By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
One of the most common criticisms made against Christianity is that the Christians borrowed their key doctrines about Christ from the pagan god and goddess stories that had circulated for centuries before Jesus was born.
For example, we are told that there were stories told by the pagans of Savior-Gods being born of virgins, working miracles, dying for mankind, and being raised from the dead, long before Jesus Christ was born.
Therefore, it is claimed, these similarities prove that the Christians simply borrowed these concepts from the pagans and applied them to Jesus Christ.
Several people I have worked with in Hazard, Corbin, and Hindman have expressed this belief to me.
Yet what are the facts?
In this brief series of articles, we will carefully notice the facts about these matters.
We will start in this study by noticing that, even if there are similarities between Christianity and paganism, this fact alone does not prove that Christians borrowed from the pagans.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that there were stories being circulated among the pagans about gods born into the world through virgins who then worked miracles and who died and rose from the dead.
If these stories were indeed around and being circulated, would that necessarily prove that the Christians had borrowed these ideas from the pagans?
No, it would not prove that at all.
We need to pay attention to the fact that correlation between events does not necessarily prove causation.
In other words, just because two things might be similar, this does not mean that there was a common source behind them.
To illustrate, consider these insightful words from a recent excellent book on Christian Apologetics:
“Finally, the myth proponents suffer from what Dan Wallace described as “parallelomania.” Namely, they tend to argue that certain similarities between pagan sources and Christianity prove that Christians copied the pagan stories. However, the parallels invariably lack any real substance. They are either too superficial, or they come from documents that postdate Christianity by centuries. Even if the parallels were earlier and far more similar, they still would not prove copying. Many remarkable coincidental similarities exist between different religions and between different historical events. One of the most striking examples is the similarity between the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and that of John F. Kennedy. Numerous details perfectly coincide: • Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846. John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946. • Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860. John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960. • Lincoln and Kennedy each have seven letters. • Lincoln had a secretary name Kennedy; Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln. • Both were married in their thirties to twenty- four- year- old, socially prominent girls who could speak fluent French. • Both presidents dealt with civil rights movements for African Americans. • Both presidents were assassinated in the back of the head, while sitting next to their wives, on a Friday before a major holiday. • Both their assassins were known by three names consisting of fifteen letters (John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald). • Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and was captured in a theater; Booth shot Lincoln in a theater and was captured in a warehouse. • Both assassins were shot and killed with a Colt revolver days after they assassinated the president, before they could be brought to trial. • Both presidents were succeeded by vice presidents named Johnson; both Johnsons were from the South, born in 1808 and 1908 respectively. Despite this remarkable list, no one believes that one assassination was a mythical retelling of the other. For no evidence exists that copying took place, and the accounts of both assassinations rest on solid historical foundations. Similarly, not a shred of evidence exists that the early Christians were influenced by any of the stories about pagan mythical or historical figures. And the time frame between the events and the writing of the Gospels and letters was far too short for myths to have developed since eyewitnesses were still alive.” (Rice Broocks, Man, Myth, Messiah: Answering History’s Greatest Question, 132-133 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group)
There are many similarities between the aforementioned accounts, yet these similarities do not prove causation.
Just because there are similarities between two events, this does not necessarily mean that one was borrowing from the other.
In the exact same way, if it may be shown similarities exist between paganism and Christianity, this would not in and of itself prove that Christians borrowed their teachings from the pagans.
In our next article, we will notice that Christians could not have borrowed their ideas from the pagans for the simple fact that most of these pagan ideas post-date Christianity: in other words, the ideas and concepts that Christians supposedly borrowed from the pagans could not have been thus borrowed, for the pagans had not invented these concepts yet!
As we move through this series of articles, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ will be considered and proven.
The Son of God loves you and died for your sins at Calvary (1 Timothy 2:6).
Why not today believe His Word, repent of your sins, confess your faith in Him, and be baptized into Him to have your sins washed away (Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-39)?
If you are an erring child of God, why not at this very moment repent of the sin in your life and turn back to Jesus Christ, praying to Him as you return (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9)?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.