From the Publisher
“A wonderful blend of detective story, historical research, and clear thinking, The Jesus Mysteries explains in accessible form what has been known to scholars for centuries. The time for the inner mysteries of Christianity to be brought out of the closet is long overdue, and this book is a powerful and courageous voice for the cause.”
Roger Housden, author of Sacred America and Sacred Journeys in a Modern World
“The Jesus Mysteries ‘Book of the year.’ ” Daily Telegraph
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is at once a wonderful and a terribly flawed book; at times it is absolutely on target, and yet it yields to such vitriol and inflated language that it will be easily dismissed. The authors postulate that Christianity as we know it, regardless of the teachings of its founder, ultimately distilled and usurped the greatest wisdom inherent in pagan traditions. Specifically, they charge that Christianity looted the traditions of the Osiris/Dionysus cults--borrowing, synthesizing and domesticating what was most sacred to Greco-Roman civilization. Freke and Gandy assert that Christian history is "nothing less than the greatest cover-up of all time. Christianity's original Gnostic doctrines and its true origins in the Pagan Mysteries had been ruthlessly suppressed by the mass destruction of the evidence and the creation of a false history to suit the political purposes of the Roman Church." The authors compare the revolution of the imperial Christian church (which finally suppressed pagan worship) to the Communist revolution in Russia, arguing that both saw enormous bloodshed and suppression of all dissent. This kind of polemic detracts from the usefulness of this study. The book's great tragedy is that many of its most scholarly kernels of insight, such as the authors' discussion of Secret Mark or their tantalizing analysis of the Lazarus material, will be lost to responsible discussion. In sum, this is a disappointing, sensationalist polemic. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Freke (a philospher and author of books on spirituality) and Gandy (who is studying classical civilization) believe that first century Jewish mystics adapted the potent symbolism of the Osiris-Dionysus myths into a myth of their own, the hero of which was the Jewish dying and resurrecting godman Jesus. Therefore, the story of Jesus is a consciously crafted vehicle for encoded spiritual teachings created by Jewish Gnostics. We are unaware of this, they claim, because the Roman Catholic Church destroyed evidence of the connection between Christianity and the pagan mysteries. They make their case by offering an examination of mystery religions, especially Greek, pointing out the many parallels between them and what they see as the Gospels message about Jesus. Freke and Gandy are familiar with a significant amount of recent biblical scholarship, though they rely mostly on Elaine Pagels s work on the Gnostics. This book will obviously be controversial, but the authors are quite informed, as demonstrated by their extensive notes and bibliography. A list of related web sites, a Who s Who, and an index add to the book s usefulness. Recommended as an important book in the debate on the historical Jesus. David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
...the parallels that [Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy] draw are between early Christianity and the mystery religions of its time may intrigue a sizable readership.
Read an Excerpt
Jesus said, "It is to those who are worthy of my Mysteries that I tell my Mysteries."
The Gospel of Thomas
On the site where the Vatican now stands there once stood a Pagan temple. Here Pagan priests observed sacred ceremonies, which early Christians found so disturbing that they tried to erase all evidence of them ever having been practiced. What were these shocking Pagan rites? Gruesome sacrifices or obscene orgies perhaps? This is what we have been led to believe. But the truth is far stranger than this fiction.
Where today the gathered faithful revere their Lord Jesus Christ, the ancients worshiped another godman who, like Jesus, had been miraculously born on December 25 before three shepherds. In this ancient sanctuary Pagan congregations once glorified a Pagan redeemer who, like Jesus, was said to have ascended to heaven and to have promised to come again at the end of time to judge the quick and the dead. On the same spot where the Pope celebrates the Catholic mass, Pagan priests also celebrated a symbolic meal of bread and wine in memory of their savior who, just like Jesus, had declared:
He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.
When we began to uncover such extraordinary similarities between the story of Jesus and Pagan myth we were stunned. We had been brought up in a culture which portrays Paganism and Christianity as entirely antagonistic religious perspectives. How could such astonishing resemblances be explained? We were intrigued and began to search farther. The more we looked, the more resemblances we found. To account for the wealth of evidence we were unearthing we felt compelled to completely review our understanding of the relationship between Paganism and Christianity, to question beliefs that we previously regarded as unquestionable and to imagine possibilities that at first seemed impossible. Some readers will find our conclusions shocking and others heretical, but for us they are merely the simplest and most obvious way of accounting for the evidence we have amassed.
We have become convinced that the story of Jesus is not the biography of a historical Messiah, but a myth based on perennial Pagan stories. Christianity was not a new and unique revelation but actually a Jewish adaptation of the ancient Pagan Mystery religion. This is what we have called The Jesus Mysteries Thesis. It may sound far-fetched at first, just as it did initially to us. There is, after all, a great deal of unsubstantiated nonsense written about the "real" Jesus, so any revolutionary theory should be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism. But although this book makes extraordinary claims, it is not just entertaining fantasy or sensational speculation. It is firmly based upon the available historical sources and the latest scholarly research. While we hope to have made it accessible to the general reader, we have also included copious notes giving sources, references, and greater detail for those who wish to analyze our arguments more thoroughly.
Although still radical and challenging today, many of the ideas we explore are actually far from new. As long ago as the Renaissance, mystics and scholars saw the origins of Christianity in the ancient Egyptian religion. Visionary scholars at the turn of the nineteenth century also made comparable conjectures to our own. In recent decades, modern academics have repeatedly pointed toward the possibilities we consider. Yet few have dared to boldly state the obvious conclusions that we have drawn. Why? Because to do so is taboo.
For 2,000 years the West has been dominated by the idea that Christianity is sacred and unique while Paganism is primitive and the work of the Devil. To even consider that they could be parts of the same tradition has been simply unthinkable. Therefore, although the true origins of Christianity have been obvious all along, few have been able to see them, because to do so requires a radical break with the conditioning of our culture. Our contribution has been to dare to think the unthinkable and to present our conclusions in a popular book rather than some dry academic tome. This is certainly not the last word on this complex subject, but we hope it may be a significant call for a complete reappraisal of the origins of Christianity.