Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Trinity Doctrine in Ancient Egypt by Brigham Leatherbee 1915

The Trinity Doctrine in Ancient Egypt by Brigham Leatherbee 1915

The dogma of the trinity, which was introduced, strongly advocated, and finally successfully lobbied through the famous Council of Nice in 325, by that astute theological politician Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, split the Christian church in twain and threw Europe into turmoil and bloodshed.

Athanasius was the leader of the Alexandrian school of Christian theology which drew its inspirations and ideas largely—one might almost say, exclusively—from ancient Egyptian sources. The Egyptians were an essentially religious people whose deistic ideas were surrounded by ceremony, priestcraft, and mysticism, all of which made such a deep impression upon the pliant minds of the Alexandrian Christians that they molded their new faith in the form of their old.

The Egyptians highly revered the number three, which they generally represented under the form of a triangle. To the Egyptians nothing could be perfect or complete unless it was of three component parts. Therefore, their gods were generally grouped in sets of three, many cities having their own especial trinities. Horus was divided into three persons, and Osiris, Isis and Horus were worshiped under the sign of the triangle.

But Egypt was not alone in her trinitarian ideas. The theory of sex worship had a strong hold on all the peoples of antiquity, and it is not surprising to find similar religious expressions in India. One of the most prominent features of Indian theology is the doctrine of the divine triad governing all things. This triad is called the Tri-murti and consists of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Siva, the destroyer. It is an inseparable unity though three in form. The inhabitants of China and Japan, most of whom are Buddhists, worship God in the form of a trinity. The Persians have a similar triad composed of Ormuzd, the creator, Mithras, the son, and Ahriman, the destroyer. The ancient Scandinavians likewise worshiped a triple deity who was yet one god, and consisted of Odin, Thor, and Frey.

One of the many weak points in the doctrine of the trinity, and one that must be noticeable even to Christians, is that, according to the New Testament, the apostles themselves never seem to have recognized the divinity of Jesus, but always treated him as a human Jew like themselves. This attitude of the early Christian disciples is noted by Priestley, who remarks in his “Corruptions of Christianity” (page 136): “It can never be thought that Peter and the others would have made so free with our Lord, as they sometimes did, if they had considered him as their maker, and the being who supported the whole universe; and therefore must have been present in every part of creation, giving his attention to everything, and exerting his power upon everything, at the same time that he was familiarly conversing with them. Moreover, the history of the temptation must be altogether improbable in such a supposition. For what could be the offer of the kingdoms of this world to him who made the world, and was already in possession of it?”

Numerous texts which tend to affirm the humanity of Jesus have been stumbling blocks in the paths of the trinitarians, and they have taken great pains to explain away these embarrassing texts, even at the cost of much ingenuity and absurdity. Paul, the real founder of the faith, in his first epistle to Timothy, says: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. ii, 5); and again in his first epistle to John he remarks: “No man hath seen God” (1 John iv, 12). Such phrases as “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God” (Matt. xix, 17), and “But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God” (John viii, 40), do not appear to be fitting remarks for the second person of the trinity. Again, the words, “My Father is greater than I” (John xiv, 28), were likewise difficult of explanation by those who held that every member of the trinity is coequal, but Austin got around this by declaring that “Christ having emptied himself of his former glory, and being in form of a servant, was then less, not only than his Father, but even than himself”!

The same writer asserts that the words, “that the Son knew not the time of the day of judgment, but only the Father” (Mark xiii, 32), means that while Jesus did know something of the trinity, he would not make it known to others—thus making a downright liar of his God.

The whole of trinitarianism is epitomized in the phrase of Peter Lombard, who, having made the impossible arithmetical assertion that no one person of the trinity is less than the other two, says: “He that can receive this, let him receive it; but he that cannot, let him, however, believe it; and let him pray that what he believes he may understand.”

Jesus having been ordained one of the godhead, the only begotten son of the most high god, the worship of his mother naturally followed; for who could reasonably refuse to bend the knee to the one virgin of all humanity, considered worthy of the honor of bearing the incarnate deity? It was all the easier for the Christian church to adopt this practice, that it had been one of the principal features of the ancient theologies. All nations have worshiped a pure, chaste queen of heaven, a personification of that beautiful celestial body that smiles so benignly down on earth every month. In every land the moon was worshiped as a mother goddess, pure, beautiful, and loving; for there is not the slightest doubt that the virgin queen of heaven, so commonly worshiped by all nations, was merely a personification of the moon.

Isis, mother of the Egyptian savior Horus, was worshiped as a virgin and was styled “Our Lady,” “Queen of Heaven,” “Mother of God,” “Intercessor,” and “Immaculate Virgin.” She was commonly represented with the divine infant seated on her lap, or standing on a crescent moon, and having a glory of twelve stars about her head.

With the adoption of the worship of Isis to Christianity, the crescent moon became a sacred symbol of Mary, who was often portrayed standing upon one. It was held peculiarly sacred by the Greek church and a large crescent moon of gold adorned the dome of St. Sophia at Constantinople. When the city fell in 1453 before the Turkish arms, the Sultan adopted the crescent as a symbol of his victorious power and as a humiliation to his Christian enemies, and thus again the religious significance of the crescent changed, and as an emblem of a Mohammedan power soon came to be regarded by the forgetful Christians with horror and a deadly hatred.

The ancient Chaldees believed in a celestial virgin-mother to whom the erring sinner might appeal, and Shin-moo, the mother goddess, occupies a conspicuous place in Chinese worship. The Babylonians and Assyrians worshiped a goddess called Mylitta, whose son Tammuz is said to have arisen from the dead.

In India they have worshiped for ages Devaki, the mother of Krishna, and Maya, the mother of Buddha, both of whom are represented with the infant saviors in their arms. Their statues, similar to the Christian madonnas, are found in Hindu temples, and their portraits are always accompanied by halos.

Sochiquetzal, mother of Quetzalcoatl, was worshiped in Mexico as the mother of their crucified savior. As queen of heaven and the chaste and immaculate protectress of women, the Greek Hera and her Roman prototype, Juno, were worshiped by the ancient classical world, while the virtuous Diana of Ephesus held a similar place in Phœnician mythology.

All the ancient beliefs in the virgin queen of heaven and her miraculous child probably had more or less effect on the growth of virgin worship in the Christian church; but it was undoubtedly Egyptian influence which was most powerful in the adoption of it, just as it was in regard to the trinitarian dogma. The worship of Isis and Horus was introduced into Rome during the early days of the empire and was readily accepted. And with its introduction came those basalt images of the goddess and her child which have since been adopted by the Christians as ancient representations of Mary and Jesus, albeit they are as black as Ethiopians. Many centuries before, the worship of the Greek goddess Hera had been instituted at Rome under the name of Juno, and she was especially regarded as the chaste and immaculate protectress of women. And it was the combination of the worship offered to these two deities that the Christian church condensed into the worship of the mother of Jesus, to which it added the attributes of Diana, making Mary the patroness of chastity as well as fruitfulness! In Dante’s day it was customary to invoke the Virgin Mary at childbirth just as Juno Lucina was invoked by the pagan ancestors of the Italians.

The worship of the virgin as theotokos, the mother of god, was promulgated at the general council of Ephesus, which was called by the Emperor Theodosius II in 431, and, after that date, and up to the present time, we find this lowly Jewish peasant girl delineated in all the insignia of royalty and portrayed in the most beautiful and patrician type of classical beauty.

With the adoration of Mary rose the legend that she, too, had ascended bodily into heaven and was there crowned by her son and bidden to sit eternally upon his right hand that she might plead with him to mitigate the punishments of sinners, thus allowing that the judgment of this second member of the holy trinity might be fallible, or at least open to influence.

Having raised the virgin to this immense height, the natural sequence was to go a step farther and grant to her also immaculate origin. This idea was first noticed in the eleventh century and steadily grew until in 1494 Sextus the Fourth officially recognized it and gave it the solemn sanction of the church, and in July, 1615, Paul the Fifth instituted the office commemorating her immaculate conception. Virgin worship has continued to grow and flourish, and even so late as 1854, Pius the Ninth issued a bull officially declaring Mary the “Mediatrix” between Christ and the faithful.

Mary is not, however, the only intercessor that stands between man and his God. There is an immense horde of saints who also occupy positions of honor about the heavenly throne. These immortal semi-human beings are created by a decree of the Roman pontiff and their canonization has often been due to whimsical reasoning. That all the apostles, martyrs, and early Christian fathers should have been raised to this holy peerage is not so remarkable; but that such honor should have been conferred on the wicked, unscrupulous, and vicious Constantine, and his almost unknown mother Helena; on the powerful and warlike Charlemagne; and on the ambitious and ungrateful Thomas à Becket, seems strange to say the least.

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