The Pagan Christ In The Popular Media -- By: Dewayne Bryant

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 26:2 (Spring 2013)
Article: The Pagan Christ In The Popular Media
Author: Dewayne Bryant

The Pagan Christ In The Popular Media

Dewayne Bryant

Of all the challenges to biblical faith in the 21st century, one of the most curious is the charge that early Christians plagiarized the mythology of their pagan neighbors. According to this theory, the New Testament authors drew from existing religious traditions in creating the Christian faith. They lifted biblical ideas such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and salvation, as well as Jesus’ virgin birth, deity, and crucifixion, wholesale from the pagan religions; nothing in the Bible is original. As one bumper sticker puts it, “Christianity Has Pagan DNA.”

The last two decades alone have seen a variety of authors claim that Christianity owes its existence to ancient mythology. Earl Doherty (The Jesus Puzzle), Dorothy Murdock (The Christ Conspiracy), Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy (The Jesus Mysteries), and Robert Price (The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man) all question whether Jesus ever walked the earth as a human being. Many of those who hold to this theory (called “mythicists”) claim that early Christians mistakenly treated him as a historical person; in reality he was a mythological construction of the early Church. In the first century, Jesus was nothing more than the latest version of the dying-and-rising savior gods common to the Greek mystery cults until later believers “historicized” him.

Mythicists’ arguments are nothing new. Authors began promoting this view in earnest in the mid-1800s, particularly with the work of two German scholars: philosopher Bruno Bauer (1809-1882) and theologian David Strauss (1808-1874). Their work on the supposed pagan origins of Christianity never achieved any significant degree of respectability. The scholarly community considered the theory to have been effectively refuted in the early 20th century, an evaluation that remains unchanged among nearly all academicians today. But on a popular level— such as the kind of material found on the Internet—the pagan Christ is very much alive.

Examining The Parallels

In the attempt to recover the purported truth about the identity of Jesus Christ, mythicists have sought to identify parallels between Christianity beliefs and pagan myths. The typical approach is to note archetypal savior figures that served as prototypes for Jesus Christ. As Kersey Graves (1813-1883) stated,

the accounts and narrations of some of these deific incarnations bear such a striking resemblance to that of the Christian Savior—not only in their general features but in some cases in the most minute details, from the legend of the immaculate conception to that of the crucifixion, and subsequent ascension in to heaven—that one might almost be mistaken for the ot...

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