Biblical matters

18 April 2011

Biblical matters

My comment to this discussion

“the Old Testament, by discriminating between true and false religion, was responsible for ushering in unprecedented levels of historical violence … Assmann argues that biblical monotheism, as codified by the Pentateuch, disrupted the political and cultural stability of the ancient world by introducing the concept of “religious exclusivity”: that is, by claiming, as no belief system had previously, that its God was the one true God, and that, correspondingly, all other gods were false. “

My response:

The historian/archaeologist Ian Morris argues that rulers prior to the first Millennium BC were claiming divine legitimacy [1]; If during the Bronze age a Pharaoh decides to kill all Jewish infants, then ordinary Egyptians would see this as an act of heaven. This means that religiously motivated totalitarianism as understood now was the norm, not the exception during this age and time. It is strange that this notion would not be not known to a professional historian.

Also: there can’t be a distinction between political and religious conflicts if the rulers are gods or god-like; here any political conflict is a religious conflict as well. If ruler A pays tribute to ruler B then the gods of ruler A are subordinate to the gods of B; so much for “divine translatability” …

More so, Monoteism becomes a prerequisite for concepts such as morality and truth, Morality and individual responsibility can’t be combined with the notion that the ruler is your total owner; by rejecting the totalitarianism of the early civilizations (hochkulturen in german) Judaism indeed created the opportunity for a great Humanization of the Axial Age.

[1] Ian Morris ‘Why the west rules - for now’ page 278

Also in a way it is not true that the kingdom of Israel stood apart from other nations; so it does not seem that ‘religious exclusivity’ was much of a problem, international relations is an area that inspires pragmatism.

the future king David was serving as a mercenary for the Philistines

The many wives of King Solomon had something to do with foreign policy.

King Ahab joined a wider coalition of kings in the battle of Qarqar

King Jehu would bow before Shlamaneser III

King Pekah would ally with the Rezin, king of Aram against King Ahaz, who had Tiglat Pileser III on his side.

King Hoshea was installed as a client of Tiglat Pileser III

Also, I never understood why Jonah the prophet would have to prophesize to the inhabitants of Ninveh, of all places.

But what do I know …

Also of interest is this List of artifacts significant to the Bible