Fun history fact
Once upon a time the prophet Mahammad told the leader of the Christian empire that “we worship” the same God.
In a series of letters written to the leaders of the world, Mahammad wrote the Byzantine emperor (the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church: “And people of the scripture! Come to a word common to you and us that we worship none but God and that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords beside God.” (1)
Granted the letters were also an invitation to join Islam and urges that Islam is the more true way of worshiping this God (much like any Christian denomination thinks they have the true way of worshiping God). In addition many scholars doubt that these letters were truly written by Mahammad, but it’s an interesting glance at early Islamic theology.
There are currently 11 major world religions, though if we break this down into groups (like Unitarian Pentecostals vs Trinitarian Coptic Christians) and include new religious movements, this number reaches 4,200. To further break it down it’s estimated that there are 33,000 Christian denominations, of these 8,000+ are Protestant denominations that arose a few hundred years ago. But wait, there is more, there are thousands of religions that have existed throughout history and thousands of Gods that were once worshiped by millions, but are now long forgotten.
Why is God not more clear about his identity and his message?
- Humans throughout history who uses their intuition, logic, heart, or “spirit” to search for God, have reached completely different conclusions, gods, and religions.
- Humans who try to reach God using revealed texts (Bible, Quran, Vedas) not only have the problem of many texts that all make the same claim, but also the fact that there are dozens of radically different interpretations of each text. Many of these interpretations are held by others to be formally heretical, and exclude one from heaven.
It’s often assumed that Jesus was killed for declaring himself the Messiah, because such a declaration was “illegal” in Jewish religion. But this is certainly not the case.
There are at least twenty examples where human beings in the ancient Jewish context, before and after Jesus, that were called the Messiah, and none were killed by the Jewish religious leaders (while many were indeed killed by political rulers scared of an usurper taking their kingdom).
A few of these Messiahs were even affirmed by the masses or important Hebrew religious leaders.
a. One example is from the famous Cyrus prophecy of Isaiah 45 which refers to the Persian king Cyrus the Great at the Lords Anointed (messiah). Cyrus is called the messiah by Isaiah for he liberates the Jews in exile and returns them to their home.
b. A second example is Judas Maccabeus who led a successful revolt against the Greek Seleucid empire that occupied Jerusalem. Many Jews considered Maccabeus to be the Messiah and the “Prince of princes” alluded to in the book of Daniel.
c. A third example is Simon bar Kokhba a Messiah claimant who was born a few decades after Jesus. His surname, “Bar Kokhba” meant “Son of the Star” in Aramaic, from the Star Prophecy verse in Numbers 24:17- “There shall come a star out of Jacob.” And he was thought to be the Messiah by at least a leading Jewish leader, Rabbi Akiva
Biblical scholars argue that Lukes story of the Nativity was specifically fashioned to present Jesus as a replacement of Ceasar Augustus:
“In Luke’s birth story, the key to seeing its political meaning is Roman imperial theology, which includes the divine conception of Caesar Augustus, the greatest of the Roman emperors and ruler when Jesus was born. He was conceived by the god Apollo in the womb of his mother Atia. His titles included “Son of God,” “Lord,” “Savior,” bringer of “peace on earth.” Inscribed on coins and temples, the public media of the day, they continued to be used by most emperors after Augustus.”
“Thus there was already a “Son of God,” “Lord,” and peace-bringing “Savior” in the world in which Jesus lived and in which early Christianity emerged. Roman imperial theology is the historical context for understanding the use of this language.”
“Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth… deliberately counters and challenges Roman imperial theology. It includes divine conception, and thus Jesus, not Caesar, is the “Son of God.” Early Christians saw in Jesus the alternative to an imperial world based on injustice and violence.” (1)
Marcus Borg, world renowned scholar, former president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.
Ancient Egyptians had a radical religious fascination with cats.
When a cat died, their human family would go into a deep mourning and shave their eyebrows. Yes their eyebrows.
But thats not all, according to one ancient tale the Egyptian city of Pelusium was captured by the Persians who released sacred animals in front of their army.
“Polyaenus claims that, according to legend, Cambyses captured Pelusium by using a clever strategy. The Egyptians regarded certain animals, especially cats, as being sacred, and would not injure them on any account. Polyaenus claims that Cambyses had his men carry the “sacred” animals in front of them to the attack. The Egyptians did not dare to shoot their arrows for fear of wounding the animals, and so Pelusium was stormed successfully.” (1)
If this legend is true, it would mean the Egyptians chose martyrdom over harming cats.
Male circumcision was not invented by Abraham or the Hebrews, but has been around far longer.
Archeologists say that the early evidence indicates that Africans, Aborigines, and Ancient Near East peoples practiced circumcision for 10,000-15,000 years before the era of the Hebrews.
According to Dr. Gerald Larue (professor emeritus of Biblical history and archeology at UCLA), scholars have discovered indisputable evidence of circumcision in Egyptian tomb artwork and bodies that has been dated as early as the 40th century BC (this would be around 2,000 years before the date that conservative bible scholars say Abraham lived in). (1)
What is also fascinating is that when Columbus reached the New World, he found many of the local natives were circumcised (2), meaning that circumcision may have developed in multiple cultures independently, or that it was such an ancient practice that the people who crossed into the Americas some 20,000 years ago had brought the practice with them.