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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Christian Symbols

A thorough investigation of this subject would require a volume, therefore, as we can devote but a chapter to it, it must necessarily be treated somewhat slightingly.
The first of the Christian Symbols which we shall notice is the CROSS.
Overwhelming historical facts show that the cross was used, as a religious emblem, many centuries before the Christian era, by every nation in the world. Bishop Colenso, speaking on this subject, says:—
"From the dawn of organized Paganism in the Eastern world, to the final establishment of Christianity in the West, the cross was undoubtedly one of the commonest and most sacred of symbolical monuments. Apart from any distinctions of social or intellectual superiority, of caste, color, nationality, or location in either hemisphere, it appears to have been the aboriginal possession of every people in antiquity.
"Diversified forms of the symbol are delineated more or less artistically, according to the progress achieved in civilization at the period, on the ruined walls of temples and palaces, on natural rocks and sepulchral galleries, on the hoariest monoliths and the rudest statuary; on coins, medals, and vases of every description; and in not a few instances, are preserved in the architectural proportions of subterranean as well as superterranean structures of tumuli, as well as fanes.
"Populations of essentially different culture, tastes, and pursuits—the highly-civilized and the semi-civilized, the settled and the nomadic—vied with each other in their superstitious adoration of it, and in their efforts to extend the knowledge of its exceptional import and virtue amongst their latest posterities.
"Of the several varieties of the cross still in vogue, as national and ecclesiastical emblems, and distinguished by the familiar appellations of St. George, St. Andrew, the Maltese, the Greek, the Latin, &c., &c., there is not one amongst them, the existence of which may not be traced to the remotest antiquity. They were the common property of the Eastern nations.
"That each known variety has been derived from a common source, and is emblematical of one and the same truth may be inferred from the fact of forms identically the same, whether simple or complex, cropping out in contrary directions, in the Western as well as the Eastern hemisphere."[339:1]
The cross has been adored in India from time immemorial, and was a symbol of mysterious significance in Brahmanical iconography. It was the symbol of the Hindoo god Agni, the "Light of the World."[340:1]
In the Cave of Elephanta, over the head of the figure represented as destroying the infants, whence the story of Herod and the infants of Bethlehem (which was unknown to all the Jewish, Roman, and Grecian historians) took its origin, may be seen the Mitre, the Crosier, and the Cross.[340:2]
It is placed by 
 in the hand of Siva, Brahma, Vishnu, Crishna, Tvashtri and Jama. To it the worshipers of Vishnu attribute as many virtues as does the devout Catholic to the Christian cross.[340:3] Fra Paolino tells us it was used by the ancient kings of India as a sceptre.[340:4]
Two of the principal pagodas of India—Benares and Mathura—were erected in the forms of vast crosses.[340:5] The pagoda at Mathura was sacred to the memory of the Virgin-born and crucified Saviour Crishna.[340:6]
Buddhist sacred Swastica
The cross has been an object of profound veneration among the Buddhists from the earliest times. One is the sacred Swastica (Fig. No. 21). It is seen in the old Buddhist Zodiacs, and is one of the symbols in the Asoka inscriptions. It is the sectarian mark of the Jains, and the distinctive badge of the sect of Xaca Japonicus. The Vaishnavas of India have also the same sacred sign.[340:7] And, according to Arthur Lillie,[340:8] "the only Christian cross in the catacombs is this Buddhist Swastica."
Buddhist cross
The cross is adored by the followers of the Lama of Thibet.[340:9] Fig. No. 22 is a representation of the most familiar form of Buddhist cross. The close [Pg 341]resemblance between the ancient religion of Thibet and that of the Christians has been noticed by many European travellers and missionaries, among whom may be mentioned Pere Grebillon, Pere Grueber, Horace de la Paon, D'Orville, and M. L'Abbé Huc. The Buddhists, and indeed all the sects of India, marked their followers on the head with the sign of the cross.[341:1] This was undoubtedly practiced by almost all heathen nations, as we have seen in the chapter on the Eucharist that the initiates into the Heathen mysteries were marked in that manner.
The ancient Egyptians adored the cross with the profoundest veneration. This sacred symbol is to be found on many of their ancient monuments, some of which may be seen at the present day in the British Museum.[341:2] In the museum of the London University, a cross upon a Calvary is to be seen upon the breast of one of the Egyptian mummies.[341:3] Many of the Egyptian images hold a cross in their hand. There is one now extant of the Egyptian Saviour Horus holding a cross in his hand,[341:4] and he is represented as an infant sitting on his mother's knee, with a cross on the back of the seat they occupy.[341:5]
Egyptian cross
The commonest of all the Egyptian crosses, the CRUX ANSATA (Fig. No. 23) was adopted by the Christians. Thus, beside one of the Christian inscriptions at Phile (a celebrated island lying in the midst of the Nile) is seen both a Maltese cross and a crux ansata.[341:6] In a painting covering the end of a church in the cemetery of El Khargeh, in the Great Oasis, are three of these crosses round the principal subject, which seems to have been a figure of a saint.[341:7] In an inscription in a Christian church to the east of the Nile, in the desert, these crosses are also to be seen. Beside, or in the hand of, the Egyptian gods, this symbol is generally to be seen. When the Saviour Osiris is represented holding out the crux ansata to a mortal, it signifies that the person to whom he presents it has put off mortality, and entered on the life to come.[341:8]
The Greek cross, and the cross of St. Anthony, are also found [Pg 342]on Egyptian monuments. A figure of a Shari (Fig. No. 24), from Sir Gardner Wilkinson's book, has a necklace round his throat, from which depends a pectoral cross. A third Egyptian cross is that represented in Fig. No. 25, which is apparently intended for a Latin cross rising out of a heart, like the mediæval emblem of "Cor in Cruce, Crux in Corde:" it is the 
 of goodness.[342:1]
Shari wearing pectoral cross
Egyptian cross
It is related by the ecclesiastical historians Socrates and Sozomon, that when the temple of Serapis, at Alexandria, in Egypt, was demolished by one of the Christian emperors, beneath the foundation was discovered a cross. The words of Socrates are as follows:
"In the temple of Serapis, now overthrown and rifled throughout, there were found engraven in the stones certain letters . . . resembling the form of the cross. The which when both Christians and Ethnics beheld, every one applied to his proper religion. The Christians affirmed that the cross was a sign or token of the passion of Christ, and the proper cognizance of their profession. The Ethnics avouched that therein was contained something in common, belonging as well to Serapis as to Christ."[342:2]
It should be remembered, in connection with this, that the Emperor Hadrian saw no difference between the worshipers of Serapis and the worshipers of Christ Jesus. In a letter to the Consul Servanus he says:
"There are there (in Egypt) Christians who worship Serapis, and devoted to Serapis are those who call themselves 'Bishops of Christ.'"[342:3]
The ancient Egyptians were in the habit of putting a cross on their sacred cakes, just as the Christians of the present day do on Good Friday.[342:4] The plan of the chamber of some Egyptian sepulchres has the form of a cross,[342:5] and the cross was worn by Egyptian ladies as an ornament, in precisely the same manner as Christian ladies wear it at the present day.[342:6]
The ancient Babylonians honored the cross as a religious symbol. It is to be found on their oldest monuments. Anu, a deity who stood at the head of the Babylonian mythology, had a cross for his [Pg 343]sign or symbol.[343:1] It is also the 
 of the Babylonian god Bal.[343:2] A cross hangs on the breast of Tiglath Pileser, in the colossal tablet from Nimroud, now in the British Museum. Another king, from the ruins of Ninevah, wears a Maltese cross on his bosom. And another, from the hall of Nisroch, carries an emblematic necklace, to which a Maltese cross is attached.[343:3] The most common of crosses, the crux ansata(Fig. No. 21) was also a sacred symbol among the Babylonians. It occurs repeatedly on their cylinders, bricks and gems.[343:4]
The ensigns and standards carried by the Persians during their wars with Alexander the Great (B. C. 335), were made in the form of a cross—as we shall presently see was the style of the ancient Roman standards—and representations of these cross-standards have been handed down to the present day.
Sir Robert Ker Porter, in his very valuable work entitled: "Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, and Ancient Babylonia,"[343:5] shows the representation of abas-relief, of very ancient antiquity, which he found at Nashi-Roustam, or the Mountain of Sepulchres. It represents a combat between two horsemen—Baharam-Gour, one of the old Persian kings, and a Tartar prince. Baharam-Gour is in the act of charging his opponent with a spear, and behind him, scarcely visible, appears an almost effaced form, which must have been his standard-bearer, as the ensign is very plainly to be seen. This ensign is a cross. There is another representation of the same subject to be seen in a bas-relief, which shows the standard-bearer and his cross ensign very plainly.[343:6] This bas-relief belongs to a period when the Arsacedian kings governed Persia,[343:7] which was within a century after the time of Alexander, and consequently more than two centuries B. C.
two men carrying a cross
Sir Robert also found at this place, sculptures cut in the solid rock, which are in the form of crosses. These belong to the early race of Persian monarchs, whose dynasty terminated under the sword of Alexander the Great.[343:8] At the foot of Mount Nakshi-Rajab, he also found bas-reliefs, among which were two figures carrying a cross-standard. Fig. No. 26 is a representation of this.[343:9] It is coeval with the sculptures found at Nashi-Roustam,[343:10] and therefore belongs to a period before the time of Alexander's invasion.
The cross is represented frequently and prominently on the coins [Pg 344]of Asia Minor. Several have a ram or lamb on one side, and a cross on the other.[344:1] On some of the early coins of the Phenicians, the cross is found attached to a chaplet of beads placed in a circle, so as to form a complete rosary, such as the Lamas of Thibet and China, the Hindoos, and the Roman Catholics, now tell over while they pray.[344:2] On a Phenician medal, found in the ruins of Citium, in Cyprus, and printed in Dr. Clark's "Travels" (vol. ii. c. xi.), are engraved a cross, a rosary, and a lamb.[344:3] This is the "Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world."
tomb with angels and a cross
The ancient Etruscans revered the cross as a religious emblem. This sacred sign, accompanied with the heart, is to be seen on their monuments. Fig. No. 27, taken from the work of Gorrio (Tab. xxxv.), shows an ancient tomb with angels and the cross thereon. It would answer perfectly for a Christian cemetery.
Calvary cross
The cross was adored by the ancient Greeks and Romans for centuries before the Augustan era. An ancient inscription in Thessaly is accompanied by a Calvary cross (Fig. No. 28); and Greek crosses of equal arms adorn the tomb of Midas (one of the ancient kings), in Phrygia.[344:4]
The adoration of the cross by the Romans is spoken of by the Christian Father Minucius Felix, when denying the charge of idolatry which was made against his sect.
"As for the adoration of cross," (says he to the Romans), "which you object against us, I must tell you that we neither adore crosses nor desire them. You it is, ye Pagans, who worship wooden gods, who are the most likely people to adore wooden crosses, as being part of the same substance with your deities. For what else are your ensigns, flags, and standards, but crosses, gilt and beautiful. Your victorious trophies not only represent a cross, but a cross with a man upon it."[345:1]
The principal silver coin among the Romans, called the denarius, had on one side a personification of Rome as a warrior with a helmet, and on the reverse, a chariot drawn by four horses. The driver had a cross-standard in one hand. This is a representation of a denarius of the earliest kind, which was first coined 296 B. C.[345:2] The cross was used on the roll of the Roman soldiery as the sign of life.[345:3]
But, long before the Romans, long before the Etruscans, there lived in the plains of Northern Italy a people to whom the cross was a religious symbol, the sign beneath which they laid their dead to rest; a people of whom history tells nothing, knowing not their name; but of whom antiquarian research has learned this, that they lived in ignorance of the arts of civilization, that they dwelt in villages built on platforms over lakes, and that they trusted to the cross to guard, and may be to revive, their loved ones whom they committed to the dust.
The examination of the tombs of Golasecca proves, in a most convincing, positive, and precise manner that which the terramares of Emilia had only indicated, but which had been confirmed by the cemetery of Villanova, that above a thousand years B. C., the cross was already a religious emblem of frequent employment.[345:4]
"It is more than a coincidence," (says the Rev. S. Baring-Gould), "that Osiris by the cross should give life eternal to the spirits of the just; that with the cross Thor should smite the head of the great Serpent, and bring to life those who were slain; that beneath the cross the Muysca mothers should lay their babes, trusting to that sign to secure them from the power of evil spirits; that with that symbol to protect them, the ancient people of Northern Italy should lay them down in the dust."[345:5]
The cross was also found among the ruins of Pompeii.[345:6]
It was a sacred emblem among the ancient Scandinavians.
"It occurs" (says Mr. R. Payne Knight), "on many Runic monuments found in Sweden and Denmark, which are of an age long anterior to the approach of Christianity to those countries, and, probably, to its appearance in the world."[346:1]
Their god Thor, son of the Supreme god Odin, and the goddess Freyga, had the hammer for his symbol. It was with this hammer that Thor crushed the head of the great Mitgard serpent, that he destroyed the giants, that he restored the dead goats to life, which drew his car, that he consecrated the pyre of Baldur.This hammer was a cross.[346:2]
The cross of Thor is still used in Iceland as a magical sign in connection with storms of wind and rain.
King Olaf, Longfellow tells us, when keeping Christmas at Drontheim:
"O'er his drinking-horn, the signHe made of the Cross Divine,And he drank, and mutter'd his prayers;But the Berserks evermoreMade the sign of the hammer of ThorOver theirs."
Actually, they both made the same symbol.
This we are told by Snorro Sturleson, in the Heimskringla (Saga iv. c. 18), when he describes the sacrifice at Lade, at which King Hakon, Athelstan's foster-son, was present:
"Now when the first full goblet was filled, Earl Sigurd spoke some words over it, and blessed it in Odin's name, and drank to the king out of the horn; and the king then took it, and made the sign of the cross over it. Then said Kaare of Greyting, 'What does the king mean by doing so? will he not sacrifice?' But Earl Sigurd replied, 'The King is doing what all of you do who trust in your power and strength; for he is blessing the full goblet in the name of Thor, by making the sign of his hammer over it before he drinks it."[346:3]
The cross was also a sacred emblem among the Laplanders. "In solemn sacrifices, all the Lapland idols were marked with it from the blood of the victims."[346:4]
It was adored by the ancient Druids of Britain, and is to be seen on the so-called "fire towers" of Ireland and Scotland. The "consecrated trees" of the Druids had a cross beam attached to them, making the figure of a cross. On several of the most curious and most ancient monuments of Britain, the cross is to be seen, evidently cut thereon by the Druids. Many large stones throughout Ireland have these Druid crosses cut in them.[346:5]
Cleland observes, in his "Attempt to Revive Celtic Literature," that the Druids taught the doctrine of an overruling providence, and the immortality of the soul: that they had also their Lent, their Purgatory, their Paradise, their Hell, their Sanctuaries, and the similitude of the May-pole in form to the cross.[347:1]
"In the Island of I-com-kill, at the monastery of the Culdees, at the time of the Reformation, there were three hundred and sixty crosses."[347:2] The Caaba at Mecca was surrounded by three hundred and sixty crosses.[347:3] This number has nothing whatever to do with Christianity, but is to be found everywhere among the ancients. It represents the number of days of the ancient year.[347:4]
When the Spanish missionaries first set foot upon the soil of America, in the fifteenth century, they were amazed to find that the cross was as devoutly worshiped by the red Indians as by themselves. The hallowed symbol challenged their attention on every hand, and in almost every variety of form. And, what is still more remarkable, the cross was not only associated with other objects corresponding in every particular with those delineated on Babylonian monuments; but it was also distinguished by the Catholic appellations, "the tree of subsistence," "the wood of health," "the emblem of life," &c.[347:5]
When the Spanish missionaries found that the cross was no new object of veneration to the red men, they were in doubt whether to ascribe the fact to the pious labors of St. Thomas, whom they thought might have found his way to America, or the sacrilegious subtlety of Satan. It was the central object in the great temple of Cozamel, and is still preserved on the bas-reliefs of the ruined city of Palenque. From time immemorial it had received the prayers and sacrifices of the Aztecs and Toltecs, and was suspended as an august emblem from the walls of temples in Popogan and Cundinamarca.[347:6]
The ruined city of Palenque is in the depths of the forests of Central America. It was not inhabited at the time of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. They discovered the temples and palaces of Chiapa, but of Palenque they knew nothing. According to tradition it was founded by Votan in the ninth century before the Christian era. The principal building in this ruined city is the palace. A noble tower rises above the courtyard in the centre. In [Pg 348]this building are several small temples or chapels, with altars standing. At the back of one of these altars is a slab of gypsum, on which are sculptured two figures, one on each side of a cross (Fig. No. 29). The cross is surrounded with rich feather-work, and ornamental chains.[348:1] "The style of scripture," says Mr. Baring-Gould, "and the accompanying hieroglyphic inscriptions, leave no room for doubting it to be a heathen representation."[348:2]
cross in Palenque
The same cross is represented on old pre-Mexican MSS., as in the Dresden Codex, and that in the possession of Herr Fejervary, at the end of which is a colossal cross, in the midst of which is represented a bleeding deity, and figures stand round a Tau cross, upon which is perched the sacred bird.[348:3]
The cross was also used in the north of Mexico. It occurs among the Mixtecas and in Queredaro. Siguenza speaks of an Indian cross which was found in the cave of Mixteca Baja. Among the ruins on the island of Zaputero, in Lake Nicaragua, were also found old crosses reverenced by the Indians. White marble crosses were found on the island of St. Ulloa, on its discovery. In the state of Oaxaca, the Spaniards found that wooden crosses were erected as sacred symbols, so also in Aguatoleo, and among the Zapatecas. The cross was venerated as far as Florida on one side, and Cibola on the other. In South America, the same sign was considered symbolical and sacred. It was revered in Paraguay. In Peru the Incas honored a cross made out of a single piece of jasper; it was an emblem belonging to a former civilization.[348:4]
Among the Muyscas at Cumana the cross was regarded with devotion, and was believed to be endowed with power to drive away evil spirits; consequently new-born children were placed under the sign.[348:5]
The Toltecs said that their national deity Quetzalcoatle—whom we have found to be a virgin-born and crucified Saviour—had introduced [Pg 349]the sign and ritual of the cross, and it was called the "Tree of Nutriment," or "Tree of Life."[349:1]
Malcom, in his "Antiquities of Britain," says
"Gomara tells that St. Andrew's cross, which is the same with that of Burgundy, was in great veneration among the Cumas, in South America, and that they fortified themselves with the cross against the incursions of evil spirits, and were in use to put them upon new-born infants; which thing very justly deserves admiration."[349:2]
Felix Cabrara, in his "Description of the Ancient City of Mexico," says:
"The adoration of the cross has been more general in the world, than that of any other emblem. It is to be found in the ruins of the fine city of Mexico, near Palenque, where there are many examples of it among the hieroglyphics on the buildings."[349:3]
In "Chambers's Encyclopædia" we find the following:
"It appears that the sign of the cross was in use as an emblem having certain religious and mystic meanings attached to it, long before the Christian era; and the Spanish conquerors were astonished to find it an object of religious veneration among the nations of Central and South America."[349:4]
Lord Kingsborough, in his "Antiquities of Mexico," speaks of crosses being found in Mexico, Peru, and Yucatan.[349:5] He also informs us that the banner of Montezuma was a cross, and that the historical paintings of the "Codex Vaticanus" represent him carrying a cross as his banner.[349:6]
A very fine and highly polished marble cross which was taken from the Incas, was placed in the Roman Catholic cathedral at Cuzco.[349:7]
Few cases have been more powerful in producing mistakes in ancient history, than the idea, hastily taken by Christians in all ages, that every monument of antiquity marked with a cross, or with any of those symbols which they conceived to be monograms of their god, was of Christian origin. The early Christians did not adopt it as one of their symbols; it was not until Christianity began to be paganized that it became a Christian monogram, and even then it was not the cross as we know it to-day. "It is not until the middle of the fifth century that the pure form of the cross emerges to light."[349:8] The cross of Constantine was nothing more than the monogram of Osiris, the monogram of Osiris, and afterwards of Christ.[349:9] This is seen [Pg 350]from the fact that the "Labarum," or sacred banner of Constantine—on which was placed the sign by which he was to conquer—was inscribed with this sacred monogram. Fig. No. 30 is a representation of the Labarum, taken from Smith's Dictionary of the Bible. The author of "The History of Our Lord in Art" says:
"It would be difficult to prove that the cross of Constantine was of the simple construction as now understood. As regards the Labarum, the coins of the time, in which it is expressly set forth, proves that the so-called cross upon it was nothing else than the same ever-recurring monogram of Christ."[350:1]
Labarum, a sacred banner
Now, this so-called monogram of Christ, like everything else called Christian, is of Pagan origin. It was the monogram of the Egyptian Saviour, Osiris, and also of Jupiter Ammon.[350:2] As M. Basnage remarks in his Hist. de Juif:[350:3]
"Nothing can be more opposite to Jesus Christ, than the Oracle of Jupiter Ammon. And yet the same cipher served the false god as well as the true one; for we see a medal of Ptolemy, King of Cyrene, having an eagle carrying a thunderbolt, with the monogram of Christ to signify the Oracle of Jupiter Ammon."
Rev. J. P. Lundy says:
"Even the P.X., which I had thought to be exclusively Christian, are to be found in combination thus: P.X. symbol (just as the early Christians used it), on coins of the Ptolemies, and on those of Herod the Great, struck forty years before our era, together with this other form, so often seen on the early Christian monuments, viz.: P with horizontal cross-bar."[350:4]
This monogram is also to be found on the coins of Decius, a Pagan Roman emperor, who ruled during the commencement of the third century.[350:5]
Another form of the same monogram is X over H and X H. The monogram of the Sun was Y superimposed over P. P. H. All these are now called monograms of Christ, and are to be met with in great numbers in almost [Pg 351]every church in Italy.[351:1] The monogram of Mercury was a cross.[351:2]The monogram of the Egyptian Taut was formed by three crosses.[351:3] The monogram of Saturn was a cross and a ram's horn; it was also a monogram of Jupiter.[351:4] The monogram of Venus was a cross and a circle.[351:5] The monogram of the Phenician Astarte, and the Babylonian Bal, was also a cross and a circle.[351:6] It was also that of Freya, Holda, and Aphrodite.[351:7] Its true significance was the Linga and Yoni.
The cross, which was so universally adored, in its different forms among heathen nations, was intended as an emblem or symbol of the Sun, of eternal life, the generative powers, &c.[351:8]
As with the cross, and the X. P., so likewise with many other so-called Christian symbols—they are borrowed from Paganism. Among these may be mentioned the mystical three letters I. H. S., to this day retained in some of our Protestant, as well as Roman Catholic churches, and falsely supposed to stand for "Jesu Hominium Salvator," or "In Hoc Signo." It is none other than the identical monogram of the heathen god Bacchus,[351:9] and was to be seen on the coins of the Maharajah of Cashmere.[351:10] Dr. Inman says:
"For a long period I. H. S., I. E. E. S
, was a monogram of Bacchus; letters now adopted by Romanists. Hesus was an old divinity of Gaul, possibly left by the Phenicians. We have the same I. H. S. in Jazabel, and reproduced in our Isabel. The idea connected with the word is 'Phallic Vigor.'"[351:11]
The Triangle, which is to be seen at the present day in Christian churches as an emblem of the "Ever-blessed Trinity," is also of Pagan origin, and was used by them for the same purpose.
Among the numerous symbols, the Triangle is conspicuous in India. Hindoos attached a mystic signification to its three sides, and generally placed it in their temples. It was often composed of lotus plants, with an eye in the center.[351:12] It was sometimes represented in connection with the mystical word AUM[351:13] (Fig. No. 31), and sometimes surrounded with rays of glory.[351:14]
This symbol was engraved upon the tablet of the ring which the religious chief, called the Brahm-âtma wore, as one of the signs of [Pg 352]his dignity, and it was used by the Buddhists as emblematic of the Trinity.[352:1]
The ancient Egyptians signified their divine Triad by a single Triangle.[352:2]
Mr. Bonwick says:
"The Triangle was a religious form from the first. It is to be recognized in the Obelisk and Pyramid (of Egypt). To this day, in some Christian churches, the priest's blessing is given as it was in Egypt, by the sign of a triangle; viz.: two fingers and a thumb. An Egyptian god is seen with a triangle over his shoulders. This figure, in ancient Egyptian theology, was the type of the Holy Trinity—three in one."[352:3]
And Dr. Inman says:
"The Triangle is a sacred symbol in our modern churches, and it was the sign used in ancient temples before the initiated, to indicate the Trinity—three persons 'co-eternal together, and co-equal.'"[352:4]
The Triangle is found on ancient Greek monuments.[352:5] An ancient seal (engraved in the Mémoires de l'Académie royale des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres), supposed to be of Phenician origin, "has as subject a standing figure between two stars, beneath which are handled crosses. Above the head of the deity is the TRIANGLE, or symbol of the Trinity."[352:6]
Hindu AUM triangle
One of the most conspicuous among the symbols intended to represent the Trinity, to be seen in Christian churches, is the compound leaf of the trefoil. Modern story had attributed to St. Patrick the idea of demonstrating a trinity in unity, by showing the shamrock to his hearers; but, says Dr. Inman, "like many other things attributed to the moderns, the idea belongs to the ancients."[352:7]
The Trefoil adorned the head of Osiris, the Egyptian Saviour, and is to be found among the Pagan symbols or representations of [Pg 353]the three-in-one mystery.[353:1] Fig. No. 32 is a representation of the Trefoil used by the ancient Hindoos as emblematic of their celestial Triad—Brahma, Vishnu and Siva—and afterwards adopted by the Christians.[353:2] The leaf of the Vila, or Bel-tree, is typical of Siva's attributes, because triple in form.[353:3]
The Trefoil was a sacred plant among the ancient Druids of Britain. It was to them an emblem of the mysterious three in one.[353:4] It is to be seen on their coins.[353:5]
The Tripod was very generally employed among the ancients as an emblem of the Trinity, and is found composed in an endless variety of ways. On the coins of Menecratia, in Phrygia, it is represented between two asterisks, with a serpent wreathed around a battle-axe, inserted into it, as an accessory symbol, signifying preservation and destruction. In the ceremonial of worship, the number three was employed with mystic solemnity.[353:6]
Hindoo Trefoil
The three lines, or three human legs, springing from a central disk or circle, which has been called a Trinacria, and supposed to allude to the island of Sicily, is simply an ancient emblem of the Trinity. "It is of Asiatic origin; its earliest appearance being upon the very ancient coins of Aspendus in Pamphylia; sometimes alone in the square incuse, and sometimes upon the body of an eagle or the back of a lion."[353:7]
We have already seen, in the chapter on the crucifixion, that the earliest emblems of the Christian Saviour were the "Good Shepherd" and the "Lamb." Among these may also be mentioned the Fish. "The only satisfactory explanation why Jesus should be represented as a Fish," says Mr. King, in his Gnostics and their Remains,[353:8] "seems to be the circumstance that in the quaint jargon of the Talmud the Messiah is often designated 'Dag,' or 'The Fish;'" and Mr. Lundy, in his "Monumental Christianity," says:
"Next to the sacred monogram (the P.X. symbol) the Fish takes its place in importance as a sign of Christ in his special office of Saviour." "In the Talmud the Messiah is called 'Dag' or 'Fish.'" "Where did the Jews learn to apply 'Dag' to their Messiah? And why did the primitive Christians adopt it as a sign of Christ?" "I cannot disguise facts. Truth demands no concealment or apology. Paganism has its types and prophecies of Christ as well as Judaism. What then is the Dag-on of the old Babylonians? The fish-god or being that taught them all their civilization."[354:1]
As Mr. Lundy says, "truth demands no concealment or apology," therefore, when the truth is exposed, we find that Vishnu, the Hindoo Messiah, Preserver, Mediator and Saviour, was represented as a "dag," or fish. The Fish takes its place in importance as a sign of Vishnu in his special office of Saviour.
cross-fish catacomb design
Prof. Monier Williams says:
"It is as Vishnu that the Supreme Being, according to the Hindoos, exhibited his sympathy with human trials, his love for the human race. Nine principal occasions have already occurred in which the god has thus interposed for the salvation of his creatures. The first was Matsaya, the Fish. In this Vishnu became a fish to save the seventh Manu, the progenitor of the human race, from the universal deluge."[354:2]
We have already seen, in Chap. IX., the identity of the Hindoo Matsaya and the Babylonian Dagon.
The fish was sacred among the Babylonians, Assyrians and Phenicians, as it is among the Romanists of to-day. It was sacred also to Venus, and the Romanists still eat it on the very day of the week which was called "Dies veneris," Venus' day; fish day.[354:3] It was an emblem of fecundity. The most ancient symbol of the productive power was a fish, and it is accordingly found to be the universal symbol upon many of the earliest coins.[354:4] Pythagoras and his followers did not eat fish. They were ascetics, and the eating of fish was supposed to tend to carnal desires. This ancient superstition is entertained by many even at the present day.
The fish was the earliest symbol of Christ Jesus. Fig. No. 33 is a design from the catacombs.[354:5] This cross-fish is not unlike the sacred monogram.
That the Christian Saviour should be called a fish may at first appear strange, but when the mythos is properly understood (as we shall endeavor to make it inChap. XXXIX.), it will not appear so. The Rev. Dr. Geikie, in his "Life and Words of Christ," says that a fish stood for his name, from the significance of the Greek letters in the word that expresses the idea, and for this reason he was called a fish. But, we may ask, why was Buddha not only called Fo, or Po, butDag-Po, which was literally the Fish Po, or Fish Buddha? The fish did not stand for his name. The idea that Jesus was called a fish because the Messiah is designated "Dag" in the Talmud, is also an unsatisfactory explanation.
Julius Africanus (an early Christian writer) says:
"Christ is the great Fish taken by the fish-hook of God, and whose flesh nourishes the whole world."[355:1]
"The fish friedWas Christ that died,"
is an old couplet.[355:2]
Prosper Africanus calls Christ,
"The great fish who satisfied for himself the disciples on the shore, and offered himself as a fish to the whole world."[355:3]
The Serpent was also an emblem of Christ Jesus, or in other words, represented Christ, among some of the early Christians.
Moses set up a brazen serpent in the wilderness, and Christian divines have seen in this a type of Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Gospels sanction this; for it is written:
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up."
From this serpent, Tertullian asserts, the early sect of Christians called Ophites took their rise. Epiphanius says, that the "Ophites sprung out of the Nicolaitans and Gnostics, who were so called from the serpent, which they worshiped." "The Gnostics," he adds, "taught that the ruler of the world was of a dracontic form." The Ophites preserved live serpents in their sacred chest, and looked upon them as the mediator between them and God. Manes, in the third century, taught serpent worship in Asia Minor, under the name of Christianity, promulgating that
"Christ was an incarnation of the Great Serpent, who glided over the cradle of the Virgin Mary, when she was asleep, at the age of a year and a half."[355:4]
"The Gnostics," says Irenaeus, "represented the Mind (the Son, [Pg 356]the Wisdom) in the form of a serpent," and "the Ophites," says Epiphanius, "have a veneration for the serpent; they esteem him the same as Christ." "They even quote the Gospels," says Tertullian, "to prove that Christ was an imitation of the serpent."[356:1]
The question now arises, Why was the Christian Saviour represented as a serpent? Simply because the heathen Saviours were represented in like manner.
From the earliest times of which we have any historical notice, the serpent has been connected with the preserving gods, or Saviours; the gods of goodness and of wisdom. In Hindoo mythology, the serpent is intimately associated with Vishnu, the preserving god, the Saviour.[356:2] Serpents are often associated with the Hindoo gods, as emblems of eternity.[356:3] It was a very sacred animal among the Hindoos.[356:4]
Worshipers of Buddha venerate serpents. "This animal," says Mr. Wake, "became equal in importance as Buddha himself." And Mr. Lillie says:
"That God was worshiped at an early date by the Buddhists under the symbol of the Serpent is proved from the sculptures of oldest topes, where worshipers are represented so doing."[356:5]
The Egyptians also venerated the serpent. It was the special symbol of Thoth, a primeval deity of Syro-Egyptian mythology, and of all those gods, such as Hermes and Seth, who can be connected with him.[356:6] Kneph and Apap were also represented as serpents.[356:7]
Herodotus, when he visited Egypt, found sacred serpents in the temples. Speaking of them, he says:
"In the neighborhood of Thebes, there are sacred serpents, not at all hurtful to men: they are diminutive in size, and carry two horns that grow on the top of the head. When these serpents die, they bury them in the temple of Jupiter; for they say they are sacred to that god."[356:8]
The third member of the Chaldean triad, Héa, or Hoa, was represented by a serpent. According to Sir Henry Rawlinson, the most important titles of this deity refer "to his functions as the source of all knowledge and science." Not only is he "The Intelligent Fish," but his name may be read as signifying both "Life" and a "Serpent," and he may be considered as "figured by the great serpent which occupies so conspicuous a place among the [Pg 357]symbols of the gods on the black stones recording Babylonian benefactors."[357:1]
The Phenicians and other eastern nations venerated the serpent as symbols of their beneficent gods.[357:2]
As god of medicine, Apollo, the central figure in Grecian mythology, was originally worshiped under the form of a serpent, and men invoked him as the "Helper." He was the Solar Serpent-god.[357:3]
Æsculapius, the healing god, the Saviour, was also worshiped under the form of a serpent.[357:4] "Throughout Hellas," says Mr. Cox, "Æsculapius remained the 'Healer,' and the 'Restorer of Life,' and accordingly the serpent is everywhere his special emblem."[357:5]
Why the serpent was the symbol of the Saviours and beneficent gods of antiquity, will be explained in Chap. XXXIX.
The Dove, among the Christians, is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Matthew narrator relates that when Jesus went up out of the water, after being baptized by John, "the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him."
Here is another piece of Paganism, as we find that the Dove was the symbol of the Holy Spirit among all nations of antiquity. Rev. J. P. Lundy, speaking of this, says:
"It is a remarkable fact that this spirit (i. e., the Holy Spirit) has been symbolized among all religious and civilized nations by theDove."[357:6]
And Earnest De Bunsen says:
"The symbol of the Spirit of God was the Dove, in Greek, peleia, and the Samaritans had a brazen fiery dove, instead of the brazen fiery serpent. Both referred to fire, the symbol of the Holy Ghost."[357:7]
Buddha is represented, like Christ Jesus, with a dove hovering over his head.[357:8]
The virgin goddess Juno is often represented with a dove on her head. It is also seen on the heads of the images of Astarte, Cybele, and Isis; it was sacred to Venus, and was intended as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.[357:9]
Even in the remote islands of the Pacific Ocean, a bird is believed to be an emblem of the Holy Spirit.[357:10]
R. Payne Knight, in speaking of the "mystic Dove," says:
"A bird was probably chosen for the emblem of the third person (i. e., the Holy Ghost) to signify incubation, by which was figuratively expressed the fructification of inert matter, caused by the vital spirit moving upon the waters.
"The Dove would naturally be selected in the East in preference to every other species of bird, on account of its domestic familiarity with man; it usually lodging under the same roof with him, and being employed as his messenger from one remote place to another. Birds of this kind were also remarkable for the care of their offspring, and for a sort of conjugal attachment and fidelity to each other, as likewise for the peculiar fervency of their sexual desires, whence they were sacred to Venus, and emblems of love."[358:1]
Masons' marks are conspicuous among the Christian symbols. On some of the most ancient Roman Catholic cathedrals are to be found figures of Christ Jesus with Mason's marks about him.
Many are the so-called Christian symbols which are direct importations from paganism. To enumerate them would take, as we have previously said, a volume of itself. For further information on this subject the reader is referred to Dr. Inman's "Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism," where he will see how many ancient Indian, Egyptian, Etruscan, Grecian and Roman symbols have been adopted by Christians, a great number of which are Phallicemblems.[358:2]


[339:1]The Pentateuch Examined, vol. vi. p. 113.
[340:1]Monumental Christianity, p. 14.
[340:2]Baring-Gould: Curious Myths, p. 301. Higgins: Anac., vol. i. p. 220.
[340:3]Curious Myths, p. 301.
[340:4]Ibid. p. 302.
[340:5]Maurice: Indian Antiquities, vol. ii. p. 350.
[340:6]Ibid. vol. iii. p. 47.
[340:7]Curious Myths, pp. 280-282. Buddha and Early Buddhism, pp. 7, 9, and 22, and Anacalypsis, vol. i. p. 223.
[340:8]Buddha and Early Buddhism, p. 227.
[340:9]Inman: Ancient Faiths, vol. i. p. 409. Higgins: Anac., vol. i. p. 230.
[341:1]See Ibid.
[341:2]See Celtic Druids, p. 126; Anacalypsis, vol. i. p. 217, and Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, pp. 216, 217 and 219.
[341:3]Anacalypsis, vol. i. p. 217.
[341:4]Knight: Anct. Art and Mytho., p. 58.
[341:5]See Inman's "Symbolism," and Lundy's Monu. Christianity, Fig. 92.
[341:6]Baring-Gould: Curious Myths, p. 285.
[341:7]Hoskins' Visit to the great Oasis, pl. xii. in Curious Myths, p. 286.
[341:8]Curious Myths, p. 286.
[342:1]Curious Myths, p. 287.
[342:2]Socrates: Eccl. Hist., lib. v. ch. xvii.
[342:3]Quoted by Rev. Dr. Giles: Hebrew and Christian Records, vol. ii. p. 86, and Rev. Robert Taylor: Diegesis, p. 202.
[342:4]See Colenso's Pentateuch Examined, vol. vi. p. 115.
[342:5]Bonwick: Egyptian Belief, p. 12.
[342:6]Ibid. p. 219.
[343:1]Bonwick: Egyptian Belief, p. 218, and Smith's Chaldean Account of Genesis, p. 54.
[343:2]Egyptian Belief, p. 218.
[343:3]Bonomi: Ninevah and Its Palaces, in Curious Myths, p. 287.
[343:4]Curious Myths, p. 287.
[343:5]Vol. i. p. 337, pl. xx.
[343:6]Travels in Persia, vol. i. p. 545, pl. xxi.
[343:7]Ibid. p. 529, and pl. xvi
[343:8]Ibid., and pl. xvii.
[343:9]Ibid. pl. xxvii.
[343:10]Ibid. p. 573.
[344:1]Curious Myths, p. 290.
[344:2]Knight: Anct. Art and Mytho., p. 31.
[344:3]See Illustration in Anacalypsis, vol. i. p. 224.
[344:4]Baring-Gould: Curious Myths, p. 291.
[345:1]Octavius, ch. xxix.
[345:2]See Chambers's Encyclo., art. "Denarius."
[345:3]Curious Myths, p. 291.
[345:4]Ibid. pp. 291, 296.
[345:5]Ibid. p. 311.
[345:6]The Pentateuch Examined, vol. vi. p. 115.
[346:1]Anct. Art and Mytho., p. 30.
[346:2]Curious Myths, pp. 280, 281.
[346:3]Ibid. pp. 281, 282.
[346:4]Knight: Ancient Art and Mytho., p. 30.
[346:5]See Celtic Druids, pp. 126, 130, 131.
[347:1]Cleland, p. 102, in Anac., i. p. 716.
[347:2]Celtic Druids, p. 242, and Chambers's Encyclo., art. "Cross."
[347:4]See Maurice: Indian Antiquities, vol. ii. 103.
[347:5]The Pentateuch Examined, vol. vi. p. 114.
[347:6]Brinton: Myths of the New World, p. 95.
[348:1]Stephens: Central America, vol. ii. p. 346, in Curious Myths, p. 298.
[348:2]Curious Myths, p. 298
[348:3]Klemm Kulturgeschichte, v. 142, in Curious Myths, pp. 298, 299.
[348:4]Curious Myths, p. 299.
[348:5]Müller: Geschichte der Amerikanischen Urreligionen, in Ibid.
[349:1]Curious Myths, p. 301.
[349:2]Quoted in Anacalypsis, vol. ii. p. 30.
[349:3]Quoted in Celtic Druids, p. 131.
[349:4]Chambers's Encyclo., art. "Cross."
[349:5]Mexican Antiquities, vol. vi. pp. 165, 180.
[349:6]Ibid. p. 179.
[349:7]Higgins: Anacalypsis, vol. ii. p. 32.
[349:8]Jameson's Hist. of Our Lord in Art, vol. ii. p. 318.
[349:9]"These two letters in the old Samaritan, as found on coins, stand, the first for 400, the second for 200-600. This is the staff of Osiris. It is also the monogram of Osiris, and has been adopted by the Christians, and is to be seen in the churches in Italy in thousands of places. See Basnage (lib. iii. c. xxxiii.), where several other instances of this kind may be found. In Addison's 'Travels in Italy' there is an account of a medal, at Rome, of Constantius, with this inscription; In hoc signo Victor eris ." (Anacalypsis, vol. i. p. 222.)
[350:1]Hist. of Our Lord in Art, vol. ii. p. 316.
[350:2]See Celtic Druids, p. 127, and Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, p. 218.
[350:3]Bk. iii. c. xxiii. in Anac., i. p. 219.
[350:4]Monumental Christianity, p. 125.
[350:5]See Celtic Druids, pp. 127, 128.
[351:1]See Ibid. and Monumental Christianity, pp. 15, 92, 123, 126, 127.
[351:2]See Celtic Druids, p. 101. Anacalypsis, vol. i. p. 220. Indian Antiq., ii. 68.
[351:3]See Celtic Druids, p. 101. Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, p. 103.
[351:4]See Celtic Druids, p. 127, and Taylor's Diegesis, p. 201.
[351:5]See Celtic Druids, p. 127.
[351:6]See Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, p. 218.
[351:7]See Cox: Aryan Mythology, vol. ii. 115.
[351:8]See The Pentateuch Examined, vol. vi. pp. 113-115.
[351:9]See Higgins: Anacalypsis, vol. i. pp. 221 and 328. Taylor's Diegesis, p. 187. Celtic Druids, p. 127, and Isis Unveiled, p. 527, vol. ii.
[351:10]See Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, p. 212.
[351:11]Ancient Faiths, vol. i. pp. 518, 519.
[351:12]See Prog. Relig. Ideas, vol. i. p. 94.
[351:13]This word—AUM—stood for Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, the Hindoo Trinity.
[351:14]See Isis Unveiled, vol. ii. p. 31.
[352:1]See Isis Unveiled, vol. ii. p. 81.
[352:2]Knight: Anct. Art and Mytho., p. 196.
[352:3]Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, p. 213.
[352:4]Ancient Faiths, vol. i. p. 328.
[352:5]See Knight: Anct. Art and Mytho., p. 196.
[352:6]Curious Myths, p. 289.
[352:7]Inman's Ancient Faiths, vol. i. pp. 153, 154.
[353:1]See Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, p. 242.
[353:2]See Inman's Pagan and Christian Symbolism, p. 30.
[353:3]See Williams' Hinduism, p. 99.
[353:4]See Myths of the British Druids, p. 448.
[353:5]Ibid. p. 601.
[353:6]Knight: Anct. Art and Mytho., p. 170.
[353:7]Ibid. pp. 169, 170.
[353:8]Page 138.
[354:1]Monumental Christianity, pp. 130, 132, 133.
[354:2]Indian Wisdom, p. 329.
[354:3]Inman: Anct. Faiths, vol. i. pp. 528, 529, and Müller: Science of Relig., p. 315.
[354:4]Knight: Anct. Art and Mytho., p. 111.
[354:5]Lillie: Buddha and Early Buddhism, p. 227.
[355:1]Quoted in Monumental Christianity, p. 134.
[355:2]Ibid. p. 135.
[355:3]Ibid. p. 372.
[355:4]Squire: Serpent Symbol, p. 246.
[356:1]Fergusson: Tree and Serpent Worship, p. 9.
[356:2]Wake: Phallism in Ancient Religs., p. 72.
[356:3]Williams' Hinduism, p. 169.
[356:4]Knight: Anct. Art and Mytho., p. 16, and Fergusson: Tree and Serpent Worship.
[356:5]Wake, p. 73. Lillie: p. 20.
[356:6]Wake, p. 40, and Bunsen's Keys, p. 101.
[356:7]Champollion, pp. 144, 145.
[356:8]Herodotus, bk. ii. ch. 74.
[357:1]Wake: Phallism in Anct. Religs., p. 30.
[357:2]See Knight: Anct. Art and Mytho., p. 16. Cox: Aryan Mytho., vol. ii. p. 128. Fergusson's Tree and Serpent Worship, and Squire's Serpent Symbol.
[357:3]Deane: Serpent Worship, p. 213.
[357:4]Tree and Serpent Worship, p. 7, and Bulfinch: Age of Fable, p. 397.
[357:5]Aryan Mytho., vol. ii. p. 36.
[357:6]Monumental Christianity, p. 293.
[357:7]Bunsen's Angel-Messiah, p. 44.
[357:9]Monumental Christianity, pp. 323 and 234.
[357:10]Knight: Anct. Art and Mytho., p. 169.
[358:1]Knight's Ancient Art and Mythology, p. 170.
[358:2]See also R. Payne Knight's Worship of Priapus, and the other works of Dr. Thomas Inman.

Extract from CHAPTER XXXIII, Christian Symbols "BIBLE MYTHS AND THEIR PARALLELS IN OTHER RELIGIONS" By T. W. DOANE,  1882. Produced by Marilynda Fraser-Cunliffe, Lisa Reigel, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net  http://www.gutenberg.org/files/31885/31885-h/31885-h.htm#Page_36