Saturday, November 10, 2007

Conversion Class

Today we talked about how Judaism represented a very different way of thinking about theology.

In Babylonia, they built ziggurats, which were kind of like step pyramids.  They had a house on top, which was also a temple.  The god lived in that house, and was often physically present in the form of an idol.  If you managed to destroy the temple, then you destroyed the god's home.  If the god was in the temple and you destroyed that, then your god was clearly stronger and more powerful than that one.
Judaism, however, did something a bit different.  Their temple was a place for God to be when he is on earth, but there was no image of him there.  His name was simply written on the wall.  If you destroyed that temple, then you simply wiped his name away, but you didn't destroy God.  This innovation also allowed God to be present in more than one place at the same time.  The Rabbi describes it as an intentional correction in theology that came in the book of Deuteronomy, with the quote "I will show you a place where my name shall dwell".  Not I.  Just the name.

There were also some technical terms:
Polytheism: a relationship with multiple gods.
Monotheism: only one god exists, and any others are not real.
Monolatrism: a relationship with only one god, but recognition that others exist.

Polytheism was the standard prior to Abraham discovering that you could worship only one God and still be fine.  This is often thought of as monotheism but according to what the Rabbi taught us today, that's somewhat of a misconception.
Judaism started out as monolatrism, recognizing that there are other gods, but that they are not as powerful or special as the God of Abraham.  Monotheism appears in the Biblical text in Isaiah, which was written after the Babylonian exile.

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