Last night, I attended the first night of the two-day reTHINK student apologetics conference put on by Stand to Reason. Sean McDowell gave an incredible presentation answering the question, “Is Christianity a copycat religion?” This argument has resurfaced today on the internet and is challenging many Christians. It becomes hard to defend against attacks when we don’t know the facts behind this challenge. Now, I want to share the five reasons that Sean gave of how the mystery religions did not influence Christianity. (These reasons come directly from Sean McDowell’s presentation.)
1.Christianity has Jewish roots.
When studying Christianity, we see that it has Jewish roots. The basics of Christianity do not come from other mythological gods or other mystery religions.
2. Parallels are weak.
There may be certain parallel terms, but there is little evidence of parallel concepts. Even though similar vocabulary is used like death and resurrection, these terms have very different meanings. The death of the other gods was not like Jesus’ death and their “resurrection” was not the same. Be careful and understand what a person means when they use similar vocabulary.
3. Parallels prove nothing.
Even though there are similarities between a myth and an actual event, this doesn’t prove that the historical event never happened.
4. Dating the mystery religions.
The story that is going around the internet is that the events surrounding Osiris and other mythological gods came first and that Christianity copied parts of those religions. Paul Rhodes Eddy and Greg Boyd state that “Virtually all of our evidence for these religions comes from the second to fourth centuries.” The death and resurrection of Jesus occurred in the first century. This shows that these mystery religions were most likely influenced by Christianity rather than Christianity being influenced by the mystery religions.
5. The death of Jesus is Unique.
First, none of the other gods died for someone else. Second, Jesus is the only one that died for the sins of the world. Third, Jesus’ death was an actual historical event that can be verified. Fourth, Jesus died voluntarily.
These 5 reasons help us see that Christianity was not plagiarized from other mystery religions that came before. Christianity is a unique religion that can be tested and proven to be true. This blog is not intended to be an in-depth discussion on each issue. If you want to dig into this objection in further depth, check out these resources:
The Jesus Legend by Gregory Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy
The Gospel and the Greeks by Ronald Nash
“The Zeitgeist Movie and Other Myth Claims about Jesus” Blog published in 2013 by Stand to Reason
Thanks Sean McDowell for the great presentation, for training youth to think critically, and for helping them to defend Christianity well.