Many skeptics, such as Richard Carrier, strain to make the very existence of Jesus a myth. They believe the best way to combat God is to erase Jesus completely from the record books. The primary way they do this is to say that Christianity is a legend, borrowed from pagan stories of the time. They twist and turn the Gospels to find parallels between Christ and the gods and demigods of the Hellenized culture.

Drawing from ALL the gods, goddesses, and Demi-gods, Carrier creatively finds these similarities:

  1. Dying-and-Rising Gods:
    Carrier discusses various deities from ancient cultures who die and are subsequently resurrected or reborn. Examples include Osiris from Egyptian mythology and Tammuz from Mesopotamian myths.
  2. Virgin Birth:
    Carrier points out that virgin births or miraculous births are a common motif in ancient religions. Examples include the birth of Perseus in Greek mythology, where Danaë becomes pregnant by Zeus in the form of a golden shower.
  3. Son of God:
    The concept of a deity having a divine or semi-divine son is not unique to Christianity. Carrier often mentions figures like Hercules, the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, as an example.
  4. Miracles and Healings:
    Carrier notes that performing miracles, especially healings, is a common trait among divine or semi-divine figures in various cultures. Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, was renowned for his healing powers.
  5. Sacrificial Death:
    The idea of a god or hero dying as a sacrifice for the greater good or for the redemption of others is a theme Carrier sees in various myths. The story of Attis, a Phrygian god who castrates himself and dies only to be reborn, is one such example.
  6. Celestial Beings:
    Carrier posits the idea that Jesus might have originally been thought of as a celestial being who existed in the heavenly realms, similar to how other deities and heroes in ancient religions resided in realms outside of the earthly plane.

Applying Carrier’s method to other famous figures, I’ve drawn parallels between Elvis Presley and Orpheus (note, I limited myself to one mythological figure):

  1. Musical Prowess:
    Elvis: Known for his unique voice and charismatic stage presence, Elvis revolutionized the music industry.
    Orpheus: Famed for his divine musical talents, he could charm wild beasts and even divert the course of rivers with his lyre.
  2. Pioneers:
    Elvis: A pioneer of rock and roll, he blended various genres, popularizing this new style of music.
    Orpheus: Considered a pioneer in the realm of music and poetry in Greek mythology.
  3. Tragic Love:
    Elvis: Marked by personal struggles, including a turbulent relationship with Priscilla Presley.
    Orpheus: Known for his tragic love story with Eurydice, failing to retrieve her from the Underworld due to his impatience.
  4. Untimely Death:
    Elvis: Died unexpectedly at a young age, leading to worldwide mourning.
    Orpheus: Met an untimely death at the hands of the Maenads after failing to retrieve Eurydice.
  5. Legacy:
    Elvis: Remembered as the “King of Rock and Roll” with a lasting impact on music history.
    Orpheus: His music and tragic hero legacy continue in Greek myths, inspiring countless retellings and adaptations.

By applying Richard Carrier’s method, one can find parallels between any two figures if they look hard enough. Be careful, or I will find a parallel for you and you will be no more.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    3 replies to "Parallels of Mythology: The Curious Case of Jesus and Elvis"

    • Eric Quek

      Carrier’s view posits that the story of Jesus is a myth, woven from other ancient tales, challenging the uniqueness of the Christian narrative. However, scholars like Dr. Bart Ehrman & Dr. Daniel Wallace offer deeper insights into the conversation.
      Dr. Ehrman is a NT scholar, historian of early Christianity and author of numerous books that explore the historical foundations of Christianity, the textual reliability of the NT. Dr. D Wallace also a NT scholar and an expert in Greek and NT studies, founder of the Center for the Study of NT Manuscripts and professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. A textual critic with extensive knowledge on the reliability of NT manuscripts.
      Michael’s essay, which cleverly draws parallels between Elvis & mythological figure Orpheus to illustrate Carrier’s method, both Ehrman and Wallace would likely find the comparison refreshing in showing the method’s limitation. How? Michael highlight how selective comparisons can suggest similarities where the historical or narrative connections may be tenuous. Ehrman would appreciate this critique as it align with his discipline for rigorous historical methods, while Wallace would agree that thematic parallels do not undermine the historicity of texts. Patton’s creativity demonstrate the potential for overextension in Carrier’s approach. Patton argument effectively cautions against using loose parallels to draw conclusive historical connections, emphasizing the need for critical examination of evidence over thematic comparison such as looking at general ideas that can be found in different historical events.

    • Ewan Kerr

      If Ehrman thinks Jesus existed and mythicists are nuts , then there must be some evidence for the existence of Jesus in history..

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