Five ways to evaluate false claims that Christianity was influenced by paganism and other religions
"Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian god Mithras - called the Son of God and the Light of the World - was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 was also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh." - The Da Vinci Code
The above passage from the Da Vinci Code contains several allegations that Christianity stole from, borrowed from, or was influenced by, various pagan beliefs, concepts and rituals. These claims can be proven to be false. Here are five ways to evaluate these claims, and other like them:
1. First, consider whether an allegation, even if it were true, would actually matter.
Some allegations are inconsequential. For example, the Da Vinci Code implies that Christians stole the practice of celebrating Dec. 25 from pagans. Even if this were true, it wouldn't matter, because the tradition of celebrating Christmas has not changed the theology of Christianity. In fact, the reverse is true: The theology of Christianity changed the traditions involving Dec. 25.
2. Does the allegation include an attribution, citation or source?
Often, there are no historical sources to support many allegations. For example, in regards to the novel's claims, as shown at the top of this page: "Mithraic studies do not find any attribution of the titles 'Son of God' or 'Light of the World,' as Brown claims. There is also no mention of a death-resurrection motif in Mithraic mythology. ... There is not a single story in actual Hindu mythology of Krishna being presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh at his birth." - de-coding Da Vinci: The facts behind the fiction of The Da Vinci Code, by Amy Welborn.
3. Does the allegation involve a meaningful similarity between paganism and Christianity?
Some scholars, including Farrell Till, editor of the Skeptical Review, claim that Osiris, an ancient Egyptian god, died and was resurrected, and had thousands of believers, long before the time of Jesus. The implication is that the New Testament writers could have stolen the idea of a resurrected savior from paganism. But the details of Osiris' death and "resurrection" are very different from Christianity. Osiris was murdered by his brother, divided up into 14 pieces and scattered. His wife re-assembled him and he was revived, but only within the realm of the netherworld.
4. If there is a similar belief in Christianity and another religion, who had it first?
Consider this example. Is Hinduism older than Christianity? Yes. Does Hinduism include a belief in a divine trinity? Yes, according to the claims of some people. Therefore Christianity stole - or could have stolen - the idea of a divine trinity from Hinduism? No. Within the Hindu religion, there is something called a Trimurti, which refers to a relationship between three Hindu deities. This "trinity," as some people refer to it, has been carelessly been compared to Christianity's Holy Trinity. In fact, an entry in an online encyclopedia, at wikipedia.org, formerly stated that Christianity stole the idea from Hinduism. But, the Trimurti didn't exist until many centuries after the establishment of Christianity. (See, for example, Catholic scholar J.P. Arendzen's article at http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1992/9207clas.asp).
5. And, most importantly, can the Christian belief be traced back to the Old Testament?
If a Christian belief, whether it involves the nature of sin or salvation, or a specific event in the life of Jesus, can be traced back to the Old Testament, then there is no need to suspect or conclude that it was "borrowed" from a pagan source. With that in mind, try finding a single detail in the New Testament that doesn't have roots in the Old Testament.
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