A Challenge for the Jesus Mythers and the Religious Plagiarism Charge

Introduction

Anyone that has tried to discuss the historicity of the story of Jesus will generally encounter the religious plagiarism charge. Sadly, the internet is full of allegations that the historical records of the life of Jesus are ripped off from  mythological constructs such as Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, or someone else. The same old dying and rising god theme myth just gets rehashed over and over. Generally speaking, those that hold to this position start with the notion that the New Testament witness to the resurrection of Jesus is false. They then turn around and  try to punt to the pagan myths/mystery religions to explain the problems of the New Testament story of Jesus. One issue that tends to be left out is the following:

Idolatry  

Linguistically speaking, Christianity didn’t exist in the first century. Judaism in the first century was not seen as a single “way.”  There were many “Judaism’s”- the Sadducees, the Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, etc.  The followers of Jesus are referred to as a “sect” (Acts 24:14;28:22); “the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:5).  Josephus refers to the “sects” of Essenes, Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Zealots. The first followers of Jesus were considered to be a sect of Second Temple Judaism.  For all the different sects, they did have some core beliefs such as adherence to the Torah, belief in one God, and belief in Israel as God’s elect people and the Temple was part of the social glue that bound them together as a people group. Would Second Temple Jewish people who  would recite three times daily his nation’s creed, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one’ (Deuteronomy 6.4), be so quick to base the Jesus story after mythological constructs such as Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, or someone else?  Let’s say Paul and the New Testament authors decided to build the Jesus story off some of the these figures.  Based on each sects adherence to their core beliefs,  any form of religious syncretism is a form of idolatry. First, the Jewish Scriptures forbids worshiping anyone other than the God of Israel (Ex. 20:1–5; Deut. 5:6–9).

Also, following the exile and subsequent intertestamental struggles, the Jews no longer fell prey to physical idolatry. So to assert that the Israel always had problems with idolatry in their early formation which would lead to further into idolatry in the Second Temple period leads me to cry “anachronism.”  Remember, idolatry is rarely mentioned in the Gospels. But there are warnings about idolatry in other portions of the New Testament( 1 Cor. 6:9-10 ; Gal 5:20 ; Eph. 5:5 ; Col 3:5 ; 1 Peter 4:3 ; Rev 21:8).  Paul instructs believers not to associate with idolaters ( 1 Cor. 5:11 ; 10:14 ) and even  commends the Thessalonian for their turning from the service of idols “to serve the living and true God” ( 1 Thess1:9). So I guess my question is the following: Why would Paul or the early disciples commit an idolatrous act and but then later speak against idolatry?  It seems rather inconsistent.

Just some food for thought.

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5 thoughts on “A Challenge for the Jesus Mythers and the Religious Plagiarism Charge

  1. Jean-Marc Alter June 26, 2014 / 9:35 pm

    How sad that such an article should commit the great error of calling the historical account of the life of Jesus ‘a story’. Why don’t christians realise that words matter. Inagine a lecturer on World War II starting his course with the words ‘Now here is a story about Hitler’ No no no we dont want stories historians want facts. Accounts of what happened in the past not stories, myths or old tales and legends. How incongrious to have the word story with the word historicity in the same sentence. Christians watch your language. Choose your vocabulary carefully the historic eyewitness events need to be called that. We do not follow cunningly devised stories but the eyewitness accounts of the truth.

  2. chab123 June 27, 2014 / 1:08 am

    Hi Jean. Thanks for the feedback. By saying “the Jesus story” I wasn’t saying it is a myth at all. That was one of the points of the entire post. I guess I can see how it could come across that way. But once read the post, I think it is obvious I was saying the opposite. Anyway, take care.

    • Jeff Price October 6, 2015 / 12:18 am

      Agreed, I understood the word “story” in that sentence to be a synonym of the word “account”, not a synonym for the word for “myth”. Great blog post.

  3. neilmceachin April 1, 2015 / 2:15 am

    I disagree that saying the gospel is a “story” takes away from it’s power. Of course it’s a story, and a true one at that. People are drawn into stories. This helps them to absorb and understand what is being taught and helps considerably with keeping people interested. Jesus frequently told stories to teach and to make points on things, as well as to answer questions. The “story” is a useful literary device and the bible is full of them for that very reason. Good article, all the myth people only use it as an excuse to dismiss the gospels. The historical and cultural evidence for the truth of the gospel story is overwhelming. Not to mention that the similarities between ancient myths and the bible are totally made up. People don’t know that because the don’t know ancient mythologies. The flood story is found in other ancient cultures but that strengthens the validity of the biblical flood, not weaken it. No God in any culture comes close to the character, power and selflesss sacrifice of Jesus the Christ.

  4. Michelle Styles April 18, 2015 / 6:10 pm

    The only place this is incorrect is the “sect” which is alive today and founded in the years following Jesus and his crucifixion is called Messianic Judaism. It’s a simple mistranslated word. The Nazarenes didn’t come about until the Roman empire got a hold of Christianity sometime about the rule of Constantine.

    Messianic Jews clung to the Jewish faith and traditions while acknowledging Jesus Christ. They are the only “sect” accepted by Jews as a Jewish sect. The Nazarenes ate pork, and didn’t stay kosher. As a result they were never recognized as “Jews” or a “Jewish sect”. Eventually the Nazarenes gain prominence and became Christians under the rule of the Roman empire. It’s why Rome is the home of the Catholic church today.

    Your views are well stated. Thank you for writing them out. Messianic Jews can still be found practicing and preaching in Israel and all over the world today. They remain a sect of Judaism even today.

    It would also be unfair to say there were many Judaisms. It would be like saying there are many different Christians. While it is true beliefs vary sect to sect even among Christians the foundation which makes them Christian does not vary.The same is true of the Jews, every sect followed the same laws, the same god. So what made each sect different? The same as Christians and that is the bible is so complex that no one view will ever be seen by all as complete.

    last the sects you named are more like roles. The Sadducees were merely the elete of Jewish society, the polititcians, the wealthy and sometimes the Pharisees were from this class or role of people. Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots were the four primary religious/political factions of the time. Pharisees were keepers of the Law and held the entire (what we would call) Hebrew Bible as the word of YHWH. But they were classes and not sects.

    The Jewish “sects” or variants would be Hasidic, Orthodox, Ultra Orthodox, Messianic. Sociietal casts like Zealot (the warriors believed to be holy and blessed by god). The sects vary by interpretation of the law. Hasidic believe all killing is wrong, Orthodox believe killing to protect yourself, family and way of life is ok.

    Even then the Jews called the Palestinians and advised we are going to blow your building up please leave. Why? Because they value all life.

    Anyway enough rambling. Anyone looking to historically discount Jesus is in for a hard road because the man existed and historical records support that. As for the bible it was put into writing 100s of years after Jesus. Some might argue the influence of man but I’d never discount someone else s beliefs so easily.

    Good post. 🙂
    Michelle

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