Article ID: DB109 | By: Ronald Nash
The following is an excerpt from article DB109 from the Christian Research Journal. The full PDF can be viewed by following the link below the excerpt.
Christian Rebirth and Cultic Initiation Rites
Liberal writings on the subject are full of sweeping generalizations to the effect that early Christianity borrowed its notion of rebirth from the pagan mysteries.19 But the evidence makes it clear that there was no pre-Christian doctrine of rebirth for the Christians to borrow. There are actually very few references to the notion of rebirth in the evidence that has survived, and even these are either very late or very ambiguous. They provide no help in settling the question of the source of the New Testament use of the concept. The claim that pre-Christian mysteries regarded their initiation rites as a kind of rebirth is unsupported by any evidence contemporary with such alleged practices. Instead, a view found in much later texts is read back into earlier rites, which are then interpreted quite speculatively as dramatic portrayals of the initiate’s “new birth.” The belief that pre-Christian mysteries used “rebirth” as a technical term lacks support from even one single text.
Initiation Rites- Any Connection to the New Testament?
Most contemporary scholars maintain that the mystery use of the concept of rebirth (testified to only in evidence dated after A.D. 300) differs so significantly from its New Testament usage that any possibility of a close link is ruled out. The most that such scholars are willing to concede is the possibility that some Christians borrowed the metaphor or imagery from the common speech of the time and recast it to fit their distinctive theological beliefs. So even if the metaphor of rebirth was Hellenistic, its content within Christianity was unique.20