SPIRITUAL DARKNESS DURING THE MIDDLE AGES #3
OBELISKS, TEMPLES, and TOWERS
by Ralph Woodrow
AMONG THE ANCIENT nations, not only were statues of the gods
and goddesses in human form made, but many objects that had a
hidden or mystery meaning were a part of heathen worship. An
outstanding example of this is seen in the use of the ancient
Diodorus spoke of an obelisk 130 feet high that was erected
by Queen Semiramis in Babylon. The Bible mentions an obelisk-type
image approximately nine feet in breadth and ninety feet high.
"The people ... fell down and worshipped the golden image that
Nebuchadnezzar had set up" in Babylon (Daniel 3:1-7). But it was
in Egypt (an early stronghold of the mystery religion) that the
use of the obelisk was best known. Many of the obelisks are still
in Egypt, though some have been removed to other nations. One is
in Central Park in New York, another in London, and others were
transported to ROME.
Originally, the obelisk was associated with sun-worship, a
symbol of "Baal" (which was a title of Nimrod). The ancients
having rejected the knowledge of the true creator--seeing that
the sun gave life to plants and to man, looked upon the sun as a
god, the great life giver. To them, the obelisk also had a sexual
significance. Realizing that through sexual union life was
produced, the phallus (the male organ of reproduction) was
considered (along with the sun) a symbol of life. These were the
beliefs represented by the obelisk.
The word "images" in the Bible is translated from several
different Hebrew words. One of these words means "standing
images" or obelisks (1 Kings 14:23. 2 Kings 18:4; 23:14; Jer.
43:13; Micah 5:13). Another word is "hammanim" which
means "sun images", images dedicated to the sun or obelisks
(Isaiah 17:8; 27:9).
In order for the obelisks to carry out their intended
symbolism, they were placed upright - erect. Thus they pointed up
- toward the sun. As a symbol of the phallus, the position also
had an obvious significance. Bearing this in mind, it is
interesting to notice that when divine judgment was pronounced
against this false worship, it was said that these images
(obelisks) "shall not stand up", but would be cast down (Isaiah
27:9). When the Israelites mixed heathen worship into their
religion in the days of Ezekiel, they erected an "image of
jealousy in the entry" of the temple (Ezekiel 8:5). This image
was probably an obelisk, the symbol of the phallus, for as
Scofield says they were "given over to cults. Placing an obelisk
at the entrance of a heathen temple was, apparently, not an
uncommom practice at the time. One stood at the entrance of the
temple of Tum and another in front of the temple of Hathor, the
abode of Horus" (Tammuz).
Interestingly enough, there is also an obelisk at the
entrance of St.Peter's in Rome, as the photograph shows on the
next page. It is not a mere copy of an Egyptian obelisk, it is
the very same obelisk that stood in Egypt in ancient times! When
the mystery religion came to Rome in pagan days, not only were
obelisks made and erected at Rome, but obelisks of Egypt - at
great expense--were hauled there and erected by the emperors.
Caligula. in 37-41 A.D., had the obelisk now at the Vatican
brought from Heliopolis, Egypt, to his circus on the Vatican
Hill, where now stands St. Peter's. Heliopolis is but the Greek
name of Bethshemesh, which was the center of Egyptian sun-worship
in olden days. In the Old Testament, these obelisks that stood
there are mentioned as the "images of Bethshemesh"! Jer.43:13)!
The very same obelisk that once stood at the ancient temple which
was the center of Egyptian paganism, now stands before the mother
church of Romanism! This seems like more than a mere coincidence.
The red granite obelisk of the Vatican is itself 83 feet
high (132 feet high with its foundation) and weighs 320 tons. In
1586, in order to center it in front of the church in St.Peter's
square, it was moved to its present location by order of Pope
Sixtus V. Of course moving this heavy obeliskespecially in those
days was a very difficult task. Many movers refused to attempt
the feat, especially since the Pope had attached the death
penalty if the obelisk was dropped and broken!
Finally a man by the name of Domenico Fontana accepted the
responsibility. With 45 winches, 160 horses, and a crew of 800
workmen, the task of moving began. The date was September 10,
1586. Multitudes crowded the extensive square. While the obelisk
was being moved, the crowd, upon penalty of death, was required
to remain silent. Finally, after near failure, the obelisk was
erected--to the sound of hundreds of bells ringing, the roar of
cannons, and the loud cheers of the multitude. The Egyptian idol
was dedicated to the "cross" (the cross on top of the obelisk is
supposed to contain a piece from the original cross), mass was
celebrated, and the Pope pronounced a blessing on the workmen and
The drawing on the next page shows the pattern of St.
Peter's and the circular court in front of it. At the center of
this court stands the obelisk. This court is bordered by 248
Doric style columns which cost approximately one million dollars.
The style for such columns was borrowed from the styling of pagan
Like the obelisk, pagan columns were often regarded as
"mystery" forms of the phallus. In the vestibule of the pagan
temple of the goddess at Hierapolis, an inscription referring to
the columns reads: "I, Dionysus, dedicated these phalli to Hera,
Even as Roman Catholic leaders borrowed other ideas from
paganism, it is no surprise that building elaborate and expensive
temples also became the custom. Worldly-minded leaders thought
they should build a temple of greater splendor than those of the
old Roman religion.
We know that God directed his people under the rulership of
Solomon to build a temple--in the Old Testament--and chose to put
his presence there. But in the New Testament, it is clear that
the Holy Spirit no longer dwells in temples made with men's hands
(Acts 17:24). Now, God dwells in his people his true church - by
the Spirit! Says Paul: "YE are the temple of God ... the Spirit
of God dwelleth in you" (1 Cor.3:16). Understanding this grand
truth, the early church--filled with the Spirit--never went forth
to build temples of stone and steel. They went forth to preach
the gospel. Their time was not spent in financial drives and
oppressive pledges in order to build a fancier building than a
temple down the street! According to Halley's Bible Handbook, we
do not have a record of a church building (as such) being built
prior to 222-235 A.D.!
This is not to suggest it is wrong to have church buildings.
Probably the reason church buildings were not built earlier was
because, due to persecutions, the first Christians were not
allowed to own title to property. But had they been allowed this
privilege, we feel certain that such buildings would have been
built simply not for outward show. They would not have tried to
compete with the expensive styling of the heathen temples of
splendor--like the temple of Diana at Ephesus or the Pantheon of
But when the church came to political power and wealth under
the reign of Constantine, a pattern for building elaborate and
expensive church buildings was set and has continued to this day.
This idea has become so implanted in the minds of people, that
the word "church" (to most people) means a building. But in its
Biblical use, the word refers to an assembly or group of people
who are--themselves--the temple of the Holy Spirit! As strange as
it may sound, a church building could be totally destroyed, and
yet the actual church (the people) remain.
The majority of expensive church buildings that have been
built over the centuries have featured a tower. Each generation
of church builders has copied the former generation, probably
never questioning the origin of the idea. Some towers have cost
fortunes to build. They have added no spiritual value. Jesus, of
course, never built such structures when he was on earth, nor did
he give any instructions for them to be built after his
departure. How, then, did this tower tradition in church
If the reader will permit us a certain liberty at this
point, we will suggest a theory which points back to Babylon. Of
course we all remember the tower of Babel. The people said, "Let
us make brick ... let us build us a city and a tower, whose top
may reach unto heaven" (Gen.11:3,4). The expression "unto heaven"
is no doubt a figure of speech for great height, as was also the
case when cities with walls that reached "up to heaven" were
mentioned (Deut.1:28). We are not to suppose those Babel builders
intended to build clear up in the heaven of God's throne.
Instead, there is sufficient evidence to show that the tower
(commonly called a "ziggurat") was connected with their religion
- with sun-worship.
"Of all the lofty monuments of Babylon, the towering 'Ziggurat'
must certainly have been one of the most spectacular
constructions of its time, rising majestically above its huge
encircling wall of a thousand towers ... around the vast square,
chambers were set aside for pilgrims, as well as for the priests
who looked after the 'Ziggurat.' Koldewey called this collection
of buildings the 'Vatican of Babylon'." One source is quoted as
It has been suggested that one of the meanings of the name
of the goddess Astarte (Semiramis), written as "Asht-tart", means
"the woman that made towers." The goddess Cybele (who also has
been identified with Semiramis) was known as the tower bearing
goddess, the first (says Ovid) that erected towers in cities and
was represented with a tower-like crown on her head, as was also
Diana (see page 17). In the symbolism of the Catholic church, a
tower is emblematic of the virgin Mary! Does all of this somehow
Some ancient towers, as we all know, were built for military
purposes, for watchtowers. But many of the towers that were built
in the Babylonian Empire were exclusively religious towers,
connected with a temple! In those times, a stranger entering a
Babylonian city would have no difficulty locating its temple, we
are told, for high above the flat roofed houses, its tower could
be seen! The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "It is a striking fact
that most Babylonian cities possessed a ... temple-tower."
Is it possible that Babylon (as with other things we have
mentioned) could be the source for religious towers? We recall
that it was while they were building the huge tower of Babel that
the dispersion began. It is certainly not impossible that as men
migrated to various lands they took the idea of a "tower" with
them. Though these towers have developed into different forms in
different countries, yet the towers in one form or another
Towers have long been an established part of the religion of
the Chinese. The "pagoda" (linked with the word "goddess") at
Nankin is shown in our illustration.
In the Hindu religion, "scattered above the large temple
inclosures are great pagodas or towers ... rising high above the
surrounding country, everywhere they could be seen by the people,
and thus their devotion to their idolatrous worship was
increased. Many of these pagodas are several hundred feet high,
and are covered with sculptures representing scenes in the lives
of the gods of the temple, or of eminent saints." pagoda Among
the Mohammedans also, though in a somewhat different form, can
be seen the towers of their religion. The first illustration on
the following page shows the numerous towers, called minarets, at
Mecca. Towers of this style were also used at the famous Church
The use of towers is also carried out in Christendom, Catholic
and Protestant. The tower of the great Cathedral of Cologne rises
515 feet above the street while that of the Cathedral of Ulm,
Germany, is 528 feet high. Even small chapels often have a tower
of some kind. It is a tradition that is seldom questioned. At the
top of many church towers, a spire often points to the sky!
Several writers link, and perhaps not without some justification,
the steeples and spires with the ancient obelisk.
"There is evidence", says one, "to show that the spires of our
churches owe their existence to the uprights or obelisks outside
the temples of former ages." Another says: "There are still in
existence today remarkable specimens of original phallic symbols
... steeples on the churches ... and obelisks ... all show the
influence of our phallus-worshipping ancestors."
To be continued "Is the Cross a Chriatian Symbol?"