Category Archives: History

Sex in the Temple?

Dan Brown, in The Da Vinci Code, has Robert Langdon telling Sophie Neveu that early Judaism involved ritualistic sex performed in the temple.

“Early Jews believed that the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple housed not only God but also His powerful female equal, Shekinah. Men seeking spiritual wholeness came to the Temple to visit priestesses – or hierodules – with whom they made love and experienced the divine through physical union. The Jewish tetragrammaton YHWH – the sacred name of God – in fact derived from Jehovah, an androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah.”

Nice bit of fiction. Of course it doesn’t link with the evidence available to us.

1. The early days of Judaism began after the destruction of the temple. Up to that point the followers of YWHW were known as Israelites.
2. The idea of God having a female equal would never have caught on in the strongly monotheistic Judaism.
3. The practice of sex in the temple of YHWH is never described in the Hebrew scriptures.
4. The Hebrew word, שכן.transliterated as ‘Shekinah’, refers to settling, being present. While the word has feminine qualities, there is no sense of it being expressed in a feminine deity.
5. The word ‘Jehovah’ is a European translation of יהוה (YHWH), providing vowels where the Hebrew language did not. It was not used until the fifteenth century BCE.
6. YHWH is more likely to be associated with ‘YH’ (god) and a root referring to being.
7. The practice of visiting hierodules or temple prostitutes is associated with many ancient civilisations, including ancient Greece and Anatolia. It was likely to be common in Canaan and Babylon – a temptation faced by Hebrews living in those places. The prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 43:7-9) condemns the practice.

Constantine the Great in Da Vinci Code

Teabing tells Sophie Neveu that the Bible as we know it today was collated by pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great.

“He was a lifelong pagan who was baptized on his deathbed, too weak to protest. In Constantine’s day, Rome’s official religion was sun worship – the cult of Sol Invictus, or the Invincible Sun – and Constantine was its head priest. Unfortunately for him, a growing religious turmoil was gripping Rome. Three centuries after the crucifixion of Christ, Christ’s followers had multiplied exponentially. Christians and pagans began warring, and the conflict grew to such proportions that it threatened to rend Rome in two. Constantine decided something needed to be done. In 325 CE (Common Era), he decided to unify Rome under a single religion. Christianity.”

Sophie asks why a pagan emperor would choose Christianity as the official religion. Teabing responds by saying that Constantine could see that Christianity was on the rise, and managed to convert sun-worshipping pagans to Christianity. By fusing pagan symbols, dates and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, he created a kind of hybrid religion that was acceptable to both parties.

Constantine the Great

So who was this Constantine the Great? Constantine was the son of Helena and Constantius Chlorus, Caesar of Britain, Gaul and Spain. His formative years were spent in the court of Diocletian, the Roman Emperor who had developed an absolute monarchy, centering all power in the Roman empire in himself as the semi-Divine ruler. In 306 CE, on the death of his father, Constantine was proclaimed Emperor at York. In 312 he defeated Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge to become the senior ruler of the Roman Empire. At that battle Constantine adopted the Labarum standard, using the symbolic Chi and Ro of Christ.

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The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven

Sir Leigh Teabing quotes Martyn Percy, the great canon doctor, as saying that “the Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven”. Teabing goes on to say that the Bible is a product of man, not of God. “The Bible did not magically fall from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions and revisions. History has never had a definitive version of the book.”

Dan Brown is quoting a real person, Canon Martyn Percy, who since 2004 has been principal at Ripon College, Cuddesdon. Martyn Percy teaches and researches in three areas: practical theology, modern ecclesiology, and Christianity and contemporary culture. He is involved in most aspects of ministerial formation, and in shaping the life and future of the College. A

Martin PercyMartyn is a regular contributor to Radio 4, The BBC World Service, The Independent, The Guardian and other media. His recent books include Salt of the Earth: Religious Resilience in a Secular Age (T&T Clark) and Engagements: Essays on Christianity and Contemporary Culture (Ashgate). He has studied at the Universities of Bristol, Durham and London. He currently holds an honorary Chair in Theological Education at King’s College London, as well as an Adjunct Professorship of Theology and Ministry at Hartford Seminary, Connecticut, USA. Since 1999 he has served as a Council Member and Director of the Advertising Standards Authority in London. He is also Canon Theologian for Sheffield Cathedral. Martyn Percy also co-ordinates The Society for the Study of Anglicanism at the American Academy of Religion.

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