Part 5 in a series of articles on the Little Horn of Daniel 8, and the Leopard-like beast of Revelation 13.
When the Serpent first lied to Eve, and informed her that if she and her husband ate of the tree of knowledge, they would then be `as gods' (Gen. 3:5); he insinuated that they would have access to hidden knowledge which God had denied to them - which was that they were of their own selves immortal, and in no need of God at all. This first great lie -`ye shall not die and be as gods' has thus become the platform upon which all false religion rests.
The deification of man first began in ancient Babylon under Nimrod, and eventually found its way to the ancient Greeks, who followed after the coarse polytheism of Babylon. However, it is with Greece that we first begin to see a change in the method by which man came to be deified, for until the fifth century B.C, men had believed that the gods are subject to like passions as ours, and differed little from ordinary men - with the exception that they were of course immortal. The fifth century Greek philosopher Plato changed this, for he objected to the idea that the gods are evil, for according to Plato, if they were evil, then they were no gods at all! So he then set about redefining the relationship of the supreme One-in-all pantheist god to man, from whom all `lesser' gods emanated.
The platform upon which Plato built his philosophies rested upon two premises - that the soul is immortal, and that God is immutable. While the Greeks had different traditions which accounted for the fall, one of the more common philosophies was that as all of the gods were considered to be emanations of the One, then as each pair of gods proceeded from the pair before them, they became less attenuated to the One than their `parent' gods, and lost knowledge (or `gnosis') of their own inherent divinity. The last of these divine emanations was believed to be Sophia, who was thought to have emanated so far from the One that she had lost almost all knowledge of her inherent divinity, and was therefore not far removed from the world of men, and became known as the Logos, or `wisdom' of men. Eventually Sophia became associated by first century Gnostics with the Logos of Scripture - Christ.
The Greeks believed that the fall occurred when Sophia tried to gain access to the `hidden knowledge' of the One which was denied to her (just as the Serpent insinuated when he lied to Eve), and was cast out of the divine realm. In her distress, she then created the material world, which she fell into. Thus Sophia (and later Christ) came to be regarded as a demi-urge, or `intermediate god' between man and the One - not as fully divine as the One, but certainly retaining far more divinity than fallen man - who was considered to have `forgotten' his inherent divinity completely, and therefore needed the assistance by a philosopher or priest who might help him remember that which was lost.
It is no great secret that the early church was heavily influenced by Greek Platonic philosophy, and we see this notion of an `intermediate god' developing in the theology of Origen, whose six column Hexapla greatly influenced Westcott and Hort's Revised Version of the Bible in 1881, and Arius, who followed in the theology of Origen, and posited that Christ was a `lesser god' who was subordinate to the Father.
Thus the material world came to be seen as evil, for in the Greek mind, it resulted from the fall. What made this a double jeopardy for fallen man, is that the Greeks regarded the One as immutable - which is to say that God cannot change. Not only did they believe that His character can not change - which they defined as `Eros'; but they also believed that He cannot change His mode of operation, for any change in the operation of God would be tantamount to a change from perfection to imperfection. Therefore it was impossible for the One to reach down to fallen man to save him - or even to be aware of him, for this would constitute perfection contemplating imperfection, which (as far as the Greeks were concerned) was impossible. Therefore the only way by which fallen man could `realise' his True Self (which was believed to be his inherent divinity which he has `forgotten', as a result of the fall), was by the doing of good works which purified the soul, and enabled it to separate from the body at death, which so weighed it down into the material world, that at death man might instead be reincarnated into another body, instead of `achieving' union with the One - if his works were deemed to be insufficient to purify the soul. Thus the entire duty of man was considered to be the `taking care of the soul' by doing good works, so that at death, the soul might be reunited with the One God in all, from which it originated.
Thus it stood until a rag-tag band of men known as Christians came along in the first century who taught a philosophy which was diametrically opposite to that which was believed by the Greeks - for they who taught that Christ died for those who are enemies to Him. This was foolishness to the Greeks, for the Greeks believed that only the `good' are worth saving. But as the `everlasting gospel' - that Christ died the second death for fallen man began to lose its power because of the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul which even then began to corrupt the apostolic doctrine of the `agape' of Christ, so also did Gnosticism begin to flood the church. Christ came to be seen as a demiurge, or `lesser God' who might indeed suffer change; for this could not corrupt the `original essence' of the One, who was considered to be immutable, and cannot change. Thus Christ came to be seen as taking upon a human body, so that by His example, man could become God. Thus the doctrine of the divination of `self' had undergone a dramatic change in the early church; for whereas the Greeks had believed that the divination of `self' was taken care of by the `taking care of the soul'; Gnostic Christians began to believe that Christ blazed a path by which all must follow, if the soul were to return to the divine home from which it first originated. Thus, by the time we come to the council of Nicea in 325 A.D., which determined the ontology of the Godhead, the debate was not over whether or not man could be made divine - this was already accepted as fact; but was instead over how Christ could manifest Himself to fallen man, without having his divinity corrupted by the material world which He was reaching down to save. Arius posited Christ as a `lesser god' by whose example we are saved; while Athanasius posited Christ as fully God, and quarantined His divinity from the corruption of the material world which His body would `fall' into, by positing Him as taking upon Himself the unfallen human `nature' of Adam. In both views on the human nature of Christ, truth was obscured, as both views were corrupted by the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle.
It should therefore be no surprise that the Trinity, which is the foundation of Catholic faith, has its basis in the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and Greek Platonic philosophy, for in the Catholic faith, the divination of the soul reigns supreme:
`The concept of a triune God in the Catholic Church, three persons in one, was not based upon a clear revelation of God-breathed Scripture, but upon the writings of ancient pagan philosophers such as Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle.' (`Project Apostasy: The development of Propagation of the Trinitarian Doctrine', J. Acuff, 2008, 179.)
The Chalcedonian Creed was first formulated in 457 A.D, and states what is considered to be orthodox theology on the human nature of Christ. It expands upon the Nicene Creed, for while the Nicene Creed states the ontology of the Godhead, it does not provide a formula for the `flesh' by which Christ manifested Himself in. Thus, just as Athanasius largely formulated the Nicene Creed (although the aspect of this Creed on the Holy Spirit was not formulated until 381 A.D by the Cappadocian Fathers), so also was the Chalcedonian Creed largely formulated upon his thesis on the `flesh' which Christ manifested Himself in, which is entitled `On the Incarnation'. It is in this document that we see the influences of Plato at work, for it is in this document that he not only writes of the divination of man, but writes in such a casual manner that he assumes that the reader is already acquainted with this conception of the after-life:
`Christ was made man, that we might be made God'. (Athanasius, `On the Incarnation', 1: 54.)
Origen had uttered similar sentiments a century earlier, and Athanasius continued in this tradition. Indeed, the following extract from an online Catholic Catechism demonstrates that the doctrine of the divination of man eventually became a foundational doctrine of Catholic faith - and it is this doctrine which is derived from the Chalcedonian Creed:
`460 The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":78 "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81'
This conception of the deification of `self' was completely refuted by Ellen White:
`The Godhead was not made human, and the human was not deified by the blending together of the two natures.' (`Manuscript 94, 1893', `Selected Messages Book 3', p. 131.)
Truly, the beast of Revelation 13:2 is described as `like unto a leopard' for good reason - all dogma of the Catholic church is based upon the Hellenistic philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, who resided in that ancient country which is depicted in Biblical prophecy as a leopard, or leopard like beast.
References from Online Catechism
78 2 Pt 1:4.
79 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939.
80 St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
81 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.