Modern scholarship on the origins of Mithras

A correspondent drew my attention to this interesting statement in a current handbook.  He also added some glosses (in square brackets) to make it generally comprehensible:

Cumont’s [late-19th- and early-20th-century] reconstruction suffered a mortal blow at the first conference of Mithraic studies, held in Manchester in 1971 (GORDON, 1975), and has not been revived since.  The past twenty-five years have instead given rise to many—mutually exclusive—theories on the origin and nature of the Mithraic mysteries, which virtually all share a stress on the absence of [clear] links between [Iranian] Zoroastrianism and [largely post-Christian Greco-Roman] Mithraism.[1].

That seems to hit the nail on the head.

The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible is not a handbook that I have encountered before.  But the material on Mithra/Mithras — present in this volume because of the names Mithredath (Ezra 1:8) and Mithradates (1 Esdras 2:12) — seems interesting.  It is a digest of secondary literature, naturally enough, and I found that it was particularly useful for Mitra, the Persian deity, and nicely drew together the various seemingly contradictory elements that make up the aspects of this god.

  1. [1]H. J. W. Drijvers & A. F. de Jong, “Mithras,” Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible (Eerdmans/Brill, 1999), p. 579

3 thoughts on “Modern scholarship on the origins of Mithras

  1. The Mithra iconography database doesn’t seem to be online yet. There are others that are. I’m not clear on whether the book is still pre-publication or not.

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