All About Horus
An Egyptian Copy of Christ?

claim from "Zeitgeist" video to be examined:
"...the character of Jesus, a literary and astrological hybrid, is most explicitly a plagiarization of the Egyptian Sun-god Horus..."


Horus, the Egyptian Falcon GodAll About Horus: An Egyptian Copy of Christ?

Horus, the Egyptian Falcon-god, is "lord of the sky" and a symbol of divine kingship. His name ("Har" in Egyptian) probably means "the high," "the far-off," "the distant one" and is connected with "Hry" ("one who is above/over"). The name appears on Egyptian hieroglyphs in the royal protocol at the very beginning of dynastic civilization (c. 3000 BC).

Hierglyphs for the Egyptian Falcon-god Horus or Har, lord of the sky

The roles, local cult foundations, and titles or epithets of Horus are sometimes correlated with distinct or preferred forms in iconography: for example, the falcon or falcon-headed man, the winged disk, the child with a sidelock of hair (sometimes in his mother's arms). Egyptologists therefore often speak of distinct Horuses or Horus-gods (see Oxford Encyclopedia, vol 2, "Horus" p. 119ff; and Hart, Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian gods and goddesses, "Horus" p. 70ff).

In ancient Egypt several gods are known by this name, but the most important was the son of Osiris and Isis, identified as king of Egypt. To repeat what I summarized elsewhere: Osiris is the oldest son of Geb ("earth" personified) and Nout or Nut ("mother of the gods" and goddess of the sky), the husband of Isis, whose myth was one of the best known and whose cult was one of the most widespread in pharaonic Egypt. The mythology of Osiris is not preserved completely from an early date, but the essentials are related by Plutarch in On Isis and Osiris (De Iside et Osiride).

With the rise of the full-blown Osiris-Isis-Horus myth, the living king was identified as an earthly Horus and the dead king (his father/predecessor) as Osiris. When the king died, he became Osiris, and Horus is his royal heir and successor. The most common geneology of Horus is as the son of Osiris and Isis, making a tenth on the family tree of the Heliopolitan Ennead. But the full picture is more complex: Hathor (herself identified with Isis) also appears as the mother of Horus; Horus the Elder (Haroeris) can appear in the Heliopolitan family tree as a brother of Osiris and son of Geb and Nut, thus an uncle of Horus in his more usual manifestations. Therefore, Horus and Seth are sometimes described as nephew and uncle, sometimes as brothers. In a battle over the throne of Egypt, Horus fought with Seth, and despite losing an eye, was successful in avenging the death of his father Osiris, becoming his legitimate successor.

The textual and mythological materials relating to Horus are extremely rich, comprising hymns, mortuary texts, ritual texts, dramatic/theological texts, stories, the Old Coptic and Greek so-called magical papyri, and the most complete ancient exposition of the Osiris narrative, Plutarch's De Iside et Osiride (in Latin translation). In characteristic Egyptian fashion, many of the hymns, mortuary, and ritual texts incorporated substantial narrative material or are taken from narrative, although they are not comprehensive, consecutive myths per se. In addition to Plutarch's account in Greek, the most substantial sources for the Osiris-Isis-Horus cycle include the following (see Oxford Encyclopedia, vol 2, "Horus" p. 121ff):

  • the Memphite Theology or Shabaqo Stone (generally dated as late as the New Kingdom, c. 1540-1070 BC);
  • the Mystery Play of the Succession;
  • the Pyramid Texts (from the late Old Kingdom, c. 2575-2150 BC);
  • the Coffin Texts, especially Spell 148;
  • the Great Osiris hymn in the Louvre;
  • the Late Egyptian Contendings of Horus and Seth;
  • the Metternich Stela and other cippus texts;
  • the Ptolemaic Myth of Horus at Edfu (also known as the Triumph of Horus);

These texts take us with a number of variations and contrasting perspectives, from the conception and birth of Horus, through his childhood hidden in the marshes, his protection by Isis, his conflict with Seth and his followers, and his succession as legitimate king. The "Myth [or Triumph] of Horus" is preserved in the Temple of Edfu, inscribed on the inner faces of the east and west enclosure walls. Previously no complete translation of the various texts which compose it appeared in any language, though the actual texts and reliefs have since been long published by Naville, Textes relatifs au Mythe d'Horus recueillis dans le Temple d'Edfou (Geneva, 1870), then in the magnificent edition of Chassinat, Le Temple d'Edfou (Cairo, 1928-1934), and later in scholarly and popular works by Dieter Kurth, e.g. The Temple of Edfu: a guide by an ancient Egyptian priest (Cairo, 2004). The myth comprises five texts (see Blackman / Lloyd, Gods, Priests, and Men, p. 255ff, in articles by H.W. Fairman), which are:

  1. The Legend of the Winged Disk. The chief actors are Horus of Behdet and Seth. Re and Thoth provide a running commentary and numerous somewhat tedious puns which detract from the flow and interest of the narrative. The language is stilted and formal, and somewhat restricted in vocabulary and forms of expression.
  2. The story of a fight between Horus, son of Isis (who is assisted by Horus of Behdet), and Seth. This portion follows immediately after A.
  3. A dramatized version of the exploits of Horus which was enacted at his festival (not worded in the form of a connected story). After texts referring to the ten harpoons with which Horus attacked his enemy, come songs by the Royal Children and by the princesses of Upper and Lower Egypt together with the women of Mendes (Pe and Dep), and finally two versions of the dismemberment of Seth and the distribution of the parts of his body among various gods and cities.
  4. Seth, son of Nut, assumes the form of a red hippopotamus and goes to Elephantine. Horus, son of Isis, pursues him and overtakes him near Edfu, and after the ensuing fight Seth flees northward and Horus assumes the office of his father.
  5. Horus is mentioned as lord of Lower Egypt, living at Memphis, and Seth as lord of Upper Egypt, living in Shas-hetep. Horus and Seth fight, the one in the form of a youth, the other as a red donkey. Horus finally triumphs and cuts off the leg of Seth. This story is written in a pronounced Late-Egyptian idiom.

Summary of the Osiris-Isis-Horus Myth

In ancient Egyptian tradition, at least as preserved to us, the Osiris-Isis-Horus myth was never recounted as a coherent whole; rather, it served as a source of allusions for a large number of religious texts. It was a sequence of scenes that was unmistakably rooted in the mortuary cult. The only texts that furnish us with a continuous narrative are written in Greek, by Diodorus (1st century BC) and especially by Plutarch (c. 46 - 120 AD). But in their care about a single, meaningful, stimulating story these authors seem to have strayed from the Egyptian form of the myth. The myth has both a prehistory and a starting point. The prehistory is not narrated in the Egyptian texts, yet it is necessary for all that follows (see Jan Assman, Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, p. 23).

Hierglyphs for Egyptian god Osiris, king of the underworld (dead)

The basic Egyptian myth goes like this: Osiris became ruler of the land, but was tricked and slain by his jealous brother, Seth. According to the Greek version of the story, Typhon (Seth) had a beautiful coffin made to Osiris' exact measurements, and with 72 conspirators at a banquet, promised it to the one who would fit it. Each guest tried it for size, and Osiris was the one to fit exactly. Immediately Seth and the conspirators nailed the lid shut, sealed the coffin in lead, and threw it into the Nile. The coffin was eventually borne across the sea to Byblos, where Isis, who had been continually searching for her husband, finally located it. She returns the body to Egypt where Seth discovers it, cuts the corpse into pieces, and scatters them throughout the country. Isis transforms herself into a kite, and with her sister Nephthys, searches for and finds all the pieces (except the male member, which she replicates), reconstitutes the body, and before embalming to give Osiris eternal life, she revivifies it, couples with it, and thus conceives Horus.

"Of the parts of Osiris's body the only one which Isis did not find was the male member, for the reason that this had been at once tossed into the river, and the lepidotus, the sea-bream, and the pike had fed upon it; and it is from these very fishes the Egyptians are most scrupulous in abstaining. But Isis made a replica of the member to take its place, and consecrated the phallus, in honour of which the Egyptians even at the present day celebrate a festival." (Plutarch, Moralia V, On Isis and Osiris, 18) 

According to the principal version of the story cited by Plutarch, Isis had already given birth to her son, but according to the Egyptian Hymn to Osiris, she conceived him by the revivified corpse of her husband.

Osiris' rule plays a great role in Egyptian texts. They almost always speak of him as ruler of the realm of the dead, an office he assumed only as a dead god, and almost never about his earthly kingship, which he exercised over gods and men in the world above as successor of Geb. Osiris' reign came to a violent end as he was slain by his brother, Seth. Later Horus avenges his father Osiris' death and succeeds him without completely destroying Seth. Thus did death come into the world, confronting the gods with a great problem. This is the prehistory of which there is no coherent narrative in the Egyptian texts (see Jan Assmann, p. 24).


The Birth and Flight of Horus

The slaying and dismemberment of Osiris, and his re-joining and rejuvenation by his wife Isis, is a common theme of a large corpus of texts, which do not actually describe it but rather presuppose it as the trigger for various actions whose aim is to cope with this catastrophe. Just as it was Osiris' undoing that he was the first of the divine rulers to have a brother and thus a rival for the throne, so his sisters became his "salvation." Isis, his sister-wife, was the first to take action by traversing the land to collect his scattered body parts.

Hierglyphs for Egyptian goddess Isis (Aset), sister/wife of Osiris, mother of Horus

A Hymn to Osiris from Dynasty 18 (stela Louvre C 286) narrates her actions in the form of two scenes: (1) Isis' search and her care for the body; and (2) the conception, birth, and childhood of Horus.

Isis the powerful, protectress of her brother, who sought him tirelessly,
who traversed this land in mourning and did not rest until she found him;
who gave him shade with her feathers and air with her wings;
who cried out, the mourning woman of her brother
who summoned dancers for the Weary of Heart;

who took in his seed and created the heir,
who suckled the child in solitude, no one knew where,
who brought him, when his arm was strong,
into the hall of Geb -- the Ennead rejoiced:

"Welcome, Osiris' son, Horus, stout of heart, justified, son of Isis, heir of Osiris."

(Hymn to Osiris, Dynasty 18, stela Louvre C 286; from Jan Assmann, p. 24-25)

Isis' activities with regard to the corpse of Osiris culminate in the posthumous conception of Horus. In the accounts of Greek historians Diodorus and Plutarch, Isis recovers all the body parts of the slain god except for his virile member, which had been swallowed by a fish. She was thus obliged to replace this member with an artificial one that she uses as an instrument for her posthumous insemination to produce Horus. Although the Egyptian texts seldom mention this scene, the locus classicus (classical passage) is from the Pyramid Texts (Spell 366):

Isis comes to you, rejoicing for love of you,
that her seed might issue into her, it being sharp as Sothis.

Horus, the sharp one, who comes forth from you
in his name "Horus, who is in Sothis,"
may it be well with you through him
in your name "Spirit in the dndrw-barque."

Horus has protected you in his name "Horus protector of his father."

(Pyramid Texts, Spell 366; from Jan Assmann, page 25)

Here is some commentary on the "conception of Horus" from various Egyptian scholars:

  • "...drawings on contemporary funerary papyri show her as a kite hovering above Osiris, who is revived enough to have an erection and impregnate his wife." (Lesko, Great Goddesses of Egypt, p. 162)
  • "After having sexual intercourse, in the form of a bird, with the dead god she restored to life, she gave birth to a posthumous son, Horus." (Dunand / Zivie-Coche, Gods and Men in Egypt, p. 39)
  • "Through her magic Isis revivified the sexual member of Osiris and became pregnant by him, eventually giving birth to their child, Horus." (Richard Wilkinson, Complete gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt, p. 146)
  • "Isis already knows that she is destined to bear a child who will be king. In order to bring this about, she has to revive the sexual powers of Osiris, just as the Hand Goddess aroused the penis of the creator to create the first life." (Pinch, Handbook of Egyptian Mythology, p. 80)

In short, this was NO "virgin birth" as is clear also from repeated references to Osiris' "seed." A "miraculous birth" perhaps because it involves a dead and then revived husband, but not a virginal conception (sometimes wrongly called an "immaculate conception" -- that has to do in Catholic theology with Mary's conception without Original Sin, not Jesus' conception) nor a virgin birth as contained in the Bible (cf. Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38).

A longer passage is from the Coffin Texts (Spell 148) which describes the birth and flight of Horus (as the Falcon god), and has further references to Osiris' "seed":

Horus, the Egyptian Falcon GodTAKING SHAPE AS A FALCON. The lightening flash strikes, the gods are afraid, Isis wakes pregnant with the seed of her brother Osiris. She is uplifted, (even she) the widow, and her heart is glad with the seed of her brother Osiris. She says:

"O you gods, I am Isis, the sister of Osiris, who wept for the father of the gods, (even) Osiris who judged the slaughterings of the Two Lands. His seed is within my womb, I have moulded the shape of the god within the egg as my son who is at the head of the Ennead. What he shall rule is this land, the heritage of his (grand-) father Geb, what he shall say is concerning his father, what he shall kill is Seth the enemy of his father Osiris. Come, you gods, protect him within my womb, for he is known in your hearts. He is your lord, this god who is in his egg, blue-haired of form, lord of the gods, and great and beautiful are the vanes [feathery part of plume as distinct from the stem] of the two blue plumes."

"Oh!" says Atum, "guard your heart, O woman!"

"[Isis says:] How do you know? He is the god, lord and heir of the Ennead, who made you within the egg. I am Isis, one more spirit-like and august than the gods; the god is within this womb of mine and he is the seed of Osiris."

Then says Atum: "You are pregnant and you are hidden [allusion to pregnant Isis hiding in the marshes of Chemmis], O girl! You will give birth, being pregnant for the gods, seeing that he is the seed of Osiris. May that villain who slew his father not come, lest he break the egg in its early stages, for the Great-of-Magic will guard against him."

Thus says Isis: "Hear this, you gods, which Atum, Lord of the Mansion of the Sacred Images, has said. He has decreed for me protection for my son within my womb, he has knit together an entourage about him within this womb of mine, for he [Atum] knows that he [Horus] is the heir of Osiris, and a guard over the Falcon who is in this womb of mine has been set by Atum, Lord of the gods. Go up on earth, that I may give you praise [said to the unborn Horus]. The retainers of your father Osiris will serve you, I will make your name, for you have reached the horizon, having passed by the battlements of the Mansion of Him whose name is hidden. Strength has gone up within my flesh, power has reached into my flesh, power has reached...." [there is a textual omission at this point]

"...who conveys the Sunshine-god, and he has prepared his own place, being seated at the head of the gods in the entourage of the Releaser." [unidentifiable speaker, probably either Isis or Atum]

"[Isis speaks to her son who has now been born:] O Falcon, my son Horus, dwell in this land of your father Osiris in this your name of Falcon who is on the battlements of the Mansion of Him whose name is hidden. I ask that you shall be always in the suite of Re of the horizon in the prow of the primeval bark for ever and ever."

Isis goes down to the Releaser who brings Horus, for Isis has asked that he may be the Releaser as the leader of eternity.

"See Horus, you gods! [Horus proclaims his power] I am Horus, the Falcon who is on the battlements of the Mansion of Him whose name is hidden. My flight aloft has reached the horizon, I have overpassed the gods of the sky, I have made my position more prominent than that of the Primeval Ones. The Contender [Seth] has not attained my first flight, my place is far from Seth, the enemy of my father Osiris. I have used the roads of eternity to the dawn, I go up in my flight, and there is no god who can do what I have done. I am aggressive against the enemy of my father Osiris, he having been set under my sandals in this my name of.... [meaning unknown]. I am Horus, born of Isis, whose protection was made within the egg; the fiery blast of your mouths does not attack me, and what you may say against me does not reach me, I am Horus, more distant of place than men or gods; I am Horus son of Isis."

(Egyptian Coffin Text, Spell 148, translation found in The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts, volume 1, p. 125-127, by R.O. Faulkner; another translation with commentary can be found in Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt by R.T. Rundle Clark, p. 213-217)

This text begins with the dark days immediately after the death of Osiris, when Seth and his henchmen are tyrannizing over the world. Horus assumes control of his own destiny. He appears as a falcon and soars up into the sky beyond the flight of the original bird-soul, beyond the stars (the "gods of Nut") and all the divinities of olden time whose souls inhabit the constellations. In so doing he brings back light and the assurance of a new day, thus subduing Seth, who personifies the terrors of darkness and death. The opening section moves within the main Osiris myth, but this disappears when Isis suddenly realizes she will give birth, not to a child, but to a falcon. Isis dreams prophetically that the child quickening in her womb will grow up to restore the rightful order of the world. In a new scene, the birth is about to take place, Isis comes forward to Atum who is surrounded by his divine courtiers. Finally, Horus is born and flys up of his own accord (see Clark, Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, p. 213ff).

There were two primary gods called Horus: the first was the original falcon who flew up at the beginning of time -- the most ancient bird -- and the other was the son of Isis and heir to Osiris. They are compounded in this Coffin Text. Instead of being born in the Delta swamps and growing up in secret, Horus is offered a place in the sun's boat, but he transcends both his earthly fate and that as a subordinate to Re. He flies up and across the night sky of the Underworld to land on the edge of the world, bringing with him the twilight that comes just before full day. The old belief is that Horus was the leader of the decanal stars which circled around the sky in the path of the sun. The appearance of Horus just before dawn is the mark of a new year, and the world's great age begins anew (see Clark, p. 216-217).


The Battle Between Horus and Seth

As early as the Old Kingdom it was envisaged that Horus wrested the kingship of Egypt from the god Seth: Horus takes his father's house from his father's brother Seth. Horus then triumphs over his paternal uncle. However there is a conflation of the two myths because in the Osiris cycle, Osiris and Seth were brothers, while in an independent tradition Horus and Seth were brothers feuding for the throne. Normally Horus is the ascendant, but the supporters of Seth were never completely suppressed (indicating perhaps as the meaning of the myth, that evil will always be with us, and we must be vigilant).

Hierglyphs for Seth, brother and killer of Osiris, uncle/brother of Horus

Seth, the embodiment of disorder, was predominantly seen as a rival of Horus, a would-be usurper who assassinated Osiris and was defeated. However, Seth was also portrayed in a balance with Horus, so that the pair represented a bipolar, balanced embodiment of kingship. Thus, on the side of the throne, Horus and Seth -- symmetrical and equal -- tie the papyrus and lotus around the sema-sign (sm3 = "unity"; also the end of the Thutmose III Poetical Stela). From the Shabaqo Stone in the British Museum, a copy of an original document from the Pyramid Age carved in Dynasty XXV, there is a concise statement of the dispute between Horus and Seth. The god Geb is the judge and makes a preliminary decision to divide Egypt between the protagonists: Seth will be king of Upper Egypt and Horus will rule over Lower Egypt, the border being the "Division of the Two Lands", i.e. the apex of the Nile Delta at Memphis where Osiris is said to have drowned. On reflection Geb revises this judgment awarding the whole inheritance of Egypt to Horus. It is stressed that this result is amicably accepted -- the reed of Seth and papyrus of Horus being attached to the door of the god Ptah to symbolize that they were pacified and united.

A fuller and more scandalous description of the trial survives in Papyrus Chester Beatty I written in the reign of Ramesses V (Dynasty XX). The sun-god in this tribunal is not sympathetic to Horus' case to be ruler of Egypt, dismissing him as a youngster with halitosis and preferring the older claimant Seth. Horus pleads that he is being defrauded of his lawful patrimony. Then occurs a series of episodes involving Horus and Seth, each trying to outwit the other and win over the court. In one contest, the two gods are hippopotamuses who intend to see if they can remain submerged under water for three months. Isis refuses to take this opportunity of killing Seth with a harpoon. Horus, enraged, savagely attacks his mother and escapes into the desert. Seth finds him and cuts out both his eyes. Hathor, using gazelle's milk, restores Horus' eyes.

On another occasion Seth suggests a race in boats of stone. Horus secretly builds a vessel of pine covered with plaster to imitate stone. Seth's boat of 36 meters of solid stone, sinks and he turns himself into a hippo. Horus is prevented from slaying Seth by the other gods.

Since the beginning of the 20th century in Egyptological research, much debate has ensued over whether the struggle between Horus and Seth was primarily historical/geo-political, or cosmic/symbolic. When the full Osiris complex became visible, Seth appears as the murderer of Osiris and would-be killer of the child Horus. The symbolism of Horus' eventual triumph over Seth (e.g. the pharaoh cutting the throat of an oryx or spearing a turtle) permeates many temple reliefs. It also lies behind the gilded wooden statuette of Tutankhamun standing on a papyrus boat, lasso in one hand, harpoon in the other: the king is in the act of spearing the hippo Seth (see Oxford Encyclopedia, vol 2, "Horus" p. 120; Hart, Routledge Dictionary, "Horus" p. 72-73).

In the battle between Horus and Seth (which lasts 80 years), despite losing an eye, Horus is successful in avenging the death of his father Osiris, becoming his legitimate successor. The injury inflicted by Seth on the eye of Horus is alluded to in the Pyramid Texts where royal saliva is prescribed for its cure. The restored eye of Horus becomes, in singular form, the symbol for a state of soundness or perfection -- the "udjat" eye (the whole or sound "eye of Horus"). It can also stand for the strength of the monarch; the concept of kingship; protection against Seth; royal purification agent; offerings at the festival of the waxing moon wine, etc. Its iconography consists of a human eye with the cosmetic line emanating from its corner, below it are the markings of a falcon's cheek. As an amulet the "udjat" was placed in mummy wrappings or worn on a necklace. In the Middle Kingdom, it was painted on the sides of rectangular coffins (Hart, p. 73).

Osiris becomes king of the (dead) underworld, and Horus the king of the living. As mentioned, Horus is usually represented as a falcon, or as a sky god whose outstretched wings filled the heavens; his sound eye was the sun, and injured eye the moon.


The Horus Gods and Forms

Horus is one of the earliest attested of the major ancient Egyptian deities, becoming known as early as the late Pre-dynastic period (Naqada III / Dynasty 0; c. 3200-3000 BC). The earliest documented chapter in the career of Horus was as Horus the falcon, god of Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) in southern Upper Egypt. In this capacity Horus was the patron deity of the Hierakonpolis monarchy that grew into the historical pharaonic state, hence the first known national god, the god of kingship. He was still prominent in the latest temples of the Greco-Roman period (c. 300 BC - 300+ AD), especially at Philae and Edfu as well as Old Coptic and Greco-Egyptian ritual-power or magical texts.

Horus the falcon was predominantly a sky god and a sun god; as the former his eyes are the sun and moon, as the latter, he has a sun disk on his head and is syncretized with the sun-deity Re (or Ra), most often as Re-Harakhty. Horus the falcon/disk had the epithet "Great God, Lord of Heaven, Dappled of Plumage." Three main forms of Horus are as the Child, as the Son of Isis, and as a sun-god.

  • Horus the Child

In the Pyramid Texts the god is once called "Horus the child with his finger in his mouth." This aspect refers to his birth and upbringing in secret by his mother Isis. Born at Khemmis in the northeast Delta, the young god was hidden in the papyrus marshes, hence his epithet Har-hery-wadj or "Horus who is upon his papyrus plants." This appears visually in a wall relief in the temple of Sety I (Dynasty XIX) at Abydos as a hawk on a column in the shape of a papyrus reed.

Isis nursing HorusFrom the Egyptian Har-pa-khered literally "Horus-the-child" the Greeks created the name of Harpokrates. In this form Horus is depicted as a young vulnerable-looking child, sitting on the knees of Isis, wearing the sidelock of youth and sometimes sucking his fingers. In the Late Dynastic cippi objects, Harpokrates acts as an amuletic force warding off dangerous creatures. Horus as a boy with the sidelock appears dominating crocodiles, serpents, and other noxious animals on cippi or apotropaic stelae of "Horus-on-the-Crocodiles," the common manifestation of the importance of Horus in healing ritual and popular ritual practice. The healing of Horus from scorpian stings by Isis provided the reason for the production of the cippi of Horus and his role in healing.

The Harsomtus version of Horus can be traced back to the Pyramid Texts as Har-mau or "Horus the uniter." The idea is the king as upholder of the unification of North and South Egypt. Since in temple dogma the divine child of a god and goddess could be thought a manifestation of the pharaoh, Harsomtus is used merely as "filling" in a sacred triad. He is e.g. the son of the elder Horus and Hathor at Edfu temple. Similarly at the temple of Kom-Ombo the same couple are the parents of Harsomtus under the name of Pa-neb-tawy or "lord of the Two Lands." 

Horus the child / Horus son of Isis and Osiris was often portrayed as a boy wearing the sidelock and frequently appeared in the arms of his mother Isis. Bronzes representing him, with or without Isis, were ubiquitous in Late and Greco-Roman times. On cippi, the head of the child Horus was often surmounted by a full-faced Bes-head or mask.

  • Horus the Son of Isis (and Osiris)

The Harsiese ("Horus, the son of Isis") form emphasizes his legitimacy as the offspring of the union of Isis and Osiris. In the Pyramid Texts, Harsiese performs the vital "opening the mouth" ceremony of the dead king, a ritual that restored faculties to the corpse for their Afterlife, and was carried out at the time of the burial by the successor-monarch (or Horus). A typical pictorial of this rite being performed by one pharaoh upon another can be found on the wall of the sarcophagus chamber in the tomb of Tutankhamun (Dynasty XVIII).

Another funerary priestly title, Horus Iun-mutef, or "pillar of his mother" is evocative of Horus' success in regaining the throne of his father Osiris, because of Isis' careful upbringing of her son. At funeral ceremonies the eldest son of the deceased -- or a mortuary priest -- dressed in panther skin, played the role of Horus Iun-mutef burning incense and scattering purified water before the coffin.

The Har-nedj-itef or "Horus the savior of his father" (Greek Harendotes) refers to Horus' vindication of his claim to succeed Osiris, rescuing his father's former earthly domain from the usurper Seth.

  • Horus as sun-god

As a cosmic deity Horus is imagined as a falcon whose wings are the sky, right eye is the sun, left eye the moon. From the reign of King Den (Dynasty I), on an engraved ivory comb, the hawk's wings as an independent entity covey the celestial imagery while a hawk in a boat suggests the journey of the sun-god himself. Textual evidence from the Pyramid Era refers to Horus as "lord of the sky" or as a god "of the east"; i.e. the region of sunrise.

The form Harakhti or "Horus of the horizon" refers to the god rising in the east at dawn to bathe in the "field of rushes." The Pyramid Texts mention this aspect of the god linked to the sovereign: the king is said to be born on the eastern sky as Harakhti. Also since the element -akhti can be a dual form of the noun akhet (horizon), there is a play on words when the king is given power over the "two horizons" (i.e. east and west) as Harakhti.

Hierglyphs for Ra-Harakhti or Harakhti, "Horus of the two horizons"

Naturally the Egyptians had to accept that technically their pharoah, as "son of Re" (or Ra) the sun-god, could not achieve a total identification with this aspect of Horus, especially with the coalescence of this form with the Heliopolitan sun-god to become as Re-Harakhty (or Ra-Harakhti). Thus Senwosret I (Dynasty XII) was appointed "shepherd of this land" by Harakhti. In laudatory or propagandist inscriptions the assimilation of the pharaoh to Harakhti is maintained, as for instance in the case of the Sudanese King Piye (Dynasty XXV) on his stela commemorating the conquest of Egypt.

"Horus of Behdet" or the Behdetite was normally shown as a hawk-winged sun disk with pendant uraei (snakes). The location of Behdet was in the marshy north-east Delta. It is not mentioned in the Pyramid Texts and the antiquity of the site as a cult centre of Horus (in relation to Edfu) cannot yet be ascertained. It becomes an ubiquitous motif -- e.g. in temple decorations of ceilings or gate lintels, or the upper border or frame of wall-reliefs or the lunette of stelae.

The form Har-em-akhet or Harmachis (Harmakhis) or "Horus in the horizon" aptly regionalizes Horus as sun-god. Pharaonic inscriptions of the New Kingdom reinterpreted the Great Sphinx at Giza, originally representing King Khafra guarding the approach to his pyramid, as Harmachis looking towards the eastern horizon.

Aside from the sun disk, Horus in various forms also wore the Double Crown, a status as king of Egypt; the atef (a type of crown); triple atef; and a disk with two plumes, etc. There are also ancient localities with a Horus cult. The two most important sanctuaries in terms of historical and archaeological evidence belong to Horus of Nekhen and Horus of Mesen.

By the fifth dynasty (2498 - 2345 BC), the Horus-king also became "son of Re" the sun god by personifying mythologically the entire older genealogy of Horus as the goddess Hathor, or "house of Horus" who was also the spouse of Re and mother of Horus. Horus was also combined, syncretized, and closely associated with deities other than Re, notably (but not exclusively) Min, Sopdu, Khonsu, and Montu. The Greeks associated Horus with Apollo giving rise to the author of the Hieroglyphica, Horapollo.

While Egyptologists often speak of distinct Horus-gods, combinations, identifications, and differentiations were possible, and they are complementary rather than antithetical. A judicious examination of the various "Horuses" and the sources relating to them supports the possibility that the roles in question are closely interrelated, so they may be understood as different aspects or facets of the same divine persona (see Oxford Encyclopedia, vol 2, "Horus" p. 119ff; Hart, Routledge Dictionary, "Horus" p. 70ff).


"Zeitgeist" on Horus

"By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." (1 John 4:6, Douay-Rheims)

Now I will respond to the transcript section of "Zeitgeist" that talks about Horus and Jesus. I have removed the transcript's references, although I will talk about the film's sources at the end. My own documentation, information, and sources are contained above, with a short bibliography at bottom.

From the transcript of www.ZeitgeistMovie.com in red.

This is Horus. He is the Sun God of Egypt of around 3000 BC.

Horus is not (simply) the sun god, although that became one of his forms. Horus in ancient Egypt was the falcon god whose name means the high, far-off, or distant one. Re (or Ra) was the sun god who came to be identified with the mid-day (or noon) sun. Horus was also the sky god, whose good or sound eye was the sun, and injured eye the moon.

He is the sun, anthropomorphized, and his life is a series of allegorical myths involving the sun's movement in the sky.

He is not the sun, but came to be identified with the position of the rising sun (the sun rises in the east), in such Greek forms as Harakhti = "Horus of the horizon"; and Harmachis (-khis) = "Horus in the horizon." Later he was associated with the sun-god Re and known as Re-Harakhti. Atum was the god of the setting sun.

From the ancient hieroglyphics in Egypt, we know much about this solar messiah. For instance, Horus, being the sun, or the light, had an enemy known as Set and Set was the personification of the darkness or night.

It is hieroglyphs, not hieroglyphics. Hieroglyphic is an adjective (e.g. hieroglyphic writings). The term "messiah" comes from the Hebrew Moshiach for "Anointed One." It is a Judaeo-Christian concept; it does not go back to ancient Egypt. Set (or Seth) was Horus' brother, or in other versions, his uncle. In one tradition of the Egyptian myth, Seth was Horus' rival (and usurper of Egypt's throne), in others, his balance (a bipolar, balanced embodiment of kingship). As mentioned above: since the beginning of the 20th century in Egyptological research, much debate has ensued over whether the struggle between Horus and Seth was primarily historical/geo-political, or cosmic/symbolic. When the full Osiris complex became visible, Seth appears as the murderer of Osiris and would-be killer of the child Horus.

Hierglyphs for Egyptian sun god Ra (Re), creator of the universe Ra (Re) was the sun god and creator of the universe
Hierglyphs for Egyptian god Osiris, king of the underworld (dead) Osiris was the king of the underworld (the dead), wife of Isis, and father of Horus
Hierglyphs for Egyptian goddess Isis (Aset), sister/wife of Osiris, mother of Horus Isis was the sister and wife of Osiris, and mother of Horus
Hierglyphs for Seth, brother and killer of Osiris, uncle/brother of Horus Seth was brother and killer of Osiris
Hierglyphs for the Egyptian Falcon-god Horus or Har, lord of the sky Horus, represented by the Falcon symbol, was the son of Osiris and Isis
Hierglyphs for Ra-Harakhti or Harakhti, "Horus of the two horizons" Ra-Harakhti (Re-Harakhti) or simply Harakhti is "Horus of the two horizons"
See Jim Loy's Egyptian Gods page for the Hierglyphs and names of all the major gods of Egypt.  

And, metaphorically speaking, every morning Horus would win the battle against Set - while in the evening, Set would conquer Horus and send him into the underworld. It is important to note that "dark vs. light" or "good vs. evil" is one of the most ubiquitous mythological dualities ever known and is still expressed on many levels to this day.

Horus was never sent to the underworld. That was Osiris who was killed and became lord of the underworld (i.e. the dead), while Horus was king of the living. In one version of the myth, Horus battles with Seth over an 80 year period, the earth-god Geb in a judgment awards the whole inheritance of Egypt to Horus, and Horus then becomes ruler of Egypt. From then on, the dead Egyptian king becomes an "Osiris", and his successor the living king is a "Horus." That is the primary meaning of the Horus-Seth battle myth. In the Egyptian Coffin Texts (Spell 148, quoted above), Horus appears as a falcon who soars up into the sky beyond the flight of the original bird-soul, beyond the stars and all the divinities of olden time whose souls inhabit the constellations. In so doing he brings back light and the assurance of a new day, thus subduing Seth, who personifies the terrors of darkness and death.

Broadly speaking, the story of Horus is as follows: Horus was born on December 25th

Wrong. The Persian/Roman god Mithras came to be seen as born on that date, as did Jesus later in the early Church. The December 25th date is not found in the Gospels or the New Testament. It was a later adoption by the Catholic Church: "In the first half of the fourth century AD the worship of the Sol Invictus was the last great pagan cult the Church had to conquer, and it did so in part with the establishment of Christmas...At the head of the Deposition Martyrum of the so-called Roman Chronograph of 354 AD (the Philocalian Calendar) there is listed the natus Christus in Betleem Judaeae ('the birth of Christ in Bethlehem of Judea') as being celebrated on December 25. The Deposition was originally composed in 336 AD, so Christmas dates back at least that far." (See "Santa or Satan: Reply to a Funny Fundy")

The date of the birth of Horus according to some online sources is during the Egyptian month of Khoiak (which corresponds to our November month). The Egyptian calendar had three seasons, each four months and 30 days/month. The season of Akhet is months (in Greek) Thot, Phaophi, Athyr, Khoiak; the season of Peret (or Winter) is months (in Greek) Tybi, Mekhir, Phamenoth, Pharmouthi; the season of Chemou (or Summer) is months (in Greek) Pakhon, Payni, Epiph, Mesorę. See online sources: Egyptian Festival Calender ; Egyptian calendar months and seasons ; Grand Festivals ; Festival Rituals. We also know where Horus was supposedly born (at Khemmis or Chemmis in the Nile Delta of northern Upper Egypt).

of the virgin Isis-Meri.

Wrong again. Her name was simply Isis (in Greek). Her true Egyptian name is transliterated simply A-s-e-t or 3st (all woman names in Egyptian end with the "t"). Her name (Aset) means "seat" or "throne" (Oxford Encyclopedia, vol 2, "Isis" p. 188) and "the goddess's name is written in hieroglyphs with a sign that represents a throne, indicating the crucial role that she plays in the transmission of the kingship of Egypt" (Hart, Routledge Dictionary, "Isis" p. 80).

Hierglyphs for Egyptian goddess Isis (Aset), sister/wife of Osiris, mother of Horus

And she definitely was not a virgin when she conceived Horus with the revivified Osiris, if these words mean anything: "[Osiris was] revived enough to have an erection and impregnate his wife" (Lesko, p. 162); "After having sexual intercourse..." (Dunand / Zivie-Coche, p. 39); "revivified the sexual member of Osiris and became pregnant by him" (Richard Wilkinson, p. 146); "revive the sexual powers of Osiris" (Pinch, p. 80).

A virgin birth, or more properly, a virginal conception, is by definition non-sexual.

His birth was accompanied by a star in the east 

No evidence any stars are mentioned in the birth of Horus.

which in turn, three kings followed to locate and adorn the new-born savior 

There are no "three kings" in the birth of Horus, and there are no "three kings" in the Bible either. Read Matthew 2 for yourself:

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.'" (Matthew 2:1-2 KJV)

They are not called "kings" but "wise men" -- and they are not three in number, we don't know how many there were. Three gifts are later mentioned (gold, frankincense, myrrh) in verse 11, and these were equated with the wise men. Perhaps we are thinking of the Christmas carol "We three kings of Orient are...." ? Nice tune and lyrics, but it's always best to cross-check with the biblical text.

At the age of 12, he was a prodigal child teacher

There is a form known as "Horus the Child" but he wasn't a prodigal teacher. He was kept hidden away by his mother, until he was ready to be ruler of Egypt. The young god was hidden in the papyrus marshes, hence his epithet Har-hery-wadj or "Horus who is upon his papyrus plants."

and at the age of 30 he was baptized by a figure known as Anup and thus began his ministry

No evidence of any baptism for Horus, and no evidence of any "ministry" of Horus. Anubis (or Anup or Anpu) means Royal Child, and is usually depicted as jackal-headed or a wild dog-headed man, or a reclining black jackal. Anubis was the great protector god, guiding the soul through the underworld. He was also the Lord of embalming, and through this is connected with incense and perfumery. No baptism here. (See The Jackal Headed God or Egyptian Animal Gods).

Horus had 12 disciples he traveled about with

Horus had NO 12 disciples he traveled with: remember he became ruler of Egypt after a long battle with Seth. Perhaps you could call all the subjects in Egypt his "disciples" (which means followers).

There were technically the "Followers of Horus [son of Isis]" called the Shemsu Heru, mentioned in the Liturgy of Funeral Offerings and purification ceremony. These were a group of beings who were closely connected with Osiris, and having "followed" him in this world they passed after him into the Other World (of the dead), where they became his ministrants and messengers. There were also followers (a different group) of Horus the Elder called the Mesentiu who are "workers in metal" or blacksmiths (see The Liturgy of Funeral Offerings, the fourth ceremony, commentary by Budge).

performing miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water

There are some healing "miracles" or magic associated with Horus, but this is with Horus the Child, not Horus the Elder or his adult forms. In the Late Dynastic cippi objects, Harpokrates (Horus-the-child) acts as an amuletic force warding off dangerous creatures such as crocodiles, serpents, and other noxious animals, etc. "Horus-on-the-Crocodiles" was a common manifestation of the importance of Horus in healing ritual. The healing of Horus from scorpian stings by Isis provided the reason for the production of the cippi of Horus and his role in healing. The power of this healing seems to come from his mother, Isis, who was indeed the "goddess of immense magical power" (Hart, Routledge Dictionary, "Isis" p. 79ff).

Horus was known by many gestural names such as The Truth, The Light, God's Annointed Son, The Good Shepherd, The Lamb of God, and many others

Wrong, no evidence for these names. The "forms" of the Horus-god are precisely what I listed above, under these categories: Horus the Child (healing / magical titles such as "Horus-on-the-Crocodiles"); Horus as son of Isis and Osiris ("pillar of his mother"; "savior of his father"); and Horus as a sun-god ("lord of the sky"; god "of the east"; Horus of / in "the horizon"; and later associated with Re).

After being betrayed by Typhon, Horus was crucified, buried for 3 days, and thus, resurrected.

Typhon is also known as Seth, his rival brother (or uncle). Horus was NOT crucified, was NOT buried for 3 days, and thus, was NOT resurrected. Your sources are wrong. In some versions of his battle with Seth, Horus had one or both of his eyes injured, but he was not killed. It was his father Osiris who was killed, dismembered, reconstituted, and revived by Isis, his magical mother.

These attributes of Horus, whether original or not, seem to permeate in many cultures of the world, for many other gods are found to have the same general mythological structure

No, they do not. They are unique to Jesus Christ (crucifixion, burial, bodily resurrection). I have demolished these claims in my long, detailed, documented article "Evidence for Jesus and Parallel Pagan 'Crucified Saviors' Examined."

Attis of Phyrigia, born of the virgin Nana on December 25th, crucified, placed in a tomb and after 3 days, was resurrected.

Wrong. See my section on Attis for the facts.

Krishna of India, born of the virgin Devaki with a star in the east signaling his coming, performed miracles with his disciples, and upon his death was resurrected.

There is some magic and a resurrection/ascension associated with Krishna. Otherwise, wrong.

Dionysus of Greece, born of a virgin on December 25th, was a traveling teacher who performed miracles such as turning water into wine, he was referred to as the "King of Kings," "God's Only Begotten Son," "The Alpha and Omega," and many others, and upon his death, he was resurrected.

Again, wrong. See my section on Dionysos for the facts.

Mithra of Persia, born of a virgin on December 25th, he had 12 disciples and performed miracles, and upon his death was buried for 3 days and thus resurrected, he was also referred to as "The Truth," "The Light," and many others. Interestingly, the sacred day of worship of Mithra was Sunday.

Wrong. See my section on Mithras for the facts.

The fact of the matter is there are numerous saviors, from different periods, from all over the world, which subscribe to these general characteristics.

The fact of the matter is, your "sources" are lying to you. Get some better sources. Go to a university library. Do some research. It's not really that hard.

The question remains: why these attributes, why the virgin birth on December 25th, why dead for three days and the inevitable resurrection, why 12 disciples or followers?

No questions remain. These are unique to Jesus Christ. See my article, especially the last section "Christianity vs. Pagan 'Mystery' Religions."

Furthermore, the character of Jesus, a literary and astrological hybrid, is most explicitly a plagiarization of the Egyptian Sun-god Horus.

Totally wrong and demolished above. We'll get to some of the "astrology" material below.

For example, inscribed about 3500 years, on the walls of the Temple of Luxor in Egypt are images of the enunciation, the immaculate conception, the birth, and the adoration of Horus. The images begin with Thaw announcing to the virgin Isis that she will conceive Horus, then Nef the holy ghost impregnating the virgin, and then the virgin birth and the adoration. This is exactly the story of Jesus' miracle conception.

The "enunciation" should be the "Annunciation" (March 25 is the feast day in Catholic liturgical calendars), and "immaculate conception" refers to the Catholic teaching about Mary's conception without Original Sin (December 8 is the feast day), not to a virginal conception. Just to be clear: Mary's own conception and birth from her mother was normal in the biological sense; it was Jesus who was virginally conceived and virgin born (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38).

Luxor birth inscription of King Amunothph III

Skeptic and historian Richard Carrier makes a couple points about the Egyptian Luxor birth inscription which I will summarize:

  • the Luxor inscription does not depict impregnation by a spirit, but involves very real sex
  • the woman involved is not Isis (e.g. Horus' mother) but the mythical Queen of Egypt in an archetypal sense
  • Panel 4: (often cited as key) describes the god Amun jumping into bed with the human Queen on her wedding night
  • Amun's buddy Thoth stands by the bed to watch, and after Amun "does everything he wished with her" she and Amun engage in some divine pillow talk
  • Amun tells her that she is impregnated and will bear his son, Amenophis (or "Amun is loved [or satisfied]")
  • Amun, not Thoth, announces the conception; and Kneph only forms the fetus and the soul and unites them, he does not impregnate the Queen
  • Panel 8: the ankh touched to the Queen's nose, does not depict an impregnation since she is already pregnant and "showing"
  • Rather, it is the birth that is announced, not the conception; Kneph proceeds to impart the god's soul into the divine fetus using the ankh
  • Panel 9: depicts the birth
  • the adoration scene only involves important state officials (or perhaps lesser divinities), not kings or "magi"
  • the cycle depicted at Luxor does not match up in the same sequence with the Christian narrative: the annunciation follows the conception in the Egyptian cycle (but in the same panel)
  • the actual Luxor sequence is conception and annunciation in panel 4, gestation and quickening in panel 8 (also a second speech of assurance), birth in panel 9, and then in panels 9 onward an adoration, and a confirmation
  • this type of sequence is found throughout Greek and Roman mythology, so Christians need not have gotten the idea from Egypt

In fact, the literary similarities between the Egyptian religion and the Christian religion are staggering.

They are not, since there are virtually NO similarities. A blogger (Consigliere) posting on an atheist site concludes in his analysis "Ending the Myth of Horus" :

"....I find the comparison between Horus and Jesus to consist of the following: they were of royal descent, they allegedly worked miracles and there were murder plots against them."

I concur with these, although the healing miracles are associated with Horus-the-Child. Horus was (like Jesus) a "son of God" since he was son of Isis and Osiris, and he was (like Jesus) a lord and a king, as Jesus was "King of Kings" and "Lord of Lords" (book of Revelation).


Zeitgeist's Bogus Sources

The "sources" used for Zeitgeist are outdated, unreliable, non-academic, non-scholarly, speculative, and/or conspiracy-laden tomes written by folks who are not trained in biblical scholarship, historical Jesus studies, Egyptology, or related fields, and/or rely on other non-scholarly, outdated, pseudo-historical books, and are therefore filled with errors:

  • Acharya S, Suns of God and The Christ Conspiracy;
  • Gerald Massey, The Historical Jesus and Mythical Christ (orig c. 1900) and Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World (orig 1907)
  • Thomas Doane, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions (orig 1882)
  • James Frazer, The Golden Bough (1st ed 1890; 2nd ed 1900; 3rd ed in 12 volumes, 1906-1915)
  • Freke and Gandy, The Jesus Mysteries

Another two that were left out but argue along the same lines are Kersey Graves, The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors (orig 1875) and Tom Harpur, The Pagan Christ (2004). John Jackson's Christianity Before Christ (1985) was also used, but he simply copies and quotes Massey, Kuhn, Churchward, Graves, and other pseudo-scholarship.

Speaking of Tom Harpur's book -- which makes very similar claims to the "Zeitgeist" movie -- see the critical article published online at George Mason Univ's History News Network [also available at CanadianChristianity.com] titled "The Leading Religion Writer in Canada ... Does He Know What He's Talking About?" by W. Ward Gasque 8/9/2004 -- 

"According to Harpur, there is no evidence that Jesus of Nazareth ever lived. He claims that virtually all of the details of the life and teachings of Jesus have their counterpart in Egyptian religious ideas. He does not quote any contemporary Egyptologist or recognized academic authority on world religions nor appeal to any of the standard reference books in Egyptology or to any primary sources. Rather, he is entirely dependent on the work of [Alvin Boyd] Kuhn [1880-1963] (and [Godfrey] Higgins [1771-1834] & [Gerald] Massey [1828-1907])."

Gasque sent an email to "twenty leading Egyptologists -- in Canada, USA, UK, Australia, Germany, and Austria" in order to examine the following claims:

  • That the name of Jesus was derived from the Egyptian “Iusa,” which means "the coming divine Son who heals or saves"
  • That the god Horus is "an Egyptian Christos, or Christ....He and his mother, Isis, were the forerunners of the Christian Madonna and Child, and together they constituted a leading image in Egyptian religion for millennia prior to the Gospels."
  • That Horus also "had a virgin birth, and that in one of his roles, he was 'a fisher of men with twelve followers.' "
  • That "the letters KRST appear on Egyptian mummy coffins many centuries BCE, and....this word, when the vowels are filled in, is really Karast or Krist, signifying Christ."
  • That the doctrine of the incarnation "is in fact the oldest, most universal mythos known to religion. It was current in the Osirian religion in Egypt at least four thousand years BCE."

What Gasque found in response is the following, also put in bullet points:

  • Professor Kenneth A. Kitchen of the University of Liverpool pointed out that not one of these men (Kuhn, Higgins, or Massey) is mentioned in M. L. Bierbrier's Who Was Who in Egyptology (3rd ed, 1995), nor is any of their works listed in Ida B. Pratt's very extensive bibliography on Ancient Egypt.
  • Only one of the ten experts who responded to my questions had ever heard of Kuhn, Higgins or Massey.
  • The responding scholars were unanimous in dismissing the suggested etymologies for Jesus and Christ.
  • Ron Leprohan, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Toronto, pointed out that while "sa" means "son" in ancient Egyptian and "iu" means "to come," but Kuhn / Harpur have the syntax all wrong.
  • In any event, the name "Iusa" simply does not exist in Egyptian. The name "Jesus" is Greek from a universally recognized west Semitic name (“Jeshu’a”), borne not merely by the central figure in the New Testament but also by many other people in the first century.
  • There is no evidence for the idea that Horus was virgin born.
  • There is no evidence for the idea that Horus was "a fisher of men" or that his followers (the King’s officials were called "Followers of Horus") were ever twelve in number.
  • KRST is the word for "burial" ("coffin" is written "KRSW"), but there is no evidence whatsoever to link this with the Greek title "Christos" or Hebrew "Mashiah."
  • There is no mention of Osiris in Egyptian texts until about 2350 BC, so Harpur’s reference to the origins of Osirian religion is off by more than a millennium and a half.
  • Elsewhere Harpur refers to "Jesus in Egyptian lore as early as 18,000 BCE" and he quotes Kuhn as claiming that "the Jesus who stands as the founder of Christianity was at least 10,000 years of age." In fact, the earliest extant writing that we have dates from about 3200 BCE.
  • Kuhn / Harper’s redefinition of "incarnation" and rooting this in Egyptian religion is regarded as bogus by all of the Egyptologists with whom I have consulted.
  • According to one: "Only the pharaoh was believed to have a divine aspect, the divine power of kingship, incarnated in the human being currently serving as the king. No other Egyptians ever believed they possessed even 'a little bit of the divine'."
  • Virtually none of the alleged evidence for the views put forward in The Pagan Christ is documented by reference to original sources; the notes refer mainly to Kuhn, Higgins, Massey, or some other long-out-of-date work.

W. Ward Gasque holds a Ph.D. from Manchester University (UK). A graduate of Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Leadership (1993), he is President of the Pacific Association for Theological Studies.

Evangelical biblical scholar Ben Witherington in a critique of the "Zeitgeist" movie writes on the sources used by the filmmakers:

"What do we notice about this list of sources? Not a single one of these authors and sources are experts in the Bible, Biblical history, the Ancient Near East, Egyptology, or any of the cognate fields. Many of these sources are quite old, and the arguments they present have long since been shown to be weak....The point of my listing these sources is that they are not reliable sources of information about the origins of Christianity, Judaism, or much of anything else of relevance to this discussion." (Ben Witherington, from The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie')


Astro-Theology and the Bible

Here are some bullet points from Dr. Witherington's blog article on the movie's Egyptian, biblical, and "astrological" (or "astro-theology") arguments and errors:

  • Egyptian thought was polytheistic and despised by early Jews; what is discussed in the Book of the Dead and elsewhere in Egyptian literature is an afterlife in another world, not a coming back to this one in the same body;
  • there is no hint of any direct influence of Egyptian religion per se, in the OT or NT; you will not be finding seminars at the national SBL meeting on how Zoroastrian religion and Egyptian religion explains all we need to know about the origins of Biblical religion; what you can find in the Bible is the deconstruction of other culture's myths, or better the de-mythologizing of such material;
  • George Earnest Wright of Harvard used to stress that Jews were not on the whole a myth-making people; they grounded their stories in history, particularly, salvation history; when they used mythological images (like e.g. the image of the great sea monster Leviathan) they used them in 
    historical ways for historical purposes (e.g. Revelation 12);
  • the filmmakers have not bothered to consult any expert commentators on the Hebrew or Greek texts of the Bible; they simply cite the King James Version;
  • it is based on shabby "research" and actually no historical understanding about Jesus and the origins of Christianity;
  • it is partially true that cultures have always personified and anthropomorphized the sun and stars, but it certainly isn't an explanation for the origins of Hebrew religion, which critiqued sun- and moon-god worship, denied there were multiple deities in the heavens, and ridiculed the notion that stars 
    were gods who controlled one's fate; in the OT you will notice that the sun and moon are seen as controlled by Yahweh;
  • when the subject of "sons of God" and the one true God does come up, the phrase in Genesis 6 refers to fallen angels who mate with human women; later in the OT it refers to the king, and finally to the last great king -- the messiah; there is nothing whatsoever in any of this that is remotely close to the idea of sun worship, or seeing the sun itself as a deity;
  • there is no reason to associate the word "sun" with the word "son," and simply blending together all ideas about both in antiquity, a syncretistic thinking, is at the heart of this film, and leads to massive distortions of religious history;
  • the analysis of Egyptian mythology in the film has very few things right; it gets most of the story of Horus wrong; claims the Horus myth says he was born on Dec 25th, born of a virgin or virginal conception, star in the east, worshipped by kings, was a teacher by 12; this disinformation is refuted by analysis of the proper sources (e.g. see my bibliography below).
  • the film is guilty not only of falsely blending together various different religions which developed largely regionally and independently of each other, it falsifies the claims made in the Egyptian myths; ironically it does a disservice to all religions;
  • other egregious errors in his presentation of Horus: was not called the lamb of God, was not crucified and resurrected, even in the myth;
  • the story of Horus is of course the story of the rebirth of the sun in the east, and is based on the cycles of nature, not on any historical claims at all, unlike the story of Jesus; the Horus story does not include many of the elements the film claims it does;
  • it is not true that it was believed that all these deities were born on Dec 25th; in any case the Bible never claims or suggests Jesus was born on such a date;
  • Nor is it true that all these stories have basically the same elements and pattern; the film is an equal opportunity distorter of world religions in general;
  • the film reads the story of Jesus back into these other mythological stories, and then claims the story of Jesus comes from these other stories; this is bad history and bad religious analysis (also called circular reasoning);
  • to my knowledge there is no story that dates from before the time of Jesus that has most of the specific elements listed as distinguishing the Jesus story: virginal conception, crucifixion, and bodily resurrection of a divine Son of God;
  • the Hebrews already long since had a religion when they went to Egypt both in the time of Joseph and in the time of Moses; experts in ancient Hebrew religion will tell you (e.g. Ancient Israel by Roland DeVaux) that the differences between a monotheistic or henotheistic religion that is grounded in historical persons and actions, and the Egyptian mythology which is grounded in the cycles of nature, the rising and setting of the sun, the motions of the stars, are considerable;
  • see for example the ancient poem in Psalm 8 -- the sun, moon, and stars are all seen as the works of God's fingers, like a child molding things out of playdough; the Biblical God is a God of creation, one who has made all things that exist; in that same psalm we see that human beings are the crown of God's creation, created in God's image;
  • notice the anti-anthropomorphic theology here: God is not the sun, he does not have a son that is the sun, indeed creation is simply something that the one true God has made; the important part is this desacralizes nature; Nature is not a god or gods, it is not divine (Romans 1:20-25), and neither are human beings as human beings.
  • this Judaeo-Christian idea about the world and its creatures is the basis of modern science, which assumes that creation is not God, and therefore is not defiled by inquiry, scientific examination, experiment, etc; the attempt to portray Biblical religion as anti-science, knows neither the origins of Biblical religion nor the origins of modern science;
  • the scholarly work on the star in the east, if it is historical, centers on the conjunction of planets, specifically Jupiter and Venus (e.g. the Nativity); it does not center on Sirius, the dog star; Bethlehem certainly does mean the "house of bread" but it has nothing to do with the constellation Virgo, which indeed is short for virgin; it has to do with this region being fertile enough to support both grass and wheat -- hence shepherds and farmers (i.e. The "Fertile Crescent" along the Nile); Jesus' mother's name is Miryam -- from the OT sister of Moses, Miriam. Maria or Mary is simply our anglicized way of referring to that name;
  • the attempt to explain the origins of the story of the death and resurrrection of Jesus on the basis of the Winter Solstice and what happens on Dec 22-25 is laughable; the Gospels are clear that Jesus was not in the tomb for three whole days, only parts of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (he rose "on the third day"); if an attempt was made by the Evangelists to conform this to some astrological phenomena or pattern, this is inexplicable;
  • there is no association in the NT of either the death or the resurrection of Jesus with the Winter Solstice or what happens then; the story of Jesus' birth, death and resurrection are not told in light of such thinking at all; indeed the notion of bodily resurrection had long existed in Judaism before the time of Jesus (see e.g. N.T. Wright's Resurrection of the Son of God), and was not concocted in light of astrology or any other nature religion;
  • nature religions are grounded in the cycle of the seasons, and focus on fertility gods; this is very different from religions based on history and revelation or prophecy; the syncretism of the film does not allow that there are different types of world religions, with differing origins;
  • the twelve disciples do not represent the 12 constellations of the Zodiac; there was this little entity called the 12 tribes of Israel, going back to Jacob and his 12 sons; those stories in Genesis are not astrological in character at all, but rather are explanations of a historical origins of a people; the 12 disciples are chosen by Jesus (Matthew 10), not because he was a stargazer, but because he was attempting to reform, and indeed re-form Israel;
  • the twelve disciples represent the 12 tribes of Israel, and Jesus promised that at the eschaton they will be sitting on 12 thrones, judging those 12 tribes; once more, this is historical and eschatological thinking, not astrological thinking, and the claim that the Bible has more to do with astrology than anything else, can only be called a category mistake;
  • clearly the filmmakers have done no work whatsoever in the study of the various genre of Biblical literature which they could have gotten from any standard introduction to the Bible, even those written by agnostics and skeptics;
  • the origins of the symbol of the cross is not derived from the cross imposed on the circle of the 12 astrological signs of the Zodiac; consider the most basic ancient zodiac pattern we have, e.g. the floor of the synagogue at Sepphoris; Jews, like every other group of agrarian peoples were interested in the weather and the seasons. Do we find a cross pattern? No. The filmmakers have done no first hand historical work on ancient Zodiac symbols, they have simply believed the pablum imbibed from various out-dated, and inaccurate sources;
  • the origin of the symbol of the cross of course derives from the Roman practice of crucifixion, not from some supposed astrological pattern; Jesus died in 30 AD on a cross outside of Jerusalem, a victim of Roman injustice as even the Romans admitted;
  • Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviormuch is made about how in 1 AD a new "age" or astrological cycle begins, after the age of the Ram; however, Jesus was born somewhere between 2-6 BC, not in 1 AD; and we know this because Jesus was born while Herod the Great was still king of the Holy land, and the records are clear that Herod died about 2 BC; ergo: Jesus had to be born before then;
  • Jesus' birth certainly did not usher in the age of Pisces or the fish; the fish symbol comes into Christianity from the gematric value of the Greek word ICHTHUS -- with each letter standing for a word, in this case Insous, Christos, Theos, Huios and Soter -- Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior.
  • Does Moses represent the new age of Ares? Nope. Was the golden calf an attempt to worship Taurus the bull constellation? Probably not. Do Jews blow a ram's horn because Moses threw his tablets down in disgust at the worship of Taurus and inaugurated the age of  the Ram? I am sure Moses would be surprised to hear it.
  • The viewers of such a film in a Jesus-haunted culture which is Biblically illiterate need to check everything carefully (cf. 1 Thess 5:21; 1 Peter 3:15), especially outlandish historical and religious claims.

Ben Witherington III is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. A graduate of UNC, Chapel Hill, he went on to receive the M. Div. degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Durham in England. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies.

The author of more than thirty books, including The Brother of Jesus, What Have They Done with Jesus?, and The Living Word of God: Rethinking the Theology of the Bible, he has twice won the Christianity Today award for one of the best biblical studies books of the year, and he has presented seminars for churches, colleges, and biblical meetings not only in the United States but also in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Witherington writes for many church and scholarly publications, is a regular contributor to Christianity Today and Beliefnet.com, and has been featured widely in the national media.


The Celtic Cross of IrelandThe Celtic or Irish Cross

"This is not a symbol of Christianity, it is a pagan adaptation of the cross of the zodiac." -- from Zeitgeist movie [picture of the cross similar to the right]

See Christian Crosses

Response: This is simply the Celtic cross, characteristic symbol of Celtic Christianity, forming a major part of Celtic art. It is also referred to as the high cross, Irish Cross, or the Cross of Iona (an isle in Scotland).

There are many representations of the Christian cross:

  1. the Latin cross (from the 2nd-3rd century AD);
  2. the Greek cross;
  3. the cross of Calvary or Graded Cross;
  4. the Celtic cross distinguished by the circle and intricate designs;
  5. the Russian Orthodox cross consists of three bars, the lowest bar slanted, the top bar represents "INRI" sign placed over Jesus' head;
  6. the papal cross is the official symbol of the papacy, the three bars of the cross most likely represent the three realms of the Pope's authority;
  7. the baptismal cross has eight points, symbolizing regeneration, formed by combining the Greek cross with the Greek letter chi (X), the first letter of "Christ" in Greek;
  8. the budded cross, its trefoils represent the Trinity;
  9. the conqueror's or victor's cross is another Greek cross;
  10. the triumphant cross with orb represents Christ's reign over the world;
  11. an inverted cross is the cross of St. Peter who according to tradition was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die the same way as Christ.
[1]

the Latin cross (from the 2nd-3rd century AD)

[2]

the Greek cross

 

[3]

the Graded Cross

[4]

the Celtic or Irish cross

[5]

the Russian Orthodox cross

[6]

the papal cross is the official symbol of the papacy

[7]

the baptismal cross

[8]

the budded cross

[9]

the conqueror's or victor's cross

[10]

the triumphant cross

[11]

an inverted cross is the cross of St. Peter who according to tradition was crucified upside down

Do all of these too come from Egyptian mythology or paganism? If so, then what's the astrological or zodiac connection with these?

From www.CeltArts.com article on "Is the Celtic Cross a Pagan Symbol?"

"All the historical examples of actual 'Celtic Crosses' are from indisputably Christian contexts. The Aberlemno Stone in Angus, the great High Crosses at Clonmacnoise, Monasterboise, Kells, Iona and many other medieval monastic sites are all clearly made in Christian times, under Christian patronage and according to conventional Christian iconography." (article by Stephen Walker)

The most ancient Celtic or Irish crosses date from the 7th century AD forward. Even admitting a "pagan connection" in the symbols, this adoption by the Church would have nothing to do with the Catholic Christianity founded by Jesus Christ and His apostles in the first century, and the Christian faith passed on (2 Thess 2:15; 2 Timothy 2:2; Jude 3) to their immediate successor bishops of the Church. The cross is a later Christian symbol representing the first-century crucifixion of Jesus, an historical and saving event described in detail in all four 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). This has nothing to do with astrology ("astro-theology") or the zodiac.


SOURCES

Scholarly Books on Egyptian Gods and Egyptian Religion:

  • The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian gods and goddesses by George Hart (Routledge, 2005)
  • Dictionary of Ancient Egypt edited by Toby Wilkinson (Thames & Hudson, 2005)
  • Gods and Men in Egypt, 3000 BCE to 395 CE by F. Dunand and C. Zivie-Coche (Cornell Univ Press, 2004)
  • The Complete gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt by Richard H. Wilkinson (Thames & Hudson, 2003)
  • Handbook of Egyptian Mythology by Geraldine Pinch (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2002)
  • The Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to Egyptian Religion edited by Donald B. Redford (Oxford Univ Press, 2002)
  • The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt edited by Margaret Bunson (Oxford: Facts of File, 1991, 2002 revised)
  • The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt edited by Donald B. Redford (Oxford University Press, 2001)
  • The gods of Egypt by Claude Traunecker, trans by David Lorton (Cornell University Press, 2001)
  • Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt by Jan Assmann, trans by David Lorton (Cornell Univ Press, 2001)
  • The Great Goddesses of Egypt by Barbara S. Lesko (Univ of OK Press, 1999)
  • Gods, Priests, and Men: Studies in the Religion of Pharaonic Egypt by Aylward M. Blackman, compiled/edited by Alan B. Lloyd (Kegan Paul Intl, 1998)
  • Egyptian Religion by Siegfried Morenz, trans by Ann E. Keep (Cornell Univ Press, 1992, orig 1960)
  • The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Egypt: an illustrated history by Manfred Lurker, trans by Barbard Cumming (Thames and Hudson, 1980)
  • Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt by R.T. Rundle Clark (Thames & Hudson, paperback 1978, 1993)
  • The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts in 3 volumes, edited by R.O. Faulkner (Aris and Phillips, 1973, 1978)
  • The gods of the Egyptians by E. A. Wallis Budge (Dover Publications, 1969), 2 volumes

Non-Scholarly, Pseudo-historical, Unreliable Books on "Pagan Parallel" Conspiracy Theories of Religion:

  • Bible myths and their parallels in other religions, being a comparison of the Old and New Testament myths and miracles with those of heathen nations of antiquity, considering also their origin and meaning by Thomas William Doane (University Books, 1971, orig 1882)
  • The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors, or Christianity Before Christ by Kersey Graves (Truth Seeker Company, 1960 sixth edition, also Adventures Unlimited Press, 2001, orig 1875)
  • The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop (Loizeaux Brothers, 1959, orig 1916)
  • The Jesus Mysteries: Was the 'Original Jesus' a Pagan God? by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy (Three Rivers Press, 1999)
  • The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Acharya S (Adventures Unlimited Press, 1999)
  • The Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur (Walker and Company, 2004)

SEE ALSO

by PhilVaz -- completed Easter Sunday (March 23) 2008 -- He is Risen!


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