Several factors point against pagan identification: There is no mention of Cybele or of a statue; verse 7 does not mention a “king,” but rather a “kingdom”; there is no citation of the sun; the attempt to interpret the Greek term for “people” (laos) as “stone” (laas) is very strained and based on occasional usage; there is no reference to a priest; and while Dietrich argues that Attis’s priests could eat the sacred fish of the Syrian goddess Atargatis, all of Avercius’s compatriots eat the fish. The identification of Attis as a “holy shepherd” is possible, but the connection to Jesus is suggested more decisively, as in Clement of Alexandria’s hymn to Christ (Instructor 3), which not only mentions Jesus as a holy shepherd but also cites holy fish!

Furthermore, the use of laos for “people” is much more common in Jewish and Christian epigraphic contexts than in pagan ones. Though the combination of fish, bread and wine is indeed possible in a non-Christian context, the religious ritual character of this meal fits a Christian context much better than a pagan one. The connection of a “disciple” to a “shepherd” more likely than not alludes to Christianity. In addition, the language of the inscription corresponds rather closely in places to language used in other Jewish and Christian texts, such as the inscription of Maritima in the Catacomb of Priscilla and several passages in Books Five and Eight of the Jewish— and, in places, Christian-influenced Sybilline Oracles. On the Maritima inscription, see Kant, “Fish Symbolism,” appendix 5, chart 2.1.33. Three passages mention a “holy virgin” in the Sybilline Oracles: 8.270, 8.290–91 and 8.357–58. Sybilline Oracle 5.434–37 also uses the following words that match (or closely resemble) words in the Avercius inscription: “universal” (or, literally, “prevailing in all cities”), “mountains,” “large,” “kingdom,” “golden-sandalled,” “golden” (twice) and “Euphrates.”