Why Is Jesus so Special?

I’m often baffled when I get such a question as to why I don’t take Jesus Christ as a god and savior seriously.  My reasons why, I hope, are apparent when one considers other literature and evidence that involve belief in the supernatural.  I mean, after all, it would be nothing but special pleading for me to take one serious (Jesus Christ) and forget the rest (other gods).  For example, there are dying and rising sons (daughters) of gods that go through a passion (suffering) in order to obtain victory over death that have some elements similar to Jesus.  To expound upon those predating Christianity, Osiris from the mystery religions was a son of a deity and offered an afterlife for those baptized into his death and resurrection, Romulus, a Roman God, had his death and resurrection celebrated in annual passion plays and was born of a virgin, while Inanna, a Sumerian goddess, had a resurrection and escaped from the underworld [Richard Carrier].  Robert Price describes below how apologists, in the 2nd century, admitted to these parallels existing:

The early Church fathers understood [parallels] as a problem because they were already getting the same objections from pagans.  They said, “What you say about Jesus we’ve been saying about Dionysus and Hercules all the time.  ”What’s the big deal?  I mean they didn’t believe in them either anymore.  And so the Christian apologists (Justin Martyr) – the defenders of the faith – would say, “Well, yea, but this one is true. And you see Satan counterfeited it in advance because he knew this day would come.”Boy, I’ll tell you that tells you two things right there that even they didn’t even deny that these other Jesus like characters were before Jesus or they never would have resorted to something like that Satan knew it would happen and counterfeit it in advance?

There are many more mythical gods that were often transformed into historical figures although they may not predate Christianity, perhaps because the evidence simply did not survive or was destroyed by their competitor religion.  I’m using myth as in factually untrue stories that are historically improbable but symbolically meaningful [Richard Carrier].  Note, also, that I’m not insinuating that Christianity copied some of these themes out of whole cloth.  What I am saying, however, is that these ideas came from the same creative cognitive faculties that also produced the mythical motifs of Jesus Christ.  There’s no difference here.  And so why should we reject all the other mythological gods but accept this one?  In a similar vein, Gregory Boyd, a Christian apologist, proposes the following argument:

We know the Jesus story is about God visiting us and/or about a God who does something along the lines of dying and rising is not altogether unique. The history of religion and mythology is full of “incarnation-like” stories and “resurrection-like” stories. So, one could argue, if we assume that all these analogous “incarnations” and “resurrections” are mythological, we should similarly concede that the Christian version of these stories is mythological, its unique features notwithstanding.

The following list of mythological gods, some from the mystery religions, share some characteristics with Jesus.  For comparison, Jesus was born of a virgin, was a son of a god, was a divine judge, had a communal meal of bread and wine, was a savior, performed miracles, was crucified, resurrected, and ascended into heaven.  Now, for these, there is by no means a one-to-one parallel here, but they share some similar features nevertheless.  On the other hand, if you emphasize the differences, then you’d rightly conclude that these are quite different from Jesus.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that the human imagination and intellect are capable of creating etiologies – things that attempt to explain common mysteries – for example, what happens after death.  Mythology is nothing more than etiology expressed in dramatic ways, and may be used to comfort and satisfy human curiosity, while often being used as a tool for propaganda.  For instance, developing the virgin birth and performing miracles to show the greatness of the protagonist (e.g., Jesus Christ) is potentially propaganda.  All of the following gods were fabricated (adapted from Mike Licona), so why not Jesus Christ’s divine attributes as well?

  • Adonis (Syria) – ascended to heaven before death, resurrected on the 3rd day (later Christian interpretation)
  • Attis (Asia Minor) – virgin born
  • Baal – son of El a God, descends to the underworld, could have resurrected
  • Dionysus (Greece) – son of a God Zeus, a savior, descends to underworld, communal wine, rival of Christianity, could have resurrected
  • Hercules (Greece) – performed miracles, ascended to Mt Olympus and became a god
  • Hermes (Greece) – guides souls to underworld, son of Zeus, created miracles as an infant
  • Horus (Egypt) – son of Osiris and later son of Re, performed healing magic as a child
  • Krishna (India) – born of a virgin, performed miracles as a child, resurrected, ascended to heaven
  • Mithra (Persia) – a savior, divinity of light and salvation, communal bread and wine but was not considered the flesh and blood of God, ascends to heaven
  • Orpheus (Greece) – descends to underworld
  • Tammuz (Sumeria) – resurrection debated, descends to underworld
  • Zalmoxis () – death assured an afterlife (immortality of the soul), resurrection debated

In addition to mythological gods transformed into history, there were also people transformed into mythology or legend.  Once the mythology – dramatic stories and beliefs – have been created, then it can be set into historical reality, becoming legendary.  These characters all share common attributes or fit common themes known as the mythical hero archetype.  Jesus, as expressed in the Gospels, represents a lengthy mythical hero archetype quite well (not shown here).  The following is adapted from Robert Price and note that some gods are apt for this archetype as well, not just miracle workers.  There are many more attributes if curious, so please see the work of Alan Dundes for further details.

  • Persecuted as a child by a tyrant: Caesar Augustus, Moses, Krishna, Zoroaster, Jesus Christ
  • Postmortem appearances: Romulus, Appolonius, Jesus Christ
  • Performed miracles:  Appolonius, Onus, Hanina Ben Dosa, Honi the Circle Drawer, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Asclepius, Mohammed, Jesus Christ
  • Passion narratives: Appolonius, Jesus Christ
  • Empty tomb stories: popular contemporary novels, Jesus Christ

Now that we’ve identified the fallacy of special pleading that some commit in which they are unwilling to apply the same set of standards when evaluating their own god as they would to the other gods, it’s time to create some arguments.  The argument I’m making is an inductive, analogical argument, so the more features the comparing god has in common with Jesus, then, obviously, the more likely Jesus is similar to the comparing god.  And the more similar Jesus is to the comparing god, then the stronger the inference drawn will be.  For example, some gods are sons of gods that are mythical, Jesus is a son of a god, and therefore the inference can be drawn that Jesus is mythical too.  [When I use mythical, I mean at the very least having mythical attributes but not necessarily the entire being.]  But this, like all inductive reasoning, is only in probabilistic terms, and the conclusion is not guaranteed.  Moreover, the argument is only as good as how strong the comparison is.  So just because we have one attribute in common – both sons of gods – that doesn’t necessarily justify us in saying that Jesus was also similar in a further respect.

But I think we can do better than this because any one god and Jesus has other features in common, namely that some of their features are divine or that they have the capacity to perform miracles, i.e., they have the ability to do something that goes beyond what nature can accomplish.  Knowledge that is accumulated over time is known as background knowledge, which comes from our scientific testing of claims, our observations and experiences.  And miracles and divine features contradict our present day background knowledge – that is, these features, such as miracles and divine qualities, don’t coincide with how we know the world operates.  So they have a low prior probability of occurring, and are therefore likely to be mythology.  So we have other features in common – performance of miracles and divine attributes – that strengthens our inference that Jesus’ supernatural attributes are probably mythological like the other gods and miracle workers from above.

The last argument I’m making is a causal one.  This essentially says that there had to be a cause for the development of what we’ve established as mythology.  One possible explanation: evolutionary psychologists believe that people are born with “meaning-making” faculty and resort to myth making as a consequence of wanting to explain why things are the way they are and also for reasons of propaganda.  So myth making is a human enterprise.  To be clear, I am not allowing a metaphysical bias, namely that of naturalism, to skew my conclusion; these supernatural features are clearly byproducts of the human mind.  Moreover, we don’t know how god functions, and, therefore, it won’t do us much good to speculate that he’s the cause.  It’s much more likely that the same creative forces that created the other gods also created Jesus.  And there’s no reason to believe that the minds that developed the aforementioned mythological gods were any different from the minds that developed the mythology surrounding Jesus. Jesus is engulfed by, plain and simple, mythology like the rest of them.


I used a mixture of sources, namely from the Christian apologist Mike Licona, the historian Richard Carrier and the agnostic-theologian Robert Price.  The information was collected from their very well researched and articulated, but often dichotomous, views on Christ’s analogies from other saviors and religions.  I apologize for not being more precise and thorough in documenting this.  But the ideas and arguments, as most of my writings, are original to me.


  1. Owlmirror says

    Hermes (Greece) – guides soles to underworld

    I am pretty sure that Hermes does not guide flatfish or the bottoms of shoes to the underworld.

  2. Owlmirror says

    It’s a good essay, but it might be worth taking into account that some Christians decided that myths were God’s way of providing inspired knowledge of the truth that Jesus would be born and be sacrificed on the cross, etc. CS Lewis seems to have been a major proponent of this idea, per this essay. His referenced essay “Myth Became Fact” is also available in full on the web.

    Lewis, of course, is committing the fallacy of special pleading; he takes for granted that the Christian myth just so happens to have actually happened, because that’s what he already believed. It’s worth contrasting that with Justin Martyr’s attitude in the quote above.

  3. tkreacher says

    The lack of evidence for the the myth, the number of similar myths and other things aside, I’ve also had a problem with the idea of the “sacrifice” of Jesus since I was a child.

    The multiple times people have asked me, or pointed out, the “sacrifice” Jesus suffered “for us”, and how I could disrespect it, or not be emotionally swayed by it, I usually respond with something like this:

    Let me assume that the myth is true. If so, we have the literal son of god (or literally the god himself, depending on how you look at it), who knows that he is the son of god, who knows there is a paradise in which he will live forever upon “death” (though he can’t really die, because he can resurrect himself, and if you don’t stay dead then death it isn’t death – it’s a nap).

    So this son of god (who also is god) is required (or tasks himself), for some violent, blood sacrifice reason, to endure torture and “death” if he wants to “save the soul” of every single man, woman, and child on earth. No less than the fate of the eternal safeguarding of the entirety of the human race rests on his decision to allow this “sacrifice”.

    Given that he knows he is god or the son of god, and he knows that he will go to an eternal paradise if he “dies” (or has the ability to just say “lol, just kidding” and come back from death at will), how is this a difficult decision? Who… what kind of asshole, what kind of villain would refuse to suffer for a few days to save all of humanity? Knowing that they are literally a GOD and are immune to any lasting effects?

    Let’s talk about a firefighter for a minute. There have been, and there are today, firefighters who do not believe in gods or heaven. They do not believe they have a soul, or that they are the son of god, or they are immortal, or they will be resurrected after death. They believe that once they die, they are dead. And these firefighters run into burning buildings to save lives.

    Some of these firefighters have burned horribly, suffering terribly before they died, in the course of trying to save a single life. They did this to save ONE life, risking what they believe to be their only, finite life – no do-overs or magic re-spawns not only to life but to full health. That even if they didn’t die they were risking permanent pain and torture via horrific burns.

    And you expect me to – even if I took your particular bronze age mythology to be true – you expect me to think that an immortal god who puts himself in position to “suffer” for a few days, under the rules of the game that he set up, who knows for certain that he can’t actually “die” and will rule eternal paradise and the universe… you expect me to think of this “sacrifice” with awe?


    • Jo says

      Hello, I know you posted this awhile ago, but if you get this, please read this to the end. Your argument is compelling, and it IS true that Jesus know He would rise again. (I know what you’re probably doing as you read this- calculating every word I say and trying to form a counterargument. But hear me out).

      Imagine that we didn’t actually understand the extent of the suffering Jesus endured.

      Imagine that rather than just experiencing physical death, He experienced an evil so deep that He felt, in those last hours, less hope and more mental agony than anyone who ever died expecting no afterlife. Imagine that when His heart broke (because that is probably how He went in the end, from His heart rupturing), that pain extended beyond the body, to the soul.

      Imagine that God, or a man filled with God, who was willing to take on our pain for a couple days, was also willing to take on our pain as long as we continue to hurt. Imagine that pain, when you see someone being hurt, people making reckless choices, people suffering- imagine that God feels that pain. Imagine that God, being in every human being, or at least most of them, feels all of this pain as we do, and being the remedy, must come in contact with the problem.

      You may find the proposal that other people unconsciously fortold Jesus’s story with their own proposterous, but if God runs through everything, and everything is connected, doesn’t it make sense? You may believe that the fact that the story was from the bronze age is demeaning, but is it, really? We know more now, that’s true, but they weren’t completely ignorant. They were human and they had human concepts which have strangely survived the long history of humanity despite radical transformations. Back then, they couldn’t explain much, and miracles were everywhere. Now, we can explain a lot more, and we STILL can’t explain Jesus- but even if we could, God wouldn’t be ruled out, because the logic we discover as explanations could have been created by Him. Is it any more proposterous to believe in God now- even the Christian God- than it was then? No matter how far we go, we can never disprove Him. No amount of knowledge will ever make Him less likely.

      Jesus’s sacrifice is a very complex concept. Some people believe He literally took the sins of humanity on Himself (like they had substance and laws like nature). Some people believe He was simply giving us an example of how we should treat each other: as selfless, sacrifical friends willing to give up everything for one another. I believe this is the most important lesson we have to learn.

      Why God decided to do it this way can partially be assumed by logic, and is partially unknown. We know He’s always been all good, and He gave us the option of being all good, but we turned away from it. Apart from goodness, there’s no way to get back home. But no matter how many times He faced us back in the right direction, we stubbornly turned around.

      So He showed us how to get back ourselves, and became a guide for those who want a guide. There’s no other way He could have given a chance that lasts so long- absolutely as long as He could give us.

      So, I respect your opinion, and I hope I didn’t sound snarky in my reply. But proposterous is not the word to describe Christianity. Thank you for reading.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    Having read several of Bart D. Ehrman’s books, I got the impression Yeshua ben Joseph was a fairly typical apocalyptic Jewish prophet for the era.

    The position of modern Christianity (or rather plural “christianities”) is much different, due to narratie drift during the Bible’s oral story phase, copying errors, bad translations, deliberate forgeries and politically motivated purges of dissent in the Church.

    So today we have
    1. God is three but still one (quantum superposition?)
    2. God sacrificed a third of himself to himself.
    3. The sacrificed part was resurrected.
    4. Jews killed Jesus/Yeshua. Never mind that the Roman Pilate sentenced him to death.
    5. God is present in communion wine and wafers but not in urine or excrement.
    6. Suicide is bad. Taking human life is the monopoly of God.
    7. Satan was promoted from a minor nuisance to a bona fide divine rival some time in the eighth or ninth century.
    I cannot really say these claims make more sense than the things Donald Trump says.

  5. Sandi Nack says

    didnt read yet. (driveby blog check on work break) but Is Jesus special? dont we have similar stories from elsewhere?

  6. Poltiser says

    According to Leo Zen (L’invenzione del cristianesimo)
    he was a successful ruler for 2 years 34-36 of Jerusalem and agreed to surrender and die to avoid the destruction of the city…
    After his death unpopular in Jerusalem but glorified and deified in Alexandria, with growing popularity in hellenistic society under Roman rule, who always treated him and his followers as rebels…

    Interesting story…


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