Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jesus vs Attis - Is There A Connection?

Here is my latest post discussing whether or not Jesus is just a myth stolen from Pagan sources or if Jesus is unique. Some critics accuse early Christianity of borrowing its theology from the Greco-Roman god called Attis. Let's discuss the points that they bring up and see if their claims hold up. This post was done with the help of Mariano of Atheism is Dead. The very first mention of Attis can be found in the research I found:

Our first mention of Attis comes from the well-known writings of the Greek historian Herodotus [Verm.CA, 88-9]. According to Herodotus, Attis was a shepherd from Phrygia and the son of a king, Croseus of Lydia. King Croseus had a nasty dream in which his son was killed by an iron spear, and because of this, he refused to allow Attis out on a boar hunt, until Attis himself persuaded him that it would be OK.
Still a tad worried, Croseus hires a gent named Adreastus, whom he had earlier granted sanctuary to, to guard his son's welfare on the hunt. Unfortunately, the foot of irony stomps right in when Adreastus throws his spear at a boar and misses, instead hitting you-know-who and killing him.

As anyone can see, Attis has nothing to do with Jesus. Okay, let's look at the alleged similarities.

1. Attis was born on December 25th of the Virgin Nana.

December 25 means nothing when discussing Jesus. He was not born December 25th, as far as anyone can tell, neither was Attis. Also, in terms of Greek mythology, Nana was impregnated by an almond that fell from a tree that grew up from Zeus' sperm. That is a lot different from Jesus.

2. He was considered the savior who was slain for the salvation of mankind.

There is no evidence for anything in the cult of Attis dying to save anyone and, let alone, being resurrected.
In a study devoted entirely to the subject of "soteriology" in the Attis cult, Gasparro finds no "explicit statements about the prospects open to the mystai of Cybele and Attis" and "little basis in the documents in our possession" for the idea of "a ritual containing a symbology of death and resurrection to a new life." [Gasp.AAO, 82]

Put it bluntly: Attis was no savior, and was never recognized as such. The closest we get to this is from a writer named Damascius (480-550 AD!) who had a dream in which a festival of Attis celebrated "salvation from Hades" (see more below).

We also see some evidence of Attis as a protector of tombs (as other gods also were, guarding them from violation); use of Attis with reference to grief and mourning -- but when it comes to the gravestones of devotees of Cybele and Attis, they are "all equally oblivious to special benefits the future life guaranteed by such a religious status." [Gasp.Sot, 90-4].

3. His body as bread was eaten by his worshippers.

There is no record of bread being eaten by worshippers like in the Christian communion sacrament.

Despite the footnote to Godwin's text at the end of this sentence by Freke and Gandy, Godwin makes no such assertion in his text; what Godwin does say is that "what they ate or drank we do not know" -- not a word is said about it being "likely" bread and wine, and Freke and Gandy's footnote is therefore a partial fabrication.

Vermaseren, the dean of Attis studies [Verm.CA, 118-9], adds more. Vermaseren confirms the use of the cymbals, and the eating and drinking, but suggests that milk was the drink of choice, because wine and bread were forbidden during the Attis festivals -- if wine and bread was the snack of choice, it would have had to have been an exception to this rule.

Bread and wine were consumed during the communion because during the Last Supper Jesus and his followers are observing Passover not worshipping Attis.

4. His priests were "eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven."

In the mythology of Attis, he went mad and castrated himself. His priests did the same and were laughed at and derided for it. Nowhere does Jesus tells his followers to castrate themselves.

5. He was both the Divine Son and the Father.

Nowhere does anything about Attis support this idea. And applying it to Jesus contradicts the doctrine of the Trinity.

6. On "Black Friday," he was crucified on a tree, from which his holy blood ran down to redeem the earth.

Attis died under a tree. He was not crucified on a tree. His blood made flowers grow but it didn't redeem anyone.

7. He descended into the underworld.

Ok, finally; a true statement about Attis. Attis did go to Hades (Hell). Jesus did go to hell. Jesus was in Paradise during the time his body was buried.

Mariano’s addendum: The question to ask is what was the Attisian conception of the “underworld”? Jesus is said to have “descended into the lower parts of the earth” (Ephesians 4:9) without reference to “hell,” “hades,” “gehenna,” “sheol,” etc. It is reported that Jesus “went and preached to the spirits in prison [phylake]” (1st Peter 3:19). Moreover, Jesus told the thief on the cross “today you will be with Me in Paradise [paradeisos]” (Luke 23:43). Apparently, Jesus descended into Abraham’s Bosom; the paradise section of Sheol/Hades (Luke 16:19-31). The phrase stating that Jesus “descended into hell” appears to be a 390 AD accretion into the Apostles’ Creed.

8. After three days, Attis was resurrected on March 25th (as tradition held of Jesus) as the "Most High God."

Um, I found nothing even remotely like this about Attis. Two stories that come up have Attis castrating himself and his grandfather Zeus brought him back to life.

9. Attis was represented as a "a man tied to a tree, at the foot of which was a lamb, and, without doubt also as a man nailed to a tree..."

The closest story that even looks like this remotely is that in one of them, Attis turns into a pine tree. He was not like a lamb but Attis was raised by goats in one account. Nothing like Jesus' resurrection comes anywhere close.

10. On March 22nd, a pine tree was felled and "an effigy of the god was affixed to it, thus being slain and hung on a tree..." Later the priests are supposed to have found Attis' grave empty.

Look at the response I read. It devastates the idea.

Based on a calendar dated to 354 AD, there were six Roman celebrations to Attis -- dated March 15, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 28. The one on the 22nd was indeed as Jackson relates -- a pine tree was felled, and the figure of Attis attached, although it represents his death under the tree -- the figure being affixed to the tree therefore being no more than a matter of practically depicting the scene, since the figurine of Attis isn't just going to float along while the tree is carried by the processioneers.

The problem with all of this, though, is that the only one of the six feasts known certainly to have crossed paths with Christianity was the one on the 27th, which is the only festival attested on a calendar dated 50AD. A sixth-century writer says that the Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) instituted the festival on the 22nd. (The 23rd was a day of mourning; on the 24th the priests of Attis would flagellate themselves.)

And what the "resurrection" on the 25th? It is here, on the festival called the Hilaria, that a return from the underworld is implied (but not directly pronounced). It is attested no earlier than the 3rd or 4th century AD [Gasp.Sot, 57; contra Verm.LAGR, 47, who interperts [sic] pictures of Attis only dancing, as early as the 4th century BC, as somehow celebrating his release from death).

The bottom line is that there is no credible connection between Jesus and Attis. None whatsoever. Next!

Mariano’s addendum: Some basic questions ought to be asked with relation claims of likeliness between Jesus and Attis, Jesus and Buddha or Jesus’ likeliness to any other historic or mythical personage: How do we even know that the character to which Jesus is being likened ever lived? (find citations to 236 references to Jesus from circa 70 AD to 280 AD at this link). The pseudo-skeptic does not care since they will instantly accredit anything which they consider as a challenge to Christianity.

What is the time of the events of Atti’s life until the time the event was recorded?
What is the time of the recording until the time of the earliest manuscript? How many manuscripts are there? How do they compare? For example, much of what is known about Attis comes from Julius Firmicus Maternus who wrote circa 350 AD, the sacrifice of bulls (with reference to Cybele) comes from 245 AD and the sacrifice of bulls in relation to salvation dates to Aurelius Prudentius Clemens who wrote circa 400 AD.

It appears that the closest one can get to Attis being referred to as a savior is from Damascius who wrote circa 480-550 AD.
Moreover, even when Herodotus refers to Attis he, “does indeed testify to the existence of the myth of the death of Attis, says nothing about his superhuman quality and his association with the Great Goddess.” Horodotus wrote in the 5th century BC. Thus, as with Buddha if there was any borrowing it seems to have been by the Attisians and from Christianity rather than the other way around. Again, the pseudo-skeptic does not care about these and many other relevant questions since they will instantly accredit anything which they consider as a challenge to Christianity whether myth, legend or what someone just came up with right off of the tops of their heads.

Attis - Wikapedia Attis - Greek Mythology

Alleged Similarities Between Jesus and Attis

Do You Worship Attis or Jesus?

Was the Story of Jesus Stolen from the Pagan Hero Attis?

1J. P. Holding, “Was the story of Jesus stolen from the pagan hero Attis?,” Tekton – Education and Apologetics Ministry
22Giulia Sfameni Gasparro, Soteriology and mystic aspects in the cult of Cybele and Attis

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