Osiris the Mythicist Messiah

Osiris the Mythicist Messiah May 14, 2019

If you allow yourself to get entangled in debates with Jesus mythicists, you will regularly find yourself reaching a point at which you wonder how it can be that they so badly misunderstand the New Testament documents.

Then one of them will claim that Osiris was thought to be the Messiah, with a link to a website as “evidence,” and suddenly the problem becomes clear. If this sort of thing interests you, take a look at this website, where you will find photographic evidence that Osiris and Jesus not only both had beards, but had similar beards!

Osiris, The First Messiah: Was Jesus The “Second Coming” Of Egypt’s Christ?

Hopefully most readers of this blog will have found that website as illuminating as I did. It obviously doesn’t illuminate anything to do with the historical Jesus. But it most certainly does illuminate the parallelomania, the fascination with the most superficial of parallels,  the rejection of relevant historical context in favor of some other more distant context that is used to reframe the evidence, and of course the eschewal of any need for genuine expertise in favor of the view that anyone on the internet with interest can accurately make sense of ancient history. One can find very close parallels in the realm of pseudolinguistics to what we see here in this pseudohistorical and pseudoscholarly endeavor.

Even out of the midst of engagement with pseudoscholarship, positive things emerge, if only new and better ways to convey points about mainstream scholarship, the ancient Jewish context of early Christianity, and so on, to an interested general audience. It won’t convince mythicist true believers unless they undergo some profound soul searching about their methods and tactics, but it will be helpful for others (and perhaps eventually at least some mythicists – never give up hope for the power of truth to prevail and for expertise to carry the day instead of quackery!) A good example of this relates to Osiris and the resurrection, in a point articulated well by a commenter named Mark, who wrote:

Paul thinks the only miraculous thing that happened to Jesus is exactly what most every Jew of the time thought was going to happen to himself or herself. Did the pharisaical public think they were Osiris? Do Christians today think they are Osiris?

And another great quote from the same commenter, Mark:

Paul believed in ‘the historical Jesus’, a creature of ‘flesh and blood’, even when he was more anti-Christian than you are.

Elsewhere online related to mythicism, Lester Grabbe wrote an article about non-Christian sources that provide evidence for the historical Jesus. See also John MacDonald’s thoughts on the brother of the Lord as nickname.

Also somewhat related is Philip Jenkins on Jesus as Palestinian or as Palestinian Jew. Bart Ehrman continued his conversation about contradictions in the Gospels.

Finally, here’s a ridiculous Amazon review by Harry McCall, in which he complains that there are no physical inscriptions from Jesus, as though that were relevant to the question of Jesus’ historicity. I wouldn’t have noticed it, nor paid attention to it, but for some reason he decided to email me a link to it. He’s clearly a very strange individual!

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • While I have never heard of this type of individual, my guess is they are simply noticing similarities in different traditions. For me personally, I see the relationship between humanity and divinity as one that has evolved. Many traditions have some sort of deity that renews itself, and many have traditions involving saviors who were born of virgins and so on. For me, it says there was a recognition that this was a possibility or a foreshadowing of impending events. None of that means that such things are related to Christ, or there were other events besides the Christ event that transformed human destiny and also transformed the human divine relationship. Art is simply a method by which humans try to express inner thoughts and messages. I get in these endless discussions with atheists regarding belief and knowledge. To “prove” or “disprove” the existence of the spirit with materialistic arguments or theorems is actually not rational. Whether or not one believes in Christ is irrelevant to his existence. Christ is, and how people try to interpret it really is up to them. Sqeezing the absolute mystery and miracle of Christ into some sort of art history observation really does limit his existence and deed. There are things as St Paul says, that we will understand one day, and until then, we must simply love one another, and be as kind and moral as we can be, and trust that the miracle is unfolding in ways we will one day comprehend

  • Not the most academic treatment of the subject, but:


  • John MacDonald

    Neil Godfrey has a page on his blog devoted to “Who’s Who” in mythicism: https://vridar.org/whos-who-among-mythicists-and-mythicist-agnostics/

    A commenter added a new name the other day:

    Hey Neil. James Lynn Page, “The Christ Enigma: Did Jesus Really Exist?”.

    to which Neil replied:

    Thank you. Another one I will add. Pity he is an astrologer and tarot reader, though: http://www.astro.nu/

    Well, no Neil, astrologers and Tarot card reader are par for the course in terms of who is supporting mythicism. On the high end, you get complete amateurs like Doherty, scholars who can’t get a job at a university because of their views like Price, and “online sensations” like Carrier who has never held a teaching position. The rest are Acharya S’s and Neil Godfreys, lol.

  • John MacDonald

    Carrier critic, Christoph Heilig, just posted an interesting analysis of Carrier, and why Carrier is not to be trusted as an expert on NT studies.

    I should probably not made the comment on Carrier’s “horrible” analysis, because I completely understand that this automatically causes the wish for further elaboration, something I have consciously not offered so far in my writing. I will mention, but not discuss in detail, a single example that everybody who’s interested in the matter can look at for him- or herself. Carrier translates Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου as “a certain ‘brother James.’” To say that this wording might actually “favor” the myth-hypothesis must be very surprising to anybody who has a working knowledge of Greek and knows the texts in question. (Again, it’s not that I would not “permit” the hypothesis to be considered – discussions about the identity of people with the same names in antiquity are common, also among biblical scholars, btw.) It is in any case completely beyond me how anybody who’s familiar with Bayes’s theorem might come up with the likelihoods he suggests. There is absolutely no other context, in which Bayesian reasoning is used, where anybody would be willing to use a data set of 2 (!) items to give a likelihood without specifying the uncertainty. If Carrier actually wanted to use actual numbers, fine. Just go through the early Christian literature and see how often the phrase is used for physical relatives on the one hand and believers on the other – and how often other formulations are used for both concepts! It’s just completely wrong to make any claim about how “expected” a certain word choice for a given meaning is if alternative lexical realisations of that meaning are not even taken into account. To say: “So my most sceptical estimate is that this is just what we’d expect on mythicism (for Paul to occasionally, and in contexts most demanding it, refers to other Christians as ‘brothers of the Lord’).” How often Paul used this phrase or not for other Christians unfortunately does not tell one at all whether you’d “expect” this wording if the author wanted to refer to other/another Christian/s. That’s just not how we estimate likelihoods. Period. I don’t know what else to say about that. It’s demonstrably wrong and I actually still can’t really believe that Carrier is serious about that. Plus, the whole discussion of course displays astonishing ignorance concerning the secondary literature – Carrier even seems to assume that since/if James of 1:19 is the same as the one in chapter 2, he must be the brother of the apostle John (who, of course, had been executed in 44 CE), etc. There’s just so much wrong in this short discussion, such a disregard for Greek syntax and semantics, relevant secondary literature, even very foundational historical information that can be found in every encyclopaedia, and of course an utter misunderstand of how likelihoods are to be determined that I don’t think the work deserved to be taken seriously at all. In any case, I didn’t feel comfortable that what I was trying to establish – paying attention to Bayes’s theorem – might have been discredited among some of my colleagues, who by any chance might have come across Carrier’s strange meanderings.

  • Erp

    What a triggering word ‘Palestinian’ can be; in the following I’m using Palestinian to refer to people living in the general region of what is now modern day Israel and the occupied territories. I just did a fair bit of browsing and my tentative conclusion is that Jesus probably would fit right in as far as appearance with a group of modern day Palestinian Arabic speakers mostly because those people are descendants of Jesus’s fellow Jews. He would also fit in as far as appearance with a group of modern day Jews, since there has been relatively little conversion to Judaism (i.e., most modern Jews are descended from ancient Jews). In both cases other groups have also been ancestral. And all of what I’ve just written is controversial.

  • You ask if “Jesus” existed but it’s really irrelevant to the larger point that nobody ever spends their time asking if “Moses” existed and yet people have, for centuries, been killed, tortured, raped, oppressed, and censored “for Yahweh.” And that’s still going on today.