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Author Topic: Does just about everything in Christianity have pagan roots?  (Read 2327 times) Average Rating: 0
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ytterbiumanalyst
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« on: March 19, 2009, 11:36:15 PM »

Hiywot was not objecting to "wordplay."  He was objecting to the implication that something from his Church's sacred tradition had pagan roots.
Okay, well, that's still not something to object to. Just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots. Christ purifies all, and is polluted by none.

The words for Christ's five wounds have a special place in the Ethiopian Church's Holy Tradition.  Eleos observed a similarity between those five words and the five words of the Sator palindrome.
Yes, I read that.

Eleos also linked a wikipedia article.  If you look at the wikipedia article linked by Eleos, it connects the Sator palindrome to Roman paganism, magic, occultism, etc.
I have a policy of not reading Wikipedia articles.

Hiywot read into this an implication that the Ethiopian Church's tradition about the five words could have pagan origins.  He was understandably offended.  Eleos cleared things up, stating that such an implication was not his intent.
I don't believe the perceived offence was understandable. I think it was irrational, as I believe any fear of pagan origins of Christianity is irrational. It betrays a basic lack of trust in our Saviour.

So you see, this isn't about people irrationally yelling "occult" whenever they see cool wordplays.
Okay, it's about people irrationally yelling "occult" whenever they see any similarity between Christianity and pagan religions. It's still irrational.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2009, 11:58:27 PM by Salpy » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2009, 12:03:16 AM »

This topic was split off from the following thread:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,20303.msg302856.html#msg302856
« Last Edit: March 20, 2009, 01:55:32 AM by Salpy » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2009, 12:07:51 AM »

Just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots.

Just about everything?  This is just simply wrong.  Much of Orthodox Christianity came from the Septuagint and Holy Tradition which, AFAIK, certainly wasn't/isn't understood as pagan.
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« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2009, 12:19:30 AM »

I have a policy of not reading Wikipedia articles..

Some are excellent, some are mediocre.  But most of them have references and bibliographies which are useful for further study.
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« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2009, 01:21:52 AM »

Just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots.

Just about everything?  This is just simply wrong.  Much of Orthodox Christianity came from the Septuagint and Holy Tradition which, AFAIK, certainly wasn't/isn't understood as pagan.

Actually, I think Mr. Y is asserting that much of what we call Holy Tradition has, in fact, pagan roots.  What about December 25 as the date for Christmas?  The event celebrated is certainly Christian, but the date itself was originally celebrated as a pagan feast day.  And what about the Greek term homoousios that made it into the Creed?  Did that word not come straight out of Greek, and thus pagan, philosophy?
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« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2009, 07:00:59 AM »

Interesting thread. I think the title is a misnomer though, because I don't think ytterbiumanalyst is suggesting that "just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots". There are certainly things which I think are "purely Christian" in Christianity, for example, the Incarnation (the basis of our Christological dogma) was a breakthrough of Eternity into human history and therefore connected with nothing experienced in human history before or since. On the other hand, the Church has the mission of sanctifying the Cosmos, and as such, she can (and has) sanctified customs which have pagan origins.
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« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2009, 08:40:32 AM »

Interesting thread. I think the title is a misnomer though, because I don't think ytterbiumanalyst is suggesting that "just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots". There are certainly things which I think are "purely Christian" in Christianity, for example, the Incarnation (the basis of our Christological dogma) was a breakthrough of Eternity into human history and therefore connected with nothing experienced in human history before or since. On the other hand, the Church has the mission of sanctifying the Cosmos, and as such, she can (and has) sanctified customs which have pagan origins.

I think OzGeorge just "nailed" it!

The argument that a lot in Christianity comes from the Old Testament and is therefore not "pagan" is very weak, IMHO, because in fact most of the OT itself has "pagan" (polyteistic, natural religion) roots. Yahweh may well have been the pagan natural god of calamities like earthquakes and volcanic activities; the obvious motifs of "our" God vs. "other" gods in the Torah and in the Psalms are very "tribal" (i.e., again, "natural" religious motifs, motifs of "our people," esentially race, blood etc.).

The notion of the Logos, i.e. the rational Cause and Means for the mere being, the mere existence of everything becoming a concrete human being without ceasing to be the Logos -that, I think, is entirely new (and not, BTW, folowing directly from the OT, all of its messianic prophesies nonwithstanding), and that is uniquely Christian, not pagan.
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« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2009, 09:00:48 AM »

Interesting thread. I think the title is a misnomer though, because I don't think ytterbiumanalyst is suggesting that "just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots". There are certainly things which I think are "purely Christian" in Christianity, for example, the Incarnation (the basis of our Christological dogma) was a breakthrough of Eternity into human history and therefore connected with nothing experienced in human history before or since. On the other hand, the Church has the mission of sanctifying the Cosmos, and as such, she can (and has) sanctified customs which have pagan origins.

 I had wondered about the 'misnomer' possibility, but wanted to call attention to it.  I agree that some aspects of Christianity are of pagan origin but yet sanctified through Christ.  For example, as others have pointed out the dating of Christ's birth is more than likely of pagan origin, but as you mentioned, nothing else about that day is.  I'm sure we could find more aspects that are of pagan origin, but the way in which this thread was titled is misleading.
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« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2009, 10:33:00 AM »

Just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots.

Just about everything?  This is just simply wrong.  Much of Orthodox Christianity came from the Septuagint and Holy Tradition which, AFAIK, certainly wasn't/isn't understood as pagan.

Actually, I think Mr. Y is asserting that much of what we call Holy Tradition has, in fact, pagan roots.  What about December 25 as the date for Christmas?  The event celebrated is certainly Christian, but the date itself was originally celebrated as a pagan feast day.

There is some question about this:
Quote
The idea that the date was taken from the pagans goes back to two scholars from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Paul Ernst Jablonski, a German Protestant, wished to show that the celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25th was one of the many “paganizations” of Christianity that the Church of the fourth century embraced, as one of many “degenerations” that transformed pure apostolic Christianity into Catholicism. Dom Jean Hardouin, a Benedictine monk, tried to show that the Catholic Church adopted pagan festivals for Christian purposes without paganizing the gospel.

In the Julian calendar, created in 45 B.C. under Julius Caesar, the winter solstice fell on December 25th, and it therefore seemed obvious to Jablonski and Hardouin that the day must have had a pagan significance before it had a Christian one. But in fact, the date had no religious significance in the Roman pagan festal calendar before Aurelian’s time, nor did the cult of the sun play a prominent role in Rome before him.

There were two temples of the sun in Rome, one of which (maintained by the clan into which Aurelian was born or adopted) celebrated its dedication festival on August 9th, the other of which celebrated its dedication festival on August 28th. But both of these cults fell into neglect in the second century, when eastern cults of the sun, such as Mithraism, began to win a following in Rome. And in any case, none of these cults, old or new, had festivals associated with solstices or equinoxes.

As things actually happened, Aurelian, who ruled from 270 until his assassination in 275, was hostile to Christianity and appears to have promoted the establishment of the festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” as a device to unify the various pagan cults of the Roman Empire around a commemoration of the annual “rebirth” of the sun. He led an empire that appeared to be collapsing in the face of internal unrest, rebellions in the provinces, economic decay, and repeated attacks from German tribes to the north and the Persian Empire to the east.

In creating the new feast, he intended the beginning of the lengthening of the daylight, and the arresting of the lengthening of darkness, on December 25th to be a symbol of the hoped-for “rebirth,” or perpetual rejuvenation, of the Roman Empire, resulting from the maintenance of the worship of the gods whose tutelage (the Romans thought) had brought Rome to greatness and world-rule. If it co-opted the Christian celebration, so much the better.
http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v

That being said, there is nothing wrong with baptized anything good.
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« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2009, 10:42:43 AM »

Interesting thread. I think the title is a misnomer though, because I don't think ytterbiumanalyst is suggesting that "just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots". There are certainly things which I think are "purely Christian" in Christianity, for example, the Incarnation (the basis of our Christological dogma) was a breakthrough of Eternity into human history and therefore connected with nothing experienced in human history before or since. On the other hand, the Church has the mission of sanctifying the Cosmos, and as such, she can (and has) sanctified customs which have pagan origins.

I think OzGeorge just "nailed" it!

The argument that a lot in Christianity comes from the Old Testament and is therefore not "pagan" is very weak, IMHO, because in fact most of the OT itself has "pagan" (polyteistic, natural religion) roots. Yahweh may well have been the pagan natural god of calamities like earthquakes and volcanic activities; the obvious motifs of "our" God vs. "other" gods in the Torah and in the Psalms are very "tribal" (i.e., again, "natural" religious motifs, motifs of "our people," esentially race, blood etc.).

The notion of the Logos, i.e. the rational Cause and Means for the mere being, the mere existence of everything becoming a concrete human being without ceasing to be the Logos -that, I think, is entirely new (and not, BTW, folowing directly from the OT, all of its messianic prophesies nonwithstanding), and that is uniquely Christian, not pagan.
Actually I seem to recall that Heraclitus of Ephesus around 500 B.C. introduced the concept of ΛΟΓΟΣ as a central point in explaining ΣΟΦΙΑ.
It was the LOGOS INCARNATE that was uniquely Christian.
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« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2009, 11:17:37 AM »

Interesting thread. I think the title is a misnomer though, because I don't think ytterbiumanalyst is suggesting that "just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots". There are certainly things which I think are "purely Christian" in Christianity, for example, the Incarnation (the basis of our Christological dogma) was a breakthrough of Eternity into human history and therefore connected with nothing experienced in human history before or since. On the other hand, the Church has the mission of sanctifying the Cosmos, and as such, she can (and has) sanctified customs which have pagan origins.

I think OzGeorge just "nailed" it!

The argument that a lot in Christianity comes from the Old Testament and is therefore not "pagan" is very weak, IMHO, because in fact most of the OT itself has "pagan" (polyteistic, natural religion) roots. Yahweh may well have been the pagan natural god of calamities like earthquakes and volcanic activities; the obvious motifs of "our" God vs. "other" gods in the Torah and in the Psalms are very "tribal" (i.e., again, "natural" religious motifs, motifs of "our people," esentially race, blood etc.).

The notion of the Logos, i.e. the rational Cause and Means for the mere being, the mere existence of everything becoming a concrete human being without ceasing to be the Logos -that, I think, is entirely new (and not, BTW, folowing directly from the OT, all of its messianic prophesies nonwithstanding), and that is uniquely Christian, not pagan.
Actually I seem to recall that Heraclitus of Ephesus around 500 B.C. introduced the concept of ΛΟΓΟΣ as a central point in explaining ΣΟΦΙΑ.
It was the LOGOS INCARNATE that was uniquely Christian.

Yes, exactly - sorry if I was unclear about that.
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« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2009, 11:28:14 AM »

Interesting thread. I think the title is a misnomer though, because I don't think ytterbiumanalyst is suggesting that "just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots". There are certainly things which I think are "purely Christian" in Christianity, for example, the Incarnation (the basis of our Christological dogma) was a breakthrough of Eternity into human history and therefore connected with nothing experienced in human history before or since. On the other hand, the Church has the mission of sanctifying the Cosmos, and as such, she can (and has) sanctified customs which have pagan origins.

I think OzGeorge just "nailed" it!

The argument that a lot in Christianity comes from the Old Testament and is therefore not "pagan" is very weak, IMHO, because in fact most of the OT itself has "pagan" (polyteistic, natural religion) roots. Yahweh may well have been the pagan natural god of calamities like earthquakes and volcanic activities; the obvious motifs of "our" God vs. "other" gods in the Torah and in the Psalms are very "tribal" (i.e., again, "natural" religious motifs, motifs of "our people," esentially race, blood etc.).

The notion of the Logos, i.e. the rational Cause and Means for the mere being, the mere existence of everything becoming a concrete human being without ceasing to be the Logos -that, I think, is entirely new (and not, BTW, folowing directly from the OT, all of its messianic prophesies nonwithstanding), and that is uniquely Christian, not pagan.
Actually I seem to recall that Heraclitus of Ephesus around 500 B.C. introduced the concept of ΛΟΓΟΣ as a central point in explaining ΣΟΦΙΑ.
It was the LOGOS INCARNATE that was uniquely Christian.

But did the notion of the Logos already exist with Philo of Alexandria? (20 B.C- 50 AD)

http://www.iep.utm.edu/p/philo.htm

The Logos has an origin, but as God's thought it also has eternal generation. It exists as such before everything else all of which are secondary products of God's thought and therefore it is called the "first-born." The Logos is thus more than a quality, power, or characteristic of God; it is an entity eternally generated as an extension, to which Philo ascribes many names and functions. The Logos is the first-begotten Son of the Uncreated Father: "For the Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son, whom, in another passage, he [Moses] calls the first-born; and he who is thus born, imitating the ways of his father, has formed such and such species, looking to his archetypal patterns"

    "Now the image of God is the Word, by which all the world was made."
    – Philo, "The Special Laws", I (81)

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« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2009, 12:44:12 PM »

With Philo, 450 years after Heraclitus? Yes.
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« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2009, 05:13:26 PM »

Just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots.

Just about everything?  This is just simply wrong.  Much of Orthodox Christianity came from the Septuagint and Holy Tradition which, AFAIK, certainly wasn't/isn't understood as pagan.

Actually, I think Mr. Y is asserting that much of what we call Holy Tradition has, in fact, pagan roots.  What about December 25 as the date for Christmas?  The event celebrated is certainly Christian, but the date itself was originally celebrated as a pagan feast day.  And what about the Greek term homoousios that made it into the Creed?  Did that word not come straight out of Greek, and thus pagan, philosophy?
Yes, if you read the thread that spawned this one you'll see that I claim not that Christianity is pagan or mostly pagan but just the opposite--that Christianity is true, and that wherever truth can be found, be it in Christianity, Islam, paganism, or whatever, it is from God. We should not fear the pagans having truth but rather celebrate it, because they have come closer to finding God Who gave them that truth.

Interesting thread. I think the title is a misnomer though, because I don't think ytterbiumanalyst is suggesting that "just about everything in Christianity has pagan roots". There are certainly things which I think are "purely Christian" in Christianity, for example, the Incarnation (the basis of our Christological dogma) was a breakthrough of Eternity into human history and therefore connected with nothing experienced in human history before or since. On the other hand, the Church has the mission of sanctifying the Cosmos, and as such, she can (and has) sanctified customs which have pagan origins.
Yes, that phrase is an example of overstatement. There are parts of the truth which were brought into being at the coming of Christ, and there are parts we understood before. I do not distinguish between Christian truth and truth outside Christianity. If it's true, then it must be Christian; if it's Christian, then it must be true.

Furthermore, your last sentence really was the crux of my argument, that Christ sanctifies all and is corrupted by none. If anything in Christianity is similar to paganism, then that pagan custom is sanctified when it is used to glorify God in Spirit and in Truth.
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« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2009, 10:28:53 AM »


I think OzGeorge just "nailed" it!

The argument that a lot in Christianity comes from the Old Testament and is therefore not "pagan" is very weak, IMHO, because in fact most of the OT itself has "pagan" (polyteistic, natural religion) roots. Yahweh may well have been the pagan natural god of calamities like earthquakes and volcanic activities; the obvious motifs of "our" God vs. "other" gods in the Torah and in the Psalms are very "tribal" (i.e., again, "natural" religious motifs, motifs of "our people," esentially race, blood etc.).
I have a question regarding the ideas that are highlighted in red. While I will agree to a point that there are many allusions, which is understandable, to "tribalism" (if that's a word), what would be the logical end point if Yahweh was, in fact, a pagan god? Does this have bearing on the New Testament as well? I am having trouble understanding what you are saying. God Bless.
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« Reply #15 on: March 24, 2009, 10:42:08 AM »


I think OzGeorge just "nailed" it!

The argument that a lot in Christianity comes from the Old Testament and is therefore not "pagan" is very weak, IMHO, because in fact most of the OT itself has "pagan" (polyteistic, natural religion) roots. Yahweh may well have been the pagan natural god of calamities like earthquakes and volcanic activities; the obvious motifs of "our" God vs. "other" gods in the Torah and in the Psalms are very "tribal" (i.e., again, "natural" religious motifs, motifs of "our people," esentially race, blood etc.).
I have a question regarding the ideas that are highlighted in red. While I will agree to a point that there are many allusions, which is understandable, to "tribalism" (if that's a word), what would be the logical end point if Yahweh was, in fact, a pagan god? Does this have bearing on the New Testament as well? I am having trouble understanding what you are saying. God Bless.

Well, in all honesty, I was trying to express my humble opinion that we do not really know what those ancient Hebrews were like, and what they really believed. The "Tanah" (i.e., the five books of the Torah, plus certain historical writings, books of Hebrew prophets, the Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Songs) was compiled only in the 1-st century A.D. Before that, different rabbis had different ideas, what exactly should be taken as the "Scripture" and what should not.

As for the bearing of ancient pagan beliefs on the New Testament - hardly; the NT was compiled by very Hellenized people, brought up in the Hellenized rabbinical Jewish tradition where there was simply no room for polytheism. But this tradition and the writings of the Torah and other parts of the Tanah are two very different things.
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« Reply #16 on: March 24, 2009, 10:49:06 AM »


Well, in all honesty, I was trying to express my humble opinion that we do not really know what those ancient Hebrews were like, and what they really believed. The "Tanah" (i.e., the five books of the Torah, plus certain historical writings, books of Hebrew prophets, the Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Songs) was compiled only in the 1-st century A.D. Before that, different rabbis had different ideas, what exactly should be taken as the "Scripture" and what should not.
So you are not saying that Yahweh was really a previous pagan god, or you are, in your opinion? I am confused.
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« Reply #17 on: March 24, 2009, 11:32:53 AM »


Well, in all honesty, I was trying to express my humble opinion that we do not really know what those ancient Hebrews were like, and what they really believed. The "Tanah" (i.e., the five books of the Torah, plus certain historical writings, books of Hebrew prophets, the Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Songs) was compiled only in the 1-st century A.D. Before that, different rabbis had different ideas, what exactly should be taken as the "Scripture" and what should not.
So you are not saying that Yahweh was really a previous pagan god, or you are, in your opinion? I am confused.

Yahweh could be the name of an ancient Hebrew pagan God.
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« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2009, 01:21:26 PM »

Yahweh could be the name of an ancient Hebrew pagan God.
So what bearing would this have on the New Testament, as well as Christology, if what you suggest is correct?
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