1) No Virginal Conception
"In this story Zeus had loved Alkamene and Begotten Herakles..." (Seltman, The Twelve Olympians, New York: Thomas Y. Corwell Company, 1960.p 176).
2) No crucifixion or resurrection
Herakles was poisoned and welcomed into Olympus post morte with no resurrection of any kind (Seltman). He was poisoned by a robe which had been bathed in centaur blood. He did not resurrect but was burned on a pyre and welcomed into Olympus as a god: "then the flames rushed up and Hercules was seen no more on earth. He was taken to heaven where he was reconciled to Hera.." (Edith Hamilton, Mentor edition, original copywriter 1940 Mythology, 172). See also World Book Encyclopedia, "Hercules" 1964)
There is no documentation in professional academic books on Mythology for Hercules being called light bearer, as some mythers have claimed, he was a son of a god, but never called "The Son of God." There was a vast array of sons of different gods in Greek Mythology (especially with Zeus). He made no decent into hell, redeemed no one's soul, although he may have gone into the underworld in certain myths, he preached no gospel there. He founded no communion of saints and had no communal meal.
The Mythic Mysteries are very complex, and the only real similarities to Jesus are minute ones.. Most of these alleged similarities are suspect or unimportant. It is often claimed by skeptics on the Internet that "there is so much similarity" but I find very little. Mithra comes from Persia and is part of Zoroastrian myth, but this cult was transplanted to Rome near the end of the pre-Christian era. Actually the figure of Mithra is very ancient. He began in the Hindu pantheon and is mentioned in the Vedas. He latter spread to Persia where he took the guise of a sheep protecting deity. But his guise as a shepherd was rather minor. He is associated with the Sun as well. Yet most of our evidence about his cult (which apparently didn't exist in the Hindu or Persian forms) comes from Post-Pauline times. Mythic rituals were meant to bring about the salvation and transformation of initiates. In that sense it could be seen as similar to Christianity, but it was a religion and all religions aim at ultimate transformation. He's a total mythical figure he meets the sun who kneels before him, he slays a cosmic bull, nothing is real or human, no sayings, no teachings.
1) no Virginal Conception
Mithra was born of a rock, so unless the rock was a virgin rock, no virginal conception for him. (Marvin W. Meyer, ed. The Ancient Mysteries :a Sourcebook. San Francisco: Harper, 1987,, p. 201). David Ulansey, who is perhaps the greatest Mithric scholar of the age, agrees that Mithras was born out of a rock, not of a virgin woman. He was also born as a full grown adult. (David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World. New York: Oxford U. Press, 1989.)
2) No crucifixion or resurrection.
There no story of Mithras death and no references to resurrection. The only similarity about him in this relation is that his shedding of the Bull's blood is said by H.G. Wells (Out Line of World History ) to be the prototype for Jesus sacrifice on the cross. But in reality the only similarity here is blood, and it wasn't even his own. It may even be borrowing form Christianity that made the shedding of blood important in the religion. Gordon says directly, that there is "no death of Mithras" -- (Gordon, Richard. Image and Value in the Greco-Roman World. Aldershot: Variorum, 1996.(p96)
3) No Savior, no baptism, no Christmas
Moreover, one of the major sources comes from the second century AD and is found in inscriptions on a temple, "and you saved us after having shed the eternal blood." This sounds Christian, but being second century after Christ it could well be borrowed from Christianity (Meyer, p 206). (This source, Meyer, is used by Kane as well, but it says nothing to back up his claims, and as will be seen latter, Meyer disparages the notion of conscious borrowing] (More about this ceremony on Page 3)
"Mithra was the Persian god whose worship became popular among Roman soldiers (his cult was restricted to men) and was to prove a rival to Christianity in the late Roman Empire. Early Zoroastrian texts, such as the Mithra Yasht, cannot serve as the basis of a mystery of Mithra inasmuch as they present a god who watches over cattle and the sanctity of contracts. Later Mithraic evidence in the west is primarily iconographic; there are no long coherent texts".(Edwin Yamauchi, "Easter: "Myth, Hallucination, or History," Leadership University)
4) Most of our sources Post Date Christianity.
...(a) Almost no Textual evidence exists for Mithraism
Most of the texts that do exist are from outsiders who were speculating about the cult. We have no information form inside the cult.
Cosmic Mysteries of Mythras (website--visted July 1, 2006)
David Ulansey (the Major scholar of Mithraism in world) Owing to the cult's secrecy, we possess almost no literary evidence about the beliefs of Mithraism. The few texts that do refer to the cult come not from Mithraic devotees themselves, but rather from outsiders such as early Church fathers, who mentioned Mithraism in order to attack it, and Platonic philosophers, who attempted to find support in Mithraic symbolism for their own philosophical ideas. "At present our knowledge of both general and local cult practice in respect of rites of passage, ceremonial feats and even underlying ideology is based more on conjecture than fact." (Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies. Manchester U. Press, 1975. ,437)
And Cumont himself observed, in the 50s
"The sacred books which contain the prayers recited or chanted during the [Mithraic] survives, the ritual on the initiates, and the ceremonials of the feasts, have vanished and left scarce a trace behind...[we] know the esoteric disciplines of the Mysteries only from a few indiscretions." (Cumont, Franz. The Mysteries of Mithra. New York: Dover, 1950.152)
...(b) Roman Cult began after Jesus life
Our earliest evidence for the Mithraic mysteries places their appearance in the middle of the first century B.C.: the historian Plutarch says that in 67 B.C. a large band of pirates based in Cilicia (a province on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor) were practicing "secret rites" of Mithras. The earliest physical remains of the cult date from around the end of the first century A.D., and Mithraism reached its height of popularity in the third century. (David Ulansey Cosmoic Mysteries of Mithras (website)
...(c) No Continuity between Ancient Persian past and Roman Cult
Throughout most of the twentieth century Franz Cumont so influenced scholarship that the entire discipline followed in the wake of his assumption that the Roman cult was spread by the Persian cult. In the early 70's David Ulansey did for Mithric scholarship what Noan Chomsky did for linguistics, he totally redefined the coordinates by which the discipline moved. Ulansey showed that the Roman cult was not the continuance of the Persian cult, that there was no real evidence of a Persian cult. He showed that the killing of the great comic bull which latter became the major event in Mithraism, and the parallel from which Jesus Mythers get the shedding of blood and sacrifice, was not known in the Persian era. This would be like showing that the story of the Cross was not known to Christians in the first century. The major likeness to Christianity and the central point of the cult of Mithraism was not known in the time of Christ, in the time Paul, or for at least two centuries after:
"There were, however, a number of serious problems with Cumont's assumption that the Mithraic mysteries derived from ancient Iranian religion. Most significant among these is that there is no parallel in ancient Iran to the iconography which is the primary fact of the Roman Mithraic cult. For example, as already mentioned, by far the most important icon in the Roman cult was the tauroctony. This scene shows Mithras in the act of killing a bull, accompanied by a dog, a snake, a raven, and a scorpion; the scene is depicted as taking place inside a cave like the mithraeum itself. This icon was located in the most important place in every mithraeum, and therefore must have been an expression of the central myth of the Roman cult. Thus, if the god Mithras of the Roman religion was actually the Iranian god Mithra, we should expect to find in Iranian mythology a story in which Mithra kills a bull. However, the fact is that no such Iranian myth exists: in no known Iranian text does Mithra have anything to do with killing a bull." (David Ulansey Mithras Mysteries).
(5) Mithraism Emerged in the west only after Jesus' day.
Mithraism could not have become an influence upon the origins of the first century, for the simple reason that Mithraism did not emerge from its pastoral setting in rural Persia until after the close of the New Testament canon. (Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra (Chicago: Open Court, 1903), 87ff.)
(6) We Don't know what any of it means.
"No one can be sure that the meaning of the meals and the ablutions are the same between Christianity and Mithraism. Just because the two had them is no indication that they come to the same thing. These are entirely superficial and circumstantial arguments." (Nash, Christian Research Journal winter 94, p.8)
(7) Mithraism was influenced by Christianity
...(a) Roman Soldiers Spread the cult.
Roman soldiers probably encountered Mithraism first as part of Zoroastrians while on duty in Persia. The Cult spread through the Roman legion, was most popular in the West, and had little chance to spread through or influence upon Palestine. It's presence in Palestine was mainly confined to the Romans who were there to oppress the Jews. Kane tries to imply that these mystery cults were all indigenous to the Palestinian area, that they grew up alongside Judaism, and that the adherents to these religions all traded ideas as they happily ate together and practiced good neighborship.
...(b) Mithric Roman Soldiers Influenced by Christiansin Palestine!
But Mithraism was confined to the Roman Legion primarily, those who were stationed in Palestine to subdue the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 66-70. In fact strong evidence indicates that in this way Christianity influenced Mithraism. First, because Romans stationed in the West were sent on short tours of duty to fight the Parthians in the East, and to put down the Jewish revolt. This is where they would have encountered a Christianity whose major texts were already written, and whose major story (that of the life of Christ) was already formed.
"There is no real evidence for a Persian Cult of Mithras. The cultic and mystery aspect did not exist until after the Roman period, second century to fourth. This means that any similarities to Christianity probably come from Christianity as the Soldiers learned of it during their tours in Palestine. The Great historian of religions, Franz Cumont was able to prove that the earliest datable evidence for the cult came from the Military Garrison at Carnuntum, on the Danube River (modern Hungary). The largest Cache of Mithric artifacts comes form the area between the Danube and Ostia in Italy." (Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra (Chicago: Open Court, 1903), 87ff.)
3) Mithraism was not Christianity's Major Rival
The Ecole Initiative:
caution, this page was accessed in 2004.
Mithraism had a wide following from the middle of the second century to the late fourth century CE, but the common belief that Mithraism was the prime competitor of Christianity, promulgated by Ernst Renan (Renan 1882 579), is blatantly false. Mithraism was at a serious disadvantage right from the start because it allowed only male initiates. What is more, Mithraism was, as mentioned above, only one of several cults imported from the eastern empire that enjoyed a large membership in Rome and elsewhere. The major competitor to Christianity was thus not Mithraism but the combined group of imported cults and official Roman cults subsumed under the rubric "paganism." Finally, part of Renan's claim rested on an equally common, but almost equally mistaken, belief that Mithraism was officially accepted because it had Roman emperors among its adherents (Nero, Commodus, Septimius Severus, Caracalla, and the Tetrarchs are most commonly cited). Close examination of the evidence for the participation of emperors reveals that some comes from literary sources of dubious quality and that the rest is rather circumstantial. The cult of Magna Mater, the first imported cult to arrive in Rome (204 BCE) was the only one ever officially recognized as a Roman cult. The others, including Mithraism, were never officially accepted, and some, particularly the Egyptian cult of Isis, were periodically outlawed and their adherents persecuted.