Would This Bother You?
There are many atheists who claim that Jesus never really lived. What if I told you that there was once an ancient religion which described God as a being who:
Was called “Lord of Lords”, “King of Kings”, “God of Gods”, “Resurrection and the Life”, “Good Shepherd”, “Eternity and Everlastingness”, and the god who “made men and women to be “born again”
His birth was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of Orion
Had a star in the east, Sirius, that signified his birth
Had a Eucharist ceremony of sorts, in which his flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat
Taught much of the same material as Jesus; many teachings are identically the same, word for word
Was killed and later resurrected, providing hope to all that they may do likewise and become eternal
Would you recognize this religious figure? Sound like someone you know? Well, of course, we are describing the figure of Osiris!! What, did you think we were talking about Jesus? It sure sounds like Jesus doesn’t it? Would it shake your faith to discover that Osiris was a mythological Egyptian god who riled over the earth shortly after its creation? And while the worship of Osiris is no longer prevalent on our planet, there are a number of atheists who are now assembling to argue that Christianity is simply a copycat of previously existing faith systems. Their argument is that Christianity is not true, and that Jesus never lived. He is simply a copied form of deity from a number of pre-existing mythologies!
Is He Really Like Jesus?
A first reading of these similarities is startling and for many Christians, these descriptions have caused them to stumble and doubt the true historicity of the man, Jesus Christ. So it’s important for us to examine the truth of these claims of similarity and to also see what the REAL mythologies can tell us about the heart of man that drives us to imagine what God might be like. There can be little doubt that there are a number of pre-Christian mythologies with dying saviors, but when we examine these figures closely, we’ll see that they only foreshadow the God who truly DID come to earth. These mythologies actually SUPPORT the claims of Christ. Before we begin to examine this mythology carefully, it’s important to recognize that a significant portion of what we just read about Osiris is simply FALSE, and lacks ANY archeological or textual support whatsoever. Much of what is seen on this list is simply the effort of atheists to make Osiris look as much like Jesus as possible. So let’s take a look at the truth and see what it can tell us.
The Truth About Osiris
Historians do their best to understand Osiris from archeological digs, existing temples and wall carvings in Egypt. According to the myth, Osiris was slain by his jealous brother, Seth. His sister- wife (Isis) collected the pieces of her dismembered husband, revived him, and later conceived his son and avenger, Horus. Let’s take a look at the claims we have already described and separate truth from fiction, and then try to understand the underlying hope of the people who invented the god called Osiris:
Claim: Osiris was called “Lord of Lords”, “King of Kings”, “God of Gods”, “Resurrection and the Life”, “Good Shepherd”, “Eternity and Everlastingness”, and the god who “made men and women to be “born again”
Truth: These names for Jesus were NOT used by Osiris, who was called, “Lord of All”, the “Good Being”, “Lord of the Underworld”, “Lord (King) of Eternity”, “Ruler of the Dead”, “Lord of the West”, “Great One”, “He who takes seat,” “the Begetter”, “the Ram”, “Great Word”, “Chief of the Spirits”, “Ruler of Everlastingness”, “Living God,” “God above the gods.” These rather general names were not uncommon for many other deities as well.
The Reasoning Behind the Osiris Mythology: If there is a God, we would expect Him to be powerful and possess a title that reflects that power.
Claim: Osiris’ birth was announced by Three Wise Men: the three stars Mintaka, Anilam, and Alnitak in the belt of Orion, and Osiris had a star in the east (Sirius) that signified his birth
Truth: It IS true that some scholars connect Osiris with Orion, but they don’t stretch the imagination to call the three stars of the belt “wise men”, and there is no mention of an eastern star in the Osiris mythology.
The Reasoning Behind the Osiris Mythology: It is reasonable to assume that if there is a God, his emergence into the natural world would be in some way spectacular and supernatural
Claim: Osiris had a Eucharist ceremony of sorts, in which his flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat
Truth: There is no evidence for this in the research of the scholars
Claim: Osiris taught much of the same material as Jesus; many teachings are identically the same, word for word
Truth: There is absolutely no evidence of any of this, and the ‘wisdom’ of Osiris is still available for review.
The Reasoning Behind the Osiris Mythology: If there is a God, we would expect Him to be a source of great wisdom
Claim: Osiris was killed and later resurrected, providing hope to all that they may do likewise and become eternal
Truth: Osiris was murdered and his body was then dismembered and scattered. Later, his body pieces were recovered and rejoined, and he was rejuvenated. Osiris then journeyed to the underworld, where he became the lord of the dead. He did NOT resurrect with a glorified body and walk with men on earth, as did Jesus. He was not alive again, as was Jesus, but was instead a “dead” god who never returned among the living
The Reasoning Behind the Osiris Mythology: If there is a true God, we would expect him to have mastery over death and be able to control the powers of death and life.
So, What is Left?
From this quick examination of the Osiris tradition, we can see that he was NOT called by the same names that were used for Jesus, and while he was connected by some to the Orion constellation, there is NO mention of three wise men in the Osiris birth story. In addition, Osiris was NOT celebrated with a Eucharist. He was murdered and reassembled, but was NOT resurrected to glory and life as was Jesus. So in hindsight, how similar is Mithras to Jesus after all?
How Could They Have Imagined That?
Even with all the differences between Osiris and Jesus, it is still striking that early men would imagine a God with even a few similarities, don’t you think? How could that happen? Is it really possible that someone could imagine something that could later become a reality, even if only in part? Well, let’s take a look at another example from history. What if I told you that a man named Morgan Robertson once wrote about a British ocean liner that was about 800 feet long, weighed over 60,000 tons, and could carry about 3,000 passengers? The ship had a top cruising speed of 24 knots, had three propellers, and about 20 lifeboats. What if I told you that this ocean liner hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage in the month of April, tearing an opening in the starboard side forward portion of the ship, and sinking along with about 2,000 passengers? Would you recognize the event from history? You might say, “Hey, that’s the Titanic!” Well, you would be wrong. While all these details are identical to the Titanic, the ship I am talking about is the “Titan” and it is a fictional ship described in Robertson’s book called “the Wreck of the Titan” or “Futility” (Buccaneer Books, Cutchogue, New York, 1898). This book was written fourteen years BEFORE the disaster took place, and several years before the construction was even begun on the Titanic! In addition to this, other writers and thinkers had also started to develop a mythology about such large ships. In the 1880’s, the well known English journalist, W. T. Stead also wrote an account of a sinking ocean liner in the mid-Atlantic, and by 1882 had added the detail that an iceberg would be the cause of the disaster. There are also quite a number of recorded premonitions on the part of passengers who cancelled at the last minute before boarding the Titanic for its maiden voyage in 1912, citing that the ship would suffer a similar fate.
How could all these people foresee something like this? How could Robertson foresee this so accurately? Well, it is quite possible that these men and women had a prophetic gift of sorts (after all, even atheists will concede that some among us are at least more intuitive than others), but it is also possible that they simply observed the world around them, thought about the possibilities, examined the history of man leading up to the era, and imagined what an ocean liner like this might be like. Clearly they did actually imagine something that was close to the truth of history. Now if a thousand years from now we were examining the truth of the Titanic in history, and we discovered the story of the Titan, do you think we would find ourselves saying, “Hey, that story about the Titanic is a lie, it was just a re-creation of a prior mythology called the Titan!” I hope not. I hope, instead, that we would evaluate the evidence related to the existence of the Titanic, read the eyewitness accounts, study the impact the event had on history, and then make a decision about the event. I would hope that a prior mythology would not stop our search for the truth. And let’s face it, the similarities between the Titan and the Titanic are far greater than the similarities between Osiris and Jesus.
What Was in the Heart of Those Who Created Osiris?
So, is there also something in the heart of man that drives him to seek God and try his best to understand and know him? Is there something in the heart of man that encourages him to dream and imagine mythologies about God, just like he might imagine a boat like the Titanic? The Bible certainly maintains that God has placed the truth of his existence in the world around us:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
And the Bible also tells us that God has given us a conscience that testifies to his existence:
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
Why should we be surprised that as people created in the image of God, we would have a mind and a heart that dreams about the nature of our creator? If God has placed his moral truth in our heart, and hinted at his existence with the wonder of the created world around us, it is reasonable that even before anything was directly revealed in the Bible, men and women thought, imagined and dreamed about the nature of God (just like some obviously thought about large ocean liners!) We would actually expect these mythologies to bear a resemblance to the reality of God’s nature once it IS revealed to us, just as the Titan resembled the Titanic!! And that appears to be the case with Osiris. But let’s be realistic about the Osiris similarities. They are NOT all that powerful and striking; especially when we investigate them and see that the vast majority of the claims of similarity are simply not historically verified. They are lies.
But go back for a minute and re-read the reasoning of the creators of the Osiris mythology. Think about what motivated them. They reasoned through the notion of God, based on what they saw in their environment and the seed of God’s conscience planted in their heart, and decided that if there is a God, (1) His power and majesty would warrant His having titles that reflect His nature, (2) He must be an incredibly powerful being who could emerge in our world in a way that defies the natural order of things, (3) He would be the source of great wisdom, and (4) He would have mastery over death and be able to control the powers of death and life.
So, How Did God Eventually Appear?
OK, these four driving motivations have clearly contributed to the thinking of those who originally created the mythology of Osiris. As humans, we can evaluate the environment around us and form a reasonable notion about the God who created it. While Osiris is MUCH different from Jesus, it is interesting to note that God eventually met and exceeded the expectations of those who dreamed about Him. Jesus is everything we might have hoped for, and so much more. His power and majesty have warranted His having titles that reflect His nature; as God incarnate, He emerged in our world in a way that defies the natural order of things; He is the source of great wisdom; and He has mastery over death and controls the powers of death and life. Jesus meets the expectation that early God seekers had and exceeds their expectation in every way!
Paul Told Them That God Was Greater Than Their Expectations
That really shouldn’t surprise us, because Paul told early God seekers this very thing as he was addressing the people of Athens on Mars Hill, two thousand years ago. He told these Greek thinkers and seekers that while they had imagined the nature of God (just as Osiris believers had also dreamed about God), there was actually a TRUE God, Jesus Christ, who came into the world and exceeded their expectations:
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
Paul seemed to recognize that God had an answer for all those who had been dreaming about His nature. God was not unaware of all the mythologies that preceded His appearance in the form of Jesus Christ. He knew everything that these cultures had imagined and dreamed about Him. He saw how they had shaped their gods. He knew how they had described them with miraculous powers and abilities. Why should it surprise us that God would eventually appear and prove to mankind that He was the ONE TRUE GOD by simply MEETING our expectations, point for point (and then surpassing these expectations along the way)? It should not surprise us that God might, in some way, CHOOSE to appear in a form that is consistent with the expectations of man, particularly when God wants his creation to recognize him. God could simply be saying, “Children, I know you have imagined me to be a certain way. In some small measure you have imagined correctly. In many other ways you have been very far from the mark. Let me show you who I am. Watch me meet all the expectations you had about my nature. Let me help you believe by the miraculous life that I will live among you. Let me rescue you in a way you could never have dreamed of.”
Jesus Ends the Search
Maybe that’s why in the long lineage of mythologies and descriptions of God, Jesus completes the list. There are no significant mythologies that follow Jesus. Ever wonder why? Is it simply because the human race developed past such fables? Or is it because the human race developed past its own immaturity to the point and place where God finally determined it was time to appear in the flesh? Perhaps God decided that the time in which he had “overlooked such ignorance”, was now complete, so He presented himself in a way that ended all mythology. He appeared in TRUE power and glory, putting all prior mythologies to rest forever; meeting and exceeding anything we could ever have hoped for.
Christianity Continues to Thrive
While there are actually very FEW similarities between Osiris and Jesus in detail, there are similarities between them in the underlying expectations early seekers had for God. Jesus simply meets the hopes and dreams of these seekers as the true incarnate God. While Osiris worship is now a dead religion, Christianity continues to thrive. Why? Because the Osiris tradition is inconsistent with the geological history of our world, inconsistent with the archeological history of humanity, and unsupported by textual evidence. In contrast, Christianity still continues to speak to the minds of seekers today. It has strong geological and archeological consistency with what we see in our world and strong textual evidence to support the earliest of claims. Atheists have tried to portray Osiris as something he isn’t in order to make us believe that Jesus never existed at all. But the story of Osiris should only encourage us to believe in the God who exceeds our expectations!
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