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"We are indeed His offspring"


Do not follow other gods,
the gods of the peoples around you

Yahweh, Deuteronomy 6:14




...every street, every marketplace is full of Zeus. Even the sea and the harbor are full of this deity. Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus,
For we are indeed his offspring.
Phenomena 1- 5, The stoic poet Aratus (c 310 - 240 BC)

In Him Yahweh/ Jesus we live and move and have our being; as even some of your poets have said,
'For we are indeed his offspring.'
Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, Acts 17.28

God as an idea
Now POCM is taking you into mind bender territory. So far you've seen that ancient people believed in slavery, demons, and magic God-sent dreams. We don't believe in those things ourselves, so it's easy to grasp the idea that, say, demons, are not a thing, they're an idea that someone invented and other people heard and liked and borrowed and adapted. Now we're going to repeat the exercise, only this time the idea is one you yourself may believe in, God. If you think of God not as an idea but as a thing, this will be challenging for you.

Lots of Gods

Yahweh/Jesus is/are a God. So was Baal. So was El. So were Tammuz and Ishtar. And Bal, El, Tammuz and Ishtar were all Gods before Yahweh was a gleam in some bronze age goatherd's eye. Pagans had Gods first. Our guys had Gods second. How could that happen?

The believer's first answer is, "It didn't. Our God is so much way totally cooler than their gods that our God is in a whole other category."

Only the thing is, see, the people who were there at the time didn't see it that way. Let us ennoble our brains by reading the actual ancient evidence. The blue box quotes what the Old Testament says about Yahweh and other ancient Gods. Turns out that away back in the BCs, the people who developing what became our ideas about the God Yahweh/Jesus were not mono-theists, they were heno-theisits.

Mono-theists believe there is one God.

Heno-theists acknowledge lots of Gods, but recognize that their God is much way totally cooler than everybody else's.







Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.
Exodus 18:11

You shall have no other gods before me.
Exodus 20:3

Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.
Exodus 23:13

What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?
Deuteronomy 4:7

You shall have no other gods before me.
Deuteronomy 5:7

Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you;
Deuteronomy 6:14

for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.
Deuteronomy 7:4

If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.
Deuteronomy 8:19

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.
Deuteronomy 11:16

the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.
Deuteronomy 11:28

and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, Let us follow other gods (gods you have not known) and let us worship them,
Deuteronomy 13:2

If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, Let us go and worship other gods (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known,
Deuteronomy 13:6

gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other),
Deuteronomy 13:7

that wicked men have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, Let us go and worship other gods (gods you have not known),
Deuteronomy 13:13

and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars of the sky,
Deuteronomy 17:3

But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.
Deuteronomy 18:20

Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.
Deuteronomy 28:14

The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your fathers. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone.
Deuteronomy 28:36

Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods

They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them.
Deuteronomy 29:26

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Recognition that Pagan godness and Yahweh/ Jesus godness are alike is a conclusion of mainstream scholarship. Here's how the editor of Britannica's Great Books describes the "fundamental agreements" between Yahweh/ Jesus and the Pagan Gods  >>

"There are ...fundamental agreements between paganism and Judeo-Christian regarding the nature of the divine....The deities are conceived personally, not in terms of impersonal, brute forces. Conceived as beings with intelligence and will, the Gods concern themselves with earthly society; the aid or oppose man's plans and efforts; they reward men for fidelity and virtue and punish them for impiety and sin."


The Great Ideas, 1952, Ch. 29
POCM quotes modern scholars

"For we are indeed His offspring"
In an unknown month in an uncertain year in the middle of the first century of our Lord, Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, skedaddled from Thessalonica in Asia Minor, by boat across the wine dark Aegean to Piraeus and on—a short walk—to Athens. In that city Paul set up a routine. Each day, driven by the Spirit of God and his own odd obsession, Paul stood in the Athenian market and argued "with those who chanced to be there" about God. Acts, Chapter 17

Decades later "Luke," the unknown author of the New Testament's Book of Acts...

...picked up the story >>

The Greeks, said "Luke," understood that Paul was speaking about a God. Yahweh/ Jesus was a "foreign divinity," a non-Greek God >>

The Greeks knew what Paul meant by "God."

Some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers met him. And some said, "What would this babbler say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities" --because he preached Jesus and the resurrection.19 And they took hold of him and brought him to the Are-op'agus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you present? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears; we wish to know therefore what these things mean." 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

And Paul knew what the Greeks meant by "God." What the Greeks meant was the same thing Paul meant. Only, Paul liked his God better.

The Greeks "unknown God" was not, he said, as good as his "God who made the world and everything in it." >>

But—this is the point—they were both Gods. Paul's God and the Greeks' God were both Gods. Everyone knew what "God" meant. The Greeks had 'em. Paul had one. The Athenians liked theirs better. Paul liked his better. Go figure.

Or at least, Paul liked Yahweh/ Jesus better most of the time. Other times Yahweh/ Jesus was so much like the Greek Zeus, that Paul (or, to be accurate, "Luke") explained Yahweh/ Jesus by comparing Him/ Them with Zeus, quoting verbatim from Greek religious writing...

22 So Paul, standing in the middle of the Are-op'agus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation,

...ideas the Greeks had about Zeus , said "Luke"/ Paul, are exactly the ideas Christians have about Yahweh/ Jesus: "For we are indeed his offspring."  >>

Everyone knew what "God" meant. Paul's God and the Greeks' God were both Gods. God was a Pagan idea.


27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, 28 for 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring.' 29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead."

Because God was a Pagan idea, it won't surprise you to learn that, according to Acts, the part of Paul's marketplace arguing the Athenians sniggered at wasn't God, it was the rising up of dead bodies.

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, "We will hear you again about this." 33 So Paul went out from among them.


New Testament Book of Acts, Chapter 17, RSV

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

That's how it was, back at the founding of our religion. Pagans recognized Yahweh/ Jesus as a God, like other Gods. Christians saw Yahweh/ Jesus as a God, like other Gods.

You got that? God was a Pagan idea.


Brain  s t r e t  c   h
Most people know how to think about the idea that Jesus, or at least legends about Jesus, were borrowed. They may not like the idea, they may not agree with the idea, but they see how the idea works. Jesus was (or wasn't) a real person. Stories about Jesus' virgin birth, and miracles and resurrection were (or were not) copied from stories about Osiris, or Mithras, or Dionysus, etc.

It's different with God. The notion that western culture's God—our God—was borrowed, that's way hard to get your brain around.

A delicious irony

Even atheists see it this way. The bible stories are phony legends, therefore Yahweh God is phony, therefore there is no creator, no prime mover, no ultimate good. Atheists don't accept the fact of Yahweh/ Jesus, but they accept the idea that meaning and purpose can only exist in connection with the Yahweh/ Jesus myths.

So, atheists accept religion after all. This is one of life's delicious ironies.

The reason it's hard is not that we're talking about our real God, as opposed to some little brown persons' mythical god. The reason is more fundamental than that. It's that we're talking about God. God isn't an idea, God is a thing. God may not be the bronze age goatherds' tribal Yahweh, but God is the creator, the prime mover, the ultimate good. A thing, not an idea.

Even if you don't believe in Yahweh God, chances are pretty good you believe in God in some way, as creator, as prime mover, as the spiritual force behind right and wrong.

Listen, you get to believe whatever you want about the Truth of spiritual forces and beings; we can still be friends. POCM isn't about divine truth. POCM is about the history of ideas. What you'll learn here is that modern western ideas about God, Jewish and Christian ideas, developed from ancient ideas about ancient Pagan Gods. We're gonna learn a bit about ourselves.



You can't understand the history of God until you unlearn some stuff.
Chances are when you think ancient religion you think silly myths. Zeus sneaking around on Mrs. Zeus. That's the big thing that separates ancient religion from our religion—our's is moral, spiritual, and transcendent, and deeply meaningful; theirs was village fairy tales. Baby Hercules whuppin' a snake. How could our meaningful God be a copy of their Olympian trailer trash? He couldn't... if ancient religion was just what you read in Mrs. Hamilton's Greek Myths.

In the bible Numbers 22:28


It wasn't. Ancient religion was more than that.

Sure, like our religion the ancients' had talking animals, and divine floods, and magic prophecies. But like us, the ancients found in their religion beauty, nobility, truth, purpose, and mystic transcendence. Did I mention eternal salvation? That too.

Now, I know you're not going to take my word for this. I'm not asking you to believe me. Here's a description, written in the late first or early second century AD, of the rites of the great empire-spanning religion of Isis and Osiris. Or rather, of the religious meaning that explains those rights—why the priests did what they did.

The guy who wrote this was for thirty years a priest at the temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece. By his time Isis and Osiris had been in Greece for more than four hundred years, and it's a good bet he was initiated into their mysteries. He was a religious man; a believer. Anyway, he traveled to Egypt, and described what the priests did there, in the Temples of Isis. What the rites were and, like I said, what the rites meant. Take a deep, cleansing breath. Your ideas about God and religion are about to change...


Look, I know you don't read most of these blue boxes. This one you ought to

Plutarch, who knew his way around a scroll with a reed pen, didn't have words to say how very very nice the worship of Isis was, so he settled for some hi-tone superlatives--"pure", "shining through the soul", like that. >>

Lucky us, Plutarch didn't stop there. He went on to explain that the theology of Isis worship was mystic union with the immaterial, eternal "Reason." The Greek word was "Logos." -- the same word, and the same idea of an eternal divine being you'll find in our Gospel of John. "In the beginning was the word logos , ... and the word logos was God."

The Isis-priests' God wasn't a magical godman (at least He wasn't only that), He was this eternal, immaterial, simple, shining, pure, spirit thing. The kind of transcendent God-thing I don't have words for, and I bet you don't either.

According to Plutarch, who should'a know 'cause he was there, the worship of Isis and Osiris wasn't about magic fables, it was about mystic union of the striving human soul with eternal, transcendent God.  >>

But the apperception of the conceptual, the pure, and the simple, shining through the soul like a flash of lightning, affords an opportunity to touch and see it but once. For this reason Plato and Aristotle call this part of philosophy the epoptic or mystic part, inasmuch as those who have passed beyond these conjectural and confused matters of all sorts by means of Reason = Logos proceed by leaps and bounds to that primary, simple, and immaterial principle ; and when they have somehow attained contact with the pure truth abiding about it, they think that they have the whole of philosophy completely, as it were, within their grasp.

God, says Plutarch, is pure, uncontaminated by matter (the ancients understood matter as impure). Man is trapped in the impure world, only man's soul is divine. It strives for union with God.

.... this god Osiris .... is far removed from the earth, uncontaminated and unpolluted and pure from all matter that is subject to destruction and death ; but for the souls of men here, which are compassed about by bodies and emotions, there is no association with this god except in so far as they may attain to a dim vision of his presence by means of the apperception which philosophy affords

Your soul can union-ate with God through philosophy—which for the ancients worked like revealed religion (which they didn't have, much) works for us. >> 

And when we die, our souls leave our bodies and travel to be with God,  >> 



...your soul will spend eternity contemplating the unutterable, indescribable niceness of God. >> 

Sound familiar? I thought so.

I've heard a good deal all my life about heaven and hell. And as near as I can figure it, if a man goes to heaven he will put in all his time improving himself. He will study and study and study and progress and progress and progress—and if that isn't hell, I don't know what is.
Mark Twain

But when these souls are set free and migrate into the realm of the invisible and the unseen, the dispassionate and the pure, then this god becomes their leader and king, since it is on him that they are bound to be dependent in their insatiate contemplation and yearning for that beauty which is for men unutterable and indescribable. With this beauty Isis, as the ancient story declares, is for ever enamored and pursues it and consorts with it and fills our earth here with all things fair and good that partake of generation.

Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, 382.D - 383.A (first or second century AD), -- which you can find in: Babbitt, Frank. Plutarch Moralia, volume 5 (1936/ 1999), pg. 181- 5
. Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Our souls are divine, and strive for union with God. After we die we travel to heaven to spend eternity contemplating the unutterable, indescribable glory of God. That was ancient religion? Yup. That was ancient religion. Who'd a thunk it?

The reason the Greeks in the Athenian market called Paul's Yahweh/ Jesus a foreign God, and the reason Paul described Yahweh/ Jesus by quoting directly from Pagan religious writing is the same reason you maybe felt a prickle at the back of your neck when you just read Plutarch describe the worship of Isis and Osiris. The ideas were the same. Our God was a God in exactly the way Pagans understood God. God is a Pagan idea. The Pagans had it first. We got it second.



We've just seen that the Christian apostle Paul, who wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else, thought the Pagan idea of God and the Christian idea of God were similar. The Pagan author and priest Plutarch described the worship of Isis and Osiris in terms of morality, transcendence and eternal life. Now, in case you're thinking maybe Greg picked out the two bits in all of ancient literature that make the Pagan Gods look like, well, God, here's more of the same; more ancients who though the Jewish/Christian Yahweh was a God exactly as Pagans understood the idea.

Like "Luke," the ancient Pagans also saw Yahweh not as something new, but as just another God.


Here's how Plato (yes, that Plato) in the fourth century BC, quoting Hesiod, from the eighth century BC, described the pagan Gods as beings people prayed to when they sinned.

Quoting Hesiod "The gods, too, may be turned from their purpose; and men pray to them and avert their wrath by sacrifices and soothing entreaties, and by libations and the odor of fat, when they have sinned and transgressed."

Just as the New Testament gospel writer "Luke" saw Yahweh/Jesus as similar to Pagan Gods, Plato also saw Moses' God Yahweh and Orpheus' God as both Gods.

When people sinned, they prayed to the Yahweh or the Pagan Gods for forgiveness.

When people died Yahweh or the Pagan Gods redeemed them from the pains of hell.


And they produce a host of books written by Mousaios and Orpheus, … according to which they perform their ritual, and persuade not only individuals, but whole cities, that expiations and atonements for sin may be made by sacrifices and amusements which fill a vacant hour, and are equally at the service of the living and the dead; the latter sort they call mysteries, and they redeem us from the pains of hell, but if we neglect them no one knows what awaits us.

Plato, The Republic, Book 2.7, (4th century BC)
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Plato (yes that Plato) knew about Yahweh. And Plato recognized Yahweh as just another God. To Plato, to the ancients -- who should'a know, cause they were there -- our God was a God in exactly the way Pagans understood God. God is a Pagan idea. The Pagans had it first. We got it second.


And it wasn't just Plato and Paul who saw it that way. Other folks also saw Yahweh as just another God. Here's the Roman emperor Augustus speaking in a decree allowing the Jewish nation to follow its own customs.

In this religion related decree, Augustus points out that he himself is the Pontifex Maximus, Rome's high priest  >>



The Jews have a high priest too, a priest of the Most High God.  >>

To Augustus the Jews' High God is...a High God. The term makes perfect sense to the Roman high priest. God is a Pagan idea.

Caesar Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, with tribunician power, decrees: since the Jewish nation has been found well disposed towards the Roman people not only at the present time but also in the past, and especially in the time of my father the Imperator Caesar, as has their High Priest Hyrkanos, it has been decided by me and my council under oath, with the consent of the Roman people, that the Jews are to follow their own customs in accordance with their ancestral law, just as they did in the time of Hyrkanus, High Priest of the Most High God, and their sacred monies are to be inviolable and dispatched to Jerusalem and handed over to the treasurers in Jerusalem.

Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 16.162 ff (late first century AD Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Emperor Claudius
in his God outfit

The Roman emperor Claudius knew plenty about Gods (he became one himself! —a ridiculous legend, till you realize it's also our legend).

Claudius knew about Yahweh. As far as Claudius could see, the Jewish Yahweh God was just another God.  >>

With regard to the disturbances and rioting .... I earnestly beg the Alexandrians to behave gently and in a kindly manner towards the Jews who have long been living in the same city and not dishonor any of the traditional practices connected with the worship of their god, but to allow them to observe their customs as they did under the deified Augustus, customs, which I, having listened to both sides, have confirmed.

  Claudius, Roman emperor; from his letter to the city of Alexandria, 10 November, 41 CE, Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, 153 (1957- 64), -- which you can find in: Williams, Margaret. The Jews Among the Greeks and Romans, A Diasporan Sourcebook (1998), pg. 133
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

It didn't take emperor-osity to understand that Yahweh was a god. Here's a decree published by the good people in the city of Halicarnassas, over on the right side of your map of the Roman empire.

The Halicarnassasasonionites had a deep regard for piety toward the divine.  >>


So they granted the Jews' the privilege of celebrating the Jewish sacred rites,  >>
because they, the Pagan Halicarnassasasonionites, recognized in the Jews' piety toward the divine the same piety and the same divine they themselves valued.


Decree of the people of Halikarnassos. 'In the priesthood of Memnon, son of Aristeides ... the people passed the following decree on the motion of Markos Alexander. Since we at all times have the deepest regard for piety towards the divine and holiness, following the example of the people of Rome, who are the benefactors of all mankind, and in conformity with what they have written to our city about their friendship and alliance with the Jews, namely that their religious rites and their customary festivals and their meetings are to be carried on, we have deemed it right that those Jewish men and women who so wish may keep the Sabbath and carry out their sacred rites in accordance with Jewish Laws, and build prayer-houses by the sea, as is their native custom. If anyone, whether community official or private person prevents them, he shall be liable to this fine and owe it to the city.'

  Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14.256 ff, first century AD.
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Here's the ancient historian Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC) describing the origins of various country's divine laws: >>

Diodorus says:
The Egyptians got their holy laws from their God Hermes;
The Minoans got their holy laws from their God Zeus.
The Spartans got their holy laws from their God Apollo.
The Arians (in Persia) got their holy laws from their God Ahura Mazda.
The Getae got their holy laws from their God Hestia.
The Jews' got their holy laws from their God Yahweh.

For Diodorus and his readers, the Jewish tribal God Yahweh was one of a set, a tribal God just as Hermes, Zeus, Apollo, Ahura Mazda and Hestia were tribal Gods.

To the ancients—who should'a know, cause they were there—Yahweh was just another God.

After the establishment of settled life in Egypt in early times. . . the first, they say, to persuade the multitudes to use written laws was Mneves, a man not only great of soul but also in his life the most public spirited of all lawgivers whose names are recorded. According to the tradition he claimed that Hermes had given the laws to him, with the assurance that they would be the cause of great blessings, just as among the Greeks, they say, Minos did in Crete and Lycurgus among the Lacedaemonians, the former saying that he received his laws from Zeus and the latter his from Apollo. Also among several other peoples tradition says that this kind of a device was used and was the cause of much good to such as believed it. Thus it is recorded that among the Arians Zathraustes claimed that the Good Spirit Ahura Mazda gave him his laws, among the people known as the Getae who represent themselves to be immortal Zalmoxis asserted the same of their common goddess Hestia, and among the Jews Moyses referred his laws to the god who is invoked as Iao. translator's note: This pronunciation seems to reflect a Hebrew form Yahu ; cp. Psalms 68. 4 "His name is Jah."

  Diodorus of Sicily, Library of History, 1.94 (1st century BC),—which you can find in: Oldfather, C. H. Diodorus of Sicily, The Library of History, Books I - ii.34 (Loeb Classical Library #279) (1933 (1998)) , pg. 319- 21
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

God is a Pagan idea. And according to people who were there—Paul the apostle, the Pagan priest Plutarch, Augustus, Claudius, and the Rotary Club of Halicarnassas, and the historian Diodorus of Sicily—the Jewish/ Christian God(s) Yahweh/ Jesus was a God in the same way Pagan God(s) were God(s). The ideas were the same.

Are there other ancients who confirm this? Sure. But the point is made. Enough said.



The inscription is to
God, Most High, All-powerful and Blessed >>

Sound familiar?


But the God named is Zeus >>

To God, Most High, All-powerful and Blessed. In the reign of King Mithridates (?), the Friend of {text uncertain} and the Lover of the Fatherland, year 338 of the Bosporan era , month Deios. Pothos, the son of Strabon, has dedicated to the prayer-house, in accordance with his vow, his home-bred slave, named Chrysa, on the condition that she be unharmed and unmolested by all (his) heirs. By Zeus, Earth and Sun.

Now look at the book you're going to ask the libarian to help you find if you decide to confirm my quotation of this inscription: the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaicarum (even libarians have trouble saying that three times, fast)—the "Body of ancient Jewish Inscriptions." Even though the God named is Zeus, scholars of Judaism classify this inscription as Jewish.

Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaicarum I, number 690 (first century AD)
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

As Dr. Williams explains about this very inscription  >>


"The Jewish identity of the next two inscriptions has been inferred mainly from the divine epithets that appear in them.
Williams, Margaret. The Jews Among the Greeks and Romans, A Diasporan Sourcebook (1998), pg. 123

POCM quotes modern scholars

Is the Gorgippia inscription Jewish for sure? No, it isn't. That's not the point. The point is their Pagan Gods and our God are so close, so similar, so alike, even hot shot scholars with coffee mugs that say World's Best Department Head can't be sure. Wow.



So far
Are you with me so far? Much more than just legends about talking animals and magic floods, ancient Pagan religion was about our divine souls reaching for the unutterable, indescribable glory of God. We know this because they said so.

The ancient Pagans had Gods. The ancients Pagans knew about our God, Yahweh. The ancient Pagans—emperors, historians, philosophers, theologians, and Halicarnassasasonionite Rotary Clubs—all saw our Yahweh as just one more God. And the bible agrees; remember "Luke's" Acts chapter 17, quoting Pagan religious writing, saying Yahweh/ Jesus is like the Pagan God, like Zeus.

After Jesus
That all brings us up to Jesus' time. Maybe after Jesus things changed. Maybe after Jesus people understood Yahweh/ Jesus as bigger and better than, and fundamentally different from, just another God. And if the emperors and Rotary Clubs didn't, then for sure the Christians did. Right?

Nope. Didn't happen. After Jesus the Pagans and the Christians all agreed -- Yahweh/ Jesus was/ were Gods in the traditional Pagan sense.





And so, too, Plato, when He says, "The blame is his who chooses, and God is blameless," took this from the prophet Moses and uttered it. For Moses is more ancient than all the Greek writers. And whatever both philosophers and poets have said concerning the immortality of the soul, or punishments after death, or contemplation of things heavenly, or doctrines of the like kind, they have received such suggestions from the prophets as have enabled them to understand and interpret these things. And hence there seem to be seeds of truth among all men; but they are charged with not accurately understanding the truth when they assert contradictories.

  Justin Martyr, First Apology, 44
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.










And the Sibyl and Hystaspes said that there should be a dissolution by God of things corruptible. And the philosophers called Stoic teach that even God Himself shall be resolved into fire, and they say that the world is to be formed anew by this revolution; but we understand that God, the Creator of all things, is superior to the things that are to be changed. If, therefore, on some points we teach the same things as the poets and philosophers whom you honor, and on other points are fuller and more divine in our teaching, and if we alone afford proof of what we assert, why are we unjustly hated more than all others? For while we say that all things have been produced and arranged into a world by God, we shall seem to utter the doctrine of Plato; and while we say that there will be a burning up of all, we shall seem to utter the doctrine of the Stoic: and while we affirm that the souls of the wicked, being endowed with sensation even after death, are punished, and that those of the good being delivered from punishment spend a blessed existence, we shall seem to say the same things as the poets and philosophers; and while we maintain that men ought not to worship the works of their hands, we say the very things which have been said by the comic poet Menander, and other similar writers, for they have declared that the workman is greater than the work.
Justin Martyr, First Apology, 20
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.



We have now, then, to refute that statement of his which runs as follows: "O Jews and Christians, no God or son of a God either came or will come down (to earth). But if you mean that certain angels did so, then what do you call them? Are they gods, or some other race of beings? Some other race of beings (doubtless), and in all probability demons."....







We shall mention, however, a few considerations out of a greater number, such as we deem in harmony with our former arguments, but which have not altogether the same bearing as they, and by which we shall show that in asserting generally that no God, or son of God, ever descended (among men), He overturns not only the opinions entertained by the majority of mankind regarding the manifestation of Deity, but also what was formerly admitted by himself. For if the general statement, that "no God or son of God has come down or will come down," be truly maintained by Celsus, it is manifest that we have here overthrown the belief in the existence of gods upon the earth who had descended from heaven either to predict the future to mankind or to heal them by means of divine responses; and neither the Pythian Apollo, nor Aesculapius, nor any other among those supposed to have done so, would be a God descended from heaven. He might, indeed, either be a God who had obtained as his lot (the obligation) to dwell on earth for ever, and be thus a fugitive, as it were, from the abode of the gods, or He might be one who had no power to share in the society of the gods in heaven; or else Apollo, and AEsculapius, and those others who are believed to perform acts on earth, would not be gods, but only certain demons, much inferior to those wise men among mankind, who on account of their virtue ascend to the vault of heaven.
Origen, Against Celsus, 5.11
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.


In the next place, ridiculing after his usual style the race of Jews and Christians, He Celsus, a Pagan critic of Christianity compares them all "to a flight of bats or to a swarm of ants issuing out of their nest, or to frogs holding council in a marsh, or to worms crawling together in the comer of a dunghill, and quarrelling with one another as to which of them were the greater sinners, and asserting that God shows and announces to us all things beforehand; and that, abandoning the whole world, and the regions of heaven, and this great earth, He becomes a citizen among us alone, and to us alone makes his intimations, and does not cease sending and inquiring, in what way we may be associated with him for ever."
Origen, Against Celsus, 4.23
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.


Book 4, Chapter XIV.
But let us look at what Celsus next with great ostentation announces in the following fashion: "And again," He says, "let us resume the subject from the beginning, with a larger array of proofs. And I make no new statement, but say what has been long settled. God is good, and beautiful, and blessed, and that in the best and most beautiful degree. But if He come down among men, He must undergo a change, and a change from good to evil, from virtue to vice, from happiness to misery, and from best to worst. Who, then, would make choice of such a change? It is the nature of a mortal, indeed, to undergo change and remolding, but of an immortal to remain the same and -unaltered. God, then, could not admit of such a change."

…. several chapters of refutation by Origen ...

Book 4, Chapter XVIII.
But Celsus, lingering over matters which He does not understand, leads us to be guilty of tautology, as we do not wish even in appearance to leave any one of his objections unexamined. He proceeds, accordingly, as follows: "God either really changes himself, as these assert, into a mortal body, and the impossibility of that has been already declared; Or else He does not undergo a change, but only causes the beholders to imagine so, and thus deceives them, and is guilty of falsehood. Now deceit and falsehood are nothing but evils, and would only be employed as a medicine, either in the case of sick and lunatic friends, with a view to their cure, or in that of enemies when one is taking measures to escape danger. But no sick man or lunatic is a friend of God, nor does God fear any one to such a degree as to shun danger by leading him into error."

Origen, Against Celsus, 4.14
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Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.


M an is the noblest of creatures and an image of God. The Christians seem to endorse this when they conceive of God as having fingers which he sometimes uses in order to write, as when it is said, "He gave the two tables to Moses, which were written by the finger of God." And the Christians, imitating our ways, erect temples and build great houses in which they assemble for prayer, even though they are enjoined to do this in their own houses -- since the Lord can hear them wherever they are.

Porphyry of Tyre, Against the Christians, (third Century AD), -- which you can find in: Hoffmann, R. Joseph, Porphyry's Against the Christians; the Literary Remains (1994), pg. 85

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Let us explore completely this matter of the monarchy of the only God and the manifold rule polyarchy of those who are revered as gods. Your Christian idea of the single rule monarchy is amiss, for a monarch is not the only man alive but the only man who rules… Take for example the emperor Hadrian: he was a monarch because he ruled over those who were like him by race and nature -- not because he existed alone somewhere or lorded it over oxen and sheep… In the same way, the supreme God would not be supreme unless he ruled over other gods. Only this sort of power would do justice to the greatness of God and redound to his honor.

Porphyry of Tyre, Against the Christians, apocrit 4.20 (third Century AD), -- which you can find in: Hoffmann, R. Joseph. Porphyry's Against the Christians; the Literary Remains (1994), pg. 83 - 84

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.


RE: Mt 22.29-30; Exodus 31.18
You Christians say, "The immortal angels stand before God, those who are not subject to human passion, and these we speak of as gods because they are near the godhead," Why do we argue abut names? Is this not really a difference over names? . . . Whether one addresses these divine beings as gods or angels matters very little, since their nature remains the same. Matthew supports this when he writes, "Jesus answered and said, 'You do err, for you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God, for in the resurrection, they do not marry nor are they given in marriage but they are like the angels in heaven.' " Is this not a confession that angels have a share in the divine nature?

Porphyry of Tyre, Against the Christians, (third Century AD), -- which you can find in: Hoffmann, R. Joseph, Porphyry's Against the Christians; the Literary Remains (1994), pg. 84- 5

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

The Edict of Milan:
When with good fortune both I, Constantine Augustus, and I, Licinus Augustus, met in Milan….in order that we might give both to Christians and to everyone the freedom to allow whatever religion they wish, so that whatever divinity resides in the heavens might be well-disposed and favorable towards us….

Lactantius, On the Death of the Persecutors, 48.2 (310s AD), -- which you can find in: Lee, A.D.. Pagans & Christians in Late Antiquity (2000), pg. 84

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.


The idea of God—of one or many supernatural beings who look like us and think like us, and care about us, and interact with us, and reward and punish us—is universal and way older than Christianity or Judaism. You know this.


To the supreme god, as a wise man said, we offer nothing that is accessible to the senses, neither burnt offerings nor reciting names; for there is nothing material which, to the immaterial being, in not immediately impure. That is why for this god no language is appropriate, neither spoken aloud or even within, since it is defiled by emotion in the soul; but we worship him through pure silence and pure thoughts about him. Uniting ourselves with him and making ourselves like him, then, we must offer god the lifting up of our soul as a holy sacrifice, which is both a hymn of praise for him and salvation for us.
Porphyry of Tyre, On Abstinence from Animal Food, , (third century AD), -- which you can find in: Lee, A.D.. Pagans & Christians in Late Antiquity (2000), pg. 1.13, page 33

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

To the ancients the Gods were a daily presence, a force controlling their lives.

A few examples, not from archaic poets but from everyday ancient authors—historians, playwrights, novelists > >

All the more amazed at this outburst the young man asked what it was all about; and then, after imploring the gods and goddesses for mercy and forgiveness if under compulsion of her love for him she uttered what should be kept secret…
Livy, History of Rome, 39.10 (1st century AD)

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Metaneira had a child late in life—a gift of the Gods.

Metaneira to the goddess Demeter Nurse this child for me, whom the immortals have given me, late-born and unexpected, but much prayed for ... Homeric Hymn to Demeter, (7th century BC)

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

All good things—gifts of the Gods.


Then Demeter of the fair crown said to her, "May you also be of good cheer, woman, and may the gods grant you all good things; Homeric Hymn to Demeter, (7th century BC)

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

For a son born late in life, prayer and rejoicing.


Kallidike, speaking to Demeter A favorite son, born to her late, is being nursed in the strongly built palace; she prayed much for him, and rejoiced in him. Homeric Hymn to Demeter, 165 (7th c BC)

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

The Gods help those who pray.


... the fame has traveled wide of how the gods appear to mankind and bring unexpected aid to their initiates of theirs who call upon them in the midst of perils. Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 5.49.5 (1st century AD)

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Miracles justify faith.


If you had been there and seen these wonders for yourself, you would have gone down on your knees and prayed to the god you now deny. Euripides, The Bacchae, 703 - 707 (5th century BC)

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Christianity has the idea of God, but Paganism had the idea first.  


First, of course, every culture, even illiterate stone age ones, has the idea of Gods, of unseen beings with special powers who create and order the world and direct what happens to people.    >>


They the Comanches, into whose people Lee was adopted believe in God, a great spirit, who created and governs the earth, sun, moon, and stars. They have an unwavering and undoubting faith in a future state of existence, and in future rewards and punishments. Lee, Nelson. Three Years Among the Comanches (1859/ 2001), pg. 123- 4
POCM quotes modern scholars

By the way: Independent

Here's how the logic works out: The facts make it impossible for honest believers to deny the fundamental similarities between our God and their Gods. But the idea that our God was borrowed from their Pagan Gods is offensive to Christianity's basic theory: our God real, your God not real.

Some apologists find their way around this by claiming Judaism and Christianity didn't borrow, they came up with their ideas all on their own, as an expression of basic human spiritual understanding. I myself think the evidence is otherwise, but fine. We can still be friends.

What I don't get, though, is why believers think standing with the naked Hottentot and the stone-age cannibal Aztec makes their our God real, your God not real theory work better.






So maybe what we're talking about, Yahweh and Jesus-ly speaking, is not borrowing. Maybe what we've got Christian-God wise is the all-on-its-own, all-by-itself development of a basic human idea. Maybe the bible story is right. Maybe Christians got their ideas about divinity from Jesus and Judaism, and Judaism got it's ideas all alone, out in the desert, from Moses and the prophets. And those voices from Heaven. And that burning bush.

Through most of modern history that's been a fair way to explain things. But it isn't any more. Here's why....




The next time you're in Church
ask yourself:"What about what I'm hearing was new and unique with Christianity, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were built with old parts?"

Next time you're in church... When they get to the part about a personal God interested in the affairs of individual men and women, a God who rewards and punishes us according to the lives we lead here on earth, remember the Greek and Roman Gods. You'll know you're hearing about stuff that predated Christianity by hundreds of years—in a culture where over and over people built new religions out of old parts.


   Reasons preview


At POCM our question isn't Is God real, our question is, Where did the Christian idea of God come from? Well, from Judaism. All right, where did the Jewish idea of God come from. Well, we know that in the middle east Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian cultures predated Judaism. Paganism existed first. Pagans had the idea of God first. Judaism had the idea of God second. How do you think that happened?

Israel came up with the idea on it's own. If you\

   Greggy's Guesses


"There is only one God."
"There is only one God." Can't be true, can it?

For one thing, people say it a lot. That's your tip off. When's the last time you heard anyone say, "There is only one gravity." You never have. Because there is  only one gravity, and everyone knows it. So you don't have to say it.

People say "There's only one God" because they have to. Because everyone knows there are in fact lots of Gods. If you think your God is real and all the others aren't, and you said it like that, "There are scads of Gods, bucketsful, and they're all phony. Except mine. Mine is real," folks, even nice folks, would laugh at you. "You're kidding me, right?" That's what they'd say. To your face I bet.

So what the-others-are-phony-mine-is-real believers do is change the subject. They say, "There is only one God." But if it were true, no one would ever say it.

For another, it's just not true. The truth is we know there were lots of Gods. Ra was a God. Baal was a God. Ishtar was a God. Innana, Enkidu, Geb, Nut, Turducken. You get the picture.

When people say "There is only one God," what they really mean is, "There are lots of made up Gods, but one of them is real." You will be shocked, shocked! to learn that very often the one real God happens to be the very one they believe in. What are the odds?

Good Books for this section

The Early History of God
Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel
by Mark S. Smith

Like Christianity, Judaism had Pagan origins. Sound kooky? It's mainstream scholarship, though you don't come across it often. This well written, easy to read book is by one of the preeminent experts in the field.

Jewish ritual and mythology developed directly from Canaanite ritual and mythology. Yahweh was originally the son of the Canaanite God El and brother of the Canaanite God Baal.

How do we know this? Ugarit. In 1927 they dug up a Canaanite clay tablet library buried at Ugarit, an ancient city along the northern coast of Syria. Hundreds of ancient texts. Same myths. Same rituals. Same Gods. Only centuries earlier than Judaism.

Who knew?


The Origins of Biblical Monotheism
Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts

by Mark S. Smith,
Skirball Professor of Bible and Near Eastern Studies, New York University

What you'll find:

A well written and readable book—a real page turner

A highly technical book aimed at Old Testament scholars, tracing the origins of Israelite myth and theology to earlier Canaanite and West Semitic cultures.

Focuses on the texts unearthed at Ugarit.

For example: "[T]he priestly theological treatment of Israel's early religious history in Exodus 6:2-3 identifies the old god El Shadday with Yahweh:

And God said to Moses, "I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as El Shadday, but by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them."

This passage shows that Yahweh was unknown to the patriarchs. Rather, they are depicted as worshipers of El. In Israel El's characteristics and epithets became part of the repertoire of descriptions of Yahweh. Like El in the Ugaritic texts, Yahweh is described as an aged, patriarchal god ..., enthroned amidst the assembly of divine beings" [pg 141]

It helps to know a bit about Ugarit before you start. Exhaustive, exhausting. Expensive—but worth every penny. HIghly re commented.


Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity
editors Polymnia Athanassiadi, Michael Frede

What you'll find:

A technical book by academics, for academics, reviewing the trend of antique non-Christian thought to believe in One God.

Chapters include:
Towards Monotheism
Monotheism and Pagan Philosophy in Late Antiquity
Monotheism in the Gnostic Tradition
The Cult of Theos Hypsistos between Pagans, Jews and Christians

Best Paragraph:
" Thus, if one does postulate an intelligent agent as an ultimate principle at all, one will try to postulate a unique, single agent of sufficient power, unless there are overwhelming considerations to the contrary. This will be done for the same reason as one will try to get away with postulating fire as one element, rather than a whole number of irreducibly different kinds of fire. Hence, though it is perfectly true that Aristotle did not have to concern himself with the question of monotheism versus polytheism, he, like Plato before him and philosophers like the Stoics after him, had a precise reason to assume that there was one particular, individual, active principle which governs the world."
Pg 47


Ancient Near East, Volume 1:
An Anthology of Texts and Pictures
Edited by James Pritchard

The Ancient Near East, Volume II)
A New Anthology of Texts and Pictures (Paperback)
Edited by James Pritchard

Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament. With Supplement
Edited by James Bennett

Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement
Edited by James Bennett Pritchard ISBN: 0-691-03503-2

What you'll find:

Egyptian, Syrian, Hittite, Assyrian, Babylonian texts relevant to our Old Testament -- because of the clear parallels.

Primary evidence, with marginal notations referring you to the verses in the Bible that later expressed the same ideas.

A famous scholarly work, accessible to laymen.