“On the other hand there is more than adequate evidence from pre-Christian religions of exactly the same things that supposedly happened to Jesus. Scourging, whipping, suffering and crucifixion feature in these pre-Christian religions.
Conclusion: the accounts of these things happening to Jesus are no more than copycat stories of mythological prior accounts found in Egyptian, Syrian, Greek, Babylonian and Mesopotamian sources.
Of course, in that case, the gospels’ accounts are also mythological, not real historical ones which were completely misunderstood and misrepresented by the early Roman church. Another one of their historical blunders. Think about that this Easter.”
What you are describing is no problem to Christian theology, Ian, and I would like you to read from my message to you now exactly how we account for these things, as of course it is a perfectly reasonable point, but thankfully one we have a very satisfactory answer to. I say “satisfactory”, meaning that those who want to believe will be satisfied by it, and those who want to disbelieve, well, they’ll obviously find holes to pick in it. I ask you to try to be open-minded.
The idea of “typology” in Christian apologetics
Here goes. We include in our theology something called typology. We see so-called “types” of Christ in the Old Testament. Jesus Himself gives an example of one when he tells us the brazen serpent in the wilderness was Him. In another case he states that Jonah prefigures Him, His use of Psalms indicate that in many respoects the life and sayings of David prefigure Him. Look and Live: Christ as the True Bronze Serpent will give you more on that, including the scriptural references, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typology_(theology) contains more information from a not specifically Christian viewpoint about this idea in Christian theology. It’s an important idea and until you get to grips with it, you haven’t done justice to the claims of our faith on your heart.
We see clear types of Christ in numerous pagan religions, and if Christ demonstrates Himslein a brazen serpent then He can also be represented in a number of pre-Christian religions. What we notice is that that around the world as missions went into the field, they found many Christ figures, sons of God, who died for us, various sacrificial animals especially lambs, When they realised that these were forfigurings of the person and work of Jesus as shown in the New Testament, they readily exchanged their former belief systems for these. Nobody believes right now in Hercules or Osiris or various Norse deities that claimed to be sons of Gods.
The God who winks?
In Acts 17 we see from verse 15 onwards an account of St Paul’s arrival in Athen’s and his sermon to the Athenians from Mars’ Hill. He told them that their altar to the Unknown God wasn’t a different God that they worshipped, but the true God, only worshipped ignorantly. Today we might make the same Pauline comment to Muslims who state that the 100th Name of God is unknown to men. The Bahai’s already tried to claim this but we know that it is of course Jesus. The summary to Mankind of all that God is, in very human flesh.
I recommend you to read the whole passage but in particular please note these verses:
v30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
v31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
We see God being willing to “wink” or overlook ignorance, but now a day is appointed for the judgement of the workld, and we know from Jesus’ own lips that this day will only come when every tribe and nation has heard the true gospel of His sacrifice on our behalf, and each nation which has never heard the gospel is no longer limited to the hints of the way of salvation that the human conscience and the types scattered across the world’s native cultures can have given them.
Once we have properly heard the Gospel, there is no more excuse for ignorance, there is no more winking by God, no more “hyperidōn” as the Greek puts it, no more overlooking the fact that an idol was worshipped and instead gracious imputation of the worship of Christ as it was with the bronze serpent in the wilderness. We now have the full Acts 4;12 scenario: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” than solely in the name of Jesus Christ.
They want to place Christ in a no-win situation
But we are left between a rock and a hard place with atheists. When they hear that we preach those without Jesus are going to hell, they say “how unfair on those who lived in the past before the gospel reached them or before Jesus lived”. But when we show the myriad of these types of Christ, these brazen serpents, to whom the elect persons of all ages could look and live as they were deemed to be reacting toe the Gospel, had they encountered it, then atheists say “you see, there’s nothing original about Christ, all He is is a hodgepodge of pre-Christian religions!”.
Please give this your heartfelt consideration.
I want you to be ready
There are wars increasing around us, new plagues, famine is coming, awful plans by people whom we are paying taxes to be trustworthy, yet they merely work out the agenda of the demons who possess them, often fully convinced they are doing humanity a great service, and completely unaware of the lethal tools of Satan that they are. If I did no know that Jesus is victor, I would be walking around with a cold feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach, a feeling many know today and need to know that Jesus is the answer.
Sooner than we know, history comes to a conclusion, Jesus returns in glory and power. As He does so, there are all over the world groups of people working in offices and factories together, or asleep in the same houses – one is taken, others are left, to their destruction and endless regret. They see Him, but the age of grace is over. The call to repentance and faith which we proclaim today then no longer maintains its validity. This age is soon gone, whether by your own death or the end of the entire world, which rolls nearer and nearer with Newtonian acceleration.
I want you to be ready.