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A History of God

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"A HISTORY OF GOD" by Karen Armstrong The god we know, the god of the western world, the god of Judaism, Christianity and Islam has a history. Modern evidence indicates that if you read the Bible as it is currently presented by modern religion, especially if you're reading an English translation, you aren't reading the real story. What you're reading is an edited version of that history with additions and modifications that present that story in a different way than the evidence indicates it actually happened. According to the Bible this god has always existed and this god predated not only human beings but the Universe itself. According to the evidence this god began evolving from human ideas originating from fourteen thousand years ago and didn't become the one god of monotheism until two thousand six hundred years ago, in 600 BCE. If you want to know the story that the evidence presents, the story understood and supported by the majority of religious studies professors, archaeologists and anthropologists, the place to begin is not the Bible. It is the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation story which was discovered by archaeologists in the Library of Ashurbanipal and dated to have originally been written in about 1750 BCE. As this creation story demonstrates almost all religions in Mesopotamia at that time were polytheistic. There is no trace of the existence of monotheistic Judaism at this time. In the Enuma Elish, Marduk, champion of the Babylonian gods defeats chaos in the form of the dragon Tiamat and then together the Babylonian gods form the world. In the Babylonian story the primordial world is described as formless and void. Also, in the Babylonian story: light, the firmament, dry land, the sun and moon, and mankind are created in order. These details are important because as we will see 1150 years later when the Israelites are exiled to Babylon, these details become edited into both the book of Isaiah and the story of Genesis as its first chapter, the first chapter of the entire Hebrew Torah and Christian Bible. Our next point of interest is the Canaanite religion which archaeologists have reconstructed from clay tablets, found in Ugarit, an ancient port city and Syria, and whose stories are dated to have originally been written before 1200 BCE. The Canaanites were also polytheistic. Of the many gods the Canaanites worshiped three in particular are important to the rest of the story. They are: El Elyon, whose name means literally "God Most High", and who is believed to have been the father of the other gods, Asherah, El Elyon's wife, and Baal, who's both god of storms and fertility. The god Yahweh of Israel and the culture of Israel itself still showed no signs of existence in the archaeological record. Yet, sometime over the next five hundred years the culture of Israel must have evolved, because it is at this time from 950-850 BCE that the contemporaries J and E began writing their independent accounts of the history of the people of Israel, which will later be combined into a single story. Beginning in Genesis: chapter 2, none of which J or E writes aligns with the accounts of the Babylonians or Canaanites, whose accounts predated them by hundreds of years. Because of this and because of the nature of the stories told, the most reasonable inference appears to be that these accounts were entirely mythical stories, that the Israelites used to explain the world around them and find meaning its cultural climate. But that all changes in Genesis:chapter 12, with the story of Abraham. It is here that we finally find a connection with the religion of the Canaanites. We can see in the Hebrew version of the Torah that Abraham is said to worship El Shaddai, one of the names for the Canaanite god, El Elyon. Abraham interacts with El Elyon in very personal ways that mirror the other pagan religions of the time. For example, in Genesis:18, El Elyon visits Abraham in human form and talks to him in person. His descendant, Jacob, has similar experiences, where he climbs to the top of the ladder to haven and talks to El Elyon in a dream. Later, Jacob wrestles with El Elyon. Also from the Hebrew text we can see that based on these experiences Jacob makes his El Elyon his elohim, which is a term from the Canaanite religion, which meant Jacob was making El Elyon his primary god. The only way that the usage of this term makes sense is if Jacob believed that El Elyon was just one god of many. and that Jacob was committing to this one god in order to receive special protection. In other words, it becomes clear from the terms used and the god they worshipped that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were polytheist, were pagans just like their pagan contemporaries, in Canaan and Babylon. The worship of El Elyon fades from the Hebrew text as we enter Exodus, where he's replaced by Yahweh, who is said to have rescued the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. The story of Exodus, particularly in its modern interpretation in the animated film, "The Prince of Egypt" depicts ancient Egyptians as the ultimate assholes, viciously enslaving an entire race for the sole purpose of erecting colossal monuments to their own glory. While it is a moving story of triumph and deliverance from oppressive circumstances, on a historical level it contradicts the modern archaeological evidence that we have for the inner workings of ancient Egyptian culture, particularly their slave ownership practices. Modern archaeological evidence indicates that the workers who built all of the large monuments in Egypt, from pyramids to sphinxes, were well paid Egyptian citizens, who were given good housing, fed well, given good medical care, and given honorable burials. Further, while like many ancient civilizations, the Egyptians did own some slaves, there's no evidence that they ever owned the magnitude reported by the Bible, or otherwise, systematically enslaved an entire race. While the account of Exodus appears to have been largely mythical, its telling nonetheless reveals the polytheistic world views of J and E. After the Hebrews are rescued by Yahweh from the Egyptians, we can see even in the English translations of Exodus that they sing: "Who is like you among gods, Yahweh!", and "Now I know that Yahweh is grater than all other gods!" Exodus also established Yahweh as Israel's war god, calling him a great warrior who delivered them from Egypt. As the Torah progresses its polytheistic nature compounds. After arriving in the promised land, no longer in need of help in war, but rather desiring to prosper in peace, the Israelites begin to worship once again the Canaanite fertility gods: Baal and Asherah. Before reading "A History of God" [by Keren Armstrong], verses like these made no sense to me. In the English translation of the Bible, the Hebrews represented his choosing between the Lord Baal and Asherah. How could the Hebrews be such idiots? Why wouldn't they worship the one God of all creation? The picture looks different when the god you're supposed to be worshiping is Yahweh Sabaoth which means the god of the armies. Yahweh started as basically the Hebrew version of the Greek god Ares. No wonder he was obsessed with war and death in the old testament. That was back when he was still just their god of war. Now the picture made sense. Like the ancient Greeks, the Hebrews had a pantheon of gods they worshiped, at least the gods: Yahweh, Baal and Asherah. With archaeological evidence of the polytheistic nature of early Israelite culture in one of our earliest archaeological artifacts from Israel from 1000 BCE a polytheistic cult stand from Taanach. Despite their polytheism there were among the Israelites some with an unusually strong devotion to Yahweh in particular, who will now refer to as Yawhists. In times of peace there was little motivation for the people of Israel to give much weight to the opinions of such radical devotees of Yahweh, but times of upheaval accelerated their opinions to the forefront of Hebrew culture. After the death of King Jeroboam II, in about 750 BCE, the Northern kingdom of Israel was in the state of near anarchy. On top of this it was well known that Assyria wished to capture Israel in its moment of weakness. From this state of upheaval three prophets arose: Isaiah, Amos and Hosea. All three of them cried for devotion to Yahweh, and disparaged the worship of other gods. From their prophecies we can see how each of their versions of Yahweh had been created in their own image: Isaiah, a member of the royal family, had seen Yahweh as a king, Amos, a shepherd, had described his own empathy with the suffering poor to Yahweh, Hosea, who was suffering through marriage problems saw Yahweh as a jilted husband who still continued to feel a yearning tenderness for his wife, Israel. Ultimately, their outcry did nothing to save the Northern tribes and they fell to Assyria in 711 BCE. But their words lived on in Hebrew scripture and the Hebrew imagination. The cult of Yahweh received another boost during the rule of King Josiah in 622 BCE. Unlike his predecessors, who welcomed an open pagan vision, Josiah was a strict Yahwehist. Like the prophets before him Josiah was convinced that Judah's social problems came from a lack of devotion to Yahweh. During renovations to the temple Josiah' high priest, Hilkiah, discovered a lost spoke of the law which was alleged to have been authored by Moses. This book was Deuteronomy and given its conveniently timely discovery, as well as its linguistic features, the majority consensus of biblical scholars, such as Richard Elliott Friedman, is that it was a forgery. In Deuteronomy a strict and permanent covenant to Yahweh, as well as a complete rejection of other gods is established. It is commanded of the Hebrews that they tear down the altars and smash the idols of other gods. In response to the discovery of Deuteronomy, Josiah and his court implemented merciless reforms that officially established Yahweh as the official god of Judah. The reformers also rewrote Israelite history; the historical books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings were revised according to the new ideology. And later the editors of the Pentateuch added passages they gave a deutoronomist interpretation of the Exodus to the older narratives of J and E. The intense hatred of other gods by Yahweh is firmly established in the rewritten Hebrew history. The bloody god Yahweh is made even bloodier, as he is now said to have commanded Joshua to reap genocide on the natives of Canaan for worshiping other gods. Interestingly, despite the enforcement of this strict devotion to Yahweh, monotheism was still not established. The evidence of Deuteronomious passages like "You shall have no other gods before me" indicates that even Josiah still believed in the existence of other gods. This was still polytheism. It was just a vicious form of Monolatrist polytheism that vehemently rejected the worship of the other gods. But the stage was set. In 604 BCE, King Nabuchadnezzar II rose to power in Babylon. It was well known at this time that Nabuchadnezzar set to conquer Jerusalem. As his armies gathered and prepared, another prophet Jeremiah arose. Once again crying that strict devotion to Yahweh and the rejection of other gods had been the solution to their problems. Except this new prophet was claiming that was too late to do anything about it. Yahweh would use this foreign army as his instrument to teach his people a damning lesson. Like the prophets before him he rejected his own emotions such as fury onto Yahweh. As Jeremiah predicted the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon was inevitable. The forces of Babylon were just too massive, and Jerusalem was just in too weakened a state. The temple was destroyed. The Hebrews where exiled from their country to live in Babylon. The Babylonian exile had began. Their sense of defeat was devastating. Polytheistic gods in ancient Mesopotamia were associated with specific territories of land. When the Hebrews were exiled to Babylon they felt they could no longer connect with Yahweh. "How can we sing the sons of Yahweh while in a foreign land?" Ezekiel, a prophet who arose among the exiled Hebrews expressed how alienated the Hebrews had become. He, too, blamed their plight on the Hebrew people for lack of devotion to Yahweh. It was then, at a time when the Hebrew people seemed most crushed, at a time when it seemed certain that the cult of Yahweh would surely die, instead did something that religion has done throughout history in order to survive. It changed. A new author, who scholars call second Isaiah arose, and his words were appended to those of the first Isaiah, "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god". Monotheism was formed. From this new monotheistic culture the priestly source P arises. Israelite history is rewritten once again. Exodus is rewritten by P to say that the El Shaddai worshiped by Abraham and the Yahweh by Moses where the same god. Any references to El Elyon are explained by P as merely different names for Yahweh. The entire book of Leviticus is authored. Genesis:1 is crafted as an improved monotheistic version of the Babylonian account of creation. Second Isaiah rewrites Babylonian myths that were attributed to Mardok, such as his defeat of the dragon Tiamat, attributing them instead to Yahweh. The Torah is re-branded by P to look as if they had always been monotheistic. In 600 BCE the god of western monotheism, the god of Judaism, Christianity and Islam was born. Once I knew this my entire perception of the bible changed. Once again, verses that never made sense before made sense now. This was the death of monotheism for me. It was the revelation that I could pick up any one of the millions of bibles in America, from hotel rooms to Christian gift shops and see its pages dripping with polytheism. I could see with my own eyes human beings giving birth to the monotheistic god. . . . . . . . . . .

Video Details

Duration: 15 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Evid3nc3
Director: Evid3nce
Views: 351
Posted by: ateistisrbije on Jan 24, 2011

A History of God by Evid3nc3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlnnWbkMlbg

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