John E. Remsberg
[HTML and editing by Cliff Walker, 2000]
Sources of the Christ Myth:
In the preceding chapter I have noticed some of the typical religious systems and beliefs from which Christ and Christianity were to a great extent derived. I shall next notice more particularly some of the socalled divine beings -- some of the gods, and some of the mortals endowed with supernatural gifts, belonging to these systems. I shall show that there were many sons of gods besides Jehovah's "only begotten Son"; that each of them possessed some attribute possessed by him; that all of them lived or existed in the minds of men centuries before his time; and that many of them were prototypes of him, and furnished in a large degree the ideas which suggested him, or which are associated with him and his religion. My list will comprise the following, all of whom were believed by their worshipers or followers to be of divine descent: Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, Laou-tse, Zoroaster, Mithra, Sosiosh, Adonis, Osiris, Horus, Zeus, Apollo, Perseus, Hercules, Dionysos, Prometheus, Esculapius, Plato, Pythagoras, Bacchus, Saturn, Quirinus, Odin, Thor, and Baldur.
Krishna was the eighth Avatar or incarnation of the god Vishnu, one of the Hindoo Trinity. In this incarnation Vishnu, it is said, "appeared in all the fullness of his power and glory." His mother was Devaki. He is believed to be a historical character, but his real history, like that of Jesus, is almost entirely obscured by myths. He lived from 900 to 1,200 years before the Christian era. The story of his life is to be found in the "Bhagavat," one of the "Puranas," while his religious teachings are given in the "Bhagavad-Gita," a poem belonging to the "Mahabarata."
The points of resemblance between Krishna and Christ that have been printed would fill a volume. Some of these are apocryphal, and not confirmed by the canonical scriptures of India. The limits of this chapter preclude an extended list even of the undoubtedly genuine. I shall confine myself chiefly to a presentation of the most important ones relating to their births. These, according to the Christian translator of the "Bhagavat Purana" Rev. Thomas Maurice, are as follows:
1. Both were miraculously conceived.
2. Both were divine incarnations.
3. Both were of royal descent.
4. Devatas or angels sang songs of praise at the birth of each.
5. Both were visited by neighboring shepherds.
6. In both cases the reigning monarch, fearing that he would be supplanted in his kingdom by the divine child, sought to destroy him.
7. Both were saved by friends who fled with them in the night to distant countries.
8. Foiled in their attempts to discover the babes both kings issued decrees that all the infants should be put to death.
Writing of Krishna in the eighteenth century, Sir William Jones says: "In the Sanscrit dictionary, compiled more than two thousand years ago, we have the whole history of the incarnate deity, born of a virgin, and miraculously escaping in infancy from the reigning tyrant of his country" (Asiatic Researches, Vol. I, p. 273).
The subsequent careers of these deities are analogous in many respects. Their missions were the same -- the salvation of mankind. Both performed miracles -- healed the sick and raised the dead. Both died for man by man. There is a tradition, though not to be found in the Hindoo scriptures, that Krishna, like Christ, was crucified.
Various incidents recorded in the life of Christ were doubtless suggested by similar incidents in the life of Krishna. He washed the feet of his disciples because Krishna had washed the feet of the Brahmins. He taught his disciples the possibility of removing a mountain, because Krishna, to protect his worshipers from the wrath of Indra, raised Mount Goverdhen above them. His parents in their flight with him, as related in the Gospel of the Infancy, stopped at a place called Maturea. Krishna was born at Mathura.
The earliest followers of each were from the lower classes of society, those of Krishna being herdsmen and milkmaids. Christ's most ardent worshipers have from the first been women: "Chrishna," to quote the authority last mentioned, "continues to this hour the darling god of the women of India."
McClintock and Strong's Cyclopedia notes the following events in the history of Krishna which correspond with those related of Christ: "That he was miraculously born at midnight of a human mother and saluted by a chorus of Devatas [angels]; that he was cradled among cowherds, during which period of life he was persecuted by the giant Kansa, and saved by his mother's flight; the miracles with which his life abounds, among which were the raising of the dead and the cleansing of the leprous" (Art. "Krishna").
The celebrated missionary and traveler, Pere Huc, who made a journey of several thousand miles through China and Tibet, says. "If we addressed a Mogul or Tibetan this question, Who is Krishna? the reply was instantly 'The savior of men." "All that converting the Hindoos to Christianity does for them," says Robert Cheyne, "is to change the object of their worship from Krishna to Christ." Of Krishna's gospel, the "Bhagavad-Gita," Appletons Cyclopedia says, "Its correspondence with the New Testament is indeed striking."
The parallels between Krishna and Christ to be found in the Hindoo scriptures and the Christian Gospels are too numerous and too exact to be accidental. The legends of the one were borrowed from the other. It is admitted by Christian scholars that Krishna lived many centuries before Christ. To admit the priority of the Krishna legends is to deny, to this extent, the originality of the Gospels. To break the force of the logical conclusion to be drawn from this some argue that while Krishna himself antedated Christ, the legends concerning him are of later origin and borrowed from the Evangelists. Regarding this contention Judge Waite, in his History of the Christian Religion, says: "Here then, we have the older religion and the older god. This, in the absence of any evidence on the other side, ought to settle the question. To assume without evidence that the older religion has been interpolated from the later, and that the legends of the older hero have been made to conform to the history of a later character, is worse than illogical -- it is absurd."
Sir William Jones, one of the best Christian authorities on Sanscrit literature, and the translator of the "Bhagavad-Gita" says: "That the name of Krishna, and the general outline of his history were long anterior to the birth of our Savior, and probably to the time of Homer [950 B.C.], we know very certainly" (Asiatic Researches, Vol. I. p. 254).
The ninth incarnation of Vishnu was Buddha. The word Buddha like the word Christ, is not a name, but a title. It means "The enlightened one." The name of this religious founder was Siddhartha Gautama. He was born about 643 B.C., and died 563 B.C. His mother, Mahamaya, was a virgin. Dean Milman, in his History of Christianity, says: "Buddha, according to a tradition known in the West, was born of a virgin" (Vol. I, p. 99, note). Devaki, Mary and Mahamaya all gave birth to their children among strangers. Krishna was born in a prison, Christ in a stable, and Buddha in a garden. Werner's Encyclopedia, in its article on Buddha speaks of "the marvelous stories which gathered round the belief in his voluntary incarnation, the miracles at his birth, the prophecies of the aged saint at his formal presentation to his father, and how nature altered her course to keep a shadow over his cradle, whilst the sages from afar came and worshiped him."
The "Tripitaka" the principal Bible of the Buddhists, containing the history and teachings of Buddha is a collection of books written in the centuries immediately following Buddha. The canon was finally determined at the Council of Pataliputra, held under the auspices of the Emperor Asoka the Great, 244 B.C., more than 600 years before the Christian canon was established, The "Lalita Vistara," the sacred book of the Northern Buddhists, was written long before the Christian era.
Buddha was "about 30 years old" when he began his ministry. He fasted "seven times seven nights and days." He had a "band of disciples" who accompanied him. He traveled from place to place and "preached to large multitudes." Bishop Bigandet calls his first sermon the "Sermon on the Mount." At his Renunciation "he forsook father and mother, wife and child." His mission was "to establish the kingdom of righteousness." "Buddha," says Max Mueller, "promised salvation to all; and he commanded his disciples to preach his doctrine in all places and to all men. " "Self-conquest and universal charity" are the fundamental principles of his religion. He enjoined humanity, and commanded his followers to conceal their charities. "Return good for evil"; "overcome anger with love"; "love your enemies," were some of his precepts.
Buddha formulated the following commandments. "Not to kill; not to steal; not to lie; not to commit adultery; not to use strong drink." Christ said. "Thou knowest the commandments, do not commit adultery; do not kill; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor thy father and thy mother" (Luke xviii, 20). Christ ignored the Decalogue of Moses and, like Buddha, presented a pentade which, with the exception of one commandment, is the same as that of Buddha.
Prof. Seydel, of the University of Leipsig, points out fifty analogies between Christianity and Buddhism. Dr. Schleiden calls attention to over one hundred. Baron Hiarden-Hickey says: "Countless analogies exist between the Buddhistic and Christian legends -- analogies so striking that they forcibly prove to an impartial mind that a common origin must necessarily be given to the teachings of Sakay-Muni and those of Jesus."
Concerning the biographical accounts of the two religious teachers Harden-Hickey says: "One account must necessarily be a copy of the other, and since the Buddhist biographer, living long before the birth of Christ, could not have borrowed from the Christian one, the plain inference is that the early creed-mongers of Alexandria were guilty of an act of plagiarism." The following are some of the parallels presented by this writer:
Both have genealogies tracing their descent from ancestral kings.
Both were born of virgin mothers.
The conception of each was announced by a divine messenger.
The hymns uttered at the two annunciations resemble each other.
Both were visited by wise men who brought them gifts.
Both were presented in the temple.
The aged Simeon of the one account corresponds to the aged Asita of the other.
As "the child (Jesus) grew and waxed strong in spirit," so "the child (Sakay-Muni) waxed and increased in strength."
Both in childhood discoursed before teachers.
Both fasted in the wilderness.
Both were tempted.
Angels or devatas ministered to each.
Buddha bathed in the Narajana, and Christ was baptized in the Jordan.
The mission of each was proclaimed by a voice from Heaven. Both performed miracles. Both sent out disciples to propagate their faiths.
In calling their disciples the command of each was, "Follow me."
Buddha preached on the Holy Hill, and Christ delivered his sermon on the Mount.
The phraseology of the sermons of Buddha and the sermon ascribed to Christ is, in many instances, the same.
Both Buddha and Christ compare themselves to husbandmen sowing seed.
The story of the prodigal son is found in both Scriptures.
The account of the man born blind is common to both.
In both the mustard seed is used as a simile for littleness.
Christ speaks of "a foolish, man, which built his house upon the sand"; Buddha says, "Perishable is the city built of sand."
Both speak of "the rain which falls on the just and on the unjust."
The story of the ruler, Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night, has its parallel in the story of the rich man who came to Buddha by night.
A converted courtesan, Magdalena, followed Jesus, and a converted courtesan, Ambapali, followed Buddha.
There is a legend of a traitor connected with each.
Both made triumphal entries, Christ into Jerusalem, and Buddha into Rajagriba.
Both proclaimed kingdoms not of this world.
The eternal life promised by Christ corresponds to the eternal peace, Nirvana, promised by Buddha.
Both religions recognize a trinity.
"Catholic and Protestant missionaries," to quote Max Mueller again, "vie with each other in their praises of Buddha." Bishop Bigandet, one of the leading Christian writers on Buddha says: "In reading the particulars of the life of Buddha it is impossible not to feel reminded of many circumstances relating to our Savior's life as sketched by the evangelists. It may be said in favor of Buddhism that no philosophic-religious system has ever upheld to an equal degree the notions of a savior and deliverer, and the necessity of his mission for procuring the salvation of man." St. Hilaire says: "He [Buddha] requires humility, disregard of worldly wealth, patience and resignation in adversity, love to enemies ... non-resistance to evil, confession of sins and conversion." The bishop of Ramatha says: "There are many moral precepts equally commanded and enforced in common by both creeds. It will not be rash to assert that most of the moral truths prescribed in the gospel are to be met with in the Buddhistic scriptures." Writing of Buddhisim Mrs. Spier, in her Life in Ancient India, says: "Before God planted Christianity upon earth, he took a branch from the luxuriant tree, and threw it down to India."
The external forms of Christianity, especially of Catholic Christianity, are modeled in a large degree after those of Buddhism. Of Northern Buddhism (Lamaism) the Encyclopedia Britannica says: "Lamaisnu with its shaven priests, its bells and rosaries, its images and holy water, its popes and bishops, its abbots and monks of many grades, its processions and feast days, its confessional and purgatory, and its worship of the double Virgin, so strongly resembles Romanism that the first Catholic missionaries thought it must be an imitation by the devil of the religion of Christ." The central object in every Buddhist temple is an image of Buddha The central object in every Catholic church is an image of Christ. Holy relics and the veneration of saints are prominent in both.
Buddha commanded his disciples to preach his gospel to all men. Christ commanded his disciples to do the same. In obedience to these commands the world was filled with missionaries, and largely as the result of this the adherents of these religious systems outnumber those of all others combined. Christian tradition says that Thomas visited India. Some believe that it was in this way that the early Christians became acquainted with the history and teachings of Krishna and Buddha. This may be true, but so far as the Buddhistic element in Christianity is concerned it is quite as reasonable to suppose that Buddhist missionaries had previously carried their religion to Alexandria and Rome, where the molders of the Christian creed obtained their knowledge of it. "That remarkable missionary movement, beginning 300 B.C.," says Max Mueller, "sent forth a succession of devoted men who spent their lives in spreading the faith of Buddha over all parts of Asia." Harden-Hickey says: "It is not doubted at the present day that Indian religious ideas, and indeed more particularly those of Buddhism, reached and were even propagated as far as Egypt, Asia Minor, and Palestine, long before the Christian era."
Connected with the triumphs of these religious faiths there is a historical analogy deserving mention. Three centuries after the time of Buddha, Asoka the Great, emperor of India, became a convert to the Buddhist faith, made it the state religion of the empire, and did more than any other man to secure its supremacy in the East. Three centuries after Christ, Constantine the Great, emperor of Rome, became a convert to the Christian faith, made it the state religion of his empire, and won for it the supremacy of the West.
Remuset says: "Buddhism has been called the Christianity of the East." It would be more appropriate to call Christianity the Buddhism of the West. Buddha, and not Christ, was "The Light of Asia." At this torch Christians lighted their taper and called it "The Light of the World."
This great Chinese sage and religious founder was born 551 B.C. His followers believed him to be divine. His birth was attended by prodigies. Magi and angels visited him, while celestial music filled the air. His disciples invented a genealogy for him, giving him a princely descent from Hoang-ti, a Chinese monarch, just as the Christian Evangelists at a later period invented genealogies for Christ, giving him a princely pedigree from David. Concerning his deification the International Encyclopedia says: "By the irony of fate he was deified after his death, and, like Buddha, Confucius, who had little belief in the supernatural, became a divinity."
As Boulger states, "His name and his teachings were perpetuated by a band of devoted disciples, and the book which contained the moral and philosophical axioms of Confucius passed into the classical literature of the country and stood in the place of a Bible for the Chinese" (History of China, p. 16).
Of all the great religious systems which have appeared since the dawn of history Buddhism and Confucianism, as originally presented, from a rational standpoint, stand pre eminent. In both the supernatural is almost entirely absent. Both are godless religions, and both have been, for the most part, bloodless religions. The adherents of both have practiced in the highest degree what the adherents of their great rival have only professed: "On earth peace, good will toward men." Both systems, like primitive Christianity, have been corrupted; but the system of Confucius has suffered less than that of Buddha The religious, or rather ethical, system taught by Confucius, is the religion of the intellectual aristocracy of China, and, to a great extent, the religion of the most enlightened everywhere.
Christian scholars have been surprised to find in the writings of Confucius some of the best teachings attributed to Christ. The Golden Rule has been ascribed to the Christian founder. And yet this rule is the very essence of Confucianism and was borrowed from it. In a presentation of the teachings of the Chinese sage, Rev. James Legge of Oxford University, the highest European authority on China and Confucius, says: "Foremost among these we must rank his distinct enunciation of the Golden Rule, deduced by him from his study of man's mental condition. Several times he gave that rule in express words: 'What you do not like when done to yourself do not to others.'"
To retain for Christ a portion of the credit due Confucius, Christians assert that the Chinese moralist merely taught the negative form of this rule, the abstaining from doing to others what we dislike to have them do to us, while Christ taught the positive form, the doing to others what we desire them to do to us. Regarding this Mr. Legge says: "It has been said that he only gave the rule in a negative form; but he understood it also in its positive and most comprehensive form, and deplored on one occasion at least, that he had not himself always attained to taking the initiative in doing to others as he would have them do to him."
Another analogy may be noticed. The religion of Confucius enjoins absolute obedience to national rulers. "This, too, is a prominent tenet of the Christian religion. As the result of this, Confucianism became and has remained the state religion of China, while Christianity became and has remained the state religion of Europe.
Laou-tsze, the other great religious founder of China, was born 604 B.C. His entry into the world and his exit from it were attended by miracles. Like Christ he was miraculously conceived; like Christ he ascended bodily into heaven. He was believed to be an incarnation of an astral god.
His gospel, the "Tao Teh King," was written by him. "Tao" means "the Way." Christ was called "the Way." Man, according to this gospel, is both a material and a spiritual being. By the renunciation of riches and worldly enjoyments the soul attains to immortality. The most divine of mortals are, like Enoch and Elijah, translated to heaven without suffering death. Laou-tsze taught that men to be righteous must become "as little children." Christ said: "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. xviii. 3).
The more ignorant followers of Laou-tsze, like the more ignorant followers of Christ, believe that many diseases are caused by evil spirits, and their priests, like Christ, practice exorcism to expel them. Like the Catholics, they have monasteries and convents.
Of Laou-tsze's writings Prof. Montuci, the Italian philologist, says: "Many things about a triune God are so clearly expressed that no one who has read this book can doubt that the mystery of the Holy Trinity was revealed to the Chinese five centuries before the coming of Christ."
There is one element in Christianity which was not borrowed from Paganism -- religious intolerance. Referring to Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taouism, a writer on China says: "Between the followers of the three national religions there is not only a total absence of persecution and bitter feeling, but a very great indifference as to which of them a man may belong.... Among the politer classes, when strangers meet, the question is asked: 'To what sublime religion do you belong,' and each one pronounces a eulogium, not on his own religion, but on that professed by the others, and concludes with the oft-repeated formula 'Religions are many; reason is one; we are all brothers.'"
The Persian prophet Zoroaster lived and wrote at least 1200 years before the Christian era. From his teachings some of the most important doctrines of Christianity, as well as of Judaism, were derived.
According to the Persian theology the universe is ruled by two great powers, Ormuzd (God) and Ahrimanes (Satan). The one represents light, the other darkness; the one is good, the other evil. Between these two powers there is perpetual war. The center of battle is man, each striving for his soul. God created man with a free will to choose between good and evil. Those who choose the good are rewarded with everlasting life in heaven; those who choose the evil are punished with endless misery in hell; while those in whom the good and evil are balanced pass into an intermediate state (purgatory), to remain until the last judgment.
To save mankind God sent a savior in the person of Zoroaster with a divine revelation, the "Zend Avesta" Like Christ, Zoroaster was of supernatural origin and endowed with superhuman powers. Like Christ, he believed that Satan would be dethroned and cast into hell; like Christ he believed that the end of the world and the kingdom of God were at hand; like Christ, he taught his followers to worship God; like Christ he declared that God heard and answered prayer, like Christ he was tempted by Satan; like Christ he performed miracles; like Christ he was slain by those whom he had come to save.
McClintock and Strong's Cyclopedia gives a summary of the principal doctrines of Zoroaster among which are the following:
"The principal duty of man in this life is to obey the word and commandments of God.
"Those who obey the word of God will be free from all defects and immortal.
"God exercises his rule in the world through the works prompted by the Divine Spirit, who is working in man and nature.
"Men should pray to God and worship him. He hears the prayers of the good.
"All men live solely through the bounty of God.
"The soul of the pure will hereafter enjoy everlasting life; that of the wicked will have to undergo everlasting punishment" (Art. "Zoroaster").
Devils and angels are of Persian origin. Dr. Kalisch, the eminent Jewish scholar, says: "When the Jews, ever open to foreign influence in matters of faith, lived under Persian rule, they imbibed, among many other religious views of their masters, their doctrines of angels and spirits, which, in the region of the Eurphrates and Tigris, were most luxuriantly developed" (Leviticus, Part II, p. 287). "The belief in spirits and demons was not a concession made by educated men to the prejudices of the masses, but a concession which all -- the educated as well as the uneducated -- made to Pagan polytheism" (ibid.).
Strauss says: "It is in the Maccabean Daniel and in the Apocryphal Tobit that this doctrine of angels, in the most precise form, first appears; and it is evidently a product of the influence of the Zend religion of the Persian or the Jewish mind. We have the testimony of the Jews themselves that they brought the names of the angels with them from Babylon" (Leben Jesu, p. 78).
Baptism, communion, and even confirmation, are rites that were performed in Persia a thousand years before the advent of Christ. Dr. Hyde, in his Religion of the Ancient Persians, says: "They do not use circumcision for their children, but only baptism or washing for the inward purification of the soul.... After such washing, or baptism, the priest imposes on the child the name given by his parents. Afterwards, in the fifteenth year of his age, when he begins to put on the tunic, the sudra, and the girdle, that he may enter upon religion, and is engaged in the articles of belief, the priest bestows upon him confirmation."
The following, from the Britannica, was written by England's leading authority on Zoroaster, Professor Gildner. "Like John the Baptist and the Apostles of Jesus, Zoroaster also believed that the fullness of time was near, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Through the whole of the Gathas (the Psalms of Zoroaster) runs the pious hope that the end of the present world is not far off. He himself hopes along with his followers to live to see the decisive turn of things, the dawn of the new and better aeon. Ormuzd will summon together all his powers for a final struggle and break the power of evil forever, by his help the faithful will achieve the victory over their detested enemies, the daeva worshipers, and render them powerless. Thereupon Ortmuzd will hold a judicium universale upon all mankind and judge strictly according to justice, punish the wicked, and assign to the good the hoped-for reward. Satan will be cast, along with all those who have been delivered over to him to suffer the pains of hell, into the abyss, where he will thenceforward lie powerless. Forthwith begins the one undivided kingdom of God in heaven and on earth."
Substitute "Christ" for "Zoroaster," "God" for "Ormuzd," and "Gospels" for "Gathas," in the above, and we have almost an exact exposition of the teachings of Christ. And Zoroaster taught at least 1200 years before Christ taught, and wrote his "Gathas" more than 1300 years before the Gospels were written. The writings of Zoroaster were the principal source of the most important theological doctrines ascribed to Christ, as the Buddhistic writings were of his ethical teachings.
This god was the offspring of the Sun, and, next to Ormuzd and Ahrimanes, held the highest rank among the gods of ancient Persia. He was represented as a beautiful youth. He is the Mediator. From the Rev. J. W. Lake I quote the following: "Mithras is spiritual light contending with spiritual darkness, and through his labors the kingdom of darkness shall be lit with heaven's own light; the Eternal will receive all things back into his favor, the world will be redeemed to God. The impure are to be purified, and the evil made good, through the mediation of Mithras, the reconciler of Ormuzd and Ahriman. Mithras is the Good, his name is Love. In relation to the Eternal he is the source of grace, in relation to man he is the life-giver and mediator" (Plato, Philo, and Paul, p. 15).
The International Encyclopedia says: "Mithras seems to have owed his prominence to the belief that he was the source of life, and could also redeem the souls of the dead into the better world.... The ceremonies included a sort of baptism to remove sins, anointing, and a sacred meal of bread and water, while a consecrated wine, believed to possess wonderful power, played a prominent part."
Concerning Mithra Chambers' Encyolopedia says: "The most important of his many festivals was his birthday, celebrated on the 25th of December, the day subsequently fixed -- against all evidence -- as the birthday of Christ. The worship of Mithras early found its way into Rome, and the mysteries of Mithras, which fell in the spring equinox, were famous even among the many Roman festivals. The ceremonies observed in the initiation to these mysteries -- symbolical of the struggle between Ahriman and Ormuzd (the Good and the Evil) -- were of the most extraordinary and to a certain degree even dangerous character. Baptism and the partaking of a mystical liquid, consisting of flour and water, to be drunk with the utterance of sacred formulas, were among the inauguration acts."
In the catacombs at Rome was preserved a relic of the old Mithraic worship. It was a picture of the infant Mithra seated in the lap of his virgin mother, while on their knees before him were Persian Magi adoring him and offering gifts.
Prof. Franz Cumont, of the University of Ghent, writes as follows concerning the religion of Mithra and the religion of Christ: "The sectaries of the Persian god, like the Christians', purified themselves by baptism, received by a species of confirmation the power necessary to combat the spirit of evil; and expected from a Lord's supper salvation of body and soul. Like the latter, they also held Sunday sacred, and celebrated the birth of the Sun on the 25th of December.... They both preached a categorical system of ethics, regarded asceticism as meritorious and counted among their principal virtues abstinence and continence, renunciation and self-control. Their conceptions of the world and of the destiny of man were similar. They both admitted the existence of a Heaven inhabited by beatified ones, situated in the upper regions, and of a Hell, peopled by demons, situated in the bowels of the earth. They both placed a flood at the beginning of history; they both assigned as the source of their condition, a primitive revelation; they both, finally, believed in the immortality of the soul, in a last judgment, and in a resurrection of the dead, consequent upon a final conflagration of the universe" (The Mysteries of Mithras, pp. 190, 191).
The Rev. Charles Biggs, D.D., says: "The disciples of Mithra formed an organized church, with a developed hierarchy. They possessed the ideas of Mediation, Atonement, and a Savior, who is human and yet divine, and not only the idea, but a doctrine of the future life. They had a Eucharist, and a Baptism, and other curious analogies might be pointed out between their system and the church of Christ (The Christian Platonists, p. 240).
I quote again from McClintock and Strong: "In modern times Christian writers have been induced to look favorably upon the assertion that some of our ecclesiastical usages (e.g., the institution of the Christmas festival) originated in the cultus of Mithraism. Some writers who refuse to accept the Christian religion as of supernatural origin, have even gone so far as to institute a close comparison with the founder of Christianity; and Dupuis and others, going even beyond this, have not hesitated to pronounce the Gospel simply a branch of Mithraism" (Art. "Mithra").
The Christian Father Manes, founder of the heretical sect known as Manicheans, believed that Christ and Mithra were one. His teaching, according to Mosheim, was as follows: "Christ is that glorious intelligence which the Persians called Mithras.... His residence is in the sun" (Ecclesiastical History, 3rd century, Part 2, ch. 5).
The Mithraic worship at one time covered a large portion of the ancient world. It flourished as late as the second century, but finally went down before its young and invincible rival which appropriated, to a great extent, its doctrines, rites and customs.
The Messianic idea, as we have seen, came from Persia. The expected Messiah of the Jews and the Christ of Christians are of Persian origin. Sosiosh, the Messiah of the Persians, is the son of Zoroaster, "begotten in a supernatural way." He constitutes a part of the Persian Trinity. He exists, as yet, only in a spiritual form. His incarnation and advent on earth, are yet to be. When he comes he will bring with him a new revelation. He will awaken the dead and preside at the last judgment. Zoroaster, it is claimed, predicted his coming declaring that he would be born of a virgin, and that a star would indicate the place of his birth. "As soon, therefore," said Zoroaster, "as you shall behold the star, follow it whithersoever it shall lead you and adore that mysterious child, offering your gifts to him with profound humility." "And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts" (Matthew ii, 9, 11).
From Babylonia, including Accadia, Chaldea, and Assyria much of Christianity was come. Christ himself was descended from the Babylonian pantheon; his father, Jehovah, being originally a Babylonian god. Adonis, Tammouz, Tamzi, or Du-zi, as he was variously called, was a Babylonian deity whose worship gradually spread over Syria, Phoenicia and Greece. He was one of the most ancient of the sons of gods. His origin may be traced to that fertile, and perhaps earliest, source of gods and religions, Accadia His worship was a combination of sun worship and sex worship. He was the god of light, and life, and love. Associated with his worship in Babylonia and Syria was the worship of Istar, and in Phoenicia and Greece the worship of Venus.
Under the name of Tammouz, Adonis was worshiped by the Jews. At the very gates of the temple, Ezekiel tells us, "There sat women weeping for Tammouz" ("Adonis" in Catholic ver.) (viii, 14). In the Bible he is frequently referred to as "the only son." One of the months of the Hebrew calendar was named in honor of him. The abstaining from the use of pork by the Jews had its origin in the legend of the slaying of Adonis by the wild boar. And the eating of fish on Friday by Christians is doubtless due to the fact that Friday was consecrated to Venus by her Asiatic worshipers and fish was eaten in her honor.
In a citation of Babylonian and Biblical analogies, the Encyclopedia Britannica says: "The resemblance is still more striking when we examine the Babylonian mythology. The sacred tree of Babylonia, with its guardian cherubs -- a word, by the way, which seems of Accadian origin -- as well as the flaming sword or thunderbolt of fifty pounds and seven heads, recall Biblical analogies, while the Noachian deluge differs but slightly from the Chaldean one. Indeed, the Jehovistic version of the flood story in Genesis agrees not only in details, but even in phraseology with that which forms the eleventh lay of the great Babylonian epic. The hero of the latter is Tam-zi or Tammuz, 'the sun of life,' the son of Ubaratutu, 'the glow of sunset,' and denotes the revivifying luminary of day, who sails upon his 'ark' behind the clouds of winter to reappear when the rainy season is past. He is called Sisuthrus by Berosus, that is, Susru 'the founder,' a synonym of Na 'the sky.' The mountain on which his ark rested was placed in Nisir, southwest of Lake Urumiyeh. Its peak, whereon the first altar was built after the deluge, was the legendary model after which the zigurats or towers of the Babylonian temples were erected. Besides the account of the flood, fragments have been met with of stories resembling those of the tower of Babel or Babylon, of the creation, of the fall, and of the sacrifice of Isaac -- the latter, by the way, forming the first lay of the great epic. The sixth lay we possess in full. It describes the descent of Istar into Hades in pursuit of her dead husband Du-zi, 'the off-spring,' the Babylonian Adonis. Du-zi is but another form of Tam-zi and denotes the sun when obscured by night and winter."
Concerning the two lays of this Babylonian or Assyrian epic which pertain to Adonis, Dr. Soury says: "The two important episodes of this epic hitherto discovered, "The Deluge,' and 'The Descent of Istar into Hell,' yield the best commentary on the biblical stories of the deluge and hell (sheol). We have henceforth the epigraphic proof, confirming the valuable testimony of Berosus, that these legends -- like those of the creation, of the Tower of Babel, etc. -- did not originate in Palestine, but were carried thither by the Hebrews with the civilization and worship of the people of the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates, amid whom they had sojourned for centuries.... The Babylonian deluge is also a chastisement from the deity, it is the consequence of man's corruption (Assyrian poem, line 22). The details of the building of the Babylonian ark (line 24), into which are introduced the various pairs of male and female animals (line 80), of the shutting of the doors of the ark (line 89), of the duration, increase and decrease of the flood (lines 123-129), of the sending out of a dove, a swallow and a raven (lines 140-144), etc., leave no doubt as to the origin of the legend of Genesis" (Religion of Israel, p. 10).
The noted Assyriologist, George Smith, of the British Museum, who discovered the tablets containing these fragments of the Babylonian epic, says that the original text of these legends cannot be later than the 17th century B.C., and may be much earlier, thus antedating the oldest books of the Bible nearly 1,000 years. From these and other Babylonian and Persian legends the most of the Old Testament legends were borrowed. This fact disproves the existence of the orthodox Christ. If the accounts of the creation, the fall of man, and the Noachian deluge, as given in the Bible, are not authentic, but merely borrowed fables, then there remains no foundation for an atoning Savior.
Describing the worship of Adonis, Chambers' Encyclopedia says: "His festivals were partly the expressions of joy, partly of mourning. In the latter the women gave themselves up to the most unmitigated grief over the 'lost Adonis.'...This period was followed by a succession of festive and joyful days, in honor of the resurrection of Adonis." These festivals correspond to the Good Friday and Easter of Christians, commemorating the death and resurrection of Christ.
The most ardent worshipers of Adonis were women. No other character, real or imaginary, has so stirred the passions and the emotions of woman as this beautiful young lover of Venus. His tragic death bathed with immortal sadness the hearts of his devotees, and from the remotest ages down to a very late period moved to tears the daughters of men who adored him. Writing of Bethlehem at the close of the fourth century, St. Jerome says: "The lover of Venus is mourned in the grotto where Christ wailed as an infant." Along with the "Holy Sepulchre" of Christ, there still exists the "Tomb of Adonis" where "the women of the ancient mysteries, in the intoxication of a voluptuous grief, came to cover with tears and kisses the cenotaph of the beautiful youth." "Even at the present time," says Renan, "the Syrian hymns sung in honor of the Virgin are a kind of tearful sigh, a strange sob."
Moved by the same passions and the same emotions that thrilled the hearts of the female worshipers of Adonis, it is the women of Christendom, who, more than any other cause, keep alive the memory and the religion of Christ. Thus writes a Carmelite nun describing the passionate adoration of her Christian sisters:
"One day they have raised their eyes to an adorable face. A horrible diadem of interlaced branches binds the august forehead; rubies of blood roll slowly upon the livid pallor of the cheeks; the mouth has forgotten how to smile. It is a man of sorrows. They have looked upon him and found him more beautiful, more noble, more loyal than any spouse. They have felt a stronger heart-beat in his divine breast; they have understood that death no more dare touch his emaciated figure, and that his conjugal fidelity is eternal.
"Captivated, ravished, enamoured, enraptured, they have loved him. Rendered insensible by love, they have trampled cruelly upon the broken hearts of fathers and desolate mothers; they have listened, tearless, to the woeful beseechings of those who desire them for companions; they have followed to Carmel the unique lover, the immortal husband."
The ancient adoration of Adonis survives in this modern adoration of Jesus. We see here the same strange commingling of superstition and fanaticism, of love and sorrow, of ecstasy and agony, of chastity and lust. The religion is the same; the worship is the same. The divine lovers only have been changed. The beautiful Pagan has been supplanted by the Ideal Man.
Writing of the Protestant women of his day, Thomas Jefferson says: "In our Richmond there is much fanaticism, but chiefly among the women. They have their night meetings and praying parties, where, attended by their priests,...they pour forth their love to Jesus in terms as amatory and carnal as their modesty would permit to a mere earthly lover" (Jefferson's Works, Vol. IV, p. 358, Randolph's ed.).
One of the most ancient and one of the most renowned of all the gods was Osiris, the Savior of Egypt. He was the son of Seb (earth) and Nu (heaven). He appears in the hieroglyphics of Egypt as early as 3427 B.C. Two thousand years before Christ his worship was universal in Egypt, and during the succeeding centuries spread over much of Asia and Europe, including Greece and Rome. Its priests looked confidently forward to the time when all men would be brought to Osiris, just as Christian priests today look forward to the time when all men will be brought to Christ.
Osiris was slain by Typhon (Satan), but rose again and became the ruler of the dead. He presides at the judgment of the departed where the good are rewarded with everlasting life, and the wicked are destroyed. The Osirian Bible is called the "Book of the Dead."
Christians are indebted to this religion largely for their views concerning immortality and a bodily resurrection. They believe that through the death and resurrection of Christ they have inherited eternal life, that when their earthly career is ended they will live again in him. Regarding the Egyptians' belief, the International Encyclopedia says: "Just as Osiris died and lived again, so the spiritual personality of the deceased lived again and was merged in Osiris." Of Osiris the Rev. Dr. Charles Gillett, of Union Theological Seminary, says: "The belief in him and in the immortality which he symbolized was the deepest in Egyptian religious thought." Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, one of the most eminent Egyptologists, says: "The peculiar character of Osiris, his coming upon earth for the benefit of mankind, with the titles of 'Manifester of Good' and 'Revealer of Truth'; his being put to death by the malice of the Evil One; his burial and resurrection, and his becoming the judge of the dead are the most interesting features of the Egyptian religion." John Stuart Glennie, another English writer, notes the following analogies between the religion of Osiris and the religion of Christ: "In ancient Osirianism, as in modern Christianism, we find the worship of a divine mother and child. In ancient Osirianism as in modern Christianism, there is a doctrine of atonement. In ancient Osirianism, as in modern Christianism, we find the vision of a last judgment, and resurrection of the body. And finally, in ancient Osirianism, as in modern Christianism, the sanctions of morality are a lake of fire and torturing demons on the one hand, and on the other, eternal life in the presence of God" (Christ and Osiris, p. 14).
Referring to Osiris, McClintock and Strong's Cyclopedia says: "He was regarded as the personification of moral good. He is related to have been on earth instructing mankind in useful arts; to have been slain by his adversary Typhon by whom he was cut in pieces; to have been bewailed by his wife and sister Isis; to have been embalmed; to have risen again, and to have become the judge of the dead, among whom the righteous were called by his name and received his form -- a wonderful fore feeling of the Gospel narrative" (Art. "Egypt").
Isis, the sister and wife of Osiris, was the greatest of female divinities. Her worship was coexistent and coextensive with that of her divine brother and husband. We have the following picture of her in the Apocalypse: "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (Revelation xii, 1). The worship of Isis existed in Rome and Alexandria during the formative period of Christianity and Christians borrowed much from it.
This popular Egyptian god was the son of Osiris and Isis. Osiris and Horus were both solar deities. Osiris was the setting sun, Horus the rising sun. Christ, it is claimed, existed before his incarnation; and Horus, it was claimed, existed even before the incarnation of his father. Christ when an infant was carried into Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod; Horus when an infant was carried out of Egypt to escape the wrath of Typhon. To avenge the death of his father he afterward vanquished Typhon. He was the last of the gods who reigned in Egypt. Festivals and movable feasts similar to those celebrated in honor of Christ were held in his honor.
In India and Egypt, ages before the appearance of Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity prevailed. Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva constituted the principal trinity of India, while the most important Trinity of Egypt was Osiris, Isis, and Horus. Even the Christian doctrine of a Trinity in Unity, an absurdity which Christianity alone is supposed to have taught, was an Egyptian doctrine. Samuel Sharp, in his Egyptian Mythology (p. 14), says: "We have a hieroglyphical inscription in the British Museum as early as the reign of Sevechus of the eighth century before the Christian era, showing that the doctrine of Trinity in Unity already formed part of their religion and that ... the three gods only made one person."
Dr. Draper says: "For thirty centuries the Egyptians had been familiar with the conception of a triune God. There was hardly a city of any note without its particular triads. Here it was Amum, Maut, and Khonso; there Osiris, Isis, and Horus" (Intellectual Development, Vol. I, p. 191).
Dr. Inman affirms the Egyptian origin of the Christian trinity "The Christian trinity is of Egyptian origin, and is as surely a pagan doctrine as the belief in heaven and hell, the existence of a devil, of archangels, angels, spirits and saints, martyrs and virgins, intercessors in heaven, gods and demigods, and other forms of faith which deface the greater part of modern religions" (Ancient Pagan and Modem Christian Symbolism, p. 13).
There are two myths connected with Horus analogous to stories found in the Old Testament, and which were old when these stories were written. The hiding of Horus in a marsh by his mother undoubtedly suggested the myth of the hiding of Moses in a marsh by his mother. When Horus died Isis implored Ra, the sun, to restore him to life. Ra stopped his ship in mid-heaven and sent down Thoth, the moon, to bring him back to life. The stopping of the sun and moon by Isis recalls the myth of the stopping of the sun and moon by Joshua.
The deification and worship of the Virgin had its origin in the worship of Isis, and the adoration of the Virgin and Child is but the adoration of Isis and Horus transferred to Mary and Jesus. Describing the Paganization of Christianity Dr. Draper says: "Views of the Trinity, in accordance with Egyptian tradition, were established. Not only was the adoration of Isis under a new name restored, but even her image standing on the crescent moon reappeared. The well-known effigy of that goddess, with the infant Horus in her arms, has descended to our days in the beautiful artistic creations of the Madonna and Child" (Conflict, p. 48).
That the Virgin Mary of the Roman Catholic church was borrowed from Egypt is shown by the fact that in the earlier representations of her, she was, like Isis, veiled. Concerning this Draper, in his Intellectual Development (Vol. I, p. 361), says: "Of the Virgin Mary, destined in later times to furnish so many beautiful types of female loveliness, the earliest representations are veiled. The Egyptian sculptors had thus depicted Isis; the first form of the Virgin and child was the counterpart of his and Horus."
Dr. G. W. Brown, author of Researches in Oriental History, writes: "Mural illustrations of this mother and child are not confined to Egypt, but are scattered all over Asia Minor, and are numerous in Italy, while many temples and shrines are yet found which were erected to their memory. Matthew ii, 15, claims to be a quotation from one of the prophets: 'Out of Egypt have I called my son.' "
Writing of the ancient Gnostics, C. W. King, a noted English author, says: "To this period belongs a beautiful sard in my collection, representing Serapis,...whilst before him stands Isis, holding in one hand the sistrum, in the other a wheatsheaf, with the legend: 'Immaculate is our lady Isis,' the very term applied afterwards to that personage who succeeded to her form, her symbols, rites, and ceremonies" (Gnostics and Their Remains, p. 71).
Regarding the transferrence of the attributes of Isis to Mary, Newton, in his Assyrian Grove and Other Emblems, says: "When Mary, the mother of Jesus, took the place in Christendom of 'the great goddess,' the dogmas which propounded her immaculate conception and perpetual virginity followed as a matter of course."
"The 'Black Virgins,'" says King, "so highly reverenced in certain French cathedrals during the middle ages, proved, when critically examined, basalt figures of Isis."
Mrs. Besant believes that Christianity was derived chiefly from Egypt: "It grew out of Egypt; its gospels came from thence [Alexandria]; its ceremonies were learned there; its Virgin is Isis; its Christ, Osiris and Horus."
Of the antiquity of Egypt's religion, and the mutability of the gods, that brilliant young Englishman, Winwood Reade, thus writes: "Buried cities are beneath our feet; the ground on which we tread is the pavement of a tomb. See the pyramids towering to the sky, with men, like insects, crawling round their base; and the Sphinx, couched in vast repose, with a ruined temple between its paws. Since those great monuments were raised the very heavens have been changed. When the architects of Egypt began their work, there was another polar star in the northern sky, and the southern cross shone upon the Baltic shores. How glorious are the memories of those ancient men, whose names are forgotten, for they lived and labored in the distant and unwritten past. Too great to be known, they sit on the height of centuries and look down on fame.... The men are dead, and the gods are dead. Naught but their memories remain. Where now is Osiris, who came down upon earth out of love for man, who was killed by the malice of the evil one, who rose again from the grave and became the judge of the dead? Where now is Isis the mother, with the child Horus in her lap? They are dead; they are gone to the land of the shades. To-morrow, Jehovah, you and your son shall be with them."
Zeus, Jove, or Jupiter, as he is variously called, was the greatest of the sons of gods and held the highest place in the pantheons of Greece and Rome. He was the son of the god Kronos and the goddess Rhea.
The gods of Greece, while mostly pure myths, were yet intensely human. In these gods human vices sank to the lowest depths and human virtues rose to the loftiest heights. Zeus was one of the most puerile, one of the most sublime, one of the most depraved and one of the most beneficent of deities. In the words of Andrew Lang, "He is the sum of the religious thought of Hellas, found in the numberless ages between savagery and complete civilization."
Zeus, like Christ, assumed the form of man. The life of the infant Pagan deity, like that of the infant Christian deity, was imperiled. Kronos tried to destroy him, but he was secreted in a cave and saved. There was a widely accepted tradition among primitive Christians, before the myth of the shepherd's manger gained credence, that Christ was cradled in a cave. Concerning these myths, Strauss says: "The myths of the ancient world more generally ascribed divine apparitions to countrymen and shepherds; the sons of the gods, and of great men were frequently brought up among shepherds. In the same spirit of the ancient legend is the apocryphal invention that Jesus was born in a cave, and we are at once reminded of the cave of Jupiter (Zeus) and the other gods" (Leben Jesu, p. 154).
This god, like Jehovah, became the ruler of heaven and earth. Like Jehovah he became dissatisfied with the human race, and with the aid of Pandora, who brought death into the world, tried to destroy it that he might create a new race.
Seneca refers to Zeus as "the guardian and ruler of the universe, the soul and spirit, the lord and master of this mundane sphere ... from whom all things proceed, by whose spirit we live." Lecky says: "The language in which the first Greek dramatists asserted the supreme authority and universal providence of Zeus was so emphatic that the Christian fathers commonly attributed it either to direct inspiration or to a knowledge of the Jewish writings" (European Morals, Vol. I, p. 161).
One of the daughters of Zeus was Persephone, Life. Her mother was Demeter, the earth. Hades seized Persephone and carried her to his regions in the lower world where she became his wife. Then Earth became disconsolate and could not be consoled. To assuage the grief of the sorrowing mother Hades agreed to give her back to earth for half the year. While Life dwells with her mother, Earth, we have summer, and flowers, and fruits, and joy. When Life returns to her husband, Hades, winter and desolation return to Earth. Of this goddess Ridpath says: "Persephone is close to Eve. Eve means Life, and should have been so rendered, and would have been but for the blundering of the English translators" (History of the World, Vol. II, p. 501).
The realm of Hades was called by his name. The term was borrowed by the writers of the New Testament but has been translated "hell." Christians took possession of Hades' kingdom; but Hades was dethroned to make room for the Oriental Satan, and the sad yet peaceful abode of departed spirits was transformed into a lake of fire, the habitation of the damned.
The inhabitants of Crete, who believed in the incarnation and death of Zeus, guarded for centuries with zealous care what they alleged to be the tomb of their god.
This god, one of the principal solar deities, was the son of Zeus. His mother was Leto. Like Mary, Leto had no hospitable palace for her accouchement, and brought her child forth on the barren isle of Delos, where female divinities ministered to them. The isle was illuminated by a flood of light, the prototype of a later scene where "the glory of the Lord shone round about" the shepherds in the field at Bethlehem; while sacred swans, like the celestial visitants of Luke, made joyous gyrations in the air above them.
Apollo was the best beloved god of Greece, and was represented as one of the most perfect types of manly beauty. Like Christ he led on earth a lowly life, following for a time the humble avocation of a herdsman. Like Christ he came to reveal the will of his father. He chose for his disciples a crew of sailors or fishermen. These, like the disciples of Christ, were endowed with miraculous powers. Apollo was regarded as a savior. He rescued the people from the deadly python, which was desolating the land. Numerous festivals, similar to those held in honor of Christ, were held in honor of Apollo.
In its article on this god McClintock and Strong's Cyclopedia says: "Towards the later period of the supremacy of paganism in the Roman Empire, Apollo, as the deity of the sun, had assumed the chief place in heathen worship. As indicating that Christ was the true 'light of the world,' the 'Sun of righteousness' -- the most favorite figure used in speaking of the Savior in the early centuries -- this very figure of Apollo was often introduced as indicating Christ."
Leto, the mother of Apollo, was believed to be, like Mary, the mother of Christ, a mortal raised to divinity. Her worship, like that of Mary, was widespread and lasted for centuries.
The Virgin myth, the Holy Ghost myth, and the Herodian myth all have their prototypes in Perseus. Long before his birth, it was prophesied that he would be born of the virgin Danae, and that he would supplant Acrisius in his kingdom. To prevent this Acrisius confined Danae in a tower. Here she was overshadowed by Zeus in "a shower of gold" and Perseus was born. To destroy him Acrisius placed him with his mother in a chest and cast them into the sea. They drifted to an island and the child was saved. He grew to manhood, performed many wonderful works, vanquished his enemy and ascended the throne.
This god was the son of Zeus and the virgin Alcmeni. His mother, like the mother of Jesus, retained her virginity after the birth of her child. The Greek babe, like the Jewish babe, had an enemy. Hera attempted to destroy the former, just as Herod afterward attempted to destroy the latter. Like Christ he died a death of agony. When his labors were finished, he closed his earthly career by mounting a funeral pyre from which, surrounded by a dark cloud, amid thunder and lightning, he ascended to heaven.
The Tyrian Hercules was worshiped by the Jews, and Jason, the Jewish high-priest, sent a religious embassy with an offering of 300 drachms of silver to this god.
Prof. Meinhold, of the University of Bonn, says: "The transfiguration and ascension of Christ may be compared to the heathen apotheosis of such heroes as Hercules, while the story of the descent into Hades is modeled after such narratives as those describing the visit of Hercules and Theseus to the lower world."
Max Mueller pronounces Hercules a solar god. His twelve labors, like the twelve apostles of Christ, correspond to the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Christians have admitted the resemblance of this god to Christ. Parkhurst's Hebrew Lexicon says: "The labors of Hercules seem to have had a still higher view and to have been originally designed as emblematical memorials of what the real son of God and savior of the world was to do and suffer for our sakes."
The Rev. Heinrich Rower says: "We are all acquainted with the fact that in their mythological legends the Greeks and the Romans and other nations of antiquity speak of certain persons as the sons of the gods. An example of this is Hercules, the Greek hero who is the son of Jupiter and an earthly mother.... All those men who performed greater deeds than those which human beings usually do are regarded by antiquity as of divine origin. This Greek and heathen notion has been applied to the New Testament and churchly conception of the person of Jesus. We must remember that at the time when Christianity sprang into evidence, Greek culture and Greek religion spread over the whole world. It is accordingly nothing remarkable that the Christians took from the heathens the highest religious conceptions that they possessed, and transferred them to Jesus. They accordingly called him the son of God, and declared that he had been supernaturally born of a virgin. This is the Greek and heathen influence which has determined the character of the account given by Matthew and Luke concerning the birth of Jesus."
Zagreus was the son of Zeus. He was slain by the Titans, buried at the foot of Mount Parnassus, and rose from the dead as Dionysos. He was the god of fruit and wine. Like those of Christ his most devoted followers were women. He is the beloved son and occupies a throne at the right hand of his father, Zeus. His empty tomb at Delphi was long preserved by his devotees as proof of his death, and resurrection.
The stories of the resurrection of Adonis in Phoenicia, of Osiris in Egypt and of Dionysos in Greece were old when Christ was born, and paved the way for the origin and acceptance of the story of his resurrection.
Justin Martyr recognized the analogies between Christianity and Paganism. Addressing the Pagans, he writes: "When we say that the Word, who is the first born of God, was produced without sexual union, and that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven; we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter (Zeus)" (First Apology, ch. xxi).
Festivals, called Lenaea and the Greater Dionysia, corresponding in a measure to the Christmas and Easter of Christians, were celebrated in honor of this god. Prof. Gulick, professor of Greek in Harvard University, describing these festivals, says: "In the winter came various celebrations in honor of Dionysos, god of nature and the vine, the object of which was to wake the sleeping spirit of generation and render him propitious for the coming of spring and the sowing of crops.... The wine casks were opened, and all, even slaves, were allowed perfect holiday and liberty to drink in honor of the god. The last day of the festival was a sort of All Souls' Day, being devoted to the gods of the underworld and the spirits of the dead" (Life of the Ancient Greeks, pp. 274, 275). "The Great Dionysia," says Prof. Gulick, "held in the spring, was the occasion of display and magnificence" (ibid., p. 113).
So-called Christian burial is identical with Greek burial. Ancient Greek sepulture is thus described by Ridpath: "To the dead were due the sacred rites of sepulture.... When a Greek fell into his last slumber, the friends immediately composed the body.... The corpse was clad in white and laid upon a bier. Flowers were brought by the mourning friends, who put on badges of sorrow.... Cemeteries were arranged outside the city walls.... Over each [grave] was raised a mound of earth, and on this were planted ivy and roses.... Over the grave was erected a memorial stone or monument, and on this was an inscription giving the name of the dead, an effigy perhaps of his person, a word of praise for his virtues, and an epigram composed for his memory" (History of the World, Vol. II, p. 497).
The Titan god, Prometheus, was the son of Iapetus and Asia. He is one of the most sublime creations of the human imagination. When Zeus, like Jehovah, became enraged at mankind and sought to destroy it, Prometheus, like Christ, came on earth to intercede and suffer for the race. Hurried to Tartarus by the thunderbolts of Zeus he came again to endure, if need be, eternal agony for man.
For centuries Greeks and Romans believed the story of this vicarious god to be historical. Grote, the historian, says: "So long and so firmly did this belief continue, that the Roman general Pompey, when in command of an army in Kolchis, made with his companion, the literary Greek Theophanes, a special march to view the spot in Caucasus where Prometheus had been transfixed" (Greek Mythology, pp. 92, 93).
Referring to the Greeks and their great tragedy, "Prometheus Bound," A. L. Rawson says: "Its hero was their friend, benefactor, creator, and savior, whose wrongs were incurred in their behalf, and whose sorrows were endured for their salvation. He was wounded for their transgressions, and bruised for their iniquities; the chastisement of their peace was upon him, and by his stripes they were healed" (Isaiah liii, 5), (Evolution of Israel's God, p. 30). Alluding to this subject, Dr. Westbrook writes: "The New Testament description of the crucifixion and the attending circumstances, even to the earthquake and darkness, was thus anticipated by five centuries" (Bible: Whence and What?).
The dying Christ shares with the dying Prometheus the sympathies of men. But how trivial the crucifixion, how light the suffering, and how weak the courage of the Christian god appear compared with the cruel crucifixion, the infinite suffering, and the deathless courage of the immortal Pagan. Transfixed to the rock on Caucasus, the Golgotha of Greek mythology, with the devouring eagle feeding forever on his vitals, there falls from his lips no murmur of pain, no Sabachthani of despair. What lofty heroism, what enduring patience, what unselfish love, this tragic story has inspired!
|To suffer woes which hope thinks infinite;|
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy power which seems omnipotent;
To love and bear, to hope till hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change, to falter, nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great, and joyous, beautiful and free.
Esculapius was the illegitimate son of the nymph Coronis, by Apollo. The mother, at the instigation of Apollo, was slain by Diana; but the child was spared. He became noted for his wonderful curative powers. He healed all diseases, and even restored the dead to life. He was called "The Good Physician." He was struck by a thunderbolt and ascended to heaven. The Greeks worshiped him.
The miraculous cures ascribed to Christ, many of them, doubtless, had their origin in the legends of Esculapius. Justin Martyr says: "In that we say he [Christ] made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by Esculapius" (First Apology, ch. xxi).
One of the most gifted of mortals was Plato. His followers believed him to be of divine descent. Concerning his parentage, Dr. Draper says: "Antiquity was often delighted to cast a halo of mythical glory around its illustrious names. The immortal works of this great philosopher seemed to entitle him to more than mortal honors. A legend into the authenticity of which we will abstain from inquiring, asserted that his mother, Perictione, a pure virgin, suffered an immaculate conception through the influence of Apollo. The god declared to Ariston, to whom she was about to be married, the parentage of the child" (Intellectual Development, Vol. I, p. 151).
Concerning this myth, McClintock and Strong's Cyclopedia says: "Legend, which is traced back to Spensipus, the nephew of Plato, ascribed the paternity of Plato to the god Apollo; and, in the form in which the story is told by Olympiodorus, closely imitates the record in regard to the nativity of Christ" (Art. "Plato").
Immaculate conceptions were common in Greece. "The furtive pregnancy of young women, often by a god," says Grote, "is one of the most frequently recurring incidents in the legendary narratives of the country." The Christian story of the miraculous conception has not even the merit of originality. With the Platonic legend before him, all that the Evangelist had to do was to substitute Jehovah for Apollo, Joseph for Ariston, Mary for Perictione, and Jesus for Plato.
The philosophy of Plato is a strange compound of profound wisdom concerning the known and of vague speculations respecting the unknown. The latter form no inconsiderable portion of the religion ascribed to Christ. The Christian religion is supposed to be of Semitic origin; but its doctrines are, many of them, the work of Greek theologians; its incarnate God bears a Greek name, and its early literature was mostly Greek. Draper recognizes three primitive modifications of Christianity 1. Judaic Christianity; 2. Gnostic Christianity; 3. Platonic Christianity. Platonic Christianity, he says, endured and is essentially the Christianity of today.
The following are some of the principles of Plato's philosophy:
There is but one God, and we ought to love and serve him.
The Word formed the world and rendered it visible.
A knowledge of the Word will make us happy.
The soul is immortal, and the dead will rise again.
There will be a final judgment; the righteous will be rewarded, and the wicked punished.
The design argument, the chief argument relied upon by Christians to prove the divine origin of the universe, is a Platonic argument.
In a letter to the author twenty-five years ago, James Parton wrote: "Read carefully over the dialogue, Phaedo. You will see what you will see: the whole Christian system and the entire dream of the contemplative monk."
Phaedo deals chiefly with the soul -- its nature and destiny. The following quotations are from the translation of Henry Cary, M.A., of Oxford:
Death is defined by Plato as "the separation of the soul from the body.
"Can the soul, which is invisible, and which goes to another place like itself, excellent, pure, and invisible, and therefore truly called the invisible world, to the presence of a good and wise God, (whither if God will, any soul also must shortly go), can this soul of ours, I ask, being such and of such a nature, when separated from the body, be immediately dispersed and destroyed, as most men assert? Far from it."
"If that which is immortal is imperishable, it is impossible for the soul to perish, when death approaches it."
"When, therefore, death approaches a man, the mortal part of him, as it appears, dies, but the immortal part departs safe and uncorrupted, having withdrawn itself from death."
After death, Plato says, the souls are concluded to a place where they "receive sentence and then proceed to Hades."
If the soul "arrives at the place where the others are, impure,...every one shuns it, and will neither be its fellow traveler or guide, but it wanders about oppressed with every kind of helplessness.... But the soul which has passed through life with purity and moderation, having obtained the gods for its fellow travelers and guides, settles each in the place suited to it."
"If the soul is immortal, it requires our care not only for the present time, which we call life, but for all time; and the danger would now appear to be dreadful, if one should neglect it. For if death were a deliverance from everything, it would be a great gain for the wicked, when they die, to be delivered at the same time from the body, and from their vices together with the soul; but now, since it appears to be immortal, it can have no other refuge from evils, nor safety, except by becoming as good and wise as possible."
Christ, it is claimed, "brought immortality to light." Yet Phaedo was written nearly four centuries before Christ came.
McClintock and Strong's Cyclopedia concedes Plato's "near approximation to the doctrines of Christianity -- some of which," it says, "he announces almost in the language of the Apostles." Continuing, this authority says: "We know no more terrible and sublime picture than the passage in which he depicts the dead presenting themselves for judgment in the other world, scarred and blotched and branded with the ineradicable marks of their earthly sins. Yet this is but one of many analogous passages. This approximation to revealed truth is among the most insoluble problems bequeathed to us by antiquity.... We offer no solution of the enigma, which awaits its Oedipus. We only note the existence of the riddle" (Plato).
Prof. Gunkel, of Berlin, says: "'Christianity is a syncretistic religion. It is providential that it passed safely over from the Orient into the Greek world. It imbibed both influences, and acquired many features that were foreign to the original gospel.' "
This religio-philosophical teacher lived in the sixth century B.C., the century in which flourished Buddha, Laou-tsze, and Confucius, three of the world's greatest religious founders. Greece was his native, and Italy his adopted, country. His history is largely obscured by myths. He was claimed to be, like Plato, the son of Apollo. He was said to have performed miracles and to have been endowed with the gift of prophecy. He traveled in Egypt and India, and his system contains some elements of the Egyptian and Buddhist religions.
There was a small Jewish sect, known as the Essenes, which adopted to a large extent the teachings of Pythagoras. Jesus is believed to have belonged to this sect. There is an Essene element in the New Testament which is especially prominent in the teachings ascribed to Christ. Josephus, in his "Wars of the Jews," describes at length the doctrines and customs of this sect. From Josephus and the New Testament I cite a few of the parallels between the religion of the Essenes and the religion of Christ.
"These men are despisers of riches" (Wars, B. II, ch. viii, sec. 3).
"A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven"(Matt. xix, 23).
"It is a law among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order" (ibid.).
"Neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common" (Acts. iv, 32).
"They carry nothing at all with them when they travel into remote parts" (Sec. 4).
"Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey" (Matt. x, 9, 10).
"Every one of them gives what he hath to him that wanteth it" (ibid.).
"Give to him that asketh thee" (Matt. v, 42).
"A priest says grace before meat" (Sec. 5).
"And he took bread, and gave thanks" (Luke xxii, 19).
"They ... are the ministers of peace" (Sec. 6).
"Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt. v, 9).
"Whatsoever they say also is firmer than an oath; but swearing is avoided by them" (Sec. 6).
"But I say unto you, Swear not at all;...but let your communication be, yea, yea; nay, nay" (Matt. v, 34, 37).
Closely allied to the Essenes and the primitive Christians is another Pythagorian sect, known as the Therapeuts of Egypt. Regarding this sect, four different theories are held: 1. That they were a Jewish sect. 2. That they were a Jewish Christian sect. 3. That they were Pagans, many of whose teachings were incorporated into the Christian creed. 4. That they are a myth, that the De Vita Contemplativa of Philo, which contains the only account of them, is a Christian forgery, written for the purpose of extolling the monastic life, the celibacy, and the asceticism of the church.
Bacchus was a Roman god, or rather a Roman modification of the Greek god, Dionysos. He was the god of wine. He cultivated the vine, made wine, and encouraged its use. His worship extended over nearly the whole of the ancient world. It consisted largely of protracted festivals, where wine flowed freely, and joyous and noisy ceremonies were indulged in.
This god and his worship have survived in Christ and Christianity. Christ was called a "winebibber" (Luke vii, 34); he made wine -- his first miracle was the conversion of water into wine (John ii, 1-10); he blessed the winecup, and commanded his disciples to drink in remembrance of him (Luke xxii, 17), just as the devotees of Bacchus drank in remembrance of their god. Christianity, more than all other religions combined, was contributed to keep alive the Bacchanalian feasts and revelries.
"Bacchus," says Volney, "in the history of his whole life, and even of his death, brings to mind the history of the god of Christians" (Ruins, p. 169). The cabalistic names of Bacchus and Jesus, Volney says, were the same.
United with the worship of Bacchus, and similar to it, was the worship of the goddess Ceres (Demeter). Her rites were known as the Eleusinian mysteries. Cakes were eaten in her honor. And thus in the bread of Ceres and the wine of Bacchus we have the bread and wine of the Christian Eucharist. "It is well known," says Dr. Westbrook, "that the Athenians celebrated the allegorical giving of the flesh to eat of Ceres, the goddess of corn, and in like manner the giving his blood to drink by Bacchus, the god of wine." This worship, like the Mithraic worship, which also included the communion, had its origin in the East, and was one of the first, as well as one of the last, of the religions of ancient Greece and Rome.
Another rite connected with the mysteries was the use of holy water. Lempriere, in his Classical Dictionary, describing the Eleusinian mysteries as they existed in Greece centuries before the Christian era, says: "As the candidates for initiation entered the temple, they purified themselves by washing their hands in holy water."
The mysteries comprehended the origin of life, and nature worship was included in the ceremonies. At the festivals women carried the phallus in their processions. Regarding the worship of Bacchus and Ceres at Rome, Chambers' Encyclopedia says: "These rites degenerated, and came to be celebrated with a licentiousness that threatened the destruction of morality and of society itself. They were made the occasion of the most unnatural excesses. At first, only women took part in these mysterious Bacchic rites, but latterly men also were admitted."
The Roman government suppressed the later Bacchanalian and Eleusinian feasts, together with the Christian Agapae, because of their debaucheries, obscenities, and supposed infant sacrifices. Meredith, in The Prophet of Nazareth (pp. 225-231), institutes an examination to ascertain "how far the Eleusinian and Bacchanalian feasts resembled the Christian Agapae." His conclusion is that the facts "show clearly that the Christian Agapae were of pagan origin -- were identically the same as the pagan feasts." Gibbon says: "The language of that great historian [Tacitus, in his allusion to Christians] is almost similar to the style employed by Livy, when he relates the introduction and the suppression of the rites of Bacchus" (Rome, Vol. I, p. 579).
Referring to the Agapae, Dr. Cave says it was commonly charged that Christians "exercised lust and filthiness under a pretense of religion, promiscuously calling themselves brothers and sisters, that by the help of so sacred a name their common adulteries might become incestuous" (Primitive Christianity, Part II, chap. v). Describing the Carpocratians, an early Christian sect, Dr. Cave says: "Both men and women used to meet at supper (which was called their love-feast), when after they had loaded themselves with a plentiful meal, to prevent all shame, if they had any remaining, they put out the lights, and then promiscuously mixed in filthiness with one another" (ibid.).
The International Cyclopedia says: "With the increase of wealth and the decay of religious earnestness and purity in the Christian church, the Agapae became occasions of great riotousness and debaucheries."
The Agapae, with their excesses eliminated, survive in the love-feasts of modern Christians. Webster defines "love-feast" as "a religious festival, held quarterly by the Methodists, in imitation of the Agapae of the early Christians."
That these mysteries of Bacchus and Ceres were adopted by the early Christians is largely admitted by the great church historian himself. Writing of the second century, Moshein, says: "The profound respect paid to the Greek and Roman mysteries, and the extraordinary sanctity that was attributed to them, was a further circumstance that induced the Christians to give their religion a mystic air, in order to put it upon an equal foot, in point of dignity, with that of the Pagans. For this purpose they gave the name of 'mysteries' to the institutions of the gospel, and decorated particularly the holy Sacrament with that solemn title. They used in that sacred institution, as also in that of baptism, several of the terms employed in the heathen mysteries and proceeded so far at length, as even to adopt some of the rites and ceremonies of which these renowned mysteries consisted." (Ecclesiastical History, p. 56.)
England's highest authority on early Christian history, Dean Milman, says: "Christianity disdained that its God and its Redeemer should be less magnificently honored than the demons (gods) of Paganism. In the service it delighted to breathe, as it were, a sublimer sense into the common appellations of the Pagan worship, whether from the ordinary ceremonial or the more secret mysteries. The church became a temple; the table of the communion an altar, the celebration of the Eucharist, the appalling, or unbloody sacrifice.... The incense, the garlands, the lamps, all were gradually adopted by zealous rivalry, or seized as the lawful spoils of vanquished Paganism and consecrated to the service of Christ.
"The church rivaled the old heathen mysteries in expanding by slow degrees its higher privileges.... Its preparatory ceremonial of abstinence, personal purity, ablution, secrecy, closely resembled that of the Pagan mysteries (perhaps each may have contributed to the other)" (History of Christianity, Vol. III, pp. 312, 313).
Smith's Dictionary of Antiquities says: "The mysteries occupied a place among the ancients analogous to that of the holy sacraments in the Christian church." The Encyclopedia Britannica makes the same statement.
James Anthony Froude, in a letter to Prof. Johnson, of England, says: "I have long been convinced that the Christian Eucharist is but a continuation of the Eleusinian mysteries. St. Paul, in using the word teleiois, almost confirms this."
One of the oldest and most renowned of the European gods was Saturn, whose name was given by the ancients to one of the planets and to one of the days of the week. He was worshiped by the inhabitants of Italy more than a thousand years before Christ came, and centuries before Rome took her place among the nations of the earth. His temples were located in various parts of Italy, the latest and the principal one being at Rome. His chief festival, and the greatest of all the Roman festivals was the Saturnalia celebrated at the time of the winter solstice. This festival survives in the Christian festival of Christmas.
The following description of the Saturnalia is from the pen of Ridpath: "The most elaborate of all the celebrations of Rome was that of Saturn, held at the winter solstice, and afterwards extended so as to include the twenty-fifth of December.... The festival was called the Saturnalia. Labor ceased, public business was at an end, the courts were closed, the schools had holiday. Tables, laden with bounties, were spread on every hand, and at these all classes for the nonce sat down together. The master and the slave for the day were equals. It was a time of gift-giving and innocent abandonment. In the public shops every variety of the present, from the simplest to the most costly, could be found. Fathers, mothers, kinspeople, friends, all hurried thither to purchase, according to their fancy, what things soever seemed most tasteful and appropriate as presents" (History of the World, Vol. III, p. 97).
Concerning this festival the Encyclopedia Britannica says: "All classes exchanged gifts, the commonest being wax tapers and clay dolls. These dolls were especially given to children, and the makers of them held a regular fair at this time." One of the principal rites, the Britannica says, was the burning of many candles. "The modern Italian carnival," says Chambers' Encyclopedia, "would seem to be only the old pagan Saturnalia baptized into Christianity."
Nearly every reader is familiar with the story of the founding of Rome. Rhea Silvia, a vestal virgin, bears twins by the god Mars. As they are heirs to the throne which Amulius has usurped, he attempts to destroy them by drowning. They are miraculously preserved and finally rescued by a shepherd. One of them, Romulus, becomes the founder and king of Rome. After a reign of 37 years he is translated by his father, and eventually becomes the tutelary god of the Romans, under the name of Quirinus. The following account of his translation is from Chambers' Encyclopedia: "While he was standing near the 'Goat's Pool' in the Campus Martius, reviewing his militia, the sun was eclipsed, and a dark storm swept over the plain and hills. When it had passed, the people looked round for their king, but he was gone. His father, Mars, had carried him up to heaven (like the prophet Elijah) in a chariot of fire. Some time after he reappeared in a glorified form to Proculus Julius, announced the future greatness of the Roman people, and told him that henceforth he would watch over them as their guardian god, under the name of Quirinus" (Art. "Romulus").
Next to the Saturnalia, the most important religious festival of Pagan Rome was the Quirinalia, which celebrated the ascension of Quirinus. It corresponds to Ascension Day, one of the principal religious festivals of the Christian church, which celebrates the ascension of Christ.
The supernatural darkness of the Roman myth, it is believed, suggested the supernatural darkness of the crucifixion myth. The reappearance of Quirinus in a glorified form is also believed by some to have suggested the transfiguration.
Odin, the All-Father, held the highest rank in the Northern pantheon. He was the son of Boer and Bestla. Freya was his queen. His religion prevailed among the Scandinavians and among the Goths, the Saxons, and other ancient German tribes. Some believe that he was an ancient hero who with a horde of Goths or Scythians conquered the North a thousand years or more before the Christian era. The prevailing opinion, however, is that the Norse mythology had its birth in Asia -- in India, Persia, or Accadia -- and was carried by the Aryans to northern Europe, where it underwent many modifications.
This mythology recognized as existing in the beginning, two worlds -- one the warm South, the other the icy North. The entrance to the Southland was guarded by a flaming sword. Between heat and cold, as between good and evil, there was perpetual strife. From heat Ymir (Chaos), the father of giants, was evolved. Odin and his brothers slew Ymir and from his body created the earth, his flesh forming the land, his blood the sea Out of two trees Odin made man and woman, and breathed into them the breath, of life. For the abode of man a fruitful garden was planted in the center of the earth and called Midgard. Beneath the earth, dwells Hel, the goddess of the dead.
Loki is the god of evil. He will be chained for a time and then released. A bloody war will follow. On one side, led by Loki will fight the hosts of Hel; on the other Odin and his followers. Loki will triumph, for a while, mankind will be destroyed, and heaven and earth will be consumed by fire. But Odin will be victorious in the end. He will create a new heaven and a new earth He will be the ruler of all things, and will dwell in heaven, where the best and bravest of his followers are to be received after death.
The Norse, the Persian, and the Christian doctrines, regarding the destruction of the world by fire, all had a common origin.
Thor was the son of Odin and the virgin Earth. He was called the first born son of God. His worship was more widespread than that of any other Northern god. In the temple at Upsala he occupied the same place in the Scandinavian Trinity that Christ does in the Christian Trinity. Like Christ he died for man and was worshiped as a Savior. Midgard had a serpent, more formidable if not more wily than that of Eden, which threatened to destroy the human race. Thor attacked and slew the monster, but was himself killed by the venom which was exhaled from it. The slaying of the serpent of Midgard by Thor, the slaying of the python by the Greek god, and the bruising of the head of the serpent of Hebrew mythology by Christ, are analogous myths.
Thor dwells in a mansion in the clouds. The thunder we hear in the sky is the noise of his chariot wheels, and the flashes of lightning are from his hammer which he dashes against the mountains. The Britannica says: "Some of the monks of a later period endeavored to persuade the Northmen that in Thor their forefathers had worshiped Christ, the strong and mighty Savior of the oppressed, and that his mallet was the rude form of the cross." "The sign of the hammer," says Chambers, "was analogous to that of the cross among Christians."
One of the purest, one of the gentlest, and one of the best beloved of all the gods was Baldur, the beautiful son of Odin and Freya. In him were combined all things good and noble. The envious gods, inspired by Loki, shot their arrows at him in vain until the blind god Hoder pierced his body with an arrow of mistletoe and he passed into the power of Hel, the pallid goddess of death Sometime -- when the old order of things has passed away -- in another and better world, where envy, and hatred, and war are unknown, Baldur will live again.
"The death of Baldur," says Prof. Rasmus B. Anderson, the highest authority on Norse mythology, "forms the turning point in the great drama ... While he lived the power of the asas (gods) was secure, but when Baldur, at the instigation of Loki, was slain, the fall of creation could not be prevented."
Writing of Norse mythology, Andrew Lang says: "There is, almost undoubtedly, a touch of Christian dawn on the figure and myth of the pure and beloved and ill-fated god Baldur, and his descent into hell." Odin, and Thor, and Baldur, and their divine companions are worshiped no longer, but their religion has left a deep impress on the religion that supplanted it. The Christianity of Scandinavia, of northern Germany, of England, and of America, the whole of Protestant Christianity, in short, and to some extent Catholicism itself, has been modified by this strange and fascinating faith. Regarding this subject Chambers' Encyclopedia says: "So deep-rooted was the adhesion to the faith of Odin in the North, that the early Christian teachers, unable to eradicate the old ideas, were driven to the expedient of trying to give them a coloring of Christianity."
The selection of December 25th as the date of the Nativity was doubtless suggested by the Mithraic or some other solar worship of the East, but the Protestant Christmas came from the North. The mistletoe with which Baldur was slain reappears in this festival. The fire wheel, a remnant of the old Norse sun worship, existed among German Christians until the nineteenth century. The burning of the Yule log still survives. In some provinces of Germany the festival is still called by its Pagan name.
Rev. Samuel M. Jackson, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History, New York University, says: "The Romans had, like other Pagan nations, a nature festival, called by them Saturnalia, and the Northern peoples had Yule; both celebrated the turn of the year from the death of winter to the life of spring -- the winter solstice. As this was an auspicious change the festival was a very joyous one.... The giving of presents and the burning of candles characterized it. Among the Northern people the lighting of a huge log in the houses of the great and with appropriate ceremonies was a feature. The Roman church finding this festival deeply intrenched in popular esteem, wisely adopted it" (Universal Cyclopedia).
The festival of Easter belongs to this religion. It was observed in honor of the Saxon goddess Eastre, or Ostara, the goddess of Spring. It celebrated, not the resurrection of Christ, but the resurrection of Spring and flowers. It still retains the name of this goddess. Nearly every festival of the church -- and the Catholic and English churches have many -- are of Pagan origin. Every day of the week bears a Pagan name -- four of them the names of Scandinavian gods -- Tuesday the name of Tiu (Tyr), Wednesday the name of Woden (Odin), Thursday the name of Thor, and Friday that of Freya Even the Christian "hell" was derived from "Hel," the name of the Norse goddess of the lower world.