The books of the Bible were written within a specific context, at a specific time, in common language. The New Testament was written in Koine (common) greek language, to a people under Roman Rule, living in a hellenized/greek culture. Ronald H. Nash wrote his book, The Gospel and the Greeks, to look at whether the Bible (the New Testament in particular) depended upon the culture for its composition. Nash looked at the influence of Greek philosophy, the influence of mystery religions, and the presence of gnosticism in the New Testament. Nash completely demolishes the hypothesis that the New Testament is any way syncretistic literature and dependent upon greek thought.
One major area of strength in his book was the delineation he makes between dependence, influence, and contemporaneous (my word not his). Nash is quick to point out that just because an author may have been familiar with an idea or notion, does not mean that it effected the ideals of the autor. In the same voice, just because an author uses similar language as a mystery religion or philosopher, does not indicate that he was dependent upon the teaching or understanding of the culture. Nash takes great care to show that common language does not prove dependence.
Nash also takes initiative to point out that most of the similarities found in philosophy and other religions and Christianity are either misunderstands or oversimplification. Whether it is the cult of Mithras, Isis and Osiris from Egypt, or other ancient supposed “resurrection” stories, Nash patiently and deliberatly points out the oversimplifications and the problems contained within the similarities of the accounts. In the same way, Nash deals with the supposed dependence of Christianity on the sacraments (the Lord’s supper and Baptism) of the mystery religions. He thoroughly debunks these as well.
His largest argument for the independence of the NT from the philosophies and religions of the ANE is chronology. For most of the religions of the ANE, the forms , the beliefs, and the teachings and sacraments, come from the 3rd or 4th century. Most would argue that at the time of the writing of the NT these religions and philosophies were taught and lived out much differently. Nash takes great pains to show that these thoughts were actually dependent upon the teachings of the NT to form their own beliefs.
This book was a great read; however, a basic understanding of philosophy would have been helpful in understanding some of Nash’s arguments. But all in all I really enjoyed this book. It was a through demolishing of biblical dependence on pagan religion and philosophy.