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Another Similarity Between Osiris & Jesus

OsirisIn my essay, Abadoning Christianity, I briefly discuss some similarities between Osiris and Jesus. I quoted E.A. Wallis Budge, from his introduction to his translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead (starting on page li),

This is the story of the sufferings and death of Osiris as told by Plutarch. Osiris was the god through whose suffering and death the Egyptians hoped that his body might rise again in some transformed or glorified shape, and to him who had conquered death and had become the king of the other world the Egyptian appealed in prayer for eternal life through his victory and power. In every funeral inscription known to us, from the pyramid texts down to the roughly-written prayers upon coffins of the Roman period, what is done for Osiris is done also for the deceased, the state and condition of Osiris are the state and condition of the deceased; in a word, the deceased is identified with Osiris. If Osiris liveth for ever, the deceased will live for ever; if Osiris dieth, then will the deceased perish.

Later in the XVIIIth, or early in the XIXth dynasty, we find Osiris called 'the king of eternity, the lord of everlastingness, who traverseth millions of years in the duration of his life, the firstborn son of the womb of Nut, begotten of Seb, the prince of gods and men, the god of gods, the king of kings, the lord of lords, the prince of princes, the governor of the world, from the womb of Nut, whose existence is everlasting, Unnefer of many froms and of many attributes, Tmu in Annu, the lord of Akert, the only one, the lord of the land on each side of the celestial Nile.'

In that essay, I wrote, "The first paragraph above, shows the similarity in roles of Osiris and Jesus - that through their resurrection humans can attain eternal life. The second paragraph shows the similarity in how they are addressed in literature, although it would be easy to see how these lofty praises could be addressed to any powerful figure. At any rate, seeing some of the important traits of Jesus in a mythical figure that predates him, does call into question the source of those concepts in Christianity."

Well, I'm currently re-reading The Egyptian Book of the Dead (I meant to be finished before my visit to the King Tut and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs Exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art, but it's taking me a bit longer than I'd hoped). I just noticed another similarity between Osiris and Jesus (page cxxxviii).

It is to be noticed how closely the deceased is identified with Osiris, the type of incorruptibility. Osiris takes upon himself "all that is hateful" in the dead : that is, he adopts the burden of his sins; and the dead is purified by the typical sprinkling of water.

So, it's not only through Osiris's resurrection that the Egyptians thought they could attain eternal life, but they even envisioned Osiris as performing a function very similar to forgiving them of their sins.

And now that I'm through with Budge's introduction and actually getting into the Book of the Dead itself, I found an interesting passage right in the first chapter.

Thine enemy[8] is given to the (10) fire, the evil one hath fallen; his arms are bound, and his legs hath Ra taken from him. The children of (11) impotent revolt shall never rise up again.

[8 The enemy of Ra was darkness and night, or any cloud which obscured the light of the sun. The darkness personified was Apep, Nak, etc., and his attendant fiends were the mesu betesh, or 'children of unsuccessful revolt.']

So, here's a passage that sounds suspiciously like Lucifer's unsuccesful revolt from the Bible, and a subsequent banishing into a realm of fire. Although, I have a feeling that revolts against the primary deity are pretty common in mythology.

Just as a note on this, as I wrote in that essay, be careful if you plan to research this subject further. That's probably good advice for anything you plan to research, whether the old fashioned way or on the Internet, but I've found many oversimplified lists of the similarities between Christiany and previous religions that don't seem to be entirely accurate.

For further information, Budge's translation of & introduction to the book of the dead can be found here. Another online version with pictures can be found here.

Comments

I recently watched the movie 'Religilous' which describes the many faults of all religions and the many ignorance's of religious people as well as the weakness of blind faith. This show sparked my interest when the Egyptian god Osiris was compared to Jesus. I must admit, it raised some questions about the reliability of the Bible concerning Jesus. I did some of my own research and I am still convinced that the account of Jesus in the Bible is original. Many sources, quotes, websites, whatever claim the two stories are identical citing nothing more than assumptions, stretches, opinions made from the legend. A quote I found on the site: http://confidentchristianity.blogspot.com/2007/06/resurrection-myths-vs-resurrection-of.html states,"The key here is dating. Most of the alleged parallels between Christianity and mystery religions, upon close scrutiny will show that Christian elements predate mythological elements. In cases where they do not, it is often Jewish elements which predate both Christianity and the myth, and which lent themselves to both religions." I do not believe there is even close to enough proof to assume or pass as fact that the account of Jesus was taken from earlier 'religions.' To pass this theory off as fact would be a gross dereliction of a scholars responsibility to the public.

Ben,

I definitely agree with at least one thing you wrote:

Many sources, quotes, websites, whatever claim the two stories are identical citing nothing more than assumptions, stretches, opinions made from the legend.

I said pretty much the same thing at the end of this very entry. Many people, in an overzealous attempt to discredit Christianity, overemphasize similarities between Jesus and prior myths, or even list similarities that aren't true. There are still similarities, but you need to be especially careful in your sources on this topic.

There was a decent article in a recent issue of Skeptic, and it's now available online in eSkeptic (you have to scroll down a bit to get to the actual article). The article deals specifically with Part I of the Internet film, Zeitgeist. The film claimied that the myth of Jesus came entirely from earlier myths, without any historical figure as the basis for Jesus. The article pointed out the flaws and sloppy research from the film. I question some of the points in the article, but it's still pretty good.

I skimmed through the link you provided. As one of the commenters on that site pointed out, I question her chronology. The Papyrus of Ani (the book that prompted me to write this blog entry) predates Christianity by a millenium. The Papyrus of Ani is itself not the oldest version of the Book of the Dead - it is (or rather, was at the time it was discovered) merely a very well preserved copy. Mentions of Osiris predate the Book of the Dead by over a millenium. The resurrection aspect of the myth of Osiris certainly predates the myth of Jesus's resurrection. (Although this particular picture doesn't depict Osiris's resurrection, here's a judgment scene from the Book of the Dead, showing Osiris as the god of the dead.)

I think it's obvious that the Jesus myth is more than merely a copy of Osiris, but, given the parallels, the similar iconography, and the geographical and temporal proximity, I also think it's safe to say that the stories of Jesus were influenced by Egyptian relgion, and that part of the Jesus myth comes from Osiris. (I could also add that it's not only Christianity that was influenced by Egyptian religion. Parallels to the Osiris myth can be seen in Greek relgion, such as with Dionysus and Pan.)

I don't think this is a very shocking perspective, either. When we study religions, we see how they change over time, incorporating aspects from different regions, while at the same time introducing new innovations. We see it in the transfer from Greek gods to Roman gods. We see the similarities in the pantheons of the Mayans and Aztecs. We see it in the Bible incorporating the Mesopotamian flood myth (i.e. Gilgamesh, although there are even older versions). We see it in the mixing of local gods with Catholic saints when missionaries tried to impose Christianity. Why should we be surprised to see a small Jewish group incorporate aspects from neighboring religions?

One other note on the reliability of the New Testament as being historically accurate - even if we had nothing else to compare it to, we would know that it must contain at least some mistakes because it's not internally consistent.

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