An email sent my way compared the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ to mythological stories such as Krishna, Mithras, Attis, and others. The inference, of course, being that Jesus as we read about Him in the Bible is merely a myth.
The message amassed an impressive list of similarities, but I am curious about the accuracy of the details. For instance, the author of the list states that Krishna was born on December 25, but sources which I have checked say he was born in late August or early September.1 Incidentally, Jesus was not born on December 25 (see Luke 2:8 and do a Google search on overnight temperatures in Palestine in late December).
I have no interest in investigating and answering each of the commonalities claimed. A more profitable approach is to consider the credibility of the eyewitness testimony about Jesus in the Bible. Paul referenced hundreds who saw the resurrected Lord (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Peter tells us that he and the other apostles “were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). John’s introduction to his first epistle reads,
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked
upon, and our hands have handled … that which we have
seen and heard we declare… (1 John 1:1-3)
Since the skeptic will not receive the testimony of the Scriptures, it should be noted that there is independent evidence of Jesus’ existence found in sources which are hostile to Christianity. The first century Roman historian Tacitus wrote about Nero’s persecution of the Christians, stating:
Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by
Pontus Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius…
This confirms the political setting in Luke’s gospel (Luke 3:1).
Josephus, a Jewish priest turned Roman historian, provided this historical account concerning Jesus:
…there was about this time Jesus, a wise man … Pilate,
at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had
condemned him to the cross… (Antiquities, 18:3:3)
In his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus went on to speak about Jesus’ “wonderful works,” death by crucifixion, and resurrection.
Other ancient writers acknowledge the existence of Jesus, though they speak of him in a derogatory way (for they rejected Him as Messiah). In the 2nd century AD, Tertullian answered many Jewish attacks regarding Jesus (He was a harlot’s son; demon-possessed; a Sabbath-breaker, etc.), but felt no need to defend His existence. Why? The Jews did not cast doubt on His existence, but rather were offended at His claim to be the Messiah.2
Are there savior stories in various cultures that bear some similarity to the details about Jesus Christ? Bear in mind that we looked at the birth date claim and found it to be unreliable. Are the other details equally unreliable?
Where is the eyewitness testimony for these pagan deities? The apostles and at least 500 others saw the resurrected Christ. Is the historicity of Krishna and other pagan saviours confirmed by those who are opponents? Jesus was the subject of a character (not existence) assault in ancient Jewish literature.
Jesus of Nazareth is not a myth; He was born, lived to serve us, died to save us, and was raised to give us hope.
1, krishnajanmashtami.com, also see sources listed at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna