11 replies

  1. This explanation seems implausible. Mystery religions, by definition, are ones in which the religion’s central beliefs and practices are revealed only to a select group of initiates (a bit like Scientology nowadays). But there is every reason to believe that Paul and the churches he founded were very open about the central beliefs and practices of the faith they preached.

    The passages that Enns quotes explicitly state that the ‘mystery’ in question is being revealed to all. Paul’s very point is that Christ is *not* a mystery anymore.

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    • But it was not revealed to ‘all’. Only to Paul. Not to jesus either it seems.

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      • Ephesians 3 (3-6):

        “In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his *holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit* (…) his grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make *everyone* see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in [or by] God who created all things”

        Romans 16 (25-27):

        “according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages *but is now disclosed*, and through the prophetic writings is made known to *all the Gentiles* ”

        According to Paul, the mystery of Christ, though previously hidden, is being revealed to *all* people.

        Christian gnosticism, whose adherents perceived themselves as possessing secret knowledge (gnosis) available to only a few, is a much more plausible example of a mystery religion.

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      • How was it “revealed” to all? For centuries, the Bible was kept in the hands of the elite, and the common man did not have access to it. Moreover, when the gospels were being written for different communities (Matthew writing for Jews, Luke writing for Gentiles), even though the authors used common source material (like Mark), they often times made “adjustments”, leaving out some parts or adding new parts. So for example, Luke’s audience would never have heard the story of the Phoenician woman. So how exactly was the “mystery” being “revealed” to “all”?

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  2. Good morning. I think you’re missing my point. I’m only claiming that it is inaccurate to call the religion of Paul and the churches he founded a ‘mystery cult’. The latter term specifically refers to particular kind of religion that flourished in the Ancient world, and whose central tenets and practices are intentionally kept secret, except to a select few. But the passages I quoted in my previous comment indicate that, to the contrary, Paul wanted *everyone* to know the tenets and practices of the religion he preached.

    The differences in the Gospels could have all manner of explanations, other than that the evangelists wished to *hide* certain truths from their respective audiences. Perhaps they thought that certain alleged events hadn’t happened, or weren’t relevant.

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    • Hello Chris.

      “and whose central tenets and practices are intentionally kept secret, except to a select few. But the passages I quoted in my previous comment indicate that, to the contrary, Paul wanted *everyone* to know the tenets and practices of the religion he preached.”

      That may be true in theory but as I explained, it was not the case in reality.

      “The differences in the Gospels could have all manner of explanations, other than that the evangelists wished to *hide* certain truths from their respective audiences. Perhaps they thought that certain alleged events hadn’t happened, or weren’t relevant.”

      That’s possible, and I applaud your willingness to accept that the authors may not have been aware of some of these events, which comes back to my main point. Even if the religion was supposed to be open to everyone, it clearly was not. I do agree that it was not like the typical “mystery” religions of the time, but for various reasons, most of its followers did not know all of the tenets and practices. So the reality was that certain tenets were only known to a select few, even if it was not deliberate.

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      • Hello, I posted an reply yesterday, but for some reason it is invisible. So here it is again:

        I don’t think you can call a religion a ‘mystery cult’ simply because, in practice, many or even most of its adherents happen to be unaware of some of its teachings. This is because if that were the case, virtually every religion in the world would be a mystery religion (!). I’m aware of no religion which doesn’t meet that criterion. To give just one example, plenty of Muslims, while learning to recite the Quran by heart, have a very superficial understanding of their religion. But it would surely be incorrect to infer from this that a Islam is a mystery cult. Likewise for New Testament Christianity (or ‘Pauline’ Christianity, if you want to call it that).

        The fact is that the term ‘mystery cult’ refers to a very specific kind of religion, whose exclusivism was deeply at odds with the universalism that Paul preached.

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      • I agree and that is why I said that it is not a typical “mystery” religion. But the fact remains that most early Christians, and even most later ones, did not have access to all “tenets” and “practices” of the religion. Do you agree?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, my only purpose in commenting on this page was to argue against the above claim that St Paul founded a mystery cult. But if you agree with me on that, then it makes sense to end the conversation here.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, it’s not a typical “mystery” religion, but again, do you agree that many of its followers did not know the whole religion? For many, the religion’s tenets were a “mystery”, correct?

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  3. (hmm, not sure what happened with my username in that last comment…my phone works in mysterious ways)

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