paganism and Idolatry in the Roman Catholic Church

Proven Truth: How Paganism and Idolatry Started in the Church

As I continue tracking where church leaders strayed from the Gospel Truth or God’s Word, we have to look at the Roman Catholic Church in two lights: Pre-Reformation and Post-Reformation. I started with Infant Baptism because that didn’t seem to have a specific start date. But, it stemmed back to even pre-Constantine times. When Roman Emperor Constantine came on the scene, that’s where we find an unholy blending of paganism and idolatry in the adopted rituals and traditions.

“The least that a study of this kind could contribute to all Christians is to direct our attention back to the days of a purer, unencrusted, tradition-free Christianity.”1

William Stewart McBirnie, Ph.D.

1-590 – Early Church Times

When you look at church history, God’s timing was and is perfect. He sent Jesus into the world at just the right time. He gave us the Holy Spirit and birthed the church age in an era where the apostles could take advantage of…

The Jewish-Greek-Roman New Testament World:

  • Roman Empire – covered the whole Mediterranean region
  • Citizenship – Paul was a citizen of Rome
  • Law – Jewish law and Roman law
  • Language – Greek (common) and Latin (legal)
  • Pax Romana – peace throughout the empire
  • Transportation – the Roman roads and shipping lanes – made it easy for Paul to travel
  • Moral Decline – the need of a savior3

30-100 AD – Apostolic Age – through the death of John of Patmos

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The Book of Acts tells of how the church grew and spread throughout the Roman Empire, but many of the apostles went further. For example, Thomas went to India and James, son of Zebedee, went to Spain. I recommend, “The Search for the Twelve Apostles” (Amazon Link), 1973, by William Stewart McBirnie, Ph.D. which goes into details of not just the 12 but of other apostles who helped spread the Good News.

McBirnie also traces where the apostles ended up — where their bodies are buried and/or where their relics ended up. (I’ll get into relics in a bit.)

However, the spread of the church also led to its persecution by the Romans.

50-313 AD – The Time of the Martyrs

Several Roman emperors contributed to the persecution of the church: Nero, Trajan, and Decius. Diocletian, was the worst. He in 10 years, almost wiped out the whole church. He killed all pastors, burned church buildings and Bibles. Portions of bibles survived because people would tear them apart and distribute them. There are no complete Bibles dating earlier than 313 — only remnants.

“The blood of the saints is the seed of the church.”

Tertullian

That’s how the church grew so quickly. Roman soldiers who were killing mass groups of Christians would see how they were not afraid. They sang. They looked up with longing to see Jesus. Many of the soldiers converted.

The Difference between Romans and Christians

Romans

  • Rome loved power.
  • Rome loved powerful gods.
  • They considered Caesar their lord.

Christians

  • Christians valued meekness.
  • Their God died on a Roman cross.
  • Christ is Lord.

So, how did they come together?

313-590 AD – The Christian Rulers – the Byzantine Era

This is start of the “Romanism” of Jesus’ church.

313 AD – The Edict of Milan

Constantine, the Christian emperor, legalized the Christian church stopping persecution. Still there was paganism. But, this is the first “freedom of religion”.

There were 2 Emperors: Constantine and Licinius. They met in Milan “concerning the welfare and security of the realm”. They decided that “of the things that are of profit to all mankind, the worship of God ought to be our first and chiefest care, and that it was right that Christians and all others should have freedom to follow the kind of religion they favored; so that God who dwells in heaven might be propitious (show favor) to us and to all under our rule.” 2

Go Deeper:


Converting the Roman Empire to Christianity

Converting the whole Roman Empire to Christianity did not happen overnight. There was no mass conversion of pagans. (Source: the video embedded above.)

  • Churches were free of certain taxation and legal actions against them.
  • Bishops take a more secular authority based on their relationship with Constantine.
  • Dioceses: Regional governance – secular at first, but eventually the church took over.
  • Bishop of Rome starts to get more authority.
  • Starts blurring where religious authority starts and secular authority begins. Increasingly, you needed to be a Christian to hold a government office. (I’ll be getting into the question of authority in a later post.)

In 325 AD, at The Council of Nicaea – Constantine brought together all the Bishops from around the Empire and they came up with the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed.

However, Constantine, in attempts to unify the people who were used to pagan worship and the Christians, he added a lot of pagan traditions to the church. (This included the celebration of Jesus’ birthday.)

326 AD – Julian on Christianity

One of the “Apostolic Fathers”, Emperor Julian of the Western Empire, had a problem with the worship of the martyrs — those who died because of the prior persecution. They were raising them to the level of Jesus. He noted that people were worshiping the tombs of the Peter and Paul in Rome. He quotes Jesus where he said in Matthew 23:27…

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭23:27‬ ‭NLT

He was basically saying that tombs are unclean. Stop worshiping them!2

The worship of saints and martyrs still goes on.

Relics – More Paganism and Idolatry

Relics are things – bones, blood, items of clothing, crosses, even skulls of saints and martyrs that are worshiped.

Relics are considered holy objects associated with holy people such as Jesus or the saints. The use of relics was by no means a new phenomenon, it existed previously in Judaism, Buddhism and several other religions. In a world where people believed that evil and the Devil existed all around in the natural world, it was comforting to believe that good was also something that could be seen and touched. The motivation for most pilgrimages was to see and touch something holy and consequently benefit from being in contact with good.

http://internationalschooltoulouse.net/vs/pilgrims/relics.htm

There are 2 types of relics: brandea – where someone could rub a cloth on a tomb of a saint, thus rendering the cloth “holy”. Gee, that brings to mind tearing clothing off a celebrity. Then there are bodily relics — actual body parts. In Naples, they worship a vial of blood of San Gennaro, in hopes that he’ll keep the volcano, Vesuvius, from erupting again.

You can go visit these relics and take a tour of Roman Catholic Churches of Europe. That’s called a Pilgrimage. Relics were sold, bodies were exhumed and bones were separated. There were counterfeit relics. Seriously, how can you know that it’s the real thing? I go into more detail here covering where Jesus admonishes the church in Pergamum for their idolatry (And that was in 95 AD).

Eventually, however, we see the church start to elevate tradition over the Word of God.

The church in the 4th century (300s) embraced many of the traditions of the priests of the pagan religions of the times.

The biggest and worst sin is idolatry — which is paganism. God hates the worship of idols, images, statues, icons, Mary and the saints. The Roman Catholic Church is a blend of nearly all the major elements of the world religions. Robes, beads, candles, images, relics, orders of priests, hierarchy of bishops, cardinals, and popes. The use of incense was a very pagan worship practice (Note the top picture). Many Christians died during the persecution years because they wouldn’t even burn incense to any of the Roman gods or emperors. They chose death before disobeying two of God’s commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)

Paganism also extends to celebrating the “Day of” a particular saint or the patron saint of a city. Another reason to party.

Where do you Worship?

Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral. Adoration of the holy crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ during the Passion. Seriously, how does anyone know that that is the REAL crown of thorns that Jesus wore?

So, the next time you are in a Catholic church, take a look around. What do you see? Statues? Candles? A priest shaking the incense burner? Robotic rituals? People kissing inanimate objects? Are you rubbing a saint’s foot to be “blessed” or to knock off some purgatory-time?

People, doing all that is a sin! And Jesus wants us to stop sinning! To repent! Walk away from the Catholic Church! You won’t lose a salvation you didn’t have in the first place!

Here are some other articles and podcasts to make you think…


Go Deeper: What is Romanism?


If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him.
  • Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Pray this prayer humbly and wholeheartedly…

“Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Please forgive me. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and my life to you. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. I surrender my whole life to you and I will follow you for the rest of my life. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Jesus Christ is coming back soon! Are you ready?

Next Steps in Your New Walk with Jesus…

  1. Start reading the Bible daily to get to know God. If you don’t have one, I recommend the YouVersion, Bible.app and Through the Word app — both are free and have a lot of great Bible studies.
  2. Pray every day. Talk to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you daily.
  3. Find and join a Bible-believing church — preferably a non-denominational one and be baptized!

Soli Deo Gloria — To God Alone Be the Glory!


Sources, with Amazon Affiliate Links:

  1. The Search for the Twelve Apostles, 1973, by William Stewart McBirnie, Ph.D.
  2. Documents of the Christian Church, 1999, 3rd edition, Edited by Henry Bettenson and Chris Maunder
  3. John Barnett

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  148. I only got started in your review when I noticed something quoted that is not true. Jesus Christ is Lord. Jehovah is God. Jesus died on a torture stake, not a cross, he is NOT God. Jehovah did not die on a cross, he rose Jesus from the dead. I was simply trying to find facts about how paganism entered into religion to try and help a friend who would not accept what I had shared from the Jehovah’s Witness website. Check your facts, please.

  149. Excuse me, I realize I was not genteel in my comments and I apologize. Let me begin by saying I admire that you have broken away from the Catholic Church and learned the truth about the things that they were teaching you. I have yet to read any of your other replies, I cannot find them, I’m not sure what other pages I left my comments on. I honestly did not expect to view that much of your website.
    As for JW, have you ever spoken to one to find out what it is they believe? Or have you looked at jw.org to see for yourself what they believe? Or have you just heard from others and accept that as true? JW teach ONLY what is in the Bible, nothing more. So, if it is in the Bible, it can’t be false, can it? It IS God’s word, after all. You have found SO MANY Bible truths, but there are many more to learn. JW agree with you in that paganism has been in religion for a long time and how it got there. So, that can’t be false, can it? What JW does not teach are things that are NOT in the Bible. For instance, are we TOLD to observe a day for Jesus’ birth? (What WAS the link you had on this page about Jesus’ birth which is no longer available?) Are we TOLD to observe Jesus’ resurrection from the grave? Are we TOLD to observe anything? Yes, we are told to observe Jesus’ death.
    Can you SHOW me in the Bible where we are told that all good people go to heaven? Revelation 14:1, 3 speak of the 144,000. They are the ones who are to go to heaven. Psalm 37:9, 11, as I referred to in another comment, speak of the meek who shall inherit the earth. We, who are not destined for heaven, are the meek who will spend eternity on the earth. There are also many other passages that state that we are to live on earth as God originally intended. And, as I also asked, why would we need a new earth if all good people go to heaven? The 144,000 are to rule OVER those on the earth. Revelation 5:10 reveals that. Why would we need rulers over the earth if all good people are in heaven?
    Does the Bible actually state that Jesus is God? It calls him Mighty God. (Isaiah 9:6) It calls Jehovah Almighty God. (Isaiah 13:6) In John 14:28 Jesus says, “The Father is greater than I am.” And John 20:17 Jesus is telling us that he is “ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.” He also told Satan;” In reply Jesus said to him: “It is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”’”–Luke 4:8
    And, by the way, God’s name IS Jehovah. Psalm 83:18 in every Bible tells us that. It was in the original writings over 7000 times. Many of the Scriptures that use LORD are where his name was originally written. Lord is only a title, Jehovah is a name. And Exodus 3:15 He tells Moses that his name is to be used throughout the generations. He told us his name and wants us to use it.
    Again, Giselle, it makes me so happy that you were able to decipher from the teachings of the Catholic Church the many of the lies that they told you! You have come a VERY long way in your studies. But you still do not have complete understanding of the Bible. I only desire that you receive the promises made to us in the Bible by finding complete understanding. Please, I urge you, to do more research on the holidays. I did MUCH research of my own that did not include JW and find that they agree with what I had found on my own. I could tell you about the pagan rituals that the church included in these celebrations, but I would prefer for you to find it for yourself.
    Just one more thought… Exodus 32:1-9, why was God so angry with the Israelites? It was because he was trying to pry them away from their pagan practices that they learned while in Egypt. Yet they chose to build an idol, called it “your god who brought you up out of Egypt”, and announced a festival to God the following day. It was an unauthorized celebration! So, if Christmas is not authorized, if we are not told to observe it, would that make God very happy? If he wanted us to observe the birth of his Son, he would have given us a date to do so. And in my research, I found that the day that humans use to celebrate Jesus’ birth was celebrated LONG BEFORE Jesus was even born. No one celebrates the birth of someone years or decades or centuries before the birth of anyone.
    I hope you have read this far and that it has given you something to think about. I pray that you can have an open mind and do the research. I pray for you, Giselle, because you have come so far. Find the rest of the truth. Don’t ask others, find it yourself and make sure that you use reliable sources. Encyclopedias are reliable, many websites are not. I know you have the desire for the truth. I have so much more that I can share with you about the truths in the Bible. But I will leave you alone and pray that Jehovah opens your heart to see.

    1. What I recommend you do is read these New Testament Books to get the whole truth about the salvation of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter what the JWs say. What matters is what is in the Bible, the Word of God. Start with…
      The Gospel of John: https://seekthegospeltruth.com/the-gospel-of-john-bible-study/
      The Book of Acts: https://seekthegospeltruth.com/the-book-of-acts-bible-study-series/
      The Book of Romans: https://seekthegospeltruth.com/a-bible-study-of-the-book-of-romans/
      The Book of Hebrews: https://seekthegospeltruth.com/bible-study-the-book-of-hebrews/
      To dig deeper into these books — that is STUDY the Bible. Download the Bible apps: YouVersion: https://bible.com and https://ThroughTheWord.org
      As to the “good” part: Are you Good Enough to get into #Heaven? https://seekthegospeltruth.com/2020/01/08/are-you-good-enough-to-get-into-heaven/
      Be careful taking one verse out of context. I’m in the process of taking a course on How to Interpret the Bible and that’s one of the biggest mistakes people make. I’ll be doing a special post on that once I complete the course. Read the paragraphs before and after that verse or passage for the full context. Take into consideration who was writing it for whom and when.

      1. Let me ask you one more question… What is your opinion of Christian or non-Christian?
        I wasn’t looking for advice on how to enter a study. I know all about the Greek Scriptures and the Salvation of Christ. I find it very interesting that not one question I asked was actually answered by you. I am very strong in my faith and have confidence that I am living as closely to the way the faithful Israelites did when God was handing out his laws. You reference the “New Testament”, what about the rest of the book? If God adamantly instructed us to worship ONLY HIM, does that include his Son? No! We can LOVE Christ and appreciate what he did for us. But even he did not want the worship as is clear in his statement to Satan. God is ONE God which is also in the Bible. (Revelation 14:7; Isaiah 48:11, 12) I do not believe that I need instruction from you, no offense intended.
        As I said, you have found MANY Bible truths. But you have NOT found them all. There is more to God’s instruction than just the “New Testament”. Jesus even tells us that we are to worship God alone! Why can’t people see that? There is nothing in the book that says that Jesus IS God. He is the SON of God, which he also tells us and I pointed out in my last comment. Jesus could NOT have raised himself from the dead, only God could have done that.
        And finally, I will NOT watch the video of some dude on YouTube telling us all about Christmas. It IS pagan, all the traditions are pagan. And I will not argue this fact with you. And, as I also said, it is NOT in the Bible, the date is nowhere near when he was born (so why use it?), and the ‘three wise men’ were NOT sent by God to worship the child. They were sent by Herod who wanted to have him killed. They were magi[cians], astrologists… Do you know how God feels about these people? The Bible also tells us that, he despises them! And since God does not change (James 1:17) nothing about what is on the internet, provided by you or anyone else is going to change my mind about the holidays.
        I would like an answer from you about my opening question in this correspondence, please. Because I really need to know!

        1. You ask: “What is your opinion of Christian or non-Christian?” This is NOT my “opinion”. It is the definitions of those 2 terms as found in the Bible. The name Christian was given to the followers of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah and you can find that story in the Book of Acts. A True Christian has repented of their sins — that is stopped sinning — asked Jesus to forgive them. Because He took our sins to the cross, He defeated Satan and took our sins away once and for all. A True Christian believes that Jesus is the Son of God and He rose from the dead on the 3rd day defeating death. A True Christian, once declaring their surrendering of their lives to Christ, gets baptized by immersion showing themselves and the world that they have died to their old live and have risen to a new — born again –, eternal life with Christ. They now get the Gift of Holy Spirit who will help guide them in righteous living and they are called to spread the Good News that the Salvation of Jesus Christ is for everyone who believes, repents, is baptized and receives the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the only way to Heaven.
          A non-Christian does not believe in the above. There are many people who THINK they are and profess to be Christians, but they never took the step of repenting, being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit.
          Only a forgiven, born-again Christian gets into Heaven. Heaven is not for “good” people, it is for forgiven people.
          And celebrating the holidays don’t make you a Christian or a non-Christian. It’s a personal choice, not a sin. It’s not like anyone is bowing down to the tree. I celebrate some Jewish holidays, that doesn’t make me Jewish, but they were the holidays that Jesus celebrated.

          I believe (now, this is my opinion) there are many Catholics, Mormons, JWs, Muslims & Progressives and, yes, “woke” people in hell crying & asking “Why?” They did what society, false preachers, popes and priests told them to do. They went to church. They called themselves Christians. More than that, they did good works, volunteered and served. Yet, they missed the crucial step of repentance and acceptance that leads to salvation through Jesus Christ only.
          Jesus didn’t suffer torture and die so we could have religion! He died so He could have a personal Relationship with YOU!

          If you want to reap all the benefits of salvation including the 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven then…
          Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.
          Pray this prayer humbly, sincerely and wholeheartedly…

          “Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. Please forgive me. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and my life to you. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. I surrender my whole life to you and I will follow you for the rest of my life. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

          Or visit: https://seekthegospeltruth.com/how-to-invite-jesus-into-your-heart/

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