- 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
JUSTIN MARTYR: (c. 100-165): Saint, Martyr, a foremost Christian Apologist. A Gentile ex-Pagan of Samaria, turned Christian, and supposed to have suffered martyrdom in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, in whose name he forged a very preposterous script.A few particular examples of Christian apologetics and denial follow.
His principal works, in Greek, are his two Apologies, the first addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, whose reply he also forged; the second to "the sacred Senate" of Rome; his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, and his Hortatory Address to the Greeks. He describes himself and fellow Christian Fathers as "we who formerly used magical arts." (I Apol. ch. xiv.) The burden of his arguments is Pagan "analogies" of Christianity, the contents of many of his chapters being indicated by their captions, as "The Demons Imitate Christian Doctrine," and "Heathen Analogies to Christian Doctrine," in chapters xiv and xv of his First Apology, and elsewhere.
His whole faith in Christ and in Christianity, he declares, is confirmed by these heathen precedents and analogies: "Be well assured, then, Trypho, that 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 he [the devil] brings forward AEsculapius as the raiser of the dead and healer of all diseases, may I not say in this matter likewise he has imitated the prophecies about Christ? ... And when I hear that Perseus was begotten of a virgin, I understand that the deceiving serpent counterfeited this also." (Dial. with Trypho, ch. lxix; ANF. i, 233.)Father Justin accepts the heathen gods as genuine divine beings; but says they are only wicked demons who lead men astray;... The devils "having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that the Christ was to come, ... they put forward many to be called the sons of Jupiter, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said in regard to Christ were more marvelous tales, like the things which were said by the poets. ...
... But as we have said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things. And if we assert that the Word of God was born in a peculiar manner, different from ordinary generation, let this, as said above, be no extraordinary thing to you, who say that Mercury is the angelic word [Logos] of God. ... And if we even affirm that He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you accept of Perseus. And in what we say that he made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by AEsculapius." (I Apol., chs. xxi, xxii; ANF. i, 170; cf. Add. ad Grace. ch. lxix; Ib. 233.)
-- The saintly "Fathers" of the Faith from Forgery in Christianity, by Joseph Wheless
Justin Martyr, living at a time when Dionysus worship was still continuing around him, was forced to acknowledge the similarities between Dionysus and the later Jesus. As was usually the case when the early Church fathers had to discount earlier religions from which Christianity had copied, he had to resort to blaming 'the devil' for the similarities. Stretching believability - but appealing to the gullible devil-fearing Christian masses of the day, Justin Martyr said that Bacchus (Dionysus) was sent as an imitation of Christ prior to Jesus' birth:
"The devils, accordingly, when they heard these prophetic words [in the Old Testament], said that Bacchus was the son of Jupiter, and ...having been torn in pieces, he ascended into heaven."However full of holes the excuses of early Churchfathers were, the Christian apologetics continue to this day, with no more logic than in the first centuries CE. Today's apologists, unable to blame the devil (scholarship won't take them seriously), in repealing the admission of similarities mde by the early Churchfathers (who they are willing to quote on all other matters) and against overwhelming evidence, can do little else but plug their ears, close their eyes and deny the similarities. And hope that everyone takes their word for it: Jesus is special, because... Jesus is special.
-- Early Church father Justin Martyr (2nd century) in his "First Apology"
Unable to deny the similarities with the older religion of Mithras and the practices related to it, the early Churchfathers yet again resorted to their imaginary accidental helper, the devil, to bail them out:
Chapter LXVI - Of the Eucharist.
For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone. 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.
-- Justin Martyr, First Apology
Chapter XL - No difference in the spirit of Idolatry and of Heresy. In the rites of Idolatry, Satan imitated and distorted the divine institutions of the older scriptures. The Christian scriptures corrupted by him in the perversions of the various heretics.The Church would later consider Tertullian a heretic, though it would still quote his apologetics.
...[The devil], too, baptizes some--that is, his own believers and faithful followers; he promises the putting away of sins by a layer (of his own); and if my memory still serves me, Mithra there, (in the kingdom of Satan,) 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 (Satan's) limiting his chief priest to a single marriage? He, too, has his virgins; he, too, has his proficients in continence.
-- Tertullian (early 3rd century), The Prescription against Heretics.
Chapter LXX - So also the Mysteries of Mithras are distorted from the prophecies of Daniel and Isaiah.More such statements of admission to similarities with Mithras' religion were made by St. Jerome of the early 5th century, and by the 4th century Christian writer Maternus who wasn't above insulting the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism for good measure. And yet, the standard deflection mechanism of today's apologists is to deny rather than admit to any similarities. This lapse of logic is in direct opposition to the opinions of those early Churchfathers who were still around when Mithras was worshipped and thus knew the extent of the similarities and knew what they were talking about. The change of tack by apologists in present times must be due to the absence of those old pagan religions which still existed (and thus could not be ignored) in the times of St Justin Martyr and the earlier apologists.
And when those who record the mysteries of Mithras say that he was begotten of a rock, and call the place where those who believe in him are initiated a cave, do I not perceive here that the utterance of Daniel, that a stone without hands was cut out of a great mountain, has been imitated by them, and that they have attempted likewise to imitate the whole of Isaiah's words? For they contrived that the words of righteousness be quoted also by them.
--St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho
The Emperor Severus and his wife [Julia Domna] were great admirers of Apollonius, and it was at the Empress' request that Philostratus compiled his Life of Apollonius from the manuscripts which had been entrusted to her care. A copy of this work, written in Greek, may be found in the Library of Congress. No English translation appeared until the year 1809. In that year the Reverend Edward Berwick, Vicar of Leixlip, Ireland, published his own translation with profuse apologies to the Christian world for the similarities (which all would notice) between the life of Jesus and that of Apollonius.Link
The world today may be unaware of those similarities. The world of the second and third centuries was only too well aware of them. The Church of that day was basing its claim of Jesus' divinity upon the miracles that he is said to have performed. But Apollonius was performing the same miracles before their very eyes, and at the same time refusing to call them miracles, claiming them to be but expressions of natural law. The "miracles" performed by Apollonius caused great consternation in the young Christian Church....Ralston Skinner, author of the Source of Measures, believes that this similarity "serves to explain why the Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratus has been so carefully kept back from translation and popular reading." He says that those who have studied this work in the original are forced to the conclusion that either the Life of Apollonius has been taken from the New Testament, or the New Testament from Philostratus' work. As the New Testament did not appear until a hundred years after the publication of Philostratus' book, the reader is left to draw his own conclusions.
Today's Christian apologists would like to argue that although similar claims are made of Apollonius of Tyana (miracles like raising others from the dead, his ascension after his own death), Jesus is special because:
- The biography of Apollonius, written by Flavius Philostratus, was much after Apollonius' time. Christian apologists contrast this with the Gospels of the New Testament, which, as Christians, they believe are written by eye-witnesses. However, it is known that the Gospels were written well past the time when Jesus is claimed to have lived. It is also agreed, in Biblical scholarship, that there are no contemporary (that is, eye-witness) accounts of Jesus. It is also known that the Gospel accounts were written by many more authors than the four of tradition and that the canonical Gospels appeared in the form we know them after the early Church councils. Some passages in these Gospels are known to have been added later, and much continued to be added until several centuries after Apollonius.
Another point is that Apollonius was known to Emperors and other well-known people of his time. And having travelled much over the known world, people in various regions knew of him at the time and had their own stories to tell of him.
However, Philostratus was writing the biography of Apollonius based on the records written by Damis, the companion of Apollonius (and therefore a contemporary):
The record of Apollonius' life is, on the contrary, quite complete. It was written by [Damis] a personal friend and devoted disciple of Apollonius who was his constant companion for more than fifty years, and who made a daily report of all that Apollonius did or said during that time. This record was transcribed and put into book form by [Philostratus] one of the most famous historians of the day, and was published in the year 210 A.D. -- over a hundred years before the Gospels appeared.Link
The now-standard form of denial by Christian apologists takes the form of denying (or suggesting this as a possibility) that Damis ever existed and that Philostratus must have made him up. We need not assume that Philostratus (who in his day was a well-respected historian) was a liar, even if Christian apologetics often proves to be fabricating fiction.
There were also letters of Apollonius, some of which were written by the man himself and therefore were much older than Philostratus' work. These letters were collected by Emperor Hadrian and stored in his palace. Several other written biographies of Apollonius were destroyed by early Christians and some others thought to be lost. There were also records and local traditions in the various regions of the Mediterranean where Apollonius travelled that recorded and in at times corroborate certain life events of Apollonius.
- A more trivial reason apologists bring up is that, though Apollonius was said to have performed similar miracles to Jesus, he's inspired no religion to form in his name whereas Jesus had.
The adherents of Zeus and the Gods of Olympus have been pretty scarce above ground for over a millennia, yet it does not follow that they never had any. Christianity exterminated the Greek religion and those of its followers who refused to convert. Likewise, at least we know that Empress Julia Domna had found meaning in Apollonius' teachings, as had others. Apollonius had not started a religion, his was but a different strand of their existing views and beliefs. It is therefore natural that Apollonius' admirers weren't professing a belief in some new religion built around him.
- Sometimes, in a desperate attempt to avoid tackling the insurmountable issue of Apollonius altogether, apologists turn to the last recourse: to deny he existed. In this insupportable view, they refer to him either as semi-mythical or an interpolation of Pythagoras with others. They insinuate that Philostratus' works plagiarised from the descriptions of Christ of the Gospels that were made available only much later. Yet, as evidenced, Apollonius was a man known to several Emperors, who had left some of his own writings behind too. There is no doubt he existed and that he was not copied from Christ.
Some writers tried to make Apollonius appear a legendary character, while pious Christians will persist in calling him an impostor. Were the existence of Jesus of Nazareth as well attested by history and he himself half as known to classical writers as was Apollonius no sceptic could doubt to-day the very being of such a man as the Son of Mary and Joseph. Apollonius of Tyana was the friend and correspondent of a Roman Empress and several Emperors, while of Jesus no more remained on the pages of history than as if his life had been written on the desert sands. His [Jesus'] letter to Agbarus, the prince of Edessa, the authenticity of which is vouchsafed for by Eusebius alone--the Baron Munchausen [compulsive liar] of the patristic hierarchy--is called in the Evidences of Christianity "an attempt at forgery" even by Paley himself, whose robust faith accepts the most incredible stories. Apollonius, then, is a historical personage; while many even of the Apostolic Fathers themselves, placed before the scrutinizing eye of historical criticism, begin to flicker and many of them fade out and disappear like the "will-o'-the-wisp" or the ignis flatus.Link
The early Church fathers admitted that Jesus was no different from the pagan deities known back then:
"we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter"When today's apologists are forced to admit to the unavoidable and numerous pagan elements and influences in Christianity, their final excuse is to say that the plagiarism must have occurred the other way: that pre-Christian religions must have borrowed from Christianity! (An idea that was not even entertained by the early Church fathers who would have used the excuse in their day, had it been less preposterous.)
-- St. Justin Martyr in his First Apology, 2nd century
See "Pagans must have borrowed", which covers these apologists and their excuses. One of the many arguments this page gives for the impossibility of pre-Christian religions having borrowed it all from Christianity:
In all their aggressive, detailed attacks on Pagan religion, no early Christian apologist ever mentions one Pagan Christian similarity that happened because Christianity came first and Paganism borrowed.The page discusses many other reasons that apologists today bring up when pretending that pre-Christian religions borrowed from Christianity.
In fact when early apologists mention timing, they say the opposite. They say pagan ideas came first.
[The early apologists say that] Jesus was copied by Paganism ó magically, backwards in time.
See also: How "Dying and rising Gods" is defined in scholarship, and the denial of "Dying and rising Gods" by apologists
Paul and Hellenism, by the British scholar Hyam Maccoby, discusses how Paul's ideas have much in common with those central to the ancient Hellenic mysteries. The book looks at how Paul's Eucharistic meal is unlike Jewish concepts (where it would be blasphemous) but is instead very like Greek sacramentalism.
The violent death of Paul's Christ (in the spiritual realm) is unrelated to any previous Jewish ideas of God's salvation. However, it matches those of many Greek savior gods who, Maccoby tells us, "are the centers of rites in which their deaths are rehearsed for some salvific purpose".
Christís features and myths are in many ways similar to those of the Greco-Roman salvation "mystery religions", each having its own savior god or goddess. Most of these (e.g., Dionysos, Mithras, Attis, Isis, Osiris) were part of myths in which the deity had overcome death in some way, or performed some act which conferred benefits and salvation on their devotees. Such activities were viewed as taking place in the upper spirit realm, not on earth or in history. Most of these cults had sacred meals (like Paulís Lordís Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23f) and envisioned mystical relationships between the believer and the god similar to what Paul speaks of with Christ. Early Christianity was a Jewish sectarian version of this widespread type of belief system, though with its own strong Jewish features and background.
-- Earl Doherty, author of The Jesus Puzzle
- Deconstructing Jesus by Robert M. Price
- Discusses the absence of logic in the "pagans must have borrowed" excuse
- The 2nd century Apologists
- Orthodoxy and the Early Church - the early Church couldn't get its own story right.