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Old 10-11-2005, 11:05 AM   #61
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Originally posted by Irvine511
i am "dismissing" the view that science is subservient to inherited notions of what god is and does.
I guess that is inherent in your worldview.

If one sees God as Supreme, the Creator, Omnipotent, it would follow that our understanding of God and His Universe (through science) would be limited.
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Old 10-11-2005, 11:15 AM   #62
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This makes it sound as if Cyrus arrived on the scene, and voila--out of Shaddai-worship, modern rabbinic Judaism.
And as flippantly as you put that, it's true. Cyrus the Great did have his alterior motives, after all. He learned very early on that the easiest way to ensure loyalty to him was not to force everyone to convert to his religion, Zoroastrianism, but, instead, to change all the religions around him. As xenophobic as the Israelites were, with their defamation and hatred of every major civilization around them from the Canaanites (who actually would have been fellow Semitic tribesmen) to the Phoenicians to the Assyrians to the Babylonians to the Greeks to the Romans, the only non-Jewish culture the Bible seems to bend over backwards in adulation for are the Persians.

It shouldn't be a coincidence either that much of the book of Ezra reads like a love poem for Cyrus the Great either (with Cyrus even pretending to believe in the Jewish religion), while Ezra is also credited as being the primary organizer of post-exilic Judaism. It's probably because Ezra was an agent of Cyrus the Great, and it was his task to teach and spread this "new Judaism." And since the Old Testament canon was created by the Pharisees, the then-minority of Jews who believed this "new Judaism," the rest is history...

...but I guess, in perspective, Judaism fared better than believers in Marduk. Cyrus the Great first pretended to worship Marduk, then proclaimed himself to be Marduk, then had the entire religion and all its temples destroyed.

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It's true that the God of Torah has many names and embodies the attributes of many Ancient Near Eastern gods, and many Torah passages indeed suggest ongoing worship of other deities (not to mention the archeological evidence). But the notion that God is loving and good is hardly exclusive to postexilic times: the Torah and Early Prophets also extoll God as merciful and just (as well as jealous and angry), and as willing to change his mind in response to petitions from his followers. This vision of God persists into postexilic times, rather than leading to a dualistic split, as in the Zoroastrian Spenta Mainyu/Angra Mainyu.
A slight correction on the Zoroastrian deities here. Ahura Mazda is the "good" god, personified by light. Angra Mainyu (a.k.a., "Ahriman/Shaitan") was the "bad" god, personified by darkness. The Spenta Mainyu ("Holy Spirit") was an archangel. The "angry god" of the early Old Testament was written from the perspective that good and evil would emanate from the same deity. That is, if bad things happened to you, it's because you or the tribe pissed off God somehow, and now you're getting his wrath.

Ahura Mazda, on the other hand, was revolutionary for its day for being a deity that was wholly good and loving. And his army of goodness was the spentas ("angels"), with a hierarchy that would probably rival the medieval Catholic hierarchy of angels. Any evil, thus, was a consequence of Angra Mainyu and his army of darkness, daevas ("demons"). Just for interest's sake, a lot of this hints towards Zoroastrianism's origins in early Vedic Hinduism, who primarily worshipped a group of gods known as the "daevas," with the "evil" avatars of the daevas being the "asuras" (origin of "Ahura"). As such, it appears that there must have been an early disagreement in Indo-Iranian society as to which deities were "good" and who were "evil."

Anyway, while "Satan" is clearly a neutered form of "Angra Mainyu," stripped of his deity status and demoted to an angel, while maintaining all the power of a god, it is interesting that he makes his primary appearances in the New Testament, making the argument that he's mainly a Christian deity. After all, Zoroastrianism intersects with Christianity through Mithraism (a cult of Zoroastrianism), and the appearance of the three "wise men" (an improper derivation of "magi," who are Mithraist priests) was probably to try and convince Zoroastrians that Jesus was the "Saoshyant."

"Since He is (the One) to be chosen by the world therefore the judgment emanating from truth itself (to be passed) on the deeds of good thought of the world, as well as the power, is committed to Mazda Ahura whom (people) assign as a shepherd to the poor." --Yasna 27:13, the Ahuna Vairya prayer

And I would say that it is no coincidence that shepherd/sheep imagery is frequently used to describe Jesus.

But back to post-exilic Judaism, there wasn't "dualism" as much as a distinct split between good and evil, with "God" being good and other beings responsible for evil. "Evil" was just a lot more ambiguous with Zoroastrian "daevas" making cameo appearances in the Old Testament (Asmodeus in the apocryphal Book of Tobit, for instance), mixing in with ancient Semitic demons. Christian conservatives typically lump all these together as "Satan," but it would be incorrect.

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Actually, many theologians consider Hellenistic thought to have exerted far more influence on the nature of Jewish monotheism. In any case, these outside sources were influential only in the context of an ever-developing but distinct tradition that far predated (and far outlasted) the rise to power of either.
I typically think that has to do with a humanist bias. We had such a love affair with Greco-Roman culture for centuries that many scholars will jump through hoops just to connect us to them. I personally don't agree, mainly because the dominant religion for 1000 years from the start of the Persian Empire (the earliest that most scholars can reliably date the Old Testament) to the Islamic conquest of Iran was Zoroastrianism. Even the word, "Pharisee," is likely a derivative of "Parsi" or "Persian." And, particularly during the time of Jesus, many Romans were enamored by Mithraism at the time. It was the "fashionable" religion of the era.

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Also, as a footnote to Cyrus' role in Jewish history (as opposed to our theology): despite Cyrus' invitation to the Jews to return, and despite the exhortations of Deutero-Isaiah and others, most Jews never went back to Israel after the Babylonian captivity ended. The total number who actually took Cyrus up on his offer was only about 40,000. So, demographically speaking, Palestine in Jesus' day was far from being the center of the Jewish world.
I'll agree with you, with the added note that the Old Testament was canonized not by the Jewish diaspora, but by the remaining Pharisees near Palestine following the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It is thought that the Sadducees, who were annihilated or enslaved by the Romans, numbered about 2-3 million Jews, versus maybe 6,000 Pharisees. But the Sadducees were a lot more prone to violence, and had been seething for centuries over the idea of foreign cultures controlling their land. The Pharisees were more apt to cooperate with the Romans, which is why they survived.

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Actaually, it was the Sadducees who were most powerful during the Persian period, since they were the party of the wealthy Temple priests at a time when these priests held most of the local political power (Cyrus having refused to restore the monarchy). The Pharisees were a faction of scribes and sages who emphasized public teaching of the Torah, and continued the tradition of prayer houses (beit knesset, later "synagogues"--begun during the Babylonian exile and becoming increasingly important as sites of worship...eventually, of course, destined to replace the Temple altogether). The Essenes didn't emerge until several centuries later; their rejection of the Temple originated with rejection of the authority of High Priests during the Hasmonean period, rather than in an aversion to Zoroastrian teachings.
History, nonetheless, is always written by the victors, not the losers; and the Sadducees are the big losers in history. The only real hints you get toward their theology is in the apocryphal books of I & II Maccabees, and, depending on one's POV, the Talmud, which seems to go to great lengths to try and "recapture" traditional Jewish belief.

Personally, I never commented on why the Essenes existed short of their rejection of the Temple. I never believed they particularly resisted Zoroastrian-infused Judaism, considering they merged with the Pharisees after the destruction of the Temple. All quite interesting.

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It's most unlikely that either sect (much less the majority of Jews at the time) had a collective position on Jesus one way or the other. At any rate, it was ultimately the Roman rulers whose pespective mattered. Unless, of course, you buy into the unlikely idea that Pontius Pilate--a tyrannical crucifier of thousands who was ultimately canned by the Romans for excessive brutality--was really just a sympathetic pushover who let some random mob of Jews (a people whom he loathed, and over whom he held absolute power) "force" him to execute a man he wanted to live.
Pontius Pilate's subtext is more fascinating than what is actually written about him. The Romans looked dismissively upon the Jewish people, and saw the area as a kind of backwater hick province of the Empire. The Romans were also disgusted by their practices of circumcision, which they called "uncivilized." Knowing full well how prone this region was to revolt, the Romans were mostly there to protect the Empire from them--kind of like prison guards.

Pontius Pilate's signature ambivalence would have been exactly what the Romans would have thought about the whole situation. Pilate was probably bewildered as to why the crowds would have wanted to crucify someone for doing nothing. Religious zealotry, after all, was all over the Roman Empire during those days, and as long as you didn't try to challenge the authority of the Emperor, you were pretty much left to believe whatever you wanted back then. But Pilate, being the good "jailer" that he was, probably was afraid of the crowds erupting into revolt and just let those "uncivilized barbarians" do whatever the hell they wanted. Pilate really didn't care.

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Old 10-11-2005, 11:26 AM   #63
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Originally posted by nbcrusader


I guess that is inherent in your worldview.

If one sees God as Supreme, the Creator, Omnipotent, it would follow that our understanding of God and His Universe (through science) would be limited.

i think you misunderstand.

it's not that science cannot understand God, but that scientific understanding is inadequate and inferior to biblical understanding of the universe.
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Old 10-11-2005, 11:28 AM   #64
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I believe science is the end result of God, and to understand the nature of science is to understand the nature of God. With that, our current understanding of science (and, as such, the nature of God) is limited, but improving with time.

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Old 10-11-2005, 07:21 PM   #65
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I agree that to know more about science is to know more about God (in a sense) because science is the understanding of his creation. But you can only go so far with science. Since God created our universe and all the laws it's inhibited by we can't understand God in full until we're no longer bound by these laws!

Well have alot to ask God when we get to Heaven!!
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Old 10-11-2005, 07:25 PM   #66
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Well have alot to ask God when we get to Heaven!!
And ignore facts until we get there...
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Old 10-12-2005, 06:05 AM   #67
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I'm on fire, guys! I'm on FIRE!!!!!!!

Rocking the suburbs just like michael jackson did, rocking the suburbs, except he was talented!

better watch out cause I'm gonna say fuck
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Old 10-12-2005, 10:09 AM   #68
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I agree that to know more about science is to know more about God (in a sense) because science is the understanding of his creation. But you can only go so far with science. Since God created our universe and all the laws it's inhibited by we can't understand God in full until we're no longer bound by these laws!

Well have alot to ask God when we get to Heaven!!


i think religion/faith/spirituality are important when discussing that which we cannot know.

how to live a moral life, how to live our best lives, why are we here and what should we do while we are here.

however, to think that religion has any sort of place in scientific inquiry is mindless madness.
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Old 10-12-2005, 10:40 AM   #69
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One thing that hurt Mithraism in the Roman Empire was that they didn't initiate women. It was strictly for men, and was popular in the army.
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