A comparison of beliefs about Jesus'
life events by Christians and others
Quotations, mostly from ancient theologians and modern
"The devil, whose business is to pervert the truth, mimics
the exact circumstances of the Divine Sacraments...Thus he celebrates
the oblation of bread, and brings in the symbol of the resurrection.
Let us therefore acknowledge the craftiness of the devil, who copies
certain things of those that be Divine." Tertullian, late 2nd
century CE, commenting on the many similarities between Mithraism and
"...are our..[beliefs] to be accounted myths and
theirs [the Christians'] believed? What reasons do the Christians give
for the distinctiveness of their beliefs? In truth, there is nothing
at all unusual about what the Christians believe..." Celsus,
late 2nd century CE, commenting
on the similarities between the beliefs of Christians and followers of
"He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood,
so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not
know salvation." An inscription to Mithras which parallels
"Jesus is a mythical figure in the tradition of
pagan mythology and almost nothing in all of ancient literature would
lead one to believe otherwise. Anyone wanting to believe Jesus lived
and walked as a real live human being must do so despite the evidence,
not because of it." C. Dennis McKinsey, author of "The
Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy"
"There is not a conception associated with Christ that is not common to some or
all of the Savior cults of antiquity." J.M. Robertson (1856-1933)
There are not many religious topics that are more controversial than whether
some of the life events of Jesus were not historically accurate but were derived
from myths about saviors, heroes, and god-men from nearby Pagan religions.
To many conservative Christians, the question is ridiculous;
it is not even worth investigating. Even this essay's title would
probably be considered to be blasphemy. They view the gospels, and the
rest of the Bible, as very different from ordinary books. They believe
that the gospels are the inerrant,
Word of God. Thus, nothing in the gospels could have originated in
myths from Pagan and other religions. The gospels describe Jesus' life, from his conception to ascension
precisely as it unfolded circa 5 BCE to circa 30 CE. There
certainly were beliefs about Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and
other Pagan heroes, saviors and god-men circulating in 1st century
However, material in the gospels could not have come from those
sources. God inspired Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul
in their writing, preventing them from making any errors.
The incorporation of legends from Pagan and other religions would not have
To many very liberal, progressive, and post Christians, the question is
definitely worth studying.
If one places the four Gospels in chronological order (Mark, circa 79 CE)
Matthew, Luke, John circa 100 CE) and read them with no preconceived beliefs
about the nature of Jesus, it is obvious to many persons that the story of
Jesus evolved from that of an itinerant teacher-healer to a man-god.
Many non-Christian religions -- Pagan and
others -- permeated the Mediterranean region during the 1st
century CE. There were numerous male heroes, saviors and
god-men within Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Hindu, and other pantheons
of Gods whose lives had many points of similarities to Jesus. Of these,
the Egyptian God Horus probably had life
events attributed to him which were closest match to those of Jesus.
Yet, Horus was worshipped in Egypt thousands of years before the first
century CE when Jesus is believed to have been
conducting his ministry in Palestine.
In order to compete with
those religions, early Christianity had no choice but to describe Jesus in terms that
matched or surpassed the competing local religious myths, stories and legends. The authors of the gospels may
well have picked up themes from other sources and added them to their
writings in order to make Christianity more credible to a largely Greek/Pagan world.
peeling away such foreign material, historians believe that they might be able to get a
clearer picture of what Jesus taught and how he lived. By stripping away
these accretions that have become attached to the life, story and teachings of
Jesus, they might get closer to the historical Jesus. They can better understand his
mission, and learn from his teachings.
In short, each group sincerely and thoughtfully believe that the other
group has a distorted picture of the historical Jesus:
Many fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians believe that when a
person is saved by repenting of their sin and trusting Jesus as Lord and
savior, that the Holy Spirit enters into their body and possesses them. One
result is that the Spirit guides the Christian into a proper understanding of
the Bible and its inerrancy.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Church is given responsibility,
authority, and competence by God to interpret the Bible for its members. Their
beliefs about Jesus thus cannot be in error.
Many religious liberals and religious historians believe that the only way
to understand the Bible is to interpret it like any other religious text. This
leads to the assumptions that:
The messages of its authors evolved over time;
The morality and ethics in the Hebrew Scriptures reflect that of a
bronze-age culture and are not valid today;
Their beliefs about the origin of the universe, cosmology, geology,
astronomy, etc. are pre-scientific and inaccurate;
Many of the heroes and events portrayed in the Bible are mythical; and
Some Biblical passages are copied from or inspired by Pagan writings from