It struck me recently that the way many mythicists view Jesus in relation to other savior figures, is akin to how young-earth creationists view flood stories from around the world. The latter consider that all of the stories are copies from and reflect knowledge of a historical ancient flood. Someone with a tiny bit of skepticism might suggest that the stories are copies, but that doesn’t prove the historicity of a great flood – much as mythicists suggest that details about Jesus might be borrowed from other figures, and they then make lists of parallels which exaggerate and sometimes fabricate similarities. But a truly critical investigation would consider the possibility that there is no need for borrowing, that human experience of flooding on a local scale, and common human hopes for those they consider saviors, could have given rise to the disparate stories we find.
Not everything that is similar is related.
When mythicists suggest that Jesus is depicted with characteristics that are borrowed from other savior figures, thinking that this is them being skeptical with respect to Christianity, I want to insist that there is a need to be even more critical and skeptical. Humans attribute many of the same things to those figures they revere, and from whom they hope for something. In some cases there may be direct borrowing, but not all. Is your aim to follow the trail of evidence and to apply historical tools of inquiry, or is your aim to adopt the view that you consider to be most detrimental to Christianity, regardless of whether the evidence favors it?In some cases there is good reason to conclude that deliberate borrowing has taken place. The Genesis account is clearly very closely related to earlier Mesopotamian stories. The former seems to most scholars to be a deliberate attempt to rework an existing flood tradition, perhaps in order to give it what we might call a monotheistic twist. But a look at the details of supposed parallels from further afield often suggests that, in fact, the only common element is flooding, which doesn’t require direct borrowing. And in some cases the additional similarities may be the result of contact with the Biblical material, for instance when brought by missionaries. Dates of sources, extent of similarity on specific details, and likelihood of direction of borrowing all need to be considered.
A close look at either the world’s flood stories touted by creationists, or the world’s savior stories touted by mythicists, suggests that they are not all genetically related, and that we need to pay close attention to their details in order to determine where there is evidence of direct borrowing, and where there probably isn’t.