortal or mortal. Zeus conceived Athena,[XX XX II] Apollo, and Artemis. The master craftsman of Olympus was Hephaestus, known to the Romans as Vulcan. He was always teased by the gods of the sky, and his tale is one of the classic Greek tragedies. You might say it was the earliest recorded story of child abuse. He was the son of Zeus and Hera. When Vulcan was born, Hera, seeing that he was not handsome like gods should be, threw him down from Olympus. He found his way back and built the mansion in which gods lived. Even though his mother was cruel to him, he always showed kindness to her and respect. He defended her when she quarreled with Zeus, and once he angered Zeus so much that his father grabbed him by his leg and threw him off Olympus toward the Earth. It was said that it took one full day before he landed on the island of Lemnos where he hurt his ankle so badly that he was forever lame. Once again he returned to Olympus. Later, in his earthbound, subterranean workshop, he built a huge anvil with twenty large bellows. He made the shield and armor of Achilles, the Troy saga hero; statues that were the first robots, and other wonderful things like a metal owl that could fly. The Greeks worshiped him as the god of all metal trades and handcrafts. They thought that volcanoes were the chimneys of his underground forges.
Later, Vulcan (Hephaestus) fell in love with and married Aphrodite, the beautiful goddess of love. But she was unfaithful and when he found out about her love affair with Ares,[XX XX III] he built a trap that fell on the lovers as they were together. His revenge was completed when brought them before the other gods and goddesses to look at them and laugh at their predicament of being tied together. Homer called Ares the curse of men, and tells about Athena knocking him down and covering him with stone, which was supposed to cover seven acres of the field he was buried in.
Hermes [XX XX IV] was another interesting character of the ancient Greek religion. He originated from stone and was worshiped by the cult of sacred stones, and the stages of his evolution are still visible. He was the stone placed upon graves, the boundary stone marking property. His name is derived from the word herm which means pillar. Hermes was depicted with a carved head and an uncarved body, and was often placed in front of houses in Athens [XX XX V]. Hermes was also the god of the traveler, which modern folks are more familiar with, and he was protector of heralds, staffs, and insignia. As the god of travelers, he also became the god of luck, trade, cunning, and monetary gain; the inventor of devices such as scales, measures, and a patron saint of embezzlers and thieves. He moves about on winged sandals at great speed. In one of the Homeric poems there is a story about Hermes when he was young and stretched strings across a tortoise shell and invented the musical instrument known as the lyre. Evidence of this myth has been found in real life by archaeologists that support this tale because of the manner in which the first stringed instruments were made.
Characteristics of ancient Greece, the deities of chastity, virginity, and motherhood should also have a goddess of love and beauty. That is where Aphrodite came in, one of the earliest mother goddesses. The mother goddess, as mentioned previously, is older than the father-god concept in human prehistory. Many statues of Cybele and Artemis, the mother goddesses of the ancient Mediterranean world, have been discovered as far back as 7,000 BC. Romans called her Diana and pictured her as a huntress and animal protector, if that combination made sense.
Mother goddess statues were made of baked clay and their hips, breasts, and genital organ were made larger than life. The oldest statue of Artemis was found in Ephesus and was made of wood. This form of statuary is called ksoanic, which means carved out of wood. Later the statues of Artemis would be more beautiful and carved from marble blocks as exotic temples were.
Although we do not know for sure the full story of mother goddesses found from prehistory, but we do know that she was known as Isis in Egypt & Latin Arabia ; Brighid [XX XX VI] by the Celts of Europe; Kubala, Cybele, Hepa, and Artemis in Anatolia region. Cybele was the most popular name in Anatolia and was probably worshiped more than any other deity. The evolution of the mother goddess changed in Pessinus, which was an important center in Phrygia. In Pessinus a meteorite similar in shape to the form of the mother goddess was worshiped as the statue of Cybele.[XX XX VII] During the reign of Attalos I, the king of Pergamum, a meteorite was taken to Rome hoping it would help end the war between Rome and Carthagia. It was erected on Platinia Hill.
The statue of Cybele-Artemis-Diana [XX XX VIII] always looked eastward. In Ephesus, the statue has bulbs on her chest, once thought to be multiple breasts, but instead they are testicles of bulls – an animal part that was used to sacrifice to the Greek mother goddess, Artemis. The lions/dogs at her feet represent the fact she was the protector of animals, the Mother Nature of the ancient world.
In the temples of the East, such as the Temple of Artemis, under Roman rule, were different from the original ancient Greek. When one became a priest the male sex organs were removed and the head priest was known as Megabysos. According to Strabo, the historian, the priests were chosen from the middle of Anatolia and the female assistants of Megabysos were required to be virgins, just as the Vestal Virgins of Rome. Another class of priests that served Artemis was called the Curetes. Curetes, according to Greek mythology, were related to Zeus and were considered semi-deities.
Subordinate deities were numerous: Hestia, goddess of the hearth and sacred fire; Iris, the rainbow; Hebes, goddess of youth; Eliethyia, who helped women in childbirth; Dike represented Justice; Tyche represented Chance; Eros represented love, which Hesiod made the creator of the world. There was Hymenus, the Marriage Song; Hypnos, Sleep; Oneiros, Dream; Geras, Old Age; Lethe, Oblivion; Thanatos, Death; and many others.
There were nine Muses to inspire artists and poets: Clio, History; Euterp, Lyric Poetry; Melpomene, Tragedy; Terpsichore, Choral Dance and Song; Erato, Love Verse and Mimicry; Polymnia for Hymns; Uranis, Astronomy; and Calliope, Epic Poetry.
There were the terrible Furies who ensured that wrongs were revenged, yet some Greeks called them Eumenides – Well Wishers.
And finally there were the Moirai [XX XX IX]who regulated the affairs of life and ruled gods and men. In the conception of the Greek religion, humanity finally peaked in creating gods and so it flowed into science and law.
Then there was the cult deity, a god that cannot be classified from the classical gods of ancient Greece – Dionysus. In Thrace, he was a god of liquor brewed from barley that came from the beer brewed in Egypt, where it originated. In Greece, Dionysus became the god of intoxication, and died for the cause of humans. The Greeks depicted Dionysus as the horned child borne to Zeus by his daughter Persephone. He was the favorite of his father, Zeus, and could usually be found seated beside the throne of Olympus. Hera provoked the Titans to kill him out of jealousy, but Zeus disguised Dionysus by changing him into a goat and later a bull. The Titans found out about the disguise and tore him to pieces. Athena saved Dionysus’ heart and brought it to Zeus. Herodus, the historian, discovered the similarity to the Egyptian god Osiris and wrote the first essay of comparative religion.
Mourning for Dionysus’ death and happy for his resurrection, a cult was formed, which became popular with the ancient Greeks. In springtime, when the vines burst into blossoms, Greek women went up into the hills to meet the god who was reborn. For two days they drank wine without stopping and marched wildly in parades led by Maenads [XX XX X] who were devoted to Dionysus. They listened to someone relate the story of his suffering, death, and resurrection; and as they drank and danced, they went into a frenzied trance. At the height of the ceremony they grabbed a goat, bull [XX XX XI] and tore the live victim apart in memory of Dionysus fate; and then ended the ceremony by drinking the blood and eating the flesh in a ceremony of communion. They called this state of frenzy and ecstasies, where they thought their souls became one with Dionysus and they would become immortal. This cult of drunken passion worked its way into popularity for a time from Greece to Thrace like an epidemic. The priests of Delphi and the rulers of Athens tried to put the cult down, but failed; so they adopted Dionysus into the ranks of Olympian gods. After official proclamation of this deity, the priests then set about turning the worship of Dionysus into more dignified processions, songs, and staged drama. Dionysus was eventually replaced by Apollo, before Christianity was introduced.
MysticismNext is the third element or stage of Greek religion [XX XX XII] -- the mystic. Every religion contains an offshoot ideology formed by a group and known as a sect or cult. Mysticism is found in all of the religions. Mysticism adds more interest and/or excitement to the religious rites. Usually these rites represented the suffering, death, and resurrection of a god. The following is a passage on mysticism by Will Durant :
In the age of Peisistratus, the mysteries of Dionysus entered into the Eleusinian liturgy by a religious infection; the god Iacchus was identified with Dionysus as the son of Persephone, and the legend of Dionysus Zagreus was superimposed upon the myth of Demeter. But through all forms the basic idea of the mysteries remained the same: as the seed is born again, so may the dead have renewed life, and not merely the dreary shadowy existence of Hades, but a life of happiness and peace. When almost everything else in Greek religion passed away, this consoling hope, reunited in Alexandria with the Egyptian belief in immortality from which the Greek had been derived, gave Christianity the weapon with which to conquer the Western world.This same doctrine and transition of religious ideas and philosophy allowed the Moslems to conquer the Middle Eastern world, although later it would use the sword for emphasis; and the Buddhist and Hindus of the Asian world. It is because they were based upon philosophy, and later the reader will see this in more detail concerning its founders and ideology in Chapter 6.
In the 7th century there came into Hellas from Egypt, Thrace, and Thessaly another mystic cult. Its source came from the age of the Argonauts and a human by the name of Orpheus, who was a Thracian. It is thought that he existed, despite the myth surrounding his story, not unlike the stories of founders of other religions. Orpheus is pictured as a gentle person, a mediator, sometimes a musician, and sometimes a reformer. He played a lyre so well that those who heard him play began to worship him as a god. It was said that he even tamed the wild animals with his voice. He married Eurydice and when she died he almost went insane. He found his way down into Hades through a series of events, charmed Persephone with his lyre and music, and was allowed to lead Eurydice up to life again on the condition that he should not look back at her until he reached the surface of the Earth. Anyone that knows ancient Greeks know that they loved a tragedy, so you can probably guess the rest of the story.
Just before he reached his destination, Orpheus wondered if his wife was keeping up and still behind him, so he quickly glanced behind him to make sure. As soon as he saw her, she suddenly was wrenched backward back into the underground gloom of the underworld forever.
Then the story gets worse. Attending a Dionysus ceremony after losing his wife to the underworld twice, Thracian women became resentful of him not allowing them to console him in his sorrow, and so, when the frenzied time came to tear apart an animal for sacrifice, he was attacked instead. [XX XX XIII]
After seeing what had happened to Orpheus, the favorite mortal of the gods, Zeus placed his lyre in the heavens as stars in the night sky, one of the constellations still recognized today as Orpheus. The severed head of Orpheus was buried at Lesbos, where the nightingale sings sweet songs, as the legend goes. It was said that Orpheus left behind many sacred songs. Hipparchus asked Onomaxtritus, a scholar, to edit these songs. [XX XX X IV] Sometime in the 6th century before Christ, the hymns had become sacred and formed the basis of a mystical cult, and replaced the worship of Dionysus, but far more sophisticated in doctrine, ritual and moral influence.
Orphic theology claims that after death the soul goes down to Hades and must face judgment by the gods of the underworld. The Orphic hymns and rituals, like the Book of the Dead, [XX XX XV] instructed the faithful in the art of preparing for the final test before the underworld gods. One form of doctrine stated that the punishment for the wicked was eternal damnation to Hades. This was later transmitted in theology concerning the concept of Hell. Jews were aware of the concept of Hell from the prophet Moses.[XX XX X VI] The Christians received their source from the biblical sources as well as Christ’s teachings.
Another form of this mystical cult adopted the idea of transmigration of the soul being reborn again until purity was achieved, and the soul was finally allowed to enter the Islands of the Blest. Another doctrine offered hope that the punishment of Hades could be ended through penance performed in advance by the individual, or after his death, by his friends. Here we can see the doctrine of purgatory. Plato angrily denounced this idea of such doctrines in the 4th century BC:
Mendicant prophets go to rich men’s doors and persuade them that they have a power committed to them of making atonement for their sins or those of their father’s sacrifices or charms … And they produce a host of books written by Musaeus and Orpheus … according to which they perform their ritual, and persuade not only individuals but those whole cities that expiation and atonement may be made by sacrifices and amusements [XX XX X VII]which fill a vacant hour, and they are equally at the service of the living and the dead. The latter [XX XX X VIII]they call mysteries, and these redeem us from the Pains of Hell; but they neglect them no one knows what awaits us.Despite the anxieties of this new mysticism, the Orphism doctrines appeared in the morals and monasticism of Christianity. Just as Yahweh, maker of war and of violent temperament was replaced by Jehovah of which Christ’s image was the father god; the decadent Olympian gods and goddesses were replaced by a strict code of conduct and philosophical theology and the great Zeus obtained a go-between in the form of a mortal god Orpheus. Into this Greek thought emerged the conception of sin and conscience, the body of evil and the soul as divine, and while this was nothing new to the Hebrew, this was a break through in religious doctrine of ancient Greece. Religion attained purpose and the soul was given the opportunity to be released. The brotherhood of Orpheus was distinguished by the wearing of white clothes, eating only fish and vegetables, and a pious way of life not associated with Hellenic custom. This change brought about a major change in the Greek world of religion, and the influence of the sect was lasting. This may be where the Pythagorean absorbed their customs of diet, way of dressing, and their theory of transmigration. [XX XX X IX]
The doctrines of hell, purgatory, and heaven; of the body versus the soul; of the divine human slain and reborn; as well as the sacramental eating of the body and blood, may have influenced the early doctrine of Christianity, another mystical/philosophical religion with promise of an after life. But scholars usually agree that any influence would have had to stem from the teachings of Zarathustra. Whether we choose to accept it or not, doctrine and rituals performed today most likely obtained its roots from pagan religions 500 years before Christ founded Christianity from its origins of the God of the Old Testament. Christianity and the other founder/philosophy religions will be discussed in later chapters, including Buddhism.
Homeric PeriodArchaeological discovery repeatedly justifies the text against the critics of the Homeric period and biblical works of the Hebrews, so that these books of history are a trustworthy outlook to the study of the life and thoughts of Hebrews, Greeks, and the ancient world Vulgate around them. After presenting the Hebrew as an historian and the philosophical background of the Grecian culture, the observations turn to other ancient literary works of various cultures.
The authorized Vulgate Text of Homer that scholars study and write about are essentially the same as the texts read by Herodotus and Thucydides. The difference between the Homeric manuscripts in the 5th century can be compared to the differences that exist between the Jewish and Samaritan Pentateuch; most of them being sections of trivia and small variations in the translation, but not affecting the meaning of the whole text.
The Homeric epic has evidence of influence of Egyptian literature in it. Much medical papyri passed to the Greek culture, which improved the practices of the Greek physicians and so did theological subjects.
The Trojan allies mentioned in the Iliad, 4:438, were composed of many nations who spoke different languages. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey are well known, but the similarities of stories in the Gilgamesh Epic are not. In researching for this book the greatest challenge was obtaining information concerning Eastern religions and their texts. All three stories are detailed events of an adventurer. In the Egyptian adventure of Romance of Sinuha, an exiled adventurer wanders around in Palestine and Syria, but at last is able to return home. The other Egyptian story is that of a shipwrecked sailor who returns from a magical adventure to Egypt bringing new found wealth with him. This Egyptian piece of literature is entitled Isle of the Shipwrecked Soldier.
The literature of Homer, Egyptian, and biblical texts is the accomplishment of a long history of literary development in the ancient Mediterranean and ancient cultures. The assumption that each of these literary works was a unique revelation has never made sense to me, considering the history of the development of said literature of the ancient cultures. The pre-Homeric and pre-Mosaic [XX XX XX] literature of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Ugarit show the researcher and scholar common origins of the earliest Greek and Hebrew classics – of which was later used in the Latin manuscripts.
One can also find discrepancies in the classic literature. For example, Pylaemenes, leader of the Paphlagonians, is slain in the Iliad, 5:658, but in 13:658, he is still alive. Turning to the biblical works of the Hebrew, Samuel's death appears twice – once in Samuel 25:1 and again in 28:3. If this was in the New Testament it would be understandable because some books were written by apostles who obeyed Christ’s request for them to be “fishers of men” and each do their part in spreading the Gospel. Each puts the account of Jesus’ birth and death, and while similar each has minute differences. In the case of the Iliad it is a mistake by the author; but in the case of the biblical works (Old Testament), the literature is not always in sequence, so it is repeated on occasion.
When Zeus’s son, Sarpedon, meets his fate, Zeus expresses his grief for his dead son by causing blood to rain. In Egypt, according to the biblical “Plague of Blood” story, streams, rivers and everywhere water should be turns to blood.
In Homer, the Achaean are fighting about the corpse of Patroclus and are covered in darkness, although others are fighting in daylight. In The Book of Exodus, Egypt was covered was covered in darkness except for the Hebrew area, which was full of light.
Another example of Greek and Egyptian literary similarities is the story of Odysseus who saved himself by climbing onto one of the planks of a wrecked ship. The Egyptian sailor saved himself in a similar way in The Island of the Egyptian text and the island was inhabited by a talking giant serpent. Acinous asks Odysseus to tell about his travels when he returns home. The serpent asks the Egyptian sailor to remember him when he returns home and rejoins his wife and family. In both the Odysseus and the Egyptian sailor story, the hero returns home with treasures from their travels.
The principle that gods are immortal is stated in the Hebrew scripture of Genesis 3:22 [XX XX XX I] where God tells the others (deities or angels?) that man is becoming dangerous for he has developed knowledge and must not be allowed to be immortal.
The mountains were the home of the gods of Greece: Olympus. For the Canaanites it was Mount Saphon, and for the Hebrew god it was Mount Sinai.
Zeus is the “father of men and gods.” In the Hebrew Scriptures there is but only one god, the father of all humanity; but yet he has archangels that are immortal and part of the sainthood – Michael, Gabriel, and so on.
Rarely is jealousy brought up in Greek and Egyptian sacred literature, but it is an attribute of the Hebrew God and even one of his commandments says so:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me. [XX XX XX II]It was not proper for humans to meet gods face to face. Jacob was the victor when he wrestled with an angel, and he then declared: I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. Looking upon God would mean death to a mortal. According traditionalists Moses was the only human after Adam and Eve to have seen God “face to face.” But this is not true if one examines Deuteronomy 34:10 – Moses hears a voice and sees a burning bush when confronted by God.
In the Greek Odyssey, Pallas Athena did not appear to Odysseus “face to face” because he feared Poseidon.
Deities sometimes disguised themselves as humans and visited mortals in order to more closely observe or deliver a message; and in the Hebrew texts, it tells of the divine visit to Sodom and Gomorrah by angels to deliver a message.
In the area of divine maternity, when it comes to ancient Greece, the question was often asked: How can one be sure of the father in a world where the gods impregnate the daughters of men? Something to the same effect can be found in Genesis 6:1-4 –
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.Beelzebub was a god in ancient pagan religion, but the word appears in the New Testament [XX XX XX III] with the meaning of King of the Demons. [XX XX XX IV] While demons are mentioned in the Old Testament, the subject was elaborated upon during the rise of Christianity and the writings of the New Testament. As I will discuss later, demonology becomes a fearful fascination in the medieval age of the western world.
The conception of sin is usually argued whether to be intentional or original. In Ecclesiastes, evil consequences occur when there wasn’t any intent to do wrong. In Hebrew law and custom, inadvertent sin is still sin. No one is expected to avoid sin completely because it is the function of religion to remove it. In ancient Greece, this was not so. Oedipus committed a sin without realizing it and became a hero. Agamemnon of Troy thought he was acting correctly when he took Brisels from Achilles.
Prayer and sacrifice cleans the sin away. Old Testament sacrifice has close parallels with Homeric sacrifice. Iliad 1:459-463 and 2:421-431 describes how an animal is killed by having its head drawn back so that its throat can be cut. The Old Testament Scriptures also have paragraphs describing or prescribing the slaughter of beasts for sacrifice, especially lambs.
The young boys with the five-pronged forks in Iliad 1:463 can be compared to the priests using three-pronged flesh hooks [XX XX XX V] in Samuel I, 2:13 & 14.
A researcher/scholar can find parallel stories of near-human sacrifice to a divinity in the Bible and the Homeric epic. If Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son, it represents the lesson that humans must obey God no matter what. The story found in Chapter 22 of Genesis seems to be missing a few facts. Just as God saved Isaac before the act was committed a ram was provided as a substitute. Artemis saved Iphigebenia at Aulis by carrying her off and putting a stag on the altar instead. These similarities show the essential elements of the story have backgrounds in both Greece and Israel.
Biblical ScripturesThe Bible is made up of several books that have variation in content. The Samaritans have only the Five Books of Moses in their Bible, and since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pentateuch was the most accurate part of the Hebrew Scriptures before the Christian era. There are and were many sects in the Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and eastern religions. Protestant bibles contain the normal Jewish Old Testament material and the New Testament in Catholic bibles has, in addition to this the Apocryphal books. The texts were translated from Hebrew to Greek in the classic age and then later from Greek to Latin.
There weren’t any biblical scriptures when it comes to canonical writings, except by the Greeks and Jews. The writings of other cultures and religions were collected, but not put into an authorized set of collected texts as we see in the Bible of today. It is interesting to read in the Old Testament about the Hebrew views of the political and cultural world around them, but always with the underlying subject of their monotheistic theology.
If one examines the sequence of the Hebrew books from Genesis through Kings I and II, one can find that they are not a group of books that can be easily placed in order. They fit together, but they are each a separate entity. The Book of the story of man and the wars of Yahweh (Jehovah) [XX XX XX VI] are pre-biblical and were written from oral history. These segments are not really books, but short stories that have been intermingled in chapters to create a book. Other examples of this are: The Story of Heaven and Earth,[XX XX XX VII] The Story of Noah [XX XX XX VIII] and so on.
These excerpts are sometimes used in later chapters and books, for example: The Book of Joshua shows up twice, first in Joshua 10:13 and again in II Samuel 1:18. [XX XX XX IX]
The Old Testament has been divided into three major components – History, Doctrine and Prophecy; but there is more to the Book of Books. It has poetry, biographies, philosophy in the form of proverbs and genealogy. The first seventeen books are historical. The first five of those are called the Pentateuch, a Greek name given to the five books attributed to Moses. The books of doctrine are: Job, psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. These books are poetical. The last seventeen books are books of Prophecy. The first five, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel are called the Major Prophets and the remainder is called the Minor Prophets.
After the founding of Alexandria in 332 BC, many Jews lived in the prosperous city of Alexandria with about one million Jews residing there. It was an epoch part of the history of the Bible, at least the Old Testament, where the Jews primarily were literate in Greek, so the Bible (Old Testament) was translated into Greek from Hebrew around 280-130 BC. Besides all of the books in the Hebrew Bible several small books were added called The Apocrypha. The new Bible was also given a Greek name – Septuagint, meaning “Seventy.” As will be discussed in Chapter 7, this is the scriptures that were quoted in the New Testament, especially by Saint Paul. It was what the early Christian Church used until the conquest of Rome and then the common language was changed to Latin, although spoken languages like Greek and Aramaic was also used. Latin translations were made from the Septuagint. It was Jerome that finally rewrote the Septuagint into its Latin version and it was called the Vulgate. It was opposed by the users of the Greek version, but eventually was accepted. The Vulgate is what the early Christians used as the New Testament was added, with other translations occurring in order for it to be read by the Gentiles that the apostles began to preach to.
Books of the Old TestamentTHE PENTATEUCH
Genesis – The word means Beginning. It tells the story passed down orally concerning the origination of the universe and the world that we know as Earth. The book begins with In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. It continues with the story of how the Earth was formed out of darkness and void.[XX XX XX X] Modern scientists have discovered what they call the Big Bang, when the known universe explodes sending out matter across the universe. Then comes the creation of plant life in Genesis 1:11, the firmament, the clouds, the sun and moon (not necessarily in that order as described), and every living creature. According to Genesis, man and woman were made last (Genesis 1:27):
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. And so God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.Note that the Genesis story uses “we” and “us” – yet God is the Supreme Being. This translation has caused many an argument among scholars and laymen alike, for if God was only one, where does the plural reference come from? Some say the author of Genesis was referring to the archangels.
In the fall or dispensation, man and woman are giving total freedom to do what they will, except not to partake of the forbidden fruit. It is at that time they lose their innocence and the judgment of expulsion occurs. [XX XX XX XI] Of course Adam and Eve did not blunt the blame because Satan, who was the Lucifer, the fallen archangel, who tempted them to disobey God. And while Lucifer became known as a Dark Angel, he is also referred to as an angel of light, a name given before his fall from grace. [XX XX XX XII]
In Genesis there is also the story of Noah, who survived the Great Flood because of his devotion to God, and Abraham and the term Chosen People. The first twelve chapters cover several thousands of years and the other 38 chapters cover the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. The author has been credited to be Moses, but historically this has not been confirmed. If so, this puts the writing of Genesis from 1491 to 1451 BC.
Thomas Paine's Age of Reason,  written in 1790, made comments about the Book of Genesis’s authorship that had been attributed to Moses, when in fact it was written several hundred years after his death:
Take away from Genesis the belief that Moses was the author, on which only the strange belief that it is the Word of God has stood, and there remains nothing of Genesis but an anonymous book of stories, fables and traditionary or invented absurdities, or of downright lies. The story of Eve and the Serpent, and of Noah and his ark, drops to a level with the Arabian tales, without merit of being entertaining, and the account of men living to eight and nine hundred years becomes as fabulous as the immortality of the giants of the Mythology. [XX XX XX XIII]This sort of dissection of the Hebrew Scriptures lasted through the 1800s, especially when it came to the Pentateuch scriptures attributed to Moses. By the 1900s, scholars like Albert Alt and Martin Noth were the few who continued the studies of Hebrew texts and translated texts in Greek because of the rising wave of anti-Semitics. C. A. Briggs summed it up in 1901:
The valleys of biblical truth have been filled with the debris of human dogmas, ecclesiastical institutions . . . and casuistic practices. Historical criticism is searching for the rock-bed of divine truth . . . in order to recover the Bible. Historical criticism is sifting all this rubbish. It will gather out every precious stone. [XX XX XX X IV]Exodus – The story of the enslavement of the children of Israel in Egypt, and included is the biography of Moses. [XX XX XX XV] The remaining chapters tell of the giving of the law at Mount Sinai and the building of the Tabernacle. Exodus is a story of a nation that had been conquered and then enslaved and then delivered through the leadership of a man named Moses.
Leviticus – This book records the laws and ceremonies of the tabernacle for the tribe of Levi; also the civil and religious laws of the people of Israel.
Numbers – This book tells of the numbering of the people of Israel and the death of Moses. It is a story of the wilderness wanderings that lasted 40 years. The book of Numbers also has fragments of ancient poetry.[XX XX XX X VI]
Deuteronomy – means “the repetition of the Law,” and consists mainly of three addresses delivered by Moses to the people who had been born in the wilderness and tells them they must keep the Law. The chapter ends with the Story of Moses, the Blessing of Moses, and the account of his death. In Deuteronomy 31:19 there is mention of authorship and is referred to in the New Testament as the work of Moses. The last chapter concerning Moses’ death is, of course, another author. It was supposedly written at the close of the forty years of wandering.
HISTORICAL BOOKSJoshua – It is divided into three parts: (1) The story of the conquest of Canaan.[XX XX XX X VII].
(2) Division of the land among the tribes.[XX XX XX X VIII]
(3) Joshua’s farewell and death.[XX XX XX X IX]
Scholars regard Joshua as the author.
Judges – The first sixteen chapters is a history of the Judges of Israel from Joshua’s death until Samson's death; the wars of deliverance, and the political and religious decline of Israel after the death of Joshua. Chapters 17-21 record the conquest of Jadish by the tribe of Dan and the civil war that nearly wiped out the tribe of Benjamin. It is thought that Samuel is the author of most of this book, but it has not been verified.
Ruth – This is a story concerning King David’s ancestors and connects the time of the Book of Judges with the monarchy and provides the genealogy of David. The date and the author is uncertain, although there is evidence that it was probably written as late as David’s life.[XX XX XX XX]
I and II Samuel – Continues the history of Judges, tells the story of Eli and Samuel, establishment of the Hebrew monarchy, Saul’s reign and part of the reign of David. Samuel is accredited as the author of part of the book, but most of the content occurred after Samuel’s time.
I and II Kings – History of the kingdom during Salomon's reign, the building of the temple, the kingdom becomes divided, the life stories of Elijah and Elisha, to the captivity of Judea. There seems to be an agreement among scholars that Jeremiah, who lived during the time of the Captivity.
I and II Chronicles – These books are mostly concerning the history of Judea, its prosperity, and sins they perceived to have caused its invasion, Captivity and then their return from Captivity. The first book gives the history by generation from Adam to David, including David’s reign. The second book continues the history of the kings of Judah up to the return from Captivity. Ezra, the Scribe is accredited as the author of both books.
Ezra – This book tells of the return of the captives under Zerubbabel, the rebuilding of the Temple, the second return of the captives and Esra's reformation. It is believed that the first chapter was written by Daniel, but the rest of the book is undoubtedly written by Ezra.
Nehemiah – The main history covers a period of about twelve years, 445 to 433 BC, and describes the conditions in Jerusalem of the time and the about the Persian government; the rebuilding of Jerusalem walls under Nehemiah; civil and religious reformation; restoration of the temple service, and so on. The book was probably written by more than one author, part of it being written by Ezra; however the greater part was written by Nehemiah.
Esther – The story in this book is about the deliverance of the Jews that remained in Persia from the plot of Haman to destroy them. Interestingly, God’s name does not appear in the book. Written around 444-434 BC and the author is not known.
THE POETICAL BOOKSJob – The entire book is about problems of human life, specifically about the trials and tribulations of one particular human. The book raises the question: “What is the intention of allowing the good to suffer?” It stands alone in all the biblical literature and one wonders why it was included in the poetical books division. Some scholars attribute this book to Moses, but most are uncertain. The opinions and dialogue of Job demonstrates that it could have taken place during the time of Abraham, the founder.
Psalms [XX XX XX XX I] – One of the most beautiful books with a collection of songs of praise, devotion, prayers, lamentations, expressions of faith, repentance, joy, national pride, history and royal psalms. Psalm 23, A Psalm of David, is probably the most well known to Christians:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.Another psalm extensively used in public worship and memorized by some is the 103rd Psalm:
Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgivith all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowned thee with loving kindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. He made known his ways onto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; Ti such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. Bless the Lord, ye his angels that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul.
Other psalms are enriched poetry, like Chapters 19, 32, 46 and 51. David is the author of most of the first section of the book (1-14) and many others throughout the book.
Proverbs – A collection of practical rules of life. It is principally the work of Solomon.
Ecclesiastes – This book is attributed to Solomon and is a reflection upon his experience in life.
Song of Solomon – it is basically a love story, but has been interpreted as a victory of humble and perpetual love over the temptations of wealth and royalty. It was probably written by Solomon around 1012 BC.
MAJOR PROPHETSIsaiah – Prophecies concerning Judah and Jerusalem and the surrounding nations which forecast their doom; prophecies concerning the Messiah, the return from Captivity, and the future of the Church. Isaiah, prophet of Judah (Israel and Judah were separated after Salomon's death) is the author. The last 27 chapters are from the time of the Captivity.
Jeremiah – The first 45 chapters are prophecies concerning Judah or concerning Jeremiah’s personal history. The remaining chapters are prophecies concerning the surrounding nations, except the last chapter, which tells the story of the destruction of Jerusalem. The author is Jeremiah. Part of the book is part of what Baruch wrote in the 4th year of Jehoiachim 604 BC. [XX XX XX XX II]
Lamentations – Five poems that expresses the prophet Jeremiah’s grief over the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the miseries of the people. In Chapters 1, 2, and 4, each verse begins with the corresponding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the third chapter every three verses begin with the succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet, making it 66 verses. The other chapters contain 22 verses. In Chapter 5 the verses are not arranged alphabetically. Jeremiah is considered the author and wrote the last days of the kingdom and the beginning of the Captivity between 629 and 586 BC.
Ezekiel – Chapters 1-24 contain prophecies before the destruction of Jerusalem and Chapters 25-48 are after the destruction. Chapters 25-32 contain a group of prophecies against seven foreign nations. The author, Ezekiel, was one of the four greater prophets that were captives in Babylon, where he prophesied from about 595 to 573 BC.
Daniel – The story of Daniel and other captives in Babylon, in which prophecies concern the world powers and the Messianic Kingdom. Daniel wrote this book during the Babylonian captivity.
Hosea – Describes the falling away from God that followed with punishment and eventual restoration of Israel. Hosea, prophet of Israel (784-725 BC) is the author.
Joel – An outline that describes the terrible occurrences of locusts, drought, and invasion that happened in Judah with a promise of deliverance and the coming Kingdom of Messiah; Joel, the author, was a prophet of Judah around 800 BC.
Amos – Announces God’s judgment upon surrounding nations, as well as Israel. Describes the conditions within the two kingdoms, the coming of the Messiah, and restoration of the Jews; Amos, the author, was a shepherd prophet of Israel and Judah about 808 BC.
Obadiah – This book is a condemnation of the Edomites and a vision of better days for Zion. Not much is known about the author, Obadiah. It is believed his prophecies occurred between 588 and 583 BC.
Jonah – The story of Jonah’s mission to Nineveh, who tried to avoid it and God’s pity for the heathen; Jonah, the author, was a prophet of Israel around 820 BC.
Micah – Describes the forthcoming disasters that will come to Judah and Israel, their final restoration and the coming of a King to Bethlehem. Micah, the author, was a prophet of Judah during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah between 758 to 698 BC.
Nahum – The subject of this prophecy is the final destruction of Nineveh and the judgments of Assyria. Little is known about Nahum, the author, except his prophecies are dated before 625 BC.
Habakkuk – This short book contains only three chapters, the first is about the invasion of the Chaldean, the second chapter tells of the prophecy of doom of Chaldea. The third chapter is a psalm. Habakkuk was a prophet of Judah during King Joshia's time (630 to 608 BC) and the author.
Zephaniah – A prophecy of God’s judgment against Judah and the surrounding nations and a promise of restoration to what was left of the Jewish population. Zephaniah was a prophet of Judah, also during King Joshia's time and the author.
Haggai – This book is an encouragement for the Jews to continue the building of the Temple under Zerubbabel, after reconstruction had stopped by Artaxerxes. Haggai is the first prophet to prophesize after the Captivity in the second year of Darius Hystaspes in 520 BC and author of this book.
Zechariah – This book is about a series of eight visions the prophet was told by the angel of the coming restoration of Jerusalem, which encouraged the building of the Temple. Numerous references are made of the coming Messiah. Zechariah, author, was a prophet associated with Haggai, who began to prophesize two months after Haggai between 520 and 518 BC. The authorship and dating of the last six chapters are disputed among scholars.
Malachi – This book chastises the evil practices of the priests of the Temple and the people in Nehemiah's time, after the Temple and walls had been rebuilt. Also there are prophecies concerning John the Baptist and the coming of the Messiah. Malachi seems to be the author, but little is known about him except what is read in this book. Malachi prophesized around the time of Nehemiah's second visit to Jerusalem between 430 and 420 BC; many of these prophets in this section were from the time of the decline of the Kingdoms and the Captivity.
Hellenistic Greece – Birth of Greek PhilosophyTwo important figures, while there were many well-known men of science, philosophy and political ideology that flourished during the intellectual age of ancient Greece, are mentioned here because of their influence upon Greek culture and the movement away from mystical and mythological religious thought to a new concept in thinking and views concerning the soul, creation and purpose of human life on Earth.
The first person who had an impact upon Greek’s movement to its golden age and influence upon other civilizations, to include written language for the original Hebrew texts, was Alexander the Great.
Plato was born in Athens about 428 BC and lived to 80 years of age until 348 BC. Plato is the second figure to have an impact upon the development of philosophical thought and spent his early life during the years of ancient Greek disasters, the long Peloponnesian War, the civil war between oligarchy and democracy during the year of anarchy from 404 to 403 BC, and the breaking up of the Athenian Empire. Plato knew Socrates from his youth because his relatives, Critias and Charmides were life-long friends of the father of philosophy and political ideology. Plato’s youthful ambitions had been politics and until the illegal execution of Socrates that was implicated by the democrats he had supported over the oligarchs of Athens. He had hoped for better things from the short period of restored democracy, but as he concluded in his Seventh Letter, public affairs at Athens were not carried on in accordance with the manners and practices of our fathers, nor was there any ready method of which I could make new friends.
After the execution of Socrates in 399 BC, Plato went on a series of travels where he discovered his profession should be as he reflected on the life and teachings of Socrates, and wrote Apologia three years after the death of Socrates that defended his philosophical thoughts and political ideology. It was then that he spent time at Megara and the philosopher/founder Eucleides at the first school of philosophy, studying the doctrines of Socrates and of Parmenides. Plato was present on the last day of Socrates life, and wrote Phaedon, which relates as to what Socrates had said before he died. Plato then spent the next few years, as written in Lives, traveling in Greece, Egypt, and Italy. During Plato’s lifetime, the Five Books of Moses [XX XX XX XX III]and Rome must be rebuilt after the Gallic invasion of 387 BC.
Around 387 BC, Plato founded what would be called the Academy, which commemorated the memory of Socrates, but was not just a school of philosophy like what Eucleides had founded. He presided over the Academy for the rest of his life and it became the intellectual center of Greek life with only the school of Isocrates in competition. In addition to philosophy, science and law was studied and discussed and Aristotle would later relate that Plato lectured without manuscripts before him or any type of notes. A member of the Academy was Theatetus, the founder of solid geometry. Members of the Academy was frequently called upon by Greek cities and colonies to provide advise concerning legislative matters, so the school was also active in the affairs of politics. Plato’s dialogues, written in his later years, have remained for us to read today: Theatetus, Parmenides, Sophist, Timaeus, Philebus and Laws. A portion of Timaeus is inserted here to reveal philosophical/theological thought during the birth of the philosophical religions of the western ancient world. It is Plato’s dialogue that influenced much philosophical thought in Jewish, Christian and Moslem text that reflects on God and the nature of the created world. It is interesting to note that Timaeus refers to God as monotheistic as in the Hebrew Scriptures and discussed at the level of philosophy that the Christ over 300 years later would elaborate upon. Also, for the benefit of knowledge, Buddha had already passed down the eastern world philosophical thoughts within religious ideology about 200 years before Plato and 600 years before Christ. It would be about 1200 years later that Mohammed the Prophet would found Islam. This excerpt of that dialogue is at the beginning where Timaeus discusses the creator of the world:
TIMAEUS: Let me tell you then why the creator made this world of generation. He was good, and the good can never have any jealousy of anything. And being free from jealousy, he desired that all things should be like himself as they could be. This is in the truest sense the origin of creation and of the world, as we shall do well in believing on the testimony of wise men. God desired that all things should be good and nothing bad, so far as this was attainable. Wherefore also finding the whole visible sphere not at rest, but moving in an irregular and disorderly fashion, out of disorder he brought order, considering that this was in every way better than the other. Now the deeds of the best could never be or have been other than the fairest, and the creator, reflecting on the things which are by nature visible, found that no unintelligent creature taken as a whole could ever be fairer than the intelligent taken as a whole, and again that intelligence could not be present in anything which was devoid of soul. For which reason, when he was framing the universe, he put intelligence in soul, and soul in body, that he might be the creator of a work which was by nature fairest and best. On this wise, using the language of probability, we may say that the world came into being – living creature truly endowed with soul and intelligence by the providence of God.In this dialogue taken from Plato’s writing with a discussion with one of his students, we can see that Greece had moved into the golden age of intellectual thought and we can also see that although the Greeks were pagans, or believers in more than one deity – he consistently refers to the creator as God or one being. Most of it, especially toward the end is a deep thought discussion sometimes difficult to follow, but demonstrates how intellectual humans were beginning to explore the complexity of things like origin of humans, world creation. Timaeus also discusses the fact that the creator may have made more than one world, and states why this could be possible; discussions that modern people might ponder in a dinner conversation. As the Greek empire began to collapse and the Roman Empire began its ascent into a more powerful entity, Greek culture, influence, language, and knowledge had continued and assimilated into the Roman culture. Also, during this period, Hebrew text began to be translated into Greek, which would be more common in the years after Christ’s death and in the early development of the Roman Christian era translated further into Latin. This phase will be discussed in 7 and the more details concerning Hebrew Scriptures and what they mean to the Jewish people will be discussed in Chapter 4.
This being supposed let us proceed to the next stage. In the likeness of what animal did the creator make the world? It would be an unworthy thing to liken it to any nature which exists as a part only, for nothing can be beautiful which is like any imperfect thing. But let us suppose the world to be the very image of that whole of which, all other animals both individually and in their tribes are portions. For the original of the universe contains in itself all intelligible things, just as this world comprehends us and all other visible creatures. For the deity, intending to make this world like the fairest and most perfect of intelligent beings, framed one visible animal comprehending within itself all other animals of a kindred nature. Are we right in saying that there is one world, or that they are many and infinite? There must be one only if the created copy is to accord with the original. For that which includes all other intelligible creatures cannot have a second or companion; in that case there would be need of another living being which would include both, and of which they would be parts, and the likeness would be more truly said to resemble not them, but that other which included them. In order then that the world might be solitary, like the perfect animal, the creator made not two worlds or an infinite number of them, but there is and ever will be one only-begotten and created heaven. Now that which is created is of necessity corporeal, and also visible and tangible. And nothing is visible where there is no fire, or tangible which has no solidity, and nothing is solid without earth. Wherefore also God in the beginning of creation made the body of the universe to consist of fire and earth. But two things cannot be rightly put together without a third; there must be some bond of union between them. And the fairest bond is that which makes the most complete fusion of itself and the things which it combines, and proportion is best adapted to affect such a union. For whenever in any three numbers, whether cube or square, there is a mean, which is to the last term what the first term is to it, and again, when the mean is to the first term as the last term is to the mean – then the mean becoming the first and last, and the first and last both becoming means, they will all of them of necessity come to be the same, and having become the same with one another will all be one. If the universal frame had been created a surface only and having no depth, a single mean would have sufficed to bind them together itself and the other terms, but now, as the world must be solid, and solid bodies are always compacted not by one mean but by two, God placed water and air in the mean between fire and earth, and made them to have the same proportion so far as was possible – as fire is to air so is air to water, and as air is to water to earth – and thus be bound and put together a visible and tangible heaven. And for these reasons, and out of such elements which are in number four, the body of the world was created, and it was harmonized by proportion, and therefore has the spirit of friendship, and having been reconciled to itself, it was indissoluble by the hand of any other than the framer.
Now the creation took up the whole of each of the four elements, for the creator compounded the world out of all the fire and all the water and all the air and all the earth, leaving no part of any of them nor any power of them outside. His intention was, in the first place, that the animal should be as far as possible a perfect whole and of perfect parts, secondly, that it should be one, leaving no remnants out of which another such world might be created, and also that it should be free from old age and unaffected by disease. Considering that if heat and cold and other powerful forces surround composite bodies and attack them from without, they decompose them before their time, and by bringing diseases and old age upon them waste away – for this cause and on these grounds he made the world one whole, having every part entire, and being therefore perfect and not liable to old age and disease. And he gave to the world the figure which was suitable and also natural. Now to the animal which was to comprehend all animals, that figure would be suitable which comprehends within itself all other figures. Wherefore he made the world in the form of a globe, round as from a lathe, having its extremes in every direction equidistant from the center, the most perfect and the most like itself of all figures, for he considered that the like is infinitely fairer than the unlike. This he finished off, making the surface smooth all around for many reasons – in the first place, because the living being had no need of eyes when there was nothing remaining outside to be seen, nor ears when there was nothing to be heard, and there was no surrounding atmosphere to be breathed, nor would there be any use of organs by the help of which he might receive his food or get rid of what he had already digested, since there was nothing which went from him or came into him for there was nothing besides him. Of design he was created thus – his own waste providing his own food, and all that he did or suffered taking place in and by himself. For a creator conceived that a being which was self-sufficient would be far more excellent than one which lacked anything, and, as he had no need to take anything or defend himself against anyone, the creator did not think it necessary to bestow upon him hands, nor had he any need of feet, nor of the whole apparatus of walking. But the movement suited to his spherical form was assigned to him, being of all the seven that which is most appropriate to mind and intelligence, and he was made to move in the same manner and on the same spot, within his own limits revolving in a circle. All the other six motions were taken away from him, and he was not to partake of their deviations. And as this circular movement required no feet, the universe was created without legs and without feet. Such was the whole plan of the eternal God about the god that was to be; he made it smooth and even, having a surface in every direction equidistant from the center, a body entire and perfect, and formed out of perfect bodies. And in the center he put the soul, which he diffused throughout the body, making it also to be the exterior environment of it, and he made the universe a circle moving in a circle, one and solitary, yet by reason of its excellence able to converse with itself, and needing no other friendship or acquaintance. Having these purposes in view he created the world a blessed god.
Archaeological discoveries since those early 20th century scholars has improved of what we know of the period and has established a physical geographical location for some entries.
Influences are apparent among ancient civilizations in several ways, religion being a major element. The longest surviving religion and culture would be ancient Egypt, with its Pharaohs lasting over the course of centuries, but it was the Babylonians, the oldest cultured civilization were the first to form a central government and the well-known Hammurabi Laws.
Phenomenology of Religions, its chapters, annexes and appendices are protected under US and international copyright laws - please respect that. Linked/Sourced excerpts may be used if author is identified and linked. No commercial reproduction may be produced without the express permission of the author. Unless otherwise identified, photographs/images are public domain or the property of Keith Allen Lehman.
Endnotes to Chapter 2
[I] Old Testament is actually the canonized version of the Hebrew Bible, which means not all Hebrew texts were included, which will be discussed later in Chapter 4.
[III] Town hall.
[IV] In Iran.
[V] 1282-1250 BC.
[VI] Abraham is accepted as the father of religion by Jews and Muslims alike, for they are a people related through ancestry but divided today by Islamic fundamentalist religious doctrine.
[VII] And later hidden from the Christian Church because texts other than those approved were considered heretic.
[§§] The first organized church in Christian history.
[VIII] Jerome’s Latin translation from Hebrew/Greek text caused opposition at first, but after several centuries it became accepted and was adopted by the Council of Trent, April 8th1546, as the official Bible of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. With the exception of the Psalms and the Apocryphal books, the Catholic Bible today is Jerome’s translation, later translated to English from Latin.
[IX] Ecclesiastes in the King James Version.
[XI] There are five books of Macabees [also spelled Maccabees and meaning the hammerers] of which only two were included in the Catholic and orthodox Canon; the first two are historical narratives about the Jewish people fighting for the right to worship God, circa 167 BC; Macabees number 3 [100 BC] tells of the struggle of Egyptian Jews under the tyranny of King Ptolemy IV; 3rd & 4th Maccabees, also found in the Septuagint, were not included in St. Jerome’s Vulgate nor in the Catholic Bibles. 4th book was written during the time of Jesus and is mostly a philosophical discussion and although not included in any Bible it offered inspiration to early Christians who were willing to die for their faith under Roman rule; the 5th book is a history of the Jews from 184 to 86 BC. The name for the books comes from a priestly family (Maccabees) who, under the leadership of Matthias in 167 BC initiated the revolt against the tyranny of Antiochus IV Epiphanies, King of Syria, and after the Jewish independence ruled until overthrown by Herod the Great in 37 BC.
[XII] Negative being used in the term of Lucifer or Satan, who as the Greek god of the dead, Hades, dwelled in subterranean regions that was named after the god of the dead and has been translated today to the word Hell.
[XIII] The doctrine of Orthodox Jews and Christians.
[XIV] In this Old Testament period, Yahweh [Jehovah] was a vengeful and warring God against those that opposed him or his chosen people.
[XV] Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Mary Boyce, London, 1979; p. 1.
[XVI] Zoroaster is the Greek translation for Spitaman Zarathustra, an Iranian prophet.
[XVII] Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians, London, 1979, p.29.
[XVIII] Biblical chronological texts attribute Zarathushtra to have been born c.630 BC, as well as written in Werner Stein’s Kulturfahrplan, but this has been corrected through modern dating methods and archaeological examination.
[X IX] Zoroastrian Doctrine.
[XX] Earth being only one of many worlds.
[XX I] ZP, p. 41.
[XX II] ZP, pp. 61-62.
[XX III] ZW, p. 299.
[XX IV] The term Muslim means follower of Islam.
[XX V] Yam, PB, pp. 449-450.
[XX VI] Wat. Z, pp. 94-95.
[XX VII] Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology; Mythology of Ancient Persia, p. 322.
[XX VIII] Missing paragraph numbers or those out of sequence are not a misprint – this part of the text was either unreadable or missing from the original text/scrolls found.
[XX IX] Chatrang – haven’t found what this game was all about.
[XX X] And which has passed down to us meaning a “fanciful story” - mythology.
[XX X I] “heaven”.
[XX X II] Specifically the Druid.
[XX X III] A belief that can be cross referenced to the Celtic [Keltic] culture of Europe.
[XX X IV] Ancient Greece.
[XX X V] The deity in whose name was used in naming the geographical region called Europe [Euros].
[XX X VI] The horned, cloven-hoofed, sensual creature later depicted curiously as the archangel Lucifer, the anti-God also known as Satan.
[XX X VII] Most feared.
[XX X VIII] For he had power to bless or curse the roots of all things that grew in the ground.
[XX X IX] Meaning shine.
[XX XX] Jehovah.
[XX XX I] Athena was born wearing full armor, as the legend tells it.
[XX XX II] Roman Mars.
[XX XX III] Roman Mercury.
[XX XX IV] Hermes pillars must have been popular in ancient Greece. While in Turkey I found that they have been excavated just about everywhere in the Mediterranean area, one being in the Roman city of Ephesus that was in good condition in front of a house on the main thoroughfare.
[XX XX V] Sometimes referred to as Brigantia.
[XX XX VI] Artemis.
[XX XX VI] Note: Cybele was the early mother goddess of the Anatolia region, then came Artemis from the Greek culture, and finally Diana by the Romans – all being mother goddesses.
[XX XX VII] Fates or Allotters.
[XX XX VIII] Literally meaning mad women.
[XX XX IX] Some scholars had found that the women had on one occasion grabbed a man from among them and sacrificed him instead of an animal. This is probably toward the end of the cult’s existence, when civilized Greeks put a stop to it.
[XX XX X] The other two stages mentioned were Chthonian and Olympian.
[XX XX XI] This may very well be the incident mentioned in records of a man being sacrificed instead of an animal in the Dionysus frenzied ceremony.
[XX XX XII] 529 BC.
[XX XX XII] An Egyptian holy book used in the ceremony for the dead to initiate their travel to the next life.
[XX XX X IV] Deuteronomy, 32:22.
[XX XX XV] Matthew, 5:22/29-30; Matthew, 10:28; Matthew, 11:23; Matthew, 16:18; Matthew 23:15/33; Mark, 9:47; Luke, 10:15; Luke, 12:5; Luke, 16:23.
[XX XX X VI] What Plato calls amusements is probably a reference to the ceremonies conducted.
[XX XX X VII] Once again referring to amusements or ceremonies of Orpheus cult.
[XX XX X VIII] It is important to note here that the oldest Orphic documents found, thus far, were in southern Italy. This gives one the idea of the widespread the doctrine of this philosophical religion.
[XX XX X IX] Before Moses.
[XX XX XX] And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.
[XX XX XX I] Deuteronomy 5:9; Bible, King James Version.
[XX XX XX II] Matthew 10:25; Matthew 12:24 & 27; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15, 16-18.
[XX XX XX III] When the new religion supplants an old religion, the gods of the old often survive as the demons of the new. Before the Bible, C. Gordon, p. 246.
[XX XX XX IV] Trident.
[XX XX XX V] Original name for Jehovah – God.
[XX XX XX V] Genesis 2:4.
[XX XX XX VI] Genesis 6-11.
[XX XX XX VII] The repetition is the fact it was written in The Book of Jasher.
[XX XX XX VIII] Also mentioned in Jeremiah 4:23-27 and Isaiah 45:18.
[XX XX XX IX] Genesis 3:24.
[XX XX XX X] 2 Corinthians 11-14.
[XX XX XX XI] The Complete Works of Thomas Paine, NY, 1945, p521 & 528.
[XX XX XX XII] General Introduction to the Study of the Holy Scripture, C. A. Briggs, 1901; excerpt from Association for Jewish Studies Newsletter 36 (Fall 1986); pp. 22-24.
[XX XX XX XIII] Exodus 1-12.
[XX XX XX X IV] Numbers 6:24-26; Numbers 23:8-10.
[XX XX XX XV] Joshua, Chapters 1-12.
[XX XX XX XVI] Joshua, Chapters 13-22.
[XX XX XX XVII] Joshua, Chapters 23-24.
[XX XX XX XVIII] Ruth, Chapters 4:7; 17.
[XX XX XX X IX] A sacred song, hymn, most often poetic.
[XX XX XX XX ] Jeremiah 36:2.
[XX XX XX XX I] Pentateuch.
1] American In Turkey, Volume I; Keith A. Lehman, Izmir, 1987; p. 15.
 Bible, King James Version, I Kings 20:34.
 Life of Greece, Will Durant, p. 538.
 Life of Greece, Will Durant, p. 175.
 Life of Greece, Will Durant, p. 604.
 Photo, British Museum, London.
 Ephesus, Selahattin Erdemgil, p. 25 & 81.
 Life of Greece, Will Durant, p. 322 & 326.
 Photo by Keith A. Lehman, courtesy of Turkish Museum, Ephesus
 Reconstructed of Artemis Temple, courtesy of Izmir Museum of Antiquity.
 The Life of Greece, Will Durant, p. 189.
 The Life of Greece. Will Durant, p. 191.
 Bullfinch’s Mythology, Thomas Bullfinch, p. 52.
 Bible, King James Version, Exodus, 4:9.
 The Life of Greece, Will Durant, p. 58.
 Iliad, Book XX, Great Books of the Western World, Volume 4, p. 145.
 Book of Exodus, 10:21-22; King James Version.
 The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine; Citadel, New York, 1945.