Christianity: Nurtured by Idolatry's Foul Soil

Joshua Plank

Nearly 2000 years ago, a new religion was formed, a religion that would come to dominate much of western civilization. I speak, of course, of Christianity. However, it was not truly new.

Christians view their religion as a kind of continuation of Judaism, and a fulfillment of the biblical prophecies concerning the Jewish messiah. As such, they recognize the Hebrew Tanach as scripture, calling it their "Old Testament". At the same time, however, they reject the fundamental ideas of Judaism, and believe that Christianity has now replaced the older religion. In the words of Ignatius, one of the earliest Church Fathers:

It is absurd to profess Christ Jesus, and to Judaize. For Christianity did not embrace Judaism, but Judaism Christianity ...  It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end. For where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism.[1]

If Christianity did not spring forth naturally from Judaism, then from whence did it come? Perhaps we can find a clue in the writings of the 2nd century Christian apologist, Justin Martyr. He composed a fictional debate between himself and a Jew named Trypho. Trypho responds like this:

The Scripture has not, ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,’ but, ‘Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son,’[2] and so on, as you quoted. But the whole prophecy refers to Hezekiah, and it is proved that it was fulfilled in him, according to the terms of this prophecy. Moreover, in the fables of those who are called Greeks, it is written that Perseus was begotten of Danae, who was a virgin; he who was called among them Zeus having descended on her in the form of a golden shower. And you ought to feel ashamed when you make assertions similar to theirs, and rather [should] say that this Jesus was born man of men.[3]

Trypho makes an interesting point: not only is the virgin birth not prophesied by Isaiah, but the entire concept of the virgin birth is completely foreign to Judaism. The God of Israel, who has no parts and does not change, could not possibly impregnate a woman with Himself. The idea seems more at home in Greek mythology. Justin Martyr answers:

I am established in the knowledge of and faith in the Scriptures by those counterfeits which he who is called the devil is said to have performed among the Greeks; just as some were wrought by the Magi in Egypt, and others by the false prophets in Elijah's days. For when they tell that Bacchus, son of Jupiter, was begotten by [Jupiter's] intercourse with Semele, and that he was the discoverer of the vine; and when they relate, that being torn in pieces, and having died, he rose again, and ascended to heaven; and when they introduce wine into his mysteries, do I not perceive that [the devil] has imitated the prophecy announced by the patriarch Jacob, and recorded by Moses? And when they tell that Hercules was strong, and traveled over all the world, and was begotten by Jove of Alcmene, and ascended to heaven when he died, do I not perceive that the Scripture which speaks of Christ, ‘strong as a giant to run his race,’[4] has been in like manner imitated? And when he [the devil] brings forward Aesculapius as the raiser of the dead and healer of all diseases, may I not say that in this matter likewise he has imitated the prophecies about Christ?[5]

Instead of denying the charge, Justin Martyr actually points out more similarities between Christianity and pagan religion. He addresses the pagans in another of his works:

And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.[6]

and again he says:

For having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that the Christ was to come, and that the ungodly among men were to be punished by fire, they [the wicked demons] put forward many to be called sons of Jupiter, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said with regard to Christ were mere marvelous tales, like the things which were said by the poets.[7]

Justin Martyr's defense is that the "devil" did it. We will thoroughly examine this defense at the proper time, but first, let's examine some of the similarities between paganism and Christianity.

Justin Martyr already mentioned Bacchus, the son of a god and an earth woman, "being torn in pieces, and having died, he rose again, and ascended to heaven."[8] Bacchus was also said to be the same as the Egyptian Osiris.[9] In the 5th century BCE, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the passion of Osiris: "On this lake they perform by night the show of his sufferings, and this the Egyptians call Mysteries. Of these things I know more fully in detail how they take place, but I shall leave this unspoken."[10]

As can be seen, these beliefs had evolved into elaborate mystery religions with secret knowledge and rites known only to the initiates. Jesus tells his disciples, "it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven."[11] Clement of Alexandria, an early Church Father, addresses unbelievers:

O truly sacred mysteries! O stainless light! My way is lighted with torches, and I survey the heavens and God; I become holy whilst I am initiated. The Lord is the hierophant, and seals while illuminating him who is initiated, and presents to the Father him who believes, to be kept safe for ever. Such are the reveries of my mysteries. If it is thy wish, be thou also initiated; and thou shall join the choir along with angels around the unbegotten and indestructible and the only true God, the Word of God, raising the hymn with us.[12]

Lucian, writing in the 2nd century, describes the mysteries of Adonis, who was said to have been killed by a boar,

I saw too at Byblos a large temple, sacred to the Byblian Aphrodite. This is the scene of the secret rites of Adonis. I mastered these. They assert that the legend about Adonis and the wild boar is true, and that the facts occurred in their country, and in memory of this calamity they beat their breasts and wail every year, and perform their secret ritual amid signs of mourning through the whole countryside. When they have finished their mourning and wailing, they sacrifice in the first place to Adonis, as to one who has departed this life. After this they allege that he is alive again, and exhibit his effigy to the sky... Some of the inhabitants of Byblos maintain that the Egyptian Osiris is buried in their town, and that the public mourning and secret rites are performed in memory not of Adonis, but of Osiris.[13]

The mysteries of Adonis were so similar to those of Osiris that even the Byblians seemed confused as to the identity of their god. Their stories come in slightly different versions, but the gods of the pagan mysteries are essentially the same, whether they be called Bacchus, Dionysus, Attis, Adonis, Osiris, Tammuz, or Jesus. The idolaters imagined that by joining in the gods' death and mourning, they would gain their favor, and join in their resurrection and immortality.

We read about Tammuz in the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh says to Ishtar, "Your maidenhood's consort, Tammuz, each year you make him the cause of wailing."[14] The prophet Ezekiel, writing at the height of the "Jews for Tammuz" movement, tells us, "He brought me to the entrance of the gate of the Temple of Hashem that is to the north, and behold, there women were sitting, weeping for Tammuz."[15]

Where did these gods come from, and why are they so similar? 

Their origins reach far back into the idolatrous history of mankind. They are gods of vegetation and agriculture, mourned yearly as the death of the plants. They die violently, like the grain which is cut down, threshed, and ground in the mill. Like crushed grapes, they shed their blood. Jesus says in John 12:23-24, "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone: but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit."

This brings us to the central rite of Christianity, one held in common with the pagans. This is the eating of the god. Jesus says, "Whoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him."[16]

This is a very old practice, which can be found all over the world in one form or another. People foolishly believe that by eating certain animals, other people, or even gods, they can mystically take on admired characteristics such as courage or immortality. Acosta, a 16th century Spanish missionary, wondered at one such example. He records that the natives of Mexico would make an idol of their god out of seeds, corn, and honey. After worshiping it, they divided it into pieces which were distributed and eaten in the manner of the Christian communion.[17] Justin Martyr, after describing the Christian Eucharist, complains:

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.[18]

It is often asserted that the Christian baptism derives from the Jewish mikvah. However, it was more likely borrowed from the pagans. The Church Father Tertullian writes:

For washing is the channel through which they are initiated into some sacred rites - of some notorious Isis or Mithras. The gods themselves likewise they honor 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.[19]

Tertullian records several other similar practices in addition to baptism:

By the devil, of course, to whom pertain those wiles which pervert the truth, and who, by the mystic rites of his idols, vies even with the essential portions of the sacraments of God. He, too, baptizes some - that is, his own believers and faithful followers; he promises the putting away of sins by a laver; and if my memory still serves me, Mithra there, sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown. What also must we say to his limiting his chief priest to a single marriage? He, too, has his virgins; he, too, has his proficients in continence.[20]

The Christians also take their holy days from the pagans. Christmas, said to be the birthday of Jesus, falls on December 25th or the winter solstice.[21] On the winter solstice the sun declines to it's southernmost point and is born again, beginning it's travels northward. This day was long celebrated as the birthday of the sun. The Church Father Augustine explains that Christians keep this festival "not, like those who are without faith, on account of the sun, but because of Him who made the sun."[22]

Christians also worship their god on Sunday, the traditional day of sun worship. Jesus says, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."[23] Early Christians called him "the Sun of Justice", "the Sun of Righteousness", "the True Sun", and so on.[24] In an above quotation, Justin Martyr sites Psalm 19 where the sun is said to be "strong as a giant to run his race." He so identifies Jesus with the sun that he interprets this passage as a messianic prophecy.

Jesus is said to have been slain on Good Friday and resurrected on Easter Sunday. The very word Easter is the name of a goddess, Eostre.[25] The date of Easter is determined by the spring equinox. The 4th century Christian, Ambrosiaster records an interesting dispute between Christians and pagans regarding this festival:

Yet in order that the devil, who is Satan, might apply some authority to his trickery and color his lies with counterfeit truth, in the first month [March] during which he knew that the Lord's sacraments were to be sacrificed, he established, because his power is very great, mysteries for the pagans to celebrate, so that he might keep their souls in error for two reasons: first, so that his trickery might appear to be the truth, because his trickery preceded the truth, on the grounds that it would be prejudicial to truth since it was an older practice; and secondly because in the first month in which the Romans have the equinox they keep the same observation as we do, so that they declare that an expiation is made by blood in exactly the same way as we do by the cross. By this cunning he imprisons the pagans in error, so that they think that our truth appears more of an imitation than the truth, as though it had been invented in a spirit of rivalry by way of some superstition. ‘For,’ they say, ‘what was invented at a later date cannot be judged to be true.’[26]

Let us now examine this dispute between Christianity and paganism. Both agree that one must be the original and the other a copy. The number of similarities is too great for either party to flatly deny any connection.

The argument of the pagans goes something like this: The original exists before the copy. Paganism existed before Christianity. Therefore, paganism is the original and Christianity is the copy.

The argument of the Christians is harder to express in logical terms. It seems that they begin with the pre-drawn conclusion that Christianity is the original and paganism is the copy. Then they come up with a rather outlandish theory to explain how that could possibly be. This is the sort of argument that appeals only to their fellow believers.

One might argue that the Christians do not claim that demons magically copied Christianity before it existed. Instead, they claim that demons heard the prophesies of the Jews, and created counterfeit christs in an effort to beat God to the punch, so to speak. So here we find further evidence that the argument of the Christians is false. Let's look at an example:

In the quotation of Trypho the Jew cited above, he explains how Isaiah 7:14 is misquoted and taken out of context by the Christians. In fact, it's not even a prophesy of the messiah. Read on to verse 16, "when the child does not yet know to reject bad and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread, shall be abandoned." This child, Immanuel, was born more than 700 years before the supposed birth of Jesus. A being wise and powerful enough to copy Christianity before it existed, would surely be capable of investigating the meaning of words and examining the simple context of a verse. This shows that these "devils" do not exist in reality, but only in the imagination of the Christian, who projects upon them his own faulty views.

Furthermore, they are so steeped in pagan thought that their very defense against the accusation that they copied paganism, is itself a copy of paganism. This whole idea of a devil and demons which oppose the forces of good comes from Gnostic dualism. Gnostics generally believe that the material world was created by an evil demiurge. They rely on the divine messenger who descends into this world to provide them with salvation. The New Testament refers to the devil as "the god of this world".[27] This is in clear opposition to God's words: "Understand today and reflect on it in your heart, Hashem is the God in the heavens above, and on the earth below, there is no other."[28]

Examine the above verse. Moses does not tell the Jews to simply "believe" or "have faith". He tells them to use their intellects, to know, to reflect, to prove. This is the path of truth.

This article has addressed many subjects in order to demonstrate that Christianity is not based on truth but falsehood. Christianity attempts to attach itself to the proven history of the Jews, hoping in vain to gain some validity, but the roots of the Jesus mythos are firmly grounded in the foul soil of idolatry. I encourage the Christian reader to search these matters out for yourself. Do not be swayed by your emotions or the reactions of others. Reason. Press bravely ahead, overcoming all obstacles in your noble quest for truth. Then you will know the words of the prophet as few do:

Hashem, my strength and my stronghold and my refuge in the day of distress. Unto You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say: 'Our fathers have inherited only falsehood, futility that has no purpose.'[29]

[1] Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, Chapter 10

[2] Isaiah 7:14

[3] Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 67

[4] Psalm 19:6, or 19:5 in Christian bibles

[5] Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 69

[6] Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 21

[7] Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 54

[8] Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 69

[9] Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, 35, see also Herodotus, The Histories, Book 2, 42

[10] Herodotus, The Histories, Book 2, 171

[11] Matthew 13:11

[12] Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 12

[13] Lucian, The Syrian Goddess, 6-7

[14] The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 6

[15] Ezekiel 8:14

[16] John 6:54-56

[17] José de Acosta, The Natural and Moral History of the Indies, Book 5, Chapter 24

[18] Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 66

[19] Tertullian, On Baptism, Chapter 5

[20] Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter 40

[21] that the winter solstice fell on Dec. 25 see Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, Book 18, Chapter 59

[22] Augustine, Sermon 190

[23] John 9:4-5

[24] for example see Cyprian, Treatise 4, On the Lord's Prayer, 35

[25] Bede, The Reckoning of Time, Chapter 15

[26] Questions on the Old and New Testament, 84 (this work, once attributed to Augustine, is now thought to be written by an anonymous author referred to as Pseudo-Augustine or Ambrosiaster)

[27] 2 Corinthians 4:4

[28] Deuteronomy 4:39

[29] Jeremiah 16:19