Jesus as the Sun throughout History: Father Tertullian & St. Augustine

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In her book Jesus as the Sun throughout History, D.M. Murdock / Acharya S presents evidence that many aspects of Jesus Christ, and of Christian tradition in general, represent motifs from solar mythology. In part 3 of this ebook excerpt, the case against Christian Church Father Tertullian (190 A.D.-220 A.D.) for sun worship is presented, along with the writings of St. Augustine that show evidence of early Christain sun worship.

Jesus as the Sun throughout History

by D.M. Murdock/Acharya S

Excerpted from the ebook

Church Father Tertullian (fl. 190-220)

As early as the late second century, Tertullian was forced repeatedly to address the claim that Christianity itself represented sun worship. Tertullian’s discussion of purported Christian sun worship was so clear that under its entry for “Tertullian” the Catholic Encyclopedia says:

“The ‘Ad nationes’ has for its entire object the refutation of calumnies against Christians [such as] You say we worship the sun; so do you.” (CE, XIV, 521.)

In Ad Nationes (I, XIII, 1), Tertullian writes:


“Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that 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.” (Roberts, ANCL, XI, 449-450.)

In the same book, Tertullian says to the Pagans (paraphrased by CE in the same place): “…your gods are images made on a cross framework, so you worship crosses.”

In his Apology against the Heathen (XVI), Tertullian likewise discusses the Pagan veneration of the cross, as well as the belief that Christians were sun worshippers:

“…But ye worship victories also, when, in your triumphs, crosses form the inside of the trophies. The whole religion of the camp is a worshipping of the standards above all the gods. All those rows of images on your standards are the appendages of crosses; those hangings on your standards and banners are the robes of crosses…. Others certainly, with greater semblance of nature and of truth, believe the sun to be our God. If this be so, we must be ranked with the Persians; though we worship not the sun painted on a piece of linen, because in truth we have himself in his own hemisphere. Lastly, this suspicion ariseth from hence, because it is well known that we pray towards the quarter of the east. But most of yourselves too, with an affectation of sometimes worshipping the heavenly bodies also, move your lips towards the rising of the sun…” (Dodgson, 38.)

Naturally, Tertullian wished to deny that Christians are sun worshippers, but the charge was clearly laid before him, again, as early as the end of the second century.

Concerning Tertullian, in my book Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ, I remark:

Despite his protestations, in On the Resurrection of the Flesh (XLIX), Tertullian referred to Paul’s comments at 1 Cor. 15:21 and compared the “glory of the sun” to that of Christ:

In like manner does he take examples from the heavenly bodies: “There is one glory of the sun” (that is, of Christ), “and another glory of the moon” (that is, of the Church), “and another glory of the stars” (in other words, of the seed of Abraham).

Another Christian authority who compares this “glory of the sun” to that of Christ is Church father Archelaus (c. 277), who in The Acts of the Disputation with the Heresiarch Manes refers to “the true Sun, who is our Saviour.” (Archelaus, 63)

St. Augustine (354-430)

The contention of Christian sun worshipping not only emerged early in Christian history but also lingered well into the fifth century, as St. Augustine was compelled to address it as well, in his “Tractate on the Gospel of John” (XXXIV, 2):

I think that what 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 whom 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.” (Augustine, 200. Emph. added.)

It is evident from this paragraph and Augustine’s protestations that there were many “heretics” who believed that Jesus Christ was the actual, physical sun. The group includes the heretical Christian sect of the Manicheans:

“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.”

Augustine also states that this “error” was anathematized or denounced by the Holy Church from the beginning. When exactly “the beginning” occurred depends on when we perceive the “Holy Church” to have been created – was it at the end of the second century, with the formal establishment of the Catholic Church, or was it when Jesus Christ allegedly walked the earth? In any event, the “error” of equating Jesus Christ with the material sun which “every eye will see” happened in the earliest times of Christianity, many centuries before the modern era. Augustine’s discussion confirms that the notion of Christ as the actual, physical sun was widely held, evidenced by the Church father’s need to denounce the claim in no uncertain terms.

Continue to Part 4



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