From Pagan Babylon to Vatican City-- We Need to Learn from the Jews of the Old Testament
The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) did not exist during the time of Jesus Christ. According to historical texts, it officially came into being in 312 AD at the time of the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity.
Constantine never really made a full conversion himself, and until his death in 337 AD he continued to build both pagan temples and Christian churches. After all, he still had to rule over the vast geography of the Roman Empire. Imagine asking people of varying religious beliefs to immediately become Christian, or else. It wasn’t going to happen overnight, as he slowly turned-over the reigns of his pagan priesthoods to the Bishop of Rome. It was not until 381 AD that Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Until then, the emperors continued to hold the title of Pontifex Maximus—a title that the Bishop of Rome or Pope would eventually inherit.
The title Pontifex Maximus (chief high priest in the ancient Roman religion) can be traced back to the ancient Chaldean times, when they were worshipped as gods. Chaldea was the land in southern Babylon and is today modern day southern Iraq; it's frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. When the dual empire of Media and Persia conquered Babylon in 539 BC, the ancient Babylonian pagan religion was maintained. But, after a revolt of the conquering priesthood, the priests of Babylon were driven out and forced into establishing themselves at Pergamum, taking with them their titles and vestures. Pergamum was an ancient Greek city in what is modern day Turkey and it is one of the seven churches addressed in the Bible’s Book of Revelation.
The last king of Pergamum was Attalus III, who bequeathed his title of Pontifex Maximus to the Emperor of Rome in 133 BC. In the fourth century AD, Christian emperor Gratian refused the title, and in the year 431 AD the title was taken over by Damascus, bishop of Rome. The present-day college of cardinals, with the Pope at the head, is identical to the college of pontiffs with the Pontifex Maximus at the head. The keys that the Pope today wears around his neck are not the keys of Peter who is considered the first Pope. Rather, they date to Babylonian times when it was believed that the Pontifex Maximus had the power to unlock heaven or hell. The Pope also inherited Constantine's titles, as the self-appointed head of the church–Summus Pontifex--Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Bishops.
Prior to the time of Constantine's conversion in 312 AD, Christians were persecuted, not so much for their profession of faith in Christ, but because they would not include pagan deities in their faith as well. As mentioned, Constantine had to make his new-found Christianity acceptable to the pagans in his vast empire, so pagan rituals, deities, and idols gradually took on Christian meanings and names and were incorporated into Roman Catholic worship ceremonies. This is why we see so much pagan symbolism in Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals today. Saints replaced the pagan gods in both worship and as patrons of cities. Ancient pagan mother and son statues were renamed as Mary and Jesus. Pagan holidays were reclassified as Christian holy days. For example, the Roman Lupercalia and the feast of purification of Isis became the Feast of the Nativity. The Saturnalia or the Feast of Saturn was replaced by Christmas celebrations. The ancient festival of the dead was replaced by All Souls Day, which is our Halloween today.
Christians of the time understood that this transition was not what God or Jesus intended. Instead of being persecuted for failure to worship pagan deities, Christians who did not agree with the new orthodoxy backed by the Emperor were persecuted in the name of Christ. Christianity or Rome’s new religion had become the legitimate successor of Rome’s pagan religion. This is the origin of the Roman Catholic Church, as it was blended from the very beginning with paganism, and, again, we can see this clearly in the symbols and idols present in the Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals today. So, why has this persisted for the last 1700 years or so.
The reason is that when Rome started evolving from being pagan to Christian, under Constantine, the Emperor and religious leaders had to find a replacement for the “great mother of the gods” paganism. This “mother goddess” in ancient pagan religions is a goddess who represents or is a personification of naturehood, motherhood, fertility, creation, destruction, and who embodies the elements found on Earth.
It was not until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire that anyone began to look at Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a goddess. Since Mary was the mother of Jesus Christ and Jesus was the son of God, Mary was the most logical person to replace the pagan mother goddess. The pagans were happy as long as they could pray to a mother goddess-- so they would call her Mary, the mother of Jesus. The pagans have always worshipped the mother goddess as a supreme god, and this is exactly the pedestal that some Roman Catholics, knowingly or unknowingly, do with Mary today. The Bible and Jesus himself teaches that only God is to be worshipped – not Mary. Worshipping the mother goddess, in many different forms, along with her child took place centuries before Jesus Christ was ever born, so it was easy to continue by just changing the name of the figure being worshipped in the Roman Church. The pagan masses remained happy.
Quite a number of Roman Catholic beliefs do not line up with the original Jerusalem Christianity or the Bible. For example, Roman Catholics believe purgatory is a place where a person is purified of sins – even Popes supposedly go there. The Bible says, when a person dies their eternal home is sealed – heaven or hell – there is no place in between like purgatory. (Hebrews 9:27) Even the word "purgatory" and its concept is not found in the Bible.
Today, Roman Catholics believe in worshipping images of Mary, the crucifix, saints, angels, etc. The Bibles speaks out against this. (Exodus 20:4-5) They believe in repetitious prayer to Mary, saints and angels. The complete Rosary involves repeating the Hail Mary 53 times, the Lord's prayer 6 times, 5 Mysteries, 5 Meditations on the Mysteries, 5 Glory Be's, and the Apostles' Creed. The Rosary did not come into general use until after the beginning of the thirteenth century, and not officially sanctioned until after the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. The concept of praying to Mary, saints, and angels is not found in the Bible; on the contrary, we are directed to pray to our Father. (Matthew 6:9-13) In the Rosary, Mary is prayed to almost 9 times for every prayer directed to God.
If you read the Bible, you will find no scripture to support the use of symbols or images or statues. In fact, God even warned us not to use images in His law. Most all of the symbols and images used in the Roman Catholic Church come from the ancient Babylonian pagan religion—a religion worshipping a pantheon of gods. Why haven’t the remnants of the Babylonian pagan religion been purged from the Roman Catholic church, when we know that those practicing worshipped many forms of gods?
Clearly, Constantine saw value in merging together pagan and Christian rituals and beliefs into his new found conversion to Christianity. He also found value in holding the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., as the first effort to attain consensus in the Church through an assembly representing all of Christendom. A major decision reached was what holy books would make-up the Bible and which ones were to be excluded. The Roman Catholic Church saw value in establishing the role of the Pope as the Pontifex Maximus, or supreme god on earth. The business of religion also benefited in making the Church the go between normal everyday men and women and God. Walk into any Roman Catholic Church today and you can observe multiple alters, symbols, and places to light a candle and pray to a saint or other Church icon. Yet, people do not understand that this is discussed in the Bible and commanded by God as not acceptable. Again, why the holdover from the ancient Babylonian pagan religion?
Certainly, the Roman Catholic Church is not without many flaws. Pope Sergius III obtained the papal office by murder. He lived openly with a woman who bore him several illegitimate children. His reign began a period known as "the rule of the harlots". Pope John XII was an immoral man and whose palace was likened to a brothel. The bishop of Cremona, Luitprand said, "No honest lady dared to show herself in public, for Pope John had no respect either for single girls, married women, or widows – they were sure to be defiled by him, even on the tombs of the holy apostles, Peter and Paul." Pope Boniface VIII maintained his position through lavish distribution of stolen money. He was quoted saying, "to enjoy oneself and lie carnally with women or with boys is no more a sin than rubbing one's hands together." Pope John XXII was said to have seduced and violated three hundred nuns. He was called "the most depraved criminal who ever sat on the papal throne." A Vatican record says this about him, "His lordship, Pope John, committed perversity with the wife of his brother, incest with holy nuns, intercourse with virgins, adultery with the married, and all sorts of sex crimes...wholly given to sleep and other carnal desires, totally adverse to the life and teaching of Christ... he was publicly called the Devil incarnate.” Pope Pius II was said to have been the father of many illegitimate children. He spoke openly of the methods he used to seduce women and he encouraged young men to also seduce women and even offered to instruct them in methods of self-indulgence. Pope Sixtus IV financed his wars by selling church offices to the highest bidders. He used the papacy to enrich himself and his family, for no less than eight cardinals were his nephews, some being given the position of cardinal even as a boy. Pope Alexander VI won the election of the papacy by bribery. He lived with a woman with whom he had a daughter, whom afterward he committed incest with and produced five children.
So, what makes us think anything is different today, from the days of Emperor Constantine, the pagans, and these Popes. Just look at the pedophilia problem in the Roman Catholic Church, and it's probably much worse. I’m not trying to bash Roman Catholics. We need as many Roman Catholics as we can get to pray to God, and who are good moral and ethical people. What I’m saying is beware to whom you are asked to pray. The Jews of the Old Testament learned the hard way.