So I wanted to start a series on God as savior and explore the reasons why so many religions, old and new, have a savior figure. The point of religion is to seek salvation even if it does not have a salvation figure. There is always a means through which a group or individual leaves “self” and becomes closer to God. That, my friends, is the essence of salvation. So first I would like to start with a little history lesson and I’ll try to make it interesting because history can be boring if told…boringly.
The earliest known religion with a savior is found in Egyptian writings; Osiris and Horus. Basically Osiris was the god of the dead and the underworld. I hear your question…no he was not Satan. The concept of Satan is actually believed to be taken from another religion, but back to the topic. Osiris was also the god of resurrection and eternal life. After he died, he was resurrected by Isis; she put the pieces of his body back together including his man part so she could conceive a baby. The baby, part god-born-of-a-virgin, was named Horus. Here’s where it becomes even more interesting, Horus could not be born in his hometown because Isis’ brother wanted to kill him. There are even more similarities between the two stories such as being baptized and being born under a star. Some theologians and historians believe that the story of Osiris and Horus had the greatest influence on Judeo-Christian thought. I actually disagree. While I’m sure it had influence, especially since Hebrews were held in captivity for 400 years by the Egyptians, it was not as close to Christianity on the timeline. Egyptians also believed in polytheism even though there was a salvation figure. Hebrews are monotheistic and remained so throughout captivity. However, the religion that potentially had the greatest influence was Zoroaster.
Zoroaster is still practiced today in India but originally began in what we now know as Iran. Before the common era (i.e before Jesus), Zoroaster was practiced widely in Persia (Iran). Quick background info: King Solomon built the temple, it was destroyed by the Babylonians and the Hebrews were taken into exile…well half of them. Then the Persians came along and defeated the Babylonians and put the rest of Israel in exile. I know most of us skip these books in the bible because let’s be honest…they aren’t that interesting. So the Hebrews being scattered and without a temple learned about Zoroaster. Zarathrustra is the savior who was god incarnate and he preached monotheism. He walked the earth like Jesus preaching about angels and demons. While, this is not the first religion with a separation of good and evil, Zoroaster potentially introduced future Christians to the eternal fight of good and evil. Similar to Catholicism, it was believed that when people died they remained in purgatory until judgement of their sins and deeds. A living family member could buy their way into heaven, however, called indulgences in Catholic tradition. If a person was sentenced to hell there were levels (read Dante’s Inferno). Some of you by now may think I’m making this up…it is just too similar and eerily similar. I. Am. Not. So what does this mean? If Christianity isn’t the first religion to have these elements why is it so popular? I’ll get there one day but not today :). There is a very clear reason why Christianity has remained popular for so long though.
What does this mean? Well, taking religious beliefs from a group that has held you in slavery or captivity is not surprising. It is almost a means of survival. We can look at American slavery to see that connection. So if you’re analytical like myself, you maybe asking ‘why aren’t all Jews Christian then?’ This is just my theory: there may have been a group that rejected the religious beliefs of the majority group/slaveholders. If we look through the bible and even the parts that did not make it into the Canon, we can see the stories of people who rejected the religious beliefs of the slaveholders. Jews believe in corporate salvation unlike Christians. Once you are born Jewish, you are going to heaven by association. They also believe in corporate sin so there’s that too. Also, Jews do not believe in a salvation of the body, but they are waiting for a savior to restore the temple and the land that was given to them by Yahweh. This person obviously will not die hence why many Jews do not accept Jesus or Christian tenets. Back to the group that left…they tried to restore Israel even after being scattered all over the world and they are still trying by any means necessary. The other group chose Christianity known then as Followers of the Way.
Whew, that is a whole lot going on. The history of salvation really isn’t complicated but it is confusing. There are actually 30 other religions with a savior and all of them are older than Christianity. Hey, it is what it is. Next week, I will continue with why so many religions more than likely have a savior and why it is largely accepted. Imma go easy for the rest of the week…
What do you think? Comment and share.