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Eternal life was part of Pagan religion for thousands of years before Jesus
Chock-a-block with goodies for the dead guy


the
guarantee of salvation were in the hands of the goddess, and
the initiation ceremony itself a kind of voluntary death and

salvation through divine grace
."
[Apuleius, Metamorphosis, Book 11, 21
]

"...Our soul is immortal, and has judges, and pays the utmost penalties whenever a man is rid of the body."
[Plato, 7th letter, 335a]


Was Christianity new?  Was Christianity unique?
If there's anything new and unique about Christianity, it's that it gives eternal life, right? Amazingly, that's wrong. In ancient times, around the Mediterranean, eternal life after death was just part of the culture. In Egypt, in Greece, in Rome, in Persia, you died, God judged you, and you lived forever. Good people lived forever happily. Bad people lived forever in torment. Sound familiar? Yes, it does.

What's more, belief in certain Gods was specifically associated with a better deal for the dead. Dionysus, for example, and Isis, and Kore.

Fact is, you already know Pagans believed in eternal life.
Chock-a-block with goodies for the dead guyRemember the pyramids? You know they were chock-a-block with goodies for the dead guy, right? Dead guys in Egypt lived on after death. Forever.

Pagans believed in eternal life for generations before Jesus. You already know that.

Charon boats a dead guy across the river Styx, to live forever in Hades.

And you know about the Greek tradition of putting a coin in the mouth of the dead guy, to pay Charon to boat them across the river Styx into Hades—where they would live forever.

By the way

Don't think of the ancients' Underworld or Hades, as Hell, a place of punishment. Think of it as Hades the place of the dead—rewarded dead or punished dead, everyone ended up there

Pagans believed in eternal life for generations before Jesus. You already know that.

 

"The general heard suppose there is a place deep under the earth called Hades"
All right, the rich guy in the pyramid believed in eternal life, and there's the Charon business, but really, how common was Pagan belief in eternal life? Plenty common.

"Come with me my pretty"
Pluto drags Persephone to the Underworld

Here's how the "philosopher and satirist" Lucian described it      >>


Lucian said:
The general heard, most folks, believe Hades is a real place, under the earth, ruled by the Gods Pluto and Persephone.

And most folks believe dead people end up in Pluto's Hades, where they're stuck because Pluto won't let them out—won't let them return to life on earth.

[113] First I wish to tell you what beliefs they hold about death itself. . . .

The general herd, whom philosophers call the laity. . . suppose that there is a place deep under the earth called Hades. . .The king of the [115] abyss is a brother of Zeus named Pluto . . . This Pluto, they say, has organized his state and the world below as follows. He himself has been allotted the sovereignty of the dead, whom he receives, takes in charge, and retains in close custody, permitting nobody whatsoever to go back up above, except, in all time, a very few for most important reasons.

[117] Well, Pluto and Persephone, as these people said, are the rulers and have the general over-lordship, with a great throng of understrappers and assistants. . .

And, says Lucian, most people believe that in Hades "good, just men who have lived virtuously" are sent off to the Elysian Fields where things are swell.

. . . As prefects, moreover, and satraps and judges, there are two that hold court, Minos and Rhadamanthus of Crete, who are sons of Zeus. These receive the good, just men who have lived virtuously, and when many have been collected, send them off, as if to a colony, to the Elysian Fields to take part in the best life.

But, most folks believe, bad people are punished in Hades.

 

But if they come upon any rascals, turning them over to the Furies, they send them to the Place of the Wicked, to be punished in proportion to their wickedness. There-ah ! what punishment do they not undergo? They are racked, burned, devoured by vultures, turned upon a wheel; they roll stones uphill; and as for Tantalus, he stands on the very brink of the lake with a parched throat, like to die, poor fellow, for thirst! But those of the middle way in life, and they are many, wander about in the meadow without their bodies, in the form of shadows that vanish like smoke in your [119] fingers.
[Lucian, On Funerals, (second century AD),—which you can find in: Harmon, A. M.. Lucian Volume IV (Loeb #162) (1953 / 1999), pg. 113- 9]

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

 
 

The next time you're in Church
ask yourself:"What about what I'm hearing was new and unique with Christianity, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were built with old parts?"Next time you're in church...

When they get to the part about Jesus' gift of eternal life, remember Lucian describing the beliefs of the ancients' "general herd" : Not only did your ancient Pagan-in-the-street believe in eternal life, he believed in an eternal life made up of rewards for the good and punishment for the bad.

You'll know you're hearing about stuff that predated Christianity by hundreds of year. In a culture where over and over people built new religions out of old parts, by the time Jesus brought salvation, the idea of eternal life had been a part of Mediterranean religion for three thousand years

Wow!

By the way: Lucian of Samosata  

Encyclopedia editors like to call Lucian a "philosopher and satirist", but you won't be far wrong if you think of him as a second century Mark Twain. Lucian was a regular guy, so he didn't write excruciating poems about kings and flowers. He wrote about regular people. And he was a very good writer. Lucain knew the 'don't tell, show' rule. He was clever and laugh out loud funny. Lucian makes a fun beach read—but cover your Loeb with an Elmore Leonard jacket, so people don't think you're an egg-head.

And like Mark Twain Lucian was an agnostic who loved to skewer the improbabilities of popular religion. If you read much about ancient religion you'll come across his stuff:
Alexander the False Prophet
The Death of Perigrinus
On Funerals
The Syrian Goddess, are a few.

Samosata, in case you're wondering, was in Syria. In Lucian's time, the 100s AD, even though Rome was in charge people there spoke Greek, so Lucian's Loebs are green.

Lucian
As far as I can tell there are no surviving pictures of the Greek author Lucian, but I did find this nice shot of Lucy 'n Dezi

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now you know eternal life was the common belief in the pre-Christian Mediterranean culture.
Next let's look at a few specific traditions.

Sumerian Hades—the Land of No Return
Here's a photo of a Sumerian book, cuneiformed onto wet clay in the second millennium BC. After they wrote on the clay the Sumerionians fired it in an oven, which made the tablet pretty durable, if somewhat hard to fax. (This is the origin of the term, hard fax . "Spare me your opinions, just give me the hard fax," the king would say, and his vizier would hand over a tablet. Nowadays there are still a few kings around, but when's the last time you saw a clay tablet, or a vizier? Me neither.)

Archeologists like to dig old tablets up—it's a learned social behavior that earns them prestige among the archeologist societal group. (Archeologists have no prestige outside their group.) Incredibly some people, who were all much smarter than I am, figured out how to read these things. Right now you can walk into pretty much any big city bookstore and walk out with a ten-dollar paperback full of the original texts of three, four, and five thousand (five thousand!!) year old Assyrian, Babylonian, Sumerian books. Very cool.

Very cool but not perfect, because the stories can be tough to read. You can tell from looking at the tablets' cracks and chips that the stories are generally missing words, lines and whole sections (technically 'hole sections'). What's more the legends are so old the Gods are unfamiliar and the concepts are sometimes hard to figure. So be warned: even with good translations, it takes a little work to read Sumero-Assyro-Babylonian books. The payoff is you'll find some real gems. Take for example the chap named Utnapishtim, [look for the eleventh tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh] who God told to build an ark to save mankind and the animals, on account of God was about to wipe out wicked humanity with a flood. Which He did, but the animals and Utnapishtim's people pulled through, so things turned out OK. Except for the millions of souls who drowned; but let's not count them.

What do the old tablets say about life after death? Here's a smattering:


Gilgamesh: "Tell me Earth's conditions that you found"

 
 

Gilgamesh's pal Enkidu went down underground into the place of the dead (translated here as Earth—the words"Hades" and "Hell" hadn't been invented yet).

When Enkidu gets back Gilgamesh askers him to describe what death is like: "Tell me Earth's conditions that you found!"

So he does

     >>

For some eternal life is pretty bleak. Gilgamesh's wife is chewed on by vermin, etc.

Dating Gilgamesh  

Gilgamesh dates back two civilizations, way back before Rome and Greece and Judea to the Sumerians and Babylonians in the third millennium BC. The Gilgamesh stories are so old everyone forgot them.* He's not mentioned in the Homer or Herodotus or the Bible or any ancient text that survived down to our times.

So how come do we know about him? In the 1800s people started digging up clay tablets in Iran, and eventually translating their cuneiform writing. Broken tablets from Sumeria dating from the 2000s BC tell parts of the Gilgamesh story. Tablets from Nineveh, from the 7th century BC, are the most complete—they're the ones you'll find translated in books.

* Well OK, people forgot Gilgamesh but they didn't forget the stories. Stories about Gilgamesh, like the one where God sent a flood to clear out mankind, those stories passed down into the epic literature of later cultures. Can you guess the one I'm thinking of right now?

 

 

'Tell me, my friend, tell me, my friend,
Tell me Earth's {= the place of the dead} conditions that you found!
'I can't tell you, my friend, I can't tell you!
If I tell you Earth's conditions that I found,
You must sit (and) weep!

I would sit and weep!
[Your wife (?),I whom you touched, and your heart was glad,
Vermin eat [like (?)] an old [garment].
[Your son (?) whom] you touched, and your heart was glad,
[Sits in a crevice (?)] full of dust.
"Woe" she said, and groveled in the dust.
"Woe" he said, and groveled in the dust.

I saw [the father of one (?) whom you (once) saw
Covered [ ]
He weeps bitterly over it (?).
I saw [the father of two (?) whom you (once saw (?)]
He eats bread [sitting on two bricks (?)]
I saw [the father of three (?) whom you (once) saw (?)]
He drinks water [from a waterskin]
I saw [the father of four (?) whom] you (once) saw
[ ] his heart is glad with a team of four!
I saw [the father of five (?) whom] you (once) saw:
Like a first-rate scribe he is open-handed.
Enters the palace [as a matter of course].
I saw [the father of six (?) whom] you (once) saw

. . . .{gaps in the tablet}

I saw him, whom you saw at the poles [of ]
Now
he cries for his mother as he tears out the pegs.

For other folks eternal life is better.
The man who died a sudden death lies in bed and drinks pure water.

I saw him, whom you saw [die] a sudden death:
vi
He lies in bed and drinks pure water.
I saw him, whom you saw killed in battle: His father and mother honor him and his wife weeps over him.
I saw him, whose corpse you saw abandoned in the open country:
His ghost does not sleep in the Earth.

I saw him whom you saw, whose ghost has nobody to supply it:
He feeds on dregs from dishes, and bits of bread that lie abandoned in the streets.

  [Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet XII .iv - vi (early second millennium BC),—which you can find in: Dalley, Stephanie. Myths From Mesopotamia; Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (1989 / 2000), pg. 123- 5]
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.
 

The next time you're in Church
ask yourself:"What about what I'm hearing was new and unique with Christianity, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were built with old parts?" Next time you're in church...

When they get to the part about Jesus' gift of eternal life, remember the four thousand year old story of Gilgamesh's friend Enkidu describing the eternal life of dead guys in Sumero-Babylonian Underworld.

You'll know you're hearing about stuff that predated Christianity by hundreds of year. In a culture where over and over people built new religions out of old parts, by the time Jesus brought salvation, the idea of eternal life had been a part of Mediterranean religion for three thousand years

Wow!

Ishtar: "The Land of no Return"  

Here's the start of an early second millennium BC story called the Descent of Ishtar [a goddess] into the Nether World.

     >>

 

 

 

 

The point for us here is that almost five thousand years ago ancient religions had already developed the idea that dead guys ended up in a place under the earth—here they call it "the Land of no Return"—where they didn't die, but lived on forever.

To the Land of no Return, the realm of [Ereshkigal] { Goddess of the Underworld},
Ishtar, the daughter of Sin {the God, not the diversion}, [set] her mind.
Yea, the daughter of Sin set [her] mind
To the dark house, the abode of Irkal[la],
To the house which none leave who have entered it,
To the road from which there is no way back,
T o the house wherein the entrants are bereft of li[ght],
Where dust is their fare and clay their food,
(Where) they see no light, residing in darkness,
(Where) they are clothed like birds, with wings for garments,
(And where) over door and bolt is spread dust.
[Sumerian clay tablet, Descent of Ishtar to the Nether World, 1 - 11 (second millennium BC),—which you can find in: Pritchard, James. The Ancient Near East Volume 1 An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (1973), pg. 80-1]

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

By the time Jesus brought salvation, the idea of eternal life had been a part of Mediterranean religions for three thousand years

 
 

The next time you're in Church
ask yourself:"What about what I'm hearing was new and unique with Christianity, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were built with old parts?" Next time you're in church...

When they get to the part about Jesus' gift of eternal life, remember Ishtar's descent into the Underworld.

You'll know you're hearing about stuff that predated Christianity by hundreds of year. In a culture where over and over people built new religions out of old parts, by the time Jesus brought salvation, the idea of eternal life had been a part of Mediterranean religion for three thousand years

Wow!

 

The rulers of Below, like those of On High, were regularly assisted in their councils and decisions by an elite corps of divinities, who were ultimately called Anunnaki. It was they, in fact, who decided (it was commonly said "to judge") the cases of each etemmu, [dead guy's soul] certainly not to grant it a more or less satisfactory infernal existence depending upon its merits, since the "merits" in question, no less than "morality" or "good conduct" on Earth, played not the slightest role in one's orientation after death, which was identical for everyone and definitively set by death itself; but in order to confirm, following the rules, the dead person's entrance into his new existence and his new residence, a bit like a clerk scrupulously maintains the register of those who are imprisoned.

.... in spite of their basic conviction that death and the afterlife were the great equalizers of human destinies, maintained the idea that the level of existence of the efemmu was no more equal than the destiny of the former awilu, their fate in the Beyond depending more or less, not on their behavior, but on their conditions of life on Earth, even if death had introduced them into a routine of despondency and torpor. In truth, the mythology was not logical.
[Bottero, Jean. Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia (2001), pg. 109]

POCM quotes modern scholars

By the time Jesus brought salvation, the idea of eternal life had been a part of Mediterranean religions for three thousand years

 
Egypt—"And he shall be in the train of Osiris, continually and forever."
Osiris' followers knew their fate after death depended on the morality of the life they lead before death. The ancient Book of the Dead, 1250 BC, pictures the Ka—the soul—of dead believers standing in the presence of Osiris as their judge. If they could recite a list of their good deeds in life, Osiris rewarded them with eternal life.  
 
The Book of the Dead survives, so your can read the details yourself.

[The dead will say:]
Homage to you, Great God, the Lord of the double Ma'at (Truth)!
I have come to you, my Lord,
I have brought myself here to behold your beauties.

I know you, and I know your name,
And I know the names of the two and forty gods,
Who live with you in the Hall of the Two Truths,
Who imprison the sinners, and feed upon their blood,
On the day when the lives of men are judged in the presence of Osiris.
In truth, you are "The Twin Sisters with Two Eyes," and "The Daughters of the Two Truths."
In truth, I now come to you, and I have brought Maat to you,
And I have destroyed wickedness for you.
I have committed no evil upon men.
I have not oppressed the members of my family.
I have not wrought evil in the place of right and truth.
I have had no knowledge of useless men.
I have brought about no evil.
I did not rise in the morning and expect more than was due to me.
I have not brought my name forward to be praised.
I have not oppressed servants.
I have not scorned any god.
I have not defrauded the poor of their property.
I have not done what the gods abominate.
I have not cause harm to be done to a servant by his master.
I have not caused pain.
I have caused no man to hunger.
I have made no one weep.
I have not killed.
I have not given the order to kill.
I have not inflicted pain on anyone.
I have not stolen the drink left for the gods in the temples.
I have not stolen the cakes left for the gods in the temples.
I have not stolen the cakes left for the dead in the temples.
I have not fornicated.
I have not polluted myself.
I have not diminished the bushel when I've sold it.
I have not added to or stolen land.
I have not encroached on the land of others.
I have not added weights to the scales to cheat buyers.
I have not misread the scales to cheat buyers.
I have not stolen milk from the mouths of children.
I have not driven cattle from their pastures.
I have not captured the birds of the preserves of the gods.
I have not caught fish with bait made of like fish.
I have not held back the water when it should flow.
I have not diverted the running water in a canal.
I have not put out a fire when it should burn.
I have not violated the times when meat should be offered to the gods.
I have not driven off the cattle from the property of the gods.
I have not stopped a god in his procession through the temple,
I am pure.
I am pure.
I am pure.
I am pure. . ..

 

[The first examination]

They [the Gods of the Underworld] say, "Come forward.
They say, "Who are you,"
They say, "What is your name?"
"I am the he who is equipped under the flowers, the-dweller-in-the-moringa [Osiris] is my name."
They say, "Where have you passed?"
"I have passed by the town north of the moringa."
They say, "What did you see there?"
"The Leg and the Thigh."
They say, "What then did you say to them?"
"Let me see rejoicings in the lands of the Fenkhu."
"What did they give you?"
"A flame of fire and a tablet of crystal."
"What did you do with them?"
"I buried them by the furrow of Maaty as things for the night."
"What did you find there by the furrow of Maaty?"
"A scepter of flint, the name of which is "Giver of Breath.'"
"What did you do to the flame of fire and the tablet of crystal after you buried them?"
"I uttered words over them in the furrow, and I dug them up; I extinguished the fire, and I broke the tablet, and I threw it in the pool of Maaty."
"Come, then, and enter in the door of this Hall of the Two Truths, for you know us."

 

[The second examination]

"We will not let you enter in through us," says the bolts of the door, "unless you tell us our names."
"'Tongue-of-the-Balance-of-the-Place-of-Truth' is your name."
"I will not let you enter in by me," says the right side of this door, "unless you tell me my name."
"'Valance-of-the-Support-of-Maat' is your name."
"I will not let you enter in by me," says the left side of the door, "unless you tell me my name."
"'Balance-of-Wine' is your name."
"I will not let you pass over me," says the threshold of this door, "unless you tell me my name."
"'Ox-of-God-Seb' is your name."
"I will not open for you," says the fastening of this door, "unless you tell me my name."
"'Flesh-of-his-Mother' is your name."
"I will not open for you," says the socket of the fastening of this door, "unless you tell me my name."
"'Living-Eye-of-the-Crocodile-God-Lord-of-Bakhau' is your name."
"I will not open for you, and I will not let you enter in by me," says the guardian of this door, "unless you tell me my name."
"'Elbow-of-the-God-Shu-that-protecs-Osiris' is your name."
"We will not let you enter in by us," say the posts of this door, "unless you tell us our name."
"'Children-of-the-Cobra-Goddess' is your name."
"You know us, therefore, pass by us."

 

[The third examination]

"I will not let you tread upon me," says the floor of this hall of the Two Truths,
"Because I am silent and I am holy and do not know the names of your two feet,
Therefore, tell me their names."
"'Traveller-of-the-God-Khas' is the name of my right foot,
"'Staff-of-the-Goddess-Hathor' is the name of my left foot."
"You know me, therefore pass over me."
"I will not announce you," says the guardian of this door of this Hall of the Two Truths, "unless you tell me my name."
"'Discerner-of-Hearts and Searcher-of-the-Reins' is your name."
"Now I will announce you, but who is the god that dwells in this hour?"
"The-Keeper-of-the-Record-of-the-Two-Lands."
"Who then is The-Keeper-of-the-Record-of-the-Two-Lands?"
"It is Thoth."

 

[The fourth examination]

"Come," says Thoth, "why have you come?"
"I have come and I press forward so that I may be announced."
"What now is your condition?"
"I am purified from evil things,
I am protected from the evil deeds of those who live in their days:
I am not among them."
"Now I will announce you.
But who is he whose heaven is fire, whose walls are cobras, and whose floor is a stream of water?
Who is he, I say?"
"He is Osiris."
"Come forward, then, you will be announced to him.
Your cakes will come from the Eye of Ra, your beer from the Eye, your meals of the dead from the Eye.
This has been decreed for the Osiris the overseer of the house of the overseer of the seal, Nu, triumphant."

 

This shall be said by the deceased after he has been cleaned and purified, and when he is arrayed in apparel, and is shod with white leather sandals, and his eyes have been painted with antimony, and his body has been anointed with oil, and when he offers oxen, and birds, and incense, and cakes, and beer, and garden herbs. Behold, you will draw a representation of this in color upon a new tile molded from earth upon which neither a pig nor other animals have stepped. And if you do this book on it, the deceased shall flourish, and his children shall flourish, and his name shall never fall into oblivion, and he shall be as one who fills the heart of the king and his princes. And bread, and cakes, and sweetmeats, and wine, and pieces of flesh shall be given to him upon the altar of the great god; and he shall not be turned back at any door in the Underworld, and he shall be brought in along with the kings of Upper and Lower Egypt, and he shall be in the train of Osiris, continually and forever.

Effective a million times.

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

 

The next time you're in Church
ask yourself:"What about what I'm hearing was new and unique with Christianity, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were built with old parts?" Next time you're in church...

When they get to the part about Jesus' gift of eternal life, remember the five thousand year old story of Gilgamesh's friend Enkidu describing the eternal life of dead guys in Sumero-Babylonian Underworld.

You'll know you're hearing about stuff that predated Christianity by hundreds of year. In a culture where over and over people built new religions out of old parts, by the time Jesus brought salvation, the idea of eternal life had been a part of Mediterranean religion for three thousand years

Wow!

 

Persia For the Persians, who worshiped the great Lord of the Universe, the God of Light, Ahura Mazda, the soul of the dead comes to a bride of Chinvat and was judged according to its deeds, words and thoughts in life. The good passed over the bridge safely and into paradise. The bad were dragged down to hell.

Christians believe in eternal life—but Paganism believed in it first.

 

Mystery Religions of Greece and the Hellenized Mediterranean

You've maybe noticed the Mysteries keep popping up. One of the appeals of the mysteries was the hope they gave of a better life after death.

You don't have to believe me; listen to the words of the ancients themselves

It was the common belief in Athens that whoever had been taught the Mysteries would, when he died, be deemed worthy of divine glory. Hence all were eager for initiation.
[Scholiast on Aristophanes The Frogs, 158]

It looks as if those also who established rites of initiation for us were no fools, but that there is a hidden meaning in their teaching when it says that whoever arrives uninitiated in Hades will lie in mud, but the purified and initiated when he arrives there will dwell with gods.
[Plato, 'Phaedo, 69 c]

Quoting Socrates, "[T]he soul of man is immortal. At one time it comes to an end-that which is called death-and at another is born again, but is never finally exterminated. On these grounds a man must live all his days as righteously as possible."
[Plato, Meno 81 b]

And Cicero: For it appears to me that among the many exceptional and divine things your Athens has produced and contributed to human life, nothing is better than those mysteries. For by means of them we have been civilized. The basis not only for living with joy but also for dying with a better hope.
[Cicero, On the Laws, 2.14.36]

"Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these [Eleusinian] mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom."
[Hymn to Demeter, 480-2]

Happy is he who, having seen these [Eleusinian] rites, goes below the hollow earth; for he knows the end of life and he knows its god-sent beginning.
[Pindar, Fragment 102]

Beautiful indeed is the Mystery given us by the blessed gods: death is for mortals no longer an evil, but a blessing.
[Inscription found at Eleusis]

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Christians believe in eternal life—but Paganism believed in it first.  
Greece I know you've heard the Greek myth of the dead ferried by Charon across the river Styx into Hades—the world of the dead—so I won't bore you with that.  
Christians believe in eternal life—but Paganism believed in it first.  

Orpheus/ Dionysus When Homer wrote the Iliad and Odyssey maybe around 800 BC, the archaic Greek Olympic Gods were not saviors—they didn't help people survive death, or have a better life after death. Salvation wasn't something Gods did.

Orpheus changed that.  In the sixth, maybe the seventh century BC he worked on the myth of the imported-to-Greece Thracian* God Dionysus, and turned it into a religion of morality and salvation.  As far as we know Orpheus was the first guy in the west to do this.

* Thrace

Thrace was a country north and east of Greece, along the coast of the Adriatic.  You read about the ancients, Thrace comes up a lot.
There's some other country there now.  Nobody cares

How do we know about Orpheus? Well, fragments of the Orphic Gospel, called the "Orphic Hymns," are quoted by ancient writers, and Orphism lasted into late antiquity and comes up a lot in ancient texts.

Anyway, by the fourth century Plato (yes, that Plato) was writing about Orpheus and his theology of salvation—and not just of eternal life, but of eternal life made better for Orphic believers.

 

The Orphic God plates
In Italy, in the third or fourth century BC, texts written on gold plates and buried with the dead, describe the souls of Dionysus followers in the afterlife, drinking not from one particular spring in Hades, but from another cool pool—and that will give them divinity and eternal life.

 

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Jesus saves—Pagan Gods saved first
 

Sabazius A fresco in Rome shows one of the God's faithful, now dead, banqueting among the immortal blessed.

Jesus saves—Pagan Gods saved first

 

Osiris' followers found salvation in his rebirth. The exact ritual steps of the initiation into the Mysteries of Osiris, we don't know—they were kept secret on pain of death. That the initiation meant salvation could be written—and was:

"The keys of hell and the guarantee of salvation were in the hands of the goddess, and the initiation ceremony itself a kind of voluntary death and salvation through divine grace."  [Apuleius, Metamorphosis, Book 11, 21]

And, "Be of good cheer, O initiates, for the god is saved, and we shall have salvation for our woes."  [Firmicus Maternus, The Error of Pagan Religions, 22.1]

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.


Salvation, Egypt, 1300 BC

This ancient papyrus shows a Dead Guy's judgment in the Egyptian Hall of Two Truths, on the left, the Dead Guy's soul is led to the scales of judgment by the jackal-headed God Anubis, who also, in the center, adjusts the Scales of Justice on which the Dead Guy's heart (the location of his "maat,' = goodness) is measured.

The monster Ammut crouches at the scales, hoping the Dead Guy fails the test, in which case Ammut with swallow his heart, and Dead Guy will suffer torment for a few eons, then die.

At the mid-right the Ibis-headed Thoth writes down the outcome of the judgment The Dead Guy did OK—he was declared "maa-kheru" = "justified"—so he's lead off by the God Horus to stand before Osiris, who grants him eternal life.
[Papyrus of Hunefer, c 1280 BC, from Thebes.]

Jesus brought salvation. Osiris brought salvation 1,400 years earlier.

 

Quoting the Goddess Isis:

 

" I have come with solace and aid. Away then with tears. Cease to moan. Send sorrow fleeing. Soon through my providence shall the sun of your salvation rise."  [Apuleius, Metamorphoses 11.5]

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Mithras Inscriptions in a Mithraeum (temple of Mithras) in Rome read:

Enough said.

"reborn and created for delights," and "you have saved us by the shedding of eternal blood."

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Jesus saves—Pagan Gods saved first  

Cybele and Attis: The Festival of Joy—the celebration of Attis' death and rebirth. On March 22 a pine tree was brought to the sanctuary of Cybele, on it hung the effigy of Attis. The God was dead. Two days of mourning followed, but when night fell on the eve of the third day, March 25th, the worshippers turned to joy,

because >

"... suddenly a light shone in the darkness; the tomb was opened; the God had risen from the dead...[and the priest] softly whispered in their ears the glad tidings of salvation. The resurrection of the God was hailed by his disciples as a promise that they too would issue triumphant from the corruption of the grave." [for more see Frazer, Attis, chapter 1]

POCM quotes modern scholars

Jesus saves—Pagan Gods saved first  

Eleusis An epitaph in Numidia declares faith in a immortal salvation,\\

"I, who always lived in a pious body, inhabit, thanks to divine law, the sweet Elysian Fields."

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

And:

Beautiful indeed is the Mystery given us by the blessed gods: death is for mortals no longer an evil, but a blessing[Inscription found at Eleusis]

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

And

It was the common belief in Athens that whoever had been taught the Mysteries [at Eleusis] would, when he died, be deemed worthy of divine glory. Hence all were eager for initiation. [Scholiast on Aristophanes The Frogs, 158]

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

And

 

"Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these [Eleusinian] mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom." [Hymn to Demeter, 480-2] 0691014795

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

And

 It looks as if those also who established rites of initiation [into the mysteries] for us were no fools, but that there is a hidden meaning in their teaching when it says that whoever arrives uninitiated in Hades will lie in mud, but the purified and initiated when he arrives there will dwell with gods[Plato, 'Phaedo, 69 c]

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Mithras Inscriptions in a Mithraeum (temple of Mithras) in Rome read:

Enough said.

"reborn and created for delights," and "you have saved us by the shedding of eternal blood."

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

 

The next time you're in Church
ask yourself:"What about what I'm hearing was new and unique with Christianity, and what was already part of other religions in a culture where over and over again new religions were built with old parts?"

Next time you're in church... When they get to the part about the salvation of your soul, remember Osiris, Mithras, Sabazius, Eleusis. You'll know you're hearing about stuff that predated Christianity by hundreds of years—in a culture where over and over people built new religions out of old parts.

Wow!

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