exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity
The 16 Pre-Christian Slain Savior-Gods
return to main-page of the "Jesus" article
instead of going to the Odin Temple, now you go to the Jesus Church
The so-called church fathers hoped to create a big-tent, universal ("catholic") church. To that end, they adopted ideas, customs, and rituals commonly extant in the world at-large, ones that would be familiar to new converts. They attached the labels of "Jesus" and "Christianity" to old pagan ways in order to appeal to the widest possible audience. For example:
A History Of The English Language, by Professor Michael D.C. Drout, Wheaton College; an excerpt from his lectures:
“In 597 AD Pope Gregory sends Augustine of Canterbury (his future title, then-currently residing in Greece) to convert [what would later be called England). Augustine was able to convert King Ethelbert of Kent … and set up a Roman Catholic Church in Canterbury; the entomology of ‘Canterbury’ is [“city of the dwellers in Kent”]. Over the next 70 years [England] undergoes this remarkable bloodless revolution [of religious conversion because, typically, in history, rapid change of religion is caused by the sword, invading conquerors] … and this seems to be because Pope Gregory had the great idea to tell Augustine, ‘Don’t burn down the pagan temples, just leave them there, go in, take down the pagan idol, and put up the Christian cross.’ So, if you were used to having your daughter’s wedding at the Odin Temple, now it’s the Christian Church, but it’s pretty much the same place, and some people really liked this new Christianity thing, ‘so, ok, we’ll go along with it.’”
Many will be astonished to learn that virtually all the major tenets of traditional Christianity are to be found in earlier cultures.
Allow me give you the quick bottom line before proceeding here:
There are many scholars who write about the ubiquity of savior-gods. For example, historian Joseph Campbell asserted that the various saviour myths share "the same anatomy."
In these legends, associated with many ancient peoples, we find:
a god is made flesh
he is called a "savior" and a "son of God"
he is born in a cave or humble cowshed on December 25 before three shepherds
he instructs his followers to be "born again" via a baptism ritual
he turns water into wine at a wedding party
he rides into town on a donkey while worshipping masses strew palm branches before him
he dies at Eastertime as a sacrifice for the sins of the world
he descends into hell, rises on the third day, ascends into heaven
he tells his followers that he will return as judge of the world
his death and resurrection are celebrated by a ritualistic meal of bread and wine, which symbolize his body and blood
Arthur Findlay, The Rock Of Truth:
[A saviour-god] was worshipped in Persia four hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Osiris, the great Egyptian saviour-god, had similar miraculous events ascribed to him, and these legends go back thousands of years. In the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, one named Petra was the doorkeeper of heaven. In China similar legends exist as are found in India, Persia, Babylonia and Egypt, and as came to surround Jesus. Many other examples could be given, such as the legends surrounding the lives of Pythagoras, Prometheus, Dionysus, Horus and many others, but it would just end in repetition, because all that is attributed to Jesus was attributed to the god-men who lived before the Christian era...
Sixteen pre-Christian sacrificed saviour-gods were all supposed to have died for the sins of the world. Their reappearance after sacrifice regularly brought about the same beliefs, namely that they had broken the curse of death and opened heaven to mankind. Consequently, through their suffering, salvation had been secured and each became known as Saviour, Mediator and Redeemer. When the belief became general that Jesus was a saviour-god he was given the title of Christ, a similar title being given to the previous saviour-gods.
The following are the sixteen slain saviour-gods believed by their followers to have lived and died for the sins of the world, together with their countries of origin and approximate dates:
Osiris (Egypt), 1700 BC; Bel (Babylon), 1200 BC; Atys (Phrygia), 1170 BC; Thammuz (Syria), 1160 BC; Dionysus (Greece), 1100 BC; Krishna (India),1000 BC; Hesus (Europe), 834 BC; Indra (Thibet), 725 BC; Bali (Asia), 725 BC; Iao (Nepaul), 622 BC.; Alcestis (Pherae), 600 BC; Quexalcote (Mexico), 587 BC; Wittoba (Travancore), 552 BC; Prometheus (Greece), 547 BC; Quirinus (Rome), 506 BC; Mithra (Persia), 400 BC.
When these sacrificed victims came to be looked upon as god-men on earth and christs in heaven, they could not have been born as other men were. Consequently to each was attached a story of a god impregnating their mothers, which tale was likewise copied by the Christians and made to relate to Jesus. It was at least a century after the birth of Jesus that the virgin birth was thought of. There is no mention of it in the Epistles, or any of the other earliest Christian writings, in fact his paternal ancestry to David is given in Matthew and Luke. Both these family trees differ materially and are now looked upon as forgeries, but when they were compiled it was for the purpose of making the Jews believe that Jesus was descended from David...
As to the origin of Christianity, Saint Augustine wrote as follows:
"For the thing itself which is now called the Christian religion was known to the ancients, and was not wanting at any time from the beginning of the human race until the time that Christ came in the flesh, from whence the true religion that had existed previously began to be called Christian, and this in our day is the Christian religion, not as having been wanting in former times. but as having in later times received the name"...
This opinion of Saint Augustine was also the opinion of Eusebius, the father of ecclesiastical history, born in Palestine in A.D. 265, who says:
"Those ancient Therapeutx were Christians and their writings were our gospels and epistles," and "the religion published by Jesus Christ to all nations is neither new nor strange", expressing the view that what is called Christianity was borrowed from the Therapeutx, or Essenes, a view held also by other outstanding men of the early Christian Church. These Therapeutx were known under the name of Essenes, or healers, and they had their origin in Egypt. It was there that the Essenes principally dwelt for over two hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Their centre was Alexandria, the world's theological university, where the wisdom of the time was focused in those days, and where there was the greatest library of the ancient world. These Essenes were taught the art of healing at the University of Alexandria, which had a special medical school, and along with this art of healing certain mystical rites were observed. Their belief in the immortality of the soul came from the influence of Greek philosophy. They were the custodians of the teaching followed for hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, which came to be incorporated in the New Testament at a much later date. Alexandria should be looked on as the birthplace of Christianity, as there centred all the knowledge of the world's various religions, out of which developed what we today call Christianity. According to Philo, the famous Jewish author, who lived at the time of Jesus, the Essenes were philosophers and ascetics as well as healers. They divested themselves of all worldly goods, and thus relieved themselves of all worldly cares. Their outlook on life can be summed up in the words "sell all that thou hast and give to the poor", and "lay not up treasures on earth, but rather in heaven where moth and rust do not corrupt".
The Arians, a sect of the early Christians which maintained that God and Jesus were not the same, and that Jesus was subordinate to God, lost their amendment at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, that most decisive event in the history of the Christian Church. Arius, the leader, was an Alexandrian presbyter of the Church, and, after weeks of arguing, the antidivines first carried the day, and then the pro-divines, when ultimately it was decided by a majority that Jesus was the Son of God and the second member of the Trinity.
To decide this great question there assembled at Nicaea 2,048 ignorant and superstitious Christian priests, and also representatives of Paganism. Numerous resolutions were presented to Constantine, who presided, but he burned them all without reading them, "lest the contentions of the priests should become known to anyone". Out of this puerile assembly grew the Nicene Creed which officially added Jesus to the Pantheon of Incarnate slain god-men, thus increasing their number to seventeen.
The creed received royal assent, a royal command was issued that everyone must believe it, and that Christianity thus defined was to be the state religion of Rome for the future. The bishops who opposed it were cast out as heretics, and those who had been on the winning side were promoted and given places of authority under the holy name of "orthodox".
Then persecution began, and Christianity entered on its long record of bloodshed which did not end until some 25,000,000 victims had been slaughtered...
The Emperor Julian, who followed Constantine, went back to Mithraism, but his short reign of less than two years, from 361 to 363, could not change what the strong mind of Constantine had decreed. Besides this, his defeat and death in battle in Persia, the home of Mithraism, was used by the Christians as an argument against the old and in favour of the new, and was looked upon as an omen that Christianity had divine approval. If this noble Pagan had been spared to reign some years longer the entire history of Europe would have been different.
Under Jovian, the emperor who followed, the substitution of Christianity for Mithraism made further headway and we now find the old Pagan beliefs, such as Divine Sonship, the Virgin Birth, the Cross, Resurrection, Salvation, Baptism, the Trinity and the Eucharist, becoming generally accepted as the basis of Christianity. Christianity, from now onwards, contained all these, and many other, features which can be traced back to the religions of the east, but especially to Mithraism, which should be looked upon as the parent of the forms, ceremonials, rites and creeds of the new religion. Christianity absorbed Mithraism, and all it stood for, and consequently its chief rival in the Roman Empire disappeared.
Mithraism, the name given to the religion followed by those who worshipped the sun god Mithra, came to Europe from Persia. From Persia it spread through Europe, including Great Britain. In point of universality it was the most wide-spread religion in the western world in the early centuries of the Christian era. It made its appeal both to freemen and bondmen, and its monumental remains are scattered about in all the countries of Europe which then included the civilised world.
What, then, were the beliefs of this religion? These go back to a period long before the Christian era. Its followers worshipped the god Mithra, the Deity of Light and Truth created by, yet coequal with, the Supreme Deity. They believed in the Trinity -- the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost -- Mithra being the Son. Mithra was styled "the most beloved by men", and to him were assigned very lofty ideals, he being also the Lamb slain for the sins of the world. They kept Sunday, the first day of the week, as their day of worship. Mithra was its Lord, and Sunday was known as "The Lord's Day". Their chief festivals were what we now call Christmas and Easter (from Eostre, the goddess of Spring). Mithra was born at Christmas and died at Easter. At Easter the formalities representing the death of the deity were gone through, and what is now called Lent was observed.
What is now termed the Eucharist or the Lord's Supper, or the Holy Communion, was observed, the bread being eaten and the wine drunk in memory of Mithra. Baptism was practised, and a sign believed to be that of the cross was made on the forehead of the baptised. Mithra was the Logos, the Incarnate Word, and was sacrificed for sin. He was considered the Mediator and Saviour of all believers, conferring on them eternal life in heaven in return for their belief. The human soul, they believed, had been separated from God, and through this sacrifice attained reunion. Mithra is represented as the Lamb slain for the sins of the world. (Unfortunately no Mithraic documents have survived, and what is known of Mithraism is derived from its monuments and the writings of the early Christian fathers.)
Only after successive pontifical decrees were the people as a whole made to accept Jesus as the world's Saviour instead of Mithra. Mithra was born in a cave, just as in the early Christian writings Jesus is reported as being born in a cave. Shepherds came to adore him and offer him gifts, his mother was a virgin, he was buried in a rock tomb, and when they looked for his body it could not be found. Mithra, after death, passed into hades and rose again from the dead, his followers believing that on the last day a general resurrection of the dead would take place when he would return to judge the world.
In view of this long series of signal parallels between Mithraism and Christianity, what other view can an intelligent individual take than that the doctrines, dogmas and ceremonials of Mithraism were added to the simple teachings of Jesus, when it is known that Mithraism is the older religion of the two?
It first became known to the Romans in 70 B.C., but it was an established religion in Persia more than four hundred years before the Christian era. These two religions lived side by side for three centuries until Christianity, instead of Mithraism, became officially recognised by the State. Christianity, the new state religion, absorbed its rival and they became united under one name, Christianity. There is nothing mysterious about it, everything is natural, all that happened being the dropping of the god Mithra in favour of the god Christ, both being theological names which conveyed the same idea of saviour and mediator.
Thus, it is not surprising to find that the older religion supplied the Christians with not only many of their doctrines, symbols and rites, but their priests with the form of their vestments, and the Vatican Mount, the site of Mithraic worship, with the place for the principal church of Christendom, in which rests Saint Peter's chair, of probable Mithraic origin, and round its dome are graven words of Mithraic origin. From Mithraism Christians probably copied the placing of their churches facing the east, the direction of the rising sun, and also the numerous forms of terminology such as "The Good Shepherd", "The King of Glory", "The Light of the World", "The Lamb of God", "Lord and Father" and "Lord of all".
By 377 we find Christianity sufficiently strong to suppress by force its former rival. In that year Mithraic worship was suppressed both in Rome and Alexandria. Still it was a formidable opponent, and only slowly did the people forsake the old and adopt the new. Though it was the old wine, yet it was being given to them in a new bottle. Even the Emperor at this date found he had to proceed warily against this esteemed Pagan religion. Once begun, however, the persecution continued, and from being the persecuted, Christians, from now onwards, became the persecutors, until they finally obliterated as a separate religion that which had contributed to their forms, ceremonies and beliefs.
It was not, however, until the year 527 that it was decided when Jesus was born, and various monks equipped with astrological learning were called in to decide this important point. Ultimately the Emperor decided that 25th December, the date of the birth of Mithra, be accepted as the date of the birth of Jesus. Up to the year 680 no thought had been given to the symbol of Jesus crucified on the cross. Prior to that date veneration was accorded to the Mithraic symbolic lamb, but from this time onwards it was ordained that in place of the lamb the figure of a man attached to a cross should be substituted.
Our greatest authorities on comparative religion concur with Augustine and Eusebius in their belief that what is called Christianity was borrowed from contemporary or ancient religions, and that it is just a new name for much older beliefs.
Robertson in his book Christianity and Mythology remarks as follows:
"Christianity we find to be wholly manufactured from pre-existent material within historic times." Sir James Frazer takes the same view, and states in The Golden Bough, that monumental work of eight volumes, as follows: "In respect both of doctrines and of rites the cult of Mithra appears to have presented many points of resemblance to Christianity. Taken all together the coincidences of the Christian with the heathen festivals are too close and too numerous to be accidental. They mark the compromise which the Church in its hour of triumph was compelled to make with its vanquished and yet still dangerous rivals." ...
Much of the teaching attributed to Jesus is considered by many to be peculiar to him and him only, and it is supposed that he was the first to teach love, gentleness, the love and fatherhood of God, and all the other virtues. This is quite wrong, though this false way of regarding his teaching is encouraged by the Church, which claims that he originated all these injunctions. I cannot count the number of sermons I have heard upholding this falsehood.
Long before the time of Jesus there were teachers who taught everything that is attributed to him, and there is nothing of value ascribed to him that was not said before his time.
"Return good for evil and overcome anger with love", and "he that would cherish me let him go and cherish his sick comrade", were sayings attributed to Buddha. "Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you" was said by Confucius. "Whenever thou art in doubt as to whether an action is good or bad, abstain from it" was said by Zoroaster a thousand years before Jesus.
"One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice, and it is not right to return an injury or to do any evil to any man, however much we may have suffered from him" was said by Socrates four hundred and fifty years before Jesus.
"Let us not listen to those who think that we ought to be angry with our enemies, and who believe this to be great and manly. Nothing is more praiseworthy, nothing so clearly shows a great and noble soul, as clemency and readiness to forgive" was said by Cicero seventy years before Jesus.
"If a man strike thee and in striking thee drop his staff, pick it up and hand it to him again" was ascribed to Krishna centuries before Jesus was born. Similar teachings could be quoted from numerous sources in great numbers, attributed to men who lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born. The immortality of the soul was taught by the Hindus, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and many others. It is one of the earliest beliefs and is found in every religion.
What is termed "The Lord's Prayer" originated in Babylon, the tablet, on which is written a prayer resembling it, being discovered in 1882. It is one of the oldest Jewish prayers, repeated for long by them in the Chaldaic language, they having learned it in Babylon during their captivity. Likewise all the high ethical teachings attributed to Jesus can be found in many pre-Christian writings, such as the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred book of India, and in the writings of Seneca, Ovid, Aristotle, Epictetus, Plato and many others.
As Thomas Whittaker, in his able work The Origins of Christianity, truly remarks, "It is a remarkable fact that Christianity, said to have been revealed, has had to recur for every serious effort to find in the universe the manifestations of a rational and moral order, to thinkers who never pretended to have obtained what they might offer in this direction by anything but the exercise of their own reason."
Those who have made a study of the origin of Christian literature are of the opinion that the various events and sayings recorded in the Gospels can all be traced to earlier origins than the events to which they refer. The four gospels are therefore the result of the collation of ancient stories and traditions prevalent in the east at the time they were written...
In concluding this chapter I should like to quote from the contribution made by the Rev. James H. Baxter, Professor of Ecclesiastical History at St. Andrew's University, to that monumental work Christianity in the Light of Modern Knowledge. His words are as follows:
"Upon the popular interpretation and practice of Christianity, the effect of its establishment as the State religion had been profound. If Paganism had been destroyed, it was less through annihilation than through absorption. Almost all that was Pagan was carried over to survive under a Christian name. Deprived of demi-gods and heroes, men easily, and half unconsciously, invested a local martyr (Jesus) with their attributes, and labelled the local statue with his name, transferring to him the cult and mythology associated with the Pagan deity. Before this century (Fourth) was over the martyr-cult was universal, and a beginning had been made of that interposition of a deified human being between God and man which, on the one hand, had been the consequence of Arianism, and was on the other the origin of so much that is typical of medieval piety and practice. Pagan festivals were adopted and re-named, and Christmas Day, the ancient festival of the sun, was transformed into the birthday of Jesus."
That Christianity was just a new name given to old religious beliefs, rites and ceremonials there is not the least doubt. The reason people continue to believe the old dogmas and creeds is because they were taught them in childhood as true, and have never taken the trouble to investigate the subject for themselves...
the Vatican and the ‘Pachamama’ controversy: a microcosm of a millennia-old modus operandi to become a ‘universal’ church
Shortly after I’d written the paragraphs (in the "30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World" article) on the numerous savior-gods and mother goddesses, each fitted to a local culture as a power-and-control scheme, a modern day example presented itself, which, in principle, reflects an ancient Machiavellian dynamic.
In October of 2019, RCC bishops of South America attended a conference in Rome. To commemorate this synod, statues of a nude "Pachamama" ("Earth Mother"), an ancient South American fertility goddess, were displayed - "outrageously," some said - right next to the holy altar in one of the local Vatican parishes, the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina (“Holy Mary across the Bridge”).
Not everyone took kindly to what they charged to be an invasion of paganism. But the hierarchy just loved it.
Editor's last word:
In the article “Weaponized Art, Part II: 30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World” we find that all of these artworks, to one degree or another, had been pressed into service by a Dear Leader of the day as a form of visual propaganda. Art was made to sell the idea that a warlord was larger than life and no mere mortal, a god or a representative of the gods, a guarantor of life, fecundity, and prosperity to his conquered peoples.
See the discussion there which offers logical evidence that the birth-death-resurrection theme became an immortality strategy of the warlord, a de facto reincarnational doctrine, an effort to further his power-and-control machinations for glory and legacy.