First of Two Parts

That the Easter faith in the Resurrection of Christ is the core of Christianity can hardly be denied. Whether that conviction is rooted in myth, in hallucination, or in history has often been debated. Some have maintained that the Resurrection of Christ is a myth patterned after the prototypes of dying and rising fertility gods. Others argue that subjective visions of the risen Christ were sufficient to convince the disciples that their leader was not dead. Even those who do not doubt the historicity of Christ’s life and death differ as to how the Resurrection may be viewed historically. Let us examine the evidences for these alternatives.

I. Easter As Myth

A. Dying and Rising Fertility Gods

John H. Randall, emeritus professor of philosophy at Columbia University, has asserted: “Christianity, at the hands of Paul, became a mystical system of redemption, much like the cult of Isis, and the other sacramental or mystery religions of the day” (Hellenistic Ways of Deliverance and the Making of the Christian Synthesis, 1970, p. 154). Hugh Schonfield in Those Incredible Christians (1968, p. xii) has declared: “The revelations of Frazer in The Golden Bough had not got through to the masses.… Christians remained related under the skin to the devotees of Adonis and Osiris, Dionysus and Mithras.”

The theory that there was a widespread worship of a dying and rising fertility god—Tammuz in Mesopotamia, Adonis in Syria, Attis in Asia Minor, and Osiris in Egypt—was propounded by Sir James Frazer, who gathered a mass of parallels in part IV of his monumental work The Golden Bough (1906, reprinted in 1961). This view has been adopted by many who little realize its fragile foundations. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.