What was the first book of religion ever?

I’ve heard some scholars say the Hebrew Bible is the oldest example of religious scripture around. A quick google search however says the Rigveda of Hinduism might be the oldest. No one seems quiet sure.

Is it correct to say that the Hebrew Bible is the first book of religion ever? Will that statement hold up to scholarly criticism?

I basically want to make the point that all other religions of the world are imitations of the first ever religion (Judaism) and that all the religious texts of other religions come after Judaism began and so are just imitations. Except Christianity of course which is the fulfillment of Judaism.

[quote=Harry123]Is it correct to say that the Hebrew Bible is the first book of religion ever? Will that statement hold up to scholarly criticism?
[/quote]

Probably not. Even if it could be established that Hebrew religious texts pre-date other known texts, it would not be possible to demonstrate that they pre-date texts that we don’t know about.

[quote=Harry123]I basically want to make the point that all other religions of the world are imitations of the first ever religion (Judaism)
[/quote]

I don’t think that you’ll be able to justify the claim that Judaism was the first religion. There are many examples of evidence of religious practice that pre-date the earliest evidence of any Abrahamic religion.

The Egyptians had a religion before the Hebrews even became a people. Babylonians also before Abram left to become Abraham.

Sumerian religion is probably the first.

This assumption cannot hold water. Judaism didn’t develop until mankind was spread all over the world. As you stated, religion probably developed in tandem with mankind’s ability to ‘stop and think’. As art work in Chauvet cave in France indicates, this ability to contemplate happened at least 30,000 years ago. Realization of a power greater than mankind predates Judaism.

The art of writing did not yet exist in the time of Abraham, but it was well established in the time of Moses. It was not until at least the time of Moses, if not later, that Hebrew books of religion began to be made, and they probably picked up the idea from other nations - possibly even Egypt itself.

Maybe Job… ?

[quote=Harry123]I basically want to make the point that all other religions of the world are imitations of the first ever religion (Judaism) and that all the religious texts of other religions come after Judaism began and so are just imitations. Except Christianity of course which is the fulfillment of Judaism.
[/quote]

The first ever religion would not be Judaism, which is basically the religion of Juda after returning from the Babylonian exile. Before that you would have had a Hebrew/Israelite religion, which would have been based on the Mosaic Law. Before that you would have had the religion of the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Before that you would have had the religion of Noah and his progeny. Before that you would have had the religion of Adam and Eve and their progeny.

Until Moses creates a nation out of the people of Jacob, the true religion was always mainly a familial religion.

It is important to remember that even Abraham was visited by Melchizedek, a High Priest and King of Salem.

Finally religious texts had NOTHING to do with any of these religions, until after Moses that is, when there was a written law. So looking for written texts of older religions may be comparing apples to oranges. The written text may have been a record of historical events, or whatever, but was not considered “Sacred Scripture” or Divine Revelation, as we look upon it now.

I don’t know. The Hebrew Bible was probably set down in some form about 1,000 BCE, and so were the Vedas. :shrug:

Writing was invented by the ancient Sumerians. They first started writing religious texts in the “late early dynastic period”. So those hymns are probably the earliest religious writing, but it’s possible that the carved hymns we’ve found aren’t the very first ones; those could be lost.

But, no, the OT is not the first religious writing.

Its so hard to distinguish between ‘the first’ and ‘the earliest known’ in historical context. Religion probably developed hand in hand with human habitation, its appears to be ingrained into our very existence. You might make a case that Judaism is one of the oldest continually practiced religions? Though that is pretty far off from your question.

As far as i understand it, Judaism began in the Garden of Eden. It then developed as Abraham, Moses etc came on the scene and then finally with Jesus (when Judaism was fulfilled in Christianity). So, obviously Judaism would have to be the first religion as it began in the Garden of Eden when God directly spoke with man. And maybe even earlier, such as on day one in the beginning GEN 1:1.

What i’m trying to establish is did someone come along and write down a religious book about some made-up religion before the Jews began writing down their religion?

Yes nobody can say for sure.
Karen Armstrongs book A History of God has monotheism dating back at least as far as other early polytheistic beliefs.

I think proto-Judaism does predate other religions. Of course it’s just an opinion but you can make a pretty strong case for that position - bearing in mind that having the ‘earliest texts’ doesn’t necessarily equate to earliest form of religion. The Enuma Elish is very early but it is arguably a parallel creation account to that which we have handed down from Abrahamic Monotheism.

I see where you are coming from now. Unfortunately, I think a lot of what I’ll call ‘primitive religions’ have their own genesis stories as well. So they are describing the world back to the same time as Judaisms genesis. It’s an interesting question, I wish you luck in your quesr!

I’ll point out that a Catholic is not required to take a literalistic view of Genesis. I might recommend that you read Humani Generis by Pius XII.

He tells us that while the truths being conveyed by the OT are infallible, the writers were human writers who were not following “the historical method”.

He doesn’t say that a Catholic must deny a literalistic view of Genesis and the OT generally, but he definitely says that you don’t have to take that perspective and that, for example, a Catholic is entirely allowed to believe in evolution. There are limits (note what he says about polygenism because of doctrine of Original Sin is taken to be an infallible truth), but the literal reading is not a doctrinal teaching of the Church.

Good luck in your research.

I know. Its my choice to take a literalistic view based on research.

And obviously in doing so, God speaking in the Garden of Eden to Adam ignited the first and one true religion Judaism-Christianity, and all other religions must be copies (with people making up their own gods, or satan making up gods trying to lure people away).

With that understanding you may just as well trace Catholicism back to the Garden of Eden! :wink:

It will be a fascinating journey for you. Begin with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and follow this quest with an open mind for God’s Grace and an open heart for God’s Love.

*I. THE DESIRE FOR GOD

27 The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:

The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.1

28 In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being:

From one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him - though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For "in him we live and move and have our being."2

29 But this “intimate and vital bond of man to God” (GS 19 § 1) can be forgotten, overlooked, or even explicitly rejected by man.3 Such attitudes can have different causes: revolt against evil in the world; religious ignorance or indifference; the cares and riches of this world; the scandal of bad example on the part of believers; currents of thought hostile to religion; finally, that attitude of sinful man which makes him hide from God out of fear and flee his call.4

30 "Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice."5 Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness. But this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, “an upright heart”, as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.

You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised: great is your power and your wisdom is without measure. And man, so small a part of your creation, wants to praise you: this man, though clothed with mortality and bearing the evidence of sin and the proof that you withstand the proud. Despite everything, man, though but a small a part of your creation, wants to praise you. You yourself encourage him to delight in your praise, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.6*

I agree, Job is one of the earliest. Especially if you accept that Jobab in the early genealogies is Job. The Book of Enoch is one of the first, according to St. Jude’s epistle. Obviously there would be other pre flood books.:smiley:

I think you will find that the most respected scriptural research moves away from a literalist view of the book of Genesis.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.