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:
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.
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.*
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.
Next: Religion and believers #11
- Looking for answers on the question Is there a God #1 Many gods
- Lovers of God, seekers and lovers of truth
- Faith in one or more gods
- El-Shaddai God Almighty Who no-one may see and live
- Only One God
- God is one
- Preexistence in the Divine purpose and Trinity
- The Trinity matter
- Trinity – the Truth about God
- Altered to fit the Trinity
- Trinity – history
- Christianity without the Trinity
- Not saying Jeshua is God
- Being Religious and Spiritual 2 Religiosity and spiritual life
- Being Religious and Spiritual 8 Spiritual, Mystic and not or well religious
- One Bible, many Churches
- God’s forgotten Word 5 Lost Lawbook 4 The ‘Catholic’ church
- Non-practicing Christians widely believing in a god or higher power
- Bible Teaching and Vital Doctrines to Discover
- The Soul not a ghost
- What is life?
- Realities concerning Human Life and Death
- Dying or not
- What happens when we die? (Our World) = What happens when we die? (Some View on the World)
- Where do we go when we die?
- Ezekiel 18:4 – What the Bible teaches about Soul and Spirit
- Death & Dead
- The Dead — Where Are They? 7 Man became a living soul
- The Dead — Where Are They? 19 Body, Soul and Spirit
- The Dead — Where Are They? 21 The Prodigal son
- Soul, Spirit, and Death
- Is there an Immortal soul (Our World) = Is there an Immortal soul (Some View on the World)
- Immortality, eternality – onsterfelijkheid, eeuwigheid (Some View on the World) = Immortality, eternality – onsterfelijkheid, eeuwigheid (Our World)
- Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #1 Intro
- Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #2 Psyche, the word
- Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #3 Historical background
- Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #4 Psyche, According to the Holy Scriptures
- Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #5 Mortality of man and mortality of the spirit
- Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #6 Summary
- Concerning the Spiritual Body
- Souls and Religions with Nirvana and light
- Hell – Sheol or the Grave
- I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell
- God’s forgotten Word 4 Lost Lawbook 3 Early digressions and Constantinic revolution
- Jewish and Christian traditions of elders (Our World) = Jewish and Christian traditions of elders (Some View on the World)
- Believing what Jesus says (Our World) = Believing what Jesus says (Some View on the World)
- The “Praeparitio” is a gigantic feat of erudition
- Calvin’s view on trying to save your life
- Are you religious, spiritual, or do you belong to a religion, having a faith or interfaith
- Matthew 23 – A Jeremiad against the religious hypocrites
- Mark 8 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 8:14-21 – Warning About Doctrinal Leaven
- Joseph Priestley To the Point
- 19° Century London Christadelphians
- False Teachers
- False teachers and false prophets still around
- Deciphering Truth in Word and Concept – That we might see
- Today’s Thought “Flee these things” (May 24)
- Today’s thought “Flee these things. Pursue …” (November 23)
- One of the most important Truths
- Who Through Jesus Sleep
- What is the Kingdom of God?
- St Nicholas, the Arians, and the Nicene Creed
- Classical Trinitarian Theism
- The Trinity and the Incarnation
- Beyond Belief – What the Heck is the Trinity? Is God Three or Is He One?
- Trinity – Trilogy – Triplet
- Triune, Trinity, Godhead?
- They were thrown into the fire!
- The human soul
- Human Soul and its Relationship with Physical body
- Is the human soul mortal or immortal?
- The human soul is mortal or immortal?
- 5 Deep Questions I Ask Myself About the Human Soul
- 5 Surprising Biblical Proofs that God will NOT burn people forever in hell
- Gehenna in the ‘Love Wins’ controversy
- There Is No Hell, Look It Up