Another Messiah Bites the Dust

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, June 18, 2015 4 comments

by Steve Risner

Thanks for taking a moment to read my blog post this week! Last week, I wrote on the fact of the existence of Jesus Christ. Some will attempt to confuse or distract us by throwing this objection at us—that Jesus never really existed. Those people are not to be taken seriously. You can read my post on that here. There is also no alternative explanation for the birth of Christianity aside from an authentic resurrection. That is, unless you refuse to be logical.

The next couple of weeks, we will focus on some of what I talked about near the end of that post—the Birth of the Way. The topic here is the alleged pagan influences for the story of Christ. I have heard many different attempts to attribute the story of Jesus to some other, older pagan story. You’ll see, once we get into them, that in nearly all cases the “connections” between the stories are exceptionally overstated or are completely made up. I won’t be able to get into a great deal of detail concerning each pagan story due to the constraints of space here. I would like to stress that it’s inconceivable that the Jews of the time would have incorporated pagan beliefs into their faith. Paganism was absolutely detestable to the Jews and this would go against everything they’d been taught since childhood. So let’s take a look at a couple of these.

Mithras was the first name thrown at me by an atheist. Honestly, I had never heard of Mithras until this person tossed his name to me, so it was a bit of a surprise. I immediately did some research and found the stories this atheist told me were common in atheist circles but actually had very little basis in reality. I was told hundreds of years before Jesus, according to the Mithraic religion, three Wise Men of Persia came to visit the baby savior-god Mithra, bring him gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense. This atheist told me Mithra was born on December 25 to a virgin, that he died on a cross after celebrating a last supper with 12 disciples, and that his body was placed in a rock tomb. Finally, Mithra ascended into heaven during the spring equinox (around the time we celebrate Easter). You can find websites that suggest similar things. Be advised: such websites are not to be taken seriously. I say this because it’s fairly easy to demonstrate how inaccurate this story is concerning Mithras. We are here discussing primarily Roman Mithraism.

The story of Mithras begins with his birth. He was born from a rock, not a virgin, and was an adult or at least an adolescent from birth. He is commonly connected with bull slaughter, a practice I cannot find a reference for Jesus doing. Nearly every depiction of Mithras includes him slaying a bull. He is also connected quite heavily with the zodiac, something Jesus made no reference of during His life. He is also commonly depicted eating a meal with Sol, the sun god, on the back of the slaughtered bull—not the last supper with 12 disciples. Since there seem to be no known public ceremonies of Mithraism, it is believed there is no connection to his birth being on December 25, although it is true some pagan religions have deities born on or near that day. The Bible doesn’t actually say Christ was born on December 25th. In fact, it’s pretty unlikely that He was born in the winter and no known description of the time of His birth is recorded, until around 200 A.D. by Clement of Alexandria. He was unsure but lists several dates suggested at the time. It’s not until the mid-fourth century that December 25th is mentioned in a Roman almanac as Christ’s date of birth. More than likely, Christ was born in the spring. But that’s for another discussion. There is no mention of salvation through Mithras aside from a partial writing that MAY contain something about shedding blood—most likely referring to the bull Mithras killed. No ancient documentation can be found to suggest wise men came to visit Mithras, offering the same gifts given to Jesus. There are those who claim, without any source, that Mithras was visited by 3 wise men. There is no source of old that tells of Mithras dying at all, let alone dying on a cross. There are also no known scholarly sources that suggest he had 12 disciples.

Another interesting point to completely shut down the idea that Christianity somehow fashioned itself after Mithraism is the timeframe of Mithraism. According to religion facts, “The cult of Mithras appears suddenly in the 2nd century AD - hundreds of inscriptions begin appearing after 136 AD.” That’s at least 100 years after Christ’s resurrection. Some form of Mithraism may have existed prior to this but it’s hard to say, as all that survives of the cult are references in paintings and carvings for the most part. Different cultures over time may have acquired knowledge of this secret society and taken portions they liked and added their own. Few, if any, Jews would have had much knowledge of it at all, as it was a religion of secrecy. It’s important to note that although there may be older references to a character named Mithras, this does not necessary correlate to the religion that holds his name.

The same source says, “Mithraism is frequently said to have been a great rival to early Christianity, especially in popular books written by non-specialists. According to most academic sources, however, the archaeological evidence does not support this claim.”

Also of note is the fact that Jesus was a real person, as I discussed last week. In the case of pagan religious characters, they are what we commonly refer to as legends. Jesus lived an earthly life but was the Creator. He shed His own blood to provide salvation for any who would receive it. He claimed to be “the Way the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). He also stated no one can enter heaven through another way. Christ came to save a lost world that was heaped in sin. There is no action or ceremony required to gain salvation—only the decision to accept Christ’s payment for your sins. Mithras offers none of this. There are really no real similarities between Jesus Christ and the legend of Mithras. I have read through many websites that quote this authority or that connecting Christianity and Mithraism. There is no evidence to support any connection. You can find many unreferenced web pages that claim a large host of similarities, but they all fail when scrutinized. This, unfortunately, is often times how the person antagonistic to Jesus Christ and the Bible will behave.

It’s frustrating to have to defend your faith against purely made up stories. The primary case the atheist brings against Christianity is fabricated. This further suggests they refuse to believe or simply deny the God they know exists. Evidence is beside the point.

Later, we will discuss other alleged copycat stories like Apollo, Horus, and perhaps a few others.

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Unknown said...

I don't think your first paragraph passes occam's razor.

Charlie said...

How so, B, Murphy? The first paragraph will only really make sense if you read the link in the paragraph. Did you?

Steve said...

Thanks, B Murphy, for reading the blog. I appreciate your time. I'm not sure I'm following you. The first paragraph is an introduction and references the previous writing so readers can get caught up to speed. So I guess I'm not sure why Occam's Razor is a criterion for evaluating the introduction. Can you help me understand what you're talking about?

Steve said...

No response after a month. I can only conclude he can't defend his point.