Do You Practice Mithraism?

By COGwriter

Have you heard of Mithraism? Do you know where many of the beliefs of your church actually come from? Did they really come from the Bible or from traditions of men?

And if they do come from human tradition, were those sources Christian or pagan?

This article will attempt to document certain non-biblical beliefs that many so-called "Christian" churches hold that they share with the pagan sun cult of Mithraism.

Background on Mithras and Mithraism

Before going into doctrine, perhaps some background on Mithras and Mithraism would be appropriate. "Mithras” is the Latin name of a Vedic god that the ancient Persians called “Mithra,” and in the Rig Veda is called “Mitra.”

Mithras (often spelled Mithra) was a sun-god. Mithraism seemed to enter the Roman Empire about a century before Jesus was crucified. Mithras was believed to have been born out of a rock in an "underground cavern" (Ulansey D. The origins of the Mithraic mysteries: cosmology and salvation in the ancient world. Oxford University Press US, 1991, p. 36). (Many also claim that Jesus was too, please see Was Jesus Born in the Grotto of the Nativity?).

C.E. Olmstead wrote:

Mithraism took on the form of a mystery religion, with elaborate rights and ceremonies.  It came into the ancient Roman world about 75 B.C., and ranked as a principal competitor of Christianity for 200 years.

(Olmstead CE.  Mithras.  The World Book Encyclopedia, 50th edition, Volume 13, Chicago, 1966, p. 566)

The Encyclopædia Britannica states:

The liturgy of the Yasna was a remarkable anticipation of the mass in Christianity...The Mithraic sacramental banquet was derived from the Yasna ceremony, wine taking the place of the haoma and Mithra that of Ahura Mazdā. (James EO. Sacramental ideas and practices in the Indo-Iranian world. Encyclopædia Britannica. ©2013 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/515366/sacrament/66288/Sacramental-ideas-and-practices-in-the-Indo-Iranian-world viewed 12/06/13)

The Roman Catholic scholar Charles F. Aiken wrote:

Mazdaism, of whose teachings and rites we have extensive and accurate knowledge, was a great national religion, which in its worship of the supreme god Ormazd, attained to a high level of religious and moral excellence. It was a near approach to monotheism, and deserves to rank first among all the religions of the pagan world. Mithraism on the other hand, was an heretical and more or less degenerate offshoot of Mazdaism transplanted in Phrygian soil, in which worship was centered not on Ormazd but on a deity honored in Mazdaism as one of Ormazd's heavenly creatures, Mithra, the ancient light-god, destined in this new cult to assume the position of supreme god and to be identified with the sun...

According to Plutarch, the first knowledge which the Romans had of this oriental cult was derived from the pirates of Cilicia when, in the year 67 B. c., Pompey subdued them with a Roman fleet...

The first positive evidence we have of the presence of Mithraism in the West is an inscription of a freedman in the household of one of the Flavian emperors, and hence dating somewhere in the years 70-96 A. D. It was most likely in the latter part of the reign of Vespasian (69-79) or in the short reign of Titus (79-81) that the cult of Mithra made its way to Rome.

(Aiken CF. Mithraism. The Catholic University bulletin, Volume 19, 1913. Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized Dec 19, 2008, pp. 251, 253)

Franz Cumont noted:

FOR more than three centuries Mithraism was practised in the remotest provinces of the Roman empire and under the most diverse conditions...Perhaps no other religion ever offered to its sectaries in a higher degree than Mithraism opportunities for prayer and motives for veneration.

(Cumont, Franz. Translated from the second revised French edition by Thomas J. McCormack. The Mysteries of Mithra. Chicago, The Catholic University bulletin Author Catholic University of America Publisher Catholic University of America., 1913 Item notes v. 19 Original from the University of Michigan Digitized Dec 19, 2008pen Court [1903] pp. 104,149)

H.M. Gwatkin wrote:

Mithra came to the front in the third {century}. There was a true moral element in the worship of Mithra the all- seeing, the author and protector of life, Mithra the purifier, the giver of immortality. A great catholic church of Mithra overspread the lands from Persia to Britain, especially along the great rivers where the legions lay. It had regular and irregular clergy, ascetics and mendicant friars, and divers orders of faithful men. It had regular divine service three times daily, and a yearly round of festivals culminating in the Birthday of Mithra (Dec. 25), with meetings for worship and processions of noisy votaries.

(Gwatkin, Henry Melvill. Early church history to A.D. 313 2nd Edition. Macmillan, 1912. Original from the University of Michigan Digitized Nov 13, 2008, p. 140)

Also notice the following:

Mithraism, at least in the fourth century, had therefore as its end and aim the union of all gods and all myths in a vast synthesis,— the foundation of a new religion in harmony with the prevailing philosophy and political constitution of the empire...(Cumont, p. 187).

...the ceremony of branding the forehead of the Soldier initiate, so like the ceremony exacted of recruits in the Roman army before taking the sacramentum, or military oath, offering on the other hand but a remote resemblance to the Christian rite of confirmation, of which Tertullian thought it was a diabolic simulation.

(Aiken C.F., Aiken C.F., Mithraism and Christianity. The Catholic University bulletin, Volume 19, 1913. Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized Dec 19, 2008, p. 380)

The Catholic Encyclopedia reported:

Mithraism A pagan religion consisting mainly of the cult of the ancient Indo-Iranian Sun-god Mithra. It entered Europe from Asia Minor after Alexander's conquest, spread rapidly over the whole Roman Empire at the beginning of our era...The origin of the cult of Mithra dates from the time that the Hindus and Persians still formed one people, for the god Mithra occurs in the religion and the sacred books of both races , i.e. in the Vedas and in the Avesta. In Vedic hymns he is frequently mentioned and is nearly always coupled with Varuna, but beyond the bare occurrence of his name, little is known of him (Rigveda, III, 59). It is conjectured (Oldenberg, "Die "Religion des Veda," Berlin , 1894) that Mithra was the rising sun, Varuna the setting sun; or, Mithra, the sky at daytime, Varuna, the sky at night; or, the one the sun, the other the moon. In any case Mithra is a light or solar deity of some sort

Helios Mithras is one god...Sunday was kept holy in honour of Mithra...The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-sun, unconquered by the rigours of the season...

Its foremost apostles were the legionaries; hence it spread first to the frontier stations of the Roman army.

Mithraism was emphatically a soldier religion...

(Arendzen J.P. Transcribed by John Looby. Mithraism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York )

...it is easy to understand that many of the emperors yielded to the delusion that they could unite all their subjects in the adoration of the one sun-god who combined in himself the Father-God of the Christians and the much-worshipped Mithras; thus the empire could be founded anew on unity of religion. Even Constantine, as will be shown farther on, for a time cherished this mistaken belief…it was especially in the western part of the empire that the veneration of Mithras predominated. Would it not be possible to gather all the different nationalities around his altars? Could not Sol Deus Invictus, to whom even Constantine dedicated his coins for a long time, or Sol Mithras Deus Invictus, venerated by Diocletian and Galerius, become the supreme god of the empire? Constantine may have pondered over this. Nor had he absolutely rejected the thought even after a miraculous event had strongly influenced him in favour of the God of the Christians…As pontifex maximus he watched over the heathen worship and protected its rights…It is true that the believers in Mithras also observed Sunday as well as Christmas. Consequently Constantine speaks not of the day of the Lord, but of the everlasting day of the sun.

(Herbermann, Charles, and Georg Grupp. Constantine the Great. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 1 Sept. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04295c.htm>)

Thus Mithraism was pagan, militaristic, and popular throughout the Roman Empire. It was apparently the religion of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Is it no surprise that those who trace their beliefs from the Council of Nicea that Emperor Constantine convened could have many practices associated with Mithraism?

Here is something about Constantine from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

Constantine the Great… Constantine can rightfully claim the title of Great, for he turned the history of the world into a new course and made Christianity...the religion of the State… it is easy to understand that many of the emperors yielded to the delusion that they could unite all their subjects in the adoration of the one sun-god who combined in himself the Father-God of the Christians and the much-worshipped Mithras; thus the empire could be founded anew on unity of religion. Even Constantine…cherished this mistaken belief… Could not Sol Deus Invictus, to whom even Constantine dedicated his coins for a long time, or Sol Mithras Deus Invictus, venerated by Diocletian and Galerius, become the supreme god of the empire?  Constantine may have pondered over this. Nor had he absolutely rejected the thought even after a miraculous event had strongly influenced him in favour of the God of the Christians... It is true that the believers in Mithras also observed Sunday as well as Christmas. Consequently Constantine speaks not of the day of the Lord, but of the everlasting day of the sun.  (Herbermann C., Georg Gp. Constantine the Great. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.  New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908).

Constantine decreed circa March 7, 321:

Let all judges, the people of cities, and those employed in all trades, remain quiet on the Holy Day of Sunday. Persons residing in the country, however, can freely and lawfully proceed with the cultivation of the fields; as it frequently happens that the sowing of grain or the planting of vines cannot be deferred to a more suitable day, and by making concessions to Heaven the advantage of the time may be lost (Code of Justinian, Book III, Title XII, III. THE JUSTINIAN CODE FROM THE CORPUS JURIS CIVILIS. Translated from the original Latin by Samuel P. Scott. Central Trust Company, Cincinnati, 1932).

Shortly after the above decree, Eusebius recorded this about Constantine:

Accordingly he enjoined on all the subjects of the Roman empire to observe the Lord's day, as a day of rest (Eusebius. Life of Constantine, Book IV, Chapter 18).

Notice that "the Lord's day" became enjoined by a decree of a Roman Empire. Also notice the following:

There is a large body of civil legislation on the Sunday rest side by side with the ecclesiastical. It begins with an Edict of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, who forbade judges to sit and townspeople to work on Sunday (Slater T. Transcribed by Scott Anthony Hibbs. Sunday. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight).

The bolded quote shows one of the first official intertwinings of European politics and Catholic doctrine. Despite the fact that he was not baptized nor ordained, the influence of the sun-god worshiping Emperor Constantine, who declared himself a bishop, was highly significant:

So prominent had Christians and their day become that when the Emperor Constantine proclaimed Sun Day as the weekly holy day for all Romans, some Christians believed that it was for their sake. More likely Constantine, like many Roman aristocrats of the time, was simply trying to find common ground for his mixed pagan and Christian subjects, especially his soldiers. Unity was for the good of the state and the emperors' power (Harline C. Sunday: A History of the First Day from Babylonia to the Super Bowl. Doubleday, NY, 2007, p. 17).

However, after a time, Constantine did clearly begin to provide more favor the Roman version of Christianity which (like the pagans, but unlike the Church of God) endorsed Sunday. He, the sun-worshiping emperor, then called for the famous Council of Nicea, which took place in 325 A.D. This council decided that Sunday was to be the day of worship and that Passover was to be observed on Sunday (and that eventually became what is known as Easter). After that council, those in the Church of God who kept the Sabbath were considered to be heretics and outcasts and had to flee in the wilderness.

The Emperor authorized persecution. Around 332, Constantine issued what is known as the Edict Against the Heretics,

Victor Constantinus, Maximus Augustus, to the heretics. “Understand now, by this present statute, ye Novatians, Valentinians, Marcionites, Paulians, ye who are called Cataphrygians, and all ye who devise and support heresies by means of your private assemblies, with what a tissue of falsehood and vanity, with what destructive and venomous errors, your doctrines are inseparably interwoven; so that through you the healthy soul is stricken with disease, and the living becomes the prey of everlasting death. Ye haters and enemies of truth and life, in league with destruction! All your counsels are opposed to the truth, but familiar with deeds of baseness; full of absurdities and fictions: and by these ye frame falsehoods, oppress the innocent, and withhold the light from them that believe. Ever trespassing under the mask of godliness, ye fill all things with defilement: ye pierce the pure and guileless conscience with deadly wounds, while ye withdraw, one may almost say, the very light of day from the eyes of men. But why should I particularize, when to speak of your criminality as it deserves demands more time and leisure than I can give? For so long and unmeasured is the catalogue of your offenses, so hateful and altogether atrocious are they, that a single day would not suffice to recount them all. And, indeed, it is well to turn one’s ears and eyes from such a subject, lest by a description of each particular evil, the pure sincerity and freshness of one’s own faith be impaired. Why then do I still bear with such abounding evil; especially since this protracted clemency is the cause that some who were sound are become tainted with this pestilent disease? Why not at once strike, as it were, at the root of so great a mischief by a public manifestation of displeasure?" (Chapter LXIV.—Constantine’s Edict against the Heretics. This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College).

Some of those referred to as Paulians (Paulicians) and Cataphrygians were part of the true Church of God; thus they would have rejected Sunday and other doctrines that Emperor Constantine endorsed. And like some other persecutions, the Edict included those truly in the Church of God and those not in the true church. Herod, when he tried to kill Jesus, persecuted an entire nation, killed many babies, but Jesus' family fled the persecution and He survived. Constantine's tactics seem similar.

Historians of many persuasions have been convinced that Emperor Constantine was less interested in Christianity per se than he was in unifying his Empire. Constantine's ties with Mithraism seem to suggest that he simply used the Greco-Roman churches to try to accomplish the Mithratic goal of unification.

Of course, no branch of the actual true church would be persecuting--it is an apostate branch that Constantine favors. A militaristic cult that embraced the views of Mithraism.

Doctrines Mainstream "Christianity" Share with Mithraism

Are there similarities between Mithraism and mainstream "Christianity"?

Here is some of what one Catholic scholar wrote:

The resemblances between Mithraism and Christianity may be quickly summed up,—belief in the immortality of the soul, a future resurrection, judgment, heaven,...a communion rite consisting in Mithraism of bread and water, to which Cumont would add wine; a purificatory rite of ablution in water, a feature common to practically all religions, having an outward resemblance to baptism...a remote resemblance to the Christian rite of confirmation...the seven grades of the initiation as the seven sacraments...(Aiken C.F., Mithraism and Christianity, p. 380).

Catholic scholar Aiken's list is a bit incomplete and he does not consider that all of the above are actually close resemblances. Although some practices/beliefs are not close, some are, and there are also more similar doctrines than he elaborated there.

Here is a larger list of some non-original doctrines that mainstream "Christianity" "share" with Mithraism:

Birthdays
Christmas (and the birth in a cave)
Confirmation (within Catholicism mainly)
Dress of the clergy (mainly the Roman and Orthodox clergy)
Father being a name for the clergy (mainly the Roman and Orthodox clergy)
Heaven as a reward of the saved
Idols and icons
Immortality of the soul
Liturgy (mainly parts of the Roman and Orthodox liturgy)
Military service
Mystical Eucharist
Monks
A Roman pope (the Roman Church only, with some similarities within the Orthodox groups)
Seven sacraments
Sunday
A form of Trinitarianism

The 'Mithras Liturgy' contained the following in a prayer for its initiates:

Be gracious to me, O Providence and Psyche ... which the great god Helios Mithras ordered to be revealed to me by his archangel, so that I alone may ascend into heaven as an inquirer and behold the universe. (As cited in Wright JE. The Early History of Heaven. Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 112)

Thus, going to heaven was a major goal for followers of Mithras (a article of related interest may be Did Early Christians Teach They Were Going to Heaven?).

Here is a report from F. Cumont on more information about Mithraism:

The priest was the intermediary between God and man. His functions evidently included the administration of the sacraments and the celebration of the services. The inscriptions tell us that in addition he presided at the formal dedications, or at least represented the faithful one on such an occasion along with the Fathers; but this was the least portion only of the duties he had to perform; the religious service which fell to his lot appears to have been very exacting. He doubtless was compelled to see that a perpetual fire burned upon the altars. Three times a day, at dawn, at noon, and at dusk, he addressed a prayer to the Sun, turning in the morning toward the East, at noon toward the South, at evening toward the West. The daily liturgy frequently embraced special sacrifices. The celebrant, garbed in sacerdotal robes resembling those of the Magi, sacrificed to the higher and lower gods divers victims, the blood of which was collected in a trench; or offered them libations, holding in his hands the bundle of sacred twigs which we know from the Avesta. Long psalmodies and chants accompanied with music were interspersed among the ritual acts. A solemn moment in the service,--one very probably marked by the sounding of a bell,--was that in which the image of the tauroctonous Mithra, hitherto kept veiled, was uncovered before the eyes of the initiates...

Mithra, identified with the invincible Sun...they also held Sunday sacred, and celebrated the birth of the Sun on the 25th of December, the same day on which Christmas has been celebrated, since the fourth century at least...They both admitted the existence of a Heaven inhabited by beatified ones, situate in the upper regions...they both, finally, believed in the immortality of the soul...

On the other hand, the ecclesiastical writers, reviving a metaphor of the prophet Malachi, contrasted the "Sun of justice" with the "invincible Sun," and consented to see in the dazzling orb which illuminated men a symbol of Christ, "the light of the world." Should we be astonished if the multitudes of devotees failed always to observe the subtle distinctions of the doctors, and if in obedience to a pagan custom they rendered to the radiant star of day the homage which orthodoxy reserved for God? In the fifth century, not only heretics, but even faithful followers, were still wont to bow their heads toward its dazzling disc as it rose above the horizon, and to murmur the prayer, "Have mercy upon us."

...the orthodox and heretical liturgies of Christianity, which gradually sprang up during the first centuries of our era, could find abundant inspiration in the Mithraic Mysteries... it appears certain that the commemoration of the Nativity was set for the 25th of December, because it was at the winter solstice that the rebirth of the invincible god,* the Natalis invicti, was celebrated. In adopting this date, which was universally distinguished by sacred festivities, the ecclesiastical authority purified in some measure the profane usages which it could not suppress. The only domain in which we can ascertain in detail the extent to which Christianity imitated Mithraism is that of art. The Mithraic sculpture, which had been first developed, furnished the ancient Christian marble-cutters with a large number of models, which they adopted or adapted...(Cumont, pp. 166, 193,196-197).

Most of the doctrines and practices mentioned above were NOT held by the original Christians. For articles related to them, please see Sunday and Christianity, What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days?, Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?, and What Did the Early Church Teach About Idols and Icons?

Christmas was specifically December 25th because of Mithraism according to many scholars including the ones below:

It is true that in the history of the Church Mithraism made itself felt. We acknowledge it to this day. For in the course of the fourth century the commemoration of Christ's birth was changed from January 6 to December 25, in order to agree with the commemoration of the birth of Mithra. This was done probably with the object of weakening the Mithra cult, by giving its chief festival a Christian atmosphere (Hastings, James; Hastings, Ann Wilson; Hastings, Edward. The Expository times, Volume 19. T. & T. Clark., 1908. Original from the University of Michigan Digitized Dec 8, 2008, p. 247).

It may be interesting to note that since Mithras was believed to have been born out of a rock/cavern, that Constantine's mother Helena decided (apparently based upon the old testimony of Justin and other unfaithful professors of Christ) to build the original "Church of the Nativity" over a cave (see Was Jesus Born in the Grotto of the Nativity?).

Notice what Justin taught:

And when those who record the mysteries of Mithras say that he was begotten of a rock, and call the place where those who believe in him are initiated a cave...they have attempted likewise to imitate the whole of Isaiah's words?...'he shall dwell in the lofty cave of the strong rock. Bread shall be given to him, and his water [shall be] sure...' (Trypho, Chapter 70).

But when the Child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him. I have repeated to you what Isaiah foretold about the sign which foreshadowed the cave...those who presided over the mysteries of Mithras were stirred up by the devil to say that in a place, called among them a cave, they were initiated by him (Trypho, Chapter 78).

Justin is confused here--he is apparently claiming that the devil read Isaiah, and thus had the followers of Mithras claim that Mithras came from a cave. Justin's reference to Isaiah 33:16 does not in any way point to the birth of Jesus in a cave (the passage in Isaiah never mentions a birth and has end time applications, see There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra). This is also obvious by the context in Isaiah as the expression "who among us" (Isaiah 33:14, KJV) is a discussion of the plural. Furthermore, while it has been claimed Jesus was born in a cave below ground, even the Douay OT translates a portion of Isaiah 33:16 as "He shall dwell on high, the fortifications of rocks shall be his highness", thus this eliminates a below ground cave. It would seem that Justin, who had been influenced, in my view by one who had exposure to Mithraism, was looking for justification of a position that someone had told him (which he had believed). Justin was apparently trying to claim that the followers of Mithras claimed a cave because of Isaiah--yet those scriptures would clearly disagree with him here.

And here are two accounts related to it and Helena:

Constantine's...mother, Helena, during her famous pilgrimage to the Holy land in 326-7...initiated construction of more basilicas, including...the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem around the cave in which Jesus was supposed to have been born. (Herring G. An introduction to the history of Christianity: from the early church to the Enlightenment. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006, p. 54)

...the Church of the Nativity, said to have been built by the empress Helena. It has suffered much from time, but still bears manifest traces of its Grecian origin; and is alleged to be the most chaste architectural building now remaining in Palestine. Two spiral staircases lead to the cave called the 'Grotto of the Nativity,' which is about 20 feet below the level of the church...we have to place the utter improbability that a subterranean cavern like this, with a steep descent should ever have been used as a stable for cattle, and, what is more, for the stable of a khan or caravanserai, which doubtless the ' inn' of Luke ii. 7 was. Although therefore it is true that cattle are, and always have been, stabled in caverns in the East; yet certainly not in such caverns as this, which appears to have been originally a tomb (Kitto J, Taylor J.  The popular cyclopadia of Biblical literature: condensed from the larger work.  Gould and Lincoln, 1854. Original from Harvard University, Digitized Oct 23, 2007, p. 150).

Although it is no surprise that the mother of a Mithras-following Emperor would agree on a below ground cave location to honor the birth of a deity--this clearly disagrees with Justin's citation in Isaiah. Furthermore as the Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth do NOT mention caves at all, it is not likely that Jesus was born in a cave (see Was Jesus Born in the Grotto of the Nativity?).

Notice also:

Mithratic temples were usually built in caves…In localities where there are no mountains, the “holy of holies” of the Mithraic temples was given a cave-like appearance by building special domes over it. (Badiozamani B. Iran and America: Re-Kind[l]ing a Love Lost . East West Understanding Pr., 2005, p. 96)

Since Emperor Constantine had been a worshiper of the sun-god Mithras, this may be why many of the church buildings that he commissioned were contained domes. And this has affected the Greco-Roman churches, as well as the mosques of Islam, to this day. (The original Christian buildings tended to resemble Jewish synagogues, see also Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill.)

Birthdays themselves apparently were adopted by Greco-Romans because of Mithraism:

It is thought that the large-scale celebration of birthdays in Europe began with the cult of Mithras, which originated in Persia but was spread by soldiers throughout the Roman Empire. Before this, such celebrations were not common; and, hence, practices from other contexts such as the Saturnalia were adapted for birthdays. Because many Roman soldiers took to Mithraism, it had a wide distribution and influence throughout the empire until it was supplanted by Christianity. (Wikipedia. Birthdays. July 12, 2007 version)

Birthdays, however, were not observed by the ancient Jews nor the early Christians. For more on birthdays, please see the article Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays?

The Catholic scholar Aiken noted:

Mithraism was first and foremost a military cult, brought to these regions by foreign Mithra-worshippers, who along with other orientals were enlisted in the Roman army and stationed in the numerous camps that dotted the extensive frontier on the North. Some of the Roman soldiers, even centurions and higher officers, became initiated in the mysteries of the victorious light-god, and when afterwards they were sent to different parts of the empire (Aiken C.F., Mithraism, p. 255)

It should be pointed out that Christians in the first two centuries after Christ always refused to participate in the military. It was only after the former Mithratic follower Emperor Constantine proclaimed he had a vision were many who professed Christ willing to change from the original position against military service and support Constantine. For more information, please see the article Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare?

The Catholic scholar Aiken noted:

To attain to a life of happiness in heaven, the rites proper to Mithraism were held to be of exceptional efficacy and importance...Of the Mithraic priesthood, but little is known. The higher grades of initiates seem each to have had their respective priests, the highest in dignity being the priests of the grade of Fathers. They were presided over by a high priest, styled in the inscriptions Father of Fathers, Pater Patrum, or Pater Patratus.

...and if my memory still serves me right, Mithra there puts a mark on the forehead of his soldiers. (Aiken C.F., Mithraism, p. 264)

The 20th and 19th century writers Manly Hall and Albert Pike wrote respectively:

Candidates who successfully passed the Mithraic initiations were called Lions and were marked upon their foreheads with the Egyptian cross. (Manly P. Hall Manly P. Hall (Author), J. Augustus Knapp (Illustrator) The Secret Teachings of all Ages. Originally published 1926, reprint Wilder Publications, 2009, p. 45)

Mithras signed his soldiers on the forehead with a Cross. X is the mark of 600, the mysterious cycle of the Incarnations. (Pike A. Morals and dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. First published 1871. Forgotten Books, 1962, p. 246)

Catholic scholar Cumont wrote:

A curious bas-relief recently published shows us the spectacle of this sacred repast (Fig. 38). Before two persons stretched upon a couch covered with pillows is placed a tripod bearing four tiny loaves of bread, each marked with a cross. ... these love feasts are evidently the ritual commemoration of the banquet which Mithra celebrated before his ascension. (Cumont F. The Mysteries of Mithra. Open Court, 1903. Original from Harvard University, Digitized Feb 15, 2008, p. 160)

Crosses were not originally part of Christian worship (for details read What is the Origin of the Cross as a 'Christian' Symbol? and/or watch a related YouTube video: Origin of the Cross.

The Catholic scholar Arendzen noted:

Mithraism...reached its zenith during the third century, and vanished under the repressive regulations of Theodosius at the end of the fourth century...There were seven degrees of initiation into the mithraic mysteries…The fathers conducted the worship. The chief of the fathers, a sort of pope, who always lived at Rome, was called "Pater Patrum" or Pater Patratus." (Arendzen, J.P. Mithraism.)

So, Mithraism had a type of Roman pope. The Church of Rome did not get one until the late fourth century (actually about the time that Theodosius helped eliminate Mithraism). For details, please see What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History?

Seven sacraments were suggested to be in Mithraism:

We are as poorly acquainted with the liturgy of the seven Mithraic sacraments as we are with the dogmatic instructions that accompanied them (Cumont, pp. 156-157).

There were seven degrees of initiation into the mithraic mysteries. The consecrated one (mystes) became in succession crow (corax), occult (cryphius), soldier (miles), lion (leo), Persian (Perses), solar messenger (heliodromos), and father (pater) (Arendzen, Mithraism).

For those who are unaware, it should be pointed out that there are seven sacraments in Serbian, Greek Orthodox, and Roman Catholicism:

Contemporary Orthodox catechisms and textbooks all affirm that the church recognizes seven mysteria, or "sacraments": Baptism, chrismation, Communion, holy orders, penance, anointing of the sick (the "extreme unction" of the medieval West), and marriage. (Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren. Worship and Sacraments. http://www.kosovo.com/doctrine3.html#Sacraments 8/20/05).

The sacraments are seven in number, and include baptism, chrismation, Holy Easter, repentance, ordination, and holy unction...We see then, first of all, that the priest, as performer of the sacrament, is simply the instrument of the invisible and actual celebrant, the Lord himself...The Orthodox church accepts the above-mentioned seven sacraments, which were known from antiquity in the Orthodox East" (Clendenin, D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 22,23).

...there are seven sacraments of the New Law, truly and properly so called, viz., Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Orders, and Matrimony. (Kennedy D.J. Transcribed by Marie Jutras. Sacraments. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

While seven sacraments are observed by many, the Bible never uses the term sacrament and does not list seven. The similarity to Mithraism may or may not be coincidental. For more information about changes in this area, please also see the article Were the Early Duties of the Clergy Sacramental and What was Their Dress?

Apparently priests, bishops, and other religious leaders got the idea of special clothing by following the example of Emperor Constantine. Notice what was written by a former Roman Catholic priest named Peter de Rosa:

Rome...successors will be not the servants but the masters of the world. They will dress in purple like Nero and call themselves Pontifex Maximus...

By the time Stephen III became pope, the church was thoroughly converted to the Roman Empire. From the Donation, it is plain that the Bishop of Rome looked like Constantine, lived like him, dressed liked him, inhabited his palaces, ruled over his lands, had exactly the same imperial outlook. The pope, too, wanted to lord it over church and state. (De Rosa, Peter. Vicars of Christ. Poolberg Press, Dublin, 2000, pp. 34,45).

Pontifex Maximus was a title, literally meaning bridge-builder (but figuratively meaning the link between God and man) that Roman Emperors, including Constantine, used for themselves. The Mithratic Constantine apparently influenced many of the Greco-Roman clergy to dress differently. This is an obvious change to the practices of the original Christian leaders (see also Were the Early Duties of the Clergy Sacramental and What was Their Dress?).

Furthermore, the head coverings that the Roman bishops wear did not come from the Bible, but were related to Mithraism and the old Babylonian mystery religion. Notice when some version was adopted by a Bishop of Rome:

SILVESTER I, ST. (314-335)…he appears to have been the first one to wear the tiara from which the bishop’s mitre is derived. (Lopes A. Translation by Charles Nopar. The Popes. Pontifical Administration, Rome, 1997 and 2005 editions, p. 11)

A few years ago, while visiting St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, I noticed that the statues of the early leaders shown, such as the Apostles Peter and John, did not have head coverings (a halo on at least one, notwithstanding). But then, the bishops shown after the time of Constantine normally did have the type of head coverings that Roman bishops wear today. Thus, even the physical appearance of the Catholic clergy should demonstrate to everyone that they have followed, not the Bible, but Mithraism and other pagan traditions.

Notice something about the word mitre:

mitre (n.) bishop's tall hat, late 14c., from Old French mitre, from Latin mitra "headband, turban," from Greek mitra "headband, turban," earlier a belt or cloth worn under armor about the waist, from PIE root *mei- "to tie" (cf. Sanskrit Mitrah, Old Persian Mithra-, god names; Russian mir "world, peace," Greek mitos "a warp thread"). In Latin, "a kind of headdress common among Asiatics, the wearing of which by men was regarded in Rome as a mark of effeminacy" [OED]. But the word was used in Vulgate to translate Hebrew micnepheth "headdress of a priest." (mitre. Online Etymology Dictionary. © 2001-2013 Douglas Harper. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=mitre viewed 12/21/13)

Thus, even the term mitre itself may have ties to Mithra. Notice something from The Catholic Encyclopedia (bolding mine):

Mithra was born of a mother-rock by a river under a tree. He came into the world with the Phrygian cap on his head (hence his designation as Pileatus, the Capped One), and a knife in his hand. (Arendzen J.P. Transcribed by John Looby. Mithraism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York)

Notice something from Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions:

TIARA...in ROMAN CATHOLICISM, triple crown worn by the pope or carried in front of him...The tiara probably developed from the Phrygian cap, or frigium, a conical cap worn in the Graeco-Roman world. In the 10th century the tiara was pictured on papal coins. (Doniger W, editor. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster, 1999, p. 1096)

The current hats that Roman bishops currently tend to wear resemble a cross between the Phrygian cap (a type of conical cap) and the 'fish hats' associated with Dagon. They do not come from the Bible.

Notice the following:

As the Pope bears the key of Janus, so he wears the mitre of Dagon. The excavations of Nineveh have put this beyond all possibility of doubt. The Papal mitre is entirely different from the mitre of Aaron and the Jewish high priests. That mitre was a turban. The two-horned mitre, which the Pope wears, when he sits on the high altar at Rome and receives the adoration of the Cardinals, is the very mitre worn by Dagon, the fish-god of the Philistines and Babylonians. (Hislop A. Two Babylons. 1858. Loizeaux Brothers, Second American edition 1959, p. 215)

Dagon...the fish god...The head of the fish formed a mitre above that of the man...The figure wore a fringed tunic...His worship seems to have extended over Syria, as well as Mesopotamia, and Chaldæa. (Layard AH. Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon: With Travels in Armenia, Kurdistan and the Desert: Being the Result of a Second Expedition Undertaken for the Trustees of the British Museum, Part 1. John Murray, 1853 Original from Harvard University, Digitized Jan 8, 2008, pp. 343-344)

The Bible teaches that the children of Israel were to destroy the followers of Dagon (Samson did per Judges 16:23-30) and not adopt any of the religious practices that those who worshiped him or other false deities had (Deuteronomy 12:2-3).

Monasticism was practiced by Greco-Romans of the Catholic and Mithras faiths according to Franz Cumont:

The adepts of both formed secret conventicles, closely united, the members of which gave themselves the name of "Brothers." (Cumont, p. 190).

But monasticism was not practiced by the original Christians. For more information, please see Did The Early Christian Church Practice Monasticism?

While the early Christian church held to what is now called a binitarian or Semi-Arian position on the Godhead, Mithraism believed in a pantheon of gods, but seemed to endorse a type of trinity:

The preachers of Mithra sought to resolve the grand problem of the origin of the world by the hypothesis of a series of successive generations. The first principle, according to an ancient belief found in India as well as in Greece, begot a primordial couple, the Heaven and the Earth; and the latter, impregnated by her brother, gave birth to the vast Ocean which was equal in power to its parents, and which appears to have formed with them the supreme triad of the Mithraic Pantheon. The relation of this triad to Kronos or Time from which it had sprung, was not clearly defined; and the starry Heavens of which the revolutions determined, as was believed, the course...

These three cosmic divinities were personified under other names less transparent...

We have seen that the theology of the Mysteries made of Mithra a "mediator" equivalent to the Alexandrian Logos. Like him, Christ also was... an intermediary between his celestial father and men, and like him he also was one of a trinity...(Cumont, pp.109, 111, 191)

This seems to be similar to how the Greco-Roman churches accept a trinity adopted by a council called by the Roman Emperor Theodosius in 381. For more information please see the article Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?

Others have also noted a similarity between modern and pagan trinities:

Mithra, who was originally subordinate to Ormuzd, and even reduced to the third place in the triad, subsequently rose practically to the first place, supplanting Ormuzd himself. Such a process, by which the mediating member of the trinity, as the special friend and savior of men, should become first and nearest in the thoughts, and affections, and hopes of men, and hence in time first in the divine order of the gods, is most natural, and we have already found it a marked feature of the historical evolution of most of the Ethnic trinities. Thus in the Babylonian triad Marduk, the mediating sun-god, usurps the place of Ea, his father. The same was true of Vishnu-Krishna in the Hindoo trinity, who, in his capacity of god- man and mediator, reduced Brahma to almost a shadow. So Mithraism pushed Ormuzd back into a place of inferiority, or rather he was quietly displaced and forgotten. The triad was practically reduced to unity in the Mithraic faith (Paine LL. The Ethnic Trinities and Their Relations to the Christian Trinity: A Chapter in the Comparative History of Religions. Kessinger Publishing, 1901 Original from the University of California, Digitized Nov 20, 2007, p. 84).

So, Franz Cumont was not the only one to notice the trinitarian similarities some held with Mithraism. An article of related interest could be Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?

Justin Endorsed Other Practices Associated with Mithraism 

Sadly, it appears that the second century heretic Justin had practices that were similar to those employed by the followers of Mithras.  This is another way his group differed from the faithful in Asia Minor. 

Notice three quotes from Justin’s writings:

For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water...And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings…

And this food is called among us Εύχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished...Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn…

Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly…(Justin.  First Apology, Chapters 61,66,67)

Lest anyone think that there are not Mithras connections, notice what the historian and scholar K. Latourette observed:

One of the earliest descriptions of the Eucharist, that by Justin Martyr, not far from the middle of the second century, recognizes the similarity to what was seen in one the mystery cults, Mithraism...it has been repeatedly asserted that in baptism and the Eucharist Christians borrowed from the mysteries and that Christianity was simply another one of these cults...The similarity is striking… baptized, which Justin calls "illumination"...(Latourette KS. A History of Christianity, Volume 1: to A.D. 1500. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1975, pp. 198,200)

Of course, true Christianity could not "borrow" from the sun-cults, but some associated with Justin and those that follow his examples apparently have.

It should be understood that while Justin calls the newly baptized "illuminated", the Bible does not.

Interestingly, one of the objectives of mystery religions like Mithraism was to become illuminated? Notice the following:

Mithraism {provided}...the promise of complete illumination, long withheld, fed the ardor of faith with the fascinating allurements of mystery...The gods were everywhere, and...the light that illuminated their paths, were the objects of their adoration. (Cumont, pp. 104,120,149)

I suspect that some who had some connection with Mithraism professed Christ and that those ceremonies got picked up by apostates who Justin apparently distantly came into contact with. And even though Justin is attempting to state that Mithraism copied Christian ceremonies, the fact is that the Mithras ceremonies, including weekly Sunday worship, were in existence prior to Jesus coming. Jesus, of course, personally kept Saturday for worship services on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16) and not Sunday.

Hence, it would appear that those who practiced Sunday, called baptized persons "illuminated" (a term indicating "light", such as sunlight), and the mystic eucharistic ceremonies were following non-Christian influences as it obviously did not happen the other way around with these practices.

Sadly, however, it seems that many non-biblical practices slowly became part of the Greco-Roman churches.  And while this apparently was not intentional on the part of people like Justin, the relatively early acceptance of such non-biblical practices seems to have led to additional ones being added later.

It may be because of the Mithras connection, that Justin was the first known person associated with Christianity to specifically write that worship services were on Sunday, and did so around 150 A.D. (Slater T. Sunday. Transcribed by Scott Anthony Hibbs. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company, NY. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York, pp. 335-336) and when he did he called it the Helios day--after the name for Mithras.

The actual Greek expression Justin used was:

τῇ τοῦ Ηλίου λεγομένη ἡμέρᾳ

His statement is often translated as, “on the day called Sunday” (Justin Martyr. The First Apology. Chapter LXVII. Text edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson and first published in Edinburgh, 1867. Additional introductionary material and notes provided for the American edition by A. Cleveland Coxe 1886. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprint 2001). But that is slightly misleading.

The terms he used specifically used were ἡμέρᾳ which means day, Ηλίου which is actually the term for the sun god Helios (also known as Mithras), and λεγομένη which currently means said.  Thus, Justin literally stated “on the day said {of} Helios”, or perhaps more literally, “on the Helios named day”.  Justin probably used this expression to suggest to the Roman Emperor that Justin's version of Christianity was not totally different from the worship of gods that the emperor was familiar with, and that was true.

21st century historian and Mormon Craig Harline wrote about the early origin of Sunday:

…Sun Day mattered more…among Roman pagans, who still far outnumbered Christians and who may well have influenced how Christians worshiped on their special day.

The second century pagan empire was not irreligious...on Sun Day, Roman pagans began with early services in honor of the rising Sun and Sun God...

More important in raising the status of Sun Day among pagans was Mithraism… Followers of Mithra did emphasize Sun Day, and with greater impact than early Christians. In fact they may have influenced the Christian choice of the first day of the week for worship and some Christian forms of worship.

(Harline C. Sunday: A History of the First Day from Babylonia to the Super Bowl. Doubleday, NY, 2007, pp. 5,9-10) 

(For more details on Sunday, see the article Sunday and Christianity).  Sunday apparently entered the Greco-Roman churches through prolonged contact with Mithraism and semi-Gnostics.  And that combined with the fact that it appeared advantageous within the Roman Empire to not appear Jewish because of the 132-135 A.D. revolt is apparently why Sunday became adopted by the Greco-Romans.

There are simply no documents that prove that any who professed Christ kept Sunday prior to the latter two-thirds of the second century (some claim otherwise, but this is shown not to be the case in the article Another Look at the Didache, Ignatius, and the Sabbath).

And while it was true that around (most probably before) this time, Roman leaders had began to observe Passover on Sunday, it also appears that some associated with Rome also had weekly worship services on Sunday, but that the Sabbath was also kept until probably decades after the time of Anicetus by the main Roman Church.

More on the Mithratic Eucharist and Those who Did Not Adopt Them

The Catholic and Orthodox saint Irenaeus condemned the gnostic Marcus who had been acquainted with the heretic Valentinus.  Irenaeus also condemned Marcus for coming up with some type of a "eucharistic-like" mystery, which may be similar to that still practiced by the Roman and Orthodox Churches.

Irenaeus wrote:

1. In the first book, which immediately precedes this, exposing "knowledge falsely so called," I showed thee, my very dear friend, that the whole system devised, in many and opposite ways, by those who are of the school of Valentinus, was false and baseless. I also set forth the tenets of their predecessors, proving that they not only differed among themselves, but had long previously swerved from the truth itself. I further explained, with all diligence, the doctrine as well as practice of Marcus the magician, since he, too, belongs to these persons.(Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book II, Preface, Verse 1)

1. But there is another among these heretics, Marcus by name, who boasts himself as having improved upon his master...

2. Pretending to consecrate cups mixed with wine, and protracting to great length the word of invocation, he contrives to give them a purple and reddish colour, so that Charis, who is one of those that are superior to all things, should be thought to drop her own blood into that cup through means of his invocation, and that thus those who are present should be led to rejoice to taste of that cup, in order that, by so doing, the Charis, who is set forth by this magician, may also flow into them. Again, handing mixed cups to the women, he bids them consecrate these in his presence.(Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book I, Chapter 13)

Like Justin, Marcus’ eucharistic practices seem very similar to practices associated with Mithraism.

Here is what Tertullian of Carthage (in eastern Egypt) noted near the beginning of the third century:

By the devil, of course, to whom pertain those wiles which pervert the truth, and who, by the mystic rites of his idols, vies even with the essential portions of the sacraments of God…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…is it not clear to us that the devil imitated the well-known moroseness of the Jewish law? Since, therefore he has shown such emulation in his great aim of expressing, in the concerns of his idolatry, those very things of which consists the administration of Christ's sacraments, it follows, of course, that the same being, possessing still the same genius, both set his heart upon, and succeeded in, adapting to his profane and rival creed the very documents of divine things and of the Christian saints—his interpretation from their interpretations, his words from their words, his parables from their parables. (Tertullian. The Prescription against Heretics, Chapter 40. Translated by Peter Holmes, D.D., F.R.A.S.)

Thus, in North Africa it was acknowledged that sacramental practices that the Greco-Roman alliance were adopting were similar to those of Mithraism.  And while Tertullian hints that the devil caused followers of Mithras to have some similar practices that his church had, it is most likely that these practices had been adopted by some who professed Christ that were influenced by followers of Mithras.

Perhaps it should be noted that Roman Catholic scholars accept that Mithraism had a eucharist ceremony, had “fathers” conducting services, and even seemed to have a papal equivalent. 

The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

A sacred meal was celebrated of bread and haoma juice for which in the West wine was substituted. This meal was supposed to give the participants super-natural virtue...Mithraism had a Eucharist, but the idea of a sacred banquet is as old as the human race and existed at all ages and amongst all peoples. (Arendzen. J.P. Mithraism.)

The view most widely held today among upholders of the historico-religious theory is that the Eucharist and the Mass originated in the practices of the Persian Mithraism (Dieterich, H. T. Holtzmann, Pfleiderer, Robertson, etc.). "In the Mandaean mass" writes Cumont ("Mysterien des Mithra", Leipzig, 1903, p.118), "the celebrant consecrated bread and water, which he mixed with perfumed Haoma-juice, and ate this food while performing the functions of divine service". Tertullian in anger ascribed this mimicking of Christian rites to the "devil" and observed in astonishment (De prescript haeret, C. xl): "celebrat (Mithras) et panis oblationem."

(Pohle. J. Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas. Sacrifice of the Mass. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Even though the connections to Mithraism appear to be brushed off by some Catholic scholars, the similarities to practices of the Greco-Orthodox are as clear as they are chilling.

These mystical practices of Justin and his cohorts were not part of the earliest practices of those that professed Christ.  Notice that this is admitted by the Catholic scholar Bagatti reporting about the Judaeo-Christians:

At first the celebration of the Eucharist or “the breaking of bread” was not associated with the readings and ritual prayers, but with the agape, in imitation of the Supper of the Lord.

(Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi, 13 Maii 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 14 Junii 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, p. 114)

By “Supper of the Lord”, Priest Bagatti essentially means the New Testament Passover

It should be noted, however, that most of the time when the Christians got together it was for a simple meal, not the annual Passover, as Priest Bagatti reported:

The independence of the actions is found in 112, in Asia Minor, at the time of Pliny who relates how the Christians were accustomed “to come together at dawn to sing certain hymns to Christ as to God…and to get together a second time for a common, ordinary and innocent meal” (Bagatti.  The Church from the Circumcision, p. 114).

Real Christians kept Passover and sometimes had meals together—they did not participate in a mystical Eucharist ceremony.  They kept the biblical Holy Days and were the group that differed from the one associated with Justin. Perhaps it should be pointed out that Justin admitted that there were two major groups claiming Christianity in the 2nd century, one that changed practices and one that held to original practices like the Sabbath. He claimed that the two distanced themselves from each other (see Justin Martyr: Saint, Heretic, or Apostate?).

Modern scholars also recognize that there were two main groups of "proto-orthodox" Christians then. One that held to the original practices of the Church of God in Jerusalem and one that compromised throughout history. An article of related interest may include Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries?

An Ash Wednesday Connection?

Although not observed by the Eastern Orthodox, nor the majority of Protestants, Ash Wednesday is part of the observances of the Church of Rome. Might this too have a connection with Mithraism?

Payam Nabarz wrote in the 21st century:

Tertullian certainly writes that Mithras marks (signat) his soldiers on the forehead, but what 'sign'? Some writers have even speculated that this mark was the mark of the "Beast of Revelations," as the numerological value of the Sun is 666!...

Mithratic...initiates...would henceforth have the Sun Cross on their foreheads. The similarity to the cross of ashes made on the forehead on the Christian Ash Wednesday is striking. Some have suggested this to be an example of the early Christians borrowing from the Mithratic cult; others suggest that both cults were drawing upon the same prototype (Nabarz P. The mysteries of Mithras: the pagan belief that shaped the Christian world. Inner Traditions / Bear & Company, 2005, p. 36).

The 20th century writer Manly Hall wrote:

Candidates who successfully passed the Mithraic initiations were called Lions and were marked upon their foreheads with the Egyptian cross. (Manly P. Hall Manly P. Hall (Author), J. Augustus Knapp (Illustrator) The Secret Teachings of all Ages. Originally published 1926, reprint Wilder Publications, 2009, p. 45)

It appears that the idea of a cross on the forehead probably came from Egypt initially. Mithraism probably picked it up (there is some question about the exact mark on the forehead, but a type of cross seems to be the most likely). And sometime after the Church of Rome absobed some aspects of Mithraism, Ash Wednesday appeared. (For more details, see also Is Lent a Christian Holiday?).

Syncretism and Mithraism

Wikipedia has this interesting statement:

In Late Antiquity a cult of Helios Megistos ("Great Helios") drew to the image of Helios a number of syncretic elements, which have been analysed in detail by W. Fauth by means of a series of late Greek texts, namely: an Orphic Hymn to Helios; the so-called Mithras Liturgy. Notice that Helios is tied to Mithraism. And that the cult of Helios drew syncretic elements (Helios. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helios verified 09/10/07).

Combining "Christianity" was pagan elements is syncretic.

Even the Catholic scholar Aiken admitted that Mithraism was syncretic:

Mithraism...was penetrated through and through with the syncretism of the age (Aiken C.F., Mithraism and Christianity, p. 377).

Notice, however, the denial by Catholic scholar Aiken about whether or how Mithraism could have influenced his form of "Christianity":

The doctrines of the immortality of the soul, of..heaven...are but the Christianizing of beliefs traditional in the Jewish nation at the time of Christ...bread and wine formed part of the paschal sacrificial meal celebrated by the Jews from the time of their exodus from Egypt. These were the elements which Christ chose at the Last Supper to constitute the Eucharistic Sacrament of his Real Presence.

Mithraism did not begin to attract attention till towards the close of the first century, and did not assume importance till the middle of the second. Hence it could not have come in contact with Christianity early enough to have exercised any marked influence on its chief rites or doctrines. Again one has never explained how the Christian religion could have borrowed from a cult like Mithraism, whose rites and teachings were guarded from public knowledge by a veil of secrecy as strict as that which hides the inner ceremonies of a lodge of freemasons. (Aiken C.F., Mithraism and Christianity, p. 382)

There are several problems with the above. The first is that there is no evidence that the early Christian church actually believed in immortality of the soul or going to heaven. Both doctrines were taught against in the first and second centuries. Adopting them was certainly syncretic.

Furthermore, human nature being as it is, normally does not keep secrets known to thousands or millions totally secret. The idea of a mysterious Eucharist was probably not guarded so much that some not following Mithraism would have likely had enough knowledge of it to decide that since Christianity had a Passover that certain mysteries could be added to it. Additionally, former initiates into Mithraism probably did not maintain total secrecy.

The Catholic scholar Aiken is obviously correct that the New Testament teaches Passover.

However, the Bible teaches Passover as an annual observance (cf. Luke 2:41-42; Exodus 13:10). Nor does it not show any mysterious words associated with it.

To the contrary, the longest passages in the Bible of Christ's own words appear in the Book of John on the night of His last Passover (John 13-17). Thus, while Passover and prayers are mentioned in the New Testament, there is simply no New Testament basis for the mysterious ceremonies that the Greek and Roman Catholics now have for their "Eucharist". And while it may not have come 100% from Mithraism, it shares too many traits in common with it and other heretical practices for any to believe that it actually is biblical.

And finally, since Emperor Constantine was a follower of Mithras and then implemented Sunday, it is likely that he (and some of his Mithratic priests) would have had the means to increase the exposure of Mithratic beliefs within the Greco-Roman churches.

The Catholic scholar Aiken, however, does admit some of the obvious truth here:

It would, of course, be going too far to assert that the development of the Church's liturgy in its minor details was wholly uninfluenced by the pagan religions of Rome. From the end of the first century, Greek and Roman gentiles formed the preponderating factor in the Church. Being converts and children of converts, they were familiar with the symbolism and ritual of the popular forms of pagan worship. In these religions were features that commended themselves as dignified and appropriate expressions of religious feeling. It was but natural that some of these worthy features should be adopted into the Christian ritual. (Aiken C.F., Mithraism and Christianity, p. 383)

One may recognize that cults like that of Mithra, like those of Isis and of Cybele, despite their defects, were not inventions of the devil, but the earnest, though imperfect efforts of man to bring himself into communion with the divine. (Aiken C.F., Mithraism and Christianity,p. 387)

Their deities, especially Mithra and Isis, were brought near to the worshipper by ties of filial confidence and gratitude. Mithra was the benevolent protector, Isis the tender mother. Both these cults laid great stress on the future life, and held out the hope of a bodily resurrection and of eternal bliss in heaven. To this end a certain amount of abstinence and asceticism was inculcated, and the use of quasi- sacramental rites. Thus at a time when the Church scarcely dared to raise her head, the Roman world, through these oriental cults, was being made familiar with rites and doctrines that in their purity and integrity were in the possession of the Church of Christ. The way was thus prepared in some measure for conversion to Christianity, and when Constantine and his successors gave the Church the freedom to expand, it drew to its fold innumerable throngs of converts. (Aiken C.F., Mithraism and Christianity, p. 388)

The very countries where the mysteries of Mithra, of Isis, and of Cybele first rose and flourished,—Armenia, Pontus, Phrygia, Egypt,—soon became overwhelmingly Christian. (Aiken C.F., Mithraism and Christianity, p. 388)

And to a degree what Aiken wrote seems to be consistent with the position of the Vatican today. Which is that God, and not Satan, inspired various aspects of pagan religions to prepare people to become part of their church.

And while that is one explanation, perhaps those who hold to it should realize that since the original Christian church did not hold to birthdays, Christmas, Confirmation, unusual vestments for the clergy, "Father" being a name for the clergy (cf. Matthew 23:9), heaven as a reward of the saved, the use of idols and icons, immortality of the soul, military service, a mystical eucharist, monks, a Roman pope, seven sacraments, Sunday, and Trinitarianism, that it was not God who inspired such doctrines.

Perhaps it should be added that veneration of Mary was not part of the original beliefs of the Christian church. This is admitted by Catholic scholars. Notice what The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches:

Devotion to Our Blessed Lady in its ultimate analysis must be regarded as a practical application of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints. Seeing that this doctrine is not contained, at least explicitly in the earlier forms of the Apostles' Creed, there is perhaps no ground for surprise if we do not meet with any clear traces of the cultus of the Blessed Virgin in the first Christian centuries. The earliest unmistakable examples of the "worship" -- we use the word of course in the relative sense -- of the saints is connected with the veneration paid to the martyrs who gave their lives for the Faith...though writers like Tertullian, Hevidius, and possibly Hegesippus disputed the perpetual virginity of Mary, their more orthodox contemporaries affirmed it. It was natural then that in this atmosphere we should find a continually developing veneration for the sanctity and exalted privileges of Mary...Further, it is quite likely that the mention of the Blessed Virgin in the intercessions of the diptychs of the liturgy goes back to the days before the Council of Nicaea, but we have no definite evidence upon the point, and the same must be said of any form of direct invocation, even for purposes of private devotion (Herbert Thurston. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Now one may argue that treating Mary like Isis is not wrong for Catholics, but notice that apparently one named Eunomius came up with something similar concerning Isis and was condemned for it by Gregory of Nyssa (a Catholic and Orthodox saint) in the late fourth century:

For they too use this name, ascribing to the supreme God, as they imagine Him, the attribute of ungeneracy. Thus our sage theologian seems to us to be importing into the Christian creed an Anubis, Isis, or Osiris from the Egyptian shrines, all but the acknowledgment of their names: but there is no difference in profanity between him who openly makes profession of the names of idols, and him who, while holding the belief about them in his heart, is yet chary of their names. If, then, it is impossible to get out of Holy Scripture any support for this impiety, while their theory draws all its strength from the riddles of the hieroglyphics, assuredly there can be no doubt what right-minded persons ought to think of this. But that this accusation which we bring is no insulting slander, Eunomius shall testify for us by his own words, saying as he does that the ungenerate Light is unapproachable, and has not the power of stooping to experience affections.

(Gregory of Nyssa. Against Eunomius (Book XII), Chapter 4. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/290112.htm viewed 07/28/09)

Thus, shortly after Constantine, some leaders condemned the adoption of pagan practices with new labels. But notice that it occured anyway. And it still seems to be happening to this day.

It may also be of interest to note that there is another connection between Mithraism and monks that perhaps should be mentioned here. And that is the tonsure shaving that the monks do. Notice:

The tonsure of the priests and monks is an exact imitation of that of the priests of Isis; (Higgins G. Anacalypsis an Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil of the Saitic Isis: Or an Inquiry Into the Origin of Languages, Nations and Religions, Volume 2. Longman, 1836. Digitized March, 29, 2010, p. 78).

Isis...Her worship advanced over nearly the entire Roman world...The tonsure (shaving of hair from the head) of her priests prefigured that of Christian monks. (Dunstan WE. Ancient Rome. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011, p. 465)

the infant Brahmin...in India...In the second or third year, after his birth, the ceremony of tonsure must be performed; this was an old practice of the priests of Mithra, who, in their tonsures, imitated the solar disk. (Maurice T. Indian antiquities: or, Dissertations, relative to the ancient geographic divisions, the pure system of primeval theology ... of Hindostan: compared, throughout, with the religion, laws, government, and literature of Persia, Egypt, and Greece, the whole intended as introductory to the ..., Volume 7. T. Maurice, 1806. Digitized August 24, 2007, pp. 339-340)

Mithraism had its monks and nuns, as Tertullian admits, with the tonsure in honour of the disc of the Sun. To be shorn of hair is, doubtless, a sign of asceticism ; but it is the form of the tonsure (Khwaja K. The Sources of Christianity. The Basheer Muslim Library, 1924. Original from Oxford University Digitized 21 Dec 2007, p. 100)

Those monks and others who practice the tonsure are following a pagan religious practice that the Bible opposes (cf. Leviticus 21:5; Ezekiel 44:20). More on monks can be found in the article Did the Early Christian Church Practice Monasticism?

Since Mithras Allegedly Arose from a Cave, Does the Papacy Represent the Beast of the Earth?

Mithras supposedly arose from a cave and the Church of Rome endorses the unbiblical teaching that their version of Jesus did.

Are there any prophetic ramifications to the idea of a deity being born in a cave? Could this be the beast from the earth in Revelation 13:11?

Alexander Hislop seemed to think so. Notice what he wrote:

The Beast from the Earth

This beast is presented to our notice (Rev 13:11): "And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a serpent." Though this beast is mentioned after the beast from the sea, it does not follow that he came into existence after the sea-beast. The work he did seems to show the very contrary; for it is by his instrumentality that mankind are led (v 12) "to worship the first beast" after that beast had received the deadly wound, which shows that he must have been in existence before. The reason that he is mentioned second, is just because, as he exercises all the powers of the first beast, and leads all men to worship him, so he could not properly be described till that beast had first appeared on the stage. Now, in ancient Chaldea there was the type, also, of this. That god was called in Babylon Nebo, in Egypt Nub or Num, * and among the Romans Numa, for Numa Pompilius, the great priest-king of the Romans, occupied precisely the position of the Babylonian Nebo...

He was the great wonder-worker, and answered exactly to the terms of the prophecy, when it is said (v 13), "he doeth great wonders, and causeth fire to come down from heaven in the sight of men." It was in this very character that the Etrurian Tages was known; for it was he who was said to have taught the Romans augury, and all the superstition and wonder-working jugglery connected therewith. As in recent times, we hear of weeping images and winking Madonnas, and innumerable prodigies besides, continually occurring in the Romish Church, in proof of this papal dogma or that, so was it also in the system of Babylon...

Now, in remembrance of the birth of the god out of a "hole in the earth," the Mysteries were frequently celebrated in caves under ground. This was the case in Persia, where, just as Tages was said to be born out of the ground, Mithra was in like manner fabled to have been produced from a cave in the earth. *

* JUSTIN MARTYR. It is remarkable that, as Mithra was born out of a cave, so the idolatrous nominal Christians of the East represent our Saviour as having in like manner been born in a a cave. (See KITTO's Cyclopoedia, "Bethlehem") There is not the least hint of such a thing in the Scripture.

Numa of Rome himself pretended to get all his revelations from the Nymph Egeria, in a cave. In these caves men were first initiated in the secret Mysteries, and by the signs and lying wonders there presented to them, they were led back, after the death of Nimrod, to the worship of that god in its new form. This Apocalyptic beast, then, that "comes up out of the earth," agrees in all respects with that ancient god born from a "hole in the ground"; for no words could more exactly describe his doing than the words of the prediction (v 13): "He doeth great wonders, and causeth fire to come down from heaven in the sight of men,...and he causeth the earth and them that dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed." This wonder-working beast, called Nebo, or "The Prophet," as the prophet of idolatry, was, of course, the "false prophet." By comparing the passage before us with Revelation 19:20, it will be manifest that this beast that "came up out of the earth" is expressly called by that very name: "And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image." As it was the "beast from the earth" that "wrought miracles" before the first beast, this shows that "the beast from the earth" is the "false prophet"; in other words, is "Nebo."

If we examine the history of the Roman empire, we shall find that here also there is a precise accordance between type and antitype...the old Pagan title of Pontiff was restored, it was, through means of the corrupt clergy, symbolised, as is generally believed, and justly under the image of a beast with horns, like a lamb; according to the saying of our Lord, "Beware of false prophets, that shall come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Hislop A. Two Babylons. 1858)

Furthermore, when was the sun god Mithra supposedly born in a cave? Recall, that The Catholic Encyclopedia reports the following:

Mithra...The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-sun, unconquered by the rigours of the season. (Arendzen J.P. Transcribed by John Looby. Mithraism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York )

Basically, the papacy arose out of Mithraism. Emperor Constantine was a follower of Mithras and was Pontifex Maximus. After he modified and encouraged the Greco-Roman church, the papacy was formed. While there had been bishops of Rome for nearly two centuries prior to Constantine, it was not until the fourth century that the Roman bishops took upon themselves the title of Pontifex Maximus.

The final Antichrist is part of the beast who arose from the earth--it is the Mithratic faith that he essentially represents that is that beast (though there is a literal final person in that role). A faith that incorporated Mithraism as well as the beliefs and practices of Simon Magus.

Simon Magus, who is mentioned in Acts 8:5-25, was one of the earliest ones to attempt to blend paganism of the world in with the name of Jesus--and some of his teachings were consistent with Mithraism and many of his teachings were adopted by the Church of Rome and its daughters (cf. Revelation 17:5; see also Simon Magus, What Did He Teach?).

Other Comments About Mithraism

David Ulansey author of THE ORIGINS OF THE MITHRAIC MYSTERIES (Oxford University Press, 1991) wrote:

The typical mithraeum was a small rectangular subterranean chamber, on the order of 75 feet by 30 feet with a vaulted ceiling. An aisle usually ran lengthwise down the center of the temple, with a stone bench on either side two or three feet high on which the cult's members would recline during their meetings. On average a mithraeum could hold perhaps twenty to thirty people at a time.

And a Catholic scholar wrote:

In no city did Mithraism have so many temples as in Rome. (Aiken C.F., Mithraism and Christianity, p. 386)

In our last visit to Rome, my wife and I visited the Basilica of San Clemente which was built on the foundation of a mithraeum. Mithraic signs are all over Rome as well as the religion that many Romans have adopted.

Mithraism became a big deal within the Roman Empire.

Mithraism reached the apogee of its power toward the middle of the third century, and it appeared for a moment as if the world was on the verge of becoming Mithraic. (Cumont p. 199)

Mithraism was destined by its very nature to be, not a world- religion like Christianity, but the exclusive cult of a restricted number of worshippers. A religion that rigidly excluded all women from participation in its worship, that restricted the initiates to such men alone as had the courage and the power of physical endurance to undergo its severe tests, that celebrated its ritual in underground temples absolutely hidden from public gaze, such a religion was never meant, and was never fit, to become the religion of a nation. (Aiken C.F., Mithraism and Christianity, p. 387)

Perhaps because "Mithraism was...not a world- religion", Emperor Constantine chose to incorporate many of its beliefs and practices in his form of "Christianity".

I believe that the tremendous exclusion of women (which might have been total in many areas) was a major reason that Constantine decided that his version of "Christianity" would be more suitable for an empire-wide religion.

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Mithraism

Interestingly I ran across some writings from the late Martin Luther King. Jr. on Mithraism, dated November 23, 1949:

In Avesta, Mithra was the genius of celestial light...The doctrine of the immortality of the soul was another view which was very prominent in Mithraism...

Women were compelled to seek salvation in some other cult, for Mithraism excluded them entirely...

When Mithraism is compared to Christianity, there are surprisingly many points of similarity. Of all the mystery cults, Mithraism was the greatest competitor of Christianity...

That Christians did copy and borrow from Mithraism cannot be denied (King ML. The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr, Volume 4. Clayborne Carson, Ralph Luker, Penny A. Russell editors/compliers. University of California Press, 1992, pp. 213-214, 217, 222, 224).

Here are some dated February 15, 1950:

Mithraism...was suppressed by the Christians sometime in the latter part of the fourth century A.D.: but its collapse seems to have been due to the fact that by that time many of its doctrines had been adopted by the church, so that it was practically absorbed by its rival.

...the Church made a sacred day out of Sunday partially because...of the resurrection. But when we observe a little further we find that as a solar festival, Sunday was the sacred day of Mithra: it is also interesting to notice that since Mithra was addressed as Lord, Sunday must have been "the Lord's Day" long before Christian use. It is also to be noticed that our Christmas, December 25th, was the birthday of Mithra, and was only taken over in the Fourth Century as the date, actually unknown, of the birth of Jesus.

To make the picture a little more clear, we may list a few of the similarities between these two religions: (1) Both regard Sunday as a Holy Day. (2) December 25 came to be considered as the anniversary of the birth of Mithra and Christ also. (3) Baptism and a ritual meal were important parts of both groups...

In summary we may say that the belief in immortality, a mediator between god and man, the observance of certain sacramental rites...were common to Mithraism and Christianity. (King ML. The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr, Volume 4. Clayborne Carson, Ralph Luker, Penny A. Russell editors/compliers. University of California Press, 1992, pp. 307, 309.)

Notice that Martin Luther King, Jr. clearly understood that the Sunday churches dropped the Sabbath, that "the Lord's Day" essentially first meant the day of Mithra, and that the worlds' churches did adopt many practices from Mithraism.

I wish he and others emphasized this aspect of his writings more. I would also add that Christians faithful to the original teachings of Christ, the apostles, and the New Testament did not adopt the practices of Mithraism.

Concluding Comments

Early Christians attended weekly services on Saturday, did not observe the 25th of December, did not venenerate idols or icons, had a clergy that dressed like normal people of the culture, understood that humans were not inherently immortal, did not persecute, and were not militaristic. But as time went on, some who claimed descent from them adopted many practices that those who followed Mithras had.

While I am not saying that 21st century people are intentionally practicing Mithraism, the mixing of pagan worship practices with those of the true God is repeatedly warned against in the Bible (Jeremiah 10:2-5; Exodus 23:24; Deuteronomy 12:1-4).

Sadly, many have ignored God's warnings and claim a form of "Christianity" that incorporates pagan beliefs and practices.

Do you follow Mithras-Constantine "Christianity" or the original Christianity of the Bible?

Are you sure?

If you wish to know more, you may wish to read the article Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? and/or watch the video Church of Rome, Mithras, and Isis?

Thiel B. Do You Practice Mithraism? www.cogwriter.com/christianity-mithraism.htm (c) 2009/2010/2012/2013/2014 0419