Briefly, the Egyptians believed that Osiris was King and Creator of the gods, and of heaven and earth, that he came down to earth to live as a man, that he was killed by his enemies, (other gods headed by Seth,) that his body was mutilated and scattered, and that he rose to once again assume command in the heavens. The ancient Egyptians appealed to him for resurrection and eternal life in the heavens.
Lest the reader be misled, I shall state my thesis boldly here at the beginning of my discourse. It is my firm belief that the event of Jesus was known many millennia before it actually took place, and that the account, or prophecy, was maintained by certain cultures, and later incorporated into their folk myths. This is the root behind the similarity of the ancient stories from culture to culture, all reflecting in various distorted forms that most ancient knowledge.
The Egyptians were fortunate in that their folk memories reflect considerable more details of that account, even though still highly distorted.
Since publication of The Egyptian Book of the Dead (Papyrus of Ani) by E. A. Wallis Budge in 1895, untold numbers of people have written books, papers, and dissertations around the many parallels between Jesus and the Egyptian King God, Osiris. In more recent decades this demanding puzzle has been assigned to thievery by Jesus, or his followers, in borrowing the Egyptian story, and applying it to him. This includes extending the details to an incredible death and resurrection. Unfortunately, those who espouse such weird and godless theory seem to know very little about the facts available to us from historic documents. They clearly are unfamiliar with the ancient Egyptian texts. Further, the New Testament record, and the statements by Josephus, are regarded as worthless except as evidence of the psychological madness of a few followers.
My purpose here is not to waste my time or that of the reader in refuting such pathological nonsense. Rather I shall concentrate on technical details of the parallels to show the strength of the similarities.
James George Frazer (1854 - 1941) made a major contribution to cataloguing the stories of murdered and resurrected gods in myths around the world. His first edition of the famous The Golden Bough was published in two volumes in 1890, shortly before Budge published the Papyrus of Ani. The work was expanded twice, with a 12-volume edition published in 1915. This was later reduced to a one-volume edition in 1922. Frazer was well educated, a Fellow of Trinity College, 1879-1941 and Professor of Social Anthropology at Liverpool University (non-resident),1907-22. He was a prolific writer, creating many books and papers. His other related works included Adonis, Attis and Osiris, 1906 (1961), The Dying God, 1911 (1966), and a series on The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead, 1913-1924. While I do not ignore Frazer, his works are secondary, and must be held subservient to the original texts. As with many scholars over the past century, his interpretation of the stories reflect a puzzle that has had no clear framework, and is based strictly on speculation.
My purpose here is open the mystery to more certain understanding. I do not quote from secondary works and their speculations except to cite views held by those authors.
My sources are The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts Translated into English by R. O. Faulkner, Aris & Phillips, Warminster, England, 1969, and The Egyptian Book of the Dead, with a subtitle, The Book of Going Forth by Day, translated by R. O. Faulkner, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1994. I also use the translation of the Book of the Dead, (The Papyrus of Ani), by E. A. Wallis Budge, Dover 1967 (and other) reprints of the 1895 edition.
The first is a listing of all religious texts available from the Fifth and Sixth dynasties. As stated by Faulkner:
The Pyramid Texts of Ancient Egypt were carved on the walls of the pyramids of King Unas of the end of the Fifth Dynasty and of the rulers of the Sixth Dynasty, (c. 2500 BC) and constitute the oldest corpus of Egyptian religious and funerary literature now extant. Furthermore, they are the least corrupt of all such collections of funerary texts, and are of fundamental importance to the student of Egyptian religion.
The Papyrus of Ani is a beautiful, full-color reproduction of the original Egyptian papyrus dating from the New Kingdom, circa 1250 BC, from which Budge did his initial work. It probably was the product of scribes at a funerary workshop, sold to wealthy Egyptians who could afford it.
As a further important source I use the Moralia, Volume 5 of Plutarch, written circa 100 AD, published in the Loeb Library series of Harvard University, 1936, with many reprints, and translated by Frank Cole Babbitt. The first edition of the Moralia was by Stephanus in 1572. It comprised fifteen volumes, and is published in that traditional order by Harvard Press.
Plutarch gave us a dissertation on Isis and Osiris in which he presents the Osiris myth, containing more information than we can deduce from the formal Egyptian funerary statements — which are often mere allusions. While the myth may be a fanciful story, it offers additional insight to give us a better idea of how the Egyptians understood the role of Osiris.
I shall offer details from the above sources to support these remarks.
As Budge wrote in his section on The Legend of Osiris:
We find that the doctrine of eternal life and of the resurrection of a glorified or transformed body, based upon the ancient story of the resurrection of Osiris after a cruel death and horrible mutilation, inflicted by the powers of evil, was the same in all periods, and that the legends of the most ancient times were accepted without material alteration or addition in the texts of the later dynasties. The story of Osiris is nowhere found in a connected form in Egyptian literature, but everywhere, and in texts of all periods, the life, sufferings, death and resurrection of Osiris are accepted as facts universally admitted.
While many recent scholars look with disdain on the work of Budge this statement accurately reflects the Egyptian sources.
We should note the manner of address in the Pyramid Texts, and the Papyrus of Ani. Always does the human person (King) who makes an appeal for eternal life assume the status of Osiris. As Budge wrote:
Osiris was the god through whose sufferings and death the Egyptian 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 lives forever, the deceased will live for ever; if Osiris dies, then will the deceased perish.
Thus in the following quotes from the Pyramid Texts the reader should note how the the Egyptian appeals were made on the behalf of the King, who was the human personification of Osiris.
First I shall summarize remarks by Plutarch that enlighten this story. While some may regard him as a secondary source, his is the only ancient account available to us that shows how common Egyptian folk believed, much closer to Egyptian times, and not influenced by modern skeptical theories. In Moralia Plutarch addresses a priestess named Clea. I have myself employed the technique of addressing a particular individual to smooth formation of my thoughts. Plutarch did the same. For convenience of the reader I have excerpted all pertinent paragraphs of the original text of Plutarch. In Section 358E he describes general attitudes about ancient myths:
There is one thing that I have no need to mention to you: if they hold such opinions and relate such tales about the nature of the blessed and imperishable (in accordance with which our concept of the divine must be framed) as if such deeds and occurrences actually took pace, then “Much need there is to spit and cleanse the mouth,” as Aeschylus has it.
But the fact is that you yourself detest those persons who hold such abnormal and outlandish opinions about the gods. That these accounts do not, in the least, resemble the sort of loose fictions and frivolous fabrications which poets and writers of prose evolve from themselves, after the manner of spiders, interweaving and extending their unestablished first thoughts, but that these contain narrations of certain puzzling events and experiences you will of yourself understand. Just as the rainbow, according to the account of the mathematicians, is a reflection of the sun, and owes its many hues to the withdrawal of our gaze from the sun and our fixing it on the cloud, so the somewhat fanciful accounts here set down are but reflections of some true tale which turns back our thoughts to other matters.
Plutarch said it well. The ancient myths are evolved fabrications that reflect a much older and now mostly forgotten reality.
You may note his view:
. . . the nature of the blessed and imperishable (in accordance with which our concept of the divine must be framed) . . .
Plutarch clearly believed that the gods actually exist, that they are divine, and that they are heavenly and immortal.
Thus the myths of Osiris and Isis are far more than pleasant fabrications; they retain degraded human memory of “blessed and imperishable” divine beings.
Individuals who hold to the inferior view have
. . . Much need to spit and cleanse the mouth . . .
In other words, they should cleanse not only their mouths but also their minds of nonsense. Those persons who hold abnormal and outlandish opinions about the gods, should reexamine where they stand.
This general indictment holds universally among modern scholarship.
The ancient myths contain narrations of certain puzzling events and experiences you will of yourself understand.
Plutarch expected Clea to understand, as well as his general readership. Apparently Clea had background material available. Hence, Plutarch believed that the myths of Osiris and Isis had an origin in a reality known to the ancients but now lost to us. We are uncertain of the sources to which Plutarch referred.
Some general notes:
In later paragraphs Plutarch identifies the Greek Typhon with the Egyptian Seth, the rebel god. I will substitute the name Seth where Typhon appears in his account.
Admixed in the story are segments that confuse events associated with the heavenly gods and events associated with the former planetary, but god-like, administrators. I make no attempt here to unravel this confusion. Plato, for example, wrote about these earthly god-like administrators.
The outline of the story from Plutarch is as follows:
Seth contrived a treacherous plot against Osiris with a group of 72 conspirators.
Seth made a beautiful chest, exactly the size of Osiris, whom he had earlier secretly measured.
During a party of the gods he enticed Osiris to lie down in the chest, pretending to see if it would properly fit.
When Osiris did so Seth quickly placed the lid on the chest while the conspirators nailed it shut.
They then placed the chest on the Nile, from whence it was carried to the Mediterranean and eventually landed at Byblos (modern Lebanon).
The date of this deed was the seventeenth day of Athyr, when the sun passes through Scorpion, and in the twenty-eighth year of Osiris.
(The sun passes through the constellation of Scorpio from Oct 23 to Nov 22. 17 days is Nov 9.)
Isis, the consort of Osiris, forlornly sought for the chest until eventually she learned that it had washed up on the shores of Byblos. The chest had landed in a clump of heather that grew up around it and enclosed it from everyone’s sight. The king of Byblos, greatly admiring this wooden mass, used it as a pillar to support the roof of his palace. The goddess traveled thence where she determined the location of Osiris. She persuaded the king to give the pillar to her, whereupon she loaded it aboard a boat and returned it to Egypt.
Isis proceeded to her son Horus and asked him to hide the chest in a secret place. But Seth, who was hunting by night in the light of the moon, happened upon it. Recognizing the body he divided it into fourteen parts and scattered them in different places.
Another section of the myth states that the end of the life of Osiris came on the seventeenth of the month, on which day it is quite evident to the eye that the period of the full moon is over. (In ancient times, until today, the month was counted from the New Moon. This means that an observer could clearly recognize that after seventeen days the moon has just passed fullness.)
Isis held a funeral for each part when she found it. This is the explanation for the many memorial tombs scattered throughout Egypt dedicated to Osiris.
According to the legend Osiris lived twenty-eight years. Others say that these were the years of his reign.
Plutarch gives his understanding of the origin of these numbers:
Fourteen is the number of the moon's illuminations; in that number of days she completes her cycle from darkness to full light..
The dismemberment of Osiris into fourteen parts was allegorically due to the days of the waning of the satellite from the time of the full moon to the new moon. In other words, the daily waning of the moon is the dismemberment of Osiris as the god of the moon.
I shall discuss the significance of these numbers more fully in following segments.
Osiris and Jesus, Part II
Osiris and Jesus, Part III
Osiris and Jesus, Part IV
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