3 Jewish Ideas That Changed the World

How did a tiny tribe of desert nomads become so important to history?

Thomas St Thomas

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Of all the tribes of people, why is it that a group of pastoral tribal nomads, who were minorities then and minorities now, seem to have such an enduring presence in our world? Because ideas and the details matter. Their ideas have stood the test of time and ended up shaping many assumptions we take today to be self-evident in Western civilization.

Throughout history, as far back as our hunter gatherer ancestors, humans thought in the form of symbols. And what they saw in their dreams and imaginations, just as we do today, were symbols for things that contained emotional significance to them. But symbolism is much more than assigning an image to a meaning. It is this specific ability of humans that allowed us to develop mathematics, language, and any higher order thinking. Words and symbols are simply auditory and visual symbols for ideas and objects.

Early humans, not being able to fully distinguish between dreams, imagination, and reality, assumed that the two were the same or at the very least intimately connected. They acted out what they imagined and dreamed in their subconscious as if it would affect objective reality in their favor. This is the beginning of ritual and religion. Groups of people shared their rituals and symbolism which became a cultural identity and worldview.

Early rituals were centered around the objects in nature that humans were most connected with. Because we are social animals, we reflected our own humanity onto the creatures we hunted and created communion with these animal deities by consuming them in ritual fashions. This idea still exists in our psyches as many of us partake in communion in various forms today. Christians doing so with the body of Christ being the focus of that communion.

With the discovery of agriculture, the center of humanity’s survival shifted focus. Instead of hunting animals and traveling to wherever the animal roamed, humanity became much less mobile. Fertile ground was valuable and an area that produced a consistent harvest was settled and the work of humanity started to follow a cycle of seasons. Still using symbolism and reflecting their own natures into the objective world, humans…

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Thomas St Thomas

I’ve got questions. Writing helps me find the answers. Husband, dad, Afghan vet, healthcare process consultant, former fitness guru.