Saturday, May 2, 2009

Christ in Egypt by D.M. Murdock

The book “Christ In Egypt, The Horus-Jesus Connection” is as much a story of Christianity as the New Testament. It is a story of the evolution of religious belief , beginning in Egypt, that continues today. D.M. Murdock begins this story in the introduction to the book. She describes the nature of how this story is told. The Jesus myth is not simply a previous tale of Horus with the name Jesus plugged in where one would read Horus. In fact there is not a single narrative of Horus that we could cite to plug Jesus into. Understanding this story requires an understanding of many different influences. In many ways this book reads like a detective novel.

The transformation of Egyptian religious belief is as much a syncretism of various gods and goddesses as is Christianity. It sets the mode by which humankind created religious belief. What I gather from her description, is this method of syncretism is what the ancient pagans saw as the perfection of the god myth through combining the tales of many different gods. There is evidence that the Egyptians were essentially monotheists and saw the various gods as simply one aspect of the great unknown creator god. They would have no problem combining different gods and their characteristics since they would see these as combining parts of a single great and mysterious god. This is expressed in hieroglyphs which picture a human body and the heads of two different gods on one single body. An example of this is a Horus-Seth united in a single being from the Amduat. Pagans in general had no problem including the gods of other nations and cultures to perfect their god myths. Egyptian influence on Greek, Roman, Persian, Hebrew, and other ancient beliefs is pervasive as you will see when you read this book.

This mode of religious expression is very foreign to the Christian believer who has been taught that God does not change. The assumption is that there was an original pure form of Christianity brought about by the disciples of Jesus and this is expressed perfectly from the Bible today in both spiritual and rational means.

Yet, even within the last 100-200 years we see various forms of Christianity being combined with modern ideas rather freely. This is easily seen by comparing sermons from 100 to 200 years ago to the sermons today. Some would argue that essential doctrines haven’t changed. They can only claim this if they dismiss as Christian those forms of Christianity they disagree with. Since we have many more versions of Christianity today than we did even 100 years ago, it would be difficult to pin down even one official version of Christianity to refute syncretism. And these various versions do disagree on what many consider to be essential doctrines. These doctrines include the nature of Jesus, the method of salvation, method of baptism, authority of the Bible, authority of the Pope, day of worship, and many others. This was as true in the 1st century as it is today.

What we find in this book is that Christian beliefs and practices are far from being unique, but are drawn from ancient practices that existed sometimes thousands of years before Christianity. Some of these practices were well known in the ancient world and some were parts of mystery religions. These practices and beliefs were combined together to meet the needs of the 1st century and then synthesized by force into what we call orthodox Christianity by the Roman empire. Lets look briefly at some of the claims of Christian uniqueness.

The virgin birth of the Christ (Anointed) child is central to the claim of Divine origin for Jesus. It has been presented as a unique feature of the Christian religion and the implication is that when it does occur in pagan systems of belief it is a late, post Christian, addition. D.M. Murdock provides extensive documentation of not only the virgin birth being a characteristic of Horus, but his mother Isis is a prototype of the virgin Mary. Early Christian imagery of Jesus and Mary is clearly a copy of the Horus/Isis virgin mother with child. The name Mary means beloved and is commonly merged with the name Isis in the form of Meri or Isis-Meri or Isis the beloved. Virginity has a number of reasons for its inclusion in these god myths. Later reasoning emphasized the need for purity and in the case of Jesus, virginity was proof that Jesus did not come from a human source.

One reason that it is so difficult to find other examples of virgin birth within the literature is because the term parthenogenesis is used for virgin (partheno) birth (genesis). This has been done to hide the fact that it is difficult to find any great leader or god in the ancient world that wasn't the product of virgin birth and is far from unique. The word in greek παρθένος parthenos means virgin and is the prominent root of the Greek temple to the goddess Athena called the Parthenon. This structure was predictably converted to a Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the 6th century.

In the early case of Isis the reason for virginity was quite different. Isis, being the Goddess creator and origin of all life, would have to birth the universe as a virgin. This would make sense to the ancients who would observe that life emerged from the female gender in most species of life. So early creator gods were Goddesses and Earth itself was called Mother Earth. More specifically, Isis births the sun as baby Horus on Dec 25. In the inscription over her temple at Sais you read "The fruit I have begotten is the sun" And with Isis, her virginity was self renewed to the point that she could be a perpetual virgin.

After being born in the form of a helpless child the Sun continued to age and take different forms throughout the year until it would be born again on Dec. 25, the winter solstice. This was the turning point where the daylight hours would begin to get longer. What is interesting is that John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin and preparer of the way, was born exactly 6 months, at the summer solstice, before Jesus. The Christian celebration of St. John occurs at this time in which the daylight hours are the longest and would represent the beginning of the stage of the sun in which its hours would be getting shorter. It is interesting to note in John 3:30 (the most gnostic gospel) it states that "He must increase, but I must decrease." in reference to Jesus.

D.M. Murdock continues to show how Sun worship was an essential part of the syncretic mixture of religious myth which created Christianity. And she clearly establishes that Dec. 25 and the celebrations around the birth of the new sun existed thousands of years before Christianity and were unmistakable features of the 1st century consciousness. This was such a problem that early church fathers had to address accusations that Christians were not Sun worshippers. This is understandable considering all the solar and astronomical references to Jesus as the light of the world, the bright and morning star, the victory of light over darkness, and others in the New Testament.

"St. Cyprian spoke of Christ as the true sun (sol verus)." Cyprian also writes, "O, how wonderfully acted Providence than on that day on which that Sun was born...Christ should be born." "St. Ambrose says precisely, 'He is our new sun (Hic sol novus noster).' Similar figures are employed by Gregory of Nazianzus, Zeon of Verona, Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, etc." Christ in Egypt page 112-113 Clement of Alexandria calls Christ the "Sun of the Resurrection"

The church father Tertullian (c. 155-230 AD/CE) writes in a rather defensive manner to the charge of worshipping the sun, "...Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray towards the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity. What then? Do you do less than this? Do not many among you, with an affectation of sometimes worshipping the heavenly bodies likewise, move your lips in the direction of the sunrise?" Ad Nationes 1:13 Augustine (354-430 AD/CE) had to refute the same charges even later in Tractates on the Gospel of John.

When we consider the Egyptian winter solstice celebration we find Epiphanius, Plutarch, and Macrobius describing a similar ceremony that further indicates why Pagans would accuse Christians of worshiping the Sun. Macrobius writes in Saturnalia (1:18:10), " the winter solstice the sun would seem to be a little child, like that which the Egyptians bring forth from a shrine on an appointed day, since the day is then at its shortest and the god is accordingly shown as a tiny infant." In the case of Epiphanius the passages describing this celebration in Alexandria are deleted in the Migne edition which presents a case of deliberate and egregious censorship. This is because it describes an infant child brought forth as born of a virgin from the lower depths of the shrine of Core, which means virgin. This wooden image of the child sun is carried on a litter and has the sign of the cross inlaid with gold on each hand, both knees, and on the forehead. Gregory Nazianzen (329-389) describes the Greek form of this celebration in which is heard the festal shout, "the virgin has brought forth, the light grows."

This is just the tip of the iceberg. D.M. Murdock has much more information, with references, on the Egyptian origins of Satan, the resurrection, the star in the east, the three kings, the 12 followers, the miracles, the crucifixion, Proto-Christianity formed in Alexandria, and many others. This book will take a while to get through, and opens up so many more questions and avenues to explore than I ever thought possible. With this book, it is going to be far more difficult to deny the pagan origins of Christianity. It is going to be far more difficult to claim that Christianity is "The Truth."

That being said, it does open up many of the sayings ascribed to Jesus. These sayings can be applied in a much broader context and allows them to reveal many of their original intents within the mystery religions of the 1st century. These Bible sayings and stories are an integral part of the Western mind. Having the freedom to look at these stories as myths places them within our consciousness in a way that allows them to speak out from under the subconscious threats of death and condemnation. No longer does fundamental Christianity have a hold on these truths that are rather lifeless and frightening when applied in reference to beliefs in an eternal hell and the obsessive need to have Jesus become everyone's "personal savior."

D.M. Murdock obviously put a lot of work and research into this book. It is well worth reading and reveals insights into what is the true origin of Christianity. This information should have been available to the general public long ago. It is understandable why this hasn't been presented before because for many centuries any criticism of the "truth" of Christianity would be met by death, loss of the ability to make an income, and other social pressures. I have also learned to appreciate the finer points of the Egyptian religion. It is no longer this dark and scary entry into the land of mummies and monsters born of curses and superstition. It is a very sophisticated philosophy of light and darkness, good and evil, and the purification of the soul.

I highly recommend this book and encourage you to read it slowly and thoughtfully, taking time to place yourself back in time with D.M. Murdock when humanity saw things much differently.


IHVH said...

I agree. And I hope to go to Egypt one day and sleep in the pyramid(s) .

Marmalade said...

I also have read and reviewed this book, but your review is much more polished than mine. Nice choice of pictures. I'm a fan of Acharya S. I love the overload of examples she offers in her work. This book was particularly impressive.

A major problem with it is that the people who should read it won't. I realize this book was a response to clarifying the information provided in Zeitgeist, but someone really should make a similar film solely based on Acharya's work.

Her work is more academic and not something your average person would be interested in reading. Also, you have to look elsewhere for alternative spiritual insight. But that isn't her purpose and so she shouldn't be judged for that.

Acharya is great for what she does, but what the world really needs is a new Joseph Campbell.

Rockenstein said...

I just came from the Amazon page for "Christ in Egypt" (CIE) and noticed the review by "Marmalade" - I assume you're the same person. I can't figure out why people are voting on your review keeping it up top when there are others so much better. Not that yours is bad but you begin by saying you haven't actually read the book:

"I've only so far read parts of Christ in Egypt"

And in the very next sentence you turn people off by implying that it's mostly a reference book:

"I'll mostly use it as a reference"

And "Tom Harpur and Freke and Gandy" are books easily attacked by both theists and atheists that cannot compare and don't even come close to the level of scholarship of CIE. It's comments like these that will stop people from reading it.

There are other reviews that would better as the first people see. I'm just offering positive criticism of your review and you do go on to say some good things too. So, don't get upset - I'm just trying to help. Anyway, all the best to ya, It was just on my mind at the time I came here and say your comment here. You have some interesting blogs I see.

Anyway, the conclusion of THIS review does talk about the spirituality that Acharya brings to light:

"I have also learned to appreciate the finer points of the Egyptian religion. It is no longer this dark and scary entry into the land of mummies and monsters born of curses and superstition. It is a very sophisticated philosophy of light and darkness, good and evil, and the purification of the soul."

And Acharya does talk about spirituality on her website. I guess you wanted some New Age flaky stuff? Or some talk about everybody being the Christ?

Richard Harty said...

Let's hope more people read this book. By the way Benjamin, your blog titled "Morality: Christians vs. Jesus" was great. And I really like the title!

Marmalade said...

Hey Richard - I'm truly glad you liked that blog because it took me a while to write. As for the title, I sometimes think the Christians won. Poor Jesus! He's still nailed to the cross and the Christians won't let him down.

Marmalade said...

Rockenstein - I didn't mean my comments as criticisms of Acharya. I'm very familiar with her work and her website. I love what she does. I've put in my time over the years defending her good name.

Yep, I'm the same Marmalade on Amazon. The only reason my review has as many votes is because I wrote it weeks before anyone else had. I've since finished the book and so I should update it soon. BTW Acharya thanked me for writing that review and she posted it on the Stellar House website.

I wasn't implying any dismissiveness when I said I'd use it mostly as a reference. I only meant that it's a book I'll refer back to often. However, when I update my review I'll be sure to clarify that.

As for Freke and Gandy, I do have a relevant comment that I added to my review in response to someone making a similar complaint. I realize these authores aren't in the same league, but that is no reason to be haughty towards those who are successful popularizers.

"Anyway, the conclusion of THIS review does talk about the spirituality that Acharya brings to light"

Yep. I read the conclusion as well. Still, Acharya is a different kind of writer than Campbell. And, besides, it's not as if they're in competition. They serve different purposes, but I was lamenting the fact that Campbell is no longer with us.

When I said that the world needs a new Joseph Campbell, I meant that I'd like to see a new popular scholar who has as broad of a range as he had. Acharya is, relatively speaking, more focused on a single area which is simply a different style of scholarship.

I'll take your criticisms to heart. As you misunderstood my meaning, I assume I could be more clear. I'll see what I can do. Thanks. :)

Rockenstein said...

First of all, Richard Harty has clearly worked hard on this blog with a thorough description of the book. Also, I just now noticed his very thoughtful review on CIE up at Amazon - excellent! It must have been difficult trying to fit all of your thoughts within the Amazon word limit.

Marmalade "I'll take your criticisms to heart. As you misunderstood my meaning, I assume I could be more clear. I'll see what I can do. Thanks. :)"

Thanks for being so understanding & cool about it. I understood where you were coming from - I am just concerned about others who may be on the fence theist or atheist, trying to decide whether or not to be biased against anything by Acharya/Murdock being turned-off by the very first review at Amazon as a first impression. But, because you're probably right when you said that people who "need to read CIE the most probably won't."

Some atheists - Richard Carrier, for example, in a podcast tells people not to read Tom Harpur, Freke and Gandy saying he wish those books were never written. He implies Acharya's work be in that category even though he has *NEVER* actually read a single book by Acharya. He did recently say that "Christ in Egypt" is far better than all of her previous books on the Infidel guy show at the end of April last week but he probably hasn't actually read CIE either - maybe he plans to.

"The only reason my review has as many votes is because I wrote it weeks before anyone else had."

Oh, right that would make sense! Maybe you would consider deleting it and reposting it when you're ready?

"BTW Acharya thanked me for writing that review"

I'm sure she did - she was probably happy to see the first review be a 5 star.

Anyway, I'm gonna have to read a few more of your great blogs!

Richard Harty said...

Hi Rockenstein, you posted...

"It must have been difficult trying to fit all of your thoughts within the Amazon word limit."

It was! LOL D.M. Murdock covered so many interesting things that it was hard to leave some of them out. I kind of had to think of the review as a trailer for a great movie.

Marmalade said...

Rockenstein - I know how people dismiss Acharya by categorizing her with other authors that they dismiss. I must admit I really don't care about those kind of people (nor the people who listen to them). I see their dismissal as intellectually dishonest and I'm not going to change anything to suit them.

I read widely including both more popular and more scholarly work. Freke and Gandy were some of the earliest writers I read about this subject. They're a useful introduction to a complex subject. Tom Harpur is also a popular author I enjoy. I'm not ashamed at reading many different kinds of authors.

There are two apologists who wrote a book criticizing Harpur, and one of them has a blog. I responded to his criticisms of mythicism, and I used Acharya's Christ In Egypt extensively. You can find some of my responses in my blog.

As for my review, I'll change it to improve it. But I won't change it simply because you ask me to. If you don't like my review, then write your own.

Marmalade said...

Rockenstein - I was just looking at Christ In Egypt. I noticed that she includes in her bibliography Freke and Gandy. So, if she includes them in her book, then why are you so hard on me for including them in reviewing that book?

Marmalade said...

In case anyone is interested, I edited my Amazon review. I hope it's satisfactory. If not, too bad. :)

BodieP said...

This sounds fascinating; I plan to buy and read it. It sounds like it addresses one of my current areas of interest--the links between the christian mythos and other previous and contemporaneous myths. Like you, I have long been puzzled at the Christian view that "our" myth is literally true and holy, and all other similar myths--including those that pre-date the Christian era, are "the devil working hard" to discredit the Christian "truth." The more we learn, the more the lines separating christain myth from other myth blur...

RC said...

Interesting post -- this is very thorough thank you for sharing your insite and the word of D.M. Murdock.

Anonymous said...

Interesting! I have to say that it doesn't fit my understanding that well: I was under the impression that a number of the mergers of egyptian gods were to do with co-opting other people's worship when they changed priesthood.

In the same way, my impression was that the evidences of simularity you suggest were just common or garden syncretism, of the kind that was recomended by missionaries. Finding accommodations with existing culture, whether greek or egyptian, and using their culture to express Jesus. I thought Tertulian was telling people off for concealing themselves with those very similarities and doing true rather than symbolic syncretism.

Your observation of John the Baptist being associated with the summer solstice may well be correct, but of course that would associate him with the sun rather than Jesus.

This is a common area of discussion, ever since comparative religion was discovered, but the trouble is that it is often done in a really sloppy way, so I was hoping for commonalities that didn't relate to either the months of the year or portentous birth.

That doesn't tell me much about whether this is a good book to get because it's sort of the low hanging fruit of this kind of thing, as every culture without electric lighting will notice the solstices, and everyone gives birth. The other classic ones I know of are tying metaphors to the human body, and "that is why the leopard has spots" stuff. Any chance of on the more specific unusual bits?

Richard Harty said...


You have some great observations. I think Murdock's point about John the Baptist was that he was connected to Sun worship.

In terms of the syncretic process, there were probably multiple mechanisms of absorption. It is a very difficult detective process since we find very few direct explanations within historical writings.

The low hanging fruit is probably what the common people of the day adopted the most easily. What DM Murdock brought that's at least new to me is how the international Trade unions were the possible source of Christianity with their secret societies and new ideas of independent value apart from the rulers of the day claiming to be god or having god's blessing.

The other influence she covers that I had not payed much attention to was the Jewish philosopher Philo from Alexandria. He seems to be a prototype of a more specific Messianic/Egyptian pre Christian belief.

Good luck in your search!