Among skeptics today, this seems to be one of the most popular objections to Jesus. They say the story of Jesus is merely a copycat myth based on many ancient pagan religious "gods", like Horus, Mithras, Osiris, Dionysis etc. They even go as far as to say that it is doubtful that Jesus even existed! The idea here is by comparing similarities of these individuals we can draw the conclusion that the one who came after is simply a copycat.
The most well-known attempt at making this connection is a "documentary" called Zeitgeist - The Greatest Story Ever Sold that has gone viral on the web. According to "Zeitgeist," the Egyptian sun God, Horus:
- Was born on December 25th of the virgin Isis.
- His birth was accompanied by a star in the east which, in turn, three kings followed to locate and adore the new-born savior.
- At the age of 12 he was a prodigal child teacher.
- At the age of 30 was baptized by a figure known as Adep, and thus began his ministry.
- Horus had 12 disciples who he traveled about with 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.
In addition to Horus, Zeitgeist makes similar claims concerning:
- Attis (1200 B.C.) - Born of a virgin on December 25th, was crucified, was dead for three days and resurrected.
- Krishna (900 B.C.) - Born of a virgin with a star in the east to signal his birth, performed miracles, died, and was resurrected.
- Dionysus (500 B.C.) - Born of a virgin on December 25, performed miracles like turning water into wine, was referred to as "the King of Kings" and "god's only begotten son," died, and was resurrected.
- Mithras (1200 B.C.) - Born of a virgin on December 25, had 12 disciples, performed miracles, was dead for three days and resurrected, was known as "the Truth" and "The Life," and was worshipped on Sunday.
Check the Facts
The very first thing that we need to do is check the facts. This should just go without saying: just because something appears in a movie or is on the internet doesn't necessarily make it credible. (That includes this website.) My response to these claims is primarily a skeptical one. Is this information correct? Well, if you do more research, you will find counter-claims concerning these supposed "gods".
- There is no record Osiris rose bodily from the dead.
- There is no evidence of an account of a bodily resurrection of Attis.
- Horus was not born of a virgin, but was the son of Osiris and Isis.
- Mithras was not born of a virgin, but emerged from a rock, and there is no textual evidence of his death, so there could be no resurrection.
- Krishna was his mother's eighth son, so his virgin birth is kind of unlikely.
- There is no evidence for a virgin birth of Dionysus.
- Neither the Bible nor Christianity claim Jesus was born on December 25th, so any parallels with ancient myths are completely inconsequential. The date was chosen by Emperor Aurelian in the third century.
So who should we believe? We should weigh all of the evidence and consider the sources themselves. I have concluded that there is no good evidence for the authenticity of any ancient mythological characters and their deeds, but there is an abundance of such evidence for Jesus. Where do you want to place your trust? In the time-tested reliability of the Holy Scriptures we call the Bible, or in some rather sketchy documentation by those who may have an axe to grind against the one who claims to be their creator and judge of their souls? At the very least, the skeptics who make these claims appear to be rather unreliable. The claim that Jesus is a copy of mythological gods originated with authors whose works have been discounted by academia, and cannot compare to the New Testament Gospels, which have withstood nearly 2,000 years of intense scrutiny. The alleged parallels between Jesus and other gods disappear when the original myths are examined. For more information on the reliability of the Bible, please visit Is the Bible True?
Check the Dates
- Many mythical accounts of dying and rising gods actually postdate the time of Christ:
- There is no evidence of the influence of Mithraism in the Roman Empire until the end of the first century A.D.
- The sacrifice of a bull by some Mithraists allegedly mimicking the substitutionary atonement of Christ first shows up in the second century A.D.
- The four texts that cite the resurrection of Adonis date from the second to fourth centuries A.D.
- The account of the miraculous birth of Zoroaster dates to the ninth century A.D.
The Fallacy of the False Cause
If one thing comes prior to another, some conclude that the first thing must have caused the second. This is the fallacy of the false cause. A rooster crows at the rising of the sun, but that doesn't mean that the rooster has caused the sun to rise. Even if pre-Christian accounts of mythological gods closely resembled Christ (and they do not), it does not mean they caused the Gospel writers to invent a false Jesus. Christianity gains its source from Judaism, not Greek mythology. Jesus, Paul, and the apostles appeal to the Old Testament, and you find direct teachings and fulfillments in the New Testament. Teachings such as one God, blood atonement for sin, salvation by grace, sinfulness of mankind, bodily resurrection, are sourced in Judaism and foreign to Greek mythology. The idea of resurrection was not taught in any Greek mythological work prior to the late second century A.D. Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus (Joplin, MO.: College Press Publishing, 1997), 34.
John F. Kennedy Was Simply a Copycat Of Abraham Lincoln
I have borrowed this comparison from Alan Anderson. He makes the point that by cherry-picking information we can relate any individual to just about any other person. Look at these parallels between President Abraham Lincoln and President John F. Kennedy:
- Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846. John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.
- Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860. John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.
- "Lincoln" and "Kennedy" each have seven letters in their names.
- Lincoln had a secretary name Kennedy; Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln
- Both married, in their thirties, a 24 year-old socially prominent girl who could speak fluent French.
- Both Presidents dealt with civil rights movements for African-Americans
- Both Presidents were assassinated on a Friday, in the back of the head, before a major holiday, while sitting next to their wives.
- Both their assassins were known by three names consisting of 15 letters (John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald).
- Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and was captured in a theater; Booth shot Lincoln in a theater and was captured in a warehouse.
- Both assassins were shot and killed with a Colt revolver days after they assassinated the president before they could be brought to trial.
- Both presidents were succeeded by vice presidents named Johnson, from the South, born in 1808 and 1908 respectfully
By viewing these parallels, would you change your mind on whether President John F. Kennedy was actually a president or whether the actual historical records were accurate about his existence? No rational person would. While these parallels are coincidental, they have no bearing on the historicity of either of their presidencies.
- This claim contains information that is unreliable.
- This claim has an abundance of data that actually postdates Christianity.
- This claim fails to recognize the influence of Judaism on Christianity, rather than pagan mythology.
- This claim fails to explain the positive evidence for Jesus' resurrection.
- Using the logic and methodology of this claim, we could conclude that President John F. Kennedy didn't actually exist, rather he was simply a copycat of a former president named Abraham Lincoln.