|The influence of Roman and Greek religious beliefs and language|
|Ancient Roman Sacrifice|
Religious ClimateEvidence of formally developed Hellenistic beliefs go back to Archaic Greece or about 800AD. However, originating artifacts have been trace to before 1100 BC. By the time of Christ, Rome was more than seven and a half centuries old and it own polytheistic beliefs had evolved with considerable Greek influence to be almost identical and therefore Hellenistic in nature.
Roman Government and its own own Hellenistic beliefs were intertwined to such a degree that citizens would observe and share in the sacrifices of public officials during government held events within public forums.
For gentiles then, the worship of one god would be as absurd as opening a temple to Jupiter in downtown New York today. Still, the early Christian missionaries would have to bridge this gulf. However, before attempting the gentile conversion, early missions would be confined to spread the gospel amongst the Jewish community. This restricted conversion of only Jews was upheld by Saint Peter through much of the Apostolic Age.
Fertile EnvironmentDuring Roman occupation, most in the Provence of Judea were uneasy with the very presences of the Romans and further repelled by public sacrifices made to their polytheistic gods. A messianic liberator with sword and flame was a constant prayer on the lips of those attending Temple.
With the initial prospects for conversion being confined to those of the Jewish faith, problems would begin to develop for the orating Apostles when Christ was said to be the Son of God or when the Trinity Godhead was expounded. These were considered polytheistic concepts the sacred Talmud defined as “Shituf” or outright idolatry. Still, many simple worshipers would embrace the Christian message even while Temple elders were coming to verbal blows with the Apostles, often times landing early Christian missionaries in prison.
Beyond Abrahamic Judaism
|Burning of Arian Scriptures at Nicaea|
Luckily for the early church, St. Paul made the conversion of gentiles his personal mission. It was the apostle Peter, the church's head, who would provide Paul with the most stubborn resistance. Peter would insist upon Christian recruits abiding by the Law of Moses. This would include circumcision for grown men who wished to join the new faith. Christ himself had instructed this apostles not to go "among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans" [Matthew 10:5].
|Incident at Antioch|
Subsequently, conversion rate for Gentiles would increase considerably after Antioch and distance would then begin to grow between Christians and observing Jews. Moreover, once the original Apostles had passed on, the church fathers would henceforth be non-Jewish.
Building Upon Polytheistic Tendencies
However, whether cross-comparison with pagan idols were clearly made by early Christian missionaries (i.e.: Saint Paul) or occurred subconscious on the behalf of converting polytheists, or both, will forever remain a mystery. It may not have been deliberate on behalf of the missionaries, having already had the Divine Trinity and the Son of God concepts called idolatry by the earlier Jewish Temple elders.
Imparting Polytheistic NotionsStill, the ever-energetic Saint Paul was known to bend the rules (much to the consternation of Saint Peter), if not institute dogma when he felt inspired to do so, making anything possible. His often unique espousals of faith within his epistles (though generally in line with previous works of Christ and the Apostles) would often times impart articles of faith hitherto unspoken in canonic gospel. Just one example would be the very first connection between original sin and the fall of Adam, made by St. Paul (Romans 5:12-2). Jewish law did not subscribe to Original Sin, nor had Christ or the original twelve apostles made mention of it.
Moreover, once outside of Judea, Saint Paul's missions took him far from any previous condemnation of trinitarian ideas. Paul may have even sensed enthusiasm in polythestic audiences where extensive liberties were already permitted within Hellenistic worship and heresy was a sin mostly confined to monotheistic beliefs. Drawing polytheistic comparisons may have simply been irresistible for the most enthusiastic missionary of all time.
Saintly IntercessionIn the years to follow there would be the early Christian martyrs, which would include most of the apostles. These martyrs would move from semi-deity through formal canonization where they would be raised to the level of saint. Once a saint they could be prayed to for special intercession. By comparison, prayers and sacrifices had been made to numerous lesser Hellenistic gods.
Today, the Catholic Church states “There are over 10,000 named saints and beatified people...” However, less than 3,000 have been formally identified in publications. Still, that’s a lot of saints, each one representing a different cause and/or vocation. All remain available to interced and pray for the fervent faithful who chooses to call upon them.