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HISTORY of Christian Theology

In order to understand the origins and revolutionary nature of Christian theology, it is important to view it in proper relief against the religions in the region at the time of Jesus’s birth. Besides Judaism, which we will discuss in a subsequent lecture, various forms of polytheism dominated the religious landscape at the time Christianity came on the scene.

Sri KrishnanEach province was subject to its own set deities with different powers who controlled the various forces of nature with one god typically becoming pre-eminent. But they all were still subject to the law of fate and eternal destiny. The nature of the gods in each society often differed from the nature of the gods of other areas. Some were plants, like the large sacred oaks or other trees in northern Europe. Some nations worshipped sacred inanimate objects like the sun, moon and stars. Some of the gods were animals or mythological part human and part animal creatures.

ganeshaoffering to the sun god egypt

Other nations worshiped their own distinct pantheon of immortal humanoids that differed in sex, powers and temperament, with many of these gods being their nation’s ancient heroes.

offering to sun hinuismJust as the gods in each province differed, likewise the particulars of their religious practice also varied. However, in general their worship consisted of rites, ceremonies and offerings to pay homage to their gods in hopes of gaining their favor. Their worship was not geared to promote morality, as their gods were usually subject to the same vices and whims of emotion that their human subjects were.

Each region had its own set of gods, which created a sense of religious tolerance. My gods control my area, while your gods control your province. There was no missionary effort from one region to convert people from a neighboring community or to force conversion. The Romans tolerated the gods of each nation they conquered in exchange for their occasional public homage to Rome’s gods, including the emperor. The Greeks and the Romans largely asserted that the different gods in each region were the same gods found in other areas but simply had different names.

Gods on Mount Olympus, Jupiter

To a great extent, the educated population of the various societies at that time had lost faith in the in the national religions of prior generations. This was particularly true in the established regions of the Greco-Roman world. Philosophy and a form of impersonal deism filled this void with fate playing a major role. Regardless, superstition still continued to reign supreme among all classes of the populous. The Romans had a plethora of gods dealing with every aspect of life. They even had a minor god who controlled the proper function of door frames.

In order to gain a deeper understanding of the interplay between early Christianity and the other religions of its day, we will briefly examine the basic tenets of the religions that competed with Christianity and/or influenced its original development including Hinduism, Egyptian deities, Greco-Roman paganism, middle-eastern paganism, and Zoroastrianism.

Hinduism

Krishna tells Gita to ArjunaThe oldest recorded major world religion is Hinduism. Even though Hinduism did not play a direct role in the development of Christianity, the dominance of its precepts in the East was so great that they spilled over beyond the boundaries of its adherents to influence religious and philosophical thought of people who interacted with early Christians.

Hinduism recognizes 330 million gods and includes hundreds of religious traditions that vary greatly from one another. However, they are linked through a general worldview based on, 1) the law of karma; 2) the cycle of existence consisting of creation, dissolution and re-creation; and 3) potential release from the illusion of existence through reintegration with the ultimate reality or spiritual essence called “Brahman.”

Hinduism recognizes 330 million gods and includes hundreds of religious traditions that vary greatly from one another. However, they are linked through a general worldview based on, 1) the law of karma; 2) the cycle of existence consisting of creation, dissolution and re-creation; and 3) potential release from the illusion of existence through reintegration with the ultimate reality or spiritual essence called “Brahman.”

Karma is basically the moral application of what westerners call the law of cause and effect and is expressed more accurately in the East as the law of deed and result. At its essence, Karma is a law of justice that connects one’s actions with one’s future condition in the reoccurring process of life, death and rebirth. Karma answers the question of why bad things appear to happen by asserting that the universe is simply executing eternal justice that we do not see.

Eastern religions are centered on the cycle of existence (“samsara”) that resets every four billion years. Everyone has a soul essence (“atman”) that is part of the eternal essence, Brahman, which is the only thing that is actually real. Humans are trapped in the illusion (“maya”) of a physical realm through an ongoing cycle of existence where we are subject to the law of karma.

VishnuThe ultimate goal of each individual is to escape the illusion of physical existence through reunification with the brahman (the essence of reality) by obtaining full consciousness known as “moksha.” This is realized through a multi-life process of aligning the essence of one’s soul with its eternal essence. To some extent, all of Hinduism’s numerous gods act as icons pointing the way to this ultimate reality.

The concept of creation emerging from a primal substance or cosmic egg creating a semblance of order out of chaos is found in many Hindu traditions, along with myths of creation resulting from the sexual union of a primal male and female. These traditions were widely embraced and modified by tribal societies and civilizations in the middle east leading to sexual rituals that were condemned by the Jewish and Christian religions.

Buddhism

BuddhaBuddhism is a major religion that spun off from Hinduism and retains some of its core tenets such as the law of karma and the cycle of existence. However, it rejects the concept of Brahman and a soul essence in humans. Individuality does not exist beyond death but the essence migrates similar to one flame kindling another. Instead of seeking complete integration with the ultimate reality, Buddhists’ objective is to escape this cycle of transmigration through a release of all desire so the flame of attachment can be extinguished to realize the peace and stillness of non-existence (“nirvana”).

Buddhists’ objective is to escape this cycle of transmigration through a release of all desire so the flame of attachment can be extinguished to realize the peace and stillness of non-existence (“nirvana”).

Buddhist scriptures

Buddhist theology is based on the premise that all existence is suffering which comes from desire, which leads to attachment to transient things such as people, status and things. Consequently, life is enmeshed with loss and disappointment. Seeking fulfillment through attachment to temporal existence is the big lie about reality. Following Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path to enlightenment enables disciples to let go of desire and attachment to realize joy and eventual fulfillment in a transcendent state of nothingness, nirvana. This path consists of following eight steps consisting of right view, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right contemplation.

Some of these Hindu and Buddhist concepts are similar to the teaching of Christian mystics that we will be explored in subsequent chapters.

Ancient Egyptian Religion

At the time of Jesus’s birth, the Egyptian religion had existed for nearly 3000 years and was integrally connected with the daily life of the Egyptian populous. They believed that order and justice (“Ma’at”) in the cosmos emerged out of chaos, which needed to be kept at bay through prayers and offerings to a complex pantheon of gods who controlled the forces of nature.

Ceremony to Raise the Sun EgyptDuring the early centuries of the religion, the sun god was the pre-eminent deity who interacted with several other lesser gods in a solar cycle involving light and darkness. Over time the myth of Osiris and Isis grew to match the prominence of the sun god. Osiris was a divine ruler who was killed by Set, the god of chaos, but was resurrected by his sister, Isis, who became his wife/consort to bear him a son, Horus, who avenged his father’s death to become pharaoh here on earth and Osiris became the ruler of the dead.

All succeeding pharaohs were considered divine with a calling to act as the intermediary between humans and the gods. As such, pharaoh played an integral role in sustaining the gods through religious rituals so that they would maintain order in the cosmos for as long as possible before it would eventually revert to chaos. The divine worship of pharaoh influenced how the Greco-Roman world viewed their supreme rulers, which later contributed to the persecution of the early Christians.

The divine worship of pharaoh influenced how the Greco-Roman world viewed their supreme rulers, which later contributed to the persecution of the early Christians.

Legend tells us that Alexander the Great’s mother told him that the night before her wedding to Phillip, Zeus impregnated her through a bolt of lightning. Regardless of whether his mother actually told him this story or it was something Alexander recreated later, he publicly proclaimed himself to be the son of Zeus after conquering Egypt and visiting the Oracle of Zeus-Ammon at Siwa at an oasis between Egypt and Libya. This priest prudently confirmed that Alexander was the literal son of Zeus.

This ambitious young man certainly recognized the utility of being viewed as divine as a means to control his subjects. This same advantage did not escape Julius Caesar four centuries later when he saw how the Egyptians worshiped Cleopatra as the goddess Isis. Every Roman emperor after Julius Caesar were likewise declared to be divine, contributing to the concept of the divine right of kings throughout Europe. Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire partially because they refused to acknowledge the divinity of the emperors until the Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as the preferred state religion in the 4th Century A.D.

Osiris, God of the Dead

Middle Eastern Paganism

The religions of the eastern Mediterranean area were generally orgiastic polytheistic religions consisting of gods of nature, the cosmos or heroic ancestors. Often the pantheon of gods included the god Baal and/or goddess Ashtoreth. Worship of these gods often involved sexual activity associated with sacrifices, including human sacrifice, which the Romans outlawed. Like the Romans, the people in the region paid homage to their gods in hopes of eliciting their favor. There generally was no connection between a moral code of conduct and the religion. Instead, it focused on honoring or appeasing their gods in hope of good fortune.

Zoroastrianism

Because of Zoroastrianism’s impact on philosophical and religious thought, we would be amiss to not include it in our analysis of beliefs that influenced the development of Christian theology.

Zoroastrianism was the dominate religion/philosophy of ancient Persia and is not typically associated with Eastern philosophy. Indeed, several scholars see its influence as the genesis of many Western religious and philosophical ideas. In some respects, it acts as a bridge between Eastern and Western thought. Manichaeism combined elements from Zoroastrianism with Christianity to form a gnostic religion that influenced religious and philosophical debate during the early Christian era. The cult of a Zoroastrian deity of light and covenant, Mithra, was adopted by Roman legions who helped spread it throughout the Roman Empire paving the way for similar Christian beliefs to follow. Because of its impact on philosophical and religious thought, we would be amiss to not include it in our analysis of beliefs that influenced the development of Christian theology.

Zoroastrian Towers of SilenceZoroastrianism’s shares its roots with early forms of Hinduism back to the prehistoric Indo-European peoples living in modern-day Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-western India. Some scholars claim that Zoroastrianism had a pantheistic origin with Hinduism because Zoroastrianism believes in a self-creating universe emanating from the consciousness of its divine source which permeates all of creation. However, Zoroastrianism has no concept of re-absorption back into this divine essence or reincarnation, as is taught in Hinduism. Instead, Zoroastrianism maintains a strong belief in individualism, free will and personal accountability. Indeed, one of Zoroastrianism’s defining characteristics is its dualistic cosmology of good and evil that has always existed in eternity.

These independent competing forces reflect Zoroastrian’s dualistic view of eternity as a cosmic struggle between order, light, truth, and righteousness on the one hand and chaos, darkness, deceit and evil on the other hand.

Zorastrians believe in an unseen, eternal, uncreated, transcendent, all-good, supreme creator deity called Ahura Mazda, which means Wise Lord or more literally, Lord Wisdom. However, an opposing, dark, destructive force of ignorance, personified as Angra Mainyu, also always co-existed with of their Wise Lord. These independent competing forces reflect Zoroastrian’s dualistic view of eternity as a cosmic struggle between order, light, truth, and righteousness on the one hand and chaos, darkness, deceit and evil on the other hand. Each individual human plays an active role in this conflict and is not only responsible for the salvation of his own soul but also shares in the responsibility for the ultimate fate of all creation.

All good, creation and life emanate from this Wise Lord, who works in both the visible physical realm and the invisible mental and spiritual realm through a spiritual life force called Asha that originates from him. Asha is similar to Heraclitus’ concept of the Logos. Asha is both an all-encompassing concept of good and also a nuanced term for truth, reality and order. Asha is the creative and sustaining force of the universe that permeate and governs all of existence. It is the cosmic order and proper working of the universe that incorporates the motion of celestial bodies, the sprouting and development of plants and the positive daily choices of individuals. It is truth because it corresponds to the reality of the created material universe. It is imbued with morality by reflecting actions that conform with this ordered existence. Asha is a cosmic principle that incorporates all of these aspects.

This positive life force is opposed by Druj, which is deceit, falsehood and nothingness propagated by Angra Mainyu, the evil one. Druj is the antithesis of Asha so it decays and destroys instead of creates, it fosters confusion and chaos instead of truth and order. Druj incorporates any action or thought that violates the Creator’s orderly master plan for existence, which is an offence to the Wise Lord.

The central practical application of Zoroastrianism is the emphasis on free will and each individual’s moral duty to fulfill the purpose of his creation by making wise choices to bring happiness into the world . . .

The central practical application of Zoroastrianism is the emphasis on free will and each individual’s moral duty to fulfill the purpose of his creation by making wise choices to bring happiness into the world, which strengthens the force of Asha, instead of shirking that duty, which facilitates the destructive influence of Druj in the cosmic battle of good and evil. Free will is a paramount doctrine of Zoroastrianism. Even their god and angels have the freedom to make bad choices. Consequently, the Wise Lord is omniscient but not omnipotent. Consequently, each person is responsible for his or her choices in life, and no divine being can intervene with the natural outcome determined by those choices.

The sum total of our choices determines one’s Daena, or one’s attributes and spiritual conscience, which governs our destiny at death. One can improve his Daena through choices that align one’s life with Asha. This is accomplished by: 1) pursuing the threefold path of good thoughts, good words and good actions; 2) spreading happiness through charity; 3) doing good with no thought of receiving a reward; 4) being honest, defending truth and living in reality; 5) participating in the creative process as opposed to destructive influences; 6) worshiping through ritual prayers and purification ceremonies; and, 7) respecting the spiritual equality of men and women. Unlike many other religions, monasticism and extreme asceticism do not play a role in Zoroastian worship.

ceremonial bowl Zoroastrian themesWater and fire play key roles in the religion’s rituals. Water acts as the source of wisdom and fire as the medium through which this wisdom or spiritual insight is revealed. Prayers are conducted in the presence of some form of light. Zoroastrian temples are generally referred to as fire temples and also include water in their worship. Both are viewed as life-sustaining agents, with water being the second primordial element created and fire the last.

Zoroastrian PriestAccording to Zoroastrian’s theology, the eternal Wise Lord created the spiritual and physical realms by first manifesting himself through seven Amesha Spentas, which are similar to archangels in Christianity, who assisted the Wise Lord in creating a league of countless minor divinities, similar to angels, called Yazatas, meaning “worthy of worship.” Each of the of these angels and archangels emanate from the Wise Lord and personify and protect a particular beneficial aspect of creation and the ideal moral persona. The Wise Lord, with the assistance of these divine entities, then created the spiritual realm which is when each human’s personal higher spirit (“fravashi”) was created. This form of our individual intelligence participates in maintaining creation and in the cosmic conflict between order and chaos.

Three thousand years later, the Wise Lord created the physical universe in order to capture evil. He created the primordial man and bovine, but Angra Mainyu, the evil co-eternal being, invaded the world through the sky and killed the human and bull, but the bull’s seed created all plants and animals and the first man’s seed led to the creation of the first human couple and parents of humanity. The Evil being created demons, weeds, snakes and creatures to oppose the good creation of the Wise Lord, so evil, death and destruction in the world is the result of this attack on creation by the Evil One and not due to any inherent defect in individuals or other created things.

Our individual soul (“urvan”) splits off from our fravashi, or higher premortal spirit, when we are born into this material existence, but our fravashi continues to exist and inspires us to make good and wise decisions and to warn us of danger. Four days after we die, our soul reunites with our higher essence to continue our participation in the eternal battle of good and evil while we await the final judgment and resurrection. Zoroastrians believe in a dualistic view of existence, spiritual and material, so also humans will pass through two judgments reflecting our dual natures.

Our first judgment occurs upon death when good people are greeted by a beautiful maiden who leads them across the bridge of judgement (the “Chinvat Bridge”) to the pleasant House of Song. Evil persons are met by an ugly old hag who escorts them down an ever-narrowing bridge until they fall off into the House of Lies where they suffer according to their crimes. The rest, with a mixture of good and bad, go to a purgatory realm called “Hamistagan” where they are reformed and purified while they await the final judgment when evil will be conquered and the universe and humans will be restored to exist in perfect unity with the Wise Lord.

A savior (“Saoshyant”) of the world will be born to a virgin and later will offer a bull with the Wise Lord as an infinite sacrifice for eternity, ushering in a renovation of the material universe . . .

Before that day, the Evil Being’s most demonic creature, Azi Dahaka, ravages the earth in a final assault where the moon is darkened, mankind rejects religion, and family unity deteriorates. A savior (“Saoshyant”) of the world will be born to a virgin and later will offer a bull with the Wise Lord as an infinite sacrifice for eternity, ushering in a renovation of the material universe referred to as “Frashkereti” and the second and final judgment. The human souls who were banished to suffer in the House of Lies and the purgatory realm will elect to reunite with the Wise Lord, and all human beings will be resurrected to become immortal beings. The mountains (which were created by the destructive power of the Evil One) will be leveled and the earth will be restored to its pure initial state at the time of the original creation and with all of the beautiful additions that followed. The House of Song will descend while the earth will rise to meet it on the moon. The Wise Lord will ultimately prevail and contain the Evil Being, but not destroy him because he is co-eternal with the Wise Lord. Time will cease and there will be one united people with one language and one nation living as immortals in peace and harmony forever.

From a Zoroastrian perspective, the overarching purpose of existence is to unite with the divine to overcome darkness, chaos and evil to participate in the perpetual exaltation of the Wise Lord’s glory.

From a Zoroastrian perspective, the overarching purpose of existence is to unite with the divine to overcome darkness, chaos and evil to participate in the perpetual exaltation of the Wise Lord’s glory. The Wise Lord is the beginning and end of all things, the creator of the spiritual and material worlds and the source of all good. The universe was initially created in perfect good order but was corrupted by the Evil One. However, good will ultimately prevail and the earth will be renewed to is initial prefect state. Individuals participate in this cosmic struggle between good and evil and will suffer the consequences of their individual choices which demonstrate the degree that they support the Wise Lord and adhered to Asha or were deceived by the Evil One. However, everyone will eventually come to their senses and choose to return to their Lord to exist as immortal beings and participate in his eternal glory.

Roman Paganism

Religion played an important role in the life of ancient Romans. Indeed, the Roman people believed that their societal and military success was due to their dedicated devotion to the gods. They believed that divine forces and numerous deities controlled the forces of nature, objects, functions and the outcome of human activities. Even one of their main gods was the two-faces Janus who was the god of doorways and their corresponding new beginnings, such as the new year. To this day, the world perpetuates the honor the Romans bestowed on Janus in naming the first month of year after him.

They honored the gods so that the gods would bless them . . .

Honoring the gods was integral to their religion. The essence of their religion was patronage, not conformity to some moral code or belief in a particular creed. They honored the gods so that the gods would bless them with their desired outcome. Honor to a god was expressed primarily through rituals that needed to be performed in an exact manner in order to unlock the god’s power. These rituals typically involved the offer a sacrifice in conjunction with an oath to the god. They believed that the sacrificial offering revitalized the god’s power, thus engendering favor with the god. These public rituals were performed at temples on regular festivals scheduled throughout the year.

The priest who performed these rituals were generally the political leaders. Because the objective of religious worship was to derive favor with the gods, it was natural for the political leader to function in this petition to gods on behalf of his subjects. This function flowed down to the local community leader in making offerings to the neighborhood patron god. The father in each home, the paterfamilias, functioned as the family priest in making daily offerings to the family’s god on the altar in each home. Accordingly, the emperor was the chief high priest, the Pontifex Maximus, of the Roman pagan religion, which title was later transferred to the Bishop of Rome when Christianity became the state religion.

Romans believed that every individual, family, place and thing was endowed with its own particular divine nature, essence or force referred to as their genius (related to their origin) that would follow and look after them throughout their life . . .

One exception was the specialized augury priests who divined the future and sacred boundaries by analyzing the flight of birds and their entrails. Romans believed that every individual, family, place and thing was endowed with its own particular divine nature, essence or force referred to as their genius (related to their origin) that would follow and look after them throughout their life or existence. Certain locations and objects were endowed with an extra portion of this divine essence. Early Roman augury priests identified various places with an abundance of this divine force which is where the Romans built their temples. Even the whole city of Rome was endowed with special powers. These priests were consulted before any major activity or military venture. Omens were taken very seriously. If the omens were not favorable, the political official usually would not proceed until they changed, typically through sacrifices to the gods. Consequently, the military maintained strong ties to their pagan religion, particularly the Zoroastrian god of light, Mithra, and resisted the spread of Christianity throughout the empire. Even the most oppressive persecution of the Christians grew out of a negative omen involving the emperor in the late third century.

Another exception was the Vestal Virgins who tended to Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, and maintained the Roman fire of the hearth burning in her temple. They were selected at age six, began their ten years of training at age ten, directly performed their service for the next ten years, and then taught new trainees for their last ten years of service until they were forty years old. Each virgin strictly obeyed their vow of chastity at the pain of death. For over one thousand years of recorded history, only twenty broke their vow.

Vestal Virgins

The Romans claimed that the gods were involved in the founding of Rome. According to their mythology, Aeneas, a Trojan refugee and son of the goddess Venus, brought sacred object from Troy to Rome that were kept by the Vestal in their temple. Later, Amulius dethroned his brother to become Rome’s king and ordered that his brother’s only daughter, Rhea Silvia, become a Vestal virgin so that the rightful king could have no heirs. However, she was impregnated by the god of war, Mars, through a bolt of lightning and gave birth to twins, Romulus and Remus. King Amulius ordered the twins to be thrown into the Tiber as punishment for Rhea Silvia’s apparent unchastity. However, the twins were rescued and raised by a wolf. They later returned to Rome and dethroned their uncle to reclaim their right to the throne. However, they later quarreled while building Rome’s wall and Romulus became the sole king by killing his brother. Romulus later assumes his role as a god in the heavens.

Rome’s supreme god was the sky god Jupiter who shared his throne with Mars and Quirinus, who were later replaced by the goddesses Juno and Minera. The concept of a triad of three gods and goddess sharing various positions of authority was a common aspect of Roman mythology, which contributed to or made the adoption of the Christian trinity more acceptable.

Romans assimilated the gods of the other cultures

Romans assimilated the gods of the other cultures that they were exposed to, a practice referred to syncretism. They typically held that the gods of other nations were the same gods of Rome but simply were called by different names by these people. In other cases, they accepted the local gods of other people as legitimate gods for that area in accordance with the Roman understanding that different areas had a distinct genius which would correspond to that god. Interestingly, sometimes the Romans invoked a ritual inviting these foreign gods to take up residency in Rome.

Neptune and AmymoneEarly on, the Romans were exposed to Greek mythology due to the Greeks presence on the lower Italian peninsula. They adopted much of this mythology and its pantheon of gods. The Greek god Zeus became Jupiter, Aphrodite became Venus, Poseidon became Neptune, Hades became Pluto, Artemis became the huntress Diana, and the god of war, Ares, became Mars.

Some Romans also adopted Greek and Eastern mystery cults that typically promised secret knowledge, salvation in the afterlife, magical powers and mortal brotherhood through secret rites and oaths. Sometimes these cults were looked on with disfavor as superstition that could lead to fanaticism. But generally, they were viewed as an acceptable individual choice.

The imperial cult was born where the citizens revered Augustus’s genius as a god . . .

The Roman concept of each person being associated with a divine genius carried over to their view of individuals. Octavian’s victory over his rivals in Rome’s civil war after the death of Julius Caesar appeared to be divinely arranged. Octavian took on the name of the god Augustus to enhance that perception and pushed a religious revival throughout the empire. The imperial cult was born where the citizens revered Augustus’s genius as a god, which was so closely associated with the emperor that over time it became practically indistinguishable with subsequent emperors. An interesting tidbit, the Roman senate determined if an Emperor was truly a god after his death. Regardless, the officially enforced cult of the emperor created serious problems for the monotheistic Christians whose refusal to pay homage to the emperor as divine was viewed as subversion and treason.

Marcus AureliusStoicism acted as the glue that fused religion and philosophy during the late republic and imperial periods. Rome’s formalistic religion failed to satisfy widespread yearning for meaning in the changing, materialist world, so people turned to philosophy that in many respects was more spiritual. Romans in general and Stoics in particular were attracted to Plato’s concept of a unified cosmos where the human soul was part of and shared the divinity of the universal essence of eternity. This joined nicely with the Roman ancient concept of the individual and collective genius. This infused greater moral application to their religion as Stoics stressed that all men are brothers and should be treated accordingly, which appealed to the cultural, but not necessarily religious, value of honor. Yet, Stoicism had a strong deterministic perspective which fit nicely into the Roman belief in fate and fortune, as reflected in their religion’s emphasis on augury and patronage. Stoicism and other philosophical ideas regarding the afterlife provided greater comfort and hope than their traditional religion’s vague beliefs and fear of ghosts.

All of these influences led to an influx of acceptable speculation that mixed religion, philosophy and mysticism at the time Christianity came onto the scene.

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What is true? (conclusion)

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The Greco-Roman World

IMAGES:

Hindu statues: in the center god Rama with his wife Sita. Sri Krishnan Temple. Rochor, Central Region, Singapore. Marcin Konsek. [CC BY-SA 4.0] (not altered)

Ganesha. Dmitry Makeev, 2014. [CC BY-SA 4.0] (not altered)

Relief panel showing two baboons offering the wedjat eye to the sun god Khepri, who holds the Underworld sign. Late Period–Ptolemaic Period. Egyptian Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art. [CC0 1.0] (not altered)

The Chhath Puja is dedicated to the Sun and his sister in order to thank them for bestowing the bounties of life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. 2018. Siddharthgupta1112 [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Mount Olympus. Abraham Janssens (1576-1632). Oil on canvas. Alte Pinakothek. [PD-US]
“Jupiter has called together all the Olympian gods, in order to call for peace. The love goddess Venus, however, disagrees and argues for the protection of the Trojans and her grandson Aeneas. Holding the boy Amor by the hand she talks to the thoughtful, pensive Jupiter and his wife Juno, who is accused as an adversary of the Trojans. On the far left Minerva in armor bends down to Juno. Behind Jupiter stands Diana with the moon tiara. Half hidden by the arm of Venus the scene is also witnessed by Apollo (with lyre) and the god of war Mars. At the same time Hercules is seen approaching wearing a lion skin and carrying a club.”

Lord Sri Krishna preaching Gita to Arjuna at the battle of Kurukshetra. Mahavir Prasad Mishra. unknown date. [CC0 1.0] (not altered).

Konark Temple, Abode of the Sun God. Nandana Pal Chowdhury. 2012. [CC BY-SA 4.0].

Vishnu Surrounded by his Avatars. Indra Sharma (1910). [PD-India]

Lord Buddha. Priyanka250696 (2015). [CC BY-SA 4.0].

Buddhist scriptures. Shwedagon Pagoda. Yangon, Myanmar. 2008, Vyacheslav Argenberg. [CC BY 4.0] (not altered).

“Nun, god of the waters of chaos, lifts the barque of the sun god Ra into the sky at the beginning of time.” c. 1050 BC, Scanned from The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Edgypt by Richard H. Wilkinson, p.117, artwork from the Book of the Dead of Anhai [PD-US]

The family of Osiris. Osiris on a lapis lazuli pillar in the middle, flanked by Horus on the left and Isis on the right 874-850 BC (22nd dynasty), Louvre, Paris. [CC BY-SA 1.0]

Photo of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Photo published by The Courier-Gazette, McKinney Texas. June 21, 1963. 20th Century Fox. [PD-US]

Papyrus of Hunefer. Book of the Dead. 1275 BC, Ancient Egypt, British Museum. [PD-US].
“The human spirit is ready for its journey through the underworld. There, the person’s heart will be judged by the person’s good deeds on earth. If the heart is found to be pure he will be sent to live for all eternity in the beautiful ‘Field of Reeds’, or possibly sent to Ammit.”

Towers of silence – Zoroastrians Dakhmeh (graveyard). , Yazd, Iran. Photo taken 2011, Ggia. [CC BY-SA 4.0].

Relief of Shahriar and Shir battle. Zoroastrian Fire Temple, Yazd, Iran. Photo taken 2016. Bernard Gagnon. [CC BY-SA 4.0].

Ceremonial bowl with Zoroastrian themes. Silver. Made in Burma, c 1875-1900. Photo taken 2018, Levi Clancy. [CC0 1.0].
“The bowl depicts scenes of victories of Zoroastrian rulers from ancient Persia, where the religion originated. On one side is shown the triumph of Persian king Darius (550 – 486 BC) over a rival, and nearby is the winged disc which is associated with Zoroastrianism’s supreme deity. On the other side is a Persian king humbling a defeated Roman ruler. Both scenes are based on ancient Persian reliefs of these events, so the bowl’s maker must have been familiar with them from drawings, photographs, or other artworks. The bowl would have been used in Zoroastrian ceremonies honoring deceased relatives. This bowl is thought to have been commissioned by a member of a well-to-do member of a Parsi family in Burma.”

A Zoroastrian priest reads from a book while performing a sacrifice. Bernard Picart (1673–1733). Banier, M. l’abbé (Antoine), 1673-1741 [PD-US].

Zoroastrian themes. Yazd, Iran. Posted to Flickr 2008, Sasha India. [CC BY 2.0].

The sacrifice of Iphigenia. Oil on Canvas, 1749. Gabriel-Francois Doyen (1726–1806), Collection Motais de Narbonne, Foundation Bemberg. [PD-US].

The sacrifice of Vestal. Oil on Canvas, 1710s. Alessandro Marchesini (1663–1738), Hermitage Museum. Saint Petersburg, Russia. [PD-US].

Neptune and Amymone Oil on wood and paper, 1757. Charles-André van Loo (1705–1765), Louvre Museum. Paris, France. [PD-US].

Marcus Aurelius Photo taken 2017, Bradley Weber, Louvre Museum. Paris, France. [CC BY 2.0].

 

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