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When Church fathers used pagan myths to defend Christianity

January 15, 2015

Holy Trinity Icon, Rublev

When Christianity was still young it found itself under frequent ridicule from pagan philosophers, who derided the newness of Christianity in comparison to other, more established religions. As novelty in religion was greatly looked down upon in the ancient world, the Church father Justin Martyr (c. 100–165 CE) set out to prove to his pagan critics that Christianity was not so novel after all, and that many of its core stories and theologies could find similitude among existing Roman and Greek gods and myths. In other words, Justin wanted to demonstrate to them that ideas of Christianity were in no way more ridiculous or strange than their own long-accepted notions. (Ironically, at about the same time Jews also began pointing out pagan resemblances of the Christian ideas to their Christian interlocutors. Even more ironically, modern Christians often go to great length to deny or discount the very same similarities that were raised by Justin long ago in defense of Christianity during the time when Christianity was beginning to gain a tenuous foothold in the pagan Roman empire.)

With dignity of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world at stake, Justin Martyr penned his lengthy First Apology addressed to his pagan critics, three excerpts of which I am presenting below:

Pagan analogies to the history of Christ

And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: Mercury, the interpreting word and teacher of all; Æsculapius, who, though he was a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven; and Bacchus too, after he had been torn limb from limb; and Hercules, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his toils; and the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, like her, have been declared to be set among the stars? And what of the emperors who die among yourselves, whom you deem worthy of deification, and in whose behalf you produce some one who swears he has seen the burning Cæsar rise to heaven from the funeral pyre? And what kind of deeds are recorded of each of these reputed sons of Jupiter, it is needless to tell to those who already know. This only shall be said, that they are written for the advantage and encouragement of youthful scholars; for all reckon it an honourable thing to imitate the gods. But far be such a thought concerning the gods from every well-conditioned soul, as to believe that Jupiter himself, the governor and creator of all things, was both a parricide and the son of a parricide, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions. But, as we said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things. [DM: see the third excerpt for more on this.] And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue; and we believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire.

Analogies to the sonship of Christ

Moreover, the Son of God called Jesus, even if only a man by ordinary generation, yet, on account of His wisdom, is worthy to be called the Son of God; for all writers call God the Father of men and gods. And if we assert that the Word of God was born of God in a peculiar manner, different from ordinary generation, let this, as said above, be no extraordinary thing to you, who say that Mercury is the angelic word of God. But if any one objects that He was crucified, in this also He is on a par with those reputed sons of Jupiter of yours, who suffered as we have now enumerated. For their sufferings at death are recorded to have been not all alike, but diverse; so that not even by the peculiarity of His sufferings does He seem to be inferior to them; but, on the contrary, as we promised in the preceding part of this discourse, we will now prove Him superior— or rather have already proved Him to be so— for the superior is revealed by His actions. And if we even affirm that He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you accept of Perseus.And in that we say that He made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by Æsculapius.

Justin Martyr not only accepted the similarities between Christianity and pagan myths that preceded it, but believed that devils in advance created the pagan myths purposely similar to Jesus’ story in the New Testament in order to confuse people when Christ finally comes. According to Justin, it’s was not a coincidence at all!

Justin’s rationale, one he frequently employed, for the apparent similarities between pagan myth and Christianity (an excuse sometimes still found even among modern Christians) is that the devils foreknew(!) and purposely set out to imitate the birth, life, deeds and rising of Christ in order to later subject Christianity to derision of the unbelievers. As Justin writes:

For having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that the Christ was to come, and that the ungodly among men were to be punished by fire, they put forward many to be called sons of Jupiter, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said with regard to Christ were mere marvelous tales, like the things which were said by the poets. And these things were said both among the Greeks and among all nations where they [the demons] heard the prophets foretelling that Christ would specially be believed in; but that in hearing what was said by the prophets they did not accurately understand it, but imitated what was said of our Christ, like men who are in error, we will make plain.

Full text of Justin Martyr’s First Apology can be found here. 

39 Comments leave one →
  1. ברוס permalink
    January 15, 2015 4:05 pm

    Amen Gene! Your fulfilling your calling as a Jew (spreading the knowledge and truth of Hashem) and dispelling lies and foreign attachments to His Torah.

    I love you bro!

  2. January 15, 2015 4:17 pm

    Thanks, Bruce! May the whole humanity cling to the G-d of Israel and Him alone, may this happen speedily and in our days.

  3. Remi permalink
    January 15, 2015 5:27 pm

    A source is always good. People could think that you invented it, so I copied it from a christian webiste. Here’s the link if anybody has doubts that it is true:

  4. January 15, 2015 6:04 pm

    Remi, there is actually already a link to that writing at the very top of my post (and I just added it to the bottom too), to a very well regarded Catholic website where I grabbed the text from for this post. But thanks for providing another way to access it.

  5. Remi permalink
    January 15, 2015 6:07 pm

    Oops,… Thank you

  6. Concerned Reader permalink
    January 15, 2015 6:56 pm

    Here’s the thing guys. You are using only part of Justin’s defensive polemic against Roman polytheists, while neglecting other passages. There are similarities, but under close examination, the parallels are weak. You guys know the head of the Canaanite pantheon who has seventy sons? He’s called El. Ever heard of the epic of Gilgamesh, or the code of Hammurabi? There are numerous similarities between Judaism and polytheism too, but they are skin deep. You Can find parallels wherever you want to find them.

    The perspective of kabbalists who say to an extent G-d is all, and our souls are sparks are paralleled quite clearly in Hinduism. This similarity does not mean anything nefarious. Egyptians and Aborigines practiced Curcumcisuon, does that make Jews polytheists?

  7. January 15, 2015 6:58 pm

    who say that Mercury is the angelic word of God.

    And Jacob, Enoch, and Elijah are identified as the angelic word in lots of Jewish literature.

  8. January 15, 2015 7:07 pm

    CR, you seem to be missing the point of this post and that is that it was the Church father Justin Martyr himself who pointed out the parallels to defend Christianity and not Christianity’s critics who tried to find those similarities between Christianity and the pagan religions among which it took root. Not only that, he believed that they were real similarities, not merely coincidental and passing, in as much as he believed that the devils tried to imitate and act out prophecies about Christ through pagan copies. That’s definitely NOT “skin deep”.

  9. Remi permalink
    January 15, 2015 7:22 pm

    Hmmm. Still don’t see. I might have scales on my eyes again :( Where in the Tanakh there is pagan roots? (Not jewish writing)

    Mercury is the angelic Word of God (Jesus, John 1?)

    head of the Canaanite pantheon who has seventy sons? He’s called El. Ever heard of the epic of Gilgamesh, or the code of Hammurabi? I do not understand that part, please explain.

  10. January 15, 2015 7:41 pm

    I see this all the time in the missionary circles (CR, you are not a missionary) – they scour apocryphal and other non-canonical, non-authoritative Jewish texts (many of which are obscure and not accepted by anyone today) to find something, anything that sounds remotely similar to doctrines found in the NT, the holy Christian bible. They avoid Tanakh and for a good reason.

    BTW, just because some Jews somewhere taught or practiced something (like worshiping Baal) that didn’t conform with Judaism and the Bible and appeared more pagan than Jewish, it can in no way be compared to official doctrines which are found in the New Testament and accepted by most of traditional Christianity, things that bear strong similarities and perhaps even rooted in their pagan predecessors.

  11. January 15, 2015 10:04 pm

    Remi, the head of the Canaanite pantheon is Called El, (Hashem is also called El Shaddai in the Hebrew Bible.) El had seventy sons, ( just as there are said to be angels that are at the heads of the seventy nations in the Tanakh.) El in the Canaanite pantheon had a consort called Asherah, etc., which ancient Israelites worshipped. What I’m saying is that the Tanakh itself has very clear parallels with the surrounding polytheistic cultures of the levant, but this doesn’t make the Tanakh polytheism. In the same way, pagan paralell doesn’t make Christianity pagan.

    In response to Gene’s statements here about the ideas I’ve mentioned being in “non-authoritative Jewish texts,” Metatron is very much in traditionally accepted valid Jewish sources ( like in the Siddur) even today. Rambam also has his doctrine of Prophecy via the active intellect (which is only a stone’s throw from Philo and John’s gospel’s view of the Logos/word/son of G-d.)

    Here are some sources that note the very biblical source of many of these ideas.

    This mishnah is cited in BT Hul 40a, where it is discussed in respect to a baraita found more concisely in T Hul 2:18:

    He who slaughters for the sake of the sun, for the sake of the moon, for the sake of the stars, for the sake of the planets, for the sake of Michael, prince of the great host, and for the sake of the small earthworm[29] – lo, this is deemed to be flesh deriving from the sacrifices of corpses.[30]

    “for the sake of Michael, prince of the great host,” The Talmud says sacrifice to a Malach is Avodah Zerah BUT (read Judges 13, and Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim and Menashe, it explains why some Jews in antiquity could reasonably scripturally believe that a “Malach” may actually be not a mere messenger, but actually a manifestation of Hashem, as the malach says explicitly in Genesis 31:13 (IN FIRST PERSON) I AM THE G-D of Beth-EL. A mere angel cannot claim it is G-d. This one does. You can either interpret around this, or you can read the text.

    The point I’m making, is that Gene’s contention is not as cut and dry as he would have you believe.

  12. January 15, 2015 10:52 pm

    I’m going to write a response to this for you.

  13. January 16, 2015 9:08 am

    “A mere angel cannot claim it is G-d. This one does. You can either interpret around this, or you can read the text. ”

    Yes, let’s read the text. Angels always delivered messages in first person – sometimes the biblical text adds “thus says the L-rd” and sometimes it doesn’t, but being mere conduits of information with no will of their own, they always relayed G-d’s words in first person “I am the L-rd….”.

    To make an analogy, if I call you on the phone and you hear me say through the headset “Hi, I am Gene”, do not begin to assume that your phone is me. You know better! You phone is still just a phone and my voice is only a reproduction.

  14. Remi permalink
    January 16, 2015 12:15 pm

    Hi Concern reader, for the word EL, this is how it is translated: El-berith* (1), God (204), god (16), God’s (2), gods (3), helpless* (1), mighty (3), Mighty One (3), power (1), strong (1).

    It is not a word that only refers to the Only true G-d, but and also be translated as mighty men or even false gods. I would see the link with paganism if they would use L-RD, but as long as it is El, and that the bible uses it for false gods as well, I do not see the link with paganism

  15. Concerned Reader permalink
    January 16, 2015 12:30 pm

    but being mere conduits of information with no will of their own, they always relayed G-d’s words in first person “I am the L-rd….”.

    Ok, Gene, but we (you and I) both agree that it’s ultimately really G-d’s voice coming through the handset, we agree there right?

    If that’s the case, then whatever entity that Is, it must be a manifestation of G-d,(distinct in relation or position, but essentially one with him,) just like when You call a person you are actually virtually really present in the conversation, it is not another. The handset In question is totally nullified by your virtual presence speaking through it. It is essential to know that it is really YOU who is present in the conversation right?

    Nobody here ( Jewish or Christian) is ok with limiting G-d to one manifestation, we are just noting that a manifestation of G-d is taking place.

    Even Christianity teaches that Jesus is subject to the father’s will, (ie a Shaliach) and that he must hand the kingdom to him.

    The problem with treating the angel or a particular emissary as a created Malach is not in the idea that such emissary is subject to the will G-d, but in the real consequence of the authority it wields and speaks with in clear contrast to other verses which make a clearer (“I am just an angel” kind of distinction.)

    Saadia’s doctrine of Kavod Nivra shows exactly what harm happens when you default to interpreting scripture’s passages as saying that all these created angels act as mere conduits.

    Saadia clearly says like you do that all appearances of G-d found in the Tanakh, even first person interactions were something of created visions and emissaries, and a created glory, not of G-d himself, except maybe metaphorically.

    In doing this, G-d inadvertently gets locked out of his creation by Saadia’s and others’ reading.

    As the Platonists and Aristotelians would have said in response to this hypothesis of Saadia,

    “if in all cases in scripture. we only have knowledge of a created glory, or emissaries of G-d, then the hypothesis that we “know” G-d directly and profoundly is ultimately erroneous, even according to your understanding.”

    I’m not saying I agree with this, but it is what happens when knowledge of G-d is believed to come from a created glory.

    As Rambam himself notes in the guide for the perplexed chapter XXXI

    KNOW that for the human mind there are certain objects of perception which are within the scope of its nature and capacity; on the other hand, there are, amongst things which actually exist, certain objects which the mind can in no way and by no means grasp: the gates of perception are dosed against it. Further, there are things of which the mind understands one part, but remains ignorant of the other; and when man is able to comprehend certain things, it does not follow that he must be able to comprehend everything. This also applies to the senses: they are able to perceive things, but not at every distance: and all other power; of the body are limited in a similar way. A man can, e.g., carry two kikkar, but he cannot carry ten kikkar. How individuals of the same species surpass each other in these sensations and in

    p. 41

    other bodily faculties is universally known, but there is a limit to them, and their power cannot extend to every distance or to every degree.

    All this is applicable to the intellectual faculties of man. There is a considerable difference between one person and another as regards these faculties, as is well known to philosophers. While one man can discover a certain thing by himself, another is never able to understand it, even if taught by means of all possible expressions and metaphors, and during a long period; his mind can in no way grasp it, his capacity is insufficient for it. This distinction is not unlimited. A boundary is undoubtedly set to the human mind which it cannot pass. There are things (beyond that boundary) which are acknowledged to be inaccessible to human understanding, and man does not show any desire to comprehend them, being aware that such knowledge is impossible, and that there are no means of overcoming the difficulty: e.g., we do not know the number of stars in heaven, whether the number is even or odd; we do not know the number of animals, minerals, or plants, and the like.

    The reason the Christians stress the uncreated nature of the Wisdom/Logos/son of G-d is not because we neglect the notion of a Shaliach, it is because we MUST maintain against philosophy and polytheism that there is no question that G-d has truly directly made his will known.

    If you always read scripture to say, “this occurrence was just a vision, that was just a vision, etc.” it inadvertently encroaches on the sovereignty and reality of the direct presence of Hashem in our lives, although I know it’s unintentional.

    When Judaism’s sages said “a created glory and visions are what is known of G-d from scripture, but not G- d himself,” it had the immediate consequence of postulating a relative knowledge of G-d and a type of Gnosticism, culminating in the adage, “lo bashamayim hi.”

    If you read real polytheistic polemics against Judaism, and Christianity, (ie those polemics actually written by real polytheists, and not those Through Jewish or Christian lenses) they all have one common response to Our mutual descriptions and claims about G-d as ineffable, or unknowable, and it lies at the basis of their entire ideology forming their ethical approach to life.

    Polytheists in their polemics always say, “the way Jews describe G-d, he either doesn’t exist, or he doesn’t care about humans, (see this link below to know what pagans thought about the gods.)

    Polytheists would always say and really do say in their polemics, “because Judaism’s sages just said, “we only know what G-d is not, not what he is, and that all interaction with him is through visions, and emissaries,” then you have proved that all knowledge, (even of the gods) is only a relative knowledge.”

    Gene, you have done a fine job at treating the symptoms of idolatry ( decrying corporeality, sensuousness, and frivolity) with your reading of the Torah, but the heart of the real power in idolatry remains alive in your approach, ie agnosticism. By saying, “we know G-d by visions alone, and we know he is incorporeal,” you have preserved monism, but the real meat of Torah monotheism is lost. If our knowledge of G-d is through created conduits, then that knowledge is by definition relative.

    As I’ve said, you have pointed out many superficial similarities between Christianity and polytheism, but you have ignored the most Crucial difference between them. Jews and Christians can agree that G-d has a Torah precisely because G-d is real, personal, and invested.” We understand him as trinity to maintain truth that he is known directly. No polytheists believe gods are known directly. They may believe in absolute unity, Incorporeality, and ineffableness, but they draw a relativist conclusion while Jews and Christians don’t.

    The reason I disagree with your articles on parallels is precisely because it is Justin writing it. This is a Christian author with Christian assumptions reading into polytheism thorough a Christian lens. He looks for parallels for his polemical debate, but if you asked a real practicing pagan adherent directly ( like Celsus for example,) he himself would decry any comparisons, because he comes to a completely different ethical, mystical, and social conclusion than you do, given the same data. Does any of that make sense to you?

  16. Concerned Reader permalink
    January 16, 2015 12:41 pm

    Remi, the link is not in the names alone I know El means mighty, but the connection lies in other aspects that I mentioned. The god El in Canaanite myth had seventy sons, ( just as there are said to be angels that are at the heads of the seventy nations in the Tanakh.) El also had a consort named Asherah. It was strayed Israelites themselves that identified the Canaanite god El and Asherah with Hashem, prompting prophetic rebuke. FYI I know this is an atheist website, but he references Archaeology.

  17. Remi permalink
    January 16, 2015 12:48 pm

    That’s how Christian sees the issue:

    G-d was never seen by anybody and the one that sees Him will die. (Deuteronomy 4)

    Abraham saw G-d.

    Abraham must have seen Jesus.

    But the truth is, the best conclusion that you can get is that it seems to be a contradiction in the scriptures. To jump to the conclusion that Abraham, Jacob, Moses or Joshua saw Jesus is just not there. It can be explained, as Gene said, that it was a messenger who spoke G-d’s words. That is a satisfactory explanation. You have to see the Tanakh through the eyes of the non-testament to see Jesus as an explanation. Furthermore, G-d is infinite. You can see manifestation of G-d like the shekinah or the Spirit of G-d on somebody without being a contradiction. G-d shows his presence, but He is still everywhere. G-d can dwell in the temple and still be somewhere else in the same time. But to say that the angel was G-d and that people saw G-d himself, and not an angel, would contradict the rest of the Bible.

    Please give me a bible verse for this: just as there are said to be angels that are at the heads of the seventy nations in the Tanakh

  18. January 16, 2015 1:05 pm

    “Ok, Gene, but we (you and I) both agree that it’s ultimately really G-d’s voice coming through the handset, we agree there right?”

    In both cases, it’s a mere copy of the voice, a reconstruction and reproduction, albeit extremely faithful, of the original message spoken by the source. With angels, as with phones, back and fourth communication between two conversing parties was also instantaneous. But neither the phone nor the messengers (angels) were G-d Himself.

  19. Concerned Reader permalink
    January 16, 2015 1:29 pm

    In both cases, it’s a mere copy of the voice, a reconstruction and reproduction, albeit extremely faithful, of the original message spoken by the source. With angels, as with phones, back and fourth communication between two conversing parties was also instantaneous. But neither the phone nor the messengers (angels) were G-d Himself.

    That’s a huge problem Gene. G-d isn’t communicating directly the way you present it. How is this view different from that of Plato or Aristotle?

  20. Concerned Reader permalink
    January 16, 2015 1:35 pm

    Remi, psalms has references. It’s by means of history, archaeology, and reasonable inference that we see the parallels. Baal and Ashera are Canaanite gods. Israel identified these with G-d.

  21. January 16, 2015 1:49 pm

    “That’s a huge problem Gene.”

    Not a huge problem for the Jewish people who have no need to see god represented as a physical entity, unlike most other nations.

    “G-d isn’t communicating directly the way you present it.”

    First of all, in some exceptional cases G-d did communicate directly (e.g. with Moses, “face-to-face”, which precludes someone in between). However, G-d is a powerful King with servants, a very dignified king at that, and most of the time He uses his servant (angels) to deliver his messages and decrees, not unlike human kings. We see this over and over in the Bible (with no need to harken to Greek philosophers), so why are you finding it deficient somehow and wish that G-d walked around with flesh on? I don’t have that wish at all – I want my G-d to be way above me in deeds and thoughts and not my “brother” and “fellow servant” (the way Jesus described himself).

  22. Remi permalink
    January 16, 2015 1:57 pm

    And my wife always tells me that I don’t take the Bible literally because I don’t accept a god walking on earth with a human body. Sigh!

  23. Concerned Reader permalink
    January 16, 2015 3:12 pm

    Gene, it’s not a matter of your reading being deficient, but that Christians teach those things too, but you would rather Judge them as idolaters. G-d is above all things and incomprehensible, but if your ok with saying that a created angel can say “I am G-d,” then you should have no problem with Jesus saying it, especially since we don’t teach Jesus only.

  24. January 16, 2015 3:22 pm

    “if your ok with saying that a created angel can say “I am G-d,” then you should have no problem with Jesus saying it, especially since we don’t teach Jesus only.”

    An angel may say “I am G-d” (which may or may not be preceded by “thus says the L-rd”), but that’s only because he’s just repeating something that he was told. For Christians, if Jesus the man were to say “I am G-d”, that’s because to them he IS god and speaking as G-d not for G-d. That’s the uncrossable gulf that shouldn’t be minimized when comparing Judaism and Christianity. It’s a gulf between monotheism and idolatry.

  25. Concerned Reader permalink
    January 16, 2015 3:53 pm

    but that’s only because he’s just repeating something that he was told. Jesus too is repeating what he was told, he is always functionally subordinate to G-d in Christianity.

    Christianity has the same conceptual content that you have, it’s just understood ontologically to avoid the problems I’ve mentioned above. He speaks for G-d as man, but the spirit and wisdom of G-d, which allows him to say, “I am G-d” is eternal, ie it existed prior to any human flesh including that of the Nazarene.

    Jesus the man had a beginning. He was not G-d. The words coming out of his mouth were the words of G-d. That is what the NT is saying by the statement that the word was made flesh.

    Consider this.

    Therefore, the church distinguishes among the three persons but sees these distinctions as not essential in character. They are essential in the sense of being absolutely vital and important for a True Understanding of God, ( the human relational perspective of understanding of G-d,) but they are not essential insofar as the distinctions among the three persons of the Godhead are not distinctions of essence, substance, or being, for God is one.

    In other words, in the NT Jesus’ words and actions cannot be reasonably understood as things which a mere man or messenger can say or do, so he is deemed to have the eternal word in him as far as we can express.The word is called in the NT “image of the INVISIBLE G-d.” If the word is “invisible” as the verses say, then it’s clearly not Jesus the human, or the Christian church that matters, but the words and wisdom of Jesus that is deemed eternal word.

  26. January 16, 2015 4:10 pm

    “Jesus the man had a beginning. He was not G-d.”

    If Jesus the man is not or was not god then he shouldn’t be worshiped at all then. But he very much is. Christians should then simply worship G-d the way Jews do. Jesus is currently a man-god living in heaven according to the NT and not divested of his human nature. If he’s a demigod, a hybrid of sorts between man and god, even more so he should not be worshiped as that’s a pagan-like abomination and grotesque perversion to the G-d of Israel. Only the G-d of Israel should be worshiped alone and there is no need for Jesus at all. Praises should not be sung to Jesus as to god, prayers should not be offered to Jesus as to god, Jesus should not be asked to forgive sins, the religion should not be centered on Jesus be him a man, god or man-god, but on G-d and Him alone, etc.

  27. Remi permalink
    January 16, 2015 4:11 pm

    He was not G-d.

    Like I said in a previous comment:

    the writer of Hebrew used Psalm 102, that refers the the L-RD, but he referred it the Son in Hebrews 1:11-12? For me at least, it sounds like the writer of Hebrews thought that Jesus was G-d.

    Jesus said that He existed before Abraham (John 8:58), and that He was equal with the Father (John 5:17, 18). Jesus claimed the ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:5–7), which the Bible teaches was something that God alone could do (Isaiah 43:25). Jesus also said that he is the rock, but G-d said that he does not know any rock but Him.

    John1 said that the Word was G-d, he also said that he is the Alpha and omega, but G-d said He is the beginning and the end.

    At least, some writers of the non-testament thought he was G-d.

  28. January 16, 2015 4:34 pm

    Remi, I think that CR is trying to make a distinction that the flesh of Jesus was not god, only the Second Person of the Trinity meshed with humanity was living within him was. I think that this is an artificial distinction that only muddies things since Jesus supposedly united within himself man and god. (Although it makes me wonder how the human part of Jesus could have been really a true man? Did he have a human spirit in addition to the “Word spirit” (?), or was he a god dressed in meat clothes without a true human spirit, therefore not truly a 100% man that Christianity claims him to be?)

    If it sounds confusing, I don’t feel bad, since Christianity itself has fought for hundreds of years and spilled much blood of its fellow Christians to come up with an official idea (or force it on others) of how to describe Jesus.

  29. Remi permalink
    January 16, 2015 4:58 pm

    Ooh, that’s confusing. I was not aware of such a belief. Where did they got that from?

  30. January 16, 2015 5:21 pm

    In the first three centuries of Christianity there were all sorts of ideas about the nature of Jesus floating around and great bloody fights until trinitarians prevailed. There is a great book that I will link here later. Shabbat shalom for now.

  31. Concerned Reader permalink
    January 17, 2015 2:07 am

    That’s what the hypostatic union is all about you guys. In Christianity, it is taught that Jesus has two complete and yet distinct natures, united in one person. The natures are not to be confused with each other. So, Jesus (it is believed) has a limited human mind, body, and soul, (Jesus,) united to the uncreated eternal wisdom/word of G-d. It is the incorporeal invisible word that is G -d, not the human nature. Gene, I agree with you that if a Christian limits Hashem to the man Jesus, or Christianity, he is a heretic.

    Even in the orthodox, catholic, etc. churches G-d writes the knowledge of himself on the heart of all men, women, children, and only G-d knows who is “saved.”

    The reason Christianity uses these terms (as Gene says) comes from debates as early as the 2nd century, not the 4th. Many polytheists believed in the eternity of matter, and so the nature of gods was ideal ( Plato) or natural (Aristotle), but always temporal. When Jews would say G-d was beyond comprehension, the pagans would simply say, “ok, then you can’t know he exists.” This is where Philo comes in, and says, “we see reason in nature” so we KNOW G-d made the world. This is the Logos. When John says Jesus is the word, it means he makes G-d known, (although John believes Jesus makes G-d known in fullness.)

    Hypostatic union became important because of debates about the soul. Pagans believed in. Reincarnation, so to them the soul of everything is like an energy, not a unique creation, in the image of G-d.

    The point, is that in traditional Christian circles, we know that g-d is not limited to Jesus or Christianity.

  32. Concerned Reader permalink
    January 17, 2015 3:57 am

    “Not a huge problem for the Jewish people who have no need to see god represented as a physical entity, unlike most other nations.”

    That’s right Gene. Your perspective is not a problem if a person or culture already accepts every premise of the Bible as true.

    As we know though the Church has tried to explain scripture and biblical concepts to cultures and individuals that definitely do not accept the premises of the bible as true.

  33. February 13, 2015 4:13 pm

    I read a little bite more about the first apology…

    Chapter 41. The crucifixion predicted

    And again, in another prophecy, the Spirit of prophecy, through the same David, intimated that Christ, after He had been crucified, should reign, and spoke as follows: Sing to the Lord, all the earth, and day by day declare His salvation. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, to be feared above all the gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols of devils; but God made the heavens. Glory and praise are before His face, strength and glorying are in the habitation of His holiness. Give Glory to the Lord, the Father everlasting. Receive grace, and enter His presence, and worship in His holy courts. Let all the earth fear before His face; let it be established, and not shaken. Let them rejoice among the nations. The Lord has reigned from the tree.

    What about Psalm 22? It looks like Justin had no idea that it referred to the crucifixion…

  34. February 13, 2015 4:23 pm

    “The Lord has reigned from the tree.”

    Where on earth did Justin get this from Psalm 96:10? Looks like that either he just made it up out of thin air or it was one of the numerous christological mistranslations of the Hebrew Bible circulating among Christians at the time. This book says that “the phrase from the tree is not found in the Hebrew or the LXX, but Justin Martyr knew such a text”. That’s nice to know that he knew…

  35. remi4321 permalink
    February 13, 2015 4:26 pm

    I guess that Psalm 22 was just one of those mistranslations that came after. So Justin could not have used it…

  36. Concerned Reader permalink
    February 13, 2015 4:49 pm

    There were at least 3 (as far as I’m aware) Greek versions going around in use by the Church in Justin’s day. Also, Justin’s bible likely had apocrypha in it.

    One related textual variation that is important for understanding the fathers concerns Psalm 96:10 (=95:10 LXX). The Hebrew Bible, modern critical editions of the Septuagint, and all modern English translations render part of that verse as “The Lord reigns.” But some of the fathers had a Greek or Latin version that added the words, “ἀπο του ξύλου”—”The Lord reigns from the tree,” with obvious Christological implications. In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin goes so far as to accuse Jews of removing those words from the text (ch. 73), though these words were certainly added by Christians and not removed by Jews.3 Augustine interpreted the Psalm including those words, though Jerome disagreed that they were part of the text.4

  37. Concerned Reader permalink
    February 13, 2015 4:57 pm

    The Coptic Copies also contain this variant, and Etheopian Orthodox commentaries allude to it. It’s source that s definitely appocryphal.

  38. February 13, 2015 4:59 pm

    Interesting, thanks, CR. Shabbat shalom to all!

  39. Concerned Reader permalink
    February 13, 2015 5:27 pm

    It’s important that we note that this practice (elucidating, modifying, and commenting on verses and prose as if the original authors wrote them) is very very well attested practice both in Second temple literature, (Damascus Document and DSS) and in literatures of the surrounding cultures, Roman, Egyptian, etc.

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