Metzger on Pagan Parallels with Christianity

Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, the greatest textual critic of the twentieth century


“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.”

The quote above was penned by Bruce M. Metzger, in his article, “Considerations of Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity,” published in the January, 1955 edition of the Harvard Theological Journal (p. 13). Metzger’s conclusions from his study of the methodology of scholars who make much of the parallels between Christianity and pagan mystery religions is that the parallels are analogical, rather than genealogical. In other words, the elements of Christianity which parallel paganism were not derived from paganism, but, as above, “their similarities are superficial.”

Read PaleoBabble’s blog post on this article, and then read the article itself.

In short, don’t be sucked in by the claims of “pagan parallels” as an attempt to discredit the historicity, inspiration and authority of the New Testament, or to relativize it, like Rob Bell was…


7 responses

  1. Dig Metzger. Have you ever read C.S. Lewis’s essay called “Myth Became Fact”? It’s in God in the Dock, and it can also be found online. I think his notion of commonality is very compelling. Granted, what he’s after is different from what Metzger is, but, in some ways, the “pagan parallels” with Christianity are points of strength.

  2. Have it, but haven’t read it. I’ll certainly check it out on your recommendation.

    I am aware that Tolkien persuaded Lewis of theism by arguing that Jesus is the “true myth” of which other myths are shadowy reflections. Is Lewis’ essay basically making a case like that?

  3. I was aware of Rob Bell, but had never heard him speak. A quick synopsis of what the Gospel is with my limited education: Gospel= good news, good news= Jesus, Jesus= Gospel. What I find very dangerous which I hear Bell saying in his ending is this: “You are God”.

    1. Ha! So if God is the Gospel, and YOU are the Gospel, then you are God, right? Clever! I don’t see Bell complaining, although, in the four years since this post was originally written, I have yet to hear Bell come right out and say it. But he has since switched to Oprah Network self-improvement guru, which is actually what I have always said Joel Osteen should do: quit calling himself a preacher and go on Oprah to promote his self-help ideas. I’d have more respect for him.

      If Bell were to object to equating yourself with God, I don’t see Oprah thinking he’s worth having on her network.

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