Is Christianity Just Another Ancient Myth?

Is Christianity just like every other ancient myth

The life of a Christian college student can be rough at times. Today we are bombarded with messages that treat a belief in God as if it were unreasonable. Sharing that you believe in God can automatically cause people to deem you as simple-minded, superstitious, and naive.

Maybe you have well founded reasons to believe in a God. Maybe you’ve even spent countless hours looking for answers, and have come to the conclusion that in order for such a delicate system of life to possibly exist on this planet there must be a Creator… Even so, chances are pretty high that you will still encounter some people who will assume that you only believe in God because your parents told you to do so.

But is Christianity so incredibly far-fetched that any reasonable man should disregard it? Does logic make mocking Christians justifiable? Have all the geniuses in our nation’s history been atheists? Does science offer concrete evidence that disproves God?

Obviously we can’t tackle every aspect of those arguments in one post. Before moving on, however, I encourage you to check out the video below. It does a great job of answering some of the questions above.

In this post, however, we are going to narrow the topic down to a much more specific argument. I’ve encountered a few variations of this claim over the years, and I feel that it’s a good question that both believers and non-believers ought to think about it.

How do you respond when someone claims that:

  1. “Christianity is an ancient myth just like every other religion.” Or…
  2. “Christianity shares common themes with tons of other religions throughout history.”

To some degree (aside from the claim that Christianity is a myth) the atheist is very correct. As Donald J. Johnson discusses in the book How to Talk to a Skeptic, Christianity does, in fact, share several common themes with other ancient religions. The problem arises, however, when we make an assumption about the conclusion that these common themes lead to.

Similar Themes Between Christianity and Other Religions

There is certainly no shortage of similarities between Christianity and other opposing ancient religions. One of the most fascinating of these similarities is the mention of a great flood on the earth.  In her article entitled Flood Myths in the Religions of the Ancient WorldAngela Kay Harris notes that there are accounts of a catastrophic flood in:

  • The account of Noah in Genesis
  • The story of Gilgamesh
  • Tales of Tiamat and Marduk
  • A song from the Chinese Miao

These are only a few accounts of ancient stories that have claims to some sort of catastrophic flood. In How to Talk to a Skeptic, Johnson explains that there are also similarities in the way that earth (dirt) is considered to be the womb that man is born from and water is commonly seen as a symbol for death and rebirth. In addition to all of this, Johnson notes that there are many stories of a hero that faces death in order to rescue those who are without hope.

In Jesus and the Religions of Man, David Marshall points out that:

  • Orpheus went to Hades so that he could rescue a lost love
  • Saint Miao Shan, a Chinese Buddhist, freed prisoners who were chained up in the underworld
  • Isis saved Osiris from death

Similarly, Christians believe in the Son of God who walked with men upon the earth, was crucified, paid the penalty for sin, rose from the dead, conquered death, made a way for the world to have a relationship with God, and saved humanity.

Clearly the core of Christian belief has some similarities to other ancient religions. But what does this mean for Christians? 

 Why Does Christianity Have Similarities to Other Ancient Beliefs?

In How to Talk to a Skeptic, Johnson expounds on the conclusion that these similarities often lead to. Other ancient myths are known to be untrue. They are regarded as ignorant fables made up by ancient people who wanted to understand the unknown elements of the universe. Therefore, if these ancient myths are untrue, and Christianity has many similarities to these myths, Christianity must also be untrue. It may seem logical then to place Christianity in the category of “fanciful ancient beliefs intended to answer life’s unknown questions.”

Johnson also explains that just because a story has some similarities to other untrue tales, that doesn’t automatically mean that it is also false. Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in Beijing, which sounds like a script you’d find in a Disney movie. Michael Phelps victory sounds miraculous, so miraculous, in fact, that it would probably make a pretty bad movie. It is so far-fetched, people couldn’t connect. But as we all know, Michael Phelps victory is a real historical event.

Miraculous events happen all the time.  In addition to this, while many of the elements of other ancient beliefs are known to be untrue, it is wrong to assume that these people got everything wrong. God can reveal Himself to people in many ways. Even Biblical scriptures have accounts of pagan people who had knowledge about the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus.

Therefore, Johnson asserts, just because the people in ancient myths didn’t have the full picture, doesn’t mean that they had absolutely every detail incorrect. If they did have absolutely everything wrong, and all of these stories came from nothing more than the imaginations of men who were trying to explain the unexplained, then why do these stories have common themes at all? Shouldn’t all of the stories be completely different if they weren’t inspired by anything more than the limits of man’s imagination?

Some skeptics might still argue that the themes found in other religious beliefs are far too similar to Christianity to be a coincidence. They would suggest that Christianity was formed by borrowing elements from other religions. One example the skeptic might use is the pagan religion of Mithra.

Matt Slick writes about this controversial topic in this article on Carm.org. Slick points out that according to the religion of Mithraism:

  • Mithra was born of a virgin
  • Had disciples
  • Was crucified
  • Rose from the dead
  • Atoned for sins
  • Returned to heaven

Slick goes on to explain that Christianity doesn’t need any outside source in order to form it’s doctrines, because Christian doctrines already exist in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is older than pagan myths, so if anyone is borrowing from someone else, it’s the pagans. For a list of New Testament themes that are found in the Old Testament, follow this link.

Slick also points out that the individuals who gave accounts of Jesus in the New Testament were Jews, or under Jewish instruction, and were highly committed to the Old Testament. It would have been blasphemous to throw in a bunch of elements from other religions.

Finally, in The Best of Josh McDowell: A Ready Defense, a book compiled by Bill Wilson, it is pointed out that the claims of “rebirth” found in Mithraism all came after Christianity was already established.

What Set’s Christianity Apart

With all this talk of similarities, you may be wondering what is different about Christianity. Does anything make Christianity stand out from the crowd?

There are plenty of unique features about Christianity, one of which is its incredible tendency to fulfill Old Testament prophecies with remarkable accuracy. You can read more about that here.

Other religions strive to understand an unknown God, but Christians have experienced God’s own Son walking among us. God came to us. Ancient prophecies predicted this, and modern history confirms this.

So don’t let yourself fall into confusion the next time someone places the God that you have a personal relationship with in the same category as the Easter Bunny. Show these people love, and explain to them why you believe the things that you do.

Ancient myths don’t deny the existence of God. Instead, these ancient myths actually help to confirm the existence of a God in whom people in the past (who likely had at least some revelation of the truth) were trying to understand. Christianity reveals the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promises, and offers a way to enter into a relationship with Him.

Love you guys, and praying for you!

-Caleb

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Is Christianity just like every other ancient myth?

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Below is the Photo Source for “Is Christianity the same as every other ancient myth?” These artist(s) do not necessarily share my viewpoints, but have kindly released their work under a creative commons licence. Follow the links below to find the original artists and copyright license:

Jesus Painting – Travis S.

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