Home Church Community

Statement of Beliefs

Contact Us

Search Our Site

Bible Study Resource


Printer Friendly Version

Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?


Historicity of the Book of Daniel (Part 2)
and Judeo-Christian Syncretism


Judaism and Christianity Introduction and History
History of Judaism Continued
Scholarly Objections and Historicity of Daniel (P. 1)
Historicity of Daniel (P. 2) & Judeo-Christian Syncretism
A Few Words on Gnosticism
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 1)
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 2) & Prophecy in Judaism
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 1)
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 2)
List of Messianic Qualifications & the Resurrection of Jesus (P. 1)
The Resurrection of Jesus (Part 2)
Study Conclusions and Overall Comparisons

Additional Material
The Sufferings of Eyewitnesses
Comparison of Mystical Religions to Judeo-Christianity
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 1)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 2)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 3)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 4)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 5)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 6)

Introduction
| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3




(Continued from previous section.)

So the only remaining dispute is over Daniel's account of the fall of Babylon is his assertion that a man known as Darius the Mede son of Ahasuerus took the city of Babylon at age 62 and that he reigned as king in Babylon during the reign of Cyrus the Great of Persia. Scholars object to Daniel's account of this man on the basis that we have no knowledge of such a person or such a situation. But from the case of Belshazzar we have learn an important lesson about using our modern lack of information as a basis for rejecting an ancient historical account.

Even if we were to accept the scholarly 2nd century date for the Book of Daniel, the fact that we live 2,200 years after puts us at a serious disadvantage in terms of the availability of historical information regarding these figures and events. While the Book of Daniel exhibited a clear awareness of Belshazzar's existence and his role in ancient times, modern scholars were not even aware of him until recently. And modern historians, in their ignorance, arrogantly claimed that since they had no knowledge of Belshazzar and/or his role as reported by Daniel, that therefore Daniel's account of him was in error.

Yet, we learn from historical discovery that Daniel's account of Belshazzar is quite accurate. In fact, we learned that the cause of the apparent discrepancy was our lack of information in comparison to Daniel's very accurate, intimate understanding. And so we must conclude that a lack of knowledge on the part of modern historians is not an adequate criterion for determining historicity of ancient figures and events and certainly not for judging the accuracy of ancient documents, which predate us by over two millennia.

So, we must ask is it fair to regard Daniel's mention of Darius the Mede the son of Ahasuerus as a historical inaccuracy based on the fact that we have no corroborating evidence for the existence of this man in modern times? No, it would be a serious error to conclude that because we don't know of something in modern times, that historically speaking, that thing did not occur. The only way to arrive at the conclusion that Daniel is incorrect is if we have information that contradicts his description of Darius the Mede. But do we have any such information?

Specifically, we know that Cyrus did not take the city of Babylon himself. So the only real contention that scholars have is that Daniel makes a Mede responsible for this act. On the contrary, scholars uphold that the Persians alone were responsible for the fall of Babylon and that no Mede was involved. Second, scholars object to the idea that Darius the Mede ruled Babylon during Cyrus' reign.

But these objections are not justified by what we know of the interrelationship between the Medes and Persians and of the co-regency that existed in the kingdoms of Babylon, Media, and Persia.

As to the first point, we know that the Medes and Persians were heavily integrated both by blood and in politics even before the time of Cyrus the Great. Modern historians may disagree, but the ancient historians and peoples alike held that Cyrus the Great was both a Persian and a Mede.

The following quotes all attest to the fact that Cyrus the Great was the son of Cambyses I who ruled Persia under the Median king Astyages, and Astyages' daughter. Additionally, the last quote below states that it is not clear if Cyrus was born in Persia or in Media.

"Cyrus II - According to the legend, Astyages, the king of the Medes and overlord of the Persians, gave his daughter in marriage to his vassal in Persis, a prince called Cambyses. From this marriage Cyrus was born." - Britannica.com

"Cyrus II- Most scholars agree, however, that Cyrus the Great was at least the second of the name to rule in Persia. One cuneiform text in Akkadian—the language of Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) in the pre-Christian era—asserts he was the son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, great king, king of Anshan, descendant of Teispes, great king, king of Anshan, of a family [which] always [exercised] kingship. In any case, it is clear that Cyrus came from a long line of ruling chiefs." - Britannica.com

"Cyrus II- d. 529 B.C., king of Persia, founder of the greatness of the Achaemenids and of the Persian Empire. According to Herodotus, he was the son of an Iranian noble, the elder Cambyses, and a Median princess, daughter of Astyages. Many historians, following other ancient writers (such as Ctesias), deny this genealogy, and the whole of Cyrus' life is encrusted with legend." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001

"Persian Empire - 556-530 THE REIGN OF CYRUS THE GREAT. On the death of his father, Cyrus II became the king of the Persians. In 553, Cyrus led a revolt against his grandfather Astyages." - The Encyclopedia of World History. 2001.

"Astyages - flourished 6th century BC Akkadian Ishtumegu the last king of the Median empire (reigned 585-550 BC). According to Herodotus, the Achaemenian Cyrus the Great was Astyages' grandson through his daughter Mandane, but this relationship is probably legendary. According to Babylonian inscriptions, Cyrus, king of Anshan (in southwestern Iran), began war against Astyages in 553 BC; in 550 the Median troops rebelled, and Astyages was taken prisoner. Then Cyrus occupied and plundered Ecbatana, the Median capital. A somewhat different account of these events is given by the Greek writer Ctesias." - Britannica.com

"Astyages - fl. 6th cent. B.C., king of the Medes (584-c.550 B.C.), son and successor of Cyaxares. His rule was harsh, and he was unpopular. His daughter is alleged to have married the elder Cambyses and was said to be the mother of Cyrus the Great, who rebelled against Astyages and overthrew him (c.550 B.C.), thus creating the Persian Empire." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Cyrus the Great - Cyrus was born between 590 and 580 BC, either in Media or, more probably, in Persis, the modern Fars province of Iran." - Britannica.com

So, we see that the Medes and the Persians were not only connected by blood, but that the Median king allowed a Persian to rule over Persia. When Cyrus the Great began his rule, he simply became the king of the Median kingdom of Astyages and he continued the interrelationship between the Medes and the Persians.

"Cyrus II- When Cyrus defeated Astyages he also inherited Median possessions in eastern Iran, but he had to engage in much warfare to consolidate his rule in this region." - Britannica.com

"Cyrus II - Cyrus overthrew Astyages, king of the Medes, sometime between 559 B.C. and 549 B.C. He entered Ecbatana and, taking over the Median kingdom, began to build a great empire after the Assyrian model." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001

"Persian Empire - In 553, Cyrus led a revolt against his grandfather Astyages. Although he suffered some early defeats, the Median army eventually went over to Cyrus, and he took Ecbatana in 549. Cyrus now ruled the entire Median Empire." - The Encyclopedia of World History. 2001.

"Cyrus the Great - After inheriting the empire of the Medes, Cyrus first had to consolidate his power over Iranian tribes on the Iranian plateau before expanding to the west. Croesus , king of Lydia in Asia Minor ( Anatolia ), had enlarged his domains at the expense of the Medes when he heard of the fall of Astyages, and Cyrus, as successor of the Median king, marched against Lydia." - Britannica.com

In the overthrow of Astyages, the Median army sided with Cyrus. Afterward Cyrus does not start a new Persian kingdom. Instead, he simply takes over the existing Median kingdom. And rather than eliminating the Medes from the political structure and replacing them with Persians, he leaves them in or appoints them to high positions, creating a sort of dual monarchy of Medes and Persians. All of this fits well with the ancient view of Cyrus as both a Persian and as a Mede.

"Cyrus II - He not only conciliated the Medes but united them with the Persians in a kind of dual monarchy of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus had to borrow the traditions of kingship from the Medes, who had ruled an empire when the Persians were merely their vassals. A Mede was probably made an adviser to the Achaemenian king, as a sort of chief minister; on later reliefs at Persepolis, a capital of the Achaemenian kings from the time of Darius, a Mede is frequently depicted together with the great king." - Britannica.com

From this we can see that the difference between a Median or Persian ruler is not as clear as we in our modern western perspective like to make it. There were Persian rulers under the Median kingdom and there were Median rulers under the Persian kingdom. The bloodlines crossed. They even ruled in different provinces and formed, what Britannica.com calls a sort of dual monarchy. And even more significantly, a Mede is said to have served as the chief minister and advisor under the Persian kings. And, like the Babylonians before him, Cyrus appointed co-rulers over various provinces. For example, Cyrus' son Cambyses II became the co-regent of Babylon while Cyrus was still alive.

"Cambyses II - flourished 6th century BC Achaemenid king of Persia (reigned 529-522 BC), who conquered Egypt in 525; he was the eldest son of King Cyrus II the Great by Cassandane, daughter of a fellow Achaemenid. During his father's lifetime Cambyses was in charge of Babylonian affairs. In 538 he performed the ritual duties of a Babylonian king at the important New Year festival, and in 530, before Cyrus set out on his last campaign, he was appointed regent in Babylon." - Britannica.com

Likewise, we should note that the traditions kept by Cyrus continued after his death. During the reign of his son Cambyses II, Hystaspes (father of Darius the Great) is ruler over Persia (Persis). Even after the death of Cambyses II, son of Cyrus, Hystaspes does not become king. Instead, his son, Darius the Great took the throne and Hystaspes, though a senior family member, remained ruler under Darius.

"Hystaspes - flourished 6th century BC son of Arsames, king of Parsa, and father of the Achaemenid king Darius I of Persia. According to the 5th-century-BC Greek historian Herodotus, Hystaspes was governor of Persis under Cyrus II the Great and Cambyses II and accompanied Cyrus on his last campaign against the Massagetai in 530 BC. When Darius seized the throne in 522, Hystaspes was governor of Parthia and Hyrcania, where he suppressed a revolt in 521." - Britannica.com

Additionally, we must note that modern scholars at times have difficulty understanding the usage and application of the names of ancient figures. This is evidently the case with both Cyrus the Great and Hystaspes.

"Cyrus the Great - Cyrus was born between 590 and 580 BC, either in Media or, more probably, in Persis, the modern Fars province of Iran. The meaning of his name is in dispute, for it is not known whether it was a personal name or a throne name given to him when he became a ruler. It is noteworthy that after the Achaemenian empire the name does not appear again in sources relating to Iran, which may indicate some special sense of the name." - Britannica.com

"Hystaspes - Old Persian Vishtaspa, fl. 6th cent. B.C., ruler of ancient Persia, father of Darius I. Under him Darius was governor of Parthia. The legendary patron of Zoroaster is also called Hystaspes or Vishtaspa; he may or may not be the same as Darius' father." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Hystaspes - flourished 6th century BC son of Arsames, king of Parsa, and father of the Achaemenid king Darius I of Persia. According to the 5th-century-BC Greek historian Herodotus, Hystaspes was governor of Persis under Cyrus II the Great and Cambyses II and accompanied Cyrus on his last campaign against the Massagetai in 530 BC. When Darius seized the throne in 522, Hystaspes was governor of Parthia and Hyrcania, where he suppressed a revolt in 521. Despite the differences in genealogies, some authorities identify him with Hystaspes, the protector of the prophet Zoroaster." - Britannica.com

"Xerxes - born c. 519 BC died 465, Persepolis Old Persian Khshayarsha, byname Xerxes The Great Persian king (486-465 BC), the son and successor of Darius." - Britannica.com

The above quotes inform us of several important issues regarding ancient uses of names. First, we don't know for certain when a name is the proper name of a person or a title bestowed upon a person who came to a position of power. Second, names of ancient Medes and Persians can have different renderings in the available languages.

Third, this inability to clearly understand the use of ancient Medo-Persian royal names has led to disagreement among scholars as to whether or not Hystaspes (or Vishtaspa), the father of Darius the Great, is the same person as the Hystaspes, Zoroastrians claim provided protection to Zoroaster. Though differing genealogies exist, this is not considered by some to be significant enough to establish that there were two separate individuals named Hystaspes.

The only presumable reason why differing genealogies would not force us to conclude that there were two separate individuals named Hystaspes, is if our understanding of how the ancient Medo-Persians applied and used names is not really clear. And because of our uncertainty about how ancient Medo-Persians ascribed names, there arises the possibility that various names, such as Vishtaspa or Hystaspes, might refer to the same individual. Or conversely, there is also the possibility that there is more than one person with a particular name, such as Hystaspes, even though we may not have much information about other persons with that same name.

Similarly, the Biblical use of the words Darius and Ahasuerus by the Book of Daniel is not altogether clear to us.

The meaning of the word that is used for Darius in Daniel is below. It simply means "lord."

01867 Dar`yavesh {daw-reh-yaw-vaysh'}
of Persian origin;; n pr m
AV - Darius 10; 10
Darius = "lord"

So, in Daniel's understanding the word Darius may simply denote the man who was lord of the Medes (and Persians).

Likewise, though it is assumed by some to be a specific reference to Xerxes, the word for Ahasuerus is just a title for the king of Persia.

No. 3
0325 'Achashverowsh {akh-ash-vay-rosh'}
or (shortened) 'Achashrosh {akh-ash-rosh'} (Esth. 10:1)
of Persian origin;; n pr m
AV - Ahasuerus 31; 31
Ahasuerus = "I will be silent and poor"
1) title of the king of Persia, probably Xerxes

In this way, Darius the son of Ahasuerus may simply denote a lord who ruled as a part of the Persian or Median royal house. And, more generally speaking, our modern understanding of ancient Persian and Median royal names and titles is far from being certain or reliable enough that it can serve as a basis for disqualifying ancient historical accounts more than 2 millennia closer to those events than we are now.

So, here's what we know from history and ancient names:

1. The royal bloodlines of the Medes and Persians overlapped so that the terms Mede and Persian were not mutually exclusive of one another.
2. The political structure of the Medes and Persians overlapped with Median and Persian rulers having members of the opposite group ruling provinces within their kingdom.
3. The Babylonians and Medo-Persians rulers of this period frequently had co-regents who ruled in their stead over the capitol or chief provinces of the empire, or more specifically, in Babylon and who were in charge over some of the imperial army.
4. Cyrus the Great was not present when Belshazzar the last acting king of Babylon was killed and the city of Babylon fell. He arrived later, after the city had been taken by his troops under the command of another man, which some sources call Gobryas.
5. Cyrus's son Cambyses II becomes co-regent with Cyrus and rules over Babylon beginning in 530 B.C. while Cyrus traveled the empire on a campaign.
6. The usage, application, and meaning of ancient Medo-Persian names is not altogether clear to modern historians. Sometimes persons are known by different names and proper names are difficult to distinguish from titles and names taken upon assuming the throne. Furthermore, very frequently names are held by more than one ruler, such as the names Cyrus, Darius, Cambyses, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes. It is not known or established to what extent these same names were being used by earlier rulers in Persia and Media before these cultures came into a place of prominence in the historical record. Cyrus the Great, perhaps one of the most prominent figures of this time, is just one example of such a case in which scholars suspect that the name Cyrus was a titular name that was used by previous rulers before Cyrus the Great.

"Cyrus II - Most scholars agree, however, that Cyrus the Great was at least the second of the name to rule in Persia. One cuneiform text in Akkadian...asserts he was the son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, great king, king of Anshan..." - Britannica.com

"Cyrus the Great - The meaning of his name is in dispute, for it is not known whether it was a personal name or a throne name given to him when he became a ruler." - Britannica.com

For comparison, here's what Daniel tells us:

1. Cyrus the Great was not present when Belshazzar the last acting king of Babylon was killed and the city of Babylon fell to the Medo-Persians.
2. Another man, a ranking Medo-Persian lord, led Cyrus' army in taking over the city of Babylon.
3. This Medo-Persian lord (perhaps known as Darius, maybe even as a title) ruled as king over the city of Babylon, beginning at age 62, as a contemporary and co-regent under Cyrus the Great.

When we look at what is presented by the Book of Daniel with what we know from historical record, it is hard to see any way in which Daniel's account is in contradiction of known history. Instead, it seems that Daniel's account fits completely with what we know of history. As in the case of Belshazzar, it simply seems that Daniel is presenting information that we, in over two and a half millennia later, do not have access to. Specifically, Daniel informs us that Cyrus had a 62-year-old co-regent who was involved in taking the city of Babylon and thereafter ruled Babylon in Cyrus' stead just as Cyrus would later appoint his son Cambyses II to do in 530 B.C.

We might also speculate, as historians often do to fill in the blanks, that this Darius (who Daniel says was 62 when he took Babylon from Belshazzar in 539 B.C.) may have died in 530 B.C at age 70 prompting Cyrus to replace him with Cambyses II as the new co-regent ruling in Cyrus' stead over Babylon. Furthermore, some have suggested that perhaps Daniel's Darius is simply another name for Cyrus' general Gobryas. Given our lack of certainty with how Medo-Persian royal names operated as recurring dynastic titles, this possibility cannot be ruled out.

Likewise, Daniel's use of the word Ahasuerus may be meant as a reference to Astyages, the last Median king. If this were the case, Daniel would be indicating that Darius was the son of Astyages making him a Mede and the uncle of Cyrus on Cyrus' mother's side. Such a speculation is not unreasonable given the relationship that existed between Astyages the Mede and Cambyses I the Persian as well as Hystaspes later rule under his son Darius the Great who was king.

Furthermore, if Darius was the son of Astyages, Astyages may well have given him charge over the army. This would fit quite well with Daniel's record that Darius led the army when it took over Babylon as well as explaining why the Median army sided with Cyrus against Astyages, who history records was a harsh and unpopular king anyway. If Daniel's Darius controlled the army of Astyages and was involved in its siding with Cyrus it would not be unreasonable for Cyrus to let his elder uncle rule as co-regent in his stead in Babylon.
v Likewise, we can also quickly dismiss another claim sometimes made by scholars about an inaccuracy of Daniel as prophecy. As we said in our overview of Daniel, chapter 11 begins with a statement to Darius the Mede that after three more Persian kings a fourth king will arise in Persia, who will stir up all against the realm of Greece (Daniel 11:2). Daniel then describes the rise of Alexander the Great as a mighty king, which will stand up, whose kingdom will be broken, divided, and be ruled by four others who are not of his bloodline (Daniel 11:3).

Some scholars contend that Daniel 11 incorrectly describes only four intermediate kings between Darius the Great and Alexander the Great. This objection is based on a misinterpretation of the passage.

Daniel 11:1 Also I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him. 2 And now will I shew thee the truth. Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia. 3 And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. 4 And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.

We have already discussed that Darius the Mede is not a reference to Darius the Great (the son of Hystaspes), but to a contemporary of Cyrus the Great. Furthermore, the criticism that there were, in fact, no less than seven kings between Darius the Great and Alexander the Great instead of four does not really conflict with Daniel 11:3.

All Daniel 11:3 is asserting is that after a man Daniel' refers to as Darius the Mede, who is depicted as a contemporary ruler with Cyrus the Great, three Persian kings will come followed by a fourth who will richer than the others and will stir up his forces against Greece. Clearly, this fourth ruler is to be identified with Xerxes I, son of Darius the Great, who did just that.

"Persian Empire - c. 586-330 THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE PERSIAN EMPIRE. The next king, Xerxes I (Khshayarsa, 486-465), undertook a major invasion of Greece but was defeated at sea in the Battle of Salamis (480) and on land at Plataea and Mycale (479)." - The Encyclopedia of World History. 2001.

"Xerxes - d. 465 B.C., king of ancient Persia (486-465 B.C.). His name in Old Persian is Khshayarsha, in the Bible Ahasuerus. He was the son of Darius I and Atossa, daughter of Cyrus the Great. After bringing (484 BC.) Egypt once more under Persian rule, Xerxes prepared for an invasion of Greece (see Persian Wars) by constructing a bridge of boats across the Hellespont and cutting a canal through the isthmus of Athos...He then occupied and pillaged Athens. In the same year his fleet was destroyed at Salamis." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Furthermore, Daniel 11 does not state that the fourth Persian king will be the last Persian king, nor does it state that this fourth Persian king will be defeated by the mighty king who is identified with Alexander the Great. All Daniel 11 says is that a fourth Persian king will stir up his might against the Greeks and that a mighty king will come after him, whose own kingdom will be broken off and given to four others who are not his offspring.

So, in order for Daniel 11 to be correct all we have to do is count three Persian kings between the time of Cyrus the Great and Xerxes I. This we can do. After Cyrus's death his son Cambyses II became king. But Hystaspes, was also considered a Persian ruler, and as we have noted earlier it was Hystapses, in fact, who ruled Persia during Cambyses II's reign. Lastly, Darius the Great, Hystaspes' son, becomes king after Cambyses II. Darius the Great is of course followed by his son, Xerxes I, who we have identified as the fourth Persian king of Daniel 11:3. This gives us a total of 3 intervening rulers in the royal line before Xerxes: Cambyses II, Hystaspes (ruler of Persia and father of Darius the Great), and Darius the Great. Therefore, there really is no conflict between Daniel 11 and history as scholars contend.

However, all speculation aside, it is not really necessary to construct a working understanding of the figures mentioned in Daniel. Even though we would like to know history with a high level of certainty and detail, this is not always possible. What we must keep in mind is that modern historians do not have access to the same level of information that was available in more ancient times.

From the case of Belshazzar we have seen that it is not appropriate to conclude that an ancient account is inaccurate simply because we cannot corroborate it over two millennia later. The Book of Daniel provides more information than we can currently confirm, but this is no reason to conclude that Daniel is wrong. There is nothing in Daniel's account of 6th century Mesopotamian history that conflicts with anything we know for certain about that time period. But there is ample evidence that the author of the Book of Daniel had a thorough and intimate knowledge of 6th through 2nd century Mesopotamian history. In fact, as can be seen in the case of Belshazzar, apparent conflicts are caused by the fact that Daniel had a more intimate knowledge of Mesopotamian history than was available to modern scholars, not the other way around. Since this is the case, we are left without any sound reason to doubt that the Book of Daniel was, in fact, written, in the 6th century B.C. just as the book itself claims.



Judeo-Christian Syncretism

Before we move on to our examination of evidence we have one last task to accomplish. In modern times it has become more commonplace for scholarship to suggest that Judeo-Christian theology is just as syncretistic as the Propositional religions that we have looked at earlier in this study. These scholars claim that the theology of Judaism and Christianity did not originate on its own or by divine mandate, but rather it originated from the incorporation of other religious traditions.

To be clear, we must state up front that we are not contesting the idea that Jewish and Christian traditions have since their respective origins borrowed from and incorporated religious beliefs and practices from other theological systems. What we are contesting is the notion that Judeo-Christian theology originated as a result of borrowing concepts from these other traditions.

Our refutation of the position that Judeo-Christian theology originated as a result of syncretism will begin with a look at the Judeo-Christian scripture. By examining a few key passages we will be able to clearly establish that, unlike Propositional religions, Judeo-Christianity, from its earliest history is strictly prohibitive of syncretistic practices and borrowing customs and beliefs from other religious systems.

Deuteronomy 12: 28 Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God. 29 When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; 30 Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 31 Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Deuteronomy 12 clearly demonstrates that way back in the 13th century B.C. or so, very early on in the development of the Judeo-Christian tradition, when giving God's Law to Israel, Moses strictly prohibits them from incorporating the religious customs of the nations around them into their understanding and worship of the Israelite God. And, even more to the point, this chapter of Deuteronomy closes with God's command to the Israelites that they are not to add to or diminish from what he has commanded them - a statement that strictly prohibits syncretism on any level.

The book of Deuteronomy goes on to warn the Israelites that if they do not obey this command they will be taken from the land and sent into exile. Unfortunately, history and the Old Testament confirm that they did not obey this command and just as had been warned they were eventually besieged and exiled by both the Assyrians and Babylonians (just as we saw earlier.) During the 7th century captivity, after the Assyrian conquest of Israel, the northern kingdom, Jeremiah the prophet echoes God's command from Deuteronomy 12.

Jeremiah 10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen...

The New Testament is just as strict regarding adopting customs from other religions into the Christian teaching. Instead, the Church was to hold firmly to the authentic teachings of Jesus Christ and not be moved away from them.

1 Corinthians 11:2 I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.

Galatians 1:6-8 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Galatians 1:8 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

1 Timothy 1:3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

2 Timothy 1:13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.

Titus 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it...13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;

Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

2 John 1:9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, either bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

From this brief sampling of Biblical quotes we can see that from the onset that both Judaism and Christianity clearly and repeated instructed their followers not to incorporate pagan religious customs or concepts into their understanding of God. On the contrary, Jews and Christians were instead commanded to hold firmly to the authentic teachings originally proclaimed by Moses and Jesus. Because of this, we must conclude that from their beginnings both Judaism and Christian contained a strong prohibition against syncretism. And we can contrast this strong prohibition against syncretism with the openness to syncretism expressed and exhibited in the development of the beliefs of Propositional religions.

While it is clear that the development of the beliefs of most of the Propositional religions that we examined can be easily attributed to interaction with other religious systems over time combined with an openness to such interaction, the same cannot be said for Judaism or Christianity. This was most strongly evidenced by the Hinduism's prevailing influence on almost all subsequent Propositional religions and the fact that Hinduism itself was the result of syncretistic blending of Aryan and native Indian belief systems. And though some scholars have suggested that Judeo-Christian teaching did originate by borrowing from other religions in this same manner, these assertions are not supported by the available historical information.

The three chief religions that are claimed to have influence on Judeo-Christian theology are Zoroastrianism, mystery religions, and Gnosticism.

However, upon historical examination, the idea that Zoroastrianism, mystery religions, or Gnosticism influenced the origin of Judeo-Christianity CANNOT be maintained. First, having taken a look at the historical documentation behind Zoroastrianism and Judaism, we know that in all manners of speaking Judaism predates Zoroastrianism. In fact, Judaism's antiquity combined with Christianity's undeniable and overwhelming dependence upon Judaism becomes an insurmountable argument against the suggestion that any other religion besides Judaism is responsible for the origin of Judeo-Christian theology. Several examples of this can be sited.

First, Moses proclaimed monotheism to Israel in the 13th century B.C. while Zoroaster did not proclaim Zoroastrianism until the 7th century B.C. This means that Zoroastrianism is some 600 years later than Judaism.

Second, Zoroaster lived between 628-551 B.C. This places the emergence of Zoroastrianism smack dab in middle of the Assyrian conquest and exile of Israel (the northern kingdom) in 721 B.C. and the Babylonian conquest of Judah (the southern kingdom) in 586 B.C.

The exiled Jews took with them into ancient pre-Zoroastrian Mesopotamia the history and beliefs of their people in both oral tradition and in their written sacred scriptures. At that time those sacred works included at least the Books of Moses, David's Psalms, and several of the early prophetic books such as Isaiah. These written and oral traditions exhibit developed monotheistic and messianic theologies.

When we take this into account and combine it with the fact that Jewish exiles, like Daniel and Nehemiah, held influential and prominent places within the royal courts of that time and area, we must conclude that Zoroastrianism was more likely the result of Jewish beliefs being blended into the native Hindu belief systems of the region rather than the other way around.

Third, as we saw from our look at Zoroastrianism, the oldest copies of it's sacred scripture date from the 3rd to 7th centuries A.D. placing them well after the origin of both Judaism and Christianity.

"Avesta - also called Zend-avesta, sacred book of Zoroastrianism containing its cosmogony, law, and liturgy, the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathushtra). The extant Avesta is all that remains of a much larger body of scripture, apparently Zoroaster's transformation of a very ancient tradition. The voluminous manuscripts of the original are said to have been destroyed when Alexander the Great conquered Persia. The present Avesta was assembled from remnants and standardized under the Sasanian kings (3rd-7th century AD)." - Britannica.com

"Zoroastrianism - The Avesta is, therefore, a collection of texts compiled in successive stages until it was completed under the Sasanians. It was then about four times larger than what has survived. A summary of its 21 books, or Nasks (of which only one is preserved as such in the Videvdat), is given in one of the main treatises written during the brief Zoroastrian renascence under Islam in the 9th century; the Denkart, the "Acts of the Religion." It is written in Pahlavi , the language of the Sasanians." - Britannica.com

Even more significant is that the concepts Zoroastrians claim to share with Judeo-Christianity, such as a savior, do not have developed expression within Zoroastrian thought until this 3rd to 7th century literature.

"Zoroastrianism - Only in the Pahlavi books is this theme systematically developed. It is dominated by the idea of a final return to the initial state of things. The first human couple had at first fed on water, then on plants, on milk, and at last on meat. The people in the last millennia will, at the advent of the three successive saviours, abstain in the reverse order from meat, milk, and plants to keep finally only water." - Britannica.com

Likewise, the assertion of non-Jewish religious influences on Christianity (such as mystery religions or Gnositicm) is impossible to maintain.

"Mysteries - in Greek and Roman religion, some important secret cults. The conventional religions of both Greeks and Romans were alike in consisting principally of propitiation and prayers for the good of the city-state, the tribe, or the family, and only secondarily of the person. Individuals sought a more emotional religion that would fulfill their desires for personal salvation and immortality. Secret societies were formed, usually headed by a priest or a hierophant. By the 5th cent. B.C. mysteries were an important part of the fabric of Hellenic life. Although the mystic rites were kept secret, it was known that they required elaborate initiations, including purification rites, beholding sacred objects, accepting occult knowledge, and acting out a sacred drama. Some mysteries were of foreign origin, such as the Middle Eastern cults of Cybele, Isis, and Mithra; some were embodied survivals of indigenous rites. The most important mystery cults in Greece were the Eleusinian, the Orphic, and the Andanian. Since the mystery deities were associated primarily with fertility, many scholars believe that these cults were based on unrecorded primitive fertility rites. The popularity of mystery cults spread in the Hellenistic age and still more widely in Roman times." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Mysteries - The simultaneousness of the propagation of the mystery religions and of Christianity and the striking similarities between them, however, demand some explanation of their relationship. The hypothesis of a mutual dependence has been proposed by scholars—especially a dependence of Christianity upon the mysteries—but such theories have been discarded." - Britannica.com

Despite the fact that historians have discarded the idea that Christian dogma originated from mystery religions it is common for persons not aware of the historical data to continue to make this claim in ignorance and in error. A study of the relevant historical information prevents such a conclusion from being accurate due to three historically undeniable facts. The first is Judaism's antiquity, originality, and prohibition of syncretism. The second is the significant differences that exist between mystery religions and Christianity.

"Mysteries - There are also great differences between Christianity and the mysteries. Mystery religions, as a rule, can be traced back to tribal origins, Christianity to a historical person. The holy stories of the mysteries were myths; the Gospels of the New Testament, however, relate historical events. The books that the mystery communities used in Roman times cannot possibly be compared to the New Testament. The essential features of Christianity were fixed once and for all in this book; the mystery doctrines, however, always remained in a much greater state of fluidity. The theology of the mysteries was developed to a far lesser degree than the Christian theology. There are no parallels in Christianity to the sexual rites in the Dionysiac and Isiac religion, with the exception of a few aberrant Gnostic communities. The cult of rulers in the manner of the imperial mysteries was impossible in Jewish and Christian worship." - Britannica.com

The third historically undeniable fact, which disproves that Christianity originated from mystery religions is it's own surpassing dependence upon Judaism.

Any serious examination of the content and nature of Christian theology clearly demonstrates an overwhelming dependence upon and development from Judaism. And because Judaism exhibits all essential Christian doctrine in a developed form well before any other religious group can claim to possess any remote similarity to Christian concepts there is simply no need to wonder where Christianity got its ideas from. The clear answer is Judaism. This is so much the case that to suggest that Christian theology originates from any source besides Judaism becomes an absurd notion because, among other reasons, Judaism predates any other religions, which some suppose influenced the origin of Christianity.

Furthermore, historical examination of the evidence has shown that, despite popular, common perception, all proposed influences on Christianity can be and have been dismissed by historians and theologians for the same reasons that Zoroastrianism cannot be said to have influenced either Judaism or Christianity.

First, religious language bearing strong resemblance to Christian concepts can only be historically documented AFTER the onset of Christianity and NOT before it. Thus, eliminating the possibility that they influenced Christianity and demonstrating, instead, that they were influenced by Christianity.

Second, religious records, which date prior to the onset of Christianity do not exhibit strong enough similarities to Christian teaching in terms of essential and defining content by the standards of literary criticism to be considered influential. And third, as we have stated above, any possible similarity between Gnostic mystery cults, Zoroastrianism, or other religious systems which predate Christianity is clearly dwarfed by the surpassingly Jewish nature of early Christian teaching. (For some additional information on this topic, please visit the following 2 articles: Article 1, Article 2.)

With that said we will now return briefly to the subject of Gnosticism in order to more thoroughly establish that it neither influenced the origin of Christianity nor was itself the original form of authentic Christianity.


Related Images



Ancient Mesopotamian Timeline & Figures Chart




World Religions
Origins Chart