The Pagan Dying-and-Reborn Sun-gods & Jesus the Son of God: Get Him to the Greek.

 

[ Excerpts taken from the GS’s Winter Solstice and Christmas essays. ]

 

. . . the Assyrian Du-zi, (the “sun-of-life”), or his the Babylonian name, Tammuz, or his Sumerian name, Dummuzi, the Egyptian Orisis, the Anatolian Mithras, the Syrian Adonis, the Hebrew Tamheur, and the Phrygian Attis, and Greek Dionysus—all of these were dying-and-reborn sun-gods, all consorts of the Great Mother, suffered death, disappeared for a time from the sight of men, and were at last raised from the dead. These sun deities were typically called: “Sun of Life,” “Light of the World,” “Sun of Righteousness,” “Son of Man,” “Bridegroom,” and “Savior.” Thus this universal solar myth is probably the primeval form of the resurrection story as told in the New Testament about the “Son of Man”. . . .

 

The earliest known celebration of the rebirth of the sun (on Winter Solstice) in ritual was that of the ancient Babylonians of Mesopotamia, who celebrated their “Victory of the Sun-God” festival on December 25th. This Babylonian cult, especially the cult of mother and child (Semiramis and Nimrod and later as Ishtar and Tammuz) spread out from Babylon over the entire world, only the names changed; Nimrod was renamed in Egypt as “Osiris” and Semiramis became “Isis,” long before the birth of Jesus was adored as “Madonna with her child”. . . .

The name of the Babylonian dying-and-reborn sun god, Tammuz, in Sumerian is Dumu-zi, meaning “true or faithful son.” Tammuz, the beautiful youth who died and was mourned for and came to life again, was the ancient nature deity who personified the creative powers of the sun. As discussed in detail in the GS’s first essay, Christmas, the birth of the Son, was transplanted to the pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice, the rebirth of the sun, some 1,600 years ago, centuries before the English language emerged from its Germanic roots. This is probably why the words for the two mythic concepts of sun and son are so similar, because the pagan Winter Solstice and Yuletide was overlaid with Christmas.

Tammuz’s Winter Solstice festival, commemorating the yearly death and rebirth of vegetation, corresponded to the festivals of the Phoenician and Greek Adonis and of the Phrygian Attis, both dying-and-reborn sun gods associated, like Tammuz, with a sacred tree. As already mentioned, the Babylonian myth of Tammuz, the dying god, bears not only a close resemblance to the Greek myth of Adonis, but also links with the myth of Osiris. I repeat it because these dying-and-reborn sun gods are all connected to a very ancient cult of tree-worship. It would appear probable that Tammuz, Attis, Osiris, and the deities represented by Adonis and the Celtic Diarmid were all developed from an archaic god of fertility and vegetation, the central figure of a myth which was not only as ancient as the knowledge and practice of agriculture, but had existence even in the archaic hunting period. Traces of the Tammuz-Osiris story in various forms are found all over the area occupied by the peoples from Sumeria to the Druids of the British Isles. Some authorities suggest that apparently the original myth was connected with tree and water worship and the worship of animals. Adonis sprang from a tree; the body of Osiris, pursued by Seth, was concealed in a tree, which grew round the sea-drifted chest in which he was concealed. And Diarmid concealed himself in a tree when pursued by Finn. . . .

In mythology, Tammuz, like Jesus, was born on December 25th and associated with a tree. At the time of the Winter Solstice, the past sun god would die, his branches stripped from him and one piece, the seed, would enter the fire on “Mother-night” as a log. The next morning, the new triumphant sun god was born from the fire as a tree, the “Branch of God,” who was celebrated for bringing divine gifts to men. So it looks like Tammuz was the original Yule log. Tammuz is identified with Adonis, the Semitic name meaning “lord.” Here, again we find the same cosmic pair of mother and child, and again the association with a tree. . . .

Tammuz originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar. One of the greatest Sumerian rites was the “sacred marriage” between the goddess and the god—Inanna and Dumuzi or Ishtar and Tammuz. The beautiful shepherd-god, Tammuz, was a life-death-rebirth deity who is referred to in the Bible (Ezekiel 8:14). Tammuz was born to a virgin, named Mylitta, on December 25. He also performed miracles and healed the sick. (He was known to the Phrygians as Attis and to the Greeks as Adonis.) Again we have the primordial archetypal divine couple, the goddess and her dying-and-reborn consort (usually a vegetation god, like that other dying-and-reborn god, the Greek Dionysus), from which we can see the god-man Jesus derives. . . .

 

The weeklong celebration of “Saturnalia,” a period of unrestrained or orgiastic revelry and licentiousness from the 17th to the 23rd of December, was the Roman version of this very ancient Babylonian “Victory of the Sun-God” cult. This was also the two-week Winter Solstice festival of the sun god Mithras, “the Savior,” who was born on December 25th the “light of the world.” So by the 4th century, the church selected the approximate time of the Winter Solstice as the date to recognize Jesus’ birth. In other words, the establishment of the victory of the sun god over darkness and chaos (when the days became longer again) became the appointed time to commemorate the birthday of the “Son of Man,” Jesus Christ, and so the old religious customs were taken over under a new name. . . .

The winter solstice fell within the Saturnalia and was referred to as the “Natalis Solis Invicti” (the “Nativity of the unconquered Sun”). Saturnalia was celebrated from December 17th to January 1st in the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor Aurelian blended Saturnalia with a number of birth celebrations of savior Gods from other religions, into a single holy day: December 25th. In Roman mythology, the sun represents male divinity, and the “Natalis Solis Invicti” was the “return of the sun god” born of the Mother Goddess. This day represented the hope and faith that from within the darkest and coldest night (the winter solstice) there would be born a “Lord of Light” (“the unconquered sun”). This sun god would die at the summer solstice at the height of his power (the longest and warmest day), from which point the days would get colder and colder until he was reborn again the following winter. This yearly cycle of a “dying and resurrected” sun deity could be found in many of the world’s ancient religions. . . .

Some historians of religion see the eventual choice of December 25, made perhaps as early as 273 CE. After decades of arguing by Church Fathers about the correct date of Jesus’ birth (was it March 25, April 18, May 20, November 17, or was it January 6?), finally the eventual choice of December 25 was decided upon. However, this decision reflects a convergence of the theological anxieties of the Origen and other Church Fathers about mythic pagan gods and the Church’s identification of God’s son with the celestial sun. Again, December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: “Natalis Solis Invicti” (the Roman “birth of the unconquered sun,” or “Deus Sol Invictus”), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness,” whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. (Deus Sol Invictus, “the unconquered sun god,” was a religious title applied to at least three distinct divinities during the later Roman Empire; El Gabal, Mithras, and Sol.) Thus, after much argument, the developing Christian Church adopted this date as the birthday of their savior, Jesus. The people of the Roman Empire were accustomed to celebrating the birth of a sun god on that day, so it was easy for the church to co-opt the people’s attention to Jesus’ birth.

The very first Christmas is supposed to have taken place in 336 AD, and shortly after, it was made the official holiday for the Church. Pope Julius I declared (circa, 350 AD) the birth and celebration of Jesus’ birthday as Christmas and chose December 25th because it coincided with the pagan traditions of Winter Solstice. (When Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar in 45 BC, December 25 was approximately the date of the Winter Solstice. In modern times, after the advent of the Georgian calendar, the solstice falls on December 21 or 22.) Pope Julius I merely announced that the birth date of Christ had been “discovered” to be December 25th, and was accepted as such by the “faithful.” The festival of Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithras could now be celebrated as the birthday of Christ! . . .

These church fathers wanted a date that was appropriate to their god and not a pagan one. Yet they chose December 25, the two-week Winter Solstice festival of the sun god Mithras, because the Church found itself in fierce competition with pagan religions and came upon a clever idea. As one theologian puts it: “What better way to challenge the pagans than to usurp their holidays.” This idea, in turn, had also a symbolic motivation, since the festival of the sun god was the birth of the “light of the world.”

Therefore, the fact of the matter is this: the early church did not celebrate Jesus’ birth, but such celebration only came into the Church with the “Christianization” of pagan rites when the new cult was made the state religion by Constantine in the fourth century CE. The Roman Church officials suspected that their church was full of pagans now masquerading as Christians, all of which had to be pacified. Seeing that pagans were already exalting sun deities with some parallels to the true deity, fourth-century Church leaders decided to appropriate the date and introduce a new festival on the Julian calendar as Christ’s birthday, thus co-opting an ancient seasonal energy that served their purposes. What better way than to “Christianize” their pagan idolatries? . . .

Therefore, the Church fathers, by insinuating their holy festival around the already long-established pagan festivals—Sol Invictus, Mithras, Saturnalia, and Winter Solstice—made it easy for the church to divert people’s attention to Jesus’ birth. Finally, in 349 AD, Pope Julius formally designated December 25th as the day of Christ’s birth—Christmas 

The Babylonians also celebrated their “Victory of the Sun-God” festival on December 25th. Preceding Christianity by many centuries, the pagan worship of Mithras, the Persian savior, became common throughout the Roman Empire, particularly among the Roman civil service and military. Mithraism is now recognized as a syncretic Hellenistic mystery religion that developed in the Eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE and was practiced in the Roman Empire beginning in the 1st century BCE.  Mithraism was the prime competitor religious cult to Christianity until the 4th century.

Mithras had many parallels with the Christian god: followers believed that he was born of a virgin on December 25th, circa 500 BCE, his birth in a cave was witnessed by shepherds and by gift-carrying Magi. This was celebrated as the “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.” Mithras was known to his followers as “The light of the world,” or “The Good Shepherd,” and exhorted his followers to share ritual communion meals of bread and wine. During his life, he performed many miracles, cured many illnesses, and cast out devils. He celebrated a Last Supper with his 12 disciples. He ascended to heaven at the time of the spring equinox, about March 21st. . . .

Attis, born of a virgin and changed into a fir-tree, was another sun- or vegetation-god whose story bears a striking resemblance to the Christ story. Wherever the Christian worship of Jesus and the pagan worship of Attis were active in the same geographical area in ancient times, Christians “used to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on the same date; and pagans and Christians used to quarrel bitterly about which of their gods was the true prototype and which the imitation.” Since the worship of Cybele was brought to Rome in 204 BCE, about 250 years before Christianity, it is obvious that if any copying occurred, it was the Christians that copied and later co-opted the traditions of the pagans. They were simply grafted onto stories of Jesus’ life in order to make Christian theology more acceptable to pagans in the Roman Empire. But the ancient Christians had an alternative explanation; they claimed that Satan had created counterfeit Pagan deities with many of the same life experiences as Jesus had. Satan and his demons had done this, in advance of the coming of Christ, in order to confuse humanity. They regarded Jesus’ death and resurrection account as being an exact description of real events, and unrelated to the earlier pagan traditions.

Some scholars see these pre-Christian pagan traditions of the Mediterranean world centered in what they call the “Hellenistic Mystery Religions” (based upon the influence of ancient Greek culture after it spread to the east because of Alexander’s conquests) that developed during the Hellenistic period and the Roman Empire, c. 300 BCE to 300 CE) and the cult of the dying-and-reborn saviors, the earliest of which was the long established Greek Eleusinian Mysteries, associated with Demeter and Persephone. These were “syncretic” religions, as they were blends of Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Alexandrian, Persian, Phrygian, Anatolian, Syrian, and Near-Eastern (and eventually Etruscan-Roman) elements within a Hellenic formula. (“Syncretism functioned as a feature of Ancient Greek religion.”) So pervasive and influential were these that some scholars see Christianity as a copy of Greco-Roman “mystery cult.” 

 

Therefore, this is why the GS imagines the co-option scenario of the role of the pre-Christian, Greco-Roman dying-and-reborn savior gods by the crypto-pagan dying-and-reborn savior god, Christ, happening when some Church Father, like Origen, called his PR crew together and ordered them to take Christ and: “Get him to the Greek!” (Sergio Roma: “Go get your Destiny!”)