Whereas the Hebrews provided
an ethical religion for the West (in the form of Judaism and the idea of ethical monotheism),
the Ancient Greeks provided an ethical philosophy. Both focused on the role
of the individual (and not community responsibility), and both complemented
each other (ethical irrationalism in the form of religion and ethical rationalism
in the form of philosophy) when merged later in Christianity. Not sure if that makes much sense.
The ancient Hebrews, who migrated from
Mesopotamia to Palestine--the origins of the
word "Hebrew" mean nomad or migrant--never achieved importance as a political state. In
fact, the people existed as an independent kingdom (and a rather small one at that)
for only a very brief time in the tenth century bce. The Hebrew development
of an ethical, monotheistic religion, however, proved to be of lasting importance
to the course of Western history, as Judaism proved to be
the seedbed for the later emergence of Christianity and Islam. Judaism, along with the
other two monotheistic religions, helped to provide an ethical basis for civilization
in the West.
In addition to the development of a religion
based on ethical monotheism, which later became the basis of the Western
religious experience, the Hebrews also succeeded in shifting the emphasis
from the "community" to the "individual." In the new religion, the
"individual" himself was responsible for his behavior and his later judgment
at the hands of God; it was not the community that had to worry about a collective
sacrifice to appease the gods.
Some recommended online lectures and websites:
- The Hebrews by Richard Hooker
Akkadians, Egyptians and the Hebrews
- For extra credit please suggest to your instructor a
relevant website for this unit of the course.
Send the title of the site, the url and a
brief explanation why you find the information interesting and applicable to
the material being studied in this unit.
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