Throughout Egypt, from the beginning to the end of Egyptian history (circa 3000 B.C. – 400 B.C.), the sun was worshiped as the deity Ra (or Re). Ra was symbolized by a sun disk and thought to be the creator god, sun god, and god of the underworld. He was also god of the state, for he symbolized the “energies and qualities that rule the universe and find their terrestrial incarnation in Pharaoh.”1 According to one legend, Ra created himself out of the mound that emerged from the primeval ocean and created mankind from his tears. Ra had an assortment of lesser gods performing prominent roles in other aspects of the Egyptian culture and several minor deities were also generated out of drops of blood falling from his penis.2
Being the Sun god, he gave warmth to the living body and this warmth was called the ankh3 and symbolized by a T-shaped amulet with a looped upper half. The ankh, it was believed, was surrendered with death, but could be preserved in the corpse with appropriate mummification and funeral rites. Ra was the most prominent deity during the 25th and 24th centuries B.C., when open air solar temples became common.4
Obelisks Represented the Erect Penis
“In the history of mankind no form of idolatry has been more widely practiced than that of the worship of the sun. It may well be described as universal, for there is scarcely a nation in which the worship of the sun in some form has not found a place.”5 Because of the re-creative power of the sun in the spring, the ancients adopted the image of virility, which the Greeks named the Phallus (representation of an erect penis). And “where the sun was worshiped, a female deity was connected with it. Sometimes they were worshiped in the images of the male and female human figure . . . sometimes in a simple carved disc for the male, and a piece of carved wood for the female . . . but mostly in the form of . . . obelisks which they themselves had shaped to represent the male, and of other shapes to represent the female.”6
The land of Egypt has the most monuments of this ancient cult and “Egyptian history offers us more ideas on the Phallus than that of other peoples . . . . The Phallus received divine honors; it was placed in the temples, it was taken about in procession in the country, and it figured with distinction [in a festival] celebrated in honor of the sun god.”7 It is known that “the Israelite women fabricated, doubtless after the example of some neighboring peoples, phalli of gold and silver, and misused them in a strange [self-gratification] manner. Such is what the books of the Bible and the works of their commentators furnish on the cult of the Phallus among the Hebrews. This cult, whose existence was an obvious infraction of this nation’s laws, began to manifest itself in the time of Moses and reappeared at different periods until the days of the prophet Ezekiel.”8
The obelisks are indicative of the popular seasonal fertility rites practiced by sun worshipers, as well as other regional religions. Ra was known by other names in different languages and regions, and there were similar gods in other countries. As an example, “the Canaanites worshiped Baal as the sun god . . . they also worshiped him as a fertility god who provided children. Baal worship was rooted in sensuality and involved ritualistic prostitution in the temples. At times, appeasing Baal required human sacrifice, usually the firstborn of the one making the sacrifice (see Jeremiah 19:5).”9 Always “fond of imitating the superstitious practices of their neighbors, the Hebrews had themselves initiated into the cult of Baal-Peor: they fornicated with the Moabite girls; they ate of their sacrifices; they worshiped their gods.”10
Since the sun worship and fertility communities were so wide-spread in the middle east, the Hebrew people always found themselves tempted to vacate Jehovah’s rules and regulations. They continually caved into those enticements, instead of obeying God. Reflecting upon their historic errors, the Apostle Paul wrote: “For ever since the creation of the universe his invisible qualities — both his eternal power and his divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they can be understood from what he has made. Therefore, they have no excuse; because, although they know who God is, they do not glorify him as God or thank him. On the contrary, they have become futile in their thinking; and their undiscerning hearts have become darkened.” (Romans 1:20–21, CJB)11
“Allusions to, and warnings against, sun-worship are frequent in the Old Testament, as in Leviticus 26:30; 2 Chronicles 14:5; 34:4-7; Isaiah 17:8; 27:9; Ezekiel 6:4-6; Job 31:26-27 and numerous other passages show that this form of idolatry latterly penetrated deeply into Judah – even into its temple worship” (also see: 2 Kings 23:5,11 and Ezekiel 8:16).12 Among other biblical references are 1 Kings 14:22-24, 1 Kings 15:11-14, and Judges 17:5 where the sex symbol was installed inside the sanctuary. Bible versions that mention “grove” or “poles” are referencing representation of the vagina in honor of the goddess Ashtoreth, wife of Baal. In Genesis 31:34-35, “household gods” refers to the ephod (not the breast plate used as a garment)13 and teraphim which are smaller idols representing nude fertility gods that could be easily carried as charms. They usually had emphasized sexual features (also mentioned at Judges17:5).
God’s people vacillated between Jehovah and pagan idols. “The most convincing evidence that Israel constantly alternated between devotion to Jehovah and devotion to Baal and Ashtoreth, is found in the history of Gideon’s exploits. The warrior destroyed the phallic altar of Baal together with the vagina effigy which was next to it (Judges 6:25-27) . . . . Just a little later on, when Gideon has become a ruler in Israel, he set up a gold image which caused the people to revert once again to their phallic worship (Judges 8:27) . . . . Upon Gideon’s death, there was still another campaign to supplant Jehovah worship with sex worship (Judges 8:33-35). Jezebel stands out as the most notorious practitioner of phallic worship . . . . The vicious and vindictive queen idolized both Baal and [the female deity] Asherah, in all of their fertility-rite splendor, much to the consternation of her orthodox subjects and the rest of her court.”14
It is important to note how much pagan worship influenced God’s people and we can only assume that our bible translators, “acting with the best of motives, have deliberately camouflaged much of the phallic symbolisms in the Old Testament . . . . The two usual sex emblems are often mentioned; thus the pillar which was as often set up and anointed was, of course, the phallus, or male symbol, while the Hebrew word deliberately mistranslated ‘groves’ was the ‘yoni,’ or female organ.”15
A contemporary language bible sums up his people’s sex and religion obsessions very well at Jeremiah 3:2–5. “Look around at the hills. Where have you not had sex? You’ve camped out like hunters stalking deer. You’ve solicited many lover-gods, Like a streetwalking whore chasing after other gods. And so the rain has stopped. No more rain from the skies! But it doesn’t even faze you. Brazen as whores, you carry on as if you’ve done nothing wrong. Then you have the nerve to call out, ‘My father! You took care of me when I was a child. Why not now? Are you going to keep up your anger nonstop?’ That’s your line. Meanwhile you keep sinning nonstop” (The Message).16
Early Church Pagan Problems
Even after the time of Christ, idol worship was prevalent, considering the last words in John’s first letter (probably 90 A.D.), “ Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21, NRSV) “In the Greco-Roman world of John’s day, any moral compromise with worldly perspectives was likely to lead to some involvement with idolatry, since idolatry permeated pagan life at every level.” The apostle’s warning was therefore crucial to his initial readers.17 These first Christians were mostly all Jews (Christian-Jews), but after the apostolic outreach, there was a gradual increase of pagan members (Christian-Gentiles). Still, Christianity had an up-hill battle, for the first few hundred years, before becoming a prominent Gentile religion in the Roman Empire.
There was continually turmoil from within, as well as from outside, the new Christian groups. First, there was periodic, but wide-spread, anti-Christian attacks from the local pagan populations who put pressure on the Roman authorities to take legal action against the Christians, because they were blamed as bringing misfortune upon the population by their refusal to honor their pagan gods.18 Second, because the Gospel message was, in the beginning, only spread orally, the Christian-Gentiles were supposed to have abandoned their pagan traits, but continued bringing many of the old ways into the groups with them. One reason for this, was that many Christian-Gentiles had Christian-Gentile leaders for the groups. Christian-Jews had their own leaders and they were less tolerant of incorporating pagan practices.
Although there was no solution, at the time, for the anti-Christian attacks, there was an attempt to resolve the second problem during the second-generation of Christians and that was to come up with a training program (circa 100 A.D.) for new members called the Didache (Gr: “teaching”). This training (also called The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) was neither epistle nor gospel, but a community rule, basically a manual of group discipline and order and was divided into four necessary tenets.
First, was that there were only the two ways of living, the ‘Way of Life’ and the sinful ‘Way of Death.’ Second were rituals for eating, baptizing, fasting, praying, and the Eucharist (rite of the last supper) observance. Third were regulations for testing new members, including confessions for not following the rules, as well as establishing a fundamental group hierarchy. And last was the teaching of the prophecy of the Antichrist and the Second Coming. This training program established “a common level of ethical accountability for all converts, but it was needed especially for pagan ones.” This “program, and its subsequent weekly confession of faults . . . sufficed so that Christian pagans and Christian-Jews could live together.” The Didache was basically a Christian-Jewish training program for Christian-Gentile converts.19
These new rules did not solve all problems, such as (1) the decrees were not followed consistently throughout all groups, (2) Jews believed that although Gentiles may no longer be pagan, they were still not Jews, (3) should Christian-Gentiles be allowed to teach Christian-Jews, and (4) there was always the critical quandary of circumcision.
Constantine Converts To Christianity
There was slow, but steady, growth except that never had the Church been so fatally divided. There were growing disputes, lack of proper leadership, and sects organizing Churches of their own, and these divisions testified to Christian intolerance at its worst. That is, until the appearance of Roman Emperor Constantine (272-337 A.D.) and his surprise conversion to Christianity. Ancient history lecturer, Robin Fox, wrote, “His conversion occurred at the least auspicious moment for Christian unity.”20 Constantine emerged victorious in a series of civil wars against the emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of both west and east,21 but he became known as the first Christian emperor when he saw a miraculous sign in the sky prior to a battle against Emperor Maxentius in 312 A.D., at the bridge over the Tiber, known as the Battle of Milvian Bridge.
There are a couple of versions of what happened, but the traditional description is as follows. On his way to the battle, and “about the middle of the afternoon, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of the cross figured in light standing above the sun, and with [Greek words reading: ‘with this sign, you shall win’] attached to it. He and the army, that was with him, were seized with amazement and he himself was in doubt as to the meaning of the appearance. As he was long considering it, night came on, and in sleep Christ appeared to him with the sign that appeared in heaven, and ordered him to make a standard of the same pattern.” Constantine gave directions how to prepare the Labarum,22 which consisted of a tall spear with a bar crossing it, on the highest point of which was a symbol [‘Χ’ traversed by ‘Ρ’] encircled with a crown.23
He and his soldiers won the battle and the event immediately effected the Christian conversion of Constantine, and probably many of his pagan troops. Some Christian researchers and scholars debate Constantine’s conversion as real, but most believe “that something took place during the campaign with Maxentius which fixed Constantine’s mind upon Christ as his protector and upon the cross as his standard . . . . It is equally certain that he believed he had received this intimation by divine favor and as a divine call.”24
Constantine went on to make many changes that propelled the Christian movement by leaps and bounds. The most welcome change was people became completely protected from persecution – not only Christians, but citizens of all religions – which allowed the worship of any god they chose. He then allowed privileges to clergy, and promoted Christians to high office and started massive building projects, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Old Saint Peter’s Basilica. But his most important change for the Church, was to establish standardized organization by forming an ecumenical council to attain consensus through an assembly representing all of the Christian groups. This gathering – called the First Council of Nicaea – was created along the lines of the Roman Senate and Constantine presided over it, but did not cast any official vote.25
From Obelisks to Church Steeples
Although Constantine was converted, he was previously a pagan sun worshiper and, probably, it took some time before he comfortably settled into the vastness of Christian beliefs. In order to promote stability, he did many things to unite Christians and pagans, including enticing pagans to convert without having to abandon many of their pagan comforts, and history shows that the Church of Rome did not object. His building projects included architecture similar to that of the pagan temples. Even the solar disk of early Sun worship was accepted and evidence appears in Christian art in the form of a halo over the head of religious icons, such as saints and even Jesus and his mother. Many older European churches have a disk of the sun high over the altar, and the Monstrance, a vessel used in Roman Catholic and Anglican churches for the exhibition of some object of piety, represents a sunburst, which the Roman Catholic church freely admits.
The most noticeable pagan carry-over is the obelisk. Columns on Greek buildings are symbolic of the obelisks used to represent the male sexual organ as well as are church steeples. “Our phallus-worshiping ancestors sanctified the functions of the body which gave them the most pleasure, and which reproduced their own kind . . . [and such] symbolism played a large part in phallic worship. There are still in existence today, remarkable specimens of original phallic symbols . . . steeples on the churches . . . and obelisks . . . all show the influence of our phallus-worshiping ancestors.”26 And more evidence comes from Charles Wake, a prolific 19th century essayist, who wrote, “the spires of churches are symbols retained from the old phallic worship.”27
There have been many instances of pagan ideas, concepts, rituals, and traditions creeping into the Christian Church during the last two thousand years, besides the ones mentioned in this treatise. Think about how the true Church was during the time immediately after Christ, and compare it to the worship practices of today, and you can plainly see what divergence there is, but is the current Christian Church bad because of this? Well, yes and no.
As an example, think of Christmas trees and Santa Claus and you will not find them in early Christian activities and the same goes for Easter bunnies and Easter eggs. Santa Claus and Easter bunnies redirect attention away from Christ and do no good in teaching the Gospel or glorifying God. So, yes, those are bad things. But, if you celebrate Christ’s birth on Christmas day (although it was not on Christmas day) or his resurrection on Easter Sunday (although it was not on Easter Sunday), the celebration time may be inaccurate, but, no, they are not bad things, if we focus on Christ and the reason for his birth, life, death, and resurrection.28 There are many celebrations, events, and rituals in modern Christianity and they all need extra focus to discern between proper and improper activities. Church history is very diverse and it is important to have accurate knowledge so it is always best to know the truth; just don’t let inaccurate traditions lead you astray. Truth will, at the very least, let you know where the errors lie.
Copyright © 2017, Dr. Ray Hermann
(Leave any comment at the end, after References & Notes.)
References & Notes
1. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 2nd ed., (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), p. 689.
Note — also see: “Ra,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 June 2017), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ra
2. Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1993), pp. 219-220.
3. Note 1) The ankh, also known as “crux ansata” (the Latin for “cross with a handle”) is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic ideograph with the meaning “life”. The symbol became popular in New Age mysticism in the 1960s. “Ankh,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 23 July 2017), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ankh
Note 2) It is interesting that this ancient symbol has been and is currently used by the Catholic Church. “A Catholic sign or icon, such as the Ankh, is an object, character, figure, or color used to represent abstract ideas or concepts – a picture that represents an idea. A religious icon, such as the Ankh, is an image or symbolic representation with sacred significance.” From “Ankh,” Catholic Symbols, (retrieved 15 August 2017), http://www.catholic-saints.info/catholic-symbols/ankh.htm
4. “Solar deity,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 31 July 2017), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_deity
5. Jones, Alonzo T., The Two Republics, (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Co., 1891), ch. 7, pp. 183-186.
7. Dulaur, Jacques-Antoine, The Gods of Generation: A History of Phallic Cults Among Ancients & Moderns, (New York: The Panurge Press, 1934), p. 61.
8. Ibid., p. 74.
9. “Who was Baal?” (Got Questions, retrieved 17 August 2017), https://www.gotquestions.org/who-Baal.html
10. Dulaur, Jacques-Antoine, The Gods of Generation: A History of Phallic Cults Among Ancients & Moderns, (New York: The Panurge Press, 1934), p. 71.
11. Stern, David H., Complete Jewish Bible: An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament), 1st ed., (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1998).
12. Orr, James, “Sun-Worship,” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Bible Study Tools),
retrieved 9 August 2017, https://www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbe/sun-worship.html
13. “The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia,” (StudyLight.org, retrieved 3/17/2017), https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tje/e/ephod.html
14. Akerley, Ben Edward, The X-Rated Bible: An Irreverent Survey of Sex in the Scriptures, (Venice, CA: Feral House, 1998), p. 106-107.
15. Longworth, T. Clifton, The Gods of Love: the Creative Process in Early Religion, (Westport, CT: Associated Booksellers, 1960), pp. 64-65.
16. Peterson, Eugene H., The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Jeremiah 3:2–5.
17. Walvoord, John F. and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), vol. 2, p. 904.
18. “Early Christianity,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 17 August 2017),
19. Crossan, John Dominic, The Birth of Christianity, (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998), pp. 365-367.
Note: It is interesting that, early on, leaders set-up specific rituals for conduct and also asked for confession for falling short of expectations.
20. Fox, Robin Lane, Pagans and Christians, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1989), pp. 109-110.
21. “Constantine the Great,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 22 August 2017), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_the_Great
22. labarum: 1) a symbolic banner. 2) Constantine the Great’s imperial standard, with Christian symbols added to Roman military symbols. Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed., (USA: Oxford University Press, 2008 [revised]).
Note: The Labarum displayed the “Chi-Rho” symbol, described as Chi (Χ) traversed by Rho (Ρ), a symbol representing the first two letters of the Greek spelling of the word Christos or Christ.
23. Walvoord, John F. and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), vol. 1, pp. 646-647.
25. “First Council of Nicaea,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 2 August 2017), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea
26. Eichler, Lillian, The Customs of Mankind, (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1924), pp.54-55.
27. McClintock, John, and Strong, James, Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1880), vol. VIII, p. 57.
28. “What do you mean, Christ died for our sins?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, 31 December 2017), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/what-do-you-mean-christ-died-for-our-sins/