So there’s this movie called Zeitgeist. It’s popular on YouTube. It’s old. It questions the originality of the claims Christianity makes about Jesus.
It’s not very good history.
It resurfaced recently as a silly cartoon infographic circulating on Facebook and elsewhere.
If the claims in this infographic were accurate it’d be a great reason to rethink following Jesus.
But they’re not. I did a little reading when this popped up on a friend’s wall. Here’s what I found…
It’s a shame hardly any of the statements about Horus are even remotely close to being true, and most of them are based on some non-scholarly comparative religion by a guy named Gerard Massey that has even been debunked by skeptics – there aren’t any references to Egyptian papyrii, hieroglyphics, or recordings of the Horus legend, of which there are actually many competing accounts, that back up the claims made, and the comparisons on the basis of what is generally agreed about Horus stories are so vague that they’d apply to anybody people want to worship as a god…
Ignoring the odd origin stories of Horus (there are many, some involve Osiris being raised, others involve Isis conceiving Horus from the dismembered body parts of her husband, which I’d argue makes the virgin birth claim untenable, also the idea that Iris was still a virgin after a significant time period of being married to Osiris before his death is frankly, quite quaint…), there are other obvious problems.
The Christmas day birthday one just isn’t true – the mishmash of calendars being used and developed by different cultures not withstanding – in Egyptian mythology Horus is born on one of the five epagomenal days (the days added to the lunar calendar to make up a year). These were added to the end of the year – but the year started in either July or August, not January. So the last five days weren’t the last five days of December, but days in July, or August…
Also, Christmas was a deliberate takeover of pagan festivals, it wasn’t until about 300AD that anybody seriously suggested Jesus was born then, and it’s not a particularly serious suggestion given the complete lack of evidence.
If these very simple claims are very easy to debunk, and they appear to be – though admittedly there’s a lot of competing claims about Horus that have been compiled as though there’s only one Horus narrative, and there’s a few merges going on between Horus and his father Osiris. The best one being the resurrection one – which confuses Horus with his father Osiris. Who wasn’t crucified, but nailed into a coffin…
If this is the kind of thing that passes for educated atheist interactions with Christian beliefs then it makes me sad.
There’s no doubt that both Christianity and prior to that, Judaism emerged within, and mostly against, other cultures with competing religious views and accounts for the creation of the world, and their particular culture’s special place within it. There’s also no doubt that Christianity deliberately responds to alternative claims using familiar terminology, so, for example, just about all the titles used for Jesus were actually used for the worshipped Roman Emperors – because Christians were making a deliberate comparison between Jesus and Caesar.
Most Ancient Near Eastern religions involve Gods and their offspring – none push quite the same human/divine paradigm that Jesus is claimed to have pushed (fully God+fully man), and none of them hang quite so much on the full humanity, with divine parenthood, of the saviour figure.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the real God would present himself in a manner expected by the people of the day, especially if it’s a manner described years before in the Old Testament.
Here’s a nice little bit of extended scholarly debunking of Zeitgeist from CPX.