The Twists And Turns Of Religion: Shaman, Priest And Promised Messiah

Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. ( Davezelenka/ CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Twists And Turns Of Religion: Shaman, Priest And Promised Messiah

The world of late antiquity was extremely suspicious of novelty, anything, that is, that made claim to serious attention. Every innovation, whether of thought or technique, had to be justified in terms of its fulfilling a promise from the past, which granted authority - the more remote, the greater the authority. Jesus’ claim, for example, was that he fulfilled prophetic scripture. His present was justified by the past. Novelty was understood as something childish, whimsical.

Magnificent Egyptian Edfu Temple(Patrick.reb / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Novelty and Ancestry

One had to aim to emulate the greatness and heroism of old if one wished for recognition as ‘new’ talent. A glimpse of this is the competition that raged between the claims of Egypt and Israel to hold the keys to the purest cults. Egypt, of course, had the advantage of a highly visible architecture of staggering scope and impressiveness. In this respect, Judaea could only claim its new temple, constructed by order of Herod the Great, an Idumaean Arab who achieved power by the grace of Mark Antony (83–30 BC). What the Jews did have, of course, was a history and the texts to back it up - and the texts spoke of a glorious, lost temple of old, built by the wisest king in the world, King Solomon, to whom foreign kings and queens paid respect. When Jesus points out the beauties of rural flowers, he asks, “Was Solomon in all his glory arrayed as one of these?” And he takes beauty back to its creative source: God himself. What he, and his followers, had to say about Herod’s temple, on the other hand, would get him, and them, into much trouble.

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