Murdock on Justin Martyr’s Admission of Parallels

D.M. Murdock, Christ in Egypt, pp 517-19:

Regarding this matter of precedence for parallels, Witt advocated proceeding with caution, but was also certain that the Egyptian religion influenced Christianity, remarking:

“Historians, generally, and specifically those who trace the development of religious ideas, need to avoid the trap of confusing the chronological order with cause and effect: post hoc ergo propter hoc.  On the other hand, the veneration (hyperdulia) of the Blessed Virgin Mary was certainly introduced at about the same time Theodosius ordered the destruction of pagan temples, including the Serapeum and other shrines of the Egyptian gods.  Here, we may think, lies a reason for the absorption of elements, ideas and usages from the old religion into the new.”

As can be seen, the evident borrowing byChristianity continued well into the common era, during Theodosius’s time in the fourth century.  Thus, simply because borrowing occurred during the “Christian era” does not mean it was by Paganism from Christianity.  Again, what is designated as the “Christian era” did not descend suddenly upon the entire world after the year 1 AD/CE but is relative, and to this day there remains places that are still pre-Christian, showing no knowledge of or influence by Christianity.

In capitulating to the fact there are indeed very serious correspondences between the Egyptian and christian religions, apologists insist that these motifs can only be found dating to the middle of the second century at the earliest.  When Justin Marty discussed them in detail, thereby supposedly showing that Paganism must have borrowed from Christianity.  In the first place, this present work reveals otherwise, as practically everything significant within Christianity existed in one form or another in the Egyptian religion long before the common era, much of it revolving around the characters of Osiris, Isis and Horus.

Moreover, in his First Apology (54) Justin specifically claims these parallels, including the Greek god Bacchus/Dionysus’s ascension into heaven, as well the virgin birth and ascension of Perseus, were the result of “the devil” anticipating Christ’s story:

“For having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that Christ was to come… [the wicked demons] put forward many to be called sons of Jupiter, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said with regard to Christ were mere marvelous tales, like the things which were said by the poets.”  (Roberts, A., ANCL, II, 53-54)

In chapter 56 of his Apology, Justin pointedly states that the “evil spirits” were making their mischief “before Christ’s appearance.” (Roberts, A., ANCL, II, 55)  In other words, Justin — and others using the same “devil did it” excuse, such as Tertullian and Lactantius — did not dishonestly deny the parallels, as have many modern apologists.”  Indeed, these early Church fathers happily used these correspondences in their polemics and apologies to make Christianity appear less ridiculous — and ridiculous it evidently was perceived to be by the educated Greeks and Romans of the time.  To the se latter groups, the gospel story could not have been any more “real” or “historical” than that of Apollo or Neptune, and surely doubted Christ’s existence as a “historical” figure in ancient times.  Moreover, nowhere does Justin Martyr claim that the Pagans copied Christianity after Christ’s alleged advent, which he certainly would have done, had the copying occurred in that direction.

It is obvious from Justin’s “devil got there first” excuse that these mythical motifs existed beforeChrist’s purported manifestation on Earth and that there were those n his time who sensibly questioned the historical veracity of the gospel story, essentially calling it “mere marvelous tales” — in other words, a myth.  In Dialogue with Trypho (69), in fact, Justin again invokes the “devil got there first” argument, specifically stating that these Pagan “counterfeits” were likewise “wrought by the Magi in Egypt.” (Roberts, A. ANCL, II, 184)  Now, which “counterfeits” and “Magi” would these be?  The “Magi” must be the Egyptian Priests, apparently called as such by people of Justin’s era, while the “counterfeits” must refer to at least some of the Egyptian gods.  Justin also specifically names the Greek gods Dionysus, Hercules, and Asclepius as those whose “fables” were emulated by the devil in anticipatingChrist.  As we have seen, these gods have their coutnerparts in Egyptian mythology as well, in Osiris and Horus, as prime examples.

7 thoughts on “Murdock on Justin Martyr’s Admission of Parallels

  1. I’m not really in a mood to debate any of this. This post of mine was merely me taking a passage directly from a book. I’m convinced by Murdock’s general viewpoint, but I don’t have much of an opinion specifically about Justin Martyr as I’ve never studied his writings. If you’re not convinced by Murdock’s argument, that is fine.

    I’m content to let the disagreement stand. I suspect even if we were to discuss this issue, we’d still end up disagreeing and so I don’t see the point. Sorry, but I’ve been in too many wearisome discussions that went no where.

    If I’m feeling more inspired later, I might give more of a response to your viewpoint. But for now I don’t feel inspired.

  2. Benjamine Steele, perhaps before you commit to beleif in Acharya S’s wordview and conclusions, it woudl behoove yto to read the origional sources. No debate needed, just read Justyn Martyr. Its free online.

    • I do read original sources when they interest me. However, I openly admit the heresiologists don’t overly interest me. Anyways, I’m not committed to belief about anything Acharya writes. I’ve read many scholars and I make up my own mind.

      Are you implying that if I read Justin Martyr Acharya S’ worldview and conclusions would fall apart? That is another strong allegation that would require you to back up with evidence. Since it’s free online, then give me specific quotes and link to the specific passages. If you’re able and willing to offer an intelligent criticism, I’m able and willing to offer an intelligent response.

  3. I have read Justin Martyrs apologies. There is no way that there can be an interpretation issue about this. My only hope is that, maybe the dating of these is off by about 300 years into ce. Unfortunately this is not the case.(according to many sources) I admire Ms. Murdock in having the intestinal fortitude to be so public about the biggest sacred character ever created. I was raised a LITERALIST christian and now because of this knowledge I have been totally ostracized from friends and family. I live in the southern bible belt and this knowledge is very dangerous. Thank you for the opportunity to pay homage to such a fearless woman….Tim

    • I’ve had slight disagreements with Acharya’s view and have even pointed them out to Acharya in her blog. Even so, I highly respect her as a scholar. I’m glad she is willing to fight the good fight.

      I’m sorry you’ve had difficulties with friends and family. That would be sad to have those close to you ostracize you simply because you were unwilling to deny obvious facts.

      I actually met an intelligent Christian who basically admitted that he had no rational defense, but chose to agree with the fundamentalist position because he was afraid of what would happen if he didn’t. All of his family and friends (including his wife) were fundamentalists. For him to openly admit to what he knew would mean his entire way of life would end and he would be ostracized. The prospect of being alone is a very great fear.

      It was odd talking to him because he was double-minded. He didn’t have a rational defense and he didn’t have faith, but he felt he had no choice other than to somehow trust in his wife’s faith. He had managed to compartmentalize all of his doubts in such a way that for all practical purposes they didn’t exist. He essentially ostracized his own rationality.

      It’s hard for me to understand. I did live a number of years in the South (South Carolina) and spent time in the Bible Belt (North Carolina), but my parents raised me in the most liberal form of Christianity in existence (Unity Church). My parents have since become very conservative Christians. I’ve, however, have retained my liberal Christian upbringing.

      I have no beef whatsoever with Christianity as a general category. I live in a liberal town, but Christians in a town like this tend to be of the well educated variety which is entirely different than what is found in the rural Bible Belt.

  4. My beef is literalism…..example….”If you can”t believe that Christ was born of a virgin, performed miracles, was crucified, and rose from the dead in three days; you are going to burn in HELL for eternity!”….It is this, that I have had to live with…FEAR….not a healthy way to be raised (pentecostal)…interpreting the so called “gifts of the spirit” as Divine evidence that God has shone love for you….and if you didn’t experience this then God obviously does not love you….Jim Jones’ koolaid punch would have been healthier …The only thing I have to hold on to is not the “STORY” but the “MESSAGE”…..L O V E…..and unfortunately it took all the pagan miracle beliefs handed down in oral “STORIES” to get the illiterate populace to remember them…..history repeats its self….Egyptian- ANTHROPOMORPHIC PERSONIFICATIONS OF THE SUN—-enter old testament (exodus)- SUPER NATURAL INTERPRETATIONS OF NATURAL PHENOMENON (tsunamis-volcanoes)—and now the new testament (rehash of Egyptian beliefs) ….ANTHROPOMORPHIC PERSONIFICATIONS OF THE SUN………….paraphrasing Acharya S. and many others…..What is next ? Who knows…………………….

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