Does the Bible borrow from myths?


(RZIM Connect Member) #1

Hi Simon,

Thank you for being available to answer our questions. I recently had a discussion with a man who does not believe the Bible to be truthful or accurate because he feels like “they” are hiding something by removing the Apocrypha. I asked him what he thought they were hiding, and he said the story of Lilith - which is not actually in any of the apocryphal books, as far as I can tell? He also contends that the story of Jesus parallels that of several ancient myths, but particularly that of Horus, who was aparently the son of a god who sent him as a sacrifice to bring peace between the gods and man. Since this myth predates the writing of the Bible, he feels that the Bible was taken from these ancient myths and is really nothing more than that. Do you have any experience or knowledge of these ancient myths that “predate” the Bible and how do you discuss them with unbelievers?

Ask Simon Edwards (October 2-6, 2017)
(Simon Edwards) #2


It sound like you’ve been able to have some good discussions with people. I find that very encouraging!

One of the wonderful things about Christianity is that it cannot be written off simply as myth. When you read about the life of Jesus in the Bible it becomes clear, very quickly, that Jesus is nothing like the gods of myth and legend whose stories and exploits have no contact with human history. Why is that? Because Jesus actually lived in a place we can visit at a time in history we can study. When we read the Bible we read of Herod, Judea, Ceasar Augustus, Roman empire. These are Real people. Real places. Real events. Real history!

At a popular level though, I often meet people who are genuinely surprised to discover that Jesus Christ even really existed. But he did and in fact no serious scholar doubts it.

In 2013 Time Magazine published an article in which they ranked in order the people who have had the biggest influence in our world. They wrote that according to their panel of experts, of all the people who have ever walked the face of this planet, this Jewish carpenter from Nazareth named Jesus has left the biggest historical footprint in the world. Bigger than any other person who has ever existed.

Now, this historical fact alone requires explanation. How is it that the most influential person who has ever lived is Jesus of Nazareth? Because Jesus wasn’t wealthy, he wasn’t powerful, he never travelled that far from home and he was killed when he was only 33 years old. And of course his execution on a Roman cross should have spelt the complete end of of any movement he was trying to bring about.

What you have there is the beginning of a great conversation about the reality of Christianity. Something extraordinary must have happened between Jesus’ death and the explosive growth of the early church. It did! The resurrection. And for those who are willing to investigate the historical evidence, there is extremely compelling evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Clearly, the same cannot be said for any resurrection myth.

But what about ancient myths that have corresponding themes of a god dying and rising again? What are we to make of those?

CS Lewis addresses this question in his book Mere Christianity. His answer (which I happen to think is a very good answer!) was that those stories exist in our literature because they speak of the human heart’s longings for sacrifice, resurrection and redemption. And those heart longings are there for a reason. They point us to the God who stepped into human history to fulfil them. For Lewis, it was this universal fascination with the dying/rising/saving God myth that made Christianity so convincing. It doesn’t copy them. It explains them!

Regarding the story of Lillith, you’re right, its not in the apocrypha, its not in any of the books of the Bible. It’s from some Semitic folklore, origins somewhat obscure. Bit of a red herring I would say. With respect to his comments about Christians hiding something regarding the Bible, I would point out that the Bible has been subjected to more critical scholarship and scrutinty then any other book in history and that it passes every test that historians can throw at an ancient document with flying colours. There’s nothing to hide. If there was, scholars would be talking about it!

Perhaps the next question to ask your friend is: have you actually read any of the Gospels about the life of Jesus Christ and if not, would you like to?

Praying your future conversations go well!

(Kay Kalra) #3