Crash Goes the Da Vinci Code/Part 3
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2005|
|A common apologetic against Christianity is the idea that it borrowed from Greek pagan religions. The virgin birth is often cited as an example. The reality, if you look at Greek mythology and paganism, is that their male gods would come down and have sex with human women and give birth to hybrid beings. This is not what happened in terms of the virgin birth.|
by Dr. Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries, P.O. Box 2526, Frisco, TX, 75034. 214-618-0912. www.ronrhodes.org (Used by permission.)
Is Christianity Rooted in Paganism?
DAN BROWN’S POSITION:
“Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras— called the Son of God and the Light of the World—was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus.” (Page 232)
THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER:
A common apologetic against Christianity is the idea that it borrowed from Greek pagan religions. The virgin birth is often cited as an example. The reality, if you look at Greek mythology and paganism, is that their male gods would come down and have sex with human women and give birth to hybrid beings. This is not what happened in terms of the virgin birth. Jesus is eternal deity. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, it was specifically to produce a human nature within her womb for the eternal Son of God to step into, after which he was born as the God-Man (100-percent God and 100-percent man) nine months later. This is entirely different from Greek paganism. One should also note that the virgin birth of Jesus was prophesied (e.g., Isa. 7:14) hundreds of years before these pagan religions were setting forth their versions of a virgin birth.
It is sometimes argued that Christianity borrowed its “miracles” —such as turning water into wine, walking on water, and the resurrection itself—from Greek pagan mythology. Dr. Ronald Nash has responded convincingly to such absurd claims. Below is a summary of key points based on an article Nash wrote. He has also written the book, The Gospel and the Greeks, which you may wish to purchase and read for more thorough documentation. Nash argues:
- Many alleged similarities between Christianity and the Greek pagan religions are either greatly exaggerated or fabricated. Liberal scholars (such as those in the Jesus Seminar) often describe pagan rituals in language that they borrowed from Christianity, thereby making them appear to be “parallel” doctrines.
- The chronology for such claims is all wrong. Nash writes: “Almost all of our sources of information about the pagan religions alleged to have influenced early Christianity are dated very late. We frequently find writers quoting from documents written 300 years [later]… We must reject the assumption that just because a cult had a certain belief or practice in the third or fourth century after Christ, it therefore had the same belief or practice in the first century.”
- New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger is quoted by Nash: “It must not be uncritically assumed that the Mysteries [i.e., pagan religions] always influenced Christianity, for it is not only possible but probable that in certain cases, the influence moved in the opposite direction.” Nash notes that it should not be surprising that leaders of cults that were being successfully challenged by Christianity should do something to counter the challenge. What better way to do this than by offering a pagan substitute? Pagan attempts to counter the growing influence of Christianity by imitating it are clearly apparent in measures instituted by Julian the Apostate.
- As for claims of resurrection among pagan gods, Nash comments: “Which mystery gods actually experienced a resurrection from the dead? Certainly no early texts refer to any resurrection of Attis. Nor is the case for a resurrection of Osiris any stronger. One can speak of a ‘resurrection’ in the stories of Osiris, Attis, and Adonis only in the most extended of senses. For example, after Isis gathered together the pieces of Osiris’s dismembered body, Osiris became ‘Lord of the Underworld.’ This is a poor substitute for a resurrection like that of Jesus Christ. And, no claim can be made that Mithras was a dying and rising god. The tide of scholarly opinion has turned dramatically against attempts to make early Christianity dependent on the so-called dying and rising gods of Hellenistic paganism. Any unbiased examination of the evidence shows that such claims must be rejected.”
- The mysticism of the mystery religions was essentially nonhistorical. The religion of Christianity is grounded in history (see my earlier discussion).
- Ron Nash, “Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions,” CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL, August 1994.