Most Christians consider the stories of Jesus, as related in the New Testament, to be historically unique. To biblical literalists, Jesus’ life, and the miracles attributed to him, have long since hardened into religious dogma, not to be questioned. However, even the most cursory study of ancient civilizations will disclose that belief in a resurrected savior god was an almost universal phenomenon in those long-ago times. One of the reasons Christianity was able to gain control of Western Civilization was that it was able to incorporate so many of these stories as part of its own mythos. Virtually every one of the stories told about Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament was already centuries old when they first appeared, and could be found in the holy writings of other religious systems and traditions. Among these are Attis of Phrygia, Quetzlcoatl in Mexico, and others too numerous to mention. This article will examine just one of them: the Hindu resurrected god Krishna.
Hinduism is a religion that helps us to conclusively demonstrate that the idea of a resurrected god who had died to save humankind was already centuries old when the New Testament was first compiled. The early literary traditions of this religion show that when Christianity came on the scene, the Christians borrowed many of the ideas that devout Hindus had believed and circulated for centuries. Hinduism, like Christianity, has its own trinity, resurrected savior, immaculate conception, and countless other stories paralleling and, more importantly, preceeding those found in the Bible. Let us examine some of these interesting ideological connections.
Gods descending from heaven and taking human form were a common belief in ancient times. The Mahabharata, an epic poem of India, tells us of the birth of Krishna, whose mother was a chaste virgin. This theme is a recurring one, for it is also related in the stories of the Buddha, Horus of Egypt, Zoroaster of Persia, Mercury, and even of the real historical figure Alexander the Great. All of these were alleged to be the product of a heavenly father and an earthly mother. All of these were centuries earlier than Christianity.
The book of Matthew in the New Testament tells us of the star that is supposed to have heralded the birth of Jesus; it is referred to as “his” star. This is significant for a number of reasons, chief among them that it illustrates how important astrology was to the ancients; each person was supposed to have been born under a certain star, which then became “their” star. But the star story is certainly not unique to Christianity; when Krishna was born, his star was said to be seen in the heavens as well.
The book of Luke in the New Testament tells us that shepherds came to worship the Christ child. Likewise, Krishna is related as having been cradled by shepherds, one of whom recognized him as the Savior, as promised in scripture.
Like Jesus, Krishna is said to have been of royal descent, but born in humble circumstances. This theme is not unique to Christianity or to Hinduism; it is found in other cultures as well, including the stories of Buddha, Horus and Hercules.
Another story common to both Krishna and Jesus is the “slaughter of the innocents,” which is adapted to fit the particular circumstances of time and place of each. The Jesus story refers to King Herod, and is clearly no more than another New Testament myth, as no contemporary historian or writer refers to it, including Pliny, Tacitus, and Josephus. Josephus in particular, who chronicled virtually every imaginable crime committed by Herod, fails to mention this crucially important incident. If true, why not? Once again, this tale is also told of the Buddha, of Abraham, of Zoroaster, and of Cyrus the Great of Persia. Any tale this fantastic which happened so many times to so many people must be viewed with the greatest skepticism no matter who claims it as their own.
Krishna, like Jesus, is said to have spent his life performing miracles and preaching. Both were said to have humbled themselves by washing the feet of their disciples. Belief in miracles was virtually universal in the ancient world, and most of the surviving histories (those that were not destroyed by the church) are not true histories as we understand them, as they incorporate miraculous events as part and parcel of everyday life. This was a common strategy in the ancient world, as miracles were intended to show a leader or deity as being somehow superior to ordinary mortals. Most of the stories told of Jesus in the New Testament are also core components of Hindu mythology: Raising the dead, healing the sick, casting out of demons, restoring sight to the blind, and so on. Once again these miracles are also attributed to many other savior gods, including Osiris and Horus, Marduk, and Bacchus.
Miracles are also attributed to actual historical figures, including the Roman emperor Augustus, who, like Jesus, was said to have bodily ascended into heaven on his death. Again, this is reported by Tacitus, a reputable historian; no reputable historian of the time even mentions Jesus! Another Roman emperor, Vespasian, who is often cited by modern historians as the biblical “anti-Christ” spoken of in Revelation, was also said by Tacitus to have cured a blind man and to have healed another who was lame. It is fascinating how certain Christians can wave all this aside and then turn around and claim that, with Jesus, it’s literally true.
Here, we see an Tacitus, an actual contemporary of these men, a noted historian no less, attributing miraculous deeds to known historical figures. Should we believe him? If not, then on what grounds can it possibly be maintained that the Jesus miracles are true?
Surely, faith is nothing more than gullibility.
To accept the absurdly improbable myths of any one religion is to do nothing less than totally abandon one’s reason. The early church fathers recognized this, and strongly condemned reason in their writings, a trend that continues in many churches and by many theistic philosophers to this day. To cite one particularly ludicrous example, church father St. Tertullian, writing in the second century of the Common Era, said that “I maintain that the son of god died: Well that is wholly credible because it is monstrously absurd. I maintain that after having been buried, he rose again: And that I take to be absolutely true, because it was manifestly impossible.” In other words, the more silly and ridiculous the story, the more likely it is to be true.
Given such ridiculous statements, is it any wonder that the history of Christianity has been as blood-soaked as it is?
Getting back to Krishna and Jesus, one of the first miracles allegedly performed by Jesus was the curing of a leper. The same story was told, centuries before, of Krishna.
Both Krishna and Jesus were said to have been crucified, resurrected, and to have told their followers that they would one day return to save humanity. The idea of making amends by sacrificing a god was an ancient one even then, and predated both Christianity and Hinduism. The Rig Veda, the earliest of Hindu texts, speaks of the sacrifice of Purusha, the primeval male. The idea that humankind can be redeemed from sin through the sufferings of a primeval god is the culmination of primitive humanity’s belief that gods demand some kind of sacrifice or appeasement, either to atone for some imagined sin, or else to appease the god to ensure that no calamity will befall the tribe. We see this today in the wine and wafer ceremony of many Christian churches. The obvious irrationality of this idea today was obvious even to some of the ancient writers, notably the Roman poet Ovid, who wrote “what folly it is to expect salvation from the death of another.”
Some of the early depictions of Krishna depict him with holes in his hands and feet, and even with a gash on his side.
Both Matthew and Luke inform us that, at the time of Jesus’ death, the earth turned dark. Likewise, the same thing was said after Krishna’s crucifixion. Once again, this story is found in other religious mythologies, and was even said of Alexander the Great. Secular histories fail to mention any such occurrences.
Finally, the crowning touch to all these ancient stories is seen in the crucified savior rising miraculously from the dead. This too is a recurring theme in ancient mythology, as we find it in the stories told not only of Krishna, but of Tammuz, Zoroaster, and even Quetzlcoatl in Mexico. Both the Christian and the Hindu savior is believed to return as a warrior riding a white horse, according to their respective religion’s holy book.
Faced with all this, Christian apologists have come up with a number of rationalizations to get their savior off the historical hook. One of the most amusing of these is the notion that the devil created Krishna (and all the other resurrected savior gods that preceeded Jesus) in order to confuse people. As absurd as this is, it remains a common rationalization to this day. Another rationalization is that these earlier saviors were “pre-figures” of Christ, a sort of dress-rehearsal for the real thing. If nothing else, these rationalizations illustrate the ridiculous lengths certain Christians will go to in order to bolster their faith.
When one studies these mythologies in historical context, one cannot help but notice the obvious parallels they share. The subsequent actions of the Christian church in eliminating all traces of these competing ideologies becomes understandable, if inexcusable. Suppression, book burnings, the elevation of blind faith over logic and reason, the intolerance for dissent, and numerous other negative traits became Christianity’s defining characteristics once it gained control of Western Civilization. The end result was that millennium-long period of stagnation and suffering known as the Christian Dark Ages. Many people have wondered how humanity could have gone from the “glory that was Greece” and “the grandeur that was Rome” into the depth of the Christian Dark Ages. It should now be obvious why.
- Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions by T.W. Doane. Copyright 1882, re-printed by Health Research, Mokelumne Hill, CA, 1985
- The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors by Kersey Graves. Copyright 1875, re-printed by the Truth Seeker Company, 1960
- A Guide to the Gods by Richard Carlyon. Published by Quill, New York, 1981
- Mythology’s Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus by William Harwood. Published 1992 by Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY