Were the stories about Jesus copied from pagan myths?

While we’ve been dealing with legends, let’s consider the theory that Christianity copied from pagan dying and rising God myths. I quite enjoy this theory and what it does is list out various pagan gods and then lists various characteristics in their lives that match Jesus and then say these were hundreds or even thousands of years before Jesus and it’s obvious that Christianity copied from them. And therefore if these are myths, that means that Jesus must be a myth. We see this used in the Zeitgeist movie which got tens of millions of views on YouTube. We see it in the God Who Wasn’t There and the Religulous Movie. Let’s listen to Zeitgeist. 

Broadly speaking the story of Horus is as follows. Horus was born on December 25th of the Virgin Isis Mary. His birth was accompanied by a star in the east, which in turn three kings followed to locate and adorn the newborn savior. At the age of twelve, he was a prodigal child teacher. At the age of 30, he was baptized by a figure known as Anup and thus began his ministry. Horus had twelve disciples. He traveled about performing miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water. Horus was known by many gestural names such as the Truth, the Light, God’s anointed Son, the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God and many others. After being betrayed by Typhon, Horus was crucified, buried for three days and thus resurrected. These attributes of Horus, whether original or not, seemed to permeate in many cultures of the world for many other gods are found to have the same general mythological structure.

Attis of Phrygia born in the virgin Nana on December 25th, crucified, placed in the tomb and up to three days was resurrected. Krishna of India, born of the Virgin Devaki with a star in the East signaling his coming. He performed miracles with his disciples and upon his death was resurrected. Dionysus of Greece, bone of a virgin on December 25th, was a traveling teacher who performed miracles such as turning water into wine. He was referred to as the King of Kings, God’s only begotten son, the Alpha and Omega and many others and upon his death he was resurrected. Mithra of Persia, born of a virgin on December 25th. He had 12 disciples and performed miracles and upon his death was buried for three days and thus resurrected. He was also referred to as the Truth, the Light and many others. Interestingly, the sacred day of worship of Mithra was Sunday. The fact of the matter is there are numerous saviors from different periods from all over the world which subscribe to these general characteristics. 

In The God Who Wasn’t There, they list 23 characteristics of these Savior myths and Jesus scores 20 which puts him higher on the mythical scale than Robin Hood. Now this is not a new theory. It was around in the late 19th century in Germany but it died out relatively quickly because there was no historical evidence for any of this and so the scholars abandoned it until it was resurrected on the internet with quick talking and flashy graphics. And it only works because you don’t know anything about these pagan gods and therefore you can’t know whether this is true or not. And what they do is they use Christian terminology to describe these events in the pagan gods’ lives, like baptism or crucifixion, even though none of those terms were actually in those ancient religions, and so it tricks you into believing that they must be the same. They take the slightest strange resemblance and say “Look, these are identical.” For example you’ve got the Sun God and the Son of God. “See, they’re the same” but obviously this is a pun that only works in English. It doesn’t work in ancient Egyptian or ancient Greek. And what they do is they go through and cherry-pick the data and massage it so that they sound as similar as possible and then ignore all the dissimilarities between all these different pagan gods and Jesus. And notice they don’t ever actually quote the myths or the historical sources themselves because if they did, that would instantly explode this theory. The stories on which they’re based are all incomplete. Often there are multiple contradictory versions of these myths and and they’re quite unclear in the details, which is nothing like the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is multiplely attested, early eyewitness data, clear and the sources agree with one another. 

Notice too that Christianity didn’t emerge out of paganism, it emerged out of a Jewish context and so you have to consider the Jewish roots of Jesus Christ and the disciples. They were strictly monotheistic and very strongly anti-pagan. And so if you were going to invent a religion for that setting, for that people group, the last thing you do is cobble together a load of pagan myths and try and sell it to these Jewish people, that this is now your Messiah.

One final thing to notice is that although all these pagan myths predate Christianity, many of the sources we have about these myths post-date Christianity. And by then often these myths have absorbed elements of Christianity into themselves before they’re eventually written down so that is often why we see some echoes of Christianity in these myths. Let’s look at a few of those examples that Zeitgeist gave. I’m just going to go through the gods and look at the virgin births, touch about their lives. Then we’ll look at their sacrificial deaths and resurrections.

Virgin births. Adonis was born out of a myrrh tree. I guess technically that could be a virgin birth. Cyrus was born after an affair between the earth gods Seth and the sky goddess Nut. Mithras was born out of a rock wearing a hat with a dagger in one hand and a torch in the other. The rock may have been a virgin. Dionysius was born after Zeus disguised himself as a serpent and then impregnated his daughter Persephone. Attis – his mum sat under a pomegranate tree that Zeus had fertilized and the pomegranate dropped into her lap and she was pregnant. Or maybe it was an almond tree and maybe she ate the almond or maybe it was an apple tree, it’s unclear. Horus – his father was cut into 13 pieces and the key part of his anatomy was missing and then I’m gonna draw a veil over the rest of it because it’s not suitable for discussion. And then Krishna was actually the eighth child born, so they’d been seven previous children, so obviously not a virgin birth. Looking at the lives of these kinds of characters, obviously they did miracles in order to claim that they were gods but things like Attis, he was the god of vegetation and his miracle was the dying and rising of plants with the seasons. Or Dionysius, he was the god of wine and so obviously he had wine-related miracles. Mithra – the only thing we know that he did was kill a bull with a knife. And Horace or Osiris – their myths often get conflated together. He was put into a coffin in the Nile and so that’s cast as his baptism. One of the characters fell in water and that was “walking on water”. You don’t find any of those titles of Jesus Christ ascribed to these characters. 

What about the sacrificial death or crucifixion? Adonis was torn to pieces by a wild boar while hunting. Osiris was chopped into 14 pieces and spread all over the land. Mithras – there’s no record that he died but he did kill a bull in a sacrifice. Dionysius was attacked while gazing at himself in a mirror and he changed his shape to try and fool his attackers and then while he was disguised as a bull, they cut him into pieces. Horace – either didn’t die or he was stung to death by a scorpion. Krishna was killed by an arrow to his heel so obviously he was pissed, just not like Jesus. Attis castrated himself and fled into the woods and died there so maybe shed his blood but not like Jesus. He died each winter and then arose each spring because he’s following the crops. One of them was hit by lightning.

Now we come to resurrection. Adonis was raised to the underworld for half a year and to the upper world for half a year, coinciding with the seasons and the crop cycles. Osiris – his 13 pieces minus one were put back together so you’ve got a kind of zombie Frankenstein kind of God after that. Mithras didn’t die so he didn’t resurrect. Dionysius was pieced together by his mother or healed by Zeus or his heart was swallowed and then he was reborn again by his mother or his heart was made into a potion which his mother then drank and then he was reconceived. Horus became the lord of the underworld or maybe that was Osiris because those two get mixed together. Krishna had no resurrection until the seventh century after Jesus Christ so it seems that they borrowed the resurrection from Jesus. Antis – he is reborn each spring as a tree. So you can see this barely matches anything to do with Jesus Christ at all and this is the best cherry-picking of all the data to try and point out that Christianity copied these myths when we see that they’re nothing like the gospel accounts of Jesus Christ. 

The scholar Jonathan Smith in the Encyclopedia of Religion says this: All the deities that have been identified as belonging to the class of dying and rising deities can be subsumed under the two larger classes of disappearing deities or dying deities. In the first case, the deities return but they had not died and in the second case, the gods die but do not return. There is no unambiguous instance in the histories of religions of a dying and rising deity so in none of these religions outside of Christianity do you have death and resurrection. 

I’d like to quote, by giving you a bit of an illustration from the lives of Abraham Lincoln and John F Kennedy, presidents of America. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to cherry-pick the data from their lives and we’re going to twist some of it so that it fits our theory and then we’re going to draw our conclusion. Both presidents were elected to Congress in 46. Both presidents were elected to the presidency in 60. Lincoln and Kennedy’s names each have seven letters. Both were concerned with civil rights. Both in their 30s married wives in their 20s who spoke French. Both presidents were shot on a Friday. Both were shot in the head. Both were shot in the presence of their wives. Lincoln’s secretary called Kennedy warned him not to go to the theater. Kennedy’s secretary called Lincoln and warned him not to go to Dallas. Both were assassinated by Southerners. Both were succeeded by Southerners. Both successors were named Johnson. Both successors were born in 1908. Both assassins, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, were born in 1939. Both assassins were known by three names. Each assassin’s name is composed of 15 letters. Oswald ran from a warehouse and was caught in a theater. Booth ran from a theater and was caught in a warehouse or at least a barn. Both Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials with a Colt revolver. So there you have it, all these parallels between Lincoln and Kennedy. And so that obviously means that John F Kennedy never existed.