Monotheistic Near Eastern religions have their origins in earlier polytheistic precursors. Although religious tradition claims either direct contact with god or revelation through supernatural messengers as their source, philosophers and historians sought more rational explanations. Starting in the 19th C, archaeologists started excavating in ancient ruins of the Near East looking for clues to confirm (or to disprove) biblical stories. Recent archaeological discoveries and their interpretation by historians appear to confirm an evolution of religion from tribal cults of multiple gods, each with a limited jurisdiction, towards a single creator god with all necessary powers to rule the universe and individuals' destinies. The path this evolution took is still subject of debate. In this course we will explore the pagan-polytheistic religions that were precursors of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will also explore the evolution of the concept of divine power and the creator's relation with his (her?) creation. Lecture (plus Questions)Facilitated Discussion
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