Guide Christianity: the One, the Many :What Christianity Might Have Been and Could Still Become Volume 2

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Stories were created in the Middle Ages to explain why Sophia had been canonised.

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According to the Golden Legend she was a woman who won her sainthood by witnessing the martyrdom of her three daughters, saints Faith, Hope and Charity. The Devil was a relatively late entrant into Jewish theology, from where he was incorporated into Christianity. Our concept of the Devil is essentially the one originally borrowed by the Jews from Zoroastrianism.

He seems to have been adopted as a personal entity during the Babylonian Exile.

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As Satan he was first introduced into Judaism as a supernatural being in the first two chapters of the book of Job, where he appears to be on good terms with God. Christians saw him as a sort of henchman for the divinity. The name Satan derives from the Hebrew word for adversary. In the New Testament the word was sometimes translated by the Greek word diabolos , meaning accuser or calumniator.

English translations of the Bible generally retain the Hebrew word Satan but render diabolos into English as Devil. The Old Testament uses only the name Satan. The English term accuser is also applied as a title Revelation The identification of a personalised Satan with Lucifer is much later, and founded upon a mistake. The mistake arises from a passage in Isaiah:. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Isaiah The original Hebrew refers not to Lucifer but to a daystar.

This is most likely to be the planet we now call Venus, though it might have been the Moon. The Jews seem to have shared the Roman view that Lucifer was the son of Aurora, the goddess of the dawn. Venus was known as the morning star because it is often visible in the morning sky after other planets and stars have faded. The Greeks knew it as Phosphorus , the "light bringer" or harbinger of dawn, and the Romans" name Lucifer has the same meaning. The writer in Isaiah seems to be talking about the morning star, used as a metaphor for a king's diminishing power.

The word Lucifer means simply "light bringer", which is why it was used in Victorian times as a name for what we now call safety matches. By applying a little imagination and generous interpretations of other biblical passages notably Luke and Revelation later commentators managed to identify Lucifer with the Devil.

The fact that early Christians made no such connection is apparent in the free use of Lucifer as a forename. A famous fourth century Bishop of Calaris in Sardinia was named Lucifer. Ancient peoples failed to realise that they were seeing the planet Venus both in the evening and in the morning. They therefore regarded them as two different planets and two different gods: the god of the Morning Star Phosphoros or Phospherus and the god of the evening star Hesperos or Hesperus.

Other unrelated characters are introduced elsewhere in the Bible and identified with Satan. As in many ancient cultures it is probable that the serpent originally represented wisdom or knowledge, as it still did in New Testament times: "Be ye therefore wise as serpents Nevertheless, following other New Testament writings, Satan is now firmly identified with a serpent or a dragon Revelation and Isaiah calls a sea serpent leviathan Isaiah , and this association, because of the much later serpent connection, seems to be responsible for the term leviathan also being applied to Satan.

Satan has also been identified with Asmodaeus , a character from the Apocrypha Tobit and The Christian conception of Satan is largely developed from the New Testament. These Hebrew and Greek names both mean destroyer , a word that is also used as one of his titles in Wisdom of Solomon The supposed existence of a number of powerful supernatural evil forces is damaging to the Christian case for monotheism, even if they could all be shown to be subject to a single satanic being, or even to be manifestations of the same satanic being. As the Jews became monotheistic they generally abandoned their traditional gods, but occasionally the old gods lingered on with a reduction in rank.

The Sun, Moon and stars were almost universally regarded as gods in ancient times. Now, to emphasise their subordination to the Jewish God they were made to praise him Psalm They are still instructed to do so in modern hymns:. Praise the L ord! Ancient peoples also imagined that the planets were really gods, a fact recalled by our names for them.

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It had been Lucifer: now it was Christ Revelation The angel of the Lord in Genesis was a god according to verse 13, but various translations gloss over this in various ways without so much as a footnote. Translators of the Bible have written some other divinities out of the script: Lucifer's mother Aurora, goddess of the dawn, for example. The original Hebrew text of Psalm refers to the womb of Dawn just as the Greeks would have spoken of the womb of the goddess Aurora , but as we have seen earlier, some modern translations fudge the words so that the goddess Dawn does not appear.

Similarly the Queen of Heaven, Asherah, the consort of El, had her name translated as grove , so that anyone reading the Vulgate or the Authorised Version could not guess that a goddess was being worshipped in the Jerusalem Temple:. Jerusalem Bible. Rival gods are also mentioned in the Old Testament. In addition to those already mentioned, such as Baal or Bel , others include Ashtaroth , Dagon and Nebo. There seems to have been no doubt that they were real gods and not merely idols. Two of them, Bel and Nebo , crouched and cringed together helplessly as their idols were carted off by the servants of Yahweh Isaiah To many Protestant eyes, Roman Catholics worship Mary as a thinly disguised goddess.

The reaction of the Roman Catholic Church has been to emphasise a distinction between the types of worship that are due to God and to Mary. God alone is entitled to latria adoration , and Mary alone is entitled to hyperdulia hyper-veneration. The Orthodox Church makes a similar distinction. Whether or not the difference is merely a semantic one is a matter of opinion. To many the distinction appears artificial.

Roman Catholics sometimes point to a critical distinction between the worship of God and Mary. Only God has the power to answer prayers.

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Mary acts merely as a mediator, or rather mediatrice. She does not answer prayers herself as a goddess would, but only brings the matter to the attention of God in the person of Christ, the sole source of salvation. According to Roman Catholic belief, Mary's powers of mediation are sovereign: Christ, her son, cannot refuse his mother. The question then arises as to whether there is any real difference between Mary answering prayers herself and having her answers metaphorically rubber-stamped by a higher authority.

Many see the rubber-stamping as a conceit designed to maintain the appearance of a monotheistic religion. Indeed, the concept of Mary as mediatrice was largely developed to rebut accusations that she was worshipped as a goddess. The familiar Ave Maria or Hail Mary has been amended over the centuries to reflect this more acceptable line. Thus the closing words "Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death" were added to the prayer specifically to emphasise God's sovereignty, in response to Lutheran criticism in the sixteenth century.

Other prayers, the forms of which were settled before the Protestant accusations of polytheism, show Mary as possessing independent powers. The following example, from the Sub tuum praesidium , is at least 1, years old, although a fragment from the third or fourth centuries suggests that it is much older:. Many will find this explanation less than convincing, since it implies that Mary only ever asks for things that God has already decided to grant, so reducing her role as intercessor to nothing. Theologians who are regarded as perfectly orthodox have claimed that Mary can direct and guide our destinies as she wills; that no one can be saved except through her; that she reigns along with her son and is praised by angels, and that nothing can resist her.

Indeed, she is omnipotent. She heals Hell, treads demons underfoot, saves mankind and restores fallen angels. She is above the angels. She is "another Paraclete", i. She is the cause of our redemption.

She is our "saviour". Indeed salvation is impossible without her.

She has the same "glory" as the second person of the Trinity. She is the "complement of the Trinity". All three have been described as her lovers [ amatores ]. Theologians can start prayers to her with the words "Our Mother who art in heaven She is in some respects superior to God himself and exercised power over him. Theologians ask her to over-rule God e. Douce roll A 1 frame4 - detail Jesus with his Book of Life tries to dispense Justice to a dead man, held by an angel and a demon.

The dead man's soul is being wieghed in a balance by St Michael, Jesus's Queen Consort and Mother, Mary tips the balance in favour of Mercy while a demon tries to tip it the other way.