Debunking the claims that Jesus was a myth birth from the Egyptian God Horus
This is an op-ed on Straight Dope by Cecil Adams titled “Debunking the Jesus Debunkers”
I first heard the claim that Jesus was a copycat of the Egyptian god Horus when I watched the so-called documentary Religulous. Horus supposedly walked on water, was born from a virgin, healed the sick, etc. Naturally, I was skeptical and tried doing some research but found only biased opinions that weren’t backed by much evidence. So what’s the deal? —Johnny Oregano
There’s more of a puzzle here than you might think. The notion that Jesus was copied from Horus is a stretch, of interest chiefly to people with an axe to grind—such as the writer and star of Religulous, Bill Maher. But it springs from the same questions that occur to anyone reading the foundation stories of the world’s great religions, and Christianity’s in particular: how much of this stuff really happened, and who dreamed up the rest?
Religulous (2008), an antireligious diatribe that takes on Islam and Judaism in addition to Christianity, presents a list of parallels between Jesus and Horus, the falcon-headed Egyptian deity identified with the sky and the rule of the pharaohs. In addition to those you mention, Horus supposedly had 12 disciples and was crucified, then resurrected three days later.
Conclusion: Jesus is a myth.
The movie doesn’t say where it got these claims, but they may have come from The Pagan Christ (2005) by Tom Harpur, an Anglican priest and a longtime religion writer for the Toronto Star. Harpur in turns cites earlier authors, the most relevant of whom for our purposes is Gerald Massey, a poet and self-taught Egyptologist who published a massive work entitled Ancient Egypt, The Light of the World shortly before his death in 1907.
Massey argues that the Judeo-Christian tradition borrowed heavily from Egyptian mythology and that the “Jesus-legend” in particular was based on Horus. He lists 269 alleged parallels between the two figures, including those mentioned in the Maher movie. Massey contends Jesus and Christianity were concocted in Rome based on myths borrowed from Egyptian gnostics.
Massey doesn’t explicitly say why the Romans would do this.
Harpur professes to be a Christian; he just doesn’t believe in the existence of Christ.
The most common legend about the birth of Horus is that the god Seth dismembered the body of Osiris, his older brother and husband of Isis. Isis collected the pieces of her husband’s body and sewed them back together, then took the form of a bird and fanned Osiris with her wings, reviving him enough to have sex and get herself pregnant with Horus. So it’s sex with a coma patient or necrophilia—not your classic virgin-birth story either way.
As for the crucifixion and resurrection, the party involved wasn’t Horus but Osiris, as per the above. Except Osiris wasn’t crucified—Seth initially had him nailed into a coffin. And he wasn’t really resurrected, just revived long enough to be a sperm donor, after which he died again.
Then again, there really isn’t a canonical version of the Horus story. Browsing through the stelae, I find a variant in which the child Horus is stung to death by a scorpion, then restored to life by the god Thoth.
So OK, are there points of similarity between Jesus and Horus?