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Pagan Origins Hablo Greek-o

I'm not the only person who recognizes Christianities pagan origins. Here are academics who say the same thing.

Notice that nowadays, rather than write books with grand, sweeping claims about Pagan origins (a la POCM!) academics generally write in depth about one particular subject: Miracles. Divine birth. Homeric Mimesis. Like that.

The River Of God
A New History Of Christian Origins
by Greg Riley, PhD

What you'll find:

A Harvard trained professor of religion traces the history of earliest Christianity and the origin of Christian ideas—in Greek philosophy and pagan religion.


If this book had been around in 1998, POCM would have been unnecessary.



Gospel Fictions
by Randel Helms

What you'll find:

Helm's thesis is that early Christians got their "facts" about Jesus not from history, but from the Old Testament. The book compares specific NT stories with their paired OT stories, and finds that not only are the facts similar, but so are the structures of the accounts and even the particular Greek words used.

As an added bonus, in the course of describing this borrowing Helms succinctly outlines the maturation of Christological theories about Jesus from Mark through the later gospels.

This is a very good book, short and easy to read.




Documents For The Study Of The Gospels
David Cartlidge, editor

What you'll find:

A sourcebook. Original documents with little commentary. Read the facts yourself. Decide for yourself.

Extended quotations from ancient pagan authors chosen to illustrate Pagan-Christian parallels.

SEE!   the healing miracles of Asclepius.
SEE!   Dionysus turns water into wine.
SEE!   1st century AD Pagan miracle worker in Syria heal the sick by casting out daemons.
SEE!   the divine births of Plato, Alexander, Augustus.
SEE!   Pagan Martyrdoms, Pagan ascensions, Pagan sacraments.

Extended quotations from non-proto-orthodox early Christian authors illustrating the diversity of earliest Christianity

Extended quotations from early proto-orthodox Christian authors confirming Pagan-Christian parallels.

Think of this as POCM's blue boxes in a book, without Greg's annoying commentary.
(This is not where POCM got it's blue box stuff, but it could have been, if I'd found this book 10 years earlier. Shit.)

Highly recommended.



Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Christianity
by Dag Oistein Endsjo

What you'll find:

Our myth isn't new and original after all.
A fancy scholar looks at the ancient evidence

In spite of coming from the keyboard of a poindexter this book is clearly written and coherent.

Too expensive, or it would be one of POCM's top picks. Try inter-libary loan.

Endsjo is a professional academic who for years heard and believed the regulation academic myth: The Christian theology of BODILY resurrection was new and unique. It could not have borrowed from Pagan ideas, because to Greco-Roman Paganism the body was corrupt.

Eventually Endsjo decided to look at, you know, the ancient evidence. Oops. Turns out bodily resurrection was a widespread belief in pre-Christian Pagan and Jewish culture.

Highly recommended.



The Historical Jesus in Context
Editors: Levine, Allison, Crossan

What you'll find:

A collection of essays by mainstream academic scholars. Most books like this are terrible; this one is excellent.

Each essay compares a specific feature Christianity with similar earlier Pagan and Jewish rites and theologies

Topics include, among others:

Miraculous Conceptions and Births in Mediterranean Antiquity
Miracle Stories: Asclepius, Pythagorean Philosophers, Roman Rulers
The Aesop Tradition
Moral and Ritual Purity
Josephus and John the Baptist and other Jewish Prophets of Deliverance
Imperial Theology re Abba / Father
Mithras liturgy
Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls



The Homeric Epic and the Gospel of Mark
by Dennis MacDonald

What you'll find:

Turns out the ancients had this literary convention called "mimeses," in which they deliberately mimicked the structure and ideas of other ancient writers, in particular Homer. That, says professor MacDonald, is what the New Testament writer author Mark did with his gospel.

Which means, some "facts" about Jesus were borrowed direcly from Homer's Iliad. Who'd a thunk it?

Sound nutty? Yes it does. Which is why the professor supports his thesis with oodles of ancient evidence, and a meticulous, rigorous reasoning. There's so much evidence, it's can be tough to keep going. You may well groan, "Enough already, you've convinced me!"



Life After Death
A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion

by Alan Segal

What you'll find:

A 700 page, evidence based history of ancient ideas about eternal life, and how they moved from paganism into Judaism and Christianity.






Born Divine
The Births of Jesus & Other Sons of God
by Robert MIller

What you'll find:

Professor Miller compares Jesus divine birth with the divine births of other ancient godmen, Herakles, Pythagoras, Apollonius of Tyana, Plato, Augustus Caesar, Alexander the Great, Theagenes the Olympic Champion.





Martyrdom and Noble Death
Selected Texts from Graeco-Roman, Jewish and Christian Antiquity
by Jan van Henten and Friedrich Avamarie

What you'll find:

Ancient Pagan, Jewish and Christian texts about the Pagan idea of the noble death, which entered Christianity as martyrdom.






Miracles in Greco-Roman Antiquity
A Sourcebook for the study of New Testament Miracle Stories

by Wendy Cotter

Lousy with miracles Like chocolate chips in mama's cookies, miracles were a basic ingredient in ancient people's understanding of how the world works. Every bite—another miracle. The ancient world was lousy with miracles.

Don't believe me, believe the ancients. This excellent sourcebook gives hundreds of examples—250 pages—of ancient miracles recorded by the pens of ancients themselves.

You'll read short excerpts from ancient texts describing Pagan Gods who healed the sick (blindness, paralysis, lameness), raised the dead, exorcised demons, controlled nature, turned water into wine, walked on water, calmed storms, and more.

Well organized, easy to read. Highly recommended.





Old Testament Parallels
Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East
by Victor Matthews & Don Benjamin

What you'll find:
350 pages of ancient Near Eastern texts whose myths parallel and precede our bible's Old Testament stories.

There are lots of books like this to choose from. This is one of the clearest, most readable, and most comprehensive.

Highly recommended.




Ancient Near East, Volume 1:
An Anthology of Texts and Pictures
Edited by James Pritchard

The Ancient Near East, Volume II)
A New Anthology of Texts and Pictures (Paperback)
Edited by James Pritchard

Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament. With Supplement
Edited by James Bennett

Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement
Edited by James Bennett Pritchard ISBN: 0-691-03503-2

What you'll find:

Egyptian, Syrian, Hittite, Assyrian, Babylonian texts relevant to our Old Testament -- because of the clear parallels.

Primary evidence, with marginal notations referring you to the verses in the Bible that later expressed the same ideas.

A famous scholarly work, accessible to laymen.



Deconstructing Jesus
by Robert Price
Professor of Biblical Criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute, member of the Jesus Seminar, and editor of the Journal of Higher Criticism

What you'll find:

A non-apologist New Testament scholar's analysis of the Christ-myth

Basically another Jesus theories book.

Is this the final word on who Jesus was or wasn't? No, it's not. It is a useful look at the methods and conclusions of modern New Testament scholarship—by an academic who isn't impressed by either.

Price is an academic who understands the orthodox scholarly theories, though he doesn't buy them. His theme is that nothing we know about Jesus is historical, everything is mythical.

The book follows the regulation scholarship, starting with the "Jesus People," (an academic term for Jesus' first followers; the Jesus People weren't really Christians, since they didn't believe Jesus was God or that he had risen from the dead), on to the first groups who worshiped Jesus as God, the Christ-cults (another academic term), through Jewish Messianic expectations, non-orthodox early Christianities and even ancient novels, which reveal a cultural theme of escape from crucifixion.

The point is not one-for-one parallels between Jesus and, say, Mithras or Osiris.  The point is that  the first Christians took the basic ideas of their culture and adapted them to their new faith.



The Mystery-Religions
A Study in the Religious Background of Early Christianity
by Samuel Angus

What you'll find:
A famous and much cited account of the Mystery Religions.  Written in the 1920s, the book is still in print.
Organized by feature- of -religion, so you get an overview of the mysteries rather than a detailed look at each of them.





Hellenistic Mystery Religions
Their basic ideas and significance
by Richard Reitzenstein (1861 - 1931)
translated by John Steely

What you'll find:

as far as I can tell this is the only English translation of this highly famous, highly influential, poorly organized, scholarly analysis of the Mystery religions.

The good news: Reitzenstein supports his arguments with extended quotations from primary ancient sources.
The bad news is, get this: the quotations are not translated into English, so unless your Greek and Latin are shiny, a very frustrating book.

This English version was published in 1978 and is now out of print. You can sometimes find it used at