We can see that Ephesus was a very old city and appears not to be that powerful. Yet, for Paul to go there to preach it must have value of some sort. So tomorrow we’ll look at…
2 Timothy 3
The Coming Apostasy
1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
“Last days” – the Messianic era, the time beginning with Christ’s first coming. That the last days in this passage does not refer only to the time just prior to Christ’s return is apparent from Paul’s command to Timothy to have nothing to do with the unbelieving and unfaithful people who characterize this time.
I believe God is becoming fed up with how disgusting people have become and I believe that the end is near, that Jesus will return in my lifetime.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Paul’s got that right. All that Paul says in vv. 2-6 I can see happening in the United States alone.
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
“Silly women” – unstable women who are guilty-ridden because of their sins, torn by lust, and victims of various false teachers, but never coming to a saving knowledge of Christ.
That’s amazing, Paul lived from around 5-67 A.D. and he knew about Oprah.
7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
“Jannes and Jambres” – neither of these men is mentioned in the Old Testament, but according to Jewish tradition they were the Egyptian court magicians who opposed Moses (Ex 7:11).
9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.
“They shall proceed no further” –they are now in hell, as everyone like them will is or will be.
10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
“Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra” – three cities in the Roman province of Galatia, which Paul visited on his first and second missionary journeys.
12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
We can see this happening all around the world, but especially here in the United States, but it didn’t just start, it began when old man Bush was elected.
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
“From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures” – a Jewish boy formally began to study the Old Testament when he was five years old. Timothy was taught at home by his mother and grandmother even before he reached this age.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
“Inspiration of God” – Paul affirms God’s active involvement in the writing of the Bible, an involvement so powerful and pervasive that what is written is the infallible and authoritative word of God (see 2 Pet 1:20-21).
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Early History of Ephesus
Ephesus was at the center of hull’s missionary work. He visited there while on his second and third missionary journeys and maintained exceptionally close ties to the Christians at this location.
Toward the end of Paul’s ministry his left Timothy in Ephesus to care for the Ephesian Christians and at the very end of his life he continued to show concern for the church there.
Ephesus was situated on the Aegean coast by the Cayster River (in the southwestern corner of modern Turkey), but its specific location shifted slightly through the centuries .
The city was originally founded by Greeks in approximately 1000 B.C. from its original site and constructed a 6-mile-long wall around its new boundaries (c.286-281 B.C.).
Ephesus then came under Seleucid rule, which lasted until Rome defeated Antiochus III in 189 B.C.
Rome placed Ephesus under the control of the Attalids, the rulers of nearby Pergamum, but took direct control of the city in 133 B.C. Emperor Augustus honored Ephesus as the first city of Roman Asia.
Ephesus was captured by Cyrus the Great of Persia in 546 B.C. After Persia’s disastrously failed invasion of Greece, however, Ephesus came in 454 B.C. under the control of Athens, against which it rebelled during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.), joining instead the Spartan alliance.
After the fall of Athens, Ephesus again came under Persian control, but this ended with the conquest of the region in 333 B.C. by Alexander the Great.
After Alexander’s death his general Lysimachus emerged victorious in a struggle for power in Asia Minor. Lysimachus moved the city a short distance.
The city below is the last of Lost City of the Americas in our study. Since we are looking at the history of cities, let’s go back to the Bible and tomorrow we’ll look at…
2 Timothy 2
A Workman Approved Unto God
1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
2:3-6 – Paul gives three examples for Timothy to follow: (1) a soldier who wants to please his commander (God); (2) an athlete who follows the rules of the game; (3) a farmer who works hard.
4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
5 And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.
6 The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits.
“Partaker of the fruits” – in this illustration, as in the previous two, the main lesson is that dedicated effort will be rewarded – not necessarily monetarily, but in enjoyment of seeing the gospel produce changed loves.
7 Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
8 Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:
“Seed of David was raised from the dead” Christ’s resurrection proclaims Hi deity, and His descent from David shows His humanity; both truths are basic to the gospel. Since Christ is God, His death had infinite value; since He is man, He could rightfully become our substitute.
9 Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.
“Trouble, as an evil doer” – apparently Paul was awaiting execution(see 4:6).
10 Therefore I endure all things for the elects sakes that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
“I endure all things of the elects’ sakes” – no suffering is too great if it brings about the salvation of God’s chosen ones who will yet believe.
11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
“If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him” –the Greek grammatical construction here assumes that we died with Christ in the past, when He died for us on the cross. We are therefore assured that we will also live with Him eternally.
12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
“If we suffer, we shall also reign’ – faithfully bearing up under suffering and trial will result in reward when Christ returns.
This does not mean you have to be beaten, imprisoned, robbed or anything. We suffer just by standing up for Jesus in this world and we will be rewarded for that.
13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
“Foundation of God” – the church which upholds the truth (1 Tim 3:15). In spite of the heresy of Hymenaeus and Philetus, Timothy should be heartened to know that the church is God’s solid foundation.
There are two seals on it: One stresses the security of the church (“The Lord knoweth them that are his”; here “know,” as often in the Bible, means to be intimately acquainted with).
The other emphasizes human responsibility (“everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart form iniquity”).
“Seal” – the church is owned and securely protected by God – this church is not any church building on earth. The church Paul is talking about is Jesus’ church, i.e., the believers.
20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor.
21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.
22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
Lost Cities of the Americas (7 of 7)
Location: Peruvian Andes Date of Construction: 1 440 C.E. Abandoned: c 1530 C.E. Built By: Inca Key Features: Casa Del Vigilante (The Guard House); The Residential, Religious and Sacred Districts; Intihuatana (Hitching-Post Of The Sun); Main Temple; Temple Of The Three Windows; House Of The Wise; Princesses” Bedrooms
In 1911 American explorer and archaeologist Hiram Bingham was led up the steep path from the Urubamba Valley, deep within the Peruvian Andes, by local guides who had promised him something special.
What he found was Machu Picchu, known today as the ultimate lost city, a profoundly mysterious and affecting site that draws thousands of tourists a day despite its remote and inaccessible location.
Bingham thought he had discovered Vilcabamba, final refuge of the last Inca emperor in his desperate, doomed resistance to the Spanish conquistadors, but in fact he had stumbled across something older and far stranger.
In Quechua, language of the Incas, Machu Picchu means “Old Peak”, a reference to the sacred peak on which it was constructed, 7,709 feet above sea level.
It lies about 43 miles northwest of the old Inca capital of Cusco and yet despite its relatively central location it was completely unknown to all but a few locals since before the Spanish conquest.
Construction was probably begun by theSapa Inca (High King) Pachacuti in around 1440 CE, or possibly his successor Yupanqui (in which case construction wouldn’t have started until c 1460), but the site was almost certainly already abandoned by the time of the Spanish conquest in 1532.
At most around 1,000 people lived here, so lost “city” is something of a misnomer. In fact, the geographical and economic isolation of the site, away from the major Inca highways and equipped with so little agricultural terracing that it may not even have been self-sufficient, points to the fact that Machu Picchu probably wasn’t an important economic, military or administrative center.
Historians today consider that it was a personal retreat for the Inca and his family, rather like the country villa of a Roman patrician, but with spiritual and ceremonial functions at its heart, as well as a strategic role as an impregnable stronghold for the Inca elite in case of attack – a citadel rather than a city.
When the Inca, his family and retinue were in attendance, the citadel was full, but at other times it was probably inhabited by only a skeleton staff of caretakers and agricultural workers to tend the terraces that surround it.
Among the many mysteries of Machu Picchu is the question of why the emperor chose to build this remarkable complex in such an inaccessible and apparently unimportant spot. The solution is probably to be found in the link between landscape and spirituality that lay at the heart of Inca philosophy.
The Inca revered natural features such as peaks, stones, caves and springs as apus, (“shrines or sacred spots”), and Machu Picchu lies in the heart of a landscape rich in spiritual significance.
Both Machu Picchu itself and Huayna Picchu, the higher peak that rears up beyond it, were probably apus, and many of the citadel’s structures are built on or from natural rock outcrops and formations, some partially sculpted or modified, which probably had spiritual significance as well.
Many of the major buildings of the site have been interpreted as temples and when the Inca was in residence there was probably a whole retinue of priests and astronomers who worked with the site to determine important solar events and perform ceremonies, rituals, sacrifices and prayers.
Rough Guide to Machu Picchu
There are two main sectors of the city – the agricultural and the urban sectors. Climbing up to Machu Picchu from the southeast, the visitor first passes through the agricultural sector, which consists of more than 100 terraces, whereby the steep hillsides with their thin soils and inability to retain water are transformed into thin strips of field with stable soil, able to support crops. Small stone huts called collpa dot the terraces – these were probably storehouses.
Approaching the urban sector, the visitor passes the Casa del Vigilante – the Guard House – which commands spectacular views of the city and the Urubamba Valley. A little further along, the trail passes through the main gate and into Machu Picchu proper, which has three main districts.
The Popular or Residential District is where the simplest buildings are located, and is probably where the servants and workers of the citadel lived, including the skeleton staff who maintained the place when the nobility were not in attendance. The buildings are characterized by the steep pitched roofs and include workshops and factories.
Across the Main Plaza from the Residential District, in the Sacred or Religious District, are a number of buildings that were probably temples.
On a hill to one side of the plaza is one of Machu Picchu’s treasures, the Intihuatana, or Hitching-Post of the Sun, a large, carved and shaped rock that culminates in a roughly square upright pillar, believed to have played a central role in Inca solar rituals and calendar calculations.
Before the Spanish conquest such stones were found at the heart of all Inca communities, but the invaders destroyed all they could find in their attempt to suppress the religion. Fortunately they never discovered Machu Picchu.
Other highlights of the Sacred District include the Main Temple and the deliberately roofless Temple of the Three Windows, with its characteristic trapezoid windows (believed to offer greater stability against earthquakes).
On the right id the Residential and Industrial Zone, with its workshops and factories. In the foreground on the left is the Royal Zone, while beyond it is the Sacred or Temple Zone. In the middle is the Central Plaza. The Agricultural Zone is behind the camera.
The third district, between the Sacred District and the agricultural zone, is the Royal District, where it is believed higher status people stayed.
The buildings here are of fine stonework and have evocative names such as the House of the Wise and the Princesses’ Bedrooms. Rooms are trapezoid, again probably to help resist earthquake damage.
Next to the Royal Palace is the Temple of the Sun, believed to have been an astronomical observatory. The Temple of the Sun has a fountain built into its very fabric, highlighting the ingenious hydrological engineering of the Incas, who used aqueducts, shaped natural channels and natural springs in the area to supply the whole citadel with running water.
Also in this district are what is believed to be the jail and the Monumental Mausoleum, where mummies were stored in niches cut into the walls and sacrifices may have been carried out.
It is also believed that sacrifices or ritual torture may have been carried out in the Temple of the Condor, a partly natural rock chamber with a striking formation that resembles the outstretched wings of a condor.
Grooves in the rock, possibly for channeling blood, lead down into a pit.
Similar grooves are found on altars and niches elsewhere in the city. Bloodletting and sacrifice may have been a major feature of life in Machu Picchu, as evidenced by archaeological discoveries in the city of human bones bearing the marks of butchery.
Mysteries of Machu Picchu
There is no doubt that Machu Picchu exerts a powerful influence on all those who see it. Partly this is a function of the design of the city and its relations to its surroundings. Machu Picchu stands as one of the greatest monuments to Inca architecture and craftsmanship.
Its layout is remarkably sympathetic to and harmonious with the natural space it occupies. Buildings appear to hang in impossible places and to have grown out of the roots of the mountain, so that the whole site works with and not against its apparently inhospitable location.
Its builders probably also designed it to reflect and pay homage to the surrounding sacred landscape in subtle ways that are hard for modern visitors to explicitly understand but that affect them nonetheless.
Another great mystery of Machu Picchu is the technical one. How could such an impressive scheme be realized in such a remote and inaccessible location, by a Bronze Age culture whose use of the wheel was restricted to children’s toys?
The answer is probably a combination of ingenuity, technical mastery of the arts of architecture, masonry and rock carving, and sheer manpower.
In particular, the skill of the Incas is epitomized by their extraordinary dry-stone construction, in which dressed blocks of stone are fitted together without mortar, but with such precision that even the thinnest knife blade cannot be forced between them.
Perhaps the most haunting mystery of Machu Picchu is the enigma of how it came to be lost and what happened to the people who lived there.
Archaeologists have unearthed about 200 skeletons of people buried on the site, but this is far fewer than the likely population of the city, suggesting that the inhabitants abandoned it or at the very least did not die off slowly enough to be buried.
Plagues and epidemics are known to have wiped out whole Inca settlements, while entire communities were sometimes put to the sword as punishment or in war, but there is no evidence of any violence or destruction, or of bodies scattered around the site.
The low number of burials suggests in fact that the city was not occupied for very long, being in use for only a few decades in total. In the center of the citadel is a large quarry, where the stone for construction came from, and it appears to have been in full use when abandoned.
Perhaps after years of struggling, it was decided that it was too hard/costly to continue construction and maintenance of such a remote site, particularly if the city was the pet project of one Inca emperor or royal clan, whose enthusiasm was not shared by his/their successors.
Above all, however, the fact that knowledge of Machu Picchu was lost to all but a few locals is testament to the way in which Inca society collapsed in the face of the diseases and physical and cultural destruction the conquistadors visited upon them.
A society with no formal written records (the Incas had no writing) relied on oral transmission and a continuity of scholarship for its cultural transmission and such education was restricted to a small elite.
The impact of the Spanish conquest was too much for such a fragile system and it was all too easy for a remote city, far off the main highways along a difficult trail that would have been overrun by jungle within a year without maintenance, to fall off the map. But the Incas’ tragedy is our blessing, for it means the lost city survived the ravages of the Spanish conquest.
The Future of Machu Picchu
Ironically, however, for a site whose reputation rests on having survived untouched for more than five centuries, there are now serious concerns about the future of Machu Picchu. The pressures of mass tourism are threatening the fabric of the site and the surrounding ecology.
It is a World Heritage Site but is officially “at risk” and Peru has been warned that the site might be stripped of its “Heritage” status if Peru does not take steps to preserve it.
The enduring mysteries of Machu Picchu may never be solved, but tragically they may outlast the site itself.
Poe had a twisted mind, and a fantastic imagination, but personally, I think Poe was a great writer. I would put Poe and Franz Kafka in the same category.
God does not judge us by our behavior, but by the heart:
“…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).
For example, if you murder someone God does not judge you for the murder, He judges you of why you committed murder which is obvious that you have an evil heart.
Therefore, what Poe wrote does not make him evil. I’m a Christian, through and through. Jesus is my Lord and nothing is more important to me than Him and I love the song“I Can Only Imagine,” by MercyMe, but I also like most of the rock-n-roll bands of the 70s. Does that make me evil?
There is one more Lost City of the America’s, so tomorrow we’ll look at…
2 Timothy 1
Appeals for Faithfulness
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
“According to the promised of life” – Paul’s being chosen to be an apostle was in keeping with that promise because apostles were appointed to preach and explain the good news that eternal life is available to all who will receive it through faith in Christ.
2 To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;
“I thank God…without ceasing” – meaning that Paul thanked God every day just for being Him. We can and should thank Him for all that He does and even anything He does do for us because He has a reason for not doing something at our request. We thank Him for being our Father. Don’t you thank you parents for being who they are?
4 Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy;
5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
“Stir up the gift of God” – Gifts are not given in full bloom; they need to be developed through use.
“By the putting on of my hands” – Paul was God’s instrument, through whom the gift came from the Holy Ghost to Timothy.
7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
9 Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
“Not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace” – Salvation is by grace alone and is based not on human effort but on God’s saving plan and the gracious gift of His Son (see Rom 3:28: Eph 2:8-9; Tit 3:5).
“Before the world began” – God’s plan to save lost sinners was made in eternity past (see Eph 1:4; 1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8).
10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Cf. Phil 1:6.
13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
14 That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.
“That good thing…committed unto thee” – the gospel. Paul gives the same command in 1 Tim 6:20.
15 This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.
16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:
17 But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.
18 The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.
Edgar Allan Poe and God
A common, almost automatic, assumption about Poe is that he was an irredeemable atheist. As with so many other aspects of Poe’s life, however, the truth is far less simplistic.
Unfortunately, nowhere in Poe’s writings do we find a straightforward and definitive statement of his position on this topic. (Nor, perhaps, should we expect one.) We are, therefore, left to difine it for ourselves.
Those who knew Poe and were quick to recall him as having no religion, such as R. W. Griswold and J. H. Hopkins, were often themselves quite zealous in their views. Effusive enthusiasm was likely to raise Poe’s sense of the contrary.
Poe loved to startle or surprise, and was likely to say something merely for effect. Others assume his position based on the negative evidence that there is no overtly moral preaching and relatively little mention of religion in his writings. Some have suggested, rather dramatically, that Poe’s only god was Art.
Poe’s upbringing in this regard appears to have been quite typical for his era. By all accounts, Francis Allan, Poe’s foster-mother, was a pious and deeply religious woman.
John Allan, while apparently less religious than his wife, strongly adhered to such Christian virtues as hard work, honesty and thriftiness, though one might question the depth of his sense of charity or forgiveness.
When the Monumental Episcopal Church was built in 1814, John Allan purchased pew number 80 for $340 (Poe Log, p. 21). Francis and Edgar regularly attended services there.
John Allan, raised as a Scotch Presbyterian, may have visited from time to time, if only for maintaining business contacts in the community.
Some say that the Presbyterians do not believe in Jesus, that they are evil. I don’t study all the different religions to know if they are evil or not, but many of them are obvious.
I say that all religions are all incorrect and improper because Jesus was not a religion, He is God and therefore we should follow the faith of any religion, our faith should be in Jesus only.
Therefore, I cannot agree or disagree about the Presbyterians. Yet, I believe at one time there were really only two main religions, the Catholics and the Presbyterians.
Martin Luther was a Presbyterian and fought against the Catholic Church. The Catholic was so furious they tried to kill him.
I’ve read a lot about Martin Luther and the Catholics and in my opinion, Martin Luther would never side with anything evil, no more than Paul or Jesus would.
And of course, the Catholics would never side with anything holy unless they could make a buck.
Aside from that, this is what I have found online about the Presbyterian’s opinion about Jesus:
Presbyterians believe that Jesus Christ is “fully human and fully divine, one person in two natures, without confusion and without change, without separation and without division.”
This statement dates all the way back to the 5th century (451 to be exact) and is known as the Chalcedonian Definition.
Emphasized by the Reformers of the 16th century, it is reflected in virtually all Reformed work on Christology, as well as in the Confessions.
The people who wrote the Chalcedonian statement were, like us, trying to figure out what it means to confess that Jesus Christ is divine as well as human.
One of the surviving artifacts from Moldavia, John Allan’s elegant Richmond mansion, is a large painting of “the holy family,” a nativity scene complete with putti and seraphim. (This painting is now part of the collection of the Poe Museum in Richmond, VA.)
At least one illegitimate child, for whom Allan at least accepted a share of the financial obligations, indicates a personal weakness which clearly goes against the teachings of the church.
One must be careful, however, not to rush to use this flaw to negate all possibility that Allan sincerely believed in God or morality.
Even the best of intentions sometimes fail to control our actions, a theme Poe would enshrine in several stories, most notably in “The Black Cat” and “The Imp of the Perverse.”
Details of Poe’s personal exposure to religion are sparse but compelling. Not quite three years old, Edgar was baptized on January 7, 1812 by the Reverend John Buchanan, with John and Frances Allan as his godparents. (This event is the origin of Allan appearing as Poe’s middle name.)
Being baptized as a child or at any time does not mean anything. A born-again believer usually gets baptized for the sole purpose of showing the world that they stand up for the Lord.
Although no actual record exists, T. O. Mabbott feels that Poe was probably confirmed at Monumental Episcopal Church by Bishop Richard Channing Moore (Mabbott, Poems, 1969, p. 536).
One must also remember the dominant role of Christianity in the United States in the 19th century, especially before Darwin’s theory of evolution and the unutterable horrors of the Civil War.
It would have been nearly impossible to avoid being bathed in a general consensus of the existence of God and the importance of religion.
One should not be surprised that one of the subjects Poe was taught at the London school of the Misses Dubourg was the Catechism of the Church of England (Poe Log, p. 10).
Anything connected to the Catholics is pure evil. People that attend the Catholic Church does not mean they are evil and are going to hell. Yet, those that believe what the Catholic teach will join them in hell.
That he was also given lessons of a religious nature at the school of Reverend Bransby seems inherently obvious. Poe’s description of school life in “William Wilson,” by Poe’s own admission based loosely on his own school days at Bransby’s Manor House School, suggests that there were mandatory morning and evening services every Sunday.
As an adult, Poe’s involvement with organized religion is less certain. To get out of West Point, Poe refused to attend classes or church services, clearly indicating that in prior months, he had gone to both.
When Poe married Virginia on May 16, 1836, their vows were administered by the Reverend Amasa Convers, a Presbyterian minister. In Fordham, NY, Poe often played cards with Jesuits who lived nearby.
The Reverend J. H. Hopkins’ letter to Mrs. Shew, quotes Poe (probably in 1848) as saying,
They were highly cultivated gentlemen and scholars . . . smoked, drank, and played cards like gentlemen, and never said a word about religion (John Henry Hopkins to Marie Louise Shew, Feb. 9, 1875, Ingram collection, item 201, reprinted in Miller, Building Poe Biography, p. 101).
It should be noted, of course, that Poe and Hopkins disliked each other intensely, for personal reasons. Poe apparently attended church with Mrs. Shew in New York in 1848. Indeed, the most revealing comment we have is from one of Poe’s letters to Mrs. Shew.
How can I believe in Providence when you look coldly upon me, was it not you who renewed my hopes and faith in God? . . . Why I was not a priest is a mystery, for I feel I am now a prophet . . . (Poe to Marie Louise Shew, June, 1848, Ostrom, Letters, p. 373).
To Thomas Holley Chivers, Poe wrote,
My own faith is indeed my own. You will find it, somewhat detailed, in a forthcoming number of the ‘Columbian Magazine’ (“Poe to Chivers, July 10, 1844, the story referenced being “Mesmeric Revelation”).
Poe’s small Bible, given to him by Mrs. Clemm in 1846, is presumed to have been one of the books in his trunk when he died. (This Bible, formerly part of the collection of the Bronx Historical Society in New York, now appears to be lost.
Phillips, 1:847 and 2:1546 notes that one of the passages marked, presumably by Poe, was the Lord ’s Prayer. Another, similarly marked, was
“I loathe it; I would not live alway; let me alone; for my days are vanity” (Job 7:16).
The source for this information appears to be an article from the Scranton Republican, June 21, 1883, p. 2. col. 3, reprinted from an unspecified issue of the New York Herald, about the sale of “Edgar Poe’s Cottage” in New York.
That sentence can confuse, its New York paper, but Poe’s house is in Philadelphia, I’ve been there.
In this article, Mrs. Cromwell is interviewed, and comments that she bought a mantle clock and rocking chair from Mrs. Clemm, but that Mrs. Clemm gave her the small bible, noting that “one passage was found marked” and citing the verse given, although without italics. The article is reprinted by K. Cameron in The New England Writers and the Press, 1980, p. 64.
Another book Poe presumably owned, as it contains some notes written in his own hand, is the 1833 edition of the Rev. Thomas Chalmers’s On the Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God, as Manifested in the Adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man, Philadelphia: Carey, Lea and Blanchard.
As the date of publication of this book predates by several years Poe’s career as a writer of critical reviews, it may be assumed that he read it for personal rather than merely professional reasons. This book is now in the Poe collection at the University of Texas at Austin.
What clues do we find in Poe’s own writings?
There are brief references to religion in letters and in “Marginalia,” but while hardly typical of an atheist, such phrases may be little more than clichés or figures of speech. At best, they are rather vague and lend themselves to multiple interpretations.
Two examples will suffice for our purposes.
After reading all that has been written, and after thinking all that can be thought, on the topics of God and the soul, the man who has a right to say that he thinks at all, will find himself face to face with the conclusion that, on these topics, the most profound thought is that which can be the least easily distinguished from the most superficial sentiment (“Marginalia,” Graham’s, Feb. 1848, reprinted in Pollin, Brevities, p. 330M199).
A strong argument for the religion of Christ is this — that offenses against Charity are about the only ones which men on their death-beds can be made — not to understand — but to feel — as crime (“Marginalia,” SLM, July 1849, reprinted in Pollin, Brevities, p. 399M263).
Perhaps more significantly, Poe wrote a “Hymn [to the Virgin Mary]” (1833) as part of “Morella.” Removed from later versions of the story, it was nevertheless included as “Catholic Hymn” in The Raven and Other Poems (1845).
Another poem, “For Annie” (March 23, 1849) begins with “Thank Heaven!” and includes a reference to “. . . she prayed to the angels . . . To the queen of the angels . . .” (Mabbott notes that the Virgin Mary is known as the Queen of Angels, Mabbott, Poems, 1969, p. 461).
As has often been noted, Poe knew his Bible well, at least as literature. Forrest and Mabbott both contain long lists of Biblical quotations and, far more numerous, allusions. These occur in a few of the poems and many of the tales.
It has also been argued that, contrary to popular opinion, there is a strong sense of morality behind Poe’s works. Here one must be careful not to confuse the views of Poe’s fictional characters (including the narrators) with those of Poe himself.
The narrator who has murdered the old man in “The Tell-Tale Heart” defiantly defends himself against the idea that he is mad. Poe, however, clearly wants us to understand that the character is insane, despite — and in part because of — his protestations.
He may not feel that killing the old man was wrong, but we certainly should. That he is to be hung in the morning suggests that justice will be served.
In “The Cask of Amontillados,” Montressor carefully plans and executes a horrible revenge on the unwary Fortunato for offenses that are conspicuous for their omission from the tale.
It would be difficult to imagine what Fortunato might have done to Montressor to be deserving of such treatment and yet be completely unaware of the danger of being alone with him in an isolated place. A number of interpretations have been applied to the story.
Montressor is recounting, probably from his deathbed, his crime from fifty years ago to an unnamed person, perhaps a cleric or priest. Some detect a sense of bragging in his tone, while others claim it as a confession.
The final words, “In pace requiescat” have suggested too many readers that Fortunato has rested in peace, while Montressor has been racked with guilt. At any rate, Poe almost certainly does not expect us to identify with Montressor. If we did, where would be the horror of the tale?
If Poe’s sense of morality sometimes seems out of balance, it must be in “Hop Frog.” In this less well-known tale, the King’s harsh treatment of the young girl is clearly wrong but hardly justifies being burned alive with his eight Ministers of State. Perhaps it is not the specific act, but the habitual abuse of power that is being punished there.
No survey of Poe and religion would be reasonably complete without some mention of his most remarkable and spiritual, if rather esoteric, work — the prose poem Eureka (1848).
There, Poe confidently detailed the essence of life itself, the very soul of existence. Poe felt that Eureka, first a lecture and then a small book, was the culmination of his career.
I have no desire to live since I have done ‘Eureka.’ I could accomplish nothing more (Poe to Maria Clemm, July 7, 1849, Ostrom, Letters, p. 452).
Although the subtitle of this book is “The Material and Spiritual Universe,” Poe deals much more with the nature of matter than the nature of spirit.
Poe’s implication that these are separate components, however, is a strong indication of his belief that we each have a soul which exists apart from the physical body. Kenneth Hovey makes an intriguing case that Poe, basing his views on Epicurian philosophy, thought of the soul as comprised of a sort of energy which is itself also material, as “the highest gradation of matter” (Hovey, “Poe’s Material Metaphysics of Man,” 1996, p. 356).)
There are also clear statements that the act of creation from nothingness owes everything to an unnamed but very necessary Deity.
That Nature and the God of Nature are distinct, no thinking being can long doubt. By the former we imply merely the laws of the latter. But with the very idea of God, omnipotent, omniscient, we entertain, also, the idea of the infallibility of his laws. With Him there being neither Past nor Future — with Him all being Now — do we not insult him in supposing his laws so contrived as not to provide for every possible contingency? (Poe, Eureka, p. 80).
Thus far, Poe has remained fairly conventional. With his next step, however, he placed his feet on more dangerous ground:
. . . a God, self-existing and alone existing, became all things at once, through dint of his volition, while all things were thus constituted a portion of God (Poe, Eureka, p. 81).
With this statement, and others, Poe suggested that we were all gods and was astonished to discover that some misunderstood his ideas as being blasphemous.
In a lengthy letter to C. F. Hoffman, responding to a criticism in the Literary World, Poe ends with
Were these ‘misrepresentations’ . . . made for any less serious a purpose than that of branding my book as ‘impious’ and myself as a ‘pantheist,’ a ‘polytheist,’ a Pagan, or a God knows what…I would have permitted their dishonesty to pass unnoticed, through pure contempt for the boyishness — for the turn-down-shirt-collar-ness of their tone . . . (Poe to Charles Fenno Hoffman, September 20, 1848, Ostrom, Letters, p. 382).
To Poe, who understandably felt somewhat cheated in this life, the idea of one or more future lives held an obvious appeal. He used reincarnation as a theme in several stories, but there is no reason to presume that he actually believed in it as a doctrine.
His quote from “Marginalia” suggests something other than traditional reincarnation:
. . . in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream (SLM, June 1849, reprinted in Pollin, Brevities, p. 379M231).
Certainly, Poe’s religious views were unconventional, though they may seem considerably less so today, with our dizzying array of groups preaching a virtual cornucopia of spiritual possibilities.
It would certainly have been understandable if Poe had lost confidence in a divine hand, one that directs our daily lives for purposes of our own spiritual benefit.
The sad and youthful deaths of so many loved ones (his mother, Mrs. Stanard, Frances Allan, his brother and especially the long and lingering illness of Virginia) would have tested anyone’s faith.
Poverty, illness and failure no doubt seemed his constant companions. If we can accept the testimony of Dr. John Moran, which generally must be taken with more than a little skepticism, Poe’s last words were,
Lord, help my poor soul (J. J. Moran to Maria Clemm, November 15, 1849, reprinted by J. A. Harrison).
The most realistic view is that Poe’s religious inclinations changed greatly back and forth during his lifetime, but were never seriously abandoned.