Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Zeitgeist: The Movie, Part 3: Jesus the Copycat

In our third look at the online documentary called Zeitgeist where we are responding to the allegations that are brought up in the first third of the movie about Jesus and religion, we will look at the most vicious and serious attacks the the documentary brings against Christianity. Remember, you can watch the movie by clicking here. Also, check in with parts 1 and 2 of this discussion below. Here we go.

The documentary claims that Jesus is a copycat of a number of other religious figures whose stories are remarkably similar, either Horus, or Mithra, or whoever (there are hundreds). In fact, when you list the essential events of Horus' life, who dates to 3000 BC, 3000 years before Jesus, they are very similar to the essential events in Jesus' life. For example:

Horus was

  • Born on December 25th in a cave/manger with his birth being announced in the east and attended by three wisemen.
  • He is of royal decent
  • At age 12, he was a teacher in the temple and baptized at age 30
  • He had 12 disciples
  • He did many miracles, including walking on water
  • He was crucified between two thieves, buried for three days, and resurrected
  • He was called "The Way, the Truth and the Life," "The Messiah," and "the Word Made flesh" among others

    Do these things sound familiar? Yes, they all existed in the life of Jesus. And, if these elements really were in a common astrological, Egyptian mythical religion that predates Christianity by thousands of years, that would be very suspect. This part of the video troubled me more than any other. So, I went to work to find the truth.

    The first step was to talk to a friend who is smarter than me. Here is my question and the response of Dr. Wave Nunnally, professor of Theology from Evangel University:

    What is your response to the mentioning of, for instance, the Egyptian god Horus, who dates to 3000 BC, and has very much in common with the birth, life and death of Christ? In fact, there seem to be many examples of this; figures whose stories are very similar to that of Jesus, some of which seem to be older. Your thoughts?

    As you learned here, there were many dying and rising god myths in the ancient world. In his NT intro, Robert Gundry dismisses any true parallels with the Jesus event by noting that these stories are all about events that supposedly happened in eons past, for which there was no eyewitness testimony. Also, their deaths were not true, but rather ethereal, quasi-deaths. Finally, their dying and rising were actually ways to personify seasons and other forces in nature. None of these things can be said of the death of Jesus, so the "parallels" are more or less over-generalizations that don't really work out when the details are analyzed.

    Interesting response. However, it was too general. I wanted specific evidence of the claims being false. So, I kept going, and there seem to be several issues in play.

    My first clue to this should have been the first quote that flashes up on the screen of the documentary: "They must find it difficult, those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority." The author of that quote was listed as G. Massey, or Gerald Massey. Massey was an English poet and (supposedly self taught) Egyptologist who was a somewhat famous conspiracy theorist and Christ-myther (this is a label you will probably see again, there seem to be a whole fraternity of these guys, including the makers of Zeitgeist). If you did a quick search of his name on amazon, you would find many of the books he wrote, but the 2 most notable are The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ, and Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World. Also notice that though he has been dead for like 100 years, that these books have been re-released recently (because religious conspiracies are so huge right now!).

    This is all just background to the point I want to make. Massey is the source used by Acharya S, a female author of the book The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold. She is the source of most Christ-mythers today and the primary source for this documentary, as cited on the sources page. So, if you are following the trail, Zeitgeist uses Acharya S, Acharya S uses Massey. Massey never sites a source. Aparantly Massey made all this up, because we find no evidence of this before him. The lies are passed on and on.

    All of these sources and all of these Christ-mythers make the same mistake. As I debunked on this website a few years ago, you have probably heard of the similarities often cited between Abraham Lincoln and JFK. Upon further scrutiny, however, it is pretty easily seen that the similarities they claim that exist are either not spectacular, distortions of the truth, or flat out lies. This is exactly what has happened with the list given on Zeitgeist.

    This is a great list, looking at the similarities between Horus and Jesus, as cited by Massey and taken from the Egyptian Book of The Dead (which, by the way, you can find at any Barnes and Noble. But, be warned, it is very weird). Using the website, it is not hard to debunk the list that is above, like so.

    Horus was
  • Born on December 25th in a cave/manger with his birth being announced in the east and attended by three wisemen.

    Let’s take this one apart and deal with each separate issue:

    Horus’ mother was not a virgin. She was married to Osiris, and there is no reason to suppose she was abstinent after marriage. Horus was, per the story, miraculously conceived. Seth had killed and dismembered Osiris, then Isis put her husband's dead body back together and had intercourse with it. In some versions, she used a hand-made phallus since she wasn't able to find that part of her husband. So while it was a miraculous conception, it was not a virgin birth.

    Horus was supposedly born on the last day of the Egyptian month of Khoiak, which corresponds on our calendars to November 15th.

    Horus was born in a swamp, not a cave/manger. Acharya's footnotes for this point only make the claim that Jesus was born in a cave, and say nothing about Horus being born in one.

    Horus' birth was not announced by a star in the east

    There were no “three wise men” at Horus’ birth, or at Jesus’ for that matter (the Bible never gives the number of wise men, and they showed up at Jesus’ home, not at the manger, and probably when Jesus was a year or two old).

    Acharya's source for the last two claims appears to be Massey, who says "the Star in the East that arose to announce the birth of the babe (Jesus) was Orion, which is therefore called the star of Horus. That was once the star of the three kings; for the 'three kings' is still a name of three stars in Orion's belt . . . " Massey's apparently getting mixed up, and then the critics are misinterpreting it. Orion is not a star, but a constellation, of which the 'three kings' are a part. And even if there is a specific star called 'the star of Horus', there's no legend stating that it announced Horus' birth (as the critics are claiming) or that the 'three wise men' (the three stars in Orion's belt) attended Horus' birth in any way.

  • He is of royal decent

    This one’s true! But it's not really a comparison to Jesus. When followers speak of Jesus being of 'royal descent', they usually mean His being a descendant of King David, an earthly king. Horus was, according to the myth, descended from heavenly royalty (as Jesus was), being the son of the main god.

  • At age 12, he was a teacher in the temple and baptized at age 30

    He never taught in any temple and was never baptized.

  • He had 12 disciples

    Horus had four disciples (called ‘Heru-Shemsu’). There’s another reference to sixteen followers, and a group of followers called ‘mesnui’ (blacksmiths) who join Horus in battle, but are never numbered. But there’s no reference to twelve followers.

  • He did many miracles, including walking on water

    He did perform miracles, but he did not walk on water.

  • He was crucified between two thieves, buried for three days, and resurrected.

    Horus was never crucified. There’s an unofficial story in which he dies and is cast in pieces into the water, then later fished out by a crocodile at Isis’ request. This unofficial story is the only one in which he dies at all.

  • He was called "The Way, the Truth and the Life," "The Messiah," and "the Word Made flesh" among others.

    The only titles Horus is given are “Great God”, “Chief of the Powers”, “Master of Heaven”, and “Avenger of His Father”. None of the above titles are in any Egyptian mythology.

    Upon further scrutiny, it is clear that these supposed similarities are not that at all. Few are true, but those are very general (miracles, royal decent). Some are distortions, and others are flat out lies. If you click the link that compares Jesus and Horus, it gives more comparisons and goes deeper in the explanations. Here is the root site, that goes into more depth about this issue and also tackles the comparisons between Jesus and dozens of other god myths, in which you find the same issues at play. The site is a fantastic source. I think a quick look at it will pretty much settle the Jesus/copycat issue. It has for me.

    While I was in the process of researching this and writing about it, I stumbled across Lee Strobel's new book called The Case for the Real Jesus, which is a response to the attacks that have come against Jesus in the past few years through sources like The Da Vinci Code and The Jesus Family Tomb. One of the issues he discusses in the book is the idea that "christian beliefs about Jesus were copied from pagan religions." Strobel addresses this issue very well. He interviews two experts about this issue and they weigh in on the validity of the argument. Perhaps the most revealing quote in this section is by Dr. Michael Licona who states "I know of no highly respected scholar today who suggests that these vague fables are parallels to the resurrection of Jesus. We only hear this claim from the hyper-skeptical community on the Internet and in popular books that are marketed to people who lack the background to analyze the facts critically." The Case for the Real Jesus p163. To be clear, this is exactly what we are dealing with: the highly skeptical community on the Internet as well as a production marketed to the laymen who typically don't have the background to argue with the claims.

    If this has not convinced you, grab Strobel's book and read his chapter on this issue. It is very worth the $22 as it deals with a number of other scholarly issues that Christianity is facing today.

    One more resource I should mention briefly is this page on the Always Be Ready website. It is simply a list of scholarly quotes that respond to many of the issues in Zeitgeist. It is worth a quick read, and the site as a whole is a good resource to bookmark as well.

    This has been a very long post. Perhaps I should have made it two parts. Nonetheless, it is good info. Next time we will look at the documentary's attack of Josephus. Stay tuned!



    Nate Watson said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Nate Watson said...

    thanks for taking the time here! It's too bad everyone else takes haphazard statements as truth without doing the homework (just about as bad as accepting them as false without the ability to put up any logical argument as to why!)

    franki said...

    thanks for this post, i was in the middle debunking this on my own when i found your blog, it's just sad that people will watch the movie and think that it's all true and walk away with their hearts even more hardned...if they would just look into it critically for themselves....

    Nick said...

    Amen, Franki. Thanks for the support.

    Ernie Tamminga said...

    I'm a Christian myself, but because I also have a PhD in Cross-Cultural Religious Studies, I want to put in at least one objection on behalf of all the OTHER religions and traditions whose stories and beliefs are distorted and misrepresented in "Zeitgeist."
    One hugely obvious thing to mention is that Zeitgeist seems to make a big deal out of equating "Sun" and "Son" -- words that happen to rhyme in English, but which have no parallel relationship in the languages of the various other traditions mentioned in the film.
    Also, some earlier posts mention the misrepresentation the film makes concerning the story of Horus, so I don't think I need to belabor the point, which is that Zeitgeist is an "equal opportunity" distorter... distorting not only Christianity but just about every other tradition it talks about.
    "Zeitgeist" is obviously a statement of SOMEONE'S religious beliefs, if by "religion" we mean the set of stories, perspectives, guidelines, life-goals, system-of-meaning, etc. that one holds to be fundamentally true. (I don't think that definition exhausts the meaning of religion, but it'll suffice for purposes of this diatribe.)

    Nick said...

    Well said, Ernie. I suppose it is a pretty sefish and biased reason that I didn;t address the other religions...It doesn't concern me as much since I'm no follower of them. you do make a good point about their distortion running through several other religions.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Anonymous said...

    Hello Nick and others.

    I am from Denmark and was researcing a little myself, when i stumbled over this blog of yours.

    My personal belief is either religious nor non-religious (atheistic) but more skeptic or nihilistic; i believe that we aren't able to destinguish and recognize the truth, even if we should stumble upon it.
    Furthermore I think there is some kind of God (God as in the filosofical sense; "higher truth").

    I think there is a lot of great points in your "debunking"/analysis. I think it is very important to question the "facts" of Horus, and also the sun/son relationship which is only obvious in English (which was not at all that global a language at earlier times)

    I am though wondering where you get your own facts from Nick? You are not quoting any sources, but rather concluding things.

    You are also analyzing Massey as if it is the only source of part 1 of zeitgeist, but there are several others. Im not saying that they are more substantiated than Massey because I haven't read them. Im just saying that they are there. Also you say that Acharya S is the main source, but on the source list she is thanked for consultation, which doesn't mean exsplicedly that she is the main source.

    One more thing. After watching zeitgeist i got the impression that Horus is not at all a person but a personification of the sun. Therefore the fact that the three wise men (kings) was not present at his birth, is an essential point in the film. The three kings are also stars, and the story is then that these stars "led" as in pointed to the place where Horus (the sun) was born on (in the sky).

    This is also backed up by your Professor, whom you quoted in the start:
    "Finally, their dying and rising were actually ways to personify seasons and other forces in nature. "

    I got the impression that you got your facts from "", so i'll look at that site now. Just wanted to express some things, because my belief is that this is a very important and fundamental debate, regardless ones personal belief.

    Sorry if my english is a bit off, I'm just typing away here :D

    I'll save this as a bookmark, but if you want to be sure that I get your comment (on this comment :)) write to too, I would be very pleased if you did.

    Kind Regards
    Jeppe Hedevang,
    Denmark - In scandinavia :)

    Nick said...

    Hi Jeppe,

    Thanks for your comment. I encourage you to continue researching and pursuing this, because I agree that it is a huge issue.

    Here are my responses to your concerns.

    I am though wondering where you get your own facts from Nick? You are not quoting any sources, but rather concluding things.

    I suppose I don't cite them in the classical sense, but I do link to my sources. My primary source was the page I linked to that you mentioned that debunks the similarities. If you looked at that, it surely cleared up a lot of the confusion of where my sources came from.

    The other cource I used that is very conspicuous is the Strobel book, which I quote directly from.

    You are also analyzing Massey as if it is the only source...

    No, he is not the only one, but he is the father of this line of thinking. It starts with him and the newer works cite him, though he cites no one. that is also made claer at that website.

    Acharya S was a consultant for part 1, which means she was involved in thr process and helped a lot of the info come together. The author talks about this on some of the interviews, so she certainly was a major influence.
    She is also the most popular modern proponent of Massey's ideas.

    After watching zeitgeist i got the impression that Horus is not at all a person but a personification of the sun. Therefore the fact that the three wise men (kings) was not present at his birth, is an essential point in the film. The three kings are also stars, and the story is then that these stars "led" as in pointed to the place where Horus (the sun) was born on (in the sky).

    I'm not sure what point you were trying to make here, but suffice it to say you are correct in saying that Horus was not a person or that he ever existed. He is a mythological figure whose stories can be found in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The claim was that Jesus (or rather, those who created the Jesus story) copied the events of the Horus story and adopted them as truth and applied them to Jesus. What this article is debunking is that very claim, because these similarities do not exist, because when you explore the egyptian book of the dead the supposed similarities fall apart, as shown in the article.

    my belief is that this is a very important and fundamental debate, regardless ones personal belief.

    I completely agree.

    Thanks again, Jeppe, and i hope we can continue the dialogue.

    ZZMike said...

    I hope someone's still looking here. A friend told me today about "Zeitgeist", and said that it's a very important movie. I did a quick search, and sure enough, it's listed on IMDB, and there's even a transcript online.

    Reading the summary on IMDB ("What does Christianity, 911 and The Federal Reserve all have in common?") is enough to mark this as another conspiracy-theory film, with Christianity-debunking thrown in.

    Just for starters: they claim that "Horus was born on Dec 25". I submit that at the time (around 3000 BC), there was no "December", and certainly no "December 25th".

    As Ernie points out, they seem to have difficulty with the words "sun" and "son", which are quite different words, first in the Greek koine of the NT, and certainly in the Egyptian of the early pharaohs.

    So much for scholarship.

    Gerald Massey's an interesting guy, but like many self-taught people, wanders down roads that are dead ends. He tried to maintain that Paul was a Gnostic.

    From the transcript:

    The reality is, Jesus was the Solar Deity of the Gnostic Christian sect, [S194] [S195] [S196] and like all other Pagan gods, he was a mythical figure.

    The references are to Massey and two other equally worthy sources.

    Anonymous said...

    aww, finally I understand how jesus walked on water - the SUNs reflection. And now you defend saying its untrue. Now why cant you debate 911 in the same manner....

    Anonymous said...

    You have got to be kidding...
    You're trying to convince me?
    The Zeitgeist movie convinced me but your criticism of it certainly did not. Your claims are more holey than zeitgeists. Ie, has holes in it, (not holy).

    In essence, you too are relying on what you claim the makers of Zeitgeist are - second, third, 4th etc hand information, as written by a bunch of pro-christianists, who have referenced eachother in order to obtain plausibility, whether there claims were true or not.
    You my friend are (as the writers you cite are too) doing exactly that which you claim zeitgeist writeras have done.
    There is so much evidence that you could not even rebuke a single percent so far and i see your attempts to rebuke it as a result of your christian programming - where anything anti could not possibly be true and you clutch at straws to prove it in the most desperate and barewly partial way.
    Im sorry, the movie has cited more facts than just one egyptian identity. How about you compare Jesus top the other 26 apparent "masters" that zeitgeist detailed for you?
    Yes, they were extremely detailed comparisons and it appears that you have critiquerd the single least comparable one only. Do the other 26 and you will have me interested.
    Till then, your arguements/comparisons present as partially constructed and utterly desperate.

    And for the record, i was blinded by religion once, as created by man, but i am now released into the world of everyone is right and everyone is wrong and that noone or any thing is more or less worthy, holy or divine than the others that it criticises.
    Basically, i got a life of my own instead of Jesus' - which is fraught with guilt and war.
    Shame on the followers of religion for those two reasons. How dare you insight fear onto the masses.

    Anonymous said...

    To above,

    You hit the nail on the head.

    Of over 100 things they needed to do to disprove the zeitgeist movie, they couldnt successfully criticise 1. The writer of this site is desperate and should just let go of it. He has been lied to aloing with the masses and its just time to breathe easy. God and Jesus probably dont exist, so relax and enjoy life instead of living in fear. Yes, the guilt and fear thing is a nasty weapon to use against the minds of hopeful citizens.
    You could do better than any churchg by giving your money to the people on the street in the form of buying food for them etc rather than placing it on a p[late which will only go to the local preists merceded car registration anyway.
    Pathetic and criminal situation really and us free-thinkers have known forever, especially the masons among us who exposed your churches hundreds of years ago and told you to keep quiet, stay in your own circle (vatican) or we will expose your lies to the people.
    Read up on the first excavations at the supposed temple of soloman, where they found all the evidence they needed to have the catholics creaming themselves in fear that they were going to be exposed as tyrrants and false-history writers.
    Shame shame shame.

    Zeitgeist is real.
    The religion of man is an intangeable and powerless thought that that was successfully forced onto a tangeable society via murder, war and rape - FEAR BASED.
    And we still accept it today?
    Preists are going to hell for this crime (their own hell).

    Anonymous said...

    Oh and i forgot to mention that "The biggest secret" (by David Icke) exposes it all and much more.
    Apart from the last chapter which is his personal beleif and is not substantiated with facts or historical records or family trees etc, everything else is referenced, including the cencus in bethlehem on the 25th Decmber when Jesus was supposed to have been born - NOT.Give it a read...

    man with desire said...

    This article refutes and disproves claims of Zeitgeist movie, from the part of Christianity:

    I suggest to read the article!