April 8, 2012 by Bill
The image of a god buried in a tomb, being withdrawn and said to live again, is thousands of years older than the Jesus Easter mythology. Of all the resurrected savior gods that were worshiped before and at the beginning of the Christian myth, none contributed so much to the mythology developing around Jesus as the Egyptian Osiris.
Osiris was called “Lord of Lords,” “King of Kings” and “the good shepherd.” He was called the god who made “men and women to be born again.” He was called “the resurrection and the life.” He was the “god man” who suffered, died, rose again and lived eternally in heaven. They thought that by believing in Osiris they would share eternal life with him. Egyptian scripture reads as follows: “As truly as Osiris lives so truly shall his followers live also.”
The coming of Osiris was announced by Three Wise Men. His flesh was eaten in the form of communion cakes of wheat. Only through Osiris could one obtain eternal life, they believed. The much loved 23rd Psalm of the bible is a modified version of an Egyptian text appealing to Osiris, “the good shepherd,” to lead the dead “to green pastures and still waters,” “to restore the soul” to the body and to give protection “in the valley of the shadow of death.”
An outstanding television series on religion for PBS and BBC a number of years ago documented human religious experience. The Near East section was written by Dr. Grace Cairns who holds a doctorate in religious studies from the University of Chicago. She wrote: “The resurrection myth of Osiris and Isis prepared the Greco-Roman world for the resurrection myth of Jesus in early Christianity.” She goes on to write that the followers of Jesus, like the followers of Osiris, made him a part of themselves by eating him in communion cakes so as to participate in his resurrection.
Gods of that period who were eaten in the form of bread or cakes included Adonis and Dionysus among others.
Other resurrected gods of that period before Jesus were Attis and Mithra, sacrificed at the Spring equinox, and then rising and ascending to heaven.
The image of a god being withdrawn from a tomb during this season and ascending to heaven has been a universal mythological theme, as Joseph Campbell, Mircea Eliade, and many others have brought to our attention.
Human beings believed in resurrection and eternal life after death at least for 150,000 years before Jesus was ever born. It is called “mythological diffusion.” All of this is nothing new to serious students of religious history. It is as old as scholarship, as old as academic and intellectual integrity. It is known wherever truth is valued in the sermons of Easter.
The distinguished Lutheran, Dr. Paul Scherer, professor of homiletics at Union and Princeton University, wrote that the “typical Easter sermon as heard in most churches in America always left him with exactly the same feeling as if he had just been fed a five pound box of sweet chocolates all at one sitting.”
Or as Joseph Campbell often said in his lectures: “The vast majority of ministers do not even understand their own material.”
I cannot believe that intelligent, sensitive people want to be fed a 5 pound box of sweet chocolates on Easter Sunday.