Does Christianity Borrow from Other Cultures?

Egyptian mummy

Dear Pastor Andy, why is it that Christians are unaware that the bible’s ideas are simply plagiarized from other sources? For example, the Ten Commandments were mostly adapted from the Egyptian Book of the Dead; Also, the virgin birth, the 12 disciples, the death and resurrection all comes from other religions; Christmas and Easter were pagan holidays until Christianity ‘borrowed’ them. What makes Christianity true?

My Reply: I’ve heard your suggestions before, but the reason for the similarities is not because Christianity (or pre-Judaism at the time) stole them from others, but because they were all connected culturally. In fact, we can back up the Bible and its recorded events because such have been discovered in archeological digs, both in Israel and their neighbors’ lands.

I’ll admit, I don’t know much about the Egyptian Book of the Dead, so to answer your question, I decided to look into it. According to one website, though the Egyptian Book of the Dead is said to have been written about 1500 B.C., about 100 years before the Mosaic Law, its instructions were specifically used for the dead Pharaohs, not the people. It also says that there were many Books of the Dead, all unique, specifically for each king or queen.

Another website, which is all about the Book of the Dead, says that it “was not an Egyptian Bible”. In fact, it mentions that though the Bible and the Koran talk much about a single deity, as well as the basis of our faith, the nature of our deity, man’s responsibilities and obligations towards Him, a moral code, etc., the Book of the Dead only talks about the afterlife. In fact, its point has nothing to do with the living, nor does it tell them how to conduct themselves in order to please their deities or any form of religion, but just to assist the king or queen of that time in the next world. To agree with the previous site, it’s said that the Book of the Dead was also a collection of texts that one could choose, based on their religious views at the time. With that in mind, it’s important to recognize that the Egyptian Book of the Dead was to be used for, as the title of the book says, the dead.

The Mosaic Law, however, though written later (between 1445-1405 B.C.), was delivered and written for the sake of the living, not the dead. Its purpose was for God’s people to recognize what God considers sin and appropriate behavior from a people that would resemble and represent Him. It would also reveal to them when they sinned so that they would reconcile with God for the sin, versus continuing in it, or being unaware of it. However, the Mosaic Law was written to be temporary, preparing God’s people for His coming, His promised Messiah, who would then fulfill the Law.

Unlike the Book of the Dead, the Mosaic Law is also Canonical, meaning that there’s only one version of it, once and for all. You can’t choose which parts you want to follow (although, many who consider themselves Jews or Christians try to), and the rules don’t change with the times, for God is the same in the past, present, and future, since He’s not bound to time, as we are.

You could say that Christianity stole Christmas and Easter’s dates, but that’s simply not true, either. For instance, you’ll notice that Easter isn’t always on the same date (sometimes it’s even in March!). That’s because it’s always in line with the dates of the Jewish Passover. It’s always on a Sunday because we celebrate it in sync with the fact that Jesus was arrested on a Thursday, killed on a Friday (before sundown), and raised on a Sunday.

And for Christmas, according to the Biblical Archaeology Society, the notion that that it borrowed December 25th from a pagan holiday has some holes in it. Check out this link for more understanding on the dating of both Easter and Christmas – great stuff!

Now granted, I will admit that I have also seen many common events among the religions, but one that we can’t deny is Jesus’ full-body resurrection, for:

  1. Jesus was risen 3 days later, body and all, and never died again. Even though the Muslims reject Jesus’ death and resurrection, they do acknowledge that Jesus rose up into the clouds; and though the Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah, or anything more than a guy who lived at that time, they do acknowledge that He lived; We also have much secular and early Christian literature that gives evidence to Jesus. Plus, anybody else who is said to have resurrected from the dead in history, died again at a later date for good.
  2. Jesus’ death was to free us from our sins. Everybody else who is said to have been raised from the dead didn’t do so for the sake of mankind, but for themselves. Also, no one other than Jesus took our sins from us when they died or were resurrected, for only God can do that, and Jesus is God.

Good questions!
For more information about such topics, I would highly suggest checking out:

  • Josh McDowell: “More than a Carpenter”
  • Lee Strobel: “The Case for Christ” (or also “the Case for Christmas” and “The Case for Easter”)
  • Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
  • The websites I linked above

—Pastor Andy G.

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