The worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis spanned thousands of years, both in Egypt and abroad, travelling as far as Britain.(1) Throughout the vast expanse of both time and space, Isis collected and shed many qualities and attributes. Along the way, prior to the Common Era, Isis was given the title virgin on several occasions, and this article, which will present the works of both ancient and modern scholars, is an attempt to demonstrate this fact.
The main reason Isis’ virginity has become a contended issue in relatively recent times, is largely due to the fact that, mythicists have used the virginity of Isis, to present arguments from similarity, against the historical Jesus Christ. They argue that, since Isis was depicted as the great virgin-mother of Horus, whose father was the Sun-god, Osiris, (the first recorded god to die and be resurrected), prior to the Christian era, then the similarity between these two myths, indicates that the later myth (Jesus Christ) was copied from the earlier (Isis, Horus and Osiris).
At this point, I should make a brief distinction between two separate, yet related issues. Those issues being; the arguments against an historical person named Jesus, known to mythicists as, the “Jesus Myth” and those concerned with undercutting the alleged truth of the “Christ myth,” which pertains to the mythological components found in the Gospel’s, Jesus Christ. As mentioned, these issues are related, but in my humble opinion, need to be addressed upon separate grounds. The Jesus myth, although containing some overlap with the Christ myth, for the primary historical sources we have for an historical Jesus, contain mythological components, needs to be addressed using historical methods. The Christ myth on the other hand, is exclusively a matter to be assessed and examined from the point of view of comparative mythology.
The virginity of Isis predominantly concerns the Christ myth, and is the focus of this article.
Now that we have a little context, we need only establish one thing. Was Isis considered a virgin prior to the Christian era? If so, then it makes no difference by whom, or in which country (so long as that country was proximate with the fomenters of Christianity), she was given this epithet, as we will have ascertained that this virgin-mother motif existed prior to its Christian reworking, thereby establishing the probability that the earlier version was the original. To put it simply, if this motif existed prior to the Christian era, and in a place that was connected to the initial regions in which Christianity was grown, then the probability of the Christians having adopted this mythology from the true originators, is high; as virgin mothers do not grow on trees, although in the ancient, especially Hellenistic world, they did seem to! Ancient Mythology is not a Cheeseburger!
Ancient Mythology is not a Cheeseburger, may, at first glance, seem like an odd statement to make. So, please allow me to explain. Mythology involves the careful selection of living, or fresh ingredients, which are carefully and thoughtfully woven together, folded over and over, so as to create a series of intricate and delicate layers. Finally, it is cooked slowly and tentatively over a long period of time. The result is a beautiful tapestry of symbols, ideas, philosophies and concepts that can be interpreted both subjectively and objectively, and on many different levels. Sadly, it is its complexity, which leaves many symbolically illiterate scholars, bewildered, yet belligerent in their resolve to endorse in exclusivity from the broader context, a minor literal aspect of the myth. Joseph Campbell enunciated this problem in the words of the old Buddhist parable, ‘The blind men and the elephant,
’ saying: The blind men feeling the animal's head declared, "An elephant is like a water pot"; but those at his ears, "He is like a winnowing basket;" those at his tusks, "No, indeed, he is like a plowshare;" and those at his trunk, "He is like a plow pole." There were a number feeling his belly. "Why," they cried, "he is like a storage bin!" Those feeling his legs argued that he was like pillars; those at his rectum, that he was like a mortar; those at his member, that he was like a pestle; while the remainder, at his tail, were shouting, "An elephant is like a fan." And they fought furiously among themselves with their fists, shouting and crying, "This is what an elephant is like, that is not what an elephant is like"; "This is not what an elephant is like; that is what an elephant is like." "And precisely so," then runs the moral of the Buddha,…knowing not good, knowing not evil, knowing not right, knowing not wrong, they quarrel and brawl and wrangle and strike one another with the daggers of their tongues, saying, 'This is right, that is not right'; 'This is not right, that is right.'(2)
We may contrast this complexity, to a degree at least, with theology. Theology is more like a Cheeseburger in that, it is uncreatively formed in haste, by hacking and slashing away at pieces of mythology that serve its purpose. Now, I am not saying that it doesn’t develop and change over time, but that its foundations are established uncreatively, by way of plagiarism and intellectual dishonesty. Once it has frantically slaughtered its chosen mythology, or mythologies, it smashes the goodness out of the original ingredients, grounding them into a kind of psychological mince, rendering them unrecognisable. Following this, the theology adds artificial preservatives and poisons, like doctrine, dogma and faith, to ensure that it will maintain its structural integrity (emotional appeal), over an elongated period of time. Finally, it wraps this once beautiful creature, in a shiny paper packet, sets up neon lit franchises wherever it is able, and goes into the belief-selling business!
Has this rant been merely the result of my missing breakfast this morning, or do I have a point to make!? Oh yeh, that’s right! When we analyse the mythology surrounding the goddess Isis, or Ast, as she was known to the Egyptians, we cannot gain an adequate understanding by hastily unwrapping the first version of the myth we encounter, and wolfing it down, only to spit it out all over the place, in the guise of understanding, or McUnderstanding, as it should properly be called. We need to go into it, examine the symbolism, the various epithets and their meanings, the roots of their meanings, which are quite often astronomical/astrological in nature, as well as physiological, and psychological, not forgetting that famous old Hermetic philosophy; ‘As above, so below.’ Moreover, we must not only examine the heart of the myth itself, but the entire corpus of surrounding myths, the myths which clothe the subject of the investigation. Only by doing so, may we gain an adequate understanding of the entire physiology of not only the myth itself, but the various interplays between the myth in question and its surroundings. Only then, can we begin to unlock some of the keys to understanding, just what and how a given myth was intended to be interpreted and conveyed.
Speaking on the deficiency of modern understanding as it relates to the myth, Professor Alvin Boyd Kuhn, once remarked: That the sublime wisdom embodied in Greek myth and Bible allegory is still uninterpreted by the mind of the West to this day will prove to be the weightiest indictment of ignorance that history will present against the Christian civilization of this age. Hardly less than laughable will appear to later times the spectacle of an age morally and spiritually dominated by the precepts of a Book the meaning of which was all the while uninterpreted and unknown. The Bible and theology hold the truth of life, yet even their exponents do not themselves know what that truth is. Ecclesiasticism has the body of true wisdom, but cannot even be persuaded that the body has a soul. It possesses the rich and mighty statements of truth, but surely has not the substance of it. In other words, the Bible and theology, as well as mythology, were formulated to preserve a covert meaning, which was once the essence of all religious and philosophical endeavour, but which slipped through the hands of ignorance at an early century and has been lost to common knowledge. The modern world is thus left in the ridiculous position of clasping to its heart a traditional treasure which it prizes for its outward appearance, but has not the slightest idea of its true worth. Having received the shell of truth without its living kernel, the present age is trying to feed itself on husks, in which no intrinsic nourishment is found.(3)
So let us continue an investigation into the question of Isis’ virginity, with the above in mind. The McIsis-$1.99: Deep Fried and Ready for Apologetics!
The following represents one of the most popular versions of the Isis myth, one which apologists love to cough up on anyone, who might ask the question; was Isis a virgin? Now, I am in no way saying that this version of the myth is erroneous, cheap, or shallow. It is a beautiful myth, rich in symbolism and metaphor, and one which certainly fits the description of mythology, furnished above. Instead, it is the manner in which it is quickly unwrapped, chewed, digested and regurgitated in exclusivity from the wealth of surrounding ingredients, which I aim to address.
This article is a bit of a read, so you can read the rest at: http://michaelsherlockauthor.blogspot.jp...gy-is.html
I would love your feedback.
1. Rosalie A. David. Handbook to Life in Ancient Egypt. University of Manchester. Facts on File Inc. (2003). p. 178
2. Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God – Primitive Mythology. Secker & Warburg. (1960). p. 8.
3. Alvin Boyd Kuhn. The Root of All Religion. The Theosophical Press. (1936).