Pagan Roots in Earliest Christianity
article originally titled: A Short History of Gnosticism
by J H Jensen
(J H, if you're out there, please contact us so we can properly credit
The roots of Gnosticism reach far into antiquity and, during much of its
history, Gnosticism has faced such persecution as to destroy most records
Gnosticism transcends the boundaries of secular religion. Elements of it
can be found among Quakers and Old Catholics, the Hebrew Kabbalah, Zen Buddhism,
Taoism, Sufism, Baha'i', in Greek philosophy, and even Polynesian Huna.
Kabbalistic Gnosticism (or a predecessor thereof) was probably brought to
Palestine from Ur of the Chaldees by Abraham.
Gnosticism even transcends the long-standing war between science and religion.
In fact, it was Gnostic philosophers like Pythagoras who were primarily
responsible for developing the scientific method. At the other extreme, we
can see Hebrew messianic movements (a constant process in Judaism) growing
consistently out of Kabbalistic Gnosticism. There is no clear evidence indicating
Christianity to be an exception to this rule.
In fact, the earliest recorded schism in Christianity was between the Gnostics
and Pistics. Several of the Gospels are clearly Gnostic in orientation, including
the Gospels of John, Thomas, Philip, and Mary. Then, it was the Pistics who
were the heretics, and they were often hated at that, because it was (and
still is) Pistics who would burn Gnostic writings wherever they could find
In AD 38, the Church of Antioch was founded by James, Peter and Thomas in
Antioch, Asia Minor. In AD 64, Pistic Christianity began growing by leaps
and bounds when Nero began throwing Christians to the lions in the arena.
Roman courts offered Christians an out: they could denounce their religion
and go free. The Pistics refused and died for it. The Gnostics were horrified.
They were faced with a veritable Jonestown horror in their midst. Their friends
and neighbors were committing suicide by walking willingly into the mouths
of lions. While Gnostics respected honesty, they respected life more, and
they knew that the man who would brandish a sword at them was not interested
in honesty, but only in their obedience. They became hated and scorned by
Pistics for refusing to die with them.
Better advertising could not have been bought. No faith, no commitment, could
have been more impressive to the spectators. The arena made converts by the
droves, and it was Pistic Christians that they sought out to learn more about
this powerful religion.
Ad 325, the Roman Catholic Church was created by a pagan emperor named
Constantine. It was only superficially a Christian Church. The First Nicean
Council was assembled to work out the details. While it was supposed to have
been made up of Christian elders from five major Christian centers (Rome,
Athens, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch), it also included elders of all
the major Pagan religions of Rome. Bishops from the cults of Mithras, Tammuz,
Oannes (Dagon), Ceres, Janus, Bacchus, Apollo, Osiris, Jupiter, and Constantine's
own religion: Sol Invictus, were invited. It was Constantine's wish that
all of the Pagan religions, then at odds with each other, creating unnecessary
conflicts, be unified into one "Catholic" church. "Catholic" means universal.
The proceedings of that council were conducted by Constantine with an iron
hand, and one of the positions which he insisted upon, and got, was to make
Pistis a doctrine of the new church. Gnosticism could not be tolerated, because
it encouraged its members to question authority. Pistis was thus politically
expedient, because it forbade questioning.
The institution of the papacy was built on the doctrine of being the successors
of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome, and the first bishop. History, however, does
not show Peter to have been in Rome, or to have ever been a bishop, anywhere.
The first bishop of Rome was listed as Linus. "Peter of Rome" took the place
of the Pet-Roma, the "Book of Stone" which played a major part in initiation
into the Eleusinian Mysteries. The statue of Jupiter (Jo-Peter) in Rome came
to be worshipped as the image of Peter, with the claim that it always had
been the image of Peter.
An effective unification of all of Rome's religions had to not only include
the major deities of those religions, but it also had to place them in a
position subordinate to the over-god, who was to pull them all together,
and to grant him the higher authority. The names of the disciples, then,
corresponded to the names of those deities. Matthew was Mithras, Thomas -
Tammuz, Mark - Mars, John - Oannes, Peter - Jupiter, Paul - Apollo. Even
the Virgin Mary was a variation on older myths. The name "Jesus Christ" was
actually a contraction on "Hesus" and "Christos". The use of crosses, as
symbols, was almost non-existent before. This was generally regarded as a
violation of the second commandment, and the reminder of Christ's suffering
was usually deemed inappropriate.
A vote was cast to decide whether women had souls. The women won by one vote.
Among early Christians, however, it was the women, as much as the men, who
had visions and were accepted for that ability.
The Church of Antioch left the council in disgust. As a consequence, it was
persecuted as far away as Malabar, India. The new church was virtually Christian
in name only. Early Christians, and not Gnostics alone, were committed pacifists
and anarchists. They refused to enter the military, or any kind of government
work. After the Nicean Council, this changed, such that within 60 years almost
every soldier and civil servant was a Catholic. The traditional Christian
virtues of love, tolerance and forgiveness were quickly swept under the
Constantine never converted. On his deathbed, when he was too delirious to
protest, "Saint Eusebius" entered his chambers, sprinkled holy water on him,
and declared him baptized. Constantine, ruthless as he was, had put a stop
to the persecution of Christians, but his successors began the persecution
of Gnostics in earnest. Emperors Valens and Valentinian were such ruthless
butchers as to make even Caligula look like a sweetheart. They were barely
· In AD 366, Damasus became pope by the violent
removal of his rivals. He hired gangs of thugs to ambush Bishop Ursinus's
party in the Basilica. 137 men were left dead, not counting those killed
in the previous street fighting.
· In AD 375, Valens had untold thousands slaughtered
on basis of name alone, because a magician obtained a prophecy giving the
first letters of the name of Valen's successor: Theta-Epsilon-Omega.
Anyone whose name began with those letters, whether named Theodore,
Theodosius, Theodatus, Theophilus, or Theodora, were sought out and killed.
Untold thousands more were also killed on mere suspicion of occult practice.
The heads of those executed were piled high in the town squares. Despite
his efforts, Valens could not stop the fulfillment of the prophecy. After
his death, an official named Theodosius, from an obscure province of Gaul,
took power. Theodosius, a Catholic, ordered the continued slaughter of occult
· In AD 1209, the entire population of the Albigens
was slaughtered at the order of Pope Innocent III. The Albigens, in the south
of France, was then the most populous, the most technically, socially, and
economically advanced part of Europe. Its population was largely Gnostics
and Arian Christians, and were a sanctuary for Jews who were persecuted most
every place else in Europe. All of these groups had a high percentage of
literacy and read the Bible, which was prohibited by the Vatican. Innocent
III was seeking to put a stop to the "Gnostic heresy", but found it to be
entrenched throughout Europe. Innocent also reinstated a prohibition against
the owning or reading of Bibles by anyone other than clergy, under penalty
· Following the U.S. Civil War, the papacy continued
to defend the institution of slavery, even when it had fallen into disfavor
most everywhere else.
· The papacy also continued the practice of creating
castratos (boys castrated before puberty to keep their singing voices
high-pitched) for their own entertainment, long after it had fallen in disfavor
Neither is Catholicism alone in being responsible for such atrocity. It has,
in fact, been endemic to almost every Pistic religion:
· The Aztecs, Mayans and Incas practiced human
sacrifice. In the 1300s, the Aztecs alone killed about 20,000 yearly.
· India's Thugee sect, before it was wiped out
with the help of the British, claimed the murder of about 20,000 per year.
· Islamic Jihads, mandated by the Koran, resulted
in the deaths of millions over a period of 1,200 years, and they are at it
again in the modern era.
· Baha'i's have been a peaceful people since the
religion was founded in Persia in 1844. Baha'u'lla'h, their leader, taught
against too rigid dogma. The Islamics disagreed, and killed thousands of
Baha'i's. In 1852, 200,000 Baha'i's were massacred in the streets of Tehran.
· In the early 1900s, Muslim Turks committed genocide
against the Armenians.
· Noteworthy is the fact that neither Hitler nor
Stalin was tolerant of dissent or disagreement. Hitler believed himself on
a mission from God. Stalin enforced atheist communism as a Pistic dogma.
· In 1947, when India won its independence from
Great Britain, the Hindus and Muslims began killing each other with religious
zeal. A million died, including Ghandi, before it stopped. It is still going
on in Kashmir, actually.
Neither can the word of Pistic leaders be trusted. The Vatican, in particular,
has a long-standing tradition of fabricating its own history as it went along.
· Constantine burned, along with Christian writings
that did not fit his ideas for the new religion, the records of 300 years
of Greek philosophy.
Neither would he be the last emperor to burn historical documents to cover
his tracks. A controversy was raised by a man named Heirocles, who accused
the Council of plagiarizing the library of Apollonius of Tyana to produce
the New Testament. Heirocles' own arguments were destroyed, but Eusebius'
rebuttal, consisting mostly of ridicule, survived.
· Circa AD 366, It was Damasus who invented the
name "pope", derived from a Greek word for father: "pappas", in violation
of Christ's commandments. He also invented the doctrine of the pope being
the successor to St. Peter, never mind Peter was never a bishop in Rome,
nor anywhere else, and it is doubtful he was ever in Rome. Meanwhile, Peter
was one of the founders of the Church of Antioch, which had ceceeded from
the Catholic Church.
· In AD 378, Emperor Theodosius ordered large
numbers of historical documents burned.
· Circa AD 390, Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, incited
a mob to burn the Library of Alexandria and brutally murder Hypatia, its
female curator and librarian. For these crimes he was sainted. The Library
of Alexandria had been the largest, most comprehensive library of the ancient
world. Part of it survived to be burned by Pistic Arab Muslims about two
· In AD 750, a document surfaced entitled: "The
Donation of Constantine" claiming to have been written by Emperor Constantine
giving deed of the entire Roman Empire to the Church. Such a greed for power
grew out of the acceptance of this story as fact, that there would be as
many as four popes take power in a day, each after having his predecessor
murdered. It was exposed as a forgery on both linguistic and historical grounds
independently by Nicholas of Cues in 1433, and Lorenzo Valla in 1440.
· In AD 1030, Pope Gregory the Great took power,
declared himself a saint, and created a staff of forgers to create documents
supporting any new policy as already existing. Gregory was later excommunicated
by a group of Italian Bishops for "preferring licentiousness to honorable
marriage". Many "celibate" popes were actually shameless philanderers and
womanizers, but Gregory, in reinstating the doctrine of priestly celibacy,
had exiled the wives and children of Roman priests, leaving them helpless,
while doing nothing about the prostitutes and concubines kept by the clergy.
Many wives committed suicide.
Christian history has, by no means, been all bad. Of special note is the
Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. The Society of Friends,
founded in England in the early 1600s, has as its central teaching that everyone
has an "Inner Light": "He was the true light which lighted every man who
came into the world." John 1:9. As such, they went a long way toward
rediscovering the teachings of ancient Gnosticism, even regarding the "Inner
Light" as a higher authority than scripture. They have also been one of the
most egalitarian forms of Christianity, subjecting major decisions, concerning
the group, whether in business or church management, to a consensus. As Saturn
Corp. has discovered, this approach is a very effective quality control device,
and many a Quaker business has prospered by employing that approach.
So what of the followers, the true believers of Catholicism, Islam, Communism
or any other Pistic religion? It is not they who are the evil. They are merely
ignorant pawns in someone else's game. To attack them is to miss the point
and create an unnecessary enemy. Even the bad apples are merely the symptom
of a bad system. If we merely attack bad apples, we condemn ourselves to
keep on doing so, like attacking criminals without addressing the causes
of crime. To do so is to be short-sighted and ineffectual. It is the Pistic
commitment to BELIEF, to the exclusion of evidence, that is at the root of
the evil in our world. To believe to the exclusion of evidence is to create
a schism between your understanding and your senses. This is nothing less
than a breach of integration, and therefore a breach of integrity. Having
done so, you leave yourself open to be used as a tool of whatever evil your
leaders wish to commit.
Jesus once said that we should beware of false prophets, that we shall know
them by their fruits. The fruits of Gnosticism have benefited many. Gnostic
teaching has brought us science, prosperity, wisdom and a foundation for
peace. The fruits of Pistis have been oppression, deception, book-burning,
torture, the falsification of history, mass murder, and even suicide in the
name of God. --J H Jensen
Unlikely Savior Saves The Church -- And Spawns
The Greatest Revision Yet
Part of a large essay
by Scott Bidstrup
313 C.E. to appx. 430 C.E.
In 313, Emperor Constantine and his co-emperor Lucinius sent a series of
rather flowery letters to their governors, in which they said it was "salutory
and most proper" that "complete toleration" be given to anyone who has "given
up his mind to the cult of the Christians" or any other cult which "he personally
feels best for himself." The Edict of Milan, as this decree was called, had
the effect of legalizing Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. The question
history has never adequately answered is why the Edict of Milan was issued
in the first place.
Emperor Constantine was a deeply superstitious man. He was a practitioner
of several religions, trying to keep his bases covered, even after his
'conversion.' He was arbitrary and capricious. He sent prisoners of war to
the lions, committed wholesale acts of genocide in his campaigns in North
Africa, and was known for his overbearing, egotistical, ruthless and
self-righteous behavior. His nephew Julian said that his appearance was strange,
with stiff garments of Eastern fashion, jewelry on his arms and it was all
set off by a tiara perched on a dyed wig. Constantine apparently viewed
Christianity as just one of the many cults of his realm, and he seemed to
practice them all, apparently with the same depth of commitment. He wasn't
actually baptized, apparently, until he was on his death bed.
Emperor Constantine for all his strangeness was nothing if not a good politician.
He understood well the fact that the Christians were becoming so numerous
as to represent a possible political threat should they get their act together
and become organized. So to co-opt the threat they represented, he conveniently
had a 'miracle' which led to his 'conversion' so he could become their ally.
In 312, a year before the Edict of Milan, he fought the battle of Milvan
Bridge, against a rival claimant to the emperor's throne. Among his soldiers
were many Christians and they were already carrying on their swords and shields
the Christian Chi-Rho sign. Well, to hear the stories, the heavens opened
up, and the Emperor had a vision. And he was granted victory in his battle.
At least this is the story the Christian apologists tell.
Unfortunately, we don't know what exactly happened at Milvan Bridge, because
the dear Emperor kept changing his story and telling different versions of
the events to different people. At least six different versions have survived
from different people who claimed to have heard it from the emperor himself.
As he kept telling these conflicting stories, he remained personally converted
to the Mithraic sun-cult common in the Empire at the time. As a monument
to his victory at Milvan, some years later, he raised a triumphal arch, which
survives to this day. It bears on it a testimony to the "Unconquered Sun"
and referred to Jesus Christ "driving his [the sun's] chariot across the
sky." He commanded the Christians to hold their services on Sun-day, and
the Nativity Feast of Mithra, held on the 25th of December because it was
the winter solstice and the rebirth-day of the winter sun, became the Christian
nativity feast, Christmas. Constantine became the sole Roman emperor in 324
and convened the First Council of Nicea the following year. His commandment
to the bishops: Get your act together and quit squabbling. Come up with a
consistent doctrine that would be universal, i.e.catholic, and could be
understood and practiced by all.
Of course, the bishops complied. Rather than risk Imperial disfavor, they
all met at Nicea, squabbled, squabbled some more, hammered out a few common
doctrines (mostly with regard to the creation and the nature of the universe,
and the first version of the Apostolic Creed), declared themselves in agreement
on it, and departed totally unconverted to each other's views. The emperor
who was totally ignorant of the issues, hearing that his bishops had finally
agreed on a common doctrine, was pleased. The bishops were certainly pleased
to hear he was pleased. And then they went about preaching the same old doctrines
Argument and dissension continued for the next six decades with various factions
finding themselves in and then out of Imperial favor. Athanasius, the actual
author of the original version of the Apostolic Creed, found himself exiled
and 'rehabilitated' on no fewer than six occasions. It was eventually Imperial
politics and the wealth of the Roman church, which it shared with the smaller
congregations along with instructions for its use, more than theology, that
finally governed the form that Christian doctrine would take, as various
bishops found themselves in and out of imperial favor at various times. By
430, the council of Nicea had become an ongoing affair, designed to stamp
out "heresies" (read: dissent from the Imperial view), and create a formal,
universal, i.e. catholic church organization, organized in a manner similar
to the political structure of the Roman Empire itself.
The Council of Nicea became, in essence, the enforcer of the Imperial view
of how things ought to be. This is why the Catholic Church today resembles
in its government the government of the Roman Empire of the period. The
headquarters of the church was eventually established at Rome, and the head
of the church became known as the pope. New basilicas dotted the landscape,
all built with the blessing of the Emperor, and all aligned to the new,
imperially blessed, church headquarters in Rome. Constantine sent expeditions
off to Palestine to "find" and build basilicas over the sacred sites of the
church's early history, and return with faith-promoting "relics" which of
course they were happy to acquire or more often, produce. In order to popularize
the church with the masses, the doctrinal emphasis was changed significantly.
These changes were reflected in the art of the Christian church. When early
Roman Christians met secretly in Rome, the art they produced reflected the
pastoral nature of Jesus' teachings. Scenes of Jesus feeding the multitudes,
blessing the children, and healing the sick were the themes in the art of
After the conversion of Constantine, the character of the art suddenly and
dramatically changed to reflect the change in doctrinal emphasis. Gone are
the sweet, pastoral scenes of a meek Jesus patiently ministering to his
followers. Instead, images of the crucifixion and the scourging of Jesus
in the court of Pilate become common. This was to help the suffering masses
identify with Jesus who was said to have suffered on their behalf. The church
had became a political instrument -- be patient with your suffering under
Roman rule, the masses were told, and a better life for you is prepared for
you if you believe in Jesus the Savior. The emperor may not provide good
living in this life, but Jesus would in the next.
It is at this time that the Chi Rho and the symbol of the fish, representing
the miraculous nature of Jesus' message (at least as formulated by the gospel
writers), is replaced by the cross, a symbol of death and the defeat of
suffering, as the principal emblem of Christianity. --by Scott Bidstrup
[see Scott's website for his
bibliography and also a list of books related to this topic]
Foundation of Christianity
||Yeshua fulfilled a powerful role as Son-of-God. He
seemed to fit the archetype of several existing pagan gods and demi-gods
who were personifications of the dying resurrecting god, or the well known
solar myth, as reflected by such popular deities as Mithra, Heracles/Hercules,
Tammuz, and Dionysus.
Isis With Horus is Madonna
Isis with Osiris is the Pieta (holding the slain God)
WHO is ISIS? At the apex of her influence, this Mother
Goddess of Rebirth was worshiped throughout the Greco-Roman world. Her temples
were finally closed in the 4th century AD, but her role as Mother of God,
as well as many other Christian borrowings from her mythos, were assumed
by the Virgin Mary.
She and the baby Horus are the icons that were converted into the Madonna
and Child by the early Christians. It is said that the worship and love for
Isis, the goddess of the home and hearth, was so great she was literally
absorbed into Christian iconography. She was loved and adored for her compassion,
loyalty, and healing ability.
Isis is pictured in ancient art holding the slain body of her beloved Osiris
across her lap, just as Christianity portrayed Mary holding the slain Jesus
across her lap, -- called the Pieta.
Isis is also the first winged female to appear in earth's ancient artwork.
Middle Eastern / Mediterranean goddesses Astarte and Anat as well as
Lilith and Athena Nike were shown as winged women, too. Christianity
is full of winged women images these days, they call them angels. We
have to remind those artists that most biblical angels were male warrior
types with no mention of wings!
"In the beginning there was Isis, Oldest of the
Old, the Goddess from whom all becoming arose." -- Egyptian
"The mother of the stars, the parent of seasons,
and the mistress of all the world." -- Lucius Apuleius
origins: Originally Isis was known as Au Set, a predynastic Egyptian
Goddess dating from 3000 BCE. She laid upon the dead body of her husband-brother,
Osiris (whose annual death symbolized the fertilizing of fields by Nile
floodwaters), and conceived Horus, the falcon-headed deity who is the original
"son of God(ess)." The name Isis means "throne woman," and she was venerated
as the inventor of agriculture, law and medicine, and as the Mother who placed
the Sun God Ra in the sky. Isis was called "She of Ten Thousand Names,"
and in Europe one of her names was Zisa, the wife of Zio who was also the
sky god Tiu, Tiw or Tyr -- the god to whom our Teutonic ancestors dedicated
the third day of the week: "Tuesday."
Book suggestion: The
of Isis by DeTraci Regula
Celibacy has very pagan
Marriage is a sin, Celibacy is the way to go according
to Church authorities. But their celibate priests and nuns were actually
following a pagan tradition!
Below is an interesting exchange from Magdalenefirstname.lastname@example.org regarding
the real reasons behind celibacy and the official Catholic Church viewing
sex -- even marital sex -- as negative and sinful. The argument leads to
an example of yet another bit of Pagan DNA allowed into Christianity. Too
bad they let the celibacy part of paganism in.
On 4/13/04 Lore wrote:
Roman Catholic Church heroes say the following about marriage:
Marriage is a sin. (St. Augustine)
Matrimony is impure and unholy, a means of sexual passion. (Origen)
Marriage is a moral crime, more dreadful than any punishment or any
death...spurcitiae, obscenity, filth. (Tertullian)
Marriage is corruption, a polluted and foul way of life. (Tatian)
Marriage is a crime against God. Marriage is prostitution of the members
of Christ. Married people ought to blush at the state in which they are living.
The primary purpose of a man of God is to cut down the wood of marriage with
the axe of virginity. (St. Jerome)
On 4/13/04 chris@goth... responded:
I read that a large part of the reason for celibacy in the church was due
to the fact that far too much land was being lost to heirs.
On 4/14/2004 deigngerdoll expanded on the thought:
According to the research I've done, that was the pragmatic reason for celibacy.
I've read in several places that another reason the church priests became
celibate after first being allowed to marry, was due to pagan Roman tradition.
There were many pagan Roman priests/priestesses who venerated their gods,
such a Vesta/Hestia (vestal virgins) by remaining chaste. They were put to
death if they were found to have lost their virginity. Many widowed women
also became Vestal priestesses, which influenced the tradition of Catholic
widows becoming nuns if widowed. I believe some of the priests/esses of some
male gods were chaste, as well. Rome took what it liked from pagan
practices (and others) and applied them to their modern church structure.
What a great combo - retain the land and make people wrong for natural sexual
urges, wrong for the desire to marry and procreate - the paring of the pragmatic
with the traditional.
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