Skeptics often claim that the story of Jesus in the Bible is a copy of ancient pagan myths. We are told that ancient pagan gods were born of a virgin, had 12 disciples, rose from the dead, etc. This is supposed to be true of Horus, Osiris, and others. Allegedly, the writers of the Bible copied these stories and created one more myth about Jesus. So do the gospel accounts in the Bible have strong parallels with ancient pagan myths?
In a word, no. If we discount the common things that are common to almost all beings (lived, died, had parents, etc.), then there is quite little that parallels these accounts. The accounts are very different, so different as to make one wonder why in the world would people who claim to be critical thinkers not take the time to research the issue a bit? It appears that they do not want to believe in Jesus, and hang onto any rumor that comes down the pipe.
Several places have documented the differences:
- KingDavid8 site, which is documented well, is here. He compares the Biblical accounts of Jesus to every pagan god story he can find, and has had a standing offer of $1000 for anyone who can show documentation that the ancient god myths parallel the stories of Jesus (resurrection, etc.). So far, no one has turned up any primary references that prove their point.
- Tektonics, which provides an excellent comparison complete with sources for the ancient myth stories, showing that they do not align with the Bible. Tektonics is here.
- The Divine Evidence site, which provides a quite lengthy description of several of the major pagan deities and compares them with Jesus. The site is here.
- Confident Christianity, which provides several articles documenting the lack of comparison between ancient myths and Jesus. The site is here. (look under ‘articles’)
Also see the following books:
- Pre-Christian Gnosticism, A Survey of the Proposed Evidences by Edwin Yamauchi.
- The Gospels And The Greeks, by Ronald Nash.
Added to this non-issue we often see the skeptical / atheist bluster, ad-hominem, and straw man arguments, which seem to get a lot of influence with people who do not want to believe in Christ in the first place.
What many of the people who claim this ancient myth connection fail to realize seems to be rather troublesome to their theory. If what they claim is true, that the ancient myths paralleled Jesus so closely and Christianity was one more copy in a line of many, then why would the ancient world latch on to Christianity so much? That Christianity grew exponentially is undeniable even by the most anti-religious historian. So if the writers of the New Testament copied the story so closely from already known religious themes, then Jesus would be just another also-ran religion that looked like the previous one, and there would be no reason at all for huge numbers of the Roman empire to put themselves to death in the Colosseum when all they had to do is deny Jesus. In this regard, the myth connection theory makes no sense.
Another common error in these type of theories is guilt by association, which is a fallacy. If an ancient pagan religion used an image of a woman with a baby, and Christianity uses an image of a woman with a baby, then obviously they must have borrowed from the earlier one. Well no, sorry, it does not work like that. Lining up common, everyday things like this really does not prove anything. It is no surprise that two people in history had a father, was born, was a man, had followers, and died a violent death. Massive numbers of people fit into this category.
The bottom line is this: there is not any good comparison between the stories of ancient pagan gods and the account of Jesus in the Bible. I am reminded of the quote from C. S. Lewis, a tenured professor of literature at Oxford and Cambridge:
“All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that’s my job. . . And I’m prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legend or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I’ve read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff.”
The evidence shows that the Bible is trustworthy, and an accurate historical account of the life of Jesus.