There are sites that purport that nothing in the story of Jesus is original. All that we read, all of the Christian traditions, are pagan. While the Catholic Church early on had appropriated many of the traditions and symbols of the pagans and syncretized them with Christian beliefs, we in the Church of God movement have done our best to divorce ourselves from such beliefs.
Many of these skeptical sites try to link the Savior, Jesus Christ, to another savior – Krishna. Are these legitimate linkages?
1. Both were supposedly born on 25 December. Actually, the celebration of birth/rebirth during the winter solstice has long been associated with various pagan gods. The Biblical account is quite clear that Jesus could not have been born then, so this doesn’t matter. Furthermore, Jesus did not say to celebrate His birth, but rather have a memorial for His death. The Church of God has long rejected the celebration of Christmas for this reason.
2. Both are supposedly the second member of a trinity of gods. Of course, the word “trinity” does not appear in the Bible. The Church of God has long rejected the notion of a trinity as unbiblical and pagan in origin. Human beings are born in the image of God. Therefore, if the Biblical God was triune, then human beings would have to reflect this three persons in one nature.
3. Both were savior figures. Not a big deal, as mankind over the generations has realized at some level that what they are doing is not working. Unfortunately, this realization will not come fully upon mankind until the Great Tribulation.
4. Both were called both God and the Son of God. Actually, this is nothing new in any religion, so the comparison is another red herring.
5. Both were the sons of a carpenter. Actually, Krishna was the son of King Ugrasena who was imprisoned by Queen Devaki’s brother Kamsa because of the prophecy that he would be killed by the eighth of her sons.
6. Both were visited by wise men and shepherds guided by a star. Oddly enough, I cannot find any reliable reference to this event for Krishna. In fact, he was born in jail (as his parents were imprisoned), and then he was quickly taken to the home of another for safe keeping. This is probably another one of those late additions (see below). The sources below indicate this is a fabrication that happened after the Gospel accounts were compiled.
7. Both withdrew to the wilderness and fasted. Actually, fasting was common in both cultures. This is similar to saying both men wore loose garments.
8. Both were without sin. Since both came as enemies of evil, as savior figures, it would be odd if this were not true. However, it is noteworthy that “without sin” is not the same notion between Hinduism and Christianity. “But it is very difficult to comprehend the truth about the Divine. The omnipresent Divine is present both in Truth and untruth.”1
9. There are traditions that Krishna was crucified and then disappeared. However, the earlier traditions have him either ascending to heaven while meditating under a tree or by being shot in the left foot by an arrow (Achilles anyone?).
10. Some even claim a virgin birth for Krishna. However, these are all later traditions, not found in the original writings. In fact, earlier traditions have Krishna as the 8th child of his mother, Devaki.2
Even Skeptics Acknowledge Some of These as False
To his credit, Stephen Van Eck, a skeptic from The Skeptical Review online website, has something to say on these last 2 points:
“In fairness, however, one purported similarity needs to be discredited. Skeptics sometimes cite Kersey Graves in Sixteen Crucified Saviors or Godfrey Higgin’s Anacalypsis (which Graves drew from) in asserting that Krishna was a crucified deity. No such event occurred in the Gita or in any recognized Hindu scripture. Given the pronounced syncretic tendency of Hinduism, it is safe to assume that any odd tales of Krishna’s being crucified arose only after the existence of Christian proselytism, in imitation of the Christian narrative. It is neither authentic to Hinduism nor is Hinduism the source of that portion of the Christian narrative. The same may be said for most of the purported nativity stories. In my opinion, both Higgins and Graves are highly unreliable sources and should be ignored.” 3
When you really look at the overall package, there aren’t that many meaningful similarities. Indeed, Krishna often has had many traditions surrounding him, some of which are contradictory. Hinduism, of course, supports the notion of reincarnation, a present pantheon of gods and goddesses and karma, notions that are not found in the Bible. Many of the traditions that are similar have been added to Hinduism after the fact rather than the other way around.
1. Sai Baba, Bhagavan Sri Sathya. (4 Sep 1996). Krishna’s life and message. Retrieved from http://www.sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume29/sss29-40.pdf.
2. Krishna. (n.d.). Retrieved 29 July 2009, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krishna.
3. Van Eck, Stephen. (1994). Hare Jesus: Christianity’s Hindu Heritage. Retrieved from http://www.theskepticalreview.com/tsrmag/3hare94.html.
4. Thompson, Keith. (4 June 2008). Zeitgeist’s Claims Debunked (1 of 2). Video retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QAhrC3nG5E&feature=related.