A Pagan Apologia for Petrine Primacy

27 08 2009

omphalos

When I first read this a year ago, I had to chuckle to myself. I was tempted not to write a post about this, but here I present my gracious hommage to Amercian Catholic apologetics culture.

Why should we listen to the Pope? Because the pagans said so.

I have written of David Fideler’s book, Jesus Christ: the Sun of God before. For readers who don’t remember, one of the main arguments of the neopagan scholar is that Jesus Christ was just not the fulfilment of Jewish messianic promises, but also of pagan aspirations, and not just in a very general way. Fideler shows through the lost science of gematria, by which letters are assigned numerical values in the Greek and Hebrew alphabets, that the name “Jesus” in Greek adds up to 888, a solar number associated with the god Apollo. Fideler then proceeds to analyze various passages and stories from the Greek Gospels along these lines, and finds numerical symbolism in some key and unexpected places.

More to the interest of orthodox Catholics, however, is that he sees the primacy of the Apostle Peter as having a symbolic foundation in this ancient reading of the texts. If Christ is the new Apollo, it is the First Apostle, the rock on which Christ will build his Church, who is the new omphalos, the sacred stone to be found at Delphi considered to be Apollo’s throne and the navel of the world. Fideler writes:

Simon Peter, who became the “omphalos of Christianity”, was a fisherman. Significantly, in the story of 153 fishes in the unbroken net, Simon Peter is the central character and the first inscribed circle representing him is the “foundation stone” that defines the dimensions of all the geometry that follows. After the allegory is completed and the entire figure is drawn out, the resurrected Jesus commands Peter to care for his flock: he is told three times to “feed my sheep.” Simon Petros, “the Rock,” hence is given the charge to realize his function as the foundation stone of Christianity. What we are seeing here, in an esoteric sense, is a transfer of spiritual authority from the old omphalos of Apollo at Delphi to the new omphalos of Christianity at Rome.

Not convinced? Well, in Greek, the numerical value applied to the word, “Cephas” is 729. In Plato’s Republic, a Tyrant is deemed to be 729 times worse than a good man, which means that a good man is 729 times better than a Tyrant. The explanation Socrates gives is that 729 is “a number closely associated with human life, if human life is concerned with days and nights and months and years”. Fideler includes a rather remarkable magic square in his book to illustrate what the Greek philospher was talking about, but sadly, I cannot represent it here.

729 is also the number of the Delphinion, the temple of Apollo at Delphi, and Plutarch notes 729 as being a number of the Sun. The Pope then, as the Successor of Peter, is the solar navel of the world.

So who cares about all of those arguments of people like Scott Hahn that Peter is the “viceroy” of Christ prefigured in the Old Testament?! This stuff is way more convincing. Not only is Christ the successor of King David, He is also the successor of Apollo, and Peter is His sacred stone. So all you Protestants, bow down!

The Orthodox would step in here and say that the real omphalos is in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. But we all know that they are just Protestants with a liturgy, so who cares what they think? They don’t see how Apollo could seamlessly developed into Christ, and they don’t live in our hermeneutic circle. Indeed, they and the Protestants seem to read paganism with the hermeneutic of suspicion. And we all know where that leads…


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14 responses

8 09 2009
random Orthodox chick

OWW,

Oh, that’s just him being him.

8 09 2009
AG

Fossil’s comments got stuck in the spam folder. Sorry!

-Scratch that – I should pay closer attention. Everything’s fine; well, I bumped this topic up.

31 08 2009
OWW

“The Orthodox would step in here and say that the real omphalos is in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. But we all know that they are just Protestants with a liturgy, so who cares what they think? They don’t see how Apollo could seamlessly developed into Christ, and they don’t live in our hermeneutic circle. Indeed, they and the Protestants seem to read paganism with the hermeneutic of suspicion. And we all know where that leads…”

—Methinks you are using way too wide a brush here. Your understanding of all Orthodox as Protestants with Liturgy is definitely off target. Maybe this is your personal experience with those few Orthodox you have met, but not all are this.

Me, for example.

30 08 2009
Huw

There’s what’s “portrayed” and then there’s the reality that people see: there’s an icon on the wall. Who is going to not venerate it? Are the pagan philosophers filling the role (in “the old country”) that is occupied by various holy people/unofficial saints in Latin America, etc?

28 08 2009
Robert Thomas Llizo

I’ve also read Christ the Eternal Tao, and your reading of it is spot on, Huw. Quoting from another source reflecting on Greek paganism-I.M. Andreyev’s Orthodox Apologetic Theology- Andreyev says:”Ancient Greek philosophy, mainly in the persons of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, contributed much that is valuable for defending the foundations of religious beliefs and for criticizing atheistic and materialist teachings.” p. 51 What is outside of the hermeneutic circle is not the reading of the pagans as “proto-Christians,” but turning theology into some kind of dialectic in later scholastic methods. St. Bonaventure was very suspicious of this kind of move with the advent of Scholasticism, though he would use it cautiously.

But in keeping with the humor inherent in this post, well, let me say that if I ever do “bow down” to the 1870 modified ultramontanist papal claims, it may well be because Apollo made me do it 😉

27 08 2009
Agostino Taumaturgo

Leyla,

I was going to comment on exactly that, but changed my mind at the last minute… thanks for bringing it up!

Though it does not talk about pagan prophecy of Christ, I’m also reminded of Challoner’s answer to Middleton (the guy responsible for the modern form of the “Catholic=Pagan” and “Mary=Isis” mess). I don’t know how to post links here (or if it’s allowed), but go to Google Books and look up “The Catholic Christian Instructed.”

In one place Challoner answers Middleton’s remark that he would rather pray for the intercession of a Romulus or Antoninus than of a “Popish Saint:”
“But some may possibly apprehend, from the way that the Doctor [Middleton] speaks of the martyrs of Christ, that he is no friend to Christianity in general than he is to popery: for though such ancient heretics of old have objected to the Catholic Church, as he now does . . . yet no one, that pretended to the name of Christian, ever ventured to prefer the pagan deities before the martyrs of Christ.”

In another place, explaining that Middleton’s arguments are every bit as dangerous to Protestantism:
“And, consequently, since popery and paganism stand upon a level, I cannot but conclude, that English protestancy is nearly allied to paganism. For whilst we see these pretended Protestants worshipping at this day in the same temples . . . they must have more charity, as well as more skill in distinguishing, than I pretend to, who can absolve them of the same crime of superstition and idolatry with their popish ancestors.”

I know these quotes are slightly off the topic, but I think it demonstrates the logical conclusion of Middleton’s particular “hermeneutic of suspicion,” which is especially prominent in Atheist and Neo-Pagan criticism of Christianity in general, in everything from from the Diegesis to Richard Dawkins to Silver Ravenwolf.

It also moves me to think that if we approach such Pagan parallels and prophecies not with a hermeneutic of suspicion, but with a hermeneutic that “the laws of God are written on the hearts of men” (Romans 2:15, paraphrase), we’d get more mileage than just a potentially self-destructive polemical/apologetical culture to which Arturo pays “gracious hommage” in this blog-post.

27 08 2009
Samn!

Though notice that those philosophers aren’t portrayed as saints, but as simply proclaiming Christ (as shown by their hand position, etc…).

27 08 2009
CNI

The pagan “philosophers” on the southern wall of Sucevitsa Monastery (Romania):
http://www.users.cloud9.net/~romania/suc/Philosophers_(Plato_with_coffin_on_head).html

27 08 2009
Huw

I’m not sure *all* Orthodox would be so far out of your “hermetic circle” as to “read paganism with the hermeneutic of suspicion”. Although I may have misread the book “Christ the Eternal Tao” – written by an Orthodox monk – seemed to be built on the premise that Christ was the fulfillment of early Asian pagan expectations too.

Justin Martyr seems to have felt the same way referring to Socrates and Plato as Christians. And, while it may make some converts’ toes curl, I’ve seen Icons of the two in Greek churches. (I’ve also seen the toes curling…)

27 08 2009
Leyla Jagiella

I once had this little book that I had acquired at some fleemarket. An introduction to Catholicism, from the 1950s or 1960s. I´m pretty sure it was pre-Vatican II, in any case its overall content and style was verrrrrry “oldfashioned”.
Unfortunately I don´t have it at hand now and can´t tell you the title or the name.

In this book the author tried to answer several accusations made against Catholicism. One accusation was the (amongst some, at least) common idea that the catholic veneration of the Virgin Mary was just copied from the worship of Isis, Kybele and other pagan virgin mother goddesses with resurrected sons, husbands etc.

The author answered the accusation by just turning the whole idea around:
He interpreted the myths of Isis, Horus and Osiris or Kybele and Attis etc. as vestiges of a primordial revelation about Jesus Christ, given to Adam, Eve and all of their descendants and wrote that, as witnessed in their own myths, all pagan religions anticipated Jesus Christ and his mother.
He also read Genesis 3/15 as representing this revelation.

Something else:
The medieval Arab Orthodox and Coptic apologies mentioned by Samn! probably have a connection with Arab Muslim speculations on Hermes.
In medieval Islam a widespread discourse identified Hermes Trismegistos with the quranic prophet Idris and the biblical prophet Enoch; the tradition of Hermetic Paganism was like Judaism and Christianism seen by some as belonging to the “religions of the book” and it had a profound influence on the mystic and philosopher Shahabaddin Yahya Suhrawardi (who was also appreciated by some Jews and Christians).

Suhrawardi lived before the mentioned Christian apologies but I assume that Coptic Christians probably already had some longstanding sympathy for the Egyptian Hermes in pre-Islamic times.

27 08 2009
fb

Gematria is not a scholarly history.

However the circumstantial evidence is voluminous.

Christianity undoubtedly is built on pagan lines. Fulton Sheen didn’t start this notion in the 1950s, but rather many Romans said this(I think Celsus was among them) in the early Christian Era!

27 08 2009
Samn!

For a 13th century Arab Orthodox apology for Christ based on pagan sources, look at— http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/gerasimus_excerpt.htm

For a 14th century Coptic one, look at— http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/ms_mingana_syr_481_extract.htm

Hermes, perhaps, should be considered a prophet… at least, if these guys were right….

27 08 2009
Leah

The notion that Jesus was foretold by pagan prophecies is not a new idea, since Fulton Sheen was saying the same thing in the 1950s (See his book “The Life of Christ”). I don’t know how popular this idea is in the apologetics community, since I’m not into that scene.

27 08 2009
Agostino

This is nice. Just really nice.

Actually, I’m not a big fan of Gematria, especially the way most modern-day occultists tend to twist it to “prove” whatever they want to believe as “true.” But that’s not unlike a lot of people in the internet apologetics subculture either, I guess.

I’m going to get this book, though. Sounds like a “must-have” for my bookshelf!

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