Scholar or Myth maker? Yes! History of Scholarship Amateur Scholarship
Con: J. Z. Smith Con: AD Nock Sourcebooks
Con: Habermas
A Christian Reverend's famous defense

Not all scholarship is serious scholarship
Reviewing the reasons: B.M. Metzger's Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity
After A.D. Nock probably the most mentioned anti-borrowing scholar is Reverend Bruce Manning Metzger. His Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity [in Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, and Christian (Eerdmans, 1968).] is often cited as a point-proving authority, "B.M. Metzger says ...", and it's arguments are often repeated—without analysis. I don't know of any academic review of this essay. (If you do, please let me know ..)

Here's the full text (in the green boxes) of this important article. Since the point here at POCM > Scholarship is to review the reasons (rather than the opinions) for and against Christian-Pagan borrowing, the gray area offers a point or two of analysis. You'll like this page only if you're pretty hard core.

An admission: people say he was a great guy, but I myself am not Reverend Metzger's biggest fan. I've marked spots where I think he's being particularly disingenuous with this Another Bruce Manning Metzger Does Your Dog Bite Moment picture/ link. >>

Reverend Bruce Manning Metzger

Reverend Dr. Metzger (b. 1914) knew Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Syriac (whatever that is), and German as well as English. A long-time professor at the Princeton Seminary, he focused his career particularly on textural analysis of New Testament manuscripts; he was the principal editor of the New Revised Standard Edition of the New Testament.

Reverend Metzger's introduction >>


Notice the emphasis on doctrine. The mid-century believers' rebuttal focused particularly on comparing nuances of Pagan and Christian ideas about baptism and the Eucharist.

Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity
By Reverend Bruce M. Metzger

From the days of the Renaissance and Reformation to the present, the Mystery Religions of antiquity have engaged the attention of classical scholars and theologians alike. During what may be called the precritical stage of the study of this subject, it was commonly believed that by the Mysteries a constant succession of priests or hierophants transmitted from age to age an esoteric doctrine, better and nobler than that of the popular religion. Whether this recondite science had been derived originally from the hidden wisdom of India or Egypt, or from the Old Testament, or even from a primitive revelation to all mankind, was debated with characteristic disregard for historical methodology.

Reverend Metzger begins his review of the scholarship with C. Lobeck in 1829 >>

The first scholar who made an exhaustive and critical examination of the statements of ancient authors regarding the Mysteries was Christian August Lobeck. Although Lobeck confined his attention to the Eleusinian, the Orphic, and the Samothracian Mysteries, his monograph, published in 1829, was of the greatest importance in the inauguration of a new era in the scientific study of the subject in general. A great deal of rubbish and pseudo-learning was swept aside, and it became possible to discuss intelligently the rites and teachings of the Mysteries.

Furthermore, it was also during the nineteenth century that archaeology began to make quite significant additions to what was known of the beliefs and practices of devotees of the Mysteries. Excavations of places of worship supplemented the evidence from classical and patristic authors with thousands of inscriptions, mosaics, gems, statues, altars, lamps, sacrificial instruments, and the like.

Naming the scholars on each side: >>

Reverend Metzger is about to argue that scholars disagree because scholars analyze the evidence with different methods. I haven't been able to confirm the 19th century Germans, but among the English writers all the scholars on the anti-borrowing list are—Christian clergymen!

Samuel Cheetham "An English divine of the Established Church, wrote a history of the Christian Church ... but is best known for his Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,
[ ]

H. A. A. Kennedy. A Christian theologian

J. Gresham Machen "One of the most articulate defenders of orthodox Christian theology against the liberalizing and rationalizing trends of the early twentieth century"

A. D. Nock, Doctor of Divinity and famous Christian apologist

Hugo Rahner, Catholic Priest and Christian theologian.

It thus became increasingly possible to make scientific comparisons between the Mysteries and early Christianity. From the latter part of the nineteenth century to the present, many scholars have expressed their opinion regarding the relationship between the Church and the competing religions in the Roman Empire. As would be expected in view of the fragmentary and occasionally ambiguous evidence, different investigators have arrived at quite divergent results. On the one hand, some scholars believe that only a minimum of outside influence came to bear upon primitive Christianity (e.g., Anrich, Cheetham, Clemen, Kennedy, Machen, Fracassini, Boulanger, Jacquier, Nock, Heigl, Priimm, Rahner, Zwart, and Wagner).

Others, on the other hand, believe not only that the amount of influence was relatively large but also that it made itself felt in the formulation of central doctrines and rites of the Church (e.g., Hatch, Wobbermin, Gardner, Soltan, Briickner, Reitzenstein, Perdelwitz, Loisy, Bousset, Bohlig, Glasse, Elderkin, Macchioro, Weigall, Case, Schutze, Holland, Hyde, Vassall, Prentice, and Schneider).

Do diet sodas make people fat, or do fat people drink diet soda? Reverend Metzger's different-methodology analysis ignores the certain fact that methodology is not the cause, it is the effect. Agenda driven "scholars" start with an opinion and pick a methodology that gives the answer they want. See the U. Chicago's Dr. J. Z. Smith's Drudgery Divine for a detailed analysis of this fact.

Greg's advice: in this agenda-rich field you just can't rely on the opinions of others. Read the evidence, review the reasons, decide for yourself.

This is the topic sentence of Reverend Metzger's essay >>
He promises to work out a methodology to analyze the evidence.

Such a widely divergent opinions are due, at a least in part, to differences in methodology in dealing with the evidence. In what follows an attempt is made to outline some considerations which, it is suggested, must be taken into account in estimating the amount of influence of the Mysteries upon early Christianity.

Enough introduction. Are you ready for the feature presentation? Here we go.


Here's Reverend Metzger's first point: Christianity did borrow from Paganism. >>
Christianity, he says, did borrow from Paganism, starting in about 312 AD with the conversion of the Roman Emperor. What criteria is applied to the evidence to reach this conclusion, this analysis doesn't say.


I. First of all, a distinction is to be made between the faith and practice of the earliest Christians and that of the Church during subsequent centuries. One cannot deny that post-Constantinian Christianity, both Eastern and Western, adopted not a few pagan rites and practices. From Asclepius came the practice of incubation in churches for the cure of diseases. The functions of more than whose names even, in some cases, remind one of the original pagan prototypes. Statues of Isis holding the infant Harpocrates (Horus), as well as the exalted hymns in honor of the Egyptian Queen of Heaven, find their obvious counterparts in the growth of the cult of Mary. Just as Sabazios with characteristic gesture—three fingers raised, the thumb and other finger bent down—blessed his adherents, so the Catholic bishop of the West gave (and still gives) his blessing to the faithful. Through various paths the ancient idea of ‘refrigerium" entered both popular and official circles of the Church. Processions in which sacred objects are carried for display to the on-lookers, the tonsure of priests, certain funeral rites, the use of lighted tapers, popular ideas regarding the geography of Hadesall these have quite generally acknowledged pagan prototypes...

One paragraph up you were promised "methodology in dealing with the evidence." If you thought "methodology" meant rules and postulates to analyze the evidence, or maybe, the principles of inquiry to analyze the evidence, then already you're disappointed. You see any principles or rules for analyzing evidence here? No, you don't.

Yes. Reverend Metzger admits it.


What you see are conclusions—a big long list of things Reverend Metzger "cannot deny" Christianity did borrow from paganism. Christianity borrowed from Paganism; Reverend Metzger admits it.

What Reverend Metzger's analysis doesn't say is what criteria explain these conclusions.

The iconography of Isis holding the baby Horus is similar to the iconography of Mary holding the baby Jesus. Christians borrowed. Asclepius heals the sick by having them sleep in HIs sanctuary; Christians heal the sick by having them sleep in their Gods' sanctuary. Christians borrowed.

All right, fine. But Pagans entered their religions of salvation by rituals of initiation that included water baptism; Christians entered their religion of salvation by the ritual of water baptism. But Reverend Metzger's analysis says that here Christians didn't copy. Why? What criteria does his analysis use to tell when similarities indicate borrowing and what similarities don't? The analysis doesn't say. Not here, not anywhere.

What sort of questions would Reverend Metzger's analysis ask if it were really interested in defining rules to analyze the evidence? Well, a couple useful question of would be:

How come do these similarities mean borrowing happened, but other similarities don't?

What are the criteria, the methods, the reasoning best applied to the evidence to help decide what was borrowed and what wasn't?

Reverend Metzger's analysis doesn't ask or answer these questions. Not here; not anywhere.


What's going on? Why no methods in the methodology? My take is that what's really going on is advocacy. This is the advocate's technique of getting bad news out of the way early, so he can spend the rest of his time pushing his agenda. At this point you probably don't believe me. That's fine. Keep reading


Reverend Metzger's facts are true—opinions do differ.What this sentence doesn't mention is why opinions differ. Opinions differ because opinions differed coming in.

...The real difference of opinion, however, arises with regard to the relation of nascent Christianity to its pagan rivals.

Here's what I mean: The believers' standard is, as Reverend Metzger puts it, to admit borrowing only when they "can't deny" it. For earliest Christianity there is hardly any evidence—certainly too little to say exactly who did what when. Absent a memo from the New Testament writer Paul saying "I boosted baptism from Osiris-ism," believers can deny borrowing.

Reverend Metzger's second point begins with the nature of the evidence.  >>


The evidence is
1. Scanty Mystery religions' faithful had a sacred duty not to reveal their God's secrets.

2. Late. Many details of mystery religion theology and ritual date from the third century AD and later.

Further, the evidence is that some mystery religion theologies and rituals varied from place to place and time to time.

In order to conclude:
A . "it must not be assumed that beliefs and practices current at that time existed in substantially the same form during the pre-Christian era", and,

B. Methodologically, therefore, it is extremely hazardous to assume, as has sometimes been done, that a pagan rite or belief which a Christian author cites must have existed in the same form in pre-Christian days.

No reasons are given for either of these conclusions.

II. The nature and amount of the evidence of the Mysteries create certain methodological problems. Partly because of a vow of secrecy imposed upon the initiates, relatively little information concerning the teaching imparted in the Mysteries has been preserved. Furthermore, since a large part of the scanty evidence regarding the Mysteries dates from the third, fourth, and fifth Christian centuries, it must not be assumed that beliefs and practices current at that time existed in substantially the same form during the pre-Christian era. In fact, that pagan doctrines would differ somewhat from place to place and from century to century is not only what one should have expected, but also what a the sources reveal to be a fact, For example, the grades of Mithraic initiation in the West apparently included that of "Cryphius"; in the East (in its stead?) was that of "Nymphus." Again, over the years the efficacy of the rite of the taurobolium differed in what was promised to the initiate. Methodologically, therefore, it is extremely hazardous to assume, as has sometimes been done, that a pagan rite or belief which a Christian author cites must have existed in the same form in pre-Christian days.

Why are we talking about this at all?

Evidence: The evidence is scanty, so scanty there's a lot about the mystery religions we simply don't know, including most of whatever theologies they had. Some of what we do know about their theology does date from the second century AD and later.

On the other hand plenty of basic evidence is not late. The evidence is overwhealming that godmen who brought salvation, and initation into mystery religions that brought believers salvation, predate Christianity by hundreds of years.


."It must not be assumed that beliefs and practices current at that time existed in substantially the same form during the pre-Christian era." -  is an artful defense of the faith that comes with the believer's answer coded in the wordplay.   Here's what I mean:.

#1 Mystery religions' sacraments were sacred secrets. Secrets. People did not write about them. The fact is that even though the mystery religions date back many centuries BC we have no record of when any of their secret sacraments began; or in many cases even what their sacramentswere until Christians in later centuries wrote about them. 

From which, Reverend Metzger's analysis comes up with the theory that maybe the centuries-old Pagan religions developed their sacraments only in the second century.  Or the third century. Maybe the fourth. Whenever the first Christian description of them was recorded.

Before you swallow this, you should notice that sticking must-not-assume onto no-earlier-evidence is a particularly cunning defense of the faith. Since there is no evidence to turn to for an answer and since we are not to assume the sacraments did exist, exactly what conclusions are left open?  Only one—that the mystery sacraments did not exist. The believers' answer is coded in the wordplay.

What's more, Reverend Metzger's wordplay jujitsu only works if it convinces you to focus on a few pieces of evidence about very specific points of ritual and theology. A better method would be to recognize that some evidence is late, and judge the age of the sacraments revealed by that evidence by looking at the larger picture about the age of the Gods and how quickly—if at all—their faiths changed. 

Reverend Metzger's analysis doesn't ask that question, or answer it.  You can find details of the reasoning at POCM > Borrowing > First.

#2 Only a few beliefs and practices at issue here, including for example the Mithraic taurobolium, a 'baptism' in the blood of a bull described as bringing salvation; and reports from the third century and later of a celebration by Adonis' faithful that he was raised from the dead.

You should understand that the great bulk of the evidence about mystery religion beliefs—God, godmen, initiation, slavation, a sacred meal shared with the God, etc. etc.—predate Christiantiy by many generations and hundreds of years.

B. "Methodologically, therefore, it is extremely hazardous to assume, as has sometimes been done, that a pagan rite or belief which a Christian author cites must have existed in the same form in pre-Christian days." - is of course utterly unsupported by the facts Reverend Metzger has listed.


Next Reverend Metzger's analysis speculates about the personalities of the early Christians.





The early Palestinian Christians were Jews; Jews generally believed in strict monotheism and were traditionally inolerant of syncretism. Such people would never accept non-Jewish ideas.


Another methodological consideration, often overlooked by scholars who are better acquainted with Hellenistic culture than with Jewish, is involved in the circumstance that the early Palestinian Church was composed of Christians from a Jewish background, whose generally strict monotheism and traditional intolerance of syncretism must have militated against wholesale borrowing from pagan cults. Psychologically it is quite inconceivable that the Judaizers, who attacked Paul with unmeasured ferocity for what they considered his liberalism concerning the relation of Gentile converts to the Mosaic law, should nevertheless have acquiesced in what some have described as Paul’s thoroughgoing contamination of the central doctrines and sacraments of the Christian religion. Furthermore, with regard to Paul himself, scholars are coming once again to acknowledge that the Apostle’s prevailing set of mind was rabbinically oriented, and that his newly-found Christian faith ran in molds previously formed at the feet of Gamaliel.

What's more the apostle Paul (who never met Jesus but nontheless wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else) studied at the feet of the very Jewish big shot Gamaliel. Paul, in Revered Metzger's opinion, would never accept non-Jewish ideas.


Basically Reverend Metzger suggests this criteria for analyzing the evidence: No evidence can suggest Jewish borrowing because generally-strict-monotheistic-intolerant-of-syncretism Jews didn't borrow. What details of the historical record he relied on to come up with this criterion, he doesn't say.

#1 The answer is in the adjectives. No doubt generally-strict-monotheistic-intolerant-of-syncretism Jews didn't borrow. Trouble is, not all Jews were generally-strict-monotheistic-and-intolerant-of-syncretism. Being Jewish absolutely did not prevent some Jews from swimming in Paganism up to their necks.

Philo, in first century Alexandria, reinterpreted Jewish law in terms of Pagan philosophy. Philo used terminology from the Pagan mystery religions and famously developed a theory of the Greek logos—God's Word. Being a Jew didn't stop him from wholesale borrowing of Pagan religious ideas.
[Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 2d edition (1993), pg. 450-4 ]

Jason, the high priest who ruled Jerusalem in the 2d century BC:
i) changed the constitution of Jerusalem from at of a temple-state to a Greek city-state with a citizens-council, gymnasium, and ephebeia (Geek college)
ii) banned the wearing of Jewish head dress
iii) allowed young Jews to have an operation to hide their circumcision

Jason was . . . a Jew. Being a Jew—a Jewish high priest no less—didn't stop Jason from wholesale borrowing from Paganism
[For details see Ferguson,(1993), pg. 381; 1 Maccabees 1:13- 15; 2 Maccabees 4:10 - 17]

Menelaus who, with his party of Jewish hellenizers (Greek-ifiers), ruled Jerusalem in the 160s BC, changed the temple service into worship of the God Baal Shamayim, who was identified with Zeus. The hellenizers even oversaw the sacrifice of pigs, traditionally sacrificed to Dionysus, in the Jerusalem temple.

Menelaus and his pals were . . . Jews. Being Jews didn't stop them from wholesale borrowing from Paganism.
[Ferguson (1993), 382-3]

In the diaspora, some Jews were even know to worship Pagan gods. Being Jews didn't stop them from wholesale borrowing from Pagan cults.
[for the text of a number of original sources confirming this see: Williams, Margaret, The Jews among the Greeks and Romans, A Diasporan Sourcebook (1998) pg 122- 3]

#2 Speculations about the persuasive power of Gamaliel's feet notwithstanding, Paul and the other early Christians plainly were not generally-strict-monotheistic-intolerant-of-syncretism Jews—if they had been, they wouldn't have converted to a new religion centered on a walking, talking godman, with mystery-style initiations and sacred meals shared with the godman.

Now that I think about it, the fact that most Jews—including this Gamaliel fellow Reverend Metzger imagines Paul was like—didn't convert to Christianity. Why isn't that fact evidence Christianity did borrow from Paganism, and in doing so repel the all the generally-strict-monotheistic-intolerant-of-syncretism Jews? This question Reverend Metzger doesn't go into.

And, and: in the very early days of the Jerusalem church, after Saint Steven was murdered, the Jewish Christians all packed up and left town—basically chased out by the generally-strict-monotheistic-intolerant-of-syncretism Jews who rejected the new heresy. Why isn't that evidence that Christianity did get syncretic with Paganism, and in doing so repel all the generally-strict-monotheistic-intolerant-of-syncretism Jews? This is another question Reverend Metzger doesn't go into. He wanted to get to it, but was busy that day; writing a sermon probably.

#3 The facts about the early Jewish "Christians" are wrong: Reverend Metzger fails to demonstrate that the early Jerusalem Jewish Christians did believe in Jesus' divinity.

"Let it be admitted, moreover, that there are some who accept Jesus, and who boast on that account of being Christians, and yet would regulate their lives, like the Jewish multitude, in accordance with the Jewish law,--and these are the twofold sect of Ebionites, who either acknowledge with us that Jesus was born of a virgin, or deny this, and maintain that He was begotten like other human beings,"
[Origen, Against Celsus, 5.61]

The ebionite Christians are famously known not to have believed in Jesus divinity.

#4 Misstates the claim. Claim is not that they copied the myth, but that they absorbed the ideas, that they adapted the concept of a godman savior, to their Jewishness—didn't sit down with copy of Gospel of the Pagan Gods open on desk.


Reverend Metzger suggests this criteria for analyzing the evidence: Lack of archeological religious paraphernalia suggests a religion did not exist then and there. >>

In estimating the degree of opportunity afforded the early Palestinian Church of being influenced by the Mysteries, it is certainly a significant fact that, unlike other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Palestine has been extremely barren in yielding archaeological remains of the paraphernalia and places of worship connected with the Mysteries.

Why archeology ? To convince you there were no mystery religions available for early Christians to borrow, Reverend Metzger tells you the archeology doesn't find much mystery religion stuff in Palestine. What he doesn't tell you is archeology is not an accurate test for the absence mystery religions. Archeology gives false negatives.


For example, Herodotus, in the fifth century BC, describes the mysteries of Osiris in Egypt:



"On this lake it is that the Egyptians represent by night his sufferings's whose name I refrain from mentioning, and this representation they call their Mysteries. I know well the whole course of the proceedings in these ceremonies, but they shall not pass my lips. So too, with regard to the mysteries of Demeter"
[Herodotus, The Persian War, 2.171 (c 440 BC),—which you can find in: Godolpin, Francis. The Greek Historians (1942), pg. 160- 1]

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

There is, as far as I know, no archeological evidence of this mystery, in that century, at that lake in Egypt. Yet analyzing the evidence as Reverend Metzger suggests—no archeology = no mysteries—gives a result that is flatly wrong. Reverend Metzger's methodology fails to give a correct result. It does not work.

#2 Palestine was Jewish, and ... wait for it ... in general Jews didn't practice pagan mystery religions so, remains leaving being something of a zero sum game, of course there fewer mystery remains in Jewish Palestine. There is a lot less archeological evidence of Paganism in Palestine in exactly this period!! Does this mean there were no Pagans in Palestine? Don't be silly. Pagans ran the place.

What Reverend Metzger's "missing archeology" evidence shows is something everybody pretty much already knew: there were Jews in Palestine who didn't practice Paganism. Does that mean the Pagan Romans who ran Palestine didn't practice their religion? Don't be silly.

3# I told you, didn't I, that you have to watch Reverend Metzger's adjectives. Did you catch how he said "In estimating the degree of opportunity afforded the early Palestinian Church of being influenced by the Mysteries"? He had to say Palestinian because the oldest Christian record we have is from the apostle Paul—who never met Jesus, and who came from the very Pagan city Tarsus. So there was plent of opportunity for Paul to get contaminated by mystery religions. There's not room to go into this point here, but in fact it's not clear exactly what the Palestinian Christians believed. Their records have not survived.

#3 Who's to say the early Palestenian Jews didn't come from the diaspora—with plenty of chance to get syncretic.

#4It's hard to be sure, since he doesn't cite his soruce, what archeology Reverend Metzger doesn't has in mind. In the first century Samaria, home of the Samaritan Jews, is a region of Palestine. In the first century AD Samaria produced the Samaritan-Jewish godman Simon, whose gnostic theology is unmistakable sycretic with Paganism. Reverend Metzgers assertion that a claimed lack of Palestinian mystery relgion archeological paraphanalia means syncretism couldn't have happened is flatly contradicted by the simple facts.

#5 Prior and posterior probability
Prior probability: Your pizza delivery guy is unlikely to win the lottery. True.

Posterior probability: If your pizza guy calls you from his new yacht to say he's not comming by today, chances are pretty good he has won the lottery.

Reverend Metzgers analysis mistakenly says—after getting the call from the yacht—that the pizza guy did not win the lottery because the cances of winning the lottery are small. The analysis is bases entirely on the prior evidence that lotteries are hard to win; it completely ignores the further evidence that the pizza guy has suddenly come into tons of money.

Reverend Metzger's method—relying on prior-probability—ignores the most pertinent evidence.


  No archaeology of mystery religions does mean no mystery religions existed
No archeology of Christianity does NOT mean Christianity did not exist.

6 Reverend Metzger applies this rule only to Paganism. There is no archeological evidence of Christianity in Palestine for several centuries after Jesus, but this never suggests to Reverend Metzger that Christianity did not exist then and there. Apparently this methodology only applies when it gives the answer a Christian reverend like Reverend Metzger would want. Reverend Metzger isn't doing methodology, he's defending the faith. Kettle logic.




This archeology argument is fundamentally disingenuous. Reverend Metzger promised us a methodology for analyzing the evidence. Yet when it comes to the question of whether the early Christians had contact with Paganism, he doesn't survey all the available evidence and offer guidelines and criteria to analyze it. His method is to pick the one little branch of Christianity and the one little fact he imagines will give the answer he wants. For shame Reverend Metzger, for shame.


V. That there are parallels between the Mysteries and Christianity has been observed since the early centuries of the Church, when both Christian and non-Christian alike commented upon certain similarities. In evaluating the significance of alleged parallels in certain crucial matters (i.e., the sacraments and the motif of a dying and rising savior-god), consideration must be given to the following.

#1 Of course the evidence is drawn from various sources—the sources are various.

#2 That some similarities are not borrowing is possible. A true methodology would suggest criteria to tell which is which.

False choice. Choice is not "Copied nothing vs. cookie cuttered Dionysus #47.

Reverend Metzger suggests this criteria for analyzing the evidence: "If the parallels are invented, they are not real." His methodology would be more useful if he offered criteria for judging parallels that are not invented.


(A) Some of the supposed parallels are the result of the modern scholar’s amalgamation of quite heterogeneous elements drawn from various sources. As Schweitzer pointed out, "Almost all the popular writings fall into this kind of inaccuracy. They manufacture out of the various fragments of information a kind of universal Mystery religion which never actually existed, least of all in Paul’s day."
Even reputable scholars have succumbed to the temptation to be more precise than the existing state of information will permit. Commenting on this temptation, Edwyn R. Bevan says caustically: "Of course if one writes an imaginary description of the Orphic mysteries, as Loisy, for instance, does, filling in the large gaps in the picture left by our data from the Christian eucharist, one produces something very impressive. On this plan, you first put in the Christian elements, and then are staggered to find them there."

How about the existence of God? Is that an invented parallel?

How about a godman?
How about salvation?
How about initiation?

BTW, have you noticed Reverend Metzger never cites or quotes anyone who believes there was borrowing?

Use the original texts—absolutely. Lets see if Reverend Metzger ever applies this reasoning to Judaism - Christianity. What is the original Jewish text that describes the initiation into the cult of a walking talking godman? What—you say there isn't one?!! Then according to Reverend Metzger's analysis Christianity didn't borrow from Judaism. Somehow Reverend Metzger never gets around to making that point.

It goes without saying that alleged parallels which are discovered by pursuing such methodology evaporate when they are confronted with the original texts. In a word, one must beware of what have been called "parallels made plausible by selective description."


Apparently Reverend Metzger applies this check-the-original-texts business only when it gives the answer a Christian reverend like Reverend Metzger would want. Reverend Metzger isn't doing methodology, he defending the faith. KL.

#1 I worry that "analogical" parallels are similarities only an asshole would find logical.

#2. A minute ago there were only "alleged" parallels. Now we discover there really are parallels. What are they please? Let's settle the matter: what are the criteria Reverend Metzger's analysis uses to decide which are parallel and which aren't? What are the results of that analysis? His analysis doesn't say.

(B) Even when the parallels are actual and not imaginary, their significance for purposes of comparison will depend upon whether they are genealogical and not merely analogical parallels. That is to say, one must inquire whether the similarities have arisen from more or less equal religious experience, due to equality of what may be called psychic pitch and equality of outward conditions, or whether they are due to borrowing one from the other.


Because his analysis is not interested in giving actual criteria, this turns out to be pure kettle logic: the kettle was broken when I got it; when I returned it the kettle was fine. The parallels are imaginary; the parallels are not imaginary, they are "analogical."

Reverend Metzger doesn't give actual criteria. He's not interested in actual criteria, he's interested in talking points to defend the faith.

#3 A minute ago the Jews were strict monotheists with an intolerance of syncretism, now they share with paganism a More or less equal religious experience?!! My head is spinning.

#4 On what evidence is analogy possible in areas of close contact? Can you name one single example? What are the complexities of analogies—are their systems that are similar = mystery = salvation with godmen with initiation with Eucharist? On what evidence do you claim analogy?

#5 So by analogy, Christianity is not a revealed religion? It's just another ancient Pagan religion—one that evolved out of its culture?

#6 What is the definition of psychic pitch, and how does one measure it so that one may discover it is "equal"?

#7 Can you list please other cultures in contact with each other and with "equal psychic pitches", and the religious ideas they each came up with independently? What exactly are the criteria Reverend Metzger applies to the evidence to decide who was analogical and who borrowed directly?

#8 Does this analysis work for all the mystery religions? Did Dionysis-sim come up with the ideas of God, a human soul, heaven, hell, salvation, initiation, a godman, etc. all on their own? Everyone invented just that combination all on their own? What is the evidence on which Reverend Metzger bases that claim? What are the criteria used to tell?

Pointless and incoherent. If you find a criteria here, drop me a line.

Interesting as the parallels are which Sir James G. Frazer collected from the four corners of the earth in his monumental work, The Golden Bough, by no means all of them are to be regarded as the result of demonstrable borrowing. In seeking connections it is not enough (as F. C. Conybeare pointed out) "for one agent or institution or belief merely to remind us of another. Before we assert literary or traditional connection between similar elements in story and myth, we must satisfy ourselves that such communication was possible."

#1 Apparently Reverend Metzger knows of no ancient examples of this phenomenon. Instead he asks us to believe that Christianity—an ancient religion of salvation, with a godman, baptism, a sacred meal shared with the god, heaven, hell, etc—was completely unrelated to all the other ancient religions of salvation—with godmen, baptism, sacred meals shared with the god, heaven, hell, etc—because ... because in 1938 Neville Chamberlain didn't, or at least claimed he didn't, borrow from Canning? I know that here at POCM I'm not supposed to tell you what I believe, buy honestly, on this point I myself am unpersuaded.

#2 A minute ago Jews were strict monotheists with an intolerance of syncretism. Now there was a "continuity of thought" between Judaism and Paganism. My head is spinning. KL.Can you list please the elements of continuity you have in mind? Maybe start with Jews' opinions about godmen.

#3 List please the advocate of borrowing who claims the apocryphal John's docetism derives from Ovid's Fasti.

#4. Toynbee really doesn't’t apply, does it? In fact it argues against Reverend Metzger's point—"where there can be no suspicion of any historical bridge ". In this case the first Christians were awash in paganism.

It is a fact that in various spheres close similarities even in phraseology have been discovered which are related to each other by nothing more direct than analogy. For example, in a letter published in The (London) Times at the end of July, 1938, the late Professor Harold Temperley pointed out two quite remarkable parallels between speeches made by Canning in 1823 and 1826 and their modem couterparts in Neville Chamberlain’s utterances on July 26, 1938. In a subsequent letter, the Prime Minister disclaimed having previously read either of Canning’s speeches, and concluded that the parallels "indicate simply the continuity of English thought in somewhat similar circumstances, even after an interval of more than a hundred years." Or, to take an example from ancient times, a close parallel to the docetism expressed in the apocryphal Acts of John has been discovered in Ovid’s Fasti. It would be vain, however, to imagine that Greek Christian writers were indebted to Ovid for their docetic interpretation of Christ’s sufferings. So too, as Toynbee points out in his Study of History, the uniformity of human nature sometimes produces strikingly similar results in similar situations where there can be no suspicion of any historical bridge by which the tradition could have been mediated from one culture to the other.

#1. So there are "genealogical parallels." What are they please? Let's settle the matter: what are the criteria Reverend Metzger uses to decide what was borrowed and what wasn't? What are the results of that analysis. He doesn't say. 

  Paralles are imaginary
Parallels are real, but "analogical"

Because he is not interested in giving acutal criteria, this textbook kettle logic: the kettle was broken when I got it; when I returned it the kettle was fine, and I never borrowed the kettle. The parallels are imaginary; the parallels are not imaginary, they are "analogical"; the parallels are not imaginary or analogical, they are actual borrowing—by them varmint Pagans!

(C) Even when parallels are genealogical, it must not be uncritically assumed that the Mysteries always influenced Christianity, for it is not only possible but probable that in certain cases the influence moved in the opposite direction. In what T. R. Glover aptly called "the conflict of religions in the Early Roman Empire," it was to be expected that the hierophants of cults which were beginning to lose devotees to the growing Church should take steps to stem the tide. One of the surest ways would be to imitate the teaching of the Church by offering benefits comparable with those held out by Christianity...

Reverend Metzger doesn't give actual criteria. He's not interested in actual working criteria, he's interested in defending the faith.2. No ancient ever says they did. In fact, they say the opposite—demonic imitation.

3. Claim is factually wrong. These things existed:

god, soul, salvation, initiation, baptism, eucharist, heaven, hell, eternal life, etc.

4. Name one ancient who says the pagans borrowed.—what are the primary texts? (Mentioned above)5. On what evidence were they loosing members

6. How exactly does the fact that taurobolium in the 4th century copied from the Christians prove that the Christians didn't borrow godman from paganism in 1st century?

7. Does the fact Christianity was widely reviled make it more or less likely Pagans would borrow from it? List please a pagan speaking favorably of Christianity?

8 By what criteria is it "probable" pagans borrowed?


1. Mithraic faithful practiced the taurobolium (bull's blood baptism) sacrament to achieve salvation—but only for twenty years

2. Later, after contact with Christianity, Mithraic believers adjusted the taurobolium sacrament so that it gave eternal salvation.

Thus, for example, one must doubtless interpret the change in the efficacy attributed to the rite of the taurobolium. In competing with Christianity, which promised eternal life to its adherents, the cult of Cybele officially or unofficially raised the efficacy of the blood bath from twenty years to eternity.

Reverend Metzger's conclusion: the Mithraists borrowed from the Christians.

Conclusion #2: Yes, but why would Mithraists copy Christianities eternal salvation with a stubby twenty-year salvation. Certainly the late sacrament adjustment was borrowing from Christianity, but the earlier sacrament must then have NOT been borrowed. Thus the saving baptism of God's blood preceded Christianity.

BTW, have you noticed that none of Reverend Metzger's "methodologies" allow you to conclude Christianity borrowed? They don't. "Parallels" are either 1) Papist tomfoolery, 2) made up, 3) accidental analogies, or 4) actual borrowing—by them varmint Pagans.

Christian borrowing from Paganism? Oops, that possibility got left out somehow.

The result? Put evidence into Reverend Metzger' "methodology" and out the other end comes "Christianity didn't borrow." It works every time. He set it up to work every time. See, Reverend Metzger isn't doing methodology, he developing talking points to defend the faith.


VI. Finally, in arriving at a just estimate of the relation of the Mysteries to Christianity as reflected in the New Testament, attention must be given to their differences as well as resemblances. These differences pertain both to language and ideas.


(A) It is instructive to consider what words are missing from the vocabulary of the earliest Christian writers. Many ordinary, everyday words of contemporary pagan religions are conspicuous by their absence from the New Testament; words such as mustes, mustikos, mustagogos, or the religious terms katharmos, katharsia, katharsis. Christians are never called hiepoi, nor are hieron and naos ever used of their place of meeting. One seeks in vain for telein in the sense "to initiate" and its compounds, telos in the same sense, as well as telete, atelestos, and such common words in the Mysteries as hierophantes, orgia, katochos, entheos, enthousiazein and its correlates, which, as Nock says, "might so well have been used to describe possession by the Spirit." The important point to observe, as Nock continues, is that "these are not recondite words; they belonged to the everyday language of religion and to the normal stock of The few words which are common to the New Testament and the texts of the Mysteries either are so infrequent in the New Testament as to be inconclusive in establishing religious affinities (e.g., muein, embateuein, epoptes, each of which appears only once), or have an entirely different meaning in the two corpora of sources (e.g., mysterion).metaphors. It almost seems that there was a deliberate avoidance of them as having associations which were deprecated. Certainly there is no indication of an appropriation of pagan religious terms."

#1 Just a minute ago the Pagan ideas were so new Reverend Metzger thought them varmint Pagans done stole from us. Now the Pagan ideas are so old they fade into archaic prehistory. My head is spinning. KL.

#2 The question at issue is whether Christianity borrowed from Paganism. Is there something about mythological ideas that makes them harder to borrow than non-mythological ideas? If not—and Reverend Metzger fails to mention any—this point is utterly unrelated to "methodology in dealing with the evidence." The point of this point is: we're better than the heathen because our Divine Being is real and theirs isn't. We know this because our holy books say so.

(B) In the nature of the case a most profound difference between Christianity and the Mysteries was involved in the historical basis of the former and the mythological character of the latter. Unlike the deities of the Mysteries, who were nebulous figures of an imaginary past, the Divine Being whom the Christian worshipped as Lord was known as a real Person on earth only a short time before the earliest documents of the New Testament were written. From the earliest times the Christian creed included the affirmation that Jesus "was crucified under Pontius Pilate." On the other hand, Plutarch thinks it necessary to warn the priestess Clea against believing that "any of these tales [concerning Isis and Osiris] actually happened in the manner in which they are related."

#3 Does the fact the Jesus story parallels pagan myths make it more likely the Jesus story is historical, or more likely the Jesus story is mythological? What other historical events can you think of that parallel myths?

#4 Reverend Metzger is factually wrong. Jesus is not historical—no one outside the Christian world ever mentions him. Further, none of our records about him were written by people who knew him. Further, early on he was not described as a real historical person.

#5 "Plutarch thinks"?!! At what point did Reverend Metzger begin accepting the testimony of ancient Pagans [Plutarch was a pagan priest!] on religious truth? When they say Christianity is an abominable superstition, are they authorities then too?


[Remember, we're talking about theological secrecy here. These mystery ideas were "secret" in the sense that no one spoke openly of them. They were not secret in the sense that people generally didn't know about them. For example pretty much every adult in Athens was initiated into the mysteries of Eleusis, and so was in on the "secret".]

#1 The question at issue is whether Christianity borrowed from Paganism. Is there something about pious secrecy that makes non-secret religious ideas harder to borrow than non pious-secret ideas?

(C) Unlike the secretiveness of those who guarded the Mysteries, the Christians made their sacred books freely available to all. Even when the disciplina arcani was being elaborated in the fourth and fifth centuries (whether as a diplomatic and paedagogic technique and/or as a Christian borrowing from the Mysteries, need not be determined now), it was still possible to contrast the simplicity and openness of Christian rites with the secrecy of pagan Mysteries.

If not—and Reverend Metzger fails to mention any—this point is utterly unrelated to "methodology in dealing with the evidence." The point of this point is: we're better than the heathen because our Divine Being made his ideas open and simple.

#2 False. Gnostic Christians had secrets. Proto-orthodox Christians had secrets.

ON what evidence do theological differences disprove borrowing?

How do Christian Eucharist and baptism compare with Jewish Eucharist and baptism. Oh, wait, Jews don't have baptism and Eucharist! Does this prove, Reverend Metzger, Christiantiy didn't borrow from Judaism?

(D) The differences between the Christian sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist and corresponding ceremonies in the Mysteries are as profound as their similarities are superficial. Both of the Christian sacraments, in their earliest phase, were considered to be primarily dono data, namely blessings conveyed to those who by nature were unfit to participate in the new order inaugurated by the person and work of Jesus Christ. Pagan sacraments, on the contrary, conveyed their benefits ex opere operato by "the liberating or creating of an immortal element in the individual with a view to the hereafter, but with no effective change of the moral self for the purposes of living."



Methodologically it is begging the question to assume that every lustral rite or communal meal in the Mysteries possessed sacramental significance. Actually it is only in Mithraism, of all the cults, that one finds evidence that washing with water was part of the ritual by which a new member was admitted to one or other of the grades in the Mithraic system. Similarly with respect to sacramental meals reserved for those who had been initiated into the community of devotees, there is singularly little evidence. Nothing is heard of sacramental meals in Orphism. The drinking of the kykeon in the rites at Eleusis, which has sometimes been thought to be the prototype of Paul’s teaching and practice regarding the Lord’s Supper, is as different as possible from the Christian Communion. The latter was the privilege of the teleioi, or fully initiated; but the drinking of the kykeon was a preliminary ceremony, prescribed for the candidate prior to his initiation. Furthermore, in the Elea usinian rite there was no table-fellowship, nor was the ceremony continually repeated.


The Attis cult practiced a rite involving eating something out of the timbrel and drinking something out of the cymbal, but whether these actions of eating and drinking had any significance beyond that of a number of other symbolical acts involved in the initiation, is not known. Nor is there any suggestion that all the initiates participated in this ceremony as the central act of worship subsequent to their incorporation into the community—if there was a community—of devotees of Attis.


The supposition that the Samothracian Mysteries included a sacred meal rests upon an interpretation (proposed, e.g., by Dieterich and Hepding ) of a fragmentary inscription discovered at Tomi on the Black Sea. Unfortunately, however, the meaning of the inscription depends so largely upon editorial reconstruction of the missing portions that Hemberg in his magisterial treatment of the cult finds no reason even to mention the inscription.


Mithraism alone among the Mystery cults appears to have had something which looked like the Christian Eucharist. Before the initiate there were set a piece of bread and a cup of water, over which the priest uttered a ritual formula. In such a case of obvious resemblance, the Church Fathers took note of it, ascribing it to the ingenuity of demons. It is fair to urge that had there been other parallels between the Christian sacraments and pagan rites, one should expect that contemporary Christian writers would have noticed them and given the same explanation.


The problems connected with the formation and transmission of the words of institution of the Lord’s Supper are too complicated for discussion here, but on almost any view of this matter the Jewishness of the setting, character, and piety expressed in the rite is overwhelmingly pervasive in all the accounts of the origin of the Supper. Moreover, unlike what have been called the sacred meals in the cults of Eleusis and of Attis, the Christian sacrament is not a seasonal rite, but is celebrated quite independently of the time of year. Furthermore, the eucharistic elements are set apart by prayer; in fact, the giving of thanks is so central in the sacrament that this provides a name for the rite itself (eucharistia).


Finally , the differences of cultic vocabulary between primitive Christianity and the Mysteries (see VI (A) above) are nowhere more obvious than in the case of baptism. That the antecedents of Christian baptism are to be sought in the purificatory washings mentioned in the Old Testament and in the rite of Jewish proselyte baptism, is generally acknowledged by scholars today.


(E) The motif of a dying and rising savior-god has been frequently supposed to be related to the account of the saving efficaca y of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The formal resemblance between the two, however, must not be allowed to obscure the great differences in content.


(1) In all the Mysteries which tell of a dying deity, the god dies by compulsion and not by choice, sometimes in bitterness and despair, never in a self-giving love. But according to the New Testament, God’s purpose of redeeming-love was the free divine motive for the death of Jesus, who accepted with equal freedom that motive as his own.


(2) Christianity is sui generis in its triumphant note affirming that even on the Cross Jesus exercised his kingly rule (Dominus regnat ex ligno). Contrary to this exultant mood (which has been called the gaudium crucis), the pagan devotees mourn and lament in sympathy with a god who has unfortunately suffered something imposed on him. As Nock points out, "In the Christian commemoration the only element of mourning is the thought that men have betrayed and murdered Jesus. His death is itself triumph."


(3) In all strata of Christian testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, "everything is made to turn upon a dated experience of a historical Person," whereas nothing in the Mysteries points to any attempt to undergird belief with historical evidence of the god’s resurrection. The formulation of belief in Christ’s resurrection on the third day was fixed prior to Paul’s conversion (c. A.D. 33-36), as the choice of technical phraseology in I Cor. 15.3 indicates, and was proclaimed openly as part of the general apostolic kerygma from the very earliest days of the Church, as the evidence in all sa trata of Acts makes abundantly clear. Moreover, the proclamation of the Resurrection by the members of the Christian community at Jerusalem was not merely a means of confusing their opponents; it was the presupposition of their own communal life.


What shall be said of parallels to the tradition that the Resurrection of Christ took place "on the third day?" The devotees of Attis commemorated his death on March 22, the Day of Blood, and his coming to life four days later, March 25, the Feast of Joy or Hilaria. According to one account of the Egyptian cult, the death of Osiris took place on the 17th of Athyr (a month corresponding to the period from October 28 to November 26), the finding and reanimation of his body in the night of the 19th. When Adonis rose is not certain, but the reconstruction of a papyrus text has been thought to make the third day probable.


In evaluating such parallels, the first thing that the historian must do is to sift the evidence. In the case of Attis, the evidena ce for the commemoration of the Hilaria dates from the latter part of the second Christian century. There are, in fact, no literary or epigraphical texts prior to the time of Antonius Pius (A.D. 138-161) which refer to Attis as the divine consort of Cybele, much less any that speak of his resurrection. With good grounds, therefore, it has been argued that the festival of the Hilaria was not introduced into the cultus of Cybele until the latter part of the second Christian century or even later.


In the case of Osiris, after his consort Isis had sought and reassembled thirteen of the fourteen pieces into which his body had been dismembered by his wicked brother Typhon (otherwise known as Set), through the help of magic she was enabled to reanimate his corpse. Thereafter Osiris became "Lord of the Underworld and Ruler of the Dead," in which role he presides at the bar of judgment and assigns to the souls of the departed their proper reward for virtueor punishment for wrongdoing. Whether this can be rightly called a resurrection is questionable, especially since, accorda ing to Plutarch, it was the pious desire of devotees to be buried in the same ground where, according to local tradition, the body of Osiris was still lying.


In the case of Adonis, there is no trace of a resurrection in pictorial representations or in any texts prior to the beginning of the Christian era. In fact, the only four witnesses that refer to the resurrection of Adonis date from the second to the fourth century (Lucian, Origen, Jerome (who depends upon Origen), and Cyril of Alexandria ) and none of these mentions the triduum.


The attempt to link the Adonis and Attis cults to the worship of Tammuz and his alleged resurrection rests, as Kramer put it, on "nothing but inference and surmise, guess and conjecture." Still more remote from the rise of Christianity is the Sumerian epic involving Ianna’s descent to the Nether World.
There is, however, no need to go so far afield as these beliefs to account for the Christian conviction that Jesus rose the third da ay. It was a widely prevalent belief among the Jews that the soul of a dead man hovered near the corpse for three days, hoping to return to the body, but that on the fourth day, when decomposition set in, the soul finally departed, a belief that seems to be reflected in Martha’s comment regarding her brother Lazarus (John 11.39). Moreover, apart from such parallels, it might be urged that the phrase "on the third day" or "after three days" occurs so often in the Old Testament with reference to the normal interval between two events in close succession that the dating of the Resurrection "on the third day" was both appropriate and inevitable.


Apart from these considerations, however, it remains a fact that the notation of the third day is so closely intertwined within all the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ resurrection as to point to the conclusion that the Christian witnesses began to experience the living presence of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion, and thereafter it was recalled that he had promised on more than one occasion that, after his death, he would in three days rise again.


(4) Finally, Christianity and the Mystery cults differ in what may be called their views regarding the philosophy of history.


(a) It is generally acknowledged that the rites of the Mysteries, which commemorate a dying and rising deity, represent the cyclical recurrence of the seasons. In other words, such myths are the expression of ancient nature-symbolism; the spirit of vegetation dies every year and rises every year. According to popular expectation, the world-process will be indefinitely repeated, being a circular movement leading nowhere. For the Christian, on the other hand, as heir to the Hebraic view of history, the time-process comprises a series of unique events, and the most significant of these events was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Unlike the recurrent death and reanimation of the cultic deities symbolizing the cycle of nature, for the Christians the importance of Jesus’ work was related just to this "once-for-all" character of his death and resurrection.

"The speculative myths of the cults lack entirely that reference to the spiritual and moral meaning of history which is inextricably involved in the experiences and triumph of Jesus Christ."? Reverend Metzger is making it up. md.

The fact is we just flat don't know what the Mysteries' theologies were. Thanks to the bonfires of Christian suppression, none of their books survive. Apparently Reverend Metzger rules about claims that "evaporate when they are confronted with the original texts" only apply to claims about Christians.

(b) In another respect besides that of repetition, the Mysteries differ from Christianity’s interpretation of history. The speculative myths of the cults lack entirely that reference to the spiritual and moral meaning of history which is inextricably involved in the experiences and triumph of Jesus Christ. In fact, not until the fourth century, when doubtless this stark contrast between the two became increasingly apparent to thoughtful pagans, is there any indication of an attempt to read moral values into certain cultic myths.

"The main purpose of the foregoing study has been to deal with problems of methodology ..." Aw shucks. 'Twarn't nothin'.

God bless Reverend Metzger for his selfless help. I know I speak for all of us when I say we are indeed fortunate to have in our midst such a great and dispassionate, not to say humble, scholar willing to labor so thoroughly and objectively in the thorny garden of these important questions.

The main purpose of the foregoing study has been to deal with problems of methodology and to raise questions regarding the correctness of certain assumptions which, in some circles, are generally accepted as valid. Lest the argument concerning methodology be merely theoretical, the discussion has necessarily involved certain beliefs and doctrines, but these, so far from being exhaustive, are to be regarded only as selected examples. If any conclusions can be drawn from the preceding considerations of methodology, they must doubtless be, first, that the evidence requires that the investigator maintain a high degree of caution in evaluating the relation between the Mysteries and early Christianity; and, second, that the central doctrines and rites of the primitive Church appear to lack genetic continuity with those of antecedent and contemporary pagan cults.

BTW, have you noticed Reverend Metzger never cites or quotes anyone who believes there was borrowing?

BTW, have you noticed how often Reverend Metzger comes up with "methodologies" that apply when they give just the answer a Christian Reverend would want, but that don't ever apply the other way round?
BTW, have you noticed that none of Reverend Metzger's "methodologies" allow you to conclude Christianity borrowed? They don't. "Parallels" are either 1) Papist tomfoolery, 2) made up, 3) accidental analogies, or 4) actual borrowing—by them varmint Pagans.

Christian borrowing from Paganism? Oops, that methodology got left out somehow.

The result? Put evidence into Reverend Metzger' "methodology" and out the other end comes "Christianity didn't borrow." It works every time. He set it up to work every time. See, Reverend Metzger isn't really doing methodology, he's really working out talking points to defend the faith.



POCM quotes modern scholars