Is Religion incompatible with history?


#1

Hi everyone, another question.

My non-religious friend claims Christianity to be false, because there has been civilization in China long before the earliest accounts of Genesis. My friend also claims that the Genesis story of creation and flood is a copy of the Sumerian story of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Another thing my friend said is that the Hindu Vedas have been around before the bible was, so therefore the God in the bible cannot be true since civilizations have existed before the Abraham did. Is this all true?


#2

It is true that civilizations have existed before the Bible, but it does not follow from that that God did not exist prior to His divine revelation or that His revelation is in fact divine.

As for the creation story in Genesis, there in no evidence that it was derived or influenced by any other creation story from other cultures. When you study the so called similarities between the stories, what you find is that these “similarities” are often superficial. In other words, they typically have far less characteristics in common than characteristics they do have in common.

Also, it’s not enough just to point to similarities and say “ah ha! see, one was taken from the other” without being able to demonstrate the causal relation. Many events in history have some similarities between them, but that in itself does nothing to show they are causally connected to one another.


#3

The Church recognizes that there are multiple ways scripture can be read. This is not a new innovation. Famous Catholic theologians, from Origen in the third century, to Augustine of Hippo in the fifth, and Thomas Aquinas in the 13th, did not believe in a literal understanding of the creation account and the fall. The Church does not believe the Bible is a scientific textbook. The creation and fall accounts are of historical events, but that is not the same as claiming they are literal or scientific accounts, nor do they necessarily provide a full genealogy or accurate timescale.

Anyway, why should religions prior to Abraham bother us? The account itself makes it clear there were other civilizations worshipping other gods at the time. Abraham even journeys through civilized Egypt.


#4

Your friend sure talks a lot.

Why should anything he says cause you to doubt the Church? You would do better to explore what the Church teaches about these objections than just looking for a quick fix. The revelation of God to man culminating in the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a very, very complex subject. It takes effort on the part of us to understand and accept it. Objections like those of your friend are irrelevant and do nothing to undermine Truth.


#5

That doesn’t necessarily disprove Christianity.

My friend also claims that the Genesis story of creation and flood is a copy of the Sumerian story of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

This is true. The Gilgamesh story is remarkably similar to the Genesis story. And it’s older. The former probably influenced the latter. The Gilgamesh story itself was probably influenced by the Atra-Hasis epic.

The stories could still be true, although it seems unlikely from a historical perspective.

Another thing my friend said is that the Hindu Vedas have been around before the bible was, so therefore the God in the bible cannot be true since civilizations have existed before the Abraham did.

Whether Abraham existed is up for debate among historians. The main problem with your friend’s argument is that she doesn’t realize that Genesis tells stories about what happened before the account itself was supposedly written. So it doesn’t really matter if Genesis was written before or after the Vedas.


#6

I think your question really is, are some religions incompatible with history? Gilgamesh, the Vedas, they’re brought up here a lot. I hope you find the following helpful:

catholic.com/tracts/is-catholicism-pagan

Best,
Ed


#7

One thing that I have wondered about is why God chose the Jews and left out the Chinese, for example. China is known to have had a great culture and civilization.


#8

the Epic of Gilgamesh isn’t really older than Genesis - see here:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_of_Gilgamesh

Even if it was - what does it prove? Wisdom, ability to write down considerations and interlocking them with a vage consideration of „a god" has been given to all God-created humans - TO ALL - even to those who refuse to recognize God. All - in opposition of our today’s atheists, saw in nature’s harmony and it’s countless unbelievable wonders, which convinced out ancestors; GOD IS ALIVE! and there must be a or many gods.

To but one of His peoples God revealed Himself in person - to the Jews, Gods selected and beloved People. (As to the question why didn’t God speak to others as well; God let those out, who didn’t want to hear).
When precisely the Jews wrote down what ages ago had been passed on just by the by God protected word of mouth, we don’t really know. Many say around 2,000 or 1,800 bC, other „prove“ it was in the Exile of Babylon 6th century bC.

It’s very obvious, that all cultures of the time or early cultures, some way or another got in touch with the Jewish oral heritage, and also by the into every single human being God-given anticipation of God’s reality - led by heavens, had a basic knowledge of God.
To imagine it was vice versa, pagan early peoples on earth wrote their epics and the Tanakh or Bible then copied it as both sound similar, is plain ridiculous and clear attempt to deny God one way or another! We might well also say; - a good job of hell.

However - Genesis was known long before Abraham, for Noah and later Abraham knew the one and only God as we know God today; or rather as we know today a lot deeper and better, more precise, because God Himself in flesh among us - Jesus Christ, who is God in God, Light from Light, True God from True God, revealed us Got and even the Holy Trinity - as far as we are able to comprehend in our limited breadth of mind.
So strongly limited, because we ourselves keep damaging the formerly open mind in our childhood, by thoughtless intellectual lateral thinking. Intellectual considerations we are tempted to overload our open mind we had and Christ demanded back in Mt 18,3: unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Now, this finding back to the open-mindedness of our childhood, is not the opposite of acting as atheists say by „stop believing - start thinking“. No! It far more so is a forgotten, additive divine thinking. A way of thinking that exceeds any by worldly thoughts limited worldly reflections in unmeasurable widths! Hence, believing Christians think much more, than any intellectual atheist would ever be able to think in his very limited ability to put one and one together. Hence the word „stop believing - start thinking“ is the most ridiculous challenge in the world.
To put one and one together means - apart from belief, to be in the state to see countless proves of God’s being. Even a single blade of grass no human ever could make nor ever will be able to make is one out of millions of God-proves creation provides daily.
Earliest and most deserted pagan tribes even saw this, when they adored God in the nature, the sun, the moon, a tree or whatever.

But ok - as God said to the Prophets and to His disciples:
he who wants to hear might hear - he who doesn’t might let it.
All my life I preached Belief, but yes, sometimes I simply gave up, consoling myself with tis sentence, or the one Jesus said to His disciples in Mark 6,11: And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you; going forth from thence, shake off the dust from your feet for a testimony to them.

Yours
Bruno :slight_smile:


#9

Perhaps God was after a prime site with all the oranges?

Meanwhile, the Babylonians also had a comparably great culture and civilisation too. Or the Egyptians, or…

More seriously, I’ve always understood the ‘choosing’ to be more than God chose a man - Abraham - who after all had to come from somewhere. So why not the people who would become the Jews? God made a promise to Abraham, and God doesn’t go back on His promises. The Jews were chosen, because they were the seed of Abraham.

I’m sure other people have far cleverer explanations involving God’s knowledge of where and when His Son would be born, but the above is simple enough that it doesn’t make my brain hurt from overthinking it :whacky:

For the broader point of the thread, I don’t think that just because one culture is older than another it invalidates the claims of Christianity. As others have already pointed out, the Bible is not meant to be taken as a scientific textbook nor purely as a work of thoroughly accurate and impartial history (though before someone points it out, archaeological evidence in the Middle East has yet to seriously disprove anything, and in fact probably does the opposite; meanwhile the order of creation more or less mirrors the ‘scientific’ understanding of how the Earth grew and life emerged and evolved).

Religion is not incompatible either with ‘science’ in its broad sense (though it might argue that what some scientists want to do isn’t morally acceptable!), nor with our understanding of human history.


#10

When did God ask the Chinese to be His chosen people?


#11

I don’t see why oranges are more important than rice or some other crop as a factor in choosing a people? The Chinese had plenty of crops. And as well, they had a great culture and civilization. Why should they have been left out when God chose His people?


#12

If you’re going to ask that question, for that matter, why didn’t God choose the Indus Valley civilization or whoever built Çatalhöyük. Seriously.


#13

Yes. That is another question which can be asked.


#14

Well, I don’t think this is really a case of ‘first come, first served’ - or as one would say in Japanese, “the early one wins” (hayai mono gachi).


#15

Do you have any historical evidence demonstrating this influence?


#16

I’m curious:
when confronted with the beauty of a chosen people, your assumption is that others are left out and deprived.

How do you jump to that conclusion?
It’s like me observing the artistic gifts of someone else, and defining my whole life by my lack of his gift. I have my own gifts, and the gifts of my neighbor are a good thing in themselves, not the definition of my lacking.


#17

If God was going to choose one culture out of which the Savior of the world would arise (the primary purpose of the Jews’ chosen status in Christian thinking), then He by necessity would be leaving all the rest out. There may be no answer to “Why not China” other than “I picked these guys.”

Though, if you do want a concrete answer, I seem to recall the Bible states at one point that God deliberately chose a weak and unimportant people (in terms of ancient global politics) so that they would always recognize their accomplishments as the result of His blessing rather than their own greatness. That would disqualify any already advanced and powerful cultures,


#18

In case it wasn’t clear - obviously the oranges were a joke on my part :stuck_out_tongue:

I also really like this thought :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Of course in the Christian understanding, no one is left out from the beautiful totality of Christ’s sacrifice. I suppose when the whole world is offered salvation, it doesn’t really matter where the Saviour is from…?


#19

Why do you think the chosen-ness of the Jewish people means God is by necessity leaving others out?


#20

Now what about the dinosaurs? they were long before mankind. Does anybody think it is possible that there have been intelligent civilizations even before mankind on this earth that were capable of free thought?


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