Pagan Influences in Christian Theology


I recently read from a budding South African theologian of Ad Lucem Ministries that the New Testament’s concept of God is not based on Graeco-Roman philosophy. Yet this does not seem to be the case…(see attached photo), Acts 17:28 (NIV):

cc-2018-jw-acts1728

It is quite peculiar that the New Testament uses the term “ειμι” (to exist) for God but never in the present participle form of “ὤν” (being). What’s interesting is that New Testament’s translators continue to replace in their translations “ειμι” for “ὤν” in English, almost as if the allegedly inspired texts in and of themselves use insufficient language…

We see further examples of a dependency on Platonic-Aristotelian metaphysics in Philippians 2:6, where “μορφε” (form) is translated as “nature or essence”, a completely Platonic-Aristotelian pre-Christian concept in philosophy, referring to the “material whole”.

The Trivium Final

This is why in Christianity, God who is a “ουσια” (substance) can also be immanent, because it fits into the Aristotelian pre-Christian concept of an “accident” (a substance that exists in another substance), i.e. God (a being) in flesh (another substance). This can also be seen in the sense of passion, from the “Praedicamenta”/ 10 Categories of Being, where God (a being) uses a form and thus can experience pain in one sense and not in other because this Being can distinguish between itself (read as quantitatively, therefore “Persons” in the Godhead) and can have various forms (read as qualitatively) hence the hypostatic union.

The Trivium Final

While some Christian apologists deny these dependencies on Platonic-Aristotelian pre-Christian philosophies, by using these terms, they are implying an already understood meaning, which in this case would be the predominant Platonic-Aristotelian metaphysics for their onto-theology of “God”.

It should be noted that this is the reasoning behind Justin Martyr’s statement of:

“And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound NOTHING DIFFERENT from WHAT YOU BELIEVE regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.”

Source: Justin Martyr, The First Apology, Chapter 21.

Some apologists have argued that Justin was using “hyperbole”, this is an ignorant claim, without understanding of basic Graeco-Roman metaphysics.

and Allah knows best.

2 comments

  • Reblogged this on Blogging Theology.

  • “And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound NOTHING DIFFERENT from WHAT YOU BELIEVE regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.”

    Sons of Jupiter? The one that came to my mind after ten seconds of thinking was Hercules. The story of Hercules doesn’t seem that (metaphysically) different from the Incarnation. So is Hercules 50% god and 50 % man? Or 100% god and 100% man? Does he have a single nature? Two natures in one union? Two separate natures in one form (shape, μορφή)?

    Did people really think about the nature of Hercules to the point of excommunicating people for heresy? Hume says no:

    To which we may add, that the fables of the pagan religion were, of themselves, light, easy, and familiar; without devils, or seas of brimstone, or any object that could much terrify the imagination. Who could forbear smiling, when he thought of the loves of Mars and Venus, or the amorous frolics of Jupiter and Pan? In this respect, it was a true poetical religion; if it had not rather too much levity for the graver kinds of poetry. We find that it has been adopted by modern bards; nor have these talked with greater freedom and irreverence of the gods, whom they regarded as fictions, than the ancients did of the real objects of their devotion.

    The inference is by no means just, that, because a system of religion has made no deep impression on the minds of a people, it must therefore have been positively rejected by all men of common sense, and that opposite principles, in spite of the prejudices of education, were generally established by argument and reasoning. I know not, but a contrary inference may be more probable. The less importunate and assuming any species of superstition appears, the less will it provoke men’s spleen and indignation, or engage them into enquiries concerning its foundation and origin. This in the mean time is obvious, that the empire of all religious faith over the understanding is wavering and uncertain, subject to every variety of humour, and dependent on the present incidents, which strike the imagination. The difference is only in the degrees. An ancient will place a stroke of impiety and one of superstition alternately, throughout a whole discourse;[72] A modern often thinks in the same way, though he may be more guarded in his expression.

    The Natural History of Religion

    In other words, all those stories are just a bunch of frivolous and amusing tales told by bards. The characters are not to be regarded as the true objects of ibadah, but rather powerful preternatural beings who want occasional displays of flattery and appeasement in the form of sacrifice. One could even display flippancy and impiety towards one those gods without experiencing much social opprobrium. Those gods neither attract intense devotion nor are they the subjects of intense philosophical contemplation and controversy as those gods did not impose an “importunate and assuming” system of belief

    What a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the simplicity and beauty of Surah Ikhlas.

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