Refuting the Pagan Roots Lie
This article began as something quite different than what it has become. The original title of the post was to be “Defending Christmas”. As I pondered the content that needed to be addressed, I felt pressed by the Holy Spirit to change the name to “Defending Christ the King.” And it is my heart’s desire to do so, as He has been so faithful to defend me.
In my previous existence as one who reveled in a state of rebellion, I was engaged in a war. I knew it was a war. I had declared it as such. I thought it was a war against ignorance and mythology and pitifully blind faith. As a new creation, I can look back now and recognize it for what it truly was. A war against truth. The Truth. The only thing that is true in a world of deception. I was in a battle against the very existence of Jesus Christ. I bought, believed, promoted and proclaimed the antichrist gospel. I was unwittingly peddling lies and had become an evangelist in favor of a fallen world.
Accepting Jesus was an unexpected and amazing turn of events! Almost instantly, I recognized my unique position as one who’d gone from declaring a lie to defending THE truth. I began to unravel the errors of my previous arguments against His existence, and I wondered what spirit had overcome me, a reasonably intelligent woman, to convince me that such provably incorrect information was true.
In the past year, and particularly in the past several months, I’ve become increasingly alarmed as I see so many of the arguments from my former self surfacing inside Christian circles, AGAINST Christians, FROM Christians. My heart broke over and over as I watched the same spirit from which I’d been delivered, now influencing fellow believers; lies being peddled in the guise of Biblical truth. The obvious elitism and sense of superiority displayed by those who were now attacking Christianity from within were startlingly similar to that which I’d experienced years ago.
Never has this spirit been more prevalent than it is this year during the Christmas season. The shameless promotion of the pagan roots lie has found its way into the fold and is corrupting hearts and minds at an alarming rate.
The Pagan Roots Lie
One of the most prevalent memes used by atheists against Christians is the concept that Jesus is a mythical character based upon previous pagan “dying and rising” messiah archetypes. Most of these claims have been debunked ad nauseum, but they continue to rear their ugly heads. If you aren’t familiar with said debunking
The thrust of the argument is that Jesus is a copycat savior based on either a singular pagan deity or an amalgam of pagan deities, depending upon with whom you speak. “Debunkers” like to claim that the concept of the Trinity is based upon pagan myth, that all Christian traditions are based upon pagan myth, and that essentially all of Christendom is one big fat pile of baloney.
It would behoove the dogmatic atheist to use all ammo in his arsenal to attempt to show that Jesus didn’t exist. You can’t really blame him for trying. For him, it is a matter of self preservation, for if Jesus is real, then he’s in big trouble. But what do you do when people who claim to believe in Jesus use the exact same methodology against orthodox Christians?
That’s right. Self proclaimed believers are using Christianity against Christians by claiming that Christianity as we know it is a false construct comprised largely of pagan influences.
The purpose of this post is not to tackle all issues related to the pagan roots lie. There are far too many claims floating around, and there are apologists and researchers far more skilled than I who are tackling these issues in a scholarly manner on a regular basis. I will include resources at the bottom of this post. For now, I want to stick to a couple of specific areas. I believe very strongly that the spirit of deception that grips non-believers and causes them to throw reason out the window in favor of the pagan roots lie, is the same spirit that has managed to plant a seed of confusion in a small but stubborn segment of professed believers.
First, let’s just cover one basic issue. It really does not matter what any pagan reveler of antiquity practiced or preached or wrote or worshiped. If we believe what the Bible teaches, we know that before a single pagan walked the Earth, God Almighty brought all things into existence. There is literally nothing that a pagan touched that wasn’t touched by God first. Thus, for a Christian to argue that any pagan philosophy predated what we know to be true about the nature of God is illogical. God came first. Upon this we can all agree. However, in this very same logic train, we can begin to understand why those who would promote the pagan roots lie would begin their attack with the Trinity.  Redefining God’s triune nature is necessary in order to make any of their arguments stick. And this is what we’re going to continue to see – further redefining, retooling, rejecting and retracting portions of scripture in an effort to fit their pet theories into a manageable box.
O Holy Night
When I was a lost and confused girl, not knowing what I believed, there was one time of year when I was open to hearing about the Gospel. That time was Christmas. I’d show up for church and would hear about His miraculous coming. I’d hear amazing hymns that filled me with reverence for this Jesus – born in Bethlehem to be the savior of the whole world. My rebellion was deeply entrenched, but the seeds planted during those special moments when I was told “Fall on your Knees!”, have clearly come to fruition. I have accepted His call and He is the Lord of my life.
Imagine my confusion and sadness when, years later, as a Christian, I saw a group of believers who scorned and mocked that uniquely powerful time. I’d ask myself, “What is this all about?”
Let’s clear a few things up. I do not proclaim that Jesus was born on December 25th. I do not deny that SOME seasonal traditions common to our culture may have vague similarities to pagan pactices. I do not engage in tree worship. I do not honor a nebulous sun god. I do not recognize Nimrod as my eternal king. I do not burn a yule log. I do not believe in Santa Claus. I am afraid of elves.
The claims of those who believe Christmas to be a dirty dirty pagan festival full of perverted revelry include, but are not limited to:
- Christmas trees are downright evil. They alternatively represent Nimrod worship, goddess Ashtoreth worship, or just a good old fashioned phallic symbol. They claim that Jeremiah 10 explicitly lays out why Christmas trees are evil.
- Jesus was not born on December 25, but a WHOLE bunch of other gods were.
- Catholics usurped the pagan traditions in an effort to make Christianity more palatable to heathens, thus anyone who celebrates Christmas is a heathen by proxy. Or a Catholic.
- The Jesus worshiped by orthodox Christians is not the same Jesus as worshiped by the true believers who embrace a Hebrew Roots Movement. (It is also common for HRM folks to deny that they are HRM, knowing that it is rather bad PR to publicly associate with HRM)
It is important to note that much of what these anti-Christmas crusaders would have you believe about the pagan roots of Christmas extends into their philosophy about the pagan roots of Christianity as a whole. For those who do not worship by adhering to OT law, they will say that you are not doing it right, that you’re essentially an accidental pagan/Catholic, and that you may even end up shining their shoes in Heaven… if you make it there at all.
But where does all of this come from? Surely if all that they say is true, it should give anyone who fears the Lord pause, right?
Much of what is spread around in atheist circles (and now in many “christian” circles) about the pagan roots lie originates from a book called The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop. His research has been expounded upon by various “researchers”, perhaps most prominently a woman who refers to herself as D.M. Murdock or Acharya S. It is unclear what her actual name is, but it is abundantly clear that she is an anti-Christian propagandist and a shameless New Ager, and many of the current claims about the pagan roots of Christianity find their way back to her research. And no doubt she relies heavily on the claims of Hislop.
Hislop’s Two Babylons was written in 1853 and was published in 1919. He was a Presbyterian theologian and his works have been embraced by conspiracy theorists on the fringes of Christianity ever since. According to one reviewer:
It has been recognized by scholars as discredited and has been called a tribute to historical inaccuracy and know-nothing religious bigotry with shoddy scholarship, blatant dishonesty and a nonsensical thesis. Although scholarship has shown the picture presented by Hislop to be absurd and based on an exceedingly poor understanding of historical Babylon and its religion, his book remains popular among some fundamentalist protestant Christians.
Over time, some who once embraced the Hislop theory that modern Christianity is a pseudo-pagan creation by early Catholicism, have recanted their support. A great example of this is Ralph Woodrow. He once supported the findings of Hislop, going so far as to write his own book titled Babylon Mystery Religion. Woodrow has since pulled this book out of print due to what he later recognized as falsehood and misinformation as taught by Hislop. In an explanation for why he has since recanted his stance on his previous pagan roots beliefs, Woodrow says the following:
What may seem to have a connection, upon further investigation, has no connection at all!….
By this method, atheists have long sought to discredit the Bible and Christianity altogether—not just the Roman Catholic Church.
By this method, one could condemn Protestant and evangelical denominations like the Assemblies of God, Baptist, Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, etc. Basic things like prayer, and kneeling in prayer, would have to be rejected, because pagans knelt and prayed to their gods. Water baptism would have to be rejected, for pagans had numerous rites involving water, etc.
By this method, the BIBLE itself would need to be rejected as pagan. All of the following practices or beliefs mentioned in the Bible, were also known among pagans—raising hands in worship, taking off shoes on holy ground, a holy mountain, a holy place in a temple, offering sacrifices without blemish, a sacred ark, city of refuge, bringing forth water from a rock, laws written on stone, fire appearing on a person’s head, horses of fire, the offering of first fruits, tithes, etc.
By this method, the LORD himself would be pagan. The woman called Mystery Babylon had a cup in her hand; the Lord has a cup in his hand (Psa. 75:8). Pagan kings sat on thrones and wore crowns; the Lord sits on a throne and wears a crown (Rev. 1:4; 14:14). Pagans worshipped the sun; the Lord is the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2). Pagan gods were likened to stars; the Lord is called “the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16). Pagan gods had temples dedicated to them; the Lord has a temple (Rev. 7:15). Pagan gods were pictured with wings; the Lord is pictured with wings (Psa. 91:4).
Here is a list of the some of the unsubstantiated claims that are made about the religion of ancient Babylon:
- The Babylonians went to a confessional and confessed sins to priests who wore black clergy garments.
- Their king, Nimrod, was born on December 25. Round decorations on Christmas trees and round communion wafers honored him as the Sun-god.
- Sun-worshippers went to their temples weekly, on Sunday, to worship the Sun-god.
- Nimrod’s wife was Semiramis, who claimed to be the Virgin Queen of Heaven, and was the mother of Tammuz.
- Tammuz was killed by a wild boar when he was age 40; so 40 days of Lent were set aside to honor his death.
- The Babylonians wept for him on “Good Friday.” They worshipped across-the initial letter of his name.
It is amazing how unsubstantiated teachings like these circulate—and are believed. One can go to any library, check any history book about ancient Babylon, none of these things will be found. They are not historically accurate, but are based on an arbitrary piecing together of bits and pieces of mythology.
The “connections” drawn about the paganization of Christianity and Christmas are numerous and in most cases, they are false. There are so many resources available that refute claims about Osiris, Horus, Mithras, and other sun gods having been born/celebrated on December 25th. Scholars both Christian and secular predominately conclude that there are no original sources that point to this date as the universal birth date of pretty much every pagan god of antiquity, which is what most pagan rooters would have you believe.
However, it is not uncommon to see proponents of the pagan roots lie telling you to simply “Google it” for more information. Why? Because the pervasiveness of the pagan roots lie as promoted by Hislop has become so popular, that the search results pretty much bury the actual scholarly research on the matter. So yes, if you Google, “Pagan Christmas” or “Nimrod Christmas” or “Jesus was Osiris”… you’ll find lots of material that will try to sway you. But that is not how research works. An abundance of claims does not make a fact, particularly when the majority of those claims can be traced back to a single erroneous source.
One of the most prominent researchers who is actively promoting the pagan roots concept is Rob Skiba. Normally, I’d shy away from naming names and stick to refuting the message, but in this case I need to directly quote Mr. Skiba, therefore in order to properly attribute the quote, I have to name the source.
In recent weeks, Mr. Skiba has been releasing a series of anti-Christmas commentary via his Facebook wall. In one of his most recent posts, he titles his piece “Celebrating Christ the King?” (I’m not certain that you can access this write up unless you are friends with Rob Skiba, just in case. It is too long for me to repost entirely here.) The piece begins with a tale of how the Skibas recently attended a baptism at a mainstream protestant church, wherein the Christmas decor and hymns etc made his “spirit grieve exceedingly.”
He goes on to associate December 25 with Nimrod (a notion introduced by Hislop). He states, “It is NO SECRET that December 25th is the birthday of the sun-gods, which trace back to Nimrod.” Right off the bat, this claim can be refuted, which essentially throws the rest of his write up into the realm of misinformation.
King of kings, and Lord of lords…
Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; ~ 1 Timothy 6:15 King James Version (KJV)
which he will make known in his own time, the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of those who reign as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords, ~ 1 Timothy 6:15 Lexham English Bible (LEB)
The question mark in the title of Rob Skiba’s post seems to revolve around the following contention:
December 25th is the birthday of the sun-gods, which trace back to Nimrod, who was the first KING in our Bible. Interestingly enough, as he would later be known by many (possibly even 70) different names as a result of the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel, one of them being Osiris, he also became known as the “king of kings and lord of lords” (in the Egyptian Book of the Dead). Suddenly all of the songs and praise concerning the “king of kings” born on Christmas day took on significantly dark meaning. Now, I KNOW no one there was worshiping Nimrod. Their hearts were toward Yeshua (Jesus) the Christ. I get that.
Since we know that there is little to no reliable evidence linking these “sun gods” to December 25th, it is difficult to put much credence into the rest of Skiba’s piece, since it all hinges on that thoroughly debunked claim. Skiba’s purpose here is to float the idea that if you celebrate the birth of Christ the King on December 25th, that you are actually worshiping and paying tribute to a different “christ” and a pagan “king”. The entire concept of accidental paganism is outrageous.
Various scripture refers to other earthly kings as “king of kings” (Ezra 7:12; Ezekiel 26:7; Daniel 2:37), and the title was not uncommon. What is obvious is that when the Bible refers to Jesus as King of kings, Lord of lords, it is taking that familiar title and attributing it once and for all to THE King above all kings and THE Lord above all who would identify as lords. I find Mr. Skiba’s pointing to the Hymn to Osiris from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to be pure sensationalism, because knowing that this title is used to indicate someone who has the power to exercise absolute dominion over all that lies within his realm , his inclusion of the pagan parallel here serves no purpose, unless he is loosely trying to tie Jesus to the Pagan Roots Lie, which I cannot imagine would be fruitful for any follower of Jesus to do.
I reached out to Dr. Mike Heiser regarding the question of this title being bestowed upon other kings of antiquity. In his response, he stated:
The titling in Greek = “king of kings”.
It was a *widely* used title; the title is part of the conception of utmost authority and pre-eminence. If Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, and the greatest kingdom (Daniel = the kingdom not made with human hands), this is about as normal and expected a way to telegraph the message that there is.
Dr. Heiser cites Remarks on the History of a Title by Author J. Gwyn Griffiths from the book Classical Philology, as a point of reference for his commentary.
But that doesn’t stop Skiba from stating:
Now bear in mind that the Beast is referred to as a “christ” as well (albeit an “anti” christ – meaning an antithesis of the Christ). The Beast is a false messiah – a false anointed one – a false king – who is opposed to the true Messiah, the true Anointed One, the true King.
So, here’s the problem: Our true “Messiah/Christ” was NOT born on December 25th. So, exactly which “Christ the king” are we celebrating then on that day? The answer is simple: the ANTICHRIST!
This claim is simply preposterous. I could belabor the point of how the pagan connections lie has been debunked over and over and over and over again but for those content with parroting historically inaccurate information, these words will fall on deaf ears, and the evidence will be ignored.
As a means of punctuating the point, Dr. Heiser sums up the ridiculousness of the pagan roots lie by pointing out, “Baal was called “rider on the clouds” before Yahweh was”. So if we follow the logic train of the pagan roots proponents, the only conclusion would be that Yahweh is just a fabrication of Baal. Of course, we know this isn’t the case, but in keeping with the reasoning of Skiba et al, what other conclusion is there? Do you see how dangerous this is?
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holiday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: ~ Colossians 2:16
For those of you who choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th, do not allow yourself to be bullied by those who would tell you that you may accidentally be worshiping a false deity or the anti-christ on this day. Do not let a man judge your heart, your intent, or your faithfulness to He who IS the King of kings and Lord of lords!
Do not be misled by those who would say that it is a sin to be reverent about the miraculous birth of Jesus. For if He was not born, He could not die. And if He did not die, He could not Rise! And if He did not first come, He could not come again! All of this is part of the amazing true story of our Savior and King. Jesus is Lord. JESUS. Not Osiris, or Mithras, or Horus, or Nimrod. JESUS CHRIST IS THE KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS. If you worship Him and revere Him and fear Him and love Him who was and is and is to come, let no man tell you that you’re mistakenly worshiping someone else because of a date on a calendar. To deter any man or woman from exercising their freedom in Christ to worship Him on any day and all days IS the spirit of antichrist, and I rebuke that spirit in Jesus’ name.