The Son of God
Ludwig Feuerbach, a 19th century philosopher, once observed that “Religion is the dream of the human mind.” If indeed it is a dream, it certainly is a persistent one with the same beliefs and concepts popping up in various religions.
Early religions all centered around the sun which, for obvious reasons, was considered the source of life and, therefore, the symbol of an unseen Creator. People rightfully thought of the sun as the savior of the world, as without the sun there would be no life. Their beliefs were based on the movement of the sun through the heavens, thus the origins of the Zodiac. They named the constellations and personified them in legends and myths. For example, the sun of God became the Son of God. The sun was truly man’s risen savior.
The god-man of various religions had similar attributes. He was typically born of a virgin mother on December 25th, was crucified and later resurrected, among other things. All of these concepts have their roots in cosmology. With respect to civilizations in the northern hemisphere, the sun reaches its lowest point above the horizon at the Winter Solstice (on December 22nd). The ancients would refer to this event as the death of the sun (son). The sun would remain at its lowest point for three days, at which time it would move north once again (on December 25th). Ancient man considered that the sun was resurrected (born again) on December 25th, which resurrection would then be celebrated at the following Spring Equinox. Therefore, spring religious festivals (like Easter) generally centered on a god whose own death and rebirth symbolized the death and rebirth of life associated with the Spring Equinox.
These pagan concepts carried forward even into biblical times. For example, sun worship is mentioned in the Bible as follows: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2) and “For the Lord God is a sun and shield” (Psalm 84:11), just to cite a couple. In early Christianity, the disciples observed the Sabbath on Saturday (the Jewish day of rest) as opposed to the pagan Day of the Lord (Sunday), with Sunday named for the day of the Sun. The birthday of Jesus was originally celebrated on January 6th. Even today, the Eastern Orthodox (Christian) Church and the Seventh Day Adventists still celebrate it on January 6th, whereas all other Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th which is the date of the pagan festival honoring the Sun god.
The human mind is a curious thing. I marvel at the intellect required to create astrotheology, but it’s a mystery as to why people deny that it is part of religion today. Ludwig Feuerbach would have been proud.
– Joseph Campbell