By Alexander Hislop
Now while the mother derived her glory in the first instance from the
divine character attributed to the child in her arms, the mother in the
long-run practically eclipsed the son. At first, in all likelihood,
there would be no thought whatever of ascribing divinity to the mother.
There was an express promise that necessarily led mankind to expect that,
at some time or other, the Son of God, in amazing condescension, should
appear in this world as the Son of man. But there was no promise whatever,
or the least shadow of a promise, to lead any one to anticipate that a
woman should ever be invested with attributes that should
raise her to a level with Divinity. It is in the last degree
improbable, therefore, that when the mother was first exhibited with the
child in her arms, it should be intended to give divine honours to her.
She was doubtless used chiefly as a pedestal for the upholding of the
divine Son, and holding him forth to the adoration of mankind; and glory
enough it would be counted for her, alone of all the daughters of Eve, to
have given birth to the promised seed, the world's only hope. But while
this, no doubt, was the design, it is a plain principle in all idolatries
that that which most appeals to the senses must make the most powerful
impression. Now the Son, even in his new incarnation, when Nimrod was
believed to have reappeared in a fairer form, was exhibited merely as a
child, without any very particular attraction; while the mother in whose
arms he was, was set off with all the art of painting and sculpture, as
invested with much of that extraordinary beauty which in reality belonged
to her. The beauty of Semiramis is said on one occasion to have quelled a
rising rebellion among her subjects on her sudden appearance among them;
and it is recorded that the memory of the admiration excited in their
minds by her appearance on that occasion was perpetuated by a statue
erected in Babylon, representing her in the guise in which she had
fascinated them so much. *
* VALERIUS MAXIMUS. Valerius Maximus does not mention anything about the representation of Semiramis with the child in her arms; but as Semiramis was deified as Rhea, whose distinguishing character was that of goddess Mother, and as we have evidence that the name, "Seed of the Woman," or Zoroaster, goes back to the earliest times--viz., her own day (CLERICUS, De Chaldoeis), this implies that if there was any image-worship in these times, that "Seed of the Woman" must have occupied a prominent place in it. As over all the world the Mother and the child appear in some shape or other, and are found on the early Egyptian monuments, that shows that this worship must have had its roots in the primeval ages of the world. If, therefore, the mother was represented in so fascinating a form when singly represented, we may be sure that the same beauty for which she was celebrated would be given to her when exhibited with the child in her arms.
This Babylonian queen was not merely in character coincident with the Aphrodite of Greece and the Venus of Rome, but was, in point of fact, the historical original of that goddess that by the ancient world was regarded as the very embodiment of everything attractive in female form, and the perfection of female beauty; for Sanchuniathon assures us that Aphrodite or Venus was identical with Astarte, and Astarte being interpreted, is none other than "The woman that made towers or encompassing walls"--i.e., Semiramis. The Roman Venus, as is well known, was the Cyprian Venus, and the Venus of Cyprus is historically proved to have been derived from Babylon. Now, what in these circumstances might have been expected actually took place. If the child was to be adored, much more the mother. The mother, in point of fact, became the favourite object of worship. *
* How extraordinary, yea, frantic, was the devotion in the minds of the Babylonians to this goddess queen, is sufficiently proved by the statement of Herodotus, as to the way in which she required to be propitiated. That a whole people should ever have consented to such a custom as is there described, shows the amazing hold her worship must have gained over them. Nonnus, speaking of the same goddess, calls her "The hope of the whole world." (DIONUSIACA in BRYANT) It was the same goddess, as we have seen, who was worshipped at Ephesus, whom Demetrius the silversmith characterised as the goddess "whom all Asia and the world worshipped" (Acts 19:27). So great was the devotion to this goddess queen, not of the Babylonians only, but of the ancient world in general, that the fame of the exploits of Semiramis has, in history, cast the exploits of her husband Ninus or Nimrod, entirely into the shade.
To justify this worship, the mother was raised to divinity as well as her son, and she was looked upon as destined to complete that bruising of the serpent's head, which it was easy, if such a thing was needed, to find abundant and plausible reasons for alleging that Ninus or Nimrod, the great Son, in his mortal life had only begun.
The Roman Church maintains that it was not so much the seed of the woman, as the woman herself, that was to bruise the head of the serpent. In defiance of all grammar, she renders the Divine denunciation against the serpent thus: "She shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise her heel." The same was held by the ancient Babylonians, and symbolically represented in their temples. In the uppermost story of the tower of Babel, or temple of Belus, Diodorus Siculus tells us there stood three images of the great divinities of Babylon; and one of these was of a woman grasping a serpent's head. Among the Greeks the same thing was symbolised; for Diana, whose real character was originally the same as that of the great Babylonian goddess, was represented as bearing in one of her hands a serpent deprived of its head. As time wore away, and the facts of Semiramis' history became obscured, her son's birth was boldly declared to be miraculous: and therefore she was called "Alma Mater," * "the Virgin Mother."
* The term Alma is the precise term used by Isaiah in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, when announcing, 700 years before the event, that Christ should be born of a Virgin. If the question should be asked, how this Hebrew term Alma (not in a Roman, but a Hebrew sense) could find its way to Rome, the answer is, Through Etruria, which had an intimate connection with Assyria. The word "mater" itself, from which comes our own "mother," is originally Hebrew. It comes from Heb. Msh, "to draw forth," in Egyptian Ms, "to bring forth" (BUNSEN), which in the Chaldee form becomes Mt, whence the Egyptian Maut, "mother." Erh or Er, as in English (and a similar form is found in Sanscrit), is, "The doer." So that Mater or Mother signifies "The bringer forth."
That the birth of the Great Deliverer was to be miraculous, was widely known long before the Christian era. For centuries, some say for thousands of years before that event, the Buddhist priests had a tradition that a Virgin was to bring forth a child to bless the world. That this tradition came from no Popish or Christian source, is evident from the surprise felt and expressed by the Jesuit missionaries, when they first entered Thibet and China, and not only found a mother and a child worshipped as at home, but that mother worshipped under a character exactly corresponding with that of their own Madonna, "Virgo Deipara," "The Virgin mother of God," * and that, too, in regions where they could not find the least trace of either the name or history of our Lord Jesus Christ having ever been known.
* See Sir J. F. DAVIS'S China, and LAFITAN, who says that the accounts sent home by the Popish missionaries bore that the sacred books of the Chinese spoke not merely of a Holy Mother, but of a Virgin Mother. For further evidence on this subject, see note
The primeval promise that the "seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head," naturally suggested the idea of a miraculous birth. Priestcraft and human presumption set themselves wickedly to anticipate the fulfilment of that promise; and the Babylonian queen seems to have been the first to whom that honour was given. The highest titles were accordingly bestowed upon her. She was called the "queen of heaven." (Jer 44:17,18,19,25) *
* When Ashta, or "the woman," came to be called the "queen of heaven," the name "woman" became the highest title of honour applied to a female. This accounts for what we find so common among the ancient nations of the East, that queens and the most exalted personages were addressed by the name of "woman." "Woman" is not a complimentary title in our language; but formerly it had been applied by our ancestors in the very same way as among the Orientals; for our word "Queen" is derived from Cwino, which in the ancient Gothic just signified a woman.
In Egypt she was styled Athor--i.e., "the Habitation of God," (BUNSEN) to signify that in her dwelt all the "fulness of the Godhead." To point out the great goddess-mother, in a Pantheistic sense, as at once the Infinite and Almighty one, and the Virgin mother, this inscription was engraven upon one of her temples in Egypt: "I am all that has been, or that is, or that shall be. No mortal has removed my veil. The fruit which I have brought forth is the Sun." (Ibid.) In Greece she had the name of Hesita, and amongst the Romans, Vesta, which is just a modification of the same name--a name which, though it has been commonly understood in a different sense, really meant "The Dwelling-place." *
* Hestia, in Greek, signifies "a house" or "dwelling." This is usually thought to be a secondary meaning of the word, its proper meaning being believed to be "fire." But the statements made in regard to Hestia, show that the name is derived from Hes or Hese, "to cover, to shelter," which is the very idea of a house, which "covers" or "shelters" from the inclemency of the weather. The verb "Hes" also signifies "to protect," to "show mercy," and from this evidently comes the character of Hestia as "the protectress of suppliants." Taking Hestia as derived from Hes, "to cover," or "shelter," the following statement of Smith is easily accounted for: "Hestia was the goddess of domestic life, and the giver of all domestic happiness; as such she was believed to dwell in the inner part of every house, and to have invented the art of building houses." If "fire" be supposed to be the original idea of Hestia, how could "fire" ever have been supposed to be "the builder of houses"! But taking Hestia in the sense of the Habitation or Dwelling-place, though derived from Hes, "to shelter," or "cover," it is easy to see how Hestia would come to be identified with "fire." The goddess who was regarded as the "Habitation of God" was known by the name of Ashta, "The Woman"; while "Ashta" also signified "The fire"; and thus Hestia or Vesta, as the Babylonian system was developed, would easily come to be regarded as "Fire," or "the goddess of fire." For the reason that suggested the idea of the Goddess-mother being a Habitation, see note.
As the Dwelling-place of Deity, thus is Hestia or Vesta addressed in the Orphic Hymns:
"Daughter of Saturn, venerable dame,
* TAYLOR'S Orphic Hymns: Hymn to Vesta. Though Vesta is here called the daughter of Saturn, she is also identified in all the Pantheons with Cybele or Rhea, the wife of Saturn.
Even when Vesta is identified with fire, this same character of Vesta as "The Dwelling-place" still distinctly appears. Thus Philolaus, speaking of a fire in the middle of the centre of the world, calls it "The Vesta of the universe, The HOUSE of Jupiter, The mother of the gods." In Babylon, the title of the goddess-mother as the Dwelling-place of God was Sacca, or in the emphatic form, Sacta, that is, "The Tabernacle." Hence, at this day, the great goddesses in India, as wielding all the power of the god whom they represent, are called "Sacti," or the "Tabernacle." *
* KENNEDY and MOOR. A synonym for Sacca, "a tabernacle," is "Ahel," which, with the points, is pronounced "Ohel." From the first form of the word, the name of the wife of the god Buddha seems to be derived, which, in KENNEDY, is Ahalya, and in MOOR'S Pantheon, Ahilya. From the second form, in like manner, seems to be derived the name of the wife of the Patriarch of the Peruvians, "Mama Oello." (PRESCOTT'S Peru) Mama was by the Peruvians used in the Oriental sense: Oello, in all likelihood, was used in the same sense.
Now in her, as the Tabernacle or Temple of God, not only all power, but all grace and goodness were believed to dwell. Every quality of gentleness and mercy was regarded as centred in her; and when death had closed her career, while she was fabled to have been deified and changed into a pigeon, * to express the celestial benignity of her nature, she was called by the name of "D'Iune," ** or "The Dove," or without the article, "Juno"--the name of the Roman "queen of heaven," which has the very same meaning; and under the form of a dove as well as her own, she was worshipped by the Babylonians.
* DIODORUS SIC. In connection with this the classical reader will remember the title of one of the fables in OVID'S Metamorphoses. "Semiramis into a pigeon."
The dove, the chosen symbol of this deified queen, is commonly represented with an olive branch in her mouth ( see figure 25), as she herself in her human form also is seen bearing the olive branch in her hand; and from this form of representing her, it is highly probable that she has derived the name by which she is commonly known, for "Z'emir-amit" means "The branch-bearer." *
* From Ze, "the" or "that," emir, "branch," and amit, "bearer," in the feminine. HESYCHIUS says that Semiramis is a name for a "wild pigeon." The above explanation of the original meaning of the name Semiramis, as referring to Noah's wild pigeon (for it was evidently a wild one, as the tame one would not have suited the experiment), may account for its application by the Greeks to any wild pigeon.
When the goddess was thus represented as the Dove with the olive branch, there can be no doubt that the symbol had partly reference to the story of the flood; but there was much more in the symbol than a mere memorial of that great event. "A branch," as has been already proved, was the symbol of the deified son, and when the deified mother was represented as a Dove, what could the meaning of this representation be but just to identify her with the Spirit of all grace, that brooded, dove-like, over the deep at the creation; for in the sculptures at Nineveh, as we have seen, the wings and tail of the dove represented the third member of the idolatrous Assyrian trinity. In confirmation of this view, it must be stated that the Assyrian "Juno," or "The Virgin Venus," as she was called, was identified with the air. Thus Julius Firmicus says: "The Assyrians and part of the Africans wish the air to have the supremacy of the elements, for they have consecrated this same [element] under the name of Juno, or the Virgin Venus." Why was air thus identified with Juno, whose symbol was that of the third person of the Assyrian trinity? Why, but because in Chaldee the same word which signifies the air signifies also the "Holy Ghost." The knowledge of this entirely accounts for the statement of Proclus, that "Juno imports the generation of soul." Whence could the soul--the spirit of man--be supposed to have its origin, but from the Spirit of God. In accordance with this character of Juno as the incarnation of the Divine Spirit, the source of life, and also as the goddess of the air, thus is she invoked in the "Orphic Hymns":
"O royal Juno, of majestic mien,
* TAYLOR'S Orphic Hymns. Every classical reader must be aware of the identification of Juno with the air. The following, however, as still further illustrative of the subject from Proclus, may not be out of place: "The series of our sovereign mistress Juno, beginning from on high, pervades the last of things, and her allotment in the sublunary region is the air; for air is a symbol of soul, according to which also soul is called a spirit."
Thus, then, the deified queen, when in all respects regarded as a veritable woman, was at the same time adored as the incarnation of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of peace and love. In the temple of Hierapolis in Syria, there was a famous statue of the goddess Juno, to which crowds from all quarters flocked to worship. The image of the goddess was richly habited, on her head was a golden dove, and she was called by a name peculiar to the country, "Semeion." (BRYANT) What is the meaning of Semeion? It is evidently "The Habitation"; * and the "golden dove" on her head shows plainly who it was that was supposed to dwell in her--even the Spirit of God.
* From Ze, "that," or "the great," and "Maaon," or Maion, "a habitation," which, in the Ionic dialect, in which Lucian, the describer of the goddess, wrote, would naturally become Meion.
When such transcendent dignity was bestowed on her, when such winning characters were attributed to her, and when, over and above all, her images presented her to the eyes of men as Venus Urania, "the heavenly Venus," the queen of beauty, who assured her worshippers of salvation, while giving loose reins to every unholy passion, and every depraved and sensual appetite--no wonder that everywhere she was enthusiastically adored. Under the name of the "Mother of the gods," the goddess queen of Babylon became an object of almost universal worship. "The Mother of the gods," says Clericus, "was worshipped by the Persians, the Syrians, and all the kings of Europe and Asia, with the most profound religious veneration." Tacitus gives evidence that the Babylonian goddess was worshipped in the heart of Germany, and Caesar, when he invaded Britain, found that the priests of this same goddess, known by the name of Druids, had been there before him. *
* CAESAR, De Bello Gallico. The name Druid has been thought to be derived from the Greek Drus, an oak tree, or the Celtic Deru, which has the same meaning; but this is obviously a mistake. In Ireland, the name for a Druid is Droi, and in Wales Dryw; and it will be found that the connection of the Druids with the oak was more from the mere similarity of their name to that of the oak, than because they derived their name from it. The Druidic system in all its parts was evidently the Babylonian system. Dionysius informs us, that the rites of Bacchus were duly celebrated in the British Islands and Strabo cites Artemidorus to show that, in an island close to Britain, Ceres and Proserpine were venerated with rites similar to the orgies of Samothrace. It will be seen from the account of the Druidic Ceridwen and her child, afterwards to be noticed (see Chapter IV, Section III), that there was a great analogy between her character and that of the great goddess-mother of Babylon. Such was the system; and the name Dryw, or Droi, applied to the priests, is in exact accordance with that system. The name Zero, given in Hebrew or the early Chaldee, to the son of the great goddess queen, in later Chaldee became "Dero." The priest of Dero, "the seed," was called, as is the case in almost all religions, by the name of his god; and hence the familiar name "Druid" is thus proved to signify the priest of "Dero"--the woman's promised "seed." The classical Hamadryads were evidently in like manner priestesses of "Hamed-dero,"--"the desired seed"--i.e., "the desire of all nations."
Herodotus, from personal knowledge, testifies, that in Egypt this "queen of heaven" was "the greatest and most worshipped of all the divinities." Wherever her worship was introduced, it is amazing what fascinating power it exerted. Truly, the nations might be said to be "made drunk" with the wine of her fornications. So deeply, in particular, did the Jews in the days of Jeremiah drink of her wine cup, so bewitched were they with her idolatrous worship, that even after Jerusalem had been burnt, and the land desolated for this very thing, they could not be prevailed on to give it up. While dwelling in Egypt as forlorn exiles, instead of being witnesses for God against the heathenism around them, they were as much devoted to this form of idolatry as the Egyptians themselves. Jeremiah was sent of God to denounce wrath against them, if they continued to worship the queen of heaven; but his warnings were in vain.
"Then," saith the prophet, "all the men which knew that their wives had burnt incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying, As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee; but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil" (Jer 44:15-17).
Thus did the Jews, God's own peculiar people, emulate the Egyptians in their devotion to the queen of heaven.
The worship of the goddess-mother with the child in her arms continued to be observed in Egypt till Christianity entered. If the Gospel had come in power among the mass of the people, the worship of this goddess-queen would have been overthrown. With the generality it came only in name. Instead, therefore, of the Babylonian goddess being cast out, in too many cases her name only was changed. She was called the Virgin Mary, and, with her child, was worshipped with the same idolatrous feeling by professing Christians, as formerly by open and avowed Pagans. The consequence was, that when, in AD 325, the Nicene Council was summoned to condemn the heresy of Arius, who denied the true divinity of Christ, that heresy indeed was condemned, but not without the help of men who gave distinct indications of a desire to put the creature on a level with the Creator, to set the Virgin-mother side by side with her Son. At the Council of Nice, says the author of "Nimrod," "The Melchite section"--that is, the representatives of the so-called Christianity of Egypt--"held that there were three persons in the Trinity--the Father, the Virgin Mary, and Messiah their Son." In reference to this astounding fact, elicited by the Nicene Council, Father Newman speaks exultingly of these discussions as tending to the glorification of Mary. "Thus," says he, "the controversy opened a question which it did not settle. It discovered a new sphere, if we may so speak, in the realms of light, to which the Church had not yet assigned its inhabitant. Thus, there was a wonder in Heaven; a throne was seen far above all created powers, mediatorial, intercessory, a title archetypal, a crown bright as the morning star, a glory issuing from the eternal throne, robes pure as the heavens, and a sceptre over all. And who was the predestined heir of that majesty? Who was that wisdom, and what was her name, the mother of fair love, and far, and holy hope, exalted like a palm-tree in Engaddi, and a rose-plant in Jericho, created from the beginning before the world, in God's counsels, and in Jerusalem was her power? The vision is found in the Apocalypse 'a Woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.'" *
* NEWMAN'S Development. The intelligent reader will see at a glance the absurdity of applying this vision of the "woman" of the Apocalypse to the Virgin Mary. John expressly declares that what he saw was a "sign" or "symbol" (semeion). If the woman here is a literal woman, the woman that sits on the seven hills must be the same. "The woman" in both cases is a "symbol." "The woman" on the seven hills is the symbol of the false church; the woman clothed with the sun, of the true church--the Bride, the Lamb's wife.
"The votaries of Mary," adds he, "do not exceed the true faith, unless the blasphemers of her Son came up to it. The Church of Rome is not idolatrous, unless Arianism is orthodoxy." This is the very poetry of blasphemy. It contains an argument too; but what does that argument amount to? It just amounts to this, that if Christ be admitted to be truly and properly God, and worthy of Divine honours, His mother, from whom He derived merely His humanity, must be admitted to be the same, must be raised far above the level of all creatures, and be worshipped as a partaker of the Godhead. The divinity of Christ is made to stand or fall with the divinity of His mother. Such is Popery in the nineteenth century; yea, such is Popery in England. It was known already that Popery abroad was bold and unblushing in its blasphemies; that in Lisbon a church was to be seen with these words engraven on its front, "To the virgin goddess of Loretto, the Italian race, devoted to her DIVINITY, have dedicated this temple." (Journal of Professor GIBSON, in Scottish Protestant) But when till now was such language ever heard in Britain before? This, however, is just the exact reproduction of the doctrine of ancient Babylon in regard to the great goddess-mother. The Madonna of Rome, then, is just the Madonna of Babylon. The "Queen of Heaven" in the one system is the same as the "Queen of Heaven" in the other. The goddess worshipped in Babylon and Egypt as the Tabernacle or Habitation of God, is identical with her who, under the name of Mary, is called by Rome "The HOUSE consecrated to God," "the awful Dwelling-place," * "the Mansion of God" (Pancarpium Marioe), the "Tabernacle of the Holy Ghost" (Garden of the Soul), the "Temple of the Trinity" (Golden Manual in Scottish Protestant).
* The Golden Manual in Scottish Protestant. The word here used for "Dwelling-place" in the Latin of this work is a pure Chaldee word--"Zabulo," and is from the same verb as Zebulun (Gen 30:20), the name which was given by Leah to her son, when she said "Now will my husband dwell with me."
Some may possibly be inclined to defend such language, by saying that the Scripture makes every believer to be a temple of the Holy Ghost, and, therefore, what harm can there be in speaking of the Virgin Mary, who was unquestionably a saint of God, under that name, or names of a similar import? Now, no doubt it is true that Paul says (1 Cor 3:16),
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
It is not only true, but it is a great truth, and a blessed one--a truth that enhances every comfort when enjoyed, and takes the sting out of every trouble when it comes, that every genuine Christian has less or more experience of what is contained in these words of the same apostle (2 Cor 6:16),
"Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
It must also be admitted, and gladly admitted, that this implies the indwelling of all the Persons of the glorious Godhead; for the Lord Jesus hath said (John 14:23),
"If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and WE will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
But while admitting all this, on examination it will be found that the Popish and the Scriptural ideas conveyed by these expressions, however apparently similar, are essentially different. When it is said that a believer is "a temple of God," or a temple of the Holy Ghost, the meaning is (Eph 3:17) that "Christ dwells in the heart by faith." But when Rome says that Mary is "The Temple" or "Tabernacle of God," the meaning is the exact Pagan meaning of the term--viz., that the union between her and the Godhead is a union akin to the hypostatical union between the divine and human nature of Christ. The human nature of Christ is the "Tabernacle of God," inasmuch as the Divine nature has veiled its glory in such a way, by assuming our nature, that we can come near without overwhelming dread to the Holy God. To this glorious truth John refers when he says (John 1:14),
"The Word was made flesh, and dwelt (literally tabernacled) among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
In this sense, Christ, the God-man, is the only "Tabernacle of God." Now, it is precisely in this sense that Rome calls Mary the "Tabernacle of God," or of the "Holy Ghost." Thus speaks the author of a Popish work devoted to the exaltation of the Virgin, in which all the peculiar titles and prerogatives of Christ are given to Mary:
That this history of the rib was well known to the Babylonians, is manifest from one of the names given to their primeval goddess, as found in Berosus. That name is Thalatth. But Thalatth is just the Chaldean form of the Hebrew Tzalaa, in the feminine,--the very word used in Genesis for the rib, of which Eve was formed; and the other name which Berosus couples with Thalatth, does much to confirm this; for that name, which is Omorka, * just signifies "The Mother of the world."
* From "Am," "mother," and "arka," "earth." The first letter aleph in both of these words is often pronounced as o. Thus the pronunciation of a in Am, "mother," is seen in the Greek a "shoulder." Am, "mother," comes from am, "to support," and from am, pronounced om, comes the shoulder that bears burdens. Hence also the name Oma, as one of the names of Bona Des. Oma is evidently the "Mother."
When we have thus deciphered the meaning of the name Thalatth, as applied to the "mother of the world," that leads us at once to the understanding, of the name Thalasius, applied by the Romans to the god of marriage, the origin of which name has hitherto been sought in vain. Thalatthi signifies "belonging to the rib," and, with the Roman termination, becomes Thalatthius or "Thalasius, the man of the rib." And what name more appropriate than this for Adam, as the god of marriage, who, when the rib was brought to him, said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man." At first, when Thalatth, the rib, was builded into a woman, that "woman" was, in a very important sense, the "Habitation" or "Temple of God"; and had not the Fall intervened, all her children would, in consequence of mere natural generation, have been the children of God. The entrance of sin into the world subverted the original constitution of things. Still, when the promise of a Saviour was given and embraced, the renewed indwelling of the Holy Spirit was given too, not that she might thereby have any power in herself to bring forth children unto God, but only that she might duly act the part of a mother to a spiritually living offspring--to those whom God of his free grace should quicken, and bring from death unto life. Now, Paganism willingly overlooked all this; and taught, as soon as its votaries were prepared for receiving it, that this renewed indwelling of the spirit of God in the woman, was identification, and so it deified her. Then Rhea, "the gazer," the mother of mankind, was identified with Cybele "the binder with cords," or Juno, "the Dove," that is, the Holy Spirit. Then, in the blasphemous Pagan sense, she became Athor, "the Habitation of God," or Sacca, or Sacta, "the tabernacle" or "temple," in whom dwelt "all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Thus she became Heva, "The Living One"; not in the sense in which Adam gave that name to his wife after the Fall, when the hope of life out of the midst of death was so unexpectedly presented to her as well as to himself; but in the sense of the communicator of spiritual and eternal life to men; for Rhea was called the "fountain of the blessed ones." The agency, then, of this deified woman was held to be indispensable for the begetting of spiritual children to God, in this, as it was admitted, fallen world. Looked at from this point of view, the meaning of the name given to the Babylonian goddess in 2 Kings 17:30, will be at once apparent. The name Succoth-benoth has very frequently been supposed to be a plural word, and to refer to booths or tabernacles used in Babylon for infamous purposes. But, as observed by Clericus (De Chaldoeis), who refers to the Rabbins as being of the same opinion, the context clearly shows that the name must be the name of an idol: (vv 29,30),
"Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt. And the men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth."
It is here evidently an idol that is spoken of; and as the name is feminine, that idol must have been the image of a goddess. Taken in this sense, then, and in the light of the Chaldean system as now unfolded, the meaning of "Succoth-benoth," as applied to the Babylonian goddess, is just "The tabernacle of child-bearing." *
* That is, the Habitation in which the Spirit of God dwelt, for the purpose of begetting spiritual children.
When the Babylonian system was developed, Eve was represented as the first that occupied this place, and the very name Benoth, that signifies "child-bearing," explains also how it came about that the Woman, who, as Hestia or Vesta, was herself called the "Habitation," got the credit of "having invented the art of building houses" (SMITH, "Hestia"). Benah, the verb, from which Benoth comes, signifies at once to "bring forth children" and "to build houses"; the bringing forth of children being metaphorically regarded as the "building up of the house," that is, of the family.
While the Pagan system, so far as a Goddess-mother was concerned, was founded on this identification of the Celestial and Terrestrial mothers of the "blessed" immortals, each of these two divinities was still celebrated as having, in some sense, a distinct individuality; and, in consequence, all the different incarnations of the Saviour-seed were represented as born of two mothers. It is well known that Bimater, or Two-mothered, is one of the distinguishing epithets applied to Bacchus. Ovid makes the reason of the application of this epithet to him to have arisen from the myth, that when in embryo, he was rescued from the flames in which is mother died, was sewed up in Jupiter's thigh, and then brought forth at the due time. Without inquiring into the secret meaning of this, it is sufficient to state that Bacchus had two goddess-mothers; for, not only was he conceived by Semele, but he was brought into the world by the goddess Ippa (PROCLUS in Timoeum). This is the very same thing, no doubt, that is referred to, when it is said that after his mother Semele's death, his aunt Ino acted the part of a mother and nurse unto him. The same thing appears in the mythology of Egypt, for there we read that Osiris, under the form of Anubis, having been brought forth by Nepthys, was adopted and brought up by the goddess Isis as her own son. In consequence of this, the favourite Triad came everywhere to be the two mothers and the son. In WILKINSON, the reader will find a divine Triad, consisting of Isis and Nepthys, and the child of Horus between them. In Babylon, the statement of Diodorus shows that the Triad there at one period was two goddesses and the son--Hera, Rhea, and Zeus; and in the Capitol at Rome, in like manner, the Triad was Juno, Minerva, and Jupiter; while, when Jupiter was worshipped by the Roman matrons as "Jupiter puer," or "Jupiter the child," it was in company with Juno and the goddess Fortuna (CICERO, De Divinatione). This kind of divine Triad seems to be traced up to very ancient times among the Romans; for it is stated both by Dionysius Halicarnassius and by Livy, that soon after the expulsion of the Tarquins, there was at Rome a temple in which were worshipped Ceres, Liber, and Libera (DION. HALICARN and LIVY).