Chapter 29: How Men, Including Jesus Christ, Came to be Worshipped as Gods
JESUS CHRIST A DEMIGOD, ACCORDING TO CHRISTIAN WRITERS
IT is truly surprising to observe the damaging concessions of some of the early Christian writers, ruinous to the dogmas of their own faith with respect to the divinity of Jesus Christ, placing him, as they do, on an exact level with the heathen demigods, proving that the belief in his divinity originated in the same manner the belief in theirs did, by which it is clearly shown to be a pagan derived doctrine. Several Christian writers admit the belief in earth-born Gods (called Sons of Gods), and their coming into the world by human birth was prevalent among the heathen long prior to the time of Christ. Hear the proof.
We will first quote St. Justin relative to the prevalence of the belief among the ancient Greeks and Romans. Addressing them, he says, "The title of Son of God (As applied to Jesus Christ) is very justifiable upon the account of his wisdom, considering you have your Mercury in your worship, under the title of Word or Messenger of God." (Reeves Apol. p. 76.) Here is the proof that the tradition of the Son of God coming alto the world, and "the Word becoming flesh," was established amongst the ancient Greeks and Romans long prior to the era of Christianity, or the birth of Christ.
And yet more than a hundred millions of Christian professors can now be found, who, in their historic ignorance, suppose St. John was the first writer who taught the doctrine of "the Word becoming flesh," and that Jesus Christ was "the first and only begotten Son of God" who ever made his appearance on earth. How true it is that "ignorance is the mother of devotion" to creeds.
How "the man Christ Jesus" came to be worshiped as a God, is pretty clearly indicated by Bishop Horne, who shows that the doctrine of the incarnation was of universal prevalence long before Jesus Christ came into the flesh. He says, "That God should, in some extraordinary manner, visit and dwell with man, is an idea, which, as we read the writings of the ancient heathen, meets us in a thousand different forms." If, then, the tradition of God being born into the world was so universally established in heathen countries before the Christian era, as here shown, why should not, and why will not, our good Christian brethren dismiss their prejudices, and tear the scales from their eyes, so as to see that this universal belief would as naturally lead to the deification and worship of "the man Christ Jesus" as water flows down a descending plane?
And, certainly a thousand times more reasonable is the assumption that his deification originated in this way, than that, with all his frailties and foibles, he was entitled to the appellation of a God -- a conclusion strongly corroborated by the testimony of that able Christian writer, Mr. Norton, who tells us that many of the first Christians being converts from Gentileism, their imaginations were familiar with the reputed incarnation of heathen deities." How natural it would be for such converts to worship "the man Christ Jesus" as a God on account of his superior manhood!
Again, that ancient pillar of the Christian church, St. Justin, concedes that the ancient oriental heathen held all the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith relating to the incarnation long prior to the introduction and establishment of Christianity. Hear him: Addressing the pagans, he says, "For by declaring the Logos the first begotten Son of God, our Master, Jesus Christ, to be born of a virgin without any human mixture, and to be crucified, and dead, and to have risen again into heaven, we say no more in this than what you say of those whom you style the sons of Jove." (Reeves, Apol. vol. i.p. 69.) Now, Christian reader, mark the several important admissions which are made here: --
All these cardinal doctrines of Christianity are here shown to have been in existence, and to have been preached by pagan priests long anterior to the Christian era, thus entirely oversetting the common belief of Christendom that these doctrines were never known or preached in the world until heralded by the first disciples of the Christian religion. A fatal mistake, truly! This suicidal admission of St. Justin (a standard Christian writer) thus entirely uptrips all pretensions to originality in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, and shows it to be a mere travesty of the more ancient heathen systems.
And we have still other testimony to corroborate this conclusion. The French writer Bazin says, "The most ancient histories are those of Gods becoming incarnate in order to govern mankind." Again he says, "The idea sprang up everywhere from confused ideas of God, which prevailed everywhere among mankind that Gods formerly descended upon earth. The fertile imagination of the people of various nations converted men into Gods."
And to the same effect is the declaration of Mr. Higgins, that "there was incarnate Gods in all religions."
Sadly beclouded and warped indeed must be that mind which cannot see that here is set in as plain view as the cloudless sun at noonday, the origin of the deification of "the man Christ Jesus." No unbiased mind can possibly stave off the conclusion that such a universal prevalence of the practice of God-making throughout the religious world would cause such a man as Jesus Christ to be worshiped as a God -- especially when we look at the various motives which promoted men to Gods, which we will now present.
MOTIVES TO INCARNATION, OR THE CAUSE OF MEN BEING WORSHIPED AS GODS
The causes which led to the conception of Gods and Sons of God becoming clothed in human flesh -- the manner in which the absurd idea originated of an infinite being descending from heaven, assuming the form of a man, being born of a pure and spotless virgin, and finally being killed by his own children, the subjects of his own government, are palpably plain and easily understood in the light of oriental history.
And at the same time it is so shockingly absurd, that the rapid march of science and civilization will soon inaugurate the era when the man or woman who shall still be found clinging to these childish and superstitious conceptions -- the offspring of ignorance, and the relics of barbarism, and a certain proof of undeveloped or unenlightened minds -- will be looked upon as deplorably ignorant and superstitious. We will proceed to enumerate some of the causes which promoted men to the dignity of Gods.
The people of all ancient religious countries were so externally-minded, that they demanded a God whom they could know by virtue of his corporeity, really sympathized with their sorrows, their sufferings, their wrongs, and their oppressions, and, like Jesus Christ, "touched with a feeling of our infirmities" (Heb. iv. 15) -- a God so far invested with human attributes, human frailties, and human sympathies, that he could shoulder their burdens and their infirmities, and take upon himself a portion of their sufferings. Hence it is said of Christ, "himself took our infirmities." (Matt. iii. 17.)
The same conception runs through the pagan systems. One writer sets forth the matter thus: "The Creator occasionally assumed a mortal form to assist mankind in great emergencies" (as Jesus Christ was afterward reported as being the Creator. See Col. i. 16.) "And as repeated sojourners on earth in various capacities, they (the Saviors) became practically acquainted with all the sorrows and temptations of humanity, and could justly judge of its sins while they sympathized with its weaknesses and its sufferings. When they again returned to the higher regions (heaven), they remembered the lower forms they had dwelt amongst, and felt a lively interest in the world they had once inhabited. They could penetrate even the secret thoughts of mortals."
The people then demanding a God of sympathy and suffering (as shown above), their credulous imaginations would not be long in finding one. Let a man rise up in society endowed with an extraordinary degree of spirituality and sympathy for human suffering; let him, like Chrishna, Pythagoras, Christ, and Mahomet, spend his time in visiting the hovels of the poor, or consoling their sorrows, laboring to mitigate their griefs, and in performing acts of charity, disinterested alms and deeds of benevolence, kindness and love, and so certain would he sooner or later command the homage of a God. For this was always the mode adopted, in an ignorant, undeveloped, and unenlightened age, for accounting not merely for moral greatness, but for every species of mental and physical superiority, as will be hereafter shown. We will proceed to notice the second cause of men being invested with divine attributes.
All the oriental nations, as well as Christian, taught that "God was a spirit," but no nation or class of people, not even the founders of Christianity, entertained a consistent view of the doctrine. Only a few learned philosophers saw the scientific impossibility of an infinite spirit being crowded into the human form. Hence they alone were contented to "worship God in spirit and in truth." Every religious nation went counter to the spirit of this injunction in worshiping for a God a being in the human form. Even the founders of Christianity, though making high claims to spirituality, were too gross, too sensuous in their conceptions, too externally-minded, and too idolatrous in their feelings and proclivities, to be content to "worship God in spirit." Hence their deification of the "Man Christ Jesus" to answer the requisition of an external worship, by which they violated the command to "worship God as a spirit."
That the practice of promoting men to the Godhead originated with minds on the external plane, and evinces a want of spiritual development, is clearly set forth by the author of "The Nineteenth Century" (a Christian writer) who tells us, "The idea of the primitive ages were wholly sensuous, and the masses did not believe in anything except that which they could touch, see, hear and taste." A true description, no doubt, of the ancient pagan worshipers of demigods. But we warn the Christian reader not to cast anchor here, for we have at our elbow abundance of Christian testimony from the pens of the very oracles of the church to prove that the same state of things, the same state of society, the same state of mind, the same proclivity for God-making, existed with the people among whom Christ was born, and that it was owing to this sensuous, idolatrous state of mind among his disciples that he received the homage and title of a God.
Hence the famous Archbishop Tillotson says, "Another very common notion, and rife in the heathen world, and a great source of their idolatry, was their deification of great men fit to be worshiped as Gods." ... "There was a great inclination in mankind to the worship of a visible Deity. So God was pleased to appear in our nature, that they who were fond of a visible Deity might have one, even a true and natural incarnation of God the Father, the express image of his person." Now, we enjoin the reader to mark this testimony well, and impress it indelibly upon his memory. According to this orthodox Christian bishop, Jesus Christ appeared on earth as a God in condescension to the wishes of a people too devoid of spirituality, and too strongly inclined to idolatry, to worship God as a spirit. For he admits the worship of a God-man or a man-God is a species of idolatry. This tells the whole story of the apotheosis of "the man Christ Jesus." We have no doubt but that here is suggested one of the true causes of his elevation to the Deityship. Again he says, "The world was mightily bent on addressing their requests and supplications, not to the Deity immediately, but by some Mediator between the Gods and men." (See Wadsworth's Eccles. Biog. p. 172.) Here, then, we have the most conclusive proof that the belief in mediators is of pagan origin. We will now hear from another archbishop on this subject. in his "Caution to the Times" (p. 71), Archbishop Whately says, "As the Infinite Being is an object too remote and incomprehensible for our minds to dwell upon, he has manifested himself in his Son, the man Jesus Christ." Precisely so! just the kind of reasoning employed to account for the worship of man-Gods among the heathen. This logic fits one case as well as the other.
The Christian writer F.D. Maurice declares in like manner, "We accept the fact of the incarnation (of Jesus Christ), because we feel that it is impossible to know the absolute invisible God without an incarnation, as man needs to know him, and craves to know him." (Logical Essay, p. 79.) Here is more pagan logic -- the same reasoning they employed to prove the divinity of their Saviors and demi-gods. And the Rev. Dr. Thomas Arnold declares, "It (the incarnation of Christ) was very necessary, especially at a time when men were so accustomed to worship their highest Gods under the form of men." (Sermon on Christian Life, p. 61.) Let the reader attentively observe the explicit avowal here made, and mark well its pregnant inferences. He makes Jesus Christ come into the world in condescension to the idolatrous rivalry of the Jews to be up with the heathen nations in worshiping God in the form of man; that is, the founders of Christianity, having been Jews, disclosed the true Jewish character in running after and adopting the customs of heathen countries then so rife -- that of hunting up a great man, and making him a God -- which was only one case out of many of the Jews adopting some of the numerous forms of idolatry and other religious customs of their heathen neighbors. Their whole history, as set forth in the Bible, proves, as we have shown in another chapter, that they were strongly prone to such acts. It is not strange, therefore, that they should and did convert "the man Christ Jesus" into a God. We will now listen to another Christian writer, the notable and noteworthy Dr. T. Chambers. "Whatever the falsely or superstitiously fearful imagination conjures up because of God being at a distance, can only be dispelled by God being brought nigh to us. ...
The veil which hides the unseen God from the eyes of mortals must be somehow withdrawn." (Select Works, vol. iii. p. 161.) Most significant indeed is this species of reasoning. It is the same kind of logic which had led to the promotion of more than a score of great men to the God-head among the ancient heathen. "The veil which hides the unseen God must be removed," -- says Dr. Chambers; and so had reasoned in soliloquy a thousand pagans long before, when determined to worship men for Gods. It is simply saying, "We are too carnally-minded to worship God in spirit; we must and will have a God of flesh and blood -- a God who can be recognized by the external senses; he must "become flesh, and dwell amongst us." (See John i. 14.) Our author continues: "Now all this (removing the veil from the unseen God) has been done once, and done only once in the person of Jesus Christ." (Ibid.) Mistake, most fatal mistake, brother Chambers! It has been done more than a score of times in various heathen countries -- a fact which proves you ignorant of oriental history.
Now let the reader mark the foregoing citations from standard Christian authors, setting forth some of the reasons which led the founders of Christianity to adopt a visible man-God in their worship in the person of Jesus Christ. Language could hardly be used to prove more conclusively that the whole thing grew out of an idolatrous proclivity to man-worship, -- that is, the gross, sensuous, carnally-minded propensity to worship an external, visible God, -- proving, with the corroborative evidence of many other facts, that they were not a whit above the heathen in spiritual development. The reason employed by the Tibetan for the worship of the Hindoo Chrishna as a God, tells the whole story of the worship and the deification of Jesus Christ. "We could not always have God behind the clouds; so we had him come down where we could see him." This is the same kind of reasoning made use of by the Christian writer above quoted, all of which discloses a state of mind among both heathen and Christians that would not long rest satisfied without deifying somebody, in order to have a visible God to worship. And hence Christians deified "the man Christ Jesus" for this purpose.
The more externally minded (says Fleurbach), the greater was the determination to worship a personal God" -- God in the form of man. And as the Jewish founders of Christianity (as every chapter of their history demonstrates) were dwelling on the external plane, it was not an act of direct innovation, therefore, for them to fall into the habit of worshiping the personal Jesus as a God. It involved no serious incursion on previous thoughts or habits. And warped and blinded, indeed, must be that mind which cannot here discover the true key to the apotheosis of Jesus -- one of the real causes of his being stripped of his manhood, and advanced to the Godhead. It was as naturally to be expected from the then state of the religious world, and the state of the Jewish mind concerned in the founding of Christianity, as that an autumnal crop of fruit should succeed the bloom of spring.
Let it be specially noted, that all the Christian writers above cited tell us, in effect, that God sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to be worshiped as a God in condescension to the ignorance and superstitious tendencies, and we will add, idolatrous proclivities of the people. From this stand-point we challenge the world to show why God may not have sent the oriental Saviors into the world for the same reason -- that is, in condescension to the prejudices of the devout worshipers under the heathen systems. Why, then, is there not as much probability that he did do so? Why would he not be as likely to accommodate their ignorance and prejudices in this way as those of the founders of the Christian system. This question we shall keep standing before the Christian world till it is answered, and we challenge them to meet it, and overthrow it if they can.
The ancient nations, in their entire ignorance of the philosophy of the human mind, and the laws controlling its actions, always accounted for the appearance of great men amongst them by supposing them to be Gods. Every country occasionally produced a man, who, by virtue of natural superiority, rose so high in the scale of moral and intellectual greatness as to fill the ideal of the people with respect to the characteristics of a God. So low, so limited, so narrow, so greatly circumscribed were the conceptions of deity, of the undeveloped and intellectually dwarfed minds of all religious countries in that age, that a man had to rise but a few degrees above the common level of the populace to become a God. He could "easily fill the bill," and exhibit all the qualities they assigned to the highest God in the heavens. And this is as true of the Jewish mind as that of any other nation, a portion of whom adored Jesus as a God. Or if they lacked anything in natural inclination, they made it up by imitation, a propensity which they possessed in no small degree, that is, a proneness to imitate the customs of other nations.
Mr. Higgins tells us that "men of brilliant intellects and high moral attainments, and great healers (of which Christ was one), were almost certain to be deified." In like manner Archbishop Tillotson says, "they deified famous and eminent persons by advancing them after their death to the dignity of an inferior kind of Gods fit to be worshiped by men on earth." Mark the expression, "after their death." We have shown in another chapter that Jesus Christ was not generally considered a God, even by his followers, till more than three hundred years after his death, when Constantine declared him to be "God of very God" -- a circumstance of itself sufficient to establish the conclusion that he did not possess this character. A God would be adored as such by everybody while living, but a man's worshipers rise up after his death, as in the case of "the man Christ Jesus." Great mental endowments, or great moral attainments, would, in most countries, bring the most ignorant down on their knees to worship such a man as a God. But it required years, and sometimes centuries, to get him fully established among the Gods. This is as true of Jesus Christ as the other human-descended deities. Whatever amount of homage Jesus might have received while living, any person who will institute a thorough, unbiased scrutiny in the case will discover that it was his great healing powers and superior mental qualities which finally deified him. His ignorant admirers knew no way of accounting for such extraordinary qualities but to suppose him to be the embodiment of infinite wisdom. Like the Chinaman who exclaimed, "See the God in that man," when an Englishman cured a young woman of partial blindness by anointing her eyes with kerosene. Such a deed would deify almost any man, in almost any country, before the dawn of letters and the recognition of the science of mind.
The missionary Rev. D.O. Allen's method of accounting for the deification of the Hindoo God Chrishna is so suggestive, that we here present it. He tells us that "as the exploits ascribed to Chrishna exceed mere human power, the difficulty was removed by placing him among the incarnations of Vishnu." (India, Ancient and Modern, p. 26.) Exactly so! We are glad of such historic information. We hope the Christian reader will note the lesson it suggests. For certainly, every reader, who has not had his reason shipwrecked on the shoals of a blind and dogmatic theology, can see here a key to unlock the great mystery of the Christian incarnation -- the divinity of Jesus Christ. As some of the exploits of Chrishna were supposed to "exceed mere human power," we are told the difficulty was explained by imagining him to be a God. How powerful the suggestion! how conclusive the explanation, not only for the Godhood of this sin-atoning Savior, but for that of "our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," and all the other Lords, and Gods, and Saviors of antiquity! A single hint will sometimes explain whole volumes of obscure history, as does this of the Rev. Christian Hindoo missionary D.O. Allen. And surely, most deplorably blinded by superstition must be the two hundred millions of Christ worshipers, the three hundred millions who worship Chrishna, the one hundred and twenty million adorers of Confucius, the fifty millions of suppliants of Mithra the Mediator, and the one hundred and fifty millions of followers of Mahomet, who cannot see here a satisfactory solution of the deityship of all these Gods, and all the other man-Gods of antiquity.
The question is sometimes asked, How could two hundred millions of people come to believe that Jesus was a God merely because of his superiority as a man? We will answer by pointing to the history of the Hindoo Chrishna, and by asking the same question with respect to his Godhead. How could three hundred millions of people be brought to believe in his divinity, and worship him as a God, merely because he was a superior human being? One question is as easily answered as the other, and posterity will answer both questions alike. When we observe it taught as an important and easily learned lesson of history, and one based on a thousand facts, that no man could rise to intellectual greatness or moral distinction in the era in which Christ was born without being advanced to the dignity of a God, and worshiped as such, it is really a source of humility and sorrow to every unshackled lover of truth and humanity to reflect that there are so many millions of people whose mental vision is so beclouded by a dogmatic and inexorable theology that they cannot see the logical potency of these facts, -- that they cannot be even moved by this great and overwhelming amount of evidence against the divinity dogma, and observe that it explodes it into a thousand fragments, but still cling to the delusion that "the man Christ Jesus," with all the human qualities and human frailties with which his own history (the Gospels) invest him, was nevertheless a God, -- ay, the monstrous delusion that any being possessing a finite form could be an infinite being -- a most self-evident and shocking absurdity. And we challenge all Christendom to show, or approximate one inch toward showing, that there was sufficient difference between Christ and Chrishna to require us to accept one as a man and the other as a God. It cannot be done.
We have shown, then, by the foregoing exposition, that one cause of the deification of men was simply an attempt to solve the problem of human greatness, -- an attempt to account for the moral and intellectual superiority of men which enabled them to perform deeds and otherwise exhibit a character far above the capacity of the multitude to comprehend, and which they could find no other way to account for than to suppose them to be Gods, while the low and groveling conceptions which most religious nations, and especially the Jews, had formed of the character and essential attributes of the Infinite Deity (often investing him with the most ignoble human attributes, human passions, and human imperfections), made it perfectly easy to convert their great men by imagination into Gods. The Jews represented God not only as a coming down from heaven in propria persona, and walking, talking, wrestling, &c., as a man (on one occasion we are told he and Jacob scuffled all night), but he is often represented as acting the part of a wicked man, such as lying (see 2 Chron. v. 22), getting mad (see Detit. i. 37), swearing, sanctioning the high-handed and demoralizing crimes of stealing (see Ex. iii. 2), of robbery (see Ex. xii. 36), of murder (see Deut. xiii. 2) and even fornication (see Gen. xxxi. i, and Num. xxxi) and thus they invested Deity with such mean, low, despicable attributes as to reduce his moral character to a level with the most immoral man in society. So that it was very easy, if not very natural, to elevate their great men (if it really required any elevation) to a level with their God.
Men and Gods were in character and conception so nearly alike, that it was easy to bring them on a level, or to mistake one for the other. And hence it is we find an incarnated God, Savior, Son of God, Redeemer, &c., figuring in he early history of nearly every oriental religious nation whose name and history has descended to us. Indeed, the practice of deifying men, or mistaking men for Gods, was once so common, so nearly universal, that it must require a mind very ignorant of oriental history to adore Jesus Christ as having been the only character of this kind who figured in the religious world. It was, as before suggested, deemed the most rational way of accounting for the marked superiority among men, to suppose that some men had a divine birth, and were begotten by the great Infinite Deity himself, and descended to the earth through the purest human (virgin) channel.
As Mr. Higgins remarks, "Every person who possessed a striking superiority of mind, either for talent or goodness, was supposed anciently to have a portion of the divine mind or essence incorporated or incarnated in him." The Jews had a number of men whose names imply a participation in the divine nature, among which we will cite Elijah and Elisha (El-i-jah and El-i-sha), El being the Hebrew name or term for God, while Jah is Jehovah (see Ps. lxviii. 4), and Sha means a Savior. Elijah, then, is an approximation to God-Jehovah, and Elisha is God -- a Savior. The character of men and Gods were cast in molds so approximately similar, so nearly identical, as to make the transition, or change from one to the other, so slight and easy; either of men into Gods or Gods into men, that several nations went so far as to teach that a man might by his own natural exertions, his own voluntary powers, raise himself to a level with the Deity, and thereby become a God.
Mr. Ritter in his "History of Ancient Philosophy" (Chap. II.), tells us that some of the Buddhist sect held that "a man by freeing himself by holiness of conduct from the obstacles of nature, may deliver his fellows from the corruption of the times, and become a benefactor and redeemer of his race, and also even become a God" -- a "Buddha" -- i.e., a Savior and Son of God. Singular enough that the Christian should object to this doctrine as being rather blasphemous, when his own bible abundantly and explicitly teaches the same doctrine in effect!
We find the same thing substantially taught over and over again in the Christian Scriptures. "Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect " (Matt. v. 18), requires a man to become morally perfect as God, which is all that the Buddhist precept requires or contemplates, and no man can become perfect as God without becoming a God. But we are not left to mere inference in the matter, We have the doctrine several times expressed and unquestionably taught in the Christian bible of man's power and prerogative to become either a God or Son of God. "Said I not that ye are Gods?" (Ex. iv. 16). "Behold now, we are the sons of God." (I John i. 2.)
Here is the Buddhist doctrine as explicitly stated as it can be taught. It is, then, a Christian bible doctrine as well as a pagan doctrine, that man can become a God, and that God can be born of woman, and thereby invested with all the frail and imperfect attributes of man. It cannot be considered a matter of marvel, therefore, that so many of the good, the great, and the wise men of almost every country, including "the man Christ Jesus," should be honored and adored with the titles of Deity, and worshiped as God absolute, "Son of God," "Savior," "Redeemer," "Mediator," &c.
For this purpose appeared the Savior Chrishna, in India, the Savior Osiris, in Egypt, the God or Mediator Mithra, in Persia, the Redeemer Quexalcote, in Mexico, the Savior Jesus Christ, in Judea, &c. In the initiatory chapter on the transgression and fall of man, some of the oriental bibles graphically describe the scene of "the war in heaven" -- a counterpart to the story of St. John, as found in the twelfth chapter of Revelation, wherein Michael and the dragon are represented as the captains and commander-in-chief of their respective embattled hosts, and in which the former was crowned as victor in the contest, as he succeeded in vanquishing and "casting out the evil one." In the pagan military drama the scene of the war in heaven is transferred to the earth. A God, a Savior (a Son of God), comes down to put a stop to the machinations of the "Evil One," i.e., to "destroy the devil and his works" as we are told Christ came for that purpose. (i John iii. 8) See the Author's "Biography of Satan."
The Egyptian story runs thus: "Osiris appeared on earth to benefit mankind, and after he had performed the duties of his mission, and had fallen a sacrifice to Typhon (the devil, or evil principle), which, however, he eventually overcame ('overcame the wicked one,' i John ii. II), by rising from the dead, after being crucified, he became the judge of mankind in a future state." (See Kerrick's "Ancient Egypt;" also Wilkinson's "Egypt.")
The Buddhist, or Hindoo, version of the story is on this wise: "The prince (of darkness), or evil spirit, Ravana, or Mahesa, got into a contest and a war with the divine hero Rania, in which the latter proved victorious, and put to flight the army of 'the wicked one,' but not till after considerable injury had been done to the human family, and the whole order of the universe subverted; to rectify which, and to achieve a final and complete triumph over Ravana (the devil) and his works, and thus save the human race from utter destruction, the gods besought Vishnu (the second person of the Trinity) to descend to the earth and take upon himself the form and flesh of man. And it was argued that as the mission appertained to man, the God Vishnu, when he descended to the earth in the capacity of a Savior, should become half man and half God, and that the most feasible way to accomplish this end was for him to be born of a woman.
And that the glory and honor of his triumph over Ravana, the devil, would be greater if achieved in this capacity than if he were to come down from heaven and conquer Ravana wholly with his attributes as a God, or wholly in his divine character -- i.e., as absolute God, uninvested with human nature. The suggestion was approved by Vishnu, who descended and took upon himself the form of man" ("the form of a servant" -- Phil. ii. 7). And that his metamorphosis or earth-born life might be the purer, it was decided that he should be born of a woman wholly uncontaminated with man -- that is, a virgin. And thus, far back in the midnight of mythology and fable, originated the story of divine Saviors and Gods being born of virgins -- a conception now found incorporated in the religious histories of various ancient nations.
And now let us observe how substantially the Christian story of a Savior conforms to the above. Jesus, like the Saviors of India and Egypt, was believed to be a man-God -- half man and half God, and reputedly he came into the world, like them, to "destroy the devil and his works, or the works of the devil -- that is, to put an end to the evil or malignant principle introduced into the world by the serpent in the garden of Eden; as it is declared "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head" (Gen. iii. 15) -- which is interpreted as referring to Christ. And like these and various other pagan Saviors Jesus is assigned the highest and most ennobling human origin -- a birth from a virgin. And, as in the instances above named, Jesus had also several encounters with the devil; first in the wilderness, then on a mountain, and finally, like them, falls a sacrifice to his insidious, malignant power acting through the agency and mediumship of Judas Iscariot; for his betrayal is ascribed wholly to Satan, whom John called the serpent, entering into Judas and prompting the act. (See Rev. xii. 3). And thus Christ, like the other saviors, falls a victim to the serpentine or satanic power acting through the instrumentality of a Judas Iscariot; but finally, triumphed, like the Savior of Egypt (Osiris), by rising from the dead -- "the first fruits of immortality." And thus the stories run parallel -- the more modern Christian with the more ancient pagan.
(For a full exposition of the belief and traditions respecting a devil and a hell in all ages and all countries, see the Author's "Biography of Satan.")
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