Around every holiday season (be it Christmas or Easter) the idea that the Christian history is somehow connect to Mithra, Attis, Dionysus, Osiris arises and is uses to demonstrated that Christianity is somehow created. This is not new, nor will it likely go away anytime soon; so let us attempt to answer it, or at least give an answer and leave it up to them to accept. The nice folks at the Heathen’s Guide was kind enough to give us the dribble that is the first paragraph.
born on December 25 to a virgin mother, this great man later sacrificed his life so he could save all humanity from eternal torment. He died at Easter of acute crucifixion, and descended for three days into the underworld. On Easter Sunday, he rose again. To commemorate this heroic story, his followers wore an image of him being crucified and he was symbolically eaten by his followers in the form of bread during services.
The story of his origins from Agdistis, as told to the traveller Pausanias, have some distinctly non-Greek elements: Pausanias was told that the daemon Agdistis initially bore both male and female attributes. But the Olympian gods, fearing Agdistis, cut off the male organ and cast it away. There grew up from it an almond-tree, and when its fruit was ripe, Nana who was a daughter of the river Sangarios picked an almond and laid it in her bosom. The almond disappeared, and she became pregnant. Nana abandoned the baby (Attis). The infant was tended by a he-goat. As Attis grew, his long-haired beauty was godlike, and Agdistis as Cybele, then fell in love with him. But the foster parents of Attis sent him to Pessinos, where he was to wed the king’s daughter. According to some versions the King of Pessinos was Midas. Just as the marriage-song was being sung, Agdistis/Cybele appeared in her transcendent power, and Attis went mad and cut off his genitals. Attis’ father-in-law-to-be, the king who was giving his daughter in
marriage, followed suit, prefiguring the self-castrating corybantes who devoted themselves to Cybele. But Agdistis repented and saw to it that the body of Attis should neither rot at all nor decay.
He was worshipped in Jerusalem in the 1st century. He was the Son of God. The Creator made his mother pregnant through mystic means and his flesh and blood were symbolically eaten in the form of bread and wine by his devotees to celebrate his birth on December 25. The guy’s into healing, saving your soul, and eternal love. Oh… and a star appeared above when he was born. Don’t forget to mention the star.
Martin Hengel argued Dionysian religion and Christianity to be significantly parallel, stating that “Dionysus had been at home in Palestine for a long time”, and Judaism was influenced by Dionysian traditions.
The modern scholar Barry Powell thinks that Christian notions of eating and drinking the “flesh” and “blood” of Jesus were influenced by the cult of Dionysus. In another parallel Powell adduces, Dionysus was distinct among Greek gods as a deity commonly felt within individual followers. Another example of possible influence on Christianity, Dionysus’ followers, as well as another god, Pan, are said to have had the most influence on the noncanonical depiction of Satan as animal-like and horned.
Wine was important to Dionysus, imagined as its creator; the creation of wine from water figures also in Jesus’s Marriage at Cana. In the 19th century, Bultmann and others compared both themes and concluded that the Dionysian theophany was transferred to Jesus. At Elis during the Thyeia, the festival of Dionysus, three pots would be placed by priests in a sealed room and the following day be found to miraculously be filled with wine. At Andros and Teos water flowing from the spring in the temple of Dionysus changed to wine on his feast days, January 5 and 6; the Marriage at Cana is placed on 6 January in the Christian calendar. Heinz Noetzel’s Christus und Dionysos disagrees, arguing Dionysus never actually did turn water into wine. Martin Hengel replied that opposing traditions would be anachronistic, and that since all Palestinians were familiar with the transformation of water to wine as a miracle, it was expected from the Messiah to perform it.
Peter Wick argues that the use of wine symbolism in the Gospel of John, including the story of the Marriage at Cana at which Jesus turns water into wine, is intended to show Jesus as superior to Dionysus.
A savior-god called the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods. He is the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, yadda yadda, (you get the idea). Three Wise Men announced his birth. His followers ate
cakes of wheat that symbolized his body, and he was worshipped in Judea in the first century AD.
Plutarch and others have noted that the sacrifices to Osiris were “gloomy, solemn, and mournful…” (Isis and Osiris, 69) and that the great mystery festival, celebrated in two phases, began at Abydos on the 17th of Athyr (November 13) commemorating the death of the god, which is also the same day that
grain was planted in the ground. “The death of the grain and the death of the god were one and the same: the cereal was identified with the god who came from heaven; he was the bread by which man lives. The resurrection of the God symbolized the rebirth of the grain.” (Larson 17) The annual festival involved the construction of “Osiris Beds” formed in shape of Osiris, filled with soil and sown with seed. The germinating seed symbolized Osiris rising from the dead. An almost pristine example was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter.
The first phase of the festival was a public drama depicting the murder and dismemberment of Osiris, the search of his body by Isis, his triumphal return as the resurrected god, and the battle in which Horus
defeated Set. This was all presented by skilled actors as a literary history, and was the main method of recruiting cult membership. According to Julius Firmicus Maternus of the fourth century, this play was re-enacted each year by worshippers who “beat their breasts and gashed their shoulders…. When they pretend that the mutilated remains of the god have been found and rejoined…they turn from mourning to rejoicing.” (De Errore Profanorum).
Scholars such as E.A. Wallis Budge have suggested possible connections or parallels of Osiris’ resurrection story with those found in Christianity: “The Egyptians of every period in which they are known to us believed that Osiris was of divine origin, that he suffered death and mutilation at the hands of the powers of evil, that after a great struggle with these powers he rose again, that he became henceforth the king of the
underworld and judge of the dead, and that because he had conquered death the righteous also might conquer death…In Osiris the Christian Egyptians found the prototype of Christ, and in the pictures and statues of Isis suckling her son Horus, they perceived the prototypes of the Virgin Mary and her child.”
And finally, Mirtha,
A guy born of a virgin on December 25 (popular day for virgin births, huh?). As an adult he casts out demons, cures people and walks on water. He was killed to save all humanity, came back from the dead,
then ascended into heaven. He’ll come again to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
The mainstream of Western Christianity owed Roman paganism its firm discipline that gave it stability and shape. Mithraism was similar to Christianity in many respects for instance the Ecclesiastical calendar Retains numerous remnants of pre-Christian festivals, notably Christmas, which blends elements including both the feast of the Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra. Evaluation of the relationship of early Christianity with Mithraism has traditionally been based on the polemical testimonies of the 2nd century Church fathers, such as Justin‘s accusations that the Mithraists were diabolically imitating the Christians. This led to a picture of rivalry between the two religions, which Ernest Renan set forth in his 1882 The Origins of Christianity by saying “if the growth of Christianity had been arrested by some mortal malady, the world would have been Mithraic,” Although as remarked above, little was actually known about Mithras in 1882.
Martin (1989) characterizes the rivalry between 3rd century Mithraism and Christianity in Rome as primarily one for real estate in the public areas of urban Rome.
First, let’s consider that rarely does the notion of Christianity today fit the description of the primitive Church as found in the Bible. Let us also consider that for many the bloated scaffolding that has become to be known as Christianity is indeed some abhorrent to the ideas as first handed down from the Apostles. Also, let us note with some measure of humble pride that not all of ‘Christianity’ celebrates the holidays and other rituals often associated with these pagan gods. During the time of John Chrysostom, he even noticed that while the Romans were celebrating Saturnalia, some Christians were using it as a feast day. I say this to point out that some began to use pagan feast days as days to celebrate Christ. Granted, I believe that this was a bad idea, as it has left us open to these other attacks. What some have to consider is that many of rituals that surround the Christmas celebration are not biblical – such as the three wise men. (Note, the bible only says three types of gifts, not the number of men that gave them.)
Further, let us consider the similarities may be shared by reversal. Instead of Christianity being influenced by these belief systems, let us pause for a minute to consider that these belief systems, which have since disappeared, may have themselves been influenced by Christianity. Christianity, from the outside, may appear to be an attractive religion in pieces. Justin seemed to believe that the Mithraists were imitating Christianity. Is that so implausible?
Finally, let us consider these two passages:
(A)nd I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. (Haggai 2:7 NKJV)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:18-22 NKJV)
The passage in Haggai is debatable in regards to whether or not it is speaking on the Messiah; however, the second passage is clear – that all of Creation longed for the day of Christ and His Church. If this is so – and I believe that it is – then how implausible is it that along the way, the adversary who knew of the Expectation, would use different aspects of the Passion (remember, most of the Passion was foretold in prophecy) to create false religions?
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the promised Messiah through the line of David, raised by the Spirit, born of a virgin, propheised by the Prophets, is what creation yearned for and imitated and still seeks to. There is no worry for me if I ran across a religion similiar to Christianity, as since the beginning the adversary as sought to imitate God and His plan. The life and mission of Christ was laid out centuries before the Incarnation and centuries before these other false belief systems appeared. Jesus Christ is not the reason for the season, but my friends, He alone is the way of salvation – a real and Godly way.