At the time Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians, its religion, as we have already indicated, was already completely different from that the Eternal had given through Moses; it even differed from what the Jews practiced at their return to Palestine. The new and abominable religion adopted by Israel was made up of a curious mixture of pagan cults; it was greatly influenced by the diverse beliefs of nations round about, especially by those of the Phoenicians. In the three following chapters, which will be devoted to the religion of the Celts and their society, we will attempt to prove, by numerous comparisons, that the Celts (the Gauls in particular) had a culture identical to that of ancient Israel. The customs and traditions of the two peoples are strikingly similar.
The Druids as Judges
Among the Celts, the religion depended principally on the Druids. One can even say it was the religion of the Druids. It was practiced not only in Great Britain, in Ireland, and in Gaul, but wherever the Celtic peoples had settled. The Druidic priesthood formed its head, with, according to the writings of the ancients, a power and prestige seldom equaled. The Druids held an eminent place in Gaulic society. Mr. Pernoud declares: "The Druids... were priests and it was their priestly functions which assured their prestige. They offered sacrifices; Pliny recounts the sacrifice of white bullocks which had never known the yoke, as a tribute to the famous Cueillette Du Gui" (Les Gaulois, Pernoud, p. 154). Merely on the basis of these few indications, one has already established an irrefutable base of comparison between the religion of the Celts and that of ancient Israel. Other writers, ancient as well as modern, collaborate with the statements of Pernoud, and give even more ample details. Zeller says: "They [the Druids] passed as the most just of men and were the arbiters of public and private disputes.... What especially appertained to them was the judgment of crimes and murders" (La Gaule et les Gaulois, Zeller, pp. 37-38). Notice that such judgments, in pagan nations, were always in the domain of civil government or of the chiefs of state, as it is still done in our day in almost the entire world. There is only one people, ancient Israel, whose religion required that the priesthood be the arbiter of public and private disputes! This striking parallel between the practice of the Druids and that of the Levitical priesthood is very significant, since the Eternal had given the following instructions to His people: "If a cause relative to a murder, a dispute, a wound, appears too difficult to judge and causes a dispute in your gates... go to the sacrificers, the Levites... and they will make known the sentence," Deuteronomy 17:8-11. At first, ancient Israel (which includes the tribe of Judah) conformed to the sentence thus rendered, and acted as the priests taught. In spite of the fact that the Jews (the tribe of Judah) ended up, in their turn, turning from the truth, this custom still existed among them at the time of Jesus, since it was the Sanhedrin, a body of judges composed of priests, who condemned our Savior to death! The Druids, as the Levites, were under the orders of a high priest (La Gaule et les Gaulois, Zeller, p. 39), however among the Druids succession to the post was not necessarily a question of heredity. But this should not be surprising; Jeroboam, in his time, had already succeeded in abolishing the Levitical priesthood to replace it with another group, a semblance of a priesthood who had to obey the orders and desires of the king! (I Kings 12:31). This post of high chief ("Arch-Druid") corresponded to that of "high priest" in the Levitical priesthood.
The Druids in Charge of Education
Another interesting characteristic of the Celtic society concerns education. The Druids also assumed charge over it. It was they who taught and educated the youth. Historians tell us that instruction given by the Druids was purely oral. This interesting custom was previously in vigorous practice in Israel, and later particularly among the Jews, where the "Torah" (the law) ended up constituting the religious course. For centuries in ancient Israel it was the sacrificers and the Levites who formed the principal educators making up the teachers of Israel, as indicated in the Bible. (See: Deuteronomy 31:9, 33:10; Jeremiah 2:8, 18:18; Malachi 2:7; II Chronicles 17:7) Let's add that, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, Philo, a Greek philosopher of Jewish origin, called the synagogue "a palace of learning." The Druids, just as the Levites, gave thus instructions to the people.
The Druids were Exempt from Taxes and Military Service
Another curious fact to add to the list of our comparisons between the Druids and the Levites, is that of military service. These two groups were exempt from this service. Moreover, historians say, the Druids didn't even pay taxes (Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race, Rolleston, p. 37). The exemption from military service among the Levites was dictated by the Eternal, who forbade them to carry arms. We have several examples of this, notably in the book of Numbers (Numbers 1:2-3, 47-49). When Moses counted the number of men able to carry arms, "the Levites had no part in the number."
Historians are astonished to find no temples among the Druids! Contrary to other nations who often built temples in which to practise their cult, the Celts built none of these. The religion of the Druids prohibited construction of temples and images figured as gods! This point is of capital importance; of all the nations of the past, only Israel had received the divine commandment never to make a graven image, "neither any representation concerning things in the sky above..." (Exodus 20:4). The Druids practiced their cult in open air, often near oaks or carefully placed pillars such as cromlechs, dolmens, or menhirs. The famous circle of raised stones, in Stonehenge (Great Britain), is perhaps the best-known example of these "outdoor temples" in the world. These huge stones (whose number is more than 6800 in France alone, while most are in Great Britain) and the approximately 200 cromlechs (groups of menhirs arranged in a circle) have always been an enigma to archaeologists. They are, as are historians, incapable of determining when, why, and by whom these stones were erected! Some attribute them to a supposed "age of stone" for the simple reason these monuments are made of stone! What brilliant logic, indeed! In spite of the diversity of opinions concerning the origin of the dolmens, archaeologists admit that these stones, carefully arranged, play a role of first importance in the religious ceremonies of the Druids. Isn't it significant that the pillars erected in Europe are always found in the areas where the Celts were much in passage, or many in residence on a more or less permanent basis? In fact, these columns scattered along the route permit us to establish the itinerary the Celts followed in their migration to Europe, after their liberation from the Assyrians.
The Meaning of the Dolmens
We know that not one dolmen exists in Eastern Europe, east of Saxe (in Germany). But they reappear, in small numbers, in Crimea and northern Caucasia, from which they were transplanted to Central Asia and the East Indies, perhaps by Israelite emigrants who, in scattered groups, traveled to these places, or perhaps by people who had lived among the Israelite tribes and knew their customs and their culture. To find the route that the Israelites followed, at the time of their migration to Western Europe, we have only to mark on a map the diverse places where these megaliths are raised, and connect them by a direct line: first Palestine in Persia, then in the region of the Danube passing by Crimea, along the European coast, to the north, ending up in France and Great Britain! However astonishing that must appear to those who don't know the truth about the identity of the Celts, these stones are still there, placed as living witness to the words the prophet Jeremiah addressed to Israel, under divine inspiration: "Set up waymarks, make signposts, set your heart on the highway, even the way you came.... Return, virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities" (Jeremiah 31:21). But what relationship could there be between these signposts of stone and the tribes of Israel? The answer is both obvious and surprising: These monuments were, in a way, a mark of identity of the Israelites; they were an integral part of their customs and culture! The Jewish Encyclopedia writes on this subject: "The cult of sacred stones constitutes one of the most ancient forms of religion; it was especially widespread among the Semites" (Article: "Sacred Stone"). Adding that the Phoenician temples also contained such posts, called "Mozzebot," the Jewish Encyclopedia states: "These posts symbolically represented YHVH. Even the prophet Hosea advised Israel of the terrible days to come (Hosea 3:4, 10:12) when they would be 'without statue' (Mozzebot), that is to say, withheld from their public worship." When the Israelites turned from the face of the Eternal to worship in idolatry, these stones, which were specially chosen and cut to serve as landmarks, also became objects of the pagan cult, inducing worship to gods and offering them a refuge! "But it [Israel] made itself guilty worshipping Baal; that is why it perished. And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen" (Hosea 13:1-2).
Some Biblical Examples of Raised Stones
One of the most striking examples, in the matter of erecting dolmens, is given in the story of the famous stone of Jacob used for a pillow (Genesis 28:11-22). After his dream, Jacob placed it for a monument, poured oil over it, and declared: "This stone that I have set up for a monument, shall be God's house." At first, the Israelites erected these stones for various reasons. For example, Jacob, in the company of Laban, his father-in-law, set one up to seal their alliance of good will (Genesis 31:52). Later, he placed one on the tomb of Rachel, his wife (Genesis 35:20). On Mount Sinai, Moses set up twelve stones, one for each tribe of Israel, as a witness to the ancient alliance between the Eternal and Israel (Exodus 24:4). After the death of Moses, Joshua, his successor, became head over Israel and, passing over the Jordan, "set up twelve stones he had taken from the Jordan," Joshua 4:9-20. Indeed, the Bible is full of these examples, which one can easily regroup with the aid of a good concordance. Contrary to the Israelites who, at first, practiced no cult before these stones, the nations round about, notably the Canaanites, bowed before them and worshipped them as their gods. Nevertheless, after conquering the country of the Canaanites, the Israelites followed the pagan example of the inhabitants of the land. Despite the formal orders of Moses to destroy these abominable alters (Deuteronomy 12:3), and not to bow down before them (Levitucus 26:1), the Israelites abandoned themselves to the practice of this cult and sinned against the Eternal God. In the end, the erection of these statues and the pagan cult practiced before them constituted one of the reasons for which the Israelites, according to the will of God, were taken into captivity by the Assyrians! (II Kings 17:10).