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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Objections to the Resurrection of Jesus

Don Stewart :: Was the Story of Jesus' Resurrection Borrowed from Other Ancient Accounts of a Dying and Rising God?

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Was the Story of Jesus’ Resurrection Borrowed from Other Ancient Accounts of a Dying and Rising God? (The Mystery Religions)

Objections to the Resurrection of Jesus – Question 6

One way for critics to view the New Testament story of Jesus’ resurrection is to accuse the gospel writers of borrowing the idea from other popular stories that were circulating in the Roman Empire. At the time of Jesus, there was widespread worship of gods who died and then rose again.

For example, in Mesopotamia, the god Tammuz was said to have died and then rose again. In Egypt, Osiris is alleged to have died and then come back to life. In Syria, the name of the dying and rising god was Adonis and in Asia Minor his name was Attis. Thus, Jesus is merely the Judean version of a common belief in the ancient world. This is a common accusation.

Response to the Comparison between Jesus and the Mystery Religions

While this argument used to be popular as an objection to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in recent years, this theory has been seen for what it is; a totally invalid comparison. There are a number of reasons as to why this is the case. They are as follows.

1. There Is No Real Comparison between Jesus and the Mystery Religions

The most basic problem in the comparison between Jesus and the gods of the mystery religions concerns their historical reality. Jesus was an historical person while the heroes of the story in the mystery religions were not.

Jesus lived at a certain time in history. The New Testament records scores of historical details about Him. We know when He lived, who was ruling Rome at the time, the Jewish and Roman leaders in His region, as well as many other historical facts about His life and the people with whom He associated. This is not true of any of the heroes of these mystery religions. Therefore, in one sense, there is no comparison between them and Jesus Christ.

2. Many of the Stories Came after the Time of Christ

There is something else. Many of the stories of a god who died and then came back to life were actually composed after the time of Christ, not before. In fact, most, if not all of them, can be traced to the time after Jesus lived. Therefore, any borrowing that may have occurred was from the story of Jesus and not the other way around.

3. There Is a Logical Fallacy Involved in This Comparison

The rejection of Jesus’ resurrection, because it may be similar to accounts of certain dying and rising gods in the ancient world, is actually a logical fallacy. Whether or not there were similar incidents, or similar claims by other religious figures, really has nothing to do with Jesus and His claims. What He said and did must be viewed on its own. It does not matter if there were one thousand similar claims. We need to examine the evidence of the New Testament and see if it stands up to the most rigorous of historical tests. In fact, it does.

Summary – Question 6
Was the Story of Jesus’ Resurrection Borrowed from Other Ncient Accounts of a Dying and Rising God? (The Mystery Religions)

At one time, it was fashionable to attribute the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the early believers borrowing from other stories of a dying, rising god that were circulating at the time. Since similar stories were found in such places as Egypt, Asia Minor and Syria, it is not surprising that the story showed up in Judea.

However, this is no longer a popular way of dealing with the resurrection story. There are a number of reasons as to why this is so.

For one thing, Jesus was an historical person while these figures were not. Therefore, at the outset we are not dealing with the same thing.

In addition, most, if not all of the accounts came after the time of Christ. Therefore, it there were any borrowing it was from the New Testament rather than the New Testament writers borrowing from popular stories of the time.

Finally, there is a logical fallacy involved in this type of reasoning. Merely because there are similarities between Jesus and other religious figures has nothing to do with His identity or the truthfulness of His claims. His claims must be examined on their own merit. We should not reject them simply because there may have been similar claims made for some other religious figure. The real question is, “How do Jesus claims match up with the evidence?” When we examine the evidence we find that His claims are true.

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