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Jesus and Mithra
Is Jesus' story a copy of the Persian mythology of Mithra?
Jesus as a Reincarnation of Mithra
The Vatican was built upon the grounds previously devoted to the worship of Mithra (also known as Mithras) (600 B.C.). The Orthodox Christian hierarchy is nearly identical to the Mithraic version. Virtually all of the elements of Orthodox Christian rituals, from miter, wafer, water baptism, alter, and doxology, were adopted from the Mithra and earlier pagan mystery religions. The religion of Mithra preceded Christianity by roughly six hundred years. Mithraic worship at one time covered a large portion of the ancient world. It flourished as late as the second century. The Messianic idea originated in ancient Persia and this is where the Jewish and Christian concepts of a Savior came from. Mithra, as the sun god of ancient Persia, had the following karmic similarities with Jesus:
Identical Life Experiences
Mithra was born on December 25th as an offspring of the Sun. Next to the gods Ormuzd and Ahrimanes, Mithra held the highest rank among the gods of ancient Persia. He was represented as a beautiful youth and a Mediator. Reverend J. W. Lake states: "Mithras is spiritual light contending with spiritual darkness, and through his labors the kingdom of darkness shall be lit with heaven's own light; the Eternal will receive all things back into his favor, the world will be redeemed to God. The impure are to be purified, and the evil made good, through the mediation of Mithras, the reconciler of Ormuzd and Ahriman. Mithras is the Good, his name is Love. In relation to the Eternal he is the source of grace, in relation to man he is the life-giver and mediator" (Plato, Philo, and Paul, p. 15).
He was considered a great traveling teacher and master. He had twelve companions as Jesus had twelve disciples. Mithras also performed miracles.
The International Encyclopedia states: "Mithras seems to have owed his prominence to the belief that he was the source of life, and could also redeem the souls of the dead into the better world ... The ceremonies included a sort of baptism to remove sins, anointing, and a sacred meal of bread and water, while a consecrated wine, believed to possess wonderful power, played a prominent part."
Chambers Encyclopedia says: "The most important of his many festivals was his birthday, celebrated on the 25th of December, the day subsequently fixed -- against all evidence -- as the birthday of Christ. The worship of Mithras early found its way into Rome, and the mysteries of Mithras, which fell in the spring equinox, were famous even among the many Roman festivals. The ceremonies observed in the initiation to these mysteries -- symbolical of the struggle between Ahriman and Ormuzd (the Good and the Evil) -- were of the most extraordinary and to a certain degree even dangerous character. Baptism and the partaking of a mystical liquid, consisting of flour and water, to be drunk with the utterance of sacred formulas, were among the inauguration acts."
Mithra was called "the good shepherd,” "the way, the truth and the light,” “redeemer,” “savior,” “Messiah." He was identified with both the lion and the lamb.
Prof. Franz Cumont, of the University of Ghent, writes as follows concerning the religion of Mithra and the religion of Christ: "The sectaries of the Persian god, like the Christians', purified themselves by baptism, received by a species of confirmation the power necessary to combat the spirit of evil; and expected from a Lord's supper salvation of body and soul. Like the latter, they also held Sunday sacred, and celebrated the birth of the Sun on the 25th of December.... They both preached a categorical system of ethics, regarded asceticism as meritorious and counted among their principal virtues abstinence and continence, renunciation and self-control. Their conceptions of the world and of the destiny of man were similar. They both admitted the existence of a Heaven inhabited by beatified ones, situated in the upper regions, and of a Hell, peopled by demons, situated in the bowels of the earth. They both placed a flood at the beginning of history; they both assigned as the source of their condition, a primitive revelation; they both, finally, believed in the immortality of the soul, in a last judgment, and in a resurrection of the dead, consequent upon a final conflagration of the universe" (The Mysteries of Mithras, pp. 190, 191).
Reverend Charles Biggs stated: "The disciples of Mithra formed an organized church, with a developed hierarchy. They possessed the ideas of Mediation, Atonement, and a Savior, who is human and yet divine, and not only the idea, but a doctrine of the future life. They had a Eucharist, and a Baptism, and other curious analogies might be pointed out between their system and the church of Christ (The Christian Platonists, p. 240).
In the catacombs at Rome was preserved a relic of the old Mithraic worship. It was a picture of the infant Mithra seated in the lap of his virgin mother, while on their knees before him were Persian Magi adoring him and offering gifts.
He was buried in a tomb and after three days he rose again. His resurrection was celebrated every year.
McClintock and Strong wrote: "In modern times Christian writers have been induced to look favorably upon the assertion that some of our ecclesiastical usages (e.g., the institution of the Christmas festival) originated in the cultus of Mithraism. Some writers who refuse to accept the Christian religion as of supernatural origin, have even gone so far as to institute a close comparison with the founder of Christianity; and Dupuis and others, going even beyond this, have not hesitated to pronounce the Gospel simply a branch of Mithraism" (Art. "Mithra").
Mithra had his principal festival on what was later to become Easter, at which time he was resurrected. His sacred day was Sunday, "the Lord's Day." The Mithra religion had a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper."
The Christian Father Manes, founder of the heretical sect known as Manicheans, believed that Christ and Mithra were one. His teaching, according to Mosheim, was as follows: "Christ is that glorious intelligence which the Persians called Mithras ... His residence is in the sun" (Ecclesiastical History, 3rd century, Part 2, ch. 5).
"I am a star which goes with thee and shines out of the depths." - Mithraic saying
"I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star." - Jesus, (Rev. 22:16)
In hundreds of underground temples scattered across the territory of the Roman Empire from England to Syria, modern archaeologists have uncovered paintings and carvings of a young man killing a bull. The significance of this picture, the central icon of a secretive cult known as Mithraism, has been one of the great unsolved archaeological mysteries of this century. What mythical event is depicted by these figures? What clues does the bull slaying yield about the teachings of the cult? I and several other researchers have come to a conclusion that may seem unlikely at first: the image does not represent a myth about events on the earth; instead it is an astronomical code with strong religious implications.
This surprising interpretation gains credibility when considered in light of the widespread religious and social upheavals of the time. Mediterranean civilization in the seven centuries between Alexander the Great and Constantine provided exceptionally fertile soil for the growth of new religions. Alexander's conquests, solidified by his Hellenistic and Roman successors, rapidly created a unified Mediterranean culture out of what had formerly been a diverse collection of individual nations, city-states and tribes. Older forms of religious expression, which had generally been the product of smaller, close-knit societies, were losing their ability to furnish a sense of meaning for individuals adrift in a vastly expanded and increasingly impersonal empire.
As the Hellenistic and Roman empires swallowed up the older city-states and tribes, people came to feel that the powers determining their lives lay out of reach, in the distant parts of the empire. Any philosophy or religion that could offer people a sense of understanding or control exercised a strong attraction.
The emergence of Christianity was one response to these conditions. It offered membership in a symbolic community--the "New Israel"-- to people whose actual communities, now submerged in the imperial order, could no longer supply a firm sense of identity. Another response was the rise of fatalism, the idea that life completely controlled by an impersonal fate. Indeed, a personified form of Fate or Chance came to be worshiped as a god in many Hellenistic cults. The name of one Hellenistic philosophy that embraced this fatalistic world view, Stoicism, survives today, signifying resigned endurance of whatever life may bring.
The general fatalism of the time prepared the way for the success of the more specific fatalism of astrology. Astrology, which first began to gain popular acceptance during the Hellenistic period (the time following the conquests of Alexander), claimed, with a persuasive aura of mathematical accuracy, that all events were pre-determined by powers residing in the stars. The growth of fatalism and astrology in this period makes it plausible that a religion based on the stars should have arisen.
The cult known as the Mithraic mysteries, or Mithraism, was one of the most important--and certainly one of the most intriguing--of the religions that arose at about the same time as Christianity. It came into existence in the first century B.C.; Plutarch writes that the Cilician pirates were practicing Mithraic rites by 67 B.C. (The pirates, based in the province of Cilicia in Asia Manor, numbered about 20,000; at their height their operations extended over the entire Mediterranean Sea.) Mithraism reached its peak in the third century and finally succumbed to the expansion of Christianity in the late fourth century, about the time that the Western Roman Empire was falling.
The cult's membership for the most part comprised soldiers, state bureaucrats and merchants; women were excluded. Like a number of other ancient religions (the mysteries of Isis and the Eleusinian mysteries among them), Mithraism limited its membership to those who had passed through a secret initiation ritual. Initiates were forbidden to speak to outsiders about cult secrets, and hence, they were named mysteria, a word whose root means to keep silent. The English word mystery and related words such as mysticism are ultimately derived from the Greek name for the cults. Mithraism was organized around seven distinct grades of initiation, forming a hierarchical structure through which members gradually ascended.
The cult's secrecy meant that no written record of Mithraic doctrines survives. As a result, the only information available to scholars attempting to reconstruct the cult's teachings is the elaborate iconography that decorates the temples. Most of it depicts various activities involving the cult's god, Mithras; the crucial scene is the so-called tauroctony, or bull slaying, in which Mithras, accompanied by various figures, is shown in the act of killing a bull. A tauroctony is found in the most prominent location in virtually every Mithraic temple, and it is clear that this icon holds the key to the central secret of the Mithraic mysteries. In the absence of any written explanation, however, deciphering it has proved a notoriously difficult task.
For most of the 20th century scholarly attempts to explain the tauroctony were dominated by the work of Franz Cumont, the famous Belgian historian of religion. Cumont's interpretation, first presented in 1899, was based on the fact that Mithras is the Greek and Latin name of a much older Iranian god, Mithra. Cumont concluded that Mithraism was imported from the ancient Iranian cult of Mithra, who represented light and truth and was believed to be the special guardian of contracts and agreements. Cumont argued that deciphering the tauroctony was simply a matter of finding parallels to its symbolic elements in ancient Iranian mythology.
Cumont's approach had significant problems. Most important, there is no known Iranian myth in which Mithra has anything to do with killing a bull. Cumont seized instead on an Iranian creation myth in which Ahriman, the embodiment of evil, kills a bull from whose blood and body spring all the living creatures of the earth. He claimed that this myth must have existed in a variant form (for which there is, however, no evidence) in which the good god Mithra replaced the evil Ahriman as the bull slayer. Cumont's eminence was such that his theories remained virtually unchallenged for more than 70 years.
The Iranian connection, and with it Cumont's interpretation of the tauroctony, came under concerted attack at the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies, held at the University of Manchester in 1971. Several scholars, chief among them John Hinnells of Manchester and R.L. Gordon of the University of East Anglia, suggested that Mithraism had in fact been created as a completely new religion somewhere in the Greco-Roman world and that it had merely adopted the name of the Iranian god to give itself an exotic flavor and an aura of antiquity.
If the tauroctony did not represent an Iranian myth, what did it represent? Starting in the mid-1970's, several scholars (including Roger Beck of the University of toronto, Stanley Insler of Yale University, Michael Speidel of the University of Hawaii, Alessandro Bausani of the University of Rome and me) put forward new interpretations of the tauroctony (and of Mithraism) based on the hypothesis that the picture is actually a star map.
Astrological beliefs permeated Mediterranean religious and intellectual life at the time Mithraism originated. In part this was the result of the fatalism of the age. In addition, for individuals cut off from their local traditions and free to move at will anywhere in the empire, astrology filled the need for new symbols that could help make sense of everyday life but were not tied to a particular locality or community, as were the older religious forms. The configurations of the stars appeared the same no matter where in the empire one traveled and so provided ideal raw material for such a universal symbolic system.
The acceptance of astrology led to a growing belief that the dwelling place of the gods was in the realm of the stars. For example, it was during the Hellenistic period that it became the standard practice to call the planets by the names of various Greek gods, such as Zeus (Jupiter) and Ares (Mars). Astrology also encouraged a new conception of life after death, according to which the soul did not go to the underworld, as had earlier been believed, but rather rose through the planetary spheres to the sphere of the fixed stars and then to the paradise that lay beyond the outermost sphere. In time this journey came to be imagined as difficult and dangerous, with secret passwords required to cross each planetary threshold.
Astronomical concepts must have been important in Mithraism, given the frequent appearance of astronomical symbols in Mithraic iconography. The 12 signs of the zodiac and symbols of the sun, moon and planets often appear together with the tauroctony and elsewhere in Mithraic art. The classical author Eubulus, writing during the first or second century, said that the Mithraic temple was meant to be "an image of the cosmos." It now appears that the tauroctony itself was an astral symbol.
In addition to Mithras and the bull, the tauroctony contains a number of other figures: a dog, a snake, a raven, a scorpion and sometimes a lion and a cup. It cannot be coincidence that each has a parallel among the constellations: Canis Minor, Hydra, Corvus, Scorpio, Leo and Crater; the bull is paralleled by Taurus. My work has been directed toward explaining how these constellations could come to form the central icon of a powerful religious movement.
These seven constellations, I have found, are linked in the sky as well as in the tauroctony. With the exception of Leo, they lie along a path defined by an ancient position of the celestial equator. The celestial equator is a projection of the earth's equator onto the celestial sphere. It is an imaginary circle tilted at an angle of 23 degrees to the plane of the earth's orbit (the ecliptic, or the plane that defines the circle of the zodiac). The celestial equator crosses the zodiac at the equinoxes-- the points on the celestial sphere where the sun appears to be on the first day of spring and the first day of autumn.
In antiquity the celestial equator was far more than merely an imaginary circle. Ancient astronomers believed that the earth was located in the center of the universe and was absolutely immovable; the fixed stars were attached to a great sphere that rotated around the earth once a day on an axis running between the sphere's north and south poles. Features of this sphere, such as its poles and equator, played a crucial role in the ancient understanding of the structure of the cosmos. As a result, the celestial equator was much better known in antiquity than it is today; for example, Plato, in his dialogue Timaeus, writes that the creator of the universe began the formation of the cosmos by shaping its substance into the letter X to represent the crossing of the ecliptic and the celestial equator.
For most of antiquity it was believed that the axis of the celestial sphere was, like the earth, immovable. In fact, the earth's rotational axis (the modern equivalent of the ancient cosmic axis) is not fixed; it has a wobbling movement. As it wobbles, the celestial equator wobbles with it, and the relative positions of the equator and the ecliptic change. This so-called precession of the equinoxes means that the position of the sun in the sky at the equinox moves backward along the ecliptic, and so the equinox occurs slightly earlier every year. The complete precession takes approximately 25,920 years; the sun moves through one constellation every 2,160 years. Today the spring equinox is in the constellation of Pisces; in about the year 2200 it will enter Aquarius. During Greco-Roman times the spring equinox was in Aries, which it had entered in about 2000 B.C. Before that it was in Taurus.
With the exception of Leo, all the constellations in the tauroctony lie on the celestial equator as it would have been seen when the spring equinox was in Taurus. (Leo marks the sun's location at the summer solstice-- the position of which is also shifted by the precession-- in that era.) The arrangement of constellations in the tauroctony, then, matches an astronomical situation that prevailed 2,000 years before the origins of Mithraism.
How could Mithraists have known of this ancient astronomical arrangement, and why would they have seen it as having religious significance? The precession of the equinoxes was unknown for most of ancient times. It was discovered in about 125 B.C. by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, only a few decades before the initial rise of Mithraism. His careful observations showed the celestial equator was in fact gradually shifting backward through the zodiac. His calculations also made clear which constellations would have lain along the celestial equator when the equinox was in Taurus (its most recent position before the Greco-Roman period).
From the geocentric perspective, the precession (a movement of the earth) appears to be a movement of the entire cosmic sphere. For people who held both a geocentric world view and the belief that the movements of the stars influenced human fates, the discovery of the precession would have been literally world-shaking: the stable sphere of the fixed stars was being unseated by some force apparently larger than the cosmos itself. Ancient intellectuals, accustomed as they were to seeing the work of the gods reflected in the works of nature, could easily have taken this great movement as evidence for the existence of a powerful, hitherto unsuspected deity.
The meaning of the tauroctony now becomes clear: the death of the bull aptly symbolized the end of the reign of Taurus as the constellation of the spring equinox and the beginning of the most recent era. The other figures in the tauroctony all represent constellations whose special position in the sky was also ended by the force of the precession.
By killing the bull-- causing the precession of the equinoxes-- Mithras was in effect moving the entire universe. A god capable of performing such a tremendous deed would be eminently deserving of worship. Furthermore, the ability to move the cosmos would be seen as endowing Mithras with other powers as well, such as the ability to overcome the forces of fate residing in the stars and to guarantee the soul a safe passage through the planetary spheres after death.
Other Mithraic images indicate that Mithras was in fact believed to embody such cosmic power; there are scenes that show Mithras bearing on his shoulder the sphere of the universe or in which a youthful Mithras holds the cosmic sphere in one hand while with his other he rotates the zodiac. In several tauroctonies, the starry sky is shown contained beneath Mithras's cloak.
The status of Mithras as the motive force behind the precession of the equinox could also explain the secretive nature of the Mithraic mysteries. Adherents could well have believed that their knowledge constituted a powerful secret best kept to themselves and among selected initiates. For those chosen, an understanding of the complex astronomical structure underlying the nature of Mithras would have required a lengthy period of indoctrination. Only after acquiring the requisite knowledge could initiates properly appreciate this new god.
An important question remains: If all the figures in the tauroctony represent constellations, then what constellation does Mithras represent? In the tauroctony, Mithras is located directly above the bull and is always depicted as a young man carrying a dagger and wearing a distinctive conical hat known as a Phrygian cap. The sky directly above Taurus, in fact, contains a constellation typically represented as a young man carrying a dagger and wearing a Phrygian cap: the Greek hero Perseus. Moreover, Perseus was worshiped as a god in Cilicia--precisely the region to which Plutarch traces the origins of Mithraism.
Tarsus, the capital city of Cilicia, was the home of one of the most important intellectual communities in the Mediterranean. This community was dominated by Stoic philosophers who were famous not only for their fatalism (which led them to be firm believers in astrology) but also for their tradition of personifying natural forces in the form of gods and heroes. Most likely, Mithraism arose as intellectuals in Tarsus, speculating about the force responsible for the newly discovered precession of the equinoxes, personified that power in the local Cilician god Perseus. Perseus, after all, was already identified as a constellation, and the message of his position in the sky was clear to read.
But if Mithras was originally in some sense Perseus, how did his name come to be Mithras? First, of course, it would make sense for a mystery religion to conceal the true name of its deity. Second, because of the sound of his name, Perseus was believed in antiquity to have been the founder of Persia (Iran) and thus could easily have become linked mythologically with the Iranian god of light and truth, Mithra. Third, around the time of the origins of Mithraism, most of Asia Minor came under the control of King Mithridates of Pontus, who formed a strong alliance with the Cilician pirates. Mithridates belonged to a dynasty named after Mithra; in addition, he and his ancestors believed that they were descended from Perseus. It was probably in the circles around King Mithridates-- who fancied himself an intellectual and took a special interest in Greek religious beliefs-- that the link was formed between Perseus and Mithra that eventually led to the adoption of the name Mithras (the Greek form of the name Mithra).
Today Christianity is one of the world's dominant religions; Mithraism (along with any number of other cults) died out. Why?
One crucial difference between the two is that from its beginning Christianity sought to make as many converts as possible. The author of the gospel of Matthew, for example, ends by having Jesus say, "Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations." Mithraism, in contrast, was based on a secret, and secrets lose their appeal in direct proportion to the numbers of people who know them.
In addition, Mithraism took hold mostly among groups of people-- soldiers, bureaucrats, merchants-- who were intimately bound up with the existing social order of the empire, and the cult's hierarchical structure fitted that order in a way that early Christianity, with its apocalyptic doctrine of the return of the messiah and disregard of earthly matters, did not. Early Christians (who were typically people whose social status was problematic in one way or another) possessed a revolutionary zeal that was completely absent in Mithraism.
While early Christians sought to enlighten the world, then, adherents of the Mithraic mysteries sought individual enlightenment and advancement within the existing culture. As a result, Mithraists had no hesitation in adopting practices that would necessarily limit the size of the cult's membership, such as excluding women from the cult, constructing temples as small underground cavities and establishing a complex series of initiation rites.
The heart of the matter, then, is not so much why Mithraism did not grow as Christianity did but rather how Christianity achieved the spectacular success that it sought: by the end of the fourth century it had led to the almost total elimination of competing religions in the Mediterranean world.
The precise reasons for Christianity's success are, of course, a matter of intense scholarly debate. There is a general consensus, however, that one of the most important factors was exclusivity. Becoming a Christian required that a convert give up all other forms of religious worship. Other religions of the times demanded no such single-mindedness: one could be an initiate of Mithras as well as of Isis, participate in sacrifices to Jupiter and at the same time venerate the spirit of a dead emperor. In a time when many people were experiencing the collapse of their traditional sources of meaning, the radical exclusivity of Christianity exercised a powerful appeal: it gave prospective converts the opportunity to make a truly decisive choice; those who did convert could believe that their lives had gained a real purpose and significance. In an age of confusion, Christianity offered its adherents a clear sense of identity.
It is particularly interesting to note that Christianity appealed to some of the same astral-religious conceptions that lay behind Mithraism and other cults. Jesus was frequently described as having a power over the world of the stars. The author of the gospel of Mark (the earliest of the Christian gospels), for example, begins his story by describing how Jesus, at the moment of his baptism, "saw the heavens torn open." Through this image the author seems to have been attempting to convey the idea that the life of Jesus constituted a rupture of the cosmic order, the expression of a power greater than that of the heavens.
The same author also presents Jesus as saying, "In those days... the stars will fall from the sky.... Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." Paul's letter to the Galatians reads in part: "When we were children, we were enslaved to the elemental forces of the cosmos, but when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his son.. .to free [us]." Just as Mithras, by shifting the celestial sphere, upset the order of the universe, so the coming of Jesus was believed to have produced a rupture in the fabric of the cosmos.
Not only early Christianity and Mithraism but also many other religions and philosophical movements of that period expressed this same yearning for identification with a force that could break the boundaries of the cosmos and provide access to realms outside the limits of ordinary experience. Such a yearning was spurred by the upheavals of the time: as the local foundations of culture were undermined, individual horizons could expand. At the same time, scientists' imaginations suddenly stretched out to encompass a grand vision of the celestial spheres. Today's world, with its increasingly global culture and a science that in a single generation has leaped past the farthest galaxies, shows striking parallels with that ancient Mediterranean age.
- by David Ulansey, originally published in Scientific American, December 1989 (vol. 261, #6), pp. 130-135.
Other references of Mithraic lore and Christianity
- “Dating from around the 15th century BC, Mithraism emerged in ancient Persia. ‘Mihr’ (the Persian form of Mithras) was the word not only for the Sun but also for a friend; and that seems to be how this pagan god was originally worshipped - as both supreme sun god and god of love.”
- - Quest for the Past
- “It is probable…that the western Mithras had its roots in a daevic cult of the god as practiced in Mesopotamia and Anatolia, and not in the cult of the Zoroastrianized Mithra in Iran. The western Mithras is a savior god in an era of savior gods.”
- - Richard N. Frye, The Heritage of Persia
- “The only dated Mithraic inscriptions from the pre-Christian period are the texts of Antiochus I of Commagene (69-34 B.C.) in eastern Asia Minor. After that there is one text possibly from the first century A.D., from Cappadocia, one from Phrygia dated to A.D. 77-78, and one from Rome dated to Trajan’s reign (A.D. 98-117). All other dated Mithraic inscriptions and monuments belong to the second century (after A.D. 140), the third, and the fourth century A.D. (M. J. Vermaseren, Corpus Inscriptionum et Monumentorum Religionis Mithriacae, 1956).”
- - Edwin M. Yamauchid, “Easter: Myth, Hallucination, or History?”
“A central feature of the ceremonial associated with Mithras was the taurobolium, the ritual slaughter of a bull which commemorated and repeated Mithras’ primeval act. The initiate was baptized in its blood, partaking of its life-giving properties. It may be noted that this part of the ceremonial closely resembled the ritual of the cult of Cybele, the Great Mother of Asia Minor, which had been brought to Rome three centuries before Christ..”
- - Ninian Smart, The Religious Experience of Mankind
“The liturgy of the Eucharist that John prescribes to the converted in being ‘born again’ is necessary ’so that the speaker might gaze upon the immortal beginning (Jesus) with the immortal (Holy) spirit … and be born again in thought.’
- - [Grese].”
“Some modern Christian believers are familar with this concept of being born again through a spirit and regard it as unique to Christianity. The just-quoted text however is from the pagan Mithras Liturgy, a guidebook of sorts that assists in the Eucharist and prepares the sojourner for his heavenly journey. It advises the seeker of the Sun-god (father of Mithras) to pray saying:”
- - James Still, “The Gospel of John and the Hellenization of Jesus”
“[F]irst beginning of my beginning, …spirit of spirit, the first spirit in me, …now if it be your will, …give me over to immortal birth and, following that, to my underlying nature, so that, after the present need which is pressing me exceedingly, I may gaze upon the immortal beginning with the immortal spirit, that I may be born again in thought.”
- - Mithras Liturgy
“A usual feature of the ancient mystery religions was the partaking of food and drink, and this communion celebration often reenacted a holy meal established by the gods and goddesses. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter the Mother drinks the kykeon instead of read wine, and her devotees likewise drank the ceremonial kykeon instead of red wine, and her devotees likewise drank the ceremonial kykeon in their mystic repast. Mithraic monuments show Mithras and Sol (the Sun) sharing a meal on the body or the hide of a bull, and this sacred feast functioned as the prototype for a holy meal eaten by the Mithraic mystai….One symbolon from the mysteries of Attis claims that a mystes ate from a tambourine and drank from a cymbal in the initiatory rites.”
- - Marvin W.Meyer (Editor), The Ancient Mysteries - A Sourcebook
Both Mithraism and early Christianity “included a baptism and a sacrament of bread and wine, and both guarded their central rites from nonbelievers.”
- - Ancient Wisdom and Secret Sects
“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.”
- - Mithraic Communion (M. J. Vermaseren, Mithras, The Secret God)
“And as they were eating, Jesus, having taken bread, when he had blessed, broke [it], and gave [it] to them, and said, Take [this]: this is my body. And having taken [the] cup, when he had given thanks, he gave [it] to them, and they all drank out of it. And he said to them, This is my blood, that of the [new] covenant, that shed for many.”
- - Mark 14:22-26
“The Mithraic Holy Father wore a red cap and garment and a ring, and carried a shepherd’s staff. The Head Christian adopted the same title and outfitted himself in the same manner. Christian priests, like Mithraic priests, became ‘Father’, despite Jesus’ specific proscription of the acceptance of such a title (Matthew 23:9). That Jesus had been repudiating, not the Mithraists with whom he was unfamiliar, but the Sanhedrin, whose President was styled Father, is hardly relevant.
“Mithra’s bishops wore a mithra, or miter, as their badge of office. Christian bishops also adopted miters. Mithraists commemorated the sun-god’s ascension by eating a mizd, a sun-shaped bun embossed with the sword (cross) of Mithra. The hot cross bun and the mass were likewise adapted to Christianity. The Roman Catholic mizd/mass wafer continues to retain its sun-shape, although its Episcopal counterpart does not. “All Roman Emperors from Julius Caesar to Gratian had been pontifex maximus, high priest of the Roman gods. When Theodosius refused the title as incompatible with his status as a Christian, the Christian bishop of Rome picked it up. Magi, priests of Zarathustra, wore robes that featured the sword of Mithra. Identical robes are worn by Christian priests to this day.”
- - William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus
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