Was the Jesus myth plagiarized from pagan religions?

A question from William H

I have a question and I hope that someone can answer it for me. I have heard that the story of Jesus was basically stolen from earlier pagan religions and films such as The God Who Wasn't There and Zeitgeist have both made these claims.

This knowledge did much to help me in my de-conversion process, but now I am hearing people claim that Christianity didn't plagiarize older pagan religions the way many people claim. It seems like there is kind of a battle going on right now at least from what I have seen online as to whether or not this is the case.

I was wondering if someone who actually knows something about ancient history could please tell me what the truth is regarding this matter. Is the Jesus myth actually copied from earlier pagan religions, and if so to what extent? Any accurate sources of information such as links to websites would also be greatly appreciated.

I was just about to come out to my fundamentalist Christian family regarding my unbelief and I wanted to have my facts straight because I know they will try everything they can think of to reconvert me. Many of them do nothing but read book after book of apologetic arguments and a few of them have been to Bible college. I want to make sure that any information that I give them as reasons for my unbelief are accurate, beyond the common sense stuff in which case they are oblivious anyway.


Anonymous said...

I had the exact same question. Not that it would change my view of Christianity, but I have recently seen many people online saying that the argument that christianity is a copycat religion is not as strong as everyone thinks it is.

Johnny Hands said...

Try this site, "The Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth, as long as it make sense to you:


(hard URL to remember - best way to find it is by doing a google search: jesus pocm )

Michael Rudas said...

There were a number of mystery cults in the Roman and Middle East at the time leading up to Christianity. Some of the common characteristics of a mystery religion are a virgin birth, transubstantiation, and resurrection. Mithras was one of the most influential in this regard -- his celebrated birthday was what we now call December 25th, for example.

Another strong influence was Ishtar/Astarte/Eostre. Referred to in the Book of Revelation as "the whore of Babylon" and "mystery Babylon" (early Christianity hated competition) -- yet she and her followers were later co-opted by the Roman church and she became venerated as Mary -- and her name lingers on as Easter.

Of course, this is only scratching the surface...

~~ Mikey

Curt said...

I agree that this is one of the more difficult topics to deal with honestly in the realm of Christian history. Complicating factors include the lack of evidence; unreliable dating of the evidence; the evolving nature of both Christianity and the multitude of other beliefs; and the purging, selection, and editing of the evidence over two millennia.
The one conclusion I think is valid is that the 1st Century was a time of numerous religions, holy men, wild beliefs, etc. It was routine for daily life to be interpreted with a supernatural outlook. There would have been a low credibility barrier to people accepting claims of the supernatural. Richard Carrier has an interesting article at infidels.org (Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire) which gives a flavor of the belief systems in the 1st century.

AWLHEART said...

I don't know how anyone can claim that it's not a replica of the pagan beliefs. It's so obvious. Then again, Christians lie about just about everything in order to convince themselves their beliefs are the truth. Evidence is evidence...that's the bottom line.

Studying the Egyptian religion is very fascinating. Even words such as Amen (Ra) used to be the name of the "SUN" of god. The Egyptians ended their prayers with Amen Ra in order to be sure their prayers were carried to god by the "SUN." To this day Christian still worship Amen Ra blindly by saying his name at the end of their prayers. Words change through time, yes, but the origins are fascinating.

Amen! LOL

Anonymous said...

There is a very good article entitled "Jesus as a Reincarnation of Mithra"
Just follow this link:

Anonymous said...


If you want ammunition against Christianity, the most condemning evidence is the New Testament itself. If you read the Pauline epistles with a critical mind, you will find that the first century Christians believed in a heavenly Jesus - one that never set foot on earth and never intended to.

This is taken from an earlier blog:

"The first century Christians did not believe that Jesus had actually set foot on earth. They believed in a heavenly Jesus.

If you read Paul's Epistles, you will find that there is no mention of the events found in the Gospels: no Bethlehem, no Nazareth, no Sermon on the Mount, no conversations with Pharisees, no Gethsemane, no Calvary, no Joseph of Arimathea. Paul apparently did not know of these things.

When Paul quotes Jesus, he doesn't refer to his teachings in the Gospels, but to Isaiah (Hebrews 2:12) Did Paul not know of the teachings of Jesus found in the gospels?

Also, Paul says that what he knows of Jesus entirely comes from personal revelation (Gal.1:12) despite the fact that Paul claims to have stayed with Peter and James (the disciples who allegedly lived with Jesus day and night for three years) for 15 days (Gal.1:18,19).

Don't you think that Peter and James could have told Paul something about Jesus if Jesus had actually come to the earth? Apparently, Peter and James didn't know anything about Jesus' life on earth either.

According to Paul, how was Jesus made known? By scriptures and God's command (Rom. 16:25,26). What about his three year career on earth? Also, Paul says,"my gospel", not "the gospel" implying that it originated from him, not Jesus.

Yes, it seems as though Paul sees himself as the chief arbiter of Christians' relationship with Jesus: "I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him." (2 Cor. 11:2)(NIV)

Also, "If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal.1:9)(NIV) Why did Paul think that he should have a monopoly on the gospel? Wouldn't the knowledge of Jesus' three year career attest to the true gospel?

Paul apparently puts himself on the same level as Peter. He claims to have seen Jesus personally (1 Cor. 9:1). Furthermore, Paul has the audacity to "oppose him to his face" (Gal.2:11) (It was a disagreement over circumcision.)

Evidently, Paul didn't know that Peter had lived with Jesus day and night for three years and that Jesus claimed that he was "the rock upon which I build my church." Paul didn't recognize Peter's authority because Paul didn't know that Jesus had come to earth. (And neither did Peter, evidently.)

The epistles do not mention Jesus' return (with one exception, which I will discuss below). They mention the coming of Jesus. Look up these verses: 1 Cor.16:22, Phil 1:6, Phil 3:20, 2 Thess.1:7, 1 Peter 1:7
They are all anticipating the coming of the Lord. They do not say "come back," "come again," or "return." They say "come."

Hebrews 8 and 9 most clearly demonstrate that the first century Christians did not believe that Jesus ever set foot on earth.
"If he had been on earth, he would not even have been a priest ..." (Heb. 8:4)(NEB) or "If he were on earth, he would not be a priest ..." (NIV)

Furthermore, Jesus' sacrifice was in heaven, not on earth (Heb.9:11-14), (Heb.9:24,25). It says that Jesus will come again (Heb. 9:28). His first coming was in heaven, and his second coming will also be in heaven "... to meet the Lord in the air." (1 Thess. 4:17). It appears that Jesus never intends to set foot on earth.

What about the last supper and the death and resurrection? According to first century Christian thinking, all of that happened in heaven, too. It was quite common for other gods that were popular in the Mediterranean at the time to undergo death and resurrection in heaven, for heavenly beings had physical bodies(1 Cor.15:35-49).

For example, Dionysus was born of a virgin, had meals including raw meat and wine, was murdered, and resurrected, all in the mythical, heavenly realm. The god Attis was another one who died and was resurrected in the mythical, heavenly realm, and there were a host of others. (http://www.pantheon.org/)

How did Paul know about the last supper? "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: ..." (1 Cor. 11:23). He received it directly from Jesus, by revelation, it was not an objective historical fact.

At the end of the first century, the writers of the gospels probably took information from Paul concerning the last supper, death, and resurrection, and incorporated it into their gospel myths.

The first century Christians thought of Jesus as heavenly, mythical and never thought that Jesus set foot on earth. Why should you or I?"

This sort of textual analysis can be found by authors/scholars such as Burton Mack, G.A. Wells, Earl Doherty, and others.

Also, you can read an article on "the silence of Paul" entitled "Galatians proves there was no Jesus of Nazareth" by following this link:


Good luck!

Jim Arvo said...

Well done, AntiChristian. That was an excellent summary. All I can add at the moment is that Robert Price is also an author to consult on these matters. I highly recommend

1) Deconstructing Jesus, and

2) The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man

As to the controversy surrounding Pagan origins of Christianity, that's easy to explain. Christians must combat it at all costs. These are the claims made by various Christians at various times to discredit the idea of Christian borrowing:

1) The Pagan traditions came *after* Christianity, not the other way around.

2) Well, okay, they came before, but that's because Satan was trying to confuse everyone. (This is *not* a joke.)

3) Well, okay, they came before, but that's because we all have the "truth" written in our hearts and people were trying their best to express it. The others are myths, but Christianity is the one TRUE myth. (This one due to C. S. Lewis. Again, not a joke.)

4) The similarities that exist are purely coincidental and have been blown way out of proportion.

5) Similarities? What similarities?

The most popular arguments among apologists today seem to be #4 and sometimes even #1, with #5 being a close third. What's funny about #4 is that apologists attempt to minimize the similarities by dwelling on inconsequential differences. For example, they say "Christianity is different because Jesus was born of a *virgin*, whereas the Pagan gods were not." Of course, this misses the point entirely, as virginity is a secondary issue. Divine paternity is the primary issue, and there is no dispute that it was a very common motif in earlier religions.

Barry de la Rosa said...

I read "The Jesus Mysteries" which proposes this link between early Christianity and the pagan religions of the time. It's not a very good book though - breathless style and probably too much speculation to be taken seriously. But it does make you think.

If I were you I would hold off "coming out" until you feel you have the arguments to defend yourself. Christians live in a constant state of denial to keep the contradictions of their lives going, and will stop at nothing if they see a weakness.

Sign up to the forums at infidels.org - there is a ton of stuff there, probably too much - but also do some reading if you can - Richard Carrier's "Sense and Goodness Without God" would be a great start (he is one of the leading lights on The Secular Web). Or try one of the "Four Horsemen" - Harris, Dennet, Hitchens and Dawkins.

Mike said...


Unknown said...

Joseph McCabe was an academic monk before he became and atheist. This article is extensive on the subject:


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Unknown said...

Nothing against Awlheart, but that claim about "Amen" seems to be false.

According to Wikipedia, "Amen, meaning so be it, is of Hebrew origin...The Hebrew word ’amen derives from the Hebrew verb ’aman, a primitive root...This triliteral root (’mn) means to be firm, confirmed, reliable, faithful, have faith, believe...Popular among some theosophists and adherents of esoteric Christianity is the conjecture that amen is a derivative of the name of the Egyptian god named Amun (which is sometimes also spelled Amen). There is no academic support for this view."

It seems to be a folk etymology. I'm an atheist, and there's no way that "Amen" has to come from the Egyptian God to make me doubt Christianity. But this is a good example of something that can get you into trouble. A Christian could easily prove that wrong and then it's hard to continue to argue, even if all of the rest of your arguments are sound.

To me, it seems to be best to say what you are almost completely sure of. Arguing less is better than arguing more if you're not sure about some of the things.

Thankfully, it's not too hard to doubt that a man came back to life and flew up into heaven, or that the all-loving Lord would tell his followers (including some prophets) to commit massacres.

No doubt, Christianity has some huge similarities to other Roman mystery cults of the time. No doubt, a large number of ideas were borrowed (or stolen) from the others. I would agree that "The Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth" website is good, because it states (throughout most of it) that it only gives facts, not opinions. It also has excerpts from ancient texts.

Also, check out the first page of Genesis. The earth and light were created on the first day, and he "separated the light from the darkness" but only in the fourth day were the sun, moon, and stars created "to separate the day from night"...which were already around for three days. A day is intricately linked to the sun shining on the earth, so what produced a day before that? ...Just some extra hilarity from Christian (and Jewish and Muslim) texts.

Edwardtbabinski said...

It didn't take "pagan-Christian" cnonections to lead me out of the fold. I simply read the Bible, compared the way N.T. authors used the O.T. with the original context of those verses; and also compared the Gospels in chronological order to see how various stories developed over time, Mark, Matthew, Luke-Act, John; and also noted various absurdities and the addiction to hyperbole throughout the Bible.

But if you want to study the mythic view I suggest Dr. Robert M. Price's works, he has a blog, a website, and a "Bible Geek" radio program and website. Price is not a mythicist, but he has read them all and also has studied the Bible formally, obtaining two Ph.D.s--in N.T. historical & theological studies. His view is that the Bible (N.T. & Old) raises so many questions that there is no way to reasonably verify its contents or stories. His books and article are highly enlightening.

One of Price's best and most easily accessible works is his earliest book which is online, titled BEYOND BORN AGAIN.

His second most accessible work will be coming out soon, a rebuttal to Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ, in which Price discusses all the major apologetic arguments employed by the various Evangelical authors cited by Strobel.

I suggest reading BEYOND BORN AGAIN, and then reading Price's latest book (since his earlier book, BEYOND BORN AGAIN, is easier to follow and a great beginning, and also has been praised for it's humble yet inquisitive tone).

Suggesting those two works to your parents would also be a good idea rather than get mired in the Jesus Myth controversy, which fills endless pages online between mythicists and Christian apologists. Price sticks to what we know or rather why we aren't as sure as the apologists say we are about a lot of different matters.

Also check out Dr. Price over at "Theology Web," since he dipped in there this month and left two notes, summations of his views.

Also check out my book, LEAVING THE FOLD: TESTIMONIES OF FORMER FUNDAMENTALISTS, since I include testimonies of people coming out of conservative Evangelical backgrounds who either remained Christian but grew more moderate/liberal, or joined other religions, or became agnostics or atheists. A full assortment of people leaving the hard line conservative Christian fold for a wide variety of reasons.

Another such work will be appearing soon as well, another assortment of testimonies, titled, LEAVING FUNDAMENTALISM, published by a university press in Canada, check amazon.com for more info

And also check out my amazon.com "wish lists" where I arrange books by all manner of religious topics that might come in handy for further research and study. Just google

"Edward T. Babinski" amazon.com "wish list"

My own testimony and articles are also linked to at the Secular Web infidel.org under my full name.

"If It Wasn't For Agnosticism, I Wouldn't Know WHAT to Believe."

Telmi said...


There is no need for research. Just critically read, say, the first five books of the Old Testament and you will have a good idea of the God you have been worshipping. Richard Dawkins describes him as a psychotic delinquent in his book The God Delusion.
I would describe the Bible God as a barbaric, cruel, freakish insane, intolerant, malevolent, racist, genocidal maniac.

Tell your folks that if they don't believe you they need to reread the Bible for themselves.

Lance said...

Hi William,
I'm not a historian, but I've looked into this a bit, and I feel I have a decent understanding of human nature. That said, I think the real problem here is the desire for certainty. Many people hate doubt and uncertainty, so they try to have everything nailed down and without question.

From what I've seen, all people, including non-religious folks, have tendencies this way, and will try to find evidence to support their preexisting beliefs; even if this might be done unconsciously. All of us need to be careful not to fall into this trap.

I think this kind of wishful thinking is happening a bit on both sides of this particular argument.

Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but we sometimes simply have to live with it. In this case it involves the method of recording history 2000 plus years ago. It was a haphazard and incomplete affair.

I really don't think there is enough evidence to say conclusively that Christianity was literally stolen from earlier pagan religions. It does seem interesting to look at the parallels, and notice the similarities. So you could definitely say it is possible or even likely that this happened, and I might even lay odds on it, but there is enough uncertainty when looking that far back in time that I would probably reserve judgement.

I agree with Edward Babinski and others that there are many better and more readily apparent reasons to reject Christianity.

When you said "This knowledge did much to help me in my de-conversion process," that tells me this knowledge sowed a few seeds of doubt that turned on the light of reason for you, but that you must have found other more concrete reasons to eventually lose your faith.

As for how you approach your family regarding this, I would focus on those more concrete reasons. But if this particular subject comes up you can explain that those similarities of the pagan religions that preceded Christianity are a bit strange, and led you to look at the truth claims of the rest of Christianity with a little more scrutiny.

The bottom line is that is OK to say "I don't know" about things you don't know about. But it is also OK to call bullshit by its real name when you see it. Which is what I think you've done with the majority of the bunk they call the Christian religion.

I hope this helps.


Lance said...

Hi again William,
One more thing about the uncertainty stuff. When Christians try to pin me down about what I believe about god, the hereafter and other metaphysical things, I might say something like this:

"I'm not really certain about things I can't see, hear, taste, touch or feel, but after thoroughly investigating it I am certain that the Christian religion and the god of the bible don't fit the reality I live in."



speck said...


I have found that the emotional attatchment that a person has to their beliefs is what creates the strongest barrier to seeing Christianity for what it actually is.

Learning how the bible borrowed from pre-existing myths was a huge blow to my faith. This information "got through" because I was seeking to find out the provable facts of how the bible came into existence.

It was a combonation of well established facts and reasonable speculation that tipped my mental/emotional scales.

It's too bad that no amount of good evidence will effect the grip of faith on some people. Take care to not get sucked into an emotion based cage-match with Christians.

(The POCM site is great.)

muttmutt said...

jesus myth plagarized by jewish religions, zorostrianism and judaism, which are NOT considered pagan, because pagans believe in many gods and goddesses.

muttmutt said...

Christians did plagarize though. There are many other arguments agianst christianity, and one is that christianity is not as moral or ethical as people claim it to be. I know i hear the words "not a true christian" but the best rebuttal to that is, what happened to "judge not, lest you be judged" then you can slap them with, well you said so and so wasnt a true christian, i can say that you arent and they are.... theres a good website called how to fight the religious right, and i would reccomend it as a good shield agianst christianity.


Tim said...

Just a quick comment. No, the early Christians (Paul, etc.) did not PLAGIARIZE the pagan cults. The influence of the contemporary pagan cults was INDIRECT but yes, the influences were there AND strong enough to INFLUENCE Paul and others in their creative processes.

Same for the normal Greek and Roman philosophy and religion. The fact that the Greek and Roman gods had sons and the Jewish god did not, was ONE of the many dynamics that fed into the synthesis of the "son of god" figure and the new offshoot religion that would soon be called Christianity.

I don't believe there is one book you could read that would really lay all this out on the table. Some people jump for magic bullet explanations. Many sources find a link and then exclude others (for $ gain, let's say, when they write their great book on early Christianity).

So, the answer is clearly "no" but yes, those cults had SOME influence. No one is NOT influenced by their immediate surroundings.


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