Update 2015-08-29: Jeff Rose "The Bible Hunters" (documentary)
There is an interesting popular science book named "The Jesus Mysteries: Was the Original Jesus a Pagan God?" by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. I have to say that both are not widely accepted as proper researchers by other researchers.
However, I find their theory quite compelling: the story of Jesus is a result of a designer process - on purpose or not. There are many similarities to far older historical myths and gods.
Let's take a look at one specific quote from the book.
Here is the original quote in contrast to the short version of Wikipedia with links added by me:
Either the Devil really has perfected the art of diabolical mimicry or there is a mystery to solve here. Let's review the evidence:
- Jesus is the savior of mankind, God made man, the Son of God equal with the Father; so is Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus is born of a mortal virgin who after her death ascends to heaven and is honored as a divine being; so is Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus is born in a cave on December 25 or January 6, as is Osiris-Dionysus.
- The birth of Jesus is prophesied by a star; so is the birth of Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus is born in Bethlehem, which was shaded by a grove sacred to Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus is visited by the Magi, who are followers of Osiris-Dionysus.
- The Magi bring Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which a sixth-century BCE Pagan tells us is the way to worship God.
- Jesus is baptized, a ritual practiced for centuries in the Mysteries.
- The holy man who baptizes Jesus with water has the same name as a Pagan god of water and is born on the summer solstice celebrated as a Pagan water festival.
- Jesus offers his followers elemental baptisms of water, air, and fire, as did the Pagan Mysteries.
- Jesus is portrayed as a quiet man with long hair and a beard; so is Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus turns water into wine at a marriage on the same day that Osiris-Dionysus was previously believed to have turned water into wine at a marriage.
- Jesus heals the sick, exorcises demons, provides miraculous meals, helps fishermen make miraculous catches of fish, and calms the water for his disciples; all of these marvels had previously been performed by Pagan sages.
- Like the sages of the Mysteries, Jesus is a wandering wonder-worker who is not honored in his home town.
- Jesus is accused of licentious behavior, as were the followers of Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus is not at first recognized as a divinity by his disciples, but then is transfigured before them in all his glory; the same is true of Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus is surrounded by 12 disciples; so is Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus rides triumphantly into town on a donkey while crowds wave branches, as does Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus is a just man unjustly accused of heresy and bringing a new religion, as is Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus attacks hypocrites, stands up to tyranny, and willingly goes to his death predicting he will rise again in three days, as do Pagan sages.
- Jesus is betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, a motif found in the story of Socrates.
- Jesus is equated with bread and wine, as is Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus' disciples symbolically eat bread and drink wine to commune with him, as do the followers of Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus is hung on a tree or crucified, as is Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus dies as a sacrifice to redeem the sins of the world; so does Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus' corpse is wrapped in linen and anointed with myrrh, as is the corpse of Osiris-Dionysus.
- After his death Jesus descends to hell, then on the third day resurrects before his disciples and ascends into heaven, where he is enthroned by God and waits to reappear at the end of time as a divine judge, as does Osiris-Dionysus.
- Jesus was said to have died and resurrected on exactly the same dates that the death and resurrection of Osiris-Dionysus were celebrated.
- Jesus' empty tomb is visited by three women followers; Osiris-Dionysus also has three women followers who visit an empty cave.
- Through sharing in his passion Jesus offers his disciples the chance to be born again, as does Osiris-Dionysus.
Even though the receptions of critics were negative (some of them without actually even reading the book), the theory is stunning. One has to do some research to dig into pre-Jesus history for verifying or falsifying each point.
However, the New Testament was written after two generations or oral traditions were able to include various "decorations" - no offense. Variations in stories that are told (not written/read) are totally normal. This is also a reason for telling stories in rhymes that help to minimize this variation-effect to a certain extend.
Further more, Constantine the Great did enforce unified sources for his new religion. The term heresy was invented for people who did not follow the one and true "type" of Christianity and thousands and thousands have been killed, their books destroyed. Whole cultures were lost.
Alternative versions of the New Testament were hunted down and destroyed in his whole empire. People not worshiping "correctly" were excommunicated or killed. No wonder that the four testaments are rather similar versions of one Jesus.
Other sources such as the Dead Sea Scrolls or Gnostic sources are very interesting since they offer an "unfiltered" source of information to the same stories. And yes, they do show a slightly different picture here and there. The early Christianity was a rather diverse group of people with different books, different beliefs, and quite different interpretations.
The Christian religion placed its holidays on pre-existing holidays of different origins such as Christmas or Easter. The latter might be based on a valid belief.
So when the Christian religion might as well be based on much older religions and myths, lots of people with influence "filtered" and "unified" historical sources: What do I have to think of the current set of rules of the Christian church?
Just a play of thoughts.
2015-08-08: There is an interesting discussion in the Disqus-comments below. You might want to click on the button:
I saw (only) the second part of the BBC documentary named "The Bible Hunters" with Jeff Rose. You can find it on YouTube but at least for Austria, it's not available. This page also contains links to ed2k files.
Besides any valuable criticism, the documentary shows that there were many diverse versions of the same story in the early centuries of the Christian church. Alternative versions of the New Testament were hunted down and had to be hidden in order to survive the re-writing or unification of history.
Despite the fact that I am no researcher of this field and Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy are criticized for not being experts as well, history does seem to confirm the basic theme here: the New Testament is not the only truth. There are other and different versions which were intensively hunted down and destroyed over the centuries for various reasons. It is valid to question the content of the New Testament. We have reason to believe that the truth behind the Christianity is more complicated and diverse as we thought.