Was Jesus a myth?

Jesus >> Was Jesus a myth?

“Scholars of world religion and mythology detect numerous parallels between the stories of heroes and gods from widely different cultures and periods. Tales of mortal heroes who ultimately become gods characterize the ancient traditions of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, Greece, and Rome, as well as the native cultures of Mesoamerica and North America. In comparing the common elements found in the world’s heroic myths, scholars discern a number of repeated motifs that form a distinctive pattern.” (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.284)

Jesus versus an assortment of mythological characters

  Dionysus Heracles Perseus Jesus
Mother is a human Tick Tick Tick Tick
Father is a god Tick Tick Tick Tick
Circumstances of conception/birth are unusual Tick Tick Tick Tick
Attempt is made to kill him as a child Tick Tick Tick Tick
Conducts superhuman feats Tick Tick Tick Tick
Attains a form of immortality Tick Tick Tick Tick
Physical evidence in our possession dating to:  1250 BCE   620 BCE   540 BCE   125 CE 

Mother is a human:
Dionysus-   mother Semele is human. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.284).
Heracles-   mother Alcmene is human. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.319).
Perseus -   mother Danae is human. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.319).
Jesus -   mother Mary is human. (Matthew 1:18-25).
Father is a god:
Dionysus-   son of the god Zeus. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.284)
Heracles-   son of the god Zeus. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.323)
Perseus -   son of the god Zeus. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.319)
Jesus -   son of the god Yahweh. (Matthew 3:17).
Circumstances of conception/birth are unusual:
Dionysus-   Born from Zeus' thigh after being transferred from Semele. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.270)
Heracles-   Zeus extends the night for 3 days to impregnate Alcmene. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.323)
Perseus -   Zeus impregnates Danae in a shower of golden rain. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.319)
Jesus -   Yahweh sends his Holy Spirit to earth to impregnate Mary. (Matthew 1:18-25)
Attempt is made to kill him as a child:
Dionysus-   Hera tries to kill Dionysus as a child. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.285)
Heracles-   Hera tries to kill Heracles as a child. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.324)
Perseus -   Acrisius tries to kill Perseus as a child. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.319)
Jesus -   Herod tries to kill Jesus as a child. (Matthew 2:16)
Conducts superhuman feats:
Dionysus-   performs miracles. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.284)
Heracles-   defeats the Hydra, completes the Twelve Labors. (Harris & Platzner 2008, pp.332-333)
Perseus -   defeats Medusa and a sea monster, flies through the air. (Harris & Platzner 2008, pp.320-322)
Jesus -   performs miracles. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.284)
Attains a form of immortality:
Dionysus-   raised to divine immortality on Olympus. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p. 284)
Heracles-   raised by the gods from his funeral pyre to Olympus. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p. 330)
Perseus -   raised into a constellation at death. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p. 323)
Jesus -   raised to heaven. (Mark 16:19)
Physical evidence in our possession dating to:
Dionysus"his name first appears in ancient Mycenaean inscriptions composed about 1250 B.C." (Harris & Platzner 2008, p. 268)
Heracleshard to date when the story first appeared but a vase painting from circa 620 BCE depicts Heracles with Nessus. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p. 330)
Perseus hard to date when the story first appeared but a limestone relief from circa 540 BCE at the temple at Selinus depicts Perseus defeating Medusa. (Harris & Platzner 2008, p. 321)
Jesus The earliest fragment of the gospels is dated to circa 125 CE. (previously discussed)

A closer look at Jesus versus Dionysus

Regarding Jesus and Dionysus, “their received life stories reveal components of an archetypal pattern, including the hero’s birth to a divine parent; his narrow escape from attempts to kill him as an infant; his “missing” formative years; his sudden appearance as a young adult manifesting miraculous gifts; his struggle with evil forces; his return to his place of origin, commonly resulting in rejection; his betrayal, suffering, and death; and his elevation to divine status, followed by the establishment of a new cult honoring his name.” (Harris & Platzner 2008, p. 284)

Dionysus Jesus
Is son of Zeus, king of the Greek gods Is Son of God (Mark 15:39)
Is son of Semele, a virgin princess of Thebes Is son of Mary, a virgin of Nazareth (Luke 2)
Survives an attempt by Hera to kill him as an infant Survives an attempt by King Herod to kill him as an infant (Matt. 2)
Performs miracles to inspire faith in his divinity Performs healings and other miracles (Mark 1-2)
Battles supernatural evil in the form of Titans Resists Satan; exorcizes demons (Mark 1-3; Matt 4; Luke 4)
Returns to his birthplace, where he is denied and rejected by family and former neighbors Returns to his hometown, where he is rejected and threatened with death (Mark 6; Luke 4)
Invents wine; promotes his gift to humanity throughout the world Transforms water into wine (John 2); makes wine the sacred beverage in communion (Mark 14)
Suffers wounding and death at the hands of the Titans Suffers wounding and crucifixion at the hands of the Romans (Mark 15; John 19)
Descends into the underworld Descends into the Underworld (1 Pet. 3:19; 4:6)
Rises to divine immortality, joining his father Zeus on Olympus Resurrected to glory; reigns in heaven at God's right hand (Phil. 2; Acts 7:55-57)
Evangelizes the world, establishing his universal cult Directs followers to evangelize the world (Matt. 28:19-20)
Punishes opponents who denied his divinity Will return to pass judgment on non-believers (Matt. 24-25; Rev. 19-20)
13th century bce 1st century ce
Table source: (Harris & Platzner 2008, p.284)

Professor Robert M. Price

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