Choices Borrowing Faith The Bible is true
Facts, reasons, conclusions

My purpose is to discuss the doctrines I have expounded rather than to pronounce judgment upon them.
Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 3.95 (45 BC)

We gotta 'splain not just the narrow fact Christianity began, but the wider fact Christianity began in the middle of ancient western culture where lots of people had similar ideas.


Here's where we are. In POCM's Facts section you read ancient texts and discovered that Christianity and Paganism shared lots of ideas. Idea wise, Christianity and Paganism were similar. In this Reasons part of POCM we're thinking about possible explanations of those similarities. The different menu items here —Choices, Borrowing, Faith, etc.— look at various possible explanations of those similarities.

One possibility is that Christianity borrowed  from Paganism? Let's be clear what "borrowing" means, POCM-style.

Borrowing is NOT Jesus never existed.
Some folks think they know Jesus never existed. I myself am not smart enough to be sure. Maybe He did, maybe He didn't. I don't know. I don't think it matters, at least as far as knowing where our stories about Jesus come from. Our stories about Jesus were made up. They are Pagan ideas, written down by Pagan minds.

Some Christian people think "myth" means the same thing, all made up, never existed. It doesn't. It could be Jesus was a real historical person, a real person tarted up with mythic stories.

Far fetched? Not really. We know for sure some of His followers did this. There are plenty of ancient non-canonical gospels about Jesus, full of wild ass sayings and miracles of Jesus. So even if Jesus really was a historical person, it is absolutely certain early Christians told myths about Him. The only question is, are all their magic stories made up and all our magic stories are real and historical.

At POCM I am NOT saying Jesus never existed.

Borrowing is NOT direct copying   Jesus as a copycat
You've maybe come across web sites or books listing amazing coincidences between our Jesus stories and stories about other ancient Gods. Born in a manger (or cave) on December 25th, with a virgin mother and a father named Joseph. Had twelve disciples. Died on a cross, arose on day three. Like that.

Trouble is, it ain't so. The only place you find these similarities is in modern books where an ernest amateur quotes someone quoting someone. Trace these claims back to their 19th century origins, and you'll discover some wild eyed fellow just made them up. Just made them up. The ancient evidence simply does not include Gods with twelve disciples born in mangers on December 25th, or any of this identical-myth stuff. Jesus was not an element-by-element, myth-by-myth direct copy of any other ancient Gods. The Virgin Birth page gives an example in detail; Jesus' birth is not a knock off of Horus'.

At POCM we are NOT talking about Christianity's Pagan origins as a direct copy of some Pagan religion.

Sir James Frazier

Borrowing is NOT dying and rising God number 47
Back in the late 1800s, and into the '20s and '30s of the twentieth century, "mythicist" scholars had this theory that lots of ancient peoples had dying and rising Gods. Adonis. Attis. Osiris. Mithras. Tamuz. Dying and rising gods were supposedly a common cultural convention, and, said the mythicists, our stories about Jesus were invented to fit the patterns of the DARG convention.

Eventually, enthusiasm for the dying and rising God theory fizzled out, supposedly for lack of evidence, although scholarly prejudice contributed. I myself don't morn its fizzulation. The evidence for a DARG convention is thin, and the whole thing seems too clever by half.

Christianity- borrowing-from-Paganism-wise, the DARG business is unnecessary. You don't need myth-by-myth DARG parallels to see that the Jesus stories fit nicely with ancient culture's pervasive religious conception of the world.

At POCM we are NOT talking about Christianity's Pagan origins as another example of a DARG cultural convention.

Borrowing IS adopting ideas common to the culture
Go shopping for the healthful and refreshing beverage Mountain Dew, and up on the grocery shelf you'll see a number of drinks that are pretty similar to Dew. Sugar water drinks. Fizzy drinks. In aluminum cans. Twelve ounce cans. With pop tops.

Did the fine people at Mountain create Dew by copying the idea of putting fizzy sugar water in a twelve-ounce pop-top aluminum can from anyone in particular? From Coke? From Pepsi? Fanta? No they didn't. Fizzy sugar water in a twelve-ounce pop-top aluminum can is soda. The idea of soda is part of our culture. Dew looks like all the other soda drinks, not because it is a direct copy of any one of them, but because our modern culture has the idea of soda, and Dew is just another one. When a modern person makes a new soda, these are the things we put in.


At POCM, that's what "borrowing" is.
Borrowing just means "Accepting and incorporating the ideas of your culture," or, "Absorbing the ideas of your culture."

POCM isn't about a sneaky ancient conspiracy. I haven't uncovered the hidden key to the True Meaning of the bible. POCM's answer is simple and pedestrian: Christianity was the social product of its time and place. It didn't invent its core concepts —heaven, hell, souls, eternal life, miracles, prophecies, angels, Gods, sons of God, walking talking godmen, etc.—it got them from the culture in which it developed. When ancient people made a new religion, these are the things they put in.

By the way: Different

Is Dew different from Coke? Sure. Coke is dark; Dew is light. Coke's can is red; Dew's is green. Coke tastes like ... Coke. Dew tastes like Dew. But Dew and Coke are both sodas.

Our idea "soda" describes only some features of a drink—fizzy sugar water in a can. Other features are not part of the "soda" concept—flavor, color, can color, price, etc. This means that every soda is different from every other soda. Coke is different from Pepsi, is different from Fanta, is different from Dew.

Jesus' apologists like to imagine that Jesus is not a Pagan God because Jesus is different is some detail or other from other Pagan Gods. We'll talk about this more later.

Up till now POCM has simply laid out the facts. You've seen the evidence, directly from the pens of the ancients themselves. Before slavery, demons, godmen, heaven, hell, miracles, prophecies, and God, sons of God, salvation, etc. became part of Christianity, they were all parts of other ancient religions.

's Reasons section is about what those facts mean, Christianity-borrowing-from-Paganism-wise. I know you don't care what I believe, so the point is not for me to type out my opinion. Instead, we'll use the work of scholars and Jesus' apologists to list the possible explanations of all those Pagan Christian similarities. Then we'll see which explanations are comprehensive and consistent.

Why "comprehensive and consistent"? Because if an explanation isn't comprehensive, it can't explain all the facts. And if it isn't consistent, then it contradicts itself. Theories that can't explain the facts, or that contradict themselves are not to be believed.

1. Comprehensive: explaining all the facts
Chances are, back when you started POCM, the only ancient religion you knew any definite facts about was Christianity. Because you had nothing to compare it to, Christianity naturally looked unique. Now you've read POCM's Facts sections and you know lots of stuff about lots of ancient religions. Now you know ancient religions, Christian and Pagan, shared ideas.

We want to explain all the facts. We want to explain more than just Christianity had a miracle working, prophecy fulfilling godman, and salvation, and heaven and hell, and initiation rituals, and dreams, and demons, etc.; we want to explain how lots of religions back then had those things. We want to explain how Christianity and Dionysus-ism, and Isis-ism, and Mithras-ism, and Adonis-ism, and Eleusis-ism had miracle working, prophecy fulfilling godmen (and goddessgals), and salvation, and heaven and hell, and initiation rituals, and dreams, and demons, etc.

Explanations that are not comprehensive can not explain all the facts. Theories that are unable to explain the facts are not to be believed.

2. Consistent: not contradicting ourselves
We're looking for an analysis that gives the same answer every time it's applied to similar sets of facts. If we reason that this fact about Jesus implies that conclusion about Jesus, then a similar fact about Osiris should imply the same conclusion about Osiris. Otherwise the difference between Jesus and Osiris is not the facts about J and M, the difference is that we rigged our analysis to make similar facts lead to different conclusions.

How this works is maybe not clear. Let me 'splain...


Does the need for consistency sound far fetched? It isn't. It comes up a lot. Checking for consistency is a good way to spot reasoning that sounds good at first, but that when you think harder turns out not to work. Take for example the apologists' Difference Proves No Borrowing Rule: Christianity is different in some detail from Paganism, therefore Christianity did not borrow from Paganism.

Judgment before Osiris, c. 1400 BC  

The ADPNoB rule is the go-to argument filling up many famous "refutations" of Christianity's Pagan origins. It works like this: The religion about Jesus--the walking, talking, miracle working godman who died and came back to life and lives in heaven where he judges the dead—didn't borrow from the older religion about Osiris--the walking, talking, miracle working godman who died and came back to life and lives in heaven where he judges the dead—because those forty days Jesus came back to life on Earth, before he went to heaven, are missing from the Osiris story. That one difference proves no borrowing happened at all, not one teensy bit. That's what "scholars" say. I am not making this up.

To be clear, apologists say the ADPNoB rule works like this:

Fact: The stories about Jesus are different in some detail from the stories about Osiris.

Conclusion: Jesus was not borrowed from Osiris.




AD Nock
BM Metzger
Ron Nash
JZ Smith

Let's see if the apologists believe their own ADPNoB rule. We'll test the rule by applying it not to Christianity and Osiris-ism, but to Christianity and Judaism. Lets list the first few facts that come to mind:

The Christian three-headed God is different from Judaism's one-headed God.

Christian salvation is different from Jewish salvation.

Christian baptism is different from Jewish baptism.

The Christian Eucharist is different from Judaism's Eucharist—does Judaism even have baptism and a Eucharist?

By the way

The very smart, very educated, very famous arch apologist Reverend Bruce Manning Metzger made a very big deal out of differences. He never met a Pagan-Christian similarity he couldn't look at closely enough to discover a difference in some detail or another. Proving, he imagined, that Christianity didn't borrow ideas from Paganism.

Apply the apologists' Any-Difference-Proves-No-Borrowing rule to these facts, and you reach this conclusion: Christianity is free from the taint of Jewish origins.

Now, people argue about how much Christianity inherited from Judaism, but no one argues it got nothing from Judaism. The ADPNoB rule has taken us to a conclusion that is wrong.

Let's recap. Our search for consistency led us to apply the ADPNoB rule to a different pair of ancient religions, and when we did that we discovered the ADPNoB rule gives an answer that is wrong. Silly. The ADPNoB rule itself does not work. The rule does not work. The conclusions suggested by the rule can not be trusted.

In the apologists' ADPNoB analysis of Jesus and Osiris, the real difference between Jesus and Osiris isn't the basic facts about the two walking, talking, miracle working godmen who died, came back to life, and now live in heaven where they judge the dead. The real difference comes from the simple fact that the ADPNoB analysis is rigged so that overwhelmingly similar sets of facts are imagined to be unrelated.

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.


This need for an analysis to be consistent is a key feature of POCM's theory. I flat don't know of any non-magical analysis—any set of criteria for deciding what they-all-had-'em ancient religious ideas are original and which aren't—that can give an answer other than that Christianity and Paganism are the same, where-their-religious-ideas-came-from-wise. This may be the most convoluted sentence I have ever typeulated.


Greggy's Guesses

You'll see later that my guess is that like other ancient religions, Christianity had daemons, miracles, Gods, godmen, heaven, hell, etc., and that that means Christianity picked those ideas up from the culture around it.

I say it, but you shouldn't believe it—unless my reasoning also works in other similar situations. Unless, for example I say the other ancient religions, Dionysus-ism, Mithras-ism, Attis-ism, Osiris-ism, etc., all picked up their similar ideas from the culture around them, rather than that they all invented heaven, hell, godmen, daemons, etc., all on their own.

POCM's analysis does say each of these religions borrowed—absorbed—their ideas from the culture around them. POCM's analysis is comprehensive and consistent.     Hurray Greg! Hurray!

  What other people think about POCM  

Your site certainly demonstrates that you are better educated than this sorry lot. (I won't speculate if they exceed you in other virtues, but it is certainly possible.) But, in the world of people with the requisite intellectual and technical skills to make sound and convincing arguments on this topic, you are an ant, and your work laughable.

Tim Spalding   

Good Books for this section

Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism
by Franz Cumont

What you'll find:

The history of how middle eastern Gods (the Great Mother, Cybele, Ma-Bellona, Men, Judaism, Sabazius, Anahita, etc. ) came to worshiped in Rome.

Why they came to Rome.

SEE! how religious borrowing actually happened in the Roman empire!

A NEW FEATURE: A scholarly and handsome reader Kicks POCM's Ass

< YOUR brainiac opinion here! >

Can you KPA?