The Bible remains one of the most read books, and millions of people refer to the texts when they need spiritual guidance. It is noteworthy that Biblical texts are characterized by considerable flexibility as they were undergoing diverse transformations throughout centuries. Thus, the Bible made its way from polytheistic beliefs to monotheism with shifts from the binitarian to trinitarian perspective of God. This paper includes a brief analysis of the changes the concept of God underwent in the Bible and the history of Israelite and Jewish people.
The Hebrew Bible and the religion of Israelites and later Jews are often associated with monotheism. According to Biblical texts, God created the Earth and humankind (King James Bible, 2017, Gen 1:1). Therefore, it seems but natural that people had monotheistic beliefs. However, the Hebrew Bible contains diverse illustrations of polytheistic views of God as well. For instance, such words in the prayer of David as “Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord” suggest that people accepted that there were other godly beings (King James Bible, 2017, Ps 86:8). This extract suggests that Israelites believed in many gods at a certain period in their history, although these gods are not specified in the Bible.
At the same time, Israelites and Jewish people believed in angels who lived in heaven and had eternal lives. In polytheistic religions, it is believed that more than one deity (a creature with supernatural qualities) exists. In this view, Israelites and Jews had certain elements of polytheistic beliefs, which are reflected in their sacred texts. It is necessary to add that this polytheism differed greatly from other religions such as Mesopotamian or Ancient Greek traditions.
In the course of the development of their society, Israelites interacted with other peoples and communities, which had an effect on their religious beliefs. These contacts also led to the emergence of quite a new religious tradition that gained popularity and evolved into one of the major religions in the world. Christianity was formed on the basis of the older Hebrew Bible, but the focus of the new religion was on Jesus and his Father rather than god as compared to Israelites’ beliefs.
First Christians made considerable effort to place to the fore Jesus as the key figure in the spiritual domain. After being one of the important figures in Hebrew texts, Jesus became the central element of the Bible. This binarity can be associated with the need to establish a new church with its canons that differed from earlier beliefs. To a certain extent, God became closer to people and their Earthy existence, as seen from the Biblical texts. Christians saw Jesus as a manifestation of God’s might on the Earth, which added new meanings to their lives. The shift to binitarian perspective is also linked to the changing role of people in liturgy and the church in people’s lives. At that, binitarianism was a step towards a more comprehensive perspective of God that included more than two components.
The influence of the Greek tradition and the process of the creation of the New Testament resulted in the further transformation of the view of God in the Bible. The trinitarian perspective evolved from an early Christians’ efforts to incorporate Jesus into the religious canvas in a different role. In addition, Greeks had to translate Hebrew texts, and translation led to some deviations and different interpretations. Thus, the concept of Logos emerged in the Christian tradition and New Testament.
John’s book starts with the concept of Logos (that is associated with the word and knowledge). Thus, it is stressed that “the Word of life… was from the beginning,” so knowledge and understanding of different concepts are placed to the fore (King James Bible, 2017, 1 John 1:1). Greeks incorporated their philosophy of the role of knowledge into the Biblical texts.
The three components of the holy entity were the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The trinitarian perspective came into existence and was clearly described and defined in the spiritual texts. In that way, the people’s view of God transformed into the belief that God was in heaven, in earthly existence, and people’s knowledge or cognition (their spirit). The establishment of the Christian church was closely related to the maturation of the trinitarian view. Being “in the Spirit,” people worship the Father and His Son (King James Bible, 2017, Rev 1:10). This trinitarian perspective suggested that Churches were filled with the Spirit, the priests were also deemed as filled with Spirit, so they could preach. People could also be filled with Spirit if they embraced the faith and followed priests’ guidance.
The way the Bible transformed throughout the centuries showed the exact changes that took place in the worldview of Israelites, Jewish people, and then Christians. As any other religion, The Hebrew tradition bore some traces of polytheism in its early periods. However, monotheistic ideas prevailed as God was still the mightiest deity with some creatures who possessed a certain degree or portion of His holy might. Importantly, God granted or imposed this power, so angels and even humans who had free will (a holy power to make major decisions) could be seen as deities in the pantheon to a limited extent.
The move from binitarian to trinitarian perspective also shows that the Bible reflected the influence of the Greek tradition on older Hebrew conventions. The New Testament is a reflection of people’s newer view of God that was no longer distant and incomprehensible. The Father was also manifested in His Son and the Holy Spirit that were there on the Earth to guide people in their Earthly lives. Instead of the Mighty God with His scriptures once given to people centuries before the new era, novice traditions were created. These novelties were more consistent with the world that had changed since the early days of the Hebrew tradition and evolvement of Israeli people.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that the concept of God evolved considerably from the Hebrew tradition to New Testament. God was a distant almighty creature while people worshiped His wisdom and His help. The New Testament revolves around the Trinity, where the Father is the major benchmark while the Son and the Holy Spirit are closer to people. The two latter components provide clear guidelines and intimate support to every individual seeking spiritual support. Importantly, the changes in the view of God in the Bible reflect people’s new values and needs. The interaction of the Hebrew tradition and Greek philosophy led to the development of Christianity that became an important part of the European civilization.
The Bible has been the guidance for millions or even billions of people for centuries. The sacred texts address major issues any society encounters, including but not confined to major values and priorities, as well as social justice. It is necessary to note that the latter concept evolved alongside the development of Israelite and later societies that chose the Hebrew Bible as the basis for their spiritual agenda.
The concept of social justice is set quite early in Biblical texts as it is mentioned in Genesis that explains the origins of the world and the people of Israel. God created people without any Lords but Himself, as all people were equal. Thus, the Bible starts with the depiction of a perfect society where people are equals (King James Bible, 2017, Gen 6:1). They work hard, worship their God, and care for their offspring. The concept of kings on the Earth mainly starts with Noah and his sons, who established several nations and guided their people.
The topic of social justice becomes excessively prevalent, when the period of Egyptian bondage is described, when Jews had to live as slaves. God tells His people that He will free them from the bondage, but they will have Him as their only Lord (King James Bible, 2017, Ex 20:2).
God becomes the Lord of the Jewish people and gives them His set of laws and the code of conduct (Ten Commandments). The concept of social justice is explained in detail as Jews are supposed to live in a society, where everyone treats others with respect and empathy as they are all equals in front of their Lord. God emphasizes that His people cannot oppress any alien or abuse the ones who are vulnerable referring Jews to the times when they were aliens in Egypt (King James Bible, 2017, Ex 22:21-23). It is possible to note that God is the King of all Jews, giving guidance regarding all aspects of social life. Moses and priests are leaders who ensure that God’s will is followed and help people remain faithful and sinless.
In later scripts, the concept of social justice transforms to a certain extent. People are still seen as equals as they are all God’s children. However, monarchy appears as a form of national power. Jews are divided into kingdoms where rulers care about their subjects and ensure that they follow God’s commandments. It is necessary to add that social justice was applied to people within their communities, aliens, and travelers. However, no justice or even mercy was displayed with enemies. God orders Samuel to “smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling” (King James Bible, 2017, 1 Sam 15:3).
One of the Jewish kings (Samuel) attacks Amalek (another Jewish king), revenging them for what they did to other Jews on their exodus from Egypt. Nevertheless, there is no negative perspective of monarchy as Israelites, and later Jews accept the authority of those who gained this status. The monarch is regarded as a leader and the one who ensures the development of the community.
This trust in their king’s authority and his guidance is also seen in people’s desire to have a ruler. According to the Biblical texts, people declared, “we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (King James Bible, 2017, 1 Sam 8:20). The king was a way to safeguard their communities’ survival in times when numerous wars and conflicts took place. This was specifically true during the Persian period that was characterized by the establishment of Jewish kingdoms.
Quite a different view or rather a very old perspective of social justice is promulgated in the New Testament. Jesus preached about the Kingdom of Lord, where all people are equally happy and have no sorrow. The idea of social justice is associated with complete equality regarding people’s needs and contributions. Moreover, according to new preachers there can be no difference between people at all as all are equal irrespective of their gender, age, social status. It is stressed that there is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (King James Bible, 2017, Gal 3:28). The concept of the first people who were to live in the garden of Eden and keep it is central to the New Testament.
At the same time, social justice was also manifested in the attitude towards the poor. It is one of Jewish central principles to help those in need and support aliens due to their historical memory (the Egyptian bondage). Israelites were concerned about the way the poor are treated and the vulnerable groups are supported (King James Bible, 2017, Deu 24:1-22). Those who have enough (and exceeding) resources are supposed to share what they have in excess. At that, all people should also work hard and follow the established rules and conventions to maintain God’s commandments.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that the concept of social justice in the Bible went through several transformations. It is possible to add that the changes were rather cyclical as they moved from complete equality to hierarchal society and back to the focus on equity. First Biblical texts that include the story of the world’s creation contain the idea of equality in its most complete form. The created people are diligent laborers who receive the fruits of their hard work.
The progress of society is depicted in Noah’s times when people become corrupted, which leads to major catastrophe. Later years are depicted as the times of the formation of different communities, as well as the Egyptian bondage of the Israelites. At this period, social justice concepts co-exist with the longing for monarchy. Notably, the Jews are expected to be respectful of the poor and aliens, helping them to become members of their society.
The New Testament signals a turn to earlier search for equality and people’s dissatisfaction with the oppression of the rich. Christian beliefs are incorporated into the Biblical texts through preaching that is deeply rooted in the Hebrew tradition but also has new traits. For instance, supporting the poor and being respectful of all is one of the core beliefs found in the earliest Biblical texts. At that, a negative view of earthly power and willingness to gain complete equality in afterlife are new and appear in the New Testament. Therefore, some changes can be traced in the Bible, but the core Hebrew values regarding social justice remain largely unaffected.
King James Bible. (2017). King James Bible online. Web.