All around the world, Christians are celebrating the death and rebirth of Jesus… the son of God, who’s also God… and a Spirit… by attending sunrise services; eating spicy buns, chocolate eggs and sending each other cards bearing pictures of cute rabbits and chicks. Unless you live the Philippines that is, and feel like getting out in the fresh air for Easter. Somehow, I have a feeling the message got a little bit mixed up along the way.
That’s what happens when you shoehorn your new religion on to an existing pagan fertility rite, in order for it to gain some sort of acceptance. After all, the people are already partying, how hard is it to say “Oh, you’re all celebrating rebirth? Well, there’s this guy I want to tell you about…”
And that’s where the problem comes in. You see, just which guy are they talking about? Oh, sure – most of us know the story of Jesus: born of a virgin, in a stable, walked on water, performed miracles, rose the dead, was the son of God, was crucified to save the world, descended into hell, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Ok, that’s the 50c tour of Jesus’ life, but it’s near enough as dammit.
The problem is, there isn’t a single eyewitness account to verify these happenings… and if you just said, “The Bible!” you go to the back of the class. Even if you do use the Bible, those are hardly contemporary accounts… especially when you consider that the man credited with selling Christianity to the heathen masses, never even knew the man. Nowhere else are the events records as Christians would have believe they happened.
Unless you go back in time.
You see, using the potted history above there are more than enough characters floating around that meet exactly the same criteria. Let’s have a look at some of them:
Attis (c. 1,200BCE)
- Born on December 25th, to a virgin
- He was seen as a saviour figure, who would die to save the world.
- His worshipers ate bread as a symbol of his body
- He was called both a Devine Son and Father
- He was crucified on a tree
- He descended into the underworld.
- He rose from the dead after 3 days
Osiris / Bacchus / Dionysus (2.500 BCE onwards)
- Born on December 25th, of a virgin and was placed in a manger
- His birth was foretold by a star
- Taught and performed miracles
- Rode in a procession on the back of an ass
- He turned water into wine
- He was considered the “Only Begotten Son,” Savior,” “Redeemer,” “Sin Bearer,” Anointed One,” and the “Alpha and Omega.”
- He was likely hanged or crucified on a tree
- Three women visited the cave where he was buried
- He rose again after 3 days
Krishna (400 BCE)
- Krishna was born of the Virgin Devaki (“Divine One”) on December 25.
- His earthly father was a carpenter.
- His birth was signaled by a star in the east and attended by angels and shepherds, at which time he was presented with spices.
- He was persecuted by a tyrant who ordered the slaughter of thousands of infants.
- He worked miracles and wonders, raising the dead and healing lepers, the deaf and the blind.
- Krishna used parables to teach the people about charity and love, and he “lived poor and he loved the poor.”
- In some traditions he died on a tree or was crucified between two thieves.
- He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven “in the sight of all men.”
Buddha (563 BCE)
- He was born of the virgin Maya.
- He was of royal descent.
- He performed miracles and wonders, healed the sick, fed 500 men from a “small basket of cakes,” and walked on water.
- He was transfigured on a mount.
- He was crucified in a sin-atonement, suffered for three days in hell, and was resurrected.
- He ascended to “heaven.”
There are plenty of other examples, perhaps the best being Mithra, but I think I’ve made my point. It would appear as if there have been a lot of people – real or mythical – who seem to fit the story of Jesus, centuries before the time.
Once again, if I wanted to shoehorn my new religion onto existing practices, wouldn’t help if my hero was also magical?
Not to mention plagiarised.