Continued from copycatwho1.html...
But let's also take a brief look at the major figures that are prominent
in the better known MR's of the Roman Empire. The ones most often referenced
in NT background reference sourcebooks such as KOC, DSG, and NTB are the
Greek MRs (Eleusinian--based on the rape of Persephone by Pluto; Dionysos
(Bacchus)) and the Oriental MRs (Isis, Cybele/Attis--examined above, Mithras)
[For a discussion of this breakdown, see NTSE:132-137.] We will only look
at the ones of these with "unique" deities that might fall into
a semi-DARG category.
The MR of Isis/Osiris/Serapis.
"Under Ptolemy I, the hellenistic ruler of Egypt from 305 to 285 B.C., a new cult was established in honor of Serapis, a composite deity whose attributes included features of Osiris (the God of the Nile), Aesclepius (the god of healing), Jupiter (the supreme Olympian god, Zeus, adapted for Roman use), and Pluto (the god of the underworld). In their efforts to create a one-world culture, the hellenistic rulers found a cult as inclusive as that of Serapis enormously useful, because people of diverse backgrounds could unite in honoring this divinity." [Kee in KOC:77]The cult of Osiris (Egyptian) was transformed into an MR of Serapis by Ptolemy. The MR version made inroads into Rome--from Egypt--during the reign of Caligula (A.D. 37-41), and although Osiris was certainly a dying (but NOT 'rising') god, we know that Serapis was NOT a dying god at all. He was a deliberate mixture of deities without a DARG motif (e.g., Osiris, Zeus) and he was acclaimed for his healing abilites (because of his assimilation of Aesculapius). But again, the closest any of the component deities come to DARGs is in Osiris, which we have already seen to be dying-but-not-rising. [The Apis bull motif doesn't help much either, since when the bull dies, it becomes Osiris in the underworld--and thus doesn't escape the underworld at all. And of course, they then had to go an find a replacement bull (the bulls were actually mummified, signifying their continued existence in the realm of the dead--NOT in the realm of the living.)]
"We touch here upon a most important element in the comparisons which can be made between Egyptian and Asiatic cults--the influence of the Greeks. They, too, knew "the old Mediterranean ritual of sorrow with its periodic wailing for a departed divinity, hero or heroine," expressing "the emotion of natural man excited by the disappearance of verdure, by the gathering of the harvest, or by the fall of the year." The Greeks have not only identified Egyptian gods with their own but have used the Egyptian material creatively for their own ends. The spread of the cult of lsis throughout the Roman Empire is the outstanding example of an adaptation in which the original features disappeared almost completely. Most, if not all, of the information on Egyptian religion which classical authors offer is disfigured from the Egyptian point ofview. Even the oldest Greek source exemplifies the peculiarly Greek tendency to transmute every borrowed trait into an expression of Hellenic thought; Herodotus (ii. 59) equated Isis with Demeter. [Frankfort, opcit, p.291f]
The MR of Dionysos (Bacchus).
This figure had many, many various and contradictory accounts of his exploits, but the two that are most closely related to the DARG scenario are the accounts of his birth:
Here is the first (and best-known) account:
And then another account, with logically precedes the other:
The Zagreus myth shows up in 'regular' Dionysusian and in 'Orphic' Dionysosian cults, in which one possible ritual act--the tearing apart a live animal and eating its raw flesh--is interpreted differently:
But the more savage of the rituals were eliminated early in the cult history, but some traces of these show up in pre-Roman times [HI:CM3:276]:
"Greek and Roman religions in general lacked creeds and claimed little moral authority, but they did develop local priesthoods, which eventually became integral parts of the institutions of the state. In this way the savage features of Dionysiac religion disappeared from the festivals of the Classical Period. Nevertheless, on several occasions the worship of Dionysus was felt to be a political threat. In Rome his cult grew to such proportions during the long and painful war with Carthage that in 186 B.C. an alarmed senate, after many executions, brought it under severe restrictions.
[The Orphics are sometimes classified as a mystery religion, under the category of Dionysus, but it is less certain that it constituted a group back then:
They did, however, have an opposite interpretation of the flesh-eating
of Dionysus (arguing that it was not consistently understood as 'union
with the god'!):
But in any event, Dionysos career doesn't reveal "numerous, complex, and detailed" parallels with that of Jesus.
Actually, you are too late...the world has once again 'moved on'...so
WBC places this event against its Jewish background, as opposed to some
pagan one (note the comments about no real parallels):
"Most writers acknowledge that in the Johannine narrative there is an implicit contrast between water used for Jewish purificatory rites and the wine given by Jesus; the former is characteristic of the old order, the latter of the new. There can be little doubt that the change of which the miracle is a sign is the coming of the kingdom of God in and through Jesus. The picture of the kingdom of God as a feast is prominent in Judaism and in the synoptic teaching (see, e.g., Matt 5:6; 8:11–12; Mark 2:19; Luke 22:15–18, 29–30a), and abundance of wine is a feature of the feast (e.g. Isa 25:6). The glory of Jesus, manifest in Cana was a sign of his mediating the grace of the kingdom of God in his total ministry. The glory of God is seen precisely in God’s bestowal of life in his kingdom, and this he gives through the Son. [WBC]
"Older attempts to interpret this sign as a Christianized version of the Dionysus myth (Dionysus was the Greek god of wine, the one who supplied the abundance of life and joy associated with inebriation) or of related stories have largely been abandoned in the light of evidence that the alleged parallels are wholly inadequate. " [D. A. Carson, John, Eerdmans:1991]
"Indeed, in the ancient literature Plutarch says that there was a spring at Haliartus with clear, sparkling, wine-colored, very pleasant-tasting water in which the newly born Dionysus was bathed . Also, Pliny says that at Andros, on the festival known as Theodosia, a spring in the temple of Bacchus flowed with wine. Pausanias says that at Elis the priests of Dionysus placed three large empty cauldrons in a sealed room to find them filled with wine when they returned the next day. And Ovid says that Liber, the Italian god identified with Bacchus, gave the daughters of the Delian king Anius the power to turn things into wine, a story associated with Dionysus...However, from these references it is obvious that there are significant differences between the Dionysus legend and the story in John 2: the spring at Haliartus flowed with water, and the one at Andros flowed with wine, not water that had once been wine; and the empty cauldrons in the Elis temple were filled with wine rather than water subsequently changed into wine, key elements in John's story. These differences have convinced most scholars that John or his tradition is not dependent on the Dionysus legend for this story." [NT:JMW:192]
The MR of Mithras.
If we accept Ulansey's view [as well as others who interpret the 'slaying of the bull' as astrological], then there is essentially no DARG content in the Roman "Mithra" MR; most of it would have been in the Persian/Iranian versions (if at all, see below). And its ties to the East are almost nil: "Mithraism's ties with the east amount to so little that they can be denied entirely" (MacMullen, [HI:PTRE:119]). Accordingly, there is nothing to be 'similar to' and the identification fails. We have noted earlier that there is no 'suffering god' in the Roman version of this cult, and it is the Roman version that would have been in ascendency at the time of NT formation.
So, the "Roman" Mithras MR--without a 'suffering god' at all--has no
bearing on our subject here, since we are essentially trying to find 'striking'
parallels between the figures of Jesus and other deity/hero figures.We
obviously don't know much about the 'Roman' version, but we have already
seen that specialists in the field do not consider Mithras a 'suffering
god' and correspondingly, not a 'dying and rising god' either. And even many/most
of the alleged ritual parallels are now suspect:
2. The "saved us by eternal blood" inscription: "Beck therefore concludes that this text, 'which has perhaps been the principal warrant for the interpretation of Mithras' bull-killing as a salvific act effective because it transcends time, can no longer carry the weight placed upon it''" [cited at OT:PAB:512]
3. Identification of the slain bull with Mithras himself: "The blood is without doubt the blood of the slain bull. Following a suggestion of Alfred Loisy--who was influenced by Christian soterology--Vermaseren entertained the suggestion that the bull was an incarnation of Mithras himself, although he correctly notes there is no evidence for this identification." [cited at OT:PAB:512]
So, if the Roman one doesn't fit the bill, does the Iranian/Indian version offer us a DARG?
The Iranian version has a background in Vedic India as well (as 'Mitra')...
1. The vedic version of Mitra is not very emphasised (as compared to his dualistic-twin, Varuna). He is a personification of "contract" , thence 'friend'. He "appears as basically benevolent, the god who regulates the tiller folk" [WR:CM:48]
2. He has some solar characteristics, but would not be considered a solar deity at the Vedic stage: "Apart from the obvious circle of Dyaus-descended divine characters discussed above, a vague tinge of "solarity" attaches to a number of deities (including Mitra)." [WR:CM:62]
3. In Iran, immediately before Zarathustra, Mithra becomes a little more associated with the sun: "Much as in India the rather faded Mitra took on some solar characteristics and later came to be an appellative 'friend', in Modern Persian mihr, mehr still means both 'sun' and 'friendship'. Mithra is one of the most important Old Iranian divinities" [WR:CM:99]
4. When he emerges in Iran--during Zarathustra's 'revolt'--he is suppressed at first, then given expanded 'responsibilities':
5. His relationship to nature was as a 'weather god' and to cattle as
'lord of the wide places' (a frequent epithet of his):
6. The original Indian Mitra was a sky-god (and therefore, somewhat connected to the sun):
7. He is not known as a 'dying' god, but as a beneficient--but harsh--victorious warrior and protector diety:
"[In the Avesta] he is depicted as an omniscient warrior god, who blessed his followers but who also inflicted horrible calamities on his foes. The Avestan Mithra was associated with the sun, but was not identified with it. He was especially known as 'the lord of wide pastures,' a phrase that occurs 111 times." [OT:PAB:494]8. In fact, his relationship with the sun is related to knowledge, instead of identity with it (note: 'solar deities' are not generally considered 'dying and rising gods' either, cf. Apollo or Sol Invictus of Rome):
"He facilitates agreements between men and makes them honor their engagements. The sun is his eye (Taitt. Brah. 22.214.171.124); all-seeing, nothing escapes him." [WR:HRI1:204]9. He is specifically NOT a 'vegetation god' in the sense normally used:
"Such promises explain the adjective that is frequently coupled with his name: vourugauyaoiti, 'possessing vast pastures.' Not that Mithra is an agrarian deity to whom one should pray so that crops may grow, but rather that he is a fighting god who brings the victory that makes it possible for the aryas to get control of new territories." [WR:MYB:2:892]
In other words, we don't have any reason to suspect that the pre-Roman Mithra/Mitra had any DARG characteristics, either.
[BTW, scholars don't know how the Iranian Mithra got 'transmutated into'
the Roman Mithra, but some believe the change was somehow connected with
Tarsus, a major center for the cult of Perseus, and of course, Asia Minor
was the hotbed/home of many of the cults favored by the later Roman emperors
(cf. Ulansey, chapter 4 in [HI:OMMU], "The Perseus Cult of Tarsus")]
So, with the Mystery Religions, we once again come up without "numerous, complex, detailed" parallels with parallel "underlying ideas and structure"...
Pushback: "WHOA, WHOA, WHOA--wait a minute, glenn! Did you just say "TARSUS" was a major center for Mithras, and for other mystery cults?! As in the "Tarsus, where Paul was born?!"...You mean the Apostle Paul grew up in a place teeming with the kinda stuff we have been talking about here? And you weren't gonna say anything about it, were you, O Deceitful Apologist?! Amazing!...but if Paul did grow up there, then that explains EVERYTHING--I can see now why his epistles are TEEMING with MR images: of Jesus being born from a rock, of Jesus slaying a bull, of Jesus partnering with the Sun God, of the Great Mother's lions and the required castration of all church leaders, of Dionysus' giant phallus festivals, of all the zodiacal celebrations in caves, of the seven grades of initiation, of Jesus being killed by a boar and turning into a flower--Wow, it all makes so much sense, now! ...And to think, I almost believed all this junk you had written so far..."
Wow, what can I say to that?--other than "you caught me"...mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maximus culpa...?
Well, all the data we have indicates:
2. His letters suggest that he was NOT raised there at all (or at least that he didn't get his Greek education there):
"Strabo concludes his hymn of praise to Tarsus by saying that the city also had 'all kinds of schools of the rhetorical arts', and intrinsically it would be conceivable that the young Saul also mastered literary Greek at a very early stage, so thoroughly, that for him, 'the true master of the speech, to whom ideas came in an overwhelming flood', it became 'an appropriate instrument'." The only question is how long he lived in Tarsus.
"I doubt whether Paul was trained in one of the usual schools of rhetoric, since a clear distinction must be made between the Greek elementary school and instruction in rhetoric. Even the question where he received his Greek elementary education must remain open. Both Jerusalem and Tarsus are possibilities, since in Paul it is impossible to separate Greek education from Jewish. Even in Greek garb he remains a Jew through and through.
"Although to outward appearance Paul is a 'wanderer between two worlds' ' his theological thinking displays a quite astonishing unity. That will already have been the case with the Jew Saul, and the two periods of his life, the Jewish and the Christian, are closely interlocked. This makes it clear that faith in the Messiah Jesus was not something alien to the Jew, something which came from outside.
"Today hardly anyone argues that the later Paul, as HJ.Schoeps and L.Goppelt conjecture, was at least indirectly influenced in his christology by impressions from his youth, going back to the public cult of the vegetation god Sandon-Heracles worshipped in Tarsus, or to titles used in the Hellenistic-Roman ruler cult; this is extremely improbable. Traces of a Cilician 'syncretism', or even a syncretism from Asia Minor and Syria, are simply not to be found in the Pauline letters that have come down to us." [NT:PCP:2-4]
3. We have already seen that he didn't act very syncretistic when he was preaching/teaching in Asia Minor--and he was constantly around these various cults (and countless more). We saw above the numerous opportunities he had for syncretism (to win an audience and 'further his cause'), but it seems in every situation he "stubbornly continued" with his exclusivistic proclamation of Jesus, and his abject denounciation of his hearers' gods as 'not-gods' or even 'demons'...So, even if he had been 'raised in this pagan stuff', he must have been a very poor student...
4. We have already seen that recent scholarship has seen Judaism as the background for the various images in Pauline literature (and the gospel literature, for that matter), instead of these cults anyway. So, even if he had been 'raised in this pagan stuff', he apparently liked his other education in Jerusalem better...
But I do appreciate you trying to keep me honest...(smile)
Third, there are the more "major players" (e.g. Buddha, Krishna)
To what extent are the lives of Jesus, Buddha, Krisha "almost identical"
enough to justify suspicion of borrowing?
The second is relatively easy to answer, given the above discussions.
These elements--even IF accurate--would not even be close enough to implicate
borrowing. Let's go back through them.
These 'similarities' turn out to be either superficial, misunderstood, or simply irrelevant. As in most of the cases we will look at in this paper, it is the differences that are the most striking."He [the king of the Shakyas] had a wife, splendid, beautiful, and steadfast, who was called the Great Maya, from her resemblance to Maya the Goddess. These two tasted of love's delights, and one day she conceived the fruit of her womb, but without any defilement, in the same way in which knowledge joined to trance bears fruit. Just before her conception she had a dream." (WR:BS:35).]
"The oldest accounts of Buddha's ancestry appear to presuppose nothing abnormal about his birth, and merely speak of his being well born both on his mother's end and father's side for seven generations back. According to the later legend he is born not as other human beings, but in the same was as a universal king he descends from the Tusita heaven by his own choice, and with this his father is not concerned. This is not properly a virgin birth, but it may be called parthogenetic, that is, Suddhodana was not his progenitor." WR:LBLH:36]
He performed miracles and wonders. [We have already seen how this is expected, not surprising.] He crushed a serpent's head. [Strangely enough, even though this is commonly associated with the Messianic figure in the OT from Genesis 3, there is no point of contact with the NT portrayal of Jesus. The history-of-religions field, however, argues that this pervasive theme could be related to some primeval religious revelation/insight.] He abolished idolatry. [Not only is this HIGHLY questionable, given the various deities/tantric deities/manifestations in many of the forms of Buddism(!), but it can also be pointed out that Jesus never did this. Idolatry as a heresy was legally abolished in the Law of Moses, but was practically eradicated in the Exile. Some of buddhism is atheistic; some of it has thousands of spirits/deities. Indeed, the 1st-century buddhist biographer cited above from WR:BS, in canto 21 ("Parinirvana"), in describing the events that happened at the death of the Buddha, says this: "But, well established in the practice of the supreme Dharma, the gathering of the gods round king Vaishravana was not grieved and shed no tears, so great was their attachment to the Dharma. The Gods of the Pure Abode, though they had great reverence for the Great Seer, remained composed, and their minds were unaffected; for they hold the things of this world in the utmost contempt."] He ascended to Nirvana or "heaven." [This is a misunderstanding of the Buddhist teaching on Nirvana. It is not a 'place' nor is 'ascension' (especially BODILY, VISIBLE, and HISTORICAL ascension as in the life of Christ) a relevant concept. This is another example of imprecise and misleading language. The Buddha is said to have traversed (on his death-couch) all nine of the trance levels--twice, and then his body was cremated (WR:BS:64-65; WR:BIG:42)]. He was considered the "Good Shepherd." [Again, this is expected and common, especially in pastoral-based cultures; not a cause to suspect borrowing]
Just to cite a few:
- Buddha did not in any sense suffer a voluntary, sacrificial, and substitutionary death--he most likely died of indigestion at 80 years of age [WR:Eliade:27].
- Buddha said "there is no savior"; Jesus said "I have come to seek and to save the lost" and "I came not to judge the world but to save it".
- Buddha did not experience a bodily resurrection from physical death; Jesus did.
- The single alleged prophecy of Buddha's coming applied only to a FUTURE Buddha (Maitreya), NOT the historical one (WR:BS:237ff); the prophetic stream from which Jesus stepped is rich, varied, prior to Him, and established BEFORE His arrival.
Now, to be complete (and fair), I should mention that when the History-of-Religions school was in full bloom, there were scholarly works that identified possible parallels between Buddha and Jesus, and these were to be evaluated and investigated for possible borrowing by the historian. In WR:LBLH, Edwards lists/discusses several that were discussed in the literature in the first half of the twentieth century:
- Simeon in the temple
- The visit to Jerusalem (Luke 2)
- The Baptism
- The Temptation
- Praise by Kisa Gotami (Luke 11.27)
- The widow's mite
- Peter walking on the sea
- The samaritan woman
- The end of the world
- The Annunciation
- Choosing the disciples
- The Prodigal Son
- The man that was born blind
- The Transfiguration
- Miracle of loaves and fishes
Edwards then notes that the number of 'alleged parallels' advanced is "inversely proportional" to how much a scholar knows about the Buddhist literature(!):
"If scholars could come to an agreement on what instances are 'cogent parallels' or cases of actual borrowing, we should then have the data of a problem for the historians to decide. But so far this hope is illusory. Seydel's fifty instances are reduced by van den Bergh to nine. In proportion to the investigator's direct knowledge of the Buddhist sources the number seems to decrease. E. W. Hopkins discusses five ' cogent parallels ', but does not consider any of them very probable. Garbe assumes direct borrowing in four cases, Simeon, the Temptation, Peter walking on the sea, and the Miracle of the loaves and fishes. Charpentier considers Simeon the only unobjectionable example. Other scholars reject all connexion." [WR:LBLH:247f]And concludes that the comparision fails, due to lack of "strong parallels" in the important (central) areas:
"In any case the chief events of the life--birth, renunciation, enlightenment, and death, the very items which might give strength to the comparison--disappear from the question" [op cit]
Again, the list from the (submitted) website:
Indeed, the description of the conception of Horus will show exactly the sexual elements that characterize pagan 'miracle births', as noted by the scholars earlier:
But again, my research in the academic literature does not surface this fact. I can find references to FOUR "disciples"--variously called the semi-divine HERU-SHEMSU ("Followers of Horus") [GOE:1.491]. I can find references to SIXTEEN human followers (GOE:1.196). And I can find reference to an UNNUMBERED group of followers called mesniu/mesnitu ("blacksmiths") who accompanied Horus in some of his battles [GOE:1.475f; although these might be identified with the HERU-SHEMSU in GOE:1.84]. But I cannot find TWELVE anywhere... Horus is NOT the sun-god (that's Re), so we cannot use the 'all solar gods have twelve disciples--in the Zodiac' routine here.]
This fact has likewise escaped me and my research. I have looked at probably 50 epithets of the various Horus deities, and most major indices of the standard Egyptology reference works and come up virtually empty-handed. I can find a city named "Iusaas" [GOE:1.85], a pre-Islamic Arab deity by the name of "Iusaas", thought by some to be the same as the Egyptian god Tehuti/Thoth [GOE:2.289], and a female counterpart to Tem, named "Iusaaset" [GOE:1.354]. But no reference to Horus as being "Iusa"... ]
"In ancient Egypt there were originally several gods known by the name Horus, but the best known and most important from the beginning of the historic period was the son of Osiris and Isis who was identified with the king of Egypt. According to myth, Osiris, who assumed the rulership of the earth shortly after its creation, was slain by his jealous brother, Seth. The sister- wife of Osiris, Isis, who collected the pieces of her dismembered husband and revived him, also conceived his son and avenger, Horus. Horus fought with Seth, and, despite the loss of one eye in the contest, was successful in avenging the death of his father and in becoming his legitimate successor. Osiris then became king of the dead and Horus king of the living, this transfer being renewed at every change of earthly rule. The myth of divine kingship probably elevated the position of the god as much as it did that of the king. In the fourth dynasty, the king, the living god, may have been one of the greatest gods as well, but by the fifth dynasty the supremacy of the cult of Re, the sun god, was accepted even by the kings. The Horus-king was now also "son of Re." This was made possible mythologically by personifying the entire older genealogy of Horus (the Heliopolitan ennead) as the goddess Hathor, "house of Horus," who was also the spouse of Re and mother of Horus.Notice how "almost identical lives" Horus and Jesus had (smile):
"Horus was usually represented as a falcon, and one view of him was as a great sky god whose outstretched wings filled the heavens; his sound eye was the sun and his injured eye the moon. Another portrayal of him particularly popular in the Late Period, was as a human child suckling at the breast of his mother, Isis. The two principal cult centers for the worship of Horus were at Bekhdet in the north, where very little survives, and at Idfu in the south, which has a very large and well- preserved temple dating from the Ptolemaic period. The earlier myths involving Horus, as well as the ritual per- formed there, are recorded at Idfu."
And finally, Krishna....
(Again, the list from the (submitted) website):
"In India a like tale is told of the beloved savior Krishna, whose terrible uncle, Kansa, was, in that case, the tyrant-king. The savior's mother, Devaki, was of royal lineage, the tyrant's niece, and at the time when she was married the wicked monarch heard a voice, mysteriously, which let him know that her eighth child would be his slayer. He therefore confined both her and her husband, the saintly nobleman Vasudeva, in a closely guarded prison, where he murdered their first six infants as they came. (emphasis mine).According to the story, the mother had six normal children before the 7th and 8th 'special' kids--a rather clear indication that the mom was not a virgin when she conceived Krishna [remember, this is not an issue of 'special births', but of 'virgin' ones].
"Traces of the original indigenous religion are plain in the later phases of the history of Hinduism. In the course of time, large shifts occur in the world of the gods. Some gods lose significance while others move into the foreground, until at last the 'Hindu trinity' emerges: Brahma, Visnu, and Siva..."Krishna was one of the avatars (manifestation, incarnation, theophany) of Visnu. As such, Krishna only appeared on the scene during the Epic period, and most of the legendary materials about him show up in the Harivamsa, or Genealogy of Visnu (fourth century a.d.) and in the Puranas (written between 300-1200 a.d.). He is one of TEN avatars of Visnu (what does that do to a trinity?). [WR:Eliade:133; WR:SW:91f; WR:RT:105f].
This is another exampe of someone 'loosely' using Christian terminology
to describe non-Christian phenomena, and then being surprised by the similarity.
From the standpoint of accuracy, let me mention that I cannot find any reference to him dying on a tree. The records (not from iconographic sources, btw) I have on his death run something like this :
"Krishna was accidentally slain by the hunter Jaras...when he was mistaken for a deer and shot in the foot, his vulnerable spot." (WR:SDFML, s.v. "krishna")Perhaps he died sitting under a tree, but would that constitute a non-superficial parallel?
"One lance-like (poisonous, cursed) reed was eaten by a fish and then caught by a hunter. In a drinking bout, Krishna, Balarama, and the Yadavas picked the reeds, killing each other. As Krishna sat lost in thought, the hunter, mistaking him for a deer, shot him in the foot with the reed he had found in the fish, and killed him." [WR:DWM]
"Just after the war, Krsna dies, as he predicted he would, when, in a position of meditation, he is struck in the heel by a hunter's arrow." [WR:DAMY; was he meditating 'on a tree'?]
Finally are the figures that are allegedly
linked by broader motifs such as 'miracle worker', 'savior' or 'virgin
born'--along the line of the "divine man" or hero image in later times,
without an explicit death/resurrection notion (e.g. Indra, Thor,
These generally do not carry the force of the above categories, and so the borrowing/dependence claim is much weaker here. These 'overlaps' are simply explained:
"His birth, like that of many great warriors and heroes, is unnatural: kept against his will inside his mother's womb for many years, he burst forth out of her side and kills his own father" (Rig Veda 4.18, as discussed in EOR, s.v. "Indra")This cannot be remotely correlated with the birth of Christ, as neither can Indra's subsequent life as an immoral womanizer, a criminal punished by castration, and a declining failure to the end.
"Early on, for example, scholars pointed to Diaspora or Hellenistic Judaism as the cultural/religious medium through which the Theios Aner type came to influence the early church's presentation of Jesus. Hellenistic-Jewish Christians, so the argument runs, found it natural to portray Jesus as a Theios Aner in their attempt to defend and advance their new faith, since previously they had used precisely the same strategy in their efforts to promote OT heroes, especially Moses. This hypothesis, however, was carefully reviewed by C. Holladay, who analyzed three representatives of Hellenistic Judaism—Josephus, Philo and Artapanus—in order to observe how these authors presented Jewish heroes in their apologetic and propagandistic efforts. He concluded that, at least in the sources he studied, there is no evidence that in order to glorify Judaism or win converts Hellenized Jews tended to divinize their heroes or to amplify their thaumaturgical activities. Holladay’s work has forced a major reassessment of the theory that the Theios Aner concept was mediated to early Christianity via Hellenistic Judaism, and in fact has resulted in dampened enthusiasm for Theios Aner as an interpretative tool.
"Up until about thirty years ago, those who employed the Theios Aneras an analytic tool in Gospel studies believed that the Evangelists essentially synthesized the portrait of Jesus as a Theios Aner found in the miracle traditions with the perspective found in the sayings source Q and the passion and resurrection narratives. However, T. Weeden, anticipated by others, argued that Mark was actually a polemic against interlopers in the Markan community who brought with them a Theios Aner christology and the traditions which expressed it, principally the miracle stories. According to Weeden, such stories, which of course figure prominently in the first half of Mark, only appear to promote a Theios Aner interpretation of Jesus: “The Theios Aner position is set up only to be discredited by Jesus once the disciples confess to that position” (164). Now the way was clear to compare Mark with Paul, who himself, according to the prior research of D. Georgi, had done battle with earlier proponents of a Theios Aner christology at Corinth (see especially 2 Cor 10–13)...Initially, Weeden’s work engendered considerable support, particularly in North America. But by the early 1980s J. D. Kingsbury was able to chronicle a growing disenchantment with it. Increasing doubt about the viability of the Theios Aner concept and its relationship to the Son of God title, a growing tendency in Gospel studies to give priority to literary criticism rather than tradition-critical or history-of-religions considerations, and the sheer mass of miracles present in Mark (including several in the second half) have converged to under mine Weeden’s thesis."
One of the most interesting (and striking) of parallels is The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, written by one Flavius Philostratus. DSG:203 summarizes the background and dating:
"One of the most famous in this succession of Pythagorean philosophers was a man named Apollonius, of the Greek city of Tyana in the Province of Cappadocia, in what is today eastern Turkey. Although he lived in the second half of the first century A.D., we have little direct information about Apollonius, except for this biography by Philostratus of Lemnos, written much later, i.e., around A.D. 218.
"When the emperor Caracalla was on his way to capture the territories to the East, he stopped at Tyana to pay tribute to 'the divine Apollonius,' even donating the funds to build a temple to him there. And Caracalla's mother, Julia Domna, commissioned one of the professional writers in her entourage to publish a fitting account of Apollonius' life. "
The incredible thing about this piece, though, is its strange similarities to some of the events in the gospel literature (but NOT necessarily to the life of Christ--BLOM:85,86). So DSG:203f:
"This conjunction of events suggests that the title of Philostratus' work might best be translated: 'In Honor of Apollonius of Tyana,' for the entire account from beginning to end consists of carefully constructed praise, using every device known to this well-trained writer. In other words, just as Caracalla's architects built a shrine for Apollonius out of marble, one of his court rhetoricians built a temple out of words--for the same purpose, i.e., to celebrate Apollonius' God-like nature and inspire reverence for him. Thus, Philostratus' narrative is a virtual catalogue of every rhetorical device known to the professional sophistic writers of that time: sudden supernatural omens, mini-dialogues on the favorite topics of the day, colorful bits of archeological lore, plenty of magic, rapid action scenes, amazing descriptions of fabled, far-off lands, occasional touches of naughty eroticism, and a whole series of favorite "philosophical" scenes: the Philosopher lectures his disciples on being willing to die for truth; the Philosopher is abandoned by his cowardly disciples; the Philosopher confronts the tyrant; the brave Philosopher is alone in prison unafraid; the Philosopher victoriously defends himself in the court, and so on. On the other hand, Philostratus included enough accurate historical details to give his writing the ring of genuine truth. But mixed in with the real people and places are all sorts of imaginary "official" letters, inscriptions, decrees, and edicts, the whole bound together by an "eyewitness" diary. Finally, to give it the proper supernatural flavor, he has included numerous miraculous and supernatural occurrences: dreams, pre-vision, teleportation, exorcism and finally, vanishing from earth only to reappear later from Heaven to convince a doubting disciple of the soul's immortality.What is interesting here is that reverse-copying seems to be going on. Philostratus is setting out to 'honor' Apollonius and creates a rhetorical hodge-podge of praise. But some are convinced that Philostratus had the NT in front of him (esp. since he wrote the piece 150 years later than it). Elizabeth Haight observed:
"Guiding Philostratus at each point in constructing his narrative was the reputation of Apollonius as a divine/human Savior God."
"[Philostratus] wrote with full knowledge of Xenophon's romantic biography of Cyrus the Great as the ideal ruler, of the Greek novels of war and adventure, of the Greek love romances...and of the Christian Acts with a saint for a hero. [In view of all these possibilities] Philostratus chose to present a theos aner, a divine sage, a Pythagorean philosopher, as the center of his story. To make the life of his hero interesting and to promulgate his philosophy, he used every device of the Greek and Latin novels of the second and third centuries." (More Essays on Greek Romances, Longmans, Green, and Co., 1945, p. 111f; cited in DSG:205-206.
Other scholars also are convinced that Philostratus drew from the NT documents :
"In the case of the phrase 'divine man,' scholars cannot point to one clear and coherent concept--or collection of concepts--connected with the phrase 'divine man' that was current in Greco-Roman literature before or during the time of Jesus. To construct their concept of a 'divine man,' scholars of the 20th century have culled ideas from a vast array of Greek and Roman works from Homer up until the writings of the late Roman Empire. While the vague constant in the phrase "divine man" is divine power as revealed or embodied in some human being, the exact human referent ranges widely over priest-kings of Asia Minor and Egypt (including kingly magicians and law- givers), monarchs whose vast power on earth was believed to extend over nature itself (especially the Roman Emperors), and various kinds of prophetic philosophers (including ecstatics, magicians, miracle-workers, apostles, hero-sages, founders and leaders of religious groups, shamans, and charlatans). In many of the reconstructions, scholars rely heavily on works like The Death of Peregrinus and Alexander or the False Prophet by Lucian, the satirist of the 2d century A.D., and The Life of Apollonius by Philostratus, the rhetorician of the 3d century A.D. Lucian almost certainly knew the Christian Gospels, and Philostratus probably did as well." [MJ:2.596]
"There is also another factor which should be taken into consideration as one assesses Philostratus' Vita: the possibility that at some points the portrait of Apollonius has been influenced by the Gospels. In spite of the doubts of G. Petzke, there is reason to believe that such may have occurred. The strength of the Christian movement in the empire is amply attested by Celsus' True Discourse, written at the beginning of the last quarter of the second century. That Philostratus may have intended his work, at least to some degree, as anti-Christian polemic would also cohere well with the recent research of J. Buchli, who has made a cogent case for dating Poimandres around the middle of the third century (thus just a few years after the composition of the Vita Apollonii), and has argued that it "zeigt...sehr weitgehende christliche Einflusse," ['shows very pervasive Christian influences'] and should be regarded as a "paganisiertes Evangelium" ['pagan gospel']. One should therefore approach the Philostratean work in question with the acknowledgment that Christian influences may well have also been at work here." [X02:TAMMT:75]
"Why should Philostratus not have launched a new genre of pagan hagiography with an eye on the Gospels?" [HI:AREPJC:194]
Philostratus' work would become a focal point for anti-Christian polemic relative to Jesus:
And we don't know how much of his own story Philostratus actually believed (or expected others to believe):
Certainly by that time the events of the life of Jesus were well known to pagan elites--Celsus had really gone into detail in his attack on the faith--and the Vita reflects a mix of miracles, some from Jesus and some from Pythagoras' life (the actual model used by Philostratus for Apollonius in the Vita). But there is no mention of Christianity in the Vita, so why would he have 'borrowed' (or 'modeled') any of the narrative events from/on Jesus' life?
Some have actually suggested that Philostratus was trying to 'merge'
some of the elements of Jesus with his ideas of what Hellenistic thought
should look like::
But the Vita looks more like what Swain calls an 'apology for Hellenism', and was written to combat all forms of anti-Hellenism (including, but not limited to, Christianity). And the reason for the need had only just surfaced in the empire:
At any rate, the Vita does look like it has 'numerous, complex, and detailed'
parallels to the NT literature (although not all agree on this point, I should
add--several see the parallels as too different), and that some of these parallels are understood by scholars as Philostratus
borrowing from the NT source. And, as we noted in our discussion of the
'the later church did it, so why wouldn't the early church do it too?',
the fact that Philostratus did it, has no logical bearing
whether the NT authors did or not...there is always a gap
between "would/could" and "was/did", and this gap must be filled in with
evidence, not allegations and speculation.
What this means for us, is that one of the better examples of a candidate for 'borrowing' is in the wrong direction. And since the hero and the divine man concepts are either too general, too insignificant, or too 'late' to make a good case for the CopyCat theorist, we are back where we started--the uniqueness of Jesus the Christ and His life, death, and resurrection.
The Net of the allegation of material, significant, and pervasive
That these similarities are of
such a nature to either require borrowing, or be best explained
This point is rather moot--we do not have anything to explain.
But, for the sake of argument and completeness...let's move on to the