Under Persia’s Achaemenid dynasty, before Darius, temples had appeared for the first time. Related to the Aryans who had invaded India, or a least having a language closely related to the Aryans, the Persians had gods similar to those found in the sacred Hindu Vedas. Among the Persians were a people called Medes, and a priesthood called the Magi had come to dominate the Medes religion. The major god of the Medes was Zurvan, a god of time and destiny. Another god of the Persians was Mazda, whom Darius adopted in an effort to unify his empire. And in western Persia the god Mithra and goddess Anahita were also worshiped. Continue reading Ancient Zoroastrians
The word Hebrew has been associated with the word Hiberu and Apiru, described in Wikipedia as ” the name given by various Sumerian, Egyptian, Akkadian, Hittite, Mitanni, and Ugaritic sources (dated, roughly, from before 2000 BC to around 1200 BC) to a group of people living as nomadic invaders in areas of the Fertile Crescent from Northeastern Mesopotamia and Iran to the borders of Egypt in Canaan.” They are “variously described as nomadic or semi-nomadic, rebels, outlaws, raiders, mercenaries, and bowmen, servants, slaves, migrant laborers, etc.” Continue reading From Abraham to David – Yahweh
Writing and Religion
By 7000 BCE, in what is called the Fertile Crescent, in West Asia where hunter-gatherers had roamed, planting had grown into the major source of food. There true farming had begun, and farming required permanent settlement. By 4500 BCE people archaeologists would call Ubaidians were living in towns in West Asia, in Mesopotamia (Greek for “between two rivers”) near where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers emptied into the Persian Gulf. The Ubaidians drained marshes. They grew wheat and barley and irrigated their crops by digging ditches to river waters. They kept farm animals. Some of them manufactured pottery. They did weaving, leather or metal work, and some were involved in trade with other societies. Continue reading Sumerians Writing and Religion
Fall of Assyria’s Empire and Rise of the Moses Legend
Assyria’s great empire lasted no longer than would the empires that began in the late nineteenth century — about seventy-five years. Assyria weakened itself economically by continuous wars to maintain its empire, including defending against invasions by an Indo-European tribal people, the Cimmerians, who came upon the Assyrians from the northeast. The Assyrians spent themselves expanding into Egypt and in quelling the rebellions of Egyptian princes. The Cimmerian menace increased, and more rebellions occurred within the empire. Assyria was burdened by the expense of maintaining its army. Soldiers had to be paid. Massive numbers of horses had to be cared for and fed. Siege engines had to be moved against rebellious cities. Continue reading Zoroastrians and Judaism
Manichaeism, a Universalist Faith
An artist’s concept of Mani the Prophet
from Wikimedia Commons
Persia was between India and the Roman Empire, and the Silk Road ran through it, making Persia a crossroad of ideas. It had Jews who had had fled from their homeland. After the Jews came Christians. Buddhist ideas were imported from India, and there was the indigenous Zoroastrianism. And into the mix of religious ideas arose a blend the various religions into a universalist faith:Manichaeism (pronounced mani-KEY-ism).
The founder of Manichaeism, Mani, is believed to have been the son of Parthian royalty, born in a village near Ctesiphon and a boy when Ardashir overthrew Parthian rule. As a young boy, Mani might have been taken by his father into a cult called the “Practitioners of Ablutions” — a cult that believed in washing away sins in baptisms. Or the group may have been the Elkesaites, a Jewish-Christian sect that arose around the year CE 100, a group believed to have celebrated the Sabbath, practiced vegetarianism, believed in circumcision, condemned the apostle Paul and criticized what it called falsehoods in Christian scripture and Mosaic law — a sect that died out around the year 400. Continue reading Manichaeism : The Prophet Mani
Question: What does the Qur’an say about Christians?
Answer: In the Qur’an, Christians are often referred to as among the “People of the Book,” i.e. people who have received and believed in previous revelation from God’s prophets. There are verses that highlight the commonalities between Christians and Muslims, and other verses that warn Christians against sliding towards polytheism in their worship of Jesus Christ.
“Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians — whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve” (2:62, 5:69, and many other verses).
“…and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant” (5:82).
“O you who believe! Be helpers of God — as Jesus the son of Mary said to the Disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers in (the work of) God?’ Said the disciples, ‘We are God’s helpers!’ Then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved. But We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed” (61:14).
“If only they [i.e. Christians] had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course, but many of them follow a course that is evil” (5:66).
“Oh People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion, nor say of God anything but the truth. Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, was (no more than) a messenger of God, and His Word which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him. So believe in God and His messengers. Say not, ‘Trinity.’ Desist! It will be better for you, for God is One God, Glory be to Him! (Far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is God as a Disposer of affairs” (4:171).
“The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. That is but a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. God’s curse be on them; how they are deluded away from the Truth! They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of God, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary. Yet they were commanded to worship but One God: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him! (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him)” (9:30-31).