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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label Zeitgeist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zeitgeist. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Six Errors Jesus Mythicists Repeatedly Make

The fact that Jesus lived 2,000 years ago in Palestine and a following grew out of his teachings is evident. Even Bart Ehrman, as skeptical as the come about the claims of Christianity, has stated that no one should doubt “what virtually every sane historian on the planet — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, agnostic, atheist, what have you — has come to conclude based on a range of compelling historical evidence. Whether we like it or not, Jesus certainly existed.”1

Yet, the Jesus-Myth proponents continue to make the charge that Jesus didn't exist or that perhaps someone named Jesus existed, but the Gospel accounts were created out of the whole cloth of dying-and-rising god myths popular in the ancient world. Certainly the Internet has spread their charges beyond what one would reasonably expect. It's much like the villagers in the story of the Emperor's New Clothes; they want to believe these links so badly, that they fail to see the reality that nothing is there. In that vein, I'd like to offer six different ways the fashion statement of mythicism fails.

1. One Size Fits All — Combinationism

This is one of the biggest errors of the Zeitgeist movie and charges like it. It basically takes all the different mystery sects from 1500B.C. to 500 A.D. and blends them together them together, claiming they all had a consistent belief of gods dying and rising again. They argue that this is some kind of an established, coherent overarching set of beliefs from which Christianity borrowed.

However, if anyone bothers to actually read the details of the different faiths mentioned, one will find vast differences in their foundational understanding of life, death, and existence beyond death. Even with in faiths like Mithraism, it had evolved greatly over that 2000 year time span.2 To say that Christianity stole this belief or that one from a religion like Mithraism when those beliefs weren't necessarily even regarded as part of that system any longer (or had yet to be developed) is ridiculous.

2. Calling a Kleenex a Kerchief — Equivocation

Basically, this error occurs when a critic distorts the teaching of the mystery religion by using Christian language to describe a belief - and then claiming that Christianity stole from it because the beliefs read similarly. The concept of baptism in Egyptian mythology centers around the Nile's supposed physical power to heal while baptism in Christianity focuses on the sin nature of the individual. This happens over and over, where the mystery practice is usually something completely different in intent or symbolism than what Christian understand it to mean, but it is made to sound similar for impact value.

3. If It's on Your Shoulders, It's a Jacket — Oversimplification

Many critics will find something kind of like a resurrection story and then try to demonstrate how Christianity borrowed from this type of belief. Usually, this is at the expense of many crucial details that really differentiate the myth from the historic Christian account. For example, Zeitgeist claims that Horus was “crucified, buried for 3 days, and thus, resurrected.” In the actual myth, Horus is a young child who is revived from a scorpion sting by another god that wielded the magic to do so. It's nothing like Jesus' claim to have the power to take his own life up again. Also, many of these stories aggrandize the myth more than is necessary.

4. Invisible Accessories — Misrepresenting Biblical Facts

Horus was born on December 25th? Were they using the Julian calendar system in ancient Egypt? The Gospels themselves don't tell us when Jesus was born. December 25 cam later, and was probably based on a completely different paradigm. Horus' birth was visited by Three Wise men? Where does the Bible say three? There are three gifts mentioned, but no number of wise men is cited. Plus they came up to two years after Jesus' birth. The mythicists misrepresent the Biblical accounts and then try to make the other myths similar.

5. Who's the Designer? — Direction of Influence

Simply because there is an element in an Eastern religion as well as in Christianity, it is wrong to assume the Christians must have borrowed from the Eastern tradition. This happens many times when the religion's founder lived before Jesus. However, as I said in point #1, these faiths were themselves not static. They picked up a lot of influences across the centuries, especially when they came in contact with competing belief systems. Christianity was so aggressive in its spread over the Roman Empire and Asia, many of these religions tended to adopt Christian symbols and practice in order to make their religion look more appealing to stop losing converts to Christians. Anthropologists see this by looking into the various practices of those religions and noting that a feature similar to Christianity wasn't recorded or mentioned in any writing until after the Christian era had proliferated. As Ronald Nash notes concerning Mithraism, “The timing is all wrong. The flowering of Mithraism occurred after the close of the New Testament canon, too late for it to have influenced the development of first century Christianity.”3

6. Where's the Designer Label? — Missing Citations/Support

Lastly, one should always ask for support for the claims made by the mythicists of the features of their myths. Who says that these things are true? How do you know Horus was baptized or raised after three days? Have you read the actual myth? What verification do you have that you understood the cult's beliefs accurately? This is one of the most crucial questions to ask, since reading the myths themselves will usually be enough to show that any supposed parallels to the life of Jesus are either minor or non-existent.

The primary message of Christianity is vastly different from the pagan myths that preceded it. As Nash explains:
None of these so-called savior-gods died for someone else. The notion of the Son of God dying in place of His creatures is unique to Christianity. Only Jesus died for sin. It is never claimed that any pagan deity died for sin. As Wagner observes, to none of the pagan gods “has the intention of helping men been attributed. That sort of death that they died is quite different (hunting death, self-emasculation, etc.)4


1. Ehrman, Bart D. "Did Jesus Exist?" The Huffington Post., 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 July 2015.
2. Esposito, Lenny. "Did Christianity Steal From Mithraism?" Come Reason Ministries, 01 Nov. 2001. Web. 29 July 2015.
3. Nash, Ronald H. The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2003. Print.
4. Nash, 2003. 160.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Horus vs Jesus in the Zeitgeist Movie (video)

The Zeitgeist movie makes the claim that the stories of Jesus are just copies of the ancient Egyptian dying and rising myth of Horus. The film lists several supposed similarities between the two stories in an attempt to prove that the Gospels were simply fabricated from pre-existing material. In this video clip below, Lenny compares the actual myth of Horus to the Gospel accounts and you can see how the claims of similarity quickly fades away.

Watch the clip below:

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Is Easter Pagan? Part 3 - Historical Documentation

This week, we've been looking at the claim that Easter is somehow a celebration with pagan roots. I've previously talked about how such a claim looks very superficially at the supposed similarities and ignores the distinctions. I've also discussed how pagan religious rituals would be considered abominable to the first century Jews who make up the adherents of the early church. On this second point some may argue that it wasn't the Jewish followers of Jesus that incorporated pagan influences, but it was the Gentiles who did so years afterward.

The problem with such a claim is that it ignores the incredible historical evidence we have for the resurrection. Unlike many pagan celebrations, such as the Mithraic rites which were so secretive we really don't have any written documentation about them at all, save some mentions by outsiders or artwork on walls. No books or scrolls exist. The resurrection, on the other hand, is incredibly well documented and its historical roots are strong.

4. The Historical Documentation of the Resurrection Accounts

Of course most people are aware that all four gospels are written with the event as their climax, and each Gospel dates to between thirty and sixty years of the resurrection itself. That means that when the gospels were being circulated, people were alive who could testify to the truthfulness of the accounts they contain. There really isn't much time for pagan myths to "creep into" the stories. Suggestions by skeptics such as Heather McDougall that "the Sumerian goddess Inanna, or Ishtar, was hung naked on a stake, and was subsequently resurrected and ascended from the underworld" somehow influence the resurrection accounts are laughable when you consider that:
  1. Crucifixion was a real punishment inflicted on Jews by Romans in the first century (and we can know that for certain).
  2.  Attracting others to your belief system by saying they were crucified was about as attractive as asking a French revolutionary to follow someone beheaded in the guillotine. Rome used crucifixion as a deterrent because of its abhorrence by the general public.
  3. The concept of the resurrection wasn't one that people of the ancient world took to immediately. For an example of this, just look to Paul's sermon on Mars' Hill. Luke tells us, "Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this'" (verse 32). That's not what I would call a rousing endorsement. The idea of anyone being resurrected was just as incredulous to those in Paul's day as it is today. Paul has made a pretty strong case to a crowd who he says were" very religious in all things" (v.22). Yet even they mocked the initial notion of the resurrection. Again, this is not an attractive aspect if you are trying to convert Gentiles.
However, the earliest documented mention of the resurrection is none of those found in the gospels. As I've written before, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, which contains the full creedal basis for the belief in the resurrection, is dated to within a few years of Jesus' death and resurrection itself. Paul even says that there are saints who were eyewitnesses to the resurrection who were still alive; the Corinthians could go and ask them themselves! There are other signs of the resurrection accounts as historical, but these should be enough to dispel the concept of the resurrection accounts to be corrupted by pagan myths. Tomorrow, we'll finish up this series by touching on some various incongruities of McDougall's claims. Until then, keep thinking!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Is Easter Pagan? Part 2 - What Do You Get When You Cross a Jew with...

Yesterday, I began a series looking at the claims made by some skeptics that Easter celebrations have their roots in pagan holidays and customs. My goal for these posts is to not dig into a ton of research to disprove these kinds of accusations, but to so you how, given a little time of reflection and focused thought, you can answer such claims without so much as an Internet search. Hopefully, this will give you a bit of confidence and help Christians to become better and more careful thinkers over the plethora of "Google Scholars" that simply add a lot of noise to the channel.

As an example of the "Easter is Pagan" claim, we've been looking at an article written by Heather McDougall that appeared in The UK newspaper, The Guardian. Let's look at a second paragraph from that article:
The Sumerian goddess Inanna, or Ishtar, was hung naked on a stake, and was subsequently resurrected and ascended from the underworld. One of the oldest resurrection myths is Egyptian Horus. Born on 25 December, Horus and his damaged eye became symbols of life and rebirth. Mithras was born on what we now call Christmas day, and his followers celebrated the spring equinox. Even as late as the 4th century AD, the sol invictus, associated with Mithras, was the last great pagan cult the church had to overcome. Dionysus was a divine child, resurrected by his grandmother. Dionysus also brought his mum, Semele, back to life."

2. Too much of everything leads to nothing

The first thing that should stand out to you as a red flag is how McDougall lists Sumerian, Egyptian, Roman, Baylonian, and Greek religions all as sources to the single holiday of Easter. There's something incredulous when one finds that the "real" origins of a very specific and detailed event (the death and resurrection of Jesus) has so many points of origin. It reminds me of when I was a little kid and I used to go to the soft drink fountain to create a "suicide," If you mix enough of everything together, all the distinctive tastes blur and what comes out is bland. Put a lot of various paints in a can and you won't get a vibrant color, but they meld into a dingy brown.

However, McDougall seems to think that everything that has even an inkling of parallel to the resurrection story is proof that the resurrection accounts are derived from that story (a concept we covered a bit more last time.) But religious rituals are not so easily changed, regardless of the ritual's cultural base. The reason a ritual works is because it is passed down. Religious rituals are taken even more seriously. Any changes would have to be shown with some pretty compelling evidence to back it up. McDougall has thrown out a Zeitgeist-type wild claim, but she will need to do more than simply make the claim. We will discuss more on this tomorrow, but the concept of changing religious understanding does lead me into my third point.

3. Jesus, His Followers, and His Detractors Were all Jewish

I don't know if it escaped McDougall's notice, but everyone agrees that Jesus was a first century Jew living in the Jewish state when Judaism was in full swing. Post-exile Judaism would be the de facto worldview for Jesus, His followers, his audience, and even His detractors, such as the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees. Anyone who knows anything about ancient Judaism knows how strict the Jews were not to have anything to do with pagan gods.

This point is underlined in the gospels when the Pharisees try to trap Jesus in asking Him whether they should pay taxes to Caesar or not. You remember the Pharisees, right? They are those people who took the Jewish faith so seriously that they would place a strainer on their wine glasses lest they ingest a gnat and violate the Jewish prohibition against swallowing an animal with its blood. The Pharisees question Jesus on giving money to Caesar as a violation of the Old Testament law. Jesus deftly answers "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." Jesus kept His Jewish understanding of serving only Yahweh intact while also showing the flaw in their thinking.

So, would a Jewish audience, one who is so attuned to the strict adherence of their faith that they would die rather than be forced to worship any other god really buy into a story that is perhaps Sumerian in origin? Do you think the Jews would recognize pagan myths that were popular in their day? Do you really think that Jesus or His Jewish disciples would invent such stories in order to gain adherents? The concept is preposterous! This would go over about as well as going to an Orthodox rabbi today and trying to convince him that the messiah is really Mohammad and Islam is Judaism fulfilled.

Tomorrow, I will look at the historical aspects of the resurrection accounts as my final point on why these claims are ridiculous. Until then, keep thinking!
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