The Myth of the Resurrection by Joseph McCabe

In comparative mythology, the related motifs of a dying god and of a dying-and-rising god (also known as a death-rebirth-deity) have appeared in diverse cultures. In the more commonly accepted motif of a dying god, the deity goes away and does not return. The motif of a dying-and-rising god refers to a deity which returns, is resurrected or is reborn, in either a literal or symbolic sense.

Beginning in the 19th century, a number of gods who would fit these motifs were proposed. Male examples include the ancient Near Eastern and Greek deities Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Eshmun, Tammuz, Ra, Osiris, and Jesus, among others. The methods of death can be diverse, the Norse Baldr is killed by a holly dart from his mischievous/evil step-uncle Loki and the Aztec Quetzalcoatl (feathered serpent) sets himself on fire after over-drinking. Some gods who die are also seen as either returning or bringing about life in some other form, in many cases associated with a vegetation deity related to a staple.

Joseph McCabe ( was one of the first writers to bring these ideas to popular attention in his essay ‘The Myth of the Resurrection (originally published 1925). The very least it achieves is to show that the idea of resurrection did not pop into existence from nowhere, and certainly not in first century Palestine. In fact it is embedded in the rich mythological landscape of the Ancient Near East. This is good reading for Easter at which time the natural world is springing back to life.

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193 pages in The Freethought Library

First published 1993

ISBN 978-0879758332

Joseph McCabe

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