In my book The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold appears a series of lists in a popular chapter called “The Characters.” These lists recite characteristics in common with the Jesus figure of the following gods and godmen: Attis, Buddha, Dionysus, Hercules, Horus, Krishna, Mithra, Prometheus and Zoroaster. One of the gods most obviously related to the origins of Christianity is Mithras or Mithra, the Perso-Roman hybrid whose cultus was widespread around the Mediterranean during the same period Christianity was being formulated.
Over the centuries, many scholars have pointed out the obvious correspondences between Mithraism and Christianity, based on the remaining evidence, including the writings of early Church fathers who were flummoxed by the similarities. Later writers, however, were not so startled, because they could discern that the Christ character was apparently a rehash of Mithra, among others.
Following is a list of the characteristics of Mithra as found in my book Christ Conspiracy, p. 119:
- Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25th in a cave, and his birth was attended by shepherds bearing gifts.
- He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.
- He had 12 companions or disciples.
- Mithra’s followers were promised immortality.
- He performed miracles.
- As the “great bull of the Sun,” Mithra sacrificed himself for world peace.
- He was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again.
- His resurrection was celebrated every year.
- He was called “the Good Shepherd” and identified with both the Lamb and the Lion.
- He was considered the “Way, the Truth and the Light,” and the “Logos,” “Redeemer,” “Savior” and “Messiah.”
- His sacred day was Sunday, the “Lord’s Day,” hundreds of years before the appearance of Christ.
- Mithra had his principal festival on what was later to become Easter.
- 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.”
- “His annual sacrifice is the passover of the Magi, a symbolical atonement of pledge of moral and physical regeneration.”
In this Mithra section in Christ Con (p. 120), I also write:
Of Mithraism, the Catholic Encyclopedia states, as related by Wheless, “The fathers conducted the worship. The chief of the fathers, a sort of pope, who always lived at Rome, was called ‘Pater Patratus.’” The Mithraic pope was also known as Papa and Pontimus Maximus.
For more information on the subject of Mithra, including citations for these parallels, see The Christ Conspiracy, Suns of God and “Mithra: The Pagan Christ.” For a shorter, updated list, see also my article “Origins of Christianity and the Quest for the Historical Jesus Christ.” An update of the longer list will be provided in my forthcoming book The Christ Myth Anthology.
(NB: These popular lists from my book have been reproduced in a number of places on the internet, often without attribution. If you encounter these lists, note that they are in fact from my book – originating with me and in my own words – and feel free to inform the website owner or article writer as well. Thanks.)