Defending the Theistic View

The Myth of Jesus: A Refutation of the Zeitgeist — Part 11

After making several assertions that Christianity is a plagiarization of pagan gods, myths and religions, Zeitgeist then makes the claim that the earliest Christian apologists were aware of the similarities and that they apparently tried to explain them away,

Justin Martyr, one of the first Christian historians and defenders, wrote: “When we say that he, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was produced without sexual union, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into Heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those who you esteem Sons of Jupiter.” In a different writing, Justin Martyr said “He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you believe of Perseus.”

justin_martyrJustin Martyr was a second century Christian apologist that wrote extensively to defend Christianity from popular demonizing myths. To defend Christianity to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, Justin wrote the the First Apology in which he refuted the myth that Christianity was atheistic and also argued in favor of its superiority to Pagan religions. (After Jesus: The Triumph of Christianity, Page 140)

The first quote that is cited which comes from Justin Martyr is taken from First Apology 21, though I use a different translation than Zeitgeist,

In saying that the Word, who is the first offspring of God, was born for us without sexual union, as Jesus Christ our Teacher, and that he was crucified and died and after rising again ascended into heaven we introduce nothing new beyond [what you say of] those whom you call sons of Zeus.

Justin later lists the sons of Zeus as Hermes, Asclepius (or Asclepios) and Dionysus — There are several problems with his examples, the most prominent one being that none of them were were born without sexual union. 

According to Greek Mythology, the mother of Hermes, Maia “went up into his [Zeus’] holy bed” and afterwards she bore her son.  — As for the second example, the mother of Asclepius, who was named Kronis, was “loved by the god Apollon” and she got pregnant with her child. Asclepius’ birth was just as sexual as yours and mine. He was also the son of Apollon, not of Zeus as seems to be indicated by Justin Martyr. — And as for Dionysis,  in my fourth post I have already disputed the false claim that he was born of a virgin. Zeus has sexual relations in secret with Semele, Dionysus’ mother and that was how he was born.

Interestingly enough, in this particular quote stops right there and ignores what Justin continues to say. He mentions how these Greco-Roman gods are said to have died,

You know how many sons of Zeus the writers whom you honor speak of—Hermes, the hermeneutic Word and teacher of all; Asclepius, who was also a healer and after being struck by lightning ascended into heaven—as did Dionysus who was torn in pieces; Heracles, who to escape his torments threw himself into the fire; the Dioscuri born of Leda and Perseus of Danae; and Bellerophon who, though of human origin, rode on the [divine] horse Pegasus.

This is actually different than what Zeitgeist would have you believe. What the film is doing is giving the impression that Justin was admitting that other Pagan gods were crucified like Jesus. He is clearly saying that they did indeed die, but he gives different details which are unlike the Passion of Jesus. — If Zeitgeist had included this in its quotation of Justin Martyr then it would have demolished its point.

Also, in Chapter 22 of First Apology, Justin makes certain similar statements comparing Jesus to the same Greek gods,

If somebody objects that he was crucified, this is in common with the sons of Zeus, as you call them, who suffered, as previously listed. Since their fatal sufferings are narrated as not similar but different, so his unique passion should not seem to be any worse—indeed I will, as I have undertaken, show, as the argument proceeds, that he was better; for he [Jesus] is shown to be better by his actions.

When one begins to read this, the first part seems to confirm Zeitgeist’s claims that Pagan deities were crucified. However when you read on Justin says that “their fatal sufferings are narrated as not similar but different.” — He goes on to call Jesus’ passion “unique.” In fact, Justin is saying through chapters 21 through 29 that Jesus is superior to the others. The reasons why Zeitgeist didn’t include this quote in the film is obvious: They would have demolished their own case.

— Also, to make matters worse for Zeitgeist’s claims, Justin says point blank (in First Apology 55) that none of these gods was crucified like Jesus.

As for the second quote that Zeitgeist gives (which is from First Apology 22) the film quotes a comparison of Jesus with Perseus,

 If we declare that he [Jesus] was born of a virgin, you should consider this something in common with Perseus.

This quote, like the other, is a favorite of the “Jesus-Myth” crowd. But unfortunately for them, this statement does not hold water when one researches Perseus. — The second century BC Greek historian Apollodorus describes the birth of Perseus (The Library 2,4,1)  as such,

However, she [Danae, Perseus’ mother] was seduced, as some say, by Proetus, whence arose the quarrel between them; but some say that Zeus had intercourse with her in the shape of a stream of gold which poured through the roof into Danae’s lap. When Acrisius afterwards learned that she had got a child Perseus, he would not believe that she had been seduced by Zeus.

The Primary Greek sources clearly say that Danae gave birth to her son, Perseus, through sexual relations. The description of sex may be odd to us, but according to the story it is still sexual. 

So basically, when Justin Martyr claims that Perseus was born of a virgin like Jesus himself as he implies is the case with other gods, he is actually exaggerating the whole thing. The primary Greek sources actually say the opposite. — So much for Jesus-Mythers that use these passages by Justin to show that he knew Christianity to be basically the same as paganism.

The film Zeitgeist continues to say,

It’s obvious that Justin and other early Christians knew how similar Christianity was to the Pagan religions. However, Justin had a solution. As far as he was concerned, the Devil did it. The Devil had the foresight to come before Christ, and create these characteristics in the Pagan world.

I think I’ve already adequately shown that Justin Martyr had exaggerated similarities between Jesus and the other religions (i.e., the virgin birth) so that point is moot.

The claim that Zeitgeist makes that Justin claimed  that the Devil pre-Copied Christianity and the New Testament is completely false. He never said that. — What he didsay was that when the the Hebrew prophets wrote down their prophesies about the Christ, the demons immitated them and got them all wrong,

When they [wicked demons] heard it predicted through the prophets that Christ was to come, and that impious men would be punished by fire, they put forward a number of so-called sons of Zeus, thinking that they could thus make men suppose that what was said about Christ was a mere tale of wonders like the stories told by the poets. [ . . . ] But, as I will make clear, though they heard the words of the prophets they did not understand them accurately, but made mistakes in imitating what was told about our Christ. (First Apology 54)

From here it can be seen that Justin Martyr never claimed that “the Devil had the foresight to come before Christ, and create these characteristics in the Pagan world.” — Rather, he is saying that the devil tried to imitate the prophesies of him but basically screwed up. In other words, he’s saying demons tried and failed to copy the Old Testament, not the devil copied Christianity before it even existed.

So, in conclusion, it appears that Zeitgeist, in using the favorite Justin Martyr references, makes the same mistake that other Jesus-Mythers make: Abusing them, taking them out of context, and leaving out relevant details that are capable of defeating their case.

It is true that Justin Martyr seems to say that the sons of Zeus were born of virgins, however a simple investigation into the mythological literature disproves him pretty handily. His statements in this case go outside the evidence. However the claim that he confirms Greco-Roman gods were crucified like Jesus  is completely false and disproved by any complete reading of his writings in their proper context.


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