Application of old pagan concept of trinity

Many who believe in the trinity are surprised to learn that the idea of divine beings existing as trinities or triads long predated Christianity. Yet the evidence is abundantly documented. So let us have a look at some of the evidence.

Marie Sinclair, Countess of Caithness, in her 1876 book Old Truths in a New Light, states,

“It is generally, although erroneously, supposed that the doctrine of the Trinity is of Christian origin. Nearly every nation of antiquity possessed a similar doctrine. [The early Catholic theologian] St. Jerome testifies unequivocally, ‘All the ancient nations believed in the Trinity’.” — (p. 382)

Notice how the following quotes document belief in a divine trinity in many regions and religions of the ancient world.

Sumeria

Ur III Sumerian cuneiform for An or Anu, the earliest attested Sky Father deity. In Sumerian religion, he was also “King of the Gods“, “Lord of the Constellations, Spirits and Demons”, and “Supreme Ruler of the Kingdom of Heaven”, where Anu himself wandered the highest Heavenly Regions.

“The universe was divided into three regions each of which became the domain of a god. Anu‘s share was the sky. The earth was given to Enlil. Ea became the ruler of the waters. Together they constituted the triad of the Great Gods.” — (The Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, 1994, pp. 54, 55)

Babylonia

“The ancient Babylonians recognised the doctrine of a trinity, or three persons in one god— as appears from a composite god with three heads forming part of their mythology, and the use of the equilateral triangle, also, as an emblem of such trinity in unity.” — (Thomas Dennis Rock, The Mystical Woman and the Cities of the Nations, 1867, pp. 22, 23)

India

Purana or “ancient, old” Manuscript

“The Puranas, one of the Hindoo Bibles of more than 3,000 years ago, contain the following passage:

‘O ye three Lords! know that I recognise only one God. Inform me, therefore, which of you is the true divinity, that I may address to him alone my adorations.’

The three gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva [or Shiva], becoming manifest to him, replied,

‘Learn, O devotee, that there is no real distinction between us. What to you appears such is only the semblance. The single being appears under three forms by the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, but he is one.’

Hence the triangle was adopted by all the ancient nations as a symbol of the Deity … Three was considered among all the pagan nations as the chief of the mystical numbers, because, as Aristotle remarks, it contains within itself a beginning, a middle, and an end. Hence we find it designating some of the attributes of almost all the pagan gods.” (Sinclair, pp. 382, 383)

Greece

“In the Fourth Century B.C. Aristotle wrote:

‘All things are three, and thrice is all: and let us use this number in the worship of the gods; for, as the Pythagoreans say, everything and all things are bounded by threes, for the end, the middle and the beginning have this number in everything, and these compose the number of the Trinity’.” — (Arthur Weigall, Paganism in Our Christianity, 1928, pp. 197, 198)

Egypt

“The Hymn to Amun decreed that

Re-Horakhty.svg

Re, also spelled Ra or Pra, in ancient Egyptian religion, god of the sun and one of the creator gods, who rose from the ocean of chaos on the primeval hill, creating himself and then in turn engendering eight other gods.

‘No god came into being before him (Amun)’

and that

‘All gods are three: Amun, Re and Ptah, and there is no second to them. Hidden is his name as Amon, he is Re in face, and his body is Ptah.’

… This is a statement of trinity, the three chief gods of Egypt subsumed into one of them, Amon. Clearly, the concept of organic unity within plurality got an extraordinary boost with this formulation. Theologically, in a crude form it came strikingly close to the later Christian form of plural Trinitarian monotheism.” — (Simson Najovits, Egypt, Trunk of the Tree, Vol. 2, 2004, pp. 83, 84)

Other areas

Many other areas had their own divine trinities.

In Greece they were Zeus, Poseidon and Adonis. The Phoenicians worshipped Ulomus, Ulosuros and Eliun. Rome worshipped Jupiter, Mars and Venus. In Germanic nations they were called Wodan, Thor and Fricco. Regarding the Celts, one source states,

“The ancient heathen deities of the pagan Irish, Criosan, Biosena, and Seeva, or Sheeva, are doubtless the Creeshna [Krishna], Veeshnu [Vishnu], [or the all-inclusive] Brahma, and Seeva [Shiva], of the Hindoos.” — (Thomas Maurice, The History of Hindostan, Vol. 2, 1798, p. 171)

Arthur Edward Pearse Brome Weigall, English Egyptologist, stage designer, journalist and author, at the Temple of Edfu, before 1913

The deception is beautifully seen by the astonishing admission of Arthur Weigall who himself is a Trinitarian. Egyptologist Arthur Weigall summed up the influence of ancient beliefs on the adoption of the trinity doctrine by the Catholic Church in the following excerpt from his book:

“It must not be forgotten that Jesus Christ never mentioned such a phenomenon [the Trinity], and nowhere in the New Testament does the word ‘Trinity’ appear. The idea was only adopted by the Church three hundred years after the death of our Lord; and the origin of the conception is entirely pagan …
The ancient Egyptians, whose influence on early religious thought was profound, usually arranged their gods or goddesses in trinities: there was the trinity of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, the trinity of Amen, Mut, and Khonsu, the trinity of Khnum, Satis, and Anukis, and so forth …
The early Christians, however, did not at first think of applying the idea to their own faith. They paid their devotions to God the Father and to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and they recognised the mysterious and undefined existence of the Holy Spirit; but there was no thought of these three being an actual Trinity, co-equal and united in One …The application of this old pagan conception of a Trinity to Christian theology was made possible by the recognition of the Holy Spirit as the required third ‘Person,’ co-equal with the other ‘Persons’…The idea of the Spirit being co-equal with God was not generally recognised until the second half of the Fourth Century A.D… . In the year 381 the Council of Constantinople added to the earlier Nicene Creed a description of the Holy Spirit as

‘the Lord, and giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and Son together is worshipped and glorified.’

Andrey Davidson, Kingdom of God – Arius’ non-trinitarian Christian  theology

(Arian Church Facebook Group)

Christian Doctrine of the Trinity

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Preceding

Roman, Aztec and other rites still influencing us today

Christianity without the Trinity

Next: A Father Who begat a son

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Additional reading

  1. Tri-union gods and Pagan, Christian, Muslim and Jewish views on the Creator God
  2. Looking for answers on the question Is there a God #1 Many gods
  3. A Triple God or simply a rather simple One God
  4. Trinity matter
  5. Trinity – History
  6. How did the Trinity Doctrine Develop
  7. History of the acceptance of a three-in-one God
  8. Altered to fit a Trinity
  9. The Trinity – the truth
  10. Trinitarian philosophy
  11. Does there have to be a Holy Trinity?
  12. Problems correspondents have with the Trinity Doctrine
  13. How do trinitarians equate divine nature
  14. The Great Trinity debate
  15. Newton not believing in the Holy Trinity
  16. Inspired Word
  17. The habitual misreading of John 1 and the ‘Word being God’ #1
  18. The habitual misreading of John 1 and the ‘Word being God’ #2
  19. Who Is Jesus? God, or unique Man?
  20. Jesus the “God-Man”: Really?
  21. The saviour Jesus his godly side
  22. The saviour Jesus his human side
  23. Omniscient God opposite a not knowing Jesus
  24. Jesus Christ being dispatched as the Figurehead of a Religion
  25. The Christ, the anointed of God
  26. Challenging claim
  27. Challenging claim 1 Whose word
  28. Challenging claim 4 Inspired by God 3 Self-consistent Word of God
  29. Deity manifested in Messiah
  30. Germanic mythological influences up to today’s Christmas celebrations
  31. Problems correspondents have with the Trinity Doctrine

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Further reading

  1. Is God comprised of three persons, or is He just one person?
  2. Questions for those who believe in the Trinity
  3. Trinity And Pagan Influence
  4. The Trinity: paganism or Christianity?
  5. Trinity in the Bible
  6. Shiva, the destroyer yet the preserver
  7. Universe according to Pythagoras – pt. 1 – Tetractys
  8. A Note on ‘Biblical’ Simplicity
  9. 1 John 5:7 And Matthew 28:19 – Fabricated Trinity Verses
  10. What is God’s Glory and Why does it Matter?
  11. Ethno-nationalism and the Christian Trinity
  12. In the Newness of Prepositions
  13. Labyrinth of the Week #2: Trinity Lutheran Church
  14. Oneness Pentecostalism and Their False Doctrine of Modalism
  15. ALiF Quotes: “Plurality of One is Duality and Plurality of Two is Trinity; everything else is their derivatives.”
  16. Embrace the Mystery: Does all of theology “make sense”
  17. The Trinity Dogma and the Worship of Angels
  18. The Lord Jesus Christ and The Divine Trinity
  19. A Glimpse of the Trinity
  20. What is the Trinity?
  21. The Trinity: It’s Not That Hard to Believe.
  22. Easy Way To Know God’s Will
  23. Trinity, logically described
  24. Trinity, Part II
  25. ​Unity of the Blessed Trinity
  26. (Study) Jesus Is God
  27. A Quick Stop at The Shack
  28. Random Submission
  29. Testament 26: His word is our bond
  30. Islam and the Doctrine of the Trinity
  31. Robert Wells Needs Help Responding to Muslims on Blogging Theology
  32. The Hospitality of Abraham: The Liturgical Witness
  33. Hays on Mark’s Jesus: The God Who “Walks By” On the Water
  34. A Dove, 3, 7, and Creation
  35. Irenaeus: Salvation is the work of the Trinity
  36. Do Not Be Anxious to Be Modern In Theology
  37.  Testament 24: how to receive grace and mercy 
  38. Virgin Birth (Symbolism, Mythology, and Mystery)
  39. Is Jesus a lesser God?
  40. No One Knows the Father Except the Son: H.R. Mackintosh on the Radical Exclusivity of Revelation in Christ
  41. Delighting in the Trinity
  42. The Good God
  43. The Curious Christian
  44. Misquoted Verses #1: Judge Not
  45. Let’s Get Lost: Mapping Religion in the 21st Century
  46. The Most Shocking Thing Ever Uttered

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Roman, Aztec and other rites still influencing us today

Days shortening and darkness coming over us

When we look at the weather we would not have the impression we are coming to the coldest season of the year. We can not ignore the shorter days, which remind us that we are coming closer to the longest darkness of the year.

That darkness has always frightened people and therefore they looked for ways to get more light again.

Saturnalia, a Roman feast celebrated in mid-December, provided the model for many of the merry-making customs we know now as ‘The time of the Year‘ or ‘Christmas‘. From this celebration, for example, were derived the elaborate feasting, the giving of gifts, and the burning of candles.

Seasons, storms, thunder, darkness and light

In other cultures we also find that many centuries before Jesus was born they celebrated the ‘birth of light‘. The Roman Catholic Church was not shy to take over many traditions from heathen people who celebrated such elements as the ‘turn’ of the position of moon and sun and the change of season. Even the Israelites came to feast such natural elements as the four teḳufot (Teḳufat Nisan, Teḳufat Tammuz, Teḳufat Tishri and the Teḳufat Ṭebet) by which also superstition became connected with the teḳufot. Hai Gaon, in the tenth century, in reply to a question as to the prevalence of the custom in the “West” (i.e., west of Babylon) that all water that may be in the house or stored away in vessels in the first hour of the teḳufah had to be thrown away in the belief that the water is then poisoned, and if drunk would cause swelling of the body, sickness, and sometimes death, said it was followed only in order that the new season might be begun with a supply of fresh, sweet water.

Jupiter Smyrna Louvre Ma13.jpg

Zeus, god of the sky, lightning, thunder, law, order, justice – The Jupiter de Smyrne, discovered in Smyrna in 1680

When the sun enters Capricornus; this is the beginning of winter, or “‘et ha-ḥoref”(stripping-time), when the night is the longest during the year.For several people it was the time something had to be stripped down or some things that happened in the past had to be done with. The bad things had to be forgotten or to ‘be over with’ and new paths could be taken again. It was the time of a ‘turn over’ or a rebirth. People looked forward to the rebirth of the sun and hoped that everything would go well. For that reason they offered the rest of their food to the gods of nature which had to bear them fruits and good weather, not making the god of thunder (sky and thunder god Zeus) angry by forgetting him or to have bad spirits around, lots of noise was made to get them away from the own house.

Also in Latin America we can find such very noisy parties. For many people the darker nights were there for getting the ‘good’ and ‘goods’ together. All badness had to be down away. On the 24th of December it was the big moment to look for the next day when the goddess of light would return in case they all showed the goodness and willingness to her.

From December 16 through December 23 in Latin America eight posada parties are held and on the 24th, Nochebuena (The Good Night)(Christmas Eve) is celebrated, and families make an effort to be together for a special dinner. Also in West Europe this custom of a Christmas meal has been long a favourite moment.

Roman influences

Statue of three figures, seated side by side

Capitoline Triad – the three godheads side by side transposed in the Roman catholic church and shims of that church to the Trinity, being a God the Father, god the son, and a god the holy spirit.

Constantine the Great had managed to got the church leaders to agree to many of his demands so that the Christians would not any more be persecuted. For that reason they had to agree to the three-headed Roman god and Jeshua could become the ‘counterpart’ or ‘alias’ for Zeus with his name calling ‘hail Zeus‘ or ‘Issou‘ ‘Jesus‘. And they had to keep to the Roman festivals and as such should place their Christian Zeus (Jesus) his birth on the same major feast for the ‘light’ in the Roman world. As such rabbi Jeshua became Jesus , and his birth day became the 25th of December instead of October 17. Constantine insisted that the mighty king of the gods (Jupiter) or the Roman god of the sky, thunderstorms, lightning, weather and air got honoured on his day (December 25).

But it were not only Roman customs which entered Christendom.

Aztec influences

Latin Americans should come to see that American Christmas customs are nothing but Aztec rites. El Universal, a newspaper in Mexico City, commented:

“Friars from different orders took advantage of the fact that festivities of the Indian ritual calendar coincided with the Catholic liturgical calendar, so they used this to support their evangelizing and missionary work. They replaced the commemorations to the pre-Hispanic divinities with festivities to Christian divinities, introduced European festivities and activities, and also took advantage of the Indian festivities, which resulted in a cultural syncretism from which authentically Mexican expressions have arisen.”

The Encyclopedia Americana explains:

Nativity plays early became a part of the Christmas celebration . . . The representation in church of the crèche [the manger scene] is said to have been begun by Saint Francis.”

These plays featuring the birth of Christ were performed in the churches during the beginning of the colonization of Mexico. They were organized by Franciscan monks in order to teach the Indians about the Nativity. Later the posadas became more popular. Whatever the original intention behind them, the way the posadas are held today speaks for itself. If you are in Mexico during this season, you can see or sense something that a writer for El Universal highlighted in his comment:

“The posadas, which were a way to remind us of the pilgrimage of Jesus’ parents looking for a shelter where the Child God could be born, are today only days of drunkenness, excesses, gluttony, vanities, and more and more crime.”

Traditional Nativity scenes

The idea of the nacimiento emerged during Colonial times from the original live representations in churches. While some find it attractive, does it correctly represent what the Bible says?
That is a valid question.

When the so-called three wise men — who in fact were astrologers — visited, Jesus and his family were no longer living in a stable. Time had passed, and the family was living in a house. You will find it interesting to note this detail in the inspired record at Matthew 2:1, 11. You can also note that the Bible does not say how many astrologers there were.

After Jesus had been born in Bethʹle·hem+ of Ju·deʹa in the days of Herod*+ the king, look! astrologers* from the East came to Jerusalem, saying: “Where is the one born king of the Jews?+ For we saw his star when we were in the East, and we have come to do obeisance* to him.” …  10 On seeing the star, they rejoiced with great joy. 11 And when they went into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and falling down, they did obeisance* to him. They also opened their treasures and presented him with gifts—gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-2,10-11)

Another detail should not be ignored: In the Mexican nacimiento, the baby is referred to as “the Child God” with the idea that it was God himself who came to earth as a baby. However, the Bible presents Jesus as being the Son of God who was born on earth; he was not the same as or equal to Jehovah, the Almighty God. Consider the truth about this, presented at Luke 1:35; John 3:16; 5:37; 14:1, 6, 9, 28; 17:1, 3; 20:17.

35 In answer the angel said to her: “Holy spirit will come upon you,+ and power of the Most High will overshadow you. And for that reason the one who is born will be called holy,+ God’s Son.+ (Luke 1:35)

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son,+ so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.+ 17 For God did not send his Son into the world for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him.+ 18 Whoever exercises faith in him is not to be judged.+ Whoever does not exercise faith has been judged already, because he has not exercised faith in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.+ (John 3:16-18)

Three wise men, Santa and birthday celebrations

In Latin America, the three wise men replace the idea of Santa Claus. Still, as is done in other lands, many parents hide toys in the home. Then on the morning of January 6, the children look for them, as if the three wise men brought them. This is a money-making time for toy sellers, and some have made a fortune on what many honesthearted people recognize is just a fantasy. The myth of the three wise men is losing credibility among a goodly number, even among little children. Though some are displeased that this myth is losing believers, what can anyone expect of a fantasy maintained only for the sake of tradition and for commercial convenience?

Christmas, or the Nativity, was not celebrated by early Christians. One encyclopedia says about this:

“The celebration was not observed in the first centuries of the Christian church, since the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth.”

The Bible links the celebration of birthdays with pagans, not with God’s true worshippers.

But when Herod’s birthday+ was being celebrated, the daughter of He·roʹdi·as danced for the occasion and pleased Herod so much+ that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Then she, at her mother’s prompting, said: “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”+ Grieved though he was, the king, out of regard for his oaths and for those dining* with him, commanded it to be given. 10 So he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. (Matthew 14:6-10).

This does not, of course, mean that it is not beneficial to learn and remember the actual events involved in the birth of the Son of God. The factual Bible account provides important insights and lessons for all those who want to do God’s will.

Birth of Jesus According to the Bible

You will find reliable information about Jesus’ birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. They show that the angel Gabriel visited a young unmarried woman by the name of Mary in the Galilean town of Nazareth. What message did he deliver?

“Look! you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus. This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.” (Luke 1:31-33.)

Mary was very surprised by this message. Not being married, she said:

“How is this to be, since I am having no intercourse with a man?” The angel answered: “Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God’s Son.” Mary, recognizing that this was the will of God, said: “Look! Jehovah’s slave girl! May it take place with me according to your declaration.” (Luke 1:34-38).

An angel told Joseph about the miraculous birth so that he would not divorce Mary, which he was planning to do after he learned of her pregnancy. He was then willing to assume the responsibility of taking care of the Son of God. (Matthew 1:18-25).

Then a decree from Caesar Augustus forced Joseph and Mary to travel from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea, the city of their forefathers, to be registered.

“While they were there, the days came to the full for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her son, the firstborn, and she bound him with cloth bands and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the lodging room.” (Luke 2:1-7).

Luke 2:8-14 describes what followed:

“There were also in that same country shepherds living out of doors and keeping watches in the night over their flocks. And suddenly Jehovah’s angel stood by them, and Jehovah’s glory gleamed around them, and they became very fearful. But the angel said to them: ‘Have no fear, for, look! I am declaring to you good news of a great joy that all the people will have, because there was born to you today a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in David’s city. And this is a sign for you: you will find an infant bound in cloth bands and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there came to be with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying: ‘Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.’”

The Astrologers

Matthew’s account mentions that astrologers from the East came to Jerusalem looking for the place where the King of the Jews was born. King Herod was very interested in this — but not with good intentions.

“Sending them to Bethlehem,

he said:

‘Go make a careful search for the young child, and when you have found it report back to me, that I too may go and do it obeisance.’”

The astrologers found the young child and

“opened their treasures and presented it with gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

But they did not go back to Herod.

“They were given divine warning in a dream not to return to Herod.”

God used an angel to warn Joseph of Herod’s intentions. Joseph and Mary then fled to Egypt with their son. Next, in an effort to eliminate the new King, cruel King Herod ordered the killing of boys in the Bethlehem area. Which boys? Those two years of age and under. (Matthew 2:1-16).

What Can We Learn From the Account?

The visiting astrologers — however many of them there were — did not worship the true God. The Bible version La Nueva Biblia Latinoamérica (1989 Edition) states in a footnote:

“The Magi were not kings, but fortune-tellers and priests of a pagan religion.”

They came in line with their knowledge of the stars to which they were devoted. Had God wanted to guide them to the young child, they would have been led to the exact place without needing to go first to Jerusalem and to Herod’s palace. Later on, God did intervene to alter their course to protect the child.

At Christmastime this account is often surrounded by a mythical and romantic atmosphere that obscures the most important thing: that this baby was born to be a magnificent King, as was announced to Mary and to the shepherds. No, Jesus Christ is not a baby anymore, or even a child. He is the ruling King of God’s Kingdom, which very soon will eliminate all rulerships opposed to God’s will, and he will solve all problems of mankind. That is the Kingdom we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer.

44 “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom+ that will never be destroyed.+ And this kingdom will not be passed on to any other people.+ It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms,+ and it alone will stand forever,+ (Daniel 2:44)

“You must pray, then, this way:+

“‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name+ be sanctified.*+ 10 Let your Kingdom+ come. Let your will+ take place, as in heaven, also on earth.+ (Matthew 6:9, 10).

Through the angels’ declaration to the shepherds, we learn that the opportunity for salvation is open to all who are willing to hear the message of the good news. Those who gain the favour of God become “men of goodwill.”
There are marvellous prospects for peace in all the world under the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, but people must be willing to do God’s will. Is the Christmas season conducive to this, and does it reflect that desire?
Many sincere people who want to follow the Bible feel that the answer is obvious.

10 But the angel said to them: “Do not be afraid, for look! I am declaring to you good news of a great joy that all the people will have. 11 For today there was born to you in David’s city+ a savior,+ who is Christ the Lord.+ 12 And this is a sign for you: You will find an infant wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army,+ praising God and saying: 14 “Glory in the heights above to God, and on earth peace among men of goodwill.”* (Luke 2:10, 11, 14).

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Preceding articles:

Irminsul, dies natalis solis invicti, birthday of light, Christmas and Saturnalia

Winter Solstice 2015: Shortest Day Of The Year Celebrated As Pagan Yule

Holidays, holy days and traditions

Focus on outward appearances

Autumn traditions for 2014 – 1: Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet

Traditionalists Vow to Fight Charges of Racism in Netherlands

The imaginational war against Christmas

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Additional reading

  1. Altered to fit a Trinity
  2. Americans really thinking the Messiah Christ had an English name
  3. Spelling Yahshuah (יהשע) vs Hebrew using Yehoshuah (יהושע)
  4. First month of the year and predictions
  5. Hosea Say What?
  6. Matthew 1:18-25 – Genesis of Jesus Christ
  7. Matthew 2:1-6 – Astrologers and Priests in a Satanic Plot
  8. Matthew 2:7-12 – Pawns of Herod, the Magi Find the ‘Child’
  9. Matthew 2:13-15 – Escaping the Slaughter by a Flight to Egypt
  10. Matthew 2:16-18 – Slaughter of the Innocents
  11. Matthew 2:19-23 – Out of Egypt to Nazareth
  12. Nazarene Commentary Luke 1:26-38 – Gabriel’s Appearance to Mary
  13. Nazarene Commentary Luke 2:39-40 – The Young Child Grows
  14. Nazarene Commentary Luke 2:41-50 – Twelve Year Old Jesus in the Temple
  15. Truth, doubt or blindness
  16. Getting out of the dark corners of this world
  17. The place where Jesus was brought up
  18. A Living Faith #7 Prayer

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Further reading

  1. Is Santa Real, Or Is He Really You, Dad?
  2. “Islam may have bad stuff. But …” – What of the other Bronze Age Invented Gods?
  3. Did Electricity kill Religion?
  4. Should we forgo happiness here for the sake of happiness hereafter?
  5. Life Comes in Threes
  6. The three gifts
  7. Wassail Ancient holiday tradition that involves drinking, singing, and making introverts nervous.
  8. A Christmas Wish
  9. America’s First “War on Christmas”
  10. A Breath of Fresh Air
  11. Lapland baby #blogmas day 19
  12. Snowflake Tea Light Cozy
  13. Christmas: The Giver’s Feast
  14. O Christmas Tree!
  15. Christmas Music Matters: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
  16. Preparing for Christmas
  17. Living in the Moment
  18. Jesus is the True and Better David (6/12)
  19. Last Minute Gift Idea
  20. Christmas Tree Farm
  21. A Christmas round up
  22. Mr. Santa’s Boogie
  23. 7 Events Which Turned Our Christmas Upside Down
  24. Jane Austen and old friends to the rescue
  25. 7th and 6th day of Christmas! !
  26. Once Upon a Holiday

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Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #3 Historical background

Historical background

In Roman mythology Psyche represented the human spirit and was portrayed as a beautiful girl with butterfly wings. Lots of elements people could not understand were solved by telling stories about it. As such Psyche, a princess of such stunning beauty that people came from near and far to admire her, became a beautiful mortal desired by Cupid, to the dismay of Cupid’s mother goddess Venus, who summoned that her son Eros (also known as Cupid), the god of love, to make Psyche fall in love with some ugly, mean, and unworthy creature. Eros prepared to obey his mother’s wishes, but when he laid eyes on the beautiful Psyche, he fell in love with her.

BLW Cupid and Psyche (2)

BLW Cupid and Psyche (2) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The goddess of fertility or fruitfulness, love, marriage, family life and beauty Aphrodite (identified by the Romans as Venus) decided to punish Psyche. Psyche broke Cupid’s rule and lit a lamp to look upon his face. For this disloyalty, Cupid abandoned her. Psyche wandered through the world in search of her lover Eros, but could not find him. Finally she asked Aphrodite for help, and the goddess gave her a set of seemingly impossible tasks. With the help of other gods, however, Psyche managed to sort a roomful of grain in one night and gather golden fleeces from a flock of sheep. For the final task, Aphrodite told Psyche to go the underworld and bring back a sealed box from Persephone. This trip to the underworld may be the background to the belief that the human ‘psyche’ or ‘soul’ would also travel to the underworld. Psyche retrieved the box and on her way back, overcome by curiosity, peeked inside it. The box released a deep sleep, which overpowered her.

Venus, Pan and Eros

Venus, Pan and Eros (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By this time Eros, could not bear to be without Psyche. He flew to where she lay sleeping, woke her, and took her to Olympus, where Zeus, son and successor of Cronos/Cronus as supreme god, commanded, as master of heavens and earth, that the punishment of Psyche ceased and gave permission for the lovers to marry. The Romans equated Zeus with their own supreme god, Jupiter (or Jove). As the father god and the upholder of morality, he was the only one who could reward the good and punish the evil. Zeus, as the one who was worshipped in connection with almost every aspect of life, had the power to give life to people. He then gave Psyche a cup of ambrosia, the food of the gods, reunited her with Cupid and made her immortal.

The many stories about such a wandering ‘ghost’ or immaterial element of the human body made people believe it could wander when being on this earth in a person, but leaving the body when that person died.

These early ideas about psyche, born out of mythology, were later explored by the Greek philosophers. Plato [1] quotes his master Socrates as saying:

The soul, . . . if it departs pure, dragging with it nothing of the body, . . . goes away into that which is like itself, into the invisible, divine, immortal, and wise, and when it arrives there it is happy, freed from error and folly and fear . . . and all the other human ills, and . . . lives in truth through all after time with the gods.[2]

One can understand the attraction of such an idea as a departing spirit because it takes away the fear of the unknown at death.

Aristotle, Plato’s pupil, considered the soul the form, or essence of any living thing; that it is not a distinct substance from the body that it is in. That it is the possession of soul (of a specific kind) that makes an organism an organism at all, and thus that the notion of a body without a soul, or of a soul in the wrong kind of body, is simply unintelligible. Aristotle thought of psyche as referring to something like the “life-force”.

Portrait of Aristoteles. Pentelic marble, copy...

Portrait of Aristoteles. Pentelic marble, copy of the Imperial Period (1st or 2nd century) of a lost bronze sculpture made by Lysippos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his second book of his major treatise on the nature of living things “On the Soul” (Greek Περὶ Ψυχῆς, Perì Psūchês; Latin De Anima), Aristotle threw a spanner in the soup. Aristotle divides substance into its three meanings (matter, form, and what is composed of both) and shows that the soul must be the first actuality of a naturally organised body. This is its form or essence. It cannot be matter because the soul is that in virtue of which things have life, and matter is only being in potency. According to him there are different sorts of souls, possessed by different kinds of living things, distinguished by their different operations. He also looked at the psyche or soul as an element that people, animals and plants had to have or possess to be able to live, grow and reproduce. The lower animals as such would have the powers of sense-perception and self-motion (action), whilst the higher mammals or human beings have all these elements of plants and lower animals as well as intellect.

Plato and Aristotle argued that some parts of the soul — the intellect — could exist without the body and this gave way to the assumption that this ‘soul’ could leave the body (the other soul) to exist on its own.

Eventually the Platonic idea about the immortality of the soul was adopted within Christianity, as the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Vol. XIII, pp. 452, 454 acknowledges:

The Christian concept of a spiritual soul created by God and infused into the body at conception to make man a living whole is the fruit of a long development in Christian philosophy. Only with Origen [died c. 254 C.E.] in the East and St. Augustine [died 430 C.E.] in the West was the soul established as a spiritual substance and a philosophical concept formed of its nature. . . . His [Augustine’s] doctrine. . . owed much (including some shortcomings) to Neoplatonism.

As a consequence of this Platonic heritage, modern translators render psyche as “soul”. Yet translators are often well aware that psyche does not carry this meaning. The Roman Catholic translation, The New American Bible, in its “Glossary of Biblical Theology Terms” (pp. 27, 28), says:

In the New Testament, to ‘save one’s soul’ (Mark 8:35) does not mean to save some ‘spiritual’ part of man, as opposed to his ‘body’ (in the Platonic sense) but the whole person with emphasis on the fact that the person is living, desiring, loving and willing, etc., in addition to being concrete and physical.[3]

[1] Greek and English Lexicon, 1836, p. 1404.

[2] Brain death is not the same as a vegetative state, but the two are often confused.

[3] Glossary of Biblical Theology Terms” (pp. 27, 28)

 

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Preceding:

Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #2 Psyche, the word

Next: Psyche, According to the Holy Scriptures

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Additional writings:

  1. Creation of the earth and man #9 Formation of man #1 Cure of souls
  2. Men as God
  3. Hellenistic influences
  4. A look at the Failing man

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