“Christ, Constantine, Sol Invictus: the Unconquerable Sun” by Ralph Monday:
Ironically, Constantine being a pragmatic Roman, interpreted Christ as a war god, not the “prince of peace,” and he apparently never truly understood the mysteries of Christianity, retaining his right to worship the pagan gods, especially the sun. He never took baptism until shortly before his death.
Charles Freeman questions whether or not Constantine’s famous adoption of Christianity was a spiritual conversion or simply a matter of political expediency, because the suggesting evidence is that Constantine viewed the God of Christianity as being very similar to the old pagan gods, like Apollo, and this latter god was one that Constantine paid particular homage to. Indeed, the triumphal arch of Constantine, built in 315 by the senate of Rome after his “conversion,” contains reliefs of Jupiter, Mars and Hercules, and Constantine apparently associated his victory at the Milvian Bridge with the power of the sun, but no Christian symbol can be found on the structure and there is no reference to Christ; however, there are images and homage paid to Mithras, another sun god whose birthday is December 25th (Emperor’s State of Grace).
Another example of the influence of this official sun worship on Christianity is:
Constantine’s law of…321 [C.E] uniting Christians and pagans in the observance of the “venerable day of the sun” It is to be noted that this official solar worship, the final form of paganism in the empire…, was not the traditional Roman-Greek religion of Jupiter, Apollo, Venus, and the other Olympian deities. It was a product of the mingling Hellenistic-Oriental elements, exemplified in Aurelian’sestablishment of Eastern Sun worship at Rome as the official religion of the empire, and in his new temple enshrining Syrian statutes statues of Bel and the sun…. Thus at last Bel, the god of Babylon, came into the official imperial temple of Rome, the center of the imperial religion. It was this late Roman-Oriental worship of one supreme god, symbolized by the sun and absorbing lesser divinities as subordinates or manifestations of the universal deity, that competed with young Christianity. This was the Roman religion that went down in defeat but infiltrated and colored the victorious church with its own elements, some of which can be seen to this day. (Cramer 4)
All the evidence suggests that Constantine viewed Christ as one of many gods in a crowded pantheon, a war god at that, who had provided him with his victory over Maxentius, and that this new Christian god could be used as a political tool to solidify his power and prestige in the empire, as well as bringing about a total homogeneity of culture to ancient Rome as witnessed by his calling of the council of Nicea in 325 C.E. to settle the Arian controversy, and also by the later solidification of the dates of Easter and Christmas, for he well knew that power and control in a complex organization depended upon common agreement in regard to the symbols that held it together. For example, in May 330 at the dedication of the new Roman capital Constantinople Constantine was “[d]ressedin magnificent robes and wearing a diadem encrusted with jewels (another spiritual allegiance of Constantine’s, to the sun, a symbol of Apollo, first known from 310 was expressed through rays coming from the diadem”) (Freeman). The ancient connection to the sun as a god clearly exemplifies Constantine’s adoration and admiration for such a “heavenly” deity.
The Pagan Christ, by Tom Harpur, p 83:
Few Christians today realize that in the fifth century, Pope Leo the Great had to tell Church members to stop worshipping the sun. The first ostensibly Christian emperor, Constantine, who converted to the new faith at the beginning of the fourth century, was still worshipping the sun god Helios many years later, as coins and other evidence reveal.
Christ in Egypt, D.M. Murdock, pp 112-113:
Concerning this solar celebration and the obvious correlation to Jesus Christ, Kellner states:
…The comparison of Christ with the sun, and His work with the victory of light over darkness, frequently appears in the writings of the Fathres. St. Cyprian spoke of Christ as the true sun(sol verus). St. Ambrose says precisely, ” He is our new sun (Hic sol novus noster).” Similar figures are employed by Gregory of Nazianzus, Zeon of Verona, Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, etc.1
As we have seen from Luke 1:24-27 and John 3:30, it would appear that the “holy Scriptures” in fact may have suggested this idea!
In reality, so common was the contention of Christians worshipping the sun that Church fathers such as Tertullian (c. 155-230 AD/CE) and Augustine (354-430 AD/CE) were compelled to compose refutations of the claim. In Ad Nationes(1.13), Tertullian writes:
The Charge of Worshipping the Sun Met by a Retort.
…Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, supposethat the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray towards the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity. What then? Do you do less than this? Do not many among you with an affectation of sometimes worshipping the heavenly bodies likewise, move your lips in the direction of the sunrise?
Once more, in his Apology(6), Tertullian addresses what appears to be a widespread insight that he surprisingly asserts comes from those with”more information” and “greater verisimilitude,” or truth:
…Others, again, certainly with more information and greater verisimilitude, believe that the sun is our god. We shall be counted Persians perhaps, though we do not worship the orb of day painted on a piece of linen cloth, having himself everywhere in his own disk. The idea no doubt has originated from our being known to turn to the east in prayer. But you, many of you, also under pretence sometimes of worshipping the heavenly bodies, move our lips in the direction of the sunrise.
In addition to turning to the east for prayer, early Christians oriented their churches to the sun, a practice tht continued into more modern times in some places…
Who Was Jesus?, D.M. Murdock, pp 244-45:
Hence, an early Christian apologist not only felt compelled to address what appears to be a frequent contention that the Christians were sun-worshippers and that Christ was the sun, but he also seems to be asserting that such a contention is more accurate than other observations about his religion!
These contentions of sun worship persisted for centuries and remained prevalent enough by the time of St. Augustine (354- 430 AD/CE) that he too was forced to protest then min his Tractates on the Gospel of John (XXXIV):
I Think that the Lord says, “I am the light of the world,” is clear to those that have eyes, by which they are made partakers of this light: but they who have not eyes except in the flesh alone wonder at what is said by the Lord Jesus Christ, “I am the light of the world.” And perhaps there may not be wanting some one too who says with himself: Whether perhaps the Lord Christ is that sun which by its rising and setting causes the day? For there have not been wanting heretics who thought this. The manichaeans have supposed that the Lord Christ is that sun which is visible to carnal eyes, exposed and public to be seen, not only by men, but by the beasts. But the right faith of the Catholic Church rejects such a fiction, and perceives it to be a devilish doctrine; not only by believing acknowledges it to be such, but in the case of who it can, proves it even by reasoning. Let us therefore reject this kind of error, which the Holy Church has anathematized from the beginning. Let us not suppose that the Lord Jesus Christ is this sun which we see rising from the east, setting in the west, to whose course succeeds night, whose rays are obscured by a cloud, which removes from place to place by a set motion: the Lord Christ is not such a thing as this. The Lord Christ is not the sun that was made, but He by whom the sun was made. For all things were made by Him, and without him was nothing made.
Thus, we have clear evidence that for centuries Christianity was perceived as sun worship and Christ as sun. This fact represents a major clue as to who Jesus was, demonstrating the environment into which the gospel tale was introduced and the prevailing religious concepts against which his priesthood was competing.
Christ in Egypt, D.M. Murdock, p 115:
Although Augustine doth evidently protest too much in attempting to delineate Christ from the physical sun, the fact remains that this distinction is precisely the same as was said of Amen, Re, Osiris and other sun gods or epithets of the sun and/or creators of the solar disc, which was distinguished by the epithet “Aten.”
Interestingly, in the Coffin Texts (CT Sp. 196, 207) appear references to the “festival of the seventhday,”3 instantly reminding one of the Jewish sabbath and the Christian Sunday. Not only is the Sun’s day also the Lord’s day, but from early times Christ himself was depicted with his face “shining as the sun” (Mt 17:2), as “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12) and “a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26:13). Lord Jesus was also called by a number of solar epithets, such as “Sun of Righteousness” (Mal 4:2), “the true sun,” “our sun” and the “sun of Resurrection.”4 This latter epithet, which sounds very Egyptian, especially as concerns Osiris, was given to Christ by Clement of Alexandria, for one. 5 Furthermore, in the late second century Theophilus of Antioch (“Autolychus,” 2.15) specifically stated that the sun is a “type of God,” thereby imbuing it withdivine qualities and essentially identifying it with Christ, who is likewise a “type of God.”