UGC NET Syllabus in Comparative Study of Religions

NTA UGC NET/JRF/SET/SLET Syllabus for Comparative Study of Religions

Code No: 62 is given below

UGC NET Paper-2 Syllabus

The following part of the UGC NET syllabus were previously under UGC NET Paper-2 and Paper-3 (Part-A and Part-B), however, as UGC has now only two papers i.e. UGC NET Paper-1 which is general and compulsory for all subjects and UGC NET Paper-2 on the specific subject (including all electives, without options) instead of previous three papers i.e. UGC NET Paper-1 which was general and compulsory for all subjects and UGC NET Paper-2 and Paper-3 on the specific subject, so, now-a-days, the following part is also considered as part of the UGC NET Paper-2 syllabus [this part was previously Paper-2 and Paper-3 (Part-A and Part-B)]

Unit I: Nature and Scope of Religion

Concept of Religion.

Significance of and Approaches to the Study of Religions (Historical, Anthropological, Sociological, Philosophical, Phenomenological so on).

Founders and Propounders of Religions.

Major Scriptures (Veda – s, Jaina Agama – s,Tripitake, Bible, Quran, Guru Granth Saheb, Avesta etc).

Individual and Social Aspects of Religion.

Harmony of Religions and Interfaith Dialogue.

Modern Challenges to Religions (Materialism, Rationalism, Agnosticism, Atheism and so on).

Some basic concepts common to most of the Tribal Religions :

Unified concept encompassing the whole universe and all grades of existence.

The ideas behind in various primitive societies : Manaism, Totemism, Tabooism, Animism, Magic, etc.

Manifestations of Tribal Religions in individual and social life of Adivasi People.

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Apocrypha Arabica: Arabic MS. No. 508 in the Library of the Convent of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai.


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, one God, the merciful Lord.

This book is one of the hidden books of Saint Clement the Apostle, disciple of Simon Cepha, which Saint Clement commanded to be kept secret from the laity. Some of them were called “The Book of the Rolls,” and there are the glorious genealogies and mysteries which our God and Saviour Jesus the Christ committed to his disciples Simon and James, and what things will happen at the end of time, and how the second coming of our Lord the Christ from heaven to the world will happen, and what will become of sinners and such like. This is the sixth of Clement’s books, treasured up in the city of Rome since the time of the Apostles.

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Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang : Full Text

Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang

The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China

July 2019

First Edition 2019



I. Xinjiang Has Long Been an Inseparable Part of Chinese Territory

II. Xinjiang Has Never Been “East Turkistan”

III. The Ethnic Groups in Xinjiang Are Part of the Chinese Nation

IV. The Uygur Ethnic Group Formed Through a Long Process of Migration and Integration

V. Xinjiang Ethnic Cultures Are Part of Chinese Culture

VI. Multiple Religions Have Long Coexisted in Xinjiang

VII. Islam Is Neither an Indigenous nor the Sole Belief System of the Uygurs


Appendix: A Brief Chronology of Chinese History


The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is situated in northwest China and in the hinterland of the Eurasian Continent. It borders eight countries: Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. It was a place where the famed Silk Road connected ancient China with the rest of the world and where diverse cultures gathered.

China is a unified multiethnic country, and the various ethnic groups in Xinjiang have long been part of the Chinese nation. Throughout its long history, Xinjiang’s development has been closely related to that of China. However, in more recent times, hostile forces in and outside China, especially separatists, religious extremists and terrorists, have tried to split China and break it apart by distorting history and facts. They deny the fact that Xinjiang has been a part of China’s territory where various ethnic groups have lived together, many cultures have communicated with each other, and different religions have coexisted since ancient times. They call Xinjiang “East Turkistan” and clamor for independence. They attempt to separate ethnic groups in Xinjiang from the Chinese nation and ethnic cultures in the region from the diverse but integrated Chinese culture.

History cannot be tampered with and facts are indisputable. Xinjiang has long been an inseparable part of Chinese territory; never has it been the so-called East Turkistan. The Uygur ethnic group came into being through a long process of migration and integration; it is part of the Chinese nation. In Xinjiang, different cultures and religions coexist, and ethnic cultures have been fostered and developed in the embrace of the Chinese civilization. Islam is neither an indigenous nor the sole belief system of the Uygur people. It has taken root in the Chinese culture and developed soundly in China.

Xinjiang Has Long Been an Inseparable Part of Chinese Territory

A unified multiethnic country, China came into being as a result of economic and social development. Historically, the East Asia continent that nurtured the ancestors of today’s Chinese nation had both farming and nomadic herding areas. Different ethnic groups with diverse livelihoods and lifestyles communicated with and complemented each other, and migrated and lived together. They experienced both conflict and integration, and pushed China to move forward and become a unified multiethnic country.

Xia, Shang, and Zhou, the three earliest dynasties in Chinese history, emerged successively in the Central Plains, a vast area covering the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River. They integrated with neighboring clans, tribes, and tribal alliances into bigger ethnic groups, called by the joint name Zhuxia or Huaxia. From the Spring and Autumn Period to the Warring States Period, Huaxia groups continued to communicate and blend with neighboring clans, tribes, and tribal alliances, and gradually seven regions – Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei, and Qin – came into being. These maintained contact with neighboring ethnic groups such as Yi in the east, Man in the south, Rong in the west, and Di in the north. In 221 BC, the First Emperor of Qin founded the first unified feudal dynasty. In 202 BC, Liu Bang, later known as Emperor Gaozu, set up another unified feudal dynasty – Han.

From the Han to the middle and late Qing, the vast areas both north and south of the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang were called the Western Regions. Xinjiang was formally included in Chinese territory in the Han Dynasty. Later dynasties in the Central Plains, some strong, some weak, kept closer or looser contact with the Western Regions, and the central authorities exercised tighter or slacker administration over Xinjiang. But all of these dynasties regarded the Western Regions as part of Chinese territory and exercised the right of jurisdiction over Xinjiang. Through the long formative process of turning China into a unified multiethnic country, many ethnic groups worked together to develop its vast territories and build the diverse Chinese nation. The unification of multiethnic China was a result of common efforts made by the whole Chinese nation, including the ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

In the early Western Han Dynasty, the nomadic Xiongnu people in northern China controlled the Western Regions, and attacked the Central Plains from time to time. After Emperor Wudi took the throne, he adopted a series of military and political responses. In 138 BC and 119 BC, the Western Han government dispatched Zhang Qian as an envoy to the Western Regions, who convinced the Rouzhi and Wusun peoples to form an alliance to fight the Xiongnu. On three occasions between 127 BC and 119 BC, the Western Han authorities dispatched forces that inflicted heavy losses on the Xiongnu. They then set up four prefectures – Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquan and Dunhuang – on key passageways from the Central Plains to the Western Regions. In 101 BC, the Western Han began to send garrison troops to transform wastelands to arable land in Luntai and some other places, and appointed local officers to command them. In 60 BC, the Xiongnu king who ruled the areas north of the eastern Tianshan Mountains surrendered to the Han government, which thereby incorporated the Western Regions into Han’s territory. In the same year, the Western Regions Frontier Command was established to exercise military and political administration over the Western Regions. In 123, during the Eastern Han Dynasty, the Western Regions Frontier Command was replaced by the Western Regions Garrison Command, which continued to administer the Western Regions.

The Kingdom of Wei of the Three Kingdoms Period adopted the Han system, stationing a garrison commander to rule the Western Regions. The Western Jin Dynasty stationed a garrison commander and a governor to exercise military and political administration over the Western Regions. In the Three Kingdoms Period and the Jin Dynasty, the Xiongnu, Xianbei, Dingling, and Wuhuan in northern China moved inland and finally integrated with the Han ethnic group. In 327, the Former Liang regime spread the system of prefectures and counties to the Western Regions and set up the Gaochang Prefecture in the Turpan Basin. From 460 to 640, the Uighur Kingdom of Gaochangcentered in the Turpan Basin and with the Han people as the main population was ruled successively by the Kan, Zhang, Ma, and Qu families.

The Sui Dynasty ended the long-term division of the Central Plains, and expanded the areas in the Western Regions that adopted the system of prefectures and counties. The Turk, Tuyuhun, Dangxiang, Jialiangyi, Fuguo and some other ethnic groups submitted to the authority of the Sui. In the Tang Dynasty, the central government strengthened its rule over the Western Regions by establishing the Grand Anxi Frontier Command and the Grand Beiting Frontier Command to administer the Western Regions. The ruling clan of the Kingdom of Khotan (232 BC-AD 1006) asserted that it was related by blood to the emperor of the Tang Dynasty and changed its surname to Li, the surname of the Tang emperor. In the Song Dynasty, local regimes of the Western Regions paid tribute to the Song. The king of Uighur Kingdom of Gaochanghonored the Song emperor as “Uncle” and called himself “Nephew in the Western Regions”, while the Kara-Khanid Khanate (840-1212) sent envoys many times to pay tribute to the Song court.

In the Yuan Dynasty, the central government strengthened administration over the Western Regions by establishing the Beiting Command and the Pacification Commissioner’s Office to manage military and political affairs. In 1251, the system of administrative provinces was adopted in the Western Regions. In the Ming Dynasty, the imperial court set up the Hami Garrison Command to manage local affairs, and then set up six garrison cities – Anding, Aduan, Quxian, Handong, ChijinMengu, and Shazhou – between the Jiayu Pass and Hami to support local administration. In the Qing Dynasty, the imperial court quelled a rebellion launched by the Junggar regime, defining the northwestern border of China. It then adopted more systematic policies for governing Xinjiang. In 1762, the Qing government established the post of Ili General and adopted a mechanism combining military and political administration. In 1884, it established a province and renamed the Western Regions as “Xinjiang”, meaning “land newly returned”. In 1912, as a response to the Revolution of 1911, Xinjiang became a province of the Republic of China.

In 1949, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded, and Xinjiang was liberated peacefully. In 1955, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was established. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, all ethnic groups in Xinjiang united and worked with other groups across the country, opening a period of unprecedented prosperity for the region.

In the long history, Chinese territory has experienced periods of division and unification, but unification and development have always been the overall trend. Small kingdoms or separatist regimes existed in the Central Plains in different periods; similarly, Xinjiang also witnessed several local regimes dividing the region. Nevertheless, no matter how long these regimes divided Xinjiang and however serious the situation was, the region was ultimately united. In different periods in Xinjiang there were city-states, nomadic states, princedoms, kingdoms, khanates, vassal states, tributary states and some other forms of local regime, such as the 36 states of the Western Regions in the Han Dynasty, the Kara-Khanid Khanate and the Uighur Kingdom of Gaochang in the Song Dynasty, the Chagatai Khanate in the Yuan Dynasty, and the Yarkant Khanate in the Ming Dynasty. But these were all local regimes within the territory of China; they were never independent countries. These local regimes had a strong sense of national identity, and acknowledged themselves as branches or vassals of the Central Plains authorities.

A Comprehensive Dictionary of Turkic Languages, written by Turkic scholar Mahmud al-Kashgari in the 11th century, states that China [often referred to as Qin in ancient times] was composed of three parts, namely Upper Qin (the area of the Northern Song Dynasty), Middle Qin (the area of the Liao Dynasty), and Lower Qin (the area of the Kara-Khanid Khanate). In the Travels to the West of Master of Eternal Spring QiuChuji, the Han people were called the Tavghaq; and in A Comprehensive Dictionary of Turkic Languages, the Uighur people were called Tat Tavghaq, or the Uighurs of China. The coins of the Kara-Khanid Khanate were often inscribed with such titles as TavghaqBughra Khan, King from Qin, and King from Qin and the East to indicate that the khanate was part of China.

Xinjiang Has Never Been “East Turkistan”

The Turks (Tujue in Chinese) were nomads who originated in the Altai Mountains in the middle of the 6th century. The Turks annihilated the Rouran and established a Turkic khanate in 552, which split into two forces, settling on either side of the Altai in 583. The Tang Dynasty defeated the Eastern Turkic Khaganate (583-630) in 630, and joined forces with the Ouigours to eliminate the Western Turkic Khaganate (583-657) in 657, thus uniting the Western Regions under central rule. In 682, the remnants of the Eastern Turks that were relocated in the north rebelled against the Tang court and established the Second Turkic Khaganate (682-744). This was quelled by the Tang in 744 with the help of the Ouigour and Karluk peoples in Mobei (the area north of the vast deserts on the Mongolian Plateau). Kutlug Bilge Khagan, leader of the Ouigours, was granted a title by the Tang court, and established a khanate in Mobei. In the late 8th century, the nomadic Turks dissolved as its last khanate collapsed. They mixed with local tribes during their migration to Central and West Asia, but these newly formed peoples were fundamentally different to the ancient Turks. Ever since then, Turks have disappeared from China’s northern regions.

Never in Chinese history has Xinjiang been referred to as “East Turkistan”, and there has never been any state known as “East Turkistan”. From the 18th century to the first half of the 19th century, as the West made a distinction between the various Turkic languages (branches of the Altaic languages), some foreign scholars and writers coined the term “Turkistan” to refer to the region south of the Tianshan Mountains and north of Afghanistan, which roughly covered the area from southern Xinjiang to Central Asia. They called the two areas on either side of the Pamirs “West Turkistan” and “East Turkistan”. At the turn of the 20th century, as “Pan-Turkism” and “Pan-Islamism” made inroads into Xinjiang, separatists in and outside China politicized the geographical concept and manipulated its meaning, inciting all ethnic groups speaking Turkic languages and believing in Islam to join in creating the theocratic state of “East Turkistan”. The advocacy of this so-called state has become a political tool and program for separatists and anti-China forces attempting to split China.

The Ethnic Groups in Xinjiang Are Part of the Chinese Nation

Historically, the Chinese nation was formed and developed through cultural communication, exchanges and integration between peoples in the Central Plains and in other regions. The Huaxia people who appeared in the pre-Qin period, after years of integration with various other peoples, and especially after 500 turbulent years of cultural convergence in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, further integrated with other peoples in the Qin and Han dynasties to form the Han people, a majority group in the Central Plains and the major people in Chinese history. In the period of the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties, different peoples, especially the northern ethnic minorities, migrated on a large scale to the Central Plains, resulting in further ethnic merging. In the 13th century, with the founding of the Yuan Dynasty, an unprecedented level of political unification gave rise to unprecedented ethnic migration, leading to various ethnic groups living together within the Yuan territories.

After this long historical process, different ethnic groups of China eventually settled among each other, with compact communities here and there. Multiethnicity is a prominent feature of China. Together, the ethnic groups of China have explored the country’s rich resources and vast territories, and have created a long history and a splendid culture.

Xinjiang has been in close contact with the Central Plains since ancient times. As early as the Shang Dynasty, the Western Regions traded jade with the Central Plains. In the Han Dynasty, imperial envoy Zhang Qian opened up the Silk Road, along which emissaries and merchants traveled. In the Tang Dynasty, merchants from the Central Plains and the Western Regions traded silk and horses, and a grand thoroughfare connected the Western Regions directly to Chang’an, the Tang capital, with courier stations along the way. Music and dances from Khotan, Gaochang and other places in the Western Regions were performed in the Tang court, and the exotic cultures of the Western Regions were popular in Chang’an. The music of Qiuci (today’s Kucha, Xinjiang) enjoyed great fame in the Central Plains, and became an important component of court music in the Sui, Tang and Song dynasties. In modern times, at critical junctures of the Chinese nation, the ethnic peoples in Xinjiang have fought alongside the rest of the country with great patriotism. Since the founding of the PRC, ethnic relations in Xinjiang have entered a new era characterized by equality, solidarity, mutual help, and harmony.

Xinjiang has been a multiethnic region since ancient times. The earliest explorers of Xinjiang included the Sai, Rouzhi, Wusun, Qiang, Qiuci, Yanqi, Khotan, Shule, Shache, Loulan and Cheshi peoples living in the Tianshan Mountains and the Xiongnu and Han peoples in the pre-Qin, Qin and Han dynasties. Following them were peoples of the Han, the Xianbei, Rouran, Gaoche, Yeda, and Tuyuhun in the period of the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties; of the Turk, Tubo, and Ouigour in the period of the Sui and Tang dynasties; of the Khitan in the period of the Song, Liao, and Jin dynasties; of the Mongol, Jurchen, Dangxiang (Tangut), Kazak, Kirgiz, Manchu, Xibe, Daur, Hui, Uzbek, and Tatar in the period of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Large numbers of various ethnic groups entering Xinjiang in different periods brought technology, culture and ideas, folk customs, and many other aspects of their lives into the region, promoting economic and social development through exchanges and integration. They were all explorers of Xinjiang. By the end of the 19th century, 13 ethnic groups – the Uygur, Han, Kazak, Mongol, Hui, Kirgiz, Manchu, Xibe, Tajik, Daur, Uzbek, Tatar, and Russian – had settled in Xinjiang, with the Uygurs having the largest population. Ethnic groups had grown, developed and integrated with each other despite periods of isolations and conflict, and shared good fortune and hardship in a close relationship. All of them have made important contribution to exploring, developing and protecting Xinjiang, and they are all masters of Xinjiang. Currently inhabited by 56 ethnic groups, Xinjiang is one of the provincial-level administrative regions with the most ethnic groups in China. The Uygur, Han, Kazak and Hui have populations of one million and above, and the Kirgiz and Mongol have populations exceeding 100,000. Today, Xinjiang, home to various ethnic groups, is an integral part of the Chinese nation.

The evolution of ethnic relations in Xinjiang has always been linked to that between all ethnic groups in China. There have been periods of isolation and conflict, but exchange and integration, and unity and joint effort have always been the prevailing trend. The ethnic groups of China, including those in Xinjiang, live together alongside each other. They are economically interdependent and embrace each other’s culture, and are a unified whole that has become impossible to separate. They are members of the same big family. In this family of the Chinese nation, the ethnic groups in Xinjiang are like brothers and sisters who work and live together and help each other out. They have guarded against foreign aggression, opposed separatist activities, and safeguarded national unification.

The Uygur Ethnic Group Formed Through a Long Process of Migration and Integration

The main ancestors of the Uygurs were the Ouigour people who lived on the Mongolian Plateau during the Sui and Tang dynasties. Many different names were used in historical records to refer to this group of people.

Historically, to resist oppression and slavery by the Turks, the Ouigour people united with some of the Tiele tribes to form the Ouigour tribal alliance. In 744, the Tang court conferred a title on Kutlug Bilge Khagan, who united the Ouigour tribes. In 788, the then Ouigour ruler wrote to the Tang emperor, requesting to have their name changed to “Uighur”.

After the Uighur Khanate was defeated by the Kyrgyz people in 840, some of the Uighurs moved inland to live with the Han people, and the rest were divided into three sub-groups. One of the sub-groups moved to the Turpan Basin and the present-day Jimsar region, where they founded the Uighur Kingdom of Gaochang. Another moved to the Hexi Corridor, where they merged with local ethnic groups to become what was later known as the Yugurs. The third sub-group moved to the west of Pamir, scattered in areas from Central Asia to Kashgar, and joined the Karluk and Yagma peoples in founding the Kara-Khanid Khanate. There they merged with the Han people in the Turpan Basin and the Yanqi, Qiuci, Khotan, Shule, and other peoples in the Tarim Basin to form the main body of the modern Uygur ethnic group.

In the Yuan and Ming dynasties, the various ethnic groups in Xinjiang further merged. The Mongols, especially those of the Chagatai Khanate, were fused with the Uighurs, adding fresh blood to the Uighur group. In 1934, Xinjiang issued a government order, stipulating that “维吾尔” would be the standard Chinese name for Uygurs, which for the first time expressed the accurate meaning of “Uygur”: to maintain unity among the people.

The Ouigours endured slavery under the rule of the Turks. With support from Tang Dynasty troops, they rebelled against the Eastern Turkic Khaganate and defeated the Western Turkic Khaganate and the Second Turkic Khaganate. After the demise of the Western Turkic Khaganate, some Turkic-speaking tribes migrated westward. One of these tribes gradually settled down in Asia Minor, and integrated with local ethnic groups. The Uygurs are not descendants of the Turks.

Since the modern times, some Pan-Turkism advocates with ulterior motives have described all peoples of the Turkic language family as “the Turks” using the untenable argument that the Turkic-speaking tribe integrated with the ancestors of the Turkish people after migrating westward. A language family and an ethnic group are two essentially different concepts. In China, ethnic groups speaking Turkic languages include the Uygurs, Kazaks, Kirgiz, Uzbeks, Tatars, Yugurs, and Salars, each with its own history and unique culture. These peoples cannot be referred to as “Turks”.

Xinjiang Ethnic Cultures Are Part of Chinese Culture

The Chinese nation has a civilization that dates back more than 5,000 years. Over these five millennia, all ethnic groups of China have created a long history and a splendid culture. The prosperity of the Qin, Han and Tang dynasties and during the reign of the Kangxi and Qianlong emperors of the Qing Dynasty was achieved by all the ethnic groups together. Ethnic and cultural diversity is a salient feature of the Chinese nation and also an important driving force for China’s national development.

Since ancient times, due to geographic variations and the unbalanced development of different regions, Chinese culture has grown diverse between the south and the north and between the east and the west. As early as the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States periods, basic regional cultures with their own distinctive features had already formed. From the Qin and Han dynasties, on through all the dynasties that followed, across the vast territory of China, cultures of all ethnic groups engaged in constant exchange and integration through migration, convergence, wars, marriage, and trade, and finally formed a splendid overall Chinese culture.

More than 2,000 years ago and beyond, Xinjiang was a gateway for China’s civilization to open to the West and an important base for cultural exchange and communication between the East and the West. The region experienced a wealth of cultural diversity and coexistence. Long periods of exchange and integration between the culture of the Central Plains and those of the Western Regions drove not only the development of various ethnic cultures in Xinjiang, but also the diversified and integrated Chinese culture as a whole. From the very beginning, ethnic cultures in Xinjiang have reflected elements of Chinese culture, which has always been the emotional attachment and spiritual home for all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, as well as a dynamic source of development for the ethnic cultures in the region.

Economic and cultural exchange between the Central Plains and the Western Regions began in the pre-Qin period. In the Han Dynasty, the Chinese language became one of the official languages used in government documents of that region. Pipa (the four-stringed Chinese lute), the Qiang flute, and other musical instruments were introduced to the Central Plains from or via the region. Agricultural production techniques, the system of etiquette, books in Chinese, and music and dances of the Central Plains spread widely in the region.

Later, the Uighur Kingdom of Gaochang adopted the calendar of the Tang Dynasty, and this practice continued until the latter half of the 10th century. “The governor’s generals are skilled in the songs of ethnic minorities, and local chiefs are able to speak Chinese.” This verse by the Tang poet Cen Shen reflects the equal status of Chinese and other ethnic languages commonly used at that time. It also demonstrates the cultural prosperity of that period.

Late in the Song Dynasty, Buddhist arts were still flourishing in the south of the Tianshan Mountains and a large number of relics remain till today. In the Western Liao period (1124-1218), the Khitan people, who destroyed the Kara-Khanid Khanate, controlled the Xinjiang region and Central Asia and realized regional unification, extensively inheriting and adopting the laws and regulations and etiquette of the Central Plains.

In the Yuan Dynasty, large numbers of Uighurs and people of other ethnic groups migrated into the inland areas. They settled there and learned and used the Chinese language. Some of them even sat for the imperial examinations and were recruited as officials at various levels. From these groups emerged statesmen, writers, artists, historians, agronomists, translators and specialists of other types, who vigorously promoted the development of ethnic cultures in Xinjiang.

During the Ming and Qing dynasties, under the influence of Islamic culture, ethnic cultures in Xinjiang developed slowly in integration and conflict with cultures from outside the region. In modern China, under the influence of the Revolution of 1911, the October Revolution in Russia, the May 4th Movement, and the New Democratic Revolution, ethnic cultures in Xinjiang began to modernize, and the Chinese national and cultural identity of all ethnic groups in the region reached a new height. After the founding of the PRC in 1949, ethnic cultures in Xinjiang entered a period of unprecedented prosperity and development.

The historical record indicates that when multiple languages were used as official languages and when exchanges were frequent in Xinjiang, it witnessed a boom in ethnic cultures and social progress. Long years of experience shows that learning and using standard Chinese as a spoken and written language has helped Xinjiang’s ethnic cultures to flourish.

The ethnic cultures in Xinjiang always have their roots in the fertile soil of Chinese civilization and make up an inseparable part of Chinese culture. Well before Islamic culture spread into Xinjiang, all ethnic cultures in the region, including the Uygur culture, had prospered in the fertile soil of China’s civilization. It was not until the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries, when Islam spread into the region, that the Islamic culture of the Arab civilization – which dates back to the 7th century – began to exert an influence on ethnic cultures in Xinjiang.

Religion can exert an influence on culture in two ways: willing acceptance, and forced acceptance through cultural conflict or even religious wars. In the case of Xinjiang, Islam entered mainly through the latter. This caused serious damage to the cultures and arts of the various ethnic groups in Xinjiang created in earlier periods when Buddhism was popular in the region. As to the incoming Islamic culture, the ethnic cultures in Xinjiang both resisted and assimilated it in a selective manner, and adapted it to China’s realities. This did not alter the fact that ethnic cultures in Xinjiang were ingrained with Chinese features, nor did it halt the flow of local cultures into Chinese civilization, or change the fact that they were part of Chinese culture. The epic Manas, which originated in the 9th and 10th centuries, became a literary masterpiece well-known in and outside China, thanks to performances and adaptation by Kirgiz singers. Around the 15th century, the epic Jangar of the Oirat Mongols gradually took shape in Xinjiang. These two epics, together with Life of King Gesar, are regarded as the three most renowned epics of China’s ethnic minority groups. Uygur literature has given birth to a galaxy of excellent works, including KutadguBilig (Wisdom of Fortune and Joy), Atebetu’lHakayik (A Guide to Truth), A Comprehensive Dictionary of Turkic Languages, and Twelve Muqams, all of which are treasures of Chinese culture. They represent the enormous contribution that ethnic groups in Xinjiang have made to the formation and development of Chinese culture.

Having a stronger sense of identity with Chinese culture is essential to the prosperity and development of ethnic cultures in Xinjiang. Throughout history, whenever the central government exercised effective governance over Xinjiang and the society of the region was stable, exchanges and communication between ethnic cultures in Xinjiang and the culture of the Central Plains ran smoothly, and the economy and culture of Xinjiang flourished and grew prosperous. Whenever ethnic cultures in Xinjiang assimilated, integrated and accommodated the diverse culture of the Central Plains, including the concepts of benevolence, people-orientation, integrity, sound reasoning, harmony and unity, diversity and integration of Xinjiang ethnic cultures were more apparent, and these cultures could make more progress. For the ethnic cultures in Xinjiang to prosper and develop they must keep pace with the times, be open and inclusive, engage in exchange and integration with other ethnic cultures in China and mutual learning with other ethnic cultures throughout the world, and play their role in fostering a shared spiritual home for all China’s ethnic groups.

Multiple Religions Have Long Coexisted in Xinjiang

China has long been a multi-religious country. In addition to several major religions that are structured in accordance with strict religious norms, a variety of folk beliefs are also popular in China. Among these, Taoism and local folk beliefs are native to China, while all other religions were introduced from foreign countries. The history of Xinjiang shows that multiple religions have long coexisted there, with one or two predominant. The region’s religious structure is characterized by blending and coexistence.

The formation and evolution of the coexistence of multiple religions in Xinjiang has been a long process:

· Prior to the 4th century BC, primitive religion was widespread in Xinjiang.

· Around the 1st century BC, Buddhism was introduced into Xinjiang.

· From the 4th to 10th centuries, Buddhism reached its peak, while Zoroastrianism proliferated throughout Xinjiang.

· During the late 16th century and early 17th century, Tibetan Buddhism thrived in northern Xinjiang.

· Around the 5th century, Taoism spread into Xinjiang, prevalent in Turpan and Hami areas. During the Qing Dynasty, it revived in most parts of Xinjiang.

· In the 6th century, Manichaeism and Nestorianism entered Xinjiang. From the 10th to 14th centuries, Nestorianism flourished as the Uighur and some other peoples converted to it.

In the late 9th century and early 10th century, the Kara-Khanid Khanate accepted Islam. It started a 40-year-long religious war in the mid-10th century against the Buddhist Kingdom of Khotan, and conquered it in the early 11th century and imposed Islam there, putting an end to the thousand-year history of Buddhism in that region. With the expansion of Islam, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and Nestorianism declined. In the mid-14th century, the rulers of the Eastern Chagatai Khanate (1348-1509) spread Islam to the northern edge of the Tarim Basin, the Turpan Basin and Hami through war and duress. By the early 16th century, many religions had coexisted in Xinjiang, with Islam predominant, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and Nestorianism gone, and Buddhism and Taoism surviving. The coexistence has continued to this day in the region. In the early 17th century, the Oirat Mongols accepted Tibetan Buddhism. Beginning in the 18th century, Protestantism, Catholicism, and the Eastern Orthodox Church reached Xinjiang.

Xinjiang now has multiple religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and the Eastern Orthodox Church. It has 24,800 venues for religious activities, including mosques, churches, Buddhist and Taoist temples, with 29,300 religious staff. Among these, there are 24,400 mosques, 59 Buddhist temples, 1 Taoist temple, 227 Protestant churches (or meeting grounds), 26 Catholic churches (or meeting grounds), and 3 Orthodox churches (or meeting grounds).

China, along with most other countries, upholds separation of religion from government. No religious organization is allowed to interfere in political and government affairs. No individual or organization is allowed to use religion to interfere in administration, judicial affairs, education, marriage and birth control, to hinder social order, work order and life order, to oppose the Communist Party of China and China’s socialist system, or to undermine ethnic solidarity and national unity.

Xinjiang fully respects and protects freedom of religious belief as stipulated in the Constitution of the PRC. Xinjiang respects citizens’ freedom to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion. Xinjiang shows zero tolerance to any action that creates disputes between believers and non-believers, between believers of different religions, and between believers of different sects of a religion. Xinjiang always upholds equality for all religions, showing neither favoritism towards nor discrimination against any religion and allowing no religion to be superior to any other religion. Xinjiang always upholds equality for all individuals before the law. Believers and non-believers enjoy equal rights and obligations, and all law violators, whatever their social background, ethnicity, and religious belief, will be punished in accordance with the law.

To survive and develop, religions must adapt to their social environment. The history of religions in China shows that only by adapting themselves to the Chinese context can they be accommodated within Chinese society. The 70-year history of the PRC also shows that only by adapting to socialist society can religions in China develop soundly. We must uphold the principle of independence and self-management of China’s religious affairs, and prevent all religious tendency that seeks to divest itself of all Chinese elements. We must develop and encourage secular, modern and civilized ways of life, and abandon backward and outdated conventions and customs. We must carry forward religious practices adapted to Chinese society, inspire various religions in China with core socialist values and Chinese culture, foster the fusion of religious doctrines with Chinese culture, and lead these religions, including Islam, onto the Chinese path of development.

Islam Is Neither an Indigenous nor the Sole Belief System of the Uygurs

Primitive religion and Shamanism were practiced by the ancestors of the Uygurs before Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism and Islam were introduced into the region. During the period spanning the Tang and Song dynasties, Buddhism was the predominant religion practiced by the nobility and the common people in the Uighur Kingdom of Gaochang and the Kingdom of Khotan. Many Uighurs converted to Nestorianism during the Yuan Dynasty. Today in Xinjiang, a significant number of people do not follow any religion, and many Uygurs follow religions other than Islam.

The introduction of Islam into Xinjiang was related to the emergence of the Arab Empire and the eastward expansion of Islam. The Uighur conversion to Islam was not a voluntary choice made by the common people, but a result of religious wars and imposition by the ruling class, though this fact does not undermine our respect for the Muslims’ right to their beliefs. Islam is neither an indigenous nor the sole belief system of the Uygur people.

In the process of accepting Islam, the ancestors of the Uygurs and Kazaks integrated it with local faiths and traditions, while absorbing the cultures of other ethnic groups in the region and from inland areas. Some of their religious concepts, rituals and customs remained as they evolved. Through interaction with these elements, Islam in Xinjiang gradually developed distinct local and ethnic features. For example, orthodox Islam does not allow the worship of anyone or anything other than Allah. However, the Uygurs and some other ethnic groups still venerate mazars, which are mausoleums or shrines, typically of saints or notable religious leaders. Mazar worship is a prominent example of the localization of Islam in Xinjiang. The practice of erecting long poles around the mazars, hung with streamers and sheepskin, is a result of influence from multiple religions including Shamanism and Buddhism. As another example, the Baytulla Mosque in Yining and the Shaanxi Mosque in Urumqi, both first built in Emperor Qianlong’s reign (1736-1795) during the Qing Dynasty, are characterized by beam-column construction which was common in inland areas. This embodies a form of localization of Islam.

It should be noted that since the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in particular since the end of the Cold War, the surge in religious extremism around the world has caused a rise in religious extremism in Xinjiang. This has resulted in an increasing number of incidents of terror and violence that pose a serious danger to social stability and to the lives and property of people in the region. Under the guise of religion, religious extremism trumpets theocracy, religious supremacism, actions against “pagans”, and “holy wars”. It instigates terror and violence and incites hostility between different ethnic groups, running counter to the teachings concerning patriotism, peace, solidarity, the golden mean, tolerance, and good works advocated by Islam and many other religions. Religious extremism, which constitutes the ideological base of ethnic separatism and terrorism, is by nature anti-human, anti-society, anti-civilization, and anti-religion. It is a betrayal of religion and should never be confused with religious matters, or be glossed over or excused through religious rhetoric. Drawing lessons from international experiences and in view of reality of the region, Xinjiang has taken resolute action to fight terrorism and extremism in accordance with the law, effectively clamp down on terrorism and violence and the spread of religious terrorism. Through these efforts Xinjiang has responded to the public’s expectation of security for all ethnic groups, protected the basic human rights, and maintained social harmony and stability in the region. Xinjiang’s fight against terrorism and extremism is a battle for justice and civilization against evil and barbaric forces. As such it deserves support, respect and understanding. Some countries, organizations and individuals that apply double standards to terrorism and human rights have issued unjustified criticism of Xinjiang’s effort. This kind of criticism betrays the basic conscience and justice of humanity, and will be repudiated by all genuine champions of justice and progress.


It is a matter of principle to correctly treat historical issues. The historical and dialectical materialist stance, viewpoint and methodology help us gain a clear understanding of our country and its history, ethnic groups, culture, and religious affairs. They help us to properly understand and treat historical issues concerning Xinjiang. This is essential to maintaining the Chinese people’s sense of cohesion and identity, the country’s unity and long-term stability, and the security, stability and development of a wider region.

Xinjiang is enjoying sustained economic development, social stability, a better standard of living, unprecedented cultural prosperity, a harmonious coexistence of all religions, and solidarity among all ethnic groups. The region is experiencing its most auspicious period of development and prosperity. Hostile foreign forces and separatist, religious extremist and terrorist forces that have colluded to distort history and tamper with facts run counter to the trend of our times and will be cast aside by history and the people.

Xinjiang belongs to all ethnic groups in the region and the country. It is the common responsibility and aspiration of the Chinese people, including all those in Xinjiang, to carry forward our cultural heritage and build a shared spiritual home based on Chinese culture. Under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China with Xi Jinping as the core, and with the support of the whole country and its people, all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are striving to achieve the Two Centenary Goals and the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. Xinjiang will embrace an ever better future.


China History

The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China published a white paper titled “Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang”

Pittsburgh Conference on Judaism 1885

Convening at the call of Kaufmann Kohler of New York, Reform rabbis from around the United States met from November 16 through November 19, 1885 with Isaac Mayer Wise presiding.

The meeting was declared the continuation of the Philadelphia Conference of 1869, which was the continuation of the German Conference of 1841 to 1846.

The rabbis adopted the following seminal text:

1. We recognize in every religion an attempt to grasp the Infinite, and in every mode, source or book of revelation held sacred in any religious system the consciousness of the indwelling of God in man. We hold that Judaism presents the highest conception of the God-idea as taught in our Holy Scriptures and developed and spiritualized by the Jewish teachers, in accordance with the moral and philosophical progress of their respective ages. We maintain that Judaism preserved and defended midst continual struggles and trials and under enforced isolation, this God-idea as the central religious truth for the human race.

2. We recognize in the Bible the record of the consecration of the Jewish people to its mission as the priest of the one God, and value it as the most potent instrument of religious and moral instruction. We hold that the modern discoveries of scientific researches in the domain of nature and history are not antagonistic to the doctrines of Judaism, the Bible reflecting the primitive ideas of its own age, and at times clothing its conception of divine Providence and Justice dealing with men in miraculous narratives.

3. We recognize in the Mosaic legislation a system of training the Jewish people for its mission during its national life in Palestine, and today we accept as binding only its moral laws, and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject al such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization.

4. We hold that all such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity, and dress originated in ages and under the influence of ideas entirely foreign to our present mental and spiritual state. They fail to impress the modern Jew with a spirit of priestly holiness; their observance in our days is apt rather to obstruct than to further modern spiritual elevation.

5. We recognize, in the modern era of universal culture of heart and intellect, the approaching of the realization of Israel s great Messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice, and peace among all men. We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.

6. We recognize in Judaism a progressive religion, ever striving to be in accord with the postulates of reason. We are convinced of the utmost necessity of preserving the historical identity with our great past.. Christianity and Islam, being daughter religions of Judaism, we appreciate their providential mission, to aid in the spreading of monotheistic and moral truth. We acknowledge that the spirit of broad humanity of our age is our ally in the fulfillment of our mission, and therefore we extend the hand of fellowship to all who cooperate with us in the establishment of the reign of truth and righteousness among men.

7. We reassert the doctrine of Judaism that the soul is immortal, grounding the belief on the divine nature of human spirit, which forever finds bliss in righteousness and misery in wickedness. We reject as ideas not rooted in Judaism, the beliefs both in bodily resurrection and in Gehenna and Eden (Hell and Paradise) as abodes for everlasting punishment and reward.

8. In full accordance with the spirit of the Mosaic legislation, which strives to regulate the relations between rich and poor, we deem it our duty to participate in the great task of modern times, to solve, on the basis of justice and righteousness, the problems presented by the contrasts and evils of the present organization of society.

Quoted from James G. Heller, _Isaac M. Wise: His Life, Work and Thought_ (New York: 1965, The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Library of Congres Catalogue Card No. 64-24340), pp. 464-465.

Dogmas of Judaism

Introductory material

The object of this essay is to say about the dogmas of Judaism a word which I think ought not to be left unsaid.

In speaking of dogmas it must be understood that Judaism does not ascribe to them any saving power. The belief in a dogma or a doctrine without abiding by its real or supposed consequences (eg. the belief in creatio ex nihilo without keeping the Sabbath) is of no value. And the question about certain doctrines is not whether they possess or do not possess the desired charm against certain diseases of the soul, but whether they ought to be considered as characteristics of Judaism or not.

It must again be premised that the subject, which occupied the thoughts of the greatest and noblest Jewish minds for so many centuries, has been neglected for a comparatively long time. And this for various reasons. First, there is Mendelssohn’s assertion, or supposed assertion, in his Jerusalem, that Judaism has no dogmas — an assertion which has been accepted by the majority of modern Jewish theologians as the only dogma Judaism possesses. You can hear it pronounced in scores of Jewish pulpits; you can read it written in scores of Jewish books. To admit the possibility that Mendelssohn was in error was hardly permissible, especially for those with whom he enjoys a certain infallibility. Nay, even the fact that he himself was not consistent in his theory, and on another occasion declared that Judaism has dogmas, only that they are purer and more in harmony with reason than those of other religions; or even the more important fact that he published a school-book for children, in which the so-called Thirteen Articles were embodied, only that instead of the formula “I believe,” he substituted “I am convinced,” — even such patent facts did not produce much effect upon many of our modern theologians. They were either overlooked or explained away so as to make them harmonise with the great dogma of dogmalessness. For it is one of the attributes of infallibility, that the words of its happy possessor must always be reconcilable even when they appear to the eye of the unbeliever as gross contradictions.

Another cause of the neglect into which the subject has fallen is that our century is an historical one. It is not only books that have their fate, but also whole sciences and literatures. In past times it was religious speculation that formed the favorite study of scholars, in our time it is history with its critical foundation on a sound philology. Now as these two most important branches of Jewish science were so long neglected — were perhaps never cultivated in the true meaning of the word, and as Jewish literature is so vast and Jewish history so far-reaching and eventful, we cannot wonder that these studies have absorbed the time and the labour of the greatest and best Jewish writers in this century.

There is, besides, a certain tendency in historical studies that is hostile to mere theological speculation. The historian deals with realities, the theologian with abstractions. The latter likes to shape the universe after his system, and tells us how things ought to be, the former teaches us how they are or have been, and the explanation he gives for their being so and not otherwise includes in most cases also a kind of justification for their existence. There is also the odium theologicum, which has been the cause of so much misfortune that it is hated by the historian, whilst the superficial, rationalistic way in which the theologian manages to explain everything which does not suit his system is most repulsive to the critical spirit.

But it cannot be denied that this neglect has caused much confusion. Especially is this noticeable in England, which is essentially a theological country, and where people are but little prone to give up speculation about things which concern their most sacred interest and greatest happiness. Thus whilst we are exceedingly poor in all other branches of Jewish learning, we are comparatively rich in productions of a theological character. We have a superfluity of essays on such delicate subjects as eternal punishment, immortality of the soul, the day of judgment, etc., and many treatises on the definition of Judaism. But knowing little or nothing of the progress recently made in Jewish theology, of the many protests against all kinds of infallibility, whether canonised in this century or in olden times, those who live in England still maintain that Judaism has no dogmas as if nothing to the contrary had ever been said. We seek the foundation of Judaism in political economy, in hygiene, in everything except religion. Following the fashion of the day to esteem religion in proportion to its ability to adapt itself to every possible and impossible metaphysical and social system, we are anxious to squeeze out of Judaism the last drop of faith and hope, and strive to make it so flexible that we can turn it in every direction which it is our pleasure to follow. But alas! the flexibility has progressed so far as to classify Judaism among the invertebrate species, the lowest order of living things. It strongly resembles a certain Christian school which addresses itself to the world in general and claims to satisfy everybody alike. It claims to be socialism for the adherents of Karl Marx and Lassalle, worship of man for the followers of Comte and St. Simon; it carefully avoids the word “God” for the comfort of agnostics and sceptics, whilst on the other hand it pretends to hold sway over paradise, hell, and immortality for the edification of believers. In such illusions many of our theologians delight. For illusions they are; you cannot be everything if you want to be anything. Moreover, illusions in themselves are bad enough, but we are menaced with what is still worse. Judaism, divested of every higher religious motive, is in danger of falling into gross materialism. For what else is the meaning of such declarations as “Believe what you like, but conform to this or that mode of life”; what else does it mean but “We cannot expect you to believe that the things you are bidden to do are commanded by a higher authority; there is not such a thing as belief, but you ought to do them for conventionalism or for your own convenience.”

But both these motives – the good opinion of our neighbours, as well as our bodily health  have nothing to do with our nobler and higher sentiments, and degrade Judaism to a matter of expediency or diplomacy. Indeed, things have advanced so far that well-meaning, but ill-advised writers even think to render a service to Judaism by declaring it to be a kind of enlightened Hedonism, or rather a moderate Epicureanism.

I have no intention of here answering the question, What is Judaism ? This question is not less perplexing than the problem, What is God’s world? Judaism is also a great Infinite, composed of as many endless Units, the Jews. And these Unit-Jews have been, and are still, scattered through all the world, and have passed under an immensity of influences, good and bad.

If so, how can we give an exact definition of the Infinite, called Judaism?

But if there is anything sure, it is that the highest motives which worked through the history of Judaism are the strong belief in God and the unshaken confidence that at last this God, the God of Israel, will be the God of the whole world; or, in other words, Faith and Hope are the two most prominent characteristics of Judaism.

Below I shall try to give a short account of the manner in which these two principles of Judaism found expression, from the earliest times down to the age of Mendelssohn; that is, to present an outline of the history of Jewish Dogmas. First, a few observations on the position of the Bible and the Talmud in relation to our theme. Insufficient and poor as they may be in proportion to the importance of these two fundamental documents of Judaism, these remarks may nevertheless suggest a connecting link between the teachings of Jewish antiquity and those of Maimonides and his successors.

The Bible

I begin with the Scriptures.

The Bible itself hardly contains a command bidding us to believe. We are hardly ordered, e.g., to believe in the existence of God. I say hardly, but I do not altogether deny the existence of such a command. It is true that we do not find in the Scripture such words as: “You are commanded to believe in the existence of God.” Nor is any punishment assigned as awaiting him who denies it. Notwithstanding these facts, many Jewish authorities among them such important men as Maimonides, R. Judah Hallevi, Nachmanides perceive, in the first words of the Ten Commandments, “I am the Lord thy God,” the command to believe in His existence.

Be this as it may, there cannot be the shadow of a doubt that the Bible, in which every command is dictated by God, and in which all its heroes are the servants, the friends, or the ambassadors of God, presumes such a belief in everyone to whom those laws are dictated, and these heroes address themselves. Nay, I think that the word “belief” is not even adequate. In a world with so many visible facts and invisible causes, as life and death, growth and decay, light and darkness; in a world where the sun rises and sets; where the stars appear regularly; where heavy rains pour down from the sky, often accompanied by such grand phenomena as thunder and lightning; in a world full of such marvels, but into which no notion has entered of all our modern true or false explanations — who but God is behind all these things? “Have the gates,” asks God, “have the gates of death been open to thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? . . .Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof ? . . . Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? . . . Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion ? . . . Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?” (Job xxxviii.). Of all these wonders, God, was not merely the prima causa; they were the result of His direct action, without any intermediary causes. And it is as absurd to say that the ancient world believed in God, as for a future historian to assert of the nineteenth century that it believed in the effects of electricity. We see them, and so antiquity saw God. If there was any danger, it lay not in the denial of the existence of a God, but in having a wrong belief. Belief in as many gods as there are manifestations in nature, the investing of them with false attributes, the misunderstanding of God’s relation to men, lead to immorality. Thus the greater part of the laws and teachings of the Bible are either directed against polytheism, with all its low ideas of God, or rather of gods; or they are directed towards regulating God’s relation to men. Man is a servant of God, or His prophet, or even His friend. But this relationship man obtains only by his conduct. Nay, all man’s actions are carefully regulated by God, and connected with His holiness. The 19th chapter of Leviticus, which is considered by the Rabbis as the portion of the Law in which the most important articles of the Torah are embodied, is headed, “Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your own God am holy.” And each law therein occurring, even those which concern our relations to each other, is not founded on utilitarian reasons, but is ordained because the opposite of it is an offence to the holiness of God, and profanes His creatures, whom He desired to be as holy as He is.

Thus the whole structure of the Bible is built upon the visible fact of the existence of a God, and upon the belief in the relation of God to men, especially to Israel. In spite of all that has been said to the contrary, the Bible does lay stress upon belief, where belief is required. The unbelievers are rebuked again and again. “For all this they sinned still, and believed not for His wondrous work,” complains Asaph (Ps. lxxviii. 32). And belief is praised in such exalted words as, “Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown” (Jer.ii. 2). The Bible, especially the books of the prophets, consists, in great part, of promises for the future, which the Rabbis justly termed the “Consolations.” For our purpose, it is of no great consequence to examine what future the prophets had in view, whether an immediate future or one more remote, at the end of days. At any rate, they inculcated hope and confidence that God would bring to pass a better time. I think that even the most advanced Bible critic — provided he is not guided by some modern Aryan reasons must perceive in such passages as, “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever,” “The Lord shall rejoice n his works,” and many others, a hope for more than the establishment of the “national Deity among his votaries in Palestine.”

We have now to pass over an interval of many centuries, the length of which depends upon the views held is to the date of the close of the canon, and examine what the Rabbis, the representatives of the prophets, thought on this subject. Not that the views of the author of the Wisdom of Solomon, of Philo and Aristobulus, and many others of the Judaeo-Alexandrian school would be uninteresting for us. But somehow their influence on Judaism was only a passing one, and their doctrines never became authoritative in the Synagogue. We must here confine ourselves to those who, even by the [p. 155] testimony of their bitterest enemies, occupied the seat of Moses.

The successors of the prophets had to deal with new circumstances, and accordingly their teachings were adapted to the wants of their times. As the result of manifold foreign influences, the visible fact of the existence of God as manifested in the Bible had been somewhat obscured. Prophecy ceased, and the Holy Spirit which inspired a few chosen ones took its place. Afterwards this influence was reduced to the hearing of a Voice from Heaven, which was audible to still fewer. On the other hand the Rabbis had this advantage that they were not called upon to fight against idolatry as their predecessors the prophets had been. The evil inclination to worship idols was, as the Talmud expresses it allegorically, killed by the Men of the Great Synagogue, or, as we should put it, it was suppressed by the sufferings of the captivity in Babylon. This change of circumstances is marked by the following fact: — Whilst the prophets mostly considered idolatry as the cause of all sin, the Rabbis show a strong tendency to ascribe sin to a defect in, or a want of, belief on the part of the sinner. They teach that Adam would not have sinned unless he had first denied the “Root of all” (or the main principle), namely, the belief in the Omnipresence of God. Of Cain they say that before murdering his brother he declared: “There is no judgment, there is no judge, there is no world to come, and there is no reward for the just, and no punishment for the wicked.” [n. 5]

In another place we read that the commission of a sin in secret is an impertinent attempt by the doer to oust God from the world. But if unbelief is considered as [p. 156] the root of all evil, we may expect that the reverse of it, a perfect faith, would be praised in the most exalted, terms. So we read: Faith is so great that the man who possesses it may hope to become a worthy vessel of the Holy Spirit, or, as we should express it, that he may hope to obtain by this power the highest degree of communion with his Maker. The Patriarch Abraham, notwithstanding all his other virtues, only became “the possessor of both worlds” by the merit of his strong faith. Nay, even the fulfilment of a single law when accompanied by true faith is, according to the Rabbis, sufficient to bring man nigh to God. And the future redemption is also conditional on the degree of faith shown by Israel. [n. 6]

It has often been asked what the Rabbis would have thought of a man who fulfils every commandment of the Torah, but does not believe that this Torah was given by God, or that there exists a God at all. It is indeed very difficult to answer this question with any degree of certainty. In the time of the Rabbis people were still too simple for such a diplomatic religion, and conformity in the modern sense was quite an unknown thing. But from the foregoing remarks it would seem that the Rabbis could not conceive such a monstrosity as atheistic orthodoxy. For, as we have seen, the Rabbis thought that unbelief must needs end in sin, for faith is the origin of all good. Accordingly, in the case just supposed they would have either suspected the man’s orthodoxy, or would have denied that his views were really what he professed them to be.

The Mishnah

Still more important than the above cited Agadic passages is one which we are about to quote from the tractate Sanhedrin. This tractate deals with the constitution of the supreme law-court, the examination of the witnesses, the functions of the judges, and the different punishment to be inflicted on the transgressors of the law. After having enumerated various kinds of capital punishment, the Mishnah adds the following words:

“These are (the men) who are excluded from the life to come: He who says there is no resurrection from death; he who says there is no Torah given from heaven, and the Epikurus. [n. 7]

This passage was considered by the Rabbis of the Middle Ages, as well as by modern scholars, the locus classicus for the dogma question. There are many passages in the Rabbinic literature which exclude man from the world to come for this or that sin. But these are more or less of an Agadic (legendary) character, and thus lend themselves to exaggeration and hyperbolic language. They cannot, therefore, be considered as serious legal dicta, or as the general opinion of the Rabbis.
The Mishnah in Sanhedrin, however, has, if only by its position in a legal tractate, a certain Halachic (obligatory) character. And the fact that so early an authority as R. Akiba made additions to it guarantees its high antiquity. The first two sentences of this Mishnah are clear enough. In modern language, and positively speaking, they would represent articles of belief in Resurrection and Revelation. Great difficulty is found in defining what was meant by the word Epicurus. The authorities of the Middle Ages, to whom I shall again have to refer, explain the Epikurus to be a man who denies the belief in reward and punishment; others identify him with one who denies the belief in Providence; while others again consider the Epikurus to be one who denies Tradition. But the paral- [p. 158] lel passages in which it occurs incline one rather to think that this word cannot be defined by one kind of heresy. It implies rather a frivolous treatment of the words of Scripture or of Tradition. In the case of the latter (Tradition) it is certainly not honest difference of opinion that is condemned; for the Rabbis themselves differed very often from each other, and even Mediaeval authorities, did not feel any compunction about explaining Scripture in variance with the Rabbinic interpretation, and sometimes they even went so far as to declare that the view of this or that great authority was only to be considered as an isolated opinion not deserving particular attention. What they did blame was, as already said, scoffing and impiety. We may thus safely assert that reverence for the teachers of Israel formed the third essential principle of Judaism. [n. 8]

I have still to remark that there occur in the Talmud such passages as “the Jew, even if he has sinned, is still a Jew,” or “He who denies idolatry is called a Jew.” These and similar passages have been used to prove that Judaism was not a positive religion, but only involved the negation of idolatry. But it has been overlooked that the statements quoted have more a legal than a theological character. The Jew belonged to his nationality even after having committed the greatest sin, just as the Englishman does not cease to be an Englishman — in regard to treason and the like — by having committed a heinous crime. But he has certainly acted in a very un-English way, and having outraged the feelings of the whole nation will have to suffer for his misconduct. The Rabbis in a similar manner did not maintain that he who gave up the belief in Revelation and Resurrection, and treated irreverently the teach- [p. 159] ers of Israel, severed his connection with the Jewish nation, but that, for his crime, he was going to suffer the heaviest punishment. He was to be excluded from the world to come.

Still, important as is the passage quoted from Sanhedrin, it would be erroneous to think that it exhausted the creed of the Rabbis. The liturgy and innumerable passages in the Midrashim show that they ardently clung to the belief in the advent of the Messiah. All their hope was turned to the future redemption and the final establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Judaism, stripped of this belief, would have been for them devoid of meaning. The belief in reward and punishment is also repeated again and again in the old Rabbinic literature. A more emphatic declaration of the belief in Providence than is conveyed by the following passages is hardly conceivable. “Everything is foreseen, and free will is given. And the world is judged by grace.” Or, “the born are to die, and the dead to revive, and the living to be judged. For to know and to notify, and that it may be known that He (God) is the Framer and He the Creator, and He the Discerner, and He the judge, and He the Witness,” etc. [n. 9]

But it must not be forgotten that it was not the habit of the Rabbis to lay down, either for conduct or for doctrine, rules which were commonly known. When they urged the three points stated above there must have been some historical reason for it. Probably these principles were controverted by some heretics. Indeed, the whole tone of the passage cited from Sanhedrin is a protest against certain unbelievers who are threatened with punishment. Other beliefs, not less essential, but less disputed, remain [p. 160] unmentioned, because there was no necessity to assert them.

The Caraites

It was not till a much later time, when the Jews came into closer contact with new philosophical schools, and also new creeds which were more liable than heathenism was to be confused with Judaism, that this necessity was felt. And thus we are led at once to the period when the Jews became acquainted with the teachings of the Mohammedan schools. The Caraites came very early into contact with non-Jewish systems. And so we find that they were also the first to formulate Jewish dogmas in a fixed number, and in a systematic order. It is also possible that their separation from the Tradition, and their early division into little sects among themselves, compelled them to take this step, in order to avoid further sectarianism.

The number of their dogmas amounts to ten. According to Judah Hadasi (150), who would appear to have derived them from his predecessors, their dogmas include the following articles:

  • Creatio ex nihilo;
  • The existence of a Creator, God;
  • This God is an absolute unity as well as incorporeal;
  • Moses and the other prophets were sent by God;
  • God has given to us the Torah, which is true and complete in every respect, not wanting the addition of the so-called Oral Law;
  • The Torah must be studied by every Jew in the original (Hebrew) language;
  • The Holy Temple was a place elected by God for His manifestation;
  • Resurrection of the dead;
  • Punishment and reward after death;
  • The Coming of the Messiah, the son of David.

How far the predecessors of Hadasi were influenced by a certain Joseph Albashir (about 950), of whom there exists a manuscript work, “Rudiments of Faith,” I am unable to [p. 161] say. The little we know of him reveals more of his intimacy with Arabic thoughts than of his importance for his sect in particular and for Judaism in general. After Hadasi I shall mention here Elijah Bashazi, a Caraite writer of the end of the fifteenth century. This author, who was much influenced by Maimonides, omits the second and the seventh articles. In order to make up the ten he numbers the belief in the eternity of God as an article, and divides the fourth article into two. In the fifth article Bashazi does not emphasize so strongly the completeness of the Torah as Hadasi, and omits the portion which is directed against Tradition. It is interesting to see the distinction which Bashazi draws between the Pentateuch and the Prophets. While he thinks that the five books of Moses can never be altered, he regards the words of the Prophets as only relating to their contemporaries, and thus subject to changes. As I do not want to anticipate Maimonides’ system, I must refrain from giving here the articles laid down by Solomon Troki in the beginning of the eighteenth century. For the articles of Maimonides are copied by this writer with a few slight alterations so as to dress them in a Caraite garb.

I must dismiss the Caraites with these few remarks, my object being chiefly to discuss the dogmas of the Synagogue from which they had separated themselves. Besides, as in everything Caraitic, there is no further development of the question. As Bashazi laid them down, they are still taught by the Caraites of to-day. I return to the Rabbanites. [n.10]


As is well known, Maimonides (1130-1205), was the first Rabbanite who formulated the dogmas of the Synagogue. But there are indications of earlier attempts. R. Saadiah [p. 162] Gaon’s (892-942) work, Creeds and Opinions, shows such traces. He says in his preface, “My heart sickens to see that the belief of my co-religionists is impure and that their theological views are confused.”

The subjects he treats in this book, such as

unity of God,
resurrection of the dead,
the future redemption of Israel,
reward and punishment,
and other kindred theological subjects might thus, perhaps, be considered as the essentials of the creed that the Gaon desired to present in a pure and rational form. R. Hannaneel, of Kairowan, [n. 11] in the first half of the eleventh century, says in one of his commentaries that to deserve eternal life one must believe in four things:
in God,
in the prophets,
in a future world where the just will be rewarded,
and in the advent of the Redeemer.

From R. Judah Hallevi’s Cusari, written in the beginning of the twelfth century, we might argue that the belief in the election of Israel by God was the cardinal dogma of the author. [n. 12] Abraham Ibn Daud, a contemporary of Maimonides, in his book The High Belief, [n. 13] speaks of rudiments, among which, besides such metaphysical principles as unity, rational conception of God’s attributes, etc., the belief in the immutability of the Law, etc., is included. Still, all these works are intended to furnish evidence from philosophy or history for the truth of religion rather than to give a definition of this truth. The latter task was undertaken by Maimonides.


I refer to the thirteen articles embodied in his first work, The Commentary to the Mishnah. They are appended to the Mishnah in Sanhedrin, with which I dealt above. But though they do not form an independent treatise, Maimonides remarks must not be considered as merely incidental. [p. 163] That Maimonides was quite conscious of the importance of this exposition can be gathered from the concluding words addressed to the reader:

“Know these (words) and repeat them many times, and think them over in the proper way. God knows that thou wouldst be deceiving thyself if thou thinkest thou hast understood them by having read them once or even ten times. Be not, therefore, hasty in perusing them. I have not composed them with out deep study and earnest reflection.”
The result of this deep study was that the following Thirteen Articles constitute the creed of Judaism.

They are: —

The belief in the existence of a Creator;
The belief in His Unity;
The belief in His Incorporeality;
The belief in His Eternity;
The belief that all worship and adoration are due to Him alone;
The belief in Prophecy;
The belief that Moses was the greatest of all Prophets, both before and after him;
The belief that the Torah was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai;
The belief in the Immutability of this revealed Torah;
The belief that God knows the actions of men;
The belief in Reward and Punishment;
The belief in the coming of the Messiah;
The belief in the Resurrection of the dead.

The impulse given by the great philosopher and still ,greater Jew was eagerly followed by succeeding generations, and Judaism thus came into possession of a dogmatic literature such as it never knew before Maimonides. Maimonides is the centre of this literature, and I shall accordingly speak in the remainder of this essay of Maimonists and Anti-Maimonists. These terms really apply to the great controversy that raged round Maimonides Guide of [p. 164] the Perplexed, but I shall, chiefly for brevity’s sake, employ them in these pages in a restricted sense to refer to the dispute concerning the Thirteen Articles.

Among the Maimonists we may probably include the great majority of Jews, who accepted the Thirteen Articles without further question. Maimonides must indeed have filled up a great gap in Jewish theology, a gap, moreover, the existence of which was very generally perceived. A century had hardly elapsed before the Thirteen Articles had become a theme for the poets of the Synagogue. And almost every country where Jews lived can show a poem or a prayer founded on these Articles. R. Jacob Molin (1420) of Germany speaks of metrical and rhymed songs in the German language, the burden of which was the Thirteen Articles, and which were read by the common people with great devotion. The numerous commentaries and homilies written on the same topic would form a small library in themselves. [n. 14] But on the other hand it must not be denied that the Anti-Maimonists, that is to say those Jewish writers who did not agree with the creed formulated by Maimonides, or agreed only in part with him, form also a very strong and respectable minority. They deserve our attention the more as it is their works which brought life into the subject and deepened it. It is not by a perpetual Amen to every utterance of a great authority that truth or literature gains anything.

The Anti-Maimonists

The Anti-Maimonists can be divided into two classes. The one class categorically denies that Judaism has dogmas. I shall have occasion to touch on this view when I come to speak of Abarbanel. Here I pass at once to the second class of Anti-Maimonists. This consists of those who agree with Maimonides as to the existence of dogmas [p. 165] in Judaism, but who differ from him as to what these dogmas are, or who give a different enumeration of them.

As the first of these Anti-Maimonists we may regard Nachmanides, who, in his famous Sermon in the Presence of the King, speaks of three fundamental principles:

Creation (that is, non-eternity of matter),
Omniscience of God, and

Next comes R. Abba Mari ben Moses, of Montpellier. He wrote at the beginning of the fourteenth century, and is famous in Jewish history for his zeal against the study of philosophy. We possess a small pamphlet by him dealing with our subject, and it forms a kind of prologue to his collection of controversial letters against the rationalists of his time. [n. 15] He lays down three articles as the fundamental teachings of Religion:
Metaphysical: The existence of God, including His Unity and Incorporeality;
Mosaic: Creatio ex nihilo by God — a consequence of this principle is the belief that God is capable of altering the laws of nature at His pleasure;
Ethical: Special Providence — i.e., God knows all our actions in all their details.
Abba Mari does not mention Maimonides’ Thirteen Articles. But it would be false to conclude that he rejected the belief in the coming of the Messiah, or any other article of Maimonides. The whole tone and tendency of this pamphlet is polemical, and it is therefore probable that he only urged those points which were either doubted or explained in an unorthodox way by the sceptics of his time.

Another scholar, of Provence, who wrote but twenty years later than Abba Mari — R. David ben Samuel d’Estella (1320) — speaks of the seven pillars of religion.

They are:

Reward and Punishment, [p. 166]
the Coming of the Messiah,
Resurrection of the Dead,
Creatio ex nihilo, and
Free Will. [n. 16]

Of authors living, in other countries, I have to mention here R. Shemariah, of Crete, who flourished at about the same time as R. David d’Estella, and is known from his efforts to reconcile the Caraites with the Rabbanites. This author wrote a book for the purpose of furnishing Jewish students with evidence for what he considered the five fundamental teachings of Judaism, viz.:

The Existence of God;
The Incorporeality of God;
His Absolute Unity;
That God created heaven and earth;
That God created the world after His will 5106 years ago — 5106 (1346 A.C.), being the year in which Shemariah wrote these words. [n. 17]
In Portugal, at about the same time, we find R. David ben Yom-Tob Bilia adding to the articles of Maimonides thirteen of his own, which he calls the “Fundamentals of the Thinking Man.” Five of these articles relate to the functions of the human soul, that, according to him, emanated from God, and to the way in which this divine soul receives its punishment and reward.

The other eight articles are as follows:
The belief in the existence of spiritual beings — angels;
Creatio ex nihilo;
The belief in the existence of another world, and that this other world is only a spiritual one;
The Torah is above philosophy;
The Torah has an outward (literal) meaning and an inward (allegorical) meaning;
The text of the Torah is not subject to any emendation;
The reward of a good action is the good work itself, and the doer must not expect any other reward;
It is only by the “commands relating to the heart,” for instance, the belief in one eternal God, the loving and fearing Him, and [p. 167] not through good actions, that man attains the highest degree of perfection. [n. 18]

Perhaps it would be suitable to mention here another contemporaneous writer, who also enumerates twenty-six articles. The name of this writer is unknown, and his articles are only gathered from quotations by later authors. It would seem from these quotations that the articles of this unknown author consisted mostly of statements emphasising the belief in the attributes of God: as, His Eternity, His Wisdom and Omnipotence, and the like. [n.19]

More important for our subject are the productions of the fifteenth century, especially those of Spanish authors. The fifteen articles of R. Lipman Muhlhausen, in the preface to his well-known Book of Victory [n. 20] (1410), differ but slightly from those of Maimonides. In accordance with the anti-Christian tendency of his polemical book, he lays more stress on the two articles of Unity and Incorporeality, and makes of them four. We can therefore dismiss him with this short remark, and pass at once to the Spanish Rabbis.


The first of these is R. Chasdai Ibn Crescas, who composed his famous treatise, The Light of God, about 1405. Chasdai’s book is well known for its attacks on Aristotle, and also for its influence on Spinoza. But Chasdai deals also with Maimonides’ Thirteen Articles, to which he was very strongly opposed. Already in his preface he attacks Maimonides for speaking, in his Book of the Commandments, of the belief in the existence of God as an “affirmative precept.” Chasdai thinks it absurd; for every commandment must be dictated by some authority, but on whose authority can we dictate the acceptance of this authority? His general objection to the Thirteen Articles [p. 168] is that Maimonides confounded dogmas or fundamental beliefs of Judaism, without which Judaism is inconceivable, with beliefs or doctrines which Judaism inculcates, but the denial of which, though involving a strong heresy, does not make Judaism impossible. He maintains that if Maimonides meant only to count fundamental teachings, there are not more than seven; but that if he intended also to include doctrines, he ought to have enumerated sixteen. As beliefs of the first class — namely, fundamental beliefs — he considers the following articles:

God’s knowledge of our actions;
God’s omnipotence — even to act against the laws of nature;
Free will;
The aim of the Torah is to make man long after the closest communion with God.
The belief in the existence of God, Chasdai thinks, is an axiom with which every religion must begin, and he is therefore uncertain whether to include it as a dogma or not. As to the doctrines which every Jew is bound to believe, but without which Judaism is not impossible, Chasdai divides them into two sections: (a)
Creatio ex nihilo;
Immortality of the soul;
Reward and Punishment;
Resurrection of the dead;
Immutability of the Torah;
Superiority of the prophecy of Moses;
That the High Priest received from God the instructions sought for, when he put his questions through the medium of the Urim and Thummim;
The coming of the Messiah.

(b)Doctrines which are expressed by certain religious ceremonies, and on belief in which these ceremonies are conditioned:
The belief in the efficacy of prayer as well as in the power of the benediction of the priests to convey to us the blessing of God;
God is merciful to the penitent;
Certain days in the year — for instance, [p. 169] the Day of Atonement — are especially qualified to bring us near to God, if we keep them in the way we are commanded.

That Chasdai is a little arbitrary in the choice of his “doctrines,” I need hardly say. Indeed, Chasdai’s importance for the dogma-question consists more in his critical suggestions than in his positive results. He was, as we have seen, the first to make the distinction between fundamental teachings which form the basis of Judaism, and those other simple Jewish doctrines without which Judaism is not impossible. Very daring is his remark, when proving that Reward and Punishment, Immortality of the soul, and Resurrection of the dead must not be considered as the basis of Judaism, since the highest ideal of religion is to serve God without any hope of reward. Even more daring are his words concerning the Immutability of the Law. He says: “Some have argued that, since God is perfection, so must also His law be perfect, and thus unsusceptible of improvement.” But he does not think this argument conclusive, though the fact in itself (the Immutability of the Law) is true. For one might answer that this perfection of the Torah could only be in accordance with the intelligence of those for whom it was meant; but as soon as the recipients of the Torah have advanced to a higher state of perfection, the Torah must also be altered to suit their advanced intelligence. A pupil of Chasdai illustrates the words of his master by a medical parallel. The physician has to adapt his medicaments to the various stages through which his patient has to pass. That he changes his prescription does not, however, imply that his medical knowledge is imperfect, or that his earlier remedies were ignorantly chosen; the varying condition of the invalid was the cause of the variation [p. 170] in the doctor’s treatment. Similarly, were not the Immutability of the Torah a “doctrine,” one might maintain that the perfection of the Torah would not be inconsistent with the assumption that it was susceptible of modification, in accordance with our changing and progressive circumstances. But all these arguments are purely of a theoretic character; for, practically, every Jew, according to Chasdai, has to accept all these beliefs) whether he terms them fundamental teachings or only Jewish doctrines. [n. 21]

Some years later, though he finished his work in the same year as Chasdai, R. Simeon Duran (1366-1444,) a younger contemporary of the former, made his researches on dogmas. His studies on this subject form a kind of introduction to his commentary on Job, which he finished in the year I405. Duran is not so strongly opposed to the Thirteen Articles as Chasdai, or as another “thinker of our people,” who thought them an arbitrary imitation of the thirteen attributes of God. Duran tries to justify Maimonides; but nevertheless he agrees with “earlier authorities,” who formulated the Jewish creed in Three Articles — The Existence of God, Revelation, and Reward and Punishment — under which Duran thinks the Thirteen Articles of Maimonides may be easily classed. Most interesting are his remarks concerning the validity of dogmas. He tells us that only those are to be considered as heretics who abide by their own opinions, though they know that they are contradictory to the views of the Torah. Those who accept the fundamental teachings of Judaism, but are led by their deep studies and earnest reflection to differ in details from the opinions current among their co-religionists, and explain certain passages [p. 171] in the Scripture in their own way, must by no means be considered as heretics. We must, therefore, Duran proceeds to say, not blame such men as Maimonides, who gave an allegorical interpretation to certain passages in the Bible about miracles, or R. Levi ben Gershom, who followed certain un-Jewish views in relation to the belief in Creatio ex nihilo. Only the views are condemnable, not those who cherish them. God forbid, says Duran, that such a thing should happen in Israel as to condemn honest inquirers on account of their differing opinions. It would be interesting to know of how many divines as tolerant as this persecuted Jew the fifteenth century can boast. [n. 21]


We can now pass to a more popular but less original writer on our theme. I refer to R. Joseph Albo, the author of the Roots, [n. 23] who was the pupil of Chasdai, a younger contemporary of Duran, and wrote at a much later period than these authors. Graetz has justly denied him much originality. The chief merit of Albo consists in popularising other people’s thoughts, though he does not always take care to mention their names. And the student who is a little familiar with the contents of the Roots will easily find that Albo has taken his best ideas either from Chasdai or from Duran. As it is of little consequence to us whether an article of faith is called “stem,” or “root,” or “branch,” there is scarcely anything fresh left to quote in the name of Albo. The late Dr. Low, of Szegedin, was indeed right, when he answered an adversary who challenged him — “Who would dare to declare me a heretic as long as I confess the Three Articles laid down by Albo?” with the words “Albo himself.” For, after all the subtle distinctions Albo makes between [p. 172] different classes of dogmas, he declares that every one who denies even the immutability of the Law or the coming of the Messiah, which are, according to him, articles of minor importance, is a heretic who will be excluded from the world to come. But there is one point in his book which is worth noticing. It was suggested to him by Maimonides, indeed; still Albo has the merit of having emphasised it as it deserves. Among the articles which he calls “branches” Albo counts the belief that the perfection of man, which leads to eternal life, can be obtained by the fulfilling of one commandment. But this command must, as Maimonides points out, be done without any worldly regard, and only for the love of God. When one considers how many platitudes are repeated year by year by certain theologians on the subject of Jewish legalism, we cannot lay enough stress on this article of Albo, and we ought to make it better known than it has hitherto been. [n. 24]

Though I cannot enter here into the enumeration of the Maimonists, I must not leave unmentioned the name of R. Nissim ben Moses of Marseilles, the first great Maimonist, who flourished about the end of the thirteenth century, and was considered as one of the most enlightened thinkers of his age. [n. 25] Another great Maimonist deserving special attention is R. Abraham ben Shem-Tob Bibago, who may perhaps be regarded as the most prominent among those who undertook to defend Maimonides against the attacks of Chasdai and others. Bibago wrote The Path of Belief [n.26] in the second half of the fifteenth century, and was, as Dr. Steinschneider aptly describes him, a Denkglaubiger. But, above all, he was a believing Jew. When he was once asked, at the table of King [p. 173] John II., of Aragon, by a Christian scholar, “Are you the Jewish philosopher?” he answered, “I am a Jew who believes in the Law given to us by our teacher Moses, though I have studied philosophy.” Bibago was such a devoted admirer of Maimonides that he could not tolerate any opposition to him. He speaks in one passage of the prudent people of his time who, in desiring to be looked upon as orthodox by the great mob, calumniated the Teacher (Maimonides), and depreciated his merits. Bibago’s book is very interesting, especially in its controversial parts; but in respect to dogmas he is, as already said, a Maimonist, and does not contribute any new point on our subject.

To return to the Anti-Maimonists of the second half of the fifteenth century. As such may be considered R. Isaac Aramah, who speaks of three foundations of religion:

Creatio ex nihilo,
Revelation ,
and the belief in a world to come. [n. 27]
Next to be mentioned is R. Joseph Jabez, who also accepts only three articles:
Creatio ex nihilo,
Individual Providence, and
the Unity of God. [n. 22]
Under these three heads he tries to classify the Thirteen Articles of Maimonides.


The last Spanish writer on our subject is R. Isaac Abarbanel. His treatise on the subject is known under the title Top of Amanah [n. 29] and was finished in the year 1495. The greatest part of this treatise forms a defence of Maimonides, many points in which are taken from Bibago. But, in spite of this fact, Abarbanel must not be considered a Maimonist. It is only a feeling of piety towards Maimonides, or perhaps rather a fondness for argument, that made him defend Maimonides against Chasdai and others. His own view is that it is a mistake [p. 174] to formulate dogmas of Judaism, since every word in the Torah has to be considered as a dogma for itself. It was only, says Abarbanel, by following the example of non-Jewish scholars that Maimonides and others were induced to lay down dogmas. The non-Jewish philosophers are in the habit of accepting in every science certain indisputable axioms from which they deduce the propositions which are less evident. The Jewish philosophers in a similar way sought for first principles in religion from which the whole of the Torah ought to be considered as a deduction. But, thinks Abarbanel, the Torah as a revealed code is under no necessity of deducing things from each other, for all the commandments came from the same divine authority, and, therefore, are alike evident, and have the same certainty. On this and similar grounds Abarbanel refused to acccept dogmatic articles for Judaism, and he this became the head of the school that forms a class by itself among the anti- Maimonists to which many of the great Cabbalists belong. But it is idle talk to cite this school in aid of the modern theory that Judaism has no dogmas. As we have seen, it was rather an embarras de riches that prevented Abarbanel from accepting the Thirteen Articles of Maimonides. To him and to the Cabbalists the Torah consists of at least 613 Articles.

Abarbanel wrote his book with which we have just dealt, at Naples. And it is Italy to which, after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, we have to look chiefly for religious speculation. But the philosophers of Italy are still less independent of Maimonides than their predecessor in Spain. Thus we find that R. David Messer Leon, R. David Vital, and others were Maimonists.


Even the otherwise refined and original thinker, R. Elijah Delmedigo (who died about the end of the fifteenth century) becomes almost impolite when he speaks of the adversaries of Maimonides in respect to dogmas. “It was only,” he says, “the would-be philosopher that dared to question the articles of Maimonides. Our people have always the bad habit of thinking themselves competent to attack the greatest authorities as soon as they have got some knowledge of the subject. Genuine thinkers, however, attach very little importance to their objections.” [n. 30]

Indeed, it seems as if the energetic protests of Delmedigo scared away the Anti-Maimonists for more than a century. Even in the following seventeenth century we have to notice only two Anti-Maimonists. The one is R. Tobijah, the Priest (1652), who was of Polish descent, studied in Italy, and lived as a medical man in France. He seems to refuse to accept the belief in the Immutability of the Torah, and in the coming of the Messiah, as fundamental teachings of Judaism. [n. 31] The other, at the end of the seventeenth century (1695), is R. Abraham Chayim Viterbo, of Italy. He accepts only six articles:

Existence of God;
That God was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, and that the prophecy of Moses is true;
Revelation (including the historical parts of the Torah);
Reward and Punishment.
As to the other articles of Maimonides, Viterbo, in opposition to other half-hearted Anti-Maimonists, declares that the man who denies them is not to be considered as a heretic ; though he ought to believe them. [n. 32]

I have now arrived at the limit I set to myself at the beginning of this essay. For, between the times of [p. 176] Viterbo and those of Mendelssohn, there is hardly to be found any serious opposition to Maimonides worth noticing here. Still I must mention the name of R. Saul Berlin (died 1794); there is much in his opinions on dogmas which will help us the better to understand the Thirteen Articles of Maimonides. As the reader has seen, I have refrained so far from reproducing here the apologies which were made by many Maimonists in behalf of the Thirteen Articles. For, after all their elaborate pleas, none of them was able to clear Maimonides of the charge of having confounded dogmas or fundamental teachings with doctrines. It is also true that the Fifth Article — that prayer and worship must only be offered to God — cannot be considered even as a doctrine, but as a simple precept. And there are other difficulties which all the distinctions of the Maimonists will never be able to solve. The only possible justification is, I think, that suggested by a remark of R. Saul. This author, who was himself — like his friend and older contemporary Mendelssohn — a strong Anti-Maimonist, among other remarks, maintains that dogmas must never be laid down but with regard to the necessities of the time. [n. 33]

Now R. Saul certainly did not doubt that Judaism is based on eternal truths which can in no way be shaken by new modes of thinking or changed circumstances. What he meant was that there are in every age certain beliefs which ought to be asserted more emphatically than others, without regard to their theological or rather logical importance. It is by this maxim that we shall be able to explain the articles of Maimonides. He asserted them, because they were necessary for his time.

[p. 177]We know, for instance, from a letter of his son and from other contemporaries, that it was just at his time that the belief in the incorporeality of God was, in the opinion of Maimonides, a little relaxed. Maimonides, who thought such low notions of the Deity dangerous to Judaism, therefore laid down an article against them. He tells us in his Guide that it was far from him to condemn any one who was not able to demonstrate the Incorporeality of God, but he stigmatised as a heretic one who refused to believe it. This position might be paralleled by that of a modern astronomer who, while considering it unreasonable to expect a mathematical demonstration of the movements of the earth from an ordinary unscientific man, would yet regard the person who refused to believe in such movements as an ignorant faddist.

Again, Maimonides undoubtedly knew that there may be found in the Talmud — that bottomless sea with its innumerable undercurrents — passages that are not quite in harmony with his articles; for instance, the well-known dictum of R. Hillel, who said, there is no Messiah for Israel — a passage which has already been quoted ad nauseam by every opponent of Maimonides from the earliest times down to the year of grace 1896. Maimonides was well aware of the existence of this and similar passages. But, being deeply convinced of the necessity of the belief in a future redemption of Israel — in opposition to other creeds which claim this redemption exclusively for their own adherents — Maimonides simply ignored the saying of R. Hillel, as an isolated opinion which contradicts all the consciousness and traditions of the Jew as expressed in thousands of other passages, and [p. 178] especially in the liturgy. Most interesting is Maimonides’ view about such isolated opinions in a letter to the wise men of Marseilles. He deals there with the question of free will and other theological subjects. After having stated his own view he goes on to say:

“I know that it is possible to find in the Talmud or in the Midrash this or that saying in contradiction to the views you have heard from me. But you must not be troubled by them. One must not refuse to accept a doctrine, the truth of which has been proved, on account of its being in opposition to some isolated opinion held by this or that great authority. Is it not possible that he overlooked some important considerations when he uttered this strange opinion ? It is also possible that his words must not be taken literally, and have to be explained in an allegorical way. We can also think that his words were only to be applied with regard to certain circumstances of his time, but never intended as permanent truths. . . . No man must surrender his private judgment. The eyes are not directed backwards but forwards.”

In another place Maimonides calls the suppression of one’s own opinions for the reason of their being irreconcilable with the isolated views of some great authority — a moral suicide.

By such motives Maimonides was guided when he left certain views hazarded in the Rabbinic literature unheeded, and followed what we may perhaps call the religious instinct, trusting to his own conscience. We may again be certain that Maimonides was clear-headed enough to see that the words of the Torah: “And there arose no prophet since in Israel like unto Moses” (Deut. xxxiv. 10), were as little intended to imply a doctrine as the passage relating to the king Josiah, “And like unto [p. 179] him was there no king before him that turned to the Lord with all his heart . . . neither after him arose there any like him” (2 Kings xxiii. 25). And none would think of declaring the man a heretic who should believe another king to be as pious as Josiah. But living among followers of the “imitating creeds” (as he calls Christianity and Mohammedism), who claimed that their religion had superseded the law of Moses, Maimonides, consciously or unconsciously, felt himself compelled to assert the superiority of the prophecy of Moses. And so we may guess that every article of Maimonides which seems to offer difficulties to us contains an assertion of some relaxed belief, or a protest against the pretensions of other creeds, though we are not always able to discover the exact necessity for them. On the other hand, Maimonides did not assert the belief in free will, for which he argued so earnestly in his Guide. The common “man,” with his simple unspeculative mind, for whom these Thirteen Articles were intended, “never dreamed that the will was not free,” and there was no necessity of impressing on his mind things which he had never doubted. [n. 34]

So much about Maimonides. As to the Anti-Maimonists, it could hardly escape the reader that in some of the quoted systems the difference from the view of Maimonides is only a logical one, not a theological. Of some authors again, especially those of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it is not at all certain whether they intended to oppose Maimonides. Others again, as for instance R. Abba Mari, R. Lipman, and R. Joseph Jabez, acted on the same principle as Maimonides, urging only those teachings of Judaism which they thought endangered. One could now, indeed, animated by the praiseworthy exam- [p. 180] ples given to us by Maimonides, also propose some articles of faith which are suggested to us by the necessities of our own time. One might, for instance, insert the article, “I believe that Judaism is, in the first instance, a divine religion, not a mere complex of racial peculiarities and tribal customs.” One might again propose an article to the effect that Judaism is a proselytising religion, having the mission to bring about God’s kingdom on earth, and to include in that kingdom all mankind. One might also submit for consideration whether, it would not be advisable to urge a little more the principle that religion means chiefly a Weltanschauung and worship of God by means of holiness both in thought and in action. One would even not object to accept the article laid down by R. Saul, that we have to look upon ourselves as sinners. Morbid as such a belief may be, it would, if properly impressed on our mind, have perhaps the wholesome effect of cooling down a little our self importance and our mutual admiration that makes all progress among us almost impossible.

But it was not my purpose to ventilate here the question whether Maimonides’ articles are sufficient for us, or whether we ought not to add new ones to them. Nor do I attempt to decide what system we ought to prefer for recitation in the Synagogue — that of Maimonides or that of Chasdai, or of any other writer. I do not think that such a recital is of much use. My object in this sketch has been rather to make the reader think about Judaism, by proving that it regulates not only our actions, but also our thoughts. We usually urge that in Judaism religion means life; but we forget that a life without guiding principles and thoughts is a Life not worth living. At least it was so considered by the greatest Jewish thinkers, and hence their efforts to formulate the creed of Judaism, so that men should not only be able to do the right thing, but also to think the right thing. Whether they succeeded in their attempts towards formulating the creed of Judaism or not will always remain a question. This concerns the logician more than the theologian. But surely Maimonides and his successors did succeed in having a religion depending directly on God, with the most ideal and lofty aspirations for the future; whilst the Judaism of a great part of our modern theologians reminds one very much of the words with which the author of Marius the Epicurean characterises the Roman religion in the days of her decline: a religion which had been always something to be done rather than something to be thought, or believed, or loved.

Political economy, hygiene, statistics, are very fine things. But no sane man would for them make those sacrifices which Judaism requires from us. It is only for God’s sake, to fulfil His commands and to accomplish His purpose, that religion becomes worth living and dying for. And this can only be possible with a religion which possesses dogmas.

It is true that every great religion is “a concentration of many ideas and ideals,” which make this religion able to adapt itself to various modes of thinking and living. But there must always be a point round which all these ideas concentrate themselves.

This centre is Dogma.

Chapter VI of Schechter’s Studies in Judaism, First Series:1896

Church and Religion

Church and Religion
  1. Avatar- Intervention by Hindu supreme Being in a cosmic catastrophe or restoration of creation in its pure form.
  2. Abecedarian – A 16th-century sect of Anabaptists centered in Germany who had an absolute disdain for human knowledge
  3. Albigenses, Cathars, Cathari – a Christian religious sect in southern France in the 12th and 13th centuries; believers in Albigensianism
  4. Amish sect – an orthodox Anabaptist sect separated from the Mennonites in late 17th century; settled chiefly in southeastern Pennsylvania
  5. Apocalyptic hero – Christ, Messiah, Mehadi, and Kalki, who shall restore the lost glory
  6. Apologetic – justifying a wrong in a logical and scholarly manner.
  7. Armenian Church, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church – an independent Christian church established in Armenia since 300; was influenced by both Roman and Byzantine traditions; headed by a catholicos
  8. Augustinian Canons – an Augustinian monastic order
  9. Augustinian Hermits – a monastic order of friars established in 1256 by the Pope
  10. Augustinian order – any of several monastic orders observing a rule derived from the writings of St. Augustine
  11. Austin Friars – an Augustinian monastic order
  12. Benedictine order, the order of Saint Benedict – a Roman Catholic monastic order founded in the 6th century; noted for liturgical worship and for scholarly activities
  13. Bhagavad Gita – Instruction issued Avatar Krishna to  Arjuna
  14. Bible – Christian manual
  15. Brahmanism, Brahminism – the religious and social system of Hindu orthodoxy
  16. Brethren – plural the lay members of a male religious order
  17. Buddhism – a religion represented by the many groups especially in Asia that profess various forms of the Buddhist doctrine and that venerate Buddha
  18. Cargo cult – Melanesia one of several millenarian cults that believe salvation will come in the form of wealth `cargo’ brought by Westerners; some ascribe divine attributes to Westerners on the first contact especially to missionaries.
  19. Carmelite order, Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel – a Roman Catholic mendicant order founded in the 12th century
  20. Carthusian order – an austere contemplative Roman Catholic order founded by St. Bruno in 1084
  21. Catholic Church – any of several churches claiming to have maintained historical continuity with the original Christian Church
  22. Church universal- utopian concept and imagery of all Christians are united under a single entity
  23. Church, Christian church -one of the groups of Christians who have their own beliefs and forms of worship
  24. Churchism, Church politics – View that only church cand help the poor and people are saved within the church.
  25. Clear itself of past painful experiences through self-knowledge and spiritual fulfillment
  26. Communism – Utopian concept of equal distribution of the means of production under the dictatorship of the labour class.
  27. Conservative Judaism – Jews who keep some of the requirements of the Mosaic Law but allow for adaptation of other requirements as some of the dietary laws to fit modern circumstances
  28. Coptic Church – the ancient Christian church of Egypt
  29. Cult – adherents of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices
  30. Dominican order – a Roman Catholic order of mendicant preachers founded in the 13th century
  31. Eastern Church, Byzantine Church – the Catholic Church as it existed in the Byzantine Empire
  32. Established church – the church that is recognized as the official church of a nation
  33. Franciscan order – a Roman Catholic order founded by Saint Francis of Assisi in the 13th century
  34. Gazba -e-hind – Pakistan shall conquer India and all Hindus shall be converted to Islam
  35. Ghar wapasi – bringing back a candidate to the original faith
  36. Greek Orthodox Church, Greek Church-state church of Greece; an autonomous part of the Eastern Orthodox Church
  37. Hare Krishna, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, ISKCON – a religious sect founded in the United States in 1966; based on Vedic scriptures; groups engage in joyful chanting of ` Hare Krishna’ and other mantras based on the name of the Hindu god Krishna; devotees usually wear saffron robes and practice vegetarianism and celibacy
  38. Haredi – any of several sects of Orthodox Judaism that reject modern secular culture and many of whom do not recognize the spiritual authority of the modern state of Israel
  39. Hasidim, Hassidim, Chasidim, Chassidim – a sect of Orthodox Jews who follow the Mosaic Law strictly
  40. Heretic – an opponent
  41. High Church, High Anglican Church – a group in the Anglican Church that emphasizes the Catholic tradition especially in sacraments and rituals and obedience to church authority
  42. Hinayana – a major school of Buddhism teaching personal salvation through one’s own efforts
  43. Hinduism, Hindooism – the predominant religion of India; also called Sanatan dharma, Law of karma  and belief in reincarnation
  44. Islam, Islamism, Muslimism, Muhammadanism, Mohammedanism, Mohammedanism – the religion of Muslims collectively which governs their civilization and way of life; the predominant religion of northern Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Indonesia
  45. Jainism – A Hindu philosophical school founded in the 6th century BCE believing in the person and work of Tirthankars as redeemer. Later two branches Swetambara and Digambara developed.
  46. Jesuit order, Society of Jesus – a Roman Catholic order founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1534 to defend Catholicism against the Reformation and to do missionary work among the heathen
  47. Judaism, Hebraism, Jewish religion – Jews collectively who practice a religion based on the Torah and the Talmud
  48. Khalsa – the group of initiated Sikhs to which devout orthodox Sikhs are ritually admitted at puberty; founded by the tenth and last Guru in 1699
  49. Kokka Shinto, Kokka – the branch of Shinto recognized as the official state religion of Japan
  50. Lost coin – a candidate who repudiate his/her father`s religion
  51. Mahayana – a major school of Buddhism teaching social concern and universal salvation; China; Japan; Tibet; Nepal; Korea; Mongolia
  52. Nestorian Church – a Christian Church in the Middle East that followed Nestorianism; there is still a small Nestorian Church in Iraq headed by a catholicos.
  53. Old Catholic Church – Catholic churches that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the 18th century
  54. Order, monastic order – a group of person living under a religious rule; “the order of Saint Benedict”
  55. Orthodox – derived from the Byzantine Church and adhering to Byzantine rites
  56. Orthodox Church, Orthodox Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Church, Eastern
  57. Orthodox Judaism, Jewish Orthodoxy – Jews who strictly observe the Mosaic Law as interpreted in the Talmud
  58. Pentecostal religion – any fundamentalist Protestant church that uses revivalistic methods to achieve experiences comparable to the Pentecostal experiences of the first Christian disciples
  59. Protestant Church, Protestant – the Protestant churches and denominations collectively
  60. Quran – Instruction issued by Muhammad to his followers
  61. Ramakrishna Mission – A Hindu church organised by Swami Vivekananda around the life and work of Ramakrishna Paramhansa.
  62. Reform Judaism – the most liberal Jews; Jews who do not follow the Talmud strictly but try to adapt all of the historical forms of Judais m to the modern world
  63. Religious Society of Friends, Society of Friends, Quakers – a Christian sect founded by George Fox about 1660; commonly called Quakers
  64. Roman Catholic, Western Church, Roman Catholic Church, Church of Rome, Roman Church – the Christian Church headquartered in the Vatican and presided over by a pope and an episcopal hierarchy
  65. Russian Orthodox Church – an independent church with its own Patriarch; until 1917 it was the established church or Russia
  66. Sanghism – Neo classical universal church based on the faith of Hinduttva- Hindu supremacy, Hindu land restoration, the brotherhood of members and common patriarchy of Indian Muslims and Christians.
  67. Scientology, Church of Scientology – a new religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1955 and characterized by a belief in the power of a person’s spirit to
  68. A sect, religious sect, religious order – a subdivision of a larger religious group
  69. Shakers, United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing – a celibate and communistic Christian sect in the United States
  70. Shaktism, Saktism – a Hindu sect worshiping Shakti
  71. Shiah, Shia, Shiah Islam, the Shiites – one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam; mainly in Iran
  72. Shinto – the native religion and former ethnic cult of Japan
  73. Shivaism, Sivaism – a Hindu sect worshiping Shiva
  74. Shuha Shinto, Shua – any branch of Shinto other than Kokka
  75. Sisterhood – a religious society of sisters especially an order of nuns or widow of Jesus
  76. Sunni, the Sunnites – one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam
  77. Tantrism – movement within Buddhism combining elements of Hinduism and paganism
  78. Taoism – a Chinese sect claiming to follow the teaching of Laotzu but incorporating pantheism and sorcery in addition to Taoism
  79. Taoism – religion adhering to the teaching of Lao-tzu
  80. Thanksgiving – money purse for Christian church leaders
  81. Theology- the statement of the Christian church
  82. Tithe- Christian church tax
  83. Uniat Church, Uniate Church – any of several churches in eastern Europe or the Middle East that acknowledge papal authority but retain their own liturgy
  84. Unification Church – a Christian church with some Buddhist elements founded in 1954 by Sun Myung Moon and known for staging mass weddings and other communal activities
  85. Vaishnavism, Vaisnavism – Hindu sect worshiping of Vishnu
  86. Vicariate, vicarship – the religious institution under the authority of a vicar, vicar of christ deputy of christ or a bishop
  87. Zen, Zen Buddhism -school of Mahayana Buddhism asserting that enlightenment can come through meditation and intuition rather than faith; China and Japan
  88. Zurvanism – a Zoroastrian sect that claims Zurvan was the ultimate source of the universe


The origin of the Gospels has proved a Serbonian Bog


How the Four Gospels Originated

The origin of the Gospels has proved a Serbonian bog, in which many writers who have attempted an explanation have floundered without finding solid ground. Scarcely two writers agree. Why should there be any doubt in a matter of so much importance, where the evidence could so readily be obtained at the time they were written, and so safely guarded and preserved? Truth, in a historic period like that in which it is claimed the Gospels were written, need not be left in the dark. The true difficulty has grown out of the fact, that writers who have undertaken to give the origin of the Gospels have looked, as men do in most other cases, to outside sources for information; whereas the explanation of the origin is to be found within the Gospels themselves, and nowhere else. By looking for light where none is to be found, writers on this subject have had their attention withdrawn from the direction where the truth is to be discovered. If we bear in mind that men eighteen hundred years ago were much like men of to-day, that the emotion or effect a given event or occurrence produces in the minds of men of our own time would be the same as upon those who lived in the first part of the second century, we have a compass, such as it is, to guide us through this Cimmerian darkness. What would excite ridicule, or appear false and improbable to intelligent minds of our own times, would appear equally so to such minds as Pliny and Tacitus at their ages of the world.

In imagination let us take a stand at the beginning of the second century, and make ourselves citizens of the Roman empire under the reign of Adrian.

We can well imagine how the minds of thinking and intelligent people were affected on the first appearance of the present Greek version of Matthew’s Gospel. It set forth some of the most astounding events in the history of the world, and which the world heard of for the first time. When Christ was put to death, all the land, from the sixth to the ninth hour, was covered with darkness; the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; the earth did quake, and the rocks were rent asunder; the graves were opened, and many bodies of saints which slept arose and came out of their graves, and went into the holy city and appeared unto many. Suppose that some morning we should pick up our daily paper, and find under the telegraph head an announcement of like events as having occurred in London or Paris. At first we might be fearfully startled, but would soon feel satisfied that it was all a hoax, after the style of Professor Locke’s story of the Moon. If the authors of the story expected to accomplish anything by such startling announcements, they failed by attempting too much. Whether the earth was covered with darkness, or was shaken by an earthquake, or the dead got out of their graves and went down into the city, were facts easily inquired into, in that age of the world.

Matthew further states that a star went before the wise men of the East, till it came and stood over where the young child was. How could a star a million of miles off lead any one on this earth, and how could it at that distance be in a position to indicate a spot on the earth where the child was? He also states, that when Herod found he was mocked he was wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem and all the coast thereof, from two years old and under. We can readily imagine the Pagans, who composed the learned and intelligent men of their day, at work in exposing the story of Herod’s cruelty, by showing that, considering the extent of territory embraced in the order, and the population within it, the assumed destruction of life stamped the story false and ridiculous. A Governor of a Roman province who dared make such an order would be so speedily overtaken by the vengeance of the Roman people, that his head would fall from his body before the blood of his victims had time to dry. Archelaus, his son, was deposed for offences not to be spoken of when compared with this massacre of the infants.

But that part of the first Gospel which related to the dream of Joseph and the conception of Mary was what most excited the criticism and ridicule of the people of that day. The whole and sole foundation of the new religion was a dream. The simplicity of Joseph, too, provoked a smile, if nothing more. The story at the sepulchre was overdrawn, and threw discredit over all. “And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.” (Matthew xxviii. 2, 3.) Such aerial bodies are not given to the employments assigned to the angel in this case. Rolling stones, say the wise men, by spiritual essences is ridiculous and absurd. Besides, who knows anything of the great earthquake? We find no account of it, nor is it even mentioned anywhere else.

So men reasoned eighteen hundred years ago—and so they would to-day. It is evident that the author of the first Gospel had overdone his part, and injured the cause he meant to advance. The blunders and mistakes of the first Gospel made it necessary that there should be a second. This gave rise to a second Gospel, not by the same hand, but by some other, who felt the pressure that had been brought to bear on Matthew.

As this second Gospel was written with a special purpose, we must expect a great resemblance in it to the first, except where the former makes statements which were the occasion of so much criticism on the part of the philosophers; and in such cases, the best course to pursue would be to say nothing. Naked contradiction would not answer. Mark has not a word to say about the story of Joseph and the angel. He omits the earthquake at the crucifixion, and the resurrection of the dead, for these things were susceptible of disproof; but tells of the darkness, and the rent in the temple, because the former was comparative, and may have been a dark cloud in the heavens; and as to the case of the temple, no one could disprove the story, for it was destroyed. The story of the angel and stone is entirely omitted, but the stone is removed from the mouth of the sepulchre when the women appear, and a young man is found in the inside, who is presumed to have done it. Matthew says that Joseph of Arimathea deposited the body of Christ in the sepulchre, and then rolled a great stone to the door. Afterwards the priest and Pharisees caused the entrance to be made secure, for fear that the body would be stolen, and the disciples then claim that he had risen from the dead. If so, say the philosophers, the work was not so poorly done that one young man could roll the stone from the door, as stated by Mark. It would be beyond his strength.

Luke removes the objection; when the women come to the sepulchre in the morning they found the stone removed, and the body of Christ was missing. There was no young man inside, but two men were found standing on the outside, who, no doubt, were competent to do the work. The story of the star which led the wise men, and the murder of the infants at Bethlehem, is also omitted. We are justified in saying that those who were engaged in getting up the first Gospel, or those who succeeded them, were driven to abandon some false and impossible and improbable things stated in that Gospel, by proof, in some cases, of their falsehood, and in others by the force of argument and ridicule.

Matthew had related the story of Joseph and the angel, and that admitted of no change or modification. Mark says nothing about it, but silence will not answer; for the philosophers still claim that all depends upon a dream, and the dreams of Joseph are no better than the dreams of any other man. If the story could not be modified, it might be corroborated. So, when it came to Luke’s turn to speak he adds the story of Zacharias, and the interview between Mary and the angel Gabriel. All now occurs in daylight, and dreams which had been the subject of so much ridicule are dispensed with.

When Zacharias went to the temple to burn incense, he found on the outside a great multitude of people. The crowd has no connection with the story, except as these people are wanted for witness as to what happened in the sanctuary. While Zacharias was offering incense within, there appeared to him an angel standing on the right side of the altar. The position of the angel is defined with precision, that it might not be claimed that what appeared to him was a phantom. Zacharias saw him and was afraid.

As further evidence that the angel was not some optical illusion, Gabriel spoke, and gave Zacharias such information about the future birth of a son to him that he was disposed to doubt the truth of it. As a punishment for his reasonable doubts, he is struck dumb. The interview continued so long that the crowd on the outside began to be uneasy, and when Zacharias did come out he had lost the power of speech. This convinced the multitude (but how, is not stated) that he had seen a vision in the temple. After this, Gabriel made a visit to Mary in open day, and held a conversation, in which he announced to her the birth of a son through the overshadowing influence of the Holy Ghost, who would reign over the house of Jacob forever. Then follows the scene between Mary and her cousin Elisabeth.

In Luke’s account of the announcement of the birth of Christ by divine agency, the story of Joseph is entirely omitted, and new witnesses are introduced. His story was well studied; every precaution was taken to silence cavil and make such a case as would remove doubts. The blunders of Matthew were not to be repeated. The birth of Christ and John, who was afterwards called the Baptist, are ingeniously associated in the announcement of the angel, to give color to what is said of them in the Gospels afterwards.

What objections were made by the philosophers to the story of Luke at the time, we have no means of knowing; but if any were made, there is no subsequent effort to improve it, and so it remains to this day.

The question interests us to know when and from whom did Luke get his information. If he had it from any one who had the means of knowing what he tells us, it must have been from Paul, for we have no knowledge that he had any acquaintance, or relations of any kind, with either of the disciples. He was Paul’s companion: we find him with Paul at Troas, A.D. 50; thence he attended him to Jerusalem, continued with him during his troubles in Judea, and sailed in the same ship with him when he was sent a prisoner to Rome, where he stayed with him during his two years’ confinement. He was with him during his second imprisonment, and, as we will show in the proper place, he died with Paul in Rome, and was one of the victims of Nero’s reign. If Paul knew what Luke states as to the divine emanation of Christ, why does he not make some allusion to it in his numerous epistles?—and how can we understand that he could, with such knowledge, deny this divine creation, and preach to the last that Christ was born according to natural law?

Luke, too, made mistakes, which John afterwards corrected in the fourth Gospel.

We can best illustrate the claim that the three last Gospels were written in the order they appeared, as a necessity to meet the objections and cavils of the philosophers, by taking some leading subject which is mentioned by all. Take the case of the resurrection. Matthew says: “And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.” (Matt, xxviii. 17.) To leave the question where Matthew leaves it would be fatal. In such a case there must be no doubt. Mark makes Christ appear three times under such circumstances as to render a mistake next to impossible, and to silence the most obstinate skepticism. He first appears to Mary Magdalene, who was convinced that it was Christ, because she went and told the disciples that he had risen, and that she had seen him. They disbelieved, nor could they be convinced until he appeared to them. They in turn told it to the other disciples, who were also skeptical; and, that they might be convinced, Christ also appeared to them as they sat at meat, when he upbraided them for their unbelief.

This story is much improved in the hands of Mark, but, in the anxiety to make a clear case, it is overdone, as often happens when the object is to remedy or correct an oversight or mistake previously made. There was a large amount of skepticism to be overcome, but the proof offered was sufficient to do it, and remove all doubts from the minds of the disciples. Considering Christ had told the disciples he would rise, why did they doubt at all? Owing to some strange oversight, neither Matthew nor Mark says in what way Christ made his appearance—whether it was in the body or only in the spirit. If in the latter, it would be fatal to the whole theory of the resurrection. We conclude from what followed, that the philosophers of that day, who would concede nothing to the claims of Christianity, took advantage of this oversight, and denied the resurrection of Christ in the body. It was the business of Luke to put this disputed question in its true light, and silence the objection. He says that when Christ appeared and spoke to the disciples they were afraid. “But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.” (Luke xxiv. 37.) Christ then showed the wounds in his hands and feet. “And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of a honeycomb: And he took it, and did eat before them.” (Luke xxiv. 42, 43.) Now who dare doubt? Why some doubted, as Matthew says they did, is hard to explain. The account of Luke should have satisfied the philosophers that it was a body and not a spirit that appeared to the disciples. But we can believe they were not, from what is afterwards said on this subject. The story of the fish and honeycomb was incredible and absurd. It was a fish-story. If true, why did Matthew and Mark fail to mention it?

Luke had overdone the matter, and instead of convincing the Pagans, he only excited their ridicule.

Now comes John’s turn. He does not omit entirely the story of Christ eating fish, for that would not do, after there had been so much said about it. He might leave it to be inferred that Luke made a mistake, so he modifies the story and omits the ridiculous part of it. The scene is laid on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias. Under the direction of Christ, Peter drew his net to land full of fish. “Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish like wise.” (John xxi. 12, 13.) It does not appear from this account that Christ ate of the fish at all. He took the fish and gave to the disciples; the inference is, that they were the ones that ate. In Luke the statement is reversed:—the disciples gave the fish to Christ, and he ate. John has taken out of the story that which was absurd, but he leaves us to infer that Luke was nearsighted or careless in his account of what took place. If you leave out of Luke’s account the part that relates to the fish and honeycomb, he fails to prove what it really was which appeared to the disciples.

Christ, he says, said, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” (Ch. xxiv. 39.) “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?” (Ch. xxiv. 41.) It seems from this that the disciples could not be convinced until Christ had actually eaten something. Now if you strike out the eating part, which John does, and which no doubt the ridicule cast upon it drove him to do, Luke leaves the question open just where he found it. It was the business of John to leave it clean, and put an end to all cavil.

Jesus appeared to the disciples when they assembled at Jerusalem. “And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side.” (John xx. 20.) They were satisfied, and no doubts were expressed. But Thomas was not present, and when he was told that Jesus had appeared to the disciples, he refused to believe, nor would he, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John xx. 25.) Now if Thomas can be convinced with all his doubts, it would be foolish after that to deny that Christ was not in the body when he appeared to his disciples.

After eight days Christ again appears, without any object that we can discover but to convince Thomas. Then said he to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.” (John xx. 27.) It is not stated whether he did as he was directed; but he was convinced, and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.”

What fault the Pagans found with this account we have not the means of knowing; but if they still disbelieved, they were more skeptical than Thomas himself. We should be at a loss to understand why the writers of the first three Gospels entirely omitted the story of Thomas, if we were not aware that when John wrote the state of the public mind was such, that proof of the most unquestionable character was demanded that Christ had risen in the body. John selected a person who claimed he was hard to convince, and if the evidence was such as to satisfy him, it ought to satisfy the balance of the world.

John’s services are again required to repair the blunders and oversights of the writers of the first three Gospels in relation to the body of Christ after the crucifixion. Matthew states that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went on the first day of the week to see the sepulchre. No other purpose is expressed. Mark says that early in the morning of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome brought spices to anoint the body. According to Luke, after the women who had followed Christ from Galilee had seen the body deposited in the tomb, they returned and prepared spices and ointments, and rested the Sabbath day. The body was deposited in the tomb some time on Friday, and remained until Sunday morning, on the first day of the Jewish week. Doubtless, in the climate of Syria, the body in the mean time must have undergone such a change as to make it difficult to either embalm or even anoint it. The Pagans at that day could hardly fail to take advantage of this mistake or blunder. But John again comes to the rescue and sets the matter right. According to him, Joseph of Arimathea had permission to take the body, which he did, and carried it away. “And there came also Nicodemus (which at the first came to Jesus by night) and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” (John xix. 39, 40.)

John now fully silenced the cavils of the enemy and taken the proper steps to preserve the body until the morning of the third day.

The subject might be further pursued, but enough has been said to furnish a key to the origin of the Gospels. Christians in their contests with the Pagans resemble the course of a retreating army, which falls back to take a stronger position. Each time the position is improved, until one at last is found which is impregnable. We can readily see how it is that the first three Gospels so closely resemble each other, the exact language for whole passages being alike in all. Mark copies Matthew, and Luke uses the words of both. It is only when the last undertakes to improve or modify something written by those who wrote previously, that the difference becomes obvious. That the Christians in the beginning of the second century had books of some kind before the three first Gospels appeared in the present shape is beyond all dispute. The sacred writings of the Therapeutæ, as we have shown, were full of the most sound morality, and contained all the essential principles of Christianity. These writings were ancient—had been regarded as sacred for generations among them, and were so much like the present Gospels that Eusebius claimed them to be the same, and that the Therapeutæ were Christians. No doubt the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew was extant, and if it was rejected by the Christians of that day, because it did not contain the two first chapters of the Greek version, there was no reason why they should reject the Sermon on the Mount, and all the sublime and pure religion taught by Christ. The sacred writings of the Therapeutæ—the Hebrew version of Matthew, the Epistle of James and the first of Peter—furnished the principles and doctrines which now form the life of Christianity; and the great want of the day—that is, some proof of the actual existence of the person of Christ, by those who had seen him and were familiar with him before his death—was supplied in the first three Gospels, by the testimony of those who claimed to be his disciples, or by those who, it is said, wrote at their dictation.

In what quarter of the globe were the Synoptics written, and by whom?

All that can be said on this subject with certainty is, that the Greek version of Matthew, the source of all, was not written in Judea, or by one who knew anything of the geography of the country, or the history of the Jews. He was ignorant of both. What excuse was there but ignorance for making the order for the massacre of the infants to include Bethlehem, and all the coast thereof, which would take in at least the one-half of all Judea, and involve in one common slaughter, according to the calculations of learned men, several thousand innocent children?

The Greek writer of Matthew evidently believed that Bethlehem was an insignificant hamlet, situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, whereas it is as far in the interior as Jerusalem; and not far from the centre of Judea. The writer’s ignorance of Jewish history will appear still more conspicuous, when we speak of the application which he makes of prophecy to the person of Jesus. Whoever the writer may have been, it is evident that he received his education at the college at Alexandria, where Medicine and Divinity were taught, and regarded as inseparable. From the union of the two, recovery from diseases was ascribed to supernatural powers. A fever was a demon, which was not to be expelled by virtue of any material remedy, but by incantations, spells, and magic. It was by such power Christ cleansed the leper—healed the centurion’s servant—touched the hand of Peter’s wife’s mother and drove away the fever—expelled the devils from two men into swine, and performed many other cures.

The whole of the first Gospel has an Alexandrian look not easily to be mistaken—if we except the miracle of the loaves and fishes, walk of Christ on the water, and other wonders of a like nature, which is the work of some one later in the century. The deserts in the neighborhood of Alexandria abounded with monasteries from the earliest accounts of the Therapeutæ to the conquest of Egypt by the Mahometan power, which were filled with monks who were celebrated for their piety, their miracles, their power to expel devils and heal diseases. The pages of Sozomen and Socrates abound with the names of monks who cured the palsy, expelled demons, and cured the sick. (Sozomen, Ecc. Hist., lib. vi., ch. 28.)



By George Reber


The origin of the Gospels

Four Gospels and Acts of Jesus of Nazareth

The Last words of Goutama Buddha to his disciple Ananda: Extract from Mahaparinibban Supta

Weep not, Ananda, sorrow not!
Have I not said ere this to thee
That from all things which man most loves,
From these, Ananda, man must flee?
How can it be, Ananda, then,
That Birth and Growth should not decay,
That all things made, begotten here,
Should not, Ananda, pass away?
That cannot be. But thou for long
In thought and words and holy deed
The Perfect One hast glorified.
Strive on, and thou shalt soon be freed.
It may be so, that thou shalt say
“The Word has lost its Master here,”
“We have no Master more.” Not thus,
Ananda, be thou fraught with fear.
The Law and Ordinance I taught,
These are your Master when I’m gone:
Each man his own salvation is,
Thus only is Deliverance won.



Look on this life and meditate!
Herein are birth and growth’s decay.
Atoms combine and separate;
Nought lasts: all things must pass away.


As flowers are the glories of this world,
Full blossoms scent the morning shade;
The painted petals soon are furled,
And in the heat of noon-day fade.


Lo! everywhere the panting breath
Of Pleasure and Pursuit of fame,
Of panic flight from pain and death
And fierce Desire’s consuming flame.


The world is nought but endless change,
A restless, driven, surging sea.
Is it through lives we thus must range,
Ever becoming, never be?


Is there no permanency, then?
No realm of rest where troubles cease,
Where birth is not, nor death of men,
No City of Eternal Peace?


Must anxious hearts for ever beat?
What power from all this ill redeems?
Will not our hot, earth-weary feet
At last be dipped in cooling streams?


Buddha, our Lord, with pitying eyes
Came and beheld this world of woe.
He found the path whereby we rise
Above all evil here below.


Ye who for life unending crave
Know that there lurks immortal bliss
In transient form. There is no grave,
No death for those who know of this.


Ye who for riches vainly yearn
Take of the treasure He will give.
Ye who the mighty Truth discern
The birthless, deathless life will live.


Truth is the immortal part of mind;
Possessing truth is rich to be.
In truth the changeless you will find,
The image of Eternity!



Let the whole earth with joy resound,
Buddha, our Lord, the Blessed One,
The hidden cause of Ill hath found,
And for the world salvation won.


He who the ravelled knot unwinds,
Buddha, our Lord, has rent the veil!
Illusion now no longer blinds,
Nor fear of death our hearts assail.


Ye who of tribulation tire,
Ye who must struggle and endure,
Rejoice; ye, too, who truth desire,
For now is your deliverance sure.

Here is a balm for every woe,
Here for the hungry princely fare;
For those athirst the fountains flow,
And Hope triumphant kills Despair.


On mountain heights, in valleys low,
O, darkened soul, where’er thou art,
This light ineffable will glow
With blessings for the pure in heart.


Bind up your wounds, ye bruiséd feet!
O broken, beating hearts, be still!
Drink, thirsty lips, the waters sweet;
Ye that are hungered, eat your fill!


O children of the night, arise!
The star of morning is on high.
O bleeding breasts, O suppliant eyes,
Be of good cheer, your bliss is nigh.


Buddha, our Lord, the truth revealed,
Which gives us strength in life and death;
The sorrowing and the sick are healed,
And every evil languisheth.



Why thus so long by Karma tied?
O Bhikshus, listen! You and I
The four great truths have set aside,
Not understanding—that is why!


Through rock and plant and breathing things
Migrate[BA] the wandering souls of each,
Till they, beyond imaginings,
The perfect light of Buddha reach.


Karma inexorable reigns!
E’en though you fly from star to star,
The Past on you imprest remains,
And what you were is what you are!


To new births onwards you must press
Before the hill of light you see
Where shines the beacon Righteousness
From transmigration’s bondage free.


The higher birth I’ve reached, O friends;
I’ve found the truth, rebirth’s surcease;
I’ve taught the noble path that wends
To kingdoms of eternal peace.


I’ve showed to you Ambrosia’s lake,
Which all your sins will wash away;
The sight of truth your thirst will slake,
And Lust’s destroying strife allay.


He who has crossed through Passion’s fire,
And climbed Nirvana’s radiant shore,
His bliss the envious gods desire,
His heart defiled by sin no more.


As lotus leaves upon the lake
The pearly drops do not retain,
So they the noble path who take,
Though in the world, the world disdain.


A mother will her life bestow
To safely guard an only son,
But they unmeasured mercy show,
And give their lives for anyone.


Steadfast in mind let man remain,
Whether he stand or walk or rest;
Living or dying, sick or sane,
Of all, this state of heart is best.


If truth’s bedimmed by lust of sense,
Reborn, man must again o’erpass
The desert tracks of Ignorance,
Illusion’s mirage, Sin’s morass.


But, when Truth holds entire sway,
With it migration’s cause departs;
All selfish cravings melt away,
And Truth its saving cure imparts.


O Bhikshus, true deliverance this—
The only heaven to which we soar.
This is salvation’s endless bliss!
Here, within sight, Nirvana’s shore!



Hot steams my food: all milked the cows—
The Herdsman Dhaniya said—
Hard by there stands where Māhi flows
New thatched my lowly shed:
My friends are near, my hearth burns bright,
Then let the rain pour down to-night!


Cool is my mind: no “fallow” there—
The Holy Buddha said—
One night for Māhi’s banks I spare,
And all unthatched my shed.
Lo! now extinguished is the fire;
The lamps of Lust have lost their light.
“Dulness” and Evil both expire—
So let the rain pour down to-night!


There are no gad flies here, my kine—
The Herdsman Dhaniya said—
Are roaming where the meadows shine,
The rich grass is their bed.
In vain the fickle rain god’s might!
So let the rain pour down to-night!


My basket raft was woven well—
The Holy Buddha said—
I’ve reached the shore, I’ve spoiled the spell,
From me four floods have fled;
These four—Delusion, Ignorance,
The lust of life, the lust of sense—
No longer powerful to blight.
So let the rain pour down to-night!


Obedient is my wife: no wanton she—
The Herdsman Dhaniya said—
No evil word she spake of me
While she and I were wed.
Long dwelt with me my soul’s delight.
So let the rain pour down to-night!


Obedient is my heart: set wholly free—
The Holy Buddha said—
Restrained, subdued; o’erwatched by me
Through passion’s tempest led.
No evil dims my heart’s pure light.
Then let the rain pour down to-night!


Earning my bread, I live at ease—
The Herdsman Dhaniya said—
My sons around by strength’s increase
To ripening manhood bred.
No ill do they my joy to blight.
So let the rain pour down to-night!


No man can call me slave; I roam—
The Holy Buddha said—
At will I roam, each spot a home,
And when I want am fed.
No need for wage or gain to fight.
So let the rain pour down to-night!


I’ve barren cows and calves yet young—
The Herdsman Dhaniya said—
And cows in calf and steers among,
A bull lifts up his head—
Lord of the cows, a kingly sight.
Then let the rain pour down to-night.

No cows have I nor calves yet young—
The Holy Buddha said—
For cows in calf and steers among
No bull lifts up his head;
No lord of cows, no king of might!
So let the rain pour down to-night!

Then lo! a cloud o’er hill and plain
That moment thundering poured forth rain.
When herdsman Dhaniya heard with dread
The God’s rain rush, he yielding said:


“O, great the gain accrued thereby!
Since Holy Buddha came to-day,
We trust in thine all-seeing eye.
Be thou, O mighty Sage, our stay.
My wife and I obedient ever
To follow thee will make endeavour.


“Under the Happy One we’ll lead
A holy life, and, as he saith,
We’ll put an end to pain and need,
And pass beyond old age and death!”


Their peace I praise who seek not here a home.
It is the peace the Blessed One hath found,
He who resolved in solitude to roam,
The sky his roof, his holy bed the ground.


“Fulfilled with hindrance is the household life,
It is the haunt of passion and of wrath.
Free is the homeless state from every strife.”
He, meditating thus, went boldly forth.


And, going forth, wrong deeds he set aside,
Wrong thoughts and words he scattered to the wind,
And in a life pure, calm, and sanctified,
He found that peace whoever seeks shall find.


To Bimbasāra’s royal town he went,
Where lived the ruler of Magādha-land.
Stately he moved, dispassionate, intent,
From door to door, an alms-bowl in his hand.


King Bimbasāra saw him as he crossed
Beyond the terraced slopes of his domain.
So sweet he looked in meditation lost.
The king spake thus to his attendant train:


“Be full of care for this most noble man;
In outward aspect great, all pure within.
His eyes stray not beyond a fathom’s span,
So guarded moves he in this world of sin.


“See how serenely he performs his task;
Of Royal birth must be this anchorite.
Let the king’s messengers run forth and ask,
Where wilt thou rest, O mendicant, to-night?”


The messengers, despatched at royal behest,
The king’s instructions hasten to obey;
Then, bowing low, the Bhikshu thus addressed:
“Whither, O Bhikshu, dost thou wend thy way?”


From house to house he wandered guardedly,
And at each door with eyes downcast he stood.
Mindful, restrained, dispassionate was he,
Filling his alms-bowl with the proffered food.


His task performed, in meditation deep
He left the haunts of men, and silently
Set forth to gain Pandāra’s caverned steep;
Then, turning, said: “My dwelling there shall be.”


Seeing him stop, the messengers stayed still;
One only to the king this message gave:
“O king, he sits upon Pandāra’s hill,
Like to a lion in a mountain cave.”

The prince forthwith upon his chariot rode,
And hastened towards Pandāra’s lofty crest;
Then, stepping out, along the path he strode
To where the mendicant had stopped to rest;


And, bending low, thus spake he to the youth:
“Young art thou yet, too delicate to face
The life of those who battle for the truth,
Thou seeming scion of an ancient race!

“O glory of the vanguard of a band
Of heroes onwards pressing to the fray,
What is thy lineage, where thy royal land?
O let me in these robes thy form array.”


“Hard by Himaālaya’s slopes there dwells, O king,
A Sākya race, Kosālas known by name,
Descendants of the sun; from these I spring;
From these gone forth, I seek not earthly fame.


“Seeing the danger of a carnal life,
I have set forth to battle to the end,
And in this struggle and protracted strife
Raptures ineffable my path attend!”

Buddhist canonical text in Pali-तिपिटक


Celtic Pasupati has similarity with IVC Pashupati

It is only as prehistoric archæology has come to throw more and more light on the early civilisations of Celtic lands[Now great britain] that it has become possible to interpret Celtic religion from a thoroughly modern viewpoint. The author cordially acknowledges his indebtedness to numerous writers on this subject, but his researches into some portions of the field especially have suggested to him the possibility of giving a new presentation to certain facts and groups of facts, which the existing evidence disclosed. It is to be hoped that a new interest in the religion of the Celts may thereby be aroused.


In dealing with the subject of ‘Celtic Religion’ the first duty of the writer is to explain the sense in which the term ‘Celtic’ will be used in this work. It will be used in reference to those countries and districts which, in historic times, have been at one time or other mainly of Celtic speech. It does not follow that all the races which spoke a form of the Celtic tongue, a tongue of the Indo-European family, were all of the same stock. Indeed, ethnological and archæological evidence tends to establish clearly that, in Gaul and Britain, for example, man had lived for ages before the introduction of any variety of Aryan or Indo-European speech, and this was probably the case throughout the whole of Western and Southern Europe. Further, in the light of comparative philology, it has now become abundantly clear that the forms of Indo-European speech which we call Celtic are most closely related to those of the Italic family, of which family Latin is the best known representative. From this it follows that we are to look for the centre of dissemination of Aryan Celtic speech in some district of Europe that could have been the natural centre of dissemination also for the Italic languages. From this common centre, through conquest and the commercial intercourse which followed it, the tribes which spoke the various forms of Celtic and Italic speech spread into the districts occupied by them in historic times. The common centre of radiation for Celtic and Italic speech was probably in the districts of Noricum and Pannonia, the modern Carniola, Carinthia, etc., and the neighbouring parts of the Danube valley. The conquering Aryan-speaking Celts and Italians formed a military aristocracy, and their success in extending the range of their languages was largely due to their skill in arms, combined, in all probability, with a talent for administration. This military aristocracy was of kindred type to that which carried Aryan speech into India and Persia, Armenia and Greece, not to speak of the original speakers of the Teutonic p. 3and Slavonic tongues. In view of the necessity of discovering a centre, whence the Indo-European or Aryan languages in general could have radiated Eastwards, as well as Westwards, the tendency to-day is to regard these tongues as having been spoken originally in some district between the Carpathians and the Steppes, in the form of kindred dialects of a common speech. Some branches of the tribes which spoke these dialects penetrated into Central Europe, doubtless along the Danube, and, from the Danube valley, extended their conquests together with their various forms of Aryan speech into Southern and Western Europe. The proportion of conquerors to conquered was not uniform in all the countries where they held sway, so that the amount of Aryan blood in their resultant population varied greatly. In most cases, the families of the original conquerors, by their skill in the art of war and a certain instinct of government, succeeded in making their own tongues the dominant media of communication in the lands where they ruled, with the result that most of the languages of Europe to-day are of the Aryan or Indo-European type. It does not, however, follow necessarily from this that the early religious ideas or the artistic civilisation of countries now p. 4Aryan in speech, came necessarily from the conquerors rather than the conquered. In the last century it was long held that in countries of Aryan speech the essential features of their civilisation, their religious ideas, their social institutions, nay, more, their inhabitants themselves, were of Aryan origin.

A more critical investigation has, however, enabled us to distinguish clearly between the development of various factors of human life which in their evolution can follow and often have followed more or less independent lines. The physical history of race, for instance, forms a problem by itself and must be studied by anthropological and ethnological methods. Language, again, has often spread along lines other than those of race, and its investigation appertains to the sphere of the philologist. Material civilisation, too, has not of necessity followed the lines either of racial or of linguistic development, and the search for its ancient trade-routes may be safely left to the archæologist. Similarly the spread of ideas in religion and thought is one which has advanced on lines of its own, and its investigation must be conducted by the methods and along the lines of the comparative study of religions.

In the wide sense, then, in which the word ‘Celtic religion’ will be used in this work, it will cover the modes of religious thought prevalent in the countries and districts, which, in course of time, were mainly characterised by their Celtic speech. To the sum-total of these religious ideas contributions have been made from many sources. It would be rash to affirm that the various streams of Aryan Celtic conquest made no contributions to the conceptions of life and of the world which the countries of their conquest came to hold (and the evidence of language points, indeed, to some such contributions), but their quota appears to be small compared with that of their predecessors; nor is this surprising, in view of the immense period during which the lands of their conquest had been previously occupied. Nothing is clearer than the marvellous persistence of traditional and immemorial modes of thought, even in the face of conquest and subjugation, and, whatever ideas on religion the Aryan conquerors of Celtic lands may have brought with them, they whose conquests were often only partial could not eradicate the inveterate beliefs of their predecessors, and the result in the end was doubtless some compromise, or else the victory of the earlier faith.

But the Aryan conquerors of Gaul and Italy themselves were not men who had advanced up the Danube in one generation. Those men of Aryan speech who poured into the Italian peninsula and into Gaul were doubtless in blood not unmixed with the older inhabitants of Central Europe, and had entered into the body of ideas which formed the religious beliefs of the men of the Danube valley. The common modifications of the Aryan tongue, by Italians and Celts alike, as compared with Greek, suggests contact with men of different speech. Among the names of Celtic gods, too, like those of other countries, we find roots that are apparently irreducible to any found in Indo-European speech, and we know not what pre-Aryan tongues may have contributed them. Scholars, to-day, are far more alive than they ever were before to the complexity of the contributory elements that have entered into the tissue of the ancient religions of mankind, and the more the relics of Celtic religion are investigated, the more complex do its contributory factors become. In the long ages before history there were unrecorded conquests and migrations innumerable, and ideas do not fail to spread because there is no historian to record them.

The more the scanty remnants of Celtic religion are examined, the clearer it becomes that many of its characteristic features had been evolved during the vast period of the ages of stone. During these millennia, men had evolved, concomitantly with their material civilisation, a kind of working philosophy of life, traces of which are found in every land where this form of civilisation has prevailed. Man’s religion can never be dissociated from his social experience, and the painful stages through which man reached the agricultural life, for example, have left their indelible impress on the mind of man in Western Europe, as they have in every land. We are thus compelled, from the indications which we have of Celtic religion, in the names of its deities, its rites, and its survivals in folk-lore and legend, to come to the conclusion, that its fundamental groundwork is a body of ideas, similar to those of other lands, which were the natural correlatives of the phases of experience through which man passed in his emergence into civilised life. To demonstrate and to illustrate these relations will be the aim of the following chapters.


In the chief countries of Celtic civilisation, Gaul, Cisalpine and Transalpine, Britain and Ireland, abundant materials have been found for elucidating the stages of culture through which man passed in prehistoric times. In Britain, for example, palæolithic man has left numerous specimens of his implements, but the forms even of these rude implements suggest that they, too, have been evolved from still more primitive types. Some antiquarians have thought to detect such earlier types in the stones that have been named ‘eoliths’ found in Kent, but, though these ‘eoliths’ may possibly show human use, the question of their history is far from being settled. It is certain, however, that man succeeded in maintaining himself for ages in the company of the mammoth, the cave-bear, and other animals now extinct. Whether palæolithic man survived the Ice Age in Britain has not so far been satisfactorily decided. In Gaul, however, there is fair evidence of continuity between the Palæolithic and Neolithic periods, and this continuity must obviously have existed somewhere. Still in spite of the indications of continuity, the civilisation of primitive man in Gaul presents one aspect that is without any analogues in the life of the palæolithic men of the River Drift period, or in that of man of the New Stone Age. The feature in question is the remarkable artistic skill shown by the cave men of the Dordogne district. Some of the drawings and carvings of these men reveal a sense of form which would have done credit to men of a far later age. A feature such as this, whatever may have been its object, whether it arose from an effort by means of ‘sympathetic magic’ to catch animals, as M. Salomon Reinach suggests, or to the mere artistic impulse, is a standing reminder to us of the scantiness of our data for estimating the lines of man’s religious and other development in the vast epochs of prehistoric time.

We know that from the life of hunting man passed into the pastoral stage, having learned to tame animals. How he came to do so, and by what motives he was actuated, is still a mystery. It may be, as M. Salomon Reinach has also suggested, that it was some curious and indefinable sense of kinship with them that led him to do so, or more probably, as the present writer thinks, some sense of a need of the alliance of animals against hostile spirits. In all probability it was no motive which we can now fathom. The mind of early man was like the unfathomable mind of a boy. From the pastoral life again man passed after long ages into the life of agriculture, and the remains of neolithic man in Gaul and in Britain give us glimpses of his life as a farmer. The ox, the sheep, the pig, the goat, and the dog were his domestic animals; he could grow wheat and flax, and could supplement the produce of his farm by means of hunting and fishing. Neolithic man could spin and weave; he could obtain the necessary flint for his implements, which he made by chipping and polishing, and he could also make pottery of a rude variety. In its essentials we have here the beginnings of the agricultural civilisation of man all the world over. In life, neolithic man dwelt sometimes in pit-dwellings and sometimes in hut-circles, covered with a roof of branches supported by a central pole. In death, he was buried with his kin in long mounds of earth called barrows, in chambered cairns and cromlechs or dolmens. The latter usually consist of three standing stones covered by a cap-stone; forming the stony skeleton of a grave that has been exposed to view after the mound of earth that covered it has been washed away. In their graves the dead were buried in a crouching attitude, and fresh burials were made as occasion required. Sometimes the cromlech is double, and occasionally there is a hole in one of the stones, the significance of which is unknown, unless it may have been for the ingress and egress of souls. Graves of the dolmen or cromlech type are found in all the countries of Western Europe, North Africa, and elsewhere, wherever stone suitable for the purpose abounds, and in this we have a striking illustration of the way in which lines of development in man’s material civilisation are sooner or later correlated to his geographical, geological, and other surroundings. The religious ideas of man in neolithic times also came into correlation with the conditions of his development, and the uninterpreted stone circles and pillars of the world are a standing witness to the religious zeal of a mind that was haunted by stone. Before proceeding to exemplify this thesis the subsequent trend of Celtic civilisation may be briefly sketched.

Through the pacific intercourse of commerce, bronze weapons and implements began to find their way, about 2000 BCE or earlier, from Central and Southern Europe into Gaul, and thence into Britain. In Britain the Bronze Age begins at about 1500 or 1400 BCE., and it is thought by some archæologists that bronze was worked at this period by the aid of native tin in Britain itself. There are indications, however, that the introduction of bronze into Britain was not by way of commerce alone. About the beginning of the Bronze period are found evidences in this island of a race of different type from that of neolithic man, being characterised by a round skull and a powerful build, and by general indications of a martial bearing. The remains of this race are usually found in round barrows.

This race, which certainly used bronze weapons, is generally believed to have been the first wave that reached Britain of Aryan conquerors of Celtic speech from the nearest part of the continent, where it must have arrived some time previously, probably along the Rhine valley. As the type of Celtic speech that has penetrated farthest to the west is that known as the Goidelic or Irish, it has not unreasonably been thought that this must have been the type that arrived in Britain first. There are indications, too, that it was this type that penetrated furthest into the west of Gaul. Its most marked characteristic is its preservation of the pronunciation of U as ‘oo’ and of QU, while the ‘Brythonic’ or Welsh variety changed U to a sound pronounced like the French ‘u’ or the German ‘ü’ and also QU to P. There is a similar line of cleavage in the Italic languages, where Latin corresponds to Goidelic, and Oscan and Umbrian to Brythonic. Transalpine Gaul was probably invaded by Aryan-speaking Celts from more than one direction, and the infiltration and invasion of new-comers, when it had once begun, was doubtless continuous through these various channels. There are cogent reasons for thinking that ultimately the dominant type of Celtic speech over the greater part of Gaul came to be that of the P rather than the QU type, owing to the influx from the East and Northeast of an overflow from the Rhine valley of tribes speaking that dialect; a dialect which, by force of conquest and culture, tended to spread farther and farther West. Into Britain, too, as time went on, the P type of Celtic was carried, and has survived in Welsh and Cornish, the remnants of the tongue of ancient Britain. We know, too, from the name Eporēdia (Yvrea), that p. 14this dialect of Celtic must have spread into Cisalpine Gaul. The latter district may have received its first Celtic invaders direct from the Danube valley, as M. Alexandre Bertrand held, but it would be rash to assume that all its invaders came from that direction. In connection, however, with the history of Celtic religion it is not the spread of the varying types of Celtic dialect that is important, but the changes in the civilisation of Gaul and Britain, which reacted on religious ideas or which introduced new factors into the religious development of these lands.

The predatory expeditions and wars of conquest of military Celtic tribes in search for new homes for their superfluous populations brought into prominence the deities of war, as was the case also with the ancient Romans, themselves an agricultural and at the same time a predatory race. The prominence of war in Celtic tribal life at one stage has left us the names of a large number of deities that were identified with Mars and Bellona, though all the war-gods were not originally such. In the Roman calendar there is abundant evidence that Mars was at one time an agricultural god as well as a god of war. The same, as will be shown later, was the probable history of some of the Celtic deities, who were p. 15identified in Roman times with Mars and Bellona. Cæsar tells us that Mars had at one time been the chief god of the Gauls, and that in Germany that was still the case. In Britain, also, we find that there were several deities identified with Mars, notably Belatucadrus and Cocidius, and this, too, points in the direction of a development of religion under military influence. The Gauls appear to have made great strides in military matters and in material civilisation during the Iron Age. The culture of the Early Iron Age of Hallstatt had been developed in Gaul on characteristic lines of its own, resulting in the form now known as the La Tène or Marnian type. This type derives it name from the striking specimens of it that were discovered at La Tène on the shore of Lake Neuchâtel, and in the extensive cemeteries of the Marne valley, the burials of which cover a period of from 350-200 BCE. It was during the third century b.c. that this characteristic culture of Gaul reached its zenith, and gave definite shape to the beautiful curved designs known as those of Late-Celtic Art. Iron appears to have been introduced into Britain about 300 BCE, and the designs of Late-Celtic Art are here represented best of all. Excellent specimens of Late-Celtic culture have been found in Yorkshire p. 16and elsewhere, and important links with continental developments have been discovered at Aylesford, Aesica, Limavady, and other places. Into the development of this typical Gaulish culture elements are believed to have entered by way of the important commercial avenue of the Rhone valley from Massilia (Marseilles), from Greece (viâ Venetia), and possibly from Etruria. Prehistoric archæology affords abundant proofs that, in countries of Celtic speech, metal-working in bronze, iron, and gold reached a remarkably high pitch of perfection, and this is a clear indication that Celtic countries and districts which were on the line of trade routes, like the Rhone valley, had attained to a material civilisation of no mean character before the Roman conquest. In Britain, too, the districts that were in touch with continental commerce had, as Cæsar tells us, also developed in the same direction. The religious counterpart of this development in civilisation is the growth in many parts of Gaul, as attested by Cæsar and by many inscriptions and place-names, of the worship of gods identified with Mercury and Minerva, the deities of civilisation and commerce. It is no accident that one of the districts most conspicuous for this worship was the territory of the Allobrogic confederation, where the commerce of the Rhone valley found its most remarkable development. From this sketch of Celtic civilisation it will readily be seen how here as elsewhere the religious development of the Celts stood closely related to the development of their civilisation generally. It must be borne in mind, however, that all parts of the Celtic world were not equally affected by the material development in question. Part of the complexity of the history of Celtic religion arises from the fact that we cannot be always certain of the degree of progress in civilisation which any given district had made, of the ideas which pervaded it, or of the absorbing interests of its life. Another difficulty, too, is that the accounts of Celtic religion given by ancient authorities do not always harmonise with the indisputable evidence of inscriptions. The probability is that the religious practices of the Celtic world were no more homogeneous than its general civilisation, and that the ancient authorities are substantially true in their statements about certain districts, certain periods, or certain sections of society, while the inscriptions, springing as they do from the influence of the Gallo-Roman civilisation, especially of Eastern Gaul and military Britain, give us most valuable supplementary p. 18evidence for districts and environments of a different kind. The inscriptions, especially by the names of deities which they reveal, have afforded most valuable clues to the history of Celtic religion, even in stages of civilisation earlier than those to which they themselves belong. In the next chapter the correlation of Celtic religious ideas to the stages of Celtic civilisation will be further developed.



In dealing with the long vista of prehistoric time, it is very difficult for us, in our effort after perspective, not to shorten unduly in our thoughts the vast epochs of its duration. We tend, too, to forget, that in these unnumbered millennia there was ample time for it to be possible over certain areas of Europe to evolve what were practically new races, through the prepotency of particular stocks and the annihilation of others. During these epochs, again, after speech had arisen, there was time enough to recast completely many a language, for before the dawn of history language was no more free from change than it is now, and in these immense epochs whatever ideas as to the world of their surroundings were vaguely felt by prehistoric men and formulated for them by their kinsmen of genius, had abundant time in which to die or to win supremacy. There must have been æons before the dawn even of conscious animism, and the experiment of trying sympathetic magic was, when first attempted, probably regarded as a master-stroke of genius. The Stone Age itself was a long era of great if slow progress in civilisation, and the evolution of the practices and ideas which emerge as the concomitants of its agricultural stage, when closely regarded, bear testimony to the mind’s capacity for religious progress in the light of experience and intelligent experiment, and at the same time to the errors into which it fell. The Stone Age has left its sediment in all the folk-lore of the world. To the casual observer many of the ideas embedded in it may seem a mass of error, and so they are when judged unhistorically, but when viewed critically, and at the same time historically, they afford many glimpses of prehistoric genius in a world where life was of necessity a great experiment. The folk-lore of the world reveals for the same stages of civilisation a wonderful uniformity and homogeneity, as Dr. J. G. Frazer has abundantly shown in his Golden Bough. This uniformity is not, however, due to necessary uniformity of origin, but to a great extent to the fact that it represents the state of equilibrium arrived at between minds at a certain level and their environment, along lines of thought directed by the momentum given by the traditions of millennia, and the survival in history of the men who carefully regarded them. The apparently unreasoned prohibitions often known as ‘taboos,’ many of which still persist even in modern civilised life, have their roots in ideas and experiences which no speculation of ours can now completely fathom, however much we may guess at their origin. Many of these ancient prohibitions have vanished under new conditions, others have often survived from a real or supposed harmony with new experiences, that have arisen in the course of man’s history. After passing through a stage when he was too preoccupied with his material cares and wants to consider whether he was haunted or not, early man in the Celtic world as elsewhere, after long epochs of vague unrest, came to realise that he was somehow haunted in the daytime as well as at night, and it was this sense of being haunted that impelled his intellect and his imagination to seek some explanation of his feelings. Primitive man came to seek a solution not of the Universe as a whole (for of this he had no conception), but of the local Universe, in which he played a part. In dealing with Celtic folk-lore, it is very remarkable how it mirrors the characteristic local colouring and scenery of the districts p. 22in which it has originated. In a country like Wales, for example, it is the folk-lore of springs, caves, mountains, lakes, islands, and the forms of its imagination, here as elsewhere, reflect unmistakably the land of its origin. Where it depicts an ‘other world,’ that ‘other world’ is either on an island or it is a land beneath the sea, a lake, or a river, or it is approachable only through some cave or opening in the earth. In the hunting-grounds of the Celtic world the primitive hunter knew every cranny of the greater part of his environment with the accuracy born of long familiarity, but there were some peaks which he could not scale, some caves which he could not penetrate, some jungles into which he could not enter, and in these he knew not what monsters might lurk or unknown beings might live. In Celtic folk-lore the belief in fabulous monsters has not yet ceased. Man was surrounded by dangers visible and invisible, and the time came when some prehistoric man of genius propounded the view that all the objects around him were no less living than himself. This animistic view of the world, once adopted, made great headway from the various centres where it originated, and man derived from it a new sense of kinship with his world, but also new terrors from it. Knowing from the experience of dreams that he himself seemed able to wander away from himself, he thought in course of time that other living things were somehow double, and the world around him came to be occupied, not merely with things that were alive, but with other selves of these things, that could remain in them or leave them at will. Here, again, this new prehistoric philosophy gave an added interest to life, but it was none the less a source of fresh terrors. The world swarmed with invisible spirits, some friendly, some hostile, and, in view of these beings, life had to be regulated by strict rules of actions and prohibitions. Even in the neolithic stage the inhabitants of Celtic countries had attained to the religious ideas in question, as is seen not only by their folk-lore and by the names of groups of goddesses such as the Matres (or mothers), but by the fact that in historic times they had advanced well beyond this stage to that of named and individualised gods. As in all countries where the gods were individualised, the men of Celtic lands, whether aborigines or invaders, had toiled along the steep ascent from the primitive vague sense of being haunted to a belief in gods who, like Esus, Teutates, Grannos, Bormanus, Litavis, had names of a definite character.

Among the prohibitions which had established themselves among the races of Celtic lands, as elsewhere, was that directed against the shedding of the blood of one’s own kin. There are indications, too, that some at any rate of the tribes inhabiting these countries reckoned kinship through the mother, as in fact continued to be the case among the Picts of Scotland into historic times. It does not follow, as we know from other countries, that the pre-Aryan tribes of Gaul and Britain, or indeed the Aryan tribes themselves in their earliest stage, regarded their original ancestors as human. Certain names of deities such as Tarvos (the bull), Moccos (the pig), Epŏna (the goddess of horses), Damŏna (the goddess of cattle), Mullo (the ass), as well as the fact that the ancient Britons, according to Cæsar, preserved the hen, the goose, and the hare, but did not kill and eat them, all point to the fact that in these countries as elsewhere certain animals were held in supreme respect and were carefully guarded from harm. Judging from the analogy of kindred phenomena in other countries, the practice of respecting certain animals was often associated with the belief that all the members of certain clans were descended from one or other of them, but how far this system was elaborated in the p. 25Celtic world it is hard to say. This phenomenon, which is widely known as totemism, appears to be suggested by the prominence given to the wild boar on Celtic coins and ensigns, and by the place assigned on some inscriptions and bas-reliefs to the figure of a horned snake as well as by the effigies of other animals that have been discovered. It is not easy to explain the beginnings of totemism in Gaul or elsewhere, but it should always be borne in mind that early man could not regard it as an axiomatic truth that he was the superior of every other animal. To reach that proud consciousness is a very high step in the development of the human perspective, and it is to the credit of the Celts that, when we know them in historic times, they appear to have attained to this height, inasmuch as the human form is given to their deities. It is not always remembered how great a step in religious evolution is implied when the gods are clothed with human attributes. M. Salomon Reinach, in his account of the vestiges of totemism among the Celts, suggests that totemism was merely the hypertrophy of early man’s social sense, which extended from man to the animals around him. This may possibly be the case, but it is not improbable that man also thought to discover in certain animals much-needed allies against some of the visible and invisible enemies that beset him. In his conflict with the malign powers around him, he might well have regarded certain animals as being in some respects stronger combatants against those powers than himself; and where they were not physically stronger, some of them, like the snake, had a cunning and a subtlety that seemed far to surpass his own. In course of time certain bodies of men came to regard themselves as being in special alliance with some one animal, and as being descended from that animal as their common ancestor. The existence side by side of various tribes, each with its definite totem, has not yet been fully proved for the Gaulish system, and may well have been a developed social arrangement that was not an essential part of such a mode of thought in its primary forms. The place of animal-worship in the Celtic religion will be more fully considered in a later chapter. Here it is only indicated as a necessary stage in relation to man’s civilisation in the hunting and the pastoral stages, which had to be passed through before the historic deities of Gaul and Britain in Roman times could have come into being. Certain of the divine names of the historic period, like Artio (the bear-goddess), Moccus (the pig), Epŏna (the mare), and Damŏna (the sheep), bear the unmistakable impress of having been at one time those of animals.

As for the stage of civilisation at which totemism originated, there is much difference of opinion. The stage of mind which it implies would suggest that it reflects a time when man’s mind was preoccupied with wild beasts, and when the alliances and friendships, which he would value in life, might be found in that sphere. There is much plausibility in the view put forward by M. Salomon Reinach, that the domestication of animals itself implies a totemistic habit of thought, and the consequent protection of these animals by means of taboos from harm and death. It may well be that, after all, the usefulness of domestic animals from a material point of view was only a secondary consideration for man, and a happy discovery after unsuccessful totemistic attentions to other animals. We know not how many creatures early man tried to associate with himself but failed.

In all stages of man’s history the alternation of the seasons must have brought some rudiments of order and system into his thoughts, though for a long time he was too preoccupied to reflect upon the regularly recurring vicissitudes of his life. In the pastoral stage, the sense of order came to be more marked than in that of hunting, and quickened the mind to fresh thought. The earth came to be regarded as the Mother from whom all things came, and there are abundant indications that the earth as the Mother, the Queen, the Long-lived one, etc., found her natural place as a goddess among the Celts. Her names and titles were probably not in all places or in all tribes the same. But it is in the agricultural stage that she entered in Celtic lands, as she did in other countries, into her completest religious heritage, and this aspect of Celtic religion will be dealt with more fully in connection with the spirits of vegetation. This phase of religion in Celtic countries is one which appears to underlie some of its most characteristic forms, and the one which has survived longest in Celtic folk-lore. The Earth-mother with her progeny of spirits, of springs, rivers, mountains, forests, trees, and corn, appears to have supplied most of the grouped and individualised gods of the Celtic pantheon. The Dis, of whom Cæsar speaks as the ancient god of the Gauls, was probably regarded as her son, to whom the dead returned in death. Whether he is the Gaulish god depicted with a hammer, or as a huge dog swallowing the dead, has not yet been established with any degree of certainty.



Like other religions, those of the Celtic lands of Europe supplemented the earlier animism by a belief in spirits, who belonged to trees, animals, rocks, mountains, springs, rivers, and other natural phenomena, and in folk-lore there still survives abundant evidence that the Celt regarded spirits as taking upon themselves a variety of forms, animal and human. It was this idea of spirits in animal form that helped to preserve the memory of the older totemism into historic times. It is thus that we have names of the type of Brannogĕnos (son of the raven), Artogĕnos (son of the bear), and the like, not to speak of simpler names like Bran (raven), March (horse), surviving into historic times. Bronze images, too, have been found at Neuvy-en-Sullias, of a horse and a stag (now in the Orleans museum), provided with rings, which were, as M. Salomon Reinach suggests, p. 30probably used for the purpose of carrying these images in procession. The wild boar, too, was a favourite emblem of Gaul, and there is extant a bronze figure of a Celtic Diana riding on a boar’s back. At Bolar, near Nuits, there was discovered a bronze mule. In the museum at Mayence is a bas-relief of the goddess of horses, Epŏna (from the Gaulish Epos=Lat. equus, horse), riding on horseback. One of the most important monuments of this kind is a figure of Artio, the bear-goddess (from Celtic Artos, a bear), found at Muri near Berne. In front of her stood a figure of a bear, which was also found with her. The bull of the Tarvos Trigaranos bas-relief of Notre Dame was also in all likelihood originally a totem, and similarly the horned serpents of other bas-reliefs, as well as the boar found on Gaulish ensigns and coins, especially in Belgic territory. There is a representation, too, of a raven on a bas-relief at Compiègne. The name ‘Moccus,’ which is identified with Mercury, on inscriptions, and which is found inscribed at Langres, Trobaso, the valley of the Ossola and the Borgo san Dalmazzo, is undoubtedly the philological equivalent of the Welsh moch (swine). In Britain, too, the boar is frequently found on the coins of the Iceni and other tribes. In Italy, according to p. 31Mr. Warde Fowler, the pig was an appropriate offering to deities of the earth, so that in the widespread use of the pig as a symbol in the Celtic world, there may be some ancient echo of a connection between it and the earth-spirit. Its diet of acorns, too, may have marked it out, in the early days of life in forest-clearings, as the animal embodiment of the oak-spirit. In the legends of the Celtic races, even in historic times, the pig, and especially the boar, finds an honoured place. In addition to the animals aforementioned, the ass, too, was probably at one time venerated in one of the districts of Gaul, and it is not improbable that Mullo, the name of a god identified with Mars and regarded as the patron of muleteers, mentioned on inscriptions (at Nantes, Craon, and Les Provenchères near Craon), meant originally ‘an ass.’ The goddess Epŏna, also, whose worship was widely spread, was probably at one time an animal goddess in the form of a mare, and the name of another goddess, Damŏna, either from the root dam=Ir. dam, (ox); or Welsh daf-ad (sheep), may similarly be that of an ancient totem sheep or cow. Nor was it in the animal world alone that the Celts saw indications of the divine. While the chase and the pastoral life concentrated the mind’s attention on the life of animals, the p. 32growth of agriculture fixed man’s thoughts on the life of the earth, and all that grew upon it, while at the same time he was led to think more and more of the mysterious world beneath the earth, from which all things came and to which all things returned. Nor could he forget the trees of the forest, especially those which, like the oak, had provided him with their fruit as food in time of need. The name Druid, as well as that of the centre of worship of the Gauls of Asia Minor, Drunemeton (the oak-grove), the statement of Maximus of Tyre that the representation of Zeus to the Celts was a high oak, Pliny’s account of Druidism (Nat. Hist., xvi. 95), the numerous inscriptions to Silvanus and Silvana, the mention of Dervŏnes or Dervonnae on an inscription at Cavalzesio near Brescia, and the abundant evidence of survivals in folk-lore as collected by Dr. J. G. Frazer and others, all point to the fact that tree-worship, and especially that of the oak, had contributed its full share to the development of Celtic religion, at any rate in some districts and in some epochs. The development of martial and commercial civilisation in later times tended to restrict its typical and more primitive developments to the more conservative parts of the Celtic world. The fact that in Cæsar’s time its main centre in Gaul was in the territory of the Carnutes, the tribe which has given its name to Chartres, suggests that its chief votaries were mainly in that part of the country. This, too, was the district of the god Esus (the eponymous god of the Essuvii), and in some degree of Teutates, the cruelty of whose rites is mentioned by Lucan. It had occurred to the present writer, before finding the same view expressed by M. Salomon Reinach, that the worship of Esus in Gaul was almost entirely local in character. With regard to the rites of the Druids, Cæsar tells us that it was customary to make huge images of wickerwork, into which human beings, usually criminals, were placed and burnt. The use of wickerwork, and the suggestion that the rite was for purifying the land, indicates a combination of the ideas of tree-worship with those of early agricultural life. When the Emperor Claudius is said by Suetonius to have suppressed Druidism, what is meant is, in all probability, that the more inhuman rites were suppressed, leading, as the Scholiasts on Lucan seem to suggest, to a substitution of animal victims for men. On the side of civil administration and education, the functions of the Druids, as the successors of the primitive medicine men and magicians, doubtless varied greatly in different p. 34parts of Gaul and Britain according to the progress that had been made in the differentiation of functions in social life. The more we investigate the state of the Celtic world in ancient times, the clearer it becomes, that in civilisation it was very far from being homogeneous, and this heterogeneity of civilisation must have had its influence on religion as well as on other social phenomena. The natural conservatism of agricultural life, too, perpetuated many practices even into comparatively late times, and of these we catch a glimpse in Gregory of Tours, when he tells us that at Autun the goddess Berecyntia was worshipped, her image being carried on a wagon for the protection of the fields and the vines. It is not impossible that by Berecyntia Gregory means the goddess Brigindu, whose name occurs on an inscription at Volnay in the same district of Gaul. The belief in corn-spirits, and other ideas connected with the central thought of the farmer’s life, show, by their persistence in Celtic as well as other folklore, how deeply they had entered into the inner tissue of the agricultural mind, so as to be linked to its keenest emotions. Here the rites of religion, whether persuasive as in prayer, or compulsory as in sympathetic magic, whether associated with communal or propitiatory sacrifice, whether directed to the earth or to the heaven, all had an intensely practical and terribly real character, due to man’s constant preoccupation with the growth and storage of food for man and beast. In the hunting, the pastoral, and above all in the agricultural life, religion was not a matter merely of imagination or sentiment, but one most intimately associated with the daily practice of life, and this practical interest included in its purview rivers, springs, forests, mountains, and all the setting of man’s existence. And what is true of agriculture is true also, in a greater or less degree, of the life of the Celtic metal-worker or the Celtic sailor. Even in late Welsh legend Amaethon (old Celtic Ambactŏnos), the patron god of farming (Welsh Amaeth), and Gofannon, the patron god of the metal-worker (Welsh gof, Irish gobha), were not quite forgotten, and the prominence of the worship of the counterparts of Mercury and Minerva in Gaul in historic times was due to the sense of respect and gratitude, which each trade and each locality felt for the deity who had rid the land of monsters, and who had brought man into the comparative calm of civilised life.



One of the most striking facts connected with the Celtic religion is the large number of names of deities which it includes. These names are known to us almost entirely from inscriptions, for the most part votive tablets, in acknowledgment of some benefit, usually that of health, conferred by the god on man. In Britain these votive tablets are chiefly found in the neighbourhood of the Roman walls and camps, but we cannot be always certain that the deities mentioned are indigenous. In Gaul, however, we are on surer ground in associating certain deities with certain districts, inasmuch as the evidence of place-names is often a guide. These inscriptions are very unevenly distributed over Gaulish territory, the Western and the North-Western districts being very sparsely represented.

In the present brief sketch it is impossible to enter into a full discussion of the relations of the names found on inscriptions to particular localities, and the light thus thrown on Celtic religion; but it may be here stated that investigation tends to confirm the local character of most of the deities which the inscriptions name. Out of these deities, some, it is true, in the process of evolution, gained a wider field of worshippers, while others, like Lugus, may even have been at one time more widely worshipped than they came to be in later times. Occasionally a name like Lugus (Irish Lug), Segomo (Irish, in the genitive, Segamonas), Camŭlos, whence Camulodūnum (Colchester), Belĕnos (Welsh Belyn), Mapŏnos (Welsh Mabon), Litavis (Welsh Llydaw), by its existence in Britain as well as in Gaul, suggests that it was either one of the ancient deities of the Aryan Celts, or one whose worship came to extend over a larger area than its fellows. Apart from a few exceptional considerations of this kind, however, the local character of the deities is most marked.

A very considerable number are the deities of springs and rivers. In Noricum, for example, we have Adsallūta, a goddess associated with Savus (the river Save). In Britain ‘the goddess’ Dēva (the Dee), and Belisăma (either the Ribble or the Mersey), a name meaning ‘the most warlike p. 38goddess,’ are of this type. We have again Axŏna the goddess of the river Aisne, Sequăna, the goddess of the Seine, Ritŏna of the river Rieu, numerous nymphs and many other deities of fountains. Doubtless many other names of local deities are of this kind. Aerial phenomena appear to have left very few clear traces on the names of Celtic deities. Vintios, a god identified with Mars, was probably a god of the wind, Taranǔcus, a god of thunder, Leucetios, a god of lightning, Sulis (of Bath) a sun-goddess, but beyond these there are few, if any, reflections of the phenomena of the heavens. Of the gods named on inscriptions nearly all are identified with Mercury, Mars, or Apollo. The gods who came to be regarded as culture-deities appear from their names to be of various origins: some are humanised totems, others are in origin deities of vegetation or local natural phenomena. As already indicated, it is clear that the growth of commercial and civilised life in certain districts had brought into prominence deities identified with Mercury and Minerva as the patrons of civilisation. Military men, especially in Britain, appear to have favoured deities like Belātucadros (the brilliant in war), identified with Mars.

About fourteen inscriptions mentioning him have been found in the North of England and the South of Scotland. The goddess Brigantia (the patron-deity of the Brigantes), too, is mentioned on four inscriptions: Cocidius, identified with Mars, is mentioned on thirteen: while another popular god appears to have been Silvanus. Among the most noticeable names of the Celtic gods identified with Mercury are Adsmerius or Atesmerius, Dumiatis (the god of the Puy de Dôme), Iovantucarus (the lover of youth), Teutates (the god of the people), Caletos (the hard), and Moccus (the boar). Several deities are identified with Mars, and of these some of the most noticeable names are Albiorix (world-king), Caturix (battle-king), Dunatis (the god of the fort), Belatucadrus (the brilliant in war), Leucetius (the god of lightning), Mullo (the mule), Ollovidius (the all-knowing) Vintius (the wind-god), and Vitucadrus (the brilliant in energy). The large number of names identified with Mars reflects the prominent place at one time given to war in the ideas that affected the growth of the religion of the Celtic tribes. Of the gods identified with Hercules, the most interesting name is Ogmios (the god of the furrow) given by Lucian, but not found on any inscription. The following gods too, among others, are identified with Jupiter: Arămo (the gentle), Ambisagrus (the persistent), Bussumārus (the large-lipped), Taranucus (the thunderer), Uxellĭmus (the highest). It would seem from this that in historic times at any rate Jupiter did not play a large part in Celtic religious ideas.

There remains another striking feature of Celtic religion which has not yet been mentioned, namely the identification of several deities with Apollo. These deities are essentially the presiding deities of certain healing-springs and health-resorts, and the growth of their worship into popularity is a further striking index to the development of religion side by side with certain aspects of civilisation. One of the names of a Celtic Apollo is Borvo (whence Bourbon), the deity of certain hot springs. This name is Indo-European, and was given to the local fountain-god by the Celtic-speaking invaders of Gaul: it simply means ‘the Boiler.’ Other forms of the name are also found, as Bormo and Bormānus. At Aquæ Granni (Aix-la-Chapelle) and elsewhere the name identified with Apollo is Grannos. We find also Mogons, and Mogounus, the patron deity of Moguntiacum (Mainz), and, once or twice, Mapŏnos (the great youth). The essential feature of the Apollo worship was its association in p. 41Gallo-Roman civilisation with the idea of healing, an idea which, through the revival of the worship of Æsculapius, affected religious views very strongly in other quarters of the empire. It was in this conception of the gods as the guides of civilisation and the restorers of health, that Celtic religion, in some districts at any rate, shows itself emerging into a measure of light after a long and toilsome progress from the darkness of prehistoric ideas. What Cæsar says of the practice of the Gauls of beginning the year with the night rather than with the day, and their ancient belief that they were sprung from Dis, the god of the lower world, is thus typified in their religious history.

In dealing with the deities of the Celtic world we must not, however, forget the goddesses, though their history presents several problems of great difficulty. Of these goddesses some are known to us by groups—Proximæ (the kinswomen), Dervonnæ (the oak-spirits), Niskai (the water-sprites), Mairæ, Matronæ, Matres or Matræ (the mothers), Quadriviæ (the goddesses of cross roads). The Matres, Matræ, and Matronæ are often qualified by some local name. Deities of this type appear to have been popular in Britain, in the neighbourhood of Cologne and in Provence. In some cases it is uncertain whether some of these grouped goddesses are Celtic or Teutonic. It is an interesting parallel to the existence of these grouped goddesses, when we find that in some parts of Wales ‘Y Mamau’ (the mothers) is the name for the fairies. These grouped goddesses take us back to one of the most interesting stages in the early Celtic religion, when the earth-spirits or the corn-spirits had not yet been completely individualised. Of the individualised goddesses many are strictly local, being the names of springs or rivers. Others, again, appear to have emerged into greater individual prominence, and of these we find several associated on inscriptions, sometimes with a god of Celtic name, but sometimes with his Latin counterpart. It is by no means certain that the names so linked together were thus associated in early times, and the fashion may have been a later one, which, like other fashions, spread after it had once begun. The relationship in some cases may have been regarded as that of mother and son, in others that of brother and sister, in others that of husband and wife, the data are not adequate for the final decision of the question. Of these associated pairs the following may be noted, Mercurius and Rosmerta, Mercurius and Đirona, Grannus (Apollo) and Sirona, Sucellus and Nantosvelta, Borvo and Damŏna, Cicolluis (Mars) and Litavis, Bormanus and Bormana, Savus and Adsalluta, Mars and Nemetŏna. One of these names, Sirŏna, probably meant the long-lived one, and was applied to the earth-mother. In Welsh one or two names have survived which, by their structure, appear to have been ancient names of goddesses; these are Rhiannon (Rigantŏnā, the great queen), and Modron (Matrŏna, the great mother). The other British deities will be more fully treated by another writer in this series in a work on the ancient mythology of the British Isles. It is enough to say that research tends more and more to confirm the view that the key to the history of the Celtic deities is the realisation of the local character of the vast majority of them.



No name in connection with Celtic religion is more familiar to the average reader than that of the Druids, yet there is no section of the history of Celtic religion that has given rise to greater discussion than that relating to this order. Even the association of the name with the Indo-European root dru-, which we find in the Greek word drus, an oak, has been questioned by such a competent Celtic scholar as M. d’Arbois de Jubainville, but on this point it cannot be said that his criticism is conclusive. The writers of the ancient world who refer to the Druids, do not always make it sufficiently clear in what districts the rites, ceremonies, and functions which they were describing prevailed. Nor was it so much the priestly character of the Druids that produced the deepest impression on the ancients. To some philosophical and theological writers of antiquity their doctrines and their apparent affinities with Pythagoreanism were of much greater interest than their ceremonial or other functions. One thing at any rate is clear, that the Druids and their doctrines, or supposed doctrines, had made a deep impression on the writers of the ancient world. There is a reference to them in a fragment of Aristotle (which may not, however, be genuine) that is of interest as assigning them a place in express terms both among the Celts and the Galatæ. The prominent feature of their teaching which had attracted the attention of other writers, such as the historian Diodorus Siculus and the Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria, was the resemblance of their doctrine concerning the immortality and transmigration of the soul to the views of Pythagoras. Ancient writers, however, did not always remember that a religious or philosophical doctrine must not be treated as a thing apart, but must be interpreted in its whole context in relation to its development in history and in the social life of the community in which it has flourished. To some of the ancients the superficial resemblance between the Druidic doctrine of the soul’s future and the teaching attributed to Pythagoras was the essential point, and this was enough to give the Druids a reputation for philosophy, so that a writer like Clement of Alexandria goes so far as to regard the Druids of the ‘Galatæ’ along with the prophets of the Egyptians, the ‘Chaldæans’ of the Assyrians, the ‘philosophers of the Celts,’ and the Magi of the Persians as the pioneers of philosophy among the barbarians before it spread to the Greeks. The reason for the distinction drawn in this passage between the ‘Druids of the Galatæ’ and ‘the philosophers of the Celts’ is not clear. Diodorus Siculus calls attention to the Druidic doctrine that the souls of men were immortal, and that after the lapse of an appointed number of years they came to life again, the soul then entering into another body. He says that there were certain ‘philosophers and theologians’ that were called Druids who were held in exceptional honour. In addition to these, the Celts, he says, had also seers, who foretold the future from the flight of birds and by means of the offering of sacrifices. According to him it was these priestly seers who had the masses in subjection to them. In great affairs they had, he says, the practice of divination by the slaughter of a human victim, and the observation of the attitude in which he fell, the contortions of the limbs, the spurting of the blood, and the like. This, he states, was an ancient and established p. 47practice. Moreover, it was the custom, according to Diodorus, to make no sacrifice without the presence of a philosopher (apparently a Druid in addition to the sacrificing seer), the theory being that those who were authorities on the divine nature were to the gods intelligible mediators for the offering of gifts and the presentation of petitions. These philosophers were in great request, together with their poets, in war as well as in peace, and were consulted not merely by the men of their own side, but also by those of the enemy. Even when two armies were on the point of joining battle, these philosophers had been able, Diodorus says, to step into the space between them and to stop them from fighting, exactly as if they had charmed wild beasts. The moral which Diodorus draws from this is, that even among the wildest of barbarians the spirited principle of the soul yields to wisdom, and that Ares (the god of war) even there respects the Muses. It is clear from this account that Diodorus had in mind the three classes of non-military professional men among the Celts, to whom other ancient writers also refer, namely, the Bards, the Seers, and the Druids. His narrative is apparently an expansion, in the light of his reading and philosophical meditation, of information supplied p. 48by previous writers, notably Posidonius. The latter, too, appears to have been Julius Cæsar’s chief authority, in addition to his own observation, but Cæsar does not appear expressly to indicate the triple division here in question. The account which he gives is important, and would be even more valuable than it is had he told us how far what he describes was written from his own personal information, and the degree of variation (if any) of religious practice in different districts. However, Cæsar’s statements deserve the closest consideration. After calling attention to the division of the Gaulish aristocracy into two main sections, the Druids and the Knights, he proceeds to speak of the Druids. These were occupied, he says, with religious matters, they attended to public and private sacrifices, and interpreted omens. Moreover, they were the teachers of the country. To them the young men congregated for knowledge, and the pupils held their teachers in great respect. They, too, were the judges in public and private disputes: it was they who awarded damages and penalties. Any contumacy in reference to their judgments was punished by exclusion from the sacrifices. This sentence of excommunication was the severest punishment among the Gauls. The men so punished were treated as outlaws, and p. 49cut off from all human society, with its rights and privileges. Over these Druids there was one head, who wielded the highest influence among them. On his death the nearest of the others in dignity succeeded him, or, if several were equal, the election of a successor was made by the vote of the Druids. Sometimes the primacy was not decided without the arbitrament of arms. The Druids met at a fixed time of the year in a consecrated spot in the territory of the Carnutes, the district which was regarded as being in the centre of the whole of Gaul. This assembly of Druids formed a court for the decision of cases brought to them from everywhere around. It was thought, Cæsar says, that the doctrine of the Druids was discovered in Britain and thence carried over into Gaul. At that time, too, those who wanted to make a profounder study of it resorted thither for their training. The Druids had immunity from military service and from the payment of tribute. These privileges drew many into training for the profession, some of their own accord, others at the instance of parents and relatives. While in training they were said to learn by heart a large number of verses, and some went so far as to spend twenty years in their course of preparation. The Druids held it wrong to put their p. 50religious teaching in writing, though, in almost everything else, whether public or private affairs, they made use of Greek letters. Cæsar thought that they discouraged writing on the one hand, lest their teaching should become public property; on the other, lest reliance upon writing should lessen the cultivation of the memory. To this risk Cæsar could testify from his own knowledge. Their cardinal doctrine was that souls did not perish, but that after death they passed from one person to another; and this they regarded as a supreme incentive to valour, since, with the prospect of immortality, the fear of death counted for nothing. They carried on, moreover, many discussions about the stars and their motion, the greatness of the universe and the lands, the nature of things, the strength and power of the immortal gods, and communicated their knowledge to their pupils. In another passage Cæsar says that the Gauls as a people were extremely devoted to religious ideas and practices. Men who were seriously ill, who were engaged in war, or who stood in any peril, offered, or promised to offer, human sacrifices, and made use of the Druids as their agents for such sacrifices. Their theory was, that the immortal gods could not be appeased unless a human life were given for a human life. In addition to these private sacrifices, they had also similar human sacrifices of a public character. Cæsar further contrasts the Germans with the Gauls, saying that the former had no Druids to preside over matters of religion, and that they paid no attention to sacrifices.

In his work on divination, Cicero, too, refers to the profession which the Druids made of natural science, and of the power of foretelling the future, and instances the case of the Æduan Divĭciācus, his brother’s guest and friend. Nothing is here said by Cicero of the three classes implied in Diodorus, but Timagenes (quoted in Ammianus) refers to the three classes under the names ‘bardi,’ ‘euhages’ (a mistake for ‘vates’), and ‘drasidæ’ (a mistake for ‘druidæ’). The study of nature and of the heavens is here attributed to the second class of seers (vates). The highest class, that of the Druids, were, he says, in accordance with the rule of Pythagoras, closely linked together in confraternities, and by acquiring a certain loftiness of mind from their investigations into things that were hidden and exalted, they despised human affairs and declared the soul immortal. We see here the view expressed that socially as well as intellectually the Druids lived according to the Pythagorean philosophy. Origen also refers to the view that was prevalent in his time, that Zamolxis, the servant of Pythagoras, had taught the Druids the philosophy of Pythagoras. He further states that the Druids practised sorcery. The triple division of the non-military aristocracy is perhaps best given by Strabo, the Greek geographer, who here follows Posidonius. The three classes are the Bards, the Seers (ouateis=vates), and Druids. The Bards were hymn-writers and poets, the Seers sacrificers and men of science, while the Druids, in addition to natural science, practised also moral philosophy. They were regarded as the justest of men, and on this account were intrusted with the settlement of private and public disputes. They had been the means of preventing armies from fighting when on the very verge of battle, and were especially intrusted with the judgment of cases involving human life. According to Strabo, they and their fellow-countrymen held that souls and the universe were immortal, but that fire and water would sometime prevail. Sacrifices were never made, Strabo says, without the intervention of the Druids. Pomponius Mela says that in his time (c. 44 a.d.), though the ancient savagery was no more, and the Gauls abstained from human sacrifices, some traces of their former practices p. 53still remained, notably in their habit of cutting a portion of the flesh of those condemned to death after bringing them to the altars. The Gauls, he says, in spite of their traces of barbarism, had an eloquence of their own, and had the Druids as their teachers in philosophy. These professed to know the size and form of the earth and of the universe, the motions of the sky and stars, and the will of the gods. He refers, as Cæsar does, to their work in education, and says that it was carried on in caves or in secluded groves. Mela speaks of their doctrine of immortality, but says nothing as to the entry of souls into other bodies. As a proof of this belief he speaks of the practice of burning and burying with the dead things appropriate to the needs of the living. Lucan, the Latin poet, in his Pharsalia, refers to the seclusion of the Druids’ groves and to their doctrine of immortality. The Scholiasts’ notes on this passage are after the manner of their kind, and add very little to our knowledge. In Pliny’s Natural History (xvi, 249), however, we seem to be face to face with another, though perhaps a distorted, tradition. Pliny was an indefatigable compiler, and appears partly by reading, partly by personal observation, to have noticed phases of Celtic religious practices which other writers had overlooked. In the first place he calls attention to the veneration in which the Gauls held the mistletoe and the tree on which it grew, provided that that tree was the oak. Hence their predilection for oak groves and their requirement of oak leaves for all religious rites. Pliny here remarks on the consonance of this practice with the etymology of the name Druid as interpreted even through Greek (the Greek for an oak being drūs). Were not this respect for the oak and for the mistletoe paralleled by numerous examples of tree and plant-worship given by Dr. Frazer and others, it might well have been suspected that Pliny was here quoting some writer who had tried to argue from the etymology of the name Druid. Another suspicious circumstance in Pliny’s account is his reference to the serpent’s egg composed of snakes rolled together into a ball. He states that he himself had seen such an ‘egg,’ of about the size of an apple. Pliny, too, states that Tiberius Cæsar abolished by a decree of the Senate the Druids and the kind of seers and physicians the Gauls then had. This statement, when read in its context, probably refers to the prohibition of human sacrifices. The historian Suetonius, in his account of the Emperor Claudius, also states that Augustus had prohibited ‘the religion of the Druids’ (which, he says, ‘was one of fearful savagery’) to Roman citizens, but that Claudius had entirely abolished it. What is here also meant, in view of the description given of Druidism, is doubtless the abolishing of its human sacrifices. In later Latin writers there are several references to Druidesses, but these were probably only sorceresses. In Irish the name drúi (genitive druad) meant a magician, and the word derwydd in mediæval Welsh was especially used in reference to the vaticinations which were then popular in Wales.

When we analyse the testimony of ancient writers concerning the Druids, we see in the first place that to different minds the name connoted different things. To Cæsar it is the general name for the non-military professional class, whether priests, seers, teachers, lawyers, or judges. To others the Druids are pre-eminently the philosophers and teachers of the Gauls, and are distinguished from the seers designated vates. To others again, such as Pliny, they were the priests of the oak-ritual, whence their name was derived. In view of the variety of grades of civilisation then co-existing in Gaul and Britain, it is not p. 56improbable that the development of the non-military professional class varied very considerably in different districts, and that all the aspects of Druidism which the ancient writers specify found their appropriate places in the social system of the Celts. In Gaul and Britain, as elsewhere, the office of the primitive tribal medicine-man was capable of indefinite development, and all the forms of its evolution could not have proceeded pari passu where the sociological conditions found such scope for variation. It may well be that the oak and mistletoe ceremonies, for example, lingered in remote agricultural districts long after they had ceased to interest men along the main routes of Celtic civilisation. The bucolic mind does not readily abandon the practices of millennia.

In addition to the term Druid, we find in Aulus Hirtius’ continuation of Cæsar’s Gallic War (Bk. viii., c. xxxviii., 2), as well as on two inscriptions, one at Le-Puy-en-Velay (Dep. Haute-Loire), and the other at Mâcon (Dep. Saône-et-Loire), another priestly title, ‘gutuater.’ At Mâcon the office is that of a ‘gutuater Martis,’ but of its special features nothing is known.



In the preceding chapter we have seen that the belief was widely prevalent among Greek and Roman writers that the Druids taught the immortality of the soul. Some of these writers, too, point out the undoubted fact, attested by Archæology, that objects which would be serviceable to the living were buried with the dead, and this was regarded as a confirmation of the view that the immortality of souls was to the Celts an object of belief. The study of Archæology on the one hand, and of Comparative Religion on the other, certainly leads to the conclusion that in the Bronze and the Early Iron Age, and in all probability in the Stone Age, the idea prevailed that death was not the end of man. The holed cromlechs of the later Stone Age were probably designed for the egress and ingress of souls. The food and the weapons that were buried with the dead were thought to be objects of genuine need. Roman religion, too, in some of its rites provided means for the periodical expulsion of hungry and hostile spirits of the dead, and for their pacification by the offer of food. A tomb and its adjuncts were meant not merely for the honour of the dead, but also for the protection of the living. A clear line of distinction was drawn between satisfied and beneficent ghosts like the Manes, and the unsatisfied and hostile ghosts like the Lemures and Larvæ. To the Celtic mind, when its analytical powers had come to birth, and man was sufficiently self-conscious to reflect upon himself, the problem of his own nature pressed for some solution. In these solutions the breath, the blood, the name, the head, and even the hair generally played a part, but these would not in themselves explain the mysterious phenomena of sleep, of dreams, of epilepsy, of madness, of disease, of man’s shadow and his reflection, and of man’s death. By long familiarity with the scientific or quasi-scientific explanations of these things, we find it difficult to realise fully their constant fascination for early man, who had his thinkers and philosophies like ourselves. One very widely accepted solution of early man in the Celtic world was, that within him there was another self which could live a p. 59life of its own apart from the body, and which survived even death, burial, and burning. Sometimes this inner self was associated with the breath, whence, for example, the Latin ‘anima’ and the Welsh ‘enaid,’ both meaning the soul, from the root an-, to breathe. At other times the term employed for the second self had reference to man’s shadow: the Greek ‘skia,’ the Latin ‘umbra,’ the Welsh ‘ysgawd,’ the English ‘shade.’ There are abundant evidences, too, that the life-principle was frequently regarded as being especially associated with the blood. Another tendency, of which Principal Rhŷs has given numerous examples in his Welsh folk-lore, was to regard the soul as capable of taking a visible form, not necessarily human, preferably that of some winged creature. In ancient writers there is no information as to the views prevalent among the Celts regarding the forms or the abodes of the spirits of the dead, beyond the statement that the Druids taught the doctrine of their re-birth. We are thus compelled to look to the evidence afforded by myth, legend, and folk-lore. These give fair indications as to the types of earlier popular belief in these matters, but it would be a mistake to assume that the ideas embodied in them had remained entirely unchanged from remote times. p. 60The mind of man at certain levels is quite capable of evolving new myths and fresh folk-lore along the lines of its own psychology and its own logic. The forms which the soul could take doubtless varied greatly in men’s opinions in different districts and in different mental perspectives, but folk-lore tends to confirm the view that early man, in the Celtic world as elsewhere, tended to emphasise his conception of the subtlety and mobility of the soul as contrasted with the body. Sooner or later the primitive philosopher was bound to consider whither the soul went in dreams or in death. He may not at first have thought of any other sphere than that of his own normal life, but other questions, such as the home of the spirits of vegetation in or under the earth, would suggest, even if this thought had not occurred to him before, that the spirits of men, too, had entrance to the world below. Whether this world was further pictured in imagination depended largely on the poetic genius of any given people. The folk-lore of the Celtic races bears abundant testimony to their belief that beneath this world there was another. The ‘annwfn’ of the Welsh was distinctly conceived in the folk-lore embodied in mediæval poetry as being ‘is elfydd’ (beneath the world). In mediæval Welsh legend, again, p. 61this lower world is regarded as divided into kingdoms, like this world, and its kings, like Arawn and Hafgan in the Mabinogi of Pwyll, are represented as being sometimes engaged in conflict. From this lower world had come to man some of the blessings of civilisation, and among them the much prized gift of swine. The lower world could be even plundered by enterprising heroes. Marriages like that of Pwyll and Rhiannon were possible between the dwellers of the one world and the other. The other-world of the Celts does not seem, however, to have been always pictured as beneath the earth. Irish and Welsh legend combine in viewing it at times as situated on distant islands, and Welsh folk-lore contains several suggestions of another world situated beneath the waters of a lake, a river, or a sea. In one or two passages also of Welsh mediæval poetry the shades are represented as wandering in the woods of Caledonia (Coed Celyddon). This was no doubt a traditional idea in those families that migrated to Wales in post-Roman times from Strathclyde. To those who puzzled over the fate of the souls of the dead the idea of their re-birth was a very natural solution, and Mr. Alfred Nutt, in his Voyage of Bran, has called attention to the occurrence of this idea in Irish legend. It does not follow, however, that the souls of all men would enjoy the privilege of this re-birth. As Mr. Alfred Nutt points out, Irish legend seems to regard this re-birth only as the privilege of the truly great. It is of interest to note the curious persistence of similar ideas as to death and the other-world in literature written even in Christian times and by monastic scribes. In Welsh, in addition to Annwfn, a term which seems to mean the ‘Not-world,’ we have other names for the world below, such as ‘anghar,’ the loveless place; ‘difant,’ the unrimmed place (whence the modern Welsh word ‘difancoll,’ lost for ever); ‘affwys,’ the abyss; ‘affan,’ the land invisible. The upper-world is sometimes called ‘elfydd,’ sometimes ‘adfant,’ the latter term meaning the place whose rim is turned back. Apparently it implies a picture of the earth as a disc, whose rim or lip is curved back so as to prevent men from falling over into the ‘difant,’ or the rimless place. In modern Celtic folk-lore the various local other-worlds are the abodes of fairies, and in these traditions there may possibly be, as Principal Rhŷs has suggested, some intermixture of reminiscences of the earlier inhabitants of the various districts. Modern folk-lore, like mediæval legend, has its stories of the inter-marriages p. 63of natives of this world with those of the other-world, often located underneath a lake. The curious reader will find several examples of such stories in Principal Rhŷs’s collection of Welsh and Manx folk-lore. In Irish legend one of the most classical of these stories is that of the betrothal of Etain, a story which has several points of contact with the narrative of the meeting of Pwyll and Rhiannon in the Welsh Mabinogi. The name of Arthur’s wife, Gwenhwyfar, which means ‘the White Spectre,’ also suggests that originally she too played a part in a story of the same kind. In all these and similar narratives, it is important to note the way in which the Celtic conceptions of the other-world, in Britain and in Ireland, have been coloured by the geographical aspects of these two countries, by their seas, their islands, their caves, their mounds, their lakes, and their mountains. The local other-worlds of these lands bear, as we might have expected, the clear impress of their origin. On the whole the conceptions of the other-world which we meet in Celtic legend are joyous; it is a land of youth and beauty. Cuchulainn, the Irish hero, for example, is brought in a boat to an exceedingly fair island round which there is a silver wall and a bronze palisade. p. 64In one Welsh legend the cauldron of the Head of Annwfn has around it a rim of pearls. One Irish story has a naïve description of the glories of the Celtic Elysium in the words—‘Admirable was that land: there are three trees there always bearing fruit, one pig always alive, and another ready cooked.’ Occasionally, however, we find a different picture. In the Welsh poem called ‘Y Gododin’ the poet Aneirin is represented as expressing his gratitude at being rescued by the son of Llywarch Hen from ‘the cruel prison of the earth, from the abode of death, from the loveless land.’ The salient features, therefore, of the Celtic conceptions of the other-world are their consonance with the suggestions made by Celtic scenery to the Celtic imagination, the vagueness and variability of these conceptions in different minds and in different moods, the absence of any ethical considerations beyond the incentive given to bravery by the thought of immortality, and the remarkable development of a sense of possible inter-relations between the two worlds, whether pacific or hostile. Such conceptions, as we see from Celtic legend, proved an admirable stimulus and provided excellent material for the development of Celtic narrative, and the weird and romantic effect was further heightened by the general belief in the possibilities of magic and metamorphosis. Moreover, the association with innumerable place-names of legends of this type gave the beautiful scenery of Celtic lands an added charm, which has attached their inhabitants to them with a subtle and unconquerable attachment scarcely intelligible to the more prosaic inhabitants of prosaic lands. To the poetic Celt the love of country tends to become almost a religion. The Celtic mind cannot remain indifferent to lands and seas whose very beauty compels the eyes of man to gaze upon them to their very horizon, and the lines of observation thus drawn to the horizon are for the Celt continual temptations to the thought of an infinity beyond. The preoccupation of the Celtic mind with the deities of his scenery, his springs, his rivers, his seas, his forests, his mountains, his lakes, was in thorough keeping with the tenour of his mind, when tuned to its natural surroundings. In dealing with Celtic religion, mythology, and legend, it is not so much the varying local and temporal forms that demand our attention, as the all-pervading and animating spirit, which shows its essential character even through the scanty remains of the ancient Celtic world. Celtic religion bears the impress of p. 66nature on earth far more than nature in the heavens. The sense of the heaven above has perhaps survived in some of the general Indo-European Celtic terms for the divine principle, and there are some traces of a religious interest in the sun and the god of thunder and lightning, but every student of Celtic religion must feel that the main and characteristic elements are associated with the earth in all the variety of its local phenomena. The great earth-mother and her varied offspring ever come to view in Celtic religion under many names, and the features even of the other-world could not be dissociated for the Celt from those of his mother-earth. The festivals of his year, too, were associated with the decay and the renewal of her annual life. The bonfires of November, May, Midsummer, and August were doubtless meant to be associated with the vicissitudes of her life and the spirits that were her children. For the Celt the year began in November, so that its second half-year commenced with the first of May. The idea to which Cæsar refers, that the Gauls believed themselves descended from Dis, the god of the lower world, and began the year with the night, counting their time not by days but by nights, points in the same direction, namely that the darkness of the earth had a greater hold on the mind than the brightness of the sky. The Welsh terms for a week and a fortnight, wythnos (eight nights) and pythefnos (fifteen nights) respectively confirm Cæsar’s statement. To us now it may seem more natural to associate religion with the contemplation of the heavens, but for the Celtic lands at any rate the main trend of the evidence is to show that the religious mind was mainly drawn to a contemplation of the earth and her varied life, and that the Celt looked for his other-world either beneath the earth, with her rivers, lakes, and seas, or in the islands on the distant horizon, where earth and sky met. This predominance of the earth in religion was in thorough keeping with the intensity of religion as a factor in his daily pursuits. It was this intensity that gave the Druids at some time or other in the history of the Western Celts the power which Cæsar and others assign to them. The whole people of the Gauls, even with their military aristocracy, were extremely devoted to religious ideas, though these led to the inhumanity of human sacrifices. At one time their sense of the reality of the other-world was so great, that they believed that loans contracted in this world would be repaid there, and practical belief could not go much further than that. All these considerations tend to show how important it is, in the comparative study of religions, to investigate each religion in its whole sociological and geographical environment as well as in the etymological meaning of its terms.

In conclusion, the writer hopes that this brief sketch, which is based on an independent study of the main evidence for the religious ideas and practices of the Celtic peoples, will help to interest students of religion in the dominant modes of thought which from time immemorial held sway in these lands of the West of Europe, and which in folk-lore and custom occasionally show themselves even in the midst of our highly developed and complex civilisation of to-day. The thought of early man on the problems of his being—for after all his superstitions reveal thought—deserve respect, for in his efforts to think he was trying to grope towards the light.


The religion of the Druids [Alternative Title]

Image: Druid God



Shelley was right when he described the Christian God:—

“A vengeful, pitiless and almighty fiend, whose mercy is a nick-name for the rage
Of tameless tigers hungering for blood”.


I WOULD not willingly quit this world without having said my say upon the most terrible of all its superstitions, the doctrine of eternal torments—which Archdeacon Farrar describes as the “hideous incubus of atrocious conceptions”—and which, in my own experience, is the cause of appalling apprehensions and even insanity in the minds of the sensitive and weak-minded.

If there is a hell, that is the most important fact in the universe. Compared with an eternity of torment, all that this little life has to offer is but as nothing. If there is no hell, then, it seems to me, the faith in Jesus is vain, for no such salvation as that offered by orthodox Christianity is necessary. Not only is the doctrine of eternal torments clearly taught in Scripture, but it is, as I shall show, historically bound up with the creed of Christendom.

It may be said, why attack a superstition confessedly falling into decay? Satan, that once excellent scapegoat for all misdeeds, is superannuated. Hell is never mentioned to ears polite. Since Freethought came into the world its temperature has considerably decreased. The brimstone business threatens to become obsolete. It is none the less the corner-stone of the whole system, and when it finally collapses it will bring down other doctrines with it. The Salvationist, no less than the Jesuit, knows its power. As the old beadle said, “A kirk without a hell is’na worth a damn.”

Upon the healthy-minded the doctrine of eternal torments will soon have no more effect than water upon a duck’s back. But mental health and strength are not the inheritance of all. If the dogma was not taught until minds were mature enough to examine it, it might safely be left; but while it is continually taught to infancy, to seek to eradicate it is the duty of those who regard it as a pernicious error. To me it appears that the best way to do this is to show what the doctrine has actually been in the days when Christianity was unquestioned. Christians are becoming ashamed of their hell—which they rarely realise as possibly the fate of themselves or their friends; that way madness lies. They cannot get rid of the definite statements in the New Testament, but they avoid dwelling on them, or attempt to construe them figuratively. Hell was hot enough when religion was powerful. As it declines it is discovered that hell is not so terrible after all.

Modern exegesis, striving to explain hell away, only steps in when conscience and freethought have declared against it. It is taught in the plainest terms. Take but the passage, Matt. xxv. 46, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” It is said everlasting does not mean lasting for ever, and in some cases this might be granted, but surely it is a different matter when eternal punishment is, without any limitation, directly compared with eternal life, and the same word is applied to both. Again, exactly the same expression which is used to signify the eternity of God, that of his being for ever and ever, as in Rev. iv. 9, v. 14, x. 6, and xv. 7, is used of the torments of those in hell in Rev. xiv. 11.

In the explanation of the parable of the tares, Jesus tells his prosaic disciples: “The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world” (Matt. xiii. 39-40). There we see the simile is used to illustrate hell; not hell used as a simile to illustrate something else. The early Christians undoubtedly believed in a literal Devil, angels, and end of the world, and with equal certainty in a literal hell and material fire. Yet we are now asked to believe that when Jesus spoke of hell, “where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched” (Mark ix. 46), since there is no fire it cannot require quenching.

Jesus relates, in the most matter-of-fact way (Luke xvi.), that a certain rich man died, and “in hell,” “being in torments,” he lifted up his eyes and beheld Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. He cried for a drop of water to cool his tongue, “for I am tormented in this flame.” The man had committed no other recorded offence than faring sumptuously, yet he was met with the stern response, “between us and you there is a great gulf fixed.” He then asks that his brethren may be warned of his fate, and this, too, is denied. The voice of humanity cried from hell, and heaven answered with inhumanity. If this picture of heaven and hell is true, God and his saints are monsters of infamy. If false, what other “revealed” doctrine can be credited, since this is so devised for the benefit of those who trade in terrorism? If hell is a metaphor, of which there is no indication in the narrative, so also is heaven. Give up material fire and brimstone, you must resign the bodily resurrection, the visible coming of Christ, and the New Jerusalem. Allegorise hell, you make heaven unreal. A figurative Devil suggests a figment God.

The Revelation of St. John expressly speaks of the worshippers of the beast, or enemies of God, being “tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” (xiv. 10-11). Nice enjoyment, this, for the elect. Fancy parents regarding the eternal anguish of their children! Converted wives looking on while their unbelieving husbands are tormented and “have no rest day nor night” in “the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone”! Picture it, think of it, Christian, and then offer praises to your God for having provided this place of eternal torture for some other than yourself.

Who go to hell? According to the Bible and the creeds the immense majority of mankind. “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. vii. 14). Many are called but few chosen; and there is no other name under heaven, save that of Jesus, whereby men can be saved. The proportion of those who lived before Christ must be, even according to Bible chronology, immensely larger than all who have lived since, and of these now, after eighteen centuries of the divine religion, not more than a third of the world’s inhabitants are even nominal Christians. When we consider how few Christians are really believers, and how scarcely any of them attempt to carry out the precepts of their Master, it must be allowed that the population of hell is out of all proportion to that of heaven.

The doctrine of the church has been “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” The idea of this text has probably done more harm to humanity than it has benefited from the rest of the gospel, for it has countenanced all the ill-will and persecution that has everywhere followed in the train of Christianity. I know it will be said that this passage, indeed the whole of the sixteenth of Mark from the ninth verse to the end, is wanting in some of the ancient manuscripts; but while the Authorised version is circulated as the word of God, it is properly cited. And indeed if this doctrine is discarded there is much else that must go with it.

Freethought having discredited the doctrine of eternal torments as absurd and dishonoring to God, stress is now laid upon passages indicating a more hopeful doctrine. To one who looks at the general tenor of Scripture, these are of no weight in opposition to the clear and emphatic declarations I have cited. There is no express statement that punishment hereafter will be terminable. On the contrary, the evident teaching is that as the tree falls so it must lie. No hope is extended to the rich man in hell.

That the current belief in the time of Jesus was in the eternity of punishments, we have the testimony of Josephus, who declares this both of the Pharisees and the Essenes.* We have also the testimony of the Fathers. Clement, the apostolic father, said to be the “fellow laborer” of Paul, mentioned in Philip iv. 3, says in his Second Epistle, chap. viii., “Once cast into the furnace of fire there is no longer any help for it. For after we have gone out of the world no further power of confessing or repenting will belong to us.” Polycarp, when threatened with martyrdom, is said to have made answer (Ep. to Philippians, xi.), “Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly.” Ignatius too speaks of “the unquenchable fire” (Ep. to Ephesians, 16).

*Antiq. xviii. 1-3; Wars ii, 8, 11-14.
All the early Fathers considered the fire of hell as a real material fire. Justin Martyr, who wrote before the collection of the Gospels, said in his first Apology, chap. xxi., “We believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire.” In numerous other passages he refers to punishment in eternal fire; and says (First Apol., chap. hi), “then shall they repent, when it profits them not.” Athenagoras, too (chap. xxxvi.), declares that “the body which has ministered to the irrational impulses of the soul, and to its desires, will be punished along with it.”

St. Irenæus, the first of the Fathers who definitely alludes to the four Gospels, says, in his work against heresies (bk. ii., chap. 28, § 7), “That eternal fire is prepared for sinners, both the Lord has plainly declared, and the rest of the Scriptures demonstrate. And that God foreknew that this would happen, the Scriptures do in like manner demonstrate, since He prepared eternal fire from the beginning for those who were afterwards to transgress His commandments.” What a blessed thing is Christianity to reveal such a nice loving Father as this!

So Bishop Hippolytus, in his Refutation of all Heresies, bk. x. chap. 30, speaks of “the boiling flood of hell’s eternal lake of fire, and the eye ever fixed in menacing glare of [wicked] angels chained in Tartarus as punishment for their sins.”

Tertullian, in his treatise on the Resurrection of the Flesh, chap. xxxv., declares “The fire of hell is eternal—expressly announced as an everlasting penalty,” and he asks, “whence shall come the weeping and gnashing of teeth if not from eyes and teeth?” In his treatise, De Anima, chap. vii., he thus alludes to the story of Dives. “Do you suppose that this end of the blessed poor man and the miserable rich man is only imaginary? Then why the name of Lazarus in this narrative, if the circumstance is not in [the category of] a real occurrence?” This Christian Father absolutely gloats over the prospect of witnessing these torments:—”Which sight gives me Joy? which rouses me to exultation?—as I see so many illustrious monarchs, whose reception into the heavens was publicly announced, groaning now in the lowest darkness with great Jove himself, and those, too, who bore witness of their exaltation; governors of provinces, too, who persecuted the Christian name, in fires more fierce than those which in the days of their pride they raged against the followers of Christ!” He exultingly continues: “I shall have a better opportunity then of hearing the tragedians, louder-voiced in their own calamity; of viewing the play-actors much more ‘dissolute’ in the dissolving flame; of looking upon the charioteer, all glowing in his chariot of fire; of witnessing the wrestlers, not in their gymnasia, but tossing in the fiery billows.”* An echo of this famous passage may be traced in Cardinal Newman’s sermon “On Neglect of Divine Calls and Warnings.”

St. Cyprian, in his address to Demetrianus, says: “We are rendered patient by our security of a vindication to come. The innocent give place to the guilty; the guileless acquiesce in their punishments and tortures, certain and assured that anything we suffer will not remain unavenged…. What joy for the believers, what sorrow for the faithless; to have refused to believe here, and now be unable to return in order that they may believe! Hell ever burning will consume the accursed, and a devouring punishment of lively flames; nor will there be that from whence their torments can ever receive either repose or end. Souls with their bodies will be saved unto suffering in tortures infinite. There that man will be seen by us for ever, who made us his spectacle here for a season; what brief enjoyment those cruel eyes received from the persecutions wrought upon us will be balanced against a spectacle eternal.” And the savage saint backs up his pleasant prospect with “Holy Scripture.”

* De Spectaculis, c. 30. I have quoted the rendering in the
orthodox Ante-Nicene Christian Library, vol. xi., pp. 34-35.
Gibbon’s version is more forcible.
Lactantius, in his Divine Institutes, bk. vi., chap. 3, contrasts the immortality promised to the righteous with “everlasting punishment threatened to the unrighteous.” In bk. vii. chap. 21, he says, “because they have committed sins in their bodies, they will again be clothed with flesh that they may make atonement in their bodies; and yet it will not be that flesh with which God clothed man, like this our earthly body, but indestructible and abiding for ever, that it may be able to hold out against tortures and everlasting fire.”

St. Chrysostom represents the torments of the damned in a variety of horrid pictures. He says: “But if you are speaking against luxury, and introduce discourse by the way concerning hell, the thing will cheer you and beget much pleasure. Let us not then avoid discourses concerning hell, that we may avoid hell. Let us not banish the remembrance of punishment, that we may escape punishment. If the rich man had reflected upon that fire, he would not have sinned; but because he never was mindful of it, therefore he fell into it.”*

* Homily on 2 Thess. i., 1-2.
In Homily on 2 Thess. i., 9-10, “It is not only not milder, but much more terrible than is threatened.” Hear the golden-mouthed Father (Homily on Heb. i., 1-2): “Let us then consider how great a misery it must be to be for ever burning, and to be in darkness, and to utter unnumbered groanings, and to gnash the teeth and not even to be heard…. Think what it is when we are burning with all the murderers of the whole world neither seeing, nor being seen…. Wherefore I entreat you,” continues the saint, “to be ever revolving these things with yourselves, and to submit to the pain of the words, that we may not have the things to undergo as our punishment.” Again he says (Hom. Heb. xi. 37-38), “Why, what are ten thousand years to ages boundless and without end? Not so much as one drop to the boundless ocean…. Were it not well to be cut [by scourging] times out of number, to be slain, to be burned, to undergo ten thousand deaths, to endure everything whatsoever that is dreadful both in word and deed?”*

Origen, for considering that the punishment of the wicked consisted in separation from God, was condemned as heretical by the Council of Carthage, A.D. 398, and afterwards by other Councils.

St. Augustine (City of God, bk, xxi. chap. 17) censures Origen for his merciful view, and says “the Church, not without reason, condemned him for this and other errors.” In the same book (chap. 23) this great father declares that everlasting is used by Jesus (Matt. xxv. 41) as meaning “for ever” and nothing else than “endless duration.” He argues, with ingenious varieties of reasoning, to show how the material bodies of the damned may withstand annihilation in everlasting fire. He held that hell was in the centre of the earth, and that God supplied the central fire with earth by a miracle. Jerome and the other orthodox Fathers no less held to a material hell.

In the middle ages Christian literature was mainly composed of the legendary visions of saints, in which views across the gulf had a large share.

The Devil was represented bound by red-hot chains, on a burning gridiron in the centre of hell. The screams of his never-ending agony made its rafters to resound; but his hands were free, and with these he seized the lost souls, crushed them like grapes against his teeth, and then drew them by his breath down the fiery cavern of his throat. Demons with hooks of red-hot iron plunged souls alternately into fire and sea. Some of the lost were hung up by their tongues, others were sawn asunder, others gnawed by serpents, others beaten together on an anvil and welded into a single mass, others boiled and then strained through a cloth, others twined in the embrace of demons whose limbs were of flame.**

* Library of the Fathers, pp. 15-16.

* Lecky, History of European Morals, vol. ii., p. 222.
Is it strange that the ages when Christian barbarism overcame Pagan civilisation were known as the Dark Ages? “George Eliot” well says that “where the tremendous alternative of everlasting torments is believed in—believed in so that it becomes a motive determining the life—not only persecution, but every other form of severity and gloom are the legitimate consequences.”

Grandly horrible is the reflection in Dante’s Inferno of the doctrine of hell, held in the palmiest days of Christianity. The gloom of that poem is relieved by a few touches of compunction at the doom of noble heathen and of tenderness for those who sinned through love; proving the poet superior to his creed. Yet consider the punishment of heretics, buried in burning sepulchres while from their furnace tombs rise endless wails. Think of the terrible inscription, Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate. Remember that Dante placed in this hell his political opponents, and how he depicts himself as striking the faces and pulling the hair of the tormented; then answer, is not this great poem a lasting monument of Christian barbarity?

St. Thomas Aquinas, the angelic doctor, treats of the punishment of hell under the title Poena Damnatorum,* and teaches (1) that the damned will suffer other punishments besides that of fire; (2) that the “undying worm” is remorse of conscience; (3) that the darkness of hell is physical darkness, only so much light being admitted as will allow the lost to see and apprehend the punishments of the place; (4) that as both body and soul are punished, the fire of hell will be a material fire, of the same nature as ordinary fire but with different properties; and the place of punishment, though not certainly known, is probably under the earth.

Hagenbach, in his History of Doctrines, 209, note cliv., says of the blessed, “They witness the suffering of the damned without being seen by the latter,” and refers to Peter Lombard and Thomas Aquinas.

Even the mystic Suso expressed himself as follows:—

‘Give us a millstone,’ say the damned, ‘as large as the whole earth, and so wide in circumference as to touch the sky all around and let a little bird come once in a hundred thousand years and pick off a small particle of the stone, not larger than the tenth part of a grain of millet, and after another hundred thousand years let him come again, so that in ten hundred thousand years he would pick off as much as a grain of millet, we wretched sinners would desire nothing but that the stone might have an end, and thus our pains also; yet even that cannot be.’**

* Summæ Suppl. qu 97.

** Quoted in Hagenbach’s History of Doctrines, 210, vol. ii., p. 152

The work of Father Pinamonti, entitled Hell Opened to Christians, has been for over two hundred years one of the most popular among Catholic Christians. It has also circulated among Protestants. An English version, with horrible pictures of the torments of the damned, has gone through many editions. We recommend its purchase to those who complain of the illustrations in the Freethinker, or who desire to see how savage the Christian religion is at bottom. The Christian Father of course accepts the literal meaning of hell fire. He says (p. 28): “Every one that is damned will be like a lighted furnace, which has its own flames in itself; all the filthy blood will boil in the veins, the brains in the skull, the heart in the breast, the bowels within the unfortunate body, surrounded with an abyss of’ fire out of which it cannot escape.”

The Sight of Hell, by the Rev. J. Fumiss, C.S.S.R., is another popular work issued “permissu superiorum” among “Books for Children and Young Persons.” A more atrocious composition it is difficult to conceive. The agony is piled on as though the imagination of the writer revelled in the description of torture. One specimen, a mild one, will suffice:—

Perhaps at this moment, seven o’clock in the evening, a child is just going into Hell. To-morrow evening at seven o’clock, go and knock at the gates of Hell and ask what the child is doing. The devils will go and look. Then they will come back again and say, the child is burning! Go in a week and ask what the child is doing; you will get the same answer—it is burning! Go in a year and ask, the same answer comes—it is burning! Go in a million of years and ask the same question; the answer is just the same—it is burning! So if you go for ever and ever, you will always get the same answer—it is burning in the fire!

I declare I would rather put into the hands of any young child Boccaccio’s Decameron, or any of the works put on the Roman Index Librorum Prohibitorum, with which I am acquainted, than this pious work by a Christian Father.

Protestantism did nothing to lighten the realm of outer darkness. Rather, by its repudiation of the priest-serving doctrine of purgatory, it rendered more glaring the contrast between the condition of the saved and that of the non-elect. Calvin asks: “How is it that the fall of Adam involves so many nations, with their infant children, to eternal death without remedy, unless that it so seemed meet to God?” The same holy Christian says of the damned: “For ever harassed with a dreadful tempest, they shall feel themselves torn asunder by an angry God, and transfixed and penetrated by mortal stings, terrified by the thunderbolts of God, and broken by the weight of his hand, so that to sink into any gulf would be more tolerable than to stand for a moment in these terrors.”

According to the Westminster Confession, ch. xxxiii.: “The wicked who know not God and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments.” And the Larger Catechism, A. 29, declares: “The punishments of sin in the world to come are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell fire forever.” “They that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire,” is the doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer.

Bishop Jeremy Taylor, the prose poet of the Church of England, says in his discourse on the Pains of Hell*: “We are amazed at the inhumanity of Phalaris, who roasted men in his brazen bull: this was joy in respect of that fire of hell which penetrates the very entrails without consuming them.” “Husbands shall see their wives, parents shall see their children, tormented before their eyes.” Picture it, think of it, Christian, and then give praises to your demon God. The good, really good, bishop tells us the bodies of the damned shall be crowded together in hell like grapes in a wine press, which press one another till they burst. “Every distinct sense and organ shall be assailed with its own appropriate and most exquisite sufferings.” Surely the creed is accursed which led so worthy a man as Taylor to paint with unction this description of the Pains of Hell.

* Contemplation of the State of Man, ch. 68.

Our own Milton, liberal in theology though he was, adheres to the Biblical idea of

Regions of Sorrow! doleful
Shades! where
Peace And Rest can never dwell;
Hope never comes,
That comes to all: but
Torture without End
Still urges, and a fiery
Deluge fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsum’d.
Bishop Hall says: “What, oh, what is it to conceive of lying in a fire more intense than nature can kindle, for hundreds, thousands, millions, yea millions of millions of years, which, after all, are only a minute of time compared with eternity.”

Dr. Barrow asserts that “our bodies will be afflicted continually by a sulphurous flame piercing the inmost smews.” Wesley says:

Eternity and deep despair
On every flame is written there.
Again he says: “From the moment wherein they are plunged into the lake of fire, burning with brimstone, their torments are not only without intermission, but likewise without end.”

The sight of the torments of the damned in hell will increase the ecstacy of the saints in heaven. This is the doctrine of St. John, and it has been repeated by orthodox Christian preachers times without number. And though orthodox Christian preachers dare not preach it now, it is the legitimate outcome of their belief. In heaven the angels see all, and must therefore witness the torments of the damned; and these do not diminish their happiness, though the damned be their own parents or their own children.

Jonathan Edwards, one of the most consistent Christians that ever breathed, devoted a work to the subject. The Thirteenth Sermon of his Works is entitled “The End of the Wicked contemplated by the Righteous,” and is particularly devoted to the illustration of the doctrine that “the sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever.” “It will,” he continues, “not only make them more sensible of the greatness and freeness of the grace of God in their happiness, but it really makes their happiness the greater, as it will make them more sensible of their own happiness. It will give them a more lively relish of it; it will make them prize it more. When they see others who were of the same nature, and born under the same circumstances, plunged in such misery, and they so distinguished, it will make them the more sensible how happy they are.”* In his direful poem on the Last Day, the once popular Dr. Young makes one of God’s victims vainly ask:

This one, this slender, almost no request:
When I have wept a thousand lives away,
When torment is grown weary of its prey,
When I have ran of anguish’d years in fire
Ten thousand thousands, let me then expire.

The pious Dr. Samuel Hopkins thus displays the Divine character and illustrates the loving kindness of the blessed Scripture promises: “The smoke of their torment shall ascend up in the sight of the blessed for ever and ever, and serve, as a most clear glass before their eyes, to give them a bright and most effective view. This display of the Divine character will be most entertaining to all who love God, will give them the highest and most ineffable pleasure. Should the fire of this eternal punishment cease, it would in a great measure obscure the light of heaven and put an end to a great part of the happiness and glory of the blessed.”

Contrast with this holy utterance of the pious Christian, the burning words of the Atheist poet, James Thomson:

If any human soul at all
Must die the second death, must fall
Into that gulph of quenchless flame
Which keeps its victims still the same,
Unpurified as unconsumed,
To everlasting torments doomed;
Then I give God my scorn and hate,
And turning back from Heaven’s gate
(Suppose me got there!) bow, Adieu!
Almighty Devil, damn me too.**

Baxter, in his Saint’s Everlasting Best, declares: “The principal author of hell torments is God himself. As it was no less than God whom the sinner had offended, so it is no less than God who will punish them for their offences. He has prepared those torments for his enemies…. The everlasting flames of hell will not be thought too hot for the rebellious; and when they have burnt there for millions of ages, he will not repent him of the evil which is befallen them.”

* The Eternity of Hell Torments, p. 25 (London. 1789).

** Vane’s Story.

Was not Shelley right when he described the Christian God:—

A vengeful, pitiless and almighty fiend,
Whose mercy is a nick-name for the rage
Of tameless tigers hungering for blood.

It would be easy to multiply citations. Spurgeon, among living divines, has preached hell as hot as anybody. But the doctrine is decaying together with real faith in Christianity.

Walter Savage Landor well says: “The priesthood in all religions sings the same anthem. First, the abuses are stoutly defended, but when the ground is no longer tenable, then these abuses are to be distinguished and separated from the true faith.” But what are we to think of the sudden conversion of a church that has taught falsity so long? If it did not know the truth on this important point, how can it be credited with knowing it upon any other matter? The rejection of hell cuts the ground from under the gospel. Salvation supposes a prior damnation. If there is no hell no Savior is needed. Christianity is all of a piece, and, its main prop gone it must fall like a house of cards.


By J. M. Wheeler