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Jewish Polytheism & the Indo-Aryan Influence on Christianity

H. Abdul Al-Dahir

The religion of Yahwism/Elohimism (ancient Judaism) was not a religion that recognized one god. The religion was henotheistic which means that the Yahwists/Elohists recognized the existence of many gods but were exclusively devoted to their particular deity. This view is especially expressed in the Biblical book, Deuteronomy, Chapter 32 where Yhwh is also given the name ‘the Rock’ and the god(s) of the goyim (non-Hebrews) are also referred to as ‘(their) Rock’. According to this chapter of Deuteronomy, Yhwh separated the non-Hebrew people or goyim from his personal possession, the Hebrews whose people are referred to as ‘amow’ or His people. There is an acute distinction between the Yhwh’s chosen or ‘amow’ and the non-chosen goyim. However, the gods of the goyim are recognized as their creators or source of existence:

Because I will publish the name of the Lord (Yhwh): ascribe ye greatness unto our God (Elohiymnu).

He is the Rock (HaSur), his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God (El) of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he….

When the Most High (Elyon) divided to the nations (goyim) their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.

For the Lord‘s (Yhwh) portion is his people (amow); Jacob is the lot of his inheritance…

28 Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee…

30 How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock (the god of the goyim) had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up?

31 For their Rock (the god of the goyim) is not as our Rock (the god of the Jews), even our enemies themselves being judges….

36 For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.

37 And he shall say, Where are their gods, their Rock in whom they trusted,

The Bible acknowledges the god of the Moabites, Chemosh, as a god who can be captured in the form of his icon just as Yhwh was captured by the Philistines (1 Sam 5:2-7) in the form of his icon, the nehushtan, the snake form taken by Aaron’s rod when he confronted Pharaoh (Ex 7: 8-13). This rod was laid in the ark according to Numbers 17:10 which was captured by the Philistines. The nehushtan was worshiped as a form of Yhwh in the Jerusalem temple (2 K 18:4) just as the Israelites worshiped Elohiym in the form of a calf (1 K 12:28). So, the Biblical authors did recognize Chemosh as the legitimate god of the Moabites:

Num 21:29:

29 Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites.

Jdgs 11:24:

24 Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the Lord our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.

Jer 48:7:

For because thou hast trusted in thy works and in thy treasures, thou shalt also be taken: and Chemosh shall go forth into captivity with his priests and his princes together.

Furthermore, Exodus 15:11 defined YHWH as the preferred god among the many gods when it states: “Who among the gods is like you, YHWH?”

It is apparent that the Hebrew authors of the TaNaKh initially recognized their god as exclusively their creator who belonged only to them. They also acknowledged the existence of other gods which created the goyim or non-Hebraic nations & tribes. This tenet of early Judaism became obsolete when the Hebrews were occupied by the Persians. The Persian religion was essentially dualistic and recognized 2 gods; a god of good, Ahura Mazda and a god of evil, Ahriman. Zoroastrians believed in an end-times battle when these 2 gods would confront one another and Ahura Mazda would prevail over Ahriman. The Jews adopted these beliefs into their religion and acknowledged one creator whose enemy became Satan. Thus, in the saga of Noah, all of the children of the other gods (Nephilim and Raphaim in the Bible) were drowned so that humanity had but one creator thru Noah, and that creator was Yhwh-Elohim. However, it is implied that the wives of Noah’s sons, Ham and Japheth, may have been surviving children of other gods as their descendants are considered by the Biblical authors to be goyim.

Judaism (aka Yahwism) was a hybrid religion which consisted of 2 merged deities, Elohim (aka El and Elah) and Yhwh (aka Yah according to Pslam 68:4). El was the chief god in the north of Canaan (Israel) and Yhwh was the chief god in the south or Judea. However, as is indicated by the plethora of theophoric names in both the north and south referring to both gods, both of these deities were honored and worshiped throughout Israel and Judea. Because of the ongoing rivalry and wars between these two Canaanite states, the 2 gods also became rival gods. El was the god of the Israelites whose state was in the north and Yhwh or Yah was the god of their rivals, the Judeans who resided in the south. The names, Yhwh & Elohim, later became hyphenated into the name of a single divinity. The official merger of the names most likely occurred after the Assyrian defeat of Israel and the massive emigration of Israelites into Judea, so that Yhwh-Elohim became the official god of the state of Judea. However, the authors of the Biblical texts acknowledged other gods.

Pre-exilic Judaism was henotheistic, but evolved into dualism when the Jews were occupied by the Persians. Persian theology consisted of Zoroastrian dualism which means that they believed in a universe governed by two co-extant, co-eternal gods; a good god and an evil god. This dualism was incorporated into the religion of occupied 1st Century Palestine. From the evidence of the Gospels, the 1st to the 3rd Century Hebrews in Palestine were more dualistic than monotheistic as they, like the Persians, anticipated a great war between 2 forces, that of the evil god who ruled the world (Luke 11:18 & 2 Cor 4:4) and the good god who ruled the ‘kingdom of heaven’ which was not of this world (Jhn 18:36). (This latter view seems to contradict 1 Chr 29:11 which has Yhwh ruling over both kingdoms. However, the 2 kingdoms described in this verse allude to the starry heavens and the land and seas where earthly creatures dwelt.). These 2 kingdoms evolved from 2 physical kingdoms into a physical kingdom and a spiritual kingdom which were ruled under the influence of 2 different forces, one evil and the other good. This idea was further expounded upon by Western theologians who still preach a form of dualism. The myth of the incarnation of a monotheistic god as Jesus was greatly influenced by Persian dualism.  The Gospel of John 18:36 has Jesus proclaiming that his kingdom  was ‘not of this world’, i.e., the evil earthly world of mortals. However, neither of the personalities of these 2 gods, neither Elohim nor Yhwh, influenced the Gospels’ characterization of Jesus.

The idea of a human incarnated god was not a part of ancient Middle Eastern religions whose gods were nature based, i.e., animals, plants (esp. trees), mountains, rocks, planets, sun, stars (esp. constellations), moon, sky, storm, fertility, etc. Gods were often represented as human figures or a combination of human + a nature/astral god. These gods were often depicted as acting like human beings with all of the human faults. Human beings were not viewed as deities because they were not immortal. They were often viewed as beings that were created by a particular deity to fulfill a particular role in which the god would be served. Human beings were regarded as slaves of the gods. This idea shows up in Judaism as is especially expressed in Lev 25:55 where YHWH declares:

For the Israelites belong to me as slaves (abdiym). They are my slaves, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

The word ‘abd’ is often translated as servant but it means slave. Servants were slaves in Biblical times as they were often enslaved captives or indentured slaves considered to be fit only for menial tasks.

The idea of an incarnated deity (avatar) is of Indo-European or Indo-Aryan/Indo-Iranian origin whose particular religions, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Greek & Roman mythologies, allowed for the deification of human beings as avatars and as beings that were half human and half divine as was the case of Heracles. In Hindu mythology, the Hindu god, Vishnu, incarnated as human beings namely Buddha, Rama, Krishna and a dwarf. Indo-Iranians/Aryans known as Persians, Greeks and Romans occupied Palestine from 539 BCE to 637 CE or about 1000 years during which time their culture became embedded into the culture of Palestine.

Another Indo-Aryan concept which was introduced into 1st Century Palestine was the nirvana doctrine. According to Wikipedia:

“In the Buddhist context nirvana refers to the imperturbable stillness of mind after the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion have been finally extinguished. In Hindu Philosophy, it is the union with the divine ground of existence Brahman (Supreme Being) and the experience of blissful egolessness.”

The state of nirvana was achieved by eschewing the world in order to let the Spirit of Truth (aka the parkletos or aid/help) enter into the mind thus melding the human mind with that of the divinity.  This union with the divinity is expressed in the Gospel of John 10:30 which had Jesus preaching that he and the deity were one. The Gospel of John 14:10, 16,17 further states:

10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? …

16 
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another aid (parakletos) to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept it (autos*), because it neither sees it nor knows it. But you know it, for it lives with you and will be in you. (*The Greek word ‘autos’ is often translated as ‘him’ even though it also means ‘it’.).

John 17:11,16 & 20-23 has Jesus informing his disciples that they too can achieve this state of nirvana as they were ‘not of the world’ and were ready for nirvana or unity with the deity (Father):

11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one… 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth…20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

The nirvana doctrine became incorporated into Jewish and Christian creed as Gnosticism to which the author of the Gospel according to John and Paul, the author of 10 of the Epistles, both subscribed. Gnosticism, like Buddhism and Hinduism, preached enlightenment, salvation, emancipation from the world and oneness with the deity. Early Trinitarian Christianity was greatly influenced by gnostic doctrines so early Trinitarians confused the Greco-Roman influenced ‘parakletos’ or ‘Spirit of Truth’ with the Hebrew ‘ruach ha-kodesh’ or holy spirit of God. Early Christian apologists personified and deified this ‘parakletos’ or ‘Spirit of Truth’ as a separate divinity who became the 3rd person of the trinity of gods, i.e, father, son and holy spirit, which they worship as their unified godhead.

Jesus lived under Roman rule and the Romans were greatly influenced by the Greeks, who, along with the Romans, had occupied Palestine and greatly affected the culture of the locals, including their religion. Greeks and Romans were and are essentially Indo-Aryans or of Indo-European origin while Jesus and his fellow Palestinians were Semites. Semites originated in the Arabian Peninsula and eventually occupied Mesopotamia, the Levant and parts of North Africa while Indo-Aryans are thought to have originated in the Caucasus Mountains and spread into the Indian subcontinent, Asia, Anatolia, parts of the Near East (Mitanni Kingdom) and Europe.

One of the concepts that greatly influenced philosophical thought on the role of Jesus was the Stoic idea of the Logos; an idea expounded upon by the Jewish Philosopher, Philo of Alexandria. Stoic philosophy greatly influenced Saul of Tarsus (aka Paul) who authored10 of the Epistles or letters which comprise a part of the New Testament. According to Wiki the Logos entered Palestine thru Greek and Jewish Hellenistic influence and ended up as the ‘Word’ (Logos means word) in the Gospel of John:

The Stoic philosophers identified the term (Logos) with the divine animating principle pervading the Universe.

Under Hellenistic Judaism, Philo (ca. 20 BC – AD 50) adopted the term into Jewish philosophy. The Gospel of John identifies the Logos, through which all things are made, as divine theos, and further identifies Jesus as the incarnate Logos.”

The ‘Logos’ entered into Judaism, not as a god incarnated as a human being, but as Metatron, an angelic being who was known as the Lesser YHWH. The role of Metatron in Judaism was much like that of Jesus as described in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, i.e, a divine entity thru whom the deity created creation. Metatron, unlike Jesus, was immortal and no sacrifice was required for him to achieve divine status.  The concept of a Jew dying for the sake of improving the lot of non-Jews (goyim) was anathema to Yahwism as was the concept of vicarious atonement (sacrificing oneself for the sins another). According to Isa 34:2:

For the indignation of the Lord is upon all the Goyim, and His fury upon all their armies; He hath utterly destroyed them; He hath delivered them to the slaughter.

And Deut 24:16:

The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”

However, the concept of a deity sacrificing himself for the betterment of mankind was an ancient Greek concept. According to Wiki:

In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan, culture hero, and trickster figure who is credited with the creation of man from clay, and who defies the gods and gives fire to humanity, an act that enabled progress and civilization. Prometheus is known for his intelligence and as a champion of mankind.”

According to Greek lore, Prometheus’ punishment was crucifixion on a rock where Zeus’ icon eagle daily feasted from his living liver, which grew back so that Prometheus could be further tortured the following day.

The example of Jesus sacrificing himself for humanity, aka the doctrine of Jesus as a ‘sin offering’, is another example of the pervasive Indo-Aryan influence on the Semitic Near East. The doctrine of Jesus as a ‘sin offering’ is a result of Roman and Hellenized Jewish syncretism. The doctrine grew out of the myths regarding the Greco-Roman gods and their offspring, the demigods, who were the cultural heroes of the Greek and Roman empires. These gods, which included Prometheus, Zeus and Zeus’ sons, Herakles and Perseus, were absorbed into the Jewish myths pervasive in Roman colonized Palestine. It is relatively easy to date this syncretism to the Greek & Roman occupation of Palestine as it contradicts the much older laws/doctrines in the TaNaKh. Jesus could NOT have been a sin offering as it contradicts the very laws which he upheld (ref. Matt 5:17-19 & Deut 24:16). What is most blatantly obvious is that the god of the Christians was not the same god Jesus worshiped. The god of the Roman church was and is Deus Pater or God the Father. Deus Pater is an Indo-Aryan god who appears as Dyaus Pita in the Rigveda. According to Wikipedia:

“He is thus a very marginal deity in Rigvedic mythology, but his intrinsic importance is visible from his being the father of the chief deities. That Dyaus was seen as the father of Indra is known only from one verse, RV4.17.4: “Thy Father Dyaus esteemed himself a hero: most noble was the work of Indra’s Maker / His who begat the strong bolt’s Lord who roareth, immovable like earth from her foundation.”

“He is mainly considered in comparative philology as a last remnant of the chief god of Proto-Indo-European religion. The name Dyaus Pita is exactly parallel to the Greek Zeus Pater etymologically, and closely related to Latin Ju-Piter. Both Dyaus and Zeus reflect a Prot-Indo-European Dyeus. Based on this reconstruction, the widespread opinion in scholarship since the 19th century has been that Indra had replaced Dyaus as the chief god of the early Indo-Aryans. While Prthivi survives as a Hindu goddess after the end of the Vedic period, Dyaus Pita became almost unknown already in antiquity.”

The Roman Church always addressed their chief deity as Deus Pater ( Latin for god the father) and NEVER as YHWH-Elohiym because Deus Pater is more equated to Zeus Pater/Jupiter than to the Hebrew god, YHWH-Elohiym. The Apostolic Creed begins: ‘Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae…’ or ‘I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth…’ Deus Pater/Zeus Pater/Jupiter/Dyaus Pita all sired sons thru a sexual union. Zeus/Jupiter sired sons with earthlings as Europa, Danae, Alcmene, and Leda.  Such a sexual union between the mortal Mary and Deus Pater is implied in Luke 1:35: “The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” The ‘Holy Spirit” is a reference to Elohiym according to Psalm 51:10-12:

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 

According to Wikipedia:

“The Hebrew language phrase ruach ha-kodesh ( Hebrew: “holy spirit” also transliterated rua ha-qodesh) is a term used in the Hebrew bible (Tanakh) and Jewish writings to refer to the Spirit of YHWH. It literally means “the spirit of holiness” or “the spirit of the holy place”. The Hebrew terms rua qodeshka, “thy holy spirit”, and ruah qodsho, “his holy spirit” also occur (when a possessive suffix is added the definite article is dropped). The “Holy Spirit” in Judaism generally refers to the divine aspect of prophecy and wisdom. It also refers to the divine force, quality, and influence of the Most High God, over the universe or over his creatures, in given contexts.”

The first chapter of Luke is a great example of the syncretism of Judeo-Hellenistic myths. The Hellenized Hebrew author of Luke equated the Hebrew god YHWH-Elohiym, who does not have sexual relations with mortals, and the Greco-Roman god Zeus Pater/Jupiter, who did have sexual relations with mortals, especially virgins, and applied it to the conception scene in Luke 1:35.  Zeus impregnated Danae by becoming a golden shower and the ‘Holy Spirit’, aka Deus Pater, impregnated Mary as a cloud which ‘overshadowed’ or enveloped her. This idea of Mary’s impregnation by divine coitus is further expounded upon in the Gospel of John 3:18 which declares Jesus as the ‘begotten’ son of god, which means that the deity sired Jesus when he ‘overshadowed’ Mary in the form of a cloud. Clouds were significant to Hellenized Hebrews because they signified the deity’s presence (Ex 13:21, 19:9-16,24:15, 34:5 etc. etc.). Danae gave birth to the demigod Perseus, one of the begotten sons of Zeus Pater. Perseus became a king of Mycenae, died and rose into the sky to take his place among the constellations worshiped as gods by the Greeks & Romans. Jesus, the ‘only begotten son’ (Jhn 3:16) of Deus, also was proclaimed “King of the Jews” (Matt 2:2 & 27:29), died and ascended into the sky/heaven to take his place beside his pro-creator, Deus Pater aka Zeus Pater/Jupiter to be worshiped by his Hellenized devotees who called themselves trinitarian Christians or Christians who subscribe to the Doctrine of the Trinity.

The comparison of Jesus to the Greco-Roman demigod and cultural hero, Perseus, was well known in 2nd Century Palestine. The topic was discussed by Justin Martyr (100-165 CE) in his Dialogue with Trypho, a fictionalized Hebrew character who objects to the Christian interpretation of the TaNaKh. Justin Martyr was born a Gentile in Nablus in Judea. He was from a ‘pagan’ family which was descended from the Greek or Roman occupiers of Palestine. His birth name was Flavia Neapolis. Because he grew up in Palestine, he was well acquainted with Jewish customs and sacred literature which were written in his native Greek tongue at the time he penned his Dialogue with Trypho. He became an apologist for Pauline doctrine. Chapter LXVII begins:

“And Trypho answered, “The Scripture has not, ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,’ but, ‘Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son,’ and so on, as you quoted. But the whole prophecy refers to Hezekiah, and it is proved that it was fulfilled in him, according to the terms of this prophecy. Moreover, in the fables of those who are called Greeks, it is written that Perseus was begotten of Danae, who was a virgin; he who was called among them Zeus having descended on her in the form of a golden shower. And you ought to feel ashamed when you make assertions similar to theirs, and rather[should] say that this Jesus was born man of men. And if you prove from the Scriptures that He is the Christ, and that on account of having led a life conformed to the law, and perfect, He deserved the honour of being elected to be Christ,[it is well]; but do not venture to tell monstrous phenomena, lest you be convicted of talking foolishly like the Greeks.”

So it seems that early Christianity was dealing with the obvious comparison of a Greek cultural hero to the historical Jesus. Since the early subscribers to the Gospel of John and Paul’s gnostic interpretation of the life and mission of Jesus were either Hellenized Jews or ‘pagan’ Gentiles, it is little wonder that certain aspects of these myths that surrounded these Greco-Roman heroes were applied to the life and mission of the historical Jesus. Justin Martyr, aka Flavia Neapolis, was aware of these myths that were being repudiated by the local Hebrews who were faithful to the Torah and he attempted to explain them away in his dialogue with a fictionalized Jew.

The historical Jesus was neither a demigod and son of  the Greco-Roman god Deus Pater nor an incarnation of Yhwh or Elohim. However, his theological role in the Gospels, as interpreted by Western Christianity, compares favorably to the sons of the Greco-Roman god Deus Pater (aka Zeus Pater, Jupiter & Dyaus Pita), the Greco-Roman Titan (primeval deity), Prometheus and to the Stoic concept of the Logos. In conclusion, Judaism was never a monotheistic religion while the Biblical texts were being produced. Even Christianity had no early claims to monotheism and it still remains an essentially polytheistic religion whose efforts at imposing a single deity on the trinity of gods Christians worship fail to disguise this religion’s doctrinal origins in the Indo-Aryan traditions.

 

 

 

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