Mithras, Zeus and Jesus Christ

One of the arguments used by anti-Christians to discredit the historicity of Christ, His atonement for sin and Christianity as a whole is that Jesus was “modelled” after older pagan deities like the Roman Mithras or the Greek Zeus. One of them quotes Gerald Berry’s Religions of the World, saying:

Both Mithras and Christ were described as ‘the Way, ‘the Truth,’ ‘the Light,’ ‘the Life,’ ‘the Word,’ ‘the Son of God,’ ‘the Good Shepherd.’ The Christian litany to Jesus could easily be an allegorical litany to the sun-god. Mithras is often represented as carrying a lamb on his shoulders, just as Jesus is. Midnight services were found in both religions. The virgin mother… was easily merged with the virgin mother Mary. Petra, the sacred rock of Mithraism, became Peter, the foundation of the Christian Church.

These critics also allege that Mithras was born on December 25; visited by shepherds at birth; had 12 apostles, instituted a last supper and died for humanity – all of which the New Testament adopted for Jesus.

First, we all need to understand the historical setting of the Roman Empire where Christianity and Mithraism thrived. The early church consistently refused to integrate with the surrounding syncretic religions. This was why for 3 centuries, Christianity was despised and persecuted. In first century Roman Empire, 4 major classes of religions were embraced:

Nature religions – revolving around belief in supernatural power in natural things and worship of trees, sun, moon, rivers, stones and deities in charge of them e,g Greek paganism.

State religion – the Emperors were believed to be gods and accorded divine honours. Festivals were held in their honour and sacrifices offered to their images for the unity of the Empire.

Mystery religions Рsecret societies or cults that claim to help people out of difficult life situations and provide a bridge to the afterlife. They had certain ceremonial acts such as water rites, ritual meals, blood sacrifices which were kept secret to non-initiates e.g Mithraism, Eleusinian mysteries, Bacchanalian mysteries, mysteries of Isis.

Judaism – the early Romans couldn’t initially distinguish Jews who practiced Judaism from Christian Jews. In Acts 18:12-17, Gallio the Roman governor, dismissed Paul’s case as a dispute within the sects of Judaism. But as unbelieving Jews increasingly opposed Christianity, the heathen also joined them [1]

What impressed the pagan world of the new faith of Christianity was not the familiarity, but the difference. They considered Christianity a “strange religion;” an illegal religion (religio illicita) and this led to the murder of many Christians. If Jesus was a myth and if Christianity was an offspring of paganism, the disciples and early Christians wouldn’t have laid down their lives instead of giving it up.

Mithraism, however, was a mystery religion practiced between 1st-4th century A.D. The religion had its roots in the Hindu Vedas. It developed in Persia about 500 years before Christ and further developed in Zoroaster’s (Zarathustra) movement about 200 years before Christ. Mithraism reached its peak in third century Rome, during the same period Christianity was rapidly growing.

Those who claim Mithras was a prototype of Christ assume that Mithra worship was a cohesive, monolithic religion, but this is not so. “The god is unique in being worshipped in four distinct religions: Hinduism (as Mitra), in Iranian Zoroastrianism and Manicheanism (as Mithra), and in the Roman Empire (as Mithras).” [2]

Not only were there variations in name, each religion’s beliefs about Mithra also differed. The Persian cult differs markedly from the Roman one. The Roman Mithras is said to have slain a bull but there is no evidence that the Persian Mithra ever had anything to do with killing a bull. Some writers agree that the bull-slaying Mithras must have been a god worshipped in the 1st century BC to whom an old name was applied. [3] This eliminates the possibility of modelling Christ after Mithras.

Many critics also ignorantly conflate Mithra with Sol when they identify him as the sun god. Various artworks depict Mithras dining with Sol, Mithras ascending behind Sol in the latter’s chariot, both deities shaking hands and at an altar with pieces of meat on a spit. One artwork shows Sol kneeling before Mithras who hold an object resembling a bull’s haunch. [4] This difference is crucial because the birthday of Sol Invictus was December 25, but not that of Mithras. Amongst Roman mystery cults, Mithraism had no “public” face; its ceremonies were confined only to the initiates. The festival of Sol Invictus on December 25 wasn’t specific to Mithraism. [5]

Mithras wasn’t born of a virgin like Jesus. He was said to have been miraculously born from a rock and there are different accounts of this. One said he leaped out of the rock as a child, another says as a youth, another says as flames and another as thunderbolt. But there is no¬†account of Mithras born by a virgin mother.

The claims of Mithras visited by shepherds at birth or having 12 apostles lacks documented evidence. This is simply a cheap attempt to “christianize” the myths of Mithras and create a false parallel with Christ. A scholar admits: “We possess virtually no theological statements either by Mithraists themselves or by other writers.” [6]

The alleged salvific death of Mithra is based on an inscription that says “and you have saved us … in the shed blood.” But no written narrative or theology from Mithraism survives and limited information can be derived from these inscriptions. “However, in the absence of any ancient explanations of its meaning, Mithra’s iconography has proven to be exceptionally difficult to decipher.” [7] According to Robert Turcan, Mithraic salvation had little to do with the other worldly destiny of individual souls, but was based on the Zoroastrian pattern of man’s participation in the cosmic struggle of the good creation against the forces of evil. That is far from what the New Testament teaches.

The so-called “last supper” by Mithras is a fanciful deduction from the ritual meal Mithraists observed. Modern critics, deploying a twisted logic, assume that since Mithraism had such ritual meals and it supposedly was older, Christianity must have stolen the idea from them! This hypothesis falls flat on its face. Most of the textual evidence for Mithraist doctrine was written after the New Testament was widely circulated.

There is even possibility that Mithraism adopted the communion rite from Christianity, because they had no concept of death and resurrection of their god. Justin Martyr, in his First Apology (chapter 66) accused the Mithraists of diabolically imitating the Christian communion. David Ulansey therefore concludes:

“Owing to the cult’s secrecy, we possess almost no literary evidence about the beliefs of Mithraism. The few texts that do refer to the cult come not from Mithraic devotees themselves, but rather from outsiders such as early Church fathers, who mentioned Mithraism in order to attack it, and Platonic philosophers, who attempted to find support in Mithraic symbolism for their own philosophical ideas. [8]

In light of the post-Christian origins of the mysteries of Mithras, Dr. Edwin Yamauchi states “Those who seek to adduce Mithra as a prototype of the risen Christ ignore the late date for the expansion of Mithraism to the west” [9]

Zeus and Jesus

Some uninformed critics and misguided Christian assert Jesus was modelled after Zeus by some crypto-pagans in the early church who stripped Christianity of its Hebrew roots and changed the Saviour’s name into a pagan god’s to merge it with paganism. A. B. Triana wrote in Origins of Christianity:

They (the Graeco-Roman World) had worshiped Zeus as the supreme deity. Their savior was Zeus, so now they were ready to accept Jehoshua as Jesus – Ieosus, meaning hail Zeus. Now our translated scriptures say that Jahwah’s (Jehovah’s) Son’s name is Jesus, which is a compound word made up of Ie and Zeus (Hail Zeus)

Proponents of this bizarre conspiracy theory (mostly Hebrew Roots adherents) are not only bereft of proofs, they are also stumped by their own imaginations. They teach that anyone who uses the name of Jesus instead of His Hebrew name Yahshua is worshipping a false god and not saved. In fact, the Hebrew name of Jesus is Yeshua, a form of the name Joshua and both mean the same: “Yahweh is salvation.”

The similarity in pronunciation between Ieosus and Zeus doesn’t imply a borrowing of one from the other. To suggest that the name Bruno was derived from Juno is a phonetic fallacy. The Greek word for “hail” is xaipe or xaipete and it’s not a constituent of the Greek name Ieosus, so the “hail Zeus” accusation is hinged on wholesale ignorance.

Ieosus is the Greek name of Christ and that was the language in which the NT was written. First century works of Jewish historian, Josephus Flavius – written in Koine Greek – refer to at least 20 different people with the name Jesus (i.e Ieosus). [10] The Hebrew name of Jesus is not “too sacred” to be transliterated into another language neither does its translation change its meaning. God’s name is not limited by human language.

The name of Jesus given in Matthew 1:21 is the one by which men shall be saved from their sins. This name carries the same power and authority whether as Iesus (Latin), Yasu (Arabic) or Jesu (Yoruba). The name “Jesus” is the Anglicized form of Ieosus or Yeshua and it has nothing to do with Zeus. No informed person with a modicum of intellectual honesty would claim Jesus is a copy of Zeus. His infancy narrative alone has varying accounts. One version says he was raised by Gaia, another says by a goat named Amalthea, another says by a nymph Adamanthea, another says a nymph named Cynosura, yet another says by a shepherd family.

Some critics have also attempted to forge a link between Christ and Dionysus, the Greek god of grape, wine, ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy. The mysteries of Dionysus was known as a ‘cult of souls’ in which priests forged necromantic links with the dead. But the Lord Jesus “has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets of the Old Testament. He has no link to any ancient pagan deity neither was Christianity built on the foundation of myths artfully spurn by pagans.

Notes

1. Titilayo Dipe, History and Doctrines of the Early Church, University of Ibadan Press, 1992, 2-4.

2. John Hinnells, Studies in Mithraism, Rome, 1990, 11.

3. David Ulansey, Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, Oxford Univ. Press, 1991, 8.

4. Roger Beck, Mithraism, 2004, 287-287.

5. Walter Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults, Harvard Univ., 1987, 10.

6. Clauss Manfred, The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and his Mysteries, xxi.

7. David Ulansey, p 8.

8. David Ulansey, The Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras.

9. M. J. Vermaseren, Mithras, The Secret God, 1963, 76.

10. Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition, Baker pub., 2007, 129.

 

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The Goddess Delusion

Over the last few decades, there has been a fast-spreading paradigm shift from Christianity to paganism. This trend ranges from attempts to promote a feminized version of God to cults centered around a female divinity. “For the first time in two millennia” wrote Caitlin Matthews in Sophia: Goddess of Wisdom, “the idea of a Goddess as a central pivot of creation is finding a welcome response.” With the surge of feminism, Earth-centred beliefs and New Age spirituality, conceptual social and religious barriers are being broken down and many people are being led to adopt a form of female principle – whether by literal goddess worship or a mystical tap into the “feminine energy.”

Elmer Towns was apt to observe that:
“Many women turn to a female deity because they have been hurt by men. They may have been abused, raped, abandoned, or in some way violated by males in their lives. As a result, they may blame the heavenly Father, who is male. Notice, when people ask why God would allow starvation, cancer, or other problems in the world, they never ask why ‘Mother Earth’ or a female deity has caused the problems. It’s always a male deity that they blame. [1]

Ex-Wiccan High Priest, Bill Schnoebelen, reflected on the deceptive ideas that led him into goddess worship:

“While the Biblical Jehovah is striking people with thunderbolts as they step out of line, their Goddess plays and frolics with her hidden children … She is everyone’s fantasy idea of a mother or lover: a gorgeous, compassionate woman who loves unconditionally, does not chide or require much of you, and who is totally available for both service and sexual intimacy. I fell in love with this image of the Goddess immediately.” [2]

Many Wiccans and Neo-pagans freely acknowledge that their Goddess is universally worshipped in countless cultures, traditions and rites worldwide. They admit that their goddess has emerged in different forms, with different names at various periods of history. These are all facets or archetypes of the same great Goddess. This global catholicity of the “great goddess,” however, exposes the diabolic veneer, because a historical overview of many ancient goddesses reveal them to be evil, savage and destructive. For example:

Kali – she is the major Hindu goddess of death, power and destruction. A Hindu text, Devi Mahatmyam, describes Kali as “armed with a sword and noose. Bearing the strange Khatvanga (skull-topped staff), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger’s skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out [and] having deep reddish eyes…” She is also depicted wearing a skirt of human arms and accompanied by serpents.

Kali has been worshipped for centuries, perhaps millennia, by human sacrifice. The infamous Thuggee cult of India and Nepal were followers of Kali who strangled their victims as an act of worship to her. Although the British tried to wipe out Kali’s cult when they colonized India, their efforts failed. Much has been reported about the numerous human sacrifices to her in the last decade. As recently as 2015, a boy was sacrificed to Kali by a devotee in Kolkata. If all goddesses are one, then they are by no means benign.

Lilitu/Lilith – the Sumerian goddess Lilitu was depicted as having both the wings and claws of a bird. Some reliefs show her lower half as a serpent’s body or as a serpent with the head and breasts of a woman. Her visual representation closely resembles that of Maleficent in the 2014 Disney movie.

This goddess, under a slightly modified name, Lilith, is also worshipped in the West. Lilith is a figure out of Hebrew cabalistic folklore. She was believed to be Adam’s first wife who refused to submit to him and was sent out of the Garden of Eden by God while she was with child. Enraged at the perceived injustice, she gave birth and then bashed the baby’s brains out on the rocks by the Euphrates River. Another version of the myth says she devoured her children alive. Lilith is worshipped as the ‘Dark Mother’ or demon goddess presiding over feminism, infanticide, abortion and sexual defilement. She also relishes blood sacrifices.

Tanit – the BerberPunic and Phoenician goddess and chief deity of Carthage (modern Tunisia). She was associated with the heavenly bodies, war and fertility and regarded as a consort of Baal Hammon. She was often depicted having a lion’s head.

Archaeological and ancient writings points to animal and human sacrifices as part of her cult worship. Excarvations at ancient sites of her temple showed charred bones of newborns, and in some cases, the bones of fetuses and two year olds. [3]

Artemis – Greek goddess of the hunt, moon and childbirth. She is also called “the thrower of the dart or shooter” of death. A Wiccan writer says “Artemis had a reputation for liking bloody sacrifices, including human ones … Artemis who personified respect for animal life, accepts the necessity of the hunt, but only if the rules and the absolving rituals are observed. In most Goddess religions, a similar reasoning is applied to the fetus and the newborn. It is morally acceptable that a woman who gives life may also destroy life under certain circumstances.” [4]

Notice the strong link between goddess worship, feminism, sexual immorality and infant destruction.

Oya – also known as Yansa or Iansa, this Yoruba warrior goddess is worshipped in West Africa as well as in the Americas. She is the “patron” goddess of death, destruction, lightning and violent storms. Her name literally means “She tore [asunder]”. She is associated with cemeteries, marketplace and said to be queen over river Niger and the Amazon river.

Oya’s symbols are swords (or machetes), flywhisk and water buffalo. Her nine children are emblematic of the moon. She is a huntress (murderer) who presides over magick and evil wisdom. [5] She is also believed to be the mother of the Egunguns – embodiment of the spirits of the ancestral dead in Africa.

Coatlicue – Aztec goddess of the earth, moon, fertility, sexual pleasure and gambling. She is said to be one of the nine Lords of the Night Hours and the power behind all magic in the Aztec world. Her name literally means “skirt of snakes”. As Tlazoteutl, “she appears nude, riding on a broom. She wears a horned headdress with a crescent moon and she holds a red snake. She also has a crescent moon decorated on her nose …. represents the planet Venus. She is often depicted wearing a flayed human skin.” [6]

There is absolutely nothing gentle or good about these goddess figures. They are bloodthirsty fiends whose altars were drenched with blood of many souls. Yet these same entities are being invoked in Wiccan/Neopagan circles today.

Astarte or Ashtoreth – the chief goddess of war and sexuality worshipped throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Astarte is the Greek form of her name. Her symbols are the lion, horse, sphinx and a star within a circle indicating planet Venus (the morning/evening star). She is associated with the crescent moon and depicted with a child on her laps. Figurines of Astarte have been found at various archaeological sites in Israel showing the goddess having two horns.

A feminist author admits that “infant sacrifices were regularly performed in honor of, certainly, some forms of the goddess. It is recorded, for instance, that around the sacred stone which represented the goddess Astarte, hundreds of skeletons of human infants have been found… first-born children and animals were sacrificed to her.” [7]

From the Bible, we can see the dark, downward spiral when people dabble into goddess worship which we observe today as ancient paganism is being revived. After King Solomon was led astray by his pagan wives “He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD…” (1 Kgs. 11:5-6)

Centuries later, about 741 BC, King Ahaz “walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites” (2 Kgs. 16:3).

Then some decades later (about 721 BC), the Bible says this about the Israelites:

“The set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree… They bowed down to all the starry host, and they worshipped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD…” (2 Kgs. 17:10, 16-17).

God has revealed Himself as the only true God and there is no “heavenly queen” ruling together with him (Is. 45:5). He is the embodiment of love and the “father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (1 Jn. 4:8; 2 Cor. 1:3). He desires all men to know and serve Him. Yet, many people are being led astray by another form of modern goddess delusion in a “Christian” garb: the cult of the Catholic Mary.

The “Virgin Mary” being worshipped in Roman Catholicism has become the “emergent” goddess archetype of our time, annually drawing millions of people from diverse churches and religions to her shrines and grottoes like the pied piper of Hamelin. Many apparitions and miracles of this Lady have been documented. What is particularly striking is, this Catholic Queen of heaven is demanding that the Vatican define a final dogma to make her the Co-Redemptrix with Christ:

“When the dogma, the last dogma in Marian history, has been proclaimed, “the Lady of All Nations” will give peace, true peace to the world. The nations, however, must say My prayer in union with the Church. They must know that “the Lady of Nations” has come as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. So be it!” [8]

New Agers are also receiving messages from this counterfeit Mary calling for a one world religion: “Each religion is worshipping, underneath the outer trappings, its Creator. It is the same Creator! Whether you pray facing the east or facing an altar or on Saturday or Sunday, it is all worship … All words which have been written in the Holy Books have been written by men in unity with the Creator.” [9]

Bible prophecy indicates that a diabolical female figure will gain universal prominence in the last days. Prophet Zechariah was shown a woman sitting in a basket lifted between heaven and earth which an angel of God called “wickedness” (Zech. 5:7-9). This could be Babylon the Great: the whore who rides on a beast in Revelation 17. This is the demonic religious force behind modern false worship and she will finally usher in the Antichrist in the Last days.

NOTES

1. Elmer Towns, Bible Answers to all your Questions, Thomas Nelson, 2003, 139

2. Bill Schnoebelen, Wicca: Satan’s Little White Lie, Chick Pub., 1990, 113.

3. Lawrence Stager by Paolo Xella et al., Phoenician bones of Contention, Volume 87, no. 338; 1199-1207.

4. Ginette Paris, The Sacrament of Abortion, Spring Pub., 1992, 34, 53.

5. Adeoye C. L. Beliefs and Religion of Yorubas, Evans Bros, 1989, 303.

6. Patricia Turner and Coulter Russell, Dictionary of Ancient Deities, Oxford Univ. Press. 2000, 470.

7. Esther M. Harding, Woman’s Mysteries – Ancient and Modern, Harper and Row, 1971, 138.

8. Message to Ida Peerdeman in Josef Kunzli, The Messages of the Lady of All Nations, 1997, 85.

9. Annie Kirkwood, Mary’s Message to the World, New York, 1991, 145.