Is The Jesus Story Copied?

It has become fashionable nowadays for internet atheists and conspiracy theory fans to claim that the Jesus story has been copied from stories of deities from other cultures or that Jesus never really existed. We see this pop up most noticeably during Christmas time, when even major newspapers run articles to this effect. However, is this really the case, or is the story of Christ unique?

This claim was mostly promoted by Gerald Massey, a self-proclaimed Egyptologist. He claimed that multiple gods share the virgin birth on the 25th of December and that it is not a Christian story. Massey concluded this based on his own translations of ancient texts, however, his translations were found to be inaccurate. His translations and studies have, therefore, been refuted by other Egyptologists. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar focussing on the history of Christ, refuted several claims of why and how the story of Christ is a recycled story. One of the researchers he refuted was Kersey Graves, who wrote a book named ‘’The Worlds Sixteen Crucified Saviours’’ in the 19th century. Numerous self-proclaimed scholars blindly followed his work, without looking at his work critically. Graves mentioned 35 people, according to his own research, who had exactly the same story of Christ[1].

In this post, we will look at the claimed similarities between the story of Jesus and of Horus, Krishna and Mithras, and debunk these claims.

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The main claim from Graves is: ‘’It is argued that, as the story of the incarnation of the Christians’ Savior is of more recent date than that of these oriental and ancient religions (as is conceded by Christians themselves), the origin of the former is thus indicated and foreshadowed as being an outgrowth from, if not a plagiarism upon the latter-a borrowed copy, of which the pagan stories furnish the original’’[2]. Ehrman refuted this saying that there is no claim of a virgin birth of a god in neither any mythology nor Eastern religion[3]. Something that did happen is that the birth of several historical figures in itself was seen as a miracle, however, this was not linked to the virginity of the mother. Furthermore, the mothers of these figures had intimate relationships with (demi)gods. Noteworthy is that Graves lived in a period right after the renaissance (18th century), which is known as a period wherein humanity started rebelling against the Church.

Let’s take a closer look at the story of Christ and the proposed parallels.

Horus: The Claims[4]

Horus is an Egyptian god of the heavens and war, depicted as a human with a falcon head.

It is claimed that –

  • Horus was born from a virgin, the god Isis.
  • He was baptized by a person named “Anup the Baptist”. Anup was later beheaded, just as John the Baptist was beheaded.
  • He went for a certain time into the desert, where he was tempted by the devil.
  • He raised a person named Asar from the death and that Asar means Lazarus.
  • He is claimed to have had 12 disciples, just like Christ had.
Isis Nursing the Child Horus, Slate, 664-525 BC, Brooklyn Museum

Horus: Debunking The Claims[4]

  • Horus’ father, the god Osiris, died in a battle and Isis took his body and raised him from death for a certain time in order to be impregnated by him.
  • Horus’ father, the god Osiris, died in a battle and Isis took his body and raised him from the dead for a certain time in order to get pregnant from him.
  • Regarding Anup the Baptist, there has not been a person named Anus in Egyptian mythology. Massey just used this name in order to strengthen his case against Christ, and later research showed that he twisted the Egyptian God Anubis into Anup.
  • Horus also did not enter into the desert to be tempted by the devil, actually, in Egyptian mythology, Horus was poisoned by another god called Seth (who had also killed Osiris), and the god Thot revived him.
  • Regarding that Horus raised Asar from the death; Asar is Greek for Osiris, who was his father. His father was, as previously mentioned, raised by his mother Isis to impregnate her.
  • Horus did also not have 12 disciples, this is an inaccurate reference to his sons, who were not only less than 12 but also demigods.

Krishna: The Claims[5]

Krishna is a major god in Hinduism, considered as the eighth avatar of Vishnu and Supreme God.

It is claimed that –

  • Krishna was also born from a virgin, named Devaka/Devaki, on December 25.
  • He was crucified for our sins between two thieves.
  • He arose from the dead and ascended into heaven.

Krishna Dancing on the Head of the Snake Demon Kaliya, Bronze
Vijaynagar Period, 14th century AD, Art Institute, Chicago

Krishna: Debunking The Claims[5]

There are four main sources on the life of Krishna, namely: the Mahabharata (poems written by Krishna), the Harivamsha (seen as a sequel to the Mahabharata and resembles the Books of Chronicles from the Old Testament in its content), the Vishnu Purana (a work mainly concerned with cosmology) and the Bhagavata Purana (a work mainly concerned with worship and philosophy).

  • Devaki was ‘’mentally’’ impregnated by Vasudeva, Krishna’s father[6], yet she was not a virgin as Krishna was their eighth child[7]. Also, the virgin birth is not mentioned in any early sources and might be an addition from the 10th century AD. [5]
  • Krishna’s birthday is one of the most important Indian holidays, although it is not celebrated on December 25, but at the end of the summer season in late August or early September.
  • Krishna was not crucified. He was murdered by a hunter named Jara who shot him in his heel[8]. In ancient India, people were not crucified, let alone being crucified between robbers. They dealt differently with robbers, based on their ideology.
  • Krishna did not die for our sins as he was cursed twice[9],[10].
  • He did not ascend into heaven, as his body was cremated[11].

Mithras: The Claims[12]

Mithras, a god from the old Persian mythology, was worshipped by a subpopulation of the Romans, who practiced mysticism. Later on, he was also worshipped in Zoroastrianism.

It is claimed that –

  • Mithras was also born from a virgin on December 25 and that several shepherds were present at his birth.
  • Mithras was a known teacher and the good shepherd for his people whom he served with his 12 disciples.
  • Mithras died and resurrected after three days, and his followers kept celebrating the Sunday as their Lord’s Day.
Top: Mithras slaying the sacred bull
Bottom: Mithras sharing a banquet with the sun god Sol
Rome, 2nd to 3rd century AD, Double-faced Mithraic Marble bas-relief, Louvre Museum

Mithras: Debunking The Claims[12]

Mithras, a god from the old Persian mythology, was actually someone who was worshipped by a subpopulation of the Romans, who practiced mysticism. The followers of Mithras lived side by side with Christians in Rome, in the first four centuries, and called themselves the ‘’followers of the Mysteries of Mithras’’. Later on, he was also worshipped by Zoroastrianism[13].

  • Mithras was not born on the 25th of December, and the shepherds who witnessed his birth were only mentioned centuries after the New Testament was written. It was likely copied from the New Testament.
  • Mithras was also not seen as a shepherd, only as a mediator. Not a mediator between God and man, but between the ‘’good’’ and ‘’bad’’ gods known in Zoroastrianism. No Persian or Roman tradition or writing about Mithras mentioned that he was a teacher or shepherd for his people.
  • Mithras also did not die for our sins. The only related story known about Mithras is a story in which he killed a bull.
  • There is no source mentioning that Mithras had died, let alone being resurrected. Tertullian of Carthage (220 AD) mentioned that the followers of Mithras used to enact an Eastern play.

Conclusion

Many people start stressing when reading stories that ‘’debunk’’ Christianity, yet if we would examine these stories more in-depth we would conclude that the claims made are not historically correct. Several groups try to debunk our faith and the claims we make using false claims. Therefore, we should study our faith and its authenticity so that we will always be prepared with an answer (1 Pet 3:15).


Subdeacon Wasim Shehata

He is a subdeacon in readers’ order in the Coptic Orthodox Church and a theology enthusiast. Wasim particularly enjoys the Church History and practical/contemplative aspects of theology and apologetics. He is currently finishing his Master’s degree in Biomolecular Sciences.

Read his other articles at https://www.copticnn.com/author/wasimshehata/


Endnotes

[1] Kersey Graves & Paul Tice. The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors, 1999, page 30.

[2] Ibid. Page 29.

[3] Bart Ehrman. Did Jesus Exist? The Birth of a Divine Man, 2012.

[4] Jon Sorensen. Horus Manure: Debunking the Jesus/Horus Connection, 2012.

[5] Ronald Huggins. Krishna and Christ: Debunking the Parallels between Jesus and Krishna, 2014.

[6] Bhagavata Purana, 10.1.56-57

[7] Bhagavata Purana, 10.2.16-18

[8] Mahabharata 16:4, Vishnu Purana 5:37, Bhagavata Purana 11.30.27-40

[9] Mahabharata 11:25

[10] Mahabharata 16:3

[11] Mahabharata 1:2, 16:7, Vishnu Purana 5:38, Bhagavata Purana 11.30.2

[12] Warner. Is Jesus Simply a Retelling of the Mithras Mythology, 2019.

[13] Ulansey, David. Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, 1991, p. 90.

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