Myth of the Pagan Origins of Christianity

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The artificial constructions of scholars who once sought to build a bridge directly from Hellenism to Christianity are being dismantled, both because of greater knowledge of the Greek world and due to more intensive study of ancient Jewish and Christian thought.

That Christianity developed from Jewish roots is a well-known fact. Early Christian literature cannot be viewed as a phenomenon parallel to and separate from Judaism, or as derived from Greek thought. Recent scholarship generally confirms the strong bond between early Christianity and Second Temple Judaism, and this is especially the case in the field of research dedicated to the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Thus the artificial constructions of scholars who once sought to build a bridge directly from Hellenism to Christianity are being dismantled, both because of greater knowledge of the Greek world and due to more intensive study of ancient Jewish and Christian thought. In addition to the importance of the scrolls for explaining the formative stages of the second stratum of Christianity, that is, of Paul and of the author of John’s Gospel, the Dead Sea Scrolls have shown that many religious concepts that had been considered Greek are actually of Jewish origin. This fact greatly surprised scholars, even though prior to the publication of the scrolls no exact Greek parallels had been found. In this study I do not intend to treat the problem of Greek influence on Judaism and, via the latter, on Christianity. My goal will be to achieve a more modest objective: to present a general survey of the forces that prevailed during the formative generations of Christianity.

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Conclusion

Modern scholarly attempts to find strong Greek influence on early Christianity led to the creation of hypothetical constructions based on the later Greek world whose many literary works are well known. However, most of the phenomena of early Christianity can be fully explained on the basis of extant Jewish sources. The cultural ferment in Second Temple Judaism with its pneumatic phenomena and its way of thinking about the supernatural gave birth to Christianity. If Christianity contains phenomena that did not originate in Second Temple Judaism, they were likely generated by Christianity itself, for Christianity constituted a special third force alongside Judaism and paganism.


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