VI. Caveats: Generic or Historical Myth?

How definitively was Christianity the Product of Greek and Jewish Thought?

It has been shown that Greek thought heavily influenced Christianity. The most significant question, and the most sordid, is to what degree Christianity owes its invention to Greek Religion. Specifically, the quest is how related Jesus the Christ and the other key tenets of Christianity are to the mythologies of Greece. Most of the evidence on these counts is circumstantial, relying on the weight of the many similarities between key Christian doctrine and the Mystery Cults' rites to suggest their cases. Plainer and more telling evidence is simply unavailable: early Christianity would have wanted to distance itself as far as possible from the pagan Cults, and the secretive nature of the Mystery Cults prohibits historians from knowing their precise natures and purposes. Critics of the idea that Christianity largely owes its invention to Greek Religion have suggested that this is simply another case of generic myth ("Mystery").

On the subject of comparative religion, World Book presents three exceedingly useful distinctions when comparing how myths are related: myths share common elements because they are related generically, genetically, or historically ("Mythology"). Myths that are generically related have no direct relation to each other; they simply developed in a parallel manner for various reasons, whether it was because the myths' inventors lived under the same sort of conditions or simply because mankind has a propensity for explaining certain things in certain ways. For example, the myth of a great flood shared by the Babylonians and Incas is a likely example of myths that are generically related: there is no evidence that they were exposed to one another, and such kinds of flood myths seem common enough among the cultures of the world, it is probably that they tend to arise due to a similar psychology among man. A genetic relationship, however, arises when a large society develops a myth, breaks up, and the myth goes on to develop in the society's fragments. An historical relationship occurs when peoples with disparate origin develop a similar myth as a result of some kind of exposure. For example, the myth of a great flood shared by the Jews and the Babylonians is a likely example: because the Jews were certainly exposed to Babylonian mythology, because the two stories share some strikingly common elements, and because the Babylonian story of the flood predates that of the Jews, it seems likely that the Jews acquired at least aspects of their story of Noah from the Babylonian story of Utnapisthtim.

The question, then, is whether the story of Jesus and the rites of Christianity are related generically or historically to Greek Religion. To determine how common such ideas are, and therefore how apt man is to develop them, it is necessary to look around the world.

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