The Pagan Origins of Christianity

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The first part of this paper will explore the mystery-religions, the reasons behind their popularity, and the Hellenistic world in which they grew that began with Alexander the Great. Next, their characteristics and connections first with Judaism and later with Christianity will be more deeply discussed. In the second part it will be shown that the mystery-religions helped to clear the pathway for the Christianization of the Greco-Roman world by men such as Paul the Apostle. Finally, the Emperor Constantine’s role in this story will be mentioned, during whose reign the mystery-religions declined and Christianity became the major religion of Europe and the near east. The paper will conclude with a brief speculation about the significance of these ideas to modern Christianity. Introduction The place and time in which Christianity developed was characterized by change and confusion in all areas of life. Political, philosophical and especially religious questions were being asked that had never been asked before, and traditional systems were not providing the answers. For nearly seven centuries, from the conquest of Alexander the Great to the establishment of Christianity as the state religion by the Roman Emperor Constantine, the ancient world sought these answers in the mystery-religions, independent groups worshipping in new and experimental ways. Ancient religious tradition had failed to fulfill the needs of this evolving and expanding society and these mystery-religions were a cultural expression of that need. Christianity grew into the midst of this world and was in fact the end result of the experiment started in the mystery-religions. The term, “mystery-religion” refers to various forms of worship popular in ancient t... ... middle of paper ... ...d. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999. King, Martin Luther Jr. “The Influence of the Mystery Religions on Christianity.” The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Volume I: Called to Serve. Clayborne Carson, Ralph Luker, and Penny A. Russell, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project. Clayborne Carson, dir. Stanford University. 1 Feb. 2002 . Pike, Albert. Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Washington: House of the Temple, 1966. Additional Works Consulted Jonas, Hans. The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity. 2nd ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 1991. Murray, Gilbert. Five Stages of Greek Religion. New York: Doubleday, 1955.

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