WHAT WAS ISRAEL DOING WHEN THE WORLD RELIGIONS EMERGED?
By Penny Warren, B.A., M.A., D.D.
(c) September/October 1996 "PLIM REPORT"
Feel free to copy and circulate this article for non-commerical purposes provided the Web site and author are mentioned.
See Related Articles: Comparative Religions
Three-fourths of the worlds population are members of seven major world religions: Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, and Islam (see list of world religions table). In investigating these religions, we find that their appearance in the world coincided with numerous Biblical events. However, because the Bible was never meant to be a commentary of secular history, the emergence of many of these larger, dominant groups was not mentioned in the scriptures.
The Bible, especially the Old Testament, primarily outlines the history of a small, Semitic, Mediterranean band of Hebrew people. Their records reveal three things:
1. how Israel was supposed to worship Yahweh and treat each other.
2. the prophecies of their seers concerning world events and the coming of the Savior.
3. the history of Israel with various nations.
Although the scriptures illustrate Hebrew seers having direct communication with Spirit, the Bible also showed that Yahweh has communicated with Gentiles kings and prophets. Some of them, such as Baalam the prophet (Num. 24:16-17) and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Dan. 2:44-46), prophesied the coming of the Savior.
Clearly, the Gentiles worshipped a Creator according to their imagination. Paul said: For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: (Rom. 2:14).
[Note: A numerical listing of references can be found at the end of this article. To facilitate the flow of ideas, numbers that refer to this list, as well as page numbers when appropriate, will be dispersed throughout the article.]
Historically when did the seven major world religions emerge?
Beginning with Hinduism in India, about every 500 years, except the year 1000 B.C., a new world religion appeared on the world scene (see timeline p. 11). Hinduism began around the same time of Abrahams birth and is referred to as the oldest religion because archeologists can trace it back to 2000 B.C.
Second, Judaism appeared about 1500 B.C. with the giving of the 10 Commandment Law to Abrahams descendants. Three monotheistic religions (i.e., belief in one God)Judaism, Christianity, and Islamall trace their roots back to Abraham. Judaism emerged through Abrahams promised son Isaac (Gal. 4:22-28) who was grandfather to the 12 sons that headed the tribes of Israel. Judaism takes its name from the kingship tribe of Judah.
About 500 years before the Messiah, a resurrection of new religious and philosophical ideas sprang forth. Many historians consider the 6th and 5th century B.C. the most spectacular ages in the history of mankind. This period was marked by an exploration into the soul and the mysteries of the universe. The Persian Empire was at its zenith and around the same time Buddhism arose in India, Confucianism and Taoism developed in China, and the various Greek writers and philosophers, such as Socrates (470? - 399 B.C.), Anaxagoras (500? - 428 B.C.), and Pythagoras (497B.C. - ?, Greek philosopher and mathematician) flourished. Around this same time King Cyrus, a Persian, freed Israel from Babylonian bondage.
In the first century, Christians believe that a Hebrew man, the world calls Jesus, established Christianity. Most think the Messiah instituted Christianity during the three and a half years of His ministry that ended with His crucifixion after the Last Supper. (See You Are An Epistle, Part 1 and 2 in the March/April 1993 and May/June 1993 issues and four articles on The Ten Commandments in the July/August 1993 through the January/February 1994 issues of the PLIM REPORT. These articles prove that the Messiah came to fulfill the Law of Moses, not to institute another one.)
Islam, the youngest of the world religions, came about 500 years, after the Messiah in Saudi Arabia. Islam actually dates from 622 A.D. when Mohammed (570 A.D. - 632 A.D), the founder, migrated to the city of Medina to escape religious persecution. Other religions have emerged before and since the 6th century, but none have captured the attention of the world as these major seven.
What is the intent of this article?
The intent of this article is to document chronologically the approximate time that these religions appeared in the world and compare their arrival with Israels history. [NOTE: An article in the 1997 Did U Know ? section of the PLIM REPORT will compare the sacred writings of world religions with the Bible.] Due to space constraints of the magazine, this article will highlight three points in each religion. It will:
pinpoint the time each world religion emerged.
give a brief summary of how each religion developed and their beliefs.
explain what was happening in the Hebrew culture during that era.
Without world history, the Mediterranean people spoken of in the scripturesAbraham, Moses, Solomon, Artexerxes, the Messiahappear to emerge in a vacuum. When we read the Bible in a world context, we will find many principles in the scriptures repeating themselves in other cultures.
For example, the principle of persecution manifest in the Jewish as well as the Islam religions. The Jewish religious leaders persecution of the Messiah compares with the violently, hostile rejection that Mohammed experienced as he preached the one God of Islam to the polytheistic, immoral, greedy people of Arabia.
The principle of inflexibility was first manifest in Hinduism before it surfaced in Catholicism. Buddha rebelled against Hinduism in India for its strict caste system and the Brahmins inflexibility in using Sanskrit when no one spoke it. His protest 500 years before the Messiah reflects the same disdain Martin Luther felt for Catholicism 1500 years after the Messiah. Besides corrupting church laws through immoral and greedy behavior, Catholicism had a strict order of popes, cardinals, and bishops and would only conduct their services in Latin. To begin an examination of the worlds religions, we must understand the function of Israel and Judaism in Yahwehs (Gods) purpose.
What was Israels purpose?
First of all, we want to make clear that Yahweh chose Israel as a model, or a light, for the rest of the world (Isa. 49:6; Luke 2:32). The laws given to Israel at Mt. Sinai, the tabernacle, and the Levitical priesthood were all symbols. They were supposed to provide a perfect way of understanding Yahweh, the creator of heaven and earth.
If we use the symbols found in the Hebrew religion, we can get a more exact understanding of the creator in the shortest possible time. Israel would compare to the U.S. today. If a country was striving to achieve economic success and technological advancement, they would model themselves after the U.S. Japan did this after World War II and has now surpassed the U.S. in these areas.
How was Israel special from other groups?
Yahweh set Israel apart from all other religions by giving them prophecies for their era and those that foretold of future world events. Yahweh told Israel a savior would come (Deut. 18:15; Num. 24:17), when, where, and under what conditions He would be born (Micah 5:2; Isa. 7:14), and the circumstance of His death (Psa. 22:16). Yahweh gave Joseph the interpretation of Pharaohs dream and Daniel the interpretation of Nebuchanezzars dream. Joseph saw 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine (Gen. 41:1-27). Daniel saw the Satanic world powers that would rise and fall (Dan. 2nd and 7th Chapters). Yahweh showed the Apostle John events that we are still waiting to see unfold (i.e., the Beast burning the whore in Rev. 17th Chapter). No other religion has as many prophecies and their fulfillment as Judaism.
Yahweh gave Israel these prophecies for them to establish faith in Him (Heb. 11:1, 6). As the predictions happened just the way He foretold, Israel was supposed to gain confidence and trust in Yahwehs words (Isa. 46:9-10). It is ironic that the group with the best images and symbols of Yahweh missed the prophesied birth of His son. [Remember: three wise men from the east came to Jerusalem to tell Israel the promised child had been born. (See Will the Messiah Appear On or Before the Year 2000? In the May/June 1995 PLIM REPORT)]
Before we begin our study of the seven world religions, we should clarify when all these religions appeared and what does the word religion mean.
Did the first
age in time leave any evidence of religion?
There are only about seven chapters in the book of Genesis concerning the period prior to the flood. The scriptures describe Adams and Eves expulsion from Eden to the flood with Noah. It mentions Cain and Abel offering sacrifices to Elohim (Gen. 4:3-4), but nowhere is there any specific doctrine mentioned. After the transgression, Elohim did not give anyone laws to follow (Gen. 3:2-3). Wickedness took over this age and it was destroyed (Gen. 6:5, 13; Jude 11). Basically, there is no written documentation and very little archeological evidence that details the specifics of their religions. All of the world religions discussed in this article emerged after the flood or about 2000 years before the Messiahs birth. Let us proceed on to define the word religion.
What is religion?
According to William James in his book Varieties of Religious Experience, he states that: in its broadest terms, religion says that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in rightful relations to it (quoted from Huston Smiths book, The Worlds Religions, p. 319). The word religion is defined as: n. 1 a) belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshipped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe b) expression of such a belief in conduct and ritual; 2 a) any specific system of belief and worship, often involving a code of ethics and a philosophy [the Christian religion, the Buddhist religion, etc.] ...; ... 4 any object of conscientious regard and pursuit. Etymology ME religioun < OFr or L: OFr religion < L religio, reverence for the gods, holiness, in LL(Ec), a system of religious belief < ? religare, to bind back < re-, back + ligare, to bind, bind together; or < ? re- + IE base *le-, to collect > logic, Gr legein, L legere](©1995 Zane Publishing, Inc. ©1994, 1991, 1988 Simon & Schuster, Inc.) We will find that each of the religions in this article are bound or linked together by circumstances and a system of beliefs. Religions teach belief and worship in a deity and ethnical behavior toward other people.
How did men worship God in Abrahams era?
Men worshipped many gods during Abrahams era. He was born in 1995 B.C. about 400 years after the flood and after men had been scattered for erecting the Tower of Babel (Gen. 9:11-15; 11:4, 6-8). These people moved through out the Babylonian region, settled all over the world, and began to worship nature.
Halleys Bible Handbook states that man lost his: intimate communion with God. ... groping in his darkness for a solution of the mysteries of existence, he came to worship the powers of Nature which seemed to him to be the sources of life (p. 94). During this period, the sun, rain, various forces of nature, and powerful kings were deified.
When Abraham was 75 years old, Yahweh called him out of this idolatry (Gen. 12:1-4, 7-8; see Mystery Babylon under the subtitle Why was man made subject to negativity? in Revelation article on p. 33 of this issue). He told Abraham to leave the Ur of the Chaldeans and worship Him. Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of idolatry (Gen. 13:13, 18:20, 19th Chapter).
Which is the oldest world religion?
While Abraham was being called out of a polytheistic culture, a very diverse family of Indian faiths collectively referred to as Hinduism was developing in India. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia states that Hinduism: began in India about 1500 B.C. From its literature Hinduism can be traced back to before 1000 B.C.; evidence of its earlier antecedents is derived from archaeology, comparative philology, and comparative religion (Vol. 8, p. 908).
Hinduism is an interesting study because no one man founded this group of religions that progressed through many stages. According to an article presented by First Electronic Church of America (FECHA) on Summary of World Religions, Hinduism developed from indigenous religions of India in combination with Aryan religions brought to India around 1500 BCE, and codified in the Veda and the Upanishads, the sacred scriptures of Hinduism (see the Internet http://pacmedia.com/fecha/religion/).3
What are basic Hindu beliefs?
Hinduism is a complex system of beliefs that advocates an attitude of tolerance and inclusiveness. Hinduism centers around the theme of one god who is many, or one god with infinite manifestations (p. 21).1 A Hindu can be pantheistic (i.e., believe that god is not a personality, but that all laws, forces, and manifestations of the self-existing universe are God).10 He can be polytheistic (i.e., believe in many gods), monotheistic (i.e., believe there is only one god), or be an atheist (i.e., believe there is no god).10 He can also believe in the Trinity of Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Destroyer), and Shiva (Preserver). A Hindu can reject the caste system that defines a person from birth and determines their religious, social, and work-related duties within their particular subgroup, or accept it. Most Hindus accept four classes of society and abide by their rules and rituals: the Brahmins or priests, the rulers and warriors, the farmers and merchants, and the peasants and laborers.3
The one common thread in all Hindu sects is a belief that by following the rules of their caste, their next life or reincarnation will be better (see Resurrection vs Reincarnation in the January/February 1994 issue of the PLIM REPORT.) Hindus believe in a wheel of life and Karma (the law of cause and effect) that defines how a person will be reborn in the next life.
The holy books of Hindus are: the Vedas (a collection of hymns, prayers, and chants); the Brahmana (an appendix to the Vedas that directs the priest in their ritual use of hymns and prayers); and the Upanishads (a commentary of the Vedas). Many modern Hindus have received their faith from the Bhagavad-Gita (a philosophical dialogue between the warrior Arjuna and the god Krishna written as epic poem about 200 years before the Messiah). Yogi comes from Hinduism that claims more than 437,000,000 followers in the 20th century.
When did God give Israel the Law of Moses?
While Hinduism was gaining strength in India, Yahweh revealed that there was one Elohim to a group of Hebrews, Abrahams descendants through Isaac (Gen. 17:16, 18:10, 21:1-8). Yahweh empowered Moses to deliver Israel from Egypt and lead them to Mt. Sinai where He gave them the law 1500 years before the Messiah. From the Wilderness, Israel traveled to Canaan Land where they overcame its inhabitants. This wandering group became a kingdom when Samuel anointed Saul their first king (I Sam. 9th Chapter). David established Jerusalem (city of peace) as their holy city (2 Sam. 5:4-9). His son Solomon built their first temple that was dedicated 1000 B.C. (I Kings 8:10, judaism.htm) 7 Yahweh chose a rather ordinary, nomadic group of people milling around the upper regions of the Arabian desert to be an example unto the entire world and reflect what their name, Israel (having power with Elohim), really meant.
After Solomons death, Israel divided into two kingdoms: Israel (north) and Judah (south). The last 500 years before the Messiah, they were captured and ruled by successive world powers. Babylon, Mead & Persia, Greece, and finally Rome.
Along with the prophecies that Yahweh gave Israel, Marcus Bach says that divine selection is at the heart of being Jewish. They feel that Yahweh chose them not for special privileges but for special service and a special mission in his world (p. 63). 1 Keeping the Sabbath and celebrating holy days also unites Jews. Their sacred writings are the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and the Talmud, their oral law.
Jews do not believe that the man the world calls Jesus was the savior prophesied in the Law and Prophets, nor do they believe in His resurrection from the dead (Matt. 28:11-15). Throughout history Christians have persecuted the Jews who they hold responsible for executing the Messiah. When Rome destroyed their temple in A.D. 70, the Jews were scattered, persecuted, and not established as a nation until 1948.
When was Israel released from captivity?
As stated above, Yahweh permitted Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar to take Israel captive for 70 years after burning down Solomons temple (2 Chron. 36:10-19). Yahweh prophesied through Isaiah and Jeremiah that Israel would be punished for disobedience to His laws (Isa. 44:26-28; 45:1, 13; Jer. 25:11-12). About 500 years before the Messiah, Babylon fell to Medes and Persia and shortly thereafter, King Cyrus released Israel from captivity. Israel went about rebuilding the temple (Ezra 1st Chapter) and in 457 BC the Edict of Artexerexs was given to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.
Was Buddha before the Messiah?
About the same time Israel was released from Babylonian captivity, a renaissance of new ideas began to emerge around the world. In India, Siddhartha Gautama (563 B.C.- 483 B.C), the Buddha (Englightened One) founded Buddhism in the 6th century around 533 BC. Buddhism is based on the principle of being awake.
Gautama was a prince from a ruling family who became a pauper after encountering suffering in the form of old age, sickness, and death. He left his wife and child to seek oneness with God. His father had purposely secluded his son from lifes suffering because a seer had told him his son would either be a great ruler or a redeemer for his people. Gautamas father selfishly preferred that his son continue his rulership and tried to spare him from knowing of unhappiness. Upon becoming aware of life's suffering, Gautama began to see the vanity in his own life. He left his home in search of inner peace.
He studied Brahminism with the best Hindu priests of his day and chose a life of extreme poverty, fasting, and torture to his body. Six years later, he rejected self-mortification when he found that he was no closer to the answer for suffering through asceticism than he had been when he enjoyed the riches of the world. He decided to sit under a Bodhi tree and not move until he was illuminated. He sat there seven weeks and finally achieved Nirvana (peace) or became awakened.
Was Buddha concerned with humanity?
Buddha was concerned with the human situation. He wanted to heal humanity from suffering and frustration over lifes trials as they adversely affect man.1 He saw life as suffering and suffering as a result of desire. For 45 years Buddha and a community of monks taught men to follow Four Noble Truths: to fully understand the universality of suffering, to abandon desire which causes suffering, to achieve supreme truth and final liberation. He also taught that men should follow eight steps to cease suffering: right understanding, right thinking, right speech, right conduct, rights livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. He taught the middle path to enlightenment. Buddha taught that through meditation a person could reach Nirvana or enlightenment and end suffering before he died. Buddha believed in a slightly modified version of rebirth and karma that we will explain in the next issue.
He refused to theorize about the creation, eternity, or the soul. He would not comment on such speculative matters because greed for views ... tends not to edification (The Worlds Religions, Houston Smith, p. 95).
What did Buddha dislike about Hinduism?
Buddha protested the absolute power that the Brahmins wielded over the people and the profit they gained from prayers and rituals. He hated the caste system, encouraged the people to seek union with God for themselves, and not rely on a priest to do it for them. Buddha also told his followers that the rituals of Hinduism were ineffective and bound the human spirit into believing in impotent gods. Buddha insisted that the quality of lifes experiences was the supreme test of a mans union with God. Where Hinduism is mystical and ritualistic, Buddhism is practical and psychotherapeutic (p. 83).2 Buddhism began in India, but later moved and flourished further east in China. More Buddhists are now found in China and South America than anywhere else in the world.
In China two religions dominated and complemented each other in the 5th and 6th centuries B.C.: Confucianism, the practical, and Taoism, the mystical. Confucius (551 B.C. - 479 B.C.) was a tutor and an aspiring statesmen who promoted a realistic, ethical system in social interactions and human relationships. Confucius, like Buddha, was a practical man who wanted to make life better for the Chinese citizens.
He lived in a strife-torn feudal system in the Cho dynasty, known for its moral laxity, and was dismayed at the suffering that abounded at that time. He persistently offered unsolicited advice to rulers advising them that suffering could be cured through brotherhood and crime should diminish since man was inherently good.
Marcus Bach in his book, Major Religions of the World, wrote: Confucius had an idea that he could do something about improving the world. He figured that if each generation could be persuaded to benefit by the mistakes and achievements of the past, civilization would make immeasurable strides toward a better future (p. 75). Many government officials who felt incriminated by his views opposed him. The more Confucius sought audience with political leaders, the more his suggestions were ignored.
His biographies differ as to whether Confucius ever received a cabinet post and ruled a region. The journals that say Confucius did rule a province say his rule was short and magnificent. The accounts that say he never ruled state that no one accepted his suggestions until about five years before his death. He was offered a government post at age 73, but knew he was then too old to be useful and declined the position.
How did Confucius unite a nation?
Although Confucius never achieved the prominence in public office that he sought, he was a superb tutor. His students loved and admired him. They compiled his sayings called Analets. To understand how a tutor, thwarted politician, and non supernatural man could make such a change in China we have to review Chinese history.8 Social anarchy and almost constant warring plagued China. Men wondered how would they keep from destroying themselves or what would hold society together. Since man did not appear bound by the herd instinct, (i.e., the instinct not to kill within the same species), man needed some tradition or social custom that could be counted on to keep life intact.8 Confucius developed a tradition that stressed the relationships between individuals, their families, and society based on li (proper behavior) and jen (sympathetic attitude).3 Li had five constant relationships between parent and child, husband and wife, elder sibling and junior sibling, elder friend and junior friend, and ruler and subject.
Confucius never intended to begin a religion. Rather than teaching belief and worship in a deity, Confucius taught ethical behavior among men.
Taoism (pronounced Dowism) literally means the way. Tradition believes that Lao Tzu (?604 B.C. - ?) was the man who founded Taoism and lived during the 5th century B.C., although very little is known about him. Even his name, Lao Tzu, is a title that means Old Philosopher or the Grand Old Master. He was Confuscius contemporary and idealistic counterpart; the former being a mystic and the latter being a moralist. Lao-tzu, ... probed deeper into the relationship between ethics and religion and between mans qualities and Creative Force. ... Confucius taught people how to be in the world and of the world in order to improve the world. Lao-tzu instructed men how to escape the world and yet how to remake it by following Tao, the Way of the cosmos, the Way of reason, the Way of life, and the Way of evolution (Major Religions of the World, p. 80).
Taoism is concerned with intuitive knowledge and a belief that human intellect can never comprehend the way. Both Taoism and Confucianism strived to make mens lives better, but they had different ways of achieving this goal. Taoism was not concerned with logical reasoning, social etiquette, or moral standards. Instead of attending to what Taoists considered the artificial world of man, they observed nature and learned the change and transformation of the Tao.2 They saw all change as the interplay between ying and yang or opposites.
Lao Tzu left one slim volume of 500 characters titled Tao Te Ching, or The Way and Its Power.
When did Christianity begin?
The largest Christian groups--Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox churches, and Protestants--claim the Messiah founded Christianity in 1 A.D. (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, Vol. 4, p. 459). Before we can discuss this religion, it must be understood that neither the Messiah nor His Apostles established Christianity. The Messiah brought the Law of Moses to an end and ushered in a New Covenant where men worship the creator in Spirit and truth (Jer. 31:31; Rom. 10:1-4; John 4:21-24. Also please read the articles in the past "PLIM REPORTs" referenced on p. 9.) Although Christianity has been associated with them, neither the Messiah nor His Apostles taught the Christian doctrine of today. One might say Christianity is a counterfeit religion of the true believers. Historians, however, do not make a distinction between them.
All students of the Bible must remember that Christianity did not come into existence as a state religion until 400 years after the Messiah when Constantine, emperor of the Roman Empire, called the council of Nicea in 325 A.D. What was taught between the death of the Apostles and Constantines degree is very nebulous. If anyone just reads the Bible, they would have questions about the scriptural support for what is currently practiced in the church.
Is Christianity a historical religion?
Unlike Buddhism and Islam that are based on abstract ideas of being awake and surrendering, respectively, Christianity is a historical religion. It is based on historical life of a man the world calls Jesus and believes was God. John Noss in Mans Religions states that Christianity: has sprung from the faith that its founder God was made manifest in the flesh and dwelt among men (p. 412). The fleshly manifestation of God was the son of a Hebrew carpenter who: was born in a stable, was executed as a criminal at age thirty-three, never traveled more than ninety miles from his birthplace, owned nothing, attended no college, marshaled no army, and instead of producing books did his only writing in the sand (The Worlds Religions, Houston Smith, p. 317-318). At one point in history, there was so little known about Jesus that scholars began to say he never existed.
Space will not allow for a full explanation of why the Messiah did not write anything. Simply put, the seers of Israel had already written the Messiahs life story before He was born. His biography was written in the Law and the Prophets or the Old Testament (OT). The Messiah came to fulfill what was already written of Him to do (Mt. 2:5; Heb. 10:7). In future issues of the PLIM REPORT, this will be explained in more detail. The fact that the OT prophesied of the Messiah's coming makes it unique in comparison with other religious writings.
What do Christians believe?
It was not Jesus sayings that caused Christianity to spread (p. 324.)8 Buddha, Confucius, and Mohammed taught their followers to be truthful, kind to one another, and not to kill, steal or lie. Even the Messiahs uncanny ability to tap into the Spirit world to heal, feed multitudes, and raise the dead would not of itself have left the lasting impression on Christianity.
It is the belief in the Messiahs miraculous resurrection from the dead that unites Christian denominations. This event has become the cornerstone of their faith in Gods power to resurrect men from daily trials and tribulations (Rom. 5:1-5). Peter and his disciples preached the resurrection message to only Jews for seven years. Later Peter and Paul received visions that non-Jews should also receive this truth (Acts 9th and 10th Chapter). Paul spent the rest of his life spreading the gospel to non-Jews (.../christ.htm) 7.
How did Christianity prosper until the 6th century?
Now Roman rule under the Caesars continued from the time of the Apostles until Constantine who made Christianity a state religion. In 395 A.D. the Roman Empire divided into East and West and in 476 A.D. Rome fell under the Caesars. This left the church free of civil authority and gradually the popes became the most powerful men in the West (p. 770-771).4 Pope Gregory 1 ruled during the end of the 6th century. He established complete control over the churches in Italy, Spain, Gaul and England (p. 771). He zealously undertook a mission of converting everyone to Christianity and tirelessly labored to purify the church from viciousness, pride, and greed. He set an example for what he believed in his personal life. Christianity has now become the largest of the world religions. The Christian nations are the most powerful and richest nations on the earth.
When did Mohammed begin the Muslim religion?
While a number of popes gained strength in the West after the fall of Rome, Islam emerged from the midst of the animistic polytheism8 of Saudi Arabia 600 years after the Messiah. An unlikely, uneducated Arabian prophet christened Ubul Kassim (570 A.D. - 632 A.D., whose name was changed to Mohammed) grew up to defy the religious rulers of his time.1 Ubul came from a humble background and was raised by his uncle after his father died. He became a successful camel merchant and married at 25 years old to a wealthy woman 15 years his elder.
During this time, religion had become very profitable in Mecca, the cross roads of the world and main thoroughfare between India and Persia and Syria and Greece (p. 99).1 Priests charged money for people to worship or pray to any of 360 images they housed in a central location called the Kaaba. The commercialization of religion was at its height. Mohammed became affiliated with a small group of devout men called the Hunafa or seekers who were disturbed with the profit made in Gods name.
Mohammed, like many others of this time, sought for answers from God. He often went to a cave and asked for illumination. Followers of Islam believe that when Mohammed was 40, the angel Gabriel transmitted the Koran to him in a vision that told him there was one God Allah, not the many that filled the town square. Mohammed began to preach this message to Abrahams descendants through Ishmael (Gen. 16th Chapter, 17:20-23).
How did the Arabians respond to Mohammed?
The violently hostile response of the Arabian ruling class to his teaching was very similar to the way the Scribes and Pharisees reacted to the Messiah. They covered Muhammad and his followers with dirt and filth as they were praying. They pelted them with stones, beat them with sticks, threw them in prison, and tried to starve them out by refusing to sell to them (p. 228).8 He, like the Messiah, was persecuted by the rulers for daring to change the status quo.
Against all odds, Mohammed had created a serious revolutionary movement that threatened the Meccan nobility. In 622 A.D., with the allegiance of about 700 Arabian families, he migrated to the city of Yathrib later called Medina. This flight was called the Hijra. Once in Medina, Mohammed began ten years of rulership that brought peace and unity to a violent land. He was a just and merciful ruler.
What do followers of Islam believe?
The word Islam means the peace that is gained through submission or surrender to god. Islam, like Buddhism, from budh, awakening, is one of the two religions that is named after the attribute it seeks to cultivate (p. 222).8 Islam prescribes five pillars of faith (there is no god but Allah, prayer five times a day, the tithe, observance of RamadanIslams holy monthonce a year, and a pilgrimage to Mecca once in a life time). Islam also adheres to six articles of belief that we will discuss in the next issue. Islam believes much of the Bible and that Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Jesus, and Mohammed were messengers from God. However, Mohammeds followers believe that he was the last messenger and culmination of them all. They also believe that the Koran is the final word. To the extent that an unschooled man who could barely write his name, could produce such a substantial work, grammatically perfect and without poetic peer, Mohammed referred to the Koran as Allahs greatest or standing miracle (p. 231).8
I hope this article has provided you some time frame of the emergence of world religions in relation to Bible history. Part two of this article will detail the beliefs of each religions found in their sacred writings.
1Bach, Marcus, Major Religions of the World (© 1999 by Graded Press)
2Capra, Fritjof, The Tao of Physics, 2nd Edition (1975 Bantam Books)
3First Electronic Church of America (FECHA), Summary of World Religions, http://pacmedia.com/fecha/religion/
4 Halley, Henry H., Halleys Bible Handbook, 24th Edition, (© 1965, Regency Reference Library, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan)
5 Kinley, Henry C., Elohim the Archetypal Original Pattern of the Universe (© 1961, 1969, The Institute of Divine Metaphysical Research, Inc.)
6Noss, John B., Mans Religions, 6th Edition (© 1980) New York,: Macmillan Publishing Company
7Ontario Center for Religious tolerance (http://web.canlink.com/ocrt)
8Smith, Huston, The Worlds Religions, (© 1991 HarperSanFrancisco) Revised and updated edition of The Religions of Man, 1958
9The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia
10Websters New World Dictionary, Third College Edition
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