Origins of religions

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THE OLD TESTAMENT: (see the Holy Bible)

The thirty nine (39) Old Testament books are arranged into four sections which are

i. The Law....(Torah)

ii. The Prophets (Nebhim)

iii. The Writings (Ketubhim)

iv. The wisdom literature. (Hokma)


The Law books refer to the first five (5) books of the Bible. It is popularly called the Pentateuch (a Greek Term meaning “Five books”) which has been traditionally attributed to Moses as the author, though some scholars of the last two centuries argued vigorously that all events in Genesis antedated the birth of Moses, and it is likely that Moses did not write all of them, or Moses might have made use of whatever oral or written sources that were available to him, especially traditions on creation which represent the Genesis creation stories, not forgetting the patriarchal narratives (i.e. stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) (Oyekanmi; 2002)


These are other Old Testament books not necessarily as prophetic as the prophets: The writings include (a) the Psalms(b) 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles (c) Ruth (d) Ezra, c58OBc (e) Nehemiah c53OBc (f) Esther, c56OBc (g) Songs of Solomon, by King Solomon around 940 B.C (h) Lamentations by Jeremiah the prophet around 600BC

The writings are so called because they are poetic in nature. They contain stern warnings against sin, ultimate punishment is promised the sinners. For instance, while the prophets teach us that the source of wisdom is, “the fear of the Lord” the psalms cover the gamut of human emotions from the moments of depression to heavenly praises. It encourages us to continue to believe and trust and praise God in every circumstance.

  1. Proverbs, probably by King Solomon around 950 BC

  2. ob- This book is anonymous and without dating

  3. Ecclesiastics, probably by King Solomon, 94OBc


(see the Holy Bible) Writing of the New Testament books started with oral traditions just like the Old Testament books before they were written down after Christ’s ascension. It took about thirty years after his death before the documentation started. When the selected Apostles who were eye witnesses of Christ started dying away, early Christians and the apostles themselves started writing down all they heard and saw about Jesus. The earliest books of the New Testament were initially written as letters by the Apostles to Christian churches established in Asia and Eastern Europe:. Early Evangelists acted either as companions, Interpreters or writers to the Apostles. Among these Evangelists were John Mark, and St. Luke the physician (see also Danny McCain: Notes on New Testament Introduction; Jos ACTS, l996) 115-130.


Synoptic means seeing together and comparing things that look alike. The synoptic Gospels are Mathew, Mark and Luke. They are called synoptic because the stories they told about Jesus look alike as if one person wrote the three Gospels, though they have their differences. Please note similarities and differences of the Gospels; life teachings of Jesus as presented in the Gospels have 64% synoptic similarity, while John’s narratives are about 85% not similar.


C65CE: 93% similar to Mathew and Luke; 7% different.

John Mark was the writer of St. Mark’s gospel. Though he was not one of the twelve apostles, his gospel was the first to be written. He obtained his information from Simon Peter who was a first hand witness of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. He interpreted for Peter during Peter’s preachings. He accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the first Missionary journey as far as Perga in Pamphylia from where he returned to Jerusalem. He was also with Paul when he wrote to the Colossians and to Philemon (Col 4:10, Philemon 1:2-4) With these experiences, John Mark was able to write down what he heard his masters preach in addition to the materials he collected from other sources. His gospel is the shortest of the four Gospels; Most of its contents are also found in Mathew.


This is the first book in the New Testament arrangement. It was written by Levi, a former tax collector (Matt 9:9; Luke. 5:27 29). It is 58% similar to Mark and Luke; 42% different. Levi (also called Mathew), was probably writing for Jewish readers. It is very likely Mathew had ‘assess to St. Mark’s and St. Luke’s gospels to which he- added other: personal materials to form the gospel of twenty eight chapters, written in about 65CE, though some scholars place it between 80 and 90 CE.


(41% similar to Mark and Mathew: 59% different) St. Luke got the outline of his gospel from St. Mark’s gospel and improves on it. It is called the third gospel and bears the name of Luke, the beloved physician (Col.4:14), friend and companion of Paul. The same Luke wrote the third gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He joined Paul at Troas during the second missionary journey, going with them to Philippi (Acts 16:10-41). He was with Paul when he wrote to the Colossians, to Philemon and to Timothy (Col 4:14) (Philemon 1:2-4, 2Tim 4:11). It is certain that St. Luke collected some materials from St. Mark and other sources including his own personal experiences and documents to write St. Luke’s gospel in about 6OCE. It contains twenty four chapters.

St. Mathew, St. Mark and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels, so called because they all tell very much the same story about Jesus in the same way.


(a) They used oral traditions, e.g. the “Q” “quelle” source (b) Priority of Mark as first

(c) Five other documents like the,‘M’ and ‘L’ sources; Also the Q, Kerygma and didache: etc

Mathew, Mark and Luke are generally referred to as “synoptic” Gospels because the three Gospels have marked contrasts to St.John’s Gospel which is the fourth Gospel as they appear in our Bible. These Gospels present a “common view” of the facts about Jesus, hence the implication of the term as in the Greek word “synopsis, i.e. a blended view. Actually the term “synopsis” is a combination of two Greek words “sun” (to see or view) and “Opsis” (together), which means seeing or viewing together. As applied to the first three gospels the term is to be understood in three main senses, first, the three gospels view together or present us with a similar account of the events in the Life of Jesus; In order words, they contain parts which when compared, are virtually identical. Second, the term is used to differentiate these books from the fourth gospel (i.e. St. John’s Gospel). The Gospel of John differs in chronology-in the presentation of the events narrated, in the style and aims of Jesus’ teachings, including in the place of most of his public works. Finally, the term ‘synopsis” relates to the fact that many passages in the three books can be put in parallel columns which can be “seen” together and studied together.

The synoptic problem consists in the literal relationship of the three synoptic gospels namely: Mathew, Mark and Luke. It is estimated that there are 31 verses out of the total 66 verses in Mark which are absent from either Mathew or Luke. Mathew alone has about 600 verses of Mark. In some passages where Luke and Mark assumed a parallel, there is a large proportion of verbal agreement and about 50% of the total parallelisms have also verbal agreements. The order of Mark is substantially observed through out by Mark and Luke, where Mathew and Luke differ in order; they are never in agreement in materials against Mark; not in their common Materials. Another striking difference is that Mark uses much Aramaic (Palestinian language) expressions sometimes with a comment to explain; Mathew has not many Aramaic expressions while Luke has none at all.

Mark is not often longer and less smooth and often of quite cumbersome grammatical expressions. The uses of vivid historic present tenses are more frequent than in Matthew and Luke: Matthew and Luke often rendered statements of Mark in milder language and form; they seem to have toned down some of Mark’s roughness or to avoid it entirely

For instance, Matthew’ and Luke gave completely independent accounts of the birth and infancy stories [Matthew 1& 2 and Luke 2] but which Mark entirely omitted.

(See Quarcoopome T. N. 0 (1985) the Synoptic Gospels; Kenbim-Press Ltd; Ibadan, Nigeria. And www.encarta premium 2009 Microsoft word) see also: The Holy Bible New International Version (1973) International Bible Society; Boardman and Holman Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee)..

(Nnaji Ogundu assisted here by Rev. Ayegh Terna Nathaniel: 2010)

Unlike the other three gospels, St John’s gospel is different in pattern and purpose. Its purpose is formally stated in St. John’s Gospel, 20:30, and 31 written in order that the readers might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and by believing have life in his name. It was written about 90 CE.


It was written by St. Luke, the physician. This was his second book, a continuation of St. Luke’s gospel. It teaches us the evangelical work of the Apostles after they had received the power of the Holy Spirit. This is an eye witness account of how the Christian Church started after Christ Ascended.


This contains twenty one letters of morality and church injunctions written by the Apostles and few of the Apostles disciples.

The epistles are in fulfillment .of Jesus statement that when the comforter comes he will explain much more God’s plan of salvation as fulfilled by the mission and ministry of Jesus recorded in the four gospel narratives of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. Below are the Epistles

6. Romans Written by St. Paul: C5OCE

7. 1 Corinthians written by St. Paul: C49CE

8. 2 Corinthians: c45 -5OCE by St. Paul

9. Galatians c 50 CE by St. Paul;

10. Ephesians c45 CE by St. Paul

11. Philippians c48 CE by St. Paul

12. Colossians c49 /55 CE by St. Paul

13. 1 Thessalonians c50CE by St. Paul

14. 2 Thessalonians c48 CE by St. Paul

15. 1 Timothy c45 50 CE by St. Paul

16. 2 Timothy c45 50 CE by St. Paul

17. Titus c49 cEby St. Paul

18. Philemon c49 CE by St. Paul

19. Hebrew: This Epistles is anonymous.

Uncertain: c, 50/60CE

20. James written by St. James around 60 CE

21. 1 Peter written by St. Peter around 65 CE

22. 2 Peter written by St. Peterc65 CE

23. 1 John Written by St.John c68 7OCE

24. 2 John written by St. John c 69 CE

25. 3 John Written by St. John c 69 CE

26. Jude written by Jude, a servant of Jesus c 75 CE

27. The Book of Revelations: Written by St.John, the beloved Apostle. This is the last book in the Bible, perhaps also the last written. It is also the Apocalypse and eschatos written between 85/100 CE. In the above arrangement, the author used the R.S.V of the Bible. It is not serially arranged. It should be noted, that St. Paul’s epistles were written before the gospels; that St. Mark’s gospel which is traditionally the first gospel is placed second while Mathew is placed first.

As Christians, we are expected to read all the books in the Bible. We can start with the Acts of the Apostles and the Old Testament then read them every day until we have finished reading all the books in the Bible. As we read the Bible systematically, regularly and expectantly, the word of God will build our faith, keep us pure and help us to develop and improve our personal relationships with God, and with fellow human beings.

  1. Christians and non-Christians are expected to read the Old Testament books in order to have all round knowledge and full spiritual development, since the Old Testament is common to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

  2. In the New Testament, we learn about the life, work and teachings of Jesus including the Good News of salvation through faith in Christ and the Holy Spirit.


  1. Describe how the Bible was developed from Oral teachings.

  2. Narrate the discovery of writing from the people of Egypt and Mesopotamia to the Jewish scholars. How was the Bible translated to your language? May be it has not been translated.

  3. What is the Septuagint? Who were the Masoretes? What is the Pentateuch?

  4. Name the main parts of the Bible. What is the relationship between them? Give one example

  5. What is common to Jews, Christians and Muslims? (b) How many books make up the Bible?

  6. Write short notes on any two of the following (A). St. Mark’s gospel, St. Mathew’s Gospel, Luke’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles.

As God reveals himself to us for religious and professional services, we should try to answer and render selfless services to various communities. Some people have already responded to God’s call and revelations. They act on their visions and missions. Among such people were Christian missionaries who risked their lives and traveled thousands of kilometers from Europe and Asia by ships to bring Christianity and the gospel of salvation to Nigeria. Some of them were Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Bishop Shanaham, Rev. Father Lutz, Mary Slessor, Hope Waddel, Rev. Henry Townsend, Bishop T.C Tailor, Rev. C.J Patterson, Rev. Father J.M. Coquard, and Rev. T.B. Freeman Etc. We shall examine few of them. (Onyekwelu .H.C, 2009)

Samuel Ajayi Crowther was born in lyesin, in Oshogbo of Oyo state. As a Yoruba boy his parents named him Ajayi. In 1823, at the age of fifteen, he was caught by Fulani raiders and sold as one of the slaves. He was taken to Lagos from where he would be shipped to America with other slaves to work in the mines of Peru and Mexico.

Fortunately for him, the British Government had passed a law prohibiting slave trade and sent the British Navy on the high sea to free victims of the slave trade.

The following year the British warship rescued Ajayi and others from a slave ship and took them to Freetown-in Sierra Leone. There in Sierra Leone, he was looked after by European missionaries of the church missionary society (C.M.S) in free town. The missionaries sent him to school and in 1825 he was baptized, hence his name became Samuel Ajayi Crowther (Samuel representing the Biblical son of Hannah, and Crowther his missionary step father).

In 1827, he attended the Fourah Bay College, the present University of Sierra Leone. He was very brilliant and hardworking; eventually he became a teacher in that school. He developed a special interest in God’s work and became a catechist for the CMS in Sierra Leone. Under the auspices of the British Government, the CMS awarded him a scholarship to study in England. He studied Missions and Evangelism, and became a missionary for the CMS

When the British Government wanted to send out an expedition to explore the coast of West Africa and the River Niger, the CMS used the opportunity to send missionaries for the first time to West Africa. In 1841 Samuel Ajayi Crowther took part in the Niger expedition aimed at Christianizing the people of Nigeria. In 1843, he was ordained in England as a Minister of the Gospel and sent back to Freetown to evangelize his own people. The CMS then sent him to work as a missionary in Nigeria. He started his missionary exploits first, among his own people, the Yoruba’s.

In 1864, he landed at Badagry with a team of other missionaries.” He first went to Abeokuta and joined a European missionary Henry Townsend (and wife) who had set up a school for the CMS at Abeokuta. They teamed up and converted many people to the Christian faith. At Badagry and Abeokuta, they laboured for the numerical growth of the churches.

In 1853, he left Abeokuta for Ibadan on another missionary work. He worked hard with David Hinderer and co who were sent as European missionaries. He was very much encouraged to meet this couple and they worked hard to win many converts to Christianity.

He took part in another Niger Expedition in 1857. This expedition nearly cost his life because their boat had almost drowned but God delivered them through the locals. In spite of this threat, he persevered and carried the gospel to the people of Jebba and met the EtSU of Bida to convert him to Christianity. In 1864, Samuel Ajayi Crowther was consecrated the first Bishop and pioneer missionary of the Anglican Church in Nigeria. As a Bishop, he took up the responsibility of overseeing the clergy and the catechists, as well as the growing churches and the converts. Through his missionary activities, the CMS spread further to the south. In 1857, CMS schools like D.M.G.S, St. Augustine’s Grammar School Nkwerre, St. Marks T.T.C. Nise Awka, WTC Umuahiato to mention a few, started. By 1919, the CMS reached lsikwe-Achi,’Oji River, (Enugu State) from where it spread to neighborng towns like Awka. Inyi, Udi, Ngwo, Nsukka, Nike, Agbani, Awkunanaw, Okigwe, Owerri, Mbieri and Calabar etc.

Bishop Ajayi Crowther spent his time and efforts to translate the whole Bible to Yoruba language to enable his people understand God’s word.

Before his death in Lagos on 3th Dec. 1891, he had left a landmark for his generation and Nigeria as a nation. He was not only patriotic but a consecrated missionary whose life of righteousness and industry was worthy of emulation. Like the Biblical Ezekiel, he carried the gospel to his own people and used their own language to Minister to them. He condemned idolatry and other evils and exposed Christian concepts to people and converts. No wonder his death spread like wild fire in the dry harmattan and affected all the missionaries, school children and many mourners and sympathizers.

To commemorate his devotion to God’s work, a memorial stone was set over his grave at lyesin his place of birth. Also in Sierra Leone; the people built the Bishop Crowther Memorial Church and Ajayi Crowther Amphitheatre at Fourah Bay College in Freetown, all for the blessed memory of his consecration and missionary achievements in Sierra Leone (Freetown).


Mary Slessor was one of the earliest missionaries in Nigeria. She was born in Aberdeen in Scotland in 1848. Her parents were poor and she passed through hardship. She became a missionary of the Church of Scotland, and in 1876 she was sent to work at Calabar. There she met Rev. Hope Masteron Waddel an Irish missionary who had arrived in Duke Town, Calabar in 1846, and thirty years earlier. The two worked together and established schools and missions at Duke and Creek Towns etc.

Despite her weak constitution and constant illness, she worked for thirty years as missionary in Calabar. She preached against societal evils like slavery, human sacrifice and twins murder. She stopped twins murder and human sacrifice at Okoyon and was popularly called “the white Queen of Okoyon”. She was appointed the first woman consul and later president of a native court. She died in1915 and was buried at Calabar. Her grave was visited by Queen Elizabeth in 1956.

Revd. Father Coquard was one of the pioneer catholic missionaries in Nigeria, Born in France, he first came to West Africa as a ship’s doctor. An ardent and devoted catholic, he felt very unhappy and uncomfortable with the amount of misery, poverty and wretchedness he saw among the pagans. With this burden, and revelation for God’s work, he went back to France and joined the Society of African Missions in Lyon (France) and became a priest in 1890. As a Reverend Father, he sailed to Lagos that same year and went to Abeokuta. There he joined Revd. Father Lutz, another courageous Catholic Missionary from France and established Catholic Stations at Abeokuta from where the Mission spread to West African towns.

Gradually, they established schools for boys and convents for girls; these too later spread to all parts of Nigeria. As a Doctor, Revd. Coquard began to combine his medical practice with missionary activities. He began to attend to the sick and dying to the extent that patients from different races and creeds came to him for medical treatment. Without discrimination, he treated all his patients with the best attention. He trained many African nurses and established a hospital and maternity home, and a leper colony for people. On the other side, he performed his priestly functions.

Prophet Muhammad was born in 570/571CE into the Hashemite Clan in the Hijaz of the Arabian Peninsula (see Harry Boer: A short History of Islam Ibadan; day star;1976). The prophet was raised up by his uncle Abu Talib: Abu Talib soon also died before Muhammad reached 10 years.

At 25 Muhammad married a 40 year old rich woman, Khadijah,15 years later in 610 CE Muhammad withdrew to mount Hira where he began an ascetic life of 40 days fasting. There he received his first revelation Q96: 1-5

Recite in the name of Allah, who created you from a cloth of Jin’.

After Allah revealed Islam, the religion of the submission to the will of Allah, to the new prophet, Muhammad, the Meccans rejected the message and Muhammad relocated to Medina with his few followers where the prophet clashed’ seriously with Jews who did not really accept his message.

By the time Muhammad conquered Mecca in 630 CE he did not really live long to see the expansion of the Islamic empire. He died in 632 CE. The orthodox Caliphs who succeeded him, Abubakar, Umar, Uttman, and Ali expanded the Islamic empire beyond the Arabian Peninsula. The emergence of the Shiites (i.e. followers of Ali) after Caliph Ali, disintegrated the Islamic empire which even helped the expansion of lslam since different ‘factional generals conquered wherever they could including North Africa (ifriqiya) Egypt (Maghreb) Jerusalem, part of India, Spain, Asian- Europe. Etc. spanning 630 CE 1800 CE Etc. West Africa, Kanem Bornu and the old Hausa states received Islam through the trans-Saharan trade routes between North Africa and West Africa: The 18th century Jihadist Uttman Dan Fodio, helped to spread Islam into Nigeria, through military conquests deep into the Yoruba areas of Ilorin and old Oyo empire which touched Igbira, Igala and Etsako lands etc.


(a) The Pentateuch Simply means the first five books of the Bible i.e Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy

(b) The word Pentateuch is from the Greek “Penta”, i.e Five, and teachings (i.e Five Books of teachings or Jewish Law) etc.

The general belief among Jews and Christians is that Moses wrote the Pentateuch: though analysis of the Pentateuch by 19th century Biblical Scholars is that the books could not have been written by one person. There are differences in style, including contradictions in the narratives. It is commonly accepted by scripture scholars today that the Pentateuch is a compilation of four sources (i.e documents). The idea that the Pentateuch could be composed of several sources was raised mainly by the existence of two creation stories covering Genesis 1-3. In order to understand the formation of the Pentateuch, it is necessary to know that in ancient Israel existed severa1 parallel oral traditions regarding the creation of the world and the origin of man, including those of the patriarchs all these which modern scholars have traced four main, traditions in Pentateuchal texts..

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