The images of Jesus (Nabi ‘Eesa alayhissalaam) that Pagan Christians have in their churches, homes, Bibles, Sunday School or Sabbath School books are those which have the outward features of the chief pagan gods of the heathen world, That’s right! The “Jesus” of the Christian churches today in their depictions is not the real Jesus of the New Testament. The modern portrait (which they inherited from the Pagans/Idolaters of the last part of the fourth century) is nothing more than a characterization of the chief pagan gods, but Pagan Christians presently honor such pictures, icons or images as perfectly proper. If the apostles could come back to life and visit their churches or enter their homes, they would be aghast at seeing the chief god of the heathen world being honored or adored with esteem (and even being prayed to) by supposedly “Christian” peoples.
Prof. Everett Ferguson in his excellent work titled “Backgrounds of Early Christianity” shows an example that the statues of Asclepius (the healing god of the heathen idolators) were images “that imitated those of Zeus … and that his portraiture influenced artists in depicting both Sarapis [the Egyptian Zeus] and Christ” (page 174). Does it make little difference if Christians call such pagan deities as “Jesus”?? Or is doing so a serious infringement of the teachings of the New Testament? This research study discusses this issue.
In the fourth century A.D it become common for many Gentile peoples throughout the Roman Empire (who had long worshiped pagan gods and goddesses) to begin identifying their deities of old with the newly honored “Jesus,” “Mary,” and the “twelve apostles” (plus other saints of the Old and New Testaments). One particular deity that seemed to blend together the attributes of several gods into a unified portrayal of deity was the Egyptian god “Sarapis.” This god had been famous for 600 years in Egypt and now his worship was found all over the Roman Empire. He was equated with the Greek Zeus (the chief god over all other gods) along with Asciepius (the god of healing).
The origin of the name “Sarapis” (often spelled “Serapis”) has had several derivations according to the national feeling of the people who worshiped him. But the name really has a Semitic origin. If one removes the final two letters (the “i” and the “s” which together represent a simple Greek terminal attached for euphonic reasons) we are left with “Serap” (or the Semitic “Seraph”). This name is found in the Bible. It identifies evil Jinns (Isaiah 6:17) whose name means “dazzling” or ‘brilliance” (M’Clintock & Strong, Cyclohpaedia, vol.IX p.568). The biblical word “Seraph’ also refers to a serpent (vol.IX, p. ~75), and it was commonly believed in the ancient world that some of the greatest deities of the pagans had various attributes that classified them symbolically as being like serpents. Eusebius (The first Christian historian said that the early writer Tauthus revealed that many pagan temples were consecrated to serpents and the people “in their honor celebrated festivals, and sacrifices, and mystic rites, regarding them [the serpents] as the greatest gods and rulers of the universe” (Preparation for the Gospel, I.X. sect.42b). The apostle John, taking up the “snake” theme, mentioned that Satan had his evil ones and that he was “that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Satan, however, does not look like a snake. Paul added that Satan actually appears to mankind in the form of an “angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14).
If Satan the Devil reveals himself to man, it is in human form like an angel–like an angelic creature called a “Seraph” (or, in the Egyptian theophany, “Serapis”). . Remarkably, the pagan god “Serapis” of the fourth century appeared very much like what Christians (from the time of Constantine onwards) began to depict their “Jesus.”
Now look at this for a moment. It is more than coincidence that the portrait of “Jesus” that was adopted by Christians in the fourth century also shows a male person having long feminine hair. It was then a common thing to represent the pagan gods as having long hair. This was certainly the case with Zeus, Asclepius Hercules and the combination of pagan deities that gave Serapis his characteristics.
Serapis is always portrayed as Jesus in Pagan Churches. It is astonishing that since the time of Constantine in the fourth century, almost all the visionary experiences of people who believed they saw a personage they thought to be “Jesus,” have seen Serapis!. sometimes with a dazzling appearance (remember Paul describing Devil of Light as Lord!??). This is not the Jesus of Nazareth (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) whatsoever!
But by the fourth century, a great change of attitude began to take place among certain members of the Christian community. Even many orthodox Christians began to desire that Jesus be portrayed as the great philosophers of the world and with the Gentile depiction of divine greatness that they gave their Pagan gods. So Christians began to adopt a White-Skinned roman pagan idol Serapis as “Jesus.”
The Change in Attitude to Portraitures of “Jesus”.
The middle and late parts of the fourth century brought on an entirely different belief-system in many Christian circles regarding the portrayal of Jesus and the apostles. It was a gigantic step into paganism. We have eyewitness accounts by some of the top Christian theologians of the time concerning the folly then being shown by certain artists and official rulers of wanting to depict Jesus like the world’s philosophers and in the way the pagan gods were portrayed.
These early theologians saw the error that the Christian world was being led into by misdirected people, but their appeal for sanity and common sense (as well as showing the biblical commands against such things) fell for the most part on deaf ears. The majority of the people then being converted to Christianity in the fourth century wanted Jesus to be shown in paintings and pictures (even as icons) and they erroneously selected the portrayals of the pagan philosophers and gods as their examples.
The following excerpts from early historical documents can show the opposition by several Christian theologians during and soon after the time of Constantine to the pagan portrayals of Jesus that were then beginning to be distributed amongst orthodox Christians. Though such resistance to the pagan trend was expressed by some influential theologians, the approval by the imperial authorities along with the desire of the general populace caused their warnings to be disregarded. Thus, a new type of “Jesus” began to be displayed that has dominated Christian art forms until modern times.
The following quote (abridged) is from Eusebius’ “Letter to Constantia” (the sister of Constantine the Great). It shows the utter disdain of Eusebius for what was then happening. All words in brackets are my explanations: ‘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 and wonderful a form…unless, as so 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 will agree with me that such practices are illegal for us. [Eusebius believed, accurately so, that even a true likeness of Jesus -if one were available -was still not allowed to be displayed by biblical teaching.]
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?
“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” [Dio Chrostom, “Oration Thirty-Five,” vol.III,pp.391,401, Loeb ed., stated that Gentile philosophers generally wore long hair] 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.
Eusebius (who has been reckoned the most educated Christian at the time and he was certainly the first historian of the Christian faith) was not the only one who was indignant at the trend that was then in vogue to portray Jesus, the apostles and other saints of the Bible. Others also show how erroneous the artists were in their depictions and how wrong their pictures were from the biblical point of view.
The following quote is from Epiphanius of Salamis in his “Letter to the Emperor Theodosius” (written somewhere between A.D.379-395). The chief role of Epiphanius was his stern opposition to, and his battles against, the heresies then afflicting the Christian world. Note what he said: “Which of the ancient 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 ancient bishop ever dishonored Christ by portraying Him on door curtains?…
“Moreover, they are deceiving who represent the likeness of [biblical] saints in different forms according to their whim, 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 Nazarenes wear long hair. They are in error if they try to attach stereotypes to Him.
Not only did the early Christian authorities believe it was wrong to display the image of Jesus or the apostles (even if true ones had been available), but they complained that the artists at their time were now giving Jesus long hair.
The following quote is from Theodorus Lector of the early 500’s A.D. as excerpted from Nicephoras Callistus Xanthopoulos’ “Church History, 1,15”: “At the time of Gennadius [Patriarch of Constantinople from 458 to 471] the hand of a painter was withered who dared to paint the Savior in the likeness of Zeus (yet another Pagan deity).
But by the fourth century, They began to show him like the Roman-pagan gods and in the exact manner in which the heathen honored and adored their great men.
Theodorus Lector (as quoted by John Damascene):
“A certain painter had his two hands withered while he was painting an image of Our Lord Christ. It was said that the commission of [creating] the image was given to him by a pagan and that under the deception of the Jesus’ name, he painted the hair of the head parted in such a manner so as to leave the whole of the face uncovered [the hair flowing down each side of the face]. It is in this form that the pagans designate Zeus. So that those who saw it would think that the veneration was directed to the Savior [but Theodorus was showing it was deceptively directed to Zeus].”
Theodorus Lector (in the above quote) shows where the real problem lay with the practice of portraying Jesus with like the pagans imagined Zeus to look. It meant that the mindset of the people at the time continued with the same outward form of worshiping Zeus even though they had changed his name to “Jesus.” They began to think (in spite of what the early theological authorities taught) that God really did not mind Jesus being portrayed like a pagan god was painted or depicted. They failed to read the commands of God to the early Israelites that not only were pagan idols and images to be destroyed, but even PICTURES were also to be singled out for destruction. ‘You shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their PICTURES, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places” (Numbers 33:52). Even Paul warned Christians to “flee idolatry” (I Corinthians 10:14) and the apostle John commanded Christians to “keep yourselves from idols” (I John 5:21). But people of the fourth and fifth centuries were not only bringing PICTURES of Zeus right into their churches and homes, but they were beginning to call Zeus “Jesus.” This alarmed some of the Christian authorities.
Augustine, of the early fifth century (who has been considered the most influential theologian by both Catholics and many Protestants for the next thousand years), also had a warning about depicting God in human form.
“It is not to be thought that God the Father is circumscribed by human form It is unlawful to set up such an image to God in a Christian temple. Much more is it wicked to set it up in the heart where the temple of God truly is.”
see Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, vol.I p.875
But even this warning had little effect on Pagan-Christian people went right on with their image making (and even making false pictures and paintings of “Jesus” by portraying him to be like the pagan philosophers and Zeus).
What these later Christians failed to realize is that the calling of Zeus by the name “Jesus,” made it easier for the pagan doctrines and festivals of the heathen world to slip into the early Christian church. And the pagan teachings came in with a flood and Christianity got its present-day pagan elements from those corruption. Sadly, most Christians today seem to accept the same general philosophy of those who introduced Zeus as being the new “Jesus” of the fourth and fifth centuries. Christians today are prone to say: “There is no harm whatever in showing Jesus with long hair like the pagan gods.” They often say: “Why pay attention to the Paul, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Theodorus Lector and the rest of those in late antiquity who condemned such pagan depictions of Jesus? Let us go right on and continue to display them in our churches because we feel there is nothing wrong in it.” That is the attitude of most theologians, preachers, priests, evangelists and even the majority of the Idolator church laity today! They want to retain this false image.
This attitude is the normal approach being expressed by Christians today whether in an active sense or remaining quiet in a passive way (not wanting to rock-the-boat over the many false evil doctrines in the church). Indeed, this was the exact attitude which was shown by many Christians in the fourth and fifth centuries when the pagan depictions of Jesus (and pagan doctrines and ideas) began to sweep into the Christian community.
The outcome of such a procedure in the fourth and fifth centuries resulted NOT in the overthrow of paganism, but in its retention as the religion of the Christian church. Though the pagan belief system came to be graced with Christian names rather than by the old heathen titles, it was paganism that continued to flourish, not the real Christianity as practiced by Nazarenes, Ebionites and followers of Arius. The same old Roman-Greeco paganism was revitalized into full bloom, but this time it was now dressed in Christian clothes. Cardinal to the issue was the transformation of Zeus (or Serapis) and the outward appearance of the pagan gods into a new portrayal of so-called “Jesus.”
And it is this “Jesus” (i.e. Zeus or Serapis) whom people now display in their churches, homes, in their Sunday and Sabbath School books, and even in their Bibles. They grace him with the name “Jesus,” but he is actually Zeus in human form -the chief of the pagan gods.
The First Heretics in the New Testament Used Such False Images
There was one central figure and his teachings that is singled out by Luke when he wrote the Book of Acts (under the direction of the apostle Paul) as one heretic that the Christian community in the future should pay close attention to. That man was Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-25). He was a Samaritan who was (on the surface) converted to Christ. By the time Luke finally wrote the Book of Acts, this man and his followers (though claiming to be Christians) had begun to teach doctrines that were utterly contrary to the teachings of the True followers of Hadhrat ‘Eesa alayhissalaam. The Christian fathers of the second, third and fourth centuries were almost totally united in calling him (and the philosophy that he established) as one of the heresy that was to deceive (and continued to deceive) the real Christians of the first few decades of the faith. The second century Christian scholar, Irenaeus, said that the Samaritan Simon was the very person “from whom all the heresies took their origin” (Contra Heresies, 1.23.2). The main point of Simon’s philosophy was to pretend to be a Christian, when he was not Just like Paul and Constantine who introduced Pagan doctrines of Salvation and so on (for details read this: How Paul Inducted Pagan Doctrines Into Christianity and Corrupted the True Teachings of Jesus [‘Eesa alayhissalaam])
There can hardly be a doubt that Irenaeus’ appraisal was correct. From then on to the time of Eusebius (and including the testimony of Eusebius himself), Simon is singled out as the originator of all the principal heresies that afflicted the Christian community in its first four centuries of existence. That is why he is given a prominent position in the Book of Acts (8:14-25). He was the one who originated what came to be called “Gnosticism,” and even scholars are now beginning to realize he was its author (this is shown in the historical study first published in French but now translated into English by Simone Petrement titled “A Separate God,” or “The Christian Origins of Gnosticism,” Harper/Collins, San Francisco, 1990).
What did Simon Magus introduce into the later teachings of Christianity?? Here is what the Gnostics (who had their origin with Simon Magus) began to do. Irenaeus said:
“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 have also other modes of honoring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles”
(Contra Heresies, I.25.6).
But who was this “Christ” that these followers of Simon Magus were depicting with their images while they were still claiming to be Christians??
“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 in the rest of the world he came as the Holy Spirit [this is the first mention of the doctrine of a Trinity in Christian theology -Simon Magus originated the Trinity doctrine]. 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.”
Contra Heresies, 1.23.1
Simon Magus claimed to be the real Jesus Christ who was supposed to have been crucified in Judaea under Pontius Pilate. And masses of people began to believe his story. To the Gentiles he claimed to be none other than their chief of the gods, Zeus, and his followers made images of him looking like Zeus. He even commanded that statues be made of himself and a woman he found in ‘lyre by the name of Helen. They were claimed by Simon to be the male and female principles of divine power that the pagan nations then worshiped. Remarkably, Simon claimed these things (and got away with it in many circles) while advocating that he was a Christian. The ones that arose after him and Helen in the second century (and beyond) continued to make statues to Simon and Helen and used them in their worship to God.
“They [the Gnostics] also have an image of Simon made in the likeness of Jupiter[Greek: Zeus], and of Helen in that of Minerva [Greek: Athena]; and they worship the statues; and they have a designation from their most impiously minded founder, being called Simonians, from whom the Gnosis [knowledge], falsely so-called, derives its origins, as one can learn from their own assertions.”
Contra Heresies, 1.23.4
The early third century Christian scholar, Hippolytus, also referred to these heretics that were now calling themselves Christians.
“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 latter Lady. And if any among them on seeing the images, calls them by the name of Simon or Helen, he is cast out as one ignorant of the mysteries.”
Philosophumena, VI. 20
The simple truth is, the Simonians did not want Zeus and Athena to be called by their real names of Simon and Helen (the actual human beings who once lived on earth). They wanted those in their circle to give them high sounding theological and philosophical names. Simon claimed he was another appearance of Christ Jesus and that Helen was the “lost sheep” that Jesus spoke about in the Gospels. She was reckoned by Simon the Virgin Lady Athena, while Simon was the real Zeus (Latin: Jupiter) who displayed various outward ornaments of power with his long hair. This is one reason why Paul told the Corinthian Gentile men NOT to let their hair grow long!
These Gnostics who followed Simon Magus, Paul and Constantine though in the first three centuries they were outside the mainstream of what we call True Christianity of Nazarenes,Ebionites and Arius still referred to themselves as the real Christians who had the Knowledge of what True teachings of Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam) was all about unlike the pagan-christians of present-day.
The Gnostics produced in the first three hundred years of Christian history many voluminous works, many of which have not come down to us today, although quite a great deal has been discovered and translated in the past forty years. They were the first ones to advocate that Jesus actually looked like Zeus in appearance and they made statues of him (and of Simon who claimed to be Christ, and Helen who was thought to be the Virgin Athena).
And what happened in the fourth century when Constantine came to power and the Christian community became part and parcel of the Roman Empire?? It was then that the orthodox section of Christianity also began to take up with the same type of general philosophy of Simon Magus — especially in his teaching of the Trinity, the Immortality of the Soul, and depicting Jesus in the likeness of Zeus (or Serapis who was the Egyptian version of Zeus) and showing Simon’s Helen as the Virgin.
This is one of the main reasons why Luke felt compelled to mention by name, the Idol-maker heretic Simon Magus. By the time Luke wrote the Book of Acts (somewhere near A.D. 66), the teachings about Simon and the “Virgin Lady” had already began to filter through many Christian circles and Luke (along with the apostle Paul who directed Luke in his writing of Acts) felt it was essential to identify the origin of the heretical nonsense that was developing within the Christian community (and what was to prevail) in the next four centuries.
And true to form, the teachings and philosophies of Simon Magus were those that finally conquered the Christian community from the time of Constantine onward. Because of this, the Christian world has been saddled with the images of Zeus (or his Egyptian counterpart, Serapis) as “Jesus” ever since. They were also introduced to Helen, who was the “Virgin Lady” (who finally developed into the statues of “Mary”). But the principal deity that was preferred the most was Serapis in his human form with long hair.
With the time of Constantine new type of JESUS began to he portrayed among the Christian population of the Roman Empire they took the style of grooming which was typical of the pagan gods and adopted it as their “JESUS he above drawing is from a bust in the British Museum of Sarapis. The Egyptian version of Zeus (the chief of the Gentile gods) See refrence Harper’s “Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities,” article “Coma.”
Let us now get down to the nitty-gritty of the whole issue. By substituting the image of Zeus for Jesus the people at the time continued to think of Zeus as their God (not the real Jesus of Bible). The Presbyterian minister from Wales, Peter Barnes, in his excellent booklet titled “Seeing Jesus — The Case Against Pictures of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Banner of Truth publications, 1990) has the following illustration to show the nonsense of making another person to represent Jesus.
“Many Christians argue that it does not matter [if we show a wrong picture of Jesus]; we can picture Christ irrespective of whether the result is accurate or not. But it would be strange if a wife, when her husband was away, were to look continually at the photograph of another man, and then contend that it did not matter because she was thinking of her husband.”
Christian morons today substitute their “husband” for the picture of a false pagan god. What Constantine and his successors did was to introduce Zeus as their god, but calling him “Jesus.” As for Constantine, himself, what he first thought he saw in his visions was the Sun God named Helios inspired by Shaitaan mardud. That is, he at first believed the person of his visions was “Helios” until he was told by certain Pagan- Christian theologians that his “Helios” was actually ” Jesus” of the New Testament and that the cross he saw in the sky before the Battle of Milvian Bridge (c. A.D.312) was “Christ’s cross” and not the sign of “Helios.” (Sol Invictus–the Invincible Sun).
It is because at this time in history there had been so much religious syncretism going on in identifying the various pagan deities [the phrase “religious syncretism” means the blending together of the various features of the multitude of gods that the gods themselves are molded into one, unified being]. Note the quote below given by Prof. Herrin.
“The cults of the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, those of Persia and lands further east, as well as those of Greece, made familiar in their Latin guise, engendered shrines, statues, and temples dedicated to Mithras and Serapis, Diana, Jupiter, Hecate, Isis, and the Phoenician Baal in different parts of the West. Under a powerful tendency to syncretism, many of these were worshipped together, as joint dedications to Zeus, Helios, Serapis, and Mithras record.”
The Formation of Christendom, Princeton University, 1989, p.21
Prof. Ferguson also informs us that the blending of the various heathen gods was widespread during the time of Constantine and Constantine himself was a Pagan sun-worshipper.
“The idea that all peoples worshiped the same gods under different names had long been held by the Greeks; syncretism in religion made it common in Roman times. Various deities were given the attributes of others, and this process was extended to merge the deities into one. The old polytheism was kept by regarding the deities as subordinate powers under the supreme god. Astral theologians contributed a new concept of the universe which identified this supreme god with the sun.”
Backgrounds of Early Christianity, Eerdmans, 1987, p.252
For a decade of years and more after claiming to be a Christian, Constantine was still minting coins showing “Helios” as the Invincible Sun and protector of his Empire (see Frend, “The Early Church,” Fortress, 1982, p. 137). He also ordered his army to devote their piety to God on Sunday, the day which was the pagan day in honor of the Sun (Also read: The Christian/Gregorian Calendar and its Pagan roots) . This was a reason why most Christians went over to keeping Sunday as their day of worship. Earlier Christians kept Saturday (the Sabbath of the Bible). Christians even commenced their observance of Christmas for the same reason (also read:December 25: The Pagan-Occult Origins of Christmas. Prof. Ferguson continues:
“The solar calendar introduced by Caesar and Augustus encouraged sun festivals, especially the birthday of the invincible sun — December 25. The popularity of this festival, the Saturnalia, in late pagan times appears to have been the decisive factor in the church’s choice of December 25 as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus.”
Since Macrobius, at the end of the fourth century, in his Saturnalia (I. 17.2ff), stated that all the various gods of the nations were simply powers or activities of the Sun, it was determined by most pagan theologians that all the pagan deities (along with the God of the Jews) were manifestations of the Sun and it would have been no surprise to Constantine that “Christ Jesus” was also such a manifestation at his vision before the Battle of Milvian Bridge.
This new type of “Jesus” originated within the fourth century when paganism adopted Christian names to describe their deities and this is the same Idols depicted in Pagan-Churches till the present-day.