Was the story of Jesus actually lifted from the Egyptian Horus myth?

Was the story of Jesus actually lifted from the Egyptian Horus myth?

"Dear Father Spitzer, the Jesus myth is almost entirely lifted from Horus, the Egyptian God of the sun."

"Born of a virgin on Dec. 25, had 12 disciples, healed the blind, raised a man from the dead, crucified, rose again three days later, and was. . . savior. . . all thousands of years before the New Testament (and a larger part of the Old, as I recall) was written."

"Although I have never doubted that a man named Jesus existed and taught, calling him the messiah seems extremely pretentious."

—Brad (as commented on the Magis Center Facebook page)

 


Dear Brad,

Thank you for your question.

I think you will eventually want to answer it in a much larger context taking into consideration some of the outstanding scholarly works of historical exegesis concerning Jesus Christ (see below).

These works address the historical questions which have been raised by scholars who have extensive knowledge of the Semitic world and literature at the time of Jesus.

I can give you a brief answer to your specific question.

To be quite frank: the history of Jesus of Nazareth is not derived from the myth of Horus.

horus vs. jesusCC BY-SA 2.0 by Karen Green / via Wikimedia Commons 

The Horus Myth

As you know, Horus is said to be the god of the sky (and therefore contains the sun and the moon).

His divine origin is from Isis, who is said to have been impregnated in various ways. However, she was by no means a virgin. 

Horus did not have a single incarnation (e.g., born on December 25 of a virgin), but rather multiple incarnations in all of the pharaohs. Horus, in fact, is thought to be the source of Pharaonic power. When one Pharaoh died, Horus would assume a new incarnation in the next Pharaoh and the deceased Pharaoh would assume the presence of Osiris.

To be honest with you, the differences between Horus and Jesus are so vast that it does not seem reasonable to believe that a “Jesus myth” could have been developed from it.

A Few False Claims Within the Horus Myth Compared to the Story of Jesus

Above, I stated that Horus was not born from a virgin—as Jesus was—but it is also claimed that his birth was announced by an angel and a star and that shepherds visited the cave in which he was born. All aspects, except the location, are eerily similar to the story of Christ's birth. However, there is actually no reference to a cave or shepherds in the Horus myth. Furthermore, it is not stated anywhere that the birth was heralded by an angel or announced via a star. 

Another claim, similar to the story of Jesus is that Horus had twelve disciples. However, this claim can be deemed false as there is no consistent recollection of the number of followers that Horus had. Some accounts say that Horus had only four followers (called "Shemsu Heru"). Other accounts say that at some point in Horus's life, he had sixteen followers. Furthermore, there is even a group that consisted of an undetermined amount of followers. Jesus, on the other hand, did have exactly twelve disciples—which can be historically proven.

Horus is also claimed to have performed miracles. Which would of course be present in the retellings of the myth; he was deemed a "god"! However, there is no mention, nor proof, that Horus ever walked on water, raised people from the dead, or exercised demons. Also through the use of history, we can prove the miracles of Jesus.

Just like Jesus, it is claimed that Horus was crucified between two thieves. he is even said to have been buried for three days and was resurrected! However, Horus is not reported to have died in most retellings of the myth. Commonly, he is said to merge Re (the Sun God) and is reborn as the sun rises every day. In contrast, the use of historicity proves Jesus's resurrection.

Moving Beyond the Egyptian Horus Myth: Verified Facts About Jesus

As noted above, there is a vast literature of serious historical scholarship about Jesus.

I would like to recommend to you two series that are both recent and rigorously peer-reviewed.

First, is a five-volume series by John P. Meier entitled, A Marginal Jew.

The first volume addresses the historical apparatus and methodology used not only in Meier’s volumes but also in the vast literature of serious historical Jesus research that has been done in the last 100 years—particularly in the last 40 years.

The other three volumes specifically address questions surrounding Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection.

Meier uses several well-known techniques in the historical methods to ascertain the most primitive strands of the New Testament narratives and then applies historical criticism to them to derive the most probable historical conclusions.

Each volume is about 800 pages of extensive research with hundreds of footnotes and outstanding scholarly journals.

I also recommend the three-volume series of N.T. Wright, particularly the second volume, Jesus and the Victory of God, and the third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God.

Though these titles indicate conclusions, Wright has used a rigorous exegetical and historical method to come to those conclusions, and his work is again heavily supported by hundreds of footnotes in outstanding scholarly journals.

Again, thank you so much for your question. I hope this is helpful.

Fr. Spitzer

Read Also:

The 6 Criteria Historians Use for Proof of Jesus' Miracles: Did Jesus really perform miracles? Historians use 6 main criteria to determine if an event really happened, and these can provide proof of Jesus' miracles.

 Reasons to Be Confident about the Historical Jesus: Through philosophical presuppositions, historical methodology, and the Gospels, we find a reason to believe in and evidence for the “historical” Jesus.

5 Reasons Why Jesus’ Miracles Were Unique for Their Time: Do you want a better understanding of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ? Discover 5 reasons Jesus' miracles were unique and how they're different than the presentation of miracles in Hellenistic writings.

5 Historical Ways of Verifying Jesus’ Resurrection: Are there any ways of verifying Jesus’ resurrection? Exegetes like N.T. Wright and Gary Habermas have found 5 historical ways of proving the resurrection.

Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D. is a Catholic Priest in the Jesuit order (Society of Jesus) and is currently the President of the Magis Center and the Spitzer Center. He has made many TV appearances including: Larry King Live (debating Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow), the Today Show (debating on the topic of active euthanasia), The History Channel in “God and The Universe,” a multiple part PBS series “Closer to the Truth,” and the Hugh Hewitt Show. Currently appearing weekly on EWTN in “Father Spitzer’s Universe“.

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