Saturday, March 30, 2019

Mankind's Manipulation of Time and the Calendar

The resurrection of Jesus Christ will be celebrated on April 21, 2019, a holiday commonly called Easter.

On that same day, April 21, in the year 753 BC, a man named Romulus founded the city of Rome.

Scholars believe that on the day Romulus founded Rome, he also created a system of timekeeping called the Roman Calendar.

The Greeks in Romulus' day already had a calendar based on the four years between the Olympic Games, a method instituted in 776 BC, the year of the First Olympiad.

The Babylonian people, contemporaries of Romulus, also had their own system of calendering using a 12-month lunar calendar that they'd devised based on their observations of the moon.

Methods for keeping track of time in ancient history varied among the nations.

But of all the calendars in the ancient world, the calendar of Israel beat every other nation's calendar for accuracy, simplicity, reliability, and regularity. 

Israel followed a lunar calendar of 12 thirty day lunar months, with an added 13th month (Second Adar) added periodically during a nineteen-year cycle. God told Moses how to establish this lunar calendar (Exodus 12:1-3).

The God of Israel established this calendar for the purpose of instituting Seven Annual Festivals on specific dates of the lunar year.

This Hebrew lunar calendar became Divine Law.

And Jesus came to FULFILL the Law (Matthew 5:17-20).

Jesus was born during the Festival of Tabernacles when God came to "tabernacle with men" (John 1:14).

Jesus died on the Festival of Passover, the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Jesus was in the tomb during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, "sweeping away our sins" (Isaiah 43:25) just as all Jewish women swept away the leaven during that week. Jesus rose from the grave on the "the day after the Sabbath," the day called the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23:15).

Jesus exited the tomb the very morning Jewish men were waving a fistful of firstfruits (grain) in the Temple courtyard; He (Jesus) had become "the firstfruits of resurrection," guaranteeing the full harvest of resurrection to come (I Cor. 15:23). Jesus sent His Spirit, the Comforter, to all His followers who had gathered in the Upper Room for the Festival of Pentecost.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into all the world proclaiming forgiveness of sins through the (Feast) of Atonement that is found in the sacrificial life and of Jesus Christ (no atonement is in the blood of any bull or goat), and to take the message of sinners being "at-one" with God through the "at-one-moment" of the cross where Jesus died for "every nation, every tribe, every kindred, and every family" (Revelation 7:9).

And Jesus returned in judgment to destroy the Temple of Jerusalem and all vestiges of the Old Covenant during the Festival of Trumpets in AD 70, officially inaugurating a New Covenant and an eternal Kingdom.

Indeed, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.

The seasons, the festivals, the harvests, and the years for the nation of Israel flowed with continuity and regularity throughout their history (from. 1500 BC to AD 70).

The priests of Israel would "announce the new moon" by eyeballing the sky, ordering the blowing of trumpets, signaling a "new moon feast" (Colossians 2:16), for a new month in Israel had begun. The word calendar comes from the Latin word calare ("to announce") and lunar ("the moon").

Again, the nation of Israel had by far the most accurate and advanced calendar.

But for some reason, the western world became infatuated with Rome and King Romulus' very poor calendar that he established in 753 BC.  Historians politely call the Calendar of Romulus irregular.

But the way we Americans keep a calendar today is directly tied to Romulus, not Jerusalem. We've had to work for 2000 years to correct the Roman Calendar while mostly ignoring the beautiful, simple, and accurate Hebrew system timekeeping.

In the year Romulus founded Rome (753 BC), King Uzziah reigned in Jerusalem over the southern Kingdom of Judah (Second Chronicles 26), and King Jeroboam II (see Second Kings 13:13) reigned in the city of Samaria (modern-day Nablus, West Bank, Israel) over the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Romulus developed his calendar and founded Rome nearly 200 years after the Kingdom of Israel divided (931 BC) and over five hundred years after Israel left Egypt under the direction of Moses during the Exodus.

The oldest nation, Israel, had an accurate calendar.

Rome did not.

It's not always best to teach a dog new tricks.

Romulus and His Superstitious Calendar

When Romulus founded Rome, he instituted a calendar based on observations of the moon and a person's ability to keep track of months using fingers on both hands.

He called his calendar ab urbe condita (A.U.C.) - Latin for "from the founding of the city."

But unlike the Hebrew calendar, King Romulus devised an annual calendar of only 10 lunar months of thirty days and an additional four days interspersed throughout the year (304 annual days).  Some think Romulus wanted to pattern the year after the gestation of a human baby, but the Romulus' Calendar was two months short of an actual solar year, leading the Roman poet Ovid to proclaim:
"Romulus was better versed in swords than stars." 
Romulus was infatuated with the number X (ten). He repeatedly used that number in the establishment of Rome. He divided the Roman Senate, military, and polis (cities) into units of ten. Many believe Romulus divided things into ten because Roman numerals 1 through 10 are easily replicated on both hands using fingers and palms.



The Roman numeral V is represented by one palm held up with fingers outstretched, and the Roman numeral X represents both palms held up with fingers outstretched. 

The ancient Roman New Year began in the spring (March 1) when "new" things were formed. 

The first four months Romulus named after the Roman gods - Mars or Martius (March) for the Roman god of war; Aprilis (April), the ancient Italian form of Aphrodite, "goddess of the open womb or fertile fields." Maius (May), named after a local Italian goddess; and Juno (June) for the Latin "queen of gods." 

Romulus then curiously named the remaining six months of the Roman year after the Latin words for the numbers the months represented:

Quintilus (Latin for "five")
Sextilis (Latin for "six")
September (Latin for "seven")
October (Latin for "eight")
November (Latin for "nine") 
December (Latin for "ten")

Similar to the Hebrews, the pagan Romans used their priests to declare when a new month began.

But, unlike the Hebrews, the pagan Roman priests also announced three different important days of each month. First, the kalends day or the FIRST day of the month was announced when the priests observed a New Moon in the sky (Latin: kalend - "call attention to the moon").

Second, there was ides day. This was the middle portion of the month (March 15th - for example, the Ides of March). Ides represented the day that the month was half over (Latin: ide - "divide in half").

Finally, there was nones day. This was typically the seventh day of the month, the day when most ancient pagans consulted the great Oracles (see the Oracle of Delphi). 

All days of the Roman month were labeled in terms of their association with kalends (the 1st), nones (the 7th day), or ides (the 15th day) of the month. 

But because the actual solar year is 365 days and not 300 days (Romulus), by the time Romulus died, all the seasons were out of whack! 

So the next King of Rome (King Numa) added two additional months (Januarius and Februarius).

But even 12 months of 30 days fell short of a true solar year, so a future Roman King asked the priests of Zeus stationed Rome to insert an extra month periodically and inform the people of their decision.

Guess what?

The priests figured out the calendar could be a very powerful political tool that governed the people.

The priests kept the calendar a secret from the people, giving the priests a tremendous advantage of the "plebes" common people of Rome. For example, if the people they favored in politics served as consul, they added a month to extend the time (even though an additional month was not required). If they didn't like someone in an office, they would shorten the months through their proclamations to make sure their opponent served less time. 

By the time of the last consul of the Roman Republic, Julius Caesar (b. 100 BC - d. 44 BC), time was so messed up by the Roman priests to the gods, that in the year 46 BC Julius Caesar, with the help of his lover Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and a famous Egyptian astronomer, "corrected” Rome's calendar to reflect the earth's orbit around the sun (solar calendar), not the moon's orbit around the earth (lunar calendar).

That year, 46 BC, is called "The Longest Year." It lasted 445 days, not 365. For some, that long year was a boon; for others, it was a bust. For all, it was a year of confusion (

Julian was so angry with the manipulation of Rome's calendar by the priests of the gods in Rome, that he endured the withering criticism of changing the calendar by such drastic measures.

Julius Caesar moved the first of the year to January 1, 46 BC from March 1.

That meant the 12 months of the Julian calendar (December) carried the Latin name for 10 (because it was formerly the 10th month). Likewise, November (Latin for 9), October (Latin for the number 8) and September (Latin for the number 7) are all in positions on the calendar that do not reflect their name. November is actually the 11th month of the year, October is the 10th month, and September is the 9th month). It was just two difficult to change the names of the months!

Except, after Julius Caesar's death, who famously died at the hands of conspirators on the Ides of Month (March 15, the middle of the month, 44 BC) the Roman Senate voted to change the name of the month Quintilus to JULY in honor of Julius.

After Julius adopted son Gaius Octavia Caesar became Rome's first emperor on January 16, 27 BC, who decreed that everyone in the Roman Empire should be taxed, an event that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to register for the Roman tax when Jesus was born (Luke 2:1).

After Caesar "Augustus" died in AD 14, the Roman Senate sought to honor him by renaming the month Sexitilus, the month which came now after the renamed month JULY, in honor of Caesar Augusts - thus the month "August."

However, the Julian Calendar had alternating months of 30 and 31 days. That meant Augustus' month was "shorter" than Julian's month, something supporters of Augustus could not bear. So the Roman Senate voted to take a day from February and add it to August. Both Julian's month and Augustus' month now have 31 days.

Why all the manipulation of time?


I find it ironic that the name of the High Priest to Zeus who kept the people in the dark about time in ancient Rome was called Pontifex Maximus. The college of priests who ministered in the Temple of Zeus assisted the Supreme Pontiff by "eyeballing the moon" and manipulating time to their political or religious advantage.

When Constantine declared the Roman Empire "Christian" in 314 AD, the Pontifex Maximus and the College of Priests to Zeus didn't just go away.

The Pontifex Maximus became the Pope, and the College of Priests became the College of Cardinals, and many of the pagan customs of ancient Rome were Christianized.

Constantine gathered the Pontifex Maximus, the College of Priests, and local "bishops" in a city called Nicea in the year AD 325 to debate certain Christian "doctrines."

One of the things debated by the new Roman Catholic Church at Nicea was whether or not to "fix" the "date" for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus rose from the grave on the "morrow after the Sabbath (Saturday) during the weeklong lunar festival called Passover (or also known as the week of Unleavened Bread).

That means every year, if Christians wished to be biblically precise, the resurrection of Jesus Christ would be celebrated the SAME WEEK that Jews celebrate Passover. On the Sunday of Passover, Christians would explain how Jesus fulfilled the Hebrew Law, rising from the dead on the day of the Feast of Firstfruits (always the first day of the week after the regular Sabbath during Passover). Jesus fulfilled the Law, guaranteeing the resurrection of His people (the "full harvest") to life eternal (see I Corinthians 15)

But guess what?

The Romans in AD 325 still held a grudge against the Jews.

So the Romans refused to let the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ "float" throughout the lunar year in accord with the Hebrew calendar and determined to "set a fixed date" on the resurrection in association with the solar equinox.

Thus, we have Easter.

By the way, Easter is a blend of the celebration of the Roman god Ishtar and the Christian God Jesus.

The Romans loved to mix their calendar, their politics, and their religion with their ancient pagan customs and rituals.

What I find ironic is that it just so happens this solar year (2019) that the lunar observance of the Hebrew Passover falls on Friday (April 19). That means the official "Roman" declaration of Easter just so happens to match the biblical account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Every now and then a blind squirrel can find a nut.

On April 21, 2019, just remember to keep it simple.
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep" (I Corinthians 15:3-8). 
He is risen indeed!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

America's Future Is Best Seen in History's Mirror

At some point in the not-too-near future, America as we know it will collapse.

The loss of liberties has been gradual for over a century, but near the end of this Republic we call the United States, individual liberties shall disappear under the shadow of Caesarism.

Caesarism is by definition "a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc."

In 1957, historian and Americanist Amaury de Riencourt predicted America's eventual downfall as a Republic in his classic work The Coming Caesars. To read Riencourt's sixty-year-old book is like reading today's newspaper.

My friend Tim Price has written a new forward to Riencourt's magnum opus, reformatted the original text, and has issued a new edition of The Coming Caesars.

Every follower of Jesus who identifies as a political conservative in the United States, and for that matter, every follower of Jesus who identifies as a political liberal in the United States should read The Coming Caesars.

Riencourt rightly believed America's Founders modeled the new Republic (America) after Rome's Republic (est. 509 BC). He traced Roman republicanism and Grecian democracy to their respective ends, arguing that any government modeled after Rome or Greece is destined to end in Caesarism.

The major premise of Riencourt's 1957 work is found on page 5.
"Expanding democracy leads unintentionally to imperialism and that imperialism inevitably ends in destroying the republican institutions of earlier days; further, the greater the social equality, the dimmer the prospects of liberty, and that as society becomes more equalitarian, it tends increasingly to concentrate absolute power in the hands of one single man. Caesarism is not a dictatorship, not the result of one man's overriding ambition, not a brutal seizure of power through revolution. It is not based on a specific doctrine or philosophy. It is essentially pragmatic and untheoretical. It is a slow, often century-old, unconscious development that ends in a voluntary surrender of a free people escaping from freedom to one autocratic master."
The Coming Caesars does not promote party politics, be it Republican or Democratic, but successfully indicts Americans in both parties for allowing the power and prestige of the Presidency to rival that of a Roman Caesar. Riencourt writes
"Those who doubt that today an American President might be elected for life should remember that no constitutional amendment, such as was voted after World War II, can stand in the way of public opinion if it truly wishes to elect a Caesar for life." 
Reiecourt traces the rise of Caesarism in Rome and parallels it with the increasing willingness of Americans to follow one man in a national emergency, whether it be economic, military, or social. Riencourt argues that this willingness of the American people to give up individual liberties guaranteed by the Constitution is not political or ideological; it is psychological.

It is easier to "personalize" problems and follow a powerful Caesar-like leader than it is to trust increasingly irrelevant legislative assemblies.

This, Riencourt argues, is historical fact and not political theory.

That's why the future of America is seen in history's mirror. The government of Rome collapsed in 476 AD. They'd moved from a republic to a dictatorship (Julius Caesar), then to Caesarism, and finally to ultimate annihilation as a country. The democracy of Greece followed a similar path to their destruction.

America's collapse as a country of liberty is coming as well. It's a matter of history.

I first wrote about Riencourt's work when a political liberal served as President during 2008-2016. Political conservatives affirmed what I wrote then and political liberals were silent.

I now write (again) about coming Caesarism in America, this time with a political conservative serving as President. More than likely, political liberals will affirm what I write now and political conservatives will remain silent.

That's the proof that Caesarism is already at play in the new Rome (America).

The Republic's demise is coming.

This is why followers of Jesus should understand that our ultimate citizenship "is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20) and not in the United States of America. This is why followers of Jesus should never place allegiance to a politician above reverence to the Creator of all things.  For that matter, any Christian who links a political philosophy or party leader to a representation of Jesus and His commandments is being short-sighted.

"My Kingdom is not of this world," Jesus said. You can fight for creature comforts in this world, but it's a minor battle in the grand scheme when compared to the Creator's comforts in the world to come.

May your nationalism, patriotism, and politicism for America and her President never outrank your dynamism for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Lake Nemi, Diana's Temple, and Corrupted Truth

Lake Nemi, Italy 
Nestled in a volcano crater 26 kilometers (16 miles) south of Rome is a beautiful and placid lake called Nemi. Surrounded by a forest of trees, Lake Nemi was known by the ancient Romans as Diana's Mirror. When the moon is full, the shimmering surface of Nemi reflects brightly and beautifully the full moon. Diana, according to the ancient Romans (8th century BC) was the goddess of the Moon, wild beasts, and of the woods.

The Romans believed Diana inhabited the forests around Nemi. They built the sacred Temple of Diana, called Diana Nemorensis, or Diana in Nemi's Woods, on the northern shore of Lake Nemi.

Ruins of that Temple at Lake Nemi can still be seen today, but few people make the trip to see it, and fewer still understand the significance of what they see.

Some of the most fascinating and colorful stories of ancient Rome occur in and around Lake Nemi. That's right, in Lake Nemi. Visiting Lake Nemi should be on your bucket list. If you ever travel to tour Rome, take a day trip to visit Lake Nemi, or better yet, stay at the city you see perched on the top of the hill in the above photo. That city, the modern city of Nemi, is only a quick train ride from Rome. Events that have occurred over the past three millennia around the lake and in the lake are stunning in scope.

Before I show you the importance of Lake Nemi, let me give you some context.

The Roman goddess Diana is the counterpart to the Greek goddess Artemis. I have written about Artemis and how much the Greeks believed in her powers. The Romans revered Diana as the Greeks revered Artemis. The two goddesses are often conflated.
The Roman goddess Diana

The Roman goddess Diana is the counterpart to the Greek goddess Artemis. I have written about Artemis and how much the Greeks believed in her powers. The Romans revered Diana as the Greeks revered Artemis. The two goddesses are often conflated.

If you know your ancient history, you're aware that the Republic of Rome eventually replaced the Grecian Empire as the ancient world's superpower. In 146 BC, Rome defeated the Greeks at the Battle of Corinth and made Greece a Roman province. After the death of the Roman Republic dictator Julius Caesar, Julius Caesar's nephew and adopted son Julius Caesar Octavianus (63 BC-AD 14) became the first officially recognized Emporer of Rome and received the title Augustus.

The Senate of Rome crowned Octavianus Caesar as Augustus (e.g, "Supreme Emperor") of Rome in 27 BC. That event marks the official beginning of the Roman Empire. Caesar Augustus reigned as the first Emperor of Rome until his death in AD 14. The name "Caesar" was Octavianus' adopted surname. Augustus was Caesar's title. Thus, Caesar (the) Augustus is the Roman emperor mentioned in Luke 2 at the birth of Jesus:
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of all the inhabited earth... Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the City of David, which is called Bethlehem in order to register along with Mary. While they were there in Bethlehem...she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger." (Luke 2:1-7)
The reason Jesus grew up speaking Hebrew and Greek and not Hebrew and Latin is that the Roman world in which Jesus lived kept the culture of the Greek Empire (the language, the arts, the religion, etc.). Keeping Greek customs in a Roman-ruled world is called Hellenization. It's no wonder that the Roman goddess Diana and the Greek goddess Artemis are often conflated.

However, the worship of the Roman goddess Diana and the worship of the Greek goddess Artemis had origins that extend to a much earlier time than the days of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus
For example, The Temple of Artemis (the Greek goddess) was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, It was built in the ancient city of Ephesus (now a city in modern Turkey) in 550 BC by the wealthy King Croesus of Lydia. Croesus was a friend to the Greeks and a worshipper of the Greek god Apollo.

 King Croesus once traveled to Delphi, Greece (just north of Athens) to inquire of the Pythian Oracle at Apollo's Temple. In appreciation for Apollo, King Croesus desired to build a monument to Apollo's twin sister, the goddess Artemis. 

So Croesus built the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. The famous stories surrounding the ancient Temple of Artemis at Ephesus are abundant. Any understanding of the biblical book of Ephesians requires some grasp of the culture of that city since Paul wrote to encourage followers of Jesu who lived among a people dominated by Artemis worship.

Aventine Hill in Rome today (site of ancient Temple of Diana)
When the Romans heard in the late 6th century that a new Temple had been built to the Greek goddess of the Moon, hunt, and woods (Artemis), they decided they would build a Temple of Diana in Rome. 

So King Servius Tullius of Rome (575-535 BC) ordered that this new Temple of Diana be built on Aventine HillServius also built a wall around the Temple bringing it within the boundaries of the city of Rome. The Romans could never let the Greeks get the upper hand.

This 6th century BC Roman Temple of Diana stood until the barbarians destroyed the city in the 4th century AD and subsequent Roman Christian emperors tore down the pagan temples. Today, if you visit Rome,  there is a short street named the Via del Tempio di Diana which commemorates the site of the ancient Temple of Diana. Part of the Temple's original wall is located within one of the halls of the Apuleius Restaurant (it's worth a lunch visit).

But here is the key point you need to remember:
Before the Temple of Artemis was built by King Croesus in Ephesus (550 BC) and before the Temple of Diana was built by King Servius on Aventine Hill in Rome (est. 545 BC), there existed a Temple of Diana in the sacred grove of trees on the northern shore of Lake Nemi. It was called Diana Nemorensis.
Diana Nemorensis, which means, "Diana in the Woods of Nemi" was a small, secluded, and sacred shrine. It predates the Temples the Romans built, evidenced by the fact "Diana in the Woods of Nemi" refers to a sacred grove of trees. Ancient worship of the gods took place in forests and groves, called a Lucus in Latin.

When in Rome, do as the Romans. Go to Lake Nemi, or otherwise known as Lucus Nemi.

The History of Lake Nemi and Diana Nemorensis

Aeneas Discovering the Sacred Bough
For over eight centuries, from the founding of Rome (753 BC) to the days of Empeoror Caligula, bizarre rituals occurred on the northern shore of Lake Nemi. Romans would make their way to the sacred grove to appeal to Dianna for conquests in combat, harvests in the hunt, and fertility in the fields.

The Roman poet Virgil (b. 70 BC) writes about Aeneas discovering the golden bough in the lucus of Nemi. Aeneas breaks off the golden branch from the sacred tree, giving to him access to, and power over, the underworld (Hades). In a merging of Roman mythology and history, Aeneas' discovery of the sacred tree is the reason for Diana Nemorensis being deemed a sacred place of worship shortly after the founding of Rome (753 BC). 

When King Servius built the Temple of Diana in the city of Rome (est. 545), Romans had already been worshiping Diana in the forests around Lake Nemi for nearly 200 hundred years.

The rituals the Romans performed at Lake Nemi involved fertility rites in the woods, requesting fertility in their fields, animal sacrifices to Diana from hunters who seeking blessings on their hunts, and a host of other religious rituals for the purpose of invoking blessings on the people of Rome.

But of all the rituals involved with worship at the Temple Diana Nemorensis, the most famous of them all involved the King of the Woods (Rex Nemorensis).

A statue of Diana over Lake Nemi today
The King of the Woods served as the High Priest of the Temple of Diana. He was the only male among many females associated with Diana worship at Diana Nemorensis.

In the center of the grove of trees on the northern shore of Lake Nemi stood that large, sacred tree that contained the golden branches to the underworld. It was absolutely forbidden for anyone to break off a branch or bough (pronounced bow) of the tree. For once a branch was broken, he who broke it had declared his intention to fight the King of the Woods to death to become the next King of the Woods and the next High Priest of Temple Diana Nemorensis.

Some men wanted that job because of the fertility rituals which they involved themselves in with the priestesses of Diana's Temple and the power it gave them over the underworld.

The King of the Woods (Rex Nemorensis) was mystically married to the goddess Diana. The rituals he partook in at Temple Nemorensis with the priestesses of Diana were sexual, symbolic, and sacred. The King had the power to restrain the underworld and invoke the blessings of the gods.

But the King never died of old age. He would die a violent death, to only be resurrected to new life in the form of another deified King (the one who defeated the previous King) and continue the sacred rites in Diana's Temple.  

19th-century painting of Lake Nemi
The violent death ritual of the King on the northern shore of Lake Nemi is mentioned in ancient literature by Strabo (b. 63 BC), where Strabo calls it "sacred to antique religion."  Strabo adds that the King of the Woods  "holds his reign by strong hands and fleet feet, and dies according to the example he set himself" (Strabo, Geographia V, 3, 12).

It was said by the ancient Romans that worshipers of Diana entering the sacred grove at Nemi would often see the King of the Woods, sword drawn, protecting the boughs of the sacred tree from any interlopers. The King, having himself once crossed the sacred line and broken the golden bough,  was constantly vigilant for the one who would come to break the branch and seek to slay him. Legend says the King of the Woods of Nemi often appeared wild-eyed, frantic, and restless, knowing that by death he entered his position as King, and by death, he would exit it.

The King of the Woods ritual was put to verse by British historian Thomas Macaulay.

The ghastly priest doth reign
The priest who slew the slayer,
And shall himself be slain.

One of Caligula's pleasure boats on Lake Nemi
Even during the time of the Roman Emperor Caligula (12 AD - 41 AD), the ritual slaying of the King of the Woods in the Sacred Grove at Nemi was in effect. Caligula himself sent a slave into the woods to "break the bough" and fight the High Priest of Diana, a battle which Caligula's slave won.

Caligula, a devout worshipper of Diana and her rites of fertility, built two huge massive and luxurious "pleasure barges" for himself on Lake Nemi. They were palaces of sexual rituals with women, even the wives of his soldiers and Rome's politicians. Lake Nemi held a special fondness in the most profane emperor in the history of Rome.

Caligula's barges on Nemi were deliberately sunk after his assassination in 44 BC. For centuries there were rumors of huge structures at the bottom of Lake Nemi. Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, fashioned himself a new Emporer of Rome. Mussolini drained Lake Nemi and had Caligula's barges brought to the surface and the ancient artifacts cleaned and displayed in a museum. During World War II, the museum at Nemi was destroyed, but one of the mosaics that decorated of Caligula's Pleasure Boats eventuallwound up serving as a coffee table in New York City.

When you go to the new and rebuilt Italian museum on the north shore of Lake Nemi, you can read about the history surrounding the lake.

Mussolini and Italian soldiers surveying Caligula's barges in the Museum on Lake Nemi, pre-World War II

The Golden Bough

In the 1890s, half a century before Mussolini found and dug up Caligula's barges at Lake Nemi, Sir James George Frazer, a British anthropologist, wrote his seminal work The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religions.

Sir Frazer based the thesis of his book on the rituals that occurred on the northern shore of Lake Nemi at Diana Nemorensis. Sir Frazer traces the common elements of the worlds religions, including fertility rites, human sacrifice, the dying god, the scapegoat, and many other symbols and practices whose influences have extended to modern day to Lake Nemi. Frazer's thesis is that ancient religions were basic fertility cults that revolved around the worship and periodic sacrifice of a sacred king (the King of the Woods at the Temple of Diana). Frazer believes that mankind evolves from rudimentary animism or belief in magic, to a belief in personified deities of religion, and finally to modern scientific thought.

In other words, to Sir Frazer, the rituals of the Temple of Diana at Lake Nemi are a glimpse into the evolution of man by examining an ancient ritual that endured even into the classical age of western civilization. The barbaric King of the Woods ritual at Lake Nemi and other ancient sacred rituals continued at Lake Nemi long into civilized times (the Roman Empire) because Lake Nemi was especially secluded and especially sacred. The Temple of Diana at Nemi, for the sake of illustration, would be like your great-grandmother's China. Don't touch it. Be careful with it. Don't give it away.

The Romans treated Lake Nemi in the same manner. It was a sacred place for them.

At Lake Nemi, according to Sir Frazer, we see the basis for belief in dying and reviving god (eg., King of the Woods), a solar deity who undergoes a mystic marriage to a goddess of the Earth (the King was married to Diana, queen of the earth's harvest, and the Moon of the skies).  Frazer claims that this legend of rebirth is central to almost all of the world's mythologies.

The Golden Bough scandalized the British public when first published, as it included the Christian story of Jesus and the Resurrection in its comparative study. Christians were furious that the Lamb of God was treated by Frazer as a relic of pagan religion. Frazer called Christianity "merely a perpetuation of primitive myth-ritualism," and he wrote that the New Testament Gospels were "just further myths of the death and resurrection of the king who embodies the god of vegetation." Due to the enormous backlash, Frazer excluded his discussion of Christianity in subsequent volumes.

Sir Frazer and Sir Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton (Kneller Portrait, 1689)
People who study comparative religions all believe that religions around the world share common teachings and beliefs. For example, flood stories are found throughout the world, among all cultures and religions. Death and resurrection, afterlife, and the sacredness of fertility in field and homes are also common themes. 

Either this world is evolving from pagan beliefs in animism, magic, and religion to scientific thought, or as the great Sir Isaac Newton believed, this world is devolving in intellect and moving from true religion to a corruption of the Divine truth.

I take Newton's position.

Many years ago I read Sir Isaac Newton's The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, and I became convinced that the history of the world's religions is best understood by seeing every religion, both ancient and modern, as a corruption of Divine Revelation. Newton is even clearer in his superb work The Original of Religions, where he shows that a loving Creator gave true religion to His creation in the form of Divine revelation, and all other religions are a corruption of the Divine through a fall into idolatry.

In other words, Greece and Rome corrupted the Divine revelation of God and began to worship the creation. 

Lake Nemi and Revealed Truth

A sacred tree.
A sword to protect it.

The Grove of Nemi
The Garden of Eden.

The Regent (Rex) of the earth (mankind)
Mankind fails and falls into death.

The Death of Rex
The Death of Adam

Through thorns and thistles, the earth gives fruit.
Through mankind's corruption, idolatry flourishes.

The History of Rome
The History of Mankind.

By blood, a new Kingdom shall rise.
By sacrifice, a new way is made

The Temple of Diana and Blood Sacrifice
The Love of God in the Gift of His Son
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever trusts in Him should not perish, but have life everlasting" (John 3:16). 
I could go on and on, but my point is that you must either believe mankind is evolving from pagan beliefs or that mankind is devolving from Divine Revelation into pagan beliefs.

I, like Isaac Newton, hold to the latter belief. And I look forward to seeing Lake Nemi where the former found its birth. 

Until then, I am quite comfortable with the belief that the ancient Greeks and Romans fell into the practice of idolatry because their forefathers had corrupted the Truth of the one true God which was passed down to the nations through the children of Noah. The nations, including Greece and Rome,  eventually fell into the practice of worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.

The Ruins of Diana Nemorenis on the northern shores of Lake Nemi today

Friday, March 08, 2019

Better the Balance, Better the World Is God's Way

Yann Forget/Wikimedia Commons
Today is International Women's Day. The theme for this day is "Better the Balance, Better the World." 

Sadly, many of my male evangelical friends who are pastors will either privately or publicly denigrate this day as another cultural sign that society is going "liberal" and the church will soon follow.

That's just not so.

Society is just now beginning to reflect what God's Word has always taught as truth. 

Better the balance, better the world is God's way of doing things. God created males and females with the equality of value, and God created males and females with the equality of vocation based upon His image bearers divine giftedness.

In other words, the world is a better place when we understand intrinsic worth is a settled truth and that integrated work is a superior tactic.

Let me prove this biblically and then anecdotally.

At the time of Creation, the Bible says:
So God created man (Hebrew: Adam) in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.   (Genesis 1:26-27)
Adam is the Hebrew word translated "man" in English.

Notice something very important. Adam is created in God's image. Adam is not just the half-portion of the human race called "male." The Hebrew word Adam encompasses the "female" half of the human race as well.

"Male and Female" compose the biblical definition of "man" and together reflect the "image of our Creator" (Imago Dei). 

Nobody should be offended by using the word "man" to refer to both males and females. The Bible does it. Man is both male and female. The way I put it is simply this:
"You will never see and appreciate the full-orbed image of God until you view both males and females relating and working with one another in equality."
That's God's way.

Anytime society works to have males dominating females (patriarchy) or females dominating males (matriarchy), you have a society that is "curse-filled."

When the world is balanced, the world is better.

Wade Burleson and Vera Porter at Emmanuel Enid
I've written multiple articles on God intending, creating, and sustaining male and female equality (go to the top left of my blog and type the word "women" in the Google search bar). I'm a conservative, Bible-believing Christ-follower who believes that homosexual behavior in the bedroom is sinful but that gender equality in the boardroom is sacred. 

I realize that my friends who identify as homosexual will be offended at the first part of the previous sentence just as many of my conservative evangelical pastor friends will be offended at the last part of the previous sentence.

I don't' consider those who disagree with me an enemy. I'm just telling my homosexual friends and my pastor friends my mind can be changed. It will require your ability to show me in God's Word where I'm wrong. As it stands now, none of you have convinced me.

I believe the Bible makes a massive distinction between sexual identity and sexual behavior. If God intended sexual behavior between males to be the creative norm, then males would be able to give birth to babies. Likewise, if God intended sexual behavior between females to be the creative norm, then God would have created females with the ability to generate babies without males. 

But God did intend males and females to be co-regents, co-workers, and co-heirs of the Universe.

It may be that those who struggle with sexual identity have never come to an understanding of the worth, dignity, and value of both males and females because a cursed world attempts to exalt one gender above the other.

God's way is better the balance, better the world.

An Anecdote

I have been the pastor of the church I lead for over 27 years. When I came to Emmanuel in 1992, it was a traditional, patriarchal church where males only were in roles of leadership and females only were in roles of service. Leadership at the church was based on position and authority rather than service and humility. Only males could be in "a position of authority."

Gifted females were restricted in their roles. They couldn't teach (with other males present), serve in leadership roles (if other males were present), or provide direction to God's people unless "in submission" to the male leaders present in the room.

I've often scratched my head how followers of Jesus speak so boldly against homosexual behavior in the bedroom but then practice homosexual behavior in the boardroom. 

Both, according to God's way, are sinful behaviors.

Today, after years of change, Spirit-gifted females at our church now provide leadership, publicly teach from the Scriptures, and give direction to others without even caring whether or not males are in the room.  The Chairman of our Leadership Team is female. Half of our trustees and standing committee chairmen are females. Women teach men and women, men teach and women. Women lead males and females, and men lead males and females. We appreciate giftings regardless of the gender of the gifted. We've noticed that God gives the same gifts to both males and females. That gifts of the Spirit are given to both males and females is proved by the Bible, our experience, and the logic of a world balanced by the genders. 

Our church is much better off today than it was a quarter-century ago. We are more balanced. We've been prevented from many mistakes because of the full-orbed image of God (males and females) at Emmanuel. It's a settled truth among us that men and women possess equal worth and perform integrated work. 

Why? Are we following the society? No. We follow the Scriptures. Better the balance, better the world is God's Way

A friend of mine in Washington D.C. said he had lunch with a well-known pastor who said to my friend: "Word is Wade Burleson is promoting women pastors. That's the word on the street."

When I was told that, I laughed.

"No. Wade Burleson is tearing down any philosophy or practice in the church or society where males dominate females by position or Divine authority as well as any philosophy or practice in the church or society where females dominate males by a hierarchal position or any alleged spiritual authority."

The problem is a skewed view of authority in the church (and society), which unfortunately is a sign of the original curse brought into this world by Adam's (men and women) rebellion against God. When either gender seeks to rule over the other gender, God's way is not being followed.

Better the balance, better the world.

Happy International Women's Day.