Is Jesus A Knock-Off Of Pagan Gods? 15 “Dying & Rising” Pagan Savior Gods Debunked

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By J.P. Holding|

Adonis

Information on Adonis provides little to commend a parallel to Jesus. (1, 2) There is a death of Adonis in the literature, but it is caused by a wild boar, and there is no doctrine of redemption associated with the death. In addition, this story is found in a text dated to the second century—too late to influence the story of Jesus.

Or is there a resurrection of Adonis in this story? After mourning, worshippers the day after Adonis’ death “proclaim that he lives and send him into the air.” This sounds a great deal like apotheosis (exaltation to heaven), but it sounds nothing like resurrection (the glorified reanimation of a deceased body). Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy list Adonis with their pagan Christ- figures, but the only specific they offer is that Adonis had a “virgin mother” named Myrrha, and a comparison is made between Christian communion and “the bones of the dead Adonis,” which were “said to be ground on a mill and then scattered to the wind.” (3)

The latter claim is a non-parallel, unless Freke and Gandy wish to add that Adonisian communion consisted of running around in the wind catching Adonis’ ashes in cups, and between slices of bread. The claim of a “virgin mother” is likewise empty. (4)

Alcides of Thebes

Alcides is another name for the Greek demigod Hercules. It is claimed that he is a “divine redeemer born of a virgin” around 1200 BCE. No details are offered to explain in what way Alcides was a “redeemer.” In terms of being virgin-born, this is false. Alcides’ mother was Alcmene, the wife of King Amphitryon of Troezen, and his father was the Greek deity Zeus. Zeus had disguised himself as Amphitryon and impregnated Alcmene, and Alcides (Hercules) was the result of that union. (5)

Apollonius of Tyana

This particular figure is not a pagan savior, but rather, a wandering teacher and philosopher who lived not long after the time of Jesus. Allegedly, there are parallels to be found in the acts and lives of Apollonius and Jesus: Both cast out demons, raised the dead, went on trial, performed miracles, and taught amazing wisdom.

The value of such comparisons is simple to determine: Though he lived in the second half of the first century—not long after Jesus—the records we have of Apollonius performing these Jesus-like feats were written no earlier than 217 A.D., some 190 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. The only extant biography of Apollonius was written by Philostratus, who was born around 172 A.D., and this source is “full of historical anachronisms and gross geographical errors” (6), and makes use of imaginary official letters, inscriptions, decrees and edicts. (7)

The Gospels have been cited for minor geographical and historical errors, some of which have suitable explanations, but none may be described as “gross,” and they have never been found guilty of faking official documents.

Mythicists also hoist themselves upon an uncomfortable petard in making use of Apollonius: Apollonius does not enjoy the level of secular attestation that Jesus does, and so if they accept Apollonius as a historical figure, consistency demands that they do the same for Jesus. Indeed, one of the most radical critics of Christianity in ages past, F. C. Baur, argued for an “Apollonius myth.” (8)

The earliest historical reference to Apollonius comes from Cassius Dio’s Roman History, 68:17, which was written somewhere between the late second and the early third century, around 100 years after Apollonius lived. Interestingly, Apollonius is given less space within Cassius Dio’s work than Josephus gave to Jesus.

Baal

Baal is sometimes reckoned as a “dying and rising god,” but the tablets describing Baal’s story do not actually preserve an account of Baal’s death and supposed return to life. A portion of the tablets is lost, and the events are inferred from remaining parts of the story.

In what we have left, Baal is discovered dead and given a burial, but later in the narrative, he reappears alive. In another story, if a certain verb is read as passive, it may refer to Baal as “brought to life,” but it may also be an active verb describing Baal as one who “brings to life.” In more than seventy other texts about Baal, there is no mention of his death.

Smith, seemingly with mythicists in mind, writes: “…any attempt to render a reconstruction of Baal’s death and return to life should make no assumption about the nature of the latter.” After extended analysis Smith connects the story to the succession of the Ugaritic kingship, with Baal’s death representing the demise of the king and his return to life representing the role of the living king.9

Balder

Balder is a deity associated with Norse legend and is not documented any earlier than a thousand years after the time of Jesus. Strangely, mythicists are not reluctant to list Balder as a “pagan Christ,” who somehow influenced the story of Jesus, or proves that Jesus was a mythical figure.

There is an epic called The Death of Balder that records Balder’s unfortunate demise. In the story, Balder is said to be specially protected from death when oaths are extracted from various elements (metal, stone, poison, etc.) to not harm him.

The other Norse gods amuse themselves by throwing missiles at Balder, but the troublemaking god Loki finds out that an oath was not extracted from the mistletoe, and he tricks the blind deity, Hod, into throwing mistletoe at Balder, which kills him. Obviously, there is nothing in this story resembling the death of Jesus. (10)

Beddru of Japan

In my research and consultation, I was unable to find any reference to a “Beddru” in Japanese mythology, and concluded that this figure was non-existent, a mere invention of Kersey Graves. In response, Acharya S has said that “Beddru” was merely a typographical error by Graves or his publisher; he intended, Acharya says, to have it read Beddou, also alleged to be Buddha. (11)

Regrettably, this does not improve matters greatly for the mythicist case. Acharya is unable to source these claims about “Beddou” any more than for Beddru; she suggests that Graves received his information from the works of Abbe Huc, but this person was a missionary in the 1600s A.D., several centuries after Christianity originally penetrated into the Far East.

It is furthermore doubtful that Graves equated Beddru with Buddha, for he lists Beddru separately from “Buddha Sakia of India,” and reports different biographies for each figure. Even the equation of Beddru with Beddou is problematic, since Graves connects the latter with China, not Japan. One can only conclude that Graves was, at least, exceptionally careless in his offering…and, as well, his documentation for “Beddou” is no more substantive than that for Beddru. (12)

Cuchulainn

Various stories of this Irish hero describe such amusing adventures as having to be plunged in three vats of cold water to cool down his battle frenzy; in the first two vats, the water boils away before he can be cooled down. Needless to say, Irish epics would have been written far too late to influence the story of Jesus.

Crite of Chaldea

As with Beddru, this one appears to be simply made up. Crite is not mentioned in any scholarly sources on ancient mythology.

Dahzbog

This figure (whose name is also spelled “Dazhdbog”) was the son of the sky god Svarog, the brother of the fire god, and was also in charge of happiness, destiny, and justice. He superseded Svarog as head of the pantheon, and was identified with the sun. During eclipses he was thought to have been devoured by wolves.

He was served by two maidens who represented the auroras, and the moon was his uncle. In some stories, he gets married and he and his wife Mesyats beget the stars. The Serbs have a story where he gets older as the day goes on, and is reborn every day. (13) I think it is fair to say that this sounds nothing like the story of Jesus.

Deva Tat

This name, which appears in the lists of mythicists, is simply another name for Buddha, as designated by one of their own sources. (14)

Hesus of the Druids

Hesus (or Esus) is said by mythicists to have been born of a virgin, and crucified with a lamb on one side, and an elephant on the other, hundreds of years before the Christian era. Unfortunately, it seems that scholars of Celtic mythology know nothing about this. Esus was a god who liked a particularly gruesome form of human sacrifice in which victims would be suspended from trees and ritually wounded.

He was linked to Mercury and/or Mars as a god of war, and is depicted as a woodcutter (or lumberjack) in one early carving. His favorite animals were birds with long necks, like cranes and egrets…not lambs or elephants. (15)

Prometheus

Several claims have been made of Prometheus by mythicists, like: He descended from heaven as God incarnate to save mankind. This is false. Prometheus was a demigod, a Titan, one of that mythical race that was at enmity with the Greek gods. To say he was “incarnate” is incorrect—unless we expand that definition to include the Greek deities coming down in human form (or in Zeus’ case, swan form, or bull form, or the form of any other creature). Prometheus’ “incarnation” was also of no theological significance. Nor did Prometheus save mankind in a Christian sense.

He provided fire and other practical gifts, so he was man’s protector and benefactor, but he didn’t “save” as Christ saved.

He had a special friend, “Petraeus” (Peter), the fisherman, who deserted him. I find that the only place a friend named Petraeus is mentioned is in a passage from the work of Robert Taylor. Taylor was a 19th-century apostate clergyman imprisoned for blasphemy who, while incarcerated, wrote a book titled Diegesis, as a refutation of Christianity. Unfortunately, because he was in prison, Taylor seems to have worked a great deal from memory and made a number of serious mistakes.

Elsewhere, Taylor claims that his “Petraeus” is to be found in the play’s character Oceanus, for “Petraeus was an interchangeable synonym of the name Oceanus.” (16) No justification is offered for this claim of synonymy, and in any event, Oceanus does little in the play other than have a brief conversation with Prometheus, and then he departs, as do many other minor characters who talk to Prometheus.

He was crucified, suffered and rose from the dead. This is false. Prometheus was not crucified, but shackled to the side of a crag, high in the Caucasus Mountains as an eagle was sent each night to tear at his immortal flash and devour his liver, which would grow back each night. He could not have risen from the dead because he was immortal.

He was called the Logos or Word. If he was, no one in Greek mythology knows about it. The closest I have found to this is that Plutarch apparently called Prometheus “reason,” which is the Greek word logos, but he used it in an entirely different sense than was applied to Jesus (as a hypostatic entity of God the Father—a member of the Trinity).

Quetzalcoatl

The selection of the ancient Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl, for mythicist purposes, is one of the most peculiar, for it requires a secondary thesis that information from the New World traveled overseas to influence people in the time of Jesus. Correspondingly, ideas such as that New World data was found in the library of Alexandria may go with it. (17)

From the perspective of evidence, however, this is perhaps the poorest candidate for the mythicists, because nearly all of the information we have about Quetzalcoatl comes from Christian missionaries of the 1600s A.D. Sources on Mesoamerican beliefs, such as David Carrasco’s Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire, also note that what information we have is severely distorted by the Christianized lens through which the culture later related information:

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.” (18) Moreover, Carrasco notes that only 16 authentic pre-Columbian documents survive…the remainder were destroyed by the Spanish.

This fact alone renders all attempts to parallel Jesus and Quetzalcoatl suspect. Mythicists will need to find pre-Columbian sources that verify their contentions. As it is, they do not do so. They rely overwhelmingly on the later “suspect” works of the revisers who tried to make Mesoamerican religion more “Christian” in taste. For this reason, we deem it necessary to only consider a few mythicist claims about Quetzalcoatl.

No verification can be found for this, but commonly, Quetzalcoatl is the son of two other deities, Coatlicue and Mixcoatl. Carrasco reports a pre-Columbian story of Quetzalcoatl being born from a stone knife, followed by 16 of his guises and powers. Florescano reports a story of Quetzalcoatl being engendered when his mother swallowed a green stone. (19)

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. The closest we get to this in pre-Columbian evidence is in the Codex Borgia (20) with a larger scene in which Quetzalcoatl is having his heart extracted by two other deities.

Quetzalcoatl is then “taken to the underworld and to a ball court,” and 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 Quetzalcoatl transforming into Xolotl-Nanahuatzin.

Was designated the Morning Star. Diaz and Rodgers (21) confirm this, but it clearly does not parallel the merely titular use of “morning star” by Jesus, and Quetzalcoatl is regarded as an actual embodiment of the planet Venus. Florescano (22) 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 by more than one culture.

Tammuz

The ancient Sumerian deity Tammuz, or Dumuzi, is perhaps the oldest deity in the mythicist arsenal. Some mythicists even claim he was a “savior god” and was worshipped in Jerusalem. Here are other claims that are made:

He annually died (sacrificed in the Temple in Jerusalem) and was resurrected. At a sacred time of his passion in Jerusalem, wore a crown of thorns made of myrrh.

Was called “only-begotten Son” and “Son of the Blood”; as well as Healer, Savior, Heavenly Shepherd, and Anointed One.

He “tended the flocks of stars, which were considered souls of the dead in heaven.” He was “born in the very cave in Bethlehem now considered the birthplace of Jesus.”

What I have found offers utterly no confirmation of, or reference to, any of these claims, with two exceptions: Tammuz’ identity as a shepherd, and his death and “raising.” Tammuz was known as a Sumerian god of fertility and of new life earlier than 3000 B.C. (23)

He was indeed known by two of the names above: he was called a shepherd, but that was only because he literally was a shepherd.24 His specific charge was the production of lambs and ewe’s milk. Of course, in a pastoral ancient society, it would be no surprise for any leading figure (political, religious, or whatever) to be called a “shepherd,” but in this case the parallel isn’t even there, because the title is literal.

Tammuz was also called a “healer” (as a profession), and regarded as a savior, but as Langdon notes (25) those who referred to Tammuz by these names “have not those spiritual doctrines which these words convey in Christian doctrine” in mind, but use the words “in the sense that all life depended upon his sacrifice and especially upon his return from hell.”

This means physical, not spiritual life: Tammuz healed medically, but as Langdon reminds us, “[e]very deity, male or female, possessed this power,” so Tammuz is not unusual in this regard. Tammuz saved, but not from sin: He saved from starvation and physical death. He was never looked upon as one to rescue from eternal damnation.

There is a death and return to life of Tammuz, though to call it a “resurrection” (as even Langdon does) is to remove all meaning from the word. Smith (26) notes that the means of Tammuz’ return to life is unknown, but adds that the description points to his “participation in a ritual in which the dead were invoked and then temporarily manifested.” The Tammuz cult was centered in Tammuz’ marriage to Inanna, and it was her lamenting of his early death that women imitated (as in Ezekiel). Tammuz’ death was usually ascribed, though, to raiders from the nether world that attacked him and took his sheep. Thereafter he was mourned by his mother, sister, and widow. (27)

Tammuz didn’t stay dead. He came back again later, rescued by his consort, and some demons who sang to him. (28) The mechanism whereby this was accomplished is not described, much less is it obviously comparable to Jewish resurrection. Scholars of religion and of Tammuz recognize this story as representative of the birth-death cycle of vegetation. As such, Tammuz was called “the faithful son,” but of “the fresh waters which come from the earth.” (29)

His other titles include “Mother-milk,” “god of date palms,” and “image of Ea.” Tammuz’ death occurred at the end of spring; he was killed in one story by the gods of the thunderstorm, and the story is so told that the “return of the god seems no new beginning: it is more we who are back to the old beginning.”

The death and “raising” of Tammuz occurs every year and corresponds with the natural cycle of vegetation. This provides no parallel at all for the Christian religion, expect by redefining terms into meaninglessness (that is, “resurrection” meaning not just a specific Jewish concept, but any dead-alive transition), thusly ignoring vast differences in meaning.

There is also a writer who said that the mourning women didn’t eat of ground grain, because it “is the body of Tammuz,” but this writer was from the medieval period (30) and so his words cannot be used to identify an analogue to the communion ceremony. Also, some make much of Tammuz’ alleged symbolization with the tau, or T, as a supposed parallel to the cross, but no one was impaled on Tammuz’ alphabetic symbol, and it is doubtful that the Romans and Persians crucified tens of thousands of people on such a shape because they saw it used by Tammuz and decided that it was a good shape to crucify people on.

Langdon, though not a mythicist, repeatedly refers to Tammuz’ “virgin mother.” He refers to the earth, not a female figure who literally gave birth to Tammuz. Langdon also does not suggest a parallel or influence with respect to Christianity.

Finally, in terms of being born in the cave of Jesus, a notation may be found in the works of the 4th century Christian author Jerome, who in his Epistle to Paulinus 58:3 states:

“From the time of Hadrian to the reign of Constantine—a period of about one hundred and eighty years—the spot which had witnessed the resurrection was occupied by a figure of Jupiter; while on the rock where the cross had stood, a marble statue of Venus was set up by the heathen and became an object of worship. The original persecutors, indeed, supposed that by polluting our holy places they would deprive us of our faith in the passion and in the resurrection. Even my own Bethlehem, as it now is, that most venerable spot in the whole world of which the psalmist sings: “the truth hath sprung out of the earth, was overshadowed by a grove of Tammuz, that is of Adonis; and in the very cave where the infant Christ had uttered His earliest cry lamentation was made for the paramour of Venus.”

The declaration of the site of Christ’s birth, as sacred to Tammuz, was therefore a Roman reaction to Christianity, and did not involve Tammuz’ birth.

Zoar of the Bonzes

This particular alleged savior figure is an unknown outside of lists derived from the mythicist Kersey Graves. The Bonzes do exist; they are a type of priest or monk in the Eastern world…but who or what Zoar may have been is not to be found in any scholarly source.

The conclusion—the pagan Christ “minor leagues” lineup, is down and out for the count.

This article was originally featured on Jesus Always Existed, a website by J.P. Holding, and was republished with permission.

Notes

[1] Claims about these figures may be found in a variety of sources, in print and online, but all seem to have, as their ultimate source, Kersey Graves, World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors(1876).

[2] Mark Smith, Origins of Biblical Monotheism (Oxford University Press, 2003), 116.

[3] Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries (Three Rivers Press: 2001), 29, 248.

[4] I find no mention of a “virgin mother” for Adonis in sources like Mike Dixon-Kennedy’s Encyclopedia of Greco-Roman Mythology (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1998).

[5] Ibid., 153.

[6] John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. (New York: Doubleday,

1991), 576-8.

[7] David Cartlidge and David L. Dungan, Documents for the Study of the Gospels (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), 205.

[8] G. R. S. Mead, Apollonius of Tyana (Chicago: Ares Publishers, 1980), 48. Originally published 1819.

[9] Smith, op. cit., 104, 120, 128.

[10] Andy Orchard, Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend (London: Cassells, 1997), 12-13.

[11] <http://www.truthbeknown.com/beddru.html> Accessed April 22, 2008.

[12] As Don Harper, contributor to this volume, has noted, in Chapter 1 of his book, Kersey Graves lists “Budha Sakia of India” and “Beddru of Japan” as separate entities from different locales, and in further chapters (7 and 38) gives them completely different origins.

[13] Mike Dixon-Kennedy, Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO), 61-2.

[14] “Deva Tut” is listed as one of innumerable (alleged) names for Buddha by Geoffrey Higgins’ Anacalypsis (i:5, 153).

[15] James McKillop, Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology (Oxford University Press: 2004), 171-2.

[16] Robert Taylor, Diegesis, 181.

[17] Also of note is that several popular Mormon apologists (professional Mormon apologists do not follow on this) willingly accept parallels between Quetzalcoatl and Jesus, and use them to support their view that Christ visited the Americas.

[18] David Carrasco, Quetzalcoatl and the Irony of Empire (University Press of Colorado, 2001), 12.

[19] Enrique Florescano, The Myth of Quetzalcoatl (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 39.

[20] Gisele Diaz and Alan Rodgers, The Codex Borgia (Dover Publications, 1993), xxvi.

[21] Ibid., xv.

[22] Florescano, op. cit., 14ff.

[23] Thorkild Jacobsen, ed. Toward the Image of Tammuz and Other Essays in Mesopotamian History and Culture (Harvard University Press, 1976), 28; Stephen Langdon, Tammuz and Ishtar (Oxford: Clarendon, 1914), 2-3.

[24] Jacobsen, op. cit., 29.

[25] Langdon, op. cit., 34.

[26] Smith, op. cit., 112.

[27] Jacobsen, op. cit., 29, 54.

[28] Langdon, op. cit., 20-1.

[29] Ibid., 6n.

[30] Ibid., 14.

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Steven Bancarz is the former founder of "Spirit Science & Metaphysics" and was a full time writer for spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com, which was one of the largest New Age websites in the world. He was also a guest author on thespiritscience.net. He had an encounter with Jesus Christ and quit his job as a New Age writer back in 2015, giving his life fully to the Lord. Steven has since been in full-time ministry after exposing the deception of the New Age movement, founding Reasons for Jesus as an apologetics website. He is the co-author of the best-selling book The Second Coming of the New Age, and has been featured on programs like the 700 Club, Sid Roth's It's Supernatural, 100 Huntley Street, and SkywatchTV. He is also a content creator on YouTube.