Similarities between Pagan and Christian practices
The early Christians and Pagans shared many rituals and practices. Authors Freke & Gandy appear to assume that all of the copying was done by Christians from Pagan sources. 3 However, some might have gone in the opposite direction. During the 3rd century CE, Mithraism and Christianity were the main competitors for the religious affiliation the citizens of Romans. Some Christian practices might have actually been picked up by the Mithraites, rather than vice-versa.
- Many early Christians celebrated Jesus' birthday on JAN-6. Armenian Christians still do. In Alexandria, in what is now Egypt, the birthday of their god-man, Aion, was also celebrated on JAN-6.
- Christians and most Pagans eventually celebrated the birthday of their god-man on DEC-25.
- According to an ancient Christian tradition, Christ died on MAR-23 and resurrected on MAR-25. These dates agree precisely with the death and resurrection of Attis.
- Baptism was a principal ritual; it washed away a person's sins. In some rituals, Baptism was performed by sprinkling holy water on the believer; in others, the person was totally immersed.
- The most important sacrament was a ritual meal of bread and wine which symbolize the god-man's body and blood. His followers were accused of engaging in cannibalism.
- Early Christians initiated converts in March and April by baptism. Mithraism initiated their new members at this time as well.
- Early Christians were naked when they were baptized. After immersion, they then put on white clothing and a crown. They carried a candle and walked in a procession to a basilica. Followers of Mithra were also baptized naked, put on white clothing and a crown, and walked in a procession to the temple. However, they carried torches.
- At Pentecost, the followers of Jesus were recorded as speaking in tongues. At Trophonius and Delos, the Pagan priestesses also spoke in tongues: They appeared to speak in such a way that each person present heard her words in the observer's own language.
- An inscription to Mithras reads: "He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made on with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation." 1 In John 6:53-54, Jesus is said to have repeated this theme: "...Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (KJV)
- The Bible records that Jesus was crucified between two thieves. One went to heaven and the other to hell. In the Mithras mysteries, a common image showed Mithras flanked by two torchbearers, one on either side. One held a torch pointed upwards, the other downwards. This symbolized ascent to heaven or descent to hell.
- In Attis, a bull was slaughtered while on a perforated platform. The animal's blood flowed down over an initiate who stood in a pit under the platform. The believer was then considered to have been "born again." Poor people could only afford a sheep, and so were literally washed in the blood of the lamb. This practice was interpreted symbolically by Christians.
- There were many additional points of similarity between Mithraism and Christianity. 2 St. Augustine even declared that the priests of Mithraism worshiped the same God as he did:
- Followers of both religions celebrated a ritual meal involving bread. It was called a missa in Latin or mass in English.
- Both the Catholic church and Mithraism had a total of seven sacraments.
- Epiphany, JAN-6, was originally the festival in which the followers of Mithra celebrated the visit of the Magi to their newborn god-man. The Christian Church took it over in the 9th century.