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Mithra and Jesus

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Dida, Feb 16, 2006.

  1. Dida

    Dida YHWH

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    I heard many myths about Jesus were borrowed from stories about Mithra. Can someone educate me about the link between these 2 personality. And also, how reliable was the myth about Mithra? How reliable was the story about Jesus?
     
  2. Xanikk999

    Xanikk999 History junkie

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    Mithra? The only mithra i know about are a race of female only cat-like humanoids from final fantasy XI. What the heck are you talking about?
     
  3. Dida

    Dida YHWH

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    obviously no.
     
  4. puglover

    puglover Disturber of Worldviews

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    Uh... source?
     
  5. Evil Tyrant

    Evil Tyrant Eccentric Dictator

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    I think you mean Mithras. I have always understood that they were completely seperate entities. But don't really have more than a superficial knowledge about this cult. From what I have heard, it was a male only Persian cult that was popular with the Roman army. Christians of the time seemed to dislike the cult, so I doubt they did much borrowing from it.
     
  6. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    IIRC Plotinus posted a bit on this in a recent History thread. You might search there.
     
  7. ybbor

    ybbor Will not change his avata

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    here's the page in question
     
  8. Rambuchan

    Rambuchan The Funky President

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    Further to what Plotinus wrote in that thread there are other parallels. Jesus and Mithra were both:

    - Born of a virgin in a stable on the winter solstice
    - Shown with a nimbus, or halo, around his head
    - Were believed not to have died, but to have ascended to heaven, whence it was believed he would return at the end of time to raise the dead in a physical resurrection for a final judgment, sending the good to heaven and the wicked to hell, after the world had been destroyed by fire

    Parallels between Christianity and Mithraism. They both:

    - Worship a 'Saviour God of the Light'
    - Have a sacrament of bread and wine
    - Many of the Mithraic temple caves in Italy from Roman times (yes, it was a popular cult in Rome) depict Mithra sitting behind a big table with his companions in a last supper before ascending to heaven.
    - They also share the timing of Christmas. The Magi, or Three Wise Men of the nativity, are often identified as Persian Mithraic priests, following their own prophecy about the Star of Bethlehem.
    - Worship on Sundays

    Catholicism was the strand of Christianity that preserved some of the outer forms of Mithraism, to name some:

    - Bishops adaptation of miters as sign of their office
    - Christians priests becoming ‘Father’ despite Jesus’ specific proscription of the acceptance of such title.
    - The Mithraic Holy father wore a red cap and garment and a ring (like the Pope and his cardinals), and carried a shepherd staff.
    - The Head of the Catholic Faith adopted the same title as the ultimate Mithraic religious leader - that of 'Papa'.

    But I'm not a theologist or student of this subject. These are just observations I've made and I couldn't really tell you anymore.

    Oh other than the Statue of Liberty wears Mithra's headress!
     
  9. CartesianFart

    CartesianFart Chieftain

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    What was the dominate language(in reading and speech) that the Mithras clergy uses?
     
  10. Rambuchan

    Rambuchan The Funky President

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    I'm not aware of a language of the religion, like say Latin or Sanskrit. I'd speculate that it depends where the worship was taking place, from Rome to India to Persia to anywhere in the Middle East, I'm guessing they spoke their indidenous languages in these temples.

    EDIT: I did keep reading about 'Avesta' as a language associated with Mithraism but know very little about it. All I know is that this is the language of the Zoroastrian scriptures.
     
  11. Dida

    Dida YHWH

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    How reliable was the Mithra myth? did the man Mithra ever existed? Did he do what he supposed to have done?
     
  12. Rambuchan

    Rambuchan The Funky President

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    Mithra is supposed to have been a real person but many will contend that he was not. The jury is still out afaik.

    Those contesting such a claim will cite that there is a overload of iconic imagery which suggests more legend than fact is at play with Mithra. They will also tell you that the appearance of Mithraist beliefs and characters in the Vedic scriptures (which are indeed there) are too detached date-wise from Mithra's supposed lifetime to be true. There are probably a whole host of other contentions.

    But others will have you believe that he was a real person, sharing many of the qualities and life experiences of Jesus. They will say that he was incarnated into human form (prophesized by Zarathustra) in 272 BC. Many will also tell you that Jesus was a later incarnation of Mithra, who was also born of a virgin, who was herself called the Mother of God. He was considered as travelling teacher and parable teller. He had twelve companions, as Jesus had twelve disciples. Mithras also performed miracles. After teaching for 36 years, he ascended into heaven in 208 bc. Can't remember how he was said to have died or if there was any crucifixion involved.


    Disclaimer: I had to look up those dates but the rest is from old memory, so please correct me if wrong and / or check it up!
     
  13. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    OK, here are a few facts about Mithraism.

    First, scholars are very divided about what exactly Mithraism is and what counts as "Mithraist" cult. It's like Gnosticism - the definition is hard to refine precisely. However, the consensus today is that Mithraism *as it is usually defined* came into being probably in the early second century AD. One of the key elements of Mithraism is that it took place in mithraea, that is, the underground temples. Being underground, these are typically well preserved. But the earliest one we know about is probably from the middle of the second century.

    Thus, it seems that Mithraism came into being some half a century after Christianity. Of course, Mithras himself was a much older god than that, having been worshipped in Persia for God knows how long. Similarly, the Tauroctony - the image of Mithras killing a bull, which is *the* iconic image of Mithraism - seems to have emerged something like a century before Christ, I think. But still, the various elements of what we know as Mithraism seem to have come together in the second century AD, or not long before. Mithraism per se is thus a religion of the Roman empire, based upon the worship of a Persian god - Mithras was Persian, but Mithraism was not (I suppose it's rather like Mormonism being an American religion that worships the Middle Eastern Jesus!).

    We don't know much about what Mithraists believed. Basically, we have almost uniformly brief and hostile reports in later Christian writers, and we have the actual sculptures and reliefs in the mithraea. It's hard to reconstruct a religion on the basis of these. But a few points are in order:

    Mithras is never represented as born of any person at all, virgin or not. He is typically represented as emerging from a cave or a rock - hence the name Mithras Petragenetrix, or Mithras Rock-Born.

    Mithras is also never represented as dying, rising again, or anything like that. But he is represented as rising to heaven, to sit at the right hand of the sun.

    Contrary to popular belief, Mithras wasn't said to have been born on 25 December. 25 December was the date of the festival of Sol Invictis. But this was an entirely different cult, and in any case, the date was established by imperial decree in the third century (long after both Mithraism and Christianity had appeared). I think the confusion comes from the fact that later writers often claimed that Mithras was believed to be a sun god, but the evidence of the mithraea would seem to go against this, since Mithras and the sun are depicted as distinct entities. Plus, of course, 25 December is not the winter solstice. That was 21 December or 14 December, depending on which calendar you're using.

    We don't know when or how often Mithraic rituals took place, whether on Sundays or not.

    Rambuchan, where did you get the information on the Mithraist priests' outfits and titles? I have never heard anything like that, I must say.

    Mithraism did feature cultic meals of bread and wine, although it's worth pointing out that pretty much every religion of this period did.

    Just to pre-empt anyone who posts some long list of supposed similarities between Jesus and Mithras, it's also worth saying that Mithras is never represented as preaching, doing miracles, having twelve disciples, being a shepherd, being a sacrifice, being a redeemer, or pretty much anything else that Jesus is said to have done! And even if he were, remember that Mithraism appeared *after* Christianity did, so were there to be any influence, it would be more likely to go from Christianity to Mithraism, not vice versa. Certainly most of the cultic elements of Christianity, and I think most of its distinctive doctrines too, can be more easily traced to Judaism than to the mystery religions.

    Besides all this, as I mentioned in the other thread, Mithraism and Christianity were quite dissimilar sociologically. Mithraism was like a secret society (it was one of the mystery religions, after all), open only to men, popular among the more elite classes. Christianity, however, was much more open, and was especially popular among the lower classes, women, and slaves. So they weren't even competitors in the same market, as it were.

    As for the historicity of Mithras and Jesus, I'd say there's no comparison, really. Mithras is obviously a mythical figure. The images in the mithraea portray him doing acts of cosmic significance - emerging from a rock, killing some kind of cosmic bull, ascending to the sun, and so on. His Persian roots are represented in his outfit, which always features a sort of Buster Keaton style hat supposed to be Persian. Mithras is a timeless figure. Jesus, by contrast, was believed to have been a real historical person who actually lived relatively recently and really did things in a historical location. And indeed, there is plenty of evidence for who Jesus was and what he did. This was one of the key elements of Christianity that distinguished it from the mystery religions.

    Finally, here are two very useful sites that should help to clear away all the rubbish one hears on this subject. This site details pretty much all we know about Mithraism, primarily from the archaeological evidence. Note, in particular, the section called "What Mithraism isn't", which deals with the supposed similarities between Mithraism and Christianity. And here is a page from an excellent site which lists all of the ancient literary references to Mithraism.

    [EDIT] I've just been having a look at the Wikipedia article on Mithraism. It's got a big warning banner at the top saying that the information it contains is possibly partisan, and damned right too, since it is full of complete falsehoods! Pelagianism listed as a kind of Gnosticism?? Wikipedia is of course of variable reliability, but when it comes to subjects like this you just can't trust it, believe me.
     
  14. classical_hero

    classical_hero In whom I trust

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    I only use Wiki for subjects that are not subjective.
     
  15. Chairman Meow

    Chairman Meow Class IV

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    And even for things that are not subjective, it's still a good idea to find a better source.
     

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