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Christianity: A Judaic Mystery Religion


R. S. Martin

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Over in the Lion's Den on the Mad Gerbil's miracle thread it occurred to me that some background on how Christianity got started (stuff not in the NT) might be of value. At first I was going to just post one post right there in that thread. Then I thought perhaps it merits a thread of its own but where to put it? I guess it's "general theology" perhaps, so here it is for now. If the mods know a better place I am sure they will move it. Maybe it's Totally off Topic.

 

I think what grew into Christianity was just one of the Mystery Religions that floated around the Mediteranean world a couple thousand years ago. For some reason, Saul of Tarsus really took to it and spread it to the Gentiles where it took root, and by the fourth century CE the Roman Emperor decided to take it on. Whether he ever really got baptized and was a "real" Christian is an open question that not even my prof could answer. (Being a Lutheran, for him being a real Christian would mean being baptized. For some of us, being a real Christian means living a certain way, keeping certain rules, etc.)

 

For those who don't know what the Mystery Religions are, there were others beside the Christian one. The others also had stories to go with them. I'm not talking about Osiris and the other Greek gods and their myths, but stories less well known. I can get authors' names or maybe find something online if anyone is interested. I took a course in it and have a few textbooks. Marvin W. Meyer--I think that is the name of one important scholar in the field. There's also something called the Eleusynian Mysteries. (Not sure of the spelling.)

 

Aesclepius is the name of a god I did a presentation on. Unfortunately, I did not understand the course too well so I didn't get as much out of it as I wish I had. The big thing I got out of it was that Christianity is not the only religious story of that era. At the time, I was in desperate need for an alternative view of Christianity and it provided some excellent food for thought. The confessions of the author of the Passing of Peregrinus (if you google that title you'll find the story) provided major insight on how the writers of the NT may have viewed their responsibility as writers of religious texts. (Peregrinus was another story I encountered in my research for assignments for that course.)

 

If I remember correctly, Marvin Meyer includes a passage from the NT in his book with sources on the Mystery Religions. I can look it up if there is interest.

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This is one topic that has had me going in circles for the better part of two years now. Just when I think I've got my mind wrapped around it...it slips away again. One thing I do know for certain is I disagree with mainstream academia as to the origin of this religion. I don't think it started in Judea.

 

My current feelings are that it started in Alexandria and in Ephesus (which truly came first is a bit of chicken and egg...my gut tells me the ideas took formed in Egypt but really took a shape we'd recognize in Turkey). Both locations had large libraries (Alexandria supposedly had the greater) and would be centers of learning and exchange of ideas. Since people traveling between these two locations would stop in the ports, or travel through on land, Israel, those ideas got into the mix as well. This would be the basic "seeds" for what was to come. This, of course, totally ignores the Jews that lived outside their homeland and the Hellenization that had occurred within Judea proper. That had its own impact.

 

Eventually, with sectarian civil war looming in the late 60's CE, the first revolt happens and the Romans force enemies to come together. This means more mixing of theologies that wouldn't have happened otherwise. It also allows for the area of Israel to become more important in the religion than it would have been. Stories were written casting a central figure from that region as the hero. This is where you have an appearance of a more physical being in place of a spiritual one. Letters from different church fathers seem to indicate that they are unsure what this "Jesus" is, if they even had knowledge of it, for quite some time after the supposed events. Again this seems to indicate that the people from that region wanted to make their neck of the woods more important in the movement than other regions. They were all jockeying for position. By blending their religion and a physical leader figure together they managed to trump the "revelations" that the other sects had to offer. The fact that it took quite some time for everyone to become aware of this shows that it wasn't the basis for the religion but simply one sects assertion that had to be "sold" to others. It took time to become the dominant way of thinking.

 

Paul's version of the religion was a mystery religion because he mentions the concept of "mystery" more than once as I recall. What exactly Paul did in his mystery is, well, a mystery. :) We can imagine it involved some sort of initiation but he doesn't seem to be very big on baptism or really any other rituals in his writings. The Eucharist, maybe, but that's not really much of an initiation (unless it truly involved cannibalism as some sects were accused of performing). He was big on the acts of speaking in tongues and the like so maybe something with that? It's truly impossible to say. But he did take payment for his "services" so whatever he did he wasn't doing it for free.

 

We have no idea what any of the others were doing beyond what is said in Acts (which seems to be made up pretty much whole cloth). So the whole Jerusalem Church seems to be manufactured after the fact more than the origin of this whole religion. The Jews in Judea seemed pretty uninterested in the religion so any church in the area seems to have come after the religion started and not the other way around. Any "church" that was there was just a sect of Judaism it seems and not something as radical as what Paul was preaching (ie. the Law was a "curse" that had to go). I could imagine why the Temple would want to remove any sect that taught something as horrible as the complete destruction of the Mosaic Law but the early xians, from most of the letters, surely didn't appear to be teaching anything as radical as that (unless it was in secret). "Saul" must have had the xians confused with someone else. Even the supposed words of jesus never once called for the removal of the Law.

 

mwc

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The last couple of days I have started to get a bit curious about Apollonius of Tyana and how his stories tie are similar to the Gospels.

 

Paul's letters and "revelation", and the gospels do seem to be an intentional amalgamation of different religions and beliefs into one, to unify as many as possible to have the same faith.

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Paul's version of the religion was a mystery religion because he mentions the concept of "mystery" more than once as I recall.

 

Now that you mention it, I remember that while I was taking that course it occurred to me that Paul freely uses the word mystery in his writing. And there are Christians today who love referring to God as mystery.

 

As I say in the OP, I'm not an expert on this by a long shot. Words change meanings from one generation to the next. In this case we're talking about the course of a few millennia. Thus, just because we are all using the word "mystery" does not necessarily mean we are all talking about the same thing. But for us ammatures it does present a reason to pause and ponder.

 

What exactly Paul did in his mystery is, well, a mystery. :) We can imagine it involved some sort of initiation but he doesn't seem to be very big on baptism or really any other rituals in his writings. The Eucharist, maybe, but that's not really much of an initiation (unless it truly involved cannibalism as some sects were accused of performing). He was big on the acts of speaking in tongues and the like so maybe something with that? It's truly impossible to say.

 

I wouldn't say Paul was "big" on talking in tongues. If I'm not mistaken, he said: Okay guys, if you insist I'll allow you to talk in tongues PROVIDING there is also someone present who can interpret. Otherwise, your speaking in tongues is nothing more than a batch of meaningless noice like banging kettle lids.

 

But he did take payment for his "services" so whatever he did he wasn't doing it for free.

 

He also made tents to support himself so people couldn't say he got fat off them. Seems he didn't treat all the communities the same.

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The last couple of days I have started to get a bit curious about Apollonius of Tyana and how his stories tie are similar to the Gospels.

 

Paul's letters and "revelation", and the gospels do seem to be an intentional amalgamation of different religions and beliefs into one, to unify as many as possible to have the same faith.

 

From the bit I read online about Apollonius of Tyana there are so many parallels between him and Jesus it's not funny. Basically all you need to do is change names and dates and you have the same story. I mentioned the name to my NT prof a few years ago and he practically spat it out.

 

I hate it when they won't even discuss the issue. I think it's very unprofessional. They have a right to disagree and to disagree very vehemently, but I think we also have a right to question and to challenge their reasons for disagreeing. That is the way they teach us to think critically about every other topic under the sun. Why is the cornerstone of their religion exempt??? They are, after all, veteran soldiers of the Lord. Why do they need to be handled with kid gloves???

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Now I found the book I was talking about last night. The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook of Sacred Texts, edited by Marvin W. Meyer. This is a "Search Inside" book so you can see for yourself what the contents are. It will give you some idea as to what the Mystery Religions are.

 

I'll look and see if I can find some information online. Apollonius is not really one of them.

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Wikipedia has an article on Demeter. There is a Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Here are a few lines from it:

 

480 Olbios among earth-bound mortals is he who has seen these things.

 

But whoever is uninitiated in the rites, whoever takes no part in them, will never get a share [aisa] of those sorts of things [that the initiated get],

 

once they die, down below in the dank realms of mist.

 

But when the resplendent goddess finished all her instructions,

 

they [Demeter and Persephone] went to Olympus, to join the company of the other gods.

 

485 And there they abide at the side of Zeus, who delights in the thunderbolt.

 

Holy they are, and revered. Olbios is he whom they,

 

being kind, decide to love among earth-bound mortals.

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Meyer organizes the Mystery Religions according to region and ethnicity or religion. For example, there are The Greek Mysteries of the Grain Mother and Daughter, to which the Homeric Hymn to Demeter belongs (in my former post). There are The Andanian Mysteries of Messenia, the Greek Mysteries of Dionysos, The Anatolian Mysteries of the Great Mother and Her Lover, and the Syrian Goddess, among others. There is also The Mysteries within Judaism and Christianity.

 

In this chapter we find:

 

Plutarch of Chaeronea, Table-Talk, Book 4 (selection)

Philo of Alexandria, On the Contemplative Life (selection)

Clement of Alexandria, "To Theodore"

Gospel of Philip (selections)

Clement of Alexandria, Exhortations to the Greeks (selections)

 

This Internet Ancient History Sourcebook looks like it might be good.

 

Here you can read about Paul and the Mystery Religions written by Don Closson who was educated at Dallas Theological Seminary. In my opinion, that school is about as fundy as you can get.

 

Here is the Britannica article. I'm not quite sure how they work--if you have to pay to read it or get a free trial or something. There are enough links and snippets in the part of the article that is posted to start googling for free stuff.

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So if the Jesus story, like the stories of some of the other Mystery Religion stories, was acted out in a dimly lit midnight ceremony, perhaps in the bowels of the earth (read cave), who knows what impressions were left on the minds of the initiates? An unscheduled sun eclipse could easily have been simulated. With nothing but the light of a flickering flame lighting the scene, the sonorous cry "My God! My God! why hast thou forsaken me?" would have thrilled the most solemn soul.

 

Contrast this scene with the story of Saul being struck down on the Damascus Road at the height of the noonday sun by a sharp light. In other words, this Jesus was apparently the strongest character of all the characters in all the Mystery Religions--he was strong enough to outshine the noonday sun of the Middle East out on the open road. No need to hide away in the bowels of the earth in the middle of the night to get the "effect" with this Jesus guy. He was for real!

 

Even though his companians did not see and hear everything Saul did, they did notice something out of the ordinary. (Who wouldn't have?) Also, these people were very highly superstitious, not having a clue in the world how the human body, brain, and natural elements worked. The line between the spiritual or imaginary and the concrete was every bit as thin and permeable for them as it is for radical Christians today.

 

If we look at the Jesus story as a Mystery Religion acted out in the bowels of the earth from time immemorial like the other Mystery Religions, then the structure of the NT, and gospels that didn't make it into the Bible, makes sense. We have birth naratives and a few childhood stories, Jesus' coming of age (baptism, confrontation with Satan in the wilderness), his ministry, and then a major focus on his Passion. Then, as now, people loved gut-wrenching stories, thrillers, something that arroused their feelings and proved to them that they really were alive. Everything else was a prelude; it built up to that one peak event--the climax of the story.

 

And having Jesus as the Pascal Lamb, what would be more natural for the Jewish context? There was Abel, there was Isaac, there was Moses. Historically, the Jewish people had human sacrificial lambs. Several thousand years had passed. It was time for a new one. Jesus fit the picture. No one knows where the Mystery Religions came from. Jesus may have been a composite figure that evolved out of the Macabean Revolts in the centuries prior to the Roman Empire.

 

Thus, the entire story builds up to that one moment in time when the utterly helpless Son of God cries out on the cross, "My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?" There is a minor reaction and then he dies. Suddenly it is Easter morning and he is alive, walking through walls and locked doors, barbequing fish nobody caught and rebuking Peter for not standing by his side through the trial. And then when they've run out of sensational stuff he floats off to heaven.

 

Probably the light is extinguished at that very instant. And when the light comes on again the disciples are assembled in the Upper Room ordaining a man to replace Judas Iscariot.

 

Does it not seem suspect that it was only after Saul-Paul's Damascus Road conversion that Christianity really took off? I don't know enough about the other Mystery Religions, but I get the impression that they were secret to the extent that only initiates knew about them. That is, family members would not know. Thus, there is no way these religions could be "national religions" like Judaism or Christianity. They could not be a way of life. They were of necesssity personal, private, perhaps for private devotions and secret fellowship. I don't know but that would make sense to me. That is the impression I get from reading some of the Gnostic literature--that members of some of the Gnostic sects were also members in the regular Christian church, and that family members and fellow parishoners did not really know what went on at that "other place."

 

There is a story of a young man, was it Eusibius?, who got permission from his pastor to pretend to become a member in order to spy. When we covered his "reports" in class we didn't put too much stock in them because they would have been severely biased and possibly far from factually accurate as we consider factual accuracy today.

 

What I am positing is this: Christianity may well have emerged from a Mystery Religion and possibly nobody considered Jesus to have been a real historical figure quite like you and me until Saul-Paul had his conversion experience. That convinced Paul that there was something "real" about Jesus--something more real about Jesus than about the other Mystery Religion characters.

 

Given that it may have been a Mystery Religion acted out on the stage impromptu throughout a wide geographical area, there would have been many versions of the story. See what I'm getting at? No wonder we have various versions of the story. No wonder that the best efforts at harmonizing always fail. Did the people who decided the Canon know about the Mysterious Origins of Jesus? Quite possibly. I suggest that the inclusion of contradictions was intentional to retain the flavor of the traditional Mystery. I further suggest that teaching Mystery as history is the biggest mistake the church has ever committed.

 

I'm rereading the last few sentences. I am asking myself how much of this was intentional? How much was accidental? The Council of Nicea was not voluntary on the part of the Bishops. In other words, the closing of the Canon was not a choice made by the Christian Church. It was a order imposed by the Emperor Constantine. The Bishops who assembled at the Council of Nicea were in no way united in their beliefs. Constantine demanded that they fight it out and become united. I'm not sure but I'm under the impression he wouldn't let them go until they did.

 

Let's see, maybe I'm getting my history mixed up. I don't know too much about how the Canon was closed. It isn't actually closed but it was more or less "set" in the fourth century. I guess the Council of Nicea had to come up with a Creed. Here's what I am getting at. Is it possible that the Church Fathers got back at Constantine by intentionally including contradictory stuff in the Creed and New Testament--stuff that only religious specialists would notice but not a converted Emperor more interested in military conquests?

 

This way they would not have to be as united as he thought. They had, after all, inherited centuries worth of under-handed dealings where civil governments were concerned by mere virtue of practicing an illegal religion. Who's to say this didn't come down to us via the Canon and the Creed? If Jesus is a mythical figure and if Christianity comes from the Mystery Religions, this would be far more probable than if all of this were based on factual history. That is my hypothesis.

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This is one topic that has had me going in circles for the better part of two years now. Just when I think I've got my mind wrapped around it...it slips away again. One thing I do know for certain is I disagree with mainstream academia as to the origin of this religion. I don't think it started in Judea.

 

My current feelings are that it started in Alexandria and in Ephesus (which truly came first is a bit of chicken and egg...my gut tells me the ideas took formed in Egypt but really took a shape we'd recognize in Turkey). Both locations had large libraries (Alexandria supposedly had the greater) and would be centers of learning and exchange of ideas.

 

If you look up the places mentioned in Marvin Meyer's Table of Contents (click the link above) you may be able to research some of this. I think a lot of the religions he looks at come from the area of Asia Minor. Would that be the general area of present-day Turkey? or wherever your hunch tells you it all started? I am hopelessly lost on the map of that part of the world, as you can tell.

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Based on my reading of the history, it most likely was from Hellenised Judaism,that's to say Greek Jewish converts remaking stuff in their own image.

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Based on my reading of the history, it most likely was from Hellenised Judaism,that's to say Greek Jewish converts remaking stuff in their own image.

 

I'm not sure what you're referring to. Are you suggesting Christianity as a Mystery Religion was Greek Jewish converts remaking stuff in their own image? If so, how do you think it fits in with or relates to the religion they came from?

 

I'm not challenging your suggestion; I'm intrigued with the idea and interested in the possible implications.

 

Also, converts to Judaism or to Christianity? or to some other religion?

 

Maybe the discussion goes to far off-topic for this forum. We can take it to email if you like.

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Please don't take it to the emails as I am intrigued too. At the moment, I'm getting into the basics of the Mystery Religion at school, I'm studying in Classical Studies. :)

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Now that you mention it, I remember that while I was taking that course it occurred to me that Paul freely uses the word mystery in his writing. And there are Christians today who love referring to God as mystery.

 

As I say in the OP, I'm not an expert on this by a long shot. Words change meanings from one generation to the next. In this case we're talking about the course of a few millennia. Thus, just because we are all using the word "mystery" does not necessarily mean we are all talking about the same thing. But for us ammatures it does present a reason to pause and ponder.

True enough and this is one of the reasons I really wish I didn't have to look up every word in Greek (I really just need to learn it). My understanding of the word "mystery" in the context of these religions, however, is that it more meant "revealed" than "secret" (although the rites and practices were often kept secret from those who weren't initiates which is why we tend to think of them in the latter sense). So early xianity as a "revealed" or mystery religion seems to be perfectly in-line with the concept. Its Jewish connections is what made them tend to write things down as opposed to the other religions (if you notice the pagan Greco-Roman religions, mysteries or not, from the same areas didn't really do much writing at all...which is unfortunate for us).

 

I wouldn't say Paul was "big" on talking in tongues. If I'm not mistaken, he said: Okay guys, if you insist I'll allow you to talk in tongues PROVIDING there is also someone present who can interpret. Otherwise, your speaking in tongues is nothing more than a batch of meaningless noice like banging kettle lids.

I Corinthians 13? "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels..." The preceding and succeeding chapter as well. It was all about tongues/oracles in that church. This is how they got their mystery/revelations. He says that you need someone to speak it and someone to interpret it (unlike the tongues described in Acts which is all languages at the same time) and he also explains that they need to proportion things for different groups (new comers, existing members and so on). I like how Paul can control the "gifts" of the spirit so precisely. The point I was getting at was that this is nothing different that other religions of the day. The thing is that Paul take oracles from a special position of honor and makes it available to the masses. It tends to create the in-fighting he is speaking out against in the letter.

 

He also made tents to support himself so people couldn't say he got fat off them. Seems he didn't treat all the communities the same.

To my knowledge the support for his being a tent maker comes only from Acts. Paul's letters makes no mention of his having a job, or getting any support, outside his ministry. He does mention that he doesn't directly take from some groups but this is while he is refuting claims of impropriety by them. Reading between the lines shows he is in a money scandal.

 

mwc

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If you look up the places mentioned in Marvin Meyer's Table of Contents (click the link above) you may be able to research some of this. I think a lot of the religions he looks at come from the area of Asia Minor. Would that be the general area of present-day Turkey? or wherever your hunch tells you it all started? I am hopelessly lost on the map of that part of the world, as you can tell.

Yes. We've all heard of the library in Alexandria but there was also a very large one in Turkey as well (Asia Minor). Paul travels in the region almost exclusively and his letters are addressed to churches in the region too. Theophilus of Antioch is a good example of a "xian" Jew from that region that explains what being a xian in that time is quite concisely (and it doesn't involve a dead god-man). Considering Antioch is one of Peter and Paul's churches he should have said so many different things in his writings. He is basically a Hellenized Jew (what I think most Jews became when they "converted" to xianity unlike the Gentile flavor).

 

mwc

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My mail to Ruby, since Onyx was interested...

 

The OT was translated (badly) into Greek for study, back when the Greeks regarded the Jews as an odd 'monotheist Mystery cult'. Over time some Greeks converted from Paganism to a form of Judaism, but it was more a Greek Mystery version of Jewish thought, replete with immortal souls, afterlives, literal Heavens and Hells in their future. Thus, Orthodox Christianity from the point of view of Classical Pago-Judaic thought is a logical extension, with a dying man-god etc. If you read the Infancy Gospel of Thomas then you'll see one of the rare pieces of text that supports this view (you can see why this branch was ruthlessly suppressed, but since this would have sold Jesus to pagans far better than the anodyne figure that we have today, you can see my logic)
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True enough and this is one of the reasons I really wish I didn't have to look up every word in Greek (I really just need to learn it). My understanding of the word "mystery" in the context of these religions, however, is that it more meant "revealed" than "secret" (although the rites and practices were often kept secret from those who weren't initiates which is why we tend to think of them in the latter sense). So early xianity as a "revealed" or mystery religion seems to be perfectly in-line with the concept. Its Jewish connections is what made them tend to write things down as opposed to the other religions (if you notice the pagan Greco-Roman religions, mysteries or not, from the same areas didn't really do much writing at all...which is unfortunate for us).

 

I thought I could tell you what the Greek word was for mystery but I can't. I was thinking of mythos, but that is for myth. What I can't do is also provide the nuances of the meaning a word carried for a certain people of a certain time and place, and that seems to be what you are aiming for.

 

I wouldn't say Paul was "big" on talking in tongues. If I'm not mistaken, he said: Okay guys, if you insist I'll allow you to talk in tongues PROVIDING there is also someone present who can interpret. Otherwise, your speaking in tongues is nothing more than a batch of meaningless noice like banging kettle lids.

I Corinthians 13? "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels..."

 

mwc

 

...and have not charity I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal (KJV). In other words, no good. Be that as it may, I'm not an authority on Paul. I rather like him. He was one biblical writer that provided some intellectual stimulation for me while I was still behind the "Iron Curtian." I was also able to use some of his writing to defend some of my views. My people used the story about him being a tent-maker to support the idea that preachers should have a job and not be paid. I think this discussion proves once again that every single passage in the Bible can be interpreted differently. I cannot begin to understand the naivety of Luther (or anyone since Luther) who thought all anyone needs is the Bible to know what God said.

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If you look up the places mentioned in Marvin Meyer's Table of Contents (click the link above) you may be able to research some of this. I think a lot of the religions he looks at come from the area of Asia Minor. Would that be the general area of present-day Turkey? or wherever your hunch tells you it all started? I am hopelessly lost on the map of that part of the world, as you can tell.

Yes. We've all heard of the library in Alexandria but there was also a very large one in Turkey as well (Asia Minor). Paul travels in the region almost exclusively and his letters are addressed to churches in the region too. Theophilus of Antioch is a good example of a "xian" Jew from that region that explains what being a xian in that time is quite concisely (and it doesn't involve a dead god-man). Considering Antioch is one of Peter and Paul's churches he should have said so many different things in his writings. He is basically a Hellenized Jew (what I think most Jews became when they "converted" to xianity unlike the Gentile flavor).

 

mwc

 

There's other place names mentioned in the Table of Contents than you mention here (Syria, Andania, etc.). If you're really interested I suggest you look it up because I can't interpret it very well--I don't know if those are the same as the ones mentioned here (in the same way that Washington State is the same as USA and West Coast in North America).

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Gramps, I have read the Infancy Gospel of Thomas before but I read it again (the first link in the list; they all seem to be various translations of the same) in light of what you said. I also read the explanations on the page of the link you gave. I confess that I cannot see the logic. Can you clarify?

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The infancy Gospel is important in that it places the child Jesus into a wholly pagan man-god context. If you compare the behaviour of Jesus of the text to that of, say Hercules, or any other child with 'the power cosmic'... TBH it's like a Twilight Zone episode (It's a Good Life)... but it's the sort of behaviour that a Greek or Roman would expect of a child god...

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Thank you. That makes sense. I guess I haven't read enough "cultural" pieces, either contemporary or classical, but now I can see the logical link. Thanks.

 

Just wait till we're talking about Amish-Mennonite culture and I will see links in trees and associations in shadows. I have to keep reminding myself of these things when I feel foolish for not being thoroughly familiar with what everybody else "just knows" in places like exC. My unconscious mind has picked up genuine farm noices here in the middle of suburbia, many miles from any farms. The other day I heard someone filling silo. Other times I've heard a steer bellowing. Or the rattle of buggy wheels. Or the clip-clop of horse's hoofs.

 

When I really listen I know it's something else--something that belongs in the city. There's contruction projects going on just a few blocks from here so there are all kinds of assorted sounds from the various machines from that. I assume the silo-filling sound was a jack-hammer drilling a hole in the pavement. What I'm saying is that associations are quick and easy and instant with things we have been intimately familiar with all our lives. So I'm trying not to be hard on myself because I wasn't exposed to contemporary culture all my life.

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I forget the Mennonite thing (which is, IMO, the ultimate in Ex-C... as a pop ref for the rest, sort of the Octagon of Ex-Cs to escape...) The phrase 'fucking hard' springs to mind... Sorry Rube...

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I thought I could tell you what the Greek word was for mystery but I can't. I was thinking of mythos, but that is for myth. What I can't do is also provide the nuances of the meaning a word carried for a certain people of a certain time and place, and that seems to be what you are aiming for.

Since it turned out to be a mystery for both of us I went and looked up the word. Here's what I found:

μυστήÏιον (mustÄ“rion, 3466), -ου, Ï„ÏŒ, (μÏστης [one initiated; fr. μυέω, q. v.]), in class. Grk. a hidden thing, secret, mystery: μυστήÏιόν σου μὴ κατείπῃς Ï„á¿· φίλῳ, Menand.; plur. generally mysteries, religious secrets, confided only to the initiated and not to be communicated by them to ordinary mortals; [cf. K. F. Hermann, Gottesdienstl. Alterthümer der Griechen, § 32].

 

In the Scriptures

1.a hidden or secret thing, not obvious to the understanding: 1 Co. xiii. 2; xiv. 2; (of the secret rites of the Gentiles, Sap. xiv. 15, 23).

 

2. a hidden purpose or counsel; secret will: of men, τοῦ βασιλέως, Tob. xii. 7, 11; τῆς βουλῆς αá½Ï„οῦ, Judith ii. 2; of God: μυστήÏια θεοῦ, the secret counsels which govern God in dealing with the righteous, which are hidden from ungodly and wicked men but plain to the godly, Sap. ii. 22. In the Î. Τ., God's plan of providing salvation for men through Christ, which was once hidden but now is revealed: Ro. xvi. 25; 1 Co. ii. 7 (on this see á¼Î½, I. 5 f.); Eph. iii. 9; Col. i. 26 sq.; with τοῦ θελήματος αá½Ï„οῦ added, Eph. i. 9; τοῦ θεοῦ, which God formed, Col. ii. 2; [1 Co. ii. 1 WH txt.]; τοῦ ΧÏιστοῦ, respecting Christ, Col. iv. 3; τοῦ εá½Î±Î³Î³ÎµÎ»Î¯Î¿Ï…, which is contained and announced in the gospel, Eph. vi. 19; á¼Ï„ελέσθη τὸ μυστ. τοῦ θεοῦ, said of the consummation of this purpose, to be looked for when Christ returns, Rev. x. 7; Ï„á½° μ. τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οá½Ï. or τοῦ θεοῦ, the secret purposes relative to the kingdom of God, Mt. xiii. 11; Mk. iv. 11; Lk. viii. 10; used of certain single events decreed by God having reference to his kingdom or the salvation of men, Ro. xi. 25; 1 Co. xv. 51; of God's purpose to bless the Gentiles also with salvation through Christ [cf. Bp. Lghtft. on Col. i. 26], Eph. iii. 3 cf. 5; with τοῦ ΧÏιστοῦ added, ibid. vs. 4; οἰκονόμοι μυστηÏίων θεοῦ, the stewards of God's mysteries, i. e. those intrusted with the announcement of God's secret purposes to men, 1 Co. iv. 1; used generally, of Christian truth as hidden from ungodly men: with the addition of τῆς πίστεως, τῆς εá½ÏƒÎµÎ²ÎµÎ¯Î±Ï‚, which faith and godliness embrace and keep, 1 Tim. iii. 9, 16; τὸ μυστ. τῆς ἀνομίας the mystery of lawlessness, the secret purpose formed by lawlessness, seems to be a tacit antithesis to God's saving purpose, 2 Th. ii. 7.

 

3. Like ×¨Ö¸×–Ö¸× and סוֹד in rabbinic writers, it denotes the mystic or hidden sense: of an Ο. Τ. saying, Eph. v. 32; of a name, Rev. xvii. 5; of an image or form seen in a vision, Rev. i. 20; xvii. 5; of a dream, Dan. (Theodot.) ii. 18 sq. 27-30, where the Sept. so render רָז. (The Vulg. translates the word sacramentum in Dan. ii. 18; iv. 6; Tob. xii. 7; Sap. ii. 22; Eph. i. 9; iii. 3, 9; v. 32; 1 Tim. iii. 16; Rev. i. 20.) [On the distinctive Î. Τ. use of the word cf. Campbell, Dissertations on the Gospels. diss. ix. pt. i.; Kendrick in B. D. Am. ed. s. v. Mystery; Bp. Lghtft. on Col. i. 26.]*

I tend to look at the classical Greek definitions since they tend to have less "spin" applied to them as opposed to the other usages.

 

...and have not charity I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal (KJV). In other words, no good. Be that as it may, I'm not an authority on Paul. I rather like him. He was one biblical writer that provided some intellectual stimulation for me while I was still behind the "Iron Curtian." I was also able to use some of his writing to defend some of my views. My people used the story about him being a tent-maker to support the idea that preachers should have a job and not be paid. I think this discussion proves once again that every single passage in the Bible can be interpreted differently. I cannot begin to understand the naivety of Luther (or anyone since Luther) who thought all anyone needs is the Bible to know what God said.

Again, I can't argue with you on the actual quotation from I Corinthians 13 (it was one of many passages I had to memorize and it is quite elegant in and of itself). The issue is the context. He is trying to quell a problem by telling the people that they should set aside their differences because "love" (charity) is more important. And if you check one of those things is giving oracles (tongues). This places him and his right in-step with the Greco-Roman practices of the day except there was no special location, like Delphi, that one needed to visit to get these oracles (unless he was setting up his churches to be these special locations...it's impossible to say but I doubt it).

 

I also believe that the entire story of Paul being a tent maker is a total of one verse in Acts. Paul himself never states anything about an occupation. It does fit with the Jewish tradition that the temple priests should have jobs for the time they aren't working in the temple in order to support themselves (although their needs were met during temple service).

 

While I was typing a response to all this I happened across this page. It seems to answer a lot of this much better than I am (and it seemed to show I my memory is faulty on a couple of things). It's a good read. Once you've read it maybe you'll see how I can see that Paul's church and the Jerusalem church are not really related (and even enemies).

 

mwc

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Now I found the book I was talking about last night. The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook of Sacred Texts, edited by Marvin W. Meyer. This is a "Search Inside" book so you can see for yourself what the contents are. It will give you some idea as to what the Mystery Religions are.

 

I'll look and see if I can find some information online. Apollonius is not really one of them.

If you want texts then go to The Internet Sacred Text Archive. That place will keep you busy for some time.

 

mwc

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If you look up the places mentioned in Marvin Meyer's Table of Contents (click the link above) you may be able to research some of this. I think a lot of the religions he looks at come from the area of Asia Minor. Would that be the general area of present-day Turkey? or wherever your hunch tells you it all started? I am hopelessly lost on the map of that part of the world, as you can tell.

Here's a map of the whole region (I found it over at the site I gave you in one of my last posts):

medi.gif

 

The peninsula region from around Ephesus to the right over to Tarsus/Antioch in Cilicia upwards to the Black Sea would be (roughly) Asia Minor. This is also the general area of modern Turkey.

 

But you can see Alexandria in the south and Ephesus in the north. Both have large libraries back then. You can also see how Paul's letters are really focused on areas quite far away from his home way back in Tarsus. In fact, the only mention of his being from Tarsus is in Acts. He doesn't say it himself and I couldn't find where he references his own home town. I'd also have to check but I think the times he mentions Antioch it's in reference to the one in Galatia not in Cilicia. The Cilicia references are only in Acts. Paul basically travels around the area of Greece/Asia Minor except when he wanders off to Jerusalem (and a couple of other out of the way destinations). It's Acts that puts him elsewhere and makes him subordinate to the authors brand of religion.

 

So supposedly makes an illegal raiding trip from Jerusalem to Damascus and "converts" on the way (if we believe the story in Acts). He then doesn't take the good news back to his "home" but far off into Greece. Why? The answer is because he was teaching a religion nearly identical to their own comprised of initiations, oracles and things like that. Exactly what had to had been taking place in Jerusalem and other xian churches until something came along to fundamentally alter that (which I suspect was the ultimate trump card from Jerusalem, after the revolt, which was the claim of the actual head man himself in the flesh giving them instruction in person as opposed to all this "revelation" stuff...they used the "writings" or "scripture" to "prove" he came and went and since they all believed in the power of prophecy that sect gained ground over the others using their ancient texts and written stories of how their leader had visited them only years before).

 

mwc

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