Church History Forum: Re: Origins of Sun Worship

Re: Origins of Sun Worship QUESTION from Aaron Lim August 17, 2001 + Peace be with you I would like to respond to the message posting of Origins of Sun Worship posted by Ray A. on January 4, 2000 which you answered on January 11, 2000. I do not know of any proper books that are written on this particular topic of discussion. However, I do know of this web site designed by a particular 'Mr. Michael Scheifler' entitled Michael Scheifler's Bible Light Home Page. that wrote on this topic of linking paganism and the Catholic Reverence with the Eucharist and the Monstrance. The URL is at http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/monstr.htm I do need your further explanation on the eucharist and the monstrance. This guy has really got me confused after I read this webpage and I do need clarification. In his main page at URL of http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/, he has written other catholic matters that, according to him, is what he understands of some christian issues and what he thinks of the catholic . I hope with you with the cooperation of St. Michael's legion would consider reading through his arguments on this website; and consider to further explaining to him and to us catholics that happen to pass his website; from further confusion. Thank you and God bless!
ANSWER by Q & A Staff on August 21, 2001
Dear Aaron,
that website is run by a Seventh-Day Adventist. Many of their arguments concern the notion that the Sabbath should still be celebrated, and that the Church was wrong in moving the Sabbath to Sunday. The particular website in question, however, is full of very poor arguments against the Church which can easily be dealt with.
The origin for practically all of the anti-Catholic claims on that site are derived from the work of one Alexander Hislop, who in 1853 wrote a book entitled The Two Babylons and in which Hislop tried to establish that Catholicism was pagan, because he could see some similarities with it and the pagan mystery cults of the early Roman Empire. These cults included those of Isis, from Egypt, Adonis (Babylonia), Attis (Phrygia) and Mithra (Persia). In these mystery religions, there was usually a resurrected god who was sent from heaven to earth to save mankind; these religions involved mysterious rites of inititation into the cults and then the new adherent was baptised.
The ideas of Hislop were taken up by Ralph Woodrow more recently in a book entitled Babylon Mystery Religion. In this book, Woodrow continued the completely illogical theme of Hislop, claiming that since an element is present in paganism, and also in Catholicism, then Catholicism must be pagan too. (What is so hopelessly illogical about this thesis is the fact that fundamentalist (and Adventist) Christianity shares many of these so-called pagan elements, for example baptism, belief in a saviour and so on; not to mention the fact that there is no historical connection between the pagan practises of early Rome and the practises of the Catholic Church. It is in fact impossible to demonstrate any historical continuity.)
With these points in mind, the web page you mention, and all other pages like it, fall apart completely. If the pagans offered sacrifice, does this make Christianity false? If the pagans baptized (and they did, and still do : look at the 20 million Hindus in the river Ganges), does this make Catholic (and of course, Fundamentalist, Adcventist etc) baptism false and pagan too? No, of course not.
Another, very important point, to mention is that the author of Babylon Mystery Religion, Ralph Woodrow, has meanwhile retracted this work. He recently published a book entitled The Babylon Connection? in which he admits that he realized that Hislop's work, upon which he based his earlier book, was not as scholarly as he first thought. That the author of such a book as Babylon Mystery Religion should publicly come out and acknowledge his error is a very significant sign of the invalidity of Hislop's argument.
I will now briefly cover some of the points raised on the web page cited. But please bear in mind that it is not at all necessary to make a full refutation of each and every point, given the woeful historical and logical blunders made by Hislop, and acknowledged by Woodrow in The Babylon Connection?
For example, this website makes the claim that many pagan sunburst images (are) used by the Catholic Church in various forms of art.
In response I would say that God is often depicted as a sun in Holy Scripture; the following are some verses to support this:
Psalm 84:11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor.
John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.â€
John 12:46 I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
Matthew 17:2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.
Acts 26:13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me.
(This is in St. Paul's account of his conversion experienc: his meeting with the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus).
Revelation 1:16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
Sun imagery, when used to represent biblical themes and ideas and have a biblical connotation, are perfectly valid. It is only when used for evil (e.g. astrology or paganism) that an objection may arise.
The following quotes from St. Augustine shows what the early Church Fathers thought about the matter:

Nor think, brethren, that the sun ought to be worshipped by some men, because the sun doth sometimes in the Scriptures signify Christ. For such is the madness of men; as if we said that a creature should be worshipped, when it is said, the sun is an emblem of Christ. Then worship the rock also, for it also is a type of Christ. He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter: worship the lamb also, since it is a type of Christ. The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed; worship the lion also, since it signifieth Christ. Observe how numerous are the types of Christ: all these are Christ in similitude, not in essence. (Expositions on the Psalms, Psalm CIV, no.27) (And quotes of this type could be multiplied.)
So in conclusion, the way to deal with sites of this nature is to remember that a) there is no historical connection with pagan practises and Catholic practises; b) many connections that people like Hislop may make with Catholicism must also apply to Fundamentalist (and Adventist) Christianity, thus effectively pulling the rug from under their own feet. And of course, the original work by Hislop has now been thoroughly discredited by Woodrow's The Babylon Connection?. This book is available at amazon.com for anyone who is interested. Also it should be borne in mind that it is not so surprising that the early pagan religions had some elements of truth in them (e.g their prefigurements of baptism etc), which were later revealed in the fullness of grace when Christ came to establish the True Faith.
Finally, the original question you referred to (answered by Ms. Fortin) is found here.
Thanks, Aaron.
God bless, .
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