Some years ago I got tired of seeing, every Christmas, the "Jesus is really Mithras! Har har!" posts, which never seemed to contain any information about Mithras. My hobby is ancient history, and the posts rather smelled, to my eye. So I researched the cult of Mithras, and tabulated all the ancient sources, and I read the main scholarly works. I was rather depressed to find that the posts that had sparked it all did not contain ANY valid history (I leave the religious issue aside), and were utterly wrong on points of FACT (again, religious opinions are not the point here -- I'm talking about stuff you can just look up).
I see that some of the rubbish has crept in here, via the Jewish hate-site JDStone. I wonder if I might add a few comments on the statements made, as if from history?
zoltan2 wrote:1) Hundreds of years before Jesus, according to the Mithraic religion, three Wise Men of Persia came to visit the baby savior-god Mithra, bring him gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense.
This involves the first serious mistake. Persian Mithra and Roman Mithras are not the same thing. The archaeology makes it impossible for them to be same; and Mithras is mainly known from archaeology. The first archaeology of Mithras dates to ca. 100 AD; the first literary text (Statius) to ca. 80 AD. No such statement is found in ANY ancient Mithras source.
I am also familiar with the Zoroastrian texts that mention Mithra. No such statement is found in any of these.
If anyone wants to argue, I must ask that they produce the relevant primary source. There isn't one.
The statements made below say "Mithra" but mean "Mithras", the Roman cult. No Zoroastrian text records any of what follows about Mithra.
2) Mithra was born on December 25 as told in the “Great Religions of the World”, page 330; “…it was the winter solstice celebrated by ancients as the birthday of Mithraism’s sun god”.c
No ancient source associates Mithras with 25 Dec., unfortunately. The idea that it might is based on a careless statement ca. 1900 by the great Mithras scholar, Franz Cumont, and repeated without careful examination since. But it's just a myth. There WAS a festival of the late Roman state sun god, Sol Invictus on that date in late antiquity, but it is not recorded before 354 AD (in the Chronography of 354).
3) According to Mithraism, before Mithra died on a cross, he celebrated a “Last Supper with his twelve disciples, who represented the twelve signs of the zodiac.
No ancient text records this. Mithras did not die in any ancient source; nor did he have "disciples". He is sometimes depicted with stars on his cloak, and surrounded by the zodiac.
4) After the death of Mithra, his body was laid to rest in a rock tomb.
No ancient text records any death, still less a burial.
5) Mithra had a celibate priesthood.
No ancient text records this.
6) Mithra ascended into heaven during the spring (Passover) equinox (the time when the sun crosses the equator making night and day of equal length). "
No ancient text records this either.
When the Christ myth was new Mithras and Mithraism were already ancient.
There is no ancient source for Mithras before AD 80, although the cult must have existed earlier, I would suggest. The only source suggesting a pre-Christian origin is Plutarch's "Life of Pompey", written ca. 110 AD, which says that the Cilician pirates worshipped Mithras ca. 68 BC. But the archaeology shows no sign of this, and consequently modern scholars tend to suppose that Plutarch, 170 years later, was simply confused.
Worshiped for centuries as God's Messenger of Truth, Mithras was long revered by the Persians and the Indians (Zoroastrianism)
The Persian cult of Mithra (Indian Mitra) is certainly ancient. But "God's Messenger of Truth"? Mithra is always described as the "Lord of wide pastures".
before his faith found it's way to Rome where His mysteries flourished in the second century AD.
The 2nd century WAS the heyday of the Mithras cult, as the archaeology shows. But it was not a Persian cult, other than in name. There are no Mithraeums - the characteristic temples of Mithras - outside the Roman empire.
Every year in Rome, in the middle of winter, the Son of God was born one more, putting an end to darkness.
No ancient text records this.
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.
No ancient text records this. It is, evidently, a crude modern fiction, inspired by malice. One would have thought the phrase "too good to be true" would have occurred to the author at some point, but evidently not.
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." 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. His followers kept the Sabbath holy, holding sacramental feasts 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.
Here we see how another version of the same nonsense has been crudely tacked onto the bottom, ignoring the duplication.
How much of this is true? Very little. No text shows Mithras born in a cave -- he was born from a rock! He wasn't a man at all. He was never addressed in such terms as Jesus. He had no disciples, did not travel, was never buried or died. The remainder is of the same standard.
Many ancient cults had ritual meals. Commonplace human acts like eating in the presence of a god do not require any special theory of origins. In the case of the Mithras cult there were seven different meals, for each of the seven grades of initiation. One of these was a meal of bread and water (not bread and wine), which Justin Martyr, ca. 150 AD, tells us was being celebrated by cultists in Rome in a way that took the piss out of the Christian communion. Unfortunately he does not tell us how, or why; but Justin himself was denounced to the police and executed some time later, so it probably reflects rising animosity against Christians in Roman society at that period.
Baptism in the blood of the bull (taurobolum)
The Taurobolium is not a rite of Mithras, but of Cybele. It was not called "baptism in the blood of the bull" in any ancient source.
– 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.
The punctuation is too poor to be certain what is asserted as evidenced by Tertullian, but none of what is said here is evidenced in his works.
Paul was quit aware of all of this
No ancient text records this, however. It is not certain, after all, that the cult even existed in his lifetime.
and it was that much easier to bring the pagan Gentile people into this new religion called Christianity.
The early Christians were not syncretic, and their history is one of persecution precisely because they did NOT hold this view.
Enough of this malicious twaddle. All this stuff is nonsense, which a child could verify if he chose. It is fabricated by dishonest and malicious people, for the purpose of deceiving those eager to believe ill of Christianity. Whatever our religious opinions -- and mine are no better than anyone else's -- I do not see how anyone benefits from getting the raw data wrong.
Be sceptical. Believe none of this stuff -- we can all see the malice all over it -- unless it is referenced to ancient sources; and CHECK those references using Google.
All the best,