It is unwarrantably assumed by Christian writers that the incarnated Gods and crucified Saviors of the pagan religions were all either mere fabulous characters, or ordinary human beings invested with divine titles, and divine attributes; while, on the other hand, the assumption is put forth with equal boldness that Jesus Christ was a real divine personage, “seen and believed on in the world, and finally crucified on Mount Calvary.”
But we do not find the facts in history to warrant any such assumptions or any such distinctions. They all stand in these respects upon the same ground and on equal footing.
And their respective disciples point to the same kind of evidence to prove their real existence and their divine character, and to prove that they once walked and talked amongst men, as well as now sit on the eternal throne in heaven “at the right hand of the father.” And we find even Christian writers admitting the once bona fide or personal existence on earth of most of the pagan Saviors.
As to the two chief incarnated Gods of India — Chrishna and Sakia — there is scarcely “a peg left to hang a doubt upon” as to the fact of their having descended to the earth, taken upon themselves the form of men, and having been worshiped as veritable Gods.
Indeed, we believe but few of the missionaries who have visited that country question the statement and general belief prevalent there of their once personal reality. Col. Todd, in his History of the Rajahs (p. 44), says:
“We must discard the idea that the Mahabaret, the history of Rama, of Chrishna, and the five Padua brothers are mere allegories; colossal figures, ancient temples, and caves inscribed with characters yet unknown, confirm the reality, and their race, their cities, and their coins yet exist.”
To argue further the personal reality of this crucified God would be a waste of words, as it is generally admitted, both by historical writers and missionaries.
Mr. Higgins declares, “Chrishna lived at the conclusion of the brazen age, which is calculated to have been eleven hundred or twelve hundred years before Christ.” Here is a very positive and specific declaration as to his tangible actuality. Col. Dow, Mr, Robinson, and others use similar language.
Relative to Bacchus, of whose history many writers have spoken as being wholly fabulous or fictitious, Diodorus Siculus says (lib. iii. p. 137), “the Libyans claim Bacchus, and say that he was the son of Ammon, a king of Libya; that he built a temple to his father, Amraon.” And that world-wide famous historian (Mr. Goodrich) is still more explicit, if possible, as to his material entity. After giving it directly as his opinion that there was such a being, he says, “He planted vine-yards and fig-trees, and erected many noble cities.” He moreover tells us, “His skill in legislation and agriculture is much praised” (p. 499).
With respect to Osiris of Egypt, another God-Savior, Mr. Hittle declares unqualifiedly that “Herodotus saw the tomb of Osiris, at Sais nearly five centuries before Christ” (vol. i.p. 246). Rather a strong evidence of his previous personality certainly, but not more so than that furnished by the New York, Journal of Commerce a few years since, relative to the Egyptian Apis or Thulis, whose theophany was annually celebrated, at the rising of the Nile, with great festivities and devotion, several thousand years ago. The Paris correspondent of that journal, after speaking of Mr. Auguste Marietta’s travels, “a distinguished scientific gentleman who for four years past had been employed by the French Government in making Egyptian researches,” having returned home, says, “The most important of Mr. Marietta’s discoveries was the tomb of Apis (Thulis), a monument excavated entirely in lime-rock. “There are (he says in conclusion) epitaphs, forming a chronological record of each of the Apis buried in the common tomb. The sculpture is of the date of the Pyramids, and the statues are in the best state of preservation; the colors are perfectly bright. The execution is admirable, and they convey an exact idea of the physical character of the primitive population.”
The New American Cyclopedia (art. Apis) in speaking of this Egyptian God, tells us his lifetime was twenty-five years; in harmony with one of the theologics-astronomical cycles of the Egyptians. The same work and volume (p. 132), in speaking of the real existence of Adonis of Greece, tells us, upon the authority of the poet Panyasis, that he was a veritable son of Theias, king of Syria.
But of all the characters who figured in the mythological works or lawless rhapsodies of the ancients, and worshiped by them as crucified Gods and sin-atoning Saviors, none has, perhaps, been so indubitably, so positively, and so universally set down as mythological or fabulous as that of Prometheus of Caucasus.
And yet Mr. Lempriere, D.D., tells us in his Classical Dictionary that he was the son of Japetus. Sir Isaac Newton say he was a descendant of the famous African Sesostris; while that erudite and masterly historian (Mr. Higgins) seems to have entertained no doubt of his personal esse; nor, indeed, of many, if any, of the pagan Saviors, as the following declaration will show. He says,
“Finding men in India and other countries of the same name of the inferior Gods (as it is quite common to name men for them) has led some to conclude that those deified men never existed, but are merely mythological names of the sun. True, the first supreme God of every nation (not excepting the Jews) was the sun. But more modernly the names were transferred to men.”
Again, he says,
“Inasmuch as some of them are found to have been real bona fide human beings, there is nothing unreasonable in concluding that all were.”
And if we take into consideration the true and indisputable fact that the priests had everything at their disposal, and the strongest motives for concealing and suppressing, not to say garbling and destroying evidence, it is not to be wondered at that the histories of some of these Gods should be somewhat obscure and ambiguous. Further on he declares,
“In every case the Savior was incarnate, and in nearly every case the place in which he was actually born was exhibited to the people.”
And upon the authority of the Hierophant, we will add, the memories of many of them have been consecrated and perpetuated by tombs placed beside their temples, which is perhaps the most convincing species of evidence that could be offered.
The evidence, then, is precisely of the same character as that offered in the case of Jesus Christ to prove that the pagan Saviors did really possess a substantial, earthly and bodily existence. Though it is true that it never has been universally conceded or believed by Christian themselves that Jesus Christ ever had a personal or corporeal existence on earth.
Cotilenius, in a note on Ignatius, Epistle to the Trallians, written in the third century of the Christian era, declares that “it is as absurd to deny the doctrine which taught that Jesus Christ’s body was a phantom as to deny that the sun shone at midday.” His physical body of course was meant, for it appears he believed in his eternal existence as a spirit in heaven.
And we find whole sects advocating similar views in the early ages of the Christian church. “One of the most primitive and learned sects,” says a writer, “were the Manicheans, who denied that Jesus Christ ever existed in flesh and blood, but believed him to be a God in spirit only; others denied him to be a God, but believed him to have been a prophet, or inspired character, like the Unitarians of the present day. Some denied his crucifixion, others asserted it.
It is more than probable that this was the cause of dispute between Paul and Barnabas, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, seeing that Paul had laid such peculiar emphasis on “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
And this conclusion is corroborated by its being expressly stated in the Gospel of Barnabas that “Jesus Christ was not crucified, but was carried to heaven by four angels.” “There was a long list,” says the same writer, “from the earliest times, of sincere Christians who denied that Jesus Christ rose from the dead;” while, as we may remark here, there could not have been at that early date any grounds for denying these things, had he really figured in the world in the miraculous and extraordinary and public manner as that related in the Gospels.