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The four defenses

Can you grow up in Japan, then develop chop sticks independently? Believing scholars say "yes."

Here's how the scholarly argument goes.  
Because the overarching facts aren't too complicated, the back and forth between Pagan Christers and Believing Scholars runs in pretty tight groves.  Everyone agrees the facts suggest a Pagan - Christian connection. The believing scholars have four possible defenses.  They have to say Christianity is:

not different, but it developed separately,
not different, but it developed first.
Or they can ignore the pagan origins.


A specific example 
In the second century AD a Pagan fellow named Apuleius wrote a book about, believe it or not, the adventures he had when he was turned into a donkey. (It was a novel, so everyone understood the donkey stuff was made up.) In the book he includes stuff that wasn't made up -- a description of his initiation into the Mysteries of Isis.  
Of his initiation Apuleius writes

"The keys of hell and the guarantee of salvation were in the hands of the goddess, and the initiation ceremony itself took the form of a kind of voluntary death and salvation through divine grace." [Apuleius, Metamorphosis, Book 11, 21]

Don't believe me, believe the ancients themselves.

How do mainstream scholars deal with this?  
The Pagan Christ crowd
says, "Baptism, salvation, dying- resurrected god -- looks a lot like Christianity."  They add that that to the great mass of other evidence and say, "Gotta be a connection."  

The believing scholars use each of their four possible defenses: 


Yes Apuleius says the salvation of Isis guarantees his "rebirth," but he doesn't say "eternal rebirth," so it's not the same. Christian rebirth and salvation are completely different from Pagan rebirth and salvation -- we know this because some guy writing a novel about being turned into a jackass says "rebirth" and "salvation" instead of "eternal rebirth" and "salvation." 

This is an actual example of modern scholarship, from a much quoted professor at Yale. I swear to you I am not making this up.


Not different, but it developed separately.

Christian rebirth and salvation are the same as Pagan rebirth and salvation, but you don't have written proof the early Christians actually copied the Pagan ideas.  So they didn't.  The ideas developed in parallel.

What "in parallel" is taken to mean is, "on their own," or "uninfluenced by."

Can you grow up in Japan, then develop chop sticks independently? Believing scholars say "yes."

How that works, how you can develop an idea on your own that everyone else in the culture, including you before you converted, knows about -- that's a detail the believing scholars don't dwell on.  They're busy doing other stuff, I guess.

"The use of identical and similar words, gestures, rites in the Christian and the Hellenistic cults does not imply derivation of one from the other...The [Pagan] mystagogue kisses the altar and the Christian priest does likewise;  both set their right foot first across the threshold of the sanctuary; in both the mysteries and the early Christian ritual of baptism, the novice is given milk and honey;  but these are not "influences" of the mysteries on Christianity; they are simply usages that the various cults drew quite independently from daily life." [Hugo Rahner, The Christian Mystery and the Pagan Mysteries, in The Mysteries; Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks]

POCM quotes modern scholars

Not different, but it developed first  

Maybe Apuleius copied from the ChristiansThe facts -- the fact that the followers of Isis had been having initiations like this for hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the fact that Apuleius mentions the Pagan Gods hundreds and hundreds of times but never mentions Jesus once, the fact there is absolutely no evidence at all, anywhere, whatsoever that Apuleius ever even heard of Christianity, the fact that the early Christian apologists saw the parallels and said the Pagan ideas happened first -- they don't prove anything.  It could have happened backwards.  Probably did.

Ignore it.  

Don't bring it up.  Or mention a theoretical and unproven mystery religion- Christian connection in a dismissive subordinate clause, maybe cite the authority of the mature consideration of modern scholarship, and move on.  If you're writing for other believing scholars -- a good bet -- no one's going to call you on it.

This defense is the most popular.

By the way

Did I mention that a lot of the Unique Christ people are believing Christians?  

They are. You maybe guessed that.