23 Jun 2010

Sample Essay:The Dead Sea Scrolls

Many English translations of the Old Testament are based on Masoretic text that comprises of the Hebraic bible. The Masoretes were scholars who were accustomed to copying of bible texts during the 8th century and their texts were considered the most accurate and oldest biblical texts. After the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, it was evident that the Dead Sea scrolls dated back over 2000 years while the Masoretic texts dated back 1000 years. Since the Dead Sea scrolls covered Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew languages, the most crucial issue is placing the relationship between the Masoretic texts and the Dead Sea scrolls. This brings out all apparent issues of considering the accuracy of our current scripture. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scripture that was necessitated by the need for the scripture to reach the Greek speaking people. The greatest part of this translation was made from either Hebrew or Aramaic forms, and it is from this text that many modern bibles have been compiled. Looking at the Samaritan text, only the first Mosaic books are represented and the text was summed up before the Messianic era. Some New Testament passages are similar to it including the Jubilees, Enoch, the Assumption of Moses and the Septuagint, and this has made many scholars to adopt the text. But, it is only a small portion and does not cover the entire texts or even a large part of the Old Testament, since only five Mosaic books are represented in it. Thus, if a passage in the Septuagint or Samaritan Pentateuch disagrees with Masoretic text, then, since the Masoretic text dates further back, and consists of much more content of the Hebraic Old Testament, then the Septuagint or the Pentateuch should be translated in the Bibles.

When considering the relationship of the Qumranites to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Qumranites were a group of ascetics who lived around the Qumran settlements, around the Dead Sea’s shores where the texts were discovered in caves. It is most probable that the library could have belonged to the Essenes that are an ancient sect that dwelt in Qumran having retired to the desert area to await the coming of the Messiah as they had anticipated. As much as the texts are diversified, there is nothing in them that could have been far above the interest of the Essenes, more so the texts have a sectarian touch in them. Also, there is no document however represented, that is in contradiction to the Essenic teachings as gathered from classical sources such as Josephus, Philo and Pliny. Though, it is not necessarily that all the documents could have been authored by the Essenes only. Some could have been obtained from elsewhere by the Qumranites. Different versions discovered like in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic implies that there are different groups or communities that were involved in the passing on of the scriptures, and these are the Greeks, Hebrews and the Aramaic speaking people. The scripture was not localized, and this is the attitude that is to be put in mind when interacting with the scrolls and the scripture as a whole. It was meant to be understood by all and thus it would be of great benefit that while considering the translation, interpretation and revision of scriptures in their different settings, much care should be taken in revisiting all the texts contained in the major original languages involved in the passing of these texts from the ancients to the latter people. So, comparing the texts is to be of first priority. Thus, if some parts do not tally, they should not be meddled with to avoid confusion. The bible shall be understood with greater ease in the region to different groups in different settings with different languages. This also implies greater accuracy of the current scriptures.

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17 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: Israeli Monarchy and Deuteronomic Theology

The deutronomic theology is presented by the farewell speech made by Moses to the israelites. In deutronomic theology, there is the moral absolutes where the histiorical movemnets and life are worked out in. some of these moral absolutes include the righteousness and unrighteousness, the justice and injustice, and the faithfulness and unfathfulness. The book of deurtonomy is in the old testament and is simply the sermon for the calling of the israelites for them to live faithfully to the covenant presented to them and abide by God’s laws. This book has roots to the traditions in exodus and reminds the israelites of their history. The book reminds the israelites of their harsh treatment they received from egyptians where hard labor was imposed to them and were laso afflicted. They cried to their lord who was the God of their ancestors and he heard their prayers. God got them out of egypt and took them to a fertile land that had undiminishing milk and honey. According to the book of deutronomy, the israelites had to live faithfully where they had to practice social justice for the poor and also observe the religious faithfully. This is the political theology because  the national life was to be shaped according the yahwehs law. For the isralietes to live faithfully they had to obey the law and the obidience here is consindered as religious imperative as well as political imperative.

History of the israel’s monarchy

Initially samuel was the leader of the israelites whose leadership brought spiritula nd physical blessings to the people of his tribe. Later the problems arose as a result of samuel’s sons who were appointed as the judges of israelites. His sons were believed to be evil men and so the israelites could allow such kind of people to judge them. Samuels’ sons were perverts in that they were corrupt, abused power and did not follow justice. Since the these sons had abuse their power the elders demanded for a king from samuel so as to solve the current problem. At this time the israelites had God as their only true king. Samuel respected their decision and also obeyed Lords voice when asked him to do as per the eleders suggestions. He wsa then ready to anoint a king but he felt that the isralites did not want his leadership.

Samuel knew the repulcussions of anointing a new king. He told the israleties that if he anoints the king, he will force some conscirption into his army. He also told them that the king will demand very high taxes and he will also force their children to work for them. After these warnings, the israelites still wanted a king so that can be like other sorrounding nations. They also wanted a king who can judge them instead of samuel’s evil sons and also a king who can fight for them. God then talked to samuel about the first king of israel where he asked him to annoint saul as the king. Samuel annointed soul secretly because he was a young man and was unable to announce the future king to the israelites. One day some of the israelites found soul hiding among some buggages and that is where they got to know their future king. Saul then led his army where they won over the ammorites and then he was to be annointed in public. Samuel had a second thought about this and he rebuked the israeliotes by asing them if he had ever wronged them. He was sure that the israeliotes did not want his leadership and that is why they demnaded for a king. However, samuel ordered the israelites to obey their God for he has led them for many years and got the out of egypt. This then sounded as his farewell speech to the people of israel. According to samuel the israelites were disobeyed God’s law when they demanded for a king and he knew thay someday they will pay for it all.

According to the bible, the israelites have been led by three kings since the day they demanded for one. When saul was annointed he only led the israelites for only two years when God got annoyed with him and annointed a second king. King saul was diobedient in that he did not practice any instructions given by yahweh. The introduction of monarch in israel resulted to a conflict between the israelitres and God. This is because they refused God to be their only King and demnaded for a human king. This conflict then changed the religion of the israelites where the conflicting isues were the rules of yahweh and the rules of the king. The monarch then came up with another rule of of centralizing the governement particularly in jerusalem. David was the second king anointed by God after the disobedience of saul and he became the most difficult king in israel monarchy. Saul then was tryoing his bvest to kill David but he hid himself in the hills. Saul then commited suicide and after his death david came back and became the king of israel. Although saul was a sinner, David was worse than him. This is senn when he commits a gretaer crime by killing a man so that he marry his wife.

David as a king led his millitary and fpought for the israelityes where they won over the Philistines. David’s millitary wanted the israelites kingdom to become the israelites empire so that they can rule over several independent states. David as a king played a major role of uniting the israel tribes under one abosulte monarch. This monarchical governemnt comprised of not ionly the millitary campaigns but also the non-millitary affairs like judiciaries, legislation and also building. David also went ahead to build jerusalem so that it can look like a capital  of other kings. The decorated Jerusalem became rich and very large.

Later solomon was appointed as the third king of israel. He then changed the israel to something elese that was similar to other monarchies in Egypt and Middle East. At first king Solomon was the best king the israelites have ever had until troubles started emerging. King Solomon  built a very wealthy capital that was situtaed at Jerusalem. This capital had a very nice palace and  a very huige temple that was next to the palace. He then committed the greatest crime of marrying  700 wives and taking 300 concubines. In the palace, there weree imported products like the Gold copper and cedar. Due to these expensive products, it the forced him to tax his people heavily so that he can use those taxes to pay for those preoducts. There were some that weere not [paid through taxes and so he pasid them in his people and land. In his payment in land, he ended up giving approximately twenty towns to the foreigners. In his payment in people on the other hand, he paid in slave labor where aaorund 30,000 israelites provided labor as slaves to the king of Tyre. This kind of treatment to the israelites was what Samuel had told them about paying for their demand for a king.

Political influence to the israel’s monarch

The israel’s monarchy formed when a monarchy was introduced to rule israelites tribe. Due to the pressures from the phillistines and other sorrounding tribes, the isreaelites were forced to unite themselves as one state. Israel became a centralized state and some of the factors tha led to the need of a king were the threat of the philistines and also the canaanites had occupied most of the fertile land were dominating the inland trade routes. This is what made the israelites need the millitary cooperation. The nature of liofe influenced the israelites into demanding for a king because they belioeved that herding and agriculture would support the population and so they needed their entire land. The israelites knew that when they get a king they will get the land from the canaanites and herding and agriculture will stabilize the population.

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11 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: The Essential Elements of a Christian Understanding of God

Even the most faithful of today’s Christians are confused regarding the concept of their God. This is partly due to the fact that the Church has lost much, if not most of its influence over the flock and partly due to the information availability. As opposed to the middle ages or even the 19th century, the people are much more educated on matters of spirituality and theology, which brings on many doubts about the infallibility of the Church and the understanding of God himself. Of course when the authority of the Church began to loosen, many questions arose regarding God and dogma. One of the most important questions regarding the Christian concept of God is the trinity and the differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament god, or subsequently, do Christians, Jews and Muslims adore the same God? The basic answer would be yes but in practice, the three religions have a very different concept of the same deity. Even though they all acknowledge the Old Testament God as their principal deity, due to different cultural and historic influence, they have different beliefs and understanding of their God. Many ask the question that haunts the religious authorities in modern times regarding the identity of God: “is the Old Testament and the New Testament god the same one”? And this inevitably rises another one: “is the Christian and the Jewish God the same one and what is the difference between the early Christian understanding of God as opposed to the modern Christians understanding of the same God. (1a)

The Trinity is the main problem regarding the Old and the New Testament regarding the concept of God. Those who support the idea of trinity claim that The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are three different aspects of the same God. (1b) On the other hand many view the Trinity as a direct violation of the first commandment. They insist name “GOD” on a notion of monotheism, the idea that there is one God. As they understand this idea, God cannot be made up of parts, even if those parts are mysteriously united. The Christian notion of Trinitarianism is that God is made up of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Such a view, even if called monotheistic because the three parts are, by divine mystery, only one God, is incompatible with the view that such a division is not possible. Those who argue against the idea of trinity have a strong case when they claim that the entire Christian concept of god including the trinity was invented and adapted to suit a Jewish Religion to the understanding and beliefs of European polytheists.

Early Christianity was very different to the Christianity we know today.  The age of the early Christians is commonly defined as the Christianity of the three centuries between the Crucifixion of Jesus (c. 30) and the First Council of Nicaea (325). The term is sometimes used in a narrower sense, referring only to the very first followers  of Jesus of Nazareth and the faith as preached and practiced by the Twelve Apostles, their contemporaries, and their immediate successors as bishops, a period also called the Apostolic Age. This is the age Jesus and his disciples, who set the base of the religion as we know it today. The Age of the Apostles produced many different scriptures and brought on a division between many followers in a sect that was neither organized nor canonized until a Roman Emperor decided to make Christianity the official new religion of the Empire and modified it’s holy scriptures and God in order to suit his ambitions and make it more acceptable to the Empire’s polytheist population. Constantine the Great had to balance his own beliefs and the steps necessary to secure the unity of the state. Whatever his exact religious beliefs were Constantine choose Christianity to be the new official religion of the Empire and to shape it according to his own beliefs, thus creating a Church that would rule the Country for another thousand years and prepare the basis for all Christian dogma and beliefs today. (2a)  Of course while Christianity was being introduced as the new official religion, different branches started arguing on many matters regarding the religion. Being a pragmatic Constantine decided to put an end to it and oficialise the teachings of his new church. The first ecumenical council in the history of the church was convened by the emperor Constantine at Nicaea in Bithynia (now Isnik, Turkey). (3)

The purpose of the council was to determine the very concept of god himself and the role of Jesus as part of god. Nevertheless the need to oficialise the religion was due in order to attempt to heal the schism in the church provoked by Aryanism. (3a) Aryan claimed that Jesus was neither God nor part of God but a mortal prophet.(3b) On the other hand many other missionaries used the idea of the Trinitarian god in order to simplify the concept to generations of polytheist who had problems accepting one deity and saw it as worshiping nothing. The issue which culminated at Nicaea arose out of an unresolved tension within the theological legacy of Origin concerning the relation of the Son to the Father. Aryan’s teachings were rejected and declared heresy and the Trinitarian god was introduced as the official one. He has become the one Christians were going to worship for almost two millennia without daring to question its concept.

Constantine did not only change the concept of god (from one and only to Trinitarian) but also changed many rules, rituals and practices of early Christians in order to better suit Greek/Roman people as they were about to embrace the new religion.(2b)(5a)

Since the council of Nicaea the concept of god hasn’t changed much, even though as the original church divided and many different branches of Christian religion sprang off the Catholic Church the Trinitarian concept of the god remained without suffering much personality changes but all that was to change by the beginning of 19th century and as Karen Armstrong puts in her “History of God”, the death of god. Mrs Armstrong states in the above mentioned chapter that :”by the end of the 19th century a significant number of people were beginning to feel that if god was not yet dead it was the duty of rational, emancipated human beings to kill him.(4) Furthermore she states that the 19th century was the one in which Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud forged philosophies that had no place for God.(4) And effectively in the 19th and the 20th century the belief in God has become more of a tradition and people were less interested in the concept of God and more concentrated on economic than spiritual well being.

Nevertheless by the second half of the 20th century there was a re emergence of spirituality but less and less people were ready to take the word of the Church for granted and many looked for alternative religions. Those who remained faithful to the Christian religion are today divided between those who accept the dogma and the concept of God as oficialized by the Nicaea council and those who believe that the Bible and the concept of God were badly falsified but respect the rules and accept the dogma out of tradition and conciliation. One of the first Christians to complain about the council was the emperor Julian writing the following: “It is, I think, expedient to set forth to all mankind the reasons by which I was convinced that the fabrication of the Galileans is a fiction of men composed by wickedness. (6) But not even the Emperor himself could influence or change what has become dogma and official policy.

A very disturbing popular belief began to bother Christian authorities at the end of 20th century. Namely evidence emerged of a possibility that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had a child with her. Of course evidence is scarce but just the possibility of it shakes the foundations of the Christian concept of God and makes the issue re emerge 2000 years after Arian. Because if Jesus was married to a mortal and had children with her, he can definitely not be God himself and if Jesus is not God then there is no trinity and if there is no trinity there is no Christian God. What many discovered is that they were lied to by their churches and that the way they understood their God is going to change forever.

Acquiring knowledge does not give one answers, it only raises more questions. And the same happens when one starts exploring the Christian concept of God he or she will realize that what they know as God and religion was something completely different before it was made official Church policy in order to suit pragmatic reasons of Roman Emperor and Clergy. We also cannot claim the bible to be accurate even before Constantine and we are going to need much help from God himself to properly understand and obey the bible. It’s been subject to interpretation and debate for millennia. It inspired people into causing countless genocide, wars, murders, robberies, conquests, slavery and all kinds of immoral deeds. One has to also keep in mind that the bible is a collection of many ancient, cryptic, mythological texts that have become doctrine and the basis for the foundation of empires that in some way or another exist even today. From the time of the Genesis the texts that serve as the foundation of the three major religions of the western world have been falsified, changed edited erased, re written and re interpreted in order to suit the will of a ruler or the political situation. Unfortunately those contradictions have much influenced the way modern people envisage god and has misled many into having different concepts of god than it was originally intended in both the new and the Old Testament.

Footnotes and References:

(1a) The Christian concept of God as creator holds a middle ground. Christianity conceives of God as One. But it is not an isolated One. Rather, God is a person, who is capable of affecting and being affected by others. This is implicit in the concept of God as Father, which is one of the most characteristic teachings of Jesus. The concept of God as personal ultimately led to the Trinity, which is surely one of the most distinctive (and controversial) ideas in Christianity. (Source)

(1b)For the Trinitarians the Father typically refers to God’s role as creator and father. The Logos refers to God’s word, his creative power. The Holy Spirit refers to God’s presence with us and the rest of his creation.  As used in the Bible and other writings, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit seem to have a certain distinction among them. That is, they seem to be more than just different ways in which God works with us. Rather, each seems to have a distinct personal existence. Nevertheless, it is clear that they are intended to be distinct roles of a single God, and not separate gods. The Father is the source of the love, and the Son its recipient. The Holy Spirit can be understood as the presence of the Father with the Son. Thus these are separate personal roles within a single God.”(Source)

(2a) Valerius Aurelius Constantine (c. 272 – 337), better known as Constantine the Great, was perhaps the most important person in the development of the early Christian Church (after Jesus and Paul, naturally). He ultimately gave Christianity political and social legitimacy in the Roman Empire, thus allowing the young religion to establish itself, obtain powerful patrons, and ultimately dominate the Western world.”

(2b) Constantine embraced the god of the Christians, essentially legalizing Christianity, and an underground persecuted mystery cult that was in grave danger of dying out; suddenly found itself at the pinnacle of the greatest nation on earth. The contribution of Constantine was enormous, and with his assistance, the drama was set upon the stage that continues to play until the present day. With Roman assistance Christianity began the battle to wipe out the old pagan gods, in the process overlaying much of earlier pre-Christian tradition, incorporating pagan ideas and religious holidays into its own structure, and ensuring that the sun would become the glorious figure of Christ. Ironically, Constantine being a pragmatic Roman, interpreted Christ as a war god, not the “prince of peace,” and he apparently never truly understood the mysteries of Christianity, retaining his right to worship the pagan gods, especially the sun. He never took baptism until shortly before his death.

(3a) The teaching of Aryanism is well documented. The central controlling idea is the unique, incommunicable, indivisible, transcendent nature of the singular divine being. This is what the Arians referred to as the Father. Logically pressing this definition of the Father and making use of certain biblical language, the Arians argued that if the error of Sabellius was to be avoided (and everyone was anxious to avoid it), then certain conclusions about the Son were inescapable. And it is this view of the Son which is the central significance of Aryanism.

(3b)He cannot be of the Father’s being or essence (otherwise that essence would be divisible or communicable or in some way not unique or simple, which is impossible by definition).

He therefore exists only by the Father’s will, as do all other creatures and things. The biblical description of his being begotten does imply a special relationship between the Father and the Word or Son, but it cannot be an ontological

(5a) According to Joseph Atwill, the Gospels are not accounts of the ministry of a historical Jewish Jesus compiled by his followers sixty years after his death. They are texts deliberately created to trick Messianic Jews into worshiping the Roman Emperor ‘in disguise’.

References:

1. Charles Hedrick, The section on Christian worship. SRC homepage retrieved from: http://geneva.rutgers.edu/src/christianity/major.html

2.Cline, Austin, Christ, Constantine, Sol Invictus: the Unconquerable Sun. Your Guide to Agnosticism / Atheism. Retrieved from: http://atheism.about.com/od/constantinethegreat/p/ConstantineBio.htm

Armstrong Karen, A History of God. New York, Alfred A. Knopf. 1993,

3.Monday . Ralph,Council of Nicaea, General Information, Nicea, 325. Retrieved from: http://mb-soft.com/believe/txc/nicaea.htm

5.Atwill . Joseph,Caesar’s Messiah – The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus (2005)

Retrieved from: http://www.mountainman.com.au/essenes/article_006.htm

6. Julian, Invectives Against the Galilaeans (c.362 CE) Retrieved from: http://www.mountainman.com.au/essenes/article_006.htm

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