The 5 myths of Christmas Day 5. In this series we’ve been looking at the 5 common myths about Christmas that pop up every year.
The First Four Myths
On day one we saw how early Christians calculated the date of Jesus’ birth. They believed that Jesus conceived, born and died on the 25th of different months. And they believed that he died on the same day he was conceived. All this is in the writings of the early church fathers and dates to the early 200’s AD.
The next myth we looked at was that early Christians stole the date of Jesus’ birth from the Roman pagan cult of Sol Invictus. We discovered that there were many dates used for this celebration, and that December 25thonly appears well after the early Church fathers were on record believing in that date being Jesus’ birthday.
The third myth we explored was the idea that the celebration of Saturnalia was the source of our modern Christmas celebration. It’s often asserted that this Roman festival predated Christmas. But as we saw, there is no evidence that the celebration took place on December 25th. On the contrary, it was actually held on December 17th.
In our last post, we looked into the myth that Jesus was just a retelling of the story of the pagan god Mithras. We discovered that many of the assertions made about Mithras, such as his being born on December 25th, had no basis in history. And much of what we know about Mithraic practices come from sources several hundred years after Christianity was established in Rome.
Today’s Myth: Jesus Is Just A Retelling Of The Egyptian God Horus
Much like Mithras, the Egyptian god Horus is put forward as a precursor to Jesus. Horus’ birth was believed to have occurred on December 25th. Like Jesus, he is said to have been call the “lord of lords” and “Light of light”. His followers supposedly took communion. He was said to have been raised from the dead and brought life to his followers.
Again, the similarities sound strikingly close to Jesus’ life. But once again, when we look at the source of these ideas about Horus, we find some problems with the assertions. So, where did the ideas of Jesus being a copycat messiah come from?
How Accurate Are The Stories?
The source for all these claims was a self-proclaimed Egyptologist named Gerald Massey (1828-1907). Massey’s claims have since been widely criticized and discredited by those working in the field of Egyptology. In looking as some of the specific claims made by Massey, we see that:
- There is no record of Horus being born on December 25th. He was not born of a virgin. Instead the goddess Isis conceived him by hovering over the erect penis of Osiris.
- Horus is not said to have died in the majority of Egyptian traditions. He is instead described as merging with Ra the sun god.
- Horus supposedly dies and rises with the sun each day. But is not “resurrected” in the same way as Jesus.
- There is a parallel account describing Horus’ death. It details how he was cast in pieces into the water. Later, the parts were fished out by a crocodile at Isis’ request. But this is nothing like the resurrection of Jesus.
There are many other supposed similarities claimed, but most are simply not found in any of the Egyptian traditions. There are accounts of Horus doing miracles. But think about it. Wouldn’t any god conceived of be capable of doing miracles? This is hardly a reason to assume that Jesus is a copy of Horus.
In this series, we’ve seen several myths put forward as an attempt to present the Christmas story as anything other that Christian. This if often done without thought or without evidence. It’s simply assumed to be true. One question I always like to ask people who make these claims is “What is the most compelling piece of primary source evidence that supports your view?”. Typically, they won’t be able to come up with any source at all. If they do, it’s usually from one of the unreliable sources we’ve mentioned in our response.
I hope this series has helped you better respond to claims made by skeptics about Christmas at this time of year. As always when we have conversations, keep in mind the admonition we find in 1 Peter 3:15. We need to offer our responses with both “Gentleness and respect”. I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!