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The Secret Roots of Christianity: Decoding Religious History with Symbols on Ancient Coins [Copertina flessibile]

David Wray , Joan Croce , Joanna Eng , Glenna Collett , Sylvia Dovner

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Descrizione del libro

21 novembre 2012
Traditional religious history preserves a rarely acknowledged secret that Christianity developed from at least three ancient roots: a Western structural root derived from Mediterranean Greek culture, an Eastern spiritual root from Anatolia and Persia, and a literary Jewish historical root, which masked the other roots and supported the idea that Christians had taken the place of Jews in relationship with God by entering a new covenant with Jesus. Each root contributed something special to the development of Christianity as follows: • Supported by pagan iconography and rhetoric, the Western root imprinted Christianity with Greek spirit in a Hellenistic universe. • The Eastern root filled the Greek construct with magic, focused humanity on a divine mission, and infused popular reverence for goddesses into Christian beliefs about the Virgin Mary. • The literary Jewish root played two contradictory roles: Jewish scripture served as the reliable witness that proved Jesus to be both God and savior; and double-edged moral lessons in the Old Testament explained catastrophic events in the first century A.D. as divine judgment against Jews, supporting beliefs by early pagan converts to Christianity that Romans were good, Jews were bad, and God abandoned Jews for treacherously murdering Jesus. Two thousand years ago, Mediterranean cults included practices and beliefs that modern Christians associate exclusively with Christianity. People worshipped divine mothers who gave birth to dying and resurrecting gods on December 25. Saviors miraculously healed faithful followers and guided them to lead moral lives. Some cults baptized their followers, some passed their sins and inner demons to pigs, and some waited for a complete destruction of evil during the imminent End of Days. Then, as now, people argued whether the end would come by fire or water and whether many or few souls would be saved. Numerous symbols and beliefs associated in modern times with Christianity already existed in pre-Christian Hellenistic cults: Madonna and child images, angels, God the Father, the cross as a symbol of life after death, and the gift of eternal life through the shedding of immortal blood. On temple walls, wise men offered gifts of incense and gold to newborn gods; and merciful mothers granted salvation to the poor in spirit who confessed, repented, and begged forgiveness for their sins. However, Jews generally rejected all these practices, symbols, and beliefs. Some Jews believed in physical resurrection, and some did not. Some believed in eternal life, and some did not. For most Jews, however, a righteous life required the following of God’s laws. If a Jew sinned against another man, no automatic forgiveness from God was possible. Forgiveness required acknowledgement of wrongdoing, restitution, and then forgiveness from the wronged party. Applying Jewish ethics to problems at the Jerusalem Temple meant recognizing the corruption within the priesthood, refusing to tolerate the evil rule of Rome, and giving one’s life if necessary to precipitate the Kingdom of God. Just as God always had responded to the prayers of suffering Jews in the Bible, he would do so again. Soon he would send a messiah to deliver Jerusalem from the evil power of Rome and to cleanse Judea from the polluting practices of pagan cults. Drawing from both visible and secret roots, Christians freed themselves from paying for salvation from mystery cults while preserving the ability to worship a virgin-born hero with all the trappings of a pagan solar deity. This book explores the roots of Christianity in seven parts. The first three parts provide an overview of religious beliefs, practices, and iconography in the ancient Greek world that influenced Western culture and religion. The fourth, fifth, and sixth parts describe how the West developed under Roman influence. Then the seventh part focuses on the life of Jesus and the emergence of Christian cults in the first century A.D.

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Amazon.com: 4.2 su 5 stelle  4 recensioni
6 di 8 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle The best book I've read this year 26 agosto 2013
Di John A Thornquist - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
I just recently had the pleasure of reading "The Secret Roots of Christianity." If you are the kind of Christian who has long ago decided that the faith you've known all your life and are comfortable with should remain unquestioned, I think it would be best to avoid this book. No disrespect, but you likely won't appreciate the unforgiving scrutiny. The dispassionate and curious reader, on the other hand, will enjoy how the author has objectively put forward the notion that Christianity is the result of an evolutionary process dating back to the early pagan myths, and not something that spontaneously began with the birth of Jesus. According to the evidence he laid out, there is nothing original about Christianity at all, right down the the idea of savior of mankind (the offspring of a mortal virgin and a god) who was born on December 25 and later was murdered and rose from the dead. But the story of this evolutionary process is fascinating, and really serves as a tale of mankind's early spiritual and political development.

I found the book entertaining and informative. The coverage of Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythologies, the explanation of astrology, the stories of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and on through to Jesus and his contemporaries, are absorbing. It practically functions as a storybook as well as a carefully researched piece of inquiry that uses ancient coins and other artifacts, along with a fresh examination of ancient writing, to state its case. I recommend this book and I'm sure I'll read it again.
5.0 su 5 stelle Wonderful read, couldn't put it down 3 ottobre 2014
Di lucmila Sukonik - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
Wonderful read, couldn't put it down. What a great volume of work! I was delighted by the depth of information that the book contained. It seems to me David Wray was able to create a new approach to the history of religions and the Christian roots in particular. He gives a detailed explanation of how the Jewish messianic ideas laid the foundation for the birth of Christianity. The book is beautifully illustrated by the images of rare coin collections which are amazing story tellers all by itself in it.
Strongly recommend this book to everyone.
8 di 13 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
2.0 su 5 stelle It misses the mark in its treatment of Christiany 26 gennaio 2013
Di Gitfiddler Ed - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
There is a lot of good information in the first 500 or so pages on Near Eastern myths, gods and goddesses. The advantage of this is all of these are explained in detail and in one source. Information on the mystery religions, Zoroastrianism, and the Cult of Mythra are alone worth the price of the book.

The section where it fails is in Wray's evaluation of Christianity. He says that the gospels are not biographies, yet it has been conclusively determined by most scholars that they are definately forms of ancient biography (in fact, one writer calls them "classical forms" of ancient biography) but they are not like modern biographies. He also complains that the four gospels are full of contradictions because they relate incidents differently, but they were written by four different writers at four different times using various sources. These are not contracitions but different source accounts.

It is interesting that Wray accepts without question the accounts of ancient biographers and historians such as Plutarch, Josephus, Philo, Strabo, Suetonius, and others, while the gospels and Acts are only treated with skepticism. The reason, I believe is that Wray relies mainly on two biblical scholars who are known for their skepticism, Bart Ehrmann and James Tabor. Ehrmann has publically renounced his faith in the verasity of the New Testament and since then has written and lectured many times, but all from a skeptical point of view. While he has a lot of good information integrating textual criticism and archaeology, it is all primarily slanted toward sensationalist viewpoint and he hardly ever accepts the biblical accounts at any kind of face value. It is fairly easy to spot the axe Ehrmann wants to grind AGAINST any biblical proclamation. James Tabor, who readily admits that he is neither an archaeologist nor theologian, has written outlandish books on "The Jesus Dynasty," which has not been accepted positively by any biblical scholar I know. The Talpiot cave tomb, which Tabor believes is Jesus' family tomb, and with an ossurary (bone box) intact with the name "Jesus" on it is dismissed by almost all archaeologists as having no merit as the Jesus' family tomb. Why would Jesus, who lived his whole life in Galilee, have a family tomb near Jerusalem? And another cave, which Tabor believes to be the sight of John the Baptist's baptisms has no merit, as any scholar will tell you. Wray needs to seriously examine the leading scholars in the field of the New Testament, such as EP Sanders and his groundbreaking book, "Paul and Palestinian Judaism," Ben F. Meyer, "The Aims of Jesus," N.T. Wright and his series of monumental books, "The New Testament and the People of God," "Jesus and the Victory of God," "The Resurrection of the Son of God," "Simply Jesus," and "How God Became King." These are some of the leaders in biblical research into the beginnings of Christianity.

Yes, Christianity is composed of both myth and history. The gospels ARE biographies. Yes, they tell stories in different ways, but ask any police official and they'll tell you that three people viewing an auto accident will give three different interpretations of what they saw.

I was dissapointed to have read so much fine information only to have the main thrust of the book fall apart at the end. He could have done better -- much better.
2 di 4 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle Book Review 2 settembre 2013
Di greenlover - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
Formato:Copertina flessibile
There isn't any other book like this one. It traces the historical and social forces that brought pre-Christian forms of worship into contact with each other and caused them to interact, borrow, and sometimes fuse. It shows how these forces prepared the way for Roman Christianity.

One of these forces was Hellenization. The spread of Greek language and culture throughout the vast area ruled by Alexander the Great and his successors caused Greek pagan beliefs and philosophical ideas, to confront the indigenous cult practices throughout Sicily, Egypt, Judea, Syria, and the entire Middle East. The result was sometimes syncretism - the combining of like beliefs - such as Zeus/Amon, a combination of Greek and Egyptian gods, and sometimes change, as when the Septuagint - the translation of the Old Testament into Greek - changed the Hebrew word for "maiden" into a Greek word for "virgin."

A second major social force was the penetration of Eastern mystery cults into Roman culture. The chapters here are explanations of how a people with a conservative state-controlled cult that punished any other worship as sacrilege, came to embrace a radical Eastern religion that promises salvation - survival after death. Rome was not converted in a day. These chapters move us from step to step: Exposure to Eastern beliefs; acceptance of the Eastern cult of Cybele into Rome; the conversion of Roman soldiers stationed in the East to Mithraism, which promised salvation; the cult of the divinity of Julius Caesar and the status of Augustus as the Son of God; the disillusionment with the imperial cult during the reign of Tiberius, and the vacuum that created. From one chapter to the next, each step seems a small one from what preceded, and finally the openness of Rome to Christianity seems to be no longer unimaginable, but almost inevitable.

The book ranges over a large geography and covers centuries, and yet it does so without discontinuities; it is organized in such a way that one thing leads to the next.

There are plenty of "Aha!" experiences; you may well know some of the facts, in isolation, but never connected them. One of them, for me, was the parallel between the apples of the Hesperides, and the Garden of Eden. Mr. Wray draws the connections. Another is the lunar occultation of Jupiter, and the death and resurrection of Jesus.
These "Aha!" parallels are woven throughout the whole book. You will frequently encounter saviors, miracles, astrological wonders, signs, portents, symbols, and practices, all of which are pagan but seem ever-so-familiar to readers of the Bible.

Throughout the book there are handsome illustrations of religious symbols on coins, and the coins are of the very best. There are time-lines, including parallel lives of the first Triumvirs. David Wray's treatment of this material is balanced, being both objectively factual, and respectful. If you read this book thoughtfully, you will be deeply rewarded.

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