In 1971, Carolina Meadows resident Wallace Mandell, his wife and young children in tow, traveled to Turkey in an effort to locate the place where the prophet Abraham, in a world that believed in many Gods, professed the startling idea that there was but one God.
At a recent session of the resident-organized monthly series, Thoughtful People, Mandell, long-time Professor and Chair of the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, gave an entertaining yet highly scholarly account of that journey and of the efforts by historians and archaeologists to probe the far reaches of time for what, Mandell admitted, is probably the undiscoverable origin of monotheism. For passionate students of religion, the joy is in the search. The presentation was titled: “A Search for the Site of the One-God Concept.”
Using PowerPoint slides with text and maps to help navigate through the ancient world of Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, and Egyptians, the good-humored professor interwove his own personal journey with the scholarship of experts. His attention focused on the Hittites, a civilization which dated back to several millennia B.C. For the longest time, it was believed that the Hittites had no written language. Then, in 1980, some 30,000 clay tablets covered with writing were discovered – but no one could read them! Eventually they were decoded, revealing much about the world from which, Mandell maintained, Abraham had come.
Abraham migrated from the land of the Hittites to the land of Canaan. There he broke with the idea that there were many Gods, proclaiming that El, or Yahweh, was the only God.
Whether historically accurate or not – and the issue remains controversial – Mandell gave the large and appreciative audience a fascinating introduction to biblical scholarship.