Paul And The Mystery Religions -- By: William Wallace Everts

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 080:319 (Jul 1923)
Article: Paul And The Mystery Religions
Author: William Wallace Everts

Paul And The Mystery Religions

W. W. Everts

Quite a literature has appeared in the last twenty-years dealing with “Paul and the Mystery Religions.” Kurt Deissner Religionsgeschichtliche Parallelen (1921) starts with Cumont (Les Religions orientales, 2nd ed., 1909) who dealt with the cult of Mithras, as Dietrich does also (Eine Mithrasliturgie, 2nd ed., 1910). Reitzenstein (Die Hellenistischen Mysterien Religionen, 1910) and Werdland (Die Hellenistisch-roemische Kultur, 1907) suggested that the New Testament borrowed from these mystery religions. Bousset (Kurios Christos, 1913) compares Paul to the Overman of the Mystics. W. Wredel (Paulus, 1904) denies that the Jesus of history was in Paul’s mind. J. Weiss {Das Urchristenthum, 1914) traces the idea of crucifixion with Christ to the mysteries. W. Heitmüller (Taufe bei Paulus, 1903) finds the meaning of the phrase “in Christ” in the deification of the mystic. Kalthoff (Die Entstehung des Christenthums, 1904) and Kautsky (Der Ursprung des Christenthums, 1910) go so far as to deny that Jesus is the founder of Christianity. Dean Inge in his Outspoken Essays says that Paul was steeped in the Greek mysteries. F. Boll derives the ideas of the Apocalypse from the same source. Gankel (Zum Religionsgeschichtlichen Verständniss des N. T.) seeks for types of the teaching of Paul in Babylon.

What is there in the mystery religions to account for this the latest attack on the originality of the New Testament? It all turns on the presence of a few Christian terms like “providence” and “perfect” in the cults of Hermes, Mithras, and Orpheus. It is not considered by these writers that these words have different meanings, roots and contexts in the mythologies from those in the New Testament. They do not inquire whether these cults flourished where the New Testament was written or when it was written. We know the founders of Christianity; but Mithras, Orpheus and Hermes are not historical beings but mythological inventions. Paul had

visions and ecstasies, but his glory was that his strength was perfected in weakness.

As a matter of fact, the mysteries did influence Gnosticism, and through the Gnostics the Roman Catholic Church. But as Carl Clemens says (The Influence of the Mystery Religions, p. 81) quoting Heinrici: “In general the primitive church could be called an anti-mystery religion.” Anrich (Das Antike Mysterien Wesen, p. 235) affirms that “a conscious adoption of forms and institutions of the mystery religions can scarcely have taken place.”

De Jong (Das Antike Mysterien-wesen, p. 60) com...

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