Parallels between Christianity
and ancient Pagan religions
The following topics are covered in this essay
Similarities between Pagan and Christian practices
The early Christians and Pagans shared many rituals and practices.
Authors Freke & Gandy appear to assume that all of the copying was done by
Christians from Pagan sources. 3 However, some might have gone in the
opposite direction. During the 3rd century CE, Mithraism and Christianity
were the main competitors for the religious affiliation the citizens of
Romans. Some Christian practices might have actually been picked up by the Mithraites, rather than vice-versa.
early Christians celebrated Jesus' birthday on JAN-6. Armenian Christians still do.
In Alexandria, in what is now Egypt, the birthday of their god-man, Aion, was also celebrated
||Christians and most Pagans eventually celebrated the birthday of
their god-man on DEC-25.|
||According to an ancient Christian tradition, Christ died on
MAR-23 and resurrected on MAR-25. These dates agree precisely with
the death and resurrection of Attis.|
||Baptism was a principal ritual; it washed away a person's sins. In some rituals, Baptism was performed by sprinkling holy water on the believer; in others, the person was totally immersed.|
||The most important sacrament was a ritual meal of bread and wine which symbolize the god-man's body and blood. His followers were accused of engaging in cannibalism.|
||Early Christians initiated converts in March and April by baptism.
Mithraism initiated their new members at this time as well.|
||Early Christians were naked when they were baptized. After
immersion, they then put on white clothing and a crown. They carried a
candle and walked in a procession to a basilica. Followers of Mithra were also baptized naked, put on white clothing and a crown,
and walked in a procession to the temple. However, they carried
||At Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were recorded as speaking in
tongues. At Trophonius and Delos, the Pagan priestesses also spoke in
tongues: They appeared to
speak in such a way that each person present heard her words in the observer's own language.|
An inscription to Mithras reads:
"He who will not eat of my
body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made on with me and I
with him, the same shall not know salvation." 1 In John
6:53-54, Jesus is said to have repeated this theme: "...Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (KJV)
||The Bible records that Jesus was crucified between two thieves. One
went to heaven and the other to hell. In the Mithras mysteries, a
common image showed Mithras flanked by two torchbearers, one on either
side. One held a torch pointed upwards, the other downwards. This
symbolized ascent to heaven or descent to hell.|
In Attis, a bull was slaughtered while on a perforated platform. The
animal's blood flowed down over an initiate who stood in a pit under
the platform. The believer was then considered to have been "born
again." Poor people could only afford a sheep, and so were
literally washed in the blood of the lamb. This practice was
interpreted symbolically by Christians.|
||There were many additional points of similarity between Mithraism
and Christianity. 2 St. Augustine even declared that
the priests of Mithraism worshiped the same God as he did:
Followers of both religions celebrated a ritual meal involving
bread. It was called a missa in Latin or mass in
||Both the Catholic church and Mithraism had a total of seven
Epiphany, JAN-6, was originally the festival in which the
followers of Mithra celebrated the visit of the Magi to their
newborn god-man. The Christian Church took it over in the 9th
Reasons for the Pagan-Christian similarities:
There are many possible explanations of the similarities between earlier
Pagan and later Christian beliefs, practices, and the lives of their
Christians copied Pagans: This is perhaps the most obvious
theory. Celsus was a Platonist and polemical writer against Christianity who lived
in the late 2nd century CE According to Freke
& Gandy, he "complained that this recent religion [of
Christianity} was only a pale reflection" of Pagan belief.
3 According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Celsus pointed out
that Christianity copied the concepts of others. Christian "...ideas
concerning the origin of the universe, etc., are common to all peoples and
to the wise men of antiquity."4 Many modern-day writers and theologians have
accepted this theory. 3,5,6,7
Satan did it to deceive: Various early church writers, such as Irenaeus (Bishop of Lyons; circa 120
to ?) Justin Martyr (Christian apologist; 100 to 165), Tertullian (Christian
theologian; circa 160 to 220 +) concluded that the Pagan/Christian similarities were a
Satanic attempt at "diabolical mimicry." Satan was said to
"plagiarism by anticipation." That is, the Devil made a
pre-emptive strike against the gospel stories centuries before Jesus was
born. The reason was to
confuse the public into thinking that Jesus was merely a copy of previous god-men.
The goal was to demolish the credibility of Christianity in the people's
It was a type of prophecy: Other Christian writers have concluded that the Mysteries were a
type of pre-echo
of Jesus' life -- "somewhat like premonitions or prophecies."
Christianity accepted Pagan mythology as literal truth of real
events: Authors Freke & Gandy have concluded that the original, main Christian
movement was Gnostic Christianity. They kept their inner mysteries secret,
revealing them only to those who have been initiated into their branch
of the Christian faith. 3 Some
early non-Gnostic, "literalist" Christians were unaware of the inner mysteries
of Gnosticism. They came to accept the Gnostic outer, public, mysteries and their myth
of a god-man savior as an actual description of the historical Jesus. The
literalist Christians, being ignorant of the inner mysteries, did not realize
that the god-man story was only a legend about a mythical being. Decades
later, literalist Christianity became the dominant movement. They oppressed
and exterminated the Gnostics, their rituals, and their knowledge. A
few Gnostics survived to the present day. The movement is currently
experiencing rapid growth.
Coincidences: These points of similarity could have been coincidental. There are
many cases in comparative religion where similar beliefs or practices
are seen in two unrelated religions. The pyramid structures in Egypt
are like those in Mexico. Yet most archaeologists believe that there is
no link between the countries; the shapes were chosen independently.
In ancient times, the only way to create a really large structure was
to pile stones on top of each other in the form of a pyramid. Similarly, almost all religions share an Ethic
of Reciprocity, like the Golden Rule. Still, the almost 200
precise matches between the events in the lives of Jesus and Horus, and
the 346 "striking
analogies between Christ and Chrishna" 6 would seem to make this theory unlikely.
Reverse copying: A strong case can be made that wholesale copying of beliefs and
rituals by various religions has occurred in the past. However, as
noted above, some Christian beliefs and practices may have stolen by
the followers of Mithra from their Christian rivals rather than vice
versa. This theory might have some validity with respect to Mithraism.
However, it cannot explain the stories of the life of Horus which
proceeded Jesus' ministry in the first century CE
by a few thousand years.
Forgeries: Some have suggested that ancient evidence of Pagan
god-men living similar lives to Jesus prior to the first century CE is a
gigantic hoax. Anti-Christian religious historians and archaeologists
have simply created fictional sets of religious beliefs, promoted them
as accurate representations of ancient religions, and have perpetrated a
massive hoax. This also is unlikely. The original source material is
still available for academics to check. Someone by now would have
written a book exposing the hoax; it would have become a best-seller.
Implications of the Pagan-Christian similarities:
Conservative Christians accept the inerrancy
and inspiration of
the Bible. The writings of the authors of the gospels are without error. The
gospels describe the life of Jesus with precision. Thus ancient Pagan practices
in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean are of no concern to the believer. They
cannot impact on the credibility of the Bible which is God's word.
To some liberal Christians, the Pagan-Christian parallels are convincing
proof that much of the magical components of the gospels are of Pagan
origin: the virgin birth, bringing dead people
back to life, the many miraculous healings, exorcisms, transfiguration,
Jesus' anticipated return to judge humanity, etc. These stories were derived from Pagan material that had been
circulating for centuries when Jesus
was born. Except for the occasional coincidence, that material cannot
refer to real events in Jesus' life. Many key Christian beliefs have to be questioned and
One comforting factor may be a recognition that some
of the basic teachings of Christianity and some of the traditionally
accepted events of Jesus' life may actually be over 4,500 years old,
grounded in the pre-history of humanity. Another is that, when we strip
away the miraculous and supernatural legends in the gospels which came
from Pagan sources, we are left with the natural. What remains is a story
of an itinerant Jewish teacher who followed the teachings of the 1st Century BCE Jewish philosopher: Hillel.
We have a Jewish Rabbi
who taught through parables and by example.
These are the core teachings of Jesus which emerge from the gospels --
undiluted by Pagan material.
J. Goodwin, "Mystery Religions of the Ancient World," Thames &
Hudson, (1981), Page 28. Quoted in Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy, "The Jesus Mysteries: Was the
'Original Jesus' a Pagan God?" Acacia Press, (1999), Page 49. Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
"Mithra," Barbara G. Walker, "The Woman's
encyclopedia of myths and secrets," Harper & Row, (1996), Pages
663 to 665. Read
reviews or order this book
Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy, "The Jesus Mysteries." Cited
"Celsus the Platonist," The Catholic Encyclopedia, at: http://www.newadvent.org/
Acharya S, "The Christ conspiracy: the greatest story ever sold,"
reviews or order this book "...an enormous amount of startling evidence to demonstrate that
Christianity and the story of Jesus Christ were created by members of
various secret societies, mystery schools and religions in order to unify
the Roman Empire under one state religion. In making such a
fabrication, this multinational cabal drew upon a multitude of myths and
rituals that already existed long before the Christian era, and reworked
them for centuries into the story and religion passed down today."
Kersey Graves, "The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors,"
Adventures Unlimited Press, Chapter 32, Page 279. (1875; Reprinted 2001). Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
Tom Harpur, "The Pagan Christ; Recovering the Lost Light," Thomas Allen,
reviews or order this book.
Copyright © 1999 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 1999-NOV-14
Latest update: 2015-NOV-23
Author: B.A. Robinson