Is Christianity a Greek religion clothed in Roman rituals?

Nov 2016
508
Germany
#11
Christian belief is largely a Greek mystery belief. The motifs of the Eucharist, the sonship of God, the Redeemer and baptism were traditional elements of ancient cults even before Christianity. The way the Jesus figure initiates his disciples into the Eucharistic ritual in the Eucharistic scene has parallels in traditional mystery cults, where the explication of the ritual act by the respective deity takes place.

The identification of the bread with the "body of Christ" corresponds to e.g. the ritual in the Eleusinian mysteries, in which the god Iakchos = Dionysos in the form of bread (= fruit of his mother Demeter identified with Dionysos) and wine (= from the original Thracian Dionyos cult) or an even stronger intoxication potion (according to Hofmann/Wasson LSD) is consumed by the believers, who thus participate in his divine transformation, and the ritual in the Attis cult, in which the god is consumed in the form of bread, also with the purpose of participation in the divine. In exactly this sense Ignatius of Antioch describes the Christian Eucharist as pharmacon athanasias, as medicine for immortality. (The authenticity and early dating of the Ignatius letters is by no means undisputed).

The theological expression for this dynamic is - related to the Christian idea of the Eucharist - ´transsubstantation´. Psychologically this is a variation of magical thinking: material and metaphysical are identified with each other or at least strongly associated. Thus the ancient oriental images of gods of polytheism were not only regarded by the faithful as images of the gods, but as their real manifestation, i.e. the gods were directly present in their images.

The meaning of the mystery cults for the individual therefore consists in this:

(1) The individual enters into a (at least subjectively felt) direct contact with the divine sphere by participating in the essence of a god (Dionysos). Participation means: The individual merges with the god in the process of his dying and his rebirth. Effect: The individual attains immortality.

(2) Concretely follows from this: the individual attains the guarantee for a happy life beyond. This stands in sharp contrast to the conditions of the exoteric religion, whose cultic observance enables the individual to lead a happy life in this world at most as an effect of the good will of the gods.

At the center of the mystery cult endeavor is a process that radically breaks up the conditions of exoteric polytheism: the individual is not confronted with a god whose grace he is at the mercy of, but shares in his identity. This ´mystery´ is packaged in a polytheistic concept, but is at the same time diametrically opposed to the basic principle of exoteric polytheism, which gapes between gods and humans an abyss that is unbridgeable for humans.

Thus also the type of the religion of salvation in which Christianity has one of its roots has emerged - the other root is Messianic Judaism. Through this mixing the mystery cult idea of participating in the power of the deity became weakened Christianity because the god in whose essence the believer participates is only the "son" of the main god on whose "grace" the believer remains dependent.
 
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May 2011
2,790
Rural Australia
#12
Maybe it is possible to package the concept of Christ into a "few words", but the difference to Platonism, which has no idea of a redeemer, is huge.
Platonism at the time of the council of Nicaea had a "Holy Trinity" expressed by Plotinus in his "Enneads".

The following is sourced from the History of Western Philosophy - Bertrand Russell - 1945

p.289​
Chapter 30 - PLOTINUS (204-270 CE)
Plotinus (204-270 CE), the founder of Neoplatonism, is the last of the great philosophers of antiquity.​
The metaphysics of Plotinus begins with a Holy Trinity: The One, Spirit and Soul.
These three are not equal, like the Persons of the Holy Trinity; the One is supreme, Spirit comes next, and Soul last.[2]​
THE ONE is somewhat shadowy. It is sometimes called God, sometimes called the Good; it transcends Being.​
THE NOUS "SPIRIT" - offspring/reflection of the ONE. includes mind - the intellect.​
SOUL - offspring of the Divine Intellect. It is double: there is an inner soul, intent on NOUS, and another, which faces the external.​
p.300 [end of chapter]..​
Plotinus is both an end and a beginning - an end as regards the Greeks, a beginning as regards Christendom.
 
Nov 2016
508
Germany
#13
Platonism at the time of the council of Nicaea had a "Holy Trinity" expressed by Plotinus in his "Enneads".
I know but the difference still remains huge. The Nous is far from being a divine person to which one can attach his belief.

The most important part of the Christian Trinity, the Binity, was pressed into a formula after long, partly physically brutal arguments between Athanasians and Arianians in Nicaea. The Trinity is a product of the Hellenization of Christianity through the adaptation of Plotin's New Platonism (Plotin however was an opponent of Christianity). Inspired by Plato, Plotin taught the Absolute One (Hen), from which emanations gradually emerge downwards, first the Nous (reason, spirit), then the world soul and then last and least the material. Several Church Fathers, e.g. Ambrosius, Eusebius and Kyrill, had received Plotin, also with regard to their own trinity-theoretical speculations.

It is not difficult to recognize that the Hen can be assigned to God the Father, Nous to Christ and the world soul to the Holy Spirit, even if the classical Trinity concept deviates from the neoplatonic pattern. The Hen is the all-bringing, the Nous is the world-spanning reason (in the sense of the Logos = Christ in John´s gospel) and the world soul is the power which relates the divine (the Hen) with the material, thus inwardly vitalizing matter. The latter function corresponds roughly to that of the Holy Spirit, which of course does not, as with Plotin, permeate all material life, but is to be understood as the enlightening penetration of the divine into human consciousness.

So the difference is really huge.
 
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Edratman

Ad Honorem
Feb 2009
6,272
Eastern PA
#14
I know but the difference still remains huge. The Nous is far from being a divine person to which one can attach his belief.

.
No one is saying that Christianity is an exact copy of Platonism. The assertion is that Christianity incorporated and repackaged elements of Platonism, along with components of other existing and prior religions, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Persian, etc, to formulate a separate belief. This combination was unique, but certainly not new.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
12,925
#15
Most of the middle east had been under greek control since the times of Alexander the Great or over 300 years before christianity appeared... Sure the romans took over from the greeks in a kind of "friendly" merger but since the romans had "absorbed" greek culture as well, it probably did not make that much of a difference (as evidence by the later survival of the greek byzantines and their empire)

By 200 AD, and after the fruits of Roman peace had settled in, 6,000,000 people in Asia Minor viewed themselves as Greeks of the Roman world, and another 1,000,000 Armenians oscillated between Roman and Persian authority

Thus it is likely that Christianity was "invented" by greeks or by people extensively exposed to greek culture..... so it is not surprising to find parallels with Plato's philosophy and other greek beliefs
 
Nov 2016
508
Germany
#16
Thus it is likely that Christianity was "invented" by greeks or by people extensively exposed to greek culture..... so it is not surprising to find parallels with Plato's philosophy and other greek beliefs
The thing is that in order to spread their doctrine and to reach the higher and well-educated social strata in the Roman Empire, the early Christians had to integrate Greek philosopical approaches into their belief, otherwise that doctrine would have been considered too simple and inappropriate for an educated person.

This combination was unique, but certainly not new.
I think what is unique is in a way new, too. What distinguished Christianity from other religions (mystery or not) was the linear concept of history (adopted from Judaism which probably adopted it from Mazdaism) and the sacrifized "son of God" mediating between humans and the main god.

Such a combination was certainly new, except for Mazdaism which has also the concept of linear history and a redeemer, who is, however, by far not a central figure as is Jesus in Christianity.
 
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Jan 2010
4,354
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#17
Platonism at the time of the council of Nicaea had a "Holy Trinity" expressed by Plotinus in his "Enneads".

The following is sourced from the History of Western Philosophy - Bertrand Russell - 1945

p.289​
Chapter 30 - PLOTINUS (204-270 CE)
Plotinus (204-270 CE), the founder of Neoplatonism, is the last of the great philosophers of antiquity.​
The metaphysics of Plotinus begins with a Holy Trinity: The One, Spirit and Soul.
These three are not equal, like the Persons of the Holy Trinity; the One is supreme, Spirit comes next, and Soul last.[2]​
THE ONE is somewhat shadowy. It is sometimes called God, sometimes called the Good; it transcends Being.​
THE NOUS "SPIRIT" - offspring/reflection of the ONE. includes mind - the intellect.​
SOUL - offspring of the Divine Intellect. It is double: there is an inner soul, intent on NOUS, and another, which faces the external.​
p.300 [end of chapter]..​
Plotinus is both an end and a beginning - an end as regards the Greeks, a beginning as regards Christendom.
Yes. I thought of Plotinus this morning. Mos relevant of the Neo-Platonists.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,658
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#18
That is not quite accurate.

Nonsense.
Greeks had true monarchs, who did consult their friends and were expected to, but did not need to consult elected councils, ever since Alexander and Diadochs. Long before Romans.
And Hellenism was invented by Jews. The writer of Maccabees, specifically.

How does it follow - "Catholicism, hence Christianity"?
Precisely which features of Orthodoxy show features of Roman paganism where it diverges from Greek paganism?
Greek society in the early centuries of Christianity was less democratic than Phalo says, but both the Hellenistic world and the Roman Empire had more democracy than chornedsnorkak says.

The Greek world in the classic age was composed of many hundreds of independent city states around the Mediterranean, almost all with a more or less republican government. Those republics ranged from oligarchic republics to Athenian type democracies and many cities changed their constitutions often. On the borders of the Greek world were a number of larger semi Greek states, many kingdoms like, for example, Macedon.

In the Hellenistic age the mighty Persian Empire was conquered and large Macedonian-Greek kingdoms were founded in the former Achaemenid lands. The Hellenistic rulers founded Greek cities and imported Greek settlers to those cities spreading Greek culture hundreds and thousands of miles eastward, where it lasted for decades or centuries in some places, and for over a millennia in places that came to be part of the Roman Empire. Many of the new Greek cities in the Hellenistic kingdoms had a varying degree of self rule and republican and sometimes slightly democratic government.

As the Roman Republic and later Empire conquered more and more lands inhabited by non Latin and non Italian peoples, they created provinces. The tribal states or city states that existed in those provinces continued to exist under Roman rule, though the Romans sometimes combined small states into a single larger one, or divided large states into smaller ones. The hundreds of states in the Roman empire were encouraged by the Romans to adopt rather oligarchic but at least a little democratic republican governments, much like Rome itself.

So in the early Christian centuries, people in most parts of the Roman Empire were part of a civitas, a city state ruled by a council and magistrates elected by a varying percentage of the free men of the city state, and which was part of a Roman province which was part of the Roman Empire, ruled by a powerful but not legally or practically absolute emperor.
 
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May 2011
2,790
Rural Australia
#19
RE: Bertrand Russell - 1945 - The metaphysics of Plotinus begins with a Holy Trinity: The One, Spirit and Soul.

These three are not equal, like the Persons of the Holy Trinity; the One is supreme, Spirit comes next, and Soul last.[2]
THE ONE is somewhat shadowy. It is sometimes called God, sometimes called the Good; it transcends Being.
THE NOUS "SPIRIT" - offspring/reflection of the ONE. includes mind - the intellect.
SOUL - offspring of the Divine Intellect. It is double: there is an inner soul, intent on NOUS, and another, which faces the external.


I know but the difference still remains huge.

The Nous is far from being a divine person to which one can attach his belief.
I disagree since the Platonist and the Stoic philosophers considered that this "Nous" to be - in part - a [personal] "Guardian spirit".
The Greeks referred to it as the "Daimon" and the Romans as the "Genius".

In fact if one reads this selection of quotes below one can see how the New Testament has used this philosophical/metaphysical concept.
Seneca is treated in the 4th century as a "secret Christian", and correspondence between him and Paul was circulated as genuine.

The concept of the indwelling Christian "Holy Spirit" seems to have its roots in Greek and Roman philosophical schools.


Selection of Quotes regarding the "Guardian spirit"
"It is man's duty to follow his daimon, which reflects the cosmic will.
This requires us to love humanity in general and to act altruistically"
~ Marcus Aurelius
"A daemon is assigned to every man At birth, to be the leader of his life".
~ Menander, via Ammianus Marcellinus​
"We should think of the most authoritative part of the Soul
as a Guardian given by God which lifts us to our heavenly home."​
~ Plato
"Nevertheless he has placed by every man a guardian,
every man's Daimon, to whom he has committed the care of the man,
a guardian who never sleeps, is never deceived.
For to what better and more careful guardian could He have entrusted each of us?
When, then, you have shut the doors and made darkness within,
remember never to say that you are alone, for you are not;
but God is within, and your Daimon is within, and what need
have they of light to see what you are doing?
To this God you ought to swear an oath just as the soldiers do to Caesar. .....​
~ Epictetus
"God is near you, he is with you, he is within you. This is what I mean, Lucilius:
a holy spirit indwells within us, one who marks our good and bad deeds, and is our guardian.
As we treat this spirit, so are we treated by it. Indeed, no man can be good without the help of God.
Can one rise superior to fortune unless God helps him to rise? "
~ Seneca, Epistle 41.​
 

abram

Ad Honorem
Oct 2014
2,124
oklahoma
#20
Is Christianity a Greek religion clothed in Roman rituals?

there are many similarities between Christianity and the Roman Mystery Cults, which can be assumed to be at least somewhat adopted from the Greeks as almost all Roman things were adapted from someone or another

Another point to consider is the politics of each time. Greeks lived in city-states, with no true monarch. They were a democracy of sorts, with councils of men deciding upon wars. Comparatively, Christianity arose during Roman times, primarily after the implementation of Roman Emperors, who possessed sole authority over the Empire. Christianity's progression followed the development of empires and kingdoms in Europe, which were ruled by leaders who held absolute power (and who, unlike in Ancient Greece, were not expected to confer with others on their decisions).

I sometimes wonder about this myself. Recent posts and threads here have renewed my speculative curiosity. I do not intend any offense to Christians or Christianity at large. I don't observe any irritation at the adoption and adaptation of Greek theology to Roman practice; however, the advent of Christianity remains a sensitive subject. I get the idea that Christianity, especially Catholicism, is rather heavily influenced by Roman paganism. Perhaps, even in a similar way that some say the Roman Empire never really fell, it just changed. In fact, I don't understand how one could argue that Catholicism (and hence Christianity) does not retain a core semblance to Roman paganism with it's constellation of saints, numerous relics, and ritual worship. Again, I don't want to provoke a battle of theologies, rather only to probe the possible, even likely relationships and connections that modern man and woman have to the not too distant ancient past. So what are your thoughts? Was Greek polytheism the scaffolding to Roman paganism and in turn is Roman paganism alive and well in modern Christianity? Or in other words, are we fools to wring our hands and debate over a perceived conflict of paganism versus Christianity when in truth, they may have shared a large grey area of overlap?
No. Christianity is a Jewish religion cloaked in Greco-Roman rituals.
 

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