Does anyone know more about what influence Babylonian religious traditions had on the Israelites?

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  • Does anyone know more about what influence Babylonian religious traditions had on the Israelites?

    I have heard that under captivity in Babylon, the Israelites picked a lot of religious traditions from the Zoroastrian religion. From what I understand this included a more defined concept of Satan as well as the idea of angels and demons. Is there anyone here who could tell me more about this?

  • #2
    Yes, although I think we might be getting into a rather controversial area. There are theories that the Israelites, Hebrew (probably more accurately the Judeans) formed the bulk of their beliefs after being inspired by what they have learned and seen in their Babylonian captivity, from the complex laws to the stories about the Persian/Mesopotamian kings, including the story of Solomon whom some believe was an Assyrian/Mesopotamian king.

    This is the theory, but I have no more information about the veracity or the historical plausibility of this. Some go as far as rejecting the whole Old testament based on this
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    • #3
      Well that depends on a number of factors and certain presuppositions. Zoroaster lived ca. 628 BC - 551 BC according to traditional dating (thought some date him earlier for different reasons). Hence the dating of Zoroaster plays an important role. If we take the traditional date then the vast majority of the O.T., would have already been written. The problem is the claims of borrowing or parallelomania. The fact is there are often similarities between religions in symbolism, themes, and theology. This is to be expected. However, these are very often made out to be more than what they are. It really comes down to someone reading into a text something that is not there but want to see. Then there are the differences which are played down in order to give the impression they are minor or don't matter.

      Another problem is that it seems always to be the case (mostly by those who are not scholars) that it was the Jews (or the Christians) who were influenced by or borrowed from others groups and not the other way around. One would think that a Jew or Christian could not come up with an original idea or thought that was first in the mind of some non-Jew or non-Christian.

      I suggest you check out the excellent book Persia and the Bible by Edwin M. Yamauchi.
      Last edited by Origen; 12-30-2016, 09:22 PM.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by CarlosTL View Post
        Yes, although I think we might be getting into a rather controversial area. There are theories that the Israelites, Hebrew (probably more accurately the Judeans) formed the bulk of their beliefs after being inspired by what they have learned and seen in their Babylonian captivity, from the complex laws to the stories about the Persian/Mesopotamian kings, including the story of Solomon whom some believe was an Assyrian/Mesopotamian king.

        This is the theory, but I have no more information about the veracity or the historical plausibility of this. Some go as far as rejecting the whole Old testament based on this
        I hadn't heard about theory about Solomon being Mesopotamian. That seems a little far-fetched but it's still very interesting. It might be controversial but it is bound to have some truth to it.
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        • #5
          Originally posted by Origen View Post
          Well that depends on a number of factors and certain presuppositions. Zoroaster lived ca. 628 BC - 551 BC according to traditional dating (thought some date him earlier for different reasons) . Hence the dating of Zoroaster plays an important role. If we take the traditional date then the vast majority of the O.T., would have already been written. The problem is the claims of borrowing or parallelomania. The fact is there are often similarities between religions in symbolism, themes, and theology. This is to be expected. However, these are very often made out to be more than what they are. It really comes down to someone reading into a text something that is not there but want to see. Then there are the differences which are played down in order to give the impression they are minor or don't matter.

          Another problem is that it seems always to be the case (mostly by those who are not scholars) that was the Jews (or the Christians) who were influenced by or borrowed from others groups and not the other way around. One would think that a Jew or Christian could not come up with an original idea or thought that was first in the mind of some non-Jew or non-Christian.

          I suggest you check out the excellent book Persia and the Bible by Edwin M. Yamauchi.
          I'm sure no one is suggesting that the entire Jewish faith was made up of borrowed elements. But it seems quite reasonable to assume that there was some influence from the Babylonians. From what I gather Zoroaster had more of an influence on Islam than it did on Judaism or Christianity. Thanks for the book recommendation.
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          • #6
            The one reason why zoroastrianism could not influence the religion of the Jews is because most of them were in captivity for about 70 years. The old priests who knew everything about Judaism would teach the younger priests all that they knew and as Judaism was very much against polytheism there's zero likelihood that anything from the Babylonian religion could be included into their religion. I'm not saying there are some Jews who weren't converted, just saying the official religion didn't change. Read the book of Ezra, and you'll see the lengths to which Priests could go to ensure the people had to keep the Torah law. If the Torah law was enforced why would they accommodate anything that was part of the Babylonian religion?
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Smithee View Post
              The one reason why zoroastrianism could not influence the religion of the Jews is because most of them were in captivity for about 70 years. The old priests who knew everything about Judaism would teach the younger priests all that they knew and as Judaism was very much against polytheism there's zero likelihood that anything from the Babylonian religion could be included into their religion. I'm not saying there are some Jews who weren't converted, just saying the official religion didn't change. Read the book of Ezra, and you'll see the lengths to which Priests could go to ensure the people had to keep the Torah law. If the Torah law was enforced why would they accommodate anything that was part of the Babylonian religion?
              From study of Scripture as we have it, I don't see any evidence of religious borrowing from the Babylonians by the Jews. What I mean by that is there is no evidence that Zoroasterism or anything else directly influenced or changed the Jews on a religious level. However, there is good reason to believe that once they were removed from the cocoon of Israel, where everybody who was influential could get by agreeing with everybody else in a culturally stable environment, they came to perceive reality very differently.

              One overlooked detail is that Daniel had at least 2 in-person encounters with angels. Daniel was extremely influential and well respected. I've got a toe over the Scriptural line here with an educated guess, but clearly the Jews had experiences in Babylon that changed their perceptions very deeply without fundamentally changing their religious beliefs and practices (ie Temple rituals and sacrifices and accepted Cannon of the OT as far as we know). I think that between the experiences recorded in the Book of Daniel, and the perceptions of demon possession and oppression recorded in the Gospels, the Jews had experiences in Babylon that very much changed their understanding of Spiritual matters.
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              • #8
                Yes, the old Babylon's original rituals and rites of passage, and religious systems were just as flawed as any others out there (without God and Christ) are today. The evil was no less visible or damaging. The Israelites were, in fact, in slavery not just of the body, but also of the mind and soul. For the dark and wicked practices that prevailed in ancient Babylon were a true bondage to the soul...
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by rootle View Post

                  I hadn't heard about theory about Solomon being Mesopotamian. That seems a little far-fetched but it's still very interesting. It might be controversial but it is bound to have some truth to it.
                  Why does "controversial" have to equate to "some truth in it?" It is at least as likely to be somebody trying to make a name for himself, and, with a bit of luck, a fast buck in the process.

                  At the end of the nineteenth century an English poet, by the name of Gerald Massey, wrote a book about supposed parallels between the Egyptian god Horus and Jesus. There is not a single Egyptologist alive today who takes his arrant nonsense seriously, but you will find internet atheists simply lapping it up - usually without a clue as to where the garbage they are regurgitating originally came from.
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