Zeitgeist: The Movie by Peter Joseph - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
whom they slew and hanged on a tree… (Acts 10:39)
Concerning Attis‘s death, Doane remarks:
Attys, who was cal ed the ―Only Begotten Son‖ and ―Saviour,‖ was worshipped by the
Phrygians…. He was represented by them as a man tied to a tree, at the foot of which was a
lamb, and, without doubt, also as a man nailed to the tree, or stake, for we find Lactantius making
this Apol o of Miletus…say that:
―He was a mortal according to the flesh; wise in miraculous works; but, being arrested by
an armed force by command of the Chaldean judges, he suffered a death made bitter
with nails and stakes.‖130
126 Price, R., 87.
127 Tacey, 110.
128 Acharya, SOG, 281.
129 Higgins, I, 499.
130 Doane, 190-191.
In his book Divine Institutes (4.11), Christian writer Lactantius (c. 240-c. 320) relates that, according to his
oracle, the sun god Apollo of Miletus was ―mortal in the flesh, wise in miraculous deeds, but he was made
prisoner by the Chaldean lawgivers and nailed to stakes, and came to a painful death.‖131 If the oracle
really had recounted a genuinely ancient account of Apollo‘s passion, then we have a pre-Christian
mythical precedent for that of Jesus. Moreover, the identification of Attis with Apollo is apt, since both
were taken in antiquity to be sun gods and discussed together, such as by Macrobius and the Emperor
Julian ―the Apostate‖ (331/332-363 AD/CE), the latter of whom said that both Apollo and Attis were ―closely
linked with Helios,‖132 the older Greek sun god.
Death of Attis
(Archaeological Museum of Ostia, Rome)
Tomb/Three Days/Resurrected: We have already seen Dr. Fear‘s commentary that Attis was dead for
three days and was resurrected, worth reiterating here:
The youthful Attis after his murder was miraculously brought to life again three days after his
demise. The celebration of this cycle of death and renewal was one of the major festivals of the
metroac cult. Attis therefore represented a promise of reborn life and as such it is not surprising
that we find representations of the so-called mourning Attis as a common tomb motif in the
The death and resurrection in three days, the ―Passion of Attis,‖ is also related by Professor Merlin Stone:
Roman reports of the rituals of Cybele record that the son...was first tied to a tree and then
buried. Three days later a light was said to appear in the burial tomb, whereupon Attis rose from
the dead, bringing salvation with him in his rebirth.134
There is a debate as to when the various elements were added to the Attis myth and ritual. In this regard,
Murdock writes in ―The Real ZEITGEIST Chal enge‖:
Contrary to the current fad of dismissing all correspondences between Christianity and Paganism,
the fact that Attis was at some point a ―dying and rising god‖ is concluded by Dr. Tryggve
Mettinger, a professor of Old Testament Studies at the University of Lund and author of The
Riddle of the Resurrection, who relates: ―Since the time of Damascius (6th cent. AD/CE), Attis
seems to have been believed to die and return.‖ (Mettinger, 159) By that point, we possess clear
discussion in writing of Attis having been resurrected, but when exactly were these rites first
celebrated and where? Attis worship is centuries older than Jesus worship and was popular in
some parts of the Roman Empire before and well into the ―Christian era.‖
131 Lactantius, 245.
132 Athanassiadi, 204.
133 Lane, 39.
134 Stone, 146.
In addition, it is useful here to reiterate that simply because something occurred after the year 1
AD/CE—which was not the dating system used at that time—does not mean that it was influenced
by Christianity, as it may have happened where Christianity had never been heard of. In actuality,
not much about Christianity emerges until the second century, and there remain to this day
places where Christianity is unknown; hence, these locations can still be considered pre-
It is probable that the Attis rites were celebrated long before Christianity was recognized to any
meaningful extent. Certainly, since they are mysteries, they could have been celebrated but not
recorded previously, especially in pre-Christian times, when the capital punishment for revealing
the mysteries was actually carried out.
In the case of Attis, we possess a significant account in Diodorus (3.58.7) of his death and
mourning, including the evidently annual ritual creation of his image by priests. Hence, these
noteworthy aspects of the Attis myth are clearly pre-Christian. Although Diodorus does not
specifically state that Attis was resurrected, the priests parading about with an image of the god is
indicative that they considered him risen, as this type of ritual is present in other celebrations for
the same reason, such as in the Egyptian festivities celebrating the return of Osiris or the rebirth
…although we do not need Attis to show a dying-and-rising parallel to Christ, the material in
ZG1.1 concerning him is soundly based in scholarship. Regardless of when these attributes were
first associated specifically with Attis, the dying-and-rising motif of springtime myths is verified as
pre-Christian by the fact of its appearance in the story of Tammuz as well as that of the Greek
goddess Persephone, also known as Proserpina, whose ―rise‖ out of the underworld was
celebrated in the Greco-Roman world. That the festivals displayed by the Attis myth represent
spring celebrations and not an imitation of Christianity is the most logical conclusion. Indeed, the
presence of such a ritual in springtime festivals dating back to the third millennium BCE, as
Mettinger relates, certainly makes the case for borrowing by Christians, rather than the other way
Again, the reason these motifs are common in many places is because they revolve around nature
worship, solar mythology and astrotheology.
Krishna, of India, born of the virgin Devaki with a “star in the east” signaling his
coming. He performed miracles with his disciples, and upon his death was
The sun is a prominent deity in the religions of India as elsewhere, dating back centuries to millennia.
Hindu literature from ancient times is full of reverence for the solar deity, the supreme light that inhabits
the visible disk. In the Gāyatrī Mantra, a Vedic scripture, the sun is revealed as the Supreme Godhead:
Let us adore the supremacy of that divine Sun, the Godhead, who illuminates all, who recreates
all, from whom all proceed, to whom all must return: whom we invoke to direct our understanding
aright in our progress toward his holy seat.136
Demonstrating its importance—and that of the sun to Indian religion—this ―mantra of the sun‖ is claimed
to be ―superior to all the mantras referred to in the Vedas.‖137 Indeed, the Gāyatrī is ―considered as the
‗Mother of the Vedas.‘‖138
The main Indian sun god is called Surya, but numerous other deities within the Hindu pantheon also
possess solar attributes and have been deemed sun gods as well. As another solar deity, the Indian god
Krishna‘s story follows a pattern of mythical motifs similar to the Christ myth.139 Krishna‘s solar nature is
135 Murdock, RZC, 15-16, For a discussion of the dating of various aspects of the Attis myth, see Christ in Egypt,
136 This text represents an elegant paraphrase of the Gāyatrī Mantra by Indianist Sir William Jones. (See Balfour,
137 Pathar, 43.
138 Pathar, 43.
139 See Murdock‘s Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled for more information on Krishna‘s solar nature.
clear from many of his characteristics and adventures, not the least of which is his status as an
incarnation of the god Vishnu. In this regard, Lalta Prasad Pandey remarks that Vishnu‘s solar nature is
―‗beyond doubt‘ and that the Vedas concur that Vishnu was a sun god.‖140 Says Pandey: ―Vishnu,
described in the Rgveda, is another solar deity.‖141
In the Bhagavad Gita, verse 10.21, Krishna states:
I am Vishnu striding among sun gods, the radiant sun among lights...142
Surya in chariot driven by Aruna
Krishna in chariot driven by Arjuna
Just as Jesus was considered an incarnation of God himself, so was Krishna the incarnation of Vishnu in
a miraculous conception. In another sacred Indian text called the Vishnu Purana (5.1-3) we read:
…the supporter of the earth, Vishnu, would be the eighth child of Devakí…
No person could bear to gaze upon Devaki, from the light that invested her, and those who
contemplated her radiance felt their minds disturbed. The gods, invisible to mortals, celebrated
her praises continually from the time that Vishnu was contained in her person.... Thus eulogized
by the gods, Devaki bore, in her womb, the lotus-eyed (deity), the protector of the world....143
Born of a Virgin: Like Krishna, who is essentially a solar deity and not a ―real person,‖ so too is his
mother, Devaki, a mythical figure. Although the story becomes very complicated and far from its roots in
later retellings, the germ of the Krishna-Devaki myth can apparently be found in the Rig Veda, in which
the Dawn goddess gives birth to the rising Sun.144 This miraculous conception of a god incarnating
himself through a ―mortal‖ woman obviously compares to the gospel tale of Jesus‘s nativity.
Even though it is accepted that Krishna was another form of the Divine Vishnu, it is nevertheless argued
that because Devaki had other children prior to the birth of Krishna, she was not ―a virgin.‖ Yet, in
mythology the perpetual virgin is a common motif, regardless of how many children the female is said to
have given birth to. As Carpenter points out:
There is hardly a god whose worship as a benefactor of mankind attained popularity in any of the
four continents...who was not reported to have been born from a virgin, or at least from a mother
who owned the child not to any earthly father.145
140 Pandey, 17; Acharya, SOG, 183.
141 Pandey, 16.
142 Stoler Miller, 94.
143 Wilson, 264, 268.
144 Acharya, SOG, 222.
145 Carpenter, 156.
Indeed, the notion of a ―divine birth‖ is common in the ancient literature; although not always the same as
―virgin birth,‖ it is very close, by definition. In the Indian text the Bhagavad Gita (4:9), Krishna tells his
disciple Arjuna about his own ―divine‖ or ―transcendental‖ birth.
Moreover, while Devaki may have had other children, so too is Jesus depicted as having brothers and
sisters. For example, Matthew 12:46 refers to Jesus‘s ―brothers‖:
While he (Jesus) was still speaking to the people, behold his mother and his brothers stood
outside, asking to speak with him.
The scripture at Matthew 13:55-56 reads:
Is not this the carpenter‘s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James
and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?
Despite apparently giving birth to all these children, Mary remains a perpetual virgin.146
Regarding this virgin-birth motif, Murdock states:
While the most common terminology concerning the status of Krishna‘s mother, Devaki, when
she gave birth to the god is that she was ―chaste,‖ another myth depicts her becoming a virgin
mother as a teenager after eating the seed of a mango. This apocryphal tale demonstrates that
the notion of the virgin mother existed in Hindu mythology, specifically applicable to Devaki, who
later became Krishna‘s mother. In the Indian epic the Mahabharata, parts of which were
composed centuries before the Christian era, the character Draupadi is a virgin mother, while the
book‘s supposed author, also named Krishna, is said to have been born of a virgin. Also in the
Mahabharata, the goddess Kunti remarks: ―Without a doubt, through the grace of that god, I once
more became a virgin.‖ Kunti is depicted as a ―chaste maiden‖—here unquestionably a virgin—
who is impregnated by the sun god Surya. Other ―born-again virgins‖ in this epic include Madhavi
In consideration of the fact that a number of important figures in the Hindu sacred texts are
unquestionably depicted as virgin mothers—including Devaki as a teenager—it is understandable that
many writers have depicted Krishna‘s birth as virginal. For more on the subject, see Murdock‘s Suns of
God and ―Was Krishna‘s Mother a Virgin?‖
Devaki suckling Krishna
Virgin Mary suckling Christ
(Moor, Hindu Pantheon, pl. 59)
146 Catholic and other Christian apologists contend that these ―brothers‖ (and sisters) are either Jesus‘s cousins or
the children of Joseph by Mary.
147 Murdock, RZC, 17.
“Star in the East”: Although it is not specifically termed a ―star in the east,‖ in the Indian text the
Bhagavata Purana (10.3:1), a constellation called ―Rohini‖ or ―his stars‖ is present at Krishna‘s birth. As
professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University Dr. Edwin F. Bryant remarks:
At the time of [Krishna‘s] birth, all the constellations and stars were benevolent. The constellation
was Rohini, which is presided over by Brahma.148
Regarding this stellar motif, J.M. Robertson states:
Now, it is a general rule in ancient mythology that the birthdays of God were astrological; and the
simple fact that the Purana gives an astronomical moment for Krishna‘s birth is a sufficient proof
that at the time of writing they had a fixed date for it. The star Rohini under which he was born, it
will be remembered, has the name given in one variation of the Krishna legend to a wife of
Vasudeva who bore to him Rama, as Devaki...bore Krishna. Here we are in the thick of ancient
astrological myth. Rohini (our Aldebaran) is ―the red,‖ ―a mythical name also applied now to
Aurora, now to a star.‖149
The point here is that a celestial portent is common at the birth of great gods, legends, heroes and
patriarchs, as can be found in other stories and myths, including the Persian lawgiver Zoroaster, whose
very name means ―star of splendor,‖150 and Buddha, as the ―immortals of the Tushita-heaven decide that
Buddha shall be born when the ‗flower-star‘ makes its first appearance in the East.‖151 Hence, the story
about the star in the east at Christ‘s birth is an unoriginal and patently mythical motif.
Performed Miracles: Quoting Murdock:
Krishna‘s performance of miracles, in front of his disciples, is legendary, including many in the
Mahabharata, in which he reveals mysteries to his disciple Arjuna (John?). Krishna does likewise
in the Bhagavad Gita, in which he describes himself as the ―Lord of all beings,‖ among many
epithets similar to those found within Christianity. In this same regard, Krishna says: ―I am the
origin of al that exists, and everything emanates from Me.‖152
Death and Resurrection: Concerning Krishna‘s death and ascension, in The Oxford Companion to
World Mythology, Dr. Leeming states:
Just after the war, Krishna dies, as he had predicted he would, when, in a position of meditation,
he is struck in the heel by a hunter‘s arrow. His apotheosis occurs when he ascends in death to
the heavens and is greeted by the gods.153
Regarding the resurrection/ascension, the Mahabharata (4) says that Krishna or ―Keshava,‖ as he is also
traditionally called, immediately returns to life after being killed and speaks only to the hunter, forgiving
him of his actions:
…he [the hunter] touched the feet of [Krishna]. The high-souled one comforted him and then
ascended upwards, filling the entire welkin [sky/heaven] with splendour... [Krishna] reached his
own inconceivable region.154
Concerning Krishna‘s death, Murdock remarks:
Although it is not specifically stated that Krishna ―resurrects‖ upon his death—when he is killed
under a tree—he does ascend into heaven, alive again, since he is considered to be the eternal
God of the cosmos. Krishna‘s death is recounted in the Mahabharata and Vishnu Purana, both
148 Bryant, KS, 119.
149 Robertson, 177.
150 Zoroaster or Zarathustra has been credited with ―prophesying‖ the appearance of the ―star in the east‖ over the
place of the coming savior, as in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour (10). (Roberts, ANF, VIII, 406.) This
―prophecy‖ is also considered to be the prediction of his own rebirth.
151 The star at Buddha‘s birth is said to be the ―Pushya Nakshatra‖ (Prasad, G., 25.) This episode of the star Pushya
at Buddha's birth is found in the Buddhist texts the Mahāvastu and the Lalita Vistara. (Edmunds, 123.)
152 Murdock, RZC, 17.
153 Leeming, OCWM, 232.
154 Rāya, 12.
claiming he was killed by a hunter while sitting under a tree, the arrow penetrating his foot, much
like Christ having a nail driven through his feet. In this regard, there have been found in India
strange images of figures in cruciform with nail holes in their hands and feet, one of which was
identified by an Indian priest as possibly the god Wittoba, who is an incarnation of Krishna.155
The impression of a resurrection is evident from the depiction of Krishna comforting his killer just after
death, before he has ascended into heaven. The point is that the god was once dead, but now he is alive
again, whether in this world or the afterlife. This type of detail does not suffice to undermine the fact of the
resurrection or raising up from death being a mythical motif in the first place, applicable both to Christ as
well as many other gods and legendary figures.156
Dionysus of Greece, born of a virgin on December 25th, was a traveling teacher
who performed miracles such as turning water into wine, he was referred to as the
“King of Kings,” “God’s Only Begotten Son,” “The Alpha and Omega,” and many
others, and upon his death, he was resurrected.
It is wise at this point to recall that in the ancient world many gods were confounded and compounded,
deliberately or otherwise. Some were even considered interchangeable, such as Osiris, Horus and Ra. In
this regard, Plutarch (35, 364E) states, ―Osiris is identical with Dionysus.‖157 Thus, Zeus‘s son Dionysus
or Bacchus was considered the Greek rendition of Osiris:
Dionysus became the universal savior-god of the ancient world. And there has never been
another like unto him: the first to whom his attributes were accredited, we call Osiris: with the
death of paganism, his central characteristics were assumed by Jesus Christ.158
Dionysus is likewise identified with the god Aion and also referred to as ―Zeus Sabazius‖ in other
traditions.159 Hence, we would expect him to share in at least some of all these gods‘ attributes.
Dionysus returns from India
Mosaic pavement, 3rd cent. AD/CE
December 25th (Winter Solstice): As with Jesus, December 25th and January 6th are both traditional birth
dates related to Dionysus and simply represent the period of the winter solstice. Concerning these dates,
155 Murdock, RZC, 17.
156 For more information on the mythical motif of the resurrection, see Murdock, CIE, 402-420.
157 Plutarch/Babbitt, 85.
158 Larson, 82.
159 Graves, R., WG, 335.
The winter-solstice date of the Greek sun and wine god Dionysus was originally recognized in
early January but was eventually placed on December 25th, as related by Macrobius. Regardless,
the effect is the same: The winter sun god is born around this time, when the [shortest day of the
year] begins to become longer….160
Murdock also says:
The birthday of Dionysus can be listed on both the 5th and 6th of January, while the god Aion who
is born on January 6th is called by Joseph Campbell a ―syncretistic personification of Osiris.‖
Dionysus was likewise identified with both Aion and Osiris in ancient times. In antiquity too, Jesus
Christ‘s nativity was also placed on the 6th or 7th of January, when it remains celebrated in some
factions of the Orthodox Church, such as Armenia, as well as the Coptic Church. Concerning
these dates, Christian theologian Dr. Hugo Rahner remarks:
As to the dates, Norden has shown that the change from January 6 to December 25 can
be explained as the result of the reform introduced by the more accurate Julian calendar
into the ancient Egyptian calculation which had fixed January 6 as the date of the winter
It thus appears that in ancient times these dates of January 5, 6 and 7 represented the winter
solstice, which is fitting for sun gods. Indeed, Macrobius later places Dionysus‘s birth on
December 25th, again appropriate for a sun god.161
Jesuit theologian Dr. Rahner further states:
...in the Hellenistic East, and with Alexandria evidently taking the lead, a mystery was enacted
that concerned the birth of Aion by a virgin and that this mystery took place on the night leading to
January 6. It is quite immaterial whether the object of the cult in question was really Dionysus
Aion or some other deity. Epiphanius, quoting other ancient writers, tells us elsewhere that the
birthday of Dionysus was celebrated on January 5 and 6, though in the present instance it may
well have been that of Osiris or Harpocrates-Horus. It matters very little, since the tendency in
these late Hellenistic days was for the identities of gods, all of whom were beginning to take on
the character of a solar deity, to become merged with one another. We know that Aion was at this
time beginning to be regarded as identical with Helios and Helios with Dionysus…162
The pertinent passage in the writings of Church father Epiphanius mentioned by Rahner relates:
On this day, i.e. on the eighth day before the Calends of January, the Greeks...celebrate a feast
that the Romans call Saturnalia, the Egyptians Cronia and the Alexandrines Cicellia. The reason
is that the eighth day before the Calends of January forms a dividing-line, for on it occurs the
solstice; the day begins to lengthen again and the sun shines longer and with increasing strength
until the eighth day before the Ides of January, viz., until the day of Christ‘s nativity...
The principal of [the] feasts is that which takes place in the so-called Koreion in Alexandria, this
Koreion being a mighty temple in the district sacred to Kore. Throughout the whole night the
people keep themselves awake here by singing certain hymns and by means of the flute-playing
which accompanies the songs they sing to the image of their god. When they have ended these
nocturnal celebrations, then at morning cock-crow they descend, carrying torches, into a sort of
chapel which is below ground and thence they carry up a wooden image of one lying naked upon
a bier. This image has upon its forehead a golden cross and two more such seals in the form of
crosses one on each hand... If anyone asks them what manner of mysteries these might be, they
reply, saying: ―Today at this hour Kore, that is the virgin, has given birth to Aion.‖
Such things also occur in Petra... The hymns they sing are in the Arabic tongue and are in praise
of a virgin whom they call ― Chaamu” which is the same as Kore or Parthenos, and in praise of her
160 Murdock, The 2010 Astrotheology Calendar, 44.
161 Murdock, 2AC, 36.
162 Rahner, 139.
child ― Dusares‖ which means ―Only son of the ruler of all.‖ The same thing happens on this same
night in Alexandria, in Petra and also in the city of Elusa.163
Joseph Campbell confirms this ―celebration of the birth of the year-god Aion to the virgin Goddess Kore,‖
the latter of whom he calls ―a Hel enized transformation of Isis.‖164
Virgin Birth: According to the most common tradition, Dionysus was the son of the god Zeus and the
mortal woman Semele. In the Cretan version of the same story, which Diodorus Siculus follows, Dionysus
was the son of Zeus and Persephone, the daughter of Demeter also called Kore, who, as we have seen,
is styled a ―virgin goddess.‖
In the common myth about the birth of Dionysus/Bacchus, Semele is mysteriously impregnated by one of
Zeus‘s bolts of lightning—an obvious miraculous/virgin conception. In another account, Jupiter/Zeus gives
Dionysus‘s torn-up heart in a drink to Semele, who becomes pregnant with the ―twice born‖ god this
way,165 again a miraculous or ―virgin‖ birth. Indeed, Joseph Campbell explicitly calls Semele a ―virgin‖:
While the maiden goddess sat there, peacefully weaving a mantle on which there was to be a
representation of the universe, her mother contrived that Zeus should learn of her presence; he
approached her in the form of an immense snake. And the virgin conceived the ever-dying, ever-
living god of bread and wine, Dionysus, who was born and nurtured in that cave, torn to death as
a babe and resurrected...166
This same direct appellation is used by Cambridge professor and anthropologist Sir Dr. Edmund Ronald
Dionysus, son of Zeus, is born of a mortal virgin, Semele, who later became immortalized through
the intervention of her divine son; Jesus, son of God, is born of a mortal virgin, Mary… such
stories can be duplicated over and over again.167
In The Cult of the Divine Birth in Ancient Greece, Dr. Marguerite Rigoglioso concludes: ―Semele was also
likely a holy parthenos by virtue of the fact that she gave birth to Dionysus via her union with Zeus
(Hesiod, Theogony 940).‖168
These learned individuals had reason to consider Dionysus‘s mother a virgin, as, again, he was also said
to have been born of Persephone/Kore, whom, again from Epiphanius, was herself deemed a ―virgin,‖ or
parthenos, as was the title both in the ancient Greek-speaking world as well as in modern scholarship. In
this regard, professor emeritus of Classics at the University of Pennsylvania Dr. Donald White says, ―As a
title ‗Parthenos‘ was appropriate to both Demeter and Persephone...‖169
In any event, the effect is the same: Dionysus is born of a god and a virgin mother.
Miracles: The miracles of Dionysus are legendary, as is his role as the god of wine, echoed in the later
Christian story of Jesus multiplying the jars of wine at the wedding feast of Cana (Jn 2:1-9). Concerning
this miracle, biblical scholar Dr. A.J. Mattill remarks:
This story is really the Christian counterpart to the pagan legends of Dionysus, the Greek god of
wine, who at his annual festival in his temple of Elis filled three empty kettles with wine—no water
needed! And on the fifth of January wine instead of water gushed from his temple at Andros. If we
believe Jesus‘ miracle, why should we not believe Dionysus‘s?170
Concerning Dionysus‘s miracles, Murdock states:
163 Rahner, 137-138. For a lengthy discussion of this important passage in Epiphanius, which was edited out of the
Migne edition, see Murdock, CIE, 84-88.
164 Campbell, MI, 34.
165 van den Berg, 288.
166 Campbell, MG, 27.
167 Hugh-Jones, 108.
168 Rigoglioso, 95.
169 White, 183.
170 Leedom, 125.
As the god of the vine, Dionysus is depicted in ancient texts as traveling around teaching
agriculture, as well as doing various miracles, such as in Homer‘s The Iliad, dating to the 9th
century BCE, and in The Bacchae of Euripides, the famous Greek playwright who lived around
480 to 406 BCE. In addition, Dionysus‘s miracle of changing water to wine is also recounted in
pre-Christian times by Diodorus ( Library of History, 3.66.3).171
Epithets: In Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, Doane asserts, ―Bacchus, the offspring of
Jupiter and Semele was called the ‗Savior,‘ ...he was called the ‗Only Begotten Son.‘‖172 The title of
―savior‖ or Soter was applied to many Greek and other gods prior to the Christian era.173
Regarding Dionysus‘s many divine epithets, Murdock states:
In an Orphic hymn, Phanes-Dionysus is styled by the Greek title Protogonos or ―first-born‖ of
Zeus, also translated at times as ―only-begotten son,‖ although the term Monogenes would be
more appropriately rendered as the latter.
As concerns the epithet ―King of Kings,‖ noted anthropologist Sir James G. Frazer tells us that the
Neoplatonist Proclus (5th cent. AD/CE) related:
Dionysus was the last king of the gods appointed by Zeus. For his father set him on the
kingly throne, and placed in his hand the scepter, and made him king of all the gods of
In the case of Dionysus/Bacchus being labeled the ―Alpha and Omega,‖ here is one instance
where not knowing foreign languages would make the sources difficult to access, as we are told
in French by Rev. Isaac de Beausobre that there is an ancient inscription in which
Dionysus/Bacchus says, ―I am the Alpha and Omega.‖174
The title ―King of Kings‖ and other epithets may reflect Dionysus‘s kinship with Osiris: During the late 18th
to early 19th dynasties (c. 1300 BCE), Osiris‘s epithets included, ―the king of eternity, the lord of
everlastingness, who traverseth millions of years in the duration of his life, the firstborn son of the womb
of Nut, begotten of Seb, the prince of gods and men, the god of gods, the king of kings, the lord of lords,
the prince of princes, the governor of the world whose existence is for everlasting.‖175
Death/Resurrection: Dionysus‘s death and resurrection were well-known mythical motifs in antiquity.
The various myths concerning these motifs are recounted by Frazer:
According to one version, which represented Dionysus as a son of Zeus and Demeter, his mother
pieced together his mangled limbs and made him young again. In others it is simply said that
shortly after his burial he rose from the dead and ascended up to heaven...
Turning from the myth to the ritual, we find that the Cretans celebrated a biennial festival at which
the passion of Dionysus was represented in every detail... Where the resurrection formed part of
the myth, it also was acted at the rites, and it even appears that a general doctrine of
resurrection, or at least of immortality, was inculcated on the worshippers; for Plutarch, writing to
console his wife on the death of their infant daughter, comforts her with the thought of the
immortality of the soul as taught by tradition and revealed in the mysteries of Dionysus. A
different form of the myth of the death and resurrection of Dionysus is that he descended into
Hades to bring up his mother Semele from the dead.176
In this same regard, Sir Arthur Weigall relates:
Dionysos, whose father, as in the Christian story, was ―God‖ but whose mother was a mortal
woman [Semele], was represented in the East as a bearded young man of dignified appearance,
171 Murdock, RZC, 18.
172 Doane, 193.
173 It should be noted that what is deemed the ―Christian era‖ is not the same as the ―common era,‖ because there
are to this day places where Christianity has not been heard of; hence, they remain pre-Christian.
174 Murdock, RZC, 18.
175 Budge, EBD (1967), liii.
176 Frazer, GB, 452.
who had not only taught mankind the use of the vine but had also been a law-giver, promoting the
arts of civilisation, preaching happiness, and encouraging peace. He, like Jesus, had suffered a
violent death, and had descended into hell, but his resurrection and ascension had followed; and
these were commemorated in his sacred rites.177
Finally, Murdock concludes:
Dionysus‘s death and resurrection were famous in ancient times, so much so that Christian father
Origen (c. 184-c. 254) felt the need to address them in his Contra Celsus (IV, XVI-XVII),
comparing them unfavorably, of course, to those of Christ. By Origen‘s time, these Dionysian
mysteries had already been celebrated for centuries. Dionysus/Bacchus‘s resurrection or revival
after having been torn to pieces or otherwise killed earned him the epithet of ―twice born.‖178
―[S]cene in the underworld. Dionysos
mounting a chariot is about to leave his
mother, Semele, and ascend‖
(Kerenyi, pl. 47)
As a related aside, it is interesting to point out that the Catholic Communion as practiced today in the
Christian world also had a place within the cult of Dionysus, as Campbell points out:
Dionysus-Bacchus-Zagreus—or, in the older, Sumero-Babylonian myths, Dumuzi-absu,
Tammuz—...whose blood, in this chalice to be drunk, is the pagan prototype of the wine of the
sacrifice of the Mass, which is transubstantiated by the words of consecration into the blood of
the Son of the Virgin.179
Mithra of Persia, born of a virgin on December 25th, he had 12 disciples and
performed miracles, and upon his death was buried for three days and thus
resurrected, he was also referred to as “The Truth,” “The Light,” and many others.
Interestingly, the sacred day of worship of Mithra was Sunday.
Carpenter summarizes the myth of Mithra:
Mithra was born in a cave, and on the 25th December. He was born of a Virgin. He traveled far
and wide as a teacher and illuminator of men. He slew the Bull (symbol of the gross Earth which
the sunlight fructifies). His great festivals were the winter solstice and the Spring equinox
(Christmas and Easter). He had twelve companions or disciples (the twelve months). He was
buried in a tomb, from which however he rose again; and his resurrection was celebrated yearly
with great rejoicings. He was called Savior and Mediator, and sometimes figured as a Lamb; and
sacramental feasts in remembrance of him were held by his followers. This legend is apparently
177 Weigall, 220.
178 Murdock, RZC, 19.
179 Campbell, MG, vol. 4, p. 23.
partly astronomical and partly vegetational; and the same may be said of the following about
Carpenter also notes:
The birth feast of Mithra was held in Rome on the 8th day before the Kalends of January, being
also the day of the Circassian games, which were sacred to the Sun. (See F. Nork, Der
Virgin Birth/December 25th (Winter Solstice): Although the commonly know myth depicts Mithra as
being born from a ―rock‖182—itself a miraculous birth—there is another version of the Mithraic nativity that
portrays the god as being born from the virgin goddess Anahita. Addressing the status of Mithra‘s birth,
As concerns the debate regarding the Perso-Roman god Mithra‘s ―virgin birth,‖ not a few scholars
and writers of Persian/Iranian extract have discussed the Persian goddess of love Anahita as
Mithra‘s virgin mother….
In the scholarly digest Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress, Dr.
Martin Schwartz, a professor of Iranian Studies at the University of California, discusses the
―Armenian national epic‖ concerning Mithra, who is called the ―Great Mher.‖ In recounting a myth
regarding the Great Mher (Mithra), Dr. Schwartz relates the story of his father, Sanasar, who
along with his twin brother Baltasar is ―born of a virgin who becomes pregnant from the water of
the ‗Milky Fountain of Immortality‘...‖ He next says:
Combining these data with the tradition found in Elise that Mithra was born of God
through a human mother...one may suggest a transference of the miraculous birth of the
Sosyants to Mithra.
In other words, in certain traditions Mithra was said to have been born of the union of God with a
human mortal, possibly a virgin mother like that of his father.183
Sassanid king Khosrow flanked by
Anahita and Ahura Mazda
7th cent. AD/CE
Taq-e Bostan, Iran
180 Carpenter, 21.
181 Carpenter, 21.
182 It should be noted that the ancient Latin word for ―matter‖ is materia, as in ―material,‖ which shares the same root
with mater, meaning ―mother.‖ Indeed, materia may also be rendered ―mother-stuff,‖ while mater is not only ―mother‖
but also ―source.‖ (Smith, W., 669) In this regard, Mithra‘s ―rock‖ birth can likewise be said to be from ―virgin mater.‖
183 Murdock, RZC, 19.
Mithra‘s birthday on December 25th is so well known that even the Catholic Encyclopedia (―Mithraism‖)
must admit it: ―The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-
sun, unconquered by the rigours of the season.‖184
Concerning Jesus‘s birth and the commemoration of ―Christmas,‖ Christian apologist Thomas Thorburn
The earliest church commemorated it at various times from September to March, until in 354 A.D.
Pope Julius I assimilated the festival with that of the birth of Mithra (December 25), in order to
facilitate the more complete Christianization of the empire.185
Twelve Disciples: Very simply, ―the Twelve‖ are the signs of the zodiac, metaphorically introduced in the
mysteries, and this motif is likely the source of Jesus‘s 12. During the very era when Christ had
supposedly walked the earth, two prominent Jewish writers, Philo (c. 20 BCE-c. 50 AD/CE) and Josephus
(37-c. 100 AD/CE), explained that the 12 Jewish tribes were symbolic of the signs of the zodiac. In Christ
in Egypt, Murdock writes:
As Josephus says ( Antiquities, 3.8): ―And for the twelve stones [of Exodus 39:9-14], whether we
understand by them the months, or whether we understand the like number of the signs of that
circle which the Greeks call the zodiac, we shall not be mistaken in their meaning.‖
(Josephus/Whiston, 75.) Earlier than Josephus, Philo (―On the Life of Moses,‖ 12) had made the
same comments regarding Moses: ―Then the twelve stones on the breast, which are not like one
another in colour, and which are divided into four rows of three stones in each, what else can they
be emblems of, except of the circle of the zodiac?‖ (Philo/Yonge, 99.)186
Philo wrote before Christ had supposedly started his ministry, yet he never heard of him. In the meantime,
he had heard of the 12 tribes representing the zodiacal signs, and we subsequently read the suggestion
in the gospel (Mt 19:28) that Jesus allegedly picked his disciples based on the tribes, which were in turn,
according to Philo and Josephus, equated with the zodiacal 12.
Concerning the Twelve within Mithraism, Murdock says:
Mithra surrounded by the 12 ―companions‖ is a motif found on many Mithraic remains and
representing the 12 signs of the zodiac. The comparison of this common motif with Jesus and the
12 has been made on many occasions, including in an extensive study entitled, ―Mithras and
Christ: some iconographical similarities,‖ by Professor A. Deman in the same volume of Mithraic
The point here is not whether or not these companions are depicted as interacting in the same manner as
the disciples of Jesus but that the theme of the god or godman with the 12 surrounding him is common
enough—and with very popular deities in the same region—to have served as a precedent for the
Christian Twelve with Christ at their center. It surely would have struck any intelligent and half-way
educated member of the Roman Empire as very odd when Christians attempted to tell their supernatural
tales of a Jewish godman with 12 companions, in consideration of the fact that there were already so
many of these saviors in variety of cultures.
184 CE, X, 404.
185 Thorburn, 33.
186 Murdock, CIE, 261-262.
187 Murdock, RZC, 20.
Mithra surrounded by the 12 signs of the zodiac
c. 150 AD/CE
Miracles: Regarding Mithra‘s miracles, Mithraic Studies editor John R. Hinnells states:
...the side panels of many Mithraic reliefs and paintings are interpreted as representations of the
primeval life of the god, in which he performed miracles, experience various adventures, and
celebrated an archetypal communion meal before he ascended to heaven.188
Death/Three Days/Resurrection: In the Roman Empire, Mithraism became the cult of the undertakers
guild. Hence, there was a focus on death and the afterlife, experienced in myth and ritual. In discussing
the death-oriented Mithraic rituals, professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the
University of Chicago Rev. Dr. Harold R. Willoughby cites Church father Tertullian and remarks:
A simulation of death in the Mithraic mysteries…is perfectly intelligible. Death was the logical
preliminary to a renewal of life; hence the pretence of death by the neophyte was a perfectly
natural antecedent to the regenerative experiences of baptism and sacramental communion that
followed in the Mithraic ritual. That this was precisely the interpretation put upon this bit of
liturgical fiction is clearly suggested by a passage in Tertullian. In discussing the Mithraic rites of
baptism and communion, the Christian lawyer affirmed: ―Mithra there brings in the symbol of a
resurrection.‖ This striking use of the phrase imago resurrection is doubly significant. It proves
that a simulation of death was an integral part of Mithraic ritual, and also that it was but
antecedent to an experience of regeneration.189
These death rituals were part of the Mithraic mysteries, as related by Rev. Dr. J.P. Lundy:
Dupuis tells us that Mithra was put to death by crucifixion, and rose again on the 25th of March. In
the Persian Mysteries the body of a young man, apparently dead, was exhibited, which was
feigned to be restored to life. By his sufferings he was believed to have worked their salvation,
and on this account he was called their Saviour. His priests watched his tomb to the midnight of
the vigil of the 25th of March, with loud cries, and in darkness; when all at once the light burst forth
from all parts, the priest cried, Rejoice, O sacred initiated, your God is risen. His death, his pains,
and sufferings have worked your salvation.190
In Religions of the World, Gerald L. Berry discusses Mithra‘s three-day burial and removal from the tomb:
...On Black Friday (cf. Good Friday) the taurobolium, or bull-slaying, was represented. At this
festival, the sacrament often comprised blood drinking. Mithras, worn out by the battle, was
symbolically represented by a stone image lain on a bier as a corpse. He was mourned for in
188 Hinnells, 291.
189 Willoughby, 110-111.
190 Lundy, 168.
liturgy, and placed in a sacred rock tomb called ―Petra,‖ from which he was removed after three
days in a great festival of rejoicing.191
In writing about the Mithraic festival of Mihragān, Iranian studies professor Dr. Mary Boyce remarks:
...for centuries Mihragān...was celebrated in the spring. For many generations, therefore, Mithra‘s
feast was observed at a time traditionally associated with the Zoroastrian feast of the
Boyce also says, ―The Zoroastrian theologians are indeed recorded as saying...that as an autumn feast
Mihragān was a symbol of resurrection and the end of the world...193
Epithets: Among other titles, Mithra was said to be, ―Mighty in strength, mighty rulers, greatest king of
gods! O Sun, lord of heaven and earth, God of Gods!‖194 He was also cal ed ―the mediator.‖195
Mithra shared many such epithets with Christ, as Berry demonstrates:
Both Mithras and Christ were described variously as ―the way,‖ ―the truth,‖ ―the light,‖ ―the life,‖
―the word,‖ ―the son of god,‖ ―the good shepherd...‖196
In this same regard, Iranian scholar Dr. Payam Nabarz states, ―Mithras is described as the lord of wide
pastures, the lord of truth and contracts.‖197
And Dr. Marvin Meyers, a professor of Religious Studies at Chapman College, says:
Already among the ancient Indo-Iranian peoples, Mithras was known as a god of light, truth, and
integrity.... The Avesta calls Mithra ―the lord of wide pastures‖...198
Sunday Worship: The Mithraic sacred day being Sunday represents a well-known tradition. As the
Catholic Encyclopedia states, ―Sunday was kept holy in honour of Mithra…‖199 Berry concurs:
Since Mithras was a sun-god, Sunday was automatically sacred to him—the ―Lords Day‖—long
Dr. Ezquerra also states, ―Some say the Lord‘s Day was celebrated on Sunday because that was the
Dies Solis, the day of the Sun, which in turn had something to do with Mithraism.‖201
Concerning Mithraism and Christianity, the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia summarizes:
The birth of Mithra and of Christ were celebrated on the same day; tradition placed the birth of
both in a cave; both regarded Sunday as sacred; in both the central figure was a mediator
( mesitēs) who was one of a triad or trinity; in both there was a sacrifice for the benefit of the
If tradition in India is an indication, this celebration of Mithra‘s sacred time on Sunday possibly dates back
to Vedic ages, 3,000 or more years ago, with his Indian counterpart Mitra being celebrated into modern
times on this day as well: ―...the deity is invoked every Sunday under the name of Mitra in a small pitcher
placed on a small earthen platform...‖203
191 Berry, 57.
192 Hinnells, I, 108.
193 Hinnells, I, 114.
194 Legge, II, 266.
195 De Jong, 172.
196 Berry, 57.
197 Nabarz, 25.
198 Meyer, 199.
199 CE, X, 404.
200 Berry, 57.
201 Ezquerra, 409.
202 Jackson, S., VII, 419.
203 Gonda, 131.
The fact of the matter is there are numerous saviors, from different periods, from
all over the world, which subscribe to these general characteristics. The question
remains: why these attributes, why the virgin birth on December 25th, why dead for
three days and the inevitable resurrection, why 12 disciples or followers? To find out,
let’s examine the most recent of the solar messiahs. Jesus Christ was born of the
Virgin Mary on December 25th in Bethlehem...
The December 25th birthday is not given in the gospels; rather, it is a traditional date assigned to the birth
of Jesus based on prior Pagan traditions. As we have seen, ―December 25th‖ is one of the dates viewed
by the ancients as the end of the winter-solstice period, when, from a geocentric perspective, the sun
begins its long journey north towards the summer solstice.
If we factor in the other solar and astrotheological motifs within Christianity, both in the New Testament
and in Christian tradition, along with the highly important Pagan festivals of the day such as celebrations
of the solstices and equinoxes, we can understand why Christians later appended the December
25th/winter-solstice holiday to their religion. In fact, certain early Church fathers were clear on this point of
having their savior born at the winter solstice. For example, concerning the origins of this solar holiday
vis-à-vis Christianity, the authoritative Catholic Encyclopedia states:
The earliest rapprochement of the births of Christ and the sun is in [the writings of Church father]
Cyprian [200-258]… ―O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun
was born…Christ should be born.‖
In the fourth century, Chrysostom…says:… ―But Our Lord, too, is born in the month of
December…the eighth day before the calends of January [25 December]…, But they call it the
‗Birthday of the Unconquered.‘ Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord…? Or, if they say that
it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice.‖204
The Roman ―Unconquered Sun‖ is both Sol Invictus and Mithra, and we have seen other gods share this
winter-solstice birth, with good reason, as the return of the sun was one of if not the most important days
of the year for many peoples, especially in the far north. Hence, we have a relatively early Church father
who not only admits but also insists that Christ‘s birth usurps that of the sun. He also insists on the logical
equation of Christ with the sun, which had been established in the Old Testament book of Malachi, just
before Matthew‘s gospel, with him prophesying the coming Messiah as the ―Sun of Righteousness.‖ (Mal
The December 25th/winter-solstice birthday was adopted by Christianity in the third century. The Christian
world has thus been celebrating Jesus‘s birthday on December 25th for the past nearly 1700 years—it is
obvious why this birthday was attached to Christian tradition: Because it represented the winter solstice,
the time of the year when the sun is ―born,‖ and Jesus was the ―new sun‖ of the Christians.
...his birth was announced by a star in the east,
which three kings or magi followed to locate and adore
the new savior.
In the New Testament (Mt 2:1-12), the number of ―wise men‖ or magi—
i.e., astrologers—following the star at Jesus‘s birth is not given.
However, it is traditionally assumed to be three because of the three
gifts (frankincense, myrrh and gold) presented by these magi or ―kings‖
during their visit with the divine child. The earliest extant numbering of
the three magi is by Church father Origen (185-224 AD/CE) in his
Homilies on Genesis (14.3),205 who seems not to blink an eye
in his equation, as if it were solidly part of Christian tradition by
Phrygian-capped ―magi‖ approach the divine child
Fresco, 4th cent. AD/CE
Catacomb of Marcus & Marcellianus,
204 CE, III, 727.
205 Origen/Heine, 198.
The Greek word used in the NT to describe these ―wise men‖ is μάγοι or magoi/ magi, the singular of
which is defined by Strong‘s Concordance (G3097) as:
1) a magus
a) the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise
men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers,
soothsayers, sorcerers etc.
b) the oriental wise men (astrologers) who, having discovered by the rising of a remarkable star
that the Messiah had just been born, came to Jerusalem to worship him
c) a false prophet and sorcerer
Hence, these figures are not technical y deemed ―kings.‖ However, Old Testament scriptures held up as
―prophecy‖ of the coming messiah discuss ― kings‖ as coming with gifts, such as Psalm 72:10: ―The kings
of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shal offer gifts.‖
The first to mention the magi as ―kings‖ was Tertullian in Adv. Marcion (3.13), referring to Psalms (67:30,
72:10) and to Isaiah (60:3): ―And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your
rising.‖ The magi as ―kings‖ was further emphasized by St. Caesarius of Arles (6th cent.): ― Ille magi reges
sunt—these magi are indeed kings.‖206
If the Bible does not denote these things exactly, then why have they become Christian tradition,
beginning in the earliest centuries of the common era? So solidly part of Christianity have these three
kings become that they are the subject of much art, as well as songs and other stories. So, why the
On the surface, it would seem that these notions were set in motion by Church fathers such as Origen
and Tertullian. However, if one steps back to examine the Pagan mythological motifs preceding
Christianity—of which Origen and Tertullian were very aware—the traditional notion of there being ―Three
Kings,‖ rather than an unknown number of ―Magi/Wise Men,‖ becomes clearer, as these literary themes
existed in Paganism.
Going back to the scripture in question, Matthew (2:1-9) reads:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there
came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?
for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him….‖
…and lo, the star, which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the
place where the child was.
The summary of this story is that at Christ‘s birth appeared a star in the east, which was used by wise
men or astrologers to locate the ―King of the Jews,‖ i.e., Jesus.
The question becomes whether or not there are any other tales with this same motif—and why? The
answer is yes, as Barbara G. Walker points out with regard to the myth of Osiris, previously cited and
Osiris‘s coming was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak
in the belt of Orion, which point directly to Osiris‘s star in the east, Sirius (Sothis), significator of
Hence, in this meaning of the multifold myth, Osiris‘s birth is heralded by a bright star in the east, with
three stars in the belt of Orion following. This birth occurred when the Nile flooded in the summer, around
the solstice, although because of the wandering Egyptian calendar this date would have occurred on
each day of the year, with the cycle being completed every 1,460 years.
Furthermore, the baby solar falcon-god Sokar, who is identified with Horus, is depicted as being brought
out in a manger at the winter solstice with the three gods appearing.
206 For more on this subject, see Jensen.
207 Walker, B., WEMS, 749.
Also, in the museum in Naples has been kept an ancient marble urn showing the birth/nativity of the
Greek god Dionysus, with two groups of three figures on either side of the god Mercury, who is holding
the divine baby, and a female figure who is receiving him.208
For more on the subject of the star in the east and three kings appearing at the savior‘s birth in pre-
Christian mythology, see Murdock‘s Christ in Egypt, pp. 198-209.
He was a child teacher at 12, at the age of 30 he was baptized by John the Baptist,
and thus began his ministry. Jesus had 12 disciples which he traveled about with
performing miracles such as healing the sick, walking on water, raising the dead, he
was also known as the “King of Kings,” the “Son of God,” the “Light of the World,”
the “Alpha and Omega,” the “Lamb of God,” and many, many others. After being
betrayed by his disciple Judas and sold for 30 pieces of silver, he was crucified,
placed in a tomb and after three days was resurrected and ascended into Heaven.
The above motifs all appear in the canonical gospels, in the New Testament section of the Christian
First of all, the birth sequence is completely astrological. The star in the east is
Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, which, on December 24th, aligns with the
three brightest stars in Orion’s Belt. These three bright stars in Orion’s belt are called
today what they were called in ancient times: The Three Kings. The Three Kings and
the brightest star, Sirius, all point to the place of the sunrise on December 25th. This is
why the Three Kings “follow” the star in the east, in order to locate the sunrise—the
birth of the sun.
This contention is based on general star alignments, as we have already seen abundantly concerning
other gods such as Osiris and Horus. Also, this astrotheological symbolism likely goes back much farther
in time; we simply do not know when it was initially recognized. Regardless, the alignment on December
24th is obvious enough: The three stars of Orion clearly line up with Sirius and point to the east, where the
The moniker of ―Three Kings‖ for these stars in the belt of Orion is documented all over the world. For
example, South Africans call Orion‘s Belt Drie Konings—―Three Kings‖—while in French they are the
In this regard, Carpenter remarks:
Go out next Christmas Evening, and at midnight you will see the brightest of the fixed stars,
Sirius, blazing in the southern sky—not however due south from you, but somewhat to the left of
the Meridian line. Some three thousand years ago (owing to the Precession of the Equinoxes)
that star at the winter solstice did not stand at midnight where you now see it, but almost exactly