Hebrews vs Greeks

Another excerpt from my upcoming book, comparing the Ancient Hebrews with the Ancient Greeks.

While the Hebrews were content with being ruled by a so-called divinely appointed monarchy, the Greeks were advanced enough to have an aristocracy* (rule by the best) and a democracy (rule by the people). While the Hebrews were content with entertaining themselves by burning incense and dancing around campfires, the Greeks were busy writing stories for the theatre–having invented the genres of comedy, drama, and tragedy. While the Hebrews were content with their beliefs being guided by faith, superstition, and a violent god, Aristotle and other Greeks were discovering the principles of logic, reason, rational thought, and argumentation. While the Hebrews were content with believing that God was in control of all aspects of reality, Archimedes and other Greeks were laying the foundations of the scientific method. While the Hebrews were content with writing psalms that praise an egotistical god, the Greeks were busy developing musical theory. While the Hebrews were content with explaining their past by relying on myths, legends, and other oral traditions, Herodotus and other Greeks were establishing the principles of unbiased, unemotional, nonjudgmental, and factual documentation of history.

While the Hebrews were content with breaking bird necks to cure leprosy, topically applying animal dung to cure various skin ailments, performing exorcisms to cure epilepsy, and praying to cure a number of untreatable afflictions, Hippocrates and other Greeks were developing rational anatomy-based medicine that relied on experience and observation. While the Hebrews were content with building temples for their god to dwell in, the Greeks were producing innovative architecture, sculptures, and paintings.** While the Hebrews were content with mundane stories and the writings of prophets, Homer, Sophocles, Aesop, Sappho, and other Greeks were writing some of the most powerful works of literature that the world has ever known. While the Hebrews were content with counting how many people belonged to each of their tribes, Euclid, Pythagoras, and other Greeks were inventing geometry and other advanced mathematics. While the Hebrews were content with believing whatever God or their other leaders told them about reality, Thales, Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates were busy not only inventing philosophy, but also writing some of the greatest philosophical treatises that the world will ever know. Yet after comparing the innumerable accomplishments of the Greeks to the unenlightened barbarity of the Hebrews, are we still to believe that the creator of the universe was working through the latter to carry his timeless message of paramount importance to future generations? Something is definitely wrong with such a position.

I could elaborate on the difference between the Greeks and Hebrews for the rest of the book without adequately drawing deserved contrast between the two groups, pointing out for example how Plato and Aristotle argued for their positions while Jesus merely gave assertions and threatened those who did not accept them, or how Democritus appreciated the vastness of the universe while any Hebrew thought he was the center of it, but I will instead put the issue to rest with one undeniably moving final observation.

Hippocrates, the aforementioned father of medicine who lived from approximately 460-370 BCE, once said, “Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they do not understand it.” Yet four hundred years after the mortal Hippocrates realized that there had to be a natural, rational explanation for the mysterious medical condition, Jesus was allegedly curing epilepsy by casting out demons. Hippocrates realized that people attributed epilepsy to demonic possession only because they did not understand it. This leads us to perhaps the most important question I will pose in this book. How is it that the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe sent a messenger, the savior of all humanity, who knew less than an ordinary man who had been dead for centuries? How could Hippocrates have a better understanding of the world than Jesus? Why should we hold Jesus as a superior teacher? It does not make sense.

* In my opinion, the best form of government. Not a traditional aristocracy of the wealthy, but one of the enlightened – the philosophers, as Socrates called them.

** None of the paintings still exists, but we have anecdotal reports of their appearance often being indistinguishable from reality.