Let us here recite the passage in which Tully expresses his astonishment that the apotheosis of Romulus should have been credited. I shall insert his words as they stand:
« It is most worthy of remark in Romulus, that other men who are said to have become gods lived in less educated ages, when there was a greater propensity to the fabulous, and when the uninstructed were easily persuaded to believe anything. But the age of Romulus was barely six hundred years ago, and already literature and science had dispelled the errors that attach to an uncultured age. »
And a little after he says of the same Romulus words to this effect:
« From this we may perceive that Homer had flourished long before Romulus, and that there was now so much learning in individuals, and so generally diffused an enlightenment, that scarcely any room was left for fable. For antiquity admitted fables, and sometimes even very clumsy ones; but this age [of Romulus] was sufficiently enlightened to reject whatever had not the air of truth. »
Thus one of the most learned men, and certainly the most eloquent, M. Tullius Cicero, says that it is surprising that the divinity of Romulus was believed in, because the times were already so enlightened that they would not accept a fabulous fiction. But who believed that Romulus was a god except Rome, which was itself small and in its infancy? Then afterwards it was necessary that succeeding generations should preserve the tradition of their ancestors; that, drinking in this superstition with their mother's milk, the state might grow and come to such power that it might dictate this belief, as from a point of vantage, to all the nations over whom its sway extended. And these nations, though they might not believe that Romulus was a god, at least said so, that they might not give offense to their sovereign state by refusing to give its founder that title which was given him by Rome, which had adopted this belief, not by a love of error, but an error of love. But though Christ is the founder of the heavenly and eternal city, yet it did not believe Him to be God because it was founded by Him, but rather it is founded by Him, in virtue of its belief. Rome, after it had been built and dedicated, worshipped its founder in a temple as a god; but this Jerusalem laid Christ, its God, as its foundation, that the building and dedication might proceed. The former city loved its founder, and therefore believed him to be a god; the latter believed Christ to be God, and therefore loved Him.
And what St Augustine says about Romans believing the deity of Romulus can be added about Hindoos believing that of Krishna or Norsemen that of Odin and Thor. It is curious that though Rome would in the time of Caesar hardly have believed the deity of Odin, had he appeared there, and tried to make such a claim, or possibly would have believed a deity as devaluated as that given by Cicero for Romulus, as it did a generation afterwards, when Caesar had died, and then tried to force the Christians to accept (c'mon, doesn't mean anything really, no big deal, it is just sentimental nonsense, but be a little human and go along with it), at the same time Sweden around Uppsala was so much more Barbaric. It seems Swedes might really have been believers in Odin, "not of love of error, but of error of love" unless Odin really started off as a hypnotist, in which case it might also have been love of error.
But he does not agree, doesn't St Augustine, that the same applies to Jesus Christ.
The most Christ-hating Jews would claim we deified Him out of love of error. The less rabid ones would perhaps claim we deified Him out of an error of love. But St Augustine says we loved Him because He was God.
Is he inconsistent? Not a bit. He explains the difference very clearly:
There was an antecedent cause for the love of the former city, and for its believing that even a false dignity attached to the object of its love; so there was an antecedent cause for the belief of the latter, and for its loving the true dignity which a proper faith, not a rash surmise, ascribed to its object. For, not to mention the multitude of very striking miracles which proved that Christ is God, there were also divine prophecies heralding Him, prophecies most worthy of belief, which being already accomplished, we have not, like the fathers, to wait for their verification. Of Romulus, on the other hand, and of his building Rome and reigning in it, we read or hear the narrative of what did take place, not prediction which beforehand said that such things should be. And so far as his reception among the gods is concerned, history only records that this was believed, and does not state it as a fact; for no miraculous signs testified to the truth of this. For as to that wolf which is said to have nursed the twin-brothers, and which is considered a great marvel, how does this prove him to have been divine?
Exactly the same can be said of any earthly story of Krishna from the Mahabharata as of Romulus. But of neither one nor the other, nor of Odin, can be said what St Augustine said of Christ.
Now certain people have claimed we also invented the miracles and misinterpreted or invented the previous prophecies "out of an error of love" (except when they go as far as to say we did it out of love of error).
But if so, why is there nothing similar that can be said about the carreers of Krishna or Odin or Romulus or Hercules? The one exception would be Hercules defeating death so as to raise Alcestis. That story can have been plagiarised from Elijah of Tishbe, if not soon after Hercules lived (I think he lived before Elijah), at least between his life and the Tragedian. Otherwise the carreers of all these heroes or "mighty men of renown" are, even according to Pagans, very un-miraculous.
So, if we invented a lot of miracles to substantiate a deity attributed out of an error of love to some human preacher, how come no one else did about their heroes? Odin raises the dead in Valhalla, but he never did so before anyone's eyes in Uppsala. Krishna's soul went to Heaven and was received there as a god by the gods - according to the dream of Vyasa, who probably already believed Krishna divine before dreaming that dream. Nobody claimed that Hercules had risen bodily to Heaven or that Romulus had. Hercules and Krishna's bodies were disposed of by funeral pyres (though in Krishna's case this might be a post-Flood anachronism intruding into a generally pre-Flood story, if my theory of Mahabharata is right). Indeed, Pagans on all boards, Indian as much as the Greco-Romans previously cited by St Augustine, had argued that our resurrected bodies could not go to Heaven:
Chapter 4.— Against the Wise Men of the World, Who Fancy that the Earthly Bodies of Men Cannot Be Transferred to a Heavenly Habitation.
But men who use their learning and intellectual ability to resist the force of that great authority which, in fulfillment of what was so long before predicted, has converted all races of men to faith and hope in its promises, seem to themselves to argue acutely against the resurrection of the body while they cite what Cicero mentions in the third book De Republica. For when he was asserting the apotheosis of Hercules and Romulus, he says: « Whose bodies were not taken up into heaven; for nature would not permit a body of earth to exist anywhere except upon earth. » This, forsooth, is the profound reasoning of the wise men, whose thoughts God knows that they are vain. For if we were only souls, that is, spirits without any body, and if we dwelt in heaven and had no knowledge of earthly animals, and were told that we should be bound to earthly bodies by some wonderful bond of union, and should animate them, should we not much more vigorously refuse to believe this, and maintain that nature would not permit an incorporeal substance to be held by a corporeal bond? And yet the earth is full of living spirits, to which terrestrial bodies are bound, and with which they are in a wonderful way implicated. If, then, the same God who has created such beings wills this also, what is to hinder the earthly body from being raised to a heavenly body, since a spirit, which is more excellent than all bodies, and consequently than even a heavenly body, has been tied to an earthly body? If so small an earthly particle has been able to hold in union with itself something better than a heavenly body, so as to receive sensation and life, will heaven disdain to receive, or at least to retain, this sentient and living particle, which derives its life and sensation from a substance more excellent than any heavenly body? If this does not happen now, it is because the time is not yet come which has been determined by Him who has already done a much more marvellous thing than that which these men refuse to believe. For why do we not more intensely wonder that incorporeal souls, which are of higher rank than heavenly bodies, are bound to earthly bodies, rather than that bodies, although earthly, are exalted to an abode which, though heavenly, is yet corporeal, except because we have been accustomed to see this, and indeed are this, while we are not as yet that other marvel, nor have as yet ever seen it? Certainly, if we consult sober reason, the more wonderful of the two divine works is found to be to attach somehow corporeal things to incorporeal, and not to connect earthly things with heavenly, which, though diverse, are yet both of them corporeal.
Such an argument - on the side of the Pagans about Hercules or Romulus, or for that matter Krishna or Odin - would not have been necessary if anyone had ever claimed to have seen the living bodies of any Pagan gods rise before the bodily eyes of any human witness. Such beliefs about heaven's eternal incapacity to receive earthly bodies may indeed have been a kind of answer to the challenge given by the rising up into Heaven of Elijah before the eyes of Elisæus. Why had their own gods not? Well, calling it impossible - and concluding from there by calling Hebrews liars without much investigation - was one answer as to why.
Yes, St Augustine is much more scrupulously respectful of Pagan histories than modern Atheists or Modernists are of the Hebrew and Christian ones. Their disrespect for the Pagan histories can only be contrasted by the respect for them shown by the Christian:
For even supposing that this nurse was a real wolf and not a mere courtezan, yet she nursed both brothers, and Remus is not reckoned a god.
OK, some Pagans have said: it cannot have been a real she-wolf, since lupa also means prostitute and lupanar brothel, that stepmother of Romulus and Remus must really have been a prostitute. But the Christian St Augustine is less sceptic, he can swallow that it could have been a she-wolf, though he is aware of the rationalisation as well. He only observes, this does not make Romulus a god any more than Remus.
Thereafter he makes an observation about the hasty conclusion of Romulus being a god gaining belief while not being persecuted but in position to persecute - and the belief based on historic facts of the Gospel that Christ was indeed God, not just a god, but God in the full Theistic sense, retaining the belief of a growing Church that was persecuted for it as well as - perhaps even more - its practical consequences, the refusal to call someone "a god" just because it was a great guy or an important person.
Besides, what was there to hinder any one from asserting that Romulus or Hercules, or any such man, was a god? Or who would rather choose to die than profess belief in his divinity? And did a single nation worship Romulus among its gods, unless it were forced through fear of the Roman name? But who can number the multitudes who have chosen death in the most cruel shapes rather than deny the divinity of Christ? And thus the dread of some slight indignation, which it was supposed, perhaps groundlessly, might exist in the minds of the Romans, constrained some states who were subject to Rome to worship Romulus as a god; whereas the dread, not of a slight mental shock, but of severe and various punishments, and of death itself, the most formidable of all, could not prevent an immense multitude of martyrs throughout the world from not merely worshipping but also confessing Christ as God. The city of Christ, which, although as yet a stranger upon earth, had countless hosts of citizens, did not make war upon its godless persecutors for the sake of temporal security, but preferred to win eternal salvation by abstaining from war. They were bound, imprisoned, beaten, tortured, burned, torn in pieces, massacred, and yet they multiplied. It was not given to them to fight for their eternal salvation except by despising their temporal salvation for their Saviour's sake.
As we see, the passage begins also by denouncing the weakness to believe a thing just because you will be persecuted if you do not.
Protestants have used this as a model or template for their totally fabulous stories about how certain Catholic dogmas they do not accept came to be accepted in the Church - thereby making the Inquisition against the Albigensians many centuries older than it actually was. And inventing a ghost lineage for the survival of Primitive Christianity into Protestantism, despite the known fact that Protestant Reformers all were born into Catholic families and raised in Catholic Communities. And including the very certainly un-Christian Albigensians into that ghost-lineage (from at least Foxe's Book of Martyrs, probably already done by the nearly Christian Valdensians, since they were exposed to same persecution)**. But the original of St Augustine, about how around the Mediterranean the divinity of Romulus was accepted, remains unshaken by their misuse of the meme, since St Augustine, unlike them, was not lying.
He was perhaps, at the most, a bit sloppy. The Pagan mentality was not like "we don't want to believe Romulus was a god" all over the Mediterranean, - perhaps though in parts of the Greek world - "but Romans force us to, so we will believe it anyway", it was much more like "Oh, the Romans beat us? Then their gods are mighty gods indeed!" - Which was unproblematically extended to such human gods as Romulus.
There is a curious corrolary to this preference of luck charms over truth. It is a preference for corporate over individual immortality. As soon as I had ever got into some kind of contact with a real esoteric - a contact I was not seeking at age 15, and if I have sought it since, it was for amusement and for converting them, liking details that make for conversation like "was there an Atlantis" but definitely not peacefully letting them lecture me on their belief - as soon as this happened, I was informed that souls of the dead, if sufficiently advanced, become "part of God" - a dire heresy, even beyond Cicero in Somnium Scipionis. But such a preference was indeed there even back in the days of Cicero.
I am aware that Cicero, in the third book of his De Republica, if I mistake not, argues that a first-rate power will not engage in war except either for honor or for safety. What he has to say about the question of safety, and what he means by safety, he explains in another place, saying,
« Private persons frequently evade, by a speedy death, destitution, exile, bonds, the scourge, and the other pains which even the most insensible feel. But to states, death, which seems to emancipate individuals from all punishments, is itself a punishment; for a state should be so constituted as to be eternal. And thus death is not natural to a republic as to a man, to whom death is not only necessary, but often even desirable. But when a state is destroyed, obliterated, annihilated, it is as if (to compare great things with small) this whole world perished and collapsed. »
Cicero said this because he, with the Platonists, believed that the world would not perish. It is therefore agreed that, according to Cicero, a state should engage in war for the safety which preserves the state permanently in existence though its citizens change; as the foliage of an olive or laurel, or any tree of this kind, is perennial, the old leaves being replaced by fresh ones.
With such a basic atitude, no wonder if integration becomes more important to you than being aware of and faithful to and accurate about truth, especially when it comes to the divine. No wonder Pagans accepted divinity on very sloppy grounds, but neither Hebrews in OT times, nor Christians since ever did so. Including, as explained previously in this article, when Christians accepted Christ was divine, is God in the most solemn sense of the word, is Creator and Upkeeper of the Universe. And remains so Eternally.
Hans Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
St Vincent of Paul
* City of God, Book 22
(chapters 4 and 6 are here quoted, 4 in extenso, 6 in pieces)
** Nearly Christian, not quite. Like C. S. Lewis at one certain time, I think Problem of Pain (he had plenty of time to change his mind since, though it is not documented he did), they denied the bodily Resurrection. The ones like the others would, unlike those simply refusing Millenarianism, have been considered by the Millenarian Church Father St Justin as "Sadducees and unbelievers". So, let us hope C. S. Lewis changed his mind. And since we do not know that, that he doesn't get canonised, since sufficient apostolicity of doctrine is not documented.