Is Cupid Old Fashioned?

by Rick Shrader

This is what comes of giving one’s heart to anything but God.   All human beings pass away.  Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose.  If love is to be a blessing, not a misery,  it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away.   St. Augustine, Confessions

In this latter part of the twentieth century, when the sordid lives of Madonna and Michael Jackson seem common place, when public displays of vulgarity by musicians and artists are accepted as normal and indiscretions of public figures from the pulpit to the presidency do not even raise an eyebrow, what chance does that fat little imp with his toy bow and arrow have at making a dent in this year’s market? How can a truly decadent generation, whose lives are filled with every vice and substance, sit around brightly colored banquet rooms with balloons and ribbons and eat tiny candy hearts that say things like ‘‘I think you’re nice?’’

Well, before we write cute little Cupid off, we ought to consider if this ancient pixie hasn’t really won an age-old offensive the spoils of which are being paraded down main street today. The story of Cupid is truly primitive and labyrinth. It would take volumes to make all the connections to the ancient national histories as well as mythologies and lore. The biblical connections alone require more space than this.  A few reminders during this month, however, are appropriate.

There was a Saint Valentine, a Catholic martyr, who died in AD 270. He is the ‘‘patron of lovers and the helper of those unhappily in love.’’ February 14 is his feast day. Beyond providing a date to celebrate, he has little to do with the story of Cupid.

Cupid is a Roman name (also called Amor) associated with his lover Venus. They are the god and goddess of love whose stories fill the mythologies as well as the pop charts. So far, so good. But, as C.S. Lewis said, ‘‘when natural things look most divine, the demonic is just around the corner.’’ Venus and Cupid were known by many other names. In Babylon they were Semiramis and Tammuz. In Egypt they were Isis and Osiris. In Phoenicia they were Ashteroth and Baal. In Greece they were Aphrodite and Adonis (Eros). In Iceland they were Frigga and Balder. Even in the far East, Cupid was known as Zoroaster (zoro, ‘‘seed of’’ and aster or ‘‘ashteroth’’).

Biblically, Cupid was the same tradition as Nimrod (Gen 10:8), the mighty hunter of wild boars; Baal (Num 22:41), the ‘‘Winged One;’’ Tammuz (Ez 8:14), killed by a wild boar; Bel (Isa 46:1), the confounder; Jupiter (Acts 14:12), the son of Kronos; and even ‘‘Easter’’ (Acts 12:4), though a translator’s prerogative, was to a Roman such as Herod, the feast of ‘‘Ishtar,’’ the mother of Tammuz.   The whole tradition goes something like this (all the stories vary depending on which national tradition you are following). Semiramis and Tammuz were husband and wife, lovers. Tammuz met a violent death (as Nimrod he was killed by a wild boar) and the power of the queen, Semiramis, was in jeopardy. While the women of the realm wept for him (Ez 8:14) Semiramis feigned to have descended into Tartarus and brought Tammuz back from the dead. Semiramis was seen as a goddess (in Babylon, she was ‘‘Ishtar’’ i.e. ‘‘star’’ and hence ‘‘Venus’’ in Roman times, the feast of Easter in Saxon times) and Tammuz was a resurrected son. The ‘‘son’’ was also the ‘‘sun’’ and his birth was celebrated on December 25 , the winter solstice when the sun begins its northern trek and his death was celebrated on June 24, the summer solstice when the sun turns southward again. (The modern dates are December 21st and June 21st). Semiramis became the Queen of Heaven and Tammuz her son as well as lover. This lurid relationship became the basis for the cult being a fertility cult as is seen in all its variations. Israel was commanded to separate from it in any form, whether the calf worship of Egypt or Baal and Ashtoreth from Phoenicia. That is why God is angry when women are weeping for Tammuz in God’s own temple (Ez 8:14). In Greece, Tammuz is Eros, the son and lover of Aphrodite. I saw a statue of him in the Athens museum (looking exactly as Cupid would look) and it was not something you would hang on your family room wall. Of the four Greek words for love, eros means ‘‘erotic’’ and is not used by New Testament writers to portray God’s love or brotherly love.

In Rome, this tradition was Venus and Cupid. Venus was believed to have descended from Heaven (one story says in an egg which was hatched by bunnies, hence the feast of Ishtar) and Cupid was the winged youth (as Baal, ‘‘the winged one,’’ he supposedly created the birds) who shot arrows (like Nimrod the mighty hunter). The Norse tradition has the son, Balder, meeting a tragic death from an arrow fashioned out of a Mistletoe sprig (the mythological Greek Cupids were slain by a serpent called Python).

As I wrote in an article about Halloween, I do not advocate dropping every American custom which has its roots in paganism. The cakes baked to the Queen of Heaven (Jer 44:19) were the birthday cakes celebrating the birth of the sun. I am not ready to give up birthday cake just yet (though many old country Christians do not celebrate birthdays, neither did the early church celebrate Christ’s birthday). I think I might even look for a chance to kiss my wife under the mistletoe and give her a Valentine card. We know that an idol is nothing!

The present day battle is deeper than mere symbols. It is an age old struggle between ancient foes. Nimrod, Tammuz, Baal, Eros and Cupid were just silly representations of the real Messianic Counterfeit who is a liar from the beginning. The book of Revelation describes a ‘‘Mystery Babylon’’ (17:5) led by ‘‘that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world’’ (12:9). Today the stage is being set for such a condition. Paul described our age as being lovers of ourselves, without natural affection, dispisers of those that are good, lovers of pleasures (literally ‘‘lovers of Adonis’’) more than lovers of God who have a form of godliness without any real power (2 Timothy 3:1-5). The Anti-Christ himself will be a false representation of a slain and risen son (Rev 13:3) following the tradition of all the ancient counterfeits. He could be alive today and carrying on the cultic rituals.

The word that God chose to describe His own love, agape, was not used to describe love before the New Testament. It has no connection with Eros. It was a new description of a pure and holy love fashioned by God for His purpose. So while the world worships daily at the altar of Cupid and carries on the lusts to which they are slaves, ‘‘let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water’’ (Hebrews 10:22). And let us think about those who do not know the love of God as Jude who said, ‘‘of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh’’ (Jude 22-23). This is accomplished when ‘‘the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us’’ (Romans 5:5).