- Pagan influence on scripture
- Pre-Christian symbolism
- Pre-Christian feasts & terms
- New Year's
- The Epiphany, Three Kings
- St. Valentine's Day
- Christos and Chrestos
- Dominus and Natali
- Pre-Christian Saviours
- Pre-Christian rituals & concepts
- More pre-Christian rituals & saviours
You poor idiotai [ignorant people], you have mistaken the mysteries of old for modern history, and accepted literally all that was only meant mystically.
-- the Gnostics said to the early Christians
Temples, incense, oil lamps, votive offerings, holy water, holidays and season of devotions, processions, blessing of fields, sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure (of priests and monks and nuns), images ... are all of pagan origin
-- The Development of the Christian Religion, by Cardinal Newman
"And thou hast saved us by shedding the eternal blood."
-- From the wall of a Mithraic temple in Rome
Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken. For every street, every marketplace is full of Zeus. Even the sea and the harbor are full of this deity. Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus, For we are indeed his offspring.Link
-- Phenomena 1-5, by the Stoic poet Aratus (c 310 - 240 BC)
In Him [Yahweh/Jesus] we live and move and have our being; as even some of your poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring.'
-- Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, Acts 17.28
From The Christ, by John E. Remsberg:
What maxim does Paul attribute to Jesus?"Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts xx, 35).These are not "the words of the Lord Jesus," but of the Pagan Epicurus, a man whose character Christians have for centuries defamed.
Concerning the teachings of Jesus, Col. Thomas W. Higginson says:"When they tell me that Jesus taught a gospel of love, I say I believe it. Plato taught a gospel of love before him, and you deny it. If they say, Jesus taught that it is better to bear an injury than to retaliate, I say, yes, but so did Aristotle before Jesus was born. I will accept it as the statement of Jesus if you will admit that Aristotle said it too. I am willing that any man should come before us and say, Jesus taught that you must love your enemies, it is written in the Bible; but, if he will open the old manuscript of Diogenes Laertus, he may there read in texts that have never been disputed, that the Greek philosophers, half a dozen of them, said the same before Jesus was born.""That the system of morals propounded in the New Testament contained no maxim which had not been previously enunciated, and that some of the most beautiful passages in the apostolic writings are quotations from Pagan authors, is well known to every scholar.... To assert that Christianity communicated to man moral truths previously unknown, argues on the part of the asserted either gross ignorance or wilful fraud"
-- Buckle, History of Civilization, Vol. I, p. 129"It can do truth no service to blind the fact, known to all who have the most ordinary acquaintance with literary history, that a large portion of the noblest and most valuable moral teaching has been the work not only of men who did not know, but of men who knew and rejected the Christian faith"
-- John Stuart Mill, Liberty
The Golden Rule has been ascribed to Christ. Was he its author?
Five hundred years before the time of Christ, Confucius taught"What you do not like when done to yourself do not to others."Centuries before the Christian era Pittacus, Thales, Sextus, Isocrates and Aristotle taught the same.
-- The Christ, John E. Remsberg
Osiris was a God in the ancient pre-Christian Egyptian religion. The 23rd Psalm in the Bible plagiarized an Egyptian scriptural prayer.
Many sayings associated with Osiris were taken over into the Bible. This included:Link
23rd Psalm: an appeal to Osiris as the good Shepherd to lead believers through the valley of the shadow of death and to green pastures and still waters Lord's Prayer: "O Amen, who art in heaven..." Many parables attributed to Jesus
Amen - a title of the Egyptian God who was Osiris' father, was also invoked at the end of every prayer.
"Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18) originates from an Akkadian proverb. A similar expression is also stated by the Egyptian Goddess of Justice, Maat, and known to the Greeks as a law given by their Goddess Dike.
"Spirit of Spirit, if it be your will, give me over to immortal birth so that I may be born again - and the sacred spirit may breathe in me."The "sacred spirit" may as well have been translated as "holy spirit".
-- Prayer to Mithras
The Sophia (Wisdom) of Jesus, a Gnostic Christian sermon supposedly given after his Resurrection is very much plagiarised from the non-Christian Gnostic speech of Eugnostos the Blessed written centuries prior.
The non-Christian philosophic treatise Eugnostos the Blessed is cut up somewhat arbitrarily into separate speeches, which are then put on Jesus' tongue, in answer to questions (which sometimes do not quite fit the answers) that the disciples address to him during a resurrection appearance. The result is a separate tractate entitled The Sophia of Jesus Christ.
The saying "To give is more blessed than to receive" [Acts 20:35] is actually an ancient Greek aphorism.Link
The saying in Matt. 11:17, "We have piped unto you and ye have not danced," derives from one of Aesop's fables!
The saying that "wheresoever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together" [Matt. 24:28 = Luke 17:37] is attested by a number of Greek (Lucian, Aelianus) and Latin (Seneca, Martial, and Lucan) antecedents.
In About the Holy Bible (1894) American politician and orator Robert G. Ingersoll wrote about the Creation stories in the Bible:
These stories are far older than the Pentateuch.Link
Persian: God created the world in six days, a man called Adama, a woman called Evah, and then rested.
The Etruscan, Babylonian, Phoenician, Chaldean and the Egyptian stories are much the same.
The creation stories of the Avesta, the Persian scriptures of the Zoroastrians will no doubt seem very familiar to those who only know the version copied into the later Biblical Eden story:
The Avesta tells how the God Ormuzd created the world and its first two human inhabitants in 6 days and rested on the 7th. He created the heavens on the 1st day, water on the 2nd, earth on the 3rd, plants on the 4th, animals on the 5th and the first man and woman on the 6th. Adama and Evah are the names of the first man and woman in the Zoroastrian scriptures.
The similarity of the creation tales of the Bible to those of the sacred scriptures of the Persians are not to be wondered at, since the Biblical ones are in fact copied from Zoroastrian and other pre-Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Some Greek influences on the Biblical Creation myths in pictures:
- Prometheus creates the first human being - image of statue
- A Hesperid collects the forbidden fruit for Hercules. The snake, Ladon is seen coiled on the tree - image of old Greek art.
In fact, the tale of the Garden of Eden and the Fall is a motif that occurs rather profusely in many parts of the ancient world. More common than this is the Flood Myth, which is present in some form or other in a great many cultures. Many of the versions bear striking similarities to the Biblical narrative.
See: Flood Stories from Around the World, especially the Chaldean version
The very name "Eden" is also originally a Sumerian name and simply means "plain/flat terrain".
The story of how man was created from dirt (clay?) and brought to life through a breath of air through the nose as told in Gen 2,7, is a copy of the far older Sumerian creation myth. The Sumerian legend is preserved as a seven-tablet epos, Enuma elish, "In the beginning".From: The Sumerian Legacy, this page also shows how the Creation stories and Flood of the Bible were adopted from the older Sumerian ones.
About the Flood myth, Ingersoll wrote:
We know that this story in Genesis was copied from the Chaldean. There you find all about the rain, the ark, the animals, the dove that was sent out three times, and the mountain on which the ark rested.Link
-- About the Holy Bible, Robert G. Ingersoll
Hammurabi’s laws were partly modelled after the ca 300 years older Ur-Nammus code, - the oldest known law code in the world.From: The Code of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments, which contains more information about the earlier Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon.
The biblical "And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." (Deut 19,21; Ex 21,23.25) is actually from Hammurabi.
The 10 Commandments
The Ten Commandments is listed both in the book of Exodus and the book of Deuteronomy. These commandments were given to Moses carved on two tables of stone by the God Father personally, becomingly shrouded in a dark cloud. The Stone tablet motif points directly to the Hammurabi laws which were copied and spread all over Babylon on clay and stone tablets and the original was also carved in the Hammurabi stone in the temple of Sippar. The Babylonian civilization had a huge cultural, political, juridical and religious influence on the surrounding cultures, and also on the writers of the Old Testament.
Late 19th century Christian apologists tried to excuse glaring cases of borrowing from pre-Judeo-Christian sources, by relying on the ignorance of their readers who would not know the details of the earlier Egyptian, Chaldean, Sumerian and other myths.
J.M. Robertson, in his book Christianity and Mythology dealt with such a case of apologetics:
But Mr. Lang distorts the problem from first to last. "Manifestly," he writes, "the Chaldaean cosmogonic myth was a medley of early metaphysics and early fable, like other cosmogonies. Why is the Biblical story so different in character" [n2 Art. cited, p. 281.]? It is not different in character. It is a medley of early metaphysics and early fable—early, that is, relatively to known Hebrew history. It ties together two creation stories and two flood stories; it duplicates several sets of mythic personages—as Cain and Abel, Tubal-Cain and Jabal; it grafts the curse of Cham on the curse of Cain, making that finally the curse of Canaan; it tells the same offensive story twice of one patriarch and again of another; it gives an early "metaphysical" theory of the origin of death, life, and evil; it adapts the Egyptian story of the "Two Brothers," or the myth of Adonis, as the history of Joseph; it makes use of various God-names, pretending that they always stood for the same deity; it repeats traditions concerning mythic founders of races—if all this be not a "medley of early fable," what is?
-- Christianity and Mythology, by J. M. Robertson
- The Sumerian Legacy, including information on The Code of Hammurabi and the Ten Commandments
- About the Holy Bible by Robert G. Ingersoll contains more similarities between old Biblical stories and those of other parts of the world
The concept of a heavenly afterlife also comes from Persia's Zoroastrianism. Via Mithraism, the Persian word paradise was introduced:
The followers of Mithras believed there would be a day of "judgement" when non-believers would perish and "believers" would live forever with Mithras in "paradise," which is a Persian word, not Hebrew.Link
Until contact with them, Jewish beliefs did not have the concepts of Heaven and Hell at all, instead all the dead would end up in Sheol:
The Babylonian captivity of the 6th century B. C. transformed Judaism in a profound way, exposing the Jews to Zoroastrianism, which was virtually the state religion of Babylon at the time. Until then, the Jewish conception of the afterlife was vague. A shadowy existence in Sheol, the underworld, land of the dead (not to be confused with Hell) was all they had to look forward to. Zarathustra, however, had preached the bodily resurrection of the dead, who would face a last judgment (both individual and general) to determine their ultimate fate in the next life: either Paradise or torment.Link
According to Celsus, Mithraism promised its followers that their souls would ascend through the seven planetary spheres, to their God. This is where the idea of a Seventh Heaven comes from.
The Lake of Fire is also from the older Zoroastrian religion. So is the concept of the Kingdom of God on earth and heaven ('Kingdom Come').
Biblical terms for Hell
The New Testament introduced the concept of Hell.
In the original Greek version of the NT, the words which were used were Gehenna, Hades and Tartarus. All of them were translated as Hell into the English language version.
- Sheol was the Jewish afterlife of all the dead, as was believed in the time of writing of the Old Testament. It seems to carry the meaning of grave.
- Gehenna was the name of the dumping ground outside Jerusalem. That is, it was the junkyard as well as the place where corpses ended up. Therefore it makes sense that when someone of that time died, there was a chance one could end up in Gehenna. The hellish afterlife in Islam is called Jekinnah and is related to Gehenna - both were Semitic words for naming dumping grounds.
- Hades was the name of the Greek God who governed the realm of death, also called Hades. This is where the shades of the dead would go on existing after death.
- Tartarus was the nasty afterlife that the Greeks had, yet it was nowhere as bad as Biblical Hell. This was the place where the Titans were said to be suspended.
- Hell is derived from the female spirit of the Norse underworld, whose name was Hel. Her underworld was full of fire.
Though these are the origins and literal meanings of the words Sheol, Gehenna, Hades, Tartarus and Hel in their non-Christian contexts - in Christianity, they all came to mean the same: an eternal afterlife of indescribable torment for most people since time began, as impressed in popular imagination by Dante's Inferno. Of course, the words used to describe this most unpleasant place were dependent on the people who were converted.
Even though some realise that the Greek and Hebrew words of Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna, which had been left distinct in the original Greek versions, had all been translated into English as Hell, the controversial issue today has to do with semantics. Some contend there is a slight difference of meaning in these words (for instance, Tartarus in Christianity would now be the place where the fallen angels end up as opposed to the place where the Titans were imprisoned in ancient Greek beliefs). But there is no theological dispute that the afterlife for the "wicked" - lapsed Christians and all non-Christians - can be anything other than the Inferno.
In time, as the idea of the firey destination that is the Inferno (from Latin Infernum) proved a great success in making people cower with fear, it became another key method in converting and limiting freethought. It is still used in this manner today:
See this Christian site
The very old pre-Christian religion of the Persians, Zoroastrianism, became known as far as Rome in the west and throughout the Middle East. An instance of its significant influence on the New Testament can be seen in the tale of Jesus' temptation in the desert:
... since an earlier legend placed Zarathustra himself in that situation. The principal demon (Ahriman) promised Zarathustra earthly power if he would forsake the worship of the supreme God. Ahriman, like Satan when tempting Jesus, failed.Link
Angels and demons:
The concept of angels and demons also comes from Zoroastrianism, where its high God Ahura Mazda is placed in the absolute position.
Devils and angels are of Persian origin. Dr. Kalisch, the eminent Jewish scholar, says:"When the Jews, ever open to foreign influence in matters of faith, lived under Persian rule, they imbibed, among many other religious views of their masters, their doctrines of angels and spirits, which, in the region of the Eurphrates and Tigris, were most luxuriantly developed" (Leviticus, Part II, p. 287).Strauss says:"It is in the Maccabean Daniel and in the Apocryphal Tobit that this doctrine of angels, in the most precise form, first appears; and it is evidently a product of the influence of the Zend religion of the Persian on the Jewish mind. We have the testimony of the Jews themselves that they brought the names of the angels with them from Babylon" (Leben Jesu, p. 78).-- The Christ, by John E. Remsberg
The hierarchy of angels and the idea of Archangels entered Judeo-Christianity from the Persian religion. The Persian deity Mithra was turned into the angel Metatron in Christianity. The archangel Michael has been given the qualities of the leading angel of the Persians. The notion that angels are without their own will and only do God's bidding is based on the same ideas as those governing Zoroastrianism's Amesha Spentas. There was to be a final battle of the Amesha Spentas with the demons of Ahriman, when good will overcome evil. These angels of Zoroastrianism were described as having the same appearance as they would have in later Christianity (including the large feathery wings) and that is how they were depicted in the ancient Persian Zoroastrian paintings and sculptures.
The God of the Zoroastrians is called Ahura Mazda or Ormuzd.
McClintock and Strong's Cyclopedia (Article "Zoroaster") gives a summary of the principal doctrines of Zoroaster among which are the following:
- "The principal duty of man in this life is to obey the word and commandments of God.
- "Those who obey the word of God will be free from all defects and immortal.
- "God exercises his rule in the world through the works prompted by the Divine Spirit, who is working in man and nature.
- "Men should pray to God and worship him. He hears the prayers of the good.
- "All men live solely through the bounty of God.
- "The soul of the pure will hereafter enjoy everlasting life; that of the wicked will have to undergo everlasting punishment"
The following, from the Britannica, was written by England's leading authority on Zoroaster, Professor Gildner."Like John the Baptist and the Apostles of Jesus, Zoroaster also believed ... that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Through the whole of the Gathas (the Psalms of Zoroaster) runs the pious hope that the end of the present world is not far off...Substitute "Christ" for "Zoroaster," "God" for "Ormuzd," and "Gospels" for "Gathas," in the above, and we have almost an exact exposition of the teachings of Christ. And Zoroaster taught at least 1200 years before Christ taught, and wrote his "Gathas" more than 1300 years before the Gospels were written. The writings of Zoroaster were the principal source of the most important theological doctrines ascribed to Christ, as the Buddhistic writings were of his ethical teachings. -- The Christ, by John E. Remsberg
Ormuzd will summon together all his powers for a final struggle and break the power of evil forever... Thereupon Ortmuzd will hold a judicium universale upon all mankind and judge strictly according to justice, punish the wicked, and assign to the good the hoped-for reward. Satan will be cast, along with all those who have been delivered over to him to suffer the pains of hell, into the abyss, where he will thenceforward lie powerless. Forthwith begins the one undivided kingdom of God in heaven and on earth."
These elements made their way into Judeo-Christian theology from the Zoroastrian beliefs of the Persians and their religious heads, the Magi of Persia and Babylon, who were to be found all over the known world in ancient times. The Persian Kings Cyrus and Darius, mentioned in the Old Testament, had greatly shaped the eventual changes in Judaism and thus effected much of the beliefs of Christianity which would be born centuries later.
However, as noted by the small number of remaining Zoroastrians, Zoroastrianism is not the same as the Judeo-Christian religion. In spite of the attempts at wooing Persian converts to Christianity based on these and other striking similarities, the Persians know that their religion was more ancient and that its concepts made its way into later Christianity, where they have taken on a confused form and make no sense separated from its original Zoroastrian context. Their God Ahura Mazda is in no way the same as the Biblical God, and Mithras is not Jesus even though much of the former's story was plagiarised.
The ancient Zoroastrians also documented the persecution they suffered and the civil strife in their countries caused by Christian Rome and the Iranian converts to Christianity. Although it had remained standing during the spread of Christianity under the hostile Christianised Rome, much of the Persian religion was wiped out by the unanticipated emergence of Islam later on. The remnants of Zoroastrianism in the west were persecuted out of existence by the Church, even as late as the Reformation.
Buddhism (c.500 BCE) has much in common with the much-later Christianity. Besides many sayings, there are also many parables and certain aspects of Buddha's and Jesus' life stories that correspond beyond any mere coincidence:
- Both are said to have walked over the water (Jatakas 190; Matthew 14)
- Buddha feeds 500 people by miraculously multiplying the available food. According to the Gospel writers, Jesus feeds 5000 people in this manner (Jatakas 78; Mark 14). This seems like a case of one-upmanship on the part of the Gospel writers: when plagiarising this miracle story, they make Jesus 10 times as super as Buddha.
- The tale of the good Samaritan versus its parallel in one about the low-class woman in Buddhism
- Similar parables:
- The tale of the sower (Samyutta 42; Matthew 13)
- The prodigal son (chapter IV of the Lotus of the Good Law; Luke 14)
- The widow's mite (Kalpanamanditika; Mark 12)
Buddha was 'about 30 years old' when he began his ministry (as was Jesus allegedly--Ed.). He fasted 'seven times seven nights and days'. He had a 'band of disciples' who accompanied him. He traveled from place to place and 'preached to large multitudes'. Bishop Bigandet calls his first sermon the 'Sermon on the Mount'. At his Renunciation 'he forsook father and mother, wife and child'. His mission was 'to establish the kingdom of righteousness'. 'Buddha', says Max Mueller, 'promised salvation to all; and he commanded his disciples to preach his doctrine in all places and to all men'....Link
Buddha formulated the following commandments. 'Not to kill; not to steal; not to lie; not to commit adultery; not to use strong drink'. Christ said, 'Thou knowest the commandments: do not commit adultery; do not kill; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor thy father and thy mother' (Luke 18:20). Christ ignored the Decalogue of Moses and, like Buddha, presented a pentade which, with the exception of one commandment, is the same as that of Buddha.Prof. Seydel, of the University of Leipzig, points out 50 analogies between Christianity and Buddhism. Dr. Schleiden calls attention to over 100. Baron Hiarden-Hickey says: 'Countless analogies exist between Buddhistic and Christian legends--analogies so striking that they forcibly prove to an impartial mind that a common origin must necessarily be given to the teachings of Sakay-Muni (Buddha--Ed.) and those of Jesus. Concerning the biographical accounts of the two religious teachers Harden-Hickey says, 'One account must necessarily be a copy of the other, and since the Buddhist biographer, living long before the birth of Christ, could not have borrowed from the Christian one, the plain inference is that the early creed-mongers of Alexandria were guilty of plagiarism'."
Dr Burkhard Scherer, classical Philologist, Indologist and Lecturer in Religious Studies (Buddhist and Hindu Studies), Canterbury Christ Church University:Link
Is there no Buddhist influence in the gospels? Since more than hundred years Buddhist influence in the Gospels has been known and acknowledged by scholars from both sides. Just recently, Duncan McDerret published his excellent "The Bible and the Buddhist" (Sardini, Bornato [Italy] 2001). With McDerret, I am convinced that there are many Buddhist narratives in the Gospels.
I would differentiate between narratives (like parables), motifs (like Jesus walks on water) and some proper names like place-names etc. (like Magad[h]a). This narratives and elements were transmitted orally by mercenaries (esp. Parthians) along the trade routes, i.e. the Sea Routes and the Silk Route(s). They all have in common that they have a clear contextual and/or narratological functions in Buddhist sources and lack this function in the Gospels so that their Buddhist origin is narratologically proved even without taking more iconographical chronological evidence in favour of the Buddhist texts into consideration. I gave some examples in my book "Buddha" (Gütersloh 2001, Basiswissen). So there is "much Buddhist stuff going on in the Gospel". But its not the only source, not even a main source for the NT.
No, Buddhism is not a main source for the New Testament. Because, besides the Buddhist influences, there were Egyptian, Greek, Semitic, Roman, Mithraic and other Zoroastrian sources for the New Testament. All taken together, they formed the main source.
Among the later added parts, not in the original Gospel texts: The sermon on the Mount, The story of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:1-21) and the stories of Jesus' resurrection!Link
The Sermon on the Mount was not yet there in the earliest of the four accepted Gospels, Mark. It was put together later by combining different elements (like Psalms), but also has had some Buddhist and other pagan influences. Buddhists and Hindus were present in great numbers in Hellenised lands in the centuries after Alexander, where like many others, they taught their philosophies at the Greek schools.
The Hindu and Buddhist ideas found in the New Testament books, including the Sermon on the Mount, were picked up by the gospel writers in Alexandria from Indian pundits and monks who were teaching there.Link See also:
The famous Sermon on the Mount ... is a later literary interpolation from a Pagan source. It may even be of Indian origin.