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Evidence of ancient monotheism in China

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  • Evidence of ancient monotheism in China

    There is good evidence of ancient monotheism, as in the God of the Bible, in what was written about the Chinese deity Shang Di.

    Source: Reasons to Believe

    Thong has undertaken to discern God’s attributes as communicated in the Chinese classics using Legge’s complete and unaltered translation. In his book, Faith of Our Fathers, Thong provides evidence from the Chinese classics that Shang Di is sovereign, eternal, immutable, powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, and infinite. Similarly, Thong shows that the moral attributes of Shang Di include love, holiness, grace, faithfulness, goodness, mercy, compassion, and justice.1 Thong concludes that Shang Di is the one true Creator God of the Hebrews revealed in the Bible, known from the earliest times of Chinese civilization.1 In this matter, Thong, Legge, and Medhurst concur.

    1. Chan Kei Thong, Faith of Our Fathers: Finding God in Ancient China (Singapore: Cru Asia Limited, 2018)

    Source

    © Copyright Original Source


    This goes along with the thread here titled "Diverse isolated cultures hold to monotheism".

    Blessings,
    Lee
    "What I pray of you is, to keep your eye upon Him, for that is everything. Do you say, 'How am I to keep my eye on Him?' I reply, keep your eye off everything else, and you will soon see Him. All depends on the eye of faith being kept on Him. How simple it is!" (J.B. Stoney)

  • #2
    Originally posted by lee_merrill View Post
    There is good evidence of ancient monotheism, as in the God of the Bible, in what was written about the Chinese deity Shang Di.

    Source: Reasons to Believe

    Thong has undertaken to discern God’s attributes as communicated in the Chinese classics using Legge’s complete and unaltered translation. In his book, Faith of Our Fathers, Thong provides evidence from the Chinese classics that Shang Di is sovereign, eternal, immutable, powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, and infinite. Similarly, Thong shows that the moral attributes of Shang Di include love, holiness, grace, faithfulness, goodness, mercy, compassion, and justice.1 Thong concludes that Shang Di is the one true Creator God of the Hebrews revealed in the Bible, known from the earliest times of Chinese civilization.1 In this matter, Thong, Legge, and Medhurst concur.

    1. Chan Kei Thong, Faith of Our Fathers: Finding God in Ancient China (Singapore: Cru Asia Limited, 2018)

    Source

    © Copyright Original Source


    This goes along with the thread here titled "Diverse isolated cultures hold to monotheism".

    Blessings,
    Lee
    From my limited understanding I thought that Shangdi (Shang Di) was the supreme god, but that he always worked through lesser gods doing nothing himself.

    I'm always still in trouble again

    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
    "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
      From my limited understanding I thought that Shangdi (Shang Di) was the supreme god, but that he always worked through lesser gods doing nothing himself.
      On a quick peruse, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between Shang Di and the Canaanite El.
      sigpic1 Cor 15:34 εκνηψατε δικαιως και μη αμαρτανετε αγνωσιαν γαρ θεου τινες εχουσιν προς εντροπην υμιν λεγω

      Comment


      • #4
        From New World Encyclopedia:

        Shangdi (上帝, pinyin: Shàngd́, Wade-Giles Shang Ti), or simply Di (帝), is the High God (or Clan Ancestor) postulated in the earliest-known religious system of the Han Chinese people. The term can literally be translated as "Emperor (or Sovereign) Above," "Lord On High," "Highest Lord," "the Supreme God," or "Celestial Lord." While such terminology implies parallels with the divinities of the world's monotheistic traditions, two important differences must be acknowledged: first, while Shangdi was understood as a patriarchal ruler deity, this conception was not conflated with a role in the cosmogony; second, He was seen as one deity (ancestor) among many.[1] In this way, Shangdi bears more similarities to the dyeus figures in Indo-European religions (e.g., Zeus, Jupiter, Tiwaz) than to the God of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

        As noted above, Shangdi was an important religious concept from the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1766 B.C.E. - ca. 1050 B.C.E.) onwards, where he was seemingly understood as a composite ancestor of the ruling dynasty. From the Zhou Dynasty (周朝) (1122 B.C.E. to 256 B.C.E.), however, the deity's position in the Chinese religious imagination was replaced by Tian (天), a more distant and moralistic figure. Though later writers conflated the two deities, archaeological investigation of the earliest instances of the name Tian belie this position.[2]

        This being said, Shangdi is also the name given for God in the Standard Mandarin Union Version of the Bible, though shen 神 (lit. spirit or deity) was also adopted by Protestant missionaries in China to refer to the Christian God. Much like the ancestors, Shangdi is never represented with images or idols in Chinese tradition.


        IIRC, part of the problem with any certain identification is how Tian and Shang Di were often conflated.

        I'm always still in trouble again

        "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
        "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
        "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by tabibito View Post
          On a quick peruse, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between Shang Di and the Canaanite El.
          Well, El was not holy, for one.

          Originally posted by rogue06
          IIRC, part of the problem with any certain identification is how Tian and Shang Di were often conflated.
          And the article states that the view stated above of Shang Di was at times corrupted.

          But the article concludes:

          Source: RTB

          Winfried Corduan (perhaps the foremost living expert on original monotheism) concludes, “the memory of original monotheism is alive and well in China. Efforts by Thong and others to revive this part of their ancient heritage are spreading.”

          © Copyright Original Source



          Blessings,
          Lee
          "What I pray of you is, to keep your eye upon Him, for that is everything. Do you say, 'How am I to keep my eye on Him?' I reply, keep your eye off everything else, and you will soon see Him. All depends on the eye of faith being kept on Him. How simple it is!" (J.B. Stoney)

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
            From New World Encyclopedia:

            Shangdi (上帝, pinyin: Shàngd́, Wade-Giles Shang Ti), or simply Di (帝), is the High God (or Clan Ancestor) postulated in the earliest-known religious system of the Han Chinese people. The term can literally be translated as "Emperor (or Sovereign) Above," "Lord On High," "Highest Lord," "the Supreme God," or "Celestial Lord." While such terminology implies parallels with the divinities of the world's monotheistic traditions, two important differences must be acknowledged: first, while Shangdi was understood as a patriarchal ruler deity, this conception was not conflated with a role in the cosmogony; second, He was seen as one deity (ancestor) among many.[1] In this way, Shangdi bears more similarities to the dyeus figures in Indo-European religions (e.g., Zeus, Jupiter, Tiwaz) than to the God of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

            As noted above, Shangdi was an important religious concept from the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1766 B.C.E. - ca. 1050 B.C.E.) onwards, where he was seemingly understood as a composite ancestor of the ruling dynasty. From the Zhou Dynasty (周朝) (1122 B.C.E. to 256 B.C.E.), however, the deity's position in the Chinese religious imagination was replaced by Tian (天), a more distant and moralistic figure. Though later writers conflated the two deities, archaeological investigation of the earliest instances of the name Tian belie this position.[2]

            This being said, Shangdi is also the name given for God in the Standard Mandarin Union Version of the Bible, though shen 神 (lit. spirit or deity) was also adopted by Protestant missionaries in China to refer to the Christian God. Much like the ancestors, Shangdi is never represented with images or idols in Chinese tradition.


            IIRC, part of the problem with any certain identification is how Tian and Shang Di were often conflated.
            Encyclopedia.com

            SHANGDI

            During the Shang dynasty (c. 1550–1050 bce), prayers and sacrifices were offered to a large number of gods, collectively referred to as di. Regarded as the deified ancestors (real or putative) of the Shang royal clan and high aristocracy, the di were worshiped at regular intervals in accordance with a liturgical calendar. At appropriate times they were also consulted for aid and advice by means of the cracking of oracle bones (i.e., the practice of scapulimancy).

            The Shang kings also worshiped a more powerful god, known as Shangdi (High God, or God Above). Owing to the absence of plural forms in Chinese, it is not certain that there was only one god known as Shangdi—the phrase could also mean, collectively, "high gods." But most authorities agree that it was a single deity. Shangdi might also have been regarded in some sense as an ultimate human ancestor; however, the deity was not included in the regular liturgical round of ancestral sacrifices and oracular consultations.

            There is no mythic account of Shangdi's origins, nor does he appear in the mythic accounts of the founding personages (whether gods, culture heroes, or sage-emperors) of Chinese high antiquity, such as Yao, Shun, and Yu the Great. There is, however, reason to suppose some correspondence between Shangdi and Huangdi, the Yellow Thearch (a name that first appears in texts long postdating the Shang), the mythic culture hero, patron of metallurgy, and god of the center.

            Unlike the lesser di, who had authority over such human-centered affairs as the king's health and his fortunes in marriage, warfare, and the hunt, Shangdi had jurisdiction in larger-scale natural and cosmic matters. According to surviving oracle-bone inscriptions, Shangdi had the power to prevent, or put an end to, plagues, drought, floods, violent storms, and other such phenomena. Shangdi apparently was never consulted directly by means of scapulimancy, and only rarely were prayers offered to him directly. Rather, when necessary the lesser gods were consulted to learn his will; they could also be asked to intercede with him on behalf of the king and his people.

            While the surviving evidence does not permit a very exact description of Shang theology, it seems probable that Shangdi was thought of as a cosmic god, dwelling in or above the sky at the apex of the rotating heavens. Indeed, Shangdi might have been a deified embodiment of the pole star itself. It is certain that a few centuries after the fall of the Shang dynasty gods were thought of as being, in part, personifications of stars, planets, and astral configurations.

            With the conquest of the Shang state by the Zhou dynasty around 1050 bce, Shangdi's place as the paramount deity of the royal cult was usurped by the Zhou high god, Tian ("heaven"). Tian was not simply Shangdi under another name, but the two high gods were similarly regarded as conscious but relatively impersonal cosmic forces.

            The term Shangdi, however, survived the fall of the Shang dynasty and continued to appear in religious and cosmological texts for centuries thereafter. In such texts it is not so clear that the reference is always to a unitary high god; in some contexts it seems preferable to construe the term as "high gods." In some texts of the Warring States period (481–221 bce) a near-synonym, taidi ("great god"), is substituted for the term Shangdi. Regardless of which term is used, it is clear that the reference is to a celestial god (or gods) dwelling at or around the celestial pole. According to chapter 4 of the Huainanzi (139 bce), "If the height of the Kunlun [cosmic] mountain is doubled … [and redoubled, and again redoubled], it reaches up to Heaven itself. If one mounts to there, one will become a demigod. It is called the abode of the Great God [Taidi]." In his commentary to the Huainanzi, Gao You (fl. 205–212) states that "the Changhe Gate is the gate [through which] one begins an ascent to Heaven. The Gate of Heaven is the gate of the Purple Fortified Palace [i.e., the circumpolar stars] where Shangdi dwells."

            With the development of the organized religion of Daoism around the end of the Latter Han dynasty (third century ce), the term Shangdi took on new prominence. As a Daoist term, however, it rarely appears alone; rather it has the general meaning "high god" in the elaborate compound titles given to the numerous divinities in the hierarchical, bureaucratically organized Daoist pantheon. Yuhuang Shangdi ("jade sovereign high god") is a characteristic example of such a divine title of nobility.

            Meanwhile, the old sense of Shangdi was preserved through the officially sponsored study of classical texts by the Confucian bureaucratic elite. Every examination candidate knew by heart such stock phrases from the classics as "[King Wen] brilliantly served Shangdi and secured abundant blessings." With the development of the state cult of Confucianism and the imperial worship of and sacrifice to Heaven (Tian), Shangdi came to be regarded as a virtual synonym, perhaps somewhat more concretely conceived, of Heaven.

            Finally, the term Shangdi was adopted by Protestant missionaries, and their Chinese converts, to designate the Judeo-Christian God. More commonly, however, that deity is known in Chinese by a name that was coined by the early Jesuit missionaries, Tianzhu, "Lord of Heaven."



            I'm always still in trouble again

            "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
            "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
            "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

            Comment

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