God-Claimants 


LogoUniformitarianism

When defending their activity against Christian critics, modern secular 'Bible scholars' will give lip service to the principle of 'uniformitarianism,' which proclaims that events happened in the past much as they now happen. In the modern era, people claim to be God all the time. Some of these claimants are deranged, some are con artists, and some have taken a theological wrong turn somewhere along the line and ended up parked on a seldom-used social siding. But in former times, they tell us, it is quite impossible for Jesus of Nazareth to have claimed to be God. Why, who could possibly ever make such a claim!

Since G. W. F. Hegel and his successors, the discipline of history has not operated on the principle of uniformitarianism; however it is the inevitable resort of modern secular Bible scholars who seek to defend their discipline. If the principle is worth defending, why not actually use it? God-claimants being legion, an exhaustive account is unattainable; herewith an eclectic sample:


Prince of Tyre Salmoneus
Phya, the Tall Woman Saturn, King of Italy
Empedocles Zalmoxis
Menecrates Amulius
Demetrius Apsethus
Jesus of Nazareth Simon the Samaritan
Epiphanes son of Carpocrates Little Gods
Jewish Messiahs Gaius Caesar
The Khlysty Muslim Gods
Wallace D. Fard Father Divine
Jim Jones The Maharaj Ji
Draftees Romulus
Apollonius of Tyana



LogoPrince of Tyre

The prince of Tyre said that he was God, earning a rebuff and refutation from the living God:





  • “The word of the Lord came to me again, saying,
  • “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because your heart is lifted up, And you say, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, In the midst of the seas,’ Yet you are a man, and not a god, Though you set your heart as the heart of a god
  • “(Behold, you are wiser than Daniel! There is no secret that can be hidden from you!
  • “With your wisdom and your understanding You have gained riches for yourself, And gathered gold and silver into your treasuries;
  • “By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches, And your heart is lifted up because of your riches),”
  • “‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god,
  • “Behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you, The most terrible of the nations; And they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom, And defile your splendor.
  • “They shall throw you down into the Pit, And you shall die the death of the slain In the midst of the seas.
  • “Will you still say before him who slays you, ‘I am a god’? But you shall be a man, and not a god, In the hand of him who slays you.
  • “You shall die the death of the uncircumcised By the hand of aliens; For I have spoken,” says the Lord GOD.’””

  • (Ezekiel 28:1-10).





LogoSalmoneus

Salmoneus was a pagan god-claimant, a city-founder, who aimed for the top; he said that he was Zeus:



  • “Salmoneus at first dwelt in Thessaly, but afterwards he came to Elis and there founded a city. And being arrogant and wishful to put himself on an equality with Zeus, he was punished for his impiety; for he said that he was himself Zeus, and he took away the sacrifices of the god and ordered them to be offered to himself; and by dragging dried hides, with bronze kettles, at his chariot, he said that he thundered, and by flinging lighted torches at the sky he said that he lightened. But Zeus struck him with a thunderbolt, and wiped out the city he had founded with all its inhabitants.”

  • (Apollodorus, Library, I. ix. 5-8, Loeb p. 81).



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LogoHis special effects department was somewhat wanting: "Salmoneus, Aeolus's son and Sisyphus' brother, tried to imitate the thunder and lightning of Jupiter by sitting in a chariot and throwing burning torches at the people and the citizens." (Hyginus, Fabulae 61). This singed and smoking god-claimant is mentioned by Claudian, who finds a likeness in Archimedes' globe:

"When Jove looked down and saw the heavens figured in a sphere of glass he laughed and said to the other gods: 'Has the power of mortal effort gone so far? Is my handiwork now mimicked in a fragile globe? An old man of Syracuse has imitated on earth the laws of the heavens, the order of nature, and the ordinances of the gods. . .Why should I take umbrage at harmless Salmoneus and his mock thunder? Here the feeble hand of man has proved Nature's rival.'" (Claudian, Volume II, Shorter Poems, LI, 'Archimedes' Sphere,' pp. 279-281 Loeb edition).

People in the nineteenth century were smitten with the thought that an adverb, 'gradually,' could all by itself do the work formerly done by the concept of 'causation,' and authors like Ernest Renan posited a sequence whereby Jesus of Nazareth was gradually acclaimed a God: first people said He was really neat, then they said, Wow, He's great, then next thing you know they've promoted Him to sainthood, then on up the ladder, until finally in the fourth century He got to be God! It's hard to see that Salmoneus enjoyed a long enough interval between his claim and smoking to validate 'gradually' as a cause.

The Sibyl ran into Salmoneus in the underworld, or so the story goes:

"Here, too, I saw those giant
Twins of Aleoeus who laid their hands
Upon great heaven to rend it and to topple
Jove from his high seat, and I saw, too,
Salmoneus paying dearly for the jape
Of mimicking Jove's fire, Olympus' thunder:
Shaking a bright torch from a four-horse car
He rode through Greece and his home town in Elis,
Glorying, claiming honor as a god—
Out of his mind, to feign with horses' hoofs
On bronze the blast and inimitable bolt." (Virgil, The Aeneid, Book VI, Robert Fitzgerald translation, p.180)
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LogoPhya, the Tall Woman

Another pagan entrant, this time pretending to be Athena, not Zeus the highest. The Greek tyrant Pisistratus had fallen from power, but contrived to get his position back with the assistance of a statuesque lady-friend. This woman was nearly six feet tall. Dressing her in armor, they paraded her through the streets, and the wondering populace was no doubt grateful that Athena had vouchsafed them a personal visit:

"So Pisistratus, having by the means described first made himself master of Athens, lost his power again before it had time to take root. . .And here the device on which they hit was the silliest that I find on record, more especially considering that the Greeks have been from very ancient times distinguished from the barbarians by superior sagacity and freedom from foolish simpleness, and remembering that the persons on whom this trick was played were not only Greeks but Athenians, who have the credit of surpassing all other Greeks in cleverness. There was in the Paeanian district a woman named Phya, whose height only fell short of four cubits by three fingers' breadth, and who was altogether comely to look upon. This woman they clothed in complete armor, and, instructing her as to the carriage which she was to maintain in order to beseem her part, they placed her in a chariot and drove to the city. Heralds had been sent forward to precede her, and to make proclamation to this effect: "Citizens of Athens, receive again Pisistratus with friendly minds. Minerva, who of all men honors him the most, herself conducts him back to her own citadel." This they proclaimed in all directions, and immediately the rumor spread throughout the country districts that Minerva was bringing back her favorite. They of the city also, fully persuaded that the woman was the veritable goddess, prostrated themselves before her, and received Pisistratus back." (Herodotus, Histories, Book I, Clio).

How very quick the pagan peoples were to welcome visiting deities is familiar to Bible readers, who will recall Paul and Barnabas' desperation when unwillingly acclaimed as gods:



  • “And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker.
  • “Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.
  • “Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.
  • “Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. And with these sayings scarce restrained they the people, that they had not done sacrifice unto them.”

  • (Acts 14:11-18).




Thriceholy Radio


This embarrassing incident takes us out of our paradigm, inasmuch as Paul and Barnabas are not people who claimed to be gods, but people who all unwilling were acclaimed as such. The Jewish king Herod Agrippa falls into this category as well,

"And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man." (Acts 12:21-22).
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LogoSaturn, King of Italy

The pagan theologian Euhemerus thought he had made a great discovery: that the gods, dwelling resplendently upon Mount Olympus or at the bottom of the sea or beyond the blue, are in reality men. Pagans worship all manner of things: fire, the ocean, the sky, the sun and the moon; at Rome there were even altars erected to 'Fever' and 'Mildew.' Many of these natural forces are perfectly real, though somewhat lacking in personality. But as Euhemerus documented, several of these heavenly beings had completed an earthly pilgrimage as well: some of the stories told about the gods were, plainly, stories about human beings who had lived in particular geographic locales and done the kinds of things human beings do: conduct military expeditions, be born, die, get sick, travel from one locale to another, get married, quarrel with the relatives,— which the sun and the moon don't do, not even to mention 'Fever' or 'Mildew.' You will sometimes read, in modern writers, vacuous statements like, "No classical Greek or Roman writer ever thought to address the history of religion, because religion was woven seamlessly into everyday life, the kind of life that has no history to speak of." (O'Donnell, James J. (2015-03-17). Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity (p. 4). HarperCollins.) But that's far from true; Euhemerus was a historian of pagan religion, who thought he had found the key.


Jacopo Caraglio, Saturn


Logo 'Saturn' is one of the planets visible with the naked eye, known to the ancients. It is difficult for an entity of that sort to have a biography in the normal sense. However, 'Saturn' is also an ancient king of Italy, whose reign was remembered ever afterwards as a Golden Age of justice and peace. At the end of every year the Romans would celebrate the 'Saturnalia,' a drunken riot unfortunately, where the lost egalitarianism of king Saturn's reign was memorialized by masters waiting at table upon their own slaves.

How did this Italian king, who was probably real even if his achievements have been exaggerated, get connected with the planet observed by astronomers? Did he claim to be an incarnation, avatar, or offspring of that distant heavenly body? However the connection was made, once made it remained strong and unbreakable, just as in time the connection between the living God and Jesus of Nazareth would become for the Lord's followers.

Or was 'Saturn' an insignia, something like a mascot, part of a heraldic device which later generations could not quite make out? This, too, is possible. The heroes who fought in the Trojan War were scions of a majestic civilization, yet their civilization had collapsed, barbarians had invaded, and their monuments were no longer completely understood when the generation arose who sang their song. Perhaps these barbarians camped out amidst the ruins of this lost civilization grossly misunderstood nuanced ideas, of divine adoption at the king's enthronement, which they represented in a very matter-of-fact, but tone-deaf, way.

While one might expect Euhemerus to be popular amongst atheists, he also had a following among the church fathers. And his case is compelling. There was a Saturn who ruled in Italy, "For since men lived in Italy after a rustic fashion, — 'He brought the race to union first, erewhile on mountain tops dispersed, and gave them statutes to obey. . .'" (Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Book I, Chapter 13). Whether this party claimed to have the same relationship to the planet of the same name as Jesus claimed for Jehovah, or whether the connection was more casual or after-the-fact, the 'historical' Saturn was after all an Italian ruler. His rule represented a golden age: "And also our own Maro says:— 'This life the golden Saturn led on earth;' and in another place:— 'That was the storied age of gold, so peacefully, serenely rolled the years beneath his reign.'" (Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Book I, Chapter 13). So there was some good in him. Of this matter of cannibalism and devouring the young, let us pass over in silence. If a remarkable individual like Imhotep can enjoy a dual career, as an advisor to Pharaoh and, posthumously, as the Egyptian god of medicine, that is not ample reason to deny his historicity:

"In priestly wisdom, in magic, in the formulation of wise proverbs, in medicine and architecture, this remarkable figure of Zoser’s reign left so notable a reputation that his name was never forgotten, and two thousand five hundred years after his death he had become a god of medicine, in whom the Greeks, who called him Imouthes, recognized their own Asklepios (SU, II)."
(Breasted, James Henry (2017-02-07). A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest (Kindle Locations 1342-1344). Calathus Publishing.).

Some people are just good at what they do. Euhemerus was not himself an atheist, as might be supposed. He made the distance a little bit smaller between heaven and earth as a service to his employers, the Macedonian heirs of Alexander the Great, who wished to import into Europe the ancient Near Eastern conception of the god-king; convincing the pagans they were already worshipping deified men was a giant stride in this direction. But was he right? Paganism is such a protean, multifarious phenomenon that any grand, unitary theory must inevitably fail: so many pagan gods are self-evidently forces of nature that re-configuring them as having been originally men, as opposed to having somehow gotten tangled up with a man, is unconvincing. Macrobius' claim that all gods were originally solar gods leaves the reader wondering, then who is left to be the moon goddess? The sun is not the only astronomical player, much less the only thing which might be termed a 'god;' if all gods must be the sun, where does this leave 'Mildew?' Readers who have struggled all the way through Sir James Frazer's 'Golden Bough' and have discovered that all gods, including Jesus Christ, are really vegetation gods, are left wondering why this would be so, inasmuch as agriculture, while an important human concern, is by no means the only thing people think about or care about. Mightn't we need a blacksmith god, like Vulcan? No mono-causal theory of paganism, including Euhemerus', can do more than shine a light on one facet of a complex, even monstrous, many-faceted phenomenon.

It's also true, however, that right alongside the protean engine that generates new pagan gods, there is a net thrown, drawing them all back together and even jumbling them up, because even the pagans thought it impossible each city-state should have its own complement of gods, when the heavens are shared in common. And so they identified any two gods who seemed to have common attributes. After a little of this 'common-god' quest, the gods are all jumbled together, leaving ammunition for those questers who wanted to find them all solar gods, or vegetation gods, or whatever: because each of them did have a little bit of solar god, or vegetation god, or metallurgical god, or man who lived on Crete, or even a spot of mildew, mixed in. Like the 'Jesus Seminar,' the pagan 'scholars' cut away and discarded whatever didn't fit their paradigm and, what a wonder, they were then left with just precisely what they liked, if not a 'hippie Jesus,' then perhaps a 'solar Zeus,' or 'original men.'

While the 'deified men' paradigm cannot therefore be a universal explanation for all pagan religion, it is certain that some of the 'gods' adored by the pagans were nothing more and nothing less than men, like Achilles certainly was,

Near the Sigeium is a temple and monument of Achilles, and monuments also of Patroclus and Antilochus. The Ilienses perform sacred ceremonies in honor of them all, and even of Ajax." (Strabo, Geography, Book XIII, Chapter 1, Section 32, page 359).
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Empedocles

One of the stories Diogenes Laertius tells about how the philosopher Empedocles, disciple of Pythagoras, met his end, is that he threw himself into the caldera of Mount Aetna, an active volcano, in hopes of confirming popular belief in him as a god:

"Hermippus tells us that Empedocles cured Panthea, a woman of Agrigentum, who had been given up by the physicians, and this was why he was offering sacrifice. . .Hippobotus, again, asserts that, when he got up, he set out on his way to Etna; then, when he had reached it, he plunged into the fiery craters and disappeared, his intention being to confirm the report that he had become a god. Afterwards the truth was known, because one of his slippers was thrown up in the flames; it had been his custom to wear slippers of bronze." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Volume II, Book VIII. 69, Loeb pp. 383-385).

In the maddening way of ancient historians, the author also offers other alternative endings. In one version, the god-claims were first voiced by the populace, awed by his cures:

"When in this way the pestilence had been stayed and the Selinuntines were feasting on the river bank, Empedocles appeared; and the company rose up and worshipped and prayed to him as to a god. It was then to confirm this belief of theirs that he leapt into the fire." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Volume II, Book VIII. 70, Loeb p. 385).

If indeed this colorful tale is an urban legend, it found its basis in Empedocles' own arrogant claims, because he said,

"My friends, who dwell in the great city sloping down to yellow Acragus, hard by the citadel, busied with goodly works, all hail! I go about among you an immortal god, no more a mortal, so honored of all, as is meet, crowned with fillets and flowery garlands. Straightway as soon as I enter with these, men and women, into flourishing towns, I am reverenced and tens of thousands follow, to learn where is the path which leads to welfare, some desirous of oracles, others suffering from all kinds of diseases, desiring to hear a message of healing." (Empedocles, quotes in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Volume II, Book VIII. 62, Loeb p. 377).

Lucian provides a light-hearted farewell to this 'God,' living on the moon and drinking dew:

"'I am Empedocles the physicist. When I threw myself into the crater in such a hurry, the smoke of Etna whirled me off up here; and now I live in the Moon, doing a good deal of high thinking on a diet of dew.'" (Icaromenippus, An Aerial Expedition, Lucian).

The Christians were fierce with him, feeling that a god who lost his sandal wasn't much of a god: "In the second place, if he imagined that we braved danger out of love of glory, and not of the Truth, let the Empedocleses amongst those people play at such a game, and their Aristacuses, and their Empedotimuses, and their Trophoniuses, and a lot more of such unlucky folks — of whom the one, after making a God of himself, as he fancied, by means of the Sicilian crater, and sent himself up to a better termination of existence, was betrayed by that dear little sandal, vomited up by the fire, and was proclaimed not a god amongst men, but a man of vanity, no philosopher, nay, not even possessed of common intelligence; whilst those who out of the same itch and ambition buried themselves in certain inaccessible caves, and were afterwards detected, did not reap so much honor from the deception as they did disgrace from the discovery. "(Gregory Nazianzen, First Invective Against Julian the Emperor, Chapter 59, pp. 33-34).

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LogoMariccus

Let's not leave out the Northern barbarian hordes. Here's a German god:

"Amid the adventures of these illustrious men, one is ashamed to relate how a certain Mariccus a Boian of the lowest origin, pretending to divine inspiration, ventured to thrust himself into fortune's game, and to challenge the arms of Rome. Calling himself the champion of Gaul, and a God (for he had assumed his title), he had now collected 8,000 men, and was taking possession of the neighboring villages of the Aedui, when that most formidable state attacked him with a picked force of its native youth, to which Vitellius attached some cohorts, and dispersed the crowd of fanatics. Mariccus was captured in the engagement, and was soon after exposed to wild beasts, but not having been torn by them was believed by the senseless multitude to be invulnerable, till he was put to death in the presence of Vitellius." (Tacitus, The Histories, 2.61).

Neither can German women be ruled out of contention: "In Vespasian's days we saw Veleda, long regarded by many as a divinity." (Tacitus, Germania, Kindle location 62). This august personage, like the Dalai Lama in days gone by, did not deign to give interviews to the common herd: "They were not, however, allowed to approach or address Veleda herself. In order to inspire them with more respect they were prevented from seeing her. She dwelt in a lofty tower, and one of her relatives, chosen for the purpose, conveyed, like the messenger of a divinity, the questions and answers." (Tacitus, The Histories, 4.65).

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Zalmoxis

Zalmoxis, a Dacian, 'graduated' from being a student of Pythagoras to being a god:



  • “For it is said that one of the nation of the Getae, named Zamolxis, had served Pythagoras, and had acquired with this philosopher some astronomical knowledge, in addition to what he had learned from the Egyptians, amongst whom he had travelled. He returned to his own country, and was highly esteemed both by the chief rulers and the people, on account of his predictions of astronomical phenomena, and eventually persuaded the king to unite him in the government, as an organ of the will of the gods. At first he was chosen a priest of the divinity most revered by the Getae, but afterwards was esteemed as a god, and having retired into a district of caverns, inaccessible and unfrequented by other men, he there passed his life, rarely communicating with anybody except the king and his ministers.”

  • (Strabo, Geography, Book VII, Chapter III, Section 5, pp. 456-457).




The reader may have noticed several of our 'gods' are pupils of Pythagoras, and that is no accident. No mean 'god' himself, he budded off others of that tribe:

"Such also was their reverence for Pythagoras, that they numbered him with the Gods, as a certain beneficent and most philanthropic daemon. And some indeed celebrated him as the Pythian, but others as the Hyperborean Apollo. Some again considered him as Paeon, but others as one of the daemons that inhabit the moon; and others celebrated him as one of the Olympian Gods, who, in order to benefit and correct the mortal life, appeared to the men of those times in a human form, in order that he might extend to them the salutary light of felicity and philosophy." (Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras, p. 18).

Pythagoras had the act down pat, so much so that he appeared to his uninitiated disciples from behind a veil:

"During this time, however, the property of each was disposed of in common, and was committed to the care of those appointed for this purpose, who were called politicians, economizers, and legislators. And with respect to these probationers, those who appeared to be worthy to participate of his dogmas, from the judgment he had formed of them from their life and the modesty of their behavior, after the quinquennial silence, then became Estoerics, and both heard and saw Pythagoras himself within the veil. For prior to this they participated of his words through the hearing alone, beyond the veil, without at all seeing him, giving for a long time a specimen of their peculiar manners." (Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras, pp. 31-32).

Some investigators of the present day are so entranced with Zalmoxis that they make of Zalmoxis Religion the paradigmatic resurrection faith, of which Christianity is a pale reflection. But trying to squeeze all religion into the Procrustean bed made up by dour old Zalmoxis is not a project for the squeamish or weak of stomach. This is after all the deity after whose will the proficient inquire by throwing a guy on top of upheld spears in this manner: "A number of them stand in order, each holding in his hand three darts; others take the man who is to be sent to Zalmoxis, and swinging him by his hands and feet, toss him into the air so that he falls upon the points of the weapons." (Herodotus, Histories, Book 4, Chapter 94).

Evidently he employed an artifice used by the master Pythagoras himself, the disappearance. . .and reappearance:

"While he was doing that which has been mentioned and was saying these things, he was making for himself meanwhile a chamber under the ground; and when his chamber was finished, he disappeared from among the Thracians and went down into the underground chamber, where he continued to live for three years: and they grieved for his loss and mourned for him as dead. Then in the fourth year he appeared to the Thracians, and in this way the things which Zalmoxis said became credible to them." (Herodotus, Histories, Book 4, Chapter 95).

Whether this sojourn underground was an initiation ritual, an ascetic discipline, or outright imposture like the sources suggest, it was a point of commonality between Pythagoras and some of his followers. Some people say, when you meet a bear in the woods, you should play dead; others say, when you meet a bear, play dead, it will be good practice for the real thing, which will come upon you immediately thereupon. Perhaps this 'playing dead' was intended as practice for their looked-for immortality.

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LogoMenecrates

Ancient medicine was often unsuccessful in its ventures, but one practitioner parlayed his success in the field into practical deity:

"I swear by Minerva that Menecrates the Syracusan himself would not have made such a boast as that, he who was nick-named Jupiter — a man who gave himself airs as being, by his skill in medicine, the only person who could cause man to live. Accordingly he compelled all who came to be cured by him of what is called the sacred disease, to enter into a written agreement that if they recovered they would be his slaves. And they followed him, one wearing the dress of Hercules, and being called Hercules, (and the man who was so called was Nicostratus, an Argive, who had been cured of the sacred disease, and he is mentioned by Ephippus, in his Peltast, where he says —

"Did not Menecrates call himself a god,
And Nicostratus of Argos a second Hercules?)


and another followed him in the dress of Mercury, having on a cloak and bearing a caduceus, and wings besides." (Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, or Banquet of the Learned, Book VII, Chapter 33).
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LogoAmulius

The Latin king Amulius is reputed to have set himself up as a god:

"Tiberinus' successor, Agrippa, reigned forty-one years. After Agrippa the tyrant Amulius, who was loathed by the gods, reigned nineteen years. Disrespecting divine powers, he had created imitations of lightning and sounds resembling thunder, with which he hoped to terrify people into thinking that he was a god. But rain and lightning descended upon his house. The house was next to a lake which swelled to an unaccustomed level, so that [Amulius] drowned with his entire household. To the present, in fact, when that lake is clear in a certain part, which happens whenever the level drops and the depths are undisturbed, the ruins of porticoes and other traces of a house can be seen." (Eusebius of Caesarea, Chronicon, Kindle location 3477).
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Demetrius

Demetrius, son of Antigonus, was numbered amongst the tribe of the endlessly warring successors to Alexander. This conquering hero was acclaimed by the vanquished populace as a Savior God:

"The Athenians too were the only people who styled Antigonus and Demetrius their savior gods, and they even abolished the ancient office of the archon from whom the year received its name, and elected in his place every year a priest to minister at the altar of the savior gods. They also decreed that their images should be woven into the sacred peplus of Athena, with those of the gods. They consecrated the spot where Demetrius first set his foot on the ground when he alighted from his chariot, and built an altar upon it which was called the altar of 'The Descending Demetrius.'" (Plutarch's Lives, Demetrius, Chapter X., Volume IV., Kindle location 2833).

When ominous portents ensued, including an unseasonable frost, a poet complained of Stratokles the flatterer as "The wretch, who worships mortals like to gods, his crimes destroy us. . ." (Plutarch's Lives, Demetrius, Chapter XII., Volume IV., Kindle location 2861). Demetrius was offered accommodations, where else?— in the Parthenon: "They assigned the interior of the Parthenon to him for his lodging. . ." (Plutarch's Lives, Demetrius, Chapter XXIII., Volume IV., Kindle location 2992). He cheerfully accepted the adulation. How much of this rapturous praise represented sincere gratitude on the part of a 'liberated' population, and how much self-seeking flattery? Given that they lost their religion upon reverses in his fortune, more likely the latter.

Here, however, is a case where flattery predominated: "About the same time king Prusias also came to Rome to congratulate the Senate and the generals on their success. This Prusias was in no sense worthy of the royal title, as we may judge from the following facts. . .And now, again, when he reached the entrance of the Senate-house he stopped at the door facing the senators, and, dropping both his hands he paid reverence to the threshold and the seated Fathers, exclaiming, 'Hail, ye gods my preservers!' seeming bent on surpassing all who might come after him in meanness of spirit, unmanliness, and servility." (Polybius, The Histories, Book XXX, Chapter 19). Even the Roman Senators, vain and pompous as they were, did not buy this guy's worship-act, nor thought he really took them for gods. With some political god-claims, it may be that neither party really believes them.

Antiochus Epiphanes is another heir to the successors of Alexander who made the claim, though the second Book of Maccabees implies he later thought better of it:

"After he had given orders to speed up the journey, it happened that he fell out of his chariot as it hurtled along, and so violent was his fall that every joint in his body was dislocated. He, who in his pretension to be more than man had just been thinking that he could command the waves of the sea and weigh high mountains on the scales, was brought to the ground and had to be carried in a litter, thus making God's power manifest to all. Worms swarmed even from the eyes of his godless man and, while he was still alive and in agony, his flesh rotted off, and the whole army was disgusted by the stench of his decay. It was so unbearably offensive that nobody could escort the man who only a short time before had seemed to touch the stars in the sky.
"In this broken state, Antiochus began to abate his great arrogance. Under God's lash, and racked with continual pain, he began to see things in their true light. He could not endure his own stench and said, 'It is right to submit oneself to God and, being mortal, not to think oneself equal to  him.'" (2 Maccabees 9:7-11)

One can hope, at least, that he did say that. The progenitor of this tribe, Alexander, let on that he was the son of Ammon and cast coins depicting himself with the double ram's horn, and he offended the Greeks in his retinue by demanding they prostrate themselves in his presence. He also suffered an untimely demise.

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Apsethus

The tale of god-claimant Apsethus is told by Hippolytus, the third century anti-pope of Rome:

"Apsethus the Libyan inordinately longed to become a god; but when, after repeated intrigues, he altogether failed to accomplish his desire, he nevertheless wished to appear to have become a god; and he did at all events appear, as time wore on, to have in reality become a god. For the foolish Libyans were accustomed to sacrifice unto him as to some divine power, supposing that they were yielding credence to a voice that came down from above, from heaven. For, collecting into one and the same cage a great number of birds, — parrots, — he shut them up. Now there are very many parrots throughout Libya, and very distinctly these imitate the human voice. This man, having for a time nourished the birds, was in the habit of teaching them to say, “Apsethus is a god.” After, however, the birds had practiced this for a long period, and were accustomed to the utterance of that which he thought, when said, would make it supposed that Apsethus was a god, then, opening the habitation (of the birds), he let forth the parrots, each in a different direction. While the birds, however, were on the wing, their sound went out into all Libya, and the expressions of these reached as far as the Hellenic country. And thus the Libyans, being astonished at the voice of the birds, and not perceiving the knavery perpetrated by Apsethus, held Apsethus to be a god. Some one, however, of the Greeks, by accurate examination, perceiving the trick of the supposed god, by means of those same parrots not only refutes, but also utterly destroys, that boastful and tiresome fellow. Now the Greek, by confining many of the parrots, taught them anew to say, “Apsethus, having caged us, compelled us to say, Apsethus is a god.” But having heard of the recantation of the parrots, the Libyans, coming together, all unanimously decided on burning Apsethus." (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 6, Chapter 3).

The pagan theologian Maximus of Tyre calls this god-claimant Psaphon (Greek transcriptions of proper names are often no more than approximate): "In Lybia, too, there was a native of that country, whose name was Psaphon, a lover of no grovelling felicity, by Jupiter, nor of that to which the vulgar aspire: for he wished to appear to be a god. Hence, collecting together many singing-birds, he taught them to sing these words: 'THE GREAT GOD PSAPHON!' and, after he had taught them, again sent them to the woods. Both these birds, therefore, and others, from being accustomed to the sounds, sang these words, and the Lybians, thinking that it was a divine voice, sacrificed to Psahpon; and thus he became among them a god elected by birds." (Maximus of Tyre, The Dissertations, Dissertation XIX, p. 191).

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Jesus of Nazareth

Now we are getting somewhere. As those of us who love Him will testify, this next Jewish king not only claimed to be God, but is so, and abundantly 'delivers the goods' of answered prayers. Even atheists, if they could for once be objective and rational, must concede He belongs here on our list of god-claimants. There is more evidence that Jesus claimed to be God than there is evidence for the existence of several Roman emperors; people will believe in the latter, even on the testimony of such disreputable sources as the 'Augustan History,' and disbelieve the former, and why? Because first and foremost these folks, the 'Jesus Seminar' for instance, are religious gurus, not objective 'scholars,' and the product they're flogging is the easy-going reinvented Jesus who does not demand our worship.

His Jewish critics reprimanded Him with Numbers 23:19:

"The words that Balaam announced were heard by all the inhabitants of the earth, such power did God lend to his voice, for He knew that at some future time there would be a man born of woman who would pass himself for a god and would mislead all the world. Hence God permitted all the world to hear Balaam's words, that said: 'God is not a man, and the man that passeth himself for God lieth. But he that will mislead the world by declaring that he will disappear for a time and then reappear will promise what he can never fulfill. Woe then to that nation that will lend ear to the man who will pass himself for God.'" (Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Volume 3, Kindle location 4333).

The 'discovery' that He never made the claim awaited modern times.

For all the other god-claimants here discussed, the truth-value of their claim is, beyond controversy, a big round zero. It does not follow however that the truth value of such a claim must inevitably be zero, any more than the existence of counterfeit money proves that there is no real money. Jesus is like our other god-claimants in some ways, unlike them in others. Some resemblances are a stroll through Obvious Park: all people have looked up, to heaven, when praying; should they rather gaze down a well, or embark in a bathysphere to find God? Some seem to reflect the need for a Redeemer built into the human psyche: the unlettered Arabian prophet Mohammed ibn Abdallah ruled out Jesus as Redeemer, and so various heretical offshoots of Islam, still looking for one, have accordingly settled upon their founder or some other person as the Redeemer, even God in the flesh. Other resemblances are more trumped up than real, the atheists believing they can discredit the Lord if He is made to seem one of a crowd. He was, however, like the others in that not everyone bought into His claims:

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Family Grandiose Religious Delusion
Zero Sum James the Just
Bishop Spong Ockham's Razor



Simon the Samaritan

Do god-claims, like school shooting plots, occur in clusters? Jesus had at least one copy-cat: Simon the Samaritan. Not long after the crucifixion, Simon was letting on that he, too, was God incarnate:



  • “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.”

  • (Acts 8:9-10).





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Simon, too, claimed that he was born of a virgin: “At those sayings of his Simon grew pale; but after a little, recollecting himself, he thus answered: ‘Do not think that I am a man of your race. I am neither magician, nor lover of Luna, nor son of Antonius. For before my mother Rachel and he came together, she, still a virgin, conceived me, while it was in my power to be either small or great, and to appear as a man among men.’” (Recognitions of Clement, Book Two, Chapter 14, p. 169).

Unlike Christianity, Simon's religion fell by the wayside, though several of his successors made the same god-claim as their founder.  Although there are no 'Simonians' in the world today, in a larger sense, this false teacher was one of the spiritual founding fathers of gnosticism.

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LogoEpiphanes, son of Carpocrates

Leading Baptists can be difficult, like herding cats. While it is not normal for Christians to make gods of their leaders, some heretics have done so:

"This fellow Epiphanes, whose writings I have at hand, was a son of Carpocrates and his mother was named Alexandria. On his father's side he was an Alexandrine, on his mother's a Cephallenian. He lived in all only seventeen years, and at Same in Cephallenia has honored as a god. There a temple of vast blocks of stone was erected and dedicated to him, with altars, sacred precincts, and a 'museum.' The Cephallenians gather at the temple every new moon and celebrate with sacrifices the day when Epiphanes became a god as his birthday; they pour libations to him, feast in his honor, and sing his praises." (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book II, Chapter II, Section 5).

Distinctive practices of the Carpocratians include community of wives, which they borrowed from Plato. The Carpocratians were in 'advance' of the church in such practices as making images and carrying them in procession; apparently they were also in the advance guard in venerating saints.

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LogoLittle Gods

It would be too tiresome to list all the 'gods' with a little 'g,' like Shirley MacLaine for example, who stood on the beach and exclaimed, 'I am God! I am God!' Some of these folks are following a theological paradigm where everybody gets to be God. For that matter, there are millions of Mormon males who think of themselves as gods-in-training. Some of these ideas have ancient precursors, going back to the gnostics of old, who imagined themselves to be little particles of God trapped in a gloomy prison-house of matter. Some people say, 'I am God; bow down and worship.' Others say, 'I am God, and you can be too.' The author of this page is more interested in cataloging the first class, as these are the only ones in the same category with Jesus of Nazareth.

There is a 'career path' with godhood as with many other tings:

"The Doctrine teaches that, in order to become a divine, fully conscious god,— aye, even the highest — the Spiritual primeval INTELLIGENCES must pass through the human stage. And when we say human, this does not apply merely to our terrestrial humanity, but to the mortals that inhabit any world, i.e., to those intelligences that have reached the appropriate equilibrium between matter and spirit, as we have now, since the middle point of the Fourth Root Race of the Fourth Round was passed. Each Entity must have won for itself the right of becoming divine, through self-experience." (Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, p. 106 Secret Doctrine, Kindle location 26469).
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LogoJewish Messiahs

Some people explain that, while it is possible for a heathen to claim to be God, it is not possible for a Jewish man to claim to be God. But Jesus is not even the only Jewish Messianic claimant who self-identified as God; so did Sabbatai Sevi and Jacob Frank, and for that matter, Eva Frank. What some people fail to notice is that the Old Testament does not describe any merely human Messiah, but rather itself addresses the Messiah as "O God:"

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  • “My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
  • “Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.
  • “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.
  • “And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.
  • “Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.
  • “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
  • “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”

  • (Psalm 45:1-7).





LogoGaius Caesar

In his debate with James White, John Dominic Crossan demands to know why there are four gospels, not one. One might as well ask, why are there hundreds of thousands of beetle species, not one? It seems the living God prefers profusion and abundance to minimalism, enjoying theme and variation. Crossan insists that, since Caesar claimed to be lord and god, and savior of the world, any other party who laid claim to such titles would on the face of it be guilty of "high treason." ('King,' incidentally, is one of those titles the Roman emperors wisely steered clear of.) However, numerous gods of the day were addressed under similar titles, and they and their priests escaped prosecution. Was unreality their excuse, or simply the fact that, say, Osiris' sovereignty was exercised in another sphere? Anti-imperialism is Crossan' touch-stone, and to make Jesus be the Anti-Caesar as he would like, he simply conforms Caesar to the pattern set by Jesus:

"All of that. But that does not stop them in any way, and I only know this, I think if you asked me that before, somebody like Matthew who was a Jew, at least whoever Matthew is, was certainly a Jew. Or Mark, who certainly was a Jew. Luke, you might be able to debate, was a God-fearer. John is certainly a Jew. Whoever they were, they don't seem to find it at all impossible to say that the one God is incarnate in Jesus. And they don't see that as creating two gods. And actually in most of the first century Roman world, their problem was somewhat the opposite. If there are many gods, and Caesar is just one more god, well big deal! So their problem was not monotheism, how can that be a god incarnate. It was how does Jupiter become incarnate in Julius Caesar or in Caesar Augustus, and this is unique as they were trying to make it sound?" (Is the Bible True? Debate between James White and John Dominic Crossan, 1:39:11-1:40:12).

Notice he is making Caesar to be Jupiter incarnate, the most high god having taken on human flesh. But did the Caesars before Jesus make any such claim? In fact their claim to deity was rather piddling. They were not announced to be the incarnation of previously known gods, they were autotheos if you will, gods in their own right; but they were distinctly small-time gods. A polytheistic pantheon affords room for all ranks and grades, back-benchers alongside the twelve Capitoline gods. But then, after Jesus, everything changes. Caligula made claims for himself that made people's jaws drop; many thought he was crazy.

The early Caesars were deified post-mortem, upon being noticed ascending into heaven from their funeral pyres. Gaius Caesar (Caligula) cut short that process, announcing his deity while yet alive. Though derided as a madman, he was a harbinger of the future, because later emperors frequently demanded worship during their life-time, a demand with which the unfortunate Christians could not comply. In the tumultuous years before his assassination by Chaerea, Caligula kept everybody hopping, threatening to install his own statue in the person of Zeus in the temple at Jerusalem.

As this author points out, there is a huge theological distance between claiming to be a minor pagan godlet,— a field with thousands of vacancies,— and claiming to be the one true God:

"It is one thing to make room for a new additional deity, or to imagine some human man figure being made a divinity worthy of worship, in a polytheistic scheme in which multiple deities, new deities, and apotheosis are all legitimate mate and inherent features of the religious outlook. It is quite another thing, however, in a fervently monotheistic stance, in which one God is exclusively clusively the rightful recipient of worship and all else is distinguished as creation of this one God. . ."
(Larry W. Hurtado. How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus (Kindle Locations 539-541).)

In attempting to have a statue of himself situated in the temple at Jerusalem, who exactly was Caligula claiming to be? It's subject to aesthetic evaluation what kind of claim is involved in placing one's own features on a statue understood to represent another party; and yet Caligula's own contemporaries thought he believed himself to be a god, and concluded he was crazy. If he was claiming to be the God worshipped in the Jewish temple, then he was claiming, as Jesus did, to be the incarnation of the one true and living God. However, Caligula, and his pagan theological advisors, may not have acknowledged this claim. An entire syncretistic religion, gnosticism, was erected by acolytes who realized that Jehovah had claimed to be the only God; but they laughed at His boast, which they thought silly because it excluded all the other gods. Whether Caligula really understood what was at stake is open to question.

The Bible takes notice of ancient god-kings like Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. God-kings were not so very popular during the hey-day of democracy in Athens, or under the Roman Republic. Rome was never a democracy. All Roman citizens voted, although not for the same offices, nor were their votes counted equally; they did not adhere to the principle 'one man-one vote.' Still, they saw themselves as free men. Free people do not like to bow down to those who wield political power over them; when Alexander the Great demanded 'proskynesis,' it was a scandal. God-kings came back with a vengeance once liberty had been lost. Assisted by Euhemerus' researches documenting the human phase of many commonly-worshipped gods, several of Alexander's successors demanded worship, and the tyrant-emperors of Rome came in time to demand similar worship, once the constitutional republic had been subverted.

Cicero mockingly calls Julius Caesar, "this god of the procession, this messmate of Quirinus;' (Cicero, Letters to Atticus, Letters, Book 13, Letter 28, 26 May). Caesar is someone who entered the political field after early successes in the religious field. In his First Philippic, Cicero protests, ". . .even then I could not have been induced to join any dead man in a religious observance paid to the immortal gods. . ." (Cicero, First Philippic, 13). As for Brutus and his colleagues, one must suppose that, if they had thought Caesar a god, they would not have assassinated him. Later Caesars grew even bolder; they, and their flatterers, were no longer throwing out hints. Free men disliked living under the governance of gods, certainly of gods like these, but with the fall of the republic, liberty faded into a memory. The Jewish philosopher Philo wrote a first-hand account of his experiences encountering a living god:


Embassy to Gaius
Philo of Alexandria


Logo The study of history normally proceeds upon the assumption that the earlier figure can influence the later, but not vice versa. With the Jesus Publishing Industry, it's just the opposite. They routinely suggest that a later figure: Apollonius of Tyana, or Domitian, — provides the exemplar for the earlier Jesus of Nazareth. If there is any influence, it can only run in the opposite direction, because Jesus was crucified before Caligula came to power. First century Rome must have seemed an inauspicious time and place to revive the old paradigm of the god-king, because at least some of the populace were Pyrrhonian skeptics who would have cast a jaundiced eye on any such claim. Is it possible that the popular success of Jesus of Nazareth in making such claims emboldened him?: ". . .for this thing was not done in a corner." (Acts 26:26). But false claims of deity invite the vengeance of heaven, and in the end Caligula only reinforces the trend already noticed, that god-claimants are more likely to suffer premature violent death than less pretentious folk.

Caligula claimed to walk upon the sea. He did this by lashing boats together into a floating bridge, an old military tactic: "First he extolled himself as one who had undertaken a great enterprise; next he praised the soldiers as men exhausted by the dangers they had faced, adding the significant statement that they had traversed the sea on foot." (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 59, Chapter 17). Not all god-claimants allege they have walked on the sea; Jesus did, in the light of scriptures like, "He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea. . ." (Job 9:8), or "Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known." (Psalm 77:19). God made a path through the waters of the Red Sea for the children of Israel, a marvel which leaves traces in the psalms. Unless one is claiming to be Neptune, it is not otherwise an obvious route to claiming deity. Perhaps he had heard of it.

How did the people regard all this? Some thought it ridiculous: "Once a certain Gaul, espying him on a high platform transacting business in the guise of Jupiter, laughed aloud. Gaius called to him and asked: 'What do I seem to you to be?' And the other answered — I shall tell his exact words—: 'A big pack of foolishness.' Yet the man met no dire fate, for he was a shoemaker." (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 59, Chapter 26). Some of Caligula's contemporaries thought he was mad. He may have believed in his own protestations: "On one occasion Gaius declared he was enjoying converse with the Moon Goddess, and when he asked Vitellius if he could see the goddess with him, the other kept his eyes fixed on the ground, as if overcome by amazement. In a half whisper he answered: 'Only you gods, master, may behold one another.'" (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 59, Chapter 27). The people around him plumbed the depths of sycophancy, no doubt just trying to survive; ultimately he was assassinated.

What was Caligula thinking when he demanded his statue be placed in the temple at Jerusalem? Was he claiming to be the God worshipped there? Had he noticed Jesus of Nazareth had founded a popular movement staked on His own similar god-claim? It seems a distinctly odd coincidence that within a decade two claimants would announce themselves to be the God of Israel, which must be one of the most controversial god-claims anyone can possibly make. Since Caligula knew Herod Agrippa, having grown up with him, you would think he could have adjudged the public relations angle a little bit better. Caligula's assassination mercifully forestalled a confrontation which would have sparked the Jewish War decades before its actual occurrence:

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LogoThe Khlysty

A movement that arose in Russia in the seventeeth century, called the Khlysty, deified their founder, a peasant named Daniel Filippov:

"They regarded their founder as a peasant, Daniel Filippov, who is said to have been one of the priestless Old Believers. Khlysty tradition had it that the God Sabaoth descended from the clouds and took possession of Daniel, who thus became the living God. It is said that Daniel began preaching, saying that he had come to save men's souls and that none other teaching than his was true. His followers were to abstain from intoxicating liquors and marriage. . .Daniel had a spiritual son, Suslov, who was declared to be a Christ. The Klysty held that there were many incarnations, or Christs, of whom Jesus Christ was merely one, and that all could be saved by their own good works. They kept their membership secret and outwardly conformed to the state church." (Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Volume II, The Eastern Churches, A.D. 1500-A.D. 1750, p. 918).

People who made extravagant claims for themselves or others, without necessarily founding a sect devoted to their propagation, turn up from time to time in Christian history: "Thus, early in his career, about 1360, Eymerich had the satisfaction of burning as a relapsed heretic a certain Nicholas of Calabria, who persisted in asserting that his teacher, Martin Gonsalvo of Cuenca, was the Son of God, who would live forever, would convert the world, and at the Day of Judgment would pray for all the dead and liberate them from hell." (Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Volume II, Kindle location 16014). By Christian lights such claims are blasphemous, the territory having been pre-empted by Jesus Christ, and unfortunately what happened to blasphemers under the Inquisition wasn't pretty.

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LogoMuslim Gods

One might expect that the list of Muslim god-claimants would be fairly well empty, given the unlettered Arabian prophet's disparagement of Jesus' claim to Godhood:

"Infidels now are they who say, 'God is the Messiah, Son of Mary;' for the Messiah said, 'O children of Israel! worship God, my Lord and your Lord.' Whoever shall join other gods with God, God shall forbid him the Garden, and his abode shall be the Fire; and the wicked shall have no helpers. They surely are Infidels who say, 'God is the third of three:' for there is no God but one God: and if they refrain not from what they say, a grievous chastisement shall light on such of them as are Infidels. Will they not, therefore, be turned unto God, and ask pardon of Him? since God is Forgiving, Merciful! The Messiah, Son of Mary, is but an Apostle; other Apostles have flourished before him; and his mother was a just person: they both ate food. Behold! how we make clear to them the signs! then behold how they turn aside!" (Sura 5:76-79).

However the Muslim god-claimant space is by no means deserted, though their life expectancy is perhaps a bit below average. There is Mansur Al-Hallaj, a Sufi mystic, who kept alive the old gnostic and neo-Platonic ideal that humanity were exploded bits of deity which could aspire to re-absorption back into the original mass. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6). Mansur al-Hallaj said, 'I am the truth,' which is unfortunate for him because 'the Truth' is one of the ninety-nine names for Allah, and so they did away with him:

"The great martyr of Sufism is al-Hallaj, whose mystical utterances led him to identify himself with God, and who was duly martyred in 922. He repeatedly compared himself with Christ and saw his execution as a direct emulation of Christ’s death, to the point of speaking about drinking the cup that he had been given. Like Jesus, he was, literally, crucified."
(Jenkins, John Philip (2008-10-16). The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died (p. 200). HarperCollins.)

The reference to 'Christ' is not a typo, many of the Sufis held to a special devotion to the Word of God.

The eponymous founder of the Druse sect, which has numerous adherents in Lebanon, Muhammad bin Ismail Nashtakin ad-Darazī, may have taught that he himself and others such as Mohammed ibn Abdallah's son-in-law Ali were deity incarnate. Examining this group's beliefs rapidly gets contentious, especially as touching the Godhood claim of various individuals: "The Druses are only the modern representatives of the suppressed Assassins. Like them, they are Ismaelites, their ostensible founder being Hakim, a Fatimite Caliph of Cairo, who professed himself the new incarnation of the Godhead." (King, Charles William (2010-07-13). The Gnostics and Their Remains (Kindle Locations 6439-6441). Part V. Kindle Edition.)  These believers do not call themselves the 'Druse,' but 'The Monotheists' or 'The Unitarians.' Other figures associated with the sect, such as Hamza ibn 'Alī ibn Ahmad, may have made claims similar to those of ad-Darazi and Hakim, if indeed these parties themselves actually made such claims.

The religious sect to which Bashir Assad of Syria belongs, whom we are trying to oust, the Alawites, are accused of worshipping Ali: "In the Shiite tradition, for instance, the Alawites make up just 11 percent of the population of Syria, but they hold disproportionate political power under the Asad family and the Baathist Party, which has been in office since 1970. They not only venerate the prophet Ali, but see him as an incarnation of God—an idea that appalls orthodox Muslims. They have a special devotion for Jesus, they celebrate some Christian holidays, and Christian elements survive in their liturgy." (Jenkins, John Philip (2008-10-16). The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died (pp. 190-191). HarperCollins.) One assumes they would dispute these allegations.

The Baha'i faith is an offshoot of Islam, two of whose founders, 'The Bab' ('The Gate,' Siyyid Ali-Muhammad) and Mizra Huseyn Ali Nuri, 'Baha'ullah,' claimed status as divine messengers and, in the eyes of the governing authorities who imprisoned and persecuted them ('The Bab' died by firing squad), these claims were considered extravagant and self-deifying. Baha'ullah taught the Golden Rule: "And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself." The Baha'i community is bitterly persecuted in today's Iran, whose theocratic Muslim government does not blanch at committing mass murder.

It seems as though God has pre-programmed us with the instruction to await His visitation and look for His coming. The trigger for this mechanism is set so sensitive as to activate 'false positives;' people seek Him, and find Him, even where He is not. In a cultural context which gives no encouragement to this quest, namely Islam, people still look for God in their midst.

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LogoWallace D. Fard

Wallace D. Fard explained to the police of Depression-era Detroit that he was the supreme being walking around on the planet.

"On Wednesday morning, November 23, Fard was apprehended while leaving his hotel room at 1 West Jefferson Street...According to police and press transcripts, Fard identified himself as the 'supreme being on earth' and claimed responsibility for starting the Nation of Islam, assisted by Ugan Ali, who was also arrested." (An Original Man: the Life and Times of Elijah Muhammad, Claude Andrew Clegg III, p. 31).

He also, according to them, explained that he had started the 'Nation of Islam' as a name-selling scam. That Mr. Fard was Allah in the flesh continued as one of the foundation pillars of Elijah Muhammad's preaching down through the years. The shadowy Mr. Fard was not seen subsequent to his disappearance from the U. S. midwest. Where did he go, after taking leave of his devoted disciple Elijah Poole? Did he retire to enjoy life on the beach? Did he go to Japan to build the Mother Plane? Or was that actually him, whom FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sneeringly produced?

Wallace D. Fard started out as an 'I've-Got-a-Secret' type of God-claimant, allowing Elijah Muhammad to infer, presumably from hints he had thrown out, Fard's divinity: "One young man in particular, a thirty-three-year-old migrant from Georgia named Elijah Poole, found the address mesmerizing. Recalling it later, he approached Fard and said softly, 'I know who you are, you're God himself.' 'That's right,' Fard quietly replied, 'but don't tell it now. It is not yet time for me to be known.'" (Manning Marable, Malcolm X, p. 86).

As with fellow god-claimant Father Divine, 'working-class African Americans' stayed away from Wallace D. Fard in droves; his movement, that is to say the movement he abandoned, never attracted more than a small number of adherents; fantasies to the contrary, their membership numbers never got out of the thousands. Thankfully we live beyond the life-span of the 'mass media,' which used to wildly over-estimate the membership of groups like these, whether for sensationalism or for some other reason, awarding them tens of millions of imaginary adherents. These over-estimates originated with these optimistic groups themselves:

"Stirred to more devotion, and greater zeal and courage by such apparent oppositions, great masses of the believers filled FATHER's New York City Headquarters, Saturday forenoon, March 9th, as on every other day, singing their eternal song of praise to HIM Whom they and twenty million others have declared to be GOD in Bodily Form." (Father Divine's Message, Saturday, March 9th, 1935, A.D.F.D., The New Day, 6/12/76).

Twenty million others? This was a man who could put three thousand people on the streets of Harlem for a parade, an impressive achievement indeed, but from where were the other nineteen million nine hundred thousand plus believers to be bused in? To be sure, this group believed in positive confession. Inexplicably, in the years since, both figures have attracted academic apologists who want to make these men into the speaking voice for the very same masses of 'working-class African-Americans' who stayed away in droves. To judge by popularity, Nicene orthodoxy is the speaking voice of 'working-class African Americans.' And how Father Divine, who supported Herbert Hoover in his re-election bid, came to be perceived as a champion for the working class is murky, though his subsequent flirtation with the Communist Party of the U.S.A. may have something to do with it. Father Divine ended as he began, staunchly anti-Communist.

Sociology learns from its parent, Marxism, that social class is the motor behind all belief systems. In desperation to salvage this myth, modern sociologists look for a class or race warfare explanation of Father Divine and Wallace D. Fard. But if these men had their fingers on the pulse of a social group numbering in the tens of millions, why did this huge group of people turn a cold shoulder to them, with so very few exceptions? And if Father Divine spoke for the down-trodden black masses, what motivated his rich, white followers like John the Revelator? It is better to discard explanatory paradigms which simply don't work. Or else explain what the Solar Temple suicide cult tells us about middle management in Canada. Probably little or nothing. Why would white middle managers disposed to join a suicide cult be typical or representative, while the far larger cohort not so disposed be dismissed as eccentric and atypical?

Resisting the gravitational pull drawing 'Muslims' toward normative Islam, true believers in Wallace D. Fard's divinity still exist to this day:

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LogoFather Divine

You would think that an inquirer who wishes to establish a given study upon a scientific basis would look to comparable cases, not circumstances different in almost every possible way. Yet when Ernest Renan inquired as to how Jesus came to be believed to be God, he did not look at any god-claimants, although they are legion. Rather, he looked at French saints, who never claimed to be God, and whom no one else had ever suggested, nor even dreamed, to be incarnate deities. 'It must be just like that,' he exclaimed, even though it was nothing at all like that. Such is the price of salvaging Unitarianism. Let's look instead at comparable cases, comparable not as to truth value, but as to the nature and scope of the claims: let's look at Father Divine. Like Jesus of Nazareth, he claimed to be God. Like Jesus of Nazareth, he attracted a following, who acclaimed Him as God: "'God is here on earth today,' sang his disciples. 'Father Divine is his name.'" (Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A., p. 48). Like Jesus of Nazareth, he also attracted the attention of the authorities.

The newspapers of Father Divine's day were sensationalistic in tone, and they could not get enough of this high-living Savior with his rumored harem of nubile young ladies. Though he preached celibacy, such was not, they said, his practice. The newspapers called him 'George Baker,' though evidence for that as his original name is sparse. Tracking down precise biographical details is difficult because Father Divine was not entirely cooperative: "Man cannot define GOD and cannot write a true history of him,' he told one prospective author." (Jill Watts, God, Harlem U.S.A., Preface, page xvi).

An encounter with fellow seeker and god-claimant Samuel Morris shaped Father Divine's life and propelled his mission:

"One Sunday morning in 1907 a stranger wandered into the Eden Street Church and during the worship service rose to address the throng. A hush fell over the congregation as they strained to hear the soft-spoken visitor. His remarks, taken from a biblical text, did not seem out of the ordinary— not until he paused, spread his arms, and shouted, 'I am the Father Eternal.' The congregation, appalled by his claim, threw him out bodily." (Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A., p. 26)

Evidently the Father Eternal needed to work on the 'voice as the sound of many waters' angle, since people had trouble hearing him. Samuel was the 'Jesus' to Father Divine's 'Simon,' and this one man's ice-breaking god-claim became a continuing franchise. Father Divine himself would go on to perpetuate the pattern, with followers he nurtured like John the Revelator 'discovering' their own deity. One might have expected these New Age seekers to go the Shirley MacLaine route and proclaim 'Let's all be gods together,' instead of the less-travelled 'I am God, bow down and worship me' route. Indeed one of the god-guild did see it this way. Father Divine began his god-career as part of a make-shift 'trinity,' comprised of Samuel Morris (Father Jehovia), himself, God in the Sonship degree, and John Hickerson (Reverend Bishop Saint John the Vine). It was when the three could not get along that Father Divine took to the road as a solitary deity. This issue of exclusivity sundered the happy fellowship:

"At first the Messenger [Father Divine] distanced himself from the squabbling, but finally he entered the battle and announced he would take neither side. He rejected both Father Jehovia's claim to divinity and the Bishop's assertion that everyone was God. The Messenger declared that he himself was the only true and pure expression of God's spirit. His pronouncement shattered the ministerial partnership, and in 1912 the Fairmount Avenue triumvirate collapsed." (Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A., p. 30).

Years later Father Divine encountered his old colleague John the Vine, pastoring a thriving church in Harlem: "He came up to me saying 'I am as much GOD as you are, I am as much GOD as you are.'" (Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A., p. 41). Reportedly, Hickerson's 'every man a god' approach had its own draw-backs: "The doctrine that each man contained the spirit of God was fine in theory, but in practice it led straight to anarchy. . .It was, in short, a sad case of each church member wanting to be a god and none a worshipper." ('Father Divine and the Struggle for Racial Equality,' by Robert Weisbrot, p. 26).



  • “I said through the mouth of Solomon:
  • '“Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.'
  • “I AM telling you who might not understand the mystery to go to the chicken, especially the mother hen and consider her ways and be wise.
  • “'As a hen hovers her brood,' said I, I would have hovered you, Jerusalem. . .
  • '“O, Jerusalem, O, Jerusalem, how oft would I have hovered
    Thee as a hen hovers her brood, but ye would not.'
  • “It was a prediction as though speaking of one city as being termed the great city of the Holies from that  angle of expression. It was a prediction of all civilization and of all creation. . .
  • “Then if  they will accept of MY Message and observe the mystery and adhere to MY Teaching, they will see that they can understand it and by such an understanding they will gain the victory by understanding how to accept of it, and to live accordingly. That is the mystery!
  • “'. . .as a hen hovers her brood.'
  • “Then if you happen to see ME act as a hen does in the beginning of her career and also in the end, it is equivalently the same. . .It slightly reflects or manifests the reality of GOD's nature incarnated.”

  • (Father Divine, Parables, 'The Mother Hen,' New Day 3/1269, at PeaceMission.info).



Father Divine Tending Chickens


  • “You hardly ever see a setting hen flying around. You hardly ever see one singing and going around.
  • “'O Jerusalem, how oft would I have hovered thee
    As a hen hovers her brood, and ye would not.'
  • “. . .She will lead them and guide them and teach them how to go through the fence. She shows them the way they should go and lives with them; and as they advance, she advances the expression of herself to them that she may not be far away from them in their expression and manifestation of life. It is wonderful! She shows them the way. She teaches them how to scratch.
  • “. . .I AM functioning in your world and just in the place or on the plane I will come to show you just beyond what is in your expression, that ye might see the way to go.
  • “Oh, for a closer walk with GOD, a calm and heavenly frame. It is a light that shines on the road. If the light was showing far before you, it would still be dark where you are at. Therefore, let your light shine on the road.”

  • (Father Divine, Parables, 'As a Hen Hovers Her Brood,' New Day 9/25/51, from PeaceMission.info).




Logo Father Divine experienced repeated conflicts with secular governing authorities, as the pious public's distress at his personal claims lit the fuel pumped by white racism. In Valdosta, George, in 1914, he was arrested on "lunacy charges" (Watts, p. 35), to the dismay of his female following:

"The women menacingly followed the chief and his prisoner to the city jail. When the officer booked the Messenger, he asked for the evangelist's true name, and a female disciple shouted, 'He ain't named nothing but God.'" (Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A., p. 36).

Years later he was arrested in Sayville, New York, and charged with maintaining a public nuisance: "At noon, May 8, 1931, a knock came at heaven's door. It was the deputy sheriff, and he had come to arrest God." (Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A., p. 71). A subsequent mass arrest of disciples, Father Divine and his wife Peninniah on grounds of disorderly conduct, played out on November 15, 1931.

His scandalous one-year sentence (for doing what exactly was never quite clear) was later reduced. Although the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects religious liberty, governmental response to unpopular god-claimants like Father Divine and Wallace D. Fard can be quite disappointing, partly because the majority community in the U.S., Christians, reject a priori all god claims if the person making them did not waft in on a cloud,— Christians expect the return of Jesus, no one else is on the schedule,— and must therefore roundly condemn those making them as blasphemers. His name was 'Major Jealous Divine;' but somebody else is named 'Jealous:'




Whatever legitimate concerns his Sayville neighbors had about noise, traffic, and parking around his commune compound, they do not seem to have been so much interested in resolving these issues constructively as they were out to get Father Divine. Certainly his hanging judge allowed his own religious convictions to color his sentencing, which is strictly forbidden by the First Amendment (though it was mean-spirited of Father Divine to take credit for his subsequent heart attack).

Law enforcement concerns about Father Divine, beyond constitutionally illegitimate concerns about blasphemy and imposture, centered around charlatanry, raising money under false pretenses, concerns about under-age persons residing at his communes without parental knowledge or consent, and concerns about the occasional unattended death at his communes. Was he a con artist? As he explained, his money came straight from God; however it would appear he collected funds, from somewhere (he did not pass a collection plates at his services), much of which he actually gave back: his social uplift projects in Harlem gave a boost to that community during difficult days,— but much of which also stuck to his hands in the form of limousines and mansions.

Certainly some of his followers, like 'John the Revelator,' a rapist, were criminals who were very justly punished by the legal system, as Father Divine himself felt. For years he was dogged by process servers. On the plus side of the ledger, Father Divine was exonerated of the fraud charges stemming from 'Faithful Mary's' explosive allegations. 'Faithful Mary' was the Judas of this gospel story, or parody. Concluding Father Divine was "just a damned man," she bolted and struck out on her own, accusing him of greed and sexual exploitation. Unlike Judas, though, she repented, recanted, and was received back into the fold. On the negative side of the ledger, he was dogged for years by Verinda Brown's civil suit. She was a disgruntled former follower who wanted her money back (not a contribution on her telling, but rather money on deposit for safe-keeping), and he went so far as to relocate to Philadelphia to avoid restoring it. Through all his travails, however, Father Divine exemplified the motto that 'there is no such thing as bad publicity;' before the newspapers got hold of him, he was a 'god' with a miniscule following, they handed him a bull-horn and made him a celebrity.

It is truly shameful that this country can articulate an unparalleled 'First Amendment,' but then when it comes time to implement it, responds instead with the mob-murder of Joseph Smith, bogus treason charges against Elijah Muhammad, and the unending legal scrutiny of Father Divine. Even the FBI got into the act. No doubt he was a phony 'god,' but the government is not allowed to know that. An especially shameful chapter of the persecution of the Peace Mission movement involves adherents who were committed to insane asylums, for no other reason than confessing Father Divine's deity. It is safe to say that, had Jesus come to twentieth century New York City rather than to first century Palestine, they would not have crucified Him, but they sure would have tried to get him on health code violations and unAmerican activities. New divinities who arise under the Christian dominion must, unfortunately, expect an unfriendly reception; at least it's not like it used to be, ". . .even as late as 1219, at Troyes, an insane enthusiast who maintained that he was the Holy Ghost was seized by the people, placed in a wicker crate surrounded by combustibles, and promptly reduced to ashes." (Henry C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Volume 1, Kindle location 3968).

One touch-stone of Father Divine's teaching was the 'New Thought' paradigm:

"A precursor of the New Age ideology of the twentieth century, New Thought evolved in New England in the 1840's from the teachings of Phineas Quimby, a hypnotist and inventor. Believing that thought controlled health, he advocated healing illnesses through positive thinking." (Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A., p. 21)

During the German enlightenment, Immanuel Kant proposed a 'Copernican Revolution' in philosophy. It had always filled people with wonder that the castles we build in our mind, geometry and arithmetic, also meet our gaze when we look out into the world. This unplanned and unexpected correspondence has convinced many that a mind like ours must have formed the world, then formed us to share the vision. But Kant gloomily announced, this is not possible; the only way our inner world can correspond with the outer world, is if we ourselves create the outer world to match our inner world. This rather startling assertion was the dominant 'high' German philosophy of the nineteenth century. Practical-minded people wondered, since we create the world,— all the German professors say that we do,— why did we create this stinking one, with its poverty, filth, and disease? Let's create another one, just like we did the first, but without those undesirable things! Like, somebody can stop us? Thus 'New Thought' was born. Its patchy track record of success might well serve as the 'reductio ad absurdum' of the underlying metaphysics; however, it is not completely unavailing, 'positive thinking' scores the occasional victory. Johnny Mercer's popular song, 'You've Got to Accentuate the Positive and Eliminate the Negative,' was inspired by Father Divine's teaching. Certainly 'prosperity' worked well for the teacher, being God was a lucrative gig. This man realized, thanks to 'New Thought,' that he could be anything he wanted to be; and he wanted to be God, not a 'little god,' but the big One. This man did not live long ago or far away; Father Divine passed away, of natural causes, in 1965. He had dropped public appearances two years prior, because, as a close aide explained, "'Father has said everything there is to say about everything.'" (Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A., p. 189.) This was a man of our time, a man of the city, and a phenomenally wealthy and successful man.

Like the gnostics of old, the group had an inner core of 'pure' and 'perfect' adherents who were, or were supposed to be, celibate. A larger group of 'hearers' clustered around this core who did not hold to this discipline as, again, was common with gnostic communities. According to the Hearst newspapers, the whole lot of them were more like the Carpocratians, who 'overturned the lamp.' I don't suppose it is possible at this late date to determine whether the group, in the main, went in for orgies as alleged, or indeed practiced celibacy as was their stated ideal. It is the universal experience of organizations that propound a celibacy rule that observance of the rule will fall short of one hundred percent. However, the common assumption that Father Divine's organization achieved a zero percent realization of its stated celibacy goal rests upon nothing I can imagine but racial stereotyping. While accusations were levelled by well-placed insiders who were in a position to know, some of these people clearly had an agenda: 'Faithful Mary' was essentially paid by the Hearst newspapers to make her accusations, and there is an old saying, 'I sing his song whose bread I eat.'




While there is at times a suggestion of a 'Messianic Secret' in the evasive non-answers given by Father Divine and members of his group to questions touching on his divinity, in fact it was not so difficult for interested parties to discover he was making this claim:

"Singing and worshiping, the pilgrims crossed the country in buses trimmed in banners declaring Father Divine is God." (Jill Watts, God, Harlem, U.S.A., p. 126).

Perhaps in years to come, wanna-be gurus eager to start their own religion, a 'Father Divine Seminar,' will take a second look at Father Divine and, attracted by his concern for the poor, whom he demanded stop making the negative confession that they were poor, will 'discover' that Father Divine never claimed to be God, though he certainly did. This paltry little pseudo-science of secular 'Bible scholarship' claims, when challenged, to uphold uniformitarianism, but does not. If it is possible today for a Yahweh ben Yahweh or a Father Divine to claim to be God, then it is certainly possible for Jesus of Nazareth to have so claimed. The evidence says that He did. So says their own evidence: they date the gnosticizing 'Gospel of Thomas' earliest, and that 'Gospel' emphatically declares the deity of Jesus and reports Him as having made the claim. They'd rather He hadn't, because the 'hippie Jesus' they wish to market is not positioned in the religious market-place in any such challenging niche. Their 'Jesus' says, 'Do your own thing;' if He were God, would He really say that? Their activity is more properly categorized in the swollen field of 'bad religion' than as 'scholarship.'

Among Father Divine's departures from Christian orthodoxy was his denial of hell, a word he instructed his followers not to pronounce, as it was a negative confession:

"It is indeed Wonderful! They know there is no such a thing as a mystical GOD in some imaginary heaven somewhere, neither a mystical fiery, burning flame, of that which is termed by the religions, h-l, to shun. Since they have been in MY Light and MY Understanding, this Truth they have learned, hence, they cannot and will not deviate, for they know there is no such a thing as another place somewhere, that is called by the religions, h-l, to shun." (Father Divine, Banquet Message given March 9, 1935, The New Day, June 12, 1976, PeaceMission.info).



Logo It would appear that, like Simon the Samaritan, the Standing One, Father Divine offered his followers, not heaven, but personal immortality here on earth, or, failing that, reincarnation for another try. His own demise, like the earlier demise of his first wife Peninniah, must have struck a blow to that expectation. Penniniah's death was not talked about, because he had said, "[I]f you die, you are not of me. If you are an invalid you are not of me." (Father Divine, quoted p. 213, Robert Weisbrot, Father Divine and the Struggle for Racial Equality). He presented his second wife as the reincarnation of the first, although, quite frankly, they did not look anything alike. Though his resurrection was anticipated, it did not happen.

People who do not follow the 'Jesus' publishing industry might be surprised at the constricted theater of operations allowed the Savior. He is grudgingly allowed to be a religious figure. . .like maybe some kind of a shaman. Atheists believe in shamans, so we must page through the Talmud and find someone who knows how to do a rain dance. And what do you know, there is one! So now Jesus must be remodeled and pressed into this petty and confining pattern:

"When 'holy person' is seen as a phenomenological category, it is clear that such figures were central in the Jewish tradition, from Moses and Elijah through the prophets to charismatic healers near the time of Jesus such as Hanina ben Dosa and Honi the Circle-Drawer. Jesus clearly belongs among them. He had an experiential relationship to the spirit (as numinous. . .)" (Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship, by Marcus J. Borg, p. 27.)

Isn't that precious! But really, what could be more pathetic? Why conform Jesus to these cute and clownish little figures? Away with the 'Jesus' who knows how to do a rain-dance; the dead weight of this useless, and altogether imaginary, figure, has dragged down to the ground the 'main-line' Protestantism which foolishly embraced him. We need a Jesus like Father Divine, a Jesus who claimed what Father Divine claimed, as indeed history reports that He did. Some people won't entertain such claims, but when they try to explain why they can't even acknowledge their having been made, they leave reason, and history, behind.

The 'higher criticism' was premised on the assumption, which cannot be empirically confirmed, that god-claims can only be made about those far away in time and space; this author is summarizing the view-point,

"Paul regarded Jesus Christ as a supernatural person, come to earth for the redemption of men; and toward this divine Christ he assumed a distinctly religious attitude. How could he have formed such a conception of a human being who had died but a few years before? If he had been separated from Jesus by several generations, so that the nimbus of distance and mystery would have had time to form about the figure of the Galilean prophet, then his lofty conception of Jesus might be explained. . .How could the 'smell of earth' have been so completely removed from the figure of the Galilean teacher that He could actually be regarded by one of His contemporaries as a divine Redeemer?" (J. Gresham Magen, The Origin of Paul's Religion, pp. 44-45.)

Thus they moved dates back, on the basis of a priori reasoning. But who was it who regarded Father Divine as a divine Redeemer: himself and those around him, or those distant in place and time? Common sense ought to inform us that few of those distant would have even heard of him, or if they had, were more likely to accept the anodyne assurances that it was not Father Divine, but those around him, who made the claim,— in fact, it was Father Divine.

Some of these modern 'scholars' will graciously allow that Jesus was a 'theologian.' i.e., He held opinions about God, which is refreshing in that some of them deny even this much: "Now we see that we cannot pare the gospel material down to a non-theological core, and then proclaim that we have found Jesus, since Jesus himself was a theologian." (E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, p. 97). To be sure Father Divine was a theologian as well. But the 'historical' Father Divine who never claimed to be God is a figment, the product of wishful thinking. All our sources agree that Jesus claimed to be God, not only the Evangelists and Apostles but also the hostile Talmud; there is nothing impossible in any person, whether Jesus or Father Divine, so claiming; they do not believe that He was what He claimed to be, but somehow they still want to hold onto Him. To these people, 'history' is no more than an exercise in wish fulfillment.

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LogoJim Jones

The Reverend Jim Jones, who led his followers into mass suicide at Jonestown, Guyana, is that rare bird, an atheist god-claimant. He was an admirer of Father Divine, and even attempted a hostile takeover of the Peace Mission from Father Divine's surviving widow. Although Father Divine's breakup with John Hickerson had been precipitated by the latter's broadening of the deity category to include practically everyone so minded, which teaching Father Divine rejected, nonetheless Jim Jones perceived somewhere, somehow, an invitation to join the club:

"Jones also displayed unusual insight into the reasons why countless imitators of Father Divine had failed to equal the Peace Mission leader's record of enduring accomplishment. . .But Father Divine succeeded because 'he shares what he has with you! He wants you to come into his likeness!. .. I have heard him say, "What I am, you can be!"'" (Robert Weisbrot, Father Divine and the Struggle for Racial Equality, p. 218).

So here again came a cluster of god-claims, with two in a row sometimes espousing communism and claiming to be God, an unlikely combination. Communists are atheists, as everyone knows. And yet some of the motive behind this latter-day god-claim, inherited by Jones from Divine, was dissatisfaction with the performance of the standard deity on the economic front:

"I would not give five cents for a God who could not help me here on the earth, for such a God is not a God at hand. He is only an imagination. It is a false delusion — trying to make you think you had just as well go ahead and suffer and be enslaved and be lynched and everything else here, and after a while you are going to Heaven someplace. If God cannot prepared Heaven here for you, you are not going anywhere." (Father Divine, quoted p. 186, Robert Weisbrot, Father Divine and the Struggle for Racial Equality).

Jim Jones, responsible for the deaths of nearly one thousand persons, is an example of the 'criminal god,' like the murderer Yahweh ben Yahweh, or the demented young man named Leroy Smith III who recently murdered and dismembered his father here in Maine. Jim Jones' effort to improve on the living God's performance in the prosperity department ended with everybody dead:

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LogoMaharaj Ji

The pudgy young man known as the Maharaj Ji, an Indian immigrant who appealed to youthful hippies back in the 1970's, is still around but has, I believe, renounced his former god-claims.

"When Hans Maharaj died (1966), he was succeeded by his youngest son, Prem Pal Singh Rawat, who was initiated at the age of six and who, two years later, was recognized as the new 'Perfect Master,' an embodiment of God on earth and hence an object of worship and veneration, assuming the title of Maharaj Ji." (Odd Gods, edited by James R. Lewis, pp. 252-253).

He married his secretary, which a 'Perfect Master' is not supposed to do.

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LogoDraftees

In addition to the volunteers, sect leaders who explicate their own deity to their followers, beyond controversy there are people adored as gods who never asked for that kind of attention. Gautama Buddha promoted a very negative, life-denying philosophy, but he never asked to be worshipped as a god, though some foolish people do exactly that. Great Britain's Prince Philip is adored as deity by some South Sea islanders:

"As unlikely as it sounds, a few thousand villagers on the island of Tanna worship the 85-year-old prince as a deity, holding hope that he will one day appear among them, dispensing gifts. For years, they say, he has moved among them in spirit.

"He is a god, not a man," says village chief Jack Naiva, a wiry, elderly man with graying hair and broken teeth. "Sometimes we hear his voice, but we can't see him.'" (Christian Science Monitor, 'Prince Philip, they hardly know ye: A South Pacific 'cargo cult' petitions its deity for bags of rice and a Land Rover,' June 8, 2007).

Presumably the aging Prince does not want that kind of attention, and what they see in him is beyond comprehension. The assumption, however, that this is always how deity claims get started, is quite unwarranted. It does happen, though: another case is Guglielma, a medieval lady rumored to be the Holy Ghost:

"Guglielma's devotees came to regard her as a saint, gifted with thaumaturgic power. . .At last, about 1276, some of the more enthusiastic disciples began to whisper that she was the incarnation of the Holy Ghost, in female form — the Third Person of the Trinity, as Christ was of the Second, in the shape of a man. . .When told of the strange beliefs entertained of her she strenuously asserted that she was only a miserable woman and a vile worm. Marchisio Secco, a monk of Chiaravalle, testified that he had had a dispute with Andrea on the subject, and they agreed to refer it to her, when she indignantly replied that she was flesh and bone, that she had brought a son with her to Milan, and that if they did not do penance for uttering such words they would be condemned to hell." (Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Volume 3, Chapter II, Kindle location 26644).

The Inquisition made short work of the handful of enthusiasts who confessed her deity. So the class of unwilling draftees is not empty. But the class of volunteers is far from empty.

The historians' principle of 'uniformitarianism,' if baldly stated in the form, 'exceptional events cannot happen,' is patently false; yet the problem with secular Bible study is not so much that they follow this principle, as that they do not; they give lip service to the principle, but abandon it when it requires them to believe something they do not wish to believe, such as that Jesus claimed to be God. Atheists are not renowned for clear thinking, and sometimes they confusedly feel that if they affirmed, 'Father Divine claimed to be God,' they are asserting something supernatural, which their religion will not permit them to do. But it is one thing to endorse Father Divine's claim and agree, 'Yes, Father Divine is God,' and quite another thing merely to report what witness testimony has already established, that 'Father Divine claimed to be God.' The anti-supernaturalist need not discard the witness testimony, he can freely affirm the latter statement, which involves him in no supernaturalism whatever. People make all kinds of claims, and any objective history is bound to report them; whether the claim is true is quite another question.

Atheists propose addressing these claims by undiscriminating batch processing: either all such claims are true, or all such claims are false. Certainly almost all of them are patently false. But no one every proposes such all-or-nothing batch processing in other fields of endeavor: i.e., either all scientific theories are true or all are false; as goes general relativity, so goes phlogiston; either all political programs are equally valid, or all are equally worthless; as goes Maoism, so goes Republicanism. This approach steam-rollers over meaningful differences in the proposals. So, too, in this area. Some of our god-claimants, sad to say, seem to have a whiff of the con-artist clinging to them; can anyone say the same of Jesus, who marched on to Jerusalem knowing crucifixion awaited Him there? There is no one explanation which fits all our cases, and no one verdict adequately answers the merits of the claim. In any event, the reason why secular 'Jesus' scholarship will not countenance the possibility that Jesus made such a claim, a fact of history to which all the sources testify, is not because of some real fact about the world which science has discovered or scholarship has unearthed, but rather only personal religious preference.





LogoIt is said to the 'gods' of Psalm 82, "you shall die like men," and some 'gods' promptly do just that, remain dead, and are only accorded divine honors post-mortem. Such was the case with the public-spirited prostitute who made the Roman people the beneficiaries of her will:

"But Acca Larentia was a public prostitute, by which means she obtained a large sum of money. This woman by her will, as it appears in the History of Antias, made, as some say, king Romulus, but according to others the Roman people, heirs of her effects. On this account public sacrifice was offered her by the Flamen Quirinalis, and a day of the public festivals was called after her name." (Aulus Gellius, The Attic Nights, Volume II, Book VI, Chapter VII, pp. 19-20).

The philosopher Seneca wrote a humorous treatment of Emperor Claudius' apotheosis, which the reader may enjoy. While I can't speak for the reader, the atheists' insistence that folks like these are just exactly like Jesus (when they aren't asserting Jesus never existed) fails to persuade, rather the imposters seem to fall short and fall flat in their divinity, in some subtle way. . .or perhaps in a gross way:


The Pumpkinification of Claudius
Seneca


Logo Another god, rather goddess, who may have volunteered for the position no more than did Prince Philip, is Iphegenia, Agamemnon's unfortunate daughter. In order to secure favorable winds for the Greek fleet to sail to Troy, this luckless young woman, probably not rescued at the last moment as was Isaac, was offered as a human sacrifice. Herodotus, for what his testimony is worth, reports that, as if by compensation, she herself, the sacrifice, was worshipped by some people:

"Of these the Tauroi have the following customs:— they sacrifice to the 'Maiden' both ship-wrecked persons and also those Hellenes whom they can capture by putting out to sea against them; and their manner of sacrifice is this:— when they have made the first offering from the victim they strike his head with a club: and some say that they push the body down from the top of the cliff. . .This divinity to whom they sacrifice, the Tauroi themselves say is Iphigeneia the daughter of Agamemnon." (Herodotus, Histories, Book IV, Chapter 103).
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Romulus

Romulus himself was ushered into the heavenly realms, to hear some people tell of it. Was this a mythological personage? There is nothing incredible in a town being named after an illustrious resident; a drive in the country will bring the passenger through many villages named after the first resident, or the first to call attention to himself. Admittedly some of the tales that clustered around Romulus, Rome's name-sake, seem a bit 'iffy,' like that he and his brother were suckled by a she-wolf, although there are documented cases of human children 'adopted' by animals. According to a certain eye-witness, he left this mortal sphere to greater things:

"He [Numa] also ordered that Romulus himself, as one who had shown a greatness beyond mortal nature, should be honored, under the name of Quirinus, by the erection of a temple and by sacrifices throughout the year. For while the Romans were yet in doubt whether divine providence or human treachery had been the cause of his disappearance, a certain man, named Julius, descended from Ascanius, who was a husbandman and of such a blameless life that he would never have told an untruth for his private advantage, arrived in the Forum and said that, as he was coming in from the country, he saw Romulus departing from the city fully armed and that, as he drew near to him, he heard him say these words: 'Julius, announce to the Romans from me, that the genius to whom I was allotted at my birth is conducting me to the gods, now that I have finished my mortal life, and that I am Quirinus.'" (Dionysius of Hallicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, Book II, Chapter 63).

This witness, Julius Proculus, one of the patrician class, having encountered him on the road, offered eye-witness testimony to Romulus' ascension and enrollment in the pantheon:

"He [Romulus] answered, 'It pleased the gods, Proculus, that I should spend thus much time among mankind, and after founding a city of the greatest power and glory should return to heaven whence I came. Fare thee well; and tell the Romans that by courage and self-control they will attain to the highest pitch of human power. I will ever be for you the kindly deity Quirinus.'" (Plutarch's Lives, Life of Romulus, Chapter XXVIII., Volume I, Kindle p. 39).

Plutarch also records the counter-narrative that Romulus was murdered by these same nobles, who disliked his populist policies. They then brazenly covered their undetected, unprosecuted crime by pretending to have witnessed the apotheosis of their victim, Romulus.

"Because of the wars with neighboring States the Roman Senate had done away with the distribution of grain to the people; but Romulus the king could not brook this, restored the dole to the people, and punished many of the more prominent men. They slew him in the Senate, cut him into bits, and thrust these into the folds of their garments; but the Roman people ran with fire to the Senate-house. Julius Proculus, however, one of the prominent men, declared that on a mountain he had seen Romulus with greater stature than any mortal's and that he had become a god. The Romans believed him and withdrew." (Plutarch, Moralia, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories, Chapter 32, Complete Works of Plutarch, Kindle location 41042).

This theme of a mysterious disappearance, not a resurrection but a dramatic exit from this world, is frequently encountered with our god-claimants. Gregory Nazianzen accuses the apostate emperor Julian of attempting, unsuccessfully, to stage such an exit, for the usual reason: "He was lying upon the bank of the river, and in a very bad way from his wound, when, remembering that many of those before his time who had aimed at glory, in order that they might be thought something higher than mortals, had (through some contrivances of their own) disappeared from amongst men, and thereby got themselves accounted gods; so he, being filled with a craving for similar glory. . .what does he contrive and what do? for not even with life does wickedness become extinct. He endeavors to throw his body into the river. . ." (Gregory Nazianzen, Second Invective Against Julian the Emperor, Chapter 4, p. 97).

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LogoApollonius of Tyana

Apollonius of Tyana is a weak, low-grade god-claimant, if indeed he is one at all, who is a perennial favorite of Unitarians and Theosophists who hope to conform Jesus' claim to this rather feeble template. The most striking, and scary, thing about this magician and mountebank is his Hitler-like ability to inspire a crowd to project their woes onto a helpless homeless man, whom they then proceed to pummel and beat into a lifeless lump unrecognizable as human.

To underscore the dangers of the god-claimant life, Apollonius was prosecuted under the emperor Domitian for accepting worship, along with several other counts. Like Father Divine, he knew resentment from the upper political echelons:

"'It is not that,' he replied, 'of which we are falsely accused; but they declare that you sacrificed a boy to divine the secrets of futurity which are to be learned from an inspection of youthful entrails; and in the indictment your dress and manner of life are also impugned, and the fact of your being an object of worship to some." (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Book 7, Chapter 11).
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Scape-goating Transmigration of Souls
Proteus Incarnate Post Hoc
Suttee Just Deserts
Respect of Persons Pollution



LogoConclusions

To generalize from the motley crew here assembled, if a man wants to be revered as a god after his demise, he himself should make the claim during his life-time. How did Father Divine's people know he was the one? Because he told them. Had he not told them, they never would have known. This might seem a simple point to mention, but it is routinely denied in modern secular Bible scholarship. Notice how this author simply assumes that veneration of Jesus began after His death, not at His own suggestion, but as a result of "powerful revelatory experiences" on the part of His followers:

"How would they have come to such an astonishing conviction? I submit that we have to posit powerful revelatory experiences of followers of Jesus early in the days after his execution that conveyed the assurance that God had given Jesus unparalleled heavenly honor and glory." (Larry W. Hurtado. How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus (Kindle Locations 362-363).)

Now if, in fact, it rarely ever works that way, there is no good reason to make this assumption. Realize the assumption is being made in the teeth of persistent asseverations in the gospels that Jesus did make the claim, early and often. It is a dangerous game to make connections between the living God and liars and lunatics, but when you realize that modern-day Bible 'scholarship' isn't even accurate to the liars and lunatics, you must admit there is a problem here. How on Earth Did Father Divine Become a God? He said he was one.

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