Australian historian Dr. Chris Forbes is a senior lecturer in Ancient History and deputy chairman of the Society for the Study of Early Christianity, as well as a member of the Society for Biblical Literature and of the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney. Dr. Forbes’s criticisms of the first/religion part of the internet documentary “Zeitgeist” (“ZG1.1”) have been widely circulated. However, Forbes is not an Egyptologist, classicist or mythologist, and his comments show a lack of knowledge in the relevant fields addressed in ZG1.1. In fact, Forbes makes several mistakes, and his remarks seem to be more reflective of his role as a devout Christian upholder of the faith, which from his credentials and curriculum vitae he clearly is. In the following article, I address Forbes’s remarks point by point, demonstrating the numerous mistakes in roughly the order of the video above, as well as of his longer radio show, using also the summary of his claims on the “Zeitgeist: The Movie” page at Wikipedia. One reason for all the errors is that New Testament scholars and historians are not required to study the case for mythicism in their academic training; hence, they do not know this information.
In addition to providing a number of images for ZG1.1, I was a last-minute consultant thereon, and my books The Christ Conspiracy, Suns of God and Who Was Jesus? were sources used therein. I was not involved with the second and third parts of the original film or the second and third films. I am only interested here in presenting the facts about ancient mythology and religion that back up the first/religion part. In this quest, I have composed several articles as well as a nearly 600-page book, Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection and a 105-page ebook/PDF called “The ZEITGEIST Sourcebook,” which alone rebuts the erroneous claims made by Forbes and others. Nevertheless, in order to underscore the factual nature of various claims in ZG1.1 and to demonstrate the fallaciousness of the mainstream contentions, I have written this additional long rebuttal.
It should be pointed out also that my books and writings provide thousands of pages carefully cited with primary sources and the works of credentialed authorities from a variety of fields, supplying the evidence that Forbes and others claim does not exist. In my response here, I cannot include all the evidence, as this article is already quite lengthy. I will thus provide many pertinent links along the way.
Forbes Claim No. 1: “Horus isn’t a sun god…. He’s the god of the sky. Ra is the sun god.”
Forbes’s comments continually reveal that he is not an Egyptologist and possesses cursory knowledge of Egyptian mythology. In fact, it appears he merely skimmed Wikipedia before making his responses. However, if he had read more closely even the Wiki article about Horus, he would have discovered that Horus most certainly is a sun god. What our critic fails to understand, apparently, is the vast profusion of sun gods or solar heroes in antiquity, with numerous gods and goddesses possessing solar attributes. He also appears not to know the basics of Egyptian mythology or even mythology in general, in not understanding that myths are very mutable and that numerous gods and goddesses are combined or syncretized with each other, with solar gods being interchangeable at times. This mythological fact is especially true with the Egyptian gods, including Ra, Osiris and Horus, who were often combined, a fact I demonstrate abundantly in Christ in Egypt.
(Budge, E.A. Wallis, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, cxiv)
Ra, as we know, is most certainly a sun god, but he is frequently combined with Horus, including as the sun of the horizon, “Ra-Horakhti.” I have addressed this motif extensively in my book Christ in Egypt, as well as in my article “Horus is a Sun God.” Following are some relevant excerpts.
“Horus was the power of kingship which was manifest in two natural phenomena: the sun, the most powerful force in nature; and the pharaoh, the most powerful force in human society.”
Regarding Horus’s solar nature, professor of Egyptology at Brown University Dr. James P. Allen states:
Horus was the power of kingship. To the Egyptians this was as much a force of nature as those embodied in the other gods. It was manifest in two natural phenomena: the sun, the most powerful force in nature; and the pharaoh, the most powerful force in human society. Horus’s role as the king of nature is probably the origin of his name: hrw seems to mean “the one above” or “the one far off”… This is apparently a reference to the sun, which is “above” and “far off” in the sky, like the falcon with which Horus is regularly associated… (Allen, 148)
This fact of Horus as a sun god was confirmed five centuries before the common era by the Greek historian Herodotus (2.144, 156), when he equated Osiris with the Greek god Dionysus and Horus with the Greek sun god Apollo: “In the Egyptian language, Apollo is Horus, Demeter is Isis, Artemis is Bubastis….” (Grene, 200)
In the first century BCE, the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus described Osiris as the sun, while his sister-wife, Isis, is the moon:
Now when the ancient Egyptians, awestruck and wondering, turned their eyes to the heavens, they concluded that two gods, the sun and the moon, were primeval and eternal: they called the former Osiris, the latter Isis…. (Murphy, 14)
The ancient writer Porphyry (c. 235-c. 305 AD/CE) related (according to early Catholic Church father/historian Eusebius):
But the fiery power of [the sun’s] revolving and circling motion whereby he ripens the crops, is called Dionysus… And whereas he revolves round the cosmical seasons [Grk. horas] and is the maker of “times and tides,” the sun is on this account called Horus. (Gifford, 123)
Again, there is much more on the subject of Horus as a sun god, a significant amount of which can be found in the nearly 40-page chapter in my book Christ in Egypt entitled “Horus, Sun of God.”
Forbes Claim No. 2: “The son/sun of God—s-u-n/s-o-n—it’s a perfectly good pun in English—well, it’s a fairly bad pun in English, but it doesn’t work in Egyptian, and it doesn’t work in Greek, and it doesn’t work in Latin.”
This entire discussion is a strawman argument raised in order to knock it down easily. Nowhere does “Zeitgeist” claim that the English words “son” and “sun” are cognates and that this pun extends to antiquity. ZG1.1, I and many others over the centuries have merely used existing language in order to describe a real phenomenon, mythologically speaking. This son-sun pun obviously does not occur in the ancient Egyptian or any other non-Germanic language, and no one is making that absurd claim.
In the meantime, we are hardly the first to utilize this son-sun pun in relation to Jesus Christ in particular, as its use has a long and venerable tradition that a scholar of history might wish to know about. As I say in my ebook Jesus as the Sun throughout History, this sun-son word play has been noted many times previously in history by a variety of individuals, including English priest and poet Robert Southwell in the 16th century and English poet Richard Crashaw in the 17th century. (Davies, 165) English poet and preacher John Donne (1572-1631) and Welsh poet and priest George Herbert (1593-1633) likewise engaged in the son/sun pun as applied to Christ. (Foxell, 8; Wilcox, 306) In discussing Donne, Dr. Arthur L. Clements, a professor at Binghamton University, remarks that the “Son-sun pun” is “familiar enough.” (Clements, 71) Comparing Christ to the “day star,” famous English poet John Milton (1608-1674) was aware of the “sun/son of God” analogy and “revel[ed] in the sun-son pun.” (Miller, D.M., 32) In his book about English poet Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), Dr. Nigel Smith, a professor at Princeton University, comments that “Jesus was also thought to have been referred to in Mal. 4:2 (thereby involving a pun on Sun/Son of God)…” (Smith, N., 42) Puritan minister Edward Taylor (1642-1729) engaged in the same punning by describing Christ as “the onely [sic] begotten Sun that is in the bosom of the Father…” (Miller, D.G., 90)
“Famous English poet John Milton was aware of the ‘sun/son of God’ analogy and revelled in the sun-son pun.”
Furthermore, in describing the actions of the Church fathers in adapting sun myths to Christianity, Thomas Ellwood Longshore declared in 1881, “They merely changed the visible ‘Sun of God’ for the invisible ‘Son of God,’ or for this personage they called the ‘Son of God’…” (Longshore, 103) While addressing the Shakespearean character Petruccio’s “arrogation of the son/sun pun” in “The Taming of the Shrew,” Dr. Peter Holland, a professor of Shakespearean History at Notre Dame University, says that this play on words is “normally used to glorify Christ…” (Holland, 91) In An Introduction to English Grammar, Dr. Sidney Greenbaum, a professor of English at University College London, comments, “Religious poetry traditionally puns Sun with Son, Christ the son of God…” (Greenbaum, 182) Dr. Stephen C. Behrendt, a professor of English at the University of Nebraska, called the pun “longstanding.” (Behrendt, 153) The sun-son play on words as applicable to Christ has also been deemed so “common” as to represent a “devotional pun.” (See, e.g., Rowe, 252; Oberhaus, 79.)
Obviously, this “devotional pun” was widely recognized centuries ago by the English-speaking intelligentsia and educated elite; it is thus not a “fairly bad pun” and those who use it are in eloquent company. Therefore, shallow criticisms of the statement that the son of God is the sun of God represent illogical strawmen reflective of ignorance of these facts, and should be dismissed as such.
The Sun as the Son of God
Regardless of the son-sun pun in English, the concept of the sun being the Son of God is pre-Christian, as elucidated in numerous myths, such as the Greek and Egyptian, as well as by philosophers such as Socrates and Plato, a fact that should be known by an expert on Greek thought. As related in The Book of the Sun (1494) by Neoplatonic-Christian philosopher Marsillio Ficino concerning Socrates:
According to Plato [Republic, VI, 508c (Ferrari, 215)], he called the Sun not God himself, but the son of God. And I say not the first son of God, but a second, and moreover visible son. For the first son of God is not this visible Sun, but another far superior intellect, namely the first one which only the intellect can contemplate. Therefore Socrates, having been awakened by the celestial Sun, surmised a super celestial Sun, and he contemplated attentively its majesty, and inspired, would admire the incomprehensible bounty of the Father. (Voss, 211)
“According to Plato, Socrates called the Sun not God himself but the son of God…”
As Pico della Mirandola (163) says: “…when Plato in the Republic calls the sun the visible son of God, why may we not understand it as the image of the invisible Son?”
Forbes Claim No. 3: The Egyptian god Horus’s mother, Isis, “wasn’t a virgin, and there’s no suggestion in the Egyptian sources that she was.”
This criticism is easily refuted, and in this regard I have provided in my book Christ in Egypt some 50 pages of evidence showing that Isis was most certainly deemed the “Great Virgin” centuries before the common era. The pertinent parts of my lengthy analysis of this subject, which includes primary source evidence as well as the works of respected authorities in relevant fields, may be found in my article “Isis is a Virgin Mother.” Following are but a few relevant excerpts and some additional material.
As stated by Egyptologist Dr. Reginald E. Witt, in Isis in the Ancient World:
The Egyptian goddess who was equally “the Great Virgin” (hwnt) and “Mother of the God” was the object of the very same praise bestowed upon her successor [Mary, Virgin Mother of Jesus].
One of the inscriptions that call Isis the “Great Virgin” appears in the temple of Seti I at Abydos dating to the 13th century BCE.
“In a text in the Abydos Temple of Seti I, Isis herself declares: ‘I am the great virgin.'”
As stated by professor of Old Testament and Catholic Theology at the University of Bonn Dr. G. Johannes Botterweck, in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (2.338-9):
…The Pyramid Texts speak of “the great virgin” (hwn.t wr.t) three times (682c, 728a, 2002a…); she is anonymous, appears as the protectress of the king, and is explicitly called his mother once (809c). It is interesting that Isis is addressed as hwn.t in a sarcophagus oracle that deals with her mysterious pregnancy. In a text in the Abydos Temple of Seti I, Isis herself declares: “I am the great virgin.”…
Also, there exists at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York an ancient Carnelian ring stone from the Imperial period (1st-2nd cents. AD/CE) that is an “adaptation” of a Greek artifact from the fourth century BCE. The ring stone possesses an image of the Greco-Egyptian hybrid god Serapis-Hades, with Isis standing before him holding an “ear of wheat and the sistrum.” The Greek inscription reads:
The phrase is translated as “The Lady Isis, Immaculate,” the latter word from the Greek verb agneuw, meaning “to be pure or chaste.”
There is much more to the subject of Isis’s virginity, but it is clear that critics do not know this information and are therefore not experts.
In understanding this common ancient motif that was applied to many pre-Christian mothers, both mythical and historical, one would need to study the works of Dr. Marguerite Rigoglioso as well, especially her fine book Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity. The claim that the virgin-birth motif—called in scholarly circles “parthenogenesis”—was common in pre-Christian religion and mythology is a fact, and, again, Forbes reveals his lack of knowledge about this subject, as well as many others, as we shall see.
Forbes Claim No. 4: “It’s pretty unlikely that the ancient Egyptian sources would say that Horus was born on December the 25th, because December is a Latin month, and their calendar is completely different.”
This contention is one of the sillier ones that Forbes makes, as he disingenuously pretends not to understand that the phrase “December 25th” refers to the time of the winter solstice. The term “December” comes from the Latin word for “ten,” decem, originally representing the 10th and final month of the Roman calendar. Obviously, the English figure of speech “December 25th“ did not exist in the ancient Egyptian calendar but, again, simply refers to the winter solstice, which the ancients perceived as beginning on the day we currently call December 21st and ending at midnight on the 24th. The month of December in ancient Egyptian is called “Koiak” or “Khoiak,” and the date of the winter solstice was 26 Koiak. In modern writing (or in a film), it would be very inconvenient to replace the English phrase with “26 Koiak” and to be compelled to explain constantly what that means. Hence, when we are writing in English, we use the phrase “December 25th.”
“Obviously, the English figure of speech ‘December 25th’ did not exist in the ancient Egyptian calendar but simply refers to the winter solstice.”
The claim that Horus was not born on December 25th or the winter solstice, however it was called in whatever language, reveals once again that the critic is largely ignorant of the subject matter and evidently has done merely a cursory scan of encyclopedia articles. The assertion of Horus born on “December 25th” is readily demonstrated by the words of ancient writers as well as by other artifacts and the writings of modern experts in the pertinent subjects. The Horus/winter-solstice data is so extensive that I was compelled to include a 40-page chapter in my book Christ in Egypt entitled “Born on December 25th.” Following is the gist of my research.
Egyptian gods Ptah-Osiris-Sokar approach the baby sun god Sokar at the winter solstice
“In Egypt the festival of the baby sun god Sokar occurs on 26 Khoiak, corresponding to December 22nd.”
As I state in my book The Astrotheology Calendar Guide, in Egypt the festival of the baby sun god Sokar occurs on 26 Khoiak, as related in the Calendar of Hathor at Dendera (Cauville, 25), corresponding at the turn of the common era to December 22nd. The longstanding ritual of Sokar being carried out of the temple on this day in an “ark” closely resembles the censored commentary by Church father Epiphanius (c. 310/320-403) concerning the Egyptians bringing forth the baby sun born of a virgin at the winter solstice. (See Murdock, CIE, 86ff)
As concerns the Egyptian god’s birth at that time, we learn from one of the most famous historians of the first century, Plutarch (46-120 AD/CE), that Horus the Child—or “Harpocrates,” as was his Greek name—was “born about the winter solstice, unfinished and infant-like…” (Plutarch, “Isis and Osiris” (65, 387C); Babbitt, 153)
“Ancient historian Plutarch related that Horus the Child was ‘born about the winter solstice, unfinished and infant-like…'”
Three centuries after Plutarch, ancient Latin writer Macrobius (395–423 AD/CE) also reported on an annual Egyptian “Christmas” celebration (Saturnalia, I, XVIII:10):
…at the winter solstice the sun would seem to be a little child, like that which the Egyptians bring forth from a shrine on an appointed day, since the day is then at its shortest and the god is accordingly shown as a tiny infant.
As Egyptologist Dr. Bojana Mojsov (13) remarks: “The symbol of the savior-child was the eye of the sun newly born every year at the winter solstice.”
Winter Solstice Hieroglyphs and Temple Alignments
Other indications of the Egyptian reverence of the winter solstice may be found in hieroglyphs. As Egyptologist Dr. Heinrich Brugsch explains, the Egyptians not only abundantly recorded and revered the time of the winter solstice, they also created a number of hieroglyphs to depict it. One such image mentioned by Egyptologist Dr. E.A. Wallis Budge turns out to be the goddess-sisters Isis and Nephthys with the solar disc floating above their hands over a lifegiving ankh—the looped Egyptian cross—as the sun’s rays extend down to the cross symbol. This image of the sun between Isis and Nephthys, which is sometimes depicted without the ankh, is described in an inscription at Edfu regarding Ptolemy VII (fl. 145 bce?) and applied to the winter solstice, translated as: “The sun coming out of the sky-ocean into the hands of the siblings Isis and Nephthys.” This image very much looks like the sun being born, which is sensible, since, indeed, Harpocrates, the morning sun, was born every day, including at the winter solstice. (See Murdock, CIE, 94, etc., for citations.)
Isis and Nephthys holding the baby sun
over the life-giving ankh, representing the winter solstice
(Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, 351)
“Harpocrates, the morning sun, was born every day, including at the winter solstice.”
There are many other artifacts in Egypt that demonstrate Horus’s association with the winter solstice, including his temples aligned to the rising sun at that time of the year. (See Murdock, CIE, 79-117)
Forbes Claim No. 5: “Horus wasn’t crucified. Horus wasn’t killed at all. Osiris was killed, betrayed and killed by his brother Set, who then cut up his body into very small pieces….”
In an earlier version of the video, Forbes made the mistake of confounding Osiris with Horus and claimed that it was Horus who had been cut into pieces and scattered around Egypt. This part was subsequently edited. As we have seen and will continue to see, however, many if not most of the rest of his comments should likewise have been edited.
When discussing the “crucifixions” of ancient gods, it should be noted that we are not necessarily saying these figures were tortured and killed by being thrown to the ground and nailed to wooden crosses, as found in the gospel story. The connotation of crucifixion as symbolizing a cross-shaped or cruciform pose, rather than the above-mentioned violent act, can be found in some of the earliest Christian comparative-religion commentaries, such as those of Church fathers Tertullian (c. 160-c. 200) and Minucius Felix (2nd-3rd cents.).
We have shown before that your deities are derived from shapes modelled from the cross. But you also worship victories, for in your trophies the cross is the heart of the trophy. The camp religion of the Romans is all through a worship of the standards, a setting the standards above all gods. Well, as those images decking out the standards are ornaments of crosses. All those hangings of your standards and banners are robes of crosses. (Roberts, ANCL, 85)
“Your heathen gods in their origin have proceeded from this hated cross.”
The place where Tertullian had “shown before” his contentions about the Pagan gods being cross-shaped was in his work Ad Nationes (12), in a lengthy treatise which includes the following remarks:
…The Heathens Themselves Made Much of Crosses in Sacred Things; Nay, Their Very Idols Were Formed on a Crucial [Crosslike] Frame.
…your gods in their origin have proceeded from this hated cross… if you simply place a man with his arms and hands outstretched, you will make the general outline of a cross…. (Roberts, ANF, III, 122)
“Your victorious trophies not only imitate the appearance of a simple cross, but also that of a man affixed to it.”
In his Octavius (29), Minucius echoes the same sentiment:
…The Egyptians certainly choose out a man for themselves whom they may worship… Crosses, moreover, we neither worship nor wish for. You, indeed, who consecrate gods of wood, adore wooden crosses perhaps as parts of your gods. For your very standards, as well as your banners, and flags of your camp, what else are they but crosses gilded and adorned? Your victorious trophies not only imitate the appearance of a simple cross, but also that of a man affixed to it. (Roberts, ANF, IV, 191)
In the same passage, Minucius states, “…crucis signum est, et cum homo porrectis manibus deum pura mente veneratur.” (Felix, 66) To wit, “…the sign of the cross it is, also when a man stretching out his hands venerates God with a pure mind.”
In his First Apology, Church father Justin Martyr (c. 150) writes:
Chapter 21. Analogies to the history of Christ.
And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter… (Roberts, ANF, I, 170)
It is evident that the Church fathers did not perceive the configuration of Christ on the cross to be anything unusual. Indeed, they insisted that the Pagans likewise worshipped gods on crosses or in “crucial frame,” as Tertullian styles it.
These ancient Christian writers themselves compared Christ’s crucifixion to the Pagan hanging of men and gods on crosses or in cruciform, i.e., the shape of a cross. As serious scholars on a scientific quest, we must follow their lead and ask to whom they were referring, recognizing that the motif of a god, goddess or other germane figure on a cross or in cruciform was common long before Christ’s alleged advent. Indeed, the case can be and has been made that Christ’s crucifixion is simply an elaborate repetition of this common motif designed to usurp Pagan mythology.
In one of my forum threads, I include numerous images from antiquity of gods and others in cruciform: “Cruciforms/Gods on Crosses.” One of these gods in cruciform was Horus, the evidences for which can be found in my book Christ in Egypt as well as in my online excerpt “Was Horus Crucified?“
Horus in the vault of heaven with his arms outstretched
Horus as the hawk with his wings or arms outstretched reflects his role as the sun god “crossing over” the sky, as depicted in various hymns and Coffin Texts. As I say in Christ in Egypt (342), the significance of asserting the sun god to be “crucified” is not that his myth is imitated exactly in the gospel story but that he was a revered pre-Christian god “on a cross” and that this particular motif was adopted by those who created the Christian myth specifically because it was a popular and venerated theme.
In Christ in Egypt, I also include an extensive discussion of a mysterious Egypto-Gnostic character named Horos, essentially the same name as “Horus” in Greek, although the two words are spelled slightly differently, the former with an omega and the latter with an omicron. Nevertheless, there is reason to suppose that the Gnostic figure of Horos and the Egyptian god Horus are at root one and the same. The Gnostic Horos not only is associated with but also is identified as “Stauros”—the Cross—the same Greek word used in the gospels to describe what Jesus was purportedly crucified upon. Indeed, in Christian writings Jesus is “often assimilated” to Horos-Stauros. (Chisholm, 854)
Horus Killed and Raised from the Dead
As concerns the claim that Horus was not killed, not only was Horus killed, but he was also resurrected, as described in a pre-Christian text written by Diodorus Siculus (fl. 60-30 BCE). Recounting a myth in which Horus is drowned, Diodorus (Antiquities of Egypt, 1.25.6) describes the god’s raising or resurrection by Isis, using the same term, anastasis, later employed to describe Jesus’s resurrection:
Isis also discovered the elixir of immortality, and when her son Horus fell victim to the plots of the Titans and was found dead beneath the waves, she not only raised him from the dead and restored his soul, but also gave him eternal life. (Diodorus/Murphy, 31; see also Murdock, CIE, 388.)
“Horus was found dead beneath the waves.”
At this point, Forbes attempts to differentiate between Osiris’s death and “resuscitation” and the death and resurrection of Jesus, by saying that Osiris’s did not take place in “historical time” but in the “Egyptian equivalent of the dreamtime” and in “mythological time.” This contention is only half true, in that Osiris does indeed end up as Lord of the Afterlife, much like Lord Jesus ruling over heaven. In reality, the risen Osiris also functions on the material plane in a variety of ways, and his heaven-based interaction with the world is little different from the role of Christ as Mediator. The similarities between the resurrections of Osiris and Jesus are in fact quite profound and not dismissable with a wave of a hand. For more information, please see the extensive section on the subject in my book Christ in Egypt entitled, “Spiritual or Bodily Resurrection?“
Forbes Claim No. 6: “There’s no question for historians that Jesus actually lived… No serious ancient historian doubts that Jesus was a real person, really living in Galilee in the first century.”
Not only are there quite serious historians, theologians and New Testament scholars of today who question whether or not the figure of Jesus Christ as depicted in the New Testament actually existed, but there have been many in the past as well, producing a large body of literature within a field called “mythicism.” The “no serious scholar” comment is the same as the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. One of the very serious modern scholars is Dr. Robert M. Price, who has two PhDs and who specializes in the New Testament. When confronted with this “no serious scholar” fallacy, Dr. Price responded:
As for this tiresome business about there being “no scholar” or “no serious scholar” who advocates the Christ Myth theory: Isn’t it obvious that scholarly communities are defined by certain axioms in which grad students are trained, and that they will lose standing in those communities if they depart from those axioms? The existence of an historical Jesus is currently one of those. That should surprise no one, especially with the rightward lurch of the Society for Biblical Literature in recent years. It simply does not matter how many scholars hold a certain opinion. If one is interested in the question one must evaluate the issues and the evidence for oneself. (Private correspondence, reproduced here with permission)
So serious were mythicist scholars of the past that they had tremendous influence among many of the world’s most important elite, such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom questioned whether or not Jesus was a myth. As concerns “serious ancient historians,” see my response to Claim No. 17, below.
Forbes Claim No. 7: “Gerald Massey—English poet and amateur Egyptologist, not an expert, not an academic, not actually an historian at all. G.A. Wells, ah, an academic, yes—professor of German literature…not a historian.”
In his discussion of ZG1.1’s sources, Forbes proves that he has not studied the literature and is not an expert himself in the relevant fields. Forbes himself is not an Egyptologist; therefore, by his own “logic” he should not be making any claims about Egyptian mythology, about which his knowledge has been shown to be lacking. Concerning Dr. George A. Wells, whose works are valuable but not entirely necessary to the field of Jesus mythicism, certainly he is as qualified to discuss ancient religion and mythology as is Forbes, since the subject is so clearly not an area of specialization for the latter, as demonstrated abundantly here. Indeed, Forbes makes much ado about Wells not being an “ancient historian,” but, again, he himself is not an Egyptologist, so by this same credentialism, he should not be making statements concerning Horus, which statements, as we can see, are incorrect.
In reality, Forbes himself is not even an “amateur Egyptologist” and as such is even more “uncredentialed” than Gerald Massey, whose works were peer-reviewed by a number of credentialed authorities from the era, a fact that his critic obviously does not know, demonstrating that he himself is not an expert on the works of Gerald Massey. By his rationale, therefore, Forbes should not be making pronouncements as to Massey’s work.
In my article “Who is Gerald Massey?,” excerpted from Christ in Egypt, I relate that Massey could read several languages, including not only English but also French, Latin, Greek and evidently Hebrew and Egyptian to a certain degree. In his 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 include:
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’s work was peer-reviewed by several renowned scholars of the day, including Egyptologist Dr. Samuel Birch, Royal Astronomer Sir Dr. Norman Lockyer and Dr. Richard Pietschmann, a professor of Egyptology at the University of Göttingen.”
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 more about Massey’s longterm personal relationship with Birch can be found at my article, “Who is Gerald Massey?” Massey was likewise personally friendly with Sir Lockyer (1836-1920), as well as Dr. Birch’s protégé Assyriologist Dr. Theophilus Goldridge Pinches (1856-1934). Massey’s work was peer-reviewed by several renowned scholars of the day, including Birch, Lockyer and Dr. Richard Pietschmann, a professor of Egyptology at the University of Göttingen.
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.
The only reason Gerald Massey did not become a professional, degreed scholar is because he was born into extreme poverty and had to do hard, physical labor as a child, rather than attending school, which was not free to commoners in England at that time. Indeed, there was no public school system like we have today. Massey accomplished all of this scholarship without benefit of a formal education and should be afforded respect, even if one does not agree with his conclusions. Once again, we are faced with rabid credentialism and religious bias.
Forbes Claim No. 8: “[There’s] not a single [serious historical work in the list of references]. What I found is a whole list of books claiming to be written by experts quoting other people claiming to be experts quoting…actually none of the ancient evidence at all.”
As I have demonstrated in my books and articles, the information in ZG1.1 comes from primary sources and the works of highly credentialed authorities in relevant fields, to be repetitive. Forbes would have known that fact had he actually studied the literature cited, rather than simply scanning the authors to come up with an appeal to authority.
Primary Sources, Publications and Scholars Cited in The ZEITGEIST Sourcebook
Following is the list of primary sources and authorities used in my “ZEITGEIST Sourcebook” essentially to prove each of the contentions made in the film. It should be noted that this list does not include the multitude of other artifacts and writings from antiquity that may be found in my other works, including some 900 alone in Christ in Egypt. It should be further noted that I do research in a variety of languages, both modern and ancient, such as: Ancient and modern Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Vedic, Persian, Egyptian, Coptic, French, Italian, Spanish, German and a smattering of other languages as the need arises.
Ancient artifacts and archaeological sites
Lascaux, Altamira and Trois Freres cave paintings
Tassili N’Aijer figures
Mohenjo-daro, Indus Valley site
Thirteen Towers, Chankillo, Peru
Nabta Playa, Egypt
Dendera zodiac and other Egyptian artifacts
Greek pottery, paintings, mosaics, temples
Roman mosaics, paintings and statuary
Early Christian artifacts, etc.
Egyptian hymns, hieroglyphs, papyri and carvings
Book of the Dead
Julius Firmicus Maternus
Epic of Gilgamesh
Assyrian, Babylonia, Akkadian tablets
Dead Sea Scrolls
The information also comes from the best and most thorough, scholarly and modern sources wherever possible, with the result that many authorities cited possess credentials from respected institutes of higher learning, and their publishers are some of the most scholarly in English (and other languages), such as the following.
Oxford University/Clarendon Press
Princeton University Press
Cambridge University Press
Cornell University Press
Yale University Press
University of Chicago Press
University of Pennsylvania Press
University of Wisconsin Press
Johns Hopkins Press
Harcourt, Brace & Co.
Macmillan & Co., etc.
Dr. Miranda J. Aldhouse-Green, a professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University
Dr. Lee I.A. Levine, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary
Dr. Edwin C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory
Dr. Edmund S. Meltzer, American Egyptologist
Dr. James P. Allen, curator of Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dr. Erik Hornung, professor emeritus of Egyptology at the University of Basel
Dr. Henri Frankfort, Dutch Egyptologist
Dr. Jan Assman, professor of Egyptology at the University of Konstanz
Dr. Badrya Serry, director of the Antiquities Museum at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt
Dr. Bojana Mojsov, Egyptologist
Dr. Reginald E. Witt, Egyptologist and professor at the University of London
Dr. G. Johannes Botterweck, professor of Old Testament and Catholic Theology at the University of Bonn
Dr. Alfred Wiedermann, Egyptologist and professor of Oriental Languages at the University of Bonn
Dr. John Gwyn Griffiths, Welsh professor of Classics and Egyptology
Dr. Raymond O. Faulkner, English Egyptologist
Dr. Tryggve N.D. Mettinger, professor of Old Testament Studies at the University of Lund
Rev. Dr. Alfred Bertholet, a theologian and professor at the University of Göttingen
Dr. Herman te Velde, a chairman of the Department of Egyptology at the University of Groningen
Dr. Andrew T. Fear, professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester
Dr. David Adams Leeming, professor emeritus of English and comparative literature at the University of Connecticut
Dr. Patricia A. Johnston, Brandeis University professor of Classical Studies
Dr. David John Tacey, professor at La Trobe University
Dr. Edwin F. Bryant, professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University
Dr. Hugo Rahner, Jesuit theologian, dean and president of Innsbruck University
Sir Dr. Edmund Ronald Leach, Cambridge professor and anthropologist
Dr. Donald White, professor emeritus of Classics at the University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Martin Schwartz, professor of Iranian Studies at the University of California
Rev. Dr. Harold R. Willoughby, professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago
Dr. Mary Boyce, professor of Iranian Studies
Dr. Payam Nabarz, Iranian scholar
Dr. Marvin Meyers, a professor of Religious Studies at Chapman College
Dr. Theony Condos, professor at the American University of Armenia
Dr. Aviram Oshri, senior archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority
Dr. Chris Dolan, American astronomer
Rev. Dunbar T. Heath of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
Dr. John L. Heilbron, professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley
Dr. K.A. Heinrich Kellner, a professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Bonn
Dr. David Ulansey, philosopher professor at California Institute of Integral Studies
Dr. Robert M. Schoch, geologist and professor at Boston University
Dr. Henricus Oort, Dutch theologian and professor of Hebrew Antiquities at the University of Leiden
Rev. Dr. J. Glen Taylor, an associate professor of Old Testament at the University of Toronto
As we can see, contrary to popular perception the contentions in ZG1.1 are well cited with primary sources and the works of respected authorities in relevant fields.
Continuing this rebuttal, the following part deals with Forbes’s other claims in the longer radio interview by the same host. In the radio show, Forbes makes the same mistake in confounding Osiris with Horus, in a well-known myth about the god’s death and scattered body parts that is only applicable to Osiris. No professional Egyptologist would make such a mistake once, let alone twice.
Forbes Claim No. 9: “Where’s the evidence that the ancient Egyptians believed that Horus’s birth was heralded by a star in the east? Look at the footnotes that come with the web presentation, and you’ll find that there simply is no reference to any of the ancient Egyptian evidence.”
No serious scholar stops his research by looking at a list of references on a website. He or she would need actually to read those resources and follow up on whatever further citation he or she might find, in a variety of languages preferably. At this point, Forbes again says, “Historians want to see the ancient evidence.” But, do they really? After all these years of presenting it, I have to wonder about that claim, which is much like the rest of his here: Demonstrably false in the case of mythicism. Forbes himself—a serious historian—didn’t even bother to inquire as to where this information was coming from and satisfied himself with merely scanning a list of references, rather than digging into the ancient evidence.
If our critic had looked more closely, he would have found plenty of evidence that the ancient Egyptians most certainly did perceive the births of both Osiris and Horus the Elder to have been heralded by the star Sirius, as well as by the three stars in the belt of Orion. As I relate in Christ in Egypt, in a chapter excerpted online entitled, “The Star in the East and the Three Kings,” the coming of Osiris—the savior of Egypt—was associated with the “Star in the East” because the Egyptians recognized that the rising of Sirius with the sun, or “heliacally,” occurred around the summer solstice, the time of the Nile flooding. Life along the Nile was highly dependent upon the inundation associated with the heliacal rising of Sirius, a flood deified as Osiris, who was said to be “born” at that time.
Thus, this important association of Sirius—”Sothis” in the Greek and “Sepdet” or “Sopdet” in the Egyptian—with the life-giving Nile flood began some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. Hence, the “Star in the East” heralded the birth of the Egyptian Messiah thousands of years before the Christian era. This annual birth of Osiris was also a resurrection, as the goddess Sopdet “woke him from the dead.” (Frazer, AAO, 34-35)
“The star’s rising was also seen as a harbinger of the sunrise and therefore associated with Horus in his solar aspect.”
Regarding the role of Sirius/Sothis in Egyptian mythology, in The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Egyptologist James Allen states:
Sothis (spdt “Sharp”). The morning star, Sirius, seen by the Egyptians as a goddess. In Egypt the star disappears below the horizon once a year for a period of some seventy days; its reappearance in midsummer marked the beginning of the annual inundation and the Egyptian year. The star’s rising was also seen as a harbinger of the sunrise and therefore associated with Horus in his solar aspect, occasionally specified as Horus in Sothis (hrw jmj spdt), Sothic Horus (hrw spdtj), or Sharp Horus (hrw spd).
In addition, Pyramid Text 593:1636b/M 206 states: “Horus the pointed has come forth from thee, in his name of ‘Horus who was in Sothis.'” “Horus in Sothis,” therefore, refers to when the sun rises with Sirius. Thus, in ancient texts we find the birth of Horus the sun associated with the star in the east.
Forbes Claim No. 10: Horus was not “adored by three kings”
The motif of the divine child being greeted by dignitaries at his birth dates back thousands of years, long before Jesus supposedly existed. Regardless of whether or not the figure is three, four, six, more or less, the point is that the birth of a divine child who is subsequently adored by dignitaries is not new or unique to Christianity. We know from texts and other artifacts that Egyptian religion, for one, possessed the motif of the savior and divine child being heralded by notable personages, numbering three or more, who can be and have been called “Three Kings.” In the case of Osiris and the elder Horus being born around the summer solstice, these “Three Kings” are the stars in the Belt of the constellation of Orion, which points to the star Sirius at the horizon during the births of these gods at the summer flooding of the Nile.
Hieroglyph for Orion or Sah with three-looped string and star
Furthermore, in a number of ancient Egyptian nativity scenes we find the birth of the pharaoh – considered the living Horus—adored by several dignitaries, as represented at Luxor, for example. In Christ in Egypt, I discuss the Luxor scene, for both the female pharaoh Hatshepsut and the later pharaoh Amenhotep III, in detail over nearly 30 pages, an excerpt of which can be found in my article “The Nativity of Amenhotep III at Luxor.”
More about this motif can be found also in my “ZEITGEIST Sourcebook.”
As already seen, the baby sun god Sokar, who was often identified with Horus, is depicted as being approached by the divine trinity at his birth on the winter solstice. (For more information, see Murdock, CIE, 107ff.)
In addition, there is a nativity scene of Dionysus in the Neapolitan Museum that shows the divine child surrounded by two groups of three, one of whom approaches the baby.
As we can see, the motif of the divine child approached by three or more notable personages is not original or unique to Christianity.
Forbes Claim No. 11: “Attis was not born of a virgin, not born on December 25th…crucified? No, there’s simply no evidence for this.”
Like so many others, this contention is false, as there does indeed exist sufficient evidence for these claims to be made.
Attis Born of a Virgin
In an article entitled, “Attis: Born of a Virgin on December 25th, Crucified and Resurrected after Three Days,” I discuss the virginal status of the Great Goddess Cybele, also called “Nana,” who is said in ancient mythology to be the mother of the Phrygo-Roman god Attis. In this regard, professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester Dr. Andrew T. Fear states:
Cybele was regarded as a virgin goddess and as such could be seen as a rival to the Virgin Mary… Cybele as the mother of the Gods, mater Deum, here again presented a starkly pagan parallel to the Christian Mother of God. (Lane, 40)
Dr. David Adams Leeming, professor emeritus of English and comparative literature at the University of Connecticut, is also explicit that Attis’s mother was a virgin:
Attis is the son of Cybele in her form as the virgin, Nana, who is impregnated by the divine force in the form of a pomegranate. (Leeming, 25)
Regarding Nana, in Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity (111), Dr. Rigoglioso states:
…Another instance of spontaneous conception occurred when Nana, whose very name was one by which the Great Goddess was known, became pregnant simply by eating the tree’s fruit…
Again, there is much more to this subject, but it is clear that a non-specialist such as our critic does not know these facts of the parthenogenetic goddesses of antiquity.
Attis Born on December 25th
As I also write in my article “Attis: Born of a Virgin on December 25th,” the “December 25th” or winter-solstice birth of the sun god is a common theme in several cultures around the world over the past millennia, including the Egyptian, among others. Contrary to popular belief, these winter-solstice celebrations were not confined to one or two days of the month of December but extended throughout the month, as can be seen from the image from my Astrotheology Calendar below, which includes numerous winter-solstice celebrations from antiquity calculated for the year 1 AD/CE.
As it is for the Perso-Roman god Mithra, the Egyptian god Horus and the Christian godman Jesus, the December 25th date has likewise been claimed for Attis’s nativity as well. For example, Barbara G. Walker (77) writes:
Attis’s passion was celebrated on the 25th of March, exactly nine months before the solstitial festival of his birth, the 25th of December. The time of his death was also the time of his conception, or re-conception.
“Each year, Attis was born at the winter solstice.”
In this same regard, Shirley Toulson (34) remarks:
In the secret rites of this Great Mother the young god Attis figured as her acolyte and consort…. Each year he was born at the winter solstice, and each year as the days shortened, he died.
The reasoning behind this contention of the vegetative and solar god Attis’s birth at the winter solstice is sound enough, in that it echoes natural cycles, with the god’s death at the vernal equinox also representing the time when he is conceived again, to be born nine months later. The same natural pattern was contended of Jesus as well, with the Virgin Mary traditionally said to have conceived at the spring equinox and given birth at the winter solstice. Indeed, to this day the Feast of the Annunciation/Conception of Christ occurs on March 25th within Catholicism. (O’Gorman, 170)
Moreover, at times the young Attis was merged with Mithra, whose birthday was traditionally held on December 25th and with whom he shared the same Phrygian capped attire.
Marble bust of Attis wearing Phrygian cap
Mithra in a Phrygian cap
More on this subject can be found in my “ZEITGEIST Sourcebook.”
As I further relate in my article “Attis: Born of a Virgin,” the myths of Attis’s death include him being killed by a boar or by castrating himself under a tree, as well as by being hung on a tree or “crucified.” Indeed, he has been called the “castrated and crucified Attis.” (Harari, 31) It should be recalled that the use of the term “crucified” as concerns gods like Horus and Attis does not connote that he or they were thrown to the ground and nailed to a cross, as we commonly think of crucifixion, based on the Christian tale. To reiterate, there have been plenty of ancient figures who appeared in cruciform, some of whose myths specifically have them punished or killed through crucifixion, such as the Greek god Prometheus.
“The god has been called the ‘castrated and crucified Attis.'”
Moreover, Attis is said to have been “crucified” to a pine tree, while Christ too was related as being both crucified and hung on a tree (Acts 5:30; 10:39). As stated by La Trobe University professor Dr. David John Tacey (110):
Especially significant for us is the fact that the Phrygian Attis was crucified upon the tree…
In antiquity, these two concepts were obviously similar enough to be interchangeable in understanding. As we can see, there is very good reason to raise up these issues in our studies of comparative religion and mythology.
Forbes Claim No. 12: “The idea that Krishna was born of a virgin is particularly silly because the Indian legends say that he was the eighth child of Princess Devaki. If she’s had seven children already, I don’t think she’s a virgin.”
Like the other claims regarding various gods’ mothers not being virgins, this one is based on the lack of knowledge about the ancient concept of parthenogenesis. Again, myths are mutable, not set in stone, and it must be kept in mind that these are not “real people” but mythical figures; hence, neither their mothers nor purported fathers truly have genitalia. The virgin-mother status of several ancient Greek goddesses is well known, so it does not surprise us that the mothers of Attis, Dionysus, Krishna and others, however impregnated, have also been deemed “virgins.”
I have already discussed extensively the perpetual virginity motif as possibly applicable to the Indian god Krishna’s mother, Devaki, including in an entire chapter in my book Suns of God, published in 2004. In brief, it is claimed that Devaki could not to have been a virgin when she gave birth to Krishna because she already had given birth to seven other children. In the first place, based on the biblical scriptures at Matthew 12:46 and 13:55-56, the Virgin Mary also was traditionally said to have given birth to several children after Jesus; yet, she is considered a perpetual virgin. Moreover, we discover that in the ancient Indian text the Mahabharata several characters are claimed to be born of a virgin, including the sun god’s offspring named Karna, whose mother, Kunti, is the aunt of Krishna’s mother.
“In another myth, the newly married and apparently still virginal teenaged Devaki is impregnated after eating half a mango.”
So too is the author of the Mahabharata himself—also called Krishna—deemed the son of a virgin. In another myth, the newly married and apparently still virginal teenaged Devaki is impregnated after eating half a mango. The bottom line is that pre-Christian Indian mythology most definitely possessed the virgin-birth motif and that it was evidently applied to Devaki, in an earlier birth story and possibly as concerns Krishna as well.
Forbes Claim No. 13: Krishna was “resurrected? It’s just not there.”
Concerning Krishna’s death and ascension, in The Oxford Companion to World Mythology (232), Dr. Leeming states:
Just after the war, Krishna dies, as he had predicted he would, when, in a position of meditation, he is struck in the heel by a hunter’s arrow. His apotheosis occurs when he ascends in death to the heavens and is greeted by the gods.
Regarding the resurrection/ascension, the Mahabharata (4) says that Krishna or “Keshava,” as he is also traditionally called, immediately returns to life after being killed and speaks only to the hunter, forgiving him of his actions:
…he [the hunter] touched the feet of [Krishna]. The high-souled one comforted him and then ascended upwards, filling the entire welkin [sky/heaven] with splendour… [Krishna] reached his own inconceivable region.
Although it is not specifically stated that Krishna “resurrects” upon his death—when he is killed under a tree—he does ascend into heaven, alive again, since he is considered to be the eternal God of the cosmos. Krishna’s death is recounted in the Mahabharata and Vishnu Purana, both claiming he was killed by a hunter while sitting under a tree, the arrow penetrating his foot, much like Christ having a nail driven through his feet. In this regard, there have been found in India strange images of figures in cruciform with nail holes in their hands and feet, one of which was identified by an Indian priest as possibly the god Wittoba, who is an incarnation of Krishna.
The impression of a resurrection is evident from the depiction of Krishna comforting his killer just after death, before he has ascended into heaven. The point is that the god was once dead, but now he is alive again, whether in this world or the afterlife. This type of detail does not suffice to undermine the fact of the resurrection or raising up from death being a mythical motif in the first place, applicable to Christ as well as to many other gods and legendary figures. (For more information on the mythical motif of the resurrection, see Murdock, CIE, 402-420.)
Forbes Claim No. 14: “The god Dionysus, born of a virgin on December 25th? No evidence. It’s just made up.”
Once more, Forbes has not looked very hard for the evidence for these contentions regarding the Greek son of God, Dionysus. It is clear that he is not a mythologist, as he has not studied the subject of pre-Christian mythology in depth.
Dionysus Born of a Virgin
As I relate in my article “Dionysus: Born of a Virgin on December 25th, Killed and Resurrected after Three Days,” according to the most common tradition, Dionysus was the son of the god Zeus and the mortal woman Semele. In the Cretan version of the same story, which the pre-Christian Greek historian Diodorus Siculus relates, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Persephone, the daughter of Demeter also called Kore, who is styled a “virgin goddess.”
In another account, Jupiter/Zeus gives Dionysus’s torn-up heart in a drink to Semele, who becomes pregnant with the “twice born” god this way, a miraculous or “virgin” birth. Indeed, mythologist Joseph Campbell explicitly calls Semele a “virgin”:
While the maiden goddess sat there, peacefully weaving a mantle on which there was to be a representation of the universe, her mother contrived that Zeus should learn of her presence; he approached her in the form of an immense snake. And the virgin conceived the ever-dying, ever-living god of bread and wine, Dionysus, who was born and nurtured in that cave, torn to death as a babe and resurrected… (Campbell, MG, 4.27)
“Dionysus, son of Zeus, is born of a mortal virgin, Semele.”
This same direct appellation is used by Cambridge professor and anthropologist Sir Dr. Edmund Ronald Leach:
Dionysus, son of Zeus, is born of a mortal virgin, Semele, who later became immortalized through the intervention of her divine son; Jesus, son of God, is born of a mortal virgin, Mary… such stories can be duplicated over and over again. (Hugh-Jones, 108)
Using the scholarly Greek term parthenos, meaning “virgin,” in The Cult of the Divine Birth in Ancient Greece (95) Rigoglioso concludes: “Semele was also likely a holy parthenos by virtue of the fact that she gave birth to Dionysus via her union with Zeus (Hesiod, Theogony 940).”
The fact that Dionysus’s other mother, Persephone, is also associated with parthenogenesis—again, the scholarly term for “virgin birth”—lends credence to the notion that Dionysus was virgin-born. As related further by Rigoglioso in Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity (111):
Persephone’s connection with the parthenogenetic pomegranate is attested in text and iconography. In speaking directly about the Eleusinian Mysteries, Clement of Alexandria (Exhortation to the Greeks 2:16) informs us that the pomegranate tree was believed to have sprung from the drops of the blood of Dionysus…
Dionysus Born on December 25th
As with Jesus, December 25th and January 6th are both traditional birth dates in the Dionysian myth and simply represent the period of the winter solstice. Indeed, the winter-solstice date of the Greek sun and wine god Dionysus was originally recognized in early January but was eventually placed on December 25th, as related by ancient Latin writer Macrobius (c. 400 AD/CE). Regardless, the effect is the same: The winter sun god is born around this time, when the shortest day of the year begins to become longer.
“Macrobius transfers this feast to the day of the winter solstice, December 25.”
The ancient Church father Epiphanius (4th cent.) discussed the birth of the god Aion, son of the Greek goddess Persephone or Kore (“Maiden”), at the time of the winter solstice. In this regard, Christian theologian Rev. Dr. Hugo G. Rahner (139-140) remarks:
We know that Aion was at this time beginning to be regarded as identical with Helios and Helios with Dionysus…because [according to Macrobius] Dionysus was the symbol of the sun… He is made to appear small at the time of the winter solstice, when upon a certain day the Egyptians take him out of the crypt, because on this the shortest day of the year it is as though he were a little child…. Macrobius transfers [this feast] to the day of the winter solstice, December 25.
Dionysus is thus equivalent to Aion and was also said to have been born of Persephone, the virgin maiden. Joseph Campbell (MI, 34) confirms this “celebration of the birth of the year-god Aion to the virgin Goddess Kore,” the latter of whom he calls “a Hellenized transformation of Isis,” the Egyptian mother goddess who was likewise called the “Great Virgin” in inscriptions predating the Christian era by centuries. (See Murdock, CIE, 120-197.)
As we can see, no one has just “made up” anything, except, perhaps, those promulgating the Christ myth as “historical.”
Forbes Claim No. 15: “Jesus was born on December 25th?… That’s just the traditional celebration of Jesus’s birthday. We actually don’t have any idea at all what season Jesus was born in, let alone what day. About 350 A.D., the church in Rome started systematically setting up major Christian festivals. They chose to put the birth of Jesus on December 25th. They knew that wasn’t his birthday…. It was related to the Saturnalia. It was related to the festival of Sol Invictus.”
Firstly, it should be noted that for the past 1,700 years or more, the birth of Jesus Christ has been celebrated on December 25th by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. We would be delighted if more people were aware of the fact that we really have no idea when any purported historical Jesus was born and that this December 25th date has been “borrowed” from pre-Christian Paganism. It is precisely this fact of “borrowing” that we are demonstrating in our comparative religion and mythology studies, so highlighting this point serves to illustrate our thesis.
As stated in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
The well-known solar feast…of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. For the history of the solar cult, its position in the Roman Empire, and syncretism with Mithraism.
The Catholic Encyclopedia also says:
The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-sun, unconquered by the rigours of the season.
Secondly, the fact that Forbes understands that the “December 25th” birthday was related to the Saturnalia and Sol Invictus indicates he is aware of its significance as a winter-solstice festival. In consideration of the strawman argument above wherein he disingenuously pretends not to understand the nomenclature of “December 25th” used to describe Horus’s birthday, perhaps he should have been using a Latin phrase in this discussion, rather than the English one. It is obvious our critic is engaged in special pleading here, as well as throughout his analysis.
If the church “colonized” this festival as well as many others—as Forbes further claims here—presenting this supposed birthday as fact, what else did the church or creators of Christianity “colonize” in their quest to make Pagans who “shifted over more comfortable?” In other words, what else have Christian authorities lied about over the centuries—perhaps the very notion of Christ’s historicity in the first place, having “colonized” from Pagan and Jewish religion virtually every part of the gospel story and early Christian tradition?
Forbes Claim No. 16: “Ancient historians are absolutely clear that the figure of Jesus is a genuine historical figure…. That he really lived is not seriously under doubt.”
Which ancient historians would those be? A serious historian wants to know the ancient evidence. The biblical writers do not count in a scientific analysis, and the other purported references to Jesus in non-Christian sources such as Josephus, Pliny, Suetonius, Tacitus and others are not contemporaneous and serve as hearsay long after the purported facts. As demonstrated throughout this work and in volumes elsewhere, there certainly has been serious doubt as to whether or not Jesus truly walked the earth, including in antiquity, as is evidenced by the biblical verses 1 John 4:3 and 2 John 1:7, according to the Textus Receptus:
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 Jo 4:2-3)
For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (2 Jo 1:2)
“It is likely there were many other individuals questioning the historicity of the gospel tale, as it is little different from the multitudinous claims concerning other gods and goddesses around the Mediterranean of the time.”
The “many deceivers” addressed here were called “Docetics,” and their Gnostic-Christian belief that Jesus was not a “real person” but a phantom who did not appear in the flesh is called “Docetism,” which dates to the second century or the earliest scientifically documented period of Christian history. It is likely there were many other individuals questioning the historicity of the gospel tale, as it is little different from the multitudinous claims concerning other gods and goddesses around the Mediterranean of the time. It is also likely that any such testimony was obliterated during the centuries of destruction that followed the ascension of Christianity.
Forbes Claim No. 17: “When you go from the footnotes of ‘Zeitgeist’ to the footnotes of these people, you still don’t find any ancient evidence.”
This entire lengthy article demonstrates that if you follow the footnotes of “these people,” i.e., ZG1.1’s sources, such as not only Gerald Massey and G.A. Wells but also me, you will find plenty of ancient evidence. Forbes simply did not look very hard, as is obvious from his claims, which reflect barely a cursory scan of the mythicist case.
Forbes Claim No. 18: “All three of those sources—they use the title “Christos”—think it’s his name.”
Here Forbes is addressing the contention that the much ballyhooed “proofs” of Christ’s existence found in non-Christian sources such as Pliny, Suetonius and Tacitus are not actually discussing “Jesus of Nazareth” but are using a common title of “Christos/Christus” or “Chrestos/Chrestus,” the former meaning “anointed one” and the latter meaning “good” or “useful one.” Regarding these three Roman writers using the title “Christos” (or “Chrestos”), Forbes claims that they “think it’s his name.” Is Forbes is claiming to know what these writers were thinking? Obviously, Pliny saying that they worshipped “Christos as a god” is not reflecting any knowledge of a “real man” who walked the earth in the century before. Forbes also makes the claim that “these writers are writing about a person they believe to be historical.” Where is the evidence for such a claim? To use his phrase, it’s not there at all. It’s just made up. Without evidence, does Forbes know what these writers believed? What they thought?
An indepth analysis reveals that both titles were indeed utilized to describe several figures, mythical and historical, found in the Old Testament and elsewhere, and that none of these historians provide credible, scientific evidence that the gospel story really happened or that Jesus truly existed. More on the subject of Pliny, et al., can be found in my books Suns of God and Who Was Jesus?, as well as my online excerpt “Pliny, Suetonius and Tacitus: No Proof of Jesus.” The following constitutes an excerpt from Who Was Jesus? (92-97).
Pliny the Younger
In a letter to the Emperor Trajan (c. 100 AD/CE), Pliny, who was governor of Bithynia at the time, asks for assistance in dealing with “Christiani” brought before him in his court, complaining that these Christiani sing hymns or chant verses “in honor of Christ as if to a god.” If Pliny’s letter is genuine, it would serve only to demonstrate that there were people termed “Christians” who were singing hymns to a god with the title of “Christos” around the beginning of the second century. Neither Pliny’s letter nor the response by Trajan mention anything about this god having a life on Earth; nor do they ever call him “Jesus.”
“Neither Pliny’s letter nor the response by Trajan mention anything about this ‘Christos’ having a life on Earth; nor do they ever call him ‘Jesus.'”
In reality, the epithet “Christos”—χριστος—is used 40 times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, centuries before the Christian era, as applied to a variety of characters, including in several references to “the Lord’s anointed.” Indeed, in 1 and 2 Samuel the first king of Israel, Saul, is repeatedly referred to as “Christos”—Christ—hundreds of years before Jesus was given the same title. By the end of 2 Samuel (23:1), it is David who is called “Christ.” In 2 Chronicles 6:42, David’s son Solomon becomes God’s Christ, and at 2 Chronicles 22:7 it is Jehu who is the Lord’s anointed. As can be seen, there have been many Christs.
From the foregoing facts, it can be asserted that Pliny provides no useful information either as to who Jesus was or even whether or not he existed.
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus
Other apologist “proofs” of the history of the gospel story occur in a couple of brief passages in the works of Roman historian and biographer Suetonius. In Suetonius’s Life of Claudius (c. 113 AD/CE) appears the following passage:
Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit.
[Those] Jews impelled by Chrestos to assiduously cause tumult, [Claudius] expelled out of Rome.
The germane term here is “Chrestos,” again a widely used epithet meaning “good,” “virtuous,” “useful” or “easy,” as at Matthew 11:30. Contrary to the claims of Christian apologists, however, Chrestos is not equivalent to, or interchangeable with, Christos or Christ, meaning “anointed,” although Christian writers and scribes did confusedly utilize both epithets. Nevertheless, numerous individuals, including both gods and mortals, were called “Chrestos” or “Chrestus” during this era, so it is uncertain that this brief remark even concerns Jesus of Nazareth in the first place, especially since Jesus was never said to have been at Rome.
“These brief mentions of ‘Chrestos’ and ‘Christians’ do not provide credible scientific evidence of the historicity of the gospel story.”
In his Life of Nero (c. 110 AD/CE), Suetonius also mentions “Christians” as involved in a “new and mischievous superstition” and being punished by Nero. It seems odd that a movement over 80 years old would be considered “new,” particularly since both Peter and Paul were said to have proselytized at Rome. Indeed, the book of Acts claims Paul was such a known rabble-rouser that he was arrested and hauled before Roman authorities, even appealing to Caesar himself! (Acts 26:32) Paul not only purportedly spent two years in prison in Rome, but it was there where he allegedly later experienced martyrdom in the arena “before a jeering crowd” during Nero’s reign. Strangely, despite his noteworthy life Paul appears nowhere in the historical record. Moreover, this passage in Suetonius may have been another Christian interpolation, breaking the narrative in an unnatural manner. In any event, these brief mentions of “Chrestos” and “Christians” do not provide credible scientific evidence of the historicity of the gospel story.
Publius/Gaius Cornelius Tacitus
Although dated by scholars to between 107 and 116 AD/CE, the vaunted passage in Roman senator and historian Tacitus’s Annals (15:44) does not appear in the literary record until the 14th century, while the earliest extant manuscript possessing book 15 dates only to the 11th century. Hence, the authenticity and value of the Annals remain dubious. The pertinent passage in the Annals—considered by some apologists as the best evidence outside of the gospels for Christ’s historicity—goes as follows:
Therefore, in order to abolish that rumor, Nero falsely accused and executed with the most exquisite punishments those people called Christians, who were infamous for their abominations. The originator of the name, Christ, was executed as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius; and though repressed, this destructive superstition erupted again, not only through Judea, which was the origin of this evil, but also through the city of Rome, to which all that is horrible and shameful floods together and is celebrated. Therefore, first those were seized who admitted their faith, and then, using the information they provided, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much for the crime of burning the city, but for hatred of the human race. And perishing they were additionally made into sports: they were killed by dogs by having the hides of beasts attached to them, or they were nailed to crosses or set aflame, and, when the daylight passed away, they were used as nighttime lamps. Nero gave his own gardens for this spectacle and performed a Circus game, in the habit of a charioteer mixing with the plebs or driving about the race-course. Even though they were clearly guilty and merited being made the most recent example of the consequences of crime, people began to pity these sufferers, because they were consumed not for the public good but on account of the fierceness of one man.
In the Latin manuscript that is the basis of this particular translation, Tacitus refers to a “Christus,” with an “i,” but he claims the “class hated for their abominations” were called “Chrestians,” with an “e,” meaning “the good” or “the useful,” etc., rather than “followers of Christ.” However, the manuscript tradition of the Annals also reveals that the word “Christus” has been interchanged with “Chrestus,” presenting yet another difficulty in discerning an original, and reflecting that the text has been altered.
“Tacitus’s assertion that these Chrestians constituted a ‘vast multitude’ at Rome by Nero’s time is incorrect.”
Moreover, Tacitus’s assertion that these Chrestians constituted a “vast multitude” at Rome by Nero’s time (64 AD/CE) is incorrect, and, despite the repeated claim to the opposite, there is no other evidence of a massive Neronian persecution of Christians for setting the fire at Rome. Concerning this development, Drew University Professor of New Testament Darrell Doughty comments:
…it is highly remarkable that no other ancient source associates Christians with the burning of Rome until Sulpicius Serverus in the late fourth century… The dramatic and fantastic description of the tortures suffered by the scapegoats resembles the executions portrayed in later legendary Acts of Christian Martyrs.
Other arguments against the authenticity of this text include that it is written in different and rougher Latin than Tacitus’s other, more well-known works. Furthermore, in all of Tacitus’s other works, no mention is made of Christ, Christians or Christianity—how do we account for this fact, if there were already a “vast multitude” of Christians at Rome by the time of Nero, several decades earlier? And whom Nero supposedly had blamed for the infamous fire that almost destroyed Rome? And who were allegedly horribly persecuted—yet, not one other writer of the time or thereafter recorded these significant facts? (For further arguments against Tacitus as credible, scientific evidence for the gospel story, see my book Who Was Jesus?)
Forbes Claim No. 19: Josephus is a credible source because he mentions Jesus twice and only one of those citations is disputed by scholars.
Forbes refers, of course, to the infamous “Testimonium Flavianum” (“TF”) as well as the lesser known “James passage” in the writings of Jewish historian Josephus. The TF has been analyzed for centuries, with a scholarly and theological consensus during the past few hundred years that it was a forgery in toto. Since that time, however, Christian apologists and others have worked their way back to the “partial interpolation” hypothesis as well as that the entire passage is “genuine.” The arguments against the TF are well known and can be found in my books, including Suns of God and Who Was Jesus?, as well as in my article “The Jesus Forgery: Josephus Untangled.”
“The Testimonium Flavianum cannot be adduced with confidence as evidence.”
As I relate in Who Was Jesus? (90-91) regarding Josephus, F.F. Bruce, one of the founders of the modern evangelical Christian movement, concludes (157):
…a paragraph about Jesus…was evidently modified and interpolated at an early stage in the course of transmission to suit Christian tastes. It cannot therefore be adduced with confidence as evidence. (Emph. added)
The James Passage
In the “James passage” in Josephus’s Antiquities (XX, IX, 1) appears the phrase “James, brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.” The contention that no scholars have dissected the James passage is not true, as a number of people have questioned whether or not the bulk or part of this phrase has been interpolated. This fact concerning past critics readily reveals itself when the extensive body of literature in the field of mythicism is studied.
“The contention that no scholars have dissected the James passage is not true, as a number of people have questioned whether or not it has been interpolated.”
The same determination of “modification” and “interpolation” put forth by F.F. Bruce and others as concerns the Testimonium Flavianum has also been made by those arguing against the authenticity of the phrase “brother of Jesus, who was called Christ” or simply the latter clause, which unnaturally breaks the text and seems to be an interpolation or insert. The evidence against this latter phrase being genuine includes that early Church father Origen—who studied Josephus’s works and used them to refute critics such as Celsus—specifically complained that the Jewish historian did not consider Jesus to be the Christ. This phrase “who was called Christ” may have been copied from the gospel of Matthew (1:16), possibly long after Josephus’s time. Furthermore, the James in this passage has not been concretely identified with the James in the gospel story, as Josephus’s James died some seven years prior to the death of the New Testament’s “James the Just.” (See Humphreys, “A Plethora of James.”)
Despite the conclusions reached by Bruce and many others that Josephus “cannot be adduced with confidence as evidence,” Catholic theologian John P. Meier insists that this debate about Josephus becomes critical to proving that Christ even existed. Hence, Christ’s very existence hangs on the slender thread of the TF. Since this debate about Josephus has gone on long enough and will seemingly never end, let us for a moment assume that the Testimonium is genuine, in whole or in part. Even with such an assumption, the TF still does not constitute credible, scientific proof of the historicity of Jesus Christ, since it was not written by an eyewitness, nor is it based on any discernible documents of any authority. The TF reflects only a tradition or rumor of something that purportedly occurred 60 to 70 years earlier and made little to no impact upon anyone significant outside of immediate Christian circles. (See Who Was Jesus? for further citations.)
Forbes Claim No. 20: “The evidence is perfectly clear that Jesus was believed to be an actual human being right back in the first century AD. In fact, one of the biggest Christian heresies in the second century AD that the mainstream church rejected absolutely was that Jesus was a divine heavenly figure who only appeared to be a man. And that was branded a heresy and treated as rubbish, because the early churches clearly believed that Jesus was actually a real human being who was in some sense related to God… The idea that Constantine made this up, I’m sorry, this is just silly…”
In the first place, other than New Testament texts, there is no solid scientific evidence from the first century that indicates anyone other than a handful of Christians believed Jesus had truly walked the earth. The Pauline epistles—universally accepted as the earliest Christian texts—actually serve as evidence against a historical Jesus, as they contain little to no biographical material of scientific value. (See Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle and Jesus: Neither God Nor Man.) Also, there is no credible, scientific evidence that the canonical gospels as we have them appeared in the historical record before the last half of the second century. (See Murdock, “When Were the Gospels Written?“)
Secondly, this commentary constitutes yet another strawman, since neither I nor Peter Joseph or any of his other sources to my knowledge has made the claim that Constantine created the Christ figure. Here is what Peter said in ZG1.1 about Constantine:
The reality is, Jesus was the solar deity of the Gnostic Christian sect, and like all other Pagan gods, he was a mythical figure. It was the political establishment that sought to historize the Jesus figure for social control. By 325 A.D. in Rome, Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicea. It was during this meeting that the politically motivated Christian Doctrines were established and thus began a long history of Christian bloodshed and spiritual fraud. And for the next 1600 years, the Vatican maintained a political stranglehold on all of Europe, leading to such joyous periods as the Dark Ages, along with enlightening events such as the Crusades, and the Inquisition.
Joseph does not say when the “political establishment” sought to historicize the Christ figure. Scientific analysis shows that the historicization and Judaization of the solar hero occurred during the second century, indeed long before Constantine. Joseph is correct that during the Council of Nicea “politically motivated Christian Doctrines” were established. At that point, the Christ figure was already well represented in Christian tradition and doctrine as being “historical” and was now being used to create exclusivity and hegemony, leading to centuries of slaughter and cultural destruction. As we can see from the above anti-ZG claims full of errors and omissions, this cultural destruction and censorship continues, unabated, from the hallowed halls of academia.
Forbes also carries on about whether or not Constantine made Christianity compulsory, likewise a claim ZG1.1 did not make; nor have I said such a thing. However, Constantine’s son Constantius II did issue a series of edicts that targeted Pagan religious practices and promoted Christianity, setting in motion the intolerance that led to a horrendous rampage which destroyed much of the Pagan world, including the last vestiges of the ancient Egyptian civilization during the fourth and fifth centuries.
Forbes Claim No. 21: “One of the things that really got up my nose as I watched the movie was that they showed a list of about 20 people who they claimed were historians writing in the first century who never mentioned Jesus, and the claim was that because not one of these people mentioned Jesus, clearly he couldn’t have been a real historical figure.”
Here Forbes assails the list from my book Who Was Jesus? of the various writers of antiquity alive during the purported advent of Jesus Christ but who never mentioned him, his movement or followers, saying that this list consists of “geographers, literature professors, poets, philosophers and writers on farming or gardening.”
Exposing the fact that the writers of the first century—considered one of the best documented periods in history—never recorded the existence of Jesus Christ, Christians or Christianity is a vitally important exercise that should not “get up the nose” of any serious historian. Only a biased Christian historian interested in shoring up the faith at all costs would not want that shocking fact exposed. How many millions of Christians have never been told that there is no credible, scientific and independent evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ from the contemporary record of when he allegedly walked the earth?
Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE-50 AD/CE)
In addition, these writers of the time are not all “Roman” as claimed by Forbes, who omits that some of them, such as Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, a Jew who specifically wrote about religion, including and especially the Jewish faith, comparing it to Paganism. Philo’s writings on the subject are extensive and were published before Christ allegedly began his ministry. A tremendous amount of Philo’s thoughts appear to have been lifted wholesale and turned into Christian doctrine. Philo even describes the anthropomorphized “Word of God” in a way that fits Jesus to a “T”; yet he evidently had no idea whatsoever that during his very lifetime his Word supposedly had manifested miraculously in his Jewish homeland. (See Murdock, CIE, 466ff) It is simply egregious to omit this highly important source proving the lack of a contemporary record for Christ, Christians and Christianity and to wave one’s hand in dismissal of the significance of pointing out this deficit in the writings of the time, regardless of their specialty.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 1 BCE-65 AD/CE)
The same analysis can be made concerning the Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca, whose philosophical musings appear to have been pilfered either by “St. Paul” or by his pseudepigraphical pretenders. If Christ had existed at any point near Seneca’s lifetime, surely the philosopher would have mentioned him, particularly when there are so many points of contact between Seneca’s and Paul’s ideologies.
“If Christ truly had lived and had the impact claimed of him in the New Testament in some two dozen verses that he was famed far and wide, there is little reason why several of these authors would not write about him.”
If Christ truly had lived and had the impact claimed of him in the New Testament in sometwo dozen passages asserting he was famed far and wide, there is little reason why several of these authors would not write about him. Surely this supposedly stunning development would find its way into the writings of “literature professors, poets and philosophers” of all people! This contention is actually helpful to the mythicist case, if such individuals took no notice of someone touted as widely famous for doing stunning miracles indicative of his divinity. As concerns geographers, they too might be interested in knowing that the God of the cosmos was supposedly wandering around in the tiny 90-mile area of Judea and Palestine—such a claim would be an interesting tourist point to make for any geographers. In reality, ancient geographers such as Strabo (63/64 BCE–c. 24 AD/CE) and Pausanias (2nd cent. AD/CE) frequently discussed the religion of the people of the areas about which they were writing, as any serious historian should know.
Expert in Agriculture and Religion
When one considers that in antiquity writers often addressed multiple disciplines, it would not necessarily be surprising if experts on “farming and gardening” discussed such a purportedly important and allegedly widespread phenomenon, which Christian tradition claims spread like wildfire during the first and second centuries. In this regard, ancient Roman scholar and statesman Marcus Terentius Varro (116–27 BCE) wrote extensively about religion and agriculture; unfortunately, his works on religion were destroyed, leaving us to wonder why and whether or not they may have contained information damaging to Christian origins. Varro’s book about agriculture, however, survives. So, here we have an important ancient scholar who wrote about both religion and “farming and gardening.” Others would likely follow suit.
Even if we reduce the list down to just two people, Philo and Seneca, the question still remains as to why there exists no contemporary credible scientific evidence demonstrating the existence of Jesus Christ, who, again, is claimed in some two dozen biblical verses to have been famed far and wide? As Forbes himself remarks:
There are plenty of writers whose manuscripts written in the period we’re talking about still survive now…
All those manuscripts, yet not one of them contains anything about Jesus, even though he was supposedly widely famed!
Even if the historians and other writers of the day took no notice of Christ himself, they surely would have been aware of the events that allegedly accompanied his crucifixion, such as the sun going dark, earthquakes, and saints rising out of their graves and wandering the streets of Jerusalem, frightening the locals. (Mt 27:51-54; Mk 15:38; Lk 23:45) The Jerusalem temple veil was purportedly ripped apart, yet no Jew or Roman makes any mention of that destruction? There is no record of having to repair it? And if Jesus’s death caused all this mayhem, why wouldn’t someone report that fact, thus also recording Christ’s purported existence? And what about the 500 supposed witnesses of Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor 15:6)—would not someone among them have related or recorded the story him or herself?
Forbes’s agenda becomes clear in his parting “advice” to those who are “enamored” by “Zeitgeist”: “Can I be awfully blunt? Don’t believe everything you see on Youtube.” Ironically, our critic’s video itself can be viewed on Youtube, and as we can see, we should not believe it for the most part.
Forbes further says, in a condescending manner that implies none of us has done so:
Yes, check references. Go looking for ancient evidence. If somebody claims something about Horus or Mithras or Dionysus, if they’re only quoting another modern author, or in the case of Massey, someone writing in the 19th century, that’s not good enough. What historians want to know is not do you quote historians. They want to know can you quote ancient evidence? And there’s simply no ancient evidence that Horus or Mithras or Dionysus was born on the 25th of December, born of a virgin, crucified—the ancient stories simply don’t say that about them, so the parallels with Jesus just collapse.
As can be seen from the voluminous information provided in this rebuttal, some of us have checked the references and looked for the ancient evidence for all these parallels—and we have found it. It is obvious from his comments, however, that Forbes himself did not check the references or go looking for the ancient evidence, because he apparently stopped at the list of citations on the ZG website, without bothering to dig further. It is clear from this response that we should not rely on the words of professional historians but should do the research ourselves, and I have provided pointers in every direction for the reader to do just that for him or herself.
At one point, the host of the radio and video programs goes on to admit that the study of the “historical Jesus” is a “voluminous industry,” which just about says it all—an industry, upon which occupations and paychecks depend. As American writer and social critic Upton Sinclair says, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
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