Ancient Writings Compared

Critics of the Bible usually object to its proclamation of a creator God to whom man is accountable. In fact, moral accountability is the over-riding message of the Bible, combined with a divine solution to man’s problem of moral failure.

Yet the Bible does exist as a surviving ancient document. It is the most remarkable document in all of human history, ancient and modern. To assess that fact let us compare the ancient text of the Bible with other ancient writings which are help up against it at times.

Before we look at specific ancient documents, consider this quote about the Bible from Professor William Foxwell Albright.

“It [the Bible] stands absolutely alone in ancient literature without a remote parallel even among the Greeks …  The Table of Nations remains an astonishingly accurate document …  (It) shows such remarkably ‘modern’ understanding of the ethnic and linguistic situation in the modern world, in spite of all its complexity, that scholars never fail to be impressed with the author’s knowledge of the subject.” (Recent Discoveries In Bible Lands, pp.70ff.)

Sumerian Mythology

Discovery of ancient texts in the ruins of Nineveh and at Ebla, among other sources as well, provide us with a range of ancient texts which echo back to the early Sumerian civilisation. Those texts give ancient accounts of events and provide a notion of their ancient view of the world.

The ancient accounts of creation and the flood, which are claimed to be the original sources from which the Bible accounts of those events were constructed, prove to be vastly inferior to the Bible. While some scholars blindly proclaim such texts as the ancient epic stories of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis as the mythological base from which the Bible’s mythological stories were developed, we have already seen in previous articles in my archaeology series, that they leave much to be desired. They are decidedly non-scientific and mythical. They describe a universe which is inconsistent with what people now revere in both science and religion. They have no prevailing presence in modern thought.

Note that the combined corpus of Assyrian mythology, celebrated as the seedbed for Moses’ writings in Genesis, has been lost to antiquity and irrelevance. It has not persisted as something of substance in today’s word, even though there are those who wish to hanker back to ancient religious thought.

Codes and Histories

We saw in an earlier post on the Code of Hammurabi, that the legal prescriptions of King Hammurabi are limited and devoid of moral principal. They are a far cry from the pronouncements of our moral creator God, given to Moses on Mount Sinai, 500 years after Hammurabi’s work.

Hammurabi’s code is not enshrined in civil codes today. It is not an undergirding aspect of today’s legal systems. While its cruel prescriptions, such as maiming a thief, are picked up in such places as the Koran, there is no abiding regard for this text and its contribution to modern civilisation.

We also have ancient historical records, such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This text is essentially a religious funeral liturgy devoted to making the appropriate petitions to the polytheistic deities, so that the deceased will be allowed certain privileges and protections in the afterlife.

Copies of the text were carved on the sarcophagi, or placed inside it, so the dead would have access to the various petitions to make in the afterlife, to enable them to go forth each day. They were designated the Book of the Dead in an 1842 translation, and the name has persisted since.

The deities, prayers, concepts of afterlife and concerns expressed in the Egyptian book have faded from consciousness in today’s world. They do not describe things which today’s science or religious thought holds dear.

Similarly, the ancient Sumerian Kings List, with its reference to the flood very early in human history, is not a living document. It is regarded as a mixture of fact and fiction, worth being aware of, but of limited value today. It is just another list of names, bringing with it no moral value and little scientific merit. On this point, however, I believe that the Sumerian King List proves to be a valuable corroboration of the Bible history, and I will investigate that claim in a future post.

Greek Mythology and Philosophy

Greek writings from the centuries before Christ are, arguably, the most enduring ancient writings outside the Bible. Western thought has been greatly influenced by the rediscovery and re-promotion of these Greek texts in recent centuries.

Most western universities have courses in the Greek Classics. They are held by some to be essential reading in order to come to wisdom. Yet for all that, the Greek philosophers have not been able to develop a track-record of enduring impact and value. Most who study them gain little from the process and rarely become evangelists for their promotion.

World Thought

The Hindu Vedas and the writings of Confucius are other examples of ancient documents which have survived into today’s generation. Hindus revere their Vedic writings. Chinese culture owes much to the standards encouraged by Confucius. Buddhists refer to teachings attributed to their founder, Gautama Buddha. These writings were an oral tradition for a very long time and various schools of Buddhism give different weight to various aspects of the ancient texts.

While these various influences hold sway within their cultural or religious context, they are generally locked within that context. They have not gained currency in other fields of application.

Disposable Antiquity

It is to be noted that these various documents from antiquity have two significant qualities which differentiate them from the Bible. The first is that they are disposable. Many indeed have disappeared from the culture completely.

The ancient Assyrian clay tablets, referring back to even more ancient Sumerian myths, were buried for several millennia. Their message was not missed. Their contribution was not sought. They did not leave a void. They were easily disposed of. Even today, subsequent to their rediscovery and publication, they have little impact. Their greatest contribution seems to be in encouraging criticism of the Bible by those who wish to see them as a mythical source for what they call Biblical mythology.

Harmurabi’s Code and the Egyptian Book of the Dead are novel relics, but of no present impact. The religious texts of Buddhism and Hinduism have been abandoned by converts from those religions, without loss to those converts. Those individuals have been able to dispose of their ancient religious texts without thought. Similarly, students of Greek philosophy have disposed of their textbooks and essays, without any further regard for the supposed value of those studies.

Compare those examples with the Bible, which has been the most attacked book in history, yet has had by far the most outstanding impact of any book in all of human history. Rather than passing into oblivion, as several people have prophesied it would, it remains as loved and valued today as ever. The Bible is not a disposable book, despite its antiquity. It has an enduring relevance, which gives it as much value in each new generation as it held in olden-days times.

Impotent Impact

The second significant quality of these ancient texts is that they display limited impact. They have not endured, because they have not delivered value. In many cases they do not offer truth, but a cultural delusion which passed away with the culture of the era, such as the Greek mythology and Egyptian funerary rites of ancient Egyptian polytheism.

The religious writings also prove to be impotent. When devotees of Hinduism and Buddhism convert to Christianity, for example, they discover potency in their new faith which they did not find in their past beliefs.

Greek mythology and philosophy has now been studied by millions of western minds, yet it has not brought the impact to them that is so readily testified to by those who have believed in the Bible.

The Supreme Text

The Bible is the vastly superior ancient text, on all counts. It has endured while others have faded away and not been missed. It has impact, not only to the religious devotees, but in such fields as law, sciences, government, society, family life, health, education and personal transformation.

Jesus Christ prescribed the perfect test for people and related things, by telling us to check out the fruit which is produced.

“Wherefore by their fruits you will know them.” Mathew 7:20

The fruit of all these ancient documents amounts to so little, if anything, especially when compared with the fruit which the Holy Bible continues to prompt and generate in the lives of young and old, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, on every continent and in every country and culture, not only now, but continually through human history.

When ancient writings are compared, the Bible stands supreme. And this is not simply a religious claim by a Christian. This is the clear evidence for all who will dare to look.

Karma Upgrade

What version of Karma are you running? I don’t mean on your computer, I mean in your daily life. Karma has been through a bunch of versions through the centuries and the all time best upgrade includes a fool-proof Karma Firewall!

If you haven’t reviewed your Karma recently, then you need to read this illuminating report.

Buddha and Karma

Contrary to popular notions, the concept of karma which Gautama Buddha presented back in the sixth century B.C. was primarily negative. That is to say, Buddha believed that karmic thought, word or deed deserved karmic revenge – a curse of suffering that pursues the person till he or she dies. Buddha’s original notion of karma is very close to what Moses presented in previous generations. When people do wrong they must suffer or are under a curse because of their actions and thoughts. A penalty is hanging over everyone’s head that we cannot run away from, no matter what we do.

Karma and Reincarnation

Buddha realised that karma could not be easily conquered and that its impact is deadly. Karma locks people into fear. It demands an eternal payment which is exacted when the person suffers in this life and in the after-life.

Buddha did not necessarily agree with the Hindu notion of reincarnation. Reincarnation should be seen as a curse which karma inflicts upon people, making them tread this world of suffering over and over again. What hope is there of ever resolving karma’s revenge?

Buddha told his followers that there was no way a person could ultimately become free from their karma, no matter how many lives they were forced to live and re-live. Reincarnation offered nothing to Buddha, but a hopeless perpetuation of the curse of karma.

Even if people could be reincarnated, to have another chance to live life and accumulate more karma, they would be locked into an endless cycle of repeated mistakes, suffering and reincarnations. True deliverance would have to come from an outside deliverer who would save mankind from karma.

A New Hope

It is known that Buddha predicted the coming of a Holy One who would deliver people from karma. This Holy One was to be recognized by wounds in his head and in his hands. Many of us believe we have already found this Holy One!

The Western Upgrade

Eastern mysticism has been dressed up and repackaged for today’s westerners. Popularised by various Hindu yogis, supported by such popular identities as the Beatles rock group and disseminated in a host of books about eastern topics, eastern mysticism has been packaged as a New Age movement.

In the New Age movement ideas from Hinduism and Buddhism have been merged with anything that carries an alternative spirituality to the faith of the Bible. In that repackaging process karma has been re-packaged as a new Western version.

Western devotees now speak of “good karma” and teach you how to increase your good karma. While it is possible that good deeds may be seen as good karma, Buddha never said that good karma can erase bad karma. Yet it is popular in commercialised western mysticism to offer people the hopeful notion of karma as a friend.

In that repackaging, the notion of reincarnation has also been interpreted as a friendly process, not a hopeless futility. Upward progress is believed in, as people conquer their bad karma, cultivate good karma and finally get to live “happily ever after”.

The Western upgrade of karma is fake. It is a seductive repackaging of the hopelessness and bondage of eastern religion, to seduce westerners away from the highly effective and valuable religious roots of their culture. Eastern religions have produced eastern living, which includes the caste system, poor economy, limited technology, religious masochism and so on.

Western culture owes little to eastern mysticism, while the east owes much of its modern advances to the Christian-based West.

The Karma Seduction

What is seductive about the western ‘upgrade’ of karma is that it denies what Buddha taught two and a half millennia ago. Buddha knew that karma was unconquerable and that the only hope was an external deliverer who would break the power of karma from our lives.

The western upgrade has dressed up karma in people-friendly garb. But if people think they can generate good karma and get rid of their own bad karma, they are deceived. They will become self-reliant and not look for the saviour which so many ancients prophesied about and waited for.

The karma seduction will doom people to ultimate judgement for their wrong doing. It will rob them of the saviour they need.

Westerners, once wonderfully blessed by knowledge of Jesus Christ as saviour, are being led away from the real help they need, to foolish confidence in their own ability to save themselves.

If you have had a Western Upgrade on your karma then you have been infected with a deadly virus which will eat the heart out of you and leave you ready for the eternal scrap-heap.

The Karma Firewall

What you need is not a karma upgrade, but the Karma Firewall. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you from all sin (1John 1:7). When you confess your wrongs to God He will not only forgive you but cleanse you from the effects of that sin (1John 1:9).

The blood of Jesus Christ is the firewall that blocks all effects of karma. It roots out the old infections, no matter how long they have been in your system. It also quickly neutralises all new infections.

That means you are able to go straight to the ultimate level. You don’t need reincarnation. You don’t need to earn your way out of your mess. You don’t go back to square one and have a clean slate. You get upgraded to a Son of God! You enter into relationship with the creator of the universe, Almighty God.

Jesus Christ has suffered for all our karma, in any and all of its forms.

My Silly Old Poem

Years ago I wrote a little ditty to celebrate the finished work of Christ in delivering us from karma and the need for reincarnation.

“Jesus Christ has freed me from my karma, and I’ve been born again.
Jesus Christ has done away with karma, and I’m complete in Him.
I’ve been born again; Didn’t need a reincarnation.
I’ve been born again, And it’s called salvation!”

Get your upgrade today!

More Information

For more information on Buddhism and the teachings of Buddha I recommend the excellent book by Steve Cioccolanti, called “From Buddha To Jesus: And Insider’s View of Buddhism & Christianity”. You can find out more by visiting: http://www.buddhabook.org

James Gilmour in Mongolia

This is the day that … James Gilmour was born, “a few miles from Glasgow”, Scotland, in 1843.

Few missionary stories reveal such hardship and danger and solitude … “I doubt if St Paul endured more for Christ than James Gilmour did…” was said at his memorial service in Peking.

Born to a devout Christian family, James’ mother taught him and his five brothers the scriptures and stories of missionary endeavour. A bright student he excelled in academics and keenly sought to serve God. He abhorred alcohol. He once poured a friend’s drink out the window, proclaiming, “Better on God’s earth than in His image”.

After studying at a Congregational theological college, Gilmour left for Mongolia in 1870 under the auspices of the London Missionary Society. He was ready to go abroad, saying, “to me the soul of an Indian seemed as precious as the soul of an Englishman, and the Gospel as much for the Chinese as the European.”

For 27 years he lived among the Mongolians (less than half of that time with a faithful wife who died on the field), seeking to point them away from their Buddhism to the Saviour.

Life was filled with danger, to which his response was, “Our death might further the cause of Christ more than our life could do.”

“Always he was busy,” writes A. Smellie, “healing the sick, talking with enquirers, selling Christian books, preaching the gospel …” (Torchbearers of the Faith, page 212).

He ate but once a day … walking from village to village with his luggage and Bibles and medicines on his back. In 1886 he records in his journal: “Preached to 24,000 people (this year), treated more than 5,700 patients, distributed 10,000 books and tracts … and out of all this there are only two men who have openly confessed Christ.”

During a brief furlough in Scotland he had this to say: “Just think! In a little town like this there are men preaching on every other street corner, and I am all alone in these hundreds of square miles in Mongolia. What you people are thinking of I cannot imagine!”

Judged by worldly standards his success was minimal. But when he died of typhus fever at the age of 48 he assuredly heard the Saviour’s “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.