Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, , at sacred-texts.com
That there were both orthodox and heterodox forms of a quasi-Mithraic bread-and-wine ritual among the Jews is to be gathered even from the sacred books. In the legend of the Exodus, Aaron and the elders of Israel "eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God" 5that is, twelve elders and the Anointed One or Christos eat a bread sacrament with a presumptive ancient deity, Moses himself being such. And wine would not be wanting. In the so-called Song of Moses, which repudiates a hostile God, "their Rock in which they trusted, which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink-offering," Yahweh also is called "our Rock"; and in an obscure passage his wine seems to be extolled. 6 Even if the Rock in such allusions were originally the actual tombstone or altar on which sacrifices were laid and libations poured, there would be no difficulty about making it into a God with whom the worshipper ate and drank; 7 and such an adaptation was as natural for Semites as for Aryans.
But there are clearer clues. Of the legend of Melchizedek, who gave to Abraham a sacramental meal of bread and wine, and who
was "King of Peace" and "priest of El Elyon," 1 we know that it was a subject of both canonical 2 and extra-canonical tradition. He was fabled to have been "without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God." 3 As the name meant King of Righteousness, and El Elyon was a Phnician deity, the legend that Abraham paid him tithes tells simply of one more extra-Yahwistic cult among the Israelites; and the description cited must originally have applied to the Most High God himself. "Self-made" was a title of the Sun-Gods, 4 and King of Righteousness a title of many Gods (not to mention Hammurabi and Buddha) as well as of Yahweh and Jesus. 5 It is vain to ask whether the bread-and-wine ritual was connected directly with the solar worship, 6 or with that of a King of Peace who stood for the moon, or both moon and sun; but it suffices that an extra-Israelitish myth connected with such a ritual was cherished among the dispersed Jews of the Hellenistic period. And the use made of the story of Melchizedek by Justin Martyr 7 and Tertullian, 8 as proving that a man could be a priest of the true God without being circumcised or observing the Jewish law, would certainly be made of it by earlier Jews of the more cosmopolitan sort.
Further, the denunciations of the prophets against the drink-offerings to other Gods did not veto a eucharist eaten and drunk in the name of Yahweh. Those denunciations to start with are a proof of the commonness of eucharists among the Jews about the exilic period. Jeremiah tells of a usage, especially popular with women, of incense-burnings and drink-offerings to the Queen of Heaven. 9 This, as a nocturnal rite, would be a "Holy Supper." And in the last chapters of the Deutero-Isaiah 10 we have first a combined charge of child-sacrifice and of unlawful drink-offerings against the polytheistic Israelites, and again a denunciation of those who "prepared a table for Gad (Fortune), and that fill up mingled wine unto Meni." 11 Now, Meni, translated "Destiny," is in all
likelihood simply Mên the Asiatic Moon-God, who is virtually identified with Selênê-Mênê the Moon-Goddess in the Orphic hymns, and like her was held to be twy-sexed. 1 In that case Meni is only another aspect of the Queen of Heaven, 2 the wine-eucharist being, as before remarked, a lunar rite. Whether or not this Deus Lunus was then, as later, identified with Mithra, we cannot divine. It suffices that the sacrament in question was extremely widespread. 3
The allusion to the "mingled wine" apparently implies an objection such as we know existed in Greece to any dilution of the wine devoted to the Wine-God. There the practice was to keep unmixed the cup to the "Good Deity" (agathos daimon) Dionysos, 4 but to mix with water that which was drunk to Zeus the Saviour, he being the rain-giver. 5 In the worship of Yahweh, whether or not he were originally a variant of Dionysos, 6 the priests would naturally stipulate for a drink-offering of unmixed wine, since in all likelihood they themselves consumed it, 7 though there is a suggestion in the code that it sweetened the burnt-offering. 8 In Philo Judæus there is a passage which notably combines the idea of the virtue of unmixed wine with that of its mystical connection with human sacrifice:"Who then is the chief butler of God? The priest who offers libations to him, the truly great high-priest who, having received a draught of everlasting graces, offers himself in return, pouring in an entire libation of unmixed-wine." 9 Here, as so often
elsewhere in Philo, the conception of sacrifice has become mystical; but his identification of the sacrifice with the Logos, which "pours a portion of blood" for the purposes of the bodily life; 1 and his comparison of the celestial food of the soul to manna, which the Logos "divides in equal portions among all who are to use it, caring greatly for equality," 2 tells of a more concrete interpretation of texts among the more normally religious.
On the other hand, as Yahweh like Zeus was the rain-giver, and good sense vetoed much drinking of the strong unmixed wine, there was no solid reason why in the Hebrew cult also the wine should not be diluted; and in the Talmud we find the act in a measure prescribed, 3 the practice of the Ebionites and the early Christians 4 being thus anticipated. In any case, we find the drink-offering of wine expressly connected in oneapparently interpolatedsection of the priestly code 5 with the passover feast of first-fruits and the firstling lamb; and here it is stipulated that no bread shall be eaten till the oblation has been made. Thus both as an orthodoxy and as a heresy a Holy Supper of bread and wine in connection with a symbolic sacrifice of a firstling lamb was known among the pre-Christian Israelites.
What bearing, finally, the practice may have had on the use of the sacred shew-bread of the temple remains problematic; but that the shew-bread stood for some quasi-sacramental meal is the only explanation we have of it. 6 Concerning the twelve cakes or loaves of fine flour which were placed every sabbath day "upon the holy table before the Lord," the code prescribed that "it shall be for Aaron and his sons; and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord." 7 A sacrament is implied in the description. And when we remember that the oxen sacrificed at the temple of Yahweh wore crowns and had their horns gilt 8 exactly like those sacrificed by the pagans, 9 we are entitled to doubt whether the temple-priests did not in most other respects conform to common pagan practice. 10 Priestly sacramental banquets
of flesh and cakes we know to have been usual in Rome. 1 Even on Judaic principles, however, the priests were likely to make of their sacred loavesor a few of them, for they were largea Banquet for Twelve. 2 According to Maimonides, the daily sacrifice required thirteen priests for its performance; 3 and on the principle that the bread and wine constituted a sacrifice, the presiding priest and twelve others would be the fit consumers. We know further that there was a dispute between the school of Shamai and that of Hillel as to the meal on the Sabbath-eve, wherein wine was drunk, the Shamaites holding that a blessing should first be asked on the day, the Hillelites putting first the wine, which consecrated the day. 4 If, then, the loaves and the wine were eaten on the evening following the Sabbath, it would represent a pre-Christian bread-and-wine eucharist or Holy Supper of thirteen priestly persons on the Day of the Sun. In this, as in all sacraments, the God mystically joined; and if the High Priest presided there was in his person a Christos or Anointed One. 5
Now, we know (1) that the High-Priest officiated on the sabbaths; 6 (2) that the retiring course of priests received six of the loaves and the incoming one the other six; 7 and (3) that they were eaten stale, each sabbath's supply being consumed on the next sabbath. 8 Here then was an apparent necessity for an eating of the sacred bread by the priests in the company of the High-Priest, as representing Aaron; and inasmuch as wine was forbidden to all during their period of service 9 there is an implication that they were free to drink it when the service was over 10that is, on the sabbath day, after the high-priest had officiated. 11
Of course the number may not have been twelve; it may have been twenty-four, the number of the courses of the priests 12 and of the heavenly band of "elders" in the Judæo-Christian Apocalypse; 13
and the bread may have been eaten not with wine but with water. Either way, at least, there was a sacrament very much on the later Christian lines; and this suffices for our theory, which does not require that we should find in the very temple a close Judaic precedent for the Christian weekly supper of bread and wine. Indeed, there is a presumption that it originated, as before suggested, outside of the immediate sphere of the temple priesthood. But the fact that there was a certain precedent in the priestly practice would be a point in favour of an outside rite, which might conceivably be specialised among the Twelve Apostles of the High-Priest, whose official function is the real basis of the myth of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. 1 Even this hypothesis, in turn, is not essential to our theory of sacramental evolution. It suffices that beyond all question there were many Gentile precedents for the eucharist, and that its connection with the Lord's Day 2 was quite independent of the myth of the Lord's resurrection on the first day of the week; the rite being so fixed in both its solar and its lunar connection, which was implicit in the cults of Dionysos and Mithra, both of them two-formed, and both combining the attributes of sun and moon. 3 And as the myth of the sacrifice of the God-Man as king, and the kindred sacrament of the Lamb-God, were derived through Judaic channels, there is a presumption that the habitual rites of the first Christists came in the same way. On that view it remains to trace further the Judaic evolution.
175:5 Exod. xviii, 12.
175:6 Deut. xxxii, 31-33, 37-39.
175:7 Cp. Jevons, Introd. to Hist. of Relig. pp. 291, 295; Prof. Kittel, Studien zur hebräischen Archäologie, 1908, 102 sq., 114 sq.
176:1 Gen. xiv, 18.
176:2 Cp. Ps. cx, 4.
176:3 Heb. vii, 3. Cp. v, 6, 10; and vii, 11, 17.
176:4 E.g., Helios and Herakles in the Orphica, viii, 3; xii, 9. Nature also is "autopator" and "without father." Id. x, 10. A Talmudic writer identifies Melchizedek with Shem (Encyc. Bib. s.v. Melchisedek). Cp. Gregorie, Works, ed. 1671, pref., for an Arabic genealogy which makes Melchisedec son of Heraclim or Phaleg.
176:5 Ps. xlv, 6, 7; Heb. i, 8.
176:6 According to one account, wine was never offered in the Greek worship of the Sun-God (Athenæus, xv, 48); but in the assimilation of the cults of Apollo and Dionysos this rule was probably got over, lust as in the assimilation of those of Dionysos and Dêmêtêr wine was used, though that was originally nefas in the worship of the Corn-Goddess. Cp. Servius on Virgil, Georg. i, 344, and the discussion in Alexander ab Alexandro, Genial. Dier. ed. 1673, 1, 695-6. 705-6.
176:7 Dialogue with Trypho, c. 19.
176:8 Adversus Judæos, cc. 2, 3.
176:9 Jer. xliv, 17, 18, 25. Cp. xix, 13; xxxii, 29.
176:10 Isa. lvii, 5-6.
176:11 Isa. lxv, 11 (marg.).
177:1 Orphica, ix, 1-3; Athenæus, xiii, 71 (v. 15); Gerhard, Griechische Mythologie, 1854, § 481, Anh. § 1001 L.; Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, p. 133; Foucart, Des Associations religieuses chez les Grecs, pp. 26, 119; K. O. Müller, Manual of Ancient Art, Eng. tr. p. 532. See also below, Pt. III., Mithraism, § 5. The Hebraists apparently refuse the identification because the traditional vocalisation of the word in its solitary mention in Isaiah is Mĕnīa very insufficient reason as against the implications of Mên and Mênê. In Pontus, where there was a great temple of Mên of Pharnaces at Ameria, the royal oath was, "By the Fortune of the King, and by Mên of Pharnaces" (Strabo, B. xii, c. iii. § 31)the same collocation as we find in Gad (Fortune) and Meni. The connection between the fixed recurrence of the changes of the moon and the idea of Destiny is clear in the Egyptian worship of Maat, the Measurer, and Goddess of Law (Renouf. Hibbert Lectures, 2nd ed. pp. 71-119). Dr. Cheyne (Encyc. Bib. art. Fortune and Destiny) suggests the old Arabic deity Manah or Manât (Koran, Sura, liii, 20), as to whom see Sale, Prelim. Discourse, ed. 1833, i, 40, 41. The sex of Manah is not clear, but the God seems to have been associated with bloody sacrifices, and to connect with the place Mina, still the valley of sacrifices for Moslems. There is finally a possibility that such a Manah may connect with the mythic "manna," "the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat" (Ex. xvi, 15). The Revised Version and the Kautzsch version not very plausibly decide for the reading "What is it?" as against the alternatives "It is manna" or "It is a portion," on the theory that mân is a contracted Aramaic particle = What? Sayce and Lenormant tell of an Assyrian God of Destiny, Manah, but he seems a bare name.
177:2 Cp. Kalisch, Comm. on Levit., i, 370.
177:3 Cp. Jerome in. loc.; Spencer, De legibus Hebræorum, ed. 1686, ii, 138-9; Selden, De Diis Syris, ed. 1680, pp. 6-8.
177:4 Athenæus, ii, 7, p. 38; xv, 47, 48, pp. 69.2-3. This had to be merely tasted, by reason of the strength of the unmixed wine of the ancients.
177:5 Id. ii, 7; xv, 17, p. 675; Diodorus Siculus, iv, 3.
177:6 Cp. Christianity and Mythology, 2nd ed. pp. 99.
177:7 It was poured out at the base of the altar (Josephus, Antiq. iii, 9, § 3; cp. Smith, Rel. of Semites, p. 213 and note); and it is extremely unlikely that the enormous quantity of, wine offered in libations was allowed to drain away as mere sewage. Cp. the tone of Joel, i, 9, 13.
177:8 Num. xv, 7, 10. But cp. v, 24; xxviii, 7; Ex. xxix, 40. Presumably a little of the wine would be thrown on the fire or on the sacrifice,
177:9 De Somniis, ii, 27; Yonge's translation.
178:1 Quis haeres rer. div. c. 28.
178:2 Id. c. 39.
178:3 "No blessing is to be pronounced over the cup of wine, unless water has first been mixed with it. Such are the words of Rabbi Eleezer (1st c.). But the wise men are not particular." Berachoth, fol. 50, col. 1, cited by Hershon, Genesis, p. 231, n. 26.
178:4 Cp. Justin Martyr, Apol. 1, 55-57.
178:5 Lev. xxiii, 9-14. Verses 8 and 15 appear to have been originally in context.
178:6 Cp, Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, pp. 207-8; Bähr, Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus, 1835, i, 425-438. Gesenius (Comm. über den Jesaja, ii, 287, cited by Bähr) decides that the table of shew-bread was simply a Lectisternium.
178:7 Lev. xxiv, 5-9. Cp. Philo Judæus, De Victimis, 3.
178:8 Schürer, Hist. of the Jewish People in the time of Jesus Christ, 2nd Div. Eng. tr. i, 237.
178:9 Porphyry, De Abstinentia, ii, 15, 60; Homer, Iliad, x, 294; Virgil, Æneid, ix, 627. Cp. Newton, Essays in Art and Archæology, 1880, p. 174. As to Chinese practice, see above, p. 140.
178:10 On pagan Lectisternia and "shew-bread" in general, cp. Bähr, as cited.
179:1 Suetonius, Claudius, 33; Vitellius, 13.
179:2 Cp. Bähr, as cited, p. 430. The fact that Philo (De Victimis, 3) and Josephus (Wars, v, 5, § 5) refer the number of loaves respectively to the months and to the signs of the zodiac, suggests the presence of the same symbols in other cults; and as the twelve stones on the breastplate of the high-priest stood for the signs of the zodiac (Clem. Alex., Stromata, i, 5; Philo, De Mose. iii, 12; De Monarchia, ii, 5cp. De Profugis, 14, where the patriarchs are divided in two ranks like the signs) there is a strong presumption that the detail came directly from Babylon, where the twelve signs represented twelve Gods (Jastrow, pp. 434, 462-3).
179:3 Cited by Conder, Handbook to the Bible, p. 109.
179:4 Hershon, Genesis with a Talm. Comm. p. 230, n. 11, citing Succah, fol. 56, col. 1; and Maimonides, Hilch. Shabbath, Sect. 29, Halachah 7.
179:5 Schürer, as cited, pp. 215-216.
179:6 Josephus, Wars, v, 5, § 7.
179:7 Schürer, as cited, p. 236, note, ref. to Succah, v, 7, 8. In the same way there were always six lambs ready for sacrifice. Conder, p. 110.
179:8 Josephus, Antiq. iii, 10, § 7.
179:9 Ezek. xliv, 21; Lev. x, 8. Cp. Schürer, p. 278.
179:10 This is clearly implied by Josephus, Wars, v, 5, § 7.
179:11 Schürer, pp. 273-4, and refs.
179:12 Id. pp. 219, 275. Cp. Conder, p. 108.
179:13 Rev. iv, 10, etc. This number probably came from the twenty-four "counsellor-Gods" of the Babylonian religion (Diod. Sic. ii, 31; Tiele, Hist. comp. p. 249; Gunkel, Zum religionsgeschichtlichen Verständnis des Neuen Testaments, 1903, p. 43), where the golden tables of Bel (Herod. i, 181, 183) may have served for a lectisternium. Cp. Bahr, Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus, i, 438.
180:1 Christianity and Mythology, 2nd ed. p. 344.
180:2 That the word Kyriakos is not a Christian coinage is now fully established. See Deissmann in Encyc. Bib. s.v. Lord's Day, citing his own Neue Bibelstudien, 1897, 0.44, sq., and cp. the expression κυριακὴν Κυρίου in the Didachê, ch. 14.
180:3 Below, Part III, § 5; Orphica, xxx, 2, 3; xlii, 4. The double sex of Dionysos in the mysteries is often ignored by the mythologists. E.g., Preller does not give his epithets διφυης and διμορφος; and Gerhard (1 451, 1) makes the latter term apply to his different ages and animal shapes.