I consider the Saul to David story cycle to be one of the oldest parts of the Old Testament.
For example, I think the Ark enters the Hebrew experience when a “scapegoat” wagon arrives in Hebrew territory.
And Saul coming up from the ground is what you would expect Greeks, Semites, and any other culture that saw the underworld as the destination of the dead. Even the New Testament says the dead are are in sheol.
So it would make sense to me that the oldest part might be the part least likely to be influenced by contact with Zoroastrian priests in the Exile.
But does “Death” mean the same as “bad outcome” from sin–so the righteous are saved not from physical or spiritual (I agree that Sheol was afterlife) death, but from the typified punishment? Psalms is pretty symbolic, isn’t it?
It would depend on the culture.
Egyptian metaphysics warned each person to have as good a heart as possible, or they would be consumed by a mutli-form creature with an alligator head. Otherwise, the afterlife was fairly acceptable.
The Greeks believed that without special knowledge (traditionally conveyed through the mystery schools) the dead spent eternity in a muddy dirty existence of quasi sleep… sometimes even described as being face down.
I’m not sure what the Sumerians believed… but by the time Tammuz is mentioned in the Old Testament, it’s hard to know whether the annual resurrection of Tammuz was an important time because Tammuz could only help his followers if he was out of the underworld… or because Tammuz was a “ticket” to immortality. The various carvings and images of Ningishzida escorting the King to the gods made it clear that at least some people would join the immortal gods.
The Phoenicians believed that sacrificing one’s self could divinize your soul. Frequently fire was seen as the way to completely sunder the hold the material world had on your spirit or soul. The Greeks copied this belief when they burned the bodies of their heroes… a practice not offered to ordinary citizens.
The Persians believed that crossing a bridge was a test for everyone… and if you were not righteous enough, the bridge would automatically narrow and the person would unavoidably fall into an eternal fiery furnace of molten metal.
During the time of the rise of Islam, it was frequently reported that several Arab tribes didn’t believe in any afterlife existence at all.
Well – at the very least our responses probably shouldn’t go beyond what Paul demonstrates. He didn’t go through Athens on an idol-smashing rampage, but rather used their religious appetites to point them towards the true God. So it seems to me that the pagan destruction ordered in O.T. times has (for Christians) been superceded by a pagan redemption instead. So, for example, instead of doing away with pagan holidays they redeemed them by celebrating Christmas with it instead.
Where do you find these things?.. The problem with this person’s approach is that they don’t have a clue how to interpret or apply the Scripture. When God gives a specific command to a specific person (or people) for a specific situation, we cannot simply treat that specific instruction as if it applies to all cases and situations. Should everyone tie up their firstborn son and lay him on an altar, as God commanded Abraham? This approach to interpretation and application is simplistic in the extreme and requires no real refutation.
All that you really need to do is ask yourself the purpose of the command, and then you will see the obvious application. So, why did God command the Israelites to remove or destroy all the pagan shrines and temples? If you follow the story of Israel from start to finish, you will see that the nation always faced two temptations that eventually proved their downfall – syncretism and assimilation. The command was a warning against adopting the religion and culture of “the nations.”
How does this apply to you, me, and everyone else in the modern world? Remove the sources of temptation from your life. “Bad company corrupts good character,” as Paul warned. Or, as James the Lord’s brother put it: “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Fair enough – I have no ax to grind on that. My point was that even if such things were true they don’t represent some sort of “score against Christianity” that some seem to think. Other indisputably real examples abound … sacred hymns using tunes from former bar songs, for example.