Is the Bible Pagan?
The audacity of even asking this question is likely to upset more than a few people. But others do feel the need for confirmation that the Bible was Divinely inspired and not just a recycled collection of old legends.
If the writers of the Bible were inspired by Paganism, even slightly, that would mean they were not wholly inspired by God.
Is blind faith enough? Or is there proof of the Bible's authenticity?
Stories in the Bible provoke the question: Was there really Divine inspiration?
Were not pre-biblical understandings of the world's creation, the flood, the tower of Babel, and so on, simply older stories adapted by the Jews? Wasn't Genesis plagiarized from older Mesopotamian (Iraqi) sources?
God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Subsequently, the seventh day (Sabbath) became the day of religious observance. Isn't it odd that seven is a very pagan number? Isn't it odd that there were the same number of Apostles (twelve) as signs of the Zodiac?
For sure, you could take almost any part of the Bible and show it in a Pagan light. Or show it's all about the Pastafarian flying spaghetti monster, if that's what you want to 'prove'. (See also Pagan items adopted by Christians)
Let's take a look at some of the important bits:
North American Iroquois Indians believed the world and the universe were created by the Great Turtle. On the other side of the world, the Aborigines believed the great Father of All Spirits gave the sleeping Sun Mother a nudge to get things going. And just about every culture in between has its own version of the Story of Creation.
Nobody was around to actually witness creation of course - mankind came along after the world began. But each culture, each civilisation, has its own way of explaining the beginning. And the commonality of these explanations is astounding. When looked at closely, they are practically identical under the surface of the various cultural facades.
For Creationists, the consistency of these creation stories comes of no surprise, since we have not evolved by random chance.
Writers of the Bible did not need to plagiarize the account of creation; they knew it already. God had planted the same explanation in their minds that He had planted in the minds of the Iroquois, Aborigines, and everybody else.
Gustave Doré's "The Deluge"(Click image to enlarge)
The Bible's story of Noah is uncannily like that of Xisuthros, whose 'ark' came to rest atop a mountain following a global flood.
Zeus also released a devastating deluge on the Greeks, and the Hindu Manu (Adam), the very first king to rule the world, landed his ark on a mountain top after the 'flood of all floods'. Da Yu did a similar job in China to save the world from being flushed away forever; Bergelmir was the 'Noah' of the Norse, and Viracocha made things pretty damp for the South American Inca.
All around the world, as with Creation, just about every culture has a story about a catastrophic flood and an ark boarded by animals, two by two. (See Marriot Edgar's light-hearted story of The 'Ole in the Ark)
The Virgin Birth
Pagans are quick to point out that Jesus was not the first to be born of a Virgin.
The gods Adonis, Bacchus, Horus and Hercules also had virgin mothers. But since these gods and their virgin mother gods were not human, they don't quite match the miracle of the human Jesus being born of the human Virgin Mary.
Is trinitarianism also pagan? Certainly that's the view of the Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses and a few others.
Modern Wicca has triple goddesses (Maiden, Mother and Crone).
The magnificent ancient religions had triple gods: Zeus, Poseidon and Hades (Greek); Osiris, Isis and Horus (Egyptian); Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto (Roman); Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (Hindu); Odin, Vili and Ve (Norse); Fu, Lu and Shou (Taoist); and so on.
Yet these bear no resemblance to the biblical Trinity. Triple god worship is 'tritheism', and that is completely different to the single, triune God of the Bible.
This is arguably the most important bit of the Bible.
Let's first go back to the time when man was living in caves and just scratching around wondering about the meaning of life. It wasn't long before stories began circulating about dying and rising gods. Is the story of Christ's Resurrection just a Christian adaptation of these legends?
No, but the ancient stories do have a very important place in Christology.
Greek deities had sons Adonis and Dionysus, the Cypriots had Gauas, and the Egyptians had Osiris. All these gods went through the resurrection process, but note that their following hasn't been on the same scale as Christianity.
Yes, temples were built in their honour and statues adorned palaces then and museums today. But compared to the God of the Hebrews, who is a strictly moral deity and demands moral behaviour of His people, none of the Pagan gods were particularly moral and they have not changed the world in the way that Jesus Christ has done. Could it be that those gods were not real? Could it be that those gods were not the Creator and Saviour of mankind? (See Resurrection Cross)
Christ's resurrection is fundamentally different to Pagan ideas of resurrection. Uniquely, Christ's resurrection is chronicled as an actual event, at a specific time and place. It is not one of those 'Once upon a time' fairy tales.
Man knew he was special in some way, more adaptable than other natural things. He couldn't fly but he was stronger than a bird. He couldn't swim or outrun a buffalo, but he had greater intelligence for things like making a fire and building a boat.
After a hard day's night, we fall asleep. Our consciousness dies and we float into another world for a few hours until we resurrect ourselves. Dreams must have been evidence to early man that there is another dimension, a place we go when we 'die' each night and from which we are reborn the next morning.
It's not difficult to believe that mankind has had some idea of 'resurrection' for a long, long time.
Let's snap back into the present time now, and think about how many times trees are mentioned in the Bible, and how important they are to Pagans.
Trees are loved, whether we are religious or atheist.
- Campaigners heroically chain themselves to trees to prevent them being uprooted
- Today, many hospitals are designed so that patients can view trees from the windows; they recover more quickly
- People not stuck in hospital might travel thousands of miles to see the Biggest Tree In The World
- The stature and endurance of trees makes them popular as living memorials
Trees are loved.
And even before today's tree-huggers, even before we knew trees were soil retainers, moderators of the climate and air-cleaners for our pollution, early Pagans recognised the beauty of trees. They valued the protection from heat, wind and rain, they valued the wood for building and fuel, they valued the fruit to eat. Trees also die yet resurrect themselves from tiny seeds; especially if the tree seeds are given a ceremonial burial.
Resurrection is natural. It appears everywhere we look in the cosmos. No wonder it features strongly in Paganism. (The sexually-confused Attis, for example, was resurrected as a pine tree.)
Sun was certainly revered as a god. Every day it died and all went dark. Then lo and behold, it rose again the next day and all was bright.
At night, man could see the other gods in the starry heavens. They would also die after a few hours, only to be born again the following night.
Did this daily resurrection ingrain itself into our psyche so that we could understand the resurrection of a real God when our intelligence developed? God created everything. He created the imagination we use to interpret the natural world in terms of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Is faith enough to prove the Bible's authenticity?
Anyone who is skeptical and prepared to spend the effort to investigate, can research the abundant archaeological evidence that demonstrates the reality of the events we see in the Bible.
- Prophecies have been fulfilled (hundreds of them)
- Phenomena which was not understood at the time, has since been confirmed by modern science (climatology, biology, physics, oceanography, and so on) even though the writers were not scientists
- Astounding historical accuracy (countless examples)
So those with no faith have empirical proof, if they bother to look.
Christians, on the other hand, have faith and do not need proof. Faith is the basis of a Christian's relationship with God and Christians accept the truth of the Bible on faith. They accept that the Bible is not supposed to be just a history book; on the contrary, it is a book as much about the present and the future as the past.
Where's your faith?
Thix thentimeterth above my neck!
There's no denying that many stories in the Bible also appeared in ancient legends long before the Bible was written. And these stories can be viewed as corroborative evidence that such events actually took place.
There's nothing remarkable about these creation stories, floods, messiahs born of virgins, and so on. Every civilised culture needs a rational explanation for the existence of their world. Indeed, it would be remarkable if there were not older stories similar to the Bible.
The amazing Bible
What is amazing about the Bible is that it is a 'library' of many books. Yet unlike most libraries, not only can the individual books be read, understood and give benefit, they also knit together to form a complete story.
Probably 40 or more people, from all walks of life, wrote the Bible over a span of 1,500 years or longer. The books were written in different styles, different languages on different continents. And yet miraculously there is one consistent theme.
Each writer had no idea that his work would be linked to dozens of other books; books that had been written hundreds of years before, or books that were to be written hundreds of years later. With no collusion, how could each author write their part which would fit so perfectly with other parts, unless they were inspired by one central Authority?
As C J Sharp writes:
If a fragment of stone were found in Italy, another in Asia Minor, another in Greece, another in Egypt, and on and on until sixty-six fragments had been found, and if when put together they fitted perfectly together, making a perfect statue of Venus de Milo, there is not an artist or scientist but would arrive immediately at the conclusion that there was originally a sculptor who conceived and carved the statue. The very lines and perfections would probably determine which of the great ancient artists carved the statue.
Not only the unity of the Scriptures, but their lines of perfection, suggest One far above any human as the real author. That could be no-one but God.
(Shelly, Rubel. 1990. Prepare To Answer
Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, p 114)
No collection of Pagan stories comes even close to the Bible. The cohesion and consistency of the Bible's books cannot be explained by simply random chance.
It is not surprising that this book continues to have such a profound effect on millions of people.