Many religions adopted ideas and integrate them into their own or a new religion. Greco-Roman culture has had a lot of influence on Christianity. First, we must know about Greco-Roman religion at that time, Greco-Roman Philosophy, and finally the influence this culture has had on Christianity.
Greek and Roman religion was a polytheistic, many gods, religion compared to Christianity which is a monotheistic religion. As said before they worshipped many gods as well as goddesses. These gods were believed to influence all-natural phenomena. Myths of these deities were attempts at explaining the mysteries of life, nature, the origin of the world, creation of seasons, etc. They did this by using deities along with their behaviors, strengths, weaknesses, and even their histories. The actions of the gods were also used as explanations for natural occurrences out of the hands of humans as well as complicated patterns of events of society. Before 800 B.C.E. the gods were nature gods that assisted with sustaining the fertility of Greece’s rocky soil, with sacrifices from humans as an offering for that assistance. For example, sacrifice for the blessing of the gods in agrarian culture was essential to their survival because they relied on wheat, wine, and olive oil. The influence of Homeric epics like the Iliad as well as the Odyssey the gods were anthropomorphize, when human characteristic and/or behavior are given to something or someone; personified. They created and identified a pantheon, which is a group of all gods and goddesses, of twelve major deities.
These set of gods and goddesses were called, by the Greeks, the Olympian gods. The twelve Greek deities being Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Hermes, and Dionysus. They were believed to live on Mount Olympus, which would be in northern Greece. This pantheon was led by Zeus and Hera, his wife. Zeus was considered the supreme deity and was to be the source of all reality. Zeus’s two brothers had domain that they influenced and ruled. Hades was the god of the underworld or the king of the underworld and Poseidon was the god of the sea or the master of the sea.
A History of the Christian Tradition from Its Jewish Origins to the Reformation has a few descriptions of some of the Olympians gods and goddesses. Apollo and Dionysius were two gods that were described as differing from each other. Apollo being the god of wisdom, who has the power to heal, and was the source of law and order. Dionysius was the god of revelry or partying and bringing irrational and euphoric aspects of the human life. Some of the goddesses described include Athena, who was the goddess of wisdom, and Aphrodite, who was the goddess of beauty. Zeus was the king or chief of the gods and goddesses. He is the god of weather; well known for his thunder bolt and storms. The pantheon is made of his siblings as well as his children. Hera was the queen of Olympus. Hera is the goddess of birth and marriage. Zeus tend to cheat with other women and rather than torment him, she torments the mistresses. Poseidon was the god of sea, horses, and earthquakes. He has had some strange children, one being a Pegasus as well as a cyclops. Hades was the god of the underworld. Demeter was the goddess of agriculture. She is the mother of Persephone, who was taken to the underworld by Hades as his bride.
This myth was used as an explanation for the seasons; when Persephone was in the underworld it would be fall and winter and when she is with Demeter it would be spring and summer. Athena was the goddess of wisdom, war or war tactics, and reason. She was created from Zeus’s forehead after he swallowed Metis, her mother. Apollo was the god of the sun as well as light, healing and plagues or sickness, medicine, poetry, music, knowledge and prophecy. He is also the twin of Artemis. Artemis was the goddess of the hunt, a huntress and protector of the living world. Ares was the god of war and bloodlust; Athena is seen as the more noble side of war as well as the civil conductivity in war. Spartans really liked him and worshipped him a lot. They sacrificed prisoners, prisoners of war, and dogs, dead dogs. Hephaestus, Aphrodite was the goddess of love, beauty and even sex. She is believed to have been born from foam after a testicle of Uranus, her father, was cut and thrown into the sea. Hermes is the god of travel, thieves, luck, wealth, trade, and language. He also has a responsibility of protecting livestock. Dionysus was the god of wine as well as fertility. He was created out of Zeus’s thigh where he sewed him in his thigh and Dionysus then emerged. He also has a cult of him that centered around sex, intoxication as well as ritual sacrifices that were typically ruthless.
These gods and goddesses were seen as perfect in body, they were strong, as well as ageless and immortal. They, however, also exhibit the complexity of human emotions, attitudes and behavior. Sometimes gods and goddesses were seen being petty and vengeful, but also being seen being compassionate and kind-hearted. These gods and goddesses were some of the important place in the life of the Greek religiously. They made no demand to the city-states and people. However, they were considered superior beings and could be get offended. Making it wise to acquire their favor and overall stay on their good side. Each city-state or polis had their own set of gods and goddesses they worship as well as their own way of honoring and worshipping them. They worshipped them daily, making offerings from their meals to gods as well as participating in religious holidays and festivals. As said before each city-state had gods or goddesses they would worship, making the main 12 deities a connection to politics. Citizens in these city-states were expected to participate in public worship as a duty to their city. Romans later came and they adopted things from Greek religion because they admired the Greek culture. They made their own deities with similar powers of the Greek gods. The Roman versions of the gods and goddesses were named Jupiter, Juno Mars, Mercury, Neptune, Venus, Apollo, Diana, Minerva, Ceres, Vulcan, and Vesta. Myths and stories about the Greek gods actually came about by Roman authors. They did this by adapting the work of Greek writers and making them to fit their own concept of their deities. Both Greeks and Romans lives were affected by these gods and goddesses. Their life cycle was seen as birth, marriage, and death and it was celebrated with religious rituals as well as ceremonies. The Greeks didn’t have the most positive perception of the afterlife. They believed that death just led to a dark and minimalistic way of existing in the underworld, not a place of reward or punishment. Greek and Roman religion don’t have rules on behavior of people. The citizens mostly had free will with their behavior. However, participation in worship ceremonies were expected.
Greeks and Romans had a considerable influence on Christianity. Especially Plato’s work and his thoughts of lower and higher realities. Plato’s ideal compared a great deal to the notion of heaven to Christians. He defined the role as well as the power of God in early Christianity. In early Christianity, prior to the Platonic beliefs God’s role was unclear. He, however, became all-powerful and all-knowing when Platonic beliefs were mixed into Christianity. According to LEXICO, Platonism is defined as “The theory that numbers or other abstract objects are objective, timeless entities, independent of the physical world and of the symbols used to represent them.”. Along with that the idea of geocentrism came about into Christianity. Geocentrism is a theory that believes that the Earth is the center of the solar system or universe. Saying the Sun, moon, and stars are revolving around the Earth. This theory was created by Ptolemy, who was a Greek mathematician as well as an astronomer in the second century. Paul was trained in Platonic belief as well as other types of Greek philosophy. Another strong influence was Neoplatonism, specifically because of its idea of the Trinity and Original Sin. Many early bibles appeared in Greek since at that time Greek was the most common language in the Middle East. In some of Paul’s writing he warned about the dangers of philosophy as well as free thinking. He also rejected the schools of Epicureanism and Stoicism. Epicureanism was a school of philosophy in Athens founded by Epicurus. This school rejected determinism, which is a theory that events including our actions are determined by past causes, and supported hedonism, a theory that pleasure is the aim for life and the highest good. Stoicism was a school of philosophy also in Athens founded by Zeno of Citium. In this school they taught that the highest good id derived from knowledge. Both of these schools had an emphasis on the material world. The two schools and their thought merged together later by Christian leaders. An example used in an article by encyclopedia.com is Thomas Aquinas, a Christian writer and scholar, who wrote Summa Theologica where he wrote about God being “infinite”, limitless or never-ending, which Plato and Aristotle had a similar idea in the past.