Mithraism and Other Cults in the Roman Empire

In the hundred years before and the few hundred years after Jesus’ death, the most popular religion in the Roman Empire was Mithraism. Many of the main mantras of Mithraism found their way into the Bible and the traditions of Christianity.

It was one of the oldest religious systems on earth, dating from the dawn of written history, circa 2000 BCE, long before Judaism, and before the primitive Iranian race divided into the branches that became Persian and Indian. It dominated Persia and the vast regions of the Orient in ancient times. Zoroaster, a Persian philosopher who gave final form to the faith, lived at least six hundred years before Christ, so when the Christ myth was new, Mithraism was already ancient.

It involved the idolization of the Indo-Iranian sun-god Mithra. It was a monotheistic religion, a feature sometimes falsely claimed to be peculiar to the Abrahamic traditions.

The Persians who practiced Mithraism influenced the Jewish scripture writers during the Babylonian Captivity.

The religion entered Europe following the conquests of Alexander the Great. The faith found its way to Rome in the 60s BCE, when Pompey’s legions first encountered it in Syria and brought it back home. Its foremost fans in the Roman Empire were the legionnaires (who were the soldiers in a Roman legion.)

It spread with great rapidity, and was patronized and protected by a number of Roman emperors up to and including Constantine (Emperor from 306-337 CE.) Several of them built temples to Mithras. By the year 200 CE, it had flourished throughout the empire. It had spread widely throughout the army, and among traders and slaves.

Sites of Mithraic worship have been found in Armenia, Britain, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, North Africa, Persia, Romania, Syria, and Turkey. It reached its zenith during the third century, only to be stamped out by Christianity in the fourth.

There were no Mithraic scriptures, and no texts written by its adherents have survived. Most of what we know about this cult has been surmised only from the archaeological evidence. Consequently, historians often have markedly different spiels about the details, and the topic of Mithraism’s influence on Christianity is a lively one on the internet.

The religion revolved around reverence of the sun. The character Mithras was the son of the “sun god.” Mithras represented fidelity, manliness, and bravery. The cult emphasized fellowship and brotherliness and a secret bond among its members. It excluded women.

Mithraic temple in Rome

Mithraic temple in Rome

The mysteries of Mithras were celebrated in underground temples, built in imitation of caves, called methraei.

In every Mithraic temple, the place of honor was occupied by a tauroctony, an image of Mithras killing a sacred bull.

Mithras is depicted as an energetic young man, wearing a cap, a short tunic that flares at the hem, pants, and a cloak that streamed out behind him. He grasps the bull to force it into submission, with his knee on its back and one hand heaving back its head, while he stabs it in the neck with a short sword.

This scene was reenacted in real life, when each initiate into the religion was baptized in the bull’s blood, partaking of its life-giving properties.

4628796211_a28138e12a

Joseph Wheless, writing in the 1930s, provided some of the following insights into Mithraism. (http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/joseph_wheless/forgery_in_christianity/chapter_1.html) Mithras was the mediator between God and humans. There was an ethical system built upon the principle that a war raged between good and evil. A Good Spirit had given men his divine revelation and law through the prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster). An Evil Spirit tempted people to transgress the Law. Humans had free will, able to place themselves on the side of good or evil. The believers were good guys who battled on Mithras’ side.

Virtues and vices were enumerated and estimated. Special value was attributed to the virtues of adherence to religious practices, truthfulness, purity, and generosity to the poor. Importance was placed on the necessity of goodness in thought, word, and deed.

After death, one’s destiny was decided according to whether the Good Spirit had been obeyed. It was hoped one’s soul would pass over a bridge into a happy eternity, heaven. Heresy, untruthfulness, perjury, sexual sins, violence, and tyranny were especially frowned upon. The wicked soul fell from the bridge into hell.

I think Paul, the creator of Christian theology, incorporated Mithraic ideas into what became Christianity. Some commentators have even suggested Paul was a Mithraic priest. Christian pioneers copied details of Mithraism too. As a result, there are some remarkable similarities between Mithras and Jesus. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBfAHsUHtiY&feature=player_embeddedhttp://jdstone.org/cr/files/mithraschristianity.html , http://www.near-death.com/experiences/origen048.html , http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/gospel-mithras.html).

Mithras’ virgin mother was the “mother of God.”

Mithra

Mithras was born on the twenty-fifth of December, three days after the winter solstice. Long before Jesus, every year in Rome, in the middle of winter, his birth was celebrated. The sun “dies” on December 22, the winter solstice, when it stops its movement south. On December 25, the Natalis Invictis, the rebirth of the winter sun occurs, and the sun resumes its movement north. At the first minute of December 25, priests in white garments celebrated the birth of Mithras, the son of God. The temples of Mithras were lit with candles, and boys burned incense. It was only in the fourth century that Western Christians chose the twenty-fifth of December to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Mithras was baptized and remained celibate throughout his life. He performed miracles. He was called “the Good Shepherd” and the “Light of the World,” terms that came to be used when referring to Jesus.

Mithras celebrated a “Last Supper” with his twelve disciples, who each stood for a sign of the zodiac.

Mithras sacrificed himself by dying on a cross for the sins of mankind. His body was laid to rest in a rock tomb. He descended into the underworld, and appeared in heaven three days later.

1759553520_c906aac546_oSunday was the sun god’s holy day. Onto Jesus’ head fell Mithras’ sun disc, the halo.

For those who worshipped Mithras, invoking his name was supposed to heal the sick and work miracles. They believed Mithras would grant them immortality and eternal salvation in the world to come. They drank wine and ate bread, which symbolized the blood and body of Mithras.

There were “fathers” of the Mithraic religion. Their chief, who lived in Rome, was called Pater Patratus. He wore a red cap and a ring and carried a shepherd’s staff, attire afterwards adopted by Christian bishops.

At the end of time, the story is strikingly similar to that of the Apocalypse in the book of Revelations. A colossal combat takes place between the savior, Mithras and demons, who he destroys. Mithras orchestrates the resurrection of the dead, the judgment and then the renewal of the whole world. A terrible fire rages, which cleanses all creatures; the wicked are cleansed of all stains. A new heaven and earth appear.

mithraMithraism was flexible, universal and appealed to the men in all classes in society, yet Mithras was not an historical god-man savior. Nor was he directly connected to Judaism, which I think the government was trying to undermine. He had to be replaced by a more suitable candidate; someone Jewish who the common people could relate to. Enter Jesus.

The Church Fathers Justin, Origen, and Tertullian were very familiar with Mithraism. (http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cv/pch/pch70.htm , http://www.religionfacts.com/greco-roman/sects/mithraism.htm ). The standard explanation they gave for the unmistakable similarities with Jesus was contemptible; that Satan had gone back in time and copied contemporary Christianity. Critics at the time were not slow to point to the truth: Christianity had simply reproduced the popular beliefs of a prominent pagan cult.

There were some differences between Christianity and Mithraism. There were no bulls in Christianity. Mithraism was tolerant of other cults; Christianity was exclusive, condemning every other religion in the world, even Judaism.

When Christianity became the official religion of the empire, Mithraism was driven from the scene by attacks from Christians. It had no hierarchical organization, lacked a professional clergy, and was heavily dependent upon State patronage, so soon came to an ignominious end. During the reign of Emperor Gratian (367–383 CE), its sanctuaries were sacked of their wealth and wound up. Christians seized Mithra’s cave-temple on the Vatican Hill in 376 A.D. The Vatican was built on top of it. (http://www.ambrosiasociety.org/mithra__avesta.html , http://www.websitesonadime.com/ffwic/mithra.htm). Christianity’s architectural and theological foundations were both Mithraic!

Thirty years later, the Emperor Theodosius made worship of Mithras punishable by death. Mithraism vanished, vanquished by the cult of Christ.

if the Roman

                                                                    Other Cults

In the first four centuries CE, there was a huge trade network from Europe all the way to China. Goods weren’t the only commodities traded; philosophies, traditions and manuscripts were shared amongst the world’s people. Rome absorbed the gods of the provinces it conquered. By the end of the first century, there were so many foreign gods that almost every day of the year celebrated some divinity. Roman citizens were encouraged to give offerings to these gods to maintain the “Pax Deorum” (the peace of the gods.) These cults, including Christianity, vied with their contemporaries for supremacy, and borrowed ideas from each other. Gods who became men, sons of gods, births to virgin mothers on or near the 25th of December, baptisms, miracles, healings, deaths due to hanging on trees or crucifixion, risings from the dead, and belief being the basis for salvation, were all traditional themes. (http://freetruth.50webs.org/B1a.htm). Here are some examples.

krishna-christKrishna, the central character of an Indian myth dating back to 1400 BCE, had his birth signaled by a star in the East and attended by angels and shepherds. His father was a carpenter. A tyrant slaughtered thousands of innocent infants to get the baby. Krishna survived and grew up to raise the dead and heal lepers, the deaf and the blind. He was killed around age 30 and the sun darkened. He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and became the second person of a trinity.

Christianity has repeatedly failed to make any headway in India. One of the reasons is that many Indians have recognized it as an imitation of their own traditions. ( http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jckr1.htm).

 

buddha, jrsusBuddhist monks travelled to Egypt, Greece and Asia Minor four centuries before Jesus. Buddha, traditionally said to have lived c 600 BCE, was born to the virgin Maya. A king threatened the baby’s life. He was baptized in water, taught in a temple at age 12, healed the sick, fed 500 men from a small basket, walked on water and taught the parable of the prodigal son. His followers were obliged to take vows of poverty and to renounce the world, sex and family. ( http://jdstone.org/cr/files/j_buddah.html).

dionysus-greece

 

Dionysis of Greece was born in a manger to a virgin on 25th December, turned water into wine, was eaten in a Eucharistic ritual, and in one version of events rose from the dead on March 25th.

 

 

Stories about Osiris of Egypt predate Christ by thousands of years. His birth was announced by 3 wise men. He was called the resurrection and the Life and the Good Shepherd. He suffered, died and rose again. His flesh was eaten as wheat cakes. (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa2.htm).

horus_jesus_comparedHe had a son called Horus, (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa5b.htm), whose birth was announced by a star in the east and attended by 3 wise men. He was born of the virgin Isis-Meri on the 25th December in a cave. At age 12 he was a teacher in a temple, then disappeared for 18 years, returned into circulation and was baptized at age 30. He had 12 disciples, performed miracles, exorcised demons, raised men from the dead, walked on water, delivered a sermon on the mount, was crucified between two thieves, and was buried for 3 days before he was resurrected from the dead.

There were many others, including Adduk and Marduk of Assyria, Adonis, Aesclepius, Apollo,  Hercules and Zeus of Greece, Alcides of Thebes, Hermes of Greece/Egypt, Issa of Arabia, Jupiter of Rome and Serapis of Egypt who had striking similarities to the Christian mythology.

Jesus had to be distinguished from these other gods, so the church fathers made a big deal out of how he came “in the flesh.” They then derided other gods as mythical.

It’s obvious that what became the Christian faith was a heady, plagiarized mix of Judaic, Mithraic, and other pagan myths. The existence of all these characters, sharing so many characteristics, constitutes an ancient universal mythos that’s been unrecognised by everyday Christians.

Horus, Attis

References:

Atwill, Joseph “Caesar’s Messiah”

http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/Mithraism.html

http://www.near-death.com/experiences/origen048.html

http://www.crystalinks.com/mithraism.html

http://www.truthbeknown.com/mithra.htm

http://www.askwhy.co.uk/christianity/0690Mithras.php

http://www.tyndalearchive.com/scriptures/www.innvista.com/scriptures/compare/mithra.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_Jewish_Bible_canon

http://www.innvista.com/culture/religion/deities/mithra.htm

http://www.answering-christianity.com/abdullah_smith/cross_pagan_origins.htm

http://www.christianity-revealed.com/cr/files/mithraschristianity.html

http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/joseph_wheless/forgery_in_christianity/

http://armageddonconspiracy.co.uk/The-Mithras-Deception(1753794).htm

http://www.hiddencodes.com/sherry/churches.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U1Grl4HSRU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nb1IfFMoIZQ

http://www.egodeath.com/bensonmysteryrels.htm

http://fuzzyquark.comxa.com/original.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljRKhZ81aqY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lGG1fgSkl4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJk_nBNqejg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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11 Responses to Mithraism and Other Cults in the Roman Empire

  1. Katy says:

    I know a lot about this subject, so happy to share with you here and by email.

    Here is where the problem lies. The title ‘Christian’ has been used by so many to try and make their ‘religion’ sound legitimate. So many use the title Christian, just like so many people that pick up a camera call themselves a photographer, but are they really? This is the point… a lot of deceptions out there and a lot of weeding to do. To use biblical reference, you have Wheat and you have weeds. The wheat and weeds are growing together. Many ‘weeds’ claim the title of Christian, they have the appearance of Christian, but they are counterfeits. However, you can tell by their fruits. I’ll explain in a bit.

    There is a difference between religion and the real saving faith of Jesus Christ. The two are completely different.

    ‘Religion’ began in Babylon. Look up Nimrod.. he was the first ruler (king) on earth, who rebelled against God and created the ‘Mystery Babylon’ religion, which consisted of pure paganism. This is where religion began. People followed his lead and worshipped other Gods and partook in pagan practices. Babylon was conquered by a few kingdoms after it and ceased to exist. Then, one day Rome revived the paganism that began in Babylon and this became part of their culture. The paganism spread to other parts of the world, like egypt (this is where Freemasonry/pyramid/’all seeing eye’ cult came from), originated in Babylon, revived by Rome and spin offs of this paganism were introduced around the world. Each country would use the same pagan practices. Nimrod from Babylon took the title of Pontiff Maximus (sound familiar?? Alarm bells should ring). When Rome revived Babylon the title was passed on to them, many Roman emperors took this same title… as do Roman Catholic Priests today. Interesting, huh? There’s more…

    (In the beginning, sin came into the world in the garden of Eden. From that day we inherited a sin nature from Adam and Eve. We were born separated from God because of this sin. We have to be reconnected with God. Mankind is rebellious. There were people in those days that had a relationship with God, though they struggled with their sin nature, living in the world. God created us with free will because He didn’t want us to be robots. God knew that the consequence of that free will is that we might use it to disobey Him but He loved us enough to give us freedom to choose. The devil temped Adam and Eve and they disobeyed. As a result of their disobedience, sin entered the world and we inherited this sin nature from them. Mankind is rebellious. We were born not knowing Him, separated from Him because of sin. We have to be reconnected with God. We have the choice to accept or reject Him. He wanted to give us the choice to know Him or choose to live in a dark world of evil, away from Him)

    So all that being said… we live in a dark , evil world where people use their free will to commit evil and harm others, commit all kinds of acts as a result of their sin nature. The penalty of sin is death, eternal separation from God.

    Then comes the best bit. God chose to save us from our sins. He became flesh. He took on flesh (became the man, Jesus) and dwelt among us. It’s easier to communicate with an ant if you’re an ant yourself. Jesus came to better communicate with us and also to pay the penalty for our sins. Only He could do this as He was perfect (no sin) and this was an acceptable offering to God. He laid down His life for us, that we may be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life with Him in Heaven. He lived a humble life, He came to teach us the way. He was sinless and without fault. He was full of love for us. There is no greater love than one who lays down His life. This is what Jesus did. This was acceptable to God and all we have to do to be saved is believe in what He did for us and call on the name of Jesus to save us. God knew that so many were in bondage and deceived by all this false paganism. He wanted to set us free and save us, so this is why Jesus came.

    All religion is the same. It teaches man that he has to do something. It’s all man-made traditions of men, rules and obligations that don’t save anyone. Jesus came to set us free from all of that. At the time He was dwelling among us paganism was at it’s peak. He came to fulfill the scriptures already written. His crucifixion was written about a long time before crucifixions were even invented and before He was even born into the world. After He died and rose, the true gospel continued to spread across the world. The disciples would spread the good news, despite persecution from others.

    There then came a time when Constantine created the Roman Catholic church. He merged the popular paganism with Christianity (which you can’t do) because he knew that Christianity was becoming popular. It was a way to control people (to have Roman government and roman religion). The goddess Isis was renamed Mary to appeal to Christians and the baby renamed Jesus. However, this was paganism in disguise. It was nothing more than the ‘Mystery Babylon’ religion that began in Babylon.

    Now for the next bit…

    Roman Catholicism is a cult. It is the religion that came from Babylon and create by Roman Emperor Constantine. All of their rituals and traditions are pagan in origin. They are absolutely not biblical. Roman Catholicism matches the characteristics of the whore of Babylon. If you read the book of revelations, it talks about this whore that came from Babylon and all ‘her’ filth. She is an unclean bride, a counterfeit of the true Christian faith. All of her rituals and traditions were set up by men and are completely antichrist. I believe the pope is the ‘man of sin’ mentioned in revelations.

    The bible is the word of God. Our past, present and future is written in there before it even happened. Prophecies are being fulfilled over time. All of these religions do not survive when compared to the bible. The bible shoots them down with all their heresies. Those who are not Catholic were given the title ‘protestant’ but this is a wide area of different doctrines and heresies, not all are born again (saved). Many protestant churches are described in the bible as ‘daughters of the whore’ – they’ve embraced heretic teachings from Catholicism.

    I strongly urge you to read the bible, front to back, as you’ll find many answers about the fall of mankind, how there is a spiritual warfare going on in the world, between truth and falsehoods/deceptions.

    Satan doesn’t want anyone to know the truth, because the truth will set you free. His time will come when he is cast into hell but he wants to drag mankind there with him. Hell was originally created for the devil and the fallen angels that were cast out of heaven (Lucifer was proud and wanted to be like God), but when mankind fell God gave us a choice to continue living a sinful life like the rest of the world, or to turn to Him. The world is the devil’s playground, where he wreaks havoc. It’s the world or God…. Satan or God. Anyone rejecting God (through Jesus) is sending themselves to hell, because they reject the only way they can be saved. The blood of Jesus saves us.

    Something coming soon…….
    * Jesus is returning. We don’t know the day or the hour, but we know the signs of the times. World disasters will be like a woman’s labour pains/contractions. They will start off mild and then increase in severity.
    * Born again believers, those who became children of God, will be taken up to heaven. Babies and young children will be taken, loved ones that were believers will be taken and missing. Cars on the freeway will have missing drivers, there will be accidents. It will be an awful time for those left behind, who will face many awful things to come. A lot of people are going to die.
    * Someone is going to divide Israel (give away some of their land)
    * Someone is going to have Israel sign a peace treaty with many, for 7 years. There will be a false sense of peace. Then, half way through the 7 years, someone will break this peace treaty and then there will be events like have never been seen before (worse than any war to date)
    * 1/3 of land is going to be destroyed. I have no idea where but interesting that America and Canada make up 1/3 of the world’s land. Regardless, 1/3 of land is going to be destroyed.
    * A man will reveal himself among all the chaos and he will charm people, they will trust him. He will have people take a mark on their right hand or forehead. God says not to take it under any circumstances.

    Happy to share more with you by email!

    • Mark Fulton says:

      Hallo Katy, nice name!

      I appreciate the effort you put into writing this. I wonder if are able to read my reply without getting offended, as there will be no offense intended from me. We’ll see.

      I appreciate you’ve done a little historical research.

      Have you actually read any of my posts? You make no comments about them. Your comments sound like they’re straight from the pulpit, and I wonder why you imagine I or anyone else hasn’t heard them before? To convince me about the truth of your beliefs I require sound , rational arguments. Blanket statements about your faith won’t cut the mustard here. It may in your church, but not here. Ok?

      Now, you make many many points. I’ll briefly address some of them, and I’ll be interested to hear back from you.

      ‘‘Religion’ began in Babylon.”
      NO IT DIDN”T. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_religion

      “In the beginning, sin came into the world in the garden of Eden.”
      NO IT DIDN’T. There was no garden of Eden. It’s a Jewish myth propagated sometime 900-500 BCE by some Jews.

      “The penalty of sin is death, eternal separation from God.”
      NO IT’S NOT. You haven’t proved God exists. You haven’t defined sin. You mustn’t use the bible, as you would be assuming I think it’s infallible, which I don’t

      “All religion is the same. It teaches man that he has to do something. It’s all man-made traditions of men, rules and obligations that don’t save anyone. Jesus came to set us free from all of that.”
      So you’re claiming that your particular version of Christianity isn’t a religion?
      Jesus was, in fact, in my opinion, an angry Jew who tried to start a war with Rome. They (the Romans) got to him first. The only people he was trying to free were his poor fellow Palestinian Jews who were under the yoke of Roman occupation. Reread your bible. Also read about first century Palestine , and particularly Galilee. Learn about the Nazarenes.

      “There then came a time when Constantine created the Roman Catholic church. He merged the popular paganism with Christianity (which you can’t do) because he knew that Christianity was becoming popular. It was a way to control people (to have Roman government and roman religion). The goddess Isis was renamed Mary to appeal to Christians and the baby renamed Jesus. However, this was paganism in disguise. It was nothing more than the ‘Mystery Babylon’ religion that began in Babylon.”

      I half agree with some of this. Were you taught this in church?

      “Roman Catholicism is a cult. It is the religion that came from Babylon and create by Roman Emperor Constantine. All of their rituals and traditions are pagan in origin. They are absolutely not biblical.”

      Now you’re starting to ramble and make sweeping generalisations. You have an immediate credibility problem. The men who compiled, edited and decided upon the canon were all catholics. Do some reading. Start here http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/NTcanon.html

      ” The bible is the word of God.”
      Oops! Wrong! I strongly suspect you’re just parroting what you’ve been told to believe.

      This is what I think the bible is..The Real Purpose of the Bible
      Authorities in churches usually claim the Bible exists for people’s benefit, yet I think power hungry priests and propagandists created it for crowd control.
      God didn’t write it, nor did bona-fide historians, or people discussing what they thought was the truth, or people who genuinely cared about their readers. It was scrawled by spin-doctors asserting their own authority. They had a similar agenda to people who currently work in advertising agencies, and their writings share many of the features of an advertising campaign. The Bible was written to profit certain groups; it contained little of true value, and its authors tried to appeal to the emotions and dreams of the masses to push a product. It was thought up to promote power over people, and was very good at it, which is the main reason it’s survived the passage of time.
      The authors knew their market at the time was credulous and superstitious, easily impressed by mythical stories and frightened by threats. The bible is targeted at the hoi polloi, the gullible gatherings, the naive people, the consumers. It’s a product of the petty politics of power-hungry people.
      It required no real resources to get results. The use of gods, miracles, prophets, promises of heaven and threats of hell requires nothing more than confidence and an active imagination to advertise.
      Anyone who agrees with me will have a satisfying, empowering realization. The very heart of Christianity, the Bible, has no legitimate authority. It’s nothing more than a mountain of superstitious nonsense.

      “Hell was originally created for the devil and the fallen angels”

      Wrong again, for the same reasons. Please read the following…

      One of the key concepts of Christianity is that God will reward the righteous with heaven and punish heathens with hell. Some Christians may be surprised to hear that heaven and hell are hardly alluded to in the Old Testament. When the word “heaven” is used, it’s only a place in the sky and the great space beyond, not a paradise where compliant people go when they perish; and hell doesn’t even rate a mention. If Yahweh had planned to recompense or punish people after they pass on, he would surely have said so in some of the several thousands of conversations he had with the ancient Jews.
      The Old Testament does teach that there’s life after death, specifically that every single soul goes to a graveyard called Sheol. (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13563-sheol). The wicked are there (Ps. 9:17, 31:17, 49:14, Isa. 5:14), and so are the righteous (Gen. 37:35; Job 14:13; Ps. 6:5, 16:10, 88:3; Isa. 38:10). It’s not somewhere a soul shuffles off to if it has behaved badly. Sheol is sometimes incorrectly translated as “hell” in the Old Testament. Yet Sheol is a proper noun, so is a name or title. It shouldn’t have been translated but simply transliterated, as is done with other names. The literal meaning is simply “subterranean retreat.” Anything more is conjecture and speculation.
      The ancient Jews didn’t invent the idea of an afterlife. That notion had been around for thousands of years before Jews first wrote scripture, most notably in Egypt. But the idea of heaven as a place where the righteous go after death to live forever with God has always been a key concept in Mithraism, practiced in nearby Persia since at least 2000 BCE. A Jewish version of heaven was only first hinted at perhaps a couple of hundred years before Jesus. What inspired Jewish prophets to (probably) borrow the Mithraic concept?

      Many young Jewish men were dying in the Maccabean revolt. Priests found this easier to justify if there was some reward for losing one’s life. The author of the book of Daniel (the last book of the Old Testament to be written,) writing in the second century BCE, wrote the words he hoped would inspire his people to oppose the pagans. Martyrs, he promised, would be rewarded for their faith in a remarkable way:
      “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:2–3, KJV). This verse didn’t specifically mention the existence of heaven, but was probably responsible for the conjecture.
      For the author of Daniel, the goal of life was to live forever with angels. Heaven was withheld from those who didn’t follow the prophet’s call, who were not in his judgment “wise,” and who failed to “lead many to righteousness.” This was a very novel concept for Jews; nothing like this had ever been taught before. But the idea had been born, and it caught on fast. Within a hundred years after Daniel was written, many Jews believed in heaven. (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/03/28/how-the-jews-invented-heaven.html)

      “Jesus is returning.”

      I strongly suggest you don’t hold your breath…. The Second Coming of Christ
      Paul taught that Christ was going to come back to earth soon:
      “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4; 16–18, KJV). A few years later, in about 53 CE, Christ still hadn’t come, but Paul kept his congregations primed:
      “Brothers this is what I mean: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:29–31, NJB). Ten years later Paul was still preaching that the end of the world was approaching, and then he passed on.

      Paul was the ringleader of a doomsday cult (http://www.philipharland.com/Blog/2006/10/12/its-not-the-end-of-the-world-or-is-it-pauls-apocalyptic-worldview-nt-26/). His communities lived in daily expectation of the return of Christ and the end of their earthly existence.
      Two thousand years later, the earth is still circling around the sun and Christ hasn’t reappeared, so Paul’s predictions have been proven untrue.
      I don’t think he really believed the world was about to end. It was an idea that gave his messages more poignancy.

      In modern times cult leaders like Paul have forecast that fabulous or cataclysmic events, such as the destruction of the earth, or the reappearance of Jesus, are about to happen. Their agenda has been to create anticipation and be the center of attention, or to make money. None of their forecasts have ever come to fruition.

  2. Gordon says:

    How refreshing to see other people feel the same as me. Great article Mark. Just finished reading The mysteries of Mithras by Payam Nabarz. Unlike alot of people blinded by their upbringing i like to read all the facts throughout history and find out the history of lots of religions then let myself have an informed opinion. Sunday school and church never quite cut it for me! I’d constantly get in trouble for laughing andd asking the teachers how the hell can what they were saying be true! lol

    Stephen, maybe there is a teapot!

  3. Mark Elsby says:

    “Mithras’ virgin mother was the “mother of God.” Three wise men of Persia came to visit the baby Mithras, bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. He was baptized and remained celibate throughout his life and performed miracles. He was called “the Good Shepherd” and the “Light of the World,” terms that came to be used when referring to Jesus.”
    Hello Mark (feel like I am talking to myself), can you point to the references used to know the gifts of frankincnese and myrrh and the virgin mother was the mother of god. I thought he was born from a stone?

    • Mark Fulton says:

      Thankyou Mark, I have checked my source and found it to be unreliable. Have altered the text. I really appreciate your input.

  4. Mark says:

    “I like your work”, as many people say. This is a great site for information, it is very hard to find information on some of these subjects, the religions have had 2000 years to distort, hide and reinterprete the negative information of “christianity”. My having always being an atheist I have never felt inclined to read any of the “holy” books it is only now that I am finding how nasty they are. How can people believe this stuff? I remember in Primary School hearing about the supernatural miracles and thinking to myself, that is not real and I was only a child. I had more fun creating dinosaurs using paper mache in class and yes they were not eating coconuts with those huge teeth. I am now nattering so just thanks for this information.

  5. Joe says:

    Hi Mark,

    This is a fascinating article. The parallels between Jesus and Mithras are remarkable. I plan to read more about this.

    I have spent a short time reading a few of your blog posts, and I am impressed by your calm, reasoned responses to commentors calling you angry and bitter. The “angry atheist” stereotype never ceases to amuse me, especially given the bloody history of Christianity’s spread throughout the world. I bet the Incas wished Pizzaro had been an angry atheist instead of a Christian!

    Keep up the great work. I look forward to your book.

    -Joe

    • Mark Fulton says:

      Hi Joe, thanks so much for your nice comments! It really means a lot to me.

      I have just got back from the world atheist conference in Melbourne. 4000 intelligent cultured people celebrating our humanity, cutting through bullshit, discussing how to make this world a better place. It was truly inspiring.

      The book really does fill in the gaps not covered on the website. Problem is I keep learning and reading and adding little bits to it here and there. Should be out in a few months. Have an awesome day, regards, Mark

  6. stephen harris says:

    Being “tolerent” and believing that yours is the true God are not the same. Being tolerant means not harming or discriminating against those of a different belief. Trying to convince them to join your faith is not intolerence–it is sharing the gift of earthly serenity and eternal life. To the believer, sharing his faith is a gift, not a judgment. And if one believes that other faiths are equal to his, he has no faith at all. Either your right or you are wrong. You can’t worship one God who was represented by Jesus and worship Mohammed at the same time. By belittling Christians and their faith, you pass judgment that is above your pay scale. Your ego tells you that one can know the full meaning of life and God with intellect and education and that your belief is superior to billions of Christians for over two thousand years and I think that is arrogance, ignorant and evidence of a person totally mired in the self-centered, materialistic, unhappy earthly world in which we live and who directs his anger at God who has not given him what he thinks he deserves and then trashes God so that he has company in his misery. God Bless You. You don’t deserve Grace. Nobody does. If you want to believe that all life on earth arose from primordial ooze, so be it. I think that belief is preposterous although I believe in evolution as God can create man anyway He wants to. If atheism is so true and freeing why are y’all so bitter and mean spirited? Could it be the lack of a loving God who invited you to a purposeful earthly life and everlasting life and you rejected it? Instead, you seem to try to convince yourself that yours is the right choice by convincing others to reject God. You know you cannot erase or irradicate Christianity or any of the three “great religions.” So what is your motivation? If you are right about God, what good does your weak voice do? If you are wrong, how many souls will be condemned to a tortured life without God and no everlasting life? Proud?

    • Mark Fulton says:

      Hallo Steve, nice to hear from you. It appears as though you may have read my post on Mithraism. Did you learn anything? Do you disagree with the history? I would genuinely like to discuss the history with you, are you interested?

      I agree that trying to convince people to join a faith is not intolerance…I never said it was. Bad mouthing or cajouling people of other faiths, or atheists, or homosexuals is. Would you agree?

      You sound very angry. Why?

      You have accused me of being egotistical, arrogant, selfish and materialistic. You don’t even know me! Why don’t you cool your jets and address some of the arguments I make rather than call me names? That way we can learn from each other.

      I am not bitter and mean spirited. I am happy. I am relaxed. Are you? You don’t sound it!

      I am not trying to “convince” anyone of anything. My book is not about me. I am presenting my opinions for people who are open minded enough to have a real understanding of important history.

      What good might my “weak voice” do? Well…if my writings help free people from “God” “Jesus” and churches I believe I am doing them and their children a massive favor. You will probably disagree, but perhaps you could read my blogs on the psychological damage and the damage to society caused by Christianity and you will understand my perspective. And my blog on churches. I will be interested to read your reply.

      You are right…I do value my own intellect over “God’s” and I encourage you to do the same. If you read your bible, in full, and with an objective perspective, you will see why.

      I have no intention of belittling the average Christian. That achieves nothing. I do however, reserve the right to belittle Christian beliefs and ethics, as they are not based on truth. I have been studying this for nearly seven years and am sharing my conclusions with anyone interested.

      I look forward to continuing our discussion, particularly if you can cut out the name calling, ok? We are all humans doing our best to understand the universe, so we should stick to discussing the facts. Regards, Mark

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