Recently, I have posted a defence of the partial authenticity of Josephus’ Testimonium Flavianum and the complete authenticity of the so-called “James passage.” — Even though, at least to my knowledge, I dealt with the relevant objections to their authenticity there is at least one more objection which I decided to cover here. — It has to do with the James passage.
It is an indesputable fact that the majority of scholarly opinion supports the authenticity of the clause “Jesus, who was called Christ” in the James passage. But there is one more objection that, all though I have never taken it seriously except for this blog post, should be cleared up.
Kenneth Humphreys, while mentioning this passage, mentions in passing that in the same paragraph there is another man named Jesus, the son of Damneus and then indicates that this man is James’ brother, not the Jesus of the Bible. (Antiquities 20: 200) Though Humphreys does not go into much detail on this, one other Atheist I communicated with did.
Metro State Atheist, an Atheist blog I occasionally visit, refers to this objection and makes some points that should be answered. — After quoting the entire paragraph in which James and the two Jesuses are mentioned Joel Guttormson the webmaster of the blog goes on to say,
James mentioned in the line in question, which is italicized and underlined in the text above, is the bother of the Jesus mentioned in the bolded line. Context dictates this since they are not separated explicitly (ie Josephus didn’t say that Jesus, the son of Damneus is not the same as Jesus brother of James who they called Christ). Also, there exists no break in the story such that anyone could assert they are different people in the context.
The argument of context needs to be addressed. He saying that because there is “no break in the story” that the brother of James and the son of Damneus are therefore likely the same person. This is not necessarily true. Jesus was an extremely common name, so common that in order to prevent confusion for the readers of his history it would only be logical to identify two different men with the same name with differing means of Identification. This would only become all the more necessary if these two men were mentioned within only a few sentences of eachother and if the context did not change.
The reason why there is no break in the context is that the execution of James lead to all the events that followed in the paragraph (i.e., the deposition of the High Priest Ananus and his replacement by “the son of Damneus.”) This does not prove or even indicate that the brother of James and the son of Damneus are the same person.
Also, even though Joel is correct that Josephus does not say point blank that Jesus and James were not Damnes’ sons, Josephus’ own writing style dictates that they be positively identified as such. Usually, when Josephus first introduced a historical person he gave him the proper introduction the first time that he is mentioned by naming the person’s father (or known relative), hometown or their office.
Here are some examples of Josephus’ first time introductions:
- Antiquities 17: 271: “There was also Judas, the son of that Ezekias who had been head of the robbers.”
- Antiquities 17: 273: “There was also Simon, who had been a slave of Herod the king.”
- Antiquities 18: 4: “Yet was there one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala.”
- Wars 5: 335: “They intended to have Zacharias the son of Baruch, one of the most eminent of the citizens, slain.”
The list of examples of Josephus’ goes on. When he first names a new person, this is how he he introduced them, the first time he mentions them. This isn’t to say that he never re-introduces anyone in the same manner a second time, but it is characteristic for him to do it the first time as did many other ancient writers. Normally Josephus would not have procrastinated only to give the customary introduction later on.
Assuming that James’ brother and the son of Damneus are the same person, and taking into account Josephus’ normal writing style, by all rights the James passage should say “James, brother of Jesus, the son of Damneus.”But this is not the case. — Josephus usually gave this identification without delay, and yet he does not follow up in this passage. If Josephus indeed meant that James’ brother and the son of Damneus were the same person, then it’s pretty odd that he didn’t follow the norm of identification. That he did not certainly makes sense if they are not the same person.
Another argument that Joe makes that I think deserves to be examined is his claim that the son of Damneus can also be called “Christ,”
Furthermore, Christ is Greek means nothing more than “the anointed one”. Literally, this means that one would be blessed with or covered in [holy] oil. It wouldn’t be out of the question, as far I know, that a “high priest” such as “Jesus, the son Damneus” was, would be called a Christ, an anointed one.
Actually, it would be out of the question because “Christ” had huge political implications, and it is unlikely the Romans would have allowed him to have been seated as high preist if he bore such a title. But let’s not even consider that fact as part of the evidence. — It is accurate to say that the Greek word “Χριστος” is translated as “anointed.” And considering that the son of Damneus would have been “annointed” when he was appointed as High Priest, Joe’s argument does seem plausable. But there is one major problem with this assumption:
Josephus indicates that Jesus already was known as “Christ” during the early High Priesthood of Ananus, that is to say before the anointment of the son of Damneus to be the next High Priest. Because every High Priest was logically “anointed” at his appointment to the High-Priesthood, it is highly unlikely that the son of Damneus would have been known as the “anointed anything” until after Ananus’ term.
Furthermore, as mentioned in my previous post on this subject, the Greek term “λεγόμενος” which Josephus uses for the clause “Was called Christ” is being used neutrally by neither affirming or denying Jesus’ Messiaship, which is a reason why it is widely accepted as authentic.
This neutrality would be understandable if Josephus wanted to at least avoid bashing Christianity. However, if he indeed has the son of Damneus in mind then it would have definitely been pretty odd and un-called-for because the appointment (or anointment) of the son of Damnues was not in doubt at all. It would have been like saying “Some people call him the high priest, but I don’t want to take sides.” Such reasoning, however, would have been considered absurd by a dedicated Jew like Josephus.
— So as it turns out, a major basis for accepting the authenticity of the “James Passage” (i.e., the neutrality of Josephus’ terminology) can also be used to argue against the identification of Jesus, James’ brother with the son of Damneus.
After this, Joe seems to imply that Josephus was probably the source used by Christians to determine that Jesus had a brother named James. But to be fair, probably means that this could have been Mark’s own personal knowledge of Jesus son of Demneus. — He then goes on to say,
Although the earliest possible date for the first Gospel, of what would become the New Testament, is 70ad; the earliest, physical, dated Gospel of Mark dates, approximately, to around the year 90ad. This would give ample time to the author of the Gospel of Mark to construct his Jesus character based on the high priest, Jesus, the son of Damneus.
I’m bringing this up because Mark, the first Gospel which mentions James, is usually dated in the 70s AD which is contemperary with Josephus’ Wars of the Jews and also pre-dates his Antiquities of the Jews by around twenty to thirty years. But Joe places it in a date which apparently is to make all of Josephus’ works pre-date Mark, thus making it unusable to show as a pre-Josephus. — This part Joe’s argument here, like the rest of the Jesus-Damneus argument only presupposes what it sets out to prove. There is no evidence given that Mark should be dated later than the usual date it is thought to be written.
As a matter of fact, most scholarship disagrees with dating Mark so late in 90 AD. — What my impartial sources show is that,
“Most scholars [ . . . ] would be hesitant to assign a date later than 70-73 CE, the latter being when Jerusalem was finally and fully sacked.”
So the fact is that the latest accepted date for Mark is much earlier than the date that Joe is proposing. — Now here is the interesting detail: Even if he were right that Mark should be dated to 90 AD, this would still pre-date the completion of Josephus’ twentieth (and last book) which mentions James and the son of Damneus. Josephus completed his twenty books of the Antiquities in 93 AD, after the alleged late date of Mark. (Source)
— This is enough to refute the implication that Josephus was probably what Christians used Josephus to conclude Jesus had a brother named James because, apparently which ever composition date you prefer for Mark’s gospel, Mark’s mention of James still came first (Mark 6: 3 )
The bottom line is that even though I have known about the skeptic argument that Jesus, the brother of James is the same as the other Jesus who was the son of Damneus, with the exception of this blog response to the argument, I don’t take it seriously. My problem with it is that it starts with a foregone conclusion and then works off of it assuring that the desired conclusion will be reached. It then presupposes that because Josephus mentions a Jesus a few sentences before another that they therefore have to be the same person even though they are identified by different means.
As said before, to assume that the brother of James is the same as the son of Damneus is to assume that Josephus broke with the methodology of identifying a person by his father, relative, hometown, or position the first timehe introduced them, not waiting until later which is what would have to be assumed if the two Jesuses are the same person. — The suggestion that Josephus called the son of Damneus “Christ” because of his “anointment” to the office of High Priest doesn’t work when one realizes that Josephus indicates that this was Jesus’ title during the High Priesthood of Ananus because the son of Damneus wasn’t anointed until after Ananus’ term in office.
Also, Josephus’ usage of the clause “Was called Christ” is agreed to be a completely neutral way of using the title “Christ” without either confirming or denying Jesus’ messiaship. — As said before, this wold make complete sense if Josephus wanted to avoid Christian-bashing while at the same time not accept Jesus as the Messiah. But it certainly wouldn’t make sense to use such a neutral clause with the High Priest. Using this neutral clause with Jesus, son of Damnues would make no sense, unless Josephus neither wanted to confirm or deny his priesthood because it was never in doubt from anyone.
In conclusion, to make a long story short, there is no credible evidence to conclusively say that the “Christ” mentioned by Josephus is the same as Jesus-Damneus, and there are enough arguments to the contrary because it opens the door to inconsistencies.
Joseph ben Matthias, better known as Flavius Josephus, was the son of a priest born in the year 37 AD. — During the first part of the Jewish revolt he was a reluctant military commander that fought the Romans. Later in 67 AD, when many of his allies had committed suicide rather than surrender he surrendered to the Romans for uncertain reasons and provided them with information and then was released two years later in 69 AD. As a result, he has been called a traitor and a pro-Roman propagandist, though he tried to fix the Jewish image in Rome’s point of view.
The works of Flavius Josephus are an important compilation of history that, in many cases, would be otherwise unknown to us had he not written it. He is the basic source from which we learn about many important historical figures and events. He wrote extensively about King Herod the Great, the Jewish revolt of 66 AD which lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and about the census of Quirinius of 6 AD which caused the rebellion of Judas of Galilee. — These are all mentioned in the New Testament, but not to the great detail that Josephus had described them.
Many Christians have appealed to this Jewish historian for confirmation of several biblical events and personalities such as the existence of the historical Jesus. One of the most secular historical references is known as the Testimonium Flavianum which is attributed to him. The other is usually called “the James Passage” which only mentions Jesus in passing.
This passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum occurs when Josephus is giving a historical account of the Roman Prefect of Judea Pontius Pilate,
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. (Antiquities 18: 63-64)
The passage not only acknowledges that Jesus had indeed existed, it also affirms that “he was the Christ” and was resurrected after the third day of his death, there in lies the problem. Josephus was a devout Jew, not a Christian. It is practically impossible that Josephus had acknowledged Jesus as the true Messiah (or Christ). Therefore he would not have believed that Jesus was resurrected after being crucified.
Not surprisingly the “Jesus Myth” crowd calls the authenticity of the Josephus passages into question calling the passage into question, Acharya S (a.k.a. Dorthy M. Murdock), being very prominent among them.
Ms. Murdock, in her statements about the Testimonium, in an attempt to prove that it is a forgery mentions that early Christians such as Justin Martyr and Theophilus don’t cite it and therefore this silence indicates that they did not know anything about it. The problem with her argument is that her logic only leads her to a conclusion that was already presupposed.
— She is assuming that early Christian apologists, to defend their faith, would have cited theTestimonium to show that Jesus existed if indeed they knew about it. The fact is that citing the Testimonium would have been practically pointless because it only would have only served to confirm Jesus’ existence which was actually never questioned by early skeptics of Christianity.
Another argument that Ms. Murdock uses is that if Josephus truly knew about Jesus he would have written more about him,
Josephus goes into long detail about the lives of numerous personages of relatively little import, including several Jesuses. It is inconceivable that he would devote only a few sentences to someone even remotely resembling the character found in the New Testament. If the gospel tale constituted “history.” [ . . . ] Moreover, the TF refers to Jesus as a “wise man”–this phrase is used by Josephus in regard to only two other people, out of hundreds, i.e., the patriarchs Joseph and Solomon. If Josephus had thought so highly of an historical Jesus, he surely would have written more extensively about him. Yet, he does not.
This argument proves nothing except that Acharya S has likely not read a lot of Josephus’ works. Josephus mentions others that were well-known in first century Judea and yet wrote little about them. His mention of John the Baptist is only a paragraph long. Josephus calls him “a good man” who taught righteousness (Antiquities 18: 116) — Also, there was another holy man which he mentions (again in only a single paragraph) called Zacharias, son of Baruch who was murdered without just cause. (Wars of the Jews 4: 334-344)
These two men were well known at the time of Josephus and yet he only dedicates a single paragraph to each. So in my opinion this refutes the assumption that just because Josephus didn’t write more extensively about Jesus that therefore he wasn’t known to him.
Also, as mentioned, Josephus speaks in high regard about John the Baptist and Zacharias but does not go into greater detail about them. — This in itself can be used to show that Ms. Murdock’s argument that if Josephus thought highly of Jesus then he would necessarily have written a longer history about Jesus is incorrect. As a matter of fact, her two arguments here can be turned around to argue for the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum because it follows the pattern of the one paragraph accounts of well-known good (or holy) men that Josephus both wrote about and respected.
Ms. Murdock complains that the Testimonium “interrupts the flow of the primary material” meaning that it is out of context. Even if it was out of context this wouldn’t indicate it is an interpolation because such digressions were much more common in Greek and Roman writings than in modern literature. Today, we would place such breaks in footnotes which wasn’t done 2,000 years ago. (Greek and Roman Historians, page 53)
She makes the claim that the consensus among scholars is that the passage is a complete forgery. To back her up she quotes several writters from the 19th century. — Interestingly enough, one of her experts that she cites is Gordon Stein who she quotes as saying that most scholars since the late 1800’s believe the Testimonium to be a forgery. However, on his paper (which is found here) which she cites there is a disclaimer inserted by an editor before the text which says that things have changed since Stein wrote his essay in 1982,
While there is no doubt among the majority of scholars that the Testimonium has been tampered with (and thus the entire passage cannot be authentic), a decent number of scholars believe the Testimonium is based upon an authentic core. In other words, on their view, Josephus really did write a passage referring to Jesus. (Italics mine)
I do not know if this disclaimer was already added to Gordon Stein’s paper by Infidels.org by the time Acharya S decided to use it as a source, but it certainly is enough to refute her claim that the Testimonium is seen as a fake by the scholarly community.
The indication (from the disclaimer) is that even though it is true that at one point (at least until 1982) the Testimonium was seen as a forgery, this is no longer the case. — The vast majority of Acharya S’ sources come from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. These facts mean that she is using outdated sources to prove her case because the scholarly opinion has shifted.
The late David Flusser, Professor of early Christianity and Judaism and Orthodox Jew, while commenting on the Testimonium says,
Although it is generally recognized that the passage concerning Jesus in the extant Greek manuscripts of his Jewish Antiquities (18:63-64) was distorted by later Christian hands “the most probable view seems to be that our text represents substantially what Josephus wrote,but that some alterations have been made by a Christian interpolator.” (The Sage from Galilee – Rediscovering Jesus Genius, page 12)
So basically, Ms. Murdock’s claims that the vast majority of scholars believe the Testimonium is a Christian forgery is not only out dated. It is completely wrong. It is true that there are certain statements in it that more than likely were not written by Josephus such as “if it be lawful to call him a man” and “he was the Christ,” but that doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that it is a complete forgery “in toto” as Murdock puts it.
The second Josephus passage that mentions Jesus is not quite as lengthy as the Testimonium. As a matter of fact, it isn’t even about Jesus,
Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still upon the road. So Ananus assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of that Jesus who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some of his companions. And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned. (Antiquities 20, 200)
The basic objection that the “Jesus Myth” crowd brings up is that Josephus uses the term “was called Christ” in association with Jesus. — Ms. Murdock on her page only mentions this passage in passing and doesn’t go into detail about it. One of her listed sources on her page is the 19th century Christ-Myther John E. Remsberg who claims,
This passage is probably genuine with the exception of the clause, “who was called Christ,” which is undoubtedly an interpolation, and is generally regarded as such.
He goes on to claim that believing that the James mentioned in the passage is in fact Jesus Christ’s brother “accepted history of the primitive church” which says he was killed in 69 AD, not in 62 AD. To this point all I can say is that one should not confuse folklorewith true history.
As for his claim that the entire passage except for the clause “was called Christ” is authentic — Considering that the names Jesus and James were very common in the first century AD, if the means of identification were to be erased, as Remsberg apparently believed should be done, then the passage would become pretty unclear and ambiguous. It would simply be a mention of a “Jesus, brother of James.” Anyone reading the passage in the first century would likely have thought “Ok. Which ones? I know a million of them.”
Also, near the end of the paragraph, Josephus mentions another Jesus called the son of Damneus who became the high priest. (Antiquities 20: 203) This is all the more reason for Josephus to identify Jesus Christ in order to distinguish the two to avoid confusion.
Also, it is not true that the clause “was called Christ” is “generally regarded” as an interpolation. — Leading Josephus Scholar Louis Feldman says,
That, indeed, Josephus did say something about Jesus is indicated, above all, by the passage — the authenticity of which has been almost universally acknowledged — about James, who is termed (A XX, 200) the brother of the “aforementioned Christ.” (Josephus, Judaism and Christianity, page 56)
Feldman on the same page goes on to answer a charge that the passage was interpolated because of an apparent contradiction between this passage and another mention of the priest Ananus in Wars of the Jews,
As to the recent suggestion Tessa Rajak that the passage about James is a Christian interpolation because it has a derogatory view of Ananus the high priest (Josephus elsewhere praises him), we may remark that there are a number of instances in the Antiquities where Josephus contradicts what he says in the War. In any case, it would seem more likely that a forger would have been more careful than to contradict outright what Josephus says elsewhere.
Other scholars point out that the “James Passage” fits the context and that a Christian interpolator would have used “laudatory language” different than what Josephus used to describe James and especially Jesus. -A Christian would have called James “the brother of the Lord” much like the Apostle Paul does.
They also point out that the term “λεγόμενος” (pronounced as “legomenos”) used by Josephus for the clause “was called Christ” is way too neutral for any Christian interpolator to have inserted. A Christian would have used the term in a more absolute way leaving no room for doubt that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Josephus’ language, however, neither denies or affirms Jesus’ Messiaship. (Jesus Outside the New Testament, pages 83, 84)
Finally, Ms. Murdock claims that,
Even if the Josephus passage were authentic [ . . . ], it nevertheless would represent not an eyewitness account but rather a tradition passed along for at least six decades, long after the purported events. Hence, the TF would possess little if any value in establishing an “historical” Jesus.
She claims, basically, that even if the Testimonium were indeed authentic it would not prove anything because it is not a first hand account due to the fact that Josephus was born a few short years after the death of Jesus. — This is a popular argument among the “Jesus-Myth” crowd, but it is one that makes absolutely no sense.
Josephus wrote about many people decades and even centuries after they existed. — He wrote extensively on the life of King Herod the Great, the Deposition of Archelaus from Judea, and even on the Census of 6 AD. He even wrote about the invasion of of Jerusalem by the Roman General Pompey over a century after the fact. The fact is that Josephus’ life was much further removed from these historical accounts he wrote about then he was from the life of Jesus. So if these “Jesus-Mythers” were to hold these historical accounts to the same standard that they do with the Testimonium then we would end up throwing out most of Josephus’ valuable works. But no prominent scholar or historian would ever even consider such a thing.
The same goes for several other historians such as Tacitus, Herodotus, Xenophon, Plutarch, and others who wrote several decades or centuries after the events the report on and are still believed useful by modern historians and scholars. So the fact is that a historian writing about an event decades after the fact does not invalidate the historicity of what he reports. It does not have to be a first hand eyewitness account to be historically relevant.
Another fact is that though Josephus was born in 37 AD, about six years after the death of Jesus, he was alive when the event he covers in his “James passage” was happening. He was writing about the stoning of James which historians believe happened in 62 AD, when Josephus would have been twenty-five years of age. (After Jesus: The Triumph of Christianity, page 53) There is therefore no reason why Josephus wouldn’t have had good first hand information about this event about a man known as the brother of Jesus. – If the name and family of the man was known, then almost certainly so was the man himself.
Before I conclude, a word should be said about Ms. Murdock’s sources. — As mentioned before, most of her sources which she uses to back up the claim that the Testimonium Flavianum is a complete forgery come from the late 19th century and considering that the scholarly opinion has completely shifted since then they are therefore outdated and irrelevant.
Also, several of her listed sources who she doesn’t necessarily quote outright are early “Jesus-Mythers” such as Hayyim ben Yehoshua and John Remsburg. Neither of these 19th century “Jesus-Mythers” even had the qualifications of a scholar in the necessary field. Ms. Murdock also lists a paper among her sources from Infidels.org contributed by Scott Orser. But a quick look at his bio once again shows that he is not an expert in this particular field either.
It really strikes me as odd that someone who claims to be an expert in the fields of history, religion and archaeology like Ms. Murdock would resort to citing non-experts in order to prove her point. If I may say so, many amateurs have been known to use much better tactics than her in their own personal research. — I’m not trying to demean her, but honestly —
In conclusion, the arguments that D.M. Murdock uses to prove her case for the Testimonium Flavianum being a complete forgery are mostly al moot. Many scholars, despite her claims to the contrary, do in fact believe that the Testimonium is partially authentic, though not entirely. Her claims that Josephus would have written much more of Jesus if he in fact knew about him are also irrelevant because there are other well-known men that he writes about and yet only gives them a paragraph each. Also the claim that the Testimonium is out of context is irrelevant because, even if true, it was common practice to insert such digressions 2,000 years ago. — It does not help matters for Ms. Murdock that her many of her authorities are outdated and, in many cases, not even authorities at all.
The James Passage is almost universally considered authentic so even if it were true the Testimonium was thought by experts to be a complete forgery, it would still be believed that Josephus indeed gives secular first century proof of Jesus’ existence. — Also, as for claims that he didn’t have firsthand knowledge of Jesus and therefore his short mentions of him are not relevant, this is to undermine Josephus’ known accuracy as a capable historian because it is unlikely that Josephus would have been fooled into writing about a man that was said to have lived so close to his time that did not exist.
Most probably, if you are familiar with the “Christ-Myth” hypothesis then you probably have heard of anti-Christian author Acharya S (whose real name is Dorthy M. Murdock.) She was one of the main sources for the first part of Zeitgeist, the Movie as can be seen by the sources in the film’s transcript. She is the author of many books entitles The Christ Conspiracy and Sons of God. Much of her arguments can be accessed on her website Truth Be Known.
In a YouTube Video she takes it upon herself to “respond” to the debunking of Zeitgeist. She then says that despite claims that Zeitgeist, Part one has been debunked “the facts continue to to demonstrate otherwise.” The then complains that many of the refutations of the film have been directed largely at her. I cannot speak for all the other debunkers of Zeitgeist, but my fourteen part refutation of Zeitgeist doesn’t mention her even once. Also, my personal investigation of the facts has lead me to the conclusion that Zeitgeist is rooted in false claims.
Next Ms. Murdock makes the claim that the “detractors” whether theist or atheist didn’t study her work. — This claim is false. — R. G. Price, an Atheist who read her book Suns of God is very critical of her works calling it “bogus.” (See “Critical Reviewof Acharya S’ The Suns of God“). Also, Christian Apologist Mike Licona, who read her other book entitled The Christ Conspiracy effectively shows many flaws in her works. (Click here and here)
Ms. Murdock then makes the claim that her claims presented in Zeitgeist are not available to us because of the dangers in the past of losing their lives. She also claims that there is “deliberate censorship” of the facts by many encyclopedias. This is a quite an excuse she uses to inoculate herself against any independent research that refutes her. She is basically saying “Any investigation you do will not matter because I know more than you. So uncrittically take my word for it.” — If what she says were true, then at the very least there shouldn’t be any information in the sources that contradict her. But my investigation of Zeitgeist shows there are tons of contradictory evidences so her point is completely false.
To help make her point, she shows pictures of the inquisition while claiming that is why a lot of evidence has been silenced. The problem is that even if the inquisition silenced information about Pagan European gods, in her books she includes Oriental gods such as Krishna and Buddha on her list of Christ-like gods. — The truth is the inquisition didn’t reach all the way to India, China and Japan so according to her logic there should be an abundant amount of information which backs her up in this case, but there isn’t any.
Attis and Jesus
She then goes into certain paralels between Pagan gods and Jesus. As an example she mentions the god Attis. — To prove her point of a parallel she cites Professor A.T. Fear who contributed a chapter to the book entitled Attis and Related Cults. She claims that in the chapter entitled “Cybele and Christ” Professor Fear claims that Attis was killed and resurrected after three days during a celebration that depicts his resurrection out of a tomb.
As far as her claim claim goes, it is true (page 39) however the problem here is that Professor A.T. Fear, in the long run, does not support what Ms. Murdock is claiming. The ceremony that Dr. Fear describes is from a major festival of the metroac cult. But later he points out that this very cult had gone through changes which could have been “a deliberate attempt to rival Christianity” to ensure the cult’s survival in the market. (Page 44)
As a matter of fact, about the resurrection of Attis he says,
Attis too with his strong emphasis on resurrection seems to be a late-comer to the cult, the stress on the Halaria as celebrating the resurrection of Attis also appears to increase at the beginning of the Fourth century AD. : the same time as in the taurobolium towards the rite of personal redemption.
While these changes could simply be a mutation of religion over time, and it is important to remember that here we are discussing a period of centuries not merely years, they do seem to have been provoked by a need to respond to the challenge of Christianity. (Attis and Related Cults, pages 41, 42)
Dr. Fear does question whether the process of changing the Attis cult was conscious, but he never even implies that Jesus was influenced by Attis. He says that the Attis cult either mutated or that it responded to Christianity. — This completely contradicts what Ms. Murdock claims that he wrote. She misrepresented his views. Dr. Fear is implying that Christianity may have influenced Attis, not the other way around, if indeed one influenced the other. — Why didn’t she mention this? Obviously because it would have demolished her point.
The Day of Halaria, the Day of Joy of the festival (on March 25th) mentioned by Ms. Murdock in relationship to Attis’ “resurrection” was actually a post-Christian addition which was added to the festival either during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius or even later. This means the earliest the “resurrection” day was added is the year 138 AD. Also, the “three days of mourning” of Attis’ death were added by the Emperor Claudius between who reigned between 41 and 54 AD. (Text link) All of these days of the festival being post-Christian, this fact refutes Ms. Murdock’s insinuation that the festival of Attis’ “resurrection” influenced Christianity.
Krishna born of a virgin?
Next, she mentions Krishna and repeats the claim that his mother, Devaki, was a virgin. She defends the claim saying that it is only not widely known and on that ground alone is considered to therefore be wrong. She then quotes Philo of Alexandria (a Jewish historian) to prove her point. Assuming that the reference attributed does exist (I cannot find it) I still do not buy into the idea that we should depend on him so heavily on a subject that, chances are, he would not have known so mush about.
Unlike Ms. Murdock’s claims, the idea of Devaki’s virginity at Krishna’s birth is not assumed false because it is mostly unknown. I call the claim false because it contradicts basic Hindu tradition! Krishna was the youngest of a total of eight children that his mother had. (click here) So the fact is that there is no chance his mother was a virgin.
Is December 25th relevant?
Ms. Murdock goes on to mention that Christian apologists (like me) dismiss December 25th as being irrelevant to Christianity. But then she argues,
However, since the fourth century when this winter solstice celebration was designated as Christ’s birthday hundreds of millions of people have been taught that December 25th is the date of Christ’s birth. And hundreds of millions continue to celebrate that date every year. Indeed, Christian preachers today still insist that Jesus Christ is “the reason for the season.” Furthermore, in 2007, the United States House of Representatives passed house resolution 847 officially declaring December 25thto be the Birthday of Jesus Christ. Raising up this issue about the birthday of the Sun (S-U-N) is therefore entirely legitimate.
This argument is one that no intellectually honest person would ever give. Ms. Murdock apparently thinks that because Christians started to celebrate Christmas on December 25th in the 4th century AD and because the U.S. Congress officially declared it in 2007 that this makes the date relevant to the origins of Christianity. — The problem with her logic is obvious: If the practices indeed date so long after Christ, then they are irrelevant to Christ and Christianity, period!
The date of December 25thas Christ’s birthday is also completely contradictory of the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth. Luke 2: 8 says that during the night of Jesus’ birth shepherds were out in the fields. This would not be so if Jesus were born in the winter. This is proof beyond the shaddow of a doubt that the date hase no relevancy and later practices which Ms. Murdock appeals to cannot change this fact.
After this she says that when Christians say that this date is not Christ’s birthday that we prove her point that Jesus is not the reason for the season. — This shows that Murdock has no understanding of why Christians celebrate Christmas at all. It’s not the date that’s important, but the event.
The Three Kings
Ms. Murdock brings up the subject of the “three kings” in the Gospel of Matthew. In arguing against claims that they are not numbered as three she points out the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. She argues that since there are three kinds of gifts that therefore there must be “three kings.”
Just because there were three kinds of gifts, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there were only three gifts and therefore only three magi. — There could have been five magi which gave the same three gifts. Or there could have been six. There are many ways that this can work out. Three so therefore three is just an irrelevant oversimplification.
She then tries to connect the three stars in the belt of Orion with the “three” wise men. She says that “Christian tradition” calls the three stars “the magi.” — Notice she says that it is “Christian tradition.” In other words, later tradition which has no bearing on the origins of Christianity.
The truth is they are not called “kings” in Matthew, but rather “wise men” or “magi.” However, she misleadingly uses all three terms interchangeably to insinuate her point even though they cannot be used as such. (For a good discussion, click here)
Basically, her defence of Zeitgeist is just a rehashing of refuted claims and, in many ways, is a defence of herself (which I do not see the point in answering.) Even though she claims that the facts have not refuted Zeitgeist, there is no reason to accept her claim. The fact is that most of the claimed parallels between Jesus and other gods are superficial or false.
Her claims that many of her critics have not studies her writtings are also wrong, as earlier I have linked crituiques of skeptics of her books, both a theist and and atheist.
Her further claims that the information that backs her up is hidden and censured seems like an attempt to neutralize any research by both real experts and laymen which falsifies her far-fetched claims. When I hear her say that, what I really hear is “Don’t ask questions or worry about the facts. Just believe me.” And unfortunately, that’s what her gullible disciples do.
As pointed out before, Zeitgeist makes several claims that Jesus is both an imitation of Pagan gods and a solar deity. These claims are easily refuted. However the film then ties the Old Testament story of Joseph to Jesus claiming that the former was a “prototype” for the latter,
In the Old Testament there’s the story of Joseph. Joseph was a prototype for Jesus. Joseph was born of a miracle birth, Jesus was born of a miracle birth. Joseph was of 12 brothers, Jesus had 12 disciples. Joseph was sold for 20 pieces of silver, Jesus was sold for 30 pieces of silver. Brother “Judah” suggests the sale of Joseph, disciple “Judas” suggests the sale of Jesus. Joseph began his work at the age of 30, Jesus began his work at the age of 30. The parallels go on and on.
The first problem here is the association of Joseph’s birth with Jesus’. They cannot be placed on par with each other even though Joseph’s birth could be seen as a miracle because at first she had trouble conceiving. But that is debatable. — His mother Rachel was not a virgin at the time of his birth.
In the comparing the 12 brothers to the 12 disciples, Zeitgeist uses tricky logic to fool the viewers. The distinction here is that Joseph is included among the twelve brothers, meaning he had 11. — Applying the same tricky (but faulty) logic, Zeitgeist should therefore include Jesus among his disciples (as it does with Joseph) therefore making 13. I’ll give you three guesses as to why Zeitgeist doesn’t apply the same standard in both cases.
Even if someone wanted to see the 12 brothers/disciples as a relevant parallel between Jesus and Joseph, there is still one fact that doesn’t help Zeitgeist’s case: The twelve brothers became the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus seems to have taken this into account when he chose his disciples though he doesn’t say it point blank. (Matthew 19: 28 ) — If Jesus deliberately chose twelve to correlate to the twelve tribes then this should not be surprising.
It is true that Judah suggested selling Joseph, but most of Joseph’s brothers were also in on it, with the exception of Ruben who wanted to save him and Benjamin who wasn’t present (Genesis 37: 29, 30). In the New Testament Judas Iscariot was the only betrayer of Jesus. Also there is no indication that Judas Iscariot “suggested” the transaction. — It’s more like he was bribed into it.
It is true that Jesus was thirty years old when he began his ministry (Luke 3: 23). But the biggest and most obvious mistake that Zeitgeist makes is saying that Joseph “began his work at the age of 30” like Jesus. All the Bible says was that he entered the Pharaoh’s service at age thirty (Genesis 41: 46) but as for his “work,” he was more known as an interpreter of dreams which started at age 17.
Also, apparently in his twenties he was put in charge of running a prison (Genesis 39: 22) and before that he ran Potiphar’s house hold (Genesis 39: 6). — The bottom line is that there was a lot of “work” that Joseph did before he was 30 years old that it cannot be rightfully said that that was when he started.
As for the claims that the parallels between Joseph and Jesus go on and on, they do not! — What are being shown as parallels are based on either faulty or ticky logic. The fact is that even non-Christians do not buy into Zeitgeist’s parallels between Jesus and Joseph (Click here and here).
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 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.
After Zeitgeist makes the claim that the childhood story of Moses is a plagiarized piece of pagan lit (a claim refuted here) it goes on to make further accusations of plagiarism about Moses attacking the Biblical account of the Ten Commandments as an imitation of other similar stories in ancient paganism. — It claims,
Moses is known as the Law Giver, the giver of the Ten Commandments, the Mosaic Law. However, the idea of a Law being passed from God to a prophet on a mountain is also a very old motif. Moses is just a law giver in a long line of law givers in mythological history. In India, Manou was the great law giver. In Crete, Minos ascended Mount Dicta, where Zeus gave him the sacred laws. While in Egypt there was Mises, who carried stone tablets and upon them the laws of god were written.
After saying this, Zeitgeist lists the names of the lawgivers to create the impression that they were all copied from each other:“Manou, Minos, Mises, Moses.”— It places Mises right before Moses for obvious reasons: They sound pretty similar.
Beginning with the first law giver listed, Manou — It seems to me that Zeitgeist is giving an alternative spelling for Manu, the Hindu law giver to whom the Laws of Manu are ascribed to traditionally.
However, one need not look far to find how any case of Moses copying the story of Manu comes crashing down.
According to the Columbia Encyclopedia,
They [the Laws of Manu] were compiled, probably between 200 BC and AD 200, from diverse ancient sources and provide detailed rules, presumably directed to Brahman priests, governing ritual and daily life. In particular they seek to validate and preserve the high caste position of the Brahmans. (Emphasis Mine)
The irrelevancy of this is obvious. Manu’s laws were compiled much too late to have any influence on Moses’ ten commandments. Moses wrote in the 15th century BC. — To be honest, there is scholarly debate as to when the Manu laws were published, but 200 BC is the date referred to the most. (Text Link)
As for the second law giver, Minos, the Greek Historian Diodorus Siculus (who wrote in the first century BC) describes the event of Minos receiving laws as when he conversed with Zeus in a cave. It so happens that the cave was on the slopes of Mount Ida. But that is where the similarities end.
According to Greek Mythology, Minos would go to the cave on Mount Ida every nine years so that his father, Zeus, would help him to draw up new laws. (Text Link) After his death, because he received laws from Zeus, he became a judge in the realm of Hades along with his brother. (Gods and Mortals in Classical Mythology, Page 281) — See the differences yet?
The problem with Zeitgeist’s connecting Minos and Moses is that gods and law giving are only expected in religions. The slightest similarity, despite the differences, does not indicate that one copied off the other. It’s actually expected and can easily be explained away as a coincidence. — Zeitgeist also got the name of the mountain wrong. It mistakenly calls the mountain that Minos received laws from Mount Dicta.
As for the third law giver mentioned by Zeitgeist, Mises — I have not been able to find any reference to any Egyptian law giver with such a name. Every single search I made to a single reference to him has come up empty. Curiously, this is the man whose name Zeitgeist emphasised as being most like Moses.
Zeitgeist uses logical fallacy to attempt to tie Moses with these three law givers. The argument is “They received laws from gods . So did Moses. These religions pre-date Moses so this must mean Moses copied them.”— This fallacy is shown with the first law giver they mention. Manu was a Hindu law giver. Hinduism pre-dates Moses but apparently his laws post-date the Hebrew Bible and possibly the New Testament.
The last claim that Zeitgeist makes about Moses and the Ten Commandments is that they were taken from the book of the dead. It lists them and attempts to make te connection.
The film comments,
And as far as the Ten Commandments, they are taken outright from Spell 125 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. What the Book of the Dead phrased “I have not stolen” became “Thou shall not steal,” “I have not killed” became “Thou shall not kill,” “I have not told lies” became “Thou shall not bare false witness” and so forth.
The passage in the Book of the Dead that Zeitgeist is referring to is called “the Declaration of Innocence.” As far as the quotes from the Book go, they are accurate. But the film is making a huge logical fallacy. It is arguing that because killing and stealing are both condemned in both the Book of the Dead and in the Ten Commandments that therefore Moses must have copied it. But any civilization would prohibit anything as basic as murder and theft.
On top of this, there are several declarations on innocence in this passage that have no resemblance to the Ten Commandments,
I have not taken milk from a child’s mouth, I have not driven small cattle from their herbage, I have not snared birds for the gods’ harpoon barbs, I have not caught fish of their lagoons, I have not stopped the flow of water in its seasons. I have not built a dam against flowing water, I have not quenched a fire in its time. I have not failed to observe the days for haunches of meat. I have not kept cattle away from the God’s property, I have not blocked the God at his processions.
Get my drift? — If this was Moses’ source for the Ten Commandments, we would expect to see something similar to what is listed here. Why didn’t Zeitgeist list any of these other sayings? Because it would have destroyed its case because there are a lot more differences than similarities between the Declaration of Innocence and the Ten Commandments.
In conclusion, the basis for Zeitgeist’s conclusions are based on logical fallacies as well as over simplifications. Apparently in its attempts to tie Moses’ law giving to Manu and Minos, the film makers never considered the fact that gods giving laws to their followers is really not so unusual. And it doesn’t help their case that the Laws of Manu are of very young origin when compared to the Bible.
The attempt to tie the Ten Commandments to the Book of the Dead, at least to me, comes across as a desperate try to link the Bible to Paganism. But its links are based on morality that is so basic that it really has no case.
A major point in Zeitgeist the Movie is its claim that Christianity is no different from pagan religions. It then claims that several passages and Biblical stories had been plagiarized from ancient pagan mythology. — After the film makes the all time favorite claim that the Genesis account of the flood was copied from the Epic of Gilgamesh (which is refuted here), it goes on to make similar claims about the story of Moses,
There is the plagiarized story of Moses. Upon Moses’ birth, it is said that he was placed in a reed basket and set adrift in a river in order to avoid infanticide. He was later rescued by a daughter of royalty and raised by her as a Prince. This baby in a basket story was lifted directly from the myth of Sargon of Akkad of around 2250 b.c. Sargon was born, placed in a reed basket in order to avoid infanticide, and set adrift in a river. He was in turn rescued and raised by Akki, a royal mid-wife.
Zeitgeist makes the claim that the ancient king Sargon was placed in a basket to “avoid infanticide” and is later found by a royal mid-wife. The claim then becomes that since Sargon lived before Moses then therefore Moses must have plagiarized the story.
There is indeed a famous story of Sargon being left in a basket on the Euphrates river preserved in cuneiform tablets of Ancient Assyria. The cuneiform tablet says,
Sargon, mighty king, king of Agade, am I. My mother was a high priestess, my father I knew not; My father’s brothers live in the mountains; My city is Azupiranu, situated on the banks of the Euphrates My mother, the high priestess, conceived me, in secret she bore me; She placed me in a basket of rushes, she sealed the lid with bitumen; She cast me into the river which did not rise over me; The river bore me up and carried me to Aqqi, the water-drawer. Aqqi, the water-drawer, lifted me out as he dipped his bucket; Aqqi, the water-drawer, adopted me, brought me up; Aqqi, the water-drawer, set me up as his gardener. As a gardener, Ishtar, loved me; For 55 years I ruled as king.
The similarity to Moses is obvious to anyone who has read both the story of Moses and the legend of Sargon. But a carefull reading shows that the film, Zeitgeist, in its description of the similarities between the two stories is actually exagerated.
The claim that Sargon’s mother placed him in the basket and set him adrift to save him from infanticide is actually unsubstantiated. Nowhere in the inscription does it say that she did it to save him from anything or anyone. It just simply says she set him adrift. And the way that the tablet says “she [his mother] cast me into the river” kind of gives the impression that this is a case of child abandonment rather than to save his life.
James Holding in his essay gives background information of the importance of Sargon’s mother being a high priestess. He points out that in order to maintain her position she had to avoid pregnancy. This therefore would account for her giving birth in secrecy and would indicate that she was just disposing of her unwanted newborn child.
The fact that the story says she set him adrift also indicates she didn’t care whether or not he survived. This is a major difference between the two stories. — Contrary to what Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments shows, even though Moses was placed in a basket on the Nile river, he was not set adrift. Exodus 2: 3, 4 says that he was placed at the edge of the river among the reeds and his sister “stood” at a distance to watch him. The reeds would have kept the basket from drifting away. He was meant to survive which is not seemingly the case with Sargon.
The claim that Zeitgeist makes that Sargon was adopted by a royal mid-wife is also a mistake. The tablet says that 1) his rescuer was a “he.” And 2) he was a water drawer, not a royal mid-wife. These errors in the description of the story leads me to the conclusion that the film makers did not do independent research in this particular area.
There is one fact about the “Baby in a basket” story of Sargon that many skeptics either do not know, or just do not mention. The Historical website People and Places in the Ancient World (click here) points out,
The reputation of Sargon cast a long shadow. A scribe in 7th century Assyria left this account of Sargon’s origin, supposedly based on a first person account. [ . . . ] It is of course, impossible to know if this Moses like story circulated during Sargon’s lifetime but his humble origins are attested to by his lack of a name.
Also is should be mentioned that the Encyclopedia Britannica points out that what we know about Sargon of Akkad (who reigned from 2334 to 2279 BC) is all based on legends that were written after his lifetime.
— So the evidence is that 1) it looks as if it is impossible to date this particular story of King Sargon I and that 2) the earliest evidence we have of the story we have comes from as late as the seventh century BC. In contrast, the Book of Exodus was written between 1437 and 1397 BC. So plagiarism on the part of Moses is not necessarily what happened.