The Religion Of Israel In The Light Of The Religions Of The Ancient East -- By: Max Löhr

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 078:311 (Jul 1921)
Article: The Religion Of Israel In The Light Of The Religions Of The Ancient East
Author: Max Löhr

The Religion Of Israel In The Light Of The Religions Of The Ancient East

Max Löhr

The more completely we become acquainted with the spiritual world of ancient Babylon and Egypt, the more clearly we perceive that Israel’s intellectual, and especially her religious life was not without contact with that spiritual world. The Old Testament itself appears to indicate as much when it regards Babel as the original home of all nations, and “the River,” according to its usage, is not, as one might assume, the Jordan, but the Euphrates. Then, Abraham comes from Mesopotamia, and Moses sustains intimate relations to the court of the Pharaohs. This testimony of the Old Testament is confirmed to a certain degree by the profane history of Israel and by the excavations which have been made in Palestine during the last generation. If what the spade of the excavator has brought to light has to do principally with the civilization of the outer life, and indeed more with that of Egypt than of Mesopotamia, yet we cannot conceive of the political connections of Israel with the East and South without her acceptance of elements of worship from Assyria and Babylon and Egypt — and in fact, such elements may be pointed out. With entire reason has it therefore been said that the problem of placing the religious development of Israel in due relation with the spiritual conceptions and customs of Western Asia and Egypt, and of forming our view of that development in this light, is the chief problem of Old Testament science.

In taking up this problem we are met at once by the difficulty that we have had to the present time only a very defective knowledge of those spiritual ideals and customs, so that there are decided differences among specialists in

respect to many particulars; and then by the further and greater difficulty that we have very little well-grounded knowledge as to the means by which those ideals reached Israel, whether directly or through the Canaanites. It is commonly assumed that Canaan before the Israelites arrived, was an uncontested domain of Babylonian civilization — this word taken in its widest signification — and that this Babylonian civilization was communicated by the Canaanites to the uncivilized Israelitish people at their entrance into Canaan. But the first assumption must be decidedly limited, to say the least. And it is a very difficult problem, even for the expert, to decide how far the Canaanites offered the Israelites at that time their own, that is to say the Babylonian or Egyptian, elements of civilization.

Again, if one may regard Mesopotamia and Egypt as the most important sources of the spiritual culture of western Asia at the time, they were by no means the only ones...

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