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Author Topic: "Stolen" goods  (Read 3085 times)

RecycledBenedict

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Re: "Stolen" goods
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2016, 06:44:55 pm »
Quote from: Urban_Pluviophile;186809
So this is something I’ve noticed all over the place, but seems to crop up most often when we are talking about the relationship of Paganism with Christianity. As one post here goes into great detail about, we always seem to think that Christianity “stole” a good deal of ideas, symbology, festivals, dates, etc. from earlier pre-Christian/Pagan religious practices. Now, as it has been pointed out in beautiful detail by one FraterBenedict here, there is good evidence and often times clear understandings that while it may look like something was stolen, it was in fact not.


Thank you for your kind words. In addition to my former message, I probably ought to mention this:

Which Christian festivals do have Pagan roots?

Although, the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ was added to the Jewish Pesach festival (not a Pagan festival), the celebration of the Holy Spirit was added to the Jewish Shauvot festival (not a Pagan festival), and Christians in the equivalent to Tunisia speculated over a possible birth of Jesus on the 25th of December already 50 years before the Roman emperor Aurelian invented the Sol Invictus festival on the same date, there exist a handful of Christian festivals that do have Pagan roots. Strangely, it is seldom these festivals some Pagans are upset over.

Dedication festivals

Ancient Pagan Romans annually celebrated the anniversary of dedications of each temple, respectively. The Sol Invictus festival is a late example of such dedication festivals, but many (though not all) ancient Roman festivals are dedication festivals (known as nativitas, the 'birth' of each temple). During the two first centuries of history of Christianity, congregations met in family homes - wealthy family homes, since poor families didn't have the space needed for a congregation. A few examples of baptisteries (baptism chapels) and church buildings are known since the 3d century CE, but it wasn't until after the end of persecutions in 312-13 CE Christians were permitted to build conspicuolusly visible public church buildings, and that in large numbers. The custom to celebrate the annual anniversary of the dedication of a church building was taken over from Roman Paganism, although the content of the celebration was Christian.

Epiphany

Epiphany is a Christian festival on 6th of January, celebrating three themes: The birth of Jesus, the baptism of Jesus and the wedding in Cana. It is older than Christmas, originated in Egypt and spread slowly to Syria and then westwards. In the west, the focus has centred on Holy Three Kings (magi), due to the strength of the Christmas festival, but the original three themes are obvious in the eastern churches.

The stories about the baptism of Jesus were around already in the 60s CE, and since they easily are interpretable to mean that Jesus was a sub-ordinate to John the Baptist, they go against the tendency of the narrative matter. Thus, it is - together with the crucifixion - one of the few undisputable things we may know about the historical Jesus. Much other content in the Christian texts are plausibly later additions, which may serve as sources to knowledge about Christians believed in the 60s to 110s CE time range, but not as sources to knowledge about the historical Jesus. The letters of St. Paul are closer to the time of Jesus (the 50 to 60 CE time range), but do not contain much biographical matters.

When some Gnostic Christians in Egypt, the Basilidians, began to celebrate a festival in honour of the baptism of Christ in the 120s CE, the orally transmitted story about the baptism of Christ had been around for almost a century, and a written story about it (in the Gospel of St. Mark) had been around in almost 60 years.

The date for the celebration, 6th of January, happens to coincide with a Graeco-Egyptian Pagan festival commemorating the birth of the god of Eternity, Aion. Graeco-Macedonian reign in Egypt began in the 320s BCE, and the Roman writer Messala (quoted by Ioannes Lydus 600 years later)* mentioned a celebration, heorten Aionos, observed in Alexandria in the century BCE at the night between 5th and 6th of January.

In the middle of the 4th century BCE the Christian hymnwriter Ephraim Syrus seem to attest a celebration of the birth of Jesus among Nicene Christians on the 6th of January, and a few decades later Epiphanius of Salamis attest, that he had participated in a similar celebration in Egypt already in the 320s CE.

From these sources it seems like that the African-Italian-Rhaetic (now Tunisian-Italian-Swiss) celebration of Christmas on 25th of December hadn't yet spread to Egypt and Syria at this time, nor had the Egyptian-Syrian Epiphany festival spred into the west, yet.

Epiphanius of Salamis also mention a hydreusis, a water drawing ceremony by river Nile. Water drawing ceremonies by the Nile are known from ancient Egyptian religion,** but former attempts to explicitly tie Epiphanius' description of hydreusis to any particular Egyptian festival*** has failed, both when compared to the fixed Alexandrian calendar beginning on Julian 29th of August and when compared to the movable ancient Egyptian calendar that returns to its original dates every 1461 year.

While the seniority of the Aion festival on the night between 5th and 6th of January to the Christian Epiphany is indisputable, the observance of a pre-Christian hydreusis festival falling on 6th of January during the second, third and fourth centuries CE is unattested. The old Egyptian hydreusis festivals fell on other dates during these centuries.

The custom of drawing water as such could on the other hand have been borrowed by Christians from these other Pagan festivals in other times of the year.

Some Ember days

Four minor Jewish fasting days are mentioned in Zech 8.19. Initially, Christians of gentile background didn't retain the celebration of them, since they were not closely tied to alleged events in the life of Jesus.

Four annual sets of fasts on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays with other themes than their Jewish counterparts - called Ember days - are known with certainty from the 5th century, but only observed in the West. They are unknown in churches of Byzantine rite and the Oriental churches.

During the papacy of Leo the Great, in the middle of the 5th century, the celebration of Ember days were already regarded as very old. The observance of these fasts in June, September and December seem to be older than the observance of such a fast in Lent (which is already a fasting season anyhow).

It is probable, that the fasts in September and December, at least to a certain extent, were inspired by the ancient Roman agricultural festivals Mammes Vindemia (5th of September) and several agricultural festivals (12-13th, 15th & 19th of December, 24th-26th of January), although not falling on exactly the same dates as these pre-Christian festivals. The observance of the Advent season is younger than the observance of the December Emeber-week.

The exact choice of weeks were not standardized until 1095, and, before that, the choice of weeks varied between different provinces within the western church. Three themes come together on the Christian Ember days: Repentance, agriculture and ordination to the ministry of deacons and priests.

In practice, the Roman Catholic Church abolished the Ember days in 1969, although the intention was to make them moveable according to the weather conditions in every particular part of the world: Catholics in Latin America, southern Africa and Australia had for centuries found agricultural themes from the northern hemisphere confusing. Anglicans, on the other hand, retained the Ember days, but moved them closer to the ends of the academical terms, in order to let them fall close to the times for actual ordinations. Since 2007, some Roman Catholic communities have reintroduced the observance of Ember days.

Litania Maior

Before 1969, the Roman Catholic Church prescribed prayer for the crops on 25th of April. Traditionally, some members of the congregation walked around the fields of their village and sang The Litany: A long list of supplications after which the participants repeated refrains.

The 25th of April was the exact date for the ancient Roman Pagan festival of Robigalia: A festival during which the flamen of Quirinus and, probably, the Arval brethren, sacrificed a puppy to Robigus, the deity of mildew, in a grove close to Via Claudia, in order to protect the crops. The agricultural theme makes it very probable that the Christians in Rome didn't choose the date randomly. Farmers have their needs regardless of religious affiliation.

* For a detailed study, see: Thomas J. Talley: The Origins of the Liturgical Year (New York 1986) p. 106-107

** The Khemetics on this forum will probably be able to give a few examples. I am not knowledgeable enough in Egyptology.

*** Talley mentions such an attempt by Eduard Norden in 1924, which was uncritically accepted by Benedictine scholar Dom Bernard Botte in 1932. That belongs now to a dated stage of research.

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