911:The Birth of Idolatry

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"And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you the statutes and precepts, that you might do them in the land which you are going over to possess. Therefore take good heed to yourselves, since you saw no form of Him on the day the Lord spoke to you on Horeb out of the midst of the fire, Beware lest you become corrupt by making for yourselves [to worship] a graven image in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, or of any winged fowl that flies in the air, The likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, or of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth. And beware lest you lift up your eyes to the heavens, and when you see the sun, moon, and stars, even all the host of the heavens, you be drawn away and worship them and serve them, things which the Lord your God has allotted to all nations under the whole heaven." - Deuteronomy 4:14-19 (Amplified Bible)
Exodus 20:4 "Thou shalt not make unto thee "ANY" graven image, or likeness of ANY THING that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:thou shalt "NOT" bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I am a jealous GOD,visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me,and keep my commandments."
Jeremiah 10:3-5 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
Romans 1:21-25 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.




Genesis 10:8-12; Genesis 3:15; Genesis 11

After the flood Noah and his family repopulated the earth. Because the deluge did not eradicate sin, man’s sinful nature ran wild once again. At the same time, territories were overrun with wild beasts, turning against the inhabitants of the land. The battle of man against beast was hot and fearful, but in the midst of it, Nimrod, son of Cush, appeared as the 'knight in shining armor'. A "mighty hunter," Nimrod delivered the people from the fear of beasts. Hungry for power, though, he also emancipated man from the LORD.

Until Nimrod, mankind was governed by the patriarchal system where the heads of families heard from God and guided their individual tribes. Nimrod, more accurately a "mighty hunter against the LORD," usurped patriarchal rule, and crowned himself the first human king in all of history. Now man ruled instead of God.

According to Jewish legend, Nimrod feared the prophecy that a child was to be born who would turn the people back to God. In an effort to preserve his kingdom, he slew 70,000 babies in hopes of killing the would-be savior. The story goes that Abram of Ur was the prophetic baby, the father of Israel from whom the messiah would come.

Although Nimrod’s motive was to keep the promised child from ruling, he used the fear of the wild beasts as a pretense for uniting the people, and established the kingdom of Babel. Presenting himself as savior, Nimrod convinced the inhabitants to look to him as the lord of the earth instead of the true God. Thus, the establishment of the kingdom was the beginning of the Babylon we read about in the Bible. Historically and symbolically, Babylon is any organized system that replaces God’s rule with human or demonic rule.

Nimrod’s greed and ambition led him to sell himself to demonic powers, and he became the high priest of devil worship. During this time Nimrod married the beautiful and cunning, but notoriously immoral, Semiramis. Together they ruled the world.

Plans were made for a grand tower, a massive type of building called a ziggurat, which consisted of a series of terraced platforms, each smaller than the one below it, and all together reaching a great height. At the top would be a shrine to Bel, whom they worshiped as 'the Most High god', the god of the sun and of fire; other 'sky gods' would also be included. Therefore, Genesis 11:4, in speaking of "a tower and his top with the heavens (literal translation)," is not referring to the height of the tower, but instead to the inscriptions of the stars on the walls of the shrine. The constellations were there, but with outlines of the 'sky gods' on them in order to cause people to associate the 'pictures in the sky' that they had known about from childhood, with the images Nimrod wanted them to worship. This is indicative of the occult deception which reigned in Babylon.

The Witness of the Stars by E. W. Bullinger reveals the true meaning of what we call 'the signs of the zodiac'. They were meant to be pictures in the sky representing God’s promise of a coming Deliverer, who, being the Seed of the Woman, would bruise the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). For this purpose, God gave the stars as "lights . . . for signs and for seasons" (Gen. 1:14 signs, from Hebrew oth means 'evidence'; seasons from Hebrew moed means 'appointed time'). The sky pictures were reminders meant to serve as evidence that all was under God’s divine control, and at His appointed time the events promised (the coming Deliverer, etc.) would happen.

God decided that the perversion of the celestial witness was an attempt to extinguish all hope in man for redemption -- this He would not allow. "This they begin to do, and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do" (Gen. 11:6) indicates that evil was about to be unleashed that would be "unrestrained." God defeated all of their designs by confusing their one language into many and scattering the people across the earth; when they could not communicate, their knowledge became fragmented. Various elements of stargazing by the civilizations that followed (Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, etc,) can be traced back to their common beginnings in Babylon. The 'divine astrology' -- God’s witness in the heavens -- was still intact, while pagan astrology was broken into corrupt pieces, a mockery of the former danger of the tower that had its "top with the heavens."

Meanwhile, in the height of his power, Nimrod died. It was a violent death, shrouded in mystery. Semiramis, pregnant from an adulterous relationship and desperate to keep her position, devised a scheme. Taking advantage of the prophecy written in the sky with which the remaining inhabitants of Babylon were familiar, Semiramis covered up the details of Nimrod’s death and publicly proclaimed that:

  • Nimrod’s death was voluntary and self-sacrificial for the benefit of the world.
  • Nimrod would rise again by mystical means.
  • She was a virgin.
  • Nimrod "visited her in a flash of light and the baby was the reincarnated Nimrod".
  • Nimrod’s rising in the form of her son was the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy (Gen. 3:15).

The baby, named Tammuz, was taught the lie and worshiped as god. Semiramis soon claimed that Nimrod had become the "sun god," and was worshiped as such. Not surprisingly, Semiramis was also worshiped as a goddess -- her original goal finally achieved. Thus, the birth of the mystery religion of Babylon: pagan worship of the bogus virgin and child.

Three key figures are prominent in every idolatrous system -- Nimrod, Semiramis, and Tammuz:

  • a famous, but sinful king dies or is cut off;
  • an immoral queen encourages false worship, bears a child, and is elevated to the status of god;
  • a child, worshiped as god, but serving as husband, lover, or son of the mother.

From Babylon the worship of mother/son spread across the whole earth. In Egypt there is Isis and Horus; in India, Isi and Iward; in Asia, Cybele and Deorius; in ancient Rome, Fortuna and Jupiter; and in Greece, Ceres/Irene and Plutus. The demonic counterfeit was long in place before the real mother and child walked the earth -- Mary and Jesus, the Christ.


Adam's Kin, by Ruth Beechick Astrology, the Ancient Conspiracy, by Ben Adam Devil Take the Youngest, by Winkie Pratney The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hislop

Also see:

World Religions

It was in the ancient city of Babylon that false religion (Satanic worship under various names) had its origin. Noah's grandson, Cush, the father of Nimrod, was the original ring leader that led the people away from the true God and encouraged the people as the "interpreter of the gods" to take another form of religion. He encouraged them to go ahead with the tower which his son actually built.


Genesis 10:8-10, "And Cush begat Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar." Genesis 11:1-9, "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime they had for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."

Babel is the original name for Babylon. It means confusion. It was literally started by Cush, the son of Ham, but was brought to a kingdom of power and grandeur under his son, Nimrod, the mighty hunter. Nimrod, according to the Genesis eleven account and also according to profane history, set out to accomplish three things. He wanted to build a strong nation, which he did. He wanted to propagate his own religion, which he did. He wanted to make a name for himself, which he also accomplished. He declared himself a god and became a tyrant King.

Nimrod's accomplishments were so monumental that the kingdom of Babylon was called the head of gold amongst all world governments. That his religion gained prominence is proven by the fact that Scripture identifies it with Satan completely in Isaiah Chapter 14 and in Revelation Chapters 17-18. And by history we can prove that it invaded the whole world and is the basis for every system of idolatry, and the theme of mythology, though the names of the gods are different because of the various languages in the world. The world's major religions (non-Judeo-Christian) can be traced back to ancient Babylon and ultimately to the garden of Eden and the fall of man, proving that polytheism emerged from monotheism, and not monotheism from polytheism as some profane scholars believe (monotheism is belief in a single God; polytheism is belief in multiple gods). Satan is known as the father of lies which deceiveth the whole world (Genesis 3:1, John 8:44, Revelation 12:9), and Nimrod was the human "father" of all false religion, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and the Egyptian mystery religions, et al.

When Nimrod was a young boy, his mother, Semiramis, desired him, and in fact, ended up marrying him. When Nimrod died, and was made the sun god, Semiramis then had an illegitimate son called Tammuz, who she claimed to be the son of Nimrod. She said that he was the "promised seed of the woman," (Genesis 3:15) and demanded that both her and Tammuz be worshipped. In Egypt the "Mother and Son" were later worshipped as Isis and Osiris. Semiramis also declared that her son, Tammuz, was in actuality the return or rebirth of her husband, Nimrod. Hence through this teaching the doctrine of reincarnation was born (the doctrine of reincarnation supposes that all creatures are in a process of spiritual evolution extending through limitless cycles of time). Tammuz became symbolized by the golden calf. Semiramis became known as the "queen of heaven," and was the prototype from which all other pagan goddesses came.

In his deified form, Nimrod the Sun god is known as Baal. Mythology reveals the fact that the god Baal, and the goddess, the queen of heaven, were universally worshiped under various names and titles. History confirms, that Nimrod, and his wife, Semiramis, were the prototypes for all gods and goddesses that permeated all subsequent cultures and societies. The Holy Bible tells us that “every nation made gods of their own” (II Kings 17:29). In the Hindu religion, for instance, there are some 33 million gods, including the trinity of Brahma (the ‘creator’), Vishnu (the ‘preserver’), and Shiva (the ‘destroyer’). A familiar phrase within Luciferian worship and the occult is “The Presence” or “His Presence”. The ‘new age’ religious movement, like most modern and ancient false religions, often use the phrase the One, when referring to their god. Hinduism proclaims, “The many could not exist without the One.”, “Truth is One”, and “They call him by different names” (Great Religions of the World, pp. 34,39).

The “One” is none other than Satan whom the Bible calls “the god of this world” which “hath blinded the minds of them which believe not” (II Cor. 4:4) and “which deceiveth the whole world” (Gen. 3:1, John 8:44, Rev. 12:9). The devil is called “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). The apostle Luke records the devil saying, “all the kingdoms of the world... and the glory of them... is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.” (Luke 4:5,6). The “devil [also known as “Satan” and “Lucifer” (Rev. 12:9; Isa. 14:12)] as a roaring lion, walketh about [“going to and fro in the earth, and... walking up and down in it” (Job 1:7)], seeking whom he may devour” or “deceive” (I Pet. 5:8; I John 4:1) with myths and “cunningly devised fables” (II Pet. 1:16) taught by “false teachers” and “false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing” (II Pet. 2:1; Matt. 7:15). “And no marvel;” exclaimed the apostle Paul, “for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (II Cor. 11:14,15). It is quite clear by the preponderance of evidence that the Holy Bible is not a book of fables, as some would like to believe, but is in fact an accurate historical account of man's origins and affairs, and is indeed the very words of the only true God, revealing “the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Psa. 33:11).

As false religion teaches man to look for a worldly messiah (Buddha, Kalkin, Maitreya, or “another Jesus”) of a ‘new age’, the Holy Bible teaches Christians to look for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” at “the end of the world” (Matt. 24:3-30; II Pet. 3:9-13; Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:7). True biblical Christianity clearly teaches us to look for the “new earth”, not a ‘new age’, as the earth will be “dissolved” and “pass away”, and God himself will create “new heavens and a new earth” (II Pet. 3:11-13; Matt. 24:3-14; Rev. 21:1-5). “Genesis 1 marks the beginning of earth's time.... Revelation 20:11 reveals earth's explosive end. A contrary scenario is presented by the other religions of the world. They present a cyclical view of life in which reincarnation of the individual and evolution of the species provides the needed ‘time’ for their works-based salvation to bear fruit” “Since the sun is a type of Christ, God set the autumnal equinox at the time of Christ's birth in September and the vernal equinox in March during his death and resurrection. But mankind ‘did not like to retain God in their knowledge,’ ‘changed the truth of God into a lie’ and became ‘vain in their imaginations’ (Romans 1:19-28). So the Chaldeans, with their observatory in the tower of Babel, invented imaginary zodiacal boundaries in the sky in relation to the equinox to make a celestial calendar for their system of ages and astrology.” “These ‘observers of times,’ anan, were condemned in the bible in II Chronicles 33:6, Deuteronomy 18:10,11, II Kings 21:6 and Leviticus 19:26. The NKJV, NIV and NASB [and most new bible versions] have completely removed this warning” setting the stage for the one world religion of “antichrists” (II Peter 2:1; I John 2:18; 4:1-6). (New Age Bible Versions, pp. 180,181,182)

Historians such as Wilkinson (see p4/5 [1])and Mallett have proven conclusively from ancient documents that at one time all the peoples of the earth believed in ONE GOD, supreme, eternal, invisible, holy, Who by the Word of His mouth spoke all things into existence. But as Satan attempted to receive worship as though he were God and not the servant and creation of God, he drew worship away from God to the end that he might draw it unto himself and so be exalted (Isaiah 14:13-14). He certainly did accomplish his desire to spread his religion throughout the whole world (Romans 1:21-25, II Corinthians 4:4). Satan boasted of his desire to be worshiped as God saying, “I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14). The final step in his conquest to be worshiped as the most High is to unite the world's religions under an umbrella of world unity and peace and the false doctrine of the “universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man”(Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:9; John 8:44; II Corinthians 4:4).

These images shed light on the Roman Catholic church's inter-religious inter-faith agenda and why the scriptures refer to the woman who sits on the beast as "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH." (Revelation 17). Click on the thumbnails below to see the full-size images comparing the striking similarities between the various ancient and modern idolatries:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Revelation 13:4-8) "These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful." (Revelation 17:14) The faithful in Christ Jesus that refuse to take the mark of the beast in their right hand or in their foreheads, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution: he that shall endure unto the end, they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus, the same shall be saved (Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2; II Tim. 3:12; Mark 13:13; Rev. 13:16; 14:12). "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Revelation 12:11)

Bible references to idolatry

In ancient times God allowed his people to go astray and worship in the idolatrous ways of the nations of the world (Deut. 4:19; 17:3; Judges 2:13; 10:6; I Sam. 7:3,4; 12:10; I Kings 11:5,33; II Kings 23:3-5,13; Jer. 7:18; 44:17,18). Ancient sun-worship was an idolatrous custom of the nations of the world from the earliest times of recorded history. Ancient celestial deities were worshiped under a variety of names, but they all shared identical or similar attributes. The Scriptures record numerous instances when God's people turned to pagan idolatry; "and they worshipped the sun" (Ezek. 8:16); "the queen of heaven" (Jer. 7 & 44); etc. (Judges 2:13; 10:6; I Sam. 7:3,4; 12:10; I Kings 11:5,33; II Kings 23:13; Ezek. 8:13-16). When God delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, many of his people yearned for the idols of the pagan gods (Ezk. 20:1-16). Does God allow his people to go astray today? Absolutely: "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. 2:11,12). The book of Acts says of God's own people, even after he delivered them from bondage in Egypt, "in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,...Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven;" (Acts 7:39-43). The scriptures below are only a few of the many examples given to us for our admonition. (1 Cor. 10:1-14) [2]

+ add list of verses

definition of idolatry [3] [4], self righteous as idolatry [5], [6], idolatry defined [7], Is it an Idol — or an Idol?

  • history of idolatry, how israelites since golden calf have made idols and defy God will/law
Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish. - Jeremiah 10:14-15

  • Todo:
    • Graven images 47 ref (KJV)
    • obelisk
      • The word matstsebah in Hebrew means standing images or obelisk and it can be found in many places of the Bible. Here is Strong's definition of the Hebrew word matstsebah: H4676. matstsebah, mats-tsay-baw; fem. (causat.) part. of H5324; something stationed, i.e. a column or (memorial stone); by anal. an idol:--garrison, (standing) image, pillar.
    • fetishism -
    • amulets
    • idolatry 5 ref (KJV)
  • Idolatry in Roman Catholicism
    • Idolatry and Christianity
    • Worship associated with ancient pagan Mother Goddesses has much in common with Christian adoration of the Virgin Mary.
    • Deception via idols + add pictures
      • In Roman Catholicism, miracles continue to be associated with statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary. Such miracles involve statues that move, weep, or shed blood. In the phenomenon of stigmata, an intensely devout individual or a saint may become, in effect, a living statue upon which the wounds of Christ are physically reproduced—the marks of scourging, wounds on the shoulder and side, the bruising of wrist, and bleeding hands. Apparitions of the Virgin Mary are a related phenomenon in which a holy figure does not require the material support of an image for manifestation but appears with independent life. Even in modern times, there are claims of moving statues of the Virgin Mary, notably at the village of Ballinspittle, in Ireland. [8]

  • modern "stars"/celebrities [9]

The Teachings of Mary A Biblical Perspective

It is taught that Mary is Christ's chosen partner in the work of redemption. She is invoked by the church, under the titles of Mediatress, and Advocate. This is scripturely blaphemous!

Jesus "is the Mediator".(Heb.9:15 & 12:24) He also "is the Advocate" "We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1John 2:1)"Who his own self bore our sins...."(1Pet 2:24)

Pope Pius IX in 1854 proclaimed that the Virgin Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin. This again is a blasphemous statement. Consider the words of our Lord."For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"(Rom.3:23) "As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one." (Rom.3:10) "But we are ALL as unclean thing, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;..." (Isa.64:6)

There is only one without sin, JESUS CHRIST, HIMSELF! "And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is NO SIN."(1John 3:5)

The Catholic Church also calls Mary the Mother of God. Will their blasphemy ever cease? The term Mother of God was first used at the council of Ephesus in 431, and later reafirmed by Pius XI.They say she is truely honored, as a result she exalted far above all other creatures in both earth and heaven.Jesus ..."is no respector of persons..."(Rom.2:11)

This is an ungodly deception. First, she is not the Mother of God! "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world,, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God."(Psa.90:2) God created Mary! Secondly she was no different than you or I. She was a sinner and also needed Jesus as her Lord and Savior! "And Mary said, my soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior."(Luke 1:46-47)

They pray to her for forgiveness, bow down to graven images of her, give her glory, that belongs to Jesus only! "I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images."(Isa.42:8) This is not the Mary of the bible. The Mary of the bible did not magnify herself, she magnified her Lord!

My friends, Jesus is the only way! "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."(Acts 4:12)

It is taught also in the Catholic Church that Mary was blessed above others. The scriptures does not say above it says among.(see Luke 1:42) Many times the word blessed is used, here is just a few examples "Blessed are the poor in spirit" "Blessed are they that mourn" "Blessed are the meek" "Blessed are they who do hunger" "blessed are the merciful" Blessed are the pure in heart" "blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt.5:3-9)

Speaking to Jesus, a certain woman said, "...Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou has sucked. But he said, Yea rather, BLESSED ARE THEY THAT HEAR THE WORD OF GOD, AND KEEP IT." (Luke 11:27-28)

Was Mary a perpetual virgin? Is it truth? Absolutly not! The scriptures are clear on this topic also. "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon?..."(Mark 6:3)

All authority is given unto Jesus! At the name of Jesus everything shall bow! "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever, Amen."(Jude 1:24-25) (all emphasis mine) [10]

Life-death-rebirth deity


Source and [11]

Enough has been said thus far to permit comment on one of the major faults of the above-mentioned liberal scholars. I refer to the frequency with which their writings evidence a careless, even sloppy use of language. One frequently encounters scholars who first use Christian terminology to describe pagan beliefs and practices, and then marvel at the striking parallels they think they have discovered. One can go a long way toward "proving" early Christian dependence on the mysteries by describing some mystery belief or practice in Christian terminology. J. Godwin does this in his book, Mystery Religions in the Ancient World, which describes the criobolium (see footnote 6) as a "blood baptism" in which the initiate is "washed in the blood of the lamb."[10] While uninformed readers might be stunned by this remarkable similarity to Christianity (see Rev. 7:14), knowledgeable readers will see such a claim as the reflection of a strong, negative bias against Christianity.

Exaggerations and oversimplifications abound in this kind of literature. One encounters overblown claims about alleged likenesses between baptism and the Lord's Supper and similar "sacraments" in certain mystery cults. Attempts to find analogies between the resurrection of Christ and the alleged "resurrections" of the mystery deities involve massive amounts of oversimplification and inattention to detail.

Pagan Rituals and the Christian Sacraments

The mere fact that Christianity has a sacred meal and a washing of the body is supposed to prove that it borrowed these ceremonies from similar meals and washings in the pagan cults. By themselves, of course, such outward similarities prove nothing. After all, religious ceremonies can assume only a limited number of forms, and they will naturally relate to important or common aspects of human life. The more important question is the meaning of the pagan practices. Ceremonial washings that antedate the New Testament have a different meaning from New Testament baptism, while pagan washings after A.D. 100 come too late to influence the New Testament and, indeed, might themselves have been influenced by Christianity.[11] Sacred meals in the pre-Christian Greek mysteries fail to prove anything since the chronology is all wrong. The Greek ceremonies that are supposed to have influenced first-century Christians had long since disappeared by the time we get to Jesus and Paul. Sacred meals in such post-Christian mysteries as Mithraism come too late.

Unlike the initiation rites of the mystery cults, Christian baptism looks back to what a real, historical person -- Jesus Christ -- did in history. Advocates of the mystery cults believed their "sacraments" had the power to give the individual the benefits of immortality in a mechanical or magical way, without his or her undergoing any moral or spiritual transformation. This certainly was not Paul's view, either of salvation or of the operation of the Christian sacraments. In contrast with pagan initiation ceremonies, Christian baptism is not a mechanical or magical ceremony. It is clear that the sources of Christian baptism are not to be found either in the taurobolium (which is post first-century anyway) or in the washings of the pagan mysteries. Its sources lie rather in the washings of purification found in the Old Testament and in the Jewish practice of baptizing proselytes, the latter being the most likely source for the baptistic practices of John the Baptist.

Of all the mystery cults, only Mithraism had anything that resembled the Lord's Supper. A piece of bread and a cup of water were placed before initiates while the priest of Mithra spoke some ceremonial words. But the late introduction of this ritual precludes its having any influence upon first-century Christianity.

Claims that the Lord's Supper was derived from pagan sacred meals are grounded in exaggerations and oversimplifications. The supposed parallels and analogies break down completely.[12] Any quest for the historical antecedents of the Lord's Supper is more likely to succeed if it stays closer to the Jewish foundations of the Christian faith than if it wanders off into the practices of the pagan cults. The Lord's Supper looked back to a real, historical person and to something He did in history. The occasion for Jesus' introduction of the Christian Lord's Supper was the Jewish Passover feast. Attempts to find pagan sources for baptism and the Lord's Supper must be judged to fail.

The Death of the Mystery Gods and the Death of Jesus

The best way to evaluate the alleged dependence of early Christian beliefs about Christ's death and resurrection on the pagan myths of a dying and rising savior-god is to examine carefully the supposed parallels. The death of Jesus differs from the deaths of the pagan gods in at least six ways:

  1. None of the so-called savior-gods died for someone else. The notion of the Son of God dying in place of His creatures is unique to Christianity.[13]
  2. Only Jesus died for sin. As Gunter Wagner observes, to none of the pagan gods "has the intention of helping men been attributed. The sort of death that they died is quite different (hunting accident, self-emasculation, etc.)."[14]
  3. Jesus died once and for all (Heb. 7:27; 9:25-28; 10:10-14). In contrast, the mystery gods were vegetation deities whose repeated deaths and resuscitations depict the annual cycle of nature.
  4. Jesus' death was an actual event in history. The death of the mystery god appears in a mythical drama with no historical ties; its continued rehearsal celebrates the recurring death and rebirth of nature. The incontestable fact that the early church believed that its proclamation of Jesus' death and resurrection was grounded in an actual historical event makes absurd any attempt to derive this belief from the mythical, nonhistorical stories of the pagan cults.[15]
  5. Unlike the mystery gods, Jesus died voluntarily. Nothing like this appears even implicitly in the mysteries.
  6. And finally, Jesus' death was not a defeat but a triumph. Christianity stands entirely apart from the pagan mysteries in that its report of Jesus' death is a message of triumph. Even as Jesus was experiencing the pain and humiliation of the cross, He was the victor. The New Testament's mood of exultation contrasts sharply with that of the mystery religions, whose followers wept and mourned for the terrible fate that overtook their gods.[16]

The Risen Christ and the "Rising Savior-Gods"

Which mystery gods actually experienced a resurrection from the dead? Certainly no early texts refer to any resurrection of Attis. Nor is the case for a resurrection of Osiris any stronger. One can speak of a "resurrection" in the stories of Osiris, Attis, and Adonis only in the most extended of senses.[17] For example, after Isis gathered together the pieces of Osiris's dismembered body, Osiris became "Lord of the Underworld." This is a poor substitute for a resurrection like that of Jesus Christ. And, no claim can be made that Mithras was a dying and rising god. The tide of scholarly opinion has turned dramatically against attempts to make early Christianity dependent on the so-called dying and rising gods of Hellenistic paganism.[18] Any unbiased examination of the evidence shows that such claims must be rejected.

Christian Rebirth and Cultic Initiation Rites

Liberal writings on the subject are full of sweeping generalizations to the effect that early Christianity borrowed its notion of rebirth from the pagan mysteries.[19] But the evidence makes it clear that there was no pre-Christian doctrine of rebirth for the Christians to borrow. There are actually very few references to the notion of rebirth in the evidence that has survived, and even these are either very late or very ambiguous. They provide no help in settling the question of the source of the New Testament use of the concept. The claim that pre-Christian mysteries regarded their initiation rites as a kind of rebirth is unsupported by any evidence contemporary with such alleged practices. Instead, a view found in much later texts is read back into earlier rites, which are then interpreted quite speculatively as dramatic portrayals of the initiate's "new birth." The belief that pre-Christian mysteries used "rebirth" as a technical term lacks support from even one single text. ,br> Most contemporary scholars maintain that the mystery use of the concept of rebirth (testified to only in evidence dated after A.D. 300) differs so significantly from its New Testament usage that any possibility of a close link is ruled out. The most that such scholars are willing to concede is the possibility that some Christians borrowed the metaphor or imagery from the common speech of the time and recast it to fit their distinctive theological beliefs. So even if the metaphor of rebirth was Hellenistic, its content within Christianity was unique.[20]

Seven Arguments against Christian dependence on the Mysteries

I conclude by noting seven points that undermine liberal efforts to show that first-century Christianity borrowed essential beliefs and practices from the pagan mystery religions.

  1. Arguments offered to "prove" a Christian dependence on the mysteries illustrate the logical fallacy of false cause. This fallacy is committed whenever someone reasons that just because two things exist side by side, one of them must have caused the other. As we all should know, mere coincidence does not prove causal connection. Nor does similarity prove dependence.
  2. Many alleged similarities between Christianity and the mysteries are either greatly exaggerated or fabricated. Scholars often describe pagan rituals in language they borrow from Christianity. The careless use of language could lead one to speak of a "Last Supper" in Mithraism or a "baptism" in the cult of Isis. It is inexcusable nonsense to take the word "savior" with all of its New Testament connotations and apply it to Osiris or Attis as though they were savior-gods in any similar sense.
  3. The chronology is all wrong. Almost all of our sources of information about the pagan religions alleged to have influenced early Christianity are dated very late. We frequently find writers quoting from documents written 300 years later than Paul in efforts to produce ideas that allegedly influenced Paul. We must reject the assumption that just because a cult had a certain belief or practice in the third or fourth century after Christ, it therefore had the same belief or practice in the first century.
  4. Paul would never have consciously borrowed from the pagan religions. All of our information about him makes it highly unlikely that he was in any sense influenced by pagan sources. He placed great emphasis on his early training in a strict form of Judaism (Phil. 3:5). He warned the Colossians against the very sort of influence that advocates of Christian syncretism have attributed to him, namely, letting their minds be captured by alien speculations (Col. 2:8).
  5. Early Christianity was an exclusivistic faith. As J. Machen explains, the mystery cults were nonexclusive. "A man could become initiated into the mysteries of Isis or Mithras without at all giving up his former beliefs; but if he were to be received into the Church, according to the preaching of Paul, he must forsake all other Saviors for the Lord Jesus Christ....Amid the prevailing syncretism of the Greco-Roman world, the religion of Paul, with the religion of Israel, stands absolutely alone."[21] This Christian exclusivism should be a starting point for all reflection about the possible relations between Christianity and its pagan competitors. Any hint of syncretism in the New Testament would have caused immediate controversy.
  6. Unlike the mysteries, the religion of Paul was grounded on events that actually happened in history. The mysticism of the mystery cults was essentially nonhistorical. Their myths were dramas, or pictures, of what the initiate went through, not real historical events, as Paul regarded Christ's death and resurrection to be. The Christian affirmation that the death and resurrection of Christ happened to a historical person at a particular time and place has absolutely no parallel in any pagan mystery religion.
  7. What few parallels may still remain may reflect a Christian influence on the pagan systems. As Bruce Metzger has argued, "It must not be uncritically assumed that the Mysteries always influenced Christianity, for it is not only possible but probable that in certain cases, the influence moved in the opposite direction."[22] It should not be surprising that leaders of cults that were being successfully challenged by Christianity should do something to counter the challenge. What better way to do this than by offering a pagan substitute? Pagan attempts to counter the growing influence of Christianity by imitating it are clearly apparent in measures instituted by Julian the Apostate, who was the Roman emperor from A.D. 361 to 363.

Final Word

Liberal efforts to undermine the uniqueness of the Christian revelation via claims of a pagan religious influence collapse quickly once a full account of the information is available. It is clear that the liberal arguments exhibit astoundingly bad scholarship. Indeed, this conclusion may be too generous. According to one writer, a more accurate account of these bad arguments would describe them as "prejudiced irresponsibility."[23] But in order to become completely informed on these matters, wise readers will work through material cited in the brief bibliography.