I was recently tagged in a thread on Twitter asking whether something quoted by Frank Turek was true. Since Turek has me blocked on Twitter, I had to resort to other means (i.e., log into an older account I never use) to see what he had written. Here’s the screenshot.
For those who don’t know, Tryggve Mettinger is a now retired Swedish scholar whose work focused on the Hebrew Bible. In 2001, he published a monograph entitled The Riddle of Resurrection: “Dying and Rising Gods” in the Ancient Near East (Almqvist & Wiksell International). In it, he notes that among scholars there “is now what amounts to a scholarly consensus against the appropriateness of the concept” of dying and rising gods. For example, he mentions Mark’s Smith “The Death of ‘Dying and Rising Gods’ in the Biblical World” that appeared in a 1998 edition of the Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament.
From where does the quote attributed to Mettinger come? Well, that took some digging. First, I searched The Riddle of Resurrection but came up empty. Then I went to the Internets. I took the entire quote (minus the attribution) and plugged it into Google. One of the first hits was to the website Reasons for Hope and an article they published entitled “Enough is Enough with Horus Already!” In it Carl Kerby refers to Mettinger as a “secular historian” and provide the same quote that Turek does, attributing it to Mettinger. They then write, “Dr. T.N.D. Mettinger did one of the most exhaustive studies on this issue [i.e., The Riddle of Resurrection] and if he couldn’t find evidence for it, it’s not there!” Unfortunately, Kerby, didn’t provide a reference for the quote and so it was back to the drawing board.
I went back to Google and looked at the search results again. I clicked on a link to Lee Strobel’s The Case for the Real Jesus and noticed it was mentioned there. So, I got out my copy of the book and found exactly what I was looking for. In context, Strobel is talking with Mike Licona on the relationship of the Jesus story with seemingly parallel narratives found in pagan literature.
“Why,” I asked Licona, “should the story of Jesus’ resurrection have any more credibility than pagan stories of dying and rising gods – such as Osiris, Adonis, Attis, and Marduk – that are so obviously mythological (p. 160)
Licona responds first by asserting that regardless of the import of these so-called dying and rising deities, “these claims don’t in any way negate the good historical evidence we have for Jesus’ resurrection” (p. 160). Then Licona says this to Strobel:
“Second, T.N.D. Mettinger – a senior Swedish scholar, professor at Lund University, and member of the Royal Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities of Stockholm – wrote one of the most recent academic treatments of dying and rising gods in antiquity. He admits in his book The Riddle of Resurrection that the consensus among modern scholars – nearly universal – is that there were no dying and rising gods that preceded antiquity. They all post-dated the first century” (p. 160).
Here is Turek’s quote. But note that the quote comes not from Mettinger but from Licona who is summarizing Mettinger. Turek is caught in a quotemine! But there’s more.
In his conversation with Strobel, Licona takes note of the fact that Mettinger was bucking the consensus. “He takes a decidedly minority position and claims that there are at least three and possible as many as five dying and rising gods that predate Christianity” (p. 161). In fact, Mettinger concludes The Riddle of Resurrection by writing, “The world of ancient Near Eastern religions actually knew a number of deities that may be properly described as dying and rising gods.” But Mettinger is careful on this point, repudiating the work of some who would have turned “dying and rising gods” into its own category of deities or would make the story of Jesus of Nazareth’s death and resurrection into a parallel of them.
An inattentiveness to detail and the desire for a clever quip, anecdote, or quote plagues pop-apologetics. Turek’s misattribution to and, arguably, misrepresentation of Mettinger fits neatly into that trend.
 Tryggve N.D. Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection: “Dying and Rising Gods” in the Ancient Near East (Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 2001), 7.
 Mark S. Smith, “The Death of ‘Dying and Rising Gods’ in the Bible World: An Update with Special Reference to Baal in the Baal Cycle,” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 12 no. 2 (1998), 257-313.
 Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus: A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks on the Identity of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 161-162.
 Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection, 217.
 Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection, 218-219, 220-221.