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The Real ZEITGEIST Challenge

by D.M. Murdock/Acharya S

the real zeitgeist challenge image

The following article is a response to the purported "debunking" of the first part of the original "ZEITGEIST" film. Because of its length, it is divided into several pages. I have also provided a free ebook containing the entire article, linked at the bottom of each page as well. Please also listen to my appearance on Peter Joseph's "Zeitgeist Undebunked" radio show.

Listen to internet radio with Peter Joseph on Blog Talk Radio

"And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter."

Early Church Father and Saint Justin Martyr (c. 150 AD/CE)

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The contentions in ZG1.1 concerning the Phrygian god Attis have been laid out since ancient times, including in commentary by Church fathers such as Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Tatian, Tertullian, Augustine, Arnobius and Firmicus Maternus. As concerns the parallels between Jesus and Attis, Dr. Gary Taylor, a professor at the University of Alabama, comments:

Similarities between Attis and Christ had become increasingly prominent in the ritual celebrations of Attis in Rome and elsewhere: The "Hilaria" turned his humiliated suffering into an occasion of joy, celebrants were "redeemed by the blood" of a sacrificial victim, and the promise of resurrection was held out to believers. (Taylor, 72)

As I also relate in my book Christ in Egypt (391ff), after discussing Attis along with his consort/mother Cybele (the "Metroac" cult/mysteries, Dr. Andrew T. Fear, a professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester, remarks:

The youthful Attis after his murder was miraculously brought to life again three days after his demise. The celebration of this cycle of death and renewal was one of the major festivals of the metroac cult. Attis therefore represented a promise of reborn life and as such it is not surprising that we find representations of the so-called mourning Attis as a common tomb motif in the ancient world.

The parallel, albeit it at a superficial level, between this myth and the account of the resurrection of Christ is clear. Moreover Attis as a shepherd occupies a favourite Christian image of Christ as the good shepherd. Further parallels also seem to have existed: the pine tree of Attis, for example, was seen as a parallel to the cross of Christ.

Beyond Attis himself, Cybele too offered a challenge to Christian divine nomenclature. Cybele was regarded as a virgin goddess and as such could be seen as a rival to the Virgin Mary… Cybele as the mother of the Gods, mater Deum, here again presented a starkly pagan parallel to the Christian Mother of God.

There was rivalry too in ritual. The climax of the celebration of Attis' resurrection, the Hilaria, fell on the 25th of March, the date that the early church had settled on as the day of Christ's death. (Lane, 39-40)

In CIE, I continue this analysis by relating that the festival associated with Cybele and Attis, called the "Megalensia," was celebrated specifically in the spring, with a passion play commemorating Attis's death and resurrection. Dr. Fear thus asserts this mourning period of the god Attis to have comprised three days. In reality, this pre-Christian cult remained popular well into the common era, and its similarities to Christianity were not considered "superficial" by the Church fathers who wrote about them. The parallels between the Attis myth and the gospel story are in fact startling and highly noteworthy, and in reality represent an archetypal myth that was evidently changed to revolve around a Jewish messiah, with numerous details added for a wide variety of purposes. Fear's analysis includes the debate as to when this prototypical springtime death-and-resurrection motif was associated with the pre-Christian god Attis, with various scholars averring its components to have been added in response to Christianity.

Contrary to the current fad of dismissing all correspondences between Christianity and Paganism, the fact that Attis was at some point a "dying and rising god" is concluded by Dr. Tryggve Mettinger, a professor of Old Testament Studies at the University of Lund and author of The Riddle of the Resurrection, who relates: "Since the time of Damascius (6th cent. AD/CE), Attis seems to have been believed to die and return." (Mettinger, 159) By that point, we possess clear discussion in writing of Attis having been resurrected, but when exactly were these rites first celebrated and where? Attis worship is centuries older than Jesus worship and was popular in some parts of the Roman Empire before and well into the "Christian era."

In addition, it is useful here to reiterate that simply because something occurred after the year 1 SF/CE—which was not the dating system used at that time—does not mean that it was influenced by Christianity, as it may have happened where Christianity had never been heard of. In actuality, not much about Christianity emerges until the second century, and there remain to this day places where Christianity is unknown; hence, these locations can still be considered pre-Christian.

It is probable that the Attis rites were celebrated long before Christianity was recognized to any meaningful extent. Certainly, since they are mysteries, they could have been celebrated but not recorded previously, especially in pre-Christian times, when the capital punishment for revealing the mysteries was actually carried out.

In the case of Attis, we possess a significant account in Diodorus (3.58.7) of his death and mourning, including the evidently annual ritual creation of his image by priests. Hence, these noteworthy aspects of the Attis myth are clearly pre-Christian. Although Diodorus does not specifically state that Attis was resurrected, the priests parading about with an image of the god is indicative that they considered him risen, as this type of ritual is present in other celebrations for the same reason, such as in the Egyptian festivities celebrating the return of Osiris or the rebirth of Sokar.

Regarding the Attis rituals, Dr. Marvin Meyer, a professor of Religious Studies at Chapman College, states:

The most well-known Roman festival in honor of the Anatolian deities [Cybele and Attis] was celebrated in the spring, during March. Presumably this festival began to take shape during the first century c.e. Much of the evidence for specific components of the festival, however, dates from later centuries, so that the following schedule of events most accurately describes the festival as it was celebrated in the third or fourth century c.e. On March 15 the ceremonies opened, with the reed-bearers (cannonphori) carrying their reeds into the sanctuary. The cut reeds may have been a symbolic representation of a feature of the story of Kybele and Attis: either the abandonment of baby Attis by the side of a river or his self-castration later in his life. The next several days of the spring festival were spent in fasting from bread, wine, and other food, as well as abstaining from sexual intercourse.

Then, on March 22 the tree-bearers (dendrophori) carried into the sanctuary a pine tree that was freshly cut and decorated with ornaments such as purple flowers or ribbons and an image of Attis. On that day and the day following, the worshipers mourned over the tree, for it commemorated the death of Attis. According to the sacred myth, Attis castrated himself and died under a pine tree and even could be identified with the tree. As the pine tree was cut down in death, so also was youthful Attis cut down.

March 24 was aptly named the Day of Blood (Dies sanguinis). On this day some of the fanatical celebrants flogged themselves until they bled and sprinkled their blood upon the image and the altars in the sanctuary, while others are said to have imitated Attis by castrating themselves. Such painful and dramatic acts allowed the worshipers to identify with the passion and death of Attis. The Hilaria on March 25 brought renewed joy and hope. There was feasting in honor of the Great Mother and good cheer. At least in some fourth-century celebrations of the Hilaria, there also may have been affirmations of the resurrection of Attis. (CP. the hints in Arnobius, The Case Against the Pagans, 5.7, and the denial of Attis’s actual return to life. In Firmicus Maternus, The Error of the Pagan Religions, 3.1ff., explicit mention is made of the resurrection of Attis.) The spring festival came to a close with a much-needed day of rest (March 26) and a final day (March 27) on which the holy image of the Great Mother was bathed in the Almo River. (Meyer, 114. (Emph. Added.) See also Borgeaud, 90-91)

Concerning the death and resurrection of another solar and fertility god, Tammuz, whose mourning by the Israelite women in the springtime is recorded in the biblical book of Ezekiel (8:14), in his exhaustive analysis of this god, also known as Dumuzi, Dr. Mettinger concludes: "From the end of the third millennium B.C.E. there is thus a narrative, mythological evidence for Dumuzi as a god who dies and returns." (Mettinger, 213) In discussing this subject of "dying and rising gods," Mettinger at one point also complains about a "Christian bias" within the scholarship. (Mettinger, 43fn)

Thus, although we do not need Attis to show a dying-and-rising parallel to Christ, the material in ZG1.1 concerning him is soundly based in scholarship. Regardless of when these attributes were first associated specifically with Attis, the dying-and-rising motif of springtime myths is verified as pre-Christian by the fact of its appearance in the story of Tammuz as well as that of the Greek goddess Persephone, also known as Proserpina, whose "rise" out of the underworld was celebrated in the Greco-Roman world. That the festivals displayed by the Attis myth represent spring celebrations and not an imitation of Christianity is the most logical conclusion. Indeed, the presence of such a ritual in springtime festivals dating back to the third millennium bce, as Mettinger relates, certainly makes the case for borrowing by Christians, rather than the other way around.

It should be noted that the use of the term "crucified" in ZG1.1 and elsewhere, such as concerns gods like Attis, does not necessarily connote that he or they were thrown to the ground and nailed to a cross, as we commonly think of crucifixion, based on the Christian tale. Nevertheless, Attis is said to have been "crucified" to a pine tree (Price, 87), while Christ too was related as having been killed and hung on a tree (Acts 5:30; 10:39).

Interested parties in the sources for all these contentions regarding Attis may wish to consult the various respected authorities cited here.


The myth of the Indian god Krishna predates the Christian era by centuries, although not all of it is written in one place prior to that time. While a number of Indian texts were not written down until some centuries ago, others were committed to writing many centuries prior to that, on perishable media such as leaves. Hence, Indian writings often represent oral tradition, much of which undoubtedly goes back centuries hundreds of years before the common era. Regardless of when they were finally written down, none of germane Hindu compositions shows direct influence by Christianity.

While the most common terminology concerning the status of Krishna's mother, Devaki, when she gave birth to him is that she was "chaste," another myth depicts her becoming a virgin mother as a teenager after eating the seed of a mango. (Hiltebeitel, 186) This apocryphal tale demonstrates that the notion of the virgin mother existed in Hindu mythology, specifically applicable to Devaki, who later became Krishna's mother. In the Indian epic the Mahabharata, parts of which were composed centuries before the Christian era, the character Draupadi is a virgin mother, (Hiltebeitel, 363), while the book's supposed author, also named Krishna, is said to have been born of a virgin. Also in the Mahabharata, the goddess Kunti remarks: "Without a doubt, through the grace of that god, I once more became a virgin." (Rāy, 68) Kunti is depicted as a "chaste maiden"—here unquestionably a virgin—who is impregnated by the sun god Surya. Other "born-again virgins" in this epic include Madhavi and Satyavati.

For more information on this subject, see my related forum thread and article:

Was Krishna's Mother a Virgin?
Krishna Born of a Virgin?

Also see the extensive chapter in my book Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled.

The bright star at Krishna's birth is called "Rohini," as related in the Bhagavad Purana (10.3:1-8), an ancient Indian text.

Krishna's performance of miracles, in front of his disciples, is legendary, including many in the Mahabharata, in which he reveals mysteries to his disciple Arjuna (John?). Krishna does likewise in the Bhagavad Gita, in which he describes himself as the "Lord of all beings," among many epithets similar to those found within Christianity. In this same regard, Krishna says: "I am the origin of all that exists, and everything emanates from Me." (Bryant, 86)

Although it is not specifically stated that Krishna "resurrects" upon his death-when he is killed under a tree-he does ascend into heaven (Bhárati, 29), alive again, since he is considered to be the eternal God of the cosmos. Krishna's death is recounted in the Mahabharata and Vishnu Purana, both claiming he was killed by a hunter while sitting under a tree, the arrow penetrating his foot, much like Christ having a nail driven through his feet. In this regard, there have been found in India strange images of figures in cruciform with nail holes in their hands and feet, one of which was identified by an Indian priest as possibly the god Wittoba, who is an incarnation of Krishna. (Acharya, SOG, 248)

Another remarkable motif in the Krishna myth is that of the baby god being sought at birth by a tyrant, King Kamsa, who wanted to kill him, much like the gospel story of King Herod massacring the infants while looking for Jesus. This part of the Krishna myth was purportedly recorded in a cave on the island of Elephanta at least three centuries before the common era. There are many more correspondences to Christianity, as found in the Indian texts, such that many scholars over the centuries have contended for one copying the other.


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