When it came to practices of worship, like all pagans and Jews, Christians, too, claimed that one could speak with God, and he would listen. However, Christianity also emphasized on ethics, on how one lives; those who did not live appropriately needed to admit their guilt and ask for forgiveness. Guilt also involved relations with other humans, ethics, and not just simply offenses toward the gods.
Christian prayer, as was the case in all the other religions, involved praising God, thanking him for what he had done and would do, asking him for help in whatever situation one was facing.
Yet, unlike pagans, one very important Christian prayer involved confessing one’s sins. God had given guidelines for how to live. When one falters, one needed to admit their guilt and ask forgiveness.
Religion and the Idea of Sacrifice
As is most popularly depicted, central to all pagan religions and the historical Judaism, was the idea of sacrifice of animals and other living things. Offerings could be made to the pagan gods of almost anything, a little wine before dinner, some grain tossed onto the fire, some flowers, etc.
Most important, though, for pagan and Jewish religions was animal sacrifice as living beings were offered to the gods.
This may seem strange, but as it turns out, Christians also had that view, a view at least that was very similar, but it was crucially different in another way.
This article comes directly from content in the video series The Triumph of Christianity. Watch it now, on Wondrium.
Christ, the Ultimate Sacrifice
The Christian God does require a sacrifice, but for Christianity it comes in two rather unusual forms: Christ himself, early on in the religion, was seen to be the ultimate sacrifice to God, a human sacrifice for the sins of others.
Prior to this, Jews had sacrificed animals in the temples. The Jews who came to believe in Jesus said that Christ as the messiah was the perfect human sacrifice and since he was a perfect sacrifice, there was no longer any need for sacrifices in the temple or anywhere else.
Being a Martyr
Additionally, people themselves could make their own sacrifices, and were required to, but when people, the followers of Christ made their sacrifices, it was not to be of foodstuffs or of living animals. Christians were to sacrifice their lives as they gave of themselves for the sake of God and others.
Sometimes that meant literally sacrificing one’s life, being a martyr. More often than that, it simply meant something like giving oneself in complete dedication to God, and serving him, and sacrificing your own will and desires.
Temples and Priests
When it comes to temples and priests, both pagan and Jewish religions had many. In fact, pagans who worshipped many gods, different gods in different places, had different temples that were everywhere. These were places where the gods were present in their sacred statues and where sacrifices could be made by specially appointed priests.
On the other hand, central to the Jewish religion was the temple in Jerusalem. It was considered to be the only place on earth where God actually dwelt and the only place where sacrifices could be made, again, by certain holy men or the priests. Thus, it was in a sense, similar to pagan religions.
Temple of God
Christians, conversely, no longer had ongoing sacrifices, and they did not believe that God dwelt in his temple in Jerusalem. By the time early Christianity really became popular, the temple had been destroyed in any event. The Christians certainly did not believe that the pagan temples were sacred spots at all. They thought that they were completely profane.
And yet, to some extent, Christians did believe in a temple and priests. God, according to their belief, dwelt in his followers’ hearts through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the entire community was the temple of God for the Christians. Moreover, each person was a priest. Initially, at least, Christians didn’t believe the need for somebody who was superior to them and who could give them access to God.
They had direct access to God through their prayers and personal sacrifices of dedication. Eventually, of course, church buildings came to be built, specially appointed leaders took over the role of sacrifice and they’re the ones who celebrated the Lord’s Supper, for example, but it was not that way at the beginning of the religion.
Christianity: A Unique Religion
Therefore, in conclusion, one can say that though Christianity did share similarities with other religions, both pagan and Jewish, it was also, at the same time, unique in the way it interpreted the same beliefs.
It is only within this broadly similar religious framework that we start finding some of the key distinctive features of Christianity that did not have significant parallels within the pagan and the Jewish traditions. In other respects, Christianity was even more unlike the other contemporaneous religions of the world.
Common Questions about Paganism, Judaism and Christianity: Practices of Worship
Unlike pagans, one very important prayer that the Christians had involved confessing one’s sins. They believed that God had given guidelines for how to live. When one falters, one needed to admit their guilt and ask forgiveness.
When the followers of Christ made their sacrifices, it was not to be of foodstuffs or of living animals. Christians were to sacrifice their lives as they gave of themselves for the sake of God and others.
Christians did believe in a temple and priests, but in a different manner. God, according to their belief, dwelt in his follower’s heart through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the entire community was the temple of God for the Christians.