Jesus Always Existed

a place for the best evidence of the historical Jesus


The first remaining record of a god named Mithra appears as a deity invoked in a treaty dated 1400 B.C. Thereafter, he is one of several Indo-Iranian gods, and he is known for giving orders, assembling people, and marshalling them—perhaps with some militaristic overtones. Mithra was the god who went around dishing out punishment to those who broke treaties. He was the “guardian of the truth,” “most dear to men,” one “whose long arms seize the liar,” who “injures no one and is everyone’s friend,” one who was all-seeing and all-knowing—the sun was his “eye” on the world. Mithra was responsible for bringing rain, vegetation and health. If the king in your land broke a treaty, you would be advised to pack up if you were a farmer, because Mithra would soon be gliding in on his chariot with a boar shape on the front (accompanied by a divine sidekick representing Victory) to put things right.1 At other times Mithra was paired with a deity named Varuna, who was his superior. Varuna was the god in charge of helping men cultivate, so the two of them together oversaw the agricultural aspects of men’s lives.

The ancient Mithra was: Lord of the Contract, Upholder of Truth, Peaceful, Benevolent, Protector, and the provider of a nice place to live and cattle who was not easily provoked. However, when Zoroastrianism came along, Mithra had some new things to do. He served as mediator between Ohrmazd and Ahriman, the good and bad gods of Zoroastrian dualism; but at the same time, he underwent somewhat of a demotion as he became one of a group of seven lesser yazatas who served the upper-level deities2 and was assigned some special escort duties like bringing demons to hell and bringing souls to Paradise.

Why all this background? The problem was that early experts were entirely wrong about very ancient (we shall say for convenience, Iranian) Mithraism being in continuity with Roman Mithraism. The Roman Mithra was best known for his act of slaying a bull; yet there is no indication that the Iranian Mithra ever made his way into a bullpen for any reason. The Roman Mithra didn’t appear at all interested in contract enforcement or escorting demons into hell…and, to make matters more complex, his followers in Iran, unlike the Roman Mithraists, did not worship in cave-like rooms (although the Roman writer Porphyry did think, incorrectly, that Zoroaster, the “putative founder of the cult,” originated the idea of a cave as the image of the cosmos)3, design levels of initiation, or pursue secrecy.4 There was simply no solid connection between the two faiths except for the name of the central god, some terminology, and astrological lore of the sort that was widely imported into the Roman Empire from Babylon.5

Nevertheless, because past experts were locked into the notion of continuity, they assumed (for example) that the Iranian Mithra must have done some bull-slaying somewhere along the line, and molded the evidence to their thesis, looking for an Iranian myth somewhere that involved a bull-killing—it was done not by Mithra, but by Ahriman—and supposing that there was some connection or unknown story where the Iranian Mithra killed a bull. Later studies6 also tried to find a connection, but the closest they could get was a story in which Soma, the god of life (who, as rain, was described as the semen of the sacred bull fertilizing the earth), was murdered by a consortium of gods which included Mithra, as a very reluctant participant who had to be convinced to go along with the plan.

Simply put, the Roman Mithra wasn’t anything like the Iranian one. He dressed really sporty, with a Phrygian cap (typical headgear for Orientals of the day) and a flowing cape. He slew a cosmic bull and earned the worship and respect of the sun god. He had new friends, animals that gave him a helping hand (or paw, or claw) with the bull-slaying, as well as two torch-bearing twins who could have passed for his sons. If this was the Iranian Mithra, he obviously went through a midlife crisis at some point. The only thing that remained the same was that Mithra kept a loose association with the sun, which was something many gods had.

The First International Congress of Mithraic Studies in the early 70s found that there lacked evidence for an Iranian/Roman continuity, which led Mithraic scholars to suspect that Roman Mithraism was “a new creation using old Iranian names and details for an exotic coloring to give a suitably esoteric appearance to a mystery cult”7, and that Roman Mithraism was Mithraism in name only, a new system that used the name of a known ancient Eastern deity to attract urbane Romans who found the east and all of its accoutrements an enticing mystery. For years Mithraic scholars puzzled over the meaning of the bull-slaying scene; the problem was that the Mithraists left behind pictures without captions. Then, in the 70s, one scholar of Mithraism lamented:

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.8

Cumont, earlier in the 1950s observed:

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.9

Before too long, Mithraic scholars noticed something (or actually, revived something first posited in 1869 that was unwisely dismissed)10 about the bull-slaying scene: The various human, animal, and other figures comprised a star-map. The bull corresponded with the constellation Taurus; the scorpion coincided with Scorpio; the dog matched up with Canis Major, and so on. What Mithra himself corresponded to, and what meaning the depiction has, continues to be discussed in the Mithraic scholarly literature.

Spiedel first made a case for a correspondence of the Mithra-figure with Orion.11 Ulansey has identified Mithra with Perseus, and offered a thesis that Roman Mithraism was founded upon the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes. Beck interprets the entire scene in terms of Mithraic principles, which depict Mithra as the victorious Sun, and which transmit the message of “harmony of tension in opposition.”12 In any event, the “star map” thesis has remained at the center of all interpretations.

The point of this background is to give the reader a warning, to be on the lookout any time a critic makes some claim about Mithraism somehow being a parallel to Christianity. Check their sources carefully. If they cite source material that is older, then chances are excellent that they are using material that is either greatly outdated, or else does not rely on sound scholarship e.g., works by the likes of King, Lajard, and Robertson. Furthermore, if they have asserted anything at all definitive about Mithraic belief, they are probably wrong about it, and certainly basing it on the conjectures of someone who is either not a Mithraic specialist or else is badly outdated.

Mithraic scholars do not believe the thesis that Christianity borrowed anything philosophically from Mithraism, and they do not see any evidence of such borrowing, with one major exception: “The only domain in which we can ascertain in detail the extent to which Christianity imitated Mithraism is that of art.”13 We are talking here not of apostolic Christianity, note well, but of Christianity in the third and fourth centuries, which, in an effort to prove that their faith was the superior one, embarked on an advertising campaign reminiscent of our soft soda drink wars. Mithra was depicted slaying the bull while riding its back; the church did a lookalike scene with Samson killing a lion. Mithra sent arrows into a rock to bring forth water; the church changed that into Moses getting water from the rock at Horeb. It was a sort of one-upmanship designed as a competition, and the church was not the only one doing it. Furthermore, it didn’t involve an exchange or theft of ideology.

As to any other parallels, in the late 60s, before the coming of age of the astrological thesis, appeal was made to the “possibility of Mithraic influence” as appearing “in many instances”—and then again, the idea that

Mithraism borrowed from Christianity was said to have “not been taken seriously enough into consideration.” Regarded as more likely was that the two systems “could have spoken to a Roman condition, a social need, and a theological question without having known of each other’s existence. As in so many other instances of philosophy and literature, parallel thoughts and social patterns can appear independently of one another as ‘new’ elements with the authentic consciousness of such newness.” 14 However, such parallels have not been as much as suggested in the wake of the astrological thesis. Today, the parallels drawn between the two faiths (by professional Mithraic scholars) are almost entirely either “universal” religious traits (e.g., both had a moral code; but what religion doesn’t?), or sociological: Both spread rapidly because of the “political unity and moral anarchy of the Empire.”15 Both drew large numbers from the lower classes. And of course, numerous differences are cited as well: Christianity was favored in urban areas inhabited by the Jewish diaspora, whereas Mithraism was indifferent to Judaism and was popular in rural areas; Mithraism appealed to slaves, troops, and functionaries vs. Christianity’s broader appeal; etc.

You may ask whether the Jesus-mythicists are aware of any of this newer work on Mithraism by Mithraic scholars, and if so what they make of it. The answer is yes, they are becoming aware of it; but what they make of it is no more than a conspiracy. In one such effort, Acharya S says of the star-map thesis, and the lack of evidence that Mithra in his Iranian period ever slew a bull, thus showing that Iranian and Roman Mithraism were not the same religion:

The argument is in the main unconvincing and seems to be motivated by Christian backlash attempting to debunk the well-founded contention that Christianity copied Mithraism in many germane details.16

At the point when scholars like Spiedel, Ulansey, and Beck are implicitly accused, as here, of being “motivated by Christian backlash” (or as elsewhere, of being covert Christians!), the mythicists are clearly holding a counsel of despair. One would think from this confident statement that Acharya has gone to Iran and found dozens of pictures of Mithra slaying a bull, dated 500 B.C., and first-century footprints in the dust matching those of the Apostles nearby. Of course, she had found no such thing, and for as long as she lived she continued to ignore the works of Mithraic scholars in favor of works by unqualified freethinkers, and sources like “Swami Prajnanananda,” for her material on Mithraism. Instead of being given an answer to the lack of evidence for Mithra’s bull-slaying, we are told, “In reality, the bull-slaying motif and ritual existed in numerous cultures prior to the Christian era, regardless of whether or not it is depicted in literature

or iconography in Persia.” No one doubts that a bull-slaying motif existed; the question is whether it appears as something that Mithra did in the pre-Roman era. The other instances are completely meaningless in this context.

Though not universally accepted by Mithraic specialists, Ulansey’s thesis argues, as noted, that Mithra’s act was related to the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes. Acharya offered the response that:

In fact, the bull motif is a reflection of the Age of Taurus, around 4500-2300 BCE, one of the 2,150-year ages created by the precession of the equinoxes. The presumption by scholars is that the precession of the equinoxes was only “discovered” during the second century BCE by the Greek scientist Hipparchus; nevertheless, it is quite evident that the precession was well known, by the ruling elite and priestly faction, for millennia prior to its purported “discovery.” That the ancients followed processional ages is revealed abundantly in the archaeological record.

In stating this, Acharya placed herself against not only Ulansey, but as Ulansey states, historians of science who agree that Hipparchus was the discoverer of the precession17, as well as against evidence from Aristotle and others showing that such knowledge was not known prior to Hipparchus. She posited otherwise unknown and unnamed “ruling elite” and “priests” who allegedly knew about the precession; yet when it comes to details, all she had to offer is one example: “The change between the ages of Taurus and Aries is recorded even in the Bible, at Exodus 12, where Moses institutes the sacrifice of the lamb or ram instead of the bull.”

The problem is that Exodus 12, the implementation of Passover, says nothing about bulls, as “instead ofs”, or for any other reason, and a lamb is still not a ram by any stretch of the imagination. That “Dupuis insisted upon the identification, as did Volney,” is an enlightening personal insight into their lives, but is not an argument. Bunsen’s speculations cited by Acharya also are without grounding: “Like Ormuzd, Mithras is represented riding on the bull, and Jehovah is described as riding on the Cherub, Kirub or bull.” Mithras is nowhere shown riding a bull; he is on the bull’s back, killing it; and where is it, and when, that Jehovah is said to be riding a cherub, and how, linguistically, does this get to “bull”? Solar myths in which other gods of no relation to Mithra (Apis, etc.) are depicted as or called bulls, and sacrifices of bulls in various places, are of no relevance to the issue; merely asserting, as Acharya did, that they are “essentially the same motif as Mithra slaying the bull” does not make it so…especially since there is no iconographic or literary evidence to prove this point. What is needed is evidence that Mithra, only, killed a bull prior to Roman Mithraism…and that is found nowhere.

With that, we are now ready to embark upon the practical part of this chapter in which we consider, in turn, each of the claims made by mythicists of alleged “parallels” between Mithraism and Christianity.

Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25th in a cave, and his birth was attended by shepherds.

There is some indication that Mithra was associated with this date, but it is of no importance, for as Cumont pointed out by the time in question, December 25th, as the winter solstice, was “universally distinguished by sacred festivities.”18

Mithra was also not born of a virgin in a cave; he was born out of solid rock. I suppose, technically, the rock he was born out of could have been classified as a virgin! Here is how one Mithraic scholar describes the scene on Mithraic depictions: Mithra “wearing his Phrygian cap, issues forth from the rocky mass. As yet only his bare torso is visible. In each hand he raises aloft a lighted torch and, as an unusual detail, red flames shoot out all around him from the petra genetrix.”19 So, Mithra was born a grown-up.

That leaves the shepherds, and this is one that may or may not be true; the evidence comes from a carving, and it is not certain that the persons depicted are shepherds at all. However, whatever their profession, they did more than “attend”: unlike Luke’s shepherds, they were witnesses to the birth; there was no angelic mediator, and they also helped Mithra out of the rock offering him the first-fruits of their flock. All that said, this scene, like nearly all Roman Mithraic evidence, dates at least a century after the time of the New Testament. It is too late to say that any “borrowing” was done by the Christian church…if there was any, it was the other way around, but there probably was no such borrowing.

What about the Iranian version of Mithra? That version didn’t have a “born out of rock” story: His conception was attributed, variously, to an incestuous relationship between Ahura-Mazda and his mother, or to the plain doings of an ordinary mortal woman, but there is no virgin conception/birth story of which to speak.20

Acharya says that the Indian Mitra “was born of a female, Aditi, the ‘mother of the gods,’ the inviolable or virgin dawn.” This is simply yet another case of applying terminology illicitly: The “dawn” is “virgin”? So when does the dawn start “having sex” and how? Likewise, this is merely a word game: “It could be suggested that Mithra was born of ‘Prima Materia,’ or ‘Primordial Matter,’ which could also be considered ‘First Mother,’ ‘Virgin Matter,’ ‘Virgin Mother,’ etc...”21 It can be “considered” no such thing except by vivid imagination; merely playing on the similarity of sound in the English

words “matter” and “mother,” and trying to equate “first” with “virgin,” is not viable.

Acharya also appealed to iconographic evidence allegedly showing “the babe Mithra seated in the lap of his virgin mother, with the gift-bearing Magi genuflecting in front of them.” One is constrained to ask how an icon reflects that Mithra’s mother was a virgin, since it is obviously not stated. One also wants to know if any of this evidence is pre-Christian (it is not). Quoting others who merely say it is indicating a virgin birth, yet offer no more evidence is not an argument.

He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.

Aside from the fact that this is what we would expect from any major leadership figure, especially in a religious context, this looks to be simply false. I have not found anywhere any indication that Mithra was a teacher, traveling or otherwise. He probably could be called a “master,” but what leading figure would not be in some sense?

He had 12 companions or disciples.

The Iranian Mithras, as we have seen, did have a single companion (Varuna), and the Roman Mithra had two helper/companions, tiny torch-bearing likenesses of himself, called Cautes and Cautopatres, that were perhaps meant to represent the sunrise and sunset (whereas Mithra himself was supposed to be noon), spring and autumn, the stars Albedaran and Antares, or life and death, according to various Mithraic scholars. None share the supposition of Freke and Gandy that they are to be linked to the two thieves crucified with Jesus.22 Mithra also had a number of animal companions: a snake, a dog, a lion, a scorpion, but not 12 of them.

The idea of 12 disciples apparently comes from a picture of the bull-slaying scene carved in stone, as found in Ulansey’s book, which depicts the scene framed by 2 vertical rows with 6 pictures of what seem to be human figures or faces on each side. Freke and Gandy arbitrarily identify these 12 pictures as disciples. Indeed, they go as far as saying that during the Mithraic initiation ceremony, Mithraic disciples dressed up as the signs of the zodiac and formed a circle around the initiate.23 Where they get this information about the methods of Mithraic initiation, one can only guess: They source the work of Godwin, but do not give the page number where Godwin supposedly provides this information, and I found nothing in Godwin’s material on Mithraism that says anything about an initiation ceremony.

However, aside from the fact that this carving is (yet again!) significantly post-Christian (so that any borrowing would have had to be the other way), these figures have been identified by modern Mithraic scholars as representing zodiacal symbols. Acharya later acknowledged that Mithra’s dozen are the zodiac, but went on the defense by saying, “the motif of the 12 disciples or followers in a ‘last supper’ is recurrent in the Pagan world, including within Mithraism”—with the Mithraic supper compared to the Last Supper. However, she provided no such evidence of any motif within Mithraism. She also added: “The Spartan King Kleomenes had held a similar last supper with twelve followers four hundred years before Jesus. This last assertion is made by Plutarch in Parallel Lives, ‘Agis and Kleomenes’ 37:2-3.”24 This is only partly true, as the passage from Plutarch reads:

For [Cleomenes] sacrificed, and gave them large portions, and, with a garland upon his head, feasted and made merry with his friends. It is said that he began the action sooner than he designed, having understood that a servant who was privy to the plot had gone out to visit a mistress that he loved. This made him afraid of a discovery; and therefore, as soon as it was full noon, and all the keepers sleeping off their wine, he put on his coat, and opening his seam to bare his right shoulder, with his drawn sword in his hand, he issued forth, together with his friends provided in the same manner, making thirteen in all.

It’s a “last supper,” but it isn’t invested with any significance in itself, least of all, atoning significance, or any connection to Mithraism. That it is a “last” meal means little; every person alive has a “last meal” before they die. As for the twelve companions, they don’t have any real role beyond this scene. We’d put this one down as a natural coincidence, as there are people with 5, 10, or other numbers of companions as well. Jesus’ own idea for 12 apostles more likely came from the 12 tribes of Israel.

Mithra’s followers were promised immortality.

On this one, mythicists are making no more than a guess, although probably a good one: As one Mithraic scholar put it, “Mithraism surely offered its initiates deliverance from some awful fate to which all other men were doomed, and a privileged passage to some ultimate state of well-being.”25 Why is this a good guess? Not because Mithraism borrowed from Christianity, or Christianity borrowed from Mithraism, or anyone borrowed from anyone, but because if you don’t promise your adherents something that secures their eternity, you may as well offer no religion at all. It’s either that or some sort of reward in the here and now.

The Mithraic theology of salvation can only be guessed upon, since the evidence is so very meager. Beck asserts that “comprehensive reconstruction of Mithraic theology and other beliefs” is no longer “either achievable or, for that matter, worth pursuing.” Beck even believes that it is “entirely possible that there never was a Mithraic ritual specific to the soul journey”—the astronomical panorama within the mithraeum, he supposes, may have sent the message “cognitively.”26 The only hard evidence of a “salvational” ideology is a piece of graffiti found in the Santa Prisca Mithraeum (a Mithraist “church” building, if you will), dated no earlier than 200 A.D., that reads, “And us, too, you saved by spilling the eternal blood.”27 Note that this would refer to Mithra spilling the blood of the bull, not his own, and that (according to the modern Mithraic “astrological” interpretation) this does not mean “salvation” in a Christian sense (involving freedom from sin), but rather it means an ascent through levels of initiation into immortality.

He performed miracles.

Mithra did perform a number of actions rather typical for any deity worldwide, true or false, and in both his Iranian and Roman incarnations. But this is another one of those parallels that is a meaningless universal. All religious figures of major importance do miracles—it’s part of the “job description.”

As the “great bull of the Sun,” Mithra sacrificed himself for world peace.

This description is made to sound like Christian belief, but behind the vagueness lies a different story. Mithra did not “sacrifice himself” in the sense that he died; he was not the “great bull of the Sun,” but rather, he killed the bull. Attempts to somehow identify Mithra with the very bull he slayed, although popular with non-specialists like Loisy and Bunsen, were rejected by Vermaseren, who said that “neither the temples nor the inscriptions give any definite evidence to support this view and only future finds can confirm it.”28 Mithra’s act was not for the sake of “world peace” and he could only be said to have “sacrificed himself” in the sense that he went out and took a risk to do a heroic deed. This finds no justification at all in modern Mithraic studies literature—much less does it entail a parallel to Christ, who sacrificed himself for atonement from personal sin (not “world peace”).

He was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again. His resurrection was celebrated every year.

These claims are outright false. There is no reference anywhere in the Mithraic studies literature to Mithra being buried, or even dying, for that matter; indeed, Gordon says directly that there is “no death of Mithras”29, and so of course no rising again, and no “resurrection” to celebrate.

Freke and Gandy30 claim that the Mithraic initiates “enacted a similar resurrection scene,” but their only reference is to a comment by the early church author Tertullian, significantly well after New Testament times. What Tertullian says, even so, is of little use:

…if my memory still serves me, Mithra there, (in the kingdom of Satan) sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown…31

So Freke and Gandy’s argument relies on Tertullian’s memory, and it is not the initiates, but Mithra who does the celebrating, and he introduces an image of a resurrection…whatever that may be.

He was called “the Good Shepherd” and identified with both the Lamb and the Lion.

Only the third aspect has any truth to it as far as I can find from Mithraic studies literature: The lion was regarded in Roman Mithraism as Mithra’s “totem” animal, just as Athena’s animal was the owl, and Artemis’ animal was the deer.32 Since Mithra was a sun-god, there was also an association with Leo, which was the House of the Sun in Babylonian astrology, but aside from this evidence all being post-Christian, one may ask: Do we expect the Christians or the Mithraists to say, “Oh well, we can’t use the lion as a symbol, it’s already taken by the other guys?” Should Exxon give up their tiger because of Frosted Flakes? Jesus truly owned the rights to the lion symbol as a member of the tribe of Judah, and long before Mithras even appeared in his Iranian incarnation (Gen. 49:9).

There are other associations as well: In the Roman material, one of Mithra’s companions in the bull-slaying scene is a lion; the lion is sometimes Mithra’s hunting and feasting companion; Mithra is sometimes associated with a lion-headed being, who is sometimes identified as the evil Zoroastrian god Ahriman; one of the seven stages of initiation in Mithraism was the lion stage. However, Mithra is only called a lion in one Mithraic tale (which is part of Armenian folklore. And one has to wonder where did the writers of the NT pick that one up?), because as a child he killed and split a lion in two.33

He was considered the “Way, the Truth and the Light,” and the “Logos,” “Redeemer,” “Savior,” and “Messiah,” Creator of the world, God of gods, the mediator, mighty ruler, king of gods, lord of heaven and earth, Sun of Righteousness.

In the works of Mithraic scholars, I found none of these applied to Mithra, other than the role of mediator—not between God and man because of sin, as in Christianity, but as a mediator between Zoroaster’s good and evil gods. There is a reference to a “Logos” that was taught to the Mithraic initiates34 in the Roman evidence (which is, again, dated significantly after the establishment of Christianity), but “logos” means “word” and can refer to any teaching whatsoever.

His sacred day was Sunday, the “Lord’s Day,” hundreds of years before the appearance of Christ.

Mithra had his principal festival of what was later to become Easter. The Iranian Mithra had a few special celebrations: a festival on October 8; another on September 12-16, and a “cattle-pairing” festival on October 12-16.35 But as for an Easter festival, I have seen only that there was a festival at the spring equinox—and it was one of just four, one for each season. In terms of Sunday being a sacred day, this is correct,36 but it only appears in Roman Mithraism, and there is no evidence that it was called “the Lord’s Day.”

His religion had a eucharist or “Lord’s Supper,” at which Mithra said, “He who shall not eat of my body nor drink of my blood so that he may be one with me and I with him, shall not be saved.”

The origin of this statement is unhelpful to the mythicist case. Vermaseren reports that the source of this saying is a medieval text; and the speaker is not Mithras, but Zarathustra.37 Vermaseren suggested that this might be a formula that the second century Christian writer Justin Martyr referred to, but did not describe at all as being part of the Mithraic “Eucharist,” there is no evidence for the saying prior to this medieval text.

The closest thing that Mithraism had to a “Last Supper” was the taking of staples (bread, water, wine, and meat) by the Mithraic initiates, which was perhaps a celebration of the meal that Mithra had with the sun deity after slaying the bull. However, the meal of the initiates is evidently no more than a general fellowship meal of the sort that was practiced by groups all over the Roman world, from religious groups to funereal societies.

1 Cor. 10:4 uses “identical words to those found in the Mithraic scriptures, except that the name Mithra is used instead of Christ.”

If any mythicist has some Mithraic scriptures in their possession, they need to turn them over to Mithraic scholarly community at once, because they will want to know about them. Ulansey tells us that “the teachings of the (Mithraic) cult were, as far as we know, never written down” and we “have been left with practically no literary evidence relating to the cult which would help (us) reconstruct its esoteric doctrines.”38 In addition, Paul is alluding to the Old Testament book of Numbers; so how does that square with a Mithraic origin for this verse?

Mithraic services were conducted by “fathers” and that the “chief of the fathers, a sort of pope, who always lived at Rome, was called ‘Pater Patratus.’ Mithraic initiates called each other ‘brother’.”

The use of familial terms is true, but within religious societies that is universal, which is of no surprise because familial terms are the most useful for expressing endearment or commitment within any group. Indeed, “kinship terminology” was used in Greco-Roman antiquity for fellows of the same religion or race, as well as of friends, allies, and even prospective guests.

I have seen no evidence that the Pater Patratus “always lived” at Rome, but even if he did, this too would be of no moment: As the leading city of the Empire, where else would this person most likely have headquarters? This means no more than mainline churches all having headquarters in New York, or all foreign countries having embassies in Washington. Beyond that, we hardly need to defend “borrowing” when what is at stake is a church organizational structure that came into being many years after apostolic times.

So it is that mythicists fail to create a connection between Jesus and Mithra. Regrettably, this sort of misinformation will undoubtedly continue to be passed around.39


[1] John R. Hinnells, Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies (Manchester University Press, 1975) ix, 27-51.

[2] Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra (New York: Dover, 1950), 5.

[3] Roger Beck, Planetary Gods and Planetary Orders in the Mysteries of Mithras (London: Brill, 1988), 8.

[4] David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the

Ancient World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 8.

[5] Beck, op. cit., 87.

[6] M. J. Vermaseren, Mithras the Secret God (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1963), 17-18.

[7] Hinnells, op. cit., xiii.

[8] Ibid., 437.

[9] Cumont, op. cit., 150, 152.

[10] Ulansey, op. cit., 15.

[11] Michael Spiedel, Mithras-Orion, Greek Hero and Roman Army God (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1980).

[12] Roger Beck, Religion of the Mithras Cult Within the Roman Empire (Oxford University Press, 2006), 258.

[13] Hinnells, op. cit., 508n.

[14] Samuel Laeuchli, Mithraism in Ostia: Mystery Religions and Christianity in the Ancient Port of Rome (Northwestern University Press, 1967), 86.

[15] Cumont, op. cit., 188-9.

[16] <> Accessed April 25, 2008.

[17] Ulansey, op. cit., 76, 79.

[18] Cumont, op. cit., 196.

[19] Hinnells, op. cit., 173.

[20] Cumont, op. cit., 16.

[21] <> Accessed April 25, 2008.

[22] Freke and Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries, 51.

[23] Ibid., 42.

[24] <> Accessed April 25, 2008.

[25] Hinnells, op. cit., 470.

[26] Beck, Religion of the Mithras Cult, 7, 129.

[27] Spiedel, op. cit., 45; Vermaseren, op. cit., 172; Richard Gordon, Image and Value in the Greco-Roman World (Aldershot: Variorum, 1996), 114n.

[28] Vermaseren, op. cit., 103.

[29] Gordon, op. cit., 96.

[30] Freke and Gandy, op. cit., 56.

[31] Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics, chapter 40. Special thanks to my research assistant in the UK, Guy Bearman.

[32] A. D. Bivar, The Personalities of Mithra in Archaeology and Literature (New York: Bibliotheca Persica Press, 1998), 32.

[33] Hinnells, op. cit., 277 356, 442.

[34] Ibid., 206.

[35] Ibid., 59.

[36] Cumont, op. cit., 190-1.

[37] Vermaseren, op. cit., 103.

[38] Ulansey, op. cit., 3.

[39] The latest to do so is an author named Payam Nabarz, in a book titled The Mysteries of Mithras (Inner Traditions, 2005). Not surprisingly, Nabarz is not a credentialed scholar in the field; he has a doctorate in an unrelated field.