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    Sun-worship is declared to be “the oldest, the most widespread, and the most enduring of all the forms of idolatry known to man.” In the Old Testament Student of January, 1886, under the heading “Sun Images and the Sun of Righteousness,” Dr. Talbot W. Chambers, of New York, presented the following comprehensive statement concerning the antiquity and universality of sunworship:—SOOCC 14.2

    “The universality of this form of idolatry is something remarkable. It seems to have prevailed everywhere. The chief object of worship among the Syrians was Baal, the sun, considered as the giver of light and life, the most active agent in all the operations of nature. But as he sometimes revealed himself as a destroyer, drying up the earth with summer heats and turning gardens into deserts, he was in that view regarded with terror, and appeased with human sacrifices.... In Egypt the sun was the kernel of the State religion. In various forms he stood at the head of each hierarchy. At Memphis he was worshipped as Phtah; at Heliopolis as Tum; at Thebes as Amun Ra. Personified by Osiris, he became the foundation of the Egyptian Metempsychosis.SOOCC 14.3

    “In Babylon the same thing is observed as in Egypt. Men were struck by the various stages of the daily and yearly course of the sun, in which they saw the most imposing manifestation of Deity. But they soon came to confound the creature with the Creator, and the host of heaven became objects of worship, with the sun as chief.... In Persia the worship of Mithra, or the sun, is known to have been common from an early period. No idols were made, but the inscriptions show ever-recurring symbolic representations, usually a disk or orb with out-stretched wings, with the addition sometimes of a human figure. The leading feature of the Magian rites derived from ancient Media was the worship of fire, performed on altars erected on high mountains, where a perpetual flame, supposed to have been originally kindled from heaven, was constantly watched, and where solemn service was daily rendered. The remnant of the ancient Persians who escaped subjugation by Islam, now known as Parsees, unite with their reverence for the holy fire equal reverence for the sun as the emblem of Ormuzd.”SOOCC 15.1

    People who have given the matter but little thought generally suppose that sun-worship is the highest and purest form of idolatry. Nothing could be farther from the facts in the case. The following, from the “Encyclopedia Britannica,” concerning Baal, which the reader has already learned was one of the names under which the sun was worshiped, gives the secret of the abominations of sun-worship:—SOOCC 15.2

    “The Baal of the Syrians, Phoenicians, and heathen Hebrews is a much less elevated conception than the Babylonian Bel. He is properly the sun-god Baal-Shamem, Baal (lord) of the heavens, the highest of the heavenly bodies, but still a mere power of nature, born like the other luminaries from the primitive chaos. As the sun-god he is conceived as the male principle of life and reproduction in nature, and thus in some forms of his worship is the patron of the grossest sensuality, and even of systematic prostitution. An example of this is found in the worship of Baal-peor (Num’ers 25), and in general in the Canaanitish high places, where Baal, the male principle, was worshiped in association with the unchaste goddess Ashera, the female principle of nature. The frequent references to this form of religion in the Old Testament are obscured in the English version by the rendering ‘grove’ for the word ‘Ashera,’ which sometimes denotes the goddess, sometimes the tree or post which was her symbol. Baal himself was represented on the high places not by an image, but by obelisks or pillars (Macceboth, E. V. wrongly, ‘images’), sometimes called chammanim or sunpillars, a name which is to be compared with the title Baalchamman, frequently given to the god on Phoenician inscriptions.”SOOCC 15.3

    Concerning Astarte, or Ashtoreth, the female counterpart of Baal, Prof. George Rawlinson says:—SOOCC 16.1

    “The especial place of her worship in Phoenicia was Sidon. In one of her aspects she represented the moon, and bore the head of a heifer with horns curving in the crescent form, whence she seems to have been sometimes called Ashtoreth Karnaim, or, ‘Astarte of the two horns.’ But, more commonly, she was a nature goddess, ‘the great mother,’ the representation of the female principle in nature, and hence presiding over the sexual relation, and connected more or less with love and with voluptuousness. The Greeks regarded their Aphrodite, and the Romans their Venus, as her equivalent. One of her titles was ‘Queen of heaven;’ and under this title she was often worshiped by the Israelites”—Religions of the Ancient World, pp. 106, 107.SOOCC 16.2

    This was one of the goddesses that Solomon worshiped in his old age. See 1 Kings 11:4, 5.SOOCC 16.3

    In Egypt, as we have already learned, “sun-worship was the kernel of the State religion.” This is shown by the fact that the kings identified themselves with its representative, thus making contempt of sun-worship treason against the State. Professor Rawlinson says:—SOOCC 17.1

    “Ra was the Egyptian sun-god, and was especially worshiped at Heliopolis [city of the sun]. Obelisks, according to some, represented his rays, and were always, or usually, erected in his honor. Heliopolis was certainly one of the places which were thus adorned, for one of the few which still stand erect in Egypt is on the site of that city. The kings for the most part considered Ra their special patron and protector; nay, they went so far as to identify themselves with him, to use his title as their own, and to adopt his name as the ordinary prefix to their own names and titles. This is believed by many to have been the origin of the word Pharaoh, which was, it is thought, the Hebrew rendering of Ph ‘Ra—’ the sun.’”—Religions of the Ancient World, p. 20.SOOCC 17.2

    These obelisks were not simply representations of the sun’s rays, although that might have been the remote idea. They were obscene symbols, connected with the idea that the sun represents the generative principle in nature. They are found in various forms in every part of the world. The “conical black stone” of Syria was one form. Thousands of these are found in India to-day. Among some of the savage tribes of Africa the obelisk has degenerated into a simple pole, and among the North American Indians it is the “totem.” Osiris was one of the names under which the sun was worshiped in Egypt. The sacred bull Apis, which the Egyptians worshiped, was the principal form of Osiris. On this we quote the following, from the “Encyclopedia Britannica“:—SOOCC 17.3

    “According to the Greek writers Apis was the image of Osiris, and worshiped because Osiris was supposed to have passed into a bull, and to have been soon after manifested by a succession of these animals. The hieroglyphic inscriptions identify the Apis with Osiris, adorned with horns or the head of a bull, and unite the two names as Hapi-Osor, or Apis Osiris. According to this view the Apis was the incarnation of Osiris manifested in the shape of a bull.”SOOCC 18.1

    There were certain marks which distinguished the sacred bull, and when one was discovered, he was conducted in great state to the temple, and for forty days was attended by nude women. See the prohibition in Leviticus 18:23. With these facts concerning sun-worship in mind, the reader will readily appreciate the terrible indignation and the horror that seized Moses when he found the Israelites, so soon after the awful events of Sinai, dancing around the golden calf which they had made in representation of the Egyptian god Apis.SOOCC 18.2

    As frequent reference is made in the Bible to the worship of “the host of heaven,” the following will be interesting as showing how the principle of sun-worship runs through the worship of the constellations:—SOOCC 18.3

    “The mythology of Hercules is of a very mixed character in the form in which it has come down to us. There is in it the identification of one or more Grecian heroes with Melcarth, the sun-god of the Phoenicians. Hence we find Hercules so frequently represented as the sun-god, and his twelve labors regarded as the passage of the sun through the twelve signs of the zodiac. He is the powerful planet which animates and imparts fecundity to the universe, whose divinity has been honored in every quarter by temples and altars, and consecrated in the religious strains of all nations. From Meroe in Ethiopia, and Thebes in Upper Egypt, even to Britain, and the icy regions of Scythia; from the ancient Taprobana and Palibothra in India to Cadiz and the shores of the Atlantic; from the forests of Germany to the burning sands of Africa; everywhere, in short, where the benefits of the luminary of the day are experienced, there we find established the name and worship of a Hercules. Many ages before the period when Alcmena is said to have lived, and the pretended Tyrinthian hero to have performed his wonderful exploits, Egypt and Phoenicia, which certainly did not borrow their divinities from Greece, had raised temples to the sun, under a name analogous to that of Hercules, and had carried his worship to the side of Thasus and to Gades. Here was consecrated a temple to the year, and to the months which divided it into twelve parts, that is, to the twelve labors or victories which conducted Hercules to immortality. It is under the name of Hercules Astrochyton, or the god clothed with the mantle of stars, that the poet Nonnus designates the sun, adored by the Tyrians. ‘He is the same god,’ observes the poet, ‘whom different nations adore under a multitude of names; Belus on the banks of the Euphrates, Ammon in Lybia, Apis at Memphis, Saturn in Arabia, Jupiter in Assyria, Serapis in Egypt, Helios among the Babylonians, Apollo at Delphi, Esculapius throughout Greece.”—Anthon’s Classical Dictionary, article Hercules.SOOCC 18.4

    Thus we see the universality of sun-worship. It was the controlling principle in all forms of idolatry. Whatever other gods than the sun were worshiped by men, they were either regarded as subordinate deities, or else as representing the sun in some of its aspects—the idea of generation, reproduction, being the one thing everywhere present. Of the nature of the worship of Hercules, as representative of the sun, the same authority just quoted has the following:—SOOCC 19.1

    “At Erythrae, on the coast of Ionia, was to be seen a statue of Hercules, of an aspect completely Egyptian. The worship of the god was here celebrated by certain Thracian females, because the females of the country were said to have refused to make to the god an offering of their locks on his arrival at Erythrae. The females of Byblos sacrificed to Adonis their locks and their chastity at one and the same time, and it is probable that the worship of Hercules was not more exempt, in various parts of the ancient world, from the same dissolute offerings. In Lydia, particularly, it seems to have been marked by an almost delirious sensuality. Married and unmarried females prostituted themselves at the festival of the god. The two sexes changed their respective characters; and tradition reported that Hercules himself had given an example of this, when, assuming the vestments and occupation of a female, he subjected himself to the service of the voluptuous Omphale.”SOOCC 20.1

    This method of celebrating the worship of the Egyptian Hercules makes more plain the reason why the Lord said to the Israelites, who had just come from Egypt, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for all that do so are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.” Deuteronomy 22:5.SOOCC 20.2

    As we have already intimated, sun-worship is found to-day, in various forms, in all parts of the heathen world. But all that we are especially concerned with in this investigation is sun-worship down to the third or fourth century A. D. The following, from the “Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia,” article “Sun,” brings us down to the times of the Romans:—SOOCC 21.1

    “The worship of the sun as the most prominent and powerful agent in the kingdom of nature was widely diffused throughout the country adjacent to Palestine. This worship was either direct, without the intervention of any statue or symbol, or indirect. Among the Egyptians the sun was worshiped under the title of Ra.... Among the Phoenicians the sun was worshiped under the title of Baal. At Tyre, Gaza, and Carthage human sacrifices were offered to him. Among the Chaldeans the sun was worshiped under the title of Tammuz; and that the Arabians worshiped the sun we know from Theophrastus. Still more propagated was the worship of the sun among the Syrians (Aramaeans). Famous temples were at Heliopolis, Emesa, Palmyra, Hierapolis. Sun-worship there was very old, and direct from the beginning; and even in later times, sun and moon were worshiped at Hierapolis without the intervention of any image. Among the pure Semites, or Aryans, direct worship to the sun was paid from the beginning, and still later. Thus among the Assyrians, and afterwards among the Persians, whose sun-worship is one and the same .... . In later times the sun was worshiped among the Persians under the form of Mithras, which finally became the Sol Deus Invictus [the invincible sun-god] throughout the west, especially through the Romans.”SOOCC 21.2

    This sun-worship was not confined to the early part of Roman history, but was the one prominent form of idolatry during the existence of the empire. Note the phrase, Sol Deus Invictus (the invincible sun-god), in the last quotation. The glory of the Romans was their power in arms. It was the terror of the Roman arms that made the Romans masters of the world. The sun-god being the patron of the Roman emperors, they attributed the success of their arms to it; and the fact that the Romans made such rapid and steady progress, being “always victorious in war,” with the sun as their acknowledged guide and protector, would have a powerful influence in establishing the sun as the one grand object of worship.SOOCC 21.3

    In this connection let it be understood that “worship,” as used by and of the heathen, has not the same spiritual significance that it has among Christians. There is not, among the heathen, any sentiment of love for their gods, similar to what Christians feel for their Heavenly Father. The heathen worship is prompted solely by fear or by selfish desire for earthly gain. Offerings to the gods were simply bribes to the demons to buy off their displeasure or to secure their assistance in some worldly enterprise. The Romans were a people whose existence depended on their success at arms. This success they attributed to their sun-god, and consequently were very devoted to him, as heathen devotion goes. The title which they gave him, “the unconquered sun-god,” sufficiently indicates their sole motive in honoring him.SOOCC 22.1

    A few instances of the Roman devotion to the sun must suffice. We are told that at Baalbek, in ancient Coele-Syria, “the most imposing of the huge edifices, erected upon a vast substruction, unequaled anywhere on earth in the size of its stones, some of them being sixty feet long and twelve feet in both diameters, is a great temple of the sun, two hundred and ninety feet by one hundred and sixty, which was built by Antoninus Pius,” who reigned from 138 to 160 A. D.SOOCC 23.1

    When the Emperor Aurelian returned from his victory over Zenobia, the queen of the East, he made magnificent presents to the temple of the sun, which he had begun to build in the first year of his reign, 270 A. D. Gibbon says of this:—SOOCC 23.2

    “A considerable portion of his oriental spoils was consecrated to the gods of Rome; the Capitol, and every other temple, glittered with the offerings of his ostentatious piety; and the temple of the sun alone received above fifteen thousand pounds of gold. This last was a magnificent structure, erected by the emperor on the side of the Quirinal Hill, and dedicated, soon after the triumph, to that deity whom Aurelian adored as the parent of his life and fortunes. His mother had been an inferior priestess in a chapel of the sun; a peculiar devotion to the god of light was a sentiment which the fortunate peasant imbibed in his infancy; and every step of his elevation, every victory of his reign, fortified superstition by gratitude.”—Decline and Fall, chapter 11, paragraph 43.SOOCC 23.3

    The first act of Diocletian after he was chosen emperor was of superstition to the sun. Numerian had died in an unknown manner, and it was necessary that Diocletian, who had been commander of the late emperor’s body guard, should not be chargeable in any way with his death, if he would have the confidence of his subjects. “Conscious that the station which he had filled expose him to some suspicions, Diocletian ascended the tribunal, and, raising his eyes towards the sun, made a solemn profession of his own innocence, in the presence of that all-seeing deity.”—Decline and Fall, chapter 12, paragraph 41.SOOCC 23.4

    Constantine also, often erroneously called the first Christian emperor, was superstitiously devoted to the sun as the chief god, although his “liberal” mind did not ignore other gods.SOOCC 24.1

    “His liberality restored and enriched the temples of the gods; the medals which issued from his imperial mint are impressed with the figures and attributes of Jupiter and Apollo, of Mars and Hercules; and his filial piety increased the council of Olympus by the solemn apotheosis of his father Constantius. But the devotion of Constantine was more peculiarly directed to the genius of the sun, the Apollo of Greek and Roman mythology; and he was pleased to be represented with the symbols of the god of light and poetry. The unerring shafts of that deity, the brightness of his eyes, his laurel wreath, immortal beauty, and elegant accomplishments, seem to point him out as the patron of a young hero. The altars of Apollo were crowned with the votive offerings of Constantine; and the credulous multitude were taught to believe that the emperor was permitted to behold with mortal eyes the visible majesty of their tutelar deity; and that, either waking or in a vision, he was blessed with the auspicious omens of a long and victorious reign. The sun was universally celebrated as the invincible guide and protector of Constantine.”—Decline and Fall, chapter 20, paragraph 3.SOOCC 24.2

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