Christianity is not a new religion, nor a made-up religion. It is the fulfillment
and continuation of the religion of the ancient Hebrews. It is a uniquely historical religion, built upon God’s self-revelation to real people in the real world.
The Old Testament showcases how amazingly unique ancient Israelite religion was: in the midst of polytheistic and superstitious cultures around it, the ancient Hebrews claimed that there was only one God. They asserted that there was one supreme being who created and upholds all reality. Furthermore, they said this God was separate from his creation – he was not part of it. Neither did he need any help to create the universe. And perhaps most amazingly, he didn’t have an “image”. There were no statues or carvings or amulets to be made. This one true God insiste
d on it. He is to be worshiped, yes. But as the supreme spiritual being his essence cannot be captured or portrayed adequately through the skills of moral craftsmen.
The emergence of this Hebraic monotheism is completely unexpected and unique. Here’s what one scholar said about this:
“There is absolutely no parallel in the ancient Near East for a people resisting the current universal religious thought patterns, challenging the prevailing world views and producing a national religion and literature that in its fundamentals goes against the stream of the entire existing tradition of which historically, culturally and geographically it is a constituent part. The phenomenon defies all attempts at rational explanation, for a linear, evolutionary development of monotheism from polytheism is not otherwise attested.”
[quote is from Nahum M. Sarna, “Paganism and Biblical Judaism,” Great Confrontations in Jewish History: The J. M. Goodstein Lecture Series on Judaica, 1975, edited by Stanley M. Wagner and Allen D. Breck (Denver: University of Denver, Department of History, 1977/5737), reprinted in Studies in Biblical Interpretation (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2000/5760), 17.]