The shocking details

Christianity as a religion finds its roots in Judaism which in turn came out of the religions of the Ancient Near East were mostly polytheistic, which I think would again be something that would be shocking for contemporary Christians who are fast to declare that Christianity is: “a monotheistic-Trinitarian faith”. However, serious biblical scholarship has established that Judaism finds its origins in the Canaanite religion which was polytheistic, and in some cases monolatristic. In fact, the compound name El Elyon 'God on High' which is often used as a prefix to a toponym about God finds its origins in the pantheon of Canaanite gods to which Friedman writes:

"The dominant religion across the ancient Near East was pagan religion. Pagan religion was not idol worship, as formerly it was thought to be. The archaeological revolution of the past hundred years has opened up that world to us and given us, among other revelations, a new understanding and appreciation of the pagan religious worldview. At Nineveh alone—the greatest archaeological discovery of all time—were found fifty thousand tablets, the library of the emperor of Assyria. At the Canaanite city of Ugarit, three thousand more tablets were found. We can read the pagan hymns, prayers, and myths; we can see the places where they worshiped; and we can see how they depicted their gods in art.

The World That Produced the Bible: 1200-722 B.C. 35 Pagan religion was close to nature. People worshiped the most powerful forces in the universe: the sky, the storm wind, the sun, the sea, fertility, death. The statues that they erected were like the icons in a church. The statues depicted the god or goddess, reminded the worshiper of the deity's presence, showed the humans' respect for their gods, and perhaps made the humans feel closer to their gods. But, as a Babylonian text points out, the statue was not the god. The chief pagan god in the region that was to become Israel was

El. El was male, patriarchal, a ruler. Unlike the other major god of the region, Haddu (the storm wind), El was not identified with any particular force in nature. He sat at the head of the council of the gods and pronounced the council's decisions.

The God of Israel was Yahweh. He, too, was male, patriarchal, a ruler, and not identified with any one force in nature. Rather than describing him in terms of nature or myths, the people of Israel spoke of Yahweh in terms of his acts in history—as we shall see. Who Wrote the Bible? (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1997) pp.33-34

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