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Who Is Gerald Massey?

by D.M. Murdock/Acharya S

Gerald Massey image

Excerpted from

Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection

Christ in Egypt cover image

In exploring the various Egyptian influences upon the Christian religion, one name frequently encountered is that of lay Egyptologist Gerald Massey(1828-1907). Born in abject poverty in England, Gerald Massey was almost entirely self-taught; yet, he was able to write and lecture about several subjects with tremendous erudition and authority. Despite his lack of formal education, Massey could read several languages, including not only English but also French, Latin, Greek and evidently Hebrew and Egyptian to a certain degree.

Massey was fortunate enough to live during an exciting time when Egyptology was in its heyday, with the discovery in 1799 of the Rosetta Stone and the subsequent decipherment of hieroglyphs in 1822 by Champollion. This monumental development allowed for the exposure to light of the fascinating Egyptian culture and religion, meaning that before that time no one could adequately read the Egyptian texts, which Massey ended up spending a considerable portion of his life studying and interpreting, and relatively little was known about the religion, for which Massey possessed a keen sense of comprehension.

In his detailed and careful analysis of the Egyptian religion, the pioneer Massey extensively utilized the Egyptian Book of the Dead--which was termed "The Ritual" by Champollion, a convention followed by Massey and others but since abandoned--as well as several other ancient Egyptian sources, including the Pyramid Texts and assorted other funeral texts and stele. Massey quite evidently understood the Egyptian spirituality and was able to present it in a highly sound and scientific manner.

In these intensive and meticulous efforts, Massey studied the work of the best minds of the time--all towering figures within Egyptology, especially during Massey’s era, when most of them were alive and some were familiar with his work. These celebrated authorities in Egyptology whose works Massey studied and utilized included: Sir Dr. Budge; Dr. Brugsch-Bey; Jean-François Champollion; Dr. Eugene Lefébure; Dr. Karl Richard Lepsius; Sir Dr. Gaston Maspero; Dr. Henri Edouard Naville; Sir Dr. William Flinders Petrie; Dr. Thomas Joseph Pettigrew; Sir Renouf; le vicomte de Rougé; Dr. Samuel Sharpe; and Sir Dr. John Gardner Wilkinson, among many other scholars in a wide variety of fields. As other examples, Massey also used the work of Sir Dr. J. Norman Lockyer, the physicist and royal English astronomer who was friends with Budge and knew Egypt well, along with that of Dr. Charles Piazzi Smyth, royal Scottish astronomer and professor of Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh. Massey further studied the work of Reverend Dr. Archibald Sayce, professor of Comparative Philology at Oxford, as well as that of famous mythologist Sir Dr. James George Frazer, although he did not agree with their conclusions. He likewise cited the work of Francois Lenormant, professor of Archaeology at the National Library of France, as well as that of comparative theologian and Oxford professor Dr. Max Müller, philosopher and Jesus biographer Dr. Ernest Renan, and Christian monuments expert Rev. Dr. John Patterson Lundy.

Gerald Massey was very influenced by the work of Dr. Samuel Birch (1813-1885), archaeologist, Egyptologist and Keeper of the Department of Oriental Antiquities in the British Museum. The creator of the first alphabetically arranged Egyptian dictionary, Dr. Birch also was the founder of the prestigious and influential Society of Biblical Archaeology, to which belonged many other notables in the fields of archaeology, Assyriology, Egyptology and so on. Much of this eye-opening work on comparative religion, in fact, emanated from this august body of erudite and credentialed individuals. Birch held many other titles and honors, including from Cambridge and Oxford Universities. His numerous influential works on Egypt, including the first English translation of the Book of the Dead, were cited for decades in scholarly publications.

In the "Introduction" to his book The Natural Genesis, Gerald Massey writes:

The German Egyptologist, Herr Pietschmann…reviewed the "Book of the Beginnings"... The writer has taken the precaution all through of getting his fundamental facts in Egyptology verified by one of the foremost of living authorities, Dr. Samuel Birch, to whom he returns his heartiest acknowledgements. (Massey, NG, viii)

Dr. Richard Pietschmann was a professor of Egyptology at the University of Göttingen, an impressive "peer reviewer" for one of Massey's early works on Egypt. By verifying his "fundamental facts" with Birch, Massey appears to be saying that his work was also reviewed by Birch, with whom he enjoyed a personal relationship expressed in his letters. Indeed, following this statement in The Natural Genesis, in his "Retort" to various attacks he endured, Massey remarked:

As I also say in my preface [to The Natural Genesis] I took the precaution of consulting Dr. Samuel Birch for many years after he had offered, in his own words, to "keep me straight" as to my facts, obtainable from Egyptian records. He answered my questions, gave me his advice, discussed variant renderings, read whatever proofs I sent him, and corrected me where he saw I was wrong. (Massey, Gerald Massey's Lectures, 251)

It is evident from these remarks that a significant portion of Massey's work was "peer reviewed" by the eminent Dr. Samuel Birch, a remarkable development that should be factored into the assessment of Massey’s work. With such developments, it becomes evident that it is not the quality of Massey’s work at issue, since it is obviously sound, but that his conclusions as to the nonhistoricity and unoriginality of the Christian religion do not sit well with his detractors. This latter fact is critically important to bear in mind when studying Massey's works, especially since he largely discovered and developed parallels between the Egyptian and Christian religions, crucial data that may have otherwise been left to lie fallow based on occupational considerations by the vested-interested professionals upon whose work Massey relied.

Massey was likewise personally friendly with Sir Lockyer (1836-1920), as well as Dr. Birch's protégé Assyriologist Dr. Theophilus Goldridge Pinches (1856-1934). Naturally, among these various scholars of his era, Massey also had his critics, including, apparently, the devout Roman Catholic Renouf, who evidently was a mysterious anonymous Egyptologist who spewed calumny and vitriol at Massey, essentially calling him a lunatic. That Massey was so well known as to draw such attention and ire speaks to his efficacy, rather than his incompetence. As he himself said in his retort to such vituperation, "Such damnation is dirt cheap! Also, the time has passed for denunciation to be mistaken for disproof." (Massey, GML, 250) In his "Retort," Massey also made the following observation, which readers of this present work might wish to keep in mind as well: "I had already warned my readers that they must expect little help from those Egyptologists and Assyriologists who are bibliolaters first and scholars afterwards. Bibliolatry puts out the eye of scholarship or causes confirmed strabismus," the latter term referring to a vision disorder. "Bibliolatry," of course, refers to "Bible worship," while "bibliolaters" are "Bible worshippers."

In his scholarly works on Egypt, in addition to the available Egyptian sources, Gerald Massey utilized numerous other ancient texts, including Judeo-Christian writings such as the Bible, as well as those of early Church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Eusebius, Epiphanius and Jerome. Massey also cited non-Christian, Jewish and Gnostic writers such as Herodotus, Philo, Pausanias and Valentinus, along with writings such as the Talmud and the Hindu Puranas. Having taught himself to read not only English but also several other languages including Egyptian hieroglyphs as well as Sanskrit, providing an extensive comparison between these two languages, Massey scrutinized and interpreted the texts and monuments for himself, such as the Book of the Dead, as well as the famous zodiacs in the Temple of Dendera and the "Nativity Scene" at the Temple of Luxor, texts and images that predated the "Christian era" by centuries to millennia. Regarding his abilities with the hieroglyphs, Massey states:

…although I am able to read the hieroglyphics, nothing offered to you is based on my translation. I work too warily for that! The transcription and literal renderings of the hieroglyphic texts herein employed are by scholars of indisputable authority. There is no loophole of escape that way. (Massey, GML, 1)

Thus, while Massey did read hieroglyphs and therefore worked with primary sources, knowing the contentiousness of the subject, he purposely did not rely on his own translations and interpretations but consulted repeatedly with "scholars of indisputable authority," in other words, those previously mentioned, including Dr. Samuel Birch, with whom Massey conferred personally on much of his work.

Massey was not only skilled at interpreting the Egyptian data in a highly intelligent and unusual manner, but, having been raised a Protestant Christian compelled to memorize whole sections of the Bible, he was also quite knowledgeable about the scriptures and was able to see the numerous and significant correlations between the Christian and Egyptian religions, or the "mythos and ritual," as he styled them.

For more information, see Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection.


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