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To An Unknown God

As some of you know, Tim and I are taking Near Eastern Studies 132 (Biblical Poetry) together.  In this class, we are currently learning about the literary styles of Canaanite, Babylonian, and Egyptian poetry, in the context of which elements have carried over to the Bible.

The Babylonians had many gods.  Whenever a misfortune — viewed as punishment — occurred, the people were often unsure of both the god offended and the crime.  This uncertainty led to rather amusing results, as poems address both gods and goddesses (what if it wasn’t a god you offended, per se?), with repeated statements of the poor mortal’s unawareness at what wrong he had committed.

A collection of snippets I picked out:

“May the god, whoever he is, be reconciled.
May the goddess, whoever she is, be reconciled…
I have perpetrated unwittingly an abomination to my god.
I have unwittingly violated a taboo of my goddess…
O god, whoever you are, many are my wrongs, great my sins,
O goddess, whoever you are, many are my wrongs, great my sins!
I do not know what wrong I have done,
I do not know what sin I have committed,
I do not know what abomination I have perpetrated,
I do not know what taboo I have violated!”

Isn’t it lovely that we only have one God, so there’s no question of who we’re angering, and that He’s pretty clear in general about what He approves and disapproves of?  Praise be to Him, the one and only!

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “To An Unknown God

  1. This is why Christians don’t have to build altars “to the unknown god”: our God is known, and He hasn’t distributed His authority to other gods.

    Posted by Lue-Yee Tsang | September 19, 2008, 4:46 pm
  2. It’s lovely that God is clear on what he approves of and disapproves of. Man-made gods are, well, a lot like men.

    It’s lovely that God is just and not frivolous. The fact that having one god makes things work a lot smoother is not the reason why we have one God: no, the reason is that He is God. And that’s why it’s nice, not the other way around.

    Posted by zoebios121 | September 20, 2008, 7:11 pm
  3. I take “so there’s no question of who we’re angering” as a clause of result, not of purpose (if Grace meant it to express purpose, she could easily have said “so that” instead). The result happens to be quite an encouragement to our faith because we worship a God who has made Himself known to us who had no other hope of knowing God.

    I presume, though, Tim, that your concern is primarily with the slippery slope and not with Grace’s orthodoxy.

    Posted by Lue-Yee Tsang | September 20, 2008, 7:15 pm

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