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Author Topic: Christianity vs Paganism  (Read 1651 times) Average Rating: 0
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Myrrh23
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« on: April 06, 2009, 12:01:58 PM »

I have been grappling with a question lately. How should Orthodox Christians answer the question, "How are the actions of the OT God any different from some of the actions of the Pagan Gods in the ancient myths? What makes the OT God better than the Pagan Gods?" From a human perspective, the OT God seems to get angry, jealous, and do violence like the Pagan Gods.
At the moment, I am reading the NT for the first time, so I don't have much experience regarding the OT. Thank you for your patience! Sorry if this question confuses you! Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2009, 12:11:26 PM »

I have been grappling with a question lately. How should Orthodox Christians answer the question, "How are the actions of the OT God any different from some of the actions of the Pagan Gods in the ancient myths? What makes the OT God better than the Pagan Gods?" From a human perspective, the OT God seems to get angry, jealous, and do violence like the Pagan Gods.
At the moment, I am reading the NT for the first time, so I don't have much experience regarding the OT. Thank you for your patience! Sorry if this question confuses you! Smiley

My understanding is that ancient Hebrews were just like any other people, and their Jahweh was a tribal god, a deity that was, in their imagination, "stronger" than deities of other tribes, protective of just them (the Hebrews), and as nasty in its jealousy as the deities of other tribes. So, to answer your question - nothing; Jahweh was not any better and not any worse than the numerous deities of various people.

However, reading OT makes a huge sense, because we, Orthodox Christians, find in it very many prophesies about Christ. The OT prepares us for a better understanding of who Christ is, why was He born, why did He have to suffer and die, what is the significance of His glorious resurrection and heavenly ascention. The OT also has a lot of important messages about what the Church is.
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Myrrh23
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« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2009, 12:19:07 PM »

I have been grappling with a question lately. How should Orthodox Christians answer the question, "How are the actions of the OT God any different from some of the actions of the Pagan Gods in the ancient myths? What makes the OT God better than the Pagan Gods?" From a human perspective, the OT God seems to get angry, jealous, and do violence like the Pagan Gods.
At the moment, I am reading the NT for the first time, so I don't have much experience regarding the OT. Thank you for your patience! Sorry if this question confuses you! Smiley

My understanding is that ancient Hebrews were just like any other people, and their Jahweh was a tribal god, a deity that was, in their imagination, "stronger" than deities of other tribes, protective of just them (the Hebrews), and as nasty in its jealousy as the deities of other tribes. So, to answer your question - nothing; Jahweh was not any better and not any worse than the numerous deities of various people.

However, reading OT makes a huge sense, because we, Orthodox Christians, find in it very many prophesies about Christ. The OT prepares us for a better understanding of who Christ is, why was He born, why did He have to suffer and die, what is the significance of His glorious resurrection and heavenly ascention. The OT also has a lot of important messages about what the Church is.

So since the NT God is a continuation of the OT God (and God isn't suppose to change or something...?), how do we convince seekers that He is more worthy of worship that the average Neo-Pagan God, even if our actions can convince seekers of the love of Christ? How do we handle questions concerning the violence and jealousies of the OT? I think many of us have encountered people who had a smile for Jesus Christ, but not His Father based on what they read in the OT. I'm wanting to know how should we intellectually put people at ease over having to...um.."include" the Father into their lives? Sorry for any confusion!

« Last Edit: April 06, 2009, 12:19:44 PM by Myrrh23 » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2009, 01:11:16 PM »

I have been grappling with a question lately. How should Orthodox Christians answer the question, "How are the actions of the OT God any different from some of the actions of the Pagan Gods in the ancient myths? What makes the OT God better than the Pagan Gods?" From a human perspective, the OT God seems to get angry, jealous, and do violence like the Pagan Gods.
At the moment, I am reading the NT for the first time, so I don't have much experience regarding the OT. Thank you for your patience! Sorry if this question confuses you! Smiley

My understanding is that ancient Hebrews were just like any other people, and their Jahweh was a tribal god, a deity that was, in their imagination, "stronger" than deities of other tribes, protective of just them (the Hebrews), and as nasty in its jealousy as the deities of other tribes. So, to answer your question - nothing; Jahweh was not any better and not any worse than the numerous deities of various people.

However, reading OT makes a huge sense, because we, Orthodox Christians, find in it very many prophesies about Christ. The OT prepares us for a better understanding of who Christ is, why was He born, why did He have to suffer and die, what is the significance of His glorious resurrection and heavenly ascention. The OT also has a lot of important messages about what the Church is.

So since the NT God is a continuation of the OT God (and God isn't suppose to change or something...?), how do we convince seekers that He is more worthy of worship that the average Neo-Pagan God, even if our actions can convince seekers of the love of Christ? How do we handle questions concerning the violence and jealousies of the OT? I think many of us have encountered people who had a smile for Jesus Christ, but not His Father based on what they read in the OT. I'm wanting to know how should we intellectually put people at ease over having to...um.."include" the Father into their lives? Sorry for any confusion!



I guess we should always have in mind that while God does not change, our human understanding of God certainly does. So it is not too surprising that ancient Hebrews had ideas about their Jahweh that are dramatically different from our Christian ideas about God. To begin with, the ancient Hebrews had essentially no concept of afterlife; to them, what happens after death is just nothing, total emptiness, "dark hole," pit, "sheol" where there is no thought, no action, no joy, no suffering, really absolutely nothing. So, the whole emphasis for the Hebrews was on the "here and now," on how they, their tribes, will become mighty and prosperous and have many-many-many children, because that's the whole point - immortality is in the progeny, in the offspring. The mission of Jahweh and his Mashiah (a completely earthly human mighty warrior-prince) was thought to be exactly to help the Hebrews achieve this very earthly, very "here-and-now"-centered goal. On the contrary, our idea is that each one of us is a unique and essentially immortal individual whom God wants to grow endlessly in love and knowledge of Him. It does not matter to us how many children we have, or how triumphant we are over our earthly enemies, oppressors etc. Our focus is beyong the "here and now," in the mysterious Kingdom, the world that is completely different from the reality we see today here on this planet.

How to attract people to God intellectually - Myrrh, I don't know, I wish I knew. I never ever succeeded in that. To those who do not believe, reading of the Bible has, if anything, only a very negative influence - it's a colossal disappointment anyway, because of the really crude, heartless, cruel stories of the OT. Attempts to embellish or to "explain away" this crudeness, harshness, heartlessness, cruelty never succeed, but lead to even deeper cynicism about "this whole God thing." People feel God, "taste" Him when they are in the Church; it hardly is an intellectual experience, IMHO. I understand this better when I read Luke 24:30, 31, "... He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them; then their eyes were opened and they knew Him." I have this sensation of "opening of the eyes" when I hear the chants of the Divine Liturgy, smell the incense, see the beauty of the icons and church buildings and the priest's garments. What did Hebrews think about Jahweh in the 1500 B.C. matters really preciously little to me. Smiley
« Last Edit: April 06, 2009, 01:17:04 PM by Heorhij » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2009, 06:40:50 PM »

From what i've learned from Orthodox sources as well as from scholarly sources, the Canaanite/Israelite faith was a henotheistic religion. There is only one main God, but they had a belief in all these other gods as well. Monotheism didn't come until later.
We have to realize that the people that wrote the OT were "people of their time" and lived amongst Pagans and Henotheists.

The similarities definitely do not make it any less true or God-inspired...
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« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2009, 06:53:11 PM »

I have been grappling with a question lately. How should Orthodox Christians answer the question, "How are the actions of the OT God any different from some of the actions of the Pagan Gods in the ancient myths? What makes the OT God better than the Pagan Gods?" From a human perspective, the OT God seems to get angry, jealous, and do violence like the Pagan Gods.
At the moment, I am reading the NT for the first time, so I don't have much experience regarding the OT. Thank you for your patience! Sorry if this question confuses you! Smiley

My understanding is that ancient Hebrews were just like any other people, and their Jahweh was a tribal god, a deity that was, in their imagination, "stronger" than deities of other tribes, protective of just them (the Hebrews), and as nasty in its jealousy as the deities of other tribes. So, to answer your question - nothing; Jahweh was not any better and not any worse than the numerous deities of various people.

However, reading OT makes a huge sense, because we, Orthodox Christians, find in it very many prophesies about Christ. The OT prepares us for a better understanding of who Christ is, why was He born, why did He have to suffer and die, what is the significance of His glorious resurrection and heavenly ascention. The OT also has a lot of important messages about what the Church is.

So since the NT God is a continuation of the OT God (and God isn't suppose to change or something...?), how do we convince seekers that He is more worthy of worship that the average Neo-Pagan God, even if our actions can convince seekers of the love of Christ? How do we handle questions concerning the violence and jealousies of the OT? I think many of us have encountered people who had a smile for Jesus Christ, but not His Father based on what they read in the OT. I'm wanting to know how should we intellectually put people at ease over having to...um.."include" the Father into their lives? Sorry for any confusion!



The OT God was viewed through eyes of Ancient Jews who lived in a shattered creation. The OT is important in so far as it points us to Christ and His Eternal Love. The OT is not necessarily a complete picture of God, because the truth God was only revealed in Christ Jesus, not before. So in the OT, we have Ancient Jews recording observations (sometimes the recording taking place generations after the actual events), and recording in a way that reflects their prejudices and limited worldview.
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« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2009, 07:27:36 PM »

From what i've learned from Orthodox sources as well as from scholarly sources, the Canaanite/Israelite faith was a henotheistic religion. There is only one main God, but they had a belief in all these other gods as well. Monotheism didn't come until later.
We have to realize that the people that wrote the OT were "people of their time" and lived amongst Pagans and Henotheists.

The similarities definitely do not make it any less true or God-inspired...

Henotheism, monotheism, polytheism...linguistically these exact terms are recent human developments.

As far as whether or not the ancient Hebrews are what we would call "henotheists", I would say that such a statement is mostly true.  The might have believed in other gods existing, at least in the sense that they were acknowledged and worshiped by others, but that their God was the one true God and eventually the truth of His might would crush all of the other gods, rendering them powerless.

The problem is that when academics point this out they are often subtly seeking to undermine the foundation of rigid "monotheism" in the modern Christian mind.  But the telling thing is that the One true God did spread to the edges of the Earth, with a segment of all peoples of the world worshiping him.  The True God did vanquish the gods of antiquity and prove Himself supreme, and it was not because of the efforts of the Jewish religion that we know today.

The faithful Jews and those adopted into Israel by His Son are the ones who accomplished this!  The Jewish concept of One God was merged with Greek philosophical notions surrounding Monism into what is the Christian worldview.  Meat sacrificed to these other gods holds no real power.  The other conceptions of God are infantile and futile because they are not for all of humanity.  Regional deities are not necessarily devoid of truth, but they lacking in most regards.  The true that there are not many gods of many people but the One God of all people is the truth of the Gospel, fully realized in the Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles.

And not only would it be beautiful enough if the message was given to humanity that they all shared a common God and unite beneath this knowledge, but God has given us even more.  God has given us the Way by which we can be restored fully into His likeness; to become God ourselves.

So these henotheistic notions actually end up being prophecies of the coming of our God incarnate, to lead all of humanity to the worship of the one true God, thus putting all of the other gods beneath his feet.
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