Jesus And Horus As The Quintessential Savior Myth Essay Samples
The myth of the Christ narrative is thought to not be exclusive to the Biblical figure of Jesus Christ himself. In fact, when examining the Egyptian myths of both Horus and Osiris, many parallels can be found within their narratives. While Horus was worshipped nearly a millennia before the story of Jesus, there are many similarities that can be found in these particular tales. When factoring in the tale of Osiris as well, the three versions of the savior myth provide unique similarities and contexts to their respective religions and belief systems which anchor them. Comparing Jesus and Horus, in particular, provides a significantly similar tale of the dying/resurrecting savior myth in two distinct cultures and civilizations. In seeing the improbable likenesses of these mythic figures in two civilizations that could not possibly have influenced each other to that extent, the universal reliance on savior figures and the various factors that are required of them can be elucidated.
Much of the scholarly basis for the comparison of Jesus, Horus and other similarly-told mythical stories is in the Christ myth theory, which posits that there was no real historical Jesus Christ, and even if he existed, his relationship with the formation of Christianity is spurious at best (Campbell 362). Adding further to the idea that Jesus is a myth is the fundamental parallels found within Christ and other mythical narratives: “It is clear that, whether accurate or not as to biographical detail, the moving legend of the Crucified and Risen Christ was fit to bring a new warmth, immediacy, and humanity, to the old motifs of the beloved Tammuz, Adonis, and Osiris cycles” (Campbell 362). To that end, the possibility of Christ’s similarity to other myths opens the door to greater exploration of not just whether or not these myths are historically accurate, but what sociological or religious purpose they held in the lives of those who believed in them.
As mythic saviors, Jesus and Horus share extremely similar backstories and birth circumstances. Both figures are born of virgins (Horus born of Isis in 1550 BCE, Jesus born of the virgin Mary in 0 BCE), which offers them a more concrete connection to the divine than if they were born of mortals (Harpur 80). Both are fathered by gods; Jesus is the only begotten son of Jehovah/The Holy Spirit, while Horus was fathered by the god Osiris (Harpur 80). The foster father of both figures is named Joseph (Horus’ equivalent being named Seb, which translates to “Jo-Seph”), who is a descendant of royalty in both stories (Harpur 80). Both figures are also born in isolation, with Horus born in a cave and Jesus born in a stable in Bethlehem (Harpur 80). Their births were both heralded by stars – for Horus, the morning star (known as Sirius), and for Jesus a “star in the East” that is unidentified (Harpur 80). Their births were also both announced by angels and witnessed by shepherds, and they were later visited by a group of three important figures – solar gods in the case of Horus, and the three wise men in the case of Christ (Harpur 80).
Shortly after their birth, both Jesus and Horus experienced threats to their lives that forced them to flee with their mothers. In the case of Jesus, he came under threat of death from Herod, to which an angel came to Joseph to instruct him to "Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt” (Matthew 2:13). Horus, meanwhile, encountered a similar threat from Herut, to which the god That instructs Isis to “Come, thou goddess Isis, hide thyself with thy son the child” (Budge 156). Both were also baptized at the age of 30 – Jesus by John the Baptist, Horus by Anup the Baptiser – both of whom were later beheaded (Harpur 80). By giving Jesus and Horus such tragic, yet mythic, backstories, their creation is allowed to be just as divine as their existence, which provides greater significance to the recipient of their respective legends.
Jesus and Horus’s relationship to temptation is also closely mirrored in each other’s myths. In Jesus’ version of the story, Jesus was met by Satan, who tempted him after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights (Matthew 4:2). Satan beset upon him three temptations – turning stones to bread to solve his fasting, offering to let the angels provide him solace, and taking him to a high mountain in Palestine and offering him everything if he “fall down and do an act of worship to [him]” (Matthew 4:9). This third temptation, in particular, was heavily mirrored in Horus’ own temptation story, in which his rival uncle Seth took him to a high mountain in the desert of Amenta in order to sway him to split the throne between the two of them: "Then he appeared before the divine council and claimed the throne. But the gods gave judgment that Horus was the rightful king, and he established his power in the land of Egypt, and became a wise and strong ruler like to his father Osiris” (Budge 23). Both figures resisted this temptation, thus cementing their status as good, virtuous figures.
The supernatural gifts that Jesus and Hors have both tie into similar events and the universal fears of death, damnation and sin. Both Jesus and Horus are known to have walked on water, and healed the sick, as well as gave sight to the blind and exorcised demons (Harpur 136). They also both have power over life and death; while the recipient of Jesus’ life-giving powers was his best friend Lazarus, Horus used his powers to revive Osiris – both of these miracles took place in a city called Anu, which is an Egyptian city (though the Hebrews called it Beth-Anu) (Harpur 136).
Jesus and Horus are both sacrificed, which provides yet another fascinating parallel for these two figures, though accounts of Horus’ crucifixion are still met with controversy. While Jesus was crucified, Horus was likely not – the one single mention of Horus being resurrected is spurious at best, though it is only sensible in the context of Horus’ eventual melding into his father, Osiris. Here, Osiris takes on the sacrifice that is comparable to Christ, as Set dismembers Osiris in battle (or drowns him in the Nile; the story goes either way) (Budge 294). After this, Isis manages to reassemble Osiris from the pieces of his body and technically resurrects him, just long enough to allow him to create an heir that would avenge his death
In addition to Jesus and Horus, the Egyptian god Osiris (father of Horus) himself has many parallels with God. In both tales, Jesus and Horus alike share a unity between father and son – Horus and Osiris, along with Ra, form a rough equivalent in Egyptian mythology to the Christian idea of the Holy Trinity (Budge xlviii). However, one chief difference is that, unlike the Christian notion of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost being one and the same, having always existed as such, Ra, Horus and Osiris have each had a distinct beginning, middle and end in their narratives (Budge 1). Each god was conceived from other gods, giving them a decidedly Greek nature as gods, being supernatural beings with incredible powers that nonetheless are not the be-all, end-all of their culture’s theology.
Comparing Jesus and Horus as mythical figures provides many unique insights into the significance of the power of the savior myth in civilizations. While many of the superficial comparisons and connections between Jesus and Horus can be found, it is also clear that these two figures do not hold enough of a significant connection to realistically be thought of as the same figure. As a result, it must be said that the comparison of Jesus and Horus as the same figure does not take into account the thousands of years in between each of their appearances in their respective mythologies, and the possible effect or inspiration the Horus legend had on Jesus Christ. However, when it comes to the effect of the figure himself on the people who received these myths, any logistical similarity likely pales in comparison to the utility they have on establishing social mores and values, commensurate with their status as myths.
Regardless of whether or not the two characters are meant to be based on the same (ostensibly) real figure, their existence in these two civilizations reveals the cultural importance of a sacrificial figure who dies for one’s sins and comes back to life. According to Joseph Campbell, myth is created with four functions in mind: to answer the mysteries of the universe, to help provide a framework for interpretation, to advance the moral order of a civilization, and to explore the psyche of its people (Campbell, 2003). In this respect, the comparison of Jesus and Horus reveals a more universal need for the exact kind of figure that these two represent in their respective cultures – the man sent from God who is meant to bring humanity to salvation, teach them to overcome temptation, and sacrifices themselves for their sins. Many cultures can find this kind of story comforting, and as such the similarities in these myths can take on an incredible amount of significance. Just as with many other religious stories, the similarities in the Jesus and Horus myths reveal a universal desire to see the world ordered into cycles of good and bad events, with a leader to see people through to the other side and better climes.
The power of myth, then, lies in the ability for the people who absorb these myths to take from them their lessons and acknowledge their lessons. For both the Christians who follow Jesus Christ, and the Egyptians who worshipped Horus, similar lessons could be taken – one must resist temptation, be good to one another, be brave in the face of adversity, and trust that there is a figure existing in their mythology who believes in them and will secure a happy afterlife for them. The transcendent nature of both figures provides a cathartic means of redemption for an entire people, allowing them to deal with their fears and anxieties of mortal life and any sort of systematic oppression. The historicizing of these stories, however vague, allows people to craft their own myths and figures who become avatars of the values that they themselves need to engender in people. By creating a supernatural, mythic example of the values they want to see in themselves, the Egyptian and Christian peoples allowed themselves to craft a perfectly viable historical story that provided them a measure of salvation and hope for a better future. Regardless of the veracity of either Jesus’ or Horus’ real life natures, or whether or not they even existed, these basic tenets of their stories provided comfort and solace to people looking for those types of myths.
Budge, E.A. Wallis (ed.). Legends of the Gods. 1912.
Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology 3 (2003): 362.
Harpur, Tom. The Pagan Christ; Recovering the Lost Light, Thomas Allen, 2004.
Sandmel, S. "Parallelomania". Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1) (1962): 1–13.
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