The Puritan and the Prurient

There is an article at New Republic by Ira Wells: Forgetting Lolita: How Nabokov’s Victim Became an American Fantasy. It’s a reasonably thoughtful piece. And it’s an important topic. But something about this kind of writing seems strange. Let me try to briefly explain.

We live in a Puritan society. Oddly or not, prurient is the shadow of Puritanism. We are obsessed with sexuality. Even our obsession with innocence is sexualized. The article has a tinge of the prurient about it. Something about it comes off as the author fantasizing about other people’s fantasies. That is how it seems to me, for some reason.

There is a connection between Protestantism and the idealization of childhood. In traditional cultures of the past, the moment a boy or girl was capable of having sex, they had sex. And the moment they had sex, they likely not too long later had children. There wasn’t this notion that young people should wait to have careers or even get married.

You still see more of this attitude in Catholic countries. Southern Europe was more influenced by the Catholic Church and the Mediterranean culture it embodied. Unsurprisingly, Catholic countries have lower sexual ages of consent. It’s expected that people have sex, get pregnant, and then hopefully are married. There is no Protestant concept of most people resisting the sin of sexuality.

Protestant societies seem much more repressed about sexuality. And repression leads to sexual deviancy. That is even a problem for Catholic priests, the only Catholics expected to fully repress their sexuality. This relates to the weird genre of virginity porn, the fantasizing about young people not having sex. A popular example is the Twilight series. It was written by a Mormon and it should be noted that Mormons originally came from Puritan country, i.e., New England.

This was the culture that Vladimir Nabokov was writing about in Lolita. The novel is an anthropological study. It’s not just about sexuality of dirty old men. The entire society is implicated.

* * *

America America’s Lollipop Licking Tease:
The Eroticization of the Female Child in 1930s Film
by Susan Jennings Lantz

James Kincaid, in Child Loving, would agree. His argument states that myths about childhood innocence and concurrent vulnerability arose historically as we created a separate identity for children. This stoked a “quasi-erotic” love of children as innocents, and a hatred of those who act out of eroticism. In both Child Loving and Erotic Innocence, he discusses, at great length, the ways in which production of the monster known as the pedophile in many ways allows not only the Victorians, but members of our contemporary culture, to define ourselves. We reject pedophiliac monstrous activity with such automatic indignation that, as a group, the indignation begins to feel like pleasure. We open up a space for societal glee when we hear a convicted child molester has committed suicide, and we pretty much allow an approved ideological space for murderers in prison to torture, rape, and murder convicted child molesters. Kincaid asserts that by insisting that children are innocent, pure, and asexual, we have created a “subversive echo” that presents the child as experienced, corrupt, and erotic. We have set the trope of the innocent child to be fetishized, and the object of forbidden desire in popular culture. “What we think of as “the child” has been assembled in reference to desire, built up in erotic manufactories, and . . . we have been laboring ever since, for at least two centuries, both to deny that horrible and lovely product to maintain it” (Child
Loving 4).

Rose, Wullschlager, and Kincaid all agree that during a time when Victorian and Edwardian England was celebrating the innocence and purity of children in fiction and art, avgreat disparity was occurring at the same time. While children from the upper classes were glorified for their innocence, children from the lower classes were exploited for theirs. On one end of the spectrum were upper middle class Victorian children depicted spinning hoops and sailing toy boats in Kensington Gardens, attending Eton, and frolicking in Hundred Acre Wood with Pooh, Kanga, and Piglet. In the middle of the spectrum were the children working in factories, as apprentice domestic servants, chimney sweeps, or selling matches and flowers. At the other end of the spectrum of the era were the children sold into sexual slavery.

In 1885, English editor and rights activist W.T. Stead purchased a thirteen-year-old girl from her mother with the understanding that his intentions were to procure her “Maiden Tribute.” Instead of raping the child, he wrote a series of articles for his paper The Pall Mall showing how easy it was to purchase a child sex slave which brought the issue to the public eye. His series was wildly popular and has been credited for changing legislation in regards to the legal age of consensual sex for children (Polhemus).

Across the sea in America things were similar. Poor children worked in factories and in coal mines, and really poor children were ripe for sexual exploitation, while the children of wealthier families were more protected and glorified. This glorification, on both sides of the Atlantic, began to lead to sentimentalized views of childhood in media and the popular press. The era after the American Civil War produced much art that evoked nostalgia of childhood. Artists such as Winslow Homer and Mark Twain glorified the world of the average child in their works to great aplomb. Children were no longer considered to be inherently evil, as the Puritans had suggested, and were no longer expendable in bloody wars. They were a treasure.

Work Ethic: Denomination, Region, Ethnicity

The Protestant Work Ethic Is Real
Thanks to a recent paper in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, we finally have some answers for why Americans work so hard.
by Daniel Luzer

The connection between work and happiness is much more intense in Protestant countries than in others. Protestants suffer intense hardship from unemployment; the “psychic harm from unemployment is about 40 percent worse for Protestants than for the general population,” according to the authors. This also holds true for non-Protestants living in Protestant countries, where they suffer more from unemployment than their global neighbors.

As the authors put it:

The resulting ‘experienced preferences’ provide strong support for Weber’s original thesis: for both Protestants and Protestant countries, not having a job has substantially larger negative happiness effects than for other religious denominations. This provides a Weber-type channel relating religion to socio-economic outcomes.

In other words, Protestantism may not make you rich, but it sure makes you unhappy when you’re not rich. The old Calvinist doctrine of a livelihood as the source of one’s value, and a sign of God’s favor, wreaks great havoc on people’s lives when that livelihood is gone. What’s more, this is true even when people practice other religions (or none at all) in largely Protestant countries. They experience the same impulses. What this really indicates is just how important Protestantism is to our concept of work—all of our concepts of work.

But this one paper doesn’t prove that Weber was accurate about everything. A 2009 paper by economist Davide Cantoni, for example, looked scrupulously at economic data from Catholic and Protestant cities in Germany from 1300 to 1900, subjected the information to meticulous multivariate analysis, and discovered that there was no evidence that Protestantism made people richer. So the Dutch paper doesn’t necessarily mean Weber was right, but it does indicate that he was on to something.

As hard workers attempted to prosper in business in order to show that they were God’s chosen ones, over time hard work became the object in itself, particularly in the United States. This is ultimately sort of ironic because, as Tim Kreider wrote in his recent New York Times article condemning busyness, “The Puritans turned work into a virtue, evidently forgetting that God invented it as a punishment.” But there you have it. We work hard because it’s the American way. And it’s the American way because the Puritans did it.

Nice data and commentary.

It reminds me of some differences between Catholic and Protestant countries. Catholic countries tend to emphasize kinship and taking care of one’s own. This may not mean working less hard, rather working for other purposes, specifically less individualistic purposes. I remember seeing mention (I think in hbd chick’s blog) that countries in southern Europe have fewer homeless people because family will take in their unemployed kin. Northern Europe supposedly has higher rates of homeless. It is a lot harder to be homeless in the North than in the South. The dark side of Protestant work ethic is severe punishment of the unemployed and poor; this is what is called capitalist realism — with individualism comes the attitude of blaming the individual.

I see similar differences in the US, but it played out with different Christian denominations. In America, the earliest division was between Anglicanism in the South and religious dissenters in the North. The Puritans of course included Calvinists and the Quakers were influenced by Calvinism. Oddly, though, the Calvinist vs non-Calvinist was reversed in terms of the hardworking German immigrants who were largely non-Calvinist and the perceived lazy Scots-Irish who were largely Calvinist. There is a great passage from American Nations by Colin Woodard which I notice is quoted in full by Hunter Wallace in the Occidental Dissent blog, but here is the relevant section:

Nineteenth-century visitors ofter remarked on the difference between the areas north and south of the old National Road, an early highway that bisected Ohio and which is now called U.S. 40. North of the road, houses were said to be substantial and well maintained, with well-fed livestock outside and literate, well-schooled inhabitants within. Village greens, white church steeples, town hall belfries, and green-shuttered houses were the norm. South of the road, farm buildings were unpainted, the people were poorer and less educated, and the better homes were built with brick in Greco-Roman style. “As you travel north across Ohio,” Ohio State Univeresity dean Harlan Hatcher wrote in 1945, “you feel that you have been transported from Virginia to Connecticut.” 

Why didn’t those Calvinist Scots-Irish embrace the standard pro-capitalist work ethic? The North, especially the Northeast, has always had a more capitalist tradition and the South was in the past quite wary of capitalism along with the industrialization and wage labor that went with it. This difference fed into the rhetoric behind the secession conflict, and some see this as a reason for the continued impoverishment of the rural South where the Scots-Irish settled in the greatest concentration.

It should be pointed out that the Catholic angle has a far different place in American society. It doesn’t fit into the pattern of southern concentration as found in Europe.

In most northern rural farming states (in the furthest western regions of the Midwest), Catholic churches are everywhere because many of those farmers and descendants of farmers are Catholics. There has always been a conflict between the agrarian lifestyle and industrialized capitalism. It isn’t a conflict of work ethic as those Midwestern farmers have more than enough work ethic, but it is a difference between wanting to work for oneself (and for one’s family) rather than work for a boss. Working class Catholics, whether as farmers or laborers, have often fought against the power of the capitalist elite. This might be why areas of high Catholic membership largely coincides with areas of high labor union membership.

This is one of the reasons that the Midwest wasn’t always a clear ally of New England. That said, it wasn’t really a conflict between Catholics and Protestants for Catholics were also concentrated in the Northeast. It makes one wonder, with all those Northern Catholics, why the North became so dominated by capitalism. Maybe it’s a Protestant, specifically Calvinist, founding effect that preceded the large number of later Catholic immigrants. Likewise, even after Calvinism having spread throughout the South, maybe there still is the lasting founding effect of anti-Calvinist Anglicanism.

Anne Rice: Moderate & Liberal Christianity

I highly respect Anne Rice for being so open about her views. I think people, no matter what their beliefs or change of beliefs, should always be honest.

I was raised as a liberal Christian and so I appreciate liberal Christians like Anne Rice standing up for moderation and humility. Too many religious people act like they have the answer for everything. There is nothing that irritates me more than a fundamentalist who defends their dogma through intellectual dishonesty and/or righteous arrogance.

Just imagine if all the religious liberals and religious moderates of the world (whether Christian, Muslim or whatever) stood up and made themselves heard. I suspect that most religious people are moderate on most issues and my sense is that the numbers of religious liberals is larger than one would guess from watching the mainstream media. The religious fundamentalists and extremists are very loud and very active. They dominate the political narrative about moral and cultural issues. Through evangelism and political organization, they have immense influence. Just consider how the Mormon church influenced (through illegal donations) public opinion about Prop 8 and contributed in no small part to its originally having been passed into law. When liberal and moderate Christians do speak up about civil rights and the public good, about caring for the poor and helping the needy, rightwing leaders such as Glenn Beck attack them.

Anne Rice is the biggest name that has come up in criticism of religious fundamentalism from the perspective of religious moderation and humility. I hope her example will help others to also speak up. I’d love to see someone like Michael Moore make a movie about Christianity in America and it’s relationship to progressivism and the civil rights movement. Few people realize that Moore is not only a Christian but is specifically inspired by Jesus Christ in doing his work as a documentarian and activist. Because liberals are so moderate and humble in their religiosity, they tend to believe religion should be kept as a personal issue. That is a generally good attitude, but I think it’s time to shake off some of that humility and demonstrate that liberal religiosity isn’t something to be hidden.

I’m not religious myself these days. I can’t say I’m fighting for my own conception of true Christianity. I really don’t care what others believe Christianity to be. I’m just tired of the overt politicization of Christianity by the religious right. Going by the polls, the younger generations are also tired of this religious politicization. The liberals and moderates shouldn’t become like the rightwingers in their challenging the politicization of the rightwingers. Unlike what some rightwingers believe, this isn’t a fight where only one version of Christianity can become victorious. I just want all voices to be heard so that there can be sincere discussion about issues that are very important.

 – – –

 * Note: I don’t mean to imply that all conservatives are fundamentalist extremists and far rightwingers. In using the term “moderate”, I’m also including moderate conservatives. I’m actually arguing that most people who identify as conservative probably are moderate. To illustrate this, polls show that more Americans identify as conservative than liberal, but if you ask about specific issues most Americans lean towards liberal/progressive views.

Conclusion on Christian Scarab Symbolism

These are my concluding comments to my previous blog Church Fathers on Christ as Scarab.

Many scholars over the last couple of centuries have been quoting various Church Fathers in reference to Christ as Scarab.  This is  a truly profound fact and it’s utterly amazing how ignorant the average Christian is of early Christianity.  Some apologists dismiss these quotes out of hand.  Going by my research, even academic scholars have seemingly ignored this topic for the past century, not even attempting to disprove anything.  Apparently, these quotes and the claims about them, correct or not, were widely known in the 19th century and then there was deafening silence.  It reminds me of what Robert M. Price has written (in his Introducing the Journal of Higher Criticism).  He points out how old scholarship has been forgotten without ever having been refuted and new scholarship has become very conservative.

Gerald Massey’s scholarship is an example of this which D.M. Murdock discusses in her book Christ In Egypt. In my research, I confirmed a point that Murdock made numerous times (also with an extensive analysis in the introduction). Throughout the book, she compares Massey’s scholarship against that of other scholars. By doing this, she verified that at least some of his sources were reliable and that he wasn’t just inventing his claims out of thin air, although there remains much question about what the Church Fathers actually said in reference to the scarab (it makes me wonder about the original sources as many people, not only Massey, were quoting various sources over several centuries).

Two of the critics of Massey’s scholarship are Stanley E. Porter and Stephen J. Bedard.  In their book Unmasking the Pagan Christ, they respond to Tom Harpur’s use of Massey.  But it seems telling that they don’t even mention Augustine’s quotes about the scarab.  It is true that Massey’s writings are a century old and so much has been discovered since then.  Also, it’s true that he had no formal education.  Still, he relied on the scholarship of the best scholars of his day including having his work proofed by some of these academic scholars.  Porter and Bedard are apologists, and so they’re criticisms aren’t fundamentally academic.  If they were to research as deeply as Murdock has, then they couldn’t as easily dismiss Massey’s work, whatever one thinks about the scarab issue.

Another critic is James Patrick Holding (AKA Robert Turkel).  His Tektonics website is seemingly the most popular apologetics site as it always comes up top in websearches.  It says a lot about our society that apologists get top page rankings.  He is your typical online Christian apologist.  He is notorious for immature behavior and a lack of intellectual honesty.  It isn’t fair to put him in the same category as Porter and Bedard.  Those latter two, even though lacking in a fundamental understanding of mythicist theories, are actual New Testament scholars.  Even so, Holding likewise criticizes Harpur and Massey.  He demands that others provide the sources of the Augustine and Ambrose quotes about the scarab, but that is just his sophistry talking.  If he actually wanted to know the sources, he could’ve done the research I’ve done just by doing websearches.  Doing research at a university library would bring up even further citations.
 
Anyways, I don’t know why these quotes, assuming they are true, from the Church fathers should be surprising.  Augustine and Ambrose were called Church Doctors because of their Greco-Roman educations.  The Greco-Roman tradition was grounded within Hellenism which was a mix of Greek philosophy and Egyptian religion. The scarab itself was an important symbol in Greek writings centuries before Christianity arose (for example, Aesop and Aristophanes).  Augustine grew up in North Africa which was a hotbed for hereticism, and he was a Manichaean for about a decade before becoming a Christian.  Manichaeanism arrived in Roman North Africa from Egypt (Ancient Gnosticism, by Birger A. Pearson, p. 310).  Roman religions based on and influenced by Egyptian religion were the most popular religions of the time (e.g., Serapis whose worshippers included early Christians).  Also, early Coptic Christians inscribed crosses on scarabs and invoked Jesus side by side with Horus.

Church Fathers on Christ as Scarab

I was recently looking back over my copy of Tom Harpur’s The Pagan Christ.  I came across a passage where he pointed out some Egyptian symbolism found in Christianity and in particular spoken of by the early Church Fathers.  The passage can be found in a previous blog post of mine (Egyptian Symbols within Christianity), but here is the section of it that really caught my attention:

Much more important, however, is the fact that the Egyptian texts bear witness to an “only begotten god” (meaning begotten of one parent only), whose symbol was the beetle because in ancient science this creature was thought to be “self-produced, being unconceived by a female.”  Massey says, “The only begotten god is a well-known type [symbol], then, of divinity worshipped in Egypt.  In each cult, the Messiah-son and manifestor was the only-begotten god.  This, according to the Egyptian text, is the Christ, the Word, the manifestor in John’s Gospel.”  In fact, in one early version of the Greek text of the New Testament’s Gospel of John, the phrase “the only begotten son of God” actually reads “the only begotten god”!  Its very unorthodoxy makes it likely that it is the preferred, original reading.

The truth thus came forcefully home to me that this Egyptian Christ is indeed the express image of the Christ of John’s Gospel, who begins in the first chapter without father or mother and is the Word of the beginning, the opener and the architect, the light of the world, the self-originated and only-begotten God.  I found that the very phraseology of John often echoed the Egyptian texts, which tell of he who was “the Beginning of the becoming, from the first, who made all things but was not made.”  Some of the Fathers of the Church knew that the beetle was a symbol of Christ.  Augustine, indeed, writes, “My own good beetle, not so much because he is only begotten (God), not because he, the author of himself, has taken on the form of mortals, but because he has rolled himself in our filth and chooses to be born from this filth itself” – like the dung beetle.

 
As Harpur is quoting Gerald Massey here, I assume he also found the quotes of Augustine within Massey’s writings.  Massey does mention the Church Father Augustine and Ambrose as well.  I looked around and found a site (linked below) where his work can be found along with helpful notes.  The person who runs the site said they had some difficulty tracking down some of the references.  Some apologists like to dismiss these quotes of Massey because he sometimes doesn’t offer citations (a problem with a lot of older scholarship).
 
 
In one rendition of John’s gospel, instead of the ‘only-begotten Son of God,’ a variant reading gives the ‘only-begotten God,’ which has been declared an impossible rendering. But the ‘only-begotten God’ was an especial type in Egyptian mythology, and the phrase re-identifies the divinity whose emblem is the beetle. Horapollo says, ‘To denote the only-begotten or a father, the Egyptians delineate a scarabaeus! [p.11]By this they symbolize an only-begotten, because the creature is self-produced, being unconceived by a female.’[38]Now the youthful manifestor of the beetle-god was this Iu-em-hept, the Egyptian Jesus. The very phraseology of John is common to the inscriptions, which tell of him who was the Beginner of Becoming from the first, and who made all things, but who himself was not made. I quote verbatim. And not only was the beetle-god continued in the ‘only-begotten God’; the beetle-type was also brought on as a symbol of the Christ. Ambrose and Augustine, amongst the Christian Fathers, identified Jesus with, and as, the ‘good Scarabaeus,’[39] which further identifies the Jesus of John’s gospel with the Jesus of Egypt, who was the Ever-Coming One, and the bringer of peace, whom I have elsewhere[40]shown to be the Jesus to whom the Book of Ecclesiasticus is inscribed, and ascribed in the Apocrypha.

In accordance with this continuation of the Kamite symbols, it was also maintained by some sectaries that Jesus was a potter, and not a carpenter; and the fact is that this only-begotten beetle-god, who is portrayed sitting at the potter’s wheel forming the egg, or shaping the vase-symbol of creation, was the potter personified, as well as the only-begotten god in Egypt.

[39] [Ambrose, Works, Paris, 1686, vol. 1, col. 1528. ‘After the Christian era the influence of the scarab was still felt. St Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, calls Jesus: “The good Scarabaeus, who rolled up before him the hitherto unshapen mud of our bodies.”‘ See Myers, Scarabs, p. 63. See also BB 1:233, BB 2:317, NG 2:408. See AE 2:732 where both this quote and the above are cited on the same page.]

Following that citation, I found some quotes of the Church Fathers in Isaac Myer‘s book Scarabs on p. 63:

After the Christian era the influence of cult of the scarab was still felt.  St. Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, calls Jesus: “The good Scarabaeus, who rolled up before him the hitherto unshapen mud of our bodies.”  St. Epiphanius has been quoted as saying of Christ: “He is the scarabaeus of God,” and indeed it appears likely that what may be called, Christian forms of scarab, yet exist.  One has been described as representing the crucifixion of Jesus; if is white and engraving is in green on the back are two palm branches; many others have been found apparently engraved with the Latin cross.

Myers gives this citation: Works, Pris, 1686, Vol. I., col.1528, No. 113.  Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian Christianity, etc., by Samuel Sharpe.  London, 1863, p. 3.  In Samuel Sharpe’s book, I could only find the quotes on p. 111 near the end of the chapter titled The Religion of Lower Egypt but there is no citation:

St. Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, calls Jesus “the good Scarabaeus, who rolled up before him the hitherto unshapen mud of our bodies,” thus giving to him one of the names and characters of the god Horus, who is pictured as a scarabaeus with a ball of mud between his feet.  The ball, which usually means the sun, would seem to have sometimes meant the sins of mankind; and the goddesses Isis and Nephthys are represented as rolling the same ball before them.  St. Augustin also during the greater part of his life was a Manichaean, and held the Gnostic opinion of a god of goodness and a god of evil; and he was so far an admirer of the Egyptians, or at least of their practice of making mummies, as to say that they were the only Christians who really and fully believed in a future resurrection from the dead.

Also referring to Myer’s book is The Evolution of the Idea of God by Grant Allen and Franklin T. Richards (page 145):

In Mr. Loftie’s collection of sacred beetles is a scarabaeus containing a representation of the crucifixion, with two palm branches: and other scarabs have Christian crosses.  If we remember how extremely sacred the scarab was held in the Egyptian religion, and also that it was regarded as the symbol of resurrection, we cannot possibly miss the importance of this implication.  Indeed, the Alexandrian Father, Epiphanius, speaks of Christ as “the scarabaeus of God,” a phrase which may be still better understood if I add that in the treatise on hieroglyphs known under the name of Horapollo a scarabaeus is said to denote “an only-begotten.”  Thus “the lamb of God” in the tongue of Israel becomes “the scarabaeus of God” in the mouth of an Egyptian speaker.

I also came across a reference in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 9th Edition (1875) and 10th Edition (1902).  In the article Alchemy (Part 2), this is written:

In Egypt the doctrine of the Palingenesis was symbolized by the Scarabeaus, which suggested to St Augustine the following strange comparison: “Jesus Christus bonus ille scarabaeus meus, non ea tantum de causa unigenitus, quod, ipsement sui auctor mortalium speciem induxerit, sed quod in fac faece nostra sese volutarit et ex ipsa nasci homo voluerit.”
 
 And, from pages 123-24 of History of Interpretation by Frederic William Farrar:
 
A favorite quotation of the Fathers was “He reigned from the wood” which they applied to Christ.  The words “from the wood” are an addition found in some Mss. of the Seventy in Ps. xcvi. 10; and from the old Latin version the reading found its way into the pages of Tertullian.
 
In Hab. ii. 11, the Seventy render the word “beam” . . . but probably it merely meant a knot in the wood. [1]  Some Latin versions rendered it “scarabaeus,” beetle, and this led to some singular comments.  Thus St. Ambrose (De Obitu Theodosii) speaks of “Him who, like a beetle, called to his persecutors,” and says “He was the good beetle who called from the wood.” [2]
 
[1] Vulg., Lignum quod inter junctivas aedificiorum est (tie-beam).
[2] On Luke xxiii.  We find elsewhere “bonus scarabaeus” applied to our Lord.
 
In The Expositor, this issue of the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX.)  is also described on pages 25-26:
 
There are allusions and quotations in the ancient Fathers which, apart from the LXX., would be wholly unintelligible.  When, for instance, St. Ambrose, in his orations De Orbita Theodosii, says of Helena, “She worshipped Him who hung on the wood; . . . .  Him who, like a beetle, called to his persecutors,” &c. ; and in his comment on Luke xxiii., “He was the good beetle who called from the wood”—how utterly should we be at a loss to explain the allusion, if the LXX. did not furnish us with the requisite clue.  In Hab. ii. 11, instead of “the beam out of the timber shall answer it,” we read in the LXX., . . . . which usually means “beetle,” is explained by St. Cyril to be a technical term for ” a cross-beam.”  Hence “bonus scarabaeus,” “the good beetle,”—astonishing as such a title may appear to us,—was not unknown to Christian antiquity as a designation of our Lord.  Again, when we find Tertullian challenging Marcion to tell him what he thought of David’s prophecy, “He reigned from the wood,” how much we should be perplexed to conjecture where any such prophecy occurred in the Old Testament, . . . .  This reading found its way into the old Latin version, the Vetus Itala, and is referred to not only by Tertullian, but also by Justin Martyr.
 
From 1827, Thomas Moore in his book The Epicurean on page 281 quotes Augustine:
 
“Bonus ille scarabaeus meus,” says St. Augustine, “non ea tantum de causa quod unigenitus, quod ipsemet sui auctor mortalium speciem induerit, sed quod in bac nostra faece sese volutaverit, et ex hae ipsa nasci voluerit.”
 
I noticed in the book Notes and Queries published by Oxford University Press in 1884 that someone had questioned about this (page 247):
 
In Moore’s Epicurean (third edition, 1827, p.313), there is a quotation from St. Augustine: “Bonus ille scarabaeus meus,” &c.  I have searched the works of Augustine in vain to find this passage.  Moore does not give any more exact reference. . . .  In Migne’s edition (vol. v. col. 2039) there is a kind of abstract of a sermon, which may or may not be by St. Augustine, in which there is this sentence: “Christus in cruce vermis et scarabaeus.”
 
Robert Shaw, writing around the same time as Gerald Massey, came to similar conclusions in his book Sketch of the Religions of the World on pages 232-33:
 
In one version of Jno. 1, 18, instead of the “only begotten son” of God, the reading is the “only begotten God;” and it has been declared impossible for the sacred writer to have employed the phrase “only begotten God.”  It is said to be contrary to the genius of the Gospel and opposed to the general teachings of the New Testament.  But these things can only be determined by the doctrines and the gnosis that were pre-extant.  Of course, the current Christology knows nothing of any such possible variant as the “only begotten God,” because of the  ignorance of the Egyptian origines.  But the “only begotten God” was an expecial type in the ancient allegory and the phrase recovers the divinity whose emblem is the beetle.  This was Kephr-Ptah, who, like Atum, was reborn as his own son, Iu-em-hept, the Egyptian Jesus.  “To denote an only begotten son or a father,” says Hor-Apollo, the Egyptians “delineate a Scarabeus.  and they symbolize by this an only-begotten, because the scarabaeus is a creature self-produced, being unconceived by a female.”  This was in a cult which tried hard to dethrone the female and exalt the male god as the only one.  The “only begotten god” is a well-known gype of divinity in Egypt, worshipped as Khepr-Ptah and Khepr-Atum, and in each cult the Messiah, son and manifestor, was the only begotten god, Iu-em-hept, and Iu, the son whether of Ptah or Atum is Iusu or Jesu.  This, according to the text, is the Christ, the Word, the Manifestor of John’s Gospel, who begins in the first chapter without father or mother, and is the Word of the beginning, the opener and architect, the light of the world, the self-originated and only begotten God.  The phraseology of John is common in the Egyptian texts, which tell of him who was the Beginner of Becoming from the first, “who made all things but was not made.”  There were Christian traditions which support this reading “only begotten God.”  Some of the Fathers, Ambrose, for one, knew that the beetle was a symbol of Christ.  Augustine also identifies the Christ with or as the good Scarabaeus, of which he speaks as follows:  “He is my own good beetle, not because he is only-begotten, not because he himself, the author of himself, has taken on the form of mortals, but because he has rolled himself in our filth and chooses to be born from this filth itself.”
 
I noticed some authors mentioning Athanasius Kircherius.  He apparently is the same as Athanasius Kircher who supposedly is considered the founder of Egyptology.  Robert Taylor mentions him (along with others) on pages 11-12 in his book Devil’s Pulpit:
 
So the learned father Athanasius Kircherius assures us, that “by the May-bug was signified the only begotten Son of God, by whom all things were made, and witout whom was not anything made that was made.”  The words of St. Augustin are: “Bonus ille scarabaeus meus, non ea tantum de causa, quod unigenitus, quod ipsemet sui auctor, mortalium speciem induerit, sed quod in hac faece nostra sese volutaverit, et ex ipsa, nasci homo voluerit.  He [that is Jesus Christ] was my good cockchafer; not merely because, like a cockchafer, he was the only begotten, because he created himself, and put on a species of mortals, but because he created himself, and put on a species of mortals, but because he rolled himself, in human excre—” Casalius de. Veter. AEgyp. Ritibus, p. 35.) . . . .  The learned Casalius, in quoting so solemn a declaration of so great a saint, that “Jesus Christ was a cockchafer, or May-bug,” proves that the saint must have been right, from those words of God himself, in the 22d Psalm, where he expressly says of himself—”as for me, I am a worm and not a man.”— . . . . where the Hebrew word, which has been translated, a worm, as the great Casalius thinks, should have been translated a cockchafer.
 
I couldn’t find anything about Casalius, but I found some more of Taylor’s writings in The Comet by H.D. Robinson.  In connection with Kircherius’ statement about the may-bug/scarab, Taylor makes some interesting points on page 264 that give further context:
 
This Zodiacal worm, like all the rest of the signs of the Zodiac, was, in its turn, worshipped as the Supreme God, and it is none other than the most intelligent fathers of the Christian church, who assure us that it was Jesus Christ himself, who, in 22d Psalm, contemplating his descent into the lower regions, spoke in this character: ‘But as for me, I am a worm: and no many, a very scorn of men, and the outcast of people.  Psalm xxii. 6.
 
Many of our learned translators render the word . . . . scarabaeus, or cockchafer, and one of the titles of Hercules was Scarabaeus, or Hercules, the cockchafer.  But it is Christian, and not Pagan piety, to which we owe this sublime interpretation.
 

Murdock on Justin Martyr’s Admission of Parallels

D.M. Murdock, Christ in Egypt, pp 517-19:

Regarding this matter of precedence for parallels, Witt advocated proceeding with caution, but was also certain that the Egyptian religion influenced Christianity, remarking:

“Historians, generally, and specifically those who trace the development of religious ideas, need to avoid the trap of confusing the chronological order with cause and effect: post hoc ergo propter hoc.  On the other hand, the veneration (hyperdulia) of the Blessed Virgin Mary was certainly introduced at about the same time Theodosius ordered the destruction of pagan temples, including the Serapeum and other shrines of the Egyptian gods.  Here, we may think, lies a reason for the absorption of elements, ideas and usages from the old religion into the new.”

As can be seen, the evident borrowing byChristianity continued well into the common era, during Theodosius’s time in the fourth century.  Thus, simply because borrowing occurred during the “Christian era” does not mean it was by Paganism from Christianity.  Again, what is designated as the “Christian era” did not descend suddenly upon the entire world after the year 1 AD/CE but is relative, and to this day there remains places that are still pre-Christian, showing no knowledge of or influence by Christianity.

In capitulating to the fact there are indeed very serious correspondences between the Egyptian and christian religions, apologists insist that these motifs can only be found dating to the middle of the second century at the earliest.  When Justin Marty discussed them in detail, thereby supposedly showing that Paganism must have borrowed from Christianity.  In the first place, this present work reveals otherwise, as practically everything significant within Christianity existed in one form or another in the Egyptian religion long before the common era, much of it revolving around the characters of Osiris, Isis and Horus.

Moreover, in his First Apology (54) Justin specifically claims these parallels, including the Greek god Bacchus/Dionysus’s ascension into heaven, as well the virgin birth and ascension of Perseus, were the result of “the devil” anticipating Christ’s story:

“For having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that Christ was to come… [the wicked demons] put forward many to be called sons of Jupiter, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said with regard to Christ were mere marvelous tales, like the things which were said by the poets.”  (Roberts, A., ANCL, II, 53-54)

In chapter 56 of his Apology, Justin pointedly states that the “evil spirits” were making their mischief “before Christ’s appearance.” (Roberts, A., ANCL, II, 55)  In other words, Justin — and others using the same “devil did it” excuse, such as Tertullian and Lactantius — did not dishonestly deny the parallels, as have many modern apologists.”  Indeed, these early Church fathers happily used these correspondences in their polemics and apologies to make Christianity appear less ridiculous — and ridiculous it evidently was perceived to be by the educated Greeks and Romans of the time.  To the se latter groups, the gospel story could not have been any more “real” or “historical” than that of Apollo or Neptune, and surely doubted Christ’s existence as a “historical” figure in ancient times.  Moreover, nowhere does Justin Martyr claim that the Pagans copied Christianity after Christ’s alleged advent, which he certainly would have done, had the copying occurred in that direction.

It is obvious from Justin’s “devil got there first” excuse that these mythical motifs existed beforeChrist’s purported manifestation on Earth and that there were those n his time who sensibly questioned the historical veracity of the gospel story, essentially calling it “mere marvelous tales” — in other words, a myth.  In Dialogue with Trypho (69), in fact, Justin again invokes the “devil got there first” argument, specifically stating that these Pagan “counterfeits” were likewise “wrought by the Magi in Egypt.” (Roberts, A. ANCL, II, 184)  Now, which “counterfeits” and “Magi” would these be?  The “Magi” must be the Egyptian Priests, apparently called as such by people of Justin’s era, while the “counterfeits” must refer to at least some of the Egyptian gods.  Justin also specifically names the Greek gods Dionysus, Hercules, and Asclepius as those whose “fables” were emulated by the devil in anticipatingChrist.  As we have seen, these gods have their coutnerparts in Egyptian mythology as well, in Osiris and Horus, as prime examples.

Faith of the Early Apologists

Acharya S (aka D.M. Murdock), The Christ Conspiracy

pp 24.25:

Indeed, the story of Jesus as presented in the gospels, mass of impossibilities and contradictions that it is, has been so difficult to believe that even the fanatic Christian “doctor” and saint, Augustine (384- 430), admitted, “I should not believe in the truth of the Gospels unless the authority of the Catholic Church forced me to do so.”  Nevertheless, the “monumentally superstitious and credulous Child of faith” Augustine must not have been too resistant, because he already accepted “as historic truth the fabulous founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus, their virgin birth by the god Mars, and their nursing by a she-wolf…”

Apparently unable to convince himself rationally of the validity of his faith, early Church Father Tertullian (c. 160-200) made the notorious statement “Credo quia incredibilis — I believe because it is unbelievable.”  An “ex-Pagan,” Tertullian vehemently and irrationally defendedhis new faith, considered fabricated by other Pagans, by acknowledging that Christianity was a “shameful thing” and “monstrously absurd”:

“…  I mean that the Son of God was born; why am I not ashamed of maintaining such a thing?  Why! but because it is itself a shameful thing.  I maintain that the Son of God died; well, that is wholly credible because it is monstrously absurd.  I maintain that after having been buried, he rose again; and that I take to be absolutely true, because it was manifestly impossible.”

Early Apologists Speaking Honestly

“The Religion proclaimed by him to All Nations was neither New nor Strange.”

 ~ Bishop Eusebius (264-c.340 AD/CE), The History of the Church (2:4)

 

“For what is now called the Christian religion existed of old and was never absent from the beginning of the human race until Christ came in the flesh.  Then true religion which already existed began to be called Christian.”

 ~ St. Augustine (354-430 AD/CE), Retractiones (1:13)

Tarnas on Agustine’s Anti-intellectualism

I own The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas.  I don’t normally read books about history except when they directly relate to religion, but this is a good book.  It covers a lot of territory and sometimes I wish the author would go more deeply into certain aspects.  Besides that minor complaint, the author does manage to capture some central streams of development.  He spends a decent amount of time on Christianity and the Roman Empire, and that is why I was looking at it recently.  

The following excerpt is about Augustine and the early Christian attitude toward science and rationality. 

pp 113-14: Moreover, in the new self-awareness of the late classical and early Christian era, most acutely epitomized in Augustine, the individual soul’s concern for its spiritual destiny was far more significant than the rational intellect’s concern with conceptual thnking or empirical study.  Faith alone in the miracle of Christ’s redemption was enough to bring the deepest saving truth to man.  Despite his erudition and appreciation for the intellectual and scientific achievement of the Greeks, Augustine proclaimed:

“When, then, the question is asked what we are to believe in regrd to religion, it is not necessary to probe into the nature of things, as was done by those whom the Greeks call physici; nor need we be in alarm lest the Christian shoud be ignorant of the force and thenumber of the elemetns; the motion, and order, and eclipses of the heavenly bodies; the form of the heavens; the species and natures of animals, plants, stones, fountains, rivers, mountains; about chronology and distances; the signs of coming storms; and a thousand other things which those philosophers either have found out, or think they have found out….  It is enough for the christian to believe that the only cause of all created things, whether heavenly or earthly, whether visible or invisible, is the goodness of the Creator, the one true God; and that nothing exists but Himself that does not derive its existence from him.”  (Enchiridion, in Augustine, Works, vol. 9, edited by M. Dods; Edinburgh (Edinburgh; Clark, 1871-77), 180-181.)

With the rise of Christianity, the already decadent state of science in the late Roman era received little encouragement for new developments.  Early Christians experienced no intellectual urgency to “save the phenomena” of this world, since the phenomenal world held no significance compared with the transcendent spiritual reality.  More precisely, the all-redeeming Christ had already saved the phenomena, so there was little need for mathematics or astronomy to perform the task.  The study of astornomy in particular, being tied to astrology and the cosmic religion of the Hellenistic era, was discouraged.  The monotheistic Hebrews had already had occasion to condemn foreign astrologers, and this attitude persisted in the Christian context.  with its planetary deities, annd aura of polytheistic paganism, and with its proneness to a determinism antithetical to both divine grace and human responsibility, astrology was officially condemned by Church councils (with Augustine especially seeing the need for confuting the astrological “mathematicians”), as a result of which it gradually declined despite its occasional theological defenders.  In the Christian view, the heavens were devoutly perceived as the expression of God’s glory and, more popularly, as the abode of God and his angels and saints, and the realm from which Christ would return at the Second Coming.

Even though this gives good context, I think Tarnas missed the heart of the matter.  Augustine didn’t prize human responsibility above all else, and not all ancient astrology was deterministic (and certainly no more deterministic than Augustine’s theology).  Early Christians were anti-intellectual (in particular towards astrology) because too much analysis would prove Christianity’s indebtedness to other religions and philosophies.

In seeming contradiction with what Augustine said in the above quote, he had also written that when the scriptures conflict with science that the believer should give authority to the latter.  But I imagine that he was mostly thinking of the Old Testament when he wrote this.  Augustine was fine with interpreting allegorically such scriptures as Genesis.  However, his scientific education was surely rather limited and I doubt he ever considered the possibility that science might one day develop so far as to demonstrate the impossibility (i.e., reasonable doubt) of dead people resurrecting and other miracles.

What I find intriguing here is how Augustine correlated Paganism with rationality, science and basically any interest in the world whatsoever.  He dismisses all of this as being irrelevant to Christianity.  This is extremely significant because to this day orthodox Christianity still has a troubled relationship with rationality and science.  The sad part here is that so many Christians over the centuries have perceived a non-existent conflict.  Augustine says that all a Christian needs to know is that all things were created by a good Creator.  Was he so clueless as to not realize that one could worship both the Creator and his Creation?  Was he utterly ignorant of the fact that some Pagans (and some Gnostic Christians) did worship both the Creator and his Creation?  I’m reminded of Augustine’s distinction between the sun and the Creator of the sun.  He was implying that Pagans hadn’t made this distinction when, for example, the Egyptians had made this precise distinction.

And this isn’t just a theological issue.  It was because Christians felt so little interest towards rationality and science that they didn’t realize the great intellectual tradition they were losing.  In fact, as Augustine wrote about this subject in 420, the Catholic Church was in the process of destroying all knowledge it could get its hands on.  How could a great intellectual like Augustine be so indifferent?  Was he so cynical about the world that he was contented to see the Church (and the whole Roman Empire with it) commit intellectual suicide?  Was he hoping this wholesale destruction would hasten the Second Coming or something?

Egyptian Symbols within Christianity

Besides the obvious crosses and crucifixes in many religions across the world that predated Christianity, there are also other non-Christian symbols found within Christianity.  As I’ve been focusing on Egypt lately, I’ll give two examples from that culture.  But realize there are many other such symbolic similarities that can also be shown.  I also chose the following quote because the author demonstrates that early Christians (including Augustine) were aware of these symbols and their meaning.

The Pagan Christ, Tom Harpur

pp 88-89: The Egyptian Christ, manifested in the sign of Pisces, was fore-ordained to be Ichthys (Greek word for “fish”), the fisherman and to be accompanied by fishermen followers.  Doctrinally, he was the “fisher of men”.  Horus, the best-known Egyptian Christ figure was associated  from time immemorial with the fish, and Massey’s Natural Genesis features a reproduction of an Egyptian engraving showing Horus holding a fish above his head.  Several of the early Christian Fathers refer to Christ also as Ichthys, or “that great fish,” and the mitre worn by succeeding popes “in the the shoes of the fishermen” is shaped exactly like a fish’s mouth.  It’s well known that the Greek word ichthys forms an acrostic meaning “Jesus Christ the Son of God (Our) Savior.”  Having been in Rome numerous times during my dozen years covering religion around the world for the Toronto Star, I have seen first-hand how frequently the outline of a fish occurs in catacombs as a Christian symbol.  It also doubled as a sign of the Eucharist.  Prosper Africanus, an early Christian theologian, calls Christ “that great fish who fed from himself the disciples on the shore and offered himself as a fish to the world.”  Commenting on this same passage from the end of John’s Gospel, St. Augustine says that the broiled fish in the story “is Christ.”  The art found in ancient Egyptian tombs commonly shows fish, fishermen, nets, and fishtraps of varying kinds.  All have the same spiritual meaning.

Much more important, however, is the fact that the Egyptian texts bear witness to an “only begotten god” (meaning begotten of one parent only), whose symbol was the beetle because in ancient science this creature was thought to be “self-produced, being unconceived by a female.”  Massey says, “The only begotten god is a well-known type [symbol], then, of divinity worshipped in Egypt.  In each cult, the Messiah-son and manifestor was the only-begotten god.  This, according to the Egyptian text, is the Christ, the Word, the manifestor in John’s Gospel.”  In fact, in one early version of the Greek text of the New Testament’s Gospel of John, the phrase “the only begotten son of God” actually reads “the only begotten god”!  Its very unorthodoxy makes it likely that it is the preferred, original reading.

The truth thus came forcefully home to me that this Egyptian Christ is indeed the express image of the Christ of John’s Gospel, who begins in the first chapter without father or mother and is the Word of the beginning, the opener and the architect, the light of the world, the self-originated and only-begotten God.  I found that the very phraseology of Jonh often echoed the Egyptian texts, which tell of he who was “the Beginning of the becoming, from the first, who made all things but was not made.”  Some of the Fathers of the Church knew that the beetle was a symbol of Christ.  Augustine, indeed, writes, “My own good beetle, not so much because he is only begotten (God), not because he, the author of himself, has taken on the form of mortals, but because he has rolled himself in our filth and chooses to be born from this filth itself” – like the dung beetle.

When the god Osiris came to the earth as a savior, he came as his own son, the child Horus.  He was born “like or as a Word.”  The Egyptian text says that he came to earth as a substitute.  Indeed, an ancient Egyptian festival celebrating the birth of Horus was called “The Day of the Child in His Cradle.”

When Horus comes to earth in the Egyptian story, he is supported or given bread by Seb, who is god of the earth, “the father on earth.”  He is thus the divine father on earth of the messiah-son, who manifests in time.  Just as Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus, provides shelter and food for his son, so Seb (Jo-seph) cares for Horus.  The consort of Seb is the mother of heaven, named Nu; Meri (Mary) is another name for the mother of the messiah.  Massey concludes, “Thus Seb and Meri for earth and heaven would afford the two mythic originals for Joseph and Mary as parents of the divine child.”  There are seven different Marys in the four Gospels.  They correspond with uncanny fidelity to seven Marys, or Hathors in the Egyptian stories.