Mithraism and Early Christianity

By Vexen Crabtree 2002 Jan 20

Christianity grew out of a mixture of Persian Mithraism, Judaism and the works of individuals such as St. Paul who gave us written records of this synthesis.


1. Mithraism

Spirit of Spirit, if it be your will,
give me over to immortal birth so that I may
be born again - and the sacred
spirit may breathe in me.

Prayer to Mithras

Celebrating the light and fire caused from striking of flints is an ancient tradition. Mithra is said to be forced out of a rock, wearing the Phyrygian cap holding a dagger and a torch of light. Mithra's birth is celebrated on the Winter Solstice.

Mithraism was popular in the Roman Empire with many Emperors following, not just the populace. It had seven sacraments, the same as the Catholic Church, baptism, and communion with bread and water. The Eucharist hosts were signed with a cross, an ancient phallic symbol which originated in Egypt, and the Egyptian cross (the ankh) still shows the original form which included the female symbol.

More important even than the Vedic and Zoroastrian influences, the Mithras cult had a strong impact on Christianity. Mithras was the son of Ormuzd, and as a god of light himself, he engaged the powers of darkness, Ahriman and his host, in a bitter struggle. Mithras triumphed and cast his adversaries into the nether world. Mithras, too, raised the dead and will find them at the end of time. He, too, will relegate the wicked to hell and establish the millennial kingdom. [...]

Drews, too, believes that it was the influence of Persian, notably Mithraic, thought which led to the gradual transformation of the human figure of Jesus into a Godhead. Robertson thinks that the rock-tomb resurrection of Jesus is a direct transference of Mithras' rock birth, and that Jesus also became a sun-god like Mithras, so that they share their birthday at the winter solstice. Robertson, Niemojewski, Volney and others assert that as son-god Jesus had twelve apostles representing the twelve houses of the zodiac.

"Jesus Versus Christianity" by Alfred Reynolds (1993)1

Zoroastrianism
The roots of Mithraism go back to Zoroastrianism, a Persian religion that became popular in Greece from 390BCE. It placed Mithras in the role of a deity equal to the sun god. Its priests were Magi; the same Magi assumed to visit Bethlehem when Jesus was born.

Zarathustra, a Zoroastrian magi, had predicted a Messiah, and Jesus' birth was assumed by Paul to be his possible arrival. In the Persian holy texts, the Avesta, this Messiah will appear at the end of time and bring the triumph of good over evil and make a potion of immortality for mankind from the fat of a great bull mixed with Hamoa juice.

Judgement
The faithful to Mithra believed they would live in bliss after death until the Judgement of mankind. Mithra would then unlock Paradise for the faithful and come to Earth and kill all the unbaptised. All the dead would return from their graves to be judged.

All the wicked, the rejected and unbaptised would be destroyed by Mithra by fire, and those accepted into Paradise would live with Mithra forever with eternal life. After the annihilation of the unfaithful Mithra ascends into Heaven, at the end of time, after his Messiah has brought salvation to the saved, in a chariot of fire.

2. Paul and Mithraism

St. Paul is attributed with the writing of 13 books in the Bible, 7 by himself and 6 by others in his name. He was born in Tarsus as "Saul" and adopted the Christian name of Paul after converting to what is now "Christianity". He was an early leader of the growing Christian churches around the Roman Empire, and the writings of St. Paul are the earliest existing Christian writings known to historians.

"St Paul - History, Biblical Epistles, Gnosticism and Mithraism" by Vexen Crabtree (1999)

He mixed the Hellenic Christ theme with the Messiah theme of Judaism, and the result was the theology around the sacrificial nature that the Christ of Christianity has.

Paul mistook the Jewish "Messiah" to mean the Hellenistic "Christ". This happened before anything was written down; it happened during Paul's conversations with people as he was working through what had happened. A messiah is a person who is a great leader who leads your people to freedom. The title was taken by Jews from Persian culture. A christ is a god-king who dies as an offering to some divine being as a sacrifice in return for prosperity, especially agricultural prosperity. Both are anointed with oil as a mystical, sexual rite.

Christos (site down) or Jesus didn't exist (site down)

Book CoverIt was in Tarsus that the Mysteries of Mithras had originated, so it would have been unthinkable that Paul would have been unaware of the remarkable similarities we have already explored between Christian doctrines and the teachings of Mithraism. [Footnote:] Tarsus was the capital of Cilicia, where, according to Plutarch [46-125CE], the Mithraic Mysteries were being practiced as early as 67BCE

"The Jesus Mysteries" by Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy (1999) [Book Review]2

3. Emperor Constantine officially fused Mithraism and Christianity

During the 1st century BC, a cult of Mithra, made much progress in Rome, after enduring persecution, when some Emperors adopted the religion... Mithra became very popular among the Roman legionaries and later even among the Emperors. The worship of Mithra was first recognized by Emperor Aurelian and he instituted the cult of "Sol Invictus" or the Invincible Sun. Emperor Diocletian also a worshipper of Mithra, the Sun God, burned much of the Christian scriptures in 307 A.D.

This enabled Emperor Constantine to merge the cult of Mithra with that of Christianity that was developing much. He declared himself a Christian but at the same time maintained his ties to the Mithra cult. He retained the title "Pontifus Maximus" the high priest. On his coins were inscribed: "Sol Invicto comiti" which means, commited to the invincible sun. This new blend of the two faiths, he officially proclaimed as Christianity. Christianity spread all over the Roman Empire and Eastern Europe by massive persecution and brought an end to a variety of religions that flourished there. [...]

Until the fourth century, Mithra and Christianity were distinct but after Constantine, the two cults were blended to form the new faith that was to conquer most of the world.

www.geocities.com/raqta24/christ.htm

4. Communion, Jewish Sacrifice, Blood, Flesh, Eating and Drinking

The bull is seen as a symbol of Spring, of rebirth, and a very common carving is of Mithras cleansing himself in the blood of a bull. Ritual killing of bulls and washing in its blood was believed to be necessary for cleansing, eternal life and salvation. This was followed by a meal of the bulls flesh. Life anew could be created from the flesh and blood of the sacrificed bull. If a bull was not available a substitute was used by poorer congregations, such as a ram, bread or fish.

The adherents of Mithras believed that by eating the bull's flesh and drinking its blood they would be born again, just as life itself has been created anew from the blood of the bull. Participation in this rite would give not only physical strength but lead to the immortality of the soul and to eternal light. Justin also mentioned the similarity between the Mithras ritual and the Eucharist

"Jesus Versus Christianity" by Alfred Reynolds (1993)1

According to the Mithraic myth, he would undergo a cultic transformation into a bull [or] a ram. He would be killed and his flesh and blood (or wine representing his blood) would be consumed by the faithful. The pictoral and sculpted scenes presenting this sacred meal were the ones which enraged Christian sensitivities, and many smashed-up Mithraeums show the traces of the fury of Christian iconoclasts. Tertullian [160CE-240CE] mentioned (De praescre., 40) this ritual of the Mithras which was a 'devilish imitation of the Eucharist'. He also mentions that the Mithraists enacted the resurrection.

"Jesus Versus Christianity" by Alfred Reynolds (1993)3

Jewish Sacrifices
The Temple in Jerusalem had gutters built into the stone floor around the altar. Hundreds of sheep, cows, goats, and fowl were killed daily to appease the Jewish god, causing literal rivers of blood to flow from the Temple. Cleansing by blood was already an established part of Jewish tradition, but the blood of the Christ would put an end to this necessity, preached Paul.

Christianity
Christianity became a synthesis of Mithraistic thought on eternal life gained from the blood of the sacrificed saviour (like a bull), the ultimate sacrifice, and Jewish rituals of ritual animal sacrifice. The cannibilistic elements of the Christian Communion, the Eucharist, and the imagery of the blood of Jesus washing away sins and granting eternal life (like Mithras), are all derived from this natural Roman merging of Judaism with Mithraism. The transformation of Mithras into a Bull or Ram which preceded the eating of his flesh and blood directly parallels the Christians Jesus' death and rebirth, his statement that his disciples should eat and drink his flesh and blood to wash away sin and gain eternal life.

5. Sunday as the Day of Worship, and December 25th

In 313 A.D., Emperor Constantine declared December 25th to be the birthday of Jesus (December 25th was prescribed earlier as the birthday of Mithra, by emperor Aurelian). Sabbath day, which is literally Saturday (as the Jews still maintain), became Sunday as it was the day of the Sun, another element from the Mithra worship.

www.geocities.com/raqta24/christ.htm

It may be mentioned here that the Greeks celebrated the birthday of their sun-god Apollo at the winter solstice. Another important point is the fact that the Christian Church abandoned the Jewish sabbath (contrary to the commandment of their God) in favour of the Mithraic day of the sun.

"Jesus Versus Christianity" by Alfred Reynolds (1993)1

6. Conclusions

Mithraism and Judaism merged and became Christianity. Jesus, son of the Hebrew sky God, and Mithras, son of Ormuzd are both the same myth. The rituals of Christianity coincide with the earlier rituals of Mithraism, including the Eucharist and the Communion in great detail. The language used by Mithraism was the language used by Christians. St Paul as the first "Christian" bears much of the responsibility for merging the two in his preaching and teaching, and also comes from Tarsus, a major Mithraist center.

The idea of a sacrificed saviour is Mithraist, so is the symbolism of bulls, rams, sheep, the blood of a transformed saviour washing away sins and granting eternal life, the 7 sacraments, the banishing of an evil host from heaven, apocalyptic end of time when God/Ormuzd sends the wicked to hell and establishes peace. Roman Emperors, Mithraist then Christian, mixed the rituals and laws of both religions into one. Emperor Constantine established 25th of Dec, the birthdate of Mithras, to be the birthdate of Jesus too. The principal day of worship of the Jews, The Sabbath, was replaced by the Mithraistic Sun Day as the Christian holy day. The Catholic Church, based in Rome and founded on top of the most venerated Mithraist temple, wiped out all competing son-of-god religions within the Roman Empire, giving us modern literalist Christianity.

The following pages mention this religion. The 10 most relevant are listed:

St Paul - History, Biblical Epistles, Gnosticism and Mithraism, 27 times, in the following sections:
    4. Mithraism
    3. Paul Combined The Greek Christ and the Hebrew Messiah
    2.1. The Conversion

Christmas: Paganism, Sun Worship and Commercialism, 12 times, in these sections:
    3.3. Sun Worship
    3.1. The Date of the 25th

Types of Christianity in History: Who Were the First Christians?, 12 times, in these sections:
    2.1. Mithraism and Christianity (200BCE +)

Animal Sacrifice and Blood Rituals in Traditional World Religions and Satanism, 9 times, in these sections:
    3.3. Paganism / Mithraism

Arian Christianity (the Father is Greater than the Son): A Precursor to Modern Christianity, 6 times, in the following sections:
    3. The Demise of Arian Christianity

Christianity, 3 times, in these sections:
    * Top of page

The Christian Holy Bible, 3 times, in these sections:
    5. Mistranslations and Errors

Anti-Semitism: 2000 Years of Christian Love, 3 times, in these sections:
    2. BCE to 4th Century: The Roman Empire Tolerated Jews Until Christianity Arose

Satanism as a Mystery Religion, 3 times, in these sections:
    * Top of page

The Divine Number 12: 12 Gods, 12 Disciples, 12 Tribes and the Zodiac, 3 times:
    3. The 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Disciples of God

Read / Write Comments

By Vexen Crabtree 2002 Jan 20
http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/mithraism.html

References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

Boyce, Mary
"Zoroastrians" (1979) ISBN: 0415239036. Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Boyd, James W. & Kotwal, Firoze M.
"A guide to the Zoroastrian Religion" (1982). Scholar's Press. A Nineteenth Century Catechism by Erachji S. Meherjirana, with translation and commentary by a modern Dastur (High Priest). Covers daily observances.

Eliade, Mircea
The Encyclopedia of Religion (1987, Ed.). 16 volumes. Eliade is editor-in-chief. Published by Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, USA.

Freke, Timothy & Gandy, Peter
The Jesus Mysteries (1999). 2000 paperback edition published by Thorsons, London. [Book Review]

Reynolds, Alfred
Jesus Versus Christianity (1993). Originally published 1988. Cambridge International Publishers, London UK.

Vermaseren, M.J.
"Mithras, The Secret God" (1963). A complete study of our knowledge of Mithraism.

Footnotes

  1. Reynolds (1993) p78.^^^
  2. Freke & Gandy (1999) p199.^
  3. Reynolds (1993) p77.^
  4. 2002: This text is based on a 1999 text by Vexen on Saul of Tarsus
  5. 2005 Feb 03: Page cleaned up, edited and made more thematic. Quotes from Alrefd Reynolds added, and bibliography added.

© 2013 Vexen Crabtree. All rights reserved.

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