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Is the Resurrection Based on Pagan Myths?

What Would You Say?

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Is the Resurrection Based on Pagan Myths?


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You’re in a conversation and someone says, “The idea that Jesus rose from the dead was borrowed from pagan myths.” What would you say? About a century ago, a few scholars began contending that early Christianity borrowed several ideas also found in pagan myths. Those scholars have been so thoroughly and successfully answered that by the beginning of the 21st century, it was difficult to find any scholar who still embraced this view. Nevertheless, the idea that the resurrection story was borrowed from pagan myths persists, especially on the Internet where it is advanced by skeptical bloggers and YouTubers. The next time someone says that the idea that Jesus rose from the dead was borrowed from pagan myths, here are 3 things to remember: Number 1: Just because some stories are similar does not mean that one borrowed from another. A little more than a century ago, a story was first told about a passenger ship that was unsinkable. However, while steaming across the Atlantic Ocean on a clear April evening, it struck an iceberg and sank. And, more than half of its passengers died from a lack of lifeboats. The name of the ship was spelled “T-I-T-A-N . . .” Yes, “The Titan.” Did you think I was talking about the “Titanic”? That tragedy occurred in 1912. However, I was referring to the fictional story in a novel titled Futility: The Wreck of the Titan, published in 1898, 14 years prior to the sinking of the Titanic. There are a striking number of similar details between the two stories, even in the ship’s name! However, we would never claim that the similarities suggest the latter story was influenced by the former and that the Titanic did not actually sink. Similarities between stories do not prove that one necessarily borrowed from another. Number 2: It is utterly implausible that the early Christians would borrow major ideas from pagan myths. The earliest Christians were pious Jews who often debated over the minutia of the Jewish Law. For example, they debated over whether Jewish Christians were still required to maintain the temple purification rites, whether Christians could eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols, whether non-Jewish male Christians needed to be circumcised, and whether Jewish Christians could even eat in the same room with non-Jewish Christians. Jews believed that they had been chosen by God to be a people separated from paganism. Given this background, it would have been unthinkable for these early Christians with Jewish sensibilities to engage in wholesale borrowing from pagan religions for the foundational belief of their own new sect. Number 3: Stories of people surviving death are not unusual. Most people desire to experience romance. Countless novels and movies have been created to showcase romance. This shows that romance is a deep-seated longing in humans. Many people also dream of living forever, and of seeing loved ones again after they die. Surviving death is a deep-seated longing in most humans. So, it should come as no surprise to find stories peppered throughout human history of people returning from the dead. But just as fictional stories of romance do nothing to discredit authentic stories of romance, fictional stories of dying and rising gods in pagan myths do nothing to discredit the story of Jesus rising from the dead. We must decide whether or not Jesus actually was resurrected from the dead based on the evidence. And there’s a lot of evidence. If you want to learn about it, check out Gary Habermas’ book, The Case for the Resurrection. So the next time you’re talking about the resurrection of Jesus and someone says the idea that Jesus rose from the dead was borrowed from pagan myths, remember these 3 things: Number 1: Just because some stories are similar does not mean that one borrowed from another. Number 2: It is utterly implausible that the early Christians would borrow major ideas from pagan myths. Number 3: Stories of people surviving death are not unusual. For What Would You Say, I’m Brooke McIntire.


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