In all, three layers of pagan influence on the church have been identified:
Influence on the New Testament narrative and doctrine itself primarily from Hellenistic mystery religions such as Mithraism which were themselves partly enthused by Ancient Egyptian Religion and Persian religion as well as the mythology of the Old Testament, but Buddhism is also named as a possible influence.
Influence on Christian dogma in Late Antiquity, that is, the doctrine of the Christian Church Fathers in the 4th and 5th century, the Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds, including the questions of the Trinity and Christology. A strong influence here was Roman imperial cult, Hellenistic philosophy, notably Neoplatonism, and Gnosticism.
Influences of Pagan religions Christianized in the Early Middle Ages. This includes Germanic paganism, Celtic paganism, Slavic paganism and Folk religion in general.
Christianity seems to have a twin brother in the mystical faith practised in Persia approximately six centuries before Christ; Mithraism. Mithraism reached Rome around the year 70 CE before it reached Britain and spread to a number of British cities.
Striking similarities between the two faiths include:
That Mithras, after whom it is named, was an intermediary between God and man (for a similar doctrine in Christianity, see Acts 4:12). He was said to have been born in a cave or in a corner of the earth (cf. Luke 2:8) on December 25. He had twelve disciples (cf. Matthew 10:1) and died to save the world (cf. I Corinthians 15:3) He resurrected after being buried (cf. I Corinthians 15:4) and later ascended to heaven in front of his disciples (cf. Acts 1:9). He was called “Saviour” (cf. Titus 2:13) and among his attributes is that he is like a peaceful lamb (cf. John 1:29). The “Divine supper” was held in his memory every year (cf. I Corinthians 11:23-25), one of his symbols was baptism and Sunday was sacred to them. The most important sacrament was a ritual meal of bread and wine which symbolize the god-man’s body and blood. Early Christians initiated converts in March and April by baptism. Mithraism initiated their new members at this time as well.
Mithras and the Christian Jesus seem to have everything in common save that one was born in a cave and the other in the manger.
It is generally known that Judeo-Christian religions were founded in a region wherein saviour religions thrived for many years. It was thus not surprising that Christianity took up some of its pagan attributes from these faiths. Here, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and the peoples of the near East play a prominent role. Constantine, the supposed helper of Christianity was himself a worshipper of Sol Invitus, the Sun god who was a Romanised version of Mithras, mixing it up with the Christian faith till he died. The acquaintance of the early Christian intellectuals with the Persian and Medes traditions is most obvious in the old books of the bible. Mithra was the son of the Sun- god sent to Earth to aid in this battle against evil and to be the savior of the world.
Isis, the most important goddess of Egyptian mythology shares some striking similarities with the Christian conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was thought to be the mother of the king who is conceived to be a God made man to rule over his earthy kingdom. The Christian use of holy water was similar to the water from the Nile that was kept in a cistern as a protection against evil by the cult of Isis.
Horus and Jesus too tag along in a one – two combination that leaves one astonished.
Horus was born in Annu, the place of bread, with a star announcing his birth. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the house of bread and an eastern star led the Magi to his birthplace.
Horus was baptized with water by Anup the Baptizer at the age of thirty just as Jesus was baptized at the same age of thirty by John the Baptist.
Horus had twelve followers known as Har-Khutti and Jesus had his twelve followers, the disciples.
Horus was carried off by Set to the summit of Mount Hetep where they did battle. Jesus was carried off by Satan to the Mount where Jesus was tested by Satan.
Horus’ corpse was wrapped in a mummy bandage woven without seam just like the vesture of Christ was without a seam.
And there was That-Aan who bore witness to the word of Ra and to the testimony of Horus just as John bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus.