`And the beast I saw was like unto a Leopard'
Part 4 in a series of articles on the Little Horn of Daniel 8, and the Leopard-like beast of Revelation 13.
To say that the nondescript beast of Revelation 13 has the body of a Leopard is actually a misnomer, for a literal translation of the text is that it `was like a leopard' (NKJV). If it was `like a leopard' - then the chief characteristic of the Papacy is that as it is very much like Greece in some respects, then its `likeness' to Greece constitutes the foundation of Catholic faith. Furthermore, if `faith' ultimately translates to `love', then the most fundamental aspect of Catholic faith is that it reflects the same perception of love that was found in Greece prior to the advent of Christ. So if we are to look for the single most pervasive element that permeated Catholic theology, we look to the ancient philosopher Plato; for the Syrian Greek philosopher Numenius of Apamea (c. 250 A.D), declared:
"What is Plato, but Moses speaking Attic Greek" (`Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in ancient Alexandria', D. Dawson, p. 1992, p. 204.)
Jews had begun to settle in Egypt long before Alexander the Great assimilated it into his empire, and some authorities believe that while the renowned Greek philosopher Plato travelled to Babylon and Egypt to learn of the `mysteries' associated with their religions, he came across a small colony of Jews who had settled in Egypt, from whom he learnt of the One God of the Hebrews, and assimilated this into the system of philosophical thought which he was developing:
`In the fourth year of the eighty-seventh Olympaid, Plato, the famous Athenian philosopher, was born . . . . for having, in his travels to the East, (whither he went for his improvement in knowledge), conversed with the Jews, and got some insight into the writings of Moses, and their other sacred books, he learned many things from them which the philosophers did not attain unto and therefore he is said by Numenius to be none other than Moses speaking Greek; and many of the ancient fathers speak of him to the same purpose.' (`Clarke's Commentary', Adam Clarke, 1834, p. 994.)
Plato had become disillusioned with the idea that the gods mirror our base emotions to us, as he could see that any nation which worshipped gods which are morally depraved and capricious by nature, would then see this behaviour reflected by society at large, with the unravelling of its social fabric being the sure result:
`Then, although we are admirers of Homer, we do not admire the lying dream which Zeus sends to Agamemnon; neither will we praise the verses of Aeschylus in which Thetis says that Apollo at her nuptials . . . . These are the kind of sentiments about the gods which will arouse our anger; and he who utters them shall be refused a chorus; neither shall we allow teachers to make use of them in the instruction of the young, meaning, as we do, that our guardians, as far as men can be should be true worshippers of the gods and like them.' (Plato, `Republic', II)
This led to Plato contrasting the raw paganism of the surrounding nations with the One God of the Hebrews - who by comparison seemed to be noble and virtuous. He then subjected the I AM THAT I AM of the Hebrews to the philosophical system which he was developing, and conceived of a perfect society which he called `The Republic', which he envisioned would be run by a ruling elite of philosopher kings who sought to attain knowledge and wisdom for the greater good of mankind, so that they might be just and benevolent rulers of their fellow men. The first principle of this New World Order was based upon the fact that God is entirely good - He cannot do or cause evil, for He is immutable and is therefore not subject to change; for in Greek mind, if God were able to somehow change, then God could be no longer regarded as God!
`Shall I ask you whether God is a magician, and of a nature to appear insidiously now in one shape, and now in another - sometimes himself changing and passing into many forms . . . . or is he one and the same immutably fixed in his own proper image? . . . . If he change at all he can only change for the worse, for we cannot suppose him to be deficient either in virtue or beauty . . . Then it is impossible that God should ever be willing to change; being, as is supposed, the fairest and best that is conceivable, every God remains absolutely and forever in his own form.' (ibid.)
As like attracts like, Plato's conception of love was based upon the idea of immutability - that God can only save those who are like him in nature; which is to say that God only loves those that are already lovable. Therefore Plato's view of salvation consisted of striving to be like God by doing good works which are acceptable to him. Intimately connected with Plato's perception of love - which the Greeks called `Eros', was the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul, as the Greek conception of the universe was that of dualism - the soul originates from God and is therefore pure divine essence, while the body is a part of the material world which is definitely not regarded as a divine part of God! In the following passage, the Greek philosopher Plotinus (c. 250 A.D), explains why this doctrine is so important to Hellenistic thought:
`Our doctrine of the immortality of the heavenly system rests on the firmest foundation once we have the sovereign agent, the soul . . . . . how could anything once placed within this Soul break away from non-being: No one that understands this principle, the support of all things, can fail to see that, sprung from God, it is a higher stay than bonds.’ (Plotinus, `Enneads’, 2.1.4.)
The majority of the Greek philosophers believed that one was an atheist if they did not believe in the natural immortality of the soul, simply because they believed that the soul yearns to return to the god from whence it originally came. Thus Greek Logic declares that the good deeds which one does during their life contributes toward the soul `remembering' that which it has forgotten; which is the original essence of its own divinity. But the dualism of Greek philosophy also teaches that the body is evil and weighs down the soul, thus preventing the soul from remembering this hidden knowledge which it aspires to - which the Greeks called `gnosis' - of its own divinity. Those only the philosopher or the priest possessed the necessary `heavenly credentials' which could assist one in finding the path to their own salvation. As a result, salvation was depicted as a difficult and arduous path, with few ever lucky enough, or clever enough to find it - for God was forever playing hide and seek from us, and would only deign to look at us if our character mirrored the perfection of His, which was perfected by the doing of good works that are acceptable to Him.
Therefore death came to be regarded as a friend which releases the soul from the confines of the body, so that at death the soul can reunite with the pantheistic One God in All from which it originated, before it descended to earth and became trapped in a human body:
`The immortal soul was thought of as temporarily residing on the body as in a kind of shell, garment or "dwelling-place". The famous Platonic dualism of the immortal soul incarcerated or entombed in the body is the consequence. In one way or another, all ancient Greek and Roman anthropology and ethics is based on this dualism. Since Socrates, "caring for the soul" became the basis of intellectual and ethical life, implying also the devaluation of anything related to the body, with its desires and pleasures.' (`The Concept of the Inner Human Being', D. Betz, p. 323.)
Thus `Eros' in fact establishes a subtle form of disguised selfishness; for the only reason the Greeks did anything to benefit others, was so that these `good works' would serve to purify the soul as it strived to achieve Godhead - which is almost identical to the various disciplines that are taught in New Age philosophy today - just as the Roman philosopher Seneca (c. 4 B.C - 65 A.D), who was a disciple of a branch of Greek philosophy which is known as Stoicism wrote:
`Need you refuse to believe that there's something divine in one who is a part of God? All the world that contains us is one, and is God: we are his colleagues and his members. Our spirit is able: it arrives there, if its blemishes don't hold it down. As our body stands erect, its eyes fixed on the sky, so our spirit, free to expand as far as it will, is formed by nature to desire equality with godhead.' (`Seneca's letters to Lucilius: Volume 2', Lucius Annaeus Senceca.)
At about the same time that Seneca was writing to Lucilius about the divine principle of `Eros' that resides in the souls of men, the apostle Paul was contrasting this thought with the ultimate demonstration of love - Calvary; for in Romans 5: 7 & 8, he contrasts the principle of Eros with that of Agape, by telling us in verse 7 that while it is natural for a good man to lay down his life for friends (for this epitomises Eros); he then tells us in verse 8 that this form of love is as far removed from heaven as it is from earth, for the agape of God is such that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; or enemies to him:
`For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet possibly for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' (Roman 5: 7,8.)
In another places within his epistles, he notes that Christ `became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross'; 1 thus indicating that the nature of agape is such, that it dares to die the second death! This totally astounded the Greeks and turned them on their heads, for as far as they were concerned, only the good were worth saving!
Plato had sought to remove the life generating principle of Eros from the mire of sensuality and depravity which it had fallen into, and referred to it as a `Heavenly Eros'; where all motivation is free of the encumbrages of the material world in which we live, so that the soul can be perfected through the contemplation of the intellect, which is manifested in the performance of good works which are the outward evidence of the soul `becoming' God. "This Heavenly Eros," declared the Greeks, "is the very elixir of life which the gods themselves have drunk from, for it compels men to marry and have babies!"
Thus Eros worked like a divine Tsunami; it washed away everything before it, for it was so compellingly irresistible, that the Greeks believed that to drink of this elixir of the gods was to imitate their divine action of procreation, which is a force so potent that it motivates men to imitate the divine action of the gods by marrying, producing families of their own and aspiring to all that is good. Thus, the Greek god `Eros' found his equivalent in the Roman god Cupid, who shoots his arrows into our hearts.
Plato's noble and grand idea that the ultimate form of love is typified by a man laying down his life for his friends was in reality like water finding its own level; for essentially the Greeks believed that as God is `good', then only the good are worth saving, and it is the duty of every man to `take care of his soul' by being `good' by outwardly demonstrating good works, so that ethical behaviour might predominate in society at large. What really happened, is that the principle of self-exultation was `lifted up' through the principle of tamid paganism finding expression in this perverted conception of the character of God, where the minding of `self' predominated in the pretence of thinly disguised urbane sophistication.
Yet when the Bible speaks of `love' it predominantly speaks of the unconditional love which the Father and Son have for us. But this love is so utterly beyond `natural' human comprehension, that it took Calvary to demonstrate it to us, so that we might first begin to understand it; for In the first century, the disciples of Christ `turned the world upside down' (Acts 17: 6) with a completely new concept of love which was so breathtakingly refreshing, that it instantly made enemies of you or disciples of you, for there was no common ground. It revealed that the noblest human aspirations of love were best described as non-love, or disguised selfishness, for the `agape' of Christ starkly contrasts all human ideas of love with the cross, for the `agape' of Christ reaches out to all men - especially the unlovely, for `when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, we shall be reconciled by His life' (Rom. 5; 10).
In Plato's vision of a perfect society - only the good are worth saving, which is at complete odds to the gospel, for Christ came to save the sinner. Yet it is this conception of love that was `lifted up' from paganism, and straight into the Catholic Church, when Augustine attempted to synthesize `Eros' with `Agape' and called it `Caritas', or charity. Thus Catholic dogma teaches that `Eros' (works) plus `Agape' (faith) equates to salvation, and the principle of the self-exultation of the `continual' tamid paganism is perpetuated.
This conception of Greek philosophical love is reflected in Pope Benedict XVI's First Encyclical Letter, which is about the Catholic perception of the love of God, and how this translates to our lives. Pope Benedict called this Encyclical `Deus Caritas Est'; which literally means `God love is'. But Pope Benedict did not use the word for love which the disciples used; which is `agape', but instead used the word `caritas' - which in the King James version of the Bible translates to `charity' and `loving -kindness'.
Pope Benedict gives the argument that while there is only one kind of love, it exists in two different dimensions, which are respectively called `Eros' and `Agape':
`The point of this early section of the encyclical is to insist that, although the terms eros and agape may set into relief two different aspects of love, in the end they do not represent different kinds of love. Rather, as the pope states forcefully at the outset of the encyclical, there is ultimately just one love, with a variety of dimensions that are all necessary in order to sustain the full meaning of love.' (`The Redemption of Eros', D.C. Schindler, p. 378.)
The reason why the Pope stated this, is because the dogma of the Catholic Church teaches that there is only one form of love, which is an amalgamation of agape and Eros, and this forms the foundation of Catholic faith. Pope Benedict's Encyclical did not open up to humanity a new ground-breaking idea on the greatest form of love there is; but instead reaffirmed that which has been the basis of Catholic faith for over one and a half millennia - which is a philosophical conception of love that is rooted in Greek philosophy. Ironically, there are few who realize this, nor understand the implications of it:
`Agape is often contrasted with eros, which is not found in the New Testament though it is prominent in Greek philosophy. Eros can refer to a vulgar, carnal love, but in the context of Hellenic thought it takes the form of spiritual love that aspires to procure the highest good. Eros is the desire to possess and enjoy; agape is the willingness to serve without reservations. Eros is an ascending love that proceeds from the earthly to the heavenly. Agape is a descending love that proceeds from the heavenly to the sinful. Eros is attracted to that which has the greatest value; agape goes out to the least worthy. Eros discovers value wheras agape creates value. Agape is a gift love whereas eros is a need love. Eros springs from from a deficiency that must be satisfied. Agape is the overflowing abundance of divine grace. For Plato eros is not found in God, for God is devoid of passion. Plotinus, on the other hand, made a place for eros in God, but this was simply God reflecting upon his own goodness. (`God the Almighty': Power, Wisdom, Holiness and Love', D. Bloesch, 2006, p. 147.)
Anders Nygren (1890-1978), a Swedish Lutheran bishop, documented the biblical and historical aspects of Eros and Agape in his monumental two volume epic, entitled `Eros and Agape'. Nygren concluded that agape, or unconditional love is the only true Christian kind of love, while Eros is an expression of need which ultimately manifests itself as disguised selfishness. Moreover, Nygren made the point that belief in the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul serves to distort the true nature of `agape'; which is the outpouring without measure of the unconditional love which the Father and Son have for us - and dares to `taste death' for us; so that we might not `taste' it ourselves (Heb. 2:9).
This is directly opposed to Pope Benedict's First Encyclical Letter, for it is reemphasizes the philosophy which was set out by Augustine one and a half millennia ago - that there is one love only; and that is `caritas'; for `caritas' is Eros synthesized with Agape. And it is this point upon which the Catholic conception of the character of God (and hence all Catholic doctrine) stands or falls; for Agape is the pure and unsullied essence which comprises the love of God. When adulterated with Eros, Agape ceases to be Agape, and instead reverts back to Eros; even though it might be called `caritas'; which amounts to little more than paganism tarted up in the robes of Christianity - which makes it all the more doctrinally deadly. For one drop of poison leavens the whole lump.
While Nygren demonstrated that the faith of the early church was based solely on `Agape', he noted that by the time of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (c. 130-202), Hellenistic conceptions of the `Eros' motif were already entering the Church via the conduit of the Hellenistic conception of the natural immortality of the soul:
` . . . Nygren asserted: "Nowhere within the early church is the idea of Agape found in so pure a form as in Irenaeus" . . . But even in Irenaeus, Nygren detected aspects of the eros motif. Irenaeus accepted the Hellenistic concept of the natural immortality of the soul. Hellenistic influences can also be seen in his understanding of deification. Irenaeus asserted that God descended to humanity in Christ in order that humanity might ascend to God. Incarnation is the means to the Christian's deification. Here the downward direction of the agape motif was combined with the upward direction of the eros motif. Despite the strength of the agape motif in Irenaeus' theology, the eros motif did not remain in the background. The theologians who came after Irenaeus developed a position which began the synthesis between agape and eros - a synthesis completed by Augustine. Love was the very heart of Christianity for Augustine, but his understanding of love was neither agape nor eros. Instead, it was a totally new view, known as caritas. Caritas is neither agape expressed in Hellenistic terms, nor is it eros in the guise of the biblical language of agape. "It is neither Eros, nor Agape, but the synthesis of them. It is a true synthesis; while it contains characteristics of both motifs, it is not merely a combination of these, but a new independent unity.' (`Gustaf Wingren and the Swedish Luther Renaissance', M. Anderson, pp. 63,64.)
The Hellenistic influences in Ireneaus' conception of the deification of man solidified one and a half centuries later with Athanasius, who contended with Arius about the human nature of Christ at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., and has since been reiterated by various Church Fathers, such as Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas ever since, as well as pastors of New Age Churches in the current day:
`Christ was made man, that we might be made God'. (Athanasius, `On the Incarnation', 1: 54.)
In this, Athanasius merely followed in the footsteps of Clement of Alexandria, who had previously stated that:
`the Logos of God became man so that you might learn from a man how a man may become God.' (Prot. 1.4.)
Thus tamid paganism was `lifted up' into and `exalted' by the Catholic church (Daniel 8: 11), by first lifting up the principle of Eros into it (as the above statement by Clement demonstrates), and then synthesizing it with `agape' - as did Augustine two centuries later. This then created the hybrid which Augustine called `caritas'; which is the `continuation' of the principle of tamid paganism - i.e the exultation of `self', at the expense of the exultation of the character of God - which is starkly contrasted by the disciples of Christ declaring the `God is agape' (1 John 4: 8). For if the disciples of Christ had wished to declare that God is `Eros' - they would have stated this in the first place! But they did not, and could not - for they would not associate the character of God with Platonic paganism, which infers that it is impossible for God to come down from the lofty heights of heaven and meet us where we need it most - which is `in the likeness of sinful flesh' (Rom. 8:3); for this would infer that God is mutable and is therefore subject to change! The Greeks regarded this as dangerous heresy; for Greek Logic deemed that this taught that God could no longer be God, for if God was subject to change - well, the notion was completely without reason and unthinkable! Indeed, it was complete foolishness! (1 Cor. 1: 23)
For this reason the pagan philosopher Celsus, who was a contemporary of Origen and debated with him over the ontological fabric of the Godhead, believed that Christianity is `a thoroughly objectionable creed'.2 Yet John, the `beloved disciple' of Christ, regarded the idea of the immutability of God forbidding Christ to come `in the flesh' as the Spirit of Antichrist that was already threatening the infant Church:
`Hereby know all of you the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof all of you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.' (1 John 4: 2,3)
It is for these reasons that the Catholic perception of the character of God is rightly condemned in the Bible as `the abomination that makes desolate' (Daniel 11: 31).
`It is ironic that while today the church fathers are accused of Hellenizing Christianity, they themselves held that Plato had learned from the Hebrews that Christianity was the actual true heir and completion of Moses' teaching . . . . According to this view, Greek philosophy lacked the moral strength of the gospel, but still prepared the way for its teachings by attuning the mind to the reception of God's revealed truth.' (`Incarnational Humanism: A Philosophy of Culture for the Church in the World', J. Zimmerman, 2012, pp. 94,95.)
Pope Benedict's First Encyclical Letter reveals that not much has changed since then, and the Catholic Church still drinks deeply from the wellspring of the philosophies that are found in Plato and Aristotle. Indeed, Catholic soteriology is built upon the philosophical construct that God is Eros, and grace (agape) results from the `infused love' which makes our ascent to God possible:
`For Plato and Aristotle . . . . man is moved to seek for his origin by the divine origin of which he is in search, for man's longing is precisely his response to the magnetic attraction of the divine, which, as Aristotle said, moves by being loved. Philosophy in the classical sense is "man's responsive persuit of his questioning unrest to the divine source that has aroused it."
As Anders Nygren showed many years ago, the classical doctrine of the philosphic Eros was imported through Augustine into the mainstream of Catholic thought. For Augustine, the Christian way to God is Eros; that is, the ascent of the soul fired by love to the divine. And while grace is necessary for man to ascend on "the wings of Caritas," the end remains "the ascent of Caritas to God." The Augustinian notion of grace as the infused love that makes our ascent possible - the former existing for the sake of the latter - constitutes the basis of Catholic soteriology. And it is the notion of man's ascent to God through love that was so vehemently rejected by the reformers as inimical to the Christian's passive and trusting reliance upon God's will.' (`Traditions and Innovations: Essays on British Literture of the Middle Ages', D, Allen, R. White, 1990, p. 193.)
Thus, through Augustine the pursuit of `Eros' became the basis of the Catholic doctrine of the divinization (or deification) of man, which thus reveals to us the foundation of Platonic thought upon whch it is built; i.e - that the soul is immortal because it originated in God and yearns to return to the divine home from which it originated.
Thus the leopard like beast of Revelation reveals to us in stark symbolic form that the character of Rome is Eros; for the soteriological basis of Rome is derived from the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. It is for this reason that the beast is described as `like a leopard', for the `leopard like beast' upon which the woman of the apocalypse sits is the same power which is depicted as the `rough goat' in Daniel 8, the leopard like beast of Daniel 7, and the thighs of brass of Daniel 2, for the philosophical basis of the dogma whch comprises the faith of the Catholic Church is almost identical to the same philosophies which are found in the Hellenistic Greece of Alexander the Great; with the exception that Rome has modified this by stipulating that `Eros' is vivified by `Agape'. For this reason Plato came to be regarded as `Moses speaking Greek' and reveals to us that the character of the leopard-like beast of Revelation 13 is indeed Eros, for it reflects the philosophies of Plato and the Greek philosophers which followed after him. By extension, as the centuries passed and the infant church grew, these same philosophies became the foundation of Catholic dogma, for the `little horn' of Daniel 8 (the papacy) was moulded in the likeness of Plato, and the influence of the Leopard-like beast of Revelation 13 directs these Platonic philosophies of Greece directly into western thought, where the greatest demonstration of love is still thought to be that a man lay down his life for his friends.
`Even unto the Prince of the host he exalted himself. And from him was lifted up the daily (continuance) and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.' (A literal translation of Daniel 8:11.)
The doctrine of the `Divinization of Man' is more fully explained in the next article, which is entitled `The Doctrine of the Divinization of Man, and the Immutability of God'.
1 Philipians 2: 8. Hebrew 2:9 also states the Christ `tasted death' for us; while Gal. 3:13 informs us that `Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.' That curse was the `second death', for Deuteronomy 21: 22 informs us `And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree.' As the normal penalty for sin was stoning to death, then this speaks of the second death, which is the `curse' which all who are not `in Christ' are subject to.
2 (`The History of Christianity, from the Birth of Christ, to the Abolition of Paganism in the Roman Empire', Vol. 1', H. Milman, 1840, pp. 363 - 365.)