stopcopyingIs the Story of Jesus Stolen from Pagan Beliefs and Traditions?

By Jeriah Shank

I have two young children who are getting to the age where they are beginning to interact with—and annoy—one another. Often they copy one another. You know the drill: One child says, “Stop copying me!” The other responds, “Stop copying me!” et cetera ad infinitum. Such conversations eventually wear down even the most resolute of parents. But kids aren’t the only ones crying, “Stop copying me!”

Some critics are saying the Gospels’ claims that Jesus was the divine, virgin born, resurrected Savior of the world were copied from earlier myths and were incorporated into the cult of Christ. For example, D. M. Murdock in his book Christ in Egypt states, “In other words, we are convinced that ‘Jesus Christ’ may well be a fictional character created out of older myths, rituals, and symbols.” Bill Maher, a political commentator, likewise asks an actor dressed as Jesus in his film Religulous, “Does it ever bother you that the story of a man who was born of a virgin was resurrected? Your bio was something that was going around the Mediterranean for at least a thousand years.”

This view, called the Christ Myth, or Cosmic Christ theory, has had many advocates over the years in some form or another. Beginning in the first and second centuries, pagans and Christians alike were commenting on parallels between Jesus and pagan myths. But this belief became most popular in German theological circles in the 1800s and has continued with scholars like Gerald Massey, David Strauss, Kersey Graves, Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Bruno Bauer, D. M. Murdock, Tom Harpur, G. A. Wells, and Richard Carrier; in documentaries like The God Who Wasn’t There, Zeitgeist, and Religulous; and even in popular books and movies like The Da Vinci Code.