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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Church of Allan - The Plain Truth About God

A serialization of the book, The Plain Truth About God.

Chapter 8. Let My People Go!


Of all the civilizations archaeologists have studied there seems to be a special interest in the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians.

This is probably because Babylon and Assyria had a close connection with the world that was depicted in the Old Testament of the Bible.

A great part of archaeology revolves around attempts by people to find records of this culture that lend support to their faith in the Bible.

So much so, that with the beginning of a critical study of the Bible, questions were posed as to the accuracy of many of the passages that had been considered historical fact instead of the metaphorical stories they were intended to be. (See forward: by Dr. Burton L. Mack)

It was this desire to find corroboration of the Biblical narrative that first started scholars on their search throughout the Babylonian and Assyrian area of the Middle East.

It was known from the Old Testament that there was a close relationship between the civilizations of the Hebrew and the Babylonian-Assyrian people.

Abraham himself had become a migrant to the west when he left the Babylonian city of Ur after the Assyrians and Babylonians became a political threat to the independence of the Hebrew people.

The ten northern tribes of the Hebrews were eventually dispersed by the Assyrians, while a small group continued in Babylonian captivity.

With the superior force of their enemies, the Hebrews were to begin their Exile, much as they had endured the Exodus about 600 years before.

The Babylonians, much like the Assyrians and the Egyptians had many writings that were in the nature of scripture but they never set aside a specific book that was described as having Divine origin.

It is without doubt that there was much borrowing between the Hebrews and Babylonians though, and from this “borrowing,” we have a remarkable similarity between Babylonian and Egyptian stories.

1. The creation and flood story
2. Hymns and prayers
3. Ritual texts
4. Their legal code and -
5. Omens, all of which find some correspondence in the Bible.

** Moses came down from the mountain carrying two stone tablets. Today he would have gotten the information over the Internet and on a CD disc! -A.W. J.

Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Chaldeans and the Babylonian empire, started to deport most of the prominent citizens of Judah about 597 B.C.E., and by 586, B.C.E. Judah ceased to be an independent kingdom.

Although most of the professionals, priests, artisans and the wealthy were deported, the “people of the land” were allowed to stay and then gathered in a single place by Nebuchadnezzar.

These people called themselves the “Gola.” (Exiles) They forged a new national identity and a new religion that was a reworking of the cult of Yahweh.

These “exiles” lived in a time of despair and loneliness that was brought about by the realization that the ‘Exile’ itself was unexplainable.

Hebrew history had been built on the promise of Yahweh (God) protecting them and using them for his purposes throughout human history.

This defeat and the loss of land promised to them by Yahweh implied that their faith in him was somehow misplaced.

This crisis, when their view of reality and the fact of reality did not match, resulted in a most profound despair.

It eventually led to a reworking of the Hebrew “world-view” that had existed until then.

Biblical texts such as Lamentations, Job, and many of the Psalms were written at this time.

Job in particular, an upright deserving man, is made to suffer the worst series of calamities possible.

When he finally despairs and states that there is no cosmic justice, the only answer he receives is that humans should not question God’s will!

Out of shear necessity, the Jews of Babylon had to re-make themselves.

They grew to blame the disaster of the Exile on their own impurity and lack of direction in following the word of Yahweh.

They had betrayed God and allowed their laws and practices to become corrupt.
Their exile was the final proof of God’s displeasure.

It was during this period that the direction and emphasis of the Jewish faith changed from a religion of judgment to a theology of salvation.

In texts such as Isaiah and Ezekiel there was talk of a purified and renewed faith where the Israelites would be gathered together in a purified religion and just society.

They talked about the re-establishment of a Davidic kingdom.

It was also during this period of resurgence in Jewish tradition that the Torah started to take its final shape and became the central text of the Jewish faith, helped along by “Cyrus the Persian.”

When “Cyrus the Great” conquered Mesopotamia around 535 BCE, he set in motion a series of events that was to shape the Jewish people and faith for all time!

The Persian people before that time (1000-800 B.C.E.) were a rag-tag group of tribes living north of Mesopotamia and part of the widespread group of Indo-European families.

The Mesopotamians had considered them no better than animals and they were largely ignored.

All this changed about 750 BCE when the followers of the “prophet” Zarathustra, already well entrenched in other areas of the Middle East, came to the fore in this area as well.

They spread their religion of Zoroastrianism which stated that Cosmic history was simply the epic battle between the two Divine forces of good and evil.

At the end time, a climactic battle would decide, once and for all, which of the two forces would dominate the universe.

Human beings were part of this struggle, as well as all the gods and religions.

Cyrus the Great was a follower of Zarathustra and set out to conquer not only the Middle East, but also the entire world.

He did this out of a wish to guarantee his territorial safety by conquering potential enemies, but he also wanted the whole world united for religious reasons.

Cyrus believed that the final battle between good and evil (The End Time) was fast approaching and the legions of humanity had to be brought to the side of the good forces.

He sought to conquer the entire known world, much like Alexander the Great did some few hundred years later.

Cyrus was the greatest conqueror the world had ever seen up to that point and his empire reached a sized never before imagined by anyone.

He was wondering about the circumstances for the Armageddon to come and believed that the Hebrew God “Yahweh” was aligned on the side of good and visited him one night in a vision.

In this vision he was commanded to re-establish Yahweh worship in Jerusalem and rebuild the temple there.

After the temple was rebuilt, Cyrus ordered the Jews in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and worship Yahweh for the forgiveness of their sins.

At the same time during this Exile, the Jews had set about “purifying” their religion and were attempting to return to the laws and cultic practices of their Mosaic origins.

This newfound concern with cultic purity and the Mosaic laws, combined with the re-establishment of Judah as a theological state, produced a totally different society from what had gone on before.

The Jews had adapted many things from the Persians and included these elements into their religion as well. This attempt to purify their faith resulted in a belief in a dualistic universe.

In early history everything happened from two forces, Yahweh and human will.

Now, in an effort to make sense of the Exile, the Hebrews adapted the Persian idea that the universe is composed of two opposite forces, one good, and the other evil!

This development closely followed the Zoroastrian concept of duality, which was now the foundation of their faith. Therefore, after the Babylonian exile, the Hebrews talk of an evil force opposed to God, which became the “Devil” in Christianity.

Before the Exile, the Hebrews believed that the soul of a person lived on for a short time before fading completely from existence, thus making it a this-world religion.

The Persians, meanwhile, believed the souls of good people would re-unite with the forces of good in eternal bliss and the souls of evil people would reunite with the forces of darkness until the final defeat of Evil.

This view of the afterlife that was adapted by the Hebrews explained all the suffering of this life, such as the Exile, and made it apparent that cosmic justice was apparent only after one’s death rather than during their lifetime.

This laid the foundation of the Judaism we have today!

Allan W Janssen is the author of the book The Plain Truth About God (What the mainstream religions don't want you to know!) and is available at the web site www.God-101.com

Visit the blog "Perspective" at http://God-101.blogspot.com

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