- Pagan influence on scripture
- Pre-Christian symbolism
- Pre-Christian feasts & terms
- New Year's
- The Epiphany, Three Kings
- St. Valentine's Day
- Christos and Chrestos
- Dominus and Natali
- Pre-Christian Saviours
- Pre-Christian rituals & concepts
- More pre-Christian rituals & saviours
Aesclapius, the Greek God of Medicine in the form of a human man, was famous for having healed the sick and raised the dead. But he is not the only pre-Christian deity to share similarities with the Jesus of the Gospels.
There are many early pre-Christian European, Middle-Eastern, North-African and Asian deities whose lives bore great resemblances to Jesus Christ: complete with virgin birth, death, resurrection and miracles. These were often Sun Gods. The solar cycle of the sun appearing in the sky, going down and being "resurrected" when it rises again the next day was a common motif reflected in the lives of these deities. Often, it was not just seen in the day-to-day cycle, but also the yearly one which commenced at the end of winter on the shortest day which was the winter solstice (around 25 December). This marked the rebirth of summer in some countries, and the return of the sun in very northern climates, making it a particular cause for celebration.
Just a few of the numerous deities and historical men that match not only the cyclical description, but have more particular details in common with Jesus, are given below. Christianity did not escape the solar connections it inherited from its predecessors either:
Even today, ancient solar symbols abound in Christian iconography.From: The Mysterious dying God - Pre-Christian resurrected Gods
Every time the Christian turns to the East to bow his obeisance to the Christ, it is a confession that the cult is Solar, the admission being all the more fatal because it is unconscious. Every picture of the Christ, with the halo of glory, and the accompanying Cross of the Equinox, proffers proof.Link
-- The Historical Jesus and Mythical Christ, Gerald Massey
Osiris was called "Lord of Lords," "King of Kings" and "the good Shepherd." He was called "the resurrection and the life," the god who made "men and women to be born again." He was the "god man" who suffered, died, rose again and lived eternally in heaven. They thought that by believing in Osiris they would share eternal life with him. Egyptian scripture reads: "As truly as Osiris lives, so truly shall his followers live also."Link
The coming of Osiris was announced by Three Wise Men. His flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat. Only through Osiris could one obtain eternal life, they believed. The much loved 23rd Psalm of the Bible is a modified version of an Egyptian text appealing to Osiris, "the good shepherd," to lead the dead "to green pastures and still waters," "to restore the soul" to the body and to give protection in "the valley of the shadow of death."
-- Easter Pathology, by William Edelen
Osiris is a savior-god who had been worshipped as far back as Neolithic times.Link
...Three wise men announced his birth. His followers ate cakes of wheat which symbolized his body. Many sayings associated with Osiris were taken over into the Bible.
...Worship of Osiris, and celebration of his December 25 birth, were established throughout the Roman Empire by the end of the 1st century BCE.
Hundreds of years before Jesus, there was a passion story told about a God man, born of a virgin mother, in a stable. He travels about with his followers, preaching and performing miracles, including turning water into wine. Eventually, he incurs the wrath of the religious authorities, who are appalled that he refers to himself as the son of god. He allows himself to be arrested and tried for blasphemy- a willing self-sacrifice. He is found guilty and executed, only to rise from the grave three days later, where the women weeping at his tomb do not recognize him until he assumes his divine form. This god, also one of the first depicted crucified, is the vine-God Dionysus.Link
Dionysus is another savior-god whose birth was observed on December 25. He was worshipped throughout much of the Middle East as well. He had a center of worship in Jerusalem in the 1st century BCE. Some ancient coins have been found in Gaza with Dionysus on one side and JHWH (Jehovah) on the other. In later years, his flesh and blood were symbolically eaten in the form of bread and wine. He was viewed as the son of Zeus, the Father God.Link
There is no doubt that the very old Mediterranean God Dionysus would have greatly influenced various Middle Eastern religions, including the yet-to-come Christianity and its saviour.
An inscription in the Vatican states plainly,Link"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."This is not terribly surprising, unless you consider that this is inscribed on the remains of the temple the Vatican was built on - one dedicated to the God Mithras. Mithras was a solar deity whose worshippers called him redeemer; his religion died out not long after the advent of Christianity.
Such eerie parallels between the pronouncements of Jesus and Mithras are not the only similarities between the two religions. Mithras was known to his followers as "The light of the world," or "The good shepherd," and exhorted his followers to share ritual communion meals of bread and wine.
Mithras was also born in a cave, with shepherds in attendance, on the twenty-fifth of December.
Mithras' birth and life
Mithraism (6th century B.C. Persia and India). Mithras was born of a virgin, with only shepherds present. Mithras was known as "the way," "the truth," "the Life," "the Light," "the Word," the "Son of God," and "the Good Shepherd." He was pictured carrying a Lamb on his shoulders. Sunday was sacred and known as "the Lord"s Day" centuries before Jesus was ever born.Link
On December 25th, there were glorious celebrations with bells, hymns, candles, gifts, and "communion" was observed by the followers. From December 25 until the Spring Equinox (Estra or Easter) were the "40 days" which later became Christian Lent.The followers of Mithras believed there would be a day of "judgement" when non-believers would perish and "believers" would live forever with Mithras in "paradise," which is a Persian word, not Hebrew.
Mithra was a Persian savior. Worship of Mithra became common throughout the Roman Empire, particularly among the Roman civil service and military. Mithraism was a competitor of Christianity until the 4th century. Their god was believed to have been born on December 25, circa 500 BCE. His birth was witnessed by shepherds and by gift-carrying Magi.Link
...Some followers believed [actually, this was common Persian and Roman belief] that he was born of a virgin. During his life, he performed many miracles, cured many illnesses, and cast out devils. He celebrated a Last Supper with his 12 disciples. He ascended to heaven at the time of the spring equinox, about March 21.
Being a solar deity, Mithra was worshipped on Sundays; after Mithra had become amalgamated with Helios, he was depicted with a halo, nimbus, or glory around his head. In some cases it has been difficult to tell if ancient images were intended as depictions of Mithra or Jesus.Link
Mithras' death and resurrection
Like the Christians, the [Mithraists] celebrated the atoning death of a savior who was resurrected on a Sunday.Mithra's place of death and resurrection:
Mithras was finally placed in a rock tomb called "Petra". After three days he was removed with great festival, celebrations and joy.Link
Centuries after, this found its way into the Bible and was used in the legend of Saint Peter. Mithra's Petra on the Vatican became Peter and the foundation of the Church:
"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18)
Sites of Mithraic worship have been found in Britain, Italy, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Persia, Armenia, Syria, Israel, and North Africa. More remains of Mithraeums (temples dedicated to Mithras) and other Mithraic finds continue to be discovered.
Attis is thought to have originally been a Phrygian God. Like many pre-Christian Gods, his birthday was celebrated on December 25 and one of his epithets was the Good Shepherd.
Attis, was called "The lamb of God," and his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection were celebrated annually, with ritual communions of bread and wine. His virgin mother, Cybele, was worshipped as "The Queen of heaven."Link
"Queen of Heaven" was later appropriated by the Catholic Church and became an epithet of Mary.
There are many versions of the Attis-Cybele myth. In other versions, Cybele was the lover of Attis, who was then born of the virgin Nana (a river nymph):
[Attis] was a god of ever-reviving vegetation. Born of a virgin, he died and was reborn annually. The festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday and culminated after three days in a day of rejoicing over the resurrection.His death and resurrection were celebrated during Easter:
-- Religions of the World, by Gerald L. Berry (1956)
Attis was a son of the virgin Nana. His birth was celebrated on December 25. He was sacrificed as an adult in order to bring salvation to mankind. He died about March 25, after being crucified on a tree, and descended for three days into the underworld. On Sunday, he arose, as the solar deity for the new season. His followers tied an image of Attis to a tree on "Black Friday," and carried him in a procession to the temple. His body was symbolically eaten by his followers in the form of bread. Worship of Attis began in Rome circa 200 BCE.Link
In countries where Attis was revered, Christians took 25 March as the fixed date of Jesus' crucifixion (in contrast to the shifting dates on which they held Easter in other countries). They vied for the same resurrection date as that of Attis, trying to take over his celebration in order to claim the followers of Attis for Christ. In these countries:
"[Christians] used to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on the same date; and pagans and Christians used to quarrel bitterly about which of their gods was the true prototype and which the imitation."However, there is no doubt about which of the two deities' death and resurrection was celebrated first during the Easter perdiod. The celebration of Attis' life events in Rome had been known since the 2nd century BCE, and even earlier than that in Greece and beyond:
-- Religions of the World, by Gerald L. Berry
About 200 B.C. mystery cults began to appear in Rome just as they had earlier in Greece.
-- Religions of the World, by Gerald L. Berry
Apollonius of Tyana was a first century neo-Pythagorean religious teacher and miracle worker, and a contemporary 'rival' of Jesus. An itinerant philosopher who traveled extensively with his disciples, Apollonius was later smeared as an evil magician by Christian Church fathers who were uncomfortable with the similarities between his reported miracles and those of Jesus.Link
Apollonius was born into a prominent and well-known family early in the first century, and was gone in the second century. He was born in Tyana (Cappadocia) which his ancestors had founded. A very remarkable, intelligent and wise young man, at age 14 he was sent by his father to Tarsus to finish his education. (Tarsus would also be the place of origin for St Paul in the same century.)
Well-known, well-traveled, well-documented:
Apollonius had been the personal advisor of Emperor Vespasian for some time, in communication with Emperor Titus and was on friendly terms with Emperor Nerva. He had crossed paths with other rulers, including Emperor Domitian who had imprisoned him.
His travels took him through most of the known world, as far as Babylon, Persia and India. Whereever he went, he conversed with the country's sages and philosophers. One of his disciples, the Syrian-Greek Damis, had accompanied him on his distant travels and documented these journeys and the conversations with foreign philosophers. Later, Damis' records were in the possession of Julia Domna, wife to Emperor Septimus Severus, who was a great admirer of Apollonius' teachings. On her request, these were transcribed by the historian and Pythagorean Flavius Philostratus around 210 CE and became the biography Vita Apollonii (Life of Apollonius).
Letters written by Apollonius were collected by Emperor Hadrian. Apollonius wrote several books, some of which were destroyed by Christians. A book on alchemy, known as Balinias among the Arabians, was attributed to Apollonius who it seems was called Balinas by them.
He followed the philosophical teachings of Pythagoras.
He was also a vegetarian, remained celibate, lived simply and spent five years in silence. His ascetic lifestyle was thought to have been the reason for his long life. He condemned gladiator matches and (animal) sacrifices, changing these practices wherever he went. Besides his travels in distant Babylon where he spoke to the Magi, and India where he conversed with its philosophers, he also spent his time visiting the various temples of the Hellenic world.
Similarities with Jesus
"Before his [Apollonius'] birth, Proteus, an Egyptian god, appeared to his mother and announced that he was to be incarnated in the coming child. Following the directions given her in a dream, she went to a meadow to gather flowers. While there, a flock of swans formed a chorus around her, and, clapping their wings, sung in unison. While they were thus engaged, and the air was being fanned by a gentle zephyr, Apollonius was born."Link
- Raising from the dead: In Rome he was said to have brought back to life the daughter of a senator (from a consular family) who to all appearances and all present seemed dead:
"Meeting a funeral procession he said to the attendants, 'Set down the bier, and I will dry up the tears you are shedding for the maid.' He touched the young woman, uttered a few words, and the dead came to life.Link
- Foreseeing the future: For instance,
Being at Smyrna, a plague raged at Ephesus, and he was called thither. 'The journey must not be delayed,' he said, and had no sooner spoken the words than he was at Ephesus.Link
[When he was asked:] 'How could you foretell the plague at Ephesus?' "He replied: 'By living on a lighter diet than other men.'
- Healings: Philostratus' biography records that Apollonius cured a lame man, restored vision to a blind man and healed a man with a withered hand.
- Casting out devils: He performed several exorcisms, including that of a young man possessed by a devil.
In an epistle to Valerius he says:LinkThere is no death of anything except in appearance; and so, also, there is no birth of anything except in appearance. That which passes over from essence into nature seems to be birth, and that which passes over from nature into essence seems, in like manner, to be death; though nothing really is originated, and nothing ever perishes; but only now comes into sight, and now vanishes. It appears by reason of the density of matter, and disappears by reason of the tenuity of essence; but is always the same, differing only in motion and condition.
Death, resurrection, the doubting Demetrios and the Ascension:
According to Philostratus' biography, Apollonius, prior to his death, told Damis to go to Dicaiarchia to meet him again. When after having died and resurrected he appears there as promised, another disciple, Demetrios, doesn't know if he is real. Apollonius lets him touch him after which both Damis and Demetrios know he is real. Apollonius, after having spent many days in the company of his disciples and many others after his death, ascends up to the heavens.
Apollonius also ascended to heaven in front of witnesses
-- Uta Ranke-Heinemann, theologian (professor of Catholic theology)
Differences with Jesus
Unlike Jesus, Apollonius escaped his trials:
At Rome, Apollonius was accused of treason. Brought to examination, the accuser came forward, unfolded his roll on which the accusation had been written, and was astounded to find it a perfect blank.On another occasion, Apollonius disappeared after he had been acquitted in a trial:
He replied: 'You can detain my body, but not my soul; and, I will add, not even my body. Having uttered these words he vanished from the tribunal, and that same day met his friends at Puteoli, three days' journey from Rome.Link
Apollonius, not Jesus, visited India
This fictional yarn about Jesus has probably been spun using the life of Apollonius. Though it is documented that Apollonius journeyed into India and conversed with its sages, Jesus never went there:
The idea that Jesus came to India as a boy and studied in a Buddhist monastery or, alternatively, came to India after the crucifixion and married a princess of Kashmir, tickles the romantic imagination of Western travelers and quite a few Indiana too. The story originates in a clever piece of fiction by the Russian forger Nicholas Notovich that was published in Paris in 1894.Link
The Buddhist monastery where Jesus is said to have studied did not exist until the 16th century, and the Srinagar tomb where he is allegedly buried is really the tomb of a Mogul ambassador to Egypt who converted to Christianity while on tour there. The key to unraveling the tale is to study the activities of the 10th century Nestorian Christian missionaries who passed through Kashmir on their way to China and left crosses on rocks and an abundance of children with biblical names in their wake.
See more on Apollonius
- Ancient Miracles - translations from Philostratus' Vita Apollonii of some of the passages concerning the
1. Exorcism, 2. Raising from the dead and 3. Healings performed by Apollonius
- About.com - Apollonius Tyaneus and Simon Magus
Some examples from the Egyptian religion:
His [Osiris'] followers ate cakes of wheat which symbolized his body.Link
[Osiris'] flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat.Link
... Gods of that period who were eaten in the form of bread, or cakes, included Adonis and Dionysus, among others.
Baptism and Eucharist: initiation into the Mysteries of Isis/OsirisLink
...[the initiate was] sprinkled with purifying water brought from the Nile.
...The ceremony ended two days later with a sacramental meal.
Likewise, with the Mysteries of Dionysus, which also included:
initiation by bathing - baptismLink
a sacred meal
"Christian" rites in the ancient Persian religion:
Baptism, communion, and even confirmation, are rites that were performed in Persia a thousand years before the advent of Christ. Dr. Hyde, in his Religion of the Ancient Persians, says:"They do not use circumcision for their children, but only baptism or washing for the inward purification of the soul.... After such washing, or baptism, the priest imposes on the child the name given by his parents. Afterwards, in the fifteenth year of his age, when he begins to put on the tunic, the sudra, and the girdle, that he may enter upon religion, and is engaged in the articles of belief, the priest bestows upon him confirmation."-- The Christ, John E. Remsberg
Zarathustra predicted the imminent arrival of a World Savior (Saoshyant), who would be born of a virgin and who would lead humanity in the final battle against Evil. Jewish Messianism grafted these conceptions onto their preexisting expectations of a Davidic king who would redeem the Jewish nation from foreign oppression.From: Zoroastrianism: The Forgotten Source
This is the very reason why many Jewish groups today as in the past have not accepted the Christian presentation of Jesus as "Messiah". In Judaism, from where the word comes after all, the Messiah was to be someone of the line of their King David who would come to free the Jewish people from foreign rule. The Messiah was not to be "the saviour of the world".
On the other hand, the Zoroastrian Saoshyant was by definition the saviour of the world - which the Persian religious scriptures of Zoroaster predicted. This was not Jesus, even though today's missionaries try unsuccessfully to convince Persians of this.
The Persian traditions tell of how Mithras was born in human form as the Saoshyant (Saviour) predicted by Zarathustra. The virgin mother in this case was the Persian fertility Goddess Anahita who underwent Immaculate Conception and gave birth to Mithras.
In their confusion, early Judeo-Christian sects merged the two totally different concepts of Messiah and Saoshyant together and botched up both.
As a Messiah, Jesus functioned purely along Zoroastrian lines. While purportedly of the Davidic line, he offered only redemption from sin, rather than national salvation for the Jews. He was a world savior rather than a Jewish Messiah. Jews did not recognize him as their Messiah, and in a real sense he wasn't. Their Messianic expectations, which preceded any foreign influence, went unfulfilled; in fact, their nation was ultimately destroyed. Neither did Jesus effect a final triumph over Evil. This has been reserved for a second coming in conjunction with the last judgment and the rewards and punishments of either Heaven or Hell.Same Link
The Messiah of Judaism and the Messiah, or Christ, of Christianity, were derived from the Persian theology, the adherents of each system modifying the doctrine to suit their respective notions.Therefore, Jesus was neither Messiah nor Saoshyant, having failed to meet the standards of Messiah as per Jewish tradition and those of Saoshyant as per Zoroastrian tradition.
Christians cite numerous passages from the writings of the Old Testament, which they claim foretold the advent of Jesus. Not one of these passages, as originally penned, refers in the remotest degree to him, though many of them do refer to the office he is said to have filled. The Jews hoped for a deliverer, for a national leader who would reestablish the kingdom of Israel, and restore to it the glory of David's reign. They were loyal to the house of David and believed that this deliverer would be a descendant, a son, of David.
While the Messianic idea was originally a Persian idea, the materials used in the formation of the Christian Messiah were drawn largely from the Jewish Scriptures. There are passages in the Old Testament ... which predict the coming of a Messiah. These furnished a portion of the materials out of which this Messianic deity, Christ, was formed. There are many more which have no reference whatever to a Messiah, which have been made to serve as Messianic prophecies. The Old Testament, as we have it, is alleged to be a Jewish work. It is, rather, a Christian work. It is a Christian version of ancient Jewish writings, every book of which has been more or less Christianized. Much of it is scarcely recognizable to a Jewish scholar. This is especially true of so-called Messianic prophecies.The Christian Messiah was, on the one hand, modeled, to a considerable extent, after the Jewish ideal, while the Jewish materials, on the other hand, were freely altered to fit the new conception. Referring to the work of the Evangelists, M. Renan says:"Sometimes they reasoned thus: 'The Messiah ought to do such a thing, now Jesus is the Messiah, therefore Jesus has done such a thing.' At other times, by an inverse process, it was said: 'Such a thing has happened to Jesus; now Jesus is the Messiah; therefore such a thing was to happen to the Messiah.'" (Jesus, p. 27).-- The Christ, John E. Remsberg
Why don't Jews believe in jesus?
- "For 2,000 years, Jews have rejected the Christian idea of Jesus as messiah". The page lists the reasons and explains them in more depth. A summary of the reasons given:
Jesus did not fulfill the messianic prophecies; Jesus did not embody the personal qualifications of the Messiah; Biblical verses "referring" to Jesus are mistranslations
The decorated pine tree stems directly from the Mystery cults and the worship of the god Attis. He is held to have been a man who became a tree and, hence, is the embodiment of the ancient tree-spirit we meet in ancient Indian or Indus mythology from as early as Harappa and Mohenjo Daro. He is clearly a fertility god of corn and wears a Phrygian cap like Mithras (from the statue in the Lateran; Frazer, v, p. 279).Link
The Phrygians worshipped the pine tree above all others and it is from this area that we derive the Mysteries and the Mithras system. It is probably sacred to the cults in that it is an evergreen lasting through the solstice period over a large area, when other trees are bare. Remember also that pine resin was burnt at the solstice festivals. The origins are lost in the antiquity of the Assyro-Babylonian system.
Even though the Christmas Tree as known today was but a late adoption in Germany, it does appear to have been used in the north in pre-Christian times. Because the fir tree remained green throughout the seemingly never-ending sunless winter, it was held in respect there. Whether or not it was decorated in those times is not entirely certain, although it is a possibility, but it did appear to take one of the central places during Winter-Solstice celebrations.
- The leader of the [Mithraic] cult was called a pope (papa) and he ruled from a "mithraeum" on the Vatican Hill in Rome.
- A prominent iconographic feature in Mithraism was a large key, needed to unlock the celestial gates through which souls of the deceased were believed to pass. It would appear that the "keys of the Kingdom" held by the popes as successors to "St. Peter" derive from Mithra, not from a Palestinian messiah.
- The Mithraic priests wore miters, special headdresses from which the Christian bishop's hat was derived. (The Latin name for this Phrygian/Persian hat was mitra - which also was an acceptable Latin spelling for Mithra!)
- The Mithraists consumed a sacred meal (Myazda) which was completely analogous to the Catholic Eucharistic service (Missa, or Mass).
- A major center of Mithraic philosophy was at Tarsus - St. Paul's hometown - in what now is Southeast Turkey.
The Mithraic Myazda had a sword in the shape of a cross drawn upon it, similar to the earlier Christian ones that eventually evolved into the Catholic communion wafers of today.
It is not merely the Miters that today's bishops wear which have remained unchanged. The rest of their gear is similar to what their Mithraic equivalents wore.
Magi, priests of Zarathustra, wore robes that featured the sword of Mithra. Identical robes are worn by Christian priests to this day.Today's Pope is also dressed in the same fashion as the Pater Patrum of Mithraism:
-- Mythology's Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus, by William Harwood
"the Mithraic Holy father wore a red cap and garment and a ring, and carried a shepherds staff. The Head Christian adopted the same title and outfitted himself in the same manner."In fact, the Pope's crown-like headgear is still called by the Persian name of tiara.
-- Mythology's Last Gods, by William Harwood
Although Christian priests came to be called "Father", like their predecessors the Mithraic priests, this is actually a title forbidden in Christianity:
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.
- From Apollo to Christ! The Evolving Legend – How the Godman is Made and Remade - fascinating pictures comparing how over time representations of Christ evolved directly from those of the earlier Apollo, as well as some other Gods of the region.
The Greco-Roman Apollo, like Mithras, Adonis, Attis and the others, heavily determined how Jesus was to be perceived in the coming centuries. Apollo was a solar deity (though the actual Sun God was Helios.)
- The Mysterious dying God - Pre-Christian resurrected Gods at About.com
- About.com - Guess the Saviour Quiz
- Guess the Saviour galleries at About.com:
- Pagan origins of the Christ Myth - a page that in pictorial fashion presents some of the precursors to Christ in the Mediterranean region.
The site also has brief pages on Osiris, Dionysus, Mithras, Attis, Adonis and more.
- The Origins of Christmas and Easter page of the Christian Churches of God site. This denomination has tried to identify pagan practises that occur in most Christian denominations and wants to remove them for being heresy.
The page documents some of the many pre-Christian, pagan elements that for certain reasons have been incorporated into Christian beliefs and practices. Because it's a Christian site, it is of course biased in some of its descriptions of pre-Christian practices (depicting them with the same incorrect stereotyping Christians have used since the beginning). Being a Protestant site, it also describes the saintly position Mary had slowly gained in Catholicism as having led to Mariolatry (Mary-idolatry).
But at least it recognises that many so-called "Christian" rituals, festivals and beliefs do in fact predate Christianity and are plagiarised.
- Was Jesus Unique?
- Pagan origins of Christianity