Rome, The Mithra Cult and Early Christianity

>> Thursday, August 18, 2011

I went to Rome during a study trip in winter 1994. We took a flight from Gatwick, London to Rome.  I took lots of photos of Rome including Vatican, the smallest country in the world.

Apart from traveling, I have other  interests and one of it  is comparative religion studies. My interest started when  I went to a lecture given by   Sheikh Ahmad Deedat  the famous Muslim scholar, preacher and debater   at Masjid Sultan Sallahuddin Shah Alam.  One of his most famous debates was “Was Christ Crucified?” when he debated Bishop Josh McDowell in Durban in 1981. He passed away in 2005 at 89 years old. I forgot when the lecture was held  and it probably  in early 90's and I was  in college It seems  senility is  catching up  with  me.  I still have all his softcover  giveaway books in my bookshelves . Since then I have always interested to read about differences and similarities in religions. Click here to listen to his debates. 

Today's post is about Mithra. I guess many people have never heard about it.  Mithra was one of most successful religions besides Christianity and other pagan religions  during the second century during the Roman Empire in Rome.Mithrism was far older and more venerable at the  time having been practised as early as 1500BC and preceded Christianity .  Mithra was derived from the ancient Persian (Iranian) God of light and wisdom. In the course of time, the religion developed and become very influential particularly on Rome’s army officer and legionaries. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Mithra religion was equal in strength to Christianity, and both sects competed with Rome’s many traditional divinities. To obtain influence  and protection from Roman emperors, both sects resorted to denunciation, accusing each other of blasphemy and of imitating sacred ceremonies. The conflict went on for decades until finally Emperor Constantine    converted to Christianity  (who was the sole ruler in the Western Roman Empire) and declared Christianity in favour of Mithra to be the state religion.

We often hear that many of the  essential elements and tradition  in Christainity are  similar with  Mithriasm. Mithriasm religion  had  sacraments  the same as the Catholic Church such as  baptism, and communion with bread and water. Some 19th-century historian scholars like Ernest Renan held the opinion that "had Christianity fallen victim to a deadly disease soon after its birth, the world would now worship Mithras"

He was called son of God
He was crucified.
He was born of a virgin on December 25th.
He was considered a great travelling teacher and master.
He had 12 companions or disciples.He performed miracles.
He was buried in a tomb.
He was atoned for the sins of mankind
After three days he rose from the dead .
Mithra was called "the Good Shepherd."
He was considered "the Way, the Truth and the Light, the Redeemer,the Savior, the Messiah."
He was identified with both the Lion and the Lamb.
His sacred day was Sunday

Learn about  trinity, salvation and resurrection in other pagan gods, e.g Osiris. Their attributes and culture.  Click Here 

Paul, is he the founder of Chrisianity? Paul was born and raised in the city of Tarsus,  a region in SE Asia-Minor where Mithras was well known. Paul, a Jew, bore Hebrew name Saul , the apostle to the Gentiles was an expert on Pagan religions.  Many believe that he was the real founder of Christianity and not Isa ( Jesus p.b.u.h). Paul never met Jesus in flesh. He only claimed some strange vision of Jesus.   The doctrines of Christianity come mostly from the teaching or influence of Paul.

The Christians view of Jesus is that Saul of Tarsus met  resurrected Messiah on the road to Damascus through  visions. The event is described as a bright-light that blinded Saul of Tarsus along with a voice giving spiritual instructions. Saul of Tarsus changed his name later and became widely known as the Apostle Paul.  He  had written about half  of the New Testament. 

Islam teaches that As-Salaf as-Saalih are superior in their understanding of the Revelation of Al-Qu'ran. Generally  speaking, the people present during  any event (such as the revelation of the Quran) will understand it better  than those who read about it later. These people of the past, namely the first generation of pious muslims during and after the revealation of the Quran, i.e tha Sahabah or companions of the prophet (saw)
the tabi'ee (followers) and Taabi Taabieen (folowers or the followers) They are the  best generation of Islam and they understood  Qur'an and Sunnah the best and those who personally knew Muhammad are accorded the highest category of Sahabah.

Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: "The best people are those living in my generation, then those coming after them, and then those coming after (the second generation)"

Jews do not believe that Jesus was divine, the Son of God, or the Messiah prophesied in   Jewish scriptures.
He is seen as a "false messiah," who did not meet the requirements laid out in Jewish beliefs. The Romans executed him, as well as many other nationalistic and religious Jews,  for speaking out against Roman authority and abuses.

The Christians  would say the Muslims borowed from the Christians because the Quran is 600 years after New Testament  and the Jews would say the Christians borrowed from them. But as the  Muslims   we believe in Jesus(pbuh) and the Moses(pbuh)  and they are our prophets and Islam did not start  with Muhamad (saw).The chain of prophets began with Adam and included Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, David, Jesus and  the last  was Muhammad.What do muslims think of Jesus (pbuh).Click here.

"Say (O Muslims): "We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma'il (Ishmael), Isahq (Issac), Ya'qub (Jacob), and to Al-Asbat (the offspring of the twelve sons of Ya'qub (Jacob), and that which has been given to Musa (Moses) and 'Isa (Jesus) and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted (in Islam)." (Quran 2:136)

The Quran explains the miraclious creation  of Adam(pbuh) and Jesus(pbuh).
The likeness of Isa (Jesus as ) is like Adam as. Allah creates what He wills"Verily, the likeness of Jesus in Allah's sight is like the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then said to him, Be!, and he was."(Quran Al-Imran 3:59).
The Muslims believe Jesus  (p.b.u.h.) was sent by God exclusively to the Bani Israel or Children of Israel and he was not the last prophet and his mission was exclusively to the Jews people at the time and not to all human races. 

In the Gospel He Isa [Jesus (p.b.u.h)] replied, " I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 15:24)" These twelve ( Isa' disciples) Isa [Jesus(p.b.u.h)] sent out with the charge: Do not go to the Gentiles nor enter a Samaritan city, but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."( Matthew 10:5-6)
In the Qur'an"We granted Our favor to him [Isa (as)] , and We made him an example to the Children of Israel."( Qur'an 43:59) "And Allah will teach him [Isa(as)] the Book and Wisdom, The Taurat (Torah) and the Injil (Bible) , And appoint him a Messenger to the Children of Israel.

Where was Jesus(pbuh) crucified? Click here and here, Did Paul abolish the Law which was followed and preached by Jesus(pbuh)? Click here. Read Islam  points of view supported by the Bible. 

This is one beautiful verse from the Quran for everybody to ponder. 
Follow not what you have no knowledge And follow not ( O man, i.e. say not or do not or witness not) that of which you have no knowledge. Verily the hearing, and the sight, and the heart of each of those ones will be questioned.(Al-Qur'an Al-Isra' 17:36)

p/s My Christian friends  from US called  Allah  as "Moon God". Here,  Malaysian Christians   the non   Arabic speaking,  want to call Jesus (pbuh) as Allah. 

The many pagan Gods during Roman Empire including Neptune, God ot the seas.

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