BEKKER, BALTHASAR: Dutch precursor of rationalism; b. at Metslawier (4 m. n.e. of Dokkum) Mar. 30, 1634; d. in Friesland June 11, 1698. He studied at Groningen under J. Alting and in Franeker, where he was rector of the Latin school, was made doctor of theology, and preacher in 1666. Being an enthusiastic follower of the Cartesian philosophy, he published at Wesel in 1668 an Admonitio sincere et candida dé philosophia Cartesiana, and gave greater offense by his catechisms in 1668 and 1670. He was accused of Socinianism, although Alting and other theologians pronounced him to be orthodox. After many controversies, he accepted a call as preacher to Weesp, and, in 1679, to Amsterdam. The appearance of a large comet in 1680 induced him to issue a work against, popular superstition, which stirred up more commotion; and, in 1691, in De betoverde Wereld, published at Leeuwarden, he denied the existence of sorcery, magic, possessions by the devil, and of the devil himself. The consistory of Amsterdam instituted a formal process against him, and he was deposed July 30, 1692. He went to Friesland, where he edited the last two books of his work.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: A complete list of Bekker's writings and of the opposing works called out is given in A. van der Linden, B. Bekker, Bibliographie, The Hague, 1869. For his life consult J. G. Walch, Einleitung in die Religionsstreitigkeiten ausserhalb der lutherischen Kirche, vol. iii, part 3, 499 sqq., Jena, 1734; M. Schwager, Beitrag zur Geschichte der Intoleranz, oder Leben, . . . B. Bekkers, mit einer Vorrode Semlers, Leipsic, 1780; J. M. Schröckh, Kirchengeschichte seit der Reformation, viii, 713-722, ib. 1808; D. Lorgion, B. Bekker in Franeker, The Hague, 1848; idem, B. Bekker in Amsterdam, 2 vols., Groningen, 1850; W. P. C. Knuttel, Balthasar Bekker, The Hague, 1906.


BEL: A great Babylonian god, whose name, like the equivalent Hebrew Ba'al, originally and all through the history of the language was also used in the sense of "lord" or "owner" (see BAAL). The usage of the two words as names of deities also ran through parallel courses; for Bel at one time in Babylonia was a local deity like each of the Baals of the Canaanites. He was the patron deity of the city of Nippur in central Babylonia (the modern Nuffar), where his temple, of great antiquity, has been unearthed by the Pennsylvania expedition. The reason why there were not many Bels in Babylonia was that political union on a large scale was very early effected in that country, while it was always impossible among the Canaanites; and Nippur was the center of an extensive community in very remote times.

When, under priestly influence, Babylonian theology was systematized, to this great god Bel was assigned sovereignty of the earth, while Anu ruled in the highest heaven, and Ea over the deep. These formed the chief trinity with primary and universal dominion.

But it is not the Bel of Nippur whose name appears in the Bible and Apocrypha. On account of the rise and supremacy of the city of Babylon under Hammurabi (2250 B.C.), Marduk (Merodach), the god of that city, was invested with the prerogatives


and even with the name of Bel, so that in the comparatively modern Old Testament times "Bel" stands for "Merodach" and for him only (so in Isa. xlvi, 1; Jer. li, 44; in Jer. l, 2 both names occur together, meaning practically "Bel-Merodach").

The Babylonian Bel was not only adopted by the Assyrians as one of their chief gods (of course lower than Asshur), but like Ishtar (see ASHTORETH), Sin, and Nebo, he seems to have obtained worshipers in the West-land. Such, at least, is an inference which has been drawn from the proper names Bildad ("Bel loves"), Ashbel ("man of Bel"), and Balaam. Moreover, "Bel " is found as an element in several Phenician and Palmyrene names. See BABYLONIA, VII.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. H. Sayce, Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, London, 1887; idem, Religion of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia, Edinburgh, 1902; M. Jastrow, Religion of Babylonia, Boston 1898; idem, in DB, extra vol., pp. 538-539, 545; Schrader, KAT, pp. 354-358.


CCEL home page
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at
Calvin College. Last modified on 05/10/04. Contact the CCEL.
Calvin seal: My heart I offer you O Lord, promptly and sincerely