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Jesus & Horus Parallels - A Christian Response

For those unfamiliar with the Horus story, Horus is a character in Egyptian mythology, the son of the gods Isis and Osiris. There actually appear to be multiple deities named 'Horus', but the one who is the son of Isis and Osiris is the one the critics claim influenced the Jesus story.  For a quick and unbiased debunking of this story, go to any search engine and find a site on Egyptian mythology and read the Horus story for yourself (I've provided some links at the bottom of the page), or check the mythology section at your local library (go ahead, I dare you!). Acharya S's book "The Christ Conspiracy" is the apparent source of this list, but the author provides evidentiary footnotes for only nine of the claims, and those footnotes frequently disagree with her own claims!

Here are the claims of parallels between Jesus and Horus, with my responses:

1) Horus was born of the virgin Isis-Meri on December 25th in a cave/manger with his birth being announced by a star in the East and attended by three wise men.

Let’s take this one apart and deal with each separate issue:

Isis being a virgin is, at best, a "maybe", since there is evidence on both sides.  According to most scholars, Horus’ mother was not a virgin. She was married to Osiris, and there is no reason to suppose she was abstinent after marriage.  Horus was, per the story, miraculously conceived.  Seth had killed and dismembered Osiris, then Isis put her husband's dead body back together and had intercourse with it. In some versions, she used a hand-made phallus since she wasn't able to find that part of her husband.  So while it was a miraculous conception, it was not a virgin birth.  There are other versions of the story in which Horus' conception was non-sexual, but, since Isis was still married to Osiris, there's no reason to suppose that the authors of those stories intended for her to be a virgin.

However, there are a few university-level scholars who do argue that Isis was a virgin, and my criteria is to accept such scholars as evidence for the claim.  For example, it's argued by Bob Becking (Utrech University), Pieter Willem van der Horst  (Utrech University) and Karel van der Toorn (University of Amsterdam) in their book in their "Dictionary of Dieties and Demons in the Bible".

Sometime Christ-mythers respond by saying that since Mary and Joseph were married, shouldn't we then be concluding that Jesus wasn't virgin-born?  The difference is that the Bible clearly states that Mary and Joseph were abstinent until after Jesus' birth (Matthew 1:25).  We have no such declaration for Isis and Osiris.

Christ-mythers sometimes point to the inscription at Abydos, in which the word "hwn.t" is used to describe her.  "Hwn.t" can mean "virgin", but it can also mean "maiden" or "young woman".  It may imply virginity, but if it were used in the description of a woman who is married and/or has a child, then virginity wouldn't be assumed.  In the Abydos inscription, we see that Isis is the mother of Horus, so the logical assumption here is that, in this case, it's not calling her a virgin.  Yet Christ-mythers instead assume that it's calling her a "virgin mother".  To draw a comparison, suppose you were to see a girl who was twelve years old.  Would you assume she was a virgin?  Probably.  But suppose you were to see a twelve-year-old girl who had a baby.  Would you then conclude that she wasn't a virgin, or would you conclude that she was a virgin mother?  The former, obviously, but what Christ-mythers are doing here is the equivalent of the latter.

Plutarch wrote that Horus was born "around the winter solstice", but the winter solstice usually happens on December 22nd or 23rd.  If we're considering "around" to mean within 2 or 3 days of the solstice, then this would mean that Horus could have been born anywhere from the 20th to the 25th.  There is no evidence for the 25th in particular.  But since Jesus wasn't, per the evidence, born on 12/25, this wouldn't be a parallel even if true.

"Meri" (technically "Mr-ee") is the egyptian word for "beloved" and was apparently applied to Isis prior to Jesus' time, as a title, not as part of her name.  But since there were probably thousands of women between Horus' time and Jesus' with a name or title that was a variation on "Mary", there's no real reason to suppose that Jesus' mother was named after Isis in particular.  Even if, hypothetically, the Gospel authors themselves fabricated Jesus' mother and decided to name her "Mary", it's far more likely that they named her after other women from around their time than it is that they named her after "Isis-Meri".

Horus was born in a swamp, not a cave/manger.  Acharya's footnotes for this point only make the claim that Jesus was born in a cave, and say nothing about Horus being born in one.  I've had one mythicist point out that Arthur Dyott Thomson, a 19th century scholar, said the following: "By this, says Macrobius, the dimness of the light at the winter solstice, and the shortness of the days as well as the darkness of the deep cave in which this god seemed to be born, and from which he issued forth to rise in the direction of the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice, in which he reassumed his dominion and his glory".  First, we don't seem to have the text by Macrobius in which he says this, but, even assuming he did, Macrobius lived in the 5th century, and thus this is not evidence for the "cave birth" being pre-Christian.

Horus' birth was not announced by a star in the east.  Some Christ-mythers claim that the "star in the east" is Sirius, but Sirius is not "in the east" in any sense.  No stars can reside exclusively in the east or west, due to the rotation of the Earth.

There were no “three wise men” at Horus’ birth, or at Jesus’ for that matter (the Bible never gives the number of wise men, and they showed up at Jesus’ home, not at the manger, probably when Jesus was a year or two old).

Acharya's source for the last two claims appears to be Massey, who says "the Star in the East that arose to announce the birth of the babe (Jesus) was Orion, which is therefore called the star of Horus. That was once the star of the three kings; for the 'three kings' is still a name of three stars in Orion's belt . . . "  Massey's apparently getting mixed up, and then the critics are misinterpreting it.  Orion is not a star, but a constellation, of which there are three stars in a row making up the belt of Orion.  However, there is no evidence that these three stars were called the "Three Kings" prior to Jesus' time, nor even prior to the 17th century, for that matter.

I've seen some Christ-mythers claim that the three stars in Orion's belt "follow" the star Sirius across the sky at night, thus corresponding to the three wise men following the star in the east.  The problem is that stars move east to west, and Sirius is EAST of Orion's belt.  Thus they don't follow Sirius across the sky, but move AHEAD of it.

And even if there is a specific star called 'the star of Horus', there's no legend stating that it announced Horus' birth (as the critics are claiming) or that the three stars in Orion's belt attended Horus' birth in any way.

2) His earthly father was named "Seb" ("Joseph").

First of all, there is no parallel between the Egyptian name “Seb” and the Hebrew name “Joseph”, other than the fact that they’re common names that have the letters "se" in there somewhere. Also, Seb was Osiris’ father, not Horus’.

3) He was of royal descent.

This one’s true!  But it's not really a comparison to Jesus.  When followers speak of Jesus being of 'royal descent', they usually mean His being a descendent of King David, an earthly king.  Horus was, according to the myth, descended from heavenly royalty (as Jesus was), being the son of the main god.

4) At age 12, he was a child teacher in the Temple, and at 30, he was baptized, having disappeared for 18 years.

He never taught in any temple and was never baptized.  Also, Jesus didn't 'disappear' in the years between His teaching in the temple and baptism. He worked humbly as a carpenter.

5) Horus was baptized in the river Eridanus or Iarutana (Jordan) by "Anup the Baptizer" ("John the Baptist"), who was decapitated.

There is a river called “Eridanus”, but it’s in Greece, not Egypt. Iarutana is simply another name for the Jordan river, which is in the middle east. They are not the same river, and neither one is in Egypt, nor do they have anything to do with the Horus story. And there is no “Anup the Baptizer” in the Horus story, either.

6) He had 12 disciples, two of whom were his "witnesses" and were named "Anup" and "Aan" (the two "Johns").

Horus had four disciples (called ‘Heru-Shemsu’). There’s another reference to sixteen followers, and a group of followers called ‘mesnui’ (blacksmiths) who join Horus in battle, but are never numbered. But there’s no reference to twelve followers or any of them being named “Anup” or “Aan”.

7) He performed miracles, exorcised demons and raised El-Azarus ("El-Osiris"), from the dead.

He did perform miracles, but he never exorcised demons or raised his father from the dead. There is a version of the story in which Osiris is resurrected, but it happens prior to Horus' birth.  Also, Osiris is never referred to as ‘El-Azarus’ or ‘El-Osiris’ (clearly an attempt to make his name more closely resemble the Bible’s “Lazarus”).

8) Horus walked on water.

Not in any version of the story. I had a mythicist tell me that he had a photograph of an hieroglyph showing Horus walking on water. I asked him to send the photograph to me, and never heard from him again. You would think that if he actually had it, he would have been willing to show it to me.

9) His personal epithet was "Iusa," the "ever-becoming son" of "Ptah," the "Father." He was thus called "Holy Child."

Horus was never referred to as “Iusa” (nor was anyone in Egyptian history - the word does not exist) or “Holy Child”.

10) He delivered a "Sermon on the Mount" and his followers recounted the "Sayings of Iusa."

Horus never delivered such a sermon, and, as pointed out above, he was never referred to as “Iusa”.

11) Horus was transfigured on the Mount.

No, he was not.

12) He was crucified between two thieves, buried for three days in a tomb, and resurrected.

Horus was never crucified (crucifixion didn't exist until around 600 BC, long after the stories of Horus). There’s an unofficial story in which he dies and is cast in pieces into the water, then later fished out by a crocodile at Isis’ request. This unofficial story is the only one in which he dies at all.

As for resurrected, this one is at best a "maybe".  The source for this claim is the Metternich Stela (aka the Magical Stela), which dates to the 4th century B.C.  It describes Horus, while hiding in a marsh with his mother, Isis, being bitten by a poisonous scorpion.  Isis cries out for help.  In the Budge translation of the stela, it says "In answer to these words Thoth, turning to Isis and Nephthys, bade them to fear not, and to have no anxiety about Horus, "For," said he, "I have come from heaven to heal the child for his mother." He then pointed out that Horus was "under protection as the Dweller in his Disk (Aten), the Great Dwarf, the Mighty Ram, the Great Hawk, the Holy Beetle, the Hidden Body, the Divine Bennu, etc., and proceeded to utter the great spell which restored Horus to life."  While this translation suggests a resurrection, the problem is that other sources disagree with it, saying that the stela claims that Horus was merely sickened, then cured.  Even Budge's translation says that Thoth came to "heal the child", and you don't heal corpse.  The website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org), which is the museum where the stela is currently located, says the following about the inscription: "Isis speaks and recounts that while she and Horus were still hiding in the marshes, the child became ill. In her despair, she cried for help to the "Boat of Eternity" (the sun boat in which the god travels over the sky), and the sun disk stopped opposite her and did not move from his place. Thoth was sent from the sun boat to help Isis and cured Horus by reciting a catalogue of spells." (source).  Other sources also agree that the Stela says "sickened, then cured" rather than "killed, then resurrected", such as this one.

13) He was also the "Way, the Truth, the Light," "Messiah," "God’s Anointed Son," the "Son of Man," the "Good Shepherd," the "Lamb of God," the "Word made flesh," the "Word of Truth," etc.

The only titles Horus is given are “Great God”, “Chief of the Powers”, “Master of Heaven”, and “Avenger of His Father”. None of the above titles are in any Egyptian mythology.

14) He was "the Fisher" and was associated with the Fish ("Ichthys"), Lamb and Lion.

He was never referred to as “the fisher”, and there are no lamb or lion in any of the stories.  Acharya S.'s footnotes on this claim only show an association with fish (which is that Horus WAS a fish, unlike Jesus), with no evidence of his being called 'the fisher' or having any association with a lamb or lion.

15) He came to fulfill the Law.

There was no “law” he was supposed to fulfill.

16) Horus was called "the KRST," or "Anointed One."

He was never referred to by either of these titles.  "Krst", in Egyptian, means "burial", by the way.  It wasn't a title.

17) Like Jesus, "Horus was supposed to reign one thousand years."

No mention of this in Egyptian mythology.

Links:

Pre-Christian sources:
Egyptian Book of the Dead (note: I've had several Christ-mythers tell me that the parallels can all be found in the Book of the Dead.  I've already read all of the portions of the Book of the Dead that relate to Horus, and the parallels are not there.  I think the people who tell me this a) haven't read it themselves, b) assume I haven't read it and c) assume I'm too lazy to bother to read it for myself.)

General sources:
Encyclopedia Mythica: Horus
Egyptian Mythology: Horus
Tektonics: Horus, Isis, Osiris

 

 

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