Monday, 8 January 2007

The Pagan Origins of the Jesus-Myth

When I was still a Christian, there was a series of anti-Catholic books around most of which drew their material from a 19th century book called, The Two Babylons. Written from a place of Protestant belief, it's basic premise was that Catholicism was actually an amalgamation of Paganism and Christianity to the point that Catholicism is more Pagan than Christian. Anyway, these books all argued that their branch of Protestantism was the true, pure form of Christianity and Catholics should be rejected as pagans.

Most groups who subscribe to Hislop's book tend to be Christian extremists or blatant cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses, Worldwide Church of God and my own favourite, the Revival Centres. This made me skeptical of the book of course and I later discovered that a lot of that material was based on poor scholarship, myths and half-truths.

Anyway, it seems that there may be some kernel of truth in all this after all, but not in the way that those who subscribe to the book might have expected.

There is no doubt that many Pagan practices were amalgamated into the practices of the Church but we were always taught that it crept in slowly and much later than the time of Jesus and the Apostles. But it appears that Paganism's influence of Christianity goes back further than and even predates Christianity. In other words, the Christian story itself (Jesus, the Apostles) has pagan origins.

As one website put it:

  • By the time of Jesus of Nazareth, as for centuries before, the Mediterranean world roiled with a happy diversity of creeds and rituals. Details varied according to location and culture, but the general outlines of these faiths were astonishingly similar. Roughly speaking the ancients' gods:Were commemorated by Eucharistic meals.
  1. Were born on or very near our Christmas Day
  2. Were born of a Virgin-Mother
  3. Were born in a Cave or Underground Chamber.
  4. Led a life of toil for Mankind.
  5. Were called by the names of Light-bringer, Healer, Mediator, Savior, Deliverer.
  6. Were however vanquished by the Powers of Darkness.
  7. And descended into Hell or the Underworld.
  8. Rose again from the dead, and became the pioneers of mankind to the Heavenly world.
  9. Founded Communions of Saints, and Churches into which disciples were received by Baptism. source

So it seems that there are many stories that mirror the Jesus story but that pre-date the Jesus story. Better said, there ain't nothin' original about the Jesus story.

A favourite amongst critics of Christianity is Mithras (or Mithra) the Persian, later Roman, god-man who bears the most striking resemblance to Jesus.

Originally Persian

Before Rome. When the Christ myth was new Mithras and Mithraism were already ancient. Worshiped for centuries as God's Messenger of Truth, Mithras was long revered by the Persians (Zoroastrianism) and the Indians (see the Vedic literature).

Dating Mithras in Rome. Plutarch (Pompey, 24, 7) and Servilius (Georgics, 4, 127) say Pompey imported Mithraism into Rome after defeating the Cilician pirates around 70 BC. Mithras appears epigraphically in the circles of the Roman emperor in the first century AD -- around the time the canonical Christian Gospels were written (Corpus Incscriptionum Latinarum, 6, 732), and statues of the God were present by 101 AD (Corpus Incscriptionum Latinarum, 6, 718). As with Attis, Christian apologist Justin (1 Apologia, 66, 4) denounces the devil for having sent a God so similar to Jesus -- yet preceding him.

Sadly there's a lot we don't know about this faith that comforted million of souls. Early Christians established the dominance of their religion by exterminating Mithras' faithful, razing His temples, burning His sacred texts.

We do know this:

With twelve disciples he traveled far and wide as a teacher and illuminator of men.

He was buried in a tomb from which he rose again from the dead -- an event celebrated yearly with much rejoicing.

Every year in Rome, in the middle of winter, the Son of God was born one more, putting an end to darkness. Every year at first minute of December 25th the temple of Mithras was lit with candles, priests in in white garments celebrated the birth of the Son of God and boys burned incense. Mithras was born in a cave, on December 25th, of a virgin mother. He came from heaven to be born as a man, to redeem men from their sin. He was know as "Savior," "Son of God," "Redeemer," and "Lamb of God."

His followers kept the Sabbath holy, eating sacramental meals in remembrance of Him. The sacred meal of bread and water, or bread and wine, was symbolic of the body and blood of the sacred bull.

Baptism in the blood of the bull (taurobolum) -- early
Baptism "washed in the blood of the Lamb" -- late
Baptism by water
[recorded by the Christian author Tertullian]

Mithraic rituals brought about the transformation and Salvation of His adherents -- an ascent of the soul of the adherent into the realm of the divine. From the wall of a Mithraic temple in Rome: "And thou hast saved us by shedding the eternal blood."

The great Mithraic festivals celebrated his birth (at the winter solstice) and his death and resurrection (at the spring solstice)

Further reading:

How Jesus Got a Life
Pagan Christs
Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth


Anonymous said...

I have looked up the Pagan origins website. What I would be interested to read is the actual source documents. i.e as close to primary sources as possible, that these "myths" come from. As it stands, all myths have some truth in them. It is also equally possible that these cultures eagerly awaited such a Messiah or Saviour. The source documents could be about people that were revered as such, whether they were or not is another question. The problem here, is that the website you have found is a long way removed from the source documents. The writer of the website has not said where he obtained this information. We know this is poor scholarship and would result in a fail result at university.

Paul. Not the M, just the C.

Hojusaram 澳洲人 said...

Paul, I did not discover this material via the website I quoted. I actually found it through other sources. But the quotes I made from it DID quote some sources:

Pompey, 24, 7
Georgics, 4, 127
Corpus Incscriptionum Latinarum, 6, 732
Corpus Incscriptionum Latinarum, 6, 718
1 Apologia, 66, 4

You got access to these? Shit, I don't. At least not here. Perhaps, if you are interested then you could do some research of your own? For now, mine is just a is hardly scholarship or the final word. I am not out to convince anyone, just share my thoughts.

Of note is that, "...Christian apologist Justin (1 Apologia, 66, 4) denounces the devil for having sent a God so similar to Jesus -- yet preceding him." This has been the traditional Xian response to the Mithras cult. Pretty bloddy cunning of that devil heyt? You don't actually buy that line though do you?

You said, "It is also equally possible that these cultures eagerly awaited such a Messiah or Saviour." Wow, and so they come up with an almost identical saviour? Come on Paul, that's a HUGE stretch.

Anonymous said...

Read Ralph Woodrow's second book on Hislop -- tears it apart. Woodrow's first book supported Hislop -- because he assumed Hislop had verified his research.