Article ID: DB109 | By: Ronald Nash
The following is an excerpt from article DB109 from the Christian Research Journal. The full article is available by following the link below the excerpt.
Jesus vs. the Mystery God- The Death of the Mystery Gods and the Death of Jesus
The best way to evaluate the alleged dependence of early Christian beliefs about Christ’s death and resurrection on the pagan myths of a dying and rising savior-god is to examine carefully the supposed parallels. The death of Jesus differs from the deaths of the pagan gods in at least six ways:
(1) None of the so-called savior-gods died for someone else. The notion of the Son of God dying in place of His creatures is unique to Christianity.13
(2) Only Jesus died for sin. As Günter Wagner observes, to none of the pagan gods “has the intention of helping men been attributed. The sort of death that they died is quite different (hunting accident, self-emasculation, etc.).”14
(3) Jesus died once and for all (Heb. 7:27; 9:25-28; 10:10-14). In contrast, the mystery gods were vegetation deities whose repeated deaths and resuscitations depict the annual cycle of nature.
(4) Jesus’ death was an actual event in history. The death of the mystery god appears in a mythical drama with no historical ties; its continued rehearsal celebrates the recurring death and rebirth of nature. The incontestable fact that the early church believed that its proclamation of Jesus’ death and resurrection was grounded in an actual historical event makes absurd any attempt to derive this belief from the mythical, nonhistorical stories of the pagan cults.15
(5) Unlike the mystery gods, Jesus died voluntarily. Nothing like this appears even implicitly in the mysteries.
(6) And finally, Jesus’ death was not a defeat but a triumph. Christianity stands entirely apart from the pagan mysteries in that its report of Jesus’ death is a message of triumph. Even as Jesus was experiencing the pain and humiliation of the cross, He was the victor. The New Testament’s mood of exultation contrasts sharply with that of the mystery religions, whose followers wept and mourned for the terrible fate that overtook their gods.16
Jesus vs. the Mystery God- The Risen Christ and the “Rising Savior-Gods”
Which mystery gods actually experienced a resurrection from the dead? Certainly no early texts refer to any resurrection of Attis. Nor is the case for a resurrection of Osiris any stronger. One can speak of a “resurrection” in the stories of Osiris, Attis, and Adonis only in the most extended of senses.17 For example, after Isis gathered together the pieces of Osiris’s dismembered body, Osiris became “Lord of the Underworld.” This is a poor substitute for a resurrection like that of Jesus Christ. And, no claim can be made that Mithras was a dying and rising god. The tide of scholarly opinion has turned dramatically against attempts to make early Christianity dependent on the so-called dying and rising gods of Hellenistic paganism.18 Any unbiased examination of the evidence shows that such claims must be rejected.