In the days of Melchizedek, India was a cosmopolitan country which had recently come under the political and religious dominance of the Aryan-Andite invaders from the north and west. At this time only the northern and western portions of the peninsula had been extensively permeated by the Aryans. These Vedic newcomers had brought along with them their many tribal deities. Their religious forms of worship followed closely the ceremonial practices of their earlier Andite forebears in that the father still functioned as a priest and the mother as a priestess, and the family hearth was still utilized as an altar.
The Vedic cult was then in process of growth and metamorphosis under the direction of the Brahman caste of teacher-priests, who were gradually assuming control over the expanding ritual of worship. The amalgamation of the onetime thirty-three Aryan deities was well under way when the Salem missionaries penetrated the north of India.
The polytheism of these Aryans represented a degeneration of their earlier monotheism occasioned by their separation into tribal units, each tribe having its venerated god. This devolution of the original monotheism and trinitarianism of Andite Mesopotamia was in process of resynthesis in the early centuries of the second millennium before Christ. The many gods were organized into a pantheon under the triune leadership of Dyaus pitar, the lord of heaven; Indra, the tempestuous lord of the atmosphere; and Agni, the three-headed fire god, lord of the earth and the vestigial symbol of an earlier Trinity concept.
Definite henotheistic developments were paving the way for an evolved monotheism. Agni, the most ancient deity, was often exalted as the father-head of the entire pantheon. The deity-father principle, sometimes called Prajapati, sometimes termed Brahma, was submerged in the theologic battle which the Brahman priests later fought with the Salem teachers. The Brahman was conceived as the energy-divinity principle activating the entire Vedic pantheon.
The Salem missionaries preached the one God of Melchizedek, the Most High of heaven. This portrayal was not altogether disharmonious with the emerging concept of the Father-Brahma as the source of all gods, but the Salem doctrine was nonritualistic and hence ran directly counter to the dogmas, traditions, and teachings of the Brahman priesthood. Never would the Brahman priests accept the Salem teaching of salvation through faith, favor with God apart from ritualistic observances and sacrificial ceremonials.
The rejection of the Melchizedek gospel of trust in God and salvation through faith marked a vital turning point for India. The Salem missionaries had contributed much to the loss of faith in all the ancient Vedic gods, but the leaders, the priests of Vedism, refused to accept the Melchizedek teaching of one God and one simple faith.
The Brahmans culled the sacred writings of their day in an effort to combat the Salem teachers, and this compilation, as later revised, has come on down to modern times as the Rig-Veda, one of the most ancient of sacred books. The second, third, and fourth Vedas followed as the Brahmans sought to crystallize, formalize, and fix their rituals of worship and sacrifice upon the peoples of those days. Taken at their best, these writings are the equal of any other body of similar character in beauty of concept and truth of discernment. But as this superior religion became contaminated with the thousands upon thousands of superstitions, cults, and rituals of southern India, it progressively metamorphosed into the most variegated system of theology ever developed by mortal man. An examination of the Vedas will disclose some of the highest and some of the most debased concepts of Deity ever to be conceived.