Monday, December 19, 2011

Mithras or Christmas?


First, I want to say that I am aware of the many different blogs that have posted something like this, especially around this time of year. I am not trying to copy those blogs, rather I am trying to spread information that loves to be looked over and twisted by our modern culture (which seems to me to despise Christianity.)


One main reason for my posting this is that although there may be many blogs out there saying similar things to what I am going to say many people somehow overlook them, and many more are fed the Mithras or other copycat myths from places like the History Channel or even from their own pulpit.

I am aware that some Christians are opposed to celebrating Christmas because of supposed pagan origins or other pagan elements that they perceive to be part of the Christmas celebration. I think that this is very sad, why should we not celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, even if that celebration happens to fall on an ancient feast day of some pagan deity? I'm sure that if you look hard and long enough that you could find other pagan holidays on the same day as some of our holidays. Stop letting the secular world tell you how to live your life and how to celebrate Christ and start glorifying God!

Let me put it this way, if the Church did put a feast day on the same day as some pagan feast day why would it be wrong to celebrate on that day? Are you celebrating and worshiping the pagan deity, or are you celebrating and worshiping God? Do you not use a Christmas tree because of its pagan roots? Why? Are you celebrating that pagan religion? If not then you are taking something and using it to the glory of God. It is ok to celebrate a Christian holiday that may or may not have pagan beginnings as long as you are doing it for the glory of God, and not trying to worship some false idol or the false god that may or may not be associated with that day.

Now then, I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of tiny details, or wear myself out typing, especially as some great people have been kind enough to do that for me (plus I'm on deployment right now, do you really think I have all kinds of time to type a rough draft fine tune it, polish it, and post it all before Christmas?). So what I am going to do is quote some excerpts from some different websites post their links for you to read, and comment here and there through out.

“Back in the Roman era, Mithraism was perhaps Christianity's leading competitor for the hearts and minds of others. Today Mithraism is religiously a non-factor, but it still "competes" with Christianity, in another way: It is a leading candidate for the "pagan copycat" thesis crowd as a supposed source for Christianity.
Our walking papers are laid out for us by over a dozen things that Jesus supposedly has in common with Mithras and, by extension, Christianity allegedly borrowed to create the Jesus character. The points are:
  1. Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25th in a cave, and his birth was attended by shepherds.
  2. He was considered a great traveling teacher and master.
  3. He had 12 companions or disciples.
  4. Mithra's followers were promised immortality.
  5. He performed miracles.
  6. As the "great bull of the Sun," Mithra sacrificed himself for world peace.
  7. He was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again.
  8. His resurrection was celebrated every year.
  9. He was called "the Good Shepherd" and identified with both the Lamb and the Lion.
  10. He was considered the "Way, the Truth and the Light," and the "Logos," "Redeemer," "Savior" and "Messiah."
  11. His sacred day was Sunday, the "Lord's Day," hundreds of years before the appearance of Christ.
  12. Mithra had his principal festival of what was later to become Easter.
  13. His religion had a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper," at which Mithra said, "He who shall not eat of my body nor drink of my blood so that he may be one with me and I with him, shall not be saved."
  14. "His annual sacrifice is the passover of the Magi, a symbolical atonement or pledge of moral and physical regeneration."
  15. Shmuel Golding is quoted as saying that 1 Cor. 10:4 is "identical words to those found in the Mithraic scriptures, except that the name Mithra is used instead of Christ."
  16. The Catholic Encyclopedia is quoted as saying that Mithraic services were conduced by "fathers" and that the "chief of the fathers, a sort of pope, who always lived at Rome, was called 'Pater Patratus.'"
Our goal in this essay is to offer an overview of Mithraic belief and at the same time analyze each of these claims in terms of the evidence. In order to lay some groundwork, however, it will be necessary to briefly explore the goings-on over the past few decades in the field of Mithraic studies. There is a certain caveat emptor that will be necessary in order to help the reader understand exactly how critics are misusing their sources -- and what to be on the lookout for in future comparisons.” (Tektonics.org)



The above quote and the website associated with said quote gives a nice little list of these so called “similarities” between Mithras and Christianity. And then the author does a rather nice job tearing apart those arguments using two things most lacking in the copycat arguments: scholarship and reliable sources.



Something I would like to point out for those who might be wondering about how we arrived at the date of December 25th for the celebration of Jesus' birth please take a look at the following,


“But now for the meat of the issue: when did it happen? According to St. John Chrysostom, the foundation for the Nativity occurring on the 25th of December is a strong one. In a Christmas Sermon, he shows that the Western Chruches had, from the very commencement of Christianity, kept the Feast on that day. This fact bears great weight to the Doctor, who adds that the Romans, having full access to the census taken by Augustus Caesar (Luke 2, 1) — which was in the public archives of the city of Rome — were well versed in their history on this point. A second argument he adduces thusly: The priest Zachary offered incense in the month of Tisri, the seventh of the Hebrew calendar, corresponding with the end of our September or the beginning of our October. (This he most likely knew from details of the temple rites which were transmitted to him by a living tradition, supported by Holy Scripture.) At that same time, St. Luke tells us that Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist. Since, according to the Bible, Our Blessed Lady conceived in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (the end of March: when we celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation), then she gave birth nine months later: the end of December.
Having no reason to doubt the great Chrysostom, or any of the other Fathers mentioned; in fact, seeing objections issued only by heretics and cynics, we agree with the learned Doctor and conclude that, by God’s Providence, His Church has correctly commemorated the Feast of His Nativity.” (Catholicism.org)
I know the above is from a Catholic site, but their reasoning is so well put, but if that doesn't do it for you perhaps this will,
“If they didn't get the idea from the pagans, then how did Christians decide on December 25 as the date to celebrate the birth of Christ? Interestingly, the settling of that commemoration on December 25 actually had more to do with Christ's death than with his birth!

A primary concern amongst early Christians was establishing an accurate and uniform date for the celebration of Pascha.22 Various formulas and historical sources were put forward by early Christians in their attempts to achieve this goal. By the third century, two dates had emerged as standard among Christians; in the West 25 March (you may have noted this date in the quote above from St. Hippolytus of Rome) became the standard date for Christ's death and in the East Christians believed Christ to have died on 6 April.23

Drawing upon an ancient Jewish tradition that holds that a prophet enters life (that is, is conceived) and leaves it (that is, dies) on the same day, Christians concluded that Christ must have also been conceived on 25 March or 6 April (depending upon which date was held to).24 Exactly nine months (the duration of a "perfect" human pregnancy) after 25 March is 25 December; exactly nine months after 6 April is 6 January. As a result, Christians came to commemorate Christ's birth on these two dates; in the West the former was celebrated and in the East the latter.” (PiousFabrications.com)
Please read more than just what I quoted above, that whole article is great over all for describing how the myths got started and destroying those arguments (again using scholarship and sources). The article also does a great job dealing with the differing calendars being used.
I give you this last link on Mithras, no quotes, just the link and these words. This link is an excerpt from a book by a real Mithraic expert. This guy has actually studied what there is to study about Mithras and even he fails to see all of these so called similarities. And the link as promised Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras
A few more things I would like to add. The whole gift giving thing and Santa Claus thing where did that come from? Well funny story, and don't tell your parents I told you this, but Santa Claus is real! Or at least he was a real person. The Orthodox Church knows him as Saint Nicholas of Myra (and through many transliterations into some Germanic languages we get Sinterklaas which becomes Santa Claus in English). Now then this Saint Nicholas of Myra was known for giving gifts (especially when he gave a dowry to three sisters so they would not have to become prostitutes). His feast day is December 6th and many Orthodox exchange gifts on this day (in fact some others who are non-Orthodox do as well). Apparently during the Reformation the Protestants changed the date for gifts from December 6th to Christmas Eve (to answer a question once raised by my brother and I - apparently they must protest everything). For some more reading of Saint Nicholas please follow this link for the Orthodox POV and this one for the Wikipedia article on Saint Nicholas
What about Christmas trees?
“From the eleventh century, religious plays called "mystery plays" became quite popular throughout Europe. These plays were performed outdoors and in churches. One of the most prevalent of these plays was the "Paradise play." The play depicted the story of the creation of Adam and Eve, their sin, and their banishment from Paradise. The play would end with the promise of the coming Savior and His Incarnation (cf. Gen. 3:15). The Paradise play was simple by today's standards. The only prop on stage was the "Paradise tree," a fir tree adorned with apples. From this tree, at the appropriate time in the play, Eve would take the fruit, eat it, and give it to Adam.
 
Because of abuses that crept into the mystery plays (i.e., immoral behavior), the Church forbade these plays during the fifteenth century. The people had grown so accustomed to the Paradise tree, however, that they began putting their own Paradise tree up in their homes on Dec. 24. They did so on Dec. 24 because this was the feast day of Adam and Eve (at least in the Eastern Church). The Paradise tree, as it had in the Paradise plays, symbolized both a tree of sin and a tree of life. For this reason, the people would decorate these trees with apples (representing the fruit of sin) and homemade wafers (like communion wafers which represented the fruit of life). Later, candy and sweets were added.” (Our Redeemer Lutheran Church)
I used a Lutheran source since the Christmas Tree had no place in the Eastern Orthodox Church that I can find, but appears to be German in origin – though I do like how many Orthodox that I know of decorate their trees with little icons. The link above has a little more to say about Christmas Trees than those two paragraphs – please feel free to read.
Now if after reading the above links and you still want to believe that Christianity stole from the cult of Mithras, fine whatever. I can not change what you believe. If you still think that celebrating the Feast of the Nativity is akin to a pagan holiday then I am sorry, especially when I lay out the sources for you to check. If you want to razz me for not even really posting some of my own thoughts I just want you to know that I went through many rough drafts of this post, unfortunately I did not have the time to come back and polish this up as my duties over here conflicted with the writing of my blog. It's not like I can just say, “Hey, sarge, um... I kind of have this neat idea for a blog post I want to do... um... er... do you think I could have some time off to go write it for all of my seven followers?” Well I could say that but you and I both know that would float just about as well as a lead zeppelin (not the band).
I leave you with this thought; is it really so important that Christmas was supposedly based off of pagan religions and celebrations that it should hinder any of us from celebrating the fact that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us? Pick what ever date you want, but as for me and my house we will celebrate the Nativity on the date that my Church decided almost 2,000 years ago (according to the Revised Julian Calendar).
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