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Did Greeks believe in the tangible existence of their gods?

Did Greeks believe in the tangible existence of their gods?

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After having read one dialogue by Plato, a question occured to me: Did the Greeks really believe in the real existence of their gods?

In Plato's dialogue there are many references to gods, but I have trouble accepting that this philosopher could believe that for example on Mount Olympus there actually lived some god-like entities.

Oh yes, they did.

Probably not all Greeks of course, but enough of them.

One of the popular fads in late antiquity was Mystery Religions. These were religions that had secret belief systems that you only progressively learn as you get initiated deeper into the religion.* The gods Cybele and Dionysus had very popular mystery religions, which just flat out would not work if people didn't believe in the gods in question.

Many argue early Christianity borrowed quite a lot of elements from these mystery religions. Particularly the ritual meal, baptism, and the language in John 1 ("In the beginning was the Logos… ")

The Ancient Greeks are documented to have sentenced quite a few men to death for the crime of impiety. This "crime" is not much of a social problem, unless you have large numbers of people who do believe, and are thus worried that the impiety will anger the gods, and thus cause misfortune for the community.

A lot of the early anti-Christian riots in the Roman Empire had this as at least part of the motivation. Christians denied all other gods, which would be seen as a severe danger to the community if you are a person who believes those gods exist and punish disrespect.

* - The addictive power of this scheme should be fairly obvious to anyone who understands how our own This Site network's reputation/moderation system works.

Of course, yes. Is the sentence of Socrat not enough as an argument?

On the other hand, Sokolovsky in Russia this year was condemned, to 4 years of conditional imprisonment, for his doubts in God's existence and in Immaculate conception, and 50% of population are not christians…

I am afraid, the question can be correctly answered only after we decide what can serve as a check for if some people really believe in its gods. How many people believe so that they can walk across a swimming pool? Filled.

BTW, Opera Jesus Christ - superstar is already considered as antichristian in Russia. Fanatics or these that are playing fanatics are so unlogical that it is very hard to measure them by logic.

Greek mythology

Greek mythology is one of the most fascinating mythological accounts of the ancient world. The Greek myths were actually efforts of the people to explain the creation of the world, the nature around them, weather conditions and generally any superhuman that was happening in their daily life. At first, Greek mythology stories were transmitted orally and they were usually narrated in the form of songs. Only in the 5th century, BC was the Greek Mythology written down in plays. Note that these myths constituted the main theme of the ancient plays written by famous play writers, like Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

The most ancient works to portray the mythology was certainly Iliad and Odyssey, dating from the 8th century BC. The poem Theogony by Hesiod followed around 700 BC. As the name of the poem depicts (Theogony means the birth of Gods), it deals with the creation of the human world and the ancient Gods.

The Greek mythology says that the Greek gods were living in Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. Like all gods, they were immortal. The imagination of the people would not picture them as eternally young, but each god had a different age. For example, Zeus and Hera were middle-aged, while Apollo and Aphrodite were forever young. To keep their eternal life, the Olympian Gods would eat ambrosia and drink nectar.

The Olympian Gods were 12 in number. However, in Greek mythology stories, there were also many other smaller gods and deities that lived in the earth. For example, nymphs of the sea lived in the waves and nymphs of the forest lived inside the boles of the trees.

For the ancient Greeks, many natural phenomena or nature itself were also personalized as gods. Aether was the god of the upper air, Hemera was the goddess of daylight, Erebus the god of darkness and Zephyros the god of the west wind. There were also special gods for feelings and situations, such as Themis for justice, Via for violence, Eris for discord, Hebe for youth, Hypnos for sleep, Mania for insanity and many others.

The gods would usually mate with each other or with mortals and have children. For example, Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, and Ares, the god of war, gave birth to Cupid, the god of love. Also, the coupling of Zeus and a mortal woman named Leto gave birth to two important gods, Apollo and Artemis. It was very frequent that the child of a god and a mortal was made god or at least had superficial powers.

Let's take the example of Hercules, the son of Zeus and mortal Alcmena. Although he was not considered a god, he had inherited some extra-human powers. He had great strength and could beat huge giants in battle. Hercules is mostly known in mythology for his twelve labors, such as the slaying of the Nemean Lion and of the 9-headed Lernaean Hydra, the steal of the Esperides Apples and the Capture of Cerberus.

Another hero with superficial powers was Theseus, the son of mortal Aethra and the divine Poseidon. He is famous as a king of Athens and also for his difficult tasks: to kill the Minotaur and to win the legendary Amazons during their siege of Athens.

Gods, for the ancient Greeks, had a very liberal attitude in life. Family unions were not applicable to them, that is why brothers could marry their sisters and have children or a son could kill his parents. How much liberal rules were for the gods, this would not apply for mortals. If a mortal broke up a moral rule, the punishment was severe.

Particularly strong for the mortals was the anti-blasphemy rule, which banned people from talking unrespectfully against a god. If someone did so, the god would get angry and punish him.

In general, the ancient Greeks would consider something bad in their lives as punishment for gods. If they had a disease, they would pray to the gods to forgive his sins. If a flood would occur and destroy their city, they would make a sacrifice to calm down the gods. From this, it can be seen that there was a sense of respect and fear between people and the gods and that people didn't feel free to live their lives, but thought that everything would come or be taken away from them.

Some facts about the Greek mythology (Theogony by Hesiod, Cronus takes over power, Zeus taking power) and the Olympian gods: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Aphrodite and more.


Did The Early Church Believe In the LDS Doctrine of God? by James White

All such expressions of the deification of man are, it must be remembered, purely relative. They express the fact that man has a nature essentially spiritual, and to that extent resembling the being of God further, that he is able to attain a real union with God, by virtue of an affinity proceeding both from nature and from grace. Man, the Fathers might have said, is a supernatural animal. In some sense his destiny is to be absorbed into God. But they would all have repudiated with indignation any suggestion that the union of men to God added anything to the godhead. They explained the lower in terms of the higher, but did not obliterate the distinction between them. Not only is God self dependent. [sic] He has also all those positive qualities which man does not possess, the attribution of which is made by adding the negative prefix to the common attributes of humanity. In addition, in so far as humanity possesses broken lights of God, they are as far as possible from reaching the measure and perfection with which they are associated in the godhead. Real power and freedom, fullness of light, ideal and archetypal spirit, are found in Him alone. The gulf is never bridged between Creator and creature. Though in Christ human nature has been raised to the throne of God, by virtue of His divine character, yet mankind in general can only aspire to the sort of divinity which lies open to its capacity through the union with the divine humanity. Eternal life is the life of God. Men may come to share its manifestations and activities, but only by grace, never of right. Man remains a created being: God alone is agenetos [i.e., uncreated] (Prestige, pp. 74-75).

Note well what Prestige says. He asserts that the early Fathers did *not* “obliterate the distinction” between God and man (Mormonism most definitely does, teaching that God was once a man who has progressed to godhood). Prestige says that “real power and freedom” are found in God *alone*, not in the creature man. And, in as clear a denial of the concept that is presented by Mormonism (and that Evenson is attempting to substantiate) that one could find, Prestige says, “The gulf is never bridged between Creator and creature.” He closes by saying, “Man remains a created being: God alone is agenetos.” Clearly, Prestige is saying that the early Fathers did *not* teach that men could become gods *in the sense that Mormonism would like us to believe.*

Some leading ideas about the nature of God may be illustrated in a few quotations from early writers. Tatian writes (ad Gr. 4.1,2), “Our God does not have his constitution in time. He alone is without beginning He Himself constitutes the source (“arce”) of the universe. God is spirit. He does not extend through matter, but is the author of material spirits and of the figures (“schemata”) in matter. He is invisible and in- tangible” (Prestige, p. 3).

Note that Prestige is giving what he views as *representational* views of the early Fathers. And what do we find? Do we find Mormon doctrine here? Hardly! Note the many things that are *directly* contradictory to LDS teaching. First, God is eternal, that is, he does “not have his constitution in time.” The LDS God has progressed to his current position–obviously, then, he undergoes a progression of time. Tatian states that God is without beginning yet Mormonism speaks of God’s once having been a man, so, obviously, he had to enter into the condition of a god at some point in time. Tatian says God is spirit. Mormonism says He is flesh. Tatian says that God is the “author” of “material spirits and of the figures in matter.” Joseph Smith taught that “God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 354). Tatian says that God is invisible and intangible Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 says just the opposite. We continue with Prestige:

Athenagoras (*suppl.* 10.1) expresses allegiance to “one God, the uncreated, eternal, invisible, impassible, incomprehensible, uncontainable, comprehended only by mind and reason, clothed in light and beauty and spirit and power indescribable, by whom the totality has come to be.”…But, in brief, this statement implies that God is transcendent and everlasting free alike from limitations of time or space and from subjection to sense or affections and possessed of supreme supernatural power and glory. Theophilus speaks similarly (ad Aut. 1.3) of the abstract qualities of the deity. “The form of God is ineffable…in glory He is uncontainable, in greatness incomprehensible, in height inconceivable, in might incomparable, in wisdom without peer, in goodness inimitable, in well-doing indescribable…He is without beginning because He is uncreated, and He is unchangeable because He is immortal.” And again, (ib. 2.3), “it belongs to God, the highest and almighty and the truly God, not only to be everywhere, but also to overlook all things and to hear all things, and yet, nevertheless, not to be contained in space” (Prestige, p. 3).

We again note the completely different view of God presented here than that of Mormonism. The God of the early Fathers is uncreated, eternal, invisible, impassible, incomprehensible, and uncontainable. The God of Mormonism entered into godhood at a particular point, he has not eternally been God, He is not invisible (in the sense the Fathers meant the term), he is certainly not impassible, incomprehensible, or uncontainable many LDS *mock* these very aspects of the Christian doctrine of God.

But Prestige did not stop there. He continued on:

His absolute independence is a corollary to His absolute goodness and wisdom, as well as to His absolute capacity to create. Thus the emphasis…on God being uncreated (agennetos) implies that He is the sole originator of all things that are, the source and ground of existence and the conception is taken as a positive criterion of deity. The insistence that God is uncontained spatially (acoretos) conveys a very necessary warning against Stoic pantheism. Though the created universe contributes an implicit revelation of God through His works, it is by no means a complete or perfect revelation of His being He is infinitely greater than His creation. Thus Justin claims (dial. 127.2) that God is uncontained either in one place or in the whole universe, since He existed before the universe came into being (Prestige, pp. 4-5). That all of this is directly contradictory to the LDS doctrine of a finite, limited God who has a physical body of flesh and bone (D&C 130:22) and who was once a man is too obvious to require further comment. The early Fathers did *not* believe in the God of Mormonism in any way, shape, or form.

One of the greatest patristic scholars, J. N. D. Kelly, has written,

The classical creeds of Christendom opened with a declaration of belief in one God, maker of heaven and earth. The mono- theistic idea, grounded in the religion of Israel, loomed large in the minds of the earliest fathers though not re flective theologians, they were fully conscious that it marked the dividing line between the Church and paganism. According to Hermas, the first commandment is to `believe that God is one, Who created and established all things, bringing them into existence out of non-existence’. It was He Who `by His invisible and mighty power and great wisdom created the universe, and by His glorious purpose clothed His creation with comeliness, and by His strong word fixed the heavens and founded the earth above the waters’. For Clement God is `the Father and creator of the entire cosmos’ and for `Barnabas’ and the “Didache” `our maker’. His omnipotence and universal sovereignty were acknowledged, for He was `the Lord almighty’, `the Lord Who governs the whole universe’, and `the master of all things’. The reader should notice that at this period the title `almighty’ connoted God’s all-pervading control and sovereignty over reality, just as `Father’ referred primarily to His role as creator and author of all things (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, p. 83).

But, so that no one thinks that we are simply citing authors who agree with us, below you will find a number of citations from early Christian sources on this very issue. The combined testimony of these Fathers is inarguable:

Ignatius to the Magnesians, (A.D. 110), 8:1

For that reason they were persecuted, inspired as they were by His grace to convince the disobedient that there is one God, who manifested Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is His Word proceeding from silence, and who was in all respects pleasing to Him that sent Him.

Aristides of Athens, Apology (A.D. 140), 1

I call the One who constructed all things and maintains them God: He that is without beginning and eternal, immortal and lacking nothing, and who is above all passion and failings such as anger and forgetfulness and ignorance and the rest.

Aristides of Athens, Apology (A.D. 140), 4

Let us proceed, then, O King, to the elements themselves, so that we may demonstrate concerning them that they are not gods, but corruptible and changeable things, produced out of the non-existent by Him that is truly God, who is incorruptible and unchangeable and invisible, but who sees all things and changes them and alters them as He wills.

Justin, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew (A.D. 155), 5

For whatever things exist after God or will at anytime exist, have a corruptible nature, and are such as may be blotted out and no longer exist. God alone is unbegotten and incorruptible, which is why He is God. Everything else after Him is produced and corruptible.

Tatian, Address to the Greeks (A.D. 165), 4

Our God has no introduction in time. He alone is without beginning, and is Himself the beginning of all things. God is a spirit, not attending upon matter, but the Maker of material spirits and of the appearances which are in matter. He is invisible and untouchable, being Himself the Father of both sensible and invisible things. This we know by the evidence of what He has created and we perceive His invisible power by His works.

Matter is not without a beginning, like God nor is it of equal power with God, through being without a beginning. It is begotten, and not produced by any other begotten beings but is brought into existence by Him alone who is the Creator of all things.

Athenagoras, Supplication for the Christians, (A.D. 177), 4

Is it not unreasonable to apply the name of atheist to us, who distinguish God from matter and teach that matter is one thing and God another, and that there is a great difference between them, the Deity being unbegotten and eternal, able to be known by reason and understanding alone, while matter is produced and perishable?

Athenagoras, Supplication for the Christians (A.D. 177), 10

I have sufficiently demonstrated that we are not atheists, since we acknowledge one God, unbegotten, eternal, invisible, incapable of being acted upon, incomprehensible, unbounded….

Irenaeus Against Heresies, (A.D. 190) 1:10:1

For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the Apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them….

We hold, however, the rule of truth, according to which there is one almighty God, who formed all things through His Word, and fashioned and made all things which exist out of that which did not exist….

Nor is He moved by anyone rather, freely and by His Word He made all things. For He alone is God, He alone is Lord, He alone is Creator, He alone is Father, He alone contains all and commands all to exist.

It is easy to demonstrate from the very words of the Lord that He acknowledges one Father, Creator of the world and Fashioner of man, who was proclaimed by the Law and by the Prophets and that He knows no other, this being God over all.

Of His own accord and by His own power He made all things and arranged and perfected them and His will is the substance of all things. He alone, then, is found to be God He alone is omnipotent, who made all things He alone is Father, who founded and formed all things, visible and invisible, sensible and insensate, heavenly and earthly, by the Word of His Power.

…let them learn that to be without beginning and without end, to be truly and always the same, and to remain ever without change, belongs to God alone, who is Lord of all. All things, however, which are from Him, all that have been made and which will be made, receive each their own beginning of existence and inasmuch as they are not unbegotten, in this way they are inferior to Him who made them. They perdure, however, and continue through a length of ages, according to the will of God their Maker for indeed, He makes them to be in the beginning, and afterwards gives them continuance.

Tertullian, Apology (A.D. 197) 17:1

The object of our worship is the One God, who, by the Word of His command, by the Reason of His plan, and by the strength of His Power, has brought forth from nothing for the glory of His majesty this whole construction of elements, bodies and spirits whence also the Greeks have bestowed upon the world the name KOSMOS. He is invisible, and yet He may be seen. He is intangible, and yet His presence is apparent through His grace. He is immeasurable, and yet He is measured by the human senses. He is, therefore, as real as He is great. In regard to other things, that which is able to be seen, to be touched, or to be measured is less than the eyes by which it is seen, than the hands by which it is touched, and the senses by which it is discovered. But what is truly infinite is known only to itself. Thus it is that the measure of God is taken, although He is really immeasurable. Thus it is that the force of His greatness makes Him known to men, although He is yet unknown. And this is the crowning guilt of men, that they do not want to know Him of whom they cannot be ignorant.

Tertullian, Apology (A.D. 197), 21:13

So also, that which proceeds from God is God and Son of God, and both are one. Likewise, as He is Spirit from Spirit, and God from God, He is made a second by count and in numerical sequence, but not in actual condition for He comes forth from the source but does not separate therefrom.

Tertullian, The Demurrer Against the Heretics, 13:1

There is only one God, and none other besides Him: the Creator of the world who brought forth all things out of nothing through His Word….

Tertullian Against Hermogenes, 4:3

Whatever special property God has, it must necessarily be unique, so that it can belong to Him who is One. But what can be unique and singular except that to which nothing can be equated? What can be principal, if not that which is above all, if not that which is before all and from which all things are? It is by being the sole possessor of these qualities that He is God and by being sole possessor, that He is One.

Tertullian Against Marcion, 1:3:1

Christian truth, however, has distinctly declared, “If God be not one, He does not exist” for we more properly believe that that which is not what it must be does not exist at all. So that you may know, however, that God must be one, ask what God is, and you will find that such is the case. In so far as a human being is able to formulate a definition of God, I formulate such a definition as the conscience of every man may acknowledge God is the Great Supreme Being existing in eternity, unbegotten, uncreated, without beginning, and without end.

Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 10:32

The one God, the first and only, both Creator and Lord of all things, had nothing coeval with Himself, neither infinite chaos, nor immeasurable water, nor solid earth, nor dense air, nor hot fire, nor gentle breeze, nor the azure roof of the great heavens. No, he was one, to Himself alone and when He so willed, He created those things which before had no existence other than in his willing to make them and inasmuch as he had knowledge of what would be: for he has also foreknowledge. He first created, however, the diverse elements of the things which would come into existence, fire and air, water and earth, from which various elements he then made his own creation.

Origen, De Principiis, 1, Preface, 4

First, that there is one God who created and arranged all things, and who, when nothing existed, called all things into existence

Origen, De Principiis (A.D. 220), 1:1:6

Since our mind is in itself unable to behold God Himself as He is, it knows the Father of the universe from the beauty of His works and from the elegance of His creatures. God, therefore, is not to be thought of as being either a body or as existing in a body, but as a simple intellectual Being, admitting within Himself no addition of any kind. Thus, He cannot be believed to have within Himself something greater and something lesser. Rather, He is in every part “monas” and, so to speak, “henas.” He is the mind and source from which every intellectual being or mind takes its beginning.

How much more effective it is–and how better than all those invented explanations! –that when we are convinced by what we see in the excellent orderliness of the world, we then worship its Maker as the one Author of one effect, which, since it is entirely in harmony with itself, cannot, therefore, have been the work of many makers.

Novatian, The Trinity, (A.D. 235) 31

God the Father, founder and creator of all things, who alone knows no beginning, who is invisible, immeasurable, immortal, and eternal, is one God. Neither His greatness nor His majesty nor His power can possibly be–I should not say exceeded, for they cannot even be equaled.

Cyril, Catechetical Lectures, (A.D. 350), 6:11

Whence came the polytheistic error of the Greeks? God has no body: whence, then, the adulteries alleged among those whom the Greeks call gods?

Hilary, Commentaries on the Psalms, on Psalm 129, 3

First it must be remembered that God is incorporeal. He does not consist of certain parts and distinct members, making up one body. For we read in the Gospel that god is spirit: invisible, therefore, and an eternal nature, immeasurable and self-sufficient. It is also written that a spirit does not have flesh and bones. For of these the members of a body consist, and of these the substance of God has no need. God, however, who is everywhere and in all things, is all-hearing, all-seeing, all- doing, and all-assisting.

Didymus, The Holy Spirit (A.D. 375), 35

God is simple and of an incomposite and spiritual nature, having neither ears nor organs of speech. A solitary essence and illimitable, He is composed of no members and parts.

Ephiphanius, Against All Heresies, 70:5

Reject also the opinion of those who say the body is in the image of God. For how were it possible for the visible to be close to the invisible? How the corporeal to the incorporeal? How the tangible to the illimitable?

Chrysostom, Against the Anomoians, 4:3

For God is simple and non-composite and without shape….When, therefore, you hear that “no one has ever seen God,” consider it the same as hearing that no one can know God in an utterly perfect manner, as to His essence.

Cyril, Commentary on Psalm 11, 3

When the divine Scripture presents sayings about God and remarks on corporeal parts, do not let the mind of those hearing it harbor thoughts of tangible things, but from those tangible things as if from things said figuratively let it ascend to the beauty of things intellectual, and rather than figures and quantity and circumscription and shapes and everything else that pertains to bodies, let it think on God, although He is above all understanding. We were speaking of Him in a human way for there was no other way in which we could think about the things that are above us.

Lactantius, The Divine Institutions, (A.D. 300), 2:8:8

But God Himself makes His own material, because He is able. To be able is a quality of God and, were He not able, neither would He be God. Man makes things out of what already exists, because he is weak as a consequence of being mortal and because of his weakness, he is of limited and moderate power. God, however, makes things from what does not exist, because He is strong on account of His eternity and because of His strength, His power is immeasurable, having neither end nor limitation, like the life itself of the Maker.

Cyril, Catechetical Lectures, (A.D. 350), 4:4-5

First let there be laid as a foundation in your soul the doctrine concerning God: that there is one God alone, unbegotten, without beginning, unchangeable and immovable neither begotten of another nor having another to succeed to His life who neither began to live in time nor will ever cease to be and that He is good and just….The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not circumscribed in any place, nor is He less than the heavens….He knows beforehand the things that shall be, and is mightier than all. He knows all, and does as He will. He is not subject to the consequences of events, neither to astrological geniture, nor to chance, nor to fate. He is in all things perfect, and possesses equally every absolute of virtue, neither diminishing nor decreasing, but remains ever the same and unchanging.

Hilary, The Trinity, (A.D. 356), 2:6

The Father is He to whom all that exists owes its origin. He is in Christ and through Christ He is the source of all things. Moreover, His existence is existence in itself, and He does not derive His existence from anywhere else. Rather, from Himself and in Himself He possesses the actuality of His being. He is infinite because He Himself is not contained in something else, and all else is within Him. He is always beyond location, because He is not contained always before the ages, because time comes from Him….God, however, is present everywhere and everywhere He is totally present. Thus, He transcends the realm of understanding. Outside of Him there is nothing, and it is eternally His characteristic that He shall always exist. This is the truth of the mystery of God, of the impenetrable nature which this name Father expresses. God is invisible, unutterable, and infinite.

Gregory of Nazianus, Second Oration on Easter (A.D. 383), 45:3

God always way, and is, and will be: or better, He always is. Was and will be are portions of time as we reckon it, and are of a changing nature. He, however, is ever existing and that is how He names Himself in treating with Moses on the mountain. He gathers in Himself the whole of being, because He has neither beginning nor will He have an end. He is like some great sea of Being, limitless and unbounded, transcending every conception of time and nature.

Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, (A.D. 383), Jaeger, 2:163

We judge it proper, therefore, to believe that that alone is truly divine whose existence is found to be eternal and infinite, and in whom all that is contemplated is ever the same, neither increasing nor diminishing.

Augustine, Sermons, (A.D. 391-430), 7:7

Being is a name of unchangeableness. For everything that is changed ceases to be what it was and begins to be what it was not. Being is. True being, pure being, genuine being is had only by Him who does not change.

Augustine, The True Religion, 25:46

The first decision to be made is whether we should prefer to believe those who call us to the worship of many gods, or those who call us to the one God. Who can doubt that it is preferable to follow those who call us to one, especially when those worshipers of many agree that this one God is the ruler of all others? And certainly, rank begins at one. Those, therefore, are to be followed first who say that there is only one supreme God, the true God, who alone is to be worshipped. If truth does not shine forth from them, then a change is to be made.

John of Damascus, The Source of Knowledge, 3:1:5

The Divinity is perfect and without defect in His goodness, in His wisdom, in His power, without beginning, without end, eternal, infinite, and to put it simply, perfect in every respect. If we were to speak of many gods it would be necessary to recognize a difference among the many. But if there is no difference among them, there is but one and not many. And if there were a difference among them, where then were their perfection?

[We believe] in one Father, the beginning and cause of all things, begotten of no one, but uncaused and unbegotten, alone subsisting Creator of all things, but Father by nature of One only, His Only- begotten Son and our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ…There never was a time when the Father was and the Son was not but always Father, always Son, who is begotten of Him for one cannot be called father apart from a son.

It seems that the most authoritative of all the names spoken of God is “WHO IS,” as He did Himself say on the mountain in answer to Moses….For, since He holds all existence in Himself, He is like a sea of being, boundless and infinite.


Worship, Temples, Sacred Sites in Ancient Greece

Temples: The ancient Greeks worshiped their gods every day, and they believed in a great many gods! They believed each temple they built should honor only one god, no matter how big or elaborate the temple. Some cities built more than one temple to honor the same god. Priests were assisted by attendants. People would bring offerings, usually food, to the temples when they prayed. This food was collected, sometimes stored, and eaten by the priests and the attendants in honor of the gods. In ancient Greece, even women could be priests.

Sacred Sites: Sacred sites were located all over the place. Sites held a simple alter at which the ancient Greeks could pray. Some sacred sites became so popular, for whatever reason, that a temple was built on the site.

Prayer: The Greeks also prayed at home in their courtyards.

Festivals: The Greeks held festivals to honor their gods. Typically, each festival would include a parade to a temple, then a sacrifice - an animal of the same sex as the god being worshiped - and then a feast.

Sporting Events: They held sporting events, like the ancient Greek Olympics, to honor their gods.

Daily Life: In ancient Greece, honoring the gods was part of daily life and part of just about everything they did. It was not unusual to pray at home, stop at a sacred site, and visit a temple, all in the same day.

The Greeks did not believe their gods lived in the temples or at the sacred sites. But they did believe the gods visited these places, and had magical powers that could hear their prayers. The Greeks also believed they could ask for help and advice through an oracle. An oracle was a wise woman with the ability to see the future.

Did Greeks believe in the tangible existence of their gods? - History

This page is part of the "e-mail archives" section of a site, Plato and his dialogues, dedicated to developing a new interpretation of Plato's dialogues. The "e-mail archives" section includes HTML edited versions of posts that I submitted on various e-mail discussion lists about Plato and ancient philosophy.

To: sophia [email protected]>
Date : February 11, 1996, 13:34:52
Subject : Re: Existence of God

> What exactly is Plato's position concerning the existence of God? Also,In which of his works can I find references to God? Is the position of Aristotle somewhat similar in the existence of God? If not, how does he differ? Any help with this would be appreciated.

The first problem with your question is that you talk of "God" with a capital G. This doesn't exist in Plato, and, for that matter in ancient greek litterature, because God is not the name of a person but a common noun. Thus Plato speaks of "the gods ( hoi theoi ), or "the god ( ho theos )", in some cases of "god", but then in the same way we would talk of "man", using the word as a generic name. He also speaks of "the divine ( to theion )".

Thus, if by "God" you mean the god of christianity, Yawhe, the Holy Trinity and the like, there is none of it in Plato or Aristotle. However, if you are looking for "traces" in Plato and Aristotle of a concept that somehow anticipates this god, or if you want to know what is their stand as regards what we are used to call "religion", this is another matter.

Then you want to know what concept of "god" you are looking for. Is it the concept of a single "god", that is, of a monotheistic religion? Is it the concept of "god the maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen"? Is it the concept of the "Logos that was in the beginning, the Logos that was in God, the Logos that was God"? Or is it yet something else?

If you are looking for Plato's "religion", I think you should mostly look at book X of the Laws , and at the Timæus (as a whole, I would add). But this is only part of the answer. I think Plato knew perfectly well that on such matters, it is impossible to give complete answers with human words. Thus, he tried to approach the question from different angles and give partial complementary (and not contradictory) answers, both negative (what gods are not , what we should not believe) and positive (what we may safely believe about gods and the divine, and questions of "origins" and "ends").

In that respect, the answers he gives in the Timæus have to be "qualified" by the purpose of this dialogue: it purports to show man how he should look at the kosmos , that is "theorize" it (from theorein , which means in Greek "contemplate"), to find in it traces of an organizing "intelligence" and use it as a model for our organizing work as builders of lawfull cities as "just" men endowed with logos that is, a divine parcel in our own souls. And you must keep in mind that Plato himself repeats times and again that he does not states definite truths but tells only "likely myths".

In it, you will find not "God", but a " demiourgos ", that is a "worker" (etymologically, demiourgos means "one who works for the demos , that is for the people"), which is immortal by nature but works from a model and has to deal with anagkè , necessity. Though he does not seem to be the maker of "place ( chôra )" and matter, he is the maker of time, "a moving image of eternity", and of "lower" gods, that are only immortal by his will. These gods represent the immortal living creatures that are needed to have all sorts of creatures in the kosmos . They are the makers of man as the "host" of a divine soul (the logos ) handed them by the demiourgos . But you will also read that the kosmos is often refered to as a "god", endowed with a soul.

In the Laws , you will find what Plato deems the needed "religion" to ensure order in the city. Basically, men have to hold three key tenets: that gods exist (that is, that the world is not a purely "material" thing, product of chance or necessity) that they care for the world and that they cannot be "bought" or corrupted by men's gifts or prayers. But there, he makes clear that he does not pretend to give the last answer on such difficult questions.

In it you will find also the root of Aristotle theory of the unmoved mover. But whereas Plato is well aware of the limits of his own discourse, Aristotle wants to give complete answers and thus takes "litteraly" what was for Plato only an partial insight into possible answers.

And then, there is the question of "forms" and especially of "the good that is beyond being" ( Republic , VI). But this would lead us too far away. And the question of how litteraly Plato himself would take his own "myths". Eventually, if you want to know what Plato thinks about "the divine", you may have to read all the dialogues, and see how it fits within his suggested answers to such questions as the purpose of life, the role of reason in man, the relationship of becoming to being, of time to eternity, of visible to intelligible, and so on.

Another problem with your question has to do with the term "existence", which would require that we investigate the concept of "being" in Plato and Aristotle. The key to this problem, for Plato, lies in the Sophist : "being" is the least meaningfull predicate of all. To say that something "is", is to say nothing at all until you say "how" it exist, that is, to what other forms it "participates", and for what purpose it "is", that is, what its "good" is. As soon as you say "god", it "is" that is, there is at least something in your mind that "is" in a certain way. But then , does it relates to some other "being" outside your mind, that is the question. Thus, the problem is not "existence" but "relations" (kind of an anticipation of some of Augustines' theories on the Trinity).

First published December 8, 1996 Last updated November 21, 1998
© 1996 Bernard SUZANNE (click on name to send your comments via e-mail)
Quotations from theses pages are authorized provided they mention the author's name and source of quotation (including date of last update). Copies of these pages must not alter the text and must leave this copyright mention visible in full.

Did Greeks believe in the tangible existence of their gods? - History

Historical Background of the Trinity

The current mainstream teaching in Christianity is that God is a coequal, coeternal, one-substance trinity, and that Jesus Christ is God. This doctrine is considered by many as the cornerstone of Christianity, but where did this doctrine come from? The historical record is overwhelming that the church of the first three centuries did not worship God as a coequal, coeternal, consubstantial, one-substance three in one mysterious godhead. The early church worshipped one God and believed in a subordinate Son. The trinity originated with Babylon, and was passed on to most of the world's religions. This polytheistic (believing in more than one god) trinitarianism was intertwined with Greek religion and philosophy and slowly worked its way into Christian thought and creeds some 300 years after Christ. The idea of "God the Son" is Babylonian paganism and mythology that was grafted into Christianity. Worshipping "God the Son" is idolatry, and idolatry is Biblically condemned it breaks the first great commandment of God of not having any gods before him (Exodus 20:3). Then three centuries after Christ the corrupt emperor Constantine forced the minority opinion of the trinity upon the council of Nicea. The Christian church went downward from there in fact some of the creeds and councils actually contradict each other. The council of Nicea 325 said that "Jesus Christ is God," the council of Constantinople 381 said that "the Holy Spirit is God," the council of Ephesus 431 said that "human beings are totally depraved," the council of Chalcedon 451 said that "Jesus Christ is both man and God." If you follow the logic here then first you have Jesus Christ as God, then you have man totally depraved, and then you have Jesus Christ as man and God. If Jesus Christ is both man and God does this mean that God is also totally depraved? Well maybe the doctrine of the coequal, coeternal, one-substance, mysterious three in one triune godhead is deprived of any historical foundation tying it into the Christianity of the Bible and the Christianity of the first three centuries. However the historical information ties the trinity into various pagan origins.

And yet most Christian churches continue to teach and believe the doctrine that God is a coequal, coeternal, one-substance, mysterious three in one triune godhead, and that Jesus Christ is God, and that the trinity is "the cornerstone of Christianity".

The Church of the First Three Centuries 1865 Alvan Lamson

" . . . The modern doctrine of the Trinity is not found in any document or relic belonging to the Church of the first three centuries. . . so far as any remains or any record of them are preserved, coming down from early times, are, as regards this doctrine an absolute blank. They testify, so far as they testify at all, to the supremacy of the father, the only true God and to the inferior and derived nature of the Son. There is nowhere among these remains a coequal trinity. . . but no un-divided three, -- coequal, infinite, self-existent, and eternal. This was a conception to which the age had not arrived. It was of later origin."

During the first three centuries, Christians did not believe that Jesus Christ was coequal, and coeternal with God, or that he was God the Son, they believed that Jesus Christ was subordinate to God, and that he had a beginning, that he was born. Those that believed otherwise were the exception.

The Doctrine of the Trinity Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound 1994 Anthony F. Buzzard Charles F. Hunting

"Those Trinitarians who believe that the concept of a Triune God was such an established fact that it was not considered important enough to mention at the time the New Testament was written should be challenged by the remarks of another writer, Harold Brown:"

"It is a simple fact and an undeniable historical fact that several major doctrines that now seem central to the Christian Faith – such as the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the nature of Christ – were not present in a full and self-defined generally accepted form until the fourth and fifth centuries. If they are essential today – as all of the orthodox creeds and confessions assert – it must be because they are true. If they are true, then they must always have been true they cannot have become true in the fourth and fifth century. But if they are both true and essential, how can it be that the early church took centuries to formulate them?"

A History of the Christian Church 2nd Ed. 1985 Williston Walker

"AD 200. . Noetus had been expelled from the Smyrnaean church for teaching that Christ was the Father, and that the Father himself was born, and suffered, and died."

Man's Religions John B. Noss 1968

"The controversy first became heated when Apollinarius, a bishop in Syria . . . asserted that Christ could not have been perfect man united with complete God, for then there would not have been one Son of God, but two sons, one by nature and one by adoption, the first with a divine, the second with a human will. Such a thing seemed inconceivable, religiously abhorrent."

"Nestorius . . . preached a sermon against calling the virgin Mary "the mother of God" declaring she did not bear a deity, she bore a man,"

Numbers 23:19 states that God is not a man. God was not born, and God certainly did not die, but when people deviate from what the Bible teaches you can come up with the bizarre complexities of trinitarian religious mysteries that contradict logic, common sense and God's Word.

New Bible Dictionary 1982

"The word trinity is not found in the Bible . . ."

". . . it did not find a place formally in the theology of the church till the 4th century."

". . . it is not a biblical doctrine in the sense that any formation of it can be found in the Bible, . . ."

"Scripture does not give us a formulated doctrine of the trinity, . . ."

The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism 1995

". . . scholars generally agree that there is no doctrine of the trinity as such in either the Old Testament or the New Testament."

If the trinity is the cornerstone of Christianity then how did the church of the first three centuries get along so well without it? If the trinity is the cornerstone of Christianity then why is it not mentioned in the Bible?

The Encyclopedia Americana 1956

"Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian (believing in one God). The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching."

The trinity is a deviation from believing in one God it is a deviation from what the early church taught and it is a deviation from the scripture.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia 1967

"The formulation 'one God in three persons' was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century."

Who is Jesus? Anthony Buzzard

"The Old Testament is a strictly monotheistic. God is a single personal being. The idea that a trinity is to be found there or even in any way shadowed forth, is an assumption that has long held sway in theology, but is utterly without foundation."

The New Encyclopedia Britannica 1976

"Neither the word trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord' (Deut. 6:4). . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. . . . By the end of the 4th century . . . the doctrine of the trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since."

The Shema consists of three sections of scripture Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41. It is called the Shema after the Hebrew word hear, the first word in Deut. 6:4. The Shema was to be recited twice daily once upon arising and once when going to bed. So the Old Testament Jews would start and finish their day with 'Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.'

The Complete Word Study Old Testament 1994

"To the Jew, (Deut. 6:4-9) this is the most important text in the Old Testament. Jesus himself called the injunction in 6:5 'the first and great commandment' Matt.22:36-38. . . Moses is teaching not only the priority of belief in one God, but also a means to preserve that belief. As time went on, the proper understanding of the Shema with its spiritual implications was no longer grasped by the people. This absence of saving knowledge became a factor in their spiritual downfall."

Whenever God's people forget that there is only one God and they follow after other gods this will result in their downfall. This can be seen time and time again in the Old Testament where God's people forsook the Lord and then evil came upon them. God does not send this evil, but He warns us to stay away from the evil of worshipping more than one God.

Dictionary of The Bible 1995 John L. Mckenzie

"The trinity of God is defined by the church as the belief that in God are three persons who subsist in one nature. The belief as so defined was reached only in the 4th and 5th centuries AD and hence is not explicitly and formally a biblical belief."

Why You Should Believe In The Trinity 1989 Robert M. Bowman Jr.

"The New Testament does not contain a formalized explanation of the trinity that uses such words as trinity, three persons, one substance, and the like."

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology 1976

"The Bible lacks the express declaration that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of equal essence. [said Karl Barth]"

Exploring The Christian Faith 1992

"nowhere in the Bible do we find the doctrine of the trinity clearly formulated"

"People who are using the King James Version might be inclined to point to I John 5:7 'For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost' But it is now generally recognized that this verse does not belong to the original text of the letter it is a later insertion."

"The theological formulation took place later, after the days of the apostles."

"the doctrine of the trinity is not found in the Bible"

"The doctrine was to develop along mainly Greek lines"

Take note of the words "explicitly and formally", "formalized explanation", "express declaration", and "clearly formulated". These words are indicative of the fact that all the clear verses on the subjects of God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit do not even hint at a trinity. There are only a few verses that seem to hint at a trinity, and then only when they are twisted. The difficult or unclear verse must always be interpreted in light of the clear verses. If God is a coeternal, coequal, one substance, three-in-one Godhead, trinity, if that is what God really is, then he would have made himself known as such to the first century apostles they would have made the trinity part of their beliefs teachings and writings. They would have used words like God the Son, coequal, coeternal, one substance, or trinity, but the scripture is devoid of all of these trinitarian words and phrases because the first century apostles did not believe or teach, or write about God being a trinity, or Jesus Christ being God. But the pagan and Greek and Babylonian religions used those words.

Dictionary Of The Bible 1995 John L. Mckenzie

"The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of 'person' and 'nature' which are Greek philosophical terms actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The trinitarian definitions arose as the result of long controversies in which these terms and others such as 'essence' and 'substance' were erroneously applied to God by some theologians."

The Rise of Christianity W.H.C. Frend 1985

"For him [Clement] the trinity consisted of a hierarchy of three graded beings, and from that concept - derived from Platonism - depended much of the remainder of his theological teaching."

The Doctrine of the Trinity Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound 1994 Anthony F. Buzzard, Charles F. Hunting

"Eberhard Griesebach, in an acedemic lecture on "Christianity and humanism" delivered in 1938, observed that in its encounter with Greek philosophy Christianity became theology. That was the fall of Christianity. The Problem thus highlighted stems from the fact that traditional orthodoxy, while it claims to find its origins in scripture, in fact contains elements drawn from a synthesis of Scripture and Neo-Platonism. The mingling of Hebrew and Greek thinking set in motion first in the second century by an influx of Hellenism through the Church Fathers, whose theology was colored by the Platonists Plotinus and Porphyry. The effects of the Greek influence are widely recognized by theologians, though they go largely unnoticed by many believers."

". . . the Trinity is an unintelligible proposition of platonic mysticisms that three are one and one is three" [quote from Thomas Jefferson]

The Greek mythology and pagan religious beliefs were derived from Babylon.

Nouveau Dictionnaire Universel 1870

"The Platonic trinity, itself merely a rearrangement of older trinities dating back to earlier peoples, appears to be the rational philosophic trinity of attributes that gave birth to the three hypostases or divine persons taught by the Christian churches . . . This Greek philosopher's (Plato, 4th century BC) conception of the divine trinity . . . can be found in all ancient (pagan) religions"

The Two Babylons 1916 Rev. Alexander Hislop

"Egypt and Greece derived their religion from Babylon"

Microsoft Encarta Funk & Wagnalls 1994

"Neoplatonism is a type of idealistic monism in which the ultimate reality of the universe is held to be an infinite, unknowable, perfect One. From this One emanates nous (pure intelligence), whence in turn is derived the world soul, the creative activity of which engenders the lesser souls of human beings. The world soul is conceived as an image of the nous, even as the nous is an image of the One both the nous and the world soul, despite their differentiation, are thus consubstantial [one substance] with the One."

Microsoft Encarta Funk & Wagnalls 1994

"The theologians Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and St. Augustine were early Christian exponents of a Platonic perspective. Platonic ideas have had a crucial role in the development of Christian theology"

The Rise of Christianity W.H.C. Frend 1985

"we find Christianity tending to absorb Greek philosophical values, until by the end of the third century the line between the beliefs of educated Christian and educated pagan in the east would often be hard to draw."

The early Christians began mixing Greek and pagan and Babylonian philosophical and religious trinitarian concepts with their Christian doctrine which lead them to begin considering the trinity, and after three centuries that thinking finally took hold. Acts 17:22 says that the Greeks were too superstitious, and I Corinthians 1:22 says that the Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom. The Greeks were too intellectual in their approach to God's Word. They became wise in their own eyes and the truth of God’s Word became foolishness to them, so they grafted their own superstitious philosophical wisdom into God’s Word and changed the truth into a lie they changed Son of God to God the Son.

Catholic Encyclopedia 1991

"The term 'Trinity' does not appear in scripture"

"(The Doctrine of the Trinity) - hammered out over the course of three centuries of doctrinal controversy against modalism and subordinationism"

Why You Should Believe In The Trinity 1989 Robert M. Bowman Jr.

"Roman Catholics . . often claim that the trinity is not a biblical doctrine and was first revealed through the ministry of the church centuries after the Bible was written. This is in keeping with the Roman Catholic belief that Christian doctrine may be based either on the Bible or on church tradition."

The Roman Catholic Church did not get the doctrine of the trinity from the Bible, they hammered out their own theology of what they wanted God to be over several hundred years, and mixed Greek philosophy with Babylonian mystery religion, and their own private interpretations of the Bible.

I Peter 1:20, 21 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

II Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

People don't respect God's Word, they are more interested in inventing their own theology by the will of man instead of believing the word of God, they are not interested in rightly dividing God's word of truth. The trinity is private interpretation and wrong dividing of God's word.

Jesus Christ is not God 1975 Victor Paul Wierwille

"Long before the founding of Christianity the idea of a triune god or a god-in-three persons was a common belief in ancient religions. Although many of these religions had many minor deities, they distinctly acknowledged that there was one supreme God who consisted of three persons or essences. The Babylonians used an equilateral triangle to represent this three-in-one god, now the symbol of the modern three-in-one believers."

"The Hindu trinity was made up of the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The Greek triad was composed of Zeus, Athena and Apollo. These three were said by the pagans to 'agree in one.' One of the largest pagan temples built by the Romans was constructed at Ballbek (situated in present day Lebanon) to their trinity of Jupiter, Mercury and Venus. In Babylon the planet Venus was revered as special and was worshipped as a trinity consisting of Venus, the moon and the sun. This triad became the Babylonian holy trinity in the fourteenth century before Christ."

"Although other religions for thousands of years before Christ was born worshipped a triune god, the trinity was not a part of Christian dogma and formal documents of the first three centuries after Christ."

"That there was no formal, established doctrine of the trinity until the fourth century is a fully documented historical fact."

"Clearly, historians of church dogma and systematic theologians agree that the idea of a Christian trinity was not a part of the first century church. The twelve apostles never subscribed to it or received revelation about it. So how then did a trinitarian doctrine come about? It gradually evolved and gained momentum in late first, second and third centuries as pagans, who had converted to Christianity, brought to Christianity some of their pagan beliefs and practices."

Who is Jesus? Anthony Buzzard

". . . we shall find not a hint that Jesus believed himself to be an uncreated being who had existed from eternity. Matthew and Luke trace the origin of Jesus to a special act of creation by God when the Messiah's conception took place in the womb of Mary. It was this miraculous event which marked the beginning-the genesis, or origin of Jesus of Nazareth"

Arius and his followers believed that Jesus Christ was created, that he was not in the beginning with God. They believed that he had a beginning, whereas God has no beginning. This makes Jesus Christ substantially different from God, which means he cannot be of one-substance with God as the trinitarians believe.

Documents of the Christian Church 2nd Ed 1963 Henery Bettenson

(quotes from Arius and his followers)

"If, said he, the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence hence it is clear that there was a [a time] when the son was not."

"The Son of God is from what is not and there was [a time] when he was not saying also that the Son of God, in virtue of his free will, is capable of evil and good, and calling him a creature and a work."

The Rise of Christianity 1985 W.H.C. Frend

"If the Father begat the son, there must be when he was not. He could not therefore be coeternal with the Father."[said by Arius]

Man's Religions 1968 John B. Noss

"Arius held that Christ, . . . was a created being he was made like other creatures out of nothing, . . . The Son, he argued, had a beginning, while God was without beginning."

The Church in History 1964 B. K. Kuiper

"The heathen believe in many gods. Arius thought that to believe that the Son is God as well as that the Father is God would mean that there are two Gods, and that therefore the Christians would be falling back into heathenism."

Arius believed that Jesus Christ was born, that he had a beginning, he believed that Jesus Christ was the created Son, not the Creator, and for taking the Word of God literally he was excommunicated and anathematized. Starting with Nimrod in ancient Babylon until today man has stubbornly rebelled against the doctrine of one God.

Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Exodus 34:14a For thou shalt worship no other god:

The trinity is idolatry, it puts Jesus Christ as a god before God.

Forgers of the Word 1983 Victor Paul Wierwille

"To say Jesus Christ is God the Son is idolatry. To say Jesus is the Son of God is truth."

I Samuel 15:23 For Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:

The Lord God Almighty, the Creator, the Father of Jesus Christ is one God not three, not three-in-one, not one-in-three, ONE! and only ONE! God is not a three-headed multi-personality trinity.

The Bible clearly refers to Jesus Christ as the Son of God 50 times it never refers to him as God the Son. The phrase, Son of God, is in the genitive case showing that Jesus Christ originated from and belongs to God. In no way can the Son of God be the same as God the Son, that violates grammar, language and common sense. God the Son is not a biblical term, it does not appear in the Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic texts. God the Son is however a Babylonian term. The Babylonians made Nimrod a god, and when he died they deified his son Tammuz as God the Son. Making God a man and man a god was invented in Babylon. This idolatry and false belief has been carried into pagan religions, and it has worked its way into Christianity as the doctrine of the trinity.

Ravaged By The New Age 1996 Texe Marrs

"Nimrod, the first of the great Babylonian rulers, was also declared to be the first of the man-gods."

The Two Babylons 1916 Rev. Alexander Hislop

"He was worshipped in Babylon under the name of El-Bar, or 'God the Son'."

It is clear that the trinity does not have a Biblical origin. It can be traced back to ancient Babylon, pagan Greeks and Romans. It was forced upon the Christian Church by the emperor Constantine. It was adhered to by bishops who were afraid to speak against it. Then when the Protestants broke away from the corrupt Roman Church most of them still carried the pagan doctrine of the trinity, because they had practiced error for so long that they accepted the trinitarian doctrine.

Encyclopedia Britannica 1968

"The Council of Nicaea met on May 20, 325. Constantine himself presiding, actively guiding the discussion, and personally proposed the crucial formula expressing the relation of Christ to God in the creed issued by the council 'of one substance with the father.' Over-awed by the emperor, the bishops, with two exceptions only, signed the creed, many of them against their inclination. Constantine regarded the decision of Nicaea as divinely inspired. As long as he lived no one dared openly to challenge the creed of Nicaea."

The Origins of Pagan and Christian Beliefs Edward Carpenter 1920 1996

"And when at the Council of Nicea (325 AD) it [the early church] endeavored to establish an official creed, the strife and bitterness only increased."

"-the Nicean creed had nothing to propound except some extremely futile speculations about the relation to each other of the Father and the Son, and the relation of both to the Holy Ghost,"

Man's Religions 1968 John B. Noss

"This creed, adopted under pressure from the emperor, who wanted peace, did not immediately solve the doctrinal difficulties or save the peace. The phrases (not made) and (of the same substance with the Father) were bitterly denounced by many"

The Rise of Christianity 1985 W.H.C. Frend

"The Emperor exerted all his influence toward winning unanimous acceptance and nearly succeeded. Only two bishops stood out against it but two other senior bishops refused to sign the anathemas against Arius and were exiled."

Constantine was really only interested in unifying the empire and gaining more power. He broke truces, started wars, and even had relatives killed to further his power. Constantine was more interested in unity than in getting the correct doctrine of the trinity. In fact before he died Constantine switched sides and took Arius' position regarding the trinity instead of the position that he forced through the council of Nicea. Without Constantine's presiding, actively guiding, and actively controlling the discussion there would not have been a 'coequal' 'coeternal' 'God the Son' Nicene creed. But what manner of man was this person who pushed through this doctrine which was to become the cornerstone of Christianity?

A History of Christianity Volume 1 1997 Kenneth Scott Latourette

"Constantine. . . although only a catechumen, [One who is being instructed in a subject at an elementary level] presided over its [the council of Nicea] opening session, and was active in its deliberations. Whether Constantine appreciated the niceties of the questions at issue is highly doubtful, for he was a layman, a warrior and administrator, not a philosopher or an expert theologian."

The Rise of Christianity 1985 W.H.C. Frend

"Like all great conquerors from Alexander to Napoleon or even Hitler his [Constantine's] aim was unity and unification on a worldwide scale."

A History of the Christian Church 2nd Ed. 1985 Williston Walker

"He [Constantine] accepted the pagan title of Pontifex Maximus, and his coins still showed the emblems of the Sun-God."

Babylon Mystery Religion 1981 Ralph Woodrow

". . his [Constantine's] conversion is to be seriously questioned. Even though he had much to do with the establishment of certain doctrines and customs within the church, the facts plainly show that he was not truly converted-not in the Biblical sense of the word."

"Probably the most obvious indication that he was not truly converted may be seen from the fact that after his conversion he committed several murders-including the murder of his own wife and son!"

"Yet in 326-very shortly after directing the Nicean Council-he had his son put to death."

The Doctrine of the Trinity Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound 1994 Anthony F. Buzzard Charles F. Hunting

"It was Constantine who by official edict brought Christianity to believe in the formal division of the Godhead into two – God the Father and God the Son. It remained the task of a later generation to bring Christianity to believe in the Triune God."

". . . years after winning this heaven-inspired triumph, history divulges that the alleged follower of Jesus murdered an already vanquished rival, killed his wife by having her boiled alive in her own bath – and murdered an innocent son." [speaking of Constantine]

A History of Christianity 1976 Paul Johnson

". . . appears to have been a sun-worshipper, one of a number of the late pagan cults which had observances in common with Christians. Worship of such gods was not a novel idea. Every Greek or Roman expected that political success followed from religious piety. Christianity was the religion of Constantine's father. Although Constantine claimed that he was the thirteenth apostle, his was no sudden Damascus conversion. Indeed it is highly doubtful that he ever truly abandoned sun-worship. After his professed acceptance of Christianity, he built a triumphal arch to the sun god and in Constantinople set up a statue of the same sun god bearing his own features. He was finally deified after his death by official edict in the Empire, as were many Roman rulers."

". . . His private life became monstrous as he aged . . . His abilities had always lain in management . . . [he was] a master of . . . the smoothly-worded compromise."

It would be an understatement to say that Constantine was a crooked politician yet this is the man who is mainly responsible for the Nicene Creed's doctrine of the coequal, coeternal, one substance three in one God. One day he is setting the doctrine for the Christian church another day he is murdering people it would seem that to anyone with any common sense that formulating church doctrine should not be done by a non-repentant murderer. How many of you would like to have a non-repentant murderer setting your Christian doctrine? Yet if you believe the Nicene Creed you have done just that.

Documents of the Christian Church 2nd Ed 1963 Henery Bettenson

"The decisions of Nicea were really the work of a minority, and they were misunderstood and disliked by many"

Forgers of the Word 1983 Victor Paul Wierwille

"The truth of Jesus Christ the Son of God was deliberately forged into the doctrine of God the Son. Seeds of Jesus Christ as God were planted and sprouted during the lifetime of Paul, continued growing during Timothy's lifetime and flourished shortly thereafter, reaching full bloom for all future creeds by 325 AD"

"The doctrine that Jesus Christ the Son of God was God the son was decreed by worldly and ecclesiastical powers. Men were forced to accept it at the point of the sword or else, Thus, the error of the trinity was propounded to the end that ultimately people believed it to be the truth. Thus Christianity became in essence like Babylonian heathenism, with only a veneer of Christian names."

A History of Christianity Volume 1 1997 Kenneth Scott Latourette

"To enforce the decisions of the Council of Nicea, Constantine commanded, with the death penalty for disobedience, the burning of all books composed by Arius, banished Arius and his closest supporters, and deposed from their sees Eusebius of Nicomedia and another bishop who had been active in the support of Arius."

The Rise of Christianity 1985 W.H.C. Frend

"the controversial term, defining the son as Consubstantial with [homoousios] the father was introduced by Constantine. The term was objectionable to any Origenist bishop and had been rejected by Dionysius of Alexandria when used by the Libyan bishops, and the Council of Antioch"

"The great majority of the eastern bishops were placed in a false position. they dared not challenge the emperor"

A History of the Christian Church 2nd Ed. 1985 Williston Walker

"The majority (of the bishops) were conservatives in the sense that they represented . . . subordinationism of the eastern tradition. The Emperor himself was present at the assembly and dominated its proceedings."

"From the very beginning, however, people like Eusebius of Caesarea had doubts about the (Nicene) creed, doubts focused on the word 'homoousios'. (Greek for one substance) . . . The term was non-Scriptural, it had a very doubtful theological history."

"Eusebius of Nicomedia and all save two of the other bishops, signed the creed-willing no doubt, to go along with what the emperor wanted. Yet he and many others continued to suspect its language."

The majority of the bishops at the council of Nicea believedin what is called subordinationism, which is a belief that Jesus Christ is subordinate to God the Father, not coequal, not coeternal, and not God the Son. The teachings of Arius were condemned in 325, but the teachings of Arius did not die, by 359 Arianism was widely accepted, that is until the minority trinitarian bishops found another emperor that they could get to propose their trinitarian creed at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

Man's Religions John B. Noss 1968

"The doctrine of the trinity he [Michael Servetus] felt to be a Catholic perversion and himself to be a good New Testament Christian in combating it. . . According to his conception, a trinity composed of three distinct persons in one God is a rational impossibility"

Saying that Jesus Christ is not God does not degrade Jesus Christ it merely sets things in their proper order so we can know God and worship Him in spirit and truth.

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way the truth and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me.

John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Satan the Devil strongly desires man to worship him instead of the one true God, and when he can't achieve his primary goal then his next desire is to get man to worship anything other than the true God. Satan has been quite successful in tricking good Christians into worshipping Jesus Christ as God instead of worshipping the one true God, the Father of Jesus Christ.

Eph 5:14 Wherefore he saith Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

We can no longer be lulled to sleep by the bizarre, complex, confusing, ritualistic, mysterious Babylonian traditions of trinitarian doctrines. We must come back to God's Word and worship the one true God the Father of Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 8:4b there is none other God but one.

1 Corinthians 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

The Doctrine of the Trinity Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound 1994 Anthony F. Buzzard Charles F. Hunting

"The God of Moses, Isaiah, Jesus, and the apostles was one person, the Father. One cannot be made equal to two or three. All that can be done with one is to fractionalize it. Divide it into smaller segments and it is no longer one. Expand it, and in spite of prodigious mental gymnastics on the part of Trinitarians, it cannot be made into two or three and still remain one."

". . . it is not uncommon for religious leaders to insist that you must believe in the Trinity to be a Christian, or be branded a cultist."

"One of the great marvels of Christian history has been the ability of theologians to convince Christian people that three persons are really one God."

A Statement of Reasons for Not Believing the Doctrine of the Trinitarians Concerning the Nature of God and the Person of Christ 1833 Andrews Norton

"When we look back through the long ages of the reign of the Trinity . . . we shall perceive that few doctrines have produced more unmixed evil."

The Bible does not give us a doctrine of a trinity, the historical record shows that modern Christian trinitarian beliefs were not formulated until about 300 years after the death of Jesus Christ, but in pagan religions trinitarian beliefs date back to ancient Babylon, thousands of years before Jesus Christ. The coequal, coeternal, one substance, three in one trinity is not a Christian Biblical doctrine yet there are those who insist that it is the cornerstone of Christianity.

In our day and time the doctrine of the trinity is a cornerstone of idolatry.

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In Greek Mythology, Everything Began with Chaos

According to Theogony, in the beginning only chaos and void existed throughout the entire universe. It is worth noting here that the Greek word chaos does not have the same meaning as it holds today - it simply meant ‘empty space or a dark void.’

Chaos was followed by Gaia (which means earth) and Eros (which is love). It is not specified if Gaia and Eros were born from Chaos or whether they were pre-existing however, Hesiod mentions that Gaia came into existence in order to become the home of the gods. This is similar to other ancient myths, such as the Sumerian creation myth, which describes how Earth was initially created as a dwelling for the gods.

Op-Ed: How Christians came to believe in heaven, hell and the immortal soul

Billions of Christians around the world believe that on Easter, Jesus was raised from the dead and taken up to heaven to live with God. They also believe that when they die, their own souls will go to heaven. The great irony is that this is not at all what Jesus himself believed.

Jesus did not think a person’s soul would live on after death, either to experience bliss in the presence of God above or to be tormented in the fires of hell below. As a Jew of the 1st century, Jesus did not think the soul went anywhere after death. It simply ceased to exist with the body.

Most Christians today view the soul as an immaterial essence inside the physical frame of the body once the body dies, the soul lives on, intact, forever. That is the view handed down to us not from the Bible but from ancient Greek thinking known best from the writings of Plato.

The Bible portrays the human as a creation of God that is one unified entity: an animated body. The soul does not exist once the body dies. When God created Adam, he gathered “dust from the ground” and made it alive by breathing into it the “breath of life.” This “breath” did not exist as an independent entity (the “soul”) outside the body. It was simply what made the body alive. That is why in the Old Testament we are told that at “death,” or in the “grave,” the “pit,” or “Sheol” — all used as synonyms — no one can worship God and God no longer remembers them. Once the breath/soul left the body, the person did not and would not exist anymore.

It was only many, many years after the Old Testament, in the days of Jesus, that some Jews came to see things differently. The shift in thinking arose largely because of the problem of suffering. Why is it that so many people who follow God experience such pain and misery, but others who live godless lives prosper? Is there no justice? Death cannot be the end of the story. Otherwise, how can God himself be just?

These Jews ultimately concluded that there is something to come after this life, but they did not believe, as the Greeks did, in an immortal soul that would live on, apart from the body. Their view instead developed within the Jewish framework of the unified human. Life to come would involve body and soul in tandem. How? Human bodies would be brought back to life to be rewarded or punished. There would be a bodily resurrection of the dead and eternal life would be lived here on Earth.

This was the view found among a wide array of Jews in Jesus’ day: the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, various apocalyptic prophets, the Pharisees and regular folk. It was also the view of John the Baptist and Jesus himself.

Jesus based his preaching of the coming “kingdom of God” on this doctrine of bodily resurrection. This world had become wicked, but God was soon to bring salvation by intervening in history and destroying the forces of evil. God had originally designed a paradise for humans, a Garden of Eden. Humans had botched the arrangement, but God’s purposes would not be thwarted. Paradise would return to Earth and God’s people would inherit it — in their bodies, just as he originally planned.

This divine justice would come not only for those who happen to be alive at the time, but for all those who sided with God throughout history. They would be vindicated for their faithfulness.

Jesus urged people to repent in preparation. Some did. Most did not. Jesus’ enemies considered his teachings of coming destruction a threat to the existing social order. They had him arrested. The Roman authorities executed him for declaring that God would destroy the world that they themselves ruled.

And then came Easter. Soon after Jesus’ death, his followers came to believe that his own body had been brought back to life. For them, that meant the resurrection he had anticipated had started. God was soon to raise all people from the dead to be physically rewarded or punished. Only those who followed Jesus would be saved.

Thus began the momentous changes that would transform the Jewish beliefs of Jesus himself into the Christian beliefs about Jesus.

By the end of the 1st century, most Christian converts came from pagan rather than Jewish stock. As inhabitants of the Greco-Roman world, they brought with them their own “Greek” ways of thinking about bodies and souls, not the Jewish views of Jesus and his followers. This new generation of non-Jewish Christians continued to believe that justice would be done after death. But it would not be a bodily kingdom on Earth it would be a spiritual kingdom in heaven above. For them, eternal life comes to souls after death, without the body. The souls of those who are not saved will also live on, in the torments of hell. This view (which first appears in two of the late writings of the New Testament, Luke and John) rapidly became the standard belief throughout all Christendom.

Jesus himself did not share these beliefs. But within a century, the vast majority of Christians believed that a soul would be judged after the body had died. Those who believed in Jesus would have eternal life, not in a bodily kingdom on Earth but in the spiritual realm above. This remains the belief of billions of people today.

Bart D. Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of “Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife.”

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Greek religious beliefs

Greek religion, spreading as it did over many centuries and many different city-states, incorporated a great deal of variety in its beliefs. Nevertheless, the "pantheons current among different communities have enough in common to be seen as essentially one system, and were generally understood as such by the Greeks." [1]

That Greek religion was polytheistic is clear, but it also incorporated concepts that could be said to resemble an Ultimate Reality. Even Zeus, the mightiest of all gods, was subject to the powerful force of Destiny or Fate. The Delphic Oracle told Lyidan inquirers that "no one, not even the god, can escape his appointed fate." [2]

At the same time, however, the Olympians regularly directed the fate of human beings and one of Zeus' many epithets was Moiragetes, "guide of fate." Fate, while not a personal god, was nevertheless "half-personal because so clearly moralistic." [3]

In Greek philosophy, this concept of a Supreme Law or Ulimate Reality was much more emphasized, often at the expense of traditional beliefs about the gods.

The Universe

The ancient Greeks viewed the earth as a flat disk floating on the river of Ocean. In Plato's Timaeus, the world is treated as a living thing, with body and soul.

The primary source for the ancient Greek creation myth is Hesiod's Theogony. According to this account, four divine beings first came into existence: Chaos, the Abyss, Earth (Gaea) and Love (Eros). Then the world came into existence when Earth was forcibly separated from her consort Heaven (Uranus) for a time so that she might give birth. To effect this separation, Uranus' genitals were severed by his son Cronus (the father of Zeus) and thrown into the sea, from which rose Aphrodite. [4]

Spirits, Monsters and Other Mythological Beings

Another aspect of Greek religion worth mentioning is the set of mythological and sometimes monstrous creatures that populate its myths, the most notable being the following:

  • Amazons - race of female warriors
  • Keres - evil female spirits
  • Medusa &ndasha winged female monster with hair made of snakes.
  • Satyrs &ndash half-man, half-goat nature spirits who dwelled in woods and mountains and were lusty followers of Dionysus
  • Centaurs &ndash half-man, half-horse creatures who were wild and lawless but possessed cultural knowledge
  • Sirens -
  • Typhon - represents disorder and devastation

Human Nature and Purpose of Life

Plato emphasized the existence of a soul that is separate and distinct from the body. He also insisted on its natural immortality.

Religiously speaking, the most important thing to do in life is believe in the gods and perform the proper sacrifices and rituals. This would avoid reprisals both from gods and fellow human beings and encourage gifts from the gods. Greek religion was this-world oriented any postmortem benefits of religious beliefs and actions were only peripherally considered, if at all.

Death and the Afterlife

"I'd rather be a day-laborer on earth working for a man of little property than lord of all the hosts of the dead." --Achilles, in The Iliad

As illustrated by the above remark by the hero Achilles, death was not a glorius thing for the ancient Greeks. In Homer's epics, the dead are "pathetic in their helplessness, inhabiting drafty, echoing halls, deprived of their wits, and flitting purposelessly about uttering batlike noises." [5] While undesirable when compared with life on earth, this vague, shadowing existence was not generally cause for fear of the afterlife. Only terrible sinners (like Tantalus, Tityus and Sisyphus) were punished after death similarly, only a select few ended up in the paradisical Elysian Fields.

With the rare exceptions mentioned above, Hades was the universal destination of the dead in Greek religion until the latter half of the 5th century BCE. Hades was a cold, damp and dark realm that was guarded by the god of the same name. The "gates of Hades" were guaded by the fearsome hound Cerberus, who wags his tail for new arrivals but does not allow anyone to leave. Without proper burial, one cannot enter the gates of Hades. The river Styx is the boundary between earth and Hades, but Hades has other rivers as well (e.g. Phlegethon, Acheron, Cocytus). A similar concept is found in Japanese Buddhism in the Sanzu River, which the dead must cross on the way to the afterlife.

In Greek religion, Tartarus was the deepest region of the underworld, lower than Hades. Hesiod wrote that it would take an anvil nine days to fall from heaven to earth and another nine to fall from earth to Tartarus. Hades, not Tartarus, is the place of the dead but some especially wicked characters have been imprisoned in Tartarus to be punished. It is where Sisyphus, thief and murderer, must repeatedly push a boulder up a hill for eternity where Ixion, who killed his father-in-law, is attached to a flaming wheel and where Tantalus is kept just out of reach of cool water and grapes for sharing the secrets of the gods with humans. Tartarus is also where monsters and other enemies have been cast after being defeated by the gods, including the Cyclopes, the Titans and Typhus. In Roman mythology, Tartarus was the eternal destination of sinners in general.

Elysium (also called Elysian Fields or Elysian Plain) was a paradise inhabited at first only by the very distinguished, but later by the good. Elysium first appears in Homer's Odyssey as the destination of Menelaus. It is located at the western ends of the earth and is characterized by gentle breezes and an easy life like that of the gods. Closely related to Elysium is Hesiod's Isles of the Blessed, mentioned in his Works and Days, which was located in the western ocean.

The notion that the human soul enters another body upon death, though unfamiliar in popular Greek religion, was widespread in Greek philosophy. The doctrine of transmigration is first associated with the Pythagoreans and Orphics and was later taught by Plato (Phaedo, Republic) and Pindar (Olympian). For the former groups, the soul retained its identity throughout its reincarnations Plato indicated that souls do not remember their previous experiences. Although Herodotus claims that the Greeks learned this idea from Egypt, most scholars do not believe it came either from Egypt or from India, but developed independently.

How many Greek legends were really true?

The culture and legends of ancient Greece have a remarkably long legacy in the modern language of education, politics, philosophy, art and science. Classical references from thousands of years ago continue to appear. But what was the origin of some of these ideas?

1. Was there ever really a Trojan Horse?

The story of the Trojan Horse is first mentioned in Homer's Odyssey, an epic song committed to writing around 750BC, describing the aftermath of a war at Troy that purportedly took place around 500 years earlier.

After besieging Troy (modern-day Hisarlik in Turkey) for 10 years without success, the Greek army encamped outside the city walls made as if to sail home, leaving behind them a giant wooden horse as an offering to the goddess Athena.

The Trojans triumphantly dragged the horse within Troy, and when night fell the Greek warriors concealed inside it climbed out and destroyed the city. Archaeological evidence shows that Troy was indeed burned down but the wooden horse is an imaginative fable, perhaps inspired by the way ancient siege-engines were clothed with damp horse-hides to stop them being set alight by fire-arrows.

2. Homer is one of the great poets of ancient Greek legends. Did he actually exist?

Not only is the Trojan Horse a colourful fiction, the existence of Homer himself has sometimes been doubted. It's generally supposed that the great epics which go under Homer's name, the Iliad and Odyssey, were composed orally, without the aid of writing, some time in the 8th Century BC, the fruit of a tradition of oral minstrelsy stretching back for centuries.

While the ancients had no doubt that Homer was a real bard who composed the monumental epics, nothing certain is known about him. All we do know is that, even if the poems were composed without writing and orally transmitted, at some stage they were written down in Greek, because that is how they have survived.

3. Was there an individual inventor of the alphabet?

The date attributed to the writing down of the Homeric epics is connected to the earliest evidence for the existence of Greek script in the 8th Century BC.

The Greeks knew that their alphabet (later borrowed by the Romans to become the western alphabet) was adapted from that of the Phoenicians, a near-eastern nation whose letter-sequence began "aleph bet".

The fact that the adaptation was uniform throughout Greece has suggested that there was a single adapter rather than many. Greek tradition named the adapter Palamedes, which may just mean "clever man of old". Palamedes was also said to have invented counting, currency, and board games.

The Greek letter-shapes came to differ visually from their Phoenician progenitors - with the current geometrical letter-shapes credited to the 6th Century mathematician Pythagoras.

4. Did Pythagoras invent Pythagoras' theorem? Or did he copy his homework from someone else?

It is doubtful whether Pythagoras (c. 570-495BC) was really a mathematician as we understand the word. Schoolchildren still learn his so-called theorem about the square on the hypotenuse (a2+b2 =c2). But the Babylonians knew this equation centuries earlier, and there is no evidence that Pythagoras either discovered or proved it.

In fact, although genuine mathematical investigations were undertaken by later Pythagoreans, the evidence suggests that Pythagoras was a mystic who believed that numbers underlie everything. He worked out, for instance, that perfect musical intervals could be expressed by simple ratios.

5. What made the Greeks begin using money? Was it trade or their "psyche"?

It may seem obvious to us that commercial imperatives would have driven the invention of money. But human beings conducted trade for millennia without coinage, and it's not certain that the first monetised economy in the world arose in ancient Greece simply in order to facilitate such transactions.

The classicist Richard Seaford has argued that the invention of money emerged from deep in the Greek psyche. It is tied to notions of reciprocal exchange and obligation which pervaded their societies it reflects philosophical distinctions between face-value and intrinsic value and it is a political instrument, since the state is required to act as guarantor of monetary value.

Financial instruments and institutions - coinage, mints, contracts, banking, credit and debt - were being developed in many Greek cities by the 5th Century BC, with Athens at the forefront. But one ancient state held the notion of money in deep suspicion and resisted its introduction: Sparta.

6. How spartan were the Spartans?

The legendary Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus decreed that the Spartans should use only iron as currency, making it so cumbersome that even a small amount would have to be carried by a yoke of oxen.

This story may be part of the idealisation of the ancient Spartans as a warrior society dedicated to military pre-eminence. While classical Sparta did not mint its own coins, it used foreign silver, and some Spartan leaders were notoriously prone to bribery.

However, laws may have been passed to prevent Spartans importing luxuries that might threaten to undermine their hardiness. When the Athenian playboy general Alcibiades defected to Sparta during its war with Athens in the late 5th Century, he adopted their meagre diet, tough training routines, coarse clothing, and Laconic expressions.

But eventually his passion for all things Spartan extended to the king's wife Timaea, who became pregnant. Alcibiades returned to Athens, whence he had fled eight years earlier to avoid charges of shocking sacrilege, one of which was that he had subjected Athens' holy Mysteries to mockery.

7. What were the secrets of the Greek Mystery Cults?

If I told you, Iɽ have to kill you. The secrets were fiercely guarded, and severe penalties were prescribed for anyone who divulged them or who, like Alcibiades, were thought to have profaned them. Initiates were required to undergo initiation rites which may have included transvestism and centred on secret objects (perhaps phalluses) and passwords being revealed.

The aim was to give devotees a glimpse of the "other side", so that they could return to their lives blessed in the knowledge that when their turn came to die they could ensure the survival of their soul in the Underworld.

Excavations have uncovered tombs containing passwords and instructions written on thin gold sheets as an aide-memoire for deceased devotees. The principal Greek Mystery Cults were those of Demeter, goddess of agriculture, and of Dionysus (also known as Bacchus), god of wine, ecstasy - and of theatre.

8. Who first made a drama out of a crisis? How did theatres begin?

In 5th Century Athens, theatre was closely connected to the cult of Dionysus, in whose theatre on the southern slopes of the Acropolis tragedies and comedies were staged at an annual festival.

But the origin of theatre is a much-debated issue. One tradition tells of the actor Thespis (hence "thespian") standing on a cart and playing a dramatic role for the first time around 532BC another claims that drama began with ritual choruses and gradually introduced actors' parts.

Aristotle (384-322BC) supposed that the choruses of tragedy were originally ritual songs (dithyrambs) sung and danced in Dionysus' honour, while comedy emerged out of ribald performances involving model phalluses.

As a god associated with shifting roles and appearances, Dionysus seems an apt choice of god to give rise to drama. But from the earliest extant tragedy, Aeschylus' Persians of 472BC, few surviving tragedies have anything to do with Dionysus.

Comic drama was largely devoted to making fun of contemporary figures - including in several plays (most famously in Aristophanes' Clouds) the philosopher Socrates.

9. What made Socrates think about becoming a philosopher?

Socrates (469-399BC) may have had his head in the clouds, and was portrayed in Aristophanes' comedy as entertaining ideas ranging from the scientifically absurd ("How do you measure a flea's jump?") to the socially subversive ("I can teach anyone to win any argument, even if they're in the wrong").

This picture is at odds with the main sources of biographical data on Socrates, the writings of his pupils Plato and Xenophon. Both the latter treat him with great respect as a moral questioner and guide, but they say almost nothing of Socrates' earlier activities.

In fact our first description of Socrates, dating to his thirties, show him as a man of action. He served in a military campaign in northern Greece in 432BC, and during a brutal battle he saved the life of his beloved young friend Alcibiades. Subsequently he never left Athens, and spent his time trying to get his fellow Athenians to examine their own lives and thoughts.

We might speculate that Socrates had toyed with science and politics in his youth, until a life-and-death experience in battle turned him to devoting the remainder of his life to the search for wisdom and truth.

As he wrote nothing himself, our strongest image of Socrates as a philosopher comes from the dialogues of his devoted pupil Plato, whose own pupil Aristotle was tutor of Alexander, prince of Macedon.

10. Was Alexander the Great really that great?

Alexander (356-323BC) was to become one the greatest soldier-generals the world had ever seen.

According to ancient sources, however, he was physically unprepossessing. Short and stocky, he was a hard drinker with a ruddy complexion, a rasping voice, and an impulsive temper which on one occasion led him to kill his companion Cleitus in a violent rage.

As his years progressed he became paranoid and megalomaniacal. However, in 10 short years from the age of 20 he forged a vast empire stretching from Egypt to India. Never defeated in battle, he made use of innovative siege engines every bit as as effective as the fabled Trojan Horse, and founded 20 cities that bore his name, including Alexandria in Egypt.

His military success was little short of miraculous, and in the eyes of an ancient world devoted to warfare and conquest it was only right to accord him the title of "Great".

Dr Armand Dɺngour is associate professor of classics at the University of Oxford