On December 20, 2011, I received an e-mail from Fred Edwords, National Director of the Coalition for Reason. In his e-mail, Edwords cited a passage in an oral presentation that he made to two groups in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey. One line struck one of the listeners with concern. The line in question that Edwords delivered was:
“The Madonna and Child icon was developed from the mother and child imagery of Cybele and Attis (Mother of God and Sun God), in use at Rome, itself rooted in the older Egyptian imagery of Isis and Osiris–the child in each case being born on December 25th.”
The individual who was troubled by Edwords’ assessment and initially spoke with the National Director then sent Edwords an e-mail. The cognoscenti queried:
“…you used Osiris in your talk, but the information on Osiris is very, very limited and our source pool comes from the Classical period, which predates Christianity, and from late antiquity, a la Plutarch (who is extremely unreliable as a source). While some similarities between Jesus and Osiris exists (for example, the resurrection account between Mark and Plutarch dealing with Jesus and Osiris, respectively), there is no record of a date of birth for Osiris, per se. Plutarch claims that he was the first of the gods of Egypt born during the five-days Egyptians attributed to their births. It assuredly was not during the solstice, but if you have a source on the matter I’d be interested in giving it a look. I poured over my copy of the ANET trying to find any reference of a seasonal connection to the birth dates surrounding the Egyptian deities. That isn’t to say a source does not exist, but I certainly don’t know of it.
While I do not claim the luxury of having personally met with Fred Edwords or knowing him as a personal friend, I am quite aware of his objectivity, dedication to track down and determine the veracity of all resource citations (he called me down on a statement I made about Justin Martyr that I initially appended to a comment on two of my blogs that I later expanded to demonstrate that Martyr was never a traditional Christian (in fact he was banished for a time by the very church he claimed to defend, and whose life and writings are not certain today) and had created the fantasy of a cross (crux) whereas in the scrolls Jesus of the New Testament was executed on a pole), and works tirelessly to dispel myths and folklore. I wrote back with these comments (the questioner’s comments are in black, my response is in red): … you used Osiris in your talk, but the information on Osiris is very, very limited (…from the darkest ages in Egypt until its hostile take over initially by the Hyksos (who may have either been or incorporated the Habiru/Hebrews) or the Ptolemy dynasty that included Cleopatra. The reason is clear, that the individual is referring to one or two papyrus, but (1) there are over 100 different papyrus …, (2) there is tomb and pyramid art with inscriptions that have been … been translated [usually into German] that deal with this subject, (3) there are extra-Egyptiological works left in cuneiform, most likely by Hittites, Hyksos, Phoenicians, etc, (4), etc. which I address in my newest work) and our source pool comes from the Classical period (… your authority is obviously citing Herodotus [“Father of History”] but while there is material, he [like Trajan] recorded what he heard–not saw–and the adiaphora details and references did not exist at that time as a part of the academic buttressing of arguments. …we also have Strabo and his Geography, Plinar and his History (which only specialists seem to know of its existence) and various other writers, but they are writing in the last 500 years BCE, and never entered Egyptian of Mesopotamian tombs, etc, nor studied the work. Today, for example, there are a growing number of scholars who are refining and redefining the various Mithras/Mithraic works that decorate walls in underground “churches” of Mithras detailing how the Christians were kept busy burning the original texts of the Mithras religion… I hope I showed in my last article that the first century CE writers, especially Justin Martyr were not considered “Christians” in the first century not only in the East but the west, and that Constantine I ordered in 325/326 the destruction of most “heathen” texts. …), which predates Christianity, and from late antiquity, a la
Plutarch (who is extremely unreliable as a source [actually no–… NGL (Nicholas Geoffrey Lempriere) Hammond, Chester G. Star [whom I studied ancient History under] and others all cite Plutarch and note his reliability. Plutarch’s Nine Greek Lives (now entitled “Rise and Fall of Athens”) rejects most of your antagonist’s … objections, as do most German and [other] scholars …]. While some similarities between Jesus and Osiris exist (for example, the resurrection account between Mark and Plutarch dealing with Jesus and Osiris, respectively), there is no record of a date of birth for Osiris, per se (actually that is incorrect, [existing records] all give Osiris’ birth as December 25 [but do not use the current Christian calendar; read about that below]… but it was not proclaimed throughout the Roman Empire until the first century BCE … read).
All ancient cultures had different calendars. Most were lunar and dating matched rising and falling of tides, seasonal variations, and so on. Nearly everything else would officially conform to Roman rule, but not the dating of nativities, resurrections, or holy days. These would not be suppressed until the Emperor Constantine would seek to strengthen his rule by creating a church in 325 CE that he could dominate and control: this would be the reason for establishing Christianity as a faith, one that Constantine rejected (the claim that he converted on his death-bed and was baptized by the Arian Bishop Eusebius is fantasized decades later).
Osiris was among the more current gods of salvation within the Empire, where his devotees proclaimed that “his burden is light” and “his rod and shaft” caused no pain.
Osiris is a savior-god who had been worshipped as far back as Neolithic times. “He was called Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods…the Resurrection and the Life, the Good shepherd…the god who ‘made men and women be born again’” Three wise men announced his birth. His followers ate cakes of wheat that symbolized his body. Many sayings associated with Osiris were taken over into the Bible and the emerging Christian Church adopted his symbols, token, and promises, while incorporating the dress of Mithraist priests for their own sacerdotal leaders. This includes, for example:
Parts of Psalm 23, where the Egyptian hieroglyphs read: “We appeal to Osiris as the good Shepherd to lead believers through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and to green pastures and still waters”
- Part of the “Lord’s Prayer”, that in various ancient Egyptian text reads: “O Amen /Amen-Ra [sometimes Amun], who are in the heavens, we keep your name holy…”
(Cairo Amen Hymn (Papyrus Cairo CG 58038= Papyrus Boulaq 17) that dates, at least in parts, to the late Middle Kingdom: early 17th century BCE) The name of the Egyptian God Amen translates as “the Hidden One” whose name was so holy that only a select few were allowed to pronounce it (ref. Sarcophagus Texts, Formula 44 (CT I, 189f-g)). He is one of the antecedents of Yahweh/Jehovah/YHWH of the later Jews who would become the Hebrews. Amen and his consort, Amenet were the gods of creation.
Amen was part of the Theban Trinity (along with Mut and their son Khons the moon-god; cf., Brunner, Hellmut, and Beyerlin, Walter (1975). Religionsgeschichtliches Textbuch zum alten Testament, Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1985; Kees, Hermann (reissued 1956) Der Götterglaube im alten Ägypten, Leipzig, Germany, 1941: Berlin : Akademie-Verlag, 1956; Lurker, Manfred (1998). Lexikon der Götter und Symbole der alten Ägypter. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 2005; originally published in Bern, Switzerland: Scherz, 1987; newest edition: [München], Germany: Barth, 2011). It was from the Egyptian theology concerning three supreme deities that Constantine would create his Christian Trinity.
Osiris had numerous similarities to Jesus of the New Testament–similarities that Christian apologists deny or brush over. Osiris was a god who turned water into wine, forgave fallen women, cured blindness and illness and did most things that Jesus did (Frazer, James George (1962). Adonis, Attis, Osiris: studies in the History of Oriental Religion. Reprint, New Hyde Park, NY, USA: University Books; original printing New York, NY and London, UK: The Macmillan Company, 1906). On the power of Osiris and his champion Horus, read Pyramid Texts, utterance 356, §§ 581-582.
Western Christianity does not adopt December 25 as the birthday of Jesus of the New Testament until 336 or 379/380 (depending on what document is being read). The Eastern churches did not accept December 25 until 386 CE, while Egypt (primarily the See of Antioch) did not concur until 432, and Jerusalem more than a century later (the Armenian Christians never accepted the date, but continues to celebrate Christmas, “manifestation of the magi” and baptism on January 6; read more here).
The year that the Jesus of the New Testament was born was never recorded as the year zero for more than 500 years after his alleged birth; the “Christian” calendar did not exist before the eighth century at the earliest. Religious scholars and serious, trained historians place the assumed nativity somewhere between 7 and 2 BCE (cf. Carson, D. A. Moo, Douglas J, and Morris, Leon (1992) An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Zondervan).
There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225). Outside of mythology, there is no historical evidence of there ever being a “bishop of Rome” before the end of the first century. There is a similar lack of evidence even into the second century, and there are no surviving (if there ever had been) documents from any presbyters or other leaders on a nativity of a Jesus of the Testament or on any other son of god anywhere in the City of Rome or on any of the pagan hills of the Vatican that was home to numerous gods from Vulcan to Mithras, who, according to Herodotus, History Bk. 1, c. 131, goes back to the seventh century BCE.
Mithras had an inscription on his altars, on his cave walls where rituals were performed, and in numerous other places. The inscription reads: “He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made on with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation.” It was later plagiarized by the writers of John 6:53-54.
Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time (Origen, Homily on Leviticus 8). Among the most convoluted arguments for December 25, comes from the Father of the Church Tertullian—who would leave the church and become a born-again pagan—of Carthage. He tried to determine the date Jesus died, placing it at the 14th of Nisan (day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John that did not exist in its entirety. That would make it March 25 in the Roman solar calendar—which is precisely nine months before December 25, making March 25 the date (and later commemoration) of Jesus’ conception (Luke 1:26; ovulation was not a science, but it was commonly known that a pregnancy lasted nine months, and that date was determined by referencing Elizabeth’s conception of John the Baptist: Luke 1:10-13; that was based on duties Zacharias performed on the Day of Atonement during the seventh month of the Hebrew lunar calendar, now lunisolar [הלוח העברי], Ethanim or Tishri (Leviticus 16:29, 1 Kings 8:2) which falls in September–October but the precise date is uncertain given the calendar at that time), as apologists for the New Testament Jesus argued that Jesus was conceived and crucified on the same day of the year—thus the birth was pegged at December 25. This argument appears in an anonymous “Christian” treatise entitled On Solstices and Equinoxes that was appears from fourth-century Africa: De solstitia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis domini nostri iesu christi et iohannis baptistae. It is based on Augustine of Hippo (only late in life, after whoring and fathering a bastard did he become a Christian under the scolding of his mother), as found in Augustine, Sermo CCII.
There was no stable, nor any farm animals present at the birth, and the “manger” was a feeding troth in a cave—not in a barn near a hotel (Luke 2:7). That there were “shepherds in a field” does not indicate that the shepherds were near-by, but that the season was warm and not raining nor cold—this would exclude winter months. Matthew 2:11 reports that an indefinite number of astrologers visited the cave, not three wise men nor magi. The fantasy of Jesus being wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger comes from the theology of the Persian/Zoroastrian God Mithra/Mithras. As with Christianity that has its trinity composed of the Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Ghost/Spirit; Mithra/Mithras was a part of the Zoroastrian Trinity: along with Rashnu “Justice” and Sraosha “Obedience”, Mithra is one of the three judges at the
Chinva (or Chinvat) bridge, the “bridge of separation” that all souls must cross, and as with what became Christianity without Jesus (better known as Paulinity), no one could go to the Father without first turning to the Son, nor could one achieve eternal life without confessing the name of Mithra/Mithras as he “quiets the waters and makes the pastures green” (Avestan hymn to Mithra (Yasht 10) and Yasna 1:11-3:13).
Christmas “traditions” are of recent vintage. They were never a part of the early, medieval, or renaissance periods. The word “Christmas,” in fact, does not appear in word-formation until 1038, and then only in medieval English. All Christmas celebrations and traditions can be dated back at least 4000 to 15000 years BCE from Egypt to Scandinavia, Eastern Russia to France, Ethiopia to Mesopotamia, and elsewhere. These are found in Scandinavia worship celebration of the God Odin, in the Roman Empire recognizing the joyful sounds of Bacchus and the riotous merrymaking of Saturnalia, in Egypt where fertility rituals were the sport of the day, and numerous other occurrences.
The innovation of gift-giving (originally ascribed to a Greek bishop named Nicholas (Νικόλαος) of Myra who left socks of money to poor girls for dowries) whose relics were transferred to the Italian town of Bari (for that reason he is also known as Nicholas of Bari); he has always been favored by fishermen, sailors, and masters of ships and has been considered the Christianized version of the god of the seas: Poseidon.
Merrymaking goes back to the worshipful practices of the priests of Saturnalia and Bacchus (Roll, Susan K. (1995). Toward the Origins of Christmas, Kampen, The Netherlands: Kok Pharos Publishing House. p. 129 has Pope Benedict XIV being the first to roundly defend December 25 as being the birth of the New Testament Jesus). Fernand Cabrol, “Les Origines du Culte catholique. Le Paganisme dans la liturgie” in Revue pratique d’apologétique 3 (1906-1907), pp. 210-211 note 2, and 212, note 3 with page 281 is among many who reject Christmas as being a Christian celebration and as an invention in the seventh century but not crystallized into popular canon until the seventeenth century; cp. Blötzer, Joseph (1907), “Das heidnische Mysterienwesen und die Hellenisierung des Christentums,” in Stimmen aus Maria Laach 72, pp. 41-42). The most frequent use of other religions’ feasts and celebrations was among the Arians, with the established (Constantinian) church incorporating them to battle against Arianism.
It is not before the seventh century, at the earliest, and continues through the nineteenth century, that Christianity has attempted to justify the mythological birth date of Jesus of the New Testament as December 25—which even science reviewing the New Testament accounts reject (Francis Pagi, Breviarium historic-chronologico-criticum, illustriora Pontificum Romanorum Gesta, Conciliorum Geralium acta, vol. 1 (Antwerp, The Netherlands: Van der Hart, 1717), pp. 89-93, cf. Patrologia Latina 128:24-30, under Anastasius, Vitae Romanorum pontificorum.
Nativity scenes do not appear anywhere in any record until the tenth century CE, and homes are not decorated with “green” (shrubs, ivy, decorations, mistletoe (Viscum album) that was originally hung in honor of Nordic gods in petitioning for greater sexual fertility for poor families so that there would be more hands to work, and so forth) until the sixteenth century. Commercially produced adornments/ornaments do not appear until 1860 and then only in Germany. When I was a young man attending St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa, there were no Christmas trees allowed in the church in the 1960s. Father McMullan blasted the practice as pagan. In that the priest was correct, as the tree was adorned in honor of the Nordic god Thor (Allhoff, Fritz; Lowe, Scott C.; and, Nissenbaum, Stephen (2010). Christmas – Philosophy for Everyone: Better than a Lump of Coal. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons). The word “Christmas tree” does not appear in the German language until the eighteenth century, and in English it is first recorded in 1835, brought in and translated by Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III,
and acculturated by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The Christmas tree, grudgingly, is accepted in the USA by the 1870s, and in South America in the twentieth century. Poinsettia doe not appear outside of Mexico until the nineteenth century, and they were a symbol of an ancient pagan god under the name of Cuitlaxochitl and carried to ancient Chile and Peru. It was initially attacked, then held in reverence by Franciscan friars and fathers who saw it as a symbol of the blood of the New Testament Jesus.
The plant was and is used to produce a red dye and an antipyretic medication. When the plant was introduced into the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett it took the name of Poinsettia.
Christmas carols (religious music) do not appear in any Christian church or community until the fourth century, and then as a means to popular counter Arianism. It is argued by apologists that Ambrose, archbishop of Milan wrote the first Latin hymn: Veni redemptor gentium. Popular Christian songs do not appear until the thirteenth century and then they were heard only in France, Germany, and Italy. They appear in England in 1426, and were sung by wassailers who went from house to house in quest of food and drink.
Eating special foods, especially pastries and confections do not reappear until the late Middle Ages and then as a means to wean the common people away from a return to pagan Bacchanalia in honor of the god Bacchus whose ministry and celebration included lavish feasts, drunkenness and sexual license. To this end there became the ritual consumption of bûche de Noël in France, panettone in Italy, and panetón in Spain and its conquered nations, especially in South America.
Gift giving was always a part of most pagan celebrations, and in the Roman west gift giving was associated with the theology and ritual of the god Saturnalia. It was banned by the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages because of its non-Christian origins (it was reinvented by Martin Luther to counter St. Nicholas day, that was actually a Norse legend around the god Odin), but later rationalized in Roman Catholic communities as being a part of the presents to the New Testament infant Jesus by the men who visited him (in bad translations, these men are called magi). While the magi/astrologers were considered wise, it is because they preached an Apocalyptic end of the world since the days of Zoroaster–and the Star that they followed they believed was the light of the End Times (Yasna 30:3-4).
translated as both “fate” and “fortune.” The Zoroastrian god prophesied that there would be those who would cause a great war between two forces: good and evil (Nyayisn, 1.8), both of whom are his sons: Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, the prototypes for Israel and Ishmael, the children of the ancient Hindu god Brahama (Abraham; see the Pahlavi literature including the Denkart (cf. Dresden, Mark Jan (1966). Denkart: a Pahlavi text: facsimile edition of the manuscript B of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute Bombay. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz; the original Pahlavi text, that I am using, was published at Bombay, India: Duftur Ashkara Press, 1874-1928), the Menok-i Xrat (Zaehner, Robert Charles (1955). Zurvan: A Zoroastrian Dilemma. Oxford : Clarendon Press; it was reprinted New York, NY, USA: Biblo and Tannen, with a new introduction by the author; multiple languages), and the Selections of Zadspram (a glossary to the ancient text is available from Teheran, Iran: Iranian Culture Foundation, 1973), as these works are a part of what would be generated as Islam and the Qu’ran; they exist in Farsi and Syriac). Far from Christmas being a time of joy and fulfillment, it was to be a time of warfare, hunger, strife initiated by the gods who did not follow the laws of Zoroastrianism. The Eternal War promised has not been realized, and “fate” has not found its destiny. It is truly the “mirror of religion”, the “cloak of ignorance” as prophets foretold as people have rejected old gods and they have vanished along with their apocalyptic visions and promises save for those who continue to follow Sharia Law and the damnation of the individual.