HTS Theological Studies
On-line version ISSN 2072-8050
Print version ISSN 0259-9422
VERHOEF, Eduard. Syncretism in the church of Philippi. Herv. teol. stud. [online]. 2008, vol.64, n.2, pp.697-714. ISSN 2072-8050.
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.