Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Following the Footsteps of St. Paul (15)

One may sympathize with Paul as he faced rejection and persecution in Philippi and Thessaloniki as Kar Yong has written in his post. We always assume that Christians are being persecuted because they refuse to worship the deified Caesars. That may be the case in Gentiles but not so for the Jews. The Jews were excepted from worshipping Caesar.

What possible reasons may there being for the violent reaction of the Jews toward Paul? Throughout Jewish history there have been many persons claiming to be the Messiah.
I suggest that this may be due to the Mithraic mystery cult. Remember there were many mystery cults around at that time and some of them were very powerful and influential. The Mithraic cult worship Mithra, a Persian god, during the first four centuries AD. Only men were admitted so it was very popular among the soldiers. Again we are reminded that many of the landowners of Philippi and Thessaloniki were former Roman legionnaires.

There are a number of similarities between this cult and Christianity that the Jews may be mistaken in thinking Paul was preaching a Mithraic-Messiah cult. Later, this cult became Christianity's chief rival religion in the Roman era.

(1) Both appealed to the masses instead of limiting to the upper castes or intellectuals
(2) Both has baptism
(3) Both has a ritual similar to the Lord's supper
(4) Both preach a disciplined life, avoiding the ecstasies and orgies of the other cults
(5) Both taught a cosmic struggle between good and bad, with good being victorious; a great flood, immortality, a resurrection, final eternal punishment, a heaven, a hell, and even a festive day in December 25th !

No wonder Paul has a problem. Which one-ar?

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