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How Mystery Religions Helped To Clear The Pathway For The Christianization Of The Greco Roman?

1283 words - 6 pages

In this paper it will be shown that the mystery-religions helped to clear the pathway for the Christianization of the Greco-Roman world by men such as Paul the Apostle. Also, the Emperor Constantine during whose reign the mystery-religions declined and Christianity became the major religion of Europe and the near east will be mentioned.

The place and time in which Christianity developed was characterized by change and confusion in all areas of life. Philosophical and especially religious questions were not being answered by the traditional systems. Right from the conquest of Alexander the Great to the establishment of Christianity as the state religion by Constantine, the ancient world ...view middle of the document...

18:19). This passage implies that Christ lives and is reborn through the Church and his followers. The earliest notion of Christ’s having risen from the dead was very likely symbolic of the preservation of his memory. However, the Resurrection eventually came to imply that Christ had risen from the grave just as the gods of the mystery-religions did.

The Mass or Eucharist, which was the central ritual around which Christianity grew, and by which it was defined, may also have its origins in the mystery-religions. While there is little question that the Mass is the Christian interpretation of the Jewish Passover meal, the details of the Mass are nearly identical to the Mass of the Eleusinian mysteries of Ceres and Dionysus, agricultural gods of wheat and vines. In fact, H.P Blavatsky states in Isis Unveiled that the ceremonial meal of bread and wine “is one of the oldest rites of antiquity” (II 44) and was “common to many ancient nations” (Higgins as qtd. in Blavatsky II 44).
The similarities between Christianity and the mystery-religions owe much to the fact that each evolved in the same society as responses to the same religious needs of the people. However, it is important to note that many of characteristics Christianity shares with the mysteries did not completely take shape until Saint Paul the Apostle began preaching to Gentile communities and making converts in them. Paul, who was originally opposed to Christianity, made the greatest strides in increasing Christian numbers with non-Jewish members. In doing so, he allowed Christianity to bend and change to suit the needs of these Gentile converts. It is unlikely that Paul did this intentionally or deliberately, for he was himself struggling to define his faith in terms that all could understand. His changes marked the first break in the church and set Christianity apart from Judaism to borrow from the mystery-religions.

Christianity remained a small and insignificant religion, regarded by many as just one of many mystery-religions, for the first couple centuries A.D. Keith Hopkins estimates that a century after the birth of Christ, less than one one-hundredth of a percent of the Roman Empire was Christian. One hundred years later, Christians made up less than four tenths of a percent of the Empire (195). However, from 200 to 300 A.D. an increase took place from a couple hundred thousand Christians to about six million (Hopkins 222). How and why Christianity triumphed over the many competing mystery-religions is one of most puzzling questions classical scholars ask. However, the simplest answer is that in 312 A.D. Roman Emperor Constantine the Great pronounced Christianity the official state religion of the Empire, and outlawed all traditional forms of pagan worship, including mystery-religions. The direct result was mass conversion to Christianity,...

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