What about Jesus and the story of Osiris and Horus?

If this subject doesn’t seem that important to you, you can be sure your kids (young or adult) have either seen it or have had their friends see the movie discussed in video #2 (zeitgeist)  and they (your children) will no doubt be challenged that their faith is just a myth. The movie is full of errors (from astronomy – the aligning of Orion and the other stars, to history) and

1) The short answer from Dr. William Lane Craig:

Uploaded by  on Feb 24, 2012 http://reasonablefaith.org – Dr. William Lane Craig answers the question: Is Jesus’ life parallel to the story of Osiris and Horus?


2) The detailed answer from Mark Foreman, professor of philosophy and religion at Liberty University:

The pagan copy cat theory: Zeitgesit wants to say that the Gospel about Jesus Christ is a myth incorporating other aspects of pagan religions. The idea is that Christianity is just a copycat of other religions that are out there. They claim that the people who originated Christianity, the apostles, simply took all these religions and brought them together in some way and created Christianity.

The tactic used to argue this point (that it’s just a myth): Usually, those who hold this view will list some characteristics of pagan deities that are parallel to the story of Jesus. Then they claim, of course, that the Gospel writers borrowed these parallels from these other religions and compiled them into a myth of Jesus Christ. The idea of using parallels is the essence of their argument. We sometimes call this parallelism.

Some general comments:

1) This is an old idea. There is nothing new here.

Many people when they first hear this say, wow, I never heard that before, it must be new research. Not at all! This idea was first propagated around the late 18th century by a school/university in Germany. They stated that religions were all related to each other in some way or another and they all evolved over time and Christianity was just a step in the evolution of religion. By the 1930’s the theory began to die out. And the reason  it died out is because critical scholars looked at it and said, „There is absolutely no evidence to support this at all”.  But,a bunch of people got on the boat when it was popular and wrote some works on that. As a matter of fact, many of the sources quoted in the zeitgeist movie come from these 19th century sources. In the clip that I showed you (it’s at the beginning of video) there’s 44 citations made and 40% of those citations come from these sources.  In the books cited, they make a lot of speculations from Egypt, from Horus about Jesus.

2) There are going to be some similarities between religions.

That shouldn’t surprise us. Most religions believe in some kind of a God like figure. Most religions believe in rites and ceremonies to express their beliefs. But, there are only a limited number of rites that you can have. Many religions incorporate some kind of a meal in their religion; but, that’s not the same thing as saying it’s communion. Just because there’s a similarity doesn’t mean that’s the same thing. Most religions try to deal with the universal human condition and questions that we all ask as human beings such as our desire for meaning and purpose, our struggle with our weaknesses and what we call sin, an answer to evil and suffering. Most religions are going to deal with that because that’s the job of religion.

I like what C.S. Lewis says here: „I could not believe Christianity if I were forced to say that with a 1000 religions of the world of which 999 were pure nonsense and the 1000th fortunately true. My conversion, very largely depended on Christianity  as the completion, the actualization  of something that had never been wholly absent from the mind of man.” Similarity does not imply dependence and that is the charge of the parallelisms, the copy catters, that Christianity is dependent upon these pagan religions for their basic beliefs and the story of Jesus.

Weak dependency and strong dependency. There are 2 kinds of dependencies: Weak dependency and strong dependency. Weak dependency is the use of accommodating language or appeals to similar beliefs in order to communicate an idea. We see this example in Paul’s Mars Hill speech in Acts 17, here he will use beliefs of his audience as a way of communicating his evidence there. He’ll say ‘the unknown god which you built a statue to, well, I can tell you who that unknown God is’. Missionaries will use this idea today. But, that’s different form what we call strong dependency.

Strong dependency is that the concept originated first in the pagan religion and then in some way or another it was brought into Christianity. And, that’s the claim again of the parallelists.

For that we don’t have any evidence at all for. There is no evidence for any strong dependency of Christian beliefs of pagan religions in the first century. There’s nothing there to support that. The parallelists assert it, but, there’s a difference between asserting it and arguing.Arguing is much more. The reason we don’t have that is because there is no evidence of pagan religions in first century Palestine. Over and over, if you look at archaeologists, if you look at critical scholars, they’ll say, „We just don’t see this.

These pagan religions just don’t seem to have existed in Palestine”. Why? As mystery religions are highly syncretic, in the sense that they’re willing to combine themselves with other religions, that’s not the case for  Judaism and Christianity. They are both highly exclusivistic. The Jews would never have allowed pagan mystery religions to be in their country. Certainly, if they were there, they wouldn’t borrow from them or make them part of their religion. Same with Christianity, as a matter of fact, Christianity is more exclusivistic than Judaism is. Christianity says that there is only one way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ. No other way will get you there.

All of the pagan mystery religions are syncretic. You could be a member of this pagan mystery religion over here and you can be a member of any other religion you want and it doesn’t bother them in the least. They are very accepting of that. That’s not true of Christianity and Judaism and that’s one of the reasons we don’t see pagan religions and Judaism  which is where Christianity originated in the first century.

Now in fairness, there is some evidence that the Christian church did adopt some pagan beliefs in the 4th and 5th centuries. It’s probably where we think we got the December 25th date. But, that’s 4th and 5th centuries, that’s not the origin of Christianity. That’s 4-500 years after Christianity. The parallelists in order to make their case, has to show that there is evidence that shows a first century influence on Christianity that created a myth of the story of jesus.

3) Their entire argument is based on the Post hoc fallacy

 Latin for „after this, therefore because of this”

This entire argument, the whole parallelist argument is actually an example of what we call Post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for „after this, therefore because of this” . For those of you who are not familiar with these fallacies of logic, the POst hoc fallacy basically says this: Event A occurred before event B, therefore A caused B. In other words, we look at a temporal relationship: This happened before this and therefore this must have caused this. You’ve heard this kind of stuff before. Maybe you’ve heard someone say this: I knew it would rain, I just washed my car. As if washing your car actually causes precipitation. Of course nobody really believes that, we say it facetiously, we’re not really asserting a causal connection there at all, but that’s the idea of post hoc fallacy.

The fact here is if a previous religion may have had a similar belief to that of Christianity, and by the way I am going to argue that many of the parallels don’t work, but the fact that they had a similar belief does not in itself prove that the previous religion was the cause of the belief in Christianity. You have to argue for a causal chain. You can’t just simply assert parallels. That’s parallelomania- just asserting it over and over: „See, that’s just like Jesus, so they must have borrowed from that”. You need some sort of argument there.

4) The whole theory rests on the premise that Jesus did not exist at all

In other words, you have to buy into that premise before you can believe what the zeitgeist movie is saying.

If the events of the Gospels occurred in history then of course this theory (zeitgeist) completely evaporates. Why does the zeitgeist movie have to hold that position? A very, very extreme position. Because every aspect in the life of Jesus – His birth, His teaching, His baptism, His followers, His miracles, His crucifixion, His resurrection, all of these, they want to claim are based not on historical events but on previous pagan religious myths that were around long before the time of Jesus. So, therefore there couldn’t have been a real Jesus around because that would say that there were historical events of His life here.

However, in order for them to make the point that Jesus didn’t exist at all is to go against an enormous amount of critical scholarship. The vast majority of critical scholars, across all theological spectrums (conservative, liberal, radical) acknowledge the existence (historicity) of Jesus and His life in some form. They don’t all agree, some deny the resurrection, some will say „I don’t think He was God”, but they’re all saying He existed and the basic facts of His life happened. John Dominic Crossan says that the crucifixion of Jesus is the most verifiable event in the world. In the zeitgeist movie and in many of these copy cat theorists, they never discuss this vast amount of critical scholarship

Some of the fallacies used in zeitgeist

  1. Generalization fallacy – The combining of ancient religions into one universal model that they all followed. In other words, there were a lot of mystery pagan religions that were going on around in the ancient world around the same time and before and after the birth of Jesus and they continued on and died out about the 4th century. During the early stages those religions were small pockets in different parts of the world (including the 1st century), each developing on their own. There was no universal belief they all copied. (Yet, that is exactly what zeitgeist is claiming- that they were all about Sun worship. NOT TRUE. They all had different ideas.) Copy cat theorists usually take aspects from widely different religions and then they force them together into a religion that resembles Christianity. It’s something like connecting the dots. They pull things out of all these pagan religions, but they only pull out what’s guiding them- the life of Jesus. They’ll look at the life of Jesus and then say, „Oh, that’s like that”. Then they connect the dots and they marvel, „Wow, that looks like Jesus”. Of course it looks like Jesus, that’s the model they set up. There’s a lot in these religions they’re not pulling out, they’re not talking about, that are not anything like Jesus was like or what Christianity is like. They’re not touching that stuff. Why? Because it doesn’t look like Jesus.
  2. A second blatant one is the terminology fallacy. The terminology fallacy basically does this: Events in the lives of the mythical gods are expressed using Christian terminology in order subtly to manipulate viewers into accepting that the same events in the life of Jesus also happened in the life of mythical gods. This really bothers me. For example, in the movie they talk about the messiah solar god. wow, wow, wow, the messiah? What’s that? Messiah is a distinctly Hebrew term that talks about the Savior that God would send for Israel. I mean, why are we talking about Horus being a Messiah? Because you know why? Because they want to use Christian terminology to manipulate you to believe that this stuff happened here. Baptism. What’s baptism. Well, baptism was an originally Jewish practice that Christians  adopted, but, you don’t find baptism in other religions. But they’ll talk about, anytime water is introduced, they will talk about Horus and Osirisbeing thrown into the Nile, „Oh, Osiris in the Nile? That was his baptism”. Why? „Water”. Oh, I’m not sure that’s really a baptism there. That’s the kind of stuff they do there.
  3. The idea that they were all born of a virgin. You’ve heard this on the film- Horus born of a virgin, Krishna, Attis born of a virgin. Are these really virginal births in the same way we mean when we talk about Jesus? Not really. Horus: Where did Horus come from? There are several different stories. The story of Horus is one of the most complex stories. The Horus myth is a myth that developed over 3,000 years from several different texts. There are many books, they all have something about Horus, many contradicting themselves with several different accounts of the same event. On where he came from the common story is that he was the conception of two gods – Osiris and Iris. Osiris was a God that was killed by Seth, Seth cut him up into 14 pieces and buried the pieces all over Egypt. Osiris’s wife, Iris, and by the way Iris is described as his wife so I think we can assume she wasn’t a virgin. So Iris, his wife, goes around and gathers all his 14 parts together but she can’t find on part. The part she can’t find is his penis so she creates a wooden one and has sex with it and conceives Horus. Virginal birth? I don’t think so. How about Attis. We are told he was born of a virgin. The great greek god Zeus spills his seed on a mountain. His seed becomes a pomegranate tree. Nana, the mother of Attis is sitting under a pomegranate tree when an apple drops into her lap. Conception. That’s when Attis comes from. Krishna- any claims that Krishna was virginally conceived come from 7th century, 700 years after Jesus. Actually, we are told his mother had 7 children before Krishna, hardly a virgin. So we really don’t have virginal conceptions. So, why do they say it? Because they want it to sound like Jesus.
  4. Another example- crucifixion. We’re told that many of these gods were crucified. Really? On Krishna, the earliest sources tell us that he was shot in the heel by an arrow. NOT CRUCIFIED. Attis, at one point in his life castrates himself, flees into the woods and dies. NOT CRUCIFIED. Horus, well, it depends which version you will go with since there are so many versions. One version tells us he never died, another version tells us he died being stung by a scorpion, another version he is conflated with Osiris. In the Egyptian religion sometimes Horus’s death is conflated with Osiris’s. You wonder with all these different deaths here, how can they say he was crucified? Murdoch who was the major consultant to this film says, „When it is asserted that Horus or Osiris was crucified, it should be kept in mind that it WAS NOT part of the Horus/Osiris myth that the murdered god was actually held down and nailed on a cross. Egyptian deities, including Horus were depicted in cruciform with their arms extended or outstretched.” Now saying they were depicted in cruciform, she is already trying to manipulate you. What they are, is they’re depicted with their arms out. That’s all, they just have their arms out. Most Egyptologists will tell you that Horus was the sky god and his arms being out means spanning the sky. But she wants to call it in cruciform, as in various images that are comparable to crucifixion. So Murdoch is saying, „Look, we’re not saying these people are crucified, we’re saying that any time they stretch their arms out  we can say ‘they are crucified'”.
  5. What about resurrection? We’re told all these gods resurrected from the dead. Really? Let’s again look at the original sources of the gods here. There’s an interesting thing that happened to Horus after his death. He became lord of the underworld. By the way, that’s Osiris/Horus combined. They became lord of the underworld; never came back to life in this world. But, that’s like a resurrection? He’s still alive, as the copy cats say? Attis? Attis, eventually was turned into a pine tree. Ok, I guess he’s kind of back in this world, but not exactly resurrected. Krishna? Earliest tradition says he returned to the spirit world. Now, if we go later on, in the 4th or 5th century we learn that there was a teaching that Krishna was resurrected. But, that’s 4th or 5th century, after Christianity’s been real well formulated here. Jonathan Smith who wrote the article on dying and rising deities in the Encyclopedia of religion makes this comment: All of the deities that have been identified as belonging to the class of dying and rising deities can be subsumed under the 2 larger classes of disappearing deities or dying deities. In the first case they return, but they never die. In the second case they die, but they never return. There is no unambiguous instance in the history of religion of a dying and rising deity in organ religions (he’s not talking about Christianity). There’s simply no evidence of it.
  6. Biblical fallacy – Copy cat theorists often make claims about the life of Jesus that ARE NOT based on the Gospel accounts, but they originated from other sources. When you are watching the movie you will see them quote stuff that is not even in the Bible. For example, the December 25th date. How often in the movie do they emphasize that these gods are born on December 25th? Why do they do that? Because we celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th. But the Gospels don’t tell us anything about when Jesus was born. We don’t know, we have no idea when it was. We don’t have any first century evidence or from any first century source the exact date of Jesus’ birth. When did the Dec 25th date come about? About the 5th century; that’s when the Christian church started to adopt and pick a particular date and there is some evidence that they may have picked that day because of pagan religion. The church may have been influenced by pagan religion,, but this was well into the 5th century. But, I am going to argue that it wasn’t influenced by pagan religion in the first century, which is the century Christianity came about and developed. Another example are the three Kings coming to worship Him. If you go back to the Horus story where they talk about the three kings, there is NOTHING in the Horus story about 3 kings coming to worship Horus. It’s just pure speculation. (Yet) Murdoch wrote a whole chapter about this in her Jesus and Horus chapter. She pulls strange speculations to speculate on this, but no evidence whatsoever. But, even it is, there are no 3 kings at the birth of Jesus. That’s a nice song we sing „We three kings of Orient are’, but go to the Gospel folks. The Gospels don’t tell s that they were kings. They never use that word. They don’t tell us how many they were. We speculate because the idea that 3 gifts were listed. We are told they are magi. Magi are not kings, magi are priests in the zoroastrian religion. So, they are not kings at all. Murdoch defends this by saying, „Well, we know that the Gospelss don’t tell us that, but Christians believe it, therefore there’s a parallel there. Again, we’re talking about (using) original sources, not what people falsely believe. And by the way, the time when they came, Jesus was probably 3 years old when they came. If you look at the Gospel accounts and what’s going on there it wasn’t the infant- we have this idea that it was in the manger.
  7. Chronological fallacy– in order for the copy cat fallacy to succeed one must provide evidence that the parallel chronologically preceded the writing of the Gospels and the New Testament epistles which were all written in the first century. In order for this to work, you have to have evidence that these teachings and ideas were around before the first century, so that the early Christians could borrow from them and create their myth about Jesus. Do we have that kind of evidence? No, we don’t. The mystery religions evolved and changed over time and as they did, their beliefs and practices and their narratives changed. We need to understand that the pagan mystery religions aren’t something you can go to and find an authoritative source and say, „This is what they believe”. Unfortunately, there was no authoritative source for many of these religions and we find out about them usually from other sources or the sources that we have are simply so broad that we don’t know what they meant. They evolved over time and what we know of them later on was not necessarily true about them earlier. And most of the evidence we have of them comes from the 2nd and 3rd centuries when they were at their peak. But, we have very little evidence of what these mystery religions were like in the 1st century. And because they evolved so much you simply can’t take the fallacious step that because they believed something in the 3rd century, they must have also believed that in the 1st century. In fact we have some evidence that many of these mystery religions may have been adopting their beliefs after those of Christianity. So, we don’t have any chronological evidence for any of these things. All the evidence comes from post Christian, not pre Christian.
  8. The source fallacy. Obviously if you’re gonna make these kinds of claims, you’ll need to have good sources to depend upon. Supporters of the movie often talk about how well documented it is. Go to the transcripts and look at them. In the 7 minute clip that we played at the beginning there are 44 citations in the transcript for the statement that they’re making, from 18 different sources. You might say that’s pretty good documentation. But any critical scholar would tell you that it’s not the quantity of the documentation that makes the difference, but the quality. I can give you a lot of documentation for something, but am I giving it form good, reliable, academic, primary sources? NO, that’s not what’s happening here at all. Not one of these 18 sources is a primary source. Nobody quotes the original texts on Horus, none at all. They’re all secondary sources. And most of the secondary sources are scholars that have been discredited or abandoned long ago by critical scholars who have looked at these people and said, „I’m sorry, these people are really not qualified or they’re arguing from quotes of other sources that support their ideas and they won’t quote a primary source. These sources often make undocumented assertions- they just assert something with no evidence for it, they speculate on causal relationships, that’s one of the most common things you’ll see: „This must have caused this to happen”. Well, why? „Because they look similar so that’s what caused it”. That is false. Mithraism doesn’t have nay writings. You know how we get our information on the religion of Mithraism? Three reliefs. A relief is just a stone carving on a side of a wall. We don’t have writings for it and of course you’ve got to interpret beliefs and it’s the interpretation that needs to be questioned here. They MUST play connect the dots and that means they select which dots they are going to use to make their picture and that’s exactly what they do; they select that way.
  9. The difference fallacy. Here, the copy cat theorists overemphasize supposed similarities through the language that they use, the terminology, the comments they make, they don’t understand much. They overemphasize the similarities and they ignore the  enormous, substantive and relative differences between these religions. And that’s one of the things that should bother us the most. They are giving the idea that all these religions are basically saying the same thing and that’s simply not true, especially the pagan religions as they relate to Christianity. There are tremendous differences that aren’t common in it at all. The purpose and nature of the pagan mystery religions is completely different than the purpose and nature of Christianity.


  • Mystery religions are cyclical. They generally follow the cycle of birth, death and rebirth ad infinitum for ever, following the vegetative harvest circles because they were agrarian types of religions. Christianity is not like that at all, Christianity is linear. It views all of history heading towards a specific direction, towards a goal; it’s not cyclical.
  • Mystery religions involve secrecy. Only members can participate. To become a member you had to go through secret initiation rites, I think that’s one reason why we don’t know much about these religions, especially in the first century because they were secretive. Christianity- completely open. It has no secretiveness, there are no secret rites, there’s no secret knowledge, it’s completely open.
  • Mystery religions – doctrines and beliefs were unimportant. They were religions of emotion, the idea of having a mystical, emotional experience, that was the idea behind them. They were not religions of doctrines or beliefs that you had to hold. However, in Christianity doctrinal beliefs are important, they’re the heart of Christianity . What you believe is the most important thing about it, not the emotional experience you have. Now, I am not discounting emotional mystical experiences, but the heart is belief and what you believe. That’s why they were so syncretic, it didn’t matter what you believed. That’s not true of Christianity at all.
  • Mystery religions were void of any ethical element. We don’t see anything teaching about living righteousness, the way you live, or ethics or anything like that. Christianity involves moral teachings and places a strong emphasis on living a righteous life. That’s why Jesus died, so we can be like Him and have righteousness.
  • Mystery religions were not interested in historicity and often acknowledged that they were not historical. The mystery religions themselves said that these are myths, that they really didn’t happen. Christianity is really wrapped up in its historyIt’s totally historical. If the events did not occur, Christianity did not make any sense as a religion. It only make sense if Jesus Christ really came on this earth, really walked, really taught the things that He did, really performed the acts that He did, really was crucified, really rose fro the dead.. those things really had to happen for Christianity to make sense.
  • Most importantly the death of Jesus is completely different than the death of mystery religions. In the mystery religions, yes, their gods die, but the meaning of what’s happening there is so different fro Christianity. Christ died for the sins of mankind, He died for us. None of the pagan gods died for anyone else. Actually, they died under compulsion. Most of them were murdered in some way or another. Jesus died willingly. Jesus died and was raised once. The pagan gods died cyclically along with the vegetative cycle. Jesus’s death was not tragic or defeat. It was a victory for us. Pagans, they mourn and lament the death of their gods, they treat it as a memorial

So there are tremendous differences that the copy cat theorists just ignore and don’t pay any attention to at all. They just want t show you is those parallels and many of them are forced through the language that they use and the things they do there. Many of the claims of ancient pagan religions are dubious, some of it is simply made up, or they take something and inexpert it their way. The vast majority of parallels are simply not there when one examines the original sources that we actually have. They are forced to fit through the language that is used. Just because there may be some parallels (there may be some similarities, but there’s no evidence or strong dependence), mystery religions do not claim historicity (Christianity does), there is no evidence of a strong dependency of the Christian narrative or any of the doctrines from other religions, we don’t see that. And, the non syncretic nature of Christianity/Judaism is strong evidence against the borrowing from pagan religions. It was considered anathema to do that kind of thing in early Christianity, to borrow from those religions.

Adolf Van Harnack wrote back in 1911- „We must reject the comparative mythology which finds a causal connection between everything and everything else, which tears down solid barriers, bridges chasms as though it were child’s play and spans combinations from superficial  similarities by such methods one can turn Christ into a sun god in a twinkling of an eye or transform the apostles into the 12 months in connection to Christ’s nativity, one can bring up the legends of attending the births of every conceivable god or one can catch all sorts of mythological doves to keep company with the baptismal dove or find any number of celebrated asses to follow the ass on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem. And thus, with a magic wand of comparative religion or parallelism, triumphantly eliminate every spontaneous trait in any religion.” If you can do that, you can claim just about anything. Watch out for what the internet tells you. Check it out, don’t just simply believe it cause it looks good.

Refuting Zeitgeist the Movie (Dr. Mark Foreman) from shirley rose on Vimeo.

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