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HOME > Religious Fiction > Paganism Surviving in Christianity > CHAPTER VII. PAGAN SUN-WORSHIP.
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Sun-Worship the Oldest and Most Widely Diffused Form of Paganism—Gnostic Antinomianism or Lawlessness—Anti-Judaism, Mainly of Pagan Origin—Anti-Sabbathism and Sunday Observance Synchronous—Anti-Lawism and Anti-Sabbathism Unscriptural—Christ’s Teachings Concerning the Law of God; Paul’s Teachings on the Same—Destructive Effect of Pagan Lawlessness on Christianity.

The sun-god, under various names, Mithras, Baal, Apollo, etc., was the chief god of the heathen pantheon. A direct conflict between him and Jehovah appears wherever paganism and revealed religion came in contact. As “Baal,” “Lord” of the universe and of the productive forces in nature and in man, this sun-god was the pre-eminent divinity in ancient Palestine and throughout Ph?nicia. The chosen people of God were assailed and corrupted by this cult, even while they were in the desert,[143] being led away by the women of Moab. During the period of the Judges, Baal-worship was the besetting sin of Israel, which the most vigorous measures could not eradicate.[144][157] A reformation came under Saul and David, only to be followed by a relapse under Solomon, which culminated in the exclusion of Jehovah-worship under Ahab.[145] Jehu broke the power of the cult, for a time, but the people soon returned to it.[146] It also spread like a virus through Judah; repressed by Hezekiah, but continued by Manasseh.[147]

This worship of the sun-god was a sign of disloyalty to Jehovah, and formed the certain road to wickedness and impurity.[148]

In its lowest forms it was so closely allied to sex-worship, Phallicism, that it lent great power to that debasing licentiousness, which sanctified lust, and made prostitution of virtue a religious duty. Sun-worship was both powerful and popular in the Roman Empire when Christianity came into contact with Western thought. It furnished abundant material for the corrupting process. We have seen in a former chapter that several minor elements of sun-worship mingled with pagan water-worship: such as turning to the west to renounce evil, and turning to the east to promise allegiance to Christ and Light, before baptism; “Orientation”—building[158] churches with the altar so that men should worship toward the east—was another element, while the extinguishing of a torch or a candle in the font, in the preparation of holy water, was a direct importation from this cult. But these were of little account in extent or influence, when compared with the corruption which came through the introduction of Baal’s and Apollo’s day, “Sunday,” in place of the Sabbath, which had always represented, and yet represents, Jehovah, maker of heaven and earth. The introduction of Sunday into Christianity was a continuation of the old-time conflict between Baal and Jehovah.

The definite and systematic manner in which the corrupting process was carried forward is clearly seen by the preparatory steps which opened the way for paganism to thrust the sun’s day upon Christianity. We have seen how the foundation of God’s authority was undermined by the gnostic opposition to the Old Testament, and by the allegorizing of both Old and New; how a false “baptismal-regeneration” theory filled the church with baptized but unconverted heathens. These were not enough to complete the corrupting process. While men still had regard for the Sabbath, they could not entirely give up the law of Jehovah on which it was based, and thus the fundamental doctrines of paganism were still held in check.

The Simultaneous Development of Anti-Sabbathism and of Sunday Observance.

Gnosticism was antinomian from the core. All knowledge, and hence all authority, was in the heart of the “true Gnostic.” The “initiated” were divinely enlightened, were a law unto themselves. This was doubly true when they came into contact with a law promulgated by the “inferior God of the Jews,” the weak Creator of matter, and hence a God in league with evil. Such opposition was natural, was unavoidable, from the gnostic standpoint. Coupled with the allegorical method of interpretation, it was an easy task for this opposition to create a violent anti-Jewish prejudice, and a combined no-lawism, and no-Sabbathism, which became the main factor in sundering the Jewish and Gentile churches, and introducing the reign of “lawlessness,” of which Paul wrote in the second chapter of Thessalonians. This anti-lawism and anti-Sabbathism appear in Justin, the first pagano-Christian writer of whom we have sufficient definite knowledge to gain a picture of the incipient results of pagan influence on Christianity. He accepted Christianity after reaching mature life, but retained his “philosopher’s cloak” as he did many of his pagan ideas. His theories are a compound of pagan philosophy and Christianity. He was furiously opposed to all that savored of Judaism. His[160] interpretations of Scripture and his religious opinions are all strongly colored by this anti-Jewish spirit. His Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, whether Trypho were a real or an imaginary character, is the special exponent of anti-Judaism. The following examples show how he confounded the moral laws and the ceremonial code of the Jews, and set forth baneful no-lawism and no-Sabbathism, which grew in virulence and destroyed the authority of the Old Testament wherever his influence was felt. His special anti-Jewish treatise is entitled, Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew. It opens as follows:

“While I was going about one morning in the walks of the Xystus, a certain man, with others in his company, having met me said, ‘Hail, O Philosopher!’ And immediately after saying this, he turned round and walked along with me; his friends likewise followed him. And I, in turn having addressed him, said, ‘What is there important?’

“And he replied: ‘I was instructed,’ says he, ‘by Corinthus, the Socratic in Argos, that I ought not to despise or treat with indifference those who array themselves in this dress, but to show them all kindness, and to associate with them, as perhaps some advantage would spring from the intercourse either to some such man or to myself. It is good, moreover, for both, if either the one or the other be benefited.’

“On this account, therefore, whenever I see any one in such costume, I gladly approach him, and now, for the[161] same reason, have I willingly accosted you; and these accompany me, in the expectation of hearing for themselves something profitable from you.”

This opening shows Justin in his true character, as a philosopher who has united certain elements of Christianity (see Dialogue, ch. viii.) with his pagan theories, and is now to defend this product as Christianity. In chapter x., Trypho states his case against Christians in the following words:

“Moreover I am aware that your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them. But this is what we are most at a loss about; that you, professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them, and do not alter your mode of living from the nations, in that you observe no festivals or Sabbaths, and do not have the rite of circumcision; and further, resting your hopes on a man that was crucified, you yet expect to obtain some good thing from God, while you do not obey His commandments. Have you not read, that that soul shall be cut off from his people who shall not have been circumcised on the eighth day? And this has been ordained for strangers and for slaves equally. But you, despising this covenant rashly, reject the consequent duties, and attempt to persuade yourselves that you know God, when, however, you perform none of those things which they do who fear God. If, therefore, you can defend yourself on these points, and make it manifest in what way you hope for any thing whatsoever, even though[162] you do not observe the law, this we would very gladly hear from you, and we shall make other similar investigations.”[149]

Justin answers Trypho in the next chapter, (chapter xi), which is entitled: “The Law Abrogated; The New Testament Promised and Given of God.”

Note the following from this, and subsequent chapters:

“For the law promulgated on Horeb is now old, and belongs to yourselves alone; but this is for all universally. Now law placed against law has abrogated that which is before it, and a covenant which comes after in like manner has put an end to the previous one; and an eternal and final law—namely Christ—has been given to us, and the covenant is trustworthy, after which there shall be no law, no commandment, no ordinance.”[150]

“You have now need of a second circumcision, though you glory greatly in the flesh. The new law requires you to keep perpetual Sabbath, and you, because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you; and if you eat unleavened bread, you say the will of God has been fulfilled. The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances; if there is any perjured person, or a thief among you, let him cease to be so; if any adulterer, let him repent; then he has kept the sweet and true Sabbaths of God. If any one has impure hands, let him wash and be pure.[151]


“For we too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you—namely on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your hearts. For if we patiently endure all things contrived against us by wicked men and demons, so that even amid cruelties unutterable, death and torments, we pray for mercy to those who inflict such things upon us, and do not wish to give the least retort to any one even as the new Lawgiver commanded us; how is it, Trypho, that we would not observe those rites which do not harm us—I speak of fleshly circumcision, and Sabbaths and feasts?”[152]

In many different forms Justin Martyr repeats his theory, that the ten commandments and the ceremonial economy of the Jews were abrogated, and that there is no written law regulating conduct on the part of the Christians.

Tertullian a............
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