When most believers are asked to tell about their understanding of history as it relates to their Christian faith, they may start with Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, then proceed to Noah’s Flood, followed by God’s call of Abraham, the rescue of Israel from Egyptian bondage, the giving of the Law to Moses, the taking of the Promised Land, the rise of David as King of Israel and Judah, and the coming of the Messiah and introduction of Christianity until the present day.

This might lead some listeners to assume that while all this was going on, the rest of humanity stood isolated and untouched by anything God did or said. But a study of history shows otherwise. As the time for the Messiah to come drew near, there was a sudden burst of spiritual understanding in the civilized world that began to influence humanity in unusual ways.

Between 800 and 200 BC, a concentration of new and different religious beliefs emerged in China, Greece, India, Mesopotamia, and Palestine. This lead to the founding or major development of Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Jainism and Taoism. In 1949 the German philosopher Karl Theodor Jaspers coined the phrase “Achsenzeit” (“Axial Age” or “Axis age” in English) to describe this relatively short interval of rapid religious and spiritual evolution.

It seemed as though after a long period of time since Noah’s flood the world was waking up to the need for a set of rules that governed mankind’s conduct and ethics. For instance, Buddha taught about the fact that everyone fears punishment and everyone fears death. Therefore do not kill or cause to kill. According to the second of the Four Noble Truths taught by Buddha, egoism (desire, craving or attachment) is rooted in ignorance and is considered as the cause of all suffering. Consequently, kindness, compassion and equanimity are regarded as the untainted aspect of human nature.

This brought about the idea that we should treat others as we would like them to treat us, known as the Theory of Reciprocity, or The Golden Rule, an ethic that emerged almost universally during the Axial Age. We see this in the writings of all the major religions of that period:

Egypt: 1970-1640 B.C. in a manuscript titled The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant we find Do for one what you might cause him to do for you.”

Judiasm: 1280 B.C. as Moses wrote down what he believed God was inspiriting him to write, he penned, Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus 19:18

Persia: 700 B.C. Zoroastrianism teaches “That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.”

China: 500 B.C. In Daoism (or Taoism) the Sage says, “Make the self of the people your self.”

China: 500 B.C. Confucius taught, “Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.” And in another writing “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”

India: 500 B.C. Buddha taught, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”

India: 500 B.C. In Jainism it was taught, “Therefore, neither does he cause violence to others nor does he make others do so.”

India: 150 B.C. In the great epic Mahabharata we read, “This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.”

Christianity: 30 A.D. In His sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the people that the “core essence of all that is taught in the law and by the prophets” is summed up in this: Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” – Matthew 7:12. It is a matter of God’s wisdom being manifest in our lives. We all know that “information” is all around us, but in order for that information to become “knowledge” we must access the information. Once we have turned that information into personal knowledge, then we must apply it in order for it to become “wisdom.”

But there are other things we must consider:

While most Bible readers know that Abraham was the father of the Children of Israel, they may have overlooked the fact that Abram was not a Jew? He has a Chaldean name since that’s where he was born and lived in the city of Ur before God told him to leave? This area became better known as Babylon and is the southern part of the area known as Iraq today. Abram means “father.”

Bible readers also know that Moses was born to Hebrew parents, but they may not know that Moses’ name is Egyptian (Mose)? It means, “saved out of water.” Not only that, but there were two Egyptian Pharaohs who had Mose in their names: Thutmose and Ramose.

Bible enthusiast have heard of the Hebrew language, but may not know that the word Hebrew comes from the word Hiberu? Sumerians, Hittites, Egyptians and others gave this name to people variously described as nomadic, semi-nomadic, rebels, outlaws, raiders, mercenaries, servants, migrant laborers, and slaves. It was only after Jacob wrestled with the angel that the name was changed to Israel, and after they entered the Promised Land they were no longer referred to as Hiberu.

Most believers are aware that Jewish people worship on Saturday because it’s the Sabbath, and Christians worship on Sunday, because it’s the day Jesus rose from the dead. But they may not know that the Babylonians already celebrated every seventh day as a “holy-day” before it became part of the Ten Commandments?”

Many believers know that Jews circumcise their male children and do not eat pork. However they may not know that long before the building of the pyramids, circumcision was practiced in Egypt? Not only that, but the Egyptians didn’t eat pork either.

Most believers are aware that Jews believe in one God, and Christians believe in one God manifested in three persons. But they may not know that long before Judaism became a religion, that Akhenaten, one of many ancient Egyptian pharaohs pledged his loyalty to one deity when the rest of the world worshipped many gods? His rule is reflected in the first commandment given to Moses: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Therefore it is clear that this theme started centuries earlier as God influenced the minds of scholars and those seeking the truth to understand this principle. But it all coalesced into the teachings of one Master who called Himself the only Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Since then there is no other religion or revelation that has come or will ever come to supplant Him as God’s choice to teach the world of love, kindness, consideration and compassion.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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