Were Mithras and Jesus born in a cave?

Place of Jesus Birth?

Representation of Cave Grotto, Vatican City, January 2010


Was Jesus born in a cave?

Many seem to think so. Are there any prophetic ramification as to who or what was allegedly born in a cave on December 25th?

The Bible contains some information about the place of Jesus’ birth:

1…Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king…(Matthew 2:1, NKJV throughout)

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:4-7)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…(John 1:14)

Whether Jesus was born in a building for humans and then moved to a manger is not specified. But what is specified is that he was laid in a manger, which is a place that fodder (like hay) was placed to feed livestock such as cattle and sheep.

While the Gospel accounts do not so specify, Justin Martyr (and the group that he apparently supported) believed that Jesus was born in a cave.

The Catholic Encyclopedia even cites Justin’s statements for partial “proof” of the speculation of a cave birth:

About 150 we find St. Justin Martyr referring (Dialogue with Trypho 78) to the Savior’s birth as having taken place in a cave near the village of Bethlehem ; such cave stables are not rare in Palestine. (Cf. Massie in Hast., Dict. of the Bible, III, 234; Expository Times, May, 1903, 384; Bonaccorsi, “Il Natale”, Rome, 1903, 16-20.) The tradition of the birth in a cave was widely accepted…It is reproduced also in the apocryphal gospels (Pseudo-Matt., xiii…) (Arbez, Edward. Bethlehem. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 26 Dec. 2009 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02533a.htm>).

It is disappointing that the Church of Rome actually refers to Justin’s statements (which have to be referring to an above ground cave) as partial proof that Helena picked the correct location with the “grotto of the nativity.” It also should be pointed out that Justin’s location is interpreted to have Jesus born near Bethlehem–but the Bible says Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1).

Scholars realize that those who followed Mithraism not only claimed that their god was born in a cave, they also believe that he was born on December 25th.

While Justin was aware of Mithras legends of a cave birth, those who were part of the Mithras religion were perhaps even more aware of it.

Therefore, it should be of little surprise that in the fourth century, the mother of the Mithras-following Emperor Constantine in 326-327 A.D. authorized the construction of the so-called “Church of the Nativity” over a 20 feet below ground cave location (Herring G. An introduction to the history of Christianity: from the early church to the Enlightenment. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006, p. 54; 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 ).

Because of its steepness and depth, this is a location that would be basically impossible for cattle and/or sheep to be able to be herded in and out of. Others have also realized that and properly concluded that Jesus was not possibly born in the cave that Constantine’s mother Helena was led to believe He was (for details, see the much longer article Was Jesus Born in the Grotto of the Nativity?).

Are there any prophetic ramifications to the idea of a deity/religious figure being born in a cave?

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

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)

Notice the following scripture about the second beast of Revelation 13:

11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. (Revelation 13:11)

Mithras (sometimes 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). Hence a deity that supposedly came up out of the earth.

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

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…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. (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)

So, Mithra was allegedly born in some type of a cave, wearing a cap, and holding a knife.

(An article of related interest may also be Do You Practice Mithraism?)

Basically, many aspects of the modern papacy arose out of Mithraism (as well as some doctrines of Simon Magus and others). Emperor Constantine was a follower of Mithras and was Pontifex Maximus. After he modified and encouraged the Greco-Roman church, the papacy was formed, and that church became militaristic. 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 nor had they seemingly supported war prior to Constantine (see also Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare or Encourage Violence?). It was also not until after Constantine that they begin to wear certain head coverings like mitres (which seems to at least partially derive from the term Mithra or Mitra, see Were the Early Duties of Elders/Pastors Mainly Sacramental? What was there Dress?).

While there are other reasons why Revelation 13:11-17 refers to a compromising ‘antipope,’ the cave connection and other Mithratic connections, which the Church of Rome essentially teaches (it praises Emperor Constantine and falsely teaches the cave birth of Jesus), seems like a fairly direct one.

Some items of possibly related interest may include the following:

Was Jesus Born in the Grotto of the Nativity? Was Jesus born in a below ground cave? Was Jesus born below the “Church of the Nativity”? Were the wise men there?
Do You Practice Mithraism? Many practices and doctrines that mainstream so-called Christian groups have are the same or similar to those of the sun-god Mithras. December 25th was celebrated as his birthday. Do you follow Mithraism combined with the Bible or original Christianity? A sermon video from Vatican City is titled Church of Rome, Mithras, and Isis?
Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare or Encourage Violence? Here are current and historical perspectives on a matter which show the beliefs of the true church on military participation. Is war proper for Christians? A related sermon would be: Christians, Violence, and Military Service.
Were the Early Duties of Elders/Pastors Mainly Sacramental? What was there Dress? Were the duties of the clergy primarily pastoral or sacramental? Did the clergy dress with special liturgical vestments? Can “bishops” be disqualified as ministers of Christ based on their head coverings?
Simon Magus, What Did He Teach? Sometimes called “the father early heretics” or the “father of heresies”, do you know what early writers claimed that Simon Magus taught? Sadly, most who profess Christ still hold to versions of his teachings.
Some Doctrines of Antichrist Are there any doctrines taught outside the Churches of God which can be considered as doctrines of antichrist? This article suggests at least three. It also provides information on 666 and the identity of “the false prophet.” Plus it shows that several Catholic writers seem to warn about an ecumenical antipope that will support heresy. You can also watch a video titled What Does the Bible teach about the Antichrist?
Virgin Birth: Does the Bible Teach It? What does the Bible teach? What is claimed in The Da Vinci Code?
Is Keeping Christmas a Sin? Is keeping Christmas acceptable for true Christians? What are some scriptures to consider?
What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days? Do you know what the Catholic Church says were the original Christian holy days? Was Christmas among them? Is December 25th Jesus’ birthday or that of the sun god? Here is a link to a related sermon: What do Catholic and other scholars teach about Christmas?
Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays? Did biblical era Jews celebrate birthdays? Who originally celebrated birthdays? When did many that profess Christ begin birthday celebrations? A related sermon video is available and is titled: Birthdays, Christians, and December 25th.
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.

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