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Antiquity of the Christian Doctrine

by Charles Waite

The following is an excellent encapsulation of "Pagan" myths and rituals that preceded Christianity, representing doctrines utilized in its creation. The author is Charles Waite, from his book History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred, which was published in 1900 and remains an outstanding resource for scholars and aficionados.

Antiquity of the Christian Doctrines

Many of the more prominent doctrines of the Christian religion prevailed among nations of antiquity, hundreds, and in some instances, thousands of years before Christ.

Quetzalcoatl crucifixionThe doctrine of the miraculous conception was common in ancient times. The story of Chrishna [Krishna] has already been given. Zoroaster also was believed to have been immaculately conceived by a ray from the Divine Reason. Mars was conceived by Juno touching a flower, and she conceived Vulcan by being overshadowed by the wind. An ancient work entitled Codex Vaticanus, gives an account of the immaculate conception of Quexalcote [Quetzalcoatl], the Mexican Savior. One of the sects in China worshiped a savior named Xaca, who was conceived by his mother, in her sleep, seeing a white elephant. Ya, the first Chinese monarch, was conceived by his mother being struck with a star while traveling. Another legend is that Yu, (probably the same as Ya), was conceived from a water-lily. Many cases might be mentioned of mortals who had an immaculate conception. Plato, Pythagoras, Tamerlane, Gengis Khan, Apollonius of Tyana and Augustus Caesar, were all supposed to have been the product of immaculate conceptions.

Stars also presaged the birth of several of them.

At the birth of Confucius, five wise men from a distance came to the house, celestial music filled the air, and angels attended the scene.

The title of Son of God was very common among the ancients, and at the commencement of the Christian era. St. Basil says, "Every uncommonly good man was called the Son of God." When Apollonius, standing before Domitian, was asked, why men called him a god, his reply was, "Every good man [chrestos] is entitled to that appellation." An answer which Dr. Albert Reville, a theologian of Rotterdam, thought might throw a bright light upon the divinity of Christ.

Miracles

Asclepius raising HippolytusThe belief in miracles has been common in all ages of the world. From the time of Uranus, father of the gods, down through all the ages, the world has been filled with wonders. Esculapius [Asclepius] raised Hippolytus from the dead – Hercules rescued Alcestis from the very hand of death – Actaeon was changed to a stag – the walls of Thebes builded themselves to the music of the flute, while those of Jericho fell before the blasts of the priests of Israel. The daughters of Anius the high priest, changed everything they chose into corn, oil and wine, and the hair of Berenice was changed to a constellation of the stars. Meanwhile, Prometheus lay bound on Mt. Caucasus, the vulture devouring his vitals, which grew as fast as eaten.

The heavens were full of gods, and earth, air and sea swarmed with myriads of angels, spirits and demons.

Resurrection

Many cases of resurrection from the dead, are handed down in the ancient mythologies. Mithras, the "Mediator" of Persia, is said to have risen after three days. So also, Quexalcote, of Mexico, Osiris of Egypt, and others.

Some of these, after their resurrection, ascended into heaven. Chrishna, after rising from the dead, and appearing to his disciples, ascended to Brahma, in heaven. [Brahma=Abraham, cf. Lk 16:22: "The poor man [Lazarus] died and was carried by the angels to the Bosom of Abraham."]

The Atonement

This doctrine has in some form pervaded the religion of all countries. Offerings of propitiation, to appease the wrath of an offended God, or to satisfy the demands of justice, have been common in every period of the world. Sometimes they have consisted of fruits of the earth; at other times, of animals and men. As nations have advanced in civilization, the offerings have become less bloody in their character. In the Sandwich Islands, anciently, human beings were thrown as a sacrifice into the crater of Kileaua, the great volcano. Afterwards animals were substituted, and finally products of the earth. The propitiatory system of the Jews is well known. This is considered by Paul as a type of the higher Christian system.

The Trinity

Brahma, Shiva, VishnuThe Trinity was an essential feature in the religion of many oriental nations. The Holy Ghost was the third member under various appellations. In the Hindu trinity, it was Siva; the other members of the trinity being Brahma and Vishnu.

Mr. Maurice says, this notion of a third person in the deity, was diffused among all the nations of the earth. Mr. Worsley considers the doctrine one "of very great antiquity, and generally received by the Gothic and Celtic Nations." In the Hindu system, this third person was the Holy Breath, by which living creatures were made. The Holy Ghost became visible in the form of a dove, a tongue of fire, etc.

The Holy Ghost was sometimes the agent in immaculate conceptions. In the Mexican trinity, Y Zona was the Father, Bascal the Word, and Echvah the Holy Ghost, by the last of whom Chimalman conceived and brought forth Quexalcote. When Sesostris invoked the oracle, to know who, before him, could subjugate all things, the answer was, "First God, then the Word, and with them the Spirit." Plutarch, in his "Life of Numa," shows that the incarnation of the Holy Spirit was known to the ancient Egyptians.

The doctrine of the Word, as the creative power, is also very ancient. The Chinese Bible states that "God pronounced the primeval Word, and his own eternal and glorious abode sprang into existence." According to the Zend-Avesta, it was the Word, more ancient than the world, that Ormuzd created the universe. The ancient Greek writer Amelias, speaking of the god Mercury [Hermes], says "And this plainly was the Logos, by whom all things were made."

Plato taught a trinity of the soul, in which it is easy to see analogies, pointing to a higher form of the doctrine.

It is said there was an ancient Greek inscription on the great obelisk at Rome; thus: 1. The Mighty God; 2. The Begotten of God; and 3. Apollo the Spirit.

Confession and Remission of Sins

These doctrines prevailed anciently in India; also among the ancient Persians, and Parsees. In China, the invocation of Omito was held to remit the punishment of the greatest crimes.

The doctrines of Original Sin, Fall of Man, and Endless Punishment are all found in the religious systems of several ancient nations.

Sprinkling with water was a religious ceremony of much antiquity. This may in some degree account for the changes of the form of Christian baptism from immersion to sprinkling. The practice prevailed among the ancient Romans.

The Sacrament or Eucharist has also an ancient original. It was practiced by the Brahmins of India, and was introduced into the mysteries of Mithras. It prevailed, also, among the ancient Mexicans.

The Golden Rule was taught hundreds of years before Christ, by Confucius, Aristotle, and many others.



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