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There is serious scholarship about this stuff -- are you surprised?

Not all scholarship is serious scholarship

"the world is otherwise intelligible than to associate professors"
William F. Buckley, Jr.

The surprising thing to most people is that there is serious scholarship about Christianity's Pagan Origins. There is.

Let's review its history.

Protestants attack Catholicism.
As long ago as the 1400s protestants wrote about the Pagan origins of Catholic ritual and belief. They called Catholicism "pagano-papism." They thought that was very clever.

Ever since, some sad protestants have built themselves up by tearing Catholics down; and ever since they've written books showing how after the apostles (as they see it), Christianity adopted Pagan rituals, ideas and Greek philosophy. For example:

Melanchthon, Aplologia Confessionis Augustanae, 1530 AD, detailing Catholic rituals copied from Paganism
H. Bullinger, De originie erroris libris duo, 1539, detailing Catholic "cultic errors" copied from the Heathens
Isaac Casaubon, De rebus sacris et ecclesiasticus exercitationes 1614, about how the apostle Paul's use of terminology and ideas from the pagan mystery religions
Conyers Middleton, A Letter from Rome Shewing an Exact Conformity between Popery and Paganism, 1729
That's a few examples from a long list. Again, the usual purpose was to point up the Pagan origins of Catholicism, to prove Protestantism was better.

Hoist on their own petard
Get-the-Catholics was a dangerous game. By the late 1800s calmer scholars were pointing out the Pagan origins of Christian ritual and theology in general, Catholic and Protestant.

The pot got hot in the 1890s with the publication of several influential books
Edwin Hatch, The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity
Gustav Anrich (in German, 1894)
Georg Wobbermin (in German, 1896)
Samuel Cheetham Mysteries, Pagan and Christian

The pot's been boiling ever since. Thousands of academic papers and scores (hundreds?) of academic books have been added to the stew.


Modern academia
What do modern scholars of religion say about the Pagan- Christian connection? The short answer is: Arthur Darby Nock's essay Early Christianity and its Hellenistic Background, (1928). It's still widely quoted as "proving" that the similarities -- no one denies them -- between Paganism and Christianity do not prove dependence. That's modern academic orthodoxy.

The long answer is: everyone has an agenda. A.D. Nock was a Doctor of Divinity -- a believing Christian. His Early Christianity and its Hellenistic Background was printed in a book of essays about the Anglican communion -- a book about Christians, by Christians, for Christians. It had an agenda.

In fact throughout academia most scholars of religion are Christian believers. That is a huge deal. It's a huge deal because believing scholars start with the idea the Christian story was new, unique, discontinuous -- true. That's what makes them believers. And as believers, they can't accept a Pagan origin for Christianity without throwing over their own faith. So they don't. In believing academia, like everywhere else, faith trumps fact.


What do I mean faith trumps fact? Here's an example, from a famous and widely quoted essay, talking about Pagan water purification sacraments, all of which were around before Christianity.

It's a long quote, but it's worth reading: >

By the way  
The fact their faith trumps fact doesn't mean believing academics are bad people. It just means they are Christian believers. They aren't as rigorous as they imagine themselves? -- let he who is without sin toss the first stone. Not me, I've got a foible or two myself. You yourself might even have one. Come on, admit it.  


"We know of an ablution [an ablution is a washing of the body, especially as part of a religious rite] in the ritual of Eleusis; the laurel-wreath oration of Demosthenes speaks of purificatory ablutions in the mystery of Sabazius; the cult of Attis had its taurobolium, and the mystery of Isis knew a sanctifying baptismal bath, as did the mysteries of Dionysus and of Mithras. Upon mature consideration modern scholarship has rejected the ideas that such rites exerted an influence on the baptismal doctrine of the New Testament." [Hugo Rahner, The Christian Mystery and the Pagan Mysteries, section 3, in The Mysteries; Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, edited by Joseph Campbell]

In other words, back when Christianity started, where it started, among the people who were it's earliest converts, you couldn't walk down the street without tripping over a Pagan baptism; but our baptism, our Christian baptism, that's completely different and unrelated to all the other baptisms. This is the kind of stuff believing academics write down and pass around. You need to understand that as you sift through the scholarship.  

Other scholars don't believe the believers' orthodoxy.

For example >


"It is very hard not to see extensive and basic similarities between these [mystery] religions and the Christian Religion. But somehow Christian scholars have managed not to see it, and this, one must suspect, for dogmatic reasons....

"Richard Reitzenstein and Wilhelm Bousset were two scholars who did manage to grasp the relevance of these ancient faiths for the study of early Christianity. Their conclusion was a simple and seemingly inevitable one: Once it reached Hellenistic soil, the story of Jesus attracted to itself a number of mythic motifs that were common to the syncretic religious mood of the era. Indeed, as people familiar with the other Mystery Religions came to embrace the Christian savior, it would have been practically impossible for them not to have clothed him in all the accoutrements of his fellow Kyrioi."

[Robert Price, Deconstructing Jesus, Chapter 3, 2000]

Is there a scholarly consensus about the Pagan origins? No, there isn't. That the facts suggest a Pagan - Christian connection, everyone agrees. But four hundred years after Casaubon, religious scholars still mostly interpret the facts about the Pagan Christs as proving whatever ideas they came in with. Remember, that doesn't mean they are bad people.

By the way

The point I really want to make here, since you're reading this on the wacky web, is that the Pagan origins of Christianity are not wacky bug- eyed- aliens- at- the- Trilateral- Commission- are- reading- our- mail stuff. The Pagan origins are mainstream academic scholarship.

The bug- eyed- aliens- at- the- Trilateral- Commission- are- reading- our- mail stuff -- that's true too.

Only don't tell. It's a secret.

What other people think about POCM

What a delightful site.  I've read recently some of the writings of Tacitus, the Roman historian, who was obviously a non-christian.  He mentions Jesus of Nazareth and his crucifixion.  What I find stunning is the huge number of early christians that would die at the hands of animals rather than deny an association with Jesus.  Based on the innate need to survive and the fact that no one would die voluntarily for something they don't truly believe, I suspect that it might be a little presumptuous on our part to try to 'wash away' this Jesus guy by arranging a comparison between his group and pagans.  I don't see history being written by priests either.  Many of the early historians were not christians.  I think Josephus was, but he wasn't even mentioned in the Western civ books I studied in college.

 Actually, I think there may be something to this Jesus thing.  I'm gonna check it out cause all the people I've met who say they "believe in him", whatever that means, seem to have an inner peace that the rest don't have.  

  I'll write again after I've learned more about it.