Today I’m showing a guest post by Brian Hughes, on the roots of Christianity. I sent a random email to Brian earlier in the week asking for his thoughts on the subject and so here they are. Enjoy:
Wouldn’t it be excellent to be able to stand back (on a very high rooftop for preference) and study the evolution of Christianity, from an unbiased wall-to-wall perspective, taking in all the unsubtle kinks and added twists along its chronological route that transformed it from what was basically a ‘good idea created by a socialist hippy’ to the ‘buggered up, war mongering, anachronistic heap of old crud’ that it is today?
Well you can. It’s called history. You might have heard of it.
Here’s what happened.
Did you know that Jesus was actually crucified on a tree stump? That’s right, according at any rate to early versions of the gospel, quite a number of which are kept in a locked room at the Vatican, only accessible by the select few (such as BBC executives with extremely deep pockets). It was the Emperor Constantine who changed the design to that of a cross, because it better suited his political ends. You see Constantine was a Mitheras worshipper, who in later life (when he realised which direction the political wind was blowing and thought that a convergence of opposing religions might stop all the squabbling that was keeping him awake at night) allegedly converted to Christianity (despite the fact that, in reality, he was still buried in the Mitheras tradition). As part of this conversion he ‘invented’ the chi-rho cross, still used in some of the fiercer Roman Catholic strongholds to this day. The chi-rho consisted of a cross (as you might expect) with ‘P’ symbols on the arms, contained within a circle.
The ‘P’ in the chi-rho was the symbol for Mitheras, the sun god, which was why Constantine put it there.
Mithraism itself originated in Persia circa 400 A.D. but there aren’t half a lot of similarities between it and Christianity — far too many for healthy young enquiring minds. Mithraists, for example, believed in the trinity…long before Christians invented their third enigmatic member, the Holy Ghost. (What the hell is a Holy Ghost anyway? A bed sheet that’s been eaten by hungry moths?) In Mithraism baptisms were also common, using the sign of the cross on converts’ foreheads. Sunday was the day of worship. The chief festivals were what Christians would now call Christmas and Easter (after all…it’s a bit hard to fathom why New Year, which by rights ought to take place on Jesus’ birthday, actually happens one week later) and Mithra himself was born in a cave, to a virgin, on December the 25th, and died, during ‘Easter’, on a cross.
Hence the chi-rho!
Mithra was also considered to be the saviour of the world, the messiah if you like, his death having occurred to save everybody else on the planet and secure them an eternal afterlife.
All of this, 400 years before Jesus was even born. Talk about plagiarism. (So much for the ‘Gospel Truth’, eh?)
Constantine also gathered the Christian leaders of the day together (Christianity was a bit fractious even then) to produce a final consensus on what should, and, perhaps more importantly, shouldn’t be included in the New Testament.
That’s where the other versions of the gospel come in…the ones that didn’t quite make it to the final edit. One of these now missing books is apparently a lengthy surreal poem all about God and the sun and cellophane flowers and what have you, whilst another reckons that Jesus was gay. (No seriously…it does. So much for the Da Vinci Code.) That would explain a few matters, but let’s not bother going there.
So the New Testament, as we know it now, consists of a few (edited for content) stories written about Jesus some considerable time after his death, concentrating mainly on his ideas and his parables and so forth, with an awful lot of added Mithraism such as his childhood and his resurrection and so forth, for seasoning.
And that’s how it was for several centuries — the two religions mixed into one, with a sprinkling of other Pagan deities thrown in for good measure (which is where the holly and the ivy at Christmas originate, and the Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies), the Christian God sharing his throne with other Pagan Gods as and when it suited. And everyone was happy and got along fine and witches weren’t burned and the old ways weren’t stamped out.
The only trouble was that Constantine, being emperor and everything, had made Rome the head of this new conglomerate religion, which was fine at the time. However, several centuries on, and power hungry authorities being what they were decided on a more fundamentalist approach to the Christian doctrine. They’d already abandoned the ‘give your money to the poor’ line, and the ‘humble yourself’ routine, and the ‘if thine enemy strikes you offer them the other cheek’ stuff. After all, what’s the point in being the head of a big organisation if you’ve got to be pleasant to snivelling little peasants all the time?
That’s when matters took a turn for the worse. The early Christians who’d tried to understand the nature of the universe through scientific experimentation and logical debate etc. (it was all part of God’s great plan, they believed, to unravel the workings of his creation) were suddenly shunned, slandered and eventually dumped on from a great height…namely Rome. The commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ had a silent amendment added to it by the church authorities, that being: “Unless the church decides that it’s all right, of course” and, as often happens with the best laid plans of mice, men and Roman emperors, matters spiralled out of control.
Anyhow, I’m probably as bored of writing this now as you are of reading it…so if you want to find out more I suggest that you go and do some research for yourselves. This sort of stuff’s worth bearing in mind though for future arguments and debates about the nature of religion. As Tony Robinson once put it, “How can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve come from?”
Dangling prepositions aside, he had a point I reckon.
And now, dear readers, what are your thoughts?