True Law in Ancient Times, Part I

The podcast Ancient History and Chronology by Marinov covers the expansion of the Law of Moses across the Near East – altered and warped, yes, but the resemblances and several of the core Biblical ideas can be clearly seen. As well as the modern academy’s war against the Biblical record of history.

Conservative academics, as surely as liberal ones, by the way.

Marinov also mentioned an article that outlines how the Mosaic Law influenced both Greece and Rome: I will cover the first part of the article The Shadow of Christ in the Legal Revolutions in Greece and Rome (Part I, Part II) below.

From Part I:

. . . an entire nation appeared, sprung from the Hebrews and practicing the true religion. To them, through the prophet Moses, he revealed images and symbols of a mystical Sabbath and of circumcision, as well as instruction in other spiritual principles, but no complete revelation of the mysteries, for they were still bound by old practices. Yet when their law became famous and penetrated everywhere like a fragrant breeze, the minds of most of the heathen were moderated by lawgivers and philosophers. Savage brutality changed into mildness, so that profound peace, friendship, and easy communication prevailed.1

Eusebius has been ridiculed by modern historians for this statement. Just as his venerated teacher, Justin Martyr, has been ridiculed for his statement that,

And that you may learn that it was from our teachers—we mean the account given through the prophets—that Plato borrowed his statement that God, having altered matter which was shapeless, made the world, hear the very words spoken through Moses, who, as above shown, was the first prophet, and of greater antiquity than the Greek writers; and through whom the Spirit of prophecy, signifying how and from what materials God at first formed the world, spake thus:

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was invisible and unfurnished, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved over the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and it was so.”

So that both Plato and they who agree with him, and we ourselves, have learned, and you also can be convinced, that by the word of God the whole world was made out of the substance spoken of before by Moses. And that which the poets call Erebus, we know was spoken of formerly by Moses.2

There is no way that this could be true, goes the modern mythology of history. The Law of Moses was not known outside the tiny nation of Israel. The history of antiquity was not influenced in any significant way by the Five Books of Moses, or by any of the historical developments in Israel after Moses.

The quote above notes that modern historians think very, very lowly about ancient men. As if Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Israel could and would never communicate with each other, despite being a few weeks apart via sea and a month or more journey via land.

OF COURSE they spoke with each other, and communicated with each other! They didn’t have the wealth or technology we had, and language difficulties are real: but trade brings money, and people are going to find ways to trade with each other.

And, let it be noted that the Laws of Israel were especially conductive to trade and fair exchange, so the traders of the world — especially in the Mediterranean and the Near East — would be sure to come by for a visit… and more than once!

And why did God engineer the Laws of Moses to encourage fair dealing? Not only because unbiased justice is integral to His being — Holy and Just is He! — but so the peoples of the world would be exposed to the righteous judgement and wisdom of the Holy One of Israel.

The process really got started with Solomon, who became seriously wealthy because of the trade: good laws and a good geopolitical position helps a lot! Naturally, his fame — and the fame of His lawgiver, God Himself — grew to fill the known world… and to reshape it into an image more pleasing to God.

Even before the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Law-Word of God was on the move!

From Part I:

I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?

The Bible said that the Law of God as given to Moses would have influence on the nations and would make them modify their views of justice, and also their views of God, or the gods. Josephus said it did. Justin Martyr said it did. Eusebius said it did. Modern secular historians say it didn’t. Modern antinomian theologians agree with the modern secular historians.

In an article for Faith for All of Life, “The True Origins of Foreign Missions,” I pointed to the fact that the Hebrew Scriptures and the faith of Israel were much more popular in the ancient world than modern historians and theologians care to admit. In fact, as I will argue later, the foundations of Christendom were laid long before the Incarnation, and Israel, for all her sins and mistakes and shortcomings, was still able to fulfill at least partially that Old Testament Great Commission to teach the nations and make them acknowledge the manifold wisdom of God. These foundations and teaching were not perfect, and certainly the world couldn’t become Christian before Christ was born, crucified and resurrected. For all her apostasy, the nation of Israel was still a City on a Hill, imperfect as she was, and the Law of God was a light to the world. And the heathen learned from it, as Eusebius and many others at the time testify.

Yes, Israel has serious failures and shortcomings. Failures and corruptions extensive enough to bring about her conquest, and eventually for the Glory of God to be taken from her, and given to the Church.

And yet, even in her spiritually crippled state, Israel was useful in spreading the Law-Word of the Christ to come. God’s Word, His Spirit, simply will not return to Him void and in vain!

From Part I:

Most of us today know about the Greek religion and mythology is that it was polytheism, that is, it had many gods. Zeus, you know, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Ares, Hera, Athena, etc. […] The idea of a creator god was also present, mainly in the writings of philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, and also the idea of a god who remained unknown, and maybe even unknowable for humans (hence Paul’s experience in Acts 17:23). […] The Greek religion and mythology in its later years could be considered “enlightened”: It looked at gods as simply representations, just as much as we today honor the national flag or stand to sing the national anthem, or use the bald eagle to represent the greater idea of the nation of the United States. Our own secular society today would easily recognize itself in the common ideas and in the worldview of the late classical age. So we often assume that that has always been the case, throughout the whole history of Greece and Rome.

But it hasn’t. To the contrary, the pagan religious climate of Greece and Rome about the time of Christ was completely different from what it was 800 years earlier, when Rome was founded and when Greece was forming as a civilization. In fact, so sharp was the difference between the old religion of the Greeks and the Romans and the new religion of the philosophers, that the change was nothing less than revolutionary, even if it took hundreds of years to complete.

Today’s prettified view of the Greek and Roman gods is a fairly accurate representation of how the gods were seen at the time: indeed, the West — when it isn’t busy spitting directly in Christ’s face, just as the Romans did — is comfortable in vague, abstract, idealized principles and ideas, and giving those ideas the name of gods… so long as it remains useful in generating wealth and power

A gelded, tamed, obedient version of the God of Jacob.

Preferably, one that proclaims that Satan has the greater say in this world, and not Christ. That will insist that Satan will be victorious in this world, and not Christ.

A lying mockery of God… but a useful one, so far as His enemies are concerned.

(Any resemblance to the Egyptian desire to enslave the Israelites to the gods of Egypt, the Egyptian State, and Pharaoh Lord of Egypt is… merely a tip of the iceberg! If Satan can’t kill off Christ’s people, the snake will definitely work to enslave them (preferably by internal chains of defeatism and faithlessness), for the greater glory of… well, anything but Jesus Christ.

Time to crush the head of the serpent as he crawls on his belly, hmm?)

But before these pale, insipid imitations of Jesus Christ and His Commandments became popular, what kind of gods did Greece and Rome follow?

Watch out: the next extract is long, and ugly.

(The bolding in this quote is mine, and not original to the article! – AP)

From Part I:

Fustel de Coulanges, in his study published in 1864, The Ancient City, gives us an astounding picture of a world fragmented completely along religious lines, and that not at the level of churches, or nations, or political bodies, but at the very foundation: the families. The only religious institution in the ancient world was the family, or, since “family” meant to them something different than our modern family, the patriarchal clan. The ancient pagan world, one thousand years before Christ, was a truly patriarchal society, and as a result, a truly polytheistic society. The family was organized around the family hearth, the sacred fire resided in the home, and the patriarchal head of the clan was the only priest of that religion. The gods of this religion were not the abstract gods of the Mount Olympus – these were honored only later, when the new religious ideas crept in the society – but the Manes, or the Lares, or the demons, or the heroes. All these names signified dead blood ancestors of the family; or, to be exact, dead blood ancestors of the chief priest, the patriarchal head of the clan. It was the dead who were the true gods for this patriarchal religion, and the family lived not for itself but for the dead; it was but an earthly steward who kept their spirits happy by performing the inherited rituals and offering them the traditional libations. Augustine testified that even in his time it was known that all religion of the pagans was nothing more than worship of dead men.3 And Cicero declared that these Manes were “men who have quitted this life,” and therefore we should “consider them divine beings.”4 These gods did not have the universal being and the spiritual nature of the later gods of Olympus; they remained chained to the place where their bodies were buried. It was important for the family to have the bodies of these gods buried in the family property, very close to the sacred fire of the hearth and close to the threshold of the house.

Since it was a patriarchal religion, it was not to be shared with others. There was no evangelism, and in fact, its doctrine and its rituals were supposed to remain secret, within the family. Only those born in the blood line and acquired as slaves or servants could participate; the sacred fire of the hearth could not suffer the presence of an outsider. The dead protected only those who were bound to offer them sacrifices so that their spirits would remain happy. The extent of the religion and its protection and blessings were limited to the borders of the family domain. Beyond that, a family member were at the mercy of other gods, and of unknown forces whom he could not control but only fear.

Not that his own gods were any better. They were not naturally favorable to the living, not even to their own blood ancestors; in fact, by nature they were rather mean and irritable. The family religion, with its own liturgy and rituals, was supposed to keep them happy so that they wouldn’t bring curse on the family. The idea of a God or gods who were loving and friendly was a foreign notion to the ancients. The family religion was meant to placate them, not to honor them in the sense we today praise and worship God the Creator. The gods were capricious beings, and anything could trigger their wrath and vengeance; and especially a change in the inherited family worship and liturgy.

The hearth itself was a goddess. Its sacred fire could never be left to die. The death of the goddess would signify the death of the family. That’s why the battle cry of the ancients was, “Fight for your hearths!” The Bible doesn’t know of a sacred family hearth and never talks about the family fire with such honor. But for the ancient pagans, it was part of the family religion, and its life was the life of the family, and its death was the death of the family.

Of course, such religion knew nothing of the separation of body and spirit in death, or of Hades, where the souls of the departed go to suffer eternal punishment for their sins. No, the soul stayed with the body, or at least in the close vicinity, and had to be placated by the posterity. Hell was not punishment for sin, it was dying without an heir which would leave the soul without a rightful successor in the family worship, and therefore torment for the lack of the due rituals and libations.

In the Van Til’s dichotomy between the one and the many,5 it was a religion heavily invested in the “manyness” of the world. There was not one coherent uniting principle which brought the world together but rather only small self-insulated bubbles of patriarchal clans, each with their own religion and their own doctrine, jealously guarded against strangers, and kept within the confines of the home. The living did not exist for the living but for the dead ancestors, and the religion of each family was its own, never shared with others and never mentioned outside of the house. The same applied later when the families started uniting in tribes (phylae in Greece) and cities. These higher-level organizations were set up in exactly the same way as the clans: a religion and worship was instituted, rituals were created for sacrifices and reading the auspices, and gods were created from dead men associated in one way or another with the tribe and the city. In the later days, when the new universal religion was establishing its hold (as we will shortly see), the local deities were given the names of the gods of Olympus. But even then the same name in different cities did not mean the same god. The Pallas who fought for the Achaeans in the Trojan War was different from the Pallas who fought for the Trojans. There were several Junos protecting different cities in Italy, and they were all different goddesses. The religion of fragmentation was still strong.

Now, we see part of the context behind Jesus’ words:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

— Matthew 10:34-39

God will not tolerate a pile of rotting bones, taking the worship that rightly belongs to God Alone!

Nor will He tolerate any patriarchal authority above His will, or any father above that of the Father in Heaven.

In matters that touch on His Authority and His Justice and His Commanding Word, Our God is an INTOLERANT God.

As the many denizens in Hell… and the future inhabitants of the Lake of Fire… can attest to.

And quite a number of harshly and justly punished and humiliated people, who are alive right here and right now! But for them, there is still time for repentance before the Holy Throne…

From Part I:

But at some point the religious climate started changing. And it started changing in the way God said in Deuteronomy 4:5-8 it would change: the nations would first acknowledge the superiority of the Law of God, and then change their notions of God and the gods. And it started with the king who first made God’s justice and Law in the nation of Israel known throughout the ancient world: Solomon (1 Kings 4:34). All kings of the earth had heard of his wisdom, says the author of the Book of Kings; and this popularity certainly translated into evangelism. The God of Israel must surely be the greatest God of all if such superior wisdom and justice can be found in Israel. We should expect that the religious outlook of the nations would also change as a result of it.

And indeed, we see this change.

The most spectacular example of such religious change is the attempt by the Egyptian King, Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), of the 18th Dynasty, to introduce monotheistic worship in Egypt in the 9th century BC.6

Even as they despise the Living God, the rulers of the world – political and religious alike, ideologically atheistic or imitation Christian…

Often both at once! For what else is a Marxist or a Compassionate One is, really?

…want what He has, and they envy the gifts He has given His people.

And so comes the imitation of flattery, from Anemhotep IV, on to Islam, and forward to todays egalitarian atheists.

“Because Social Darwinian atheism is so unfashionable!”

From Part I:

To assign to one God a universal status to the point of obeying that God, as Amenhotep IV did, was unheard of, and also inexplicable. He even changed his name to Akhenaten, “Useful to Aten” (Aten was the name of the one god he worshipped), thus attributing to a god the universal status previously reserved to the Pharaoh only. The Book of the Dead was another such revolution in thinking. Previously in Egypt, as with the early Greeks and Romans, the soul remained where the body was. That faith produced the elaborate mummification techniques and the Pyramids as eternal abodes for the body/soul. But now the Book declared that the soul separated from the body and had to enter the underground world where it would stand before Osiris and answer concerning the sins it had committed in life. This was a novel concept, given the fact that prior to the Book, the souls didn’t go to any permanent place other than the body and its tomb. After The Book of the Dead became popular, mummification lost its meaning, no pyramids were built, and the rulers settled for simpler tombs.

This all happened within a generation or two after Solomon died in 930 BC. His influence helped spread the religion of the Hebrews to the point that a ruler of Egypt attempted to introduce a similar system. Akhenaten failed, but The Book of the Dead forced the Egyptians to think about applied morality and judgment, and also about eternal state of the souls. The religious change was not complete or perfect, but it was significant nevertheless. Egypt never returned to its older religion; and when the time came, its population was ready for the advent of the Gospel.

Even a pale, statist imitation of the God of Jacob — that is, Christ the King — led to the fall of the old religion of Egypt. No more mummies, no more pyramids, no more Eternal, Unchanging Cycle of the living dead.

From Part I:

The idea of separation of family, state, and priesthood soon entered the heathen world. We will see later how it affected the legal constitutions of Athens, Sparta, and Rome. The influence of the Law of Moses certainly did not go far enough to make these nations find and believe the one God, the Creator. But it certainly changed their views of the gods. The gods left the family and became almost transcendent; religion was increasingly concerned with spiritual principles for the good of the living, and less with rituals to placate the deified dead.

So, that’s why the West doesn’t crawl before dead men’s bones.

Well, except for Napoleon… or Lenin… or Mao: enemies of Christ, rotting away quietly in their government-funded sepulchers.

Nevermind that Zeus figure in Washington, D.C. Or Darwin, venerated in the temple of the English.

Who knows what deity the Church of England is worshipping now…. Certainly not the God of Moses, who gave clear instructions on what obedience to God consists of!

But hey, at least the official head of their church is not Jesus Christ, but the monarch of England. So, they get points for honesty!

Fortunately, we know of God’s burning desire to topple every idol, and break any and all opposition to His rule with a rod of iron. Also, His hatred of oppressors: such killers and thieving bastards may come, as instruments of God’s wrath for our failings, but they will be revealed to be what they are in the end.

But yes: even today’s flavours of ancestor worship are a pale and weak thing compared to older days: and as soon as the Church shakes off the lies of endless retreat before the forces of her enemies, the pathetic remnants of Satan’s forces will be flung out to disintegrate in the fields and the streets, as is right and proper in the eyes of the Lord.

“Get those filthy bones out of here!”

From Part I:

In Rome, the old religion remained strong almost to the days of Constantine. Today, the deification and the worship of emperors seem to us irrational; but Pax Augusta was based on the same old family worship, expanded to the state. The emperor was the family head, and he became a god when he died. It was logical and normal for the Romans, and for everyone else. And yet, even there ideas of universal deities and justice won the hearts of the educated elite, and especially of the followers of the Stoics, like Emperor Marcus Aurelius himself.

Modern historians have no explanation for such a change in the religious and philosophical beliefs. The best they can come up with is some evolutionary hypothesis, that it is a “natural” development in the beliefs of the ancients. They do not explain why it is “natural,” and why shouldn’t the opposite – from universal religion to fragmented superstitions – be “natural.” The only valid explanation for such change in the religious views and in the general worldview among the ancients, almost everywhere in the Mediterranean and in Asia (similar changes happened in Babylon, Persia, and India, at the same time) is that there was one source that influenced them all. That source was Israel, whose religion only had the necessary elements. The trigger was Solomon’s popularity throughout the ancient world; the method was God’s method described in Deuteronomy 4:5-8: The nations would be impressed with the Law of God, and therefore would honor God. It didn’t work perfectly, since Israel’s testimony wasn’t perfect either. But by that testimony, the ancient world was changed nevertheless.

And their laws were changed too. But we will see that in the next part of this article.

So, why should we bend and bow before the enemies of God, when — at a time we were far fewer, and they far more mighty — they bowed and bent before God?

And back then, they only had the shadows of the law, and the Israelites were quite poor missionaries and teachers, generally doing the minimal effort possible… when they weren’t dancing before the Baals!

We have Christ, we have the Holy Spirit, we have the Bible, we have enormous wealth, we have centuries… no, millennia… of beneficial teaching and examples to follow.

NO more excuses! NO more whining! NO more crawling!

Give God the victories He wants! Be a worthwhile servant!

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