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The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God? Paperback – September 25, 2001

3.9 out of 5 stars 278 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

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 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“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

From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony (September 25, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609807986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609807989
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (278 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The church father Tertullian said the questions that make people heretics are these: Where does humanity come from, and how? Where does evil come from and why? He could have added, Where do religious beliefs come from, and what gives them their authority? In The Jesus Mysteries, authors Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy take on these heretical question with some surprising results. In an interview with Harpers, the authors had this to say about their new book: "During the centuries leading up to the birth of Christianity various cults known as `Mystery Religions' had spread throughout the Pagan world.  At the centre of these Mystery cults was a story about a dying and resurrecting godman who was known by many different names in many different cultures.  In Egypt, where the Mysteries originated, he was known as Osiris, in Greece as Dionysus, in Asia Minor as Attis, in Syria as Adonis, in Italy as Bacchus, in Persia as Mithras.  The more we discovered about this figure, the more his story began to sound uncannily familiar. "Here are just a few of the stories that were told about the godman of the Mysteries. His father is God and his mother is a mortal virgin. He is born in a cave or humble cow shed on the 25th of December 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 honour him.  He dies at Easter time 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.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Abandon all hope ye who enter here! This is one of the most dangerous books I've come across in a while and I urge all open-minded Christians to steer well clear of this tome lest they uncover the truth behind Christianity and perhaps even discover the God of the Universe who exists beyond traditional religion in the process!
Seriously, though, I found The Jesus Mysteries to be one of the bravest and most thought-provoking pieces of work I've come across in years. It is a lucid and exhaustively researched expose of the history of Christianity and its battles with Gnosticism put forth in laymen's terms that really gets the mind racing and the heart pumping. In it, Freke and Gandy make an excellent case for the idea that Christianity is actually a Jewish version of earlier Pagan Mystery Religions then in vogue in the Roman Empire with Jesus but a mythological character designed to reflect earlier Pagan mangod beliefs. They show--successfully, I think--that what started out as a mystical Gnostic Christianity was ultimately superceded by a Literalist Christianity (by which they mean Christians who intepret the Jesus stories as literal, historical events rather than mythological analogies and metaphors as did the Gnostics) that denied the very mystical, mythological underpinnings that created the movement in the first place. Their reports on some of the early church fathers and their complicity in destroying what they consider to have been the original "true faith" of Gnostic Christianity are brutal, especially in using these men's own writings and words against them, and their overview of the role of the Catholic Church in suppressing all belief systems that were at variance with their own is nothing short of savage.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a revelation - not about the truth or fiction of an historical Christ, but about the phenomenon of Mediterranean culture known as Mystery Cults and their impact on the formation of Ancient Christianity. This thesis is not new with the current authors, but never has it been carried with such clarity for the general reader interested in Ancient Christianity but largely ignorant of its cultural milieu.
The influence of the Mystery Cults on Judaism didn't start with Christ. It may have even predated the influence of Alexander the Great; there's a strong argument that it reflects the influence of Egyptian religion and older religions that arose in the Mediterranean family of tribes and nations. These arguments cannot be discounted or dismissed because of the use the authors have put them. The book relies on the most recent studies by archeologists and Bibical scholars, two fields that have virtually exploded in the last 20 years with more accurate pictures of the Meditarranean cultures and writings and more accurate datings of familiar events. In fact the notes and the bibliography alone are worth the price of the book.
This book has led me on a wonderful voyage of exploration and discovery. If there are any out there who would like to plot their own voyage, I encourage you to get the book and start now on your trip. You won't be disappointed.
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By A Customer on October 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Many will see the basic premise of "The Jesus Mysteries" to be the similarities between Christianity and the earlier Pagan Mystery Religions. This concept is not new and has been turned into a strawman and somewhat refuted by certain Christian Apologists.
What makes this work unique is the completeness of the story, from the Pagan origins of the themes of Christianity, to the Mysteries' influence in the areas surrounding the first known Christian churches, to the earliest debates within the church over the "heretical" views of Gnosticism. Earlier works on this subject left many questions unanswered, but the complete story from Freke and Gandy leaves no stone unturned.
Critics will attempt to knock out a few legs of their argument, but the completeness of the argument means it has a solid foundation that can handle a few valid criticisms. The criticisms I've seen so far, however, resort to ad-hominem attacks against the credibility of the authors (such as "they don't have a degree in Theology, so how could they write about Jesus", which would be like saying that the only ones capable of criticizing one of Bush's speeches is a life-time member of the Republican party), nit-picking about how hard it is to find the books they reference, or thinking that by refuting a single claim, one can refute the entire work.
But none of the criticisms of the theory have convinced me that their basic premise is not entirely feasible -- at least as feasible as someone walking on water and raising the dead.
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