Religion in the Bible
From the earliest period to the time of Christianity, the people’s religion experienced drastic changes. In many ways, the books of Old Testament foreshadow Christ in the offices of prophet, priest and King. The book of Samuel, for instance, shares this thought with all Scripture. Many spiritual lessons and prayer were taught in the books of Samuel. People during Samuel and Elijah’s time lived to serve God. They knew without reservation that following the Lord with all their heart was the highest calling of any man or woman, boy or girl. People were holy, humble, and kind. Most of the time, they sought not their own good but always for the good of others.
In the books of Job and Ecclesiastes, people’s perspectives on religion have changed. Religion did not fill up their lives. There is not much about Jewish religion in this book. The writer only seems to know the first three chapters of Genesis. There is nothing about the way that God brought Israel out of Egypt at the ‘Exodus’. The wise men in other nations would not have worshipped false ‘gods’. They tried to find out what the meaning of life was. They thought things out. They watched people and tried to learn lessons from what people did. They tried to learn lessons from what happened to people and tried to find some rules. They did not say much about God. This does not mean that they did not believe in God. It was written that the Teacher says that he sees something ‘under the sun’. He means: ‘if you leave God out of your thoughts’. He uses the Hebrew word ‘Elohim’ for God. He does not use ‘Jehovah’ (or ‘Jahweh’). The name Jehovah has the idea in it of the God who made Israel His own people. God Himself does not speak at all in the books of Ecclesiastes and Job.
To the time of Christianity, religion still made few changes. As in the Sermon on the Mount, it discusses about relationships between God and the people’s faith in God. God, through Christ our Savior, is teaching His own (for the most part) what it means to be in relationship with Him and with others. The underlying ethic in Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is love: love for our heavenly Father and love for people. As we have seen God, in His love for us, allows us to come face-to-face with our sin, to be confronted by it. This of course is to bring about deep repentance and restoration of the love between the parties involved.
HENOTHEISM AND MONOTHEISM
In the Book of Genesis, when God is creating the world, the bible refers to God as he and then as they. Is there one God or more than one god? This might refer to henotheism. Henotheism is the worship of only one God, while acknowledging that other gods exist. In Genesis, many gods are accepted but0 only one is chosen. The people who wrote that part of Genesis probably believed that their neighbors gods existed, but they weren’t as worthy of worship as their God.
On the other hand, Monotheism is a word coined in comparatively modern times to designate belief in the one supreme God, the Creator and Lord of the world, the eternal Spirit, All-powerful, All-wise, and All-good, the Rewarder of good and the Punisher of evil, the Source of our happiness and perfection. The ancient Hebrew religion, promulgated by Moses in the name of Jehovah (Jahweh), was an impressive form of Monotheism. Monotheism taught by Moses offers a strong proof of its Divine origin. At a time when the neighboring nations representing the highest civilization of that time — Egypt, Babylonia, Greece — were giving an impure and idolatrous worship to many deities, we find the insignificant Hebrew people professing a religion in which idolatry, impure rites, and a degrading mythology had no legitimate place, but where, instead, belief in the one true God was associated with a dignified worship and a lofty moral code.
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