Jesus Christ in comparative mythology  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The study of Jesus from a mythographical perspective is the examination of the narrative of Jesus, the Christ ("the Anointed") of the gospels, Christian theology and folk Christianity as a central part of Christian mythology. Such study may also involve comparison between Christian beliefs about Jesus and beliefs about other gods or mythological characters.

Examination of such parallels may seek to uncover common elements of human myth-making or analyse mythemes (the component elements of myth) in the gospel presentation of Jesus. Alternatively it may identify historically specific parallels in contemporary mystery religions of the Roman Empire such as Mithraism and the myths of rebirth deities and sacral kingship. The New Testament narrative explicitly employs earlier mythology, notably claiming fulfillment of Messianic prophecies of Hebrew mythology, and by Paul the Apostle in Athens as he took up the motif of the "Unknown God".

The study of Jesus Christ as myth is popularly associated with a skeptical position toward the historicity of Jesus. Proponents of a mythical origin of Christianity allow that some gospel material may have been drawn from a historical preacher or preachers, but they hold that these preachers were not in any sense "the founder of Christianity"; rather they contend that Christianity emerged organically from Hellenistic Judaism, dubbed the "Christ myth theory". However, the study of parallels between the narrative of Christ and other mythological figures does not prejudice Jesus' historicity, and is open to several interpretations besides ahistoricity:

  1. Christianity's influence on the Mystery religions (so Augustine of Hippo)
  2. interpretation of mythological parallels as "diabolical imitation" of Christ (so Justin Martyr)
  3. interpretation of pre-Christian myth as a product of degraded Urmonotheismus (various 20th century Christian apologetics)
  4. interpretation of the Christ narrative as "true myth" (so C. S. Lewis)
  5. admission of a historical Jesus, who is however of lesser interest to Christianity than the Christ myth (so C. G. Jung)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Jesus Christ in comparative mythology" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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