Jesus Is the Ultimate Redemptor [Questions That Haunt]

Jesus Is the Ultimate Redemptor [Questions That Haunt] March 25, 2013

This week, Lance asked,

Have you posted or tackled much regarding all the parrallels of Jesus, Horus and Dionysus (or others if they exist)? This has come up twice recently for me and is never discussed here in Texas, or in my Pentecostal heritage 🙂 “Questions that Haunt” popped in my head. Not only would I be interested in the historical contexts but I am wondering if there’s anything that also talks about how these gods were worshipped and anything about the followers. I’m always curious to know WHY people believe what they do more than anything else.

In a follow-up comment, he expanded,

Somehow, this question grew into something more for me. I began to wonder, as one has already said, what are the impacts on our belief system, even if there are mythological influences on our Bible? What would that mean to our faith? This has me thinking, what is it that we’re called to “Believe”? Is belief simply determining if we agree there was a Historical Jesus? What did Jesus mean when he said “Believe in Me”? If I ask someone to believe in me, I’m not asking them to make some sort of mental decision to accept the narrative of my life. I’m asking something else entirely, and I wonder if Jesus was asking the same. Someone commented about how the teachings of Jesus have no parallel to any of the other gods. The messages of hope, love, mercy, forgiveness…, all much unlike other ancient (and I assume often barbaric) religions. Is this the problem with unbelief, in that we’ve all been conditioned to believe in the wrong thing? Are we to put our faith in a history lesson or as my nephew would complain, use faith to fill in the historical gaps and contradictions? Or is faith meant to be placed in the message?

The latter seems more appropriate to me. More life giving. More substantive. and has me looking at a number of Scriptures with another perspective in mind.

Thanks, Lance. Here’s my response:

A few years ago, I had a stock part of talks that I would give on “Christ and Church and Culture,” something I’ve been asked to speak on frequently. I put up an image of the cast of American Idol, and baldly stated: “Ryan Seacrest is the messiah figure on American Idol.”

I went on to explain my theory that Simon Cowell was clearly the Lucifer character, and Randy and Paula were demons under his command. But Ryan, dear Ryan, was something else entirely. When contestants emerged from their moments of temptation and trial, Ryan was waiting outside the door. If they held a victorious yellow ticket, he celebrated with them. If they emerged ticketless and fell to the floor sobbing, he would pick them up. I’m talking literally, not figuratively. Ryan would pick up those who had fallen and comfort them and their family members — even the contestants who had clearly made it to the judging room solely because they were hilarious freaks.

On the big stage in the final rounds, Ryan stood by the contestants with his arm around them as Lucifer shot them with slings and arrows of withering criticisms. At times, Ryan would (again, literally) step in between Lucifer and his victim, defending the contestant. At that point, Simon would often berate Ryan, mock his height, and even question his sexuality. Ryan Seacrest took on the role of mediator — the innocent victim vicariously receiving the punishment meant for another.

For centuries — maybe since humans have had the ability to communicate — literature and culture has been rife with messiah figures. Indeed, the genius of René Girard is that he recognized this trait in his study of literature, and he saw the trajectory changing as societies became less primitive.

But whether primitive or advanced, the desire for a messiah is universal to humankind. Every religion has one, and virtually every novel and film has one.

There are clearly parallels between Jesus and Dionysus. And between Jesus and Horus. And between Jesus and Ryan Seacrest. But if you dig a bit into the literature, you’ll see that everyone from Bart Ehrman to Bill Maher have really overblown the parallels. Just as you may think I have done with Jesus/Seacrest.

The details in any of these parallels don’t match. But the archetypes do, and that’s what I find most interesting.

The difference between Jesus and these others is that Jesus fulfills all of the characteristics of the archetype. In fact, Jesus is the archetype. In his death and resurrection, Jesus does everything that humans have always longed for a messiah to do.

So it does not surprise me that we see messianic parallels between Jesus and other religious figures, and neither does it challenge my faith. In fact, it only substantiates what we sing on Christmas: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

When it comes to your latter comment/question, Lance, it seems that you’ve already come to the same conclusion as me: The message, and Jesus’ fulfillment of our hope and need of a messiah, is what’s most important.

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  • Tim Chastain

    I really like your use of archetype in approaching this question. I have been unimpressed with attempts to make a strong connection between the stories of these gods and Jesus. It seems the connections are quite tenuous and only seem impressive at first glance. I would like to see a full treatment evaluating these connections historically. Anyone have a suggestion?

  • It seems to me that the “gospel” (good news) is universally found in every story we love. I’ve never watched a movie or read a book that didn’t express it somehow. The comparison between any god that is an expression of our hopes and dreams will have the similarity that they somehow bring good news to our neediness. In my eyes, however, none completes the fulfillment of good news to individuals or cultures quite like Jesus did. Incarnation speaks to the needs of our deepest soul. He truly is the archetype.

  • Scott

    The key question here is not “is Jesus/Seacrest/Dionysus” real… the key question is “What did Jesus mean when he said “Believe in Me?”

    Is it the belief Jesus existed? Seems like a simple historic fact.

    Is it the belief he was crucified / resurrected? Maybe.

    Or is it the belief in Jesus’ teachings to love god/others over self?
    This sounds good… good like mother-hood-and-apple pie good… but if I’m real with myself I don’t really it… why do I say that? Put simply; I don’t do it. If I believed it, I would do it. [note: I’m not using the definition of ‘believe’ like “I understand it”… The word “believe” has been diluted. The Greek word Pisteuo which is translated as belief is much richer than “I understand it”… it is used in the NT of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of soul ]

    Beyond the definition we also have to look at how people viewed themselves at that time. A modernist would state that Jesus is clearly saying “believe” and speaking of “believe Jesus”. However the scribe that wrote this wasn’t a modernist… I don’t reflect on Jesus statement as “think I’m real, my actions are true, and you get a hall-pass of atonement”… instead … when I hear believe in me… I hear… pisteuo my way of teaching … pisteuo my view on the human purpose… if you pisteuo in that you (not the body of you, but the spirit you) will have eternal life…. The trouble is… I don’t really pisteuo in Jesus … I just believe in Jesus.

  • Brian P.

    Kinda dodged it here Tony. What are the characteristics of the archtype required?

  • Well said. Why are superheroes so popular in our culture (and in others)? Because they are saviors capable of saving us from evil.

    But Christ didn’t use the sword or His legion of angels in the garden. Instead He willingly suffered for us that we might believe in Him and be saved.

    What does it mean to believe? Jesus says that we must believe that He was the son of God the Father (John 14:11, 17:21).

  • T.S.Gay

    I think knowledge and assent and trust should all be mentioned and elaborated. But the one aspect that I think doesn’t get enough attention is diligence, a kind of grind or pining or maybe mournful type, especially when no one is watching( that is the paradoxical way to some comfort in this all).

  • I agree with you on this one, sir.
    the parallels are overblown, but the fact they exist points to archetypes in our consciousness, inherant in us and I believe put there by God, which point us to Jesus, the “Full Fulfiller” of all of our needs and wishes for Messiah.

  • Nick Gotts

    But whether primitive or advanced, the desire for a messiah is universal to humankind.

    Complete tosh. I have no desire for a messiah whatever, and never have had, as far as I recall.