Christian origins in Egyptian mythology

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Christian origins in Egyptian mythology

Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Sat Nov 25, 2006 4:36 pm


I came across this article through a bittorent file I downloaded. I was wondering what the thoughts were on this:
Christian Origins in Egyptian Mythology
A pattern of similar themes between Christianity and Egyptian Mythology, along with proof the early Gospel writers had access to it, shows that Christianity has no more credibility than Egyptian Sun God worship.
Let me put my biases on the table: I’m an atheist. To me, all gods are myths. I’m not, however, a "christ-myther." I believe that Jesus was a real person; I’m convinced that certain passages in the gospels portray a real man. I’m also convinced that Jesus was a man who hoped to be a non-divine Messiah, and that he was certainly no deity.
Horus, Isis and Osiris: Significant and material similarities exist between Egyptian Myth and Christian Theology

Civilization in Egypt developed about 4,000 years b.c., with the development of hieroglyphics, a kind of picture writing, about 3,000 b.c. By 2,500 b.c., Re was the principal god of Egypt, typically represented in Egyptian art as a falcon-headed man crowned with a sun, and holding an Ankh. Osiris was the god of life, death, and resurrection; he was the god of grain, and of the Nile river.
In Egypt, the entire economy was dependent on the regular flooding of the Nile river. Its waters created lush farmland which would otherwise be barren, lifeless desert. The fear of the Egyptians was that the Nile would dry up permanently. In contrast, in Mesopotamia, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers would flood violently and unpredictably, making course changes within a single year that would destroy everything in its path, while leaving other areas subject to drought and famine. The Egyptian gods were therefore more benign and predictable than were the Mesopotamian gods.
Egyptians prayed to their gods, like most other primitive god-believing cultures. They prayed for success in hunting, for generous production of crops, for the health of their children, and for eternity in an afterlife in the "other world". From the most ancient times, the Egyptians believed in an afterlife: When a human died, he or she would leave this earth, and travel to a different world. They also believed their Pharaoh was both human and god, in a single form, no different than Jesus was viewed as a combined god-man. The great pyramids are vivid testimony to the Egyptian belief in an afterlife. (This is quite a bit different from Judaism, where one is hard pressed to find any indication of an afterlife in the Old Testament. The Sadduccees were a class of Hebrew priests who specifically denied an afterlife.)
Just as the Nile would flood, and revive the farms and vegetation along its banks, Osiris lived, suffered, died, and would be reborn again. His life represented the annual flood cycle, and his suffering and death represented the death of the vegetation when the Nile dried up. His regeneration represents the regeneration when the Nile flooded, and the vegetation was reborn.
The story (as related by Budge in his introduction to the "Book of the Dead" and others) goes like this: Re, the Sun God and creator of all things, was the husband of Nut, the Goddess of the Sky. Re became furious when she was caught schtoinking Geb, the earth God, and Thoth, god of Justice. Re cursed Nut, and decreed that she could not give birth during any calendar year.
Nut then had to play card games with the moon God Selene and gradually won enough "light" from the moon (which explains why the moon is dimmer than the sun) to create five extra days during the end of the year, which had been only 360 days. Nut then gave birth to five children, first Osiris, then Horus the Elder (not to be confused with Horus son-of-Isis), then the evil Set (who was so mean, he dug himself out of his mother's body), Isis (who fell in love with Osiris while in the womb) on the fourth day, and Nephthys (future wife of Set) on the fifth day. Literally the son of two gods, Osiris' birthday falls five days before the end of the calendar year, and is celebrated traditionally on December 25th.
Osiris, typically shown as a dead king in mummy wrappings in Egyptian art, was the son of a god, the Sun god Re. He became a King of Egypt, and is therefore as allegedly historical as Jesus. Osiris was the King who united the wandering tribes of Egyptians, taught them the art of farming, and brought the Egyptians from a nomadic life, to a highly civilized society. As with Jesus, Osiris had the reputation as a teacher.
Set and Osiris apparently never got along well, and was jealous of Osiris' successful rule of Egypt. Set eventually murdered Osiris by tricking him into entering a coffin, which was then sealed shut with molten lead, to insure his death by suffocation. The box was then placed adrift in the Nile, and settled in a bush which, over time, grew into a great tree surrounding the coffin. Isis searched for the body of Osiris, and found it, in the tree trunk, which was now a column supporting the ceiling of a palace. She retrieved the body, and hid it. With a little magic, Osiris was breathed back into life. However, Osiris soon died for a second time, and was left hidden in the box. Soon, it was found by the evil Set, who dismembered the body into fourteen pieces, scattering them all over Egypt. Isis then traveled about with, of all people, Nepthys (Set's wife) and found all the pieces--including the all-important penis.
Isis had a child from the dead Osiris, Horus, typically represented by a falcon-headed male figure. Isis became pregnant in a miraculous manner: Taking Osiris’ dismembered penis with her, Isis traveled to the underworld with it. An ancient Egyptian relief depicts this conception by showing his mother Isis in a falcon form, hovering over an erect phallus of a dead and prone Osiris in the Underworld.As with Jesus, Horus is the result of a miraculous pregnancy.
Isis was the great goddess of Egypt, depicted in Egyptian art as a female with a vulture headdress, sitting on a throne. Isis protected young Horus, the earthly future king of Egypt, by concealing him in a swamp, to be kept away from danger while he was being raised, hidden away in the papyrus plants.
By now, Isis had recovered all the body parts of Osiris, and she got to work. She reassembled Osiris, using wax to attach the body parts. Linen wraps and ointments were used to preserve the corpse, which was buried. Horus (the result of the miraculous union between Isis and her dead husband's penis) took Isis to the Underworld, where they found Osiris. Magical words gradually brought the god back to life. Re now helped, by building a ladder so tall, they could climb to the "Other World," and be with the rest of the gods, which they did. Osiris was promoted to "King of the Gods," and Horus inherited Osiris' earthly rank as King of the Egyptians. The themes of suffering, dying a gruesome death, descending into Hell, resurrection, and ascending into heaven are common with Christianity.
Osiris suffered a cruel death of mutilation, after which he resurrected bodily. This became the basis, for Egyptians, of a belief in a personal bodily resurrection. Just as with Jesus, Osiris’ resurrection gave the ancient Egyptians hope that they, too, who had led good lives, would return to life after death. For the ancient Egyptian, the key to eternal life was leading a good life on earth. The theme of overcoming death through god-given immortality parallels Christian theology. (One must struggle to find the concept of sin being punished in the afterlife in the Old Testament: Yahweh punishes sin immediately, during the sinner's life. Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.)
The Egyptian festival of Osiris celebrates in a dramatic manner the death of Osiris, the finding of his corpse, and his return to life-- just as Easter and the passion plays celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Osiris was appealing to the common Egyptian because, having once been human, he could understand the common sufferings of humans, and sympathize with them. As a god, he could help humans in this world, through prayer. The same is true for Jesus. As with Christians, the attainment of a renewal of life in the "other world" was the intent of every Egyptian believer.

In ancient Egypt, the pharoahs actually became Horus in life, somewhat similiar to the beliefs of the Catholics that the Pope is god's agent on earth.
Horus was a resurrected form of Osiris, and acted as an intermediary between Osiris, who could grant immortality, and Egyptians who were about to die. It worked like this: The spirit of the recently deceased would appear before Osiris, and would tell the god about all the good deeds during his life. Osiris would weigh the person’s heart, and the God Thoth, god of Justice, would record the result. If the heart weighed less than a feather, the person would be granted immortality. If the heart was heavy, the person would be thrown to jackals. As with Christianity, evil was punished in the afterlife.

The Isis cult was popular outside of Egypt, throughout the area of Egyptian influence. A Greco-Roman sanctuary existed on Philae, an island, now submerged, off the coast of Egypt, which temple has been relocated in Agilqiya. Isis sanctuaries have also been found on the island of Delos, Greece, and in Roman city of Pompeii. Strong arguments have been made that the portrayal of the Christian Virgin Mary was based upon the Isis cult, as the portraits of Isis with the child Horus are strikingly similar to those of the Virgin Mary with the Christ child.

Set is the evil brother of Osiris. He represents evil, catastrophes, destruction and death. Set plots against Osiris, Isis and Horus, who represent the forces of good. Set cannot destroy the good gods, nor can they destroy Set; therefore, evil remains a force in the world. The parallels between Set and Satan should be obvious. (In the Old Testament, Satan isn't much of a bad guy. It's usually the Hebrews themselve who irritate Yahweh. It's a Christian assumption that the serpent in Genesis is Satan, and in Job, it's arguable that, in Job, Satan doesn't nothing but report to Yahweh the current situation.)
Horus finally battles Set, in the form of two men, then in the form of a bear. The battle lasts three days and three nights. Horus finally wins, takes Set prisoner, only to have Isis suddenly feel pity for Set, and orders Set freed.
The Christianization of Egypt:
A Historically Plausible Scenario for How the Borrowing Occurred.
Both Greece and Israel traded extensively with Egypt, both importing beer, papyrus, jewelry, and exporting various products. As I mentioned earlier, there were temples of the popular Egyptian god Isis outside of Egypt, in Greece and Rome. There is little doubt that both the Jews and Greeks of the 1st century had access to Egyptian religious ideas.
Egypt was converted to Christianity very early, perhaps in the times of the apostles of Jesus. Mark, the alleged author of the first gospel, is traditionally credited as the founder of Egyptian Christianity, referred to as the "Coptic" church. The Coptics adhered to the "monophysite" heresy, which held that Jesus has but one nature, an idea consistent with ancient Egyptian theology, where a distinction between the human and the divine was unnecessary. That doctrine was held heretical by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 a.d.
Is it possible that Christianity originated in Egypt? It seems realistic that Christianity may have existed prior to the official conversion in 69 a.d. by Mark, and this is therefore a realistic possibility. If Egypt became Christian, it didn’t happen overnight. It seems a reasonable inference that there was significant contact between the early Christians, perhaps even the apostles themselves, very early in the evolution of Christianity. Religious ideas probably went in both directions.
The timing, prior to that of the earliest known gospels, seems appropriate for this to have happened. There was therefore an opportunity for the early Gospel writers to be influenced by the Egyptian themes of a man-god suffering, dying, descending into hell, resurrecting, and ascending into Heaven, with the result that common people could achieve immortality in the afterlife.
According to almost all critical scholars, the Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the four gospels, probably authored somewhere around 70 a.d Is it not possible that this original gospel writer took the story of a Jewish messiah wannabe, who faked a death on the cross, allegedly rose from the dead, and added to it the Egyptian theme of a man-god who died to enable eternal life?. Mark is caught with his hands in the proverbial cookie jar of Egyptian mythology.
Christianity, in its earliest days after the death of Jesus, must have been a struggling idea. On the other hand, the very popular religious ideas of Egypt had been around for about 2,500 years. To fuse the very popular core themes of Egyptian religion with the story of Jesus, the wannabe messiah who allegedly rose from the dead, would have improved the story, making it more popular with the common people. Tell them that not only did Jesus die and rise from the dead, proving he was the Messiah, but also his death gives you all a ticket to eternity in Paradise! Tell them Jesus was born under miraculous circumstances. Add a villain, Satan, who is responsible for all evil, whom Jesus fights and now you add drama to the story. Tell them Jesus will intercede in your prayers in this life, keep that nasty Satan away from you, and insure your immortality in the next. All this is from Egyptian mythology. (Christians couldn’t steal the whole thing, hook line and sinker, or people would recognize it as Egyptian.) Early Christians therefore had a sufficient motive to steal ideas from the Egyptians.
Egypt eventually converted to Islam about 450 a.d., but the Coptic Christians still exist in Egypt as a group never having been influenced by Roman Christianity.
Below: The Eye of Horus
There are clear, substantial & material similarities between the core teachings of Christianity and Egyptian myth, the totality of which cannot be explained away as mere coincidence, or vague similarity.
These similarities undisputedly predate Christianity by at least 2,000 years.
A historically plausible mechanism exists to explain how the borrowing occurred, both in the Christianization of Egypt prior to the first gospels being written, and in the existing Isis cults outside of Egypt.
Borrowing the themes of immortality, justice in the afterlife, miraculous births, and an evil villain would have improved upon the Christ story, over its original story as a Messiah wannabe who claimed to have risen from the dead, and would have improved the popularity of the gospels.
Since borrowing from Egyptian mythology is established, the credibility of the gospel writers is fatally compromised. Christianity is no more real than Egyptian sun god worship.
Encyclopedia of Gods, Michael Jordan (1993, Facts on File, Inc.)
Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, E.A. Wallis Budge, Vol. I, (Dover reprint)
Egyptian Religion, E. A. Wallis Budge (1900; 1959 Bell/Crown Reprint)(Budge was keeper of the Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in the British Museum, and is acknowledged by Christian scholars as a reliable primary source).
World Mythology, Donna Rosenberg (1994, NTC Publishing Group Reprint)(This is a college level textbook on Mythology).
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, R. O. Faulkner, (1969)
Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, R.T.R. Clark (1960)
The Book of the Dead, The hieroglyphic translation of the Papyrus ANI, E. A. Wallis Budge
I must admit that I'm sceptical on this. I don't know who wrote it, but I'm pretty sure that Selene was a Hellenic deity and not a Egyptian one. And that the Pharao's were the the God Re incarnated on Earth. Some of the dates are inaccurate like Egypt coverting to Islaim around 450 A.D. Islam still didn't exist at that time, so it would be hard to convert to a religion that didn't exist at that moment in time. I find the timetable of the conversion of Egypt to Christianity somewhat to early to be believable.

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Even earlier influences

Postby Aldus Marius on Sat Nov 25, 2006 8:58 pm

Salve, clare Aureli!

Sources cited but no named author...? Hmm... Nevertheless, I think the writer has the gist of it, or at least of a major part of it. He's only a few thousand years off on both the Judaeo-Christian and the Egyptian ends of the development.

The early Christians were hardly the first people of their tradition to have contact with the religions of Egypt. The conquered Hebrews were captives there for a long time; their eventual deliverer, Moses (found in a bed of rushes, yes) was brought up in the Pharaoh's court and rose to high office there. Surely this influenced his take on the ways of God(s) and men.

If I'm not mistaken (I haven't checked the timelines for either culture recently), the Hebrews' Egyptian sojourn may have taken place during or shortly after Egypt's brief flirtation with monotheism, introduced by Pharaoh Akhenaten. Here the previously rustic, possibly animist Hebrews would have come in contact with the idea of a single supreme God. The chapters of Moses' wanderings and first encounters with this deity really do sound like God trying out for a job! Maybe they liked the idea of a patron divinity watching over His people, as Aten had in Egypt. Maybe that's why, when the offer was made, they jumped at the chance to have such a "national" deity themselves.

Some time after that, the Hebrews managed to get themselves exported to Babylon. (There weren't any good travel agencies back then, you see, so getting conquered and enslaved was almost the only way a peasant laborer could get to see the world... :roll: ) There they encountered Persian Zoroastrianism, a strongly dualistic religion which featured gods who were personifications of Good and Evil (IIRC, these were Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, respectively), who were almost evenly matched and in constant conflict. It was thought that the deeds of men could decide the outcome. It may have been then that the Hebrews' concept of Satan shifted from "God's test-proctor" (as depicted in the Book of Job) to an all-but-omnipotent being who could give God Himself a good run for His money, and contested with Him for the souls of men.

It is true, however, that the Old Testament gives little direct clue to any foreign origin for any of these beliefs. Neither the people who wrote it nor the people for whom it was written were historical cultural anthropologists. Their objective was not to trace the development of ideas in their theology; it was to lay down some sensible rules for living with God and with each other, with just enough historical background and morality tales to tell them why.

Egyptian religion did not stay the same over the millennia either. From its "classical" form (the myths described by your essayist), it took a detour into monotheism (the cult of Aten) before lining out and evolving into a 'mystery religion' itself. This probably occured during Egypt's Hellenistic period. Isis was almost always part of the pantheon, but Her worship, with its themes of resurrection, redemption and an afterlife, only really took off in the couple of centuries before Rome came. So this is the "Egyptian" religion that the late-Republican Romans, and much later the early Christians, met and would have been influenced by...not the "classical" version we normally associate with ancient Egypt, the Pharaohs, the temples and the pyramids. And remember, by the time Christianity came to Rome, Isis' cult itself was well-established there.

As to the Pope, the idea of a God-King is almost as old as civilisation itself, occurs in cultures all over the globe, and must have been awfully convenient for the rulers thus annointed. The Pope and the Emperor of Japan are only two recent examples, and I can assign no special significance to either.

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Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Sat Nov 25, 2006 9:33 pm

Salve Mari

I found it strange that no author was mentioned for that work. I did get the feeling the author knew somehow what he was talking about, but probably got the gist of it as you said it.
Well it wouldn't be the first time Egyptian religion was credited with influencing another religion. Herodotus makes a similar claim saying that at one time the Greek Gods fled to Egypt in disguise of animals, fleeing from Typhon. I didn't read the entire work of Herodotus, so I don't know if he meant that the Egyptian Gods and religion influenced the Greek one or vice versa, or that he like so many others was simply trying to tie different cultures and deities to eachother by looking for common traits that the deities share with eachother. Anyhow, it is clear that not everyone seems to understand this or is willing to understand. Just as some fluffy pagans see the reference in the Gulden Ass where Isis is called many names, including names of other deities, that the Wiccan Goddess was worshipped back than.
I saw it on the discovery channel about a documentary of the Aten cult, more specific on Akhenaton and his monotheistic cult of Aten and that Mozes was a member of that cult. I don't think the Egyptians mind it at first, but when he sought to stripp away the priesthood and worship of other deities, thus taking the power away from these priests, that the same priests rebelled and killed him or had him killed. Either way, they tried to remove his name from history, but were unsuccesful at that.
I'm not that familiar with the Isis cult or with Egyptian religion in general. I knew it underwent changes over the years, as it goes with any religion. But I didn't knew that it turned into a mystery religion.
The notion of Satan as the opponent of God was probably a later adition to the theology, after the new testament was written. That Judaism was influenced by Zoroastrianism is no big surprise, even that religion underwent some significant changes during its beginning. As I recall, it was first a dualistic polytheistic religion, but under Xerxes, it was changed into a dualistic monotheistic religion with the other Gods turning into angel-like beings. Correct me if I'm wrong here.
I have read the old testament, and I didn't really find anything there to suggest that Satan was seen as a opponent of God. A fallen angel, yes, but not in the same way as Ahriman. I think that Satan in the old testament was more a being to test the faith of men, rather than the personification of evil altogether like it is the case with Ahriman.
If not mistaken, the Satan mentioned in the Quran seem to be similar to the Satan mentioned in the old testament, a fallen angel who has fallen out of grace and is there to test the faith of the believer. Which would made more sense to me since Islam would have more contact with Judaism and Zoroastrianism than with Christianity, even though they did came into contact with them during the conquest and conversion of many countries in the region.

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Some thoughts

Postby Marcus Lupinius Paulus on Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:39 am

Salvete Omnes,

Mari, good to see you. I know I have not been around for a good long while, and that this conversation is old. But here are a few thoughts of mine.

I frankly do not buy the argument this anonymous article. The substance of it is old though. If I remember well, the "Jesus as Egyptian Myth" was popular in the 19th century, but today has very few adherents. Back in my American Atheist days, I encountered this in a book by Prof. John G. Jackson {who I later found outto be an afrocentrist nut}.

First off, The claim that Osiris is as historical as Jesus is just bogus; even a Roman historian {Tacitus} records Jesus was executed under Pilate during Tiberius' reign. Are thereany historical records for when Osiris lived and died, besides "once upon a time" myths?

Second, though it is likely that Isis/Horus art influened Christian art, I do not see Mary as a transplanted Isis at all. Way too much is made of these so-called parallels. Isis had to reconstruct a dead body with a phallus to...ahem...get impregnated the usual way. Their is no virginal conception here.

Third, why did this writer need to mention the Pope as one of his parallels? Christianity was going long before the Papacy, and had no "Pope" in the sense of a universal ruler for a long while.

Fourth, the writer is either very selective with the evidence from ancient Judaism, or he is quite ignorant. He says it is very difficult to find mentions of an afterlife of any kind in the Old Testament, and then mentions the Sadducees, who did not have such a belief. {He ignores the Pharisees and Essenes, who DID} Of course we know WHY he ignores these---he wants to give the impression that Judaism had no afterlife, in order to support his conclusion that Christianity got its ideas from Egypt.

But in fact, Christianity inherited its belief in resurrection from Judaism. Judaism did indeed embrace theideas of resurrection long before Christianity began. You can find it in the Intertestamental literature and the deuterocanonical books, such as the Books of Maccabees and Wisdom of Solomon. It has nothing to do with Egypt, and everything to do with meditations on the loveof God and the justice of God. Or, to put it differently, resurrection and eschatology was an inevitable development from for a religion which had the notions of election and covenant. What is notably absent however, are the Egyptian beliefs in the immortal soul. In the dominant Jewish view, whatever life people might haveafter death was entirely due to God's grace and providential concern, and not due to some inherent immortal "soul" in the Platonic sense.

But all this aside, what I find wholly unbeliveable is this: "Is it not possible that this original gospel writer took the story of a Jewish messiah wannabe, who faked a death on the cross, allegedly rose from the dead, and added to it the Egyptian theme of a man-god who died to enable eternal life?."

My answer is that this scenario is about as intellectual as an episode of Teletubbies, for these reasons:

a} A "wannabe messiah" FAKING his own death and,
b} actually being seen as risen from the dead? How convincing is this? Put another way, if I was in a serious car accident, blood everywhere, lying still in the drivers seat, and three days later you saw my broken and bloody body limping towards you, what would you think? "Paulus, you are risen from the dead", or " somehow survived. You look like..." Does this writerreally expect us to believe a bloody, beaten, limping victim would be seen as a resurrected lord by anyone?
c} And would anyone at all go through the trouble of taking a story of a false messiah and "combining it" with ancient Egyptian religion that the Jews in Jerusalem would never take seriously? And for what purpose? Remember, Christianity did not originate in the Gentile world, but in Jewish Judea and Galillee, among Jews. All the first Christians were Jews.
And it is unbelievable to me that any Jew would take so much pain to embellish the life of a false messiah, {Crucified Messiahs are Failed Messiahs are False Messiahs} for no good, sensible or even discernable reason.

I think Orcus is right to be skeptical about this. There is a reason that this kind of thinking is rejected today, even by the more radical and skeptical scholars. It is unbelievable. If we wrote this article, we would not want our names attached to it either!

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