Mithraism & Christianity (-200BCE +)
Many have realized that as Christianity copied, re-named and inherited many Pagan myths, such as those of Mithraism, that it is hard to pin down a "start" date for Christian ideas. If you go back far enough, Christian history is actually pagan history.
“Jesus, son of the Hebrew sky God, and Mithras, son of Ormuzd are both the same myth. The rituals of Christianity coincide with the earlier rituals of Mithraism, including the Eucharist and the Communion in great detail. The language used by Mithraism was the language used by Christians. [...] The idea of a sacrificed saviour is Mithraist, so is the symbolism of bulls, rams, sheep, the blood of a transformed saviour washing away sins and granting eternal life, the 7 sacraments, the banishing of an evil host from heaven, apocalyptic end of time when God/Ormuzd sends the wicked to hell and establishes peace. Roman Emperors, Mithraist then Christian, mixed the rituals and laws of both religions into one. Emperor Constantine established 25th of Dec, the birthdate of Mithras, to be the birthdate of Jesus too. The principal day of worship of the Jews, The Sabbath, was replaced by the Mithraistic Sun Day as the Christian holy day. The Catholic Church, based in Rome and founded on top of the most venerated Mithraist temple, wiped out all competing son-of-god religions within the Roman Empire, giving us modern literalist Christianity.”
"Mithraism & Early Christianity" by Vexen Crabtree (2002)
Ebionite Christians (1st-4th Century)
Ebionite Christians believed that all the Jewish Laws had to be obeyed; including the Sabbath and circumcision for all males. As such, they considered St Paul to be the archenemy of Christianity as he taught that people did not have to obey the Law in order to be saved. They believed Jesus was Human, and adopted by God as a perfect sacrifice.
“The Ebionites were some of the original Christians: Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. They populated the legendary Jerusalem Church. 'Ebionite' was sometimes used as a term to describe all Christians. Those who we now know as Pauline Christians opposed the Ebionites, after discovering them and realizing that their beliefs differed. Authors such as Tertullian, Origen of Alexandria, and many other intolerant "heresy-hunters" wrote at great length against the Ebionites. Many of the claims made against them were based on misunderstandings of their beliefs, and many anti-Ebionite claims were plainly ridiculous. [Ehrman, 2003]. Pauline Christians eradicated the Ebionites, burning all of their books (none survived) and harassing and arresting the people until none were left. They edited Luke 2:32 and 2:48 where Joseph was twice called the 'father' of Jesus so that it did not say so, and they also edited Luke 3:22 where it plainly stated, in accordance with Ebionite beliefs, that God adopted Jesus. Pauline Christians, as non-Jewish Romans, handily came across a mistranslated prophecy that said Jesus would be born of a virgin (like other Roman sons-of-gods), adding a whole two chapters to the beginning of Matthew to prove their point. These edits, now they are uncovered, show that the Ebionites were treated very cruelly and unfairly, and that the original readings of Matthew and Luke both support Ebionite Christianity, rather than the Pauline Christianity that the West has inherited.
If we were to guess which group was the more austere, holy and godly, we would have to guess it was the Ebionites rather than the Pauline Christians who slaughtered, slandered and oppressed them. Unfortunately the victors get to write history, and it is Pauline Christianity that became the legacy of the Roman Empire. After the fourth century, the Ebionites were vanquished.” SHAKEN CREEDS: The Virgin Birth Doctrine By Jocelyn Rhys - Published 1922 THE VIRGIN BIRTH STORY OTHER STORIES OF VIRGIN BIRTHS
It may be thought that the story of a virgin birth is too wonderful to have been invented merely to show that a misunderstood prophecy had been fulfilled, and that so miraculous a doctrine could not, without some basis of fact, suddenly be created by any brain, however fertile. But a study of ancient literature discloses the fact that myths of virgin births were part of many if not of all the surrounding pagan religions in the place where, and at the time when, Christianity arose.
"The gods have lived on earth in the likeness of men" was a common saying among ancient pagans, and supernatural events were believed in as explanations of the god's arrival upon earth in human guise.
About two thousand years before the Christian era Mut-em-ua, the virgin Queen of Egypt, was said to have given birth to the Pharaoh Amenkept (or Amenophis) III, who built the temple of Luxor, on the walls of which were represented:-
1. The Annunciation: the god Taht announcing to the virgin Queen that she is about to become a mother.
2. The Immaculate Conception: the god Kneph (the Holy Spirit) mystically impregnating the virgin by holding a cross, the symbol of life, to her mouth.
3. The Birth of the Man-god.
4. The Adoration of the newly born infant by gods and men, including three kings (or Magi ?), who are offering him gifts. In this sculpture the cross again appears as a symbol.
In another Egyptian temple, one dedicated to Hathor, at Denderah, one of the chambers was called "The Hall of the Child in his Cradle"; and in a painting which was once on the walls of that temple, and is now in Paris, we can see represented the Holy Virgin Mother with her Divine Child in her arms. The temple and the painting are undoubtedly pre-Christian.
Thus we find that long before the Christian era there were already pictured in pagan places of worship virgin mothers and their divine children, and that such pictures included scenes of an Annunciation, an Incarnation, and a Birth and Adoration, just as the Gospels written in the second century A.D. describe them, and that these events were in some way connected with the God Taht, who was identified by Gnostics with the Logos.
And, besides these myths about Mut-em-ua and Hathor, many other origins of a virgin birth story can be traced in Egypt.
Horus was said to be the parthenogenetic child of the Virgin Mother, Isis. In the catacombs of Rome black statues of this Egyptian divine Mother and Infant still survive from the early Christian worship of the Virgin and Child to which they were converted. In these the Virgin Mary is represented as a black regress, and often with the face veiled in the true Isis fashion. When Christianity absorbed the pagan myths and rites it adopted also the pagan statues, and renamed them as saints, or even as apostles.
Statues of the goddess Isis with the child Horus in her arms were common in Egypt, and were exported to all neighbouring and to many remote countries, where they are still to be found with new names attached to them-Christian in Europe, Buddhist in Turkestan, Taoist in China and Japan. Figures of the virgin Isis do duty as representations of Mary, of Hariti, of Kuan-Yin, of Kwannon, and of other virgin mothers of gods.
And these were not the only pre-Christian statuettes and engravings of divine mothers and children. On very ancient Athenian coins such figures were stamped. Among the oldest relics of Carthage, of Cyprus, and of Assyria figures of a divine mother and her babe-god are found. Such figures were known under a great variety of names to the followers of various sects; the mothers as Venus, Juno, Mother-Earth, Fortune, etc., and the children as Hercules, Dionysos, Jove, Wealth, etc. In India similar figures are not uncommon, many of them representing Devaki with the babe Krishna at her breast, others representing various less well-known Indian divinities.
In Egypt we also find that "Apis, the sacred bull of Memphis, was believed to have been begotten by a deity descending as a ray of moonlight on the cow which was to become the mother of the sacred beast; hence he was regarded as the son of the god."