Cultural Diffusion in the Ancient World
Throughout history, cultures have mixed all over the world, changing beliefs, creating new ones, and changing the way people look at the world along with their existence. This can be proven from anything from music to food, but is especially prevalent in world religion and the way that every culture sees their god, or gods, and how they think, worship, and even obey, in similar manners. Even though Hebrew conceptions differed from the rest of the world’s views, contact with other cultures spread many beliefs through the ages, and many culture’s ideas of a divine God were changed because of that contact. Most importantly, cultural contact has an effect on everyone because it has changed the world we live in today with echoes from centuries still resonating in the religions and traditions we hold so dear.
Cultural diffusion was very prevalent in the ancient near east. Proof of this can be found in many of the eastern cultures that still exist today and ancient texts. One example is the flood story told by the Mesopotamians compared to the flood story told by the Hebrews. In the Mesopotamian flood story from The Gilgamesh Epic, Gilgamesh builds a ship, survives a devastating flood, and in the end earns immortality from the gods. In the Hebrew version, Genesis 6:5 through 8:22, Noah builds a ship, survives a Page 2
devastating flood, and creates a covenant with God when he finds dry land. These stories are very similar, yet they are from two distinctly different cultures; one is polytheistic and one is monotheistic. The Zoroastrian belief of dualism and Hebrew beliefs of good and evil are also very similar. Zoroastrians believed that there is a righteous god, Ohrmazd, and an evil god, Ahriman, who are constantly battling in the world. While Hebrews don’t believe that there is an evil “god”, they do believe in the fight between good and evil in the world between Yahweh and Satan and that it exists in...
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