Choices Borrowing The Bible is true Faith
the Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing rule

The ancient world was a virtual cornucopia of myths of gods and heroes. Comparative studies in religion and literature require sensitivity to their similarities and differences, or distortion and confusion inevitably result.
Noted Philosopher Professor Dr. W. L. Craig, PhD, DTh,
Jesus and Pagan Mythology, Q & A


"Similar" does not mean "identical."


Here's where we are. The ancient texts quoted in POCM's Facts section show lots of Pagan-Christian similarities. In this Reasons part of POCM we're thinking about possible explanations of those similarities. Which are comprehensive and consistent? Which are not?


Aslan the lion is DIFFERENT!    from a 1st century Galilean peasant, but no one has trouble seeing that Aslan is a copy of Jesus.

Borrowing > Absorbing describes POCM's highly insightful explanation of Christian-Pagan similarities: Christianity absorbed its ideas from ancient Pagan Mediterranean culture. Christian ideas are Pagan ideas. This wonderful explanation is comprehensive and consistent. And smart. And handsome. Hooray!

The page you are at now, Borrowing > Different, is about the apologists' most favoritest argument against Christian-Pagan borrowing —Christianity could not have borrowed, because our Christian story is different from all those Pagan stories.

So, let's talk about the apologists' Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing rule: If a Christian story is different in any detail from seventeen similar Pagan stories, then borrowing did not happen.

Arthur Darby Nock
used the ADPNoB rule in 1928

Defense of the faith wise, the ADPNoB rule has been a big deal for generations. Reverend A.D. Nock used it in the 1920s. Reverend B. M. Metzger relied on it in his famous essay in 1955. In the 1980s and '90s, professor Ronald Nash pretty much based his celebrated no-borrowing career on it.

In our internet age ADPNoB is almost catechism, spoken by every apologist, repeated by every believer.

The Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing rule

Here's the ADPNoB rule (pronounced "ADPNoB rule") in action, direct from the able keyboard of Noted Philosopher Professor Dr. W. L. Craig, PhD, DTh.

Noted Philosopher Dr. Dr. Craig is writing about similarities ("parallels" is the artful term) between Jesus stories and other Pagan stories.

Dr. Dr. Craig starts with his conclusion —Jesus' resurrection was real, an "event," to which parallels are "alleged." The Pagan accounts, we learn, are often apotheosis stories. ("Apotheosis," taken from the ancient Greek word "Apotheosis", is when a human person turns into a divine being. Or, in the case of vegetation Gods, when a divine bean is turned into a divine being.)

According to Noted Philosopher Dr. Dr. Craig, Pagan stories that are unparallel to the Jesus event include:

1. Pagan people ("heroes") die and ascend to heaven,

2. Pagan wisdom teachers disappear and ascend to heaven,

3. Pagan Gods die (each year) and come back to life,

4. Roman (political) emperors die and ascend to heaven.

Or consider the Gospel event of most interest to me: Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

Many of the alleged parallels to this event are actually apotheosis stories, the divinization and assumption of the hero into heaven (Hercules, Romulus). Others are disappearance stories, asserting that the hero has vanished into a higher sphere (Apollonius of Tyana, Empedocles). Still others are seasonal symbols for the crop cycle, as the vegetation dies in the dry season and comes back to life in the rainy season (Tammuz, Osiris, Adonis). Some are political expressions of Emperor worship (Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus).

All this Pagan dying, and coming back to life, and ascending to heaven has nothing to do with Jesus' dying, and coming back to life, and ascending to heaven, explains Noted Philosopher Dr. Dr. Craig, because the event of Jesus dying, and coming back to life, and ascending to heaven is related to, or concerned with, or associated with, or motivated by, or understood as, or anyhow has something to do with Jewish ideas of resurrection.

That difference —the association with Jewish ideas of resurrection— means that Jesus' dying, and coming back to life, and ascending to heaven is unrelated to all those Pagan stories about dying, and coming back to life, and ascending to heaven. See?

None of these is parallel to the Jewish idea of the resurrection of the dead.


Noted Philosopher Professor Dr. W. L. Craig, PhD, DTh, Jesus and Pagan Mythology, Q & A
POCM quotes modern scholars

How the ADPNoB theory works

Noted Philosopher Professor Dr. Dr. Craig notes a difference between


Myth then, myth now



April 2015. I am re-smartifying this page. I have gotten this far.


By the way: Similar and parallels

If you read elsewhere about Christian-Pagan borrowing, you'll want to keep in mind that apologist talk distinguishes similar and parallel.

Ideas that are similar share features. Julius Caesar died and ascended to heaven. Jesus died and ascended to heaven. The stories share features. They are similar.

The way apologists use the word, parallel means "copied." Ideas or stories are parallel when they share features AND one idea was the source of the other. Caesar died and ascended to heaven. Jesus died and ascended to heaven. But the story of Caesar's death and ascent to heaven has nothing whatsoever to do with of the story of Jesus' death and ascent to heaven. The stories are not "parallel."

In apologist-talk, similar is about facts, parallel depends on the apologist's conclusion. And since apology begins with the conclusion (that's pretty much what "apology" means), this fast talking nuanced use of "parallel" has great rhetorical power. It let's apologists give people their conclusion,"Pagan ideas are not the source of (similar) Christian ideas," without letting people know the ideas themselves are really really similar.

Here are a few reasons the Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing rule doesn't work.

It confuses similarity and identity.

Merely by reading this deeply into POCM you've identified yourself as just the sort of highly intelligent person who has already spotted the flaw in ADPNoB rules' airplane- cow reasoning. Am I right?

Remember, the reasoning was a cow is different from an airplane; the idea of an airplane was not borrowed from a cow. They are different; borrowing was impossible.

The problem is this reasoning answers the wrong question. The question isn't "How does an airplane compare with something it didn't borrow from?" The question is, "How does an airplane compare with something it did borrow from?"

I know you know the Wright Brothers copied the idea of wings from birds. Yet birds are very different from airplanes. Birds, for example, are tasty.

What's more, airplane wings stay still. Bird wings flap. Airplane wings work differently from bird wings—and yet airplane wings were copied from bird wings.

The Wright Brothers weren't the only people to copy birds' wings.

Pegasus is different from a bird.

Isis is different from a bird.

The Assyrian Winged-bull God is different from a bird.

Angels are different from birds.

The Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing rule confuses similarity and identity. This is not rocket science. "Identical" means sharing every characteristic. "Similar" means sharing some characteristics, not sharing others. Things that are not identical, but only similar, are always different.

When you borrow an idea from someone, you borrow just that: an idea. You don't borrow every idea. Your idea-thing then shares a characteristic with her idea-thing. But generally, her thing and your thing have other ideas that are different, ideas you didn't borrow from her. Your thing and her thing are similar in some details, different in others.

What's more, it's likely that having borrowed her idea, you'll adapt it to your own needs. Even the idea you borrowed from her will be different, in some detail or another, from her idea. Bird wings are made of bone and sinew. The Airbus 380s wings are made of metal.

Lets try out the ADPNoB rule and see how well it works

West Side Story is completely unrelated to Romeo and Juliet. We know this because a number of details in the stories differ.

The Chronicles of Narnia are completely unrelated to the NT. We know this because a number of details in the stories differ.

Christianity is completely unrelated to Judaism. We know this because a number of details in their theologies differ.


The ADPNoB rule in action: Reverend Bruce Manning Metzger

Consider one of Reverend Metzger's Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing forays in his famous essay >>

Yes, the ancient Mystery religions were so ancient they fade into prehistory. So did their godmen, naturally. Yes, Christianity was new religion, with a newish godman [an incarnation, so the story goes, of a nebulous God-figure of an imaginary past]. Reverend Metzger identifies one way, the new godman way, Christianity and other Pagan religions were different.

Reverend Metzger goes on to imagine that one difference means Christianity didn't borrow from the Mystery religions. This is so obvious to him, he doesn't have to spell it out. its got tits. its a cow. Move on.

...a most profound difference between Christianity and the Mysteries was involved in the historical basis of the former and the mythological character of the latter. Unlike the deities of the Mysteries, who were nebulous figures of an imaginary past, the Divine Being whom the Christian worshipped as Lord was known as a real Person on earth only a short time before the earliest documents of the New Testament were written.

B.M. Metzger, Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religion
POCM quotes modern scholars

You remember the mystery religions, right? They were those ancient religions with godmen, sons of the great God, born of mortal women, who came to earth, fulfilled prophecies, did miracles, did good deeds, taught wisdom, and brought their believers' salvation. Those mystery religions. Why Reverend Metzger imagined it was not possible to dream up a new saving godman who who looked and acted like all those other saving godmen—the son of the great nebulous God figure of the imaginary past and a mortal woman, prophesies, miracles, etc., etc.— Reverend Metzger never said.

Which is strange. It seems to me if you were going to come up with a new godman, and you specifically and intentionally intended Him to borrow from the old godmen, you'd pretty much come up with a godman like Jesus. And even if you didn't borrow on purpose, if all that happened was your ancient world view already had a notion about what a saving godman was like (and if you lived back then, it did), and you cut your new godman to that pattern, you'd still pretty much come up with a godman like Jesus.

Reverend Metzger left this bit out of his famous essay. Reverend Metzger wasn't shooting at the enemy, he was cheering up the troops in his own trench.

Reverend Metzger's error: similar and different at the same time
The ancient mysteries were old, they didn't need to invent new godmen. They already had theirs. One thing Christianity maybe didn't borrow from the ancient mysteries* was the idea of a new godman. One of Rev Metzger's errors (he made many) was to fail to see that religions can be different and similar at the same time. Obviously the bits that are different in the mysteries, Christianity didn't copy from the mysteries. But the bits that are similar in the mysteries, there is no reason a priori they couldn't have borrowed those. And, as the rest of POCM shows, no comprehensive consistent analysis can conclude they didn't.

* The non-mystery parts of ancient religion had plenty of new divine men.

The ADPNoB rule is not comprehensive. It is not consistent with itself. Even if the ADPNoB rule didn't confuse similarity with identity, it would still fail to explain the ancient evidence.

Not comprehensive.
Remember, its not just Christianity and Mithras-ism that were similar. its Attis-ism and Mithras-ism, and Dionysus-ism, and Osiris-ism, Adonis-ism, etc. Lots of ancient religions shared lots of common ideas.

We're looking for a theory of religious origins that is comprehensive, that can explain not just Jesus- Osiris similarities, but also Osiris- Mithras- Adonis- Attis, Kore similarities.

The Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing can't do that. Or rather, when it tries it gives silly results. After all, every ancient God was different in many particulars from every other ancient God. If you believe the Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing rule, and apply it to those facts, you discover that none of the ancient religions borrowed any of their key ideas. They all invented prophesy, miracles, heaven, hell, gods, souls, slavery, Greek, etc., all on their own.

The rule that asks you to believe this silly result must be wrong.

When someone gives you a "reason" that only works in the one place it has to work for their theory to be true, and that on other situations gives a completely different answer, you should not believe their analysis.

Not consistent -- even the people who believe it don't believe it.
We talked about this before. Let's test the ADPNoB rule by applying it not to Christianity and Osiris-ism, but to Christianity and Judaism.

How does the Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing rule apply to Christianity and Judaism?
Well, the Christian three-headed God is different from Judaism's one-headed God.
Christian salvation is different from Jewish salvation.
Christian scripture is different from Jewish scripture.
Christian baptism is different from Jewish baptism.
The Christian Eucharist is different from Judaism's Eucharist—does Judaism even have baptism and a Eucharist?

Apply the apologists' Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing rule to Judaism, and you learn that Christianity is free of the taint of Jewish origins. Which is silly.

The rule that asks you to believe this silly result must be wrong.

When someone gives you a "reason" that only works in the one place it has to work for their theory to be true, and that on other situations gives a completely different answer, you should not believe their analysis.

The Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing rule doesn't work. Not even a little bit. Don't get fooled.

Testing the ADPNoB rule: Pagan origins of the XXX myth
Here's a story from Lucian, written in the 2d century AD. I'm not sure kids nowadays know the modern version, but read Lucian and tell me if you see anything familiar. Also, notice the differences. Does the Difference Proves No Borrowing Rule really work? If you think so, Wikki this.

"I recognized that he was a holy man, and by degrees, through my friendly behavior, I became his companion and associate, so that he shared all his secret knowledge with me.

"At last he persuaded me to leave all my servants behind in Memphis and to go with him quite alone, for we should not lack people to wait upon us; and thereafter we got on in that way. But whenever we came to a stopping-place, the man would take either the bar of the door or the broom or even the pestle, put clothes upon it, say a certain spell over it, and make it walk, appearing to everyone else to be a man. It would go off and draw water and buy provisions and prepare meals and in every way deftly serve and wait upon us. Then, when he was through with its [page 375] services, he would again make the broom a broom or the pestle a pestle by saying another spell over it.

''Though I was very keen to learn this from him, I could not do so, for he was jealous, although most ready to oblige in everything else. But one day I secretly overheard the spell - it was just three syllables - by taking my stand in a dark place. He went off to the square after telling the pestle what it had to do, and on the next day, while he was transacting some business in the square, I took the pestle, dressed it up in the same way, said the syllables over it, and told it to carry water.

When it had filled and brought in the jar, I said, 'Stop! don't carry any more water: be a pestle again!' But it would not obey me now: it kept straight on carrying until it filled the house with water for us by pouring it in! At my wit's end over the thing, for I feared that Pancrates might come back and be angry, as was indeed the case, I took an axe and cut the pestle in two ; but each part took a jar and began to carry water, with the result that instead of one servant I had now two.

Meanwhile Pancrates appeared on the scene, and comprehending what had happened, turned them into wood again, just as they were before the spell, and then for his own part left me to my own devices without warning, taking himself off out of sight somewhere.''

"Then you still know how to turn the pestle into a man? " said Deinomachus. " Yes," said he: "only half way, however, for I cannot bring it back to its original form if it once becomes a water [page 377] carrier, but we shall be obliged to let the house be flooded with the water that is poured in! "

Lucian, Lover of Lies, 34-36 (2d century AD), -- which you can find in: Henderson, Jeffrey. Lucian III (1921/ 2004), pg. 373- 7
Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

Good Books for this section

The Gospel and the Greeks
by Ronald Nash

What you'll find:

A Christian philosophy professor's easy, readable, affordable roundup of the current state of the apologists' "refutation" of Christianity's Pagan origins.. The more you know, the less persuasive Professor Dr. Nash is.

Eighty percent explanation of the mid-20th century scholarly dispute; twenty percent gentle kettle logical refutation. Good chapters explaining the monotheism of the Platonists and Stoics, the Mystery religions and the Gnostics.

Because he was a Christian writing for other Christians, Nash (who seems like a smart, likable fellow) was able to write an apologist genre book—one whose tendentious reasoning betrays no expectation of unfriendly critical analysis. His analysis was basically:

1. To ignore similar fundamental ideas (soul, heaven, salvation, godman), and to attack outdated mid-20th century Jesus as a myth-by-myth analogue theories,

2. To bring up differences between Pagan myths and Christian myths, and then apply the apologists' Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing rule.

Available used at Amazon .com


A scholarly and handsome reader Kicks POCM's Ass

Malcolm Kirk
malcolm.kirk -AT- dexmedia -DOT- com writes:

Dear Greg,
Thanks for your interesting page. Just browsing through.

to which Greg says

As you are probably aware, arguing from the similarities between two thing to them having a common origin or source can sometimes be fallacious.

No doubt. For example, we're pretty sure the Aztec pyramids were not copied from the Egyptian pyramids—on account of we're pretty sure the Aztecs had no contact with the Egyptians.

But POCM's analysis is not based on similarity. It is based on similarity + proximity + priority + consistency.

There was contact between the first Christians and the Greco-Roman-Egyptian cultures of antiquity. The Pagans had these rituals and theologies first, Christians had them second. If there is a comprehensive and consistent explanation of those facts that does not conclude "Christianity borrowed," Malcolm fails to give it.

If two women wear the same shoes, and woman #1 is a prostitute, this does not automatically mean that woman #2 is a prostitute.

Malcolm misunderstands POCM's reasoning. POCM does not say "woman 2 is a prostitute." POCM observes that many people wear shoes, and concludes, "Woman 2 did not invent shoes all on her own."