Resurrection of Jesus Comes From Osiris

Osiris and Jesus Christ?
Original Osiris Photo taken by A. Parrot, ‘Resurrection of Christ’ by Noël Coypel

In the past two articles on the supposed similarities between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the supposed resurrection of Osiris, we’ve looked at some serious problems that Dr. Richard Carrier, a mythicist (someone who asserts that Jesus did not really exist), has from an evidential perspective. He makes the claim that early Christians “came up” with the resurrection story of Jesus Christ and borrowed it from various mythical stories of dying/rising gods that came before Christianity. It was shown that he does not support his assertions with relevant evidence from historical witnesses. It was also shown that he relies on fallacious reasoning when he claims a causal linkage with Osirianism and Christianity. In the second article, a short summary was given for the Osirian myth. It was noted that the story of Osiris is obviously a myth and from even a cursory look at it, this myth does not come close to resembling the account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In this last article in the series on Osiris/Jesus Christ, we’ll take a quick look at the supposed similarities and the contrasts between the Osirian myth and Christianity. Dr. Carrier asserts these similarities:

  • Both were dying/rising gods
  • Both died during a full moon
  • Both had 72 conspirators who caused their deaths
  • Both religious groups practiced baptism
  • Both have the concept of final judgment for each person
  • Both were murdered, dismembered, and ascended to heaven

Doctor Carrier makes other comparisons as well but it would take a research project to deal with all of his claims thoroughly so we’ll just look at those already mentioned.

Both Dying and Rising Gods

But Osiris is known to arise every night when the sun god Ra/Re goes into the Netherworld (when the sun sets) and joins with Osiris. When these two get together, then there is a joint renewal for both and the mummies of those in the Netherworld will be re-energized through this nightly joining of Re/Ra with Osiris.. The spirits of the dead come back to their mummy to get this energy so they can live and function in the Netherworld. Osiris also rises every year in conjunction with the vegetation/inundation (Nile River) cycle. So, Osiris is rising all of the time.   Another important item to note is that in the Osirian myth, Osiris does not rise bodily from the dead. Rather, his spirit issues from his mummified corpse and goes to the Netherworld where a pantheon of gods determined his fate. This pantheon also proclaims him as the King of the Netherworld.

Also, Osiris never walks bodily on the earth again after his death like Jesus Christ does after his resurrection. Jesus does not have a mummy like Osiris nor did he need others to magically reassemble his body (Isis and Thoth). Moreover, there is not a list of real people who observe the real Osiris rise from the dead (it is a myth). In contrast, there are many “real” witnesses who observe the risen Jesus Christ after his death by crucifixion. Also, a pantheon of gods voted to support Osiris against his brother Seth and that is when he was declared worthy to be “raised.”  Jesus Christ did not need a pantheon of gods to determine his fate after his death. As God Incarnate, his own power raised him from the dead (John 10:18). Furthermore, Jesus Christ only died and rose from the dead once in contrast to Osiris who is rising and dying all the time. So, more and more contrasts become apparent even as one aspect of the Osirian myth is analyzed.

Both Died During A Full Moon

I find this comparison amusing because the significance of Jesus dying during a weekend when there was a full moon has nothing to do with the full moon itself. Rather, it is because it is the weekend of Passover. It is known that there is a full moon every Passover weekend. So, Doctor Carrier’s observation actually works against him. The Passover symbolism of Jesus Christ as the “Paschal Lamb” sacrifice for all who are in relationship with Him ties the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to Judaism and not ancient Egyptian folklore (1 Cor. 5:7). He offers “evidence” that really weakens his position.

Both Had 72 Conspirators Who Caused Their Deaths

Dr. Carrier gets this number from 71 members of the Sanhedrin and then he adds Judas Iscariot to the equation to make 72 co-conspirators who caused the death of Jesus.   Of course we really do not know how many members of the Sanhedrin were present the day they voted to crucify Jesus. Moreover, we know of two members of the Sanhedrin who were supporters of Jesus Christ (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus). When a modern legislature votes on an issue, in most cases, not all members cast their vote in the chambers of the legislature. For a number of reasons, there will be members absent from the roll call and vote.

So, we really do not know the number of persons who voted to crucify Jesus. Of course there was one other who caused the death of Jesus as well that Dr. Carrier does not mention: Jesus Himself. Jesus was fully aware of his impending death. He waited in the Garden of Gethsemane for those who would carry him away to his severe flogging, humiliation, and crucifixion. He could have fled like a “fugitive from justice.” But that was not what he came to the earth to do. He did not come to pursue worldly interests or aggrandizement. He did not come to lead a political movement. He came to the earth to die and then rise from the dead. He knew full well that this day was soon approaching. So, however many voted to crucify Jesus, you could also add Jesus himself as one who caused his death. In reality, there was only one who permitted the death of Jesus as Jesus could have called the whole proceeding off if he chose to do so (Matthew 26:53).  Rather, he chose to die (Matt. 26:54-56). Of course, Osiris was lured to his death and deceived to jump in his casket (where the 72 co-conspirators trapped him inside). As stated above, Jesus’ arrest and impending crucifixion were no surprise to him.

Both Religious Groups Practiced Baptism

Doctor Carrier gets his evidence from two sources 1) a fictional account of someone going through an Osirian initiatory rite and also an ancient papyri of two cult officials discussing an unknown problem. In the first instance, only a bath of purification is noted which occurred before a secret initiation. Again, this account is fictional. Dr. Carrier uses a fictional book as evidence (The Golden Asse by Apuleius). In the second instance the expert that Dr. Carrier quotes at best can only say that there “may” have been some sort of baptism. Moreover, this papyri and what it states are hotly disputed by scholars. So, there is no clear evidence that Doctor Carrier presents for this claim.

Both Have the Concept of Final Judgment

Well, any religion will have a number of common themes as noted by Hans Schoeps, a comparative religions specialist. Notwithstanding these general similarities (initiatory rites, expiatory rites, sacred meals, modes of worship, etc.), there are profound differences between the two notions of final judgment. First, there is no real concept of sin that needs atonement in the Osirian myth. Osiris does not atone for anyone’s sins. Rather the concept of Ma’at from Egyptian mythology is a weighing of good deeds against bad deeds. So, if you have one more good deed than you have bad deeds, you will be allowed into the Netherworld. But you also have to say or possess the right magical incantations. Plus, in the Osirian formulation, the Egyptian pantheon of Gods votes to see if you get in. In contrast, real people whose identities we know witnessed the actual death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was an actual atoning sacrifice for the sins of all who place their faith in him. In Christian formulation of salvation, good deeds don’t get one into heaven. Rather, it was the one good deed of Jesus Christ, God enfleshed, that allows entry into heaven (not the Netherworld). Moreover, Jesus is the sole arbiter who renders eternal judgment on every person who dies in contrast to the Osirian myth.

Both Were Murdered, Dismembered, and Ascended to Heaven

Yes, both were murdered, but for totally different reasons. Osiris, was murdered for his dalliance with Seth’s wife. In his jealousy, Seth murdered Osiris. Again, this murder took Osiris by surprise as well. In contrast to this, the murder of Jesus Christ was because he proclaimed that he was God. It was not for any misdeed other than making this proclamation under questioning by the high priest (Matt. 26:62-68). Jesus Christ was the pure and spotless Lamb of God, who knew that he was going to die and willingly accepted the torture and crucifixion that he endured (1 Cor, 5:7; Matt. 26:54-56).

As far as both being dismembered, this is what the Osirian myth states about Osiris. However, Dr. Carrier makes an odd claim that “dividing the garments” of Jesus as he was crucified was actually figuratively speaking of the dismemberment of Jesus’ body. He is really reaching with this comparison and I don’t think much commentary is necessary on this point.  In regards to both ascending into heaven after death, the passage that Carrier uses to support his idea is from the Pyramid Texts that actually come off the walls of Egyptian pyramids. Of course, as previously noted, Osiris was mummified after his death, and so his mummy is the connection point between his eternally living spirit and the Netherworld. So, his mummified body stays in the tomb but his spirit goes to the Netherworld. So, yes, the spirit of Osiris ascends out of his tomb going to the Netherworld but his mummified body remains behind in the pyramid in total contrast to the ascension of Jesus Christ who arose to heaven in his physical body (Luke 24:50) that was witnessed by many real persons.

These ancient pyramids were tombs that were meant to symbolize rebirth upon death and the passages out of the tomb physically ascended upwards even as a baby travels a passage out of its mother’s womb. So his spirit ascended up but it went to the Netherworld or Duat that is on the reverse side of the earth from where the sun travels across the sky of Egypt. The ancient Egyptians thought of the Netherworld as being beneath them, sort of. Ancient Egyptians thought the Netherworld was on the far side of the Earth from them and that is where the sun went through at night in order to rise again the next morning revitalized from Osiris. So the soul ascended up out of the pyramid into the heavens on its pathway to the Netherworld. The conception of the ancient Egyptian Netherworld is much different than the heaven of Christian description.

Conclusion

So, as you can see, the above comparisons that Dr. Carrier makes are not good ones after analyzing them. Also, the more one probes, the more contrasts become apparent. Osiris is just one of many examples that Doctor Carrier offers of dying and rising gods from antiquity which is a problem in itself (just pick one god and go with it). So, if he has no actual relevant evidence to support his claim, then why give his theory any serious consideration? If his comparisons unravel upon inspection then why support his position? As far as I am concerned, from an evidentiary perspective, his claim is dead with no hope of resurrection.

Sources

Allen, J.P. 2005. The ancient Egyptian pyramid texts, edited by P.D. Manuelian. Translated with an introduction and notes by J.P. Allen. Atlanta: Society of biblical literature.

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Assman, J. 2005. Death and salvation in ancient Egypt, Translated from the German by D. Lorton. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Carrier, R. 2009. Not the impossible faith: Why Christianity didn’t need a miracle to succeed [Kindle ed.]. Published by Lulu.com. Available: http://www. amazon.com

Carrier, R. 2013. How not to defend historicity (In Price, P and Zindler, F. eds. Bart Ehrman and the quest of the historical Jesus of Nazareth). Cranford: American Atheist Press.

Carrier, R. 2014b. On the historicity of Jesus: why we might have reason to doubt [Kindle ed.]. Sheffield: Sheffield University Press. Available: http://www. amazon.com

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Schoeps, H. 1968. The religions of mankind, Trans. by Winston, R. & Winston, C. New York: Anchor Books.

Smith, M. 1998. The death of “dying and rising gods” in the biblical world: An update, with special reference to Baal in the Baal cycle. Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 12:2, 257-313.

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