Defending the Theistic View

The Myth of Jesus: A Refutation of the Zeitgeist — Part 2

The film Zeitgeist begins with list of pagan gods such Horus, Attis, Krishna, Dionysus and Mithra. It goes through the list of details associated with Jesus Christ and then applies them to these pagan gods in order to create the impression that Christianity is only a copycat religion. However, viewers (whether believers or skeptics) should watch this film with the realization that there is an agenda behind it. — And I advise anyone reading this to do the same with what I am about to say as well.

So far, on the part of the film, claims of being academically are false, as seen in the case of the parallels between Horus and Jesus. — But it goes on to the next pagan deity, Attis, and makes similar claims about him saying,

Attis, of Phyrigia, born of the virgin Nana on December 25th, crucified, placed in a tomb and after 3 days, was resurrected.

Before going into detail, I want to emphesize that December 25th has no theological significance to Christianity. It is not mentioned in the Bible as Jesus’ birth date. The date was adopted in 350 AD by Bishop Julius I, too late a date to have any relevance to Christian origins.

The story of Attis begins when Agdistis, a hermaphroditic demon with male and female sex organs, gets castrated by gods that feared him. They disposed of his organ, and an almond tree grew where it landed. — Pausanias, the second century Greek writer, says:

There grew up from it an almond-tree with its fruit ripe, and a daughter of the river Sangarius [Nana, Attis’ mother], they say, took of the fruit and laid it in her bosom, when it at once disappeared, but she was with child. A boy was born, and exposed, but was tended by a he-goat. As he grew up his beauty was more than human, and Agdistis fell in love with him. (Description of Greece 7, 17, 11)

After Attis’s birth, Nana’s father ordered the child exposed so that he would die, but fortunately he was saved by the goddess Cybele and was mothered by a she-goat. Attis grew to manhood and was so handsome in appearance that Agdistis and/or Cybele, the mother of the gods, fell in love with him.

When Attis was sent to marry the daughter of the king of Pessinos, Agdistis drove Attis insane to the point of castrating himself so that nobody else could have him. When Agdistis saw Attis’ dead body, he repented of driving him insane and made sure that his body didn’t decay. He was then reborn as an evergreen pine tree, as recounted by Strabo the historian. — In other versions, Cybele, who was jealous and refused to take Attis back, got sexually involved with women, and this drove Attis insane and he mutilated himself under a pine tree where he died. — Pausanias points out one tradition in which Attis is killed by a boar. (Description of Greece 7, 17, 10)

There is no indication that Nana, Attis’ mother, was a virgin when her son was born, though she could have been since there is no reason to believe she wasn’t. As for his death, he was either castrated, or his has gored by a wild bore. He was not crucified.

The claim that Attis was dead for three days and later resurrected seems to have its roots in the Magna Mater’s Spring Festival which lasted from the 15th of March until the 27th. — On the eighth say of the festival, a pine tree which symbolized Attis was cut down, and this was followed by three days of mourning. On the tenth day, he was burried, and then on the so-called Halaria, or the “Day of Joy” was on the eleventh day. This is cited as the resurrection day.

A.T. Fear, who contributed a chapter to the book entitled Attis and Related Cults and wrote about this very same festival, points out in the chapter entitled “Cybele and Christ“ does seem to confirm the claims that that Jesus may have been copied from Attis because of a similar claim that he was killed and resurrected after three days during a celebration that depicts his resurrection out of a tomb. (Page 39) — But there is a major problem. The ceremony that Dr. Fear describes is from a major festival of the metroac cult. But later he points out that this very cult had gone through changes which could have been “a deliberate attempt to rival Christianity” to ensure the cult’s survival in the market. (Page 44) — As a matter of fact, about the resurrection of Attis he says,

Attis too with his strong emphasis on resurrection seems to be a late-comer to the cult, the stress on the Halaria as celebrating the resurrection of Attis also appears to increase at the beginning of the Fourth century AD.: the same time as in the taurobolium towards the rite of personal redemption.

While these changes could simply be a mutation of religion over time, and it is important to remember that here we are discussing a period of centuries not merely years, they do seem to have been provoked by a need to respond to the challenge of Christianity. (Attis and Related Cults, pages 41, 42)

Dr. Fear does question whether the process of changing the Attis cult was conscious, but he never even implies that Jesus was influenced by Attis. He says that the Attis cult either mutated or that it responded to Christianity. He also dates the celebration of Attis’ “resurrection” to the fourth century AD!

To be fair, there is one possible earlier date for the apparent resurrection of Attis, but it is not much better for those that want Jesus to have been copied from Attis. — According to this other reconstruction, the three days of mourning were introduced during Emperor Claudius’ reign which was from 41 to 54 AD. Also, the apparent resurrection day was was introduced during the reign of Antoninus Pius, between 130 to 161 AD. The obvious problem with supposing that this was an inspiration for Christianity was that these aspects of the festival are post-Christian. So either way, both possible scenarios have it as too late to have affected Christianity.

So, my conclusion here is that Zeitgeist’s claims about Attis are only marginally better that those made about Horus. It cannot be said definitively that Attis was born of a virgin because it is not specified whether or not his mother was. His death in both versions of his life differ from the crucifixion of Jesus, and the three day death and resurrection of Attis are from the post-Christian era, not from before as would be expected if Christianity were influence by the Attis cult. — Academic correctness on Peter Joseph’s part (the producer of Zeitgeist) seems to be secondary to his anti-Christian agenda.

The History of Christmas from
Description of Greece 7, 17, 11, Pausanias
Attis — From
Description of Greece 7, 17, 10. Pausanias
The Great Mother from Asia Minor to Rome. From
Attis and Related Cults, pages 39 to 42. — Attis and Christ, by A.T. Fear


5 responses

  1. Pingback: Parallels between Attis and Jesus « Non-Pagan Roots of Christianity

  2. Pingback: The Parallels between Jesus and Attis « Non-Pagan Roots of Christianity

  3. You make a most excellent point and you cut it to the quick, saying:

    “So far it seems that this film is allowing its agenda to distort the facts and misinform the gullible”.

    That’s the bottom line, which in most cases, is the bottom dollar!

    Well written friend! : – )

    July 23, 2009 at 9:52 pm

  4. Liviana

    I agree that there’s no academic reality behind the the Zeigeist, but by putting “refuting atheism” you’re assuming all atheists agree that it was 100 % stolen from another religion. Many just do not care about religion at all and have no reasons to think that Christianity was taken from mythology from previous religions.

    November 24, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    • krissmith777

      IT was not my intention to say that ALL atheists agree on this. . . I only named my blog that to call attention.

      November 24, 2009 at 7:04 pm