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Abraham, Martin, and Mithras

When I was a little kid, my grown-up sister Ro took me to visit the Lincoln Memorial. I was much impressed and wanted to memorialize the day with a purchase from the gift shop. I found the coolest thing, and right smack in my price range (under a dollar). It was a Lincoln penny with the face of John F. Kennedy engraved in the blank space, so that JFK was facing Honest Abe. It reminded me of my brother’s 45-rpm record of “Abraham, Martin & John,” which I used to play to death.

Anyhow, the altered penny came in a white cardboard frame that was covered with copy. The headline read:

COINCIDENCE? Kennedy Looks at Lincoln

What followed then was a listing of odd correspondences: “Mr. Lincoln had a secretary named Kenedy. Mr. Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln. … Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre. Kennedy was shot in a Ford. … Both assassins had three names: John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald. There is a total of 15 letters in each name.”

And so on. It made quite an impression on my ten-year-old mind.

A few years went by and I saw the Harvard Lampoon parody of my souvenir. It sent me into hysterics. The list began with the items on the original, but it gradually morphed toward the absurd: “Mr. Lincoln fought a war with the South. Mr. Kennedy fought a war with Vietnam. Both countries are populated by sneaky, devious citizens. … Mr. Kennedy was a Catholic. Mr. Lincoln was a Satanist. Each religion has eight letters in its name.” The grand finale was: “Mrs. Kennedy liked bananas. Mrs. Lincoln went bananas.”

You’re asking, I’m sure, what this has to do with the Church Fathers, and I’m glad you asked.

Persian Journal, an Iranian new service, posted an article so similar in tone to those little bits of my childhood. But I can’t tell if it’s reminding me of the souvenir or the parody. No matter. It’s titled “MITHRAS EQUALS CHRISTIANITY?” and you probably want to see it for yourself. SPOILER ALERT on the conclusion: “As you can now see, Christianity derived many of its essential elements from the ancient religion of Mithraism.”

Here’s another take on Mithraism and Christianity.

5 thoughts on “Abraham, Martin, and Mithras

  1. The first known list of Lincoln/Kennedy coincidences was written up by the late Lloyd Ostendorf, a famous Lincoln buff and collector from Dayton. He was then working as a comics writer and illustrator. He thought it was just an interesting filler piece for a kids comic, but it took on a life of its own.

    I believe the comic it appeared in was that Catholic “Treasure Chest” comic that so charmed the Catholic blogosphere, a few years ago. But he worked for other regional comics, so it might not have.

  2. The Iranian article is mainly derived from this article.

    The “” site is an anti-Christian hate site. It is in fact run by extremist Jews. (I wonder if someone should tell the Iranians…!) If we look at the copyright notice we find ‘”Christianity Revealed,” “Truth of Judaism” and the “Anti-missionary” logos are trademarks of JDStone’.

    Surfing the web, I once found myself in a forum of these people, running an “anti-missionary” group, and retailing some stories like this. I innocently asked to see some of the sources for their historical claims about Mithras and was promptly banned! They were hateful, bigoted, nasty people without a trace of tolerance for anyone but themselves.

    Of course we hear people like us demonised as “extremists” and “haters” every day on the mass media. One is therefore at some risk of dismissing real extremists as merely victims of the same propaganda. But of course it isn’t true, and there really are some odd folks out there.

  3. I probably ought to add that the article contains endless falsehoods of fact. There is, for instance, no trace of any ancient evidence linking Mithras with 25 Dec.

  4. Roger:

    I took a look at the article, and of the six supposed similarities between Mithras and Christ, the only one that might be true (if Mithras ever actually existed at all) is number 4: “He was buried in a rock tomb.” I have never read an ancient source for the other five claims.

  5. The professor who taught my summer course in “history” got his information about the supposed Mithros Christ figure from a book called “Pagan Christs”. I’d never heard of it.

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