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by Jojo Ruba
When Christians ask me if apologetics really helps strengthen people’s faith, I tell them about one of the first times I taught our Be Ready Worldview Course.
In our talk about the life of Jesus, I share about how some modern skeptics argue that the life of Jesus was copied from ancient pagan religions. Just around Easter time, many of these skeptics are featured on programs on the History Channel creating doubt about the historicity of the faith. They claim that Christianity copied the idea of a dying and resurrecting Messiah from ancient myths such as those about Horus in Egypt or Mithra, an ancient religious figure popular in ancient Rome.
After mentioning this claim, one of the course attendees, a Christian high school teacher, told me of his brother-in-law’s experience. He said his brother-in-law watched a popular 2007 movie called Zeitgeist, which claims that other ancient religions had a dying and resurrection messiah and that Christianity was just part of that long tradition. After watching the film, he lost his faith and two weeks later died in a car accident. The teacher admitted, “I wish I had known how to answer this film’s claims sooner so I could have talked to him.”
His story reminded me exactly why it’s important for Christians to “always be ready” to respond to these kinds of claims. These arguments undermine the very core of the Christian message and take away “the reason for the hope” that we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). Unfortunately, the internet, social media and all kinds of tv specials are pushing ideas long refuted in scholarly circles but revived in a day and age when most people don’t do careful research.
For example, this idea that the Jesus story is copied from older religions isn’t new. During a period in the early 20th century, James Frazer wrote The Golden Bough (1st edition 1890 in two volumes, 2nd edition 1900 in three volumes, 3rd edition in 12 volumes, 1906-1915, with an abridged one-volume edition published in 1922). It popularized the idea that people created religions out of previous religious themes. The development of these themes could be traced from various past religions 1
For example, in the movie Zeitgeist, former evangelical Christian turned anti-Christian movie-maker argues that ancient pagan religious figures like Mithra were like Jesus because…
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