In the early days of Christianity, the practice was to appropriate pagan practices and celebrations. The Roman emperor Constantine presided over the First Council of Nicaea and it was there that Dec 25 was picked as the birth date of Yeshua. During those times, two important pagan festivals were celebrated – the first one starting on Dec. 17 honored Saturn, a major Roman deity of agriculture and harvest and the second one starting on Dec 25, celebrated the birth of Mithras, the Persian god of light. Constantine combined both and we now have Christmas.[Dec 25, 326 CE | varnam]
Now it turns out that even the story of crucifixion and resurrection has a pagan connection. According to Valerie Tarico, “it is an historicized version of a very ancient myth from Mesopotamia.” In the Sumerian tradition it is called “The Descent of Inanna” and “The Descent of Ishtar” in the Babylonian version.
Let’s start with the first part of the myth. Inanna and Jesus both travel to a big city, where they are arrested by soldiers, put on trial, convicted, sentenced to death, stripped of their clothes, tortured, hung up on a stake, and die. And then, after 3 days, they are resurrected from the dead. Now there are, to be sure, a number of significant differences between the stories. For one thing, one story is about a goddess and the other is about a divine man. But this is a specific pattern, a mythic template. When you are dealing with the question of whether these things actually happened, you have to deal with the fact that there is a mythic template here. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t a real person, Jesus, who was crucified, but rather that, if there was, the story about it is structured and embellished in accordance with a pattern that was very ancient and widespread.[Valerie Tarico: Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story]