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Pagan Origins Hablo Greek-o
You need to understand ancient civilization
I've spent way lots of money on dozens and dozens of books about ancient religion.  If I were starting over, these are the few I'd buy first.

Backgrounds of Early Christianity
by Everett Ferguson

An outstanding book to start with.

What you'll find:

A powerful introduction to the background of Christian-Pagan borrowing, the ancient Pagan (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, etc), Jewish, and early Christian political and religious culture and history.

A treasure: an unusually readable, well writtenfun!—book.

If you need a special-purpose book to understand Christianity's Pagan origins, then probably Christianity didn't have Pagan origins.  It does; you don't.  What you really need is a good book describing ancient Pagan culture and religion.  This outstanding, easy to read book is the best I've read.

From Greco-Roman religions (Mithras, Isis, Dionysus, Eleusis, the mystery religions, etc.) and philosophies (monotheism, the soul, life after death, etc.), on through an excellent section on Second Temple Judaism and another on early Christianity, you'll discover the facts and issues behind modern scholarship on Christian origins.

I bought this book on a whim, figuring it would have a relevant section or two;  I ended up reading the thing cover to cover, 600 delightfully clear and well written pages.  But you don't have to read it cover to cover—just pick the section you're interested in.


Miracles in Greco-Roman Antiquity
A Sourcebook for the study of New Testament Miracle Stories

by Wendy Cotter

Lousy with miracles Like chocolate chips in mama's cookies, miracles were a basic ingredient in ancient people's understanding of how the world works. Every bite—another miracle. The ancient world was lousy with miracles.

Don't believe me, believe the ancients. This excellent sourcebook gives hundreds of examples—250 pages—of ancient miracles recorded by the pens of ancients themselves.

You'll read short excerpts from ancient texts describing Pagan Gods who healed the sick (blindness, paralysis, lameness), raised the dead, exorcised demons, controlled nature, turned water into wine, walked on water, calmed storms, and more.

Well organized, easy to read. Highly recommended.



The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age
by Professor Walter Burkert

What you'll find:

A look at how archaic Greek religion borrowed from Mesopotamian religion.

Dr. Burkert's standards for Pagan borrowing turn out to be a bit different from the standards he uses elsewhere to find—or avoid finding—later Christian borrowing.

Christianizing the Roman Empire (A.D. 100-400)
Ramsay MacMullen

A solid scholarly look at the reasons Pagans converted to Christianity in the period before Christianity took over the central government of the Roman Empire. 

You'd think the main tool of conversion was preaching, or maybe people telling how their conversion had changed their lives. It wasn't. The main tool of conversion was magic!

The ancient evidence shows the first Christian evangelism was based on miracle working and miracle healing—basically saying 'Hey Presto! My God is stronger than your Gods.' 

By the end of this period about ten percent of the Empire was Christian. 

By a famous Yale historian. Highly recommended for serious students.



What other people think about POCM


I've been meaning to write to you for a several months to tell you how much I enjoy your web site. However my fear of seeing my email listed on your feedback page with all my spelling errors highlighted in red and an image of a dunce cap next to it has kept me at bay. Today though I'm confident my email spill chucker won't let me down.

Last year around this time I began researching old European Christmas customs on the internet and stumbled onto a page which compared Mithras and Jesus. I found the parallels intriguing and have been researching Christianity's pagan origins ever since. Your web page has made my study so much easier. I appreciate the methodical, well structured argument you laid out on your web page, but it's your Good Books section that has been the most helpful. In the last few months I've read Shorto's Gospel Truth, most of Price's Deconstructing Jesus, and sections of Koester's Introduction to the New Testament Volume 2: History and Literature of Early Christianity. Amazon just emailed me that Bauer's Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity is on its way. It looks like I'll have lots of good reading material this winter.