Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth

By John G. Jackson (Originally published in 1941)


Part Three: Pagan Christs

The Egyptian analogies to the Christian epic are so close in some cases as to suggest an Egyptian origin for certain Christian doctrines and rites. This is clearly shown by Gerald Massey:

The Christian dispensation is believed to have been ushered in by the birth of a child, and the portrait of that child in the Roman Catacombs as the child of Mary is the youthful Sun-God in the Mummy Image of the child-king, the Egyptian Karast, or Christ. The alleged facts of our Lord's life as Jesus the Christ, were equally the alleged facts of our Lord's life as the Horus of Egypt, whose very name signifies the Lord. … The Jesus Christ with female paps, who is the Alpha and Omega of Revelation, was the Iu of Egypt, and Iao of the Chaldeans. Jesus as the Lamb of God, and Ichthys the Fish, was Egyptian. Jesus as the Coming One; Jesus born of the Virgin Mother, who was overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, Jesus born of two mothers, both of whose names are Mary; Jesus born in the manger—at Christmas, and again at Easter; Jesus saluted by the three kings, or Magi; Jesus of the transfiguration on the Mount; Jesus whose symbol in the Catacombs is the eight-rayed Star—the Star of the East; Jesus as the eternal Child; Jesus as God the Father, re-born as his own Son; Jesus as the child of twelve years; Jesus as the Anointed One of thirty years; Jesus in his Baptism; Jesus walking on the Waters, or working his Miracles; Jesus as the Caster-out of demons; Jesus as a Substitute, who suffered in a vicarious atonement for sinful men; Jesus whose followers are the two brethren, the four fishers, the seven fishers, the twelve apostles, the seventy (or seventy-two in some texts) whose names were written in Heaven; Jesus who was administered to by seven women; Jesus in his bloody sweat; Jesus betrayed by Judas; Jesus as Conqueror of the grave; Jesus the Resurrection and the Life; Jesus before Herod; in the Hades, and in his re-appearance to the women and to the seven fishers; Jesus who was crucified both on the 14th and 15th of the month Nisan; Jesus who was also crucified in Egypt (as it is written in Revelation); Jesus as judge of the Dead, with the sheep on the right, and the goats on the left, is Egyptian from first to last, in every phase from the beginning to the end.1

Osiris,2 the father of Horus, was another virgin-born god of ancient Egypt. His Sufferings, Death, and Resurrection were celebrated in an annual mystery-play at Abydos, on about March 25, an approximation of the Vernal Equinox, i.e. Easter. The Pharaoh Amenhotep III, of the seventeenth dynasty, was hailed as the son of the virgin Mutemua. His birth is pictured on the inner walls of the Temple of Amen in Thebes. "In this picture," declares the Egyptologist Samuel Sharpe,

We have the Annunciation, the Conception, the Birth and the Adoration, as described in the first and second chapters of Luke's gospel; and as we have historical assurance that the chapters in Matthew's gospel which contain the miraculous birth are an after addition not in the earliest manuscripts, it seems probable that these two poetical chapters in Luke may also be unhistorical, and borrowed from the Egyptian accounts of the miraculous births of their kings.

Another great pagan christ was Krishna3 of India. In the sacred books of India it is recorded that Krishna was born of the virgin Devaki, that his nativity was heralded by a star, and that though of royal lineage, he was born in a cave. (According to the apocryphal gospel of Protevagelion,4 a work attributed to James, the brother of Jesus, the Christian savior was born in a cave.) At the time of Krishna's birth, the cave was mysteriously illuminated. (At the birth of Jesus, "there was a great light in the cave, so that the eyes of Joseph and the Midwife could not bear it.") The infant Krishna spoke to his mother soon after his birth. ("Jesus spake even when he was in the cradle, and said to his mother: 'Mary I am Jesus the Son of God, that Word which thou did bring forth according to the declaration of the Angel Gabriel unto thee, and my Father hath sent me for the salvation of the world' " 5 according to the apocryphal gospels of 1 and 2 Infancy. ) Krishna was born while his foster-father Nanda was in the city to pay his tax to the king. (Jesus was born while his foster-father Joseph was in the city to pay his tax to the govenor.6) The babe Krishna was adored by cowherds. (The infant Jesus was adored by shepherds.) King Kansa sought the life of the Indian Christ by ordering the massacre of all male children born during the same night as was Krishna. (This is almost identical with the story of the slaughter of the innocents, ordered by Herod.7) Nanda was warned by a heavenly voice to flee with the infant Khrisna across the Jumna River, to Gakul, to escape King Kansa. (Joseph was warned by a voice in a dream to flee into Egypt with the Christ-child to escape the wrath of Herod.) Krishna performed many miracles in the city of Mathura. (Jesus, while in Egypt, lived in a town named Matarea, where he performed many miracles.) Krishna was a crucified christ. He is pictured in Indian art as hanging on a cross with arms extended. (Dr. Thomas Inman, a celebrated authority on pagan and Christian symbolism, states that: "Christna, whose history so closely resembles our Lord's, was also like him in his being crucified."8) Krishna was pierced by an arrow while hanging on the cross. (Jesus was pierced by a spear during his crucifixion.) The light of the sun was blotted out at noon on the day of Krishna's death. (The sun was darkened from the sixth to the ninth hour on the day of the crucifixion of Christ.) Krishna descended into hell to raise the dead before returning to the abode of the gods. (We read of Jesus Christ that: "He descended into hell, and on the third day rose again from the dead." The Descent into Hell of Jesus is described in the apocryphal gospel of Nicodemus.9) Krishna rose from the grave, and finally ascended bodily to heaven in the presence of a multitude of spectators. (A similar story is related of Jesus Christ.) In Indian art Krishna literally means "The Black." (In early Christian art Jesus is almost invariably represented as a Black man.) Sir Godfrey Higgins made a thorough investigation of the pictures and images of Black Infants and Madonnas in the cathedrals of Europe.

"[I]n all the Romish countries of Europe," says he, "in France, Italy, Germany &c., the God Christ, as well as his mother, are described in their old pictures and statues to be black. The infant God in the arms of his black mother, his eyes and drapery white, is himself perfectly black. If the reader doubt my word, he may go to the cathedral at Moulins—to the famous chapel of the Virgin at Loretto—to the church of the Annunciata—the church of St. Lazaro, or the church of St. Stephen at Genoa—to St. Francisco at Pisa—to the church at Brixen, in the Trol, and to that at Padua—to the church of St. Theodore, at Munich, in the two last of which the whiteness of the eyes and teeth, and the studied redness of the lips, are very observable;—to a church and to the cathedral at Augsburg, where are a black virgin and child as large as life: to Rome, and the Borghese chapel Maria Maggiore—to the Pantheon—to a small chapel of St. Perer's, on the right-hand side on entering, near the door; and, in fact, to almost innumerable other churches, in countries professing the Romish religion,

There is scarcely an old church in Italy where some remains of the worship of the BLACK VIRGIN and BLACK CHILD are not to be met with. Very often the black figures have given way to white ones, and in these cases the black ones, as being held sacred, were put into retired places in the churches, but were not destroyed, and are yet to be found there. …

When the circumstance has been named to the Romish priests, they have endeavored to disguise the fact, by pretending that the child had become black by the smoke of the candles; but it was black where the smoke of the candle never came: and, besides, how came the candles not to blacken the white of the eyes, the teeth, and the shirt, and how came they to redden the lips? … Their real blackness in not to be questioned for a moment. …

A black virgin and child among the white Germans, Swiss, French and Italians!!!10

Krishna was the second person in the Hindu Trinity, which consisted of:—(1) Brahma, (2) Vishnu and (3) Siva. Krishna was the human incarnation of Vishnu. (Jesus Christ is considered to be the second person in the Christian Trinity.)

The close parallels between the life-stories of Buddha and Christ are just as remarkable as those between Krishna and Christ. Buddha11 was born of a virgin name Maya, or Mary. His birthday was celebrated on December 25. He was visited by wise men who acknowledged his divinity. The life of Buddha was sought by King Bimbasara, who feared that some day the child would endanger his throne. At the age of twelve, Buddha excelled the learned men of the temple in knowledge and wisdom. His ancestry was traced back to Maha Sammata, the first monarch in the world. (Jesus' ancestry is traced back to Adam, the first man in the world.) Buddha was transfigured on a mountain top. His form was illumined by as aura of bright light. (Jesus was likewise transfigured on a mountain top. "And his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light."12 After the completion of his earthly mission, Buddha ascended bodily to the celestial realms.

Mithra,13 a Persian sun-god, was virgin-born, in a cave, on December 25. His earliest worshippers were shepherds, and he was accompanied in his travels by twelve companions. The Mithraists kept the sabbath day holy and celebrated the Eucharist by eating wafers embellished with a cross. The great Mithraic festivals were the Birth (Christmas) and the Resurrection (Easter).

Adonis14 or Tammuz of Babylonia was also born of a virgin. He died a cruel death, descended into hell, arose from the tomb and ascended to heaven. In a mid-summer festival, the worshippers of Adonis wept over an effigy of the dead god which was washed with water, anointed day the Resurrection was re-enacted, after which the crowd shouted: "The Lord is Risen." Finally his ascension was simulated in the presence of his devotees.

Attis15 of Phrygia was called the Good Shepherd, and was said to be the son of the virgin Nana. It is reported that Attis, when in his prime, mutilated himself and bled to death under a sacred pine tree. The Festivals of the Death and Resurrection of Attis were staged by his worshippers from March 22 through March 25. A pine tree was cut on March 22, and an image of the god was tied to the trunk. He was shown as "slain and hanged on a tree."16 Then the effigy was buried in a tomb. On the night of March 24, the priests opened the tomb and found it empty. The Resurrection of Attis was celebrated on March 25. His followers were baptized in blood, thereby having their sins washed away, and they were therefore declared to have been "born again."

Strange as it may seem, the Aztecs of ancient Mexico likewise could boast of a crucified savior. Quetzalcoatl17 was born of a virgin, and also, like Jesus, was tempted and fasted for forty days. He is shown in the Borgian Ms., on a cross, with nail marks on his hands and feet. He is depicted as a man of sable hue. After being crucified, he rose from the dead and went into the East. The Mexicans were expecting his Second Coming when the Spaniards invaded the country in the sixteenth century.


Footnotes

  1. Gerald Massey, The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ or Natural Genesis and Typology of Equinoctial Chistolatry (London: 1936), pp. 42–43. For an exhaustive treatment, see Massey's book A Book of the Beginnings Containing an Attempt to Recover and Reconstitute the Lost Origins [sic] of the Myths and Mysteries, Types and Symbols, Religion and Language, with Egypt for the Mouthpiece and Africa as the Birthplace, 2 vols. (Secaucas, NJ: University Books Inc., 1974). Other valuable references are Samuel Sharpe's Egyptian Mythology; James Bonwick's Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought; James G. Frazer's Adonis, Attis, Osiris Studies in the History of Oriental Religion, 3rd ed., (New York: St. Martin, 1976); and T. W. Doane's Bible Myths.
  2. Osiris was the great Egyptian god of the underworld and the judge of the dead.
  3. Krishna was the eighth avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu and one of the most widely worshipped of the Hindu gods.
  4. Protevagelion in The Apocryphal New Testament, being all the Gospels, Epistles, and Other Pieces now Extant, Attributed in the First Four Centuries to Jesus Christ, His Apostles, and Their Companions, and not Included in The New Testament by its Compilers (New York: Peter Eckler Publishing Co., 1927).
  5. 1 and 2 Infancy in The Apocryphal New Testament.
  6. Luke 2:1–3, 5
  7. According to Matthew 2:16.
  8. Thomas Inman, M.D., Ancient Faiths Embodied in Ancient Names, vol. 1 p. 441; cited by T. W. Doane in Bible Myths, p. 186.
  9. Nicodemus in The Apocryphal New Testament.
  10. Higgins, Anacalypsos, vol. 1, pp. 138–139.
  11. Buddha is said to have been a mortal sage, whose name was Siddhartha Gautama (563–483 B.C). He was surnamed Buddha, "the awakened (enlightned)."
  12. Matthew 17:2.
  13. Mithra was a fifth century B.C. Persian god of light, who aided in the struggle with the powers of darkness.
  14. Adonis, a classical Greek mythology, a youth of remarkable beauty, a favourite of the goddess Aphrodite, symbolizing the cycle of growing seasons.
  15. Attis (Atys), a deity worshipped in Phrygia, and later throughout the Roman empire, in conjunction with the Great Mother of the Gods.
  16. Cf. New Testament:—Acts 5:30.
  17. Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent), a great Toltec deity, a god of the air, and in legend a saintly ruler and civilizer.

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