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THE various deific titles applied to Jesus Christ in the New Testament are regarded by some Christian writers as presumptive evidence of his divinity. But the argument proves too much for the case; as we find the proof in history that many other beings, whom Christians regard as men, were honored and addressed by the same titles, such as God, Lord, Savior, Redeemer, Mediator, Messiah, etc.
The Hindoo Chrishna, more than two thousand years ago, was prayerfully worshiped as “God the Most High.” His disciple Amarca once addressed him thus: “Thou art the Lord of all things, the God of the universe, the emblem of mercy, the bestower of salvation. Be propitious O most High God,” etc. Here he is addressed both as Lord and God. He is also styled “God of Gods.”
Adonis of Greece was addressed as “God Supreme,” and Osiris of Egypt as “the Lord of Life.” In Phrygia, it was “Lord Atys,” as Christians say, “Lord Jesus Christ.” Narayan of Bermuda was styled the ” Holy Living God.”
The title “Son of God” was so common in nearly all religious countries as to excite but little awe or attention.
St. Basil says, “Every uncommonly good man was called ,the Son of God.'” The “Asiatic Research” says, “The Tamulese adored a divine Son of God,” and Thor of the Scandinavians was denominated “the first-born Son of God;” and so was Chrishna of India, and other demigods.
It requires, therefore, a wide stretch of faith to believe that Jesus Christ was in any peculiar sense “the Son of God,” because so denominated, or “the only begotten Son of God,” when so many others are reported in history bearing that title.
The title Savior is found in the legends of every religions country. So also God, Redeemer, and Mediator. “When a Mogul or Thibetan is asked who is Chrishna,” says the Christian missionary Huc, “the reply is, instantly, ‘the Savior of men.'” Buddha was known as “the Savior, Creator and Wisdom of God,” and Mithra as both Mediator and Savior, also as “the Redeemer,” and Chrishna as “the Divine Redeemer,” also “the Redeemer of the World.” The terms Mediator and Intercessor were also frequently applied to him by his disciples. And both he and Quexalcote were hailed as “the Messiah.” In short, most ancient religious nations were honored with or expected a Messiah.
Was Jesus Christ the “Lamb of God?” (John i. 9.) So was Chrishna styled “the Holy Lamb.” The Mexicans, preferring a full- grown sheep, had their “Ram of God.” The Celts had their “Heifer of God,” and the Egyptians their Bull of God.” All these terms are ludicrous emblems of Deity, representing him as a quadruped, as the title “Lamb of God” does Jesus Christ, a term no less ludicrous than the titles of the pagan Gods as cited above.
And was Christ “the True Light?” (John i. 9.) So was Chrishna likewise called “the True Light,” also “the Giver of Light,” “the Inward Light,” etc. Osiris was “the Redeemer of Light,” and Pythagoras was both “Light and Truth.” Apollonius was styled the “True Light of the World;” while Simon Magus was called “the Light of all Men.”
Several nations had also their Christs, though in many cases the word is differently spelled. Chrest, the Greek mode of spelling Christ, may be found on several of the ancient tombstones of that country. The Christian writer Elsley, in his “Annotations of the Gospels” (vol. i.p. 25), spells the word Christ in this manner, Chrest. The people of Loretto had a black Savior, called Chrest, or Christ. Lucian, in his “Philopatris,” admits the ancient Gentiles had the name of Christ, which shows it was a heathen title. The Chaldeans had their Chris, the Hindoos their Chrishna, the Greeks their Chrest, and the Christians their Christ, all, doubtless, derived from the same original root.
As for Jesus, it was a common name among the Jews long before the advent of Christ. Josephus refers to seven or eight persons by that name, as “Jesus, brother of Onias,” “Jesus, son of Phabet,” etc. Joshua in the Greek form, Jesus, was in still more common use.
Again, was Jesus Christ “the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End?” so, likewise, Chrishna proclaimed, “I am the Beginning, the Middle, and the End.” Osiris and Chrishna were both proclaimed “Judge of the Dead,” as Jesus was “Judge of quick and dead.” Isaiah represents the Father as proclaiming, “I am Jehovah; besides me there is no Savior.” (Isa. xliii. 11.) With what consistency, then, can Christ be called “the Savior,” if there is but one Sazior, and that is the Father?
And other divine titles besides those above named — in fact, all those applied to Christ — are found used also in reference to the older pagan gods, and hence prove nothing.
ORIGIN OF THE TERMS MEDIATOR, INTERCESSOR, ETC
Several causes contributed to originate a belief in the offices imaginarily assigned to divine God-descended Mediators, Redeemers, and Intercessors.
- In the first place, the Great Supreme God was believed to be too far off and too aristocratic to be on familiar terms with his subjects, or at all times accessible to their prayers. Hence, was gotten up a “Mediator,” or middle God, to stand midway between the Great Supreme and the people, and transmit messages one from the other, and thus serve as agent for both parties. Confirmatory of this statement is the declaration of Mamoides, in his “Guide to the Erring,” that “the ancient Sabeans conceived the principal God, on account of his great distance, to be inaccessible; and hence, in imitation of the people in their conduct toward their king, who had to address him through a person appointed for the purpose, they imaginarily employed a middle divinity, who was called a Mediator, to present their claims to the Supreme God.” Here the whole secret is out, the whole thing is explained, and we now understand why Christ is called a Mediator, Intercessor, “Advocate with the Father,” etc.
- Again, the Supreme God was supposed to be frequently angry with the people, and threatening to punish if not to destroy them. “I will punish the multitude.” (Jer xlvi. 25.) “I will destroy the people.” (Ex. xxiii. 27). Hence, this middle divinity, this second person of the trinity, stepped in to plead and intercede on their behalf, being, as we must presume, a better-natured and more merciful being than the Father. And thus interceding, he received the titles of Intercessor and “Advocate with the Father.” (i John, ii. i.)
- The principal circumstance, however, which led to the conception of a divine Savior was the desire to find some way to continue in sin and wrong-doing and escape its natural and legitimate consequences; in other words, to evade the penalty. Hence, it came to be believed that people might run riot in sin, and plunge into the indulgence of their passions and their lusts, till the hour of death approached, when they would have nothing to do but to ask forgiveness, and cast the burden of their sins and sufferings on the merits of “a crucified Savior and Redeemer,” who “suffered once for all, that we might escape,” and thus dodge the penalty for sin. It was, as Mr. Fleurbach expresses it, “A realized wish to be free from the laws of morality, and escape the natural consequences of wrong doing.”