Jesus and paganism

Hi all. Some atheists say that the story of Jesus is copied from earlier pagan myths. For example, the myth of the Roman goddess Isis and her son Horus. Is there any evidence for this point of view?

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Absolutely none.


They’re Egyptian. The mother-son dynamic covers over half of humanity. Easily two thirds. That’s how we’re copied.

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Now do you want to know why?

There may be echoes or shared cultural allusions in some of the formulations but the basic life and death of Jesus, ignoring the virgin birth, is not patterned off of such accounts. What interest do fiercely monotheistic, first-century Jews have with “dying and rising savior gods” or of a crucified messiah? They were expecting a Davidic king who would liberate them from Rome. Not one who would be executed as a criminal by Rome in a very shameful manner. The crucifixion of Jesus is not something that was invented. It is a brute fact of history. This is a poor attempt to discredit Christianity. The cross was foolishness to Jews and folly to Gentiles.


Inspiring Philosophy has a you tube video addressing some of the claims made about Horus and the simple answer is there is zero evidence for any of the claims.

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It’s not the crucifixion in itself they’re objecting to so strongly, rather the resurrection. It was brought up not so long ago on another thread, some other legends of half god half men coming back to life, the ultimate under dog stories.
And a lot would disagree with you about IT being a brute fact of history, as you know.

I have a question for you:
You begin your post by saying that:

Who are “the atheists” who are saying what you say they are saying?
Name them, if you can.

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No it’s both in my experience. The “dying and rising god” trope had fallen on hard times and is perpetuated outside of mainline critical scholarship. It’s advocated by Jesus mythicists which is a very fringe and extremist position. They deny the whole kit and kaboodle.

And when you say a lot would disagree with IT being a brute fact, do you mean the resurrection or the crucifixion? I don’t know any serious scholars in NT studies that denies the crucifixion. The historical evidence is rock solid.

The resurrection cannot be demonstrated on historical grounds. Supernatural miracles, by definition, are the most improbable events there are. History seeks to reconstruct what is most probable. There is a methodological conflict here.

Every historical (actually apologetical) argument for the resurrection of Jesus is nothing more than special pleading based on poor; uncritical historical arguments.

On purely historical grounds, the belief that people lied, made a mistake or had a mass hallucination is inherently more probable than thinking a body actually recomposed or that irreversible scientific processes reversed after a person was fully dead for several days.

The 2,000 year old documents we possess are not good enough to prove supernatural miracles for anyone who is not prone to confirmation bias. William Lane Craig arguments just tell pew warmers what they want to hear:



Some books by Joseph Campbell touch up on it. I don’t think it matters either way. As mentioned, we as humans share a lot of things in common. Ever had a unique thought that came to your head, only to find out others have already had it.

But in general, I don’t think much of it is actually borrowed. Unless you are talking about how the Jewish faith borrowed myths from other cultures, and those myths worked their way into the stories Christ or the apostles told and ect…

Joseph Campbell has some good talks recorded and released as podcasts. Another podcast, Skeleton Key, dogs into myths and modern people. It’s pretty fun. They talk about the tropes and so on.

Such as Jesus fits the archetype of “corn king.” I think much of it is just parallels and not necessarily copying.

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hi Terry. I saw a post on Facebook, there were no specific names. But as far as I know, Richard Carrier claimed something similar.

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  • Thanks. Richard Carrier, eh? I don’t know many names “among the atheists”. Maybe it’s time that I learned something new.
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yes, his name is Richard Carrier

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Thinking it through, I actually had both in mind. To clarify, there certainly were crucifixions happening at the time, the question is whether THE crucifixion happened to THAT Jesus. And to make it clear, I’m not expecting scientific/historical evidence for resurrection, even if there was the best evidence there could be, it could still be denied, I know this.

So you say historical evidence for Jesus and crucifixion is rock solid, so why are there atheists (and not just them) who deny it? Aren’t they claiming to be the reasonable ones who follow evidence? So why is it that they just deny it so easily? Doesn’t that bother you?

What’s that? I tried searching it, but all that comes up is a documentary claiming Americans eat too much corn :corn: lol

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If I’m not mistaken, there haven’t been any similar tales dated to before Jesus’s time. There’s been loads that are dated to AFTER, but none before. So, no.

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What’s “fun” is that nobody noticed–as far as I know–until Godfrey Higgins (1771–1834, Gerald
Massey (1828–1908), Alvin Boyd Kuhn (1881–1963), Tom Harpur (1929–2017), and the two clowns: Bill Maher and Larry Childs.

I view Jesus mythicism on the internet as akin to thinking the lunar landing was a hoax, the earth is flat or Christians who think the earth is 6,000 years old and there were penguins on the ark. The point is despite evidence being incontrovertible for many things, lots of people find ways to disagree with it. The idea that a historical Jesus did not exist is one of them. It is a fringe belief.

Now if by “historical Jesus” we mean Jesus said and did everything in the four canonical Gospels which are extremely reliable and accurate in all that they affirm, then it is vastly reasonable to disagree with that assertion. In fact, the majority of NT scholarship does that. Evangelicals mainly teach in seminaries. Universities are generally run by a different type of scholar. So when I say critical scholarship I mean the universities, not the theology schools where the teachers have to sign strict creedal confessions each year).

Critical New Testament scholars have long recognized the problems with using the four gospels as historical documents. One has to vet them and judge material individually after fully evaluating the nature of the source, the author’s theological hobbyhorses and so on. Take for example Judas iscariot. Did he witness Jesus walking on water, controlling the weather, multiplying loaves and fish twice, raising people from the dead, stilling the storm, performing exorcism after exorcism, supernatural healing after supernatural healing and countering and silencing the Jewish teachers repeatedly with his exegetical prowess? You want me to believe Judas betrayed that rock star for 30 pieces of silver? I’m not buying it. But if the gospels are embellished and the healings of Jesus are exaggerated, within the conventions of the time, and they most certainly are, then a close follower betraying Jesus is a painfully real possibility many of us have dealt with such a thing on our own life. Not only that but Judas becomes a powerful witness for the historicity of the crucifixion. Why on earth would any Christian invent the notion that Jesus, their Lord and savior chose a man to be one of the twelve apostles that actually betrayed him? They wouldn’t but since it happened what they would do is claim that Jesus knew all along (I think John) or that it “had to happen according to the scriptures.” There is theological damage control in the gospels. You don’t invent the source of your own problems.

So in the end, I am not sure what you mean. When I say the historical Jesus and is crucifixion is certain I mean what critical scholars mean: he lived in the first third of the first century, he was considered a miracle worker and teacher, he amassed a following and called disciples, he was crucified by Pontius Pilate, belief in him continued after his death, and some of his earliest followers claimed to have seen Him resurrected.

To this many questers would add specifics such as a brother named James, betrayal of some sort by a close follower, baptism by John (why subject Jesus to a baptism for the remission of sin if its not historical) the institution of the twelve, and for many the imminent eschatology that turned out to be mistaken…

But sometimes these arguments are disputed on historical grounds. Thinking it was embarrassing for Jesus to undergo a baptism by John for the remission of sin is only embarrassing if we assume the early church thought Jesus was sinless. The later church and we Christians today do, but that doesn’t qualify as a historical argument. In the earliest Gospel jesus says “why do you call me good only God alone is good.” But even then, most think Jesus probably started off as a follower of JBap and then branched off on his own and that is used to explain the Gospel traditions on historical grounds. The sky, the dove, the voice from heaven, usually viewed as theological damage control.

It bothers me that they do not know Jesus like I do. I wish everyone did. But I find people disagree with what I think all the time and people usually aways attempt to justify what they believe in. But claiming there was no Galilean rabbi from Nazareth who started a movement and died on a roman cross and denying the full gospel portrait is historical are two very different things. The latter is reasonable, the former is not. There are fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist (militant) atheists on the internet. In my experience, both groups woefully misunderstand critical New Testament scholarship.

Jesus mythicism claims there was some cosmic Christ that was historicized. Not that here was a Galilean rabbi with a high view of himself that was deified. Their entire argument is based on the silence of the epistles to mention concrete details about Jesus. No parables, no sayings, no reference to Gospel stories and so on. Why is there such a silence in all these letters on the earthly deeds of Jesus? Why do they not appeal to the words of Christ to settle matters? This is a tremendous observation and a point worth serious attention. It has been known to scholars for a long time.

But there are references in the Pauline corpus. So they then dispute it. Paul calls Jesus of the seed of David, mentions his brother James, the last supper, a teaching on divorce, and the cross and his appearances amongst other things I can’t remember. All of this is reinterpreted and sometimes wiped away. James is his spiritual brother, the saying on divorce is attributed to the “Lord” by Paul, not tradition Paul received, Jesus being of the seed of David is some cosmic-sperm bank in space view, the evidence of the Jewish historian Josephus in 93 CE and Roman historian Tacitus (ca 115) don’t count because they just repeat the conventional knowledge of Jews and Christians at the time, the gospel of Mark is more or less pure fiction, if there was a Q, it wasn’t about Jesus or was about a man merged with the cosmic Christ, John is almost always seen as dependent on the synoptics, the NT gospels are usually dated later than mainline scholarship does (mainline = 65-100) etc. They end up starting with what they see as an inexplicable silence (yes the whole enterprise is built on an argument from silence!) and force everything to fit into that paradigm. What they become is apologists backpedaling up a never ending hill. The atheist version of inerrancy touting evangelicals.

The truth is Paul knows James, the brother of the Lord shortly after the death of Jesus. He met with him and Peter. This same brother mentioned in the Gospels and also in Josephus who references James admiringly when he refers to him as the brother of the so called Christ. Does that sound like a favorable reference to Jesus? Triple independent testimony of source and form (gospel, epistle and historiography), and one by a non-Christian that a man named Jesus had a brother named James. Paul by his own autobiographically testimony says that he met him. This alone is more than an enough historical evidence to believe it highly probably Jesus existed. Doesn’t tell us much about him but the thesis that a cosmic Christ was historicized as a lowly rabbi from Nazareth is absurd. It is so much easier to make sense of the material that survives by supposing embellishment in the other direction. We can actually see this happening when we look at the changes Matthew and Luke make to Mark in copying his Gospel.



What didn’t they notice? I’m guessing all these guys you just listed are atheists?

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I think he was going for Christ-myth proponents.

Modern day you would read Wells (he thinks two streams were merged), Carrier, Doherty, Price and if you want to go deep down the rabbit hole Acharya S.

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hi Vinnie. As a Christian, the question that worries me is: if part of the gospel is fiction and part of the gospel is embellished, is it trustworthy? How do we know what is true and what is fiction? What if the Resurrection of Jesus is also fiction? How do you answer this question for yourself? Thank you!

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