Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 86union of a man and a god; and this mystic doctrine was adopted, with many fanciful improvements, by many sects. The hypothesis was this: that Jesus of Nazareth was a mere mortal, the legitimate son of Joseph and Mary, but he was the best and wisest of the human race, selected as the worthy instrument to restore upon earth the worship of the true and supreme Deity. When he was baptized in the Jordan, and not till then, he became more than man. At that time, the Christ, the first of the Æons, the Son of God himself, descended on Jesus in the form of a dove, to inhabit his mind, and direct his actions during the allotted period of his ministry. When he was delivered into the hands of the Jews, the Christ forsook him, flew back to the world of spirits, and left the solitary Jesus to suffer, to [Pg 137]complain, and to die. This is why he said, while hanging on the cross: "My God! My God! why hast thou forsaken me?"[137:1]
Here, then, we see the first budding out of—what was termed by the true followers of Jesus—heretical doctrines. The time had not yet come to make Jesus a god, to claim that he had been born of a virgin. As he must, however, have been different from other mortals—throughout the period of his ministry, at least—the Christ must have entered into him at the time of his baptism, and as mysteriously disappeared when he was delivered into the hands of the Jews.
In the course of time, the seeds of the faith, which had slowly arisen in the rocky and ungrateful soil of Judea, were transplanted, in full maturity, to the happier climes of the Gentiles; and the strangers of Rome and Alexandria, who had never beheld the manhood, were more ready to embrace the divinity of Jesus.
The polytheist and the philosopher, the Greek and the barbarian, were alike accustomed to receive—as we have seen in this chapter—a long succession and infinite chain of angels, or deities, or æons, or emanations, issuing from the throne of light. Nor could it seem strange and incredible to them, that the first of the æons, the Logos, or Word of God, of the same substance with the Father, should descend upon earth, to deliver the human race from vice and error. The histories of their countries, their odes, and their religions were teeming with such ideas, as happening in the past, and they were also looking for and expecting an Angel-Messiah.[137:2]
Centuries rolled by, however, before the doctrine of Christ Jesus, the Angel-Messiah, became a settled question, an established tenet in the Christian faith. The dignity of Christ Jesus was measured by private judgment, according to the indefinite rule of Scripture, or tradition or reason. But when his pure and proper divinity had been established on the ruins of Arianism, the faith of the Catholics trembled on the edge of a precipice where it was impossible to recede, dangerous to stand, dreadful to fall; and the manifold inconveniences of their creed were aggravated by the sublime character of their theology. They hesitated to pronounce that God himself, the second person of an equal and consubstantial Trinity, was manifested in the flesh,[137:3] that the Being who pervades the universe had been confined in the womb of Mary; that his [Pg 138]eternal duration had been marked by the days, and months, and years of human existence; that the Almighty God had been scourged and crucified; that his impassible essence had felt pain and anguish; that his omniscience was not exempt from ignorance; and that the source of life and immortality expired on Mount Calvary.
These alarming consequences were affirmed with unblushing simplicity by Apollinaris, Bishop of Laodicea, and one of the luminaries of the Church. The son of a learned grammarian, he was skilled in all the sciences of Greece; eloquence, erudition, and philosophy, conspicuous in the volumes of Apollinaris, were humbly devoted to the service of religion.
The worthy friend of Athanasius, the worthy antagonist of Julian, he bravely wrestled with the Arians and polytheists, and though he affected the rigor of geometrical demonstration, his commentaries revealed the literal and allegorical sense of the Scriptures.
A mystery, which had long floated in the looseness of popular belief, was defined by his perverse diligence in a technical form, and he first proclaimed the memorable words, "One incarnate nature of Christ."[138:1]
This was about A. D. 362, he being Bishop of Laodicea, in Syria, at that time.[138:2]
The recent zeal against the errors of Apollinaris reduced the Catholics to a seeming agreement with the double-nature of Cerinthus. But instead of a temporary and occasional alliance, they established, and Christians still embrace, the substantial, indissoluble, and everlasting union of a perfect God with a perfect man, of the second person of the Trinity with a reasonable soul and human flesh. In the beginning of the fifth century, the unity of the two natures was the prevailing doctrine of the church.[138:3] From that time, until a comparatively recent period, the cry was: "May those who divide Christ[138:4] be divided with the sword; may [Pg 139]they be hewn in pieces, may they be burned alive!" These were actually the words of a Christian synod.[139:1] Is it any wonder that after this came the dark ages? How appropriate is the name which has been applied to the centuries which followed! Dark indeed they were. Now and then, however, a ray of light was seen, which gave evidence of the coming morn, whose glorious light we now enjoy. But what a grand light is yet to come from the noon-day sun, which must shed its glorious rays over the whole earth, ere it sets.