Today we are going to look at an AIG article on one ancient Chinese belief and for the most part it looks like an act of desperation rather than a writing of deep sustainable faith. That is simply our impression of that work as it comes across not as we view the author or the organization. We did not realize that it was written almost 20 years ago but it maybe in line with a book we once had in our library on how the ancient Chinese Characters proved the Flood account in the Bible.
The Original ‘Unknown’ god of China: An Ancient pictogram script points to the Bible by Ethel Nelson First published in: Creation Ex Nihilo 20(3):50-53June – August 1998 (Answers In Genesis)
We came across it as we get sent different updates by AIG and since it came to our attention a few weeks ago that may be the reason why we missed the original publication date. Even so, there are still points that should be addressed and we will go through those now.
Mystery concerns the 450-year-old Temple of Heaven complex in Beijing, China. Why did the emperors sacrifice a bull on the great white marble Altar of Heaven at an annual ceremony, the year’s most important and colourful celebration, the so-called ‘Border Sacrifice?’ This rite ended in 1911 when the last emperor was deposed. However, the sacrifice did not begin a mere 450 years ago. The ceremony goes back 4,000 years. One of the earliest accounts of the Border Sacrifice is found in the Shu Jing (Book of History), compiled by Confucius, where it is recorded of Emperor Shun (who ruled from about 2256 BC to 2205 BC when the first recorded dynasty began) that ‘he sacrificed to ShangDi’.
This is not strange for ancient people had religious needs and desires. Plus those attitudes were influenced by evil just as they are today so it is not shocking to see them worship in a manner that may reflect Judaism or Christianity.Sacrifices were well-known in the ancient world as Noah sacrificed after the flood, plus with the inclusion of ‘clean’ animals in the ark, the ancient people would be well aware of what animals to use on an altar of sacrifice even if they had no contact with Judaism or its adherents.
Noah and his family would have taught the right way to sacrifice and about God thus it is no surprise either to see that the memory of God was lost here but the function and methodology to worship a grand deity was still remembered.When people stray from the truth, God is distorted and the idea of God becomes something altogether different in ensuing generations.
Who is ShangDi? This name literally means ‘the Heavenly Ruler’. By reviewing recitations used at the Border Sacrifice, recorded in the Statutes of the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368), one may begin to understand the ancient Chinese reverence for ShangDi. Participating in this rite, the emperor first meditated at the Temple of Heaven
Again this is not out of the ordinary as we know that many western Indian tribes had the idea of a Great Spirit, even though they had no idea who this Great Spirit was. The western Indians had many religious rituals and beliefs but that doesn’t mean that they understood about God, who he was and so on. Or they may consider that he was the one responsible for creation but they may have selected the wrong god to worship and credit, just like evolutionists do today.
Thus we find the emperor worshipping ShangDi. Can we possibly trace the original intention of this magnificent ceremony of antiquity? As the emperor took part in this annual service dedicated to ShangDi, the following words were recited, clearly showing that he considered ShangDi the Creator of the world
A person can get the idea through historical records that the ancient Chinese were worshiping god but that may not be the case. The ancient Chinese may have taken bits and pieces of information from the true God and applied it to their god of their own making. Simply looking at words on an ancient piece of parchment, etc., does not provide us with the intent of the worshipers, just the ritual they may have used. Those ancient parchments also rarely tell us how widespread those ancient beliefs really were.
‘Of old in the beginning, there was the great chaos, without form and dark. The five elements [planets] had not begun to revolve, nor the sun and moon to shine. You, O Spiritual Sovereign, first divided the grosser parts from the purer. You made heaven. You made earth. You made man. All things with their reproducing power got their being’.
For the Christian, the above recitation sounds strangely familiar. How closely it reads to the opening chapter of the biblical Genesis!
The last line is very naive to say the best about it. It demonstrates a lack of knowledge that evil can copy from God, which has been proven in the time of Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh. These words may be close to what the Bible says but that does not mean the ancient Chinese were worshiping the god of the Bible. it is possible but this is not evidence per se that they were.
ShangDi, the Creator-God of the Chinese, surely appears to be one and the same as the Creator-God of the Hebrews. In fact, on of the Hebrew names for God is El Shaddai, which is phonetically similar to ShangDi. Even more similar is the Early Shou pronunciation of ShangDi which is ‘djanh-tigh’ [Zhan-dai]. Another name for their God which the ancient Chinese used interchangeably with ShangDi was Heaven (Tian). Zheng Xuan, a scholar of the early Han dynasty said, “ShangDi is another name for Heaven (Tian)”. The great philosopher Motze (408-382 BC) also thought of Heaven (Tian) as the Creator-God
Same argument applies to this quote. The Muslims us the word ‘Allah’ which is Arabic for the word God but that similarity does not mean that the Muslim worships the same God as the Christian. A close examination of their beliefs and religious writings bring us to a different conclusion. We cannot simply exam the similarities of words and draw conclusions about ancient beliefs, we need to exam their doctrine more closely which is not being done here. This is why we feel this article was an act of desperation not a thorough examination of that ancient religious act.
Note that ShangDi ‘called into existence’, or commanded heaven and earth to appear. Compare this with the way the Hebrew text describes the method of creation by El Shaddai, who, we suspect, is identical with ShangDi, and the similarity in name and role would suggest
Again we can point to the example of the Muslim faith and show that this logic does not work with this ancient ritual or wording. The Muslim believe that their Allah did the same thing yet that admission doe snot equate Allah with God. it means that the originator of the Muslim faith may have, and did , copy from the Hebrew and Christian beliefs and made alterations to fit their desire of how they wanted their god to be. The quote again is not evidence to support that author’s thesis.
We have not yet explained the reason for the emperors’ bull sacrifice to ShangDi
We have, see our explanation under the first quote in the beginning of this article.
The origin of the Border Sacrifice would appear to be explained in the book, God’s Promise to the Chinese. The authors, Nelson, Broadberry and Chock have analyzed the most ancient forms of the pictographic Chinese writing and found the foundational truths of Christianity. In these ideograms, which date from before the time of Moses – we have the entire story of creation, the temptation and fall of man into sin, and God’s remedy for sin in the animal sacrifices, which pointed to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ. All the elements of the Genesis narrative are found recorded, and still in use, in the Chinese character-writing.
This doesn’t really mean anything for every language contacted by original apostles or subsequent believers would include vocabulary about Jesus and biblical teachings. English does because the words of the Bible were translated out of its original languages and into English. This again shows desperation not solid support for the Christian faith. As for the last line of that quote, we have the same thing being done in modern English today and many different languages around the world.
Should a Chinese person tell you that Christianity is a ‘foreigner’s religion’, you can explain that the Chinese in antiquity worshipped the same God as Christians do today. Like the Hebrews often did, the ancestors of today’s Chinese wandered off after false gods; the memory of who their original God was dimmed with time. The ancient Chinese script gives powerful evidence for the historical truth of Genesis
We cannot say that first line for we do not know if that ancient tradition was really a time of worship of the one true God or not. There is only a superficial examination of easily copied elements and no real examination of the actual beliefs held by those ancient people. we do not know their true intent but can only surmise and speculate that they may have done so.
We do not know when the ancients wandered off to false gods but it probably wasn’t too long after Babel that they did. The ancient Chinese characters only prove that the ancients were told of Christ, of Genesis but provide no ‘powerful evidence’ for their historicity. Christians seem to get carried away by what they discover in ancient times and do not apply the truth to their work.
It would be better to say that the ancient Chinese were told about Christ by God’s representatives than to say their ancient language proves the Bible true. We already know that the Bible is true and we do not need ancient languages to provide us the evidence for that belief. As you can see there is just far too much information missing from the analysis to draw the conclusion that author does. We need facts, not reading into the existing languages results we want to see. We need to be honest not desperate in our research and presentation of ancient rituals and religions.
Being honest goes a lot further in making an impact for Christ than eisegesis does.