Posts Tagged With: myths

Was Christ Stolen from Myth?

Continuing the Bible-history-theme for Easter we now turn to attempts to revise the origins of Christ. There is an entire cottage industry proclaiming that the fundamental beliefs of Christianity were all stolen. These “shocking” claims are actually nothing new, other than to people not too deep into ancient history. The problem is that the people who read the claims for the first time do not test them. If they did, they would find that they have not been provided with the whole story. Take these two examples:

Claim #1: Virgin birth stolen from others, such as the Persian god Mirtha or the Egyptian Isis.

The myth actually states that Mirtha was born from a rock. Other supposed “Christian” elements have been read into Mirthaism which formed much later in Rome. And many of the claims, like Mirtha being resurrected, after three days no less, have no documentation in myth or history. The Egyptian Isis (see below) may or may not have given birth to her son miraculously. In either case, her son did not set out to save the world.

Claim #2: The Egyptian Osiris was a model for Jesus’ resurrection.

Have people really read the myth? Osiris was killed and chopped up by his brother. His wife/sister Isis puts him back together and he ends up running the underworld.

What people fail to see is that tales like Mirtha and Osiris have no indication of being anything other than stories springing from someone’s imagination. Never grounded in history. No historical eyewitnesses. No fulfilled prophecies. Ironically, similarities — sometimes vague or imagined, but occasionally similar — in myths and beliefs around the world quite often prepared them for the coming of Christianity. And if Christianity is the historical and true religion from the actual creator as it claims to be, wouldn’t this be expected?. Historian Rodney Stark thinks so in Cities of God:

These days scholarly neo-pagans are especially hostile toward any hint that Christianity had anything new, let alone better, to offer…it is their usual claim that Christianity can hardly have been inspired since it offers only a rather stale mixture of conventional pagan ideas of myths. Their point seems to be that one either embraces all of the gods or none.

Of course, from the beginning Christian theologians have been fully aware of similarities between the Christ story and pagan mythology. And it did not disturb them to admit that elements of God’s final revelation had seeped into human awareness to help prepare the way. Moreover, the familiarity of the Christ story was entirely consistent with the long-standing Christian premise that God’s revelations are always limited to the current capacity of humans to comprehend.

In other words, it is strange that peoples before or after the Christian era, often with no contact with Christians, would have beliefs that are sometimes vaguely similar to Christian ones. Humans seem to have an inborn realization of another existence. Never do we actually see evidence of other beliefs evolving into Christian ones. Just because a belief predates another, without a direct line to the latter, we cannot assume (as some do) the latter sprang from the former. This is the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

It is not that the people spreading myths are being malicious. They are often just repeating the same incomplete claim read somewhere else, not bothering to study the rebuttals. People gravitate to affirmations of their beliefs, especially if it sounds plausible. Realize that many people have an agenda, intentional or not.

Assume nothing, test everything.

Categories: Ancient Documents, Bible, Critical Thinking | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stealing Scripture?

For generations, scholars and historians agreed that the Old Testament was unique among Near East writings. Now the tendency is to claim the OT writers largely borrowed from other works and that they offered nothing new.

What changed? Well, nothing. The writings have all remained the same. The idea that much was “borrowed” is posited by some skeptics to infer “stolen.” Most readers are often disappointed that such tabloid-like claims don’t hold merit. Good for selling books, however.

In fact, it has never been a great mystery or surprise that one finds some similarities among cultures living and interacting with each other. No one has ever disputed this common sense. Many will play the “who came first” game, which is often a fallacy (i.e. just because something precedes something else doesn’t automatically mean one produced the other). After all, many could convincingly argue that Genesis is derived from sources that predate anything else by far.

So the arguments of the skeptics rest by great measure on ignoring the significant differences between the Bible and other texts. It does a great disservice to history and studies of antiquity to do so. Are all such claims driven by bias? Probably not, but when one puts one text next to another and can say with a straight face that they don’t have fundamental and critical differences, the observer must look at the motivations. To be fair, there are even some “religious” scholars who agree with their skeptical colleagues. How does one reconcile such apparently divergent views? With great difficulty and rationalization.

Scholar John N. Oswalt, in his book, The Bible Among the Myths, examines these issues at great length. He details that the Bible is radically different, in many ways, to its contemporaries. Many will dismiss or minimize the Bible because it doesn’t fit into their worldview. Regardless, it is certain that the Bible will remain an important part of the canon of ancient writings. The level of study and preservation of the text make this more true of it than of any work. These two things would be difficult to deny by anyone. However, as Oswalt argues, to simply leave it as nothing more that this, defies reason.

Categories: Ancient Documents, Bible, Books, Critical Thinking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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