One common objection to Christianity is that prior to Jesus, there were many dying and rising gods. These gods supposedly are strikingly similar to the story of Jesus as presented in the New Testament.  Gods such as Mithras, Osiris and Zeus are all posited as having virtually the same origin story as Jesus, only much earlier in history.  But how similar are these gods when you take a closer look at their stories?

It turns out that the similarities are few and far between.  Many of the supposed likenesses are flat out fabrications or conjecture based on little to no evidence.  

Take Mithras for example. The claim is often made that Mithras, a Persian deity that preceded Jesus by 700 years, was also born of a virgin. He was laid in a manger and had 12 followers.  He was worshiped on Sunday and was known as the “Way, the Truth and the Light”.

Sounds very similar to the life of Jesus doesn’t it?

So what’s the problem? The problem is that almost none of so-called facts about Mithras are true.  Mithras wasn’t born of a virgin.  According to the best scholarly research, legend states he was born from a rock.  There is no record of him having 12 followers.  And the only title associated with him was “mediator”.  

Why Do These Inaccuracies Endure?

Sceptics count on gullible Christians being lazy and not doing their homework.  Even the quickest read from reliable historical source material will show you the differences between the two deities.  

Finally, one should not assume that even if similarities did exist between prior gods and Jesus that it would prove Christianity false.  Many similarities exist between the assassinations of President Lincoln and President Kennedy. But we would never assert that the Kennedy assassination was a hoax or made up simply because of its shared similarities with a prior event. 

For more information on Mithras, check out these works on the subject:

Mithras, The Secret God– By M. J Vermaseren

Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies, in Two Volumes– By John R. Hinnells

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