« Previous | Main | Next »

Plagiarism: the new global trade

Post categories:

William Crawley | 10:08 UK time, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

plagiarism.jpgIn a sense, "plagiarism" gives the wrong impression. This is outsourcing an essay or dissertation, then submitting as "original" piece of work as your own. In another sense, it's much worse than traditional plagiarism. And it's big money these days. Some students, particularly in the United States, are paying online companies to write, from scratch.

Perhaps passing off another person's ideas and words seems less like stealing than carrying off their television set. We've had many examples of pastors lifting sermons from the net and presenting them from a pulpit as their own -- relying more an Yahoo than Yahweh. In some cases, those pastors defending their action as somehow less than theft, and certainly not a full-blooded violation of the eighth commandment. Why? Because, well, they're just sentences, items of intellectual property. How could anyone rate that kind of "lifting" as equivalent to lifting a plasma screen? Surely it is a kind of "borrowing" rather than "stealing", or even a kind of intertextuality: using someone else's words within a common tradition of lifting and borrowing and developing a point forward. This is, of course, self-deception. In fact, those who value ideas and regard the sentence (in the words of John Banville) as "humanity's greatest and most distinctive invention", can only consider the theft of someone's writings as a far greater crime.


  • Comment number 1.

    "You steal ideas from one person, that's plagiarism. You steal ideas from one hundred people, that's research."

    There are precious few original thinkers on the planet.

    I have quoted someone, but cannot remember who. Apologies.

  • Comment number 2.

    Let me recycle a couple of ideas:

    "Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us". Ecclesiastes

    "One of the surest tests is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal..." TS Eliot

  • Comment number 3.

    I think it was Warren Wiersbe who said:
    "Milk many cows, but churn your own butter"!

    Good advice, I think you'll agree!

  • Comment number 4.

    Benjamin Franklin said (allegedly!): "Originality is the art of concealing your sources"

    Fair enough.

    But it appears that the case referred to on this thread is that somebody else is actually doing the work for you.

    Will is right, it's worse than plagiarism, it's receiving credit for work which is not in any way your own. Will is also right about self-deception.

    Sometimes in school we tell the pupils, 'Cheating is pretending to know an answer when really you don't - then you cheat yourself', in this case though, others are being cheated as well.

    The issue of stealing sermons raises another dilemma; I can't see how anyone learns anything by a mere repetition of someone else's work. Surely if it is to be meaningful, the communication of what we call God's word must take hold of the 'preacher' and change him/her first before it changes anyone else?

  • Comment number 5.

    Peter - the preface to the Anglican Church's First Book of Homilies (1547-62) justifies its existence on the following grounds: "all they which are appointed Ministers, have not the gift of preaching sufficiently to instruct the people, which is committed unto them, whereof great inconveniences might rise, and ignorance still be maintained, if some honest remedy be not speedily found and provided". I wish I did not have to append the inevitable plus ca change...

  • Comment number 6.

    I confess to having plagarized in college. I apologize sincerely for it. (Especially for an essay in which I argued for an atheistic opinion I no longer hold.) Nowadays, I may take ideas from other people in my writings but I usually put them into my own words, reveal the source*, or put my own spin onto the ideas (which is sometimes in a different direction)...

    * One exception is when I sometimes comment at my local church. I may not reveal my sources because it would potentially offend the people there to know I'm using ideas from a female Episcopalian universalist children's book author (Madeline L'Engle), an environmentalist (Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins- I'm not sure which of them had the original idea), a Christian Socialist (Walter Rauschenbusch), and a (then-future) Doctor (David Tennant, namely his Sunday Worship for April 1, 2001)

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Plagiarism is nothing new. Religious myths are themselves replete with plagiarisms: omnipotent gods, saviours, virgin births, miracles, resurrections, promises of eternal life, Floods, variations on the Golden Rule.

    Hercules was born of a divine father and a mortal mother and was known as the saviour of the world; Osiris's son was known as 'the light of the world'; Dionysus, literally the 'son of God' was born of a virgin mother and was commonly depicted riding a donkey; Mithra's birthday was celebrated on 25th December and he had 12 disciples; Buddha also had 12 disciples; Krishna had a miraculous conception and was visited by wise men guided by a star. And so on.

    In fact, they are all fables copied from other fables.

  • Comment number 9.

    Any excuse, eh?

  • Comment number 10.

    A postmodern poem for Brian

    RE POST 8

    this TOSH has
    ABANDONED please

    Hey, this po-mo poetry stuff is pretty easy!


  • Comment number 11.

    Or how about I advance an argument against humanism parallel to Brian's.

    The devil made you type post 8, so he did


    Atheists only refuse to believe in God because they're sinners


    Brian's really a Stalinist, because they used arguments like post 8, and all similarities are explained by a common cause or source


  • Comment number 12.


    You know all this talk of pagan myths? It is strange, isn't it, that these themes are recurrent throughout culture and history, as Chesterton said, Mythology is a search. The place that the shepherds found ... was a place of dreams come true. Since that hour no mythologies have been made in the world.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Graham, Peter, Bernard:

    I forgot to mention:

    1. Asklepios, who healed the sick, raised the dead, and was known as the saviour and redeemed;

    2. Prophets foretold the birth of Hercules and claimed he would be a king;

    3. Hercules walked on water and, as he was dying, he is recorded as saying: "It is finished";

    4. On judgment day, Mithra would return to pass judgment on the living and the dead;

    5. After Krishna was born, an area ruler tried to have him found and killed;

    6. Apollonius of Tyana, a contemporary of Jesus, was allegedly also born of a virgin, foretold by an angel, and he performed countless miracles like healing the sick and crippled, restoring sight.

    7. Apollonius was also allegedly crucified, roe from the dead and appeared to his disciples before going to heaven to sit at the right hand of the father. Did his story borrow from the Jesus myth, or vice versa? Or did they both steal from a common source?

    8. Here is a hermeutical poem about Horus for Graham:

    Conceived by a virgin
    Only begotten son of the God Osiris
    Mother's name was Meri
    Foster father's name was Seb
    Foster father was of royal descent
    Born in a cave
    Annunciation by an angel to his mother, Isis
    Heralded by the star Sirius, the morning star.
    Date - 21 December (Winter Solstice)
    Announced by angels
    Witnessed by shepherds
    Later witnessed by three solar deities
    Herut tried to have Horus murdered
    Rite of passage at age 12
    Baptised at age 30
    Break in data on life history between age 12 and 30
    Baptised by Anup the Baptiser (in the river Eridanus), who was subsequently beheaded
    Death by crucifixion, followed by resurrection.

    Such is the long arm of coincidence!

    Dean Inge was indeed right: originality is undetected plagiarism. Or as Terence allegedly put it: "nothing is said which has not been said before".

    I hope all this doesn't misrepresent Aquinas, Graham. It seems I did that before on the papal condom thread without even mentioning him!

  • Comment number 14.


    Thanks so much for post 13.

    All I have to say is... exactly!

  • Comment number 15.

    Must be the animal in me - feel I have to stake out my claim to the po-mo territory from the imposters.

    Here's my effort:

    Ode on the mystic civil partnership of St Thomas Aquinas and Graham Veale (with Blessed Brian McClinton):

    S A
    U C
    M I
    M G
    A O
    t o

  • Comment number 16.

    The spacing does not post - a major draw-back for creative poets and obvious sign of BBC bias against post-modernists.

  • Comment number 17.

  • Comment number 18.

    Here, sure, seeing as we're all at it

    Michael can get upset
    Without thinking.
    A point that's relevant.
    Idle fellow,
    but he gives us a buzz.
    Which organism contains this
    Fine fabric wrapped round

  • Comment number 19.

    It was plagiarised, of course, from a random selection of 'Times' crossword clues.

    I rather liked, "Fine fabric wrapped round new surgical instrument."

    Coupled with "bloodlike fluid" it's sort of redemptive, don't you think!?

  • Comment number 20.

    Critique of Poem # 18

    Morrow's hitherto unsuspected post-modernist sympathies are evinced in surprisingly mature form in this taut, considered and highly emotional work.

    There is a superb tension between an authorial genesis in the rubbishing of the medium of expression, and the thing thus expressed, in this case a perfect exemplification of the Morrovian preoccupation with deriving meaning from Chaos, with finding structure and beauty in what might be thought essentially random.

    The work demonstrates, in a manner but few can master, the perfect iterability of language with its originary complexity not as intent but inherent. We lesser poets can only marvel at the mastery.

    We understand literature as "an ongoing system of interconnecting documents", in his choice of source, The Times, Morrow grounds his expressed compassion and spirituality in daily life and involvement with suffering humanity ("Michael can get upset... A point that's relevant"). We see him questioning the institutional Church "Which organism contains this Bloodlike Fluid?" and hear his fierce advocacy of activism and intervention against the wrongs of the world - those who are wrapped in the robe of Christ are not so much the "glorious new wine", more a scalpel to lance the boil of evil, pain, complacency and all the other ills of mankind.

    A few short words but with black-hole density of meaning and import: in this work Morrow condenses the quasi-totality of his blogging concerns and gives them power and a certain beauty. There is no title: is that a product of a characteristic modesty or is it an invitation for us each to search for our own significance? If the latter I can only propose Aletheia.

  • Comment number 21.

    How clearly I am seen
    On this dark glass!
    I ought to cross it with silver.
    Thirty molten pieces
    Spread upon it's palm.

    BTW, this is getting ridiculous.

  • Comment number 22.


    Aquinas and Natural Law? Oh, not on that thread. I was referring to the many misconceptions of Natural Law theory you've shown recently. Or are you saying that you know that he didn't believe that sex was only for reproduction? That he'd no problem with pleasure?

    Now you know I've the deepest respect for you Brian, and will defend your right to be Grumpy Old Man (GOM's are the foundation of every civilisation) to the death. But that respect terminates when you step into your Tardis to repeat arguments that had their final gasp in the 1960's. What am I to do with this Dan Brown-esque nonsense?

    A) Repeat my demand for any contemporary academic who has presented a detailed argument challenging the consensus that the analogies between these "mystery religions" is not strongly outweighed by the disanalogies.
    B) Then ask YOU if you are aware of the disanalogies? Can you point a few out, just to show that you haven't read the evidence selectively. That is, only picking out the parts that *sound* similar to Christianity? (Like the ludicrous allusion to Krishna. What the heck is that supposed to explain?!!
    C) Point out that if stories about Apollonius of Tyana come from Philostratus' account, written in the Third Century over 100 years after Apollonius. Gee, now that means both the man and the sources POST-Date Christianity. Now I wonder - what explains the similarities between Apollonius and Christianity? Hmmm...
    D) Especially as Philostratus' work was commissioned by Julia Domna, wife of the Emperor Septimus Severus, and is widely regarded as a piece of anti-Christian propaganda.
    Why are the stories so similar? ...Oh, oh, I know the answer - they borrowed from a common source! Yes, explains that it! Quick, tell JTNS to stop the presses, I've explained the rise of Christianity.
    E) As for the Horus poem - what was your source? The Zeitgeist film? Oddly enough, I'd a bit of an interest in Egyptian cosmogonies. So lemme see -

    "Conceived by a virgin"

    *Nope, a post-humous conception involving Osiris' dismembered member. Or a prosthetic replacement of said member. (Which makes you wonder how much Egyptian theology started life) as a dirty joke. Still, not a trace of virginity about our Isis. You may as well draw an analogy with artificial insemination.*

    *Did I mention she was a falcon or kite at the time of the conception? Just like the Christmas story, isn't it? *

    "Only begotten son of the God Osiris"

    *The Egyptians had a phrase for "only-begotten"? Wow! Who knew?!*

    "Mother's name was Meri"

    *Try "Hathor" or "Isis" (or Isis-Meri according to wiki). Doesn't really sound as suspicious when all the details are given. This reminds me of British Israelites arguing that the lost tribes of Israel ended up in Ireland because some Irish place names sound like Dan or Asher. Very amusing, I suppose, but not a faith shaker.*

    Foster father's name was Seb

    *Even if it was - what would this prove? In any case in many Egyptian sources his father was Hathor, or Ra, or in the Thoth cult Thoth created Ra-Herakhty (Horus), via an egg.
    But mainly, chiefly and famously his father was Osiris. It was Osiris, not Horus, who ended up in the underworld, and did not undergo anything like a resurrection. In fact, Osiris' story is a rather tragic one. One missing piece of his body prevented his return to full life.*

    Foster father was of royal descent


    Born in a cave

    *Your point being?*

    Annunciation by an angel to his mother, Isis


    Birth Heralded by the star Sirius, the morning star.

    *Which sounds oh so suspicious, until you look at how stars functioned in Egyptian cosmogony. Now, will you explain your interpretation of Egyptian cosmogony to me Brian? I'd like to hear your take on it.

    In any case, what was your source about the stars? I can't think of a god involved in his birth that would fulfill this role. Nut is the only god associated with stars to my knowledge.*

    Date - 21 December (Winter Solstice)
    *And of course all four Gospels teach tha Jesus was born on the 25th December, so I have to admit, you have a strong case there.

    Announced by angels

    *Egyptian mythology had angels? Greek mythology? Wow! How did that knowledge stay hidden for so long?*

    Witnessed by shepherds

    Later witnessed by three solar deities

    *Once more - so what?*

    Herut tried to have Horus murdered

    *You mean Seth, the one-testicled god who murdered Horus' father by trapping him in a coffin then dismembering him? Seth the embodiment of disorder who was Horus' complement, his necessary opposite? Who battles Horus for eighty years, and is declared loser by Geb, the Earth god, who gives Egypt to Horus? I can see clear analogies to Christian Orthodoxy. Yes, this sounds just like the slaughter of the innocents!JTNS here I come!*

    Rite of passage at age 12
    Baptised at age 30
    Break in data on life history between age 12 and 30

    *What??!! Horus did hide out in the swamps as a child - but you make it sound as if Horus was a human, with a human biography with bits missing. And if anything this part of his life story is more redolent of Moses than Jesus*

    Baptised by Anup the Baptiser (in the river Eridanus), who was subsequently beheaded

    *Baptism in the Egyptian religion? Nope. Now Anubis, the Jackal headed god of the underworld I know about. Anup? Let me try a google - yep, same person. So he embalmed Osiris. Baptised Horus? Somebody, somehere has smoked something a little to strong...*

    Death by crucifixion, followed by resurrection.

    *Okay, now you have lost the plot. Scratch the Zeitgeist movie, this sounds like "The Mummy Returns". You've actually said something that Dan Brown wouldn't. Congratulations.

    Crucifxion doesn't even happen in Plutrach's version of the OSIRIS legend (which you have confused with the story of Horus). Horus hurt his left eye in his battle with Set/Seth. Period.*

    Brian, this is absolutely atrocious. I'd be gentler in my comments, but you should know better than repeat internet-gossip. The History of Religions school had its problems, but it didn't resort to making stuff up!

    Did you even bother to check thesse ridiculous assertions against Plutrach, who would be your best chance of showing a connection?


  • Comment number 23.


  • Comment number 24.

    Going back to the original blog on Plagiarism.

    The series that a pastor is delivering is not only based on a book but is taken verbatim from that book with no acknowledgement. I have heard a couple of these sermons and he delivers them as his own work. He is lying to his congregation!

    This person is highly thought of in preaching circles and has lectured in a theological college.

    The stakes are high or maybe he thinks his flock are really like sheep – stupid and won’t ever find out.

  • Comment number 25.


    A smile by way of response isn't enough on this thread, you have to write a poem!

    It doesn't have to rhyme though.

  • Comment number 26.

    A Haiku

    My poetic skills
    leave much to be desired still
    yet, by leave, applaud.

  • Comment number 27.

    Here it is for those who haven't seen it before. must be almost 50 years olde and still funny as hell;


  • Comment number 28.

    Yep, it sure was funny!

  • Comment number 29.


    I have been in two minds about replying to your latest diatribe (22). It seems that backhanded compliments and arguments ad hominen are never far below the surface. I am apparently a 'grumpy old man' because I don't believe in the originality of Christianity. That's stretching it a bit, surely? I don't feel grumpy about this issue. On the contrary, I feel reassured that myths are myths wherever they originate and that many cultures share and borrow from other cultures and myths. Christianity is clearly no exception. The onus is entirely on Christians to demonstrate that their myth is different from any other myth of this kind.

    I would refer you to one parallel, that of Dionysus (predating Christianity). Of course, there are many versions of each myth, but
    the website 'Religious Tolerance', which is not an atheist/ sceptic site, lists the following parallels:

    1. God was his father. This was believed to be literally true in the case of Dionysus; his God came to earth and engaged in sexual intercourse with a human. The father of Jesus is God in the form of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18).

    2. A human woman, a virgin, was his mother.

    3. He was born in a cave or cowshed. Luke 2:7 mentions that Jesus was placed in a manger - an eating trough for animals. One early Christian tradition said that the manger was in a cave.

    4. His birth was prophesied by a star in the heavens.

    5. At a marriage ceremony, he performed the miracle of converting water into wine.

    6. He was powerless to perform miracles in his home town.

    7. His followers were born-again through baptism in water.

    8. He rode triumphantly into a city on a donkey. Tradition records that the inhabitants waved palm leaves.

    9. He had 12 disciples.

    10. He was accused of licentious behaviour.

    11. He was killed near the time of the Vernal Equinox, about 21st March.

    12. He died "as a sacrifice for the sins of the world."

    13 He was hung on a tree, stake, or cross.

    14. After death, he descended into hell.

    15. On the third day after his death, he returned to life.

    16. The cave where he was laid was visited by three of his female followers

    17. He later ascended to heaven.

    18. His titles: God made flesh;
    Saviour of the world; Son of God.

    19. Beliefs about the God-man:
    He is "God made man," and equal to the Father. He will return in the last days. He will judge the human race at that time. Humans are separated from God by original sin. The god-man's sacrificial death reunites the believer with God and atones for the original sin.

    Now, you might well WANT to believe that the parallels are rubbish, and that your myth washes whiter than the others, but you have to PROVE IT, or at least offer some REAL evidence other than blind faith and quotes from the 'sacred text' (which proves and substantiates nothing). And you patently fail to do so.

  • Comment number 30.

    Brian, speaking of PROOF;

    from where have you sourced all of these "facts" about dionysius?

  • Comment number 31.

    You know Brian, I was working on a reply and then I thought... Brian hasn't really quoted from the stories of Dionysus at all, he has quoted from the story of Jesus.

    So, Brian, after you tell the full story, you know the one with him being twice born (oh another parallel, an evangelical christian one this time) out of Zeus's thigh or the one with the mead made from his heart, after he'd been dismembered, given to Semele to drink who then got pregnant and that got him resurrected, and the one with the nymphs who cared for him, and the one were he went mad, made mad by Zeus's jealous wife Hera but got cured by Rhea, the one where he gave Midas his touch gift, and ... oh you know, the rest is on wiki.

    Saved me a bundle of time that, wiki, I mean, meant I didn't have to do any real reading, mythology books, still on the shelf!

  • Comment number 32.


    Your a grumpy old man because your a grumpy old man(-: We've joked about that before. John Wright even dudg out a site for you! Maybe I need to include more smileys in my posts. It was an appelation that you seemed to be proud of, and certainly I am looking forward to joining the ranks of the GOMs.

    I do have a deep respect for you. You have a fightening knowledge of a lot of subjects, and you read widely and deeply. So when you uncharacteristically draw parallels between Horus and Dionysius and Jesus without checking your sources - saying things that go far beyond the claims of the History of Religions school - I wonder what on earth motivated you to make such a lazy mistake.

    If I were to slip up like that you would justifiably hammer me. And I think that we've been exchanging posts long enough for you to expect me to take it on the chin.

    The Religious Tolerance web-site is unreliable. Try Belief-Net if you want a range of views from those who actually know what they are talking about.

    Many of the mystery cults evolved significantly after the rise of Chrsitianity (eg the oft cited Taurobolium is a post-Christian development). So you need to check that a source on, say, the Dionysian cult was written BC.

    In any case, PM has pointed out the significant disanalogies. He has also pointed out that using Biblical language to describe non-biblical narratives makes the ananlogies seem stronger than they actually are. And finally he has asked if there isn't an underlying fact about humanity that can explain analogies that occur in myths that could not be influenced by each other (eg. Krishna and Buddha could not have Christian influences).

    So I think he has decisively answered your objection, and given you a question about spirituality that you have yet to answer.


  • Comment number 33.

    As for evidence, I've provided it in many lengthy posts. It may not convince you - but to be fair, you don't believe that historians can prove that Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him. So your bar of what can be rationally accepted is rather high. (A bit too high to my mind).

    "Skeptic" is something of an understatement Brian.

    Truth be told, I find it admirable in many ways.


  • Comment number 34.


    Some of you Christians just can't leave off the psychoanalysis, can you? This is not about me but about your desperate attempts (and that of other blinkered believers on this blog) to sustain a daft and improbable myth by claiming that, somehow or other, its fantasy folk tales are genuine and orginal and other myths aren't. If you can't really see that in your heart of hearts, then you have really lost the plot indeed.

    Do you really and truly believe that Jesus Christ was born of an earthly virgin mother and a heavenly father? Do you really and truly believe that Jesus Christ walked on water and turned water into wine? Do you really and truly believe that Jesus Christ raised people from the dead and himself was raised from the dead?

    Let me get this clear. The person who believes the above is sane and sensible, according to you, whereas the sceptic is.... well, too sceptical by half? Gosh! What a strange fantasy world! In that case, thank --- I'm a sceptic.

    Do you deny that other myths share many of these fantastical features?

    Do you deny that these myths plagiarise from one another, including Christianity?

    You say:"The Religious Tolerance web-site is unreliable. Try Belief-Net if you want a range of views from those who actually know what they are talking about".

    I dispute this statement strongly. Religious Tolerance is far superior and more scholarly. "People who know what they are talking about about", in your perspective, are believers”, which is hardly objective, is it?

    Most of the sources for Dionysus (dios, genitive of Zeus) are lost in the mists of time, but here are a few:

    Hesiod (Theogony):

    "Semele, Cadmus' daughter, lay with Zeus,
    and bore to him a brilliant son, a god,
    glad Dionysus, mortal though she was,
    and now they both have joined the ranks of the gods".

    Homer (Poem):

    "Semele conceived and bore you to Zeus who delights in thunder;
    and, O lord, some liars say you were born at Thebes when in truth the father of gods and men
    gave birth to you and kept you well out of the sight of men and white-armed Hera".

    Martin Hengel has argued that Dionysian religion and Christianity are significantly parallel, stating that "Dionysus had been at home in Palestine for a long time, and Judaism was influenced by Dionysian traditions". (Studies in Early Christology, 2005).

    Barry Powell thinks that Christian notions of eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Jesus were influenced by the cult of Dionysus. In another parallel that Powell adduces, Dionysus was distinct among Greek gods as a deity commonly felt 'within' individual followers.

    Another example of possible influence on Christianity is that Dionysus' followers, as well as another god, Pan, are said to have had the most influence on the noncanonical depiction of Satan as animal-like and horned (Classical Myth, 1998).

    Wine was important to Dionysus, imagined as its creator. The creation of wine from water figures also in the story of the Marriage at Cana story. In the 19th century, Bultmann and others compared both themes and concluded that the Dionysian theophany was transferred to Jesus. At Elis during the Thyeia, the festival of Dionysus, three pots would be placed by priests in a sealed room and the following day be found to mraculously be filled with wine. (Pausanias, Description of Greece; Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae). At Andros and Teos water flowing from the spring in the temple of Dionysus changed to wine on his feast days, January 5 and 6 (Pliny the Elder, Natural History); the Marriage at Cana is placed on 6 January in the Christian calendar.

    Martin Hengel suggests that since all Palestinians were familiar with the transformation of water to wine as a miracle, it was expected from the Messiah to perform it.

  • Comment number 35.

    Well, at least my grumpy old man thesis has been confirmed.

    You can dispute whatever thesis you like.

    On Religious Tolerance we have the following essays
    "Wired:" "About spanking"

    Anon: "The marriage passbook."

    "C.B.: "The rights of the pregnant woman vs. the the rights of her pre-embryo, embryo or fetus"

    All experts in their field. Unlike Belief net which tends to ask publishing scholars like Pagels and Witherington to contribute.

    The misrepresentation of Hengel is horrible. To explain *one* miracle account in this way - and other, better explanations are availble for the skeptic - does not mean that he would explain the whole Jesus tradition in this way. To imply that a scholar of Hengel's stature would support your bizarre hypothesis is disingenuous. And Bultmann's arguments have been subjected to a lot of scritiny over the last 100 years. You might consider glancing at some of it. Just a thought.

    What the Christian calendar and paintings of Satan have to do with Christian origins is anybodies guess. And once more you only state analogies, and ignore the substantial disanalogies. Which is bad scholarship.

    Now what evidential force does your incredulity actually have? Prima Facie, you find miracles improbable. So do I. That's why we call them miracles. Beyond your incredulity what exactly is your argument?

    At least I might get a sensible discussion of Hume out of all this.


  • Comment number 36.

    oops I forgot


  • Comment number 37.

    And a "backhanded compliment" is still a compliment.
    What does it take to convince you the compliment is meant sincerely - a lie detector test?


  • Comment number 38.

    And Beliefnet includes discussions and essays from skeptics. Like Pagels.

  • Comment number 39.

    For the sake of clarification, because you have offered various opinions on Jesus over the months we have corresponded, do you accept the historical reality of the person we refer to as Jesus of Nazareth living in Palestine at or around the beginning of the common era, because, if my memory serves me correctly, you have previously disputed this.

    If you think he was only a 'mythical' person in the sense that he did not walk dusty streets, eat food, use the toilet, wash, drink wine, wear clothes, could be touched, spoken to, kicked, hit, and so on, then we're wasting our time debating this any further. So, do we have as a starting point the historicity of Jesus? In other words do you accept that if you have been alive then that you could have had a conversation with this person and that you could have 'shook his hand'?

    Secondly, are you prepared to move beyond the superficial similarities which do appear and consider the narratives in their totality. That includes narrative structure, underlying ideas and complex parallels central to the story and the meaning?

    Third, do you accept that the form in which you communicated the apparent Dionysus similarities majored on the use of 'christian' terms to describe a non-christian myth, while at the same time ignoring the many and substantial differences? For example, you said, "God was his father", when in actual fact not only was Zeus also born according to mythology, but Jesus is understood in Christianity as equal, eternal and co-existent with God. I'll not quote the Confession of Chalcedon, but I could. Brian this difference outweighs the similarity. (Big time) Jesus also bears a direct parallel with the Hebrew God explained in the OT. (which, I suppose, is a point in itself)

    Furthermore do you accept that trying to assign dates, such as the church calendar to the events of the life of Jesus is irrelevant, because there is neither a biblical demand that Christians festivals (few that there are) be celebrated at set times, nor is there any link between the Liturgical year and the Hebrew Year. (Me, I ignore them all, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, etc, "Keep Jesus out of them", that's what I say! Of course you already know I think this, as I'm sure you have also realised that I have consistently argued against those aspects of the christian sub-culture which do not relate to the bible. Christians are not bound by these or any other rituals, that's the whole point of Jesus!)

    Do you also accept that much is recorded in the NT of the various apostles attempts to distance themselves and their message from the surrounding culture. Syncretism was not their aim. Jesus was not just another god to be integrated into the religious practice of a society? It was usually this that got them killed, and it's what gets Christians called intolerant today.

    Now to be honest I'm not sure where this conversation might go after this, but I am interested in your views.

  • Comment number 40.

    Brian, apologies, post 39 is a reply to you. I left your name off the top, sorry.

  • Comment number 41.

    A critique of poem # 26.

    I am afraid I could not resist the challenge to deconstruct this work of Bernard's. Like Morrow's similarly untitled piece it demonstrates how we betray ourselves in poetry, how the work of our hands, the creation of our minds, once set free, turns on us in treachery.

    When a writer whose oeuvre would lead one to suspect an inclination towards the epic expresses himself in so compressed a format surely he must have laid-down meaning layer upon layer upon layer. The work thus produced will therefore consist in semiotic strata so rich with the ore of significance that not even a lifetime's mining could begin to exhaust them.

    Let me attempt then just to scratch the surface with the observations born of but a weekend's familiarisation with the piece.

    First there is the structure of the work: it is hardly surprising that a philosopher and logician should choose a highly formal framework to contain his thoughts.

    The haiku is a poem of three lines, one of five syllables, one of seven and one of five. The many significances in Christian thought of the number three need no comment and can be afforded none in so short a critique; it is the numbers five and seven which are more interesting. Seven is the number which speaks of God in His wholeness and perfection, Bernard wraps it in five. We immediately think of St Thomas Aquinas' five proofs, five ways of finding the perfect being (God), five paths leading to the grounding of human knowledge in the Divine and in return validating our ordinary knowledge of the finite world of experience.

    Bernard has mastered absolutely the formal requirements of the haiku - this poem is structurally perfect: there is a wonderfully original kireji (caesura) to which I will return, so the apparent absence of kigo (seasonal reference) initially puzzled me. Was there a flaw, a deliberate imperfection such as a devout Muslim would weave into the finest oriental carpet to avoid the charge of seeking to match the perfection of Allah? No, that was not the underlying message here - this is a seasonal poem: suddenly it struck me - this is a poem of Spring, of faith, renewal, resurrection.

    The clue is in the repeated word leave. Bernard is not, as it might appear to the casual reader, dismissing his God-given poetic skills, rather he is proclaiming that those skills will enfoliate the desiderata of existence: they will envelop them in lush greenness, and reflect the new life, vitality, and vigour which accompany sanctification.

    The poet so proclaims his intent and then, as required, pauses; he breaks his argument with that striking kireji I mentioned earlier, the apparently tautological still//yet. The break not only divides the two messages or arguments of the poem it invites the audience, in the pause, to contemplate and surrender. It is an imperative - it commands us "Be still, and know that I am God" - it begins the ordinances of the second part of the poem ("for here he takes control").

    The endeavours of the philosophers, as exemplified by Aquinas, not only give us permission, "by leave", to accept God, they require it of us, they command us - cf. the homophone "believe". Bernard, however, does not stop at belief, I would contend he advocates the potent act in the context of a metaphysics of participation. After commanding our belief he orders us to community praise, to "applaud". The roots of "applaud" are in the laus which is God's due.

    What then, we might ask, is this praise then that we should offer? In the context and with this poet there can be little doubt. St Thomas' own utterly wonderful words surely fit the bill: Pange lingua gloriosi. The poem ends by proclaiming the whole mystery of faith, the essence of Catholic teaching, the heart of Christianity.

    So far, so good - the discerning critic may say I have stated nothing but the blindingly obvious. There is, however, more...

    What if, as well as the Haiku, there were another formal structure to be discerned here? I believe there is and it is what Morrow might call the Judas structure. We might read this work as an enthymeme.

    Argument one: my poetic skills are deficient.
    Argument two: my poetic skills may be applauded.
    The premise not made explicit: it is ok, given permission, to endorse whole-heartedly the deficient.

    Little naughty mini-me wonders if this does not rather neatly encapsulate something the poet's attitude to the Catholic Church.

  • Comment number 42.


    Do you deny that there were several myths of virgin-born, miracle-making, killed, resurrected, saviour-gods before the Gospels?

    Let us consider two further examples.
    1. BEL (Hebrew: BAAL)
    SOURCE: ancient Babylonian tablet in the British museum describing a passion play. Dated to about 2,000BC.

    Bel is arrested, tried and sentenced to death. He is carried away to the Mount. With him are two malefactors, one of whom is released. Bel is killed (but the manner is not described; according to some experts, this may be because it took place on a hill where he was hung on one of the trees in the sacred grove, or crucified or slain on an altar). His clothes are then carried away. A weeping woman seeks Bel at the gates of burial but it is missing. Bel is brought back to life and so proves that death has been conquered and that he has secured life for all, in the hereafter.

    2. KRISHNA
    Sources: Mahabharata (poem, 8th-4th century BC); William Jones: Asiatic Researches; J.M Robertson: Christianity and Mythology; Edward Gibbon: History of Christianity; Monier Williams: Hinduism

    Krishna was the person of Vishnu himself in human form. He was born of a virgin called Devaki who was selected to become 'the mother of god'. An angelic voice from heaven announced to the virgin: "In thy delivery, O favoured among women, all nations shall have cause to rejoice". The nativity of Krishna is heralded by a star at the time of his birth in a cave, where he is visited by wise men who bring him valuable presents. The King seeks the life of Krishna by ordering the slaughter of all male children born on the same night. A heavenly voice warns Nanda (the equivalent of Joseph) to flee across the Jumna river with the infant Krishna.

    On becoming an adult, Krishna, who is the second person in the Hindu Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu (Krishna), Siva), performs many miracles. Krishna is crucified and he is pictured in Hindu art as hanging on a cross with arms extended. At the crucifixion, he is wounded by an arrow (Jesus is pierced by a spear). The light of the sun is blotted out at noon on the day of Krishna's death. Krishna descends into hell, where he raises the dead before returning to the abode of the gods.


    I don't know whether an historical Jesus existed. Certainly, I should want more evidence than biased sacred texts. It doesn't end debate partly because, although the person is shrouded in the mists of time, the teachings as recorded are worth considering - or at least, some of them.

  • Comment number 43.

    Brian, hi,

    I don't propose to write a wholesale defense of the reliability of the NT other than to note the following;

    The gospels record historical figures, events and places for which there is significant confirmation

    I have mentioned before that the view, 'I'm not trusting the bible cos it was written by his friends', is a weak position to take (I find it strange that you are happy to be literal about the biblical text when it presents God in what you consider to be a disagreeable light, you have no problem in quoting it then!)

    There is evidence of rabbinical writing against Jesus

    There's Josephus, of course, and even if you dismiss the references to Jesus as bogus there is plenty of reference to the same personalities and places as the gospels mention

    There is Cornelius Tacitus, Roman historian, who writes, Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinement of cruelty, a class of men, loathes for their vice, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, from whom they got their name, had been executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate when Tiberius was emperor; and the pernicious superstition was checked for a short time, only to break out afresh, not only in Judaea, the home of the plague, but in Rome itself, where all the horrible and shameful things in the world collect and find a home. Annals 15:44

    The point here is simple, the gospel writers, whatever you think of them, set their accounts firmly within an historical context, and that on it's own is odd if myth borrowing is what they were at.

    You say though that the uncertainty of an historical Jesus need not end debate because his teachings, (whatever their source I suppose) are worthy of consideration.

    But here's the thing, Christians (generally) are saying some version or other of the historic creeds, and that does make a significant difference in our basis for debate. Indeed it's another way in which Jesus is recorded as setting himself apart from myth; of course what most of these exchanges boil down to is that for you all gods must be fictional, but for me, and others, there is one, only one, who is true - it's the "I Am Truth" bit which really sets Jesus apart, but I guess you know that already. Maybe some day saying this will get me in trouble too! :-)

    BTW, Even if Jesus isn't real, even if for the sake of argument I debate on your terms, do what extent will you concede my other comments in post 39? Because you didn’t actually mention them!

  • Comment number 44.


    To which Jesus are you referring in all this? The man whose cradle was attended by wise men (Matthew) or shepherds (Luke)? The carpenter? The moral teacher? The prophet? The political leader? The apocalyptic visionary? The deluded madman who thought he was 'the Messiah'? The man from Nazareth? Or the man from Bethlehem? The descendant of the House of David? Or the Son of God?

    Of course, there are differences in the various mythologies as well. But I cannot see any reason why the Christian myth should be considered more 'true' than any of the others. Clearly, many of them share common themes, such as: hero born of virgin, miracle worker, unjust death, resurrection. The fact that some other details are different between Jesus and, say Krishna, is, as far as I can see, neither here nor there. It doesn't remotely make the Jesus one true and the Krishna one a falsehood. You make much of it, but you have no justification.

    If you lived in India, you would almost certainly argue for the veracity of Krishna over Jesus.

    You are quite wrong to suggest that 'Jesus set himself apart from myth'. This is your delusion. The Jesus story as recorded in the Gospels is as mythical and as devout of reality as any of the other god-man myths.

  • Comment number 45.

    Last line: 'devout' is of course a deliberate mistake and should be 'devoid'.

  • Comment number 46.


    First of all, Hindus don't have a Trinity. In one go you have completely misunderstood two religions.

    Second - who are the "experts" on Baal. Our sources on Baal are few and far between, and there was not one form of Baal worship. Pretty much the opposite.

    Third - where did you get this tosh on Baal from? Which tablet in the museum? Was it in cuneiform? Who translated it?

    Fourth - you can make up tosh about ancient religions - and then have the cheek to ask for historical arguments for Christianity! You have the audacity to call yourself skeptical when you'll accept weak arguments for your position, but demand air tight arguments from the religious?

    Okay. there's a famous papyrus in the British Museum, dated 10AD, probably the document that Justin Martyr alludes to. It's called "Pilate's Confession" by some experts, and it details all the eyewitnesses that Pilate questioned about the Resurrection and the missing body, and it concludes with an order for a cover up, as the Jewish "King" probably did rise miraculously as he had performed many other miracles. According to some experts the papyrus is genuine.

    If you can rely on fictions, why can't I?


  • Comment number 47.

    Out of curiosity, how much Hinduism have you studied?

  • Comment number 48.

    Hi Petermorrow,
    I think you are guilty of blurring the picture of the gospels a little. The bits that have historical confirmation(people and places) are unremarkable. The bits that are incredible eg miracles, resurrection etc have no external historical confirmation at all and they are the bits that you need to be true in order to believe in your God.Therefore the kindest interpretation is to treat the stories as legend, which is what Brian is doing.

  • Comment number 49.

    First, Hindus do have a Trinity. See, for example, hinduwebsite.com or wikipedia, or indeed almost any reference to Hinduism. Some scholars prefer the term 'triads' but I think you will find that it is fruitless trying to suggest that it is fundamentally different from the Christian 'trinity'. But then it wouldn't be the first time that you make a mountain out of a molehill.

    2. Second, I mentioned the tablet in the British Museum relating to Bel. The translations were made by H. Zimmern (in German) and by S. Landon in English (published in 1923). I refer also to Christianity Before Christ by John G. Jackson and to George Goodman (The Freethinker, 14th May 1965).

    Christopher Walker of the British Museum thinks that the tablet is Assyrian, not Babylonian, and possibly dates to 700 BC, not 2,000BC, but agrees with the parallels cited. He says that the Bel myth does in fact have mythical elements including death and resurrection which parallel the Jesus myth and thus are forerunners of mythical elements in the Jesus myth.

    In Babylonia the god is also called Marduk, and in some writings the two names are linked as Bel-Marduk.

  • Comment number 50.


    The "Trimurti" is the term you're struggling for. The Hindu pantheon extends far beyond three manifestations of God, and the brides of the Trimurti represent God as adequately as Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu.
    And before you start an Avatar is not equivalent to an incarnation. Krishna was an Avatar of Vishnu, not the second person of a Hindu Trinity.
    And we are assuming something like Ramanuja's Theism in this discussion. Sankara's non-dualism and the Mimamsa's "sabda" would take very different approaches to the Trimurti. And in practice you often have something closer to henotheism or polytheism in Hinduism.
    But yes, the number "three" is used in both religions.
    And how does any of this explain the New Testament?

    As for Baal - dying and rising gods tied to the agricultural cycle were common, but Judaism rejected the cyclical view of time that such a mythology presupposes. The Jewish faith in a Resurrection presupposes a one-time event. Once again you picked out the analogy, and ignored the disanalogy.


  • Comment number 51.

    I'm assuming this is the website you are relying on?


    Great research techniques Brian, nice to see a thoroughgoing skepticism at work.

  • Comment number 52.


    No, Brian's using an outdated and universally rejected methodology to explain what he believes is legendary in the gospel accounts. In fact, the only sources that I can find online that repeat some of this trash about Baal and Horus are connected to the Zeitgeist movie.
    He's also conveniently ignoring the facts about Horus and Dionysius that have been presented to him, and he's ignoring the critique that in any case mentioning analogies without mentioning disnanologies is bad methodology. He is not presenting any evidence of a chain of tranmission from Horus etc to the Gospels. And he is ignoring Peter Morrow's argument that Christians would expect similar spiritual needs across cultures. This is confirmed if we find cultures that are not connected by chains of transmission, yet have spiritualities redolent of one another.

    As for your comments - The Resurrection is as well confirmed as it gets, so far as I can see, unless you have a good argument for rejecting rational belief in miracles. Now if you have an argument, present it. To say - "oh, that just seems legendary" isn't an argument. It doesn't even mention the evidence. Why should another persons incredulity bother me? What's the argument here?

    As to the other miracles, they don't function as legends and don't read like myths (try reading the stories of Krishna or Rama or Horus alongside the Gospels).

    In any case we need to keep two issues separate.

    One would be the Historical Jesus. I would argue that we have good rational, historical grounds for accepting the *general picture* of Jesus that the Gospels portray. So he was a healer, a teacher, had a Messianic self understanding and believed that his death would have a salvific function for (at least) Israel. He did and said things that made his followers believe that he shared the authority, power and identity of a monotheistic God. Finally, the Early Churches survival and beliefs are impossible to explain without a miracle. Naturalistic explanations have all been failures.

    The other would be revelation. When (if ever) is it rational to believe that a message is a revelation from God. I can't defend the Ascension, Transfiguration, or Jesus'Prayer in Gethsemane historically. Nor could I deduce the meaning of the Atonement from the historical facts about the Crucifixion. I need some reason to believe that the Bible at least *includes* revealed propositional truths. Those will include historical arguments, but will also have to include appeals to religious and moral experience.
    Furthermore, what may seem rational to me may not seem rational to you. Different consciences pull in different directions. That does not mean there are no moral truths. Some cultures do not profess to believe that humans have an inherent dignity, psychopaths generally do not feel regret for cruel actions. That does not mean that humans don't have an inherent dignity, and it does not men that certain actions are not really cruel.
    In the same way different religious and life experiences pull us in different directions. That doesn't mean there are no religious truths.

    One final point. Although my personal views on the Bible are very conservative, it is not essential to Creedal?Confessional Christianity that every miracle recorded in the Bible occurred. So a person might reject the Ten Plagues, but hold to the Incarnation and Resurrection. Only the latter two must be true for the creeds to be true.


  • Comment number 53.

    What utter tripe. You are clearly blinded by your bias towards one particular myth. Thus it is, in your view, superior to all the others. It is you who have offered no evidence to substantiate such a daft claim.

    For example, "the resurrection is as well confirmed as it gets". Really? Which one? Bel's? Vishna's? Tammuz's? Osiris's? Dionysus's? This is one of the key points, surely. All these myths share common analogies. For example, every culture seems to have a myth of a dying and resurrected God. The disanalogies don't amount to a hill of beans as far as claims of immortal saviours are concerned. They are ALL about immortal saviours.

    BTW: I am not 'struggling' for any term. Showing off supposed knowledge of terminology is no substitute for real thought. But clearly the word you are struggling for is not Trinity but Elohim (plural).

    PS. Isn't the Trimurti a restaurant in Toronto?

  • Comment number 54.

    Graham (or Peter):

    A simple question: do you think that Bel, Osiris, Vishna, Tammuz and Dionysus were people who were resurrected?

  • Comment number 55.

    On the Resurrection and The Historical Jesus

    1) The Gospels are full of allusions to Jesus' divinity, again the work of Bauckham, Wright, Ben Witherington, Larry Hutardo being relevent. Jesus assumes the authority of I AM when he forgives sins, when he admits individuals into the Kingdom on HIS authority, when he walks on water, when he calms storms (Psalm 77v19, Job 9v8, Psalm 107 v 23-30). Even if you do not believe that these miracles occurred (and I have to confess that many conservative scholars are doubtful) you still have to explain how, in a short period of time, stories were circulating about Jesus comparing him directly to I AM. There are other indirect affirmations that I can give (identifying himself with Divine Wisdom, comparing himself to the Shepherd who seeks and saves those who were lost (Ezekiel 34 v 16)) and also Jesus use of the title "Son of Man".
    The usual critical response to this evidence is that it is unlikely that a 1st century Jewish Rabbi would make such claims. Yet Rabbi Akiva was prepared to make high claims for Bar Kochba. It also fails to explain why 1st century Jews (these stories only make sense in a Jewish, not Hellenistic, context) would begin to compare their Messiah to I AM.
    2) Oddly enough, nearly every critical scholar accepts the post-Easter appearnces to the early Christians, precisely because they don't exactly cohere, and seem a little strange. This shows that there was little editing by the early Church - no cover-up.Critical scholars believe *the disciples believed that they had* had experiences that led to their belief. There is no other plausible explanation for the rise of the church, given the shameful manner of Jesus' death. This of course does not mean that critical scholars are all agreed that the experiences were veridical. Psychological explanations are often given.
    3) An empty tomb should have killed off all faith in Jesus. The purpose of the tomb was to preserve the bones, so that they could be honoured by friends and family, and await the Resurrection. Their theft would have been the final desecration.
    4) Furthermore, Jews were not expecting a Resurrection until the day of I AM ie. the end of time. Now, it is perfectly conceivable that the disciples may have expected the Messiah to visit them after his death as an "angel" - rather in the same way that they believed that Elijah and Moses could be seen with Jesus at the Transfiguration. It would not have been unusual for them to see visions of Jesus vindicated by I AM, awaiting the resurrection on the final day. But no one was expecting a resurrection in the middle of history. It is preposterous to expect the disciples to leap from the evidence of an empty tomb to the conclusion that Jesus was not only alive, but Resurrected (ie. never to die again) This was literally believing that a piece of the future was walking around in the Present
    5) Most skeptical scholars leave the Resurrection stories unexplained.
    6) The Jewish god and the Jewish Resurrection are disanalogous in nearly every respect to the pagan gods and the cycle of death and rebirth.
    7) Can a prima facie case be made for the reliability of much of the synoptic gospels? Rabbinic communities had reliable techniques for the accurat transmission of tradition. Flexibility was allowed in the retelling of a narrative or teaching. (This explains many of the variations between the gospels.) However the community put checks on just how much flexibility would be allowed. Gerhardson compares the Gospels to reliable Rabbinic traditions passed down through an Oral Culture - his work has been given weighty support by Jacob Neusner. (Look him up on Wiki). Dunn uses sociological research which again shows that oral transmission is a mix of stable themes and fluidity. When the transmission is of importance to the communities identity, great care is taken in transmission. This can be seen in the case of the Early Church as it preserved traditions traditions that (a)emabarrass the disciples or Jesus (eg. rejection by his family and Matthew 10v23), (b)the pre Easter themes (like questions about the Temple Tax, or the lack of a post easter perspective in the Lord's Prayer) ,(c) titles like Son of Man that the Early Church did not use, (d)lack of teaching on the Gentile mission, (e)lack of teaching on circumcision, etc etc etc. The evidence points towards a community that wanted to preserve knowledge of it's founder. Dunn and Gerhardson have provided evidence that they were capable of doing so. (A lengthy reply to this argument can be found in Crossan's "Birth of Christianity".) Bauckham produces evidence from Papias that eyewitnesses, or those close to eyewitnesses, may have had a formal role in controlling the oral traditions.There is evidence, (from Rabbinic tradition and contemporary paralells) that in the First Century, communities could preserve oral tradition to a high degree of accuracy. The synagogues and the Greek lecture houses that Christianity spread through provide the appropriate environment. (Teachings of Philosophers were memorised and we know from Josephus that the Pharisees had a similar practice.) The appointment of elders meant that the tradition could be controlled. This evidence is summarised by Richard Bauckham in "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses".
    In 1 Cor 15 v3, 1 Cor 1Cor 11v23 Paul uses the technical term for receiving and passing on oral tradition (compare his account in 1 Cor 11 to Luke's).So there is evidence in the New Testament that oral traditions were passed on. Papias gives us external evidence of control of the traditions. the Gospel traditions reflect a Galilean pre-Easter context, not a post Easter gentile context. It is doubtful that residents of Hierapolis or Rome new much about the economics and social customs of Galilee.memorisation aimed to summarise teaching and give the gist of events. Obviously teaching and narratives can be abbreviated in different ways, and told differently to make different points in different contexts, whilst remaining faithful to the original. It is the intent and content of Jesus'words and actions that I believe are faithfully in the Gospels - not every detail.
    8) As for competing Early Christianities, they all shared a High Christology. In fact Paul's letters presuppose that this is agreed by all. The Thessalonians and Corinthians were expecting the return of Christ. The Judaisers at least accepted him as Messiah. The Pauline letters refer to Jesus as creator, and the one to whom every knee will bow, and these are pre-Pauline hymns. Jews predicated these of I AM and I AM only. Why did the Early Church accept such a blasphemous belief so early?

    That's just a repeat of some of the historical *evidence* I've given for the gospels and the resurrection.

    The other nonsense (misunderstandings of severla religions based on Google searches) will have to wait until tomorrow.


  • Comment number 56.

    On resurrected saviour gods before Jesus, see the following:

    Grant Allen: The evolution of the Idea of God;
    Harry Elmer Barnes: The twilight of Christianity;
    E.A Wallis Budge: The Gods of the Egyptians; Osiris: The Egyptian Religion of the Resurrection;
    Edward Carpenter: Pagan and Christian Creeds;
    Albert Churchward: The Origin and Evolution of Religion;
    Thomas William Doane: Bible myths and their Parallels in Other Religions;
    Charles Dupuis: Explanation of an Apocalyptic Work; The Origin of all Worship;
    Burton Feldman and Robert Richardson The Rise of Modern Mythology;
    Arthur Finlay: The Psychic Stream;
    David Forsyth: Psychology and Religion;
    Sir James Fraser: Attis, Adonis, Osiris; The Golden Bough;
    Edward Gibbon: History of Christianity;
    Kersey Graves: The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors;
    Thomas Inman: Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism;
    John G. Jackson: Man, God and Civilization; Christianity Before Christ;
    Carl Jung: Man and his Symbols;
    Alvin Boyd Kuhn: Who is this King of Glory?
    Gerald Massey: Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World; The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Jesus;
    G.R.S. Mead: Did jesus live 100 BC?
    William Tyler Olcott: Sunlore of all Ages;
    W.J. Perry: The Children of the Sun;
    Jocelyn Rhys: Shaken Creeds: The Virgin Birth Doctrine;
    J.M. Robertson: Christianity and Mythology;
    George St Clair:Creation Records discovered in Egypt;
    Samuel Sharpe: Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian Christianity;
    Sir Arthur Weigall: The Paganism in our Christianity.

    The origins of the resurrected saviour-gods myth can be traced to the natural world of the earth and the sky. Let me quote Forsyth above on the vegetation explanation:

    "Many gods besides Christianity have been supposed to die, be resurrected and ascend to heaven. This idea has now been traced back to its origin among primitive people in the annual death and resurrection of crops and plant life generally. This explains the worldwide prevalence of the notion. Among still more primitive tribes, Grant Allen showed, it is not yet understood that sown corn sprouts because of the spring sunshine, and they attribute the result to divine agency. To this end, they are accustomed at seed time to kill their tribal god - either in human or animal form - and scatter the flesh and the blood over the sown fields. They believe that the seeds will not grow unless the god is sacrificed and added to them in this manner. When, therefore, the crop appears, thery never doubt that it is their god coming to life again. It is from this erroneous belief in primitive tribes that Christianity derives its beliefs in Christ's death and resurrection" (David Forsyth: Psychology and Religion, p97).

    I shall deal with the solar mythology in another posting, and also add another God to the pot by outlining parallels with Jesus (Adonis or Tammuz).

  • Comment number 57.

    Goodness, there's quite a bit to get through here but I’ll start with Nobledeebee (post 48)

    Noble, I certainly wasn't setting out the blur the picture of the gospels, if I have done so, apologies. However I think if you reread my posts, 39 and then 43, you will see that all I was seeking to establish, and that as a basis for discussion, was the existence of Jesus the human being. Of course historical confirmation is unremarkable, it's ordinary, it relates to people places events and so on but the point is that the record of this person (whoever he was) is in the context of confirmed history. I was not trying to comment on the 'unremarkable' in the sense of miracles but since you mention it, in the bible what we have is the miraculous in the context of the specifically historical, this is one aspect of the Jesus story which marks it out as different for other myths.

    You then mention legend, when we have been speaking of myth. Now, I wonder how you understand these terms? I understand the word 'myth' in the sense of a religious explanation of something usually unrelated to specific chronology. It will refer to gods, fictional animals, deified natural events and so on. Legend then usually relates to or is based on something historical, based maybe on an event or person, but an account which is not concerned with symbolism or religious explanation. The stories Brian is referring to are then, myths.

    Now the interesting thing about the bible is that it contains both religious explanations and miracles, and historical events places and people. And this is precisely the Christian point of view, that this one person Jesus, both God incarnate and human explains to us the meaning of our lives and the universe in an historical setting.

    This is another thing which makes the biblical Jesus and the biblical account unique.

  • Comment number 58.

    Brian This is long, but you leave me no option.

    First up post 49

    You have addressed it to me, but surely all the evidence on this thread points to the fact that you were discussing Hinduism with Graham, not me. Now I'm quite happy to accept that there are many parallels between the Veale myth and the Morrow myth, but I can assure you that Graham and I are two distinct people. We are not even the same person appearing in two different forms, I am not PeterGraham and he is not GrahamPeter, and we are definitely not 'one, and at the same time two'.

    However perhaps you were thinking of me while you responded to Graham and maybe therefore there is truth in me making mountains out of molehills, what I am not doing however is making a Jesus out of a Dionysus.

    And now let's travel in reverse to post 44

    I see you think I'm delusional. Mmmm, perhaps! Who would know? Certainly not me if I am delusional! Indeed if I were truly delusional then I might think myself sane and you misled!

    But it's all very well retorting with 'delusional' but you didn't really address my post 39 or my post 43, simply trying what you tried a while ago, asking, which Jesus do I mean. That time I gave you an example about each of us having varying aspects to our life and character but you said I was too personal, so with that I mind I'll simply repeat my first question from post 39 and say I mean the Jesus who went walkabout in Palestine a while back, you know the one, the one the bible presents as having all those characteristics (apart from the 'deluded madman' one; surely it was CS Lewis who came up with that option?) Brian this is a poor red herring!

    Then again, maybe I'm Jesus, I'm deluded too remember, that would be a parallel, I'll ask my wife later, some say Jesus was married you know, another parallel. Maybe I should check my hands and feet.

    As for the truth of the christian myth, you are not actually engaging with the points we (Graham and I) are making about the parallels and the differences. You just keep repeating yourself.

    If I lived in India? Well there are many Indians ('dots not feathers', to quote Good Will Hunting) who argue for the veracity of Jesus, and that's another disconnect between the Jesus story and the rest, it is manifestly cross-cultural, (yet not syncretistic) something noted, explained and promoted in the bible itself. There are Christians in almost every people group on the face of the planet worshipping the same god, the one we call Jesus. It's not Jesus/Krishna, or Jesus/Buddha, or Jesus/Confucius or any combination of Jesus with another, as I said it get us called intolerant. Brain, you can't have it both ways.

    You say, "The Jesus story as recorded in the Gospels is as mythical and as devoid of reality as any of the other god-man myths." That's just an assertion, and one which ignores all my points.

    An aside (post 53)

    I quote - to Graham you say, "Utter tripe". Goodness, I expect he's reeling. He'll probably have lost his faith by supper time, maybe I should go pray for him. "No evidence" (?) Graham and I have both pointed to the evidence we need to consider which make the Jesus myth superior. First you ignore it then you say we didn't mention it, wow, you're beating us hands down!

    Now post 54

    You ask me if I think Osiris and his chums were also people who were resurrected. Well, my first thought is that Osiris' green-skin is a bit of a give away. Not many green skinned people about, personally in my experience there are more carpenters! Also the alive- dead - alive - dead - alive - willy! thing is kinda different from Jesus. Bel, Baal, was this the one with sisters who had a fight with a rival god and then got involved in some shenanigans or other with a heifer before being burned and replaced and whose resurrection was linked to the improvement in the weather (from and agricultural point of view) or who the Baaly hell are you talking about? Vishna? Do you mean karma going round and coming round thing? Dionysus, I've dealt with, and Tammuz, well was that resurrection as in eating food again or resurrection to the underwear, I mean underworld? Brain I think you know what my answer is; now what is your response to my, and Graham's substantial comments apart from, more questions, 'delusional' and 'tripe'.

    And having just noticed your last comments in post 56, "The origins of the resurrected saviour-gods myth can be traced to the natural world of the earth and the sky." Yes, I think Graham mentioned that already, it's another clear disconnect, being the opposite of the bible. The biblical concept couldn't be further removed from the notion of gods related to seasonal cycles. I mentioned it too in terms of the liturgical year.

    Anyway I'm looking forward to Tammuz.

  • Comment number 59.

    Brian, as Steve Jobs might say, one more thing.

    Has it completely escaped your attention that the Egyptian gods, Baal and Tammuz are mentioned in the bible and the worship of them is condemned?

  • Comment number 60.


    Nonsense on stilts. Having informed us that Hindus don’t believe in a Trinity because you arbitrarily defined that term to exclude every myth other than Christianity, you now offer arbitrary definitions of myth and legend. A legend can be defined as a story about myths; in other words, the terms can be used interchangeably. There is more than one possible definition of these terms, but you don’t seem to allow this because you have a preset notion that Christianity is different from all the other religions in not being in any way false. Do you think that the Jesus story is entirely true? Do you seriously think it all happened as recorded in the Gospels and none of it was invented?

    Thus you say that “what we have in the Bible is the miraculous in the context of the specifically historical. This is one aspect of the Jesus astory which makes it out as diifferent from other myths”. This is more delusional balderdash. How on earth do you know that characters called Bel or Tammuz or Krishna didn’t exist as real people? But in any case, it makes no difference whatsoever whether there was an historical Jesus in terms of evidence for the miraculous. Caligula existed and, by many accounts, believed he was a god but that doesn’t mean he was a god. Mohammed existed, but Muslims believe he was a messenger of Allah. What do yiou believe about Mohammed?

    You dismiss earlier alleged resurrections with mockery (hear, hear, say I), but your sarcasm mysteriously disappears with the alleged Jesus one. Why not have a go at poking fun at it too? It’s easy if you try. It’s not so different, really.

    In a later post, I shall return to Tammuz, a Sumerian resurrected God whose story the Hebrews and then the Greeks plagiarised, just as the Christian myth also plagiarised these earlier stories.

    I have just seen post 59. What it is meant to prove, I have no idea.

  • Comment number 61.


    Ironically, your claim that Jesus was a real person whereas the other 'gods' were not is the inverse of what early Christians told pagans. "Your gods were once men", the second-century Christian Clement of Alexandria wrote pejoratively in his 'Exhortation to the Heathen'. In other words, they were real human beings turned into gods, whereas, according to him, Jesus was a god from the beginning.

    Of course, the point is that followers of most of the previous 'god-men' believed that they were gods from the beginning too, and Christianity is no different, only more recent than most of them.

    On the question of myths in general, there is more than one way to define a myth. Fraser, in 'Apollodorus', defines myths as 'mistaken explanations of phenomena, whether of human life or external nature'. This is the definition I adhere to here. A myth is a mistaken explanation. In this definition the myth of Bel as a god or Tammuz as a god is no different from the myth of Jesus. All three may well have existed as persons but they have been mistakenly turned into gods.

    Jung referred to archetypal images to explain how it comes about that societies remote from one another in time and place may nevertheless invent much the same stories. Whether archetypical images are true or not, the similarities outweigh the differences. Take virgin birth. This is a common myth, but each adherent of a myth tries to claim that their story is the only true one. Justin Martyr thought that the virgin birth of Perseus had not inspired the virgin birth of Jesus ('Dialogue with Trytho'). When Celsus was able to find nothing but warped versions of Plato in Christian doctrines, Clement of Alexandria reversed the argument: "What is Plato, but Moses speaking in Attic Greek".

    In fact, what many Christians are now doing (claiming that earlier myths post-date Chritianity) is nothing new. In his 'Hortatory Address to the Greeks', Martyr claims that Homer and Plato had both visited Egypt and there picked up a good deal of Mosaic lore which they incoprorated into Greek literature!

  • Comment number 62.


    One of those authors is currently publishing? In which journal? My point is that your view has not withstood the test of time. It has fallen apart under numerous critiques, and that liberal scholarship has put it aside.

    Secondly, you have yet to deal with the disanalogies. In fact you show no knowledge or understanding of the disanalogies.

    Thirdly, there is no evidence that Krishna, Horus etc were ever *meant* to be taken as historical characters. There is a difference in genre between the gospels and myth. Again you refuse to engage with evidence that the gospels were "bios". So there is a significant difference between Jesus and other "myths". The existence of Jesus was falsifiable for those who first read the gospels.

    Fourth, Christians would expect similarities amongst different religious desires. Now you can give a Jungian or Evolutionary explanation for the similarities. But the mere presence of similarities proves nothing.


  • Comment number 63.

    Oh, Frazer's view has long been abandoned. Myths function as more than explanations. For example they legitimate a particular form of rule, or an ethic.
    Or secularism. I would say that your view of the rise of Christianity is based on a secular myth. You provide a coherent explanation with absolutely no evidence, and the explanation is not the simplest or most powerful on offer - even granted methodological naturalism.
    You accept the story as it allows you to view yourself as enlightened. You've moved to the next stage of history - beyond the monotheistic myths to rational impersonal explanation.


  • Comment number 64.

    And if you think that only Christians reject your account of Christian Origins you haven't engaged the evidence. Even Crossnan and Morton Smith left this sort of explanation behind.

    It's you and theZeitgeist movie I'm afraid.


  • Comment number 65.

    And Dan Brown.

  • Comment number 66.

    Was the origin of Christianity dependent on existing Greek/Egyptian philosophical and religious ideas? A strong dependency would mean that the idea of Jesus as a dying and rising savior-god would never have occurred to early believers if they had not become aware of them first in pagan thought. A weak dependency means that the followers of Jesus used common religious terminology of the day in order to be understood by the Hebrew and Greek culture surrounding them. The latter poses no problem for Confessional Christianity. What Brian needs to do is provide evidence that the former is true.

    In fact all the traits in Christianity have precursors in Judaic religion. Surprising directions are taken, to be sure. But input from pagan religion is not needed to explain Christian Origins.

    What were the basic traits of the mystery religions?
    (i) The annual vegetation cycle was often at the center
    (ii) the concepts of growth, death, decay and rebirth.
    (iii) At the core of each religion was a myth in which the deity returned to life after death, or else triumphed over his enemies.
    (iv) The goal of the believers was a mystical experience that led them to believe that they had achieved union with their god.

    Against the view Christianity is *strongly* dependent on Mystery Religions

    (a) Many of the practises that are similar to Christian practices *post-date* Christianity
    (b) We find no accusations in the New Testament of Paul or the first missionaries incorporating pagan thought into their theology, nor do they defend himself against such claims.
    Given the controversy over the law, we would expect to see evidence of such a dispute. It would have been grist to the mill of the Judaisers - Pauls' opponents in Galatia and Rome. And the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem would have challenged Christians on these grounds. They were obsessed with the purity of their religion.
    (c) Although the mystery religions did move towards advancing a solar god above all the others,this change began after 100 A.D.,too late to impact the theology of the New Testament.
    (d) Erly Christianity was an exclusivistic religion while the mystery cults were not. One could be initiated into the cult of Isis or Mithras without giving up his or her former beliefs.
    (e) Paul's religion was grounded in real events. The mystery religions were not.
    (f) The pagan "mystery cults" of the period worshiped savior deities who had performed salvific acts which took place in the supernatural /mythical world, not on earth or in history. This is at least what the Early Christians *believed*. In Judaism, the beliefs were in a very direct engagement of God with the physical world he created.
    (g) The death and resurrection of Jesus is part of a eschatological time-line determined by the will of a monotheistic God, not a cyclical time-line determined by nature (the gods being confined by nature).
    (h) In the Greco-Roman world there was *no* belief in an actual *physical* resurrection. The most Greeks hoped for was some kind of spiritual existence of the soul, an unspecified immortality of the soul as either light or some kind of "shade" in Hades or in some form of paradise.
    (i) The most common myth applied to this discussion is that of Isis/Osiris. The base myth here is that Isis found the fourteen pieces of Osiris that had been spread across the earth by his enemy and put him back together In the most optimistic version of this myth, Osiris does come back to shadow of his former life, but only to be in charge of the underworld. This is hardly a hope of full restoration to earth (unlike the claim Jesus will come back to earth to redeem).
    (j) Another mystery that comes close to a resurrection is that of Attis, who castrates himself and in some versions dies as a results of the blood loss. In the most optimistic version of this myth, Attis is restored to life where his hair grows and his little finger moves - hardly a full restoration.
    (k) These mystery cults often were agricultural in nature or involved worship done exactly right to pursuade the deity in question to protect or heal, not raise from the dead. So what we see is that "deliverance" is being used in a very broad manner.
    (l) Experts in ancient Hebrew religion will tell you that the differences between a monotheistic or henotheistic religion that grounded in historical persons and actions, and the Egyptian and Greek mythology which is grounded in the cycles of nature, the rising and setting of the sun, the motions of the stars, etc. are considerable. Consider for example the ancient poem in the Psalms - Ps. 8. The sun, the moon and the stars are all seen by the psalmist as but the works of God's fingers, like a child molding things out of playdough. The Biblical God is a God of creation, one who has made all things that exist. In that same psalm we see that human beings are the crown of God's creation, created in God's image. Notice the *anti*-anthropomorphic theology here. God is not the sun, he does not have a son that is the sun, indeed creation is simply something that the one God has made. Now the important part about this is that it desacralizes nature. Nature is not a god or gods, it is not divine, and neither are human beings as human beings. This is fundamentally opposed to the religions that Brian cites as possible Christian Sources.

    And so on and so on ...

    I'd like to hear Brian's take on the evidence and the arguments presented here.


  • Comment number 67.

    One more point - for a virgin birth you need a virgin. Sex with a god counts as sex.

    The only parallel I can think of is the Buddha. Krishna was conceived with a hair from Vishnu's head. In may ways similar to Danae, not Mary.


  • Comment number 68.

    This doesn't really interest me.

    Whether mythical stories bear similarities to Jesus has no relevance whatsoever to the truth about Jesus.

    Absolutely none.

    Unicorns bear similarities to ponies, and the fictional dystopia portrayed in Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We" bears similarities to modern life.

    So what.

  • Comment number 69.


    First of all, I have said that there is more than one way to define the term 'myth' but made it clear what definition I was using in this discussion. I am well aware that there are other conceptions of the term. So don’t throw that up at me, PLEASE!

    Words are ultimately only labels: what we mean by them is what is important. I have defined my usage HERE, okay? It seems to me that in so many of these discussions, Christians use terms in their own preferred way and expect non-Christians to agree with their usage. I'm afraid it doesn't work like that. Most of the concepts we are discussing are essentially contested. Stop implying that their definitions have been somehow 'settled' and universally agreed. This is very unscholarly and ends all debate.

    I have already been told that I know nothing about Hinduism because if I did I would realise they don't believe in a Trinity - which is nonsense - and, now, that myth means one thing but not another thing and is fundamentally different from a legend - more arbitrary distinctions. I humbly suggest that when Christians on this blog use contested concepts, they define what they mean by them so that we can treat each other as adults without personal insults. Surely, this would be the 'Christian' way (of course, that depends on a definition of 'Christian'. Here I mean it to indicate tolerant and respectful, not supernatural!)

    You say that my view has not withstood the test of time: "it has fallen apart under numerous critiques, and that liberal scholarship has put it aside". Quite wrong. If you stopped relying on Christians with a vested interest for evidence and instead read others who are not Christians or who are more impartial, then you might get nearer the truth. Graham, you are relying too much on works which feed your own prejudice. You need to get out more or read a few sceptics. You need to see the other viewpoint.

    Fraser is a good example. Christians have a go at him because they don't like much of what he wrote, (Peter, he did believe in the historical reality of the man Jesus, but not his divinity). He may be out of fashion, but that doesn't negate his definition of myth. It accords with common sense and the dictionary: a myth is a mistaken explanation, an untruth, a falsehood (as in 'Robin Hood: Myth or Reality?'). But I accept that it has also been defined, more sympathetically, as a 'traditional story', a person or thing held in awe etc. In my view, this renders it too elastic, and confuses the issue. You will have to accept that my usage is less favourable.

    In 'The Wisdom of the Ancients' Francis Bacon, who of course was a Christian, defined myths as invented stories that embody hidden truths (moral, natural etc). For example, he interprets the myth of Prometheus as about the state of man and draws a parallel with Christianity: "that sailing of Hercules in a cup, to set Prometheus at liberty, seems to represent the image of the Divine Word coming in flesh as in a frail vessel to redeem man from the slavery of hell. But I have interdicted my pen all liberty in this kind, lest I should use strange fire at the altar of the Lord".

    I agree with you about Dan Brown, but of course he is a Christian. 'The Da Vinci Code' should be called 'The Da Vinci Con'. Brown plagiarised 'The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail' which was as much fictional as his novel, though its authors claimed it was fact. 'The Da Vinci Code' has no factual basis whatsoever, beyond the fact that Christians have indeed been conned for 2,000 years, even if not in the way Brown claims.

  • Comment number 70.


    Oh well, thanks for those words of wisdom. Go and cultivate your garden.

  • Comment number 71.

    Well I suppose Brian could argue that it's reasonable to infer that ponies played some part in the origin of unicorns, and that the real world an the dystopia have a common source (our past).

  • Comment number 72.

    Yes indeed.

    doesn't make no odds though, does it?

  • Comment number 73.

    Submit whatever you like. I'm just using the term "Myth" as it's generally used in New Testament and Religious Studies. Frazer and Bacon hardly had the last word. YOU said that you adopted a definition tied to explanation for the purposes of this debate.

    Now where's your *evidence* that I'm being dishonest. Can you submit that?

    I'm also concerned that every time you encounter an argument you disagree with you assume the source is Christian, but when I cite a source I'm showing off! Difficult to win on those terms.
    I'm an RE teacher. I'm SUPPOSED to know a bit about Hinduism and Buddhism and Ancient Myths. Hardly showing off. And who am I showing off to any way? The three people reading this thread?! You think I could find a bigger audience.

    In any case, you still haven't replied to the substantial arguments that have been presented questioning your reasoning and your sources. So I'll let you get back to that.



  • Comment number 74.


    (Please note that even if I betray frustration, I am not having a go at you, I seek respectful debate. I do however have to deal with what you have said.)

    We don't really seem to have moved much from insult, questions and repetition. Although, "there is more than one way to define a myth", is certainly an preferable to, "arbitrary" and "nonsense on stilts". What is "nonsense on stilts" anyway, a circus act appearing at the Belfast Festival of Fools?

    I see the definition of myth you adhere to contains the word 'mistaken', that of course, and you already know this, is not necessarily the emphasis which has to be made. Are you choosing it to suit yourself, as you have accused Graham and I of? You also know that the general point I was making is that myths and legends are often defined differently; nor was I trying to establish any sense of truth or error bound up with the use of the word myth. I'll quote Britannica if you wish. In fact I will quote Britannica, Britannica isn't known for being arbitrary, although know this, I didn't go hunting in Britannica before I gave a definition to Nobledeebee. "In common usage the word legend usually characterizes a traditional tale thought to have a historical basis, as in the legends of King Arthur or Robin Hood. In this view, a distinction may be drawn between myth (which refers to the supernatural and the sacred) and legend (which is grounded in historical fact)." Now please compare that with my post 57 on myth and legend. Not exactly the same but close enough. Of course there is overlap, but mine was a reasonable definition.

    You also know very well that my initial question regarding the existence of a human being Jesus was an attempt to form a basis for debate not a wholesale exposition of the incarnation.

    Can we also establish once and for all that I am not Graham, and that I am not and have not been debating Hinduism or the concept of trinity with you?

    But let's get back to my nonsense on the trapeze, (I see later in your post 60 that I'm guilty of delusional balderdash) I prefer the trapeze, much more skillful than stilts. You say, "It makes no difference whatsoever if there was an historical Jesus in terms of the miraculous", I know! I've said already, as did Graham, that I'm not attempting to suggest it does. I wasn't attempting to explain miracles in my comments about his being a real person, and you know that too, as does anyone else reading this.

    We are supposed to be talking about Pagan parallels with Christianity and the historic context is one of the areas of difference, that's all I have been trying to do, point up the differences in response to your similarities. Goodness sake. But please this doesn't mean I reject miracles. I'm just discussing a different issue.

    You say, "Why not have a go at poking fun at it (the Jesus resurrection) too?" You write this as if you'd never had a conversation with me about doubt. Maybe this is the bit which galls you, I actually have doubted Christianity and the biblical account and the existence of God and my interactions with Christianity and my own existence for that matter, but I still find reason to accept the reality of all these. You say, "It's easy if you try." I may as well tell you to try praying, but I've never done that, and wouldn't. And remember I have tried doubting and poking fun; but really, when one extends the concept of doubt to oneself it's not as easy as it seems! You say, "It's not so different, really." Well that's what we're supposed to be debating but you still don't seem willing to actually address the points Graham and I have suggested we need to consider, you just keep saying, 'they're all the same'.

    And then at the end of post 60 another assertion.

    Oh, Tammuz, and the bible, I almost forgot! You have no idea of it's relevance? Brian I think you are more intelligent than that. But for the sake of clarity, I've already pointed out the NT and the efforts of the apostles to distance early Christianity from the other myths and gods, in the same way OT Judaism distances itself from the myths and gods of the surrounding cultures. Worshipping them is called idolatry. The point is simple, over and over, the Jewish and Christian god and his followers keep on saying, "This is what we are not", the disconnect between Judeo/Christianity and the other myths is written into the bible, so much for plagiarism, they are not setting out to be the same they are setting out to be different.

    And now to Clement. You know, and I know you know that there is no difference between my assertion of the humanity of Jesus and the Clements' comment that he was a god from the beginning. That's basic Christianity, and you know it is. I've already suggested that I quote Chalcedon. Why was I talking about the humanity of Jesus? You say, "In other words, they were real human beings turned into gods, whereas, according to him, Jesus was a god from the beginning."Yes, yes and yes again that is another difference, the concept of man made in God's image and no the other way round. Now you are highlighting the differences for me! And doing a great job!

    You say,"Of course, the point is that followers of most of the previous 'god-men' believed that they were gods from the beginning too", well not if the gods were the result of chaos and the earth and defied concepts like love or blackness/darkness. But we've discussed Hebrew aseity before, there's another disconnect, I Am- the self existent one. (You also told me off for using theological language!)The point is that Clement in this quote you gave me is, like all the others I've mentioned, pointing up the differences. But you won't address the differences.

    Now, as I have done before, I have addressed all, or nearly all of the objections you raised, tangents et al, Brian, please address Graham's and my, arguments. If I get another repetition I am going to list what we've already said and what needs to be answered.

    And please, this might be brutal debate, but it's not a personal attack.

  • Comment number 75.

    Brian - I make no claim to being impartial but I am about as liberal as Christians come this side of Sea of Faith so I'll venture to stick my oar in...

    The teachings and heroically self-sacrificial death of Jesus are very important, crucial even (if I may use the term), to my religious life and so are the mythical aspects of his persona and ministry. I do not hesitate to describe them as mythical - but for me myth is not a distortion of history or "a mistaken explanation, an untruth, a falsehood", rather myth can be a way of embodying and even amplifying that which is sublimely true.

    If I may do my bit for plagiarism, surely there are bound to be many echoes in mankind's finite minds of the infinite I Am: it is entirely natural that there will be correspondences and analogies when we compare the results of man's search for meaning and truth in existence.

    That said, however, I do believe that the mythos of Christianity is different in character from much of the supposed parallels you adduce, indeed it tends to invert them. The powerful truth in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is not that the death of a god fertilises or enriches his people or land but rather that individual wholeness, what we might call resurrection life, results from life lived self-sacrificially. It is not about making a sacrifice, it is about being sacrifice. Human existence, for the Christian, is not a process of give and take where one bargains with or exploits a god for personal or societal advantage, rather it is the embracing of an entirely voluntary abnegation of personal advantage which delivers fulfilment and vitality almost as a by-product.

    You speak of Fraser and it reminds me of a story from university days. I was enthralled by The Golden Bough when I first read it as a teenager - it seemed so revolutionary and so incredibly persuasive. Its influence, of-course, extended far beyond the study of comparative religion and into all sorts of academic disciplines. Graham is right, however, the inappropriateness of applying its tenets indiscriminately was fairly quickly understood.

    There was once a couple, a pair of widely respected literary critics called Leavis. One of them, I think Mrs Leavis but this is rather long ago, under the influence of Fraser gave a rather interesting interpretation of the mediaeval poem Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight. The knight arrives at Arthur's court carrying an axe in one hand and a holly bush in the other. Mrs L, if it were indeed she, took the whole thing as a fertility myth and identified the axe as a phallus and the holly bush as representing the female genitalia.

    I had a friend who studied English and he related the whole theory in one of those late night discussions for which the blog is but a poor substitute. His entirely commonsensical conclusion forever demolished the credibility of applied Fraser for me. "Hummm...", he said, "Think about it, it's all very well on the surface, but a hatchet and a holly bush - rather makes you wonder what the Leavises' home life might be like..."

  • Comment number 76.


    Come off it! You say you are not Graham, but also say that I don’t address the points you and Graham are making. It seems that you want to have it both ways: you are individuals but you are attacking my viewpoint in tandem. I cry foul on that one. It's hardly surprising that, after a while, the two of you become a blur.

    I am defining myth, not to suit myself, but in the way that it is commonly used in everyday language and in literature. In this usage it does not necessarily have ANY supernatural connotations at all, though one can certainly say that resurrected gods are myths (i.e. false) in this usage if one thinks so (as I do). In this everyday usage, a myth is usually distinguished from a simple falsehood by the fact that it has been believed for a fair while. Here's a a couple of statements: "The belief that Adolf Hitler had only one testicle is a myth". That's okay as a statement (whether true or false) because it has been repeated over a period of 60 years or more. But if I say: "The view that the West Indian cricketer Shivnarine Chanderpaul plays only for himself is a myth", I am not using the word in its customary sense because this view has only recently been expressed in public by one person. If it was repeated over several years, even though it wasn't true, it would be a 'myth'. I think this is a fair explanation of the normal usage of the word 'myth' and it is the usage I am employing here.

    Indeed, to distinguish myth from legend in the way that you and the Britannica have done is to agree with my definition because to contrast a myth with a legend, which is 'grounded in historical fact', is to imply that a myth is not so grounded, ie. it is false, made up.

    My argument throughout is that the notion of Jesus as a resurrected God is a myth, i.e. a falsehood, just like earlier resurrected god myths, from which it plagiarises (as they all do). You obviously believe that Christianity is different. But I'm afraid it doesn’t become different simply because some Christians have said it is (surely you are not so gullible?). Celsus, in the second century, made the claim that Christianity was only a pale reflection of pagan belief and copied their concepts. He wouldn’t have been able to write that without the death penalty once Rome became Christian.

    Finally, I know what it feels like when you think that your questions and confusions aren't answered. Let me ask a few which aren’t clear in my mind:

    1. Do you accept that resurrected god stories existed before Jesus?

    2. Do you accept that the people who believed them also believed that their story was different, and superior to, the earlier ones that they had heard of? (of course, before writing, it was impossible for most people to know anything about earlier 'myths' except by word of mouth).

    3. Do you accept that successive stories 'borrowed', stole or plagiarised details from earlier ones?

    4. Do you accept the Jesus resurrected god story borrowed details in this way?

    5. Or do you believe that it is completely true?

    6. Are the earlier ones therefore false? In other words, was Chritianity the first true religion?

    7. Why are you and Graham getting your trapezes in a twist over this issue? Do you not accept that many liberal Christians (not really in NI, where that is largely a contradiction in terms, but then NI is hardly the pinnacle or acme of Christianity) actually AGREE with what I am saying: that many of the Gospel stories are pagan in origin?

  • Comment number 77.


    I am not going to discuss the concept of myth any longer, let's stick with real/actual/true and false from now on or at least definitions given for each use of the word as we proceed

    I shall answer (yet again) your questions after I have reminded you of the issues you have not addressed.

    Please scroll down for my answers if you wish to read those first.

    You have not yet addressed,

    The disconnects between the Judeo Christian worldview and other myths. (stories)
    The genre of the bible. Which, and I hope there are none of my more fundamentalist friends reading(!), may include 'myth'. (Myth here meaning a true but not necessarily a scientific account e.g. God created. There actually is a God and he actually did something)
    The historicity of Jesus (except to say you don't know if he was real or not)
    The expectations of Christians and those written into the bible that all cultures will seek god/s in some way or other. Stories of gods and meaning and significance are not surprising.
    The endless pointing up of differences between Judeo Christianity and other cultural myths written into the bible, old and new testaments.
    The lack of seasonal cycles in the Hebrew understanding of god.
    The nature of the Christ's humanity and resurrection. i.e. dusty feet and eating fish.
    The 'mystery religion' notion of man seeking after the experience of god and the Hebrew notion of God seeking man. As portwyne said self-giving.
    The lack of deified nature in the bible.
    The origin, or not, of the gods.
    Christianity is cross cultural.

    Each and every one of these flags up in some way or another the differences between Christianity and Pagan myths, why do you still cry plagiarism? I'm not expecting you to suddenly turn to God, just to recognise that there are significant differences which (might) set Christianity and Judaism apart.

    Now your questions. (One by one - with clarification)

    (1) Yes - good grief the OT preceded Jesus and it mentions the other gods. I'm not denying the existence or content of other myths.
    (2) Yes - all cultures tend to believe their myth (be it religious or secular e.g. national identity 'Rule Britannia' for example - myth here meaning that story by which a culture identifies itself and derives it's meaning- nations go to war on the basis of such. Furthermore I see no inherent problem in the transmission of such by oral tradition) Christianity however is cross cultural.
    (3)I accept that there a similarities between religious and other stories which seek to describe human meaning and so on. This is a given in this debate. What I'm doing is highlighting the significant differences in Judeo Christianity.
    (4) No - the genre is different, the details are different - the resurrection is different - it's one of the points I've been making. Now, are there other stories with some kind of death and coming to life again - yes - again this is not disputed.
    (5)I believe Jesus to be alive - sure you know that already! No surprise here!
    (6)Christianity was not the first true religion - Judaism was - their God is one and the same - it's just that Jews don't often do the Jesus bit (some do though), it's also why those religious leaders at the time wanted rid of him, not because he claimed to be Baal or Osiris, but 'I Am' - YHWH - the Logos - I'm thinking of the Chalcedon creed again! Christians (and I know there are those on the liberal wing who see it differently) consider Jesus to be the fulfillment of the OT. (I am not a Jew basher)
    (7)Here's why I get my trapeze in a twist (that made me laugh BTW! - what you definitely wouldn't want is a trapeze in your knickers) is that out of nowhere way back in post 8 you popped up, as is your right, with a, 'see Jesus is made up', contribution. Now I have no problem with you doing that, fire away, but surely you don't expect someone like me (or Graham) not to put another point of view.

    Brian, do you accept that I have answered all these questions, even if we disagree about the answers, and would you accept that it would be reasonable to ask that you make a point by point response to the issues I feel you have not yet addressed?

    I am not going off on another tangent or explanation however and shall answer no more of your questions until I get at least a glimmer of a response.

    'til then - finis.

  • Comment number 78.


    In reverse order

    7) In New Testament studies the view has been abandoned by liberal critical scholarship as a very weak explanation due to the disanalogies, and the much stronger analogies between Jewish and Christian thought.
    6) Obviously, if all religions reflect spiritual needs they all tell us something true about ourselves. Ther are many different moral systems that conflict with one another. That doesn't mean that one cannot be true. It doesn't mean that they all might contain some truths.
    5) Yes, I believe in the Resurrection as described by creddal/confessional Christianity. What gave it away?
    4) No - the disanalogies are far too strong. The Jewish concept of Resurrection is self-consciously opposed to Gentile notions of the afterlife and history. You have an unnecessary hypothesis. The origins of Christianity are Judaic, not Hellenic.
    3) Not the Ressurection stories. And you haven't taken on board the difference between strong and weak dpendency.
    2) Graeco-Roman, Sumerian and Egyptian religions were all syncretistic. they did not amke exclusive truth claims. Pay attention.
    1) Nope - not in the Jewish sense of the word. The dying and rising gods did not return to full life. They either ended up as a shade like Osiris, or in a cycle of deaths and rebirths, as in the fertility cults.

    Now can you deal with the evidence and objections that I've set out?

  • Comment number 79.


    Again for the sake of clarity. I see Graham has noted that the word ressurection is used in a specific way in Judeo Christianity - Answer (1). I did not do that last night, thinking only generally about the stories,but I agree with his point of view. Indeed, it seems Graham and I are pretty much agreed even if our replies have a slightly different emphasis. I see nothing in Graham's post 78 to disagree with.

    If you reference Graham's posts mine you will realise that each of us has raised practically the same objections at each stage of this debate.

  • Comment number 80.

    Peter: A few comments.


    As I have already said, there are differences in all the resurrected saviour god myths. You want to focus on these differences, which are unimportant, and ignore the similarities which are vital to the discussion. The point is that NONE of these 'disanalogies', Christianity included, makes any one of them more likely to be true than any of the others. Not the claims of the god as written in documents, tablets etc; not the details of the god's biography; not the details of empty tombs; not the types of miracles; nothing.

    Take the story of the empty tomb. Do we know that there was a tomb, that it contained Jesus, and that it was empty? No, we don't. We have no evidence other than the word of a few people. Why should we believe them? Many people say that they have seen flying saucers. Do we believe them just because they say so? Of course not. Now, when a story claims that a tomb was empty because the dead body rose up and walked away from it, well, a certain degree of scepticism is naturally in order (especially when we know that similar claims without any foundation were made earlier about other gods or supernatural beings.

    Or take miracles. You referred earlier to Tacitus. In his 'Antiquities of the Jews' he tells us that later in Jesus's century in Alexandria, the Emperor Vespasian cured a blind man in the same way that Jesus allegedly did in Mark i.e. wetting the eyes with spittle. How reliable, therefore, is Tacitus about miracles?

    Many of the 'disanalogies' between Christianity and other religions arise from the fact that it is a hotch-potch which tries to combine a Hebrew King story with supernaturalism. Thus Jesus is the 'King of the Jews', descended from the House of David, coming to raise up Israel, and also a god impregnating a human woman (as in many pagan myths e.g. Dionysus) and whose human incarnation has a violent death and resurrection (Dionysus, Osiris, Tammuz).


    The Bible is a COLLECTION of Books written by many authors over more than a thousand years that certain Christians considered holy. There is certainly a mixture of books in it: so-called historical books, 'wisdom and poetry' books, biographies; parables; prophecies; letters; apocalyptic visions. But this variety doesn’t prove verisimilitude; it just means that there is more nonsensical supernaturalism like Noah's ark and feeding 5,000 with 5 loaves and a couple of fish. And it is only a drop in the ocean of such fantastical fiction floating around the foreshores of the Mediterranean at the times. There is a Gospel of Nicodemus and a Gospel of Bartholomew and a Gospel of Peter and a Gospel of Judas, and Acts of Paul and Acts of Peter, and Epistles of Barnabas and Epistles of Clement, and so on. Christians decided which books should be included in the canon and which should be left out. Some Christian scholars think the Gospel of Thomas should be included, others don't. The idea that it is a unique and coherent body of work is a monumental delusion of naive fundamentalists.


    I have already discussed this on another thread. I repeat: I have an open mind about whether a person called Jesus of Nazareth actually existed. Early non-biblical references such as Josephus and Tacitus are possibly later interpolations (or alternatively, in Tacitus’s case he may be repeating what some Christians told him). Neither is reliable as a source. In fact, there is no evidence to support a historical Jesus. There are no artifacts, no dwellings, no works of carpentry or self-written manuscripts. All the claims about him derive from writings of other people who want to believe in him. In other words, there are no unsympathetic accounts. There is no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executed a man named Jesus. There is not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus were written well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings. Even if these sources did not come from interpolations, they could still not serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, simply because all sources derive from hearsay accounts.
    Did even Nazareth exist? as far as I understand, there is no evidence of a city named Nazareth at the time of the alleged Jesus.

    a historical Jesus may have existed, perhaps based loosely on a real human, even though his actual history was lost. This is pure speculation. However, we do have an abundance of evidence supporting the mythical evolution of 'Jesus'. Virtually every detail in the gospel stories occurred in pagan and/or Hebrew stories, long before the advent of Christianity. This smacks of plagiarism from these earlier stories.


    Of your replies, you say that you are not denying the existence or content of other myths. But I'm sorry, you were. You referred mockingly to the Osiris myth and to 'tosh in Baal', and 'making up tosh about ancient religions'.

    You don’t believe that the Jesus resurrection story borrowed details from earlier myths. How then do you account for the remarkable similarities? Let's take the death of Tammuz (Adonis). It was of pre-Semitic origin going back to the Sumerians, the earliest civilised people of Mesopotamia. According to the myth, he suffered a painful death in order to become mankind's saviour. On the third day, he was resurrected into a new life of eternal blessedness. His resurrection was commemorated in the spring. Easter is probably named after Ishtar or Astarte, his wife.

    “The concepts of death and resurrection are tied to the myth of Tammuz, which foreshadowed the central role of resurrection in the religion of Christianity - New World Encyclopedia.

  • Comment number 81.

    Brian, hi,

    Your response (amid a lot of repetition) basically seems to be,

    (1) the differences (such as they are) don't really matter, being trumped by the similarities
    (2) a discrediting or sweeping aside of some of the differences, (important ones, like a real human Jesus and a real bodily resurrection for e.g.) in a variety of ways.
    (3) the raising of some issues not yet discussed. (which don't amount to much)

    So, I will try to respond again to much of what you have said. Interestingly though you did not respond to all the issues I raised nor actually engage with the significance (and it is the significance which I, and Graham, have repeatedly tried to emphasise) of the differences highlighted and so I shall note those again too. This however will need a few postings, for to do it in one is too long. Please be patient.

    (1) Differences which don't matter.

    In saying, that the similarities are 'vital' and the differences 'unimportant', you are merely repeating your view of plagiarism. My view, as I have said repeatedly, is that the differences do matter, you think they do not and you don't engage with them; we are no further on.

    You also say, "the point is that NONE of these 'disanalogies', Christianity included, makes any one of them more likely to be true than any of the others", As far as I am aware, neither Graham nor I have said that the differences in and of themselves prove truth, rather that the differences are significant and substantial, enough to warrant a second look and such that it cannot be assumed that they are merely borrowed. My point is that Judaism and Christianity and it's differences set it apart (it set itself apart), and, in being set apart cannot be reduced to mere plagiarism; you take the opposite view; paragraph one brings no change to our conversation.

  • Comment number 82.

    (2) Sweeping aside some of the differences.

    To be honest Brian, I cannot see that you have said anything much about the differences here, except to highlight your doubt of certain biblical events. I know you don't believe in miracles so I'm not sure what this achieves. We're debating alleged plagiarism.

    Empty tomb

    You don't trust the evidence or you think we don't actually have any evidence at all. (This does not surprise me, but again I wasn't asking you to believe it, merely to note it's difference) In regard to the empty tomb, you dismiss it without actually referring to the accounts, saying simply, "We have no evidence other than the word of a few people. Why should we believe them?" I may as well say, 'why believe anyone'? (I often ask myself, 'why believe anyone'!) In relation to myths and the differences the point is that we have eye witness accounts of a specific type of resurrection claim, the fact that you reject it is a different matter. You then seek again to draw the same parallels saying, "...especially when we know that similar claims (about resurrection) without any foundation were made earlier about other gods or supernatural beings". But the thing is, and it has been pointed out a lot, that not only are there general differences in the stories, but the are specific differences. The resurrection of Jesus is not linked to seasonal cycles, it was not to an underworld, it was bodily, not spiritual, it was recorded in terms of eye witness accounts it didn't involve other gods, god fights and so on, the parallels are just not there, except to say, 'alive', 'dead', 'alive'; again, it is the substantive which sets it apart. Does this on it's own make it true, no, but it does make it different, dismissing evidence without hearing it, and drawing parallels is not a sufficient rebuttal (which is what I've been saying all along.)


    I quoted Tacitus in terms of the historical existence of a man called Jesus, I wasn't defending the existence or otherwise of miracles. "How reliable is Tacitus about miracles?" I don't know why he said what he said, but this no reason to dismiss the reality of a man called Jesus.


    Brain this is just more of the same argument about plagiarism, only now you are setting it in the context of Judaism. It's just another way of saying the Jews and the Christian assimilated earlier stories. It still doesn't deal with the substantial differences Graham and I have outlined. We know there are similarities, we have given reasons why we might expect similarities and we have explained how the stories are significantly and vitally different. We just rehearing the argument here again.

    More to come!

  • Comment number 83.

    (Part 3)


    Again you say you don't know if Jesus was a real person or not, I know that already. You say you won't trust his friend's record of him, I know that already too. Here's an interesting one, 'there's no carpentry', mmm, what would you expect? a chair, a bowl, a handsaw perhaps bearing the signature of Jesus (sorry but I'm thinking of those stiles you mentioned earlier regarding this objection!) No contemporary Roman records, and why might that be? Something to do with him being an ordinary marginalized criminal in a middle eastern outpost; he never addressed the Senate, didn't travel outside Israel and so on, no one took any notice of him except the home crowd, why would the Romans write about him? None of this means he didn't exist. How many Middle Eastern preachers can you name today, and we have Sky TV and the Internet and violent threats against world security.

    Then you throw up another tangent about Nazareth, but interestingly it's name showed up on an synagogue inscription in Caesarea, dating to the 3rd C or so.

    You say, "Virtually every detail in the gospel stories occurred in pagan and/or Hebrew stories...", I know you think this, this is more repetition without really addressing the differences in so called details which have been pointed out.

    Regarding my Replies

    I reject the truth of the other myths, not that they have content bearing similarities to the the Jesus story. So no I don't reject he content. I reject the truth, actual reality of the content. i.e. e.g that Osiris exists.

    Now Tammuz

    Ancient fertility god! - again linked to seasonal cycles. The alive dead parallels can only work if we redefine resurrection in terms of any dead alive transition. In the end they are the worship of a defied nature, not the 'I Am'. Please see all I have already said about Jesus Hebrewism and Christianity not being this, not being promoted in this way and the endless objections raised in the Bible, OT and NT to 'idol' worship. We're dealing with what the differences actually are.

    How do I account for perceived similarities? Easy, people worship stuff, this too is written into the bible, the bible acknowledges that prople worship stuff and gives reasons why, people worship what they see around them, themselves, whatever. The ideas of life and death and life again are written into nature, (new beginnings abound in our cultures) people relate it to themselves, they seek god, it's a default mode (Didn't another thread highlight that?) We are religious people, all of us in some way or another. But this is NOT the Christian concept of God, the Christian concept of God is not related to nature. Again and again Graham and I have said that YHWH and JESUS (one and the same) is not derived from nature, not governed by nature, not cyclical. These are substantial differences between the Jeudo Christian 'myth' and all the rest which you do not seem to acknowledge.

    Brain you are saying see, they look similar, I know you think they do, but you have not yet recognized the substantive differences, and we haven't even talked about atonement.

    There are so many things we have told you that Judeo Christianity is not.

  • Comment number 84.

    Brian - Part 4

    Now maybe you might wish to comment on these further aspects of difference which you have not yet commented on:

    The expectations of Christians and those written into the bible that all cultures will seek god/s in some way or other.
    The endless pointing up of differences between Judeo Christianity and other cultural myths written into the bible, old and new testaments.
    The lack of seasonal cycles in the Hebrew understanding of god.
    The nature of the Christ's humanity and resurrection.
    The 'mystery religion' notion of man seeking after the experience of god and the Hebrew notion of God seeking man. As portwyne said self-giving.
    The lack of deified nature in the bible.
    The origin, or not, of the gods.
    That Christianity is cross cultural

    Thank you for your patience.



  • Comment number 85.

    This is a response to parts 1 and 2. Give a chance to read what you write if you really want me to respond.

    Repetition? Pots and kettles are much in evidence here.
    And I didn't respond to all the issues your raised? Oh, Lord, how long do I have? Are my postings not long enough? (Don't answer that; it’s rhetorical).



    In the Jesus myth, Jesus was a god shaped like a man, just like Dionysus, Mithra(s), Osiris etc, but still having god powers, just like them. Now, the evidence for the people behind these myths is even less than that for Jesus, as they all supposedly lived before him in remote regions. But no doubt their followers believed that there was a living person as well as god behind the myth.

    We do know that Plato lived and we do know that his followers credited him with a virgin mother. The followers of Pythagoras took him for Apollo in person. Jesus alledgedly performed miracles, so according to their followers did Asclepius and Empedocles, who also supposedly brought a corpse to life.

    I have never said that Christianity was ALL plagiarism. Now, Jesus, or at least the man in the story, was new, in the same way that the Scirocco is new. But the Scirocco wasn't the first Scirocco: it has been 'resurrected' and 'improved' by Volkswagen. The new car is winning awards and is gaining a large following, but it is certainly not the first car ever made, let alone the first Scirocco. Every religion is unique in some ways, but that doesn't make it true.


    Leaving aside the question whether Paul implies a 'spiritual' rather than a bodily resurrection, Mithra was resurrected, according to the myth. Adonis was resurrected, according to the myth.

    Plutarch refers to the 'anabiosis' of Osiris (literally 'back to life'). Then there is the story of Inanna, which included not only a clearly genuine belief in her return to earth after death (and subsequent rule over Sumeria), but her manner of death was identical to that of Jesus: she was crucified. Or the story of Zalmoxis in his 'History', by Herodotus, who had been told that he was a real person who, after his disappearance, was considered dead and mourned by his people, but after three years he showed himself once more to the Getae, another clear case of belief in physical resurrection.

    In the second century Celsus made the point: "The fable of His Resurrection is nothing new to those who remember the similar stories related of Zamolxis, Pythagoras, and Rhampsinit. If Christ rose from the dead, why did He appear to His Disciples only, and not to His persecutors and to those who mocked Him?"

    As you know, many liberal Christians do not accept the physical resurrection of Jesus. They reject 'conjuring tricks with bones'. And they are wise to do so. Alas, Christian wisdom is thin on the ground in this neck of the woods.

  • Comment number 86.


    Here is just a sample of the scholars and writers who have questioned the Christian myth. Many of them were marginalised, discredited and vilified for their views. Many of them were also Christians, though not of the fundamentalist type, or least began as Christians.

    Hermann Samuel Reimarus, 18th century Enlightenment thinker and professor of Oriental languages at the Hamburg Gymnasium, charged the gospel writers with conscious fraud and innumerable contradictions.

    Voltaire, 18th century Enlightenment figure, wrote that "Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and bloody religion that has ever infected the world ... The true God cannot have been born of a girl, nor died on a gibbet, nor be eaten in a piece of dough". Voltaire, of course, was imprisoned and exiled for his ideas and his works were banned and burned.

    Charles François Dupuis, author of: Origine de tous les Cultes ou La Religion universelle (1794). "A great error is more easily propagated than a great truth, because it is easier to believe, than to reason, and because people prefer the marvels of romances to the simplicity of history".
    Thomas Paine, 1795, The Age of Reason.He poured savage ridicule on the contradictions and atrocities of the Bible.

    Robert Taylor, 1828, Syntagma of The Evidences of The Christian Religion; 1829, Diegesis. Taylor was imprisoned for declaring mythical origins for Christianity. "The earliest Christians meant the words to be nothing more than a personification of the principle of reason, of goodness, or that principle, be it what it may, which may most benefit mankind in the passage through life".

    David Friedrich Strauss, 1860, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. Lutheran vicar-turned-scholar skilfully exposed gospel miracles as myth and in the process reduced Jesus to a man. It cost him his career.

    Robert Ingersoll, 1872, The Gods. Illinois orator extraordinaire, his speeches savaged the Christian religion. "It has always seemed to me that a being coming from another world, with a message of infinite importance to mankind, should at least have verified that message by his own signature. Is it not wonderful that not one word was written by Christ?"

    Thomas William Doane, 1882, Bible Myths and their Parallels in Other Religions. Outdated, but a classic revelation of pagan antecedents of biblical myths and miracles.

    Joseph McCabe, 1897, Why I Left the Church. 1907, The Bible in Europe: an Inquiry into the Contribution of the Christian Religion to Civilization. 1914, The Sources of the Morality of the Gospels. Franciscan monk-turned-evangelical atheist. McCabe, a prolific writer, shredded many parts of the Christ legend – "There is no 'figure of Jesus' in the Gospels. There are a dozen figures".

    J.M.Robertson, 1910, Christianity and Mythology. 1911, Pagan Christs. Studies in Comparative Hierology. 1917, The Jesus Problem. Robertson drew attention to the universality of many elements of the Jesus' storyline and to pre-Christian crucifixion rituals in the ancient world. Identified the original Jesus/Joshua with an ancient Ephraimite deity in the form of a lamb.

    Edward Carpenter, 1920, Pagan and Christian Creeds. Elaborated the pagan origins of Christianity.

    Rudolf Bultmann, 1921, The History of the Synoptic Tradition. 1941, Neues Testament und Mythologie. Lutheran theologian and professor at Marburg University, Bultman was the exponent of 'form criticism' and did much to demythologise the gospels. He identified the narratives of Jesus as theology served up in the language of myth. Bultmann observed that the New Testament was not the story of Jesus but a record of early Christian belief. He argued that the search for an historical Jesus was fruitless: "We can know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus".

    James Frazer, 1922, The Golden Bough, an anthropological interpretation of man's progress from magic, through religion to science; Christianity was a cultural phenomenon. A classic, despite what Graham thinks.

    Earl Doherty, 1999, The Jesus Puzzle. Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Powerful statement of how Christianity started as a mystical-revelatory Jewish sect – no Jesus required!

    Harold Liedner, 2000, The Fabrication of the Christ Myth. Anachronisms and geographic errors of the gospels denounced. Christianity one of history's most effective frauds.

    Robert Price, 2000, Deconstructing Jesus. 2003 Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition? Ex-minister and accredited scholar shows Jesus to be a fictional amalgam of several 1st century prophets, mystery cult redeemers and gnostic 'aions'.

    Burton Mack, 2001,The Christian Myth: Origins, Logic, and Legacy. Social formation of myth making.

    Israel Finkelstein, Neil Silbermann, 2002, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. Archaeologists who skillfully argue that the sacred foundational stories of Judaism and Christianity are bogus.

    Tom Harpur, 2005, The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light. Canadian New Testament scholar and ex-Anglican priest re-states the ideas of Kuhn, Higgins and Massey. Jesus is a myth and all of the essential ideas of Christianity originated in Egypt.

    Thomas L. Thompson, 2006, The Messiah Myth. Theologian, university don and historian of the Copenhagen school who concludes Jesus and David are both amalgams of Near Eastern mythological themes originating in the Bronze Age.

  • Comment number 87.


    I would like to make a comment on the frequent references you and Graham make to the Judaic origins of Christianity. The truth is of course that some of the Gospels, especially John's, reject Judaism, and anti-semitism was an integral part of Chrisarianity from its very beginings (Matthew's curse, and all that).

    As an offshoot of Judaism, it was natural for Christians to use the Hebrew scriptures, as both Jesus and Paul did, but as they developed their own identities they were forced to find further justification for their use of the texts of a religion from which they were increasingly separate. The argument was thus made that the Jews had proved themselves not worthy of their own sacred texts.

    Almost all the early Christian fathers wrote as work entitled 'Against the Jews', even up to Martin luther and his 'On the Jews and their Lies'.

    Tertullian (c160-c240) argued that God had shown circumcision was unnecessary by creating an intact Adam. So, by insisting on circumcision, the Jew were living in a state that was morally inferior to Christians.

    Justin Martyr (c100-c165) even claimed that God had had to provide the Law for the Jews 'on account of their stubbrnness and insubordination'. They had shown their insubordination by openly rejecting the Messiah, even though his coming had been prophesied in the scriptures and he had lived among them as one of them.

    And, surely, this is the crucial point, Peter and Graham: all your talk of cross-culturalism and of the Judaic origins ignores the simple fact that Jews believed (and still believe) that you Christians are wrong about Jesus. He wasn't the Messiah and he didn't rise from the dead.

    And it completely ignores two thousand years of brutal anti-semitism by Christians. And we all know where that led to.

  • Comment number 88.


    I have already considered your first two posts (85 and 86) and have a reply written, but I'll put it on hold in light of the accusations of anti-Semitism and do what I said I wouldn't do, respond to a tangent. Is this really your answer to the unavoidable world-wide cross-cultural expressions of Christianity?

    Yes there has been anti-semitism through church history, (we've discussed this before, christians do bad things, it's part of the reason they are christians) but why do you think I already preempted this accusation in post 77 when I said I'm not a Jew basher? The simple fact is this, Jesus did not reject the Jewish god he claimed to be the Jewish god (that’s part of what got him killed), it is explained not as not rejection, or an off shoot, but as the expected fulfillment of all Israel's hopes, (it's standard christian theology, I've already cited the book of Hebrews) and yes, the Jews, (but not all of them) reject Jesus as their Messiah (many of them reject religion altogether, being secular) but the religious ones are still expecting a Messiah, they still look for the OT to be fulfilled in a promised Messiah, the bible deals with this too.

    The whole Middle Eastern land thing raises passions and tempers. Some Christians have been anti Jewish, some have been anti Palestinian, but there are both Jewish believers in Jesus and Palestinian believers in Jesus, and they meet together, but it doesn't usually make the news. There is a Jewish Christian organization called Jews for Jesus, they have a whole section on their website about Torah and Jesus.

    Sorry, but the fact remains, whatever the wrongs of the christian church, christianity is cross-cultural.

  • Comment number 89.


    "...it is explained not as not rejection, or an off shoot, but as the expected fulfillment of all Israel's hopes..."

    should read,

    ...it is explained not as rejection, or an off shoot, but as the expected fulfillment of all Israel's hopes...

  • Comment number 90.

    Brian - your post # 85. I am one of those liberal Christians who think a physical resurrection unlikely and unnecessary - but, like Dr Jenkins the originator of the quotation you used, I believe the Resurrection was "much more than a conjuring trick with bones". Dr Jenkins words are frequently used out of context to present a viewpoint quite different from the Bishop's own.

  • Comment number 91.

    Speaking of plagiarism, I invite all readers to visit the "Powered by Christ Ministries" site and click on "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" which is a unique article of almost thermo-nuclear intensity - a rare look at the 179-year-old, fringe-British-invented, American-merchandised-as-long-as-there-are-suckers, plagiarism-riddled "pretribulation rapture" fantasy which was never a part of any official Christian theology before 1830. Definitely NOT recommended by LaHaye, Jenkins, Lindsey, Hagee, Swaggart, Van Impe, Missler, Jeffrey, Strandberg and other rapturized repeaters! Rapturiana


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.