Sunday, November 18, 2012

Horus: The Christ Figure 1000's Of Years Before Jesus

The ancient Egyptian mythic Isis suckling her son Horus;
An image of Mary with her son Jesus

Growing up as a conservative Christian, I heard the name "Christ Jesus" or "Jesus Christ" hundreds, probably thousands of times. I heard of "Jesus Christ" so many times that it was as if Christ as simply Jesus' last name.  I learned that Jesus Christ was the literal Son of God, born of a virgin, who came down from Heaven at Christmastime to eventually save me from my sins.

What I wasn't told is that this narrative quite possibly had already been told thousands of years before the person of Jesus may - or may not have - been born.

In his highly controversial - and both praised and reviled - book The Pagan Christ from 2004, Tom Harpur, a Rhodes scholar, former Anglican priest, professor, and columnist for The Toronto Star,  he lays out an argument that the idea of a Christ figure was not original at all, but that it came from much earlier ancient Egyptian Paganism. This of course is highly controversial, but also fascinating as humanity continues to try to come to grips with the actual meaning of the original Christianity. I offer some of Harpur's initial arguments and findings in this, the first of a series of blogs about Jesus the Christ.

Note: Harpur relies heavily on the works of Godfrey Higgins, Gerald Massey, and Alvin Boyd Kuhn. 
  • Most of the Bible and Christianity is a product of Ancient Egypt religions.
  • Only myth and metaphor could convey the truths that the Scripture writers were trying to convey. They weren’t reporting actual history. Scripture began to be literalized only in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
This is an important point, because in today's world, often we hear the word "myth" or "legend" and we automatically think of falsehood or a lie. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As Harpur writes: "Anyone who wants to understand religion, religious ideas, and religious documents – that is, scriptures of any kind  - must realize that the divine, the mysterious, the ineffable, the workings of the spirit in the human heart or in the cosmos at large cannot be adequately expressed other than by myth, allegory, imagery, parable and metaphor. Literal, descriptive narrative inevitably leads to either idolatry or utter nonsense."

I think it's important to note that most Christians already literalize things that weren't even spoken of in the Bible. When we set up our nativity sets, we have 3 wise men coming to the manger where the baby Jesus lay and offering him gifts. Yet, in actual Scripture, it says that Magi (doesn't give a number) came to the house where the child was.  Who really knows how old Jesus was or how many Magi there were, yet we've come to the conclusion that since there were 3 gifts listed, there must be 3 men.

Continuing on with myth for a minute. Harpur writes: " "Thus myths are not some fictional embroidery or dispensable addition to the major faiths; they are their very essence. Strip them away and there is little that is precious left. Christianity does not need to ‘demythologize’ its story; it needs to ‘remythologize’ it." In other words, myths contain truths that are deeper and more rich than literalizing them could ever do, and we've lost something in literalizing much of Scripture.

Now let's go back to 18,000 years before the time that Jesus supposedly walked the earth, and we'll see why many scholars believe that Christianity eventually copied much of their religion from ancient Egyptian lore. A few notes:
  • There was a Jesus in Egyptian lore as early as 18, 000 BCE. His name was Iusu, or Iusa and means “the coming divine Son who heals or saves.” There was also an Egyptian Christos, or Christ, named Horus. He and his mother Isis were the forerunners of the Christian Madonna and Child.
  • “Almost every traditional faith the world over rests on a central story of the son of a heavenly king who goes down into a dark lower world, suffering, dying, and rising again, before returning to his native upper world. This king/god wins a victory over his enemies, has a triumphant procession, and is enthroned on high.” There are 30 to 50 such avatars or saviours, including Osiris, Horus, Krishna, Hermes, Adonis, Hercules, Thor, Beddru of Japan, etc.”
  • Theologian Alvin Boyd Kuhn, whom Harpur relies heavily upon, says, “All that went into the making of the Christian historical set-up was long pre-extant as something quite other than history, was in fact expressly non-historical, in the Egyptian mythology and eschatology. For when the sun at the Easter equinox entered the sign of the fishes (Pisces) about 255 BCE, the Jesus who stands as the founder  of Christianity was at least 10,000 years of age and had been travelling hither as the Ever Coming One through all preceding time…During those 10,000 years, that same incarnation of the divine ideal in the character of Iusa (or Horus) , the Coming Son, had saturated the mind of Egypt with its exalting influence. Little did men of that epoch dream that their ideal figure of man’s divinity would in time be rendered historical as a man of flesh.”
Now let's look at some of the uncanny similarities between the Jesus story and that of Ancient Egyptian mythology.
  • "At the winter solstice, the ancient Egyptians would parade a manger and a child through the streets of major cities and towns. The birth of the Persian sun god, Mithras, also was held to have occurred in a cave at the winter solstice, sometime between 3000 and 2400 BCE. His birthday was celebrated on December 25. Mithraism, a contemporary and and keen rival of early Christianity, had a Eucharist-type meal, observed a Sabbath, had its major festival at Easter (when Mithras' resurrection was celebrated), and featured miracles, twelve disciples, and a virgin birth.
  • The various names for the Christ in Egyptian literature - Iusa or Iusa (Jesus), Horus, Iu-em-hept, and Atum (Adam) are always associated with phrases meaning "the coming one," because he represented the cyclic rebirth of the solar deity...Spiritually, he was the symbol for the soul in every human being.
Let us now look at the comparisons of the Egyptian mythical Jesus figure of Horus, who "lived" thousands of years before Jesus, and see if anything rings familiar:
  • Like the "star in the east" of the Gospels, Sirius, the morning star in Egypt, heralded the birth of Horus
  • Horus was baptized in the River Eridanus (Jordan) by a god figure name Anup the Baptizer (John the Baptist), was was later decapitated. 
  • Like Jesus, Horus had no history between the ages of twelve and thirty. 
  • Horus walked on water, cast out demons, and healed the sick. 
  • Horus was transfigured on a mountain; Jesus took Peter, James and John into a "high mountain" and was transfigured before them.
  • Horus delivered a "Sermon on the Mount," and his followers faithfully recounted the "Sayings of Iusa" (or Jesus).
  • Horus was crucified between two thieves, buried in a tomb, and resurrected. His personal epithet was Iusa, the "ever-becoming son" of Ptah, or the Father. Horus was called the KRST, or "anointed one," from a word that was inscribed or pained on the lid of a mummy's coffin millenia before Christianity duplicated the story.
  • Horus was the good shepherd, the lamb of God, the bread of life, the son of Man, the Word, the fisher; so was Jesus
  • Horus was not just the path to heaven but the way by which the dead travel out of the sepulchre. He was the god whose name was written as the "road of salvation"; he was thus "the Way, the Truth and the Life." Therefore the key verse of conservative orthodoxy today was sourced in Pagan roots.
  • The Creed says that Jesus descended into hell, or (better) Hades, but so too did Horus before him. Both went to preach to the souls in prison. Both were "dead and buried," but only figuratively.
  • Jesus came in the name of the Lord. He was called Kyrios, or Lord. Horus too was "the Lord" by name.
  • Like Jesus, Horus was supposed to reign for one thousand years.
  • Horus came to seek and to save what was lost. We are reminded of the Gospel parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the "lost" son.
  • In the Gospels, it is the women who announce the Resurrection. "The goddesses and the women proclaim me when they see me," shouts Horus as he rises from the tomb, "on the horizon of the resurrection.
I could go on, but I believe those are enough glaring similarities for now. I think that 2 questions need to be asked at this point:
  1. If this is all true, why has it been covered up for so long by "orthodox" or "conservative" Christianity? and
  2. What does this mean for my Christian faith if it is all a myth/copy and didn't really happen?
To answer the first question, Harpur states that most Christians of the early church realized that what they were experiencing was not literal historical truth; there was a power behind it, a power only found in myth (which I'll touch on in a moment).  It was only in the 3rd or 4th centuries that powerful men wanting to establish an "orthodoxy" decided to quash any ties to Christianity's Pagan roots, and massive burnings of scrolls and books, the burning of academic schools, and the killing of influential leaders took place. Harpur estimates that 700,000 to 800,000 books/publications were destroyed during this time. “Christianity began as a cult with almost wholly Pagan origins and motivations in the first century, “and by the fourth it had utterly turned its back on Paganism and repudiated every hint of…connection with it, loading it with contempt from that day to this.” 

To answer the second question, and also to give my readers a sense of one of the reasons why I am writing about this controversial topic, I believe, as Harpur does, that when we "re-mythologize" Christianity, we bring back a depth to it that has been lacking.  Listen carefully: when we say that much of Christianity didn't literally take place, we are not saying that it isn't true. The great truth is that the Christ was to come in humankind, and that the Christ principle was potentially in every one of us. But that was changed in the 3rd or 4th centuries to the exclusivist teaching that the Christ had come as one man. As Harpur writes, the Christhood has come in every man and woman, it is the intersection of the divine and the human that really matters, not the literalization of clearly mythical stories. This can change every human being's outlook. In summary:

"Christos is the name given to the incarnate presence of God within. – Christos is known by many names but in all humanity. – To realize the potential power of the Christos within, everyone must realize his or her innate spiritual power and nature. – Doctrines and creeds have tended to replace this awareness of our innate spiritual essence, but they can still be helpful. – “The Gospels are really dramas about the Christos, with Jesus in the starring role as a dramatic personality. Jesus is the symbolic personification of the Christos.” – “Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection are subjective events of the Christ within that each of us is meant to experience.” – It is through our permission that the Christos is unleashed to spiritualize our nature. We don’t become God, but each of us is a fragment of God with divine potential. – Religions should provide opportunity for people to commit their lives not to a personal, historic Jesus, but to the eternal Christ, however this divine presence is described."

That's all for now. More to come as I continue on in Tom Harpur's The Pagan Christ. 

If you are interested in a refutation of Harpur's work, you can find one such refutation here by Tekton Education and Apologetics Ministry.

Mark Andrew Alward