Alleged pre-Christian parallels to the Jesus story

There's a silly list of alleged crucified resurrected ascended god-men doing the rounds. Someone posted it to the uk.religion.christian newsgroup. The following (basically an article I posted in uk.r.c, with a little reorganizing and some corrections) is a rough attempt to evaluate it. Executive summary: not very surprisingly, it appears to be rubbish.

This list is clearly derived from the one in chapter 1 of Kersey Graves's notoriously unreliable The world's sixteen crucified saviors. (Here, “notoriously unreliable” is a polite way of saying “full of shit”, because I'm a genteel sort of chap and would never say anything that rude.) Graves's claims for his “saviors” aren't quite the same as those that accompany this present list. I suppose one could think of the whole thing as a case study in the way myths evolve, the myth in this case being not that of Jesus but that of his alleged predecessors.

I haven't done anything you could call serious research into any of the names on the list. It is therefore quite possible that I've missed things. However, I think the level of research I've done is plenty sufficient to demonstrate that most of the entries in the list are not what they're claimed to be.

Any corrections will be gratefully received and (if I'm convinced) incorporated.

So, the list (which you can find at the far end of the link above, along with much that I haven't commented on here) is preceded by the following claim. I've added numbers to the bits of the claim, for reference.

The following (1) world saviors and “sons of God,” (2) were crucified or executed and (3) was resurrected from the dead and (4) ascended to heaven. AND they predate the so-called “Jesus Christ.”

Each row of the table below records, for one of the alleged Jesusalikes in the list:

I've been generous in assessing these. In particular, I decided to count someone as a “savior or son of God” provided they were any of the following:

Adad of AssyriaN??? 
Adonis of GreeceYY??1
Alcides of Thebes2 23
Apollo of GreeceNNNN 
Attis of PhrygiaYYYN3
Baal of Phoenicia????4
Bali of Afghanistan2
Beddru of Japan2
Buddha of IndiaYNNY5
Crite of Chaldea2
Deva Tat of Siam2 6
Heracles of GreeceYYNY24
Hesus of the DruidsNNNN7
Horus of EgyptNNYN8
Indra of Tibet/IndiaNNNN 
Jao of Nepal2
Krishna of IndiaY?NN9
Mikado of the Sintoos2 10
Mithra of PersiaNNNN11
Mithra of Persia????12
Odin of the ScandinaviansNYNN13
Osiris/Serapis of Egypt?YY?14
Prometheus of Caucasus/GreeceYNNN 
Quetzalcoatl of MexicoNNNN15
Salivahana of Bermuda2 16
Tammuz of SyriaNYYN17
Thor of the Gauls2 18
Universal Monarch of the Sibyls2 19
Wittoba of the BilingoneseN???2 20
Xamolxis of ThraceYN?N21
Zoar of the Bonzes2
Zoroaster of PersiaY?NN22
Zeus of GreeceYNNN25


1. It seems to be usual to describe Adonis as a god who dies and is reborn, hence the “Y” in the RD column, but none of the more detailed descriptions I can find of what was believed about Adonis actually includes rebirth, let alone ascension. Ovid's version, e.g., ends with his death.

2. The only possible excuse for these is that they come from Graves's book; see comments and links above.

3. Being reborn as a pine tree seems to me a pretty far cry from Christian-style resurrection, but I'm being generous here.

4. “Baal” just means “lord” and can refer to any number of gods. Maybe one of them was supposed to have died and been resurrected, but with only the name “Baal” to go on I really can't tell. The gods best known by that name don't seem to fit the bill well.

5. Note that in Buddhism, not staying dead is generally considered something to avoid.

6. It's possible that Deva Tat = Buddha, but no, you don't get to count the same one twice just because he has different names in different places.

7. Gaulish god about whom almost nothing is known (there are a couple of statues and one line in Lucan). No evidence of incarnation, death, rebirth, or ascension.

8. The Horus/Jesus parallels appear to have been made up by a chap called Massey in the 19th century, but it seems that in some traditions he was thought to have been killed by a scorpion and brought back to life by Thoth in response to Isis's entreaties.

9. Krishna did die (avatars generally do, I think); it seems that some traditions reckon his death and accident, and some blame it on a curse put on him.

10. I suspect that “Sintoos” is a garbled form of “Shinto” and this is some sort of reference to the Emperor of Japan. But, as always with Kersey Graves, who can tell?

11. This row is relevant if the Zoroastrian deity Mithra is intended ...

12. ... and this one if Mithras, of the Roman mystery religion, is intended. Very little is known of what was actually believed about Mithras.

13. I'm being pretty generous here. Odin was hung from Yggdrasil for a while, by his own spear, but he didn't die and wasn't expected to, and it wasn't a punishment, and his purpose was the selfish one of gaining wisdom and power. Oh, and it's at least possible that this story postdates that of the crucifixion.

14. In one version: Originally human; killed, resurrected temporarily, died again, and then deified by the gods. But the more details of that you fill in, the less Jesus-like it gets. “Serapis” was basically just another name for Osiris, lightly retouched for Greek use.

15. However, Quetzalcoatl is sometimes alleged to have been born of a virgin.

16. There's a legendary Indian hero called Shalivahana. No godlike attributes so far as I know.

17. It seems to be a bit controversial whether Tammuz was regarded as having been reborn. I'm being generous, as usual. I've no idea where whoever-it-is gets the idea that Tammuz “turned into the disciple Thomas”.

18. Thor of the Gauls? Eh? I'm assuming that this isn't referring to the Norse god. If it is, though, just replace all the “–” entries with “N”.

19. If the Sibyls had a universal monarch, it's news to me.

20. Wittoba = Vithoba = Vitthala, a manifestation of Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu. (It must be awfully complicated being a Hindu.) At least, I think that's who's meant here; or maybe Kersey Graves was just making stuff up again. I have no idea who the Bilingonese might be.

21. Usually spelt “Zamolxis”. According to some sources he disappeared for a while and was thought dead, and on his return was thought to have returned from death.

22. Zoroaster gets a “Y” in the first column only because he founded a religion; he gets a “?” in the second only because according to some accounts he was murdered. He doesn't seem to have been regarded as anything more than a prophet. I have only just discovered that Sarastro (in Mozart's The magic flute) is meant to be Zoroaster.

23. Alcides appears to be another name for Heracles, who has his own entry.

24. “Ascension” is a bit of a stretch here, but he was at least deified.

25. Zeus (rather ridiculously) gets a “Y” in the SG column because he took on human form occasionally for his amorous adventures.


Let me repeat first of all that the above is the result of a quick look rather than an in-depth investigation into each claimed parallel. With that said: I find a grand total of zero definite incarnated executed resurrected ascended godmen in the list, even interpreting all the key terms as generously as I can. Adonis or Osiris might turn out to fit the description; for none of the others does it even seem plausible that they might.

So, whatever the merits of the best couple of items in the list, as a list it seems unsalvageable, and it's hard to escape the conclusion that whoever put the list together was primarily concerned with something other than truth.

I don't think the Jesus-was-a-myth school of thought is entirely crazy, though I've not seen anything to convince me it's right either. And I'd be very surprised if the Christian story hadn't been influenced by pagan myths. But this kind of nonsense does no one any favours.