In response to my Distinguished Birth series and the post, Non-Issues in the Lukan Birth Narrative, Part 1, an anonymous commentor listed some other supposed pagan birth stories which he apparently thinks undercut my arguments. Although I think my original argument stands on its own, I will respond to the new examples. I save the best -- by which I mean the worst -- for last. In short, none of these examples offer much new and end up reinforcing my original argument.
* The Birth of Minerva. Minerva was not a human who lived on earth but a Roman goddess. In fact, she was the Roman counterpart to the Greek goddess Athena. More to the point, she did not even have a mother, there was no conception, and she was not "born," at least not in any remotely normal way. Rather, Roman myth states that she "leaped forth" from Jupiter's head as a fully grown adult wearing a suit of armor. Perhaps the anonymous poster was confused because Minerva herself was known as the "virgin goddess."
* The Birth of Apis. Apis was not human. Nor was he a god that looked like a human. Rather, Apis was an Egyptian god who was also a bull. As Herodotus writes, Apis "is a calf born of a cow who after this is not permitted to conceive any other offspring; and the Egyptians say that a flash of light comes down from heaven upon this cow, and of this she produces Apis..." The History of Herodotus, 3.28. Even if Mary was comparable to a cow, it is unlikely that the cow at issue was a virgin. Not only are there few virgin cows, but the note that "after this" the cow was not able to conceive may suggest prior calves.
* The Birth of Dionysus. Dionysus was another Greco-Roman god, also known as Bacchus. According to some stories, Dionysus was the product of a sexual affair between Zeus a human woman. There is a slight, but ultimately immaterial, twist. The mother died prematurely when Zeus appeared to her in full glory. The divine child survived though and Zeus placed him in his own thigh until he was born from it. While this is unusual, there are no virgins involved. Dionysus' mother was involved sexually with Zeus. And, obviously, Zeus was no virgin and it is something of a stretch to compare the "birth" from Zeus' thigh to Jesus' birth.
* The Birth of Plato. Some apparently believed that Apollo was involved in Plato's birth. Diogenes Laertuius states that there was a story that Plato's father Ariston "made passionate love to beautiful Perictione" regularly. Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 3.1-3. Then, Apollo admonished Ariston to stop and Ariston "left her unmolested until she gave birth." Even if Apollo took the pleasure of getting her pregnant, Perictione was not a virgin when she conceived or gave birth to Plato. Although there is no explanation as to how Perictione conceived, if a pagan reader had taken the story to mean it was by Apollo, then he likely would have assumed Apollo did it the "old fashion" pagan way.
* The Birth of Scipio Africanus. Aulus Gellius wrote that there were stories that Scipio's mother conceived after being discovered laying with a large snake. The allusion to Zeus impregnating Olympia, the mother of Alexander the Great, was not lost on Gellius, who made it explicit that Scipio's mother "had the same experience as Oympias." She was not a virgin, having been married and barren a long time, and the conception resulted from the contact with a snake (though few details are offered). Attic Nights, 6.1.1-6.
* The Birth of Augustus. This story is also similar to Zeus' impregnation of Olympia. Augustus' mother -- Attia -- was impregnated by a God in the form of an animal, in this case a snake. As Dio Cassius writes, "Attia ... emphatically asserted that her child had been fathered by Apollo. She said that once, while she was sleeping in his temple, she thought she had intercourse with a snake." History of Rome, 45.1.2-2.4. Also, Attia was no virgin, but married at the time.
* The Birth of Attis. This is a story noted by Pausanias about the impregnation of a nymph/goddess. Description of Greece, 7.17.9-11. The mother of Attis was the daughter of the river God. She was not a human and there is no indication that she was a virgin. She become pregnant by physical interaction with an "almond." This was no ordinary almond, though, but was actually derived from the seed of the demon god Agdistis that had spilled into the earth after his male genitalia were ripped off. The almond/seed penetrated the nymph's bosom and impregnated her. She did not want the child, perhaps fearing it, and left it to die of exposure. The child, Attius, was rescued by a goat. If you thought Zeus was off the hook for this one, however, you would be mistaken. It appears that the demon god Agdistis is the result of the seed of Zeus which spilled while he slept.
* The Birth of Aristomenes. Aristomenes was a King of Messini. His birth fits into the already discussed paradigm of pagan gods having sex with mortal women in disguised animal shapes. Here we have another snake. Pausanias writes that the Messenians "assert that a spirit or a god united with his mother, Nicoteleia, in the form of a serpent." Pausanias also notes the similarity to the story of Olympia. The only difference is that the divine father is claimed to have been Pyrrhus. Description of Greece, 4.14.7-8.
* The Birth of Apollonius of Tyana. This story is a bit different than most, but not in a way that makes it more similar to Jesus' birth as reported in Matthew and Luke. Apollonius was conceived after the normal union between husband and wife. Well after the conception, however, his mother "had a vision of Proteus, an Egyptian deity, who, according to Homer, changes his form at will." Proteus informed her that she would be giving birth to "Proteus . . . the god of Egypt." Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, 1.4-7. As Robert J. Miller notes, "There is no story of a supernatural conception for Apollonius. Instead, his very pregnant mother has a vision in which she learns that her son will be the incarnation of the shape-shifting god Proteus. Nothing in this implies that there was anything unusual about how Apollonius was conceived. This shows that the ancient imagination accepted the notion that someone could be a god incarnate and yet be conceived in the natural way." Robert J. Miller, Born Divine, The Births of Jesus and Other Sons of God, page 149.
* The Hatching of Glycon. The final example is Glycon, which the anonymous poster offered in response to my claim that the birth narratives of Luke and Matthew were much closer in time to the subject of their accounts than were the divine pagan birth accounts were to their recorders. According to the anonymous commentor:
Your facts are wrong. Glycon was a God invented in the 2d century AD. Glycon was the son of the God Apollo, who...
... came to Earth through a miraculous birth,
... was the Earthly manifestation of divinity,
... came to earth in fulfillment of divine prophecy,
... gave his chief believer the power of prophecy,
... gave believers the power to speak in tongues,
... performed miracles,
... healed the sick,
... raised the dead.
These stories were entirely contemporaneous with Glycon, as is Lucian's record of them. Your claim is false.
My first question was whether the anonymous poster was quoting someone else's work without attribution. It is taken verbatim from this webpage. There are other interesting similarities between the anonymous poster and the website, such as repeated references to "godman" and these "godman" living in the "sky." In any event, the comparison of Glycon to Jesus is ridiculous.
Glycon was not a human. He was not even a god in human form. He was not even a human-like creature. No, Glycon was a snake. He was a big snake, but a snake nonetheless. His handler and oracle, Alexander, presented him publically as a snake, but one with “a serpent’s head of linen, which had something of a human look.” Lucian, Alexander the False Prophet, 12. According to Lucian, Alexander invented the god Glycon as a ploy to enrich himself by selling oracles and obtaining favor among the elite. He also gained the use of "choir boys" for his sexual pleasure through his influence.
The description of Glycon’s birth as “miraculous” is yet another distorting generalization. There was no virgin birth or even one of the divine pregnancies discussed above -- which at least have the benefit of involving a human mother. Rather, Glycon the snake was hatched from a goose egg. Lucian reports that it was a specially prepared goose egg in which a baby snake had been inserted and the hole covered with a seal. After the snake appeared from the goose egg -- to an astonished audience -- Alexander substituted a large adult snake and attached the puppet head to it, using an elaborate set up to issue oracles.
The rest of the points of comparison are unrelated to the Virgin Birth. Nevertheless, I will make some points. First, Glycon was the reincarnation of Asclepius, who had been born and lived on earth before. Second, the “divine prophecy” is a vague reference but appears to be the "planting" and "discovery" by Alexander of certain bronze tablets that predicted the coming of Asclepius. Third, Alexander and Glycon acted as an oracle, selling oracles for money, which is a very different thing than a Jewish prophet which precedes the Hellenistic period in any event. Next, the comparison with miracles, healing, and raising the dead is an empty one. There are no miracles actually narrated for Alexander or Glycon. All that Lucian claims is that Alexander “was even sending men abroad to create rumours in the different nations in regard to the oracle and to say that he made predictions, discovered fugitive slaves, detected thieves and robbers, caused treasures to be dug up, healed the sick, and in some cases had actually raised the dead.” Ibid., 24.
Finally, Glycon post dates Christianity. This is not a mere academic observance. Alexander knew Christians and was at least somewhat aware of their beliefs. Lucian reports that Glycon despised Christians and regularly and publicly condemned them and their beliefs. So, although I do not see any substantive parallels, if someone were inclined to see them they could not rule out Christian influence here.
People can read Lucian's account of Glycon for themselves.