Page 17 - COG Publications

Basic HTML Version

How Christianity Lost Sight of Its Original Purpose
15
indeed, because of these affec–
tions that today, as in the be–
ginning, a soul comes to be
without intelligence at first,
when it is bound in a mortal
body"
(Timaeus,
44A-B).
Here was the other side of the
Platonic coin - the concept of
a mundane, corrupt human
body that enslaved a pure, pris–
tine soul. The shame over sex
and the human anatomy that
originated in Eden was echoed
even more clearly in much of
this later Hellenistic philoso–
phy. For instance: "That soul,
in us, will in its nature stand
apart from all that can cause
any of the evils which man does
or suffers; for all such evil, as
we have seen, belongs only to
the Animate, the Couplement"
(Plotinus,
Enneads,
1.1.9).
Since the body and material
things were considered evil, a
person's chief aim in life, ac–
cording to these ancient philos–
ophers, was to escape the
clutches of this world. Man's
aspirations, hopes and dreams
were to be found in other–
worldly goals.
The best way to prepare for
this celestial calling was to de–
vote oneself to a quiet life of
sober contemplation and
thought. The pursuit of higher
"spiritual" knowledge became
an end in itself. According to
one ancient Greek sage: ""The
philosopher as priest of the God
who is over all things must ab–
stain from flesh meat and al–
ways strive to come near to
God, solitary to solitary"
(James Shiel,
Greek Thought
and the Rise of Christianity,
p.
37).
Numerous religious cults
grew and thrived in this atmo–
sphere of Hellenistic dualism.
Their primary concern largely
centered around achievement of
personal salvation for their vo–
taries and disciples. Not only
was ascetic self-denial empha–
sized, but also the importance
of inner knowledge, or
gnosis.
Mystery religions flourished as
men sought to achieve inner
tranquility, peace and deliv–
erance.
A Radical Departure
Into this Hellenized environ–
ment came Jesus Christ of
Nazareth, preaching the good
news of the Kingdom of God.
The main thrust of His message
had to do with an earthly king–
dom - not an escape to the
nether reaches of spiritual Nir–
vanaland. Instead of speaking
in vague dialectic and dualistic
concepts, he taught simple, di–
rect principles of ethics and
morals. He was continually at
loggerheads with the religious
establishment in Palestine,
took a dim view of their bur-