The myth of the 'chosen people'
- :Roger Garaudy
"Thus speaketh the Lord : my firstborn son is Israel." - Exodus IV,22 An Integrist interpretation of political Zionism.
"The inhabitants of the world can be disseminated between Israel and the other nations taken as a whole. Israel is the chosen people: chief dogma."
Source : Rabbin Cohen: "The Talmud" Ed.Payot, Paris 1986.p.104. This myth is the belief, without any historical foundation whatsoever, according to which monetheism was born with the Old Testament. It would appear, on the contrary, from the Bible itself that its two principal transcribers, the Yahvist and the Elohist, were not monotheists, either of them; they only proclaimed the superiority of the Hebrew god over the other gods, and his "jealousy" regarding them (Exodus XX, 2-5). Kamosh, the god of Moab, is acknowledged (Judges XI, 24 and Kings II, 27) as "the other gods" (Samuel I, XXVII,19) (Kings I, 27).
It was only after the exile, and especially with the Prophets, that monotheism asserted itself, in other words when formulas such as : "Thou shalt have no god than I." (XX,4) turned into ones that were not content with demanding obedience to Yahveh and to no other gods (as is repeated in Deuteronomy) : "You shall not follow other gods." (VI,14), but which proclaimed : "I am God, there are none others." (Essau XLV,22). This indisputable assertion of monotheism dates from the second half of the VIth century B.C. (between 550 and 539 B.C.).
For monotheism was the fruit of a long ripening process of the great cultures of the Middle East, those of Mesopotamia and Egypt. As early as the XIIIth century B.C. the pharaoh Akhenaton had the plural of the word "god" erased from all the temples. His "hymn to the sun" is paraphrased almost word for word in Psalm 104. The Babylonian religion was heading towards monotheism; when he evoked the god Marduk, the historian Albright delineated the stages in that transformation : "When it is recognized that the numerous different divinities are only manifestations of a single god... it is only one step away from reaching a certain monotheism. "
Source : Albright. "Les religions dans le Moyen Orient." p. 159 The "Babylonian Poem of Creation" (which dates from the XIth century B.C.) bears witness to these "final steps" : "If humans are divided as to the gods, we by all the names we shall have named him by, let him be He, our God." This religion reached a high degree of interiority, in which the image of the suffering Upright man appears:
"I want to praise the Lord of wisdom...My God has forsaken me ... I paraded as a Lord and now I hug the walls... Each day I moan like a dove and tears burn my cheeks. And yet prayer was wisdom for me, and sacrifice my law. I believed I was in God's service, but who from the depth of the abyss can understand the divine ways ?
"Who, if not Marduk, is the master of the resurrection? You whose clay he originally moulded, Sing the glory of Marduk."
Source : Op. cit. p. 329 to 341. This image of Job preceded Job himself. A similar image of the "suffering upright man" is that of Danel (not the Daniel of the Hebrew Bible) punished by God and brought back to earth by his lord ; it can be found in all the Ugaritic texts of Ras Shamrah, in what has been called the Canaan Bible , which preceded that of the Hebrews since Ezekiel mentions Danel next to Job (Ezekiel XIV, 14 and 20).
These are parables whose spiritual meaning in no way depends on historical authentification. This also holds true for that wondrous parable of resistance to oppression and of liberation that we find in the tale of Exodus. It matters little, therefore, that « the crossing of the reed-filled sea cannot be regarded as a historical event, as Mircea Eliade writes , and that it does not concern all the Hebrews but only a few groups of fugitives. It is, however, significant that the date of this grandiose flight from Egypt was made to coincide with Easter...given renewed value and integrated to the holy history of Yahvism.
From 621 B.C. on, the celebration of the Exodus replaced a genuine Canaan agrarian rite at Easter, in spring : the feast of the resurrection of Adonis. The Exodus thus became the founding act of the rebirth of a people rescued from slavery by its god. The divine experience of this rescue of man from his ancient bonds is to be found in many different races, from the long wanderings of the Aztec tribe, "Mexica" in the XIIIth century : after more than a century of trials, the tribe arrives in the valley to which its god has led it, opening the way where no road had been traced before.
The African Kaidara also had the same tradition of a journey of initiation towards freedom. The settlement on a land of nomadic or wandering tribes is linked - especially in the Middle East - to the giving of a promised land to a people by a god.
There are myths at every stage of man's human and spiritual development in all civilizations. That of the Deluge, whereby God punished the sins of men and began his creation again, is to be found in all civilizations since the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh to the Popol Vuh of the Mayas of Guatemala (Part I, chapter 3).
Hymns of praise to God are born of all religions, such as the psalms in honour of the Incas' mother goddess,Pachacamac, and their other gods as well :
"Wiraqocha, root of being, God, always near... who creates saying : let man be ! let woman be ! Wiraqocha, luminous lord, God who causes to be and to die... Thou who renewest creation, Keep thy creature a long time, that it may perfect itself ... walking along the straight path." If it were not for an ethnocentric prejudice in our path, why should we not reflect on all these sacred texts, which were an "Ancient Testament" for of their people, and study the moment of the discovery of the meaning of life ?
Only then would the message of life and the words of Jesus attain their true universality : it would be rooted in all the experiences men have had of the divine, and not restricted - and even stifled by a unilateral tradition. The very life of Jesus, his radically new vision of the Kingdom of God as no longer resting on the power of the mighty but on the hope of the poor, would cease to be eclipsed by a historical schema going only from promises of victory made to one People until their final victory.
We have here evoked in their anteriority only religions of the Middle East, in which dawned monotheism and which exterted an influence on the Hebrews. In other non-Western cultures the move towards monotheism is even more ancient. For example the Vedas of India.
"Wise men give the Sole Being more than one name." (Hymn of the Rig-Veda III,7). Vrihaspati "It is our Father, who contains all the gods." (III,18 ) "He who is our Father has engendered and contains all beings. God alone, he has made the other gods. Everything that exists acknowledges him as Master...You know He who has created all things; it is the same as the one who is within you." (CXI,11) "His names are many, but He is One."
These sacred texts date from the XVIth to the VIth century B.C., and Father Monchanin (S.J.), in his effort of intuition to place himself within the Vedas, called them : "the absolute liturgical poem."
Source : Jules Monchanin : "Mystique de l'Inde, mystére chrétien". P.231.229.
Adopted from the book: "The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics" by: "Roger Garaudy"
Share this article
- Prev: The Myth of the "Promise" : Promised Land or Conquered Land? - The Jewish prophetic exegesis
- Next: The myth of Joshua; ethnic purification