Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God?

Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God? is a 1999 book by the British mystical writers Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy that claims to reconstruct the true origins of Christianity. It relies heavily on the Gnostic gospels of the Nag Hammadi library. Prior to publishing Jesus Mysteries, Freke and Gandy had collaborated in writing books on mysticism and paganism. The authors suggest that a number of pagan mystery religions, such as those of Osiris, Dionysus, Attis, and Mithras, were all manifestations of a single cult of a dying and rising "godman" myth, whom they call Osiris-Dionysus. The authors propose that Jesus did not really exist, but was instead a syncretic re-interpretation of the fundamental pagan "godman" by the Gnostics, who were the original sect of Christianity. Orthodox Christianity, according to them, was not the predecessor to Gnosticism, but a later outgrowth that rewrote history in order to make literal Christianity appear to predate the Gnostics. They describe their theory as the "Jesus Mysteries thesis."

Its sequel, Jesus and the Lost Goddess, has been included by Dan Brown in a list of books relating to The Da Vinci Code. Some historians and scholars have criticised the book as pseudohistory.

Jesus Mysteries thesis

Freke and Gandy base the Jesus Mysteries thesis partly on a series of parallels between their suggested biography of Osiris-Dionysus and the biography of Jesus drawn from the four canonical gospels. Their suggested reconstruction of the myth of Osiris-Dionysus, compiled from the myths of ancient dying and resurrected "godmen," bears a striking resemblance to the gospel accounts. The authors give a short list of parallels at the beginning of the book:

* Osiris-Dionysus is God made flesh, the savior and "Son of God."

* His father is God and his mother is a mortal virgin, 7 month pregnancy.

* He is born in a cave or humble cowshed on December 25 before three shepherds.

* He offers his followers the chance to be born again through the rites of baptism.

* He miraculously turns water into wine at a marriage ceremony.

* He rides triumphantly into town on a donkey while people wave palm leaves to honor him.

* He dies at Eastertime as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

* After his death he descends to hell, then on the third day he rises from the dead and ascends to heaven in glory.

* His followers await his return as the judge during the Last Days.

* His death and resurrection are celebrated by a ritual meal of bread and wine, which symbolize his body and blood.

Later chapters add further parallels, including Mary's 7 month pregnancy.

According to The Jesus Mysteries, Christianity originated as a Judaized version of the pagan mystery religions. Hellenized Jews wrote a version of the godman myth incorporating Jewish elements. Initiates learned the myth and its allegorical meanings through the Outer and Inner Mysteries. (A similar pattern of "Lesser" and "Greater" Mysteries was part of the pagan Eleusinian Mysteries. Mithraism was structured around seven serial initiations.) They suggest that, at some point, groups of Christians who had only experienced the Outer Mysteries were split off from the elders of the religion and forgot that there had ever been a second initiation, and that, later, when they encountered groups who had retained the Inner Mysteries, the "Literalist Christians" attacked the "Gnostics" for claiming what the Literalists saw as false knowledge and false initiations. They claim that the Literalists won out when the emperor Constantine saw the political merit of 'one empire, one emperor, one god', nearly exterminating the Gnostics, and became the Roman Catholic Church and its modern descendants.