Serapis vs Jesus

Critics list Serapis of Egypt with minor details as having a story "very similar to that of Christ," offering these points:

That isn't much to begin with, and that several of these represent universal religious use of terms or practices (1-3) doesn't impress either. But let's have a look at some details on Serapis from here, which we also confirmed with several reference sources:

In connection with the history of the god Osiris mention must be made of Asar-hapi or Serapis, and in many provinces of the Roman Empire after that country had passed under the authority of the Caesars. The second part of the name, "Hapi, was that which was given to the famous bull which formed the object of worship at Memphis very early in the dynastic period of Egyptian history, and which is commonly known as the "Apis Bull," while the first part is, of course, nothing but the name of Osiris in its Egyptian form. The Greeks fused the names of the two deities together under the form Zaparrus, and, although the exact nature of the attributes which they assigned to Osiris and Apis united is not quite clear, it seems tolerably certain that they regard Serapis as the form which Apis took after death.

So indeed, Serapis was a "sacrificial bull" -- literally. This is a little ways off from the comparison to Christ as the lamb.

According to the hieroglyphic texts which were found on stelae and other objects in the Serapeum at Sakkara, Apis is called "the life of Osiris, the lord of heaven, Tem {with} his horns {in} his head." and he is said to "give life, strength, health, to thy nostrils for ever." Elsewhere Apis-Osiris is described as, "the great god, Khent, Amentet, the lord of life forever," and this text belongs to the 18th Dynasty, we see that even at the beginning of the New Empire Apis and Osiris were joined together by the priests of Memphis, and that the attributes of Apis had been made to assume a funeral character, and that he was at that time recognized as a god of the Underworld. On a monument of the 19th Dynasty, Apis is said to be "the renewed life of Ptah," And in an inscription of the 25th Dynasty he is called the "second Ptah." In the same text we have a mention of the "temple of Asar-Hapi," i.e., of Serapis, and we may learn from this fact that Apis had finally made a god of the Underworld, and that his identity had been merged in that of Osiris.

So far, nothing to compare to the rest of the points, and no title of "Good Shepherd" among the ones listed.

The identification of Apis with Osiris was easy enough, because one of the most common names of Osiris was "Bull of the West," and the identification once made the shrines of Osiris were regarded as the proper places at which the worship of the double god should be paid. Apis was, in fact, believed to be animated by the soul of Osiris,and to be Osiris incarnate, and the appearance of a new Apis was regarded as a new manifestation of Osiris upon earth; but he was also an emanation of Ptah, and he was even called the "son of Ptah," The double god Asar-Asar, is depicted in the form of a bull, which has the solar disk and a uraeus between its horns.

And that's it on Serapis. Once again we have no runs, no hits, lots of errors for the critics.

Were Followers of Serapis "Christians"?

One critic has said that "the worshippers of the sun god Serapis were also called Christians and could be referred to." An alert reader has informed me that the ultimate source for this argument is a work by Robert Taylor called the Diegesis, which quotes an alleged letter of Emperor Hadrian to his brother-in-law Servianus, which states:

Egypt...I have found to be wholly fickle and inconsistent, and continually wafted about every breath of fame. The worshippers of Serapis are called Christians, and those who are devoted to the god Serapis, call themselves bishops of Christ.

I have found this cite thrown around uncritically a lot on the Internet, but you won't hear about the problems with it. First, it is generally dated around 134 AD -- much too late to prove what critics want it to prove.

Second, there is more to the quote: It goes on to speak of rulers of Jewish synagogues, Samaritans, and presbyters of the church, and Hadrian says that there are none of these "who is not either an astrologer, a soothsayer, or a minister to obscene pleasures," and though they proclaim allegiance to either Serapis or Christ, their only real god is money. Hardian's complaint is about a syncretistic, huckster environment and offers no evidence of a bona fide use of the term "Christian" by Serapis-worshippers.

Finally, there are many problems with the authenticity of this letter: An authority as liberal as Walter Bauer (who would have loved to have made hash of this letter for his case for a diverse Christianity) notes that this letter is actually quoted by Flavius Vopiscus (a historian writing in 300 AD!), who in turn is said to be quoting Phlegon, a freedman of Hadrian (and what do skeptics always tell us about using sources this far from the root?!?); Bauer himself says the letter is of "uncertain value" and regards it as "spurious." (See Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christianity.)