Basing themselves on various similarities of language used in the various pagan mystery religions and that used by the Church, these scholars built up a whole vast literature of learned speculation. S. Angus in London in 1925 gave a bibliography of some 35 pages! The manner and date of the asserted origin and infiltration of these various ideas and rites were most disconcertingly various. Some asserted a direct influence upon our Lord Himself, some upon St. Paul, others upon St. John. Others locate the foundation of the Church late in the second century, still others, like Brillioth, ‘in the period after Constantine’.) 8
From the work of Plotinus (205 – 270) came Neoplatonism, a synthesis of Platonic with Aristotelian and other Greek philosophical ideas to comprise the last great classical pagan philosophy. It however quickly proved to be too vague on key philosophical points and was always too intellectual to function as a rival religion to Christianity. Neoplatonism’s God as absolutely One, however, has long survived as an impersonal pagan rival to the personal Trinity of God as revealed by our Lord. (That God is a person able to appear and speak for Himself is a revelation unique to Christ. Indeed the mystery of the Trinity may be simply the mystery of how God knows Himself as other perfectly objectively and loves Himself perfectly unselfishly.) While the Neoplatonists of Alexandria made their peace with the Church, the pagan Neoplatonists of Athens survived until their school was suppressed by the Emperor Justinian in 529. 9
The last gasp of ancient official paganism came with the reign of Julian the Apostate (361 – 363). As a child Julian had never been free from fear of a violent death and had learned to hate the Arian surroundings amidst which he had grown up. Indeed Arianism, falsifying Jesus Christ as a lesser created god, was itself a paganisation of Christianity. Julian tried to reform the pagan religion in order to make it a source of upright morals, led by its priests who were to be models of the spiritual life. Nobody was less enthusiastic than the priests themselves at this prospect, and at Julian’s death in battle, the Empire was simply relieved to be rid of a crank. 10
Under the intellectual hammer blows of St. Augustine (in his vast de Civitate Dei, (City of God) published in 420), classical paganism finally collapsed. For a thousand years, paganism lay in ruins, practised in the west only by diminishing numbers of barbarians and a few witches. In the end it was the superstitious elements at the heart of paganism – astrology, horoscopes, augury and oracle-mongering – which have proved to have the greatest vitality.
Published on Nov 29, 2011
Published on Nov 29, 2011
This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...