This is a question that scares the crud out of most Christians. I, too, would have been angered and chilled by such words. Obviously it is utter nonsense. On the contrary though, if you really look with unbiased eyes (a major key to true enlightenment), and take into account the issue we just discussed, the lack of evidence concerning a 'physical' Christ, you will find amazing parallels with many ancient traditions. While it is entirely possible that a historical Jesus actually lived, it is also possible that a mythology could have arrived totally out of these earlier mythologies. Although we have very little evidence for a historical Jesus, we certainly have many accounts for the mythologies of the Middle East and Egypt during the first century and before that appear similar to the Christ savior story.
Remember that just before and during the first century, the Jews were prophesying about an upcoming Messiah based on Jewish scripture. Their beliefs influenced many of their followers. We know that powerful beliefs can create self-fulfilling prophesies, and surely this was just as true in ancient times. It was a popular vision expressed in Hebrew Scripture for the promise of the 'end times' with a savior to lead them to the promised land. Indeed, Roman records show executions of several would-be Messiahs, (but not a single record mentions a Jesus). It was widely thought that there could come a final war against the 'Sons of Darkness'.
This then could very well have served as the ignition and flame for the future growth of Christianity. This coupled with the pagan myths of the time give sufficient information about how such a religion could have formed. Many of the Hellenistic and pagan myths parallel so closely to the alleged Jesus that to ignore its similarities is to show indoctrinated, and biased views .
There have been dozens of similar savior stories that propagated the minds of humans long before the alleged life of Jesus. Virtually nothing about Jesus "the Christ" is original or new.
For example, the religion of Zoroaster was founded circa 628-551 BCE in ancient Persia and roused mankind in the need for hating a devil, the belief of a paradise, last judgment and resurrection of the dead. Mithraism, an offshoot of Zoroastrianism probably influenced early Christianity with their beliefs the most. The Magi described in the New Testament appear to be Zoroastrian priests. Note the word "paradise" came from the Persian pairidaeza. Other similarities between the Jesus story and other godmen such as Horus, Krshna, Mithras, Dionysus and Osiris are clearly illustrated below:
Horus and the Father are one
*Horus is the Father seen in the Son
*Horus, light of the world, represented by the symbolical eye, the sign of salvation.
*Horus was the way, the truth, the life by name and in person
*Horus baptized with water by Anup (Jesus baptized with water by John)
*Horus the Good Shepherd
*Horus as the Lamb (Jesus as the Lamb)
*Horus as the Lion (Jesus as the Lion)
*Horus identified with the Tat Cross (Jesus with the cross)
*The trinity of Atum the Father, Horus the Son, Ra the Holy Spirit
*Horus the avenger (Jesus who brings the sword)
*Horus the afflicted one
*Horus as life eternal
*Twelve followers of Hours as Har-Khutti (Jesus' 12 disciples)
Egyptian/Greek godman (combined merely for the similarities of the 3)
*Osiris-dionysus is god made flesh, the savior 'son of god'
*his father is god and his mother is a mortal virgin
*he is born in a cave or humble cowshed on December 25 before 3 shepherds
*he offers his followers a chance to be born again through the rites of baptism
*he miraculously turns water to win in a marriage ceremony
*he rides triumphantly into town on a donkey while people wave palm leaves to honor him
*he dies at eastertime as a sacrifice for the sins of the world
*after his death he descends to hell, then on the third day he rises from the dead and ascends to heaven in glory
*his followers await his return as the judge during the last days
*his death and resurrection are celebrated by a ritual meal of bread and wine, which symbolizes his body and blood
Krshna, an incarnation of the hindu deity Vishnu
*was killed to atone for the sins of mankind
* was also the "full measure of the god-head" according to the Ramayana, ~300 years BCE
* was born miraculously by a virgin, his birth attended by shepherds and angels, according to the Bhagavad Gita and in accord with prophecy
* at birth was presented with frankincense and myrrh
* survived a command by Cansa, who ordered all the first born children to be put to death
* wrought many astounding miracles, including healing the sick, restoring the sight of the blind, casting out devils, raising the dead to life
* was baptised (ablution) in the river Ganges
* enabled his disciples to net large amounts of fish
* "transfigured" at a place called Madura
* spoke in parables
* taught that you should forgive your enemies, avoid sexual thoughts, love your neighbor, and condemn material wealth
* ascended back to Heaven in the sight of all men
According to the Book of Origins, the Canon of the Mithrasic faith, "the universe was created through Mithras, and Mithras was born into the world to save humanity from the attacks of the evil one, Ahriman, who was opposed to human beings. Mithras released the goodness Ahriman had stolen from humanity, and then died to the world, going to the underworld to destroy the servants of Ahriman and bind Ahriman there forever. Then He returned to the earth to teach humanity His commandments and begin Mysteries and Rites which would help humans remember His acts on our behalf. Because of His actions, we can choose good without the overwhelming power of evil, even though evil's influence can still seem powerful because our minds believe it is. Because of His teachings, we know that the purpose of our lives is to serve others in the name of Mithras."
* allegedly born on December 25th
* was born of the Sun God and a virgin mother
* created all life by slaying a bull, whose blood gave life to all useful things, hence the song, "Thou hast redeemed us by shedding the eternal blood." from an Avestan Hymn to Mithras
* considered the saviour of humankind, and stories abound of His healing the sick, raising the dead, and performing miracles (making the blind see and the lame walk)
* protector of human souls, a mediator between "heaven" and "earth" and was even associated with a "holy trinity"
* keeper of the covenant with mankind
* put to death on a cross and buried in a cave (some legends have Him held up in a cave to be reborn once a year)
* took part in a last supper with his 12 disciples (often associated with the 12 signs of the zodiac)
* ascended to the heavens to watch over His "flock" from above.
* was known as "The Way," "The Truth," "The Light," "The Life," "The Word," "The Son of God," and "The Good Shepherd"
* often pictured carrying a lamb on his shoulders
* On judgement day, the faithful dead would be resurrected and light would triumph over darkness. They took part in ritual purification or baptism, held Sundays sacred, drank wine and ate bread as a symbol of the body and blood and even took part in ritualistic purging (purification rites such as flagellation).
* there is a "celestial heaven" and hell
Other interesting similarities to Christ in Pagan myth:
Quexalcote of Mexico:
* born of a spotless virgin
* retired to the wilderness and fasted for forty days
* was worshipped as a God
* crucified between two thieves
* was buried and descended into Hell
* rose the third day
Buddha, the 'Enlightened One' who spurred a new form of spirituality which is a tangent of Hindusim:
walked on water:
"He (Buddha) walks upon the water without parting it, as if it were solid ground."
~ Anguttara Nikaya 3.60 (see Mark 6:49 for parallel)
calmed a storm:
"Now at that time a great rain fell, and a great flood resulted. Then the Lord (Buddha) made the water recede all around, and he paced up and down in the middle on dust-covered ground."
~ Vinaya, Mahavagga I.20.16 (see Mark 4:39 for parallel)
walked through walls:
"He (Buddha) goes unhindered through a wall."
~ Angutta Nikaya 3.60 (see John 20:26 for parallel)
"As soon as the Bodhisattva (Buddha)was born, the sick were cured, the hungry and thirsty were no longer oppressed by hunger and thirst. Those maddened by drink lost their obsession. The mad recovered their senses, the blind regained their sight, and the deaf once more could hear. The lame obtained perfect limbs, the poor gained riches, and prisoners were delivered of their own bonds."
~ Lilitavistra Sutra 7 (see Luke 7:22 for parallel)
Other 'mythologies' that compare in one form or another include Hercules, Mithra, Hermes, Prometheus, Perseus and others compare to the Christian myth. According to Patrick Campbell of The Mythical Jesus, all are pre-Christian sun gods, yet all allegedly had gods for fathers, virgins for mothers; had their births announced by stars; were born on the solstice around December 25th; had tyrants who tried to kill them in their infancy; met violent deaths; rose from the dead; and nearly all were worshiped by "wise men" and were alleged to have fasted for forty days. [McKinsey, Chapter 5]
The pre-Christian cult of Mithra had a deity of light and truth, son of the Most High, fought against evil, presented the idea of the Logos (the 'Word'). Pagan Mithraism mysteries had the burial in a rock tomb, resurrection, sacrament of bread & water (Eucharist), the marking on the forehead with a mystic mark, the symbol of the Rock, the Seven Spirits and seven stars, all before the advent of Christianity.
Even Justin Martyr recognized the analogies between Christianity and Paganism. To the Pagans, he wrote: "When we say that the Word, who is first born of God, was produced without sexual union, and that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven; we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter (Zeus)." [First Apology, ch. xxi]
Virtually all of the accounts of the savior Jesus Christ can be accounted for by past pagan mythologies which existed long before Christianity and from the Jewish scriptures that we now call the Old Testament. The accounts of these myths say nothing about historical reality, but they do say a lot about believers, how they believed, and how their beliefs spread.
"In saying that the Word was born for us without sexual union as Jesus Christ our teacher, we introduce nothing beyond what is said of those called the Sons of Zeus." Justin Martyr, Apology, 3
"The mystic child at Eleusis was born of a maiden; these ancients made for themselves the sacred dogma 'A virgin shall conceive and bear a son,' by night there was declared 'Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given." Ibid, 48
The Christian Christmas song, "Oh Come Let Us Adore Him" was adapted from the Egyptian poem to Osiris:
"He is born! He is born! O come and adore Him!
Life-giving mothers, the mothers who bore Him,
Stars of the heavens the daybreak adorning.
Ancestors, ye, of the Star of Morning.
Women and Men, O come and adore Him,
Child who is born this night..." Murray, MA (1949) 68
References for these are as follows:Egyptian Religion by Wallis Budge (1899), The Bacchae by Euripedes lines 5, 723, 836, The Hermetica, The Ibid, F Cumont, 48 (1903), Cleanthes, from CH Kahn (1979), Concerning the Gods and the Universe 4 by S Angus (1925)
Hercules....Who was this guy?
If a person accepts hearsay and accounts from believers as historical evidence for Jesus, then should they not act consistently to other accounts based solely on hearsay and belief?
Take this one example for instance. Examine the evidence for the Hercules of Greek mythology and you will find it parallels the historicity of Jesus to such an amazing degree that for Christian apologists to deny Hercules as a historical person belies and contradicts the very same methodology used for a historical Jesus, making it hypocritical.
Note how Herculean myth resembles Jesus in many areas. Hercules was born from a God (Zeus) and a mortal virgin mother (Alcmene). Similar to Herod who wanted to kill Jesus, Hera wanted to kill Hercules. Like Jesus, Hercules traveled the earth as a mortal helping mankind and performed miraculous deeds. Like Jesus who died and rose to heaven, Hercules died, rose to Mt. Olympus and became a god. Hercules was perhaps the most popular hero in Ancient Greece and Rome. They believed that he actually lived, told stories about him, worshiped him, and dedicated temples to him.
Likewise the 'evidence' of Hercules closely parallels that of Jesus. We have historical people like Hesiod and Plato who mentions Hercules. Similar to the way the gospels tell a narrative story of Jesus, so do we have the epic stories of Homer who depict the life of Hercules. Aesop tells stories and quotes the words of Hercules. Just as we have mention of Jesus in Josephus' Antiquities, so Josephus mentions Hercules in his 'Antiquities' (see 1.15, 8.5.3, 10.11.1). Just as Tacitus mentions a Crestus, he also mentions Hercules many times in his Annals. And most importantly, just as we have no artifacts, writings or eyewitnesses about Hercules, we also have nothing about Jesus. All information about Hercules and Jesus comes from stories, beliefs, and hearsay. Should we then believe in a historical Hercules, simply because ancient historians mention him and that we have stories and beliefs about him?
People consider Hercules a myth because people no longer believe in the Greek and Roman stories. Christianity and its churches, on the other hand, still hold a powerful influence on governments, institutions, and colleges. Anyone doing research on Jesus, even skeptics, had better allude to his existence or else risk future funding and damage to their reputations. Christianity depends on establishing a historical Jesus and it will defend, at all costs, even the most unreliable sources. People want to believe in Jesus, and belief alone can create intellectual barriers that leak even into atheist and secular thought. We have so many Christian professors, theologians and historical 'experts' around the world that tell us we should accept a historical Jesus that if repeated often enough, it tends to convince even the most ardent skeptic. The establishment of history should never reside with the 'experts' words alone or simply because a scholar has a reputation as a historian. If a scholar makes a historical claim, his assertion should depend almost solely on the evidence itself and not just because he/she says so. Facts do not require belief. And whereas beliefs can live comfortably without evidence at all, facts depend on evidence. This being said, we have no solid evidence to call this...a fact. It will remain...a belief.
Krshna, Mithra of Persia, Quexalcote of Mexico, the Chinese savior Xaca, Ya, the Chinese monarch, Plato, Pythagoras, Tamerlane, Gengis Khan, Apollonius of Tyana and Augustus Caesar, were all supposed to have been the product of immaculate conceptions.
Krshna, Mithra of Persia, Quexalcote of Mexico, Chris of Chaldea, Quirinus of Rome, Prometheus, Osiris of Egypt, Atys of Phrygia, all rose from the dead after three days.
At the birth of Confucius, five wise men from a distance came to the house, celestial music filled the air, and angels attended the scene.
The Sacrament or Eucharist was practiced by the Brahmins of India, and was introduced into the mysteries of Mithras, as well as among the Mexicans.
The concept of the 'Trinity' is Hindu. The Sanskrit term is 'Trimurti', meaning 'three bodies in one godhead'. In the Hindu trinity, it was Siva; the other members of the trinity being Brahma and Vishnu. [sidebar: In the Mexican trinity, Y Zona was the Father, Bascal the Word, and Echvah the Holy Ghost, by the last of whom Chimalman conceived and brought forth Quexalcote.]
"The sign of the fish is widely used today as a symbol of Christianity, but originated in Pagan sacred geometry. Two circles, symbolic of spirit and matter, are brought together in a sacred marriage. When the circumference of one touches the center of the other they combine to produce the fish shape known as the vesica piscis. The ratio of height to length of the shape is 153:265, a formula known to Archimedes in the third century BCE as the 'measure of the fish.' It is a powerful mathematical tool, being the nearest whole number approximation of the square root of three and the controlling ratio of the equilateral triangle." See also: Anti-Tract Archive. Once there, click on the tract "Something Fishy" in the drop down menu box.