Stemming from the podcast Ancient History and Chronology and following Part I, I will cover the second part of the article The Shadow of Christ in the Legal Revolutions in Greece and Rome (Part I, Part II) below.
From Part II:
Before Lycurgus returned to Sparta from his journeys to start his legal revolution, Sparta had the worst government in the world.
Lycurgus left the city to avoid suspicions that he was working against his nephew to take the throne.
By the time of his voluntary exile, he had already decided that Sparta needed laws. That’s correct, not newlaws, but laws. As I mentioned in the previous article, the ancient societies were patriarchal and polytheistic; religion was contained in the family, and there was no shared faith nor shared laws between the patriarchal clans. (…) by the time of Lycurgus’s father (850-820 BC) it was obvious that the religious fragmentation between the clans wouldn’t produce a working social order. Polytheism and patriarchy never do. A higher source of law was necessary, and Lycurgus set out to find it.
Strange enough, he did not try to find it in his own society. He knew that the fragmented polytheistic culture of his nation couldn’t produce such universal order. So he left Sparta and went to Crete which at the time was known for its superb law structure and social organization.
And there he found one of the most puzzling personalities of the ancient world: Thaletas, or, as some called him, Thales of Crete.
Well, someone has to disciple the nations!
Odd… no notion about soul-winning here…
Well, when Christ comes (…and He has!…), we can bring the world both justice and salvation, redeeming men and nations… and eventually, the whole Earth, just as Christ and the Holy Spirit directs.
God wins, right before our eyes.
And Satan loses: again, right before our eyes.
From Part II:
Thaletas was a poet, and he made his living by composing songs which he sang at banquets; he also had his own system of music, unknown to the Greeks in the mainland at the time. (…) But Thaletas was something more, and Plutarch gives a very interesting description of him:
. . . by his outward appearance and his own profession he seemed to be no other than a lyric poet, in reality he performed the part of one of the ablest lawgivers in the world. The very songs which he composed were exhortations to obedience and concord, and the very measure and cadence of the verse, conveying impressions of order and tranquillity, had so great an influence on the minds of the listeners, that they were insensibly softened and civilized, insomuch that they renounced their private feuds and animosities, and were reunited in a common admiration of virtue.1
Notice how Plutarch’s description of the effects of Thaletas’s teaching on his listeners is almost the same as Eusebius’s description of the effects of the teaching of philosophers and lawgivers. Plutarch doesn’t tell us where Thaletas got his laws and wisdom from. But we can gather from this description that Thaletas was a very unusual poet: We don’t know of any other poet also called “one of the ablest lawgivers in the world.” He used his poetic skills only as a tool to bring to others his ideas of law, virtue, civilization, social order. Were he only an epic poet, like Homer, Lycurgus wouldn’t be so impressed with him; after all, Greece in the 9th century BC was replete with epic poets who sang stories of heroes past. Homer wasn’t an exception. Lycurgus wouldn’t pay much attention to a simple epic poet. But Thaletas was different. He was rather an evangelist who used his poetic skill to teach others a new civilization, very different from the old civilization of fragmented polytheistic patriarchal clans with their narrow views of law, righteousness, and justice.
So impressive were his wisdom and his skill that Lycurgus asked him to go to Sparta, start a music school there, and through his music and his songs prepare the hearts of the Spartans for the future legislative revolution. Plutarch comments: “So that it may truly be said that Thales prepared the way for the discipline introduced by Lycurgus.” In his turn, Thaletas advised Lycurgus to visit the Asian coast and see the difference between the laws of the disciplined and sober Cretans, and the laws of the pleasure-loving Ionians, who were, as Plutarch puts it, “a people of sumptuous and delicate habits.” That the principles of social justice would be connected in a predictable and observable way to the habits of personal morality and righteousness was a new and not very popular idea in the ancient world. Thaletas couldn’t have arrived at his conclusions based on the traditional worldview of the pagan world at the time.
We are to sing praises to God Most High: and rightly so!
But the Psalms don’t only praise our Creator and Redeemer and Judge: the Bible also sings of the glory, the power, the excellence, of the Law of God!
When was the last time your church sung of the Justice and Might of God, the feared King of All, before all kings and presidents and chancellors and all the other rulers must kneel to and worship?
He Rules, and We Kneel.
For His iron rod will not only strike both His disobedient children and His rebellious enemies in some far off future beyond the veil, but in this life, in time and on earth.
Consider it a surety, a down payment, of what’s waiting for you after you die.
Best to shun evil, repent of sin, obey His Commandments: and so avoid His punishment, while gaining His blessings.
In time and on earth, as well as in eternity.
From Part II:
Who was that Thaletas, and where did he get his ideas from? That he was an evangelist is clear from the description of what he did. He couldn’t have been awakened by anything he might have learned in Greece; after all, Lycurgus himself was very intelligent, and he had to leave Sparta in his quest for a system of social order which can bring peace to his nation. If there were any such ideas in Sparta, Lycurgus could have stayed home. Moreover, given the religious climate in the early stages of the Greek civilization, there were no such ideas of universal justice which applied to people across family lines, let alone across national lines. The laws of a family belonged to the family; the stranger was not included in the laws, he could be treated unjustly and no one would even think of it as unjust. One could expect fair treatment by strangers only if he could command their fear by his superior strength. The same applied to the cities; they were only an extension of the family rites to a higher level. Just a father ruled his house, a king ruled his city; the laws were not public, and neither were they known in advance or predictable, and in general, might made right within the city, and in the relations between the cities as well. Spartans weren’t killing themselves in a civil war for nothing: They just did not have any other principle of unity, concord, and peace but the will of the strongest one. A social order based on that religious premise will inevitably lure many to ascertain their position as the strongest one. Universal justice didn’t exist. Force is what mattered. So natural was the belief that there couldn’t be a common system of justice for all that centuries later Aristotle himself was convinced that citizens of different cities could not have a common law to judge between them for there was no common magistracy to rule over them. Law was limited to the clan and to the city. Once a man left his clan and his city, there was no law, and no system of justice to protect him.
Now, that’s a pagan culture!
At one time, Christians knew that the Gospel, properly proclaimed, would not only redeem men’s souls: they would redeem entire societies and nations too!
But now, there’s only cowering and fear and boot-licking before the thugs that Christian leaders routinely chased and broke and crushed… not without cost, but on the balance, victory after victory was our heritage.
It is still what God expects of us.
HE has not changed. HE has not broken the Covenant.
And it’s time that we crawled before HIM, and went on our bellies before HIM, and begged forgiveness for our repulsive sins before HIM.
With repentance of our disgusting sins, victory will most certainly return!
Maybe not in a year, perhaps not even two, but most certainly soon after, in an increasingly strong and obvious way.
(And, by the way, it may start within a year, or even on the very day we repent!)
God want us to win.
God wants us to crush the head of the serpent, in His name.
It’s about time we decided to win, too, and pay the price the Victorious One rightfully demands to be once again the head, and not the tail, of our civilization.
From Part II:
In the 9th century BC, there was only one religious system in the world which differed. It was the Law of God given to the Hebrews through Moses. It did not recognize separate domains for families, tribes, or nations when it came to justice and righteousness. It did not recognize the right of the mighty to establish laws. It did not recognize mob justice, and it did not recognize separate law for the stranger and for the native-born. In fact, it specifically required fair treatment of the weak in the society: the widow, the orphan, the stranger. Contrary to all other systems of law, it regarded social justice and personal righteousness as one package. Kings were not allowed to use their power to legitimize actions that would be considered a crime for the individual. And the Law combined personal piety and lawful behavior in one law, something no other law had ever done before. A ruler could be personally immoral but judicially just, has always been the belief of the pagans, from the antiquity to modern days. The Law of God didn’t know about such dualism. God was over all, over the heart of man – and even the heart of the king – and over the society. Universal justice.
And now you know why the wealthy, the powerful, and the academics despise the laws of God more than anything else.
And I mean anything else: there are vast numbers of Christians who would prefer to kneel and obey a Marxist government, or an Islamic State, or a perverted and bankrupt Secularist ‘legal code’, than uphold and proclaim the direct commandments of God, demanding that Christian magistrates uphold the publicly enforced standards of justice Jesus proclaimed & supported.
I am confident that God is weary of this flagrant disobedience.
I trust that the reader will flee such things, and strive to uphold God’s Law-World in his life (private and professional), and promote it as the sure standard not only for ‘personal morality’ but for public law and order (and liberty!) as well.
From Part II:
Not only was it universally just, it was to be universally proclaimed, and known to all, from the greatest to the smallest in Israel and in all lands. There was no special caste of privileged Brahmins, Eupatrids, or Patricians, who only had access to the Law and knew its workings. There were no plebeians in Israel; God thundered the Law from a mountain, and every seven years all the population of Israel – including the slaves – was to gather before the Temple and listen to the high priest reading the Law. It was a public law, something unheard of in the pagan lands. And, more relevant to our point here, it was to be proclaimed to the nations.
Christians have, over the last few centuries, have explicitly decided to defy God in regard to the proclamation of the law, and His demand to enforce it.
They are now reaping the rewards for their insolence and disobedience.
I hope that you do not count yourself as one of God’s disobedient children. Why be accursed when you can obey Him, and be blessed?
Who knows: you may even be in a position to materially encourage a renewed public… and yes, even among the judges and rulers.. national obedience to God, His Anointed Son, Jesus Christ, and to King Jesus’ Law-Word… and thus save your nation and your people!
From Part II:
What we take today for granted – the rule of law, the equality before the law, the public character and the predictability of the law, the universal justice, the protection from the personal whims and bias of the ruler – was not known in the ancient world. All these came through the Law of God given to Moses. And, as I pointed to in the previous article, King Solomon made the Law of God known throughout the world at the time, through the wisdom, the prosperity, and the splendor of his kingdom. Solomon was also a poet (he wrote most of the Book of Proverbs) and his father was a poet too (Psalms). It would be normal to expect that the combination of poetic gift and evangelistic zeal for the Law of God of these two great men will inspire a whole new tradition of poetry in the pagan world around them. Thaletas, living a generation or two after Solomon, must have been acting in that tradition of a poet-lawgiver.
Yes, there are reasons why Kings David and Solomon were poets!
Reasons that are mysteriously skipped over… or simply never even considered… back in Bible school. Or the (laughable) seminaries.
Poems and songs are tools to spread the Word, the Truth and the Light, of God across the world.
We must teach the nations: not just one-on-one evangelism (which is definitely welcome!), but the masses and the rulers. And this has been true since the beginning of the Faith, since before Noah and the Flood.
From Part II:
When Lycurgus was finally called back home by a citizenry tired of constant civil wars and yet unable to find a solution to it, he found them prepared to accept his legal revolution. If he learned from the Law of God in his travels to “many countries,” he certainly did not introduce it completely in Sparta. The caste system remained, slavery remained, and Sparta remained the same militarized and oppressive society it was before. It paid for it through the centuries with the many slave revolts which although unsuccessful, still were able to decimate the free citizens’ population to a point where Sparta had to institute a process of emancipation for some slaves, and also for admission of lower castes into full citizenship. But even if imperfect, Lycurgus’s revolution was real. The law was freed from the family clans. A system of universal justice was declared, at least for the free citizens, which overruled the clan prejudices and hatreds. The law was made public and known to all. And the government of Sparta was divided between several institutions which acted as checks and balances to each other, and to the family as a social unit. The elaborate system created by Lycurgus had no precedent in the pagan world. But it had very strong precedent in the Law of God, at least as far as certain principles were concerned. And it helped little Sparta survive for several centuries, and even fight stronger enemies in the Persian Wars, and then in the Peloponnesian War, and prevail.
The Law, even the Law of God, cannot save.
BUT, the Law of God sets the standard of justice, public and private, and we are to promote the supremacy of Divine Justice and Divine Law and Divine Liberty over any and all of its (corrupt) opposition and substitutes.
We are saved by Christ’s High Sacrifice so we can be Cleansed before God… so we can be Righteous before God… so we can Live Just Lives before God.
We are saved, and filled with the Holy Spirit, so we can obey the law.
From Part II:
One thing was necessary, Lycurgus knew: A divine endorsement. If he learned from Solomon and Moses, he knew that people did not willingly obey other people; but they would fear a deity. Near the end of his life he left to go to the closest thing to a universal divine authority Greece had at the time: The Delphic Oracle. He had the Spartans swear to keep the laws he introduced until he returned. The Oracle endorsed his laws. But Lycurgus never returned home. He disappeared from history, making sure Spartans never knew where his grave was. Just like that original example for all great lawgivers, Moses. In the final account, Lycurgus applied most of the principles he learned. And thus he helped his people be freed from their barbarism. As Eusebius said, “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.”
Lycurgus was a good student of the Law of Moses. Not that he truly respected God, or was ever saved: but he knew a good thing when he saw it.
It’s long past time that the people called by Christ’s name also placed a high value on Christ’s commandments.
Now, due to a lack of time, I will skip Numa’s legal revolution in Rome. Instead, I will go straight to evangelization… and the reason for evangelization.
It’s a long quote, but it’s worth reading every word, so here goes!
From Part II (my bolding for emphasis):
Why is this important for us? And what does it have to do with the restoration of Christendom today?
The main opposition to Christendom within the modern churches and seminaries (especially seminaries!) is based on the rejection of theonomy, that is, of the continuing validity of the Law of God as revealed to Moses. Many rhetorical devices are used to reject the Law of God. There is the claim that the Law of Moses was given only to Israel but not to the nations outside of Israel, and therefore we can’t apply the Law of God to our modern cultures today. Then there is the claim that the New Testament is concerned only with “salvation” and therefore whatever laws we have from the Old Testament are those that talk about our personal piety, not about cultural transformation. Another rhetorical objection is the made-up dichotomy between the Law and the Gospel, and the accompanying claim that the New Testament is only about the Gospel, not about the Law. The Two Kingdoms theology, revived in the last 15-20 years as a rhetorical device, insists on common grace and the natural law as the foundations for the culture and civilization, while salvific grace and the Law of God apply only to the church and the individual. There also the claim that in this age we can not build a Christian culture, that any legitimately culture built before the Second Coming will be only pagan. And so on.
These arguments fail to explain why the Church in the early centuries set out to build exactly a culture, a Christian culture to replace the pagan culture of the antiquity. Our modern proponents of natural law and common grace as the foundation of a morally and religiously neutral culture seldom stop to think that they have the luxury to babble concerning these things only because two millennia of theonomic, culturally active Christianity have resulted in the abundance of common grace today (especially in the United States), and that our modern notion of “natural law” is not natural at all, but to the contrary, the very concept in our modern days has been shaped to mimic the Law of God, and only takes God out of it. These critics of Christendom in the churches are living on borrowed capital from the very Christendom they criticize. In a world not shaped by the Christendom, not living in the shadow of Christendom, these critics will be hard pressed to find any common grace, or any “natural law” that is not oppressive and barbaric. What they need is to be moved to live in a place where there has never been any Christendom. Sparta before Lycurgus, for example, or Rome before Numa.
The Law of God can not be contained in a single nation; nor was it designed to be contained in a single nation in the first place. Just as predicted by Moses, it shone forth to the nations. Their religious outlook started changing, and their legal systems started changing. After the flood, the nations had slipped into barbarism and savagery because they had abandoned the faith of Noah. The polytheism of the ancients had destroyed any civilization they might have inherited from the earlier generations after the Flood. There was no common grace to talk about, and no natural law that could be considered a “law” in the first place. It took special grace (to the nation of Israel), special revelation (to the covenant line from Abraham to Solomon, and then the prophets), and revealed law (to Moses) for the ancient world to start shaking off the curse of barbarism and become a more civilized place. Far from being limited to the nation of Israel, the Law of God was actually designed and meant from the very beginning to bring good news to the world, and salvation from God.
That’s why the author of the Book of Hebrews could say that the people of the time of Moses were “evangelized” just as we are today. They had the good news of God returning to the world with light, knowledge, and wisdom. After Solomon, the world knew very well where salvation would come from (hence the wise men of the East coming to worship the newborn king, and the Greek from the West coming to Jerusalem to worship at the feast). The civilization was changing by the spreading of the Law of God and of its principles. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t a Christian civilization, and it certainly wasn’t the Christendom as it was supposed to be; but there was no going back to the savagery and cruelty of the old times. God was building the foundations of Christendom, hundreds of years before Christ came to die on the Cross.
And if the Law of God could change cultures, civilizations, and law codes in those barbaric times, how much more can it do it today, if faithfully preached and proclaimed? Christendom can and must be restored, and this must be the task of our evangelism today. Nothing less.
It’s time to stop crawling and hiding, and it’s time to stop with the excuses for our failures and defeats.
God hates injustice, and so we must hate it to.
Therefore, even in the midsts of a dying and rotting and failing civilization, we must begin building a new Christendom, a better Christendom. Christian men, Christian families, Christian cultures, Christian businesses… and, in the fullness of times, Christian cities and Christian nations, all grounded in Christian laws and commandments.
God is not satisfied with anything less.
Neither should we.