Ancient Religions: a Comparison

Topics: God, Christianity, God in Christianity Pages: 6 (2265 words) Published: August 9, 2005
Ancient Religions: A Comparison

As civilization has expanded and improved it has gone through many different religions. Some of the most interesting and different have been the Mesopotamian religion, the religion of the Greeks and finally Christianity. These three religions were practiced in different areas and different time periods and therefore they will be excellent for a comparison. Religion is a key part of every society and civilization. No matter how it is organized or what type of God they worship, a society would be nothing without some kind of deity to organize it. Through the units of study the amount that people rely on Gods has been evident and that is why this makes a very good essay topic. Three areas of religion will be used to compare each of the religions chosen, worship style, their temples or places of worship, and the nature of their God or Gods. Each of the three religions selected had very different ideas of how to worship their God or Gods. In the Mesopotamian religion worship was very straightforward and casual. They would give daily offerings of food and drink with sacrifices during special monthly and annual feasts. The most important of these feasts was the New Year's festival, which later on during the first millennium came to include some lesser festivals as well. These worship events were held by the Priests and Priestesses who also took care of the great wealth stored in the Mesopotamian's temples. The director of the temple cults was the Sheshgallu; all the sacrifices were performed by the Shangu-priests. Other classes of priests dealt with the other, lesser rituals. The priestesses varied from the Entu, the consort of the God, all the way down to the temple harlots (Garber, p204). The Greeks on the other hand, did most of their worship in private. They also had festivals and rituals, but their worship was much less organized. If a person wished to pray to a god, or invoke their intervention, they would go to one of the shrines or temples of that god and say a prayer and leave a small gift. These gifts varied from frankincense or a cake to large sacrifices of animals. There were also dedications of small statuettes or even large painted vases (Webster, p79). There was no class of priests nor any real religious teachings or texts. There were no real worship services as we think of them, with large gatherings of people. There were some festivals in recognition of the gods; for example, the Olympic games began as a festival to honor the god Zeus (Walker, p131). Christianity was also often practiced in secret but for a different reason. In the early days of Christianity, Christians were persecuted for their religion. Because of this, they were often forced to practice their religion in private and in small groups. They would meet in people's homes and sing praises to their God. It was very dangerous to worship or even pray in public because of the persecution. Worship was very simple though, small groups would meet together and simply sing songs and talk about their experiences. They would talk of who was being persecuted, pray for those in prison and being tortured. Later on in the Roman Empire things changed, Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the entire Empire. Large churches were built and huge masses of people flocked to praise God. Worship stayed the same basically with singing and praying but in greater numbers. They could now worship in public without having fear. Soon there was an organized religion where before there was simply groups of believers. There were festivals and religious days recognized by the whole of Rome. The early church was like today's Catholic church and eventually developed into the Catholic Church we know today. Many of the rituals and customs that are observed came from things done in the early days of the church (Williams, p3). These three religions had different ideas of how to worship their God or Gods; this often affected other...

Cited: 1. ?Garber, Janet Serlin The Concise encyclopedia of Ancient Civilizations Franklin Watts/New York/London 1978
2. ?Millard, Anne Ancient Civilizations Warwick Press 1983
3. ?Webster, T.B.L Everyday Life in Classical Athens Jarrold and Sons Ltd 1969
4. ?Williams, Paul L. Everything You wanted to Know About the Catholic Church but Were Afraid to Ask for Fear of Excommunication Doubleday 1975
5. ?Walker, Robert J. World Civilizations: A Comparative Study Oxford University Press 1998
New International Version The Teen Study Bible Zondervan Publishing House 1993
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