AMbomb wrote: The story of Jesus is the pagan godman myth, as is the story of Mithras, Osiris, Dionysus and many others. It's the same myth told over and over again with different names. Mind you, the myths I'm talking about aren't the myths of the state religions. They're the myths of the mystery religions, which is what Christianity started out as. If you think the story of Jesus doesn't revolve around the seasons, would you care to explain to me why Easter's in early spring? As for the argument that the story of Jesus takes place in an actual period of history with actual historical figures, see the third message from the top of page 5.
First things first. Were you plugging your ears while reading my posts? It is apparent that you are encountering cognitive dissonance. I've noticed this about you while reading through this entire thread. You don't address the central issues one brings up and keep repeating the same thing, "The story of Jesus is the pagan godman myth." Perhaps this is why JC has stopped corresponding with you on this?
Now then, Jesus was not just a "god man." He was much more than that.
Some of my information is from Kyle Butt, M.A. and Bert Thompson, Ph.D. just as yours is from The Jesus Mysteries by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy.
History is filled with examples of those whose lives—real or imagined—share certain traits with the well-documented
life of Jesus of Nazareth. Lets go with one you mentioned, Dionysus.
The usual story of Dionysus' birth relates that he was the offspring of Zeus, the immortal leader of the Greek gods who impregnated a human female by the name of Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, King of Thebes. Dionysus is said to have descended to the underworld and conquered death, ultimately bringing his dead mother back to the land of the living. He also is said to have died and been raised again. His followers called him Lysios or Redeemer, and grape juice commonly was used to symbolize his blood.
Of course, contemporary skeptics like Freke and who use the argument that it's the same myth told over and over again with different names in attempts to debunk the uniqueness and deity of Christ cannot take credit as its originators. History records that almost two thousand years ago the early Christian apologists were busily engaged in responding to the exact same argument. For example, Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-426) stated in his Christian Doctrine:
"The readers and admirers of Plato dared calumniously to assert that our Lord Jesus Christ learnt all those sayings of His, which they are compelled to admire and praise, from the books of Plato—because (they urged) it cannot be denied that Plato lived long before the coming of our Lord."
Augustine refuted the argument by suggesting that Plato had read the prophet Jeremiah and then conveniently incorporated Jeremiah’s teachings into his own. The point, however, is clear: as early as A.D. 400, skeptics and enemies of the Cross were launching fiery darts of alleged plagiarism at both Christ and His followers.
Further investigation into the history of Christian apologetics manifests something even more startling. The earliest apologists not only recognized that the story and teachings of Jesus bore striking similarities to ancient mythological accounts, but even emphasized these similarities in an attempt to get pagans to understand more about Jesus and His mission. Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165) set forth an argument in his First Apology that was intended to put Christ at least on an equal playing field with earlier mythological gods.
"And if we assert that the Word of God was born of God in a peculiar manner, different from ordinary generation, let this, as said above, be no extraordinary thing to you, who say that Mercury is the angelic word of God. But if any one objects that He was crucified, in this also He is on a par with those reputed sons of Jupiter of yours.... And if we even affirm that He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you accept of Ferseus. And in that we say that He made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by Æsculapius"
Tertullian (c. A.D. 160-220) observed that the story of Romulus, another character from ancient Greek mythology who was seen after his death, was quite similar to the story of Christ being seen after His death. However, Tertullian went on to note that the stories of Christ were much more certain because they were documented by historical evidence (Apology, 21).
While ancient pagans saw, and modern skeptics still see, such similarities as militating against the originality and uniqueness of Christ, the writings of such men as Augustine, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and others document the fact that early Christians could see obvious—yes, even welcome—similarities between the story of Jesus and the accounts of mythological, pagan gods. Furthermore, some of those early Christians even seized upon those very similarities to defend Jesus’ position as the unique Son of God. The apologists’ point, of course, was two-fold: (1) men of the past had
searched for a unique savior-god and, finding none, resorted to inventing him and bestowing upon him certain distinct characteristics; and (2) that Savior—who, although in the past had been endowed with unique traits of their own feeble creation—actually had come!
So you see AM, early apologists acknowledged these facts because they were, and are, quite indisputable. And that leads us back to the issue of this thread, how, in light of such facts, can we affirm that Jesus Christ is the unique, authentic Son of God—when stories similar to His circulated decades or millennia before He ever came to Earth?
The truth of the matter is that many stories over the course of history resemble that of Jesus of Nazareth in one way or another. And why should this surprise us? After Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, man became keenly aware of both the presence and the consequences of sin. From the time of Cain and Abel, God had established sacrifices and decreed specific rules regarding those sacrifices. Since that time, all humans have had at least some perception—however slight or flawed—that they needed to “do something” to stand justified once again before their Creator. One way to do that was to invent a “stand-in”—someone who could take their place—as the epitome of sinless perfection to plead their case before the Righteous Judge of all the Earth.
Additionally, however, it can be argued that the similarities are only similarities
, not exact parallels. It further can be argued that Jesus’ story, even though it seems similar to some others, is not exactly the same and, in fact, differs substantially in the minute details. For example, Krishna allegedly was crucified via an arrow through his arms, while Jesus was nailed to the cross. Confucius offered the negative form of the so-called “golden rule” (“Do not do to others”), while Jesus stated the positive (“Do unto others”). Dionysus’ mother, Persophone, reportedly had intercourse with Zeus, while Mary was a virgin. This line of reasoning possesses some merit, because it certainly is true that none of the ancient stories sounds exactly
A closer look at the Egyptian legend of Osiris provides a good example of the many important differences between the account of Jesus and other stories. Legend says that Osiris was killed by his evil brother Seth, who tore Osiris’ body into fourteen pieces and scattered them throughout Egypt. Isis, the goddess-consort of Osiris, collected the pieces and buried them, thus giving life to Osiris in the underworld. Afterward, she used magical arts to revive Osiris and to conceive a child (Horus) by him. After fathering Horus, Osiris remained in the underworld, not really ever rising from the dead (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1997, 8:1026-1027). This legend, taken as a whole, provides few (if any) real parallels to the story of Jesus. Furthermore, when all the stories about characters who supposedly were similar to Christ are told in their entirety, it is obvious that each of them contains only a few
characteristics that come anywhere close to resembling those contained in the life story of Jesus. Additionally, some of the alleged parallels rest upon tenuous
documentation and may even be fabricated.
In the early part of the twentieth century, Joseph McCabe, one of the most outspoken atheists of his day, published several works, including The Myth of the Resurrection (1925), Did Jesus Ever Live? (1926), and How Christianity “Triumphed” (1926). McCabe painstakingly documented the similarities between the story of Jesus and pagan stories such as those of Osiris, Adonis, Tammuz, and Attis, yet specifically noted: “It is a most important feature of our story that this legend of a slain and resurrected god arose in quite different parts of the old civilized world.
Tammuz, Attis, and Osiris are three separate and independent
creations of the myth-making imagination”
Hmm...here is where it gets interesting AM, are you paying attention? JC already pointed where we are going with this out to you and it seemed to go right over your head. Now then, McCabe thus acknowledged that these pagan stories with similar themes did not copy either one another or some earlier, predominant story. Rather, they arose separately—and even independently—of each other. McCabe admitted: “For some reason...the mind of man came in most parts of the world to conceive a legend of death and resurrection.... In fact, in one form or other there was almost a worldwide belief that the god, or a representative [king, prisoner, effigy, etc.] of the god, died, or had to die every year” (pp. 52,53, emp. added; bracketed material in orig.). In his conclusion, McCabe wrote: “In sum, I should say that the universal belief in a slain and resurrected god throws light upon the Christian belief by showing us a universal frame of mind which quite easily, in many places, made a resurrection myth” (p. 63, emp. added). McCabe—even as an infidel—willingly acknowledged that numerous (but different) resurrection myths arose from various regions around the globe, each similar in its facts yet original in its derivation. These stories apparently arose because of what he referred to as a “universal frame of mind.”
This is very interesting and we are getting warmer...People around the world—due to a “universal frame of mind”—independently concocted stories that revolved around a god dying and then rising again. These stories span both time barriers and geographical limits; they are—in a very literal sense—“worldwide” and “universal.” In truth, man does
have a religious instinct—one that is keener than even many theologians would like to admit. In speaking of God, the writer of Ecclesiastes remarked: “He hath made everything beautiful in its time: he hath set eternity in their heart”
(3:11). Paul said that mankind always has been able to understand God’s “everlasting power and divinity” (Romans 1:20). God did not place man on Earth to abandon him. Instead:
He made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons and bounds of their habitation; that they should seek
God, if haply they might feel after him and find him though he is not far from each one of us; for in him we live, and move and have our being; as certain of your own poets have said, for we are his offspring (Acts 17:26-28).
God has indeed “set eternity” in the hearts of men and given them a universal instinct that is intended to cause them to seek Him. How, then, did the instinct to worship God lead to the concoction of numerous stories about a virgin-born savior-god who dies as a sacrifice for mankind’s wrongdoings? First, it started with the idea of sacrifice. From the moment Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, man was acutely aware that he was a sinful being in need of redemption. Humans also understood that some type of atoning sacrifice was required to absolve them of sin. Oddly, skeptics seem to understand this point quite well. In the late eighteenth century, T.W. Doane caustically attacked the doctrines of Christ and the Bible. His work, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions (1882), gnawed at every mooring of Christian doctrine. Yet even he understood that mankind always has realized its own sinfulness and its need for an atoning sacrifice. He wrote: “The doctrine of atonement for sin had been preached long before the doctrine was deduced from the Christian Scriptures, long before these Scriptures are pretended to have been written” (p. 181).
Those who might wish to challenge this assessment can examine any book on world history or world religions and see that it is correct. Abel offered the first of his flock, and from that day forward, humanity began offering live sacrifices to a deity in the hope of absolving anger and forgiving sin. In fact, mankind has sacrificed living things to a deity from the beginning of time. But which particular
sacrifices did humanity think had the power to forgive sins? The general rule for the atonement value of a sacrifice was: the more costly and perfect the sacrifice, the more sins it would absolve.
When God initiated the ritual sacrifice of animals for the religious ceremonies of His chosen people, He laid down strict rules. In Leviticus 22:19-20, God told the Jews: “You shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from the cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats. But whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf ” (NKJV). The Lord always
has demanded that blood be shed for the remission of sins. Hebrews 9:22 reiterates that point: “And according to the law...all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission.” This should not be at all surprising, since “the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life” (Leviticus 17:11).
Men and women of ages past knew all too well God’s commandments regarding atonement by blood. It began with Cain and Abel, was reaffirmed by Noah (Genesis 9:1-6), was regulated by Old Testament law, and was carried through to fulfillment by Jesus. When God instituted the Law of Moses, He did not introduce animal sacrifices as an innovation never before seen by the Israelites. Rather, He showed the Israelites the proper manner in which to sacrifice such animals, until the time that the fulfilling sacrifice of His Son would bring to a halt the need for any further blood atonement via animal sacrifices. In showing them the proper way, God made strict provisions to keep the children of Israel from turning from God-approved sacrifices to sacrificing their own innocent children like the pagans around them. In Leviticus 18:21, God told the children of Israel: “And thou shalt not give any of thy seed to make them pass through the fire to Molech; neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am Jehovah.” God went to great lengths to warn the Israelites against offering their children as sacrifices because it was well known that the nations around them took part in such infanticide. The question arises, “What in this world could convince a mother or father to offer their children to a god?”
Let us investigate this matter further.
Wendy Davis writes for Widdershins, a self-proclaimed journal of unadulterated paganism. In an article on the World Wide Web, As Old as the Moon: Sacrifice in History, she stated: “The act of ritual murder is probably as old as we [humans—KB/BT] are. Throughout the ages, people sacrificed when they needed something. Our ancestors often gave the best they had
, their first-born, to save themselves” (1995, emp. added). The most precious possession of a mother or father would be their first-born child. That child, however, would be not only precious, but also sinless. Sacrifice of anything less than that which is spotless and pure diminishes the inherent value of the sacrifice. Thus, it was believed that a sinless and pure sacrifice of such magnitude could wash away the sins of the parents (or, for that matter, the sins of an entire village!). Therefore, corrupt, perverse religions sprang up around the sacrifice of children, one of the most famous of which was that of Molech (see 2 Kings 23:10).
Yet even though the sacrifice of infants fulfilled the sinless
aspect of a perfect sacrifice, it was lacking in other areas. For example, an “ordinary” infant born of peasant parents was not the most costly sacrifice available; a royal child of a king would be even better. Thus, as Davis went on to observe, kings ultimately sacrificed their own children to appease “the gods.”
But the sacrifice of a king’s child still did not represent the perfect sacrifice, because the child did not go of his (or her) own free will. A free-will sacrifice of royal blood would come closest to the perfect offering. In an article titled No Greater Sacrifice, which appeared in Widdershins, one writer suggested: “Willing sacrifice is more interesting. Why does someone want to sacrifice himself or herself for what they believe in? Historically speaking, we must consider the sacred kings who sacrificed themselves for the Land” (see Andy, 1998). Yes, a king who offered himself of his own free will would be almost the perfect sacrifice. The only problem with such a concept was the fact that no king ever had lived a perfect life. As the Widdershins writer correctly observed, in an attempt to solve this, “Finally someone came up with the idea of one final sacrifice. One sacrifice to count for all the rest for all time. But who could be offered? It had to be someone very important; even kings were not good enough. Clearly, only a god was important enough to count as the last one” (Andy, 1998). Thus, it becomes clear why even the pagan world demanded a sacrifice that was sinless, royal, and higher in stature than other humans. Doane stated: “The belief of redemption from sin by the sufferings of a Divine Incarnation, whether by death on the cross or otherwise, was general and popular among the heathen, centuries before the time of Jesus of Nazareth” (1882, pp. 183-185).
Once we comprehend the need for the death of the savior-god, it is not difficult to see why humanity would want (and need) to see him defeat death. The writer of the book of Hebrews addressed this very point when he wrote that Christ allowed Himself to be sacrificed so that He “might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (2:15). Death holds more terror for man than perhaps anything else on Earth. It was for this reason that the Greeks invented Hercules—half man and half god—to conquer the Underworld, and the Egyptians formulated Osiris. Surely a savior-god who offered himself voluntarily as the sacrifice for all humanity could defeat mankind’s dreaded enemy—Death. So, the idea of a sacrificial savior-god who victoriously defeats death through his resurrection came easily to the minds of people who knew that they needed forgiveness, and who desperately wanted to live past the grave.
And so, from a “universal frame of mind” different tribes and religions—spanning thousands of years—formulated their personal versions of what they thought a resurrected savior-god should be and do. Some said he was torn into fourteen pieces and scattered throughout the land of Egypt (e.g., Osiris). Others said he would look like a man but would possess superhuman physical strength and descend to the underworld to conquer Hades (e.g., Hercules). Yet one thing is certain: tales about a hero who saved mankind were on the lips of almost every storyteller. Trench stated correctly:
No thoughtful student of the past records of mankind can refuse to acknowledge that through all its history there has run the hope of a redemption from the evil which oppresses it; and as little can deny that this hope has continually attached itself to some single man (n.d., p. 149).
But how can it be maintained, then, that the one savior for whom all humanity waited was, and is, Jesus?
One important fact that cannot be ignored is that Jesus is the only historical figure Who fulfills the criteria necessary to justify, sanctify, and redeem mankind. No human’s creative mind concocted the narrative of Jesus of Nazareth. Human eyes saw Him, and human ears heard Him. He walked and talked—lived and loved—on the streets of real cities and in the houses of real people. His life is the only life of any “savior-god” that can be (and has been) thoroughly documented. As Stephen Franklin remarked: “[T]he specific character of Biblical religion and, thus, of Christianity stems from the priority given to the historical-factual dimension of the Bible’s basic teachings and doctrines”
Therefore, the story of Jesus Christ does not occupy a place amidst the pages of Greek mythology or ancient religious legend. Indeed, skeptics would delight in being able to place the story of Jesus on the same playing field as the stories of other legendary savior-gods, because then the parallel stories easily could be relegated to myth, due to the fact that the stories cannot be verified historically. Trench wrote of such skeptics:
"Proving, as it is not hard to prove, those parallels to be groundless and mythical, to rest on no true historic basis, they hope that the great facts of the Christian’s belief will be concluded to be as weak, will be involved in a common discredit."
If infidels were able to create a straw man that could not stand up to the test of historical verifiability (like, for example, pagan legends and myths), and if they could place the story of Jesus in the same category as their tenuous straw man, then both supposedly would fall together. However, the story of Jesus of Nazareth refuses to fall. The stories of other savior-gods are admitted to be—even by those who invented them—nothing but fables (e.g., the Greeks realized that their fictitious stories were merely untrue legends that were totally unverifiable; see McCabe, 1993, p. 59 and you AM have also admitted as such
). But the story of Jesus demands its rightful place in the annals of human history. Osiris, Krishna, Hercules, Dionysus, and the other mythological savior-gods stumble back into the shadows of fiction when compared to the documented life of Jesus of Nazareth. If the skeptic wishes to challenge the uniqueness of Jesus by comparing Him with other alleged savior-gods, he first must produce evidence that one of these savior-gods truly walked on the Earth, commingled with humanity, and impacted people’s lives via both a sinless existence and incomparable teachings. Humanity always has desired a real-life savior-god; but can any of the alleged savior-gods that have been invented boast of a historical existence any more thoroughly documented than that of Christ?
In addition, Jesus has a monopoly on being perfectly flawless. He lived life by the same moral rules that govern all humans, yet He never once made a mistake. The writer of Hebrews recorded: “For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (4:15; cf. also 1 Peter 2:21-22). Renowned religious historian Philip Schaff wrote:
In vain do we look through the entire biography of Jesus for a single stain or the slightest shadow of his moral character. There never lived a more harmless being on earth. He injured nobody, he took advantage of nobody. He never wrote an improper word. He never committed a wrong action (1913, pp. 32-33).
Bernard Ramm commented in a similar vein when he stated of Christ:
There He stands, sinless. Whatever men may claim for being great, this is one thing they cannot. They may be brilliant or strong, fast or clever, creative or inspired, but not sinless. Sinless perfection and perfect sinlessness is what we would expect of God incarnate. The hypothesis and the facts concur (1953, p. 169, emp. in orig.).
Examine the stories of other savior-gods. See if they subjected themselves to the same rules as humans. See if they learned human nature and suffered unjustly, all the while never sinning with either their lips or their hearts. Try to find a savior like Christ who lived 30+ years on the Earth and yet never committed one shameful act. Norman Geisler summarized the situation as follows: “All men are sinners; God knows it and so do we. If a man lives an impeccable life and offers as the truth about himself that he is God incarnate we must take his claim seriously” (1976, p. 344). Jesus did “offer as the truth about himself that he is God incarnate.” As John Stott noted:
The most striking feature of the teaching of Jesus is that He was constantly talking about Himself.... This self-centeredness of the teaching of Jesus immediately sets Him apart from the other great religious teachers of the world. They were self-effacing. He was self-advancing. They pointed men away from themselves, saying, “That is the truth, so far as I perceive it; follow that.” Jesus said, “I am the truth; follow me.” The founders of the ethnic religions never dared say such a thing (1971, p. 23).
More can be said of this but it really has already been said. I quote JC:
" Just because a fictional story existed prior to a similar historical event does not prove that the record of the historical event was copied from the fictional story.
What is more likely is that the theme of sacrifice and atonement for sin is a universal truth."