Next, Onfray likens Jesus to the numerous prophets and zealots of the time [Onfray, In Defense of Atheism, 118.], suggesting that later Christian writers expanded his role to include Messianic expectations. Onfray goes on to suggest that the Gospel writers attached to Jesus a great deal of supernatural elements that were commonly associated with venerable mythical figures of the time, including a virgin birth: “Plato too was born of a mother in the prime of life but endowed with an intact hymen.” [Onfray, In Defense of Atheism, 122.] Onfray infers from this that Jesus was a product of fantasy and not fact due to the numerous similarities to existing myth.
This argument is really a straw man type of argument. Logically, the argument doesn’t hold up. Onfray basically claims that since he can find similar stories that resonate with the Gospel story, that makes the Gospel story inauthentic. While the similarities are interesting, this is extremely weak logic that doesn’t prove anything.
I expected at least a partial acknowledgment of the possibility of the validity of the Christian texts, rather than the dismissal of the Christian writing because it mirrors ancient myths so closely. Yes, Onfray’s argument does imply that the similarities between Christianity and other ancient myths are too similar to be coincidence, but Onfray doesn’t give any credence to any opposing points of view. The coincidental (or not) similarities to other myths does not in itself invalidate the possible accuracy of the Christian story.
And, discounting the New Testament based on Onfray’s argument of similarity discounts all of the evidence in support of Christianity, including the eye witness accounts documented in the Gospels and in Acts, along with the commitment of the martyrs to follow the faith that they experienced personally even when threatened with death.
Up next: “Politics of the New Testament Canon“