Judaism and Ancient religions from Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia
|Topics:||🕎 Theology, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, 🧚 Creation Myth|
Table of Contents
A substantial number of distinct religions exist in the world today. The presence of some of these religions can be dated back to more than 2000 years ago (Scholem 282). While these religions are undeniably different in the fundamental beliefs and practices, a number of apparent similarities across all of them exist. This shall study Judaism and other ancient religions that used to be practiced in Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia with the intention of defining the core values, differences and similarities exhibited by these religions. Further, the paper shall hypothesize on some of the reasons people tend to create their own religions.
Judaism is a monotheistic religion practiced by Jewish people. Judaism uses the Torah as its prime text, from where it bases its philosophy, religion, and culture. In Judaism, they believe that there is only one almighty single deity, God, who is in the utmost control of the whole world and everything in it (Scholem 284). The Jewish people believe that a long time ago, God commanded Abraham to make him a sacrifice, after which he promised to make him a father of a great nation.
The Jewish people, therefore, believe that they are the descendants of Abraham and that the great nation is Israel. Further, they believe that God made a covenant with them many generations after Abraham that they should love and worship one God, alone (Scholem 301). Additionally, they should love each other as this is among Ten Commandments that were presented to them by God.
Ancient Religions of Greece
In ancient Greece, the Greek people believed that there were multiple gods and goddesses, whereby each of them had different purposes. The theology of the ancient Greek religions was, therefore, polytheistic (Heming and Seán n.p). In their teaching, the ancients had few universal beliefs and practices across Greece. However, the diverse religions all had commonly accepted fundamental beliefs across the whole region.
While these gods were considered superior to human beings, there was a hierarchy of the deities, whereby the god Zeus was the most supreme of all gods and goddesses. These gods were all in charge of various aspects of nature, whether physical or abstract. For example, Zeus controlled the sky, whereby he was in charge of thunder and lightning (Heming and Seán n.p). Hades controlled death and the underworld, Aphrodite was the goddess of love while Helios controlled the sun. These gods were not always united because sometimes they disagreed and competed against each other (Heming and Seán n.p).
Further, the ancient Greeks believed that these gods could take human form and even conceive have children with human beings. The ancient Greeks made a tremendous effort not to commit Hubris, which was the definition of immorality. This could range from such actions as rape to defilement of a dead body. Overindulging in activities was also prohibited in these religions.
Ancient Egyptian Religion
The ancient religion of Egypt consisted of a multifaceted structure of polytheistic practices, rituals, and beliefs that fundamentally made up an essential part of the Egyptian society. The ancient rituals believed in their multiple deities, with each single god known to control a distinct force of nature. Therefore, according to the Egyptians, each single god had an essential role in their lives and well-being (Erman 14). However, the gods differed in terms of superiority, whereby some gods were superior and recognized by every Egyptian while others were minor deities who only had localized functions.
Typically, the Egyptians for a blessing from their gods through prayer, worshipping or magic rituals (Erman 148). In other circumstances, the Egyptians consulted oracles to act as intermediaries between them and their gods, for blessings and to do favors for them. The Egyptians believed in the after-life. They believed that whenever a person died, their soul left their bodies and had to take up another living thing in order to survive.
Ancient Religions of Mesopotamia
The Sumerians, who were the ancient occupants of Mesopotamia, practiced a polytheistic religion. This religion recognized the importance of multiple gods as opposed to having a single supreme deity. In their religion, the people believed that their gods created demons, both good and bad. They believed that any disaster that befell their cities was some form of punishment that resulted from making their gods angry. For this reason, they knew that they had to express extreme caution lest they anger their god. Mesopotamia had a number of cities, the people, therefore, believed that there were dedicated deities that protected every city (Postgate 26).
Further, the ancient people of Mesopotamia believed in the goddesses who ruled the sun, wind, and skies. The people of Mesopotamia built structures in which they would worship these gods, to thank them, ask them for blessings and reclaim their favors. Among the gods that were worshipped by these people, Anu was the greatest of all gods, the ruler of the sky as well as the father of all gods (Postgate 40). He was the supreme deity. Other gods include Enki who was the god of all fresh water, Inanna who was the goddess responsible for love and fertility among many other gods who had specialized functions.
Similarities Manifested by these Religions
There are a number of similar aspects portrayed across all religions as observed above. The first similarity is the notion that humans are not in control of the forces of nature or their fate. All of these religions are based on the premise that the forces of nature are being controlled by someone more powerful than the human beings. Secondly, the urge that human beings should do good deeds to others as well as to their gods. Failure to do this is expressed in all of the religions that the humans will be punished by their gods either directly or indirectly. Lastly, making of sacrifices to the deities is expressed in all the religions discussed above. These sacrifices are made in the act of worshiping of the supreme beings, appeasement or as a sign of thankfulness. Whether in polytheistic or monotheistic religions, the humans are supposed to obey, worship and appease their gods.
Differences in these Religions
The main dissimilarity demonstrated in these religions is the monotheistic nature of Judaism. All of the remaining religions recognize the existence of multiple deities except Judaism, which only recognizes a single almighty deity whom they refer to as God. Judaism believes that God gave them the Torah as the guideline on the best ways to live with each other while pleasing Him in the process.
Another difference in these religions in manifested in the Ancient Greek Religions, whereby the gods are said to be able to take human form and give birth to an offspring with other human beings. This has not been reported in either the Ancient Egyptian or Mesopotamian religions. Additionally, the belief in the afterlife is also perpetuated only between the three polytheistic religions, whereby it is believed that after death, the human soul continues to live. This is, however, disputed in Judaism, whereby most scholars in the religion disagree on the issue of the afterlife.
Why People tend to Create and Follow Religions
Based on the characteristics of these religions, there are a few explanations as to why people tend to create and follow different religions. To begin with, the geographic location plays an important role. For example, considering the fact that the ancient religions of Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia are fundamentally similar, it is only logical to conclude that these religions were formed independently. The people located in these different regions were unaware of the other religions until they had been deeply rooted in their cultures (Nongbri 4).Secondly, minor differences and disagreements are another reason for these following and creation of different religions. Some people disagreeing on the key issues regarding the practices and beliefs decide to form their own religions which paid attention to their areas of concern.
- Erman, Adolf. A handbook of Egyptian religion. BoD–Books on Demand, 2011.
- Hemingway, Collete, and Seán Hemingway. “Greek Gods and Religious Practices | Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, 2003. Web. 10 Oct. 2017.
- Nongbri, Brent. Before religion. Yale University Press, 2013.
- Postgate, Nicholas. Early Mesopotamia: society and economy at the dawn of history. Taylor & Francis, 2017.
- Scholem, Gershom. The messianic idea in Judaism: And other essays on Jewish spirituality. Schocken, 2011. 282- 303
Offered for reference purposes only.