Religion is probably the biggest divider in world history, but for those that believe in God it is central to our existence. Share your views.
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Unread postby bumperjack » December 2nd, 2014, 5:41 pm

The Roman Emperor Constantine established himself as head of the church around (313 A.D) which made this new Christianity The official religion of the Roman Empire.

The First actual Pope was Leo1 (440-461 A.D)Although Historians say that
Gregory1 was the first pope?(590-604 A.D) This ungodly system eventually ushered in the darkest period of history known to man,properly known as the dark ages.(500-1500 A.D)

Through popes,bishops and priests satan ruled Europe and Biblical Christianity became illegal. while enduring the early persecuctions of the Roman Government (65-300 A.D) Most professing Christianity went through a gradual departure from New Testament Doctrine concerning church government worship and practice.

Local churches ceased to be autonomous by giving way to the control of bishops ruling over hierarchies. The simple form of worship from the heart was replaced with rituals and splender of paganism. Ministers became priests and pagans became christians by simply being spinkled with water.

This tolerance of an unregenerate membership only made things worse,Sprinkled Paganism is about the best definition for Roman Catholicism. The first 280 years of Christian History,Christianity was banned by the Roman Empire and Christians were terribly persecuted. Constantine refused to embrace the Christian Faith but continued many of his pagan practices.

So the Church that Constantine promoted was true Christianity and True Roman Paganism a mixture of both. I could give more examples in history on this subject but we get the picture.So as we see the first Catolic church was Paganism mixed with Christianity because of the Roman Emperor Constantine The Great That is history most do not know?

The Catholic Church denies the pagan origin of the early church of its beliefs under layers of complicated theology and Church Traditions recognizing that many of its beliefs and practices are utterly foreign to Scripture.

The Catholic church is forced to deny the authority and sufficency of scripture. The origin of the Catholic Church is the tragic compromise of Christianity with the pagan religions that surround it. Instead of proclaming the gospel and converting pagans the Catholic Church Christianized the pagan religions and paganized Christianity by blurring the differences and erasing the distinctions,yes the Catholic Church made itself attractive to the people of the Roman Empire,

One result was the Catholic Church becoming the supreme religion in the Roman World for centuries. However another result was the most dominant form of Christianity apostatizing from the true gospel of "Jesus Christ" and the true proclamation of God's word.

2Timothy 4;3-4 Declares for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine, Instead to suit there own desires,they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear,they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

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Unread postby silentwssj » December 2nd, 2014, 8:55 pm

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It is said that if a lie is repeated often enough and loudly enough, people will come to believe it. That isn’t necessarily so.

A real whopper may never be believed fully by anyone, no matter how often or loudly it is proclaimed, but for a whopper to be effective, it does not need to be believed in every detail. It is enough that it leaves behind a bad impression. People will think that if anyone bothers to promote such a lie, there must be a kernel of truth in it.

The same goes for exaggeration and false implications. Distort the truth and people will think it has some basis in fact. Take a truth and phrase it in such a way that it looks suspicious, or juxtapose it with an acknowledged evil, and the mind will be tempted to draw all sorts of ill-founded conclusions.

The following are three examples of the whoppers, exaggerations, and false implications found in the writings of professional anti-Catholics. These are not isolated slips of the pen. They are the kinds of things that fill tracts to overflowing, and they demonstrate that anti-Catholic writers often use dishonest reporting to advance their cause.

The Joke’s on Jones

Not long after Pope Paul VI died in 1978, Bob Jones, chancellor of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, wrote an ill-tempered article in his school’s magazine, Faith for the Family (not to be confused with Dr. James Dobson’s magazine, Focus on the Family). The article was republished by the Fundamentalist organization Mission to Catholics, International (run by an ex-Carmelite priest-turned-Fundamentalist minister) as a tract entitled The Church of Rome in Perspective.

No effort is made to be conciliatory, as the first line demonstrates: "Pope Paul VI, archpriest of Satan, a deceiver and an anti-Christ, has, like Judas, gone to his own place." It goes downhill from there. At one point, Jones attempts to raise the level of discussion, if only momentarily, by citing a diary kept by Bernard Berenson, the famous art collector and critic (who was, by the way, an Episcopalian). Here is what Jones says:

"A pope must be an opportunist, a tyrant, a hypocrite, and a deceiver or he cannot be a pope. Bernard Berenson, in his Rumor and Reflection (a sort of notebook which he kept while hiding from the Germans in the hills above Florence during the Second World War), tells about the death of an early twentieth-century pope as described by his personal physician. When they came to give him the last rites, the pope ordered the priest and acolytes from the room, crying, ‘Get out of here. The comedy is over.’"

The implication is that some unidentified pope, knowing his end was at hand, acknowledged that his office and religion were jokes and that he had lived a lie. That would be a damning indictment if true—but was it? Compare what Jones gives with what Berenson actually wrote. This is the entire entry for May 5, 1941, and it is found on page 43 of Rumor and Reflection, which was published by Simon and Schuster in 1952:

"Yesterday a friend was here, a Roman of good family, closely related to the late Cardinal Vannutelli and thus in touch with the Vatican. He told me that soon after the death of Pope Benedict XV, his own father was dying. A priest was called in, but the father refused to see him.

"Thinking to comfort the son, the priest said: ‘Don’t take it hard. Such things will happen nowadays. Why, the late Holy Father on his deathbed sent away the priests with: ‘Off with you, the play is over’ (la commedia e finita). His Holiness surely meant commedia as in the Divine Comedy, the title of Dante’s masterpiece," Berenson states.

The problem is not just that Jones did not report the words accurately or that he attributed the story to the pope’s physician or that he was repeating material that he got at least third-hand. The problem is that he did not know (or care) what the pope meant by "la commedia e finita."

The word "comedy" is used in a much older sense than the one having to do with humor. Throughout history, until very recently, a "comedy" was simply a play or story with a happy ending (the opposite of a tragedy). What we today refer to as a comedy was then called a farce, and the pope did not say, "Get out of here, the farce is over," which even itself does not mean, "Get out of here, the mockery which has been my life is over."

Berenson was right to translate "la commedia e finita" as "the play is over." Another way to put it might be, "The drama of my life is over," which is hardly the confession of duplicity that Jones wishes us to think the pope made.

The drama of the pope’s life had a happy ending, for he did not say, "The tragedy is over."

A Snare and a Delusion

The Conversion Center of Havertown, Pennsylvania, puts out some of the more amusing anti-Catholic leaflets, though none is supposed to be taken humorously. One is called 10 Reasons Why I Am Not a Roman Catholic. Although written some years ago and never updated, it still makes the rounds. Here are a few of the reasons given by the anonymous author.

"1. The papacy is a hoax. Peter never claimed to be pope. He was never in Rome."

It is true that Peter could not have used the term "pope" to describe himself, since the title was not conferred on the bishops of Rome during the earliest years of the Church. (Neither does the Bible claim to be "the Bible," for that term had not been invented yet; it simply claimed to be God’s inspired word.) But that is hardly the point, since the question is not the title used, but the existence of the office of pope, which has been united to the office of the bishop of Rome on the basis that Peter went to Rome and died there. It follows that if Peter never went to Rome (this is the real question), then he could hardly have been its bishop, and the present bishop of Rome could hardly be his successor.

Although the Bible has no unmistakable evidence that he was there (though 1 Peter 5:13 does imply it), early Christian writers such as Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Lactantius are unanimous in saying that he went to Rome, presided over the Church there, and was martyred during the Emperor Nero’s persecution.

There was no early writer who claimed that Peter never went to Rome and died elsewhere, and no other ancient city ever claimed to be the place of his death or to have his remains—which makes sense, since in this century it has been demonstrated that his bones lay beneath the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica.

A popular account of the archaeological excavations conducted from 1939 to 1968, at which time Pope Paul VI confirmed that Peter’s bones had been scientifically and historically identified, may be found in John E. Walsh’s book The Bones of St. Peter.

"2. Maryolatry [sic] is a hoax."

Quite true. "Mariolatry" means the worship of Mary, giving her the kind of honor due only to God (Greek: latria). Since Catholics justifiably give her greater honor than they give other saints, but less than they give to God (and not just less, but a fundamentally different kind of honor), Mariolatry does not exist in Catholic piety. In fact, the Catholic Church forbids Mariolatry because it forbids us to worship anyone other than God himself: "Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God. . . . Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2113, cf. 2110–2112, 2114).

But what the author means, of course, is that any honor given to Mary constitutes Mariolatry. He is unable to distinguish mere honor from adoration. One wonders if he thinks people adore as God the judges whom they call "Your Honor," or whether God decrees "parent-olatry" when he commands, "Honor your father and your mother" (Ex. 20:12).

"3. Purgatory is a hoax. It is a money-making scheme."

If it is, it is one of the least efficient schemes ever devised by man. It is indeed customary to give a priest a small stipend for celebrating a memorial Mass. The usual amount is five dollars, though there is no obligation to give anything, and many people, out of poverty or ignorance, give nothing. A priest clever enough to operate a scheme for making money would surely be clever enough to choose something that generated a better income, especially since nobody gets rich off of five dollars a day (priests are permitted to accept only one stipend per day). But as far as the Bible is concerned, it’s entirely reasonable for a priest to receive some small stipend for guest preaching, baptisms, weddings, and other ministerial functions.

The practice of remunerating ministers for their services, which is certainly not unique to the Catholic Church, is thoroughly biblical. Paul said, "Let the presbyters [priests] who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages’" (1 Tim. 5:17–18; cf. Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7).

There is no point in examining all the reasons adduced by the writer, but one should not overlook the ninth one:

"9. I am an American citizen and refuse to be the subject of a deluded Italian prince."

He would also, one supposes, refuse to be the subject of a deluded Polish prince. What would his attitude be if an American is someday elected pope?

On the Fringe

In the nineteenth century, there was the anti-Catholic controversialist, Maria Monk, who claimed to have been a nun who "escaped" from a Montreal convent to "tell all" about the immoral escapades of the sisters in the cloister. Although she died in 1849, after having been proved a fraud, her venomous spirit still stalks the land, and her name arises whenever the topic is anti-Catholicism in its more virulent strains.

Those who miss her will be pleased to know that there is a twentieth-century replacement, the late Alberto Rivera, whose life was immortalized in the pages of several comic books published by Chick Publications of Chino, California.

Rivera claimed to have been a Jesuit priest assigned by the Vatican to infiltrate and subvert Protestant churches, particularly Fundamentalist ones such as the Plymouth Brethren, Pentecostal, Baptist, and United Evangelical churches. He was so effective, he said, that he was secretly made a bishop. But then he saw the light, abandoned Catholicism, and barely escaped with his life.

Although the Christian Research Institute and Christianity Today (both Protestant) demonstrated that Rivera was never a priest and never offered any proof for his allegations, the comic books keep popping up and people keep believing Rivera’s charges, no matter how ridiculous they are.

One of the juiciest is straight from Maria Monk. Rivera claimed that in the 1930s, the Spanish government, then in the hands of anticlerical parliamentarians, discovered graves of newborn children beneath monasteries and convents. In the first comic book in the series, Rivera included a diagram showing a monastery and convent some distance apart, with steps descending from each into a connecting tunnel, along which are the graves. The diagram includes a little arrow pointing to the tunnel and captioned "bodies of babies." Rivera claimed the children were the result of illicit unions between monks and nuns, and the remainder of the story is easy enough to guess.

The Case of the Missing Dirt

What Rivera did not tell us is why the monks and nuns would have gone to all the trouble to dig a tunnel. Why not just slip into regular clothes, leave the monastery or convent late at night, and proceed in the darkness to a rendezvous point? Furthermore, where was all the excavated dirt put, and why didn’t the neighbors inquire what all the picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows were for? And so on. The story becomes more improbable as the questions multiply. Of course, Rivera spoke only in generalities. He made no reference to a specific monastery or convent or to corroborating sources, because there are none.

Despite the patent falsehoods of the comic books, Rivera and Chick Publications have not been disavowed by many "respectable" anti-Catholics. In its newsletter, for instance, Mission to Catholics, International, said that it could not verify Rivera’s charges and so could not recommend the comic books—but it would not write off Rivera and his publisher either. As the old saying goes, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

These three examples are not important in themselves, but they illustrate the material professional anti-Catholics produce. Even a brief acquaintance with the literature from Bob Jones University, Mission to Catholics, International, The Conversion Center, and Chick Publications shows that grotesqueries like these are standard fare. These and all the other charges can be demonstrated to be nothing but a mixture of prejudice, ignorance, and faulty scholarship.

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004


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Unread postby silentwssj » December 2nd, 2014, 8:57 pm

Peter the Rock


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One of the points I try to emphasize when giving a seminar is that you can begin to be an effective apologist right away; you don’t have to wait until you become a theological whiz. Just work with what you know, even if it’s only one fact.

I illustrate this from my own experience, and you can use this technique the next time you have verses thrown at you by an anti-Catholic.

Some years ago, before I took a real interest in reading the Bible, I tried to avoid missionaries who came to the door. I had been burned too often. Why open the door, or why prolong the conversation (if they caught me outside the house), when I had nothing to say?

Sure, I had a Bible. I used it perhaps the way you use yours today: to catch dust that otherwise would gather on the top shelf of the bookcase. It was one of those "family" Bibles, crammed with beautiful color plates and so heavy that my son didn’t outweigh it until he turned five.

As I said, I had a Bible, but I didn’t turn to it much; so I had little to say about the Bible when missionaries cornered me. I didn’t know to which verses I should refer when explaining the Catholic position.

For a layman, I suppose I was reasonably well informed about my faith—at least I never doubted it or ceased to practice it—but my own reading had not equipped me for verbal duels.

Then, one day, I came across a nugget of information that sent a shock wave through the next missionary who rang the bell and that proved to me that becoming skilled in apologetics isn’t really all that difficult. Here’s what happened.

When I answered the door, the lone missionary introduced himself as a Seventh-day Adventist. He asked if he could "share" with me some insights from the Bible. I told him to go ahead.

He flipped from one page to another, quoting this verse and that, trying to demonstrate the errors of the Church of Rome and the manifest truth of his own denomination’s position.

Not much to say

Some of the verses I had encountered before. I wasn’t entirely illiterate with respect to the Bible, but many verses were new to me. Whether familiar or not, the verses elicited no response from me, because I didn’t know enough about the Bible to respond effectively.

Finally the missionary got to Matthew 16:18: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church."

"Hold it right there!" I said. "I know that verse. That’s where Jesus appointed Simon the earthly head of the Church. That’s where he appointed him the first pope." I paused and smiled broadly, knowing what the missionary would say in response.

I knew he usually didn’t get any defense of the Catholic position at all as he went door to door, but sometimes a Catholic would speak up as I had. He had a reply, and I knew what it would be, and I was ready for it.

"I understand your thinking," he said, "but you Catholics misunderstand this verse because you don’t know any Greek. That’s the trouble with your Church and with your scholars. You people don’t know the language in which the New Testament was written. To understand Matthew 16:18, we have to get behind the English to the Greek."

"Is that so?" I said, leading him on. I pretended to be ignorant of the trap being laid for me.

"Yes," he said. "In Greek, the word for rock is petra, which means a large, massive stone. The word used for Simon’s new name is different; it’s Petros, which means a little stone, a pebble."

In reality, what the missionary was telling me at this point was false. As Greek scholars—even non-Catholic ones—admit, the words petros and petra were synonyms in first century Greek. They meant "small stone" and "large rock" in some ancient Greek poetry, centuries before the time of Christ, but that distinction had disappeared from the language by the time Matthew’s Gospel was rendered in Greek. The difference in meaning can only be found in Attic Greek, but the New Testament was written in Koine Greek—an entirely different dialect. In Koine Greek, both petros andpetra simply meant "rock." If Jesus had wanted to call Simon a small stone, the Greek lithos would have been used. The missionary’s argument didn’t work and showed a faulty knowledge of Greek. (For an Evangelical Protestant Greek scholar’s admission of this, see D. A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984], Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., 8:368).

"You Catholics," the missionary continued, "because you don’t know Greek, imagine that Jesus was equating Simon and the rock. Actually, of course, it was just the opposite. He was contrasting them. On the one side, the rock on which the Church would be built, Jesus himself; on the other, this mere pebble. Jesus was really saying that he himself would be the foundation, and he was emphasizing that Simon wasn’t remotely qualified to be it."

"Case closed," he thought.

It was the missionary’s turn to pause and smile broadly. He had followed the training he had been given. He had been told that a rare Catholic might have heard of Matthew 16:18 and might argue that it proved the establishment of the papacy. He knew what he was supposed to say to prove otherwise, and he had said it.

"Well," I replied, beginning to use that nugget of information I had come across, "I agree with you that we must get behind the English to the Greek." He smiled some more and nodded. "But I’m sure you’ll agree with me that we must get behind the Greek to the Aramaic."

"The what?" he asked.

"The Aramaic," I said. "As you know, Aramaic was the language Jesus and the apostles and all the Jews in Palestine spoke. It was the common language of the place."

"I thought Greek was."

"No," I answered. "Many, if not most of them, knew Greek, of course, because Greek was the lingua franca of the Mediterranean world. It was the language of culture and commerce; and most of the books of the New Testament were written in it, because they were written not just for Christians in Palestine but also for Christians in places such as Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, places where Aramaic wasn’t the spoken language.

"I say most of the New Testament was written in Greek, but not all. Many hold that Matthew was written in Aramaic—we know this from records kept by Eusebius of Caesarea—but it was translated into Greek early on, perhaps by Matthew himself. In any case the Aramaic original is lost (as are all the originals of the New Testament books), so all we have today is the Greek."

I stopped for a moment and looked at the missionary. He seemed a bit uncomfortable, perhaps doubting that I was a Catholic because I seemed to know what I was talking about. I continued.

Aramaic in the New Testament

"We know that Jesus spoke Aramaic because some of his words are preserved for us in the Gospels. Look at Matthew 27:46, where he says from the cross, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ That isn’t Greek; it’s Aramaic, and it means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

"What’s more," I said, "in Paul’s epistles—four times in Galatians and four times in 1 Corinthians—we have the Aramaic form of Simon’s new name preserved for us. In our English Bibles it comes out as Cephas. That isn’t Greek. That’s a transliteration of the Aramaic word Kepha (rendered as Kephas in its Hellenistic form).

"And what does Kepha mean? It means a rock, the same as petra. (It doesn’t mean a little stone or a pebble. What Jesus said to Simon in Matthew 16:18 was this: ‘You are Kepha, and on thiskepha I will build my Church.’

"When you understand what the Aramaic says, you see that Jesus was equating Simon and the rock; he wasn’t contrasting them. We see this vividly in some modern English translations, which render the verse this way: ‘You are Rock, and upon this rock I will build my church.’ In French one word, pierre, has always been used both for Simon’s new name and for the rock."

For a few moments the missionary seemed stumped. It was obvious he had never heard such a rejoinder. His brow was knit in thought as he tried to come up with a counter. Then it occurred to him.

"Wait a second," he said. "If kepha means the same as petra, why don’t we read in the Greek, ‘You are Petra, and on this petra I will build my Church’? Why, for Simon’s new name, does Matthew use a Greek word, Petros, which means something quite different from petra?"

"Because he had no choice," I said. "Greek and Aramaic have different grammatical structures. In Aramaic you can use kepha in both places in Matthew 16:18. In Greek you encounter a problem arising from the fact that nouns take differing gender endings.

"You have masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns. The Greek word petra is feminine. You can use it in the second half of Matthew 16:18 without any trouble. But you can’t use it as Simon’s new name, because you can’t give a man a feminine name—at least back then you couldn’t. You have to change the ending of the noun to make it masculine. When you do that, you get Petros, which was an already-existing word meaning rock.

"I admit that’s an imperfect rendering of the Aramaic; you lose part of the play on words. In English, where we have ‘Peter’ and ‘rock,’ you lose all of it. But that’s the best you can do in Greek."

Beyond the grammatical evidence, the structure of the narrative does not allow for a downplaying of Peter’s role in the Church. Look at the way Matthew 16:15-19 is structured. After Peter gives a confession about the identity of Jesus, the Lord does the same in return for Peter. Jesus does not say, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are an insignificant pebble and on this rock I will build my Church. . . . I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." Jesus is giving Peter a three-fold blessing, including the gift of the keys to the kingdom, not undermining his authority. To say that Jesus is downplaying Peter flies in the face of the context. Jesus is installing Peter as a form of chief steward or prime minister under the King of Kings by giving him the keys to the kingdom. As can be seen in Isaiah 22:22, kings in the Old Testament appointed a chief steward to serve under them in a position of great authority to rule over the inhabitants of the kingdom. Jesus quotes almost verbatum from this passage in Isaiah, and so it is clear what he has in mind. He is raising Peter up as a father figure to the household of faith (Is. 22:21), to lead them and guide the flock (John 21:15-17). This authority of the prime minister under the king was passed on from one man to another down through the ages by the giving of the keys, which were worn on the shoulder as a sign of authority. Likewise, the authority of Peter has been passed down for 2000 years by means of the papacy.

My turn to pause

I stopped and smiled. The missionary smiled back uncomfortably, but said nothing. We exchanged smiles for about thirty seconds. Then he looked at his watch, noticed how time had flown, and excused himself. I never saw him again.

So what came of this encounter? Two things—one for me, one for him.

I began to develop a sense of confidence. I began to see that I could defend my faith if I engaged in a little homework. The more homework, the better the defense.

I realized that any literate Catholic—including you—could do the same. You don’t have to suspect your faith might be untrue when you can’t come up with an answer to a pointed question.

Once you develop a sense of confidence, you can say to yourself, "I may not know the answer to that, but I know I could find the answer if I hit the books. The answer is there, if only I spend the time to look for it."

And what about the missionary? Did he go away with anything? I think so. I think he went away with a doubt regarding his understanding (or lack of understanding) of Catholics and the Catholic faith. I hope his doubt has since matured into a sense that maybe, just maybe, Catholics have something to say on behalf of their religion and that he should look more carefully into the Faith he once so confidently opposed.

—Karl Keating

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

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Unread postby silentwssj » December 2nd, 2014, 9:03 pm

Prayer and Devotion

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Is Catholicism Pagan?


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If few Fundamentalists know the history of their religion—which distressingly few do—even fewer have an appreciation of the history of the Catholic Church. They become easy prey for purveyors of fanciful "histories" that claim to account for the origin and advance of Catholicism.

Anti-Catholics often suggest that Catholicism did not exist prior to the Edict of Milan, which was issued in 313 AD and made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire. With this, pagan influences began to contaminate the previously untainted Christian Church. In no time, various inventions adopted from paganism began to replace the gospel that had been once for all delivered to the saints. At least, that is the theory.

Pagan Influence Fallacy

Opponents of the Church often attempt to discredit Catholicism by attempting to show similarities between it and the beliefs or practices of ancient paganism. This fallacy is frequently committed by Fundamentalists against Catholics, by Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and others against both Protestants and Catholics, and by atheists and skeptics against both Christians and Jews.

The nineteenth century witnessed a flowering of this "pagan influence fallacy." Publications such as The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop (the classic English text charging the Catholic Church with paganism) paved the way for generations of antagonism towards the Church. During this time, entire new sects were created (Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses)—all considering traditional Catholicism and Protestantism as polluted by paganism. This era also saw atheistic "freethinkers" such as Robert Ingersoll writing books attacking Christianity and Judaism as pagan.

The pagan influence fallacy has not gone away in the twentieth century, but newer archaeology and more mature scholarship have diminished its influence. Yet there are still many committing it. In Protestant circles, numerous works have continued to popularize the claims of Alexander Hislop, most notably the comic books of Jack Chick and the book Babylon Mystery Religion by the young Ralph Woodrow (later Woodrow realized its flaws and wrote The Babylon Connection? repudiating it and refuting Hislop). Other Christian and quasi-Christian sects have continued to charge mainstream Christianity with paganism, and many atheists have continued to repeat—unquestioned—the charges of paganism leveled by their forebears.

Use of a round wafer implies sun worship?

Hislop and Chick argue that the wafers of Communion are round, just like the wafers of the sun worshippers of Baal. They don’t bother to mention that the wafers used by the same pagans were also ovals, triangles, some with the edges folded over, or shaped like leaves or animals, etc. The fact that a wafer is round does not make it immoral or pagan, since even the Jews had wafers and cakes offered in the Old Testament (Gen. 18:1-8, Ex 29:1-2).

Unfortunately for Chick and other Fundamentalists, their arguments backfire. An atheist will take the pagan connection one step further, saying, "Christianity itself is simply a regurgitation of pagan myths: the incarnation of a divinity from a virgin, a venerated mother and child, just like Isis and Osiris, Isa and Iswara, Fortuna and Jupiter, and Semiramis and Tammuz. Beyond this, some pagans had a triune God, and pagan gods were often pictured with wings, as was your God in Psalms 91:4. The flames on the heads of the apostles were also seen as an omen from the gods in Roman poetry and heathen myths long before Pentecost. A rock is struck that brings forth water in the Old Testament . . . just like the pagan goddess Rhea did long before then. Also, Jesus is known as the ‘fish,’ just like the fish-god Dagon, etc." Unless the Fundamentalists are willing to honestly examine the logical fallacies and historical inaccuracies, they are left defenseless. Fortunately, like the attacks on Catholicism in particular, all of the supposed parallels mentioned above self-destruct when examined with any scholarly rigor. If not guilty of historical inaccuracies, they all are guilty of what can be called "pagan influence fallacies."

Anything can be attacked using fallacy

The pagan influence fallacy is committed when one charges that a particular religion, belief, or practice is of pagan origin or has been influenced by paganism and is therefore false, wrong, tainted, or to be repudiated. In this minimal form, the pagan influence fallacy is a subcase of the genetic fallacy, which improperly judges a thing based on its history or origins rather than on its own merits (e.g., "No one should use this medicine because it was invented by a drunkard and adulterer").

Very frequently, the pagan influence fallacy is committed in connection with other fallacies, most notably the post hoc ergo proper hoc ("After this, therefore because of this") fallacy—e.g., "Some ancient pagans did or believed something millennia ago, therefore any parallel Christian practices and beliefs must be derived from that source." Frequently, a variant on this fallacy is committed in which, as soon as a parallel with something pagan is noted, it is assumed that the pagan counterpart is the more ancient. This variant might be called the similis hoc ergo propter hoc ("Similar to this, therefore because of this") fallacy.

When the pagan influence fallacy is encountered, it should be pointed out that it is, in fact, a fallacy. To help make this clear to a religious person committing it, it may be helpful to illustrate with cases where the pagan influence fallacy could be committed against his own position (e.g., the practice of circumcision was practiced in the ancient world by a number of peoples—including the Egyptians—but few Jews or Christians would say that its divinely authorized use in Israel was an example of "pagan corruption").

To help a secular person see the fallacy involved, one might point to a parallel case of the genetic fallacy involving those of his perspective (e.g., "Nobody should accept this particular scientific theory because it was developed by an atheist").

Whenever one encounters a proposed example of pagan influence, one should demand that its existence be properly documented, not just asserted. The danger of accepting an inaccurate claim is too great. The amount of misinformation in this area is great enough that it is advisable never to accept a reported parallel as true unless it can be demonstrated from primary source documents or through reliable, scholarly secondary sources. After receiving documentation supporting the claim of a pagan parallel, one should ask a number of questions:

1. Is there a parallel? Frequently, there is not. The claim of a parallel may be erroneous, especially when the documentation provided is based on an old or undisclosed source.

For example: "The Egyptians had a trinity. They worshiped Osiris, Isis, and Horus, thousands of years before the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were known" (Robert Ingersoll, Why I Am an Agnostic). This is not true. The Egyptians had an Ennead—a pantheon of nine major gods and goddesses. Osiris, Isis, and Horus were simply three divinities in the pantheon who were closely related by marriage and blood (not surprising, since the Ennead itself was an extended family) and who figured in the same myth cycle. They did not represent the three persons of a single divine being (the Christian understanding of the Trinity). The claim of an Egyptian trinity is simply wrong. There is no parallel.

2. Is the parallel dependent or independent? Even if there is a pagan parallel, that does not mean that there is a causal relationship involved. Two groups may develop similar beliefs, practices, and artifacts totally independently of each other. The idea that similar forms are always the result of diffusion from a common source has long been rejected by archaeology and anthropology, and for very good reason: Humans are similar to each other and live in similar (i.e., terrestrial) environments, leading them to have similar cultural artifacts and views.

For example, Fundamentalists have made much of the fact that Catholic art includes Madonna and Child images and that non-Christian art, all over the world, also frequently includes mother and child images. There is nothing sinister in this. The fact is that, in every culture, there are mothers who hold their children! Sometimes this gets represented in art, including religious art, and it especially is used when a work of art is being done to show the motherhood of an individual. Mother-with child-images do not need to be explained by a theory of diffusion from a common, pagan religious source (such as Hislop’s suggestion that such images stem from representations of Semiramis holding Tammuz). One need look no further than the fact that mothers holding children is a universal feature of human experience and a convenient way for artists to represent motherhood.

3. Is the parallel antecedent or consequent? Even if there is a pagan parallel that is causally related to a non-pagan counterpart, this does not establish which gave rise to the other. It may be that the pagan parallel is a late borrowing from a non-pagan source. Frequently, the pagan sources we have are so late that they have been shaped in reaction to Jewish and Christian ideas. Sometimes it is possible to tell that pagans have been borrowing from non-pagans. Other times, it cannot be discerned who is borrowing from whom (or, indeed, if anyone is borrowing from anyone).

For example: The ideas expressed in the Norse Elder Edda about the end and regeneration of the world were probably influenced by the teachings of Christians with whom the Norse had been in contact for centuries (H. A. Guerber, The Norsemen, 339f).

4. Is the parallel treated positively, neutrally, or negatively? Even if there is a pagan parallel to a non-pagan counterpart, that does not mean that the item or concept was enthusiastically or uncritically accepted by non-pagans. One must ask how they regarded it. Did they regard it as something positive, neutral, or negative?

For example: Circumcision and the symbol of the cross might be termed "neutral" Jewish and Christian counterparts to pagan parallels. It is quite likely that the early Hebrews first encountered the idea of circumcision among neighboring non-Jewish peoples, but that does not mean they regarded it as a
religiously good thing for non-Jews to do. Circumcision was regarded as a religiously good thing only for Jews because for them it symbolized a special covenant with the one true God (Gen. 17). The Hebrew scriptures are silent in a religious appraisal of non-Jewish circumcision; they seemed indifferent to the fact that some pagans circumcised.

Similarly, the early Christians who adopted the cross as a symbol did not do so because it was a pagan religious symbol (the pagan cultures which use it as a symbol, notably in East Asia and the Americas, had no influence on the early Christians). The cross was used as a Christian symbol because Christ died on a cross—his execution being regarded as a bad thing in itself, in fact, an infinite injustice—but one from which he brought life for the world. Christians did not adopt it because it was a pagan symbol they liked and wanted to copy.

Examples of negative parallels are often found in Genesis. For instance, the Flood narrative (Gen. 6-9) has parallels to pagan flood stories, but is written so that it refutes ideas in them. Thus Genesis attributes the flood to human sin (6:5-7), not overpopulation, as Atrahasis’ Epic and the Greek poem Cypria did (I. Kikawada & A. Quinn). The presence of flood stories in cultures around the world does not undermine the validity of the biblical narrative, but lends it more credence.

Criticism, refutation, and replacement are also the principles behind modern holidays being
celebrated to a limited extent around the same time as former pagan holidays. In actuality, reports of Christian holidays coinciding with pagan ones are often inaccurate (Christmas does not occur on Saturnalia, for example). However, to the extent the phenomenon occurs at all, Christian holidays were introduced to provide a wholesome, non-pagan alternative celebration, which thus critiques and rejects the pagan holiday.

This is the same process that leads Fundamentalists who are offended at the (inaccurately alleged) pagan derivation of Halloween to introduce alternative "Reformation Day" celebrations for their children. (This modern Protestant holiday is based on the fact that the Reformation began when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517.) Another Fundamentalist substitution for Halloween has been "harvest festivals" that celebrate the season of autumn and the gathering of crops. These fundamentalist substitutions are no more "pagan" than the celebrations of days or seasons that may have been introduced by earlier Christians.

Historical truth prevails

Ultimately, all attempts to prove Catholicism "pagan" fail. Catholic doctrines are neither borrowed from the mystery religions nor introduced from pagans after the conversion of Constantine. To make a charge of paganism stick, one must be able to show more than a similarity between something in the Church and something in the non-Christian world. One must be able to demonstrate a legitimate connection between the two, showing clearly that one is a result of the other, and that there is something wrong with the non-Christian item.

In the final analysis, nobody has been able to prove these things regarding a doctrine of the Catholic faith, or even its officially authorized practices. The charge of paganism just doesn’t work.

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004


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Unread postby bumperjack » December 3rd, 2014, 6:51 am

Thats some History there brother,Like I said Im not in agreement with the Church Authority and the pope is fallible and not infallible he is human and basically your faith is ion Church authority silent as I see it Im not saying you are not a believer and Im not saying you are not a Christian,but apostlic succession is ludicrious to me the Church in my eyes have no authority over anyone that does not believe alot of falsehoods that errupted over the years I have followed the Church in History books and what I have stated is in them proof is in the pudding brother the Rosary beads trace back to paganism also its History brother anybody can say prove it. Im not sold on old covenant ideas,when Jesus paid our sin debt we no longer like in the old covenant take our confession to a priest,that was what they did over 2,000 years ago so if you are lead to steal belueve that I guess you quite possibly are following Church authority and not Jesus brother because us men only Need Jesus Christ as our mediator between men and God,they the Catholic Church wants you to believe that or they would be out of a job they have no authority period brother and the pope is fallible he is not God nor is a priest Jesus Christ and like I said before our final judge of authority is not the Church over what is written thats ludicrous brother,I know for a fact what the Catholic Church teaches has been many errors because of bad popes men changed and many doctrines were adopted and also can not to be proved to be God breathed. He is unfallible,no Apostle,No pope or priest they are all fallible.I will ask you a simple question my brother how do you obtain your spiritual growth? The reason Im asking is if your not in His word daily and praying to God for guidance through our Counsler you are not going to spiritual grow. You are my brother in Christ and I pray that your faith grow stronger in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and eventually you will take your eyes off the CHURCH Long enough to get the revelation of truth Silent I have nothing but Love and Respect for you always remember this first and foremost,and Iknow He has transformed you and wemust be careful to give Him the credit and Glory for our Victorys and blessings,I know it is our nature to defend our faith but just. Lets give God the credit for our Salvation,Im going to gather my self control and you proceed with what you fill fit brother,I know you love God and I also Love my Savior and Im behind Him 110% We have our spiritual Food and its a Bible no where in there does it say we spiritual grow from Church propaganda brother,with respects your brother in Christ and homeboy and friend till the end youngster BUMPERJACK FROM WAY BACK

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Unread postby silentwssj » December 31st, 2014, 5:29 pm

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Unread postby silentwssj » December 31st, 2014, 10:06 pm

Paganism, Prophecies, and Propaganda

By: Fr. Dwight Longenecker


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Did you know that Catholic bishops are actually high priests of Dagon, the ancient fish deity of the Philistines? You see, the miter the bishop wears is a replica of the costumes worn by the priests of Dagon. That’s right, the priests of Dagon wore a head dress that looked like the head of a fish with an open mouth, and down their back they wore a long cape that looked like the skin of a big fish. When you look at a Catholic bishop sideways you can see the open-mouthed fish head, and his cope looks just like that fish skin they wore! This proves that Catholicism is really just old-fashioned devil-worshipping paganism, right? Wrong.

The bishop’s miter developed from the camelaucum, a form of crown worn in the imperial court in Byzantium. There are no pictures of a Catholic bishop wearing what we would recognize as a miter until the 11th century—and then it was a shorter, softer hat which only developed into its present form in the late middle ages, long after the worshippers of Dagon were dead and gone.

Three Forms of Anti-Catholicism

The true history of the bishop’s miter can be found with a simple Internet search, but explain it to the kind of Protestant who believes everything Catholic is simply warmed-up paganism, and he will think you have been brainwashed, that you are a naive dupe of a sinister regime, and the source of your information is part of a cover-up by the vast Catholic disinformation machine deep within the bowels of the secret walled city of the Vatican.

A second Protestant friend may not be quite so extreme in his “Catholice-equals-pagan” beliefs, and he eschews the wild-eyed fundamentalism of the Chick Tracts. Nevertheless, he shakes his head sadly and informs you that Catholic doctrine is not Scriptural. It is a mishmash of pagan philosophy and religious customs. He tells you how veneration of the Virgin Mary and prayers to the saints have their roots in pagan goddess religions and ancestor worship. He will tell you how the doctrines of purgatory and the sacraments (which we call “mysteries”) have come from Gnosticism, how transubstantiation is imported from Aristotelianism, and how your beliefs about heaven and hell and the afterlife are infected with the pagan philosophies of neo-Platonism.

Finally, there is your secular friend with his own brand of “Catholic-equalspagan” anti-Catholicism. He does not fear Catholicism because it is pagan; he dismisses it because it is pagan. Secularists don’t realize how influenced they are by old-fashioned Protestant anti- Catholicism. They have uncritically imbibed “Catholic-equals-pagan,” and they ridicule or dismiss Catholicism because “all religions are merely different versions of primitive pagan superstition.”

Protestant Propaganda

The idea that the Catholic Church is the pagan anti-Christ has been around since the Protestant Reformation. If your sect had been persecuted by Catholics, it was easy enough to see the corrupt Roman hierarchy in the ominous warnings from the Book of Revelation:

I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery: Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes, and of the abominations of the earth. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. (Rv 17:3-6)

As a Protestant reading those words, you couldn’t help but think of the opulence of the Roman prelates in their palaces. You see the cardinals and canons in their robes of purple and scarlet celebrating Mass at an altar glittering with jewels and holding up a golden cup. Then when you read that the “seven heads” were the seven hills on which the harlot sat, and you knew that Rome was the city of seven hills: The Roman Catholic Church was that great whore, and she had sold her soul to the disgusting, devil-worshipping pagan religions of ancient Rome.

Never mind that the writer of Revelation was actually referring to the decadent court of the Roman emperors; it is only a short hop from there to see in every manner of Catholic beliefs and practices a reenactment of the pagan religions. With only a little bit of imagination, you see that Christmas and Easter are versions of the pagan spring and winter celebrations, that the “worship” of the Blessed Virgin Mary is derived from the ancient cult of Diana, that the Eucharist is taken from Egyptian fertility rites, that the cross was the ancient Egyptian tau symbol, that baptism and the idea of the sacraments were lifted from Mithraism, and that not only was the bishop’s miter part of the secret worship of Dagon the fish god of the Philistines, but the icthus fish sign of the early Christians was part of the pagan conspiracy too!

The list could go on and on. In fact, it is only limited by the imagination of those who wish to discover pagan connections to Catholicism. It’s simple. As with any conspiracy theory, look hard enough, and you will find what you seek. Begin with your theory and then find the “facts” to support it. All of these “historical” connections of paganism with Catholicism can be easily refuted with a bit of research and explanation, but instead of tackling the different particular theories, I would like to unlock the thinking behind the fable that Catholicism is rehashed paganism and show how best to counter it.

The Missing Link

First, you have to do your homework: There are connecting points between early Christianity and the pagan culture in which it was born, but what are they? Are the connections real or just coincidental? Just because two things happened at the same time does not demand a link between them, and it certainly does not demand a causal link. So, for example, the decline of the number of Catholic priests and nuns in the United States coincided with the popularity of Elvis Presley and the decline in popularity of Bing Crosby. This does not mean that the two phenomena were linked (even though Bing Crosby played the part of a Catholic priest), and it certainly doesn’t mean that the popularity of Elvis Presley caused the decline in the number of priests.

Likewise, to see the similarity between two things and their coincidence in history does not require that they be linked in any way, and it certainly does not prove a causal link between the two. Even if a cultural link can be proved, a causal link must also be proved. If a causal link is proved, then it must also be proved which way the causal link flows. Does the existence of a winter-solstice celebration in oth Christianity and Roman paganism demand that one caused the other? If so, which influenced the other? It used to be a commonplace that the Christians borrowed the pagan winter Saturnalia and replaced it with Christmas. It now seems that the celebration of the Nativity of Christ was established first, and the pagans invented the Saturnalia to compete with the increasingly popular Christian celebrations.

These are interesting questions, but they are complex and cannot be truly answered without solid historical research and scholarship.

We’re All Pagan

Second, all the major doctrines of the Christian faith can be seen to have pagan antecedents. A Protestant may say that veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary hearkens back to pagan goddess worship, but the Virgin Birth (which he will affirm) also has multiple echoes in the myths of the pagan religions.

He sees as pagan belief in purgatory or prayers for the dead, but he believes in the Incarnation—and pagan religions abound in stories of god-men coming down to be born on earth. Does he believe in the Resurrection? Does he celebrate it at Easter? How does he fit that in with all the pagan myths of the dying and rising god who was worshiped annually at the springtime of the year? Does he believe in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? The Ascension? Does he practice baptism? The Lord’s Supper? All of these beliefs and practices have parallels in paganism. You can’t blame Catholics for being pagan in some beliefs and practices while happily endorsing beliefs that might just as readily have their origins in paganism. If Catholic doctrine and devotions are pagan, then Protestantism’s must be too.

This is the crunch of the argument. There are links between paganism and Christianity. That is natural because the Church was born in a particular culture, and that culture was bound to have some influence on it. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with this interaction. From the very beginning it was considered to be good missionary method: Find what connects with the Christian story in the culture you are preaching to and make the connection. Build on that and use it to share the Christian gospel through images and concepts with which they are familiar. This is precisely what we see taking place in the New Testament. In Acts 17, St. Paul preaches in Athens and sees an altar to an “unknown god.” He picks up on this idea and uses it to preach the gospel.

Infected by Philosophy?

Now, let’s address the less-extreme Protestant, who thinks Catholic doctrines are non-scriptural and infected by pagan philosophy. He needs to see that borrowing concepts from the philosophers of the time is exactly what the writers of the New Testament did. John used the existing Greek philosophical concept of the logos (the Word) to articulate the doctrine of the pre-existing Son of God and the Incarnation of the Son of Man. In doing so he was borrowing a concept from Greek philosophy. Throughout his writings, Paul uses the concept of “the mystery of godliness,” and in doing so he connects with his pagan audience’s awareness of the mystery religions. Likewise, the Epistle to the Hebrews talks of an “earthly temple.” The image of the “heavenly temple” is steeped in a Platonic metaphysical understanding. In both these cases, as in the borrowings in early Church theology, the writers take a concept and change it from the inside out.

So for John, the vague philosophical concept of the logos is clarified and fulfilled in the incarnate Christ. For Paul, the “mystery” is a mystery no longer, for that hidden wisdom is now revealed clearly in Christ Jesus. For the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, the earthly temple and the heavenly temple are united in the body of Christ on earth. The early Christians did use the philosophical concepts of their culture, but as theydid so, they transformed those ideas and fulfilled them with a new and radiant expression of the truth, and this transaction indicates the real answer to the riddle of the relationship between paganism and Catholicism.

The Riddle and the Revelation

The secular critic also argues that Catholicism is simply a rehash of paganism, but for him it is a reason to reject Christianity altogether. “Ha!” he cries, “I’ve seen through it all. Christianity was nothing new. The myth of the virgin-born God-man saving mankind by his death and rising was around for centuries! Don’t you see” he continues, “all religions developed when human beings were primitive. They looked at the sun, moon, and stars and were awed by them. They gave them personalities and made up stories about them. These became the gods and goddesses of ancient myths. They told stories of how the gods sent one of their own to earth to save the human race. Then some Hebrews wanted people to believe their teacher was also a god, so they spliced all these myths into the story of his life, and then they had a top-notch product: Once the emperor bought into this newfangled hodgepodge of myths and mysteries, Christianity never looked back.”

Having worked out a seemingly credible alternative history, the secularist sits back and smugly dismisses its claims. The problem is that his version of anti-Catholicism is just as leaky and insubstantial as the various forms of Protestant anti-Catholicism. In his version, the early Christians enthusiastically graft paganism into their new religion; in reality, the early Christians were Jews and as such were thoroughly opposed to paganism. Nor does his version account for the persecution of Christians. The early Christians died to defend Christianity from compromise with paganism. The idea that they heartily adopted pagan myths to boost their popularity is ridiculous. Finally, if early Christianity was a cleverly concocted amalgamation of paganism and the stories of a wandering rabbi, why would anyone be tortured and die for such a fraud?

The links between paganism and Catholicism require another answer. They require an explanation of just how and why there are connections and links between Christianity and other religions, and the answer is riddle and revelation: Paganism in all its forms was the riddle, and Christ was the revelation.

Hints and Glimpses

C.S. Lewis said that it didn’t bother him that Christianity has links with earlier religions: What would have bothered him was if it didn’t have links with earlier religions. The fact is, you can find echoes and connecting points between Christianity and all the other religions both ancient and modern, and it is this fact which validates rather than invalidates Christianity. If a religion is not only true but more true than all the other religions, then it should connect with all those other religions at the points where they are true.

The Catholic understanding is that there are echoes, connections, and similarities among Catholicism and all the other religions because Catholicism fulfills them and transforms them from within. The other religions are partial truths. They are hints and guesses at the truth. They are the riddles and Christ is the revelation which completes them and answers their questions. The Hebrew religion was the one which most perfectly pointed to the coming Christ, but each of the pagan religions and philosophies in their own way—some better than others—point to and prophesy the coming of Christ.

The Church Fathers saw that every aspect of the ancient world (not just the religions) were imperfect but definite pointers to Christ. In the myths and philosophies, in both the horrors and the glories of the ancient world, they heard echoes of the Word of God and saw glimpses of glory. So the Fathers loved to use quotes from the ancient philosophers which hinted at the fullness of revelation that would come in Christ. The most famous is from Virgil’s fourth Eclogue, written the century before the coming of Christ. It expresses the longing of the pagan heart for a coming Redeemer.

The virgin is returning . . .
A new human race is descending from the heights of heaven . . .
The birth of a child, with whom the iron age of humanity will end and the golden age begin . . .

Catholicism is not the practice of paganism, but the fulfillment of the hints and glimpses of revelation that are given in every ancient religion, philosophy, and prophecy. Truth, wherever it appears, is Catholic truth, and once we see the beautiful and true relationship between other religions and philosophiesand the Catholic faith, the sooner we will see their beautiful fulfillment in one faith, one baptism, one flock, one Shepherd, and one Lord.

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Unread postby bumperjack » January 3rd, 2015, 7:25 am

As we study history,If anything the Romans had a practical attitude to religion,as to most things,which perhaps explains why they themselves had difficulty in taking to the idea of a single,all-seeing,all-powerful God.

Before Christianity, Romans had a religion of there own,it was not based on any central belief,but on a mixture of fragmented rituals,taboos,superstitions,and traditions which they collected over years from a number of sources.

History tells us The origin of Roman Religion was most God's and goddesses they were a blend of several religious influences.many were introduced via Greek colonies of southern Italy.An example of such mixed origins is the goddess Diana to whom the Roman King Servius Tillius Built the temple on Aventine Hill.Essentially she was an old Latin of goddess from the earliest of times.

In the year 300 AD, Christianity was a minority religion in the Roman Empire, practiced by perhaps ten percent of the population. In good years it was discriminated against; in bad years it was persecuted. By 400 AD, a century later, it had become the official religion practiced by pretty much everyone. Evidence of this remarkable transformation can still be seen in Rome’s monuments.

Teachers in Sunday schools like to tell a story about how it happened.

In the year 312 there ruled a Roman Emperor named Maxentius who had taken power illegally. He hated Christians and persecuted them. The proper heir to the throne, Constantine, marched on Rome to save the Empire. Before the two forces met in battle, Constantine saw a vision of a cross in the sky and the words “Conquer under this”. Constantine and his army converted to Christianity and painted the cross on their shields. The next day they defeated the pagans and brought Christianity to Rome.

This story is almost entirely wrong, yet it has resonated down the centuries through books, paintings, and films to become part of the Christian legend.

The truth is more complex. Maxentius and Constantine were both sons of emperors and thus equally legitimate. Maxentius did not persecute Christians, and the story of Constantine seeing a cross in the sky doesn’t appear in the texts until years after the battle. Constantine did defeat Maxentius and marched into Rome in triumph, bearing his rival’s severed head as a trophy. After the usual celebrations and gladiator spectacles, he built the Arch of Constantine, which has no Christian symbolism but does depict sacrifices to four pagan gods. In later years he built a number of grandiose churches, including the original St. Peter’s, but didn’t get baptized until his deathbed. Paganism remained legal throughout his reign.

Constantine gave one great boon to the Christians–he legalized their religion. From then on it rapidly gained more followers and began edging out the pagan cults. Soon it was the pagans being persecuted. Rioting monks trashed temples and killed pagan philosophers like Hypatia. In 382 the Altar of Victory was removed from its centuries-old home in the Senate. In 391 paganism was outlawed and temples shut all over the Empire. The old cults hung on for a few generations in rural areas, but Christianity was now the dominant power.

Traces of this incredible transformation are visible in Rome. At the Basilica di San Clemente a 12th century church is built atop a much earlier church. This earlier building was the home of a Roman noble, a secret Christian who invited fellow Christians into his home to worship, a common practice in the days when Christianity was illegal. Underneath his home lies a subterranean temple to the pagan god Mithras.

Entering the medieval church you see the usual grandiose paintings and sculptures. The real interest comes when you descend the stairs into the dank, dark cellar. There you can see the original church much as it was. Descend further and you get back to the days of the pagan Roman Empire. Three rooms survive. One may have been a mint. Another, with a few paintings surviving, was a training room for acolytes in the Mithraic faith. The third is the temple, or mithraeum, for Mithras himself.

%Gallery-102749%Mithras was Christianity’s main rival. As a mystery religion with its deepest teachings revealed only to the initiated, we don’t know much about its inner workings. What we do know shows many similarities between Mithraism and Christianity, such as the belief that Mithras was born on December 25 to a virgin, and died and was resurrected in order to save mankind. The similarities were so numerous that early Christian writers said that the older religion was invented by the Devil as a cheap imitation of Christianity before Jesus was even born!

The mithraeum is a long, rectangular room with benches to either side. Members would sit on these benches and share a communal meal that included bread and wine. At the end of the room stood a plaque showing Mithras in a little-understood ritual of killing a bull. Mithraism was popular, but didn’t have the widespread appeal of Christianity. First off, only men were allowed into the cult. Also, most of the teachings were secret, and while that had a certain mystique, it also turned off many who didn’t want to go through a long period of study and initiation. Despite this more than a dozen mithraea survive in Rome and there were probably hundreds during its heyday.

The transition from pagan to Christian isn’t always as obvious as in San Clemente. Sometimes you can see it in the art, such as the image above, a 4th century mosaic from Santa Pudenziana. Here Christ sits enthroned in a pose identical to many statues of the pagan god Jupiter. Saints Peter and Paul sit to either side dressed as Roman senators. The early Christians saw nothing wrong with this. They wanted to win the hearts and minds of the people, and a bit of reworked pagan symbolism was a good way to do that.

At times the Christians reused old buildings or parts of old buildings. San Maria Maggiore, a third century basilica, was originally a secular building before being converted into a house of worship. This is one of the most stunning churches in Rome, with fifth-century mosaics showing Biblical scenes and a ceiling gilded during the Renaissance with the first gold brought back from the New World. So many Roman sites are only foundations with perhaps a few columns standing, but here you can actually stand inside a Roman building.

Christianity would have never caught on so quickly if it didn’t have the Empire’s infrastructure to spread its message. These were the days when trying to cross a border could easily get you killed, and the Empire provided a large, secure area in which to move about. The Catholic Church understood their debt to Rome and wanted to take on its aura of glory and power. Rome went became the capital of the new faith and its art and architecture was incorporated into churches worldwide. The Church was still trying take on a bit of the old Roman magic as late as the 17th century, when the Pope ordered the giant bronze doors from the old Roman Senate installed in the entrance to St. John Lateran.

The name Roman Catholic Church is no accident.

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Unread postby silentwssj » January 3rd, 2015, 3:20 pm

Defending Christ the King – Refuting the Pagan Roots Lie

Posted by natalina On December 24, 2013 11 Comments

This article began as something quite different than what it has become. The original title of the post was to be “Defending Christmas”. As I pondered the content that needed to be addressed, I felt pressed by the Holy Spirit to change the name to “Defending Christ the King.” And it is my heart’s desire to do so, as He has been so faithful to defend me.

In my previous existence as one who reveled in a state of rebellion, I was engaged in a war. I knew it was a war. I had declared it as such. I thought it was a war against ignorance and mythology and pitifully blind faith. As a new creation, I can look back now and recognize it for what it truly was. A war against truth. The Truth. The only thing that is true in a world of deception. I was in a battle against the very existence of Jesus Christ. I bought, believed, promoted and proclaimed the antichrist gospel. I was unwittingly peddling lies and had become an evangelist in favor of a fallen world.

Accepting Jesus was an unexpected and amazing turn of events! Almost instantly, I recognized my unique position as one who’d gone from declaring a lie to defending THE truth. I began to unravel the errors of my previous arguments against His existence, and I wondered what spirit had overcome me, a reasonably intelligent woman, to convince me that such provably incorrect information was true.

In the past year, and particularly in the past several months, I’ve become increasingly alarmed as I see so many of the arguments from my former self surfacing inside Christian circles, AGAINST Christians, FROM Christians. My heart broke over and over as I watched the same spirit from which I’d been delivered, now influencing fellow believers; lies being peddled in the guise of Biblical truth. The obvious elitism and sense of superiority displayed by those who were now attacking Christianity from within were startlingly similar to that which I’d experienced years ago.

Never has this spirit been more prevalent than it is this year during the Christmas season. The shameless promotion of the pagan roots lie has found its way into the fold and is corrupting hearts and minds at an alarming rate.

Defending Christmas

The Pagan Roots Lie

One of the most prevalent memes used by atheists against Christians is the concept that Jesus is a mythical character based upon previous pagan “dying and rising” messiah archetypes. Most of these claims have been debunked ad nauseum, but they continue to rear their ugly heads. If you aren’t familiar with said debunking, CLICK HERE – or you can listen to my interview with Cris Putnam wherein he tackles the subject skillfully.

The thrust of the argument is that Jesus is a copycat savior based on either a singular pagan deity or an amalgam of pagan deities, depending upon with whom you speak. “Debunkers” like to claim that the concept of the Trinity is based upon pagan myth, that all Christian traditions are based upon pagan myth, and that essentially all of Christendom is one big fat pile of baloney.

It would behoove the dogmatic atheist to use all ammo in his arsenal to attempt to show that Jesus didn’t exist. You can’t really blame him for trying. For him, it is a matter of self preservation, for if Jesus is real, then he’s in big trouble. But what do you do when people who claim to believe in Jesus use the exact same methodology against orthodox Christians?

That’s right. Self proclaimed believers are using Christianity against Christians by claiming that Christianity as we know it is a false construct comprised largely of pagan influences.

The purpose of this post is not to tackle all issues related to the pagan roots lie. There are far too many claims floating around, and there are apologists and researchers far more skilled than I who are tackling these issues in a scholarly manner on a regular basis. I will include resources at the bottom of this post. For now, I want to stick to a couple of specific areas. I believe very strongly that the spirit of deception that grips non-believers and causes them to throw reason out the window in favor of the pagan roots lie, is the same spirit that has managed to plant a seed of confusion in a small but stubborn segment of professed believers.

First, let’s just cover one basic issue. It really does not matter what any pagan reveler of antiquity practiced or preached or wrote or worshiped. If we believe what the Bible teaches, we know that before a single pagan walked the Earth, God Almighty brought all things into existence. There is literally nothing that a pagan touched that wasn’t touched by God first. Thus, for a Christian to argue that any pagan philosophy predated what we know to be true about the nature of God is illogical. God came first. Upon this we can all agree. However, in this very same logic train, we can begin to understand why those who would promote the pagan roots lie would begin their attack with the Trinity. [1] Redefining God’s triune nature is necessary in order to make any of their arguments stick. And this is what we’re going to continue to see – further redefining, retooling, rejecting and retracting portions of scripture in an effort to fit their pet theories into a manageable box.

O Holy Night

When I was a lost and confused girl, not knowing what I believed, there was one time of year when I was open to hearing about the Gospel. That time was Christmas. I’d show up for church and would hear about His miraculous coming. I’d hear amazing hymns that filled me with reverence for this Jesus – born in Bethlehem to be the savior of the whole world. My rebellion was deeply entrenched, but the seeds planted during those special moments when I was told “Fall on your Knees!”, have clearly come to fruition. I have accepted His call and He is the Lord of my life.

Imagine my confusion and sadness when, years later, as a Christian, I saw a group of believers who scorned and mocked that uniquely powerful time. I’d ask myself, “What is this all about?”

Let’s clear a few things up. I do not proclaim that Jesus was born on December 25th. I do not deny that SOME seasonal traditions common to our culture may have vague similarities to pagan pactices. I do not engage in tree worship. I do not honor a nebulous sun god. I do not recognize Nimrod as my eternal king. I do not burn a yule log. I do not believe in Santa Claus. I am afraid of elves.

The claims of those who believe Christmas to be a dirty dirty pagan festival full of perverted revelry include, but are not limited to:

1. Christmas trees are downright evil. They alternatively represent Nimrod worship, goddess Ashtoreth worship, or just a good old fashioned phallic symbol. They claim that Jeremiah 10 explicitly lays out why Christmas trees are evil. These claims are easily refuted HERE and HERE.

2. Jesus was not born on December 25, but a WHOLE bunch of other gods were.

3. Catholics usurped the pagan traditions in an effort to make Christianity more palatable to heathens, thus anyone who celebrates Christmas is a heathen by proxy. Or a Catholic.

4. The Jesus worshiped by orthodox Christians is not the same Jesus as worshiped by the true believers who embrace a Herbrew Roots Movement. (It is also common for HRM folks to deny that they are HRM, knowing that it is rather bad PR to publicly associate with HRM)

It is important to note that much of what these anti-Christmas crusaders would have you believe about the pagan roots of Christmas extends into their philosophy about the pagan roots of Christianity as a whole. For those who do not worship by adhering to OT law, they will say that you are not doing it right, that you’re essentially an accidental pagan/Catholic, and that you may even end up shining their shoes in Heaven… if you make it there at all.

But where does all of this come from? Surely if all that they say is true, it should give anyone who fears the Lord pause, right?

Much of what is spread around in atheist circles (and now in many “christian” circles) about the pagan roots lie originates from a book called The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop. His research has been expounded upon by various “researchers”, perhaps most prominently a woman who refers to herself as D.M. Murdock or Acharya S. It is unclear what her actual name is, but it is abundantly clear that she is an anti-Christian propagandist and a shameless New Ager, and many of the current claims about the pagan roots of Christianity find their way back to her research. And no doubt she relies heavily on the claims of Hislop.

Hislop’s Two Babylons was written in 1853 and was published in 1919. He was a Prebyterian theologian and his works have been embraced by conspiracy theorists on the fringes of Christianity ever since. According to one reviewer:

It has been recognized by scholars as discredited and has been called a tribute to historical inaccuracy and know-nothing religious bigotry with shoddy scholarship, blatant dishonesty and a nonsensical thesis. Although scholarship has shown the picture presented by Hislop to be absurd and based on an exceedingly poor understanding of historical Babylon and its religion, his book remains popular among some fundamentalist protestant Christians.

Over time, some who once embraced the Hislop theory that modern Christianity is a pseudo-pagan creation by early Catholicism, have recanted their support. A great example of this is Ralph Woodrow. He once supported the findings of Hislop, going so far as to write his own book titled Babylon Mystery Religion. Woodrow has since pulled this book out of print due to what he later recognized as falsehood and misinformation as taught by Hislop. In an explanation for why he has since recanted his stance on his previous pagan roots beliefs, Woodrow says the following:

What may seem to have a connection, upon further investigation, has no connection at all!….

By this method, atheists have long sought to discredit the Bible and Christianity altogether—not just the Roman Catholic Church.

By this method, one could condemn Protestant and evangelical denominations like the Assemblies of God, Baptist, Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, etc. Basic things like prayer, and kneeling in prayer, would have to be rejected, because pagans knelt and prayed to their gods. Water baptism would have to be rejected, for pagans had numerous rites involving water, etc.

By this method, the BIBLE itself would need to be rejected as pagan. All of the following practices or beliefs mentioned in the Bible, were also known among pagans—raising hands in worship, taking off shoes on holy ground, a holy mountain, a holy place in a temple, offering sacrifices without blemish, a sacred ark, city of refuge, bringing forth water from a rock, laws written on stone, fire appearing on a person’s head, horses of fire, the offering of first fruits, tithes, etc.

By this method, the LORD himself would be pagan. The woman called Mystery Babylon had a cup in her hand; the Lord has a cup in his hand (Psa. 75:8). Pagan kings sat on thrones and wore crowns; the Lord sits on a throne and wears a crown (Rev. 1:4; 14:14). Pagans worshipped the sun; the Lord is the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2). Pagan gods were likened to stars; the Lord is called “the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16). Pagan gods had temples dedicated to them; the Lord has a temple (Rev. 7:15). Pagan gods were pictured with wings; the Lord is pictured with wings (Psa. 91:4).

Here is a list of the some of the unsubstantiated claims that are made about the religion of ancient Babylon:

• The Babylonians went to a confessional and confessed sins to priests who wore black clergy garments.

• Their king, Nimrod, was born on December 25. Round decorations on Christmas trees and round communion wafers honored him as the Sun-god.

• Sun-worshippers went to their temples weekly, on Sunday, to worship the Sun-god.

• Nimrod’s wife was Semiramis, who claimed to be the Virgin Queen of Heaven, and was the mother of Tammuz.

• Tammuz was killed by a wild boar when he was age 40; so 40 days of Lent were set aside to honor his death.

• The Babylonians wept for him on “Good Friday.” They worshipped a cross-the initial letter of his name.

It is amazing how unsubstantiated teachings like these circulate—and are believed. One can go to any library, check any history book about ancient Babylon, none of these things will be found. They are not historically accurate, but are based on an arbitrary piecing together of bits and pieces of mythology.

The “connections” drawn about the paganization of Christianity and Christmas are numerous and in most cases, they are false. There are so many resources available that refute claims about Osiris, Horus, Mithras, and other sun gods having been born/celebrated on December 25th. Scholars both Christian and secular predominately conclude that there are no original sources that point to this date as the universal birth date of pretty much every pagan god of antiquity, which is what most pagan rooters would have you believe.

However, it is not uncommon to see proponents of the pagan roots lie telling you to simply “Google it” for more information. Why? Because the pervasiveness of the pagan roots lie as promoted by Hislop has become so popular, that the search results pretty much bury the actual scholarly research on the matter. So yes, if you Google, “Pagan Christmas” or “Nimrod Christmas” or “Jesus was Osiris”… you’ll find lots of material that will try to sway you. But that is not how research works. An abundance of claims does not make a fact, particularly when the majority of those claims can be traced back to a single erroneous source. [2] [3] [4]

One of the most prominent researchers who is actively promoting the pagan roots concept is Rob Skiba. Normally, I’d shy away from naming names and stick to refuting the message, but in this case I need to directly quote Mr. Skiba, therefore in order to properly attribute the quote, I have to name the source.

In recent weeks, Mr. Skiba has been releasing a series of anti-Christmas commentary via his Facebook wall. In one of his most recent posts, he titles his piece “Celebrating Christ the King?” (I’m not certain that you can access this write up unless you are friends with Rob Skiba, but here is the link, just in case. It is too long for me to repost entirely here.) The piece begins with a tale of how the Skibas recently attended a baptism at a mainstream protestant church, wherein the Christmas decor and hymns etc made his “spirit grieve exceedingly.”

He goes on to associate December 25 with Nimrod (a notion introduced by Hislop). He states, “It is NO SECRET that December 25th is the birthday of the sun-gods, which trace back to Nimrod.” Right off the bat, this claim can be refuted, which essentially throws the rest of his write up into the realm of misinformation. [5][6]

King of kings, and Lord of lords…

Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; ~ 1 Timothy 6:15 King James Version (KJV)

which he will make known in his own time, the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of those who reign as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords, ~ 1 Timothy 6:15 Lexham English Bible (LEB)

The question mark in the title of Rob Skiba’s post seems to revolve around the following contention:

December 25th is the birthday of the sun-gods, which trace back to Nimrod, who was the first KING in our Bible. Interestingly enough, as he would later be known by many (possibly even 70) different names as a result of the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel, one of them being Osiris, he also became known as the “king of kings and lord of lords” (in the Egyptian Book of the Dead). Suddenly all of the songs and praise concerning the “king of kings” born on Christmas day took on significantly dark meaning. Now, I KNOW no one there was worshiping Nimrod. Their hearts were toward Yeshua (Jesus) the Christ. I get that.

Since we know that there is little to no reliable evidence linking these “sun gods” to December 25th, it is difficult to put much credence into the rest of Skiba’s piece, since it all hinges on that thoroughly debunked claim. Skiba’s purpose here is to float the idea that if you celebrate the birth of Christ the King on December 25th, that you are actually worshiping and paying tribute to a different “christ” and a pagan “king”. The entire concept of accidental paganism is outrageous.

Various scripture refers to other earthly kings as “king of kings” (Ezra 7:12; Ezekiel 26:7; Daniel 2:37), and the title was not uncommon. What is obvious is that when the Bible refers to Jesus as King of kings, Lord of lords, it is taking that familiar title and attributing it once and for all to THE King above all kings and THE Lord above all who would identify as lords. I find Mr. Skiba’s pointing to the Hymn to Osiris from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to be pure sensationalism, because knowing that this title is used to indicate someone who has the power to exercise absolute dominion over all that lies within his realm [7], his inclusion of the pagan parallel here serves no purpose, unless he is loosely trying to tie Jesus to the Pagan Roots Lie, which I cannot imagine would be fruitful for any follower of Jesus to do.

I reached out to Dr. Mike Heiser regarding the question of this title being bestowed upon other kings of antiquity. In his response, he stated:

The titling in Greek = “king of kings”.

It was a *widely* used title; the title is part of the conception of utmost authority and pre-eminence. If Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, and the greatest kingdom (Daniel = the kingdom not made with human hands), this is about as normal and expected a way to telegraph the message that there is.

Dr. Heiser cites Remarks on the History of a Title by Author J. Gwyn Griffiths from the book Classical Philology, as a point of reference for his commentary.

*Update* Dr, Heiser briefly weighed in on the issue on his blog The Naked Bible. See post here: What is it with the Hebrew Roots Movement?

But that doesn’t stop Skiba from stating:

Now bear in mind that the Beast is referred to as a “christ” as well (albeit an “anti” christ – meaning an antithesis of the Christ). The Beast is a false messiah – a false anointed one – a false king – who is opposed to the true Messiah, the true Anointed One, the true King.

So, here’s the problem: Our true “Messiah/Christ” was NOT born on December 25th. So, exactly which “Christ the king” are we celebrating then on that day? The answer is simple: the ANTICHRIST!

Defending Christ the King

This claim is simply preposterous. I could belabor the point of how the pagan connections lie has been debunked over and over and over and over again (see linked sources to see how ridiculous these claims are) but for those content with parroting historically inaccurate information, these words will fall on deaf ears, and the evidence will be ignored.

As a means of punctuating the point, Dr. Heiser sums up the ridiculousness of the pagan roots lie by pointing out, “Baal was called “rider on the clouds” before Yahweh was”. So if we follow the logic train of the pagan roots proponents, the only conclusion would be that Yahweh is just a fabrication of Baal. Of course, we know this isn’t the case, but in keeping with the reasoning of Skiba et al, what other conclusion is there? Do you see how dangerous this is?

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: ~ Colossians 2:16

For those of you who choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th, do not allow yourself to be bullied by those who would tell you that you may accidentally be worshiping a false deity or the anti-christ on this day. Do not let a man judge your heart, your intent, or your faithfulness to He who IS the King of kings and Lord of lords!

Do not be misled by those who would say that it is a sin to be reverent about the miraculous birth of Jesus. For if He was not born, He could not die. And if He did not die, He could not Rise! And if He did not first come, He could not come again! All of this is part of the amazing true story of our Savior and King. Jesus is Lord. JESUS. Not Osiris, or Mithras, or Horus, or Nimrod. JESUS CHRIST IS THE KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS. If you worship Him and revere Him and fear Him and love Him who was and is and is to come, let no man tell you that you’re mistakenly worshiping someone else because of a date on a calendar. To deter any man or woman from exercising their freedom in Christ to worship Him on any day and all days IS the spirit of antichrist, and I rebuke that spirit in Jesus’ name.

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Unread postby silentwssj » January 3rd, 2015, 3:22 pm

Defending Jesus and Catholic Traditions

Every year some of us are hit with articles or commentaries claiming the feast of Christmas was created/invented to supplant the pagan holidays that went on at that time. December 25 is close to the date of the winter solstice (December 22), and close enough is good enough for our pagan sympathizers. But remember, Julius Caesar added a month to the calendar, and his nephew added one more, so for a while before them the winter solstice was occuring at very odd times of the year for the Romans!


This article is not an official statement from the teaching Church, but from someone with 2 degrees in the subject, and just tired of the ignorance. This work also does not claim to be all-encompassing - it is too time consuming and quite frankly, too boring, to address every single argument. This little article only aims to refute the claims in general, and to be as simple and to-the-point as possible.

1. Christians didn’t celebrate a “Christmas” in the first centuries of the Church - the main ‘feast day’, or ‘holiday’ - even still today - is Easter, the feast of the Resurrection. Officially, the teaching Church still recognizes Easter as the most important of all the Christian celebratory days. Another important feast for Christians January 6 - the Epiphany - when the God of the Israelites is presented as the saviour also of non-Israelites.
More important than the birth of Christ is his death and Resurrection back to this human life. This is what is represented - remembered - during the Easter celebrations. No other ‘god’ in the history of religion ever accomplished this or even thought to claim it -

because these gods did not exist.

Jesus is a real, historical person.

The first mention is made in the East by St. Clement of Alexandria (200 circa) and it was kept on May 20.
St. Jerome Hippolytus of Rome is the first of the Western Fathers to state (204 circa) that Christ was born on “Wednesday, December 25th, in the forty-second year of the Emperor Augustus” (Commentary on David, book 4. Some say this text is not original, added later, yet still at a very early date.).
The different dates for the birth of Jesus indicates to us that the winter solstice was not on the mind of every Christian author - strange, considering Alexandria - Egypt, and their natural obsession with the sun.
The Latin Church began, around the year 300, to observe it on December 25.
From St. Gregory of Nyssa (Eastern) we have his Christmas sermon, delivered in the year 386 (In natalem Christi, MG 46, 1128-1149)

Resurrection Icon2. Easter, or Epiphany - If you want to bash Christianity, Easter or Epiphany are the target days - not Christmas.
2a. Easter. What pagan gods are getting usurped in spring? All the ancient cultures had celebratory spring festivals - as soon as the weather started to get warmer and the flowers bloom. All of the birth, fertility-right gods get the attention at this time, because it’s spring and that’s when seeds are planted.
Please also notice, that the Eastern and Western Churches have 2 different dates for Easter, based on their own traditions - not based on anything having to do with Pluto kidnapping Persepone . . .
Nothing to do with Artemis (fertility goddess) in Ephesus. This is where tradition holds that Timothy, a disciple of Paul, ran recklessly through the croud during the festivities in the goddess’ honor, denouncing them. He was killed by the frenzied croud.
Why didn’t he just make up a Christian holiday to supplant the feast?
It would have been so much easier!

2b. Epiphany, January 6. This is still, for some Eastern and Orthodox Rite Christians (Egyptian Coptics, for example) when the Nativity and the visit from the 3 kings are celebrated. Some say this was actually the festival day for Aion, god of eternal time.
First, the Egyptians had 2 calendars - a Civil calendar with 365 straight days, and also an Astronomical calendar (relying on the rising of the Sirius star). These 2 calendars coincide ever 1460 years, and when they do, it is considered the end of the 'Sothic cycle'. This happened in the year 139AD, and special coins were made to commemorate the event, with the inscription "A ION", meaning "end of an era". Someone decided Aion would be a nice name for a God - god of time, endless time, eternity - all that. Maybe it was Antoninus Pius, Roman emperor at this time. This is not the first time a Roman emperor deifies an idea.
By the 4th century, Aion has quite an elaborate tale. Born of a virgin, only begotten of the 'Master', etc. In the late 4th century, Epiphanius, a Metropolitan (bishop) of Cyprus wrote of this cult, saying that the "idolators" observed the rites through which their leaders sought to prevent the people's embrace of Christian truth.

Antoninus and - not Aion, but another made up god. Can you tell who?

3. In what part of the pagan calendar do we not find a god being honored? If early Christians were to ‘make up’ a date for Easter or the birth of Jesus, what month could they turn to, what day of the week, that would avoid every other pagan festival? The days of the week, the months of the year, are all named after the pagan gods and goddesses.
In Rome alone they celebrated regularly 177 religious holidays per year! Ptolemy, in Egypt, created Serapis simply so he could get some work done!

The accusation that the date of Christmas was ‘invented’ to supplant pagan festivals is ridiculous!

4. Natalis solis invicti - not borrowed by Rome from the East in 274 AD, but created, by the emperor Aurelian. There were prototypes to this, such as Elagabalus, and Apollo was depicted as sun god or god of the sun (Apollo was originally the god of our rational nature, in tension with Dionysius, the god representing our irrational nature - not the ‘god of wine’ as the Romans portrayed him). The point was that the emperor Aurelian had finally suppressed the Gallic empire and gave himself the title of ‘Restorer of the World’ - like the unconquered sun. Aurelian created a temple to the Sun in Rome, using materials he stripped from the Temple of Bel at Palmyra, Syria. Bel is another universe creator, like Zeus, or Jupiter.
Christians don't think Jesus is a sun god. The words 'son' and 'sun' are similar in English, but in Latin, 'sole' and 'filius' have no similarity.

So, what really happened?
Under the heavy persecutions of Decius and Valerian, many Christians move out to the desert. They create the first spirituality and develop into monasteries. Gets to be a really attractive idea after the fall of the Roman empire.
By the year 500, Ireland is a Catholic country, all traditions preserved, and they are ready to move out to the world. Has all the strictness of the Egyptian monks. Desire for even more remoteness - time to move to a more austere life. Life on Mt Sinai.
Irish go to Scotland first. Here's a perfect opportunity. A wonderful place to build monasteries far from everything and convert those pagans. In 563, St Columba moves to Iona - an Island off of Scotland - to found a monastery. He farms, organizes the place, brings a community to a wild environment. Pagans in the area get attracted to this.
Monks go out from the monastery to explore, meet the locals at the villages, tell them about Christ. If they get a good reception, they come back after setting up a cross in the middle of the village. Keep preaching until the people convert, then go from preaching cross to building a chapel.
By 635, they are in Northern England. Aidan founds a monastery on island Lindisfarne (east side). Territory of Anglo Saxon invaders - potentially very hostile. Lindisfarne serves the way Iona did. A springboard to other places. Monks win friends in the neighborhood.

In the mean time, Pope Gregory the Great, a Benedictine, starts sending missionaries from Rome up north. Once Ireland, Scotland and England are re-settled, Anglo Saxons take the torch from the Irish and begin the evangelization of the Germans, heading off to places the Romans never subdued.
St. Willibrord, English monk, in 695 becomes first missionary bishop of Ultrecht in the Netherlands.
St. Boniface, his disciple (675-754). In 719, moves to central Germany. Abbies of Fulda, Hildesheim founded by him.
Anglos have a sense of order and purpose. They also leaned heavily on resources back home. They bring manpower and materials, worked closely with the local authorities. St. Boniface works with kingdom of France - the Franks were already fighting the local German tribes, Boniface follows right after and plants monasteries.
The Christian monks drew out diocese, founded cities, brought a structure.

This is how the Christians converted.

Need more? ... igion.html

! Stories of the Gods

Nut, sky god. Geb, god of earth.Myths were created by these ancient cultures to help them understand the realities of the world and cosmos around them. As those cultures developed, these men changed the roles that their gods played, or assigned to them other characteristics.
The best man could come up when creating their myths was to be ‘reborn’ in another world - the world of banquets and feasting - the eternal party!
All of these ancient gods who die and are reborn do so for no reason - they certainly didn’t do it for us! They died because the sun goes away, and early man didn’t know why, so they made up a story explaining sunset.

Serapis, with Greek beard, yet Egyptian 'hat'As these ancient cultures start to meet and blend, they quickly become overwhelmed with the systems they have created - a good example of this is Serapis - a god consciously created by Ptolemy I to simplify the plethora of gods he had encountered on his ascension to the Egyptian throne. Or, Mithras, who was a minor deity in the East, and became a cult favorite for some of the Roman army, yet frequently suppressed by fearful emperors because it was secretive (who wants their army in a secret cult?). Mithris, depicted here as being born from a rock, not born from a virgin.We don’t hear about a Mithras/ Christian competition until the 1800's with the author Ernst Renan. The Mithras/ Christian debate is nothing more than the imagination of Ernst Renan at work.

Certainly, once the Church got into power, one would think they would change the pagan-name months of the year to something a bit more Christian!
The Church obviously could not be bothered. Here are some examples:
January - Janus
March - Mars
June - Juno - Jupiter
Monday - moon god, Luna
Saturday - Saturn

And, while we debate what people knew or believed at the time, we have the dialogues of Plato, who has Socrates saying, “Do you really believe that the gods fought with one another . . . Are all these tales of the gods true, Euthyphro?”

In the 4th century BC we already have a very important and influential non-Christian philosopher suggesting that these stories of the gods and goddesses were not true. Read it yourself.

The three Magi
Came from the East, following a star - so, they would have been traveling west - in the direction of a 'dying' sun, not a sun being 'born'.
"As Chrysostom says (Hom. 6 in Matth.), '. . . it appeared not only at night, but also at midday: and no star can do this, not even the moon . . . it was visible at one time and hidden at another. For when they entered Jerusalem it hid itself: then, when they had left Herod, it showed itself again . . . its movement was not continuous, but when the Magi had to continue their journey the star moved on; when they had to stop the star stood still; as happened to the pillar of a cloud in the desert . . . it could not have indicated the house distinctly, unless it were near the earth. And, as he (Chrysostom) observes, this does not seem fitting to a star, but 'of some power endowed with reason.' Consequently 'it seems that this was some invisible force made visible under the form of a star'."

And, in Other Parts of the World . . .
At the same time, there are Cyril and Methodius. Cyril (827-869). Methodius (815-885). Greeks, brothers and in a monastery. From Thesoloniki.
They decide to become missionaries and preach to the North. Get all the support from Bizantine Emperor Michael and Photius. Their work stretches all the way to Moravia (Czech Republic). They know they are in Rome's back yard and visit Pope Hadrian.
Cyril invents the Glagolithic alphabet for the Slavs, and copies the Bible into that language. Hadrian gives these guys permission to experiment with the liturgy in a way that wouldn't have been allowed in the West.
Cyril and Methodius - 2 men - converted a good part of Eastern Europe.

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Unread postby silentwssj » January 3rd, 2015, 9:47 pm

Exploding the Mithras Myth: Christianity did not borrow its beliefs from a Roman mystery religion

April 17, 2013 6:21 pm ⋅ 3 Comments ⋅ JONS1973


This article appeared in the May/June 2013 edition of Catholic Answers Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

In an effort to cast doubt on Christianity, skeptics will attempt to point out parallels between the beliefs and practices of Christians to those of the Roman cult of Mithras. In this article we will examine the most commonly encountered parallels and answer their claims.

Lists of parallels can be found in skeptic literature or by searching the Internet and they usually appear as follows:

◾Mithras preceded Christianity by roughly 600 years.
◾Mithras was born on December 25.
◾He was considered a great teacher and had twelve disciples.
◾Mithras also performed miracles.
◾Mithras was called “the good shepherd,” “the way, the truth and the light,” “redeemer,” “savior,” and “messiah.”
◾He was identified with the lion and the lamb.
◾He was buried in a tomb and after three days he rose again and his resurrection was celebrated every year.
◾Mithraism had a Eucharist or “Lord’s Supper” that involved consecrated bread and wine.
◾Their initiation ceremonies included a baptism to remove sins.

Who was Mithras?
Worship of the god Mithras became popular among Roman soldiers at its peak in the second and third centuries. Much of what we know about this religion comes from ancient reliefs and other sculptures. Because no written documents defining the mythology and ritual beliefs of Mithraism exist, scholars can only do their best to interpret the elements pictured in the surviving artwork.

The basic myth begins with Mithras being born when he emerged from a rock. In this scene he is most often depicted as a youth, carrying a torch, a dagger, and wearing a soft cone-shaped cap with the top pulled forward (also known as a Phrygian cap). The most popular image of Mithras depicts him slaying a bull; thought to be the first act of creation (Manfred Claus, The Roman Cult of Mithras, p. 81).

Does Mithraism predate Christianity?
Prior to the first century A.D., belief in a Zoroastrian divinity named Mitra was common among the ancient Persians. “Mitra (or miθra in the Old Iranian dialect of Avestan) means treaty or contract. Mitra was believed to be treaty and contract personified” (Claus, p. 3).

The most popular hypothesis holds that Roman soldiers encountered this religion during military excursions to areas known today as Iran and Iraq. For many years scholars believed that the Roman mystery cult was based on the ancient Persian god, thus predating Christianity. This assumption begins with early twentieth-century Belgian archaeologist and historian Franz Cumont (cf. Cumont’s book The Mysteries of Mithra).

While Cumont’s work is regarded as pioneering in the field, many recent scholars have challenged his assumption. According to John Hinnells at the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies held in 1971, “We must now conclude that [Cumont’s] reconstruction simply will not stand. It receives no support from the Iranian material and is in fact in conflict with the ideas of that tradition as they are represented in the extant texts. Above all, it is a theoretical reconstruction which does not accord with the actual Roman iconography” (John R. Hinnells, Mithraic Studies, vol. 2, “Reflections on the bull-slaying scene”).

Manfred Claus, a professor of ancient history at the Free University of Berlin, also supports this position: “The mysteries cannot be shown to have developed from Persian religious ideas, nor does it make sense to interpret them as a forerunner of Christianity” (The Roman Cult of Mithras, p. 7).

Was Mithra born on December 25?
MithraAccording to inscriptions on candle votives and other works of art found in Mithraeum, there is a link between Mithras and the Roman sun god Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun). In some cases it appears the Mithraists believed that Mithras and Sol were manifestations of the same god. In others they appear to be two gods united as one. And in yet others they appear to be two distinct gods. These connections are difficult to understand given our limited knowledge of the belief system, but they are important because they help to explain why the birthday of Mithras was celebrated on December 25.

In A.D. 274, the Roman Emperor Aurelian gave the cult of Sol Invictus official status alongside the other traditional cults of the Empire. According to a manuscript known as the Chronography of 354, the birth of Sol Invictus was celebrated on December 25. Given the fact that the Mithraists equated their god with Sol in one way or another, it is understandable that they would then appropriate the established date as their own.

The problem for the skeptic is that no evidence exists to suggest that Aurelian was a Mithraist, or that he even had Mithraism in mind when he instituted the feast of Sol Invictus. The date of the festival became important to the Mithraists because they equated their god with Sol.

Another interesting fact about the Chronography of 354 is that it is the earliest mention of the feast of Sol Invictus being celebrated on December 25. Coincidentally, the celebration of the birth of Christ by Christians is also mentioned as having been on that day. Pope Benedict XVI comments on this before he became pope:

The claim used to be made that December 25 developed in opposition to the Mithras myth, or as a Christian response to the cult of the unconquered sun promoted by Roman emperors in the third century in their efforts to establish a new imperial religion. However, these old theories can no longer be sustained. The decisive factor was the connection of creation and Cross, of creation and Christ’s conception (Joseph Ratzinger; The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 107).

As Pope Benedict points out, the Christians came to date Christ’s birth on December 25 based on a belief that his conception and Passion were thought to have occurred on the same day of the year. (The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp.105-107). There is no evidence that there was any attempt by the Christian community to “baptize” a pagan celebration.

Was Mithras considered a great teacher who had twelve disciples?
It is a stretch to claim that Mithras was a teacher in the same way Jesus was. Unlike Jesus, Mithras was never believed to have been a real historical person who actually walked the countryside imparting knowledge to his followers. The claim that Mithras had twelve disciples is best summed up in the companion guide to the film Zeitgeist:

Mithra surrounded by the 12 “companions” is a motif found on many Mithraic remains and representing the 12 signs of the zodiac. . . . The point here is not whether or not these companions are depicted as interacting in the same manner as the disciples of Jesus but that the theme of the god or godman with the 12 surrounding him is common enough—and with very popular deities in the same region—to have served as a precedent for the Christian Twelve with Christ at their center. (cf. Zeitgeist: The Movie Companion Source Guide)

It is true that there are depictions of astronomical symbols in Mythraic remains, but as Manfred Claus explains, “Scarcely less numerous are the modern attempts to explain them in detail. But this cannot be done without making assumptions that are themselves highly speculative” (The Roman Cult of Mithras p. 87). The speculation on the part of the writers of Zeitgeist is that there is any interaction at all between Mithras and the twelve symbols of the zodiac. The signs do appear in sculptures, but their purpose and meaning is altogether unclear.

Jesus did not have pagan astrology in mind when he chose twelve disciples to represent the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28). In Scripture, the number twelve represents divine authority and appointment as well as governmental foundation, perfection, and completeness. That there is any reliance on the significance of the number twelve to pagan astrology is pure speculation.

Twelve is a number of significance in many cultures, but that doesn’t mean that any one culture borrowed it from another. For instance, the Twelve Nidānas in Buddhism identify the origins of suffering and ignorance, yet most scholars would not point to any causal relationship between early Buddhism and the mystery religions of the first-century Romans (cf. Ronald H. Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks, p. 168).

Did Mithras also perform miracles?
One source for the notion that Mithras was believed to have performed miracles comes from a quote by John R. Hinnells’ Mithraic Studies that appears in the Zeitgeist Companion Guide as follows:

[T]he side panels of many Mithraic reliefs and paintings are interpreted as representations of the primeval life of the god, in which he performed miracles, experienced various adventures, and celebrated an archetypal communion meal before he ascended to heaven (cf. Zeitgeist: The Movie Companion Source Guide).

This quote by Hinnells is taken out of context. As presented here, it would appear that the author supports the idea that the reliefs and paintings depict Mithras partaking in acts that are also attributed to Jesus. The chapter that this quote is taken from is actually a critique of the work done by Franz Cumont. In it, Hinnells is refuting the idea that these reliefs should be interpreted against the background of Persian Zoroastrianism and how doing so is problematic given the lack of evidence connecting the two belief systems (cf. Mithraic Studies vol. 2, p. 290-312).

By definition a miracle is “a sign or wonder, such as a healing or the control of nature, which can only be attributed to divine power” (glossary of Catechism of the Catholic Church). We have the testimony of the followers of Jesus that he performed miracles. We do not have this type of affirmation in the case of Mithras. In its place we have speculative interpretations of Mithraic artwork by a few scholars who begin from a false premise.

Was Mithras called “the good shepherd,” “the way, the truth and the light,” “redeemer,” “savior,” and “Messiah”?
Of these five titles, only the terms redeemer and savior can be verified with any certainty, but the Mithraists themselves did not use them to describe their god. Instead, they are generally found in the works of scholars who draw parallels between Christ and the gods of the Roman mystery religions.

In response to this claim, Ronald H. Nash explains, “Worshippers of Mithra believed that after death the souls of Mithra’s true disciples are lead by Mithra himself . . . to their final blessed destination. This belief allows Mithra to be called, rather loosely, a ‘redeemer-god’” (The Gospel and the Greeks, p. 135).

That Christianity and Mithraism are religions of redemption is not in dispute; however, the nature of redemption and the characteristics of the redeemer bear almost no similarities. Redemption in the mystery religions dealt primarily with deliverance from daily hardships, while redemption in the Christian sense is for the remission of sins. The belief that a man was entirely unable to overcome sin by his own effort but rather relied on the grace of God would have been foreign to the worshippers of the Roman cults.

Was Mithras identified with the lion and the lamb?
One is hard-pressed to find any evidence that Mithras was identified with a lamb, but there are indications that the image of a lion held some importance in the cult of Mithras. “Lion” was even the name of one of their initiatory grades (The Roman Cult of Mithras, p. 135).

In some Mithraeum there have been found statues of lions and depictions of them in reliefs, but it is not known what their significance or relationship to Mithras was. There is certainly no evidence that these lions either represent or are manifestations of the Roman god.

There are statues that have been found in some Mithraeum in the shape of a lion-headed man. Although there are no inscriptions to tell us who the Mithraists believe this god was, we do know that the Greeks gave the name Aion to an Egyptian god of time who was generally pictured in a similar way. Clauss suggest that because Mithras was thought to be “a god of the unfolding year,” his worshippers may have identified him with Aion (The Roman Cult of Mithras, p. 165).

While there may be some connection with Mithras and Aion, a lion-headed man has nothing to do with the imagery of the lion used to describe Jesus in Scripture. The lion is a powerful animal whose symbolic use in writing suggests strength. Jesus is described as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5), but lion imagery is also used to describe the powerful enemies of the Christians (2 Tim. 4:17, 1 Pet. 5:8).

Did Mithraism have a Eucharist or “Lord’s Supper” that involved consecrated bread and wine?
Skeptics use a quote from early Christian apologist Justin Martyr to prove that the Eucharist was plagiarized from the liturgical celebration of Mithraism. The following excerpt is from his First Apology. In context, he is describing the Christian celebration of the Eucharist for his pagan audience:

For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated; you either know or can learn (First Apology, ch. 66).

The claim made by skeptics is that Justin is admitting to a parallel with the Mithraic celebration. To assume that the Christians borrowed this ritual from an earlier pagan cult requires one to hold to the assumption of Franz Cumont that the Mithraic ritual predates the Christian practice. But as I have already pointed out, many modern scholars downplay the idea that the practices of the Romans were anything like those of the earlier Persians.

It was not uncommon in ancient religious gatherings for the devotees to participate in a ritual meal as part of their worship. Commenting on the practice of the Mithraists, Clauss wrote, “The ritual meal was probably simply a component of regular common meals. Such meals have always been an essential part of religious assembly: eating and drinking together creates community and renders visible the fact that those who partake are members of one and the same group” (The Roman Cult of Mithras, p. 113).

There is no evidence that the Christians borrowed from the Mithraists in their liturgy. Jesus modeled the Eucharist after the Jewish celebration of the Passover. It is likely that the pagan mystery rituals were not even an afterthought, if they even existed at that time.

In addition to this, we must take Justin Martyr’s word for it when he describes the ritual of the Mithraists. There is no indication in any of Justin’s writings that he was ever a Mithraist himself, so it’s likely that his information is secondhand.

The archaeological evidence does not provide us much insight into the actual ritual meal, but according to Clauss, “Mithraists did not just receive bread and wine or water, as the literary sources seem to suggest, but were in addition served actual meals” (The Roman Cult of Mithras, p. 115). This point is further strengthened by the fact that in all of the Mithraeum there can be found various dishes, eating utensils, and small pits filled with the bones of pigs, cattle, fish, and lamb which may have been discarded there after the meal.

The truth is, we know very little about this ancient mystery cult’s ritual practices. Some scholars claim that this is due to Christians vigorously suppressing any knowledge of them, but that leaves unexplained the number of reliefs, statues, and places of worship that survived. It’s more likely that, as a “mystery religion,” the Mithraists may not have written anything down in order to preserve the mystery.

Did the Mithraic initiation ceremonies include a baptism to remove sins?
According to early Christian writer Tertullian, the worshippers of Mithras did use water in some way during their initiation ceremonies, but it didn’t end there. Tertullian writes:

Likewise [the Mithraists] honor the gods themselves by washings. Moreover, by carrying water around, and sprinkling it, they everywhere expiate country-seats, houses, temples, and whole cities: at all events, at the Apollinarian and Eleusinian games they are baptized; and they presume that the effect of their doing that is their regeneration and the remission of the penalties due to their perjuries (On Baptism, ch. 5).

This appears at first glance to be a slam-dunk for the skeptic, but Tertullian wrote this sometime late in the second century. We have no other evidence available to us that suggests the Mithraists practiced anything like Christian baptism prior to this witness.

The early Christians practiced baptism because it was instituted by Jesus Christ. The existence of an initiation theme in early Christianity does not mean it was borrowed from a pagan religion. As Mircea Eliade, author of a definitive study of pagan initiation rites, explains:

Such a theme could have been taken directly from one of the esoteric Jewish sects, especially the Essenes, concerning whom the Dead Sea manuscripts have now added sensationally to our knowledge. Indeed, it is not even necessary to suppose that an initiatory theme was “borrowed” by Christianity from some other religion (Rites and Symbols of Initiation, p. 116).

Some Jewish sects were already familiar with baptism. Pope Benedict XVI agrees that the people of Qumran, where the Dead Sea scrolls were found, may have influenced both John the Baptist and Jesus. (cf. Joseph Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 14). He then goes on to explain how this new baptism differed from other rites: “The baptism that [John the Baptist] enjoined is different from the usual religious ablutions. It cannot be repeated, and it is meant to be the concrete enactment of a conversion that gives the whole of life a new direction forever” (p.14).

This is a far cry from Tertullian’s description of pagans baptizing everything from their temples to their chairs, and seeking it out repeatedly as reparation for any wrongdoing. While initiation rites do exist in other religions, Christian baptism is unique among them.

The mythology and rites of the earliest Mithraists do not present themselves as close parallels to Christian beliefs and practices. When they do resemble Christianity to some degree, they can be found to be dated well after the establishment in the Christian religion.

We have also seen that many of the supposed parallels between Christianity and Mithraism are based on outdated scholarship that relies heavily on the assumption that the Roman cult was a natural extension of the ancient Persian religion rather than an entirely new late first-century system. Therefore, in the opinion of this author, our examination of the evidence is enough to dismiss the claim that Christianity is merely borrowed from this pagan cult.

Sidebar 1:
Artless connection
Many of the claims that Christianity borrowed elements of Roman Mithraism are based on the assumption that the surviving artwork found in Mithraic temples (Mithraeum) should be interpreted in light of Zoroastrian beliefs; however, the only connection between the ancient Persian religion and the later Roman mystery cult appears to be the name.

One would expect that if the two were really connected, then there would be elements of continuity in the most important aspects of the religion. For example, the image of Mithra slaying the bull is prominent in virtually every surviving Mithraeum, but it is nowhere to be found in the artwork or texts of the ancient Persian cult (cf. Mithraic Studies, vol. 2, pp. 290-312).

Sidebar 2:
Jewish, not pagan, roots
We have first-century evidence in the writings of St. Paul that the Christians were already celebrating the Eucharist in their liturgies (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16, 1 Cor. 11:27-29). The Christian liturgy using bread and wine has always been understood as having more to do with the Jewish Passover than it does with any pagan celebration. As the Catechism explains:

In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator. But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises. The ‘cup of blessing’ at the end of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup (CCC 1334).

Sidebar 3:
Beware bad scholarship
Mythicism—the belief that Jesus never existed but is instead an amalgamation of more ancient pagan gods—became a relatively popular notion from 1890 to around 1940. Movements like the History of Religions School were influential in promoting these ideas.

These movements were not without their detractors. Distinguished German scholars including Carl Clemen and Adolf von Harnack were outspoken in their dismissal of these claims. Harnack explained:

“We must reject the comparative mythology which finds a causal connection between everything and everything else, which tears down solid barriers, bridges, and chasms as though it were child’s play, and spins combinations from superficial similarities. . . . By such methods one can turn Christ into a sun god in the twinkling of an eye, or one can bring up the legends attending the birth of every conceivable god . . . and thus, with the magic wand of ‘comparative religion,’ triumphantly eliminate every spontaneous trait in any religion” (The Gospel and the Greeks, p. 108).

This trend of so-called “comparative religion” gave rise to a substantial amount of very bad scholarship. Amateurs like Gerald Massey (1808-1907) and Kersey Graves (1813-1883) penned works that serious modern scholars have ignored.

In recent years there has been a resurgence of mythicism on a popular level, with authors such as D. M. Murdock, Gandy and Frekes, and others who will often refer to this bad nineteenth-century scholarship, and even defend it. Be aware of these poorly researched publications and the bad scholarship they cite when you encounter the mythicist’s claims.

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Unread postby silentwssj » January 3rd, 2015, 9:51 pm

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jesus and Mithras, Debunked

On his Facebook page, my friend Cary laid out C.S. Lewis' trilemma: that given everything we know about Him, Jesus must be Lord, liar, or lunatic. You can't just write Him off as a “good teacher.” One of his atheist friends, Nick, responded:

How about thief? Similiar [J]esus like stories, ones that predate the life of [J]esus, exist in pagan and egyption culture. Look it up if feel so inclined to test your faith. Just remember religion is believed by common people to be true, by the wise to be false, and by the rulers to be...useful. What is your choice?
That possible (that Christ is just another in a series of myths) is considered in Msgr. Ronald Knox's expanded version of the trilemma, laid out in Belief of Catholics: he also addresses the notion that Christ was just a “guru” head-on. I asked Nick for specific examples supporting his claim, and he gave me this:

Let's start with a list of things that come from paganism or other cultrures that predate [C]hristianity; the timing of the two biggest pagan holidays with the birth and death of [J]esus, the concept of [H]eaven, hell, prophecies, sacrifice, baptism, communion with [G]od through a holy meal, immortality of the soul and virgin births. Gods that are similar to [J]esus include mithrus, dionysus, attis, osirus and orpheus. Any mediterranean religion has its own similarities. [...] Ohh and I almost forgot, [C]hristmas trees and [E]aster eggs are also pagan traditions

I've run into this argument numerous times, and it's all smoke, no fire. I answered a Protestant variation of it before (in which John MacArthur claimed everything distinctively Catholic comes from Babylonian paganism). But because I think it's easily debunked, and because it's a surprisingly popular argument by atheists, it seems fitting to address it directly.

I. Just How Similar Are These Stories?

The first thing to recognize is that, almost without exception, neither the atheist nor the Christian in the conversation know anything about Mithras, Dionysus, Attis, Osiris, Orpheus, or any of the other names the atheist will drop. Without picking on Nick too much, he couldn't even spell two of the names. That's not unusual. People who know what they're talking about in this area don't raise this argument against Christianity.

Here's why. From the Wikipedia summary of the myth of Attis:

In the late fourth century a cult of Attis became a feature of the Greek world. The story of his origins at Agdistis, recorded by the traveler Pausanias, have some distinctly non-Greek elements: Pausanias was told that the daemon Agdistis initially bore both male and female attributes. But the Olympian gods, fearing Agdistis, cut off the male organ and cast it away. There grew up from it an almond-tree, and when its fruit was ripe, Nana who was a daughter of the river-god Sangarius picked an almond and laid it in her bosom. The almond disappeared, and she became pregnant. Nana abandoned the baby (Attis). The infant was tended by a he-goat. As Attis grew, his long-haired beauty was godlike, and Agdistis as Cybele, then fell in love with him. But the foster parents of Attis sent him to Pessinos, where he was to wed the king's daughter. According to some versions the King of Pessinos was Midas. Just as the marriage-song was being sung, Agdistis/Cybele appeared in her transcendent power, and Attis went mad and cut off his genitals. Attis' father-in-law-to-be, the king who was giving his daughter in marriage, followed suit, prefiguring the self-castrating corybantes who devoted themselves to Cybele. But Agdistis repented and saw to it that the body of Attis should neither rot at all nor decay.That has.... nothing to do with Christianity? Seriously, where are the parallels between that and the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, as reported in the Gospels?

You could do the same thing for Osiris, Orpheus, etc. The cult of Mithras did have similarities with Christianity, but it was a pagan imitation of Christianity, created after the time of Christ. So in a nutshell, the pre-Christian accounts are all unmistakably different, and quite radically so, while the post-Christian account is an initiation of Christianity, rather than the reverse.

II. Just How Bad is This Methodology?

To show why I think this is a bad argument against the historicity of Christ, let's use it to “debunk” the existence of someone we know to be real: Mohandas Gandhi.

Step 1: To start with, find a lot of remarkably-similar sounding events between the lives of two historical figures. This is what conspiracy theorists have already done (quite impressively) for the Kennedy and Lincoln assassinations. For our purposes, just look a the surface similarities between Gandhi and Jesus:

Never existed, apparently.
•Born in Asia, left, and returned through Africa. Gandhi was born in India, left, and returned by way of Africa (South Africa). Jesus was born in Israel, left, and returned by way of Africa (Egypt).
•Born in countries oppressed by European imperialists. India at the time of Gandhi's birth was under British rule. Israel at the time of Christ's birth was under Roman rule.
•Both were charismatic leaders viewed as a threat by the imperial powers-that-be. The British and Romans weren't exactly keen on Gandhi or Jesus, respectively.
•Both preached a radical message of non-violence.
•Both were viewed as spiritual-political figures. The followers of both Jesus and Gandhi treated them as both religious or political leaders, simultaneously.
•Both alienated many of their followers in the same two ways. Specifically, many Hindus were upset about Gandhi's message of radical non-violence, even against the British imperialists, and upset that Gandhi seemed too friendly with a hated religious minority (the Muslims). Many Jews were upset about Christ's message of radical non-violence, even against the Roman imperialists, and upset that Jesus seemed too friendly with a hated religious minority (the Samaritans).
•Both were betrayed, to their deaths, by those they were saving. Judas and Nathuram Godse.
These were just the basic ones that I could come up with. If you dive in deeper, I'm quite sure that you can find some pretty remarkable-seeming similarities.

For example, after receiving a donation from a poor old woman, Gandhi said, “This copper coin is worth much more than those thousands. If a man has several lakhs and he gives away a thousand or two, it doesn’t mean much. But this coin was perhaps all that the poor woman possessed. She gave me all she had. That was very generous of her. What a great sacrifice she made. That is why I value this copper coin more than a crore of rupees.”

A strikingly similar event happens in the life of Christ, as recounted in Luke 21:1-4:

As He looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Other than a tiny detail (one copper coin or two?), it appears to be the same story. All said, these similarities are much closer than the similarities between Jesus Christ and Attis, for example.

Step 2: According to the atheist argument, a real-life person can't share a lot of biographical details that are similar to an earlier myth or history. So we have to conclude from all of these similarities that either (a) the New Testament is plagiarized from the life of Gandhi, or the life story of Gandhi is just a re-telling of the Christ story.

Step 3: Since the New Testament is a couple thousands of years older, we've now “debunked” Gandhi's existence. After all, if the existence of a couple of (incredibly generic) similarities between the Gospels and the Attis mythos disproves Christ, then the far more extensive similarities between the Gospels and the life of Gandhi disproves Gandhi.

Bonus: We could do this for a lot of other figures as well. For example, Napoleon was the non-Frenchman (a Corsican) who rose to command a ruthless French Empire. Hitler was the non-German (an Austrian) who rose to command a ruthless German Empire. Stalin was the non-Russian (a Georgian) who rose to command a ruthless Russian Empire. All of them are obviously just re-tellings of the story of Alexander the Great, right?

III. Fun with Calendars

Virtually every ancient culture had its own calendar. Anyone who tells you that a Jewish or Christian holiday falls on “the same day” as some other culture's holiday is almost certainly wrong, for no other reason. In almost every case, you'll discover that it was just a holiday that occurred sometime in the spring, or sometime in the winter.

For example, this year, Channukah falls on December 21, while it falls on November 28th in 2013. In other words, you can wax conspiratorial about Channukah-Christmas connections this year, and Channukah-Thanksgiving connections in two years.

Finally, consider the number of ancient cultures in the world, and the sheer number of deities worshiped in some time or place. Now consider the number of days in a year. Find me a day of the year -- any day -- that isn't the anniversary of some pagan holiday or another. This is particularly true in the spring and fall, since they're naturally connected with life and death in an agrarian society (not, mind you, because they stole that from some older myth, but because that's what crops do in the spring and fall).

Having said that, let's look at Easter and Christmas, the two holidays that Nick claims coincide, timing-wise with the two biggest holidays in paganism (apparently, all pagans now use the same calendar, and share the two biggest holidays).

Easter is tied quite explicitly with the Jewish Passover in the New Testament. Jesus' Death and Resurrection are linked to the Passover chronologically (John 19:14, etc.), and both John the Baptist (John 1:29) and St. Paul (1 Corinthians 5:7) explicitly tie Jesus' Atonement with the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. And the Passover had been tied for thousands of years to the Jewish calendar (Leviticus 23:5), not to anything from Egyptian or Greek paganism.

The date for Christmas isn't found in Scripture, but was customarily celebrated about nine months after Easter, out of an old Jewish custom. The date of December 25 is also significant, since it makes January 1 the day that Jesus formally became a Jew (Luke 2:21). It's a new beginning. In other words, all of these dates make sense for a religious group that originated in Judaism, but used a Roman calendar. Which is exactly what happened with the Christians.

IV. Plundering the Egyptians

So none of the events from the life of Christ are borrowed from paganism. Whether some later Christian customs are is an interesting subject to debate, I guess, but doesn't really matter. Or put another way: even if the Christians did take the idea for beautiful Christmas trees from Germanic pagans, what does that prove one way or another about Jesus?

In Spain, many of the churches used to be mosques, from the time of the Moorish invasion. Much of the art is Islamic, with tessellations to represent the infiniteness of God (since tessellations are patterns continuing on in every direction, forever). After expelling the Moors, the Christians kept the art. Why? Because it was beautiful. Did that mean that they suddenly treated the Qu'ran as equal to the Bible? Obviously not.

Here, I'll point again to Reformation Day. As I've noted, some Protestants celebrate Reformation Day on October 31, in order to celebrate something (that they find) wholesome, instead of celebrating something (that they find) evil. The term for this is “plundering the Egyptians” (a sly allusion to Exodus 12:35-36). It's when you take the best of what others have to offer, even if they're you're enemies.

Even if we discover that the Christians plundered the Egyptians, taking some of the best of what pagan cultures had to offer, without falling into paganism themselves, that's not a mark against Christianity, much less against Christ Himself. Just shows that Christians are a much more open-minded lot than atheists give us credit for.

V. Conclusion

If you're talking to an atheist who raises this, odds are good that he got his misinformation from an Internet movie called Zeitgeist that's been repeatedly debunked by Christians. If not, he probably got it from someone blindly regurgitating the information. It's a funny irony. He's willing to swallow hook, line, and sinker the most absurd of historical claims, yet claims the title of “skeptic,” and derides Christians for our alleged gullibility.

What's important here is that this an argument from scholarship. That is, the atheist side claiming that historical scholarship proves that a-historical nature of Jesus Christ. Yet, as William Lane Craig has noted in numerous debates with atheists, this theory isn't even widely accepted among most liberal Biblical scholars today. As we've seen, it relies upon (a) terrible methodology, (b) a number of outright falsehoods about history, and (c) a misrepresentation of what a number of ancient myths actually taught. This just isn't a serious argument against Christianity, and it's long past time that atheists who insist upon debating religion learned something about the subject.

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