"In broad outline and in
detail, the life of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels corresponds to the worldwide Mythic
Hero Archetype in which a divine hero's birth is supernaturally predicted and conceived,
the infant hero escapes attempts to kill him, demonstrates his precocious wisdom already
as a child, receives a divine commission, defeats demons, wins acclaim, is hailed as king,
then betrayed, losing popular favor, executed, often on a hilltop, and is vindicated and
taken up to heaven."
He asserts that there are a number of historical and
mythical figures whose life stories contain these elements, including Jesus. But just as
we do not regard Hercules as a historical figure, a case can be made that Jesus was also a
Some theologians and historians believe that many of the details of Jesus' life were
"borrowed" from a competing, contemporary religion, Mithraism. The
religion was founded in Persia before the birth of Christianity.
Mithra was a fictional character who was worshipped as a Good Shepherd, the
Way, the Truth and the Light, the Redeemer, the Savior, and the Messiah. A
religion in his name was founded in the 6th century BCE. 4Mithraism
one of the most popular of religions in the Roman Empire, particularly among its soldiers
and civil servants. It was Christianity's leading rival. 7 Mithra was
also believed to have been born of a virgin. Like Jesus, their births were
celebrated yearly on DEC-25. Mithra was also visited by
shepherds and by Magi. He traveled through the countryside, taught, and performed miracles
with his 12 disciples. He cast out devils, returned sight to
the blind, healed the lame, etc. Symbols associated with Mithra were a Lion and a Lamb. He
held a last supper, was killed, buried in a rock tomb. He rose again after three days, at the time of the spring equinox, circa MAR-21. He later ascended into heaven.
Mithraism celebrated the anniversary of his resurrection, similar to the Christian Easter.
They held services on Sunday. Rituals included a Eucharist and six other sacraments that
corresponded to the rituals of the Catholic church.
Some individuals who are skeptical about stories
of Jesus' life suspect that Christianity may have appropriated many details of Mithraism
in order to make their religion more acceptable to Pagans. St. Augustine even stated that
the priests of Mithra worshipped the same God as he did. 7Other
early Christians believed that Satan invented Mithraism and that he made Mithra's life and
the practices of the religion identical to what Christianity would become centuries later.
They felt that Satan's purpose was to confuse believers.
Review by David
Bourquin, California State Univ. at San Bernardino:
"Freke (a philospher and author of books on spirituality) and Gandy (who is studying classical civilization) believe that first century Jewish mystics adapted the potent symbolism of the Osiris-Dionysus myths into a myth of their own, the hero of which was the Jewish dying and resurrecting godman Jesus. Therefore, the story of Jesus is a consciously crafted vehicle for encoded spiritual teachings created by Jewish Gnostics. We are unaware of this, they claim, because the Roman Catholic Church destroyed evidence of the connection between Christianity and the pagan mysteries. They make their case by offering an examination of mystery religions, especially Greek, pointing out the many parallels between them and what they see as the Gospels! message about Jesus. Freke and Gandy are familiar with a significant amount of recent biblical scholarship, though they rely mostly on Elaine Pagels!s work on the Gnostics. This book will obviously be controversial, but the authors are quite informed, as demonstrated by their extensive notes and bibliography. A list of related web sites, a Who!s Who, and an index add to the book!s usefulness. Recommended as an important book in the debate on the historical Jesus."
From the book cover:
"Why Were the Teachings of the Original Christians Brutally Suppressed by the Roman Church?
• Because they portray Jesus and Mary Magdalene as mythic figures based on the Pagan Godman and Goddess.
• Because they show that the gospel story is a spiritual allegory encapsulating a profound philosophy that leads to mythical enlightenment.
• Because they have the power to turn the world inside out and transform life into an exploration of consciousness.
Drawing on modern scholarship, the authors of the international bestseller The Jesus Mysteries decode the secret teachings of the original Christians for the first time in almost two millennia and theorize about who the original Christians really were and what they actually taught. In addition, the book explores the many myths of Jesus and the Goddess and unlocks the lost secret teachings of Christian mysticism, which promise happiness and immortality to those who attain the state of Gnosis, or enlightenment. This daring and controversial book recovers the ancient wisdom of the original Christians and demonstrates its relevance to us today."
Amazon.com product description:
"An Incendiary Wake-Up Call to the World.
What if the Old Testament is a work of fiction, Jesus never existed, and Muhammad was a mobster?
What if the Bible and the Qur'an are works of political propaganda created by Taliban-like fundamentalists to justify the sort of religious violence we are witnessing in the world today?
What if there is a big idea that could free us from the us-versus-them world created by religion and make it possible for us to truly love our neighbors—and even our enemies?
What if it is possible to awaken to a profound state of oneness and love, which the Gnostic Christians symbolized by the enigmatic figure of the laughing Jesus?
Discover for Yourself Why the Gnostic Jesus Laughs."
Amazon.com product description:
"Are the four canonical Gospels actual historical accounts or are they imaginative literature produced by influential literary artists to serve a theological vision? In this study of the Gospels based upon a demonstrable literary theory, Randel Helms presents the work of the four evangelists as the 'supreme fictions' of our culture, self-conscious works of art deliberately composed as the culmination of a long literary and oral tradition. Helms analyses the best-known and the most powerful of these fictions: the stories of Christ's birth, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal by Judas, his crucifixion, death and resurrection. In Helms' exegesis of the Gospel miracle stories, he traces the greatest of these - the resurrection of Lazarus four days after his death - to the Egyptian myth of the resurrection of Osiris by the god Horus. Helms maintains that the Gospels are self-reflexive; they are not about Jesus so much as they are about the writers' attitudes concerning Jesus. Helms examines each of the narratives - the language, the sources, the similarities and differences - and shows that their purpose was not so much to describe the past as to affect the present. This scholarly yet readable work demonstrates how the Gospels surpassed the expectations of their authors, influencing countless generations by creating a life-enhancing understanding of the nature of Jesus of Nazareth."
The first draft of this essay was written in 1998 using the books and web
sites listed below. Unfortunately, most of the latter are no longer online.