by Liam Scheff
The Old Testament comes out of Hebrew history. Israel/Palestine (the end of the Mediterranean, connected to Egypt), was always a difficult area in which to establish a civilization. Rough terrain, stony hills, off the major trade routes, and a harsh climate: Mediterranean on the coast devolving into steppe and desert, suitable only for tribal herding people and their harsh mountain gods. How did this forsaken area birth the major religion of the Western World?
The answer: through invasion and occupation. Judea was ruled by so many people, it became inflected by the traditions and myths of other cultures. Eventually, this mixing vessel religion itself infected the Roman empire.
1. Earliest and most constant influences: Mesopotamian Gods, Goddesses and Myths: Gilgamesh and the life of Ancient Persian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilization in the Fertile Crescent about 500 miles to Babylon (Iraq).
2. 2000s BC: Egyptian management reaching into Palestine. Egypt brought its Sun/son gods, reincarnating gods, and circumcision.
3. 1700s – 1500s: Semitic (possibly Hebrew) peoples in Egypt form a ruling class (the Hyksos – rulers, not slaves) but are violently expelled back into Palestine (mythologized as “Exodus”). Following this period, small tribal “kingdoms” arise, mythologized as “The United Kingdom of David and Solomon,” but there’s nothing in the archaeology or history to show for the hopeful claims. Clan chiefs and warrior tribes are what survived in the difficult terrain.
4. 700s BC: External rule by nearby expanding Middle-Eastern states, then a long generation of indentured servitude in Babylon (500s), where the Hebrew scribes and priests gleaned a great deal from their captors, and wrote The Torah (The “Old Testament”) under the total influence of Babylon: Myths of a creation by Gods, a mystical garden, a loss of innocence and immortality, Noah, Moses and the Laws given by the Sun God – in the form of Flood myths, Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim’s ark, great King Sargon, and the Code of Hammurabi), a lunar calendar, and a powerful priesthood caste in a centralized, well-funded temple system.
5. 300s BC: Greek occupation and influence; the writings and philosophy of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Heraclitus and Homer. The Greek emphasis on a profound internal search for meaning, a belief in perfect math and transcendent universal geometries which loosened the “law” and gave them the “Word” or reason (Logos) and spirituality (Gnosis).
6. 70s BC: Then the Romans came, thoroughly kicked the Hebrew’s “Messianic” asses, and shoved them into permanent Stockholm Syndrome, inventing a supplicating reincarnating son/Sun god who would represent the loss of Judaism in the guise of a man/sympathetic deity.
That movement infected the lower classes, which caused the Empire to adopt it as an acceptable religion, by which to manage the masses – and then it infected the Imperial bureaucracy. That bureaucracy literalized the fables that had emerged, and created a strange tale of a boy born to a sex-free mother, who was “logos,” but also a man, a Jew, but a non-Jew, a Rabbi, but someone practicing a mystery religion that required baptism and anointing with oil (chrestos). We know that man as….
(No, kidding. You know the guy. Jesus Christmas.)
1. Mesopotamian Myth (the shared heritage)
2. Egyptian Culture (Egypt manages Judea)
3. Egyptian Occupation (Jews possibly ruled Egypt as Hyksos peoples)
4. Multi-Middle Eastern Rule of Judea/Israel (culminating in half century in Babylon, where “Torah” – Old Testament was probably written)
5. Greeks Rule! (Greece takes over the area and influences Jewish thought, creating “Logos” and “Gnosis,” laying the ground for Gnosticism)
6. Roman Meal (The Empire grinds Judaism to dust, and out of the flour is baked a loaf of Christians)