DIGGING DEEP – 9 by Abidan Paul Shah
The Bible was not written in a vacuum. It was in the context of paganism, idolatry, and demonic worship that the truth of God’s Word came to humanity.
What is religion? “Human organizations primarily engaged in providing general compensators based on supernatural assumptions.” – Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge
They gave 5 dimensions of religiousness: belief, practice, experience, knowledge, and consequences.
Religion can come in many forms – animism (animals, plants, and inanimate objects have spiritual essence), henotheism (worshipping one but acknowledging others), polytheism (many gods), and monotheism (one god).
- Began as early as the third millennium
- All the divine families were under Enlil
- They had as many as 3000 names, many repeats.
- Some of the gods included – Anu-An (Father of the gods who was described as a bull); Enlil (son of An and the most prominent; lord of the air and ruler over the earth; In “Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld,” when heaven and earth were separated, An chose the heavens and Enlil chose the earth; he created the humans; he also decreed the flood because humans disturbed his sleep); Nanna-Sin (first born of Enlil; moon god; god of Ur and Haran); Marduk (Son of Enki-Ea; god of thunderstorm and Babylon; known as Bel); Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14), etc.
- Images were made out of wood and plated with gold. They also had precious stones and jewels for eyes, which were lit up in nighttime rituals to depict “opening of the eyes.”
- As many as 40 gods and goddesses known, many repeats
- Several religious centers in Ancient Egypt – Thebes, Hermopolis, Heliopolis, Abydos, and Memphis
- The gods’ depictions were in the form that would express their special characteristics.
- They were considered to be responsible for the forces in nature – Ra (sun god); Hathor (heaven); Ma’at and Seth (balance and order vs chaos and death).
- Afterlife was a key component. It was often depicted by the Ankh.
- The symbol of continuity and order was the Pharaoh. The king was the official priest.
- Sometimes known as the Amorites and was the most immediate context for the people of Israel.
- 2 divine pairs: El and Athirat (sovereign king and queen over the world) and Baal and Anat (brother and sister in a state of turmoil and change, struggling for survival and dominance).
- El was the chief god known as the begetter of the other gods and creator of the world.
- Baal was the most popular god among the Canaanites. He was a fertility god who provided rains and rode on the clouds. (Psalm 68:4)
- There were also many minor gods like Dagon (Judges 16:23)
- The god of the Moabites was Chemosh and the god of the Ammonites was Molech. (Judges 11:24 and 2 Kings 3:26-27)
- Very diverse forms of paganism – Pisidian Antioch (Men – the moon and fertility god); Syrian Antioch (Zeus, Astarte, Tyche, etc); Athens (Athena, Dionysius); Corinth (Aphrodite – goddess of love, Apollo, Asclepius, Demeter, etc); Ephesus (Artemis – her temple was 5 times larger than Athens’ Parthenon, 1000 female servants, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World – Acts 19); etc.
- There was also much unity.
- They considered monotheists to be not much better than atheists.
- Joshua 24:1-3, 14-15
- Psalm 19
- Jeremiah 50:1-2
- Acts 17