Tag Archive | "Mithras"

Merry Mithras

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Mithras Slaying Bull

Born of a virgin on December 25th, followed by a core group of twelve with whom he had a final meal sharing bread and wine, performer of miracles, killed and resurrected, known as the “light of the world” – if you guessed that I am describing Jesus the Christ, you would be incorrect.  Rather, I write about the ancient god, Mithras.


The cult of Mithras was one of a number of ancient mystery religions, so denoted because their “mysteries” were revealed only to their initiates.  What we know about the ancient Mysteries of Mithras comes primarily from the commentary of early Christian detractors, references in ancient historical and philosophical treatises, and archeological remains of carvings, temples, and statues.


Thought to have originated in Persia in the fifth or sixth century before Christ, the Mithraic Mysteries that flourished among Romans at the same time as the growth of Christianity have more recently been speculated as having their foundation in cosmology and astrology.


Regardless of its origin, what is indisputable is that the leadership of Christianity, in their infinite wisdom, chose to celebrate the birth of our Savior on the exact same date that the adherents of the Mithraic cult commemorated the birth of theirs.  Although it is possible that Jesus’ birth occurred on the same date as the mythical Mithras by happenstance, it is highly unlikely.  Saint Luke’s account has “shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” – an occurrence much more likely in the summer season than at winter’s commencement.  Rather, this is another example of the early Church supplanting a pagan holiday with a Christian one.


While the similarities between Christianity and Mithraism are striking, one need not become too concerned.  It is uncertain whether or not what we know of Mithraism actually predated Christianity.  And, even if it did, articles of religious belief are a matter of faith, not fact.


But, I wonder if on December 25th, those of us who are Christians should be wishing family and friends a Merry Christmas, or a Merry Mithras. 

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