Recently I had an exchange with another blogger (Prayson Daniel) here who claims there were no dying and rising gods besides Jesus. Apparently he found it “easy” to attack the discredited book The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Or Christianity Before Christ by Kersey Graves and the controversial work of DM Murdock (Achraya S). Instead, if this blogger would have looked at some more recent and credible work AND a few Greek tragedies, in particular the earliest extant European novel, his conclusion would have been vastly different. Considering he is a Christian fundamentalist, his conclusion probably would have been the same after a long session of him sticking his fingers in his ears and crying out “la-la-la.”
One of strangest things he said to me in our short conversation (and the last thing he said since it proved his close mind to me) is that Justin Martyr never said there were other dying and rising god myths. that just blew me away literally and I refuse to talk with someone who decides he is allowed to rewrite history. Justin Martyr wrote in Dialogue With Trypho
Be well assured, then, Trypho, that I am established in the knowledge of and faith in the Scriptures by those counterfeits which he who is called the devil is said to have performed among the Greeks; just as some were wrought by the Magi in Egypt, and others by the false prophets in Elijah’s days. For when they tell that Bacchus, son of Jupiter, was begotten by intercourse with Semele, and that he was the discoverer of the vine; and when they relate, that being torn in pieces, AND HAVING DIED, HE ROSE AGAIN, AND ASCENDED TO HEAVEN; and when they introduce wine into his mysteries, do I not perceive that the devil has imitated the prophecy announced by the patriarch Jacob, and recorded by Moses?
yet this blogger decided I took this quote out of context and it must be understood by the preceding two paragraphs in his First Apology and he proceeded to show that I was wrong and he was referring to the virgin birth and then he said “Justin Martyr never said anything about dying and rising gods.” To continue with what was said by some early church fathers, Justin Martyr also said
there exists not a people, civilized or semi-civilized, who have not offered up prayers in the name of a crucified Savior to the Father and Creator of all things
that which is called the Christian religion is neither new nor strange, but-if it be lawful to testify the truth-was known to the ancients.
These three quotes should be more than enough to show that there indeed were similarities between Pagan beliefs and those of the early Christians. Why is it so “important” for modern Christians to show that these similarities didn’t exist? If they didn’t exist, the early church would not have “apologized” for them but they would have denied them instead. To see the crass dishonesty of this one Christian blogger claim that Justin Martyr never mentioned dying and rising gods is just another of the many reasons I find fundagelical Christians to be a scourge on society, they (in this case Prayson Daniel) think it is ok for them to rewrite history as long as it agrees with their outlook on things.
I mentioned some more recent and credible work that has been done. Unlike the work of Kersey Graves and Achraya S, I do not believe it is a credible conclusion to say that Jesus is purely mythological. I do believe there are a vast number of similarities with Pagan beliefs and throughout quite a large amount of ancient literature and because all of the myths prevalent in Christianity were so common throughout the society where Christianity originated, how can one conclude that Christianity copied the myths instead of them being a natural part of the culture they were in? The recent and credible work this blogger ignored (and almost all Christians I read or speak to) is that of Richard Carrier, Frank Zindler, Robert M Price, the entire Jesus Seminar, John Loftus and many others to numerous to name.
One genre I mentioned in my opening paragraph was Greek tragedies. Perhaps a more apt name for the genre would be Greek romance. I am speaking about what may well be the oldest extant European novel (possibly written prior to 62 CE) and that is Chariton’s Callirhoe (this entire genre is ignored by Christian apologists because studying it would lead to some extremely disturbing conclusions for all of Christianity). The entire story is not what I would like to focus on but the obvious parallel (or shall I say preforgery of John’s resurrection account) that even includes the grave clothes left behind. To be honest, the reason Callirhoe is entombed is a mundane one. She was in an argument with her husband Chaeraes, he kicks her and she appears to die. She revives in the cool tomb and some pirates break in to rob the grave, thy take Callirhoe and then the resurrection parallels start in earnest. Let me explain with the words of Robert M. Price
When he reached the tomb, he found that the stones had been moved and the entrance was open.
[Cf. John 20:1} He was astonished at the sight and overcome by fearful perplexity at what had
happened. [Cf. Mark 16:5] Rumor—a swift messenger—told the Syracusans this amazing news. They all
quickly crowded round the tomb, but no one dared go inside until Her- mocrates gave an order to do
so. [Cf. John 20:4-6] The man who went in reported the whole situation accurately. [Cf. John 19:35;
21:24] It seemed incredible that even the corpse was not lying there. Then Chaereas himself
determined to go in, in his desire to see Callirhoe again even dead; but though he hunted through the
tomb, he could find nothing. Many people could not believe it and went in after him. They were all
seized by helplessness. One of those standing there said, “The funeral offerings have been carried off
[Cartlidge's translation reads: "The shroud has been stripped off—cf. John 20:6-7]—it is tomb robbers
who have done that; but what about the corpse—where is it?” Many different suggestions circulated in
the crowd. Chaereas looked towards the heavens, stretched up his arms, and cried: “Which of the gods
is it, then, who has become my rival in love and carried off Callirhoe and is now keeping her with
him . . . ?”
The parallels to the empty-tomb accounts, especially to John 20:1—10, are abundant and close. Chaereas even suggests that Callirhoe has been (like Jesus) translated to heaven.
I bet most of the Christians that are still reading are wondering where is the crucifixion? Well, you are not going to be disappointed. Callirhoes husband Chaereas was condemned to the cross later in the novel. Was chained to the two he was condemned with, carried his own cross (anyone note any similarity?) but received a last minute gubernatorial reprieve.
Instead of going on and on with the parallels, I will just mention a few of the more popular works that anyone can read and see the similarities themselves.
- The Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratus
- Satyricon by Petronius
- The Golden Ass by Apuleius
- Cupid And Psyche by Apuleius
- Babylonian Story by Iamblichus
- The Story Of Apollonius, King Of Tyre by ANON
- Ethiopian Story by Heliodorus
- Daphnis and Chloe by Longus
- Leucippe and Clitophon by Achilles Tatius
- Ephesian Tale by Xenophon
As can be seen there are many ancient manuscripts that predate the resurrection tales of the bible. For anyone to dismiss this evidence of similar tales as being non-existent is just plain bull-headed ignorance and fear.
Some further reading you might enjoy.
- Resurrection question
- Some reasons to think there was no historical Jesus
- Review: The Case For The Real Jesus
- Busting The Dying And Rising Gods Myth (Prayson Daniel’s post that inspired this article)
Filed under: Atheism, Christianity, Religious Absurdity Tagged: | Christian, Christianity, Jesus, Justin Martyr, Kersey Graves, Resurrection Of Jesus, Robert M. Price, The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Or Christianity Before Christ