Murdock on Justin Martyr’s Admission of Parallels

D.M. Murdock, Christ in Egypt, pp 517-19:

Regarding this matter of precedence for parallels, Witt advocated proceeding with caution, but was also certain that the Egyptian religion influenced Christianity, remarking:

“Historians, generally, and specifically those who trace the development of religious ideas, need to avoid the trap of confusing the chronological order with cause and effect: post hoc ergo propter hoc.  On the other hand, the veneration (hyperdulia) of the Blessed Virgin Mary was certainly introduced at about the same time Theodosius ordered the destruction of pagan temples, including the Serapeum and other shrines of the Egyptian gods.  Here, we may think, lies a reason for the absorption of elements, ideas and usages from the old religion into the new.”

As can be seen, the evident borrowing byChristianity continued well into the common era, during Theodosius’s time in the fourth century.  Thus, simply because borrowing occurred during the “Christian era” does not mean it was by Paganism from Christianity.  Again, what is designated as the “Christian era” did not descend suddenly upon the entire world after the year 1 AD/CE but is relative, and to this day there remains places that are still pre-Christian, showing no knowledge of or influence by Christianity.

In capitulating to the fact there are indeed very serious correspondences between the Egyptian and christian religions, apologists insist that these motifs can only be found dating to the middle of the second century at the earliest.  When Justin Marty discussed them in detail, thereby supposedly showing that Paganism must have borrowed from Christianity.  In the first place, this present work reveals otherwise, as practically everything significant within Christianity existed in one form or another in the Egyptian religion long before the common era, much of it revolving around the characters of Osiris, Isis and Horus.

Moreover, in his First Apology (54) Justin specifically claims these parallels, including the Greek god Bacchus/Dionysus’s ascension into heaven, as well the virgin birth and ascension of Perseus, were the result of “the devil” anticipating Christ’s story:

“For having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that Christ was to come… [the wicked demons] put forward many to be called sons of Jupiter, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said with regard to Christ were mere marvelous tales, like the things which were said by the poets.”  (Roberts, A., ANCL, II, 53-54)

In chapter 56 of his Apology, Justin pointedly states that the “evil spirits” were making their mischief “before Christ’s appearance.” (Roberts, A., ANCL, II, 55)  In other words, Justin — and others using the same “devil did it” excuse, such as Tertullian and Lactantius — did not dishonestly deny the parallels, as have many modern apologists.”  Indeed, these early Church fathers happily used these correspondences in their polemics and apologies to make Christianity appear less ridiculous — and ridiculous it evidently was perceived to be by the educated Greeks and Romans of the time.  To the se latter groups, the gospel story could not have been any more “real” or “historical” than that of Apollo or Neptune, and surely doubted Christ’s existence as a “historical” figure in ancient times.  Moreover, nowhere does Justin Martyr claim that the Pagans copied Christianity after Christ’s alleged advent, which he certainly would have done, had the copying occurred in that direction.

It is obvious from Justin’s “devil got there first” excuse that these mythical motifs existed beforeChrist’s purported manifestation on Earth and that there were those n his time who sensibly questioned the historical veracity of the gospel story, essentially calling it “mere marvelous tales” — in other words, a myth.  In Dialogue with Trypho (69), in fact, Justin again invokes the “devil got there first” argument, specifically stating that these Pagan “counterfeits” were likewise “wrought by the Magi in Egypt.” (Roberts, A. ANCL, II, 184)  Now, which “counterfeits” and “Magi” would these be?  The “Magi” must be the Egyptian Priests, apparently called as such by people of Justin’s era, while the “counterfeits” must refer to at least some of the Egyptian gods.  Justin also specifically names the Greek gods Dionysus, Hercules, and Asclepius as those whose “fables” were emulated by the devil in anticipatingChrist.  As we have seen, these gods have their coutnerparts in Egyptian mythology as well, in Osiris and Horus, as prime examples.

Christ in Egypt, by D.M. Murdock

Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection 
By D.M. Murdock (AKA Acharya S)

 Christ In Egypt is more than 500 pages crammed full of examples and quotations all fully cited. This book follows the same theme as Murdock’s earlier books, but it’s different in that the author is focusing on just one mythological parallel to Christianity. I’ve never studied Egyptian religion too deeply, but the way she presents it makes me very curious to learn more. In particular, she has helped me to better understand the importance of the Coptic Christians and the Alexandrian Jews, and this has given me more of the context behind the development of Gnosticism.

If you’re not familiar with the authors work, she mostly writes about comparative mythology in terms of Christianity. In particular, she emphasizes astrotheology (related to cultural astronomy, ethnoastronomy, and archeoastronomy) which is a field that is growing in popularity within a certain sector of scholars. If you’d like to learn more before deciding whether you want to buy this book, I’d recommend checking out the following: 

her main website (Truth Be Known), her blogs (Truth Be Known News & Freethought Nation), her forum (Freethought Nation forum), her Yahoo Group (The Christ Conspiracy) her Stellar Publishing House the Youtube channel.

You might be familiar with astrotheology from the first part of the movie Zeitgeist, but that movie is only a very basic presentation. So, don’t dismiss Murdock’s work based on criticisms that you’ve read about Zeitgeist. Christ In Egypt is partly a response to those criticisms and it’s a very thorough response. If you’re genuinely interested in this topic, I’d recommend reading the book (which is something many of her critics don’t do) and making up your own mind.

As for the issue of Murdock’s scholarship, here is an excerpt from the preface of Christ In Egypt:

“I have been compelled to do extensive and exhaustive research in the pertinent ancient languages, such as Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Coptic, while I have also utilized authorities in modern languages such as German and French. . . . In my analysis of the ancient Egyptian texts, I consulted and cross-referenced as many translations as I could find, and I attempted to defer to the most modern renditions as often as possible.”

Murdock cites more than nine hundred scholarly sources and primary texts which includes thousands of footnotes, around 60 illustrations, and a 36 page long bibliography. She references the contemporary mythicist scholars Earl Doherty, Robert M. Price, and G.A. Wells; she goes into great detail about the criticisms of Gerald Massey; and she has a large section where she discusses her disagreement with Richard Carrier. Both Price and Doherty praise her work and reference it, and Price wrote a foreword to one of her earlier books (Who Was Jesus?). Also, here are some of the modern Egyptologists she references: Rudolf Anthes, Jan Assman, Hellmut Brunner, Claas J. Bleeker, Bob Brier, Henri Frankfort, Alan H. Gardiner, John Gwyn Griffiths, Erik Hornung, Barry Kemp, Barbara Lesko, Bojana Mojsov, Siegfried Morenz, William Murnane, Margaret A. Murray, Donald B. Redford, Herman te Velde, Claude Traunecker, Reginald E. Witt, and Louis V. Zabkar. One nice thing about Murdock’s books is that the bibliographies give you many directions in which to study further.

As a side note, many would like to separate Murdock’s work from authors who act as popularizers, but I noticed that she includes Freke and Gandy in her bibliography. I’m glad she did because I personally get tired of the haughty attitude many people get about scholarship. Popularizers like Freke and Gandy (along with Tom Harpur) play an important role as their books make for excellent introductions, but keep in mind that Murdock is a very large step beyond introductory material. If you feel a need to be dismissive towards the lesser scholarship of popularizers, please realize that Murdock’s Christ In Egypt is as scholarly as it gets.

As such, even though I highly recommend this book, it might not be a good introduction for most people partly because of its massive size. She is meticulous in her scholarship which means that you have to be seriously interested in the subject to want to read a book like this. I personally appreciate the excess of data. And, with a subject that attracts many critics, the more details and examples provided the better the argument is supported.

Murdock’s Christ in Egypt seems to be quite unique… despite there being many books that discuss Christianity and Egyptology. She realized how much info was out there, but the problem was that it was scattered across many sources. Her enormous goal was to collect as many scholarly references as she could find. In doing this, she researched materials that had never been published before and materials that had never appeared in English before. She amazingly managed to stuff a lot into a single book (although I suspect she could’ve expanded it into multiple volumes). As far as I know, there presently is no better resource available.

Biographical info (from her website):

“Acharya S, whose real name is D.M. Murdock, was classically educated at some of the finest schools, receiving an undergraduate degree in Classics, Greek Civilization, from Franklin & Marshall College, the 17th oldest college in the United States. . . . Acharya is also a member of one of the world’s most exclusive institutes for the study of Ancient Greek Civilization, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece. . . . Acharya S has served as a trench master on archaeological excavations in Corinth, Greece, and Connecticut, USA, as well as a teacher’s assistant on the island of Crete. Acharya S has traveled extensively around Europe,and she speaks, reads and/or writes English, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese and a smattering of other languages to varying degrees.”

I’ve only so far read parts of Christ in Egypt. It’s large and I’ll mostly use it as a reference. This book follows the same theme as her earlier books, but it’s different in that the author is focusing on just one mythological parallel to Christianity. Egyptian religion is very fascinating and Murdock provides tons of information. I’ve never studied Egyptian religion too deeply, but this makes me even more curious.

If you’re not familiar with the authors work, she mostly writes about comparative mythology in terms of Christianity. In particular, she emphasizes astrotheology which is a field that is growing in popularity within a certain sector of scholars. If you’d like to learn more before deciding whether you want to buy this book, I’d recommend checking out her website or blog (Truth Be Known). She has some good introductory articles that explain what astrotheology is.

You might be familiar with astrotheology from the first part of the movie Zeitgeist. If you’d like to explore similar authors, then check out Robert M. Price, Earl Doherty, Tom Harpur and Freke and Gandy. All of those authors have written about the Egyptian religion. There are many others as well. One nice thing about Murdock’s books is that the bibliographies give you many directions in which to study further.

Anyways, I highly recommend this book. But it probably wouldn’t be a good introduction for most people. She is meticulous in her scholarship which means that you have to be seriously interested in the subject to want to read a book like this. The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light by Tom Harpur would be a better first book to read. He covers similar territory, but in a more concise way.

I personally like the author’s large books filled with tons of information. And, with a subject that attracts many critics, the more details and examples provided the better the argument is supported.

Even though there are many books out there that discuss Christianity and Egyptian religion, Murdock’s Christ in Egypt is unique. She realized how much info was out there, and no one had yet collected it all in one place before. Her enormous goal was to find every scholarly reference to the Egyptian correlations to Christianity. In doing this, she researched materials that had never been published before and materials that had never appeared in English before. At this time, there is no better resource available.

If you want to see more info about this subject, the author has a forum about it at her discussion board: Truth Be Known Nation: Christ in Egypt.  And here is the Table of Contents from the Stellar House Publishing website.