John E. Remsberg
[HTML and editing by Cliff Walker, 2000]
Sources of the Christ Myth:
Christ and the religion he is said to have founded are composite products, made up, to a great extent, of the attributes, the doctrines, and the customs of the gods and the religions which preceded them and existed around them. The Christian believes that Christ is coexistent with his father, Jehovah -- that he has existed from the foundations of the world. This is in a measure true. The years that have elapsed since his alleged incarnation are few compared with the years of his gestation in the intellectual womb of humanity.
To understand the origin and nature of Christ and Christianity it is necessary to know something of the religious systems and doctrines from which they were evolved. The following, some in a large and others in but a small degree, contributed to mold this supposed divine incarnation and inspire this supposed revelation: Nature or Sex Worship. Solar Worship. Astral Worship. Worship of the Elements and Forces of Nature. Worship of Animals and Plants. Fetichism. Polytheism. Monotheism. The Mediatorial Idea The Messianic Idea The Logos. The Perfect Man.
Nature or Sex Worship
The deification and worship of the procreative organs and the generative principles of life is one of the oldest and one of the most universal of religions. It has been called the foundation of all religions. In some nations the worship of the male energy, Phallic worship, predominated; in others the worship of the female energy, Yoni worship, prevailed. But in all both elements were recognized. Mrs. Besant says: "Womanhood has been worshiped in all ages of the world, and maternity has been deified by all creeds: from the savage who bowed before the female symbol of motherhood, to the philosophic Comtist who adores woman 'in the past, the present, and the future,' as mother, wife, and daughter, the worship of the female element in nature has run side by side with that of the male; the worship is one and the same in all religions, and runs in an unbroken thread from the barbarous ages to the present time."
Among the life generating gods may be named Vishnu, Osiris, Zeus, Priapus, Adonis, Bacchus, Saturn, Apollo, Baal, Moloch, and Jehovah. Among the receptive life producing goddesses were Isis, Rhea, Ceres, Venus, Istar, Astarte, Aschera, Devaki, Eve, and Mary. Where the worship of the female element largely prevailed the Virgin and Child was a favorite deity. Isis and Hortrs, Rhea and Quirinus, Leto and Apollo, Devaki and Krishna, Mary and Christ, all had their inception in the sex worship of primitive man.
The symbol of Phallic worship, the cross, has become the emblem of Christianity. I quote again from our English authoress: "We find the cross in India, Egypt, Tibet, Japan, always as the sign of life-giving power, it was worn as an amulet by girls and women, and seems to have been specially worn by the women attached to the temples [sacred prostitutes], as a symbol of what was, to them, a religious calling. The cross is, in fact, nothing but the refined phallus, and in the Christian religion is a significant emblem of its pagan origin; it was adored, carved in temples, and worn as a sacred emblem by sun and nature worshipers, long before there were any Christians to adore, carve, and wear it. The crowd kneeling before the cross in Roman Catholic and in High Anglican churches is a simple reproduction of the crowd who knelt before it in the temples of ancient days, and the girls who wear it amongst ourselves are -- in the most innocent unconsciousness of its real significance -- exactly copying the Indian and Egyptian women of an elder time."
The American Cyclopedia says: "The crux ansata, so common on Egyptian monuments, symbolizes the union of the active and passive principles of nature. In the Etruscan tombs have been found crosses of four phalli."
Regarding this subject, McClintock and Strong's Cyclopeclia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, a standard orthodox Christian authority, says: "The sign of the cross is found as a holy symbol among several ancient nations.... Sometimes it is the phallus" (Art. "Cross"). The same authority says that the Tau or sign of life (one form of the Phallic cross) "was adopted by some of the early Christians in lieu of the cross ... Christian inscriptions at the great oasis are headed by this symbol; it has been found on Christian monuments at Rome" (Art. "Egypt").
Dr. Thomas Inman, of England, one of the foremost authorities on ancient symbolism, says: "It has been reserved for Christian art to crowd our churches with the emblems of Bel and Astarte, Baalim and Ashtoreth, linga and yoni, and to elevate the phallus to the position of the supreme deity" (Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism, p. 16).
Describing the chasuble, worn by Christian priests, Dr. Inman says: "Its form is that of the vesica piscis, one of the most common emblems of the yoni. It is adorned by the Triad. When worn by the priest, he forms the male element, and with the chasuble completes the sacred four. When worshiping the ancient goddesses, whom Mary has displaced, the officiating ministers clothed themselves in feminine attire. Hence the rise of the chemise, etc. Even the tonsured head, adopted from the priests of the Egyptian Isis, represents 'l'anneau'; so that on head, shoulders, breast and body, we may see on Christian priests the relics of the worship of Venus, and the adoration of woman! How horrible all this would sound if, instead of using veiled language, we had employed vulgar words. The idea of a man adorning himself, woven ministering before God and the people, with the effigies of those parts which nature as well as civilization teaches us to conceal, would be simply disgusting, but when all is said to be mysterious and connected with hidden signification, almost everybody tolerates and many eulogize or admire it!" (ibid., p. 104).
Westropp and Wake, in their Ancient Symbol Worship, state that Judaism and Christianity have been largely derived from Phallic worship. Westropp says: "Circumcision was in its inception a purely Phallic ordinance." Our Christian marriage ceremonies, he says, are relics of this worship. Wake says: "In the recognition of God as the universal father, the great Parent of mankind, there is a development of the fundamental idea of Phallism. In the position assigned to Mary as the mother of God the paramount principle of the primitive belief is again predominant. The nimbus, the aureole, the cross, the fish, and even the spires of churches, are symbols retained from the old Phallic worship."
Dr. Alexander Wilder says: "There is not a fast or festival, procession or sacrament, social custom or religious symbol, existing at the present day which has not been taken bodily from Phallism, or from some successive system of Paganism."
Aschera, the voluptuous goddess of fertility, was a Hebrew goddess and was worshiped, along with Jehovah, in the temple itself at Jerusalem. Jules Soury, of France, in his Religion of Israel (p. 68), says: "Under the kings of Judah and Israel, the symbol of Aschera [the phallus] became an object of general piety which was found in every house. Thus in the provinces of France, we still find gigantic crosses on the high roads, on the crossways of the woods which serve as resting places at the Fete Dieu, while, under the porches of churches, vendors of religious toys still sell little Christs in wood or metal for a few half-pence. The rich women of Israel, the bourgeoises of Jerusalem, wore the symbols of Aschera in gold and silver, a sort of medals of the Virgin of the time, which were at once jewels and objects of devotion." Dulaure, another French author, tells us that the worship of Priapus, the god of procreation, under the name of St. Fontin, with rites of the most indelicate character, prevailed in the Catholic church in several provinces of France and Italy up to the middle of the eighteenth century, or later.
The sex worship of the Semitic tribes of Western Asia had its origin, it is believed, in India, where, under the name of Sakti worship, it prevails today, three-fourth of the Hindoos, it is claimed, belonging to this sect. The worship is thus described by the Encyclopedia Britannica's chief authority on the subject, Prof. H. H. Wilson: "The ceremonies are mostly gone through in a mixed society, the Sakti being personified by a naked female, to whom meat and wine are offered and then distributed amongst the company. These eat and drink alternately with gesticulations and mantras -- and when the religious part of the business is over, the males and females rush together and indulge in a wild orgy."
The foregoing is almost an exact description of the Agapae, or Love Feasts, as they were observed for a time in the early Christian church.
Associated with the worship of Aschera and other goddesses of this character was what is known as sacred prostitution. Thousands of women, the fairest and best lured of their race, and also men (sodomites), prostituted themselves for the support of their religion. John Clark Ridpath, in his History of the World, dwells upon this institution. It was practiced for centuries among the Hebrews, constituting a part of the temple worship, the Jewish kings, with the exception of a few, like Hezekiah and Josiah, sanctioning it. Solomon's temple was largely a Pagan temple. Before it stood two Phallic pillars, while its doors were ornamented with symbols of Phallic and Solar worship. Solomon worshiped, in addition to other Pagan deities, Astarte (Ashtoreth), the Sidonian Aschera (1 Kings, xi, 5, 7). The pietistic writers of the Bible condemn it, but in spite of a few spasmodic efforts to suppress the worship, it continued to flourish until long after the Captivity. From Soury's account of the sanctified prostitution of Israel I quote the following: "The tents of the sacred prostitutes were generally erected on the 'high places,' where sacrifices were offered, beside the tablet of Baal or Iahveh [Jehovah] and the symbol of Aschera (Isaiah lvii, 7, et seq.; Ezekiel xxiii, 14; Hosea iv, 17). These tents were woven and ornamented with figures by the priestesses of Aschera Robed in splendid garments, their tresses dripping with perfumes, their cheeks painted with vermilion, their eyes lilack-circled with antimony, their eyelashes lengthened with a compound of gums, musk and ebony, the priestesses awaited the worshipers of the goddess within these tents (Numbers xxv, 8) on spacious beds (Isaiah lvii, 8); they fixed their own price and conditions, and poured the money into the treasury of the temple" (Religion of Israel, p. 71). After describing the temple of Zarpanit, which was furnished with cells for the use of the Babylonian women, Dr. Soury says: "Cells of the same kind, serving the same purpose, existed at Jerusalem in the very temple of Jehovah, wherein Aschera had her symbol and was adored" (ibid., 72). "Prostitutes," says this writer, "were of both sexes. The men were called kedeschim, the women kedeschoth -- that is 'holy, vowed, consecrated.' Deuteronomy bears witness that both the one and the other brought the hire of their prostitution into the treasury of the temple of Jehovah. This paid in part the expenses of worship at Jerusalem" (ibid., 73).
"If then, in Hebrew law and practice," says Dr. Inman, "we find such a strong infusion of the sexual element, we cannot be surprised if it should be found elsewhere, and gradually influence Christianity" (Ancient Symbolism). "The worship of God the Father has repeatedly clashed with that of God the Mother, and the votaries of each respectively have worn badges characteristic of the sex of their deity.... Our sexual sections are as well marked as those in ancient Jerusalem, which swore by Jehovah and Ashtoreth respectively" (ibid.).
It is well known that religious prostitution has been practiced in some form by Christ's devotees from the earliest ages of the church down to the present time. Writing of the middle ages Lecky, the historian of European morals, says: "We may not lay much stress on such isolated instances of depravity as that of Pope John XXII, who was condemned, among many other crimes, for incest and adultery; or the abbot-elect of St. Augustine, at Canterbury, who in 1171 was found, on investigation, to have seventeen illegitimate children in a single village; or an abbot of St. Pelayo, in Spain, who in 1130 was proved to have kept no less than seventy concubines; or Henry III, bishop of Liege, who was deposed in 1274 for having sixty-five illegitimate children; but it is impossible to resist the evidence of a long chain of Councils and ecclesiastical writers, who conspire in depicting far greater evils than simple concubinage.... The writers of the middle ages are full of accounts of nunneries that were like brothels, of the vast multitude of infanticides within their walls, and of that inveterate prevalence of incest among the clergy, which rendered it necessary again and again to issue the most stringent enactments that priests should not be permitted to live with their mothers or sisters" (History of European Morals, Vol. II, p. 331).
For centuries the worship of the Virgin Mary, the Christian goddess of reproduction and motherhood, was supreme; the worship of God and Christ being subordinated to it. During these centuries, Hallam tells us, chastity was almost unknown. In every land, every class ignored the seventh commandment, because it was taught and believed that all offenses of this character were condoned by the Virgin. Hallam cites numerous instances of her alleged interventions in behalf of those who indulged in illegitimate practices. The following is one: "In one tale the Virgin takes the shape of a nun, who had eloped from the convent, and performs her duties ten years, till, tired of a libertine life, she returns unsuspected. This was in consideration of her having never omitted to say an Ave as she passed the Virgin's image" (Middle Ages, p. 604).
Christian chivalry, so much lauded in our day, was simply a form of sex worship. Hallam characterizes it as unbridled libertinism. The writings of that age, like those of Boccaccio, he says, indicate "a general dissoluteness in the intercourse of the sexes.... The violation of marriage vows passes in them for an incontestable privilege of the brave and the fair" (ibid., p. 666).
Holy pilgrimages to the shrines of saints were usually pilgrimages to the shrine of Venus. "Some of the modes of atonement which the church most approved, were particularly hostile to public morals. None was so usual as pilgrimage; whether to Jerusalem or Rome, which were the great objects of devotion, or to the shrine of some national saint, a James of Compostella, a David, or a Thomas Becket. This licensed vagrancy was naturally productive of dissoluteness, especially among the women. Our English ladies, in their zeal to obtain the spiritual treasures of Rome, are said to have relaxed the necessary caution about one that was in their own custody" (ibid., p. 607).
The prelates of the church, being equally culpable, winked at the licentiousness of the lower orders of the clergy. "In every country," says Hallam, "the secular and parochial clergy kept women in their houses, upon more or less acknowledged terms of intercourse, by a connivance of their ecclesiastical superiors" (ibid., p. 353). "A writer of respectable authority asserts that the clergy frequently obtained a bishop's license to cohabit with a mate" (ibid., p. 354).
Another form of "sanctified" sexual indulgence, and which received the sanction of the church, was what is known as Marquette. Concerning this custom Mrs. Matilda Joslyn Gage, in her Woman, Church and State, says: "The law known as Marchetta, or Marquette, compelled newly married women to a most dishonorable servitude. They were regarded as the rightful prey of the Feudal Lord from one to three days after their marriage, and from this custom the eldest son of the serf was held as the son of the Lord.... Marquette was claimed by the Lord's Spiritual, as well as by the Lord's Temporal. The Church, indeed, was the bulwark of this base feudal claim." This is affirmed by the French historian, Michelet. He says: "The lords spiritual (clergy) had this right no less than the lords temporal. The parson, being a lord, expressly claimed the first fruits of the bride" (La Sorcerie, p. 62).
The brazen lewdness of medieval Christianity has been driven into privacy. But it still exists, and it is still religious. The Italian patriot, Garibaldi bears this testimony: "In Rome, in 1849, I myself visited every convent. I was present at all the investigations. Without a single exception we found instruments of torture, and a cellar with the bodies of infant children." Referring to the priests connected with certain convents, Dr. Inman says: "Their practice was to instruct their victims that whatever was said or done must be accompanied by a pious sentence. Thus, 'love you dearly' was a profane expression; but 'I desire your company in the name of Jesus,' and 'I embrace in you the Holy Virgin,' was orthodox."
Protestant readers, generally, will accept this testimony as true of Catholic countries. But have Protestant countries a purer record? Lecky, classed as a Protestant historian, says: "The two countries which are most thoroughly pervaded by Protestant theology are probably Scotland and Sweden; and if we measure their morality by the common though somewhat defective test that is furnished by the number of illegitimate births, the first is well known to be considerably below the average morality of European nations, while the second, in this as in general criminality, has been pronounced by a very able and impartial Protestant witness, who has had the fullest means of judging, to be very far below every other Christian nation" (European Morals, Vol. I, p. 391).
The religion of Christ as it exists today is not only in its external forms, but in its very essence, largely a survival of the nature worship of old. That it is closely allied to it is admitted by Christian ministers themselves. The Rev. Frederick Robertson says: "The devotional feelings are often singularly allied to the animal nature. They conduct the unconscious victim of feelings that appear divine, into a state of life, at which the world stands aghast; fanaticism is always united with either excessive lewdness or desperate asceticism," (Essays). The Rev. S. Baring-Gould, in Freaks of Fanaticism, says: "The religious passion verges so closely on the sexual passion that a slight additional pressure given to it bursts the partition, and both are confused in a frenzy of religious debauch." The Rev. J. H. Noyes says: "Religious love is a very near neighbor to sex love, and they always get mixed in the intimacies and social excitement of [religious] revivals."
Scarcely less prevalent than sex worship was the worship of the sun. While sex worship was confined chiefly to the generation of human life, sun worship comprehended the generation of all life. The sun was recognized as the generative power of the universe. He overshadows the receptive earth from whom all life is born. I quote from M. Soury: "Amid all these forces, the mightiest is, without contradiction, the sun, the fire of heaven, father of earthly fire, unique and supreme cause of motion and life on our planet. There is no need or reason to understand that the very life, and as it were the blood of our celestial father flows in the veins of the Earth, our mother. In the time of love, when the luminous heaven embraces her, from her fertilized womb springs forth a world. It is she who quivers on the plains where the soft moist air waves gently on the grasses; it is she who climbs in the bush, who soars in the oak, who fills the solitude with the joyous twitter of birds beneath the cloudlet, or from the leaf-lined nests; it is she who in seas and in running waters, or mountains and in woods, couples the gorgeous male with the ardent female, throbs in every bosom, loves in every life. But all this terrestrial life, all this warmth and all this light are but effluents from the sun." (Religion of Israel, pp. 3, 4.)
Prof. Tyndall says: "We are no longer in a poetical but in a purely mechanical sense, the children of the sun." "The sun," said Napoleon Bonaparte, "gives all things life and fertility. It is the true God of the earth."
John Newton, M.R.C.S., of England, says: "The glorious sun, that 'god of this world' the source of life and light to our earth, was early adored, and an effigy thereof used as a symbol. Mankind watched with rapture its rays gain strength daily in the Spring until the golden, glories of Midsummer had arrived, when the earth was bathed during the longest days in his beams, which ripened the fruits that his returning course had started into life. When the sun once more began its course downwards to the winter solstice, his votaries sorrowed, for he seemed to sicken and grow paler at the advent of December, when his rays scarcely reached the earth, and all nature, benumbed and cold, sunk into a death-like sleep. Hence feasts and fasts were instituted to mark the commencement of the various phases of the solar year, which have continued from the earliest known period, under various names, to our own times" (The Assyrian Grove).
The most prominent deities in the pantheons of the gods were solar deities. Among these were Osiris, Vishnu, Mithra, Apollo, Hercules, Adonis, Bacchus, and Baal. In the worship of some of these gods sex and solar worship were united.
The early Israelites were mostly sun worshipers. And even in later times, the sun god, Baal. divided with Jehovah the worship of the Jews. Saul, Jonathan, and David named their children in honor of this god. "Saul begat Jonathan,...and Esh-baal. And the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal" (1 Chron. viii, 33, 34). David named his last son, save one, Beeliada, "Baal Knows" (1 Chron. xiv, 7). Solomon's worship included not merely the worship of Jehovah, but that of Baal and other gods. His temple was filled with Pagan ornaments and emblems pertaining to solar worship. Regarding this the Rev. Dr. Oort of Holland says: "Solomon's temple had much in common with heathen edifices, and slight modifications might have made it a suitable temple for Baal. This need not surprise us, for the ancient religion of the Israelitish tribes was itself a form of Nature-worship just as much as the religions of the Canaanites, Phoenicians, Philistines, and other surrounding peoples were. Most of the Israelites certainly saw no harm in these ornaments, since they were not aware of any very great difference between the character of Yahweh [Jehovah] and that of Baal, Astarte, or Moloch" (Bible for Learners, Vol. II, p. 88). Long after the time of Solomon the horses and chariots of the Sun were kept in the temple (2 Kings xxiii, 11). Many of the stories concerning Moses, Joshua, Jonah, and other Bible characters are solar myths. Samson was a sun god. Dr. Oort says: "Sun-worship was by no means unknown to the Israelites.... The myths that were circulated among these people show that they were zealous worshipers of the sun. These myths are still preserved, but, as in all other cases, they are so much altered as to be hardly recognizable. The writer who has preserved them for us lived at a time when the worship of the sun had long ago died out. He transforms the sun god into an Israelite hero [Samson]" (ibid., I, p. 414). St. Augustine believed that Samson and the sun god Hercules were one.
Charles Francois Dupuis, in his Origin of Worship, one of the most elaborate and remarkable works on mythology ever penned, shows that nearly all the religions of the world, including Christianity, were derived largely from solar worship. All the solar deities, he says, have a common history. This history, summarized, is substantially as follows: "The god is born about December 25th, without sexual intercourse, for the sun, entering the winter solstice, emerges in the sign of Virgo, the heavenly Virgin. His mother remains ever-virgin, since the rays of the sun, passing through the zodiacal sign, leave it intact. His infancy is begirt with dangers, because the new-born Sun is feeble in the midst of the winter's fogs and mists, which threaten to devour him; his life is one of toil and peril, culminating at the spring equinox in a final struggle with the powers of darkness. At that period the day and night are equal, and both fight for the mastery. Though the night veil the urn and he seems dead; though he has descended out of sight, below the earth, yet he rises again triumphant, and he rises in the sign of the Lamb, and is thus the Lamb of God, carrying away the darkness and death of the winter months. Henceforth he triumphs, growing ever stronger and more brilliant. He ascends into the zenith, and there he glows, on the right hand of God, himself God, the very substance of the Father, the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, upholding all things by his lifegiving power."
Dr G. W. Brown, author of Researches in Oriental History, says: "Strange as it may seem whilst Mithras and Osiris, Monysos and Bacchus, Apollo and Serapis, with many others [including Christ] in name, all masculine sun gods, and all interblended, a knowledge of one is generally a knowledge of the whole, wherever located or worshiped."
If Christ was not originally a solar god he wears today the livery of one. His mother, the Virgin, was the mother of the solar gods; his birthday, Christmas, is the birthday of all the gods of the sun; his Twelve Apostles correspond to the twelve signs of the Zodiac; according to the Gospels, at his crucifixion the sun was eclipsed, he expired toward sunset, and rose again with the sun; the day appointed for his worship, the Lord's day, is the dies solis, Sunday, of the sun worshipers; while the principal feasts observed in memory of him were once observed in honor of their goals. "Every detail of the Sun myth," says the noted astronomer, Richard A. Proctor, "is worked into the record of the Galilean teacher."
The cross we have seen was a symbol of Phallic worship. The cross, and especially the crucifix, was also an emblem of solar worship. It was caned or painted on, or within, a circle representing the horizon, the head and feet and the outstretched arms of the sacrificial offering or crucified Redeemer pointing toward the four quarters of the horizon. The Lord's Supper, observed in memory of Christ, was observed in memory of Mithra, Bacchus, and other solar gods. The nimbus, or aureola, surrounding the head of Jesus in his portraits represents the rays of the sun. It was thus that the ancient adorers of the sun adorned the effigies of their god. There still exists a pillar erected by the sun worshipers of Carthage. On this pillar is caned the sun god, Baal, with a nimbus encircling his head.
The Christian doctrine of the resurrection had its origin in sun worship. As the sun, the Father, rose from the dead, so it was believed that his earthly children would also rise from the dead. "The daily disappearance and the subsequent rise of the sun," says Newton, "appeared to many of the ancients as a true resurrection; thus, while the east came to be regarded as the source of light and warmth, happiness and glory, the west was associated with darkness and chill, decay and death. This led to the custom of burying the dead so as to face the east when they rose again, and of building temples and shrines with an opening toward the east. To effect this, Vitruvius, two thousand years ago, gave precise rules, which are still followed by Christian architects."
Max Mueller in his Origin of Religion (pp. 200, 201), says: "People wonder why so much of the old mythology, the daily talk, of the Aryans was solar what else could it have been? The names of the sun are endless and so are his stories; but who he was, whence he came and whither he went, remained a mystery from beginning to end.... Man looked up to the sun, yearning for the response of a soul, and though that response never came, though his senses recoiled, dazzled and blinded by an effulgence which he could not support, yet he never doubted that the invisible was there, and that, where his senses failed him, where he could neither grasp nor comprehend, he might still shut his eyes and trust, fall down and worship."
This worship of old survives in the worship of today. A knowledge of the location, the limits and the nature of the sun has gradually convinced the world that this is not God's dwelling place; but somewhere in the infinite expanse of the blue beyond they fancy he has his throne. To this imaginary being is rendered the same adoration that was rendered to him by primitive man -- the adoration of childish ignorance.
The worship of the planets and stars was probably a later development than sex and solar worship. It flourished for a time in nearly every part of the world, and left its impress on the religions that succeeded it.
In Chaldea, one of the principal sources of Judaism and Christianity, the worship of the stars prevailed. I quote from Dr. Ridpath: "In their aspirations for communion with the higher powers, the yearning of the ancient Chaldeans turned upwards to the planets and the stars. The horizon of the Babylonian plain was uniform and boundless. It was the heaven above rather than the earth beneath, which exhibited variety and life. The Zodiac was ever new with its brilliant evolutions. Through the clear atmosphere the tracks of the shining orbs could be traced in every phase and transposition. With each dawn of morning light, with each recurrence of the evening twilight, a new panorama spread before the reverent imagination of the dreamer, and he saw in the moving spheres not only the abode but the manifested glory of his gods" (History of the World, Vol. 1, p. 138).
"Until today, in the high light of civilization, the idea of some kind of domination of the stars over the affairs of human life has hardly released its hold on the minds of men; and the language of the old Chaldean ritual of signs has still a familiar sound in the ears of the credulous" (ibid., p. 140).
After alluding to the ancient Vedic religion, which recognized in the stars the souls of our departed ancestors, Prof. John Fiske says: "The Christianised German peasant, fifty centuries later, tells his children that the stars are angels' eyes, and the English cottager impresses it on the youthful mind that it is wicked to point to the stars, though why he cannot tell" (Myths and Myth Makers, p. 76).
In the Zodiac the Sun had twelve palaces. Each palace had a star for a god, and each was subject to the Sun. Each day of the week was governed by a planet, and each hour of the day had its controlling star. Many scholars, including Jefferson, have held that Christ and his twelve Apostles relate to the zodiac and were derived from this stellar worship. The seven days of the week are still dedicated to the old planetary gods, and, with a few modifications, bear their names.
Chambers' Encyclopedia says: "The Jews, as well as the early Christians, had no special names for the single days, but counted their number from the previous Sabbath, beginning with Sunday, as the first after the Sabbath, and ending with Friday, as the sixth after the previous, or eve (Ereb) of the next Sabbath. After a very short time, however, young Christianity, which in the same manner had endeavored to count from the feria secunda, or second day after Sunday, to the Septima (or Saturday), had to fall back again upon the old heathen names" (Art "Week").
The planetary gods Nardouk (Jupiter), Adar (Saturn), Istar (Venus), Nergal (Mars), and Nebo (Mercury),* were all worshiped by the ancient Israelites. Istar was called "Queen of the Stars." Moloch, the rival of Jehovah, who shared for centuries the worship of the Hebrews, had his blazing star, the emblem of his implacable cruelty. The worship of Astarte, daughter of the moon, and "Queen of Heaven," whose emblem was a star, was introduced by Solomon himself (1 Kings xi, 5; 2 Kings xxiii, 13). For more than three hundred years she had her temple in Jerusalem. And even today devout Jews address orizons to the new moon, a relic of the worship of Astarte. The rosary is a survival of astral worship. It was once a symbol of the stars.
*[Scholars have now decided that the Babylonian names of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury should be written Marduk, Adad, and Nabu, respectively -- ed.]
The author of Supernatural Religion says: "The belief that sun, moon and stars were living entities possessed of souls was generally held by the Jews at the beginning of our era."
The same belief was entertained by the Christian Fathers. Origen says: "As the stars move with so much order and method that under no circumstances whatever do their course seem to be disturbed, is it not the extreme of absurdity to suppose that so much order, so much observance of discipline and method could be demanded from or fulfilled by irrational beings?"
Out of astral worship grew the so-called science of astrology. Of this Chambers' Encyclopedia says: "Astrology is one of the most ancient forms of superstition, and is found prevailing among the nations of the east at the very dawn of history. The Jews became much addicted to it after the Captivity."
One of the so-called Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament reads: "There shall come a star out of Jacob" (Num. xxiv, 17). "Note when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east,...and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was"(Matt. ii, 1, 2, 9). This marvelous event at the advent of the Christian Messiah was a complete "fulfillment" of what had been predicted centuries before concerning the appearance of the expected Persian Messiah, the original of the expected Messiah of the Jews.
Graves says that the language of Matthew clearly betrays the astrological origin of his story. "The practice of calculating nativities by the stars was in vogue in the era and country of Christ's birth, and had been for a long time previously in various countries. 'We have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him.' Now mark, here, it was not the star, nor a star, but 'his star'; thus disclosing its unmistakable astrological features" (Sixteen Crucified Saviors, p. 53).
After referring to the prevalency of astrology at the beginning of, and anterior to, the Christian era, Strauss says: "When such ideas were afloat, it was easy to imagine that the birth of the Messiah must be announced by a star, especially as, according to the common interpretation of Balaam's prophecy, a star was there made the symbol of the Messiah. It is certain that the Jewish mind effected this combination; for it is a rabbinical idea that at the time of the Messiah's birth a star will appear in the east and remain for a long time visible.... In the time of Jesus it was the general belief that stars were always the forerunners of great events."
Jesus in the Apocalypse declares himself to be "the bright and morning star" (xxii, 16). He "had in his right hand seven stars" (i, 16). "The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches" (20). His second coming will be heralded by "signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars" (Luke xxi, 25).
The star of the Magi which pointed so unerringly to the cradle of Christ points not less unerringly to one of the sources from which Christ came.
Worship of the Elements and Forces of Nature
The elements and forces of nature, Volney believes, inspired the first ideas of God and religion:
"Man, reflecting on his condition, began to perceive that he was subjected to forces superior to his own, and independent of his will. The sun enlightened and warmed him, fire burned him, thunder terrified him; the wind beat upon him, and water drowned him."
"Considering the action of the elements on him, he conceived the idea of weakness and subjection on his part, and of power and domination on theirs; and this idea of power was the primitive and fundamental type of every idea of the Divinity."
"The action of these natural existences excited in him sensations of pleasure and pain, of good or evil; and by a natural elect of his organization he conceived for them love or aversion; he desired or dreaded their presence; and fear or hope gave rise to the first idea of religion."
From this elemental worship Indra, Agni, Zeus, Odin, Jehovah and other gods were evolved. Jehovah was originally a god of the atmosphere. He manifested himself in the tempest; he unchained the waves of the sea; the wind has his breath; the thunder was his voice, the lightning his messenger. He filled the air with frost; he precipitated the hail; he blanketed the earth with snow; he deluged the land with rain; he congealed the water of the stream, and parched the verdure of the field.
Fire worship overspread Asia, and Jehovah, like Moloch, became a god of fire. "There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it" (2 Sam. xxii, 9). He appeared to Abram as "a smoking furnace and a burning lamp" (Gen. xv, 17). He revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush "The bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed" (Ex. iii, 2). When David called to him "he answered him from heaven by fire" (1 Ch. xxi, 263. To the fleeing Israelites he was a "pillar of fire" (Ex. xiv, 24). "The Lord descended upon" Sinai "in fire" (xix, 18). When he appeared upon Horeb "the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven" (Deut. iv. 11), "and the Lord spake out of the midst of the fire" (12). "The cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night" (Ex. xl, 38). On the Jewish altar for centuries the sacred fire was kept burning. When Aaron, Gideon, Solomon and Elijah made offerings to Jehovah "there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed" the offerings (Lev. ix, 24; Jud. vi, 21; 2 Ch. vii, l; 1 K xviii, 38). Elijah was translated in "a chariot of fire" (2 K. ii, 11). Elisha was surrounded by "horses and chariots of fire" (vi, 17). With fire he consumed his enemies. "The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire" (Gen. xix, 24), When Nadab and Abihu "offered strange fire before the Lord" (Lev. x, 1), "there went out fire from before the Lord and devoured them" (2). When the Israelites displeased him at Taberah, "the fire of the Lord burnt among them and consumed them" (Num. xi, 1). When the hosts of Satan encompassed the Christian saints, "fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them" (Rev. xx, 9).
"It is now a matter of demonstration," says M. Soury, "that at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, in the desert, and even in the time of Judges, light and fire were not to the Israelites mere symbols of the deity, but were the deity himself."
Christ inherited the fiery nature of his Father. He baptized his disciples with fire. "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Matt. iii, 11). "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them" (Acts ii, 3). He consigned his enemies to everlasting punishment in the unquenchable fires of hell. "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire" (Matt. xiii, 41, 42). "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (xxv, 41). "To be cast into hell fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire"" (Mark ix, 47-49). His disciples were imbued with the same spirit and belief. "And they (the Samaritans) did not receive him.... And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" (Luke ix, 53, 54.)
Some vestiges of ancient fire worship have been transmitted to our time. John Newton says: "A sacred fire, at first miraculously kindled, and subsequently kept up by the sedulous care of priests and priestesses, formed an important part of the religion of Judea, Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome, and the superstition lingers amongst us still. So late as the advent of the Reformation, a sacred fire was kept ever burning on a shrine at Kildare, in Ireland, and attended by virgins of high rank, called 'inghean au dagha,' or daughters of fire. Every year is the ceremony repeated at Jerusalem of the miraculous kindling of the Holy Fire at the reputed sepulchre, and men and women crowd to light tapers at the sacred flame" (The Assyrian Grove).
Worship of Animals and Plants
In the infancy of the world animals were deified and adored, and trees and plants were regarded as sentient beings and received the homage of man.
Nearly every animal has been an object of worship. This worship flourished for ages in Egypt and India In Egypt the worship of the bull (Apis) was associated with that of Osiris (Serapis). The cow is still worshiped in India. Serpent worship has existed in every part of the world.
Remnants of animal worship survived in Judaism and Christianity. Satan was a serpent; Jehovah, like Osiris, was worshiped as a bull; Christ was the lamb of God, and the Holy Ghost appeared in the form of a dove.
Closely allied to this worship, and to some extent a part of it, is the doctrine of the transmigration of souls. Some of the Jews believed in this. So did many of the early Christians, including Origen.
The leek, the lotus, and other plants were held as sacred or divine. The rose was the divine flower of Greece. Its petals had been dyed with the blood of her favorite goddess. In many nations the lily was the sacred emblem of virginity. Christians still attach a sort of sacredness to it.
"The groves were God's first temples," says Bryant. The groves, too, were among man's first gods. Volumes have been written on the ancient worship of trees. Not only the Druids of Britain, but the Greeks, and the Semitic races of Asia were worshipers of trees. The giant oaks and the symmetrical evergreens were gods. The rustling of the aspen and the moaning of the pines were the audible whisperings of Divinity which the prophets interpreted.
"The worship of trees," says Soury, "only disappeared in Syria at a very late date.... The largest and tallest trees, and the evergreen ones, were adored as gods. A great many Semitic myths were connected with the vegetable world. Thus the pomegranate, famous for the richness of its fruit, was sacred to Adonis and Aphrodite. The almond, which, while nature seems inanimate, comes forth first from winter's sleep, the amygdalis, the 'great mother,' gave birth to a crowd of Semitic legends" (Religion of Israel, pp. 66, 67).
The tree, like the serpent, was an emblem of immortality. The Garden of Eden had its Tree of Life. Newton says: "I am come that they might have Life, and that they might have it abundantly' (John x, 10). Life is the reward which has been promised under every system, including that of the founder of Christianity. A Tree of Life stood in the midst of that Paradise which is described in the book of Genesis; ...and in a second Paradise, which is promised to the blessed by the author of the book of Revelation, a tree of life shall stand once more 'for the healing of the nations.'"
There still exist in Palestine venerable trees which receive not merely the reverence, but the worship of Mussulmans and Christians. Some of these trees they believe possess divine curative powers. Travelers have observed them covered with strips of cloth or strings, which are tied to the twigs. This is done to induce the spirit of the tree to heal or drive away disease.
Sex worship, as we have seen, bequeathed some of its doctrines and rites to nearly every religion that has existed since its time. It became associated with tree worship. The Bible abounds with "sacred groves." In Palestine hundreds of them were consecrated to Aschera, the favorite goddess of the ancient Jews. These groves were devoted to sacred prostitution. In some of them the worship of Baal and Aschera were combined; in others that of Jehovah and Aschera "These sanctuaries of Aschera," says M. Soury, "were charming spots, shady groves of green trees, often watered by running streams, mysterious retreats where all was silence save the cooing of the doves sacred to the goddess. The symbol of Aschera, a simple pillar, or the trunk of a tree, perhaps with its leaves and branches, was the emblem of generative power." The spots once occupied by these groves are still deemed holy ground. Many of them are marked by Mohammedan mosques and Christian chapels.
The sacred groves of Palestine where devout and voluptuous Jews mingled the worship of Jehovah and Aschera live, too, in the Protestant camp meetings of our western world, where, in shady bowers, Christians worship fervently at the altar of Christ, and then, not infrequently, meet clandestinely and pay their vows to Aschera.
The palm tree, and where the palm did not grow, the pine, both symbols of the phallus, were worshiped. Newton says: "Palm-branches have been used in all ages as emblems of life, peace, and victory. They were strewn before Christ. Palm-Sunday, the feast of palms, is still kept. Even within the present [19th] century, on this festival, in many towns of France, women and children carried in procession at the end of their palm-branches a phallus made of bread, which they called, undisguisedly, la pine,' whence the festival was called 'La Fete des Pinnes.' The 'pine' having been blest by the priest, the women carefully preserved it during the following year as an amulet" (The Assyrian Grove).
Closely related to the foregoing worship is fetichism, the worship of idols and images. This is popularly supposed to be the religion only of savages and barbarians; but it also prevails to some extent among people who are considered civilized and enlightened.
While it was opposed by some of the kings, priests, and prophets, idolatry flourished among the Jews from the earliest ages down almost to the Christian era Abraham's father, Terah, was an idolater (Josh xxv, 2). Jacob's wives were daughters of an idolater. Rachel stole and hid her father's images (Gen. xxxi, 30-34). Jacob's family were, for a time at least, idolaters. "Then Jacob said unto his household, and all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that art among you.... And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods that were in their hands,...and Jacob laid them under the oak which was by Shechem" (Gen. xxxv, 2-4). The kingdoms of Israel and Judah were steeped in idolatry. Israel "set them up images" and "served idols" (2 Kings, xvii, 10, 11), and "did offer sweet savor to their idols" (Ezek. vi, 13). Judah was "full of idols" as. ii, 8).
The fetichism of Christ's ancestors reappeared in the image worship of his devotees. The Christians of the middle ages, Dr. Draper says, "were immersed in fetichism." "The worship of images, of fragments of the cross, or bones, nails and other relics, a true fetich worship, was cultivated" (Conflict, p. 49). "A chip of the true cross, some iron filings from the chain of St. Peter, a tooth or bone of a martyr, were held in adoration; the world was full of the stupendous miracles which these relics had performed. But especially were painted or graven images of holy personages supposed to be endowed with such powers. They had become objects of actual worship" (Intellectual Development of Europe, Vol. I, p. 414).
Concerning the fetichism of the church, Chambers' Encyclopedia says: "It was usual not only to keep lights and burn incense before the images, to kiss them reverently; and to kneel down and pray before them, but some went so far as to make the images serve as godfathers and godmothers in baptism and even to mingle the dust of the coloring matter scraped from the images with the Eucharist elements in the Holy Communion.... In many foreign churches, especially in Italy, in southern Germany, and in France [at the present time], are to be found images which are popularly reputed as especially sacred, and to which, or to prayers offered before which, miraculous effects are ascribed."
Bishop Newton, of England, admits and deplores the existence of Christian fetichism. He says: "The consecrating and bowing down to images; the attributing of miraculous powers and virtues to idols; the setting up of little oratories, altars and statues in the streets and highways and on the tops of mountains; the carrying of images and relics in pompous procession,...all these are equally parts of pagan and popish superstition."
Greek, Lutheran, and Anglican churches are not free from fetichism, and even the Evangelical churches of this country make a fetich of a book.
Polytheism, the doctrine of a plurality of gods, has prevailed in every part of the world. The most interesting pantheons of the gods were those of India, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The Hebrews, who were polytheists, borrowed their gods from Assyria and Babylonia The pantheon of these nations comprised twelve principal gods and nearly a thousand minor deities. The chief of these gods was El. His consort was Elath. The Hebrews worshiped El under the name of El Shaddai and various other names. Elohim of the Bible, translated God, denotes the plural and included El and the minor gods who surrounded him. Yahweh, Iahveh, Jehovah, etc., as he is variously called -- for Jews and Christians cannot spell and do not even know the name of their principal deity -- is a god of Assyro-Babylonian origin. In addition to their national god, Jehovah, many of the Jews worshiped Baal, Moloch, and Tammous, male deities, and Astarte, Aschera, and Istar, female deities.
That the writers of the Bible recognized a plurality of gods -- were polytheists -- is proved by the following "And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us" (Gen. iii, 22). "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods?" (Ex. xv, 11.) "Among the gods, there is none like unto thee, O Lord" (Ps. Ixxxvi, 8). "The Lord is a great God, and a great king above all gods" (Ps. xcv, 3). "Thou shalt not revile the gods" (Ex. xxii, 28).
Monotheism, the doctrine of one god, is not merely the worship of one god, but the belief in the existence of one god only. Many were monotheistic in worship -- worshiped one god, their national deity -- while at the same time they were polytheistic in belief -- believed in the existence of many gods. The Jews who worshiped Jehovah have been called monotheists. And yet, for a thousand years, they believed in the existence of Kemosh, Baal, Moloch, Tammouz, and other deities. They believed that Jehovah was their national god and that they owed allegiance to him; just as the subjects of an earthly king profess their loyalty to him without denying the existence of other kings.
While Christians profess monotheism they are really polytheists -- worship three gods -- Father (Jehovah), Son (Christ), and Holy Ghost; and recognize a god of Evil, Satan. To these must also be added a female deity, the Virgin Mary, who is to the devout Catholic as much of a divinity as Isis and Venus were to ancient polytheists. The canonization and adoration of the saints, too, are analogous to the worship of the inferior deities of ancient times.
After recounting what he believes to be the salutary influences exerted by the medieval conception of the Virgin, Lecky says: "But the price, and perhaps the necessary price, of this was the exaltation of the Virgin as an omnipresent deity of infinite power as well as infinite condescension. The legends represented her as performing every kind of prodigy.... The painters depicted her invested with the divine aureole, judging men on equal terms with her Son, or even retaining her ascendancy over him in heaven. In the devotions of the people she was addressed in terms identical with those employed to the Almighty. A reverence similar in kind but less in degree was soon bestowed upon the other saints, who speedily assumed the position of the minor deities of paganism" (History of Rationalism, Vol. I, pp. 226, 227).
Regarding the deification and worship of saints Hallam says: "Every cathedral or monastery had its tutelar saint, and every saint his legend, fabricated in order to enrich the churches under his protection, by exaggerating his virtues, his miracles, and consequently his power of serving those who paid liberally for his patronage. Many of those saints were imaginary persons; sometimes a blundered inscription added a name to the calendar, and sometimes, it is said, a heathen god was surprised at the company to which he was introduced, and the rites with which he was honored" (Middle Ages, p. 603).
The church historian Mosheim admits and deplores the truth of this: "It is, at the same time, as undoubtedly certain, as it is extravagant and monstrous, that the worship of the martyrs was modeled, by degrees, according to the religious services that were said to the goals before the coming of Christ" (Ecclesiastical History, p. 98).
Bishop Newton says: "The very same temples, the very same images, which were once consecrated to Jupiter and the other demons [gods], are now consecrated to the Virgin Mary and the other saints."
Milman says that at an early period "Christianity began to approach to a polytheistic forms or at least to permit what it is difficult to call by any other name than polytheistic, habits and feelings of devotion" (History of Christianity, Vol. III, p. 424).
Monotheism, as previously stated, is the doctrine of one god only. It has gradually displaced, to a great extent, the fetichism and polytheism of earlier times.
Comte's law of human development is as follows:
1. Theological, or fictitious,
2. Metaphysical, or abstract,
3. Scientific, or positive.
"In the Theological state, the human mind, seeking the essential nature of things, the first and final causes (the origin and purpose) of all effects -- in short Absolute knowledge -- supposes all phenomena to be produced by the immediate action of supernatural beings.
"In the Metaphysical state, which is only a modification of the first, the mind supposes, instead of supernatural beings, abstract forms, veritable entities (that is, personified abstractions) inherent in all things, and capable of producing all phenomena.
"In the final, the Positive state, the mind has given over the vain search after Absolute notions, the origin and destination of the universe, and the causes of phenomena, and applies itself to the study of their laws -- that is, their invariable relations of succession and resemblance" (Positive Philosophy, pp. 26, 27).
The lowest state of human development is the theological. Here the masses of mankind still repose. Only the scholars and thinkers have advanced beyond this and many of these have only reached the second or metaphysical state. The highest point in the theological state is monotheism.
To Judaism Christians ascribe the glory of having been the first religion to teach a pure monotheism. But monotheism existed long before the Jews attained to it. Zoroaster and his earliest followers were monotheists, dualism being a later development of the Persian theology. The adoption of monotheism by the Jews, which occurred only at a very late period in their history, was not, however, the result of a divine revelation, or even of an intellectual superiority, for the Jews were immeasurably inferior intellectually to the Greeks and Romans, to the Hindus and Egyptians, and to the Assyrians and Babylonians, who are supposed to have retained a belief in polytheism. This monotheism of the Jews has chiefly the result of a religious intolerance never before equaled and never since surpassed, except in the history of Christianity and Mohammedanism, the daughters of Judaism. Jehovistic priests and kings tolerated no rivals of their god and made death the penalty for disloyalty to him. The Jewish nation became monotheistic for the same reason that Spain, in the clutches of the Inquisition, became entirely Christian.
Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples, if they existed, were probably monotheists, believed that Jehovah was the only God, and neither believed nor claimed that Jesus was other than the son of man. As generations passed the man became obscured, his deeds were magnified until at length he was accepted as the Son of God, and a God himself. The deification of Jesus, then, together with the apotheosis of other mortals, cannot be regarded as an evolution from Jewish monotheism to a higher plane, but rather as a relapse from monotheism to polytheism.
The Mediatorial Idea
This idea had its origin chiefly in the worship of the elements and forces of nature by primitive man. He believed that these elements and forces were intelligent beings. He realized that in their presence he was in a measure helpless. He therefore sought to win their favor and appease their wrath. He made offerings to them; he prayed to them; he worshiped them. But other men, more wise, more cunning, and more fortunate, appeared to have greater influence with these deities. He employed them to intercede for him; and thus the priesthood was established. The priest was the first mediator.
More complex religions systems were in time evolved, and in some of them mediatorial gods appeared. The mediatorial idea was prominent in the Persian system. Mithra was the Persian mediator. The worship of Mithra was carried to Rome and the Romans became acquainted with the mediatorial idea In an exposition of Philo's philosophy, Mrs. Evans says: "The most exalted spirits are able to raise themselves to the pure essence and find peace and joy which earthly conditions cannot disturb; but weaker natures need a helper in a Being, who, coming from above, can dwell below and lift their souls to God. The majority of mankind, in their passage along the slippery path of life, are sure to fall, and would perish if it were not for a mediator between themselves and God.... The power of the Caesars, culminating in Augustus, enabled them to claim divine honors from the people, already disposed to see in them chosen agents of celestial sovereignty. Rome, according to the expression of Valerius Maximus, recognized in the Caesars the mediators between heaven and earth. And that was before Christianity introduced its anointed mediator" (The Christ Myth, pp. 90, 92).
The God of the Jews, to quote the words of Jefferson, was "cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust." He had cursed his creation; he had drowned a world; he had imposed the sentence of death -- spiritual as well as physical -- upon his children. To placate this monster, to induce him to remit this sentence, the priests were powerless. Millions of animals, and even human beings, had been sacrificed to him in vain. At length his "only begotten son," Jesus Christ, offered himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. The sacrifice was accepted, and a reconciliation was elected between God and man. Thus Christ became the great mediator of Christianity. "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. ii, 5). "He is the mediator of the new testament" (Heb. ix, 15). From Persia and from Rome this mediatorial God has come.
The Messianic Idea
The desire for a deliverer naturally arises in the minds of a people who are in subjection and bondage. This desire was the germ of the Messianic idea While there are traces of this idea in the earlier writings of the Hebrews, it reached its highest development during and immediately following the Captivity, and again in the Maccabean age.
The Messiah of Judaism and the Messiah, or Christ, of Christianity, were derived from the Persian theology, the adherents of each system modifying the doctrine to suit their respective notions. In its article on Zoroaster, Chambers' Encyclopedia says: "There is an important element to be noticed, viz., the Messiah, or Sosiosh, from whom the Jewish and Christian notions of a Messiah are held by many to have been derived.... Even a superficial glance at this sketch will show our readers what very close parallels between Jewish and Christian notions on the one hand, and the Zoroastrian on the other, are to be drawn."
Christians cite numerous passages from the writings of the Old Testament, which they claim foretold the advent of Jesus. Not one of these passages, as originally penned, refers in the remotest degree to him, though many of them do refer to the office he is said to have filled. The Jews hoped for a deliverer, for a national leader who would reestablish the kingdom of Israel, and restore to it the glory of David's reign. They were loyal to the house of David and believed that this deliverer would be a descendant, a son, of David. Pietists, too, in the fervor of their religious enthusiasm dreamed of universal conversion to the Jehovistic theocracy. In the writings of their prophets and poets these hopes and dreams found expression. "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David, my servant, thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations" (Ps. xxxix, 3, 4). "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him" (Dan. vii, 27).
While the Messianic idea was originally a Persian idea, the materials used in the formation of the Christian Messiah were drawn largely from the Jewish Scriptures. There are passages in the Old Testament, as we have seen, which predict the coming of a Messiah. These furnished a portion of the materials out of which this Messianic deity, Christ, was formed. There are many more which have no reference whatever to a Messiah, which have been made to serve as Messianic prophecies. The Old Testament, as we have it, is alleged to be a Jewish work. It is, rather, a Christian work. It is a Christian version of ancient Jewish writings, every book of which has been more or less Christianized. Much of it is scarcely recognizable to a Jewish scholar. This is especially true of so-called Messianic prophecies.
The Christian Messiah was, on the one hand, modeled, to a considerable extent, after the Jewish ideal, while the Jewish materials, on the other hand, were freely altered to fit the new conception. Referring to the work of the Evangelists, M. Renan says: "Sometimes they reasoned thus: 'The Messiah ought to do such a thing, now Jesus is the Messiah, therefore Jesus has done such a thing.' At other times, by an inverse process, it was said: 'Such a thing has happened to Jesus; now Jesus is the Messiah; therefore such a thing was to happen to the Messiah.'" (Jesus, p. 27).
That the so-called Messianic prophecies of the Jewish Scriptures were the immediate source of the Christ is apparent. That he was, however, merely a borrowed idea and not a historical realization of these prophecies is equally apparent. The Jews were expecting a Messiah. Had Jesus realized these expectations they would have accepted him. But he did not realize them. These prophecies were not fulfilled in him. He was not a son of David; he did not deliver his race from bondage; he did not become a king, the important events that were to attend and follow Messiah's advent form no part even of his alleged history. His rejection by the Jews proves him to be either a false Messiah, or an imaginary being -- a historical myth or a pure myth -- in either case a myth.
The Jewish argument against Jesus as the Messiah is unanswerable. "We do not find in the present comparatively imperfect stage of human progress the realization of that blessed condition of mankind which the prophet Isaiah associates with the era when Messiah is to appear. And as our Hebrew Scriptures speak of one Messianic advent only, and not of two advents; and as the inspired Book does not preach Messiah's kingdom as a matter of faith, but distinctly identifies it with matters of fact which are to be made evident to the senses, we cling to the plain inference to be drawn from the text of the Bible, and we deny that Messiah has yet appeared, and upon the following grounds: First, because of the three distinctive facts which the inspired seer of Judah inseparably connects with the advent of the Messiah, vis., (1) the cessation of war and the uninterrupted reign of peace, (2) the prevalence of a perfect concord of opinion on all matters bearing upon the worship of the one and only God, and (3) the ingathering of the remnant of Judah and of the dispersed ten tribes of Israel -- not one has, up to the present time, been accomplished. Second, we dissent from the proposition that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah announced by the prophets, because the church which he founded, and which his successors developed, has offered, during a succession of centuries, most singular contrast to what is described by the Hebrew scriptures as the immediate consequence of Messiah's advent, and of his glorious kingdom. The prophet Isaiah declares that when the Messiah appears, peace, love, and union will be permanently established; and every candid man must admit that the world has not realized the accomplishment of this prophecy. Again, in the days of Messiah, all men, as Scripture saith, 'are to serve God with one accord'; and yet it is very certain that since the appearance of him whom Christians believe to be Messiah, mankind has been split into more hostile divisions on the ground of religious belief, and more antagonistic sects have sprung up, than in any historic age before Christianity was preached."
With orthodox Jews the belief in a Messiah is a deep rooted conviction. For 2500 years there has been displayed in front of the synagogue this sign: "Wanted -- a Messiah." During this time many, including Jesus, Bar-Cocheba, Moses of Candia, and Sabatai Zevi, have applied for the place, but all applicants have been rejected, and the Messianic predictions of the Jewish prophets are yet to be fulfilled. So, too, are those of the Persian prophet. In the meantime the followers of Jesus -- turning from the Jews to the Gentiles -- have from this borrowed idea evolved a deity who divides with Brahma, Buddha, and Allah, the worship of the world.
The Logos (Word)
The exaltation and deification of Jesus is thus described by the Dutch theologian, Dr. Hooykaas. "When Jesus was gone, those who had known him personally insensibly surrounded him with a glory that shone at last with a more than human splendor. The spiritual blessings which flowed in ever rich measure from his person and his gospel compelled the Christians to exalt him ever more and more. The title of Son of God, which his followers had given him as the future Messiah, was elastic and ambiguous enough to lend itself very readily to this process. The idea of his being the Messiah now no longer sufficed; he was something other and something far more than the Jewish Messiah. The philosophy and theology of the day were laid under contribution; and nothing could so well indicate his significance for all humanity and his unapproachable exaltation as the idea that he was the Word" (Bible for Learners, Vol. III, pp. 670, 671).
The doctrine of the Logos, or Word: as an emanation or essence of divine wisdom is very old. It is found in the ancient religions of Egypt and India It was recognized in the Persian theology, and was incorporated into the Jewish theology by the Babylonian exiles. It constitutes an important element in the Platonic philosophy. It received its highest development and exposition in the writings of the Jewish philosopher Philo, a contemporary of Jesus.
Concerning the Logos, Dean Milman, in his History of Christianity, says: "This Being was more or less distinctly impersonated, according to the more popular or more philosophic, the more material or the more abstract, notions of the age of the people. This was the doctrine from the Ganges, or even the shores of the Yellow Sea, to the Ilissus: it was the fundamental principle of the Indian religion and the Indian philosophy, it was the basis of Zoroastrianism; it was pure Platonism; it was the Platonic Judaism of the Alexandrian school." Another English clergyman, Mr. Lake, says: "We can trace its [the Word's] birthplace in the philosophic speculations of the ancient world; we can note its gradual development and growth; we can see it in its early youth passing (through Philo and others), from Grecian philosophy into the current of Jewish thought" (Philo, Plato, and Paul, p. 71).
The presentation of Jesus as an incarnation of the Logos belongs to the second century and is prominent in the Fourth Gospel. The ideas are chiefly those of Plato and Philo. Plato's trinity was Thought, Word and Deed. The Word occupies the second place in the Platonic trinity as it does in the Christian trinity. That the author of the gospel of John, written more than a century after the time of Philo, borrowed largely from that philosopher, is shown by the following parallels drawn from their writings:
Philo. -- "The Logos is the Son of God" (De Profugis).
John. -- '"This [the Word] is the Son of God" (i, 34).
Philo. -- "The Logos is considered the same as God" (De
John. -- "The Word was God" (i, 1).
Philo. -- "He [the Logos] was before all things" (De Leg.
John. -- "The same [the Word] was in the beginning with God" (i, 2).
Philo. -- "The Logos is the agent by whom the world was made"
(De Leg. Allegor.).
John. -- "All things were made by him [the Word]" (i, 3).
Philo. -- "The Logos is the light of the world" (De Somniis).
John. -- "The Word was the true light" (i, 9).
Philo. -- "The Logos only can see God" (De Confus. Ling.).
John. -- "No man hath seen God.... He [the Word] hath declared him" (i, 18).
The Perfect Man
The New Testament contains at least five different mythical types or conceptions of Jesus Christ: 1. The Messiah of the synoptics, omitting the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke. 2. The Son of God, or demi-god, introduced in these opening chapters. 3. The incarnate Logos or God of John. 4. The Christ of Paul. 5. Eliminating these more or less supernatural types, there remains in these writings, in addition to the purely natural and purely human Jesus of Nazareth, a type known as the Ideal or Perfect Man. This type is not only mythical, but, in the stricter sense, supernatural and superhuman; for the perfect man must always remain an ideal rather than a real type of man.
The last type is believed by many to represent the primal stage in the deification of Jesus. This conception of Jesus has been held by many Rationalistic Christians, and by some conservative Rationalists in all ages. This, too, forms a part of the dualistic conception of Christ entertained by orthodox Christians, a conception which supposes him to have combined in his incarnation both a human and a divine element which made him both man and God. The portrayal of the vicarious suffering and death of this man has been one of the most powerful agents in the propagation of Christianity.
The molders of primitive Christianity were greatly influenced by various philosophical speculations -- by the teachings of Pythagoras and Plato among the earlier, and by the writings of Philo and Seneca among the later philosophers. To Philo, we have seen, they were indebted largely for the Logos; to Seneca they were indebted chiefly for the Ideal or Perfect Man. The following extracts are from The Christ Myth of Mrs. Evans:
"Seneca advises the cherishing of a hope that victory in the form of a wise man will finally appear, because humanity requires that the exemplification of perfection should be visible."
"Seneca's conception of perfect humanity was a combination of the wise man of the Platonists and Stoics and the gentle sufferer who endures insult and sorrow."
"The Logos of Philo was too ethereal to answer all the demands of feeble humanity. The Godman must live and suffer and die among and for the people in order to make the sacrifice complete."
"Philo endowed the Logos of Heraclitus with the authority of a priestly mediator, who, floating between earth and heaven, brings God and man together, Seneca places this mediator as a suffering man among men. Philo, from his Jewish standpoint, made the Logos the priestly intercessor, Seneca, from the standpoint of his Stoical society, believed in the possibility of a perfect man as savior and guide of weaker men."
Cognizant of the striking resemblance between some of the writings of the New Testament and the writings of the Stoics, particularly of Seneca, modern Christian apologists affect to believe that this philosopher was acquainted with the history and the gospel of Christ. But the Stoical philosophy propounded by Seneca had been forming ever since the time of Zeno, three centuries before the time of Christ. Seneca himself was born before the Christian era, and no part of the New Testament was in existence when he wrote. Relative to this contention Lecky writes: "It is admitted that the greatest moralists of the Roman empire either never mentioned Christianity, or mentioned it with contempt.... The Jews, with whom the Christians were then identified, he (Seneca) emphatically describes as 'an accursed race.'" (European Morals, Vol. 1 pp. 340, 342). During the second and third centuries Christian scholars ransacked pagan literature for recognitions of Christ and Christianity. Regarding this, Lecky says: "At the time, when the passion for discovering these connections was most extravagant, the notion of Seneca and his followers being inspired by the Christians was unknown" (ibid., p. 346). Gibbon says: "The new sect [Christians] is totally unnoticed by Seneca" (Rome, Vol. I, 587, note).
Out of all these various religious systems and doctrines -- out of sex worship and sun worship -- out of the worship of the stars and the worship of the elements -- out of the worship of animals and the worship of idols -- out of Polytheism and Monotheism -- out of the Mediatorial and Messianic ideas -- out of the Logos and the Ideal Man of the philosophers -- this Christ has come.