all Natal it’s the same patacoada. There’s always some know-it-all internet (that race capable of surviving 50 pandemics, three pressed on the red button in Putin’s arsenal and the zombie apocalypse) to repeat the very same litany about the birthday boy of the day.
“Did you know that this business of being born on December 25th, from a virgin mother, in a cave and surrounded by shepherds and wise men is not exclusive to Jesus?”, says our web genius, doctor by UniSofá. “All this also happened to Osiris, Mitra, Horus, Dionysus and Adonis, among others gods of ancient mythologies🇧🇷 The myth of Christ is a mere plagiarism of other divine figures.”
A nonsense repeated a thousand times inevitably starts to ring true to the unwary, and that’s what we’re talking about here, gentle reader. The relationship between the narratives of the new testament about the life of Jesus and the historical facts is very complicated and difficult to elucidate, but one thing we can categorically state: the parallels with these gods are nothing more than a forcible.
For starters, a pagan god’s date of birth wasn’t the kind of thing registered in antiquity, and even vague mentions of the time of year when the aforementioned deities would have been born don’t usually appear in ancient sources. In any case, none of them had a birthday on December 25th.
Second, none of the accounts of these supposed “original Christs” say that they were born of a virgin who became pregnant through a spiritual mechanism such as that cited in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. In general, such figures are the product of sexual relations between a couple of gods, or between a god and a mortal girl.
(In the case of Horus, the falcon-headed Egyptian god, things are a little more exotic: his father, Osiris, had been murdered and chopped to smithereens by his brother, the evil Set. The goddess Isis, wife of Osiris , had to reassemble and reanimate her husband’s body before doing sex with him and conceive Horus.)
You might have already guessed how the conversation would go on if we had space, in a short column like this one, to talk about the other details. There are even cases where comparison is not even possible. In that of Mithra, a Roman god of Persian inspiration, there is no detailed “biography”, only iconography and sparse texts; in that of Dionysus, one has to ask which one, since the classical texts speak of three different deities with that name.
No serious historian doubts that Jesus ever existed — which is not to say that his birth narratives don’t have mythical resonances. However, in general, the inspiration comes from the Jewish tradition itself. the evil of King Herodthe “slaughter of the innocents” and the flight of Mary, Joseph and Jesus into Egyptfor example, help portray Christ as a new Moses, a figure who goes through similar predicaments in the book of Exodus, in the Old testment🇧🇷 The first Christian generations were much more interested in the Hebrew Bible than they were in Osiris and Dionysus.
A quick PS: for those who still find the idea that Jesus is a purely mythical and not a historical character seductive, I recommend reading “Did Jesus exist or not?”, by the American historian Bart Ehrman. The book is a lesson on how to interpret ancient sources using the scientific method, not guesswork.
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