Question:

I recently stumbled onto a web site where the author talks about how Christianity borrowed from other religions and that Jesus was a mythical figure. She tries to make similarities between Jesus and Buddha, Horus etc. One example from her web site claims that Buddha had 12 disciples just like Jesus, that Buddha was born of a virgin mother, that Buddhaalso had a last supper, etc. She says that these things of Buddha and other religious figures occurred before Jesus was around and as a result claims because of this that Jesus was a mythical figure. She even claims on her web site that the writings of Josephus about the existence of Jesus were forgeries.


Answer:

Oh how funny! Using her style of argumentation (I won't deem to call it reasoning), George Washington was mythological character. After all the government he headed had similarities to older governments and it is obvious that the Constitution borrowed ideas from the Magna Carta. I hope you get the picture. The arguments really don't prove one way or another whether Jesus and the Bible are true. The falsehood that underpins this is the idea that truth must be unique.

For example, "Buddha had a last supper." Well, everyone has a last supper since everyone dies. The major difference is that most of us don't know in advance which supper is going to be our last. The importance of Jesus' last supper wasn't the event itself. It was the teaching Jesus gave to his disciples during that last meal and the establishment of his memorial supper that makes it major in our minds.

What is also interesting is that she uses falsehoods. "Buddha was born of a virgin." Not hardly, I found this on a Buddhist site:

Buddha's father was Suddhodana, king of the Sakhyas. Buddha's mother was named Maya. Buddha was born in B.C. 560 and died at the age of eighty in B.C. 480. The place of his birth was a grove known as Lumbini, near the city of Kapilavastu, at the foot of Mount Palpa in the Himalayan ranges within Nepal. ... Maya died seven days after her son's birth. The child was brought up by Maya's sister Mahaprajapati, who became its foster-mother.

I also found a list of Buddha's early disciples and the list is far longer than twelve. See: http://web.singnet.com.sg/~sidneys/disciples.htm

It appears to me that someone is playing fast and loose with facts in order to create the appearance that Christianity is not original. But even if through diligent search you could find a few commonalities between Christianity and another religion, the existence of the commonality doesn't imply that one borrowed from another. That would have to be a separate fact to be established. What this woman would have to prove is that Christians in Judea somehow borrowed stories from India and made it a part of their religion. It is a tall order as contact between the middle east and India was not regular or even frequent in this time period.

While the claim of Josephus' record concerning Jesus being forged has been around since the 1600's, it hasn't been proven. There is only one passage that is in dispute. The problem is that the wording and grammar is consistent with the rest of Josephus' writings. There is an early Arabic translation of Josephus that lacks a few key phrases so it is possible that some descriptive terms might have been added, but even this is difficult to prove. But more importantly there are several other passages which also mention Jesus and even John the Baptist. These passages are not in dispute and all could be used to establish that Jesus existed in history.

Josephus is not the only document. The Bible itself is an ancient document. The fact that it speaks about Jesus as a real man does not mean anyone can dismiss its evidence just because they don't like what it says about Jesus. But if you want non-Christian sources, in addition to Josephus there are the following Roman and Greek authors who mention Jesus: Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Suetonius, Thallus, Lucian, and Celus. There is even a mention of Jesus' crucifixion in the Talmud, which is also a collection of ancient writings.

Obviously if you add in Christian writers, the evidence that Jesus actually existed is overwhelming. There is more evidence for Jesus existing than some of our ancient historical figures. Wikipedia has an article on the Historicity of Jesus and mentions this under "Jesus as a myth":

A few scholars have questioned the existence of Jesus as an actual historical figure. Among the proponents of non-historicity have been Bruno Bauer in the 19th century. Non-historicity was somewhat influential in biblical studies during the early 20th century. (The views of scholars who entirely rejected Jesus' historicity then were summarized in the chapter on Jesus in Will Durant's Caesar and Christ (in 1944); they were based on a suggested lack of eyewitness, a lack of direct archaeological evidence, the failure of certain ancient works to mention Jesus, and similarities early Christianity shares with then-contemporary religion and mythology.)

Michael Grant stated (in 1977) that the view is derived from a lack of application of historical methods:

if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned.... To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ myth theory. It has 'again and again been answered and annihilated by first rank scholars.' In recent years, 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus' or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.