The Evidence for Jesus:
on Inanna (Ishtar) "Crucifixion" and Zalmoxis "Resurrection"

Was Inanna (Ishtar) "Crucified" ?  Was Zalmoxis "Resurrected" ?

see also Part 1: Parallel Pagan "Crucified Saviors" Examined and Part 2: The Evidence for Jesus

Crucified Meat?This is an "addendum" or "appendix" to Part 1 which covered various pagan gods in some depth: Adonis, Attis, Baal, Bacchus, Balder, Beddru, Devatat, Dionysos, Hermes, Horus, Krishna, Mithras, Orpheus, Osiris, Tammuz, Thor, Zoroaster, etc.

Classical historian and anti-Christian critic Richard Carrier finds evidence for two other "pagan saviors" before Jesus: "I have confirmed only two real 'resurrected' deities with some uncanny similarity to Jesus which are actually reported before Christian times, Zalmoxis and Inanna...." (Richard Carrier, article "Kersey Graves and the World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors" [2003])

This is a brief reply to the claim that the Sumerian goddess Inanna (Babylonian Ishtar) was actually "crucified" (Carrier's word) and that the Thracian god Zalmoxis was bodily "resurrected" from the dead, in a manner parallel with Jesus of Nazareth. After studying this in some depth, there is no "crucifixion" of Inanna (in the myth/story she did "rise" and "ascend from the underworld" -- I will grant that), nor any "resurrection" of Zalmoxis. The crucifixion and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is therefore unique (see especially Conclusion: Christianity versus Pagan "Mystery" Religions).

I am not a historian so I can only recommend the sources below. Carrier has written an extensive reply to evangelical Christian apologist J.P. Holding's book The Impossible Faith (2007) titled Not The Impossible Faith (2009) which is a re-print of his online article "Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False?" (2006). His claims on Inanna and Zalmoxis are taken from this article/book and his "Kersey Graves" article. And on these, he is wrong.

Was Inanna (Ishtar) "Crucified" ?

Inanna is the Sumerian astral deity representing the planet Venus, known throughout the Mesopotamian world; the Akkadians (and later Assyro-Babylonians) called her Ishtar. For both she was the principal goddess in their respective pantheons. Inanna-Ishtar's closest counterparts to the west are the Canaanite Astarte and the later goddesses of Greece and Rome, Aphrodite and Venus. Because of the eventual syncretism of the Sumerians/Akkadians, the traditions concerning Inanna-Ishtar are extremely complicated. By various traditions she is known as:

  • the daughter of the sky god An
  • the daughter of the moon god Nanna-Sin (thereby sister of the sun god Utu-Shamash)
  • the daughter of Enlil or Ashur

Similarly, Inanna-Ishtar was associated with more than one consort, alternately: Zababa of Kish, Ashur, An, Dumuzi (Tammuz by the Akkadians). Although her main cult center was Uruk, she was worshiped in many other localities, each of which gave her rather diverse epithets and characteristics (Encyclopedia of Religion, "Inanna", volume 7, page 145).

Richard Carrier describes Inanna and a supposed "crucifixion" / "resurrection" story of her this way:

"The only case, that I know, of a pre-Christian god actually being crucified and then resurrected is Inanna (also known as Ishtar), a Sumerian goddess whose crucifixion, resurrection and escape from the underworld is told in cuneiform tablets inscribed c. 1500 B.C.E., attesting to a very old tradition." (Richard Carrier, Kersey Graves and the World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors [2003])

"One of their top goddesses, Inanna....was stripped naked and crucified, yet rose again and, triumphant, condemned to Hell her lover....This became the center of a major Sumerian sacred story, preserved in clay tablets dating over a thousand years before Christ. The corresponding religion, which we now know included the worship of a crucified Inanna, is mentioned by Ezekiel as having achieved some popularity within Jerusalem itself by the 6th century B.C. [Ezek 8:14]....Even so, my point is not that the Christians got the idea of a crucified god from early Inanna cult. There may have been some direct or indirect influence we cannot trace. We can't rule that out -- the idea of worshipping a crucified deity did predate Christianity and had entered Jewish society within Palestine. But we don't know any more than point is that we have here a clear example of many people worshipping a crucified god. Therefore, as a matter of appears that people would worship a false crucified god." (Richard Carrier, Who Would Buy One Crucified? [2006])

Carrier repeatedly says Inanna was "crucified" and the Sumerian religion "we now know included the worship of a crucified Inanna...." and "the idea of worshipping a crucified deity did predate Christianity...." and "we have here a clear example of many people worshipping a crucified god...."

Sorry, we don't know that and we don't have that. Our primary text will be the Sumerian "Inanna's Descent to the Netherworld" or the Akkadian parallel "Ishtar's Descent." Here is a summary of the Descent of Inanna myth from the Encyclopedia of Religion edited by Mircea Eliade:

"Inanna, the queen of heaven, sought to extend her power over the underworld, ruled by her sister, Ereshkigal. As in the Akkadian text, Inanna descends through seven gates, at each removing an article of clothing or royal regalia until, after passing through the seventh gate, she is naked and powerless. She is killed and her corpse hung on a hook. Through a strategem planned before her descent, she is revived, but she may not return above unless she can find a substitute to take her place. She re-ascends, accompanied by a force of demons who will return her to the land of the dead if she fails. After allowing two possible candidates to escape, she comes to Erech, where Dumuzi, the shepherd king who is her consort, appears to be rejoicing over her fate. She sets the demons on him, and after he escapes several times, he is captured, killed, and carried off to the underworld to replace Inanna." ("Dying and Rising Gods", volume 4, page 525-6, emphasis mine).

Note that Inanna is already dead, and her dead body or corpse (in the "underworld") is simply hung on a hook. I'm sorry but this is NOT a "crucifixion of Inanna." The actual text of the "Descent of Inanna" can be found (among other places online) in Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth by Wolkstein / Kramer, pages 52-73. The Descent was slowly pieced together over a period of 50+ years -- the fourteen tablets and fragments (pictured below) date to c. 1750 B.C. and were first discovered and began to be excavated in the late 19th century, then further discovered, deciphered, translated, and published several times in the 20th century (see chapter "The Discovery and Decipherment of 'The Descent of Inanna' by Kramer in Inanna by Wolkstein / Kramer, page 127-135). The relevant portion is:

Descent of Inanna (Sumerian) / Ishtar (Akkadian / Babylonian) goddess.....Naked and bowed low, Inanna entered the throne room.
Ereshkigal rose from her throne.
Inanna started toward the throne.
The Annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her.
They passed judgment against her.

Then Ereshkigal fastened on Inanna the eye of death.
She spoke against her the word of wrath.
She uttered against her the cry of guilt.

She struck her.

Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall....

("Descent of Inanna" translated in Inanna by Wolkstein/Kramer [1983], page 60)

Other translations read: "The sick woman was turned into a corpse, the corpse was hung from a nail...." (Kramer, History Begins at Sumer [1959], page 163) or "The afflicted woman was turned into a corpse. And the corpse was hung on a hook." (online "Inana's descent to the nether world: translation"). Other summaries use the terminology: "...turns her into a corpse, and hangs her body on a stake..." (Encyclopedia of Religion, "Inanna", volume 7, page 146); also Kramer uses the words "...turned into a corpse, which is then hung from a stake...." (History Begins at Sumer [1959], page 158). So what we have here:

  1. all this takes place in the "underworld" (not on earth) where Inanna "descends";
  2. she is killed in this underworld by "the eye(s) of death" and/or by being "struck";
  3. her corpse is then "hung on a hook" (or "nail" or "stake" -- this is NOT a "death by crucifixion" since she is already "dead");
  4. after "three days" she "arises" or is revived (the supposed "resurrection" and/or "ascension" of Inanna discussed next).

The story continues with the "resurrection" of Inanna from the Encyclopedia of Religion (article "Inanna"):

"Ereshkigal fastens on her [Inanna] the 'eyes of death,' turns her into a corpse, and hangs her body on a stake. Inanna's servant, worried after three days of her absence, fashions creatures who descend with revivifying materials. They bring her back to life and she re-ascends to earth, accompanied by frightening demons who wander with her from city to city in Sumer. When she returns to Uruk she finds her lover Dumuzi not bewailing her plight in the underworld, but actually celebrating it. She sets after him the demons, who after a long chase overtake and torture him and drag him down to the underworld." ("Inanna", volume 7, page 146)

The relevant text from the "Descent of Inanna" :

Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld...will be pleased.
She will offer you a gift.
Ask her only for the corpse that hangs from the hook on the wall.
One of you will sprinkle the food of life on it.
The other will sprinkle the water of life.
Inanna will arise....

Ereshkigal said: "Speak then! What do you wish?"
They answered: "We wish only the corpse that hangs from the hook on the wall."
Ereshkigal said: "The corpse belongs to Inanna."
They said: "Whether it belongs to our queen, whether it belongs to our king, that is what we wish."

The corpse was given to them.
The kurgarra [a creature "neither male nor female"] sprinkled the food of life on the corpse.
The galatur [a creature "neither male nor female"] sprinkled the water of life on the corpse.
Inanna arose....

("Descent of Inanna" translated in Inanna by Wolkstein/Kramer [1983], page 64, 67)

Commentary: There are many variations of this myth, but its importance lies in the love affair between Dumuzi-Tammuz, who comes to represent the annual dying and regenerated vegetative cycle, and Inanna-Ishtar, the embodiment of the generative force in nature. In their intercourse she fecundates the growth cycle of spring, and this came to be ritualized in an annual ceremony in which the king (representing Dumuzi-Tammuz) entered into a hieros gamos or "sacred marriage" with a temple prostitute, representing Inanna-Ishtar, and thus sympathetically brought regeneration to the land. The popularity and geographical spread of this myth and its ritualization are attested in Ezekiel 8:14 where the prophet condemns the practice followed by some Jerusalem women lamenting the "death of Tammuz" (from Encyclopedia of Religion, "Inanna", volume 7, page 146).

Again, it is helpful to point out the differences between the Christian belief in the death / resurrection of Christ, and the "mystery religions":

  • on "death" : none of the so-called "savior-gods" died for someone else; Jesus Christ the Son of God died in place of His creatures (1 Cor 15:3-4; Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Tim 2:4-6) which is unique to Christianity;
  • only Jesus died on the cross for sin, the pagan gods are never claimed to die for sins; they were not crucified (there are in fact NO "crucified saviors" other than Jesus) but died violently by other means (self-emasculation; hunting accident; ripped apart by wild boars or the Titans or crazed women or jealous brothers; etc);
  • Jesus died once for all (Heb 7:27; 9:25-28; 10:10-14); many of the pagan gods were vegetation deities whose repeated death and "rebirth" depicted the annual cycle of nature; it is a mythical drama with no historical ties;
  • the early Christian church believed its proclamation of Jesus' one-time death upon the cross and bodily resurrection is grounded upon what actually happened in history ("we are witnesses of these things" cf. Acts 1:1-4; 1:8; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39-41; Luke 1:1-4; 24:48; 1 John 1:1-3; 2 Peter 1:16).
  • unlike the pagan gods, Jesus dies voluntarily (John 10:10-18; Phil 2:5-11);
  • Jesus' death was not a defeat but a triumph (1 Cor 15:54-58; Col 2:14-15; 2 Tim 1:10).
  • on "resurrection" : central to the mysteries was the annual vegetation cycle where life is renewed each spring and died each fall; the cults found symbolic and spiritual significance in the natural process of growth, death, decay, and rebirth;
  • many mystery religions involved secret ceremonies, sometimes in connection with an initiation rite, with esoteric knowledge revealed to the participant;
  • a basic element was a myth in which the deity dies or "disappears" (and then "returns" or "revives" or "reappears" or is "restored") and otherwise triumphs over enemies;
  • unlike the early Christians, the mysteries had little use for correct doctrine, dogma, or belief; they were primarily concerned with the emotional state of their followers and appealed to the imagination;
  • the immediate goal was a mystical or religious experience in order to achieve union with their god, or otherwise some kind of "salvation" of the soul or immortality or deification;
  • the Greco-Roman pagan religions found bodily resurrection difficult to accept; man was regarded as a body with a soul, but it was the soul that was often believed to survive death; the dissolution of the body was regarded as inevitable; accordingly, Greco-Roman ideas on "resurrection" were quite different from the Christian concept (see the New Catholic Encyclopedia [2003, 2nd edition], article on "Resurrection, Greco-Oriental").

For more, see my Conclusion: Christianity versus Pagan "Mystery" Religions from Part 1.

A very large corpus of Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform literature is extant in which Inanna-Ishtar is prominent. The primary image that emerges from these texts, in addition to her as the embodiment of Venus, is that of a goddess of love and sexuality, but in some she is instead a goddess of warfare. The Code of Hammurabi, for example, calls her "the lady of battle and conflict." (Encyclopedia of Religion, "Inanna", volume 7, page 145-6).

There are several hymns to Inanna-Ishtar, including one in which she praises herself as queen of the heavens and omnipotent among the gods. Another, the Hymnal Prayer of Enheduanna, addresses Inanna as "queen of the divine decrees, radiant light, life-giving woman, beloved of heaven and earth, supreme one." This remarkable hymn, reputedly written by the daughter of Sargon the Great, touches on virtually every aspect of Inanna (Encyclopedia of Religion, "Inanna", volume 7, page 146).

Here is a portion of this Hymnal Prayer:

You are known by Your heaven-like height, 
You are known by Your earth-like breadth,
You are known by Your destruction of rebel-lands,
You are known by Your massacring (their people),
You are known by Your devouring (their) dead like a dog,
You are known by Your fierce countenance.
You are known by the raising of Your fierce countenance,
You are known by Your flashing eyes.
You are known by Your contentiousness (and) disobedience,
You are known by Your many triumphs.....

(Hymnal Prayer of Enheduanna, The Adoration of Inanna of Ur;
Pritchard, James D. [1975]: The Ancient Near East, Volume II, Princeton University Press)

There is nothing in here about a "crucified Inanna" nor was she worshipped as such in the Sumerian religion. Inanna was worshipped as a goddess of love, fertility, and sexuality, and/or a goddess of warfare. She has never been known as a "crucified deity." Carrier is wrong. Inanna's story (c. 1750 B.C.) dates at least 1000+ years before "crucifixion" became known and used.

Putting criminals to death by crucifixion began with the Persians (c. 7th-6th century B.C.) and was followed by the Greeks and Romans at the time Jesus lived. "It was at Rome, however, that from early republican times the cross was most frequently used as an instrument of punishment, and amid circumstances of great severity and even cruelty. It was particularly the punishment for slaves found guilty of any serious crime." (old Catholic Encyclopedia [1913], "Archaeology of the Cross and Crucifix"). The wooden cross is a Christian symbol representing the first-century crucifixion of Jesus, an historical event described in all four canonical Gospels, mentioned by the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:23,36; 4:10; 5:30; 10:39; 13:29), and the earliest writings of St. Paul (1 Cor 1:13-23; 2:2-8; 15:1ff; Gal 2:20; 3:1,13; 6:12-14; Phil 2:8; Col 1:20; 2:14-15; 1 Thess 2:14-16; Heb 6:6; 12:2; etc).

Christ's death by crucifixion occurred around 30 A.D. on earth, not in the "underworld", and is considered a well-established historical fact. It is not "myth" contrary to the story of Inanna/Ishtar. (See the Wikipedia article on the "Crucifixion of Jesus" and the old Catholic Encyclopedia on "Archaeology of the Cross and Crucifix" / "Passion of Christ" and "Evidence of Crucifixion" from the PBS/Frontline series "From Jesus to Christ").

Depictions of the Crucifixion of Jesus

Panel from an ivory casket. The Crucifixion of Christ. Probably made in Rome, AD 420-30. The British Museum, London.
Panel from an ivory casket. The Crucifixion of Christ.
Probably made in Rome, AD 420-30. The British Museum, London.

Giotto. The Crucifixion. AD 1304-1306. Fresco. Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Italy.

Giotto. The Crucifixion. AD 1304-1306. Fresco.
Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Italy.

The crucifixion scene from Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" (2004)

The crucifixion scene from Mel Gibson's film
"The Passion of the Christ" (2004)


Crucified meat? Crucified fish? Crucified $20 dollar bill?

Simply hanging something from a hook, is NOT a "crucifixion." Richard Carrier should understand that.


Was Zalmoxis "Resurrected" ?

Zalmoxis (or Saitnoxis, Salmoxis) was the Supreme God of the Getae (or Dacians), a Thracian people inhabiting a territory including today's Rotnania, but also extending farther northeast. Scholars have interpreted Zalmoxis as a Sky-god, a god of the dead, or a Mystery-god. Zalmoxis was the founder, possibly legendary, of a priestly line of succession closely linked with kingship of the Getae and the Dacians, the northernmost Thracian peoples of the ancient world. The name is attested by ancient authors from Herodotus and Plato (5th-4th centuries B.C.) to Diodoros of Tyre (2nd century A.D.) and Jordanes (6th century A.D.). Herodotus spells the name Salmoxis; Strabo gives it as Zamolxis. The genuine form, however, is Zalmoxis, since it is found in such Thracian names as Zalmodegikos and Zelmutas and in numerous composites formed with -zelmis, -zelmos, and -selmios. Our most important information concerning him is the text of Herodotus quoted below.

Carrier writes on Zalmoxis:

"The only pre-Christian man to be buried and resurrected and deified in his own lifetime, that I know of, is the Thracian god Zalmoxis (also called Salmoxis or Gebele'izis), who is described in the mid-5th-century B.C.E. by Herodotus (4.94-96), and also mentioned in Plato's Charmides (156d-158b) in the early-4th-century B.C.E. According to the hostile account of Greek informants, Zalmoxis buried himself alive, telling his followers he would be resurrected in three years, but he merely resided in a hidden dwelling all that time. His inevitable 'resurrection' led to his deification, and a religion surrounding him, which preached heavenly immortality for believers, persisted for centuries." (Richard Carrier, Kersey Graves and the World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors [2003])

"But even a great many Greco-Roman pagans flirted with the possibility of being raised from the dead. We have so many stories and claims of physical resurrection within the pagan tradition that there can be no doubt the Christian claim would face no more difficulty than these tales in finding pagan believers. Herodotus records the Thracians believed in the physical resurrection of Zalmoxis, and formed a religion around it that promised eternal paradise for believers..." (Richard Carrier, Was Resurrection Deemed Impossible? [2006])

Note that Carrier says that Zalmoxis was "buried and resurrected and deified" and the "Thracians believed in the physical resurrection of Zalmoxis...." Our text for this god reads as follows:

93. But before he came to the Ister, he first subdued the Getae, who pretend to be immortal. The Thracians of Salmydessus and of the country above the towns of Appolonia and Mesambria, who are called Cyrmaianae and Nipsaei, surrendered themselves unresisting to Darius; but the Getae, who are the bravest and most law-abiding of all Thracians, resisted with obstinacy, and were enslaved forthwith.

94. As to their claim to be immortal, this is how they show it: they believe that they do not die, but that he who perishes goes to the god Salmoxis or Gebelexis, as some of them call him. Once in every five years they choose by lot one of their people and send him as a messenger to Salmoxis, charged to tell of their needs; and this is their manner of sending: Three lances are held by men thereto appointed; others seize the messenger to Salmoxis by his hands and feet, and swing and hurl him aloft on to the spear-point. If he be killed by the cast, they believe that the gods regard them with favour; but if he be not killed, they blame the messenger himself, deeming him a bad man, and send another messenger in place of him whom they blame. It is while the man yet lives that they charge him with the message. Moreover when there is thunder and lightning these same Thracians shoot arrows skyward as a threat to the god, believing in no other god but their own.

95. For myself, I have been told by the Greeks who dwell beside the Hellespont and Pontus that this Salmoxis was a man who was once a slave in Samos, his master being Pythagoras, son of Mnesarchus; presently, after being freed and gaining great wealth, he returned to his own country. Now the Thracians were a meanly-living and simple witted folk, but this Salmoxis knew Ionian usages and a fuller way of life than the Thracian; for he had consorted with Greeks, and moreover with one of the greatest Greek teachers, Pythagoras; wherefore he made himself a hall, where he entertained and feasted the chief among his countrymen, and taught them that neither he nor his guests nor any of their descendants should ever die, but that they should go to a place where they would live for ever and have all good things. While he was doing as I have said and teaching this doctrine, he was all the while making him an underground chamber. When this was finished, he vanished from the sight of the Thracians, and descended into the underground chamber, where he lived for three years, the Thracians wishing him back and mourning him for dead; then in the fourth year he appeared to the Thracians, and thus they came to believe what Salmoxis had told them. Such is the Greek story about him.

96. For myself, I neither disbelieve nor fully believe the tale about Salmoxis and his underground chamber; but I think that he lived many years before Pythagoras; and whether there was a man called Salmoxis, or this be the name the Getae for a god of their country, I have done with him.

( Herodotus, History, Book IV, 93-6, trans by A.D. Godley, in the Loeb Classical Library, volume II [1938] )

In summary, according to the main historical source on Zalmoxis:

  1. Zalmoxis taught "he nor his guests nor any of their descendents" would ever die (i.e. the idea is immortality of the soul);
  2. while he taught this he was building an "underground chamber";
  3. at one point he "vanished from the sight of the Thracians, and descended into the underground chamber, where he lived for three years";
  4. upon his return the Thracians "came to believe" what Zalmoxis "had told them", etc.

So this is not a resurrection at all, since there was no death. Zalmoxis hid underground for three years. Carrier claims that "Herodotus records the Thracians believed in the physical resurrection of Zalmoxis...." but what Herodotus records is that "they [the Thracians] believe that they do not die, but that he who perishes goes to the god" after bodily/physical death. The idea is the immortality of the soul, not bodily/physical resurrection. This is backed up by my sources on Zalmoxis below.

"In his homeland, Zalmoxis had an andreion built (a room for the exclusive use of men), where he received the chiefs of the Getae and taught them that neither they nor their posterity would die. This concept of immortality refers in all probability to a paradise where warriors would enjoy eternal life and everlasting pleasure after death. While he imparted this teaching of the afterlife, Zalmoxis had an underground chamber constructed. When it was finished, he retired to it for three years, during which the Thracians mourned his death, but in the fourth year he reappeared, showing that death is not irreversible...."

"According to the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela (first century, C.E.), Getic warriors were not afraid of death. Pomponius gives three different explanations for their contempt of life, each one believed by some among them: belief in metensomatosis (reincarnation); belief that the soul survives after death in a happy place; and belief that life is worse than death, although the soul is mortal. Of these interpretations, only the second refers to the genuine teaching of Zalmoxis according to Herodotus (4.95)." (Encyclopedia of Religion, "Zalmoxis", volume 15, page 552)

The second interpretation is: "belief that the soul survives after death in a happy place." That is the teaching of Zalmoxis: immortality of the soul, NOT bodily resurrection.

The history of the interpretations of Zalmoxis are also somewhat confused. Distinguished scholars have disagreed whether Zalmoxis cult was a form of monotheism or polytheism; whether Zalmoxis was a "god" or a man or a religious reformer; whether he was connected with the earth or the sky or both.

The excellent study Zalmoxis, the Vanishing God (1972) by Mircea Eliade put an end to these discussions by showing that the testimonies concerning the cult of Zalmoxis have to be trusted and interpreted on the basis of a close comparison with other religious materials. The core of the Zalmoxean teaching is the doctrine of immortality of the soul, which should actually be interpreted as a promise to the brave warriors that they would survive in paradise (Encyclopedia of Religion, "Zalmoxis", volume 15, page 552-553).

When we try to understand the tradition handed down by Herodotus in itself, without inquiring into its origin or its authenticity, the personage represented by Zalmoxis can be described as follows (from Zalmoxis, the Vanishing God by Mircea Eliade, pages 30ff):

  1. he is a daimon or a theos who reveals an eschatological doctrine and "founds" an initiatory cult on which the ontological order of existence after death depends;
  2. Zalmoxis is not a supernatural Being of the cosmic or institutional type, believed to have been there from the beginning of the tradition -- like the other Thracian gods Herodotus mentions, "Ares", "Dionysus", "Artemis", or "Hera"; Zalmoxis makes his appearance in a religious history that precedes him, he inaugurates a new epoch in eschatological terms;
  3. the "revelation" that he brings to the Getae is communicated through a well-known mythico-ritual scenario of "death" (occultation or hiding or vanishing) and "return to earth" (epiphany and re-appearance), a scenario used by various figures engaged in founding a new era or establishing an eschatological cult;
  4. the central idea of Zalmoxis' message concerns the survival or the immortality of the soul;
  5. but since the return of Zalmoxis in the flesh does not constitute a "proof" of the "immortality" of the soul, this episode would seem to reflect a ritual unknown to us.

The belief in the immortality of the soul never ceased to interest the Greeks of the fifth century. Herodotus found no more spectacular formula to introduce the Getae than to present them as those who "pretend to be immortal" (getas tous athanatizontas; 4.93), for "they believe that they do not die, but that he who perishes...goes to Zalmoxis" (4.94). What seems to be certain is that for the Getae, just as for the initiates into the Eleusinian Mysteries or for the "Orphics," the blissful post-existence begins immediately after death: it is only the "soul" or spiritual principle, that goes to Zalmoxis (Eliade, Zalmoxis, the Vanishing God, page 30, 33).

Carrier is wrong. Neither Herodotus nor the Thracians/Getae believed Zalmoxis was "buried and [bodily] resurrected" nor did the "Thracians [believe] in the physical resurrection of Zalmoxis...." It was the immortality of the soul that was the Thracian message that also fascinated the Greeks. You can listen to Richard Carrier (MP3 excerpt) try to defend Zalmoxis as a pre-Christian "pagan parallel" and "resurrected" god against Gary Habermas and Mike Licona (from "The Infidel Guy" show).

see also Part 1: Parallel Pagan "Crucified Saviors" Examined and Part 2: The Evidence for Jesus

Recommended Sources and Links

articles from The Encyclopedia of Religion edited by Mircea Eliade (1987, also 2005, 2nd edition) on Inanna/Ishtar, Zalmoxis, and "Dying and Rising Gods"

  • The Impossible Faith by James Patrick Holding (2007), a brief argument for Christianity
  • Shattering the Christ Myth by James Patrick Holding (2008), covers "parallel pagan" / "copycat" thesis in depth
  • Not The Impossible Faith by Richard Carrier (2009), reply to Holding

Inanna (Ishtar)


by P -- completed Christmas 2009

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