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The Star Of Bethlehem
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
"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
"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
It is placed by Mueller 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
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]
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."
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 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'Abbe 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
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]
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 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 mediaeval emblem of "Cor in Cruce, Crux in Corde:" it
is the hieroglyph of goodness.[342:1]
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 sign or
symbol.[343:1] It is also the symbol 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
Sir Robert Ker Porter, in his very valuable work entitled: "Travels in
Georgia, Persia, Armenia, and Ancient Babylonia,"[343:5] shows the
representation of a bas-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.
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 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 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.
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
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
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
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 sign
He made of the Cross Divine,
And he drank, and mutter'd his prayers;
But the Berserks evermore
Made the sign of the hammer of Thor
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
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 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]
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
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 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
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
In "Chambers's Encyclopaedia" 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
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
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 [Symbol: PX], the monogram of
Osiris, and afterwards of Christ.[349:9] This is seen 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]
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
Rev. J. P. Lundy says:
"Even the P.X., which I had thought to be exclusively
Christian, are to be found in combination thus: [Symbol: PX]
(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.: [Symbol: P with
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 [Symbol: X over H] and X H. The
monogram of the Sun was [Symbol: Y with superimposed circle]. P. H.
All these are now called monograms of Christ, and are to be met with in
great numbers in almost 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
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-atma wore, as one of the signs of his
dignity, and it was used by the Buddhists as emblematic of the
The ancient Egyptians signified their divine Triad by a single
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,
The Triangle is found on ancient Greek monuments.[352:5] An ancient seal
(engraved in the Memoires de l'Academie 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
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 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
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
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 [Symbol: PX]) 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.
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
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
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 in Chap. 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, but Dag-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
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 fried
Was 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
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,
"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, 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
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
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
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, Hea, 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 symbols of the gods on the black stones recording Babylonian
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]
AEsculapius, the healing god, the Saviour, was also worshiped under the
form of a serpent.[357:4] "Throughout Hellas," says Mr. Cox, "AEsculapius
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 the Dove."[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
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
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 Phallic emblems.[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.
[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.
[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.
[341:6] Baring-Gould: Curious Myths, p. 285.
[341:7] Hoskins' Visit to the great Oasis, pl. xii. in Curious Myths, p.
[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.
[344:4] 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.
[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] Mueller: 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 [Symbol: PX]." (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.
[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,
[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.
[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
[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 Mueller: 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
[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
[357:3] Deane: Serpent Worship, p. 213.
[357:4] Tree and Serpent Worship, p. 7, and Bulfinch: Age of Fable, p.
[357:5] Aryan Mytho., vol. ii. p. 36.
[357:6] Monumental Christianity, p. 293.
[357:7] Bunsen's Angel-Messiah, p. 44.
[357:8] See ch. xxix.
[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.
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