Three Reasons the Story of Jesus Was Not Borrowed From Pagan Mystery Religions

A Quick Response to a Common Objection

Was the Jesus story borrowed and recycled from pagan mystery religions?

Is Christianity really just a copy-cat religion?

Let’s take a quick look at this common objection. The short answer is no. Here’s why.

The Quest to Find the Real Historical Jesus

During the first quest, the history of religions school was very popular among scholars. The idea was simply that Christianity was a copycat religion that had borrowed from other popular myths and created the Jesus myth.

This claim was soundly refuted and scholars (whether liberal, moderate, or conservative) have abandoned it. However, it is a favorite of Internet skeptics and it makes the rounds on YouTube. So I do want to offer three reasons the copycat myth is false.

First, Christianity emerged out of first-century Judaism that was monotheistic and exclusive.

The Jewish people had learned their lesson about worshiping other Gods (cf. being judged by Assyria and Babylon).

They were committed to one and only one God. The Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 makes this clear, declaring, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

The New Testament teachings were clear as well, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

Second, the alleged parallels disappear once the specifics of each myth are examined.

A dying and rising Jesus is not a meaningful parallel with crops coming to life in the spring dying off again in the winter.

As Mary Jo Sharp notes, “The suggested “parallels”—such as themes of virgin birth, sacrificial death, and resurrection— are not paralleled in the content of the texts. There is no sound evidence of overlap within the details of these two types of texts. The biblical account of Jesus cannot be grouped into the genre of mythological literature based on either story details or structure.”

Lastly, if any borrowing was going on, it was the pagan mystery religions copying from Christianity.

Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy observe, “With the exception of Osiris, all the written accounts of these myths date after the birth of Christianity.”

If anything, mystery religions were copying from and being influenced by Christianity in the first two centuries because they had to compete to gain new converts and survive.

And when you look at all of the positive historical evidence for Jesus, it’s easy to see why professional New Testament historians and scholars have abandoned this theory.


Quick Read > What did the historian Josephus really say about Jesus?