Illustration: Mithras, Sol Invictus

Stele of Mithras, Sol Invictus

Commentary on Mithras, Sol Invictus

  1. Ambrose Mnemopolous Post author

    At the First Council of Nicea in 325 CE, the Roman Emperor Constantine did more to paganize Christianity than Christianize Rome. In making Christianity the official religion of the State, Constantine commissioned the editing of the Synoptic Gospels, which melded aspects of the Christian mythos with features of the popular Mithraic mystery religion. By 361 CE, Emperor Julian had restored Mithraism as the de facto State religion.

    The spiked crown of light depicted in the relief above would have resonated with the “crown of thorns” placed on crucified Jesus, whose date of birth would have resonated with the solstice worship connected with the “invincible sun” of the Mithraic religion.

    In a non-trivial sense, the Old Testament is the least pagan part of Christian scripture. Jesus was a Jew who likely had contact contact with Syrian teachings at a time when Jewish identity was highly concerned with resisting Hellenistic syncretism. This resistance movement is at the heart of the story behind the Jewish holiday Chanukah, and remnants of this struggle lie behind Jesus’s apocalyptic prophecies, predicting the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. The folding of this rebellious Jewish sect into the State religion of their oppressors was a major propaganda coup.

    Nevertheless, early Christian literature was very diverse, ranging from non-narrative sayings gospels like the Gospel of Thomas to highly esoteric Gnostic creation myths incorporating Christ into the pre-fall divine plan. Despite centuries of conflict in Europe, nearly all Protestant sects accept the Roman Catholic canon.

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