Ishtar Vs. Easter

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Discussion by: EnigmaticSkeptic

Hello everyone!

In light of today's misunderstood and pointless holiday (Easter), I was curious to see how many of us involved on these discussion boards came across this whole Ishtar Vs. Easter meme? I found a curious article about the debate and was curious to see what stance some of us would take in this meme.

Here is the Link!

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-in-practice/2013/03/31/beyond-ishtar-the-tradition-of-eggs-at-easter/

 

There have been many of these types of ideas spreading around through documentaries & books these days. Many of them seek to connect Christian traditions with pagan ones. I must say, I can understand the reasons behind the claims: However, there still has to be historical proof to back such claims.

I myself am inclined to believe that it is more than likely possible for some pagan  ritual to make its way into the building of Christian faith. The Bible itself mentions things like: “For they go up to their roofs and bow to the sun, moon, and stars.  They claim to follow the LORD, but then they worship Molech, too. So now I will destroy them!”   (Zephaniah 1:2-6 NLT). It indicates that the builders of Christian faith obviously knew about the many cults that surrounded them. There are many other pagan type Gods mentioned in the bible as well, it seems probable that in todays conspiracy driven society, individuals would try and make such connections.

I am still puzzled as to how a small cult of about a hundred followers of a man named Jesus became one of the largest religious organizations in the world? Recently Author Selina O’Grady touched on this topic in her book: AND MAN CREATED GOD, a history of the world at the time of Jesus. I plan on reading this book to see what light it may shed on my curiosity.

Feel free to comment: I sincerely hope some of you may have some knowledge I may have not yet received. I would appreciate any sources one may provide me with.

 

                                                                                                     Sincerely,

                                                                                                     EnigmaticSkeptic

“I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way.”

Thomas Jefferson  

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25 COMMENTS

  1. It’s my understanding that the early church chose to incorporate pagan rituals and celebrations because they knew that they had no chance of eradicating many of the cherished festivals. For instance, it’s no coincidence that Easter just happens to fall on a full moon during spring, or that Xmas falls on the winter solstice ( Northern Hemesphere).
    As to who formalized these arrangements, I have no idea, but there must be a signature on a piece of parchment out there somewhere.

  2. We celebrate the resurrection of the son of God by eating chocolate bunnies. Makes sense.

  3. It makes sense for invading armies or missionaries to collaborate with local beliefs and customs. Missionaries in China for example changed the the statement 'In the beginning was God ' to 'in the beginning was the Tao . . .'  to fit in with the prevalling concept.
    There are numerous websites devoted to explaining the pagan origins of many of the present-day Christian traditions and celebrations. Just type in 'Pagan Symbols adopted by Christianity' to see a wealth of information on the subject. Here in the ancient Druid heartland of Anglesey UK it is commonly understood that Christmas trees, tree lights, Easter eggs and 'bunnys' for example originated from pagan times.
    Religions like Christianity 'take off' through becoming adopted by powerful figures/institutions - such as Roman authorities for Christianity -  and the Buddha had the ear of kings.
    If seen for what they are, I cannot see any harm in joining in with such celebrations; it is when people take the whole package of religion literally and identify with them to the point of believing that what is 'written' explains  'who/what we are'. 
    
  4. There are really only a few Christians who take any issue with pagan adaptations and that is a certain kind of protestant fundamentalist. Catholics and many other Christian groups freely accept that this happened but view it as entirely pragmatic and without any problem. They — rightly in my estimation — view it as a smart and effective strategy.

    Essentially the idea was to maintain some context of cultural/religious familiarity but re-spin it in a Christian way. It allows change but with some continuity (which is therefore more likely to be accepted). This only wasn’t done was when it was deemed ethically/dogmatically incompatible.

    (As an aside, isn’t this the strategy and approach of the ID movement as well? Adopt the science one feels they can, but then weave dogma and religious propositions into it. This becomes far more effective than a hardline creationist line which attempts to uphold a young-earth theory and suggests that dinosaurs either walked the earth in modern times, or that they really never existed, being ‘deceptions of the devil.’ Such a hardline approach is doomed to the margins, but the more adaptive ID approach is more likely to gain a broader audience and converts.)

    Back to the cultural/religious adaptations, when you think about it, it is an effective strategy — and that is probably the answer to your question below:

    I am still puzzled as to how a small cult of about a hundred followers of a man named Jesus became one of the largest religious organizations in the world?

    If you think about it, there have been many religions, and many more that we have likely never heard about. Having your religion become a state religion (as was the case in Christianity under the Emperor Constantine) is one major boost that cannot be ignored as part of the answer to that question as well.

    But back to matter of strategy above, let’s use an analogy from biology: namely, natural selection. Natural selection allows those organisms which are best able to adapt to their surroundings to survive and thrive.

    Well, in terms of things like religions and other artificial/social constructs, I suppose you could argue that there is something of a parallel. For example, a religion which was fundamentally eremetical in nature (i.e. hermits) and which taught that pro-creation was a “sin” (or some parallel concept of it being wrong), etc. etc. is a religion which has seeded into it principles which are likely to make it die out — and in that case very quickly.

    By contrast, a religion which teaches you need to procreate; which teaches that it is your duty to actively and aggressively go out and get others to join your religion; a religion which is quite content to employ a pragmatic strategy whereby many cultural customs from the “old religion” are kept and simply adapted into the new one; all of these are qualities which are more likely to make a religion spread and grow. When you add to that then the boost in the arm of getting official state religion status… There’s your answer I think.

    Some Christians might yet still point to this and say, “It is still divine providence at work!”, but in reality the seeds of a religious success are easily enough explained by the same kinds of factors that can make any enterprise successful. Christianity is not unique in this way either of course. There are and have been many religious success stories. One can think of Islam, Buddhism, etc. What of these did not likewise start out small? Many start out small and stay that way and eventually die. Some grow. Which happens to which seem to be based on a combination of cultural/historical considerations as well as the inherent principles and strategies adopted by a particular religion which will either help it or hinder it.

    (Needless to say, growth and success says nothing about whether something is right or true either.)

    As for longevity, religious apologists would do well to remember the powerful religions (like that of the Greco-Roman world, or the Egyptian religion, etc.) that have indeed come and gone, and also remember that 2000 or 5000 years, far from being “ancient” is but a blink of the eye in terms of human history — never mind cosmic history.

    On a related side note, I personally feel one of the reasons why the likes of “the New Atheism” is attacked so vociferously is because, while itself not a religion (as some try to claim), the new atheism is employing some of the very methods and strategies of success that successful religions have used to make themselves grow. That has made the new atheism a greater threat because atheists and agnostics are now setting up their own proverbial soapboxes on street corners, offering a louder, competing voice with the religious apologist on theirs.

  5. In reply to #1 by Nitya:

    As to who formalized these arrangements, I have no idea, but there must be a signature on a piece of parchment out there somewhere.

    hmmm, how about a raid on the Vatican’s private library? It’s Easter, they’re all busy navel-gazing, let’s go!

  6. I am still puzzled as to how a small cult of about a hundred followers of a man named Jesus became one of the largest religious organizations in the world?

    There used to be a shampoo comercial where two friends told each other about the shampoo. Then they told two friends and so on and so on. Look, I actually found it on the internet:

    http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=263116EAE719AFA9FCA7263116EAE719AFA9FCA7&view=detail&FORM=VIRE2

    Anyway, any succesful religion spreads in just the same way. Word of mouth. Granted, getting plugged into the Roman Empire was a boon for Christianity but at the start it probably wasn’t much different from the shampoo commercial. An important aspect of Christianity is to spread the ‘good news’.

  7. In reply to #1 by Nitya:
    it’s no coincidence that Easter just happens to fall on a full moon during spring,”

    that was decided about 1000BC

  8. Early christians did move some celebrations around to take over popular pagan ones, and over the years some pagan customs were incorporated into christian celebrations. I’m sure this is very interesting to anthropologists, but rest assured that it has no affect on any christian’s faith.

  9. “… it is more than likely possible for some pagan ritual to make its way into the building of Christian faith.”

    Also highly plausible is that stories about one or more Galilean rebel leaders were fused at a relatively late date with a pre-existing cult of a dying & rising god — Tammuz, Horus, Sol Invictus; there are plenty of candidates, & with the syncretic nature of religion back then, it could be a blend. The earliest, gnostic worshippers of Christ (or rather, “Chrestus”, ‘The Good’) perceived him as a non-corporeal entity existing outside of time & space. This is also true of the early Pauline epistles.

    Only in the mid-2nd century do the first gospels start appearing with biographical details of a mortal Jesus. Most of these ‘facts’ are clearly plagiarized from the works of the historian, Josephus. By proving itself useful to the Imperial power, the trinitarian cult in Rome was able to eventually eradicate its rivals.

    (For a brief summary of how this could have occurred, see: http://imaginaryfriendjesus.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/obstacles-to-creating-an-historical-timeline-for-the-passion-of-christ-part-3-of-3/)

  10. My fabulous neighbors have told their children it is actually Zombie Jesus Day, my favorite interpretation yet. Wish I had thought of it when my kiddos were younger…

  11. In reply to #2 by Ornicar:

    We celebrate the resurrection of the son of God by eating chocolate bunnies. Makes sense.

    Halal Cadbury’s Easter eggs for Muslims- even more sense.

  12. I though it was common knowledge that Easter is the traditional rite of Spring that was shanghaied by St. Augustine for the purposes of Christian indoctrination.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%92ostre

    The bunny and the egg are symbols of fertility from time immemorial. A proper Easter celebration involves rutting with your partner(s) of choice, most of whom are probably also feeling the luster of springtime (as it were). That was until the sex-outside-Church-dispensation-is-bad thing where they’d rather we all go to Church in the morning.

    Traditional Easter celebrations also often included sacrifice of one of the community members (see The Lottery) to appeal to the more bloodthirsty gods for a wet growing season and a full harvest. (Usually because winter famine was well known by most agricultural societies, so what’s the ritual gutting of one if it saves the lives of hundreds?)

    The Resurrection of the Christ is really a poor substitute for Easter and the Rites of Spring, which may be why some of the more traditional symbols still prevail, largely in chocolate.

  13. the whole new testament is a re-writing of pagan myths, where else will they go to find holidays?

  14. First let me say that some simple googling and even looking at Wiki could answer a few questions for you but since you asked I guess I can answer.

    Ishtar probably wasn’t the basis for Easter it’s more likely what Uriel-238 linked to. Also as some pointed out that rabbits and eggs have been fertility symbols for ages but lets be clear here, they were symbols in European areas, not in the middle east. Ishtar is a Babylonian goddess and her symbols are not rabbits and eggs. Also the middle east and probably many other areas are full of fertility goddesses.

    As for Christianity co-oping these symbols is not surprising. The spread of Christianity was done by Rome and into the rest of Europe. Rome originally was mostly non confrontational with other religions and more or less adopted other deities as their own. It was only once Rome became Christian that things changed. Rome went out of their way to ‘convert’ with force, if necessary, other nations to Christianity.

    So the adoption of pagan symbols was part of the way to convert people over. I don’t think Rome wanted to force people so I’m sure political thinking was involved so those symbols survived. As well it’s hard to change ideas completely. However that being said I do know of many Christians trying to get rid of that symbolism similar to what they are doing with Christmas.

    The idea of chocolate of course comes from the same symbolism. Chocolate was and still is considered an aphrodisiac. So it all goes hand and hand.

    Also if you think about it, the resurrection is sort of a rebirth event which goes along with the whole spring equinox thinking of the pagans of a new start. So it’s very easy to see how it all ties in.

  15. The origins of Easter are clear:

    Easter is traditionally the time of year we commemorate the sacrifice of the Easter bunny, that innocent rodent that was ritually toasted for our sins (transforming his flesh into a hot cross bun-ny), then crucified and rose again out of a delicious chocolate Easter egg.

  16. In reply to #17 by This Is Not A Meme:

    Don’t Jews play with eggs in the Spring?

    Yes, Eggs (or at least an Egg) is part of the Jewish Passover Seder

  17. “I am still puzzled as to how a small cult of about a hundred followers of a man named Jesus became one of the largest religious organizations in the world?”

    Why presume that the biblical claims about the origins of Christianity are telling the truth? There is zero evidence that this is actually how the religion got started.

  18. There were a LOT of pagan traditions that used the start of spring as a holiday about fertility and rebirth and used symbols of fertility and birth – like flowers and eggs and very fertile animals like bunnies. There’s no reason it has to specifically be Ishtar that Christianity co-opted. It could have been a bunch of different religions, a different one in each different areas, since there’s so many different ones that fit that time of year.

  19. Actually, it’s no coincidence that Easter seldom falls on a full moon, since it falls on the first Sunday after the full moon following the March equinox (First council of Nicaea, 325AD). Christmas never coincides with the southern solstice, since that’s December 21-22. Christmas was originally January 6, and many people, mainly Eastern churches, still celebrate that date. In reply to #1 by Nitya:

    It’s my understanding that the early church chose to incorporate pagan rituals and celebrations because they knew that they had no chance of eradicating many of the cherished festivals. For instance, it’s no coincidence that Easter just happens to fall on a full moon during spring, or that Xmas falls on the winter solstice ( Northern Hemesphere). As to who formalized these arrangements, I have no idea, but there must be a signature on a piece of parchment out there somewhere.

  20. In reply to #6 by The Jersey Devil:

    I am still puzzled as to how a small cult of about a hundred followers of a man named Jesus became one of the largest religious organizations in the world?

    There used to be a shampoo comercial where two friends told each other about the shampoo. Then they told two friends and so on and so on. Look, I actually found it on the internet:

    http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=263116EAE719AFA9FCA7263116EAE719AFA9FCA7&view=detail&FORM=VIRE2

    Anyway, any succesful religion spreads in just the same way. Word of mouth. Granted, getting plugged into the Roman Empire was a boon for Christianity but at the start it probably wasn’t much different from the shampoo commercial. An important aspect of Christianity is to spread the ‘good news’.

    there is a reason why the pope is called pontificus maximus.. as far as I know it was the title of the Roman emperor too… (if I´m wrong, please correct me..)

  21. .

    Actually, Easter and the Easter-egg came from the Egyptian Isis.

    In Egyptian Isis was called Ast or Est, from which we derive Ester or Easter (referring to a star or the heavens). And remember that Isis-Est was a fertility goddess, as much as she was the Queen of Heaven.

    And the Easter-egg came from the spelling, because Est was spelt with the easter-egg glyph. So yes, there are associations with fertility in the symbology of Est (Isis). Oh, and Ishtar (Isht-ar) came from the Egyptian Est (Isis), and not the other way around.

    http://oi58.tinypic.com/29lmwrn.jpg

    Ralph
    (See: Cleopatra to Christ)

  22. .

    Actually, Easter and the Easter-egg came from the Egyptian Isis.

    In Egyptian Isis was called Ast or Est, from which we derive Ester or Easter (referring to a star or the heavens). And remember that Isis-Est was a fertility goddess, as much as she was the Queen of Heaven.

    And the Easter-egg came from the spelling, because Est was spelt with the easter-egg glyph. So yes, there are associations with fertility in the symbology of Est (Isis). Oh, and Ishtar (Isht-ar) came from the Egyptian Est (Isis), and not the other way around.

    http://oi58.tinypic.com/29lmwrn.jpg

    Ralph
    (See: Cleopatra to Christ)

  23. The early Christians hijacked everything – they even rearranged the whole yearly Calendar of Western Christendom to suit religious rituals and festivals when it once only suited agricultural festivals, The Catholics found out that the Earth had different time zones by exploring in sea voyages beyond the tropics…..which led to them finding out the Earth was a sphere…..

    What a revelation that must have been for those flat earthers….
    It made me laugh at the millennium 2000 years since the death of Christ !!!

    so many countries and continents didn’t even care – they had different years and ways of counting their years…..2000 was a number of no consequence to them…..

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