I. Claims of Mythological Borrowing."Exaggerations and oversimplifications abound in this kind of literature. One encounters overblown claims about alleged likenesses between baptism and the Lord's Supper and similar "sacraments" in certain mystery cults. Attempts to find analogies between the resurrection of Christ and the alleged 'resurrections' of the mystery deities involve massive amounts of oversimplification and inattention to detail."
Ronald Nash (Christian Research Journal, Winter 1994, p.8)
A. Favorite Charge of Skeptics.
It is often claimed that mythological figures from other world religions were similar to Jesus, and that central notions form Christian doctrine are really copies of Pagan concepts. The most frequently sited perhaps is the notion of
a demigod, or the son of a god and mortal, such as Hercules. But Jesus was no demigod and the concept is totally different. Hercules was just a man with great strength, he was like superman, but just a man. He was not co-eternal, not the second person of the Godhead, and not co-creator of the universe. Not only was Jesus all these things (John 1:1) but he was also an historical flesh and blood human who really lived. None of these mythological figures such as Hercules or Mithras can say that. They were not real people, Jesus was.
On Message boards it is quite common to find them arguing that the Apostles just consciously copied the pagan myths. Some of the more slick skeptics know this is a silly charge, and are a bit more subtle about it (or should I say sub-Till?)
1) Farrell Till argues:
In his Debate with Norman Geisler Farrell Till, editor of Skeptical Review, states:"The first major flaw that I would like to point out in Dr. Geisler's position is that the story of Jesus is a story that was just too familiar by the time that it started being told and applied to this man Jesus of Nazareth. Long before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly lived, virgin-born, miracle-working, crucified, resurrected, savior-gods were a dime a dozen. They flourished in most of the pagan religions that were believed by people who lived centuries, centuries, and centuries before Jesus allegedly lived. I could, if time permitted, and I think that perhaps that's one reason why he did not want more speaking time; he did not want to have to deal with issues like these. I could take saviors like Krishna, saviors like Osiris, saviors like Dionysus, saviors like Tammuz, who presumably lived centuries and centuries before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly lived, and they were born of virgins, they worked miracles, they died, most of them through crucifixion, and they were resurrected from the dead, and their followers were zealous for them. " [Geisler-Till debate, 1994]Till is careful here not to commit himself to any particular explanation as to how this came about. He does not say it was conscious copying nor does he argue cultural influence, but he does imply the latter.
Earl Doherty, Champion of the "Christ was a Myth" crowd, argues for both a cultural drift and conspiracy. He alleges that the mystery cults were already big in Palestine and that Jesus was already a mythical mystery savior when Paul did his preaching, and before he was given concrete setting in the Gospels. However, he then asserts that the story was adopted as historical for profit and power. (see Jesus Puzzle pages).
Piece No. 12: JESUS BECOMES HISTORY
"As the midrashic nature of the Gospels was lost sight of by later generations of gentile Christians, the second century saw the gradual adoption of the Gospel Jesus as an historical figure, motivated by political considerations in the struggle to establish orthodoxy and a central power amid the profusion of early Christian sects and beliefs. Only with Ignatius of Antioch, just after the start of the second century, do we see the first expression in Christian (non-Gospel) writings of a belief that Jesus had lived and died under Pilate, and only toward the middle of that century do we find any familiarity in the wider Christian world with written Gospels and their acceptance as historical accounts. Many Christian apologists, however, even in the latter part of the century, ignore the existence of a human founder in their picture and defense of the faith. By the year 200, a canon of authoritative documents had been formed, reinterpreted to apply to the Jesus of the Gospels, now regarded as a real historical man. Christianity entered a new future founded on a monumental misunderstanding of its own past." [See "The Second Century Apologists".]
We Internet apologists are still trying to work out how Doherty figures that's where the money and power were, since at this stage most of them, including Ignatius himself, were being fed to lions! Be that as it may, here we have the notion that what began as a mystery cult through mystical borrowing became an historical collusion, but he never says why or how the Gospel authors would have transferred the story to an historical setting to begin with, or why Ignatius wouldn't accept it anyway since it was in the Gospels.
3) Greg Kane
Kane has a very popular Website which skeptics who argue the "Copy Cat Savior" argument love to link to. In all fairness to Kane he lacks the biting tent preacher tirade tone of Till, and seems like a nice guy. His scholarship and documentation, however are abysmal. A great deal of his information on the so called "saviors" comes from Achyra S. A strange figure who believes that Space aliens have commissioned her to destroy Christianity. Kane says that her book The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold, is "the best book" for this topic! He doesn't footnote anything so it's hard to tell where each individual claim is coming form, but he does proclaim loudly:
To see J.P. Holding's take on Achyra S click here:
Pagan Origins of the Christ myth
What you'll discover here is that Christianity inherited everything from the pagans. The sacrificed Son of God, the resurrection, salvation, baptism, the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit -- they were all core beliefs of many ancient faiths. They were simply part of ancient Mediterranean culture. Mithras had 'em. So did Dionysus, Attis, Osiris, Krishna, and Orpheus. And more. And they had them centuries before Christianity was a twinkle in Saint Paul's eye....
The meaning of the Son of God's life and Sacrifice? Salvation. With the sacrament of holy Baptism, believers are reborn into a new life with the Savior. In a sacred meal, believers eat bread and wine that are the body and blood of the Son of God....
The name of the Pagan Son of God? Wrong question. Try, The names of the Sons of God? Answer: Mithras. Osiris. Attis. Dionysus, Hercules, Krishna. Jesus.
[also in fairness to Kane he does not say what his belief system is, one does get the feeling that he is not a skeptic. Perhaps he is religious and merely opposed to Christianity, or perhaps he is not even opposed to Christianity. He does not say. But he does not pursue a mocking tone]
B. Examination of ClaimsMost of the claims made about mythological borrowing are exaggerated and one should always check to see when t he artifacts date from and what the specific claims include. For example one skeptic on my bulletin board once claimed that all pagan religions had Trinities and supposedly gave nine examples. But only one of these was really like the Trinity. Some were just three god triumvirates such as Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, or from India, Vishnu, Shiva, and Bream. Others were not even really three. The Horus, Isis Serapis cult is said to be a Trinity, but Horus was married to Isis (so not even the same being) and reincarnated as Serapis, so this is actually two beings not connected and one of them reincarnated; hence not a Trinity at all.
Paul Tillich argues that it was the notion of Trinity that Set Jesus apart from mythological figures and elevated him from the status of a mere hero demigod to that of truly God and Truly man (History of Christian Thought). Jesus stands above all of these mythological figures, not only in his historicity, but also in the nature of his message and his personal ethos. There is clearly no conscious copying from pagan myth to pattern Jesus after the "hero with a thousand faces." I have no wish to claim 'my God can beat up your God,' to to defame or cast dispersions upon other faiths. If others baulk at my insistence that I find my own beliefs "more beautiful" than others they can at least perhaps forgive me for believing my beliefs and not others. But in either case, the argument stands, no other fits the profile or made the claims or did the deeps of Jesus of Nazareth.
C. Examine Till's statement more closely.D. Note on Dec. 25 as Birth of "Saviors"
I could take saviors like Krishna, saviors like Osiris, saviors like Dionysus, saviors like Tammuz, who presumably lived centuries and centuries before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly lived, and they were born of virgins, they worked miracles, they died, most of them through crucifixion, and they were resurrected from the dead, and their followers were zealous for them. "
Other figures often mentioned by Internet skeptics include Mithra, Herakles, and others. [my discussion board, the "school girls" or "students" from Toronto, July 99]
Let's examine these claims, and I'm going to use mostly secular, classical or pro-pagan sources to show:
1) Calling them all "saviors" distorts the evidence
None of them are saviors in the manner of Jesus Christ They are all heroes, so they all saved people in some sense. Some of them did offer eternal life to their followers so we can look at that latter. But none of them are saviors in the sense of dying for the sins of the world.
2) "Presumably lived..." is a big distortion, no proof that they did live.
A few of them may have been based on actual people. In fact the Greek Herakles (Hercules) was probably two people fussed together into myth from two different times in history (Charles Seltman, the Twelve Olympians, Thomas Y. Corwell company: 1962, p.175-177. But there is nowhere near the kind of documentation for this that there is for Jesus. We have no writings of anyone who claimed to have known Herakles, we have no writings that even approximate eyewitness testimony, we have no proof that he existed at all. No body of his teachings, not even one saying by him has come down to us through history. Everything about him is totally speculative or mythological. And this is also true for every single figure mentioned; it is probable that Mithra was a real figure, or based upon a real figure but we have no way of knowing. Osiris was pure mythology and we have no idea who he might be based upon, it may be a good guess that Krishna was a real figure at one time, but we know nothing about any of these characters that is not purely mythological.
3) "They were born of Virgins" actually none of them were.
This is a tricky one. Some of these figures were not even claimed to have been produced by Virgins. Others, it depends. That is, none of them were produced without the benefit of sexual contact. For some, such as Herakles that contact came between the mother and god, the mother may never have "known" a mortal man, and so in a technical sense is a 'virgin' but she not conceived without benefit of sexual contact. Jesus Christ was so conceived. The notion of the "Virginal conception" does not say that God was Mary's lover, Mary did not have sex with God, when the Holy Spirit "came upon her" it was more like artificial insemination, not sexual contact. And none of these "saviors" were touted as products of "virginal conceptions" as part of their theological doctrine.
In Raymond E. Brown's highly respected work on the Birth Narratives of Jesus, he evaluates these non-Christian "examples" of virgin births and his conclusions are as follows:
"Among the parallels offered for the virginal conception of Jesus have beneath conceptions of figures in world religions (the Buddha, Krishna, and those of Zoroaster), in Greco-Roman mythology (Presses, Romulus), in Egyptian and Classical History (the Pharaohs, Alexander, Augusts), and among famous philosophers or religious thinkers (Plato, Apolonious of Tyana), to name only a few.
"Are any of these divinely engendered births really parallel to the non-sexual virginal conception of Jesus described in the NT, where Mary is not impregnated by a male deity or element, but the child is begotten through the creative power of the Holy Spirit? These "parallels" consistently involve a type of hieros gamos (note: "holy seed" or "divine semen") where a divine male, in human or other form, impregnates a woman, either through normal sexual intercourse or through some substitute form of penetration. In short, there is no clear example of virginal conception in world or pagan religions that plausibly could have given first-century Jewish Christians the idea of the virginal conception of Jesus." [The Birth of the Messiah, by Raymond E. Brown, Doubleday: 1993: 522-523]
From a much less sympathetic perspective, the history-of-religions scholar David Adams Lemming (writing in EOR, s.v. "Virgin Birth") begins his article by pointing out that all 'virgin births' are NOT necessarily such:
"A virgin is someone who has not experienced sexual intercourse, and a virgin birth, or parthenogenesis (Gr., parthenos, "virgin"; genesis,"birth"), is one in which a virgin gives birth. According to this definition, the story of the birth of Jesus is a virgin birth story whereas the birth of the Buddha and of Orphic Dionysos are not. Technically what is at issue is the loss or the preservation of virginity during the process of conception. The Virgin Mary was simply "found with child of the Holy Ghost "before she was married and before she had "known" a man. So, too, did the preexistent Buddha enter the womb of his mother, but since she was already a married woman, there is no reason to suppose she was a virgin at the time. In the Orphic story of Dionysos, Zeus came to Persephone in the form of a serpent and impregnated her, so that the maiden's virginity was technically lost."
4) "They worked miracles" As mythical figures they did "amazing thing" but none went about healing the sick.None of the figures that Till mentions above were miracle workers in the sense of Jesus. They did not Rome the country healing people or praying over fish and loaves in order to supernaturally expand one meal into a repast for several thousand people. Mythological events follow them, thus when Mithras kills the Bull wheat springs from its tale. But of course, it is mythology. They were not flesh and blood people whom eye witnesses saw heal the sick. That did not happen in the case of any of these figures.
5) "They died, most of them through crucifixion" This is an outright lie, no credible source shows any of these being crucified.
None of the figures that he names died through crucifixion. Some of them became associated with the cross through pagan borrowing after the time of Christ, but in the pure mythical content of their stories none of them were crucified.6) "They were Resurrected from the dead" this claim is true of some but not all, and even of those not in the manner of Christ.
None of them were seen by real flesh and blood eye witnesses after their deaths. In stories of Dionysos he does come back to life, but only in a mythology and only in relation to dying rising of nature cycles. see below. And not all of them came back to life.
I can find no record of any mention of the date of birth of any of these figures. More importantly, even though Achyra S and Kane both say that every one of these figures was born on Dec.25, it never says that in the Gospels! Therefore, even if it were true, it would contribute nothing to the "Jesus Story" because we know that the celebration of his birth on Dec. 25 came at least three centuries after the Gospels were written. Christmas probably was laid over a Pagan holiday to give former Pagans a change to celebrate something on their old fest day.
II. Direct Examination of "Saviors" Proves Similarities
Most of the alleged similarities between the Jesus story and pagan dying-rising gods are blown out of proportion for skeptical polemic. The far more sophisticated arguments are made by people such as Kirsop Lake (the 19th century Christian liberal theologian). They consist of little details, minute similarities in wording and phraseology, such as has been dealt with above. But many Internet skeptics are not subtle, they go for the big victory and the cheap analysis. It has been claimed by many of these skeptics (Farrell Till for one) that a host of gods from pagan myth were sons of god, born of virgins, and sacrificed as atonement and rose from the dead. In addition there are some small claims in the telling of the story, such as Christ being laid in a manger, which was supposedly done with Dionysos as well. These claims are, in the main, quite false. Let's examine them.
Moreover any sort of identities for these figures would be impossible to track, because they are always changing identities; the family members change from story to story, parents and children and their relationships change form store to store, and the gods mereg; Osiris is linked to Dionysos and so on (Marvin M. Meyer, (editor) The Ancient Mysteries : A Source Book , San Francisco: Harper, 1987, pp.170-171).
the time of Jesus of Nazareth, as for centuries before, the Mediterranean world roiled with a happy diversity of creeds and rituals. Details varied according to location and culture, but the general outlines of these faiths were astonishingly similar. Roughly speaking the ancients' gods:
1. Were born on or very near our Christmas Day
2. Were born of a Virgin-Mother
3. Were born in a Cave or Underground Chamber.
4. Led a life of toil for Mankind.
5. Were called by the names of Light-bringer, Healer, Mediator, Savior, Deliverer.
6. Were however vanquished by the Powers of Darkness.
7. And descended into Hell or the Underworld.
8. Rose again from the dead, and became the pioneers of mankind to the Heavenly world.
9. Founded Communions of Saints, and Churches into which disciples were received by Baptism.
10. Were commemorated by Eucharistic meals.
I wont go into every one of these "similarities," but will examine the major ones: Virgin birth (Virginal conception) Crucifixion, Resurrection, and for some special similarities. But don't forget, Till says that everyone of them were crucified and rose from the dead and that they were all born of virgins. Most of this list Kane seems to take from Achyra S, a very dubious source.
1) No Virginal Conception
"In this story Zeus had loved Alkamene and Begotten Herakles..." (Seltman, The Twelve Olympians, New York: Thomas Y. Corwell Company, 1960.p 176).
2) No crucifixion or resurrection
Herakles was poisoned and welcomed into Olympus post morte with no resurrection of any kind (Seltman). He was poisoned by a robe which had been bathed in centaur blood. He did not resurrect but was burned on a pyre and welcomed into Olympus as a god: "then the falmes rushed up and Hercules was seen no more on earth. He was taken to heaven where he was reconciled to Hera.." (Edith Hamilton,Mentor edition, original copywriter 1940 Mythology, 172). See also World Book Encyclopedia, "Hercules" 1964)
There is no documentation in professional academic books on Mythology for Hercules being called light bearer, he was a son of a god, but never called "The Son of God." There was a vast array of sons of different gods in Greek Mythology (especially with Zeus). He made no decent into hell, redeemed no one's soul, although he may have gone into the underworld in certain myths, he preached no gospel there. He founded no communion of saints and had no communal meal.
The Mythic Mysteries are very complex, and the only real similarities to Jesus are minute ones.. Most of these alleged similarities are suspect or unimportant. It is often claimed by skeptics on the Internet that "there is so much similarity" but I find very little. Mithra comes from Persia and is part of Zoroastrian myth, but this cult was transplanted to Rome near the end of the pre-Christian era. Actually the figure of Mithra is very ancient. He began in the Hindu pantheon and is mentioned in the Vedas. He latter spread to Persia where he took the guise of a sheep protecting deity. But his guise as a shepherd was rather minor. He is associated with the Sun as well. Yet most of our evidence about his cult (which apparently didn't exist in the Hindu or Persian forms) comes from Post-Pauline times. Mythic rituals were meant to bring about the salvation and transformation of initiates. In that sense it could be seen as similar to Christianity, but it was a religion and all religions aim at ultimate transformation. He's a total mythical figure he meets the sun who kneels before him, he slays a cosmic bull, nothing is real or human, no sayings, no teachings.
1) no Virginal Conception
Mithra was born of a rock, so unless the rock was a virgin rock, no virginal conception for him. (Marvin W. Meyer, ed. The Ancient Mysteries :a Sourcebook. San Francisco: Harper, 1987,, p. 201).
2) No crucifixion or resurrection.
There no story of Mithras death and no references to resurrection. The only similarity about him in this relation is that his shedding of the Bull's blood is said by H.G. Wells (Out Line of World History ) to be the prototype for Jesus sacrifice on the cross. But in reality the only similarity here is blood, and it wasn't even his own. It may even be borrowing form Christianity that made the shedding of blood important in the religion.
3) No Savior, no baptism, no Christmas
Moreover, one of the major sources comes from the second century AD and is found in inscriptions on a temple, "and you saved us after having shed the eternal blood." This sounds Christian, but being second century after Christ it could well be borrowed from Christianity ( Meyer, p 206). [This source, Meyer, is used by Kane as well, but it says nothing to back up his claims, and as will be seen latter, Meyer disparages the notion of conscious borrowing] (More about this ceremony on Page II)
"Mithra was the Persian god whose worship became popular among Roman soldiers (his cult was restricted to men) and was to prove a rival to Christianity in the late Roman Empire. Early Zoroastrian texts, such as the Mithra Yasht, cannot serve as the basis of a mystery of Mithra inasmuch as they present a god who watches over cattle and the sanctity of contracts. Later Mithraic evidence in the west is primarily iconographic; there are no long coherent texts".(Edwin Yamauchi, "Easter: "Myth, Hallucination, or History," Leadership University)
C. Dionysian Mysteries
1) Dionysos was not born of a virgin.
The Greek god Dionysos is said to be the god of wine, actually he began as a fertility god in Phrygian and in Macedonia, Thrace, and other outlying regions. The origin of the cult is probably in Asia. (Charles Seltman, The Twelve Olympians, New York: Thomas Y. Corwell Company, 1960.)
"In the myths about Dionysos the most important is the tale of his birth. His mother was Semele...in fact she was an earth godess...the usual form of the story is that Zeus loved Semele and consorted with her...." (Ibid, 171). Hera, of course was jealous and tricked the girl into asking Zeus to show himself to her in his true from. She was fried by his thunderbolts which cannot help but constantly shoot from his true form, but Zeus was able to save the child that she carried. I can find no authority who says that Dionysos mother was a virgin. But this is one of the tricky ones, she may have known no mortal man, but she was not the product of virginal conception. She was also not mortal herself, so the idea of her having a Virginal conception is out of the question, because whatever she did would be supernatural anyway, and we don't' know what gods she dated before Zeus.
2) Dionysos not laid in a manger.There is one very tiny aspect of a manger-like thing in the Dionysos myth, and it is not very central. A flower basket which could double as a crib was used as one of many fertility symbols. In fact there is no real manger connection at all. Near the end of the 5th century BC the Greek Euripides wrote a play, The Bacchae, one of the major sources of Dionysian mysteries. I've seen skeptics claim that he was laid in a manger at his birth. But he was not, he was laid in Zeus's thigh until he came to term and there is no manger scene at all (Stelman,171).
3) Title "Son of god" Other similarities.
Euripides does refer to Dionysos as "son of god." But that is just profanatory. In mythology gods were like people, they were born, they had parents, and they lived in families. Why? Probably because people do. The phrase "son of god" and the general concept may be "influenced" by paganism in a general sense (see above) but the specific notion of Jesus' incarnation is totally different. Jesus is the incarnation of the divine logos, the second person of the Trinity, God incarnate. He is the incarnation of the rational that created the universe; not a mythological demigod, the offspring of a god and mortal. Besides that, the term "Son of God" in Judaism of Jesus' day was understood as a Euphemism for the Messiah.
4) Dionysos Dying and Rising.In some stories Dionysos is torn apart by the Titans. IN other stories it is Hera's orders that he be torn apart. But he was torn apart, not crucified. Moreover, since he was not an historical figure he was not a flesh and blood man. He did not really die, and his resurrection is not really bodily. His dying and rising are an echo of the death of plant life and fertility in winter and his rising is the rising of the plants in the Spring. "He was the vine which is always pruned as nothing else which bears its fruit; every branch cut away, only the bare stock left, through the winter a dead thing to look at...he was always brought back to life..." (Edith Hamilton, Mythology, Mentor edition, original copywriter 1940, pp. 61-62). Hamilton says that his rising did offer hope of new life, the immortality of the soul. "He was the assurance that death does not end all."
But this is very different from the historical claims of Christ's resurrection. Dionysos not not have an historical existence, no empty tomb, no flesh and blood body seen and felt by witnesses afterward. He is merely the archetype suggested by seasons, the human wish for a rejuvenation and the circularity of nature.
"In Christianity everything is made to turn on a dated experience of a historical Person; it can be seen from I Cor. XV. 3 that the statement of the story early assumed the form of a statement in a Creed. There is nothing in the parallel cases which points to any attempt to give such a basis of historical evidence to belief" A. D. Nock (Early Gentile Christianity and Its Hellenistic Background", 1964, p. 107).
5) Not a savior
Moreover, the followers of Dionysus did not gain their sense of eternal life from Dyonius himself, nor form his death, but from their own drunken ecstasy in the "Béchamel." (Yamauchi, in "Easter: Myth, Hallucination or History," and c.f. M. Nilsson, The Dionysiac Mysteries of the Hellenistic and Roman Age, 1957).His death was not an atonement and his resurrection has not even the semblance of an historical, much less history making aspect. But perhaps it was a dress rehearsal.
6) Moreover, he was not crucified as Till claims but instead was torn apart by the Titans.
Osiris was of the most influential families of gods in ancient Egypt. Perhaps in the distant past they were based upon some sort of flesh and blood family, but we know nothing of that. Our knowledge of Osiris is that of a purely mythological family. Isis was the mother goddess, Osiris is the brother and husband of Isis. He possesses generative powers connected to nature, not fertility per se, but to the land so dependent upon water from the Nile for production of crops. Whereas most fertility deities are related to sexual fertility as well as crops Osiris seems to be more connected to crops themselves.
1) no virginal conception is connected to Osiris, they live in a family. They are the product of intercourse of the gods.
Meyer records that Isis and Horus were worshiped as mother and child. Like the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus, Isis was "Queen of heaven" pictured with infant seated on her lap. (159). While that may constitute a pagan influence upon latter Christianity, there was no cult of Mother and Child in the Gospels. Osiris' birth stories come from the Hellenistic period. The Greek Poet Plutarch wrote on Isis and Osiris, in which Osiris is conceived and brought forth from the union between Rhea and Kronos, but there is another tradition that Osiris sprang form the sun. (Meyer, p.161). These figures are purely mythical so even the technical virginity above does not apply to them. If being the product of virginal conception was at all important to the Osiris story, or even was ever mentioned in connection with him, one would think that these stories would respect that view. There is no claim that I can find of his 'vigilant conception.' That is, unless one counts the sun as a virgin.
2) No crucifixion
Osirirs is killed by Set, his evil brother, who than sank his coffin in the Nile, "thus Horus as the mythological counterpart of the living Pharaoh, succeeded his dead father and assures the triumph of continuity and order in Egyptian life. Isis meanwhile along with Thoth, Horus, Anubis, and Nephthyts employs her magical powers to mummify Osiris and thereby to restore him from death to life." (Meyer, p.157) So we are not dealing with the restoration of actual flesh and blood life, but a mummified state which is merely in a waiting mode, for a future resurrection, and we don't even know if this will be life as a restored flesh and blood person, or life as a mummy. Moreover, this is a purely mythological scene not something played out in history with historical figures. It seems more likely that it is the prototype and perhaps justification for preserving bodies as mummies. What's more, Osiris was not crucified.
One encounters Osiris in the land of the dead waiting to be taken to that afterlife, (Ibid.) no eyewitnesses see him restored to normal human life.
3) References to baptism far fetchedThe language with which scholars sometimes speak of these myths, either purposefully or not, suggests a lot more than does the actual story. Osiris was drowned in a box in the Nile which is spoken of in such terms as: "The dead body of Osiris floated in the Nile and he returned to life, this being accomplished by a baptism in the waters of the Nile." (Joseph Klausner, From Jesus to Paul (New York: Macmillan, 1943), 104.)Wagner suggests that comparing the coffin of Osiris floating on the Nile to baptism is like comparing the sinking to Atlantis to Baptism. (Gunter Wagner, Pauline Baptism and the Pagan Mysteries (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1967), 260ff.)
4) No resurrection
Easter: Myth, Hallucination or History
by Edwin M. Yamauchi
Leadership U. http://www. leaderu.com/everystudent/Easter/articles/yama.html
Updated 22 March 1997
(prof. of History at Miami University, Osford Ohio)"This leaves us with the figure of Osiris as the only god for whom there is clear and early evidence of a "resurrection." Our most complete version of the myth of his death and dismemberment by Seth and his twofold resuscitation by Isis is to be found in Plutarch, who wrote in the second century A.D. (cf. J. Gwyn Griffiths, Plutarch's De Iside et Osiride, 1970). His account seems to accord with statements made in the early Egyptian texts. After the New Kingdom (from 1570 B.C.. on) even ordinary men aspired to identification with Osiris as one who had triumphed over death".
"But it is a cardinal misconception to equate the Egyptian view of the afterlife with the "resurrection" of Hebrew-Christian traditions. In order to achieve immortality the Egyptian had to fulfill three conditions: (1) His body had to be preserved, hence mummification. (2) Nourishment had to be provided either by the actual offering of daily bread and beer, or by the magical depiction of food on the walls of the tomb. (3) Magical spells had to be interred with the dead-Pyramid Texts in the Old Kingdom, Coffin Texts in the Middle Kingdom, and the Book of the Dead in the New Kingdom. Moreover, the Egyptian did not rise from the dead; separate entities of his personality such as his Ba and his Ka continued to hover about his body".
"Nor is Osiris, who is always portrayed in a mummified form, an inspiration for the resurrected Christ. As Roland de Vaux has observed:
What is meant of Osiris being "raised to life"? Simply that, thanks to the ministrations of Isis, he is able to lead a life beyond the tomb which is an almost perfect replica of earthly existence. But he will never again come among the living and will reign only over the dead.... This revived god is in reality a "mummy" god [The Bible and the Ancient Near East, 1971, p. 236]".
In Babylonian Mythology was the consort of the goddess Ishtar. He was also the god who died and rose again continually. This was another crop cycle relationship based upon nature. (Herbert Spencer Robinson, Myths and Legends of all Nations, New York: Bantum Books, 1950, 13-16). This is purely mythological. There is no historical figure that Tammuz is based upon. He did not die and rise as a flesh and blood human, but only as a mythical figure. He healed no real people, only the mythical goddess Ishtar. Since his dying and rising is crop related we can suspect that he is not even faintly based upon a real figure. This was a copy of nature for fertility purposes. He was consort to Ishtar who was goddess of 'love' in the crass sense, related to fertility.
1) No Virginal Birth
There are no stories of Tammuz as the product of a virgin birth. I suspect that documentation comes from Achyra S.
2) No Crucifixion
He was not crucified but killed by a wild bore (Ibid.).
3) No Resurrection
Easter: Myth, Hallucination or History
by Edwin M. Yamauchi
Leadership u. http://www. leaderu.com/everystudent/Easter/articles/yama.html
Updated 22 March 1997
(prof. of History at Miami University, Osford Ohio)F. Krishna"In the case of the Mesopotamian Tammuz (Sumerian Dumuzi), his alleged resurrection by the goddess Inanna-Ishtar had been assumed even though the end of both the Sumerian and the Akkadian texts of the myth of "The Descent of Inanna (Ishtar)" had not been preserved. Professor S. N. Kramer in 1960 published a new poem, "The Death of Dumuzi," that proves conclusively that instead of rescuing Dumuzi from the Underworld, Inanna sent him there as her substitute (cf. my article, "Tammuz and the Bible," Journal of Biblical Literature, LXXXIV , 283-90). A line in a fragmentary and obscure text is the only positive evidence that after being sent to the Underworld Dumuzi may have had his sister take his place for half the year "(cf. S. N. Kramer, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 183 , 31).He was not a savior figure, he did not have a cult of salvation seekers founding a mystery religion after him, he was not a savior but a symbol of the crop cycles, the male counterpart to the Greek Procepheny.
"Tammuz was identified by later writers with the Phoenician Adonis, the beautiful youth beloved of Aphrodite. According to Jerome, Hadrian desecrated the cave in Bethlehem associated with Jesus' birth by consecrating it with a shrine of Tammuz-Adonis. Although his cult spread from Byblos to the GrecoRoman world, the worship of Adonis was never important and was restricted to women. P. Lambrechts has shown that there is no trace of a resurrection in the early texts or pictorial representations of Adonis; the four texts that speak of his resurrection are quite late, dating from the second to the fourth centuries A.D". ("La 'resurrection' d'Adonis," in Melanges Isidore Levy, 1955, pp. 207-40).
Actually Krishna is the only one of these figures who bares a striking similarity to Jesus, but not in any of the characteristics mentioned above. This will be dealt with in the argument below (IV) but suffice to say Krishna is a totally mythological being. There is no real evidence that he ever existed, no record of people who met him, no body of his teachings, no eyewitnesses, and no historical personage to whom he can be related. Within in the context of the myth, he bares no similarity to Jesus. He was not a teacher or a healer but a King and Chariot driver, a warrior and archer. (Robinson, 53).
1) no virgin birthIt simply is not there, it is not part of his story.G. Cyble and Attis
2) no crucifixion
Killed by an arrow in battle.
(Achyra S. apparently, and Kane on his website say that he was hung on a cross and then shot with an arrow, but the graphic Kane shows which he says shows him on a cross includes no cross at all. I find no record of a cross any any of the literature I have read of him, and since he was killed in battle one wonders what that cross was doing on the battle field).
3) No resurrection, he does not raise from the dead, no story pictures him doing this.
H. Buddha"Cybele, also known as the Great Mother, was worshiped through much of the Hellenistic world. She undoubtedly began as a goddess of nature. Her early worship included orgiastic ceremonies in which her frenzied male worshipers were led to castrate themselves, following which they became "Galli" or eunuch-priests of the goddess. Cybele eventually came to be viewed as the Mother of all gods and the mistress of all life." (Ronald Nash, "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?" The Christian Research Journal, Winter 1994, p.8) [CRJ:http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/web/crjo169a.html1) No Virgin Birth
There is nothing in the story about a Virgin birth.
2) Not Crucified But Self-Castrated!Cyble loved a Shaped named Attis. Because he was not sufficiently attentive she drove him mad. In response to his madness Attis castrated himself and died (Ibid).
2) Supposed "Resurrection" false and related to crop cycles
"The presuppositions of the interpreter tend to determine the language used to describe what followed Attis's death. Many writers refer carelessly to the "resurrection of Attis." But surely this is an exaggeration. There is no mention of anything resembling a resurrection in the myth, which suggests that Cybele could only preserve Attis's dead body. Beyond this, there is mention of the body's hair continuing to grow, along with some movement of his little finger. In some versions of the myth, Attis's return to life took the form of his being changed into an evergreen tree. Since the basic idea underlying the myth was the annual vegetation cycle, any resemblance to the bodily resurrection of Christ is greatly exaggerated."
Glenn Miller,I. No similarities to Jesus or what he offers
Christian Think Tank
on the specifics of Buddha,
Buddha was born of the virgin Maya. [We have already seen the radical differences here, and the data that his mom was married before his conception counts against the factuality of this. There ARE later traditions, however, that assert that she had taken vows of abstinence even during her marriage (a bit odd?), but it can be understood (so in EOR) to refer only to the time of that midsummer festival. The first and finest biography of the Buddha, written by Ashvaghosha in the 1st century, called the Buddhacarita ("acts of the Buddha") gives a rather strong indication of her non-virgin status in canto 1: "He [the king of the Shakyas] had a wife, splendid, beautiful, and steadfast, who was called the Great Maya, from her resemblance to Maya the Goddess. These two tasted of love's delights, and one day she conceived the fruit of her womb, but without any defilement, in the same way in which knowledge joined to trance bears fruit. Just before her conception she had a dream." (Buddhist Scriptures, Edward Conze,Penguin:1959.:35).]1) Similarities nonexistent
Not only do all of these figures miss on every count that Till mentions but none of them were healers, none of them were moral teachers, and none of them as much as were excited in public; they all died (if they died) through the treachery of friends or the slaughter of enemies in battle or ambush. There are greater similarities with other figures perhaps, but one should check the date of the artifacts and stories, because changes are they are influenced by Christianity, or examine the details because most of the time similarities are exaggerated.
2) Scholars rule out conscious borrowing
Most scholars rule out any sort of borrowing by Christianity from the mystery cults for their notions of rebirth and salvation. There may have been some linguistic influences, but the most direct would have been Hellenistic, not Persian or Egyptian.(See W. F. Flemington, The New Testament Doctrine of Baptism (London: SPCK, 1948), 76-81.)3) Careless language and No Critical Distinctions
The main problem however is that these groups offered nothing that was really like that which Christianity offered. Rooted as it is in Jewish Messianic expectations, it is foolish to try and carry over such superficial similarities as if they are the very essence of religion. Lots of cultures can have religious meals, and absolution rites. There are merely surface things, the mere presence of such rituals tells us nothing about the ideas of the group. Christian baptism offers an image of solidarity with the savior who sacrificed his life for us. The notion of rebirth is centered in that concept, rising to walk in newness of life. Jesus was reinvigorated, he did not merely mimic life, he took on a new life, robust and glorified but every bit like the one he had before, flesh and blood vitality. None of these pagan myths offer that sort of resurrection, nor do they offer the sort of union with God upon which Christianity bases its view of salvation.
Reinhold Neibuhr (Greatest American Theologian)
The page is titled: "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?"
"Many alleged similarities between Christianity and the mysteries are either greatly exaggerated or fabricated. Scholars often describe pagan rituals in language they borrow from Christianity. The careless use of language could lead one to speak of a "Last Supper" in Mithraism or a "baptism" in the cult of Isis. It is inexcusable nonsense to take the word "savior" with all of its New Testament connotations and apply it to Osiris or Attis as though they were savior-gods in any similar sense."
4) Nash Summarizes differences in Jesus and Pagan "Saviors"
Was The New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions
by Ronald Nash
from the Christian Research Journal, Winter 1994, p 8
Elliot Miller Editor-in-Chief
[Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 7000, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688-7000.]
(1) None of the so-called savior-gods died for someone else. The notion of the Son of God dying in place of His creatures is unique to Christianity.
(2) Only Jesus died for sin. As Gunter Wagner observes, to none of the pagan gods "has the intention of helping men been attributed. The sort of death that they died is quite different (hunting accident, self-emasculation, etc.)."
(3) Jesus died once and for all (Heb. 7:27; 9:25-28; 10:10-14). In contrast, the mystery gods were vegetation deities whose repeated deaths and resuscitations depict the annual cycle of nature.
(4) Jesus' death was an actual event in history. The death of the mystery god appears in a mythical drama with no historical ties; its continued rehearsal celebrates the recurring death and rebirth of nature. The incontestable fact that the early church believed that its proclamation of Jesus' death and resurrection was grounded in an actual historical event makes absurd any attempt to derive this belief from the mythical, non historical stories of the pagan cults.
(5) Unlike the mystery gods, Jesus died voluntarily. Nothing like this appears even implicitly in the mysteries.
(6) And finally, Jesus' death was not a defeat but a triumph. Christianity stands entirely apart from the pagan mysteries in that its report of Jesus' death is a message of triumph. Even as Jesus was experiencing the pain and humiliation of the cross, He was the victor. The New Testament's mood of exultation contrasts sharply with that of the mystery religions, whose followers wept and mourned for the terrible fate that overtook their gods.
III. An Examination of Syncretic Elements Reveals Borrowing My Have Gone the Other Way.
To some people the idea that elements of a religion must be original for that religion to contain truth content. But this "cultural influence" is not to say that the ideas of early Christianity were not original. The ideas of early Christianity were interpretations of events based upon the cultural understanding of the first century Jews of Palestine, and the thought patterns of those people were cross fertilized with other cultures, but they were also forged of their own unique experiences as Jews with God. Who is to say that the bread and wine were influences from pagan religion, or hold-overs from the Passover, which also uses bread and wine, or both?A. Original Calims Based Upon 19th Century Christian Scholarship
Nor is this notion of borrowing some new idea that modern skeptics invented, it is the hallmark of 19th century liberal Christian theology! One of the first to embark upon it was Otto Pfleiderer (1836-1900) who has been dubbed "the father of the religio-historical school in Germany," and a Christian theologian (see Neil, The Interpretation of the New Testament from 1861-1961, London: Oxford University Press, 1964, 158). Many other theologians followed suit at the turn of the century. Even the major notions skeptics harp on the most, initiation ceremonies for eternal life (such as baptism) ritual meals with bread and wine (such as the Lord's supper) and the same words and phrases, Born to eternity, born again, born to eternal life, all were examined and put forward as originating in paganism by Christian theologians of 19th century liberalism (Ibid.). For most of them it did not destroy their faith, and it should not destroy ours. But neither should we stop with this word of reassurance. There are also good indications that the borrowing either went the other way, or was merely the coincidental happenstance of a common cultural background.
B. Most Mystery Syncretic Elements Do NOT Pre-date GospelsWhiteley:
"Most of our extant evidence for the mystery cults comes from after the time of St. Paul. For example Apuleius, whose Golden Ass ..is one of our sources for these cults, wrote in the third quarter of the second century A.D. The magical papiri and hermetic writings, at least in their present form, are too late to have influenced St. Paul." The Theology of St Paul (p.2)
"Was The New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?"
by Ronald Nash
from the Christian Research Journal, Winter 19994, p 8
Elliot Miller Editor-in-Chief
http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/web/crjo169a.html"It is not until we come to the third century A.D. that we find sufficient source material (i.e., information about the mystery religions from the writings of the time) to permit a relatively complete reconstruction of their content. Far too many writers use this late source material (after A.D. 200) to form reconstruction's of the third-century mystery experience and then uncritically reason back to what they think must have been the earlier nature of the cults. This practice is exceptionally bad scholarship and should not be allowed to stand without challenge. Information about a cult that comes several hundred years after the close of the New Testament canon must not be read back into what is presumed to be the status of the cult during the first century A.D. The crucial question is not what possible influence the mysteries may have had on segments of Christendom after A.D. 400, but what effect the emerging mysteries may have had on the New Testament in the first century."1) Mystery cult feast not predate GospelsOne of the major similarities is the notion of the feast, featuring bread and wine, especially the phrase used by Paul "the Lord's table." (1 Cor. 10:21)Mystery cults had such initiator and ritual feasts, corresponding to the Lord's Supper. Hans Leitzmann, Handbuch zum Neuen Testament, vol ix (1931) documents no pre-Chrsitian examples of have been found for the phrase "The Lord's Table."C. Advocates of Mythical Borrowing Gloss Over Differences.
There is a famous letter form Oxyrhynchus [Egypt] which speaks of the table or festival meal of "the lord Serapis." Stephen Neil points out that this phrase is by no means common, "not more than a dozen examples of it can be quoted from ancient literature, the inscriptions and the papyri." (171) Moreover, the Oxyrhynchus letter was written in the third century AD, and by that time the home of the Sarapis cult, Alexandria, was already a major Christian center. "...we have to reckon also with the possibility that when Chaeremon writes of the 'table of the lord Serapis' the borrowing is really the other way." (Ibid.,171).
"Of all the mystery cults, only Mithraism had anything that resembled the Lord's Supper. A piece of bread and a cup of water were placed before initiates while the priest of Mithra spoke some ceremonial words. But the late introduction of this ritual precludes its having any influence upon first-century Christianity." (Ronald Nash, Christian Research Journal, Winter 1994, p. 8)
2) 'reborn for eternity' and Baptism
This phrase was used by Christian scholar Kirsop Lake to link Christian baptism to the mystery cults, since it was a euphemism for baptism in the early church. This was also a pagan phrase from the mystery cults. The phrase renatus in aeternum ..(reborn for eternity) is often alleged to be connected with the rites of mythras, but Neil points out that there is no evidence to support this view. (172). The phrase more properly belongs to the cult of the great mother of Asia, or to Attis, and the ceremony known as the Taurobolium. In this ceremony a pit was dug, priests went into the pit, wood was placed over the opening, a bull was slain and the blood allowed to drip down onto the priests. Skeptics often liken this to either baptism or to being "washed in the blood" of Jesus! This is where, they claim, Christians got all of these ideas. The Priest who emerged from the pit was reborn for eternity. Neil shows that the first recorded instance of the ceremony was in the middle of the second century. This does not mean that the borrowing went from Christian to pagan, or even that this was the first ensconce of the ceremony. But Neil potions out that it did not become popular until the third of fourth century, according to all available evidence. Thus the possibility of borrowing from paganism is unlikely. (Ibid). Especially since baptism was a Jewish ritual and Judaism is full of ancient notions of blood and animal sacrifice through Passover and day of atonement.
3) Baptism and Blood.
Scholars such as R. Reitzenstein connects Paul's imagery (Romans 6) for the believers death and rebirth through baptism, and Christ's redemption by blood, and come up with the connection to the Taurobolium and influence from Mithrism. Gunter Wagner in his exhaustive study Pauline Baptism and thc Pagan Mysteries ( 1963) points out "The taurobolium in the Attis cult is first attested in the time of Antoninus Pius for A.D. 160. As far as we can see at present it only became a personal consecration at the beginning of the third century A.D. The idea of a rebirth through the instrumentality of the taurobolium only emerges in isolated instances towards the end of the fourth century A.D.; it is not originally associated with this bloodbath "[p. 266].
Bruce Metzger in "Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity" (Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish and Christian (1968), notes:
"Thus, for example, one must doubtless interpret the change in the efficacy attributed to the rite of the taurobolium. In competing with Christianity, which promised eternal life to its adherents, the cult of Cybele officially or unofficially raised the efficacy of the blood bath from twenty years to eternity "[p. 11].
"Another aspect of comparisons between the resurrection of Christ and the mythological mysteries is that the alleged parallels are quite inexact. It is an error, for example, to believe that the initiation into the mysteries of Isis, as described in Apuleius's The Golden Ass, IS comparable to Christianity. For one thing, the hero, Lucius, had to pay a fortune to undergo his initiation. And as Wagner correctly observes: "Isis does not promise the mystes immortality, but only that henceforth he shall live under her protection, and that when at length he goes down to the realm of the dead he shall adore her . . ." (op. cit., p. 112).
Neil quotes one of the grates, professor A.D. Knock as saying that this phrase renatus in Aeternum is found in only three places and all form the fourth century (AD). Making the likelihood of borrowing very remote (Ibid.) As with most of these kinds of arguments, always check to find the date of the occurrence of pagan ritual. Chances are they come from post-Christian times.1) Poor Scholarship and the dangers in trusting it.D. Intentional Pagan Borrowing From Christianity
Kane says of Mithras:
"Baptism in the blood of the bull (taurobolum) -- early
Baptism "washed in the blood of the Lamb" -- late"
But Ronald Nash shows that this is not the phrase of some ancient Mithritic text, but the words of a modern scholar carelessly applied:Enough has been said thus far to permit comment on one of the major faults of the above-mentioned liberal scholars. I refer to the frequency with which their writings evidence a careless, even sloppy use of language. One frequently encounters scholars who first use Christian terminology to describe pagan beliefs and practices, and then marvel at the striking parallels they think they have discovered. One can go a long way toward "proving" early Christian dependence on the mysteries by describing some mystery belief or practice in Christian terminology. J. Godwin does this in his book, Mystery Religions in the Ancient World, which describes the criobolium (see footnote 6) as a "blood baptism" in which the initiate is "washed in the blood of the lamb." (Nash, p.8) [Jocelyn Godwin, Mystery Religions in the Ancient World (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), 111]That really sums up most of the issue. Most of these instances come from willful and careless reading in of Christian terms and concepts where they do not belong.2) Careless or Purposeful misapplication of Language.
Kane is so careless with his scholarship. Let's look at what he says about Mythros:This has nothing to do with Pagan influence of the New Testament since celebration of Dec. 25 as the Birthday of Christ came much latter, and we know it was laid over pagan holidays.
Every year in Rome, in the middle of winter, the Son of God was born one more, putting an end to darkness. Every year at first minute of December 25th the temple of Mithras was lit with candles, priests in in white garments celebrated the birth of the Son of God and boys burned incense.
Mithras was born in a cave, on December 25th, of a virgin mother. He came from heaven to be born as a man, to redeem men from their sin. He was know as "Savior," "Son of God," "Redeemer," and "Lamb of God."
Actually, as already documented he was born form a rock. This may be what Achyra S is calling "a cave." There is no record of his virgin mother. The rest of this language is clearly borrowed from Christianity. As will be documented (and has been alluded to) we have no early texts and even few late ones of Mithras to base this on. What we do have suggests that in his Persian incarnation he protected sheep, this is probably being striated into "Lamb of God." There is no record of him being called savior, except one late excerpt which post dates Christianity. (documented p. I)This is totally bogus. There is no such myth and I suspect it comes form Achyra S. Where did they get the notion that bread and wine were substituted for the bull? Are they even referring to bread and wine taken by the Mithraic cult or by the early church? If the latter it comes from the Passover and has nothing to do with Mithra's bull. But where does the bull come from? Mithra had to fight a cosmic bull to protect the sun. The blood shed was the Bulls! It was not connected to any crucifixion of Mithra, and not shed for atonement in any way!
He was buried in a tomb from which he rose again from the dead -- an event celebrated yearly with much rejoicing.
His followers kept the Sabbath holy, holding sacramental feasts in remembrance of Him. The sacred meal of bread and water, or bread and wine, was symbolic of the body and blood of the sacred bull.
Reinhold Neibuhr: Perhaps America's Greatest Theologian, points out that some influence of Christianity upon Paganism was intentional
The page is titled: "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?"
"It should not be surprising that leaders of cults that were being successfully challenged by Christianity should do some thing to counter the challenge. What better way to do this than by offering pagan substitute? Pagan attempts to counter the growing influence of Christianity by imitating it are clearly apparent in measures instituted by Julian the Apostate, who was the Roman emperor from A.D. 361 to 363."