Is Christianity derived from Paganism?


#1

Hi everyone. There are some myths (obviously) out there that Christianity was derived from Paganism. You can read some more about this here:

religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa.htm

How does one refute this? Any links you can provide will be greatly appreciated.


#2

How to refute that? Just read other websites :wink:
like this one - bede.org.uk/frazer.htm


#3

Hooray, my (new) favorite subject again. :thumbsup:

Parallel Pagan Gods (covers all the main ones: greek Dionysos, persian/roman Mithras, egyptian Osiris, indian Krishna, etc)

All About Horus (in response to Zeitgeist especially)

Response to ‘God Who Wasn’t There’ (covers the “hero” thing) by Mike Licona

Basically most of these so-called “parallels” have been around about 200+ years. A lot of them are either made up or very “forced.” Kersey Graves (who didn’t finish grade school) had the “classic” book on the topic: World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors. These kinds of “arguments” became popular in the “scholarly” community at the time of James George Frazer (“The Golden Bough”) and revived somewhat by mythologist Joseph Campbell in the middle of the 20th century (I remember his late 1980s PBS special with Bill Moyers). Scholarship today rejects the “dying and rising god” theme. Details, sources, and authors in my articles.

One book that covers the “history” of this parallel pagan thing is by comparative religions scholar Jonathan Z. Smith Drudgery Divine. Here is a critical review of that book. He traces it actually to an anti-Catholic prejudice if I remember which is interesting.

This Rock magazine has at least two short articles on the topic, one on Buddha, and one on Mithras.

Phil P


#4

No, that’s backwards. Paganism is actually derived from Christianity, from the worship of the Christian God. Really.

Paganism is a distorted attempt, based on incomplete revelation, to know and worship the one true God, who existed before there was paganism or pagans. Christianity is the completeness of God’s revelation, the granting to humanity of the truth that always existed, and which pagans had been seeking in the dark. So to the extent that any pagan religion has good in it, that good derives from the Christian God and is focused upon the Christian God.


#5

In the sense that there are features and practices found in Christianity that existed in Judaism and religions which pre-date Christianity and Judaism, yes, Christianity is derived from paganism. That there are features unique to Christianity which are a clear break from Judaism and religions which pre-dated Christianity, no, Christianity is unique.
One of the oldest religious beliefs (pagan, if you will) is the story of the god who comes to earth to help stave off starvation. The god promises to help the people but then he dies. A new plant grows from the grave of the dead god which bears fruit which is ground to a powder and is made into bread. We have this same belief in the good Friday/Easter/Eucharist construct. Jesus dies, from his resurrection we have the eucharist which gives eternal life. Yes, we have beliefs which have grown and matured over the ages and are incorporated into Christianity. Look at it this way: Why would God waste all the clues He put in earlier religious beliefs? Christianity is the culmination of aeons of religious development.

Matthew


#6

yes Christianity is derived from paganism.

Easter is a pagan festival. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal equanox.

Why are the associations with the sun, moon and seasons so important to Easter?


#7

Because Easter had its roots on the Jewish Passover (and in many languages, is even termed Passover). According to scripture, the month of Nisan—and therefore the date of Passover—is linked to the spring harvest in Palestine.
However, the Romans banished all Jews from Palestine after the rebellion of Simon Bar Kochba in AD 135, making it difficult for the rabbis to determine the proper date for Passover.

So sometime around AD 200, the rabbis reformed the Jewish calendar. Relative to the Julian calendar, which was the Roman civil calendar, the new Jewish calendar allowed Passover to precede the spring equinox and it allowed two Passovers in the same twelve-month period.
Shortly after AD 300, the rabbis revised the Jewish calendar again, but it was still possible to have two Passovers in one twelve-month period, as defined by the Julian calendar.

At the time, the vast majority of Christians had long since given up using the Jewish calendar to determine the date of Easter. Instead, they figured it independently. They reasoned that at the time of the Last Supper, Nisan began with the new moon after the spring equinox. The full moon occurs on the fourteenth day, which would have been the Jewish Passover.
According to Scripture, Jesus rose on the Sunday that immediately followed. So they celebrated the Resurrection on the first Sunday after the first full moon that followed the spring equinox.
However, since there was no standard way to calculate the spring equinox, it was still possible for different regions to celebrate Easter on different Sundays.

Heretofore, many local Churches disagreed on each other on when the Paschal Festival is to be celebrated. Some (like the churches in Asia Minor) celebrated Easter on the date of the Jewish Passover, Nisan 14, regardless of the day (this is known as Quartodecimianism) while some (like the Churches of Rome and Alexandria) celebrated it on Sunday, regardless of what day it fell. Of course, this created quite a large mess (since both claimed Apostolic authority for their practices) and there was a lot of misunderstanding on both camps.

The 1st Council of Nicea attempted to standardize the date of Easter. It was agreed that all Christians are to celebrate Easter on a Sunday, however it is probable that no method of determining the date was specified by the Council. Although the synod undertook the regulation of the dating of Christian Passover, it contented itself with communicating its decision to the different dioceses, instead of establishing a canon. Its exact words were not preserved, but from scattered notices the council ruled:

-That Easter must be celebrated by all throughout the world on the same Sunday;
-That this Sunday must follow the fourteenth day of the paschal moon;
-That the moon was to be accounted the paschal moon whose fourteenth day followed the vernal equinox;
-That some provision should be made, probably by the Church of Alexandria as best skilled in astronomical calculations, for determining the proper date of Easter and communicating it to the rest of the world.

It took a while for the Alexandrian rule to reach throughout Europe. The Church of Rome continued to use an 84-year lunisolar calendar cycle from the late third century until 457.

The Church of Rome continued to use its own methods until the 6th century, when it may have adopted the Alexandrian method as converted into the Julian calendar by Dionysius Exiguus (certain proof of this does not exist until the ninth century).

Early Christians in Britain and Ireland also used a late third century Roman 84-year cycle until the Synod of Whitby in 664, when they adopted the Alexandrian method.

Churches in western continental Europe used a late Roman method until the late 8th century during the reign of Charlemagne, when they finally adopted the Alexandrian method.

However, with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar by the Catholic Church in 1582 and the continuing use of the Julian calendar by Eastern Orthodox Churches, the date on which Easter is celebrated again deviated, and continues to this day.


#8

PhilVaz

Basically most of these so-called “parallels” have been around about 200+ years. A lot of them are either made up or very “forced.” Kersey Graves (who didn’t finish grade school) had the “classic” book on the topic: World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors. These kinds of “arguments” became popular in the “scholarly” community at the time of James George Frazer (“The Golden Bough”) and revived somewhat by mythologist Joseph Campbell in the middle of the 20th century (I remember his late 1980s PBS special with Bill Moyers). Scholarship today rejects the “dying and rising god” theme. Details, sources, and authors in my articles.

One book that covers the “history” of this parallel pagan thing is by comparative religions scholar Jonathan Z. Smith Drudgery Divine. Here is a critical review of that book. He traces it actually to an anti-Catholic prejudice if I remember which is interesting.

THANKS! I had not heard of the Drudgery Divine book before but I will get it out now.

Just a few more points: The theory that Christianity borrowed from pagan myths (especially Paul borrowing from pagan myths) was called the History of Religions theory. The theory was most popular about 1890-1930 or so. There are not just dozens, but hundreds and hundreds of books on the subject pointing out that the theory is utterly refuted.

When Joseph Campbell went on PBS and made similar claims about Christianity a scholar called Nash wrote “The Gospels and the Greeks” which is an excellent book on the popular level explaining why every point is now considered a joke in scholarly circles. Campbell appears never to have read a single book on the History of Religions school. I am afraid a number of scholars snigger whenever anyone brings up Campbell.

In the meantime, various non-scholars (people like Ascharya S, Freke and Grady,Tom Harpur–I hope I’ve spelled those correctly) and dozens and dozens of others have written books claiming that Christianity is derived from pagan myths. These are people with no background in biblical studies, Jewish religious beliegs, and usually very tenuous notions of history, too.

The very best book on the market that refutes all these claims is “The Jesus Legend”. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in the subject.

And PhilVaz, I would love to have a list of other books to read on the subject.

God bless, Annem


#9

Annem << The very best book on the market that refutes all these claims is “The Jesus Legend”. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in the subject. >>

I agree, although I haven’t finished it. The Jesus Legend is so very thorough and deals with even liberal “Jesus seminar” critical scholar Robert M. Price’s stuff (which most Christian scholars ignore). Boyd has debated Price about 4 times (last one is on my audio page) which probably explains why he responds to his books. Nothing that an orthodox Catholic would have problems with I don’t think.

In fact, the book is so thorough they even have a smaller, trimmed down version of the same book for us normal people: Lord or Legend? (both books are 2007).

Annem << And PhilVaz, I would love to have a list of other books to read on the subject. God bless, Annem >>

Those books would be listed in my (unfinished) Part 2 Evidence for Jesus with bibliography at end. Problem is I need to finish reading those books myself. :stuck_out_tongue:

Phil P


#10

Amen and the term Amon from Ancient Egypt

The Egyptian sundial in the Vatican and the buildings built around it to compliment the equanoxes.

Why would there be an ancient phallax symbol taken from Egypt and put in the heart of the Vatican?


#11

I’m no great scholar on these things but I think there is a great deal of difference between the idea of certain holidays etc. being somehow tied to the stars, or ancient pagan festivals etc. and saying that Christianity is “Derived” from paganism.

I would not deny that there probably are a great many ancient legends, myths, and various stories that have been incorporated into the major religions of the world, and not just Christianity. Storytelling was the major form of history keeping for a very long time and storys would naturally get passed around, but the Jewish Tradition from which Christianity derives, was a much more closed and “exclusive” system for a very long time before Christ came among us.

Once Christ came and the Church began to spread, it was the truly wise missionary who worked with what he found when he got to a particular area. Those who learned from and respected his converts could almost always turn their customs to the advantage of God’s Kingdom.

It’s a little early in the day for me to try and explain this, but I thought I’d thow in my 2c worth.

James


#12

The Hebrew word ’amen derives from the Hebrew verb ’aman, a primitive root. Grammarians frequently list ’aman under its three consonants (’mn), which are identical to those of ’amen.

This triliteral root (’mn) means to be firm, confirmed, reliable, faithful, have faith, believe. While the Hebrew word bears a similarity to the name of the Egyptian deity Amun (also Amon, Ammon, Amoun, Amen and rarely, Imen from the Greek; reconstructed Egyptian Yamānu), it is also possible that this is merely a coincidence.

Whether Amen is magic, rooted in a Pagan deity, originally a Christian word, a Muslim word, a Jewish word, or anything else, the question is the same: So what? When Christians, Jews and Muslims say Amen, they do not invoke any god or any power just by saying that word or indeed any other word.

The Egyptian sundial in the Vatican and the buildings built around it to compliment the equanoxes.

Why would there be an ancient phallax symbol taken from Egypt and put in the heart of the Vatican?

Obelisks (from Greek obeliskos, ‘needle’) were a prominent part of the architecture of the ancient Egyptians, who placed them in pairs at the entrance of temples. The obelisk symbolized the sun god Ra, or Re as some know him, and during the brief religious reformation of Akhenaten was said to be a petrified ray of the Aten, the sundisk. It was also thought that the god existed within the structure.

As for the question “Why would there be an ancient phallax symbol taken from Egypt and put in the heart of the Vatican?”

It was because that Obelisk originally stood at the Vatican Circus (before St. Peter’s was even built). It was brought by the Roman Emperor Caligula from Hieropolis during the year 37 and had it installed in there, where many Christians were martyred during the Neronian persecution (64-69 AD). Romans were infatuated with Obelisks and built or imported many of them to the extent that there are now more than twice as many Obelisks standing in Rome as remain in Egypt. After the Roman period, most of these obelisks toppled down and were re-erected in different locations.

At first, it stood at a spot on the South side of the old Basilica of St. Peter’s, close to the present Sacristy.

http://www.lanecc.edu/artad/ArtHistoryProgram/images3/11-7.jpg

A plan of the Old St. Peter’s. The Obelisk is visible on the upper right illustration, on the left side just in front of the round building beside the main church.

The site where the Obelisk once stood before being moved in 1586

In 1586 Sixtus V had it moved to the center of the Square of the new Basilica. This operation, which required hundreds of workmen, was directed by Domenico Fontana with the help of his brother, Giovanni, and took four months. It was erected on September 10, 1586 by 900 men using 140 horses and 44 winches. Before the Obelisk was moved, it was cautiously exorcised first.

The Renaissance was well aware of the funerary overtones of the obelisk. The circus died with the Empire, and the original funerary connotation was reborn, because everyone knew about the Egyptian pyramids, and there were few who did not believe (by analogy with the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which was topped by a stepped pyramid) that they had a funerary function.
Today we may wish to make a sharp distinction between pyramids and obelisks, but the Renaissance saw them as essentially the same form, and was mightily impressed by the hieroglyphs, which they recognised as secret writing although they could not read it (nor could anyone, until Champollion).

If you’ve noticed, atop the Obelisk is a Christian Cross, symbolizing the triumph of the Faith over paganism. The Obelisk, originally dedicated to the Emperors Augustus and Tiberius, is now dedicated to the Cross and bears the inscription “Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat. Christus ab omni malo plebem suam defendat.

(Christ Conquers, Christ Reigns, Christ Commands.
May Christ defend His people from all evil.)


#13

Here you go:

catholic.com/thisrock/1999/9911chap.asp
catholic.com/thisrock/2005/0505fea4.asp
catholic.com/thisrock/2005/0505fea4sb.asp
catholic.com/library/hunting_the_whore_of_babylon.asp
catholic.com/library/whore_of_babylon.asp
iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/web/crj0163a.html

God bless,

Don
+T+


#14

Have you seen Lee Strobel’s new book on the Resurrection? I haven’t but it might be a good resource. I understands he bats all these balls right outta the park.


#15

You might also check out G.K. Chesterton’s views on the FACT that Christianity is the natural outcome of paleo-paganism (meaning pre-Christian paganism as opposed to neo-paganism which is a goofy invention of anti-Christians).

See “Heretics”, Chapter: “Paganism and Mr. Lowes Dickinson”

" There is only one thing in the modern world that has been face to face with Paganism; there is only one thing in the modern world which in that sense knows anything about Paganism: and that is Christianity. That fact is really the weak point in the whole of that hedonistic neo-Paganism of which I have spoken.

" All that genuinely remains of the ancient hymns or the ancient dances of Europe, all that has honestly come to us from the festivals of Phoebus or Pan, is to be found in the festivals of the Christian Church.

" If any one wants to hold the end of a chain which really goes back to the heathen mysteries, he had better take hold of a festoon of flowers at Easter or a string of sausages at Christmas. Everything else in the modern world is of Christian origin, even everything that seems most anti-Christian. The French Revolution is of Christian origin. The newspaper is of Christian origin. The anarchists are of Christian origin. Physical science is of Christian origin. The attack on Christianity is of Christian origin.

" There is one thing, and one thing only, in existence at the present day which can in any sense accurately be said to be of pagan origin, and that is Christianity." - GKC


#16

<< Have you seen Lee Strobel’s new book on the Resurrection? I haven’t but it might be a good resource. I understands he bats all these balls right outta the park. >>

Yeah his Case for Christ was a classic and best seller. I hated his “Case for A Creator” because of his science ignorance, and errors on evolution.

Gary Habermas / Mike Licona have a book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (this isn’t a Lee Strobel book).

But Strobel’s newest one I think is The Case for the Real Jesus which deals with critics of the historical Jesus, and the whole “parallel pagan” thing as found on many anti-Christian sites on the web, “The God Who Wasn’t There” DVD, the “Zeitgeist” movie, etc. Good stuff from Lee Strobel there and a Catholic should have no problem with it. In fact, Mark Brumley used some of the same scholars that Strobel did (Ben Witherington, Craig Blomberg, Gary Habermas, etc) for his DVD on the Resurrection from Ignatius Press. The top people in evangelical apologetics.

I’m waiting for the skeptic to write the definitive refutation of all his books and title it “The Case Against Lee Strobel” :stuck_out_tongue:

Phil P


#17

I have the Brumley DVD and find it rather thin. How are you with it? If you like it, I’ll give it another chance.


#18

mercy << I have the Brumley DVD and find it rather thin. How are you with it? If you like it, I’ll give it another chance. >>

I believe the main program is one hour. They did the best they could in an hour, but perhaps spent too much time on the “Lost Tomb” of Jesus which was the rage for a few days early last year (2007). I need to watch again myself. There are also extra bonus interviews from all the people. Great people from the Catholic and evangelical side.

Lee Strobel turned his book The Case for Christ into a DVD by the same name, but his is kinda corny with him “dressed” as a journalist “hot on the trail” for the facts about Christ and the resurrection. The thing is Strobel became a Christian in 1981 before many of the evangelicals he interviews became prominent. In the 1970s he would have been reading books by Josh McDowell and Paul Little, maybe some John Warwick Montgomery.

I just thought Strobel’s DVD was corny compared with the more serious presentation in Brumley’s Ignatius Press DVD on the resurrection. I have about 10 other DVDs both secular and religious (Christian) on “Jesus topics” and the Brumley DVD is the best of them. Of course some of their material does overlap with Strobel as they use similar scholars from the evangelical side. I’m not counting Steve Ray’s “Footprints of God” series as those stand in a high category by themselves. :smiley:

Speaking of thin, if you want “thick” you want to get the 500-page skeptical book The Empty Tomb which throws everything including the kitchen sink at the resurrection :stuck_out_tongue: , and then the 500-page reply Ebook by Steve Hays. :thumbsup: PDF on my site:

The Empty Tomb edited by Lowder / Price
This Joyful Eastertide by Steve Hays, et al (PDF book reply to above)

Phil P


#19

Are you the best kept secret in Catholicism? Your web page is fabulous.


#20

mercy << Are you the best kept secret in Catholicism? Your web page is fabulous. >>

Thanks. It’s called 10 years of tinkering and evolution (with some intelligent design). You should have seen my humble pages on AOL back in 1998 when I started. To keep the thread on topic, probably one of the “better” representatives of the Christianity = paganism sites is this:

Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth (or POCM.info originally a book by atheist/freethinker John Jackson)

And one of the better replies, besides my page and Tektonics pages is

Investigating the Similarities Between Jesus and Pagan Figures

Phil P


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