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The Jesus Mysteries: Was the 'Original' Jesus a Pagan God?
By Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy

The Pagan Mysteries

During the centuries leading up to the birth of Christianity, the Pagan Mystery religion, often known simply as the 'Mysteries', had spread throughout the ancient Mediterranean. Many of the greatest figures of the Pagan world were initiated into these Mysteries, and regarded them as the very source of civilisation. Each Mystery tradition had exoteric Outer Mysteries, consisting of myths which were common knowledge, and rituals which were open to anyone who wanted to participate. There were also esoteric Inner Mysteries, however, which were a sacred secret only known to those who had undergone a powerful process of initiation. Initiates of the Inner Mysteries had the mystical meaning of the rituals and myths of the Outer Mysteries revealed to them, bringing about personal transformation and spiritual enlightenment.

At the heart of the Mysteries were myths concerning a dying and resurrecting godman, who was known by many different names. In Egypt he was known as Osiris, in Greece as Dionysus, in Asia Minor as Attis, in Syria as Adonis, in Italy as Bacchus, in Persia as Mithras. Fundamentally all these godmen are the same mythical being, who the ancients called 'Osiris-Dionysus'. As we studied these myths, it became obvious that the story of Jesus had all the characteristics of another version of the same perennial tale. Event by event, we found we were able to construct the Jesus story from mythic motifs previously relating to Osiris-Dionysus.

  • Osiris-Dionysus is God made flesh; the saviour and 'Son of God'
  • His father is God and his mother is a mortal virgin.
  • He is born in a cave or humble cow shed on the 25th of December before three shepherds.
  • He offers his followers the chance to be born again through the rites of baptism.
  • He miraculously turns water into wine at a marriage ceremony.
  • He rides triumphantly into town on a donkey while people wave palm leaves to honour him.
  • He dies at Easter time as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
  • After his death he descends to Hell, then on the third day he rises from the dead and ascends to heaven in glory.
  • His followers await his return as the judge during the Last Days.
  • His death and resurrection are celebrated by a ritual meal of bread and wine which symbolise his body and blood.

These are just some of the mythic motifs the tales of Osiris-Dionysus share in common with the supposed 'biography' of Jesus. Why are these remarkable similarities not common knowledge? Because, as we were to discover later, the early Roman Church did everything in its power to prevent us perceiving them. It systematically destroyed Pagan sacred literature in a brutal programme of eradicating the Mysteries - a task it performed so completely that today Paganism is regarded as a 'dead' religion.

Although surprising to us today, to writers of the first few centuries these similarities between the new Christian religion and the ancient Mysteries were extremely obvious. Pagan critics of Christianity, such the satirist Celsus, complained that this recent religion was nothing more than a pale reflection of their own ancient teachings. Early 'church fathers', such as Justin Martyr, Tertullian and Irenaeus, were understandably disturbed and resorted to the desperate claim that these similarities were the result of 'diabolical mimicry'. Using one of the most absurd arguments ever advanced, they accused the Devil of 'plagiarism by anticipation'; of deviously copying the true story of Jesus before it had actually happened in an attempt to mislead the gullible! These church fathers struck us as no less devious than the Devil they hoped to incriminate.

The obvious explanation was that, as early Christianity became the dominant power in the previously Pagan world, popular motifs from Pagan mythology had become grafted onto the biography of Jesus. However, to us this explanation seemed inadequate. We had collated such a comprehensive body of similarities that there remained no significant elements in the biography of Jesus that we did not find prefigured by the Mysteries. On top of this, we discovered that even Jesus' teachings were not original, but had been taught by the sages of the Pagan Mysteries for centuries! If there was a 'real' Jesus somewhere underneath all of this, we would have to acknowledge that we could know absolutely nothing about him, for all that remained for us was later Pagan accretions! Such a position seemed absurd. Surely there was a more elegant solution to this conundrum?

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Timothy Freke's and Peter Gandy's The The Jesus Mysteries

Join us in January, in The Mysteries forum, for a discussion of the original "Mysteries" -- and how it relates to the birth of one of the world's five great religions. Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy are the featured Authors of the Month at GrahamHancock.com for January 2002. Pick up a copy of The Jesus Mysteries and join the discussion!

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