Hard Questions About the Bible

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Beginnings of Hinduism and the Caste System

My sources are the book, ‘Ancient Civilizations’, published 2006 by McGraw Hill and National Geographic, and Hinduwebsite.com

Hinduism originated with the Aryans, northern people who migrated to and conquered India about 1500 B.C. The Aryans believed in many gods and goddesses who controlled the forces of nature.  We know about Aryan religion from ancient hymns and poetry, especially epics, or long poems.  For centuries, the priests, or Brahmins, recited these works, and they were eventually written down in Sanskrit. Over the centuries, the Aryans borrowed religious ideas from the Indians, and this mix of beliefs eventually became Hinduism.

The Aryans also developed the caste system. A caste is a social group that someone is born into and cannot leave.  The Aryans were light skinned and it is believed that they developed the caste system to control the darker skinned Indians.  The Aryans were outnumbered by Indians, and the caste system kept them separate and set rules for everyone’s behavior.

The caste system was also justified by religious beliefs about purity.  It was easy to justify avoiding unclean or socially unacceptable people for the reason of maintaining spiritual purity, but this evolved into stigmatizing people simply because of their birth and family lineage, and believing it was the will of God.

I’m Glad That Works for You

I’ve heard people who don’t want to hear about Christianity say, “I’m glad that works for you”, meaning the Christian shouldn’t impose their ideas on them, that they’re fine the way they are.  In my life, I knew that most of the time I took God for granted, but when things went wrong, when a family member got sick, for example, I suddenly started praying to God.

When things are ok, people usually don’t need God, but when things go wrong, they suddenly turn to God.  When life is good, when people are prosperous, it’s easy to think that they are in control, that they worked for it and deserve it, they find strength within themselves, and they don’t need God to help them.  But the reality is that life is not always controllable, sometimes you are in a situation where you are at the end of your rope, then what do you do?

I’ve heard that people in poorer Christian countries are more likely to believe in God, in miracles, the work of the devil, etc. Someone that I know from the Philippines told me that the reason people in America don’t experience as many miracles, is because Americans don’t believe as much in miracles, I thought that was interesting.

Christians believe that God is in control of everything.  That may be a scary thought, or it may be comforting.  Christians also believe that you can know God better by reading the Bible.  They can gain strength from God because they know that their own strength has limits, and that if you accept Jesus as savior,  you’re assured of your future in heaven.

Are Bible Prophecies True?

There are many prophecies in the Bible which Christians believe came true.  Many completed prophecies have historical facts to prove their validity.

Genesis 16 in the Bible tells of the Jews and the Arabs.  Abraham and his wife Sarah could not have children, so Sarah convinced Abraham to conceive with her maid servant Hagar.  Hagar gave birth to a son named Ishmael.  Abraham and Sarah later had another son named Isaac.

Genesis 16:12 says “He (Ishmael) will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” Ishmael is widely accepted by Arabs as their ancestor, and Isaac is accepted by the Jews to be their ancestor. This is partly why there is animosity between the Arabs and Jews in the Middle East to this day, because both believe that their ancestor is the chosen one by God.

There are many other prophecies in the Bible, some Bible scholars suggest that there are over 300 prophecies about Jesus that came true.  Many are small details, like his birthplace, lineage, and death.

Matthew 1:1–17 gives the geneology (family lineage) of Jesus. It starts with Abraham. Other passages in the Bible detail the lineage from Adam to Abraham. Matthew 1 lists the genealogy of Jesus through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, then through David, then finally Jesus.

Genesis 49:10 says that “The scepter will not depart from Judah.”, meaning that Jesus is descended from Jacob’s son Judah, originator of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

2 Samuel 7:12-13 says (talking about King David) “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”

The Fortune Telling Oracle at Delphi

My source is the book, ‘Ancient Civilizations’, published 2006 by McGraw Hill and National Geographic.

The ancient Greeks believed that oracles were able to give prophecies, or predictions of the future. An oracle was a priest or priestess who claimed to receive advice or prophecies from the gods.

The most famous was the oracle of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.  The oracle chamber was deep inside the temple, and the room had an opening in the floor where volcanic smoke hissed from a crack in the earth.  A priestess sat and listened to questions and the priests translated her answers.

The priestess often gave her answers in riddles.  When one king, named Croesus, sent messengers to the Oracle at Delphi, they asked if the king should go to war with the Persians. The oracle replied that if Croesus attacked the Persians, he would destroy a mighty empire. Overjoyed to hear these words, Croesus declared war on the Persians, but the Persian army crushed his army. The mighty empire that King Croesus destroyed was his own!


Greek Mythology

My sources are http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/greek-mythology, http://www.ancient.eu/Greek_Mythology/ and the book, ‘Ancient Civilizations’, published 2006 by McGraw Hill and National Geographic.

The ancient Greeks worshiped twelve gods and goddesses, Zeus, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Aphrodite, among others. Multiple gods were common in ancient religions, dating back from the Mesopotamians and Egyptians. Each god was thought to control an aspect of nature or people’s lives.

Zeus ruled the sky and threw lightning bolts, the goddess Demeter made the crops grow, and Poseidon caused earthquakes. The Greeks sought the god’s favor and good fortune by performing rituals and building temples.

The mythology of the Greek gods started from oral traditions, but the first well-known origin story came from the poem Theogony written by Hesiod.  The mythology of the gods became a religion and also as entertainment in stories and plays.  The gods were essentially characters in drama, art and literature like Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey, and stories of Hercules, Achilles, Perseus and more.

The Mayan Empire was ruled by God-Kings

My sources are https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_civilization and the book, ‘Ancient Civilizations’, published 2006 by McGraw Hill and National Geographic.

The Mayan empire in Mexico (250 – 950 A.D.) was governed by military rulers who believed they were god-kings who were descended from the sun.  The Mayan king Jasaw Chan K’awiil I built a great pyramid at Tikal to honor himself.

As god-kings, Mayan rulers taught their subjects how to please the gods, one way was human sacrifice.  When the Mayans waged war, they wanted captives more than land.  This is because most of the human sacrifices came from the ruling groups of conquered peoples.  The lower class captives were kept as slaves.

During times of drought, Mayan priests sacrificed captives to Chac, the god of rain and sunlight.  The Mayans believed that the gods controlled everything.  The priests, who claimed to know what the gods wanted, set up a strict class system for the people.

How Religions Started in the Ancient World

My sources are http://www.ancient.eu/religion/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Mesopotamian_religion,  and the book, ‘Ancient Civilizations’, published 2006 by McGraw Hill and National Geographic.

The earliest forms of religion were borne out of people’s need to explain natural phenomena and to bring some sense of order to their lives.  For example, the Sumerians (beginning around 4500 B.C) believed in many gods, each was thought to have power over a natural force or a human activity.  In ancient Egypt, the main god was Re, the sun god, who was worshiped for the hope of good harvests.  Other gods were Hapi (ruler of the Nile river),  Osiris (ruler of the dead) and the goddess Isis (representing the loyal wife and mother).

In China, during the Shang dynasty, (1750 B.C), people worshiped gods and spirits.  Spirits were believed to live in the mountains, rivers and seas.  The people believed they had to make the gods happy by making offerings of food and other goods.  They believed that angry spirits might cause farmers to have a poor harvest or armies to lose a battle.  Spirits of ancestors were honored, and offerings were made in the hope that the ancestors would help in times of need  and bring good luck.

Ancient Chinese Kings Believed in the ‘Mandate of Heaven’

My source is the book, ‘Ancient Civilizations’ published in 2006 by McGraw Hill and National Geographic.

One of China’s earliest dynasties, the Shang, ruled from 1750 B.C.  The people worshiped gods, spirits of the earth, and their ancestors.  Shang kings believed they received power and wisdom from the gods and spirits.

The kings would ask for the gods’ help by having priests scratch questions on animal bones, then place hot metal rods inside the bones, causing them to crack.  They believed that the pattern of the cracks formed answers from the gods.  The scratches and cracks were the basis of the first form of Chinese writing.

The next dynasty, the Zhou, ruled from 1045 B.C.  The Zhou rulers claimed to have a ‘Mandate of Heaven’, giving them the right to rule.  This went both ways, though, a good king in prosperous times could claim the Mandate of Heaven, but if things went bad, such as a natural disaster or bad harvest, the people had the right to overthrow the king.

Kings Sometimes Claim Authority from the Gods

The 1966 Disney movie ‘Lt. Robin Crusoe USN’, starring Dick Van Dyke and Nancy Kwan, illustrates how kings sometimes claim authority from the gods.

I found a youtube video clip ‘Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (1996)’ posted by Disney Fan.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8JG7kOaghg

In the movie, King Tanamashu prayed before a huge stone idol on a deserted island and claimed to hear its voice, and therefore was justified in passing judgment over his daughter Wednesday (Nancy Kwan).  Robin Crusoe (Dick Van Dyke) was determined to expose Tanamashu’s deception and save Wednesday by pretending that the idol spoke audibly to her.   He set up a microphone and speakers, a powerful water hose, a flame thrower and fireworks inside the idol to make it appear to come alive.  It’s pretty funny, but it illustrates how rulers claim authority from the gods.

If a ruler claims authority from God, and you want to know the truth of the Bible, I believe it’s best to go to the Bible itself.  If you need help, then try talking to a pastor or someone who knows the Bible well, or look up commentaries in books or on the internet.

The message of Christianity is not one of manipulation, riches and power, but rather of sacrifice and love for God and others.  Not every Christian always follows this, but that doesn’t negate the truth of the Bible.

Bible Heroes Were Not Always ‘Holy’

People usually think of the Bible heroes as holy people.  But almost all the people in the Bible, including the so-called heroes, were anything but ‘holy’, as most people think of the word.

Many, like King David, committed great sins.  God chose Jacob, a cheating liar, to be the foundation of his chosen people.  Others, like Moses and Abraham, were weak in their faith.  Almost all the kings of Israel and Judah sinned greatly in the eyes of God, so much that God had his people conquered by foreign nations and carried away in exile.  God chose Jonah, but he ran away, so God caused a big fish to swallow him.  The apostle Peter was so afraid when Jesus was arrested, that he lied about knowing him three times.

Actually, most people think of holy as meaning  ‘good, pure, perfect, moral, straight-laced, having no vices, revered, saintly’ with a halo over their head, etc.  But the word holy, as used in the Bible, actually means ‘set apart’.  So in this sense, the Bible heroes were chosen and set apart for God’s use, even though they were far from perfect and often resisted him.

The people in the Bible were actually ordinary people whom God chose, often without their initial willingness and cooperation, to do his work.  Christians today are also imperfect ordinary people, but they can still do God’s work.