A series of blogs will deal with the claims that Christianity is rooted in parallels to the pagan gods. A sequence of works by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy are among the latest to make such claims. I think it best to simply lay out the basic elements of the pagan stories so one can sense how similar or dissimilar they are. However, one historical note is that Octavian (Augustus, the emperor of Rome at the time of Jesus' birth) harshly opposed this religious cult because it was tied to one of his enemies, Cleopatra of Egypt, who was allied with Antony, his rival. Isis is an Egyptian goddess at the center of a cult that eventualy spread througout the Roman world. This process of moving West began about 300 BC. She is portrayed as a loving and compassionate deity. The key thing to note is that this cult was realted to fertility and the agricultural cycle. She also was seen as the goddess of marriage and of sailing. She also was portrayed as a figure who nursed her child, Horus. Her tears were said to fill the Nile and make the dry land fertile. So death and birth of the land pictured immortality. But central to the cult was the story about her husband, Osiris, who died at the hands of his evil brother, Seth (or Typhon), and was raised by Isis. The story is that Osiris was in a casket that was carried down the Nile, which came ashore at Byblos at the foot of a tree with a large trunk which enfolds the casket. The tree is taken to a palace as a pillar. Isis finds it and orders it opened. But Seth captures the body and cuts it up into 14 pieces instead. he then scatters the peices. Isis searches for and finds the pieces and then has a funeral for each piece. Next she magically restores the slain god back to life. This myth led to the celebration of the finding of Osiris in the cult, held each autumn from October 28 to November 3. Just a look at the basic myth shows that all it has in common with Christianity is the idea of coming back to life. But its roots in fertility cults and agricultural imagery (not to mention polytheism) makes it a very distinct kind of story. This story can be found in Plutarch's Isis and Osiris in his Moralia. His treatment gives a Greco-Roman take on this myth. Plutarch wrote in the first and second century AD (c AD 46-120). For a description of the cult, see Robert Turcan, THE CULTS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, Chapter 2. Another issue is whether this return to life is really the same thing as a resurrection. The fact is some versions simply leave Osiris in charge of the underworld, a far cry from bodily resurrection, more a vivification of the soul. This is treated in REINVENTING JESUS, by Ed Komoszewski, James Sawyer and Daniel Wallace, pp. 250-252. We shall return to this myth in future blogs and give you snippets of material from the ancient sources so you can compare the accounts.
Isis, Osiris and Jesus - August 30