Is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus unique?
It is unique in that the written accounts by the witnesses of the life of Jesus attest to its authenticity. Many of the mythical gods of the Egyptians, Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans (Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, Balder, Attis, and Dionysus, just to name a few) which predate Christianity were virgin-born and resurrected to life after death. Believing Christians may be surprised to know that nearly two centuries before Christ the ancient Romans worshipped a mythical, all-knowing god named Mithras whose life, death, and resurrection were very similar to that of Jesus Christ. Mithraism competed with Christianity in its first few centuries and was influential enough that in 313 C.E. the Christian church combined its celebration of the birth of Christ with the observed birthday of Mithras (December 25), in order to help make the transition of Rome from paganism to a Christian state. Some believe that the Magi who visited the infant Jesus were Mithraic priests from Persia. Mithraism was a mystery religion which many experts believe was adapted from the Persian worship of the pagan god Mithra, which predates the life of Jesus of Nazareth by about three thousand years. Mithraism was widely popular throughout the Roman Empire in the first four centuries A.D., as attested to by the writings of the early Christian church fathers who sought to refute its teachings (including Justin Martyr, Jerome, Tertullian, and Eusebius), but died out almost completely in the fifth century after the Emperor Constantine formally recognized Christianity as the official state religion of Rome in the fourth century. Most of the early church fathers considered Mithraism to be a cunning parody of Christianity devised by Satan, even conceding that the devil devised a cult of antiquity infused with Christian attributes based on Old Testament prophecies and his anticipation of the coming Christ.
There are no known Mithraic scriptures or literature recording the teachings of this mystery religion (secret cult) in Rome. What is known is based primarily on documentation from earlier civilizations, artistic depictions, monument inscriptions, accounts from early Christians, and modern theories. Mithra, derived from the Indo-Iranian god Mitra, was a god of war, battle, justice, faith, and contract. Much of the proof of Mithraism comes from archeological discoveries of Mithraeums (underground cave shrines) found throughout the provinces of the ancient Roman Empire dating as far back as 67 B.C., some of which are located under Catholic churches (including the Vatican). The founder of the third-century gnostic Manicheans, Manichaeus of Persia (A.D. 216-277, commonly known as Manes or Mani), of which St. Augustine was a follower for nine years before being converted to Christianity, taught that Mithra and Christ were one and the same.
Supposed similarities of the qualities of Mithras to Christ include the following:
- Virgin Birth - Mithras was virgin-born of Anahita, a fertility goddess known as the Mother of God, and initially worshipped by shepherds. Depictions have been found in Roman catacombs of Anahita seated with Mithras on her lap, similar to those of Isis and Horus and later artistic renditions of Mary and Jesus. Classical heroic figures such as Hercules, Perseus, and Theseus were said to have been born through the union of a virgin mother and divine father.
- Sacrifical Death - Mithras was depicted as a bull in earlier forms of worship. In Roman worship, he was portrayed as Sol Invictus, "The Invincible Sun," who slayed a bull which represented darkness. Thus, Mithras sacrificed his own life and became the light of the world.
- Resurrection from the Dead - Mithras was born and buried in a cave. After his supposed resurrection in 208 B.C.E., 64 years after his birth, he emerged from the cave reborn and ascended to heaven. All who are initiated into Mithraism and are faithful will also be physically resurrected from the dead.
- Miracles - Mithras had the ability to heal men of disease and purge sins.
- Son of God - Mithras was believed to be the son of Ahura-Mazda (Ormuzd), the Zoroastrian god of heaven, and endowed with the same divine powers in order to fight the evil powers of darkness led by Aingra Mainyu (Ahriman).
- Holy Trinity - Mithraism claims a holy spirit which is a derivation between Ahura-Mazda and Mithras, thus uniting them all.
- Savior of Mankind - As the officiating priest of god, Persian legend holds that Mithras was of the seed of Zarathustra, an Iranian prophet, born to be savior of the world. Those not saved will perish eternally in an infernal hell.
- Light of the World - Mithras was considered the protector of morality and truth. He was known as the Light of the World both for shining forth worldly wisdom and as the power of the sun. Because he controlled the sun, he was seen as the king of kings and lord of heaven and earth.
- Creator - According to legend, Mithras killed the first of all created beings, the bull -- the shed blood of which brought forth the world, time, and all plant life.
- Baptism - Initiates into Mithraism were baptized in blood from a sacrificed bull during a purification ceremony kown as the Taurobolium. Water baptisms would be performed from then on anytime it was necessary for the remission of sins of the initiated believer.
- Communion - Worship services of Mithraism were customarily held on Sunday (the venerable day of the sun god) and included chanting, bells, candles, incense, and the partaking of bread and wine, called the Myazda, which were considered the transubstantiated body of Mithras that bestowed immortality upon the participants.
- Twelve Disciples - Mithra was said to be a travelling teacher with twelve companions, often depicted by the twelve signs of the zodiac, with whom he partook of a last supper before his death.
- Day of Judgment - As the divine representative of Ahura-Mazda, Mithras was the judge of the souls of men. At the end of time, there will be a final judgment of all mankind by Mithras, who will arrive on the close of history in a chariot pulled by a team of white horses.
- Eternal Life - As the mediator between heaven and earth, Mithras ushered those who were dedicated and faithful into an immortal afterlife in the heavenly realms and guided them through the seven celestial levels of heaven.
- The Cross - The cross was an early symbol of Mithras as sun god, formed by the intersection of the elliptic and the celestial equator, said to be symbolically branded onto the foreheads of initiated Roman soldiers. Mithras was also reported to have been crucified and three days later resurrected on the 25th of March.
It isn't hard to see why critics of the Christian faith accuse the early disciples of Jesus Christ of infusing his moral teachings with pagan mysticism and folklore. Some maintain that Jesus was a wise but misunderstood teacher whose intent was spiritual reform for Israel, not worldwide salvation for all, and that pagan religions such as Mithraism transformed him into the Son of God. Considering that Mithraism was a secretive cult with various levels of initiation rites and rituals, but tolerant of other gods and religions, while Christianity was publicly evangelized to all, yet intolerant of any other gods or religions, it seems unlikely that the cult of Mithra would have had any major influence upon the early Christian church. Had the Apostle Paul, a Jewish Pharisee, encountered Mithraism -- which, being from Tarsus, one of the originating centers of the cult, he probably did -- no doubt he would've seen it for what it was and condemned it. Had he been influenced by it, however, he most likely would've been stoned to death early on by the Jews for spreading paganism instead of living to spread the gospel of God's Anointed One, the promised Jewish Messiah of Old Testament Scripture. Likewise, at least some of the Gentiles whom he preached to, being mostly Greek and Roman, would've seen the combination of Mithraism and Judaism and put a stop to it. The Emperor Constantine, believed to be a follower of Mithras before his conversion to Christianity, is said to have converted some of the Mithraic practices to the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church, including priestly vestments, celibacy among the clergy, Sunday as a day of worship, transubstantiation of the Eucharist, the pope as father of the church, and Mary as Queen of Heaven. At this point in history, nearly three centuries after Jesus walked the earth, when Christianity became the official state religion of Rome, it is more plausible that pagan dogma may have been adopted by the church, however, even Constantine recognized the differences between the two religions. Modern Mithraic scholars concede that the Mithras of the Roman mystery religion and the Mithra/Mitra of earlier near eastern religions have very few characteristics in common. It should be pointed out that Mithraism became popular in Rome during the first century A.D. and the attributes of Mithras were considerably different than those given him from other countries where he was considered a minor diety, so it may have adopted some of the characteristics derived from the beliefs of the new Christian movement. At the time, Mithras was a pagan myth, while Jesus was a living person recently resurrected and risen according to eyewitnesses. It is more likely that the Romans, rather than the Jews, would borrow attributes from one belief system and infuse them into another.
Note: One of the leading experts on this cult, David Ulansey, theorizes that Mithras is actually Perseus (based on artistic depictions) and that Mithraism was a new astrological religion based on the precession of the equinoxes, a new discovery in astronomy at the time. Many of the depictions of Mithras slaying the bull may be a representation of the constellation Perseus changing the position of the celestial sphere by slaying the constellation Taurus and moving the earth into the constellation Aries at the spring equinox. Since Perseus was a Persian god, and the Persians were enemies of Rome, then a lesser known diety was chosen to represent the central figure of a sun god.
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
"See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us -- even eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit -- just as it has taught you, remain in him."
(1 John 2:24-27)
Avesta: Khorda Avesta, 10. MIHR YASHT ("Hymn to Mithra")
"Translated by James Darmesteter (From Sacred Books of the East, American Edition, 1898.) This Yasht, one of the longest of the Avesta and one of the most interesting in a literary point of view, is not very instructive for mythology. It consists of long descriptive pieces, sometimes rather spirited, and of fervent prayers and invocations for mercy or protection. Originally Mithra was the god of the heavenly light (�� 12, 50, 67, 104, 124 seq., 136 seq., etc.); and in that character he knows the truth, as he sees everything; he is therefore taken as a witness of truth, he is the preserver of oaths and good faith (�� 2, 44 seq., 79 seq., 81 seq., etc.); he chastises those who break their promises and lie to Mithra, destroys their houses, and smites them in battle (�� 17 seq., 28 seq., 35 seq., 47 seq., 99 seq., 105 seq., 112 seq., 128 seq., etc.). Particularly interesting are �� 115-118, as giving a sketch of moral hierarchy in Iran, and �� 121-122, as being perhaps the source of the trials in the later Roman Mithraism. Cf. Vend. Intro. IV, 8 and Ormazd et Ahriman, �� 59-61."
Born Digital - Saul of Tarsus and Christ's Blood
"The man known as Paul, also called the 13th apostle, was originally named Saul. Until he was about 30 years old, Saul was an outspoken critic of the new cult of rebel Jews following the teachings of the Rabbi Yeshua, who we now know of as Jesus. Paul later became the first evangelist. Saul's anti Christian stance was abruptly reversed when on the road to Damascus, he had a vision. The Bible says he lost his sight for three days, and when he recovered, he was a convert.(Acts, chapter 9) In Damascus, Saul began to preach, but the locals drove him out of town. He went to Jerusalem and tried to preach there, but Jesus' followers didn't trust him either. He escaped to his home town, Tarsus, in Cilicia, also known as Cesarea. Tarsus, on the northern side of the Mediterranean, in what is now Turkey, was a bustling seaport, 2000 years old when Saul arrived in about year 40 C.E. This big, cosmopolitan city was a mixture of many cultures, and the ancient religion of the god Mithras was prominent among them. Shrines and images of Mithras abound there and as far west as the Danube River, and though obscure, a few of the concepts of Mithraism are known to us."
Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies at the School of Oriental & African Studies - MITHR�/b>
"First, when a foreign thought, religious or otherwise, or even foreign material objects are imposed upon or adopted by a people, they are adapted by the receiving people and one means of adaption and reception is the identification of the foreign thing to what is already existing and familiar. This is natural and permissible, and one may say sincere. Specially in the case of the religion of Mithra which was the most universal religion in the ancient world, and which had its object the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth and the brotherhood of man, as symbolized in the Mithraic sign of the Cross, explained in the Mithraic monument of Hsian-fu in China as representing the unity of man from the four corners of the earth, even the encouragement of such a policy of identification on the art of the followers of Mithra is quite understandable. (Incidentally, the Hsian-fu monument carries all the three symbols of the pearl, the lotus and the dolphin.)" (by Professor M. MOGHDAM, The Second International Congress of Mithraic Studies, Tehran 1975)
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry - Doesn't the religion of Mithra prove that Christianity is false?
"Some critics of Christianity teach that the Christian religion was not based upon divine revelation but that it borrowed from pagan sources, Mithra being one of them. They assert that the figure of Mithra has many commonalities with Jesus, too common to be coincidence... First of all, Christianity does not need any outside influence to derive any of its doctrines. All the doctrines of Christianity exists in the Old Testament where we can see the prophetic teachings of Jesus as the son of God (Zech. 12:10), born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), was crucified (Psalm 22), the blood atonement (Lev. 17:11), rose from the dead (Psalm 16:10), and salvation by faith (Hab. 2:4). Also, the writers of the gospels were eyewitnesses (or directed by eyewitnesses as were Mark and Luke) who accurately represented the life of Christ. So, what they did was write what Jesus taught as well as record the events of His life, death, and resurrection. In other words, they recorded history, actual events and had no need of fabrication or borrowing... Furthermore, those who wrote about Jesus in the New Testament were Jews (or under the instruction of Jews) who were devoted to the legitimacy and inspiration of the Old Testament scriptures and possessed a strong disdain for pagan religions. It would have been blasphemous for them to incorporate pagan sources into what they saw as the fulfillment of the sacred Old Testament scriptures concerning the Messiah. Also, since they were writing about Jesus, they were writing based upon what He taught: truth, love, honesty, integrity, etc. Why then would they lie and make up stories and suffer great persecution, hardships, ridicule, arrest, beatings, and death all for known lies and fabrications from paganism? It doesn't make sense... Therefore, even though there are similarities between Christianity and Mithraism, it is up to the critics to prove that one borrowed from the other. But, considering that the writers of the New Testament was written by Jews who shunned pagan philosophies and that the Old Testament has all of the themes found in Christianity, it is far more probable that if any borrowing was done, it was done by the pagan religions that wanted to emulate the success of Christianity."
Crosscircle - Mithras and Constantine
"In the first place Constantine�s "conversion" does not seem to have been Christian at all but absolutely pagan. He appears to have had some sort of vision in the precincts of a pagan temple to Apollo, either in the Vosges or near Autun. According to a witness accompanying Constantine�s army at the time, the vision was of the sun god�the deity worshiped by certain cults under the name of "Sol Invictus," "the Invincible Sun." There is evidence that Constantine, just before his vision, had been initiated into a Sol Invictus cult. In any case the Roman Senate, after the Battle of Milvian Bridge, erected a triumphal arch in the Coliseum. According to the inscription on this arch Constantine�s victory was won "through the prompting of the Deity." But the deity in question was not Jesus. It was Sol Invictus, the pagan sun god. Contrary to tradition, Constantine did not make Christianity the official state religion of Rome. The state religion of Rome under Constantine was, in fact, pagan sun worship; and Constantine, all his life, acted as its chief priest. Indeed, his reign was called a "sun emperor-ship," and Sol Invictus appeared everywhere�including on the imperial banners and the coinage of the realm. The image of Constantine as a fervent convert to Christianity is clearly wrong. He himself was not even baptized until 337�when he lay on his deathbed and was apparently too weakened or too apathetic to protest. Nor can he be credited with the Chi Rho monogram. An inscription bearing this monogram was found on a tomb at Pompeii dating from two and a half centuries before. The cult of Sol Invictus was Syrian in origin and imposed by Roman emperors on their subjects a century before Constantine. Although it contained elements of Baal and Astarte worship, it was essentially monotheistic. In effect, it pronounced the sun god as the sum of all attributes of all other gods and thus potential rivals. Moreover, it conveniently harmonized with the cult of Mithras�which was also prevalent in Rome and the empire at the time and which also involved solar worship."
The Ecole Initiative - Mithraism
"The Roman cult of Mithras is known as a "mystery" cult, which is to say that its members kept the the liturgy and activities of the cult secret, and more importantly, that they had to participate in an initiation ceremony to become members of the cult. As a result, there is no surviving central text of Mithraism analogous to the Christian Bible, and there is no intelligible text which describes the liturgy. Whether such texts ever existed is unknown, but doubtful. Worship took place in a temple, called a mithraeum, which was made to resemble a natural cave. Sometimes temples were built specifically for the purpose, but often they were single rooms in larger buildings which usually had another purpose (for example, a bath house, or a private home). There are about one hundred mithraea preserved in the empire. Mithraea were longer than they were wide, usually around 10-12m long and 4-6m wide, and were entered from one of the short sides. Roman dining couches, called klinai or podia, lined the long sides of the mithraeum, leaving a narrow aisle in between. At the end of this aisle, opposite the entrance, was the cult image showing Mithras sacrificing a bull. To enhance the resemblence to a natural cave the ceiling ofthe mithraeum was vaulted and often had crushed pottery adhering to it toimitate natural rock. Sometimes the ceilings were pierced with holes tolet shafts of light in. The cave was intended to recall an event inMithras' life and also to symbolize the dome of heaven, or the cosmos."
Electronic Journal of Mithraic Studies
"The Electronic Journal of Mithraic Studies (EJMS) is a revival of the Journal of Mithraic Studies edited by Dr. Richard Gordon. It is a place where researchers on Roman Mithraism can publish the product of their research and make it freely available for other interested people. The journal concerns all aspects of the mysteries of Mithras, including history, archaeology, theology, sociology, others. Its span includes related religions and cults such as Persian Zoroastrianism and other cults in the Roman Empire. The EJMS is based at the University of Huelva, Spain, and is managed by an Editorial Board composed of scholars of Mithraism and Roman Religion with international projection. A more complete description is included in our formal baseline document. The material published in the EJMS includes papers and archaeological reports. Accepted languages are English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Dutch and Flemish. The EJMS follows an "open yearly volumes" approach suitable for Internet publication which consists on gradually building its volumes during the year, while keeping currently collected material accessible all the time. The EJMS has now opened Volume I for the year 2000 and asks for your participation."
Ellie Crystal's Metaphysical and Science Website - Mithraism
"As Christianity gathered momentum and eventually became the Roman Empires state religion, Mithraism was not tolerated. The Apologist saw it as a satanic transversty of the holiest rites of their religion. Nevertheless Catholicism has preserved some of the outer form of Mithraism to name some; the timing of Christmas, Bishops adaptation of miters as sign of their office, Christians priests becoming 'Father' despite Jesus' specific proscription of the acceptance of such title. The Mithraic Holy father wore a red cap and garment and a ring, and carried a shepherd1s staff. The Head Christian adopted the same title and outfitted himself in the same manner. While the outer appearance of Mithraism can be detected in Catholicism, some traces of the inner teachings of Mithraism can be found in Sufisim, therefore study of Sufisim allows a new insight into Mithraism, and possibly vise versa."
Exploring Ancient World Cultures - Essays on Ancient Rome: Mithraism
"The Roman cult of Mithras is known as a "mystery" cult, which is to say that its members kept the the liturgy and activities of the cult secret, and more importantly, that they had to participate in an initiation ceremony to become members of the cult. As a result, there is no surviving central text of Mithraism analogous to the Christian Bible, and there is no intelligible text which describes the liturgy. Whether such texts ever existed is unknown, but doubtful. Worship took place in a temple, called a mithraeum, which was made to resemble a natural cave. Sometimes temples were built specifically for the purpose, but often they were single rooms in larger buildings which usually had another purpose (for example, a bath house, or a private home). There are about one hundred mithraea preserved in the empire. Mithraea were longer than they were wide, usually around 10-12m long and 4-6m wide, and were entered from one of the short sides. Roman dining couches, called klinai or podia, lined the long sides of the mithraeum, leaving a narrow aisle in between. At the end of this aisle, opposite the entrance, was the cult image showing Mithras sacrificing a bull. To enhance the resemblence to a natural cave the ceiling of the mithraeum was vaulted and often had crushed pottery adhering to it to imitate natural rock. Sometimes the ceilings were pierced with holes to let shafts of light in. The cave was intended to recall an event in Mithras' life and also to symbolize the dome of heaven, or the cosmos. We surmise from the structure of mithraea and from paintings which are preserved in certain mithraea that mithraists gathered for a common meal, initiation of members, and other ceremonies. The details of the liturgy are uncertain, but it is worth noting that most mithraea have room for only thirty to forty members, and only a few are so large that a bull could actually be sacrificed inside." (by Alison Griffith)
FARVARDYN - An illustrated reference portal about Ancient Persia: Mithraism
"In 1907 a large number of clay tablets was found in the palace archives of Boghazkoy, the capital of the ancient Hittites in the north of the Anatolian plateau. These tablets contain the first recorded mention of the name 'Mithra', who, together with the Lord of Heaven, is invoked as the protector of a treaty between the Hatti (the Hittites) and their neighbours, the Mitanni. The date of the treaty is somewhere in the fourteenth century B.C., and since the latest known reference to the Western Mithras occurs in the fifth century A.D. these tablets show that the god was revered for nearly two thousand years. Mithras is of course worshipped no longer, but archaeologists, historians of religion, theologians and linguists alike have pondered his nature and tried to unravel the secrets of his cult for the light which these studies have to throw on the origins of Christianity."
Illuminations - The Cult of Mithras, An Ancient Rite
"One of the most elusive and hotly debated issues in the study of Zoroastrianism is the precise nature of the connection between the Iranian deity Mithra and the military Roman Mithraic mystery cult, a connection which seems on the one hand so conclusive' and yet on the other so disturbingly remote. Even the historical problem of the manner of Mithra's arrival on the Roman scene remains unanswered. Some scholars have suggested that the conscription of Persian soldiers into the Roman army may account for it; others believe that Roman Mithraism was in fact a totally separate religion from its inception and was merely given a Persian 'gloss' to make it attractive to a population obsessed with the cryptic and inscrutable cast. Still others connect the Roman cult with Anatolia, where Mithra was known to be venerated in the company of other deities familiar to Zoroastrianism such as Anahita. There is little we can say about its journey west with any certainty, since it was evidently a cult which seemingly functioned without the need for texts (there are none remaining which, given the geographical area covered by the cult at its most popular, strongly suggests that none were ever written down), and the few inscriptions that do survive often merely illuminate the subjects of the carvings they accompany, revealing nothing substantial about the cult's origins. The cult which venerated Mithra in Roman circles (where he is traditionally known as Mithras), and which enjoyed a life of nearly 400 years, was esoteric, confined to male members of the Roman military and political elite (though traders and even slaves may have been eligible for membership), and demanded a series of seven graded initiation rites." - Peter Clark, Zoroastrianism, An Introduction to an Ancient Faith, p. 157"
The Internet Sacred Text Archive - The Mysteries of Mithra, by Franz Cumont
"IN THAT unknown epoch when the ancestors of the Persians were still united with those of the Hindus, they were already worshippers of Mithra. The hymns of the Vedas celebrated his name, as did those of the Avesta, and despite the differences obtaining between the two theological systems of which these books were the expression, the Vedic Mitra and the Iranian Mithra have preserved so many traits of resemblance that it is impossible to entertain any doubt concerning their common origin. Both religions saw in him a god of light, invoked together with Heaven, bearing in the one case the name of Varuna and in the other that of Ahura; in ethics he was recognized as the protector of truth, the antagonist of falsehood and error. But the sacred poetry of India has preserved of him an obscured memory only. A single fragment, and even that partially effaced, is all that has been specially dedicated to him. He appears mainly in incidental allusions,--the silent witnesses of his ancient grandeur. Still, though his physiognomy is not so distinctly limned in the Sanskrit literature as it is in the Zend writings, the faintness of its outlines is not sufficient to disguise the primitive identity of his character. According to a recent theory, this god, with whom the peoples of Europe were unacquainted, was not a member of the ancient Aryan pantheon. Mitra-Varuna, and the five other Adityas celebrated by the Vedas, likewise Mithra-Ahura and the Amshaspands, who, according to the Avestan conception surround the Creator, are on this theory nothing but the sun, the moon, and the planets, the worship of which was adopted by the Indo-Iranians "from a neighboring people, their superiors in the knowledge of the starry firmament," who could be none other than the Accadian or Semitic inhabitants of Babylonia. 1 But this hypothetical adoption, if it really took place, must have occurred in a prehistoric epoch, and, without attempting to dissipate the obscurity of these primitive times, it will be sufficient for us to state that the tribes of Iran never ceased to worship Mithra from their first assumption of worldly power till the day of their conversion to Islam."
Innvista > Culture > Religion > Deities > Christian > Mithra's Contributions
"Have You Heard This Before? The faithful referred to Mithras (REMEMBER, 4000 years ago!) as "the Light of the World", symbol of truth, justice, and loyalty. He was mediator between heaven and earth and was a member of a Holy Trinity. According to Persian mythology, Mithras was born of a virgin given the title 'Mother of God'. The god remained celibate throughout his life, and valued self-control, renunciation and resistance to sensuality among his worshippers. Mithras represented a system of ethics in which brotherhood was encouraged in order to unify against the forces of evil. The worshippers of Mithras held strong beliefs in a celestial heaven and an infernal hell. They believed that the benevolent powers of the god would sympathize with their suffering and grant them the final justice of immortality and eternal salvation in the world to come. They looked forward to a final day of judgement in which the dead would resurrect, and to a final conflict that would destroy the existing order of all things to bring about the triumph of light over darkness... Mithra was born from a rock [Firmicus, /De errore/, xxi.; etc.], as shown in Mithraic sculptures, being sometimes termed ''the god out of the rock'', and his worship was always conducted in a cave; and the general belief in the early Church that Jesus was born in a cave is a direct instance of the taking over of Mithraic ideas. The words of Paul, "They drank of that spiritual rock ... and that rock was Christ'' [I Corinthians x. 4.] are borrowed from the Mithraic scriptures; for not only was Mithra "the Rock'', but one of his mythological acts, which also appears in the acts of Moses, was the striking of the rock and the producing of water from it which his followers eagerly drank. Justin Martyr [Justin Martyr, /Dial. with Trypho/, ch. 70.] complains that the prophetic words in the Book of Daniel [Daniel ii. 34.] regarding a stone which was cut out of the rock without hands were also used in the Mithraic ritual; and it is apparent that the great importance attached by the early Church to the supposed words of Jesus in regard to Peter -- "Upon this rock I will build my church" [Matthew xvi. 18.] -- was due to their approximation to the Mithraic idea of the /Theos ek Petras/, the "God from the Rock''. Indeed, it may be that the reason of the Vatican hill at Rome being regarded as sacred to Peter, the Christian "Rock'', was that it was already sacred to Mithra, for Mithraic remains have been found there."
Iran Culture & Information Center - History: Mithras
"The name Mithras was the Persian word for 'contract'. Mithras was also known throughout Europe and Asia by the names Mithra, Mitra, Meitros, Mihr, Mehr, and Meher. The veneration of this God began about 4000 years ago in Persia, where it was soon imbedded with Babylonian doctrines. The faith spread east through India to China, and reached west throughout the entire length of the Roman frontier-- from Scotland to the Sahara Desert, from Spain to the Black Sea. Sites of Mithraic worship have been found in Britain, Italy, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Persia, Armenia, Syria, Israel, and North Africa... As Christianity gathered momentum and eventually became the Roman Empires state religion, Mithraism was not tolerated. The Apologist saw it as a satanic transversity of the holiest rites of their religion. Nevertheless Catholicism has preserved some of the outer form of Mithraism to name some; the timing of Christmas, Bishops adaptation of miters as sign of their office, Christians priests becoming Father despite Jesus specific proscription of the acceptance of such title. 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. While the outer appearance of Mithraism can be detected in Catholicism, some traces of the inner teachings of Mithraism can be found in Sufisim, therefore study of Sufisim allows a new insight into Mithraism, and possibly vise versa."
LacusCurtius - MITHRAISM, The Legacy of the Roman Empire's Final Pagan State Religion
"For over three hundred years the rulers of the Roman Empire worshipped the god Mithras. Known throughout Europe and Asia by the names Mithra, Mitra, Meitros, Mihr, Mehr, and Meher, the veneration of this god began some 4000 years ago in Persia, where it was soon imbedded with Babylonian doctrines. The faith spread east through India to China, and reached west throughout the entire length of the Roman frontier; from Scotland to the Sahara Desert, and from Spain to the Black Sea. Sites of Mithraic worship have been found in Britain, Italy, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Persia, Armenia, Syria, Israel, and North Africa. In Rome, more than a hundred inscriptions dedicated to Mithras have been found, in addition to 75 sculpture fragments, and a series of Mithraic temples situated in all parts of the city. One of the largest Mithraic temples built in Italy now lies under the present site of the Church of St. Clemente, near the Colosseum in Rome. The widespread popularity and appeal of Mithraism as the final and most refined form of pre-Christian paganism was discussed by the Greek historian Herodotus, the Greek biographer Plutarch, the neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry, the Gnostic heretic Origen, and St. Jerome the church Father. Mithraism was quite often noted by many historians for its many astonishing similarities to Christianity." (by David Fingrut)
Look and Live - The Mysteries of Mithra
"Thus in the beginning of the fourth century the pagan cult of Mithra had reached its high water mark, and was the major threat to the spread of Christianity. It is interesting to note that the Emperor Diocletian vigorously persecuted Christians, among others, his motives being to further his government control over the lives of its citizens, using this pagan cult to achieve his ends. Naturally the true and faithful to Christ could not possibly bow to this form of sun-worship, so they were totally persecuted. But it was the Emperor Constantine the Great who changed this tragic situation, and actually made things even much worse. Constantine the Great was an avid Mithra worshiper and his devoted mother Helena, a great worshipper of Ishtar, �My Lady� the Queen of Heaven. Constantine was supposed to have seen a portent in the sky in the year 312AD. on the eve of battle against his rival Maximian, from which he was supposed to have converted to Christianity. This supposed conversion spelt the death knell for all intents and purposes to the sun-worshipping cult of Mithra. It was then that the shrines and temples dedicated to Mithra were re-dedicated to Christ. (??). But a big question mark remains over that procedure. What actually happened was that most of the doctrines and tenants of this mystery god dedicated to sun-worship, as well as the shrines and temples, were transferred into the �so called� Christian church."
"This website is dedicated to amassing information on and stimulating a greater understanding of Roman Mithraism, one of the most successful Mystery Religions of Late Antiquity. Because the relationship between Roman Mithraism and Mithraism as found in Zoroastrianism are no longer held as being intimately along the same continuum of religious evolution, as was held a century ago by the illustrious Belgian archaeologist and scholar, Franz Cumont, this site does not intend to present nearly as much information on Mithraic worship in Zoroastrianism... Designed and authored by Walter M. Shandruk, this site is the culmination of three and a half years of research, starting in the fall of 1998. Because of the breadth of material available concerning Roman Mithraism, this site is not and could not be exhaustive in its treatment of the subject, but it strives to nonetheless supply the Internet with accurate and reliable information on the Roman cult. The impetus behind the original site and now this one is to offset the largely scant and outdated information concerning the cult, mostly based on the work of Franz Cumont, that is today available on the Internet. Eventhough, the amount of material on Roman Mithraism that is currently extant on the Internet is not as incomplete and pitiable in quality as it was back in the fall of 1998, this site nonetheless fills what seems to be a required niche."
Mithraism - The Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras, by David Ulansey
"I would suggest that the awe-inspiring quality of Plato's vision of what is beyond the outermost boundary of the cosmos also lies behind the appeal of Mithras as a divine being whose proper domain is outside of the universe. As the text from Plato shows, the establishment by ancient astronomers of the sphere of the stars as the absolute boundary of the cosmos only encouraged the human imagination to project itself beyond that boundary in an exhilarating leap into an infinite mystery. There beyond the cosmos dwelled the ultimate divine forces, and Mithras's ability to move the entire universe made him one with those forces. Here in the end we may sense a profound kinship between Mithraism and Christianity. For early Christianity also contained at its core an ideology of cosmic transcendence. Nowhere is this better expressed than in the opening of the earliest gospel, Mark. There, at the beginning of the foundation story of Christianity, we find Jesus, at the moment of his baptism, having a vision of "the heavens torn open." Just as Mithras is revealed as a being from beyond the universe capable of altering the cosmic spheres, so here we find Jesus linked with a rupture of the heavens, an opening into the numinous realms beyond the furthest cosmic boundaries. Perhaps, then, the figures of Jesus and Mithras are to some extent both manifestations of a single deep longing in the human spirit for a sense of contact with the ultimate mystery." (by David Ulansey)
Museum of Antiquities' Virtual Mithraeum
"Explore the ruins of the 3rd century temple to the Roman god Mithras at Carrawburgh on Hadrians Wall, and the reconstruction on display in the Museum of Antiquities at the University of Newcastle, through Virtual Reality. If any object interests as you look around just click on the relevant hotspots to learn more about that object... The Roman army first encountered the cult of Mithras in Persia (modern Iran) during the reign of the emperor Nero although its origins in India have been traced back to 1400 BC. One of the many mystery cults that the Romans introduced from the east, Mithraism first appealed to slaves and freedmen but with Mithras's title Invictus, the cult's emphasis on truth, honour and courage, and its demand for discipline soon led to Mithras becoming a god of soldiers and traders. Various stories survive to account for Mithras's birth. Often he is depicted springing from the living rock or from a tree; at Housesteads on Hadrian's Wall, however, there was a tradition that he was born from the Cosmic Egg. This sculpture shows Mithras bursting from the Egg whilst holding in his upraised hands the Sword of Truth and Torch of Light. Around him in an egg-shaped frame is the Cosmos containing the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac. This is an unique representation in Britain and is thought to be the earliest surviving representation of the Signs of the Zodiac in the north-west provinces of the Roman Empire. "
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: Mithraism
"A pagan religion consisting mainly of the cult of the ancient Indo-Iranian Sun-god Mithra. It entered Europe from Asia Minor after Alexander's conquest, spread rapidly over the whole Roman Empire at the beginning of our era, reached its zenith during the third century, and vanished under the repressive regulations of Theodosius at the end of the fourth century. Of late the researches of Cumont have brought it into prominence mainly because of its supposed similarity to Christianity... A similarity between Mithra and Christ struck even early observers, such as Justin, Tertullian, and other Fathers, and in recent times has been urged to prove that Christianity is but an adaptation of Mithraism, or at most the outcome of the same religious ideas and aspirations (e.g. Robertson, "Pagan Christs", 1903). Against this erroneous and unscientific procedure, which is not endorsed by the greatest living authority on Mithraism, the following considerations must be brought forward. (1) Our knowledge regarding Mithraism is very imperfect; some 600 brief inscriptions, mostly dedicatory, some 300 often fragmentary, exiguous, almost identical monuments, a few casual references in the Fathers or Acts of the Martyrs, and a brief polemic against Mithraism which the Armenian Eznig about 450 probably copied from Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 428) who lived when Mithraism was almost a thing of the past -- these are our only sources, unless we include the Avesta in which Mithra is indeed mentioned, but which cannot be an authority for Roman Mithraism with which Christianity is compared. Our knowledge is mostly ingenious guess-work; of the real inner working of Mithraism and the sense in which it was understood by those who professed it at the advent of Christianity, we know nothing. (2) Some apparent similarities exist; but in a number of details it is quite probable that Mithraism was the borrower from Christianity."
Order of Nazorean Essenes - The Religion of Mithras
"Initiates of the Mysteries of Mithras had to be ritually pure and were purified by baptism. There were seven levels of initiation, one for each of the seven planets and each with its symbol, the highest level being that of the Father, Pater. From the lowest these grades were Corax (symbol�a raven, planet�Mercury), Nymphus (a male bride, Venus), Miles (a soldier, Mars), Leo (a lion, Jupiter), Perses (a Persian, Luna, the moon), Heliodromus (a courier of the sun, Sol, the sun), and finally Pater (a father, Saturn). Those who reached Pater could lead an assembly. Quite unlike Christianity, members of the cult of Mithras were not stopped from being members of other cults. At the level of initiation called Miles or soldier, the mystae of Mithras were symbolically branded, the priest making the sign of the cross upon their foreheads to redeem their sins and to mark them as soldiers of Mithras ready to fight the Good Fight. Tertullian, a third century Christian from North Africa, complains that the Devil was imitating the Christians' divine mysteries because initiates of the Mithraic religion were baptised in this way. Christians use the expressions soldiers of Christ and put on the armour of light, somewhat inappropriate metaphors for a religion of love, one might think, but entirely appropriate to their Mithraic origins. Above the rank of Leo votaries were called participants because they participated in a sacred meal. Below the rank of Leo they were called servants and served the higher levels�the similarity with Essenism is striking. The Mithraic sacred meal was essentially identical to the Christian Eucharist. Justin Martyr complained that Satan had copied the Christian Eucharist because the adherents of Mithras also partook of consecrated bread and water symbolic of the incarnate god's body. The bread consisted of small round cakes�each marked with a cross!"
Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth
"The POCM web site introduces you to the mainstream modern scholarship about Christianity's origins in ancient Pagan religion. You already know Christmas trees and Easter eggs were originally Pagan, and you probably know the traditional mid-winter and spring timing of the two holidays was Pagan too. Mildly interesting. Not what you'll find here. What you'll discover here is that Christianity inherited everything from the Pagans. The core of Christianity -- the worship of a dying Godman who is resurrected, ascends into heaven and brings salvation to mankind -- was also the core of a number of ancient Pagan religions that began in the Near East two thousand years before Jesus. Christian theology borrowed more than the archaic myth of the dying-resurrected Godman. Initiation by baptism, communion with the God through a holy meal that represented the flesh of the dead God, the Holy Spirit, monotheism, and immortality of the soul were all core beliefs of many ancient faiths. They were simply part of ancient Mediterranean culture. Christianity also borrowed elements of Jesus' mythology: the virgin birth, the miracles (including turning water into wine, walking on water, and especially healing the sick) were all common elements of pre-Christian Pagan religions. Mithras had 'em. So did Dionysus, Attis, Osiris, and Orpheus. And more. And they had them centuries before Christianity was a twinkle in Saint Paul's eye."
Spenta Mainyu - Mithraism
"Similarities were outweighed by the differences, and in these Christianity had the advantage in a period when popular and philosophic thought was increasingly tending to monotheism. According to some, another reason for the ultimate triumph of the Christianity over its more respectable rivals was the fact that, being unemcumbered by fantastic myth and ritual of uncivilized origin, it dealt with the eschatological and other spiritual needs of the time in a more rational manner than did its rivals (in other words it addressed the basic needs of 'earthlings' like becoming immortal, not worrying about death, a clear promise about the afterlife etc., much better than the others). What was left of Greek rationality has contributed a logical and coherent theology to the new religion. Mithraism for all its exaltation of Mithra was surely bound to its polytheistic traditions. Mithraism has suffered too in comparison, by having as its redeemer a mythical figure whose appeal could never match that of the historical Jesus worshipped by the Christians as the 'god incarnate'. Mithraism was fatally weak in its exclusion of women. It failed also to use the family as a source of religious strength and continuity. This failure may explain why Mithraism has collapsed so suddenly and disappeared with such surprising rapidity."
taivaansusi.net - Mithras and Mithraism
"THE last state pagan religion in Europe was Mithraism. The worship of Mithras, the Invincible Sun god was practised all over the Roman Empire, including the British Isles. The Temples in London and along Hadrian Wall can still be seen today as well some remains in Wales and York. There is no written formal documentation of the Western style of Mithraic Mysteries, the Roman 'Cult of Mithras'. The underground Temples and their paintings, statues and few anti-pagan documents by early Christian are all that remain. Mithra/Mitra is the prototype to Roman Mithras to whom there are several hymns in Hindu and Zoroastrian holy texts. This gives us some insight into the energy of this deity before it became fused with the great mass of Graeco-Roman magical ideas. The evolution of this deity from god of the green land, wild pastures and the solar light to one of that Invincible Sun god, who moves the cosmos by slaying constellation Taurus, has been the subject of much interest to historians and magicians. Roman Mithras was perhaps the greatest rival to early Christianity for many reasons. As well as being a popular pagan religion practised by the Roman Army, Mithraism had many similarities to Christianity. Mithras was born of a virgin, remained celibate, his worship involving baptism, the partaking of bread marked with a cross and wine as sacrificial blood, held Sundays sacred and Mithras was born on 25th of December. Mithraist called themselves 'brother' and were led by a priest called 'father' (Pater). The symbol of the father were a staff, a hooked sword, a ring and hat."
Tekton - Mighty Mithraic Madness
"In 1975, Mithraic studies scholar John Hinnells lamented "the practical difficulty of any one scholar mastering all the necessary fields" -- linguistics, anthropology, history (Indian, Iranian, and Roman!), archaeology, iconography, sociology -- in order to get a grip on Mithraic studies. Hinnells of course is on target with his lament; we have made the same observation here regarding Biblical studies. But Mithraism being a relatively dead religion, there are no equivalents of seminaries keeping the Mithraic studies flame alive, and no past history of "Mithraic Fathers" who produced voluminous works and meditations upon Mithra. Thus it is not surprising that for the longest time, from the end of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th, there was only one person in the world who could be regarded as any sort of authority on Mithraism -- and that was Franz Cumont. Cumont worked with the thesis that Mithraic belief was of a continuous, fairly invariable tapestry from it's earliest history up into the Roman period. The first remaining record of a god named Mithra appears as a deity invoked in a treaty dated 1400 BC [Hinn.MS, ix]; thereafter he is one of several Indo-Iranian gods, and he is known for giving orders, assembling people, and marshalling them -- perhaps with some militaristic overtones. He also appears as one who represents the concept of fidelity -- one of many such abstractions and personifications of virtues in the ancient East, such as Bhaga the god of sharing and Aryaman the god of hospitality (think of them as divine-level Care Bears, if you will). As such, Mithra was the guy who went around dishing out punishment to those who broke treaties. He was the "guardian of the truth," "most dear to men," one "whose long arms seize the liar," who "injures no one and is everyone's friend," one who was all-seeing and all-knowing -- the sun was his "eye" on the world."
Truth Be Known - Mithra, Light of the World
"Because of its evident relationship to Christianity, special attention needs to be paid to the Persian/Roman religion of Mithraism. The worship of the Indo-Persian god Mithras or Mithra dates back centuries or millennia prior to the common era. The god is found as "Mitra" in the Indian Vedic religion, which is over 3,500 years old, by conservative estimates. When the Iranians separated from their Indian brethren, Mitra became known as "Mithra" or "Mihr," as he is called in Persian. Concerning the ancient unity of the Indian and Iranian peoples, Dr. Haug states, according to Prasad: "The relationship of the Avesta language to the most ancient Sanskrit, the so-called Vedic dialect, is as close as that of the different dialects of the Greek language (Aeolic, Ionic, Doric, or Attic) to each other. The languages of the sacred hymns of the Brahmans and of those of the Parsis are only the two dialects of the separate tribes of one and the same nation�." By around 1500 BCE, Mithra worship had made it to the Near East, in the Indian kingdom of the Mitanni, who at that time occupied Assyria. Mithra worship, however, was known also by that time as far west as the Hittite kingdom, only a few hundred miles east of the Mediterranean, as is evidenced by the Hittite-Mitanni tablets found at Bogaz-K�n what is now Turkey... Regardless of attempts to make Mithraism the plagiarist of Christianity, the fact will remain that Mithraism was first, well established decades before Christianity had any significant influence. If Christian apologists will not yield to the well-attested assertion that Christianity "borrowed" from Mithraism in specific, they simply cannot deny that both copied from Paganism in general, from one or more of the numerous religions, cults and mysteries of the pre-Christian world. Hence, the effect is the same: Christianity took its godman and tenets from Paganism."
Vets SweatShop - Mithraism and Christianity
"Have you ever wondered why December 25th was chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ? If the accounts in the Bible are correct, the time of Jesus birth would have been closer to mid-summer, for this is when shepherds would have been "tending their flocks in the field" and the new lambs were born. Strange enough there is an ancient pagan religion, Mithraism, which dates back over 2,800 years that also celebrated the birth of their "savior" on that date. Many elements in the story of Jesus' life and birth are either coincidental or borrowings from earlier and contemporary pagan religions. The most obviously similar of these is Mithraism. Roman Mithraism was a mystery religion with sacrifice and initiation. Like other mystery cults, there's little recorded literary evidence. What we know comes mainly from Christian detractors and archaeological evidence from Mithraic temples, inscriptions, and artistic representations of the god and other aspects of the cult. In an EAWC (Exploring Ancient World Cultures) essay entitled Mithraism, Alison Griffith explains Cumont's theory of a Zoroastrian origin for the Roman Mithraist religion. While this theory is disputed, there was a Mitra in the Hindu pantheon and a minor deity named Mithra among the Persians as well. Cumont came to believe the religion spread westward from Eastern Roman provinces. However, as Griffith explains, there is little evidence of a Zoroastrian Mithra cult and most evidence for Mithraic worship comes from the western portion of the empire from which Cumont correctly deduced that "Mithraism was most popular among legionaries (of all ranks), and the members of the more marginal social groups who were not Roman citizens: freedmen, slaves, and merchants from various provinces...." No women were allowed."
"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD,
and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed - I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?"