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Old 10-17-2011, 07:49 PM
 
Location: Southern Minnesota
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Whoppers, thanks for all this information . . . it has really helped me become more confident in my de-conversion from Christianity and move into (agnostic) atheism. I know that wasn't your intent, obviously, but learning this information has helped me to see that ancient Israeli polytheistic mythology is no different from Greek, Roman, or any of the other polytheistic mythologies out there.
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Old 10-17-2011, 08:01 PM
 
Location: Southern Minnesota
5,990 posts, read 11,237,226 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InsaneInDaMembrane View Post
My girlfriend and I discuss this all the time. I surely realize this is stuff you will hear about in many seminaries and other schools of higher learning but it often stays in those halls. The average Joe out there often only stumble into this stuff via the internet or by stumbling into some book. Ironically, the 'average Joe' who attends a fundamentalist church has already heard his pastor scoffing at those evil, liberal schools of higher learning that reject the "word of god" for the wisdom of men. This type of stuff is seen as "devices of the devil" designed to undermine one's faith.

Bart Ehrman deals with this is one of his books, where he tells of leaving a fundamentalist seminary like Wheeler (I think) for Princeton where he learned things about biblical history that he never knew about. As a result, in the face of indisputable evidence, he had to relinquish his Christian faith but exchanged it for a more honest conclusion to things biblical. On the other hand, there are ministers who know all of this and the bible takes on a different meaning to them on a far less literal interpretation.
So, so true. I was raised fundamentalist and I often heard pastors, preachers, and Bible study leaders denounce this sort of Biblical scholarship, because of its obvious implications on the Christian religion and the undermining effect it has on peoples' "faiths." It's nice to finally delve into this stuff without feeling guilty over it.
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Old 10-17-2011, 09:11 PM
 
Location: University City, Philadelphia
22,583 posts, read 11,824,799 times
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Default Some literary extrapolations ...

I wish to join the chorus of praise to all those who have found fascinating information - presented here - on the rise and evolution of religious belief systems in The Levant. This thread has inspired me to look up and "Ugarit" and "Akkadian" and "El" and etc. by googling these terms on the internet.

I was first introduced by the archaic belief systems discussed in this thread many years ago by reading a popular novel: "The Source" by James Michener. Nowadays I am somewhat critical of Michener's middle-brow novels and do not put a lot of stock on his writings, but it did serve to kindle a spark of interest in this field.

Coming from a Buddhist perspective, I have come to the realization that "the priest class" (as I call them) have invented "religion" as a method of attaining social and financial power throughout human history. If I may be so bold as to reference another popular novel, this very paradigm is touched upon in "Creation" by Gore Vidal (a better book, in my opinion, than Michener's).

Buddhism, too, has morphed and evolved into something different in the past 2,550 years. The previous gods and deities have been "reincarnated" into Bodhisattvas and so on. Ritual and devotion and tales of miracles seem to be a part of our human nature, and I, too, find them attractive and comforting - as did the great poet Walt Whitman who was an agnostic bordering on atheist ("I, too, love the old myths..." from Leaves Of Grass)

My goodness! I really went off topic here. Sorry!

Dear friends, keep the discussion up! I am enthralled!
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Old 10-17-2011, 09:25 PM
 
3,488 posts, read 3,160,909 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InsaneInDaMembrane View Post
My girlfriend and I discuss this all the time. I surely realize this is stuff you will hear about in many seminaries and other schools of higher learning but it often stays in those halls. The average Joe out there often only stumble into this stuff via the internet or by stumbling into some book. Ironically, the 'average Joe' who attends a fundamentalist church has already heard his pastor scoffing at those evil, liberal schools of higher learning that reject the "word of god" for the wisdom of men. This type of stuff is seen as "devices of the devil" designed to undermine one's faith.

Bart Ehrman deals with this is one of his books, where he tells of leaving a fundamentalist seminary like Wheeler (I think) for Princeton where he learned things about biblical history that he never knew about. As a result, in the face of indisputable evidence, he had to relinquish his Christian faith but exchanged it for a more honest conclusion to things biblical. On the other hand, there are ministers who know all of this and the bible takes on a different meaning to them on a far less literal interpretation.
I am familiar with his books and remember in one or several of his introductions he discusses his career at length. The only book I didn't like of his was his God's Problem - simply because he applied too many modern ethical requirements on an ancient god. The book was very informative on the problems of theodicy, but his personal observations when it came to modern political matters were a little offputting. Other than that, he presents alot of good information on New Testament scholarship - though definately tinged with a bit of anger. For a more level-headed Ehrman, his lectures are excellent and his lecture on the Historical Jesus is very good. It can probably be found with a little bit of poking around on the internet.

For an excellent source of New Testament scholarship, as well - see Raymond E. Brown's works. He did a MASSIVE commentary on the Gospel of John that is literally thousands of pages, and spans two enormous volumes. This work changed scholarship forever, some would say. He has also done a more accessible introduction to the study of the New Testament.

Quote:
Originally Posted by InsaneInDaMembrane View Post
Thanks Boxcar! As whoppers said, I REALLY love this type of stuff. If you look around, you will see that I started a few threads on the subject of Yahweh, but they were often met with resistance and scorn from [some] of the Christians on the forums. I find the subject very interesting and it helps me to place the bible and the Abrahamic faiths in a proper perspective and I find it a very beautiful thing. Even though I am an agnostic (theist) as of now, I don't necessarily have a strong bias to prove the bible as something I should discard. I simply treat it as an interesting piece of literature that sheds light on history and giving sense to some of our present.
The various names of the gods in the Hebrew Bible are important, I think - I share that view with you. Yahweh, especially, should at least be known as a concept, even if old habits die hard and LORD still holds the field. A huge obstacle to this acceptance is, sad to say, a lot of the recent Yahweh Movement Bibles which include Yahweh's name in the New Testament - where it never was. Some of the advocates of this are.... a bit extreme and offputting. FRANK4YAHWEH was a good example if you ever have the 'pleasure'.

When christians reject the concept of Yahweh offhand - remember that they also reject the Hebrew Bible's main teachings, and feel that the New Testament has superceded the "Old" Bible's teachings. It served them well when they were shooting for Roman acceptance, but it's spiraled out of control from there and resulted in lots of horrible anti-semitic atrocities over the years.

Quote:
Originally Posted by northstar22 View Post
Whoppers, thanks for all this information . . . it has really helped me become more confident in my de-conversion from Christianity and move into (agnostic) atheism. I know that wasn't your intent, obviously, but learning this information has helped me to see that ancient Israeli polytheistic mythology is no different from Greek, Roman, or any of the other polytheistic mythologies out there.
Other religions, myths, etc, can help to illuminate the world of the Bible, as it was not written in a vacuum. It's a lot of fun to find the hidden threads that weave them all together!
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Old 10-17-2011, 09:29 PM
 
3,488 posts, read 3,160,909 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark Park View Post
I wish to join the chorus of praise to all those who have found fascinating information - presented here - on the rise and evolution of religious belief systems in The Levant. This thread has inspired me to look up and "Ugarit" and "Akkadian" and "El" and etc. by googling these terms on the internet.

I was first introduced by the archaic belief systems discussed in this thread many years ago by reading a popular novel: "The Source" by James Michener. Nowadays I am somewhat critical of Michener's middle-brow novels and do not put a lot of stock on his writings, but it did serve to kindle a spark of interest in this field.

Coming from a Buddhist perspective, I have come to the realization that "the priest class" (as I call them) have invented "religion" as a method of attaining social and financial power throughout human history. If I may be so bold as to reference another popular novel, this very paradigm is touched upon in "Creation" by Gore Vidal (a better book, in my opinion, than Michener's).

Buddhism, too, has morphed and evolved into something different in the past 2,550 years. The previous gods and deities have been "reincarnated" into Bodhisattvas and so on. Ritual and devotion and tales of miracles seem to be a part of our human nature, and I, too, find them attractive and comforting - as did the great poet Walt Whitman who was an agnostic bordering on atheist ("I, too, love the old myths..." from Leaves Of Grass)

My goodness! I really went off topic here. Sorry!

Dear friends, keep the discussion up! I am enthralled!
I went my entire adolescence not hearing one mention of Ugarit unforunately! - it was hoped that it would revolutionize Biblical studies when it was discovered in 1929, and it has in some degrees - but not as much as had been hoped. Some scholars just refuse to deal with it, or even learn the language, and there's just no excuse for that anymore. Ugarit is our closest linguistic and religious link to the Israelites (or Canaanites - however you want to label them).

Akkadian is needed as a prerequisite to learning Ugaritic, in my opinion. The language is more attested, and much of Ugaritic linguistics is based on comparative linguistics. The cuneiform is fun, though!
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Old 10-17-2011, 09:36 PM
 
Location: OKC
5,426 posts, read 5,583,137 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by northstar22 View Post
Whoppers, thanks for all this information . . . it has really helped me become more confident in my de-conversion from Christianity and move into (agnostic) atheism. I know that wasn't your intent, obviously, but learning this information has helped me to see that ancient Israeli polytheistic mythology is no different from Greek, Roman, or any of the other polytheistic mythologies out there.
Oddly enough, I consider the REAL Christianity/Judaism much more interesting now that I'm starting to learn the rest of the mythology involved. Modern Christianity seems so much more boring then the myths they had back in the day. Like Greek mythology, it's kind of fun to read about.
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Old 10-17-2011, 09:36 PM
 
Location: New York City
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I was a wild-eyed kid back in 1973 when I left the tiny Caribbean island of St. Thomas (Virgin Islands where I was born) and went to live in New York. Prior to that, I pretty much heavily indoctrinated in the Christian religion on the (at the time) heavily conservative (British stiff upper lip), Christianized island of St. Kitts where my dad was born. Even at an early age I was VERY familiar with bible stories which, believe it or not, helped to expand my imagination because of the crazy miracles mentioned on its pages. So, when I got to New York and was introduced to Greek and Roman mythology, I quickly noticed some similarities between some of the biblical stories and those found in the bible. I really became an avid fan of mythology and my interest spread to Egyptian mythology and then Norse mythology which I got into because of my interest in comic book heroes like Thor. Again, I could not help but notice some similarities by by my teens and as a fundamentalist Christian, I was believing that the bible contained the original stories but the heathens obscured them.

I worked with the above argument for the next 15 years or so, but it was not until my de-conversion did it all come to light to me. The information did NOT cause my deconversion but like northstar above me, it helped to confirm that I made the right decision to remove the Christian faith from the lofty position it once held in my mind and life.
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Old 10-17-2011, 09:43 PM
 
Location: New York City
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whoppers View Post
Other religions, myths, etc, can help to illuminate the world of the Bible, as it was not written in a vacuum. It's a lot of fun to find the hidden threads that weave them all together!
EXACTLY!!! This is a key flaw in the way some Christians look at the bible. Even I did once upon a time. There is a belief that the bible is written perfectly, and its contents were completely uninfluenced by the world around it. Though it was written long after other civilizations had come and gone and left their own writings, still some Christians believe the Bible has the correct version of events - end of story.
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:03 PM
 
3,488 posts, read 3,160,909 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InsaneInDaMembrane View Post
EXACTLY!!! This is a key flaw in the way some Christians look at the bible. Even I did once upon a time. There is a belief that the bible is written perfectly, and its contents were completely uninfluenced by the world around it. Though it was written long after other civilizations had come and gone and left their own writings, still some Christians believe the Bible has the correct version of events - end of story.
Yeh - I have friends who still feel that way.
Anything outside of the Bible is copying it, or perverting it - in their eyes.
Gilgamesh epic finds an older flood myth with almost the same details and plot: "Oh, see that's evidence that the BIBLICAL version happened, but was misreported by the wrong people" is a common one I've heard. heh!

Some people just have to get over the idea that God wrote the Bible - that idea can only be held onto with willfull stubborness. It would be one thing if the Bible (an athology of separate works) claimed to be written by God - but it's not. That silly Timothy verse is well overplayed....

Unfortunately - holding onto these fundamentalist ideas really does lock away some of the best content of the Bible and it's world from these people. As Boxcar said - it's much more interesting when you really start digging into the actual traditions, folklore, redactions, mythologies, etc..
I personally think it's much more enriching, in fact.
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:22 PM
 
Location: New York City
5,556 posts, read 6,728,634 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whoppers View Post
Yeh - I have friends who still feel that way.
Anything outside of the Bible is copying it, or perverting it - in their eyes.
Gilgamesh epic finds an older flood myth with almost the same details and plot: "Oh, see that's evidence that the BIBLICAL version happened, but was misreported by the wrong people" is a common one I've heard. heh!

Some people just have to get over the idea that God wrote the Bible - that idea can only be held onto with willfull stubborness. It would be one thing if the Bible (an athology of separate works) claimed to be written by God - but it's not. That silly Timothy verse is well overplayed....

Unfortunately - holding onto these fundamentalist ideas really does lock away some of the best content of the Bible and it's world from these people. As Boxcar said - it's much more interesting when you really start digging into the actual traditions, folklore, redactions, mythologies, etc..
I personally think it's much more enriching, in fact.
There is also the St. Jerome argument, popular amongst Seventh Day Adventists which says that Satan knew, beforehand, how God's plan was going to go down so he preempted it by setting up counterfeit religions to sidetrack the ancient world from the real truth. I actually tried to sell that one for a few years. *Sigh*
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