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Ancient and Medieval Cultures - Essay Example

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God did not hesitate to reveal himself to man those days. Even though man was disobedient to the core and committed all the sins that God hates, God was kind enough to give them several promises (the…
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Ancient and Medieval Cultures
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Questions 10-18) followed by (Questions 9) 10. How would you characterize the relationship of God and humankind in “Genesis”? Man and God had a very close relationship in the book of “Genesis”. God did not hesitate to reveal himself to man those days. Even though man was disobedient to the core and committed all the sins that God hates, God was kind enough to give them several promises (the promises that he gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). God was pleased with few people like Jacob and Abraham and blessed them a lot. God loved Adam and Eve even though they displeased God by their disobedience. Also, in the book of ‘Genesis’ we can see God sending angels to earth. No other book in Bible can claim the history of such frequent visits of angels from heaven. Also God spoke to man through dreams and visions in the book of Genesis. After the destruction that happened at the time of Noah, God promised himself that he will never bring similar destruction ever to mankind. God and man had a close, clear cut fellowship in the book of Genesis.
11. What is it about the “sin” of Adam and Eve that would lead many to believe that it was somehow sexual in nature?
Man and woman were very innocent when God created them. It is not given anywhere that they had any sexual feelings before committing sin. Sex came into picture only after man committed sin. Adam and Eve could realize their nakedness only after they committed sin. Man lost his naïve nature only when he displeased God. So the most important consequence of the sin committed by man was that he lost his innocent nature and sexual nature started appearing in him.
12. How many different details in chapters 2 and 3 of “Genesis” suggest that women are in some sense or the other inferior to men?
When God created man, God gave him certain special blessings but woman was not given any special blessings like that. God created woman because man needed a perfect match for him. In short woman was created for the sake of man. Man got life out of the breath of God but woman was created from man. Also man was given the responsibility of taking care of Eden Garden. It was woman not man who committed sin first. Devil knew that it would be easy to influence woman than man. All these reveal the inferior nature of woman.
13. Frequently, Adam is told that he is to have “dominion” over nature. How would this differ from merely being a part of nature?
Before committing sin Adam was found to be a complete man with all the blessings of god. God gave him many rights and made him the king of Eden. He had every right over nature and over all living and non-living beings of this world. He was given the responsibility of protecting Eden Garden. He was given full right over all resources of Eden garden. He was the master of the nature and everything it constitutes, and was not a mere part of it. God created everything for man only. He had more rights than the powerful angels who serve God.
14. What is Cain’s punishment for killing Abel and why is this in fact a punishment?
God punished Cain for killing his brother Abel, and Cain had to be a cursed fugitive roaming all over the earth. God cursed Cain and told that earth will no longer offer her full potential to his labor and he will be a wanderer in the world. This was a punishment indeed since in those days man had to find his means of living from cultivation alone. Also Cain was a farmer and all his hope would be on what land yields. According to the curse, land will never provide proper yield to him anymore. Cain was also found deprived of rest as a result of the punishment and it is mentioned that he left the presence of God with a sad mind.
15. The accounts of the flood in The Epic of Gilgamesh and “Genesis” have many similarities. What is the most significant difference between the two stories?
There were many differences between the flood in the epic of Gilgamesh and the flood in the book of Genesis. In Genesis, Noah got the instructions of the flood directly from God Jehovah whereas in the epic of Gilgamesh, Ut-Napishtim got the instructions in a dream. The ark in the Babylonian story was 6 storied and was square in shape but the ark of Noah was rectangular and 3 storied. Ark of Noah settled on Mount Ararat after the flood but that of Ut-Napishtim landed on Mount Nisir. Ut-Napishtim invited few skilled work men and a pilot also to get into the ark. In the Babylonian story, water came to earth only in the form of rain and the flood lasted for only 6 days. But flood in Noah’s period lasted for 40 long days and nights and water came both as rain from above and springs from underneath of earth. When the flood got over, Noah sent a raven and a dove for checking but Ut-Napishtim sent a dove, swallow and a raven.
16. How might we account for the power with which the story of God’s commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac has gripped the imagination of Western culture?
According to western culture and religious traditions ultimate authority of a family will be the father. Women and children do not have any voice in such families. They devalue the rights of women and children and never allow them to interfere in any religious activities (rituals and prayers). Here Abraham was found ready to sacrifice Isaac without the consent of Isaac and Sara, Isaac’s mother. This reveals the lack of participation of woman and children in western family. The decision to sacrifice Isaac was the decision of Abraham and Sara and Isaac knew nothing about this plan of Abraham.
17. Does it seem to you that “Genesis” dramatizes the basic sinfulness or “corruption” of humankind, as many have argued?
Yes, Genesis exactly depicts the wildest form of human life. We can read from Genesis that since the day man committed sin, his thoughts were absolutely sinful. The first generation of Adam and Eve committed even heinous crimes. Man did not obey the counsel of God and went far away from him. All sorts of sin that God disliked appeared in the first few generations itself. We can read from Genesis that in Noah’s period, God regretted that he created human beings. The activities and life of human beings were completely against the will of the God. Sinfulness and corruption reached its peak at that time.
18. What seems to be the “message” of the story of Esau and Jacob? That is, why would a people want to tell this story about themselves?
The story of Esau and Jacob was very strange. Esau was the elder son of Isaac and Jacob was the younger one. According to the Jewish customs and the commandments of God, all blessings should go for the eldest son and he should be the most privileged one among the sons. But in the case of Esau and Jacob, story was very different. Jacob, the trickster acquired all blessings from his father by deceiving him. Isaac unknowingly gave all his blessings to Jacob who disguised as his brother Esau.
People consider Jacob as a synonym of blessings. Esau was deprived of blessings because he was after temporary benefits and was not watchful enough to collect the blessings that rightfully belonged to him. Jacob on the other hand was very vigilant and acquired blessings from his father. The blessings that God gave to Abraham followed from Isaac to Jacob, and not to Esau. Later Jacob appears in Genesis as Israel the name which angel of God gave him. Life of Jacob was a blessing and people compare their blessings to the blessings of Jacob.
Questions (1-9)
1. What seem to be the primary, significant differences between the “pre-civilization” of Paleolithic cultures and the civilizations that arose in Mesopotamia and Egypt, as these are discussed in Perry?
Paleolithic people were nomadic and were not aware about the concept of farming. They were hunters and food gathers did not try to settle down in one place. The progress of their culture was very slow but later it influenced future civilizations. Their tools were made of bones, stones and wood. They had mythic religious beliefs and believed in life after death. They considered sun, wind and forces of nature as god. Their art and paintings were influenced by their lifestyle. Paintings were mostly of wild animals and hunting scenes. Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures were very different from that of Paleolithic age. The civilization had an urban touch and they relied upon agriculture for their means of living rather than depending upon hunting. Religion was the centre of their life and culture. Their military, art, politics everything was depended on religion. There were wars between cities that were actually supposed to be a fight between the gods of the respective cities. Egyptian civilization was flourished on the fertile valley of river Nile. They believed that universe is changeless and did not make big attempts for progress. Religion was the base of their art, literature and government.
2 Read carefully Perry’s description of Mesopotamian religion. What might explain the common claim that, in human terms, this religion was essentially “pessimistic”?
Mesopotamian life was absolutely based upon religion. Every human activities and practices were completely based on religion. They defined everything with respect to some religious beliefs. Even kings and priests used to take decisions only after consulting the gods. Priests played the major role in city life and they controlled the economic activities also. The best places in the city were occupied by temples. They believed that the life was for divine purposes and everything is controlled by gods. They thought that fortunes, misfortunes and everything depend upon god alone and considered everything as an aftermath of religious faith and activities. The credit of their success and progress was completely given to god and they considered human beings as inferior creatures compared to god. Their religious beliefs generated only a pessimistic attitude and underestimated the value of human beings.
3 In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enlil convinces the other gods that humans should be exterminated because they are making too much noise. What does this suggest to you about the nature of the gods of the Mesopotamians?
Enlil plans for the complete destruction of human beings and ordered for a flood that destroyed human beings from earth. He could convince other gods that humans were real nuisance to gods and therefore they had to be eliminated from the universe. From this incident we can conclude that Mesopotamian gods were least bothered about the well being of human beings and were absolutely ruthless. Even though they were worshipped and respected by Mesopotamians, they destroyed mankind including the Mesopotamians. According to the story, the flood ordered by the gods brought a complete annihilation to human race.
4 Examine, in Hammurabi’s code, items 141, 142, and 143. What seem to be the basic issues, or problems, that the code is trying to resolve?
Hammurabi’s code, items 141, 142, and 143, is an attempt to solve normal social problems. These laws are applicable for societies that follow certain laws for their issues and problems. These laws clearly define the issue and its appropriate solutions. These laws also assign the penalty that is to be paid by the person who commits the mistake. The code tries to resolve common family problems (problems of society) that are tough to settle. These particular codes of law establish certain settlement provisions if there occurs some issues between a husband and a wife in a family.
5. What do the images in “Main Hall at Lascaux” (Figure 1.1) tell you about the interests and concerns of the people who painted them?
Main Hall at Lascaux consists of mysterious images. There was an image of a man who had a strange posture. The gallery had several images of different animals also. The background of the images also had some strange meaning. The meanings of the images are unknown. The artists who painted it might have some strange mythological concepts that they depicted through these images. They might have certain strange religious ideas that they wanted to convey. But the original idea behind these images is not known.
6. Accepting the definition of myth offered in Perry, what cultural purposes did (do) myths serve?
According to Perry, myths are the descriptions about the activity of gods. They describe the secrets about the origin of human beings. According to the myths human beings were originated from earth like plants and were given life by gods. So people of Mesopotamia thought that they were created for accomplishing the wishes of their god. They performed rituals and sacrifices for pleasing god. All their cultural and social activities were thus based upon religious beliefs. Myths affected the cultural and social life of people. All the cultural aspects were designed according to the myths that exist in relation to it. In short, life of people became completely depended upon the religious theories and myths.
7. What was the presumed relation between the Egyptian concepts of Ma’at—the right order of the universe—and the Pharaoh?
Egyptians believed in the ‘unchanging universe’ concept. They always ignored the concept of development or progress. They followed the traditional followings, believing that the conventional methods and strategies are the best. The Pharaoh ruled with the help of
Ma’at that was synonymous to law, justice and truth. Opposing pharaoh was equivalent to disobeying Ma’at and will be considered as an offense that creates disorder in society. Ma’at was supposed to be the perfect order for the welfare of nature. Those who followed Ma’at were rewarded. Pharaoh was considered as the protector of Ma’at who implemented the rules of Ma’at in the society.
8. What are the central tenets of Zoroastrianism?
Zoroastrianism is a religion of monotheistic faith. It is based upon the practice of worshipping Mazda who was supposed to be the god of justice, goodness and light. Zoroastrianism was against polytheism and blood sacrifices. Zoroastrianism emphasized on the capability of human beings to choose between good and evil. Zoroastrianism also speaks about a time when the life in this world ends. There will be a judgment; justice will triumph and evil will perish. Zoroastrianism was disciplined and had certain ethical concerns also.
9. What is the connection between “Lex Talionis” or “An eye for and eye” and the way that an oral culture thinks?
‘Lex Talionis’ or ‘an eye for an eye’ shows the policy of taking revenge. It is the law of retaliation. In a society where there is no law, if a person hurts another person, the second person can take revenge over the first person by giving him the same treat. This sort of vengeful retribution was very common in societies that follow inferior cultural practices. Societies that were engaged in wars also followed this policy of ‘Lex Talionis’. Read More
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