March 19, 2020
Was the story of Jesus copied from other previous religious stories prior to the Christian movement?
There are reports online and by various authors that there were other ancient gods like Mithra, King Osiris, Dionysus or Marduk, who predated Jesus of Nazareth, who Christian writers stole from.
Is there any truth to these claims?
That is what we will be looking at in this blog post.
We will be taking much of our information in this blog post from a part in Lee Strobel's fantastic book, The Case For the Real Jesus, where he interviews Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, who is an expert in the field of the so-called "Copycat Gods".
Dr. Edwin Yamauchi has studied 22 languages, and has written numerous books and articles.
If you would like to skip ahead, here is a Table of Contents:
Let's start with Mithra, also written Mithras (Sanskrit Mitra) who is often the most popular of the bunch.
The Mithra meaning is the Zoroastrian Divinity of Covenant, Light and Oath.
Writers have claimed that the pre-Christian god, Mithras (pictured below) was born of a virgin in a cave on December 25th.
They also claim Mithra was considered a great traveling teacher, had 12 disciples, promised his followers immortality, sacrificed himself for world peace, was buried in a tomb and rose again 3 days later.
And finally, they claim Mithra instituted a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper," and was considered the Logos, redeemer, Messiah, and 'the way, the truth and the life'.
So is any of this true?
I mean, that seems like quite a few similarities between Mithra sun god, and Jesus the Son of God.
But how far do the comparisons go between Mithra and Jesus?
I think it is first important to address the fact that all of the books of the New Testament that Christians follow today were already written by the end of the 1st century.
So if Jesus is crucified and resurrected in AD 30, then within about 65 years, all 27 books of the current New Testament were already written.
If you need evidence of this, I suggest you check out our blog post, Is the Bible True?
OK so was the Jesus story truly original, or did it just steal from other stories previously written?
Well let's get into it!
Mithraism was a late Roman mystery religion that was popular among soldiers and merchants, and which became a chief rival to Christianity in the late 2nd century and later.
The participants met in a cavelike structure called a "mithraeum (pictured above)," which had its cult statue Mithras stabbing a bull, the so-called tauroctony.
Even though Mithras was a Perisan god who was attested as early as the 14th century BC, we have almost no evidence of Mithraism in the sense of a mystery religion in the West until very late - too late to have influenced the beginnings of Christianity.
The first public recognition of the Mithras in Rome was the state visit of Tiridates (statued below), the king of Armenia, in AD 66.
However, this is NOT the same as Mithraism as a mystery religion.
Mithraism as a mystery religion CANNOT be attested before about AD 90 (again, all New Testament scriptures already written by around this time) which is about the time we see a Mithraic motif in a poem by Statius (statued below).
No Mithraea (or Mithraic temples) have been found at Pompeii, which was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79.
The earliest Mithraic inscription in the west is a statue of a prefect under the emperor Trajan in AD 101.
The earliest mithraea are dated to the early 2nd century.
There are a handful of inscriptions that date to the early 2nd century, but the vast majority of texts are dated after AD 140.
Mithras was not born of a virgin, he was born of a rock (pictured below).
Nowhere in the New Testament is Jesus described as having been born in a cave.
Mithras didn't sacrifice himself, he killed a bull.
We don't know anything about the death of Mithras (thus we certainly don't know anything about a resurrection).
This rite (bull sacrifice (taurobolium) with the pouring of blood) is reported in the 2nd century AD.
For further study, here is a very informative blog post by former Cold Case Detective, J Warner Wallace:
The next ancient we will look at is Osiris.
Next, as we delve into Osiris-Jesus comparisons, I believe you will see the ties very weak between Osiris and Jesus.
Osiris (statued above) is the Egyptian Lord of the Underworld and Judge of the dead.
The story of Osiris Egyptian god of the dead has left a lasting impression on mankind, but did he influence the Jesus story?
Details of the death of Osiris are given by Plutarch (statued below), who wrote in the 2nd century AD, and is famous for his biographies in Plutarch's Lives or as it is also known for Plutarch Parallel Lives.
For Plutarch Moralia was also an important collection, but it is Plutarch's Isis and Osiris that touches on the death of Osiris.
This most popular account says Osiris's brother killed him, chopped him into 14 pieces, and scattered them around the world.
Well, the goddess Isis (pictured below) feels compassion for Osiris, so she looks for his body parts to give him a proper burial.
She only finds 13 of them, puts them back together, and Osiris is buried.
But he doesn't come back to this world; he's given the status of god of the netherworld - a gloomy, shadowy place of semiconsciousness.
Does this story sound at all like the story of Jesus to YOU?
For more information on Jesus vs Osiris, I recommend you check out this blog post by Reasons for Jesus:
Attis (statued above) is the next ancient god we will briefly cover.
Some say that Christians stole the resurrection of Jesus story from Attis.
Now, the myth of Attis IS much older than Christianity, but the first report we have of a resurrection of Attis comes long after the 1st century AD.
The supposed resurrection of Attis doesn't appear until after AD 150 - more than a century later than Jesus.
For further study on so-called ties between Jesus and Attis, check out this blog post by Ancient Origins:
Then there is Adonis (statued above) (by the way, the word 'Adonis' actually has a meaning in our language).
The Adonis meaning is a handsome-looking young man, which is conveyed in the story of Adonis and Aphrodite.
Apparently Adonis was one of only two mortals the goddess of love, Aphrodite ever fell for.
Ok, so maybe he was handsome, but did the Jesus story steal from Adonis?
Well the problem with that theory is that Adonis is more than a hundred years after Jesus.
Pierre Lambrechts has shown that there are no indications of a resurrection in the early information we have about Adonis.
While there are 4 texts that DO speak of his resurrection, they date from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD.
What about the Babylonian god, Marduk (pictured above)?
There are those who profess of similarities between his story and that of Jesus.
Well, there's no clear account in antiquity of Marduk even dying - and so a resurrection is even less clear.
There's no resurrection of Marduk to even compare to Jesus.
What about the famous Dionysus god (statued above), you may find in Dionysus art or in a Dionysus painting?
Dionysus is the Greek god of wine, although he has also been referred to as Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. Just know, in Dionysus wine is plentiful.
The Dionysus Greek Mythology conveyed showed him as the strong son of Zeus and Semele, even a hero. As the god of wine Roman merchants liked Dionysus.
Maybe the Dionysus mythology inspired the Jesus story.
Well, like Marduk, there was actually no resurrection of Dionysus.
Also, some state that Jesus' virgin birth was taken from Dionysus.
However, there's no evidence of a virgin birth for Dionysus either.
Yamauchi states that, as the story goes, Zeus, disguised as a human, fell in love with the princess Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, and she became pregnant.
Hera, who was Zeus's queen, arranged to have her burned to a crisp, but Zeus rescued the fetus and sewed him into his own thigh until Dionysus was born.
So this is not a virgin birth in any sense.
For a GREAT video on the comparison check out the video by Inspiring Philosophy below:
You can see more of their content at their website:
Sources for the life of Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha (statued above) do not appear in written form until five centuries after his death so they're not very historically reliable.
You will find many a Gautama painting showing the famous 'Buddha belly' possibly in a Todaji temple, the Buddha bracelet, a Buddha head, and multiple Buddha teachings around the Tian Tan Buddha statue, but none can truthfully claim Buddha was born virginally.
According to legend, the mother of Gautam Buddha dreamed that he entered her in the form of a white elephant - fully formed!
I am not sure even the medicine-Buddha could help with that one!
In addition, she had been married for many years prior to this, so she certainly was not a virgin.
The noble Eightfold path has impacted many who worship in the Wat Phah Kaew (the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand), but not even the eightfold path can help Buddha on this one.
The Krishna god story is a bit different but with a similar result.
Sri Krishna (pictured below) was born to a mother who already had seven previous sons, as even his followers readily concede.
Though many a Krishna Bhajan (a Hindu song of worship) is sung honoring him at a Krishna Janmashtami event, or at the Radha Krishna temple, they cannot purport that he was born virginally.
And Hindus chanting, "Happy Janmashtami!" from here to New Vrindaban would agree.
What about Zoroastrianism and the stories of Zoroaster being conceived by virgin birth?
Zoroaster lived before 1000 BC, according to Mary Boyce, or in the 6th century BC according to other scholars.
The Zoroastrian religion, is estimated to have around 100,000 to 200,000 worshippers worldwide.
However, the idea that his mother conceived him by drinking the sacred haoma drink appears in the Denkard, which dates to the 9th century AD.
That's an extremely long time later - and far after Jesus.
There are just no dying and rising gods that preceded Christianity, that parallel Jesus.
Now we'd like to hear from you. Which "so-called" copycat story had you heard before? Was it Osiris or Mithras?
Let us know in the comments section below.
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