Sunday, November 05, 2006

Egyptian and Pagan Themes in Christian Tradition

Egyptian Religious Concepts

Both Islam and Christianity "were in agreement with the basic outlook of the ancient Egyptians in that they also promised eternal life; they could therefore appear to a very ancient attitude of mind. We can say whether Egyptian mummies may not have had something to do with the Christian concept of 'resurrection of the flesh', which belongs neither to the Old Testament religion nor to that of the earliest Christians, let alone to that of the Greeks? To the Christian it may seen natural that man's everlasting life should be based on God. But other religions, such as those of the Israelites and of the ancient Greeks, teach that God's power does not extend beyond the limits of this earthly existence; it cannot penetrate the dark realms of Sheol or the gates of Hades."
- Seigfreid Morenz, Egyptian Religion

(a)

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
- Isaiah 9:6

There is "the influence of the Egyptian court chronicle upon the literary form of the Israelites' chronicle account of David and Solomon. Here we may mention the traces left by the Egyptian royal ritual upon the courts of Israelite rulers, which affected even Isaiah's famous list of appellations for the Prince of Peace. For this, although mutilated, is probably derived from the fivefold titulary of the Egyptian king. The similarity of genres in this case extends even to Mesopotamia."
- Siegfried Morenz, Egyptian Religion

(b)

"In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through Him."
- John 1: 1-3

"The world itself came into existence through the utterance of a word by Thoth."
- Quoted by E. A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic

"Whereas the Ennead of Atum came into being by his semen and his fingers, the Ennead [came into being according to Memphite theology by] the teeth and lips in this mouth, which pronounced the name of everything, from which Shu and Tefnut came forth, and which was the fashioner of the Ennead."
- Shabaka inscription, 1.55

"With this sentence we have arrived at the quintessence of the doctrine of creation through the word.
"It is 'the mouth which pronounced the name of everything from which Shu and Tefnut came forth, followed by the world of nature and ordered human history, embodied in the Ennead."
"The theology of Memphis also tells us how the creative words came about: they are 'what the heart thought and the tongue commanded', i.e., they are produced by the deity in that part of his body which is the seat of life and thought, and are then made known as an utterance."
- Siegfried Morenz, Egyptian Religion

(c)

"'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'"
- Book of Revelation 1:8

"I am the Universe, Past, Present and Future; no mortal made the acquitance of me."
- Sanctuary of Neith in Sais (Plutarch and Proclos)

Neith/Neit/Nath was the (early) Egyptian goddess of war whose worship was centered in Sais, in Western Delta of Nile River. Her site was in a sycamore tree.

(d)

"I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O Lord, lord, king of the gods, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance...
- Deuteronomy 9:25
(Septuagint)

"Septuagint, the oldest Greek translation of the Bible...the legend contained in the apocryphal letter of Aristeas, according to which 72 elders of Israel, six from each tribe, translated the LAW [Torah] into Greek in Alexandria, during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-244 B.C.E.)...The designation Septuagent was EXTENDED to the rest of the Bible and non-canonical books that were translated to Greek during the following two centuries."
- Encylopaedia Judaica, Volume 14

"...The Greek translation of the Old Testament made at Alexandria and known as the Septuagint (3rd to 2nd century B.C.E.) on account of the seventy translators employed on it. This eventually became almost a kind of holy writ for Christians. It can be demonstrated that the place of translation left its mark on many passages. Certainly these were not of crucial importance; nevertheless it is in Septuagint that we find an invocation unknown to Israelite or Judaic theology: 'Lord, lord, king of the gods'...This may be explained without difficulty if one assumes that the translators had in mind a designation of God which combined two proper names with the title 'king of the gods'.(kudios [Gk.] also renders the proper nameof Yahveh) This is precisely the case with Amon-Rasonther, i.e. 'Amon-Re, king of the gods', who at that time was still important."
- Seigfreid Morenz, Egyptian Religion

The version of the Septuagint that has survived to the present time was prepared by Origen around 200 CE from available manuscripts. Origen took an editorial hand to the transcriptions and it is not know to what extent they differ from the originals.

(e)

"Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?
- Romans 9:21

"For a man is clay and straw, and the god is his builder. He is tearing down and building up every day. He makes a thousand poor men as he wishes, he makes a thousand men as overseers."
- Amenemope XXIV, 13-17

"How complex the process may be within the Egyptian tradition itself, and how large a part was played by Greek elements (Stoic diatribes), emerged some years ago from an analysis of the association between ship and tongue in the Epistle of St. James, which was originally Egyptian. The way in which Egyptian influence made itself felt is fairly clear in those cases where it first affected images in the Old Testament (including the Apocrypha) which were later taken over by New Testament writers. This seems to me to be the case with two passages in the Epistle to the Romans: the proverbial 'coals of fire' which were to be heaped upon one's enemy - derived from a Late Egyptian penitential rite - and, much more significantly, the Apostle's words on the absolute power of the Creator to confer honor and dishonor, so making a quite arbitrary distinction between his creatures; here St. Paul is giving universal currency to a formula that we first hear of with Amenemope."
- Seigfreid Morenz, Egyptian Religion

"Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."
- Romans 12:20 after Proverbs 25:22

(f)

"As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the word, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are call gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many). But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him..."
- 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

"...The acclamation 'God is One', used by the earliest Christian communities...is derived from one employed in the service of Serapis ('One is Zeus-Sarapis' [Egypto-Hellenistic]), and this in turn comes from the early Egyptian theologians' form ('One is Amon', etc.)."
- Seigfreid Morenz, Egyptian Religion

(g)

"Fear none of those things which thou salt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the sprit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."
- Revelation 2:10-11

"Not to die a second time on the part of the ba [spirit] of a man."
- Book of the Dead, 64 Addendum

"What men fear and seek to avoid on this plane [the Egyptian realm of the dead] is that second death mentioned in the titles of so many spells in the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead, e.g.: 'Spell of not Dying a Second Time in the Realm of the Dead'."
"...The much-cited 'second death' in the Revelation of St. John...may owe something to the widely disseminated Egyptian concept of a second mortality. It is also present in the notion of a 'crown of life', or in those of righteousness and glory, in elucidating these concepts one must draw not only upon Greek material but also upon the 'crown of righteousness' to which there were so many references during the last centuries of Egyptian paganism."
- Seigfreid Morenz, Egyptian Religion

(h)

"He then added, 'I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'"
- John 1:51

"Open to me heaven, O mother of the gods! Let me see the bark of Phre [the sun god] descending and ascending...For I am Geb, heir of the gods."
- The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden X.23ff

(i)

"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administration, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all."
- 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen."
- 2 Corinthians 13:14

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
-Matthew 28:19

"One is Bait, one is Hathor, one is Akori - to these belongs one power. Be greeted, father of the world, be greeted, God in three forms."
- Amulet (falcon-headed Bait, frog-headed Hathor & winged serpent Akori - 100 C.E.)

"This distich contains the ['God is One'] acclamation...which goes back at least to the Amon theology of the Rameside period; the one God (father of the cosmos) has as attributes (to use the Egyptian terminology) three hprw or b'w, 'forms' or 'appearance', the three gods are combined and treated as a single being, addressed in the singular."
- Seigfreid Morenz, Egyptian Religion

"The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him.
And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord."
- Genesis 18:1-2, 22

"Characteristically, the Yahvist tale of the three divine beings who called on Abraham at the sacred tree of Mamre does not lead to any effort to resolve the theological problem raised by the presence of three persons; instead, the narrator simply omits the two who are superfluous."
- Seigfreid Morenz, Egyptian Religion

"To those who are able to distinguish [Moses] represents it as something absolutely natural that one can be three and three can be one, because according to the higher reasoning they are one."
- Philo of Alexandria, Quaset. in Genessim, IV, 2

The Effect of Pagan Mystery Religions

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings."
- Hebrews 13:8-9

While all the basic elements of first century Christian theology can be shown to have derived from Judean sources, correspondences with Savior God mythologies helped the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman empire. The enthusiastic adaptation of rituals taken from the mystery religions in the 4th c. C.E. and the merging of these belief systems in the popular mind of secular authorities eventually lead to the establishment of Christianity as the state religion of Rome in 337 C.E.

"As Bruce Metzger [Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, and Christian (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 11]* has argued, 'It must not be critically assumed that the Mysteries always influenced Christianity, for it is not only possible but probable that in certain cases, the influence moved in the opposite direction.' It should not be surprising that leaders of cults that were being successfully challenged by Christianity should do something to counter the challenge. What better way to do this than by offering a pagan substitute? Pagan attempts to counter the growing influence of Christianity by imitating it are clearly apparent in measure instituted by Julian the Apostate, who was the Roman emperor form A.D. 361 to 363."
*"The possible parallels in view here would naturally be dated late, after A.D. 200 for the most part."
- Dr. Ronald H. Nash, "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?"

(1) Savior Gods

Virgin Birth Stories

"People think we are insane when we name a crucified man as second in rank after the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all things, for they do not discern the mystery involved."
- Justin Martyr, Apologies, 1:13

"Virgin birth stories were farely common in pagan myths. The following mythological characters were all believed to be have been born to divinely impregnated virgins: Romulus and Remus, Perseus, Zoroaster, Mithras, Osiris-Aion, Agdistis, Attis, Tammuz, Adonis, Korybas, Dionysus."
- Hayyim ben Yehoshua, "Refuting Missionaries, Part 1: The Myth of the Historical Jesus"

"According to Jerome, Hadrian desecrated the cave in Bethlehem associated with Jesus' birth by consecrating it with a shrine of Tammuz-Adonis. Although his cult spread from Byblos to the GrecoRoman world, the worship of Adonis was never important and was restricted to women."
- Edwin M. Yamauchid, "Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History?"

"By declaring the logos, the first begotten of God, our master Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin, without any human mixture, we (Christians) say no more in this than what you (pagans) say of those whom you style the sons of Jove.
"As to the son of God called Jesus, should we allow him to be nothing more than man, yet the title of the son of God is very justifiable. Upon the account of his wisdom, considering that you (pagans) have your Mercury in worship under the title of the word a messenger of God. As to his, (that is Jesus Christ's) being born of a virgin, you have your Perseus to balance that."
- Justin Martyr, First Apology, Volume I, chapter 22

Resurrected Gods
"Like many other such deities Tammuz, for example, the god of ancient Summerian and Phoenician mystery teachings, had been born of a virgin, died with a wound in his side and, after three days, rose from his tomb, leaving it vacant with the rock at the entrance rolled aside....It is significant that Bethlehem was not only David's city, but also the ancient center of a Tammuz cult, with a shrine that remained active well into biblical times."
- Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, The Messianic Legacy

"Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz."
- Ezekiel 8:14

Each spring, the women ceremonially wept and wailed over his death, and a few days later, celebrated his resurrection.

"Wittoba, one of the Hindu gods, is represented with holes pierced in the hands and arms outstretched in the form of a Roman cross (but not fastened). The figure is crowned with a Parthian coronet, typical of all incarnations of Vishnu. The feet are also pierced.
"In Anacalypsis by Godfrey Higgins, the god Indra is described nailed to a cross with five wounds representing nail holes. In the oldest accounts of Prometheus, it is stated that this saviour was nailed to an upright beam of timber to which was affixed arms of wood. The cross was situated on Mt. Caucusus, near the Caspian Sea. The story of Prometheus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection was acted in pantomime in ancient Athens 500 years before Christ".

"We find no less that twelve mythical-historical personages before the advent of Christ, who are said to have suffered crucifixion/death and to have risen from the dead. Among them are:
Krishna
Wittoba
Osiris
Attis
Indra
Prometheus
Mithra
Dionysus
Hesus
Aesculapius
Adonis
Apollonius of Tyana
Several of these figures are said to have been crucified at the spring equinox and to have risen on the third day."
- The Christian Conspiracy: The Orthodox Suppression of Original Christianity

"Osiris was murdered and his body dismembered and scattered. The pieces of his body were recovered and rejoined, and the god was rejuvenated. However, he did not return to his former mode of existence but rather journeyed to the underworld, where he became the powerful lord of the dead. In no sense can Osiris be said to have 'risen' in the sense required by the dying and rising pattern."
"In no sense can the dramatic myth of his death and reanimation be harmonized to the pattern of dying and rising gods."
- J. Smith, Dying and Rising Gods, pp. 524-525

"What is meant of Osiris being 'raised to life'? Simply that, thanks to the ministrations of Isis, he is able to lead a life beyond the tomb which is an almost perfect replica of earthly existence. But he will never again come among the living and will reign only over the dead....This revived god is in reality a 'mummy' god "
- Roland de Vaux, The Bible and the Ancient Near East, 1971, p. 236

The abode of the Egyptian gods was not on earth, however, but in the polar star - the celestial region of the goddess Nut.

"...The followers of Dionysus (Bacchus), the god of wine, did believe in immortality. But they did not hope for a resurrection of the body; nor did they base their faith on the reborn Dionysus of the Orphics, but rather on their experience of drunken ecstasy (cf. M. Nilsson, The Dionysiac Mysteries of the Hellenistic and Roman Age, 1957)."
- Edwin M. Yamauchid, "Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History?"

"There is no suggestion of Adonis rising (in either the Panyasisian form or the Ovidian form of the myth)."
- J. Smith, Dying and Rising Gods, p. 522

"P. Lambrechts has shown that there is no trace of a resurrection in the early texts or pictorial representations of Adonis; the four texts that speak of his resurrection are quite late, dating from the second to the fourth centuries A.D. ('La 'resurrection' d'Adonis,' in Melanges Isidore Levy, 1955, pp. 207-40). Lambrechts has also shown that Attis, the consort of Cybele, does not appear as a 'resurrected' god until after A.D. 1 50. ( 'Les Fetes 'phrygiennes' de Cybele et d' Attis,' Bulletin de l'lnstitut Historique Belge de Rome, XXVII 11952], 141-70)."
- Edwin M. Yamauchid, "Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History?"

"True, the Hellenistic world was familiar with the death and apotheosis of some predominantly barbarian demigods and heroes of primeval times. Attis and Adonis were killed by a wild boar, Osiris was torn to pieces by Typhon-Seth and Dionysus-Zagreus by the Titans. Heracles alone of the 'Greeks' voluntarily immolated himself of Mount Oeta. However, not only did all this take place in the darkest and most distant past, but it was narrated in questionable myths which had to be interpreted either euhemeristically or at least allegorically. By contrast, to believe that the one pre-existent Son of the one true God, the mediator at creation and the redeemer of the world, had appeared in very recent times in out-of-the-way Galilee as a member of the obscure people of the Jews, and even worse, had died the death of a common criminal on the cross, could only be regarded as a sign of madness...The only possibility of something like a 'crucified god' appearing on the periphery of the ancient world was in the form of a malicious parody, intended to mock the arbitrariness and wickedness of the father of the gods on Olympus, who had now become obsolete. This happens in the dialogue called Prometheus, written by Lucian, the Voltaire of antiquity.".
- Martin Hengel of Tubingdon, Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross 5-7, 11

"The category of dying and rising gods, once a major topic of scholarly investigation, must now be understood to have been largely a misnomer based on imaginative reconstructions and exceedingly late or highly ambiguous texts."
"The category of dying and rising gods, as well as the pattern of its mythic and ritual associations, received its earliest full formulation in the influential work of James G. Frazer The Golden Bough, especially in its two central volumes, The Dying God and Adonis, Arris, Osiris. Frazer offered two interpretations, one euhemerist, the other naturist. In the former, which focused on the figure of the dying god, it was held that a (sacred) king would be slain when his fertility waned. This practice, it was suggested, would be later mythologized, giving rise to a dying god. The naturist explanation, which covered the full cycle of dying and rising, held the deities to be personifications of the seasonal cycle of vegetation. The two interpretations were linked by the notion that death followed upon a loss of fertility, with a period of sterility being followed by one of rejuvenation, either in the transfer of the kingship to a successor or by the rebirth or resurrection of the deity.
".There are empirical problems with the euhemerist theory. The evidence for sacral regicide is limited and ambiguous; where it appears to occur, there are no instances of a dying god figure. The naturist explanation is flawed at the level of theory. Modern scholarship has largely rejected, for good reasons, an interpretation of deities as projections of natural phenomena.".

"....It is a commonplace within the history of religions that immortality is not a prime characteristic of divinity: gods die. Nor is the concomitant of omnipresence a widespread requisite: gods disappear. The putative category of dying and rising deities thus takes its place within the larger category of dying gods and the even larger category of disappearing deities. Some of these divine figures simply disappear; some disappear only to return again in the near or distant future; some disappear and reappear with monotonous frequency. All the deities that have been identified as belonging to the class of dying and rising deities can be subsumed under the two larger classes of disappearing deities or dying deities. In the first case, the deities return but have not died; in the second case, the gods die but do not return. There is no unambiguous instance in the history of religions of a dying and rising deity."
- Mircea Eliade, The Encyclopedia of Religion (Macmillian: 1987)

Assimilation of Mystery Traditions
"Before A.D. 100, the mystery religions were still largely confined to specific localities and were still a relatively novel phenomenon. After A.D. 100, they gradually began to attain a widespread popular influence throughout the Roman Empire. But they also underwent significant changes that often resulted from the various cults absorbing elements from each other. As devotees of the mysteries became increasingly eclectic in their beliefs and practices, new and odd combinations of the older mysteries began to emerge. And as the cults continued to tone down the more objectionable features of their older practices, they began to attract greater numbers of followers."
- Dr. Ronald H. Nash, "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?"

Between the traditional date for the celebration of the winter solstice, December 25, and the spring equinox (Easter, from the Latin for earth goddess) there was a search for Osiris, the Egyptian God of resurrection. This corresponds to the 40 days of post-resurrection appearances by Jesus reported in Acts.

"Savior-gods and fertility-goddesses held their resurrection festivals at the full moon following the vernal equinox. Christianity celebrated its resurrection feast on the same date. One of the best-known fertility-goddesses was Easter, also spelled Ishtar, Astarte and Ashtaroth."
- William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus

"Easter was first the holiday of Eostre, which was a celebration of death, rebirth and fertility, of the old [Celtic] Pagan God, called the Green Man."
- "Angels Among Us! The Gnostic (Johannine) Christian Path"

"John's gospel...contains the image which links to the mysteries of Eleusis and Egypt."
- John Ferguson, An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Mysticism and the Mystery Religions

"In truth, in very truth I tell you, a grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls into the ground and dies, but if it dies it bears a rich harvest."
- John 12:24

"In contrast to the synoptic gospels, where the individual's faith in God elicits the response of Jesus, in Graeco-Roman writings the miraculous events lead to faith."
- Graham N. Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus, The Oxford Bible Series (1989), paperback, p. 216

"For the earliest Christian communities, the resurrection of Jesus could not be identified with the periodic death and resurrection of the God of the mysteries. Like Christ's life, suffering, and death, his resurrection had occurred in history, 'in the days of Pontius Pilate'...It was a 'sign' that formed part of the Messianic expectation of the Jewish people, and as such it had its place in the religious history of Israel, for the resurrection of the dead was an accompaniment of the coming of the Time."
"In view of the 'inevitability' of initiation, it is surprising that we find so little trace of initiatory scenarios and terminology in primitive Christianity. St. Paul never uses telete, a specific technical term of the mysteries."
"But with the spread of Christianity into all the provinces of the Roman Empire, especially after its final triumph under Constantine, there is a gradual change in perspective....We find a threefold process of enrichment of primitive Christianity: (1) by archaic symbols which will be rediscovered and revalued by being new Christological meanings; (2) by borrowing from the imagery and initiatory themes of the mysteries; (3) by the assimilation of Greek philosophy."
- Mircea Eliade, Rites and Symbols of Initiation

"I am parched with thirst, and perishing.
But drink of me, the ever-flowing spring on the right, (where) there is a fair cypress.
Who are you? Where are you from?
I am a child of Earth and of starry Heaven, but my race is of Heaven (along)."
- Orphic Lamella from Thessaly

Paul's Use of Terminology from the Mysteries
"...When Paul entitles himself a 'master-builder', he is using a word pre-eminently kabalistic, theurigic, and masonic, and one which no other apostle uses."
- H. P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled

"As a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you. Let a man so account of us as the minister of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
"Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to naught. How that by revelation, be made known to us the mystery of the Kingdom."
- 1 Corininthians 3:10

See The Festival at Eleusis for the derivation of "master builder" from the sacred Greek rite of epopteia - "reception into the secrets".

"Paul called Jesus "kyrios, the Greek equivalent to adownay, 'His Lordship'. The application of such a title to Jesus would not have caused confusion had adownay, Hellenised to Adonis, not also been the name of a Syrian resurrected savior-god with whom the Greek author of the second-century Gospel of John was familiar. In the eastern parts of the Roman empire Adownay/Adonis was known as the savior-god who, for love of the fertility goddess Venus/Aphrodite, annually died and rose from the dead at the full moon following the vernal equinox - in other words, at Passover, when Jesus had also died and allegedly 'risen'."
- William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus

"Even with the comparatively slight knowledge we have of Mithraism and its liturgy, it is clear that many of Paul's phrases [in his letters] savor much more of the terminology of the Persian cult than that of the Gospels."
- E. Wynn-Tyson, Mithras

(2) Mithraism

Mithras, the Saviour

"Be of good cheer, sacred band of Initiates, your God has risen from the dead. His pains and sufferings shall be your salvation."
- Words uttered by Mithraic priest

Mithraism "postulated an apocalypse, a day of judgment, a resurrection of the flesh, and a second coming of Mithras himself, who would finally defeat the principle of evil. Mithras was said to have been born in a cave or grotto, where shepherds attended him and regaled him with gifts."
- Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, The Messianic Legacy

"Like Christians, the Mithraists believed that their savior had descended from heaven to earth; had shared a last supper with 12 followers; had redeemed mankind from sin by shedding blood; and had risen from the dead. They even baptized their converts [though in bull's blood] to wash away past sins."
- Quest for the Past

Mithraism also has the following correspondences with Christianity:

  • Mithras was said to have been sent by a father-god to vanquish darkness and evil in the world
  • Mithras was born of a virgin (a birth witnessed only by shepherds)
  • Mithras was described variously as the Way, the Truth, the Light, the Word, the Son of God
  • He was also known as the Good Shepherd and was often depicted carrying a lamb upon his shoulders
  • It is unclear whether Mithraism had a greater syncretic influence on Christianity or vice-versa as the two religions spread across the Roman empire. Certainly the alleged effect of Mithraism on early Christian doctrine can be disputed.

    "The only dated Mithraic inscriptions from the pre-Christian period are the texts of Antiochus I of Commagene (69-34 B.C.) in eastern Asia Minor. After that there is one text possibly from the first century A.D., from Cappadocia, one from Phrygia dated to A.D. 77-78, and one from Rome dated to Trajan's reign (A.D. 98-117). All other dated Mithraic inscriptions and monuments belong to the second century (after A.D. 140), the third, and the fourth century A.D. (M. J. Vermaseren, Corpus Inscriptionum et Monumentorum Religionis Mithriacae, 1956)."
    - Edwin M. Yamauchid, "Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History?"

    "The flowering of Mithraism occurred after the close of the New Testament canon, much too late for it to have influenced anything that appears in the New Testament. Moreover, no monuments for the cult can be dated earlier than A.D. 90-100, and even this dating requires us to make some exceedingly generous assumptions. Chronological difficulties, then, make the possibility of a Mithraic influence on early Christianity extremely improbable. Certainly, there remains no credible evidence for such an influence."
    - Dr. Ronald H. Nash, "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?"

    Born Again
    "The liturgy of the Eucharist that John prescribes to the converted in being 'born again' is necessary 'so that the speaker might gaze upon the immortal beginning (Jesus) with the immortal (Holy) spirit ... and be born again in thought.' [Grese]."
    "Some modern Christian believers are familar with this concept of being born again through a spirit and regard it as unique to Christianity. The just-quoted text however is from the pagan Mithras Liturgy, a guidebook of sorts that assists in the Eucharist and prepares the sojourner for his heavenly journey. It advises the seeker of the Sun-god (father of Mithras) to pray saying:"
    - James Still, "The Gospel of John and the Hellenization of Jesus"

    "[F]irst beginning of my beginning, ...spirit of spirit, the first spirit in me, ...now if it be your will, ...give me over to immortal birth and, following that, to my underlying nature, so that, after the present need which is pressing me exceedingly, I may gaze upon the immortal beginning with the immortal spirit, that I may be born again in thought."
    - Mithras Liturgy

    Rites and Festivals
    "The cult also observed Black Friday, commemorating Mithras' sacrificial bull-slaying which fructified the earth. Worn out by the battle, Mithras is symbolically represented as a corpse and is placed in a sacred rock tomb from which he is removed after three days in a festival of rejoicing."
    - Source unknown

    "The setting and rising of the sun, symbol of the god Mithra, recalled Christ's death and resurrection. Moreover, the Mithraic festival in celebration of the sun god's birth was held on December 25, recognized as Jesus' birthday."
    - Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects

    Followers of Mithras celebrated December 25 (the winter solstice) by ringing bells, singing hymns, lighting candles, giving gifts, and administering a sacrament of bread and water.

    Sacrament of Bread and Wine
    "A usual feature of the ancient mystery religions was the partaking of food and drink, and this communion celebration often reenacted a holy meal established by the gods and goddesses. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter the Mother drinks the kykeon instead of read wine, and her devotees likewise drank the ceremonial kykeon instead of red wine, and her devotees likewise drank the ceremonial kykeon in their mystic repast. Mithraic monuments show Mithras and Sol (the Sun) sharing a meal on the body or the hide of a bull, and this sacred feast functioned as the prototype for a holy meal eaten by the Mithraic mystai....One symbolon from the mysteries of Attis claims that a mystes ate from a tambourine and drank from a cymbal in the initiatory rites."
    - Marvin W.Meyer (Editor), The Ancient Mysteries - A Sourcebook (1987) p. 12

    Both Mithraism and early Christianity "included a baptism and a sacrament of bread and wine, and both guarded their central rites from nonbelievers."
    - Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects

    "He who will not eat of my body, nor drink of my blood so that he may be one with me and I with him, shall not be saved."
    - Mithraic Communion (M. J. Vermaseren, Mithras, The Secret God)

    "And as they were eating, Jesus, having taken bread, when he had blessed, broke [it], and gave [it] to them, and said, Take [this]: this is my body. And having taken [the] cup, when he had given thanks, he gave [it] to them, and they all drank out of it. And he said to them, This is my blood, that of the [new] covenant, that shed for many."
    - Mark 14:22-26 (English-Darby)

    The Holy Fathers
    Matthew "included Mark's last supper that equated Jesus with Mithra, and also a repudiation of the Mithraic custom of calling priests 'Father' and the chief priest 'Father of Fathers'."
    - William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus

    "But you are not to be called rabbi , for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ."
    - Matthew 23:8-10

    "The term rabbi, which means 'the great one', was to be reserved for Jesus, according to Matthew: this restriction looks back on Jesus from the distance of perhaps a half century or more, when the term had taken on an honorific sense that Christians thought should be applied to Jesus alone. The 'great one' in Christian lore as the Anointed (v.10, the ultimate authority figure for all Christians. Originally, the term meant something like 'sir' or 'master' (with reference to the owner of slaves). In rabbinic lore after 70 C.E., it came to be used predominantly for teachers, which is the meaning it sometimes has in the gospels.
    "Elisha calls Elijah father in the Hebrew Bible (2 Kings 2:12; 6:21). The patriarchs were customarily referred to as the fathers. And distinguished rabbis of the time of Jesus may have been called father, since one of the tractates of the Mishnah is called 'The Fathers'."
    - Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels

    "The Mithraic Holy Father wore a red cap and garment and a ring, and carried a shepherd's staff. The Head Christian adopted the same title and outfitted himself in the same manner. Christian priests, like Mithraic priests, became 'Father', despite Jesus' specific proscription of the acceptance of such a title (Matthew 23:9). That Jesus had been repudiating, not the Mithraists with whom he was unfamiliar, but the Sanhedrin, whose President was styled Father, is hardly relevant.
    "Mithra's bishops wore a mithra, or miter, as their badge of office. Christian bishops also adopted miters. Mithraists commemorated the sun-god's ascension by eating a mizd, a sun-shaped bun embossed with the sword (cross) of Mithra. The hot cross bun and the mass were likewise adapted to Christianity. The Roman Catholic mizd/mass wafer continues to retain its sun-shape, although its Episcopal counterpart does not.
    "All Roman Emperors from Julius Caesar to Gratian had been pontifex maximus, high priest of the Roman gods. When Theodosius refused the title as incompatible with his status as a Christian, the Christian bishop of Rome picked it up. Magi, priests of Zarathustra, wore robes that featured the sword of Mithra. Identical robes are worn by Christian priests to this day."
    - William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus

    (3) The Secret Stream

    Chi-Rho
    An inscription bearing the Chi Rho monogram on a tomb at Pompeii dates from two and a half centuries before the death of Constantine (337 CE).

    "A third-century mosaic from the Mausoleum of the Julii underneath present-day St. Peter's in Rome actually portrays Jesus as Sol Invictus, driving the horses of the sun's chariot. That Constantine himself mixed Christianity and the Sol Invictus cult is clear form a second commemorative medallion issued by him within two years of the first, on which he represented himself with a Chi-Rho monogram on his helmet, and with a leaping Sol chariot below.
    "It was only when he was approaching death that he asked for, or was accepted for, Christian baptism. As was still the custom, he received this naked, thereafter renouncing forever the purple of his imperial rank."
    - Ian Wilson, Jesus, The Evidence

    "The Roman emperor Aurelian found his Sol Invictis, or Hellos, at Palmyra - the god whose birthday was on the twenty-fifth of December. Ammon Ra was the sun, his solar disk becoming the Aten, the one true god proclaimed by Egypt's heretic pharaoh, Akhenaten."
    "In the Palmyra temple's courtyard I found a huge stone block bearing the image of a solar deity, with the sunburst nimbus behind his head that would eventually become the trademark halo of Jesus - and not long after Emperor Aurelian had dragged Queen Xenobla through Rome in chains, and made December twenty-fifth, birthday of his imported sun god, part of the most important holiday in the Roman calendar."
    - Paul William Roberts, Journey of the Magi (1995) p. 345

    "Together, official Christianity and a number of the mystic traditions (Orphic and Mithraic, Gnostic, Manichaean, and so forth) were carried by Roman arms and colonization to northern Europe, and there, following the victories of Constantine (324 A.D.) and promulgation of the Theodosian Code (438 A.D.) - which banned in the Roman Empire all beliefs and cults save the Christian - the mysteries, like a secret stream, went underground..."
    - Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology

    "The Lord [did] everything in a mystery, a baptism and a chrism and a eucharist and a redemption and a bridal chamber."
    "If anyone becomes a son of the bridal chamber....it is revealed to him alone, not hidden in the darkness and the light, but hidden in a perfect day and a holy light."
    - Gospel of Philip 86: 5, 16-18

    "Take care that you do not reveal the holy of holies, preserve the mysteries of the hidden God so that the profane may not partake of them and in your sacred illumination speak of the sacred only to saints."
    - The Pseudo-Areopagite

    "It is interesting that the sacred marriage was expressed in the earliest agricultural civilizations in the West as a union between the mortal male and the divine female, whereas during the Middle Ages the sacred marriage was most commonly depicted as a union between the feminine (human) soul and the divine male, Christ. The earlier version of the sacred marriage took place at the center of society and was reenacted publicly in ritual, whereas the bridal mysticism of medieval Christianity was an inner, subjective phenomenon."
    - An Encyclopedia of Archetypal Symbolism

    "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes... One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb'. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. "
    - Revelation 21:1-4

    "From the pattern of the ancient wedding practices, we see that, like the bridegroom of ancient times, Jesus came to the home of His bride for the betrothal, made a covenant with His bride and sealed it with a glass of wine, paid the bride price with His life and sent His bride gifts of the Holy Spirit."
    - "Weddings of Ancient Israel - A Picture of the Messiah", Return to God Magazine, Volume 1 Number 2

    "He has placed his seal upon me that I may prefer no love to Him. "The winter has passed; the turtle dove sings; the vineyards burst into blossom. "With His own ring my Lord Jesus Christ has wed me, and crowned me with a crown as His bride."
    - The Roman Pontifical

    "In this vision it pleased the Lord that I should see it thus. He was not tall, but short, marvelously beautiful, with a face which shone as though he were one of the highest of the angels, who seem to be all of fire: they must be those whom we call Seraphim....I was in his hands a long golden spear, and at the point of the iron there seemed to be a little fire. This I thought that he thrust several times into my heart, and that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew out the spear he seemed to be drawing them with it, leaving me all on fire with a wondrous love for God. The pain was so great that it caused me to utter several moans; and yet so exceeding sweet is this greatest of pains that It is impossible to desire to be rid of it, or for the soul to be content with less than God."
    - Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

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