The Reasonable Expectations That Cause Mythologies to Resemble Jesus
by J Warner Wallace
While the similarities between Jesus and the “divine” mythological characters that preceded him are grossly overstated, we ought to expect some parallels between Jesus and the imaginative creations of those who lived prior to Christ’s appearance on earth. As ancient people began to consider the possibility of God’s existence, a series of reasonable inferences certainly must have guided the fabrication of their mythological deities. Consider the following reasonable conclusions one might draw when thinking about the possible existence of God:
A Creator God would be incredibly strong and likely emerge in our world in a way that defies the natural order of things.
A Creator God would have the power to perform miracles and control the forces of the natural environment.
A Creator God, if He wanted us to know Him, would likely provide us with some form of mediator.
A Creator God, if He was to come to earth, would certainly draw attention to Himself, gathering disciples.
A Creator God would be powerful enough to defeat death.
A Creator God would want to save his children and come to their rescue, particularly if they are facing an eternal threat.
A Creator God, if He loves us, would likely make it possible for us to join Him in his eternal life.
A Creator God would likely have infinite wisdom and be the master of our lives.
All of these expectations are reasonable. If there is a God, we could sensibly expect him to possess these characteristics. So it really shouldn’t surprise us when we find ancient mythological descriptions of pre-Christian gods who emerge into the natural world in some unnatural way, perform miraculous deeds, intervene as mediators, gather disciples, defeat death, rescue believers, provide a path to eternal life and serve as the source of all wisdom. I would expect those who are dreaming and thinking about God to describe these common features in the gods they create; these characteristics emerge from reasonable expectations. This is largely why there are any similarities at all (even though they are minimal and exaggerated) between ancient mythologies and Jesus.
Paul recognized this inclination to create Gods from our expectations. Addressing the people of Athens on Mars Hill, two thousand years ago, Paul told his listeners that while they had imagined the nature of God, there was actually a true God, Jesus Christ, who came into the world and exceeded their expectations…