|Paganism and Early Christianity
By Sheik Sebir
According to a Pop Xtian Evangilical Fundamentalist religion, Jesus (Yeshua) was either "Crazy, a Liar, or G-d Himself". Naturally the Xtian would prefer the latter to the former, but these simplistic choices they offer ignore some large controversies and alternative ways of looking at the subject. The Real Jesus has been hidden under layers upon layers of creeds, dogmas, narratives, stories, invention, myth, Theology and other triva from almost the very beginning. [Attempts to get to the Truth of the matter ended up with several conflicting stories, most being based on what the authors would ratehre beleive than any kink of objective Truth. I make no claims for any sort of objective truth here... ]
Xtianity has a wide spectrum of beliefs and many of these were borrowed outright from Paganism. Xtian Hetrodoxy is far larger, and can be more bizarre than even the wackiest Orthodoxy. "Whose Truth is Right?" is really an issue about who controls the Xtian Church -- The Apostolic Succession or the Bible?
What's at stake [for them] is the Power-Over the rank-and-file believer's life and who can legitimately [wield] control it. [Since Xtianity is the major religion in the Western Culture, it's malign influence over other religions is inevitable, substantial and often subtle.]
Many Xtians believe that Jesus was a Good and Nice man who demanded Little, gave Much, and never said any Bad or Evil things about anyone in his life. However his portrayal, in what has become known as the "New Testament", isn't nice and most certainly isn't Family Friendly!! [Despite the ravings of the Fundamentalists and Reconstructionalists] He brazenly announced that the families of his follows would be torn apart over Him and his demands. He demanded that grieving people follow him NOW, rather than bury their dead. He treated his Mother and his family as strangers, preferring his followers to them. He cursed fig trees for being barren because they weren't ready to bloom when he passed by. He required the Rich to give away, at a moment's notice, everything they owned to follow him. if and when he demanded or required it.
If they couldn't bring themselves to follow this outrage, they were simply Damned. He said he came Only to Israel, and that other Nations were dogs that might someday be allowed to eat the scraps thrown from His Banquet Table - if they were lucky; and He was astonished that some actually accepted that and wanted to follow him anyway (i.e. Cornelius}. He preached a Single Eyed Vision -- a fanaticism without any room for doubts, second thoughts, or regrets. Thinking about committing sin, in his Theology, was the same as doing the sin. He never claimed he came to Save anyone from Anything, much less take on the Sins of the World by a sacrificial death. However, he was very Bold about forgiving Sin and Sinners while he was alive, and he passed on this gift to his Apostles before he died! [This is what Apostolic Succession is really about - The Clergy's Power to forgive sin as Jesus did!]
Jesus didn't grow up in isolation, he lived within a culture, and that shaped his attitudes toward the nature of the Diety his followers would later claim him to be. While he was living he was very circumspect about claiming anything until the rampant speculation among his Apostles forced him to declare it only to them -- he didn't declare it publically until the very last; but according to Billy (Graham)and his son, he made his followers declare for Himself openly. Jesus was not a carpenter. His profession (how he made money) was not an itinerant begger either - he was a rabbi and Professional Dinner Guest! All of a sudden inexplicable passages become clear. The people like the tax collector, and Zacharias didn't ask him for his views while on the street - they invited him to dinner! In the marriage of Cana why did the wine merchants complain to Mary? Could it be because she was possibly his caterer? I think so. "Christ", however is a Title - Hellenism and Paganism has its own image of the Christos:
"In the first century of the Common Era, there appeared at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean, a remarkable religious leader who taught the worship of one true God and declared that religion meant not the sacrifice of beasts, but the practice of charity and peity, and the shunning of hatred and enmity. He was said to have worked miracles of goodness, casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead. His exemplary life led some of his followers to claim he was a Son of God, though he called himself a son of a man. Accused of sedition against Rome, he was arrested [and tried]. After his death his disciples claimed he had risen from the dead and appeared to them alive, and then ascended into Heaven."Who was this Teacher and Wonderworker ?? His name was Apollonius [Christ] of Tyana; and though he died about 98 AD. This description applies many of the Pagan dying gods before and after the advent of Jesus. Is it meerly a coincidence that the first of the four Gospels was written in that decade? Flavius Philostratus' "Life of Apollonius": "Gospel Fictions" by Randel Helms, Prometheus Books 1989.
Many groups in the past played this game to mollify and confuse their Fundie critics - by making a few minor changes and going their own merry way. [[ In times past this flagrant disregard for Power was answered by the Inquisition. This venerable institution still exists, having been quietly given a new name - This was the institution Matthew Fox and Bishop LeFebreve ran afoul of.]]
That little leaven of Xtianity started to grow like a cancer, and soon the tail began to wag the dog. At one time it was very easy for some to tell what separated Xtianity from Paganism. [They were]... >p>
"... an unlawful and desperate faction .. which is leagued together by nightly meetings .. a people skulking and shunning the light, silent in public, but garrulous in corners. They despise the temples as dead-houses, they reject the gods, they laugh at sacred things; wretched, they pity if they are allowed [to], the [Greco-Roman] priests; half naked themselves, they despise honors and purple robes. Oh wonderous folly, and incredible audacity ! They despise present torments, although they fear those which are uncertain and future; and while they fear to die after death, they do not fear to die [now] or the present; so does a deceitful hope soothe their fear with the solace of a revival ... They know each other be secret marks and insignia, and they love one another almost before they know one another... "Octavius" Minicus Felix quoting Caecilius Natalis in "Pagan Rome and the Early Christians" by Stephen Benko, Indiana Universiety Press, 1984
HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM !?! Amazing how things can change over the centuries! Mebbe it's just that new movements of any kind are hated and despised by the older, entrenched established social institutions [and Conservatives in general]. The Early Christians were persecuted for several reasons: They were considered to be a new, [henceforth] false foriegn superstition: prava et externo religio and superstitio et nova malefica -- a secret oriental mischievious political conspiracy that met before dawn or the purposes of arson, treason, and forbidden magickal practices. Their name alone, nomen ipsum, was enough to establish wrongdoing; for the Roman elite were a suspicious lot - and they had very good reason to be, having had some experience with the Bacchan Revolt and the political nature of [Celtic] Druidecht. The fact that, "In apostolic times Xtians were pinning their faith to a soon approaching End of the World by fire. They announced the End of the World as [being] Near, and they rejoiced in the prospect of its destruction "(Murray) was enough to earn them the murderous emnity of the ruling elite, who liked things just the way they were.
In fact, on "Revival Night" in many fundamentalist Churches today you can still hear the almost the exact same old stale and sterile message of Doom, without them showing any shame or embarrassment about its not having come to pass before now. The changes in religious belief and the attitudes in the beginnings of the Common Era (CE) were wide spread, it wasn't just a Xtian phenomena, it infected the Gnostics and the Mithrans as well, and brought a plague of Easern Mysteries to Rome. Now, that Xtianity has been around awhile, what's their main complaint?? Why, all those New Eastern Mystery Cults!! (convienently forgetting that they were once one themselves)
"A rise of ascetism, of mysticism, in a sense, of pessimism; a loss of self-confidence, of hope in this life and of faith in normal human effort; a despair of patient inquiry, a cry for infallible revelation; and indifferance of the welfare of the state, a conversion of the soul to God. It was an atmosphere in which the aim of the good man is not so much to live justly, or to help the society to which he belongs and enjoy the esteem of his fellow creatures; but rather, by means of a burning faith, by contempt for the world and its standards, by ecstasy, suffering and martyrdom, to be granted pardon for his unspeakable unworthiness, and his immeasurable sins. There is an intensifying of certain spiritual emotions; an increasinq sensitiveness, a Failure of Nerve.
[Western] man had not yet decided which of two opposite methods leads to the fuller and deeper knowledge of the word: the patient and sympathetic study of the good citizen who lives in it, or the ecstatic vision of the saint, who rejects it." "Five Stages of Greek Religion" by Gilbert Murray
Xtianity still relies upon this Failure of Nerve in its [modern] propaganda; in fact Xtianity positively thrives on Depressions, calamities, bad news and misfortunes, as these things fit in nicely with their view of the World. Under Emperor Constantine, Xtianity's doctrine underwent a major overhaul to try and save it form total blithering incomprehensibility -- blithering idiocy is another matter. Xtianity first became tolerated, then it became the preferred State Cult among the Upper Crust, then it became the only legal State Cult under Justinian. Orginially a Jewish splinter group, it was heavily influenced by classical Greek Philosophy and Neo-Platonism. [after the destruction of the Jerusalem Church under James in 90 AD, Pauline Theology became the whole of Xtianity] What it couldn't absorb or change to suit, it [attempted to] destroy or drive underground, as well as any decent in-house ideas proposed to moderate its historic narrow mindedness and intolerance.
Xtianity is a Mystery Religion which performs a sacred drama. A Greek lesser initiate is called Mystae, and a Mystae took the higher degree of Ephore or Epoptae one year later. Archons were chosen from among the Ephore. St. Paul uses expressions derived from the Mysteries of Sabazius and Eleusis in his Epistles, but whether he understood these Mysteries is uncertain. He says he was an Idiotes [a person unskilled in the word, not an idiot], but not in Gnosis or secret hidden knowledge. "We speak Wisdom among the Perfect [Inititated].. not the wisdom of this World, nor of the Archons of this World, but divine wisdom in a mystery, a secret which none of the Archons of this World know."[ I Cor, ii 6-8 ]. An Archon was a supervising Magistrate -- Paul is claiming not only that he is Epoptae, but that he is a Hierophant as well !! "The Eleusian and Bacchic Mysteries" by Thomas Taylor, 1875; J.W. Bouton, Publisher; Reprinted by Wizard's Bookshelf, 1980..
Instead of the OT referring to the relationship between the Hebrews and their single cantankerous old fart of a God, the Xtians made the story over and transformed it into a book solely concerned with JC's advent. When the Xtian fabulists started building the "New Testament", they literally rearranged the Hebrew Scriptures to make the newly designated OT a prequel to their NT, that would for the Xtians, pre-figure and predict the coming of the Christos [Messiah]. Aint't that cute The OT now predicts the events of the NT and th NT confirms the new interpretation fo the OT "prophecies" without any need to consult the real world at all! The Psalms become reinterpreted as odes of Praise to the New Christos, and Isaiah was reinterpreted as proclaiming the Xtian Prince of Peace. The NT Gospesl are fictive narrations, which are a mixture of older writings from other Jewish Sects, oral tradition or popular imaginative mythology whos purpose was to create and bolster Faith throuth religious [psudo] "biographic" artistry and it isn't History as we think of it. there were several heretical Gospels left of the cutting floor: The Gospels of Mary [Magdalene], the Ebionites, Thomas, the Egyptians, the Hebrews, the Secret Gospel of Mark. the Secret books of Enoch, etc. Some of these books were actually quoted by the "canonical" Gospels It seems that just about every Xtian that could write and had an opinion was authoring a "gospel" during those times - and attributing it to some famous Biblical Saint or Apostolic luminary.