Fri Dec 28, 2012, 02:36 AM
Flabbergasted (7,826 posts)
Gods were superseded by Religious Teachers...
I found this to be a interesting insight from the book "A History of God", a scholarly work by Karen Armstrong. It is written defining an era of transition from polytheistic roots to Buddhism, Hinduism.
In the seventeenth century bce, Aryans from what is now Iran had invaded the Indus Valley and subdued the indigenous population...Like the Babylonians, the Aryans were quite aware that their myths were not factual accounts of reality but expressed a mystery that not even the gods themselves could explain adequately. When they tried to imagine how the gods and the world evolve from primal chaos, they concluded that nobody---not even the gods---could understand the mystery of existence.
The religion of the Vedas did not attempt to explain the origins of life,...(but) instead to help people come to terms with the wonder and terror of existence.
By the eighth century bce changes ...meant the old Vedic religion was no longer relevant. The ideas of the indigenous population that had been suppressed in the centuries following the Aryan invasions surfaced and led to a new religious hunger. The revived interest in karma, the notion that ones destiny was determined by ones own actions, made people unwilling to blame the gods for irresponsible behavior of human beings. Increasingly the gods were seen as symbols of a single transcendent Reality.
Sacrifice and liturgy were not enough: they wanted to discover the inner meaning of these rites. We shall note that the prophets of Israel felt the same dissatisfaction. In India the gods were no longer seen as other beings who were external to their worshippers; instead men and women sought to achieve an inward realization of truth.
The gods were no longer very important in India. Henceforth they would be superseded by the religious teacher, who would be considered higher than the gods. It was a remarkable assertion of the value of humanity and the desire to take control of destiny: it would be the great religious insight of the subcontinent. The new religions of Hinduism and Buddhism did not deny the existence of the gods, nor did they forbid the people to worship them. In their view, such repression and denial was damaging. Instead, Hindus and Buddhists sought new ways to transcend the gods, to go beyond them.
The part that I find most interesting in this passage, is the idea that gods as a concept were superseded by religious teachers, whereas in Abrahamic religions, gods progressed to God. You can see a vast range of ideas stemming from this. An important related idea is Judaism progressed, so to speak, to Christianity which in a sense is a religious teacher being God. Also we typically see the gods as being the source of religion, as well as above and beyond man, whereas this flips both concepts on their head.
It is also interesting to note the Babylonians and Aryans concluded that even the gods could not understand the mystery of existence. Today this idea is still around, but takes the form of the cliche, "God works in mysterious ways": whereas god is the bearer of an unrevealed mystery. This is perhaps a stretch but interesting to ponder.
4 replies, 1141 views
Gods were superseded by Religious Teachers... (Original post)
Response to Flabbergasted (Original post)
Fri Dec 28, 2012, 03:21 AM
intaglio (8,170 posts)
1. I have seen an argument that Monotheism
developed comparatively late in Judea/Israel/Samaria which is one reason for all the confusing references to other Gods in the Bible.
Then there are finds like this http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/new-research-shows-that-jerusalem-may-not-be-the-first-temple-a-827144.html that cast some doubt over the authenticity of the Bible.
Response to intaglio (Reply #1)
Fri Dec 28, 2012, 08:17 PM
Flabbergasted (7,826 posts)
3. The author discusses that as well. She writes
that there was no such thing as monotheists at the time and the creation of Yahweh was not the birth monotheism from the start. Polytheism was practiced for virtually centuries afterward. Gods did not travel around at the time. Everyone had their own gods, and that god was god of that area. It is thought that the Yahweh was initially a powerful god who was "the first" to travel with his followers offering protection in exchange for exclusivity. There were those however who still worshipped other gods because a war god just could not be a fertility god.
I found the article to be fascinating. Thanks for sharing.
Response to Flabbergasted (Reply #3)
Fri Jan 4, 2013, 08:25 PM
tama (9,137 posts)
Abraham's "the gods caused me"
In Gen 20:13 Abraham, before the polytheistic Philistine king Abimelech, says that "the gods (elohim) caused (plural verb) me to wander". The Greek Septuagint and most English versions usually translate this "God caused", possibly to avoid the implication of Abraham deferring to Abimelech's polytheistic beliefs.
Angels and Judges
In a few cases in the Greek Septuagint, Hebrew elohim with a plural verb, or with implied plural context, was rendered either angeloi ("angels") or pros to kriterion tou Theou ("before the judgement of God"). These passages then entered first the Latin Vulgate, then the English King James Version as "angels" and "judges", respectively. From this came the result that James Strong, for example, listed "angels" and "judges" as possible meanings for elohim with a plural verb in his Strong's Concordance, and the same is true of many other 17th-20th Century reference works. Both Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon and the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon list both angels and judges as possible alternative meanings of elohim with plural verbs and adjectives.
The reliability of the Septuagint translation in this matter has been questioned by Gesenius and Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg. In the case of Gesenius, he lists the meaning without agreeing with it. Hengstenberg stated that the Hebrew Bible text never uses elohim to refer to "angels", but that the Septuagint translators refused the references to "gods" in the verses they amended to "angels."
Jacob's ladder "gods were revealed" (plural)
In the following verses Elohim was translated as God singular in the King James Version even though it was accompanied by plural verbs and other plural grammatical terms.
Gen 35 and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed (plural verb) himself to him when he fled from his brother (Genesis 35, ESV)
Here the Hebrew verb "revealed" is plural, hence: "the-gods were revealed". A NET Bible note claims that the Authorized Version wrongly translates: "God appeared unto him". This is one of several instances where the Bible uses plural verbs with the name elohim.
The Divine Council of Elohim
Main article: Divine Council
AV Psalm 82:1 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
82:6 I have said, Ye gods; and all of you children of the most High.
82 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
Marti Steussy in “Chalice Introduction to the Old Testament” discusses: “The first verse of Psalm 82: ‘Elohim has taken his place in the divine council.’ Here elohim has a singular verb and clearly refers to God. But in verse 6 of the Psalm, God says to the other members of the council, ‘You are elohim.’ Here elohim has to mean gods.”
Mark Smith referring to this same Psalm states in “God in Translation:...” “This psalm presents a scene of the gods meeting together in divine council...Elohim stands in the council of El. Among the elohim he pronounces judgment:...”
In Hulsean Lectures for..., H. M. Stephenson discussed Jesus’ argument in John 10:34–36 concerning Psalm 82. (In answer to the charge of blasphemy Jesus replied "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods. If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" – "Now what is the force of this quotation 'I said ye are gods.' It is from the Asaph Psalm which begins 'Elohim hath taken His place in the mighty assembly. In the midst of the Elohim He is judging.'"