Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
This month’s article is called "The Prophetic Birth of Our Civilization." It discusses the important Axial Period of History that occurred at the time of Nebuchadnezzar. It explains Jeremiah’s commission to Judah, Israel and the world. All the world changed because of the prophecies and fulfillments that occurred at that time. It is a fascinating story that will open large portions of the Bible to proper understanding.
I originally intended to place this material as the first chapter in a future compiled book by Dr. Martin about the Prophetic Geography of the Bible (a tentative title). Additional material on the same topic not covered here will be in that book. But the bulk of this information cannot wait, given the importance of the area around Babylon, Iraq, and the near-future conflicts that political analysis, if not biblical prophecy, seem to foretell. This information is crucial to biblical and historical understanding.
Pre-internet Associates will recognize some of this material from other sources where Dr. Martin mentioned this Axial Period. 1 This article is from a 1975 lecture. It is intriguing that material presented over 25 years ago has even perhaps even more relevance today. Such is the nature of good biblical teaching.
A book was written years ago (now in its third edition) called History Begins at Sumer: Thirty Nine "Firsts" in Recorded History. 2 With all due respect to those authors, they are wrong. What is revealed at Sumer is not history as we now understand it, but interpretations and assumptions, along with bits of pieces of a shattered civilization with little context to the world around it (which is one of the problems with archeology in general). Whether the 39 "firsts" actually originated from Sumer is conjectural. What is known is that the 39 historical firsts are first seen in non-biblical evidence at Sumer.
In last month’s article we noted about the Judaism that,
"The changes of religious laws, observances and traditions within Judaism were so extensive (primarily due to Hellenism) that Judaism at the time of Jesus was entirely different from the practices at the time of Nehemiah and Ezra the Prophet at the close of the Old Testament canon."
Likewise the civilization, history, peoples, religions, philosophies and records that occurred before the Axial Period were "entirely different" after the Axial Period. They changed completely.
Other authors have noted seeming cycles or axial periods. Professor David Noel Freedman wrote in the introduction to a recent book, The Rivers of Paradise: Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus and Muhammad As Religious Founders, 3
"We can speak in round terms of a 600-year cycle that begins with Moses around 1200 B.C.E. … Approximately 600 years later, the two founders of world religions, Buddha and Confucius, appeared on the world-scene in Indian and China respectively. … As many have noted, in the era in which they flourished, there was an extraordinary burst of intellectual activity in the arts, sciences, philosophy, and religion across the whole known world. Especially in Israel and Greece, outstanding personalities appeared on the scene: e.g., the great biblical prophets of the 7th–6th century—Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Exilic Isaiah among others in Judah and Babylon, while Greece and Ionia [modern Turkey] produced major pre-Socratic philosophers such as Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Democritus, etc., but especially a man like Pythagoras, mathematician and mystic, who founded a long-enduring religious fellowship.
Professor Freedman makes the further observation that the beginnings of Christianity occurred some 600 years after Jeremiah and Nebuchadnezzar, while Islam arose about 600 years after Jesus birth, death and resurrection. The 600-year cycle ends there, because in 1200 C.E. and in 1800 C.E. no large-scale religious changes occurred.
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One last reminder about the 2-hour ASK meeting (plus a period for questions) near our Portland office on July 13, 2002. David Sielaff will give a presentation about future projects and publications of ASK, and then the questions and discussion. The ASK website will have videotaped portions of this meeting for your viewing. We need to know if you would be attending this meeting.
Meeting Time: July 13, 2002 — 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Place: Greenwood Inn, 10700 SW Allen Blvd., Beaverton, Oregon 97005 (Take the Allen Blvd., Exit #B off the 217 Freeway. (Greenwood Inn Phone: 503-626-4542)
Room Reservations: There are several motels in the area. We are unable to make or suggest room reservations for overnight accommodations. Please make your own arrangements. Greenwood Inn reservations can be made at 800-289-1300.
Questions? If you are not able to attend the meeting, but wish to submit a question or an inquiry, write or email us. We will answer as many as possible on the video or in future newsletters. Your names will not be used, and anonymity will be maintained, of course.
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ASK has substantial (but not grandiose) plans to make all of Dr. Martin’s material available to the public, and eventually place most of it on the ASK website. It will be Dr. Martin’s legacy to mankind to the extent that God gave him the ability to persevere in his studies to make the Holy Scriptures understandable to everyone. There remains a large amount of material to produce, in both book and article form. It will take time and resources. Your financial support to keep this enterprise going, sustains us to do what needs to be done.
We want to truly thank each of you for your encouragement and support for the activities of A.S.K. We are humbled by your concern and help with the labor in getting this material out to those who would benefit. We need your continued prayers that our work will be useful to all people. It also shows a respect for God's teachings. When we are concerned with one another, we are also blessing ourselves. In spite of any problems we may have (and we have plenty), remember we are God’s own children. He will not fail us. May God bless each of you abundantly. Thanks for everything. Until next month,
David W. Sielaff
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1 For example, Dr. Martin’s tape series on Jeremiah mentions this Axial Period of history.
2 Authored by Samuel Noah Kramer and Hiroshi Tanaka (University of Pennsylvania Press, December 1989).3 Edited by David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), pp. 4–5.
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