My admiration for Christ’s teachings has not dimmed over the years. To me, his words are true and wise. They’re also tough to follow. Christ made it clear that a true spiritual, moral path was a difficult one. According to him, we all need to cease all forms of violence, abandon trappings of status, reduce our wealth to the bare minimum, sufficient only to survive, and devote our lives to helping others. Not easy!
The difficulty and challenge of following Christ’s teachings probably explain why the vast majority of the followers of Christian religions haven’t adopted such a lifestyle. Instead, most official Christians do believe in his goodness, and the need to be compassionate and generous, but not to such seeming extremes. There is also a strong focus on the deity aspect of Christ; that he was the Son of God, part of the Holy Trinity, and that he died on the cross to save our sins. Three days later, it is said, he rose again. After that, he took his place as Judge and King in the Afterlife, where he judges our sins. Unfortunately, according to my research, none of this deity material has anything to do with Jesus of Nazareth. Instead, all of it comes from the Ancient Egyptian god Osiris.
I’ve already written an article about the less-than-ideal elements of religions in my article, Domestic violence, religion and civilisation. In this article, I’m going to try and separate Christ – the actual person and his teachings – from what was added later by the Romans. More specifically, I’m going separate Christ from the Egyptian cult of Osiris. Most people have no idea that the religion of Osiris had anything to do with the Bible. In fact, it had a huge amount of influence.
In the three centuries before Christ was born, Egypt became integrated into the Greek influenced or Hellenic world. Before that time, Egypt had been one of the greatest ancient civilisations in the world, if not the greatest. For nearly three-thousand years, Ancient Egypt had developed and maintained a sophisticated society, centred around the worship of many gods. Probably the most famous of these gods was Osiris. Osiris was usually depicted as a person, often with green skin. He was seen as a civilising person of great importance and the Lord of the Afterlife. He had one main story associated with him; he was betrayed by his brother, Set, and killed. His wife (and sister) Isis searched for his dismembered body, resurrected it and was able to use it to become pregnant with a child, Horus. Horus grew up and when he became an adult, avenged his father’s death by killing Set. In this way, the triad of Mother, Son and Father-Ghost became a powerful symbol of god-hood, loyalty and unity.
Astute readers may have already noticed that the Osiris cult is already showing similarities to the story of Christ. This is not a new insight. As Egypt became part of the Hellenistic World, the Osiris cult morphed to become more Greek-friendly. Osiris became the god Serapis, a combination of Osiris and Apis (as in the Apis Bull, an ancient cult figure). In that form, Osiris-as-Serapis continued to be worshipped and his followers spread out from Egypt. In the two centuries after Christ’s life, followers of his teachings began to overlap with followers of Serapis. Many devout followers of Christ moved to Egypt, where they could fast and find isolation. The two groups mingled to such a degree that the early Alexandrian Christian community in Egypt (in around 200 AD) couldn’t seem to see any difference between Serapis and Christ. They would prostrate themselves without distinction between the two. Evidence of this behaviour turns up in a letter in ‘the Augustan History’ ascribed to the Emperor Hadrian. It refers to the worship of Serapis by residents of Egypt who described themselves as Christians and Christian worship by those claiming to worship Serapis. To quote:
“The land of Egypt, the praises of which you have been recounting to me, my dear Servianus, I have found to be wholly light-minded, unstable, and blown about by every breath of rumour. There those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are, in fact, devotees of Serapis. There is no chief of the Jewish synagogue, no Samaritan, no Christian presbyter, who is not an astrologer, a soothsayer, or an anointer. Even the Patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is forced by some to worship Serapis, by others to worship Christ.”
It is known that the Roman bishop of Alexandria was a big influence ￼on the development of the Roman Catholic religion. It’s therefore understandable that some features of the Serapis religion may have leaked into the formation of the Roman Catholic religion. What’s astonishing is how much leaked in. The famous Egyptologist, E.A. Wallis Budge, in his book ‘Osiris and the resurrection of Egypt’, described at length the many similarities between Christianity and the Osiris religion:
“The Egyptians of every period in which they are known to us believed that Osiris was of divine origin, that he suffered death and mutilation at the hands of the powers of evil, that after a great struggle with these powers he rose again, that he became henceforth the king of the underworld and judge of the dead, and that because he had conquered death the righteous also might conquer death. In Osiris the Christian Egyptians found the prototype of Christ, and in the pictures and statues of Isis suckling her son Horus, they perceived the prototypes of the Virgin Mary and her child.”
The list is surprisingly long. Here is my list of key elements of the Christian religion and their connection to Osiris:
The Star of Bethlehem: The star of Osiris was Sirius, the brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere. Sirius was a very important star in Egypt. It spent a lot of the year beneath the horizon but it rose, significantly, in Spring. The rising of Sirius in Egypt heralded the country’s period of fertility and was thus always associated with birth. In this way, the arrival or ‘birth’ of Osiris’s bright star heralded a new period of fertility, bounty and wealth. It’s therefore a huge coincidence that Christ’s birth was also associated with the arrival of a bright star.
The Three Kings: The Three Kings was a long-standing name for the three stars of Orion’s Belt. These stars are above Sirius in the night sky. Therefore, their appearance in the sky heralds the arrival of Sirius, and the new time of plenty.
The betrayal of Judas: As already mentioned, Osiris was betrayed by someone close to him; his brother Set, always portrayed as evil and scheming. The Christian religion explains that Christ was betrayed by someone close to him, his disciple and friend Judas. In this way, Judas has always been seen as the archetypal evil betrayer. It is therefore interesting to note that among the many gospels that were expunged from the early Christian canon, one is now known as the Book of Judas. The Book of Judas was almost lost forever, due to the mass burning of banned gospels by the early Roman Christian leaders, but a few copies survived. The Book of Judas takes a very different view on Judas’s role. In the book, Christ asks Judas to betray him to the Romans. Christ wants it to happen, as part of his personal journey of self-sacrifice. Judas doesn’t want to do such a thing but Christ insists; he says that Judas is the only person he can trust to carry out such a difficult task. In this way, Judas’s role is one of selfless help, not evil scheming. In truth, this makes far more sense that Judas the betrayer. Christ was clearly extremely intelligent and perceptive; would he really have been fooled by one of his disciples? There’s therefore good reason to believe that Judas’s role was altered to fit the role of Set; a very different character with very different motivations.
Christ is our Lord and Shepherd: The Egyptian god Osiris is invariably depicted, in carvings and reliefs, with the White Crown of Upper Egypt, supplemented with side-feathers to represent the Atef crown. He is also usually shown carrying a crook and flail, the traditional tools of a shepherd. The idea of a king’s subjects being his sheep was very popular in Ancient Egypt. It was used extensively with later gods of the Egyptian pantheon, in particular the Ram God Amun. Amun is one version of his name. He can also be pronounced Amon or Amen, due to the Ancient Egyptian language being liberal with vowel sounds. There are clear connections between the Amun/Amen religion and the descriptions of Jahweh in the Old Testament. This is because the Israelites were former slaves in Egypt during the time that Amun/Amen was the dominant god in Upper Egypt. These connection can be seen in a prayer to Amun-Ra:
Hail to thee, Amun-Ra, Lord of the thrones of the earth, the oldest existence, ancient of heaven, support of all things, Chief of the gods, lord of truth; father of the gods, maker of men and beasts and herbs; maker of all things above and below, Deliverer of the sufferer and oppressed, judging the poor, Lord of wisdom, lord of mercy; most loving, opener of every eye, source of joy, in whose goodness the gods rejoice, thou whose name is hidden.Thou art the one, maker of all that is, the one; the only one; maker of gods and men; giving food to all.
As I mentioned in my article Domestic violence, religion and civilisation, the idea of us being the Lord’s flock isn’t as pleasing as it might sound. We might feel secure, but we’re been treated like timid livestock.
Holy Communion: Christian doctrine tells us that the Holy Communion, or Eucharist, is a continuation of the ceremony carried out at the Last Supper by Christ, a Passover meal. In that meal, Christ instructed his followers to eat bread and wine in memory of him. That event, which some might see as a simply ‘meal of remembrance’ was transformed into a ceremony in which the followers eat bread and wine that has magically become elements of their divine leader. This ritual was also a key part of the Osirian religion and it had been carried out for millennia. During the Festival of Osiris, it is said that moulds were made from wood of a red tree in the forms of the sixteen dismembered parts of Osiris. Cakes of divine bread were then made from each mould and placed in a silver chest and set near the head of the god. On the first day of the ‘Festival of Ploughing’ the goddess Isis, wife and sister of Osiris, would appear in her shrine. In the shine, she was stripped naked. Paste was made from the grain and placed in her bed and moistened with water, representing the fecund earth. In the finale to the rituals, the followers ate this bread representation of their sacramental god, the eucharist by which they were transformed into replicas of their god.
Christ died and was then resurrected, three days later: As already mentioned, the Ancient Egyptian god Osiris was killed by his brother Set. His wife and sister Isis retrieved the body and used it to give birth to Horus, who was both the son of Osiris and Osiris reincarnated. In this way, the father and son were the same person. The three-day gap between vengeful death and rebirth also appears in the Osiris religion. The Passion Plays of Osiris, a key element of the religion, existed for at least a thousand years before the Roman Era. Records of them date back to the twelfth dynasty – around 1875 BC. They took place at Abydos, the place where Osiris’s body was said to have drifted ashore, after set threw him into the river. Some elements of the festival were held in the temple, while others involved public participation in a form of theatre. The stela of I-Kher-Nefert recounts the programme of events of the public elements over the five days of the festival:
The First Day: The Procession of Wepwawet. A mock battle is enacted during which the enemies of Osiris are defeated. A procession is led by the god Wepwawet (“opener of the way”).
The Second Day: The Great Procession of Osiris. The body of Osiris is taken from his temple to his tomb. The boat he is transported in, the ‘Neshmet’ barque, has to be defended against his enemies.
The Third Day: Osiris is Mourned and the Enemies of the Land are Destroyed.
The Fourth Day: Night Vigil. Prayers and recitations are made and funeral rites performed.
The Fifth Day: Osiris is Reborn. Osiris is reborn at dawn and crowned with the crown of Ma’at. A statue of Osiris is brought to the temple.
Therefore, according to his Passion Plays, three days after Osiris was placed in his tomb, he rose again.
The Roman Agenda
Hopefully, the evidence I’ve described so far has shown that many of the elements of the Christ story, described in the New Testament, seem to have been lifted from the Osiris religion. This doesn’t in any way lessen the importance of Christ’s teachings – I personally wish to follow them – but it does seem to show that the Romans created a hybrid religion. They wanted to turn Christ into an ancient god. I don’t think this was just a case of them lazily intermingling two different cults. There is an important issue behind this plan.
The Roman Catholic view of Christ was that he was God, or the Son of God, or both, just like Horus and Osiris. Christ was therefore not like a person, even though he was in a human body. He was the Supreme God, fundamentally different from the rest of us. None of us can become like Christ because we’re mere mortals. The best we can be is obedient followers, who live their lives in the right way and then go to Heaven, after being judged by the Lord. Christ-God and ourselves are entirely distinct. This view of Christ sets up a divide; Christ-the-God and us, one that can never be crossed. He’s perfect, we’re limited and flawed. We’re lucky that he wants to help us. If we do everything he says, we’ll be safe and be rewarded. This relationship is not one of equals; it is a master-servant relationship.
The Gnostics, one of the earliest followers of Christ’s teachings, had a very different view of Christ. They believed that Christ was human, just like ourselves, both physically and spiritually. The reason he was wise and possessed supernatural powers was entirely due to his efforts and abilities. There was nothing preventing anyone else becoming Christ-like; they just had to put in the effort, the self-sacrifice and follow the right spiritual path. In this way, Jesus was the Christos, the Guide, the Enlightened One. He was showing the way to everyone else. This idea, that everyone is capable of becoming god-like, had been around for a long time. The ancient Egyptian book, the Hermetica, whose origins date back to the very beginning of Egyptian civilisation, said it thus:
‘What is man but a mortal god and god, an immortal man?’
The Romans, by turning Christ into a hybrid-Osiris, were creating yet another stratified religion. The god was fundamentally better than his followers. He could do things they could never do because of his innate divinity. He would choose his priests and they would administer the flock. They threw out and literally burned all contrary evidence, anything that indicated that everyone can become a Christos, an enlightened one, if they followed the right path. By doing this, the Romans were creating a religion out of a abuser’s playbook, as I’ve described in my article Domestic violence, religion and civilisation. I don’t think Christ wanted that, and I don’t think we deserve it.