At a Bible study the other night we talked a bit about Elijah being taken up into heaven (2 Kings 2:9-12) as part of our introduction to the Gospel of Luke, as John the Baptizer is heavily identified with the Elijah (as is Jesus, and one way to look at Luke-Acts is Jesus as Elijah and the Church as Elisha). The next day, reading the life of Numa Pompilius in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, I came across this:
|Elijah riding the N-Judah line to heaven.
Because Yes, the N-Judah goes there too.
In the thirty-seventh year, counted from the foundation of Rome, when Romulus, then reigning, did, on the fifth day of the month of July, called the Caprotine Nones, offer a public sacrifice at the Goat’s Marsh, in the presence of the senate and people of Rome. Suddenly the sky was darkened, a thick cloud of storm and rain settled on the earth; the common people fled in affright*, and were dispersed; and in this whirlwind Romulus disappeared, his body never being found either living or dead. A foul suspicion presently attached to the patricians, and rumours were current among the people as if that they, weary of kingly government, and exasperated of late by the imperious deportment of Romulus towards them, had plotted against his life and made him away, that so they might assume his authority and government into their own hands. This suspicion they sought to turn aside by decreeing divine honours to Romulus, as to one not dead but translated to a higher condition**. And Proculus, a man of note, took an oath that he saw Romulus caught up into heaven in his arms and vestments, and heard him, as he ascended, cry out that they should hereafter style him by the name Quirinus. (p. 49)
So, Romulus has become a god. Actually, ascending to heaven in or on a pillar of fire or cloud is a common trope in antiquity, and fills many a Greek, Roman and Hindu story.
I’d like to see some politician try to get away with the whole “well, he was taken up into heaven” thing today. I think that Rahm Emmanuel could even get away with it…
* Awesome word. I intend to use it soon!
** Nice euphemism!