The Facts Concerning Christmas-Part 2

In Part 1 we established the fact that Yeshua was probably born in the fall of the year, around the Feast of Sukkot and not on December 25th. So where did Christmas come from. The point of this study is to find the truth and tell exactly what the Scriptures are saying. We are not going to attack anyone just to attack, but we also want to be straightforward about what we find. We are not going to investigate every false religion going back to Babylon, but this one thing we need to always remember. There are only two religions, God’s and the other ones. This is illustrated at times in the Scriptures by contrasting the “virtuous woman and the harlot.”  No matter what civilization or god you study, they will all be associated with each other and even be the same. For instance, Rome had a main god called Jupiter, the Greeks called it Zeus, it was known as Ra in Egypt and Jove in Europe. The Scandinavians called it Odin. Ceremonies were borrowed by Rome from other nations, especially once they were defeated. Rome went into Europe and Scandinavia and brought Roman gods as well. Roman leaders began to be raised to the level of gods in what was called the ruler cults. Augustus Caesar started it and it went from there. The Greeks actually influenced Rome on this and the Roman ruler was called “Pontifex Maximus” (means “high priest” basically, the same title the Pope has today) which will play a role later. This went on for years and religious and political rule went hand in hand. The Roman leader was recognized as deity everywhere. In public there were banquets, games and statues to the ruler. Incense, lamps and deep pagan rituals accompanied this deification of the ruler. Rome had become totally pagan with the ruler cults. Oddly enough, these ruler cults didn’t conflict with the other gods, it united the people of the empire and their systems of worship. These ruler cults started to decline before 300 AD but it still continued till the fifth century.  That meant that the Emperor Constantine was considered a god and worshipped as one, and it was under Constantine that Christianity became the state religion. Constantine died and the story is he became a Christian ( Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, a Mithraic center). Rejection of the emperor’s deity was cause for the death penalty. Mithraism became one of the main religions of the Roman Empire and it came from Persia. In Ezra 1.8 we hear of the treasurer for Cyrus of Persia who was called Mithradat and he was named after Mithra. Mithra was the deity that oversees all contracts and treaties. You were blessed by Mithra if you kept your word in a contract and punished those who didn’t.  This all fits in with the ruler cults and Mithraism because he “mediates” between parties, contracts and oaths, like a ruler. Mithra had his own day and it corresponded to the Jewish month of Tishri (Tishri 16) and the Feast of Sukkot. You can readily see the connection between Yeshua and Mithra and how this eventually played into emperor worship. Games were held in his honor, generally in October. Mithraism would jump from Persia to Rome and it became the main religion of the Roman army by the first century. Wherever the army went, temples to Mithra were erected and by the second century Mithraism grew to be the main religion of Rome. By the third century  there will be parallels between Mithraism, emperor worship and Christianity. Mithra evolved into the deity who mediated light and darkness and was the guardian of the earth. As a result, Mithra develops into a “sun deity” and this will be important later. A “mithraea” is a cave with bull figures and benches. These have been found and it was a place where only men were admitted and personal salvation through invitation was practiced. According to Mithraism, Mithra was born from a rock and the leader of the religion was called “the rock.” The rock itself is called the “petra genetrix” and it was an object of worship. Now think about this for a moment, where do most people go to see the “birthplace of Jesus.” They go to an underground grotto or a cave in Bethlehem. And guess who commissioned a church to be built over the site in 327AD? That’s right, Constantine and his mother Helena. The cave fits right into his Mithraic theology. From this you can see how he became the “creator” of all things. Scenes have been found depicting the catching and killing of the “divine” bull that all plants and animals that were helpful to humanity sprang from and a meal with the sun (Helios was the  Greek god of the sun and Mithra became identified with it). The central image of Mithraism is a man dressed in a cape with a hat. The killing of the bull was seen as a creative act and resulted in the “shedding of blood.” Inscriptions in Latin concerning this says “You have saved us as well, having shed the eternal blood (of the bull).” Two figures are often seen along with this act of killing. “Cautes” carries a torch uplifted, meaning birth and “Cautopates” who carries a torch downward, meaning death.  Although Mithra is called upon as the “sun” himself, he is distinct from the sun and is often depicted as having a meal with the sun. This scene was ritually reenacted in Mithraism and it was called “the lord’s supper” and it was done almost exactly the way it is done in Catholicism and eastern orthodox churches. A round wafer was used to symbolize the sun. This meal was central to Mithraic rituals and some church fathers criticized it as an evil counterpart to the Christian “eucharist.” This contention would soon disappear, however. Other rituals were also seen as “imitations” of Christian ordinances. Mithraism had a seven-fold initiation and it was compared to a ladder. The last level was called “father.” A “father” was seen as the leader in a Mithraic congregation and he was called “father” by the others. Astrological symbols also played a role in Mithraism. By the fourth century (300-399 AD) Mithraism “disappeared” or did it.  In the empire, it appeared in the first century and gained influence in the second and third centuries and then just “disappears” about the same time Constantine gains power. Christianity becomes the state religion of the Roman Empire, but in reality, Mithraism didn’t disappear. It became “absorbed” into what is now called Christianity. All it did was change names, but a rose by any other name is still a rose. Mithraism was in Israel and it was carried there by Roman soldiers who were stationed in Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea. It was the headquarters for the Roman soldiers stationed in Israel and we know that Cornelius was stationed there in Acts 10. As mentioned before, caves were important worship centers for Mithraism and so underground grottos were places where rituals were held.  Some of these have been found and measurements were taken. Openings in the ceiling gave a shaft of light that lit up the altar there on the summer solstice. Special offerings were made and the sun was hailed as “Mithra” and called “sol invictus Mithra” or the invincible sun. There were rectangular holes to the east that resembled the rays of the sun and when the rays of light came through, the holes would resemble the sun’s rays. This was behind the altar set up there. Growing up in the Catholic Church, we saw what was called a “Monstrance” and it carried a host in the middle surrounded by a sunburst all around. The Vatican has sunbursts in several places. The bottom line of all this is that Constantine brought Mithraism into Christianity lock, stock and barrel. The only thing that changed was the name. Mithraic temples became churches and this will become the foundation of the church in Rome. The truth of the Scriptures is being exchanged for it’s counterpart. The Torah and the faith once delivered to the saints has been “rooted out” by Constantine and that is exactly what he wanted done (History of the Jewish People from Yavneh to Pumbedisa, Mesorah Publications, p 183). Some of the similarities between Mithraism and Christianity are: Mithra was born of a virgin; the head is called “the rock” and by the fourth century “Peter” and the first “pope” emerges; personal salvation; a “father” is head of the congregation; communal meals are called “lord’s suppers” involving little round wafers symbolic of the sun; baptism in water; adoption of Sunday (day of the sun) as the true worship day (as opposed to the 7th day Sabbath; December 25th (Mithra’s birthday); belief in an immortal soul; a judgment and resurrection. Constantine, the consummate politician, drew all these together. At the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, he presides in the capacity of Mithra as “god of contracts, oaths and creeds.”  Sun worship was very common in many nations such as Egypt, Persia and Babylon. That is why no “sunrise services” were done in the Temple or synagogues. There were services done at that time, but they did not face the east and the sun. When Israel departed from the Lord and they embraced eastern rituals like weeping for Tammuz (Ezek 8.14) and making cakes for the “queen of heaven” (Jer 44.15-19) it was done in the Temple and the Lord judged the nation because of these things (Ezek 8.16).  After the Babylonian Captivity they wanted nothing to do with these things. In Mithraic worship, Mithra ascends and descends from the sun. Constantine utilized this scene on coins and on a column in Constantinople where he resided. He connects the sun with political power because the emperors were still being worshipped during his lifetime.  In Part 3 we will pick up here and begin discussing when “Christmas” was brought in and discuss other Roman and Greek gods, how some these fit into prophecies given in Isaiah that have a context of when Messiah comes and look into various other religious cults that Constantine brought in to consolidate his kingdom and bring Rome together under one religious authority.

Posted in Articles, Prophecy/Eschatology, Understanding the New Testament

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*