Much of what is most commonly passed off as being “The Wisdom of the Ancients” is neither very wise, nor all that ancient – particularly the favourite books of today’s western and mid-eastern religionists. (Which makes you wonder where Yahweh, Elohim and Allah were all this while.)
To give some context to both the guff (which is voluminous) and the good stuff (of which there is despairingly little) here’s a list in chronological order, from latest to most recent, of what is considered the great books of sacred wisdom (along with a few more hopeful milestones along the way). Not only is it true that …
… but most of cultures’ myths and fables were borrowed from each other.
Here’s your list:
The Sumerian creation myth of the Old Babylonian Period, written on what is known as the Barton Cylinder, dates to around 2400 BCE.
Those days were indeed faraway days. Those nights were indeed faraway nights. Those years were indeed faraway years. The storm roared, the lights flashed. In the sacred area of Nibru (Nippur), the storm roared, the lights flashed. Heaven talked with Earth, Earth talked with Heaven. [The first part of the myth deals with the description of the sanctuary of Nippur, detailing a sacred marriage between An and Ninhursag during which heaven and earth touch] Enlil's older sister / with Ninhursag / he had intercourse / he kissed her / the semen of seven twins / he planted in her womb.
The Pyramid Texts are a collection of ancient Egyptian religious texts from the time of the Old Kingdom, ca. 2400-2300 BCE. The spells, or "utterances", of the pyramid texts are primarily concerned with protecting the pharaoh's remains.
The Ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, often regarded as the first great work of literature, dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur (circa 2100 BC), tells tales of the Great Flood and the .
The Enûma Eliš, the early Babylonian creation mythos, probably dates to the Bronze Age, to the time of Hammurabi or perhaps the early Kassite era (roughly 18th to 16th centuries BCE), although some scholars favour a later date of c. 1100 BCE.
The Vedas are the oldest writings of Hinduism, four Indian texts containing several mythological and poetical accounts of the origin of the world, hymns praising the gods, and ancient prayers for life, prosperity, etc. composed and/or collected about 1500 – 1100 BCE.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead: ancient Egyptian funerary texts used from about 1550 BC to 50 BC to guard a deceased person on their journey to the underworld (afterlife) and help them avoid the pitfalls and deceptions during the journey.
The Iliad and its sequel, The Odyssey, an ancient Greek epic poem traditionally attributed to Homer and composed in the 8th century BCE.
The Kojiki , the inspiration behind Shinto practices and myths, is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century BCE.
Upanishads, the sacred books of Hinduism, first dozen or so being the oldest and most important. Around 800-100BCE.
The Theogony i.e. "the genealogy or birth of the gods," is a poem by Hesiod describing the origins and genealogies of the Greek gods, composed circa 700 B.C.
The Avesta is the religious book of Zoroastrians containing a collection of sacred texts, much of which was destroyed by subsequent religionists, but which was probably first written down around the 6th or 7th centuries BCE to help cohere the disparate cultures of the Persian Empire.
If religion is primitive philosophy, then the first step up the road to human adulthood was taken in ancient Greece in the 6th century BCE, with the birth and first publication of the pre-Socratic philosophers. While other cultures were confusing mythology for their religion, these giants were taking reason on its first tottering steps.
Tao Te Ching, a classic Chinese text composed according to tradition around the 6th century BC by the sage Laotsu, is the fundamental text of both philosophical and religious Taoism.
The Torah, the Judaic sacred text and the first of the monotheistic Abrahamic texts (Abraham being most famous for agreeing to kill his son, for which nearly 50% of the world’s religionists now give thanks), comprises the first five books of the Bible – the “Five Books of Moses” – incorporating many of the earlier mythological tropes, especially those of Babylonian, Zoroastrian and Mesopotamian mythology -- written during the so-called Babylonian Captivity in the 6th century BC and finalised in the 2th century BC.
The Agamas, the original texts of Jainism, were composed around around the 6th to 3rd century BCE.
The Golden Verses of Pythagoras are a collection of moral exhortations traditionally attributed to Pythagoras, probably dating to the 5th century BCE. Click here to read more ... >>
Labels: Books, History, Mythology, Philosophy, Religion