|Mithras and Jesus
If you haven't heard about Mithras yet, pay attention to my profile because you will.
I explain Mithras here so we can separate Him from Jesus.
The early followers of Jesus in the Jerusalem church had the problem of appealing to the Jews, who saw Jesus death as scandalizing. Paul had the same problem in appealing to the Jews, but he and the Greco-Roman missionaries also had the problem of converting the pagans, who didn't understand the conception of a Jewish messiah. But the time was short-they had to bring as many pagan converts into the fold as possible so they "would not perish, but have eternal life."
The beliefs of the Jewish followers of Jesus were still Jewish; Jesus, they believed was the messiah who would return and overthrow the Romans to establish the Kingdom of Israel. However, those appealing to the pagans had to make some changes in their presentation of Jesus for the non-Jewish listeners. The promise for the pagan converts was that Jesus was a Messiah for all of humankind (not just the Jews) and that they could have eternal life without becoming Jews by just believing that Jesus was the messiah for humankind, whom they termed the savior. The pagan converts would then not "die," but would have eternal life because of their belief.
These missionaries to the pagans had a major problem, however. Many pagans believed in a god named Mithras (or Mithra/Mitra). Mithras was an ancient god, so he had tradition and the sacredness that an ancient history brings, just as Yahweh had for the Jews. He is dated to be from around 1400 BCE, before Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt (even though archaeology has proven that the Exodus never really happened). However, Mithras was even more widely accepted than Yahweh, the god of Moses. He was known, in various forms, in India, Persia, Greece and throughout the Roman Empire. For the Greeks and Romans in the first century, Mithras was the chief figure in a religion called Mithraism that held prominence in the Roman Empire all the way through the fourth century CE, especially among the military. His influence spread as far north as Hadrian's Wall and Germany.
So the followers of Jesus had to convince the followers of Mithras that they should abandon Mithras and follow Jesus. That would be today like standing outside St. Paul's Cathedral handing out leaflets telling Roman Catholics they should abandon Jesus Christ and follow a new God named Luke Skywalker.
But Jesus and Mithras had something important in common. Mithra's followers were promised immortality, he like the Egyptian god Osiris, also had been entombed and rose from the dead, proving that immortality was available to those who believed in him. The promise of immortality and his rising from the dead were also the central tenets of Jesus's message as the early church promulgated it. Those weren't the central tenets of Jesus's message as he gave it, but the early church was intent on converting people because they were certain Jesus was going to return any minute to establish the Kingdom of God and as many people as possible needed to be converted to get them into the fold before the return. The promise to entice them to convert was eternal life in Jesus's Kingdom of God.
But Mithras already promised eternal life in Mithras' Kingdom of Heaven, so why should the Mithraists convert to following Jesus? Paul and the other followers of Jesus outside of the Jerusalem church took care of the problem. They just made some adjustments in the story of Jesus's life so the pagan believers in Mithras would feel at home with the Jewish Messiah. They also did similar things in converting the followers of Isis and Osiris as well. In the earliest sources (Paul's letters, written around 50 CE to 65 CE, a very early gospel termed the Q source we know from sayings in Luke and Matthew that are not in Mark, written before 70 CE and Mark, the earliest gospel, written just after 70 CE), there was NO miraculous birth and only modest supernatural occurrences in Jesus's life. By the time Matthew and Luke wrote their gospels (around 90 CE), the story was quite different; Jesus had a host of supernatural events surrounding his birth and death. The question is, where did these events suddenly come from?
We find them in Mithras. The missionaries promoting Jesus as the messiah for humankind simply wrote them into the narrations about Jesus. A list of characteristics of Mithras follows. Remember that these were centuries old BEFORE Jesus was even born. You'll see what was borrowed to make Jesus more appealing to the pagans:
Mithras was born of a virgin Anahita, who was given the title of "Mother of God"
Mithras was born on December 25. Before Constantine changed the date, the birth date Jesus's followers observed was January 6. However, Jesus's birth, based on the descriptions, would actually have been in the late spring or early autumn.
Mithras was born in a cave (stable), and his birth was attended by shepherds bearing gifts.
Mithras was considered a great traveling teacher and master.
Mithras had 12 companions or disciples.
Mithras performed miracles.
Mithras' followers were baptized.
Mithras suffered to bring salvation to humankind.
Mithras was buried in a tomb and rose after three days. (Jesus rose after a day and a half, but the gospel accounts used the three days to fit with Mithras' story, in spite of the obvious disparity in the timeline.)
Mithras' resurrection was celebrated every year.
Mithras ascended into heaven after finishing his deeds.
Mithras' followers were promised immortality.
Mithras was called "the good shepherd" and identified with both the lamb and the lion.
Mithras was called the "Way, the Truth and the Light," " logos," "word," "redeemer," "savior" and "messiah."
On the Judgment Day, Mithras would use the keys of heaven to unlock the gates of Paradise to receive the faithful.
Mithra's sacred day was Sunday, called the "Lord's day" because Mithraism was a sun religion. Jesus's sacred day was changed from the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday, to match Mithras' day.
Mithras had his principal festival on the day that was later to become Easter for Christians.
Mithras' religion had a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper," at which Mithras said, "He who shall eat of my body and drink of my blood so that he may be one with me and I with him."
On a final day of judgment, the dead would resurrect and in a final conflict, the existing order would be destroyed and light would triumph over darkness.
Since all of these characteristics of Mithras predated Jesus by at least fourteen hundred years, Mithraism could not have copied the Jesus story; it was the reverse. These details about Jesus were not in the earliest sources. They appeared later.
The early followers of Jesus had the best of intentions and the parallel in the promise of eternal life between Jesus and Mithras was so clear, that they felt justified in adding to Jesus's story between the times of the Mark and the Q document (50 CE - 70 CE) and the writing of the later gospels (90 CE - 110 CE). The writers of the gospels and Paul didn't even know Jesus, so they weren't acquainted with him or his teachings. They just had the written and oral stories about him. It was quite easy to embellish the accounts to add Mithras' characteristics to make Jesus look more appealing to the Mithraists and other pagans.
Paul contributed to that inclination. His focus on a suffering, sacrificial Christ for the salvation of humankind was undoubtedly influenced by Mithraic worship. Paul lived in Tarsus, where the Religion of Mithras was everywhere. He seems also to have been heavily influenced by Pagan concepts of a god-king who dies as an offering to a divine being in order to save humankind. Those influences helped shape Paul's focus on his interpretation of the Messiah bringing salvation and on having belief as the only requirement in order to win converts. Thereby encouraging people to convert so that they can embrace a faith that would not require them to take any responsibility for their actions.
Jesus abhorred violence and sacrifice, yet his story grew to be one of God sacrificing his son. Jesus repeatedly called himself "Son of Man" (meaning human being) and the title "Son of God" was added after the early church raised him to a Mithraic man-god.
In the second century CE, when the worship of Mithras throughout the Roman Empire was at its height, there was something especially attractive to the Romans which was that Mithraism had rituals of worship, observance and discipline, traits the Romans found appealing. Mithraism was most popular among the military. When Constantine, threw his political support behind Christianity in 321 CE, he expected the same ritual and control. The Christian church was happy to adapt to his wishes.
Constantine maintained his ties to Mithraism while professing to be a Christian. The rituals of Mithraism were important for the church to carry over to retain favor with the Roman Empire, so it simply adopted them. It was Constantine who changed the birth date for Jesus from January 6 to December 25, Mithras' birthday. Customs such as dipping the fingers in holy water and making the sign of the cross were borrowed from Mithraism. The Mithraic religion had priests called "Fathers." The members below them were called "Brothers." The Mithraic fathers wore the mitre caps, the Christian bishops adopted and still wear them today; the Mithraic Holy Father wore a red cap and garment, had an official ring and carried a shepherd's staff. He was located in Rome. The Christian Bishop of Rome adopted all of these trappings. Christianity enthusiastically stole the traditions and rituals of Mithraism, making its rituals virtually indistinguishable from the Mithraic rituals. After the fourth century, the two religions had been blended into the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
There were so many similarities between Christianity and Mithraism that early church fathers such as Tertullian and Justin Martyr claimed that centuries before Jesus's birth, Satan had created a false religion that shared many of the same rituals, traditions and beliefs Christianity would contain centuries later, in order to mislead people away from Jesus after his birth and death. The explanation was SO outrageous and ridiculous that it was NEVER taken seriously. However, it was an admission of the fact that the customs, stories and rituals central to Christianity were identical to those in Mithraism.
We now have two choices:
Continue to focus on following a creed that made a man-god out of Jesus, which that leads the world into wars, violence, chaos and also is a religion that supports slavery, oppression of women, the rape of children and murder of children and the suppression of freedom and thought.
Embrace the teachings of Mithras, so we grow spiritually, intellectually and we can help humankind to grow into a world of Freedom and Peace that Lord Mithras envisions for us.
I pray and dedicate my life to supporting the change to following the teachings of Lord Mithras.