Christmas and Mithras

Christmas is celebrated on 25 December because it is the birthday of the Roman sun god Mithras, whose stories bear a striking resemblance to the basic mythology of Christianity. Characteristics of the Mithras cult included:

  • Mithras being a saviour sent to Earth to live a mortal whom it was possible for sinners to be reborn into immortal life.
  • He died for human sins but came back the following Sunday.
  • He was born of a virgin on 25 December in a manger (or perhaps a cave), attended by shepherds and became known as the light of the world.
  • He had 12 disciples whom he shared a last meal before dying.
  • His devotees symbolically consume the flesh and blood of him.
  • Because he was a sun god he was worshipped on Sundays.
  • He is often depicted with a halo around his head.
  • Worshippers of Mithras gave each other gifts on 25 December.
  • The leader of the religion was called a “Papa”, and their headquarters was Vatican Hill in Rome.

As for December 25 being Jesus’ birthday, no-one is certain on what date Jesus was born – that is, should he indeed have existed. According to Islam, Jesus was born in the summer, while Jehovah’s Witnesses claim he born on the 1st of October. Speaking of which, according to the Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain, the Jehovah’s Witnesses must be right since presumably they were there.

“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…. Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? ” ― Bill Watterson, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes

42 thoughts on “Christmas and Mithras

  1. “He was a saviour, Mithras, sent to earth to live as a mortal, through whom it was possible for sinners to be reborn into immortal life. He died for our sins, but came back to life the following Sunday. He was born of a virgin on December 25th, in a manger or perhaps a cave, attended by shepherds, and became known as ‘the light of the world’. He had twelve disciples, with whom he shared a last meal before dying. His devotees symbolically consumed the flesh and blood of him. Because Mithras was a sun god, he was worshipped on Sundays. […] There’s a great deal in Christianity that is traditional. And however wonderful people think the story is, it’s, frankly, not original.”

    – Stephen Fry

  2. “The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.”

    – Jay Leno

  3. A simple read on wiki will inform the curious that the belief and practice of Mithraism started years after the death of Jesus, in Rome as a rival to Christianity – not as a predecessor. Their similarities are also limited, and only those seeking to throw dirt in the Christian belief system would make such exagerrated comparisons.

  4. A simple read will inform you that Mithraism was not a Roman invention as such; the Roman cult of Mithras was based on beliefs from Greek, Persian and other Indo-European cultures, whose beliefs not only pre-date Christianity but also bear striking resemblances to a number of stories concerning a figure called Jesus, a central character in the New Testament Gospels.

    The Christian belief system (whatever that may mean to you, there are countless variations), is debunked by such a plethora of findings that it is hardly necessary to go into a discussion about something as sordidly specific as the Roman Mithras cult. First, I would advice Christians to have a critical look at modern Palaeontology, Archaeology, Geology, History, Philology, Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Ethics. Next, debunk, collect evidence, write it down, get it peer reviewed, publish, and collect the Nobel Prize.

  5. Sadly, Ufuomaee, your research behind Mithraism is about as thorough as your research behind the Hebrew and Christian testaments – practically nonexistent. You seem only to dig until you find something that confirms your beliefs, then convince yourself that you have the entire story.

    Evidence of Mithra dates as far back in time as the 15th century BCE, where his name, as a witness (in the sense of, ‘as god is my witness‘), appears on a cuneiform tablet that contains a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni. Before Zoroaster (6th century BCE or earlier), the Iranians had a polytheistic religion, and Mithra was the most important of their gods. The Hebrews, in captivity in Babylon (in modern-day Iraq) were released by the Persians of modern-day Iran, after 70 years of captivity. The Persians were followers of Mithra, and when the Jews returned from exile, and began rebuilding their temple with Persian funds and support, they took their Mithran myths with them and abandoned their traditional Hebrew language in exchange for Aramaic.

    While it is true that there was a resurgence of Mithraism in Rome between the first and fourth centuries, the faith stretched much further back in time than that.

  6. thx acrch and kuba for clarifying what ufuomaee was ‘attempting’ to ‘throw dirt on’.

  7. Actually, KIA, I didn’t even tell the whole story – Mithra came to Persia by way of India, where he was worshiped as ‘Mitra’ and sometimes ‘Mitu’ as far back as 3500 BCE.

    Oh, and KIA, I realize that Shakespeare once said, “What’s in a name?” – but you might want to put just a little more effort into mine —

  8. Thanks. I have no desire to study Mithraism. I was trying to understand the connections made in this post to Christianity, and I found the relationship to be clearly stated and distinguished by the short piece on wiki. It is the tactic of enemies of the gospel to make a mountain out of a molehill, which is what I perceived from this piece.

    Christ’s coming was prophesied long before He came. It is very reasonable that these revelations would be received differently by diverse cultures, not simply the Jews. The story is told of wise men from the East who came to worship Him. Today, our understanding and beliefs are all different, even in the faith of Christianity. I can easily understand how there could have been such myths that connect to Jesus in the past too. It doesn’t mean that Christianity as a faith was borne from these ideas.

    Have a lovely day.

  9. apologies to you. my fingers are still waking up. archaeopteryx1 is rather long. would you mind if I shortened it to just arch in my replies?

  10. gee… was that an apology and an admission you were wrong? sounded like it. regardless, I see you found a way to reassure your own Faith while simultaneously ignoring the evidence of both the post and the comments in reply of your ‘simple search’.
    I get it… what’s actual knowledge when you KNOW jesus and the gospel is ‘real’?
    virtually anything and everything become confirmation for you, even if you’re presented with solid, historical and irrefutable evidence that Christianity and the person of jesus himself that we find in the NT is cobbled together from centuries older myths. wasn’t there a church father (I think Justin martyr) that said in answer to the skeptics of his own day that the gospel he presented was ‘no different that what the son’s of jupiter’ presented?
    and another who claimed that Satan had ‘seeded’ history with ‘false christs’ for the time that the True Christ ™ to come?
    amazing what some are willing to believe not only with NO evidence at all but Faith, but also in direct opposition to ACTUAL, SOLID evidence that contradicts. sadly, I was one too… who not only believed, but also taught others to believe these things too… on threat of Hell Fire. but Gladly now, I am a Recovering Know It All thanks to people like Kuba, archaeopteryx1, ark, JZ and others. this Christmas is truly different because I investigated whether what I believed is actually True and Historical, just as I investigated other religions for internal and external inconsistencies. and what I found you should be familiar with…
    “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” weighed in the balance, it’s been found wanting. sorry for the long reply. -KIA

  11. I found the relationship to be clearly stated and distinguished by the short piece on wiki.

    And just as predicted, you dug until you found something that confirmed your beliefs, then convinced yourself that you had the entire story.

    Christ’s coming was prophesied long before He came.

    Actually, that’s not true. A Messiah was prophesied, true, but a conquering Messiah who would throw off the yokes of Israel’s enemies. A Messiah who would die an ignominious death like a common criminal, was never prophesied.

    It’s amusing that you assume all of the other gods, born of virgins and/or dying for sins, to be thinly-disguised versions of Jesus, but not for a second can you envision that Jesus could be a thinly-disguised version of, say, Mithra. You must feel so secure in your locked-tight world – some would call it jail.

  12. Hi Kia, I don’t know what apology or admission you are referring to.

    Secondly, I think we’ve had the discussion before. When it comes to faith, no matter of evidence will refute it. That’s why it’s faith.

    Thirdly, I have to say that you are not at all a recovering know it all. I think you just joined a different league of Know It Alls! Yours is based on physical knowledge, while mine is based on spiritual knowledge.

    Have a great day.

  13. “When it comes to faith, no matter of evidence will refute it”

    and 2+2=43,296.
    that’s the problem with it. and the fact you freely admit this is the first step to reality as a basis for life. you too can Recover. all you need do is embrace truth rather than Truth ™ so called. have a great Christmas. -KIA

  14. If you consider an example of a man and his wife. There’s a rumour going around that the man is cheating. Her sister confirms it, that he slept with her friend. They even have a video tape.

    But this woman’s faith in her husband is so strong that though it is shaken, she still refuses to believe he cheated and that there MUST be another explanation because she knows him too well. Everyone thinks she’s crazy.

    However, eventually, it comes to light that it was infact his identical twin and not the husband. As far fetched as this anology is, that is the quality of faith Christians put in Jesus. He is not just a story told to us. We know Him well.

    Have a great day.

  15. Difference being Jesus isn’t supposed to have any ‘identical twins’ being that he is Monogenais

  16. How about all of the young girls kidnapped from your country, Ufuomaee – do you suppose they are ‘secure in Christ’? Believe in spirits all you like, but it was something quite physical that kidnapped them, and I’m sure it’s something quite physical that they’ve been going through all this time. Maybe if we all just pray really hard, they’ll all come skipping home —

  17. Interesting you should say that, KIA. The full name of ‘Thomas’ (look it up – John 11:16), was Thomas Didymus. Thomas, in Aramaic, means “twin” while Didymus, in Greek, means – wait for it – “twin” as well. The gnostic scolls found at Nag Hammadi include a text called “The Book of Thomas the Contender“, in which Jesus calls Thomas his twin. Food for thought —

  18. It seems to me, the analogy is about ignorance – what wife knows so little about her husband that she isn’t aware that he has a twin? Yet possessing that knowledge, wouldn’t that be the first thought she would have of her accused husband?

  19. I live half a world away – what am I supposed to do about the poor girls, when your own countrymen do nothing? Your prayer certainly doesn’t seem to have returned them.

  20. I can’t find “Monogenais” anywhere. Would you expound on the meaning? I’d like to know what you meant about Jesus in this context. I thought it might mean that he was “fatherless” in that his “virgin” mother was impregnated by “the Holy Spirit of God” while betrothed to Joseph but before he married her.

  21. I said the analogy is far-fetched. There are twins who were separated at birth and find themselves much later in life… The anology is not perfect, but the message is, beyond reasonably doubt, the wife has absolute faith in her husband, the way Christians have absolute faith in Jesus. Hence we are called The Faithful.

  22. Nice dodge. I hope you’ve eased your conscience bringing up this topical issue in the middle of a discussion on Christmas and Mithras… what a way muddy the issues.

    You don’t understand God and you don’t understand prayer. I doubt you understand kidnapping or know anything about my country. Stick to what you know.

  23. Hi Ufuomaee, I find it beyond amazing how brashly and aggressively some particular types of “Christians” try to promote/push their beliefs on others. That’s not how Jesus meant it to be, and I know having studied the gospels in depth and in great conflict of mind and heart. I have tried to incarnate the actual (versus interpreted) teachings of Jesus as presented in the gospels, particularly in the gospel according to Luke. I think you need to seriously go back there and read them, without the 2000+ years of interpretations by priests and teachers with private agendas. I’m not claiming anything here, whether the gospels are a true record of the life of Jesus, or whether Jesus actually existed – all I’m asking is for Christians to realize that by making that claim they put themselves under the teaching, and they will be judged by the world by how close they come to representing their Lord’s intent. Your words come across like those of the prostitute who runs to the car window and says, “Are you looking for a date, honey?” It’s thoroughly insincere and a complete turn off, i.e., religious love. I’m an ex-Catholic and ex-evangelical Christian and it is attitudes such as you express that guarantee I will never return to being a Christian. I have found much more sincere, honest, straight-forward people in the non-believing world. “By their deeds shall ye know them.” “And you will say, [did we not do this or that] in your name? And I will say to you, depart from me, ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you.” Bottom line, by becoming a political force your religion has become a curse.

  24. I am so glad I escaped that nonsense early. I can only otherwise just imagine what a prison my life might have been. It’s ironic that a religion would take from us the one life we have, with the false promise that there will be a better one later – one that never comes – sad.

  25. I really would love to be sweet, seeing as you have accused me of being a brute. I really don’t know what you are referring to. An example or quote would have helped to shed light on how you came to that conclusion. Being confident in my belief and defending attacks against it does not in any way make me brutish or unChristlike.

    However, it is hard to respond to you sweetly, when I feel like I’ve been bit by a snake. I guess you have no standards for me to measure you against, but your baseless accusations to me and statement that my faith is a curse, is enough for me to see that you are not sincere in your critique.

    I am not forcing my faith on anyone here. In fact, I felt a need to defend it after reading this post, and I belief I’ve respectfully disagreed with you all, though your numbers are greater.

    At this point, the only reasonable thing left to do is walk away. I really have no interest in forcing you to belief in something you’ve so adamantly rejected.

    I wish you all a great day.

  26. It began as a discussion on Christmas and Mithras, until you turned it into a discussion of faith. All I asked was for you to remove faith from the world of the ethereal, and demonstrate what it can do in the real world. The tragedy with which I would suspect you’re most familiar, being a Nigerian, living in Nigeria, would be the tragic kidnapping of the girls I mentioned – it makes logical sense, if your faith has merit, that using it to facilitate the girls’ return would be high on your list of priorities.

  27. Pingback: Two Amazing Admissions… | The Recovering Know It All

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