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Did Christianity Copy From Pagan Religions?

In one of the scenes of the Coffeehouse Chronicles, my new novella series, Nick a student who is questioning his own Christian faith, watches the popular Zeitgeist YouTube video.

The video tells a story about religious leaders throughout history who had similar characteristics to Jesus. The video implied that Christianity simply plagiarized from other religious stories that were circulating years before. Names like Attis of Greece, Krishna of India, Dionysus of Greece, and Mithra of Persia were included in the video. The narrator described how these religious leaders, based on astrology were born on December 25, born of virgin, discovered by a star in East, adorned by three kings, became a teacher at twelve, baptized and started ministry at thirty, had twelve disciples, and performed miracles, were known as the “Lamb of God,” “The Light,” crucified, buried for three days, and resurrected.

Perhaps, you are familiar with the video, but I want you to pretend you are sharing your faith with a young critic who has been influenced by this theory. What are some solid responses you can give to critic who says Christianity stole from pagan religions. If you have never seen the Zeitgeist video, take a look:

There are multiple responses in books 1 and 3 of the Coffeehouse Chronicles. Jamal, a doctoral student cites responses from several scholars. Here are few.

Dr. J. Smith of the Encyclopedia of Religion writes, ‘The category of dying and rising gods, once a major topic of scholarly investigation, must now be understood to have been largely a misnomer based on the imaginative reconstructions and exceedingly late or highly ambiguous texts.’”[1]

Dr. Greg Boyd, who earned his doctorate at Princeton Theological Seminary, and Dr. Paul Rhodes Eddy, who earned his doctorate at Marquette write:

The very category of ancient “dying and rising gods” has been called into question by most contemporary scholars. In short, when each of these myths is analyzed in detail, it turns out that either there is no actual death, no actual resurrection, or no actual “god” in the first place![2]

Not only are the differences far more profound than the alleged similarities, but as Sean McDowell notes, “Parallels prove nothing.” Sean asks, “What if I told you about a British ocean liner that could carry 3000 passengers, had a top cruising speed of 24 knots, and had an inadequate number of lifeboats? What if I told you that this ocean liner hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage, which tore a hold in the side of the ship causing it to sink along with 2000 passengers? Mostly likely you would think this was the Titanic. But you would be mistaken. I am describing the Titan, a fictional ship described in Morgan Robertson’s book, The Wreck of the Titan. It was written 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic. While the similarities between the two accounts are striking, they do nothing to undermine the historical evidence for the Titanic.”

Even a similar story did exist, this would not undermine the historical evidence of Christ life, burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea , the resurrection and eyewitness accounts of Christ’s appearances.

In our book, the students watch this debate about the uniqueness of Christ resurrection with Dr. Habermas and Tim Callahan:

What are your thoughts?


[1] J. Z. Smith, “Dying and Rising Gods.” In Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. M. Eliade, vol. 4 (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 521., quoted by Gregory A. Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy, Lord or Legend? (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), 53.

[2] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy, Lord or Legend? (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), 53.

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About
Dave Sterrett is the author or co-author of six books, including the Christian best-seller, “I Am Second” and “Why Trust Jesus?” He teaches philosophy and theology at Rivendell Sanctuary in Minnesota.


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