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Author Topic:   What is the oldest religious text?
pink sasquatch
Member (Idle past 3553 days)
Posts: 1567
Joined: 06-10-2004


Message 1 of 56 (192323)
03-18-2005 12:16 PM


What is the oldest religious text?

I think this is an important question, one definitely outside of my area of expertise.

In another thread, xevolutionist writes:

Zweemer, author of The Origins of Religion, found that the oldest traditions were of one supreme God and that other beliefs came later. I am of the opinion that the Hebrew writings are the oldest and best documented manuscripts that we have. I will take a look at the upanishads, but you are the first person to tell me that their writings are older than the torah.

I did some quick poking around on the web, and found independent sites claiming that both the "Egyptian 5th Dynasty Pyramid Text" and the Hindu Rig Veda hold the title of the world's most ancient religious text.

Ultimately, I would be interested to see a timeline of important religious texts, and the Torah's chronological place among them.


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Message 2 of 56 (192463)
03-19-2005 9:16 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 264 days)
Posts: 9068
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Message 3 of 56 (192669)
03-19-2005 10:23 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by pink sasquatch
03-18-2005 12:16 PM


What is the oldest religious text?

one thing is certain: it is NOT monotheistic.

the tradition date for the authorship of genesis/exodus is about 1250 bc, the hypothetical time of moses. (they were in fact written much later)

moses was preceeded in egpyt by akhenaten (amenhotep 4) by about 100 years. he was the first historical leader of a monotheistic religion. he of course turned about 2000 years of egyptian polytheistic tradition on its head. so, uh, polytheism goes back a lot longer monotheism.

This message has been edited by Arachnophilia, 03-19-2005 10:24 PM


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RAZD
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Message 4 of 56 (192682)
03-19-2005 10:40 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by arachnophilia
03-19-2005 10:23 PM


you are running into the problem of pre-historic cultures that were polytheistic but did not record the faiths in texts or documents. you also have the problem of cultures ruled by {king\gods} which appear monotheistic because they do not distinguish between the leader and the empowerment of the leader. these would be regarded as cult beliefs now and not monotheisms.

and the hindu beliefs were and are anything but monotheistic ... the god of soccer moms eh?


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nator
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Posts: 12961
Joined: 12-09-2001


Message 5 of 56 (192683)
03-19-2005 10:45 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by RAZD
03-19-2005 10:40 PM


quote:
you are running into the problem of pre-historic cultures that were polytheistic but did not record the faiths in texts or documents.

What do you call hieroglyphs? They certainly tell us an awful lot about Egyptian life and religious beliefs even though they are not alphabetical writings.


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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 264 days)
Posts: 9068
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 6 of 56 (192684)
03-19-2005 10:48 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by RAZD
03-19-2005 10:40 PM


you are running into the problem of pre-historic cultures that were polytheistic but did not record the faiths in texts or documents.

well, no, i'm dealing strictly with recorded egyptian belief.


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jar
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Message 7 of 56 (192688)
03-19-2005 10:59 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by pink sasquatch
03-18-2005 12:16 PM


Can that even be answered?
There have been many many religions throughout history. Most have died out or been subsumed into other religions. We don't even know what most early religions might have been like. There are many indications though of what seems to be religious practices going back to times in the 10-12,000 year period, other very strong indication going back many tens of thousands of years. There are also the religions of Egypt and the other civilizations of the near East.

If we limit the question to living religions then the Hindu faith is probably the oldest, followed by Judaism.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
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RAZD
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Message 8 of 56 (192690)
03-19-2005 11:03 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by pink sasquatch
03-18-2005 12:16 PM


several google sites on {date rig veda written}:

http://www.sawf.org/newedit/edit01222001/musings.asp

The conventional dates for the RV in modern scholarship place the RV between 1700 BC and 1000 BC. An example of how these dates are constructed can be found on the Indology list. Some of the argument is reproduced here.

http://www.gatewayforindia.com/vedas/rigveda.html

Rig Veda (also written as Rik Veda in English) is the oldest of all Vedas. Some scholars date the Rig Veda as early as 12000 BC - 4000 B.C.

http://www.hyperhistory.com/online_n2/civil_n2/histscript1_n2/rigveda.html

The oldest written collection of texts is the Rig Veda composed in archaic Sanskrit probably between 1500 and 1200 BC.

http://www.gurjari.net/ico/Mystica/html/veda.htm

The Vedas are written in the form of hymns or mantras in an archaic form of Sanskrit. Most of these hymns are believed to have been composed around 1500 - 1000 BC, although some are believed to date back upto 5,000 years.

and from wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rig_Veda):

Scholars standardly date the Rig-Veda to the 2nd millennium BC on grounds of its references to late bronze age culture (horse-drawn chariots; mostly bronze, but some iron weapons) and to the assumption that Vedic culture post-dates the Indus Valley Civilisation. It is commonly held to have been completed between 1500 BC and 1200 BC.

clearly it is possible this is the oldest, but also that this is not assured.

certainly it qualifies as within the group of "oldest traditions" and certainly it was not monotheistic. this is enough to render the quote of zweemer false.

there are also ancient chinese traditions that were not monotheistic, and certainly all the native american (north and south) were not monotheistic.

one point that can be made though is that each had one bigger and badder god in charge -- one head honcho, and it is unclear from the quote whether zweemer was talking about this aspect or monotheism per se.

there is also no way to know what faiths abounded before written records were made, so to claim that all faith started in one form or another is specious speculation at best.

{added by edit}btw: I made no conscious choice on sites other than the wikipedia one and make not editorial comment on the content (or lack) of the sites -- what I was interested in was seeing what kind of consensus there was on the age, and they seem fairly consistent.

enjoy.

This message has been edited by RAZD, 03*19*2005 11:06 PM


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand

RebelAAmerican.Zen[Deist
{{{Buddha walks off laughing with joy}}}


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RAZD
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Message 9 of 56 (192694)
03-19-2005 11:16 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by nator
03-19-2005 10:45 PM


sorry for lack of clarity, I was talking about what preceeded egyptian. certainly the early egyptian religion had many gods show as you mention.

also, problem is that they can show gods but don't document the religion: the comment was about documented (a minor nit picked, eh?) faith.


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RAZD
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Member Rating: 3.8


Message 10 of 56 (192695)
03-19-2005 11:17 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by arachnophilia
03-19-2005 10:48 PM


deal away. I was thinking more of ur.
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nator
Member (Idle past 2173 days)
Posts: 12961
Joined: 12-09-2001


Message 11 of 56 (192740)
03-20-2005 8:27 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by RAZD
03-19-2005 11:16 PM


Oh, OK, my mistake.
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Funkaloyd
Inactive Member


Message 12 of 56 (192923)
03-20-2005 11:26 PM


Though I'm not sure that it qualifies as a religious text, Gods are mentioned a lot in Hammurabi's laws, which are dated to the early 2nd millennium BC.
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StormWolfx2x
Inactive Member


Message 13 of 56 (196613)
04-04-2005 3:27 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by pink sasquatch
03-18-2005 12:16 PM


if we go outside of the realm of religious "texts" you can reasonably include the drawings of cavemen as well, I think most people would agree that at least some of them would deal with spirituality if not an organized religion per-se

This message has been edited by StormWolfx2x, 04-04-2005 02:28 AM


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Dr Jack
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From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 14 of 56 (196621)
04-04-2005 6:01 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by StormWolfx2x
04-04-2005 3:27 AM


Perhaps more compelling are the cave drawings of the Australian Aboriginies, since these can still be understood by contemporary Aboriginies we have direct evidence of their meaning. Some date back 30,000 years - making Aboriginal culture the longest running continuous culture known. And the oldest surviving vulture known.
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watta
Inactive Member


Message 15 of 56 (197404)
04-07-2005 7:37 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by Dr Jack
04-04-2005 6:01 AM


In Kakadu they have paintings reliably dated to 50,000 years or more.
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