This chapter deals with the category of skeptics referred to as “mythicists”: those skeptics who believe that Jesus never existed and that he was just another in a long line of ancient myths and legends, no different than Osiris, Horus, and Dionysus. Same plot, different (fictional) characters. His father a god, his mother a mortal. The demi-god dies and goes to the Underworld. Etc.., etc.
“Not so fast!” say the authors of The Resurrection Fact. “No previous ancient myth involved a bodily resurrection (therefore our ‘myth’ must be historical fact!).”
That’s right, dear Readers! The authors of this conservative Christian book refer to the Christian story as a “myth”, but before you think these LCMS Lutherans have become followers of the liberal Christian theologian, Bishop Spong, let me clarify: They have redefined the most common, popular definition of “myth”. Read on to see what I mean.
Instead of giving my own summation of this chapter, I am going to post the review of this chapter by Dr. Bombaro, the primary editor and author of the foreword to the book:
A much neglected but ever-rewarding apologetic is revived for contemporary readers by C.S. Armstrong and Andrew DeLoach from the writings of C.S. Lewis. …in 1945, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote …about the “beauty” of the biblical story, lamenting that skeptics in the name of modern science were jeopardizing the cultural significance and value of Genesis as a story in their repudiation of the Torah’s creation account. [Tolkien pointed out that] the beauty of the story while not necessarily a guarantee of its truth is a concomitant of it, and a fidelis is meant to draw nourishment from the beauty as well as the truth.
Gary: Got that, Readers?? If I understand Tolkien, what he is trying to say is that the entire Genesis Creation story may not be historically accurate, but just because it is not entirely accurate does not mean it is worthless. The beauty, imagery, [and morality?] within the story are also of value.
I would certainly agree that we can learn moral values and appreciate beauty in fictional stories. I see nothing wrong with that. But how does that relate to the Resurrection story? If the authors are trying to say that the Resurrection is a “myth” which teaches us a moral lesson about Jesus’ humility and compassion I would certainly agree. But isn’t that what Liberal Christianity teaches??? Why bother with all the “evidence” for a bodily resurrection?
Dr. Bombaro continues: C.S. Lewis understands the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ virgin birth as “mythic”. But what distinguishes “fairy-stories” (to use Tolkien’s term) from the mythic elements of the Gospels is that the Christian story moves from the beauty of the poetic and imaginative into the reality of authentic human history.: “Now as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is myth which is also a fact,” says Lewis. ” The old myth of the Dying God , without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It HAPPENS–at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. ” …The miracle of the resurrection, like the incarnation, does not cease to be a myth even though it has become a fact–THAT, he [C.S. Lewis] says, is the miracle of Christianity.
Gary: Heavy, man. Heavy.
So what the authors are saying is this…[I think]: Jesus is the historical fulfillment of ancient mythology. He is not the product of a new first century religious sect who copycatted certain aspects of existing myths such as a male deity mating with a human virgin to produce a demi-god son who… etc..
I don’t believe that Jesus was a myth, but I believe that his demi-god status and his alleged virgin birth were most likely borrowed from pagan mythology. And the bodily resurrection? I believe that the bodily resurrection belief evolved over hundreds of years, very likely due to the hellenization of Judaism. There is no evidence of a belief in the resurrection of the body in the Torah. Many scholars believe that the Jewish belief in a resurrection developed during the Greek occupation of Palestine, possibly earlier during the Babylonian exile. But the belief in the Afterlife itself is a belief borrowed from ancient PAGAN mythology, therefore the very roots of “Resurrection” are mythological. Until Christians can provide better evidence for their “historical myth” than they have provided to date, it will remain in the minds of most non-Christians, a myth, by the popular definition of that term: a fictional, non-event.