The Jesus myth Position sees Jesus a fictional character largely based upon pagan figures from mythology. It is said that these figures are dying/rising savior gods, born of virgin births and thus each forms a pattern for the fictional Jesus of Nazareth. A typical expression of this view is made below:
"I could take saviors like Krishna, saviors like Osiris, saviors like Dionysus, saviors like Tammuz, who presumably lived centuries and centuries before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly lived, and they were born of virgins, they worked miracles, they died, most of them through crucifixion, and they were resurrected from the dead, and their followers were zealous for them." (Geisler-Till debate, 1994)
The most important point to make here is that when one uses actual mythology books and not books written by "mythers," that is books by scholars talking about mythology for its own sake, not trying to prove a point about Christianity one way or the other, the similarities vanish.
Let's examine these claims, and I'm going to use mostly secular, classical or pro-pagan sources to show:
1) Calling them all "saviors" distorts the evidence
None of them are saviors in the manner of Jesus Christ They are all heroes, so they all saved people in some sense. Some of them did offer eternal life to their followers so we can look at that latter. But none of them are saviors in the sense of dying for the sins of the world.
2) "Presumably lived..." is a big distortion, no proof that they did live.
A few of them may have been based on actual people. In fact the Greek Herakles (Hercules) was probably two people fussed together into myth from two different times in history (Charles Seltman, the Twelve Olympians, Thomas Y. Corwell company: 1962, p.175-177). But there is nowhere near the kind of documentation for this that there is for Jesus. We have no writings of anyone who claimed to have known Herakles, we have no writings that even approximate eyewitness testimony, we have no proof that he existed at all. No body of his teachings, not even one saying by him has come down to us through history. Everything about him is totally speculative or mythological. And this is also true for every single figure mentioned; it is probable that Mithra was a real figure, or based upon a real figure but we have no way of knowing. Osiris was pure mythology and we have no idea who he might be based upon, it may be a good guess that Krishna was a real figure at one time, but we know nothing about any of these characters that is not purely mythological.
3) "They were born of Virgins" actually none of them were.
This is a tricky one. Some of these figures were not even claimed to have been produced by Virgins. Others, it depends. That is, none of them were produced without the benefit of sexual contact. For some, such as Herakles that contact came between the mother and god, the mother may never have "known" a mortal man, and so in a technical sense is a 'virgin' but she not conceived without benefit of sexual contact. Jesus Christ was so conceived. The notion of the "Virginal conception" does not say that God was Mary's lover, Mary did not have sex with God, when the Holy Spirit "came upon her" it was more like artificial insemination, not sexual contact. And none of these "saviors" were touted as products of "virginal conceptions" as part of their theological doctrine.
In Raymond E. Brown's highly respected work on the Birth Narratives of Jesus, he evaluates these non-Christian "examples" of virgin births and his conclusions are as follows:
"Among the parallels offered for the virginal conception of Jesus have beneath conceptions of figures in world religions (the Buddha, Krishna, and those of Zoroaster), in Greco-Roman mythology (Presses, Romulus), in Egyptian and Classical History (the Pharaohs, Alexander, Augusts), and among famous philosophers or religious thinkers (Plato, Apologias of Tyana), to name only a few.
"Are any of these divinely engendered births really parallel to the non-sexual virginal conception of Jesus described in the NT, where Mary is not impregnated by a male deity or element, but the child is begotten through the creative power of the Holy Spirit? These "parallels" consistently involve a type of hieros gamos (note: "holy seed" or "divine semen") where a divine male, in human or other form, impregnates a woman, either through normal sexual intercourse or through some substitute form of penetration. In short, there is no clear example of virginal conception in world or pagan religions that plausibly could have given first-century Jewish Christians the idea of the virginal conception of Jesus." (The Birth of the Messiah, by Raymond E. Brown, Doubleday: 1993: 522-523) From a much less sympathetic perspective, the history-of-religions scholar David Adams Lemming (writing in EOR, s.v. "Virgin Birth") begins his article by pointing out that all 'virgin births' are NOT necessarily such:
"A virgin is someone who has not experienced sexual intercourse, and a virgin birth, or parthenogenesis (Gr., parthenos, "virgin"; genesis," birth"), is one in which a virgin gives birth. According to this definition, the story of the birth of Jesus is a virgin birth story whereas the birth of the Buddha and of Orphic Dionysus are not. Technically what is at issue is the loss or the preservation of virginity during the process of conception. The Virgin Mary was simply "found with child of the Holy Ghost "before she was married and before she had "known" a man. So, too, did the preexistent Buddha enter the womb of his mother, but since she was already a married woman, there is no reason to suppose she was a virgin at the time. In the Orphic story of Dionysus, Zeus came to Persephone in the form of a serpent and impregnated her, so that the maiden's virginity was technically lost."4) "They worked miracles" As mythical figures they did "amazing thing" but none went about healing the sick.
None of the figures that Till mentions above were miracle workers in the sense of Jesus. They did not Rome the country healing people or praying over fish and loaves in order to supernaturally expand one meal into a repast for several thousand people. Mythological events follow them, thus when Mithras kills the Bull wheat springs from its tale. But of course, it is mythology. They were not flesh and blood people whom eye witnesses saw heal the sick. That did not happen in the case of any of these figures.
5) "They died, most of them through crucifixion" This is an outright lie, no credible source shows any of these being crucified.
None of the figures that he names died through crucifixion. Some of them became associated with the cross through pagan borrowing after the time of Christ, but in the pure mythical content of their stories none of them were crucified.
6) "They were Resurrected from the dead" this claim is true of some but not all, and even of those not in the manner of Christ.
None of them were seen by real flesh and blood eye witnesses after their deaths. In stories of Dionysus he does come back to life, but only in a mythology and only in relation to dying rising of nature cycles. see below. And not all of them came back to life.
Note on Dec. 25 as Birth of "Saviors"
I can find no record of any mention of the date of birth of any of these figures. More importantly, even though Achyra S and Kane both say that every one of these figures was born on Dec.25, it never says that in the Gospels! Therefore, even if it were true, it would contribute nothing to the "Jesus Story" because we know that the celebration of his birth on Dec. 25 came at least three centuries after the Gospels were written. Christmas probably was laid over a Pagan holiday to give former Pagans a change to celebrate something on their old fest day.
Direct Examination of "Saviors" Proves Similarities Nonexistent.
Most of the alleged similarities between the Jesus story and pagan dying-rising gods are blown out of proportion for skeptical polemic. The far more sophisticated arguments are made by people such as Kirsop Lake(the 19th century Christian liberal theologian). They consist of little details, minute similarities in wording and phraseology, such as has been dealt with above. But many Internet skeptics are not subtle, they go for the big victory and the cheap analysis. It has been claimed by many of these skeptics (Farrell Till for one) that a host of gods from pagan myth were sons of god, born of virgins, and sacrificed as atonement and rose from the dead. In addition there are some small claims in the telling of the story, such as Christ being laid in a manger, which was supposedly done with Dionysus as well. These claims are, in the main, quite false. Let's examine them.
Moreover any sort of identities for these figures would be impossible to track, because they are always changing identities; the family members change from story to story, parents and children and their relationships change form store to store, and the gods merge; Osiris is linked to Dionysus and so on (Marvin M. Meyer, (editor) The Ancient Mysteries : A Source Book , San Francisco: Harper, 1987, pp.170-171).
Let's examine specific figures from real mythology books.page 2