Is Jesus Christ a Mythical Entity Prefigured by Osirus-Horus Mythology? A Response to Tom Harpur’s The Pagan Christ, Part 3 of 3

Perhaps the most serious allegation Harpur makes is that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is a re-vamped version of Horus’ story. He says, “Horus was crucified between two thieves, buried in a tomb, and resurrected. His personal epithet was Iusa (or Iusu), the ‘ever-becoming son’ of…the Father.”[21] (Harpur wants us to notice the phonetic similarity between “Iusu” and “Jesus.”) If Harpur’s assertions about this are true, the core of orthodox Christianity disintegrates. However, the death account of Horus recorded on the Metternich Stele (4th century, B.C.) tells of Horus dying from a scorpion sting during childhood.[22] Harpur gives no references to account for his own version of the story, but as Porter and Bedard point out, “[the Stele version] is the one that almost certainly would have been widely available when the Gospels were written.” Notice the glaring absence of two thieves and any mention of a crucifixion.

Horus’ resurrection account also contains no similarity to the resurrection account of Jesus. According to E.A. Wallis Budge’s translation of the Metternich Stele:

Then Isis cried out to heaven, and her voice reached the Boat of Millions of Years, and the Disk ceased to move onward, and came to a standstill.  From the Boat Thoth descended, being equipped with words of power and spells of all kinds…Thoth, turning to Isis and Nephthys, bade them to fear not, and to have no anxiety about Horus, “For,” said he, “I have come from heaven to heal the child for his mother.” … By his words of power Thoth transferred the fluid of life of Ra, and as soon as this came upon the child’s body the poison of the scorpion flowed out of him, and he once more breathed and lived.

What we have here is an account of a mother, distraught with grief, imploring the gods to restore her son to life. Thoth honors her prayer and uses magic spells to resurrect the child Horus. Later in the inscription Isis rejoices in having Horus returned to her and that he will be able to avenge the death of his father Osiris and claim the throne.[24] It is also important to mention the vast difference between the theological significance of Jesus’ death compared to that of Horus. Unlike Jesus, Horus did not die for the salvation of someone else; he did not die for sin, he did not die voluntarily, and his death was a defeat rather than a triumph.[25] There is simply no evidence that Jesus’ passion story was derived from Horus’. The only similar elements are the death of a divine figure and a grieving mother. These aren’t sufficient to draw a link between the two.

In regards to the supposed parallels between Jesus’ name and names in Egyptian mythology such as Iusa or Iusu (which Harpur claims is synonymous with Horus), there is a grave problem: those names are nowhere to be found in Egyptology.[26] This is according to Ron Leprohan, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Toronto. He says that while “iu” means “to come,” and “sa” means “son,” Harpur uses erroneous syntax.[27] Furthermore, the name “Jesus” is actually a Greek version of a west Semitic name, “Jeshu’a,” and many other people had that name during the first century.[28]


 Tom Harpur’s thesis in The Pagan Christ is attractive to skeptics of Christianity. Harpur uses unfounded and blatantly false information combined with linguistic gymnastics and creative story mosaics to support his argument. He employs strong rhetoric in an attempt to convince his readers that the early church fathers staged a big cover-up and suppressed the truth of a “cosmic” rather than literal Christianity, the hard truth he himself had to come to terms with. Closer investigation into his claim about a mythical Christ and a Jesus-Horus parallel shows that there is no factual foundation to his theory, something that credentialed Egyptologists from major universities attest to. In the end, Christians can have confidence that their faith is grounded in actual history; Jesus was a real man, and there is no evidence that the Gospel accounts of his life, death, and resurrection were borrowed from Pagan mythology.

[21] Harpur, 84.

[22] Porter and Bedard, 65.

[23] E.A. Wallis Budge, Legends of the Gods (Public Domain Books, May 2006): 58.

[24] Budge, 59.

[25] Ronald Nash, “Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?” Christian Research Journal (Winter 1994), Accessed at

[26] Gasque,

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

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