Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Did Luke Steal His Vision of Heaven from Osiris?

heaven.jpgOur excerpt from Robert Wright’s important new book Evolution of God focuses on the origins of the modern idea of heaven. Wright suggests that Luke evolved the idea of heaven to compensate for the fact that the anticiated resurrection of the dead hadn’t happened yet.

Had Christian doctrine not evolved in response to this challenge, it would have lost credibility as the Kingdom of God failed to show up on Earth–as generations and generations of Christians were seen to have died without getting their reward. So the Kingdom of God had to be relocated from Earth to heaven, where generations of Christians had presumably gotten their reward–and you could, too, if you accepted Christ as your savior.


Noting that Luke’s account did not appear in quite the same way in the other Gospels, Wright speculates that Luke may have borrowed a bit from some of the Pagan religions:

Am I saying that Luke stole his afterlife scenario from a competing religion? Not with great confidence, no. But if you wanted to indict him on this charge, you would not be wholly lacking in evidence. The evidence would focus on the Egyptian God Osiris. Osiris bears a certain resemblance to Jesus as Christians would later come to conceive him; Osiris inhabited the afterworld and judged the recently deceased, granting eternal life to those who believed in him and lived by his code. But Osiris was doing this a long time before Jesus was born, and meanwhile he had migrated to the Roman Empire, where he had developed a following.

The whole excerpt (and book) are fascinating.

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Ben Witherington

posted July 17, 2009 at 10:57 am

Robert Wright’s new book unfortunately reflects the flawed and long discredited methodology of the German ‘history of religions’ school which imagined that ideas are like biological processes that evolve and develop over time in some sort of linear way. Unfortunately human intellectual life especially across ancient cultures is far more messy and non-evolutionary. In the first place, Luke is by no means the first person in the NT to refer to heaven, Jesus is, and thereafter Paul does as well in various ways. For example, in 2 Cor. 5 Paul talks about going to be with the Lord in heaven, referring to being absent from the body at death and present with the Lord. In a Biblically and historically illiterate age it is understandable how many would find this book fascinating, but even a moments reflections will show that the Egyptian Osiris myth has nothing to do with NT beliefs about either heaven or the afterlife. And of course there were already texts in the OT, such as in Daniel and the Psalms which speak about God and heaven, texts which could not historically have been influences by the later development of the Isis and Osiris myth. Mr. Wright needs to do a better job of knowing the history of the NT period, its documents, and the early Jewish documents which preceded them and certainly influenced them.
Dr. Ben Witherington, III
Amos Professor of NT Asbury Theological Seminary
Doctoral Faculty St. Andrews University, Scotland.

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Mr. Incredible

posted July 18, 2009 at 4:56 pm

It will do you no good to try to insert worldly intellectualism into the Word. The Word is of no private interpretation.

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Gerard Nadal

posted July 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Luke wrote his Gospel, having lived with some of Jesus’ Apostles, the eye and ear witnesses of what Jesus said and did. This exegetical method of having Luke putting not only words, but inventing ideas whole cloth, into Jesus’ mouth, is another way of saying that either;
A. God was impotent in making His revelation known when He took on human flesh and lived among us, or,
B. God didn’t really come to live among us, and the entire story is a fabrication.
What is for certain is that looking with endless doubt on what the eye and ear witnesses of Jesus life had to say in writing, at a time when they were being hunted down and executed for doing so, smacks of narcissistic faithlessness. My money is on the writings from the Apostolic community and not some ‘scholar’ two millennia later seeking to hawk books.

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