Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Blending of Pagan and Christian Elements in Art and Theology

Pagan is a term referring to any outsider; a person who doesn’t practice Christianity or still practices an older religion. Pagan elements in art would be considered anything used in religions before Christianity, such as sun worshipping. During the reign of Constantine, the Roman Empire was brought together by the blending of pagan sun worship and Christianity. In our book, on page 233-(Fig 8-12), is a third century mosaic of Christ as Sol Invictus (Invincible Sun). In the mosaic, Christ’s head has a sun halo in the form of a cross to indicate it is him as he drives the chariot. Halos used thereafter were actually symbols of sun worship blended to fit into Christian art. Christian theology also had blending of pagan elements. Constantine felt that the Jews were "murderers of the Lord," and therefore desired to blot out any links between Christianity and Judaism (1). He persuaded the church to drop the ancient biblical Sabbath, and replace it with Sunday worship. "The Church made a sacred day of Sunday … largely because it was the weekly festival of the sun; for it was a definite Christian policy to take over the pagan festivals endeared to the people by tradition, and to give them a Christian significance."(2)
There are advantages and disadvantages to blending these elements. The advantages work more for the emperor or head of the church rather than the people. The blending of pagan and Christian elements was a way to familiarize the people with this new religion and move them away from their older religions by taking aspects of it with. More people will convert to a new religion if they feel what they already believe is part of it and using symbols such as the sun or halo helped to do this. The disadvantages rest more for the civilians and future generations. Blending these elements and creating or trying to create an empire with one unified religion, eventually displaces older religions such as sun god worship and other polytheistic religions. For future generations this means never knowing what their ancestors actually believed due to the skew of information from blending these elements.

1. From the Letter of the Emperor to all those not present at the Council, Found in Eusebius, Life of Constantine, 3: 18-20.--- http://www.marytruth.com/Home/The-Silent-Conspiracy.aspx

2. Arthur Weigall, The Paganism in Our Christianity, p. 145. (Copyright 1928, by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York).----- http://www.marytruth.com/Home/The-Silent-Conspiracy.aspx

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