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HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies

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Syncretism in the church of Philippi

E Verhoef

Abstract




It has been known for a long time that the history of Christianity has
seen the incorporation of syncretistic elements. This is not at all exceptional. On the contrary, in order to grow, any religion necessarily fits in with the existing frame of reference. It is hardly surprising then, that elements of Hellenistic hero worship were
adopted in the veneration of the Christian martyrs. Over a century ago, E Lucius presented several examples of such phenomena in his book, Die Anfänge des Heiligenkults in der christlichen Kirche (1904), arguing that Christian churches adopted several rituals and
ideas from older pagan cults. Indeed, excavations in Philippi have revealed a connection in the first decades of the fourth century between the Christian cult and the cult of a certain Euephenes, son of Exekestos. He was probably an initiate into the mystery cult of
the Kabeiroi. This can only mean that in Philippi as elsewhere syncretistic elements must have crept in. In the beginning of the fourth century the Basilica of Paul was added onto the Hellenistic shrine, so that the buildings shared one wall. In the first half of the
fifth century this Basilica was replaced by the bigger Octagon. A baptistery was constructed, and the Hellenistic heroon was incorporated into these buildings. Around this time the cult of the Hellenistic hero Euephenes was supplanted by the veneration of the
Christian hero par excellence, the apostle Paul.

HTS Theological Studies Vol. 64 (2) 2008: pp. 697-714



http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/hts.v64i2.54
AJOL African Journals Online