by Greg Koukl
Why should we consider the stories of Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, and Addis as myth, yet think Jesus of Nazareth is history? The answer is that there is good primary source documentation for the latter and not for the former, for Jesus of Nazareth and not for the others.
There’s a challenge to Christianity that seems to be growing in popularity: The Jesus we worship is just a fiction, a conglomeration of myths from the past. A film on the Internet called “Zeitgeist,” apparently well done, attempts to make the case that Jesus was a fiction created by cobbling together pieces of myths, such as Mithras and Zoathra. Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for the Real Jesus, has a whole chapter on this subject, and I recommend it highly for the case it makes for the historical Jesus. The challenge in “Zeitgeist” is why we should consider the stories of Adonis, Osiris, and the other pagan mystery saviors as fables, yet treat as factual essentially the same story told in a Jewish context.
I want you to think about this for a moment. Part of what we do at Stand to Reason is, not just teach you what to think, but teach you how to think. So I’m going to sum up the argument, and I want you to ask yourself whether it works. What is the big idea of this challenge?
People make the challenge that Jesus is a fiction. How do we know He’s a fiction? Because some of the details of His life have appeared in other literature from the past. There are some past mythical figures that have virtually all the characteristics Jesus has in the Gospels: born of a virgin, 12 disciples, betrayed by a friend, died and rose again, etc. The Jesus story is just a reworking of those myths. You can see bits and pieces of the details borrowed from different myths that are just cobbled together to create the story of Jesus. This is taken as evidence.
Think about this. The claim is that Jesus is a fiction, a myth like the other so-called saviors in ancient literature. The evidence for that claim is pieces of seemingly similar detail from clearly and uncontroversially mythical characters. And the conclusion is that the story of Jesus must also be fictional.
Is that a good argument? And if not, why not?
I say these stories are allegedly similar because we are presuming the facts asserted in the challenge are true. In the Tactics book, you’ll find a chapter called “Just the Facts, Ma'am.” Sometimes certain challenges with regards to Christianity can be resolved by just getting the facts straight. And that’s one of the keys to answering this challenge. The facts in the challenge just aren’t accurate…
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