Christianity and Pagan Systems of Thought

In Ronald H. Nash’s book Christianity & The Hellenistic World, he has a section entitled For Further Reading which lists books that support his claims that Christianity did not borrow any of its essential beliefs from pagan systems of thought. They are shared below along with his annotations:

Armstrong, A. H. An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy. Boston: Beacon, 1963
Armstrong’s book is the clearest and best-written introduction to ancient and Hellenistic philosophy available.

Clark, Gordon H. Selections From Hellenistic Philosophy. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1940.
Clark not only supplies lengthy selections from major Hellenistic thinkers but also provides helpful introductions that often relate the subject to Christianity.

Cullmann, Oscar. The Christology of the New Testament. Rev. ed. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963.
Cullmann’s account includes important criticisms of Bousset and others who argued that early Christianity’s picture of Jesus was influenced by paganism.

Davies, W.D. and Dabue, D., eds. The Background of the New Testament and its Eschatology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956.
This collection of scholarly essays contains a number of chapters that deal with questions raised in this book [Christianity & The Hellenistic World].

Kim, Seyoon. The Origin of Paul’s Gospel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982.
A Korean scholar updates the argument of Machen’s Origin of Paul’s Religion.

Machen, J. Gresham. The Origin of Paul’s Religion. New York: Macmillan, 1925
Still a classic in spite of its age, Machen’s work is outdated for the most part only in its treatment of Gnosticism.

Marshall, I. Howard, ed. New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Principles and Methods. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977.
Another collection of essays, many of which are relevant to the concerns of this book [Christianity & The Hellenistic World].

Metzger, Bruce M. “Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity.” Chapter 1 in Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, and Christian. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968.
Required reading on the relationship between Christianity and the mystery religions.

Nock, A. D. “Early Gentile Christianity and Its Hellenistic Background.” In Essays on the Trinity and the Incarnation, edited by A. E. J. Rawlinson. London: Longmans, Green, 1928
As old as it is, Nock’s essay is still relevant to the debate.

Rahner, Hugo. “The Christian Mystery and the Pagan Mysteries.” In Pagan and Christian Mysteries, edited by Joseph Campbell. New York: Harper & Row, 1955.
Another indispensable source, this time by a Roman Catholic scholar.

Wagner, Gunter. Pauline Baptism and the Pagan Mysteries. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1967.
An extremely important book dealing with more than just baptism. It is full of much helpful material on Christianity’s alleged dependence on the mystery religions.

Wilson, Robert McL. Gnosis and the New Testament. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968.
One of many books and articles by a prominent British scholar on Christianity’s allege dependence on Gnosticism.

Yamauchi, Edwin. Pre-Christian Gnosticism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973.
This is the first book anyone should read on the subject of Christianity and Gnosticism.




Book Cover

(click on image)