The Hebrew Roots of Classical Culture and Law

by | Jul 4, 2017 | Axe to the Root, Master

Host

Bojidar Marinov

Description

The Hebrew Roots of Classical Culture and Law

But meanwhile, as Eusebius pointed out, the pagan world was learning spiritual principles from Moses, through the fame of Solomon. The pagans themselves knew very well where their civilization came from. Julius Caesar read the Septuagint and freed the Jews in his empire from any taxes. The temple in Jerusalem was a place where many Greeks and Romans and other nations came to worship. Wise men from the east came to worship the King of the Jews, and Titus specifically instructed his legions to spare the Temple of God. Proselytes – even from the house of Caesar – joined the Jewish communities and became part of the nation of Israel, later of the nation of the Church. When the covenantal status of ethnic Israel was removed, then the burden of defining and directing history through a confession of faith fell to the Church. But the Church didn’t act in a vacuum. It had material to work on: a civilization which in the course of centuries, slowly and painfully, was shaped and influenced by the Hebrew worldview to become more civilized, seeking God, and thus more open to accept His Gospel. In the final account, even the ancient world was driven by a profession of faith; and history was simply the perfection of that faith.

Assigned reading: Barry Fell, America BC

Transcript

Welcome to Episode 56 of Axe to the Root Podcast, part of the War Room Productions, I am Bo Marinov, and for the next 30 minutes we will talk about history. To be more precise, we will be talking about a part of history that has happened a long time ago, and there aren’t many historical documents left of that period; and yet, that part of history is very important to our understanding of the Bible, of the Kingdom of God, and of what we call “redemptive history,” that is, the history of salvation applied to this world and to its institutions. We are going to be talking about ancient history, and I mean, really ancient, like the history before Rome, actually, even before Persia and Classical Greece, as far back as the barbaric times of Greece, when the mythological heroes of Homer were just teenagers fighting over a girl, and Hammurabi, praised today as the first and the greatest lawgiver of mankind, was a mere local warlord who simply had the idea of recording his so-called laws on a stone. Whether these laws were his work or not, we will see later in this podcast, for now, keep in mind, that we are going really back in history, and if some of what I’m saying sounds like Greek to you, my friendly advice is: buy a few books about ancient history and get an overall idea of what it was all about.

A few years ago, at an annual conference of the Mid-Atlantic Reformation Society – just like the one I mentioned in the previous podcast, in Reading PA, titled, The Future of Christendom – I delivered a lecture titled, “History Is Nothing More Than the Perfection of the Creeds Over Time.” In it, I spoke of the principle of meaning of history, following R.J. Rushdoony’s The Foundations of Social Order. What binds history together? What creates the cause-and-effect relationship for all the events in history. What is the red thread that goes through history and defines it, and gives it meaning? The Biblical answer is: Faith. And since faith in history is visibly expressed in the creeds of the church, my point is that history is nothing more than the perfection of the creeds over time. At every point in history, there is a level of creedal awareness in Christians which expresses itself first in their formal creeds or confessions, and then in their ideologies applying these creeds to the realm of ideas, and finally, in their practice, applying the ideologies to the practical world of human action and endeavor. What about the unbelievers? They follow suit. Every event in history, every trend, every continuity (whether growth or decline) and discontinuity (whether a revolution, a catastrophe, or a discovery of new technologies) can be traced back to the current level of creedal growth of the Church and of its influence upon the world. As the creeds and confessions of the church develop the faith of the church into a more informed, detailed, and self-conscious faith – self-conscious about all its applications in all the areas of life – the level of maturity of the world’s civilization will grow, and the world will be turning into a better, more productive, and safer place. Faith is the motion principle of history; anything else follows from faith. And specifically, from the Christian faith, given that all the other faiths are worth nothing. I have the lecture published as a separate article. If you are interested in my thesis, you can find it on ChristendomRestored.com, as well as an audio lecture on Reconstructionist Radio.

I met my regular share of criticism. Some came from the regular atheist/agnostic crowd. Some came from the self-styled “strict subscriptionists” in the Reformed circles, that is, those who claim to “strictly subscribe” to the Confessions, and specifically to the Westminster Confession. Obviously, if history is the perfection of the creeds of time, then the Westminster Confession – or any other confession – is not perfect, and strictly subscribing to it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. To the contrary, what should be expected in history is the perfection of the Confession. Which means, some of its content will need to go, because it was theologically incorrect, some will have to be modified or expanded, and, of course, the main truths in it will remain the same, because there will always be continuity. None of these criticisms were serious enough to deserve more than a few words to answer.

Out of all the flak, however, came a good and serious question, which, in fact, reflects a greater problem for our faith in the field of apologetics. The question was as follows:

I understand that history after the Cross is only the perfection of creeds over time. But what about history before the Cross, when the world had such rich history, and yet, knew nothing of Christ or the faith in Christ. Are there two separate and different principles for interpretation of history, one BC and the other AD?”

It was a wonderful and profound question, indeed. In a sense, we know that there is a discontinuity between the Old and the New Covenant, and there is a discontinuity in history between the two eras. So much is easy to say. On the other hand, is that discontinuity so radical that it excludes faith and confession of faith as the ruling principle for history? Was history before the cross defined and motivated by something other than faith in God? If it was so, then it sounds like at least for a time, God’s redemption and grace were not the most powerful factor this side of the final judgment; and yet, we know from the Bible that God’s grace – and with it, the faith in God – has been the central thread of all history. The Westminster Confession states that the Covenant of Grace was instituted right after the sin of Adam, and that the giving of the Law was itself one of the administrations of the Covenant of Grace. And grace only works through faith, whether in the life of the individual or in history. Thus, no matter what discontinuity we postulate between OT and NT history, faith and confession of faith must continue to be the central factor that defines and motivates history. But then, how does that happen in the OT, before the manifestation of the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2)?

This question is also important in view of another problem, one related to apologetics. Those of us who have adopted the presuppositional epistemology of Van Til know well that one of the arguments for Christianity is that without faith in Christ, there is no basis for any ethics or law. The immediate reply of the unbelievers would be: “But before Christ, there were organized societies and civilizations, and they had their own systems of ethics and law. If without faith in Christ there is no basis for ethics or law, how did these societies emerge in the first place?” Indeed, how did Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome emerge? How did the empires in India and China appear and survived for a few thousand years before the first missionaries arrived? How did the empires of the Mayas, the Aztecs, and the Incas emerge?

These are all good questions, and they deserve an answer. Not an answer within the framework of a pagan worldview but within the context of a Biblical worldview, one that takes in account the nature of the very concepts of law and ethics and their relation to Christ, and also takes in account the clear Biblical history as it is related in the Old Testament of the Bible. Biblical history, not the modern secularized version. We talked in a previous podcast about the modern secularized version of history and its chronology. Modern secularist historians always act and speak as if they have everything nailed down, all the events, all the actors, and all the chronology of the ancient history. The truth is, they have very little, and most of what passes for ancient history in the modern textbooks is 90% or more conjectures, and less than 10% facts; and even these facts are rather a haphazard collection organized on nothing more than guesses and imagination. I have seen more than a few history students who somehow believe that the ancients for sure must have recorded all of their activities, and must have dated them as we do today, for example, “This happened on January 30th, 678 BC.” The modern history textbooks seldom contain more than pure conjectures, and the only book we have available that gives a reliable uninterrupted account of events and actors in ancient history is the Bible.

But the question still remains: How did these ancient civilizations appear, if we say that a civilization can’t appear without some sort of faith in Christ?

In order to answer this question, we need to make a short review of what is really known about ancient history, and then make note of one very interesting fact in that history that is seldom mentioned by secularist historians.

We know very little of the history of the world right after the Great Flood which happened about 2,400 BC. We know that Noah’s family multiplied greatly within a period of about 1,000 years. We don’t have many details about the historical events in that period. We know that Nimrod organized the first centralized state in Mesopotamia, and that under his rule some groups of men tried to build the Tower of Babel. Abraham came out of Ur of the Chaldeans about 400 years after the Flood, and by his time, there were societies organized as local monarchies all over the Middle East and Egypt. Some of these societies seem to have had high levels of technology, for they left us some construction wonders like the Pyramids and the Temple in Baalbek. Similar highly technological societies must have been founded in other parts of the globe, for we know of other, similarly impressive, construction projects in other places in the world, like South America, China, India, South Africa, and others. We know next to nothing about the real builders of these marvels of construction; as far as we can judge, they either disappeared, for one reason or another, or over time lost their technological knowledge and experience.

We have a sufficient Biblical explanation for the emergence and existence of these organized societies: In the several generations after the Flood, Noah’s descendants must have kept at least some remembrance of the Flood and of the reasons for it. The faith of Noah and his sons must have still been the dominant cultural factor in the world around them. After all, Noah was still alive when Abraham was born, and he passed away around the time Abraham was leaving his family. Even more interesting, Noah’s son, Shem, ancestor of Abraham, actually outlived Abraham by about 50 years! These direct survivors of the Flood must have been the ancient substitute for an official public creed; their faith had given the foundation of a worldview that helped establish law, organization, and structures of government which were not easily corrupted . . . well, in the beginning, at least. Even where the people may have fallen into idolatry, the worldview of the faith of Noah had remained as a cultural heritage (similar to the modern Western Europe) and provided the intellectual foundation for their societies. So, in these first generations after the Flood, history was defined and motivated, again, by the faith of the covenant people of God, and their influence on the world around them, including the unbelievers.

This situation did not remain for long, however, for even at the time of Abraham we see that the cultures through which he traveled were already reverting to barbarism. In not a single one of these societies was there anything close to an objective law of the land. (Objective in the sense that it doesn’t depend on the whim of a ruler or a caste of rulers.) Everywhere he went, Abraham had to deal with the whim of the local rulers – which was a tough task, given that he was traveling with a stunningly beautiful wife. He had to ask them for permission to travel and settle and do business; there was nothing like a law he could appeal to. Even hospitality, which is considered a “traditional value” in the region, had to be extracted from them through God’s threats in dreams and visions. Foreigners were not protected in any possible way; even though Lot and his family had nothing to do with the population of Sodom and Gomorrah, they were still taken captive by the victorious kings. And the only way Abraham could extract justice was by a military victory. This situation remained for more than just a few generations. At the time of the Exodus from Egypt, the pagan nations still had no idea of objective law or even courts; everything was done at the whim or permission of their rulers. From the Exodus from Egypt to the passing through Edom, through the times of David and Solomon and the rest of the kings of Judah and Israel, only Israel had an objective, public law, which didn’t depend on the whim of the ruler, but governed both rulers and ruled. The first instance in the Bible when objective law is mentioned as a concept in a pagan nation is Persia in the times of Daniel. Moses’s promise in Deut. 4:5-8 that Israel would be unique because of the Law it was given was very significant. True enough, no other nation had such a law . . . or even a concept of such a law.

It is of this period that the modern science of history has its first written documents. The memory of the great developed societies immediately after the Flood is lost completely. All we know about is that period of barbarism in which there was no commonly accepted system of ethics between the nations, and there was no law. Of that same period we have stories of the earliest kingdoms in Egypt, which were nothing more than warring clans. We also have Homer’s Iliad: a story of unruly and undisciplined young men, entrusted with whole armies, fighting over a woman. Other accounts of pre-classical Greece – especially that of Licurgus, whom we will mention later – also show that Greece was nothing more than a battlefield between different tribes, with no knowledge of law or civilization, or organization of life. Of that same period is the Xia Dynasty in China, of which very little is known, but what is known is that it was similarly, a period of warring clans. Apparently, after the death of Noah and his sons, the faith in God declined, and, accordingly, the worldview supported by that faith disappeared. With the disappearance of that worldview, the principle of cohesion in the society disappeared. All that was left was the absolute power of the local rulers, and a naked ambition for conquest and plunder.

As was to be expected, the principle of cohesion disappeared in the society, but it first disappeared in the religion and thephilosophy of the ancients. In his revolutionary work on the religion and society of the ancient Greece and Rome titled The Ancient City, the Swiss scholar Fustel de Coulanges describes the religion of the ancient Greeks and Romans. There was no concept of a universal God; all that they had were their family gods or heroes. There were hundreds of Jupiters and Junos and Minervas and Marses. Every town had its own version of some god, and had a temple to it. Every family had its gods, and these gods lived within the boundaries of the family property. (Think of Rachel stealing her father’s household idols in Gen. 31:19 as stealing the religion and the power of her father’s family.) That’s why it was so important for the deceased to be buried under the threshold of the house: this was a guarantee that his spirit will join the household gods and will continue having a strong influence on the household. This faith was so strong that, as de Coulanges relates, an Athenian admiral who won a sea battle was taken to court and sentenced to death because after the battle, due to an approaching storm, he decided to give up trying to recover the bodies of the killed Athenian sailors from the water, in order to save those who were alive. In the eyes of his compatriots, he put his country at risk; the dead bodies of Athenians were considered of a greater value for the defense of Athens than its living citizens. The admiral, of course, was motivated by the new spirit I will mention in a few minutes; and de Coulanges gives this as an example of a religious revolution through which the whole ancient world went through between twelfth and sixth centuries before Christ. The same view of the local power and nature of the gods can be seen in 1 Kings 20 where the Arameans believed that Jehovah is a god of the mountains, and therefore he won’t have any power in the valleys. The fragmentation of the ancient societies started with the fragmentation of their worldview first. Once the deity was fragmented and broken down to many gods limited to families and clans, there could be no ideology of universal manhood and civilization.

There could be no universal ethics either. De Coulanges demonstrates that not only the gods were limited to the families, but the very concepts of law and ethics were limited too. Law was not universal, it was private to the family; and when the ancient cities were formed, law and knowledge of the law were a restricted privilege to the ruling class; there was no public, objective law, and the lower classes were not taught any law. Rome is a good example of that: Between its founding and the time of Julius Caesar, there were multiple insurrections of the plebeians, that is, the lower classes. To their demand for equal rights, the patrician class always responded with, “We can’t grant you equal status. You have no knowledge of law.” The law of the land was not public knowledge; it was a privilege of the rulers to know it, and they used that knowledge as a means of oppression and suppression of discontent. In Greece, and especially in Sparta, it was illegal to teach slaves or foreigners the laws of the land; in some places, even teaching the slaves to read and write could earn one the death penalty. Foreigners could claim no protection, for such protection would have involved some interaction with the law; they were left entirely to the mercy of the citizens, and there was no court to take up the cause of a foreigner. It is for this reason Athenian residents convicted of treason were given the option of either suicide or exile, and many chose suicide, for exile was a much harsher penalty.

All this started changing in the 8th and the 7th centuries BC. First, the concept of gods as universal principles began to emerge. Those universal principles were soon separated from the local deities with whose names they were associated; the gods were sent to abide on the Mount Olympus, and they were now given universal power over the earth. The idea of Jupiter as an exalted Father of the gods appeared, and was promoted by a number of play-wrights and philosophers. Remember, however, this was an attack on the older religion which considered the gods as belonging to families and clans. The conflicts were severe at times, and the story of the Athenian admiral I shared earlier was part of that religious conflict: obviously, the man had a universal view of the gods and rejected the localist view of divinity limited to tribe and clan and kin; that made him free of the superstition that the dead bodies of slain warriors would protect the home if they were buried in the same ground. The conflict can be seen in quite a few of the Greek tragedies by play-wrights like Sophocles and Euripides. A number of Greek philosophical schools of the time were based on the belief in the universal nature of the godhead; and therefore some philosophies were devoted to examine the nature of that godhead. Apparently, by the time of Paul that nature hasn’t been discovered yet, for Paul believed that the “unknown god” whom some in Athens believed in was the same God as that of the Bible. Similar transition from local deities to universal gods and goddesses was happening in the same period in India. In China, the period around the 10th century BC (or perhaps later, given the habit of Chinese historians to stretch their chronology) was marked by the rule of the Shang Dynasty. The Shang, or the Heavenly Dynasty was known for introducing new concepts of religion and law in China, and building the first modern organized society. In its religious reformed, the Shang Dynasty established the worship of one god, ShangDi, the heavenly God. True enough, at the lowest, practical level, the Chinese people still venerated and deified their ancestors, but at the level of official state ideology, monotheism seems to have been the rule, and this was a serious break with the older Shamanism of the first Dynasty, the Xia Dynasty.

Modern secularist historians, of course, claim that such change from local demons to universal gods was just a natural “evolutionary development.” It is very hard to accept such an interpretation, however, given two facts: First, the change was not accepted as “normal” or “natural.” There was resistance, and the old beliefs continued existing along with the new worldview. And second, the change happened almost simultaneously around the world; as if it came from the same source. These lead us to a conclusion – may be not 100% proven, but more probable than the alternatives – that the nations of the world learned about a universal god or gods from the same source which was popular around the world at the time. But was there such a source, and what was it?

The Bible gives us the answer: Solomon.

We are all influenced today by the modern secularist thinking that ancient Israel was somehow just a small insignificant kingdom in the big picture of things, and that when we study ancient history, we can easily ignore it. Somehow the Bible has its own version of history, and it relates to Israel, while there is also real history, which relates to the real events, and the two are in a state of dualistic separation. But the truth is, the Bible speaks true history, and modern textbook history is 90% and more the imagination of modern secularist historians. And the Bible gives us the most reliable account of the events of ancient history.

Hold on to your chairs now.

The Bible specifically says about Solomon that his fame spread over the whole earth, and that all the kings of the earth came to him to ask for advice. Not just some kings, not just the local kings. All of them. 1 Kings 4:34: “Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.” 1 Kings 10:23-24: “So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.” 2 Chr. 9:22-23: “So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the kings of the earth were seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.”

Keep in mind that what was happening to Solomon was simply the promise of Moses in Deut. 4:5-8 coming true. The nations of the earth were expected to be attracted to the wisdom of Israel and thus acknowledge and glorify the God of Israel. In the same way, the kings and the nations of the earth were attracted to the wisdom of Solomon; and this couldn’t lead to anything else but to some form of acknowledgment of the God of Solomon. And since the God of Solomon was unique in the fact that he was not a local deity limited to a nation or a piece of land, but a universal God, the nations of the earth started applying that universalist concept to their own religions. Granted, they did not accept the God of Solomon as their God; such worldwide conversion was saved for later, for the ministry of Jesus Christ and His Church; but even before Christ the knowledge of the Jewish religion was known around the world; after all, that’s why we had the Magi coming from the East to worship the King of the Jews, and that’s why there were Greek worshippers in the Temple in Jesus’s time. And yet, even if their religion didn’t change, their view of reality started changing towards seeking for the God of the universe, “if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).

We don’t have the time to go into details, but given the facts of history, and given the Biblical narrative, we have an explanation how mankind, which in the several generations after the Flood had fallen into barbarism and lawlessness, was raised back to civilization: The fame of Solomon’s wisdom restored around the world the religion – or at least the worldview following from that religion – which the authority of Noah and his sons had maintained for several hundred years after the Flood. We may not know today how all these kings learned about Solomon; we may even be influenced by the secularist ideas that communications at that time were not such as to make it possible for ships to reach all the parts of the globe. The truth is, however, we have abundant evidence that the peoples of the Middle East and Europe were trading with the whole world, including East Asia and the Americas. Early Hebrew, Phoenician, and Celtic inscriptions were found, and still exist, in some places in America, and some of the Psalms and the prophets seem to indicate long-range voyages for commodities normally not known to the Mediterranean. I will assign for reading a book that deals with these issues, so now, let’s continue to the logical consequence of this change in religious worldview:

Not only the worldview changed, but the view of law and justice changed, too.

Some time ago I wrote an article which you can find on Christendom Restored.com, titled, “The Shadow of Christ in the Legal Revolutions in Greece and Rome.” I wish I could read the whole article here, but that would make this episode too long. So I will just give a short resume.

It is beyond doubt that by the time of Christ, mankind had put the earlier stage of barbarism behind and had adopted a more civilized approach to society and justice. This doesn’t mean that the Classical civilization had any idea of mercy or detested cruelty; far from it. But at least, unlike in the early years of Greece and Rome, law was believed to be something objective and public, and was published for common knowledge and restraint. To get an understanding of how sharp the difference was, keep in mind that any earlier attempt to make the law public for all to read and understand, including for the plebeians, was promptly suppressed by the senatorial class. What we know today as “Roman Law” only came about with the Empire, when Julius Caesar and then Augustus started the process of dismantling the old aristocracy. But how did the ancient world come to an understanding that the law should be public?

The Christian historian Eusebius explains in his History of the Church that this change started with Moses:

. . . an entire nation appeared, sprung from the Hebrews and practicing the true religion. To them, through the prophet Moses, he revealed images and symbols of a mystical Sabbath and of circumcision, as well as instruction in other spiritual principles, but no complete revelation of the mysteries, for they were still bound by old practices. Yet when their law became famous and penetrated everywhere like a fragrant breeze, the minds of most of the heathen were moderated by lawgivers and philosophers. Savage brutality changed into mildness, so that profound peace, friendship, and easy communication prevailed.

Indeed, in the ancient world, there was only one nation that had an objective law, not dependent on the whim of the rulers, and that law was supposed to be read publicly every seven years for all to know. And, if this was not enough, there was a special class in Israel, the Levites, who were supposed to be supported by the general population with the sole purpose of teaching the Law of God to their hosts. Israel was unique in this regard, and if there is a nation that could be the source of the revolutionary change in the thinking and legislation of the nations of the world at the time, that nation would be Israel.

By tradition, the creation of first public law in Greece was ascribed to Lycurgus, a king of Sparta who lived just a generation after Solomon. According to the many accounts of him, he was distressed by the internecine strife in his native country, and he voluntarily abdicated from his kingship and went abroad in the search of a good law to bring back. On his journeys, he met one of the most mysterious characters we know of in ancient history: someone named Thales (like the other Thales, of Milletus, the father of Greek philosophy and mathematics), or Thaletas. This Thaletas made his living as a bard at weddings and funerals, but he was universally known as one of the ablest lawgivers in the antiquity, who used his songs to teach his listeners law. Now, that was a novelty at the time. Not that the pagan nations didn’t have their bards, but these bards usually sang praises to their heroes and kings. Using songs to teach law was something new. Lycurgus didn’t waste time, and he asked Thaletas to move to Sparta and start a music school. there. Thaletas thus became the father of Greek music and the father of Greek legislation.

Interestingly enough, however, the name Thaletas is not Greek and it doesn’t mean anything in Greek. The name is clearly Semitic, and in both Hebrew and Aramean it means the same: a Lamb. Thus, the first laws of Greece were made by someone who sang songs about the Law (like David) and used a Semitic name meaning “a Lamb.” The story was well known to the classical world and especially to all Greek-speaking inhabitants of the Roman Empire. Apparently, the Bible also directs the attention of its Greek readers to it: in one of the very few instances where Aramean is used instead of Greek, Mark 5:41, Jesus uses the word “talitha” (a ewe-lamb, a name normally used for young girls, just like a “kid” today is used for children): Talitha Kumi. There is no obvious reason why Mark should use the Aramean version of Jesus’s words here, until we realize that for a Greek speaker, the text sounds like, “Thaletas, rise!” As if Jesus was declaring to all His Greek readers that in His ministry, He was the new Thaletas, the supreme legislator of the Greek world.

Thaletas’s work, of course, did not give the perfect solution to Greece; that perfection was to be brought only by Christ Himself. Lycurgus’s laws, based on the counsel of Thaletas, did not deal with the deep divisions of the Spartan society. The social castes were preserved, the oppression of certain people was preserved, and Sparta remained a militarized society. There were also improvements, however: the civil wars ended, and Sparta had internal peace for several centuries. Three hundred years later a legislator in Athens, Solon, continued the work by giving Athens laws that were much better and more just than those of Lycurgus. Still not perfect, that is, not according to the Law of God, but much better nevertheless. The Greek world was being civilized step by step, and that process was started by a Hebrew bard, who sang the Law in his songs.

Solon, on his turn, was the inspiration for the legal and religious reforms of Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome after Romulus. Numa was the man of peace in a bloodthirsty generation, a man of spirit in a generation of lusty materialists, and a man of justice in a generation that believed that injustice is the way to achieving cultural domination. He claimed divine guidance, but there are indications that he also learned from the east, specifically Athens, but also Israel. Numa started his reforms by closing first the temple of the god of war, Mars, and then all the other temple of the pagan gods. According to Plutarch, the reason for this was that,

Numa forbade the Romans to represent God in the form of man or beast, nor was there any painted or graven image of a deity admitted amongst them for the space of the first hundred and seventy years, all of which time their temples and chapels were kept free and pure from images; to such baser objects they deemed it impious to liken the highest, and all access to God impossible, except by the pure act of the intellect.

Now, where could Numa have gotten such an idea? Noah and his sons had been dead for 1,000 years, at least, and none of their descendants continued the faith of these patriarchs. There was only one place in the world at the time of Numa – 8th century BC – where such ideas about God were the official religion: Israel. Numa took the throne in 715 BC, about 200 years after the death of Solomon. Solomon’s fame must still have been remembered, and his ideas about God and religion must have left some trace in the minds of many people on the planet. The Hebrew origin of Numa’s religion and worldview is quite clear.

He didn’t leave it there. Numa also started a legal reform, a reform which was supposed to give the plebeian population of Rome their own vote in the assembly, as well as legal protection for them and their families against the arbitrary dictat of the senatorial class. At the foundation of his reform was the belief that a public law, equal and just to all, was the foundation of peace in the society. Again, such idea was unheard of in the pagan societies at the time; it was an idea unique to Israel and the Law of God. He also began an institutional reform designed to free the government institutions from the tyranny of the politically and economically powerful of the day. He was so successful in this that centuries later, many of the political and judicial institutions of Rome were still ascribed to his genius. He also disbanded many political institutions and made his government economically effective, by reducing his expenses.

Numa lived to old age and died in his 80th year of age. After his death, however, the patrician class made sure that his legal and religious reforms were reversed. The public plates with his laws were buried with him in his grave; many generations later, when his library was discovered, members of the Senate demanded that it be burned, for in h is library several books were discovered with Numa’s views on justice and the legal system – the idea of making the law available to all inhabitants of Rome was unthinkable for those pagan aristocrats. Again, as with Lycurgus, God gave Rome in its early years a worldview that would at least preserve her for a while. The perfect law was to be given later, at the Cross of Christ.

But meanwhile, as Eusebius pointed out, the pagan world was learning spiritual principles from Moses, through the fame of Solomon. The pagans themselves knew very well where their civilization came from. Julius Caesar read the Septuagint and freed the Jews in his empire from any taxes. The temple in Jerusalem was a place where many Greeks and Romans and other nations came to worship. Wise men from the east came to worship the King of the Jews, and Titus specifically instructed his legions to spare the Temple of God. Proselytes – even from the house of Caesar – joined the Jewish communities and became part of the nation of Israel, later of the nation of the Church. When the covenantal status of ethnic Israel was removed, then the burden of defining and directing history through a confession of faith fell to the Church. But the Church didn’t act in a vacuum. It had material to work on: a civilization which in the course of centuries, slowly and painfully, was shaped and influenced by the Hebrew worldview to become more civilized, seeking God, and thus more open to accept His Gospel. In the final account, even the ancient world was driven by a profession of faith; and history was simply the perfection of that faith.

The book I will assign for reading this week is America BC by Barry Fell. It is not directly related to this topic, but it will give you evidence that the modern views of ancient history are strongly deficient, that in the time of Solomon, people traveled all over the globe, and brought with them their religion and worldview, and cultural practices.

Remember in your prayers Bulgarian Reformation Ministries, a mission organization devoted to building a Christian culture in Eastern Europe through the translation and publishing of solid Reformed and Reconstructionist books. Visit BulgarianReformation.com, subscribe to the newsletter, and donate. God bless y’all.

Assigned Reading

America B. C. – Ancient Settlers in the New World

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