Did Christianity Steal from Stoicism or Pagan Myths?

stoic-paolo_monti_-_servizio_fotografico_napoli_1969_-_beic_6353768
Zeno–founder of Stoicism

A few years ago, somebody named Sarxes commented on one of my posts entitled Did Jesus Exist? A Response to www.jesusneverexisted.com. He questioned the similarity between Stoicism and Christianity, implying that Christianity was plagiarized from pagan religions. Here is his argument (which is similar to an argument made at ReligiousTolerance.org):  

 

Stoic thinking, 500 years before Christianity:

  1. One of the ways in which Stoicism anticipated Christianity, is the idea of serving the will of God.
  2. Christians drew on the Stoic concept of the Logos, particularly in the marvelous opening to the Gospel of St John.
  3. The idea of giving up your will and serving the Logos (God/Jesus). Cleanthes said: ‘Conduct me, Jove, and you, 0 Destiny, Wherever your decrees have fixed my station.’ Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus anticipates, some of the noble sentiments of the Lord’s Prayer.
  4. Another important idea in Stoicism is the question of what is the most important thing in your life. What do you serve? What is your god or master? Because everything will follow from that.
  5. The Stoics’ idea of the cosmopolis – the City of God – and the idea that the good person should try and serve the cosmopolis first.

“sources: http://www.iep.utm.edu/stoicism/
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/stoicism/

      6. All of these were STOLEN by Christianity, and the following attributes of the non existent Jesus were stolen from the following pagan Gods, also rituals were stolen:

* Many early Christians celebrated Jesus’ birthday on JAN-6. Egypt, the birthday of their god-man, Aion, was also celebrated on JAN-6.** Christians and most Pagans eventually celebrated the birthday of their god-man on DEC-25.

      7. According to an ancient Christian tradition, Christ died on MAR-23 and resurrected on MAR-25. These dates agree precisely with the death and resurrection of Attis.

      8. Early Christians initiated converts in March and April by baptism. Mithraism initiated their new members at this time as well.

      9. Early Christians were naked when they were baptized. After immersion, they then put on white clothing and a crown. They carried a candle and walked in a procession to a basilica. Followers of Mithra were also baptized naked, put on white clothing and a crown, and walked in a procession to the temple. However, they carried torches.

      10. At Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were recorded as speaking in tongues. At Trophonius and Delos, the Pagan priestesses also spoke in tongues: They appeared to speak in such a way that each person present heard her words in the observer’s own language.

***
      11. An inscription to Mithras reads:

“He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made on with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.” 1 In John 6:53-54, Jesus is said to have repeated this theme: “…Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (KJV)

      12. The Bible records that Jesus was crucified between two thieves. One went to heaven and the other to hell. In the Mithras mysteries, a common image showed Mithras flanked by two torchbearers, one on either side. One held a torch pointed upwards, the other downwards. This symbolized ascent to heaven or descent to hell.

      13. In Attis, a bull was slaughtered while on a perforated platform. The animal’s blood flowed down over an initiate who stood in a pit under the platform. The believer was then considered to have been “born again.” Poor people could only afford a sheep, and so were literally washed in the blood of the lamb. This practice was interpreted symbolically by Christians.

      14. There were many additional points of similarity between Mithraism and Christianity. 2 St. Augustine even declared that the priests of Mithraism worshiped the same God as he did.

      16. Followers of both religions celebrated a ritual meal involving bread. It was called a missa in Latin or mass in English.

Pagan saviors of humanity:
Alexandria: Aion
Asia Minor: Attis
Babylonia: Antiochus
Egypt: Osiris and Horus
Greece: Dionysus and Asclepius
Syria: Adonis
Italy: Bacchus
Persia: Mithras

Self-proclaimed god-men:
Samos, Italy: Pythagoras (569 to circa 475 BCE)
Sicily: Empedocles (circa 450 to 390 BCE)

If you have encountered this argument, perhaps my response would be of help to you. 

1. * “One of the ways in which Stoicism anticipated Christianity, is the idea of serving the will of God.”

Stoicism came before Christ, but so did Judaism. Christianity is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law and Prophets. One of those prophets was Moses, who came several hundred years before the Stoics, and he repeatedly called for people to serve the will of God. This was the commandment of God: “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to SERVE THE LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” (Deuteronomy 10:12) The idea of serving the Lord runs throughout the Old Testament. Was it Stoicism that influenced Christianity, or was Christianity’s emphasis on serving God part of its Jewish heritage?

2. * “Christians drew on the Stoic concept of the Logos, particularly in the marvelous opening to the Gospel of St John.”

The Apostle John lived in a Greco-Roman society. Even though he was Jewish, he lived under Roman rule. The Romans were greatly influenced by the Greeks. They had the same Gods (by different names). Greek philosophy was considered to be the highest form of human thought at the time. Is it far-fetched to believe that John’s gospel was written as a RESPONSE to Greek thought, rather than drawing from it. The Stoics believed in Logos, a force that unified and held the universe together through reason and order. This Logos was their God. John appealed to the Greeks and tried to make the case that Jesus was their Logos. He was the creator of the orderly universe. In Colossians 1:17 the Apostle Paul appealed to this same idea. He said, “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” Both Paul and John were using apologetics, arguments to persuade philosophers that Jesus was their Logos, who, in a moment of time, became flesh and dwelt among men. John’s introduction didn’t have its roots in Stoicism; it was a RESPONSE to Stoicism.

3. * “The idea of giving up your will and serving the Logos (God/Jesus). Cleanthes said: ‘Conduct me, Jove, and you, 0 Destiny, Wherever your decrees have fixed my station.’ Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus anticipates, some of the noble sentiments of the Lord’s Prayer.”

The Hymn of Praise to Zeus by Cleanthes speaks to a god who brings order out of chaos, yet calls those who disrupt the order “evil mortals” and “poor wretches” who do foolish things in ignorance. The prayer of Cleanthes is that Zeus would “scatter their ignorance” and that they would give honor to the the universal “Word of Reason.” Their plea to their god as creator may have been the same, but the Lord’s Prayer is an intimate prayer asking a father to care for personal needs, to help to overcome the temptation to do evil, and to forgive us for our wrongs in the same way we forgive others who have wronged us. It’s an appeal to a person who cares for them, provides for them, and forgives them. To say the Lord’s Prayer found its roots in Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus is a preposterous allegation.

4. * “Another important idea in Stoicism is the question of what is the most important thing in your life. What do you serve? What is your god or master? Because everything will follow from that.”

The ancient Jews also believed in this concept. Most of the Old Testament prophets pointed out this reality. For example, Amos said that because the people of Israel had begun to be unfaithful to Yahweh and worship other gods, they had become sinful. “For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.” (Amos 5:12) What they loved, what they worshiped, had an impact on how they behaved. God’s prophets were always calling the people back to Yahweh because total devotion to Him alone was the only way to a just, kind, righteous society. Stoicism may have been impacted by Judaism in this sense!

5. * “The Stoics’ idea of the cosmopolis – the City of God – and the idea that the good person should try and serve the cosmopolis first.”

The Stoic idea of the just, ecumenical cosmopolis — the City of God — was also an Old Testament concept. The Old Testament prophets claimed that one day ALL nations, tribes, and tongues would come to Yahweh as part of the messianic promise. The cosmopolitanism of the Stoics was PRECEDED by the cosmopolitanism of the ancient Jewish prophets. For example, the book of Isaiah is replete with phrases such as “for a light of the Gentiles,” “sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth,” “let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice,” “declare his praise in the islands” [See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGjIMNv7wAg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5wfimT2WPM as examples of this fulfillment!]

Indeed, even as early as Abraham, Yahweh promised “In your seed all nations shall be blessed.” This global kingdom of God was foretold in the scriptures, the apostles didn’t need to steal it from the Stoics.(Augustine wrote his City of God after Jesus died in RESPONSE to pagan critics. He didn’t steal the ideas of the Stoics, who never believed in an epic battle between good and evil, but from the Bible, as a counter to the claim by the Romans that Christians caused the destruction of Rome because they refused to worship the Roman gods.)

6. “All of these STOLEN by Christianity, and the following attributes of the non existent Jesus were stolen from the following pagan Gods, also rituals were stolen:

* Many early Christians celebrated Jesus’ birthday on JAN-6. Egypt, the birthday of their god-man, Aion, was also celebrated on JAN-6.
** Christians and most Pagans eventually celebrated the birthday of their god-man on DEC-25.”

That Christianity became blended (syncretized) with other religions is a sad fact. (The Gnostics were also adept at confiscating Jesus for their own advantage). This doesn’t mean that Jesus was never born or never existed. The blending of Christian and pagan holidays occurred AFTER Jesus came. For example, the emperor Constantine once worshiped Mithras, but when he came to Christ he devoted the holiday once devoted to Mithraism to Christianity instead. (December 25). This was an act of worship. In actuality, this gives more evidence that Jesus was a real person in history. The pagans didn’t deny the existence of Jesus. They couldn’t. So they incorporated the good news of Jesus into their own system of belief.

7. * “According to an ancient Christian tradition, Christ died on MAR-23 and resurrected on MAR-25. These dates agree precisely with the death and resurrection of Attis.”

Actually Christ died at the same time as the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple, which is April 3, 33 AD. I’m not sure where you get the March date. The dates vary from year to year according to the lunar cycle. Would you like to give me evidence from a reputable source that Attis actually was raised from the dead in mythology? There are several stories that involve a bride, castration, and a pine tree, but not an actual death and resurrection in the elegant and historical sense that Jesus was resurrected.

8. * “Early Christians initiated converts in March and April by baptism. Mithraism initiated their new members at this time as well.”

This is a case of “which came first–the chicken or the egg?” Christianity and Mithraism were blended together. This doesn’t mean Christianity stole from Mithraism. I don’t know if Christians were only baptized in spring. Perhaps they did for practical purposed (such as the weather) or for spiritual purposes such as Passover symbolism, but this time frame is never specified in the scriptures.

9. * “Early Christians were naked when they were baptized. After immersion, they then put on white clothing and a crown. They carried a candle and walked in a procession to a basilica. Followers of Mithra were also baptized naked, put on white clothing and a crown, and walked in a procession to the temple. However, they carried torches.”

This is another case of blending beliefs AFTER the fact. There is no evidence that Mithraism practiced any kind of baptism before Christ. There IS evidence that the Essenes, the Jewish sect who hid the Dead Sea Scrolls, practiced baptism. I also don’t know if the early Christians were naked when they were baptized. Some later Christian writers describe naked baptism, but the scriptures never described baptism as being done in the nude.

10. * “At Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were recorded as speaking in tongues. At Trophonius and Delos, the Pagan priestesses also spoke in tongues: They appeared to speak in such a way that each person present heard her words in the observer’s own language.”

Missionaries often claimed that witch doctors in jungles would speak in tongues. These witch doctors never heard the gospel, yet they practiced glossolalia. Just because pagans spoke in tongues doesn’t mean Christians copied them. The explanation I’m about to give will lead into the next question also.

According to the Bible, after the Fall, blood sacrifice was a requirement for forgiveness of sins. God shed the first blood when he gave furs for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness. This requirement was passed down to their children also. Abel obeyed the requirement, but Cain didn’t. As time went on, the world fell further and further away from God, and God commanded Noah to build an ark. When he finished and survived the flood he offered a blood sacrifice. The requirement of blood continued, but at the Tower of Babel, God was angry, so he confused their languages and scattered the people across the earth. This explains how the concept of blood sacrifice is found in so many different religions. Even though God demanded an animal sacrifice, many religions changed the command and offered up virgins or infants as sacrifices. Like a game of telephone, the message became corrupted over time, yet the message of the blood was explained to all at one time.

At Pentecost, the Tower of Babel was reversed. At Babel, language divided the people, but at Pentecost language unified all under the Gospel. The message of the Gospel is that no more blood sacrifice is necessary. Jesus was our sacrifice, and language which all could understand was used to preach this message.

[As a side note: The reason a blood sacrifice was necessary was because it was the only way a God of extravagant love could pay for sin himself. This was done as a display to the universe. But how could mankind know that the sacrifice of Jesus was part of God’s great plan? Any Tom, Dick, or Harry could claim to be the sacrifice for sins, But the Lord gave us evidence to turn to (it was foretold centuries beforehand in so many ways through the law and the prophets) so humanity could know that Jesus was the true Savior.]

11.
***
“An inscription to Mithras reads:

“He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made on with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.” 1 In John 6:53-54, Jesus is said to have repeated this theme: “…Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (KJV)”

Concerning Mithras and the body and the blood . . . again . . . it was the followers of Mithras who copied Christianity, not the other way around! Justin Martyr, an early Christian, noted this plagiarism in his “First Apology.” (ch. 66) He said, “the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done.”

12. * “The Bible records that Jesus was crucified between two thieves. One went to heaven and the other to hell. In the Mithras mysteries, a common image showed Mithras flanked by two torchbearers, one on either side. One held a torch pointed upwards, the other downwards. This symbolized ascent to heaven or descent to hell.”

The image of Mithras doesn’t show him being crucified, and there is much more evidence to suggest the torchbearers you refer to (Cautes and Cautopates) represent the spring and autumn equinox (not heaven and hell). Also, these Mithraic representations (statues) date to the 3rd century after Christ, not before Christ. Therefore, Christianity didn’t steal the idea of Jesus being crucified between two thieves from Mithraic mythology.

13. * “In Attis, a bull was slaughtered while on a perforated platform. The animal’s blood flowed down over an initiate who stood in a pit under the platform. The believer was then considered to have been “born again.” Poor people could only afford a sheep, and so were literally washed in the blood of the lamb. This practice was interpreted symbolically by Christians.”

The earliest reference of this ritual occurs in 245 AD. And any idea of salvation occurs even later—AFTER Christ! The cult of Mithras stole from the Christians, NOT the other way around.

As I stated above, the blood sacrifice goes back to Adam and Eve…and at the Exodus the blood of a lamb was required to be placed on the doorposts in order for the angel of death to “pass over” that home. The law of Moses required that Passover be celebrated in memory of this event. The blood of the lamb then became a symbol of salvation. Christianity didn’t need to steal this idea from Mithras.

14. * “There were many additional points of similarity between Mithraism and Christianity. 2 St. Augustine even declared that the priests of Mithraism worshiped the same God as he did:”

I don’t know if Augustine ever said that the priests of Mithraism worshiped the same God as he did. (Source ?) But Augustine was a member of the Manichean sect at one time. This was a mixture of Gnosticism, Mithraism, and Christianity. Perhaps in his earlier years he thought that they were the same, but after he found the Christ of the Bible, he renounced Manicheanism.

15. **”Followers of both religions celebrated a ritual meal involving bread. It was called a missa in Latin or mass in English.”

Again, which came first? Even so, the concept of the bread and wine was seen as early as Genesis in the Jewish faith. The high priest Melchizedek offered bread and wine to Abraham. “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.” (Gen. 14:18) This high priest was one of the many “types and shadows” of Jesus that are found in the Old Testament. We know this to be, because the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5-7) It’s more likely that the idea of bread and wine came from the Old Testament, as a fulfillment, than that it came from the myth of Mithras.

I could go through each of the gods you list, but I think I gave you enough to chew on for now. If you like, I will take the time to respond concerning each mythological god you list. Just let me know. Even if they refer to blood sacrifices as forgiveness of sins…this was taught to all after Noah and was spread to all the world at the dispersion at Babel.

In conclusion…

In many instances, the claim that Christianity stole from pagan myths is an absolute lie. In fact, in many cases, the exact opposite is true. Many pagan religions, seeing the impact that the good news of Christianity had on their religious establishment, decided to blend the Christian faith in with their myths. They stole from Christianity! This happened after Christ (AD), not before Christ (BC).

Do you have a concern that if you are being lied to concerning the mythological sources of Christianity that you may be being lied to in other ways? Perhaps Jesus is the truth!

Another concern that I have is that the argument concerning the existence of Jesus, and his source being that of the myths is an old argument. It was put forth in the nineteenth century by David F. Strauss in his book, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. In this book Strauss claimed that the supernatural elements of Christianity were merely myths and that Jesus was just a good teacher. Bruno Bauer carried these thoughts further and actually denied the existence of Jesus. These teachers influenced Karl Marx and he lost his faith.

Future Marxists would use these beliefs to discredit, mock, and persecute believers in the communist world. Reverend Richard Wurmbrand, a Lutheran minister and founder of Voice of the Martyrs, describes these precise arguments being used against him while he was in a communist, atheist prison. While trying to brainwash him, he says that a prison official “began to attack religion. Christ, he said, was a fantasy invented by the apostles to delude slaves into hope of freedom in paradise.” Marx believed that religion dulled worldly pain and caused people to give up and wait for the “by and by,” rather than rising up to rebel and create paradise now. The ideas you are dabbling in have consequences.

Finally, I would ask you to consider who the mystery writer of the mythical Jesus was. If Jesus never existed, then he was created by an unknown author. This author must have been brilliant, because according to atheists he knew much of the mythology of the time. He also had to know the Old Testament very well, because the life of Jesus, as told in the Gospels, fulfilled all of the Law and the Prophets in every way. To this day believers are discovering more and more ways that Jesus fulfilled not only the prophecies of the Old Testament (Isaiah 53, for example), but also the types and shadows of the Old Testament. Jesus is seen in the life of Joseph. (He was the brother who was cast out, but would ultimately forgive them and save them in the end.) He’s seen in the Exodus. He’s found in the law. He’s seen in the life of Jeremiah. And on and on…..

How could this mystery writer have created such a sinless and perfect person? One of the problems with the Stoicism that you mention was their inability to produce their “wise man” in human form. They looked in vain for this man. Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, had said, “It is reasonable to honor the gods: it is not reasonable to honor the non-existent: therefore the gods exist.” Stoics realized they had to resort to the same circular reasoning when it came to finding the perfect role model. “It is reasonable to honor wise men; it is not reasonable to honor the non-existent; therefore wise men exist.” But they couldn’t find the wise man. They couldn’t even imagine him. Their gods fell far short of the ideal. (Perhaps this is why John referred to Jesus as the Logos!)

Can you tell me the name of this mystery writer? If not, then you would rather believe in someone, even though there is no evidence for their existence, than to believe in the existence of Jesus, as testified to in the four gospels. 

Blessings in Christ,

Diana

 

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