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mazingerz88's avatar

What is it about the way the Bible was written that makes a multitude of people believe the Hebrew God is the One True God and not anyone else from another religion?

Asked by mazingerz88 (19058points) August 15th, 2012

I have a childhood friend who recently visited and we got to discussing briefly about my other friends who happened to be Jewish. Both of us were raised Catholics. Went to the same Catholic schools. I’ve known him since kindergarten.

I guess we never talked about religion since I became agnostic years ago and now, he is connected with the Opus Dei or he is Opus Dei? As to what he does for them or what they do for him, I didn’t ask. I have no clear understanding of what Opus Dei is.

When we got to the part in that brief exchange where I said, Jews don’t believe Jesus is God or even Son of God, he replied, So which God do they believe in-? I answered, Well, whoever it was they created. End of talk.

I guess faithful Jews wouldn’t appreciate my answer but right now, that’s my guess. Religion was man’s creation. I might change my mind who knows. I think what I wanted to tell my friend was, Don’t be too sure about your beliefs because they were not originally yours. They were of the Hebrews and even Jesus failed to convince all of them.

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30 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Huh? The Christian God is the Jewish God. So is the Muslim God. One God. The Jews, from how I learned it, are the ones credited in history with being the first to have one God, instead of a multiGod system. And, then the Christians and Muslims branched off, but the God didn’t change.

Also, I was taught the Jews believe each person has their own relationship with God. Plus, Jews believe all good people can go to heaven, so they are not out trying to convince people their God and religion is the right one and everyone has to convert.

mazingerz88's avatar

@JLeslie Wait, the Christian God is the Muslim God? Boy, I’m so ignorant.

JLeslie's avatar

@mazingerz88 Jesus was the son of God in Christianity, but God is still God. Jesus was born a Jew. His God was still the Jewish God. Abraham fathered two sons, Isaac carried on the Jewish line and Ismael started the Muslims.

The three religions are called Abrahamic Religions, father of the Jews.

But, people do argue the point about it being the same God, especially Christians.

Nullo's avatar

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” Then the Bible follows that same God throughout, demonstrating as it goes that He is God and the rest of them are (possibly demonic) posers. There’s a consistent thread.

Protip: Thanks to their long tradition of syncretism, Catholic doctrine is all over the map. @JLeslie tells me that they’re evolutionists now.

I suppose that in a broad sense, a person worshiping someone that they think is God but acts wrong could be said to be worshiping a different god. That’s my rationale with the Muslims. I suppose that it could work for the Jews, as well, since neither of them accept Jesus as the Son of God and therefore are missing part of the whole picture.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all Abrahamic religions. IIRC, the Muslims trace their line to Ishmael, while the Jews and the Christians work from Isaac, his half-brother.

@JLeslie How did Judaism get there from the bloody mess of the sacrifices for every single sin?

_Whitetigress's avatar

It wasn’t really the bible that made a multitude of people believe in one true God. It was what the leaders did to other nations, towns, cities by proclaiming their one true God that has the majority of the world with it’s current beliefs. It’ll die out eventually. Just like all past cultures of the past. History repeats.

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo Here is the wikipedia on Catholicism and evolution.

What does sinning have to do with it? Here is a link about death and Judaism. I don’t know if all the rabbis agree with what is written here, and of course Jews themselves might believe differently.

_Whitetigress's avatar

Oh yeah, time of date written as well plays a big factor to the answer of your question.

Qingu's avatar

I actually don’t think the Hebrew Bible’s writing causes people to believe in Yahweh. In fact, the reason I became an atheist was because I actually sat down and read the Bible and realized it was ridiculous mythology.

Throughout history, you see religious authorities exercising a great deal of control over how the Bible is presented. For a long time Catholics didn’t even allow masses to read or hear the Bible in their native language (instead reciting stuff in Latin). The same is true of many Jewish congregations—we read the Bible in Hebrew, a language that nobody in my synagogue actually understood.

Protestants supposedly did away with that kind of tradition, but protestant churches always present Biblical texts on Sunday with a great deal of propaganda, social engineering, and explicit threats of hellfire.

Occasionally you get the conversion story where some sad sack hits rock bottom, reads the Bible in a hotel room, and magically sees the light. But I think it’s far more likely that reading the Bible—outside of church, without conditioning, on your own—will make you an atheist, not a Jew or a Christian. I mean we are talking about a book that, on the first page, claims that the sky is a solid dome that holds up an ocean, and that the sun revolves around the earth.

Qingu's avatar

@Nullo, I’m curious as to what it is about the fact that the Bible repeats a claim consistently makes you believe that claim.

That said, I don’t think the Bible is consistent in its portrayal of Yahweh at all. The older texts of the Hebrew Bible show Yahweh as a standard Mesopotamian sky deity. He doesn’t create the world ex nihilo (out of nothing); instead, he works with material that already exists, like a sculptor “creating” a statue by molding unformed clay. In the same way that the Babylonian god Marduk creates the earth out of the corpse of Tiamat (the goddess of the ocean, chaos), Yahweh creates the world by shaping the “formless waters,” dividing them into sea and sky, dividing time into day and night. In Psalms and in Job, you even see echoes of some sort of Marduk vs. Tiamat-style cosmic battle between Yahweh and “the sea,” or monsters of the sea, like Leviathan.

In contrast, the God of the Christians is very much a creator ex-nihilo, in the Greek philosophical tradition. The Christian god is “logos,” the unmoved mover. He doesn’t work with clay that’s already there, he snaps his fingers and clay pops into existence.

You also said that the Bible is consistent in portraying other gods as demonic posers. Well, maybe, but even in the Hebrew Bible we oscillate between Yahweh being the only real god, and Yahweh being merely the most powerful of a pantheon of gods, a la henotheism. Yahweh doesn’t say “there are no other gods,” he says “you shall have no other gods before me.” In this, again, he is very similar to Marduk, who absorbs the names and powers of the other Mesopotamian deities to become the “head god.” But later, in the prophets, Yahweh has sort of morphed into a single monotheistic deity. And then of course in CHristianity now he has three persons in one being or some nonsense. It’s hardly consistent.

JLeslie's avatar

@Qingu I don’t think Catholic mass was held in Latin to deceive people. The Catholics are on message around the world. If my Catholic friend goes to church on Sunday here while visiting, it will be the same mass, same topic as her church back home. If all Catholic churches used Latin, Catholics around the world no matter where they were, could go to mass and understand it. That is, if they understand Latin. The Jews made a very specific push to keep Hebrew alive for Israel, and for the Jewish people. Most Jewish kids who are raised religiously study Hebrew, but the Catholics didn’t do that I guess? I don’t know? Do the kids in CCD classes study Latin? Personally, I think it is better to do religious services in the language of the country, not Latin or Hebrew, etc, except for some prayers maybe. But, that might be because I am Jewish, and that is how things tend to be done.

Qingu's avatar

It wasn’t to deceive people necessarily, it was to prevent them from interpreting the Bible for themselves. Catholic doctrine was that you got your Bible words from the Church, not from the Bible—the truth in the Bible has to flow through an authorized priest.

If everyone could just read the Bible for themselves (well the few people who weren’t illiterate), that would allow for non-authorized understandings of it, which were a cause of much concern to the heretic-burning Catholics.

Also, I was raised Jewish, but I didn’t actually learn the Hebrew language. Rather I had to memorize a bunch of Hebrew words that I didn’t understand for my bar Mitzvah. I imagine if Jews actually spent as much effort reading the Bible in English as they do in a foreign incomprehensible language there would be even fewer religious Jews in the world.

mazingerz88's avatar

Thanks for the insightful answers everyone, as always. : )

@Qingu Sooner or later, people gets the chance to read the Bible. On rare occasions they may turn into atheists or agnostics like you and me. I read it and realized, this is brilliant literature. Great writing. I was then left skeptical about God. Why? Exactly because I felt it was just great writing.

But what about those who stayed faithful and became probably even more devoted?

Not just of the faithful flock who but those who ended up being priests, ministers, etc. Those who believe they are doing God’s will and that the God of the Hebrews is their God. Is it possible that the Bible’s literary style and combination of thematic content possess the power to mesmerize? More often than not?

Qingu's avatar

There is very little of the Bible that I would characterize as “great writing.”

It’s very poorly edited. Look at the flood story for example. I actually love this story’s imagery (even though it’s stolen from previous Babylonian flood myths). But the editing is a damn mess. It repeats statements for no reason, statements are inconsistent… most scholars think that there are actually two flood myths in the Bible and, rather than deleting parts of one to make room for the other, the Bible’s early editors simply wove them together.

I also think a lot of what people consider “Biblical writing style” is actually just ye olde English left over from the King James translation. Which, to give credit where credit is due, was a fantastic translation for the time. But to our modern eyes, it colors the actual Hebrew and Greek texts in ways that are not in the originals.

mazingerz88's avatar

Nevertheless, it creates an emotional impact or spiritual impact as others may put it. Enough to convince them and elicit faith.

Blackberry's avatar

It may initially make sense to the reader, until further inquiry. But if that extra inquiry isn’t accomplished, you’re left defending it on faith.

Qingu's avatar

@mazingerz88, does it, though?

If a nonreligious person who knows nothing of the Bible randomly picks it up and reads it one day, do you think it typically creates such an impact? I don’t think it does. Much like The Illiad or the Code of Hammurabi, the Bible is dense, confusing to modern readers, often boring, and full of mythological claims and horrifying moral strictures.

Paradox25's avatar

You have to understand something here, most people who believe their religions to be true rely on faith, not evidence. Obviously if a particular person has faith in a certain religion that says its savior or philosophy is the only way into heaven then many of those people will likely believe that to be true as well.

I can’t answer why, because there may be alot of different reasons one chooses one faith over another. I can safely say that many religionists do rely upon faith to actually believe what they do. There has to be some type of motivation for one to have a particular faith to begin with, and the reasons for these motivations can greatly vary from person to person. Why don’t more Christians convert to Hinduism, or more Muslims convert to Judaism?

When people grow up a certain way they become accustomed to certain behavior patterns, and since Christianity is the most popular religion in the world at the moment, it would only make sense that this religion would have a strong influence when compared to other religions. Combine this with the faith factor, or at least wanting to believe in your particular brand of faith for whatever reasons, will cause many Christians to believe that their God is the one true God since that is what the Bible pretty much says. I don’t think that this has to do that much with the way the Bible was written, since I was sceptical about the concept of a Savior God at the age of seven. Many people do tend to believe what they want to believe.

mazingerz88's avatar

@Blackberry Yes, but why would an entire multitude choose not to do extra inquiry?
@Qingu The Bible has definitely more things going for it than the Iliad or the Code of Hammurabi. For sure there are more people down the centuries that really believed rather than secretly use it for personal gain. My guess.
@Paradox25 Nothing but momentum then?

KNOWITALL's avatar

Personally I feel like the Bible is believed more readily than most other religions by the general masses because after reading it you are too scared not to believe it. Especially if you read the entire book. I will not debate which God is real but I can assure you that no one I know has or will ever believe the Christian God is the same as the Muslim God.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL Which bible is more believed? The Christian Bible?

Qingu's avatar

@mazingerz88, I dunno. The Bible is longer. There’s more stuff in it. It contains more genres.

Morally speaking, I’m not sure the Bible’s legal code is better than the Code of Hammurabi. One major improvement: in the Bible, children are not killed as punishment for their parents’ transgressions. On the other hand, the Code does not command rape victims to marry their rapists. The Code is more forgiving of personal trangressions like adultery. And the Code does not repeatedly command genocide.

I think the Illiad also comes out on top morally. Warfare in the Illiad is presented realistically, with moral grays. The Greeks are the “good guys,” but Agamemnon is a dick, Achilles has his hubris, and they commit their share of war crimes which are looked down upon by the gods. The best dude in the book is Hector, a Trojan. Women and children are off-limits; warriors deserve proper burials and respects after death. Now compare this to the Bible’s portrayal of war against the Canaanites. The Canaanites might as well be demons from a cartoon. The entire book of Joshua is a celebration of genocide against the Canaanites. The Hebrews are commanded by god, repeatedly, to kill every man, woman and child in cities they conquer and burn their remains to the ground, “letting nothing that breathes remain alive.” The Hebrews fight dishonorably, staging night raids, ambushes, hamstringing their opponents’ horses. They are punished by their god only when they fail to commit sufficient genocide.

Honestly, sit down and read the book of Joshua. It’s the single most fucked-up thing I’ve ever read.

From a literary standpoint, again, I don’t really see how the Bible compares favorably to the Illiad. Are there complex characters in the Bible? Characters with flaws, or rival motivations? Abraham? Dude’s “flaw” was a slight unwillingness to kill his son to win Yahweh’s favor. Moses? Joshua? Samuel? David? Who is more human and realistic than Prince Hector or Agamemnon or even the demigod Achilles?

I think the Bible’s only real worth as literature is as a sterling example of Mesopotamian mythology and cosmology. I think parts of Genesis are rather beautiful, but only if you take them on their own terms and try to imagine the world the way the Hebrews saw it. But I find most of the Bible repugnant. And I’m very curious to hear what you like so much about it. :)

mazingerz88's avatar

@Qingu Good question. I think I would have to start reading it again in order to give you a definitive answer. Who knows what new sensations and realizations I might discover-? But here are two things things I probably would continue liking. The poetry of the Psalms and Jesus’ parables. : )

Paradox25's avatar

@mazingerz88 People grow up in societies with certain customs, cultures and many times certain religions/religious teachings. I’m guessing that many people may think of their own way of living as being ‘normal’ when compared to other people’s way of living.

I’m going to be truthful with you here, most people, even in the most secular parts of Europe, believe that there is some creator, and some higher purpose. I also know that many Christians question their own faith, and have doubts that if there is an afterlife or a God that it likely is not going be what their religious teachings preach. Many Christians that I’ve known have major doubts about their own faith, but are open to many New Age types of philosophies.

Unfortunately, because people don’t want to stand out and alienate themselves from those around them many Christians tend to keep their mouths shut about challenging their own faith. Who knows how many faithless Muslims are walking around too, keeping it to themselves. I’m answering this question in way that is based upon my own experiences with Christians. Personally I don’t think that there is anything special in the Bible that would draw more people in, and many Christians didn’t even read a great deal of it to begin with, and they just go by what others tell them, or how others interpret the Bible for them. I don’t think your answer lies in the Bible itself here.

Qingu's avatar

@mazingerz88, do you have any particular psalms you like? Or Jesus’ parables? I think a lot of Jesus’ parables are pretty stupid, and a little creepy with the explicit threats of hellfire. And I don’t much like the psalms either… in fact it’s one of the only parts of the Bible I skimmed when I read it all. (Not a poetry fan, to be fair…)

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie – Yes, I meant the Christian Bible. I’ve studied many religions and changed my affiliation when I was 17 against my family’s wishes. I’m not afraid to question anything and everything, and think it’s actually quite liberating and normal to do so. It’s very hard to be raised a certain way and break free of your ‘brainwashing’ to embrace different beliefs but people do it all the time, especially in my neck of the woods in the Heartland of the US. May your Higher Power keep you well.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL I ask because you said the Christian bible is believed more by the masses, because they are too scared not to. I agree fear is part of the wooing of Christianity, but as far as the masses, I think the world is about 30% Christian. It is not the religion of the majority of people, but it does have the largest following (although if you seperate out Catholics the number is different. I consider Catholics to be Christians, but some show the number searately) I think Muslims are next with around 20% of the worlds population.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I did not seperate Catholics from Christians since it’s the same Jesus/ God/
Holy Spirit trinity of belief. Remember, I’m in the US, and even more than that the Heartland, so mostly we are Methodists, Assembly of God, Catholic, Baptists, Episcopalians, etc…and as far as I know we all believe in the same Holy Trinity. The only other religion or lack thereof here is Wiccan (nature worship) and Atheist. A few Muslims but they’re not well-received here by most people, actually they’re pretty much ostracized even though people are mostly polite about it.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL So the only masses that count are the American masses? I don’t think God has country borders for His children. I understand why Americans think/feel most everyone is Christian, but it isn’t true. Only 1 in 3 in the world. Many, I am not saying you, fail to understand that Christianity does not hold a majority across the world.

On a side note, I find it a shame people ostrasize the few Muslims where you live. Why is it even an issue in terms of every day life? Why is it so many people in the majority, whatever the majority happens to be, fail to put themselves in the minorities place. Since I am part of a minority I am always baffled by it. But then I know people who are part of minority groups who don’t do it for other minorty groups. I always ask Christians who seem uninterested in empathesizing with the minority, again I am not assuming anything about your personally, to imagine living in a Muslim country and what they would want the laws and customs to be to give them equality in that country. More than half the people I have said that to reply, “I would never live in a Muslim country.” They don’t care or too stupid, not sure which. Or, they really believe the US is some sort of Christian country that God put together? Not sure, I really am not sure.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I only know the masses here, I don’t know your masses, so that’s all I can speak to.

Yes, I realize Christianity is not the only religion people believe in.

Some people feel about Muslims the way people felt about the Irish when they started coming here. There is always some pain with assimilation of another race into our ‘melting pot.’ Unfortunately the 9/11 attacks on our country and Bin Laden have added to the issue. We have preachers on tv any given Sunday telling us to fear the Muslims and reading excerpts from the Koran.

If you want to talk more about it, I would feel more comfortable privately.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL Thanks. Your right for us to not continue it here. I don’t want to hijack the Q more than I have.

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