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Mithras and Jesus: Two sides of the same coin (cont.)
By Flavio Barbiero

Josephus Flavius and the Sol Invictus Mithras

Josephus Flavius knew all too well that no religion has a future unless it is an integral part of a system of political power. It was a concept innate in the DNA, so to speak, of the priests of Judah that religion and political power should live together in symbiosis, mutually sustaining each other. It is unimaginable that he could think that the new religion would spread throughout the Empire independently or even in contrast to political power. His first aim was, therefore, seizing power. Thanks not only to the millennial experience of his family, but also to his own experience of life, Josephus knew all too well that political power, especially in an elephantine organism such as the Roman Empire, was based on military power, and military power was based on economic power, and economic power on the ability to influence and control the financial leverage of the country. His plan must have envisaged that the priestly family would sooner or later take control of these levers. Then the Empire would be in his hands, and the new religion would be the main instrument to maintain control of it.

What was Josephus’ plan to achieve this ambitious project? He didn’t have to invent anything; the model was there: the secret organization created by Ezra a few centuries earlier, which had assured power and prosperity to the priestly families for half a millennium. He only had to make a few changes, in order to disguise this institution in the pagan world as a mystery religion, dedicated to the Greek god Helios, the Sun, for his undoubted assonance with the Jewish god El Elyon. He was represented as invincible, the Sol Invictus, to spur the morale of his adepts, and at his side was put, as an inseparable companion, a solar divinity of that same Mesopotamia from where the Jews had originated, Mithras, the Sun’s envoy on Earth to redeem humanity; and all around them, in the mithraea, the statues of various divinities, Athena, Hercules, Venus and so on. A clear reference to God Father, and his envoy on earth Jesus, surrounded by their attributes of wisdom, strength, beauty and so on, that was well understood by the Christians, but was perfectly pagan to a pagan’s eye.

This organization didn’t have any religious purpose: his scope was to preserve union between the priestly families and assure their security and wealth, through mutual support and a common strategy, aimed at infiltrating all the positions of power in the Roman society.

It was secret. In spite of the fact that it lasted for three centuries and it had thousands of members, most of them very cultured men, there isn’t a single word written by a member about what was going on during the meetings of the mithraic institution, what decisions were taken and so on. This means that absolute secrecy was always maintained about the works that were held in a mithraeum.

The access was evidently reserved for the descendants of priestly families, at least at the operative level, from the third grade up (occasionally people of different origin could be accepted in the first two grades, as in the case of emperor Commodus). This system of recruitment is perfectly in line with the historical and archaeological evidence. Even at the peak of its power and diffusion, the Sol Invictus Mithras appears to be an elitist institution, with a very limited number of members. Most mithraea were very small in size and could not harbour more than 20 people. It was definitely not a mass religion, but an organisation to which only the top leaders of the army and of the imperial bureaucracy were admitted. Yet, we don’t know anything about the enlisting policy of the Sol Invictus Mithras. Did it recruit its members amongst the high ranks of Roman society, or was opposite true – that it was the members of this organization who “infiltrated” all the positions of power of that society? Historical evidence favours the hypothesis that membership in the institution was reserved on a ethnic basis. Access to it, at least at the operative level, was most likely reserved for descendants of the group of the Jewish priests who came to Rome after the destruction of Jerusalem.

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