Paul Mitchell’s Book of Religious Quotations,
2002 edition

Letter I

To search inside this page use your "Find" function to go directly to it.







From Statue to God: The Opening of the Mouth Ritual

Step-by-step instructions on how to transform a statue into a god are inscribed on this clay handbook [picture of tablet] for Babylonian priests. Dating from the sixth century B.C.E., the cuneiform inscription was copied by the Babylonian priest Iddina-Nabu, whose name appears at the end, from a tablet writ-ten by the scribe Nabu-etel-ilani for Marduk's temple in Babylon. The scribe may well have had firsthand knowledge of the ritual. He was the son of an incantation priest who may have taken part in the Washing (or Opening) of the Mouth (Mis Pi) ritual, believed to bring cult statues to life.

The inscription begins:

When you wash the mouth of a god, on a favorable day in the bit mummi {work-shop], you set up two holy-water vessels. (You place) a red cloth in front of the god and a white cloth to the right of the god. For [the purification gods] Ea and Asalluhi you set up offering-tables.

You perform mouth-washing on that god and for that god you set up an offering table.

You raise your hand and recite three times the incantation, "Born in heaven by your own power." You recite three times before that god the incantation, "From today you go before your father Ea," and you take the hand of the god and ... {text missing] a ram. You recite the incantation, "As you grew up, as you grew up from the forest," (while going) to the riverbank from the house of the craftsmen [carrying] a torch in front of the god. Seat (him) on a reed-mat, and you set his eyes toward sun-set. You set up a reed-hut. For Ea, Asalluhi and that god you set up offering-tables.

You libate best beer; you open the thigh of a ram, and you place inside an axe, a nail, a saw, a tortoise and turtle of silver and gold; you bind it up and throw it into the river.

Before Ea you pronounce three times, "King, lord of the deep," and raise your hands and recite three times the incantation, "Enki [Ea], king of the Apsu," and you libate beer, milk, wine (and) honey. You perform mouth-washing, and three times you pronounce the incantation, "He who comes, his mouth is washed," and dismantle the offering-tables.

You take the hand of that god, and in the orchard in the midst of the reed-standards you seat him on a reed-mat on a linen cloth. You set his eyes toward sunrise.

During the ritual, the craftsmen who sculpted the statue are ceremonially disassociated from their work. Their hands are symbolically cut off with a wooden knife:

You bind their [the sculptors'] hands with a "headband" and cut (them) with a knife of tamarisk wood. "I did not make him (the statue), Ninagal (who is) Ea (god) of the smith made him," you make (them) say. You open the eye of that god.

At the end of the ceremony, the offering tables are dismantled and the statue-now a god-is led to his temple by the priests, who chant prayers along the way:

You take the hand of the god and you recite the incantation, "the feet sprinting over the ground, the feet sprinting over the ground..." (and) "as he walked through the street," all the way to that god's temple. At the door of the god's temple, you make an offering. You take the god's hand and make him enter, and (going) to the sanctuary you recite the incantation, "My king, to your heart's content."

From Christopher Walker and Michael B. Dick, "The Mesopotamian mis pi Ritual," in Born in Heaven, Made on Earth, ed. Dick (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1999).

ESARHADDON, Assyrian king, c. 670 BC: "Whose right is it, O great gods, to create [statue] gods and goddesses in a place where man dare not trespass? This task of refurbishing (the statues), which you have constantly been allotting to me (by oracle), is difficult! Is it the right of deaf and blind human beings who are ignorant of themselves and remain in ignorance throughout their lives? The making of (images of) the gods and goddesses is your right, it is in your hands; so I beseech you, create (the gods), and in your exalted holy of holies may what you yourselves have in your heart be brought about in accordance with your unalterable word. Endow the skilled craftsmen whom you ordered to complete this task with as high an understanding as Ea, their creator (god). Teach them skills by your exalted word; make all their handiwork succeed through the craft of Ninshiku [another name for Ea]." (Bible Review magazine, April 2002, pg 31.

Rom 1:22-23 "...professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image..."

If this is true of God, why is it not true of Jesus, or even Mary or of "saints" and apostles?

EGYPT: "Individuals who were thought to harass the living after death could be overcome by attacking their tomb, images or name." --Ancient Egypt, DP SIlverman, Ed, Oxford Univ Press, 1997, 144

The snake-staff emblem of Moses, Num 21: Why was this OK when God had forbidden graven images?

--See Gary North, The Sinai Strategy, pg. 33, Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, TX.

PAUL MITCHELL: Because government and gods were inextricably intertwined in ancient society, peace treaties always involved the gods of the cities at war/alliance. See Gary North’s The Sinai Strategy, p.28. God ordered the utter destruction of Canaan because He would make no treaty with other gods, which would be to surrender His sovereignty. He made no treaty or deal with Pharaoh for the same reason. It is for this same reason Christians cannot be "ecumenical" with Muslims or anyone else. Christianity issues a non-negotiable demand to acknowledge Jehovah, or be destroyed, as was Pharaoh and Rome.

GARY NORTH: "Those who worship any god other than the God who reveals His standards in the Bible are worshippers of a false god. No other god, no other goal, no other standard is to replace men's faith in the living 'God who delivered Israel. God is primary; there is no secondary God. From this it follows that THOSE WHO PROCLAIM A LAW-ORDER ALIEN TO THE ONE SET FORTH IN THE BIBLE ARE THEREBY PROCLAIMING THE VALIDITY OF THE WORD OF SOME OTHER GOD. They have become idolaters -- perhaps not conscious idolaters, but idolaters nonetheless. They are aiding and abetting the plans of men who worship another god. A god's personal (or impersonal) attributes are revealed by its law-order. TO PROCLAIM A RIVAL LAW-ORDER IS TO PROCLAIM A RIVAL GOD. Pluralism is political polytheism."

--Gary North, The Sinai Strategy, pg 21, Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, TX.

GARY NORTH: "Man is made in God's image. He has power over the creation as a lawful subordinate to God. But rebellious man is not content to remain a steward to God, a subordinate creature. He wants autonomy. At least, he wants to operate under some creature other than God. So man makes an image, thereby imitating God, who made man, His image. This image is a point of contact between man and the supernatural being associated with the image. The image represents the supernatural being. Man has an integral part in the formation of this being's point of contact. Man believes that he participates in the work of the divinity by giving shape to its image."

--Gary North, The Sinai Strategy, pg 23, Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, TX.

GARY NORTH: "Can we legitimately represent Jesus? Men did see Him. ...Should we guess concerning His appearance? ...We can legitimately represent Him in His WORK on earth."

--Gary North, The Sinai Strategy, pg 23, Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, TX.

CELSUS: [But such] "wisdom is ludicrous. Who but an utter infant imagines that these things are gods and not votive offerings and images of Gods?" (Celsus, 170 AD, "True Doctrine," Cels. 7.62; cited in "The Christians as the Romans Saw Them," Robert Wilken, pg. 119, Yale Univ Press, 1984. Ever hear a Catholic try to defend "images" with the EXACT same reasoning?

"Why do Catholics have statues and pictures of the Saints?

1) Because they wish to honor the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, just as we honor public heroes.

2) Because it is easier to pray when looking at a picture or a statue." --Rev. Wm J. Cogan, A Catechism For Adults, ACTA Publications, 5735 Univ Av, Chicago 37, IL, 1958, p.18

JEWISH CRITICISM: "Jewish antagonism toward Christian images was expressed as early as the sixth century in a poem by the Jewish liturgical poet Yannai. The poem rails against Christians, who 'rejoice in statues of human figures, ...Who prostrate and pray to a bush [a reference to the cross.'" (The Liturgical Poetry of Rabbi Yannai, Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1987, vol 2, pp 221-222; as cited by Bible Review magazine, October 2000, p43)

CALF, GOLDEN. The idolatrous image of a young bull set up at Mt. Sinai (Ex 32:2-4) and later by Jeroboam at Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 12:28). The young bull symbolized vitality and strength, and the Israelites sought to worship Jehovah under this representation. Doubtless the prevalence of bull worship in Egypt suggested this animal. Jeroboam also had likely seen the bull Apis worshiped in Egypt while he was a refugee at the court of Shishak (11:40), but ancient tradition also influenced him, for he quotes Ex 32:4 in advertising his new cult. Common among western Semites are gods represented as standing on an animal's back or as seated on an animal-borne throne. What Jeroboam likely did was to represent the invisible Jehovah astride a young bull of gold. It is inconceivable that he would resort to the crass idea of actually expecting worship of a golden calf itself. (From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)

BARGAINING WITH THE GODS: “The nub of the (religious arrangement) was a bargain: the devotees provided worship in the appropriate form for the gods, and the gods in return looked after the material welfare of their worshippers… this concept of a bargain with the deity is echoed by numerous Latin inscriptions from throughout the area… recording bargains with the gods in which the deity has performed his or her part, and the worshipper now performs his or hers.  These inscriptions reflect simultaneously both the Roman practice of making vows to the gods on condition they perform a certain service, and the local analogue…”  (Robyn Tracey, The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting, Vol 2: Graeco-Roman Setting, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994, p259)


Moses stuttered.

David's armor didn't fit.

John Mark was rejected by Paul.

Hosea's wife was a prostitute.

Amos' only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning.

Jacob was a liar.

David had an affair.

Solomon was too rich.

Abraham was too old.

David was too young.

Timothy had ulcers.

Peter was afraid of death.

Lazarus was dead.

John was self-righteous.

Naomi was a widow.

Paul was a murderer. (So was Moses!)

Jonah ran from God.

Miriam was a gossip.

Gideon and Thomas both doubted.

Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal.

John the Baptist was a loudmouth.

Martha was a worry-wart.

Mary was lazy.

Samson had long hair, and openly broke the Law by marrying foreign women.

Noah got drunk as did Lot.

Did I mention that Moses had a short fuse?

Abraham gave his wife to Pharaoh and lied to him.

Lot offered his daughters for sex to a mob.

So did Peter, Paul - well, lots of folks did.

MOSES: Exod 4:10 Then Moses said to the LORD, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."

Exod 3:11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?"

PAUL: 1 Cor 2:1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.

PAUL, CONCERNING HIMSELF: 2 Cor 10:10 For they say, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive, and his speech contemptible."

JEREMIAH: Jer 1:6 Then I said, "Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth."

DAVID: 2 Sam 7:18 Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, "Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me this far?

GIDEON: Judg 6:15 And he said to Him, "O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father's house."

SOLOMON: 2 Chr 2:6 "...So who am I, that I should build a house for Him...?"


The Roman statesman Seneca is quoted by Augustine, alluding to the spread of Judaism in the ancient world, as saying, " Victi victoribus leges dederunt," "The conquered have given laws to the victors." (Augustine, City of God 6.11)