This article is a chapter-by-chapter summary and study guide for the book The Jesus Mysteries, by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. Page numbers shown here refer to the 343-page 1st edition of the book.
The Pagan Mysteries – 3
The Gnostics – 6
The Jesus Mysteries Thesis – 8
The Great Cover-Up – 10
Recovering Mystical Christianity – 12
The Sacred Spectacle at Eleusis – 18
Encoded Secret Teachings – 21
The International Mysteries – 22
Osiris-Dionysus and Jesus Christ – 24
Conclusion – 25
Son of God – 28
The Nativity – 31
Baptism – 34
Miracles – 37
The Godman and His Disciples – 42
Riding on a Donkey – 43
The Just Man and the Tyrant – 45
Bread and Wine – 48
Death of the Godman – 50
The Sacred Scapegoat – 53
Easter – 54
Mother of God – 57
Spiritual Rebirth – 59
Conclusion – 60
Moral Purity – 65
Love – 67
Humility and Poverty – 69
Heaven and Hell – 71
The New Age – 75
One God – 77
The Logos – 82
Language of the Mysteries – 85
Conclusion – 86
Pagan Philosophy – 91
Pagan Mythology – 92
The God of Plato – 94
Hierophant of the Mysteries – 95
Secret Mysteries – 97
Knowledge Beyond Belief – 99
Self-Knowledge – 101
The Universal Daemon – 103
Reincarnation – 104
Sexual Equality – 106
Natural Morality – 107
Conclusion – 109
Mythical Allegories – 112
Sacred Mathematics – 115
Jesus the Daemon – 117
Illusionism – 119
The Spiritual Resurrection – 121
The Sacred Marriage – 123
Becoming Christ – 125
Levels of Initiation – 127
Literal, Mythical, and Mystical – 128
Conclusion – 130
Jewish Historians – 136
The Talmud – 138
Gospel Truth? – 139
New Testament Scholarship – 144
Acts of the Apostles? – 148
The Earliest Evidence – 150
(8 color plates, 152a)
The History of a Developing Myth – 155
Conclusion – 157
The Genuine Paul? – 160
Paul and the Pagan Mysteries – 162
The Gnostic Paul – 163
Apostle of the Resurrection – 166
Psychic and Pneumatic Teachings – 168
Paul and Jehovah – 170
Axe-Wielding Circumcisionaries! – 171
Conclusion – 173
Cosmopolitan Alexandria – 179
Hellenized Jewish Scriptures – 181
The Mysteries of Moses – 182
The First Christians? – 184
Conclusion – 187
Jewish Mythical Motifs – 194
Adapting the Past – 196
Myth Becomes History – 198
An Alternative Messiah – 200
A Universal Savior – 203
The Birth of Literalism – 204
Conclusion – 205
Taking Things Literally – 211
A Church of Bishops – 213
The Valentinians – 217
No Orthodoxy – 219
Christianity and Judaism – 222
The Creation of the New Testament – 224
Glorious Gore – 225
The Romans and the Persecutions – 228
The Growth of Christianity – 230
Pagan Reactions to Christianity – 231
The Roman Catholic Church – 233
The Falsification of History – 237
St. Pontius Pilate! – 239
Eusebius, the Church Propagandist – 241
The Destruction of Paganism – 243
The Destruction of Gnosticism – 246
Inherent Intolerance – 248
Conclusion – 249
One Truth – 255
Notes – 257
Bibliography – 321
Who's Who – 329
Picture Credits – 336
Index – 337
The Vatican occupies the site of an ancient Pagan temple. There are similarities between the godman the temple was dedicated to and Jesus. He was miraculously born on December 25th, he ascended to heaven to come again at the end of time to sit in judgment of the dead, and so on.
Pagan philosophy was based on mystery religions and the mythic figures at the center of mystery religions. These mythic figures were godmen and all shared equivalent stories that were essentially the same. All aspects of the Jesus figure were present already in these ancient Pagan wisdom traditions; if we remove these myths from the Jesus figure, nothing whatsoever remains.
There were two broad groups of early Christians: Literalist Christians and Gnostic Christians, or Literalists and Gnostics. The Gnostics were like the actual, correctly understood Pagans: oriented toward mystic experiencing and allegorical thinking. The large volume of orthodox Literalist writings against the Gnostic Christians clearly implies that Gnostic Christianity was a popular, serious competitor to Literalist Christianity.
There are stunning similarities between the Pagan mystery religions and Christianity. Studying these leads to the conclusion that the Jesus story was a myth which was based on Pagan myths. It was an attempt to bring the Pagan mystery religion to the Jews.
The Jesus Mystery Thesis is based on historical sources and the latest scholarly research.
There is much evidence of a cover-up: the official Literalist church lied, invented history, and distorted history. This false Literalist pseudo-history of the Christian religion seems credible only due to its familiarity. In reality, Christianity gradually evolved from Paganism.
Christianity and Paganism are two parts of the same religion.
Paganism, we are taught, was rustic, savage and crude. In fact, it was a sophisticated and highly developed system, which gave birth to the high culture of Egypt, Greece, and so on. We are also taught it is a dead religion but it really was murdered: It was driven out of existence, or driven underground, and its memory was destroyed or falsified.
Describes, insomuch as it is possible, the Mysteries. At Eleusis the pilgrims were given the Myth, then invited to participate in a reenactment of the drama of the dying-resurrecting godman. They would be beaten with sticks, insulted and then (often with wine or herbs) they would "die" to their lower self and become aware of their higher self. This process was called "catharsis", purification. There was no "dogma" to any of this. They were not told what to believe; they were participants in the divine drama.
The Mysteries were to be understood superficially and somewhat literally, by beginners and then deeply, with skilled allegorical interpretation, as the initiate progressed.
The whole business of the sacred spectacle of the Mysteries was to identify with the godman, and to reach enlightenment. The cosmopolitan nature of the Mysteries was this: In Egypt the godman was Osiris, the Greeks turned him into Dionysus, but it was the same mythos underlying all of them. Diogenes and Socrates called themselves citizens of the cosmos, because they had taken part in the Mysteries.
The main reason for the popularity of the godman was his appeal as an Everyman, that is, a commoner with an uncommon destiny. This we can all sort of identify with. This part of the chapter contains a long quote from E.A. Wallis Budge to the effect that Osiris lived among us, ate and drank among us, and hurt like we did, which is why the Osirian Mysteries were so effective. If all of this sounds a lot like J. Christ, stay tuned for Chapter 3.
"Having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that the Christ was to come and that the ungodly among men were to be punished by fire, the wicked spirits put forward many to be called Sons of God, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things that were said with regard to Christ were merely marvelous tales, like the things that were said by the poets." – Justin Martyr
In the first century there were many similarities between the Jesus story and the Pagan godman myths, or the Osiris-Dionysus myths. Some Pagans pointed out the obvious similarities. The Christians responded by claiming the devil had anticipated the coming of Christ and clouded the issue with the godman stories.
All godman myths have Osiris-Dionysus-Whatever being the son of god. Many others including the emperor Augustus were said to be sons of God. The Roman senate was even supposed to have ordered the killing of Roman males born in the year Augustus was born because of a prophecy that a king of Rome was to be born that year.
Godman myths were so common that they were used for political gain. There were similarities between the nativity of Jesus and that of various godmen.
All the godmen are typically born of virgin mortals. Diodorus and Jesus were both supposed to have spent only seven months in the womb.
Baptism was a central rite in the mystery religions and is a way out of the consequences of sins.
Jesus' miracles (turning water into wine, healing the sick and raising the dead, and so on) had also been performed by the godmen years before the Jesus story is supposed to have happened.
Mithras was often portrayed with twelve disciples.
Dionysus rode a donkey to meet his passion.
Godmen and many great philosophers were just men unjustly killed by authorities.
The taking of bread and wine as eating the god are also Pagan traditions.
Someone dying for the sins of the community was common.
The sin-bearing scapegoat is a classic figure. The moral sins of the community or "children", especially the holy crime of falsely claiming independence from God, are loaded onto one figure who is treated as a holy figure who carries away their sins. This figure can be a man, a youth, or a bred animal such as goat, bull, or sheep. The willing death of the lower animal-self fulfills justice by atoning for the crime of assuming separateness and independence from God.
Jesus was supposed to have died on March 25. The godman Attis was supposed to have been resurrected on that day.
Mary the mother of Jesus, like Semele the mother of Dionysus, was said to ascend to heaven as an immortal. Mary fits the Great Goddess role of the Pagan Mysteries.and is equivalent to Isis with Horus on her lap. Jesus had three women followers: Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Salome or Mary the sister of Virgin Mary. The was equivalent to the triple-goddess motif in the Pagan Mysteries, such as the three maenads who found each temple of Dionysus.
All the godmen died and were resurrected or returned to life.
What does all this mean? Was the true story of Jesus replaced by Pagan myths? If so then there is no record at all of the true Jesus because everything we have about him can be found in godman myths. Or is the Jesus story just another version of the Pagan godman, Osiris-Dionysus? We don't take the Pagan godman myths to be the literal truth, so why would we think Jesus is historical?
Pagan critics of Christianity pointed out again and again that (a) Christians had ripped off all their ideas from the Pagan Mysteries ("There from the beginning" – Celsus) but also (b) they ripped them off but did not understand them. As earlier, Justin Martyr has the most outrageous lines: "Whatever things were rightly said among all teachers are the property of us Christians." (With saints like that who needs a devil?)
The Christians declaim superior ethics; once again, they stole these from earlier sources. Among the examples given, the most important are the Greek Stoics, who developed the concept of the conscience. Conscience means "with knowledge," the point being to listen to the Higher Self in matters of ethics. Confessing sins was also an innovation of the mystery religions, but the idea was self-purification, not worrying about going to hell. This is not to be taken as evidence that the Pagans were moral paragons, only that it was a system meant to aid spiritual growth.
Christians say that in contrast to the Old Testament god of judgement, Jesus taught a message of love. All the Pagan rites were designed to bring adherents to love and understand their deities. Pythagoreans developed the concept of forgiving your enemies, and even helping an enemy. 500 years before Christ, Socrates and Plato were saying things about love and forgiving that sound quite like the gospels.
Christ told his followers to imitate his poverty and humility, but the Cynics got to that first. The commonest sight in the first century was Cynics wandering around, begging and preaching humility. Jesus would have been part of a seriously large crowd. Most of his statements on this "unworldliness" were anticipated by earlier philosophers, the best example given is Heraclitus' maxim, "The Kingdom belongs to the child."
The Egyptians and Jewish sacred texts have no clearly developed afterlife theories; it started with the Greek Mysteries. Dionysian rites in particular were designed for us to remember our true heavenly home, that we might banish from ourselves the fear of death. Orphean Mysteries dwelled on the torments of the evil sinners in the afterlife. Celsus weighs in with the information that the Christians borrow a lot of their celestial notions from the Persian Mysteries. However, once again, the Christians fluffed a major detail: whatever damnations you earn, you also work off, and get reincarnated. Clement of Alexandria was a Christian who kept reincarnation, and for his trouble the church condemned him after his death. Even the Last Judgement is a warped version of the mystery teachings.
The Christian belief that Christ would come and establish his kingdom is a misunderstanding of the ancient Pagan idea of the great zodiacal month. Every 2000 years we enter a new "month" of the zodiac, and the Christian Era conforms surprisingly to the "month" of Pisces, which started in 145 BCE and is ending now as Aquarius begins. The fish symbol was "borrowed" from Adonis. Virgil speaks of a birth as the new age begins, but he was referring to Osiris/Dionysus. From the Mithraic Mysteries comes the idea that each great month ends in either fire or flood.
Pythagoras, Hermes, and other Pagans established the idea that there is one God (or God is oneness) centuries before the Christians portrayed them as polytheistic idol worshipers. Even Egypt's Amun was called "the one of one." The Greek word "pantheus" means "all-god." There was an informal understanding among the Pagans that all gods are aspects of this One, but the Christians came along and broke the understanding.
Logos is translated in the gospels as "word", but Logos is a concept that goes way past that. Logos is actually divine thought, the first thought and creative spark. Before Jesus embodied the Logos, Osiris and others did. This part matters: the essential division between Pagans and Christians is that the Christians believe that only one man, Jesus, had been the Logos made flesh. The Pagans, who invented the idea, said all of us embody part of it, and the Mysteries aid us in understanding this fact.
Compares correctly translated New Testament passages with the words used in the Mysteries, finding that Christians borrowed their semantics from the earlier Pagans.
The Gnostics' view of Christianity was very much the mirror image of that of the Literalist Christians. These early Gnostics were of a Mystic inclination rather than literal. Early Christians decided upon only four Gospels as their holy scripture, while Gnostics wrote hundreds. Literalist Christians held that they must believe in Jesus as preached by the bishops. Gnostics taught that the true Christian experienced Gnosis (knowledge) for himself and in turn himself became a Christ.
Literalist Christians, in a attempt to stamp out the heretical views (as they called them) of the Gnostics, did whatever they could to degrade and eventually destroy the Gnostics. They labeled the Gnostic teachings as being confused with Pagan doctrines. For nearly 2000 years, this has been the view held by the orthodox churches, and only recently has a new view come to light through documents uncovered at Nag Hammadi (in 1945), which include some of the original Gnostic scriptures.
Today, the Gnostic is often held as a heretic. But some of the early Christian Church Fathers (such as Clement, who is considered a saint by Catholics, and Origen, his successor) taught a form of Christianity that was closer to the Gnostic stance than to the Literal stance.
Early Literalist Christians tended to compare the Gnostics to Pagan Mysteries, on which at least this part they were correct, though otherwise they grossly misrepresented the Gnostics.
Gnostic writings tend to be full of figures from Greek and Pagan mythology, and some even mix Pagan and Jewish motifs. Like the Pagans, Gnostics tended to see all the names of the creator as but aspects of the One.
Christianity got rid of the Goddess (well, Catholics can be argued to have kept one by name of Mary) and had a male trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (well, this last was androgynous). Gnostics, however, had the Father, Son, and Sophia as the Mother Goddess.
To Literalist Christians, the Eucharist celebrated the passion of Christ. To Gnostics, the Eucharist symbolized the passion of Sophia.
Just as Plato had attacked the idea of a domineering Zeus, Gnostics had attacked the picture of the Jewish God, in essence calling Him an image of the true God.
Of Yahweh's' statement as to being a jealous god, the Gnostics thought it was rubbish, effectively asking that if He was the only God, of whom would He be jealous? In Gnostic scripture, Yahweh is scolded for claiming to be the one and only God by his mother, Sophia (many Gnostics see each of us as God).
Whereas Jews and Christians were quite happy to place names and labels upon God, Gnostics taught that these simply detract, as he is above all that can be named.
To the Christians, Jesus was the promised Messiah. To the Gnostics, he was more akin to a hierophant of the Mysteries which he taught.
The Jesus of the Gnostics leads his disciples in Mystery initiations, of which the 'round dance' was one such, recorded in The Acts of John. In other Mysteries, the hierophant stood in the center while the other 12 danced around him, in effect mimicking the zodiac, with the hierophant as the sun.
The Pagan Mysteries contained both inner and outer Mysteries. The outer Mysteries were open to all, while the inner were open to only the few who had undergone a rather lengthy initiation. Clement tells us that early Christianity also had "lesser Mysteries" for the beginners and "Greater Mysteries" which led to a full initiation.
Pagan and Gnostic initiates were required to keep the Inner Mysteries secret.
According to Clement, Mark taught a number of Gospels beyond the one in today's Bible. Mark's 2nd Gospel was considered so secret that Clement instructed that its existence should be denied, even under oath, in an attempt to keep those not ready for their teachings from learning them. It was only to his closest students that Mark divulged further oral teachings which imparted Gnosis. This final Gospel was so mystical, that it couldn't be written down at all.
Gnostics were disparaging towards pistis (faith) when compared to Gnosis (knowledge). Plato argued that belief is concerned only with the appearance of things, while knowledge cuts through to underlying reality. He proclaimed that it is through knowledge that the mind becomes unified with the object of knowledge.
On the other hand, Literalist Christians extolled the value of blind faith and were told not to question what the bishops taught them.
Faith was seen as the foundation and Gnosis the superstructure; that is, by gnosis, faith will be perfected.
Just as the Pagans, Gnostics taught that all doctrines are merely approaches to truth which can only be found through experiencing gnosis for themselves.
The most important edict of the Pagan Mysteries is "Know Thy Self". Gnostics preached the same, saying that he who knows himself knows the depth of all things. Likewise, Hindu Mystics say "Atman is Brahman", or "the soul is God." In this sense, to know oneself is to know God, as we are all God.
The quest for self-knowledge leads one on a journey of discovery that leads to a number of revelations, in progression. The 1st being that of the eidolon (embodied personality) seeing the daemon like a guardian angel, later seeing that there is only one daemon, the universal daemon shared by all, and the realization that each of us is God.
In the Pagan Mysteries, it is taught that the soul progresses towards gnosis over many lifetimes. The basic view being that the soul not yet possessed of gnosis is attracted back to a physical existence by force of habit.
In the Bible, the priests ask John the Baptist if he's the reincarnation of Elijah, and the disciples ponder if Jesus is the reincarnation of John the Baptist, or some other prophet. It would appear the early Christians also held the idea of reincarnation.
The Pagan Mysteries were open to all, regardless of gender. Literalist Christianity used the idea of original sin to keep women in the dark, as it were.
The Pagans had women priestesses who were held in high esteem; Literalist Christianity frowned upon women as priests or bishops.
Like the Pagans, Gnostics also held women as equals. In Gnostic gospels, women play central roles, as opposed to men in the Christian gospels. Mary Magdalene is portrayed in conflict with the foolish Peter, who complains that she is dominating the discussion. He urges Jesus to silence her. Instead, Jesus rebukes him. Christians such as Tertullian complained bitterly of women who hold positions of authority.
The Pagan and Gnostic Mysteries taught that the aim of the Mysteries was to liberate the spirit, not to remain in moral servitude. They taught that conventional ideas of morality were superceded by someone who had attained gnosis, similar to the escape from karma in Hindu teachings. Gnostics claimed that actions are neither good nor bad in themselves, but only in accordance with human convention. Irenaeus claimed this was just an excuse for licentious behavior.
Pagans and Gnostics, however, weren't preaching immorality, but that there was a spiritual understanding that ran far deeper than the rules imposed by a set of external ethical rules.
"To you it is given to know the Mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to
the rest of them it is only given in parables."
– Luke 8:10
"Because it is given unto you to know the Mysteries of the kingdom of
Heaven, but to them it is not given."
– Matthew 13:11
To the Pagans, the myths were allegories used to teach. The myths could be changed as needed. They did not regard myths as being histories of actual events.
The same is true of the Gnostics. In fact each Gnostic was expected to rework the Gnostic myths in his own unique way to show that he had contact with the Gnosis and was not just memorizing the words of others. The Pagans understood, but the Literalists condemned the Gnostics for this practice as creating fiction.
Only the lowest levels of both the Pagans and the Gnostics would believe the events portrayed in the myths actually happened.
Pagans and Gnostics had levels of secret inner teachings. The Literalist Christians rejected the very concept of secret inner teachings.
Much of the Jesus story and the Pagan myths alike involves sacred mathematics and numbers as well as symbols and images.
Each letter in the Greek alphabet also represented a number. The names of Greek gods would often be spelled so as to represent a specific number.
The name Jesus in Greek was Iesous. This name was artificial and was formed because it added up to 888 which was supposed to be magical and sacred.
The numbers in stories such as the feeding of the 5,000 were also important.
Jesus symbolized the higher, immortal Self, the Daemon. The lower, incarnate, mortal self is the eidolon. Thomas or Judas is the eidolon, the twin of Jesus who looks just like Jesus, and who is released from death by Pontias Pilate during the trial.
Did Jesus die on the cross or did he only seem to die on the cross? Did Gnostics believe Jesus was physical or pure spirit? The Literalists were confused about Gnostic beliefs.
Jesus both died and did not die at the same time. He experienced pain and did not at the same time.
His physical body was the eidolon, which did experience pain and did die, while he was actually the Daemon, the spirit, which did not experience pain and did not die.
The Gnostics believed this represents us all. We all are an eidolon and a Daemon.
When we realize our true nature we will die as an eidolon and be resurrected to our true nature as a Daemon.
The Pagan Mysteries had a sacred marriage of the godman and the goddess. In Gnostic myth Jesus is the godman and Mary Magdalene represents the goddess.
In Pagan Inner Mysteries, the initiate becomes the godman. In the Gnostic tradition, we become Christ.
The Pagans and the Gnostics both had four levels of consciousness: Physical, psychological, spiritual, and mystical.
Physical and psychological were both physical levels. Spiritual and mystical were spiritual levels.
On the physical level you are an animal. On the psychological level you are a thinking animal.
On the spiritual level you realize your spiritual nature. On the mystical level you realize you are a part of the All. You become a Gnostic or Knower of the truth.
Both the Pagans and the Gnostics had three levels of teaching:
This chapter starts by noting that the period of history in which Jesus Christ is said to have lived was one of the most well-documented and literate periods in the ancient world. A list of 36 noted writers from this time is given – not one mentions Jesus Christ.
Jewish authors of the period are surveyed, notably Philo. No mention of Jesus again, even though Philo is quite acquainted with Pontius Pilate. Josephus is always cited by Christians, but the few paragraphs he devotes to Jesus are easily shown as frauds.
A character named Yesua shows up in the Jewish book, but despite superficial similarities, it cannot be the Christian Jesus. This work was written late (200 CE) and the references to "Yesua" are scattered all over a period of 200 years, and are totally inconsistent.
The list of Jesus Christ's antecedents are given from the Gospel of Luke, then from the Gospel of Matthew – and they don't match. And the inconsistencies only get worse after that. Likewise, since Christ is "born of a Virgin," his earthly father's ancestors are literally meaningless. The events of all the gospels conflict with one another; even the words of Jesus are contradictory. Most ominously of all, Jesus Christ's most important prophecy – that the generation he was preaching to would see the end of time – never came true.
No matter what, Christians insist that the gospels are the word of God, but which words? In an examination of 3000 ancient gospels, a vast number of alterations were made in the original texts. Whoever wrote or altered them did not know the fundamental geography of Judea, as it is full of wrong directions and blunders. Even the words of Jesus are fishy, as he mentions that a woman who divorces her husband an remarries is an "adulteress" – but women in that society had no right of divorce. So once again Jesus Christ's words are gibberish.
No they aren't. This section basically repeats the above charges of inconsistency and confabulation, this time in regards to the apostles.
Paul is shown to be spouting pure Gnosticism. He says Jesus Christ was crucified by Archons; even worse, Paul's "Christ" seems to be a mythic character, like Osiris. Likewise, though Paul's letters are the earliest Christian documents, they only establish that there was already a rift in the church. Paul is concerned about the Jewish-Greek split in church affairs, and is useless for approaching the historic Jesus.
In this section, the myth turning to history is given a tentative timeline. Jesus Christ started out as an Osiris-type godman, with "Literalists" plugging the history in later, as shown below:
Character and Purpose
Jesus Christ = Mythical godman
Jesus Christ gets some history and geography
Matthew & Luke
Jesus Christ's birth and resurrection are added on
Christian theology begins
Acts of the Apostles
Created to support the above story
Letters of the Apostles
Forged letters of "Paul" to fight Gnostics
St. Paul is considered the most influential Christian of all time. Fully a quarter of the Christian canon is devoted to him. He's traditionally viewed as a bastion of orthodoxy and as a crusader against Gnosticism. Yet many Gnostics also claim him to be the father of their teachings, saying that Paul had initiated a select few into the 'deeper Mysteries' of Christianity, which revealed the secret teachings of God. One of these Gnostic sects was even known as the 'Paulicians'. The Gnostic sage Theudas is said to have been initiated by Paul himself. Later, Valentinus was initiated by Theudas.
Gnostic communities flourished, despite the persecution of the Roman church, until the 10th century. To various Gnostics, Paul was known as "The Great Apostle". To others like the Marcions, he was "the only true apostle."
If Paul were anti-Gnostic as the Literalists claim, then it is surely amazing that so many Gnostic sects claim him as the father of their traditions.
There are even a number of Gnostic scriptures claiming Paul as the author; "The Prayer of the Apostle Paul" and "The Apocalypse of Paul", and "The Ascent of Paul" among them. "The Acts of Paul" even has a woman by the name of Thecla travelling with him and performing baptisms.
Of the 13 letters attributed to Paul, only 7 are seen as authentic. The "Pastoral" letters to Timothy and Titus are universally considered as fakes. Computer studies have concluded that the author of the Pastorals is definitely not the author of the letters to the Galatians, Romans, and Corinthians, which are accepted as genuinely written by Paul. The earliest collection of letters attributed to Paul don't contain the Pastorals. The Pastorals, as it turns out, aren't mentioned at all until approximately 190 CE via Irenaeus. They were accepted into the Christian canon only after this time and have often been dismissed by Christians of many persuasions as fakes.
Even the great orthodox propagandist Eusebius makes no mention of the Pastorals (CE 325). This is important, as it happens that only in the Pastorals is Paul anti-Gnostic. Unlike the genuine Pauline letters, the Pastorals present him as an organizer of the church, an unswerving antagonist against all heretics, and recommending that his followers not meddle with the teachings and waste time with endless genealogies.
Paul is also made to be an authority enforcing the power of the church hierarchy, writing "Guard what has been handed down to you by fending off all the Godless prattle and contradictions of false 'Gnosis', which some have adhered to, losing the way of the faith." He's also made to be the authority enforcing the power of the church, made to attack the Gnostic practice of making men and women equals. He particularly is made to attack women in any form of authoritative position: "A woman should quietly receive instruction in complete obedience. I will not allow a woman to be a teacher nor act superior to a man." And yet according to Gnostic tradition, Paul travelled with a woman who performed baptisms.
By the end of the 2nd century CE, Paul was portrayed as anti-Gnostic. Yet only a few decades earlier he was attacked as a misguided heretic by Clement himself. Other letters have Peter denying Paul's status as an apostle, claiming that only an eyewitness to the resurrection should be counted as such and also claiming Paul hadn't witnessed it at all. In fact, Paul's vision is said to have been from an evil demon, and Jesus was said to have been angry with Paul, who is his adversary because Paul teaches contrary to Jesus' teachings. Paul is accused of creating a heretical gospel, and the apostles are forced to create a secret true gospel to correct Paul's.
Paul is a Jew who had embraced the Greek culture of the time, preaching in Pagan cities, writing in Greek, quoting solely from a Greek version of the Old Testament, and his ministry was to cities dominated by Greek culture. As it happens, Antioch was a center for the Mysteries of Adonis, Ephesus was a center for the Mysteries of Attis, and Corinth was the center for the Dionysian Mysteries. Paul himself was from Tarsus, which even surpassed the other cities to become a center of Pagan philosophy.
Paul often uses terms from the Pagan Mysteries and advises his followers to seek the greater Charismata. Charismata comes from the Greek word makarismos, which refers to the blessed nature of one who has seen the Mysteries. He also calls himself a 'Steward of the Mysteries of God." which is the term given to the priest of the Mysteries of Sarapis.
Paul quotes from Aratus, a Pagan sage from several centuries prior, and teaches Pagan doctrines. Plato tells us that we only see reality 'through a glass dimly." Likewise, Paul tells us 'For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.'
The only place Paul treats Jesus as an historical figure is in the Letter to Timothy, but this letter has been deemed a forgery. In all the others, Jesus comes across as the dying and resurrecting godman of the Gnostics. In his genuine letters, Paul teaches that Jesus came in the 'likeness' of human flesh rather than as a physical personage. How many Christians have wondered about Paul being caught up in the 'third heaven'? Gnostics and Pagans had taught of seven heavens linked with seven heavenly bodies, the five visible planets, the moon, and the sun.
The Gnostics hold Paul as the teacher of the 'pneumatic' initiations. His letter to the Romans is about sharing certain 'pneumatic charisma'. This is understood to be a secret initiation. Paul uses a version of the vow of secrecy as used by the various Mystery Schools: "As it is written, 'Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love him.'" (1 Corinthians 2:9) It is only inadequate translation that conceals the Gnostic teachings in Paul's writings.
Valentinians claim that Paul initiated Christians into the "Mystery of Sophia", offering as proof the first letter of Corinthians where Paul writes "We speak of Sophia among the initiated" (1 Corinthians 2:6), which has been mistranslated as "We speak of wisdom among the perfected". Another mistranslation of Paul's writings comes in the form of using the word 'aion' to mean 'world' instead of 'an age' as it represents.
Literalist Christians cite Paul to endorse their belief of the dead being physically resurrected at the second coming of Christ. Paul, however, seems to have a different understanding, as he writes "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." This is more in line with a spiritual resurrection. In fact, he teaches "The secret is this: Christ in you."
Theodotus calls Paul "the apostle of the resurrection." Paul sees the resurrection as an event that has already happened and as a spiritual experience that can be experienced now. Paul writes of being raised up to heaven and enthroned with Jesus as something that has already happened. He also teaches that Christ's Passion is a perennial mystical reality, and that those who share in the death and resurrection die to their lower selves and are resurrected as the Christ or Logos. He uses this form of symbolism a number of times in the Bible.
The Gnostics taught that the Jesus story works on two levels at once: on the psychic level, for Christians initiated into the Outer Mysteries, and on the pneumatic level, for those initiated into the Inner Mysteries. The story stayed the same even though understood on two very different levels, and people at either level understood what they were capable of understanding.
In Corinthians, Paul is disappointed because he wishes to impart pneumatic teachings but finds that the congregation is only at the 'Sarkic' level of consciousness; that is, the lowest level of understanding. He is impatient that his followers are still not ready to move on from the elementary teachings – these teachings being those of repentance, resurrection of the dead, baptism...
Paul and the Gnostics both teach that the Mysteries of Jesus supercede the Law of Jehovah (YHWH) and that the new covenant replaces the old. Paul preaches spiritual freedom through Gnosis rather than moral servitude under the law. Gnostics quote Paul to defend themselves against accusations of immorality.
Paul tells us that the Law is a product of the mediator. What is meant by mediator here? A mediator between who or what? Literalists have no answer, but Gnostics see this as Paul teaching about Jehovah in the light of the demiurge, who is a lesser God who mediates between the creator and creation.
The anti-Gnostic letters of Paul have been found to be forgeries, even though his other letters still oppose other people within the early Christian church. These others in the early church are the ones who insist on maintaining the old Jewish laws. He attacks the practice of circumcision, saying that it will do no good with Christ and it would be better going all the way to becoming eunuchs.
Paul places no importance on the externals and maintains the importance of the spiritual. Likewise, the Jesus of the Gnostics tells us: "If it were beneficial, their father would beget them already circumcised from their mother. Rather the true circumcision in spirit has become completely profitable."
"When the king gave his assent, Jason set about introducing his fellow
countrymen to the Greek way of life as soon as he was in power. He suppressed
the existing royal concessions to the Jews, granted at the insistence of John,
father of that Eupolemus who was later to be sent on the embassy of friendship
and alliance with the Romans, and, overthrowing the lawful institutions,
introduced new usages contrary to the Law. He went so far as to plant a
gymnasium at the very foot of the Citadel, and to fit out the noblest of his
cadets in the petasos. Godless wretch that he was and no true high priest,
Jason set no bounds to his impiety; indeed the Hellenizing process reached such
a pitch that the priests ceased to show any interest in the services of the
altar; scorning the Temple and neglecting the sacrifices, they would hurry to
take part in the unlawful exercises on the training ground as soon as the
signal was given for the discus. They disdained all that their ancestors had
esteemed, and set the highest value on Hellenic honors.
– 2 Maccabees 4:10-15
"That Jewish priests used to perform their chants to the flute and drums, crowned with ivy, and that a golden vine was discovered in the Temple, has led some to imagine that the god they worshipped was Liber (Greek-Dionysus)." – Tacitus, The Histories, Book 5.5, 274.
The Jews of first-century Judea were very Hellenized. Jerusalem was the center of the Temple cult, somewhat less Hellenized, but surrounding cities were much more Hellenized.
Instead of being totally against Paganism, most Jews were integrating themselves into Pagan society and adopting Pagan religion. This was true to an even greater degree in the Diaspora. Literalist Christians distorted the separation between Pagans and Jews in order to distance Christianity from its own Pagan origins. Judea was also much more cosmopolitan and much less rural than we are led to believe.
The most Hellenized Jews lived in Alexandria. Alexandria, with its library and enlightened leadership, exceeded even Athens as a center of learning. It was a center of the Osiris-Dionysus religion, where the Mysteries were not secret as they were in other cities. Thus there was in Alexandria more merging of cultures and more understanding of the Mysteries by former outsiders such as the Jews. The Jews of Alexandria even spoke Greek within their own community. It was the Jews of Alexandria who turned the tribal god Jehovah into a universal God like Plato's supreme Oneness.
The Hellenized Jews attempted to integrate the Jewish religion with Paganism. The Gnostics were the heirs of this effort.
A Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, using "the method of the Mysteries", presented the Jewish scriptures not as history but as allegories containing encoded knowledge.
He claimed to be an initiate of Jewish Mysteries and encouraged Jews to learn the Jewish Mysteries and to stay away from Pagan Mysteries. The Mysteries he described were very similar to Pagan Mysteries, but with Jewish names and images.
These initiates of the Jewish mystery religion of Alexandria were the first Gnostics, the first Christians. They invented a Jewish version of the godman myth: The Jesus Story.
The chapter considers the historical crossroads where "Jesus Christ" was invented. Pythagoras, for example, didn't bother creating a "biography" for Dionysus when he cribbed the Osirian Mysteries from the Egyptians. Why then did the authors of the Jewish Mysteries create a "biography" for Jesus? It becomes probable that the contradictions in the New Testament were placed there on purpose by the chroniclers, to call attention to the fact that Jesus Christ is in fact a new, improved retread of the Osiris/Dionysus Mysteries.
The hoped-for Jewish Messiah was far different from a Pagan godman: he was supposed to be a king and liberator, not a dying victim. The "prophecies" of Jesus Christ's return in glory is yet another sop to the Literalists while those in the Inner Circle knew it to be hash.
All the Jewish motifs and legends were rummaged up and in some way applied to Jesus. Passover becomes the Pagan sacramental meal. Moses' wandering 40 years in the desert becomes Jesus' fasting for 40 days and nights before his public life begins. As Moses' Joshua was to lead the people to a new covenant, Joshua/Jesus serves the same function metaphorically, and even picks 12 disciples as the original Joshua did. Other themes are reworked as well; Zechariah 9:9 makes note of a king riding on an ass (donkey), so the same with Jesus. Likewise, the chroniclers created legends about Jesus particularly to "fulfill" ancient Jewish prophecies, as when his garments are divided and lots are cast for them.
Inter-testamental literature also was pressed into service to create the new Jesus-god. The old Book of Enoch and the Jewish Sibylline Oracles have prophesies of the End Times, so they were added to the New Testament. Jesus was called "Son of Man" as Enoch had been, stressing his primal-man status. The Pagan "just man" becomes the Christian "righteous man" also. A non-Christian wisdom text is compared to the words of Jesus, and once again the Christians are found "borrowing" from much earlier sources.
The Pagan godman was supposed to be a myth. Likewise, Paul's real letters indicate that the Jesus godman was a myth too. Why was this myth asserted as factual? Because it is a composite of Pagan godman and Jewish Messiah, and the Jews expected the Messiah to be a real person. So they pulled the hoax off by saying Jesus had been alive in the recent past, and he would return in glory real soon. To make the scam even better, they had him killed by Pontius Pilate, a man the Jews detested for frequent abuses and blasphemies.
Because of the failures of Judaism, and revolutionary Messiahs in particular, the new Jesus invention was curiously comforting. By saying his kingdom was not of this world, the Jesus character excused the manifest incapability of the Jews to liberate themselves from Rome. The times were grim, and this was a perfectly understandable solution. The forgers were only trying to help. But the Jews really wanted a revolutionary Messiah, not a Pagan godman. So this mystic-only type of Messiah didn't really take off among the multitude of Jews.
Although the mystic "Jesus" played badly among the Jews, a curious thing happened: the Pagans liked him. It was their own stories re-treaded, but the alleged reality of Jesus helped sell this new concoction. Because of this, we get the funniest quote in the book: "Christianity is, from a merely historical viewpoint, an enormous Greek hero cult devoted to a Jewish Messiah." (Macchioro) Because Paul dumped the Jewish laws the Pagans did not like, the quasi-historical Jesus story took off like wildfire.
[Frank later modifies his own summary: "Acharya's book [Christ Conspiracy] and Freke & Gandy take great pains to point out that there's no evidence that Christianity "took off" at all, and the 3rd-Century numbers for Christians in the Roman Empire are pitiful."]
Since the above is so clear to see now, how did anyone ever take the story of Jesus Christ as the literal truth? Following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, Jews were dispersed and many only knew the Outer Mysteries, the so-called "history" of Jesus. Only the Gnostics knew the truth, but they were pretty much restricted to Alexandria where they had cobbled the story together in the first place.
With nobody knowing the truth within miles, the Outer Mysteries of Christianity slowly and tragically became seen as the whole show. Within time, the Literalists created a structure, with rules and dogmas. And they developed a hatred for the Gnostics who knew the real story. So by irony, a legend created by and for Jews to get through a time of trouble was accepted by Pagans as a literal fact, with disastrous results that plague us still.
"And there shall be others who are outside our number who call themselves bishops and deacons, as if they have received their authority from God. These people are dry canals. They do business in my name. They praise the men who propagate falsehood. They cling to the name of a dead man, thinking they will become pure."
At first, Christians were divided over whether they should be a movement inside Judaism or outside Judaism. That is, should they obey the "Law" or should they forget the law? Supposedly Peter was on one side and Paul on the other. At this time all Christians were Gnostic, so the mythic versus Literalist disagreement was not the division Paul warned about in the early, authentic epistles. Originally, all followers generally held the mythic view and the debate then was about whether to follow the Jewish law.
In the second century, the controversy changed to the argument between the Literalists and the Gnostics. The Literalists believed the Jesus story as history and rejected the Inner Mysteries. The Gnostics saw the Jesus story as allegory and taught the Inner Mysteries.
Gnostics, in contrast, offered Gnosis, an experience of the real truth.
Literalists fabricated a line of bishops going back to the apostles. They claimed the truth and authority of the original eyewitnesses had been passed down to their bishops. The Gnostics were then claimed to be in rebellion against the apostles and thus against Christ himself.
The Valentinians tried to reconcile the Literalist and Gnostic Christians.
The Gnostics did not have a set hierarchy. They drew lots to see who would hold what office. Some did it every meeting.
Gnostics treated women as spiritual equals. They had women priests and honored the goddess. Literalists first segregated women, then expelled them from services. They branded any church which had any women leaders as heretical.
Most Gnostics rejected the God and bible of Judaism. The Literalists kept the Jews' God and bible (which became the "Old Testament"), but rejected the Law of Moses and the traditions of the Jews.
There was a great proliferation of Gnostic texts and gospels. The Literalists, to gather authority and power to themselves, did their best to take over and steer these texts toward a single, determinate, consistently Literalist body of texts by selecting, rejecting, rewriting, and creating texts.
Some Literalists asked to be martyred, thinking spiritual glory lies in literal bodily self-sacrifice, but the Gnostics thought they were misguided, because the martyrdom of Jesus is properly understood as just an allegory for dying to the lower self in order to be reborn to the higher self.
The Romans did not single out Christians for special persecution. They persecuted all mystery religions, at one time or another. The persecutions of Christians and others usually involved only exile or fines. Some Christians (as well as some Pagans) were killed, but the persecutions were greatly exaggerated by later Christians.
The Catholic church went from being legal to being the only legal religion. The state and the church terrorized Pagans much worse than the Literalist Christians had ever been persecuted by the Roman state.
Constantine legalized Christianity but forced unity upon it. His new "catholic" church was more Pagan than the Literalist Christians had been. Many Literalist Christians were unhappy with this enforced, quasi-Pagan version of Christianity, but if they opposed the new church, they were branded heretics along with the Gnostics.
Pagan intellectuals considered Christianity to be predominantly about manipulation of the gullible lower class for financial profit. The Pagans looked upon such Christians like we today look upon cultists -- the Christians were seen as holding a foolishly and ignorantly literal belief in the religious myths that were intended by their Pagan originators to be taken as allegory for religious experiencing.
Constantine chose the Mysteries of Jesus over those of the other godmen because Christianity was largely Literalist, with a strong Literalist component. The challenge was to create an official single doctrine that would be politically expedient and effective. There were many political-power disputes thinly disguised as theological disputes, to the point where the new Catholic Roman Church was obviously very unholy.
Literalists fabricated documents that supported their claim and destroyed those which did not.
The Catholic Roman church rewrote gospels, invented gospels and letters, and adopted what we now call the "New Testament".
Church history was once again fabricated to fit then-current church doctrine.
Traditional church history is a lie and a cover-up. Christianity began as a Pagan mystery religion. The true history was stamped out. The history of Christianity is very similar to the history of Communism in the twentieth century.
The Literalists shifted the "blame" for Jesus' death from the Romans to the Jews. The Literalists did ridiculous things such as making Pontius Pilate and his wife into saints.
Almost all modern Christian churches are the direct heirs of the Literalist church as reshaped by Constantine. They accept most, if not all, of the changes forced on the Church as fact.
Literalists claimed that just as there is one God, there should be one head bishop.
Between Constantine in 313 making Christianity no longer illegal and Theodosius making it the only legal religion in 391, mobs of maurading monks destroyed Pagan temples and burned down the library at Alexandria. Theodosis died in 395, then just 15 years later, Rome, officially fully Christianized, fell to the Visigoths.
Philosophizing itself became illegal, a crime against the state; the books were illegal and were ordered burned. Gnosticism remained popular even among clergy but they were forced to hide the allegorism and publically enforce Literalism.
Theodosius made heresy a crime in 381. People could no longer discuss religion. They must now accept what they were told by their bishop.
The chapter ends with a question: "...if Paganism was so primitive and Literalist Christianity is the one true religion, why was Pagan civilization replaced by the 1,000 years we appropriately call the Dark Ages?"
The ancients would regard it as fitting that we should re-evaluate Christianity at this particular time. According to the old Pagans, Christianity began at the beginning of the Great Month of Pisces. As this age ends, Aquarius begins. In some ways it is similar to the beginning of the last age: there are apocalyptic fears, strange new cults and old religions being discredited. What shall this new age bring?
First we must come to terms with the past. What has 2000 years of Literalist Christianity brought us? It was a spiritual Dark Age, characterized by:
Literalist Christianity created a gulf between itself and all other spiritual traditions, often using its alleged superiority as justification to persecute and destroy other cultures. It ruthlessly harassed and often butchered its own heretics and freethinkers. It used Old Father Jehovah as the only face of God, therefore subordinating the Divine Feminine. For many people nowadays, religion is at best a joke, and at worst a form of tyranny.
A successful culture honors its ancestors, whereas Western Civilization has had to brand its antecedents as devil-worshippers. What sort of damage can this have done to the psyche of our civilization? We are cut off from our roots. Worse, we have set up a conflict between "faith" and "science" that the ancient Pagans would have found crazy. In their world, the search for truth was all of a piece, with no artificial distinction between soul and matter.
Christianity was a great divider – men versus women, science versus religion, faith versus reason, Christian versus heathen... yet it originally set out to unite the world.
The Jesus Mysteries Thesis is this: If Christians could acknowledge their debt to the Pagan traditions, they could become partners with other traditions which they currently brand as works of the devil. It Christians could dump the dead hand of Jehovah, it could once again accept the divine feminine and restore that balance. If Christianity could dump its dogmatism, a sense of wonder could return. And finally, if Christians could admit that the New Testament was a fiction written by humans, it could restore its ancient gnosis, its original Mysteries.
The book The Jesus Mysteries hopes for a shift in understanding comparable to Darwin's disproving the story of Adam and Eve. Simply: Admit that Christianity evolved from Paganism.
Christianity was no radical break from the past; it has identifiable roots in the Mystery schools of the ancient world. But Fundamentalists will never accept this fact. But if Christianity bows to Fundamentalism, it will sweep itself into the dustbin of history. Our culture is seeking truth, yet Literalist Christianity stands on a tissue of lies.
But it can shed the lies and admit the truth, and by recovering its gnosis become a force for good, tolerance, and self-awareness. In his Study of History, Arnold Toynbee wrote:
"Behind the great figure of the dying demigod there looms the greater figure of a very god that dies for different worlds under different names – for a Minoan world as Dionysus, for a Sumeric world as Tammuz, for a Hittite world as Attis, for a Syraic world as Adonis, for a Christian world as Christ. Who is this god of many epiphanies but only one passion?"
The answer is, every one of us. These are the ancient Mysteries that teach us to die to our lower self and discover our divine reality. This is an eternal process, not a one-shot "historical savior". It is a perpetual process of spiritual rebirth, available to each of us all the time, a summons to anyone to find, as Paul advised, the "Christ in you".
How the Pagan Mysteries of Osiris-Dionysus Were Rewritten as the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God?
423, new ed.
Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God?
Random House/ Harmony/ Crown
Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God?
Three Rivers Press
The Jesus Mysteries: The Original Jesus Was a Pagan God
These chapter summaries were written by members of the Jesus Mysteries Unmoderated Discussion Group. This version: June 23, 2002.
Chapter 1 – The Unthinkable Thought
Chapter 2 – The Pagan Mysteries
Chapter 3 – Diabolical Mimicry
Chapter 4 – Perfected Platonism
Chapter 5 – The Gnostics
Chapter 6 – The Jesus Code
Chapter 7 – The Missing Man
Chapter 8 – Was Paul a Gnostic?
Chapter 9 – The Jewish Mysteries
Chapter 10 – The Jesus Myth
Chapter 11 – An Imitation Church
Chapter 12 – The Greatest Story Ever Told
Editing, formatting, links, remaining summaries