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Christianity and Mithraism

When I was in college, I wrote a paper on Mithraism for a course dealing with ancient religions. At that time I was interested in the “similarities” Mithraism seemed to have, according to the text I was studying, (information greatly exaggerated) with Christianity. Even today, there are many who attempt to build a false connection between Mithra and Jesus. Such assertions abound in literature critical of Christianity. I hope the following information will help you if you are ever confronted with these claims.

Those who claim there is a connection between Mithraism and Christianity are really trying to restructure Mithraism according to their own preconceived ideas. There are no existing texts that come from the ancient followers of this belief system. There are, however, artifacts found in caves and references from some historians that prove it did exist. The artifacts have been dated to at least 60 or 70 years after the beginning of Christianity. Many believe they are more likely from the middle of the second century.

There were two forms of Mithraism: Roman Mithraism and Iranian Mithraism. These two forms of Mithraism are connected by little more than the name. Roman Mithraism was pretty much a new creation (influenced by the Greeks) which was very popular among the military. It seems probable that its followers adopted some Christian ideas along the way.

The birth of Mithras was celebrated on the Winter solstice and eventually on December 25th. The ancient church knew that Jesus was not born on December 25th (perhaps in September or October?), but chose December 25th as the day of His birth’s celebration. This action was an assertive move of the church to wipe out the pagan celebrations that took place at this time of year.

None of the available records from historians of this time period show that the pagan god Mithras was ever a teacher. Mithras did not have twelve disciples and he had no bodily resurrection. Mithras was born out of solid rock; not a virgin woman. Mithras is recorded as having battled with the sun and a primeval bull. Mithras killed the bull, which then became the ground of life for the human race.

Mithraism was truly a bloody cult. To achieve a higher level in Mithraism, followers had to stand under a bull while it was slain so they could be bathed in its blood and guts. Then they’d join the others in eating the bull. They were literally washed in the blood of the bull. Christians, on the other hand, thought of themselves as ‘washed… in the blood of the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:14).” Christian baptism involves water, not blood!

Mithras is totally a mythological creature, and not a historical person. On the other hand, Jesus is a historical person. Along with the twenty seven New Testament documents, which are continually affirmed by historical data and archaeological research, we have the testimony of the early church fathers, along with a few non-Christian sources, such as Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Flavius Josephus, and others. We have more historical documents which make mention of Jesus and the events of His life and death (along with references to His follower’s claim of His resurrection) than we do for Tiberius Caesar.

Yet, it is the nature of mankind to suppress the truth of Christ to have their own way (Romans 1:18-23). Many will grasp at any straw to disgrace the name of Jesus. History has often been rewritten with the intention of such consequences. In the instance of Mithraism, we find another attempt to reinvent a pagan cult as the source of Christian practices. Remember this warning from Paul to those who “refused to love the truth and so be saved”: “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, for all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV)

I would like to recommend for further reading:

“Refuting Mithras Myth Parallelism To Christianity” by Prayson Daniel and Ronald Nash’s “Seven Arguments Against Christian Dependence of The Mysteries” which may be found in Daniel’s article.

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