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Stuff you need to know before the POCM makes sense. Ideas, rituals and myths Christianity boosted from the Pagans. Some of the Pagan's dying-resurrected godmen The Triumph of Christianity Discover mainstream scholarship about Christianity's Pagan origins What did the Christians borrow? So what?
the ideas, myths and rituals christianity borrowed from the pagans Jesus saves -- Pagan Gods saved first gods whose dad was a god and whose mom was a mortal woman Christianity has baptism -- Paganism had it first Christians share a sacred meal with their God -- Pagans did it first Christians believe in eternal life -- but Paganism believed in it first
Jesus did miracles -- Pagan Gods did them first Jesus fulfilled prophecy -- Pagan Gods fulfilled prophecy first God and the immortal soul -- Paganism had 'em first Christianity thinks it has monotheism -- Paganism had it first Jesus' God lives in Heaven on High -- Pagan Gods lived there first pagan dead went to the underworld Jesus made clever quips -- Pagan cynic philosophers made them first
Eternal life -- Paganism had it first

Chock-a-block with goodies for the dead guy
"...Our soul is immortal, and has judges, and pays the utmost penalties whenever a man is rid of the body." [Plato, 7th letter, 335a]

Was Christianity new?  Was christianity unique?  Let's talk about eternal life.

We've all heard about the Greeks' Hades, and we all know the Egyptian pyramids were chock-a-block with goodies for the dead guy's afterlife, so chances are you've got a vague idea the ancient's had a notion of life after death.

But I'll bet you didn't realize how old and widespread was the idea of immortal life. It was old. It was universal.

Here's what the Pagans believed about life after death.

Stone age savagesStone age savages Of course the stone age savages who were our Western ancestors didn't leave us a written record of their beliefs, but in modern times life follows death in primitive societies around the world. By the way

Don't think of the ancient's Underworld or Hades, as Hell, a place uniquely of punishment. Think of it as Hades the place of the dead.

The idea of the dead ascending had not yet developed -- but it would, in time for Christianity to borrow it.

In pre-Columbian Nicaragua, the wicked died but immortal life was a gift to the good. In the Tongas islands of the Pacific, men of rank lived forever after death. An afterlife was part of the old cultures of Greenland and New Guinea. An so on. Interesting, but wide of our topic.

Christians believe in eternal life -- but Paganism believed in it first.

Babylon & Assyria  We're talking about a Western civilization that started three or four thousand years BC! For the Assyro- Babylonians, the soul -- their word was ekimmu -- survived the death of the body and descended to the underworld.

The Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh describes an afterlife where worms eat sinners, but the blessed lie on a couch and drink pure water.

The myth of the god Ishtar describes her descent into the underworld to bring back her lover to this world -- back to life. In the underworld Ishtar meets demons who punish the dead for sins committed during life.

Sound familiar?



By the way

You probably know the Jews lost a war with the Babylonians in 586 BC, and were taken as captives back to Babylon, where they lived for generations. So you probably won't be surprised to learn the Babylonians had other myths you may find familiar:

Their creation myth begins with a watery waste and an abyss that the great God Marduk gives shape and order.

The myth of the first man, named Adamu

Utnapistrum (often called the "Babylonian Noah") built and arc, collected animals, and saved the world from a great flood.

Sargon of Akkad, born of a priestess mother, was placed in a basket of bulrushes and pitch and left floating on the river Euphrates, where he was found and raised as a gardener, before becoming King.

....But I digress.

Christians believe in eternal life -- but Paganism believed in it first.  

Egypt   Osiris' followers knew their fate after death depended on the morality of the life they lead before death. The ancient Book of the Dead, 1250 BC, pictures the Ka -- the soul -- of dead believers standing the presence of Osiris as their judge. If they could recite a list of their good deeds in life, Osiris rewarded them with eternal life.

The Book of the Dead survives, so your can read the details yourself-- look for Chapter 125.


Persia For the Persians, who worshiped the great Lord of the Universe, the God of Light, Ahura Mazda, the soul of the dead comes to a bride of Chinvat and was judged according to it's deeds, words and thoughts in life. The good passed over the bridge safely and into paradise. The bad were dragged down to hell.

Christians believe in eternal life -- but Paganism believed in it first.


Mystery Religions of Greece and the Hellenized Mediterranean

You've maybe noticed the Mysteries keep popping up. One of the appeals of the mysteries was the hope they gave of a better life after death.

You don't have to believe me; listen to the words of the ancients themselves

It was the common belief in Athens that whoever had been taught the Mysteries would, when he died, be deemed worthy of divine glory. Hence all were eager for initiation. [Scholiast on Aristophanes The Frogs, 158]

It looks as if those also who established rites of initiation for us were no fools, but that there is a hidden meaning in their teaching when it says that whoever arrives uninitiated in Hades will lie in mud, but the purified and initiated when he arrives there will dwell with gods. [Plato, 'Phaedo, 69 c]

Quoting Socrates, "[T]he soul of man is immortal. At one time it comes to an end-that which is called death-and at another is born again, but is never finally exterminated. On these grounds a man must live all his days as righteously as possible." [Plato, Meno 81 b]

And Cicero: For it appears to me that among the many exceptional and divine things your Athens has produced and contributed to human life, nothing is better than those mysteries. For by means of them we have been civilized. The basis not only for living with joy but also for dying with a better hope. [Cicero, On the Laws, 2.14.36]

"Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these [Eleusinian] mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom." [Hymn to Demeter, 480-2]

Happy is he who, having seen these [Eleusinian] rites, goes below the hollow earth; for he knows the end of life and he knows its god-sent beginning. [Pindar, Fragment 102]

Beautiful indeed is the Mystery given us by the blessed gods: death is for mortals no longer an evil, but a blessing. [Inscription found at Eleusis]

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Christians believe in eternal life -- but Paganism believed in it first.  
Greece I know you've heard the Greek myth of the dead ferried by Charon across the river Styx into Hades -- the world of the dead -- so I won't bore you with that.  
Christians believe in eternal life -- but Paganism believed in it first.  

The next time you're in Church
ask yourself:"What about what I'm hearing was new and unique with Christianity, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were built with old parts?"Next time you're in church...

When they get to the part about your soul, and how it will live on after you die, remember the eternal life of the Babylonian's Ekimmu, the Egyptian's Ka judged for eternity by Osiris, and the Greek dead crossing the river Styx into Hades.

You'll know you're hearing about stuff that predated Christianity by thousands of years -- in a culture where over and over people built new religions out of old parts.