Is Christmas just another myth?
What about Jesus. He was certainly an historical figure, but did the church create a mythological version of Jesus as Christ? Did Christianity take over and reinterpret pagan symbols and holidays? Yes and no. Christianity did overtake paganism, and the early church did reinterpret pagan symbols. For instance, the mythical phoenix came to represent resurrection. “The sun of righteousness who rises with healing in his wings,” (Malachi 4:2) is a prophecy from the Old Testament, which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus, and which fit well the winter solstice festival of Sol Invictus in Rome, or the celebration of the Unconquerable Sun.
There are many today (and they abound on the internet) who prove their ignorance of history, and betray an agenda to discredit Christianity, who would have you believe that Christ is just warmed over Mithra. Early Christians stole the identity of the pagan god Mithra and used it for their Jesus. This is false on almost every level. What follows are facts from an interview of historian Edwin Yamauchi by Lee Strobel.
Writers have claimed that a pagan mystery cult Mithraism is really the basis for Christianity. Actually, this is only one of several mystery cults that popular writers have associated with Christianity. Others are: Attis, Osiris, Adonis and Dionysus. However, the Persian god Mithras who was worshiped in the mystery cult called Mithraism is the closest parallel.
“Mithras… was born of a virgin in a cave on December 25, was considered a great traveling teacher, had 12 disciples, promised his followers immortality, sacrificed himself for world peace, was buried in a tomb and rose again three days later, instituted a eucharist or “Lord’s Supper,” and was considered the Logos, redeemer, Messiah, and “the way, the truth, and the life.”
“How do you respond when people present ancient ‘facts’ like this? What do you do once you’ve been told something like this?”
Mithraism as a mystery religion cannot be attested before about AD 90. “Gordon dates the establishment of the Mithraic mysteries to the reign of Hadrian, which was AD 117-138.”
Mithras was born of a virgin… No, the legend has it that Mithra was born out of a rock.
Mithras was born in a cave like Jesus…The New Testament doesn’t say Jesus born in a cave.
Mithras was born on December 25… Jesus was actually born in the Spring (Lk. 2:8).
“December 25 was the date chosen by Emperor Aurelian (AD 215-275) for the dedication of his temple to Sol Invictus, the Roman god called ‘the unconquerable sun.’ Mithras is sometimes depicted shaking hands with this god. It became the date Christ’s birth was celebrated. In AD 336, the year before Constantine’s death, following the Christian practice of appropriating pagan holidays for holy use.”
Mithras was a teacher with 12 disciples…. No, Mithras was a god.
Mithras’s followers promised immortality…. Inferred, but what’s new? That’s religion.
Mithras sacrificed himself…. He did not. He killed a bull.
Mithras buried and raised…. We know nothing about Mithras death, so there could be no resurrection.
Mithras was considered “Good Shepherd, Way, Truth and Life, Logos, Redeemer, Savior. “No… that’s reading Christian theology into this”
Mithras had a Eucharist meal…. Common meals shared in most religious groups.
Was a Mithraic rite called taurobolium the basis for Christian belief in Christ’s blood sacrifice for sins? Taurobolium- initiate was placed in a pit with a grate over it and a bull was slaughtered above allowing the blood to baptize him. It is an anachronism to base Christ’s sacrifice on the practice, since it is first attested to in the Attis cult in AD 160.
“Do you see any evidence that Christianity borrowed any of its beliefs from Mithraism?”
“Not really… they were rivals in the second century and later.”