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Did Christianity Steal from Mithraism?

Mithras (Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

There is a common misconception that stories of gods being born of a virgin are plentiful. The example usually given is Mithras. In his 2006 novel The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown says of Mithras: “Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras ­ called the Son of God and the Light of the World ­ was born on Dec. 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days.”

The problem is, it’s simply not true. None of it.

So who was Mithras and what are the Mithraic mysteries?

Mithraism is a mystery religion practiced in parts of the Roman Empire in the 1st through the 4th centuries AD. A mystery religion is one whose teachings and practices are available only to initiates. In other words, what they believe and what they do are kept from outsiders. Mithraism was a Greek adaptation of a Persian (modern-day Iran) religion. They have seven levels of initiation. They met in underground temples where they participated in ritual meals and even had a secret handshake.

However, the story of the birth of Mithras is quite different from the story of Jesus’ birth. For one thing, Mithras was not even born of a woman. According to the legend, he was born from a rock. Mithras came out of the rock not as a newborn infant but as a post-pubescent adolescent with a torch in one hand and a dagger in the other. He was also wearing a hat.

Despite Dan Brown, there is no indication that his pagan followers believed that Mithras died and rose from the dead three days later. He was not crucified, he performed no miracles. There is no indication that Mithras was called the Son of God or anything similar.

It is quite clear that there are no similarities between the accounts of the birth of Mithras and that of Jesus. Clearly, despite the claims of some, the early Christians could not have borrowed the account of the virgin birth of Jesus from Mithraism.

Sources

© 2018 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.

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Written by Gary J Sibio

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