A. THE "PAGAN ORIGINS" OF CHRISTIANITY.
1. Muslim Attempts to Link Christianity to Paganism.
In the section on the doctrine of the Trinity we dealt) in some measure with charges in Muslim writings that the dot trine has pagan origins. In this section we shall briefly consider a few other similar attempts to link Christianity to paganism, in particular to show how easily these can be made to rebound on Islam.
The argument is invariably based on a comparison between certain basic Christian beliefs about Jesus Christ and myths surrounding pagan deities. The conclusion perforce is that the very existence such similarities proves that Christianity is founded on paganism.
One Muslim writer, speaking of pagan gods such as Apollo of the Greeks, Hercules of the Romans, Mithra of the Persians Horus of the Egyptians and Baal of the Babylonians, says that they were all sun-gods upon which the Christian belief in Jesus is based. Quoting a Western writer Edward Carpenter with approval, he claims that all these gods were born on or near Christmas Day of virgin mothers in a cave or underground chamber, that they were called saviours or deliverers, that they were vanquished by the powers of darkness but rose agai from the dead to found communions of saints into which disci pies were received by baptism, and that they were commemorated by eucharistic meals (Kamal-ud-Din, The Sources of Christianity, p. 29). Any scholar of pagan deities will marvel to be hold all these various idols of different ages and nations totally recast in the mould of the course of the Christian saviour Jesus Christ!
If the Christian teaching about Jesus Christ had thus been so obviously founded on a host of pagan myths it would have presented its detractors in its early days with a simple task, yet we never find the opponents of the Gospel charging that it had pagan origins. They never considered the possibility that it had been based on pagan myths.
One only has to peruse briefly a general encyclopaedia of pagan mythologies to find that the stories of the lives of the idols mentioned by name by Kamal-ud-Din not only do not compare with that of Jesus Christ but in fact have very little in common with one another as well. All that has happened is that each one has been recast in the Christian mould.
Another Muslim writer has unwittingly exposed this very clearly in presenting a series of similarities between Horus and Muhammad in an attempt to prove that the former foretold and foreshadowed the latter. He begins by saying of Horus:
The verses quoted from the Qur'an are found in Surah 33.45-46. Proceeding from this likeness in which both Horus and Muhammad are addressed as being like the sun, he argues that this description fits no other prophet and that Horus was therefore a type of Muhammad. He then goes on in the following pages to list no less than sixty further likenesses between them and says of Horus as the sun:
At the same time he boldly declares that the description of Horus as the sun of the universe cannot be made to refer to Jesus (op. cit., p. 396). Therefore, while we find that one Muslim writer endeavours to prove that the story of Horus is an exact reflection of the story of Jesus in the Bible and that he is one of the "sun-gods" upon which Christian belief in Jesus is supposedly based, we simultaneously find another Muslim writer trying to prove the exact opposite, claiming that Horus as the sun of the universe does not represent Jesus but rather Muhammad in no less than sixty likenesses!
We saw earlier that other Muslim writers have tried to prove that the Egyptian mythical triad of Osiris, Isis and Horus is the basis of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. When Maulana Abdul Haque comes to what he calls the "Horus of the triangle", however (op. cit., p. 423), he does not for a minute see any likeness to the Trinity at all but argues that this triad actually represents the Allah of Islam. He refers specifically to three attributes of God set out in the Suratul-Fatihah, namely Rabb ("the Evolver"), ar-Rahman ("the Beneficent") and ar-Rahim ("the Merciful"), and concludes: "these three attributes are the sole cause of creation" (Abdul Haque, Muhammad in World Scriptures, Vol. 1, p. 423).
So, if any religion shows a likeness to the Egyptian pagan religion of old, it is Islam and therefore if there is any dependence on the religion of Horus, it is to be found in Islam and not Christianity. This Maulana cannot see for a minute that there is any likeness between Horus and Christian belief about Jesus Christ. Elsewhere he speaks of Horus being described as the "pole-star" and states:
So Egyptian mythology about Horus does not relate to Christian beliefs about Jesus but to Muslim beliefs about Muhammad! The Maulana has very effectively refuted Kamal-ud-Din's contention that Christianity is dependent on pagan mythologies, such as the one about Horus, altogether. Furthermore he makes many statements about Horus that ridicule the suggestion that Christian Christology is dependent on him. He points out that Horus had two births (op. cit., p. 409) and that there were actually two Horuses, one elder and one younger. In all the sixty points he argues at length against the suggestion that there is any likeness between Horus and Christ and debates instead at great length in favour of the argument that all the mythological anecdotes about Horus and other allied facts find their fulfilment in Muhammad in a remarkable way!
How is it possible that one writer can claim that the life of Jesus as recorded in the Christian Bible is an exactreplica of that of Horus while another cannot see even one point of similarity between them, arguing that he represents Muhammad instead? The answer is simply that each is trying to force a comparison to suit his purpose. As Kamal-ud-Din tries to force the pagan glove to fit the Christian hand against all evidences to the contrary, so Abdul Haque attempts to make it fit the Muslim hand. The exercise serves one useful purpose, however - it shows how unjustified Muslim attempts are to make the Christian story of Jesus depend on pagan myths and the unacceptable methods they adopt to further their own purposes.
We have another good example of this in the attempts found in Muslim writings to make Christian beliefs about Jesus dependent upon early pagan Mexican beliefs about Quetzalcoatl, a local idol. One Muslim author claims that this Mexican "Saviour" was born of a virgin, Chimalman, who received an annunciation of his conception just as Mary did of Jesus. (In passing it must be said that it is indeed strange to find Muslims attempting to prove that Christianity has pagan origins on such grounds when we remember that this is precisely what the Qur'an itself teaches about Mary in Surah 19.17-21). The Mexican idol, he goes on to say, also fasted forty days and was tempted by Satan. He expressly states that Quetzalcoatl was "crucified" but that the Mexicans looked forward to his "second coming" (Joommal, The Bible: Word of God or Word of Man?, p. 145). No references of any documentary value are given for these suggestions. (The same claims appear on page 40 of Kamal-ud-Din's The Sources of Christianity as well, once again without documentation).
An excellent basic documentary record of pagan myths is Larousse's Hew Encyclopaedia of Mythology published by Hamlyn in London. In this great reference book, as in others documenting pagan myths, we find that Quetzalcoatl was actually one of a number of Mexican deities, that he was generally represented as a snake-bird or as a plumed serpent, and that in human form he appeared as a white-haired old man with a black body and red face-mask. Far from being in any way like Jesus, the image is in fact in marked contrast. There is no evidence that he was "crucified" but, in the Mexican legend, he is believed to have sailed away with a promise that he would return to his people.
Here we find yet again a classical example of an attempt to Christianize a central figure in a pagan religion. Muslim writers like Kamal-ud-Din and Joommal are not showing that Christianity is derived from pagan myths, rather they are endeavouring to give a Christian flavour to these myths and to force similarities by resorting to Christian terms such as "crucified" and "second coming". The Mexican anticipation of Quetzalcoatl's return from an earthly journey across the seas has been transformed into a "second coming" after a crucifixion! Such is the Muslim method of supposedly proving Christian dependence on pagan myths. What is really happening is that these myths are being given a different face and are being couched in Christian terms to suit the purposes of the authors we have mentioned. It also remains to be proved how a religion which is nearly two thousand years old can be made to be dependent upon another which only came/to Christian knowledge a few centuries ago when Mexico, was first discovered by Spanish explorers.
This brief analysis serves to show just how Muslims try to force similarities between Christianity and paganism and how thoroughly unjustified their attempts are.
2. Does Christianity Have Buddhist Sources?
The Muslim writer Kamal-ud-Din, in addition to attempting to trace Christianity to general pagan origins, also endeavours to link it to Buddhism as well. He adduces no less than forty-eight supposed points of likeness between Jesus and Buddha (The Sources of Christianity, pp. 62-70) and by way of introduction says:
He presents no documented evidences to substantiate these comparisons but relies exclusively on points set out in Doane's Bible Myths which he accepts without any research of his own or critical reflection. Joommal follows him in likewise simply listing many of the same comparisons without any documentation at all (The Bible: Word of God or Word of Man?, pp. 151-159). Among the points listed we find it claimed that Buddha was born of a virgin on Christmas Day, that wise men came to visit him with costly presents, that he was baptised and that the Holy Spirit came upon him, that he was transfigured on a mountain, that he rose from the dead and will return to earth, that he prayed that all of the sins of the world might come on him, and that he was Alpha and Omega!
Once again we have an exhaustive effort to Christianize the central figure of another religion. As Christianity and Buddhism are poles apart in dogma and practice, it is most surprising to find it suggested that Buddha was, in every material aspect of his life and mission, a carbon-copy of the Jesus of the Bible. We could give consideration to one or two points of likeness between Jesus and Buddha to discover whether Christian belief in the former was in any way dependent upon the latter, but it is impossible to seriously believe that the whole life of Jesus, in every respect as recorded in the Bible, is borrowed from the life of Buddha. Why is it that only Muslims bring such a charge forward and that Buddhists themselves do not do so? The extensive efforts to relate every event in Jesus' life to Buddhist origins expose the whole argument to absurdity.
The same Muslim author who denied that the life and doctrine of Jesus in any way related to the Egyptian god Horus significantly does the same thing with Buddha, once again claiming that the likenesses are really between him and Muhammad. He says:
For nearly sixty pages the Maulana provides example after example to show that Muhammad was the Buddha to come who would be the express image of the original Buddha, and not Jesus Christ. He concludes:
It is truly most striking to find one Muslim author going to great lengths attempting to prove likenesses between Buddha and Jesus and another equally exhaustively endeavouring to do the very opposite. The contrast does serve to show once again, however, that Muslim attempts to prove Christian dependence on paganism derive from the wishful thinking of their authors rather than a consideration of the facts.
One likeness drawn by Kamal-ud-Din between Jesus and Buddha, however, demands further scrutiny. He states that when Buddha was an infant just born, he said to his mother "I am the greatest among men" and alongside this he states that when Jesus was an infant in his cradle he spoke to his mother and said "I am Jesus the Son of God" (Kamal-ud-Din, The Sources of Christianity, p. 63). There is no record in the Bible that any such thing ever happened in the life of Jesus and no Christians anywhere hold to such a belief. In this case, however, the attempt to trace Christian beliefs to Buddhism must rebound against Islam. In the Qur'an we read that/when Jesus was born Mary's kinsmen accused her of unchastity but she pointed to the child in the cradle who forthwith declined that he was a servant of God and a prophet (Surah 19.27-30).
According to Kamal-ud-Din any teaching about Jesus which says he spoke from the cradle must have been borrowed from Buddhism. In this very incident we have a definite likeness between Islam and Buddhism and one which therefore, by the standards of the author referred to, makes it possible to trace Qur'anic teaching to pagan origins.
The story that Jesus spoke from the cradle appeared first in the Injilut-Tufuliyyah, known today as the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, a late apocryphal work most significantly preserved in Arabic alone. The only difference between the record in this apocryphal work and the Qur'an is that Jesus is recorded in the former as saying annaa huwa Yasuu ibnullaah ("I am Jesus the Son of God") and in the latter simply as saying innii abdullaah ("I am the servant of God" - Surah 19.30). The reason for the difference is not hard to find.
It is possible that Mariyah, Muhammad's Christian wife from Egypt (where the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy was known to have originated), related the story to Muhammad and that he believed it to be principally true.
There is no substance in Muslim claims that Christianity l has pagan origins. On the contrary we find that it is Islam that at times has embarrassing parallels in the various pagan religions that preceded it.
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