Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Satanic Scheming - Part 2

The end of diabolical scheming

Portrayed on the floor of a Catholic cathedral in Siena, Italy is a fifteenth-century portrait of Hermes Trismegistus, a mythical pre-Christian pagan Hellenic-Egyptian philosopher. (See Figure 1.) How this was included in church artwork has a long history that will now be explored.

Figure 1: Hermes Trismegistus portrayed on the floor of the Siena Catholic Cathedral.

Scheming after Christ
This period of time in early post-Biblical Christian history is murky with only sporadic information on councils and unifying decrees. As one scholar observed: “No absolute certainty can be reached in this field, given the extreme scantiness of the available sources.”[1] Another scholar corroborated: “It is important to recognize how little is actually known about the progress of Nicene orthodoxy along the Danube during the two generations after 381.”[2] “Nicene orthodoxy” was established at the Council of Nicaea convened by Emperor Constantine in 325, which produced the Nicene Creed, which affirmed that the son of God was coeternal and consubstantial [homoousios] with the Father. Secondly, the significance of 381 lies in two events: first, in 380 Roman Emperor Theodosius issued an imperial decree enforcing Nicene theology at the point of a sword, and banned the competing Arianism, the theology that “the son of God was created by the Father and was therefore neither coeternal nor consubstantial with the Father.”[3] Then in 381 he convened the Council of Constantinople to clarify the Nicene theology, bringing Trinitarianism into sharper focus.[4]

But what occurred at the Council of Nicaea and how exactly was the resulting Nicene Creed agreed upon? First, this council presented itself as a welcome relief from the persecution and intolerance inflicted beforehand. However, we must ask if this “olive branch” of peace from the Emperor was another form of persecution to divide and conquer. This question must be objectively considered, for dismissing it would ignore Satan’s previous machinations and thus would be naïve. Illustrating the relevance and importance of this inquiry is what happened to Jesus when he arrived at Golgotha. As recorded at Mark 15:23, “they tried to give him wine drugged with myrrh, but he would not take it.” Thus, “Christ refused to partake of any such means of alleviation; He would retain all His mental power for the complete fulfillment of the Father’s will.”[5] Indeed, if Jesus had accepted this drugged elixir, he would have been contaminated and unable “retain all His mental power for the complete fulfillment of the Father’s will.” Thus, he would have compromised the sacrificial value of his imminent death. This custom then of offering drugged wine to the condemned harmonized with Satan’s scheming, and it too failed. Based on this observation, would Satan mimic this event and offer Christianity, already made vulnerable from previous doctrinal wrangling with heresies and from persecution, a similar elixir meant to alleviate suffering that was really a trap leading to compromise and failure? That is, an elixir in the form of a council in the fourth century to make peace and unity that was actually compromise and heresy?

Legitimizing this inquiry is the contemporary popularity of a body of pagan Egyptian-Greek syncretic philosophy and writings identified as the Corpus Hermeticum. A dictionary explains: “The Egyptian Hermes, known under the name of Trismegistos, was the reputed author of the Corpus Hermeticum, which was widely read by Gnostics and Christians.”[6] Another source states: “some saw in the Hermetic texts an anticipation of Christianity.”[7] So the pagan (and likely demonic) Corpus Hermeticum was being read by Christians—being taught by Hermes Trismegistus—thinking that Hermes anticipated Christ and thus respected his corpus of literature enough to have it influence them. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2: Hermes Trismegistus

It would be prudent then to objectively analyze the historical setting of the Nicene Council, for if it was like the drugged wine Jesus rejected to maintain his integrity before his Father and God, then Christians should reject it as well to maintain their integrity before Jesus and God. The stakes could not be any higher.

Precisely, the key word of contention in the Nicene debates was homoousios, introduced by Constantine in order to unify the discussions. However, as Professor Pier Franco Beatrice stated:
homoousios came straight from Constantine’s Hermetic background. As can be clearly seen in the [Greek Hermetic tractate] Poimandres, … in the theological language of Egyptian paganism the word homoousios meant that the Nous [Mind]-Father and the Logos [Word]-Son, who are two distinct beings, share the same perfection of the divine nature.
He added: “In fact, the only pagan text known so far in which homoousios is used in the context of a discussion specifically and exclusively concerned with the nature of God and his cosmogonic activity is the Poimandres, the first tractate of the Corpus Hermeticum.” And: “The Gnostics evidently drew this word from their Egyptian and Hermetic sources, introducing it for the first time into the Christian lexicon.”[8]

Figure 3: Lactantius

That Constantine had a “Hermetic background” is seen in that one of his favorite advisers, the Christian intellectual Lactantius,[9] “considered Hermes Trismegistus to be a wise pagan prophet who foresaw the coming of Christianity.”[10] (See Figure 3 above.) Thus, Beatrice explains that “Everything becomes clear if we read the strikingly similar texts of Lactantius and Constantine against the background of the Hermetic tradition, rather than of the Christian controversies of their time.”[11] Hermes’ corpus then was esteemed for its wisdom and utilized for composing the Nicene Creed. This is seen in that the Nicene Creed says Jesus is “of one substance with the Father [ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί, homoousion toh Patri],” and Poimandres says regarding “God-the-Mind” [Νοῦς ὁ θεός, Nous ho Theos] that “God’s Reason (Logos) [θεοῦ Λόγος, Theou Logos] … was at-oned with the Formative Mind [“God-the-Mind”]; for it was co-essential [ὁμοούσιος, homoousios] with it.”[12] So in Hermeticism, the Word is homoousios with God the Father, the same in the Nicene Creed coming after it. With Poimandres in mind, Beatrice summarized Hermetic teaching that “the Logos is also defined ‘Son of the Father,’ separate by name but really one with him. The word homoousios appears in the last oracle, designating the consubstantiality of the Logos-Son with the Nous-Father.”[13] Thus, another scholar wrote that “Beatrice’s persuasive evidence that the Nicene Creed’s use of the philosophical word homoousios was drawn from Hermeticism has yet to be appreciated on a wider scale.”[14]

This being the case, we should expect evidence of a strong reaction opposing the inclusion of a Hermetic, pagan and demonic word into a Christian creed. We find just that. Leading dissenting voices expressed the following. One fifth-century Arian document “laments how, in the previous generation, the Nicenes had ‘seized the Church’; they had established there the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ (the homoousion).”[15] (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14) Another Arian document declared: “The odious and execrable, depraved and perverse profession of the homousians” should be “rejected and trampled underfoot as the invention of the Devil and the doctrine of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1) It continued, grouping the “homousians” with other heretical movements and calling them “Antichrists” who are “not teachers but deceivers, not preachers but prevaricators” of “wicked doctrines,” being “evil workers.”[16] (1 John 2:18; Acts 20:29) That homoousios was called an “Abomination of Desolation” and “the invention of the Devil and the doctrine of demons” matches with it being understood as deriving from a pagan and demonic source. That modern scholarship has revealed this to be the Corpus Hermeticum is nothing short of astonishing.

Consequently, with the inclusion of a demonic concept from the pen of “Hermes Trismegistus” into a Christian credal formula—into the Nicene Creed—with the aim of it being a salve, it becomes apparent that the Church drunk from the cup of “wine drugged with myrrh.” Instead of fighting heresy on the Bible’s terms, it chose a compromise route with a pagan and Hermetic word leading to a Hermetic theology. The Church became drugged with apostasy. This spiritual drug persists to this day as seen in Trinitarian apologetics with its veneer of sophistication defending its Hermetic theology. In the face of a veneer of sophistication, Jesus himself responded with a very perceptive comment that equally applies today: “You have a clever way of rejecting God’s law in order to uphold your own teaching.” (Mark 7:9, GNT) The inclusion of homoousios was indeed clever, but it resulted in rejecting Biblical theology—creating a theological disaster inflicting incalculable damage to hermeneutics.[17]

Thus, Beatrice concluded his landmark study with this insight: “Many centuries before being portrayed on the floor of the Siena cathedral (at the end of the fifteenth century), Hermes Trismegistus had already entered the body of Christian doctrine in the semblance of Constantine, setting his seal on the formulation of the Nicene Creed.”[18]

This was indeed Satan’s greatest victory. As he failed in getting Jesus to compromise, he instead was ultimately successful in getting his resulting congregation to compromise, leading not to peace, but to more dissent as sincere Christians strove to recover scriptural theology and restore true worship, much like the rebellion of the Maccabees.

In closing, only by being humble and objective can we break free from confirmation bias and sophisticated veneers. Biblical theology and Christology have been here the entire time, waiting to be seen and recovered, free from the shackles of theological apostasy. In this venture, the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses has striven the hardest to sober up from the “wine drugged with myrrh” that our exemplar rejected.

Part 1: jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2019/01/satanic-scheming.html

[1] Pier Franco Beatrice, “The Word ‘Homoousios’ From Hellenism to Christianity,” Church History, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 244.
[2] Neil McLynn, “From Palladius to Maximinus: Passing the Arian Torch,” Journal of Early Christian Studies, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Johns Hopkins University Press, Winter 1996), 481.
[3] “Arianism.” Oxford English Dictionary.
[4] The Encyclopaedia Britannica reports that “The Council of Constantinople also declared finally the Trinitarian doctrine of the equality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son.” (First Council of Constantinople https://www.britannica.com/event/First-Council-of-Constantinople-381).
[5] “Myrrh.” Vine’s Dictionary.
[6] “Thoth.” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 2nd ed., 1999, 863. “Trismegistos,” the “thrice greatest,” is more commonly known by his Roman spelling Trismegistus.
[7] “Hermetic.” Oxford English Dictionary.
[8] Supra note 1, 243, 257, 263.
[9] Supra note 1, 268.
[10] “Hermeticism.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeticism
For instance, Lactantius wrote: “But that there is a Son of the Most High God, who is possessed of the greatest power, is shown not only by the unanimous utterances of the prophets, but also by the declaration of Trismegistus.” (The Divine Institutes; Book IV. Of True Wisdom and Religion, Chapter vi.-Almighty God Begat His Son; And the Testimonies of the Sibyls and of Trismegistus Concerning Him.) http://faculty.poly.edu/~jbain/mms/texts/mmslanctantius.htm
Additionally, one scholar reports that “Hermes [Trismegistus] was a favourite prophet of Christians associated with Constantine, notably of Lactantius.” (Caroline Nicholson and Oliver Nicholson. “Lactantius, Hermes Trismegistus and Constantinian Obelisks.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 109 (1989): 198.) (Refer to Appendix C.) He adds that “the Latin Christian apologist Lactantius, … has some claim to being the brains behind Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor.” (Oliver Nicholson, Faculty & Staff Directory. University of Minnesota. https://cla.umn.edu/about/directory/profile/opn)
[11] Supra note 1, 267.
[12] Verses 9 and 10, seen here in an English translation by G.R.S. Mead and in the Greek: http://www.ldysinger.com/@texts/0301_corp_herm/01_poimandres.htm
[13] Supra note 1, 262.
[14] Kegan Chandler, Hermes and Hermeticism: An Historical Introduction. 2017: 2 n. 2. See also his video presentation here: “Revisiting Homoousios: Origins, Intentions, and Aftermath.” burieddeepblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/19/presentation-revisiting-homoousios-origins-intentions-and-aftermath/
[15] Supra note 2, 484.
[16] Peter Heather and John Matthews, The Goths in the Fourth Century, (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1991, 2004), 138-9.
[17] Hermeneutics is “the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible,” deriving from the Greek hermēneutikos, from hermēneuein ‘interpret’.
[18] Supra note 1, 272.

  1. Mark 7:9 in different Bibles
  2. Sibyls in Siena
  3. Constantine’s Context
Mark 7:9 in different Bibles
Good News Translation (GNT)
And Jesus continued, “You have a clever way of rejecting God’s law in order to uphold your own teaching.”

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
“Indeed,” he said to them, “you have made a fine art of departing from God’s command in order to keep your tradition!”

Amplified Bible (AMP)
He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside and nullifying the commandment of God in order to keep your [man-made] tradition and regulations.”

The Voice (VOICE)
Then, indeed, you have perfected setting aside God’s commands for the sake of your tradition.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.”

Revised New World Translation (RNWT)
Further, he said to them: “You skillfully disregard the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”

Sibyls in Siena
Among the portrayals in this cathedral are Isaiah, Moses, Paul, Mary and Jesus. Included in a floor panel is the she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus in Roman mythology surrounded by “emblems of confederate cities.” Lastly, also included more in-line with its portrayal of Hermes Trismegistus are “ten panels of the Sibyls,” pagan Greek prophetesses. Some of these Sibyls are also depicted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (the Erythraean and Lybian Sibyls) and as statues in Scalzi, Venice (the Hellespontine and Samian Sibyls). So this cathedral is unique in Europe for also depicting Hermes Trismegistus.

The following are links to articles on the artwork in the Siena Cathedral, with the last one explaining the inclusion of Sibylline art, which aligns with the rationale for including Hermes Trismegistus.
Constantine’s Context
The paper “Lactantius, Hermes Trismegistus and Constantinian Obelisks” referenced in footnote 10 contains some fascinating insight into the context of Constantine’s and Lactantius’ reason for employing Hermes Trismegistus:

This paper reports regarding Constantine installing an Egyptian obelisk in Rome that “Constantine may have had more in mind when he decided to offer an obelisk than a desire to keep some of the Senate happy some of the time. Christian significance may be discerned in an oblique manner. Dr. Fowden points to a reminiscence in Ammianus’ account of Constantine’s act of a phrase from the Perfect Discourse attributed to Hermes Trismegistus and recalls that Hermes was a favourite prophet of Christians associated with Constantine, notably of Lactantius.” (page 198) According to Lactantius, “The original religion of mankind had been monotheism: ‘God made man to serve and worship him,’” “Ancient men were agreed that the Egyptians had the oldest Gods. To Lactantius this meant that they were the first to be duped into idolatry.” “Lactantius’ view of the history of the world enabled him to find in ancient authors memories, more or less distorted, of primitive monotheism.” “Among these witnesses to primitive monotheism, Hermes Trismegistus held a special place, on account of his considerable antiquity.” (page 199) “Hermes asserted unequivocally the unity of God.” “The words of Hermes were for Lactantius not isolated testimonia torn from their original context, they were fragments of evidence which guaranteed the validity of a larger pattern. Christianity was no novelty, it was the reassertion of the original religion of mankind, the worship of the Most High God.” “Christians in the city which had witnessed the church council convoked by Constantine [at Nicaea] would have no reason to be offended if they looked upon it [the Egyptian obelisk] in the spirit in which Lactantius regarded Hermes Trismegistus, as a monument of the primaeval monotheism which they were trying to revive.” (page 200)[C1] Dr. Fowden summarized: “Lactantius draws heavily [on a Hermetic tractate], a fitting culmination to his extended attempt to beat the swords of paganism into the ploughshares of the Christian revelation.”[C2] That is, using what he thought was supportive to Christianity.

Thus, Constantine’s context was employing pagan Hermeticism via Lactantius to restore what they thought was “the primaeval monotheism.” Regardless of their noble intentions though, employing Hermeticism resulted in creating a diabolical Chimera protected by the Imperial sword.[C3]

Appendix C footnotes:
[C1] This was not the first attempt at this. Earlier in the third century the Gnostic Mani, founder of Manicheism (from Syriac Mānī ḥayyā “Living Mani”), desired to syncretize world religions and philosophies into “a single gospel.” One historian informs us that
Mani accepted that the message of salvation had been proclaimed to humankind by a succession of prophets and teachers that included Plato, Hermes Trismegistus (in Poimandres), Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus of Nazareth, and Paul, each for his own times and to different peoples. Now, it was time to bring these different proclamations together and proclaim a single gospel from one end of the earth to the other and in all the languages of the day. (W. H. C. Frend. The Rise of Christianity, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 316)
Additionally, a historian of Manicheism reported on the “Manichaean recognition of Hermes Trismegistus and Plato” as legitimate sources of inspiration. Moreover, it has been observed that Faustus the Manichean bishop of the fourth century “affirms the possibility of finding traces of truth in the Sibylline, Hermetic, and Orphic books.” (Jason BeDuhn, Augustine’s Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 1, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 89 and n. 76 on page 323) I note that this trend was continued with Lactantius.

So, this religious syncretism provides important historical precedence and context for Lactantius’ and Constantine’s desire to use Hermes Trismegistus for the same goal—exposing it as originally being Manichean and Gnostic.

Figure C1: Mani
[C2] Garth Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 207. For reference, the complete quote is: “In his vision of the apocalypse Lactantius draws heavily, as we have already seen, on the prophecy in the Perfect discourse, a fitting culmination to his extended attempt to beat the swords of paganism into the ploughshares of the Christian revelation.”
[C3] The Chimera was a Greek mythological monster combining the elements of three different animals: a lion with the head of a goat on its back, with its tail being a viper. This three-in-one monstrosity was slain by Bellerophon/Bellerophontes. “The mythological etymology of Bellerophontes[’] name was ‘Slayer of Belleros’ from the Greek Belleros and phonos. However, it is likely that the name originally meant ‘Wielder of Missiles’ from the Greek words belos and phoreô.” (Theoi Greek Mythology: Bellerophon (Bellerophontes) https://www.theoi.com/Heros/Bellerophontes.html)

May the three-in-one Trinitarian theology find the same fate from the ‘Slayer of Belial’!—Genesis 3:15; 2 Corinthians 6:15; Revelation 20:10.

Additional reading: Credits:
  • The arch-villain in Star Wars coming to his end.

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Friday, April 05, 2019

Regarding Jesus’ Pre-Human Existence

“Don’t add anything to what I command you, and don’t take away anything from it.”
Deuteronomy 4:2 (The Voice)

  • PHE: Jesus’ Pre-Human Existence
  • NPHE: No PHE
I was asked about my appraisal of the explanatory power of NPHE by a NPHE believer. My response:

Thank you for asking. I see scriptural evidence and even explicit statements from Jesus for PHE. I also see NPHE believers making cases for NPHE by explaining away or downplaying the evidence and explicit statements.

Explicit statements
In John 8:21-24 Jesus uses “above and below” dualism and identifies it as locational. In verse 21 he said (NET Bible) “I am going away, and you will look for me but will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” In other words, ‘I am going to a different location, and you will look for me in your current location, but will die in your sin. This different location I am going to you cannot come.’

When pressed for clarification, he answered: “You people are from below; I am from above. You people are from this world [a location]; I am not from this world [a location]. 24 Thus I told you that you will die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”

They will not be able to find Jesus if they reject him as Christ because they will not be able to follow him into heaven. Jesus literally ascended into heaven (a location) at Acts 1:9, “the above” he is going to that his enemies cannot enter.

However, NPHE scholar Kegan Chandler in his “Hermes & John” paper said John 8:23 is ethical dualism and not locational. By saying this, I note he isolated verse 23 from the context and especially from Jesus’ identifying locational language in verse 21. Thus, he had to work very hard to make a case for NPHE. Ethical dualism can be a corollary, but the primary dualism here is locational.

To recap, Jesus identified “above and below” dualism in this context as locational not ethical. If NPHE is true then Jesus was from our world and his argument collapses into nonsense.

Another example of working very hard to make a case for NPHE is in verse 58. Trinitarianism errs by translating it as “before Abraham came into existence, I am!” where “I AM” is said to be the divine name from Exodus 3:14. But for that to be correct, more Greek words would have to be present, as in “before Abraham came into existence, I existed as the I AM!” On the other hand, NPHE posits that Jesus’ words should be understood as being “before Abraham ever existed, I am the Messiah.” (Buzzard, Sir Anthony. The One God, the Father, One Man Messiah Translation – New Testament with Commentary. 2014)

Here though more words are added that are not in the Greek, and are inserted per NPHE. Additionally, this NPHE NT holds that this interpretation of inserting “the Messiah” refers to “the Messiah planned in God’s great design for humanity.” (Footnote 608.)

To review, Trinitarianism doesn’t add words but reads the text in a way that demands more words. NPHE on the other hand adds words and then reads the revised text in a way that demands even more words, as in “before Abraham ever existed, I am the Messiah in the sense of being planned in God’s great design for humanity.”

Is this not a sad state of affairs? Rescuing Bible readers from exegetical oblivion is the more mundane translation of Jesus’ reply: “before Abraham was born, I have been” (1960-1973 NASB with marginal reading), “before Abraham came into existence, I have been” (NWT), and “I existed before Abraham was even born!” (1996 NLT). No dangling “I am” with a blank to be filled in. No, Jesus was indeed attempting to answer their derisive question of seeing Abraham or not—and it was his answer affirming pre-Abrahamic existence that was the final straw.

Pauline Descent Narratives of Ephesians 4:9 and Philippians 2:5-8
Buzzard’s translation presents Ephesians 4:9 as: “it says he ascended, but that means he also had previously descended.” This translation ends the verse prematurely without any explanation and fails to include the highly relevant and qualifying ending of “to the lower regions, namely, the earth.” Hopefully this was an unintentional omission, especially since this omitted phrase may be seen as a significant contribution to the debate, for NPHE interprets these as a descent into the grave. But Ephesians 4:9 says he descended to the earth, not the grave. Thus, NPHE had to truncate this scripture, unintentionally or not, to make room for its exegesis. Either way, this is embarrassing.

When discussing Philippians 2:5-8, to his credit Dale Tuggy in Podcast 49 said it’s possible that this passage can support PHE, but he then had to tear it down and make a case for NPHE.

So yes, in the end I see much evidence for PHE and NPHE believers tearing down arguments for PHE and making cases for why a PHE text has to mean NPHE. One example is John 6:62 where Jesus said: “if you should see the Son of man ascending to where he was before.” Tuggy takes this as an assent from the grave to the surface of the earth, but Jesus identified his location before as heaven in John 3:13, 6:32, 33, 38, 50, 51. I’m afraid Tuggy has to miss Jesus’ point and make a contrary argument. (Coming Down, Cannibalism, and Ascending in John 6 – Part 2.)

I also think that Jesus had a virgin birth which is powerful evidence for PHE. I don’t see it being compatible with NPHE.

Two blog entries I recommend are:
  1. God sent out his Son
God sent out his Son
Another Pauline text to take into account is Galatians 4:4, which says: “But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman.” (NET Bible) That uses ἐξαποστέλλω (exapestello), meaning: 1) to send forth and 2) to send away.

The use of ἐξαποστέλλω is seen in other scriptures, providing a precedent:
  • Acts 7:12, NASB: “in Egypt, he sent our fathers.”
  • Acts 12:11, NASB: “that the Lord has sent forth His angel.”
  • Gal. 4:6, NASB: “God has sent forth the Spirit.”
So, it appears to be used as going from one location to another. In Galatians 4:4, from one location (the spirit realm) to the earth to be born. The BDAG lexicon supports this in its definition of ἐξαποστέλλω:
1. to send someone off to a locality or on a mission, send away, send off, send out …
b. for fulfillment of a mission in another place [citing Galatians 4:4] …
3. to send someth. off in an official sense, send, dispatch.
Thus, moving from one location to another, only supporting PHE in opposition to NPHE, to be born from a woman.