Section C – Judaism and Christianity (161 pages) (Week 2 reading)
• Historicity of Daniel (Part 2)* and Judeo-Christian Syncretism 51
• A Few Words on Gnosticism 57
• Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (Part 1) 61
• Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (Part 2) & Prophecy in Judaism 77-94
* Pages 42-51 (the first 2/3s) of “Historicity of Daniel (Part 2)* and Judeo-Christian Syncretism” on the Historicity of Daniel (Part 2) were read as a part of week one. Please begin week two reading with Judeo-Christian syncretism on page 51 or 2/3 of the way through the web article.
Historicity of the Book of Daniel (Part 2) and Judeo-Christian Syncretism
Comparing Judeo-Christianity and Propositional Mysticism
All religions develop syncretistic versions over time (including Judaism and Christianity).
When we discuss syncretism we are primarily interested in whether a religion started through syncretistic processes – borrowing beliefs and practices from other religious systems.
We have seen how the various forms of Propositional Mysticism came about through syncretism and embraced and depended upon ongoing syncretism.
Judaism and Christianity DID NOT emerge through syncretism and inherently contain a strict prohibition against it.
Judeo-Christian prohibition against syncretism
Repeated instruction to their followers not to incorporate pagan religious customs or concepts into their understanding of God.
Jews and Christians were instead commanded to hold firmly to the authentic teachings originally proclaimed by Moses and Jesus.
Deuteronomy 12:28-32 – Moses, approx. 13th century B.C.
Deuteronomy commands against syncretism and promises punishments or rewards for unfaithfulness or obedience.
OT history confirms that it was Israel and Judah’s blending with and adoption of other religions that led to their captivity and exile.
Zoroastrianism cannot have influenced Judaism because Judaism predates Zoroastrianism by 600 years or more.
Moses 13th century B.C.
Zoroaster 628-551 B.C. AFTER…
Exile of Israel 721 B.C. to Assyria
Exile of Judah 586 B.C. to Babylon
The Jewish exiles brought their developed theology and scriptures with them including
The Psalms and Kings and Chronicles
Early prophetic books: Isaiah (approx. 742 B.C), Hosea, Joel, Amos, Jonah, and Micah (all 800’s and 700’s B.C.)
These works exhibited a strict monotheism and developed messianic expectations.
Some of the Jewish exiles were leading court officials of the most prominent kingdoms in the region where Zoroaster comes from – Daniel, Nehemiah
Zoroastrianism cannot have influenced Christianity because Christianity is completely dependent upon Judaism for its concepts, beliefs, and practices
Zoroastrianism cannot have influenced Judaism or Christianity because the existing Zoroastrian sacred text (the Avesta) dates from the 3rd to 7th centuries A.D.
The Zoroastrian concept of a savior figure isn’t found or developed until 7th century A.D. texts.
"Zoroastrianism - Only in the Pahlavi books is this theme systematically developed. It is dominated by the idea of a final return to the initial state of things. The first human couple had at first fed on water, then on plants, on milk, and at last on meat. The people in the last millennia will, at the advent of the three successive saviours, abstain in the reverse order from meat, milk, and plants to keep finally only water." - Britannica.com
CONCLUSION: It is much more reasonable to conclude that Zoroastrianism is the result of Judaism being syncretistically incorporated into existing Hindu-Aryan beliefs.
Non-Jewish influences on Christianity
The idea that Christianity was influenced by anything other than Judaism has been completely discarded by scholars for five reasons.
Sufficiently strong similarities between Christianity and non-Jewish religions do not appear until a century or more after the onset of Christianity.
Similarities between Christian concepts and non-Jewish religions that existed prior to Christianity do not contain any specific similarities of a substantive or conceptual nature.
Any similarity between Christianity and a non-Jewish religion is overwhelmingly dwarfed by the dependence Christianity has on Judaism for its concepts, beliefs, and practices.
Judaism is much older and more conceptually developed than other proposed influencers of Christianity and very strictly prohibitive of syncretism.
Christian beliefs are based on a real historical figure (Jesus Christ) while the religious figures of other religions are purely mythological.
Mystery religions –
"Mysteries - in Greek and Roman religion, some important secret cults. The conventional religions of both Greeks and Romans were alike in consisting principally of propitiation and prayers for the good of the city-state, the tribe, or the family, and only secondarily of the person. Individuals sought a more emotional religion that would fulfill their desires for personal salvation and immortality. Secret societies were formed, usually headed by a priest or a hierophant. By the 5th cent. B.C. mysteries were an important part of the fabric of Hellenic life. Although the mystic rites were kept secret, it was known that they required elaborate initiations, including purification rites, beholding sacred objects, accepting occult knowledge, and acting out a sacred drama. Some mysteries were of foreign origin, such as the Middle Eastern cults of Cybele, Isis, and Mithra; some were embodied survivals of indigenous rites. The most important mystery cults in Greece were the Eleusinian, the Orphic, and the Andanian. Since the mystery deities were associated primarily with fertility, many scholars believe that these cults were based on unrecorded primitive fertility rites. The popularity of mystery cults spread in the Hellenistic age and still more widely in Roman times." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.
"Mysteries - The simultaneousness of the propagation of the mystery religions and of Christianity and the striking similarities between them, however, demand some explanation of their relationship. The hypothesis of a mutual dependence has been proposed by scholars especially a dependence of Christianity upon the mysteries but such theories have been discarded." - Britannica.com
"Mysteries - There are also great differences between Christianity and the mysteries. Mystery religions, as a rule, can be traced back to tribal origins, Christianity to a historical person. The holy stories of the mysteries were myths; the Gospels of the New Testament, however, relate historical events. The books that the mystery communities used in Roman times cannot possibly be compared to the New Testament. The essential features of Christianity were fixed once and for all in this book; the mystery doctrines, however, always remained in a much greater state of fluidity. The theology of the mysteries was developed to a far lesser degree than the Christian theology. There are no parallels in Christianity to the sexual rites in the Dionysiac and Isiac religion, with the exception of a few aberrant Gnostic communities. The cult of rulers in the manner of the imperial mysteries was impossible in Jewish and Christian worship." - Britannica.com
Aztec religion: Quetzalcoatl
Quetzalcoatl cannot have influence Christianity
It is a religion of the American continent
It comes after Christianity 200-700 A.D.
It only develops concepts similar the Christianity during the Aztec period of the 1500 and 1600’s A.D.
Quetzalcoatl was a mythological figure NOT historical
“Quet·zal·co·a·tl - a chief Toltec and Aztec god identified with the wind and air and represented by a feathered serpent” – Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary
“Quetzalcoatl – (from Nahuatl quetzalli, “tail feather of the quetzal bird [Pharomachrus mocinno],” and coatl, “snake”), the Feathered Serpent, one of the major deities of the ancient Mexican pantheon. Representations of a feathered snake occur as early as the Teotihuacán civilization (3rd to 8th century AD) on the central plateau. At that time, Quetzalcóatl seems to have been conceived as a vegetation god—an earth and water deity closely associated with the rain god Tlaloc.” – Britannica.com
“Quetzalcoatl – With the immigration of Nahua-speaking tribes from the north, Quetzalcóatl's cult underwent drastic changes. The subsequent Toltec culture (9th through 12th centuries), centred at the city of Tula, emphasized war and human sacrifice linked with the worship of heavenly bodies. Quetzalcóatl became the god of the morning and evening star, and his temple was the centre of ceremonial life in Tula.” – Britannica.com
“Quetzalcoatl – In Aztec times (14th through 16th centuries) Quetzalcóatl was revered as the patron of priests, the inventor of the calendar and of books, and the protector of goldsmiths and other craftsmen; he was also identified with the planet Venus. As the morning and evening star, Quetzalcóatl was the symbol of death and resurrection. With his companion Xolotl, a dog-headed god, he was said to have descended to the underground hell of Mictlan to gather the bones of the ancient dead. Those bones he anointed with his own blood, giving birth to the men who inhabit the present universe.” – Britannica.com