Parallelomania and the Chronological Fallacy

by Max Andrews

Pagan Copycat Theory: The story of Jesus Christ as presented in the gospels is a myth incorporating various aspects of other ancient pagan religions.

–“Why should we consider the stories of Osiris, Dionysius, Adonis, Mithras, and other Pagan Mystery saviors as fables, yet come across essentially the same story told in a Jewish context and believe it to be the biography of a carpenter from Bethlehem.” (Freke and Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries, 9)

The Chronological Fallacy

  • In order for the copycat charge to work the parallel must chronologically precede the development of Christianity.
  • Some of the mystery religions developed after the birth of Christianity
    • Example:  Appolonious of Tyana was a contemporary of Jesus (3BC-97AD) but was not written about until 220-230AD
    • While several of the religions preceded Christianity themselves, many of the parallel claims about them do not.
      • While the Horus myth precedes Christianity by 3000 years, claims that Horus  birth was marked by a star in the east  or three kings adored him are found only in post-Christian secondary sources.
      • While there is evidence of Christianity employing some aspects of mystery religions late (4th -5th c.) evidence of borrowing earlier (3rd c.) suggests reverse: mystery religions borrowed from Christianity.

Common religious figures Jesus is usually compared to:

  • Appolonius of Tyanna (Greek)
  • Horus/Osiris (Egypt)
  • Dionysus – Bacchus (GreekRoman)
  • Attis (Phrygian)
  • Mithra (Persian/Roman)
  • Zoroaster (Persian)
  • Krishna (Hindu)

General Comment:  There are going to be some similarities between all religions:

  • Belief in a God-like figure
  • Rites and ceremonies that express that belief
  • The universal human condition
  • Our desire for a ground for meaning ,purpose and value
  • Our struggle with our weaknesses and “sin”
  • An answer to evil and suffering
    • “I could not believe Christianity if I were forced to say that there were a thousand religions in the world of which 999 were pure nonsense and the thousandth (fortunately) true.  My conversion, very largely, depended on Christianity as the completion, the actualization, the entelechy, of something that had never been wholly absent from the mind of man.”  (C.S. Lewis, “Relgion Without Dogma”).

See also: Parallelomania and the Terminological Fallacy

*A special thanks to Mark Foreman for these class notes


One Comment to “Parallelomania and the Chronological Fallacy”

  1. Melchisedek deserves a mention too.
    A lot of the pagan copycat theorists (conveniently) forget this important bible character.

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