Updated: Apr 30, 2022
Nobody likes a copycat. Whether it’s at school sitting for an exam or seeing someone with your outfit on in public, there’s something disingenuous about an unoriginal person. How much more true is that of claims of deity? It would make sense that the first god/goddess to place his/her stake in the ground would have first dibs on the claim of sovereign reign. Which deity has the right to make that claim? For most Christians, this question is answered in the first few verses of the first chapter of Genesis (Genesis 1:1–2, ESV) And when it comes to the rightful claim of deity, most Christians' apologetic—a fancy word for a defense of faith—stops there too. What if there were others out there who question the God of the Hebrew Bible? What if those same people question Jesus’ claim that he was indeed the God of Genesis in the flesh? (see John 8:58; John 10:30-33) And what if they had evidence of other gods whose narratives are similar to Jesus’ own biography?
Many in the Black anti-Christian movement make such claims. And many gravitate toward the African myths and deities they claim have similar biographies to Jesus' story found in the gospels. But if you dig deep enough you’ll find the source of many of these well-trained theologians—the internet. I like to call them internet or YouTube theologians. Their primary source materials include The Zeitgeist movie and grainy YouTube videos from “Master Teachers,” who cite no ancient texts as they wax eloquent about special knowledge that no legit scholar has ever published. The Zeitgeist movie was released in 2007 and made claims that Horus was born on December 25th to the virgin Isis, had three wise men visit him, that a star in the east appeared at his birth, and that he traveled with twelve disciples.
Sound familiar? It should. But it just isn’t true. It's very important we critically engage these false claims. As Christians, we need to be able to show others why ancient mythology does nothing to change our Christology.
The Truth About Osiris and Horus
So what do we know about Osiris and Horus? First, there is no mention of an eastern star in any Egyptian Osiris account. There is also no mention of three wise men in the Osiris account. While some scholars connect the three stars in the constellation Orion’s belt as named “wise men”, it is a tenuous connection at best. And neither Horus or Osiris had twelve disciples. Ancient texts and mural depictions show that Horus had a core group of four followers.
As Christians, we need to be able to show others why ancient mythology does nothing to change our Christology. We do know that there is only one account of a god surviving death that pre-dates Christ’s death and resurrection. Other myths, including the Mithras and Adonis myths cited in the Zeitgeist movie, appear after Christ and actually borrow from the gospels rather than the other way around.
The one myth that does pre-date Christ is Osiris. In the Osiris myth, he is cut into fourteen pieces, scattered around Egypt, then re-assembled by the goddess Isis in what appears to be a Frankenstein experiment.The important part of this story is that Osiris doesn’t actually come back to life. He becomes a member of this weird underworld that looks more like The Walking Dead than it does a resurrected Christ.
The truth is that Egyptian mythology had no real concept of resurrection. As one writer put it, Osiris is not a dying god, but a dead god, depicted as a deceased, mummified king. Where are Rick and Michonne (shameless Walking Dead plug) when you need them?
Horus’ story get a little weirder. After putting Osiris back together again, Isis loses a certain part (think Lorena Bobbitt). But she uses…well, let’s just say she fashioned a golden phallic device to become pregnant and give birth to Horus. Hardly a “virgin” birth.
The Truth About Jesus
In contrast to the two figures above, here’s what we know about Jesus. He walked this earth as a flesh and blood human being.^9 (#fn9) Jesus' birth, life, burial and resurrection happened in history, was attested to by several eyewitnesses, and even secular scholars today start with the supposition that Jesus walked this earth in the first century. Jesus’ resurrection was also a one-time event. Most of the resurrection stories—many of which came about after Jesus’ resurrection—were connected to seasons and cycles.
Gods would die and come back to life seasonally, Jesus’ resurrection was a one-time event. Jesus was no copycat, he was and is the God of the Universe. The gospels tell a story that the disciples staked their lives on. They were persecuted and martyred because they truly believed him to be God in the flesh. And they believed that he was raised from the dead. The Apostle Peter puts it best when he says, “We do not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). I’ll take that over false Egyptian deities any day of the week.
Resources For Further Study (Good Introductory Material):
Norman Geisler, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be An Atheist (Wheaton IL: Crossway, 2004).
Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels (London: Rigel, 2004).
Tryggve Mettinger, The Riddle of the Resurrection—“Dying and Rising Gods” in the Ancient Near East (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International: 2001).
Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus (Grand Rapids, Zondervan: 2007).