The Pagan Connection: Did Christianity Borrow from the Mystery Religions?

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Patrick Zukeran — One of the popular ideas being promoted today especially on the internet is the idea that the miracle stories of Jesus were borrowed from ancient pagan myths. Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy write in their book The Laughing Jesus, “Each mystery religion taught its own version of the myth of the dying and resurrecting Godman, who was known by different names in different places. In Egypt, where the mysteries began, he was Osiris. In Greece he became Dionysus, in Asia Minor he is known as Attis, in Syria he is Adonis, in Persia he is Mithras, in Alexandria he is Serapis, to name a few.”

Proponents of this idea point out that there are several parallels between these pagan myths and the story of Jesus Christ. Parallels including a virgin birth, a divine Son of God, the god dying for mankind, resurrection from the dead, and others are cited. Skeptics allege that Christianity did not present any unique teaching, but borrowed the majority of its tenets from the mystery religions.

Indeed, some of the alleged parallels appear to be quite striking. One example is the god Mithras. This myth teaches that Mithras was born of a virgin in a cave, that he was a traveling teacher with twelve disciples, promised his disciples eternal life, and sacrificed himself for the world. The god Dionysius miraculously turns water into wine. The Egyptian god Osiris is killed and then resurrects from the dead.

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"Aren’t there strong similarities between the Greek mystery religions and Christianity? Don’t the mystery religions contain virgin birth accounts, incarnations, and death and resurrection of the gods? Do these parallels prove Christianity borrowed its ideas from the Greek religions? Discover whether there is a pagan connection between Christianity and the mystery religions."

Pat is our own "Apolo-Jedi," a doctorate in apologetics with a black belt in karate. He has a B.A. in Religion from Point Loma Nazarene University, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. from Southern Evangelical Seminary. He is an author, radio talk show host, and a national and international speaker on apologetics, cults, world religions, Bible, theology, and current issues.

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