Jesus Vs Quetzacoatl – Debunking The Alleged Parallels


J. P. Holding|  Of all of our “pagan copycat Christ” papers so far, this one has got to be, and probably always will be, the most unusual — because we are actually arguing against two sides with different ideas! But it turns out the same simple solution sinks them both.

On the one hand, we have Christ-myth advoctes, who affirm that Quetzalcoatl (hereafter “Quetz” or Q), the ancient Mesoamerican deity, is one of many copycat Christ figures. How that info got to Christians across the Atlantic we can only guess (though some suggest Phoenicians, and rely on the fabulous fabricator Kersey Graves for the information that New World data was found in the library of Alexandria).

On the other hand, we also have several popular Mormon apologists (professional Mormon apologists do not follow on this) who willingly accept the parallels, and use them to support their own view that Christ visited the Americas. The two parties wouldn’t have a kind word to say to each other, but in a real sense they are partners here, and we are in the odd position of having to respond to both of these at once.

Some preliminary remarks are in order about this rather complex character of Quetz.

The popular Mormon apologetic work New Evidences of Christ in Ancient America [130-1] notes six historical stages and three variants in the history of Q. In some of these stages, Q is an admittedly brutal and unwholesome sort of thug. What the book calls Variant 4 is the one that is “preferred” for a Christ-parallel, having “a projected birth date at 1 B.C. and archaeological and codical evidence from the Postclassical period of Mesoamerica (ca. A.D. 900-1525).” Slightly later variants make Q a “royal priest-king” (mid-first century) and then a “war serpent” (second century).

These are taken to be corruptions and elaborations of the “true” Q. Adding to the mix is that many persons in later history were named after Quetz (as indeed many in Latino cultures name their child “Jesus”) and some of their “adventures” are recorded as well.

Our general answer to almost all of the parallels is a certain methodological surd which raises questions about the validity of any parallels between Jesus and Quetz. Another Mormon apologetic work by Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, states the matter incompletely and in summary:

All that is known about Quetzalcoatl comes in the form of secondary sources. All of the written information about Quetzalcoatl that is available today has an origin in the writings of 16th-century Spanish chroniclers. As mentioned earlier, the Spanish chroniclers were those Spanish conquerors, Catholic missionaries, or natives, like Ixtlilxochitl, who had to use as source material the Aztecs and Mayas who were living at the time of the Conquest.

Allen then states that this may mean that the material could be “biased from an Indian point of view in an attempt to protect the religious beliefs or biased on the part of the Spaniard in an attempt either to correlate the Mexican history with Christianity or to present the opposite point of view and to equate the history of the Mexicans with workings of the devil.”

This is a very important admission. What Allen reports in brief is related in far more detail, and far more strongly, by David Carrasco’s Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire, written by a specialist in Mesoamerican religions. Carrasco shows that the “bias” and “attempt to correlate” is something that assuredly DID happen.

“Reading the evidence shows that the impact of Spanish colonial processes generated a heated, pressurized, dangerous social atmosphere which penetrated the sixteenth-century transmission of indigenous historical and religious traditions to the extent that almost all of the available documents contain alterations in the picture of pre-Columbian life…it is clear that a thick Spanish, colonial Christian gloss has been brushed across the ideas, symbols, and dreams of ancient Mexican culture.”

Carrasco notes the example of a pre-Columbian storybook, and the same material “presented in European style prose histories…often with Christian polemics and interpretations inserted.” [12, emphasis added] Moreover, Carrasco notes that only 16 authentic pre-Columbian documents survive — the remainder were destroyed by the Spanish. (See Diaz and Rodgers, The Codex Borgia, Introduction.)

This fact alone renders all attempts to parallel Jesus and Quetzalcoatl suspect. Both Mormon apologists (if they desire) and pagan-myth copycatters have a great deal of work to do, and will need to find pre-Columbian sources that verify their contentions. As it is, they do not do so. They clearly rely overwhelmingly on the later “suspect” works of the revisers who tried to make Mesoamerican religion more “Christian” in taste.

To begin let’s look at the full set of parallel claims, from both sides; and oddly, it is the Mormons who make more claims, and find more parallels, in this case. Items italicized are claimed by both parties; items in bold, by pagan copycatters only; other items, by Mormon apologists I have seen only. The claims are that both Q and Christ:

  1. Were recognized as creator of all things.
  2. Were born of virgins.
  3. Had their birth announced by a heavenly messenger.
  4. Are described as wearing white or a white robe; Q is described as a white, bearded man.
  5. Was tempted and fasted for 40 days.
  6. Performed miracles.
  7. Taught the ordinance of baptism.
  8. Prophesied of future events.
  9. Were universal as opposed to local gods.
  10. A great destruction was associated with them, at the same time in history.
  11. The cross was their symbol. Was represented by three crosses, one larger and two smaller, and was depicted as bearing the cross as a burden, and with nail holes in his feet.
  12. Was consumed in a Eucharist using a proxy.
  13. Had ten or twelve guards.
  14. Atoned for primal sin.
  15. Taught great virtues and brotherly love and fasting.
  16. Sent out disciples to preach their word.
  17. Died and was resurrected three days later.
  18. Promised a second coming.
  19. Had a new star associated with them.
  20. Their children will become lords and heirs of the earth.
  21. Was designated the Morning Star.

Now to begin, a few of these can be dispensed with at once, in the same way they have for other “copycat” figures, as universals or typicals for any leading religious figure, or can be found in the doctrine or eschatology of a variety of religions, as would be expected under normal processes of development. But beyond this we will only select a few to deal with, pending our challenge for either group to produce pre-Columbian documentation.

  1. Were born of virgins.I and a research associate find no verification at all for this. The account of Quetz’s birth that we find is that a goddess named Coatlicue saw one evening a feather of many colors flying down from the sky. She picked it up to keep; later it disappeared and she became very upset. Soon she realized that she was pregnant. Coatlicue gave birth to the sun (and war) god, Huitzilopoachitli.

    This is as much “virginal” as Zeus leaving his seed in a pomegranate a woman puts in her lap. (See on this pp. 492-497 of World Mythology: An Anthology of the Great Myths and Epics by Donna Rosenberg.) Carrasco reports a pre-Columbian story of Quetz being born from a stone knife, followed by 16 of his guises and powers. Florescano [39] reports a story of Quetz being engendered when his mother swallowed a green stone.

  2. Are described as wearing white or a white robe; Q is described as a white, bearded man.Rosenberg says: “Quetzalcoatl was a large man. He often wore a conical cap made from the skin of the jaguar and a cloak made from the feathers of the quetzal bird. He wore a chain of seashells around his neck and a chain of rattles around his ankles. His voice was so strong that it could be heard for thirty miles.” A quetzal is of course a very colorful bird, a rare, green-feathered bird found in the land of the Maya, particularly in Guatemala. Quetz wore the feathers of the queztal bird which are green, not white.

    Quetz, however, did have white or light skin in one scenario; that is one reason why the Aztecs believed that Cortez was Quetz. But according to Diaz and Rodgers, the “white Quetzalcoatl” also had red dots! Moreover, it appears that these Aztec gods were often color-coordinated. Diaz and Rodgers also report a “Black Tezcatlipoca,” a “Red Tezcatlipoca,” and a “blue Xochipilli.” [xxv] A Mesoamerican specialist has advised us that these colors are a sort of “yin yang” thing with four colors.

  3. Was tempted and fasted for 40 days.Quetzalcoatl was tempted to do many things by the god Tezcatlipoca, who was called the “Dark Smoking Mirror”. My research associate reports that because of Tezcatlipoca’s tempting, Quetz had sex with his sister, got drunk, and starting living an immoral life for a short time at least until the wine wore off. Jesus, of course, did not give into the temptations offered him. We find no sign of a 40-day period. Florescano [42] confirms Quetz’s general fall into debasement.
  4. A great destruction was associated with them, at the same time in history.My associate reports that all or most of the people in Quetz’s kingdom were killed by Tezcatlipoca, a necromancer, but sees no sign of it being “the same time in history” as Jesus. Florescano [42] confirms this and adds that this was at a time when Quetz was tempted (see below) and in bad straits. Rosenberg says: “On the historical level, Quetzacoatl was probably Topiltzin (Our Prince), the great leader of the Toltecs, a 10th century-AD Nahuatl-speaking culture.”
  5. The cross was their symbol. Was represented by three crosses, one larger and two smaller, and was depicted as bearing the cross as a burden, and with nail holes in his feet.This one seems to have been way off base. The closest we get to this in pre-Columbian evidence in the Codex Borgia [Diaz and Rodgers, xxvi], with a larger scene in which Quetz is having his heart extracted by two other deities. Quetz is then “taken to the underworld and to a ball court.” (As a reminder, the “underworld” part is no parallel for Jesus, and the ball court sure isn’t!)

    Quetz is next seen on a “cruciform device” (in the shape of a X, not a T) “with five little images of Nanahuatzin, the dead and cooked god of lechery and the evening sun, emerging from his four limbs and his heart.” Diaz and Rodgers note one interpretation of this scene as Quetz transforming into Xolotl-Nanahuatzin.

    New Evidences [131] claims that Codex Nuttall “depicts a death and resurrection scene in the tenth century A.D,” but gives no specifics. Nuttall is a pre-Columbian document, but I rather doubt if the death was by crucifixion and the “resurrection” was a bona fide Jewish one.

  6. Was designated the Morning Star.New Evidences [129] states, “A late Quetzalcoatl’s journey to the east, his cremation then becomes the ‘morning star’ or Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (the Lord of the place of dawn).” Diaz and Rodgers [xv] confirm this but the story even as the Mormon apologist offers it clearly doesn’t parallel the merely titular use of “morning star” by Jesus. In this Quetz is an actual embodiment of the planet Venus.

    Florescano [The Myth of Quetzalcoatl, 14ff] adds that in Mayan mythology, it is not Quetzalcoatl, but two other deities (Xblanque and Hunaahpu) who are associated with Venus, and Venus is variously associated with war, or concepts of the primordial day, or sacrifice. Given the prominence of Venus in the Northern Hemisphere it would hardly be a striking coincidence if it was appealed to for some sort of royal imagery.

  7. Were recognized as creator of all things.Quetzacoatl was just ONE of the creators, and of the sun and the world, not “all things” [Diaz and Rodgers, xv-xvi]. Life was created by Tlaloc the rain god, and Quetz himself was engendered by a higher deity named Tonacatecotli [Florescano, 35] and also credited with bringing various benefits of civilization like agriculture [37]. This parallels Dionysus better than it does Jesus!

    Florescano also reports a version [51] from Nahuatl traditions in which Quetz separated the sky from the earth and then was sent to gather bones of ancient humans from the netherworld in order to make the men and women of the new era. He is also in charge of calendars, space and time.

  8. Performed miracles.Rosenberg states: “While he was alive, every cob of corn was as strong as a human being, pumpkins were as tall as human beings, and corn grew in many colors.” As stated above, Quetz helped create the earth. The stars, Quetz’s siblings, killed both their and Quetz’s father, the sun and buried him. Quetz dug up his body with the help of some animals and so sun was restored to life.

    For the present we can only conclude that attempts to parallel Jesus and Quetz are misguided. Our opponents from the respective camps are challenged to produce pre-Columbian evidence of their parallels.

This article was republished from Tektonics Apologetics with permission from the author.

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James Patrick Holding holds a Masters in Library Science from Florida State University. He is a published author in Christian Research Journal, and his website ( is the largest apologetics site run by a single individual and contains over 1500 articles. His ministry is committed to providing scholarly answers to serious questions which are often posed on major and minor elements of the Christian faith. He is also a Certified Apologetics Instructor.