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1 - Ancient Religions, Jewish Legacy.docx

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Simon Fraser University
HIST 288
Emily O' Brien

Ancient Religions (3,500-Jesus) • Dealing with areas such as − Fertile Crescent − Mesopotamia (FC) − Egypt (FC) − Ancient Greece − Ancient Rome When Christianity came to be, the Romans themselves had many gods and were incorporating gods from all their conquered territories. There was a context of tolerance to other religions, or at least syncretism. Common and Defining features ofAncient Religions • Polytheistic − Usually gods have different purposes and associations − They were designed to help you in specific areas if worshipped accordingly − Ahierarchy of gods − Followers were known as “pagans” • Anthropomorphic (in human likeness) − Represented in art as humans − Also acted like humans and misbehaved like humans (needed to be fed and clothed) − Asocial stratification between them − Many begin as humans, like some Roman emperors • Linked to the State − Religion sponsored by the state − State appointed priests and religious authorities − Religion informed politics − Civic festivals were the same as religious festivals • Focus on Present Life vs. Afterlife − Afterlife not at the center of many religions − More a question of what can the gods do for me right now? − Focus on improving the quality of life • Worship (the correct observation of ritual) − Often done as animal sacrifice − Everything must be done the right way − Rituals (prayer, processions and festivals) might get the gods to help you, but they are also very fickle − Not about an emotional connection with the gods, except for mystery cults − Not about a sacred text or specific moral code. Literature was elevated like Homer,Aeneid, and Gilgamesh. Moral code was derived from philosophers like Plato, Socrates, andAristotle. − No laws or creeds Lecture 3: The Jewish Legacy Why do we learn about Judaism? − Jesus was Jewish and lived in a Jewish world − Christianity began as a movement in Judaism – the first Christians were Jews − Much of Christianity is Judaism in terms of history and content Common Ground with Christianity − The same God (Yahweh) − Common book: The Old Testaments or Tanakh (law, prophets, and writings) *Like theApocrypha, it is common but not identical Judaism was very different from other ancient religions but shared some similarities... Similarities to other Ancient Religions: − AGod that people could turn to for help − He would favour them if they worshipped him properly − Use of animal sacrifice 1. What was the Origin of the Jewish People? • Semi-nomadic shepherds near the Tigris and Euphrates • Bound by blood to the tribe and family • Originally have no land of their own. Their story is getting a land and keeping it. − Land known as Canaan, Palestine, the Holy Land or the Land of Israel − Is it from the Mediterranean to Jordan • The land was given to them by God − Promised that they would multiply − Claimed name of Chosen People − Given the Promised Land • Father of Israel isAbraham (c. 2000 BC) − The Patriarch and first of the chosen people − God speaks directly to him and asks things of him. − Abraham lived in a polytheistic world. Why would he listen to God? − God trusts him to father his people (likely because of his implicit obedience) 2. How did Judaism take shape? (2000 BC- 0) The Question of why Israel? • Not because they were “better” than other people or more righteous • He chose one group because he had a plan to end the polytheistic era. The Jews were given a vocation to lead others away from false gods to the one true God. • Choosing one group is just a part of larger plan WhyAbraham? • Israel always under guidance of chosen individuals • Patriarchs:Abraham, Isaac, Jacob • Prophets: Moses (responsible for revealing God’s revelations and acting as a moral compass) • Judges • Kings: David • These people were mediators between God and the people • Vessels for God Covenants: • Acontract that binds two parties with responsibilities for both • One created betweenAbraham and God: God promises to provideAbraham with descendents and love them. Abraham must be obedient, morally upright, and employ circumcision as a symbol of their choseness. • One between Moses and God: And expanded coven
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