Why is Cybele vital to understanding Romans? Part 2
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Bust of a Galli priest of Cybele
The Bible is a book of history but there is a lot of history outside the Bible that directly affects what is written in the Bible. Most modern Bible readers are unaware of the cultural doctrinal and historical background of the New Testament. Most have no knowledge of the ancient gods and goddesses and the religious milieu out of which Paul's converts were saved. That cultural historical and religious information was common knowledge among ancient readers because they were part of the culture - they lived in the culture.
When the human authors of the Bible wrote or spoke, they assumed that cultural doctrinal historical and religious knowledge on the part of their hearers and readers. Once we establish the biblical context - culturally doctrinally historically and religiously and what the original hearers understood the books of the New Testament to say in the first century AD, we can begin to make personal application of inspired scripture to our modern situation.
As Pastor John MacArthur points out: "The faithful shepherd (and Bible student) must lead his congregation across the historical bridge and immerse them in the culture and context of the biblical authors." That is the way to understand the Bible.
3. Cybele's likeness was found on Phrygian coins in the first century BC and on into the second century AD. More than forty Phrygian cities issued coins featuring an image of Cybele enthroned and her attributes, a tympanon and lions. Paul and his co-workers would have carried and used coins bearing Cybele's likeness while evangelizing in Phrygia, Acts 13-18.
"Under the name of Cybele, we find her worship on Mount Sipylus (Paus. v. 13. § 4), Mount Coddinus (iii. 22. § 4), in Phrygia, which had received its colonists from Thrace, and where she was regarded as the mother of Sabazius. There her worship was quite universal, for there is scarcely a town in Phrygia on the coins of which she does not appear." - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1849
4. Cybele's likeness was found on Roman coins used in Rome from the second century BC to the third century AD. These ancient Roman coins depicted Cybele as Magna Mater, the Great Mother and Mater Deum, Mother of the gods. This was the historical situation in AD 58 Rome when Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans.
5. Cybele was "kidnapped" from Phrgia in 204 BC and taken to Rome, there installed as one of Rome's leading goddesses yet Cybele continued to be worshiped throughout Phrygia and the ancient near east.
6. First century AD Rome had five temples to Cybele including one on the present site of the Vatican and her main temple on the Palatine Hill overlooking the Circus Maximus.
7. Cybele's eunuch priests and acolytes paraded through the streets of Rome every April in raucous ceremonies, according to Ovid the Roman poet, 43 BC - AD 18. The excesses of her worshipers were infamous throughout the Roman Empire.
8. Cybele worship included Galli priests castrating themselves and male worshipers having anal sex with Cybele's eunuch priests and anal sex with Cybele's priestesses.
9. Paul heard Stephen preach against false gods like Moloch in Acts 7:43 while presiding over the coats of the Jews who stoned Stephen. In the Jewish Old Testament, we see Molech and Ashtoreth linked together, 1 Kings 11:5, 11:33, 2 Kings 23:13.
Over the centuries these gods took different names in different cultures, yet always with the same demonic spirits behind the false gods, regardless of the names they used, Deuteronomy 32:16-17, Leviticus 17:7 and Leviticus 18:21-22 and Leviticus 20:2, 3, 4, 5, 13 and 1 Corinthians 10:20-21.
So we see Israel's false gods, Ashtoreth and Molech or Ashtoreth and Baal become Aphrodite and Adonis in Greece or Jupiter and Minerva in Phrygia or Fortuna and Jupiter in Rome or Rhea and Jupiter or Cybele and Saturn or Ceres and Jupiter or Kybele and Jupiter or Cybele and Jupiter.
Minerva Zizimene is the Anatolian mother-goddess, who was worshiped under different names in different parts of Asia Minor.
- W. M. Calder, The Classical Review, Vol. 27, No. 1, Feb., 1913, pp. 9-11, published by Cambridge University Press
"The various names by which we find Rhea designated, are, "the great mother," "the mother of the gods," Cybele, Cybebe, Agdistis, Berecyntia, Brimo, Dindymene, "the great Idaean mother of the gods." Her children by Cronos (also called Molech) are enumerated by Hesiod: under the name of Cybele she is also called the mother of Alce, of the Phrygian king Midas, and of Nicaea (Diod. iii. 57; Phot. Cod. 224). In all European countries Rhea was conceived to be accompanied by the Curetes, who are inseparably connected with the birth and bringing up of Zeus in Crete, and in Phrygia by the Corybantes, Atys, and Agdistis. The Corybantes were her enthusiastic priests, who with drums, cymbals, horns, and in full armour, performed their orgiastic dances in the forests and on the mountains of Phrygia."
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1849
10. Early Christians like Aristides and Justin Martyr understood that in Romans 1 Paul described the unholy worship of Cybele and other false gods. It will be worth your time to carefully read the information at both of those links.
Paul's message to the Phrygians
Paul’s message to the Phrygians was, Do NOT do sacrifice to false gods. Turn from your idolatrous beliefs about Jupiter and Mercury (and Cybele; because Jupiter was Cybele's consort she is intimately related to Jupiter
), and instead, receive the resurrected Christ as your Savior, the God of Jewish monotheism who became a man, who died for you and who rose from the dead. Jesus is the true and living God who created everything and who rules over everything, Acts 14:15-17.
"In goddess dedications discovered in modern Sizma, five hours north of Iconium, Minerva (Minerva Zizimene), the Latin version of Zizima, the local form of the great mother Cybele of the Iconium region, is linked to her consort, Jupiter Optimus Maximus
and in the Greek with the Tyche (of Iconium); here evidently Jupiter and Minerva are Latin representatives of a pair of Phrygian deities
, while in the Greek she is herself expressed in two forms as the (Mother) and Hellenized as the Iconian Good Fortune."
- W.M. Ramsey, The Classical Review, Vol. 19, No. 7, Oct., 1905,
pp. 367-370, published by Cambridge University Press Why is Cybele vital to understanding Romans? Part 3
Why is Cybele vital to understanding Romans? Part 1
Romans 1 and link to Cybele
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Photo of a marble bust of a priest of Cybele, the Phrygian goddess, Capitoline Museums, Rome, is in the public domain, via wikimedia.org
This page revised February 24, 2015