Question:People say that the story of Jesus' resurrection is copied from the Egyptian myth about the gods Horus and Isis. Is this claim credible?
Answer:I have heard this charge many times. It is a very common point of discussion on the internet. At ARS we sponsored a public debate on this question of whether Jesus is historical or rather, instead, a creation of the early church, joining some of the god/man myths of the ancient Near East. Please consider getting a copy of this debate. It is at http://www.ipibooks.com/authors Look under Dougas Jacoby. The title is Jesus: Man, Myth or Messiah?
My general response is that this claim is not evenly the slightest bit credible. Here is what these folks claim. They claim that the Christians got their story about the resurrection of Jesus from a pagan, Egyptian myth. Three points about this:
1. The idea that Jewish believers would take a myth from Egyptian pagan mythology and incorporate it into their belief system is, on the face of it, ludicrous.
2. If we look at the myth about either Horus or Osiris, we will find that the supposed parallels are a huge stretch. This claim that the resurrection of Jesus was borrowed from an Egyptian myth only works if we do not bother to take the time to look at the actual myths.
3. The biggest reason this theory is ridiculous (please forgive my use of such strong words as ludicrous and ridiculous, but I believe they are appropriate in this case) is that Jesus was in fact resurrected from the dead-- or at the very least we can say for sure that this claim was made in Jerusalem in the immediate aftermath of the death of Jesus and that those who actually knew Jesus believed it was true. This make the idea that it was a later creation of the followers of Jesus completely untenable.
Let me give more details. First of all, the proposal that the followers of Jesus would borrow from a pagan myth and insert this into their belief about the actual person Jesus is really quite outrageous. Can anyone familiar with the Jewish people, their culture and their belief really believe that a faithful Jew such as John or Matthew or Mark would insert pagan beliefs into their religion? Really? We need to bear in mind that these followers of Jesus were loyal to Jesus to the point of death. They faced death and imprisonment on a daily basis and the proposal of these people is that they did this, despite the fact that they knew the resurrection story was a myth and based on a dishonest lying conspiracy rather than on the truth. Can any rational person believe this? Really? These people propose that this myth was created and that no one ever admitted that it was all a lie. The resurrection story of Jesus launched the greatest religion of all time. Even if we do not consider the resurrection a fact, what is an undeniable fact is that the early Christian believers believed in the resurrection. The idea that they believed in it, even though it never happened, but was a total lie borrowed from pagan Egyptian religion is simply ludicrous.
Next, if we look at these Egyptian myths from which the resurrection story of Jesus was supposedly borrowed, we find that the parallel is really non-existent. For example, here is the Osiris myth from which the resurrection story of Jesus is supposedly borrowed:
Osiris: An Egyptian god/man mythical figure.
According to this myth, Osiris was killed by his brother. His body was cut up into 13 pieces. His wife Isis reassembled him and sewed him back together using 12 of the 13 pieces (see the parallel to the apostles?). After this Osiris comes back to life and goes to rule in the underworld to judge the living and dead.
The proposal is that the resurrection of Jesus was "borrowed" from this myth. Really? The parallel is not very strong here. Besides, it is a FACT that Jesus' tomb was empty and that real people who actually knew him claimed to have seen him afterward and believed he was physically resurrected. The idea that the resurrection of Jesus was a myth borrowed from Osiris is a fantastically large stretch.
As for Horus, he clearly is a mythical figure and Jesus was not! Some have tried to cherry-pick certain details from the myth of Horus and compare them to Jesus, but as far as I know, there is no resurrection story in this myth, so I do not see how the resurrection of Jesus could have been borrowed from this myth!
Last, and this is the chief point, in my opinion, is that the story of the resurrection of Jesus was clearly not taken from some sort of myth. This "explanation" assumes that the story of the resurrection of Jesus was concocted many years after he died, when historical memories were fading. This claim is completely destroyed by the facts of history. Here are those facts: 1. Jesus was indeed crucified under Pontius Pilate. 2. His tomb was empty and 3. The resurrection was preached, in Jerusalem, in the immediate aftermath of his death. I am attaching some notes which can expand on this, including quoted from non-Christian authors. But if these are true (and they are!!!) then this idea that the resurrection was borrowed from Egyptian myths is so far-fetched that we can utterly dismiss these ridiculous charges.