Sunday, April 20, 2014

Did the resurrection of Jesus evolve as a story from ancient myths?

They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.  1Thessalonians 1:9-10

Why should the story of Jesus' resurrection have any more credibility than tales of dying and rising gods such as Osiris, Adonis, Attis, and Marduk -- that are so obviously mythological?

First, good historical evidence exists for Jesus' resurrection. It's impossible to dismiss the resurrection unless you can refute its solid core of supporting evidence.

Second, T.N.D. Mettinger--a senior Swedish scholar, professor at Lund University and member of the Royal Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities of Stockholm--wrote one of the most recent academic treatment of dying and rising gods in antiquity. He admits in his book, The Riddle of Resurrection that the nearly universal consensus among modern scholars is that no dying and rising gods preceded Christianity. They all postdated the first century. Obviously, that timing is crucial: Christianity couldn't have borrowed the idea of the resurrection if myths about dying and rising gods weren't even circulating when Christianity was birthed in the first century AD.

Mettinger, however, takes a decidedly minority position by claiming there might be as many as five examples of dying and rising gods that predate Christianity. However after analyzing these accounts he found that none of them serve as actual parallels to Jesus' resurrection story. None of them.

They are far different from the reports of Jesus rising from the dead. They occurred in the unspecified and distant past and were usually related to the seasonal life and death cycle of vegetation. In contrast, Jesus' resurrection isn't repeated, isn't related to changes in the seasons and was sincerely believed to be an actual event by those who lived in the same generation of the historical Jesus. In addition, Mettinger concludes that "there is no evidence for the death of the dying and rising gods as vicarious suffering for sins" and that "the death and resurrection of Jesus retains unique character in the history of religions."

-----Adapted from interview with Dr. Michael Licona

Note: The myth of Attis does predate Christianity. However, there is no reference to his resurrection until at least 100 years after Christ rose from the dead.

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