Scripture Says: “Flee From Idolatry”
The mature teachings of the Holy Scriptures inform us that we Christians are free to do exactly as we please — without the slightest restrictions from God — as long as our motives and actions are solidly anchored in efforts to live in and promote the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit mentioned by Paul in Galatians 5:22–23. The apostle Paul said that for the conduct of mankind on earth there was no law made (either divine or human) against those nine cardinal virtues.
Of course, there is another major ingredient for Christians. It obviously follows that everything we do should be toward glorifying God the Father and Christ Jesus our Elder Brother. As Paul worded it: “Whether therefore you eat, or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Paul went on to say in the next verse that we should give no offense to Jewish or Gentile peoples. Their customs and manner of life are their own business to observe and it is incumbent upon us who have mature knowledge not to forbid them to practice what they please. On the other hand, we are not required to follow them in their ways. We are free to do as we please. Paul said we should treat all people with respect as if they were Christ Jesus Himself (Colossians 3:23). In most instances people we come in contact with have little knowledge of the truth and many of them think they are doing right in their religious and social practices.
Still, we should place a limit on the allowances we permit ourselves. While it is proper to show respect and honor to all people, even to their religious practices if they perform them without hurt to others, we with mature knowledge in Christ should not join the world and act the same as they do in ALL their religious and social events. The apostle Paul said: “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). The apostle John also joined in the same admonition by stating at the close of his first epistle: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). So adamant was the apostle John about Christians adhering to a purity of the doctrine of Christ that he said:
“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God’s speed. For he that bids him God’s speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
2 John 10–11
In spite of these fundamental truths of Christian faith, we mature Christians understand the fact that, as the apostle Paul said, “We know that an idol is nothing in the world” (1 Corinthians 8:4). He also said that an idol and even the animal sacrificed to an idol are of no consequence of themselves. “What say I then? that the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything?” (1 Corinthians 10:19). Indeed, even to enter an idol’s temple to get out of the rain is perfectly proper for the mature Christian (1 Corinthians 8:10). But still, Paul had a warning. In all these instances of freedom that we have, some immature Christians or secular people would find offense at seeing you or me do certain things. Many people are easily offended at what people do.
Though Paul said that “all things are lawful for me,” he followed this allowance with the statement that “all things are not expedient.” He then said, “all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (see 1 Corinthians 10:23). What Paul was teaching was, of course, absolutely true. As an example, Paul taught that it was quite proper to eat or drink things, such as drinking wine (fermented grape liquids) and he recommended it for Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23), but he also said:
“Wherefore, if meat [foods of any kind] make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest I make my brother to offend.”
1 Corinthians 8:13
Some people in Paul’s time (and we have them today) for some reason would not eat certain foods, or drink wine or alcoholic beverages, such as the Rechabites in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 35:1–11). Though Paul would freely eat what came from the Gentile shambles (non-kosher meat markets in Gentile lands), or he would drink wine in the presence of others who accepted it, he would still not taste such things in the presence of those who would be offended by his eating or drinking. He summed it up well by saying: “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
In both 1 Corinthians chapters 8 and 10, the overriding theme of the apostle Paul was this: It is perfectly proper to eat and rejoice with the Gentiles at times of their various celebrations, but under no circumstances did this permission mean Christians should join ritualistic religious devotions in which Christians honor and worship false heathen gods, the prime reasons for their celebrations (1 Corinthians 8:9–13; 10:14, 20–21, 29–30). In addition, Christians should not initiate such non-biblical pagan celebrations. In this case, Paul said, “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14).
Paul would approve without hesitation the command of God found in Jeremiah that condemned the worshipping of trees and the celebration of astronomical solstices and equinoxes that the heathen used in their worship services.
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it moves not.’”
This is a description of simple heathen tree worship at various astronomical periods that pagans thought significant. This is how Gentiles honored and worshipped their gods. Paul and John would say, if Christians thought to participate with the heathens in such “customs of the people,” then it is time to “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14) and “little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
The first idolater and heretic singled out in the New Testament for censure was a man named Simon Magus whom the apostle Peter confronted in the region of Samaria at the first phase of Christian teaching (Acts 8:14–25). 1 This man and his disciples came into the midst of the early Christians and introduced idolatry and false teachings to such an extent that the early fathers of the Christian community designated Simon Magus as the originator of all false doctrine and idolatry in the Christian world.
It is time that people today review the tactics of this original heretic whom the New Testament singles out as the chief and foremost dissenter from the truths of the Gospel of Christ. Simon Magus became the epitome of all heretical doctrinal deviants who entered the confines of the Christian community. He and his disciples were responsible for laying the groundwork for introducing rank paganism into the bosom of the Christian community that matured in the time of Constantine and his successors in the 4th century C.E. The whole society was transformed in that 4th century.
Let us look at some early historical records that show what this original heretic concocted for the Christian community. His main thrust was the introduction of idolatry, either in the use of statues or the painting of idolatrous pictures, utterly forbidden in the Holy Scriptures. But Simon and his disciples maneuvered themselves into thwarting the commands of God through use of philosophical reasonings that gave an intellectual approach to theological matters to satisfy the emotional desires of mankind. History shows that mankind loves idolatrous practices. Simon had among his disciples a former prostitute from the city of Tyre by the name of Helen (whom he later called the reincarnation of Helen of Troy) who accompanied him wherever he went. She became a major supporter of his erroneous teachings. What did they teach? Here is what Irenaeus recorded about those who followed Simon Magus and his idolatrous practices [words in brackets and emphasis mine]:
“They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world; that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They also have other modes of honoring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles.”
Against Heresies, 1.25.6 2
But who was this “Christ” of whom these followers of Simon Magus were making images? It was not the Jesus of the New Testament. It was actually Simon Magus himself.
“He [Simon Magus] was glorified by many as a god; and he taught that it was he himself who, forsooth, appeared among the Jews as the Son, while in Samaria he descended as the Father, and the rest of the world he came as the Holy Spirit. That he was the highest power, to wit, the Father over all, and that he allowed himself to be called by whatever name men pleased.”
Against Heresies 1.23.1 3
At first these followers of Simon Magus were called Simonians or Christian Samaritans, but soon they began to designate themselves by other names (abandoning the name “Simonians”) and finally they became known generally as “Gnostics.”
“They [Gnostics] also have an image of Simon made in the likeness of Jupiter [Zeus with long hair and a beard like Christianity portrays Jesus], and of Helen in that of Minerva [Greek: Athena the Virgin] and these they worship [the statues].”
Against Heresies, 1.23.4 4
By the 3rd century C.E., these disciples of Simon largely abandoned their connection to Simon Magus and Helen and started to call themselves by more respectable names that people in the world would accept. Origen in the 2nd century C.E. said there were only a few in his day actually calling themselves Simonians (Against Celsus, vi.11). The fact is, the name “Simonian” was too limited for Simon Magus himself and Simon wanted his followers to call him (and themselves) by more august names. They preferred to be called by the names of the chief pagan gods and goddesses, but with one difference; they began to mix paganism with Christianity. They blended together the pagan gods and pagan theological perceptions into a syncretic agreement with the theology of the Christian apostles and the Gospel of Christ. They concluded it was best to call themselves “Christians,” but “Christians” supposedly knowledgeable of deep philosophical and profound truths given by God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They even accepted the Holy Spirit as being a person (like modern day Catholics and Protestants do with their false Trinity doctrine) but to them that third person of the Trinity was the man Simon Magus.
Both Simon and Helen told their followers (which was perpetuated by their successors) that anyone knowing the deep mysteries of the universe would have to recognize Simon and Helen as the chief deities to worship and not that they were merely the human Simon and the human Helen. They claimed to be incarnations of the gods who governed the pagan world.
Hippolytus who lived in the same period of Origin had these comments to make about the “Simonians” who eventually did not want to be called by the name of Simon.
“They have a statue of Simon in the form of Zeus and one of Helen in the form of Athena [the Virgin], which they worship calling the former Lord and the later Lady. And if any among them on seeing the images, calls them by the name Simon or Helen, he is cast out as one ignorant of the mysteries.”
Refutation of All Heresies VI.15 5
These Gnostics did not want to emphasize the human Simon or the human Helen, but they wanted both to be recognized as the incarnations of the pagan gods. By the 3rd century C.E., the majority of Gnostics were taking up the name “Christians” to describe themselves, but they also reckoned themselves special “Christians” who understood all mysteries, including pagan religions. They blended pagan personalities into a syncretistic identification with biblical personalities to create an ecumenical religious society in which all people (in a Catholic or universal sense) would be united in a harmonious belief system. To many Gnostics in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Simon had become Zeus and Helen became Minerva (the Virgin Lady who merged into the image of Mary, the Mother of Christ). They also adored Helios the Sun God who was another form of Zeus (as well as the Egyptian god Sarapis).
Emperor Constantine in the 4th century C.E. accepted a form of Christianity, but at the same time he identified the God of his worship with Helios the Sun God, which he continued to place on his coins in full pagan attire long after his conversion to Christianity. It is with Constantine and his family that we see a flood of pagan images and doctrines beginning to be inaugurated into what was then called the “orthodox Catholic Church.”
The principles advocated by Simon Magus took over control of the state religion then called Christianity. And at this time, the truth that Simon Magus and Helen originated the blending of biblical themes with pagan principles was quietly and surreptitiously replaced by some Christian bishops and emperors who accepted this practice of idolatry, but were doing it in the name of “orthodox Christianity.” Thankfully, the Book of Acts and the early Christian historical records show that Simon Magus was the originator of this trend to amalgamate paganism with Christian beliefs.
One of the reasons the history of Simon Magus is given in the New Testament was to warn God’s people what to avoid in the future. And what did the future bring? By the end of the 4th century C.E., practically the whole Christian World went over to the principles of Simon Magus and pagan rituals were given the respectable approval of “orthodox Catholic Christianity.”
Indeed, just after the time of Constantine Christian authorities finally adopted the portrait of Jesus as we in the modern world know Him, with flowing long hair down to his shoulders. 6 They also put a beard on Jesus, whereas earlier depictions showed Him beardless. This particular grooming with long hair and a beard is precisely how the ancients portrayed Zeus and his Egyptian variant, Sarapis. Note the picture of Sarapis below. This is how the Gnostics portrayed Simon Magus. And by the 4th century C.E. even “orthodox Christianity” began to display Jesus as resembling the heathen gods. And what do we see happening today, from these pagan customs adopted in the 4th century? Whether it is a major book company who publishes Christian books or Bibles, or the makers of artifacts for religious worship in churches, the classic depiction of the person they call “Jesus” is the pagan image of Zeus in the form of Sarapis, the ancient Egyptian god of the Underworld.
This deception is perpetuated because modern preachers, priests and theologians have accepted this false type of Jesus that nowhere resembles the true Jesus described in the New Testament. The images of Jesus that Christians have in their churches, homes, Bibles, Sunday School, or Sabbath School books are those which have the precise outward features of the chief pagan gods of the heathen world. If the apostles could visit our churches, they would be aghast at witnessing Jesus portrayed like the chief gods of paganism. This longhaired and bearded “Jesus” is that of a heathen god! Without doubt, the image is that of Sarapis, the Egyptian god of the Underworld.
With the time of Constantine a new type of JESUS began to be portrayed among the Christian population of the Roman Empire. They took the style of grooming typical of the pagan gods and adopted it as their
“JESUS” The above drawing is from a bust in the British Museum of Sarapis, the Egyptian version of Zeus, chief of the Gentile gods. See Harper’s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities, article “Coma.” 7
So, in the 4th century C.E. many Gentile peoples throughout the Roman Empire (who had long worshipped pagan gods and goddesses) began identifying their deities of old with the newly honored “Jesus,” “Mary,” and the “twelve apostles” (plus other saints of the Old and New Testaments). The outward grooming of the pagan gods Asclepius and Sarapis were the favorite examples for Christians to follow, but the most popular was Sarapis from Egypt. Sarapis had been famous for 600 years in Egypt and now his worship was found all over the Roman Empire. He was often equated with the Greek Zeus (the chief god over all other gods) along with Asclepius (the god of healing).
Professor Everett Ferguson in his excellent work titled Backgrounds of Early Christianity shows that statues of Asclepius (the pagan god of healing) were images
“that imitated Zeus ... and that his portraiture influenced artists in depicting both Sarapis [the Egyptian Zeus] and Christ.”
Backgrounds of Early Christianity, p. 174 8
The chief example that 4th century Christians followed was of the Egyptian god Sarapis.
Remarkably, Sarapis of the 4th century C.E. appeared like what Christians from Constantine onwards began to depict as their “Jesus.” At that time people began to abandon early depictions of Christ made in the previous hundred years which showed “Jesus” normally as young, beardless, and with hair like ordinary men — not with long flowing feminine type of hair. But now, with Constantine, the general Christian populace selected the theme of Zeus particularly in the Egyptian model of Sarapis to be their new “Jesus.” To put it simply, the people said: Zeus (Sarapis) was now “Jesus.” Most people continued worshipping Zeus (Sarapis) as always, but NOW they called him by the new name “Jesus,” bringing many of the rituals of Sarapis directly into Christendom.
So, this new deviation took place in displaying this new “Jesus” with a beard and long hair. Not only is this not countenanced in the Bible, such long feminine type of hair on a man is how evil spirits are portrayed in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 9:7–8). And Sarapis is always portrayed with a beard and long hair.
It is astonishing that since the time of Constantine, most all visionary experiences of people who believed they saw “Jesus,” have seen this false longhaired “Jesus.” Ellen G. White of the Seventh Day Adventists saw this “pagan Jesus” in her visions. Joseph Smith of the Mormons saw the same “pagan Jesus.” This, false pagan portrayal of “Jesus” is unchallenged by most practicing Christians. Charismatics and Pentecostals accept almost wholesale the false “pagan Jesus,” and this despite the literally millions of experiences of what they believe is direct spiritual contact with God and Christ through “tongues speaking,” which (if these contacts were from God) should have taught them otherwise.
But really, if those “tongue speaking” experiences were real and true, the messages they get from “tongues” would strongly condemn the idolatry in the churches. Yet, to my knowledge, none of these millions of experiences had a spiritual message either in “tongues” or the “interpretation of tongues” stating that the false “pagan Jesus” is wrong. Remarkable! Their “tongues” experiences are in stark contrast to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures and the early Christian fathers who denounced and condemned such idolatrous displays. The apostle John warned of “many false prophets” in the world and that we should test the spirits to see if they are of God (1 John 4:1). This lack of condemnation of idolatry by millions of “tongues speakers” shows that they are not in tune with the true spiritual power who inspired the Bible, or the early fathers, because the teachings (or lack of teachings) derived from “tongues” speaking clearly contradict the Holy Scriptures.
The fact is, the “Jesus” prominently displayed today in most of the churches of so-called Christendom is not the Jesus of the Bible, either in His fleshly state on earth or His divine state in heaven. Truthfully, the real Jesus of the New Testament groomed Himself by clipping His hair relatively short. The reason for knowing this is clear. The apostle Paul said it was a shame for a man to have long hair because the male is made in the image of God, and both God the Father and Christ are groomed with short hair. Paul wanted Christian men to look like God the Father and Christ in their grooming (1 Corinthians 11:3–16).
In addition, we know it was common custom for Jewish men in the 1st century C.E. to wear their hair short, even close-cropped. This is shown by Eusebius, the famous historian of the early Christian community. He showed this by quoting the Jewish historian Josephus in Against Apion 1.22, para. 173–4. In this section of Eusebius, Josephus cited an earlier Gentile author who described some unique grooming styles of Jewish men. Josephus shows that the Jews were known, as Eusebius renders it, for “their close-cropped hair.” 9
There was a definite reason why Jewish men (especially in the time of Jesus) wore their hair short as common custom. The people knew that the Aaronic priests in the Temple at Jerusalem had the role of being mediators between the ordinary people of Israel and God. Sometimes the priests took the place of the people in petitioning God, while at other times the priests became a substitute for God in instructing the people. In the time of Jesus most of the Sadducees were priests, while the majority of the remainder of the Jews were Pharisees. Pharisees applied the Scripture that the whole nation of Israel should be reckoned as priests (Exodus 19:6) and they invented strict customs for themselves and common people that were actually designed for priests. One principal custom (a command from God) that characterized the priests in their roles of representing God to the people and the rest of the world was that all HIS PRIESTS WERE COMMANDED TO HAVE SHORT HAIR! That is right. Priests who administered in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple at Jerusalem were required by God to have short hair, not long hair in the manner of women.
Such a command had been in effect since the early time of Moses. Whereas the King James Version translates Leviticus 10:6 as “uncover not your heads,” the Jewish authorities always knew that this should be rendered “Let the hair of your heads not grow long.” 10 This command of God was given again in the time of the prophet Ezekiel. “They [the priests] shall not shave their heads [that is, to be made bald], or let their locks grow LONG, they shall only trim the hair of their heads” (Ezekiel 44:20 RSV).
This shows that God forbade His priests (who represented God to the people) to have long hair. This was unlike many heathen priests, who wore long hair to mimic the gods they worshipped. But secular Jewish men in the 1st century C.E. followed the example of their priests to wear their hair short. After all, ordinary men wanted to be groomed like God, not like pagan gods, or heathen philosophers, or some Gentile priests they usually considered vile.
While it has been shown that ordinary Jewish men wore their hair short, did not a special group known as Nazarites let their hair grow long? When Jewish men were under a Nazarite vow, normally lasting 30 days and rarely beyond 100 days, 11 or in short periods of mourning (see early Jewish commentaries on Leviticus 10:6) only then did Jewish men refrain from going to a barber. And interestingly, during the time Jewish men would let their hair grow (not to lengths like the hair of women), they were forbidden by God to enter His Temple. The Hebrew word from which “Nazarite” gets its origin means “separation.” While under a Nazarite vow these men devoted themselves to contrition and humility (even shame for some of their actions), and they were required to stay out of God’s Temple during their vow. God would not allow such men letting their hair grow to come before Him in the Temple. During the period of their vow these men were separated from the physical presence of God. But when their period of “shame and contrition” was over, God allowed them to cut their hair at the threshold of the Temple and then, with the sacrifice of an animal and other purification rites, they could then re-enter the Temple.
God would not let Nazarites come back into the Temple unless they first cut their hair. He wanted no longhaired men in His presence in His Holy House. This fact has an interesting bearing on the appearance of Jesus, since we know Jesus drank wine, and taught openly in the Temple. 12 Authorities in the time of Christ would not allow longhaired men to enter the Temple enclosure because of God’s restrictions against long hair on men. This should be an example for men today who wear long hair and still want to come into God’s presence. God will not have it!
As for lifetime Nazarites, it was common for them to braid the hair (like the seven braids on Samson — Judges 16:13) and to wind the braids around the head under a turban or other headgear. Samson was a warrior and would never have allowed his braids to reach below his neck lest they be grasped by enemies and cut off. Samson knew that cutting off his braided hair meant his strength was gone. This is why Samson would have wanted to secure his braids as close to his head as possible. But even with long hair, lifetime Nazarites among Israelites (and they were rare) did not let their hair hang down like the hair of women in the pagan style of the false “Jesus” seen since the 4th century C.E. Remember, evil spirits in the Bible have long hair like women (Revelation 9:8).
Jesus had short hair, as did all normal Jewish men including their teachers and priests. Jewish teachers and philosophers never had long hair, which would have kept them from entering God's divine presence in His Temple, and no respectable Jewish teacher, or philosopher wanted to be barred from the holy enclosure. Indeed, when Judas pointed out who Jesus was at the time of his betrayal to the priests, he kissed Him on the cheek (Luke 22:48) rather than pointing out the man with the long hair (who would have been unique in Jewish society). The truth is, Jesus while teaching on earth had short hair and most early depictions of Him made in the years before Constantine show Him with short hair and beardless.
Indeed, short hair on men was not only a custom of the Jews; it was the common custom for men throughout the Roman Empire in the 1st century C.E. They followed the examples of the Caesars of Rome who always wore short hair. As far as Christian males were concerned, Paul demanded they keep their hair short (1 Corinthians 11:14). Indeed, even with the Greeks it was customary for men to wear their hair short except, as the Jews, for short periods of mourning. Charles Goodwin of Pusan, Korea supplied me with this quotation from the Loeb edition of Plutarch’s Moralia on The Roman Question 267B written in the 2nd century C.E.:
“In Greece, whenever any misfortune comes, the women cut off their hair and the men let it grow, for it is usual for men to have their hair cut and for women to let it grow” (emphasis mine).
Yes, it was common custom among the Jews as well as the Greeks in the time of the New Testament for men to have their hair short. And Paul reminded his Greek readers in Corinth of this common custom that he called the way of nature [instinct] among the Greeks. It is wrong to think that ordinary men then had long hair.
Most philosophers of the pagan world and most of the pagan gods were depicted with long hair. Dio Chrysostom, the practical philosopher who lived in the 1st century C.E., told his readers that he and other philosophers wore their hair long. 13 But Epictetus in his Discourses 14 urged people not to adopt quickly the grooming habits of the professionals among the Gentiles such as wearing the cloak, wearing long hair, and the beard of the philosophers. In Epictetus’ opinion, only true philosophers should adopt such grooming habits. Since Epictetus lived about 50 years after the apostle Paul, this is again proof that ordinary Greek men wore their hair short. But by the 4th century C.E., some Christians began to teach that Jesus should be depicted like heathen gods — with beard and long hair! They wanted Jesus to be a “teacher” and a “philosopher” like the Greeks and not have short hair as the Jewish teachers and philosophers were accustomed to do. So, what have we inherited from the 4th century and what do we display in our churches, our homes, and even in our Bibles today? We arrogantly display the “pagan Jesus,” which false depiction comes directly from the pagan gods. It is NOT the real Jesus of the New Testament.
No wonder Hollywood along with our modern preachers and priests have been remarkably silent on the origin of the false “long haired Jesus.” They never wanted to show where this “Jesus” came from. If they did, they would direct us to the pagan gods of the 4th century C.E. In the hundred years before Constantine, what few pictures there were of Jesus show Him almost always beardless, young, with short hair and never with flowing long hair like women as commonly portrayed today. The true grooming of the real Jesus became buried in oblivion by the end of the 4th century C.E. The false longhaired Jesus came on the scene in the guise of the pagan gods and this “pagan Jesus” finally won the contest, but not without opposition from some top Christian theologians who lived at the time.
The following excerpts by several early Christian theologians show opposition during and after the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine to these new pagan portrayals of Jesus. The first quote I wish to give is Eusebius in his Letter to Constantia (sister of Constantine the Great). I abridged the account, but it shows the utter disdain of Eusebius for what was then beginning to happen. He was against the idolatry then creeping into “orthodox Christianity.” Words in brackets are mine.
“You also wrote me about some supposed image of Christ, which image you wished me to send to you. Now what kind of thing is that you refer to as the image of Christ? I do not know what compelled you to request that an image of Our Savior should be shown. What kind of image of Christ are you seeking? Is it the true and unadulterated one which bears His essential characteristics [His divine image], or the one which He assumed for our sake when He took up the form of a servant [His human form]? ... Granted, He has two forms, and even I do not think that your petition has to do with His divine form. …
“Surely then, you are seeking His image as a servant, that of the flesh which He assumed for our sake. ... How can one paint an image so unattainable ..., unless, as do the unbelieving pagans, one is to represent things that have no possible resemblance to anything? ... For they [the pagans] make such idols when they wish to form the likeness of what they think to be a god or, as they might say, one of the heroes or anything else of like nature, yet they are unable even to approach a likeness, and accurately represent some strange human forms. Surely, even you agree with me [said Eusebius] that such practices are illegal for us. 15 Have you ever heard of such a resemblance yourself in church or from another person? Are not such things excluded and banished from churches all over the world, and does not everyone know that such practices are not permitted to us alone.”
“[continuing]... Once there was a woman, I do not know how, brought me in her hands a picture of two men in the demeanor of philosophers 16 and the woman mentioned that they were Paul and the Savior. I have no way of knowing where she got this information or where she learned it. But in order that neither she nor others might receive offense, I took the picture away from her and kept it in my house, as I thought it was improper for such things to be displayed to others, lest we appear, like idol worshipers, to carry our God around in an image. I note that Paul informs all of us not to hold any more to things of the flesh, because he tells us that though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet from now on we know Him no more.”
End of the Letter to Constantia by Eusebius
The following quotation is from Epiphanius of Salamis in his Letter to the Emperor Theodosius (written somewhere between 379–395 C.E., some 30 years after Eusebius). Words in brackets are mine.
“Which of the earlier Fathers ever painted an image of Christ and put it in a church or a private home? [None of them ever did such a thing.] Which early bishop ever dishonored Christ by portraying Him on door curtains?
“[continuing] … Moreover, they are deceiving who represent the likeness of [biblical] saints in various forms according to their fancy, sometimes showing the same persons as old men, sometimes as youths, intruding into things which they have not seen. For they paint the Savior with long hair, and this by guessing because He is called a Nazarene, and Nazarites wear long hair. They are in error if they try to attach stereotypes to Him, because the Savior drank wine, whereas the Nazarites did not.
“[continuing] … They also show forth deception by inventing things according to their fancies. These impostors represent the holy apostle Peter as an elderly man with hair and beard cut short, some represent holy Paul as a man with receding hair, others as being bald and bearded, and the other apostles are shown having their hair closely cropped. If then the Savior had long hair while his apostles were cropped, and since by not being cropped, He was unlike them in appearance, for what reason did the Pharisees and scribes give a fee of thirty silver pieces to Judas that he might kiss Him and show them that He was the one they looked for, when they might themselves or by means of others have determined by reason of his [long] hair Him whom they were seeking to find, and thereby without paying a fee? 17
“[continuing] … Can you not see, O most God-loving emperor, that this state of things is not agreeable to God? 18 Wherefore I beg of you. ... that the curtains which may be found that have such false depictions of the apostles or prophets or of the Lord Christ Himself should be collected from churches, baptisteries, houses and martyria 19 and that you should give them over for the burial of the poor, and as [concerning the depictions] on walls, that they should be whitewashed. As for those that have already been represented in mosaics, realizing that their removal is difficult, you know what to command in the wisdom that God has given you. If it be possible to remove them [the mosaics], well and good; but if it proves impossible, let that which has already been accomplished be sufficient, and let no one paint in this fashion from now on.”
It is a pathetic commentary on the history of so-called “Christianity” that the historian must divulge the apathy of the generation after these admonitions by early theologians of the 4th century C.E. Hardly anyone paid attention to them. The Christian world went headlong into idolatry by continuing to paint pictures of Zeus (Sarapis) and having the nerve to call these pictures “Jesus.” It is sacrilegious to perpetuate this outright lie as prominently displayed in almost every Catholic and Protestant church today. And preachers and priests smugly let it continue.
Today we have Hellenistic paganism and we now call it “Christianity.” Our society has accepted this rebellious depiction of this false “Jesus” from 4th century painters who painted a “Jesus” exactly like the pagan gods. As a matter of fact, professing “Christianity” today has more idolatrous images, pictures, icons, other symbols and designs that violate the clear text of the second commandment (and New Testament warnings by the apostles and early theologians of the Christian faith) than any other pagan religion on earth today.
Modern Christianity is the greatest exponent of idolatry in the world today. The use of images dominates the Christianity we inherited from the 4th century C.E. Preachers and priests love this idolatry and continue to advocate it. Look at what the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics shows. It reveals that modern Christianity is far and away the greatest violator of the second of the Ten Commandments, the teachings of the apostles in the New Testament and the early Church fathers. Note the encyclopaedia (underlining mine):
“No religion can rival Christianity in the multiplicity of its images. In some large churches, such as the French cathedrals of Paris, Chartres, Reims, and Amiens, there are as many as two, three, or four thousand statues; and in the cathedrals of Chartres, Bourges, and Le Mans, three, four, or five thousand figures on stained glass. Although quite a number of these are figures of unimportant personages, nevertheless we have here what has been called a whole bible for use of the unlettered. Next to Christianity comes Buddhism, which has covered India, Ceylon, and the Malay Archipelago with its bas-reliefs, and flooded Tibet, China, and Japan with its painted images. In this it has been imitated by the other religions of the Far East, including Hinduism. It is superfluous to mention here the service rendered to art by the mythological compositions of Graeco-Roman sculpture. Of less importance from an aesthetic point of view, but nonetheless interesting, are the bas-reliefs and paintings of Egypt, and the sculptures of Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. It may be said that the region where religious images are found forms a belt on the surface of the globe which includes the northern hemisphere from Japan to Mexico, while in the Southern hemisphere there are only some rudiments of art.” 20
Is it not interesting that Christianity out performs all of Buddhism and Hinduism in the use of religious images in their worship services today? Modern Christianity simply loves idolatry. Not only that, we far outdistance ancient Egypt. Even more revealing is that modern Christianity out-produces ancient Mesopotamia in idolatry (where the biblical prophets said idolatry began). And yes, our indulgence in the use of idolatry is even greater than that of Greece and Rome. This is precisely what Simon Magus decided to introduce to the west. From what we see all over our Christian world today, Simon Magus and his successors must be considered highly successful.
This error of idolatry was what Eusebius and Epiphanius in the 4th century C.E. saw occurring among the people even in the highest echelons of government. These early Christian fathers abhorred the trend and tried to persuade the rulers not to make pictures or images of Jesus even if the images were true depictions (which they were not). Making such paintings and statues, and placing them in homes and churches was illegal according to them and they were right! Such images were a violation of the second commandment and the teachings of the apostles. To these early theologians, it made no difference if people worshipped before the pictures or images or not. Even the possession of them for the slightest reverence was illegal according to Eusebius and Epiphanius — and this was the identical belief of all the previous fathers of the Christian community back to the apostles. Such pictures and images were not allowed even for decoration.
The preachers and priests today ought to be telling people the truth about the origins of the religious artifacts and pictures they so piously display, but they say nothing. After all, according to them, they have to earn a living and they do not want to be so outspoken on these matters because they might lose their jobs. This makes them keep silent. Their silence means that outright idolatry continues strong in our churches and the members show not the slightest shame.
The result is that for the past 1600 years since Constantine this idolatry has been perpetuated by authorities in traditional Christian denominations, which have the nerve to call their practices that clearly come from paganism as “orthodox.” Remarkably, they do this in spite of the express teaching of the apostle Paul: “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14), and the apostle John: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:2–11).
This festival to the ancient Sun God is looked on in the Western World as a happy season of the year. This period, which surrounds the ancient festivities of the Winter Solstice, has become a major holiday season to most people in the western world, including most mainline Christian denominations. This is the time of year that most people in our western societies consider the best, the happiest and the most joyful. Indeed, it goes farther than that. For most people who claim to be Christians and members of the mainline churches of this world, they equate this Winter Solstice period as the time to celebrate the birth of Christ and call it the festival of Christmas. Usually, a streak of piety is manifested by religious folk at this time (because the secular emphasis is strong) and they clamor for our society to put Christ back into Christmas.
While this is all true, mature Christians who adhere to the teachings of the Bible (and the Bible alone) realize that God utterly condemns celebration of this pagan holiday season which has no more relevance to Christian teaching than trying to use a three dollar bill to pay debts. How can we put Christ “back into Christmas,” when he was never there in the first place?
But there is hope. Educated and mature Christians such as ourselves should look on the period of Christmas as one of the greatest opportunities to witness to the so-called Christian world that they worship false heathen gods and that the doctrines of mainline Christianity are far from the teachings of the Bible.
Let me give you an example of how my wife Ramona and I show our disdain for this tomfoolery called “Christmas.” While our neighbors commend us for keeping our yard decorated with a well-kept lawn and beautiful flower beds, they notice a singular absence of any Christmas decorations, unlike most houses on our street. Some neighbors have thought we might be “Jewish,” but we readily inform them if they ask that we are not “Jewish” in religion. We tell them plainly that we are Christians who try to adhere to the teachings of God the Father and Christ Jesus in the Old and New Testaments. This is why we refuse to put up Christmas decorations that honor the longhaired Sun God Zeus (in the form of Helios) whom most people today call “Jesus.” There is hardly a better time to show people (even our neighbors) the truth of the biblical revelation than this period when the pagan Christmas is in full swing. Since we are educated and mature Christians who know the truths of God, we rejoice that we can present an outward example of our disdain for this rampant paganism and heathenistic philosophical teaching and practice.
The fact is, December 25th is the birthday of the Sun God at the Winter Solstice, not that of our savior Jesus Christ. As clear as the New Testament can make it, Revelation 12:1–5 shows that Jesus was born when the Sun was mid-bodied to the sign of the Virgin in heaven and when the Moon was under Virgo’s feet. In plain astronomical terms this is a New Moon day in late summer 3 B.C.E. when Christ was born, the date in the Book of Revelation answers to the early evening of September 11. It was a Mosaic holy day called “the Day of Trumpets” which Jewish people call Rosh ha-Shanah. If people want to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, why don’t they do it on the day the New Testament shows to be his birth? See my book The Star that Astonished the World for proof.
As far as setting up a “Christmas tree,” read Jeremiah 10:1–5 where the practice is utterly condemned. If you want proof that Christmas trees were a part of ancient tree worship and this is what Jeremiah the prophet was condemning, write for our article “The Christmas Tree Debate.”
Regarding good old Saint Nick (called today Santa Claus), the origin of that fable emerged from diffuse traditions coming out of Asia Minor in the late classical period. This is the same geographical region where the Book of Revelation warns two of Christ’s ekklesias to shun the teachings of a man claiming to be a “saint” of God going by the name “Nicholas.” His followers were the Nicolaitanes whose doctrines Christ hates (Revelation 2:6, 15). In fact, this false “Saint Nicholas” (our modern “Santa Claus”) has taken over the role of Christ Himself as far as our children are taught today. This “jolly and benevolent man” is not an innocent diversion meant only for children. It is nothing less than the worship and perpetuation of a false heathen deity who mimics God and whose doctrines Christ hates. Since the Bible says the true God resides in the sides of the north from Jerusalem (Isaiah 14:13) and gives promotions from His northern abode (Psalm 75:6–7), the pagans finally substituted a jolly and rotund mimic by having the Santa Claus of the Nicolaitanes to have his abode and workshop at the North Pole.
But let us get to reality! What many people do not understand is that the messages to the ekklesias in the Book of Revelation that speak of Christ’s hatred for the doctrines devised by “Saint Nicholas,” are intended for the generation that exists just before the second advent of Christ — for our own time period. We all need to realize that the full and mature teachings of Christ called “the Mystery,” that He revealed to Paul and others in 63 C.E. cannot be made known in clarity to people as long as they are in abject paganism. In no way are these idolatrous practices “Christian.”
All the pagan holy days that our modern society has adopted (such as Easter, Halloween, Christmas, April Fool’s Day and all other Fool days) are great deterrents to teaching people the real truths of Christ Jesus. They are not innocent diversions; they are satanic devices to get people away from the essential truths of Holy Scripture. It is just that serious! That is why we mature Christians should set an example to the world by showing our disdain and disgust at these heathen practices of Simon Magus now adopted by our churches. The keeping of these pagan festivals, now called “Christian,” is one of the main reasons why people have rejected the simple teachings of the Bible and the real Gospel of Christ.
The apostle Paul commands that we Christians should not place an impediment by our lifestyle or society in the way of any person, group, or nation that might distract them from accepting Christ and His true teachings (1 Corinthians 10:32). He specifically mentioned the Jewish people, the original people of God. Do you know the main reason Jewish people wholeheartedly reject the Christianity being presented by our churches? Why, their rabbis and intellectuals are able to see clearly that modern Christianity is nothing more than rampant idolatrous paganism in religious form and in doctrines which are not compatible with biblical revelation. They are able to see that Christians have placed a portrait of Zeus in their churches, cathedrals, homes, etc., and we have the audacity to call this Zeus by the name “Jesus.” We have pagan and idolatrous practices in our churches and adorn church buildings with heathen symbols condemned in the Scriptures.
The Jews are intelligent enough to see this outrageous idolatry afflicting the fabric of modern Christianity and they will have none of it. I don’t blame them. The fact is, Christian preachers, ministers, and priests need to get rid of this thorough-going idolatry, then Jewish people would be more willing to listen to the teachings of the New Testament about their Messiah, Jesus the Christ. True Christians ought to be actively condemning and shunning paganism pervading our Catholic and Protestant societies. What is needed is a return to the simple truths of the New Testament. The real teachings of the New Testament make sense.
This is one reason why we in the mature Christian community who wish to meet together in assembly as the apostle Paul suggested (Hebrews 10:25), should (in my view) meet on the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week and not on the pagan Sunday. Emperor Constantine initiated that day as a device of hatred against meeting at the same time as the Jews on the Sabbath. Of course, it is not necessary to treat the Sabbath day as commanded in the Old Testament to satisfy Old Covenant requirements. But meeting on that day would show this paganized world that we who know the truth of “the Mystery” are not going to do things according to the customs of this heathenized world. And too, if some Christians feel inclined to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, though no command in the Bible shows that it is necessary, why don’t they celebrate it on the Day of Trumpets (Rosh ha Shanah), the very day on which Christ was born into this world? My book The Star that Astonished the World proves this point.
All must realize, however, that we mature Christians have gained a true liberty in Christ Jesus (Galatians 5:1). For us, it is not necessary to honor any of the days of the week, months, or years (whether of the old ancient Law of Moses meant for infants in the faith, or of heathen periods of time). But, in my view, it is still better to avoid the obvious pagan holidays. This is because celebration of this paganism makes people show little interest in the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. The apostle Paul said: “Flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14) and the apostle John said: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). I cannot think of two more prominent individuals in the Christian world whose opinions I would want to know. And, brethren, they have given their feelings to you in their writings.
1 As a matter of fact, back in 1961 one of the first major research projects that I presented to professional theologians (after a year’s study) was an extensive report on the exploits of this man Simon Magus. The Book of Acts singles him out because of his importance. The principal church leaders were so pleased with my original research that for the following year they presented the results of my research concerning Simon Magus in various articles and booklets. ELM
2 See the text and context at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.ii.xxvi.html. DWS
3 For a different translation see http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.ii.xxiv.html. DWS
4 See the text and context at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.ii.xxiv.html. DWS
5 This work is also called “Philosophumena.” For a different translation of this Hippolytus passage, see http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-05/anf05-10.htm#P1397_390926. DWS
6 Like the hair of women — see a pejorative reference to such long haired grooming in Revelation 9:8. ELM
7 H.T. Peck, ed., Harper’s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities (New York, Cooper Square Publishers, 1962). DWS
8 Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1993).
9 Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel, IX.9, sect 412b. ELM
10 See Rashi on Leviticus 10:6; and it is so translated in The Jerusalem Bible, Koren edition. ELM
11 See M’Clintock and Strong, Cyclopaedia, vol. VI, pp. 881–2. ELM
12 Jesus was not under a Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:3) or separated from God during his ministry. He consumed both wine and the fruit of the vine (Matthew 11:19) prohibited to all Nazarites, and He taught openly in the Temple. Both wine and the Temple were forbidden for Nazarites. Though Jesus lived in the town of Nazareth, He was not a Nazarite, and the two terms should not be confused. ELM
13 Dio Chrysostom, Oration Thirty Five, vol. III, pp. 391, 401 Loeb edition. ELM
14 Book 4, Chapter 8. See the context at http://thriceholy.net/Texts/Discourses4.html.
15 Eusebius believed accurately that even a true likeness of Jesus, if one were available, was still not allowed to be displayed according to biblical teaching. ELM
16 Dio Chrysostom, Oration Thirty-Five, vol. III, pp. 391, 401, Loeb ed., stated that Gentile philosophers generally wore long hair. ELM
17 Epiphanius clearly knew that the real Jesus did not have long hair. ELM
18 Portrayals of Jesus with long hair were then sweeping the Christian world. ELM
19 Sites where martyrs were buried or honored. ELM
20 James Hastings, ed., Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. VII (New York: C. Scribner’s & Sons, 1908), p. 111. ELM
Order our Book: Essentials of New Testament Doctrine to read all the chapters.
© 1976-2021 Associates for Scriptural Knowledge - ASK is supported by freewill contributions