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Dr. King on the Influence of the Mystery Religions on Christianity!

January 18, 2016

Picture of Isis and Osiris taken from Personal Development Coaching


The following excerpt was taken from pages 106-107 of my book, An Appeal to the African (Black) Church in America, Beware of False Profit$:


The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a paper in divinity school, entitled, "The Influence of the Mystery Religions on Christianity," where he discussed the influence of what he calls "the Mystery-Religions" on the foundations and origins of Christianity.  Dr. King wrote and discussed about the Cult of Cybele and Attis, the worship of Adonis, Egyptian mysteries of Isis and Osiris, the Eleusian mystery cult and the pagan religion of Mithraism.  Based upon his study, Dr. King concluded the following:


The greatest influence of the mystery religions on Christianity lies in the different direction from that of doctrine and ritual.  It lies in the fact that the mystery religions paved the way for the presentation of Christianity to the world of that time.  They prepared the people mentally and emotionally to understand the type of religion which Christianity represented.  They were themselves, in varying degrees, imperfect examples of the Galilean cult that was to replace them.  They encourage the movements away from the state religions and the philosophical systems and toward the desire for personal salvation and promise of immortality.  Christianity was truly indebted to the mystery religions for this contribution for they had done this part of the groundwork and thus open the way for Christian missionary work.  Many views, while passing out of paganism into Christianity were given a more profound and spiritual meaning by Christians, yet we must be indebted to the source.  To discuss Christianity without mentioning other religions would be like discussing the greatness of the Atlantic Ocean without the slightest mention of the many tributaries that keep it flowing.


Christianity, however, survived because it appeared to be the result of the trend in the social order or in the historical cycle of the human race.  Forces have been known to delay trends but very few have stopped them.  The staggering question that now arises is, what will be the next stage of man's religious progress?  Is Christianity the crowning achievement in the development of religious thought or will there be another religion more advanced.(1)


Dr. King helps us to understand that history is not an event, but the process.  Likewise, Christianity is a part of the process of history that is deeply rooted in Africa.  To understand Christianity, one must understand all of the religions that preceded it, as well as the history of the struggle of mankind of that day.  Christianity found itself emerged in the battle between two opposing ideas: communalism, which simply means that the collective people will always be primary, versus feudalism which puts individual rights over the collective well-being of people.  Consequently, the need for a new religion in Christianity rose from the social and economic needs of the people in determining which path would be the most dominant form for society.




[1] The M. L. K., Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., The Papers of Martin L. King, Jr., (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1992), pp. 311-312.

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