Messiah Jesus and Mythology II

IV. Why These Pagan "Saviors" Could not Have Influenced the Gospels.

A. Mithraism

1) All our sources Post Date Christianity.

Easter: Myth, Hallucination or History

by Edwin M. Yamauchi

Leadership u. http://www.

Updated 22 March 1997

(prof. of History at Miami University, Oxford Ohio)

"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 (cf. M. J. Vermaseren, Mithras, The Secret God, 1963, p. 76). The only dated Mithraic inscriptions from the pre-Christian period are the texts of Antiochus I of Commagene (69-34 B.C.) in eastern Asia Minor. After that there is one text possibly from the first century A.D., from Cappadocia, one from Phrygia dated to A.D. 77-78, and one from Rome dated to Trajan's reign (A.D. 98-117). All other dated Mithraic inscriptions and monuments belong to the second century (after A.D. 140), the third, and the fourth century A.D". (M. J. Vermaseren, Corpus Inscription et Monumentorum Religions Mithriacae, 1956).

2) Mithraism Emerged in the west only after Jesus' day.

Mithraism could not have become an influence upon the origins of the first century, for the simple reason that Mithraism did not emerge from its pastoral setting in rural Persia until after the close of the New Testament canon. (Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra (Chicago: Open Court, 1903), 87ff.) No one can be sure that the meaning of the meals and the ablutions are the same between Christianity and Mithraism. Just because the two had them is no indication that they come to the same thing. These are entirely superficial and circumstantial arguments. (Nash, Christian Research Journal winter 94, p.8)

a) Roman Soldiers Spread the cult.

Roman soldiers probably encountered Mithraism first as part of Zoroastrians when they while on duty in Persia. The Cult spread through the Roman legion, was most popular in the West, and ha little chance to to spread through or influence upon Palestine. It's presence in Palestine was mainly confined to the Romans who were there to oppress the Jews. Kane tries to imply that these mystery cults were all indigenous to the Palestinian area, that they grew up alongside Judaism, and that the adherents to these religions all traded ideas as they happily ate together and practiced good neighborly manners.

b) Mithraic Roman Soldiers Influenced by Christians in Palestine

But Mithraism was confined to the Roman Legion primarily, those who were stationed in Palestine to subdue the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 66-70. In fact strong evidence indicates that in this way Christianity influenced Mithraism. First, because Romans stationed in the West were sent on short tours of duty to fight the Parthians in the East, and to put down the Jewish revolt. This is where they would have encountered a Christianity whose major texts were already written, and whose major story (that of the life of Christ) was already formed.

There is no real evidence for a Persian Cult of Mithras. The cultic and mystery aspect did not exist until after the Roman period, second century to fourth. This means that any similarities to Christianity probably come from Christianity as the Soldiers learned of it during their tours in Palestine. The Great historian of religions, Franz Cumont was able to prove that the earliest datable evidence for the cult came from the Military Garrison at Carnuntum, on the Danube River (modern Hungary). The largest Cache of Mithraic artifacts comes form the area between the Danube and Ostia in Italy. (Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra (Chicago: Open Court, 1903), 87ff.)

3) Mithraism was not Christianity's Major Rival



The Ecole Initiative:

Mithraism had a wide following from the middle of the second century to the late fourth century CE, but the common belief that Mithraism was the prime competitor of Christianity, promulgated by Ernst Renan (Renan 1882 579), is blatantly false. Mithraism was at a serious disadvantage right from the start because it allowed only male initiates. What is more, Mithraism was, as mentioned above, only one of several cults imported from the eastern empire that enjoyed a large membership in Rome and elsewhere. The major competitor to Christianity was thus not Mithraism but the combined group of imported cults and official Roman cults subsumed under the rubric "paganism." Finally, part of Renan's claim rested on an equally common, but almost equally mistaken, belief that Mithraism was officially accepted because it had Roman emperors among its adherents (Nero, Commodus, Septimius Severus, Caracalla, and the Tetrarchs are most commonly cited). Close examination of the evidence for the participation of emperors reveals that some comes from literary sources of dubious quality and that the rest is rather circumstantial. The cult of Magna Mater, the first imported cult to arrive in Rome (204 BCE) was the only one ever officially recognized as a Roman cult. The others, including Mithraism, were never officially accepted, and some, particularly the Egyptian cult of Isis, were periodically outlawed and their adherents persecuted.

B. Osiris

1) Replaced with Serapis Before Time of Christ
Osiris really belongs more properly to the cult of Isis, he was her consort. It originated in Egypt and was not a mystery religion until after 300 BC , after Petolemy I, who introduced major changes. Osiris was replaced with Serapis to harmonize Greek and Egyptian cultures. Thus Osiris was not even part of the mystery cult, and thus has no influence upon the "saving" aspects of the cult.

2) Immortality aspects minimal in Osiris time

The Cult moved to Rome where it was at first rejected, but finally was allowed into the city between 37 and 41. Only after the next two centuries did it become a rival of Christianity. Its eventual popularity came from its elaborate ritual and hope of immortality, although this was a latter development which post dates Christian origins and does not include Osiris. During the Osiris phase the immortality aspects were very minimal.

3) Early phase of cult no savior, in period of clash with Christianity, no Osiris!

Thus, during the early part of the cult they had no great savior figure and no salvation aspects to speak of, and in the phase where they competed with Christianity (two or more centuries after the Gospels) they had no dying or rising savior figure. (Ronald Nash, "Was The New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?" the Christian Research Journal, Winter 19994, p 8 )

C. Attis

1) Late Sources For Attis

Most of our information about the cult describes its practices during its later Roman period. But the details are slim and almost all the source material is relatively late, certainly datable long after the close of the New Testament canon.(Ronald Nash, Christian Research Journal, Winter 94 p.8)

Lambrechts has also shown that Attis, the consort of Cybele, does not appear as a "resurrected" god until after A.D. 1 50. ( "Les Fetes 'phrygiennes' de Cybele et d' Attis," Bulletin de l'lnstitut Historique Belge de Rome, XXVII 11952], 141-70).

2) Christian-like affectations long after Christ's time

 Nash States:

It was only during the later Roman celebrations (after A.D. 300) of the spring festival that anything remotely connected with a "resurrection" appears. The pine tree symbolizing Attis was cut down and then carried corpse-like into the sanctuary. Later in the prolonged festival, the tree was buried while the initiates worked themselves into a frenzy that included gashing themselves with knives. The next night, the "grave" of the tree was opened and the "resurrection of Attis" was celebrated. But the language of these late sources is highly ambiguous. In truth, no clear-cut, unambiguous reference to the supposed "resurrection" of Attis appears, even in the very late literature from the fourth century after Christ. (Nash p.8)

D. Buddha and Krishna

Both of these figures were in the East before an during the time of Christ. They never exerted any influence in Palestine, and probably very few people knew about them. No connecting link can be shown as to how they would spread to Palestine.

V. Simplistic Theories And Logical Fallacies

A. Kane explains how the "borrowing" took Place:
How this pagan-Christian thing happened is an amazing story, not often told. Around the Ancient Mediterranean Christians and Pagans lived in the same cities -- lived in the same neighborhoods, shared friendships, meeting places, jobs, families, ideas -- for centuries. But of their of their interchange of ideas and ideals we hear not a whisper.

But as we have seen Most of these cults weren't even in Palestine, some of the major one's either dint' exist or lacked the key elements to have lent their notions to Christianity during the crucial early phase. Nevertheless there is such a naiveté about this approach. The people were living near each other so they barrowed each other's ideas. While there was such fertilization, there were also strict prohibitions upon Jews eating with Gentiles and they did not take those lightly. They resented the Roman presence and were not geared to borrow their ideas.

B. Classic Earmarks of poor Scholarship

1) Distrust of Real Academic Scholarship

Surf to the course descriptions at your favorite university's classics or religion departments, say classics at Harvard, and look for courses comparing and contrasting Christianity to Ancient Pagan religions. You won't find any. Christianity compared to Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, yes. Christianity compared to Paganism, nothing. It's as if a thousand years of western religious history never happened.

He goes on to say that the victors write history so Christianity covered up all the evidence that would prove him right if we had it. As he says:

"History is written by the victors. In the first centuries AD Paganism and Christianity were in competition. The Christians won. The history you know was written by them. Christian or not, you have a Christian perspective on Christianity's uniqueness -- that's the only perspective you've ever heard. ... That's how we see it. That's the Christian history."

Yet a good many of the Scholars I've quoted are not Christians, Robinson, Steleman, Meyer, Hamilton, Cumont, among others are not Christians. Meyer is a source recommended by Kane. Below Eliade, Champbell, Karanye and Gilford are not Christians.

2) Argument from Silence

Essentially he's saying "the evidence isn't found, so that must prove I'm right." This is a favorite ploy of many skeptics who try to disprove Christianity. Doherty argues this way all the time. A gap exists in our knowledge so I can fill that gap with what I want to be there and the fact that no counter evidence exists proves I'm right. Another version of this is the idea that all the verses about Christianity teaching reincarnation were taken out by the church. I tell them "but there is no textual evidence for that." Some have actually said to me "that proves they got them all!"

3) Poor documentation.

There is not a single footnote on Kane's site. He never connects one source to a single point he makes.

C. Fallacy of Association



The page is titled: "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?"

"I conclude by noting seven points that undermine liberal efforts to show that first-century Christianity borrowed essential beliefs and practices from the pagan mystery religions.

Arguments offered to "prove" a Christian dependence on the mysteries illustrate the logical fallacy of false cause. This fallacy is committed whenever someone reasons that just because two things exist side by side, one of them must have caused the other. As we all should know, mere coincidence does not prove causal connection. Nor does similarity prove dependence."


 VI. Some Similarities Do Exist Between all Religions as a Result of Human Nature and Archetypical Patterning.


A. Cultural Influences.

But most scholars such as anthropologists and historians of religion today no longer think in terms of out right copying. Rather scholars tend more often to think in terms of influence and cultural drift. "Today, however, most scholars are considerably more cautious about the parallels between early Christianity and the mysteries and hesitate before jumping to conclusions about dependence. To be sure, one religious tradition my appropriate themes from another and so it must have been with early Christianity and the mystery religions. Yet Judaism, Christianity, and the mysteries were equally parts of the religious milieu of the Greco-Roman world, and this explains many of their similarities. As Greco-Roman religions they sometimes faced many of the same challenges, proposed similar ways of salvation and shared similar visions of the way to light and life"

[Marvin W. Meyer, ed. The Ancient Mysteries :a Source book. San Francisco: Harper, 1987, 226]

(This is Marvin Meyer, the same source recommended by Kane on his website)

 The notion of outright copying is silly. This depends upon a conspiracy which would produce a wooden figure rather than the vibrant breathing unique personality we find in the Jesus of the canonical Gospels. Moreover, Jewish and Hellenistic thought both grew up together in the Eastern end of the Mediterranean. Both owed a little to Egypt and a great deal to the civilization of the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Both alike deriving something from Aegean culture." [D.E.H. Whitely, Jesus College Oxford, Theology of ST. Paul, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966, 5]. This makes the cultural influence theory all the more likely, but rules out any sort of direct barrowing. These people thought alike in many ways, but why would a Jewish sect go to pagan cults to barrow their mythology consciously?

B. Archetypical Patterning

1) Mythical elements derive from psychological archetypes

"Through out the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance the myths of man have flourished and they have been and they have been the inspiration for whatever else has appeared out of the activities of the human body and mind....Religions, philosophies, arts, the social forms of permeative and historic man, prime discoveries in science and technology, the very dreams that blister sleep, boil up from the very basic magic ring of myth. The wonder is that the characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the smallest nursery fairy tale--as the taste of the ocean is contained in a droplet, or the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea. For the Symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented, or permanently suppressed. They are spontaneous productions of the psyche, and each bares within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source."

(Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press, 1949, pp. 3-4)

 [One would assume than that they cannot, with any great success be artificially copied, and produce anything with the power of the character of Jesus in the four Gospels.]

2) Definition of Archetypes

The psychologist Carl Jung defines archetypes as "forms or images of a collective nature which occur practically all over the earth as constitutes of myths and at the same time autochthonous, individual products of unconscious origin" (C. G. Jung Psychology and Religion [collected works vol. II New York, London: 1958 par. 88]). Campbell tells us "The archetypes to be discovered and assimilated are precisely those that have inspired, throughout the annals of human culture, the basic images, mythology, and vision." (Ibid. 18).

So these images, symbols, and notions about religious figures are in large part products of the human psyche the world over, each viewed through the lens of some particular culture, and with cross fertilization and cultural influences. Now one might object that this makes it all the more likely that the Jesus story is also being viewed through the lens of culture and is merely the product of these archetypes. That is what Campbell himself said, but he also said that that didn't make it unimportant, that doesn't mean that there is no supernatural reality behind it. He was not a Christian, and didn't like Christianity, but he did recognize that there is more to it than just "copying" and more to religion than just "a mere myth."

3) Source of the archetypes

Jung didn't really stipulate what the final source of archetypes was, it was psychological, and indicative of some higher reality in a Platonic sense perhaps. Mircea Eliade was the other great Mythological scholar; founder of the field of History of Religions at University of Chicago. He was also an official Guru in the Hindu religion (although he was Rumanian) and was a believer in mystical consciousness and Higher reality (see Dudley Gilford III, Religion on Trail.) Campbell also hints at a higher source for the archetypes. How else could these psychological figures and symbols be embed in the human psyche if not some correspondence to a higher reality? With a strict materialist interpretation it makes no sense to even suppose that they exist. yet they are found all over the world, the same basic heroes doing the same basic things, the same elements (See Campbell The Hero With a Thousand Faces) Therefore, they are the product of the link between the human psyche and a higher reality. Not to suggest that some higher reality is telling us about real people doing real things, but that these heroes are symbols for everyone, for the individual and his/her journey through life.

C. The Archetypical Demonstrates Jesus Deity All the More.

As C.S. Lewis is reputed to have said, with all the dying and rising gods of pagan mythology one might get the idea that it actually happened in some historical instance. IF someone really embodied the details of these myths it would go a long way toward proving that God designed it that way, especially since that historical figure is recorded living long after most of these myths were told. The myths exist as far away as the other side of the world, and yet here is a man who actually lives them and embodies them.

Eliade quotes Fr. Beirnaert:

[the Christian sacraments direct the believer's mind to the power of God in history] ...This new meaning must not lead us to deny the permanence of the ancient meaning [of the archetypes found in the sacraments]. By its renewal of the great figures and symbolization's of natural religion, Christianity has also renewed their vitality and their powers in the depths of the psyche. The mythical and archetypical dimension remains none the less real for being henceforth subordinate to another. The Christian may well be a man who has ceased to look for his spiritual salvation in myths and in experience of the immanent archetypes alone; he has not for all that abandoned all that the myths and symbolism's mean and to the psychic man, to the microcosm [...] the adoption by Christ and the Church, of the great images of the Sun, the moon, wood, waster, the sea, and so forth, amounts to an evangelization of the effective powers that they denote. The incarnation must not be reduced to the taking on of the flesh alone. God has intervened even in the collective unconscious that it may be saved and fulfilled. The Christ descended into hell. How then can this salvation reach into our unconsciousness without speaking its language and making use of it's Categories?

[Beirnaert, pp. 284-285 quoted in Mircea Eliade, Images and Symbols, Studies in Religious Symbolism, trans. Philip Mairet Kansas City: Sheed Andrews and McMeel inc. 1952, English trans. Harvil press 1961, pp.160-161.]

In other words, God could still do both, literally fulfill the images of the archetypes in the historical reality of Jesus Christ, and still arrange them so that they speak of the same transcendent reality through their archetypical symbolism. So Jesus is both the literal historical incarnation, the Son of God, and the archetypical mythical savior figure. But no conscious borrowing is required. All that is needed for this is the human psyche.

D. The Skeptic will argue that the archetypes colored the historical facts

Many of the smaller details of Jesus' life cannot be proven, but the major outline can be. That he lived, was a healer, was a great teacher, was crucified and his followers claimed from an early time that he rose from the dead, that he was the product of Virgin birth etc. these things can be demonstrated as historical. As shown, most skeptics cannot make good on these claims either, but to whatever extent they do, these similarities only add to the indication that God was working through Jesus Christ.