Religion Wiki
A series of articles on

Jesus Christ and Christianity
ChronologyVirgin Birth
Second ComingChristology
Names and titlesRelicsActive obedience

Cultural and historical background
Language spokenRace

Perspectives on Jesus
Jesus and history
Belief in Jesus
Biblical JesusReligious
HistoricityIn myth
Historical JesusResearch

Jesus in culture

The study of Jesus from a mythographical perspective is the examination of the narrative of Jesus, the Christ ("the Anointed") of the gospels, Christian theology and folk Christianity as a central part of Christian mythology. Such study may also involve comparison between Christian beliefs about Jesus and beliefs about other gods or mythological characters.

Examination of such parallels may seek to uncover common elements of human myth-making or analyse mythemes (the component elements of myth) in the gospel presentation of Jesus. Alternatively it may identify historically specific parallels in contemporary mystery religions of the Roman Empire such as Mithraism and the myths of rebirth deities and sacral kingship. The New Testament narrative explicitly employs earlier mythology, notably claiming fulfillment of Messianic prophecies of Hebrew mythology, and by Paul the Apostle in Athens as he took up the motif of the "Unknown God" (Acts 17:16–34).

The study of Jesus Christ as myth is popularly associated with a skeptical position toward the historicity of Jesus. Proponents of a mythical origin of Christianity allow that some gospel material may have been drawn from a historical preacher or preachers, but they hold that these preachers were not in any sense "the founder of Christianity"; rather they contend that Christianity emerged organically from Hellenistic Judaism, dubbed the "Christ myth theory". However, the study of parallels between the narrative of Christ and other mythological figures does not prejudice Jesus' historicity, and is open to several interpretations besides ahistoricity:

  1. Christianity's influence on the Mystery religions (so Augustine of Hippo)
  2. interpretation of mythological parallels as "diabolical imitation" of Christ (so Justin Martyr)
  3. interpretation of pre-Christian myth as a product of degraded Monotheism (various 20th century Christian apologetics)
  4. interpretation of the Christ narrative as "true myth" (so C. S. Lewis)
  5. admission of a historical Jesus, who is however of lesser interest to Christianity than the Christ myth (so C. G. Jung)

Mythemes of the Biblical account

According to the New Testament, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.

He is a scion of the royal blood of David, King of the Jews, King of Kings, and the divine Word incarnated. He is the predestined Savior, recognized at birth by magi, but has to avoid being killed by Herod, by fleeing into exile. As an infant, he is part of the Holy Family often associated with the Holy Trinity in Christian symbolism.

As a grown man, he is baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus is identified as the Son of God and receives the Spirit of God in a form similar to a dove. After withstanding temptation to abuse his divine powers, he attracts a body of followers, the Twelve Apostles, and wanders around the land preaching and performing miraculous healing. In one instance, his transfiguration in front of his closest followers again reveals him as the Son of God, conversing with two important prophets of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah.

At the same time as the Son of God, Jesus is also the Son of Man, he is essentially both Man and God incarnate, transcending the status of demigod of half-man and half-god by being fully God and fully man at the same time in hypostatic union.

Following a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the Last Supper where he gives a final sermon, he is betrayed, apprehended, flogged, and driven out to the place of execution, where he is crucified, accompanied by dark omens, both chthonic (earthquakes) and celestial (eclipse).

He dies and his body is prepared for internment and placed in a tomb. On the third day he rises from the dead and appears bodily resurrected to his followers, before miraculously ascending to heaven. For his death to atone for humanity, he is given the title Lamb of God, after the sacrificial lamb of Hebrew tradition, and as the Christ (Messiah, Anointed) in reference to his fulfilling of prophecies of a royal saviour. His followers are given the divine spirit in order to carry on his mission, and are charged with ritually commemorating his death in the sacrament of the Eucharist, involving symbolic ingestion of Christ's body.

A triumphal Second Coming of Christ is prophesized in Christian eschatology, when he will preside over the Last Judgment and heralding in a golden Messianic Age or Kingdom of God for the faithful.

Predecessors and parallels

Myths in the ancient Roman, Hellenistic and Semitic world

Aspects of the Gospel stories of Jesus have parallels with life-death-rebirth gods in the widespread mystery religions prevalent in the Hellenistic culture amongst which Christianity is assumed to be born. Closely related to this are mythemes of sacral kingship and "theophagy", the eating of the body of a fertility god, traced by Walter Burkert to a neolithic fertility rite surrounding a god who needs to die and rise again in order to feed the community, sublimated in the Christian eucharist.

Other prominently cited parallels are with Tammuz, Horus and Mithras. Horus was one of the life-death-rebirth deities, and was connected and involved in the resurrection of Osiris. In the view of some advocates of the Jesus Myth theory, most prominently Freke and Gandy in The Jesus Mysteries, Jewish mystics adapted their form of Osiris-Dionysus to match prior Jewish heroes like Moses and Joshua, hence creating Jesus.[1]

Several prominent early Christians, like Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, actually acknowledged the existence of many parallels, complaining that the earlier religions had copied Christian religion and practices, predicted in Hebrew sacred texts, before Jesus was even born, as some form of diabolically inspired pre-cognitive mockery.

In comparative mythology, there is always the danger of parallelomania, as Samuel Sandmel (1962) calls it, the excessive and superficial identification of what are really mythic universals. Sandmel cautions that

"We might for our purposes define parallelomania as that extravagance among scholars which first overdoes the supposed similarity in passages and then proceeds to describe source and derivation as if implying a literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction.".[2]


ḥr ḳrst

in hieroglyphs

Outside of mainstream scholarship in modern Egyptology, some from other fields[3] have suggested connections between Jesus and gods in the myths of ancient Egypt. According to poet and Egyptologist, Gerald Massey (1828 - 1907), in Egyptian myth, Horus gained his authority by being anointed by Anubis, who had his own cult, and was regarded as the main anointer; the anointing made Horus into Horus karast, written in Egyptian as ḥr ḳrst, "anointed/embalmed Horus".[4] Tom Harpur, a former New Testament professor at the University of Toronto [5] suggests that Christos was chosen by the Hellenistic Jewish authors of the Septuagint (centered in Alexandria) as a translation of Mašíaḥ because of this similarity.

Resurrection analogies

The Egyptians had specific harvesting rituals that related the rising and receding waters of the Nile river and the farming cycle to the death and resurrection of Osiris.[6] The cutting down of barley and wheat was related to the death of Osiris, while the sprouting of shoots was thought to be based on the power of Osiris to resurrect the farmland.[6][7]

The Osiris-bed, where he helps the growth of grain and renews the harvest cycle.

Osiris-beds were common in ancient Egypt and were clay representations of a dead Osiris which when watered would sprout shoots in the spring, thus representing his power to control nature even after his death.[6][7]

Christ myth theory proponent G. A. Wells sees an analogy with the Resurrection of Jesus in that Osiris dies and is mourned on the first day and that his resurrection is celebrated on the third day with the joyful cry "Osiris has been found".[8] Wells also argues that St. Paul's comparison of bodily resurrection with a seed being planted, and corn then growing (1 Cor 15:35–38), is based on Ancient Egyptian concepts in which the germinating seeds in Osiris beds represent resurrection.[8] However, David J. MacLeod states that the Osiris legend is very different from the resurrection of Jesus in that "Osiris did not rise; he ruled in the abode of the dead."[9]

Biblical scholar Bruce M. Metzger does not see a direct analogy and notes that in one account of the Osirian cycle he dies on the 17th of the month of Athyr (approximating to a month between October 28 and November 26 in modern calendars), is revivified on the 19th and compares this to Christ rising on the "third day" but thinks "resurrection" is a questionable description.[10] A. J. M. Wedderburn states that resurrection in Ancient Egypt differs from the Judaeo-Christian tradition, as the Ancient Egyptians conceived of the afterlife as entry into the kingdom of Osiris.[11] Marvin Mayer notes that some scholars regard the idea of dying and rising deities in the mystery religions as being fanciful but suggests this may be motivated by apologetic concerns, attempting to keep Christ's resurrection as a unique event.[12]


Tammuz-Adonis is the Mesopotamian archetype of the dying and risen-again fertility god. His cult involved ritual mourning.[13][14] The Pan-Babylonianist school in particular derives many later myths from this complex, popularized by Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brothers, which further parallels Tammuz and Christ with Joseph and Osiris. Tammuz is paralleled to Christ in particular by his epithet, the shepherd.

Greek mysteries

The Greek Eleusinian Mysteries were an initiation cult surrounding Demeter, her daughter Persephone, and the agricultural hero Triptolemus. The derived Hellenistic Orphic traditions syncretized Greek traditions with Egyptian and Mesopotamian elements. In the Orphic tradition, it is Dionysus who is killed and resurrected. Orphism puts strong emphasis on salvation in the afterlife. Orphism and Hermeticism strongly influenced Platonist mysticism which in turn was a formative influence on early Christian theology and dogma.

Justin Martyr made the following defense against the assertion that Jesus Christ was modeled after Bacchus:

Be well assured, then, Trypho, that I am established in the knowledge of and faith in the Scriptures by those counterfeits which he who is called the devil is said to have performed among the Greeks; just as some were wrought by the Magi in Egypt, and others by the false prophets in Elijah's days. For when they tell that Bacchus, son of Jupiter, was begotten by intercourse with Semele, and that he was the discoverer of the vine; and when they relate, that being torn in pieces, and having died, he rose again, and ascended to heaven; and when they introduce wine into his mysteries, do I not perceive that the devil has imitated the prophecy announced by the patriarch Jacob, and recorded by Moses? [15]

Among other Hellenic figures who may be compared with Jesus Christ is Pythagoras : for, just as Pythagoras is named for the serpent-god Pythōn, so likewise "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (Gospel according to John 3:14).


The worship of Mithras was widespread in much of the Roman Empire from the mid-2nd century CE,[16][17] The Mithra cult in the Roman Empire was a syncretism of different religious motifs, centered on the god Mithras who emerges from a rock. Its closest similarities to Christianity are the story of the slaying of the bull by Mithras; a bull is capruted and killed by Mithras when he plunges a knife into it and from the dead bull grain and plants are produced, that symbolize life. The bull returns alive to live in the cave with Mithras. As a mystry cult it had a number of secret rituals, including blood baptism in bulls blood and a sacred meal involving Mithra and the god Sol.[18]

Old Testament

The gospels present Jesus as a figure rooted in and foretold by the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible, notably the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Daniel. Thus, Jesus' nativity is placed in Bethlehem to comply with Micah 5:2, and Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem is designed to answer Zechariah 9:9-10.

A small amount of material is unique to the gospel of Matthew, that is, not reconstructed for the hypothetical source document of the synoptic gospels ("Q"). In this Jesus is presented with strong parallels to Old Testament figures, most noticeably Moses. Matthew appears to have used Moses' birth narrative and sojourn in the wilderness as the basis for the narrative of Jesus, in the tradition of midrash creative narratives based on the stories, prophecies, and quotes in the Hebrew Bible, in particular Toledot Yeshu.

Work done by prominent Q scholars such as John Kloppenborg identifies Q's genre as ancient Near-Eastern "instruction", which consistently attributes its wisdom to a human figure and not the personified Wisdom that one finds in the Biblical Book of Proverbs.[19]

Advocates of an unhistorical Jesus even claim that when the midrashic elements are removed, little to no content remains that could be used to demonstrate the existence of an historical Jesus.,[20][21] but the mere presence of Old Testament influence is widely dismissed as sufficient evidence against historicity; there are many examples of ancient Jewish and Christian literature that shaped their stories and accounts according to Old Testament influence, but nevertheless provided some historical accounts;[22] for example, in 1 Maccabees, Judas and his battles are described in terms which parallel those of Saul's and David's battles against the Philistines in 1 and 2 Samuel, but nevertheless 1 Maccabees has a degree of respect amongst historians as having a reasonable degree of historical reliability.[23][24]

Also included among the Messianic prophecies was Virgil's Eclogue IV, which significantly contributed to Virgil's status as a virtuous pagan.

Eastern, American and other religions

While historians of early Christianity concentrate on parallels with myths current in the Greco-Roman and Semitic cultures of the 1st century, parallels have also been identified in the Indian religions, and even in myths of the Aztecs of Central America. In some cases, these have been interpreted as having a direct influence on early Christianity. In other cases, they have been interpreted by Christians as part of a divine plan to prepare the way for Christianity; or as demonic imitation of the Christian religion.


The possible influence of Buddhism on Christianity (and possibly of the Essenes) has been suggested, but with more emphasis on doctrine than mythology. Nevertheless, it has been noted that the life of Christ bears strong similarities to the life of Buddha. This was initially interpreted by Catholic missionaries in terms of the "demonic imitation" theory.[25] More recently it has been taken by some scholars as far as a "Copycat Christ" theory, postulating that Jesus is simply a Judaistic retelling of the story of Buddha. Thus, T. W. Doane in his 1882 Bible Myths opined that "nothing now remains for the honest man to do but acknowledge the truth, which is that the history of Jesus of Nazareth as related in the books of the New Testament, is simply a copy of that of Buddha, with a mixture of mythology borrowed from other nations." (p. 286)

Max Müller in his 1873 Introduction to the Science of Religion noted that

"Between the language of The Buddha and his disciples, and the language of Christ and his apostles, there are strange coincidences. Even some Buddhist legends and parables sound as if taken from the New Testament, though we know that many of them existed before the beginning of the Christian era."

Th. J. Plange in 1906 concluded that early Christianity was the product of Buddhist missionaries. Such ideas were critically reviewed by Richard Garbe in his 1914 Indien und das Christentum. Garbe noted that the similarities between Christian and Buddhist tradition have invited much dilettante speculation, but he nevertheless acknowledged some possible influence, in particular on later Christian legend (suggesting that Josaphat is a corrupted form of Bodhisattva, and identifying Eustachius and Hubertus with Samantabhadra). Garbe accepted the historicity of Christ, but identified four passages in the gospel narrative as borrowed from Buddhist scripture.


The myth of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl has been identified as parallel to that of Jesus, though there is some dispute about the extent to which written versions of the myth have been influenced by Christianity. The story that Montezuma identified Hernán Cortés as the returned Quetzalcoatl was interpreted by Catholic missionaries as evidence of divine preparation for the Christianization of the Americas. The myth is also commonly pointed to by some within the Mormon faith, which holds that Christ visited America shortly after his resurrection.[26] In the nineteenth century the myth was reconfigured as evidence that an ancient Christian missionary had evangelized among Mesoamerican peoples, who later distorted his message.[27]

Influence on other mythologies

Jesus has in turn left traces in other mythologies. This holds for 2nd to 3rd century mystery religions and the emergence of Gnosticism;[1] in Reinventing Jesus, the authors put forth the position that "Only after 100 A.D. did the mysteries begin to look very much like Christianity, precisely because their existence was threatened by this new religion. They had to compete to survive.".[28]

Other arguable traces of the Christ mytheme can be found in Norse (Viking Age) Baldr and Odin and the 7th century Kalki Purana, which has parallels to Revelation (in particular the "White Rider" of Revelation 19:11). It is also carried into Islam as the Mahdi prophecy and the Ahmadi myths of Jus Asaf.

Within Christian culture, the Christ myth is reflected in many allegories or mythologies, in post-Nicean apocrypha such as the Acts of Pilate, in medieval Mystery plays, Piers Plowman, The Pilgrim's Progress, Milton's Paradise Lost (and, more pertinent to Christ, Paradise Regained), sometimes advocated as historical (such as the "Jesus bloodline" theories), sometimes ostensibly "pure myth" or Biblical speculative fiction (such as C. S. Lewis' Narnia).


The mythological parallels discussed above can be interpreted in diametrically different ways. Christian interpretations may either consider non-Christian parallels demonic mockery, or intuitive glimpses of truth by virtuous pagans. Secular interpretations will simply treat Christian myth as one stage in a long unbroken tradition, while sceptical or atheist criticism may argue that Christianity loses credibility by its "copying" earlier mythemes.


Current theories surrounding the mythological aspects of the Christ arose from 19th century scholarship on the formation of myth, in the work of writers such as Max Müller and James Frazer. Müller argued that religions originated in mythic stories of the birth, death, and rebirth of the Sun. Frazer further attempted to explain the origins of humanity's mythic beliefs in the idea of a "sacrificial king", associated with the Sun as a dying and reviving god and its connection to the regeneration of the earth in springtime.[29] Frazer did not doubt the historicity of Jesus, however, stating, "my theory assumes the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth [...] The doubts which have been cast upon the historical reality of Jesus are [...] unworthy of serious attention."[29]

The first scholarly proponent of the theory was probably Bruno Bauer, a Hegelian thinker who argued that the true founder of Christianity was an Alexandrian Jew, Philo, who had adapted Judaic ideas to Hellenic philosophy.

Other authors included Edwin Johnson, who argued that Christianity emerged from a combination of liberal trends in Judaism and Gnostic mysticism. Less speculative versions of the theory developed under Bible scholars such as A. D. Loman and G. I. P. Bolland. Loman argued that episodes in Jesus's life, such as the Sermon on the Mount, were fictions written to justify compilations of pre-existing liberal Jewish sayings. Bolland developed the theory that Christianity evolved from Gnosticism and that "Jesus" was a symbolic figure representing Gnostic ideas about God.

The most influential of the books arguing for a mythic Jesus was Arthur Drews' The Christ-Myth (1909) which brought together the scholarship of the day in defence of the idea that Christianity had been a Jewish Gnostic cult that spread by appropriating aspects of Greek philosophy and Frazerian death-rebirth deities. This combination of arguments became the standard form of the mythic Christ theory. In Why I Am Not a Christian (1927), Bertrand Russell stated that even if Jesus existed, which he doubted, the public does not "know anything" about him. Some like Joseph Wheless in his 1930 Forgery in Christianity[30] went even further and claimed there was an active effort to forge documents to make the myth seem historical beginning as early as the 2nd century.

Rudolf Bultmann in his 1941 lecture New Testament and Mythology: The Problem of Demythologizing the New Testament Message called on interpreters to replace traditional theology with the philosophy Martin Heidegger, an endeavor intending to translate what Bultmann considered "theology in story form" into a format palatable to a literate modern audience.

John M. Allegro in 1970 proposed that Christianity began as shamanic religion based on the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms.[31]

Pinchas Lapide in the 1970s and 1980s was a strong proponent of recovering historical, Jewish, Jesus from beneath the layers of Christian mythology. Lapide saw the historical Jesus as a rabbi in the Hasidean tradition of Hillel and Hanina Ben Dosa, and in the context of Jewish independence struggle against Roman occupation. In The Myth of God Incarnate (1977), edited by John Hick, a team of seven British theologians argued from a position within the Church that God's incarnation in Christ is mythical.

The later works (1990s) by George Albert Wells drew on the Pauline Epistles and the lack of early non-Christian documents to argue that the Jesus figure of the Gospels was symbolic, not historical. Wells later went on to retract his position somewhat and admit that he believed the Q source was a reliable early testimony to the historical nature of Jesus, although he has been criticized on this point by Robert M. Price because, Price argues, the imagined “single voice” behind the Q sayings is simply their common distinctive Cynical tang, and as Burton L Mack demonstrates, the same is found among any and all Cynic maxims, which is the only way he can tell the Q sayings are Cynic in the first place. They need not come from a single sage. Earl Doherty (1991, 2001) proposed that Jewish mysticism influenced the development of a Christ myth. Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy (2001) have popularized the Jesus-myth concept in their book The Jesus Mysteries.[1] Frank Zindle's 2003 book The Jesus the Jews Never Knew: Sepher Toldoth Yeshu and the Quest of the Historical Jesus examines the Tacitus and Josephus material quite extensively but is mostly devoted to showing that the ancient Jews never heard of “Jesus of Nazareth” — indeed, they never heard of Nazareth. Another recent book, The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus, examines all archaeological data extant and argues that “Nazareth” was not inhabited at the turn of the era when Jesus’ family should have been living there.

Demonic imitation

The basic theme of demonic imitation is that the devil also imitated the prophecies in the Old Testament so that he had a collection of stories similar to the ones told about Jesus. The purpose of this would be to mislead those seeking salvation either to follow false gods or to deny that in Jesus's case these events really occurred.

He taught us these things for the conversion and restoration of the human race: and (thirdly) that before He became a man among men, some, influenced by the demons before mentioned, related beforehand, through the instrumentality of the poets, those circumstances as having really happened, which, having fictitiously devised, they narrated, in the same manner .... Those who believe these things we pity, and those who invented them we know to be devils....

But those who hand down the myths which the poets have made, adduce no proof to the youths who learn them; and we proceed to demonstrate that they have been uttered by the influence of the wicked demons, to deceive and lead astray the human race. For having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that the Christ was to come, and that the ungodly among men were to be punished by fire, they put forward many to be called sons of Jupiter, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said with regard to Christ were mere marvellous tales, like the things which were said by the poets. And these things were said both among the Greeks and among all nations where they [the demons] heard the prophets foretelling that Christ would specially be believed in; but that in hearing what was said by the prophets they did not accurately understand it, but imitated what was said of our Christ, like men who are in error, we will make plain. The prophet Moses, then, was, as we have already said, older than all writers; and by him, as we have also said before, it was thus predicted: "There shall not fail a prince from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until He come for whom it is reserved; and He shall be the desire of the Gentiles, binding His foal to the vine, washing His robe in the blood of the grape." Genesis 49:10 The devils, accordingly, when they heard these prophetic words, said that Bacchus was the son of Jupiter, and gave out that he was the discoverer of the vine, and they number wine [or, the ass] among his mysteries; and they taught that, having been torn in pieces, he ascended into heaven. And because in the prophecy of Moses it had not been expressly intimated whether He who was to come was the Son of God, and whether He would, riding on the foal, remain on earth or ascend into heaven, and because the name of "foal" could mean either the foal of an ass or the foal of a horse, they, not knowing whether He who was foretold would bring the foal of an ass or of a horse as the sign of His coming, nor whether He was the Son of God, as we said above, or of man, gave out that Bellerophon, a man born of man, himself ascended to heaven on his horse Pegasus. And when they heard it said by the other prophet Isaiah, that He should be born of a virgin, and by His own means ascend into heaven, they pretended that Perseus was spoken of. And when they knew what was said, as has been cited above, in the prophecies written aforetime, "Strong as a giant to run his course," they said that Hercules was strong, and had journeyed over the whole earth. And when, again, they learned that it had been foretold that He should heal every sickness, and raise the dead, they produced Æsculapius.

And the devils, indeed, having heard this washing published by the prophet, instigated those who enter their temples, and are about to approach them with libations and burnt-offerings, also to sprinkle themselves...From what has been already said, you can understand how the devils, in imitation of what was said by Moses, asserted that Proserpine was the daughter of Jupiter, and instigated the people to set up an image of her under the name of Kore,... Justin Martyr, First Apology [32][33]

Jesus as "true myth"

Contemporary to Rudolf Bultmann's interpretation of the New Testament narrative as valid theology in story form, Christian mythologists such as C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien understood the narrative of Christ's sacrificial death of atonement for humanity as a "true myth" with the special property that it had been enacted historically in time and space. Lewis wrote, "The story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened."[34] In this view, mythological predecessors of the "drama" of Christ were inspired glimpses of divine truth that would only become fully manifest at an appointed moment and place, viz. in Roman Judea. For these authors, the mythological elements in the story of the Christ do not undermine but rather enhance the transcendental truth of the gospel.

Different from Bultmann, Lewis and Tolkien did not intend to demythologize the gospel, understanding myth as an intrinsic component of its truth. Instead, they felt a challenge to make use of their "subcreative" powers to rework these mythemes into mythologies of their own in their works of fiction.

In 1977, this line of argument received attention from academic theology, The Myth of God Incarnate, edited by John Hick. In this volume, a team of seven British theologians takes a position from within the Church to the effect that God's incarnation in Christ is mythical. They argue that: New Testament scholarship has shown how fragmentary and ambiguous are the data available to us as we try to look back across nineteen and a half centuries, and at the same time how large and variable is the contribution of the imagination to our "pictures" of Jesus The metaphysical uniqueness of Jesus, as traditionally taught, has always been taken to have carried with it a unique moral perfection [...] It is impossible to justify any such claim on purely historical grounds, however wide the net for evidence is cast. So far as the gospels are concerned, the material in them is too scanty, and too largely selected and organized with reference to other considerations, to provide the necessary evidence.

Michael Green edited a response from evangelical theologians entitled 'The Truth of God Incarnate'.

Jesus as historical nucleus of Christian myth

Regardless of the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, the titles accorded to him in the New Testament and later literature clearly establish him in the tradition of both Hebrew and Hellenistic mythology, as a semi-divine or deified hero or sacred king (Christ or Messiah), and as a saviour (soter). This circumstance is by no means in contradiction to a historical figure as outlined by the gospel, it is rather the predictable interpretation of a story of a "dead and risen Son of God" by the Hellenistic public of the early centuries CE, and during the Constantinian shift (between the Edict of Milan of 313 and the prohibition of pagan cults by Theodosius I in 391) even a conscious amalgamation of the tenets of the early Church Fathers with established cult practice of Roman imperial cult. The identification of Christ with Sol Invictus and the establishment of the Pontifex Maximus as the "steward of Christ" in the Roman church is a result of this process of amalgamation. Similarly, Christian liturgy and liturgical calendar were modelled after Roman examples, e.g. the adoption of the festival of Sol Invictus to commemorate the Epiphany of Christ.

These aspects were taken up in Germanic Christianity and combined with Germanic myth, giving rise to heroic poetry surrounding Christ and his sacrificial death, such as The Dream of the Rood.

Jesus as unhistorical myth

Opinions of a purely or primarily mythical Christ originate in the late 18th century with Charles François Dupuis.[35] In works published in the 1790s, both argued that numerous ancient myths, including the life of Jesus, were based on the movement of the sun through the zodiac.[36][37][38] Dupuis identified pre-Christian rituals in Syria, Egypt and Persia as representing the birth of a god to a virgin at the winter solstice, and connected this to the winter rising of the constellation of Virgo. The first academic advocate was the 19th century historian and theologian Bruno Bauer. Proponents such as Arthur Drews were influential in Biblical studies during the early 20th century. The hypothesis is mostly considered obsolete in current scholarship,[39][40] but a number of authors such as George Albert Wells, Earl Doherty and Robert M. Price have discussed similar ideas in popular literature in the 1970s to 2000s.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Freke, T; Gandy, P (2001). The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God?. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0609807989. 
  2. Sandmel, S (1962). "Parallelomania". Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1): 1–13. 
  3. Ward Gasque, W. Ward. The Leading Religion Writer in Canada ... Does He Know What He's Talking About? (8/09/2004) George Mason University's History News Network Retrieved: 10/24/2008
  4. Massey, Ancient Egypt[1][2] pp. 215ff.
  5. Tom Harpur Biography. Accessed 18 Nov. 2008
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Egyptian Mythology, a Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Pinch 2004 ISBN 0195170245 Oxford Univ Press page 91
  7. 7.0 7.1 Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt by Margaret Bunson 1999 ISBN 0517203804 page 290
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Can we trust the New Testament?: thoughts on the reliability of early Christian testimony", George Albert Wells, p. 18, Open Court Publishing, 2004, ISBN 978-0-8126-9567-0
  9. David J. MacLeod. The Emmaus Journal. Volume 7 #2, Winter 1998, pg. 169
  10. New Testament tools and studies", Bruce Manning Metzger, p. 19, Brill Archive, 1960
  11. "Baptism and resurrection: studies in Pauline theology against its Graeco-Roman background Volume 44 of "Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament" Baptism and Resurrection: Studies in Pauline Theology Against Its Graeco-Roman Background", A. J. M. Wedderburn, p. 199, Mohr Siebeck, 1987, ISBN 978-3-16-145192-8
  12. "The ancient mysteries: a sourcebook : sacred texts of the mystery religions of the ancient Mediterranean world", Marvin W. Meyer, p. 254, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0-8122-1692-9
  13. Joseph Campbell "the dead and resurrected god Tammuz (Sumerian Dumuzi), prototype of the Classical Adonis" (in Oriental Mythology: The Masks of God pp 39-40).
  14. Miroslav Marcovich, "From Ishtar to Aphrodite" Journal of Aesthetic Education 30.2, Special Issue: Distinguished Humanities Lectures II (Summer 1996) p 49.)
  15. Dialogue with Trypho ch. 64
  16. Beard, M; North, J and Price, S (1998). Religions of Rome Volume 1: A History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 266, 301. ISBN 0-521-30401-6. 
  17. Beck, RL (2003). "Mithras". in Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth. The Oxford Classical Dictionary (revised 3rd edition ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 991–992. 978-0198606413. 
  18. J (2006), Unmasking the pagan Christ : an evangelical response to the cosmic Christ idea, Toronto: Clements Pub., pp. 100–104, ISBN 1894667719,,M1 
  19. Kloppenborg, John (1987). The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections (Studies in Antiquity and Christianity). Trinity Press International. pp. 263–316. ISBN 978-1563383069. 
  20. Doherty, E. "THE JESUS PUZZLE Was There No Historical Jesus?". Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  21. *Doherty, Earl (2000). The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin With a Mythical Christ? (rev. ed. ed.). Ottawa: Canadian Humanist Publications. ISBN 0-9686014-0-5. 
  22. Price, C (2003). "Earl Doherty on Christian Use of the Hebrew Bible". Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  23. Bartlett, JR (1998). 1 Maccabees (Guide to the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, 5). Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 978-1850757634. 
  24. Bartlett, John R. (1973). The First and Second Books of the Maccabees. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521086582. 
  25. Allen, C., The Buddha and the Sahibs: the men who discovered India's lost religion, John Murray, 2002, pp.33-4
  26. "Book of Mormon," 3 Nephi.
  27. Gardner, B., "The Christianization of Quetzalcoatl: A History of the Metamorphosis." SUNSTONE vol.10, 1986, number 11. pp. 6-10
  28. Komoszewski, JE; Sawyer, MJ & Wallace, DB (2006). Reinventing Jesus. Kregel Publications. pp. 237. ISBN 978-0825429828. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 Frazer, JG (2005). The Golden Bough — A Study in Magic and Religion. Cosimo. ISBN 978-1596056855. 
  30. Forgery In Christianity
  31. Allegro, John M. (1970). The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross: A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity Within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East. London: Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-12875-5. 
  32. [3]
  33. See Justin Martyr#The Apology for more information on this book
  35. Schweitzer (2000) 355; similarly Weaver (1999) 45.
  36. Wells (1969); more briefly Schweitzer (2000) 527 n. 1.
  37. Constantin-François Volney, Les ruines, ou Méditations sur les révolutions des empires (Paris: Desenne, 1791); English translation, The Ruins, or a Survey of the Revolutions of Empires (New York: Davis, 1796).
  38. C. F. Dupuis, Origine de tous les cultes (Paris: Chasseriau, 1794); English translation, The Origin of All Religious Worship (New York: Garland, 1984).
  39. "There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more.” Burridge 2004, p. 34
  40. "The nonhistoricity thesis has always been controversial, and it has consistently failed to convince scholars of many disciplines and religious creeds... Biblical scholars and classical historians now regard it as effectively refuted." - Van Voorst 2000, p. 16
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Jesus Christ in comparative mythology. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.