Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Were the claims of Christianity unique in the first century

I just finished listening to Rob Bell in sermon 399 from Mars Hill Bible Church. In it, he says that the claims of Christianity were not that unique from the other religious claims from that day. The main god from the Roman Empire was Mithra who was born of a virgin in a cave, was worshiped by shepherds, had 12 followers, had something to do with life and death being conquered, and originated around 600 BC. The myth of Attis originated around 200 BC. Some of the beliefs include that he was born of a virgin, , was hung on a tree, and rose from the dead. Another, the Adonis religion, originated around 200 BC, born of a virgin, was referred to as the son of god, and his followers believed he died to save humankind. Horace, an Egyptian god, was born of Isis who was a virgin, the legend originated around 1500 BC, he died from a crucifixion, and when he was a child foreign kings brought him gifts. When Caesar died, there was a comet and twelve people came forward to say that they saw this comet and Caesar’s followers said that of course they saw a comet because it was Julius, because he was the son of god, rising from the dead and ascending to the right hand of the god in heaven. So, if in the first century you said, “my God was born of a virgin and rose from the dead”, you might get a response like, “sweet man! Mine too!” The claims of the Christian faith simply were not that unique or original. Everybody’s god had risen from the dead. So, Paul writes in Corinthians saying that he didn’t come with persuasive words, but in humility with a demonstration of God’s power.

Have you heard anything like this? I have heard that the claims of Christianity are very unique when compared to the other religions. Maybe many other claims are unique, but those mentioned above are not?

One well respected biblical scholar told me that this was simply hogwash. He said that there was an inscription found in a Roman cave of a person with a donkey’s head being crucified. He said this was done because the Romans thought the Christian religion was so stupid and even Paul said that the unspiritual would think that someone hanging on a cross to save humanity was foolishness. He also said that Christianity was very different from other religions because it is the only one that doesnt make you earn your status. While I fully agree with that final statement, it still doesnt speak to the other claims like virgin birth, where he was born, who visited him, and how many followers he had.

As I researched this, I found this website, and this article written by a preacher turned atheist.

I first posted this with the third paragraph as the end. Then, I wanted to add in some links to the names of Attis, Adonis, and Mithra. First, I realized that I had all of those names spelled wrong. Secondly, I found that there is a ton of info on the net about these religions being very similar to Christianity and even more general info on those gods in general. Even the early church fathers commented on this very thing. This post was at first going to be just throwing up the question to see if anyone had heard of this stuff. Now, I see that it is all over the internet and I cant believe I have been in church for all of my life, have a BA in Bible, and am half way through a Masters Degree in Divinity and I have never heard this stuff. Let me make this clear to any of you out there that are Rob Bell haters...he totally believes in Jesus and his point in all of this was to get Christians to live more like Jesus would have them to and less like we have been living. The whole point of the message was that we should be demonstrating the power of the gospel, announcing that this is the kingdom of God coming to earth, and then if they want to hear more, fine, and if not, shake the dust off and move on.

So, I go on to more discussion on this and I hope you will join me.