Was the Story of Jesus Just Plagiarism?
Several months ago, I was asked a rather significant question concerning the life of Jesus Christ. While being interviewed on an interactive podcast episode, I heard voiced the concern of a good number of respondents suggesting that the biblical biography of Jesus was actually the reconstruction of multiple pagan folklore. This theory is nothing new. It is the outworking of biblical critics arguing that the account of Jesus’ life found in the Gospel writings is simply a work of mythological plagiarism. Earl Doherty, in his writing “An American and Atheist Novelist on the History of Religious Ideas”, contends the New Testament account of the virgin birth, the multiple miracles of Jesus, and most significantly the resurrection of Christ from the dead, were simply repackaged stories previously told in heathen cultures.
There can be no doubt that such a conclusion is an utter alteration of both biblical and secular facts. Biblical antagonists attempt to parallel the virgin birth of Christ with several accounts in infidel writing and Greek mythology. In these respective narratives it is stated that male Greek deities descended on planet earth for the purpose of having sex with human women. The product of this tawdry relationship was the birth of hybrid human offspring. How this even remotely resembles the story of Jesus Christ outlined in the Bible is beyond my powers of deduction!
As Christianity enjoyed explosive growth in the Roman society during the third and fourth centuries, many cult and pagan leaders sought a way to counter the success of the Church. A man by the name of Julian the Apostate, emperor of Rome, rejected this growing Christian influence. He, however, recognized an overt denunciation of the faith would not necessarily be the most effective means of quelling the movement. He was very aware that the persecution of the church by previous Roman Emperors only strengthened the resolve and dedication of Christians. Consequently, Julian concluded that the introduction of counterfeit religious narratives would dilute the potency of the Christian message – particularly the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From this strategy came the emergence, and resurgence in some cases, of stories that purportedly documented the resurrection of other gods.
Recently, it has again become popular to propose that Christianity was influenced by ancient Roman mystery religions. One pagan character popular among advocates of this idea is Attis, a Phrygian god associated with vegetation and companion of the goddess Cybele. Attis is claimed by some to have been born of a virgin on December 25th, crucified on a tree and resurrected from the dead in a way comparable to Jesus Christ. While those fundamentals may sound parallel to the Biblical account, a closer examination reveals there is no evidence for such claims. There are NO eyewitness testimonies to such an event. The most scrupulous minds of academia state this story is merely a work of lore. While the veneration of Attis first appeared in 1250 B.C., again let me state that no uniform or consistent teaching of his life was ever substantiated. As a matter of fact, the details of Attis’ death are both numerous and fanciful. One such version states that Attis was castrated by his lover for acts of infidelity, and then committed suicide through self-mutilation. Interestingly enough, this story only appeared in published form some three to four hundred years after Jesus Christ. Another version of this tale states that Attis was turned into a tree by Cybele after his death! Yet another alternative account of his death says that flowers supposedly grow from his blood spilled on the ground. The blood, though, does not affect any person who is disinterested in flowers. I could go on an on, but I think that is enough said.
Whether the stories detail the lives of Attis, Osiris, Adonis, or others, scholarly opinion has turned dramatically from these teachings of Hellenistic paganism. Such mythological resurrection ALWAYS involves nonhistorical, fictional characters that lived “once upon a time.” This is a stark dissimilarity to the historical Jesus – His life validated not only by the Bible, but numerous secular writers as well.