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HOME > Religious Fiction > Paganism Surviving in Christianity > CHAPTER XII. OTHER FORMS OF PAGAN RESIDUUM IN CHRISTIANITY.
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A Low Standard of Religious Life—Faith in Relics—The Cross an Ancient Pagan (Phallic) Symbol—A “Charm” Borrowed from Paganism—Constantine’s use of the Composite Symbol as a Military Standard—Prevalence of Faith in “Charms”—Sign of the Cross in Baptism—Baptism and Holy Water as “Charms”—Stupendous Miracles, like Pagan Prodigies, through Baptism—Delayed Baptism—Orientation at Baptism, etc.

Those who have made a study of paganism as it appeared in Christianity during and after the third century know that many other forms of it were prominent besides those fundamental errors which have been discussed in the preceding pages. Some of these have attracted more attention than the fundamental ones, since they lie more plainly on the surface of history. We shall glance at several, that the reader may see the field yet more fully.
A Low Standard of Christian Life.

That the standard of individual character in the Church was brought far below that of the New Testament, and much below what would be accepted[232] at the present day, appears in the history of morals and social life, and in many ways in the Church.

The degenerate character of his time is thus set forth by Chrysostom:

“Plagues too, teeming with untold mischiefs, have lighted upon the Churches. The chief offices have become saleable. Hence numberless evils are springing, and there is no one to redress, no one to reprove them. Nay the disorder has assumed a sort of method and consistency. Has a man done wrong and been arraigned for it? His effort is not to prove himself guiltless, but to find if possible accomplices in his crimes. What is to become of us? since hell is our threatened portion. Believe me, had not God stored up punishment for us there, ye would see every day tragedies deeper than the disasters of the Jews. What then? However, let no one take offence, for I mention no names; suppose some one were to come into this church to present you that are here at this moment, those that are now with me, and to make inquisition of them; or rather not now, but suppose on Easter day any one endued with such a spirit, as to have such a thorough knowledge of the things they had been doing, should narrowly examine all that came to Communion and were being washed [in baptism] after they had attended the mysteries; many things would be discovered more shocking than the Jewish horrors. He would find persons who practise augury, who make use of charms, and omens, and incantations, and who have committed fornication, adulterers, drunkards, and revilers,—covetous I am unwilling to add, lest I[233] should hurt the feelings of any of those who are standing here. What more? Suppose any one should make scrutiny into all the communicants in the world, what kind of transgression is there which he would not detect? And what if he examined those in authority? Would he not find them eagerly bent upon gain? making traffic of high places? envious, malignant, vainglorious, gluttonous and slaves to money?”[206]

A similar vivid description, under the figure of a burning building, representing the Church as consumed with evil, is found in Homily 10, On Ephesians. Another description of the effect of heathenism upon those who professed to be Christians is sharply set forth in a Treatise Attributed to Cyprian, on the “Public Shows.”[207] He says:

“Believers, and men who claim for themselves the authority of the Christian name, are not ashamed—are not, I repeat, ashamed to find a defence in the heavenly Scriptures for the vain superstitions associated with the public exhibitions of the heathens, and thus to attribute divine authority to idolatry. For how is it, that what is done by the heathens in honor of any idol is resorted to in a public show by faithful Christians, and the heathen idolatry is maintained and the true and divine religion is trampled upon in contempt of God? Shame binds me to relate their pretexts and defences in this behalf. ‘Where,’ say they, ‘are there such Scriptures? Where[234] are these things prohibited? On the contrary, both Elias as the charioteer of Israel, and David himself danced before the ark. We read of psaltries, horns, trumpets, drums, pipes, harps, and choral dances. Moreover, the apostle, in his struggle, puts before us the contest of the C?stus, and of our wrestle against the spiritual things of wickedness. Again when he borrows his illustrations from the racecourse, he also proposes the prize of the crown. Why, then, may not a faithful Christian man gaze upon that which the divine pen might write about?’ At this point I might not unreasonably say that it would have been far better for them not to know any writings at all, than thus to read the writings [of the Scriptures]. For words and illustrations which are recorded by way of exhortation to evangelical virtue, are translated by them into pleas for vice; because those things are written of, not that they should be gazed upon, but that a greater eagerness might be aroused in our minds in respect of things that will benefit us, seeing that among the heathens there is manifest so much eagerness in respect of things which will be of no advantage.”

That these evils increased with the years, is shown by the words of Augustine, when he says:

“Accordingly you will have to witness many drunkards, covetous men, deceivers, gamesters, adulterers, fornicators, men who bind upon their persons sacrilegious charms, and others given up to sorcerers and astrologers, and diviners practised in all kinds of impious arts. You will also have to observe how those very crowds which fill the theaters on the festal days of the pagans, also fill the churches on the festal days of the Christians. And when you see[235] these things you will be tempted to imitate them. Nay, why should I use the expression, you will see, in reference to what you assuredly are acquainted with even already. For you are not ignorant of the fact that many who are called Christians engage in all these evil things which I have briefly mentioned. Neither are you ignorant that at times, perchance, men whom you know to bear the name of Christians are guilty of even more grievous offenses than these.”[208]

Such degradation of Christian life was the unavoidable fruitage of the various pagan influences which had substituted false standards of Church membership and of action for the true ones laid down in the Scriptures.
Faith in “Relics.”

Faith in “Relics,” bodies, bones, garments, places, etc., as retaining the virtues of the persons with whom they were associated, was a prominent characteristic of paganism, from the earliest time. Paganism brought this element into Christianity, where it took root and flourished, like a fast-growing, noxious weed. The whole system of relic worship, down to the “Holy Coat at Treves,” in 1891, is a direct harvest from pagan planting. Relics were believed to be powerful agents for good, by direct influence, and by acting as charms[236] to ward off evils of all kinds. Take an example from one of the early Church historians, Sozomen, who gives the following with all the soberness of undoubted fact:

“While the Church everywhere was under the sway of these eminent men, the clergy and people were excited to the imitation of their virtue and zeal. Nor was the Church of this era distinguished only by these illustrious examples of piety; for the relics of the proto-prophets, Habakkuk, and a little while after, Micah, were brought to light about this time. As I understand, God made known the place where both these bodies were deposited, by a divine vision in a dream to Zebennus, who was then acting as bishop of the Church of Eleutheropolis. The relics of Habakkuk were found at Cela a city formerly called Ceila. The tomb of Micah was discovered at a distance of ten stadia from Cela, at a place called Berathsatia. This tomb was ignorantly styled by the people of the country, ‘the tomb of the faithful’; or, in their native language, Nephsameemana. These events, which occurred during the reign of Theodosius, were sufficient for the good repute of the Christian religion.”[209]

The same author reports the discovery of the relics of Zechariah the prophet. Calemerus, a serf, was directed in a dream to dig at a certain place in a garden, being assured that he would find two coffins, the inner one of wood, the other of lead; “beside the coffins you will see a glass[237] vessel full of water, and two serpents of moderate size, but tame and perfectly innoxious, so that they seem to be used to being handled.” Calemerus followed the directions, and found the body of Zechariah, “clad in a white stole,” with a royal child lying at his feet; and “although the prophet had lain under the earth for so many generations, he appeared sound; his hair was closely shorn, his nose was straight; his beard moderately grown, his head quite short, his eyes rather sunken, and concealed by the eyebrows.”[210] In a similar style,[211] Sozomen relates how the head of John the Baptist was discovered in the suburbs of Constantinople. That such ridiculous myths could be written down as a part of genuine Church history, shows how fully the pagan falsehoods corrupted the best currents of Christian life.
The Cross, its Sign, and other Charms.

Comparatively few readers realize that the cross was of heathen origin, and a religious symbol of the lowest order, and that it was not adopted as a symbol of Christianity until the Church was well paganized. Its origin lies in the shadows of the prehistoric period. It was a religious symbol in the Asiatic, Egyptian, Grecian, Roman, Druidic,[238] and Central American heathenism. It originated in the lowest department of sun-worship cultus. Ishtar, the Assyrian Venus, was represented as holding a staff, the upper end of which was in the form of a Latin cross. The worship of Ishtar was one of the darkest features of the Babylonian religion. It was conducted with lascivious rites which may not be named. It corrupted the Hebrews on every side. We find it, with other forms of sun-worship, polluting the temple itself, and sharply condemned by the prophet of Jehovah.[212]

Tammuz was the young and beautiful sun-god, the bridegroom of Ishtar who bore the cross-crowned sceptre; and this mourning for him was associated with gross obscenity.

Another form of this same worship is condemned by Jeremiah, thus:

“Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.”[213]

There is evidence to show that these cakes were marked with one form of the cross, the Greek tau (Τ). In later times the Greeks offered cakes thus[239] marked to Bacchus, in connection with the vilest orgies. Specimens of these are found at Herculaneum. Similar ones have been found in the catacombs. The “hot cross-bun” is the lineal descendant of the tau (Τ)-marked cakes of the obscene sun-worship cultus. Its association with Friday—day of Ishtar, Venus, Frega—is a remnant of paganism, although later efforts to Christianize it have associated it with “Good Friday.”

The cross appears in Assyrian history, worn as a religious emblem by the priest-king, Samsi-Vul, son of Shalamanezar, and also by Assur-Nazir-Pal. These specimens may be seen in the British Museum. It is the Greek cross, and identical with the “pectoral cross,” worn by the Pope, and seen on altar-cloths at the present day. Priority of possession is several thousand years in favor of the Assyrian. The same style of crosses are found in the Etruscan department of the Vatican Museum at Rome. They are on the breasts—painted—of certain large Etruscan male figures, and are taken from mural decorations in ancient Etruscan burial-places. Similar “pectoral” crosses may be seen also in the British Museum on two figures from Thebes, in the Egyptian Hall. They date from about 1100 B.C., and represent men of Asia bringing tribute. In Wilkinson’s Ancient Egypt the same cross may be seen on the breast of two warriors.


There is a figure of the youthful Bacchus, taken from an ancient vase, with which antiquarians are familiar, holding a cup and fennel branch—a figure of much beauty. The head-dress is a band with crosses as of Horus. A portion of the band falls from the head, and with its fringe and single cross, if lengthened, would form a modern “stole.”

The cross is also found on Greek pottery, dating from 700 to 500 B.C. It appears in relics of the Latin people of the same period. It was used as a symbol in Buddhism in India long before the time of Christ. It is also found in Thibet, Scandinavia, and other parts of northern Europe.

That the cross was extensively known and used before the Christian era is shown by an admirable article in the Edinburgh Review of October, 1870, on the pre-Christian Cross. The author of the article claims to have collected nearly two hundred varieties of the cross, in its heathen form. He speaks of it as follows:

“From the dawn of organized paganism in the Eastern world, to the final establishment of Christianity in the Western, the cross was undoubtedly the commonest and most sacred of symbolical monuments, and to a remarkable extent it is so still in almost every land where that of Calvary is unrecognized or unknown. Apart from any distinctions of social or intellectual superiority of caste, color, nationality, or location in either hemisphere it appears to have been the aboriginal possession of every[241] people of antiquity—the elastic girdle, so to say, which embraced the most widely separated heathen communities, the most significant token of universal brotherhood, the principal point of contact in every system of pagan mythology, to which all the families of mankind were severally and irresistibly drawn, and by which their common descent was emphatically expressed....

“Of the several varieties of the cross still in vogue as national or ecclesiastical emblems in this and other European states, and distinguished by the familiar appellations of St. George, St. Andrew, the Maltese, the Greek, the Latin, etc., there is not one amongst them the existence of which may not be traced to the remotest antiquity.”[214]

It is also true that the cross does not appear as the symbol of Christianity until after its paganization under Constantine. He made a composite symbol, known as the Chi-ro, of which see below. It seems probable that he added these to the pagan cross. On this point Blake says:

“The Cross and the Crescent were combined in the Oriental standards (Fig. 29.) centuries before the time of Christ.

“Roman coins of the period of 269 B.C. show the cross of Saturn (Fig. 30.) with distinctness. According to Gaume, the illustrious writer, all the Roman standards bore this cross, and Constantine being unable to vary the banner of the empire, added ‘XP’ the Greek sign for Christ, to the imperial flag, 312 A.D.”[215]


The similarity between the heathenism of Asia and Central America is a well-known fact of history.

“The religion of the Mexicans was purely Chaldean. They professed to believe in a Supreme God, but idol-worship was general. They had a regular priesthood, gorgeous temples and convents; they had processions, in which crosses, and even red crosses, were carried; and incense, flowers, and fruit-offerings were employed in their worship. They confessed to their priests, and generally confessed only once, receiving a written absolution which served for the remainder of their lives as an effectual safeguard against punishment, even for crimes committed after receiving the said absolution. They worshipped, and afterwards ate, a wafer-god, an idol made of flour and honey, which they called ‘the god of penitence,’ and they always ate him fasting. They also venerated the black calf, or bull, and adored a goddess-mother, with an infant son in her arms. They sacrificed human victims to the God of Hell, of whom they considered the cross to be a symbol, and to whom they were largely sacrificed, by laying them on a great black stone and tearing out their hearts.

“We are now prepared to see how easily the heathen, in adopting a nominal Christianity, as they did from the reign of Constantine, would have modified and Christianized their views of the heathen cross. Hitherto that emblem had been associated with their worship of the gods. In their temples, in their houses, on their images, their clothes, their cattle, etc., the worshippers were accustomed to see the peculiar cross, or, crosses, dedicated to each. Bacchus had his, Serapis his, and so forth. Some of the new converts were themselves wearing on their own persons[243] the emblem of their gods. This was the case with certain Asiatics and Etruscans, who wore the cross round their necks, but not, apparently, with the Egyptians as far as relating to a neck ornament. Wilkinson, chapter v., plate 342, gives the figures of four warriors from the monuments of Egypt, from Asiatic tribes, wearing crosses round their necks, or on their clothes. Their date is about 1400 B.C.

“In plate 47 of his Peintures Antiques de Vases Grecs (Rome, 1817, fol.), Milligen gives examples of the cross on the apron of the warrior, and within a circle on his horse.

“To enter then, into a heathen temple just rededicated to Christ, where the cross of the rejected pagan deity still existed, or where a new church cross had been substituted—to visit a temple so reconsecrated, or to enter a basilica (judgment hall) by the Emperor’s order just handed over to the bishop for Christian use—all this would aid in making the change from the worship of the gods to the worship of the Emperor’s God very easy to the convert.

“The old temples, and the old basilicas, the arrangements of the apse, etc., in the latter almost unchanged—the lustral, or holy water—the mural paintings sometimes left, sometimes altered to suit the persons of the new heroes, or saints—the incense, the pomp of worship, the long train of vested priests—all and much more, would make the transition from the old to the new faith, externally, a matter of little difficulty. As to the cross, there it was, and there it would continue, and has continued.”[216]

In view of these and many similar facts, it is easy to understand how the cross became a permanent[244] and prominent feature in the symbolism of paganized Christianity. The famous vision of Constantine the Great, in which he is said to have seen a cross in the sky, in connection with the sun, is not supported by evidence which places it among facts. It was not unnatural, however, that he, a devout sun-worshipper, and familiar with the cross as the symbol of the lowest form of that worship, should associate the two, as he has been said to have done. The symbol which he adopted on his military standard was not the cross proper, but the two Greek initials of the name of Christ, the “chi-ro.” One of these letters, resembling the English X, gave the standard a similarity to the cross. Under Valens, Emperor of the East, who died in 378 A.D., the cross appears without the letters, and from that time the letters gradually disappear. The Empress Eudocia wore the heathen form of the cross on her head.[217] It was the exact counterpart of that which the moon-goddess, Diana, had worn before. The leading facts concerning the cross may be summed up as follows:

Up to the time of Constantine—early part of the fourth century—the cross remained what it had always been, a pagan symbol, type of its most revolting cultus. It is the same in India to-day. By the opening of the fifth century it had become[245] the symbol of paganized Christianity. The crucifix—a figure of Christ nailed to the cross—appears first about the middle of the fifth century. The following is the general order whereby the transition was accomplished:

1. Constantine adopts the initial letters, giving the chi-ro standard, about 312 A.D.[218]

2. The chi (Χ) was gradually changed to the form of a cross, while the ro, similar to the English P, remained in its original position.

3. The ro was rejected, and the chi (Χ) was changed to the Greek cross of Bacchus.

4. The heathen tau (Τ), as used in India and Egypt, was brought in, probably because of its supposed resemblance to the cross on which Christ was (said to have been) put to death.

5. The tau appears, surmounted by a roundel, evidently the sacred egg of the heathen. This was the emblem of the Goddess of Nature, the productive principle. This brought the original heathen symbol into still greater similarity to what is now known as the Latin cross.


6. The crux ansata, or handled cross. This is the form usually seen in the hands of the gods of India and Egypt. It is the symbol of the sun-god, and is interpreted by modern Egyptologists as the symbol of life. It was primarily a phallic symbol of reproduction. An English writer (Rev. Mourant Brock) has pertinently said:

“And it is high time that Christians should understand a fact of which skeptics have been long talking and writing, that the cross was the central symbol of ancient paganism. What it represents, must remain untold; but it was probably made the medium of our Lord’s death, through the crafty device of the wicked one, into whose hands he was for a while delivered, with a view to the future corruption of Christianity, and the carrying on, under its name, of all the abominations of the heathen.”

The prominence and value which the “sign of the Cross” and its associate pagan symbols gained as “charms” in paganized Christianity can be readily understood in view of the foregoing facts. It is wholly unexplainable from the New Testament standpoint, and without these facts. A few examples must suffice, showing how this pagan conception was transferred to Christianity. Bingham, a learned and conservative writer, says:

“But there was one sort of enchantment, which many ignorant and superstitious Christians, out of the remains of heathen error, much affected; that was the use of[247] charms and amulets and spells to cure diseases, or avert dangers or mischiefs, both from themselves and the fruits of the earth. For Constantine had allowed the heathen, in the beginning of his reformation, for some time, not only to consult their augurs in public, but also to use charms by way of remedy for bodily distempers, and to prevent storms of rain and hail from injuring the ripe fruits, as appears from that very law, where he condemns the other sort of magic, that tended to do mischief, to be punished with death. And probably from this in............
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