Well, Thanksgiving has barely passed and already the Jesus Mythicists are trotting out what seems to be their current favorite “older pagan god that proves the Gospels are just rehashed myths” character Horus yet again. The sad thing is that the whole Horus as a proto-Jesus myth argument has been so thoroughly refuted for so many years, yet it still remains popular with the mythicists. Even so, once you look at it carefully, it is so ridiculous that it would be hard to laugh at it except for the poor souls who are so deceived by it. But first, a light-hearted overview of the argument compliments of Lutheran Satire:
Since I’ve already been confronted with this atrocity multiple times in the last couple of weeks, this is a good time to give you all some facts about the Horus disproves Jesus nonsense. I’ll start with a short summary and history of the argument, and then the best refutation of it.
So, here’s the basic premise: There is a god who was
* Born of a virgin on Dec. 25th
* Performed miracles such as walking on water, healing the sick, etc.
* Had 12 disciples
* Was crucified
* Rose from the dead after 3 days
… and it wasn’t Jesus. It was the Egyptian god Horus, who predated Jesus of Nazareth by thousands of years. Therefore, Jesus was nothing more than a recycled pagan myth, certainly wasn’t God, and may not have existed at all.
Popularized by the films Zeitgiest and Religulous, this has been trotted out every Christmas and Easter for quite a few years now, and inexplicably (to me, at least) doesn’t seem to be waning in popularity even though, to quote another fable, “the emperor has no clothes”.
First of all, the source citations for the premise are virtually nonexistent. Religulous cites not sources at all, and the cited sources from Zeitgiest and mythicists popular on Youtube and the lecture circuit cite either each other or Gerald Massey. There is no reference to primary source material on Horus at all!
But wait, doesn’t Massey us primary sources? The definitive answer to that question is,”not in any scholarly or factual way, if at all”.
Let me explain: Gerald Massey was a 19th century poet, amateur Egyptologist, Socialist (follower of Marx), and Spiritualist. His most well known and referenced books by mythicists is Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World and The Natural Genesis. Both promote the Horus as the basis of Jesus story.
The problem with Massey is that his citations are not only sparse, but sloppy to the point that his source material cannot be determined. Not only that, but his ‘translations’ of the primary sources he does adequately cite are disputed by EVERY contemporary professional as well as modern Egyptologist that have examined the source documents.
Thus, since Massey does not point to verified primary (or, in the vast majority of citations, secondary) sources for his assertions, to cite Massey as a source is to give no source other than Massey’s imagination!
The only way to verify whether it is valid or not is to examine the primary sources relating to Horus from the earliest writings up to the time of Christ.
What we find is that although there were various accounts of the Horus story throughout ancient Egyptian history, and even regional variations of the mythology of Horus, NONE of them contain any of the points given above save one: he was said to have performed miracles.
* Horus is not said to be born of a virgin in any of the accounts. There are slight variations, but the basic story is that his mother was impregnated by the (mostly) reassembled body of his father Osiris. His birthdate is fixed on different days by various accounts, usually around the solstice.
* Horus is said to have performed various miracles, but this is a common attribution of almost any deity. It is inconsequential in establishing a correlation on in and of itself.
* In the few accounts where the number of disciples or followers Horus had is mentioned, the number given varies, with four the most common. NONE of the accounts give the number 12.
* Not only do no sources prior to Massey refer to Horus as being crucified, that form of execution originated in Persia, and was not practiced in Egypt until it fell under Roman rule.
* Horus is not, in the primary sources, ever depicted as having been resurrected from the dead as he is never said to have died at all.
So when you see this kind of thing on the internet or television, or it is trotted out by skeptics or mockers you’re talking to, ask yourself (and them, gently) what their sources are and whether they have any idea what the actual hieroglyphic documents we have available say.
Then, gently point out that just because something similar is written about prior to an event doesn’t necessarily imply, much less prove, that the event in question didn’t happen. One of my favorite examples is the popular list of similarities between presidents Lincoln and Kennedy. Some of the ‘facts’ in the list are not true (unlike the Horus list in which MOST are fanciful), and most of the rest are either clear coincidence (like dates) or stated so broadly that they could apply to the majority of U.S. Presidents.
So, are we then to conclude that the stories about Abraham Lincoln prove that John Kennedy did not exist? I don’t think so.
Here are some additional resources for your viewing and reading pleasure:
The Wikipedia biography of Gerald Massey is the most balanced I could find. Most paint him as either a spiritual and historical genius or a hopelessly deluded nutcase. There doesn’t seem to be any other objective bios of him out there.
The Straight Dope is certainly not friendly to Christianity, but it is even more critical of this argument
The ComeReason Ministries article “How to Quickly Debunk the Horus-Jesus Myth takes a slightly different approach than I do, and is well worth looking at.