In the words of the song “What it says in the Baable: it aint so relaable”. It is not what people say or write in a book which is “necessarily so” in telling the truth of a matter. After all it could be just wishful thinking or religious spin couldn’t it? Instead of immediately believing the truth of a text, the better question to ask is not, ”What does it mean?” but “Why was it written down?” Remember the Bible was written by men in authority for the instruction of illiterate people to support the cause of those in power.
As evidenced by Paul’s writings and those books written in his name in the early centuries of what we now call Christianity; there were many cults vying for dominance. That is why Paul gets his knickers in a twist when others came up with private doctrines at odds with his own formulas. (1Tim 6:4,5) It is significant that christ-cults were legion back then, declaring their own christs as the true one such as Attis, Dionysus, Orpheus and Mithra for example. The Jesus brand came late on the christ scene and there is not much evidence for the name of Jesus in the extant texts from before the third quarter of the second century). It is worth noting that Jesus Christianity kept evolving and insertions of key names and events were made into the standard hand-written texts over many subsequent centuries.
Christianity as a Church is essentially a fourth century phenomenon, consequently all organised Christianity today stems from what emerged out of the Roman Catholic bottleneck of belief. The idea of a divinely ordained primitive and pure Christianity existing before then is largely fiction. It was Emperor Constantine’s empowerment of his Roman Church to serve his political objectives which was the real birth.
It was by chance that Constantine had a lowly born mother the daughter of an inn-keeper who had adopted Jesus Christianity in the late third century. Constantine had no religious scruples himself (he had his son murdered and his wife thrown into boiling water) his interest was, not surprisingly, in power and the retention of power, lessons he learned from his mentor Diocletian, the systematic persecutor of Christians. Constantine’s endorsement of Christianity was purely for superstitious reasons and prompted by maternal sentiment.
A key to understanding to how Jesus Christianity trumped the other pagan cults is to be found in the politics of Rome under Constantine with its religious tolerance, at least up until the death of the Emperor. There was political capital in having Rome control all of the cults under the one state umbrella...total control is after all the most useful ploy for tyrants. Fusion of the cults, otherwise known by the process of syncretism, meant the acceptance into the fold of virtually all prevailing pagan doctrines. This has a significant precedence, it was the same method used by the Roman Empire to enlarge its sphere of influence by subduing its enemies, adopting them and assimilating them and their gods into Roman culture.
It was no mean task, but the bishops of all the pagan cults were bribed and given privileges to join the Catholic (meaning all embracing) Roman Church. In turn they contributed their dogma and personnel. In the quest for orthodoxy one of the most popular Roman cults, that of Mithra (Mithras) had to be assimilated without loss of face since it held a prominent role in the religious milieu . Bearing in mind there was no fierce partisanship among the non-Jesus cults, the Roman church needed to subdue and eliminate the ever popular Mithraism. How could it be done more diplomatically than by saying that the Jesus figure will build his Church on the ’Rock’. Easily explained away in Roman Catholicism today as an explanation of the first pope but in reality a cryptic promise to Mithraics to build the Catholic Church on their foundations. Which it did in the most literal way at the Vatican City on top of the great ‘mithraeum’ (Mithraic church) of the catacombs and metaphorically so by using their principal doctrines; notably the last supper and the eschatology (end times) as taught by Mithaism. Of course Saint Jerome would say they had different beliefs because he was right they did (he was the son of the Christian writer /forger/ biographer Eusebius by the way) but in the great syncretism all accommodation of all politically useful beliefs were eventually absorbed into the Catholic melting pot. Surprising it is that Jerome might talk about the hopes after death being different in Mithraism when yet again one of the many Catholic borrowings was from their belief in heavenly reward for the righteous and hell-fire for the damned.
Jerome lived in the post Constantine period when a state sponsored blanket condemnation of “paganism” began which deliberately set out to destroy and obscure the rustic folk origins of the Christ cults and their unholy fusion. This policy of distancing itself from its true origins is critical in understanding the authority the Catholic Church awarded itself as the all embracing holy and exclusive Church.
It would be implausible that Jesus (a literary figure) or any of the other cult figureheads could announce the establishment of their own church, being the ones who were the object of its worship! If it was written so, as it is in the case of Jesus, it exposes the mythical nature of the text which contains the information.
(sorry for the length)