Sun gods are prevalent in pagan cultures, and worshiped on Sunday, the first day of the week. On this day most pagan societies rest from their work in honor of their sun god. The sun god is usually male but sometimes it’s female depending on the culture. The common theme of the sun gods is that they are a type of supreme, or creator god who created other gods under them. They all usually ride a chariot across the world pulling the sun.
There are too many sun gods to mention in one article therefore I will only mention three that influenced the modern Christian religion; Sol, Sol Invictus and Mithras. These three gods were favored during the beginning of Christianity. In Fact these three pagan gods caused the custom of Sunday worship in Christianity today. Many people believe that Christianity is another sun god religion. However the Biblical text argues against this claim.
Sol and Sol Invictus:
Sol is a female sun god originating from Norse mythology. She is a large part of the creation story of the Nordic peoples. Once upon a time the supreme god Mundefiri had two children, Sol and Mani. Sol was named after the sun and Mani after the moon. The two were forced to ride chariots that pulled the sun and the moon around the earth to give mankind day and night. To make sure that they did not run off their course Mundefiri made evil wolf dogs chase them around the earth. When these dogs came close to their chariots there would be an eclipse. Thus the Nordic/ Indo European cultures named Sunday after Sol and Monday after Mani. Sol, female sun god contributes to Sunday being the day of rest and the seventh day of the week. This cultural norm mingled with the Romans
Sol Sun god and Constantine.
In addition to Sol, Rome had a male sun god named Sol invictus. The name means “unconquerable sun” in latin. He is a spin off from the Greek Helios and Apollo. However he is still original in a way. The Roman emperor Aurelia declared Sol invictus to be their national god. Sol was popular to some degree but was cast down to a lowly rank since the uprising of Christianity in the empire. Priests of Sol were still established during this time with four sun worship temples erected. Sol Invictus was also engraved on Roman coins, typically alongside the Emperor of the time.
Our favorite Roman Emperor Constantine, portrayed himself with Sol in his “Arch of Constantine”. Assuming Constantine meant to be seen as a company of the sun god. However March 7th 322 A.D Constantine declared dies Solis (the day of the sun) the official day of rest. After this declaration the Sol invictus coins were discontinued. In other words, Constantine converted Christians to pagans by mandating Sunday worship. The Arch of Constantine has multiple pagan gods on it with Sol invictus gigantic statue seen behind it towards the coliseum. Constantine worshiped the sun gods.
Mithras: The Sun god of Rome and Ancient Medes.
Another sun god of Rome wasn’t truly Roman in origin. He was a very ancient god worshiped in many religions. Mithras is known to Medes, Zoroastrians, Indians and Persians. Many archeologists speculate that the cult of Mithraism in Rome was very minor. However evidence shows that Mithras was a secret hierarchical religion exclusively for men. The Roman Mithras is closely related to the Medes Mithras but the Medes did not have any written sources at the time. They passed on tradition through telling stories. Nonetheless, there are multiple artifacts depicting Mithras dating as far back as 332 B.C.
The Medes were a nation originating from northern Iran. Deioces, around 700 B.C, formed the capital Hagmatana. His son Phraortes ruled parts of Persia. Then came Cyaxares who laid siege on Nineveh which ended the Assyrian empire 612 B.C. Astyages succeeded to the throne but was overthrown by the Persian king Cyrus the Great 35 years later. During the Median reign, they built Mithraic temples in caves with domes and some pyramid forms. Scholars believe that people practiced Sufi cults in these caves.
Furthermore we see a connection between the Medes and Persians, they had no sculptures depicting Mithras, only a temple. However, in the pre-persian Sasanian Empire founded a religion under Mani called Manichaeism. It is a gnostic religion that has derived some of its beliefs from the Medes. In the Manichaean literature and Zoroastrian Mihr Yasht text expounds on a series of gods created by Mithras the sun god. These gods were arranged in different levels of lordship personifying the planets as well.
- Manbed- Lord of household
- Visbed- Lord of village
- Zandbed- Lord of tribe
- Dehbed- Lord of country
- Pahragbed- Lord of frontier post
- Zarathustrotama- Zoroaster representative (Zorostrian only)
- Devan Nextrustar- The tormentor of Demons
- Sahrbed- Lord of the kingdom
- Ahura Mazda/ Mithris- Supreme sun god (Zorostrian only)
Though the types of deities recorded vary between the two religions we are sure that both forms of Mithraism derive from the ancient Medes. In addition to this basic foundation the late Persians personified these lords/judges and assigned them to a specific planet.
Persian Sun god Mithaism
- Mithra- Father, Sun god, Creator
- Tir- Mercury
- Nana- Venus
- Wahram- Mars
- Othrmizd- Jupiter
These gods born from Mithra resemble the planets similar to Roman gods. This may be the reason for a rebirth of the Mithraic religion in Roman society. The verbal traditions could have caused the confusion of the order, meanings and dominions of the gods throughout time.
I say all this to emphasize the evolution, importance, and relevance of the Mithraic cult. Images of the Mithraic symbol, the “Mithraic Hold”, exist in ancient cities. Also, coins were made in his honor in three different nations before the Romans. Therefore the Cult of Mithraism is nothing new to the world however it was relatively new to the Romans. Constantine also worshiped Mithras since Mithras is depicted on the arch of Constantine. This emperor counted himself as another god by divine selection.
Christianity’s Sunday worship originates from an age-old pagan worship of the sun which differs from the actual Biblical Sabbath. Christ Sabbath never changed from the Old to the New Testament. Nordic customs of Sunday rest influenced Christianity. Constantine made it official to rest on Sunday to venerate his favorite sun gods, Sol invictus and Mithras March 7 322 A.D. It is unfortunate that the relics of the original Christian teachings died before Constantine’s Sunday rest mandate.
Therefore the new and uninformed Christian converts lacked proper Biblical interpretation and innocently went along with a pagan rest day. We don’t have to be like this anymore since knowledge is at our fingertips these days through technology. From discovering the Biblical Sabbath and the true history behind Sunday rest, we should be able to choose which type of Christian we want to be, Pagan or Prototypical.