Just a couple of days ago I was asked by my son Paul Stephen about Zeitgeist the movie. Zeitgeist means the spirit of the times. He had watched this movie on the internet and was very troubled. He wanted to get some type of explanation for what was going on, so he asked me would I watch it with him and comment on it. Then shortly after that, I got a manuscript that someone had written on Zeitgeist and wanted my endorsement for it. So I’m interested in this subject because it really, in part, addresses a tired old canard that keeps coming up over and over again ad nauseum ad infinitum—this being that Christianity was influenced by pagan mystery religions.
Well is that true? The answer is no, it’s a myth. It’s widely circulated but it’s a myth nonetheless. Purveyors of this myth employ biblical language and then go to great lengths in order to concoct commonalities.
Take for example this alleged similarity between Christianity and the cult of Isis. The god Osiris is supposedly murdered by his brother and then buried in the Nile. The goddess Isis recovers the cadaver only to lose it once again to her brother-in-law who cuts the body into fourteen pieces and then scatters the parts around the globe. After finding the parts, Isis then baptizes each piece in the Nile River and Osiris is resurrected.
The alleged similarities as well as the terminology that is used to communicate the similarities are obviously exaggerated. Parallels between the “resurrection” of Osiris and the real resurrection of Jesus Christ are an obvious stretch. Sadly, for the mystery religion that’s about as good as it gets. Other parallels that are typically cited by liberal scholars are even more far fetched.
Liberals also have the chronology wrong. Most mystery religions flourished after the closing of the canon of Scripture. Thus it would be far more accurate and circumspect to say that the mystery religions were influenced by Christianity, rather than the other way around.
Furthermore, the mystery religions reduced reality to a personal experience of enlightenment. Through secret ceremonies people involved experienced an esoteric transformation of their consciousness that would lead them to believe that they were entering into some higher realm of reality. While followers of Christ were committed to essential Christian doctrine, these devotees of the mystery religions endlessly worked themselves into altered states of consciousness because they were committed to the belief that experience is a far better teacher than words. In fact the reason mystery religions are so named is that they directly involve secret esoteric practices and initiation rights. So far from being rooted in history and evidence they reveled in hype and emotionalism.
One final point needs to be made, the mystery religions were syncretistic in that adherents not only worshipped various pagan deities but also frequently embraced aspects of competing mystery religions while continuing to worship within their own cultic constructs. Not so with Christianity, converts to Christ singularly placed their faith in the one who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father expect through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)
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Well, was Christianity influenced by ancient pagan mystery religions? The answer is obviously no and the fact that this myth, this tired old canard, is being circulated in respectable communities and also on the internet where a lie travels half way around the world before truth has a chance to put its boots on, should not alarm anyone. You should simply look to the right places to get the right facts. We will have a full review of Zeitgeist in the near future through the Bible Answer Man and www.equip.org .