Religion and believers #10 Infiltrating pagan teachings

In the previous posting we saw already how the pupils of the disciples from the apostles searched in other classic writings to add some flavour to their teaching and to gain more popularity because some Greek philosophers were very popular. Certain members of the community found themselves too weak to present strong teachings and therefore went looking for material in those Greek philosophical works, for their own intellectual satisfaction and in order to convert educated pagans.

Pagan Teachings Infiltrate

Jesus, as a devout Jew, clearly taught that the Elohim Hashem Jehovah is “the only true God” and that the human soul is mortal. (John 17:3; Matt. 10:28) in several of his stories or parables, Jesus wanted to make it clear that people lived now and had to make the right choices when they lived, because once a person would die it would be finished and then he could not do anything. His teachings were in line with the words of Solomon who observed that the living know that they will die; he wrote:

“But the dead know nothing at all.”  (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10.)

In the philosophical works and many myths, there were ideas expressed that a soul would leave the body at death and continue its life somewhere else, such as the heavens or the earth’s cradles. Clinging to such fables and philosophical ways of thinking, several false teachings slowly trickled into that faith of the early Christians, even to the extent that it later became a regular feature of Christian groups who held to a triple deity.

These teachings of the Trinity and the immortality of the soul, however, go back much farther than the Greek philosophers. The Greeks actually acquired them from older cultures, for there is evidence of such teachings in ancient Egyptian and Babylonian religions. The Babylonian mythology was greatly influenced by their Sumerian counterparts, who regarded their divinities as responsible for all matters pertaining to the natural and social orders.

File:Dumuzi aux enfers.jpg
Ancient Mesopotamian underworld – Cylinder seal impression. Probably Dumuzi imprisoned and being tortured in the underworld by galla demons

Millennial hope gradually abandoned

By the Sumerians all mortals’ spirits, regardless of their behaviour while alive, were believed to go to Kur, a cold, dark cavern deep beneath the earth, which was ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal, and where the only food available was dry dust. In later times, Ereshkigal was believed to rule alongside her husband Nergal, the god of death.

By such idea of the soul leaving the body to go to an earthly place to be tortured, or to a heavenly place the millennial hope was gradually abandoned.

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology explains:

“The doctrine of the immortality of the soul came in to take the place of NT [New Testament] eschatology [the teaching on the “Last Things”] with its hope of the resurrection of the dead and the new creation (Rev. 21 f.), so that the soul receives judgment after death and attains to paradise now thought of as other-worldly.”

In other words, apostate Christians thought that the soul survived the body at death and that the blessings of Christ’s Millennial Reign must therefore relate to the spirit realm. They thus transferred Paradise from earth to heaven, which, they believed, the saved soul attains at death. There was, then, no need to watch for Christ’s presence and the coming of his Kingdom, since at death they all hoped to join Christ in heaven.*

Furthermore, when souls would go straight to heaven and hell after death there would be nobody to call out of the graves (sheol/hell) and nobody to judge when Christ shall return to this earth.

Another factor, though, actually made it seem to be pointless to watch for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom. The New Encyclopædia Britannica explains:

“The [apparent] delay of the Parousia resulted in a weakening of the imminent expectation in the early church. In this process of ‘de-eschatologizing’ [weakening of the teaching on the “Last Things”], the institutional church increasingly replaced the expected Kingdom of God. The formation of the Catholic Church as a hierarchical institution is directly connected with the declining of the imminent expectation.” (Italics ours.) So not only were millennial blessings transferred from earth to heaven but the Kingdom was shifted from heaven to earth. This “relocation” was completed by Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C.E.). In his famous work The City of God, he stated:

“The Church even now is the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven.”

Mix of natural and spiritual

Already in the first century the apostle Paul warned for those who claimed to be a follower of Christ, but kept to totally different teachings than the ones from Christ. According to Paul those teachers and preachers who held erratic notions and did not apply themselves to sound words, were puffed up with conceit and did understand nothing. (1 Timothy 6:3, 4,5) By taking such philosophical ideas in their teachings as well as by giving themselves a higher ranking in the group than the other believers, those men were creating frictions between the others and corrupting the congregation.

Having several disciples who wanted to have a leadership position, those so-called followers of Christ looking for popularity searched and took from philosophical works that were popular or could find some sympathy by the people. they wanted people also to believe the church could not live without a hierarchical system, where the elders as bishops would take the lead and arrange the way how to organise that Body of Christ and to decide what people had to believe.

For such decision of faith matters, there was more seen what could fit their purpose to stay in charge as well to gain enough popularity and winning supporters.

The majority of apologists in the past believed in an infallible Bible, a supernatural revelation and a divine redemption (cf. e.g. Heb. 1:1-3). But from the second century onwards many gave way to those philosophical thoughts to build up some new teachings and to create what they called “dogmas“. They created a fixed, especially religious, belief or set of beliefs that people are expected to accept without any doubts, because the explanation of it would be beyond their understanding and explained only by a divine vision given to the spiritual leaders.

By the years there became such dogmas added. And that way a group of such principles or statements, especially when considered to be authoritative or accepted uncritically, were by many believers as something they just had to accept as true. And the church leaders were very creative in providing such doctrines or a corpus of doctrines relating to matters such as morality and faith, set forth in an authoritative manner by a religion.

Catholic apologetics came further to give a central position to Church authority, which Roman Catholics explicitly define as infallible; but this position too is debated in a late section of their system. On the other hand, there may be a Christianity that seeks to extricate the “spiritual” from the “supernatural” [Arnold Toynbee, characterizing T. H. Green]. It would only lead to confusion, however, if we called this method “apologetic.” Any single effort in apologetics may be termed “an apology.” More elaborate contrasts have been proposed between the two words, but are of little practical importance. 

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Next: Religion and believers #11

Preceding

Religion and believers #1 Lots of groups to be taken interest in

Religion and believers #2 Different forms of Truth

Religion and believers #3 From father and mother gods to land and local gods

Religion and believers #4 Order of Nature and Polytheism on the way to monotheism

Religion and believers #5 Transition to Monotheism

Religion and believers #6 Origin of a church

Religion and believers #7 Independent and organised form of existence of a religion

Religion and believers #8 Groups following one or another apostle

Religion and believers #9 Old and new cults

A Book to trust #21 Biblical hermeneutics and Keys to truth

Trinitarians making their proof for existence of God look ridiculous #1

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Additional reading

  1. Looking for answers on the question Is there a God #1 Many gods
  2. Lovers of God, seekers and lovers of truth
  3. Faith in one or more gods
  4. El-Shaddai God Almighty Who no-one may see and live
  5. Only One God
  6. God is one
  7. Preexistence in the Divine purpose and Trinity
  8. Trinity
  9. The Trinity matter
  10. Trinity – the Truth about God
  11. Altered to fit the Trinity
  12. Trinity – history
  13. Christianity without the Trinity
  14. Not saying Jeshua is God
  15. Being Religious and Spiritual 2 Religiosity and spiritual life
  16. Being Religious and Spiritual 8 Spiritual, Mystic and not or well religious
  17. One Bible, many Churches
  18. God’s forgotten Word 5 Lost Lawbook 4 The ‘Catholic’ church
  19. Non-practicing Christians widely believing in a god or higher power
  20. Bible Teaching and Vital Doctrines to Discover
  21. The Soul not a ghost
  22. What is life?
  23. Realities concerning Human Life and Death
  24. Dying or not
  25. What happens when we die? (Our World) = What happens when we die? (Some View on the World)
  26. Where do we go when we die?
  27. Ezekiel 18:4 – What the Bible teaches about Soul and Spirit
  28. Death & Dead
  29. The Dead — Where Are They? 7 Man became a living soul
  30. The Dead — Where Are They? 19 Body, Soul and Spirit
  31. The Dead — Where Are They? 21 The Prodigal son
  32. Soul, Spirit, and Death
  33. Is there an Immortal soul (Our World) = Is there an Immortal soul (Some View on the World)
  34. Immortality, eternality – onsterfelijkheid, eeuwigheid (Some View on the World)Immortality, eternality – onsterfelijkheid, eeuwigheid (Our World)
  35. Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #1 Intro
  36. Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #2 Psyche, the word
  37. Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #3 Historical background
  38. Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #4 Psyche, According to the Holy Scriptures
  39. Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #5 Mortality of man and mortality of the spirit
  40. Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #6 Summary
  41. Concerning the Spiritual Body
  42. Souls and Religions with Nirvana and light
  43. Hell – Sheol or the Grave
  44. I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell
  45. God’s forgotten Word 4 Lost Lawbook 3 Early digressions and Constantinic revolution
  46. Jewish and Christian traditions of elders (Our World) = Jewish and Christian traditions of elders (Some View on the World)
  47. Believing what Jesus says (Our World) =  Believing what Jesus says (Some View on the World)
  48. The “Praeparitio” is a gigantic feat of erudition
  49. Calvin’s view on trying to save your life
  50. Are you religious, spiritual, or do you belong to a religion, having a faith or interfaith
  51. Matthew 23 – A Jeremiad against the religious hypocrites
  52. Mark 8 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 8:14-21 – Warning About Doctrinal Leaven
  53. Joseph Priestley To the Point
  54. 19° Century London Christadelphians
  55. False Teachers
  56. False teachers and false prophets still around
  57. Deciphering Truth in Word and Concept – That we might see
  58. Today’s Thought “Flee these things” (May 24)
  59. Today’s thought “Flee these things. Pursue …” (November 23)
  60. One of the most important Truths
  61. Who Through Jesus Sleep
  62. What is the Kingdom of God?

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Related

  1. St Nicholas, the Arians, and the Nicene Creed
  2. Classical Trinitarian Theism
  3. The Trinity and the Incarnation
  4. Beyond Belief – What the Heck is the Trinity? Is God Three or Is He One?
  5. Trinity – Trilogy – Triplet
  6. Triune, Trinity, Godhead?
  7. They were thrown into the fire!
  8. The human soul
  9. Human Soul and its Relationship with Physical body
  10. Is the human soul mortal or immortal?
  11. The human soul is mortal or immortal?
  12. 5 Deep Questions I Ask Myself About the Human Soul
  13. 5 Surprising Biblical Proofs that God will NOT burn people forever in hell
  14. Gehenna in the ‘Love Wins’ controversy

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