Some further discussion from the Jesus Mysteries Group on the origins of Christmas and Egyptian sources for Christianity, collated from posts in early May.Sid Martin
asked "How does Christ in Egypt differ from Tom Harpur's The Pagan Christ?" My response
: Christ in Egypt is a detailed source book to research Egyptian influence on Christianity. The Pagan Christ is primarily a popular introduction to the thought of Alvin Boyd Kuhn. For example, it provides a brief discussion of one of the most compelling borrowings by the Gospels from Egypt, how the story of Lazarus copies the story of Osiris, and how the names of Lazarus and Osiris are linked, but is not a detailed source book for those who wish to understand these topics in depth. Murdock explains this Lazarus story in greater depth, with the index showing 15 mentions of Lazarus. These two books are basically consistent with each other. Christ in Egypt seeks to provide rigorous scholarship to show the intimate continuity between Israel and Egypt as shown in a range of mythic figures. Jake Jones IV
wrote: "Start with the Christ in Egypt: Born on December 25th. What is the earliest Christian assertion that Jesus was born on December 25th?" My Response
: Thanks Jake. The earliest known reference to Christmas is claimed to be The Chronography of 354 AD. Another claim (supported by the Pope) is that the December 25 date was determined by calculating nine months after March 25, regarded as the day of Jesus’ conception, based on a comment from Hippolytus of Rome, around year 204. See http://www.chronicon.net/chroniconfiles ... 2025th.pdf
A threshold question for understanding the Christmas typology is the form of early Christian belief, and to what extent lost views were oriented towards pagan motifs including sun worship. Information on this threshold question points to the relation between Christ and the Sun, separately from the English pun between Son and Sun, as a key part of the evolution of the Christ myth. Malachi's description of the 'sun of righteousness' presents a plausible prophetic type for Jesus as the sun. The idea of Christ and twelve disciples is shown as an allegory for the sun and the twelve months of the year in early artistic works and Gnostic theology. Sun worship was retained in Christianity with the orienting of altars to the orient.
If we establish that Christianity was originally a modified form of sun worship, building on earlier sun gods such as Ra, Horus and Apollo, we start to see why the birth of Horus at the winter solstice, as attested by Plutarch, supports the claim of close relationship between Christianity and Egyptian myth.
By the natural rhythm of the seasons, the sun is 'born' after the winter solstice each year, when days first start to lengthen. Christmas therefore takes over a celebration of the annual rebirth of the sun. There is also an apparent link between Christmas and Easter, with the sun 'dying' for several days after the winter solstice when it rises at its same southernmost point of the horizon on the shortest days of the year before starting the long march north on Christmas Day.
This Christmas nativity motif is just one of many examples of the typology linking Christ and Horus. They are both the son of a virgin (Mary/Isis), they both fought the representative of evil (Satan/Set), they both symbolise the sun, they both raised Lazarus/Osiris from the dead, and they were both known by many of the same titles. Jake Jones IV responded
: No use in discussing when you can't address or acknowlege the glaring holes in your (or DMM's)arguments. This makes it too easy for Hoffmann and Ehrmann to paint mythicists with the broad brush.I then asked
: What glaring hole precisely? Your comment on dating of Christmas seemed to me irrelevant.No subsequent response from JJ IV.
Can any readers here understand his comment? I am baffled.Con said
: When the JC myth first sprang up on or around the second century there was no reference to Jesus' birth date coinciding with the winter soltsice or the Age of Pisces. The astrological symbolism which you have painstakingly detailed in many posts was not part of the Pauline epistles, Gospels - synoptic and gnostic, or in the writings of the early Church writers - orthodox or otherwise. These Egyptian and Oriental motifs do appear to be a case of modern transference by some researchers in the study of the JM. Perhaps there are some genuine parallels but these may be nothing more than common archetypes shared across a myriad of human cultures and societies. It does need to be iterated that the Xmas and Easter calenders and iconography were adopted a lot later by the established official Church. These have just about nothing to do with the original syncretic faith which emerged in or around the Mediterranean circa 2nd Century CE.My Response:
Con, I understand why you would see it as transference, but I disagree. There is actually a lot of ancient symbolism that suggests a Gnostic cosmic vision of precession provided the scaffolding upon which Christianity was built, but this framework was seen as unacceptable by orthodoxy and was nearly obliterated. The crime of obliteration was not perfect, and there are clear forensic clues which admit of no other explanation than an accurate knowledge of precession as the structure of time. The cosmic mysteries were highly vulnerable to organized attack because of their reliance on oral transmission and secrecy. However, they inserted enough clues into the Bible to show that they had correct scientific knowledge of precession as the millennial basis of time, to the extent needed to use it as an accurate marker of the ages.
Perhaps the clearest example is Revelation 13:2 "the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority."
This line is one of the most baffling in the Bible. Yet, if we consider it against the widespread ancient view that the North Pole is the fixed point of heaven, the lode star, we find a simple natural cosmic explanation. Over historical time, the pole has actually moved from the constellation of the Dragon to the constellation of Ursa the Bear, next to the Lion. The "power and seat and authority" of the pole have precessed from the Dragon to the Bear-Lion due to the slow wobble of earth's axis. And the leopard's spots were a symbol of the stars, seen in Thoth's wife Seshat - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seshat
, The Gnostic Peratae used Draco as a central theme.
Once the basics are understood, other symbolic language falls into place. For example the link between the cross of Christ, the God of Time Aion, and the snake pole of Moses can be well explained against an accurate ancient understanding of precession.
What the Draco-Ursa example shows is that the author of Revelation was aware of precession of the pole, but concealed this basic cosmic knowledge in symbolic language. My view is that this is a very widespread trope across the Bible, with various examples I have previously mentioned such as the four living creatures representing the four main constellations of the zodiac. The concealment was due to the cultural hostility towards astronomy and astrology, which were main targets of orthodox rage, with any overt Christian texts that used astrology condemned and burnt as heretical. And yet the secret essence survived, emerging again for example in the great stained glass windows of Chartres and St Denis.
My argument here is that myth originates primarily from observation of nature. This presents a coherent and logical explanation for the evolution of Christianity from an original coherent cosmic mystery to the incoherence of historical faith, with the secrecy inherent in mysteries explaining why only a degraded form of the myth survived.
As to the dating of Christmas, we see from Plutarch that Horus was born around Christmas. If Christianity emerged from the deliberate addition of Israeli motifs to the Greco-Egyptian syncretism of Serapis, aiming to present a new believable historical story with the story of Christ drawing from archetypes of Horus and Osiris, then it makes perfect sense that this Christmas motif would have existed from early days, even if it was not overtly discussed in extant documents until Hippolytus in the third century.
I disagree with your claim that Christianity only emerged in the second century. My view is that Paul probably wrote before the destruction of Jerusalem. As well, there is proto-Christian symbolism in prophets such as Daniel and Isaiah, indicating that the idea of an eternal Christ who would manifest at the turning point of time predated the common era.
As to claims of late dating of Easter and Christmas, there is abundant evidence of early celebration of these natural turning points of the seasons at the solstice and equinox, for example in Stonehenge and Egyptian temples. Christianity overlaid its myth onto existing ceremonies.Rod Green wrote:
"This is the type of discussion (from Robert's perspective at least) that Ehrman would point to as evidence of the amateur."My Response:
Yes he would, but Erhman has an agenda of defending the farcical myth of the historical Jesus, calumnating the credentials of anyone who introduces new evidence that helps to discredit the conventional view. Academic theology excludes open debate about these topics. I do have a masters honours degree in philosophy, and have studied these topics in depth for more than twenty years, so criticisms from the Ehrmans of this world are just a deflection without substance or engagement. Rod Green
: "Revelation 13:2 is clearly a direct allusion to Daniel 7 as are the beasts noted. Daniel was written long before anyone knew about precession."My Response:
You have no basis to assert the writer of Daniel knew nothing of precession. Ezekiel's reference to 'wheels within wheels' and Plato's discussion of crossing circles in The Timaeus indicate early knowledge of precession, as does the shift in alignment of Egyptian and Majorcan temples analysed in detail by writers such as Sir Norman Lockyer. Ezekiel's wheels are shown as the Chi shaped crossing point of the Milky Way and the Zodiac in medieval cosmologies. As for Daniel, the 'seventy weeks' prophecy has long been regarded as predicting the time of Christ, for example as discussed by Sir Isaac Newton. It is entirely plausible that the Chaldean astronomers of pre-Christian times looked to the shift of the equinox from Aries to Pisces as a major turning point of time, and predicted accurately when it would happen, and that this prediction found its way in concealed form into the book of Daniel as the basis of messianic expectation.Rod Green:
"The strained and inaccurate correlations noted (the North Pole was the known fixed point of the heavens???) are a conclusion looking for evidence. My Response:
Perhaps Rod, you are not familiar with the night sky, but the North Pole Star Polaris does not appear to move because everything moves around it. This is simple astronomy, and was well known in ancient times as the fixed point of the heavens when people were even more familiar with the visible stars than today. What is more complex is the fact that this unmoving point in the heavens slowly shifts on a millennial time frame, and that observation over generations can detect and measure this slow shift. The Great Pyramid of Giza has an airshaft which points straight from the so-called King's Chamber to near the North Celestial Pole. http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/pyr ... hafts.html
states "Stadelmann suggested that the shafts allowed the king's soul to travel to the "stars that never die" (the circumpolar stars in the northern sky) and the "land of light" (the southern sky). This argument has a certain simplicity, and seems quite reasonable."Rod Green:
"Robert has at least managed to get each of the beasts (lion, bear. Leopard, dragon) into the same couple of sentences but by means of simply changing the subject/correlation (the Lion happens to be NEXT to the Bear ((at least one of them); and the Leopard's spots, totally unrelated here, also happen to be symbols (by someone), of the stars."My Response:
Again, this correlation is simple observation. The northern winter sky is dominated by the Bears and the Lion, which have taken over Draco's former position (until about 1000 BC) as marking the pole. The leopard's spots are hardly unrelated. Their use as a symbol of the stars is well attested in Egyptian mythology of Seshat, wife of Thoth the God of astronomy. In this case, we have the symbol of the stars (the leopard) linked to the constellations which mark the unchanging point of the heavens (the bear and lion), having usurped the former well known position of the dragon. This explanation supports the simple link between heaven and the heavens as the basis of the myth.
The widespread hostility to natural cosmic explanations (which continues today) provided clear motive for the authors to conceal this message in symbols, in the expectation that more overt explanation would suffer the tender mercies of the censor.Rod Green:
"The rather mundane fact is that everything found in Revelation is sourced from Jewish Scriptures and intended to reference events in the time of, or immediately within the future horizon, of the author(s). The author(s) expresses no view beyond 100 CE plus or minus 50 years. Christianity has chosen to manipulate and propagate this dead-end prophecy for 2000 years, because accepting its failure puts the entire idea of a future eschatology into jeopardy. Reading Revelation correctly makes the idea of the return of Jesus DOA."My Response:
What your comment illustrates is an insistence that your prior assumption about eschatology is the only explanation. The facts of the text illustrate both that the writers knew more about astronomy than many modern critics imagine, and that they sought to explain things against a very long sweep of history, for example the idea in Psalms and Peter that a millennium is as a day to God. Similarly, the typology linking Christ to Horus is strong, but is rejected a priori by those who insist on a farcical supernatural explanation of the origins of the Christ myth. The syncretic context of the New Testament drew on other sources than Israel, including from Egypt and Babylon.Rod Green:
"I understand why there are no signs in the sky for the elephant, because the elephant was of course, carrying the world on its back."My Response:
Interestingly, the Indian myth of Kurma, the turtle upholding the universe, matches precisely to the position of the Large Magellanic Cloud at the south ecliptic pole. The ancients knew far more about the skies than has survived in the fragmentary textual record.
Pictures of the movement of the poles are at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Precession_N.gif
and http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... sion_S.gifIsis Anastasi
wrote: "debate about Jesus and Christianity must include the works of everything available OUTSIDE the New Testament"My Response:
Yes, I agree. Christian theology has long existed in isolation from comparative religion, and has contained exclusive teachings that belittle other traditions. This makes it quite difficult for people within a Christian framework to see the dependency of their own views on connections to other traditions. The dawn of Christianity was a time of great cultural ferment and syncretism, but the emergence of orthodoxy as a guarantor of political stability led to extensive suppression of knowledge regarding the continuity between Christian doctrines and earlier mythology.Isis Anastasi
: "the fact remains Jesus's birthday is celebrated on December 25, during the Winter Solstice. No one can argue that the celebration of the Winter Solstice is pre-Christian. And most pre-Christian religions who worshipped a Sun God, celebrated his birthday on or around December 25th."My Response:
Yes, this is an important observation, although there are also other dates which celebrated the birth of solar gods. I think Con is mistaken in his view that the incorporation of solar themes only occurred late in the patristic period as a political measure. Allegories such as Jesus and the twelve as the sun and the twelve months had to come from somewhere, and they were already the subject of debate between orthodox and Gnostics well before the Constantinian Era, for example in Irenaeus of Lyon.
Judaism incorporated the zodiac on the breastplate of its high priest, showing an intense reverence for this natural observation. Fertility cults were based on celebration of the annual cycle. There is extensive evidence of early focus on the solstices and equinoxes as the turning points of the natural year of the seasons. The interpretation that makes most sense, in my opinion, is that Christianity drew on these widespread pagan traditions to formulate its syncretic notion of Jesus as a man who could pull together the worthwhile features of all existing religions.
Christmas is just after the solstice, and in ancient times was the first day when the sun could be seen to have started its annual trek north, the beginning of the solar year. Easter too, with its link to the Passover and the equinox at the old Jewish New Year, is timed for the quickening of spring, and so represents a beginning and an end, with the cross symbolising the death of the old year (winter) and the birth of the new (spring).Con
wrote: "December 25 was the Roman holiday observing the birthday of Sol Invictus - the Invincible or Unconquered Sun. Interestingly Sol wasn't officially dedicated until the late Second Century Common Era!"My Response:
That is interesting. Do you think this "official dedication" came from nowhere, and did not have a continuity with earlier practice, perhaps as one tradition among several?Con:
"There appears to be no evidence that any other deities (let alone the familiar saviour gods - Mithras, Dionysus, Adonis, Osiris etc) shared this birthday"My Response:
But as I already mentioned, Plutarch says Horus was born around the winter solstice. There is an interesting article by Gary Leupp, Professor of History at Tufts University, that says "the Romans celebrated the birth feast of Mithras on December 25, ordered to do so by Emperor Aurelian in 274 CE". http://dissidentvoice.org/Dec05/Leupp1225.htm
It seems most implausible that the Emperor would order a feast day that was not traditional even then. http://www.carnaval.com/mithras/
is a good source regarding the cosmic signification of Mithras.Con:
"Jesus' original mythographers had none of this. The cosmic significations were only established in the 3rd and 4th Centuries"My Response:
That seems unlikely. Early Christianity was primarily a secret oral mystery cult, so teachings that became enforced under Christendom would probably have had a long gestation. The orientation of altars to the east indicates an early cosmic signification, as do the timing of Christmas and Easter.
Looking at some solar references in the Bible, the prophet Hosea says "surely as the sun rises, he will appear" and "my judgments go forth like the sun." Habakkuk says "His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden." Malachi says "for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays." Matthew says "the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" and "His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light." Luke says "because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven" and "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars." Revelation says "His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance" and "A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head."
I could go on, but these texts illustrate that the cosmic allegory of Jesus as the sun was early. The continuity with symbols of new life and fertility only really makes sense when we consider Jesus Christ as an allegory for the sun.