Origins of religions

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SIMPLE GUIDE TO HINDU TERMS

  • Ahimsa (Sanskrit, ahinsa)-non violence; not hurting or killing anything. Basis for Hindu vegetarianism and respect for animals.

  • Ashram-a shrine or place where a guru (spiritual guide) teaches.

  • Atman- spirit; associated with that which is deathless. Often mistakenly translated soul. See jiva.

  • Avatar- a manifestation or an incarnation of a Hindu Deity.

  • Bhakti- devotion to a deity that leads to salvation

  • Bindi- a red spot that married women wear on the forehead.

  • Brahman- the priestly and highest level of the caste system; also the Ultimate Reality. See page 116.

  • Dharma- the ultimate law of all things; that which determines the rightness or wrongness of acts.

  • Ghat-stairway or platform by a river.

  • Guru-teacher or spiritual guide.

  • Harijan-member of the Untouchable caste; means ‘people of God” compassionate name given by Mahatma Ghandhi.

  • Japa- worship of God by repetition of one of his names; a mala, or rosary of 108 beads, is used to keep count.

  • Jiva (or pran, prani): the personal soul or being.

  • Karma- the principle that every action has its positive or negative consequences for the next life of the transmigrated soul.

  • Kshatriya- the professional, governing, and warrior class, and the second level of the caste system.

  • Mahant- holy man or teacher.

  • Mahatma- Hindu saint, from maha, high or great, and atman spirit.

  • Mantra- a sacred formula, believed to have magical power, used in initiating into a sect and repeated in prayers and incantations.

  • Maya- the world as an illusion.

  • Moksha, or mukti- release from the cycle of rebirth; the end of the soul’s journey. Also known as Nirvana, the union of the individual with the Supreme Entity, Brahman.

  • OM,AUM- a word symbol representing Brahman used for meditation; sound considered to be the mystic vibration; used as a sacred mantra.

  • Paramatman- the World spirit, the universal atman, or Brahman.

  • Pupa-worship

  • Sadhu-transmigration of an eternal, imperishable soul.

  • Shakti- the female power or the wife of a god, especially Siva’s consort.

  • Sraddha-important rites conducted to honour ancestors and assist departed souls in attaining moksha.

  • Sudra-laborer, the lowest of the four main castes.

  • Swami- teacher or higher level of spiritual guide.

  • Tilak- a mark on the forehead that symbolizes the retention of the memory of the Lord in all his activities.

  • Trimurti- Hindi triad of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva.

  • Upanishads- early sacred poetic writings of Hinduism. Also known as Vedanta, the end of the Vedas.

  • Vaisya- class of merchants and farmers; third group in the caste system.

  • Vedas- earliest sacred poetic writings of Hinduism.

  • Yama- the god of death; he keeps track of each one’s karma to determine the quality of the next life.

  • Yoga- from the root yuj, meaning to join or yoke; involves the joining of the individual to the universal divine being. Popularly known as the discipline of meditation involving posture and breath control. Hinduism recognizes at least four main Yogas, or paths.


HINDUISM- SOME GODS AND GODDESSES

  • Aditi- mother of the gods; sky-goddess; the infinite.

  • Agni- god of fire.

  • Brahma-the Creator God, the principle of creation in the universe. One of the gods of the Trimurti (triad).

  • Brahman, or Brahm- the Supreme, all pervasive entity of the universe, represented by the sound OM or AUM. Also referred to as Atman. Some Hindus view Brahman as an impersonal Divine Principle or Ultimate Reality.

  • Buddha- Gautama, founder of Buddhism; Hindus view him as an incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu.

  • Durga- wife or Shakti of Siva and identified with Kali.

  • Ganesa (Ganesha)- Siva’s elephant-headedson-god, Lord of Obstacles, god of good fortune. Also called Ganapati and Gajanana.

  • Ganga- goddess, one of sivas wives and personification of the river Ganges.

  • Hanuman- monkey god and devoted follower of Rama.

  • Himalaya- abode of snow, father of Parvati.

  • Kali- Siva’s black consort (Shakti) and bloodthirsty goddess of destruction. Often portrayed with large red tongue hanging out.

  • Krishna- the playful eighth incarnation of Vishnu and the deity of the Bhagavad Gita. His lovers were the gopis, or milkmaids.

  • Lakshmi- goddess of beauty and good fortune; Vishnu’s consort.

  • Manasa-ancestor of the human race, saved from the flood’s destruction by a great fish.

  • Mitra- god of light. Known as Mithras to the Romans.

  • Nandi- the bull, Siva’s vehicle or mode of transport.

  • Nataraja- Siva in dance posture encompassed by a ring of flames.

  • Parvati or Uma-goddess consort of Siva. Also takes the form of goddess Durga or Kali.

  • Prajapati- Creator of the universe, Lord of Creatures, father of gods, demons, and all other creatures. Later known as Brahma.

  • Purusha-cosmic man. The four main castes were made from his body.

  • Radha- consort of Krishna.

  • Rama, Ramachandra-the seventh incarnation of the god Vishnu. The epic narrative Ramayana relates the story of Rama and his wife Sita.

  • Saraswati- goddess of knowledge and consort of Brahman the Creator.

  • Shashti- goddess who protects women and children in childbirth.

  • Siva- god of fertility, death and destruction a member of the Trimurti- symbolized by the trident and the phallus.

  • Soma- both a god and a drug; the elixir of life.

  • Vishnu-god the preserver of life; third member of the Trimurti.


BUDDHISM AND GOD (WATCH TOWER, 1990)

Buddhism teaches the way to perfect goodness and wisdom without a personal God; the highest knowledge without a ‘revelation’; the possibility of redemption without a vicarious redeemer, a salvation in which everyone is his own savior.”



The Message of Buddhism, by the Bhikkhu Subhadra, as quoted in What is Buddhism?

Then are Buddhists atheists? The book What is Buddhism? Published by the Buddhist Lodge, London, answers: “If by atheist you mean one who rejects the concept of personal God, we are.” Then it goes on to say: “A growing mind can as easily digest the idea of a Universe guided by unswerving Law, as it can the concept of a distant Personage that it may never see, who dwells it knows not where, and who has at some time created out of nothing a Universe which is permeated by enmity, injustice, inequality of opportunity, and endless suffering and strife.”

Thus, in theory, Buddhist does not advocate belief in God or a Creator. However, Buddhist temples and stupas are found in every country where Buddhism is practiced, and images and relics of Buddhas and bodhisattvas have become objects of prayers, offerings and devotion by devout Buddhists. The Buddha, who never claimed to be God, has now become a god in every sense of the word.
CONFUCIANISM- PHILOSOPHY OR RELIGION?

Because Confucius made few comments about God, many people view Confucianism as only a philosophy and not a religion. Yet, what he said and did, showed that he was religious. This can be seen in two respects. First, he had a reverent fear for a Supreme cosmic spiritual power, what the Chinese call T’ien, or Heaven, which he regarded as the source of all virtue and moral goodness and whose will, he felt, directs all things. Second, he placed great emphasis on meticulous observance of the rites and ceremonies relating to the worship of heaven and the spirits of departed ancestors.

Though Confucius never advocated these views as a form of religion, to generations of Chinese they have become what religion is all about.

THE FOUR BOOKS


  1. The Great Learning (Ta Hsueh), the basis of a gentleman’s education, the first text studied by school boys in old China.

  2. The Doctrine of the Mean (Chung Yung) a treatise on the development of human nature through moderation.

  3. The Analects (Lung Yu), a collection of Confucius’ sayings, considered the main source of Confucian thought.

  4. The Book of Mencius (Meng-tzu) writings and sayings of Confucius’ greatest disciple, Meng-tzu, or Mencius.


THE FIVE CLASSICS

  1. The Book of Poetry (Shih Ching), 305 poems providing a picture of daily life in early Chou times (1000-600B.C.E).

  2. The Book of History (Shu Ching) covering 17 centuries of Chinese history beginnings with the Shang dynasty (1766-1122B.C.E)

  3. The Book of Changes (I Ching),a book on interpretations of the 64 possible combinations of six whole or broken lines.

  4. The Book of Rites (Li Chi) a collection of rules on ceremonies and rituals.

  5. Annals of Spring and Autumn (Ch’un Ch’iu), a history of Confucius’ native state of Lu, covering 721-478B.C.E.


SHINTO- A RELIGION OF FESTIVALS

The Japanese year is full of religious festivals, or matsuri. The following are some of the principal ones:



  • Sho-gatsu, or the New Year Festival, January 1-3.

  • Setsubun, bean throwing inside and outside homes, while shouting, “Devils out, good luck in” February 3.

  • Hina Matsuri, or Doll Festival for girls, held March 3. A platform of dolls, depicting an ancient imperial household, is displayed.

  • Boys Festival, on May 5; koinobori (carp streamers symbolizing strength) are flown from poles.

  • Tsukimi, admiring mid-autumn full moon, while offering small round rice cakes and first fruits of crops.

  • Kanname-sai, or the offering of the first new rice by the emperor, in October.

  • Niiname-sai is celebrated by the imperial family in November, when the new rice is tasted by the emperor, who presides as chief priest of the Imperial Shinto.

  • Shichi-go-san, which means “seven-five-three,” celebrated by Shinto families on November 15. Seven, five and three are viewed as important transition years; children in colourful kimono visit the family shrine.

  • Many Buddhist festivals are also celebrated, including the Buddha’s birthday, on April 8 and the Obon Festival, July 15, which ends with lanterns floating out on sea or stream “to guide ancestral spirits back to the world.”


CHAPTER FOUR
RELIGION AND REVELATIONS
There are four types of theistic Religions: Theistic Religions are Religions that believe in God, gods and the Supernatural; they are Polytheism, Ancestor worship, Monotheism and Ascetic oriental religions: of all these, only Monotheism like Judaism, Christianity and Islam have traditions of Prophets, prophecies and Holy Books: Prophets received revelations from God; Those revelations were written down to form Holy Books like the Bible and the Quran.
WHAT IS REVELATION:

Revelation is from the word “reveal”. To reveal means to show someone something that person previously did not know. God reveals to prophets and individuals what we previously did not know. Hence, Bible revelations are hidden supernatural ‘knowledge revealed to God’s chosen prophets, rnessengers and worshippers.


THE BIBLE AS A RECORD OF GOD’S REVELATIONS OF HIMSELF

God’s Revelations of Himself (see also QURAN.3:84)

The Bible is the Christian written word of God. It is the record of God’s dealings with men and God’s revelations of himself and his will. It contains the account of God’s gradual revelation of himself first, to the people of Israel through his actions in their lives then to the rest of the world and their communities, e.g. the Islamic Quran is based on the Old Testament. (Quran 2:87; 19:30; :3; 45- 84).

The Bible did not appear in the form it is today “it was first passed on in oral traditions, later the art of writing was discovered, then people had to draw objects they wanted in forms of pictures and later Alphabets emerged. Writing materials and paper were equally discovered. Many writers contributed in writing the books of the Bible, later they were compiled into one big Holy Bible. No Holy book, anywhere, fell down from heaven; All Holy Books were written by inspired human beings.

Historically, readers believe that the writers of the Bible were inspired by the super- intending power of the Holy Spirit; that no prophecy or scriptures ever came by the input of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2Tim 3:16, 2 Pet 1; 20 21). Revelation in this context means opening or releasing something that is hidden so that people will know and understand such things. It means bringing to light the acts and will of God so that man can work with him to accomplish his divine purpose.



Through revelations from the Bible, God uncovered his Supreme Being, and aspects of his nature such as his power, holiness, love, justice, commandments and his eternal plan of redemption of (sinful) man. God’s revelations of himself through the Bible and Quran have given us the privilege to know him, love him and serve him. Also God’s revelation of himself through the Bible took gradual processes. God revealed his person and actions in the past, and his attitude in present and future events. In each case, he uncovered to prophets what he wants us to do in any circumstance. God revealed himself and his plans to some Old Testament characters. Please see the following Bible passages for the stories of those characters. These stories are also in the Quran.

  1. God’s revelation of himself to Noah. (Gen 6:9-22)

  2. God’s revelation of himself to Abraham. (Gen 12:1-9,17: 1-2 and 18: 1-3:3)

  3. God’s revelation of himself to Moses. (Ex. 3:1-20); (Exodus 20:13)

  4. God’s revelation of Himself to Solomon. (1Kgs. 3:3-15)

  5. God’s revelation of himself to Jacob. (Gen 28:10-17,32:22-32, 46: 1-7)

  6. God’s revelation of himself to the judges. (Judges I4,5,6)

  7. God reveled himself to the prophets. (2Sam.ll, 12:1-15,1Kgs.2l:1-16)(Ezral:1) Ez.1:1-3

  8. God’s revelations to prophet Mohammed Q96:1-5;3:84

  9. God’s revelation of himself to prophet Isa i.e. Jesus QI 9:33; 3:45-59; 2:87


GOD REVEALED HIMSELF IN HISTORY

  1. God Revealed Himself Through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:1-5; Isaiah 7:14, Matt. l: 23, Isaiah 9:6)

After revealing himself to all the above listed characters,God finally revealed himself through his incarnate son,Christ, regarded by Christians as the greatest revelation on earth, and regarded by the Quran as second to prophet Mohammed (Q19:33, Q3:45, 55-58).Mohammed came about 535 years after Jesus.

  1. God also revealed himself to Prophet Mohammed (see Yusuf Ali: The Holy Quran (Q.96: 1-5) the Hindu- Brahman (Supreme Spirit) is God’s revelation in Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

The Bible is a. very reliable source of information and guidance to all Christians who believe in God’s revelation of himself to man. The Bible is more than a historical document to be preserved. It is more than a classic of English Literature to be cherished and admired. It is a record of God’s revelation of himself and his will to man. It carries its full message to those who read that they may discern and understand God’s word to man. Almost everything in the Old Testament and Jesus as God’s prophet (prophet Isa), are in the Quran as true revelations from God. (Onyekwelu.H.C. 2006)

  1. God also revealed himself to Buddha, the Orientals, and African traditionists.


RELIGIOUS AND MORAL LESSONS

1. The Bible contains the mind and incarnation of God. You must form the habit of reading and studying the Bible always, so that you will hear and be guided by God’s messages; while also respecting other people’s religions.


REVISION QUESTIONS AND EVALUATION

  1. What is Revelation?

  2. Give an account of God’s revelation of himself to any two of the following Bible and Quranic characters: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Mohammed etc.

  3. Why did God come down into the world in the person of his son Jesus Christ?


ORIGIN OF THE BIBLE

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE BIBLE:

Before we study the books of the Bible, we shall first study how the Bible was developed to its present form. Originally the Bible was in oral- tradition, before it was written down. This is the way most historical events throughout the world were handed down from one generation to the other, through words of mouth called oral traditions. These also included folk tales, songs, riddles and proverbs which our parents and elders often told us about the ancient past.

It is. therefore not surprising why the Jews can easily narrate Bible stories of creation, call of Abraham, God’s covenant laws with Israel, Joseph and the Jews in Egypt; of Moses himself, the Passover and liberation of the Jews from Egyptian bondage; not forgetting God’s provision for the forty (wilderness) years and Israel’s settlement in the promised land(Canaan). These traditional stories lasted for many years from one generation to the other until the Jews discovered the art of writing and wrote the Old Testament.
THE DISCOVERY OF WRITING: A CHANGE FROM ORAL TO WRITTEN TRADITION

Egypt was one of the centers of civilization in the world:The art of writing was first developed by the people of Egypt (c 4241BCE) and Mesopotamia; some even suggest China. The first writing was in form of pictures to signify what they wanted. Later, Egyptians discovered alphabets and the use of Papyrus reeds along the River Nile to make paper10 (ibid Nwala: 1997).

They also discovered writing materials like the pen (Stylus). Later, the people of Canaan discovered the art of writing from Mesopotamia and Egypt. The Israelites took advantage of this development and learnt the art of writing from the Canaanites in whose land they settled. Many Jewish scholars developed and advanced the art of writing with the result that during the peaceful reign of King Solomon they were able to collect all their moral stories, songs, proverbs and other historical events and wrote them down to form the Old-Testament.lt was not an easy task, but through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, these scholars were able to do a wonderful work.

Writing the Old Testament was the first to be completed from the era of King Solomon, between C 95OBCE to200BCE (Oyekanmi.O.A.Canon of the Old Testament (2002) p34.

Many books were written, but not all of them were accepted. Only the inspired ones were selected and later canonized as the Old Testament Bible we have today. The works of many scholars were rejected because of lack of spiritual import and empowerment. (See Pseudo - Epigrapha and Apocrypha)

The old Testament was originally written in Hebrew (or Aramaic) language for the interest of the Hellenist Jews (or Jews of dispersion) in Greek speaking countries.

The New Testament was written in Greek language some thirty to sixty five years after the death of Jesus Christ. Just like the Old Testament works, many scholars also wrote several books on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the events of the early church; but the church fathers, or authorities of the church, decided to select only those inspired books that had spiritual impact and moral values to form the New Testament Bible that we have today. Later, the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament languages were translated into Latin (Roman language) since the Jews were then under the Roman Empire. From Latin it was translated to English, Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa languages so that Nigerians can read the Bible in their various languages and understand the word of God. Translation of Holy Books into Indigenous languages to help preserve the languages is called ‘Bilingual-Translation Theology.

According to tradition, we should understand that the most ancient translation of the Old Testament into the Greek language is called the Septuagint (seventy). This is so called because it took seventy-two Jewish scholars seventy days to complete the translation.

After many centuries, the Jews decided to bring the Hebrew and Greek translations into a single text. To achieve this, they wanted to remove any differences between one copy and the other. They appointed Jews called the Masoretes to revise the consonantal Hebrew and Aramaic texts. They added vowel signs to the consonantal Hebrew text. (See Oyekanmi. O.A: 2002) e.g. YHWH is YAHWEH. Their work is called the Masoretic text, which was completed between the 6th and 9th centuries C.E. (i.e. 500 CE to 800CE) after Father Jerome’s Latin-Catholic Vulgate translation (399-405CE) ordered by Pope Damasus: (Brockman and Pescantini: 2004).
THE STRUCTURE OF THE BIBLE (See the New International Version study Bible)

The Bible is made up of two main parts; the Old Testament and the New Testament. Testament simply means written statements and beliefs.



Inter-Testamental, means the 400 years between Jewish return from Babylonian exile and the birth of Jesus when it is said there was no prophecy. It was within that period that Greek early philosophers like Socrates and company, and Hellenism i.e. Greek-Culture blossomed. (400BCE- 5BCE) see (Danny McCain; 1996)

The Old Testament, contains the books of the Bible telling of the history of the Jews and their beliefs. They are covenant books between God and his people Israel at Mount Sinai during the time of. Moses.

The New Testament, contains the books of the Bible telling of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and his earliest followers. The relationship between the two is that most of the promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament. E.g. the prophetic sign of Isaiah about the birth of a child to be named Immanuel through a young woman (Isaiah 9:6) was fulfilled in the New Testament Gospel of Christ (Matt 2:1 = Luke 2:7). The Jews used candles in the Temple to show the light yet to come; When Jesus came, he said....

l am the light of the world’.

The Bible is made up of sixty six (66) inspired and accepted books: Thirty nine (39) are from the Old Testament, while twenty seven (27) books are from the New Testament. This is the protestant version. The catholic version has seven (7) added books making it seventy three (73) in all;that is forty six (46) in the. Old Testament and same twenty seven (27) books in the New Testament. These seven books or writings recognized and added to the catholic version (the vulgate) include Baruch, Tobit, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom, I Maccabees and II Maccabees.



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