When we think of what is behind our faith, what we believe as Christians, there are many aspects of the faith that are convoluted with other beliefs systems such as the Greeks, Egyptians, Islam, Catholicism, the Norse Religion and others.
There are far to many religious systems to attempt to address them in this writing, but of all the oldest organized religious systems, we can find many correlations with the major organized belief systems and Christianity which dates back more than 4000 years.
What is interesting of note, is that all these systems, arguably appear to quote from the Bible, or at the very least adopt philosophy from the Bible while the Bible does not quote from any other system of belief.
Polytheism is the belief in many gods and is practiced by a number of societies, including the Sumerians, Ancient Egyptians, Ancient Greeks, Ancient Romans, Ancient Chinese, Celts and others. Though all of these societies worshiped differently, polytheist tend to have similar types of deities, like creator deities, water deities, mother goddesses, love deities and so on.
Isis was a mother deity in Ancient Egypt, while Ninsun served a similar role in Sumerian culture, as did Gaia in Greek culture. Similarly, the role of a water deity was portrayed by Mazu in China, Poseidon in Greece, Neptune in Rome, and Lir in the Celtic tradition.
Hinduism is considered the oldest organized religion and the third largest, and the major religion of India. It has no known founder, as it was organized from a variety of traditional beliefs from different cultures and mythologies. The roots of Hinduism are thought to date back 5,000 years. Hinduism has two great theistic movements: Vishnu called Vaishnavism, and Shiva or Shaivism. It advocates commitment to dharma, an ideal way of life. Hindus, or believers of Hinduism, believe in karma, or the force of one's actions, and reincarnation, or the passage of a soul from one body to another body.
Judaism, the religion of the Jews is considered the basis for Christianity and Islam. With a history of over 4,000 years, Judaism is based on monotheism, the belief in one God.
The Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament in Christianity, is the fundamental source of Jewish belief, notably its first five books collectively called the Torah, the Pentateuch, the Law or the Five Books of Moses. Judaism follows a system of law, called Halachah, which regulates personal values, family relationships, social responsibility, and civil and criminal justice.
Buddhism is the religion founded by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha or the awakened one, in the 6th century BCE. It was the most successful religious movement derived from Hinduism and eventually spread throughout India and other Asian countries. Buddhism can be divided into two main branches: the “Theravada” or "Way of the Elders," and the more liberal “Mahayana”, or "Great Vehicle." Buddhist teaching is centered on Four Truths:
Suffering or Duhkha.
Desire as the cause of suffering.
Suffering can end.
Existence of a way to end suffering.
Jainism, founded by Mahavira in the 6th century BCE. The followers of the faith consider Mahavira as the last of the “Tirthamkaras”, which are the 24 founders of the religion. The philosophy of Jainism is centered on the belief that every living thing has a soul, therefore it promotes non-injury to all life-forms. Jainism is divided into two sects: the Svetambara and the Digambara. The Svetambaras wear white clothes, while the Digambaras go naked. Jain monks wear cloths over their mouths to prevent them from unconsciously breathing in and accidentally causing injury to a living thing. Yes, its that serious to them.
Taoism is thought to have been founded around the 3rd or 4th century BCE, which is when the primary text of Taoism, the Daodejing, dates back to. The author of the Daodejing, Laozi, is thought to have lived around the same time as Confucius, the founder of Confucianism. Those who practice taoism try to live in accordance with the "way" or dao, which is the source and flow of everything. The main concepts in Taoism are “Wu Wei” the process of doing things effortlessly or non-intentionally, and the "Three Treasures," which are compassion, moderation, and humility. This religion is connected with many physical practices, like qigong and tai chi, as well as the concept of yin yang, which is the belief that opposites are actually completely interconnected.
Other very old religions include Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, mystery cults, and paganism. Zoroastrianism is thought to have been founded around the 6th century BCE, and is notable for being one of the first religions to use the concept of the struggle between good and evil. Confucianism, which is more of a philosophy than a religion, was founded by Confucius in the 5th century BCE. It assumes that there is an ideal structure and hierarchy of the world, and that people have a moral obligation to fulfill their roles in that hierarchy.
Catholics consider themselves Christians, but the advent of the sanctification and praying to dead canonized saints by the church is outside the biblical teachings of Christ and is tantamount to idolatry by definition. The advent of a Pope as the high priest rather than Christ, some may suggest, as did Martin Luther in his 95 thesis, in and of itself disqualifies Catholics as Christians.
Christianity hangs on the resurrection of Christ, when Jesus Dies on the Cross the Temple Veil was torn, which was symbolic of the end of the priesthood.
(Matthew 27:51 the veil) (John 19:30 it is finished)
Immediately after Jesus shouted “tetelestai” and died physically, the veil of the Temple was "torn in two from top to bottom. “Tetelestai” is Greek for “It is finished.”
What is significant about this veil tearing is what it symbolized both spiritually and tangibly. The veil of the Temple was a huge curtain (60 feet long, 30 feet high, and about 4 inches thick; composed of 72 squares sewn together; that formed the barrier between the Shekinah, which is to say dwelling place of God, or where Gods presence appeared in the Temple of Jerusalem. The veil was so heavy that it required 300 men to lift it.
This veil (along with all of the Temple details) represented the separation between God and humanity because of our sins.
No one was permitted to pass through the veil into God's presence except for the High Priest once a year, the Day of Atonement, with the blood of an unblemished goat for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 10:20)
Jesus told his disciples that mankind would be able to speak to God directly after he had died and went to heaven. That they could ask God for whatever they wanted without having to go through a high priest, simply pray in His name and God would hear them and grant them their petitions directly. (John 16:23-27)
The Levitical priests continued their service for another forty years after Christ resurrection, but they were really out of business from the moment of this veil tearing and Christ resurrection. This event, in part explains why so many priests came to Christ in the days immediately following his resurrection. (Acts 6:7)
With Jesus' death, the whole Old Covenant system of relating to God through priests and ritual sacrifices was set aside. (Hebrews 10:1-14)
In this regard, the advent of a Pope by the Catholic Church sets the church outside of the dictates of Christianity.
Notwithstanding, some of the similarities of the major belief systems demonstrate how certain aspects of other faiths are hybrids of Christianity. It is the oral history that acts as the basis for biblical writings, which provided a substantive source for the vast divergence of other religious systems.
Biblical text are said to be inspired by God, which goes beyond the oral history, it means that God Himself spoke to those who wrote these passages and therefore the inspiration is evidenced in the transcendence of the writings over thousands of years. (2 Timothy 3:16–17, 2 Peter 1:20-21)
A criticism about the inspiration of the Bible is that the New Testament Scriptures quote, paraphrase and refer to other non-canonical works called Pseudepigrapha, which are Jewish writings from Hellenistic and other non-Biblical cultures that are considered to be untrustworthy writings from unknown authors. These works date around c 300 BCE to 300 CE. The fact is there is no evidence that these assertions have any conclusive theological basis in fact.
Biblical accounts are in many ways a fundamental springboard or basis for many beliefs that if not specifically quoting from the bible itself, take scripture out of context to build a belief system, as with the more modern belief system of the Mormon Churches Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. (Revelation 22:18-19)
This is not to say that ALL older religions are quoting the Bible, that would not be a fact nor in many instances even possible.
Moses does not predate Ancient Egypt or many other cultures, his writings insert a global covering of the history of the beginning of all things, while Moses himself is predated by Abraham who is referred to as the father of the faith, which is what under pins the philosophy of Judaism and Christianity. That being said, there are many who propose that the bible takes from other belief systems, but there is no historical, theological or tangible basis for this assertion as well.
Christianity and the monotheistic belief in a single God, predates all belief systems if you consider the origins of the faith as depicted by Moses and the account of Adam in the garden. The advent of the first sacrifices after the exile of Adam from the garden bring into perspective the first prophesy and promise of a savior. (Genesis 3:15, Genesis. 4:1-11). The period of Genesis speaks to the origin of man and as such sets the stage for all other beliefs that are taken from it.
In philosophy, religion, mythology, fiction, the afterlife, life after death or the hereafter is the concept of a heavenly and separately, terrible realm of sorts, whether physical or transcendental. In religion, transcendence refers to the aspect of God's nature and power, which is wholly independent of the material universe, beyond all physical laws where God is fully present in the physical world and accessible in various ways.
In the religious experience, transcendence is a state of being that has overcome the limitations of physical existence and has become independent of it or ones existence in the afterlife.
In the afterlife, the essential part of an individual's identity or consciousness continues to reside after the death of the body in the individual's physical lifetime.
The essential aspect of the individual that lives on after death in Christianity, is the spirit that constitutes the entire soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity.
Belief in an afterlife is in contrast to the belief in oblivion or annihilation after death.
There are many views of the afterlife throughout history, in Greek mythology Zeus is the god of sky and thunder and the father of the gods and men who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus. Olympus was the home of the Twelve Olympian gods, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus and Hermes.
The physical place of Olympus is thought to have formed itself after the gods defeated the Titans in the Titan War.
The Titans were a race of powerful gods, descendants of Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky) that ruled during the Golden Age, which refers to the first in a sequence of four or five Ages of Man in which the Golden Age is first, followed by the Silver, Bronze, Heroic, and then the present Iron age which is the period of decline.
The "Golden Age" denotes a period of peace, harmony, stability, and prosperity. During this age of peace and harmony, humans did not have to work to feed themselves because the earth provided food in abundance. They lived to a very old age maintaining a youthful appearance, eventually dying peacefully.
The Titans were immortal giants of incredible strength and were the first pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses.
In the first generation there were twelve Titans, the males were Oceanus, Hyperion, Coeus, Cronus, Cirus, and Lapetus. The females or Titanesses were Mnemosyne, Tethys, Theia, Phoebe, Rhea, and Themis. The second generation of Titans consisted of Hyperion's children Eos, Helios, and Selene; Coeus's daughters Leto and Asteria; Lapetus's children Atlas, Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Menoetius; Oceanus's daughter Metis; and Crius' sons Astraeus, Pallas, and Perses.
Cronus was the leader and the youngest of the first generation of Titans, he overthrew his father and ruled during the mythological Golden Age, until he was overthrown by his own son Zeus and imprisoned in Tartarus.
In Greek mythology c.1100–800 BC onward, Tartarus is both a god and a place in the underworld. Tartarus is also the first-existing entity from which the Light and the cosmos were born.
As a place, Tartarus is the deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked and as the prison for the Titans. Tartarus is as far below Hades as the earth is below the heavens.
Tartarus is more closely akin to the bottomless pit in Christianity as described in the New Testament of the Bible as a place for Satan and fallen Angels to reside until the day of Judgment (Jude 6, Revelation 9:1-2 & 11, Rev. 20:1-3). There is one biblical exception to anyone being released from the bottomless pit, Satan is released out of this prison after the thousand-year reign of Christ on Earth (Rev 20:6-7).
In addition, the bottomless pit, unlike Tartarus is located in a secret physical location on the Earth known only to God and the Angels he has entrusted the knowledge to. (Rev 20:1-3)
Around 400 BCE, Tartarus took on the distinction as a place where, souls were judged after death and where the wicked received punishment. In this respect Tartarus becomes akin to Hell in Christianity or more specifically, the area that surrounds the entrance to Hells gates. (Psalm 9:17, 55:15, 139:8, Isaiah 5:14, 14:12-19, Ezekiel 31:15-16, Mathew 5:22, 10:28, 18:9, Mark 9:43-47, Luke 16:22-31, 2 Peter 2:4, Revelation 1:18, 20:13-14).
Hell has a couple of applications in Christianity as the place of torment and as Paradise, Acts 2:31, 2:27. There is a Biblical account referred to as the rich man and Lazarus story as told by Jesus Himself (Luke 16:22-31), in this encounter Hell at one time, prior to the resurrection of Christ, had two distinct sections, Paradise and a place of torment that existed in proximity. In this description, a persons soul, spirit and memories remain in tact, both in Paradise and in Hell.
This advent of Hell changes after the resurrection of Christ, hell expands and Paradise disappears and is replaced by the dead going straight to Heaven bypassing paradise. Evidence of this transition was depicted after the immediate resurrection of Christ with the dead rising and walking about in full view of the population. (Isaiah 5:14, Matthew 27:51-53). Notwithstanding, the Catholic Church still teaches the advent of a paradise and used it as a means of generating revenue for the church as depicted in Martin Luther’s 95 thesis referring to indulgences.
Zeus is the child of Cronus and Rhea, and the youngest of his siblings. In most traditions Zeus was married to Hera and had children including Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Persephone (by Demeter), Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles/Hercules, Helen of Troy, Minos, and the Muses (by Mnemosyne); by Hera, he is also said to have fathered Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus.
Zeus had managed to force his father to release his siblings, after their release the six younger gods challenged the elder gods for power in a divine war. The war lasted for ten years and ended with the victory of the younger gods. Following their victory, Hades and his two brothers, Poseidon and Zeus, drew lots for realms to rule. Zeus got the sky, Poseidon the seas, and Hades received the underworld, the unseen realm where the souls of the dead go upon leaving the world as well as any and all things beneath the earth.
Persephone held an ancient role as the queen of the Underworld, the goddess of death.
She was the daughter of Zeus and was married to Hades and she was the queen of the underworld who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead, along with her husband Hades. Persephone commanded Charon to be the ferryman of Hades where he carries the souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron into the underworld. The river formed the boundary between Earth and the underworld, dividing the world of the living from the world of the dead. Hades is also ruler of the River Styx.
There were five rivers in the infernal regions of the underworld, the Rivers Styx, Phlegethon, Acheron, Lethe and Cocytus which all converge at the center of the underworld on a great marsh, which is also referred to as the Styx.
The Greek god Hermes, was the messenger of the gods who would escort the soul of a person to the underworld.
Hermes would leave the soul on the banks of the River Styx, once across the Styx the soul would be judged by one of the three sons of Zeus who were the judges in Hades, Aeacus, son of Zeus and Aegina, a daughter of the river-god Asopus, Rhadamanthus the son of Zeus and Europa and Minos also a son of Zeus and Europa.