3 November 2010

Hislop's false claims

I honestly feel like screaming any time I come across a site posting false info about Catholicism, especially when that info has come from Alexander Hislop's The Two Babylons. I know some people don't realise the ideas they're posting come from that, since Hislop has been referenced by lots of other people, but it's still infuriating, not only as a Catholic, but also a student of archaeology and history. His claims are incredibly inaccurate, with no basis in the historical or archaeological record. I am therefore going to go through some of his claims briefly. I apologise if it gets confusing.

Basically, he claims that Catholicism is a continuation pagan Babylonian worship.  According to him, this centres on Nimrod, Semiramis, and Tammuz. So who were these people? Nimrod is mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 10:8-10) as the great-grandson of Noah and king of Babel. Traditionally, he's the builder of the tower of Babel. Beyond that, we don't really know. According to Hislop, Nimrod is the same person as Ninus, founder of Nineveh and husband of Semiramis according to the Greeks. Semiramis is often identified with an Assyrian queen Shammuramat, who didn't live at the same time as either Nimrod or Ninus. Hislop claims that Semiramis deified herself as “the Mother” and is the same person as the goddess Rhea. He also claims that Ninus/Nimrod is sometimes listed as her son, and that the two of them together are also the same as Osiris and Isis, claiming that Osiris is the son and husband of Isis. However, Osiris is not the son of Isis in any Egyptian myth of which I'm aware. He is her brother and husband, but not her son. Tammuz was a Sumerian god of vegetation. While Hislop identifies him as the son of Semiramis, there was no connection with her.

He continues to identify these figures with various pagan deities, noting tenuous similarities (which sometimes don't actually exist at all). He speaks of the prevalence of these mother & son dyads in different religions, and concludes that the depictions of Mary and the Infant Jesus show a continuation of that pagan worship. In reality, the depictions of Mary and the Infant Jesus simply show the reality that Jesus became Incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and she no doubt held Him as any mother would hold her Son. More to the point, Mary isn't worshipped by Catholics; if anyone were to worship her, they would be disobeying the Church. 

I know I've not gone into great detail - maybe I can get to that another time - but I wanted to address those things quickly. 

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for your comments on my blog. You've given a good discussion. I know that you've told me that Catholics don't worship Mary, but how would you define worship?

    The dictionary defines it as "to feel an adoring reverence or regard." The Hebrew word of worship is shâchâh, which is also defined as an act of giving reverence.

    The Catholic church create images, shrines and statues of Mary and adorn it. They sing songs about her (ex. Ave Maria). Jesus is usually seen as a fragile, helpless baby in her arms which I believe is a poor representation of the Son of God.

    Here is a popular prayer in Mary's honor, and honestly, does this not sound like worship to you?

    “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy! Our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping, in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us; and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.”

    Psalm 148:13 says, “Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.”

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  2. From Wiktionary: # The devotion accorded to a deity or to a sacred object
    # The religious ceremonies that express this devotion

    Why is seeing Jesus as an infant a poor representation of Him? He became Incarnate and was an infant - no doubt held by His mother, Mary. Of course, we don't only have images of Him as an infant. All parishes have a Crucifix, most have the Stations of the Cross and images of the Resurrected Jesus. We acknowledge and honour all aspects of His earthly life.

    We have images of the Saints, yes. It is done to remember and honour them, in much the same way that I have pictures of my grandparents. Mary is accorded special honour because she said yes to God and thus bore Jesus, God and man, within her womb! How amazing! If God saw fit to bless her so richly, then surely I can honour her. That is why we honour her, because without her saying "let it be done to me according to your word", the Incarnation wouldn't have happened at that time. We also honour her because in doing so, we remember her words to "do whatever He tells you".

    I must be off for now. God bless

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  3. A friend with a theology degree sent me a more in-depth explanation, which I'm pasting below.

    While it is true that worship can refer to reverence (particularly in more archaic English), modern English uses the term almost exclusively in the sense of latria (Greek root of the suffix "-latry," such as when attached to "idol," e.g. "idolatry"). In that way, we do not worship Mary. In fact, the ancient Church used the Greek term "dulia" for the reverence due the saints and the term "hyperdulia" for the reverence due the Blessed Virgin, but forbade the idea of giving the saints latria. We see a type of this reverence given to the Queen Mother ("Gebirah" in Hebrew) in 1 Kings 1.

    Many of the original titles for Mary came not for her own sake, but for Christ's. The term Mother of God was a central issue at the Council of Ephesus when it dealt with Nestorius, who denied the title, but the title was meant not simply for Mary. The title was reinforced because Nestorius denied that Jesus Christ and the Son of God were the same person. He claimed that Mary was only the mother of Jesus Christ, but not of the Son of God. The council fought this heresy with many arguments, finally promulgating the title Mother of God and proposing it for popular use in prayer, since this would concrete the idea that Jesus Christ is God in the minds of the faithful. Other titles for the Blessed Virgin always point to Christ as well, as Mary herself did at the Wedding at Cana.

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  4. Continued from previous:

    This is important for understanding the Hail, Holy Queen. Mary is the Queen Mother, the fulfillment of the Old Testament Gebirah, and is treated as such. In the Old Testament, the Queen Mother plays the role of a special intercessor to the king. Likewise, we ask the intercession of the Mother of Christ the King. We greet her according to her royal title and call her the Mother of Mercy. In a poetic sense, Jesus is mercy. The prayer begins by referring to Him through his mother. In much the same way, a king is honored in his knights and the servants of his court. He lavishes gifts upon them to show his magnanimity and greatness in them. Peasants hold them in esteem because they hold the king in esteem. So we move on to call Mary our life, sweetness, and hope. These all refer not to her in herself, but to her as a representative of Christ, our life, sweetness, and hope. Christ says that we will know the tree by its fruit. Mary is saved as we are, and therefore a fruit on the tree that is Christ. There is a likeness and union between them. If the tree is life, sweetness, and hope, then the fruit is that also in some way, but the fruit points to the tree. Then we cry and sigh to Mary as the New Eve, we who were banished because of the first Eve. These lines point to Mary's place in the new creation. She, because of her Son and Savior, is the new Mother of all the living, for we who have true life in Christ are sons of the Mother of Christ. Next we call her advocate, one who argues in front of a judge. Who is greater: the attorney or the judge? Mary's role as Gebirah, as advocate, points to her place as our mother and defender, but also to the greatness of her Son, the King and Just Judge. We ask her to show us her Son, to give us an audience with the King, and we close by once again honoring her as clement, loving, and sweet (although this is an inaccurate translation). Once again, the fruit points to the tree.

    Now that the theology is laid out, why is it that the prayer is so misunderstood? I think Catholics who were taught the faith well would understand the prayer without explicit instruction, but those Catholics are rare today. We have to pass on the faith properly and explain what this prayer means. Furthermore, we live in a culture very far from the concept of royal rulers and Queen Mothers. We also live in a time when conversation is direct from person to person - why make Mary an intermediary? According to Marian expert St. Louis de Montfort, it is more humble to go through Mary. Indeed, we all need a mother, and many people draw comfort from a spiritual mother. It is unfortunate that anyone would misinterpret the prayer as latria toward Mary, but it is merely hyperdulia. It is recognizing the fruit of so great a tree as Christ.

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