Against World Powers

IV. Pagan Domination

Heathen Temptations
Canaanite Religion
The Baal Cycle
Biblical Parallels
Greek Religion

Heathen Temptations

Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land they were warned repeatedly not to imitate heathen religious practices and not to worship heathen gods. They were also forbidden from marrying heathen men or women on the grounds that this would only bring idolatrous temptations closer. Despite these rules and warnings, the Israelites who lived in the generation after Joshua could not resist the temptations,

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.” (Judges 2:10-13)

This initial failure on the part of Israel to live up to their commitment to God resulted in a cycle that would face every generation and last up until the time of King David:

“Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, ‘Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did.’” (Judges 2:18-22)

Gideon was one of these judges, and when he was called to rescue Israel the first thing that God asked him to do was to destroy his father’s altar to Baal, cut down his father’s Asherah pole, build an altar to the Lord in its place, and burn an offering to the Lord with the wood from the Asherah pole. After doing this Gideon went on to defeat the Midianites who were oppressing Israel and then he served as Israel’s leader, ruling for forty years of peace. But...

“No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side.” (Judges 8:33-34)

After the rise and death of several more judges another cycle began,

“Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. And because the Israelites forsook the LORD and no longer served him, he became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, who that year shattered and crushed them. For eighteen years they oppressed all the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead, the land of the Amorites.” (Judges 10:6-8)

Jephthah was the judge chosen by God to meet the Ammonite threat. He had been born from his father’s relationship with a prostitute and his brothers had driven him from his own land of Gilead. Despite his humble origins God chose him, and he returned to Gilead where the people made him chief.

The conflict with the Ammonites concerned the land that Israel had originally taken from King Sihon the Amorite, north of the Arnon River. The Ammonites, with an overwhelming force, were now claiming that land as their own. Jephthah sent messengers to the Ammonites saying, “Do you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the Lord our God has driven out before us, we will possess it.” (Judges 11:24) The Ammonites had their land and their god, which were both recognized by Israel, but they had no right to the land that had been given to Israel.

After Jephthah defeated the Ammonites, and after several more judges, the cycle began again. This time the enemy was the Philistines, who oppressed Israel for forty years, and this time Israel’s deliverer was Samson, who prevailed in the end despite his forbidden love for Delilah the Philistine woman.

Samson died after he was captured by the Philistines and brought in chains to a celebration in a temple of the Philistine’s god Dagon. Samson was blind and weak, but he prayed to the Lord to have his strength returned one last time, and he pulled down the two middle pillars of Dagon’s temple, caving in the roof and killing himself and thousands of Philistines that had gathered to celebrate at his expense.

After Samson died the last judges of Israel were Eli the priest and Samuel the prophet. Near the beginning of Samuel’s period of leadership the Philistines defeated Israel in many battles and captured the Ark of the Covenant. It was brought to Dagon’s temple in Ashdod and the next morning the Philistines came into the temple and saw that their great idol of Dagon had fallen on its face before the Ark of the Covenant. The next morning the same thing happened and the head and hands of the idol were broken off. Then tumors afflicted the people of Ashdod, and finally the Ark was moved to Gath. Tumors afflicted the population there as well, and the Ark was moved to Ekron, where the people refused to have it. Finally after a total of seven months the Philistines returned the Ark to Israel, with a great offering of gold. However, the Israelites continued to do evil, despite the warnings from Samuel, and they continued to be oppressed by the Philistines. Finally after twenty or so years the Israelites called out to the Lord and looked to Samuel,

“And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, ‘If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’ So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only.” (1 Samuel 7:3-4)

Samuel’s career as Israel’s judge ended after the Israelites demanded that God anoint for them a king, so that their nation could be led in the same manner as the heathen nations were led. God finally agreed to their wishes, but first He gave the children of Israel a speech and a warning about the evils of monarchy: (Of course the very custom of hereditary kingship, according to the most ancient Sumerian texts, was first instituted by the god Enki, the ancient Adversary of the God of heaven).

“And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.’

Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said,

‘This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.’

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’

When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. The LORD answered, ‘Listen to them and give them a king.’” (1 Samuel 8:7-22)

Israel had only three kings—Saul, David and Solomon—before the nation was split by civil war and divided into the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel and the two tribes of the southern kingdom of Judah. Good kings were rare during these days and like before the people often succumbed to idolatry. Often the Israelites were led in these forbidden practices by their own kings.

There were many nations that surrounded Israel, and they all had their own gods, but by far the religion that stood out as God’s greatest competitor was the religion of the Canaanites, and their most important god and goddess, Baal and Asherah. These two pagan deities are mentioned in the Old Testament more than all of the other pagan gods combined. A closer examination of this religion will help explain why Israel was so afflicted by it, and why God hated it so much.

Canaanite Religion

The modern understanding of Canaanite religious beliefs comes from two primary sources: 1) The assorted fragmented writings of ancient historians that have been passed down over the centuries, and 2) Archaeological discoveries of ancient tablets, texts and inscriptions that date back to the time of Canaanite and Phoenician dominance in Syria and Palestine.

The most important ancient historian for this area of study was Philo of Byblos who lived in the first century AD who wrote the History of the Phoenicians. His complete work has disappeared but large portions of it are included in the writings of the third century philosopher Porphyry, and in the work of the fourth century Christian writer Eusebius.

The most important archeological find, and by far the most important source of primary data regarding Canaanite myth and religion, is the collection of tablets found at Ras Shamra in 1929, in the ancient port city of Ugarit in northern Syria. These tablets were found in a building that stood next to a temple of Baal that were both destroyed and buried around approximately 1200 BC, and they document the evolution of Canaanite religious beliefs up to that time.

From these sources we know that the Canaanite pantheon was basically a four-tiered hierarchical structure. The first tier was occupied by the mother and father of the gods, El and Asherah. El is described in the tablets as the creator of all the gods, and the “Father of Years.” Scholars associate him with the Israelite God who is sometimes referred to as El in the Old Testament. God’s primary Biblical title, as explained previously, is Elohim, a plural form of El that was nonetheless often meant to be understood as a singular reference to Yahweh, the Creator of the universe. In the Old Testament the terms “El” and “Elohim” are translated as “God,” and “Yahweh” (or YHWH) is translated as “LORD.” We will compare and contrast the Canaanite and Hebrew understandings of the Creator momentarily.

In Caananite religion El was accompanied on the top tier of the hierarchy by Asherah, the mother of the gods. She was the Queen of Heaven, and she can be equated with the Sumerian goddess Inanna, the Babylonian Ishtar, and the Egyptian Isis.

The second tier is occupied by the gods who are the sons of El and Asherah. The most important fact that must be noticed regarding the second tier gods is that throughout the Canaanite source material the number of the sons of El and Asherah is given as exactly seventy. Furthermore, these seventy sons of El are described by scholars as the Canaanite pantheon’s “active deities,” whereas El is referred to by scholars as an “otiose deity,” meaning that although El holds a figurehead position at the head of the pantheon, he is, for all intents and purposes “far removed and inactive.”

The third tier of the Canaanite pantheon is occupied by the messenger deities, or “angels” who acted subservient to the gods. Every deity had his retinue of “angels” who simply acted as their messengers and obedient slaves. The fourth tier was occupied by humanity, which was ruled directly by the seventy active gods.

Lowell K. Handy, in his authoritative study of the Canaanite pantheon, Among the Host of Heaven, explains that the division of the world according to the sons of God, which was a reality understood within Hebrew religion, was also clearly understood in Canaanite religion. He writes,

“The division of the world into regions of authority is ascribed to El in the narratives related by Philo of Byblos. These regions were distributed to various deities to govern under the care of and with the consent of El. Both material and immaterial regions were allocated by El. Even the realm of the dead was assigned to Mot by El.”

The Baal Cycle

In Babylonian mythology the rise of Marduk from a position outside of the inner circle to a position at the head of the pantheon is related in the epic creation poem the Enuma Elish. Canaanite mythology is very similar in this respect because the main story, which is known simply as The Baal Cycle, relates how Baal, the son of Dagan, rises from a position outside of the seventy gods to defeat El’s favorite sons Yam and Mot. These victories allow Baal to take over the pantheon and he reigns as the supreme king of the active gods and as “Lord of the Earth” from his palace on the top of Mount Zaphon.

In Canaanite religion the role of the god Dagan is relatively obscure, but he was known as one of El’s original seventy sons. “Dagan” was a god worshiped as the supreme god at an earlier date in northern Mesopotamia, and according to the Bible he was worshiped as the supreme god “Dagon” of the Philistines. There is evidence that Dagan was a northern Mesopotamian name for the original Sumerian god Enki, but in Canaanite mythology Dagan’s memory had faded and was instead carried forward through his son Baal.

The Baal Cycle begins with Baal and Yam both contending for the position of kingship of the gods. El turns down Baal and instead appoints his son Yam. However, Yam rules as a “tyrant” and the other gods cry out to Asherah the Queen Mother for relief. Asherah decides to offer herself as a sacrifice to Yam as a remedy, but Baal refuses to allow her to do this and instead challenges Yam in combat. El orders Baal to submit to Yam, but Baal refuses, and armed with two magical weapons made by the god Kothar, Baal defeats Yam and takes over as king of the gods.

Baal rules as king from Mount Zaphon, but he is ashamed because he has no temple built in his name. At this point the goddess Anat comes on the scene and boldly approaches El on Baal’s behalf. She predicts that “El will attend to her or she will drag him to the ground like a lamb and make his grey hairs run with blood, if he doesn’t give Baal a court like the sons of Asherah.” When she does confront El he is frightened and refuses to come out of his seven chambers.

To help him in his desire for a temple Baal sends messengers to Kothar, who bribes and convinces Asherah to approach El on Baal’s behalf. (El and Asherah rule as mother and father of the gods, but for some reason they occupy different residences.) Asherah visits El and seduces him, and El finally allows Baal’s temple to be built. Afterwards Baal holds a great feast for all the gods, after which he sends thunder, lightning and rain, and announces his supremacy over the world.

Some time later Baal recognizes his new enemy, the new favorite of El, who is Mot the god of the underworld. In the clash that follows Baal is lost and presumed dead at the hands of Mot. El mourns at this unfortunate turn of events.

The goddess Anat is grief-stricken at the loss of Baal as well, and she goes off in search of him. The goddess Shapash helps her and finds Baal’s corpse in the underworld. They bury Baal on Mount Zaphon, and then mourn violently. Anat mutilates herself and sacrifices seventy buffaloes, seventy oxen, seventy cows, seventy deer, seventy goats, and seventy asses as an offering to Baal. Then she accuses Asherah of rejoicing in Baal’s death.

Meanwhile Asherah wastes no time and appoints her son Athtar to the position of king of the gods. El consents to Asherah’s choice, but after Athtar ascends to the top of Mount Zaphon and finds that he is too small to fit Baal’s throne he declines the position. Shortly afterward El has a dream that Baal is alive.

The goddess Anat ferociously attacks Mot and defeats him, and he confesses to the killing of Baal. Messengers from El then reach Anat, declaring that Baal is now alive. Thereafter Baal is shown returned from the dead and he is forced to fight the sons of Asherah in a violent battle. He emerges victorious and takes his place once again as king from his position at the top of Mount Zaphon.

The war goddess Anat also engages in violent battles on behalf of Baal, “She smites the people of the seashore, Destroys mankind of the sunrise... She piles up heads on her back, She ties up hands in her bundle. Knee deep she plunges in the blood of soldiery, Up to the neck in the gore of troops.”

Seven years later Mot again challenges Baal in battle, but this time the result is a stalemate. The goddess Shapash convinces Mot to submit to Baal’s authority and Mot returns to the underworld. Baal finally reigns as the supreme “active god” of the Canaanite pantheon, which is the end of the myth of the Baal Cycle.

Biblical Parallels

Secular scholars believe that because the tablets that describe Canaanite religion predate what they believe to be the date of the writing of the Old Testament, that therefore every parallel between Canaanite and Hebrew religion is a case of Hebrew priests “borrowing” from the beliefs of the Canaanites. Michael S. Heiser argues very effectively that this was clearly not the case. Whatever “parallels” existed between the two belief systems were not a result of absorption or religious evolution, but were instead either common understandings of historical realities, or else intentional parallels that served a definite purpose within Hebrew monotheism.

The first common aspect that must be equated is the conception of El. In Hebrew religion Yahweh-Elohim is the “LORD God” of all creation, the pre-existent, omnipotent and transcendent Creator of the universe, and the all-powerful, all-knowing Father of all the gods. Yahweh-Elohim is often referred to as El Elohim—God of gods, or El Elyon—God Most High.

On the other hand, in Canaanite religion we find that at least by the end of the thirteenth century BC the concept of an all-powerful Creator has been greatly watered down. El is not viewed as pre-existent, and Philo of Byblos states that the Canaanite god El ascended to his position by killing his own father. Furthermore, El is accompanied by his female consort Asherah, who is often needed to coax El into making decisions. El is also portrayed as being easily manipulated, lustful, greedy, cowardly, indecisive, and often at odds with the gods portrayed as heroes in the various mythological stories. El’s role as creator is also downplayed, and he is father of the gods only through his sexual interaction that takes place with Asherah and numerous other partners.

Despite these shortcomings El is still viewed by the gods as the figurehead leader of the pantheon, but his decrees in the Divine Council are not always followed. Lowell K. Handy writes that, “The proclamation of El was regarded as important, even though self-interest might move a deity to disregard the decision made by El.”

In Hebrew religion the decrees made by Yahweh-Elohim in the Divine Council were law, and were almost always obeyed without question. Satan is the created being known as the most antagonistic to God’s decrees, but his disobedience has always been paid for by the other “sons of God” and by the human figures he has manipulated to carry out his own agenda. This disobedience will ultimately be paid for when Satan meets his end by being thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

In Canaanite religion El is viewed as an “otiose deity,” but in Hebrew religion Yahweh-Elohim is “otiose” only to the extent that he allows the seventy pagan “sons of God” a certain amount of freedom in their manipulation of and control over the pagan nations. Here is how Handy describes the role of the seventy “second-tier” gods of the Canaanite pantheon, which is also an essentially accurate description of the seventy “sons of God” from the Hebrew perspective,

“They basically [had] free dominion in their rules, which allowed them to fight among themselves, argue with their superiors, abuse their power to thwart others (both divine and human) and even kill each other (not to mention humans). In all this, however, they remained answerable for their behavior and can be called up in judgment before El.”

Yahweh-Elohim may be viewed as primarily inactive in the affairs of pagan nations but when it came to Yahweh-Elohim’s own nation Israel, God was very active, and He was quick to interfere in the affairs of pagan nations if they threatened Israel. In the same way Yahweh-Elohim used pagan nations as a means to punish Israel when they did wrong, or save Israel when they were threatened.

In the Old Testament God used the surrounding pagan nations to punish Israel repeatedly; He used Egypt to save Israel from Assyria on one occasion; He used Babylon to punish Israel and then He used Persia to free Israel from Babylon. God also predicted the rise of Greece and Rome and their domination of Israel through their respective empires. The Canaanite characterization of El as an inactive deity is far removed from the true extent of Yahweh-Elohim’s interaction with the world.

The Canaanite god El may be viewed as a degenerated caricature of the true Creator of the universe, Yahweh-Elohim, but parallels also exist between Yahweh-Elohim and Baal, the chief “active” Canaanite god. Throughout Canaanite mythology Baal is described in terms that characterize his reign as the “vice-regency” of El. He rules with the authority of El (no matter how grudgingly given) and in the name of El, and all of his commands are to be viewed and followed as the commands of El.

Baal is characterized as the Vice-Regent of El, and his kingdom is predicted to be “everlasting” and to last “forever and ever.” Furthermore, throughout the texts a title that is repeatedly used to refer to Baal is “Rider of the Clouds.” A case of both of these references is found in the following Ugaritic text (related by Michael S. Heiser),

Truly I say to you, O Prince Baal
I repeat [to you], O Rider of the Clouds;
Behold, your enemy, O Baal
Behold, your enemy you will smite,
Behold, you will smite your foe.
You will take your everlasting kingdom,
Your dominion forever and ever.

In the Old Testament Yahweh-Elohim is described repeatedly as the “Rider of the Clouds” (for instance Deuteronomy 33:26, Psalm 68:5, Psalm 104:1-3 and Isaiah 19:1)  This is a clear case of Hebrew religion appropriating foreign terminology and using it to describe their God. It is not an accidental case of “religious evolution” but a clear case of the Hebrew prophets and priests telling the Canaanites that Yahweh-Elohim deserved recognition as much as and even beyond that given to Baal by the Canaanites.

Similarly, the Old Testament gives descriptions and predictions of Yahweh’s “everlasting kingdom” that is inevitable and will be established in the Messianic Era (Psalms 145:13, Daniel 4:3).

The Old Testament is also full of enigmatic occurrences in which a figure appears to the Patriarchs or Prophets, in human form, claiming to represent the full authority of Yahweh-Elohim and giving the commands of Yahweh-Elohim. In almost all of these instances this enigmatic “representative” or “Vice-Regent” of Yahweh-Elohim is simply referred to as the “angel of the Lord.”

    – In Genesis 32:24-30 Jacob wrestled with a “man,” after which Jacob said “I have seen God face to face...”

    – On Mount Horeb when Moses saw the burning bush he also saw the figure of the “angel of the Lord,” and the figure said from within the bush, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6).

    – In Judges 2 the “angel of the Lord” rebuked Israel and referred to Himself as the Lord who established His covenant with Israel.

    – Throughout the career of King David he too was often visited by the “angel of the Lord,” and David always understood the “angel” to be speaking in the name of, and with the full authority of, Yahweh-Elohim.

What these references tell us is that in Hebrew religion there did exist a position that corresponded with the position that Baal claimed for himself in Canaanite religion, which was the position of Vice-Regent of the Creator. However, the references from Hebrew religion tell us that Baal’s claim that he acted and ruled as the voice of God was completely false. Baal did not act according to the will of God, but against the will of God as far as God would allow it, and in numerous times beyond what God would allow.

Very simply, Baal was a very creative and skillfully camouflaged representation of Satan the “Lord of the Earth” who rose to a position of power over the seventy “sons of God” in the years after the nations were divided at the time following the Tower of Babel.

One of Baal’s Canaanite titles is “Baalzebul,” which means “Lord of those that fly” or “Lord of the high places.” This relates to Baal’s claim to rule from Mount Zaphon and to be the “Rider of the Clouds.” It also corresponds with Paul’s warning in Ephesians 6:12 that the ultimate adversary of Christian believers exists in the “high places” or “heavenly realms.”

Baal’s pagan title of “Baalzebul” was turned into the title “Baalzebub” by the Hebrew priests and scribes, which was an intentional insult to Baal that means “Lord of Dung.” Baalzebub is very clearly identified by Jesus and by Israel’s religious leaders in Matthew 12:24-27 as Satan the “Prince of demons.”

Greek Religion

In Greek mythology, which was developed centuries after Canaanite mythology, the concept of an original transcendent Creator of the universe was pushed away even further. The Greek myths refer to an original time when only Chaos existed. Out of this appeared Gaia, the earth deified as a goddess, and also Eros, which was simply a deification of “Love” or the “generative force.” These two produced the first true personality, the god Uranus (heaven). Then Gaia partnered with her son Uranus and produced a number of children, including the god Cronus, her youngest son. Cronus is described as the “‘twisted thinker’ and ‘most dread of children’ who hated his father.” Other children of Gaia and Uranus included the powerful Titans, and various monsters such as the Cyclops and the Centaurs, and their daughter Rhea, who married Cronus.

In his History of the Phoenicians Philo of Byblos explained how the Canaanite pantheon equated with the gods and goddesses of the later Greek pantheon. Philo equated the Canaanite god El with the Greek god Cronus. Recall that in the last chapter Baal-Hamon, the god of Carthage, was also equated with Cronus by Greek historians. It should also be mentioned that, as in Carthage, numerous Canaanite texts from Ras Shamra endorse child sacrifice as an effective way of worshiping and honoring Baal.

In Greek mythology Cronus was able to overthrow Uranus and become king of the gods with the help of his mother Gaia. Afterwards he had many children from his wife Rhea, but because he was perverse and paranoid he ate them when they were born so that none could grow up and challenge his kingship. In any case, his wife Rhea was able to hide their youngest son Zeus from him, who became king of the gods after (following the pagan Oedipal pattern) killing his father with help from his mother.

If El was Cronus, then Baal appears in Greek religion as Zeus, the king of the gods who reigned from Mount Olympus. Canaanite mythology does not advance to the point of Baal attacking and killing El and taking his place as the ultimate king of the pantheon, but apparently Greek mythology does when it describes the triumph of Zeus over his father Cronus and the Titans.

One of the main parallels between Baal and Zeus is their common usage of the symbol of the thunderbolt—they were both sky gods. A symbol that connects Zeus with the Babylonian pantheon is the planet Jupiter, which was the planet of Zeus and also the planet of the god Marduk. Greek historians also connected Zeus with the Egyptian pantheon by equating Zeus with the god Amun.

Another connection between Greek and Canaanite religion is the goddess Anat. She was revered by the Canaanites as a war goddess who could be counted on to stand up to El and Asherah on behalf of Baal (her half-brother or cousin) whom she mated with near the end of the Baal Cycle. According to Philo of Byblos, the land that Anat was given to rule over was the region of Attica in southern Greece, the region that is dominated by the city of Athens. Philo believed that Anat was in fact the Greek goddess of war Athena, the patron deity of the city of Athens.

In his book Among the Host of Heaven, Lowell K. Handy mentions the conclusions drawn by a number of scholars regarding the close connection between the goddess Anat and the ruling god Baal in Canaanite mythology,

    “...So dominant is the figure of Anat in the extant myths that it was thought for awhile that the narratives must have come from her cult. Even though the tablets clearly note that the narratives are concerned with Baal, Anat appears in them as the most physically powerful, or at least the most active, of all the deities represented.
    More recent theories hold that if these texts had their origin in the cult of Baal, Anat must have been viewed as subject to and under the control of Baal. Peterson and Woodward, in their quasi-structuralist approach, argue that the missing sections of “the myth” certainly showed Baal appointing Anat to her rank in the pantheon, a position where she would be under his control. Bowman concludes his study of the goddess Anat by stating that “Anatu’s main function was to support Balu in his efforts to maintain his supremacy in the pantheon.” In Bowman’s study Anat is reduced from being an independent deity to being a personified aspect of Baal (“his will”), a theory already suggested by Kapelrud. In such a reconstruction the violence engaged in by the goddess is not thought to be the activity of a goddess so much as an extension of the activities of the god Baal.”

This theory does much more than merely explain the relationship between Baal and Anat; it can also be used to help explain the first appearance of the “Queen of Heaven” goddess in the earliest myths of paganism. The true Creator stands alone, and has no desire or need for a consort, but the appearance of the great “Mother Goddess” does make sense if the long-term agenda of Satan is taken into account. His goal is to tear down the memory of the Creator in the minds of men, and at the same time to build himself up. The appearance of a goddess at the Creator’s side diminishes God’s creative abilities, humanizes Him, and makes Him appear dependent on a consort.

An important fact to remember is that, according to Sumerian accounts, Inanna the original “Queen of Heaven” was first installed as a goddess on the same top-tier level as the Father-God Anu by Enmerkar. The historical figure Enmerkar was the same as the Biblical empire-builder Nimrod, who lived his life as a servant of the god Enki, the ancient world’s clearest representation of Satan. The Mother Goddess of pagan religion has been used throughout history as a personified aspect of Satan. She is worshiped in the pagan world as the Mother of the earth and of gods and men, but the book of Revelation reveals the lie, calling her instead “The Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth” (Revelation 17:5).

Christian author Robert Bowie Johnson Jr. agrees with this conclusion and offers many more interesting insights in his book The Parthenon Code. Johnson specializes in Greek myth and its connection with the earliest stories from the book of Genesis, and in his book he analyzes the ancient Parthenon of Athens. This structure was the very epicenter of Greek religion and culture, and the sculptures and scenes depicted within the Parthenon and through its architecture told the story of human origins according to the pagan Greek perspective.

According to Johnson (who looks at Greek religion specifically through the paradigm of ancestor worship), Zeus and Hera the divine couple can be viewed as deifications of Adam and Eve, the first human couple. However, as with the Canaanite goddess Anat, Athena was the most active of the Greek deities. The temple called the Parthenon was a temple dedicated to the parthena (virgin) Athena, and in ancient times the interior of the Parthenon was dominated by a huge ivory and gold-plated statue of Athena that rose well over thirty feet up to the ceiling.

According to the second century writer Pausanius, “All the figures in the gable over the entrance to the temple called the Parthenon relate to the birth of Athena.” Johnson’s research focuses on reconstructing and interpreting this “east pediment” of the Parthenon, under which worshipers would pass to enter the temple. Upon it stood a line of statues of Greek gods carved in marble out of the upper gable-end wall itself. At the very center of the pediment stood Zeus, with his wife Hera on his left and the maiden goddess Athena on his right. On Hera’s side were representations of five other deities, while on Athena’s side representations of four.

According to Greek myth, creation appeared by itself out of Chaos. Night followed Chaos, which was deified by the figure Nyx. In Hesiod’s Theogony, which has many themes reminiscent of the book of Genesis, from Nyx came the Hesperides and the three Fates. The Hesperides are a group of goddesses (usually three or more) who are always shown lounging in a luxurious garden which contains a tree of golden apples with a serpent entwined around it. The three Fates are named Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, and they “give men at their birth evil and good to have.” They are always pictured spinning, measuring and cutting the thread of life.

From the viewers perspective, Nyx (night) is shown exiting the scene on the far right of the east pediment of the Parthenon, while on the far left (Athena’s side) Helios (the sun) is shown entering and illuminating the scene.

Next to Helios is a statue of Herakles (or Hercules) the most famous hero of Greek myth. He is a favorite of Athena, and she helped him in his famous twelve labors, the last of which was stealing three golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides.

Next to Herakles the three Fates are pictured: Clotho is spinning thread, Lachesis is measuring it, but Atropos does not cut it because she is prevented by the figure of Nike which stands between her and Athena. Nike is simply a representation of the abstract idea of “Victory” or “Triumph” and a Nike is also held by the great statue of Athena that stood within the Parthenon. Nike’s presence on the east pediment, and the fact that she “turns away” Atropos, represents Athena’s triumph over the Fate of death.

On the right side of the east pediment three of the Hesperides, with tree and snake, are lounging next to the departing Nyx. Between Hera and the Hesperides stand the Greek gods Hephaistos, Hermes and Atlas.

Atlas helped the aged Cronus and was the leader of the twelve Titans that fought against Zeus. They were defeated and Atlas was punished by being forced to hold up the heavens forever, while the other Titans were cast into Tartarus (Hell).

Hermes was the son of Zeus, and fulfilled a role as the messenger of the gods and god of wisdom, like that of Marduk’s son Nabu and Amun’s son Thoth. The importance of Hermes within Gnosticism and in the occult resurgence during the Renaissance will be covered in a future chapter.

Hephaistos, who stands next to Hera, was the first-born son of Zeus and Hera, who was kicked out of the household because of a quarrel. Hephaistos became skilled at metalworking and later he became known as the “armourer of the gods.” Hephaistos appears to have much in common with the Canaanite god Kothar, who provided Baal with the weapons to defeat Yam in the Baal Cycle myth.

Johnson believes that Hephaistos may represent the deified Cain, first-born son of Adam and Eve, who was banished from the family. Descendents of Cain were the first humans to have contact with the fallen angels, and Cain’s descendent Tubal-Cain “forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron” (Genesis 4:22). The descendents of this group used their tools and weapons to build the great and wicked empire recalled in many legends as Atlantis, which was destroyed in Noah’s flood.

According to Greek myth Athena was born fully grown from Zeus. Hephaistos played an important role in her birth, and there are many pictures from ancient Greek art of Hephaistos using his axe to break open the head of Zeus, out of which Athena sprang, fully grown, fully armed and ready for battle. Strangely, Zeus suffered no ill effects from the episode.

Recall that according to Pausanius, “All the figures in the gable over the entrance to the temple called the Parthenon relate to the birth of Athena.” Johnson’s provocative conclusion is that the birth of Athena, symbolically portrayed at the entrance to the Greek capitol’s greatest temple, represents the rebirth of Satan’s system of worship after the flood. Athena is the reborn Eve (who was created fully grown from Adam) who has gratefully accepted the Forbidden Fruit, gained the serpent’s wisdom and the knowledge of good and evil, and triumphed over death.

The idea that Athena was part of a religious system that involved at its hidden core the worship of Satan is proven through a closer look at the figure at the head of the system itself—Zeus. The very name “Zeus” is understood by scholars to derive from an Indo-European root that means “to shine or gleam brightly.” Johnson quotes from another Greek scholar who argues that Zeus actually mean “the moment of lighting up,” which was connected not with the beginning of the world “but with the time of which they themselves had historical consciousness.”

Zeus was also known by the name Zeus Phanaios, which means “One Who Appears as Light and Brings Light.” Johnson refers to 2 Corinthians 11:14 in which Paul states that “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” Johnson believes that this “Light,” this “moment of lighting up” which brought “human consciousness,” was for the pagan world the moment when Eve triumphantly accepted the forbidden fruit from the serpent in the Garden of Eden and gained the knowledge of good and evil for all humanity.

Johnson explains that Zeus is characterized in the Parthenon and throughout Greek culture as a snake, and he refers to many ancient depictions, including one found at Athens harbor that dates to the fourth century BC, that depicts a coiled, bearded snake, with the caption “Zeus Melichios” meaning “Zeus the Easily Entreated One.” Johnson quotes from an authoritative Greek scholar, Jane Ellen Harrison, an avowed atheist, who wrote the following in her study of Greek religion:

“We are brought face-to-face with the astounding fact that Zeus, father of gods and men, is figured by his worshipers as a snake . . . The human-shaped Zeus has slipped quietly into the place of the old snake-god. Art sets plainly forth what has been dimly shadowed in ritual and mythology. It is not that Zeus the Olympian has an “underworld aspect;” it is the cruder fact that he of the upper air, of the thunder and lightning, extrudes an ancient serpent-demon of the lower world, Meilichios.”

Zeus was viewed by the Greeks as the father, savior and illuminator of the human race, and his primary symbol was that of the serpent, the very same creature that was cursed by God for deceiving Adam and Eve. Within the vast collection of ancient Greek religious art the representations of the second-tier gods and goddesses are often accompanied by snakes. In fact the gigantic gold and ivory statue of Athena that stood within the Parthenon was accompanied by a figure of a large snake, with head held high on Athena’s left side, rising up next to her as if it were a pet.

Johnson explains that the appearance of snakes alongside the many Greek deities indicates that these deities are part of the serpent’s “system of enlightenment and sacrifice.” However, representations of the human figure of Zeus are never accompanied by a serpent. Johnson explains that this is because Zeus is not subordinate to the serpent’s system—he is the serpent.

One of the most effective points in Johnson’s hypothesis is made when he highlights the fact that in the book of Revelation Jesus refers to the Ionian city of Pergamum as the city “where Satan’s throne is... where Satan dwells” (2:13). The most impressive structure within the entire Pergamum Acropolis, which contained a number of temples and the second largest ancient library next to Alexandria’s, was a massive altar dedicated to Zeus.

This great altar, called by historians “the finest altar ever built,” was completed in about 180 BC. The structure stood forty feet high, measured over one hundred feet long, and the stairs that ascended to the upper level were sixty-five feet wide. The most impressive aspect of the altar, however, was its intricate imagery sculpted into the frieze work that surrounded the lower level of the altar. Altogether there were almost four hundred feet of this frieze-work that some experts say marked the climax of classical Greek sculpture.

The sculptures depicted the defeat of the Titans by Zeus, Hercules and Athena, and the founding of Pergamum by the son of Hercules. The magnificent frieze-work is known as “the first known instance of continuous narrative in sculpture” and contained representations of 34 goddesses, 20 gods, 59 giants and 28 animals.

This ancient monumental masterpiece was discovered by a German railroad builder, Carl Humann, in 1875, and several years later he began to excavate and uncover pieces of the intricate frieze, shipping them to Germany. In 1930 a replica of the entire massive altar was set up, with pieces of the original frieze work, in the newly-built Pargamum Museum in Berlin.

The prophetic and occult significance of the appearance of the ancient altar of Zeus, the “Throne of Satan,” in Berlin immediately prior to the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany will be examined in a future chapter.


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Peter Goodgame
December 3, 2004