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The Jesus Legend 3: One Among Many Legends?


This chapter argues that the many parallels suggested as influences of the view of Jesus as divine were different enough that the case is overstated. Other gods, although they predated Jesus, did not share many of the parallel characteristics of Jesus until after Christian influences.

A question remains though, to what extent is parallelism necessary? Can myths that are very different from those in the cultural surroundings be generated? If this chapter contains only facts, the question remains: what is more likely, that there is some divine being that did all the miracles attested, or that a myth that did not have significant parallels arose. On top of this, there would need to be some way for the people of the time to understand Jesus as divine, or else no one would accept it, even if the resurrection occurred. If many non-eye witnesses came to be Christians, then it is only a matter of imagination that this myth might spread and arise, and if humans have anything, its imagination.

Kindle Notes:

In the case of the two different mythic traditions of Adonis-once heralded as the paradigm example of a “dying and rising god”-in one myth there is no death, and in neither is there a resurrection. Rather, Adonis undergoes bilocation, spending part of the year in the upper world and part in the lower world. As Jonathan Z. Smith observes, Adonis is connected with resurrection only much later, and in texts clearly influenced by Christianity (2388).

Turning to the Egyptian god Osiris, there is no resurrection per se. The god is murdered and his body dismembered and scattered. The pieces of his body are eventually recovered, gathered, and rejoined, and the god rejuvenated. However, he does not return to his original mode of existence but goes to the underworld, where he becomes a powerful god of the dead (2394).

Finally, a significant difference between the view of Jesus in the New Testament and all mythological savior figures is that we have good evidence that the Synoptic portrait(s) of Jesus is historically reliable (2455).

While the New Testament teaches that God was decisively revealed in the historical person of Jesus (e.g., John 14:8—11), it also teaches that God is Lord of all people and is at work everywhere and at all times to reveal himself to people (e.g., Acts 17:25—28).81It is not surprising, therefore, that we find mythical echoes of the true story in the minds and hearts of various peoples (2703).

Note: Fairly blatant ad hoc rationale. The extent to which the story is unique shows truth. The extent to which it is parallel shows truth. An example of arguing backwards from a conclusion.

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