Monday Meditation: The Distinction of Resurrection

Easter is a time for Christians to reflect upon what they consider to be the most holy and unique tenant of their faith, the 'resurrection' of Jesus Christ, their savior. The biblical story states that Jesus, a god-man, died for the sins of mankind and rose again three days later, thus redeeming all humanity to eternal life. The following quote sums up a majority-held view within Christianity:
"... the resurrection is the most significant. It is not merely important to the historic Christian faith but without it there would be no Christianity. It is the singular event that sets Christianity apart from every other world religion and elevates it above all other world religions. "~
In other words, no one else's god has died and risen again from the dead, so this is why they believe their religion is superior to others. But, how true is that statement? Just how distinct is the resurrection?

The Pagan myth generally goes, in some form, that the god (in some form) dies or is killed (many times, in an effort to save the people from destruction) and is resurrected some time later. The following is a sampling, and by no means a comprehensive, list of Pagan gods who died and were resurrected long before the alleged death/burial/resurrection of Jesus:

  1. Aeneas- Greek/Roman 
  2. Adonis- Greek/Phoenician/Canaanite
  3. Amun- Egyptian
  4. Amun-Min- Egyptian
  5. Attis- Phyrgian
  6. Atunis- Etruscan
  7. Baal- Canaanite
  8. Bacchus- Roman
  9. Chinnamasta- Indian
  10. Cronus- Greek
  11. Dionysus- Greek
  12. Dumuzi- Sumerian
  13. Eshmun- Canaanite
  14. Gullveig- Norse/Germanic
  15. Heitsi-eibi- Khoikhoi
  16. Izanagi- Japanese
  17. Jarilo- Slavic
  18. Kaknu- Ohlone
  19. Melquart- Phoenician
  20. Mithra- Persian
  21. Obatala- Yoruba
  22. Odin- Norse/Germanic
  23. Orpheus- Greek
  24. Osiris- Egyptian
  25. Phoenix- Arabic, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Phoenician, Roman
  26. Quetzlcoatl- Aztec
  27. Shiva- Indian
  28. Tammuz- Akkadian
  29. Xipe-Totec- Aztec
  30. Zalmoxis- Dacian, Greek
This list does not include all of the female deities who would fit into the death/resurrection category. 

The famous mythologist, Joseph Campbell, was interviewed by Bill Moyers of PBS fame in what's been titled, "The Power of the Myth" in 1988. Here is an excerpt from that interview:

Campbell: The death and resurrection of a savior figure is a common motif in all these legends.... Somebody has had to die in order for life to emerge. I begin to see this incredible pattern of death giving rise to birth, and birth giving rise to death. Every generation has to die in order that the next generation can come.
Moyers: You write, "Out of the rocks of fallen wood and leaves, fresh sprouts arise, from which the lesson appears to have been that from death springs life, and out of death new birth. And the grim conclusion drawn was that the way to increase life is to increase death. Accordingly, the entire equatorial belt of this globe has been characterized by a frenzy of sacrifice -- vegetable, animal and human sacrifice."
Campbell: There is a ritual associated with the men's societies in New Guinea that actually enacts the planting-society myth of death, resurrection and cannibalistic consumption. . . ."
Toby Johnson: 
"The myth of the resurrection of the body (Jesus' in history and ours at the Second Coming) signifies that life keeps coming back in the flesh. To see that is to see that death need not be feared, that embodied life is good, that we are all manifestations of the same life. To see that is to be born again of the water (of the ocean out of which life first grew and of the amniotic water of our birth) and of the spirit (which is the breath respiring through all of us, and which, as William James saw, is modulated into consciousness in each of us). It is to see that we are all risen from the dead because of God's act of creation of space and time." ~

The belief in the uniqueness of the Resurrection, and in the superiority of their religion, is prevalent in the Christian sects of today. It is this superiority complex that has given rise to the domination and forced conversions of indigenous cultures around the world; the witch hunts and crusades of the past, and the discrimination and political agendas of today. 

In truth, death/burial/resurrection is an ancient theme throughout the mythos of humanity. It is a reflection of our planet. Something must die for each creature to live, and in each death, there is life. The commonality of the resurrection motif  does not lessen the critical role that each creature plays in perpetuating the circle of life. It simply reduces Christianity's assertion of it's superiority to its rightful and ordinary place among the many belief systems in history.

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